The Door to Hell
Serenity Village Outskirts
The Door to Hell
Serenity Village Outskirts
The Villa stood on its island of evil, pointing up out of the ground like a pillar of death. Espurr ran down the pathway, sliding to a stop right outside the entrance to the bridge. She saw that the previously sealed doors now lay wide open.
Something had changed. And she was right.
"We have to go… in there?" Tricky squeaked in fear, looking at the house.
"This is where it went," Espurr said, slowly but firmly. "If we want to rescue Vice Principal Watchog, then we have to go in."
She stepped onto the bridge, which creaked under her, then looked back at the rest of the children. They all had doubtful (and fearful) looks on their faces, but there were no objections. Espurr took another step, then hurried across the bridge, making sure to avoid all the rotting spots.
The island was muddy, as always. Espurr trudged across it without complaint, even though the mud felt gross stuck to her fur. As she approached the Barrow, she caught wind of a familiar scent – one that had often danced around her nose, and was never more pleasant to smell no matter how many times she smelled it – this was the scent of a mystery dungeon. And this one was strong.
Espurr stepped onto the Barrow's porch, then looked back at the rest of the children who had just crossed over the bridge and were now uncomfortably trudging through the mud. She shouldered her bag.
"It's a mystery dungeon," she said. "Heads up."
"Are you sure about this?" Pancham asked, looking up at her warily.
"Positive." Espurr nodded.
"T-the place smells evil," Goomy said in fear.
"All mystery dungeons smell like that," Tricky added in a hushed voice.
"Are we going or not?" Shelmet asked, perhaps the only one of them that wasn't frightened out of his wits.
"Yeah," Pancham said, rolling his shoulders and stretching his slingshot. "Let's do this."
"All at once, then," Espurr said, turning towards the entrance. "Otherwise we'll get lost."
Soon they were all gathered on the porch, standing in a row.
"On three," Deerling said, unable to keep the waver out of her voice. "One… Two…" Espurr could feel Pancham trembling.
They all stepped in through the doors at once, and slowly, the mystery dungeon closed up behind them.
The Ancient Barrow
The Ancient Barrow
Just like all the mystery dungeons she had entered, Espurr felt all drafts dissipate upon entry. This dungeon was windless like all the others, but evil reverberated in the air.
"What is this place…" Tricky muttered.
The halls were narrow and cramped, and sticky black goo covered them from top to bottom. The floors were swamp water, and the roof extended into inescapable blackness up above. It wasn't an earthly place. And yet, there was nothing to do but press onwards. And so, without a word exchanged between them, the six of them silently continued through the halls.
The dungeon was devoid of any ferals; Espurr, Tricky, and the rest of them were left well alone. But there was no sign of Watchog either.
"How long is this dungeon?" Deerling asked after a while. "You'd think we'd be on the third floor by now."
But they hadn't even crossed the first stairway yet. They'd gone a while without seeing anything but gooey black walls and trudging through nasty swamp water, and still there was no hint of the stairs. The areas were getting more and more mazelike as they continued, and they'd gone down several dead ends at this point. Espurr was beginning to get doubtful they'd make it out before dawn. And that wasn't good.
It was after the fifth dead-end that something changed. It had just been for a second, but Espurr, Goomy, and also everymon else had caught the shape of something quietly slinking around the corridor ahead.
"W-what w-w-was t-that?" Goomy asked, terrified. Espurr quietly shushed everymon. Slowly, they continued down the corridor, heading for the corner. Espurr carefully peeked around the edge, but she saw nothing.
"There's nothing there," she whispered to the rest of them. "It must have been a trick of the light."
No-mon looked particularly convinced, but it was the least scary option, so everymon went with that for the time being.
Espurr lead them further down the hallways, in search of the stairs. The lack of anything around unnerved her quite a bit. Why was there nothing here?
The only warning they had was a distant whoosh from up ahead. But that was enough for Espurr.
Tricky's ears twitched. "Everymon duck!" she yelled, and they all ducked just in time to avoid the sight of a large, shadowy ball flying directly over their heads. It flew straight past them and exploded distantly at the other end of the corridor.
Just like that, the monster was already in front of them. Espurr wasn't having it. She unleashed her raw mental power upon it and blew it back across the corridor. She was sure a fair few 'mon screamed around that point.
"Run the other way!" Tricky yelled, and everymon made to do that—
"Wait!" Espurr yelled. "Don't!"
"What do you mean 'don't'?" Deerling yelled, stopping for one brief moment.
Espurr quickly checked to make sure the monster was still down.
