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Like a Dragon

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, it's been a while, but for those of you happened to remember some of the chatter associated with Hunting Game in the lead-up to its release might have remembered me mentioning that I'd written it in part as a mechanical pilot to an anthology of some shorter and more lighthearted one-shots I had in the oven. Well, that'd be this one that you're reading right now.

Now, if these one-shots happen to read familiar to you... well, they should. The initial set of one-shots published here are expanded and overhauled versions of the drabbles I submitted for Thousand Roads' Third Anniversary Drabble Bingo way back in May 2022 and Fourth Anniversary Drabble Bingo in May 2023, so while some details got changed around, the stories were largely the same.

Time will tell just how much things wind up outgrowing that initial base of stories since this one-shot collection happens to have one of those "theoretically indefinitely expandable premises", but as my latest sideshow to a sideshow I’ve got going on from my main work, this is one of those "bumps whenever I have time, energy, and motivation to make things happen" projects. But hey, there will be at least fifteen stories in this thing for your reading pleasure before I decide that I'm done with it.

These one-shots are uploaded in the order they were originally written in and are designed to be read in any order the reader pleases. To that end, I've added a cute little table of contents added as a little flourish for those that want to just skip straight to one or another story with little blurbs about what their rough premises are. But that's enough rambling from my end for now. Let's get right into things...

Like a Dragon

It is the world of Pokémon and you are a dragon, a word that means many things to many sorts. Mighty and meek. Strong and weak. Covered in scale and fur and most everything in between. These are your stories, ones about the various creatures who can claim such a title.

Even if some of them might seem strange to others at a first glance.


A Guarding Dragon - It is in the nature of dragons to stand guard over their treasures. Even if you are a Flapple, you are no different.


A Dragon's Ferocity - Ampharos are unassuming creatures, ones that a human might find cute and unthreatening. You thought the same once, until you saw one display a power and ferocity like your own.


A Dragon's Lineage - The birth of a child is a milestone in the life of any Pokémon, not least of all for a dragon. Few things are said to be stronger than a parent’s love, but can that still be the case when your child is so different from you?


A Dragon's Savior - When others speak of a dragon, they might reflexively think of strong and fearsome creatures that make the world tremble at their approach. You are a dragon and are none of those things. And in your current predicament right now, you find yourself wishing that such a dragon was around to come to your aid.


A Dragon Someday - Last year, your closest friend, your partner, was taken from you because you didn’t have the strength to fight off your enemies. In your quest to get him back, you’ve come across treasures that promise to give you just the strength you need… if you can just steal it first.


A Flightless Dragon - Bagon like you are creatures who hear the call of the heavens above, enough so that you can feel it in your bones… even as your attempts to fly keep bringing you crashing to earth. Your place in the sky like a proper dragon lies just beyond your grasp. Perhaps all you need to claim it is just a little leap of faith.


A Dragon's Valor - Charizard are supposed to be noble creatures that fly about the sky in search of powerful opponents, creatures with the might of a dragon who back down from no challenge, even if some might insist they’re not truly dragons. You thought that you would also be like that after finally leaving your smaller, meeker self behind… except it’s proving harder than you expected.


A Dragon's Folklore - Like humans, dragons pass tales on from parent to child: of their past, their homes, their journeys, and their feats. Even if Druddigon like your family may not be mighty warriors in your land, you still carry a legacy as noble guardians thousands of years long, a legendary lineage that your children deserve to learn and grow proud of.


A Treasured Dragon - Pokémon that live among humans are said to have their lives intertwine with one other. Yours has taken you out to this remote desert searching and digging for traces of others that did much the same in the distant past. Your human has even awakened the power of dragons in you to help to that end, but after such a fruitless search will it really make a difference?


A Kingly Dragon - As the king of your realm, you have asserted your might and fended off your rivals with fang and claw. For the longest time, you thought no power could challenge you. But one day one came which upended your entire world.


A Dragon's Might - As a Fraxure, battle-lust pounds in your veins. Your life training in a human Gym gives you the opportunity to wield your strength against many foes and grow ever stronger. However, those foes manage to catch you off-guard, much as they did when you discovered that they too could wield power like yours.


A Restless Dragon - Shelgon are Pokémon which are at once blessed with budding strength, and shackled firmly to earth by a cumbersome body. Watching the world around you seemingly keep passing you by since evolving is an often disheartening and frustrating experience. Sometimes, you find yourself wishing you for a place to just hide away from it all.


A Mythical Dragon - Cyclizar are dragons that have lived alongside Paldea’s humans for untold ages, using their swift feet to ferry riders to and fro. It is custom among your kind to trade tall tales from your wanderings, including ones of fantastical monsters and beasts. And once every now and then, those stories sometimes turn out to be true.


A Dragon's Challenge - The bluffs and plains around Blush Mountain are a place where strength means the difference between claiming prime territories and being squeezed out entirely. You had been long vexed by how even a dragon’s strength didn’t seem to help you in your struggles, when one day you came across a stranger. One not wholly unlike you who drew strength from an unexpected source.


A Dragon at Last - All your life, you have been weak and frail, unable to do much against a world full of dangers and would-be tormentors beyond weak splashes or feeble attempts to push them aside. The human you partnered with is adamant that great strength lies within you, even if you’re unsure when you’ll ever see it.

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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Guarding Dragon

Turffield had always been a quiet town, its rhythms dictated by the surrounding farms and their harvests. While life had taken a quicker pace in the town itself, especially after the local stadium was built, its surroundings remained as quiet and bucolic as ever. And so it was for you that day, on the same old dirt lane, next to the same old apple orchard, all under the same old sky under the drifting clouds.

You even stood guard on the same old stand put out for harvest time: a shabby table with a raised ledge at its deep end that you sat on, overlooking cardboard cartons resting at an angle that were stocked with the same red apples that grew year in and year out. They were set out next to the same old sign and the same old chipped cup offering them up for sale. Three for the price of one of those ‘soda pops’ that were all the rage.


Along with the same clatter of metal against porcelain that jolts you to attention. You raise your eyes briefly from your disguise and see a gray-haired woman dropping some spare change into it before grabbing at one of the apples on the shelf. You let your gaze linger jealously on her for a moment, only to turn away and slink back into your cover as the sound of footsteps shuffles off. Just another normal sale, and from one of the same old customers to this orchard. One that’d probably been giving business for quite a while.

The family that ran this orchard had set aside a small portion of their stock every growing season for travelers for years, perhaps for centuries. If the stories told by your mentor who used to keep watch for the orchard were to be believed, they’d kept this practice alive since the times when humans wore metal armor and fought with blades much as Sirfetch’d do. Times that even a dragon would find to be from a distant, unrecognizable era. Fortunately, the process by which the orchard sold off the part of its stock you watched over was simple to understand: take an apple from the hoard of red fruits set out, and then add some change to the hoard of coins in the cup. A gesture of goodwill and trust to those passers-by.

“Oi, look, there’s free food just lying around there.”

Except, every year, there were always a handful of travelers that would abuse that trust, and you were pretty sure you could see a few more of their ilk right now from your hiding place: a stocky young man and a gangly girl. The pair were both dressed in black with ridiculous pink hair and face paint.

That was why you were here: to serve as the orchard’s trusted guardian over its little hoard of fruit and coins. The loutish humans hadn’t noticed you yet, and you keep a careful, watchful eye over them as the man reaches for one of the apples and bite into it much to his partner’s skepticism.

Your mentor told you stories in the past of how sometimes it was best to take a gentler approach with passersby who would abuse the trust of the orchard. When they were needy or desperate, or when they’d simply failed to read the sign. Circumstances that merited a stern but patient warning, or sometimes even a blind eye in understanding.

“Aren’t you supposed to pay for that first, bruv?”

I don’t see anyone actually bothering to sell them. And someone just left this money lying around! Finders keepers!”

Though from the man’s words and way he was reaching for the coin-hoard in the cup, a gentle approach would clearly not do. You uncoil yourself from your hiding place, a larger apple hiding in plain sight on the raised shelf at the top of the stand, and stretch your neck out to telegraph your warning.

“Wait, why does it suddenly smell like flowers right now?”

The humans turn and look up at you, with your disguise revealed. You uncoil your body and spread your wings, fanning them wide to make yourself look bigger and remind the pair that even if it was a modest dragon hoard, that it was yours, and that they stole from it at their own peril. To make your message clear, you raise your voice and let out the fiercest roar you could muster…

Which judging from the look on the man’s face, still needs a bit of work to make it sound more imposing.

“Ah, it’s just a Flapple,” he scoffed. “What, come here to help yourself to some apples, too?”

You narrow your eyes and feel bile build up at the back of your throat after seeing the man pick up the cup. You’d given him fair warning, now it was time to show this would-be thief that you meant business. You spit up a spray of fluid at his coat, which sizzles against the fabric, bubbling up as the acid eats away at its surface. That gets your message across, and the humans’ arrogance quickly evaporates as their eyes shoot wide and they recoil with startled yelps.

“Ack! Blimey!”

“I told you you were supposed to pay for that!” the woman cried. “Let’s get out of here!”

The man hurriedly throws aside his jacket as your acid burns holes into it and the pair take off running down the path, the man dropping his purloined apple along the way. Good riddance, really.

You make your way down from your perch and right the cup and the coin-hoard, carefully returning the loose coins that came out. Then you turn your attention to the jacket and tug at it to move it off the path. No sense in leaving it lying around to make other travelers unsafe and scare them off. You bite down on a corner and pull it away onto the other side of the road, when you hear a jingling noise. A quick nose into a pocket and search with your claws turns up some coins in it.

Enough to have bought at least three of the stand’s apples had the man just been honest.

You take the coins and add them to the cup, before taking the bitten apple the loutish man abandoned and returning to your perch. For whatever reason, humans had a habit of casting aside perfectly good apples after someone else gave even the littlest of bites to them, but that was hardly a loss for you.

It was back to the same old quiet, watching over the same old stand on the same old lane outside of Turffield. Except now you had a snack as you waited for the next traveler to come by.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon’s Ferocity

Finding hunting grounds was a challenge for any dragon, and especially so for hydreigon. Long ago, the gods gave your kind the power to make the world tremble, but that power had its price: three-heads, ever hungry. As such, Hydreigon had to have a nose for finding grounds that would sate that hunger, even if it meant looking in unlikely places.

You remembered when you first heard the rumors, of untouched hunting grounds south and west of the shrines to the great dragons. Grounds where prey were plentiful in number and grew fat and sleek from verdant fields. You can see them now as clear as day through three sets of eyes

You look down at the silhouette of your wings over the treetops to make sure that you’re not dreaming: green, rolling plains just beyond the forest. And milling about on top of it, a veritable sea of bleating, yellow wool.

“So the stories really are true…”

Your stomach growls at the sight and your mouths begin to water. Somehow, such rich hunting grounds had gone unclaimed all this time. All yours for the taking. And to think that your peers opted to squabble over competing claims in the mountains for prey that could slip away into caves and crags at a moment’s notice!

… Though perhaps things weren’t so black-and-white. These fields were supposed to be tended to by humans, you had been warned when you were younger not to hunt in such places. When you questioned why, you were told that as balance to the toll of tooth and claw the gods allowed Pokémon to take on humans that interfered in their affairs, that the gods also saw it fit to allow humans to similarly punish Pokémon that did likewise to theirs… and of those of the Pokémon that made cause with them. Which those Mareep almost certainly have done.

But they are humans, and you are a Hydreigon. They are said to quake in fear at the sight of your kind, even the ones who left the wild to den among them. Your kind by contrast, has stories in both your and their folklore of your kind’s mightier individuals laying waste to their villages.

But there is no need for things to come to that today: you didn’t come to hunt humans, so your quarrel isn’t with them anyways. If they wished to make it so for the sake of a few unwary Mareep… well, you’ll believe they can win that battle when they emerge from hiding from their dens and challenge you themselves. You are the Hydreigon, after all. They are the weak creatures dependent on hiding behind the strength of others.

You bank in the air along the edge of the forest and swoop lower, glancing over your shoulders to make sure another dragon hasn’t tailed you. The skies are clear but for clouds, and it’s all the encouragement you need to dive out towards the flock of Mareep in the fields, building up bluish, fiery light in your mouths.

A few of the Mareep spot you and freeze, frantically bleating out warnings to their fellows, but it is too late. You spit up a Dragon Pulse, and then another, and another. Three Mareep crumple to the ground, singed with might of your dragonfire. Their peers break away in a panic, but that is just fine by you. Your have already felled your prey before they knew what hit them. When you finish them off, you will be rewarded with a fill of succulent and still-tender meat. The just reward the gods are said to give to hunters that do not revel not in the fear and pain of their prey and quickly dispatch them.

A quick swoop down and you are there to seize one of the felled Mareep with your leftmost head, biting down into her wool. You feel a feeble pulse in your jaws, but with the condition she is in, you doubt the sheep will wake up before you can carry her off and dispatch her in a quieter place away from your foes’ grasp.

You hastily flap your wings and make your way over to the second and do the same with the rightmost head as a few electric bolts sail in. The Mareep are attempting to close ranks to aid their fallen comrades. But those attacks are from Mareep, while you are a Hydreigon, and they bounce off your hide like little pricks from a Combee. Perhaps less so, since Combee pricks can be surprisingly painful sometimes.

A bellowing roar turns back a good number of the sheep in a panic and a few wingbeats later, you make your way to the third Mareep and open the jaws on your central head. This one wakes up as you approach and flinches with a low whimper after he sees you.

“I suppose my luck was bound to run out,” you grumble to yourself. This Mareep’s fear will make his meat tough and stringy compared to the other two. Perhaps you’ll eat him first to just get it over with so your meal will end on a less disappointing note.

You bare your fangs and prepare to bite down and fly off, when a blinding flash sails in and numb warmth courses through your body. You lose your grip on the other two Mareep and fall back with a pained bellow. You beat your wings and even your body out, turning your heads to see the rest of the Mareep pulling your prey away from your grasp and an Ampharos approaching with a piercing glare, sparks still dancing on his hide.

“You should know better than to prey on Pokémon that trade life under the wild’s rhythms for those set by humans. Especially ones that have done you no wrong,” the ram bleats. “The gods do not smile on Pokémon that would harm them like this.”

You blink incredulously at the Ampharos, before flitting back and coiling your necks. It occurs to you that he would be much bigger and more filling quarry. And without any hint of fear about him, the meat from his body would surely be more pleasing to consume. Even so, the ram struck you harder than you expected, and harder than you’d care to let him know. So you bare your fangs back and unfurl your six wings to their full span, snarling to remind this interloper that you are a Hydreigon, while he is a mere Ampharos.

“I think that I’m more familiar with the ways of the gods than a human pet,” you sneer. “And what do you think a mere grazer like you can do to me?”

The Ampharos narrows his eyes, letting static crackle on his body before he glares daggers at you and speaks in a calm, unfazed tone.

Kill you. With the very power that you wield as your own,” he answers. “We Ampharos have the strength of dragons coursing through our veins, and as the Lead Ram of the Floccesy Ranch Flock, I have come far along enough to be able to use it.”

At this, you burst into laughter, struggling with all your might not to fall out of the air and bowl over onto the grass. This Ampharos… the creature that should be quailing in his tracks and begging for his life right now, is threatening you? You’d heard that being in the care of humans went to the heads of some Pokémon, but this was just too much.

Just then, a weak jolt of electricity courses through your body and you stop laughing as your limbs lock up and grow stiff. Your eyes widen briefly, but you recompose yourself and turn with a snarl. After all, you are the Hydreigon, and he is a mere Ampharos. Your kind eats Pokémon stronger than him on a regular basis.


You disgorge a blue pulse of dragonfire, which makes the Ampharos stagger back much to your satisfaction. You let out a bellowing roar and fight against your stiff wings to fly at the ram as smoke swirls, opening your jaws wide to tear into him. It is then that the smoke clears and much to your alarm, the Ampharos is still standing, with an orb of bluish dragonfire in his mouth.

A sharp yelp comes from your throats, one that catches you off-guard with how much it sounds like the frightened bleating of the Mareep from earlier. Something that you will make a point of never telling another soul about in your life. You hurriedly try to pull up, when burning pain shoots through your belly. The world spins about you as you lose altitude and crash onto your side on the ground with a loud thud.

You lie there in a daze briefly as you struggle to make out swirling colors and shapes that won’t stay still. H-How on earth had this happened? You are the Hydreigon, he is the Ampharos! Th-This was completely backwards from how things were supposed to go!

You yelp after a sharp kick strikes your stomach and rolls you over onto your back. Something presses down on your central throat and you start to have trouble breathing through it. You look up, and there is the Ampharos standing over you, static dancing on his hide. Your ears pick up bleating jeers from all around you, as the Mareep aren’t afraid of you anymore and are eager to make sure you know it.

This is it. You’re going to die here. You want to face the end with bravery and dignity, like a dragon is supposed to in such situations, defiant even against the final blow. Contrary to all your expectations, the Ampharos has emerged the victor from your struggle after all, and you know he has every right to claim you.

… It proves harder than you thought, and waiting for death is a more frightening experience than you expected. You screw all six of your eyes shut as a shiver runs down your body. Things begin to grow a bit hazy, and while you’ll never admit it if you somehow survive this, but you’re pretty sure you’re whimpering right now. It’s lower and rougher, but it’s not wholly unlike the sounds the last Mareep from earlier was making after he came to.

But the killing blow doesn’t come. You still hear the Mareep’s bleating all around you, and you still feel the aching pains wracking your body, so you’re not dead yet. You crack your eyes open warily, and see the Ampharos’ foot still on your central throat. The static has died down on his hide, and in its place, he looks down at you with a piercing glare.

“I would just like to remind you that I warned you this would happen,” the Ampharos huffed. “Fortunately for you, we ‘pets’ don’t live by the rules you do in the wild and there is no blood to be avenged. Go and hunt elsewhere.”

The Ampharos lets his foot off your throat. You roll over onto your stomach and wheeze for air out of fright. You had no idea that Ampharos could become this fierce, this powerful. You look back at the sheep, who is beginning to have impatient sparks dance on his hide again.

“And don’t come back here,” he warns you. “If I see you in these fields a second time, I’ll see to it that you won’t live to tell others about losing twice to an old ram.”

There is nothing left to be said between you two. You yelp and scrabble onto your stubby legs. After pitching startledly to the ground from a failed attempt at taking off, you leap into the air and fly off as fast as your wings and your wounds from battle will let you.

Somewhere south and west of the shrines to the great dragons, there are untouched hunting grounds where prey are plentiful in number and grow fat and sleek in verdant fields. Someday, a dragon with great strength might claim it for his own.

But that dragon is not you. You’re not going to tempt fate and you’re going to put a healthy distance between you and that accursed Ampharos. There was a lake you spotted north of here about fifteen minutes ago by flying: you’re going to go there, lick your wounds, and try your luck fishing for Basculin.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads, for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon's Lineage

For a Pokémon, dwelling among humans comes full of quirks and oddities, and it’s rife with occasions you’d never encounter while living in the wild. The humans have their orbs with simulated habitats that carry Pokémon both great and small in them. They bring in a variety of contraptions that they use to carry themselves around or keep their dens lit and warm regardless of the time of day or the season—including the one you’re in now. And of course, they have access to medicines and machines that allow Pokémon to recover from wounds that would be mortal in the wild.

But the human oddity that holds your attention most right now is a cylinder sitting on the tiled floor of the hallway of the human den you’re in. The cylinder looks much like a light-creating contraption humans call a “lantern”, but this one has a purple and yellow egg resting inside of it behind a layer of clear glass. If you hold your head in front of it right, you can even see your reflection in it. Your white and blue scales along your serpentine body, the blue orb on your neck, and the pair of wings on the sides of your head.

“Are you sure this will work out?”

The hissing voice that reaches your ears and prompt you to give a quick turn of your head to your left, reveals an Arbok staring worriedly down at you, giving an unconscious waggle of her tail back and forth. Your mate... and your partner, as the two of you are both trained under the same human.

She glimpses briefly at the egg in the contraption—an “incubator”, you’ve heard it called—and flicks her tongue briefly before looking away from you with a low sigh.

“My kind doesn’t normally rear children for long,” she says. “No longer than it takes for them to slither off into the grass,” she continues, turning aside with a hint of hesitation. “I’m… not sure what I’d be able to offer our child when I don’t know the first thing about watching over one.”

You flatten out your head-wings and suck in a sharp breath. If you were still back in the wilds, you would never hear the end of this from your peers. They’d have no shortage of words to say about how you chose a mate who by nature wasn’t used to staying and nurturing her child. About how you sired a child who would never be able to fly alongside you; nor to fight as you could, for they would never wield your dragonfire. One who would draw mockery and laughter from dragonkind were he or she to claim the title of ‘dragon’.

You shake your head to try and dismiss those thoughts. Why were you dwelling on them anyways? You’d come to live with humans precisely because those other dragons didn’t lend you aid at a time of need in the wild. Because none showed up when you were swept onto sharp rocks by a rogue wave when you were still a Dratini, and were left with deep wounds from it. Wounds that kept you from moving about in the water properly and made you gravely ill after they grew infected. If you hadn’t been discovered on that beach by humans all those years ago, you likely never would’ve lived long enough to worry about a child at all.

She’d even given you a chance to return back to the wild after evolution wiped those wounds away… and you’d turned the chance down, because you’d made friends with the other Pokémon that traveled with the humans you came to know.

Including the Arbok with whom you’d sired the egg in the incubator you’re staring at right now. Your whole life has been marked by taking chances and making choices that aren’t possible for you in nature. Why should that change now?

“We aren’t living like that,” you insist. “There’s room for us to try things differently.”

A crack sounds out, as a fissure runs down the length of the shell and violet scales nose at it from underneath. The Arbok sets her teeth on edge and looks around worriedly.

“Of all the times for Belinda not to be here,” she murmurs.

You’re a bit nervous yourself, and you find yourself sharing your mate’s wish that your trainer were present at the moment. But she won’t be back to this den for a few hours still, and you’re pretty sure that in this case, you’ve learned enough from her in order to get by at the moment.

“It’s alright,” you insist. “I think that I can get the machine open.”

You nose at the plastic covering over the front of the incubator and after a few fumbling noses at it, it slides open—just in time for the egg to split and the form of a young Ekans to emerge with a few tired groans. This is your child who you’ve been waiting for all these weeks. It takes a while before you can spot the appropriate patch of scales that lets you know for certain, but this is her.

You pause and your heart swells for a moment as you lower your snout at the young serpent. She abruptly coils up, and then shrinks back with a sharp rattle of her tail that makes you hesitate.

Are you scaring her? You hesitate and try to pin the wings on your head back to make yourself look smaller and less imposing.

“H-Hi there,” you stammer. “I… I know that I probably look different than what you’re expecting, but I’m your-”

You don’t get to finish your words before you hear a startled hiss. Before you know it, you feel is a heavy smack at your snout from a lunging tackle, followed by the stabbing pain of fangs sinking into it.


You lurch backwards from the incubator and fight every bone in your body to not thrash about. A quick glance down your snout reveals your child dangling from your snout, her top fangs sinking into them past your scales. Your mate slithers over and hurriedly nuzzles at the Ekans, speaking in a soothing tone with a soft hiss.

“Easy! Easy, little one! There’s nothing to worry about! That’s your father!”

You wince a little as you feel a weight let go of your snout. Your child hits the floor and slithers behind the Arbok.

You bring the tip of your tail up to your wounded snout, and brush away a couple droplets of blood against your scales. It occurs to you that you’re still feeling healthy at the moment. Guess your mate’s reassurances that her kind starts their lives without poison weren’t just empty words. You turn back to your mate, and see your child craning her head out warily from behind her mother to look at you.

“Da-a da?”

It will take some weeks before your child’s grasp of her voice’s rhythm and tone begins to allow her to speak coherently, and you’re not sure whether or not her letting go of you was a fluke or not. You see your mate nose at her to try and calm her down, as your eyes begin to drift towards the floor of the human den.

You start to get doubts again. Over whether this was a good idea. Over whether this will even work. Sure, Belinda will be there to help care for your child as your trainer, but with how different you and your mate are, will your child love you the way you want to love her back?


You feel scales brush up against yours, and look to see your child has come up to you and begin curling around your body. Or she’s trying to, at least. Your worries and fears ebb away then, as you resolve that whatever the future holds for your family, that you’ll work things out.

“Y-Yeah, th-that’s me. Dada. You- You kinda gave me a scare there.”

You nose at your child and she noses back at you. You don’t know whether or not she will ever be able to call herself ‘dragon’. Or whether she’ll ever be able to share any of your ways. But right then, right there, you are convinced that in all the ways that matter, that she is just like you.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon's Savior

You keep your body close to the ground under the shade of a canopy of leaves overhead. A large bush that you might have been happy to gorge on in better times, when the dark was there to disguise you and the rain was there to aid your movements. But as the heat in the air and the rays of sunlight trickling in through the gaps between the leaves reminds you, now isn’t that time, and you don’t dare budge in your hiding place.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. You were supposed to have gone foraging while the nightly rains made it easier for you to move about. You were supposed to have eaten your fill of leaves and berries hours ago, and then gone back to your hiding place to rest alongside your peers.

But then you ran into that Serperior on the prowl and you were forced to hide in these bushes. You’d tried to keep an eye out for a chance to sneak past the fearsome serpent, but you were lethargic from not having had the chance to eat beforehand. One thing led to another, and before you knew it, the rains stopped and the sun began to peek over the horizon.

For some Pokémon, the night was dark and full of terrors. But with your slow gait and your frail body, damp darkness was your ally. The beating sun had long dried up that dampness outside, and it won’t be until about midday until light rains come again to the island that you live on and make moving around easier again.

Or at least easy enough to try and sneak back to your den by going from bush to bush. You’d tried to stay alert and conserve your energy until that time came, but between your hunger and the daytime heat eating away at the damp layer of slime on your body, you kept having trouble staying awake.

Worse still, every now and then, your antennae would pick up movement from just outside the bush you were hiding in, like the heavy footsteps you sense passing by you right now. Just as in those prior occasions, you keep still and try to tell yourself that whatever is on the other end hasn’t seen you. That if you just stay quiet, you can hold on and inch away back to safety. But it was your evolution that had mucus that would burn to the touch. If whatever found you set upon you…

You try not to think too hard about it. Suffice to say, you don’t have such natural defenses just yet, and you’re stuck here waiting and trying to remain still and quiet like your life depends on it.

Because in all likelihood, it does.

Except, this time the footsteps return. Your small eyes shrink to pins and you desperately hold your breath, when the bush around you erupts with activity. A pair of gray, chitinous horns slice through the foliage right above you, just barely missing your antennae.

You scream, and spit up a stream of blue dragonfire at your attacker before you break from the bush and slime ahead as fast as you can… which is probably pitifully slow in comparison to your attacker. You turn your eyes as much as you can and see your foe is a hulking, brown beetle, with barbed pincers at the top of his head and a mouth full of sharp, fang-like mandibles.

You remember there is a ledge just up ahead from your hiding place that goes down to the beach. Down to where humans sometimes come onto this island from the sea. If you can just make it there, maybe you can buy some time for the Pinsir to lose sight of you. Enough time for you to find another bush to hide in.

Except, the dew and nightly rains have long dried out. You hurriedly inch forward, contracting your foot as the edge comes into view. Any relief you have is swiftly quashed by the sound of an overpowering hiss. The Pinsir is behind you, coming at you lunging with his pincers, aiming to grasp you between them and finish you off. You flatten yourself against the ground as the pincers snap shut just overhead with a sharp clack and you throw yourself off the ledge.

You hit the grass below as the impact knocks the wind out of you. You lay there stunned for a moment and try to get up when you hear wings buzzing. You look behind you and see the Pinsir has followed you, evidently having seen your leap of faith this entire time. You let out a low whine as the beetle clicks his mandibles, and steel yourself for the end.

That is when you see a sudden shock of green and brown swoop down, trailing telltale flecks of fiery blue that looks just like your Dragon Breath. The blur crushes the Pinsir to the ground, before jerking back up high into the sky. You look as the Pinsir struggles against the ground in a daze, before he hurriedly scrabbles away and limps off into the brush.

Your breaths come tense and heavy as you look up, and see a towering tree above you. Or at least you think it is a tree until it turns and cranes downward. The things that look like coconuts at first glance turn out to be a trio of heads, and you freeze as they study you carefully.

“You look tired, young dragon,” the Exeggutor says. “Why do you move about in the sun in such a state?”

You breathe in and out sharply as you feel an overpowering urge to flee, when it occurs to you: this Exeggutor has saved your life. Even if he is tall and imposing, if he meant you harm, he’d have done so by now.

