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The End (PG13)

Discussion in 'Completed Fics' started by DeliriousAbsol, May 10, 2015.

  1. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    I'll admit I'm a little nervous about posting this fanfic. I've been writing it for almost a year and recently been submitting it to fanfiction(dot)net (in case anyone recognises it. It's me. DeliriousAbsol. Please don't worry)
    When I realised there was a fanfiction section to this forum I thought 'why not'. Then got nervous and read the rules. Twice. The second time was more of a skim really.
    Anyway, I'm rambling. I'll tell you a bit about this fanfiction then just let you read chapter one.

    Edit - I've finished writing this story now. All 70 chapters are now uploaded! Also, on my FFnet account, is a series of one-shots that provide character background. (If you want to read them, fair warning they contain spoilers!) If there is enough demand, I shall also post them to this forum.

    Blurb - In a world ravaged by war started by a wicked Hydreigon, the Pokemon have been split into three groups - Outcasts, Heretics and Darkness. Two members of the Outcasts Guild - a Meowstic called Cleo and her small Dedenne companion Spark - stumble upon an odd discovery. Something that sparks a little hope amongst the Outcasts. The hope that one day, the Darkness just might be defeated and Pokemon can live in peace once more.
    However, this discovery sets two assassins - an androgynous Zorua named Harlequin and a joker of a Banette named Enigma - after Cleo and her friends. What unfolds next is a roller-coaster of events that throw our heroes right into the epic battle between good and evil.

    Warnings - there is a little violence and gore in this story. Also, one of the characters has a back history of abuse but I do not write such things in detail. I would personally rate this T for Teen.

    Disclaimer - I do NOT own Pokemon or any of its critters!

    The End

    Part 1

    1 – A World Shrouded in Darkness​

    Barely a sound rose from the shadows cast by the trees as the setting sun stretched its dwindling rays through the canopy of the Winding Woods. Cleo trudged through the undergrowth, keeping her wits about her as any sensible Meowstic should, making as little noise as the rest of the wood's inhabitants – which were few and far between.

    “Argh.” The quiet groan came from the fur about her neck, followed by the head of a small Dedenne. “I'd give my whiskers for a berry.”

    “It's not far now,” said Cleo. “We'll be at the Guild before sundown.”

    “My poor stomach worries you might be wrong.”

    “Your poor stomach will just have to trust me.”

    Cleo tapped the satchel at her side, briefly considering pulling out her map then deciding against it. If she stopped and distracted herself, they'd be easy prey. Dark Pokemon often lay in waiting to take out any of the Outcasts who thought it a good idea to wander at night. Granted it wasn't night yet, but the woods were pretty dark and she wasn't willing to take any risks that could put her or Spark in danger.

    “Oh! Oh!” Spark covered her mouth with both paws, alarmed at the volume of her own voice, and after a quick look over her shoulder, pointed at the trees ahead. “I see light.”

    “Great.” Cleo gave a half smile. “But your over-excitement has attracted some unwanted guests.”

    They looked up slowly into the grinning faces of three Weavile crouching amongst the branches.

    “I spy with my little eye,” crooned one of them, “two sitting Duckletts.”

    Spark growled and shook her tiny fist. “I have you know I'm hungry. And I'm not nice when I'm hungry. So get down here so I can kick your tails all the way back to the Shadowlands!”

    “Big words from such a tiny squirt of a rodent.”

    The other two Weavile burst into fits of laughter.

    “What did you call me?!” The Dedenne shot from Cleo's shoulder and landed a foot in front of her, stretching herself up to her full five inches of height. “Are you making fun of my size?!”

    The Weavile's laughter echoed through the branches as they continued to throw jeers at the Dedenne.

    Cleo took a step back, not from the Weavile, but because she knew full well what was going to follow next. The overconfident smirks on their wicked faces were wiped clean as a flash of electricity shot from Spark's body and sent all three Weavile dropping from the branches to the damp woodland floor. Their bodies jerked for a moment as static danced across their fur.

    Spark crossed her arms. “Who's laughing now?”

    Cleo moved to her side and looked down at the fallen Pokemon.

    “You could have gone a little easier on them,” she said.

    “That would have taken effort,” said Spark. “And I'm already hungry as it is.”

    Cleo sighed. “Well, we might not be able to milk them for information but at least we can see what they have on them.”

    “I'm already on it.” Spark's tail poked out of the lead Weavile's bag. “No berries though. Darn.”

    “Any gold?”

    “Oh there's plenty of that!” The little Dedenne pushed as much loot out of the bag as she could for Cleo to collect before vanishing back inside. She popped out again quickly, holding a small glass tube in her hands. “What's this though?”

    Cleo took it and turned it around in her paws. It had a cork stopper forced firmly in place, but what it had inside looked like pink liquid.

    “Is it Pecha Juice?” Spark asked.

    “Why would they juice it?” Cleo shrugged and stuffed it in her bag. “We can ask at the Guild. I think we've got enough, let's move on before any more of their gang arrive.”

    Spark leapt back onto the Meowstic's shoulder and they moved through the trees, picking up pace to reach the light before it faded with the setting sun.

    As they left the woods, the dwindling light was almost blinding after the darkness of the trees. They blinked a few times as they focused on their surroundings. Before them lay a stretch of grass that ended at a low stone wall. Beyond that was a little wooden town, the likes of those built quickly by Outcasts who were always on the run in an attempt to reach safety.

    These little wooden towns were rarely inhabited for more than a season or two, and needed to be built up quickly over a short period of time. As such they were often flimsy and made of anything that can be found quickly and cheaply, but preferably free. Near woods was the best place to erect them, however that also meant they were easy targets for any Dark Pokemon that may be lurking nearby.

    Cleo quickly vaulted the wall and trotted along the dirt path that ran through the rickety little town. It was quiet, only a handful Pokemon left outside. A Meinshao cut in front of her, walking with the confidence and posture of a member of the Night Watch.

    “What business do you have?” He asked firmly.

    “We're looking for the Guild,” she explained, gesturing to the sun-shaped badge on her bag. “We're members.”


    Spark poked out her head. “Yes, we. Where is it?”

    “Oh.” The Meinshao seemed a little taken aback. “It's the large building over there.” He pointed behind him. “You can't miss it.”

    “Thank you.” Spark retreated back into Cleo's fur.

    “By the way.” Cleo nodded back to the woods. “We ran into three Weavile. You may want to take them into custody, but be careful. There may be more of them.”

    The Meinshao's eyes widened and he nodded his understanding before returning to his allies.

    The Guild Hall stood tall and proud amongst its hastily built surroundings, the Outcasts obviously taking more pride in its appearance. Guild buildings existed in every Outcast town to accommodate its travelling members and to look after those in the town who were struggling or unable to care for themselves.

    Cleo flashed her badge at the Combusken on the door and went inside.

    “Ahh, Cleo!” A Riolu ran over to her and took her paw, giving it a firm shake. “I thought you might arrive today.”

    “Oh, Tinker...” Cleo snatched her paw back. “What are you-”

    “We're just starting the evening meal if you wish to join us?”

    “Yes!” Spark shot from Cleo's shoulder and followed a stream of Pokemon into the dining hall.

    “Please excuse her,” Cleo told him. “Food has been a little scarce over the past few days.”

    “That is a growing problem now the cold season is closing in.” Tinker scratched his nose. “Be sure to take some supplies with you before you go rushing off again.”

    They joined the other Pokemon in the dinner hall, which was bustling with Guild members and local Pokemon of all shapes and sizes. Voices filled the air in a blend of friendly discussions, news and requests for various food. A large table filled the middle of the room holding a vibrant spread of berries, apples and dried meat. Spark perched on a log stool between an elegant Furret and a friendly-looking Snubbull, tucking into a plate of berries.

    Cleo and Tinker sat down on the other side of the Furret.

    “So, Cleo.” Tinker poured her a glass of berry juice. “What adventures have you been getting up to since I saw you last?”

    “Just rounding up rebels and helping Pokemon when I'm needed.” She piled a plate with dried fish and tucked in. She would have to wait until they were out of the dining hall before she mentioned the Weavile, otherwise she risked getting the other Pokemon into an uproar.

    “Staying out of trouble then?”

    Cleo shot him a sideways glance. “I don't make a habit of running head first into danger you know.”

    “I'm sorry, Ma'am, but you're the only Pokemon I know who would run blindly into a crowd of Dark Pokemon to get at their leader for the sake of a bounty.”

    “It's not just the bounty,” she said flatly. “They're more willing to talk when you take their leader out.”

    “They're also more likely to riot.”

    Cleo snorted and took a swig of her berry juice.

    “Sorry for being a worrier,” he went on, “But you're one of the best warriors the Guild has to offer, if not the best, yet you're so unwilling to take any extra help with you except your oddly small comrade.”

    Cleo almost choked on her juice. She snapped to look round at Spark. Luckily the Dedenne hadn't heard Tinker's words, too occupied with filling herself full of Oran berries.

    “Spark's a great ally,” she told him. “She's perfectly capable of watching her own back as well as mine. I never have to carry her in a battle and she never has to carry me. We're the perfect team. Any one else would just be a burden.”

    “Because you'd have to worry about them?”

    Cleo said nothing, instead stuffing dried fish in her mouth.

    “Well I can't make you take another partner.” The Riolu shrugged. “However, I can offer you a room for the night, or longer if you wish.”

    “Just the one is fine. We're on our way back to New City.”

    “Very well.” Tinker finished his juice and stood up. “I'll meet you in my office when you're ready.”

    Cleo picked up her empty plate and stood up, depositing it on a shelf and following the Riolu from the room.

    His office was situated at the back of the building. A long desk stretched across the back wall, adorned with various nicknacks that probably had many uses that one wouldn't expect. Another door stood aside from the table with 'keep out' painted on it in bright red letters. Papers lay strewn over tables and the floor, etched with writing and elaborate diagrams that Cleo didn't care to examine too closely. She tiptoed around them to join Tinker who had taken a chair by his desk, flicking through some paperwork.

    “You ran into some trouble on the way here, didn't you?” He asked.

    “Yes. How could you tell?”

    “I have a note here that says the Night Watch has gathered three Weavile from the woods.”

    “Ahh.” Cleo nodded. “I was going to mention that. I was worried there may be more.”

    “Did you get any information off them?”

    “No.” She rummaged through her bag and pulled out the glass tube. “Spark found this in the boss's bag, however.”

    Tinker took it and sat back in his chair, turning it in his paw. His eyes scanned over it, the right one not focusing like the other. Cleo was aware it was a fake, but she'd never asked how he'd ended up with it.

    “Suspicious?” She asked.

    “I don't know. I'll examine it later.” He dropped it on the table and picked up a small brown pouch. “Those Weavile did have a bounty on their heads. I am obligated to give it to you.”

    He tossed the pouch and Cleo caught it. “I had no idea.”

    “Yes, they've been terrorizing some of the inhabitants of this town, causing them to move three times in one season. We've taken them into the Guild for safety but... they'll be pleased to know that gang will be gone before dawn.”

    Cleo didn't desire to know what the Night Watch would do with the Weavile. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind and stuffed the pouch into her bag.

    “Do you know if they've managed to get any information out of them?”

    “Not as of yet. Its probably another army sent to extend the reign of Darkness and gain more territory. However, they'll be sure to tell me, and when they do I'll let you know.” He glanced at her. “Provided you'll use it wisely.”

    “Always.” She sighed. “I think I'm going to call it a night. I'll see you in the morning, if our paths cross.”

    “Very well. Good night.”

    Cleo left his office and poked her head back into the dining hall. Spark sat back on the log stool with a paw over her stomach looking fully satisfied with her meal. Cleo caught her eye and the Dedenne climbed to her feet and dragged herself out of the dining hall.

    “That was a great meal,” she said with a yawn. “ A good sleep is what I need now!”

    A flight of stairs led up to a chamber of small rooms, each one with a bed of fresh hay. Cleo had split it into two for her and Spark. The Dedenne had fallen asleep no sooner had her head touched the hay, but Cleo lay on her back staring at a large map. She'd marked on it the various places they'd travelled, shading in black the places taken over by the Hydreigon. Several cities, towns and islands had red crosses through them – neither under the rule of Darkness nor safe for the Outcasts to retreat to.

    Large areas of black consumed the entire northern portion of the map, covering a large continent and taking over a third of the west. This had been named the Shadowlands, a large area that lay under the Hydreigons' rule, inhabited by dark and dragon Pokemon and unsafe for anyone not in their ranks to step foot on. Purple covered the lower part of the west, and large chunks of the south, leaking into the eastern regions. These marked the Heretics, a fanatical group who lived so much in fear of Hydreigon they practically worshipped the Darkness, trying anything they could to appease them in exchange for their lives. They were almost as bad as the Darkness themselves if they were to cross paths with the Outcasts and were better off left completely alone.

    The rest of the map showed which areas were still safe for the Outcasts. Cleo's eyes fell to an area in the east, a two day walk from where they were now. She hadn't marked it for fear of her map falling into enemy hands, but she knew well enough where it was – New City, the safest place for Outcasts. A secret city hidden underground, known only to those in the Guild and the Pokemon that inhabited it.

    She sighed and folded her map, sliding it back into her satchel, then fell onto her back and stared at the ceiling. One thing was bothering her. Why were those Weavile in the woods? They'd apparently caused the Pokemon in this town to move several times, so they could have been planning another attack. Yet there were only three of them. Against the Night Watch and the Guild's warriors, they wouldn't have stood a chance. This meant they were either alone and the Pokemon here weren't their target, or there were more of them waiting somewhere. Maybe they were waiting for reinforcements? Whatever the case, she feared the Outcasts here were in a lot of danger.

    This little town may soon end up being nothing more than another red cross on her map.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
  2. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Hey, welcome to the fanfic section! You don't have to worry about the rules too much; as long as you're putting some thought into your work and aren't writing anything at the upper limits of the rating system, you should be just fine.

    Something you probably want to note for posting here, though, is that indenting doesn't work, so if you're trying to create paragraphs the way you would for a novel, where each paragraph is a new indented line, you ended up with a big wall of text. It's better to double space between paragraphs so there's a blank line between each of them--much easier to read that way. As it is, people are probably going to be turned off your story because it's hard to get through a block of text with no breaks.

    You also have a couple persistent issues with punctuation. First, you're having some trouble with punctuating dialogue. Whenever you have dialogue followed by a tag, something like "she said," "Mary exclaimed," whatever, the first letter of the tag shouldn't be capitalized. So rather than this:

    you want this:

    Rather than this:

    you want this:

    If you have a sentence of dialogue that's broken in the middle by a tag, like, "I don't know," the police officer said, "but I have a hunch," then not only is the dialogue tag not capitalized, but the second piece of the quoted sentence isn't either. So instead of this:

    you want this:

    Dialogue punctuation has a lot of rules that can be difficult to remember, but there are a lot of guides available on the internet to help you, such as this one.

    Another issue that crops up in your dialogue is that you aren't handling direct address correctly. A direct address occurs when one character speaks to another directly, using their name, like, "Hey, Mark, what's up?" In these cases, the character's name should always be set apart by commas. So rather than the following:

    you want this:

    You did it right here:

    Punctuation issues aside, the actual content of your dialogue is quite good. The character interactions feel natural and realistic, and overall I think you capture the rhythm of real speech well. The main characters' personalities are starting to come through already as well, which is great.

    Some comments on specific elements of the chapter:

    This sentence gets a bit muddled. It reads as though the shadows themselves aren't making much noise, which is what I've come to expect in shadows, really. All in all the sentence is a little convoluted and clogged with adjectives and adverbs--consider streamlining it a bit.

    I'm a little confused by the logistics of the Outcast's settlement. If they're moving as often as once a season, why do they bother to throw together new temporary buildings instead of investing in housing that doubles as transport (wagons, for example) or some style of tents they can just pitch wherever they end up, similar to nomadic tribes in the real world? What's the point of the wall if it's so low that Cleo can just jump right over it? And what's the benefit of building so close to the Forest of Scary Brigands?

    I'm also a little confused as to Spark and Cleo's relationship to this particular branch of the Outcasts. Some of the Guild members obviously know them, so they've been there before, but I guess they don't actually live there, or else Tinker wouldn't have to explain the weavile had been terrorizing the place for the past few months. This is less of an issue, perhaps, as we don't need to know everything about the protagonists just yet, but the way they interacted with other characters felt a little inconsistent.

    Your story's been in past tense thus far, so it's weird for this one sentence in present tense to pop up.

    Anyway, I think this story is off to a promising start. Like I said, I think you do a good job of bringing out your characters' personalities through their dialogue, and Cleo and Spark look like they'll be fun to watch as the story unfolds. You also do a nice job of injecting a bit of humor without it feeling overwhelming or out of place. On the one hand, not a great deal went on in this chapter, but there's some indication that we're going to get right into the plot (with the mysterious liquid the weavile were carrying), and you get across your worldbuilding/backstory pretty efficiently. All in all, it's a pretty good opening, and I look forward to seeing where things go from here. I really do suggest you clean up your formatting a bit so people can read the story more easily, though.
  3. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    Thank you so much for the tips and positive feedback!! I've taken it on board and gone back and reformatted the first chapter, and edited the speech grammar too. Thanks again! =D I also love the idea of the Outcasts travelling around in portable housing and wagons. I'm going to implement that later on in the story. It's a brilliant idea, thank you =)

    I'm posting the second chapter now. Enjoy!! =D

    2 – Mischief​

    A loud, deep siren echoed through the Guild. Cleo and Spark sat bolt upright, almost flying off their beds of hay. The siren quickly subsided, followed by many voices as Pokemon raced down the hallways of the Guild's sleeping chambers.

    Spark rubbed her head and sighed. “I will never get used to that.”

    Cleo's eyes scanned the room and fell on a wooden pipe near the ceiling. The breakfast alarm. After years of moving from Guild Hall to Guild Hall, she'd never been in one long enough to grow accustomed to each individual alarm.

    She hoisted herself from the bed and followed Spark into the hallway, joining the crowd of Pokemon to the dining hall.

    “I should make a point of filling myself right up!” Said Spark. “We might not see much food for a little while.”

    “You knock yourself out,” said Cleo. “I'm going to grab some supplies, then we're leaving.”

    Spark's large eyes grew even larger. “You're not having any breakfast?!”

    “I can eat while I'm packing. Don't worry.” She gave a dismissive wave of her paw and moved past the dining hall to a small elevator.

    The Dedenne shrugged and slipped into the dining room, leaving Cleo to her own endeavours.

    The little elevator wasn't much more than a wooden box with a rope and pulley system. Every Guild Hall had a similar layout and one thing they all had in common was their supplies were kept in the basement. The elevator creaked and wobbled as Cleo worked the rope to take herself down into the shadows. The smell of damp earth and wood reached her nostrils and she crinkled her nose. It wasn't the best condition to store supplies, but in a temporary town, and during times like this, one couldn't very well complain.

    A flicker of light came from the far corner.

    “Sending them up!”

    A low creak echoed through the room.

    Cleo's eyes adjusted in the dark and she could make out the body of a Charmander in the corner, the light coming from his tail. He looked back at her and gave her a smile.

    “You're Cleo right?” He asked.

    She nodded and joined him, digging through boxes of fruit and dried meats. The creak resounded sharply, grating through the damp air.

    “Tinker told me you might be coming down here for supplies.” He turned to a small box in the wall – another pulley system – and dropped a basket of berries onto it. He poked his head inside and shouted, “Sending them up!”

    The box whizzed out of sight, its pulley creaking and groaning, and he turned back to the storage.

    “I've set some things aside for you already, if you want it?” He told her.

    Cleo looked up. The Charmander held out a little sack. She held out her paw then withdrew it slowly, keeping her eyes warily on the bag of fruit. Yes, this was the Guild, but still... you never know who to trust in this world.

    The Charmander smiled and put the bag down. “I get it. Go ahead, take your pick, I don't mind.” He returned to his job, filling baskets with various food.

    Cleo turned back to the boxes and picked out a variety of berries and dried fish, stuffing her supply bag full and tucking it away inside her satchel, placing the pouch of money Tinker had given her near the top for easy access.

    When she'd done, she stuffed a dried fish in her mouth and took the elevator back to the main floor to collect Spark from the dining hall.

    The Dedenne had finished her breakfast and was waiting by the door with a large apple in her paws. She beamed at Cleo and handed it to her.

    “I smuggled you this from the table!”

    Cleo chuckled and took it from her. “Thanks! Let's leave, it's a two day walk to New City.”

    “Two days?” Spark whined. “Well, at least we're closer than we were yesterday, right?”

    “Certainly. Have you seen Tinker this morning?”

    Spark shook her head. “Nope. He wasn't at breakfast.”

    “Hmm.” Cleo shrugged and made for the door. “We'll see him again soon enough. Let's go.”

    The small Dedenne hopped onto her shoulder and vanished into her fur. She poked her head back out briefly.

    “Where's the first stop?”

    “The markets. We have supplies, but we might find something useful there.”

    Spark fist-pumped the air and cheered. “Yay! Shopping!”

    The sun was beaming down on them as they left the Guild, but the air was filled with a fresh chill that marked the beginning of the cold season. There were more Pokemon outside than there had been the night before – youngsters playing, older ones standing around chatting or running errands.

    Cleo followed the dirt path towards the market, not too far from the Guild. This was a common set up in Outcast towns. The Guild building often offered the sense of security to the Pokemon that stayed there and this went for the market too – if the market was set up near the Guild not only would it attract more Pokemon to it, it would also be close to the town's warriors should danger arrive.

    The market was oddly busy. A lot of the Pokemon there probably didn't reside in this town, passing through merely to shop or look for somewhere to stay.

    Market stalls were laden with fruits, meat – both fresh and dry – and eggs. Some stalls had items for use in battle, which was what Cleo was especially hoping to find. Sometimes, though not often, she found something that really gave her a boost. Failing that, there were sometimes bargains she could sell herself later on.

    She paused and gave the table a glance over. Mostly it was filled with mental herbs and gems, but unfortunately lacking psychic gems. She moved on through the market, then paused. One of the stalls was selling iron thorns. Now they could be useful.


    Cleo stumbled under the impact, startling a nearby Linoone and her daughter.

    “Whoa!” Spark poked her head out of Cleo's neck fur and shook her tiny fist. “Watch where you're goin'!”

    Cleo shook herself to regain her composure then looked up. A small, fluffy Pokemon was skipping away out of sight. She narrowed her eyes. A Whimsicott.

    She sighed and turned back to the market stall, stuffing her paw into her satchel for her money pouch. Her claws instead closed over something cold and smooth. She pulled it out and glared at it. A rock?

    “Hey!” Spark cried. “Have we been robbed?!”

    Cleo clutched the stone and scanned the crowd of Pokemon for the Whimsicott. It had long since vanished. She sighed and strutted through the crowd, keeping a watchful eye for the little thief.

    “Well,” she said. “That's our earnings gone. We'll have to rely on our supplies until we reach the next town now.”

    Spark slumped onto Cleo's shoulder, defeated. “Great. Now we've got to hunt more bad guys.”

    “I wouldn't worry too much about the hunting. They normally come to us.”

    The Dedenne snorted. “Well, I'd ra- wait...” She sat up and pointed. “Is that the Whimsicott that robbed us?”

    Cleo followed her pointing claw to the furry back of a skipping Pokemon making its way to the town's outskirts.

    “Yes it is!” Cleo dropped the rock she'd been carrying and bolted towards the Whimsicott.

    The thieving Pokemon turned his head at her footsteps and his orange eyes widened. He let out a yell, turned and ran.

    “Oi!” Spark shot from Cleo's shoulder like a dart. “Get back here!”

    Cleo picked up pace. The Whimsicott was fast, but Spark was faster. All Cleo had to do was catch up with the Dedenne and she could reach the pesky thief.

    Spark unleashed a flurry of electricity, hitting the Whimsicott and causing him to stumble as sparks danced across his body.

    Now was her chance. Cleo unfurled her ears and her eyes flashed. The Whimsicott was launched into the air... where he flailed helplessly against the invisible force that held him.

    “Now.” Cleo came to a stop before him, lowering him enough so he could both see and hear her. “Are you going to give back what you stole from us?”

    “Oh, darn it!” The Whimsicott closed his eyes and sighed. “I can't! I need it... I think.”

    “What kind of answer is that?!” Spark shrieked. “You can't just go around taking things that don't belong to you just because you need them!” She paused. “Especially if you're not certain you need them!”

    “And why replace it with a rock?” Cleo asked. “It's not as if I didn't notice you'd ran into me.”

    “I switcheroo'd,” He explained. “It's all I know for pickpocketing.”

    Cleo and Spark stared at the levitating Whimsicott, both of them fixing him with looks of confusion.

    “Awfully talkative for a thief,” Said Spark.

    “She's right,” said Cleo. “Why would you explain yourself? Most other Pokemon I pump for information are unwilling to give it up.”

    “You caught me,” He shrugged.

    “But... you're a bad guy,” said Spark. She then covered her face with her paws. “Urgh, what a cheesy line...”

    “I'm not a bad guy,” said the Whimsicott. “I'm just... lost.”

    “Then you're in the same situation as the rest of us,” said Cleo. “Most Pokemon these days are lost.”

    “Not that kind of lost.” He sighed and reached into his fluffy white fur, pulling out the money pouch. “Look, I'll give it back. But... can you help me?”

    He tossed the money pouch to Cleo and she caught it, releasing the Whimsicott and letting him fall to the floor on his bottom.

    “I'm sorry, I don't help Pokemon. I just stop the ones that try to hurt us.” She stuffed the pouch back in her satchel and walked past him with Spark back on her shoulder.

    He stood up and followed after them. “I'm not asking you to go out of your way to help me. I'm just asking if you can keep me company for a while.”

    “Company?” Cleo looked back at him. “I'm afraid I don't do that either.”

    “Why not?”

    “You never know who's going to turn round and stab you in the back.” She turned away from him and kept on walking.

    “Well it won't be me!” He said. “My claws aren't even that sharp! Hey, I'll just follow you. You'll barely know I'm here. My name's Mischief by the way.”

    Cleo grit her teeth together. If he was going to insist on following them, the best thing she could do would be to remain silent and hope he'd get bored and go away.

    ... ​

    The temporary Outcast town was behind them now, and the voices of its occupants had long faded away. The sun was high in the sky, spending most of its time lurking behind fluffy white clouds. Cleo and Spark moved on in silence, not wanting to spark any communication with their tag-a-long thief. The only noise that reached Cleo's ears was that of her own footsteps and the occasional breeze rustling the leaves in the nearby foliage. The ground had grown more hostile, large chunks of jagged rock jutted up from the ground, shoved out of place by trees and large weeds that had exploded through once small cracks. Tufts of thick grass sprouted up alongside stretches of rugged landscape dotted with colourful flowers that struggled against strangling thorn bushes and brambles.

    Cleo had no idea where she was, but from her map all she knew was she needed to keep pressing forwards to reach New City.

    “Hey Cleo.” Spark poked her head out of her friend's fur. “We're still being followed.”

    “I'm aware.”

    “Yes, but I'm getting hungry and I'd like to stop soon for some lunch.”

    Cleo let out a sigh and slowed down, coming to a stop beside a berry tree. Its branches held very few berries. Most of them had obviously been harvested by the Outcast town or raided by wandering, hungry Pokemon.

    The Meowstic sat down against its trunk and pulled a berry out of her satchel for Spark.

    “Is it lunch time already?” Mischief asked. “Time sure flies with company doesn't it?” He skipped over with the typical Whimsicott gait and looked up at the tree.

    Cleo and Spark said nothing, both wishing the Whimsicott would leave them alone.

    With a hop, he floated up into the tree's branches sending a flurry of dry leaves down on top of them. Within moments, he floated back down with two bright red Cheri Berries in his paws.

    “Argh!” Spark dropped her berry to the floor and leapt off Cleo's shoulder. “I can't take it any more! I'm gonna have to say something!”

    Cleo stared at her from the corner of her eye. Mischief fixed her with a wary look, standing only a couple of feet away.

    “Why are you following us around like a Growlithe pup?!” Spark demanded. “What do you want?!”

    Mischief glanced up at the sky in thought then looked back at her. “Company.”

    The little Dedenne put her paws on her hips. “Seriously?!”

    “What Spark's trying to say,” said Cleo, “Is first you rob us, then you start following us around. Why?”

    “Well...” Mischief scratched his fluffy head. “Thieving isn't really my style. At least... I don't think it is. I didn't like it anyway.”

    Cleo narrowed her eyes. “You... don't think it is...”

    “No, not really.” Mischief gazed up at the sky. “See, I don't really know why I am to be honest. I only woke up this morning, around about here actually.” He indicated the floor. “I think... I'm lost. I don't know.”

    Cleo and Spark stared at him, dumbfounded. Something he said wasn't right. A lot of Pokemon slept outside (although it wasn't the safest option given the state of the world) but something about this Pokemon was off.

    “Where are you from?” Cleo asked.

    “Oh that I know!” The Whimsicott grinned. “I'm from the clean clace.”

    Cleo and Spark blinked.

    “The what?”

    “The clean place! They were really nice there. Those I remember anyway. Although I only remember being surrounded by other Pokemon, and being called Mischief. Then I woke up here.” He indicated the floor again.

    Cleo and Spark followed his paw, then looked back up at him.

    “So you woke up here?” Spark asked. “Or just outside?”

    He shrugged. “Somewhere around here. I went to the town because there were Pokemon there, and I was hungry. That tree has berries though. But it's very quiet out here, and I'm used to busy places.”

    “Where is this 'clean place'?” Cleo asked.

    He shrugged again. “I don't know. I never saw outside. I don't think... I can't remember.”

    Spark looked up at Cleo. “I think he's had his memory wiped.”

    Cleo shook her head. “He remembers too much for that.” She looked up at the Whimsicott. “Mischief... your story doesn't settle well with me. But I don't think you're lying.”

    He shook his head. “I'm not lying. At least I don't think I'm lying.”

    “Your memories seem to have been tampered with. Can you remember any Pokemon from this 'clean place'?”

    He looked thoughtful again, then shook his head. “Their faces are just blurs to me. I remember they were nice though. And excited, but I can't remember why.”

    Cleo made a thoughtful noise and looked down at her dried fish. A silence passed between them, broken by momentary munches from Mischief as he tucked into his freshly picked berries.

    “You're thinking of helping him aren't you?” Spark asked quietly.

    “Not so much helping,” Cleo replied. “But I think it would be better to have him with us.”

    Spark crinkled her nose. “Why?”

    “So we know where he is. I have a funny feeling...” She scratched her head and sighed. “Mischief, if you want company, you can stay with us.”

    The Whimsicott's eyes lit up and he quickly licked juice off his paws. “Really?”

    “Yes.” Cleo finished her fish and stood up. “Maybe you'll regain your memories soon and can go home.”

    “That would be nice.” He grinned. “Where are you two going?”

    “Guild business.” She adjusted her satchel and let Spark hop onto her shoulder. “I'm Cleo, and this is Spark. Keep up, we won't be slowing down for you.”

    “You had problems catching me before, so you know I can keep up.” Mischief skipped along beside them. “I think this is going to be fun.”

    Cleo shook her head slowly and sighed. If Tinker could see her now – the lone Meowstic who refused to take an extra partner – he'd probably roll onto his back with laughter.
  4. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    3 – Massacred​

    Cleo was beginning to grow worried. If finding a suspicious Pokemon with fragmented memories wasn't worrying enough – not to mention the possibility it could all be a ruse – it was becoming night time and there seemed to be nowhere reliable to sleep. Spark was battling to stay awake on her shoulder, her large, round ears twitching at every noise, most of which came from behind them as Mischief occasionally stood on a brittle twig or dry clump of tough grass. It made more noise in the dark than his light-footed gait should have allowed, or it was just the Meowstic's sensitive hearing. Either way it made him sound deceptively heavy.

    Another worry was what they would do when they reached New City. They couldn't let a non-Guild member into the city, it was too risky. He could be a spy, or even an infiltrator planning to cause problems or a sneak attack. Letting an unauthorised Pokemon into a protected area, one who could possibly slip away and alert the Heretics or Hydreigon's troops to the city's existence was just too risky.

    “I think we're just going to have to take risks,” Spark finally said, “And use the tent.”

    “It'll stand out too much on this route,” Cleo answered quietly.

    “So will three travelling Pokemon.”

    “Yes, but I'd rather be awake and able to defend my life than be asleep and unaware of enemies.”

    “We could keep lookout?” Mischief suggested.

    Cleo glanced back at him sharply, trying to mask the fact his voice had surprised her.

    “Hmm.” She looked back down the long road, fading into the dark horizon. “That's not a bad plan.”