"I have a plan," she quickly stated. "The monster's fast, but it can't be in two places at once. If we split up into groups, it'll have to choose. And then we attack it."
"Great. You can be a group," Deerling said. "I'm going the other way."
And with that she galloped off, following the rest of them. Espurr was left all alone in the corridor. She steeled herself, even though it was taking every ounce of her bravery to remain in place.
"Hey! I found the stairs! Everymon this way!" Shelmet's voice echoed across the corridor and caught Espurr's ears. She looked at the creature, which was silently pulling itself up from the ground. She watched in horror as it stepped towards the wall, and slowly began to absorb itself into it.
That was the last straw; Espurr turned around and ran for her life.
The monster was fast. A pair of clawed arms suddenly shot out of the wall goo to grab Espurr—
Espurr rolled to the ground, barely avoiding being scooped up by them. The clawed hands receded back into the wall.
"Where's Espurr?" Tricky's voice echoed through the hallway from up ahead. Espurr pulled herself out of the swamp, choking and sputtering from all the swamp water she had gotten in her mouth. They were up ahead! She just needed to…
The monster was behind her. Then in front of her. Then it grabbed her and lifted her up into the air. Espurr tried to repel the creature with her mind once more, but she felt a headache coming on just from trying to start.
"Help!" she rasped, fighting against the monster as it pushed her towards its belly. A gaping hole opened up within the creature itself, and inside there was nothing but blackness, and Espurr was being forced towards it. She tried to push and escape, but the monster was just too strong this was the end wasn't it she should have listened to Deerling and told somemon—
Fire arched through the hallway and slammed against the creature's back. It let out a loud, droning screech, dropping Espurr back down into the water as it writhed in pain. Espurr wasted no time getting to her feet and running around the creature before it could recover, closing the gap between herself and the rest of them.
Tricky had darted out of a small, left-hand passage just after where they had first caught sight of the monster. No wonder they hadn't seen it. Espurr glanced back at the monster as she ran. The shrieking had stopped, but it wasn't coming after her. She caught the last of it slowly absorbing itself into the goo on the wall. The monster's black slime still covered Espurr's fur where it had grabbed her. Was this where all that goo was from? She felt suddenly and oddly drowsy.
Espurr slid to a stop, then splashed through the water and into the dead end. Everymon else stood by the stairs, glancing at her worriedly. Espurr took a moment to catch her breath (She hadn't run that fast since she had woken up in the School Forest three weeks ago), then quickly got to the stairs as fast as possible. They led downwards, but the bottom was enveloped completely by darkness.
"All together," Espurr panted, holding out her arms for the others to grab.
A gurgling noise suddenly erupted from right behind them. Everymon turned around to see that a black, gooey arm had erupted from the wall, and the rest of the monster was quickly following.
"GO!" Deerling yelled, and everymon dashed for the stairway. The monster hissed, and Espurr heard several 'mon scream. Loudly. The monster lunged—
—But it was too late. Deerling hit the stairway first, followed by Pancham and Shelmet, then Tricky. Goomy barely avoided the monster's lunge, but he was too slow and wasn't going to make it! The stairs were already closing up by the time that Espurr reached the stairway. She quickly grabbed ahold of Goomy, but the stairs separated them just before the monster lunged again and they closed up.
Everything immediately went black.
Goomy slowly opened his eyes, and his body solidified back into its usual shape once more. Everything was quiet, and so was he. Slowly, he looked around, trying to figure out where he was. Everything around him was…
…Grassy and green. Goomy looked down at the roots he was currently on top of. This looked like…
…This was the School Forest.
Goomy slowly slimed backwards in fear. But it couldn't be the School Forest. They had just been in the Ancient Barrow!
He looked around once more, taking in the gnarled root walls of the dungeon that were still sealing over. Sure enough, it was the same dungeon. But how had he gotten here? Had the Barrow somehow transported him here?
But there was no time to worry about that. It this was the School Forest, then soon there would be dungeon 'mon. And Goomy knew he wasn't fast enough to avoid them. He had to get somewhere safe!
Goomy slimed down the hallway as fast as he could. Could he look for the stairs? He glanced at each of the walls from left to right, but they were perfectly smooth (or as smooth as roots could be). There was nowhere to hide. So after looking behind him to make sure that he wasn't being tailed by anything, Goomy continued into the next hallway.
The hallway led into split corridors that branched off in opposite directions. Goomy went down the right-hand one without question. Only then did he realize that he had not looked the other way before entering like he should have. A loud roar suddenly erupted behind Goomy, ricocheting down the hallway and battering him as it passed. It smelled of something rancid, even worse than Tricky's breath!