The least you can do as a thanks is to give him an answer in reply.

“Because I was stranded while I was foraging for food,” you explain. “And I was set upon by my enemies while I was weak and vulnerable.”

The Exeggutor stares at you for a quiet moment, before shaking his leafy heads. The great dragon cracks a trio of small smiles and rumbles in reassurance.

“It won’t be much longer until the daytime rains, little one. This is where I normally sun myself before they come. Won’t you stay and rest a while?” the tree-creature asks. “As one dragon to another, I can lend a helping frond this once.”

You’re still in disbelief over everything that has happened. But you need a shaded place to rest, and no bush on this island carries the sort of power your unexpected guardian just wielded.

And so, even if part of you is still wary, even if it is still afraid. Your words wind up leaving your mouth without you thinking.

“Of-Of course.”

The tree-dragon rears back up, his head stretching high up into the sky where the birds might fly as shade falls on the grass around you. Exhausted, you inch forward and flatten yourself against it near the Exeggutor’s legs, closing your eyes as sleep claims you.

You wake up to the patter of rain against your body. You yawn and turn your eyes skyward, finding the Exeggutor turning to glance you over before he cranes his head down to speak.

“I’m afraid this is where we must part ways,” he says. “My rhythms call me to the west of the island for when the rain parts for the afternoon sun. And yours…”

The Exeggutor motions off inland, where you see your fellows inching along. Goomy and Sliggoo, making their way down from the hilltop to forage. Your eyes brighten from the sight and you start to set off, only to catch yourself as you turn back to the great tree dragon towering up into the skies above.

“I don’t know how I can ever repay you,” you murmur.

“Be careful and patient, young dragon,” he answers. “If the fates smile upon you, you too will grow strong and tall one day. Knowing that you’ll use it to help another dragon small in stature just as another did for me when I was once small and weak is thanks enough.”

You don’t know if that day will ever come. Especially since you’re sure you’ve never heard of your kind growing tall enough to tower into the sky like this Exeggutor. But you give the dragon your word and begin to slime off, calling out to your peers in the distance.

You’ll have quite the story to tell them after you’ve eaten your fill and finally make your way back home. Of how a fellow dragon saved your life, one taller and stronger than you could’ve ever imagined.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
>like a dragon

Yeah, the title's an artifact of when this project carried significantly more underworld influence for its scenarios, hence the title that ought to be very familiar to those who know their Yakuza series. Unfortunately, I kinda struggled with coming up with them on that front. Who knows, maybe someday I'll write a short showing some "dragons" aligned with a villainous team belting it out together over karaoke.

Though I did manage to get at least one one-shot done in that original vein. That would be today's, where even if I was a bit more of a hack than normal, I got out something that I was decently alright with. Originally I thought about sandbagging the update since I'd already put up something earlier today, but eh. It's also ORAS' anniversary today, and today's scenario is decently fitting for it.

Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads, for beta reading this one-shot. And with that, let's get into a story that you might find a bit familiar, if still different from how you remembered it.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

A Dragon Someday

You crouch as you peek out from the bushes along the stone fence line, the salt tang in the air pricking your nostrils as you crouch and pull a set of sharp leaves on your arms taut into each other as blades. Humans call the place you’re in ‘Mossdeep City’, and you are in one of its neighborhoods somewhere in its northwest tip. Here, the houses are big with broad yards, ones that belong to humans with many treasures.

Treasures that you and your human partner used to ambush such humans for.

You paw at a small, black wristband hiked further up your right arm and ask yourself why you feel so nervous right now, when it occurs to you that if your partner was here, he’d pull you back into your Pokéball on the spot and give you an earful later. You don’t know what exactly he’d say, since your grasp of human language is still a bit shaky, but the gist of it would surely be that taking this sort of risk for a treasure was a terrible idea and that you were an idiot for even thinking about doing it.

Your partner instructed you in the past that it was not safe to go through houses such as these blindly. Many of them are watched by the likes of guarding Manectric, and others have eye-like machines hidden about which allow humans to see those who prowl about their territories and track them down later. It was better to snatch the things of the humans from these big houses while they were out and about in the busier parts of the city, where a human like your partner could lose a pursuer among the crowds as easily as you could among the treetops of a forest.

You look out from your hiding place and see a broad, green lawn—a rarity for houses outside this neighborhood. You start to feel your stomach knot up as you realize that all the tricks you and your partner used to use won’t work here. You’ll be completely in the open the moment you leave your bush, so it is imperative that you slip in and out unseen.

Your earlier plan had been to try and snatch your mark’s treasure back deeper in town, when you’d first seen this man and overheard him with some companions of his. You hadn’t made out all of his conversation, but he’d apparently found stones that made Pokémon stronger. You’d tailed him the entire way back on your own, occasionally stopping and pretending you were waiting for a trainer if passersby found your presence as an unattended Pokémon strange. It’d cost you an opening to make your move more than once already.

Now, your attention drifts back to the scene at the house where your mark is seated on patio furniture near an overlook of the sea: a white-haired man in a black suit… who is tending to a Metagross. You gulp and begin to understand why you haven’t seen any guards here. This human and just this companion of his alone are already strong enough to be their own guards, to say nothing about any others that might be hiding in those other Pokéballs on the holster around his waist.

You feel a cold shiver run down your spine and start to get second thoughts about this whole idea. Attempting direct battle with those two would be tantamount to suicide. You’d feel much more confident if your trainer were still here for you. If he were, he’d simply distract the man and his companion while you cut open the bag, snatched those stones within it, and ran off. He was always crafty with battle strategies, and were you caught, he could even potentially get you out of trouble by pretending you’d been misbehaving and feigning an apology.

Except, he isn’t here alongside you right now.

You glimpse back at the wristband on your arm. As the memories of your trainer locked up in that little silicone strip start to swirl about in your memory.

Your trainer was a kind human. He never treated you ill, and was always there to come to your side when you were hurt or frightened. He was a bit loud and brash, but you frankly preferred having a partner of that sort who wasn’t afraid to stir up trouble on behalf of his friends.

… Right, trouble. There certainly was no shortage of that when you two were together. Perhaps you should’ve suspected that something was wrong from the way you and him kept getting into fights with other humans, often over little trinkets or bits of paper and metal that humans value. Sure, as long as you were able to overpower their Pokémon, those fights usually came to an end quickly: after all, you were the one with Leaf Blades, and humans tended to lose their will to fight without a strong partner at their side.

But other times it had been you who lost the battle, even if you took it all in stride. It was thrilling, almost like hunting: but with key differences. Even if you failed, you’d get more second chances, and your human and you would be there to have each other’s backs.

… Until one night last year, when those second chances ran out. You’d ambushed your foes to snatch their belongings like many a time in the past, except partway through the battle, one of your usual enemies intervened, a human in a peaked cap with a Growlithe. You remember a flash of panic coming over your partner’s face, a gout of fire hitting yours that hurt more than you expected it to, and then everything going black when you hit the pavement.

You remember waking up afterwards on a bed in the backroom of a Pokécenter with your mouth muzzled, your ankles zip tied, and your wrists similarly bound behind your back. You panicked and called out for your trainer, expecting he’d be there to help you like he always was. He never came, and the Chansey on-staff told you not to expect him, and to not cause trouble since you were only allowed to be out of your Pokéball at that moment because your wounds needed overnight observation.

One thing led to another, and after wriggling the zip ties around your wrists loose enough, you cut your limbs loose and broke from your bedding to try to fight your way out of the room to freedom. That didn’t last terribly long since there was a human with a peaked cap waiting outside in the hall partnered with the biggest Arcanine you’d ever seen. Before you knew it, the fight was over, with you pinned to the ground on your stomach with a snarling mouth filled with sharp fangs hovering just overhead.

Things were kinda hazy after that moment. You remember curling up under the Arcanine’s grasp and sobbing and begging for him not to roast you before one of the Pokémon on staff hit you in the face with Sleep Powder. It’s probably for the best, since from what you can remember of that moment, you know it’s not one of your prouder ones.

When you came to again just before daybreak, you woke up with a fresh set of zip ties on your limbs, fastened tight enough to start digging into your scales, and saw the Arcanine and his trainer scowling at you at your bedside. You panicked at first, but gathered before long that at least you weren’t going to die. The way the Arcanine pointedly told you afterwards that if you’d caused further trouble, you’d have your arm leaves cut and either spend the rest of your observation period sedated and drooling into your bedding or be sent back to your Pokéball regardless of your wounds got the message across well enough.

You heeded the hound’s warning since your fighting spirit had long worn down since your earlier encounter, but your trainer still didn’t come. It took all your courage to ask the Arcanine when your trainer would come for you, when he answered you with words that haunt you to this day:

"Your trainer isn’t coming. He’s been taken away to be penned up for harming other humans and Pokémon. He’ll most likely be there for a number of years."

You started to cry after that and begged and pleaded for you and your trainer to be let go. You tried to explain that you didn’t know your trainer had put you up to something he wasn’t supposed to and just been trying to help him like any Pokémon with a human would. He was your dearest friend, and you swore up and down that if they’d just let him and you go that neither of you would cause any harm afterwards.

In retrospect, you're not sure why you thought your words would make any difference.

Right, that’s why you’re doing this. For your trainer. To get the strength to find him and reunite with him. It was admittedly a shot in the dark, but you reasoned that one of those stones in the man’s bag might help. Maybe there was one inside that could make you stronger. Heavens knew you could’ve used something like that back when your partner was around. Before that night the humans in the peaked caps took him.

You suck in a breath and try to dismiss those memories as you look back out at the lawn, but a few continue to linger stubbornly. Mainly ones that have got you worried about your entire plan right now.

You think back to when you were discharged from the Pokécenter after that awful night and were passed back along with your Pokéball to your human’s parents, an elderly couple who live here in Mossdeep City. Most of the trip went by inside your Pokéball after it was pushed into a darkened container before it was removed and you were unceremoniously dumped out into the outside world, still-quivering, onto their doorstep. The humans in peaked caps pulled your human’s parents aside to explain something to them, while the Arcanine from your Pokécenter room was there too and sternly warned you to stay out of further trouble.

In the dog’s words, continuing on your trainer’s path would almost certainly bring you to an unpleasant end. You remembered him telling you that there were analogues to the buildings with human cages for Pokémon, in which Pokémon would be penned up in their Pokéballs for most hours of the day, and only let out for short periods of time into drab, featureless rooms. Being sent to such a place was one potential fate for Pokémon that kept getting into trouble the way you did. Getting cast out into the wild and being forced to relearn how to survive that lifestyle was another one. If you really got into trouble, the Arcanine warned you that you could even be put to death.

That last thought makes your attention drift from the yard outside your hiding place and sends a shiver up your spine. You’ve been ignoring the Arcanine’s warnings for some time now, and while you haven’t gotten caught yet, if you did, you don’t know what threshold the humans would use to decide whether or not to take your life.

You remind yourself that you’re not taking this great risk for the thrill of it. As far as you know, you’re the only one out there, human or Pokémon, that still cares about the fate of your partner.

Your trainer’s parents would normally be the ones to come and defend him when he was younger, but ever since you were handed over to them, they seemed to have forgotten about him. They stopped talking about their son and took down the pictures they had of him around the house. They even got rid of most of his belongings, with the band on your arm being one of the few items you were able to snatch away for yourself.

They don’t pay you much mind either and basically ignore you as long as you come home at night and don’t show up obviously injured. You don’t know whether or not it’s because you remind them of the son they seemingly forgot, or if it’s just because they’ve grown older and more sedentary.

The various friends your trainer used to have similarly haven’t done anything either. You haven’t even seen them beyond a couple chance encounters on the street. Their own Pokémon told you that there was nothing to be done for your human until he was released from his captivity.

That left just you to try and get your trainer back, but you would need strength for that. Strength more than what your occasional scuffles in this town’s back alleys and snatched item here or there from your daytime wanderings would accomplish. Strength like what those stones are supposed to provide, which from what you overheard from the man in black’s Pokémon said, carry a power that can transform Pokémon entirely.

You snap back to attention after hearing heavy footsteps and see the man and his Metagross head off for the house, with his bag sitting unattended on the patio table.

This is your big and only chance. It could be the last thing that you or your partner ever stole for all you care, so long as it helped you get him back.

You burst from the brush, reminding yourself to make this an in-and-out encounter. You bolt up to the table and hop up one of the chairs, hurriedly tipping the bag over and pawing through its contents.

Inside, you find all sorts of rocks. Small ones, large ones, rough ones, smooth ones. Tools for measuring them, tools for chipping away at them. … Was this human raised by an Aggron or something? Since you can’t say you’ve ever run into a human that cared about rocks this much before.

As you paw through the stones, you see it: a round, light-blue stone with an orange and white swirl. That must be one of the ones that made Pokémon stronger.

Just then, you hear a door slam open and freeze up. You wrap your claws around the blue stone and leap off the chair, bolting across the lawn for the fenceline. You leap to try and scrabble up it, when a harsh, metallic voice barks at you to stop.

You see a bluish aura envelop your body, and your eyes shrink to pins as an unseen force abruptly freezes you in midair and holds you aloft. You thrash about to try and break free, to no avail. You gulp and look back, as the man in black approaches you and the Metagross with him holds you aloft with telekinetic force, glaring daggers at you all the while before it gives a passing insult at your intelligence for thinking it wise to steal from them.

“‘Grovyle the Thief’, huh? Whoever put you up to this one’s been reading too many children’s stories.”

‘G-Grovyle the Thief’? ‘Stories’? You didn’t pick up all of the man’s words, but humans have ones about Grovyle that steal things?

You try to glare back and flash your leafy blades to show that you won’t go down without a fight, when his Metagross lets out a metallic-sounding hiss and makes a clacking noise from its lower body before telling you to go ahead and make its day. You shiver at the sound when you realize the noise probably came from the Metagross’ mouth. Metagross are supposed to be vicious predators that pin their prey under their bodies to devour them, and this one has you completely at its mercy.

You suddenly feel so small and alone. No human partner, and this was your desperate attempt to get him back. You pull your tails tight against your body and begin to stammer an explanation back in your tongue as your words come out in a squeaking stream. That you were never really going to hurt anyone. That you’ll leave right away if the man in black will just tell his partner to let you go. That Grovyle don’t taste good for anyone to eat, and especially not for Metagross.

The Metagross growls and remarks about you putting up a ‘pathetic display’, while the human doesn’t seem to pick up on anything you said and begins to approach. You draw in shallow, tense breaths and let out a frightened whine as he nears; then you look up and blink in confusion.

He’s… smiling at you right now. You’re not sure why, but he turns his eyes down at your paws still wrapped around the blue stone and points at them with one of his fingers.

“Oh, you were trying to grow stronger, weren’t you?”

‘Stronger’? This human knows about that? About how you’re trying to get strength to get your partner back?

The man says something quietly to the Metagross that makes the Steel-type sigh. The force holding you pulls you back from the fence and lets go. Without thinking, you turn to run, but before you can get more than a couple steps away, a sharp bark rings out and demands to know where you think you’re going. You skid to a stop as the Metagross blocks your path and tells you that it and its human aren’t done with you. Because of course they aren’t.

You gulp and shrink back, and look at the white-haired man, only to see that he doesn’t seem angry with you. The Metagross relays the man’s question to you and after a moment’s hesitation, you give a timid nod back to him in reply. The man hesitates after your answer, before making his way back to the bag you tore up to fish through the other rocks that were inside it.

You’re not sure if you’re in trouble right now or not. The human seems friendly… but definitely not safe. You look down at the blue stone in your paws. From how little you understand his tongue, it’s for the best not to make assumptions: for all you know, he’s toying with you right now before he turns you over to the humans in the peaked caps… or feeds you to his Metagross.

When you look back up, you see the man return with his right hand cupped around something. It’s probably a Pokéball. He must think you live in the wild and be planning to try and catch you. You’re pretty sure it won’t work since you can still go in and out of your trainer’s just fine… not that the man in black would know that.

“I’m afraid you wouldn’t have any luck getting stronger with that stone though. That’s for my partner; this was the one you wanted.”

Something about the stone you’re holding. Something about his Metagross. You forget for a moment that humans can’t understand Pokémon tongue and reflexively open your mouth to ask him to explain, only for him to pre-empt you by opening his right hand and showing off a pair of spherical stones in his grasp. One of them is a light green stone with a red and green swirl in it. You look down at your body and then at the stone, then at the one in your paws and off at the Metagross.

His Metagross then asks you how you planned on being able to use a Metagrossite in the first place. You blink at the question and suddenly feel a lot stupider. Of course a stone that would make a Pokémon stronger would look like the Pokémon that it would work on, and you snatched the one that looked nothing like you!

“I found this Sceptilite on a recent caving expedition, but I don’t really have need for it myself. Not too many of my friends would be able to use it, either. But it could make you strong, and awaken the might of a dragon in you for a short time.”

You missed most of his explanation, but managed to pick up part of his last few words. ‘Might… of a dragon’? You turn and ask the Metagross if that little rock would make you into a dragon? As in those strong creatures that fly about the skies as they please? The ones that humans tell myths of roosting in this land and soaring up to strike stars from the heavens? Of controlling time from a distant land in the far north?

You don’t know how on earth that’s possible, but you certainly aren’t going to turn it down right now. That’s exactly the sort of power you’d need to get your partner back.

The Metagross swiftly crushes your excitement by pointing out that the stone would indeed do that… for a Sceptile, while you are a Grovyle.

You hang your head a little with a low, disappointed whine when you remember that there is a second stone of many colors with a swirl in it in the man’s hand as well. One that seems to match a pin that’s set in place on the collar of his suit. What’s that one for?

“It’ll take you some time to use that Sceptilite, and you also wouldn’t be able to use it on your own. You’d need the help of a human like me that you deeply trust. Though it looks like you already have someone like that, don’t you?”

You follow the human’s finger towards the armband around your wrist. The second stone… is for your partner? The Metagross confirms your theory and explains that this second stone is a ‘Key Stone’, and it apparently works together with stones like this ‘Sceptilite’ somehow.

You don’t understand how those things work, and you’re not fully sure why these two are just dangling them in front of you. The man in black holds out the hand with the stones, and then the other empty-palmed. You hear the sound of heavy footsteps and see the Metagross backing out of the way, and cast a glance between your escape route and at the man in black.

“So what do you say, Grovyle? Seem like a fair trade for that Metagrossite and letting you go?”

The Metagross tells you its trainer is offering you a trade and encourages you not to turn it up, since it frankly would’ve preferred to Meteor Mash you and call it a day. You look at the blue stone in your paws, and the pair in the man’s hand. You could turn and flee now while the path is open, or you could take a risk and give up this stone that he evidently cares so much about, which surely must be valuable if he’s willing to give up two others in exchange for it.

You hesitate for a moment, when your mind turns back to your partner, waiting caged and alone somewhere, and you look at the two stones in the man’s hand. In a swift motion, you make the trade and palm the green stone and the iridescent stone.

You back up for the stone fence, nervously reminding the man that you made a trade and that he promised you your well-being. Your words go over his head, but beyond giving an unamused scowl, his Metagross does not move to cut you off, and the smile remains on the human’s face as he looks down at you.

“I figured you’d like it. Just don’t get yourself into trouble trying to impress your friend, okay?”

You nod back and clutch onto the stones before hastily scrabbling over the fence and into a back alley behind it. You stay there panting tensely for a while, when you gape up and see that the sun is further towards the west than you remembered it. It’s time for you to go home before your trainer’s parents get too worried about you.

The whole time, you make your way down confident and at peace, without the earlier nervousness you’d had for much of the day. You don’t know when the day will come, but someday, you will be a dragon. And one way or another, you will wield that power alongside your old friend. Together.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads, for beta reading this one-shot.

A Flightless Dragon


A loud crash rings out after your head strikes the floor, the momentum rolling you onto your back. You lie there for a moment, looking up at the ceiling and at the shelf along the wall that you dove off of for the fifth time, where you can see books and various odds and ends belonging to your trainer.

You turn your eyes down at your blue and yellow scales and your nubby arms and let out a sulking growl. You’re still no closer to flying than you were the first time you dove off the shelf, or the day earlier, or any number of days before that.

You get up and reorient yourself with your surroundings, namely your trainer’s bedroom. Ahead of you by the window is the bed your trainer sleeps on, still messy from not being tidied up in the morning. To the right, there’s a large, squarish box called a ‘television’ that has a gray plastic device with pads with multicolored buttons on it connected by cables hooked up to it. Sometimes it has gray devices with stickers on them wedged into it, but today it has a translucent blue one in it that itself has a yellow card seated in it. It got moved from the living room after a black one like it took its place a couple years ago, and your trainer mostly uses it these days for playing some video games that have gotten popular in recent years. Ones that he played on some sort of plastic brick before he got that blue device.

They’re the same ones that the small row of little dolls on the television are from. Like the one that looks like some sort of Feraligatr mixed with a Gyarados. Or the one that looks like a shrunken Rhydon. Or the one that looks like a Sharpedo with a spear on its snout. Strange creatures that at once feel vaguely familiar to you, yet not, for reasons you can’t place.

And off to the left, there’s a desk for schoolwork and a set of boxes called a ‘computer’ there. Next to it, there’s a Wartortle stirring from basking under the sun: Roy, your trainer’s starter. He’s a leader of sorts for the team of Pokémon who share your trainer. You flinch a bit, thinking he’s going to get up and scold you, only for him to briefly pull his head and limbs partly into his shell, before turning with a sleepy murmur.

You’re a little surprised that he’s so unfazed by the racket you’re making, but after diving over and over again onto the carpeted floor for the umpteenth time, he must’ve gotten used to it.

You give the side of the shelf a growling headbutt and fume to yourself. Your kind is supposed to be able to fly! But in your trainer’s cramped house here in this town, with everyone pressed up against each other in a sprawl, your opportunities to practice are limited to dives off furniture when others are out of the house… or aren’t paying attention, like how your trainer is busy right now with some ‘laundry’ thing with the other humans of his family.

You should probably stop before anyone notices since you get scolded whenever your dives wind up damaging something or distracting others, even if your trainer and his family have grown more and more used to your attempts to practice flying. But what did they expect? Dragons of your kind are supposed to fly, you know it in your bones. Bagon like you in the wild supposedly feel that way enough to leap off bluffs and even cliffs to try! Like the fake ones in your Pokéball, except much taller and real.

... You wonder if any of them ever got any closer to flying than you have.

But your “cliff” here is this shelf. It’s taller than Roy, or any of your teammates, but that’s not saying a whole lot, especially when your trainer stands taller than it. Agh, if only you could go someplace higher up! You’d heard that some Pokémon needed to have space to dive first before they could fly, maybe that’s what you’re missing right now.

You don’t know for sure if it will work, but diving off the bedroom shelf isn’t going anywhere at this rate, and if you believe what Roy tells you about human beliefs, repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is considered a sign of insanity among humans.

Except, you’re here in this little three-story house amid a sea of others just like it. It’s not as if you’re going to just conveniently find a cliff here to jump off and try…

You feel a breeze blow in through the window and look off at your trainer’s bed. The window behind it was left ajar to help cool the room down since it’s been fairly warm this week.

… It occurs to you that you’re on the top floor of the house right now. Even if the height out the window is surely still short compared to a cliff, it is taller than the jump off the shelf.

Maybe it’d be enough for you to finally fly?

It’s not as if you have anything better to do right now. Roy’s dozing off, and your other teammates are busy elsewhere in the house. You make your way over to your trainer’s bed, and after a few fumbling attempts, you clamber up it. Then you go up to the windowsill, and over to the window where you put your nubby arms up to the gap.


You tug at the window to open it wider, but you keep struggling to pull it open. After eventually getting it wide enough to slip a leg in, you decide to wedge your body between the window and push it open with a creak.

You step back and look down from the windowsill. You can see the windows of the lower levels of your trainer’s house below; the entire building is much deeper lengthwise than what one would expect when initially seeing it from its entrance. Like most of the other ones on this street are. The side you’re facing overlooks the side alley where trash gets left to be picked up, with a fenceline barely a human arm span apart that separates the house from the alley’s pavement.

You go up to the ledge, but once there, you hesitate. Is this a good idea? You’ve made this jump once before and gotten chewed out over it by both Roy and your trainer. Something about it being dangerous. You hadn’t been able to fly when you tried that time, but almost felt like you were.

You’re older and more experienced now. For some Pokémon like Taillow that’s all it takes, from what you’ve heard. Maybe… just maybe, things will be different this time if you try.

“Whuh? Marl?”

You stiffen up and look back down at the desk where your Wartortle teammate is getting up and rubbing his eyes. He stares at you blankly for a moment, before seeing you at the edge of the windowsill with the window open and you ready to leap through it. His red eyes widen in alarm, and he starts to dart over with a claw held out to grab you.

“Wait! Marl! What are you-?!”

If Roy’s going to get you in trouble, you might as well just jump. And so you ignore his cries and leap ahead, lowering your head into a dive. You flap your arms for good measure, so that way it’ll help you pull up as you near the ground.

Except, you didn’t realize how close to the house you were—


Your head hits something hard and stony, and you pinwheel forward like you did after diving off the shelf in your trainer’s room. Except there’s no carpeted floor below you this time. You briefly feel air underneath you, before your left leg smacks the pavement and the rest of your body follows.

You hear a faint crack and agony shoots through your leg.

Then the air fills with your screams.

Everything after your dive from the window went by in a blur. You remember bawling from the pain in your leg and crying out for your friends for help. It wasn’t long before Roy wrangled your trainer and your teammates along. After discovering that so much as touching your left leg hurt you, your trainer recalled you to your Pokéball and everything went black.

When you came to, you woke up on a bed in the backroom of the local Pokécenter: at once the pain in your leg came back and you started to cry again. After calming you a bit, the human and Pokémon nurses there put your left leg in a splint and cast, which held it still and helped make the pain more manageable.

A little while later, your trainer and teammates were allowed into the room, and they came in to try and comfort you.

You were discharged from the Pokécenter within the day. The Chansey that worked there told you that you’d broken your leg from your fall. Evidently Bagon’s armored heads didn’t do much to defend them if they fell on other parts of their bodies. Your wound was beyond the ability of the machines there to heal, and was so severe that your Pokéball would put you in stasis whenever you were in it. Hence why you blacked out and didn’t see the normal simulated mountains and cliffs in your Pokéball or the world outside in its sky when you were recalled.

That’s what you were told, anyways. In order for your leg bones to heal as quickly as possible, you’d need to have Potions applied periodically and rest outside your Pokéball with your leg in its cast so that your trainer and teammates could keep an eye on you as your leg bones stitched themselves back together.

Which in practice meant your trainer or one of your teammates would stand watch by you as you laid in a tatty bed set on the floor. It apparently used to be Roy’s when he was smaller, and judging from the rips and tears in the fabric from what looked like bite marks… you honestly had no reason to disbelieve your teammates.

And so there you are, on the floor of the bedroom where the gray box with cables would normally be, in this chewed-up bed, lying down and looking up at the ceiling much as you did just after diving off the shelf yesterday. Except this time, you can’t even hope to get up onto the shelf on your own.

You look down the hallway after hearing chatter and footsteps and see your trainer, a younger teenaged boy with a face that other humans kept having the hardest time picking out. He’s tending to a Flaafy, a Murkrow, and a Cubone and packing up a bag. Heading out, it looks like.


You turn your attention and look up at the other side of the bed to see a Wartortle’s face peering down at you worriedly. Right, it’s Roy’s turn from among your teammates to watch over you. You… haven’t really been keeping track of time with how miserable you’ve felt since coming home.

“How are you holding up, Marl?”

“Awful,” you reply.

The turtle grimaces briefly, before pawing at the back of his head by one of his furry ears and looks away.

“I… kinda figured,” he sighs back. “I don’t mean to kick you while you’re down, but at least you now know why you’re not supposed to jump from the window, right?”

You get up and grit your teeth. That wasn’t your fault. It was the fault of that stupid wall in the alleyway! If it wasn’t there, you’d have landed on your head like you were supposed to if you weren’t able to fly and none of this would’ve happened!

You say about as much back to Roy, and try to sit up only to feel pain shoot through your splinted leg. You try to blink back a few tears, and curse yourself for failing to do so. As if you needed to look any weaker or more pathetic right now. You wipe the tears away and try to put on a brave face, but you find yourself unable to do much other than look down at your bedding with a glum murmur.

“I- I just wanted to fly…”

The Wartortle looks at you for a moment, before shaking his head. He gives a scratch under your chin, a trick he and your trainer picked up in the past from another human who cared for another dragon. One that could fly like a dragon is supposed to. Normally, him doing this helps put you in a good mood and makes you giggle if he brushes up against a ticklish spot.