    “Great.” Spark yawned widely. “Shall I start?”

    “No.” Cleo pulled a dark blue sheet of cloth from her bag. “I'll start-”

    “I'll go first,” Mischief quipped. “It's the least I can do for letting me travel with you.”

    Cleo glanced back over her shoulder at him, wanting to remind him that he'd forced his presence on them, but stopped herself and instead sighed as she threw the cloth over a low hanging branch.

    Spark busied herself on the floor, stabbing long pins into each of the four corners. It was a simple tent that failed to keep out drafts but did keep the rain off. Its simplicity allowed for one to quickly move on without messing around with more intricate structures.

    Cleo took a step back from the tent and looked at Mischief. “Are you sure you don't want to sleep?”

    He shook his head. “No, no. I'll take first watch. You sleep.”

    Cleo sighed again and ducked into the tent, curling up on the dry ground next to Spark. She watched Mischief as he seated himself in the entranceway with his back to them. She closed her eyes, but she had no intention to sleep.

    Mischief might seem friendly, but she had her doubts. He'd come from nowhere, tried to rob her, then suddenly showed himself to be a friendly, chatty and rather annoying Pokemon who insisted on being their shadow.

    Then there was this 'clean place', somewhere that seemed to be a mystery even to him, unless this fragmented memory he seemed to be suffering was an act. She couldn't take any risks if he was hiding something.

    And if they fell asleep and he did turn out to be an enemy...

    Her eyes snapped open and she stared at the dark wall of the tent. No, she couldn't risk sleeping. That would have to wait until they reached New City.


    The night had been uneventful. Cleo hadn't slept, even after Spark and Mischief swapped places. She'd taken the last watch in a hope it would mask the fact she'd not slept, but Spark had noticed straight away.

    “Is it that obvious?” Cleo had asked under her breath.

    “Of course. You're eyes are bloodshot,” The Dedenne chuckled. “Although he probably won't notice since you've been firing leers at him since the moment he crashed into you.”

    So that was that. They moved on in silence, the road as desolate and eerily quiet as it had been the previous night. It was unnerving to those not used to it, but Cleo and Spark were indeed used to it. Most of the Pokemon that had lived in this area had either been chased out or had gone to seek refuge in New City.

    Time seemed to drag. The sun was high above them, clouds occasionally blocking out the light as they rolled through the sky.

    'Not far now.' Cleo squinted into the horizon. Of course, New City wasn't visible to the naked eye, it was just a habit.

    Vibrations thrummed through the air and she came to a halt, her body freezing as she slowly looked up at the sky.

    “You have to be kidding me,” She scoffed. She turned to Mischief and nudged him off the road. “Get into the trees.”

    With a glance over her shoulder, she followed a confused Mischief into the foliage. If it was what she thought it was, it wouldn't be able to spot them easily in the sunlight.

    The thrumming noise grew louder, splitting through the air with an almost ear-splitting ferocity. Cleo looked up through the canopy. It was right above them now, solidifying her fears.

    It was a Noivern.

    Usually a nocturnal Pokemon and a force to be reckoned with in the dark. Whatever it was doing here she didn't want to find out.

    They would just have to wait until it had passed and was out of sight before continuing on to New City.

    “Found some!”

    The voice had come from above them. They looked up sharply, and Cleo's blood turned to ice in her veins.

    Murkrow! Sitting nonchalantly in the branches of the canopy. The flock burst out in fits of shrill giggles.

    The Noivern's yellow eyes turned towards the trees, straining to focus in the bright sunlight. He licked his lips thoughtfully and ducked into the trees. His wicked eyes eventually found them and his rounded muzzle split into a grin.

    “I thought this place was empty,” He purred. Every noise he made seemed to be amplified by his giant, dish-like ears. “But I guess I was wrong. There are still some stragglers.”

    “This one has a Guild badge.” One of the Murkrow pointed a wing at Cleo.

    “Guild members?” The Noivern threw his head back and laughed. The Murkrow joined in, probably more out of fear than anything else. Once he'd regained himself, he looked back down at them and snorted. “Probably out to cause more trouble for Hydreigon? Well... I think you'd make tasty little hostages.”

    Cleo restrained herself from taking a step back. If she'd been alone, she'd have been in a lot of trouble. Her attacks would be useless against the Murkrow flock, but she had a chance at taking down the Noivern. But attempting that would draw the Murkrow to her and she'd be at a major disadvantage.

    But with Spark...

    The Dedenne poked her head out of Cleo's fur.

    “Oh this is just great!” She snarled. “You think you're so big ganging up on smaller Pokemon? Well, I'll show you just how much of a bad idea that is!”

    Luckily, the Murkrow and Noivern had been surprised by the sudden appearance of the small Dedenne. Before they could regain themselves, she launched herself from Cleo's shoulder and filled the air with a powerful discharge.

    Several of the Murkrow dropped from the trees, electricity dancing over their oily black feathers. The rest leapt away from the trees, flapping their wings in surprise and cawing wildly. Before they could retaliate, Spark sent out another attack.

    Cleo took this opportunity to strike the Noivern with a Psybeam. Purple light shot from her unfurled ears and struck the dragon Pokemon on the nose. He took a step back and shook his head sharply.

    It wasn't enough. His yellow eyes fixed on her and he snorted, smoke swirling from his nostrils.

    “I'll make you regret that, little kitty.” He lunged at her, fangs glinting in his mouth.

    Cleo sidestepped, just narrowly dodging the Noivern's wicked bite. She sent another Psybeam into his side, knocking him off balance and causing Mischief to hop out of the way.

    Great. Now she had another Pokemon holding her back. If she was reckless he'd end up getting hurt.


    Cleo was sent rolling backwards as the Noivern's massive wing struck her across the face. Before she could leap to her feet, the dragon loomed over her, his face split into a malicious grin.

    “I was hoping to take you back as a hostage,” He sneered. “But now I think I'd rather kill you right here!”

    A deep rumble filled the air, growing in volume. The Noivern's ears seemed to vibrate and he opened his mouth wide. Cleo closed her eyes. This was it. No one ever survived a fight with a Noivern. All that would be left of her would be scattered throughout this forest.

    A sharp snap and the Noivern grunted, the dreadful sound coming to an abrupt stop. Cleo opened her eyes warily. The Noivern was looking behind him, but Cleo couldn't see what had distracted him.

    Spark was still jumping around in the trees, distracting the remaining Murkrow. That only left...

    Cleo rolled out of the way and leapt to her feet. Prancing about like a fool was that odd Whimsicott, drawing the Noivern's confused gaze.

    The Noivern let out a snort and charged at him. Mischief leapt back and a flash of pink and purple light shot out of him, striking the Noivern and sending the dragon rolling tail over head into a tree.

    The Murkrow, seeing that their leader had taken a nasty hit, diverted their attention away from the Dedenne and shot out of the canopy towards Mischief. Another flash of pink and purple and they dropped like ripe berries.

    Mischief's face split into a manic grin and he strode slowly over to the dragon. The Noivern struggled to his feet and turned his fierce yellow eyes on the Whimsicott. He opened his mouth wide and sent a pulsing shock-wave at the grass Pokemon. Purple energy pulsated through the air, engulfing him completely. Mischief's grin grew wider and he strode right through it.

    The Noivern's mouth snapped shut and he took a step back, his yellow eyes darting from left to right.

    Mischief lunged at him, striking the dragon square in the chest and knocking him to the floor. Maniacal laughter erupted from him as he struck the dragon over and over, oblivious to the Noivern's flailing wings colliding with his fluffy body, sending wisps of white cotton into the air.

    Cleo and Spark watched, dumbfounded, as the Noivern was reduced to a bloody pulp. His flailing wings came to a halt, and he lay there motionless as the Whimsicott's merciless attacks continued, his maniacal laughter echoing through the forest. Neither of them could move, their bodies frozen in place by the nightmarish image.

    Cleo shook herself, and braved a step towards Mischief.

    “Okay, I think you're done.”

    Her words fell on deaf ears. Michief seemed to be enjoying himself too much. The Noivern was barely recognisable now and Cleo couldn't help feeling sorry for the fallen dragon.

    She grit her teeth. “Mischief!”

    Still no response. She moved a few steps closer to him. If she had to drag him off the Noivern, she would. But before she could reach him, his frantic pounding stopped and his head snapped to face her, still wearing that manic grin.

    In one swift motion, he pounced from the Noivern and collided with her, sending her reeling backwards.


    A jolt of electricity shot through Mischief. His body jerked and he fell off her.

    Cleo pushed herself to her feet and looked down at him. His orange eyes met hers, filled with what she could only describe as madness. In a mere few moments it faded into confusion. He looked as if he was about to say something, but all strength appeared to leave his body and he collapsed onto the forest floor.
  5. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    4 – A Worrying Development

    Cleo and Spark stood side by side looking down at the unconscious Whimsicott.

    “Wow.” Spark looked up at the bloodied body of the Noivern then back at Mischief. “What... happened to him?”

    “I've no idea.” Cleo glanced around the forest, the floor now scattered with black feathers, the bodies of unconscious Murkrow and marred with the thick, crimson blood from the Noivern. She looked back down at Spark. “Thanks for helping me there. I could have ended up like our large friend.”

    Spark shook her head. “Don't mention it. I'm sure you would have done the same for me. But can I suggest something?”

    “Go on.”

    “That we get out of here? It has a very morbid, uneasy feeling to it now.”

    “Yes. I have to agree.” Cleo turned to leave, but froze, looking back at Mischief. She sighed and unfurled her ears, raising the Whimsicott into the air and moving him along ahead of her.

    “You're bringing him?” Spark's voice came out unusually shrill even for her.

    “I don't feel comfortable leaving him there. What if those Murkrow wake up before he does?”

    “But...” Spark glanced back nervously. “But you saw what he did!”


    “He attacked you, Cleo!” Spark almost bounced with fury. “And you're just bringing him along?”


    The Dedenne sighed. “Fine. I don't understand you though.”

    Cleo said nothing, moving on with more speed than before. She just wanted to put the forest behind her now and reach New City before Mischief woke up. She had a feeling Spark hadn't noticed what she had – that look of confusion in his eyes, almost as if he hadn't been aware of his actions and wondered what had happened.

    No, she couldn't leave him there. He might have attacked her, but he also saved her life.

    Didn't he?

    It wasn't just that. She had to show the Whimsicott to Tinker. Any Pokemon that could withstand a Dragon Pulse – a powerful dragon type attack – without even receiving so much as a scratch... she'd never met a Pokemon like that. She wasn't sure anyone had. She had her doubts, but she found herself wondering if Mischief was actually immune to such an attack.

    If that was the case... She glanced sideways at the floating Whimsicott and shook her head, turning her attention back to her destination. It was a ridiculous idea, maybe whatever madness had took over him had merely rendered him unable to feel any pain.

    It wasn't a long walk now. Cleo could see the stretch of wild undergrowth in the distance, the rocky moors that spread across the vast planes, expanding out into wide mountains that obscured the view beyond them.

    She checked around them, eyes scanning their surroundings and the skies. There were no Pokemon, no more Noivern or Murkrow, not even a single Pidgey. Desolate and eerie, but reassuring.

    Finally, their feet reached the tough grass of the moors. Mischief was still unconscious, bobbing along beside Cleo.

    A few feet into the moors, wild thorn bushes sprawled across the grass, once filled with berries but now sporting nothing more than sharp, jagged leaves.

    Cleo parted them and scrambled inside, pushing Mischief along ahead of her. Inside the bush was a flat, round rock with a groove in it the perfect shape and size to fit the Guild badge. She removed it from her bag and stuck it inside, turning it anticlockwise. The stone slid along, revealing a steep, winding staircase. This only gave a few seconds before it moved back in place. Cleo slipped inside and Spark followed, keeping the Whimsicott between them. The stone slid shut, clicking into place.

    “Yeesh!” Spark squeaked. “It almost claimed my tail!”

    She hopped down the stairs after Cleo, clutching her black tail in her paws.

    “Then you should have sat on my shoulder.”

    “I don't like being so close to your ears when they're open, you know that.” She shuddered. “What if I get caught in a crossfire or something?”

    Cleo shook her head slowly and stifled a laugh.

    The winding stairs ended in a well lit tunnel. Candles adorned the walls, held on strong, iron rods. Voices filled the air, reverberating off the cold walls. Stone archways stretched above them every few feet until the tunnel finally stretched out into a massive hall. A huge chandelier hung from the ceiling casting the place in a bright light.

    Hundreds of Pokemon busied about, nattering, visiting the little market stalls and shouting out advertisements for their work. In the far walls of the hall were windows where Pokemon had set up more permanent shops.

    Cleo and Spark moved through the crowds, drawing looks of confusion from any Pokemon that noticed the floating Whimsicott bobbing along beside them.

    Cleo knew where she was going, she'd been here before. The hall had many corridors leading off it, each one leading to the nests of the Pokemon that lived there. The hallways had signs pinned above them, saying exactly where they went. Each one was named, listing the accommodations it held. One such corridor led to the Guild Headquarters.

    The Guild Headquarters was home to many facilities – rescue teams, meeting rooms, item shops, the medical ward, the Guild food hall and of course Tinker's office, the latter of which stood before them in all its pride and glory.

    The wooden door had written on it 'knock before entering', so Cleo knocked. (In the past, she'd ignored the sign and just gone inside, but had received a berating from a rather unhappy Riolu who was struggling to hide his inventions under a pile of papers.)

    After a brief pause came a cheerful, “Come in!”

    Yes, just as she thought, Tinker was currently in his office. She often wondered how he managed to beat her to each of the Guild's bases. She once wondered if each Guild HQ had its own Tinker, but that thought was soon dismissed as 'ridiculous' and she learned to accept the Riolu's mysterious ways.

    Cleo opened the door and stepped inside. Tinker gave her a warm smile, which was swiftly replaced with a mixture of concern and confusion when he saw the Whimsicott.

    “Well, Cleo... I think an explanation is in order!” He said as Cleo let Mischief drop to the ground with very little grace.

    “Okay. This is a fuzzy nuisance who decided to force himself on us,” Cleo told him. “He goes by the name of Mischief.”

    “A fitting name if I do say so.” Tinker scratched his head as he looked down at the Whimsicott. “Why is he unconscious?”

    “I was hoping you could tell me that,” said Cleo. She leant back against the wall. “He seemed to go mad when we were attacked by a Noivern and some Murkrow. He fought them off, then after he tried to attack me, he collapsed.”

    “He tried to attack you?” Tinker rounded on her. “And you brought him here?”

    “My thoughts exactly!” Spark added.

    “He seemed friendly enough before hand,” Cleo went on. “And he did save my life.”

    Tinker let out a sigh of frustration and looked back down at Mischief. “I do want to trust your judgement, Cleo, but I do have my concerns.” He turned back to Cleo. “What of the Pokemon that attacked you?”

    “I can't speak for the Murkrow but the Noivern is well and truly dead.”

    Tinker's mouth gaped open but no words came out. After a few attempts he stuttered but Cleo cut him off with a wave of her paw.

    “I can explain to you everything – the battle, what he told me... But first, can we get him seen to?”

    Tinker nodded. “Of course. I'll have Melody take him to the medical ward.” The Riolu strolled over to the wall and opened up a brass cylinder which he spoke into with careful clarity. “Melody, can you come to my office?”

    The Riolu turned away from the cylinder, letting it snap shut behind him. He glanced over the Whimsicott before turning back to Cleo.

    “Now what exactly happened?”

    Cleo fixed her yellow eyes on the Riolu. “We were attacked on our way here. I have no idea what a Noivern was doing outside during the day, but it attacked us with a flock of Murkrow. We tried to defend ourselves, but we were at a disadvantage. However, Mischief took on the Noivern single handed after it tried to kill me.”

    Tinker fidgeted with the grey, oval stone about his neck and stared down at the Whimsicott. “He managed to take out that dragon?” He didn't sound like he believed it.

    “Flawlessly. If you don't count the fact he went mad.” Cleo closed her eyes. “He was also struck with a Dragon Pulse and didn't even flinch.”

    Tinker's red eyes widened and he looked from Cleo back down at Mischief. “Are you sure?”

    Cleo nodded. “He then proceeded to beat the Noivern that attacked us, leaving the dragon in a rather unrecognisable state.”

    “And then he attacked you...”

    “And fainted.” Cleo's eyes snapped open and she fixed them on Tinker once more. “I thought that might pique your interest. I'm not wrong am I?”

    There was a knock at the door and Tinker looked over his shoulder. “It's open, Melody. Come in.”

    An Audino strode into the office, wearing a small apron adorned with pockets some of which had various medical implements poking out of them. Her eyes instantly fell on the fallen Whimsicott and she looked up at Tinker and Cleo.

    “I'm assuming this is my patient?” She pointed at Mischief. “What happened to him?”

    “Exhaustion, I assume.” Tinker scratched his nose. “If you wouldn't mind seeing to him in a private room? And give him a thorough check over please. We're not entirely sure who's side he is on, so please don't be alarmed when I assign guards to the medical ward.”

    Despite his words, Melody did indeed seem alarmed but she tried to hide it as well as she could. She waved her paw and Mischief rose into the air. Silently, she left the room, taking the Whimsicott with her.

    Spark gave a nod of approval as the door clicked shut. “I like it when Pokemon can utilise Psychic skills without the risk of blasting you with their ears.”

    Cleo nudged her with her foot. “Hey.”

    Tinker chuckled. “Well, if you wouldn't mind joining me for dinner? You can tell me all about this new friend of yours.”

    Cleo narrowed her eyes at him. “He's not a friend.”

    He shrugged. “Regardless. I'd like you to tell me everything. Then, you can get a good rest. You look positively tired.”

    Cleo tried not to look offended. It wasn't that obvious, was it?

    Spark yawned. “Food and sleep. That sounds like a plan I can get on board with.”


    Cleo's dreams were full of morbid images – dragons ransacking Pokemon villages as she watched from inside a berry bush, screams splitting through the air like sharp claws. She watched the panicked faces of Pokemon she knew falling to the ground as they were brutally maimed by dragon Pokemon – Zweilos, Garchomp, Fraxure, Druddigon...

    But something caught her attention, a voice tearing her eyes away from the massacre. No, not a voice... a laugh... and there, in the distance, jumping from one dragon to the next was a deranged Whimsicott, reducing each one to a pile of bloodied, shattered flesh and bones, staining the very ground into a dreaded scarlet.

    “You need to be careful.”

    She span on her heel, her eyes wide. Leaning against a tree, as nonchalant as ever, was Mischief. In the background, she could still hear that hysterical laughter from the battlefield.

    He gave her a smile. “It might be you next.”

    Cleo sat bolt upright.

    The nest room came into focus, the laughter in her mind fading into soft snores. Spark was still sleeping soundly a mere few inches away from Cleo.

    She lay back down with a flop. Nightmares... she should be used to those by now.

    She looked over to the wall, expecting to find a window to give her some idea of what time it was. Of course, they were underground. No such thing existed here. She could have been asleep for a mere few minutes for all she knew.

    Regardless, she felt like she could use a walk after that. She stood and stretched, and made for the door.

    “Where you goin'?”

    She paused and looked back. Spark was watching her, groggily rubbing a paw over her large black eyes.

    “Just for a walk,” said Cleo. “You get back to sleep.”

    “Iss mornin'?”

    Cleo shrugged. “No idea.”

    “I'm comin'.” Spark stood up and waddled over to her.

    With a sigh, Cleo bent down and scooped up the Dedenne, setting her on her shoulder. Spark burrowed into her fur, immediately followed by soft snores. Cleo shook her head slowly and left the room, strolling down the candlelit hallway.

    She'd always told herself not to go back to sleep straight after a nightmare. They just continue. It's best to go for a walk until it wears off, then try to sleep again. A little stroll down the hallways of New City should do her
    some good.

    Then why had she stopped by the elevator to the medical ward? She let out a sigh of frustration. For some reason that nightmare had really struck a nerve.

    Almost like she needed some kind of reassurance.

    Reassurance that Mischief was still held securely behind closed doors, guarded and unable to wreck havoc on the innocent Pokemon here.

    “Oh! Cleo!”

    She looked round to see Tinker walking towards her. He gave her a warm smile.

    “You're awake?”

    She nodded. “I felt like I needed a walk.”

    “Or are you visiting your friend in the dead of night?” He stopped at her side and indicated the elevator.

    Great. So it was still night.

    She gave him a sideways glance. “No, I... just happened to stop here.”

    “Well you can rest assured. He's still out. Melody gave him a sedative. He'll be asleep until morning.” He stepped inside the elevator. “Care to join me? I may as well tell you what I've found out while you're awake.”

    She hesitated for a moment, warring with the idea of continuing her walk or facing whatever Tinker needed to tell her. She glanced down the hallway then dismissed the idea of a walk to follow Tinker into the medical ward.

    Using the simple pulley system, Tinker took them down into the ward. The smell of medicinal berries reached their senses as the ward came into view. Several nests raised on wooden tables lay neatly throughout the room. Sat in one of the corners were two Pokemon – a Pikachu and a Growlithe – both wide awake and watching them curiously. They gave Tinker a nod when they saw him.

    'They must be the guards,' Cleo told herself. She honestly thought Tinker would assign more than two.

    “I smell berries.” Spark poked her little head out of Cleo's fur. She looked around them. “Wait, this isn't the dinner hall...” She rubbed her eyes. “Why are we here?”

    Cleo didn't answer. She followed Tinker to the back of the room where there were two doors leading to private rooms. Tinker opened one and the first thing Cleo saw was Mischief lying on a low table covered in a thick layer of hay.

    “You'd told me about him mentioning a 'clean place'.” Tinker spoke in a low voice. “I may have found out what he was referring to.”

    Cleo raised a brow. “How?”

    “Here.” Tinker reached out a paw and pushed some of the thick, white fluff back from Mischief's right shoulder.

    Spark let out a gasp but restrained herself from shouting.

    Cleo's eyes widened. Etched on his shoulder was a black outline of a crescent moon, the outside curve traced with points resembling the sun's rays.

    “The Heretic's symbol?” Cleo looked up at Tinker. “So he's-”

    “A Heretic?” Tinker nodded. “Apparently.”

    “But he seemed to have no memories of it.”

    “I'm curious about that too. But the 'clean place' may refer to one of their laboratories.” Tinker turned to Cleo and ushered her back out of the room. “You recall the pink liquid you gave me a couple of days ago?”

    “Oh!” Cleo looked back at him as he closed the door to Mischief's room. “I'd almost forgotten about that.”

    “What of it?” Spark asked, now clearly wide awake.

    Tinker looked at the guards then turned to Cleo and Spark. “Come to my office. I'll explain there.”

    They followed Tinker wordlessly into the elevator, then down the hallway towards his office. He sat back on his stool and watched as Cleo closed the door behind them.

    “Take a seat.” He indicated the other stool on his right.

    Cleo sat down on it and leant back against his desk, keeping one eye on him. He swivelled round in his seat to fix her with his good eye.

    “That pink liquid,” He began, “turned out to be Pokerus.”

    Cleo felt her eyes widen again.

    “What?” Spark squealed. “Pokerus?! Isn't that like... super rare?!”

    “Yes,” Tinker answered. “But before you get excited, it's a mutated strain.”

    “Too late.” Spark flopped onto her belly on Cleo's shoulder. “You just took the wind outta my sails.”

    “What do you mean it's mutated?” Cleo asked. “Does it only effect dark Pokemon or something?”

    “No. It's worse than that.” Tinker scratched his nose and sighed. “This one works much the same as normal Pokerus – it allows a Pokemon to enhance their abilities at an escalated rate. What makes it differ is that it enhances them further than they would go naturally.”

    “So why did the Weavile have it? Is Hydreigon amassing a super-powered army?”

    “I thought that at first,” Tinker told her. “But Melody ran some tests on your Whimsicott friend. He happens to have... or have had... this strain of Pokerus.”

    Cleo opened her mouth to speak but words failed her. Instead she looked down at her paws. Tinker was silent for a moment until she finally found her voice.

    “So... that explains why he managed to defeat the Noivern?” She looked up at Tinker. “And withstand the Dragon Pulse?”

    Tinker shook his head. “Not exactly. You see, what this has told us is that the Heretics, or a group of them, are involved with the Darkness in some way. Maybe they're working with Hydreigon. Or maybe some of his followers have deviated and have joined the Heretics. Whatever is going on, it may turn out to be quite dangerous and as of now I have no idea what their plans are. All I can assume is that Mischief isn't the only one who has been given this strain of Pokerus and there are some more dangerous Pokemon out there. In the morning, I am going to ask Grey to read his memories and see if they really are as damaged as you claim they are.”

    Cleo nodded slowly as she let all this sink in. So something was going on... something terrible, maybe.

    “I'm also wondering,” Tinker went on, “if this strain of Pokerus can drive a Pokemon to madness.”

    Cleo looked up at him again. “What makes you think that?”

    “Your description of Mischief's attack on the Noivern led me to this theory. However, there are other things that could have caused that little episode.” He tapped his claws on the desk in thought. “External influence, or a fight or flight response. I have no idea if he has any memories of that event either, but we shall soon find that out.”

    “Is it permanent?”

    “Well, he seemed okay when he came too earlier today, before Melody sedated him again. From the limited knowledge we have, I'd quite like to run some more tests on him, but I don't know if madness is a triggered response. As such, I don't wish to risk the lives of those here in New City.” Tinker paused and took a breath. “But I do fear it may be that essentially what the Heretics have created here is a biological weapon.”

    Cleo blinked, unsure of what to say to that. Many questions rose in her mind, but each one seemed to confuse the other and leave her wordless once again.

    “I don't like that,” said Spark. “I don't like that one bit. What are they doing?!”

    “I've no idea, but I plan to find out sooner or later. Especially if there are others out there like him.” He fixed his red eyes on Cleo's. “Now on to the next thing. Melody found something in your friend's fur.”

    “What was it?” The look in Tinker's good eye filled Cleo with an icy dread.

    “A tracking device.”

    Spark sat up so suddenly she almost fell backwards off Cleo's shoulder with the motion. “What?! And we brought him here?!”

    “Calm yourself, Spark,” Tinker told her. “I had it destroyed. And it wouldn't work under ground. If anyone was tracking him, they'd find it had disappeared here.”

    “Isn't that a bad thing?” Cleo snapped. “If it just vanishes in a wide area like this, wouldn't they assume there's an underground hideout?”

    “You brought him here, Cleo,” Tinker told her flatly. “And this place is inaccessible to those who don't have a Guild badge. With no Pokemon freely coming and going, it won't be immediately obvious. But as a precaution we'll be increasing guards at all gates.”

    Cleo nodded and let out a flustered sigh. How could she be so stupid? Did Mischief know he was being tracked? Did he know he had Pokerus?

    “Until Grey has worked with Mischief,” Tinker told them, “I don't want you to speak to him. Okay?”

    Cleo nodded. She suddenly felt very tired. She looked up at Tinker. “What time is it by the way?”

    “The sun hasn't risen yet.” Tinker stood and moved to the door. “I suggest you get back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning.”

    Cleo nodded and stood up. Tinker opened the door and shooed them out of his office, letting it click loudly shut behind him.

    “I think he's annoyed with you,” Spark whispered in her ear.

    “That's hardly surprising.” Cleo moved away from the door and headed back down the hallway. “I'm annoyed with myself.”
  6. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    5 – A Lesson in Evolution​

    Cleo and Spark strode into the busy dinner hall the next morning, both feeling groggy from a bad night's sleep. Cleo's dreams had been full of images of dragons and blood and falling black feathers, biological weapons and massive crowds of insane Heretics. Tinker's words had flooded into her dreams, occasionally mixed with accusations of her causing the Guild's downfall and the eradication of all the world's Outcasts.

    The dreams were broken and had become so mixed up in her mind with the previous night's events that she was beginning to confuse dream with reality.

    She loaded up a plate with dried fish and sat back on a little stool, adding extras to her meal in a half-dazed state in hopes it would wake her up a bit.

    Maybe after this she could speak to Tinker again and gain some clarity on the situation. Hopefully Grey had managed to speak with Mischief and that would shine a light on some things.

    Maybe she could ask him to use Dream Eater on her and remove some of the more disturbing dream residue from her mind...

    “Hey... hey...” Spark nudged her.

    Cleo looked down at the Dedenne. “What?”

    “You've put sweet berry sauce on your fish.” She pointed at Cleo's plate and the Meowstic followed her paw. “Are you feeling okay?”

    “Erm...” Cleo stared at the mess of creamy pink sauce over her salty fish and let out a sigh. “Not really no. I'm still a little confused.”

    “Tell me about it.” Spark bit into a large oran berry. “I'm so confused I can't stop eating.”

    Cleo ventured one of her berry-covered fish. “That's a norm for you.”

    “Oi!” Spark turned her head and narrowed her eyes at Cleo. “You callin' me fat?”

    “No, I'm calling you a bottomless pit.”

    “Oh.” Spark turned back to her plate of berries. “That's okay then.”

    The combination of sweet and salty that filled Cleo's mouth did indeed wake her up a bit. She swallowed quickly and swigged a glass of water to try and wash it away. She stared back down at her plate and considered pushing it away, but hunger told her not to waste a good meal so she took another bite and tried not to grimace.

    “I don't want to discuss last night in here,” Spark said, glancing around the bustling hall. “But do you think Tinker wants us to go straight to his office after breakfast?”

    “I don't care what he wants, I plan to go straight there anyway.”

    “Under normal circumstances I think he wouldn't mind you just showing up at his office.” Spark gave her a sly smile.

    Cleo frowned. “What's that supposed to mean?”

    “What I'm saying is he's always so happy to see you. I've often wondered if he treats other warriors the same way he does you, or if it's just favouritism.”

    “I think he has his favourites.” Cleo licked berry sauce off her paws. “But after the mess I've caused lately, I've probably slipped off that list.”

    “I hardly think so.” Spark hopped onto the table to load more berries onto her plate. “If anything, your rash actions may actually have given the Guild a jump start on what could otherwise have become a rather dire situation.”

    The Dedenne kept her voice low so other Pokemon wouldn't overhear their conversation. Cleo pawed at her fish then picked one up and stuffed it in her mouth. She didn't want to discuss this here in the dining hall. The last thing they needed to do was alert everyone to the possible dangers the Heretics could be posing.

    She had expected to see Tinker in the dining hall but there was no sign of the Riolu. She couldn't decide if she was relieved or not, since it was just dragging out the anxiety.

    When she'd finished her breakfast, she stood up and motioned to Spark to follow her. The Dedenne stuffed an entire berry in her mouth, her little cheeks bulging, and followed after Cleo.

    Tinker's office door was slightly ajar, a clear indication he was expecting them. Cleo still knocked and waited. The door opened, but looming over them was a wizened Alakazam with long grey whiskers that trailed to the ground. He didn't need to introduce himself. Everyone in the Guild knew him as Grey, the oldest and most reliable Warrior, long since retired from his combat duties. He now assisted the Outcasts in gaining information by probing the memories of the reluctant dark Pokemon they took into custody.

    'His attacks might not damage them, but a brain is still a brain,' Tinker had told her when she'd enquired about this in her earlier days.

    Grey gave them a nod and strolled past them, walking silently down the corridor until he vanished into the crowds.

    Cleo slipped inside Tinker's office and closed the door behind them. The Riolu was leaning over his desk, reading over some notes. He glanced up at them briefly and continued his reading.

    “I thought you might come here after breakfast,” He told them. “You're timing couldn't be better. As you just noticed, Grey was here. He's managed to probe the mind of your Whimsicott companion.”

    “And?” Cleo asked.

    “He does indeed have a damaged memory, so he was honest about that.” Tinker put down his papers and turned to face them. “Confound it, Cleo, why are you still standing by the door like an unwelcome stranger? Have a seat.”

    “Sorry.” Cleo moved over to a stool by his desk. “I wasn't sure if I was welcome or not after yesterday.”

    “Despite the problems bringing Mischief here may have caused us, you're still one of the Guild's warriors. Now,” He looked down at his notes again. “Grey has confirmed one of my speculations. The 'clean place' is indeed a Heretic laboratory. The images were unclear, and he couldn't pick out any faces, but the scenery itself had every essence of a lab about it, which solidifies my theory that Mischief is a biological weapon. The full effects of the Pokerus, however, including whether or not it causes madness, remain a mystery. The memories are so fragmented that he has clearly had them tampered with, and not suppressed either. Removed.” He looked up at Cleo. “He wouldn't even be able to find his way back to the laboratory if he tried. So much has been removed he doesn't even have any memory of his birth place or parents. All that's left is the vague image of the laboratory, some blurred faces then it all leaps to his encounter with you. It's as though the Heretics don't want him to come back and went to such extremes to make sure he wouldn't. As though he's been cast off, or sent out to wander until he went berserk like a ticking time-bomb of disaster. To be honest, I'd be more inclined to say 'discarded' is the more likely scenario.”