And the worst part was when Goomy turned around, he saw the fog. It crept down the hallway towards him, its tendrils reaching out almost as if grabbing out for him. Goomy didn't waste any more time gawking at it. He immediately began to slime down the hallway as fast as he could in the other direction.
Goomy was going as fast as he could, but the fog was faster. And even at Goomy's top speeds he couldn't outrun it. He frantically glanced around for a place to hide; a chance to get away, and then all of the sudden he saw it: the entrance to another corridor, not that far off! It was perfect! Filled with re-invigorated hope, Goomy quickly changed his course.
Goomy slimed around the corridor, evading the fog at the last minute. He watched as its tendrils spread out like a living being, feeling the ground and roots of the hallway around it before moving on. It did not spread into the hallway Goomy was in at all. Goomy stared at in in confusion. Fog wasn't supposed to work like that…
Another – softer – gust spread through the hallway, invading Goomy's nose with that rancid smell again. He quickly looked around, then behind him. He saw more of the fog, engulfing the corridor behind him as well. And this time, there was no way out.
Another loud roar suddenly emerged from the fog. Goomy looked back to the previous corridor. That roar had come from inside the fog. There was something in there! Maybe it was a large feral. Maybe it was the mystery dungeon. Maybe it was the Dungeon Wraith… just its name was already sending chills down Goomy's spine. He really hoped it wasn't that.
Goomy decided to focus on the situation at hand. He wasn't going back to that corridor. Not after what he had heard. But soon he would be enveloped by the fog anyway, so…
Goomy took a deep breath and steadied himself. Then he bravely slimed into the encroaching fog.
Deerling slowly pulled herself to her feet amongst the swamp. All she saw were the cramped halls of the Barrow, but she was alone. She looked all around, trying to catch a glimpse of anymon, but no-mon was there. She was all alone.
"Guys?" Deerling called out. "Can anymon hear me?"
Deerling got no answer. She clip-clopped further from where she was standing, looking around in vain. "Is anymon out there?!"
There was no answer.
Deerling suddenly heard the sound of somemon sniffling behind her. She turned around, and noticed Tricky all curled up in a pile. Tricky was far from Deerling's favorite person, but right now she was happy to see anymon. She quickly galloped up to Tricky, slowing down once she reached her. Only then did she notice that Tricky was crying. Deering sat down next to her.
"Are you… okay?" she asked. Just a week and a half ago she would never had dreamed of asking Tricky that. Just the words felt weird on her tongue.
Tricky didn't answer with anything coherent. She just let out something that sounded in between a sob and a snort, and continued to silently bury her face in her tail. Deerling just adjusted her position to become more comfortable.
"Well… talk to me when you're ready."
Tricky wasn't ready for a while. When she finally did speak, it was through a cracked and hoarse voice: "We lost him."
"…What? What does that mean?" Deerling asked, confused.
"We lost him," Tricky said louder. "Goomy."
"…What are you talking about?" Deerling asked, narrowing her eyes.
"He's gone," Tricky whined. "The Barrow separated all of us. It put us on different floors. There was fog on Goomy's. He walked in, and… by the time we got to him, he…"
Tricky broke down into sobs after that, burying her face into her tail once more.
"It happened again," she moaned. "I lost another friend…"
Deerling stood up in the swamp, suddenly feeling woozy. No. This wasn't happening. Goomy wasn't dead. Not him. Not him too. It all had to be some sort of trick, right?
But the facts didn't lie. There was Tricky, right in front of her, and Goomy was nowhere to be found. And it was all because of…
Deerling ground her hooves into the mud under the swamp.
"Tricky," she said firmly. "Where are the others?"
"I… I don't know," Tricky sniffled. "I couldn't find them."
"Well, we need to," said Deerling. She took a few deep breaths before answering again: "We can't let anymon else get killed."
It was a minute, but Tricky slowly lifted herself off the ground to face Deerling. She drooped everywhere in sadness, but followed Deerling regardless.
Deerling could barely contain her anger as she walked. Her grief. Her hate. Her pure, unfiltered hate. Hate for that one pokemon who had been responsible for Goomy's death. Hate for the one pokemon who had gotten them all into this mess.
Hate for Espurr.
Pancham slowly picked himself up off the ground. He looked around, but couldn't find his slingshot. Somehow he was back in the Village Square in broad daylight, but everymon was passing around him without even noticing. Pancham was confused.