Except, right now your leg’s throbbing and you just can’t get your mind off of it.

“You’ll get there. But… just take it easy for a while, okay?” the Wartortle tells you. “I need to help Calvin with a grocery run in a bit, so it might be a good time to get some rest.”

You freeze after the words leave Roy’s mouth. You think you really are going to cry now. You’re in pain and can’t try to chase the thing you love or do anything else but just sit here, and now your own team leader is telling you…

“Y-You’re just going to leave me here alone?” you stammer. “C-Can’t you at least bring me along in my Pokéball?”

The Wartortle hesitates a moment, before shaking his head in reply.

“Your leg won’t heal properly if you’re in your Pokéball all the time. It’ll put you in stasis in your present condition, remember?” the Water-type reminds you. “We’ll be back before you know it, I promise.”

Every word from the Wartortle is like an Icicle Spear, hitting you one after another. He turns for the door when he seems to pick up on you not feeling well. He hesitates for a moment, before turning back to face you.

“I know that humans don’t really understand Pokémon in general, Marl. But I’ll try and get Calvin to pick up something for you,” he says. “The rest of the family will check up on you if you need any help. Just call out for them.”

You feel too crushed to say anything back at the moment, and you slump into your bedding with a defeated murmur.


Roy turns his head and slips past the door frame as you sink into your bedding. Your voice hitches, and when you think no one is watching you, you sniffle a little and begin to shed a few tears into its fabric.

“We’re back!”

You must’ve dozed off after Roy left, since the next thing you remember after crying and nodding off was hearing the Wartortle’s voice. You raise your head from your bed as the Water-type hurries in, carrying a small length of string. He approaches you with an eager smile, which abruptly slides off his face as he pauses and then bites his tongue.

“Oh. I… didn’t realize you were feeling so upset, Marl.”

You see a flash of guilt come over the Water-type’s face and narrow your eyes. He could’ve not left you behind earlier or stayed home, but no. He just had to go along to get the stupid groceries. You turn away with a pouting huff, before feeling his claws paw at your chin.

“Look, I really didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t care about how you were doing,” he said. “Though hopefully the surprise we got you while we were out helps make up for it a bit.”

“And what’s this ‘surprise’ supposed to be?” you grumble, without turning to look at him.

The Wartortle opens his mouth to explain, only to catch himself and think better of it before he speaks up with a small grin.

“Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I just told you,” he says. “You’ll figure it out pretty quickly, just sit up for a bit.”

You warily sit up and shuffle onto your bum, wincing after you apply pressure onto your left leg a couple of times. It’s at that point that you hear footsteps approaching, and see your trainer come into the room holding a large red balloon.

Your face falls, and you shoot back a sharp glare at the Wartortle.

“Roy, why would you bring a balloon to taunt me like this?” you sulk. “As if I needed more reminders that I can’t fly—!”

The human teen hesitates for a moment before he stoops down and pats at your chin, and you can’t help but calm down briefly. Roy takes the opportunity to lift your arms up, as your trainer slips the cord of the balloon around you and ties it around your chest underneath your arms. At once, you feel a force tugging you from above. You look up at the balloon and then down again, when you notice it.


Your feet! They aren’t touching the ground anymore!

Your feet somehow are now about Roy’s waist height off the ground. You lean forward, trying to keep your belly parallel to the ground. Much to your surprise, you manage to stay off it at about the same height. You flap your arms and stay aloft, when your heart flutters as it suddenly dawns on you…

“I’m- I’m flying! I’m flying!

“Well, more like ‘floating’, you’re being held up by something humans call an ‘Air Balloon’,” Roy corrects you. “They don’t last that long, but they help keep Pokémon off the ground for battles, especially little ones like you.”

The Wartortle looks aside and gives a sheepish pat at his shell’s chest plates before smiling at you.

“It took a few tries to explain it to Calvin, but I figured you’d like it,” the turtle explains. “I just hope you’re not too mad at me for not being there for you earlier.”

The boy with the unplaceable face stoops down and pets you. You can’t understand most of what he’s saying to you in his tongue—that’s more Roy’s skill. But from the way his voice inflects, you’re pretty sure your trainer is asking you something. The Wartortle listens in for a moment, before he turns over to you.

“Calvin says you looked lonely in bed all day, and he wants to know if you’d like to get tugged around a bit,” the Wartortle explains. “It’s not quite the same as having a pair of wings, but…”

You start to feel tears well up in your eyes again and sniffle a bit. This time, it’s not because you’re feeling hurt or sad or alone, but because you can’t get over how you’re actually flying right now… sort of.

And so, the next words come out of your mouth without you even realizing it.

“I-I’d love that, actually.”

Five minutes later, you’re in the back alley that your trainer’s bedroom window overlooks. The air rushes against your body as you lay level with the ground, the pavement zipping past you. Your splinted leg slips from mind as there’s nothing for it to brush up against and you race past mountains and clouds in your imagination.

A length of string tied up against the Air Balloon’s cord pulls you forward, and you whoop and holler excitedly as Roy tows you after him. All the while, you flap your arms and call out for your teammate to keep going and to pull faster. There’s only so much Roy can do as a Wartortle, but he does his best, laughing and cheering you along all the while as the sky flushes orange from sunset.

In one corner of your mind, you’re sure that this must look silly to dragons who can fly like they’re supposed to: you can’t move yourself without help, you can’t steer, and you can’t do rolls or loops. Much as Roy said, it’s not really flying.

But for the rest of you, none of that matters right now. You can feel the air brush against your scales all the same, you can look some of the world down, and you’re able to share it with your friends. Just like how you will someday in the future when you’re all grown up and can spread your wings and fly just like this all by yourself.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon's Valor

You skid back along the ground, feeling a wintery chill in the air brush against your hide. You paw at a fresh scratch on the scales on your right flank, your breaths coming out shallow and tense as a bellowing roar rings out. Your tail fire is burning fierce right now, not from determination, but from fright, as your quivering wings remind you. You try to steel your nerves, but before you get the chance, the roar’s owner—a Garchomp baring her fangs—dives at you.

Your claws abruptly erupt with green dragonfire, as you rake the Garchomp and drive her back, buying precious seconds of respite as you wonder to yourself how on earth you got into this situation. Was it when you grew nervous about being a stranger in a distant land and tried to puff yourself up and make yourself seem imposing? Was it you letting how you finally became a Charizard about a month ago get to your head? You are fully evolved and grown now; those days of cowering from a big and scary-feeling world were supposed to be over.

“Have at you!”

Supposed to be, anyways. You look up just in time to see the Garchomp dive at you, her body wreathed in a shroud of dragonfire. She slams into you with her Dragon Rush and you feel your feet leave the ground and burning pain shoot through your body—C-Charizard aren’t supposed to feel burning pain like this! Your body sails through the air in an uncontrolled tumble, and the world spins around in your vision briefly before you flop into the dirt with a dull, painful thud. You lay there stunned for a moment, when a clawed foot stomps down on your side and you see a flash of claws and razor-like teeth above you.

It is just enough to burn up those last few threads of your bravery as your mind goes into a blind panic.


You’re pretty sure that Charizard aren’t supposed to scream at this octave. Nor are they supposed to yield in battle or curl up on themselves and beg for mercy like you are doing right now. The Garchomp looks down at you with narrowed eyes and hesitates a moment when she heeds a human voice and lets go of you.

You don’t bother to wait to find out what will happen next. You scrabble to your feet and run over to a young human man waiting for you at your end of the battlefield. Your trainer. Right, you are in a sporting match. You were never supposed to genuinely be in danger the whole time, even if the Garchomp seemed to be doing her best to make it feel like life and death hung in the balance.

You duck behind your trainer with a low whine, much as you did in the past as a Charmeleon when you wound up getting in over your head in battle… and as you did more times than you can remember when the same happened to you as a Charmander. Except this time you have wings which you crane around to try and shield your head, shuddering from your encounter.

You're pretty sure Charizard aren’t supposed to do that either. You feel a hand patting at your snout and look up to see your trainer. He looks obviously disappointed, but doesn’t say much other than to make sure that you’re alright before going off to meet a human woman with green hair dressed in some sort of orange tracksuit. The Garchomp’s trainer, and the human that you’re pretty sure you just lost your trainer a decent chunk of pocket money to.

The two trainers meet in the center of the battlefield and exchange money and a few items. You follow after yours, and the Garchomp after hers. You try to avoid eye contact with your Dragon-type opponent, but you couldn’t miss her unamused scowl if you tried.

“Hrmph, next time, don’t run your mouth off looking for a challenge if you can’t back it up,” ” she scoffs. “‘Might of a dragon’, what a crock! Even if Charizard were dragons, what sort of dragon would act like you?

You hang your head at her words. You don’t have an answer to that question.

About an hour later, you’re out of your Pokéball and in the backroom of a Pokécenter, getting a few lingering scrapes that the machines couldn’t treat touched up. Sinnoh is a distant land for you and your trainer, but in some respects, it’s an awful lot like your home region of Kanto. The Pokémon here by and large speak the same language you do. And the humans do likewise with the humans of Kanto. They even have human nurses and the Chansey in the Pokécenters here that look about the same and tend to Pokémon about the same as the ones in Kanto.

“All patched up and back to normal,” the Chansey presently at your side tells you. “You should be good to go and ready to battle again after a day’s rest.”

“Th-Thanks, I guess.”

Back in Kanto, you might have puffed yourself out to make yourself look stronger and tougher in front of such humans and Pokémon. Except… even with the familiar trappings, you’re not in the mood for it right now. Not after the way you humiliated yourself in front of your trainer today. You’re sure that you bitterly disappointed him, but you don’t want to think about that too much right now. At this point, you’re of half a mind to retreat back into your Pokéball and its simulated environments until your trainer is done traveling around Sinnoh and you can just go home.

After the Chansey beckons you to come along with her human, you shuffle off alongside them for the front desk, your head held low as the events of the battle keep playing over and over in your head. It was the first one since evolving where you’d been worried about how it’d go at the outset, but you were supposed to have left that sort of skittishness behind as a Charizard.

Sure, it’d be forgivable for a Pokémon of your lower forms, especially when younger. You supposed that it wasn’t that uncommon for a Charmander to cry after being startled and to try to hide away when he was afraid… like you had done on more occasions than you could remember. You supposed that costing one’s human a Gym Challenge after throwing up from fright and fleeing the battlefield like you did the first time you faced down Brock’s Onix wasn’t a common experience for Charmeleon, but it was at least understandable. O-Onix were gigantic compared to Charmeleon! Even if they often weren’t as tough as they seemed, they looked downright terrifying, especially for Pokémon the size of a young human child whose fire struggled against them.

B-But those were Charmander and Charmeleon, you’re a Charizard now. Charizard are supposed to be big and strong! Noble creatures brave enough to face any challenge to the bitter end! So why, when you found yourself outmatched, did you still react like you so often had as a Charmander or Charmeleon when you felt overwhelmed?

Before you know it, the Chansey and the human nurse take you past the front desk where you spot your trainer in the waiting room. You stiffen up and grimace a moment, before turning your head away with a low whine. There weren’t a whole lot of other ways that you could’ve embarrassed yourself and your trainer worse than you had today. How could he not be disappointed that all this time later, even when you were supposed to be big and strong, that you were still the same cowardly lizard at heart?

You brace yourself for the scolding and frustrated chewout that you’re rightfully due, except… it doesn’t come. You feel a pat at your neck and hear your trainer’s words, turning up to see him looking down at you with a regretful expression. You don’t follow everything he says to you, but he sounds… apologetic? For forcing you to deal with more than you were ready for?

You don’t know what to make of that. Other than that your trainer clearly doesn’t know enough about Charizard. Why else would he just be so unbothered by a pathetic failure like the one you had earlier today?

Your trainer tugs at your shoulder and motions off at the hallway where the rooms for travelers to lodge in this Pokécenter are. He must be in the mood to get some rest, and you can’t say you don’t agree with him. Tomorrow will be a brand-new day, one where you can put today’s failures behind you.


You follow your human and pass the front entrance, when it suddenly comes alive with a soft chime. You turn your head towards it after feeling a blast of cold air and immediately stiffen up at the sight:

It’s the Garchomp and her trainer from earlier walking in.

You let out a quiet squeak and hurriedly shuffle your trainer along, but not before you overhear the Dragon-type growling under her breath about how frigid things feel outside. … The air from outside did feel a bit cold today, colder than you would’ve expected for a region that was supposed to be in its spring season.

… Maybe you won’t go into your Pokéball just yet. After a day like today, the least you can do to try and make things up to your trainer is to help keep the cold at bay for him.

The next morning, you and your trainer wake up, pack up your things, and step out of your cramped room in the Pokécenter into the hallway. Your trainer didn’t say anything about feeling cold when he woke up, so that’s a relief. You don’t know how you’d feel right now if you’d managed to fail at simply keeping him warm overnight.

The two of you make your way down the hallway and retrace your steps back to the Pokécenter’s lobby. You take a moment to stretch your wings and your limbs with a yawn to get your blood flowing and groggily paw at your eyes. It’s then that you notice that something is very wrong. All along the windows outside, you can see frost caked against the glass and icy flurries swirling over white drifts as far as your eyes can see. You blink to make sure you’re not dreaming, and quickly realize that you’re seeing…

“S-Snow?! B-But it’s supposed to be the first month of spring!”

You stand there with your mouth hanging agape, as one of the Chansey who works here happens to pass by with her human nurse and turns to you with a click of her tongue.

“Not from around here, are you?” she asks. “Cold snaps in early spring are as Sinnohan as a Mild Poffin!”

… You will have to take her word for it, since you haven’t had any Poffins in this region yet. But the Normal-type seems to be onto something. Most of the trainers with Pokémon that aren’t common to this region seem to have gotten caught unawares by the sudden cold. … Though the weather surely has to be abnormal to some extent, since even a handful of trainers with Pokémon from this region seem to have been blindsided by the overnight snow.

“You’re kidding me. One night and this is what I wake up to?”

Including the Garchomp from yesterday and her trainer. The Dragon-type stares out the window and grimaces with visible dread, as does her human. You glance over briefly at the pair and stiffen up after the Garchomp notices you from the corner of her eye, and she turns to you with a toothy frown.

“Oh, it’s you again. I see your trainer didn’t pack for this weather either.”

You cast a glance over at your trainer and see that he too is wincing at the sight of the frost and the flurries outside. A quick look over his clothes reveals you that his shirt today is short-sleeved and visibly thin. Right. He had been planning his trip around there being spring weather in Sinnoh, and he had already remarked on it being a little chilly on a few prior days. You could handle a little cold with your tail flame and the fire in your belly to keep you warm, but humans didn’t have either of those and needed their ‘clothing’ to help them deal with such weather.

You go up to the window and peer through it as your breath fogs up the glass. You rub the condensation away, when amidst the snow and the flurries, you spot a small shop with icons in the shape of human clothing down the street. You go over and tug at your trainer and point it out, who in turn does the same to the Garchomp’s trainer. You let the pair talk things over with each other in their tongue as you make your way to the door, and the Garchomp does a double-take at you.

“Wait, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to help my trainer get proper clothes, what else?” you explain. “He’ll freeze if he tries to go around in snowy weather like this!”

The Garchomp cocks a brow, before turning her snout up with an unimpressed snort.

“Whatever, it’s your burial out there.”

For a moment, you waver at the Garchomp’s retort. She is the native to this region. Does she know something about these snows that you don’t? You bite your tongue and hesitate when you hear your trainer calling out for you and see that he’s already made his way to the door.

You falter briefly. Are you in danger now? There’s not something wrong with the snow outside, is there? A few worries circle around in your mind and you find yourself pulling your wings and tail tight against yourself, when you see your trainer waiting for you at the door.

No. Even if you’re worried about what’s out there, you can’t back down here. Not while your friend needs you.

You shake your head and make your way forward. No matter what those snows hold outside, you aren’t going to let your trainer face them alone. And you wouldn’t have needed to be a Charizard to come to that decision.

You make your way to the doors and feel the icy air blow in your face. You see your trainer visibly shiver and pull him to your side and under your wing as he grows a bit more comfortable and suck in a sharp breath.

“It’s just down the street. It’s just down the street.”

And so, with wary, faltering footsteps, you set off into the winter cold together. Your partner clasped firmly at your side.

Fifteen minutes later, you return to the Pokécenter lobby along with your trainer freshly garbed in winter wear, with a second set extra, to boot. Your trainer passes it along to the Garchomp’s and then the pair exchange money.

That was what the Garchomp was so worried about? Why, from the way she talked about the snows, you thought there were going to be ghosts or monsters hiding in the drifts to ambush you!

Your moment of satisfaction is cut short when you notice your scales feel damp, and look to see water on them from melted snow that you weren’t able to get off before coming inside. You take a moment to try and brush it off with your claws when you see a hand join in to help you. You blink and follow the arm over to see your trainer looking at you as his hand moves to your shoulder and he gives you an affectionate pat and opens his mouth to speak.

…He’s thanking you. For looking out for him back there.

You stare at him for a moment as he goes off to the counter to check out. You… didn’t think that you really did anything special back there, but at the same time, you can’t help but feel a hint of pride.

That’s when it dawns on you.

All this time, you and your human have gotten as far as you have by looking out for each other when one or the other stumbled or was weak. It was your trainer that calmed you down when you were scared, the one who helped you work up the bravery to eventually best opponents you were afraid of in battle—like Brock’s Onix. And you were there to look out for him at times like these when he just needed a bit of extra strength… or a warm body to help him stand up to the cold.

“... How on earth can you just be okay with that awful weather out there?”

You turn to your right and see the Garchomp staring at you slack jawed. She… honestly still scares you, but you don’t flinch from her this time. Seeing the way she shrinks away from a little bit of snow and treats it like it’s death incarnate helps put things in perspective.

You suppose that in a way, the Garchomp was right yesterday. You aren’t a dragon, or at least not in the same way she is. But… for the things that really count in life, does it matter?

And so with a shaky, flustered grin, you speak up and answer her.

“It’s because I’m not a dragon like you, and I don’t know if I ever will be. But I’m sure like a dragon for my friends.”

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon’s Folklore

Winter’s come early again this year. Just barely a month ago, the trees still had their autumn leaves and now the snow is already blanketing the ground in the world outside. Were you still living in the wilds, this would be a time when you’d retreat to your den, pull your wings in and tuck your ruddy head up against your tail to enter brumation huddled up with your young or, if you had none at the time, with a good dozen of your peers. A quite literal ‘Druddigon cuddlepile’ in as some younger humans might say.

“Ha ha! I’ve got you this time!”

But dwelling among humans allows a Pokémon to live in ways that aren’t dictated by nature’s cycles—much as the warmth of the fireplace you’re basking yourself by reminds you. You lift your head and peer into the darkness deeper in your trainer’s living room with your piercing yellow eyes and spot a pair of young Druddigon, spitting images of yourself, romping and chasing each other around the couch.

Even with the snow and winter chill kept safely at bay by the windows and walls of this human den, your children manage to surprise you at times with just how energetic they are. Especially now when the streetlights outside are lit up and the moon and stars are visible in the sky.

“Children… it’s getting late, keep it down,” you mutter tiredly. “Your trainers are trying to sleep right now.”

As were you, for that matter. But your children seem to have other plans in mind, and look at you from the couch with whines of protest.

“Aww, but mom!

The little one dragging his feet is your Second of Two, and if you living back in the wilds, that would be his name among peers of your kind until he accomplished his first feat worth being remembered for. He is ‘Rudd’ to the humans you live with, and your First of Two is ‘Rufus’ to them. You’re not sure what the story behind how the humans chose those names for them was, but that’s not on your mind at the moment.

“Enough. Both of you, come and rest-”

You get up and throw a set of claws out to tug your younger child over, and abruptly recoil after noticing his scales feel cold to the touch. A flash of alarm crosses your eyes, before you scowl down with a scolding growl.

“Ack, your scales are freezing right now! How are you two not bothered by this?!” you hiss. “Come by the fire and warm up right now! It’s not good for young dragons like you to be this cold!”

“Aren’t there those ‘vent’ thingies by the walls we can just lay on?” your elder child asks, giving a sheepish grin.

You decide to put your foot down and slip behind your children, nudging them forward with a sharp harrumph. They squirm and flail briefly and you sigh to yourself, since of course they’d put up a fuss.

“Nonsense, you’ll stay warmer huddled up with me,” you insist. “Why, back when I lived in the wilds, I’d do it myself every winter with the other Druddigon that I lived around.”

The pair stop struggling against you for a moment, before they turn and stare up with puzzled frowns.

“In that tower north of town that you and Duke talk about?” your elder child asks. “Why on earth would Druddigon want to live there?

“Yeah, there’s no fireplaces in there to stay warm with!” your younger child insists before trailing off to himself.

“Are there?”

Well, it is common practice to occasionally break brumation to warm the ground with a gout of dragonfire and stave off the cold. But you learned long ago that such practices don’t mix well with the flooring of human dens, especially ones made from fuzzy ‘carpet’ like the one underfoot, so you opt not to give your children ideas.

“No, but there’s a lot of Pokémon like you and me who live in and around there, and others that are friends to them much like how your trainers’ teammates are to you,” you explain. “It’s a very, very special place that many other dragons elsewhere in Unova would be jealous of the Druddigon for being able to live there.”

Your Second of Two bats his wings tilts his head with a puzzled frown in reply.

“Huh? How come?” he asks. “I know you’ve said it’s a special place… but why would that make the Pokémon there friends with one another?”

“Yeah, and why would anyone be jealous of living there?” his brother chimes in.

… Maybe this was just the break you needed to wrangle them over by the fire. And the tale which answers your children’s question is one that you and the other Druddigon from your old home always took pride in.

“Well, it’d be a bit hard to tell you the story while you’re running and jumping around,” you chuckle. “Stay with me by the fireplace and I’ll tell it to you. Sound fair?”

The two dragonlets murmur in agreement and follow you back to the fire’s side. You settle in against the warmed carpet, and so do they, scooting up against your hide. They stretch their wings and shift to try and steal the heat from the fireplace, already starting to grow comfortable. If you can just keep them here for a couple minutes, they’ll surely be too content to want to give this warmth up to go back to playing elsewhere in the house.

And so, you look down as your First of Two paws at you, and he turns his snout up with a curious blink.

“So, how did Druddigon like us wind up living in that tower, then?”

There… are a number of versions of that story that go about, both among humans and Pokémon alike. After all, it’s not just Druddigon who came to Dragonspiral Tower. Though you decide to focus on just their story for tonight. It alone is already a bit of a saga, and it should be just long enough to hold your children’s attention until they start to nod off.

Also, it’s always been a matter of pride for you as a story of your and your children’s kind. The story of how they of all the dragons of Unova won the trust of the Dragons of Deep Black and Vast White.

“Well… long, long ago, there were gods that lived among humans and Pokémon in this land. Dragons, like you and me, one of Deep Black and another of Vast White,” you begin. “And in those times, the tower to the north was built as a sanctuary for them by humans alongside Golett and Golurk companions. A place where the dragons could be worshiped and showered with tributes of food and treasure.”

“Wait,” your younger child cuts in. “But I thought the tower was built for a god.”

You catch yourself briefly at his words, since the story of how Dragonspiral Tower came to be the roost of one god is an unhappy tale of ruin by fire and lightning. One that you’re not sure that your children need to hear at their young age.

“It’s… complicated to explain, and a story best saved for another day since it happened well after the first Druddigon moved in,” you insist. “But the point is, that at the time, the tower was built for two dragons who shared it as a den, much like we share this one together.”

“But wouldn’t those dragons there already have plenty of friends already?” your First of Two asks. “You just said there were a bunch of humans and Golett, right?”

“Yeah, and dad says that dragons like him normally like having places that they don’t have to share for dens,” your younger child adds. “Wouldn’t it already be a bit crowded even before the Druddigon came?”

You sigh to yourself as your children’s energy proves slower to wane than you’d thought. Perhaps if your mate were here, this would be an easier task. But he’s with his own human and far away at the moment, so this is a story that you must tell alone. You opt to brush your children’s questions aside and open your mouth to keep your tale going.

“Well… yes, but the gods’ den was so big that even for two dragons, it was a bit lonely. And even though they already had many friends, none of them thought quite like them,” you explain. “The dragons wanted friends who would know what it was like to bask in the sun, of the thrill of a successful hunt, of the joy of finding a precious treasure and proudly showing it to others. And so it was that the gods asked the humans who worshiped them to find them additional friends to help watch over their shrine—ones who would be dragons like them.”

You pause briefly, expecting your children to pepper you with further questions, only to see that they’re now staring at you in rapt attention. You quietly sigh in relief that you won’t have to explain more just yet and continue telling your tale.

“Those humans went through all of Unova searching for dragons to be friends and helpers for the gods. Ones who would stand guard over the tower’s grounds and accept the treasures brought to them by visitors,” you tell your children. “The first ones they brought forth were Haxorus and their kin. Mighty dragons that stood tall and proud, and felled their foes with mighty chops of their tusks… and as dragons who didn’t eat much meat while they were young, they struck the ancients as ideal companions for the gods.”

You trail off a bit for dramatic effect, and give an affected, disappointed shake of your head. Much as your own mother did when she recounted this tale to you so many moons ago.

“Unfortunately, the Haxorus were a bit too open to fight, both with the Pokémon already there at the tower and with each other. And so it was that day and night, they kept quarreling over who would be highest among themselves as guardians,” you say. “Their fighting and battlecries went on and on to the point where the gods themselves couldn’t sleep. Such were things until one day, after one fight too many, the gods bellowed their displeasure and chased the Haxorus away from the tower with fire and thunder nipping at their tails.”

Your children jostle against you and turn their heads up, pawing at you with worried grimaces.

“W-Wait, but dad’s a Haxorus and he’s not like that,” your elder child insists. “... Is he?”

“I-Is this god still mad at him?” your other child asks.

You flinch briefly and bite your tongue. That wasn’t at all what you wanted your children to take away from that part of the story! You sit up from your resting position entirely, waving your claws vigorously in protest as you speak back to them.

“No! No! Not at all! It’s just that of the dragons that were brought before the gods, those Haxorus didn’t understand the importance of the duties they were entrusted with. And because of it, they left a bad first impression as a result,” you reassure them. “The gods that roost there didn’t hold a grudge against all Haxorus because of it. It’d have been awful for most dragons in this land if they did, especially for the Hydreigon and their kin who took their place afterwards.”

Your children jolt up with a start themselves and also sit up, pulling their wings in and staring nervously at you.

“... Wait, Hydreigon?” your Second of Two asks. “B-But why on earth would the gods want Pokémon so scary watching over their den?”

“Well, being scary’s not a bad thing all the time. After all, plenty of Pokémon would call you or me scary, and a scary guard can chase away others that mean harm to the places they have to protect more easily,” you explain. “That said, part of being a guard for someone else is that you need to be kindly to their guests, which the Hydreigon and their kin… weren’t.”

You look at your claws, and decide that while you’re still seated… perhaps a bit of acting to stir your children’s imagination is in order. You hold your arms out and curl your claws in almost like mouths, spreading your wings to mimic the appearances of a Hydreigon in flight.

“When the Hydreigon came, they too fought amongst each other, and stripped much of the surrounding forests bare to feed themselves,” you say, flashing your fangs for ominous effect. “And as the new guardians of the gods’ den, they took every opportunity they could to lord over those that lived in and around their tower. To the point where humans and Pokémon stopped visiting the gods entirely because they were too afraid of their guards and how they’d be treated.”

Your children are scooting in towards each other and holding onto each other now, visibly shivering and wide-eyed. You decide that’s as good a sign as any to reel things in and bring your arms and wings at rest. After all, this is supposed to be a happy story, not a frightening one.

“After seeing their visitors dwindle along with their gifts of treasure, the gods’ patience wore out. Once again, they bellowed their displeasure and chased the Hydreigon away from the tower, with fire and thunder nipping at their tails.”

That seems to do the trick as your children calm down and settle in against the carpet again, as your First of Two blinks at you with a curious quirk of his brow.

“How many other dragons were brought to the tower anyways?”

“All the ones that could be found from Unova,” you answer. “All of whom caused their own troubles when they were brought over.”

There was quite a list of other dragons that failed to secure the gods’ favor in your tale, and moving your wings and limbs, you try to mimic the forms of each one as you mention them.