    “Like he's become too problematic for them?” Cleo asked.

    “Or a failure.” Tinker shrugged and looked back down at his notes. “I really wish I knew what the situation was. It would certainly shed a light on things. But... the Heretics have covered up their tracks with this one. I'm not even sure if leaving any memories of his location was intended. They might have been trying to wipe them all... and failed.”

    “Because he attacked them?” Spark suggested.

    “It's a possibility...” Tinker drifted off, his nose buried in his notes and he fiddled with one of his ears nervously. “Cleo... you know about evolution...”

    Cleo blinked. “I... happen to have evolved myself at some point, Tinker. And you yourself wear an everstone around your neck.”

    “Not that kind.” He looked up at her. “Adaptation evolution. The idea that Pokemon don't just evolve to gain strength, but to adapt to the changes in their environment.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Take Magnemite for example.” Tinker folded his paws on his lap. “Magnemite used to be a pure electric type, but its defences were weak. It could be taken out by all kinds of moves. Its only strength was to resist water and flying attacks. But over the years, it adapted the steel type, adding to its defences by giving it more resistances. Including an immunity to poison type attacks.”

    “Ahh.” Cleo scratched her ears and glanced away. “I'd never really thought about that.”

    “It was before our time, but as an inventor I like to research things like this. And one thing has piqued my interest recently. It's the rise of a new Pokemon type.”

    “A new type?” Spark and Cleo both looked at the Riolu.

    “Are you serious?” Cleo asked.

    “Yes. Two Pokemon have learned new attacks inside New City and have been demonstrating them in the training grounds. These attacks haven't been tested to their fullest, and I've been working on a new battle simulator which I've been tweaking overnight.” He looked back at a large machine situated in the back of the room. “I've only ran it on myself so I've not tested these attacks on it yet, but...”

    “What is the type?” Cleo asked.

    “So far we have no name for it,” Tinker told her flatly. “Very little is known about it except for some of the type effectiveness, and those that have learned these attacks have found they have very little effect on our fire, steel and poison type warriors, yet can almost floor the fighting types.” He picked up a chart off his desk. “We've yet to finish testing all the types, namely dark and dragon. But if you look at this, of all the attacks and type effectiveness we're aware of to date, there are few types that resist dragon attacks. The only one to resist it is steel, but it's not immune.” He held the chart up to show them. “If you can guess what I'm getting at... it's the fact you told me Mischief took a dragon attack straight on and appeared unaffected by it.”

    Cleo took the chart and nodded, glancing over it. “You think this new type resists dragon attacks?”

    “I'm suggesting it's immune to it.”

    Cleo looked up at him sharply. “That means-”

    “That means if I'm right, the whole chemistry of this world is going to change.” A look of excitement filled his eye. “That we'd actually stand a chance at defeating Hydreigon and reclaiming our old territories.”

    Cleo looked back down at the chart then back at Tinker. “But it must be a slow process... if this is right, how are we going to find more like him?”

    “Let's not be too hasty, Cleo.” He gave her a smile. “I want to test him out first.” He stood and moved over to the door. He opened it then looked back at Cleo. “Wait here. I'm going to fetch your friend.”

    Cleo said nothing as Tinker left, leaving the door ajar.

    “Wow,” said Spark. “I'm not sure how to take all this.”

    Cleo stared at the machine against the wall. She also wasn't sure how to take this. Part of her wondered if she was still stuck in one of her crazy dreams.

    She wasn't far out of that thought when Tinker strode back into the room with Mischief in tow. He was rather talkative, but his words didn't form in Cleo's mind as she slowly dragged herself back to reality.

    He paused when he saw her, his orange eyes lighting up with glee.

    “Cleo! Hi!”

    Cleo nodded at him. “Good to see you on your feet.”

    He gave her a smile. “And Spark too! Hi!” He gazed around the room and looked up at the thick tree roots spanning across the ceiling. “Are we underground?”

    “You've only just noticed?” Spark asked.

    “Well, I've been asleep a lot...”

    Tinker tapped the table impatiently. “You three can have your jovial reunion later. Right now, I have some things to ask you.”

    Cleo raised a brow and leered at the Riolu. Jovial? She wondered if Tinker deliberately mocked her sometimes.

    “So Mischief,” Tinker turned to the Whimsicott. “I'm of the understanding you have very little of your memories, namely hardly any idea of where you came from, no way to get back there and nothing to inform you of why you woke up outside the Outcast town before you met Cleo and Spark?”

    Mischief nodded.

    “And this doesn't bother you?”

    He shrugged. “Not really. It's not like I miss them or anything since I don't know what they were. If I'm to compare it to the memories I have in the woods anyway. It's a bit of a blur, and I'd like to know why I suddenly woke up on the ground surrounded by bodies.”

    Cleo grit her teeth and suppressed a shudder. For some reason, that description didn't settle well with her, and she'd seen enough morbid things to have developed some resistance to such images.

    “Cleo says you were attacked on your way here. Can you tell me what happened in the forest?” Tinker asked Mischief. “Namely how many attacks you used, or which ones, before things became a blur?”

    “Which ones?” Mischief looked thoughtfully at the ceiling. “I don't know the names. But I think I used... two or three?” He shrugged, then grinned and seemed to bounce. “I did save Cleo with a glowing green ball though.”

    “Energy Ball.” Tinker scratched something on a piece of paper with a quill and ink then looked back up at Mischief. “I'd like to run some tests on you if you don't mind.”

    Mischief inclined his head on one side. “Are they fun?”

    “They're certainly interesting.” Tinker stood up and moved over to the simulation machine. He grabbed onto one of the rails and dragged it into the middle of the room.

    It was an imposing machine and now out of its little corner seemed to make the office seem smaller. A concave disc was propped above a metal box that sported several buttons and a little screen, placed at one end of the platform which was surrounded by a secure iron fence. On the other end of the platform was a gate. Behind the disc was a piston that at the moment was still.

    Tinker opened the gate and motioned to Mischief. “Step inside.”

    The Whimsicott obliged. Cleo found herself wondering if his lack of memories had made him more naïve than he should be.

    The Riolu moved to the back of the machine and wound a crank a few times until the piston began to move up and down with a steady hiss. He then leant over the gate and punched a series of buttons. The disc lit up and projected something onto the platform – a Poochyena.

    Mischief took a step back and Cleo leapt to her feet.

    “It's not real,” Tinker told them. “It's just an image. Now, Mischief. You also know some unusual attacks, one that looks like pink and purple light?”

    “Ooh my sparkly one?” Mischief smiled. “You want to see it?”

    Tinker waved a paw. “Not yet. Let me explain what I'm doing here. I'm conducting some research, and I want to know how your... sparkly attack... effects dark and dragon type Pokemon. Having none in the Guild, I can't ask one to come in and take some hits for us, so I've made this simulation machine.” He gave the machine a fond pat. “It records the base damage of the attack fired, and the effectiveness on the Pokemon it's simulating. It can also detect whether or not the attack was fired with vehemence, so don't worry too much about confusing the machine with a critical hit.” He gestured to the Poochyena. “The simulation is also capable of firing its own attacks at those who are in it, recording the results through the sensors at your feet. It uses a very low damage rate though so don't worry, it won't hurt.”

    Cleo and Spark exchanged glances.

    “Erm, Tinker?” Cleo turned her attention to the Riolu. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” She gave him a look that prompted him to remember what they were discussing the night before.

    “Don't worry, I know what I'm doing.” Tinker moved behind Mischief and started strapping him onto the rails with thick, leather reins.

    “What's this for?” Mischief asked.

    “Security reasons. Okay, shall we start? It will attack you. When it has, hit it back.” Tinker struck another button and moved away from the machine.

    The Poochyena animated and fired a dark pulse of light at Mischief. It struck him in the stomach and he chuckled. He raised his arms and a flurry of bright, sparkling pink and purple flashes exploded across the machine, striking the Poochyena image. It flickered out of sight.

    Tinker rushed to the machine and leant over to glance at the screen. He clapped his paws together.

    “It's incredibly effective! Excellent! And as for the damage on you, it's recorded at half it's normal rate. Now... if you wouldn't mind...” He punched a few more buttons and a Fraxure appeared on the platform. Tinker hit the button to animate the dragon and took a few steps back.

    The Fraxure opened its mouth and sent out a pulsing wave. It moved over Mischief like water and he stood unfazed. Once again, he raised both paws and sent out another flurry of sparkling lights. The dragon flickered out of sight.

    Tinker raced to the machine with such enthusiasm he stumbled, propping himself up on the rail. His eyes widened when he saw the screen and he fell back from it, blinking a few times before fixing his attention on Mischief.

    “The same – incredibly effective. But... did it really not bother you?”

    Mischief shook his head.

    Tinker looked back at his machine, almost as though he doubted his own invention. “I'm... wanting to check how it works against a Hydreigon...”

    Cleo stood up. “I think we've seen enough. We know the attack works now.”

    “I don't mind fighting something else if it's for research,” Mischief said rather too keenly, “But... I would like to know why you're so excited about this. What's it in aid of? Am I being trained for something?”

    Tinker looked at him as though seeing him for the first time. Cleo and Spark followed the Riolu's gaze, and were suddenly aware what it was that had struck him.

    Mischief had no memories.

    That meant he had no idea of the state of the world he was living in.
  7. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    6 – A Small Request​

    Yurlik strutted up the stone steps towards the giant stone building. Large jagged ebony points stuck out of the roof at odd angles, reaching up towards the dark sky. Half way up the flight of stairs, the Honchkrow clicked his beak in frustration. He would have preferred to be able to fly, but since he was having to lug a carcass on his back twice his size, doing so would demand a feat of strength his body couldn't provide. Not to mention it was currently rendering his glossy black feathers sticky with blood. His pride in his appearance was taking a brutal blow. He'd be needing a good bath and a preen after this.

    “You look like you're having problems, fatso.”

    Yurlik's red eyes shot up to the roof of the building. Smirking at him was the shadowy form of a Banette wearing a heavy black scarf around his neck. Yurlik sneered and had to steady himself for fear of sending the heavy burden he carried tumbling back down the stairs.

    “You know, Enigma... rather than sitting there grinning at me, you could help me carry it?”

    The Banette chuckled and sat up, creating a soft ringing sound from some unseen bell on his body.

    “I don't think so.” Enigma inclined his head on one side and gave the Honchkrow a half smile. “I'd get my claws dirty.”

    Yurlik mumbled something incoherent under his breath and hoisted himself up another few steps. He could feel the Banette's crimson gaze burning into his feathers as the ghost sat there clearly mocking him. He feared if this kept up, he'd put a foot wrong and send himself falling back down the stairs, carcass and all. Then that would give the stupid Banette something to laugh about.

    He clenched his beak shut and kept on going, trying to shut out the shadowy nuisance. Just a little further... there. He finally reached the door. Unable to use either of his wings, since both were holding his 'bad news' in place, he had to strike the door with his beak.

    “Yes?” Enigma peered over the roof at him.

    Yurlik sighed and looked up reluctantly. “So it's you on the door?”

    The Banette gave him a massive grin and nodded.

    Yurlik narrowed his eyes. “You're forgetting I have a type advantage. Get down here and open it!”

    Enigma chuckled and leapt from the roof, landing beside Yurlik with a soft jingle. He moved silently through the door like a black mist, then there was a click and the double doors swung inwards. Yurlik strutted through them, the body's rear claws scraping across the marble tiles, the noise echoing off the bare stone walls.

    “You know...” Enigma spoke slowly as he closed the doors, “The boss isn't going to be too happy to see you carrying that.”

    “I'm aware.”

    Enigma chuckled and followed him down the wide hallway. “I'm just saying. It would suck to be you right now.”

    Yurlik said nothing, walking silently down the hallway listening to that irritating jingle, amplified by the wide corridor. He wondered where Enigma hid that bell. His tail? Yurlik made a mental note to bite it off later and see.

    A set of ebony doors spanned the end of the hall, reaching up from the floor to the ceiling. An intricate carving was etched across them depicting several dark Pokemon. In the centre of it was a Hydreigon posed to resemble a trident, the symbol of Hydreigon's armies.

    Enigma cut in front of Yurlik and threw the doors open, striding in with a phenomenal amount of confidence.

    “Boss! The fat bird is back with a delivery for you!”

    “Don't address me like that!” A deep voice boomed out, shaking the very walls. “Keep speaking to me like that and you'll find yourself ground down into dust!”

    Enigma burst into fits of laughter and darted into the room, vanishing into the shadows, the only sign of his presence being that irritating jingle.

    “Come in, Yurlik,” The deep voice spoke softer this time, but still with enough firmness that warned this had better be worth his time. “What did you find?”

    Two candles flickered above the door, leaving most of the room in darkness. The Honchkrow stepped warily forwards, his eyes just making out the large form of the Hydreigon lying at the far end of the room. He didn't dare walk too close to the dragon. Instead, he dropped the body from his back onto the floor where it landed with an unsatisfying splat.

    “What is this?” The Hydreigon asked.

    “This is Boomer, Lord Hydreigon.”

    Something darted at him, teeth snapping and causing him to leap back in a flurry of feathers. Hydreigon had lurched forwards, his larger head leaning over the carcass of the fallen dragon while the other two snapped their teeth in anger.

    “This is my top ace?!” The large dragon boomed. “I thought no Pokemon could defeat a Noivern?!”

    “I thought I was your top ace!” Enigma whined from the shadows.

    The Hydreigon's right limb twisted to snap dangerously at the corner of the room, followed by an alarmed ring from Enigma's bell signalling the Banette had done the wise thing and leapt out of the way.

    Yurlik cowered by the door, keeping one eye on the furious dragon.

    The Hydreigon stared down at the mangled Noivern, his breathing heavy as he tried to take this in. Finally, he recoiled back into the shadows, his large face shrouded in darkness once more.

    “Where did you find him?”

    “I didn't, my lord,” Yurlik answered quickly. “Two Murkrow arrived back here both in a shocking state. They told me Boomer had been slaughtered in the Moorland's Forest a day's direct flight from here.”

    “A day's flight?” Hydreigon asked eerily softly. “He'd been missing for two seasons!” The final sentence was spoke with such ferocity, Yurlik keeled backwards, almost stepping out of the door.

    “Yes, they... a flock of Murkrow found him. He'd been... kept by the Heretics, my lord.”

    “Heretics?” Hydreigon paused and Yurlik could just make out that he was rubbing one of the smaller heads under his chin as he stared up at the ceiling. “What were they doing with him?”

    “We don't know... apparently he'd been kept there but not out of malice. Once they were done with him, they asked the flock of Murkrow to accompany him back to the Shadowlands to be his eyes during the day. He was sent back with some haste, it seems. Apparently he'd been bargained with, but wouldn't explain to them what it was about. Apparently the Heretics had given him some information to give to you, but obviously... he cannot do that now.”

    Hydreigon was silent, his eyes no longer on the fallen Noivern but fixed on some vague point across the room as his red eyes glazed over in thought.

    “If you're looking for a plan of action, we may be able to track down those who did this. You see... the Murkrow stopped by the outskirts for help. It was Ripwing who brought him back here.” He let out a nervous laugh. “You know how fast Salamence can fly... a day's flight is only-”

    The Hydreigon lurched forwards before Yurlik had a chance to raise his guard. He let out a loud caw as he found himself bowled over by the dragon's large nose.

    “Don't mention that name in my presence!”

    Yurlik's heart hit his throat as the dragon's teeth bared alarmingly close to his beak. He tried to apologise but all that came out was a strangled squeak.

    Hydreigon gestured to the fallen Noivern with one of his other heads. “Who did this to him?” He spoke softly, his warm breath brushing over the Honchkrow's face and sending cold shivers of fear through his hollow bones.

    “Th-three Pokemon,” he answered. “A Meowstic, Dedenne and Whimsicott. It was the latter that... reduced Boomer to such a state, my lord.”

    Hydreigon recoiled back into the shadows and watched Yurlik struggle back to his feet.

    “I need to have those three eradicated,” the dragon said quietly, almost to himself. “I shall send out my next trump card.”

    “Ooh!” Enigma cheered from his hiding place. “What do you want me to do?”

    “Not you!” Hydreigon paused. “I have another tool in mind for this task.” He chuckled and fired a narrow stream of fire at Yurlik. The Honchkrow squealed and flapped his wings, narrowly avoiding a thorough singeing. The dragon looked away. “Remove this mess, and fetch me Harlequin.”


    Cleo slept a lot better that night. It had been a tiring day, having to explain everything to Mischief. His normal jovial and naïve demeanour seemed to melt away as they explained Hydreigon, how the world was being slowly consumed by darkness due to the powerful dragon's vast armies. How all the Pokemon had been divided into three groups – Darkness, Heretics and Outcasts. The existence of the Guild to protect the weaker Outcasts from being slaughtered by Hydreigon's forces. The basic rule – if you weren't a dark, ghost or dragon Pokemon, then your life was at risk. That Heretics were foolish, trying to win over forces that would likely exploit them, then destroy them when their uses had run out.

    Mischief had learned the world was a dark and dangerous place, and he'd quickly grown tired taking it all in.

    Cleo, Spark and Tinker had grown tired trying to explain it all, and trying not to miss anything out.

    After the sun set, they realised they'd not had dinner. But Mischief wasn't hungry, he just wanted to get some rest. So Tinker called Melody to take him back to the medical ward and make sure he was okay.

    After he left, Cleo left for her nest while Spark, claiming that explaining so much was hungry work, waddled to the kitchen to see if she could rustle up something to eat before calling it a night.

    It was now morning, and Cleo stared at the ceiling of the nest room, reliving the previous day, not prepared to go downstairs to face what may come next. But her stomach was telling her otherwise, and as needs must, she forced herself to her feet and strutted to the dining hall.

    She was surprised to find Spark already there, tucking into a large plate of berries with all the ravenous fury of a half-starved Tyranitar.

    “It's good to see you still have an appetite,” Cleo said as she sat next to her friend.

    Spark fixed her with her large black eyes, her cheeks bulging. “Of course. Don't you?”

    “Actually yes.” Cleo heaped her plate with dried fish and berry toast.

    She ate in silence, quickly making her way through her breakfast, oblivious to her surroundings as she continued to relive the previous day.

    “Good morning.”

    Cleo turned with a start. Tinker sat next to her, piling up his plate with anything he could get his paws on.

    “You seem cheerful,” Cleo stated, turning back to her breakfast.

    “Of course. I have reason to be.” He flashed her a smile. “I was hoping you wouldn't mind joining me in my office once more?”

    “What for this time? More experiments? Found out something new?”

    “I actually have a request of you.” Tinker stood and lifted his plate. “May I disturb you?”

    Cleo licked her paws and stood up. “Sure. I'm finished anyway. Spark?” She looked down at the Dedenne.

    Spark looked up at her with wide eyes, her paws clutching a berry. “I'm not finished.”

    “Bring it with you.” Cleo lifted Spark's plate, much to her protests, and turned to leave the dining hall.

    Tinker raised a paw. “Please don't bring food into my office. Berry juice just makes a mess of things.”

    Spark clenched her paws and wailed. “Aww! You're slaying me!”

    Cleo gave Spark an apologetic look and placed the plate on the stand by the door. “Sorry.”

    Spark mumbled something incoherent and followed them out of the room towards Tinker's office.

    Tinker opened his office door and faltered in the doorway. “Oh...”

    Mischief looked over from the Riolu's desk and smiled. “Morning!”

    “Who let you in?” Tinker strolled into the room and reclaimed his desk, setting down his overflowing plate. “Please, don't touch anything.”

    Spark stared at the pile of food with barely contained longing.

    “Melody let me in,” said Mischief. “She said you wanted to speak to me?”

    “Yes well... sit.”

    The Whimsicott flopped onto the nearest stool.

    Tinker turned to Cleo and Spark and ushered them to sit down while he closed his door. He returned to his desk, picked up some papers and nudged over a seat to Cleo, sitting – she thought – rather unnecessarily close to her.

    “I have a request of you,” He told her. “I'd like you to do some investigating for me.”

    Cleo glanced over Tinker's shoulder at the rather curious Mischief.

    “Don't worry about him.” Tinker waved a paw. “I'm sending him out with you.”

    She turned her yellow eyes back to Tinker. “Where are we going?”

    “I would like you to find out why a Noivern was lurking around the forest during the day.” Tinker looked down at his notes. “I can't fathom why on earth it would behave in such an unusual way, since its vision is much better in the dark. I'm a little concerned it was sent to snoop around here looking for New City. It's unlikely, since no one outside of the Guild knows of this place, other than the inhabitants and as you know we have very strict rules here. Only Guild members can feely come and go, and you are all sworn to secrecy even to death to ensure the lives here are protected.”

    “Does that mean I'm a Guild member?” Mischief asked.

    “No, just a tool I am using,” Tinker said bluntly. “You'll be leaving here blindfolded and once you are far enough away from New City only then is Cleo permitted to remove it.” He cleared his throat and smoothed out his notes. “I sent a search party out to find the body of this Noivern but all they found were the remains of the chaos that ensued during your battle. It was gone. Someone must have come to claim it, or it wasn't dead after all. This also worries me. If you wouldn't mind doing some searching around, to see where it possibly came from or any evidence as to what it was looking for, if anything.”

    Cleo nodded. “Sure. We can do that.”

    “I have a question.” Mischief raised a paw. “Who killed the Noivern?”

    Tinker looked over at him and Cleo braced herself for him to bluntly tell Mischief exactly who mutilated the Noivern.

    “It was killed in battle,” Tinker told him. “As you are already aware, this world is a live or die one at the moment. These things, sadly, do happen.” He turned back to his notes and Cleo fixed him with a dumbfounded expression, prompting an explanation, but he didn't give her one. “Now, I would like you three to set off as soon as possible if you wouldn't mind?”

    “Sure.” Cleo stood. “I'll go and fetch extra supplies.”

    “No need.” Tinker stood and moved past her, stopping by the wall and pressing a button that triggered a faint chime in the room. “All that has been dealt with for you.”

    Within moments, the two guards that had been in the medical ward – the Pikachu and Growlithe – walked through the door. The Pikachu handed Cleo a paper bag.

    “You will find in there all the supplies you need,” Tinker told her. “Now boys, could you escort our fine fellow here out of New City? And don't forget the blindfold.”

    Mischief followed the two guards out of the office. Cleo followed after them and stopped at the door, closing it and looking back at Tinker.

    “Would you mind telling me why you didn't explain to him he has Pokerus?” She hissed.

    “Simple.” Tinker smiled. “We told him last night in detail what the state of this world is, and how dangerous it is under Hydreigon's reign of terror. He had a lot to take in. If we told him now that he has a mutated form of Pokerus, and slaughtered a Noivern with no memory of it, how do you think that would affect him? He may decide to abstain from any mission I wish to send him on, and despite his 'madness', he is a very capable fighter and one of very few chances – if not the only chance – the Guild has at fending off dragons and even in defeating Hydreigon. I want him to find his feet first, before we tell him anything like that.”

    Cleo made a thoughtful noise, but she wasn't convinced. “And what of him being a Heretic?”

    “I do not wish to impart that. What if he decided to go back to them to find out more about himself, and incidentally turned on us?”

    “Yes!” Spark snapped. “What if he does turn on us? Like before in the forest when he attacked Cleo?”

    Tinker smiled. “Spark my friend, if you were to find yourselves in a situation where he goes out of control, I think you two are fully able to look after yourselves. You've done so once already.”

    Cleo and Spark exchanged glances and sighed.

    “Fine,” Said Cleo. “We'll comply with you this time, but I think you're being foolish to not tell him the whole truth, Tinker.” She opened the door.

    “He'll find out in due time. Take care. I'll see you back here soon enough.”

    Cleo glanced back at him. He'd returned to his desk, scratching away at his notes with a quill and ink. She closed the door behind her with a click and made her way down the corridor to the exit.

    The two guards and Mischief were waiting at the end of the corridor. Mischief now sported a red blindfold over his eyes and the Pikachu had hold of one of his arms firmly. The Pikachu nodded when he saw them.

    “This way.”

    They were led away from the large hall with the shops and markets towards a narrow corridor lit up with a small candle every few feet. After several minutes, the corridor sloped upwards. Cleo knew where it led – it was one of the Guild's many exits. Guild members rarely ever used the same entrance as an exit and vice versa. Only two could be used as both, and it was common practice to leave New City through a different exit than the one you came through. The theory was, if someone saw you enter one way, then come out the same way then they would likely know there was something hidden there and possibly find New City. If you went out a different way, it greatly reduced that risk.

    The guards came to a halt and one of them used his badge to unlock a stone slab in the ceiling. Mischief was ushered forwards, followed by Cleo with Spark perched on her shoulder. They just made it through before the stone slab moved back into place on its impeccable timer.

    Cleo looked around her. They were now in a small cave, lit up by the daylight that flooded through the opening in front of her. She took Mischief's paw and led him out of the cave.

    This place had been nicknamed Silent Mountains for a reason – it was deathly silent. Even the wind made little noise, and not a single Pokemon could be seen for miles. Cleo hadn't marked it as a red cross on her map. Despite its emptiness, it was still safe for the Outcasts to step foot on. No dark Pokemon had been spotted here... yet.

    She moved them along a little more until the cave was well behind them. The path was treacherous, loose rocks sliding beneath their feet and scuttling down the side of the mountain out of sight. The path soon smoothed out, levelling off and becoming a much safer path. Cleo took this opportunity to remove Mischief's blindfold.

    He blinked a few times and looked around. “Whew! It's bright!” His voice echoed slightly in the emptiness.

    Cleo elbowed him. “Keep it down. You don't want to attract any unwanted visitors.”

    He nodded quickly and followed after her.

    Cleo let out a soft sigh. This was going to be a long mission, if not a potentially fatal one.
  8. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    7 – Disaster in the Mountains​


    The Banette chuckled, leaning back on the wall in the throne room's darkest corner. The door had clicked shut before the Hydreigon turned his head to acknowledge his presence.

    “So you're still here,” Hydreigon growled. “Eavesdropping on my instructions to Harlequin I assume?”

    “Of course. I was curious.” Enigma shrugged and fiddled with the hem of his scarf. “I'm also curious as to why you've not assigned me any instructions yet? Since Harlequin and I are often sent out together.”

    Hydreigon let out a low growl that reverberated through the walls. Enigma briefly considered adjusting his density to slip through them to safety.

    “I have different plans for you, Enigma.” Hydreigon's growls came to an abrupt stop, making the room seem oddly silent. “I want you to run a special errand for me.”

    “Ooh?” Enigma looked up at him sharply, the hidden bell on his body letting out a ring of surprise.

    “Yes.” Hydreigon paused. “As you know, thanks to your incessant need to eavesdrop on the conversations I have with your superiors, Boomer was given information by Heretics, and unfortunately killed before he could give it to me.” He turned his red eyes onto Enigma. “I want you to seek out which Heretics gave him that information and retrieve it.”

    Enigma's eyes sparkled. “By any means necessary. Got it.”

    “NO!” The dragon's voice caused Enigma to take a step back. “This is not an assassination, this is an intelligence mission. You gather information. That is all.”

    “But what if they don't speak?” Enigma inclined his head on one side and feigned a rather pathetic expression. “I have to make them talk somehow.” He sighed and examined his claws. “And they're so much more willing when I scare them a bit.”

    “If you leave a trail of blood and cost me this information, mark my words I'll leave a trail of yours all the way back to the place I found you.”

    “Okay, okay.” Enigma kicked himself back off the wall and made for the exit. “I'll do it the hard way.” He opened the door.

    “Oh and Enigma...”

    He looked back at Hydreigon. “Yes boss?”

    “Don't mess this up.”

    The warning laced in Hydreigon's voice gave the Banette shivers. He slipped out of the door and let it close silently behind him. A grin split across his face and he head back through the hall towards the main doors.

    So he got to play with the Heretics. He couldn't deny he wasn't curious about the information they so desperately wanted to give to Hydreigon. This should be fun.

    Maybe he'd run into the three Pokemon Harlequin had been sent out to assassinate.

    He paused at the top of the stairs, high enough to overlook some of the Shadowlands. There, moving away from him was the unmistakable vibrant blue markings he was familiar with. A chuckle escaped his throat and he rose into the air, darting forwards and vanishing to reappear several feet away.

    He couldn't teleport like psychic Pokemon could, but this method often used by ghost Pokemon allowed them to cover ground more quickly. Another two moves and he perched in a tree, looking back at the Zorua strutting along the path towards him, oblivious to the Banette's presence. Harlequin. One of Hydreigon's several aces, and a Zorua who puzzled many. Everything about them, including their gender, was shrouded in mystery. After many years, Enigma just assumed they were male. It complicated matters less.

    “Oi! Harle!”

    The Zorua paused and turned his blue eyes up to the branches of the tree. Enigma had always been amazed at the Zorua's appearance. To have blue markings was rare enough, but to also have blue eyes was even rarer.

    “Oh, hi Enigma.” Harlequin's voice was as androgynous as his physique. “Has Hydreigon sent you with me again?” He looked away and continued moving forwards.

    Enigma followed him, sticking to the tree branches. “Nope! Not this time.”

    “Oh really?” Harlequin glanced up at him again. “Then why are you here?”

    “Argh!” Enigma paused and clutched his chest. “You seem unhappy to see me!”

    Harlequin closed his eyes and laughed. Enigma picked up pace and caught up with him.

    “I've been sent on an intel mission,” The Banette told him. “So you'll have to do without my assistance this time.”

    “I'm sure I'll be fine.” Harlequin fixed him with one eye. “It's not the first time I've gone without your help.”

    Enigma grinned. “Good. Then hopefully you won't mess up.”

    Harlequin chuckled. “In all the years we've been working and training together, do you really have that little faith in me?”

    “No no!” Enigma laughed. “You're a pro!”

    “Sarcasm?” Harlequin looked up at him, his eyes sparkling with amusement. “Get out of here, you shadowy mess.”

    “Fine! But let's get these missions over quickly eh? You owe me a rematch.”

    “Yes, so I can beat you again.”

    Enigma laughed heartily and rose into the air, floating backwards through the trees. “All right! We'll see about that! Later, sucker!” He flickered out of sight as he blended into the shadows.


    “I don't like this.” Spark crouched low in Cleo's fur and surveyed their surroundings. “I don't like this one bit.”

    The mountain trail turned sharply, but not without giving a brilliant view of the forest below. Or what was left of it.

    The branches were sparse of leaves, yellow and brown and coating the floor with a dull, decaying blanket. Running through the core of the forest, the trees looked like skeletal warriors standing to attention beside a dried up river. The river was fed from the mountains, and would eventually end in a lake a good long walk away.

    “What's going on?” Mischief asked. “Why does it look so dead?”

    “Because it is dead,” Cleo said flatly. “As for why, I've no idea.”

    “This has to be a recent thing?” Spark looked at Cleo. “It has to be! The Guild can't have not noticed this?”

    Cleo blinked slowly as she stared down at the forest's remains. It didn't look like a recent thing. Nothing could wipe out trees like that so quickly.

    “The best thing to do would be to have a look at it,” she told them. “But first... I want to know why the river is dry.”

    Mischief turned to look at her. “Could the dry river be the reason the trees are dead?”

    “It's a possibility, and not exactly an abstract one.” Cleo scratched her ear. “Trees, like everything else, need water to survive. A drought would kill the trees but... it rained a few days ago.”

    “We should find the river's source,” said Spark. “If it's still there, then
    there might be something blocking it. Like a big, lazy Snorlax.”

    “I'm not going to rule that out.” Cleo tried not to laugh at the image of a Snorlax acting as an accidental dam. “Part of me wants to go back and speak to Tinker and see if the Guild is still getting water...” She shook her head. “No. Let's find the river's source.”

    “How do we do that?” Mischief asked. “It could be anywhere in this mountain.” He spread his paws wide to gesture to their surroundings.

    Cleo instinctively followed them and silently cursed the Whimsicott. She was now incredibly aware of how vast and huge the mountain was. Yes, the river could indeed start anywhere. There could also be more than one.

    More than one little mountain spring that fed into one large river.

    “It's lower down.”

    Spark sharply turned to her. “What?”

    “It has to be.” Cleo looked back down at the river. “Mountains generally have more than one spring running through them. They all join somewhere. The problem is lower down.”

    “Don't jump to conclusions!” Spark snapped. “Find one freely flowing spring, then jump to conclusions.”