"Hey," he said to a passing swadloon. "The swadloon tromped off dully, not even paying him a glance. Pancham tilted his head. Okay. Well, swadloon were dewott-downers. Maybe somemon else. Instead he set his sights on a mudkip instead.
"Oy," he said, attempting to get the mudkip's attention. The mudkip didn't notice him either. Pancham was left with his jaw hanging open. He couldn't believe this! Why was this happening to him? And why was he here in the first place? Wasn't he supposed to be—
Pancham was suddenly kicked to the side by a passing ursaring, who also didn't notice him. He was now beginning to get scared. He dashed from villager to villager, attempting to get some sort of reaction, but none did. None even noticed he was there. Pancham was actively freaking out now. He was a ghost!
"Hey! Anymon? Is anymon out there? Somemon answer me!"
Pancham turned at the sound of somemon yelling through the crowd. That was… Shelmet's voice. Shelmet was here too! That was just what he needed. Pancham began to charge towards the voice, pushing aside villagers who paid him no mind at all.
He found Shelmet in the area outside Hawlucha's Slam School, which for some reason was actually getting business. (But Pancham didn't care about that right now.)
"Shelmet!" he cried, waving his arm. "I'm over here!"
There was no answer. Shelmet continued to mill around, looking for somemon who would hear his cries.
"It's- it's me!" Pancham cried. "Your friend Pancham! Answer me!"
Shelmet didn't even hear him.
"Answer me…" Pancham pleaded, on the verge of tears.
"He can't hear you.'
"Augh!" Pancham spun around, coming face to face with Espurr. She was missing her scarf and her bag, but stared at him with the same emotionless stare she gave everymon else. He took the time to calm down for a minute before speaking.
'What do you mean?" he asked once his jitters had faded enough for him to properly form words.
"He can't hear you. No-mon can. I've tried talking to all of them," Espurr said. "It's a miracle we can even speak to each other."
Pancham spent a minute trying to wrap his head around that. It lined up with what he had seen, sure, but still...
"How did we get here?" he asked, asking the question he should have asked a while back.
"I don't know," Espurr replied. "Something about the stairs… We didn't all enter at the same time. That must have blown us all to different floors of the dungeon. I imagine this is a lower floor. And these…" Espurr nonchalantly tripped a passing pikachu, which fell face-first in to the ground, then picked itself up and continued walking like nothing had happened. "These aren't real either. They're just tricks."
But… Pancham looked at Shelmet, who was still looking around helplessly. "What about Shelmet?"
"He's a trick too," Espurr said firmly. She grabbed his paw. "We have to find our way out of here so we can find the others. Like the real Shelmet."
"Agh! Auggh!" Shelmet cried, falling on his side. "They're all over me! They're- They're- Somemon help me!"
Pancham was torn, but he couldn't take his eyes off Shelmet. Espurr tugged him by the arm.
"We're on a clock," she said. "You know what happens when pokemon stay in mystery dungeons too long." She tugged on Pancham, and slowly – reluctantly – Pancham let himself get pulled away.
"No- Stop! Help me!" Pancham heard Shelmet cry one last time before Espurr briskly led him into the Café Connection.
The inside of the Café Connection looked like a mirage. Everything after the entrance doors looked like it was trapped behind a wall of distant haze, and even as Pancham bumped up against one of the counter seats as Espurr pulled him along, it didn't feel real. He never saw this many pokemon go in and out of the café anyway. All the patrons were scooping picturesque food out of the table and into thin air, and though their mouths opened to speak, Pancham heard nothing.
Espurr walked around the counter, where Kangaskhan was robotically arranging dishes and seashells in intricate patterns on the countertop, then pulled Pancham into the kitchens.
Pancham had never known what the chef looked like, and he didn't even see a chef in the kitchen. In fact, he didn't even see half the kitchen. It tapered off into nothingness halfway through the room, seeping into the blackness like tendrils of reality reaching out into nothingness. And beyond its barriers, Pancham could see nothing. Espurr pulled him towards it anyway.
"Where are we going?" Pancham asked, a bit agitated now. He tried to separate his paw from Espurr's, but her grip was too strong for him to pull out of.
"Beyond," Espurr answered.
She pulled him into the blackness, and slowly they walked on. Pancham couldn't see what was under him, but it was completely smooth. Espurr pulled him along like he was just a stray feather floating in the wind, and soon he could barely see the Café Connection behind him.
It was about five minutes of walking before Espurr said something.
"Look," she said flatly. "The stairs."
Sure enough, there were the stairs, right ahead of them. Espurr dragged him over to them, then stopped. Pancham couldn't see the bottom.