“The Flygon would keep digging up the sacred stones set up about the tower, while the Altaria would sing and trill at inappropriate times. The Dragonite couldn’t be coaxed to come out of the moat every other day, while the Salamence would spend more time flying about than standing guard and burned their surroundings when angered,” you finish, with your wings held flat and wide as you trail off and sit back down on the carpet.

“But in the end, it was not those annoyances that were those dragons’ undoing,” you tell your children. “Instead, there were always two things that each and every one of them did that ultimately wore the gods’ patience thin…”

“They kept fighting with each other and the Pokémon and humans who were already there?”

You turn your head down and look at your children, with your elder child finishing your words with a quiet yawn before you can finish. You settle back down on the carpet and give a small smile, content that thus far, your scheme has been bearing fruit.

“That’s right, and like every group of dragons before them, the gods would chase the latest newcomers away with fire and lightning,” you reply, nodding. “And so it was that the late fall came, and in the weeks just before the first snowflakes started falling from the sky, the first Druddigon arrived in the forests surrounding the tower.”

“Wait, but why would things turn out differently for them?” your Second of Two asks. “Since if all those other dragons made the gods upset… what made them so special?”

“Well, part of it is that the Druddigon came there for different reasons,” you explain, casting a glance out at the snowy world outside through the living room window.

“... Unlike the other dragons, the Druddigon had lost their home in the mountains earlier that year and spent all of the warm months searching for another outside of it,” you tell them. “During their wanderings, they heard stories of a tower that would be given away as a den for dragons, so long as they impressed the gods and their guardians that dwelt within it.”

“But how did they do that?” the dragonlet presses you.

“By working together!” you chuckle back. “After hearing of the earlier dragons’ squabbles, the Druddigon’s elder dragons gathered their ranks together and declared that if they would merely work together, that the den would be there for them all.”

Well, things were undoubtedly more complicated than that, but you’ve always been fondest of the simpler version of the story that your mother and the other Druddigon you lived around told most frequently. And thus, you stick to it and continue telling it.

“And so they bravely marched forth, young and old, weak and strong, meeting the gods’ guardians in battle and fighting them to a draw,” you say, smiling back. “And with force of will and dragons’ might, their strength and teamwork so impressed the Dragons of Deep Black and Vast White that the gods at once offered the Druddigon the honor of guarding their shrine.”

Your children’s eyes are excited now as they murmur to each other about how exciting it must have been to impress such strong Pokémon when even the likes of mighty Haxorus and Hydreigon couldn’t. Their eyelids are starting to grow heavy, and content that your storytelling has done its work, you start to curl up towards the fire alongside them and give a content smile.

“And that is how Druddigon like us came to live in Dragonspiral Tower.”

That seems as good a note as any to leave things on and give the last nudge needed to push your children off towards sleep. You start to reach out to pull them in towards you, when a quiet, disapproving voice speaks up from behind.

“... That’s not how I remember the story going, Neela. I grew up around Dragonspiral Tower myself, and I distinctly remember the tale of how the Druddigon came to live there being quite different.”

You stiffen up after a yipping voice calls out the name your humans use for you and turn to see a Mienshao approaching with a small, quiet frown. That’s ‘Duke’ as your humans call him, which you suppose has rubbed off on you from force of habit. He was a partner to the the humans of this family before you, and the Pokémon who showed you the ropes when you just started being trained. He’s the closest thing there is to an elder among the Pokémon in this human den, and like an elder, he carries wisdom from both his life spent among humans and his time before that.

It’s that second source of wisdom that has you a bit worried, as you speak up and hurriedly try to brush him off.

“Ah, yes. Well, it’s folklore,” you insist. “There’s usually slightly different versions of stories that go around depending on whoever tells it—”

“Maybe so, but even that’s definitely not the most commonly-told version of the story I heard when living around Dragonspiral Tower,” the Mienshao retorts, folding his arms. “Especially the parts about how the Druddigon came into the tower. It’s not quite as simple a story as that.”

You grimace as your children are suddenly more awake now, and much to your chagrin, much as children tend to do, your younger child lets curiosity get the better of him and he glances up at the Mienshao.

“Oh? What was different about those versions of the story you heard?”

Duke doesn’t frown, but even so, his expression remains firm as he squats to lower himself down to your children’s level.

“Well, the Druddigon’s purpose for coming to Dragonspiral Tower was a bit different in the versions of that story I usually heard. In the wilds, Druddigon don’t just hunt for food, but also for dens,” Duke explains. “And when they come across one that’s pleasing to them, sometimes they will try and drive its owner off to claim it for themselves.”

He shakes his head as you tighten your claws against the carpet and quietly cringe. If the version of the story Duke’s about to tell is the one that you think it is, it’s not one that paints your ancestors in a particularly flattering light.

“That was also what brought them to Dragonspiral Tower. They had been wandering from the mountains, when in the late fall, they passed through the forests and moors around what is now Icirrus City. There, they came across the tower, not knowing that it was a shrine to the gods,” he says. “All they saw was that it was a pleasing den, but much too big for any of one of them to claim alone. And so their elders said: ‘let us join claws and hunt this den from those who dwell there to take for ourselves’.”

Your children are starting to waver now, as that sense of wonder you worked so hard to instill leaves their eyes and a doubtful unease takes its place.

“... Wait, but aren’t there Golett and Golurk at the tower still?” your elder child asks. “Doesn’t that mean that those Druddigon lost?

“Well, yes and no. Your mother is right about them fighting the defenders to a draw, and some of the tellers of the story I heard said they even gained the upper paw. And as such, were about to drive off those Golett and Golurk and take the tower for themselves,” the Mienshao says, before shaking his head.

“The problem was that they went off to claim Dragonspiral Tower on a day when the gods came back to roost,” the Fighting-type continues. “And when the gods found out about what these strangers had done to their companions, they were quite understandably upset.”

Your grumble under your breath about how Duke just had to step in and ruin your story right before the kids were about to sleep. Their wings are drooped now and their heads held low in disappointment, as your Second of Two uneasily raises his voice to ask:

“What… happened then?”

“Well, the way I usually heard the story told, the gods grew enraged and bellowed their displeasure and swooped down at the Druddigon, throwing fire and lightning at their feet,” Duke replies. “I heard it told that the Druddigon grew sore afraid at the display of the Dragons’ might, to the point where some of them even fell ill out of fright in the gods’ presence—”

You’ve had enough. You don’t understand why Duke is doing this since as your mentor, it’s not like him to just embarrass you in front of others. You let out a sharp glare and growl your displeasure, turning away with a sour huff.

“Alright Duke, we don’t need to hear the rest,” you snap. “I just wanted to tell the kids a nice story before they went to sleep before you had to step in and ruin things.”

The Mienshao falls quiet for a moment, before he looks over with a small smile and a waves of a wispy-furred paw.

“Then wouldn’t it make sense for me to end the story before it’s over, now would it?” he asks. “After all, while the truth of any story doesn’t always show Pokémon like us at our best, in this one, of all the dragons that came before them, the gods did indeed choose those same Druddigon to help stand guard over their tower.

You blink and realize that Duke must be telling a different version of the story of how Dragonspiral Tower came to have Druddigon than you expected. Your own children blink in confusion as they look up at the Mienshao, and try to make sense of his reassurance.

“They… did?” your Second of Two asks. “But why?”

“Yeah, the Druddigon in your story were mean to the Pokémon that were already there!” your First of Two protests. “And when the gods got mad at them, they got all scaredy afterwards. Why on earth would the gods want them after everything?”

“Well, I think you’re being a bit harsh on them. Since most Pokémon in their situation would be pretty scared, dragon or not,” the Mienshao insists. “But in spite of their fright, amidst the gods’ roars and their fire and lightning, the Druddigon did not yield or turn away or flee like the other dragons that came before them. Even while visibly quaking, they alone stood firm.”

You blink at the Mienshao’s answer, and your features ease a bit. He sees them himself, before he raises a paw and continues with his tale.

“With embers and sparks dancing about them, the gods held back their power briefly as they grew curious about the Druddigon’s strange determination and demanded an answer from them: ‘Why did you come here and harm our guardians? Even if you had successfully defeated them, did you really think that you could best our might?’”

Duke trails off briefly, studying your reaction and your children’s. You glimpse out the corner of your eye and see what he does: that that curious spark has returned to their eyes. Even if they’re not as excited as they were for your version of the story, they don’t look disappointed anymore.

“At the gods’ demand, one of the Druddigon at the front fell to his belly with a heartful plea: ‘Dragons of Deep Black and Vast White, have pity! We sought your tower for ourselves because our dens were hunted from us and we have none to shield ourselves from winter’s snow!’”

You see your children stiffen up and glance out the window towards the snow through the window and wince at the sight. Being stuck in such weather without shelter all winter would be the end of many a dragon, and while this detail is also in the version of events you were worried Duke would bring up… somehow his version feels like it doesn’t make light of those Druddigon of bygone times.

“The other Druddigon joined in and with one voice desperately echoed their companion’s plea, explaining that if they were turned away, they would surely die. If not from the gods’ wrath, then from winter’s frost. The gods were moved by their plight and lingered for a moment, before one of them, their identity lost to time, spoke up.”

This time, Duke turns his eyes to yours, and runs a paw on your head crest, giving a small smile down at you as words that surprise you come from his mouth

“‘Stand tall, brave and noble dragons. For you have shown unity and humility where all others before you did not, and did not yield and turn away from us even in the face of certain death.’”

You blink at your mentor. You can’t tell if he’s just saying this to make you feel better or not. In tellings of this tale you’ve heard where the teller portrayed the Druddigon as acting craven, the gods didn’t say anything as gracious as that to them.

And yet, every word that leaves his mouth feels natural and unrehearsed, like he’d heard it told many times himself. You yourself find yourself getting engrossed as he opens his mouth and carries on with his tale.

“For a fleeting moment, the Druddigon were at a loss, when the other divine dragon spoke up in stern warning: ‘So long as you dwell in our domains, you shall never claim this land as its masters, but defend it on our behalf. You shall live amongst our other servants as equals. They shall be your allies and you shall be theirs,’” the Mienshao says. “And so the Druddigon lowered their heads and marched forward into their new den, taking their place among Dragonspiral Tower’s guardians.”

The Mienshao stoops down and pats at your children’s crests, before turning to you with a knowing smile.

“Considering how there’s Druddigon that live out there to this day, I’d say that they’ve done a pretty good job keeping up their end of the bargain,” he reassures. “Don’t you think, Neela?”

You should probably be more annoyed by how Duke undercut your story earlier, but at the same time, even if it could’ve done without some of its less flattering details, his telling of the tale has its own charm. Like your own that you’ve passed on to your children, it’s a story of a lineage to be proud of: of courage and unity winning your ancestors an honor most Pokémon could only dream of.

Your children are tired now and your First of Two is now pawing at his eyes, while your younger stretches out against the carpet, before looking up with a curious murmur.

“Wait, but Duke? There weren’t any Mienshao in that story at all,” he says. “Were they not there already when the Druddigon came?”

You stiffen up at your younger child’s question. Even as it is told among its Druddigon, the story of how Mienfoo and Mienshao came to be guardians of Dragonspiral Tower is one that doesn’t reflect your kind that well. It’s a tale of how for all their strength and valor, the tower’s dragons ultimately needed help making good on their duties during the chill of the wintry months. Duke sees your tension, with a chuckling shake of his head, he opts to spare you further embarrassment for tonight.

“That’s a story for another time, little one,” your mentor says. “You look tired, and it’s important for a young dragon like you to stay warm and rest on a cold night like this.”

The Mienshao gets up and drifts off, for his own corner elsewhere in the house that he claims to doze off in at night. You settle in with your children, curling up together beside the fire as your Second of Two paws at your chest and looks into your eyes.

“I liked your version of the story more, mom,” he tells you. “Though will we ever get to go to that tower ourselves?”

You look down, and nuzzle at your child as a knowing smile comes over your maw.

“We will, sweetie. When you and your brother are a bit older.”

You curl up with your children beside the fire and begin to drift off. For a fleeting moment, you wonder to yourself… between your story and Duke’s, which of the two is closer to the truth? Duke’s version of the tale you knew has details that are the ones in yours, so does that mean that yours isn’t right?

You think back to Duke’s reassurance at the end and ultimately decide to leave things be. Whatever really happened, those Druddigon won the gods’ trust in the end.

You and your children carry the lineage of those brave and noble dragons, and it is one that you all can be proud of.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Treasured Dragon

You’re sitting in the shade of your trainer’s tent, the desert sand rubbing against your scales as you focus your eyes on a glowing light coming from a bulky metal contraption. It’s supposed to be like those machines that humans like your trainer use to teach Pokémon new moves—through those “tee-yem”s of theirs—except it’s much older.

In spite of its age, this device supposedly behaves much the same, even if you were dubious at first from its appearance. It’s much bigger, and the discs it uses are fashioned from a black material that feels nothing like a “tee-yem”. From the way the machine is dented and rusted in various places, part of you isn’t convinced that it’ll actually work. Especially here of all places: in the deserts south of Stow-on-Side, where much newer human machines regularly meet their end from the elements.

The light cuts out and the disc on the machine stops spinning. A set of human hands, belonging to a younger man with a brimmed hat grabs it and lifts it up. He looks at you as he takes the disc, which now has scratches and grooves that it didn’t have before being spun, and looks down at you with an expectant smile.

“There! That should do it. What do you think, Gilbert? Feeling a bit more dragon-y right now?”

You grumble back about how it feels more like you’ve been staring into a light for too long and turn away. You suppose you ought to be happier at the moment. While this desert is not the same place in Galar where you grew up, the temperature is warm here and the sun is strong—perfect conditions for a Heliolisk like you to go and bask.

Except, you are unsure how much luck you will have to do so. You have come here today with your trainer for work, which unlike travels during his 'holidays', will keep you on your toes. If it’s like the other journeys of this sort you two made in the past few days closer to the human Route further north, you’ll be too busy to really be able to stop and enjoy your surroundings. It doesn’t make much difference since the words you tell your trainer go over his head, as Pokémon’s words tend to for humans. He tilts his head at you with a puzzled frown, before motioning over at the opening to his tent.

“... If you’re worried about picking up the move, try breathing in deeply and letting things out from your throat, Gilbert,” he insists. “The manual was a bit tatty, but the Technical Record said that’s how a Dragon Pulse is supposed to be used.”

… That was hardly the point that you were trying to make, but after seeing your trainer breathe in and then out with his mouth opened wide, you glance at the label on the scratched disc and notice that among the human glyphs on its bluish label, there is a circular design that looks vaguely like a dragon’s head.

Perhaps if you humor your trainer, he’ll opt to let things rest a bit so that way you can get in a good bask. You mimic your trainer’s action when much to your surprise, heat builds at the back of your throat. Your mouth flops open wide, more from surprise than intention and a fiery blue ray sails out. It’s thin and makes it about halfway to some desert rocks a few paces from the tent before it abruptly cuts out, barely singing their surface.

You tilt your head skeptically at your trainer in his brimmed hat as he stumbles back with a start. You gathered that he was unsure earlier about how you two would fare searching around in this place when there are no shortage of Pokémon that dwell in it that are wholly unfazed by your sparks. They were a handful to deal with back closer to the Route, enough so that he felt that you needed to be able to wield another power to deal with them in order to safely venture further out.

He’s smiling over your attempt, at least, but you just don’t understand what he expects from you. Since you don’t see how you’re going to be able to make a difference with a feeble power like that. Was there none related to water he could’ve taught you instead?

“... I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it with a bit of practice. And who knows? If we’re lucky, maybe you won’t need to use Dragon Pulse at all.”

You have overheard your trainer’s friends sometimes tell him that he’s “tempting fate” when he talks like that. You don’t know how true it is, but it’s probably for the best to stop him while he’s ahead. Just in case.

You grunt and press on out of the tent with a sigh. You stop and stretch your limbs and try to get the blood in your legs pumping when you glance back into the tent. You see your trainer stop and grab a bag with a few tools set beside it. A pick, a shovel, a camera.

Tools to try and find that treasure that you two have been seeking.

When most humans or perhaps Pokémon like dragons think of treasure, they usually think of shining gems or the like, but the treasure your trainer seeks is apparently bygone remains left behind by humans from the distant past. Quite a few exist in the ruins on Route 6 proper, with the remnants of ancient buildings, and tall statues of people and Pokémon alike. But for reasons you don’t understand, none of them were to your trainer’s liking and thus your search has taken the two of you southward, off of the stony bluffs and deep into the sands.

Your trainer seems to think that you’d be excited to be here. And while it is a pleasing place to be in with the warmth and the sun’s rays soaking in and invigorating you much as they’re doing right now as you sit your frill outstretched…

“Heeeeey! Gilbert! Did you find anything?”

You’re constantly moving about and it keeps you from being able to stop and enjoy it. You pull in your frill with a sigh, your latest attempt at a bask cut short yet again. You rise to your feet from a small pile of rocks and trudge up a dune to meet your trainer. He looks at you expectantly, then down at the tracks in your wake, and then he lets out a disappointed sigh.

“Yeah, I didn’t find anything either, Gilbert. I suppose just give that Dragon Pulse of yours a try and let’s move on.”

You tilt your head at your trainer when he points off along the ridge. He repeats that phrase of his, when it occurs to you that he wants you to practice your new move again. You oblige, since if you put up a good showing, perhaps you can use it to convince your trainer to let you bask without making him think you’re tired and pulling you into your Pokéball.

You build up heat at the back of your throat, and once again, the stream of blue dragonfire comes out. At once, you’re underwhelmed by how thin its ray is, and your aim is off, as the fiery pulse finds its mark in the sand and kicks up a small spray in its wake.

Much to your surprise, a sharp yelp follows your target practice. You turn your head and train your eyes at the sand cloud, where you see a small yellow-and-black figure tumble away from your blow.

“... Oops. Didn’t see that Helioptile there,” your trainer says, grimacing. “Hope we didn’t scare it too badly.”

Well, you definitely weren’t trying to do that, especially since it wouldn’t take that much to rile up one of the wilds that lives in these parts. You grimace and dart over, hoping to catch the Helioptile and offer an apology for the scare. By the time you arrive, he’s long gone, with the only sign of his presence being hurried footprints in the sand away, along with a black-and-yellow colored rock lying a short distance from the Dragon Pulse’s point of impact.

You stoop down and pick it up as you notice orange sections between the black and yellow sides, eyeing the strange rock with a curious blink. Your trainer seems to have noticed you, since you hear his boots crunch against the sand and his voice call out for you.

“Oh? What do you have there, Gilbert?”

You turn and pass the stone along to your trainer, as he raises it and inspects it. He flips the colored surface towards himself, revealing the other side of the rock to have a ruddy color. Much like the same sandstone that the ruins further up the bluffs are made of.

“Huh, strange. It looks like someone painted one end of it.”

Your trainer pockets the stone when it dawns on you: that that strange stone might actually be just what you’re looking for. After all, the treasure your trainer couldn’t find from all those past ruins were ancient paintings of some sort. Except… if the stone was a fragment of an ancient painting, why was there neither hide nor scale of any ruins nearby where it could have come from?

Could they be buried under the sand? Pokémon burrow into the earth sometimes to nest, so perhaps these ancient humans did the same? You eye your surroundings, noting the Helioptile’s panicked tracks running off from where your Dragon Pulse struck. You don’t see anything there, when you turn to check the other side of the dune and abruptly stiffen up.

There’s footsteps there too, similarly frantic and looking like they were made in a hurry, along with parts where the sand is smooth and spread out in a plume, as if it was abruptly shot out.

Like there would be if someone was giving chase to the Helioptile you ran into.

“Huh? Gilbert? What are you-?”

All of a sudden the sand below your feet erupts. You and your trainer yelp, and as you tumble down the face of the dune, you throw out your frill and cast sparks all around you. They do nothing other than to draw a mocking hiss about how your kind evidently doesn’t learn after evolving. You freeze and turn, where your eyes fall on a Sandaconda approaching with fangs bared.

Your body tenses up and your mouth drops open with fright. You’ve never met a Sandaconda that wasn’t trained, but you know enough about them to know that in nature, they hunt for prey. Your mind turns back to the Helioptile’s tracks as you see the way she eyes you with a piercing stare as you realize she’s changed her target:

To you.

You throw your frill out to make yourself larger and try to muster the largest-sounding voice you can, which despite your best efforts still comes out with a nervous stammer. You insist that you are companions with a human and you are not hers to take. That it is by divine providence that you and her leave each other’s lives be.

She snorts up a small amount of sand and gives a mocking sneer in reply as her words come out dripping with a venomous threat that chills your scales: that you’ve already forfeited your protections, since you and your human have intervened in the ways of the wild and cheated her out of her prey.

Whatever thoughts you have of trying to plead your case are cut off by the Sandaconda rearing up and throwing her body down to the sand. It strikes the ground with a stomping tremor and promptly throws you off your feet. You fall onto your side and hear your trainer’s voice, trying to get up with legs that now feel stiff and uneasy. You feel scales brush against yours, and in a panic, you throw sparks once again. It does nothing and in a flash, the Sandaconda’s body wraps around yours and starts to tighten as you thrash and frantically try to pull yourself free.

“G-Gilbert! Use Dragon Pulse!”

You hear your trainer’s cry as you start to feel the air get squeezed out of your lungs, and without thinking, you build up dragonfire in your mouth, spewing it at the Sandaconda’s body just below your snout. She shrieks in pain and loses her grip on you with her coils as you dart off, gasping for air and scrabbling on all fours as you fight to keep balance. You briefly see her slither off the other way, her own movements frantic and unfocused as your trainer’s legs fill your vision. He raises his Pokéball and shakily taps the center, as in a flash of light the desert surrounding you melts away.

About an hour later, you’re back in the tent where the disc reader was. Lying on your side against an open sleeping bag and still shivering from your ordeal as your trainer applies a Potion to damaged scales along your legs.

“I’m sorry, Gilbert. I should’ve known it was a bad idea to go this far off the Route on our own.”

He finishes, and you warily sit up, giving an uneasy paw at some raw patches on your body. The entire time, your trainer’s expression is downcast, and every time your eyes meet, you can see a flash of guilt in them. All his thoughts about his treasure have faded away after the shock of your close call.

It’s moments like these that you wish he could understand you better. You try to tell him that it wasn’t his fault and that it was thanks to the power he helped you learn and his direction that you were able to escape.

… You just wish that you had a way to repay the favor.


Your trainer turns and freezes, which prompts you to follow his gaze. There at the front of the tent is a quartet of Helioptile, tense and poised for battle. One of them steps to the front with his side frills flared as he levels a claw and cries out to you:

To give him back his treasure. That he did not brave a predator’s territory to retrieve it only to see it be stolen by you.

“... Gilbert? Do you know what’s going on here? Why’s that Helioptile pointing at you like that?”

The voice of the Helioptile at the head of the group comes out shaky, and a closer examination you see that he’s trembling. His companions appear to be similarly nervous, much in the same way that you were when you faced the Sandaconda. Clearly, they’re worried about their odds of besting you in battle.

Fortunately for you and them, you think that you can resolve things on a more peaceful note. You reach a hand into your trainer’s pocket and fish around. He raises his voice with a start, but you brush it off—it’ll be easier to explain afterwards—and pull out the black-and-yellow stone from earlier.


You take it and show it to the Helioptile, who confirms that it is indeed his treasure. You apologize for the earlier incident and are about to stoop down to return it, when you realize there’s something that you should ask him first.

“He… lio?”

You ask where the Helioptile found the stone, to which he and his companions reply that it came from the “Heliolisk of the Stone Wall”. You notice your trainer casting a befuddled look between you and the wild Pokémon. One of the Helioptile tilts his head as well and asks how you as a Heliolisk don’t know of the Heliolisk of the Stone Wall yourself.

That one is easy to explain: you’re not from around here.

You hand the stone off and there’s a moment of hesitance among the Helioptile before their leader turns and motions for you to follow with his head.

“Tile! Tile!”

Those “Heliolisk of the Stone Wall” happen to be close to here, he tells you. And if you wish to have a treasure of your own, perhaps there’d be another one there for you to claim… even if it might require a bit of digging since the site periodically gets buried by the desert sand.

… You’re not sure how your trainer will take this, since blindly trusting the word of Pokémon—wild Pokémon at that—which you’ve just met is quite the leap of faith. But nevertheless, you tug at your trainer’s arm and motion off after the Helioptile yourself. It takes him a little bit, but it dawns on him as to what your request is.

“Huh? You want me to follow after them? What’s going on, Gilbert?”

The Helioptile already start scampering off. You start after them, only to turn back to face your trainer. You hop on your legs and call out, motioning for to him to follow.

He gets up, unsure of what to make of things. As are you, but at this point, what do you two have to lose?

About ten minutes later, you’re entering a set of ruined walls, half-buried in the sand, with an entrance through a ruined doorway with a clearance so low that you have to stoop to all fours and your human has to crawl through it to enter. You make your way through and spot the Helioptile who then point off at a sand-covered wall, just in time for your trainer to catch up and follow along when he catches a glimpse of a corner.

At once, his eyes light up in excitement.

“Ah! Gilbert! This is it! This is one of those murals we’ve been looking for!”

You turn and follow your trainer’s eyes as he comes across flecks of paint in a half-buried chunk of wall. He calls you over and fetches a few brushes which he uses to start removing the sand and you join in with careful strokes from your paws. Every stroke takes a little more of it away, and as the sand clears, you begin to see worn depictions of squarish human structures and humans in strange garb. You breathe out a sigh of relief, happy that all your efforts over the past few days alongside your trainer haven’t been in vain when your digits brush away some more sand, you come across a glimpse of black and yellow.


You cry out in surprise as you uncover a picture of a Heliolisk alongside the painted human, with a missing chip along its neck. The Helioptile come over, saying that there’s more of these Heliolisk below the sand and offer to help you see them.

You accept, and as your combined efforts clear away more and more of the sand, you find yourself gaping in disbelief as you come across a growing number of paintings that resemble you on the wall. Paintings of Heliolisk and humans intermingled with one another. Others with Heliolisk marching alongside shield and spear-toting humans. One with Heliolisk standing guard over treasure as humans heap them up for counting.

There is one in particular that catches your eye: of a Heliolisk at a human warrior’s side alongside a Duraludon, spewing a ray of what looks like blue fire at a Garchomp, who is turned away and fleeing.

Is… Is that the same power that you learned today? Does it really have the strength when mastered to turn back foes that strong?

“Ah! This is exactly what I was looking for, Gilbert!”

You look up at your trainer confusedly as he comes over and stoops, patting your head.

“I had a feeling you’d like the murals when we found them. The desert civilization that used to be out here is said to have introduced Heliolisk like you to Galar, and they were particularly valued by its people.”

These people… brought your kind here? You find it a bit hard to believe, but the murals are clear. These ancients cherished your kind enough to immortalize them in their history, and some way, somehow, gave the ones that dwelled with them the strength to fight and stand among the ranks of dragons.

You can’t help but feel a glimmer of pride and subconsciously wag your tail and raise your head tall and proud. There’s a moment’s pause, when you see your trainer look away briefly, and kick uneasily at the sand.

“I… just hope that this makes up for everything. Even before what happened today, you haven’t really seemed happy with me lately.”

So your trainer noticed all this time? If only he could’ve understood your words. Perhaps this whole misunderstanding could’ve been cleared up on the first day.

It’s then that your eyes notice the sunlight coming down in the center of the ruins, through the gaping hole where the now-nonexistent roof is where the Helioptile that helped you are resting under its warmth. You make your way over, and settle in alongside them, frill flared out as you face towards the sun. You turn back to your trainer, speaking up in your tongue with a quiet chuckle.

You’ll call things even with him, you tell him. As long as you get to properly soak in the sun for once today.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Kingly Dragon

You rouse from your bed of dried vegetation and onto your feet, shaking the morning dew off from your scales and plumes. It’s still early enough that it's still morning twilight, but it’s still light enough from the sun nearing the horizon for you to make out the jungle around you. You trudge forward, towards a bluff not far from your resting place, one that you chose for the commanding view it gives over your realm. You can already start to make out its contours in the dim light: of thick, jungled lowlands which run alongside the sea to the west. The territory that you reign over as king and take from as you please.

It is a place with large ferns and vines that grow amongst tall trees, flecked with clearings where larger prey sometimes gathers. You cannot see them past the canopy of treetops from your vantage point, but you know full well they are waiting for you to take. The thick undergrowth that bogs down many others that live in your territory is but a minor nuisance for your bulk and height to crash through, and their density provides cover for even a hunter of your size to sneak up on your quarry.

While you are still quite young as a king, this territory did not come easily after you struck out to make a claim for yourself. With tooth and claw, you fought for this forest to reign over, vanquishing all rivals that dared to stand in your way.