    “Yes.” Cleo looked back up at the mountain. “And that shouldn't be too difficult in a mountain as quiet as this one. Keep an ear open for flowing water.”

    They moved away from the view, following the path through the mountain. Foliage rose up along the path, obscuring the desolate forest and closing them off from the world below. They moved in silence, straining their ears to pick up any sound of running water.

    All they heard was the gentle wind blowing through the rocks and shrubbery.

    “Urgh.” Spark rubbed her face with her paws. “Maybe we need to go higher up?”

    “I still think the problem's further down.” Cleo looked up at the steep, rocky slopes. Put one foot wrong, and any one of those rocks could give, causing a mountain slide and likely killing all three of them. She shook her head. “And I'm not the best at mountain climbing.”

    “I can have a look!” Mischief hopped across the rocks, giving them a wave as he twisted in the air, almost floating on the faint breeze.

    Cleo opened her mouth to berate him for taking a stupid risk, but words failed her as she watched him hop lightly up the rocks without nudging a single one out of place. Calm washed over her, filling her with a new vigour to solve this unexpected mystery.

    She continued down the path, keeping one eye on Mischief as he searched higher up the mountain, never moving out of sight.

    One thing Cleo couldn't help but notice was the ground was bone dry. That was probably purely psychological however. Her thoughts were on the lack of water below, and everything was leading back to it.

    After a while, the foliage parted again, giving a good view of the dried up forest. The sun was high above them now, but despite its presence there was still a chill in the air, only adding to the loneliness of the mountain and the horror of the tale that lay before them.


    Mischief's exclamation drew her attention back up to the mountain. The eccentric Whimsicott was hopping about, occasionally putting his ear to the ground.

    “I hear water,” he told them, posed with his rear in the air as he listened intently to the rocks. “Yes... yes, it's definitely water.”

    “Are you sure?” Cleo asked.

    “I may have no memories but I know what water sounds like.” He stood suddenly and turned to them, hopping and floating slowly back down the mountain.

    Spark pointed. “Don't you think you should be following that?”

    “I am.” He paused and listened to the floor again. “It runs beneath your feet.”

    Cleo and Spark looked at the ground, their eyes moving over the edge of the mountain and to the dry river in the forest. Cleo edged a little further, poised almost precariously on the edge of the steep slope. She followed the river with her eyes back to the mountain. She swallowed drily.

    “What is it?” Mischief stood carefully behind them so as not to spook Cleo and send her plummeting over the edge.

    A wide cave opened part way up the mountain. Moving out of it was a deep crevice that ran down the remainder of the mountain to join the river below. It was also bone dry.

    “Is that...?” Spark trailed off.

    “It runs through the mountain.” Cleo's voice wavered.

    “Is that a problem?” Mischief asked, his voice thick with innocence.

    Cleo bristled and rounded on him. “Of course it's a pro-” She began to fall backwards.

    Mischief grabbed her flailing paw and hoisted her towards him, causing her to fall forwards and hit the floor on her stomach. Spark rolled off her shoulder and sat up a few feet away. She shook her little head and fixed her black eyes on Mischief.

    “Watch what you're doing!”

    “No...” Cleo pushed herself up. “It was my fault, I was careless.” She stood up and dusted herself down before looking up at Mischief. “Did you just save my life?”

    Mischief shrugged. “I think so.”

    “For the second time...” Cleo trailed off as confusion filled the Whimsicott's eyes. He didn't know... and she couldn't tell him.


    “Yes.” She looked away and crouched so Spark could hop onto her shoulder. “You distracted that Noivern. Remember?”

    “Oh yeh! With my glowing green ball.”

    “Energy ball,” Cleo said flatly. “And yes. Okay, lets get down to that cave. I have a horrible feeling in my stomach.”

    “So do I,” said Spark quietly. “That cave, the spring that runs through this mountain... where does it all go?”

    Cleo had a feeling but she didn't want to admit it. All she knew was something was blocking off the water supply, and it could go one of two ways – a natural accident, or a malicious intention.

    She really hoped it wasn't the latter.

    ... ​

    The path down to the cave was a precarious one. It would have taken too long to take the winding path, so they had to scurry over loose rocks and rough, jagged foliage in an attempt to reach the ominous cave.

    Mischief made it look easy, skipping over rocks with all the grace a grass Pokemon could muster, occasionally riding the light breeze to float over more unsteady terrain. Cleo, on the other hand, had the increasing fear that she was going to cause a mountain slide. She might have been nimble on her feet on flat surfaces, but scaling a mountain wasn't at the top of her skills list. Spark had decided riding on her shoulder was much too risky at the present time and joined Mischief in hopping over rocks, but not anywhere near as graceful. Spark couldn't float, and at one point had slipped over some loose gravel and went riding down the hill on her bottom only to come to a stop when she reached some large leaves.

    Finally, they reached the massive cave opening and perched just above it. Going down on either side was not an option. It was dangerously steep with no plants to hold onto. The rocks were also loose, providing no support. The fall might not be so far now, but it was still a very dangerous fall, met with many jagged rocks and sharp, broken twigs and branches from former trees that had met the fate of a rock slide.

    “So...” Spark scratched her chin. “How do we get in?”

    “Easy.” Mischief peered over the edge of the cave. With a little hop, he flipped himself over the lip of the cave, vanishing out of sight without a sound.

    Cleo strained to see over the edge, not wanting to shout out for Mischief perchance there was someone inside the cave. He poked his head out and looked up at them.

    “Just do what I did,” he said.

    “Are you kidding?” Cleo hissed. “I can't float like you can.”

    “You don't need to. Just hold onto the edge and drop.”

    Cleo gave him a blank expression.

    “It's not too steep,” he added. “And I can catch you if you slip. Don't worry.”

    Cleo blinked.

    Spark peered down at him. “Your lack of memories has clearly left you oblivious to the fear of plummeting to your death, hasn't it.”

    “I'd hardly say that's a bad thing,” said Mischief.

    Cleo grunted. “Fearlessness leads to foolishness.”

    Regardless, she took Mischief's advice. There really was no other choice. She turned her back to him, held on to the edge of the cave and let herself drop. She landed on her feet, shock spread through her legs and caused her to grit her teeth. But she didn't fall.

    She'd been closing her eyes. She opened them and looked around the cave. The daylight lit it up just enough to see a little way into it. Yes, the river was indeed dry. And she still couldn't see why.

    A soft 'oof!' resounded behind her and she looked back. Mischief was removing Spark from the fluff on his head. He set the Dedenne down and they both joined Cleo's side.

    “No sense in standing around here staring into the dark,” Spark said, leading the way inside.

    Cleo silently agreed and followed after her with Mischief on her tail. The cave grew darker until Spark decided it was too much and discharged electricity, causing her to glow brightly. The light reflected off damp walls, making the entire place feel incredibly cold. Cleo couldn't help noticing a distant drip of water echoing off the walls in the distance. If there was water flowing further inside, then the blockage must be in the cave.

    As they progressed further, the dry river seemed to expand in width, pushing them closer to the walls. It seemed pointless, since it was dry and they had no chance of getting wet. Cleo placed her paw on the wall as she moved, treading carefully and scanning the distance for any sign of a blockage.

    A foetid smell reached them as a breeze blew through the cave and she crinkled her nose.

    “What is that?” Spark coughed into her paws. “It smells like something dead!”

    Cleo picked up pace, stepping over Spark in her haste. The little Dedenne let out a yell of protest and scurried on all fours to keep up with her. The light from her body flooded further into the cave and Cleo came to a sudden stop. Spark bounced off her heels.

    “Oi!” Spark rubbed her nose. “What on earth- what...” Her large eyes widened.

    Cleo's attention was on the wall a little further away from them. A large stone slab with the sun symbol that marked the Guild. An entrance to New City.

    “Cleo?” Spark stood up and joined the Meowstic's side. “Did you know this was here?”

    “I don't know all the exits.” She tore her eyes off the gate and pushed herself forwards. “I have a really bad feeling about this.”

    The putrid smell grew stronger the further they went into the cave, and the sound of running water grew louder. The darkness seemed to thicken, so much so that Spark's electrical discharge could barely penetrate it. Their pace slowed as they strained to see in the darkness, fearing where they might put their feet.

    Spark scampered on ahead, desperately trying to light the way. Cleo placed a paw over her nose as the smell was growing almost unbearable, causing the sick feeling of worry in her stomach to worsen.

    “Urgh,” said Mischief. “I picked a bad day to have a large breakfast.”

    “Then erm...” Spark stopped, her eyes fixed on something Cleo couldn't see. “You might want to look away from this.”

    Cleo trotted to join Spark's side, and froze. The Dedenne's light reflected off the surface of water, rippling as several streams ran down through the rocks to join it. It looked like a lake, held back by what at first glance appeared to be a rocky dam. But amongst those rocks were the decaying remains of several Pokemon. Mischief turned away and collapsed onto all fours as his breakfast decided to make a swift exit.

    Cleo clenched her paw over the lower half of her face in a desperate attempt to shut out the smell, which now seemed a lot worse now she knew what was causing it.

    One thing was for certain. This was very bad news. She had to inform Tinker.

    “What were they?” Spark asked.
  9. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    So I said I'd check this thing out and I did.

    Overall I'm really enjoying what you have of this story so far. You've got plenty of delicious, nutritious worldbuilding for your original PMD verse, the plot wastes zero time getting into the thick of things, your characters are distinct and interesting (I particularly like your villain treating his whole evil empire as a business that needs to be run as efficiently as possible), and the writing style and events give a nice vibe of an epic fantasy novel.

    The only real complaint I have is that your portrayal of all the Dark, Dragon, and Ghost types leans too much Always Chaotic Evil for my liking. It's not story-killing by any means but spicing things up by having some of the evil empire be not all that bad somehow would help make things more believable.

    But overall this is still a very nice story and I hope to read more.
  10. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    Thanks Umbramatic! I'm so glad you think that! I've been worrying I wouldn't be able to write an epic fantasy that well, so that means a lot =D

    I don't want to give spoilers, but this is an element that comes in later. Back in Chapter 6, Hydreigon is annoyed at Ripwing's name being mentioned, which may hint at something that's been going on behind the scenes...

    Thanks for reading =D I'll aim to have another chapter up by weekend!
  11. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    A/N - I'd made a booboo when I created a character which I fixed while reading over this. For some reason I had it in my head ground types were immune to poison. It wasn't until yesterday when my Cubone got poisoned in a Nuzlocke when I thought "seriously?!" So... not wanting to re-write an entire character 28 chapters into a story I decided to just make some tweaks. Hopefully it works.

    Seriously, I'm sure I remember seeing 'doesn't affect ... ' while using a ground Pokemon once...

    8 – A Nefarious Plot?​

    “Seviper.” Tinker leant forwards over the dried river, holding Spark in one paw to shine light over the grim scene. Sharp, red spikes and long fangs stood out amongst the rocks and fleshy remains. “Definitely Seviper.”

    “Great,” Said Spark. “Could you put me down now?”

    Tinker obliged and set Spark down next to Cleo.

    “I have one question,” said Cleo. “Who would build a dam out of Seviper remains?”

    “Easy.” Tinker leant back against the wall, his red eyes fixed on the dam almost as if such a scene didn't phase him in the slightest. “It could be an assassin, or someone who has a grudge against the Pokemon that live in this area. Any vindictive soul really.”

    “Zangoose?” Spark asked.

    “It's true Zangoose and Seviper have a long-burning feud against one another, but this goes far against their tastes. This could harm an entire eco-system.” He scratched his nose. “Not to mention the poison type Pokemon are having a very difficult time right now. They're being tracked and chased away from their homes by the Shadow Lands. This reeks of malicious intent.”

    Cleo gritted her teeth. She knew what that felt like.

    “But doesn't this water feed...” Spark nodded to the stone slab.

    “Oh no, no.” Tinker shook his head. “We've tapped into several mountain springs to direct the water straight to us. It doesn't come from a river. This did flow down into the forest, but now... I think it may be headed elsewhere.”

    Cleo stared over at the backed up water. Of course. It was draining off somewhere. It had to be, otherwise it would have overflowed the dam and fed back into the river.

    She turned to Tinker. “How do we find that out? It's too dangerous for one of us to swim down there.”

    Tinker crossed his arms. “Yes. We need someone immune or resistant to poison who doesn't mind getting wet. That rules out a pure ground type, definitely. Someone used to water would be best. I know.” He turned to head back to the gate and paused to look back at them. “I won't be long. If you wish to wait there, you can. Otherwise, you can wait in my office? Or continue with the mission I assigned you?” His tone implied he hoped she'd take the final option.

    “No.” Cleo shook her head. “I'd get answers faster if I waited here.”

    Tinker's face dropped and he turned away to open the gate. “Fair enough. I shall be back shortly.”

    Cleo looked down at Mischief. He was sat with his back against the wall, his paws crossed in his lap. Motionless. Clearly this had been a shock to him. She tore her eyes away and leant back on the wall herself and let out a sigh. If she were to put herself in his situation, being shocked at such a sight would leave her rather speechless herself. Maybe to such an extent she'd be reeling for days.

    At the end of the day, the Seviper were still Pokemon. Something... someone... had killed them and used their bodies to build this dam. Used them to poison the river. To kill other Pokemon.

    That was the likely scenario, and one that didn't sit well with her. Not just with her, with any level headed Pokemon with a sense of morality.

    For Mischief, who'd just recently learned of the evil that filled the world they lived in, this was likely a very unwelcome eye opener.

    And nothing Cleo could say would change that.

    A dull grating sound signalled Tinker's return.

    “Just over here,” Tinker said. “I hope you have a strong stomach.”

    “A stomach of steel!”

    Cleo looked over at the two Pokemon. Tinker was leading a Marshstomp towards them. Excellent choice. Ground, so he would resist the poison, and water so he would be able to see when he dived into the river. Sometimes she didn't give Tinker enough credit. He was a mad genius but he could certainly think on his toes.

    The Marshstomp moved a pair of goggles from his forehead so they were covering his eyes. “So I'm just lookin' fer where it drains off then, aye?”

    “Yes. And any sign of what may have done this.”

    Without a word, the Marshstomp slipped head first into the river, not creating so much as a splash. Within moments, his head appeared above the water.

    “I can see where it's goin', sure enough, but the hole's too small fer me.”

    “Don't worry about that, Skipper,” Tinker told him. “Can you see what made the hole?”

    “Nay. It's clearly been made days ago. The water's washed away any claw marks.”

    Tinker sighed and ran a paw over his face. “That's fine. We'll just have to track it and see where it comes out. And hopefully block off the hole. But... it might be too late for that.”

    “We should clear the blockage away,” Skipper told him. “Right enough, that'll get the river flowin' again, and away from where it's flowin' out.”

    “Days...” Tinker stared at the far wall.

    “We can't do that!” Spark exclaimed. “If we remove it, all the poison will just flow into the lake!”

    “Aye. That's right enough.” Skipper leant on the bank and moved the goggles back up onto his forehead. He looked up at Tinker. “Any suggestions?”

    “Days...” Tinker didn't look at any of them. “How has this gone unnoticed for so long?”

    Skipper inclined his head on one side but said nothing.

    “Because we have no security in the forest or mountains,” Cleo told Tinker flatly. “That's why.”

    “No, our security is all internal. But we still have Pokemon coming and going.” Tinker nibbled his claw. “This has been going on without our knowledge and it chills me. Oh well. Can't be helped.” He swiftly regained his composure and kicked himself back from the wall. “Skipper, we shall track this river and see where it goes. In the meantime, I'm going to rally up some Shroomish and Breloom and ask them to build a new dam, clear away this mess and remove all poison from the water. But first... Skipper, we need to block where this exits.”

    “Ne'er a finer suggestion.” Skipper slipped out of the water and stood a couple of feet away while the putrid water fell from his body. “Might I suggest stockin' up on pecha berries? We're gonna need them.”

    Tinker gave a nod. “True. As for you three.” He turned to address Cleo.

    “I already have a plan,” Cleo told him. “Follow the dry river and see where it leads, what the damage is, and look for clues.”

    “No.” Tinker crossed his arms. “I gave you orders and you're to stick to them. Find out why that Noivern was out during the day, and what he wanted.”

    Cleo waved a paw at the Seviper remains. “There's a chance he did this.”

    “Right ye are!” Skipper nodded his head. “If he were out during the day n'all.”

    Tinker narrowed his eyes. “I think we'd be aware of a Noivern flying about for days.”

    Cleo stared back at him. “But you weren't aware of this.”

    “Look!” Spark hopped up and down. “There's no sense in arguing over it! If either are linked, it will become obvious later! Let's just get out of this smelly place and look for clues!”

    “Do your job!” Tinker growled. “Both tasks will be dealt with accordingly, I can assure you. This river will be cleaned, and if the Noivern is linked then we'll discover that. The upside there is that the Noivern is already dealt with.”

    “But you didn't find its body,” Cleo said flatly. “You fear it's still out there.”

    Tinker grit his teeth and looked away. “Yes. Well, either way. Please leave now. I can't thank you enough for discovering this. However, I do need you to find the information I asked for.”

    Cleo nodded and turned away. “Very well. Keep me informed. We'll be back soon.”

    “Haste makes waste, Cleo.”

    She glanced back but said nothing. She moved on, following after Spark as she lit up the cave.

    Cleo paused at Mischief, still sitting silently against the wall.


    He looked up at her, his orange eyes wide and fearful. Something twanged inside her chest but she didn't let it show. He wasn't cut out for this. Putting him through all this was just emotional torture.

    “Come on.” She looked away and moved past him.

    She didn't look back, but the shuffles behind her told her he was following. And that the former spring in his step had been brutally beaten out of him.


    Yurlik perched on the high stone wall that surrounded Hydreigon Castle, his red eyes surveying the surrounding areas of the Shadow Lands. His mind was reeling with many unanswered questions, the topic of which left an unwelcome nausea in his stomach.

    Something had slaughtered Boomer.

    And he was having severe doubts in the eye-witness reports from the Murkrow that were with him.

    After he'd removed Boomer's body from Hydreigon's throne room, he'd taken the opportunity to look over it with some of his Murkrow brethren. It was unnatural. What had done it? And how? What Pokemon could leave a dragon in such a state? Even an encounter with a Lapras wouldn't leave a dragon in such a state, and there was no evidence of any use of ice attacks. An encounter with another dragon type, considerably stronger than the Noivern, was a possibility but an unlikely one. Most of the dragons that rebelled against Hydreigon had fled the Shadow Lands and were living as outlaws on the borders, and none of them would dream of facing against Hydreigon's ace for fear of their own lives – enough evidence had sufficed to put an end to any such actions on their parts.

    However, the idea of a dragon having done it was ruled out by the wounds themselves. The claw marks weren't deep enough, or large enough, to be those of any known dragon Pokemon. There was also too much blunt trauma. The only dragons they could think of that would have done that were the smaller variety of their evolved kin – Bagon, Axew, Gible... an unevolved dragon wouldn't have been able to do it. Boomer would have made short work of them.

    The news the Murkrow had given them was that the Whimsicott had done it.

    No ice attacks.

    No dragon attacks.

    But somehow it had killed him. With ease.

    Without even flinching under a dragon breath attack.

    Yurlik wanted to be sick.

    He refused to believe it. The thought frightened him. How could a mere Whimsicott succeed in such a feat?

    He couldn't believe it. The Murkrow had to be mistaken.

    But the evidence was in their favour. Blunt trauma, minor claw wounds, and the unmistakable fluff that stuck to the tacky patches of blood over the dragon's body.

    The Honchkrow ruffled his feathers and retreated into himself, keeping his red eyes on the trees in the distance, unseeing, lost in his own fearful thoughts.

    Something was happening, and he didn't like it.

    Something, he feared, that would threaten an end to the Shadow Lands, and this was just the beginning.
  12. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    9 – Follow the River​

    “So we're ignoring orders?” Spark asked.

    Cleo hopped down the rocky mountain path with careful steps, the cave now far enough behind them to be out of earshot of Tinker and Skipper. They were amongst the leafless trees that stood on either side of the dried up river, the brittle tufts of grass crunching beneath their feet.

    “Not ignoring them,” Cleo answered, the caution in her voice aimed more at her unsteady foot work. “Just bending them.”

    “Isn't that the same thing?” The Dedenne perched on the bough of a small fallen tree and looked back at her companion. “He specifically told us to look for evidence of the Noivern, not go following this dried up river.”

    “I have a feeling there'll be answers this way. Maybe not to the Noivern's whereabouts, but we may find out why he was here.”

    Spark shook her head and scurried across the tree branch. “I have to say I'm not liking this, Cleo. And not because I think you're going against orders. To be honest, I agree with you, this is vital.”

    “Then what's your problem?”

    “My problem is it's a dragon. What if there's more of his kind out there? Waiting just a little way down this river to ambush us?”

    Cleo didn't answer. She wanted to say they were okay, they'd survived it once before. But her doubts got the better of her. She looked back at Mischief lolling behind, his eyes on the ground, oddly silent. It wasn't without good reason. She sighed and slowed her pace, stopping in the shade of a rocky outcrop.

    Spark came to an abrupt halt and looked back at her friend. “Second thoughts?”

    “That's what I want to know.” Cleo looked at Mischief.

    He raised his fluffy head and stared at her through his orange eyes, the previous sparkle now gone.

    “Listen,” Cleo told him. “You don't have to come with us if this is too much for you.”

    “Cleo,” Spark hissed. “What do you think you're doing?!”

    Cleo ignored her, not taking her eyes off the Whimsicott. “This has clearly unsettled you, and I can understand if it's too much after all you've learned. So if you want to leave, now is your chance.”

    Mischief diverted his stare to the ground, his paws hanging limply at his side. Cleo could almost feel the Dedenne seething behind her and mentally prepared herself to take the brunt of her verbal abuse later. Mischief shifted, fidgeting his paws together and looked down at the empty crevice that was once the mountain's river.

    “I'm not telling you to leave,” Cleo went on, “But you are welcome to. The same applies if you want to follow us, but you are going to need a strong mind and a strong stomach in these kind of jobs.”

    She turned and continued her way along the river. Spark gave one final glance at Mischief before hopping up onto Cleo's shoulder.

    “What are you doing?” She hissed in her ear. “He's been to New City. If he leaves, Tinker's going to tan your hide!”

    “I'm fully aware of the risks, but he's traumatised.” Cleo kept her voice quiet so Mischief wouldn't overhear her, but considering his current state he likely wasn't listening anyway.

    Spark sighed. “I know your intentions are good, Cleo. But I'm still not entirely sure we can trust him. And it's pretty obvious Tinker doesn't.”

    “Tinker wouldn't trust his own nose if it wasn't attached to his face.”

    The Dedenne snorted and chuckled. “I agree with that. However, I can understand him on this one.”

    Cleo nodded. “Me too. But put yourself in his position.”

    “I have. And it would have made more sense to offer to take him back to Tinker.”

    Cleo glanced away from Spark. Yes, it would have made more sense. However, many years ago, didn't they try to flee from the evil around them? So shocked by the fire and screaming, they just fled... she grit her teeth and looked ahead, trying to divert her mind from such memories.

    The mountain trail had levelled out now, the mass of rocks now replaced by huge patches of grass. But the grass was brown and brittle, scattered here and there with withered flowers poking out between a thick blanket of decaying leaves. The smell of rotting foliage filled her nostrils and her nose crinkled, not from the smell but from the knowledge of what had caused the destruction of the land around them.

    Cleo slowed, and the crunch of leaves behind her signalled Mischief was still following them. She glanced back at him. He was still spiritless, barely seeming to take in what was around him. She shook her head sadly and cast her eyes over their surroundings.

    Everything was brown, rotten. She couldn't believe this had only taken days. She also couldn't believe it had gone unnoticed for so long. The river had stopped, dried up, and everything around it had been shocked by the sudden mass of poison that had flowed through it.

    The question was, did anything live around here?

    She pressed on, keeping a watchful eye around her for any sign of life – former or current.

    “You went quiet,” Said Spark. “Is it because of all this?” She waved a paw towards the river bed.

    “No, but it is occupying me right now. I'm wondering if there's anyone living around here.”

    “I doubt there will be. I mean... an Outcast village in the forest is very unlikely even without all this. It's dangerous, too many shadows. Too many hiding places for dark Pokemon.”

    “I know. But it's worth checking. If there are survivors then there are likely witnesses.” She hopped onto a fallen tree branch and paused, casting her eyes up and down it.

    “What?” Spark asked, following Cleo's glances.

    “This makes a bridge across the river.” The Meowstic stretched herself up to her full height and looked across to the other bank.


    “Well if no one lived here, then why is there a bridge?”

    “Maybe it was used years ago? You know... before Hydreigon took over.”

    Cleo shook her head and rubbed her paw over the branch. “No, there'd be moss on it. This has been used a lot recently.”

    “Argh.” Spark rubbed her paws over her ears. “I have a bad feeling, Cleo. If something is living here, it isn't Outcasts. It's not safe.”

    Cleo made a thoughtful noise. “It might be Heretics.”

    “Then we should head back.”

    “No. We should keep going.” Cleo followed the branch to the other side of the river. “Like I said, Spark. I think we might find the reason that Noivern was in the woods.”

    Spark licked her lips nervously then hopped out of Cleo's neck fur. “All right. I'll scout from the trees and see if I can spot anything.” She scurried up the nearest tree and clambered along the branches.

    “Anything?” Cleo called up to her.

    “Trees,” Spark answered. “Lots of trees. Green ones.”

    Cleo nodded. They already knew the decay was confined to the river area, so she wasn't sure if Spark was being sarcastic or not. However, it ruled out any habitats that way.

    “We'll follow the river some more,” Said Cleo. “Stay up there in case you spot anything else, okay?”

    “Okay.” Spark hopped along the branches above their heads, moving on ahead of them, sending down the occasional stray brown leaf.

    They hadn't gone much farther when a voice behind them halted the Meowstic in her tracks.

    “Uhm... Cleo...”

    She looked back. Mischief was crouching beside a pile of fallen leaves, dusting them away slowly with his paw. A rustle sounded in the trees above her as Spark scurried back to them.

    “What is it?” The Dedenne asked.

    Cleo joined Mischief's side and peered down at the form beneath the leaves. A blue and white furry body lay beneath them. Moving them aside revealed the motionless form of a very young Pachirisu.

    “It's a child,” Cleo told her.

    Spark flopped to her bottom in the branches. “What? Were they...?”

    “Poisoned?” Cleo gently rolled the body over, checking it for any signs of external injury. There were none. “Yes. I'd say so.”

    “So you're right. There were Pokemon living around here.”

    “Yes. And no Heretic mark.” Cleo covered the Pachirisu with the leaves and stood. “And they don't have a Guild badge either.”

    Spark stared at her, mouth agape.

    “Exactly.” The Meowstic turned away from the leaves and pressed on. “That means there are Pokemon living here, and they aren't Outcasts or Heretics.”

    “What does that mean?” Spark asked.

    Cleo looked back at her. “It means there are still peaceful places in this world.”

    Spark and Mischief stared at her, both of them at a loss for words.

    The Dedenne blinked a few times. “You don't mean...”

    She trailed off, but Cleo knew what she was trying to say. She nodded.

    “Yes.” She looked back at the dried up river, the dead grass and lifeless trees surrounding it, their gnarled branches reaching up like frozen limbs in a cry for help. “Whoever poisoned the river knows about it.”


    “Are you sure it's this way?”

    Tinker scrambled over the rocks, following the Marshstomp as he almost seemed to glide over the mountain path. Tinker had no problems travelling over rocky terrain but Skipper's grace and agility in such environments put him to shame.

    “Yup! Trust me on this one, Tinker. We water Pokemon can smell water from miles away!”

    “I'm not doubting you, Skipper, but there's not so much as a trickle running over these rocks. How far away is it?”

    “It's close. Right beneath your feet if ye want an exact location! But it comes out a wee bit further down.”

    Tinker joined the Marshstomp's side as he perched atop a rocky outcrop.

    “Look right there! There it is, sure enough.” He pointed with a webbed claw. “Comes out right from that wall there.”

    Tinker followed his claw to a small waterfall, small enough to be easily climbed up if one tried. The water flowed down the mountain side, expanding in size and increasing in speed until it zipped off down the mountain with a ferocity that would deter even the most adept of swimmers.

    “And the toxic water joins this river?” Tinker didn't need an answer. The dried up foliage poking out from between the rocks was all the information he needed. This river was indeed poisoned.

    “Aye.” Skipper shuffled his feet and looked down at the ground as though looking for something. “Right beneath our feet here. That's what I was following. If I'm right in my deductions, it comes out just 'ere.”

    “Can you handle the speed of this river to check?”

    “Sure! It aint too bad up this end. I'll be back in a wee second. Step back, I dinnae want tae splash ye.”

    Skipper popped his goggles over his eyes then slipped into the water, barely letting any water breach the bank. He was back up within moments, scratching his head with his claws wearing a somewhat bemused expression. He nudged his goggles back to his head and clutched on to the river bank to avoid being whisked away downstream.

    “I think we have a problem, Tinker.”

    “What is it?” The Riolu stepped cautiously forwards.

    “Well there's a hole 'ere, right enough, but it looks like someone's tried t'block it.”

    “Is that a bad thing?”

    “Well it would be if it had worked. But it's not, ye see. An' there's nary a scratch to prove who made the tunnel, nor a scratch to show who tried t'block it.”

    “Does this mean it can't be blocked?”

    “Oh it can, sure enough, but not while there's water rushin' through it. It's just pushin' all the dirt back out. Too soft, ye see. They need rocks, and even then there's nae sayin' it's not gonna shove all the rock's out n'all.”

    Tinker scratched his ear. “Well if someone's tried to block it, it must have been a desperate attempt.”

    “An' if they dinnae have a small water Pokemon immune to poison, or a small poison type that can swim, then they wouldn't have been able to fit through this 'ere hole t'find where it was comin' from.”

    Tinker nodded. “And you said any water type can follow it through the ground?”

    “Aye, right enough.”

    “Okay. Let's follow this river and see where it takes us.”

    Skipper carefully climbed back onto the rive bank. “If they're still alive then they're nearby.”

    “That's what I'm hoping, but it's bleak.”

    They moved away from the river and followed it down the mountain. As they progressed further, they had to move away from the back to avoid the spray as the water rushed over rocks with a frightening speed.

    Skipper gave Tinker a sideways glance. “Ye dinnae have much faith in survivors then, aye?”

    “To be honest, I'm not sure.” Tinker looked over at the river. “If they sent someone down there to block the hole, then they must have been aware it's poisoned. Why block a hole without good reason? And if the Pokemon that did it wasn't immune then it would have been a suicide mission.”

    Skipper closed his eyes and nodded sadly. “It woulda been a noble one.”

    “Maybe so, but that would only be the case if this village has no Pokemon immune to poison. Like I said, I don't know what to expect. But we'll find out soon enough I guess.”

    “I am wonderin' one thing.” Skipper gave him another glance. “Was this river the main target or was it both?”

    Tinker made a thoughtful noise. “With the damage it caused it was either intended or a sacrifice to poison the main goal. However, I-”

    “Och nae!”

    Skipper's exclamation almost caused Tinker to leap from his skin. He span to look at the Marshstomp. He pointed frantically with a claw at something Tinker needed to squint his one good eye to see. Just a little way down the river, on the opposite side, barely visible beyond the bend, were a couple of wooden huts, hastily built like those in temporary outcast towns.

    “If that were the target, Tinker, then the guy who did this is mental, right enough.” Skipper ran a paw over his face and sighed.

    Tinker had his doubts. He scrambled over rough rocks to avoid the river spray and rose higher to get a better view. The wooden huts were by no means a permanent fixture, that he was sure of. As he reached the top of the rocky mound, the little village came into view, revealing five of the wooden huts. Milling about them were three Breloom, a family of Shroomish and a couple of Zangoose.


    Tinker narrowed his eyes. No... no, it wasn't their style. They couldn't have done it, even with the rivalry between Zangoose and Seviper. It made no sense. Why poison two rivers?

    “Zangoose, aye?” Skipper's voice was quiet, spoken close enough for Tinker to hear but not to carry down on the wind. “Nah, t'aint them, Tinker. What reason have they got?”

    “None whatsoever.” Tinker moved forwards, skittering down the other side of the rocky mound towards the little village. “But I do have questions.”

    “Y'aint revealin' our city to them, are ye?” Skipper jogged to keep up with him.

    “Of course not. I'm just going in there as a concerned party wondering what's happened to the mountain's rivers. Nothing more.”

    “They'll probably wonder why y'aint poisoned yeself.”