The only source of discontent that you have is that you have yet to find a mate, but it’s spring and the next mating season is just around the corner. Your territory is one where food is bountiful and the weather is never bitter in cold, with your den sitting in an easily defensible place. You doubt you will be kept waiting for long to find a mate who will accept your advances, and soon enough you will have heirs for your realm.

But those are considerations for another day. Now, you have more immediate matters to tend to. The best time to go hunting for prey is while they’re still unalert and can be taken unawares. Why, your own mother spoke of proverbs about how fortune favored Tyrantrum who were early to rise. It’s wisdom that has served you well, and today will be no exception. As such, you turn inland towards the east to gauge the light coming over the horizon.

From how bright it looks, it is still about half an hour until the sun properly rise. As long as you keep a brisk pace, you should be able to find prey from your realm to take well before they shake off their morning drowsiness.

You begin to head off for a rocky path down to the coastal lowlands and turn west, when you notice a bright star in the sky. It’s one that has appeared only recently, which you first noticed about three days ago while looking towards the northeast. Every night since the one when you first noticed it, it has moved a little further towards the southwest and grown a little brighter.

But this is the first time you can recall seeing it so close to sunrise, let alone visibly moving with your own eyes.

The star inches along for the southwest slowly, when all of a sudden, it picks up speed and zips over the horizon, much like how an Archeops might dive out of a tree while on the hunt. Maybe your eyes are playing tricks on you, but you could’ve sworn the star grew visibly brighter for a brief moment before it vanished.

Perhaps it is one of the moving stars that can sometimes be in the sky when it’s less bright. But if it is such a star, it’s certainly a most peculiar one. Those stars, whether coming and going in the twinkling of an eye, or drifting in the sky for many nights, have tails that follow them in their wake. By contrast, the one you just saw was barely a dot.

Your mind turns back to myths that your mother told you, about how some those stars in the sky are themselves Pokémon. Ones that have great power and unknowable ways. Could that have falling star have been one of their younglings? It’s a most unimpressive one if so from its lack of a tail. A runt among stars, you muse to yourself.

Your stomach growls, which prompts you to turn your gaze from the path of the star-runt and back to the tail going down into the lowlands. You are reminded that time is burning if you wish to hunt while still having the element of surprise.

You raise your snout to sniff the air and feel the wind blow against it and your feathers. You pick up the smells of your realm in spring, and note that the wind is coming in from the north—headed inland from the sea.

Good. Now you know what direction to approach from to best cover your scent as you go off on your hunt.

Half an hour later, the sun is now starting to poke over the horizon and you have found your target: a Bastiodon herd that settled to rest the night in a jungle clearing. You can only remain so quiet with your size, but the first of their numbers have just barely roused and your distance helps make up for it.

You creep forward closer and closer to the treeline, trying to size up the members of their herd. One of the Shieldon would be easy to dispatch, but a poor reward for your efforts. A Bastiodon would keep you filled for multiple meals, but it will require you to fell one before their comrades can close rank. Either way, your hunt will have the best odds of success if your prey fall into confusion or panic…

…and you have just the means to make them do so in the early morning light.

You crouch and let out a bellowing roar, the racket startling the herd awake as you lunge in with fangs bared into the middle of the clearing. All about you, the Bastiodon and their young scatter with cries of panic, your eyes falling on a Bastiodon stumbling onto his feet who freezes up after seeing you.

The Bastiodon’s mouth flops open in shock as he flinches and pulls his tail in towards his legs. You gather that his innards have sickened in fright, but you’re not one to snub easy prey. You charge the stunned creature with your jaws open wide, aiming to slip past his armored head, when you hear a bellowing cry. A crushing blow rams you from the side and knocks you off your feet. You scrabble up with a wheeze and briefly see the fear-sick Bastiodon turn and flee, when you spot the culprit just as you get up: another Bastiodon holding her head down to block your way. She shakes it to mime a charge, just as a pair of her comrades hurriedly lumber to her side.

She is attempting to rally their numbers, to band them together into a living wall of armored, shield-like heads that will punish any attempt to take prey from those that hide among them with powerful blows. Allowing too many challenges of the sort to stand unanswered as king risks inviting rivals from afar; as such, you must see to it that her attempt to stand her ground is shown to her fellows to be a mortal mistake.

You stomp the ground and make it tremble. Small cracks sprout in the dirt and make the three Bastiodon lose their footing. You charge forward as the lead Bastiodon stumbles up and attempts to charge you as you near. You jump ahead out of the way as she blows past you, and your tail comes alive with flecks of blue, fiery light that dances about it.

You swing it around and into the charging Bastiodon with a crushing blow, knocking her off her feet and sending her flopping stunned onto her side. You carry on briefly and run at the other two Bastiodon. They lose their nerve and frantically stumble back from you in a hasty attempt to retreat.

All as you had planned.

You wheel about mid-stride and lunge at the Bastiodon who is still recovering from your Dragon Tail, knocking her down and sinking your fangs into the side of her neck. She shrieks in pain as your bite breaks hide, and she thrashes as your strong jaws hold her in their grip. Before long, her strength gives out in your grasp and you let go, leaving her lying there dazed with blood trickling out, just faintly clinging to life.

You turn and spit up scales onto the ground, looking at your quarry’s allies behind you. Their will to fight is gone, and they both panic and flee, the clearing filling with frantic cries that fade as the rest of their herd abandons their fallen comrade and you are left to pant and catch your breath.

You take a moment to size over your prey. It was a hunt harder-fought than most others in your past, and had you not taken swift action, the Bastiodon herd could’ve very well forced you to limp away empty-jawed. But nevertheless, you have emerged victorious. And before you dispatch your prey, as the king of your realm, it is only proper that you ensure that all those who dwell in it know their place.

You place a foot onto the Bastiodon’s body and throw your head back, bellowing out your triumph. A cry that would chill the blood of even the tallest Aurorus. One that tells of how you are king of this forest and your might has brought you victory once again. A claim of rightful reign over this place, and a call for any who hear it to come and challenge you if they dare.

That would normally be the end of things and you’d move on to finishing off your prey, but today, your roar trails off in your throat as you see a fiery light shoot across the sky. It streaks in from the still-dim southwestern corner of the horizon, and it trails smoke in its wake. Another light appears, and then a third, a fourth, as the sky grows thicker and thicker with those strange fires from above.

One of them trails down towards the ground a little ways off towards the north. It lands with a dull thump in the distance and distant figures take to the air. It is then that you see a plume of smoke starting to curl up above the treetops from its direction.

Before you can wonder to yourself what the fire from the sky was, the ground abruptly shakes and lurches under your feet much like it did with your Earthquake, except this time, it’s far stronger. It knocks you off of the felled Bastiodon and you fall onto your side. You cry out briefly and fight against harsh tremors to get back onto your feet as the shaking continues and nearby trees start toppling to the ground. Frightened shrieks ring out from the forest in all directions, and the ground near your feet starts to visibly crack.

… Is this the doing of another Tyrantrum? You can’t explain the sky-fire, but this tremor is much like the ones you wield while hunting. You struggle to keep your balance against the shaking and look around, snarling and loudly demanding the culprit to show himself. This is your forest and you are its king, you are confident in your own might and don’t fear any challenger.

Your demands are answered by a flash of heat and a loud thud that makes you stumble to the ground from a concussive wave and blast of dislodged dirt. You look off towards the opposite end of the clearing and see that the trees which were once there are now tangled splinters, with them and their nearby ones still standing now awash in a curtain of flame.

You don’t know if this is the work of a challenger, but you’ve seen enough to know that whoever wields this sky-fire has strength far beyond your own. A flash of panic comes over you, and you turn and bolt from the clearing as fast as your legs and the churning earth underneath will let you.

The trees shake all about you and you hear others crash to earth unseen. A brief glance upwards reveals a flock of Archeops hurriedly taking flight, while cries and screams ring out from closer to the ground. Ones which come from Pokémon that you count as prey and rival alike.

You come to a smaller gap in the jungle, cast a glimpse off towards your den where you hope to find shelter, only to freeze at what you see: there is smoke curling up from its direction. Part of the bluff around where your den is then collapses from the quake in a cloud of dust, right as another ball of sky-fire zooms past it.

Something is very wrong right now, and you’re not sure if any Pokémon would be capable of doing all this. You briefly recount legends you’ve heard of where the earth would wake up and spew fire and ash out in all directions from openings in the ground. The sky-fire reminds you of that, except they’re coming from somewhere beyond the sea, from well beyond the horizon.

That’s when it occurs to you that the sky-fire all seems to be coming from the southwest.

From the very same direction that the star-runt fell past the horizon half an hour ago.

You snap to attention as a tree falls and grazes your shoulder, and you bellow out in pain. You wrack your mind for any possible shelter that you can turn to, when you remember that there is a river nearby. It’s shallow enough for you to ford by walking, while broad enough that it should be an effective shelter from fire or crumbling earth.

It’s the only hope that you have right now.

You take off running back through the forest, stumbling ahead and glancing off from trunk to trunk from the tremors. Against your kingly nature, you let out a startled yelp as a smaller ball of sky-fire slices through the canopy right in front of you and sets the branches in its wake ablaze.

You screw your eyes shut and force yourself forward as embers fall against your hide, opening them again and looking skywards once you feel the heat and smoke pass. What you find makes them shrink in alarm. All across the sky above you, little beads of sky-fire now fall to the ground like hail, striking leaves overhead as others burn through and fall to the ground in a molten rain.

Perhaps you’re being superstitious or jumping to conclusions, but in your gut, something tells you that this is because of the star-runt. Did it do this to your forest? Did it somehow know about the way you slighted it?

Something digs into your flank and burning pain follows. You scream in agony and bolt ahead as the smell of something burning lingers with you. You don’t know what sort of territory you will rule as king after all of this, but at this point, you’re more concerned with merely keeping your head on your shoulders.

You hear running water, and much to your relief, you see the river up ahead. With every ounce of your remaining strength, you fight against the pain in your flank and run ahead for the water’s safety. You burst from the cover of the treeline and feel the riverbank’s silt under your toes.

Then there’s a flash of heat from beside you and a deafening blast. A crushing wave in the air and searing heat along your side comes afterwards, when you pitch forward into the river before everything goes black.

As you come to, the first thing you feel is the river’s water all around your body along with silt intermixed with glassy beads. Then you cough and water comes up from your lungs. Your vision is muddy at first and your breathing is shaky as aches and pains rack just about every part of your body you can think of.

The ground is still shaking now, just as strong as you remembered it when you blacked out. You smell smoke and as your vision clears up, you see that you are lying in a shallower part of the river. As you weakly turn your head, you see that both of the river’s banks are aflame as far as your eyes can see. Embers swirl up into the air from them, while the sky-fire continues coming down from beyond a smoky curtain, one too thick to make out what time of day it is.

You try to move your right leg and grimace after feeling a flash of pain shoot through it. Your breaths come haggard and hoarse, and you weakly turn your head back towards your flank. All up and down it, your hide is blackened with ugly burns and much of your plumage is charred down to its quills.

You feel a whimper build in your throat but fight it back. You are the king of this forest. Even while fleeing, even while wounded, kings still have a level of dignity to maintain and do not whimper.

You try to stand up, but the pain in your right leg won’t let you. You hear sizzling and see that the smaller beads of sky-fire are still falling, with some hitting places in the river nearby and hissing as they are extinguished. You look past and see various shapes slumped over in and around the water. The one nearest to you is an Aerodactyl, lying partly crumpled in the water with their wings splayed out and their head resting just above the surface. There are burnt holes in their wings’ membranes and their eyes are closed. You can’t tell whether or not they’re still breathing from your distance.

It then occurs to you that you don’t hear screams anymore. Just the sound of burning fire, faint thuds in the distance, and a dull roar that lingers in the background.

You turn your head towards the dull roar as you realize that it’s coming from the direction of the sea. There, from the light of the fire, you can make out a black-colored wall approaching, taller than the burning trees around you.

You see a trunk get caught up in it, roll, and suddenly go dark. It then occurs to you that what the black wall is:

It’s the sea. Coming straight towards you and sweeping away everything in its path.

This time, you don’t hold back the whimper in your throat, and lower your head to brace for the end. There is nothing more you can do now. If this destruction is indeed the star-runt’s doing, it has felled you and all your realm.

And like a victorious king, it has every right to claim it all.

The next thing you know, water surges over your body and sweeps you up. You tumble about in it as your nostrils go under the surface and feel hard objects strike your body from all directions.

One of them hits your head, and everything goes black a second time.

You’re waking up again. There’s liquid all around your body and as you crack your eyes open, you see hazy and indistinct shapes and lights above and below you through some sort of fluid that has an orangish tint. You stir in a panic to try and get air, when it occurs to you that you’re somehow still breathing and that something is clamped tightly over your snout. You can’t clearly make out your body or its injuries right now aside from hazy glimpses of dark-colored limbs and a tail.

The shapes in the fluid move around as two tall ones that dwarf you come to the front and stop. They shift about slightly, and there’s gurgling noises from below. The fluid drains and you drift down with it, until you feel cold metal brush against your hide. You lay there, breathing in and out as you blink the liquid out of your eyes and the world around you starts to become clearer in your vision.

You’re lying in a chamber of some sort: metal on the bottom, a metal ceiling on top, with some sort of clear substance between them that makes it look almost like you’re in the hollow of some sort of strange shell or log. You feel lingering beads of fluid drip down your scales and look down and see they are brown. Your memory is hazy, but you vaguely remembered that they were a very different color than this before you woke up, even if their current state feels distantly familiar to you.

“The revival process is complete. It should be fine to disconnect him now.”

There are voices you can’t understand coming from outside the tube when a woosh rings out and it retracts. You see lights from above and reflexively whimper. Even in this strange place, the sky-fire is still here to torment you and finish you off. You cringe and curl up, bracing for the end.

“Easy, easy. You’re alright.”

You yelp as you feel tugs on your snout and keep your eyes screwed shut as something lifts your body up. There’s warmth from above but it’s not scorching. You blink and crack your eyes open, and as you look down, you see some strange, soft white covering swaddling you. Along with a pair of limbs that are giant relative to your body which hold you up from below.

Your breaths grow shallow in a panic. You’re being carried off by a predator, a fear you haven’t had to worry about since you were very young. You struggle against the object muzzling your snout and flail your limbs and squirm as the strange limbs fight to hold you still. You try to break free when suddenly something moves against your back and strokes slowly. Your breathing calms, and you move your head to peek past the white covering.

There’s some sort of strange, gangly creature with a loose, white pelt and a fur-tuft looking down at you. One that comes down to the sides of a strange head without visible scales, or feathers, or even additional fur aside from a couple patches over the creature’s brows. The creature’s mouth curls up at its ends, and it speaks in a soft and cooing tone.

“There, there. You’re okay now. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

You don’t know what it is telling you, but something about its voice feels strangely reassuring. Your legs touch a surface that flexes under your weight, and much to your surprise, your right leg doesn’t hurt anymore. The white covering holds you in place and suddenly it moves all up and down your scales. You fidget and try to call out in protest as it occurs to you that it’s wiping away the fluid. It lets go, as another creature in a white pelt comes forward, reared up to a height that looks positively gigantic. Its head-fur looks shorter, and it has fur along the bottom of its mouth that reminds you of the beard of feathers under your jaw you vaguely remembered having before you woke up again. There’s a set of strange rings about its eyes that rest on long stalks coming from what you presume to be a pair of horns on the side of its head.

It glances you over briefly, before it turns to the other and pushes the strange covering up and down your scales. It chuckles, and speaks up with strange, dissonant vocalizations you can’t make heads or tails of.

“Sure looks different from that Jaw Fossil we found him as. Not bad for a Pokémon that spent millions of years stuck in sediment that used to be at the bottom of a sea, if you ask me.”

Its hands go for your muzzle and you feel the pressure on your snout slacken, as it pulls the white covering away from your eyes. With your jaws now freed, you lunge and clamp down on the covering that keeps poking and prodding at your body, and vigorously shake it as you attempt to prove to it that you are a king and will not tolerate it toying with you as it pleases.

It’s warm and chewy, but gives no shrieks of pain or reply to your growls. So it’s not alive, perhaps it's a hide of some sort? You pause and look about your surroundings and see you’re in some sort of strange cave. The surface that gives way underfoot when you step on it is green and feels soft but firm to the touch. To the sides are peculiar cave walls which look unnaturally straight, and the cave floor does as well with strange hatch-like patterns in its rock. Even the ceiling is weirdly straight, with strange lights embedded in them that lack the normal warmth of sunlight.

You stare around bewildered, when the long-tuft cups its fingers under your chin and strokes you.

“Welcome to our world, little guy. It’s not quite being king of the jungle, but we’re glad you’re here in it.”

You blink and settle in on the counter as the white-pelted creatures drift off, casting glances at you as they talk from further off in the room. You’re not sure what on earth just happened, or if those things you thought were memories of that forest you ruled burning and being overtaken by the black waves were a nightmare of some sort. You also don’t know whether you are even safe right now. After all, the white-pelts are much larger than you, and took you from the strange tube to your present ledge as they pleased.

… You decide to test the order of this strange new world you’ve woken in. To determine who is its rightful ruler. And as such, you stand up, throwing your head back with a mighty roar.

… It’s smaller and less impressive than you remembered it being, but it makes both the white pelts on their two legs stiffen up and instantly turn to look at you. The one with the long tuft hurries over and places a blue berry in front of you. It pats you again, though this time its motions are more guarded and careful. As if it were chastened and put into place.

The white pelt drifts off again as you lower your jaws and tear into the berry, chewing over its flesh as a satisfied grin creeps over your mouth.

Even in this body that isn’t as fearsome as the one you remembered, even in this strange place among strange creatures larger than you that you know nothing about, you recognize as clear as day from the way they reacted as to who its rightful ruler is.

You are. They yielded to you, and they know that you are their king.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon’s Might

You throw your tusks forward and they dig into your foe’s body, hacking twice against warm hide and drawing pained bellows that trail off as his strength leaves him. You hop to the side and crouch, watching from the corner of your eye as your Emboar opponent briefly totters, before toppling forward. He falls onto his belly against the battlefield floor, his fiery beard dimming down into faint flickers as he lays there defeated and unable to rise.

You flash a grin and open your tusked mouth to let out a bellow of your own in reply—one of triumph. His trainer recalls him, and you call after the vanishing ray of light sweeping him away with an unheard taunt:

“Hah! Come back and try again when you can take a chop, piggy!”

It’s not the most respectful thing to do, and some of your peers would frown on your gloating. But here in Opelucid Gym, competition is fierce, and after a hard-fought victory, you’ve earned the right to puff your chest out a bit.

Your assigned trainer goes for the Emboar’s and winnings are exchanged, as seems to be custom among humans who lead Pokémon whose partners are vanquished in battle. The Emboar was a tougher challenger than usual for your during your duties in this gym, but between your strength and the guidance of your assigned trainer, you pulled through easily enough.

The Gym Trainer recalls you, and you return back to your Pokéball, Opelucid Gym’s light-and-dark stone furnishings vanishing in favor of a mountainous forest with a river running through it. All fake, as Pokéball environments are, which the translucent images of the Gym’s interior in the world outside in the not-sky are quick to remind you. Even so, it still provides a degree of comfort, as you paw at not-stones alongside the not-river to run your tusks up against them.

You probably shouldn’t be complaining after your match, but you can’t help but feel a twinge of dissatisfaction over how much your challenger failed to live up to your expectations. It surely wouldn’t be an issue if you were consistently fighting under your real trainer’s guidance, and you wonder just how much longer she’s going to let you sit on the sidelines being bossed around by Gym temps.

You pout and kick a not-pebble into the not-river, when before you know it, the surrounding world around you vanishes and melts away. You find yourself in the Gym’s backroom, where the Gym Trainer is handing off your Pokéball to a girl with a large shock of purple hair:

Iris, your real trainer, who’s been making waves among humans lately for the guidance she gives her Pokémon and her companions’ strength. It’s why a good chunk of the time, it is her that handles the final match in this Gym instead of the old human fart who first sought her out as an apprentice. Off to her side are her Druddigon and Zweilous partners, who turn their heads curiously at you as they talk.

“How’d you do out there, Hatchet?”

But the voice you hear doesn’t come from them. You turn to your right and look up, as a Haxorus plods over and glances down at you, rubbing a claw against the top of your head. That’s your elder sister—Francesca, as humans call her—the captain of your real trainer’s team… even if it’s been ages since the two of you have fought alongside each other.

After all, Iris lately has only been taking you under her direction when Drayden needs her to handle weaker challengers that have made it to the end of the Gym. Your sister, however, gets to fight with the best of the best.

… Even if she’s all of five minutes older than you, and has only been a Haxorus for less than a year. You turn away and let out an unimpressed huff. Sure, you sound obviously jealous right now, but given the circumstances, how could you not be?

“Fine. As usual,” you harrumph. “Not like randoms in the gym puzzle usually bring the best teams in the world for their challenges.”

You feel claws cup pat at your shoulder, and look up to see your sister giving a knowing smile down.

“You’ll get to take part in more battles with Iris before you know it, Hatchet,” the Haxorus tells you. “Just hang in there until the next batch of rookies makes it through.”

You push your sister’s claw away with a sour frown. She probably said that to cheer you up, but right then, it just makes you feel like you’re being talked down to. Like a mother might to an Axew who’s splattered her first berry.

“But I’m literally beating them left and right!” you exclaim. “I’m just as tough as Head Case over there! So how come she’s the one being trained to be a lead for the tough teams and I’m not?”


The Zweilous turns her heads at you and flashes their fangs with a pair of angry growls. Right, even if her eyesight’s bad enough for her to be effectively blind, the Zweilous’ keen sense of hearing sure has a way of filling in for it. Her name’s not really ‘Head Case’, you just call her that because it’s true and it’s kinda funny when it gets under her hide. Seriously, for a ‘mon who’s cheating you out of time you could be spending with your trainer, she could at least take a joke better.

You growl back in reply and flash your claws, when Iris spots you and hurriedly comes over. She stoops, asks something about you if you’re alright, and cups a hand under your chin for a scratch.

You tense up and can’t help but feel a flash of contentment. It always feels great when she does this, and for a moment your frustrations ebb away.

“Aah… that hits the spot… hey, wait, no!

Only for them to come roaring back when you remind yourself you were upset for a reason. Even if other humans apparently call Iris a ‘girl who knows the hearts of dragons’, sometimes, she needs a bit of a nudge to get the hint. And so, you stomp over and take your place beside your elder sister. You motion at yourself, and then her with your claws and an adamant growl.

“I want to fight alongside her! Do you hear me? Her.

Iris pauses a moment, when she turns to your sister and says something in her tongue that you miss. Your sister nods back, which prompts Iris to take your Pokéball and put it on her holster. Much to your surprise, she even goes a step further and takes Head Case’s off hers much to both of the Zweilous’ heads’ alarm.


“What are you doing?!”

Your trainer goes over to Head Case and pats at her. There’s some words exchanged, when the Zweilous hesitates and droops with a grudging sigh. Your command of human tongue has always been a bit shakier than your teammates, and you’re not sure if you heard everything Iris said correctly before you turn up to face your sister with a puzzled frown.

“Wait, huh? What’s going on?”

“You got what you wanted,” Francesca tells you. “You’ll be filling in for a while as the lead of Iris’ seven-badge team starting tomorrow.”

You blink in disbelief for a moment. Iris… is actually giving you what you want?

“Wait, I did…? I mean of course I did! You won’t regret this, Iris!”

Your trainer comes back over towards you and pats at your head. You can’t help but feel a swell of pride as she does, and turn your head past her to see Head Case shuffling her wings with a low grumble. You stick your tongue out at the Zweilous to rub things in a bit. Not that she’ll see it with her eyesight, but it’s the thought that counts.

You wag your tail and growl, happy and content, when you notice your sister looking away and giving an uneasy paw at her shoulder.

“Hey, what’s that look supposed to mean?” you ask.

“I… just felt that it was important to warn you in advance that as part of being the lead on a team, that it’ll be your job to take the brunt of attacks while Iris tries to figure out the opponent’s strategy,” Francesca says. “It’s often every bit as demanding of a role as being the ace of a team, and you should expect this to be noticeably more challenging than your normal battles.”

You scoff and have to fight yourself to not blow a raspberry in reply. You’re not that much younger than your sister, and if Iris is confident in your strength, then what is there to fear?

“You worry too much, sis,” you shoot back. “Look, I’ve already got experience being a team ace already and can keep on my toes with Dragon Dance. It should be a piece of cake!”

She doesn’t look convinced, but whatever. Nothing that winning a couple battles can’t fix for putting her worries to rest.

Bright and early in the morning the next day, you’re there on the Gym Leader’s battlefield, with a Zebstrika facing you down. He’s a bit more slippery than you expected thanks to using Flame Charge a couple times already, but his blows barely put a dent in your scales. He starts to gather sparks about his body, when Iris cries out for you to press your advantage with a Dual Chop.

You lunge forward, driving tusks trailing dragonfire into your foe’s flank with all your might one after the other. The Zebstrika reels from the first blow, while the second knocks him off his feet and sends him crumpling to the ground. You pant and watch tensely, as the sparks on his hide die down and he lets out a weak groan.

“That’s the power of Dragon Dance for ya! Learn to love it!”

You take a moment to bellow and crow in triumph as his human, some backpacker who looks like he just stumbled in fresh from Route 4, recalls him with a disappointed sigh. That’s one opponent down, and you’re pretty sure there’s just two more to go. The Zebstrika’s trainer reaches for his belt and sends out his next Pokémon in a flash of red light. As the light settles and fades away, you see red and white hide with black stripes—a Krookodile, flashing her jaws with a toothy grin.

“You look a bit worn down, Fraxure,” she taunts. “We all know you’re not going to come out of this match better off between the two of us, so how about you just quit and tag out for one of your teammates?”

You bare your fangs back with an unamused scoff. You’ve still got most of your strength, and with that Dragon Dance pumping you up earlier, you’re quick enough to dance circles around your foe. This ‘mon seriously thinks that she’s going to get the best of you?

“Tough talk for someone strutting around with a perpetual sunburn!” you snap back. “Hit me with your best shot!”

The Krookodile doesn’t say anything back, as a knowing smile comes over her face.

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of holding back,” she replies. “Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!”

Iris calls out for you to use Dual Chop again, and you lunge forward, your first blow finding its mark that draws a sharp yelp, while the Krookodile hurriedly scurries away from the second and leaves your tusk slicing through empty air. The Ground-type then stomps the ground and knocks you off your feet, which sends you pitching to the floor of the battlefield where you spit up dirt. While the Krookodile packs a punch, her attack didn’t hurt as badly as you were expecting. From the growing stiff feeling in your legs, she’s most likely hit you with Bulldoze.

“Hah… hah… so you slowed me down a bit,” you pant back. “You’re still not avoiding that beating that’s coming to you!”

Iris calls out for you to use Dragon Claw this time and you get to your feet and take off running, dragonfire sprouting along your claws as you close in. Except this time, the Krookodile bides her time and stands her ground. You shrug things off when as you make it down the last few paces, something strange happens on the battlefield:

You hear ‘Dragon Claw’ called out again, but this time it’s the voice of the Krookodile’s trainer that says it.


And then the Krookodile’s claws come alight with dragonfire. Before you can do anything, she nails you with an uppercut to your chin. You feel your feet leave the floor of the battlefield, then your body twists in the air and you crash face-first to the ground. You skid briefly, your legs and tail swaying in empty air before they flop to the ground.

You lie there, trying to piece together what on earth happened as you try to push your body up with your claws. Except your strength just isn’t there, and you fall back down to the battlefield’s dirt with a weak groan.


You didn’t know that Krookodile could use Dragon Claw, so the defeat came as a shock to you, even if in retrospect you probably should’ve seen it coming. You suppose you heard from others in the gym that most Pokémon had the potential to learn moves they normally couldn’t through one of those “tee-yem” thingies, but you didn’t realize that they would also let them learn a dragon’s moves, too.

No matter, it was surely just a fluke.

After a few hours’ rest, you are back out on the field as the lead an hour or so past noon, ready to massage your wounded pride with fresh victory. Especially since you’ve got a point to prove to your sister. Fortunately, that shouldn’t be all that hard for you from what you see of the next team, led by a human female with long red hair. Her first Pokémon takes his place on the battlefield and sizes you up with wide-set eyes, all as you furrow your brow with an unamused grunt.

“A Scraggy? Really? Your trainer’s gotten seven badges under her belt and you didn’t evolve at all before this point?”

Yes, a Scraggy, apparently. If the rounded head and exposed teeth didn’t already make it obvious, he pulls up the shed skin hugging his lower body up to his neck before letting it fall back down around his waist as his kind sometimes does. He narrows his eyes back at you afterwards, before turning away and folding his arms with a sharp huff.

“Hey, don’t knock me! I’m close to evolving! And even if I’m little, I pack a punch!” he protests. “Why, my trainer even says that she considers Scraggy to be dragons, too!

You’ve certainly heard those first protests a few times. Mostly from Pokémon who were all bark and no bite that you had no trouble defeating. Though Scraggy as dragons? That’s a new one. You let out a dismissive scoff in reply, before crouching and bracing for battle.

“Whatever, kid. I’m not the one who’s about to get wiped across the floor here.”

The Scraggy frowns, but doesn’t say anything in reply as the countdown to the match sounds. As soon as it ends, Iris calls out for a Dragon Dance and you thrash about in a frenzy, whirling around as dragonfire flecks your scales. You can feel yourself growing faster and stronger by the moment, and you turn back towards the Scraggy with a sneering grin and as you see him coming at you.

“Heh, make that blow count, Scraggy! Since it’s the only one you’re gonna-!”

You cut yourself off after hearing familiar words from the red-headed woman’s voice, ones of an attack that you’ve been practicing with Iris as of late.

“Wait, did your trainer just say ‘Dragon Tail’-?”

Much to your astonishment, the little lizard’s tail comes alight with dragonfire. Your eyes shrink and you hurriedly try to jump out of the way when you feel a sharp blow against your flank and go skidding along the side of the battlefield. You lose your footing and tumble, briefly seeing the lines marking where opponents go out of bounds when the surrounding world vanishes in a flash of light.

It took a while to register what on earth had happened, but the not-forest and not-river left little room for doubt. You’d been recalled to your Pokéball, since some way, somehow, that Scraggy had used a move that you’d still been practicing. He’d made it look downright effortless, and in spite of being significantly smaller than you, successfully managed to make you ring out.

Per human rules, that meant waiting for another opening to go back onto the field to fight. But the blow stung more than you expect, both to your body and even more to your pride. All the while, as your body lost the vigor of its Dragon Dance, you stomped and fumed in your Pokéball in a rage over the Scraggy’s slight.

“That lousy little newt! Iris! Hurry up and send me back out there!”

You even spat up a few attacks at the not-sky to try and force your way out. You could see the ball rock after a few of them, including from the Dragon Rage you just spat up, except when you do it this time, Iris’ hand clamps over it to hold it still. Much to your frustration, you won’t be forcing your way back onto the battlefield to get back into the fight today.

You throw a not-rock into the not-river with a disgusted fume and briefly notice the scenery change in the gaps between the translucent fingers of Iris’ hand. They take you off her holster and send you back out as the battlefield reappears in your field of vision, where the Scraggy is nowhere in sight. You throw a claw over your face and let out a seething growl. From what you could see of the world in your Pokéball’s sky, you gathered that your Druddigon teammate had been sent out in your place. Looks like she already mopped up the Scraggy before you could get even with him.

“Arrrrgh! I can’t believe I got cheated out of beating that lousy little pantslizard-!”


You blink and look up to the other side of the battlefield, where standing at the other end is a Scrafty, pawing at his head crest as he shoots a smug grin back.

Told ya I was close to evolving.”

The frustration leaves your body and it gives way to a quiet flash of fear. The most likely way that little lizard could’ve pulled this off is if he beat your Druddigon teammate in battle while you were sidelined. You breathe in and try to calm yourself after noticing scuffs from battle about the Dark-type’s body that seemingly confirm your suspicions. He might have bested your teammate, but it came at a price. And he just evolved, so he can’t be that much stronger…

That had to have been a fluke, too, right…?


The Scrafty pants for air, before winding up a punch with a knowing grin. He’s tired, but there’s a certain self-confidence about him that’s worrying you.

“By the way, do you want to know the other reason why my trainer says Scraggy and Scrafty are dragons?” he asks. “It’s because a lot of us have got a fighting spirit like a Salamence, including me! Every foe I drop just gets me more and more pumped and makes me hit harder and harder!”

Yes… you’ve heard about that as well from some of the others in the Gym. It’s not all that common, but every so often, there will be a Salamence that turns up in Unova with a fighting spirit just like that.

You’ve seen one of them fight before, and if this Scrafty is telling the truth, you’re in deep trouble right now.

You breathe in and out quickly as you put two and two together and realize the Dark-type really did beat your teammate. Meaning that you’ll be fighting him with this fighting spirit burning strong and yours worn down back to what it was when you first entered the battlefield. You fight back visible tremors and remind yourself that Scrafty are Dark-types. Who’s to say he’s telling the truth? For all you know, this is all some dirty trick on his part to fake you out to try to throw you off-balance.

“Y-You’re just saying stuff to get under my hide!” you cry back. “I’ll wipe the floor with you in no time!”

Iris cries out for you to throw a Dragon Claw forward, this time with all the force you can muster. A twinge of worry comes over you when you realize that even with your Dragon Dance’s invigorating effects worn off, she wants you to go on an all-out offensive. You opt not to question it, and with the might of a dragon, flecks of greenish fire erupt on your claw.

“Take this!”

Your claws dig into the Scrafty’s belly and make him stagger back a few places on the battlefield. He falls to his knees and slouches forward, wheezing and struggling to stay lucid after your blow.

You have a moment of satisfaction, confident that at last that you’ve gotten your revenge on the pantslizard, when a pair of words in human tongue cuts it short.

Once again, the red-haired woman calls out for ‘Dragon Tail’.

Your eyes shrink to pins and much to your embarrassment, you scream in fright as the Scrafty staggers to his feet and his tail comes alight with dragonfire. Blind panic overtakes you and even without Iris’ prompting, you turn and try to flee. Dragonfire fills the side of your vision and the next thing you feel is a crushing, burning pain, then your body skidding along the ground as you hit something hard behind you.

You look up as your vision runs muddy and see that you’re now at the side of the battlefield again, against its retaining wall. So the Scrafty wasn’t just getting into your head about being able to hit harder. You don’t bother trying to get up that time, as you wheeze for air and weakly raise a claw from the ground.

“A-Agh… m-medic!

You also didn’t know that Scraggy of all Pokémon could use Dragon Tail. That defeat also particularly stung, especially since after you blacked out, you apparently missed out on the chance to do battle with some sort of turtle thing with a tree on its back and a self-roasting chicken that are both rare to this land. Battles that were it not for that Dragon Tail, you’d likely have had the strength to fight in.

You spent most of the day afterwards resting in the Gym’s infirmary again from your defeat and apparently Head Case had to step out to fill in for you with another challenger. Things are starting to get a bit embarrassing now, especially since you insisted to your sister that you were ready to serve as Iris’ lead for her seven-badge team. It’s not the end of the world to lose twice, but twice in a row? On the same day? Without even getting in a proper fight that last time?

As such, when you’re sent out onto the battlefield once again, for the last challenger of the day, you’re nervous and on edge. What sort of implausible Pokémon are you going to see wield a dragon’s strength this time? An Ampharos that somehow knows Dragon Pulse? You breathe in tensely as a human male takes the other end of the field and sends out his first Pokémon.

… It’s a Growlithe of all things, who wags his tail and lols his tongue briefly, before striking a determined pose.

“Heh, good battling to you, Fraxure,” he barks. “Let’s see how well you can keep up with me!”

You blink as the Puppy Pokémon takes the field, when you try and fail to hold back a laugh as fall onto your side and break out into loud guffaws.

“Sorry, sorry… I know that I’m not supposed to laugh at challengers on the job, but are you for real? A little puppy dog? What are you going to do? Roll over and ask me for a belly rub?”

The Growlithe flashes his teeth and growls back in annoyance, as Iris gives you an askew glance and the countdown to the match begins. As soon as it ends, the opposing trainer calls out his command. It takes you so aback that you miss Iris’ entirely, and stare blinking and dumbfounded.

“Wait, huh? Outrage-?

You hear Iris frantically call you back to attention and look back at the Growlithe, when your mouth flops open in astonishment. The Growlithe is charging at you with his whole body wreathed in dragonfire, his eyes smoldering with rage and draconic might.

“Here’s your belly rub, jerk!”

You hurriedly try to stop his blow with a swipe of your own, but he throws himself forward into your gut, striking you with a blistering flurry of burning blows that knocks you off your feet and onto your back. You lay there on the ground as stars swirl in your eyes, spluttering and hacking in a disbelieving daze.

“N-Ngah… b-but you’re a Growlithe! A-And that was Outrage and-! H-How?!

You don’t get an answer to that question before the Growlithe returns and runs you over with Outrage yet again. You tumble along the ground and your vision goes wobbly as you try to stumble back up.

You briefly hear what sounds like a raspberry as your strength gives out, and you flop to the ground as the world goes back.

You’re back in the infirmary in the rear of the Gym. Again. Once more, you woozily raise your head as you see bandages and lingering scuffs on parts of your body and the ceiling lights overhead with it looking dark outside from the window. Looks like that last fight beat you up a bit harder than the ones earlier today.

How on earth had this even happened? You expected to go into your battles to help Iris emerge victorious, not to spend most of it licking your wounds in bed!


You roll onto your side and move your tusks to turn your head. Francesca’s apparently here, too. She looks down at your bed with a flash of worry in her black-and-red eyes.

“We pulled through in the end, but you looked like you were thrown around a bit out there, and those other battles earlier today weren’t exactly easy on you either,” she says. “Are you doing alright, Hatchet?”

You roll over onto your back and stare up at the ceiling, letting out a defeated groan.

Fantastic,” you reply. “Couldn’t you tell?”

Francesa turns aside for a moment and shakes her head with a low sigh.

“I suppose I should have mentioned earlier that it’s not exactly rare for the stronger Pokémon that challenge this gym to wield Dragon-type moves against us,” your sister sighs. “After all, such Pokémon and their trainers tend to spend more time seeking out ways of exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents before mounting their challenges. And for us, that often means that they’ll come against us with the might of a dragon itself.”

You turn to the Haxorus with your teeth set in a nervous grimace. You know you told her and Iris that you were looking for a challenge, but you’re starting to think that you’ve gotten yourself in over your head.

“How long do I have to fill in for Head Case again?” you ask. “Since fighting rookies in the Gym puzzle suddenly doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Long enough that you might as well spend some time training up a bit more if you’re currently having trouble,” your sister sighs back. “Especially since I doubt that Growlithe will still be one whenever his trainer comes back for a rematch.”

You look away as a sinking feeling settles in your stomach as you’re faced with the prospect of day after day like this one awaiting you. You snap back to attention after claws paw at your shoulder and you look up to see your sister as she gives a tired shake of her head.

“Just try and rest up a bit, Hatchet,” she insists. “Iris is in charge of handling challengers the rest of this week, and we’ll likely be facing more again sooner rather than later. Drayden apparently met a younger trainer in town earlier today from Nuvema Town that his companions from the League have been talking about for some reason.”

Your sister shuffles off and leaves you to stare up at the ceiling blankly. You feel a bit embarrassed for not knowing it prior today, but you didn’t realize just how many Pokémon could fight like a dragon in spite of not being one. If you had, maybe you wouldn’t have been so quick to press for taking the lead on Iris’ team for whenever she has to face down her toughest foes at this gym.

… No. You won’t back down here. A dragon never gives in. A dragon never yields. Not so long as they cling to life. Maybe your sister’s right and all you need is to toughen up a bit more so these surprises don’t catch you off-guard as badly. Why, you could even get started right now-!

You try to get up and hear something crick in your back. You yelp, before falling back into your bedding with a tired pant, pawing at your wounds before you curl up with a low groan.

… You’ll get started with that training. First thing tomorrow. Assuming there’s time before that challenger Francesca mentioned comes by.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente for beta reading this one-shot.

A Restless Dragon


A loud clatter rings out after knocking your head against the wall of the room you’re in. If you can call it that when it’s more or less the entire front of your present body that’s basically a block with legs. There’s a small impression left behind in it—not big enough to be easily noticed by your trainer, which you’re not sure is more relieving or disappointing. You turn away and shuffle back, settling down against the carpeted floor with a grumbling sigh.

“Why didn’t I just go along with everyone in my Pokéball?”

You let out a low grunt and look around at your surroundings, or at least as much as your now cumbersome and bulky body will let you. You were moody when your trainer tried to bring you along earlier, but instead of staying here with you, he got the wrong message. Because of course he would when he doesn’t fully understand what you have to say.

This present room is somehow even smaller and more cramped than your trainer’s bedroom back home. There’s a bed laid out on the right side that’s still mussed and unmade. On the opposite side, there’s a desk and a stand wedged in the corner along with a squarish ‘television’ set on it and a few little dolls set on top. The few constants from your trainer’s old room.

This current room is in a building that humans apparently call a ‘dorm’, in a large city a good distance away from where you, your trainer, and your companions grew up. He apparently had to come here for some ‘college’ thing, which takes up much of his time either with studies or with his human friends. He’s been spending a lot of time in particular going to some events called ‘Lahn Parties’ or something like that, hence why your other blocky companion in this room—a silver cube with a handle coming out its back which is normally connected to the television with cables—isn’t here right now.

Your trainer and the life you share with him have changed more than you could’ve imagined in the span of just a few years. He’s grown visibly taller and his voice is now deeper, and most of your teammates have evolved—other than Roy, who insists he won’t remain a Wartortle for long.

Eira’s now a Marowak, Aries evolved into an Ampharos a couple years ago, and even Jaki’s no longer a Murkrow thanks to a lucky break that helped your trainer get ahold of a Dusk Stone. All of them were excited for their new forms and everyone on your team was excited for them.

And then there’s you. Which on days like today, make you wonder if you’d have been better off holding back and not evolving into this slow, unwieldy block. Your teammates reassured you in the past that you’re just as quick as you used to be as a Bagon, even if it sure doesn’t feel that way sometimes. It’s much harder to move around with the shell all about your body, and you constantly have to ask your friends to slow down for you. You even have to ask Roy to do so sometimes, and he’s a Wartortle for crying out loud!

You can’t fit into many of the places you used to be able to as a Bagon, and going around the places that are still big enough for you is often a cumbersome slog. You felt it even on the occasions where your trainer gathered enough smaller Air Balloons to get your bigger and heavier body off the ground. Even though you still find yourself daydreaming of being in the sky, you’ve given up on trying to fly while in this form for a while now. The one time you tried jumping off a ledge to test your chances, you rolled and got stranded on your back. You just stayed stuck like that for the better part of an hour… with no company other than Jaki pointing and laughing at you until your other teammates came and helped roll you back onto your feet.

If only it’d occurred to you before you jumped that you didn’t have arms to flap anymore. It would have spared you the entire episode. In the wilds, Shelgon apparently sometimes meet their ends stranded like that, not that the humiliation of just lying there and flailing helplessly as you called out again and again for help was dramatically better.

Maybe you should just go find a cave to hide in until you’re a Salamence. You’ve heard that Shelgon supposedly do just that in the wild, and from your experiences since evolving, you’re starting to understand why. To not have to constantly fight with a body that feels more like an anchor than a step forward and to just stake a claim for a dragon’s den all for one’s self. A place to lay and rest, without ever having to feel like you’re being left behind by the world.

The door clatters open and you jolt to attention after something heavy thumps against your side’s plates. Something else clatters to rest from above on top of you and you feel weight on your back. You have trouble seeing past the edge of where your shell meets your face, when you spot your trainer’s legs passing… along with a Wartortle putting a claw to his mouth as he speaks up and calls out.

“Marl? We’re back!”

Your trainer… just used you as a shelf. Heat builds up at the back of your throat as a flash of anger comes over you and you turn your body to better see the pair. You can’t make out your trainer’s expression from your field of view, but Roy is visibly taken aback and mortified. They spent all night away from you and they seriously didn't even care enough to check if you were behind the door?!

“Ack! Sorry!” the Wartortle cried out. “We didn’t realize that you were resting there-!”

“Yeah, and I didn’t realize that I was just the new shelf in the dorm to set random junk on!”

You buck the object forward off your shell, and before it hits the ground, you spew dragonfire onto it. Roy and your trainer yelp as a silver blur launches across the room, and slams into the wall over the bed with a crash. It drops down, bounces off the mattress, and lands on the carpet. You see there’s now a dent in the wall where it struck, when you look down at the still-smoldering lump and freeze.

It’s the silver cube with its handle. Except now the bottom is now all charred, and one of the top corners now looks dented and discolored.

… You shouldn’t have done that. Your trainer’s parents gave that silver cube to him as a gift a couple years ago. Even simple gifts tend to be regarded by humans as treasures that they jealously guard, and the silver cube is no exception for your trainer.

You briefly see your trainer stoop down and look at it, before he turns his unplaceable face towards you. It’s etched with a deep, sharp frown, one that looks more upset than you’ve remembered in a long time. Roy’s face looks little better, when it occurs to you that your trainer sometimes shares the images that he makes through those boxes with you and your teammates to pass the time. It’s the only machine of the sort that he has at the moment.

Which you just destroyed in a fit of pique.

Your eyes widen and the flash of anger in you fades away. You back away towards the dorm room’s door, your words coming out in a shaky stammer.

“A-Ack! Wait! I can–!”

You don’t get to finish your sentence. There’s a flash of light, and the surrounding room fades away from your vision.

Well, you’re in your Pokéball now, free to stew in your regrets and enjoy a more open-feeling space… even if nothing in it is real. You rest inside the confines of a simulated cave, and occasionally look out at the bluffs and mountainous terrain generated by your Pokéball and see glimpses of the world outside overhead in the fake sky.

The whole time, through faded, translucent images, you saw your trainer moving around the room and occasionally looking towards the ground and talking. Probably with Roy. But it’s not like your trainer to keep you waiting inside your Pokéball this long, since normally, he has you back out and with whatever teammates he has on-hand at the dorm as soon as he can.

He’s probably mad at you. After all, that was a treasure of his that you just destroyed. Among dragons, such an offense often brands one as someone's lifelong enemy. B-But you weren’t the one who started all of this! He was the one who hit you with the door and used you as a shelf first! Why on earth should you be sorry about things before he is?

You see your trainer’s hand in the sky above, when your surroundings fade away. In the flash of an eye, you find yourself back in the dorm room looking at the bed. You turn around and see Roy and your trainer waiting, before turning away with a huff. You can afford to wait for their apology.

There’s a moment of silence, when Roy’s voice speaks up.

“... Marl.”

“I’m not saying sorry until Calvin does first,” you snarl.


The Wartortle’s voice sounds serious, like the sort of voice he’d normally have after catching you trying to jump from your trainer’s bedroom window back home. You waver and grudgingly turn to see the Wartortle locking eyes with you with his mouth set into a stern frown.

“You could’ve gotten us kicked out of the dorm by throwing attacks around inside like that.”

You hesitate and look away as a pang of regret comes over you. You didn’t realize that you could’ve gotten everyone into trouble like that. You certainly didn’t mean to. You just wanted to send a message about being respected.

Even so, you’re not going to apologize first. You are a dragon and you were the one who was wronged first. After everything that’s happened today, you refuse to let yourself look weak on top of everything.

“Calvin says he’s sorry for using you as a shelf. He was tired from a long day and wasn’t really paying attention,” the Wartortle’s voice sighs. “As for the game console…”

You hear jostling noises as you turn and see Roy turn and lift the damaged cube by its handle in front of your trainer, holding it up before you with a sigh.

“The good news is that it still works when it’s plugged into the TV, but it’s definitely never going to look the same again,” he explains. “And the damage you left behind in the wall is something Calvin is going to need to pay for with that ‘money’ of his that he was going to use for that trip he was planning on taking during spring break.”

A sinking feeling comes over you as the Wartortle speaks. Spring break was just a couple weeks away and your trainer had been dutifully scraping away spare money to pay for that trip. You were looking forward to it and so were the rest of your teammates, since it would’ve been a chance for you all to travel together again away from this cramped room. You can’t even imagine how mad they’re going to be with you when they find out about how you’ve ruined their fun.

You quietly set your teeth on edge as Roy trails off. He shakes his head before continuing on with a low sigh.

“He also said that some things will need to change from all of this.”

You starting to get genuinely worried now. ‘Some things will need to change’? Like you? But what could possibly change from the way you just sit and stand around most of the time…

Your heart and breath picks up a bit. Your trainer must be angrier with you than you thought. You didn’t think that he would ever be the type to do it, but…

“S-So he’s gonna kick me off the team? I-Is that it?”

“Actually… I tried to pass along what was going on to Calvin and I think he got the gist of things,” Roy tells you. “He’d like to spend some more time with you to make you feel a bit less ignored, especially since we’re probably not going anywhere far until the semester’s over.”

Your breathing calms down and you look up at your trainer. His face is as hard to place as it always is, but even if it’s upset, there’s a twinge of regret on it. Much like the one on your own.

… You don’t know for sure if Roy isn’t just telling you what you want to hear, but he and your trainer did apologize to you for his slight. You’re not sure what your trainer has in mind, but you suppose that you can hear him out. After all, you don’t know how enjoyable it will be for him to spend more time with you if he’s mad at you for the rest of spring.

“... What does he want me to do?”

“Well, since we’re sticking around the dorm for spring break, we’re going to need a new game console,” Roy explains. “He’d like you to come along with him when he picks up a replacement from the department store tomorrow.”

You frown and settle to the ground, turning away as a grumbling growl comes from your throat.

“Seriously? His idea of making things up is forcing me to walk around with these legs and my heavy shell?”

“It wouldn’t be all the way, Marl,” he insists. “Just when he gets to the game section in the department store.”

You hesitate and size up your trainer and his starter for a brief moment. You’re not convinced in the slightest that this will really make you feel better… but you suppose that you’ve wronged your trainer and your other teammates too. He at least is trying to make things up to you, so…

“... Fine, I’ll come along.”

The next day, your trainer sets off from the dorm and brings you and your teammates along on his Pokéball holster. It’s a busier than normal day judging by all the people and Pokémon you see pass through the sky of your Pokéball. They filter by as translucent images while your trainer goes about on the street and hops buses before approaching a multistory building.

Or at least that’s what you gathered as you moped in one of the simulated caves in your Pokéball. You know that you agreed to come to a department store alongside your trainer, but you were honestly hoping that he would forget about going after waking up, and you’re starting to have second thoughts about everything. With all these people and Pokémon around, you can already tell that it’ll be easy to fall behind from the others and get separated in the crowds.

Assuming that someone doesn’t mistake you for a shelf outside, too. Or do something else to humiliate you in front of an entire crowd of onlookers.

You lay against the ground of your mock cave and turn away to face deeper inside, when your surroundings melt away. As your surroundings settle down, you find yourself standing amidst a sea of legs with human and Pokémon voices all about you. That’s the department store alright, but something’s different this time. There’s no ceiling lights or hanging signs, and you feel the sun beaming down on you. You look up as best as your limited range of movement will let you, and see a blue sky and white clouds overhead.

… Didn’t Roy say that your trainer was taking you to the department store?

“Huh? What are we doing outside?” you ask. “I thought that Calvin was going to go and buy one of those game..”

You trail off after noticing that there’s stalls all around you, much like ones that would be set up in a market or a summer fair. You blink in confusion when you see Roy and your trainer walking up alongside you. The Wartortle steps forward, and paws at a furry ear as he studies his surroundings.

“He still is, we’re just in a bit of a different part of the department store than normal. The one here in Lilycove holds these markets every Saturday that they call ‘Clearance Sales’,” Roy explains. “Calvin never said that we were getting a new console. With those room repairs lingering, it’s probably best to settle for something that’s missing its packaging.”

… He and your trainer are never going to let you live last night down, are they?

“Look, just tell Calvin to replace the cube thingy with another one that looks like it and let’s go home,” you growl. “The sooner we can forget everything last night ever happened, the better.”

Roy hesitates a moment, before he hangs his head with a low sigh.

“... Whatever you say, Marl. Though I can’t guarantee everything will make it through translation. You know how humans can be sometimes,” he says. “Though the third stall up on the left should have one for sale.”

You make your way forward step by step, as Roy and your trainer steadily keep pace with you. The crowds are still disorienting, but you’re quietly grateful that at least this time, you’re not falling behind. The market stalls have all sorts of odds and ends set out. One has a row of TVs of various shapes and colors on display and another is selling some flimsy-looking fencing. Why, there’s even one that has dolls made to look like various Pokémon set out, with a stuffed Wailmer and a stuffed Rhydon catching your eye.

You freeze up from hearing a cry from ahead, along with the patter of feet running towards you. You look up, and a human tyke not much taller than you comes darting over. His eyes are wide and he calls out at you excitedly and points much to your blinking confusion. You’re not really sure what his problem is when he stretches his hand out towards you much like he’s about to tap your shell. You growl and make him freeze, when your trainer notices what’s going on and comes over.

You hesitate and cast an aside glance at Roy. Are you in trouble right now? You didn’t mean to seriously pick a fight. You just wanted to be left alone.

“Roy, what’s going on?”

The Wartortle pauses a moment and fidgets his ears as he listens in. There’s a moment’s hesitation before a small grin comes over his face and he lets out a quiet chuckle.

“You’ve got a bit of a fan, it looks like,” he says. “He was saying that you looked big and strong.”

You blink at the Wartortle’s response. While you know that you’re at least tougher than when you were a Bagon, you’re still surprised to hear that. Even with this blocky, cumbersome form of yours, this human child is impressed by you?

“... He thinks that I’m big and strong?”

“Well, yeah,” Roy says. “You are a dragon. Even if you’re not fully evolved, that’s how humans tend to see you.”

You feel a twinge of pride at his comment, and even more when you feel your trainer pat along the top of the shell. Roy joins in at the side, and you’re about to ask why they’re doing so when you see the younger child approaching again with his hand outstretched.

The Wartortle turns to you and gives a sheepish grin.

“I don’t suppose you’d be down to let the kid get in a quick pat?” he asks. “That’s what he was trying to do to you earlier.”

You hesitate a moment, before giving a wary glance back.

“... If it’s quick, sure.”

You hold still and brace yourself, half-expecting the human child to poke at your face. Your trainer says something and the child moves his hand towards the base of your shelled body, cupping it and stroking near your legs where you have the most feeling.

The way his fingers stroke back and forth against your scales feels more satisfying than you thought it’d be, and you can’t help but let out a content rumble. The human child looks happy, too. He continues on a little bit, before he turns and waves and slips back off into the crowd towards a waiting Torchic.

You weren’t expecting someone to be impressed with you as a Shelgon. It doesn’t change how much of a chore moving around is, but it still lifts your spirits a bit.

You snap back to attention after feeling clawed digits paw at your side. It’s Roy, as he continues ahead alongside your trainer, and stops to give a rub at the back of his head.

“Sorry for holding things up, Marl,” the Wartortle tells you. “I know you asked for us to not drag things out, so I guess we should hurry on over to that game stand.”

… You did tell Roy that’s what you wanted, even if now you’re not as sure about going back to the dorm right away. You can’t say you’d really oppose staying here a little longer if it means running into others like the little human youngling from earlier.

You lumber on a little ways, and before you know it, you and your teammates are standing in front of the game stand. It’s laden with boxes and machines of various sorts, including a number that are the same as the old ones that used to be in your trainer’s room at home a few years ago. They kinda look like they’ve sat in some backroom for about as long, too.

Roy steps forward and gets to work trying to help point things out for your trainer to speed the process along. He doesn’t speak human, but even so, he’s gotten pretty good at getting your trainer to figure out what he’s trying to tell him. Good enough that barring the trip back to the dorm, you doubt this errand will last much longer than a couple minutes.

You try to listen in on the two when you feel a chill run over your body. A strong gust of wind kicks up, forceful enough to nip at the stands’ awnings. You know that you’re outside the main Department Store building right now, but you didn’t think that it was that windy today. You turn and see that the gust is coming from past the stand, and without thinking you start walking towards its source.

You plod along, drifting off past passersby who duck out of your way. You fight back a growl when a trainer’s Medicham absentmindedly brushes up against you, but you let it slide since your thoughts are more preoccupied with where this wind is coming from. You follow after it as it blows in your face, until you bump into something hard and hear a metallic clang.

“... Huh?!”

You glance up and discover that you’ve run into a railing. There’s open air ahead of you, while there below you, are rooftops and streets. From how small the humans and Pokémon in them look, you’re pretty high up right now. You see the sky and clouds overhead as the wind blows in past the railing and can’t help but feel a sense of awe. You know better than to assume that you’ll be able to fly by leaping off of here, but you’re still closer to sky than you’ve been in some time.