    Tinker paused and glanced down at the river. He had a point. It's not as if he'd evolved yet, so he lacked the steel typing and poison resistance of his evolved form. He shook his head and pressed on regardless. If these Pokemon were outcasts, then they'd know of him anyway. He was one of the Guild's elites. His appearance shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

    He also didn't have much chance to change his mind. One of the Zangoose had spotted him.

    “Don't touch the river!” The Zangoose shouted. “It's tainted!”

    “I know,” Tinker called back. “That's why I'm here. I'm looking for survivors.”

    The Zangoose tutted. “Survivors? What's left of our village is back there.” He nodded behind him to the wooden huts.

    “How long have you been living here?” Tinker asked them.

    “Not long, we lived downstream,” The Zangoose called out over the roar of the river. “We're all that's left.”

    “It's hard to talk like this,” Tinker told him. “Is there a way across this river?”

    “Not a safe one. If I were you, I'd head back. We've got it covered here.”

    “Covered how?”

    “We're drawing the poison out.”

    “Well you're not going to have much success,” Tinker told him.

    This comment caught the attention of the other Pokemon.

    “What do you mean?” One of the Breloom asked. A hint of distress laced her voice.

    “The source is leaking into this river from a tunnel under the water.”

    “Yes, we blocked it!” The distress became more desperation.

    “Aye sorry.” Skipper rubbed the back of his head. “Whatever ye blocked it with has been washed away.”

    “Again?!” The Breloom covered her face with her paws, her upset mirrored in the faces of those around her as they backed away from the river, staring at it with a hopelessness that tugged at Tinker's heartstrings.

    He tore his attention away from the distressed Breloom and looked back to the Zangoose.

    “We know where the source is,” He told him, “And we are sorting it.”

    “You know?” The Zangoose took a step forwards. “Do you know who's done it?!”

    “Afraid not.” Tinker shook his head. “But I can tell you what it is if that helps.”

    “It's poison. One my kin are immune to,” He told him.

    “Yes. Seviper poison.” Tinker's remark wasn't met with much surprise. “Someone slaughtered them and built a dam out of the remains in a cave a good way back there.” He nodded up the river.

    This remark was met with surprise. The Breloom paled and stared down at the river aghast. Even the Zangoose looked sick. He shook his fur violently as though trying to shake off the mental image.

    “You have to be kidding?!” He barked. “What sadistic Pokemon would-”

    Tinker raised his paw to silence him. “Don't worry, we're Guild members. We're currently looking into it. ”

    The Zangoose looked down at the badge on Tinker's neckerchief as though for the first time.

    “So you are...” He chuckled. “Guild members... you do know we're members of The Shining Moon right?”

    Tinker raised an eyebrow. “What?”

    The Zangoose grinned, flashing his canines. “Oh you know... what you call 'Heretics'.”

    Tinker's heart sank. He'd had no idea, and surely this wasn't a safe situation to be in. He cleared his throat and smiled. “Well... regardless of that, you're still innocent in this. No one deserves to have their village wiped out.”

    “That's mighty humble of you.” The Zangoose picked up a large rock in one paw and stared at it. “But we don't need help off you Guild members, little Riolu.”

    “Who's to say you haven't done it?” The Breloom snarled. “You could've poisoned this river and come down here to check we're all gone!”

    Skipper took a step forwards. “What utter nonsense ye spoutin'! We dinnae even know of yer presence until moments ago!”

    Tinker put a paw on Skipper's shoulder and tugged him gently back from the river. He gave one final look at the Zangoose.

    “Regardless, I can assure you that mess will be cleared up before dawn. Then you can finish cleaning the river with success.”

    They turned away from the river, heading back upstream. A loud splash erupted behind them and before Tinker could react, Skipper threw him sideways and deflected several large drops of toxic water. They landed with a soft patter on the dry ground around them.

    Tinker looked up at the Heretics on the other side of the river. The large rock had gone from the Zangoose's claws and he stood sneering at them, the rest of his group watching them with fierce eyes.

    The Riolu shook it off and rose to his feet, ignoring the enraged Heretics and walking away, Skipper keeping a watchful eye for any more attacks. Since the group were immune to poison, there was nothing stopping them crossing the river and giving chase. But not one made an effort to cross.

    Once they were over the rocky mound that obscured them from sight, Tinker glanced back, keeping his ears open for any pursuers. He found himself wondering had he known they were Heretics if he'd have bothered offering to help them. But his words were still clear in his mind.

    'You're still innocent in this. No one deserves to have their village wiped out.'

    He knew deep down he likely would have. The Guild most certainly wouldn't have poisoned the river, but someone had and the increasing doubt of finding out who made his insides feel like lead. Something was happening, something that chilled him to his very core.

    Heretics or not, if his gut feeling was right, there was going to be a time where they were going to have to work together, and that time may very well be soon.
  13. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    10 – Nocturnal Noises​

    Enigma had long since left the Shadow Lands behind him, trekking through the Border Woods following the non-existent trail the Noivern had left. Searching for the Heretics he'd allegedly spoken to was going to be like searching for a needle in a haystack. But he was adamant he'd find it. Hopefully news would spread throughout the segmented groups and he'd be able to track it down with ease.

    Of course, there was no fun in that. It would cut his adventure short then he'd have to go back and await more orders.

    Boredom was a constant problem when you rarely slept, and he was often trying to fill in the dry, dreary gaps between assignments. As such, he'd not stopped moving since he left Hydreigon's castle.

    An entire day had passed and the sun was setting, a hazy orange hue expanding across the horizon, and tinting the clouds behind him a vibrant red. That always seemed to happen over the Shadow Lands and had become a compass point for returning assassins – follow the red clouds and you'll make it back.

    It also kept wandering outcasts away.

    For a brief moment, he actually considered stopping to relax and take in the scene, maybe grab a berry or two, not that he really enjoyed them. Ghost Pokemon prefer a more carnivorous diet. However, berries were easier to come by in these woods and were conveniently snack sized. With his high levels of boredom it had been difficult to not turn snacking into an idle hobby.

    He finally came to a stop on a sturdy tree bough and let out a loud yawn. It might be more interesting than standing around waiting for something to happen and listening to the boring conversations of Yurlik's flock of goons, but wow, searching for Pokemon this close to the Shadow Lands was a drag.

    Well, if he wanted to find the Heretic groups faster, he could try warping again. It was as fast as flying, but he couldn't keep it up endlessly. He might not need to sleep as much as other Pokemon do, but it was still tiring and everyone needs to rest at some point.

    He launched himself across the tree branches and warped several feet ahead, repeating until he'd put a huge section of the Border Woods behind him. He only came to a stop when a small, unmistakable voice rose up from the undergrowth.


    He grabbed on to a low hanging branch with his claws, steadying himself on the tree's precarious limb.

    “I know it's you,” The voice said. “I can hear your bell.”

    Two blue eyes stared up at him from the dark shadows by a bed of thick, thorny brambles.

    “Ah!” Enigma grinned. “Harlequin!”

    The Zorua looked away and commenced stuffing a small sheet of cloth into a bag.

    “You camped out here?” Enigma asked.

    “Of course. Nothing lives here any more.”

    “Well, I wouldn't say that.” Enigma leant against the trunk of the tree and looked down at the Zorua. “Outlaws pass through here from time to time.”

    Harlequin snorted. “They're no threat.” He grabbed the handle of his bag in his teeth and threw it across his back.

    “You know, I've been travelling without a break since we parted ways.” Enigma inclined his head on one side. “Interesting how you managed to get ahead of me.”

    Harlequin raised an eyebrow. “Is that really a surprise? I know these woods like the back of my paw.”

    “Oh, of course. You used to live here.”

    Enigma grinned at Harlequin's disapproving glare. With a tut, the Zorua skipped away over the foliage.

    “If you intend on following me,” Harlequin called back, “then lay off the teasing.”

    Enigma chuckled and bounced across the branches after him, his bell jingling jovially with each leap. “Oh come on, Harle, you know I only jest!”

    Harlequin gave him a smile. “I know. But leave the past where it is.” He zipped through a thicket out of sight.

    That was the card Harlequin always kept close to his chest. Enigma found he was more of a mystery then he himself claimed to be at times. No matter how much he pried, Harlequin would never reveal it, and for some reason Enigma valued his trust too much to risk losing it.

    Not that he particularly wanted to stand here thinking about it.

    The branches of the trees in the thicket were too spindly for Enigma to climb over so he had to resort to warping. The Zorua was perched on the edge of a small brook having a good, long drink. Enigma materialised in the tree above him and yawned.

    “If you're bored,” Harlequin told him, “you don't have to follow me. I'm going to be a little while before I set off again.”

    “No, trust me. This is the most interested I've been since I set off.”

    The Zorua licked his lips and sat down, removing his bag and rummaging through it.

    “Well I'm going to have a quick evening snack,” he said. “You can wait if you want, but do you really have time to waste?”

    “What Hydreigon doesn't know won't bother him.” Enigma twisted on the branch and swung himself upside down, his scarf cascading down onto the Zorua's head.

    Harlequin shook it off sharply and looked up at him. He gave the Banette a playful grin, flashing his canines.

    “You know, if I were any other Pokemon, you'd have received a thorough beating by now.”

    Enigma tucked his arms behind his head. “It wouldn't be the first time.”

    Harlequin chuckled but didn't reply, too busy pulling dried meat and berries out of his bag.

    Enigma watched him, remembering the first time they'd been assigned a mission together. It had baffled him how Harlequin could carry food around in the same bag he carried his poisons. When he'd asked, the Zorua had simply answered that he was careful about it. The bag was specially made so both were separate, and water resistant so any leaks should they happen wouldn't taint what was on the other side. And should a freak incident happen, he could sniff them out anyway.

    His words – only a foolish assassin wouldn't think to sniff out any poisons on the food offered to him.

    Harlequin looked up at him suddenly. “Do you want anything?”

    Enigma closed his eyes briefly and shook his head. “No thanks. You need it more than I do.”

    The Zorua narrowed his eyes at him. “What's that supposed to mean?!”

    Enigma chuckled. “It means you could do with some fattening up.”

    “You cheeky little...” Harlequin grabbed a piece of meat and jabbed it at the Banette. “Here. Take it before I force it down your throat.”

    Enigma gave a mock sigh of defeat. “Fine.” He took it and stuffed it in
    one of the folds of his scarf for later.

    Harlequin noticed this but said nothing, tucking into his meal. Enigma stared out across the little brook, watching as the light faded away, the orange disappearing from the sky to be replaced by a deep blue. The moon was clearer now, hovering above them not quite full. Most dark Pokemon preferred to travel at night, but it did mean less outcasts or Heretics were wandering about. Finding them would be much more difficult at this time of day.

    “Right!” Harlequin threw his bag back over his back. “I'm ready. Are you coming?”

    Enigma flipped himself back up onto the branch of the tree. “I guess I can tag along until we leave the woods.”

    “You guess?” Harlequin laughed. “You want to come along, why else would you be following me?”


    The Zorua glanced back at him, his blue eyes sparkling. “You're lonely.”

    Enigma feigned an insulted expression, prompting another laugh from Harlequin.

    “I don't get lonely,” he told him. “I get bored.”

    “Don't be silly!” Harlequin skipped along ahead of him. “You'd go mad if you had no company.”

    “Yes. With boredom.”

    Harlequin's tinkling laughter filled the air as Enigma followed him through the woods. It certainly wasn't boring with Harlequin around. It meant he could tease someone who could dish it back out in good measure. The Banette chuckled to himself, bouncing through the tree canopy after the Zorua. Time would fly by a little faster, then he'd have to resume his mission.


    “Cleo, it's getting too dark,” Spark whispered close to her ear.

    “I know, but we've not found anything yet.” Cleo continued moving along the dry river bed, searching the shadows for any sign of life, any more evidence that peaceful Pokemon still lived here. Despite the dark, her vision was still clear. Something she valued when she found herself still roaming at night, a prime target for Hydreigon's assassins.

    “I really think we should go back,” said Spark. “I know Tinker asked us to find information, but this isn't it. We already found some evidence, we can come back tomorrow.”

    “But we've come so far. And by the time we get back, it will be the thick of the night anyway.”

    “Spark has a point.”

    Cleo looked back at Mischief.

    “That Noivern that attacked us,” he said. “It wasn't meant to be out in the day. It's ideal time is at night. Nothing can beat one in the dark, am I right?”

    Cleo nodded. “Yes. You're right.”

    “Then what if there's more? I don't remember that battle, but if we beat one in the daylight then... can we really do it at night?”

    'You can,' Cleo thought, but she kept it to herself. Mischief still had no idea, and telling him now would probably break him.

    Spark's lack of words told her she was probably thinking the same thing.

    Cleo sighed. “All right. We'll go back.”

    She moved past Mischief and followed their footsteps back up the river.

    “But we must come back here tomorrow,” she told them. “If there are any peaceful Pokemon living along here, we need to find them.”

    “If they're still alive,” said Spark.

    Cleo grit her teeth. She wanted to be optimistic, but unfortunately finding survivors was unlikely. Not just because of the poison, but because every living Pokemon needed a water source. Everything had to drink. If this had indeed been going on for days, any survivors would clearly have moved on by now.

    All they had to go by was evidence.

    Maybe the Pachirisu was enough proof. For now at least.

    Cleo closed her eyes and sighed. “We'll go and inspect where we found the Noivern tomorrow.”

    “Are you sure?” Spark asked. “I mean... if we find anything here, it's big news, Cleo.”

    “We need to finish off what Tinker asked us to do. If this takes too long, any evidence he wants us to find will be harder to come by.”

    “The same applies here.”

    “Why don't we tell Tinker about it,” Mischief suggested, “and I can help him look.”

    Cleo turned to face him with such speed Spark almost went whizzing off her shoulder and had to clutch onto her fur for dear life.

    “You... you want to help him search?” Cleo failed to mask any surprise in her voice, and it was reflected in Mischief's face.

    “Yes,” he said. “I was unsure at first. To be honest... after finding those Seviper in the river, and seeing all the damage it's done... I just wanted to run. But we found that little Pachirisu, and seeing what you guys do, looking for survivors, sure we haven't found any but I want to help you.”

    “You want to help us?” Cleo looked around. “After seeing all this?”

    “Yes, I want to help other Pokemon.” Mischief's voice came out stronger than it had been before. All unease and wariness seemed to fade. “If there's so much evil out there, I want to help stop it. It's not fair that so many Pokemon have to suffer like this, and it's not fair to run from it either! If I can help, then I want to.” He paused. “I want to join the Guild, like you two.”

    Cleo stared at him silently. Spark didn't say a word. Earlier, this Pokemon had been so shocked all the wind had been taken out of his sails. And now it was back with a perseverance Cleo found both admirable and foolish.

    Shock could make one do one of two things – flee, or fight. Mischief did not flee. He had followed them. He was offered to leave, and he'd stuck by them.

    Now he wanted to join them.

    Cleo smiled. “We can talk to Tinker.”

    Mischief returned her smile, a somewhat more solemn one than the cheery one he'd worn just earlier that day.

    “Great,” he said. Then his smile fell and was replaced with confusion. “Is he in charge by the way?”

    Cleo shrugged. “I don't know. But he's one to talk to.” She glanced sideways at Spark. “Have we ever seen the boss?”

    Spark shook her head.

    “Huh.” Cleo shrugged again. “One of the Guilds many mysteries I guess.”

    They strolled back up the river with haste, desperate to get back before the sun finished setting. They chatted, keeping their voices low so as not to attract attention. The mountain might be quiet and seemingly devoid of life, but this forest was a different matter. It didn't feel dangerous, but when the night came dangers followed.

    They'd made good progress, when a soft rustle reached their ears. Cleo froze and she glanced to the trees.

    “You heard it too?” Mischief whispered.

    Cleo nodded and crept towards the source of the sound. She peered through the trees, searching the shadows, bracing herself for any attack.

    None came.

    There was nothing there.

    “It's gone.”

    Cleo looked back at Mischief. Spark was stood next to him. She hadn't even noticed the Dedenne leave her shoulder, too fixated on seeking out whatever may have been lurking in the trees.

    She followed their eyes.

    A patch of leaves lay scattered about the trees, and in the middle of it lay a patch of flat, dead grass as though something had been lying on it.

    Her eyes widened. Something had.

    “The Pachirisu,” she said quietly. “Someone took it?”

    “Well he clearly didn't get up and walk,” Spark quipped.

    “Why would...” Cleo shook her head. “Come on. We need to leave. I'm starting to feel uneasy.”

    “Seconded.” Spark bounded back up to her shoulder.

    Mischief glanced back at the trees before following after Cleo. The sun was swiftly setting. Time was against them.

    Cleo feared they may not make it back before dark.

    And whatever was in those trees, she feared might be watching them.

    “I think we're being followed,” she whispered.

    Spark gulped.

    They needed to make a quick and drastic decision. Endangering three lives was certainly better than endangering a whole city.

    “It might be safer,” Cleo went on, quiet enough for only Spark and Mischief to hear her, “if we don't head back at all.”
  14. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    11- An Assassination Attempt​

    Night had fallen, and something was watching, leaving Cleo and her companions with no choice than to stay outside.

    None of them dared sleep. They sat sheltered in the dry foliage, not daring to use their tent. It was too much risk. It was like waving a flag while shouting 'Here I am! Come and get me!'

    The three of them sat silently, trying to keep their breathing as quiet as they could, watching through the space between the large leaves that masked them from view. Nothing moved, nothing made a sound, but that ever present feeling of being watched hung over them like a heavy frost, chilling them to their bones.

    Time seemed to drag past as morning showed no sign of drawing closer. Spark peered out of Cleo's neck fur, keeping her large black eyes on the sky while her ears twitched back and forth at every sound the Dedenne thought she heard, occasionally startling Cleo who was beginning to doubt if her hearing was as good as Spark's. Mischief sat beside them, as tense as a tightly coiled spring.

    Nothing moved.

    Even the wind barely stirred the tree branches or foliage around them. The almost non-existent wind wouldn't be carrying their scent to waiting predators, betraying their hiding place.

    But that ever present feeling of being watched was becoming too much to bare. Instinct was starting to kick in, and it was starting to win.

    Cleo wanted to flee, all previous urges to fight knocked out of her. If it were a dark Pokemon, she had no moves to take them out. It would be pointless.

    But that's where her friends came in.

    She glanced at Spark, then down at Mischief. She had to remind herself that Whimsicott took out a Noivern, memory of it or not, he did it. Also Spark took out three Weavile, and that wasn't even the extent of her abilities.

    Whatever was waiting, they'd give them a run for their money.

    She relaxed and diverted her attention from the sky, settling on waiting out the inevitable calm before the storm. Playing out scenarios in her mind wasn't going to get them anywhere. They just had to wait. Wait for what may or may not happen.


    All three of them leapt to their feet, Spark landing on the ground between Cleo and Mischief.

    Something rustled in the dead, dry grass behind them. They span on the spot. Then it moved to the other side. They twisted again, Cleo unfurling her ears to ready an attack.

    An explosion of snapping brittle twigs sent Cleo leaping sideways, narrowly avoiding a dark shape as it cut through them, snipping several strands of fur from her tail. A flash of discharged electricity from Spark lit up their little hiding spot, gleaming of the surface of the shadowy form's body, but not enough to reveal it as it zipped out of sight, narrowly avoiding the Dedenne's attack.

    Another cut through the brambles, followed by a flurry of white cotton as Mischief span out of the way with a surprising amount of grace. As quick as it appeared, it was gone.

    They braced themselves for another assault, desperately trying to calm their erratic breathing to hear any sign of movement.

    It was deathly quiet.

    Whatever that Pokemon was, it was gone.

    None of them said a word, all likely wondering the same thing. Should they stay, or move on? Was that Pokemon trying to draw them out by making them feel unsafe? Would it come back?

    All of them were shaking.

    It was too dark for Cleo to examine herself for injuries. She didn't hurt anywhere, but whatever that Pokemon was had sharp claws. Too small for a Weavile. A Sneasle maybe?

    Whatever they were, they clearly had the advantage at night. Blending in, with incredibly quick, agile movements and amazing speed. It was a flawless strategy.
    You can't hit what you can't see.


    “They didn't come back.”

    None of them had spoken since nightfall, so when Spark spoke, it startled both Cleo and Mischief. More so the latter, as the Whimsicott's feet actually left the floor.

    It was morning now, and they'd set off as soon as the sun began to rise. It was now clear in the sky, with barely any clouds. This made it deceptively colder than it looked to be. A dusting of frost coated the dry leaves, which was swiftly melting under the sun's rays. But it was still chilly, and Cleo's fur was damp from the morning frost.

    “No, they didn't,” said Cleo. “I'd like to know what they were planning.”

    “I think they were trying to draw us out,” said Spark.

    Cleo nodded. “I think that too. I also think they took that Pachirisu's body.”

    “Maybe it was just a warning?” Mischief suggested. “Like... we know you're there. Stay out of our business.”

    “We?” Cleo looked at him.

    “There were two.” He shrugged.

    “How do you know that? Did you see them?”

    “No. But one came from the other side too quickly. One Pokemon can't be that fast, can they?”

    Spark raised an eyebrow. “Oh... I don't know. Some Pokemon are exceptionally quick.”

    “I'd say they were an assassin,” said Cleo. “And if their claws had hit us, we'd be dead.”

    She indicated to her tail. The damage wasn't visible to the naked eye, but one small area had received a bit of a trim. Mischief clearly didn't notice. He just followed her paw then went back to watching where he was going.

    “I'm glad we waited that out,” she went on. “I no longer feel like we're being followed, and if we'd kept going we'd have likely led them the whole way back.”

    She kept her voice low just to be on the safe side, but she was convinced that the Pokemon had left. They were no longer under any immediate threat.

    Despite being tired and hungry, they covered ground quickly. Before they knew it, they were traversing the rocky surface that led up the side of the dry river, ending at the cave mouth. Despite Cleo's unsteady paw work over loose rocks, they reached the cave in no time.

    But they weren't alone. Milling around the cave lugging heavy rocks were two Breloom and Skipper.

    “Well, whadaya know! It's Cleo!” The Marshstomp gave them a friendly wave.

    “Are you clearing the river?” Cleo asked.

    “Aye, that we are!” He leant against the cave wall and nodded to his companions. “First we build another dam, an' then we clear the mess! Afore ye know it, the river'll be back to flowin' clean as ever, aye?”

    “Oh good!” Spark poked her head out of Cleo's fur. “Because I'm pretty thirsty! I was licking frost off my paws this morning!”

    Skipper let out a deep, throaty laugh. “Ahh, right enough. Ye get in there. Tinker's been worryin' himself sick, he has. Wondered where ye all got off te. I take it ye dinnae go where he asked, aye?”

    “Not quite.” Cleo moved passed him into the cave. “But I'm sure he'll be satisfied with what we found out.”

    “I think he'll just be satisfied ye still alive'n'well, Cleo.”

    Cleo could see Spark's massive grin out of the corner of her eyes.

    “Stop it,” she hissed at the Dedenne.

    Spark just chuckled and hopped off her shoulder. “Well I'm hungry. Let's hit the dinner hall.”

    Cleo used her badge to open the sliding stone panel in the wall. The three of them slipped inside before it clicked back into place. The tunnel that lay before them was a long, winding one that led down into the depths of New City, lit up by candles running along the walls. The end of the tunnel opened up into a wider corridor that took them past the doorway to a large room, shouts and cries coming from it.

    “What's that?” Mischief asked.

    “The training room,” said Cleo.

    She didn't elaborate, focusing instead on getting to Tinker as fast as they could. Spark on the other hand was focused intently on getting to the dinner hall, skipping along ahead of them, humming to herself.

    The corridor ended at the main hall, the room filled with the bustling noise of chattering Pokemon visiting the various market stalls, and the laughs of little ones playing, oblivious to the outside world.


    She turned sharply. Tinker was running over to them, a look of relief on his face.

    “Ahh, we were just going to your office,” she told him.

    “I wasn't,” said Spark. “I'm gonna go to the dinner hall. I'll meet you there.” She turned to leave.

    “I wouldn't bother,” Tinker told her. “Dinner isn't served for another two hours yet.”

    Spark looked at him, her mouth open and eyes so wide they seemed to fill her face. Words clearly failed her, instead coming out as a long whine.

    “Sorry.” Tinker smiled. “I do have some berries in my office though.”

    “Seriously?” Cleo raised an eyebrow.

    “Yes. I didn't make it to breakfast this morning so Skipper bought me some while he was on his way to the river. Did you see him on your way up?”

    “Yes. He explained what they're doing.”

    “Good. Saves me the job.” He turned and led them to his office, the noise of the hall fading behind them. “You can tell me what you discovered instead, in detail.”

    Once inside he let the door close fast behind them. Spark made a beeline for the tray on a portable table beside his desk.

    Tinker flopped down in his chair and turned to face Cleo and Mischief.

    “I trust Mischief was blindfolded when you came back here?”

    Cleo froze. “Ah-”

    “Cleo...” Tinker sighed and closed his eyes.

    “Well, he knew about that entrance anyway,” she said. “Let's face it. You and Skipper went in and out of it while we were investigating that 'dam'.”

    Tinker clasped his paws together and fixed her with his eye. “We may have to hold him here until we decide who's side he's on. Even knowing one entrance is a risk.”

    “And you can't fault your own oversight on this?” Cleo's voice almost came out as a hiss.

    “I'm on your side.” Mischief spoke up, drawing all eyes in the room.

    “How can we be so sure?” Tinker asked. “You have no memories, your life is a mere mystery. You're an outsider to the Guild, you have no badge to show you belong here so where is your allegiance?”

    “With you,” Mischief said bluntly.

    Tinker shrugged. “Evidence?”

    “My word should be enough.”

    Tinker chuckled. “If words were enough, we'd have a lot of trouble with the enemies we hold in our cells.”

    “Look.” Mischief took a step towards Tinker. “If Grey couldn't find any hint of where I'm from in my memories then I clearly don't have them. None. Nothing. It's where I am now that matters, and where I am is here on your side.”

    Tinker merely stared at him.

    “I've seen too much out there, and I don't like it,” Mischief went on. “I've seen enough to know I want to fight against it. I want to help Cleo and Spark, and I want to help you. If you don't trust me, then that's your decision. But I can give you my word I will not ever, no matter what happens to me, reveal New City to any Pokemon outside it.”

    “Not even to other Outcasts?” The Riolu gave him a hard stare.

    “No. I won't even breathe its name outside these walls.”

    Tinker's demeanour didn't change. He fixed Mischief with such a cold stare that Cleo practically felt it.

    “Come on Tinker,” she said. “He even told me he wants to be a Guild member. Even after all he's seen, he's still willing to help.”

    Tinker closed his eyes. “This coming from the Meowstic who refuses to take another companion?”

    Mischief turned his head to look at her.

    Cleo said nothing. She hadn't considered that. But now he'd mentioned it, she wondered why. Was she really willing to travel with Mischief? Yes, but what had changed?

    “If you see potential in this Whimsicott,” Tinker still kept his eyes closed, “someone like you who refuses to travel with anyone you fear you have to carry, then clearly there is something about him that's intrigued you?” He opened his good eye to look at her. “What is it, Cleo? The fact he can take down a dragon? Or any of Hydreigon's henchmen?”

    The room was silent for a moment while Cleo let this all sink in. Spark had even stopped eating, clasping a berry between both paws, staring from one Pokemon to the other in sheer bewilderment.

    Cleo finally looked up at Tinker. “You're right.”

    Both Tinker's eyes snapped open and he stared at her with mild amusement.

    “It's because I don't have to carry him,” she said. “I know he'll watch my back, and I'll watch his. I can't speak for Spark, but if she's happy with him on the team-”

    “Yeah, I'm good with that.” Spark stuffed the berry in her mouth.

    Tinker smiled and looked at the Whimsicott. “All right. Mischief, you are a probationary Guild Member.” He reached out to his desk and turned a key in the drawer, pulling out a shiny sun-shaped badge which he handed to Mischief. “Wear it where others can see it. Cleo wears hers on her bag. Spark has hers on her scarf.”

    Mischief took it and turned it in his paws. “I guess I can wear it round my neck like Spark but I don't have a scarf.”

    Tinker waved a dismissive paw. “Pick one up at the market. Now. To business. What did you three find?”

    Cleo had been mildly dreading this. She licked her lips and clasped her paws behind her back.

    “Well, we didn't make it to the forest.”

    “No?” Tinker stared at her.

    “No. We followed the river, in case there were clues to the Noivern's presence down there. Maybe if he'd caused it or-”

    “So you went against my orders?” Tinker narrowed his eyes. “That isn't what I asked, Cleo.”

    “No but hear me out!” Cleo implored. “We found something very important down there.”

    Tinker sighed. “Go ahead.”

    The three of them explained the events of the previous day – finding the Pachirisu and what it might mean, to the events of the night where they were assaulted.

    At the end, Tinker was silent for a moment before finally speaking up.

    “I can't say what you discovered lacks importance. If that Pachirisu really wasn't an Outcast – I won't rule that out as its badge could have been looted from it – but it could mean there are indeed peaceful Pokemon out there. If this is the case, I would like to investigate it further. But!” He added this before any of them could speak. “I want you to find out why that Noivern was out during the day. If at all possible, that is. Look for evidence, ask around if need be. That is your assignment for today. Do not fail me.”

    The three of them nodded.

    “Okay,” said Cleo.

    “Now, Skipper and I found where the river was leading out, and I feel obligated to tell you that there are Heretics living in the mountains. Or there were. There are some left, desperately trying to clean up the river. It may be them that attacked you last night, or it may have been some of Hydreigon's henchmen. Whoever it was I am guessing they had something to do with poisoning the river. As such I am ruling out the Heretic group who we ran into yesterday, as they were deeply distressed at the river being poisoned. Keep an eye open, just in case it happens again. You did the right thing not coming back last night, and I thank you all for risking your lives to keep New City safe.”

    “Heretics in the mountain?” Spark shook her head. “This close to New City? Oh, that can't be good.”

    “Trust me, we'll be keeping an eye on them.” Tinker turned to his desk. “Now, I will look into this matter concerning the Pachirisu you found. You please stick to your assigned task. Oh and before I dismiss you!” He leapt off his chair and scurried into the adjoining room marked 'keep out'. This prompted the others to exchange glances before Tinker came back out, clutching an odd gadget in his paw.

    “This will allow us to maintain contact.” He handed it to Cleo. “Press that red button and speak into it. We can stay in touch this way, but only within the vicinity of New City. If you go too far out of it, the signal won't carry.”

    Cleo stared at the odd, white, plastic box with its huge read button and long, black antennae. She looked up at Tinker.

    “This? I've never seen anything like it.”

    “As you know, I like to mess with gadgets.” He gave her a smile. “I have one myself, so I can reply to your messages.” He indicated the large, white band around his wrist. “It's a bit of an upgrade and I only have the one. In the meantime, use that if you need to tell me anything urgently.”

    Cleo tucked the device into her bag. “I can't help but think your giving me this to make sure I do my job.”

    “I'm not denying it.” He turned back to his desk. “Okay, now you're dismissed. Grab any supplies you need and be on your way.”

    Cleo and her friends left the room and the door closed behind them, giving a firm sense of dismissal. As they made their way down the hallway, Mischief turned to her.

    “What did he mean by probationary Guild member?”

    Spark folded her paws behind her head. “It means if you put a paw wrong, you'll be removed from the Guild and put in the cells with the rest of the bad guys.”

    Mischief paled. “But I'm not a bad guy!”

    Spark grinned. “Then you should have nothing to worry about.”


    The route back down to the Moorland's Forest felt shorter than it had done a couple of days ago. Cleo attributed this to the fact she'd had to carry Mischief all the way there while keeping an eye open for enemy attacks.

    Once at the forest, Tinker was proven right. The body was indeed gone, all that was left was a large patch of dried blood and a scattering of black feathers. The sight brought back unwanted memories, chilling Cleo to the core. She tore her eyes from the scene and moved away from it, pressing through the trees.

    “Where are we going?” Spark asked from her shoulder.

    “Keep your ears and eyes open,” Cleo told her. “We're looking for clues.”

    “Away from that spot?” Spark pointed behind them. “Wouldn't clues technically be in that spot?”

    “We looked. There's nothing there.” Cleo paused, her ears twitching. “I think there's something in this forest,” she added under her breath.

    Mischief paused beside her, fiddling with the newly acquired badge on the orange neckerchief he now wore.

    “You think we're being watched?” He asked.

    Cleo nodded. “Let's keep moving. If we stand still, we're sitting targets.”