You hop in place as the wind keeps blowing, and for a second, you don’t remember your heavy shell. It’s almost like you already have those wings on your back, the same ones that will be yours one day and let you look down at the world from above as the wind rushes over your scales.

“Marl? Where are…?”

You stop and turn around after hearing Roy’s voice call out from behind and spot him and your trainer walking up. The Wartortle sees you at the railing, as he cracks a sheepish grin.

“Guess the surprise is out of the bag now, isn’t it?”

You warily raise a brow and trade glances between Roy and your trainer. You’re not sure what to make of his comment at first, when it dawns on you that Roy and your trainer knew this view and the wind would be here.

“Wait, you told Calvin to come here?” you ask. “On purpose?”

“Well, it took some effort, but yeah,” he says. “It’s not quite tugging you around with an Air Balloon again, but I figured that just being up in a high place again would cheer you up a bit.”

You blink and turn your attention over to your trainer. He really must’ve wanted to make things up to you. Whatever worries you had about him being mad at you, they’re gone now. You paw one of your forelegs against the ground, and go up and nudge at him with a grateful rumble.

And as you do so, you spot the shopping bag in your trainer’s hand and notice that something’s wrong with it. He game here for a replacement “game cube”, but whatever is in that bag looks much thinner than what one ought to be.

“... Wait, I thought that Calvin was replacing the game console that I burned. That doesn’t look like a cube at all.”

“It’s more of an attachment to add onto one, actually. The one back at the dorm still works, and this thing wound up being quite a bit cheaper than buying another console,” Roy explains. “Even if it doesn’t look as nice as it used to, I guess he must still have some attachment to it. Heh, maybe he figures it’s better keeping it around as a reminder to pay more attention to us.”

Roy tugs at your trainer’s leg and motions at the bag, prompting him to pull the mystery object partway out of it. It’s a silver device in clear plastic that looks like a base of some sort, with one end raised with some sort of connector. There’s a disc in a clear case of some sort, along with another case with a sleeve over it. It’s some sort of cover depicting various creatures and rays of light in front of a banded background, with black-and-red glyphs set against a brick wall in the foreground.

It’s from that same set of games that the dolls on the television are from, but just from the box and its art, this one looks very different from the ones you’ve seen before.

“Calvin used the leftover money he was going to use for the console on this game with those cartoon monsters. You know, the same ones from those games he’d play at home?” he explains. “He says that since we’re not going anywhere fast for Spring Break, that he wants to bring the whole team out and show it off like the old days.”

You stare at Roy for a moment, at a loss of words to say. He paws at his shoulder, before he looks away uneasily with a low murmur.

“I know this isn’t what you asked for, Marl… but you’re not too upset about it, are you?”

You hesitate briefly, before you narrow your eyes back and speak up with a teasing huff.

“I guess that depends on whether or not I feel he wasted his money. I guess we’ll find out when Spring Break comes around,” you chuckle, before trailing off.

“... But before we do that. Could we stay here for just a little longer?”

Roy passed your request along to your trainer, and before you knew it, one thing led to another and a good half the day flew by on the rooftop of that Department Store. By the time you all made it back to the dorm, it was nighttime. Much to your surprise, you didn’t have to wait until Spring Break to make a judgment about your trainer’s purchase or share your thoughts with your friends. Your trainer made a visit to one of those ‘PC’ things to gather up your teammates who were home with your trainer’s family, and for the first time in weeks, you were all together again in this little dorm room.

Your trainer started showing off that new game of his not long afterwards, it’s been a couple hours since then, and most of your teammates have drifted off to their own amusements and chatter elsewhere in the room. You and Roy however, are still seated and watching the TV, which your trainer brought off the shelf and down to the floor for you to get a better view.

You peek off to the side where the silver cube is set on the ground next to it. That stand thing that your bought for the cube did a better job hiding the damage you left behind than you expected. Aside from a couple scorch marks poking up from the bottom when you look closely and the damage to the top edge, it doesn’t look that different from when your trainer first brought it with him from home.

You settle against your trainer as he uses a controller connected to the cube with a wire to shift the images on the screen, with him moving around a human in a trenchcoat through what looks like a desert town. Off to your left, Roy’s watching while lying on his belly with a cheeky grin.

“Hah! That sure looks a lot more like real life than those older games, don’t you think?” he chuckles. “Shame I probably won’t be able to do this for much longer. I’m going to miss being able to sprawl out on the floor like this when I’m finally all evolved.”

You find it hard to believe this is really related to those same games your trainer would play at home yourself, since it looks so different from them. Even so, you can see it’s got the same cartoon monsters in it along with some new ones thrown in, almost like the game itself evolved from those older ones. You muse to yourself about how that’s surely a bunch of nonsense, when you see the human on the screen abruptly stop. Your trainer stops to pat you at his side and says a few reassuring-sounding words to you, much as he did when you were a Bagon.

… In its own way, everything right now really does feel like you’re back at home.

“So what do you think, was the trip worth it, Marl?”

You shift your body to glimpse at Roy as your trainer goes back to fiddling with the controller. That’s when it dawns on you: you don’t need to find a dragon’s den to call your own and hide away in, you have one right here. Yes, the den one in your ball is one too, but you have a real one here in this darkened little room. It’s not as quiet or solitary as a cave, but it’s comfortable, and you’re able to just rest here alongside your teammates, whiling away the time together enjoy simple pleasures. Much as you’re sure you’ll be doing much the same together again in a couple weeks.

And… even if it’s not what most others of your kind would reflexively call a “dragon’s den,” you think you like it more this way.

“Yeah, it was.”
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and Torchic W. Pip and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Mythical Dragon

Late afternoon rays wash the steel awning over your head in burnt orange light, as you lie and sun yourself against concrete underfoot. Unlike the walkways humans use alongside their streets, this patch of concrete has green stripes marking out distinct spaces—for you and other Cyclizar like you who ply the Routes for hire on behalf of your trainers. The humans whom you carry keep your bodies warm on chillier days during your runs, and them requesting your services is surprisingly easy now. All it takes now is a few taps on those slates they call ‘phones’ that even human younglings seem to possess these days, some of which even house ghostly sprites as companions.

It can be a blur sometimes watching human machines and the way their owners interact with them seemingly change faster than you can shed your scales. Even so, some things have remained constant ever since you first became a runner-for-hire…

“Blugh… slow day.”

Namely that every now and then, there will be a lack of takers for your services, leaving you with little more to do than to sit with your riding harness empty and talk with passersby or other runners in your same situation. You’ve heard it said that humans here in Medali and the other places in this land where their dens cluster together, have a fondness for midday sleep. You’ve also heard that your kind in particular has a deep history with those humans. Perhaps they learned the practice from the way that Cyclizar like you might lay down to bask when the sun is at its highest and warmest during the day.

But the time when local humans usually rest in such a fashion came and went a few hours ago. Since then, you’ve just been here, waiting. Waiting for a customer to come to you so you can run and carry them off to parts far away, or else for your proper trainer to come and take you home to rest and to reward you for a hard day’s work.

Except, at this rate, you wonder if there’s going to be anything for you to do between now and then. With how slow things have been, you’re half tempted to sneak off from your post for a while and slip in a quick bask more directly under the sun before it sets for the evening.

I heard Reiju almost got run off the road near Porto Marinada by La Ferromandra last night.”

L-La Ferromandra? Boy, that must’ve been scary for her. Is she okay?”

You stir in your spot and shoot a sidelong glance at a pair of Cyclizar to your left who are similarly lounging in spots under the same awning as you. A nervous-looking one that looks like you, and another with tan scales whom you’ve never seen another one quite like during your runs. They’re friends of yours, and you often trade gossip whenever you’re together during slow moments like this.

Except, you don’t think you’ve ever heard either of them mention that name before…

‘La Ferromandra’?” you ask. “Clúa? Sanglas? What are you two going on about?”

Sanglas scoffs, before raising his tan head and letting his dewlap puff out.

“Seriously, Montesa. I know that work’s been slow today,” he says. “But how has a Pokémon in your line of work not heard of La Ferromandra? Have you been hiding under a rock all season?”

‘All season’? You genuinely hadn’t heard anyone say anything about this strange creature which apparently runs others off of roads. One that from the name, almost sounds like some sort of iron serpent. Have you really been that out of things that have been going on lately?

“I don’t pay attention to gossip that much, alright?” you harrumph. “Look, just what is La Ferromandra? And why are you two going on about it?”

The other Cyclizar, Clúa, looks around nervously, almost as if she expects to be struck down by an unseen presence. She paws at the ground, before turning to you and speaking up in a hushed tone.

“It’s this monster that’s been roaming the Routes between towns at night. They say it’s half dragon and half machine, and prowls the roads searching for unsuspecting prey,” she says. “When it finds a victim, it lets out a gods-awful roar before it moves in for the kill. The last thing you see if it goes for you is a purple blur, a hail of lightning, and then a set of metal jaws lunging for your throat.”

“Hence ‘La Ferromandra’,” Sanglas chimes in.

You tilt your head with a low scoff. Seriously? This is what Sanglas and Clúa are so worked up about? You’re pretty sure that this isn’t even a story they heard themselves, since you could’ve sworn you saw a picture from some dubious human magazine that one of your recent customers had been reading that kinda looked like that.

“Isn’t that just one of those make-believe creatures from those human tabloids?” you scoff, furrowing your brow. “Like those ponytailed Jigglypuff that are supposed to be a billion years old or those Volcarona with only one set of wings?”

“No way, La Ferromandra is totally real! I’ve got a buddy that runs one of the Routes going through Cabo Poco. He swears on his tail that a local friend of his saw La Ferromandra eat an entire pack of Houndoom out there!” Clúa protests. “He told he saw La Ferromandra’s lightning drop ‘em himself before he had to run off! Smelled the burnt fur and everything!”

Well that story got morbid really quickly. Though if the tale of this La Ferromandra has been heard as far out as Cabo Poco, maybe you really have been a bit out of the loop. Not that your friends need to know that.

“More like you need to be less gullible, Clúa,” you harrumph. “Seriously. Do you expect me to believe that a monster strong enough to hunt entire packs of Pokémon at a time to eat, that it’d have gone for a bunch of bony dogs of all things?”

They waver a bit, but they don’t seem to be persuaded that this ‘La Ferromandra’ is probably just another one of those ‘urban myths’ that gets around. You perk up after hearing footsteps approaching and turn to see a human walking up. He fiddles with a phone, before going over to a reader on the wall. He holds it in front of it briefly, when a Pokéball drops out from a dispenser for him to claim. Yours, based on the scuffs around its edges. It’s a sign that your wait for a customer has finally come to an end.

The human walks up to your side, distracted all the while talking on his phone to another human voice on the other end. You miss most of the conversation that he has in his tongue, but you think you at least picked out the destination he wants to go to.

“That’s my cue. Sounds like this guy’s headed out to Cascarrafa,” you tell your friends. “With any luck, I’ll be back in town by midnight.”

Sanglas and Clúa trade looks with one another after you finish speaking, as Clúa nervously thumps her foot against the ground.

“Wait, to Cascaraffa?” she asks. “Maybe I’m worrying over nothing, Montesa… But Cascarrafa’s not that far from Porto Marinada, and—”

You shift in place briefly as your hired rider slides into the harness on your back. After adjusting to the human’s added weight, you look back at Clúa, your mouth curled down into a frown.

“Clúa, seriously. Stop shedding your scales,” you insist. “I’ll be fine. Don’t go believing every little story you hear on the job.”

Your rider calls out and you set off ahead, exiting out from under the awning. You turn along the road as he twists the handlebars on your harness to guide you, when he pushes down on the footrests—a sign he wants to go faster. You oblige him, slowly at first, and then as you make it onto a stretch of open road, you curl your tail in and flare your dewlap out as you break into a run headed off for the countryside beneath the setting sun.

The hours and road markers flew by on the road to Cascaraffa, and before you knew it, the sun did too. It dipped over the horizon and the moon and the stars began to poke out as the sky darkened. You chalked up the way the world seemed to fly by you to the thrill of the run. With every stride forward getting your blood pumping and the warmth of your rider spreading to your body, you were honestly too busy enjoying yourself to notice how late it was getting.

Your run’s path takes you to a fork in the road and you fly down the left path, your strides carrying you along uphill a short distance. All of a sudden, you feel a sharp tug from your harness, one that digs into your scales from how abrupt it is. You blink and slow down, coming to a stop as you turn your head up at your rider. He’s calling out for you to turn around and motioning back down the path.

You narrow your eyes in annoyance and you raise your voice in protest. What on earth has gotten into him right now?

“Oh come on! You’re the one who wanted to go here in the first place!” you complain. “This is the road to Cascarraf…”

You trail off after noticing that the terrain is rockier than the way to Cascaraffa ought to be.

… Right, the Route to Cascaraffa from Medali goes downhill. Even if your human rider should’ve tipped you off sooner, you suppose you should’ve already known better.

You grumble and start to make your way back down to the fork in the road, rounding the bend where you see the slope headed downhill. At least you noticed this before carrying on too far down the wrong path.

You sigh and start to set off, when the air suddenly fills with an ear-splitting roar.


You jolt up and abruptly freeze in the path, looking around your surroundings as you try to make sense of where the roar came from. Your rider is tugging at your harness again, but this time you ignore his promptings entirely. What on earth was that? Is it even safe to go further down the path?

“Wh-Who’s there?!”

Nothing answers your voice but the normal sounds of night. You breathe out and are about to dismiss the sound as just some wild Pokémon getting into a scrap a ways off the path… when you hear strange noises in the distance.

There’s a whooshing hum that almost sounds like the engine of a human plane, along with something that sounds like faint, pulsing music mixed in. You look up at the sky and there’s nothing to be found, when it occurs to you that the noise is coming from the ground further down the path.

“What in the-?”

A large, darkened shape blows past you and strikes your shoulder. You lose your footing and briefly see purple and silver before you fall off your feet and flop into a ditch on the side of the road. You hear yelps, one of them yours, another your human rider’s, along with a skidding noise and gravel and dirt getting kicked up. You whirl your head in a daze towards the path further uphill where you hear a couple garbled beats of music abruptly cut out. There, you see a long, darkened shape with a pair of hollow wheels glowing violet and yellow and hints of static crackling along them. The wheels stop and darken as the darkened figure’s body rises up on a set of four legs. They lose their shape and merge back into the figure’s body when you see a glowing blue eye and as you look under the moon’s light, you see purple hide, a long tail, and large, glinting claws…

Along with a steely-looking head with metal jaws.

Your mouth flops open out of fright and stifled whines come from your throat. You know exactly who this strange being is, and if the stories about it are right, you are no match for it.

L-La F-Ferroman-

Something slides off the creature’s back, along with a slate-like thing that decouples from La Ferromandra and floats in the air. La Ferromandra then turns towards you, revealing a second blue eye, and begins to pace forward. Your mind goes blank and you forget about your rider or anything else other than that you desperately want to be anywhere but here. You hurriedly stumble onto your feet and try to flee, only to lose your balance from your harness hanging askew. You trip and flop forward onto your belly, feeling dirt and grass against your scales.

A dark shadow falls over you, and your heart pounds in your chest as your breaths come ragged and quick. This is it. Not even shedding your tail will get you out of this. Panic overtakes you, as you screw your eyes shut and your words come out in a pleading squeal.

“A-AAH! Please don’t eat me! I’m n-not a Houndoom! I don’t taste good-!”


A voice that drones sort of like a Porygon’s speaks up as you lay there. You shiver a bit, waiting for searing lightning or to feel fangs tearing into your throat. Except, they never come and instead, the strange voice speaks up again.

“But why would I think that you’re a— Oh. Er… I’m sorry, you didn’t hit your head in that crash, didn’t you?”

It sounds… worried? Why, it even sounds a bit apologetic. Isn’t… Isn’t this La Ferromandra who’s cornered you? What’s going on?

You crack your eyes open and see the steel-headed beast is indeed there. But instead of the fierce monster you were expecting, the steel giant looks down at you, holding its head with a puzzled tilt.

“I already felt dizzy after I ran into that tree further down the path,” it says. “So I can’t imagine that hitting your head would feel good for a smaller Pokémon like you.”

You blink and stare up at the strange creature and its peculiar eyes that look almost like they’re from some sort of electronic sign. ‘Ran into a tree’? Was that what that roar from earlier was? You stare up into the eyes of the creature, raising your voice with a stammer as you start to get a faint hope that you’re not in danger.

“S-So you’re not going to hit me with a hail of lightning and then rip my throat out?”

La Ferromandra stiffens up, and looks away from you. You aren’t sure what to make of its reaction when heated words in human tongue ring out. You glance over, and there is your hired rider arguing with what looks like a human girl with a floating slate thing. One of those Rotom phones from a closer inspection.

You sigh in relief, as it sinks in that you really aren’t in danger after all. You turn your attention back to La Ferromandra, as it traces its claws in the dirt with an expression that reminds you of the ones you’d have when you’re downcast or glum.

“I couldn’t do that even if my life depended on it,” it tells you in a deflated tone. “I can’t battle at all… and I haven’t been able to for some time.”

You back away and study the creature carefully when you realize that it’s not just its expression that reminds you of your own. Sanglas and Clúa mentioned that La Ferromandra was half-dragon and half-machine. But with its serpentine profile, you realize that even if it has a steely-looking throat where a dewlap ought to be, the strange spike along its back, or where a tail that looks almost like it’s made of iron segments… that the dragon that it looks most like is you.

Your heartbeat begins to slow and return to normal as your fear ebbs away. You walk up alongside La Ferromandra, much like you would a peer who’s hurt or frightened, and give a worried look from the side of your eye.

“... Did you get hurt or something?” you ask. “I wouldn’t have expected a… whatever Pokémon you are to not be able to fight.”

There is a noticeable pause, before the machine-dragon looks back at you, its head hung low with a downcast huff.

“Something like that,” it mutters. “Though ‘Miraidon’ is what the humans I’ve been around say my kind is called.”

‘Miraidon’, huh? You’re not sure how that name got cooked up, but something about it has a ring to it. While part of you is still in disbelief that La Ferromandra is actually real, let alone here and in the flesh next to you, a part of you is relieved that, in the end, it is a creature just like you. Much more so than the fierce monster that Sanglas and Clúa’s stories made it out to be.

If that’s so, maybe… just maybe… you would know just the sort of thing that would cheer this strange dragon up to begin with.

“I mean, you can run well, at least,” you offer, raising your snout with a small chuckle. “I’m sure you’ll be able to battle again soon enough. Just don’t wear yourself out.”

Miraidon doesn’t say anything for a moment, before looking aside with a quiet sigh.
“I’d feel more confident if I could at least run properly,” it murmurs. “I keep crashing into trees on turns all the time.”

You blink and look back down the path from where this ‘Miraidon’ came. From the tracks left behind by those wheel things, it was running in the middle of the road—quite fast from how deep the impressions are.

You hesitate briefly. You’re not sure whether or not asking about basic running techniques will make Miraidon mad, but part of you needs to know…

“Um… how are you taking those turns again?”

“I try to stick to the center of the road whenever I can,” Miraidon explains, tilting its head. “Why?”

“Can you show me?” you ask. “Try taking the curve around the fork in the road at speed.”

Miraidon briefly glances at its human and yours as they continue on in their discussion, with your rider still agitated like he was earlier. It paces back a bit, before much to your astonishment, its tail curls in on itself in a hollow loop as another emerges from where its dewlap ought to be—the wheels you saw from earlier. They suddenly light up and Miraidon balances on its wheels and clamps its claws to hold them in place. Then, what look like contrails come out from what appear to be engines on its hips.

It shoots forward along the center of the road. Your rider hastily ducks aside as Miraidon blows by, going faster and faster as it whips around the corner at speed and veers out towards the left side of the road before skidding to a stop.

Your rider yells at it a bit more as it makes its way back to you and it undoes its startling transformation in front of you. Your head’s still spinning from trying to take this all in, but based on what you saw… you understand how this Pokémon ran Reiju off the road, or how it did the same to you, for that matter. Such a strange creature who at least feels like it ought to be tremendously powerful, and yet it’s still making the sorts of mistakes a rookie runner would.

“Try slowing down as you go into turns like those and then speeding up afterwards. Also, it’s custom when running on the roads to stick to the right side of it whenever you can,” you explain. “It’d… kinda be handy for keeping yourself from bumping into others like the way you ran into me.”

There’s a pause and a blink, as Miraidon seems to have a moment of realization.

“Oh, so the same way those ‘car’ things humans sometimes use do?” it asks. “I didn’t realize that was also supposed to happen on Routes too, but I’ll try out your suggestions.”

You hear footsteps approach and see your hired rider return, grumbling frustratedly under his breath. He straightens out your harness and clambers back onto it as the human girl goes back for Miraidon along with her Rotom phone. The phone briefly floats up in front of Miraidon before settling against its harness—the two must be close to each other. The strange dragon seems to similarly be close to its rider, since after it sees her, it pauses to let her stroke at its snout, before it pulls its tail and throat back out into their wheeled arrangement. It paces ahead as it comes alight, turning back to you as you pass side by side.

“I suppose this is where we part ways, since we both have places to be,” it says. “Though by the way, Cyclizar… it’s probably a silly question, but did your human also give you a name?”

… This creature has a name? You thought ‘Miraidon’ was it, but clearly there’s more to the story behind how it and its rider came together than you thought. You hesitate for a moment, before glancing back as you already start heading further downhill on the path.

“Well, this human isn’t my proper trainer. But yeah,” you reply. “It’s ‘Montesa’. Why, do you have one, too?”

Miraidon turns down the path as the human girl fiddles with the surface of the Rotom phone in her hands and the strange, pulsing music from earlier begins to play.

“‘Trueno’,” it tells you. “If we meet again, hopefully I’ll live up to it a bit better the next time you see me.”

The creature grips its hoop-like wheels between its claws as they begin to roll again. The jet-like whoosh then kicks up as its hip-engines billow contrails and it barrels off up the path. You feel your own rider tug at you and beckon you down the path for Cascarrafa.

Right, you’ve got a job to finish, and you shouldn’t keep your rider waiting.

Along the way, your thoughts keep drifting back to your encounter, and to Clúa and Sanglas’ stories from earlier in the day. You always knew that your friends were wrong about those stories, but in a way they were also right. La Ferromandra is indeed real, but it’s nothing like the monster who existed in their tales. La Ferromandra is a dragon named ‘thunder’, one who’s an awful lot like you, and more clueless and a road hazard than anything vicious or terrifying like their stories claim.

You already know that you’ll have quite a story to tell those two when you return to Medali later tonight. One that will surely seem so impossible to them that they’ll think you’re the one making things up for a change.

Though then again, from the path that the strange dragon and its rider were taking… perhaps your worries are premature. Based on the direction they headed off in, odds are you that won’t be the only runner entering Medali later tonight.

A mythical dragon. At once so different, and yet so much like you.
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to Z102eternal and CinderArts from Thousand Roads, and EonDuoLatias from FFN for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon’s Challenge

You stumble back and dig your feet into the ground a few paces away from an earthen ledge. Your ragged breaths come out hoarse and flecked with stray embers as a stony gray lump rolls away and crashes through the dried brush. You always hated fighting these living rocks. It’s almost as if their blows are made to get under your shell as a Turtonator, and the sparks they throw around have an annoying tendency to make your limbs lock up.

But you won’t back down here. This Graveler is all that stands between you and a new nesting ground in the highlands’ sun. Even if he holds the advantage, there is one thing that you’ve been counting on to turn the tide of battle.


While your kind might not appear so at first glance, they are dragons. The bluish fire streaming from your mouth is proof enough of that. It is the telltale sign of a dragon’s might, one which scorches stones that even normal fire would barely singe.

Beyond the flames, the Graveler visibly falters and wobbles. For a moment, your spirits rise, as you start to think that you’ve finally bested him in your battle. Those hopes come crashing down with the sound of rumbling earth. The Graveler comes barreling back, too fast for you to dodge as his crystal-studded body strikes you square in your underbelly, noticeably harder than last time.

Everything goes by in a blur afterwards: your feet leave the ground and your limbs flail above you in the air as you fall past the edge of the earthen bluff. A moment later, your shell hits something hard from behind.


A deafening blast from it follows, as is the case whenever your shell is struck, and your world disappears into a plume of dirt and shredded grass.

You lay there stunned, and discover that no matter how hard you try, you can barely move your limbs. As the dust cloud clears, it begins to dawn on you that you’re stranded on your shell lying in a freshly-blasted crater. Your vision is muddy, but up above you from the ledge, you can still make out the Graveler looking down at you with a satisfied smirk.

“Yeah, I thought so,” he harrumphs. “Go back to your hole and don’t pick fights you can’t win, shellhead.”

Sparks briefly crackle around the Graveler’s body before he rolls off out of your field of view. You try to summon a Dragon Pulse to spit after him as a parting shot, but it leaves your mouth as an inert puff of choked, bluish embers.

You let your head hang back with a defeated groan. You hate to admit it right now, but you’ve been beaten. With your strength spent, there’s little you can do right now other than mount a retreat.

You just don’t know what you will do after all of this. You’ve been struggling to move on to more fertile territories for a while, and this Graveler was your best opportunity at claiming one that you’d found in ages. What hope do you have if you’re still being defeated by foes that you initially thought were weak?

… You don’t want to think about that right now. You just want to go back to your nest and pull your limbs into your shell. To lick your wounds and do anything other than think about your latest defeat.


You attempt to roll to your side only to wobble briefly and fall back into the crater. Right. Getting back onto your feet after being stranded on your back has always been tricky for you and other Turtonator to accomplish. In your present state, this could take a while.

It’s about an hour later and you’re trudging off for a small patch of lowlands that are shaded most of the day by the bluffs that surround it. It’s where your nest is, the first territory you were able to claim after going off on your own after hatching. Much to your embarrassment, while you’ve fended off foes who intended to cut your life short from it, that meager space has been the only territory you’ve managed to claim since then. Both from rivals of your own kind, and from others like that Graveler. Your limbs still sting from your loss, as does your pride—not that thinking about how long it’ll take to grow back the scuffs left on your shell from the earlier blast really helps your mood.

You just don’t understand what you’ve been doing wrong all this time. Aside from the fire and poison air that pour from their snouts, Turtonator are supposed to wield a dragon’s might, and can blow their foes away with explosive blasts. It’s more than enough for others of your kind to throw their weight around as they need… so why are you struggling so much trying to do the same as them?

The final approach to your nest of charred brush is just up ahead and you can already see the stones you sometimes heat up before resting on during chillier nights lying about. The walk up goes by much as it always does, when much to your surprise, the brush up ahead suddenly rustles.

You catch a glimpse of movement around the direction of your nest and hurry forward as much as your lumbering limbs will let you. Much to your alarm, once you reach your nest, you find a human with long hair worn in a bob poking at it alongside a black-and-gray lizard of some sort.

Those two are rooting through your resting place and poking at your warmth-rocks! After everything that’s happened today, you refuse to let your own territory be violated on top of it all!

“Get away from there, you little thieves!”

You spew a burst of fire over the pair’s heads, as a first and only warning shot. The human tumbles back from your nest and scurries away with a startled yelp. You lumber forward to try and chase her off, when much to your surprise, her lizard companion scuttles forward towards you. A loud, defiant hiss comes from its throat and flares a pair of appendages at the back of its neck, all as the orange streak on its back takes on a fiery glow.

Hey! Get away from her!”

The creature reflexively builds fire in its mouth and you can’t help but blink at its reaction. This little lizard thing, a male judging by the cadence of its voice, is a firebreather like you?

The lizard’s human calls out something in the distance that your ears don’t understand. He hastily smothers the flames in his mouth, and violet gunk takes its place.

“Eat poison, chump!”

You snap back to attention as the lizard spews a sickly-looking glob against your underbelly’s shell. You stumble back as the blow stings more than you expected coming from such a small ‘mon, but you hurriedly brush it away. You won’t lose to a little runt like him, and you let out a sharp battlecry to make sure he gets the message.

“Do you really think that’s going to be enough to get the best of me?!” you bellow. “Let me show you how wrong you are!”

You summon dragonfire in your throat, and briefly hear your foe cry out in surprise and try to dart away. It’s too late for him, and for the sake of your nest, you need to ensure that he understands he’s made a mistake by challenging you. You spew out a Dragon Pulse again, turning your head to follow the lizard’s movements in a sweeping arc.

I catches him in short order and sends him tumbling back. You hear his human yelp in alarm and you whirl about to discover that, against all reason, she’s still here. You glare at her, starting forward towards her with a low growl.