    They moved on, putting the morbid spot behind them. The forest was quiet. Like the rest of the areas surrounding New City, very few Pokemon lived in them. The next Outcast town was more than a two day's walk away, so any Pokemon that passed through the woods were either travelling Guild members or dark Pokemon looking for prey. The Heretics in the mountains were the first to be discovered in this area so they clearly kept a low profile.

    As for clues, there were none. No more black feathers littered the ground. The forest was silent, causing Cleo to wonder if the feeling of being watched was nothing more than paranoia.

    A Noivern. A Noivern out during the day accompanied by Murkrow. It was an odd combination. Why would one be out during the day? Where was it going? No... where was it coming from?

    Cleo looked up at the canopy. Barely any light came through at this point, so she had no view of the sky. Where was the Noivern going? She turned to look back where they'd come from. She could no longer see the spot the Noivern had fallen, but she could see it in her mind.

    Where was it going?

    “He was going home.” Cleo's voice was quiet as she mulled this over.

    “What?” Spark stared at her from her collar.

    “He was going home. The Noivern.” She turned to face where they were going. “He came from this way. The way he was headed was the Shadow Lands. He spotted us and targeted us, but he was going home. He wasn't looking for anything.”

    “But he attacked us. Why?”

    “An opportunity.” Cleo hopped over a large root protruding from the ground and pushed her way through a thick patch of foliage. “To be out during the day, he must have been travelling without a break to get home faster. All we can assume is he was in a hurry.”

    “How can we be sure he was even heading home?” Spark asked. “He could have just been flying about for fun.”

    “During the day with escorts?”

    Spark made a thoughtful noise. “Good point. Noivern. Of course.” She retreated back into her collar and sighed. “It does make sense. But why would he be rushing back?”

    “That's what we're going to find out. Maybe he found something in this forest?”

    “Found something.” Mischief's voice almost startled Cleo. “You mean like what we found yesterday?”

    Cleo glanced at him. “Exactly. Maybe there's peaceful Pokemon living in this forest.”

    “Why would that concern him?” Came Spark's muffled voice.

    “It would point to who poisoned the river,” Cleo explained. “If this is indeed the case, we're on to something.”

    Spark's head shot out of Cleo's neck fur. “I think we need to run.”

    Cleo froze, her ears twitching once more. Spark was right. Something was in this forest with them, watching. No... moving...

    She dived to the side, twisting in the air as a black blur shot past them, vanishing like smoke into the brambles. Within moments, it was back. But they weren't aiming for Cleo.

    Mischief leapt aside, his light body floating as he threw a flurry of cotton balls at their assailant. The blur slowed, shaking its head wildly to remove the irritating cotton spores from its eyes.

    Cleo's eyes widened. Their assailant was a Zorua, and not just any Zorua. Their markings were blue rather than red, and held in their mouth was a large, purple horn mounted on a wooden handle.


    She'd heard of this Zorua. They were a feared assassin that Hydreigon only allegedly sent out under special circumstances. So why was Mischief their target?

    She tutted. There was nothing she could do to a Zorua long range, and to get in close would put her in striking distance of that horn, and if it was what she feared it was, that would be suicide.

    “This isn't good,” Spark muttered.

    She leapt from Cleo's shoulder and shot into the trees, unleashing a sharp jolt of electricity at the Zorua. They calculated this and leapt out of the way, but with less grace and agility than they had previously been displaying. Whatever Mischief had done had worked in their favour.

    Before the Zorua could land, Mischief sent an energy ball at it, knocking them off their feet. They scrambled back up quickly to dodge another jolt off Spark and snarled, turning their attention entirely onto Mischief.

    “Why, aren't you a nuisance!”

    The Zorua's voice, as muffled as it was around that horn, was distinctly high, taking Cleo by surprise. She hadn't come across many female Pokemon from Hydreigon's army. His soldiers and assassins were usually male.

    The Zorua narrowed her blue eyes and she prepared herself to pounce. Mischief moved away just in time, directing that dazzling purple light at the Zorua. She didn't manage to dodge in time, the attack connecting with her rear legs and tail. She let out a yell and dropped the horn, then went sprawling to the ground.

    Spark took this opportunity to launch a well timed thunder wave, crippling the Zorua where she lay.

    Cleo adjusted her bag and took a few steps towards the fallen Pokemon.

    “Right. Maybe you can answer some questions?”

    The Zorua chuckled.

    Wait no... it was Mischief.

    Cleo paused and looked back at him. Her eyes widened and she darted out of the way of a series of consecutive energy balls. The Zorua's body was launched into the air, followed by Mischief who connected with it in a full body tackle, ramming the Zorua back into the ground. He grabbed her ruff in one paw and raised the other, a look of pure mania on his face.

    “Mischief, stop!” Cleo wailed, racing towards him.

    “Cleo no!” Spark shot past her, hitting Mischief full on, electricity sparking in all directions.

    The Whimsicott's body shuddered a couple of times, all fury leaving his eyes as they focused on the trees. He said nothing. His body went limp.

    Cleo looked away from the two Pokemon and ran a paw over her face. She feared the worst, not wanting to look.

    “Spark, are they both alive?”

    “Yup.” Spark hopped onto the Zorua's chest. “Just paralysed.”

    Cleo let out a sigh of relief and joined the Dedenne's side. She looked down at the unconscious Zorua. She couldn't exactly get questions out of her while she was unconscious, and she didn't really want to wait around in the forest for her to wake up perchance she didn't come alone. She grit her teeth and pulled the device Tinker had given her out of her bag. She hadn't wanted to use this so soon.

    She pressed the button and spoke into it. “Tinker?”

    A buzz came out of the speaker, followed by, “Cleo? Is that you?”

    “Yes. We've ran into a bit of trouble.”

    “What kind of trouble?”

    “We were attacked by a Zorua. I wanted to ask her for information once we took her down, but Mischief went mad and knocked her out.”

    “Are you okay?”

    “Spark and I are fine, but the Zorua and Mischief are both unconscious. I don't want to lose an opportunity like this, but I can't leave the Zorua here and I think Mischief might need treatment.”

    “He'll wake up in due time, I imagine he's exhausted himself like before.” Tinker paused. “But you can't bring the Zorua back here.”

    “No... I don't really want to. But it's a long journey to the next Outcast town and I really want to ask her about that Noivern. Do you know anywhere nearby that's enclosed?”

    A long 'hmm' came out of the speaker, muffled by a buzz. “We do have some cells. Bring her to them.”

    “Cells?” Cleo was aghast. New City had its own cells? “Where?”

    “It's a hidden place separate from here. I've never told you about it because I've never had to. It's a secure location where we keep the worst of the Pokemon we catch for information purposes. You can get there if you search for a large tree in the forest. It's west of where the Noivern was defeated. Keep going and you'll see it.”

    “A large tree,” Cleo spat. “Is that really a safe spot, Tinker? I assume we also get inside the usual way?”

    “It's perfectly safe, I can assure you. And yes, you get in the same old traditional way.”

    Cleo closed her eyes. With the badge. Like any other entrance to New City. Secure location... she stuffed the device back into her bag and looked
    down at the two fallen Pokemon.

    The first challenge she had to face was how to transport the both of them. Her psychic powers wouldn't work on the Zorua.

    She sighed.

    This wasn't going to be easy.
  15. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Thanks for fixing your line breaks! It definitely makes the story a lot easier to read. You're also doing better about your dialogue punctuation. You did slip up once in the past two chapters:

    Overall you've pretty much kicked the dialogue punctuation problem, though, which is pretty darned impressive, imo. I wish I'd been able to get rid of my punctuation confusion so quickly. -_-;

    You're also doing better with direct address, but still making mistakes now and again. Like here:

    I was also amused by this case, since you do the direct address right in the paragraph above:

    A couple other little proofreading things:

    Just a random extra line break here.

    Just missed an apostrophe here. As it happens there should also be a comma before "I guess," because you could remove that phrase without affecting the meaning of the sentence (it's a parenthetical phrase).

    * might

    It's a little awkward to repeat "dared" so close together like that.

    *bear, and also *ever-present


    Might or might not.


    Also, the past tense of "spin" is "spun," not "span." The past tense of "grit" is "gritted," not "grit."

    It might just be me, but I thought the proofreading slipped a little in Chapter 11. I might just be in an especially nitpicky mood.

    Anyway, the story itself is coming along nicely. As I said in my previous review, I appreciate that things are happening, and already we're starting to get a sense of how complicated the situation is: the Heretics may be trying to cut some kind of deal with the Darkness, or trying to wipe out everybody else, or have some other agenda entirely; there's unrest within the ranks of Darkness; and the Guild, our "good guy" faction, is sounding bit sinister as well, what with some of the questions raised in the last couple chapters. (Incidentally, it feels a little weird for Cleo to ask Spark whether they've met the boss before; feels a bit like a question more for the audience's benefit than the character's. To me I think it would make more sense as a follow-up from Mischief.)

    However, the plot threads aren't really gelling yet--there isn't a sense of the overarching story they're building towards. So far the characters have been reacting to things rather than going out and making them happen: Cleo and Spark happen to run across Mischief, then later happen to run across Boomer and his crew, then later run across the poisoned river. They don't uncover things by their own initiative: stuff happens to them, or someone else tells them where to go and they do so. This makes the plot seem more like a bunch of happenstances that may eventually add up to something big, rather than a series of events that progress logically through cause and effect. It also means that the characters don't have as much stake in the plot, or at least the stake they have isn't visible.

    In this respect, Cleo deciding to go off and do some investigating on her own in the past couple chapters is a promising development: here she's doing something of her own volition, and any consequences, good or bad, will be on her rather than on some external force intervening. It also gives her the opportunity to come into conflict with other characters, just like she did with Tinker in this last chapter. However, I have to admit I'm still not entirely clear on her motivations: normally Cleo follows orders, so why is she not doing so now? Why is the presence of unaffiliated wild pokemon particularly interesting to her? I definitely liked seeing her get herself into trouble, but she's still a bit of a cipher to me.

    At the moment I don't feel like I have a firm handle on the characters in general. They have various personality traits: Spark likes to eat a lot, Mischief is generally pretty carefree, and Cleo's a bit of a loner, but I know much less about what they value, why they do what they do, what it is they're seeking in life. These are the traits that are going to shape their character arcs over the course of the story and determine how they interact with other people above a superficial level, the source of a lot of drama, etc. I don't mean you ought to barf out a huge exposition dump like "as a child I saw my village burn to the ground, and ever since that day I've wanted to become a guild member so I could protect others from the same fate!" Rather, I think it's better to give your characters a lot of opportunity to make choices and act on their own initiative, because what they choose to do, and how they deal with the consequences of that choice, are ultimately what are going to reveal what drives them. Their choices will also bring them into conflict with other characters, which is a rich source of both plot and character development. When two characters fight about something, you can learn a lot about both of them at once, and conflict is what makes narrative go 'round; it's what drives the characters and story forward. So again, I'd like to see more instances of the characters taking the initiative and acting rather than reacting. I think it would help your plot cohere.

    Unlike Umbramatic, I didn't worry too much about all dark-types being automatically evil; I think you've included enough hints that things aren't as simple as there being one monolithic group of darks, dragons, etc. who all behave in the same way. However, it does feel a little cliche evil-empire to me, and I think the best way to remedy that would be to shed a little more light on what exactly drives the various "evil faction" characters. Are they all just flunkies who enjoy kicking puppies and gaining power over other people? Presumably not, but again, we don't really know anything much about them at this point other than that they're "the bad guys." It's definitely interesting that you're giving Enigma and Harlequin so much POV time, and they're the characters I'm most interested in learning more about right now. I don't know what you might be planning to do with them, so I'm intrigued.

    Anyway, the events of the last couple chapters have been pretty good; like I mentioned, I thought it was great that Cleo decided to go off on her own, and you did a nice job of making the scene in the forest at night genuinely creepy and suspenseful--disappearing dead bodies are NEVER a good thing. It did feel like a bit of a cheat that nothing much came out of that (at least as far as we know now); it seemed more like a detour that gave them a reason to go back to Tinker and get the comm device so that they'd be able to have the encounter with Harlequin. I do look forward to seeing what happens when Harlequin and Cleo's team finally get to interact with each other (with Enigma joining them, perhaps); I'd like to see how their plot threads might intertwine from this point forward.

    One other small piece of advice--forums tend to move a bit slower than FFN, so if you're looking for feedback, it might be wiser to space out your updates a bit. People tend to find 1-2 weeks between chapters to be pretty comfortable. Of course, you're obviously writing faster than that, and it's understandable if you're excited about finishing and want to post your chapter right away, and your chapters are pretty short. Some forum readers get overwhelmed with quick updates, though (and it often takes a bit to sit down and write a review, too), so your story might get a bit more attention if you slowed down your rate of posting a little.

    Anyway, it's nice to see the story picking up here. Keep writing!
  16. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    Thank you so much for your feedback, Negrek, it was a surprise to log on today and find I had some! And I really appreciate it a lot. I'll go back and fix those typos during the week when I have a bit of time to weed through them. I do tend to mix up my words a bit (and use wrong words sometimes - I use synonyms while typing to make sure the words make sense if I'm unsure) so it's really helpful when people point these out for me! 'There', 'their' and 'they're' are the little ninja typos I tend to overlook quite frequently. I type rather fast and end up making those mistakes.

    Thank you especially for character feedback. I do like to know what people think of my characters. Their development does happen slowly as the plots progress, loose ends tie together and motives become more clear.

    I actually think this chapter might give a little more insight =D

    I'll bare in mind and slow down my updates a little. I thought two a week might suffice, but maybe I'll aim for one a week instead and update on Fridays?

    12 – Fire and Poison​

    Cleo trudged through the undergrowth carrying the Zorua over her shoulders, clasping on to her paws to hold her in place. She wasn't light, despite her slight build, and she was a little taller than Cleo. Mischief bobbed along in front of her, the Zorua's bag hanging around his neck. Using her powers to carry him wasn't exactly an effortless task and was made all the more so having to physically carry another Pokemon along with them.

    Spark plodded silently at her side, taking the task of being Cleo's ears since hers were currently humming with energy. This normally didn't bother her, but being unable to listen for faint sounds in the distance left her at a disadvantage. It was times like this she really valued the Dedenne's impeccable hearing.

    They'd long since returned to where the Noivern had fallen, turning west and heading deep into the forest. Somewhere around here, there should be a large tree... but Tinker hadn't said how far west they needed to go.

    She looked around. No large tree. Just your everyday, standard trees dotted here and there with large, thorny bushes and masses of stinging nettles.

    They pushed through the thick undergrowth, dry twigs and thick plant stems crunching beneath their feet. Barely any light came through the canopy, giving them a false sense of time. Cleo had no idea how long they'd been in the forest, but she didn't think it had been that long. However, it could easily be evening by now...

    A low growl reached her ears and she lost her focus, almost dropping Mischief into the thorn bushes.

    “Cleo?” Spark spoke tentatively.

    The growl had come from the Zorua. She couldn't see her clearly this close up, but she caught a faint glint of sharp canines as she struggled to raise her head.

    Great... she'd regained consciousness. A bite at this close range would be wildly unwelcome, but the Zorua was still paralysed. Cleo could feel her trying to flex her claws in an attempt to deal enough damage while breaking free.

    There was a very thin chance of her posing much of a threat in this condition, but it was still too much of a risk. They had no means to render her unconscious again either, at least not in a gentle fashion, and if she took any more damage it could prove fatal.

    Cleo tightened her grip on the Zorua's paws and picked up pace.

    “Cleo, what are you doing?” Spark hissed.

    “I'm asking myself the same question.”

    “Put her down! We can send for help and-”

    The foliage thinned and Cleo stepped out unable to stop efficiently under the momentum. The sight before her filled her with dread.

    Fire... fire consumed the forest. But that wasn't all.

    A Houndoom stood before a large tree, his head thrown back in a blood curdling howl. A pack of Houndoor flocked around him, spewing flames from their mouths as they torched everything their eyes fell on.

    The Zorua's body stiffened and her breath came out in a low whine.

    Cleo dropped her to the floor and bolted, racing through the foliage, following after Spark's retreating form.

    The Zorua's screams filled the air, interspersed with cries of “No!”

    Cleo ran until her lungs were fit to burst. It wasn't until they finally came to a stop that Cleo realised she'd made a fatal error.

    She'd dropped Mischief in all the chaos.


    The Grovyle milled around office, filing various papers in a methodical fashion, almost as though she obsessed over it. She muttered to herself under her breath, but occasionally the odd word would come out too loudly which she seemed oblivious too.

    The words 'wrong' and 'nonsense' were used frequently as she carefully placed boxes back on the shelves and crossed the room, glancing from the papers in her claws to the files that filled the expanse of the walls.

    A soft jingle resounded from the dark corner of the room, freezing the Grovyle mid mutter. She turned her head warily, documents still clasped tightly between her claws. The fear in her eyes indicated she hoped desperately she'd imagined that sound.

    Enigma chuckled and stepped out of the shadows, slowly approaching the Grovyle. He looked her up and down with his crimson eyes and grinned widely.

    The Grovyle hugged the papers to her chest and stuttered. “What... are you doing here?”

    “Hmm, why, exactly.” Enigma gazed up to the ceiling in thought. “I'm trying to find out which Heretics were visited by a Noivern.” He fixed his red eyes back on the Grovyle and moved towards her slowly. “Were you visited by a Noivern?”

    “A Noivern?” The Grovyle glanced from one side of the room to the next. “No, we've not been visited by a Noivern.”

    “I'll narrow it down for you. It was Boomer. Does that ring any bells?” Enigma took a sharp sideways step, letting out a loud jingle that seemed to chill the Grovyle to the core. He chuckled at the Pokemon's reaction and flopped down into the nearest chair.

    The Grovyle shook her head wildly. “No. No, we've not had any visits from any dragons. You have the wrong base, Enigma.”

    Enigma sighed. “Really? Pity.” He stood and took the long leaf on her head in his paw, letting it slide through his claws as he walked back to the door. “I was hoping to play with you a little while longer.”

    A loud gulp came from the Grovyle. Enigma looked back at her.

    “You don't happen to have any idea what message was given to him then?” He stared at the Grovyle for a moment and gave her a sly smile. She'd turned from a deep green to a sickly lime. “Anything that might bode some relevance for Hydreigon? A message that he'd be instructed to return with some haste?”

    The Grovyle blinked a few times. “A message?” She thought for a moment, diverting her eyes from the Banette. “If he was given a message for Lord Hydreigon then why are you trying to find it out?”

    “Because it didn't reach him.”

    The Grovyle jerked her head to look up at him.

    “There were some... complications,” Enigma told her. “So the message didn't reach him. If you know what it was, then it's in your best interest to tell me.” He examined his claws feigning a somewhat bored expression.

    It had the desired effect. The Grovyle started to shake from head to foot, the leaves on her arms rustling.

    “I can assure you, Enigma, I have no idea.”

    “It's believed to be in this vicinity. He was found in this forest. Any other bases around here I should know of?”

    “No, just a lab.”

    Enigma looked up at her. “A lab you say?”

    The Grovyle shifted uneasily.

    “I'll visit this lab. But if I find out you've hidden any information from me...” he looked back down at his claws and grinned widely. “I'll be back to deal with you.”

    The Grovyle whimpered and backed into the desk.

    Enigma turned with a flourish and left the room, the light jingle from his bell fading into the distance, leaving the Grovyle to sink to the floor with a low groan.

    A lab... Enigma chuckled. This mission had become quite intriguing.


    Cleo sat barely breathing, watching the thick patch of brambles and nettles, waiting for the Houndoom to burst through.

    It never came.

    She didn't know how long she'd been sat there, but she couldn't run and leave Mischief. Maybe they'd found him, maybe they had him...

    An idea hit her, and she pulled the communication device from her bag
    and pressed the button. Her voice came out as a panicked, incomprehensible whisper.

    “Cleo?” Tinker's voice came out. “Are you okay? I can't understand you, calm down.”

    Cleo took a deep, steadying breath and tried again.

    “There's a Houndoom outside the tree,” she whispered. “And an army of Houndour. I lost Mischief when I panicked.”

    “You lost Mischief?” Tinker sounded surprised. “How did you accomplish that?”

    “I dropped him, he passed out remember? Can we please focus on the Houndoom problem?”

    “Oh, I wouldn't worry about that,” Tinker told her. “It's just an illusion.”

    “An illusion?!” Cleo hissed.

    “Yes. It's an illusion. I told you that entrance is secure. It's a little trick Grey set up. Any Pokemon approaching that tree will see what they are most afraid of. It will send them running. As you can see, it works quite well.”

    Cleo struggled to find words. An illusion? He had to be joking.

    “It's a shame Mischief is unconscious,” Tinker said with a sigh. “Since he has no memories, it would be interesting to know what he sees. It might have given us some insight.”

    “You couldn't have told us about this before?!” Cleo stood, clasping the device in her paw, giving it a little shake. “I've been sat here panicking for... I don't know how long!”

    “And the Zorua?”

    Cleo blinked. “The Zorua? Well... I dropped her.”

    “I think you should head back to the tree. I'll meet you outside it.”

    Cleo stuffed the device back into her bag without a response. Sometimes that Riolu really riled her up. She looked down at Spark, who mirrored her look of disapproval.

    “Illusion?” The Dedenne huffed. “Is he kidding?”

    Cleo shook her head and trotted through the thick foliage. Spark hopped up onto her shoulder and continued her rant.

    “I mean sure it seems to work, but he could have told us.” She waved her tiny fist. “We've lost valuable time because of this!”

    Cleo exploded through the leaves and almost tripped over Mischief in the process. The illusion of fire and Houndour spread out around them, the large Houndoom standing firm before the tree. Cleo gasped, but forced herself to ignore it, instead focusing on gathering her fallen friend. The Whimsicott was still out cold. The Zorua lay sprawled beside him, her breaths coming in shallow bursts.

    Spark looked down at her. “Hmm. She must have fainted.”

    Cleo tutted and picked the Zorua up over her back. “I wonder what she saw?”

    “Something awful if she passed out like that.” Spark hopped off her shoulder and faced the tree, flinching at the illusion.

    “You see the same thing?” Cleo asked her.

    “Of course I do.” She closed her eyes and ran through it towards the tree. “Just do what I'm doing. Don't look, just run.”

    It was easier said than done. Even though she now knew it was nought more than an illusion, it still looked so realistic. She expected the Houndoom to lunge at her at any moment. She could feel the heat from the flames, smell the smoke, but it was all just an illusion created by her mind. An intricate trick created by a powerful psychic Pokemon, one of few who could use his powers efficiently to effect the minds of dark Pokemon.

    Something Cleo could only dream of being able to do.

    She braced herself, lifted Mischief with her powers and made for the tree.

    Something lunged at her and she let out a yell, dropping Mischief and the Zorua to the floor once more.

    “Cleo! It's me!” Tinker stood before her, looking back at the tree. “Wow, you sometimes forget it's not real don't you?”

    Cleo grit her teeth and growled at him. “Well, tell me. What do you see?”

    Tinker stooped to pick up the Zorua and carried her with alarming ease towards the large hole in the trunk.

    “Let's hurry, Cleo. She might wake up soon.”

    Cleo shook her head and lifted Mischief once more, following after the Riolu. They were through the illusion within seconds. Cleo opened the door with her badge and they flowed inside, letting it slide shut behind them. A dark staircase lay before them, leading down into the ground. It smelled damp and mildewy, not fresh and earthy like New City. Faint candlelight led their way down to the bottom. The steps were slippery, covered with a faint layer of moisture. Cleo had to watch her footing, careful not to slip and drop Mischief down a large flight of stairs. She doubted he'd appreciate that. He probably wouldn't appreciate the fact she'd dropped him twice already.

    The stairs ended in a large room. Heavy doors stood on either side of them. Muffled, angry voices came from the other side and Cleo couldn't help but stare at them.

    “Cells,” Tinker told her. “The Pokemon held in there are currently being interrogated by some of the Guild's best soldiers.”

    “And where are we going?” Cleo asked.

    “To an empty cell.” He stopped by a door and fumbled with the lock, struggling to select the right key while also juggling the Zorua.

    “Need a paw with that?” Spark asked from his feet.

    “I'm not sure you could reach,” he answered.

    “Oi!” The Dedenne's whiskers sparked violently. “Don't call me short!”

    “I didn't.” Tinker showed no sign of fear. Something Cleo thought was foolish.

    She decided to step in. “Enough. You can zap him later, Spark. Right now, we need to get her behind bars.” She nodded at the Zorua and took the keys off Tinker.

    She swiftly unlocked the door and stood aside for Tinker to head in first. She followed after him. He didn't fool around. The Zorua was quickly placed in a cell on the far left of the room. The iron bars were thick and heavy and rose from the floor to the ceiling. Tinker crouched down beside her and placed a metal collar around her neck which snapped in place with a loud chink!

    “What's that for?” Cleo asked.

    “Come here.” Tinker waved a paw at her without looking back.

    Cleo lowered Mischief to the floor and approached him.

    In one fluid motion, the Riolu twisted and swiped at Cleo's tail. She let out a yell and snatched it in both paws, checking it for any sign of injury. She bared her teeth and snarled at him.

    “What was that for?!”

    “I needed one of your hairs,” he said bluntly. He was still fumbling with the collar.

    “What for?!”

    “Your own protection.” He stood and moved away from the Zorua, and left the cell.

    Cleo slipped out after him, mumbling under her breath.

    “Are you going to explain to me what that was?” Cleo asked him.

    “Later. Right now, I want to see what they have in their bag.” He removed the bag from Mischief.

    “What about him?” Cleo nodded to the Whimsicott.

    “We have a nurse on site, I've asked her to come and collect him. She should be here soon.” Tinker placed the bag on a small table and opened it. The first thing he removed was the large purple horn. “A Nidoking horn?”

    “Yes. She attacked us with that,” Cleo explained. “I made sure to pick it up just in case.”

    “I hope you used the handle.”

    “I'm not stupid, Tinker.”

    He shrugged. “Well, if you were poisoned by this you'd be in trouble.”

    Spark hopped onto the table and peered at it. “Can't we just use Pecha berries?”

    “No.” Tinker placed the horn back in the bag. He'd found a protective slot that it fit in perfectly. “Nidoking poison is incredibly potent. It can't be healed with mere Pecha berries. It needs to be mixed with a specific anti-venom.”

    Cleo watched Tinker rummage through the rest of the bag. “You mean like an opposite?”

    “Yes. Exactly. And what is the opposite to a Nidoking?”

    “A Nidoqueen,” Spark answered.

    “Precisely.” Tinker gave her a smile. “And both of those are surprisingly rare. Hydreigon feared the poison type Pokemon in case they rebelled, specifically the Nidoran line. So he had them eradicated. For this Pokemon to carry a Nidoking horn, and a full one at that, is unusual in itself since they are incredibly hard to come by. As is the anti-venom.”

    “Does she have the antidote in there?” Cleo asked.

    “She wouldn't be a very good assassin if she didn't, Cleo. What if she accidentally poisoned herself?”

    Spark snorted. “She wouldn't be a very good assassin if she couldn't handle her own weapons.”


    The voice had come from the cell. They looked round slowly. The Zorua stared back at them, sprawled out on the floor in the same position Tinker had left her in.

    “Oh, you're awake.” Tinker turned back to her bag. “That's fortunate. We have some questions for you.”

    She chuckled, dragging herself onto her stomach and pushing herself up into a sitting position. “Who said I'll answer them?”

    “I think you'll answer them,” Tinker told her. “Because you're not leaving until you do.”

    The Zorua just smirked, and lifted a front paw to examine it. “Looks like the little squirt's paralysis attack is wearing off.” She cocked her head on one side and grinned at them. “I'll be out of here soon, you'll see.”

    “Squirt?!” Spark bristled. “I have every right mind to shock you again!”

    “Don't.” Tinker placed a paw on her head. “It's not necessary. The collar on her neck represses all her special attacks, and the bars on that cell are designed to restrain a dragon-danced Salamence.”

    The Zorua chuckled. “Really?” She opened her mouth wide, then a look of disbelief crossed her face and it snapped shut with alarm.

    Tinker raised an eyebrow at her. “Trying a dark pulse? Try all you want, but it's pointless.” He looked back to her bag. “Cleo, you do know who she is, correct?”

    Cleo glanced at the oddly coloured Zorua. “Yes. I was too surprised at first, but I know who she is.”

    “Harlequin,” Tinker told her. “One of Hydreigon's aces.”

    “Yes I know.”

    Tinker sighed and looked at the door. “Where is that nurse? Anyway,” he looked back into the bag. “Harlequin, am I right in assuming one of these bottles is the Nidoking antidote?”

    Harlequin chuckled. “I don't carry an antidote.”

    Tinker looked at her. “That's foolish.”

    “No it's not. Not for a trained assassin. I mean, what kind of assassin would I be if I poisoned myself?” She paused and narrowed her eyes. “I tell you what kind. A bad one. And if you know my reputation... you should know I'm an elite.”

    Tinker made a thoughtful noise and pulled something out of the bag. It was a round ball held inside a ring of copper hanging from a thick piece of black thong.

    Harlequin bristled, her eyes widening. “Put that back!”

    “What is this?” Tinker let it dangle down from his paw. “I've never seen anything like it.”

    “Put it back!” The Zorua launched herself into the bars with what strength she had left, snapping and snarling, her eyes fierce.

    Cleo watched her warily, worried she might slip between the bars. But it was impossible. There was no way for her to break free.

    “Have you seen one of these before?” Tinker asked her, handing her the strange orb.

    She took it. It wasn't heavy, and was clear in colour with a stripe of black and white coiling up inside the centre. She shook her head.

    “Never. It's probably just a fancy stone she's found.”

    Harlequin's cries echoed off the walls, the collar she wore clanging against the bars of the cell. They had to raise their voices to be heard above the din.

    “Hang on to it, Cleo,” Tinker told her. “I suspect it's significant considering her reaction.”

    “No! Put it back! Give it back!”

    Cleo slipped it into her bag, keeping one eye on the wild Zorua.

    The door opened and an Audino stepped inside. She looked at the cell, her eyes wide.

    “My, what a racket!” She exclaimed. “Is he the one you want me to treat?” She pointed at the Zorua.

    “No, no.” Tinker waved a paw to the sprawled out Whimsicott. “It's him. He's passed out with exhaustion.”

    The Audino knelt at his side. “He seems to be waking up.”

    Cleo looked down at Mischief. His eyes were open and he had a paw on his head. She hadn't heard him stirring thanks to the Zorua's rampage.

    “Why does my head hurt?” He asked.

    Spark grinned down at him. “'Cos Cleo dropped you!”

    He fixed his orange eyes on Cleo. “What? Why?”

    The Audino helped him to his feet. “Come with me. I'll get you some Oran Juice.” She led him from the cell.

    “Where am I?” He asked. The door closed behind him and their voices were drowned out by Harlequin's frantic cries.

    “Cleo.” Tinker's voice drew the Meowstic's attention. “Let's continue this conversation in the staff room. No one will be in there right now, so we can
    cover what to do.”

    “But we've not asked her-”

    Tinker waved a paw. “Later. She's not going to tell us anything in this state, is she?”

    Harlequin's cries had come to a stop. Cleo followed Tinker's gaze to the cell. She lay with one paw sticking out of the bars. All energy seemed to have left her body and she panted heavily, fixing them with an angry, sapphire stare. Cleo thought she could see tear streaks across her face, either anger or sadness she couldn't tell.

    Tinker ushered Cleo from the room. Spark hopped onto her shoulder and they left, locking the door behind them.

    “What is there to discuss?” Cleo asked as they entered the staff room, situated conveniently at the back of the small dungeon. “Do you think she poisoned the river?”

    The staff room didn't smell as damp as the rest of the place, probably due to the ventilation in the ceiling. If Cleo were to guess, they were just like the ones in New City and ended inside trees, hidden from view of any passing Pokemon who would dismiss them as former habitats for Pidgey, Emolga and other tree dwelling Pokemon.

    “I have a request of you, Cleo.”

    She hadn't expected that to be her answer. No yes or no, a complete oversight of her question. She picked up a mug of hot berry juice and sipped it slowly, waiting for him to elaborate.

    “I want you to take Harlequin with you.”

    Cleo nearly choked on her drink. “What?”

    Spark echoed her response, with an added, “Are you crazy?!”

    “Think about it,” Tinker told them, “When will we ever have an opportunity like this again?”

    “What opportunity?” Cleo stared at him. “An opportunity to have one of Hydreigon's most dangerous assassins behind bars? She should remain there, I shouldn't have to lug her around after me, Tinker. It's dangerous, for one thing!”

    “Yeh, she'll probably kill us!” Spark paused and thought briefly, then added, “She'll definitely kill us!”

    “That is why I took your hair, Cleo.” Tinker reached into his bag and handed her a metal band. “Wear this around your wrist. Unlike her collar, you can remove this at any time. Only you, as it's registered with your DNA. With this, she can't come near you. She'll be locked in a two foot radius, unable to physically touch you and unable to move away. She'll have no choice but to go with you.”

    “Yes, and attract her friends, who unlike her will not be locked in a two foot radius!” Cleo crossed her paws. “I refuse.”

    Tinker shrugged. “Well, after finding Mischief I just thought it might be about time to prepare to head into the Shadow Lands and take out Hydreigon.”

    “It's too soon, Tinker! Besides, Mischief knows nothing about himself. Throwing him into the Shadow Lands would be cruelty!”

    “I said 'prepare'. And I never said you would go alone.” Tinker smiled at her. “My request is for you to find more of this unique, new type of Pokemon.”

    “And I need to take Harlequin... why?”

    “A bargaining tool. She's highly valued by Hydreigon and if she was targeting Mischief directly, then news has got back to Hydreigon about the Noivern that was killed. This means that it was obviously Boomer, one of Hydreigon's other aces.” He paused. “Since I didn't see the body, I wasn't sure. But if Mischief killed Boomer then this is big, Cleo. Mischief has a price on his head, and since you two were with him, that puts a price on your heads also.”

    Cleo felt her blood turn cold. “If he's sending out his aces...”

    “Yes. That will mean Enigma will be following you, not to mention Ripwing, and Wailwolf and the Wildfires.”

    Cleo dropped her drink, sending it sloshing over the floor. Spark was visibly shaking, so much so she'd had to place her glass back on the table.

    “Wailwolf...” Cleo glanced at the door. Images of a flaming forest and hundreds of howling black shadows ran through her mind. She began to feel faint.


    Tinker's voice was echoey. He rose from his chair and blurred into the background. The last thing Cleo remembered seeing was the room on its side.
  17. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    13 – A New Mission​

    Night had fallen, casting the outskirts of the Moorland's Forest in shadows. Enigma preferred it this way. It meant he could travel unseen, a much better strategy for sneaking up on unsuspecting targets.

    A shape came into view in the distance, a squat building with a dull light flickering in one of the windows. He span and warped closer to it, landing perched in the branches of a sturdy tree. Adorned over the door of the building was the crescent moon symbol the Heretics had adopted.

    Enigma grinned widely. The Heretic lab. Finally.

    He leapt into the air and twisted, vanishing and reappearing on the doorstep. It was common courtesy to knock, and Enigma considered it before deciding he'd much rather just slip through the door to the other side.

    The Plusle and Minun standing guard on the other side leapt out of their skins with a squeal, their large eyes wide with fear. Enigma smirked at them and leant back against the wall with his arms crossed across his chest.

    “So... this is a Heretic lab?” He looked up and down the hall with mock curiosity. “It doesn't look like much. Who's in charge here?”

    “That would be Rio, sir,” the Plusle spoke up. “I can go and get him-”

    Enigma waved a paw at him. “That won't be necessary. I'll find him.” He turned away from them.

    “But he's in the laboratory,” the Plusle explained. “It's authorised entry only.”

    Enigma glanced back at them. “Oh... I'm sure he wouldn't object to seeing me.”

    With that, he marched down the corridor, his feet resounding off the immaculate white tiles. With every step, his bell jingled, echoing off the empty walls. Curious eyes peered at him from one of the rooms as he passed by. The corridor wound sharply to the right and at the end was a large door with a large sign that read 'Authorised Pokemon Only'.

    He let out a small laugh and slipped through the closed door, materialising on the other side with a light chime.

    A male Meowstic leant over a desk, and his body froze as his ears twitched at the soft sound.

    Enigma leant against the door and inclined his head on one side. “I trust I'm addressing Rio?”

    The Meowstic looked back over his shoulder, meeting the Banette's crimson eyes. He wore a white medical mask over the lower half of his face. If he was afraid, he didn't show it.

    “You shouldn't be in here. It's dangerous.”

    Enigma cast his eyes over the room, taking in the various bottles that adorned the shelves and the vast amount of paperwork filed away in neat little boxes. He wondered if the reason the Meowstic wore a mask was less for his own safety and more to block out the sharp, clinical smell that filled the room.

    “Then we can keep this short,” the Banette told him. He fixed the Meowstic with a half smile. “I do get incredibly bored when I'm forced to have long conversations.”

    Rio's mask of confidence seemed to fall at that remark. He turned back to his desk and rinsed his paws in a bowl of water, then turned back to Enigma and lowered the white mask around his neck.

    “I guess you're here for more information?” He asked.

    Enigma clicked his tongue. “So you are the ones who sent Boomer with a message?”

    “Yes.” Rio paused. “If Lord Hydreigon sent you back here, was it not enough information?”

    “You could say that.” The Banette smirked. “It never reached him.”

    The Meowstic looked worried, his eyes glancing from one side of the room to the next. After a brief moment he looked back at Enigma.


    “He was killed,” Enigma said flatly. “By a Whimsicott, I believe.” He shook his head. “Who would have guessed it?”

    “A Whimsicott?” Rio nibbled on his claw.

    Enigma waited in the silence, staring at the Meowstic as he appeared to drift off into his own little world. Enigma had a lot of patience, but it was growing thin watching Rio stand there, thoughtfully nibbling his claw. He ran a paw over his face and chuckled.

    “Starting to get a little peckish.”

    Rio froze and swiftly removed his paw from his mouth.

    “I'm sorry, Enigma, I was just thinking.”

    Enigma fixed him with a glare. “Think on your own time. I'm trying to gather important information here.”

    “Yes certainly. It's just... the Whimsicott... I...” Rio paused and glanced away from Enigma. “Yes, well. The information I gave Boomer, it took a while to explain. Have you got a while?”


    “Ah.” Rio's eyes widened and he looked over to a closed door on the left wall. “Well, I can show you. It's something we've discovered, Enigma. Evolution is happening.”

    “Evolution?” Enigma chuckled and shook his head. “Do you have berries for brains? Pokemon evolve. I used to be a Shuppet once. Did you hatch as a Meowstic?”

    “Not that kind!” Rio narrowed his eyes, then took a step back at the look on Enigma's face. Wise choice. Getting short tempered with an assassin wasn't the best idea.

    Rio shook his head and mumbled an apology, looking back at the door. “The evolution I'm talking about is not the kind from Espurr to Meowstic, or Onix to Steelix. This is more complex. This is evolution on a different scale. A
    slower one. A natural one designed for survival.” He shot Enigma a sideways glance. “It's a new type.”

    Enigma felt a jolt of surprise. A new type? This was going to be more interesting than he thought. He grinned and crossed his arms.

    “Go on.”

    “We've not named it yet,” Rio told him. “It's just codenamed Type 18. It cropped up in our labs three seasons ago, one of our... participants... happened to have a child that carried this type. An Azurill.”

    Enigma raised an eyebrow. “And how did you discover it?”

    “Quite by accident.” Rio scratched his head. “As you know there are outlaws from the Shadow Lands. A couple of them have ended up in our labs and we have two Axew here. The Azurill was at the age where he would make quite a nuisance of himself and the Axew duo were unimpressed. One of them fired a Dragon Rage at him, but the move didn't even phase him. Washed over him like water off a Ducklett's back.”

    Enigma's crimson eyes widened. “So he resisted a dragon attack?”

    “He didn't resist it. He was immune to it.”

    Enigma didn't know what to say. This was big news. He wasn't even entirely sure he believed it.

    “This is why we requested Boomer,” Rio explained. “So he could see it for himself.”

    Enigma stared at him. Of course. You could only really believe something like this if you saw it with your own eyes. There was every possibility Hydreigon wouldn't believe it, so having a dragon Pokemon see it for themselves would solidify the evidence significantly.

    Boomer wouldn't have outright lied to Hydreigon. He would have had to believe him.

    “We ran some tests when Boomer was here,” Rio went on. “He brought Murkrow with him, as requested. So using those Murkrow we tested how the type fared against dark, since we don't have any dark Pokemon in our laboratories.” Rio paused, reading Enigma's expression. Satisfied that the Banette was clearly interested, he went on. “It turns out that Type 18 is resistant to dark types. Not immune, but resistant.”

    “Hmm.” Enigma inclined his head on one side. “Does this mysterious new type possess any attacks?”

    “Unfortunately the Azurill didn't know any attacks.” Rio began to appear on edge, fidgeting his paws together as he refused to look the Banette in the eye. “You see, several years ago these strange attacks started cropping up. New ones. We didn't know what they were, we assumed they were psychic since they were so effective against our fighting participants.”

    Enigma narrowed his eyes.

    “You can't fault us on that!” Rio raised his paws. “We weren't expecting a new Pokemon type to appear out of the blue like that.”

    Enigma shrugged. “I suppose.”

    “When we explained this to Boomer, he wanted to see if these attacks were linked to this new type. Fortunately some of our exp – I mean participants – still have these attacks, so we ran some in depth tests on them. After seeing these rays of purple light defeat the Axew with one deft hit, he decided to face against them himself, accusing the Axew of being mere weaklings. He took one of the attacks and was aghast.”

    “And what of the Murkrow?”

    “Wiped out in one hit.”

    Enigma scratched his head and sighed. This was big news. If Hydreigon heard of this, he'd probably cause an uproar. Or an all out war.

    A war that would wipe out all types except dragon and dark Pokemon.

    Enigma chuckled. And where would that leave him?

    “Has something amused you?” Rio asked.

    Enigma fixed his eyes on the Meowstic and grinned. “Have you thought of the repercussions of telling this news to a powerful Pokemon that is both dark and dragon type?”

    “I thought it would leave us in his favour, actually.”

    Enigma chuckled again and shook his head. “Oh you poor, pathetic creature.”

    Rio stared at him blankly, still fidgeting his paws together.

    Enigma gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling. “Picture this. Boomer was slaughtered while delivering this message to Hydreigon by a Whimsicott. You know, the little grass pompom that likes to pull pranks? Not much of a threat, but he faced off against a Noivern, a feared dragon that is a nightmare to battle in the dark and no easy feat to face in the day either. He was taken down and mutilated. Not just knocked unconscious, we're talking being reduced to a bloody pulp here. This Whimsicott could only have done this to a Noivern if he was exceptionally powerful. A Whimsicott is not that big a threat to a dragon, not a pure grass type. So, explain to me how this little puny creature could take down a powerful Noivern, and not just any, but Hydreigon's number one ace?” He turned his attention back to the Meowstic.

    Rio stuttered for a moment and glanced at the floor. “I suppose,” he finally said, slowly, “that this Whimsicott must have carried this new type.”

    “Exactly. And not just carried it, but used its attacks.” Enigma gave him a wicked grin. “So knowing that, Hydreigon is not going to be impressed to learn of this new 'Type 18' as you so proudly put it. This type has not just manifested in your labs, little Meowstic, no. This type is running wild out there.” He gestured to the door. “It's out there, it's real, and it's posing a threat. Now... how do you think Hydreigon is going to react to this news?”

    Rio's face fell and he placed his paws on the desk to steady himself. “He's... going to start a war...”

    Enigma nodded. “He's going to start a war.”

    “But... we're on his side,” Rio told him. “We'll be okay, right?”

    “What? A laboratory that's been nurturing this type for goodness knows how long?” Enigma chuckled and gave the Meowstic a terrifying glare. “I wouldn't count your blessings.”

    Enigma turned to the door and paused with his paw above the handle, looking back at the shaking Meowstic.

    “I'm going to do some more sniffing around to see how big a threat this new type really is before I report back to my boss. Do you want to make yourself useful?”

    Rio nodded slowly. “Yes. Yes, anything.”

    “Okay. If you want to save your hide, then prove your loyalty. I want you to find this Whimsicott, and the female Meowstic and Dedenne he's travelling with, and hold them here. I'll take them back to Hydreigon myself, and put in a good word for you.”

    Rio's eyes widened. “You'd do that?”

    Enigma grinned. “If you play your cards right.”

    With that, he swung the door open and strolled out of the lab. He glanced back at the Meowstic and gave him an unnerving grin.

    “Don't let me down, Rio.”

    He shut the door behind him and marched down the hallway, chuckling to himself as he left the laboratory.


    When Cleo awoke the next morning, her fur was oddly damp and she felt cold. She opened her eyes and found herself on a medical bench in a quiet room, identical benches on either side free from any patients. The nurse was nowhere to be seen.

    With a groan, Cleo flipped herself off the bench and strolled towards the door. Her head felt heavy and she couldn't shake the grogginess. Maybe some breakfast would help? She covered her mouth with a paw. Scratch that, she felt sick.

    She opened the door and was greeted by that musty, damp smell. Of course, she was still in the cells. It was coming back to her now.

    Tinker was explaining their situation to her and Spark... then everything went hazy.

    Where was he? Were they alone? Surely they wouldn't have left her alone in the cells?

    She opened the door to the staff room. Sure enough, Tinker was sat at a table talking to Spark and two guards – a Meinfoo and Combusken – over a large tray of berries and meats.

    “Ah Cleo!” Tinker beamed. “You're up!” His face fell. “My, you look

    Cleo's shoulders slumped. “Thanks.”

    “Are you sick?” The Meinfoo asked. He looked at Tinker. “You shouldn't keep someone here when they're sick. The air's not good for them.”

    Tinker stood up and placed his glass on the table. “She's not sick, she fainted. She was resting.” He looked at Cleo. “How are you? Rose told me you were having feverish nightmares.”

    Cleo shrugged. “Well, that explains the damp fur.”

    “Certainly. You're probably dehydrated. Have some water.” He poured her a glass.

    Cleo thanked him and took the glass, sipping it gratefully. She was happy to find that it seemed to relieve her nausea.

    Spark handed her an Oran berry which Cleo nibbled at cautiously while she sat next to Tinker.

    “Have you managed to get any information out of Harlequin?” She asked.

    He shook his head. “No. We left him be overnight. He seemed to tire himself with that hysteria.”

    Cleo took a more confident bite of her berry. “Should we go and see him... her?”

    “If you want to get things moving sooner rather than later?”

    Cleo crinkled her nose and stared into her glass. She just wanted to get out of these stagnant cells, but dragging a Zorua around wasn't a welcome situation.

    Then something sparked in her mind and she looked at Tinker. “How's Mischief? He wasn't in the medical room.”

    “Oh! The Whimsicott!” Tinker flashed her a smile. “He's helping Rose. He was adamant he was going to return the favour of her looking after him. I think he's rather taken with her to be honest.”

    The two guards chuckled.

    Tinker seemed too elated about that. Was he trying to test her reaction? She was too tired to be bothered with this nonsense. She pushed her chair back and stood up.

    “I'm going to question Harlequin.”

    Tinker raised an eyebrow. “Alone?”

    “You can come with me if you want? You're the one who wants me to lug her around.”

    The two guards let out gasps and the Combusken dropped his glass.

    Tinker let out a hiss and waved a frantic paw at Cleo. He turned to the guards and smiled.

    “I'm sorry,” he told them. “This is a confidential Elite investigation, so if you could keep this quiet it would be appreciated?”

    The two guards nodded sullenly.

    Tinker made for the door with Cleo and Spark in tow.

    “You are aware,” the Combusken said, “that Pokemon will find out about this anyway?”

    “Yes.” Tinker glanced back at him. “But if this gets out in less than two full days I will know to trace it back to you, and you will lose your rank.”

    The Combusken licked his beak. “I won't say a word.”

    The Meinfoo shook his head sharply.

    Tinker smiled. “Good. I'll see you later.”

    The door closed behind them and Tinker rummaged through his bag for the keys to Harlequin's cell. He paused and nudged the door. It was open. He let out a sigh of relief when he spotted Rose and Mischief crouching by the Zorua's cell.

    “What are you doing?” Tinker asked them.

    Rose looked up at him. “He's not touched the mixed berries I made him.”

    Cleo followed Tinker's gaze into the cell. Harlequin was crouching against the farthest wall, fixing Rose with a vicious glare.

    Tinker turned his gaze to the Audino. “If he's not going to eat it then
    leave him.”

    “You know I can't do that,” she said. “The paralysis isn't going to fully wear off if he doesn't take something to relieve it.”

    “That's his choice.”

    Rose stood up and dusted herself down. “You need to have a little more sympathy, Tinker.”

    “What? Towards someone who is hired to assassinate my friends?” He crossed his arms.

    “He might be an assassin, but he's still a Pokemon.” She turned to leave the cell and glanced back at the Riolu. “Given the chance, anyone can change. But for some reason you can't see that.”

    She closed the door before Tinker could respond.

    “Wow,” said Spark. “So is she...?”

    “A peace maker?” Mischief beamed at her. “Yup!”

    Tinker sighed and shook his head, turning back to the cell. “It's peace enthusiast, Mischief. No one's managed to make peace with any of Hydreigon's warped minds yet.”

    Spark looked up at him. “Yet?”

    Tinker waved a paw at her and bared his canines. “That Audino can get under your skin, okay? Drop it!”

    Spark's mouth snapped shut and she took a step back.

    Tinker shook his head again and turned back to the cell.

    “Harlequin! Are you ready to answer some questions?”

    The Zorua stared back at him with livid sapphire eyes. Not a word came from her, and Cleo wondered what was worse. Her silence, or the risk of another rampage.

    Getting information out of dark Pokemon had never been an easy task, but once behind bars with their comforts taken away they were usually more willing to speak. Yet Harlequin was silent. No bargaining for her freedom, no bargaining to get her belongings back...

    Cleo jumped at the memory and stuffed her paw into her bag, whipping out the odd sphere that had prompted the Zorua's frantic maniacal rage the night before.

    Harlequin's glare shot from Tinker to the item in Cleo's paws. Her demeanour changed slightly, unreadable. Cleo wasn't sure if it was rage, fear, or something else entirely but a reaction was still a reaction.

    “What is this?” Cleo asked.

    Harlequin said nothing, but her eyes didn't leave that unusual sphere.

    “If you tell me,” Cleo spoke slowly, “I might give it back.”

    The Zorua's eyes shot to Cleo's, hard and cold as ice. She licked her lips a few times and struggled to push herself up into a sitting position with her forepaws. She cleared her throat and her voice came out hoarse.

    “I don't know what it is. It belonged to a friend.” She paused, her icy stare boring into Cleo. “It's value is purely sentimental, now give it back.”

    Cleo stared back, unfazed by the Zorua's intimidating glare. “Not just yet. I have more questions for you. Why were you targeting us?”

    Harlequin snickered. “It's my mission! Why else? Do you think I have a personal grudge or something?” She grinned and inclined her head on one side. “I do now.”

    Spark cut in front of Cleo and waved a paw at the Zorua. “You can't intimidate us! Your attempts will just be met with another jolt of electricity, Zorua!”

    Harlequin chuckled and leered at the Dedenne. “Bring it on, pipsqueak.”

    “Enough!” Tinker barked. “This is not productive!”

    Cleo turned to look at him. “Actually it was until Spark cut in.”

    Spark crossed her paws and looked up at Cleo. “Hey!”

    Cleo looked down at the Dedenne and pointed at Harlequin. “She's behind bars.”

    “Actually...” Mischief nodded at Tinker.

    The Riolu was opening the heavy, iron door. He glanced back at Cleo.

    “When I instruct you, put that bracelet on.”

    Harlequin had stood up now, and was pacing back and forth, watching Tinker intensely. Her movements were stiff and she had a slight limp on her right paw, likely the remaining effects from Spark's thunderwave.

    This didn't hinder her though. Tinker threw the iron door open and within seconds, Harlequin lunged towards him.


    She struck him with a full-body tackle, sending the Riolu flying backwards across the room to land against the wall.

    Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Cleo whisked the bracelet from her bag as Harlequin fixed her livid eyes on her. Baring her white canines, she shot across the room towards Cleo. The Meowstic snapped the bracelet around her wrist with a loud click. Before Harlequin's teeth could connect with her neck, the Zorua was sent reeling away from her, sprawling across the floor.

    She stood and shook her head, turned to face Cleo and launched another attack.

    The same thing happened again, only with less ferocity. Harlequin was bounced back, skidding slightly on her paws.

    Her attention snapped from Cleo to the bracelet on her wrist.

    “What is that? Some kind of shield?” She shook her head and turned to face Tinker who was now using the table to pull himself back up. With a grin she lunged for him. Her head snapped back viciously and she yelped, her back legs flying too far forwards causing her to land heavily on her back.

    Tinker laughed, his eyes sparkling with glee.

    “It works!”

    Cleo looked up from the snarling Zorua, fixing Tinker with a look of surprise.

    “It works? You mean you never tested this thing?”

    Tinker scratched his head. “Not extensively.”

    “How extensively?”

    “Well, I used a chair, a tree branch, a door...”

    “But no living Pokemon?”

    Tinker waved his paw in dismissal. “Regardless, it works. You, and anyone who stays outside of the two foot radius – or in Spark's case, within it –,” He nodded to Spark who was standing proudly on Cleo's shoulder, “are safe from Harlequin's physical attacks. And all special attacks are restrained by that collar, rendering her helpless.”

    Harlequin snarled. “What?!”

    Cleo stared at Tinker, aghast. “Tinker, I've not agreed to this.”

    Mischief looked from Tinker to Cleo. “Agreed to what?”

    Tinker shrugged. “My request is that you find more of this new type of Pokemon.”

    “But I'm not taking her! She's a danger, not to mention that she makes us a massive target to other members of Hydreigon's armies!”

    “Wait!” Harlequin sat bolt upright, looking from one Pokemon to the next. “I am not going anywhere with you!”

    Tinker grinned menacingly at the Zorua. “You don't have much choice.”

    “I do. I just don't have to move.” She closed her eyes. “If I can't leave the two foot radius, then you can't move while I'm inside it.”

    “Cleo?” Tinker looked up at her. “Come here.”

    Cleo shrugged and moved towards Tinker. He reversed backwards towards the door, leading her away from the Zorua. She felt a tug at her bracelet but nothing more.


    The exclamation had come from Harlequin. She looked back over her shoulder to find the Zorua struggling against the bracelet, dragged along against her will.

    “Like I said.” Tinker flashed her a smirk. “You don't have much choice.”

    Cleo looked down at her bracelet then back at Harlequin. Her struggles could barely be felt by Cleo. It seemed the device only worked one way. Cleo felt her heart sink. She might be able to remove the bracelet, but she felt Tinker's words were not just aimed at the Zorua.


    Harbinger looked down at the river flowing down the mountain side. The water rushed forwards over rocks and twisted around bends, casting a frothy surf into the air as it vanished into the distance.

    Just like any other river, it flowed away from the Shadow Lands.

    No river led to them, all of them led away, almost as though the water itself didn't want to stay there.

    Just like he didn't want to stay there.

    The Absol narrowed his red eyes at the thought and turned his attention back to the flowing river.

    “They got it going again then?”

    He looked down at the speaker. Claw. One of the two Pawniard twins he worked with. The other Pawniard, Scratch, rubbed his blades together nervously as he looked around the mountain.

    Just like him, they were outlaws.



    He looked away from the Pawniard to watch the rushing river.

    “Yes. Yes, it would seem they have.”
  18. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    Part 2

    14 – Orphan​

    Cleo and her friends trudged through the forest, the usual silence replaced with the growls and snarls from their reluctant companion. Harlequin struggled against her confines, scraping up the earth with her claws as she refused to walk with them. Occasionally she'd lunged at Cleo, gnashing at her with her jaws, but not a single attack could hit. She'd then go back to throwing herself on the ground and wailing and snarling. It had been this way since they'd left at mid day, and the sun was behind them now, getting ready to set.

    They'd been walking in silence, not one of them daring to start up a conversation. None of them really knew what to say. They'd been requested to find more of this new Pokemon type, but where does one even begin? They were just walking, no destination in mind. Being stuck with one of Hydreigon's assassins didn't settle well with any of them either, even if Tinker assured them they were safe so long as they stayed out of her reach. Mischief had been trusted with her bag, so the Zorua would have no access to it. Tinker had also told them before they left, or more so told Harlequin, that the only Pokemon who could remove her collar were himself and Cleo.

    For some reason, this hadn't surprised Cleo.

    It had also stopped Harlequin from thrashing against any nearby walls in a feeble attempt to destroy it.

    As such, since they'd left, Harlequin had been going through a vibrant phase of sulking and raging. During one of her more quiet bursts, Cleo had thought she'd tired herself out to the point of sleep, but a glance back showed the Zorua's eyes wide open, leering at the passing trees as she was dragged along like a reluctant child.

    “I hate to break the peace,” Spark declared from Cleo's shoulder. “But I'm getting hungry.”

    The Dedenne's voice came as a mild shock to Cleo and Mischief. Cleo quickly surveyed their surroundings and gave a small nod.

    “Me too. We'll find somewhere to stop and call it a night.”

    Spark shook her head. “I'm not sure I'm too comfortable camping out with our little friend back there.”

    Harlequin let out a sharp laugh. “No, no. Camp out. We'll see how many dark Pokemon I can grab the attention of.” She rolled onto her back and flailed. “Help! Help me! I'm in trouble, help!”

    Cleo tutted and marched on, dragging the Zorua along on her back.

    “Shout all you want,” Cleo told her. “You're more likely to attract the attention of Outcasts in this area.”

    “You might think you're safe around here, but there'll be a Murkrow patrol later.” The Zorua almost seemed to purr. “You'll see.”

    “Oh yeah?!” Spark hopped round on Cleo's shoulder to face Harlequin. “Then I'll just wipe them out with one deft Thunder!” Her little whiskers sparked dangerously.

    Cleo hissed at the Dedenne. “Don't do that! I'm not willing to deal with another bad fur day thanks to your static discharge.” She shook her head and sighed. Spark didn't even know Thunder, but she wasn't going to declare that in front of the enemy.

    “Hey look!” Mischief waved a paw at something in the distance.

    Cleo narrowed her eyes to follow it. “What is it?”

    “The river's flowing again.”

    “Ah!” Cleo smiled. So it was. It was too far ahead to hear over the Zorua's din, but it wasn't too far away. “It might make a good place to camp out, let's head for there.”

    “Are we sure we trust it?” Spark asked. “It might still be poisoned.”

    “If it is, I think someone here could tell us.” Cleo looked back at the Zorua. She'd gone quiet, fixing them with one eye.

    “What?” Harlequin snarled. “You want me to sniff out poisoned water for you now?”

    “It's quite simple,” Cleo told her. “You don't drink it, we know it's poisoned.”

    “And what if I'm lying?”

    “I think come morning you'll be needing a drink. We all get thirsty, and you've been doing a lot of yelling.”

    Harlequin snorted and looked away.

    Cleo turned away from the Zorua and marched on, keeping a little behind Mischief for his own safety. No matter how much she fought, the Zorua clearly knew so long as she was confined to that collar, she'd lost. With all that fighting, she should have worn herself out enough to not pose much of a threat, or an attraction to her allies.

    Now they just had to make it through the first night.


    “I think this is where they said they found that Pachirisu.”

    Tinker scratched his nose thoughtfully as he stood with Skipper, examining the ground at the base of a tree. The dead grass was flat, as though something had been lay on it for a long time. Dry leaves lay scattered around it, discarded.

    Skipper crouched onto all-fours and peered at the base of the tree, then stood up again and gave a nod at the spot beyond the brambles.

    “Well, if we have a little looksee further ahead, we might be able t'find more clues.”

    Tinker nodded. “I think that's the best plan. Although it doesn't settle with me that the sun is starting to set.”

    “Aye. T'is a wee bit further out than we thought, sure enough.”

    Tinker moved past the Marshstomp, pushing the sharp brambles aside to make a path.

    “Let's keep our wits about ourselves. Cleo told me they got attacked out here.”

    “Aye, ye said.” Skipper followed after him, nimbly avoiding the thorns. “Wonder who they was?”

    “I've no idea, but it wouldn't surprise me if they poisoned the river.”

    “I'd like t'agree but we dinnae have enough evidence t'back up that theory.”

    “Then we'll find it.”

    Tinker was feeling very persistent. If what Cleo had theorized was true, then this was big news. Peaceful Pokemon meant there were still peaceful places out there, areas that hadn't been divided into groups, places where there was no war.

    Or maybe there were more groups than they thought, and these just didn't fall into Outcast, Heretic or Darkness.


    The exclamation caused Tinker to spin round with such force he almost lost his balance. His heart leapt into his throat and a metallic taste filled his mouth.

    This was followed by a sigh of relief when he saw Skipper intensely inspecting a tree.

    “Look at this, Tinker.” The Marshstomp ushered him over. “There's been a nest in here.”

    Tinker peered over Skipper's shoulder. He felt his eye widen. Sure enough, there was a comfortable pile of leaves and grass tucked away in a hole large enough for a couple of Pachirisu or other such small ground dwelling Pokemon to huddle in.

    He took a step back and looked up at the tree. It was dead, like the others close by it. However, this meant the tree wasn't thickly covered to hide arboreal Pokemon dens. A small smile played across his lips. Near the top of the tree's thick trunk was another small hole.

    “Skipper, give me a boost would you?”

    Skipper scratched his head and followed the Riolu's gaze. “I can do that, Tinker, but are ye sure ye can climb that high?”

    “I can sure try.”

    “All right then, step on.” Skipper formed his webbed claws into a foot hold for the Riolu.

    Tinker steadied himself against the tree and placed a foot in Skipper's paws. With a 'heyup!' the Marshstomp hoisted him up. Tinker grabbed the lowest branch, checked it would hold his weight, and dragged himself up onto it. Another branch hung low enough for him to stretch himself up onto. At this level, he could stand by the trunk and pull himself up to the little den hole.

    “There's a nest here too,” he called down to Skipper. “It also has a little berry store. They still look fresh too.”

    “Right enough?” Skipper exclaimed with amazement. “So where are they then?”

    Tinker lowered himself cautiously onto the lower branch. With one eye, he didn't have reliable depth perception. Most Pokemon would call his insistence to perform difficult tasks like this stubbornness, but he called it perseverance. There was no need to let something like losing an eye stop him from trying to help others.

    He grabbed the lower branch in both paws and swung himself over the edge. Skipper caught him as he dropped to the ground and steadied him on his feet.

    Tinker muttered a thank you and looked back up at the tree.

    “I'm guessing Emolga,” he said.

    “What makes ye think that?”

    “Pachirisu and Emolga lived in close proximity before Hydreigon scattered Pokemon across the land. As you know, Pokemon used to group together for company and survival. Bulbasaur colonies would live beside rivers where Marill and Azurill lived, for example. The same type would often group together, so finding Roselia and Sunkern colonies amongst Bulbasaur was very common. As such, Pachirisu and Emolga are one example of types sticking together. There may be some nests in the brambles that housed Pikachu and Pichu. Since we are by a river, there are likely some nests by the riverside. If you wouldn't mind having a look since you can swim?”

    “Roger!” Skipper saluted and turned back to the river with haste.

    Tinker glanced around at the forest. Now he was aware of them, nests in the trees were becoming glaringly obvious. His heart was beginning to sink drastically as the sun began setting, plunging the forest into gradual darkness. This was how most Pokemon used to live before the Darkness scattered them, forcing them to live inside rushed buildings away from the forest's shadows. The fact some were still fresh was shocking. He wanted to inspect more of them, but they would be hard to find in the dark, not to mention the dangers that would likely affect him and Skipper if they stayed here much longer.

    His eyes traced up the trunk of a large tree a few yards away. A small opening lay near the top of the trunk, but amongst the branches were tiny twigs and thick plant stems weaved together to form a nest.

    So there had been bird Pokemon here. It was difficult to see from here what kind once occupied that nest, but if birds had been living amongst electric Pokemon then there were likely ground types living around here too. The branches weren't situated to be climbed as easy as the tree he had been in before. This was likely why the Pokemon had chosen that particular tree to build its nest.

    He trotted over to the tree, an idea forming in his mind. If he could knock the nest to the floor, he could see what had occupied it. There were likely still feathers inside. He searched the floor for something to throw but there were no rocks in sight. A branch... a long branch to poke it free... no. He shook his head. That was pointless, it was too high.


    Tinker looked over his shoulder to search the shadows with his left eye. Skipper was trudging towards him, water dripping from his slick body.

    “There were Mudkip,” he said. “And Marshstomp. Living in the river. I recognise th' nests.”

    Tinker narrowed his eyes. The Marshstomp looked a little distressed, fumbling with his goggles in his large paws. “Are you okay?”

    “I'm fine. It's just... I've never found mah own kind before. Knowing they were this close to home... it's kinda upsetting ya know?”