“I already told you once, get away from-!”

There’s a blue glint in the corner of your eye, when burning pain suddenly erupts along the side of your face. You thrash and bellow before the heat lets up, before losing your balance and flopping to the ground on your belly.

You lay there in a daze, unsure what on earth just happened. You put your arms out and woozily prop yourself up as your foes come back into view: on one end is the human fumbling through a bag of some sort, while on the other is the lizard, glaring at you as bluish flecks curl up from the edges of his snout.

Your eyes widen in stunned realization. He spat fire at you. And there’s only one kind of fire that could have felt so painful to be struck by…

“W-Wait a minute, you can wield dragonfire too-?”

Something bounces off your shell and the world around you abruptly whites out and melts away into an empty space. You let out a quiet yelp and whirl around in the void. You don’t know what happened, you can’t make sense of direction or even what’s up or down, but you at least don’t feel like you’re falling.

This too, must be another dirty trick by the lizard and his human. You refuse to let this be the end of things, and you turn your head up toward what you think is the sky and let out a defiant growl.

Hey! You’re not getting rid of me so easily!”

You spew out a gout of fire, and the white space briefly flickers along with a glimpse of the sky. It fades away almost as quickly as it came and goes back to the white space. Clearly you need to hit it harder. You ready dragonfire in your throat to try again, but this time, from the corner of your eyes, you begin to see translucent images taking shape around you.

Dried grasses and rocky bluffs. The sorts of features you’d expect from a territory much like your own.


The images vanish again and everything goes white. The next thing you know, your nest and your shaded territory pop back into view. There’s a faint crunch and you feel something pinned below your underbelly. You pull yourself up, where curiously, there’s a crushed red-and-white ball underneath.

You look back towards the brush and spot the human who is starting to run off. The lizard creature with her tugs at some sort of loose pelt along her leg and motions at you. Your eyes briefly meet his as you stumble onto your feet and hold your fire—just for a moment—out of puzzled confusion.

“Hey, wait! What did you do to me back there?” you bark. “What was that place in that ball-?”

The human lobs a second ball at you, when it occurs to you that you know what this is: it’s one of those balls that humans keep the Pokémon that travel with them in. Ones that other Pokémon in these mountainous plains sometimes sneeringly call their ‘pets’.

This one glances against your leg when once again, the world around you vanishes into a flash of white. You ready fire in your throat to try and burst out a second time, only to have your mind turn back to the translucent images that were starting to form around you earlier.

What were those? Would they come back again? And what would happen if you waited a just bit longer before breaking out of this second ball?

You smother the fire in your throat, still wary and ready to turn your might to the unseen sky in a flash as the translucent images begin to return. Moment by moment, they grow more visible and solid in appearance into something you find deeply familiar:

It’s a volcanic plain much like the one you live in, except it’s under a blue sky and looks well lit by the sun.

“What the…?”

You tentatively put out a claw and paw at the grasses. They feel a bit stiffer than you expected to the touch, and something about the temperature in the air is also a bit off, but… all things considered, you’d have taken this place over your current territory in a heartbeat.

That’s when it occurs to you that you’re seeing all of this inside that little ball that struck your leg, which didn’t look any different from that other one you crushed moments before.

… What on earth did it do to you? Are you still okay? You look up towards the sky, where you see translucent images of tall grasses and a giant purple eye surrounded by black scales glimpsing down on you.


You flinch and reflexively pull your head and limbs into your shell as the images in the sky of the Salandit’s head are replaced with a human hand and glimpses of your nest, which suddenly looks a lot larger. You’re starting to get worried about if this ball has harmed you somehow, and you’re not sure how on earth you’re supposed to get out of it.

The other ball wound up letting you out after you spat fire into the sky. Maybe that will do the trick.

You build up heat in your throat again, as hot, bluish dragonfire gathers in your throat. When a voice faintly comes from the sky above.

“Let me try and smooth things over.”

You swear that it’s the lizard’s, even if you don’t know how that’s possible. You falter briefly and the dragonfire in your throat dies down. Then, much to your surprise, things go white again, the well-lit plains melting away back to your nest and its shaded environs. You reflexively lumber forward with a startled yelp and turn back over your shoulder to try and take stock of your surroundings.

The human is still standing there at a further distance, while the lizard is warily drawing near to you. The red-and-white ball is grasped firmly in the human’s hand, and you inch away, as you level your claw and point off at the human’s hand with a stammer that comes out a bit more nervous than you’d intended.

“Wh-What on earth was that?”

“A Pokéball,” the lizard tells you. “They’re places where Pokémon that partner with humans like me can rest.”

You suppose that you’ve heard stories about such things from other Pokémon that dwell nearby, too. Though you didn’t realize that they’d have so much space inside.

“B-But there was a whole plain in there! And-!”

“It’s all simulated. Pretty convincing sometimes, but it’s all fake,” the little firebreather tells you. “The novelty wears off pretty quickly once you get used to it.”

You shuffle back warily yourself, keeping a firm eye on the ball in the human’s hand. With the way you crushed the last one, it wouldn’t wouldn’t be hard to chase her off and break it. Especially when she was ready to flee barely a minute ago.

The one thing that would stand in your way of doing so is the lizard presently standing between her and you. You’re… admittedly not as confident that you can defeat him as you were when you first spotted him rooting through your nest. But before you go back to fighting him, there’s one thing that you need to know:

“How did you use dragonfire like that? And so strong, too?”

“What? You’ve never met a Salandit before?” the creature replies, brushing his scales with a satisfied smirk. “It’s something they can do when they’re stronger, and it comes easier when you’ve got a human who can help point out things you’d overlook in battle. I actually didn’t know that Dragon Pulse would work on you so well.”

You feel a twinge of wounded pride at the Salandit’s remark, and raise your voice with a growling huff.

“It didn’t work that well on me! It just surprised me, that’s all!”

The ‘Salandit’ rolls his eyes at your reply and doesn’t bother to hide it. It annoys you a little, but you can’t help but cast a curious glance at his human.

Was she was the one who helped make him so strong?

You think back to the many defeats you’ve endured. Extra strength surely wouldn’t have hurt your chances for victory…

Could this gangly-looking creature really give you that?

“So…” you say, thinking aloud to yourself. “If I partner with your human… I’ll become stronger, too?”

“Well, yeah, assuming you put in the effort. And you’ll get patched up whenever you fall short. That’s part of the reason why we came out here,” the little firebreather tells you. “My human was looking for another partner to travel with since we were planning on visiting my old home soon. The last time we went, the local Salazzle kept getting into my head with their pheremo-”

The Salandit abruptly catches himself as a mortified grimace comes over his face. He bites his tongue, before speaking up with guarded words.

“Er… I was a bit outmatched, let’s just leave it at that.”

There’s clearly more to this story than what the Salandit is telling you, but you decide not to press it at the moment. In spite of his appearances, the little firebreather is clearly no pushover. And if he’s to be believed, he and his human want your strength to help them.

Because you’ve impressed them.

… Part of you is telling you to go along with them, but all of this just seems too good to be true.

“Okay, what’s the catch?” you demand, to which the Salandit answers you with a brief flick of the flaps on the back of his neck.

“I mean, you’d need to leave your old territory here behind. And you won’t be able to hunt or pick fights as you please either since it’s the human partner’s job to make the call about when such things happen,” the little firebreather explains. “Every Pokémon that leaves the wild to partner with humans is supposed to make a pact like that.”

You hesitate at the Salandit’s explanation. That’s… an awful lot for this human to ask, and you’re not sure how on earth that will work. But the Salandit looks healthy and content enough, and he wouldn’t have grown so strong if his human treated him poorly, right?

“Oh right, I guess there’s one other catch I can think of,” the Salandit adds. “Humans can get a bit overly affectionate, and sometimes they have trouble knowing when they’re getting a bit handsy.”

You tense up. You just knew that there was a catch to all this.

“Handsy? What do you mean by-?”

The human draws forward hesitantly and puts out a hand. You reflexively raise a claw to swat it away, only to stop and hesitate. Things turned out very different from your initial expectations when you waited inside of the Pokéball… what will happen if you do the same here when this human gets ‘handsy’ with you?

You lower your claw and opt to let things play out. The human cups her hand under your chin and scratches at your scales.

You can’t help but let out a quiet rumble in reply. You don’t know how well this human can understand you, but if this is what the Salandit meant by getting ‘handsy’... you honestly could get used to this.

“If you’re still not convinced, my trainer will let you go from the ball she caught you in and we’ll part ways here,” the Salandit says. “She and most other humans know better than to knowingly try to force a Pokémon that doesn’t want to be a partner to come along. That is your nest right here, isn’t it?”

You cast a brief glance at the nest and the ever-present shade bathing it. The one that you’ve been trying so hard to leave behind and replace with something different.

It’d definitely be a leap of faith, but in the end there’s only really one thing that’s keeping you from making the plunge. If this human and her companion really want you to join forces with them, isn’t it worth raising your demand, just in case?

“Tell your human that I’ll join you two… as long as I get to bring my warmth-rocks from my nest along with me.”

He smiles and lets out a quiet chuckle to himself.

“I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get them into your Pokéball, but sure. Consider it done.”
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Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Author's Note: Special thanks to @Venia Silente and CinderArts from Thousand Roads for beta reading this one-shot.

A Dragon at Last

“A Magikarp. Really?

A disappointed grunt lingers in the damp cave air, as the Dratini on the cave shore stares at you in the water with an unimpressed frown. He lets his eyes linger on you for a moment, before turning his head up towards a human child with a shock of red hair—of a shade just a little duller in color than your body’s scales.

“Lance, I realize that the human elders here don’t help pair more than one dragon partner up with a human at a time, but surely there’s better Pokémon to have as teammates than this...”

You splash your fins and shrink back in the water from the two. You know you challenged the red-haired child and he got you inside one of those ball things already. From here, all that's left for you to do is just to agree to go with him, and he’ll treat you as a partner like humans are supposed to…

But it hadn't sunk in until just now just how big humans were compared to you, even while they were still small and young. Or how easily they could carry you off if they felt like it.

Why does he even want you as a partner so badly? Most humans who come to the Dragon’s Den come seeking out strong Pokémon, and as a Magikarp… you’re nothing of the sort. The odds are heavily against that state of affairs ever changing for a Magikarp, a fact of life which all the others of your kind here are all too aware of. The partner Pokémon this human child already has doesn’t seem to particularly like you either, so why haven’t you already turned and swam away?

Your mind briefly thinks back to a couple hours earlier in the Dragon’s Den. Your fins had grown tired and you swam off in search for a place along its lakebed to rest after others of your kind had already taken the best places to rest against. You found one a little ways off from the rest of your school in the shallows by a ruined chunk of bridge and were about to settle in, when a Horsea swooped in and took it right in front of your eyes.

“H-Huh?! But that’s-!”

My den now,” he snaped. “Leave before I make you, Magikarp.”

You tried to brush past the Horsea and push him aside with your bulk, as squabbles among your kind are typically settled, but he wasn’t having any of it. You’d barely moved him a fin’s distance away when he spewed up a bluish vortex that knocked you back and spread burning pain against your scales in spite of being underwater. You hurriedly darted back in the water and caught him sharply glaring at you. You were a mere Magikarp, one who already regularly lost shoving matches with your peers. He, on the other hand, was a dragon. One who could do a lot more to hurt you than just push and splash…

“Okay! Okay! I’m going!”

As such, there was no point in continuing on with that battle, not when all it would accomplish would be to leave you listing unconscious in the water if you didn’t eventually yield and flee. You hurriedly swam off, even more haggard and worn down, and began your search anew.

You made your way off towards the shrine in the center of the cave. Much to your relief, there were plenty of places there in the nearby water to rest, and most of them looked unclaimed. You made your way up to one of them near the water’s surface, under the shadow of the wooden walkway which surrounds the shrine there. You made your way towards a stony cleft and started to settle in with your weary fins, when a flash of blue and white cut in. You swam back in a panic, when you saw a Dragonair’s head dart out a cleft next to yours. She coiled her body in the water and loomed over you, before nosing off at a pair of Dratini deeper inside the cleft that she emerged from.

“Hrmph, you know how things work, Magikarp. These dens are already taken.”

“B-But there’s nobody in this one and I-!”

“Would be my lunch if this weren’t a sacred place where it’s forbidden to take prey,” the Dragonair snarled back. “This is the Dragon’s Den and you’re not one, now move along.”

You yelped and hurriedly swam off as fast as your fins could carry you, just in case the Dragonair decided to ignore local custom and make good on her threat. You lived in a place that was special for dragons, and as such, they had first say with regard to its workings.

You were desperate at that point for any place to rest and decided to try your luck with the inner ring of rocks further out. The resting places there weren’t as sought-after among the local dragons and you figured that it was your best chance to find an unclaimed spot and finally get some rest. As luck had it, you found a seemingly unoccupied place after a couple minutes, and swam up to rest your fins and weary body.

Except it was less unoccupied than you thought. Just moments after you had settled against the rocks, something smacked you hard in the face and sent you pinwheeling in the water. You briefly caught a glimpse of a Dragonite pulling his tail back to his side, before you keeled over and laid in the water in a groaning daze.

Right, that’s why you decided to try your luck with a human. You weren’t brave enough to leave Dragon’s Den entirely as a wild Pokémon since the world outside is full of terrors, and death that comes suddenly from all imaginable directions. The humans that come to Dragon’s Den are supposed to make the Pokémon they partner with stronger, but…

You just can’t help but feel that you’re making a mistake.

You start to turn away, when the human child stoops and pats the top of your head with his hand. He looks down at you as his mouth curls up and he speaks something in that peculiar language that humans have. You can’t understand any of it, but something about the tone of his voice is soothing to hear.

You briefly notice the Dratini hesitating, which makes you curious. Since the Dragon-type clearly understood things that the human said which you didn’t.

“... What did he say?”

“He says that he knows that you will be big and strong one day,” the Dratini answers, before turning away with a harrumph.

“Just don’t get your hopes up. I'd sooner expect Lance to teach me to use Barrier before working that sort of miracle on you.”

Things changed an awful lot after that fateful day, and much of the time following it went by in a whirlwind. You quickly learned a thing or two about how differently humans treated the process of giving names to themselves and their companions. Your human was ‘Lance’, your Dratini teammate was ‘Ryu’, and you were ‘Kouhaku’. You’re not fully sure what they mean, beyond that some other humans apparently thought that your and Ryu’s names were a bit on-the-snout.

With a bit of time and some help from Ryu, you learned to discern human cries, to tell when Lance wanted you two to swim one way or the other, or when he wanted Ryu to spew his dragonfire or use some other attack… much as you are doing now about a year afterwards, locked in a battle with a pair of Poliwag in a river not far from Lance’s home.

Lance ordered Ryu to get up close with the pair, striking them with Pounds and Dragon Rages. You, however, he kept swimming at a distance. Much like always, he instructed you to swim circles about your enemies, Splash them when he called for it, and then hurry away to safety.


Which proved easier said than done when fighting foes who could attack from a distance like those Poliwag. You flinch briefly after one of them hurls a glob of mud in your face that makes it hard for you to orient yourself. After recomposing yourself, you break away as the Poliwag begin to chase after you, faster than you remembered them being able to.

Lance calls out from the riverbank and a flash of dragonfire sails in. A yelp rings out from behind you and you briefly glimpse one of the Poliwag listing in the water as Ryu comes over for you to hide behind. He repeats his blow on the other Poliwag and similarly dispatches him. The splashing and battlecries die down as after a brief moment’s stunning, the Poliwag both hastily swim off and flee.

You warily poke your head out from behind Ryu, who raises his own over the water to call out after your foes with a sharp huff.

“And don’t come back! We dragons aren’t the kind to let go of a slight!”

Water comes in and out of your gills as you try to regain your nerves as the river returns back to peace and quiet. No further Pokémon come to challenge you after that, leaving you and Ryu alone to swim back to your trainer waiting at the riverbank.

Along the way, you let your fins sag glumly. You’re supposed to be training to grow stronger, but you didn’t win that battle, it was Ryu who did all of the hard work. You were bigger than him, and yet all you could do was swim around, splash a bit of water, and then hide behind him after the Poliwag trained their attention on you.

It sure felt like most of your battles had been going that way. You looked at Ryu on your way over to shore, and as you neared it, you raised your voice in wavering protest.

“Ryu, wh-why do I have to be here? I can’t even do anything in battle other than just distract the other Pokémon!”

In the earlier days when you started training with Lance, Ryu might have said something snippy or mean-spirited in reply. Thankfully, he’d stopped doing that for a while now. You don’t know whether it was from the way Lance scolded him after he noticed how Ryu made you feel bad those first few times, or if the Dratini had just grown to tolerate your presence over the past year.

“Lance insisted that the best thing for you to do for now was simply to just hang tight in battle,” the Dragon-type sighed. “He says that it’ll help you build your nerves and get you more familiar with taking orders.”

You sink in the water at your teammate’s reply. So you literally can’t do anything to help other than just be there? Ryu notices the turn in your mood as he swims along, and slows his pace to turn his head back to you.

“Look, I don’t understand it either, Kouhaku,” he says. “But Lance insists that it’s making you tougher and that it’ll help both of us as we grow up.”

You wait by the riverbank with your fins and bob listlessly with the water as you start to feel small and powerless, like you tend to after times when you got chastened back at the Dragon’s Den. There’s a pat at your scales from above and you glimpse up. It’s Lance, smiling down at you with a twinge of worry on his face. He speaks in his tongue, and from what you’ve learned of it, you gather that he’s worried that he pushed you too hard in your latest fight. He’s holding a few leaves of lettuce in his hand, still bunched together. A treat for a job well done which he sometimes gives you to eat and tug apart in the water.

It lifts your mood a bit. Especially since pulling apart lettuce heads like those is one of the few times when you feel genuinely strong and can see yourself getting better and better at it.

He sets it out in front of you in the water as you swim up and start to nibble and tug at your treat. All the while, Ryu slithers onto shore for his turn to get affection from Lance and trades a look with you as you turn your attention up from your treat.

“Just hang in there a bit longer,” the Dratini insists. “I know it doesn’t seem like things are going anywhere, but it has to pay off eventually, right?”

“A bit longer” indeed.

Two years after that skirmish with the Poliwag, you and Ryu still were training in much the same fashion with Lance, and in spite of things being a familiar routine, quite a bit had changed:

You were now training in a land beyond the mountains east of the Dragon’s Den. Lance had grown visibly taller and started wearing a worn cape taken from some tatty old costume—a marker of the sort of human that he wanted to be when he grew up. Ryu had evolved into a Dragonair, every bit as big and imposing as the one that bullied you on the day you first joined Lance in the Dragon’s Den. Though unlike that Dragonair, Ryu fought alongside you, and used his newfound size and length to shield you from blows more times than you could count. He stopped putting you down a long time ago, and when you were feeling down, sometimes he would come and try to cheer you up all on his own…


And then there was you: still a Magikarp after everything that had happened during those three years. You suppose you were a little bigger and swifter now and could tear apart lettuce better, but even now, battles are still bitterly disappointing. You’re still only able to Splash and shove and swim around your foes while battling alongside Ryu—with your current battle with a pair of Goldeen being no exception.

Once again, you can’t do anything to them. Which the Goldeen nearest to you is all too eager to remind you about.

“Hah! Don’t you ever get tired of doing something other than swimming around, Magikarp?”

You feel a pulse of anger under your scales. Those had been coming more and more frequently since for years now, your battles have consisted of swimming around and trying not to get hit by your foes. All while they mock you and you can’t do anything meaningful about it. You knife along in the water to try to ignore your foe and stay focused, since the times when you get distracted are the ones when you’re most likely to lose from not listening to Lance’s calls or overlooking a foe’s move that you didn’t see coming. Besides, from the visibly tired way the Goldeen are moving around, it shouldn’t be much longer before Ryu puts an end to this fight.

This time, something abruptly changes in your foes’ mood. The Goldeen spot something from higher up and there’s a brief flash of panic in their eyes before they dive underwater. Even the one that was in the middle of taunting you just turns and flees without further comment.

“Huh? What’s-?”

Before you can finish your question, sharp points slice into your side. You cry out in pain as they tear into your body and hoist it out of the water, dripping seawater below. Your vision is starting to grow hazy, but above you, you can see brown and cream wings, along with talons digging into the scales on your side.


Ryu’s voice cries out in alarm and dragonfire zips in from below. There’s a squawk as the sharp talons let you go and you fall back to the sea with a splash. You go under the water and limply bob about as your body floats back up to the surface. You list in place with the undulating waves, watching as the world spins around your eyes. Your scales feel warm and there’s a tang of blood on your tongue. There’s a voice coming from the shoreline which shrills and repeats again and again—Lance’s, calling out your name right now in a tone that sounds genuinely frightened. You hear Ryu’s as well as he splashes up beside you, and it sounds much the same. You weakly tilt your head and catch a fuzzy glimpse of him stopping in the water next to you and craning his head down at you with widened eyes.

“Oh no no no, Kouhaku! I’m sorry! I d-didn’t mean to let you-!”

“Back off, you stupid snake! That’s my prey!”

A flash of brown dives in at Ryu and makes him cry out in pain. There’s a cut on his scales now as your attacker—a Pidgeotto—comes back and tries to grab at you to carry you off again. Ryu desperately throws his body between you and the bird, trying to get you out of the way so you’re safely out of reach of the Flying-type’s talons.

And through it all, you’re unable to do anything. Again. All you can do is just lie here in the water, even while for all you know you’re dying. It burns you up inside, like the Horsea’s Twister did. Or the feelings inside of you thinking of how the Dragonair drove you off. Or like the sting of the Dragonite’s tail slap. Or any number of blows and mocking jeers you’ve had to endure all these years since you were a Magikarp. Since you couldn’t do anything back other than Splash and shove and swim around.

Something inside you snaps. You will do something this time, even if it kills you.


Your body feels warm and suddenly, you rise up in the air. You briefly hear the Pidgeotto cry out with a startled squawk and even hear Ryu and Lance’s voices yelp. Water churns about you as your eyes leave the water entirely, much like when you were snatched, and the sea’s surface grows farther and farther away. When your ascent stops, you can’t feel your front fins anymore and you can see that your barbels are now noticeably longer and blue.

You are a Gyarados now and your breaths come out hot and angry as you hear faint wingbeats. You whirl your head off in their direction and see the Pidgeotto again, now flying away now for dear life.

As he tears through the air, one thought alone fills your mind:

Everyone who hurt you for all these years must pay. Starting with this accursed bird.


You hug the surface of the sea and knife through the water after the Pidgeotto, much like Ryu does to close the distance with foes. Much to your surprise, your undulating movements come almost instinctively to you and you’re able to gain on the Pidgeotto. His underbelly comes into sight when you lunge up, and open your jaws wide. The Pidgeotto looks down and sees your approaching maw. He screams as desperately banks to try and dodge your grasp. He almost makes it, but your jaws find purchase on his tail and your teeth sink into it. The bird shrieks in pain as you snarl and drag him down towards the sea. The Pidgeotto squawks out frantic cries for help all the while, until about halfway down, he realizes that help isn’t going to come. His cries start devolving into incoherent pleas for mercy as your once-hunter begins to pathetically beg for his life.

You’re not interested in them. He dug his talons into you to carry you off and try to eat you not even a minute ago. He hurt Ryu with them. You’ll give him the fate he deserves and chew him to pieces. Slowly.

You throw the Pidgeotto up into the air and open your mouth to crush him between your jaws when a voice calls your name from the shore. You hesitate and the Pidgeotto slips between your teeth and hits the water. Frantic wingbeats intermixed with low whimpers reach your ears and you briefly see the Pidgeotto pull himself out the water and clumsily flees back for the forest with his tail held stiff and injured. You briefly consider giving chase, only for those thoughts to die once you look back towards shore.

Lance and Ryu are there, staring up at you. Ryu looks visibly terrified and is shaking like a leaf from behind Lance. Lance looks a bit scared himself, he’s stiff and obviously unnerved and yet in spite of it all, he’s still calling out for you. His voice is shakier than normal, but it still has that soothing tone of his when he tries to cheer you up.

He pleads for you to calm down and tells you that things are alright. That things are okay now.

You look down at your body and when it dawns on you that Lance and Ryu look so much smaller now. So does the rest of the world. As your breaths slow down and grow calmer, your thoughts turn back to when you were a Magikarp and how on the day you first met Lance, he seemed so big and scary. You suppose it would only be natural the opposite would also be true now that the scale is on the other fin.

As your breathing returns to normal, you remember Lance telling you that he knew you’d become big and strong one day, and you are big and strong now. Because of his unwavering faith in you, that even after years where it seemed like nothing changed, he kept training you. Because he was convinced that one day you two would share this moment.

There is only one thing left for you to do now.

You lower your head and bring it down, stopping just in front of Lance. He visibly grows stiff at your approach and Ryu flinches and screws his eyes shut.

“Thank you for being there for me.”

There’s a moment of disbelief on Lance’s face as he brings his hand up and pats your snout, first warily, and then more and more enthusiastically as a smile spreads over it. You let out a content rumble as he paws at your snout, when you notice Ryu cracking his eyes open and nervously slinking back. You open your mouth to ask what on earth has gotten into him, when your memory turns back to a comment he made in passing a couple years back.

“We dragons aren’t the kinds to let go of a slight!”

… Right. When you first started training together, Ryu was downright awful to you, and he expects you to still remember that. You suppose you rightfully ought to be angry with that Ryu back then… but that Ryu doesn’t exist anymore. The one who’s your teammate now and standing before you today is stronger than the one from back then, older and wiser too. He was there for you when you were not doing well, and put himself on the line to protect you when you were still small and weak.

Including when your life hung in the balance just earlier.

Both of you,” you say. “Just don’t expect me to take every hit for you for three years, Ryu. After all, I know you can do more than Splash and swim around during a fight.”

Ryu’s breaths begin to return to normal as he starts to calm down. He’s still on edge a bit around you and lets out a nervous titter, but at least he’s smiling now.

And… he seems genuinely happy that you’re here.

“H-Heh, never thought you’d be looking down on me like this, Kouhaku.”

“Yeah,” you chuckle back. “Me neither.”

It’s been years now since that day when you evolved, Lance now wears a far nicer cape, and apparently has become a human who’s seen as strong and commands respect from his peers. So are you for that matter. As a Pokémon, you’re now far stronger than you ever dreamed of becoming when you first set off with Lance. Ryu similarly is a far cry from the little Dratini who first met you. He’s now a Dragonite, and even if you two have more companions now, he still is often alongside you. In this case, he’s here to keep an eye on you when Lance is preoccupied during your swims.

Today’s is in familiar territory: the waters of the Dragon’s Den.

“Remember, Kouhaku. Just… try not to take anything the locals say personally, alright?”

You slither into the water and let out a quiet huff in response. Sometimes you feel a bit insulted by constantly being watched like this, but honestly… with the way your temper can be sometimes since evolving, maybe it’s for the best. You don’t think it’ll be an issue during your swim today, though. The Horsea and the Dratini and their kin don’t dare treat you the way they did when you were younger, and every once in a while, you’ll see a face you recognize from those days hurriedly shrink away at your approach.

That alone already makes these visits back to the Dragon’s Den satisfying for you. But the part about these visits that really lifts your mood is hearing the awestruck words from your fellow Magikarp that live here.

“Wow! So big!”

“Did you beat your last challenger? It was easy, right?”

“When I’m all grown up, I want to be just like you!”

One of the things that you’ve learned in the years since you left to train with Lance and grew better traveled is that you’re far from the only Gyarados to have roots from the Dragon’s Den. A number of Dragon Tamers who start out in the surrounding land like Lance apparently choose Magikarp of their own to be their second partners.

For all of the local dragons’ insistence about how they don’t take prey here because it’s a sacred place, maybe that also has something to do with why they don’t dare hunt the Magikarp that live here.

You dive and let the water close in over your scales, as you snake around rocks and under wooden pylons as you please. All the while, your mind drifts towards Lance and the experiences you two have had together. Past victories and defeats, the many waters you two have seen together, and the new horizons you and your teammates chase alongside your trainer.

Lance apparently tells other humans sometimes that ‘Not all dragons are Dragon-type Pokémon’. You’re sure that many of the dragons here in the Dragon’s Den wouldn’t agree with those words, but in the end it doesn’t really matter.

After all, whenever you’re here, whatever they really think of you and Gyarados deep down and whether you’re really a dragon or not, they give you their respect. They understand that in the end, your might is just like theirs and like them, you can make the world quake and tremble.

If nothing else, you suppose that you’ve convinced them that you’re like a dragon.
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