    Tinker nodded sullenly and looked back up at the tree. “Yes, I can understand that.”

    Skipper rubbed the back of his head and let out a sigh. He followed Tinker's gaze up to the tree.

    “Ye found another nest, aye?”

    “Yes. I want to get to it, but it's too high.” An idea struck him and he snapped to look at Skipper. “Could you shoot it down for me?”

    “Shoot it down? That's a wee bit disrespectful, lad.”

    Tinker snorted at the remark. “It's empty. I just want to know what Pokemon were living here.”

    “Aye, all right then. Stand back, ya don't want it landin' on ye.”

    Tinker obeyed, standing a little behind the Marshstomp. Skipper opened his mouth and shot a powerful stream of water at the nest. It shot into the sky, but not as drastically as Tinker had expected. It rotated in the air, and Tinker felt his heart hit his throat once more. It wasn't just feathers that fell from the nest. He shot towards the tree like a dart, stretching out his paws to catch the falling object before it struck the ground and shattered.

    Skipper was at his side just as quickly, trying to catch his breath.

    “There was an egg there?” Skipper's words were mere surprise than a question. “An egg?”

    Tinker curled back from the large egg and stared down at it, his breath still coming in short bursts. It was unharmed, not a crack in sight. White down clung to the unblemished surface, and fell around them like whispy snowflakes. The nest lay discarded beside him, the same white tufts clinging to the inside surface.

    The feathers were unmistakable.

    Tinker looked up at Skipper and stared at him for a moment before rising to his feet.

    “Well, we know who's nest it were, aye?”

    Tinker nodded and cradled the egg to his chest. “Altaria.”


    The group had propped up their little tent a few feet away from the river, beneath the shelter of a couple of trees and a scattering of bushes. The forest had thinned out drastically, the floor bare and full of dry grass and decaying leaves. The river sparkled in the moonlight, the stars reflecting on the surface in dizzying patterns as the water rushed over rocks and twisted out of sight around a sharp bend.

    Cleo couldn't help but think, under different circumstances, this area would be beautiful. Unfortunately the grass and plants had been killed off with Seviper venom, which instead in the dark of night created a somewhat eerie atmosphere.

    She didn't really like it. But they needed somewhere to rest, and by a river was their best option.

    Mischief finished securing the tent in place and stretched, yawning widely.

    “If you like, I can take first watch?” He told Cleo. “You look like you could use a good sleep. Plus, it looks like Spark has already fallen asleep.”

    “Nope.” The Dedenne sat hunched forward with her head poking out of Cleo's neck fur, her eyes closed. “Just restin' my eyes.”

    “Thanks Mischief,” said Cleo. “I'm not sure how much sleep we're going to get, however.”

    She looked down at the Zorua. She'd been oddly quiet that at one point they thought she'd fallen asleep. She lay sprawled on the ground, her eyes still wide open, breathing heavily. Evidence of her struggle was plain to see, as her fur was tangled and thick with dirt, with twigs and other debris poking out at dramatic angles. She was clearly exhausted, but if her threat was anything to go by, Cleo doubted she'd be trying to sleep any time soon.

    Tearing her eyes from Harlequin, she strutted into the tent, dragging the reluctant Pokemon effortlessly behind her. The Zorua said nothing, but Cleo could feel her icy blue stare burning into the back of her head as she curled up to sleep.

    It wasn't long until Harlequin's cries cut through the night air, setting them all on edge. They tried not to let it show, but not one of them dared close their eyes for long.
  19. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    15 – Daylight Assault​

    The moon was high in the sky, casting its silvery rays down onto the mountain. Harbinger trotted over the rugged terrain, thick grass welcoming his feet as the worst of it was behind them. The river reflected the light from the moon, almost seeming to guide their way down from the mountain.

    The ground levelled out to a more comfortable position, not that this was an issue to the Absol. Scratch and Claw hadn't had much difficulty with the mountain, but Harbinger had none. He was used to coming and going from the mountains across the region.

    He didn't feel comfortable in them though.

    Despite his thick white fur, he didn't feel at home in the snowy peaks. They offered a fantastic view of the Border Woods. But they were uncomfortable. Unwelcome. Full of memories.

    He didn't like it.

    Even these smaller mountains didn't feel like home.

    Nowhere felt like home.

    A sharp cry snapped him out of his reverie and his head snapped up instinctively. He paused, one paw raised above the ground as he strained his ears against the silence.

    Then it came again. A desperate cry for help.

    He crinkled his nose and lowered his paw, marching on. A cry for help. He didn't do help. Helping wasn't his thing. Who would accept help from an Absol?

    Scratch and Claw plodded along beside him, their large eyes searching the trees across the river. That was where the cry had come from, but Harbinger didn't care.

    Doom and disaster. That's what Absol are believed to bring. They don't bring help.

    The two Pawniard became fidgety, glancing across the river and back at Harbinger while muttering to themselves. Scratch rubbed his claws along his chest blades, his posture becoming more withdrawn as he gazed uncertainly across the river.

    Reluctantly, Harbinger followed his gaze. There it was. The source of the cries for help.

    His impeccable night vision could make out the form of a female Meowstic sat in front of a makeshift tent. At her side was a dark figure, bedraggled and pawing at the air with its left front leg. A Zorua, his head craned backward as he wailed out feebly, clearly exhausted.

    Harbinger couldn't make out how, but the Zorua was clearly a prisoner. Dark Pokemon didn't normally frolic with psychic types. That would have been his first clue if it weren't for the unmistakable blue markings that adorned the Zorua's small body.

    Harbinger narrowed his red eyes. He knew that Zorua. His pitiful cries cut through the air, carrying with them every emotion the wretched creature felt. Distressed. Weak. Exhausted.


    Harbinger turned his eyes away and moved on, thick, dry mud wedged uncomfortably between his claws. Scratch and Claw trotted to keep up with him, neither of them glancing back at the scene. They knew when Harbinger wasn't happy.

    Deep rivets remained in the ground where he'd been standing.


    Cleo crawled out of the tent, the morning sun's rays bouncing off the river and dazzling her eyes. Just as she thought, none of them had slept.

    She rose to her feet and strolled past Spark. The Dedenne was lying on her back, her limbs spread-eagled at her side.

    “Oh, Cleo,” she gasped. “I'm so tired. You may have to feed me.”

    “I'm not feeding you, Spark. You're not an invalid.” Cleo removed her bag and dropped it at Spark's side. “You either feed yourself or go hungry.”

    Spark sat bolt upright. “I can manage.”

    Mischief came out from the tent, rubbing his eyes. Cleo could tell he hadn't slept. His eyes looked bloodshot and his movements were sluggish.

    “I could use a drink,” he told her.

    “I'd wait. We need to test the water first.”

    Cleo looked at the Zorua at her side. She stood with her back arched, her head and tail low. Her bedraggled fur and bared fangs gave her a somewhat feral appearance. She was clearly exhausted. Even if she weren't confined, Cleo wouldn't have been afraid of her. She looked like she could be swatted down with no more than a mere scratch.

    “You clearly need a drink,” Cleo told her. “Lets try the water. You can tell us if it's free from poison.”

    She trudged over to the river, half dragging Harlequin behind her. She stopped at the river's edge and looked back at Harlequin.

    The Zorua didn't need prompting. She was clearly thirsty. She dipped her head towards the water's surface and sniffed it briefly before almost plunging her face into it. Loud laps could be heard and after a few seconds, she whipped her head out and shook it dry.

    “It's fine,” she grumbled, before taking a step forward into the river and reaching the end of her confines. She stood up to her elbows in the water and looked back at Cleo. “Come on, I need to get clean.”

    Cleo frowned at Harlequin. “If this is some elaborate trick for me to let you drown...”

    The Zorua snorted and bared her canines. “I'm not exactly going to kill myself! I just want to wash all this scuzz from my fur!”

    “You only have yourself to blame for that,” muttered Cleo. She stepped into the river, allowing Harlequin to venture into deeper waters.

    “Hah! Who's the one who dragged me through the forest?!”

    “Well you wouldn't co-operate!”

    “Why would I co-operate with the enemy?” The Zorua barked.

    “To make things a little easier for the both of us!” Cleo snapped back. “Although you only made things difficult for yourself!”

    Harlequin lunged at Cleo, causing a cascade of water to rise up from the river, drenching the both of them. Cleo instinctively threw herself backwards, lashing out with her claws. Neither of them landed a hit.

    “Do you mind!” Spark wailed.

    She stood with Mischief on the river bank, both of them dripping from head to foot.

    “We're trying to have a drink here,” Spark went on. “And you two are fighting in the water like a couple of hatchlings!”

    Cleo stood surprised, staring at the gasping and sodden Zorua. The collar-bracelet combo worked both ways. Neither of them could touch the other. Even if she wanted to, Cleo couldn't lay a claw on this Zorua.

    “She has a point.” Cleo flicked water from her eyes and turned away from Harlequin. “Get cleaned up and we'll move on.”

    Cleo moved away towards the bank, but remained in the river to allow the Zorua enough room to bathe her fur. She grabbed a few mouthfuls of water and turned to address her companions.

    “I've no idea where we're meant to be going,” she told them.

    Spark sighed and fell to her bottom, grabbing a large Oran berry from Cleo's bag.

    “I know,” she replied, taking a bite out of it. “And being tired isn't going to help matters. We'll be dragging ourselves along at Slakoth pace.”

    “What are we going to do?” Mischief asked. “Stop at every town and ask if a new Pokemon type has cropped up?”

    Spark pointed at him and looked at Cleo. “He has a point. And even then, how would we test it to see if it's the same?”

    They all looked at Harlequin. She was gnawing at her fur to remove tangles. When she felt their stare, she paused and gave them a sideways glance, flashing a snarl.

    “No,” Cleo said flatly. “She's with us as a bargaining tool, not a punching bag.”

    Spark snorted and took another huge mouthful of her berry. “She's the wrong type anyway.”

    Harlequin had gone back to grooming herself, but Cleo knew she was listening to them. She had to if she wanted to find a chance to escape or pull one over on them. Cleo sighed and looked down at the water. She was getting very wet in this river but she refused to show the Zorua she was unhappy about it.

    “To be honest,” Cleo said, looking back at her friends. “I think we should do what Mischief suggested. Go to each Outcast town and ask.”

    Spark crinkled her little nose. “With an assassin?”

    Cleo shrugged. “What else can we do? She can't do anything anyway. The collar prevents use of her special attacks and I won't let her touch anyone.”

    Harlequin chuckled and Cleo glanced back at her. The Zorua lay on her back in the river, flailing her limbs in the water.

    “You really think it's a good idea?” She asked. “To drag me into an Outcast town?”

    Cleo gave her a blank stare. “Your cries didn't reach any of your 'comrades' last night, did they?”

    Harlequin pulled her lips back from her teeth in a fierce snarl and snapped her eyes away from Cleo, returning to her task at hand.

    Cleo looked down at Spark. “Do you have our map?”

    Spark stuffed the rest of the berry in her mouth and crawled into Cleo's bag, pulling out the roll of parchment. Trying to avoid falling into the river, she held it out to Cleo in both paws which the Meowstic had to lean forwards to reach. Once she had it, she unrolled it and scanned her eyes over the map.

    “We're almost out of the Moorland's Forest,” she told them. “The next town is a day's walk from here. If we keep walking after sunset, we should reach it before morning.”

    “Another night with no sleep?” Spark whined.

    “I'm not happy about it either.”

    “Oh dear,” Harlequin crooned. “Do you think I'm going to keep you awake again?” She hobbled through the river to Cleo's side.

    The group watched her cautiously. When she came to a stop, she shook her sodden fur violently, catching them all in the spray. They raised their paws instinctively to shield themselves.

    “Oh great!” Spark wailed. “Thanks for that! You crazy Zorua!” Electricity danced across her whiskers, causing Mischief to cautiously leap aside.

    Harlequin laughed and moved towards the river bank. Cleo followed her and stopped beside Spark and Mischief, halting the Zorua in her tracks.

    “Have some berries,” Cleo told her, reaching into her bag and pulling one out for herself. “You'll need your strength because we're not stopping until we reach the next town.” She looked up at the Zorua and returned the Pokemon's frown. “Unless you plan on kicking and screaming the whole way again?”

    Harlequin inclined her head on one side and sat down, but she didn't respond. Cleo stifled a sigh. She was notoriously difficult to read.

    Spark waggled a berry stem at her. “It'd waste all that effort you took to get the muck and stuff out of your fur. Besides, once we're out of this woods the road becomes more rocky. So unless you want your paws reduced to bloody stubs, I suggest you walk.” She paused. “And eat something!”

    Mischief looked down at the Dedenne then up at Cleo. “Is it just me or is Spark trying to be nice?”

    Spark and Harlequin both snorted and shot the Whimsicott a glare.

    “I don't need you to be nice,” Harlequin growled. “But yes. I suppose I should eat something if I'm going to see the day you get your comeuppance.”

    Cleo tossed the Zorua a cheri and oran berry. They landed at her feet and she looked from the berries to Cleo.

    “Just so you know, I'm not vegan.” Regardless, she picked up the cheri and swallowed it in two bites.

    Cleo shrugged, taking a bite out of a strip of dried meat. “Well, if you behave yourself, I might share my fish with you.”

    Harlequin licked berry juice from her lips while fixing Cleo with a sapphire stare. She didn't say anything, but it seemed for a moment she was hungry and tired enough to consider that a tantalising offer.

    Cleo stuffed the map back into her bag and hoisted it over her shoulder. “Let's make tracks. The periods of daylight are getting shorter and we have a lot of ground to cover.”

    “What does that mean?” Mischief rose to his feet. “Are we losing daylight?”

    “It means the cold season is drawing in,” Cleo explained.

    “What's the cold season?”

    Harlequin let out a laugh. “You don't know what the cold season is? How old are you?!”

    Mischief thought for a moment then shrugged. “I can't remember.”

    Harlequin raised an eyebrow. “Oh, this is just fanta-”

    “Leave him alone, Zorua!” Spark rounded on her. “My friend here has no memories. Besides, how old are you? You don't look very old, and you're not even evolved!”

    Cleo span to look back at her friend. She was stood between herself and Harlequin, stretched up to her full five inches of height. Right in the middle of what Cleo was beginning to think of as the 'danger zone'.

    Harlequin bared her teeth at the Dedenne but it didn't silence her.

    “I mean, how do you become an elite assassin if you don't train enough to evolve? It's not like you're carrying an Everstone or anything either.”

    “Shut up!” Harlequin barked.

    “Spark!” Cleo shot to her friend's side.

    Spark stood leering at the Zorua, electricity dancing across her whiskers. Harlequin was breathing heavily, her canines bared and a low growl coming from her throat.

    “I don't have to explain myself to you,” she spoke dangerously.

    “Really, Spark.” Mischief looked down at the Dedenne. “He didn't even upset me, you didn't have to lash out like that.”

    Spark looked from Mischief to Cleo then back to Harlequin. She sighed and her shoulders slumped.

    “I suppose... I didn't need to lash out.”

    “Get back on my shoulder, Spark,” said Cleo.

    She didn't take her eyes off the Zorua. Harlequin was practically seething, and there was a distinct possibility she hadn't realised Spark was in range of her physical attacks.

    Spark hopped onto her friend's shoulder where she bristled for a moment. Cleo had started moving now and ushered Mischief on ahead to keep him out of the two foot radius. When she'd calmed down, Spark looked back at Harlequin who was plodding along slowly behind them.

    “Okay. So I said some mean things. I'm sorry.” She paused, catching a sneer off the Zorua. “But can you just answer me one simple question?”

    Harlequin glanced up at her but said nothing.

    Spark thought she'd give it a shot anyway. “Are you a boy or a girl?”

    Harlequin looked up at her this time, fixing her with an amused glare and grinned widely. “What do you think?”


    “The problem with passing through a forest,” said Spark bluntly, “is that it's difficult to see when you are leaving it when there's little canopy.”

    Cleo had to agree. They'd been walking along the river, and it seemed that the damage went quite a bit further than they had anticipated. As a result, the daylight wasn't reduced by a thick canopy of leaves. They'd agreed that walking along the river would be their safest option. The poison had pushed any local Pokemon away from it, and the lack of dark shadows reduced the likelihood of encountering any more of Hydreigon's armies.

    The ground on either side of the river was steeper here, making the ground a little difficult to walk on. They'd been pushed to move single file along the riverbank, treading carefully so they didn't slip in.

    “I think we're almost out,” Cleo told her. She wasn't sure, but if her calculations were right, they should be out of the forest very soon.

    “What's on the other side of the forest?” Mischief asked.

    “The Glen.” Cleo hopped over a fallen tree which now created a bridge to the opposite bank. “I've been there before, but I've never passed through it entirely.”

    “How come?”

    “The world is big. I've not been everywhere. It'll be an opportunity to mark new towns on my map.”

    “I'm afraid you won't get that chance.”

    Cleo froze, turning her head to the direction of the speaker. Moving through the trees towards them were a group of Pokemon. The look in their eyes spelled disaster. They weren't dark Pokemon, nor were they dragons or ghosts. The small group consisted of a Raichu, Sandslash, Heliolisk and Vigoroth. It was the Vigoroth who'd spoken.

    Spark bristled. “Heretics!”

    The Raichu and Heliolisk sparked while the other two flexed their claws.

    “Don't use that word, rodent!” The Vigoroth roared. “Now. Let's see.” He regained his demeanour and scratched his nose thoughtfully. “A Meowstic, Dedenne and Whimsicott. That's what we were told to bring in. But oh-ho! It looks like they've gone'n'gained an ally! Shouldn't you be servin' Hydreigon, little Zorua?”

    Harlequin frowned. “I am not here by choice. And I am no friend of yours either.”

    The Sandslash hissed at the Vigoroth. “Don't speak to him like that, don't you know that's Harlequin?”

    The Vigoroth shrugged. “Who cares? He's with them, we'll take him too.”

    Spark hopped off Cleo's shoulder and stood between her friends and the Heretics. “You're not taking anyone if I can help it!”

    Mischief hopped to her side but before he could speak, Cleo cut him off.

    “Don't be too hasty, guys,” she said. “They may be able to be reasoned with. I want to know who sent them after us.”

    The four Heretics grinned and snickered between themselves.

    “Who sent us?” The Vigoroth jeered. “If I told you that, it would ruin the surprise.” He turned to his comrades. “Take 'em out! But make sure we don't do too much damage. He'll be wantin' to see 'em himself personally.”

    The four Pokemon rushed at them.

    Spark sent out a flurry of electricity at the group aiming to take them all down. The electricity was drawn away from the other Pokemon and when the dazzling sparks had cleared, the Raichu was stood on all fours between Spark and his comrades with his tail in the air.

    He grinned wickedly. “Thanks for the boost.”

    Another flash of electricity came from the Raichu, hitting Spark head on and bouncing into Cleo, Mischief and Harlequin.

    Cleo fell backwards against a tree. Pain shot through her nerves making her feel like someone had replaced her blood with liquid magma. She opened her eyes, but all she could see was dazzling spots. She blinked to try to see through them, but all she could make out amongst the chaos were four large shapes leaping around before her. A flash of purple was a clear indication Mischief was still standing. She struggled forwards, not daring to launch a blind attack into the fray. She rubbed a paw across her eyes, but it wasn't much use. There was just too much movement to focus on one figure at a time.

    The Vigoroth flashed before her eyes and she could just make out his wicked grin before the back of his paw struck her across the head. She didn't even remember hitting the ground.
  20. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    16 – Trapped​

    Harbinger had watched the fight intensely from his perch in the Glen. The ground here was uneven enough to get high up and look down at the outskirts of the Moorland's Forest. A particular rocky outcrop had served as a good seat with a good view of the events that had unfolded below.

    It had surprised him. From what he'd seen, Heretics tended to stay away from the Outcasts. Yes, they were enemies, but fights between them were a rare occurrence. What had particularly surprised him was that this group of Heretics had tracked those Pokemon through the forest for quite a while before they'd launched an attack. They'd done it so stealthily, the Meowstic and her friends had no idea they were even there.

    It had been planned.

    Harbinger narrowed his eyes. What were they up to?

    And why hadn't they spared the Zorua?

    He stood up and made his way back down towards the forest.

    “Where are you going?”

    He glanced back at Scratch and Claw. “To follow those Heretics.”

    “Why?” Asked Claw. “Do you plan to save those Pokemon?” The surprise at such a feat was thick in his voice.

    “No.” Harbinger continued his way down the steep slope. “I think they're up to something, and I want to know what it is.”


    Tinker had his arms crossed on the table, resting his head on them as he stared at the blanket resting a few inches away. It covered the make-shift nest he'd made, lined with a few of the feathers he'd gathered up from the old nest.

    The door opened behind him. “You still watchin' that thing?”

    “Oh, Skipper.” Tinker didn't look up. “Yes. But I'm not sure if this is going to be warm enough.”

    “Aye. I dinnae why ye wanna hatch an Altaria egg.” Skipper stood at his side and scratched his head. “Ye did make a few good points, I'll give ye that.”

    Tinker nodded as best he could from his position. “I got it beating again, but I still fear a blanket and a warm nest can't hold a candle to a mother.”

    “Candle.” Skipper snapped his claws. “Ye thought of that?”

    “It might set the blanket on fire. I can't risk it.”

    Skipper made a thoughtful 'hmm' and looked up at the ceiling. “Ye never thought of askin' another mother to warm it for ye? Sure Estelle would be happy to?”

    Tinker considered this for a moment, and not for the first time. Estelle was a Ninetails and already had two pups of her own. A fire Pokemon would certainly be a viable option, but there was only one problem.

    He looked up at Skipper. “I'd have to tell her what the egg is. And I doubt anyone here would see this the same way I do.”

    “Aye, ye right there. I think ye a little crazy, to be honest.” He looked down at the blanket-covered egg. “The way I see it, it could go one o' two ways. She either agrees with ye and does the favour, or she panics and the entirety of New City goes into an uproar.”

    “That's what I fear.”

    Tinker stared at the blanket, barely seeing it any more as his mind went elsewhere. All baby Pokemon hatch innocent, raised by their parents to adapt their parents' morals and behaviours. All Pokemon were alike, separated only by their typing. This little baby would hatch as a Swablu, believing the first Pokemon it saw was its mother or father. Eventually it would evolve into an Altaria, providing power on their side to face off against their foes. A strong Pokemon with their beliefs, their morals, wanting to destroy all the darkness that was consuming their world restoring it to a peaceful haven for all Pokemon. Having such an ally with the power to compete against their foes was a massive benefit to the Outcasts. But who was to say worldly influence wouldn't cause it to turn, deciding instead to be with other dragons and betraying the location of New City?

    Tinker sighed. “I'm taking a massive risk.”

    “Aye, that ye are.” Skipper folded his paws behind his back. “But I can see it from both sides. I aint gonna tell ye what t'do, Tinker.”

    The Riolu said nothing as he tried to wrap his brain around the situation.

    “But I am gonna tell ye one thing. The others here are gonna find out 'bout that egg either way. Cos when it hatches, ye can't keep it a secret. It's gotta leave ye office at some point.”

    Tinker grit his teeth. Skipper was right. He pushed himself up from the table and sighed.

    “I should call a meeting, but only the Guild Elites. We'll gauge their reaction then break it to the others gently.”


    Cleo opened her eyes. A bright, dazzling light caused them to snap shut again and she groaned, sitting up and rubbing her head. Everything hurt and her mouth felt like a desert.

    “Where am I?” She mumbled.

    “The clean place.”

    She squinted her eyes open, letting them adjust to the brightness. She knew that voice. It was Mischief. He came into view beside her, looking as rough and as beat up as she felt.

    “The clean place...” She mumbled, rubbing a paw over her eyes.

    It certainly did look clean. The walls were white and spotless, separated from them by strong iron bars. A dull drone of voices became clearer, replacing the throbbing she'd assumed was in her head. Two other figures lay beside her – Spark, who was motionless, and Harlequin who like her seemed to be trying to take all this in.

    Cleo let out a pained sigh and leant back against the cold wall. “It's a Heretic lab.”

    Mischief looked at her, blinking his large, orange eyes. “What's a lab?”

    “A laboratory,” Cleo answered. “I don't know why they have them. Experiments probably.”

    “This is where I'm from?” He looked around at the clean, white room. “Did I... did I work here?”

    Cleo snorted. “I think it's safer to believe you were on the same side of the bars as you're on now.”

    A grating noise reached her ears and she looked round at Harlequin. She looked like she was laughing, but it sounded more like a hoarse, stifled cough.

    The Zorua fixed them with one eye. “A test subject.” She pushed herself up with her forepaws so she was sitting somewhat uncomfortably.

    Cleo narrowed her eyes. “Do you know what they do here?”

    Harlequin closed her eyes and smirked. “We've heard of these labs, but what they do here is kept secret.”

    “So you've no idea.”

    “Haven't the foggiest.”

    Cleo folded her paws in her lap and stared out at the blank wall. She had an idea. It was likely to do with that strain of Pokerus they'd discovered, the one that afflicted Mischief. But they hadn't found out why the Heretics were using it, if they even were. She had a feeling they were going to find out, and the answer wouldn't be leaving these walls.

    They were trapped.


    Cleo looked down at Spark. She was beginning to stir and waved a paw up in the air in dismissal.

    “No more dancing...”

    Cleo turned her attention back to Mischief. “How much of that battle do you remember?”

    Mischief opened his mouth to reply but was cut off.

    “Oh! I doubt he remembers very much of it.”

    Their eyes snapped to the white wall. Windowless double-doors swung open, revealing a Pokemon that caused Cleo to let out an alarmed gasp.

    A male Meowstic smiled at them as he strolled over to their cell.

    “I think you're probably aware,” he said, “that this Whimsicott suffers from some level of memory loss.”

    Mischief's eyes widened. “You have my memories?”

    The Meowstic snorted laughter. “Oh no, of course I don't have them. They were removed, but... you don't remember that.” He smirked. “Pity.” He turned his attention to Cleo. “You seem surprised, at a loss for words. What's the problem?”

    “I... thought...” Cleo shook her head slowly. “I thought all Meowstic were wiped out.”

    He gave her a half smile. “Well, including yourself, there are two in this room. So I guess you were wrong.” He turned his attention to the other two Pokemon.

    “But the fire,” Cleo stuttered. “Hundreds died. I only escaped by chance. I wasn't there when they attacked. How did you-”

    “I ran.” He gave her a glance. “I have legs, I used them. Simple as that. Now.” He turned his attention to the Zorua. “This is an interesting development. I tried to separate you, but you seem to be attached to your female friend here.” He nodded to Cleo. “I imagine that's not by choice?”

    Harlequin growled. “Not remotely.”

    “Well... you can explain it to Enigma when he gets here.”

    The Zorua's blue eyes widened, but not out of surprise. Regardless, she didn't say anything.

    “As for you.” The Meowstic turned back to Mischief. “I'd like to know how you lost our tracking device.”

    Cleo narrowed her eyes. “We destroyed it.”

    “Oh?” His attention turned back to her. “So you found it?”

    “A what?” Mischief looked at Cleo. “A tracking device?”

    “Yes.” Cleo said flatly. “You were being tracked.”

    “What for?”

    The Meowstic crooned at Cleo. “How much do you know?”

    Cleo said nothing, but she could feel all other eyes in the cage on her.

    “Cleo doesn't know anything,” said Mischief. “If she did, she'd have told me.”

    “Wrong.” Cleo leant her head back against the wall. “We already knew you were a Heretic.”

    The other Meowstic chuckled. “So you found the mark on his shoulder, as well as the tracking device.”

    Mischief looked aghast. “I'm a Heretic?!”

    The male Meowstic examined his claws. “Mm-hmm. Born and raised. Quite a valued member of our program actually.”

    Cleo narrowed her eyes at the other Meowstic. “You mean your wicked Pokerus program?”

    His eyes widened and he looked at her in alarm. “You know about that?”

    “Yes. You've been doing trades with the Shadow Lands. We looted it off some Weavile and had it examined.”

    “That's quite a speculation you have there.” He chuckled. “We've not been trading with the Shadow Lands, we've been trading with outlaws.”


    “Yes. Outlaws.” He looked back down at his claws then turned his back on them. “Well, I'd best go and prepare for our guest. I'll see you all again soon.” He strutted across the room and vanished behind the immaculate doors.

    The cell was silent. Even the other Pokemon around them had gone quiet in the chaos. A few of them started to talk again in hushed tones. The increased tension in the air fell on Cleo, thick and heavy.

    Another Meowstic.

    So she wasn't alone after all.

    She put her head in her paws and groaned. Another of her kind and he wasn't even on their side.

    “So you knew all along?” Mischief asked. “You knew all along and didn't tell me?”

    Cleo lifted her head and leant back against the cell wall. “I wasn't sure how you'd take it.”

    “Is there anything else you're not telling me?” His voice was bitter.

    Cleo flinched. “You also have Pokerus.” She paused. When he didn't respond, she continued. “It's a different strain that sends you mad.”

    “I'm not mad!”

    “You know all those battles you have no memory of?” She caught his eye. “There's a reason for that. We believe this is why.” She sighed. “Pokerus used to be a beneficial virus, but it's been mutated into something that turns whoever has it into a...” She paused, trying to find the right word to use without causing offence.

    “A monster?” Harlequin offered.

    Cleo shot her a glare. “Way to be gentle about it.”

    Mischief looked distraught. “I'm a monster?”

    “No!” Cleo turned to him. “I don't know what their plan is here, but whatever you were going to be used for isn't happening now. Not if we can help it.”

    Mischief seemed to pale. “Was it me?”

    “Was what you?”

    “Was it me who killed the Noivern?”

    Cleo sighed. “Yes.”

    He covered his face with his paws and let out a low whine.

    “That's how we found out you can take down a dragon,” Cleo explained.

    “There's a lot you've not told me,” he whimpered. “Why? Don't you trust me?”

    “I find it hard to trust anyone,” Cleo explained. “But you're becoming a valuable friend.”

    Harlequin cut past them and examined the door to their cell. “A friend wouldn't lie.”

    Cleo snapped at her. “You're not helping!”

    “I wasn't trying to.” The Zorua wrapped her teeth around the lock and gave it a tug.

    “I didn't lie,” Cleo explained to Mischief. “You had a lot to deal with, learning about this world from scratch. If we'd told you all this, what would you have done? How would you have reacted?”

    Mischief stared down at his paws, silent.

    “I have to admit,” Cleo went on, “I was worried you might try to rejoin the Heretics.”

    “Why would I do that?”

    “Because it's where you come from.”

    “You let me follow you when I was lost. You gave me a friend. Why would I just throw that away?” He turned his head to look at her. “I'm not your enemy.”

    Cleo nodded. “I know.”

    Harlequin turned to look at them. “I hate to disturb this cushy moment, but you appear to be unaware that our belongings have been taken.”

    Cleo looked down at herself, noticing for the first time her bag was gone. She grit her teeth and groaned.

    “The bad news is, I have picks in my bag.” Harlequin fixed her with one blue eye. “I could have us out of here in no time flat.”

    Cleo raised an eyebrow at her. “Us?”

    Harlequin frowned. “I don't have much choice do I? Since we're attached!”

    “Why do you want to get out of here? Isn't this Enigma a friend of yours?”

    “Under normal circumstances, yes. But I'm not too happy for him to find out I've failed my mission and not just been captured by Outcasts, but Heretics as well!” She span to face the door and threw herself at the lock, attacking it with her claws.

    A disgruntled groan came from Cleo's side. Spark sat up and rubbed her head, yawning widely.

    “Can't a girl get any sleep around here?” She looked around at the cell. “Wait... this isn't my bed.”

    “Hey!” Harlequin looked round at her. “Stick your whiskers in this lock and see if you can bust it open!”

    Spark crossed her arms. “Not with that attitude.”

    Cleo ran a paw down her face. “Spark, forget formalities. Just give it a try.”

    Spark mumbled something under her breath and stood up, hopping over to the lock. She stared up at it then up at Harlequin.

    “Too high.”

    Harlequin bared her canines at the Dedenne. Before she could retort, Cleo stood and picked up Spark high enough for her to latch onto the lock.

    “Give it a try,” She said.

    Spark turned her head and jammed one of her whiskers inside the keyhole. She gave off a small electric jolt. Harlequin and Cleo stood a safe distance from the bars, bracing themselves for static to fly across them. None came.

    Spark looked up at them. “Nothing's happening.”

    Harlequin wailed and stormed to the other side of the cell. “None-conductive! Great!”

    Spark hopped down off the lock and looked from Harlequin, to Mischief then to Cleo. “Harlequin's riled, Mischief looks glum... I might need filling in here.”

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