"You first." Espurr pushed him forward to the foot of the stairs.
Pancham looked back. "Aren't we all supposed to go at the same time?"
"Maybe that doesn't apply here," Espurr answered cryptically.
"Wasn't that what got us into this mess in the first place?" Pancham asked.
Espurr pushed him.
Pancham had no time to react. He fell down the stairs, rolling and tumbling down to the bottom—
And he kept tumbling. Down, down and further, until he landed on the cold, hard stone ground that lay at the bottom of the stairs. Pancham picked himself up, coughing. He looked around. He was in a prison cell. It was a perfect box made completely of cobbled stone, and the only openings were for two sets of stairs. Pancham looked at the one that lay further downward. What that led to, he didn't know. And he was loath to find out. A more dangerous dungeon? Something worse? Nothing at all? The decision wasn't hard to make. Pancham turned around, and headed all the way back up.
The stairs kept stretching onwards, and Pancham felt like he'd been climbing for a while. He was even beginning to get a bit tuckered out.
"Espurr?" he called out, his voice echoing up the stairs. "Shelmet!? Anymon?"
No-mon answered his calls, except for his own echoes that reverberated through a chamber ahead. Filled with new hope, Pancham continued to climb. Soon he emerged into a room, the same room that he had been trying to escape from in the first place. Pancham blanched. No, That didn't make sense. Stairways didn't work like that. Maybe if he... Pancham ran over to the other entrance, gazing up at the same staircase that he had just climbed. They were both the same. He was trapped in here!
Pancham returned to the center of the room. He began to pace uneasily, his arms shaking n fear. Oh, how he wished he'd just stayed home…
'Espurr' didn't see the point in being Espurr much longer. It shed its false form, and the distance visage of the village square crumbled to nothingness behind it. It could hear the cries of that pancham's friend as he succumbed to his own fears, but that had never been very important, because he had never been very important. He was insignificant, just like all the rest of them were. The mystery dungeon had spread them out far and wide, but It would find them all soon. And once It had them all in one place, It would end them. Just like Its creator wished It to.
It saw the stairs – the real stairs – just up ahead. It didn't have a mouth to grin with, so instead it just marched towards them and descended. It felt the stairs warp into nothingness behind it, and a new scent invaded its being: There was another on this floor.
So be it.
Tricky coughed herself awake, slowly pulling herself to her paws amongst all the swamp water and marsh. What had happened? The last thing she remembered was going down the stairs, and then… A sudden wave of dizziness hit her, causing her to stumble back a bit in the mud. And only then, after the dizziness had left her, did Tricky fully realize where she was.
The gnarled trees hung over her claustrophobically, vines hanging down from their branches like nooses. And the marsh was nearly up to her belly. Tricky looked around in fear. This couldn't be possible. That place was gone. She had seen it collapse, right in front of her. So how was she here now? Was this where mystery dungeons went after they died?
But if there was anything Tricky knew, it was that a place like Poliwrath River was never a safe place to stand still in. She removed one of her forelegs from the mud with a loud squelch, then slowly pressed onwards through the muck. It was just like all the other dungeons. Find the stairs, find your friends, get out alive. Find the stairs, find your friends, get out alive. Find the stairs, find your friends, get out alive. Tricky repeated those three sentences over and over in her head as she marched through the swamp.
Tingles suddenly ran up and down her spine, and she saw hints of flickering lights that blinked through the trees. Red, yellow, and green – sometimes in that order, sometimes not – and they moved. Tricky caught the outlines of something sneaking through the treeline and up ahead. Tricky shivered. Those weren't what she thought they were… right?
But they weren't heading towards her. They were heading towards something in the distance, and they went much faster than Tricky could ever manage slogging through this marsh. Before long she couldn't even see the lights anymore, and she was left all alone to handle the horrors of Poliwrath River by herself.
Silence greeted her ears as she travelled. The marsh was sticky and pulled her paws back into itself with every step she took, and aside from the occasional splash in the distance there wasn't a sound to be heard. Tricky could barely even see anything as she walked.
Until she suddenly could. Between the trees ahead of her, something glowed. Slowly it floated out from behind the trees, and Tricky could almost see it clearly—
And then it was snuffed out, just like that.
A voice called out distantly in the woods. Tricky recognized it; a voice she hadn't heard for almost a year.
"Budew?!" Tricky cried out hopefully. If this was where mystery dungeons went to die, then… maybe pokemon who died in mystery dungeons came here!
The sound of Budew's pleas were more distant this time, as if he were being dragged further and further away by something. Tricky began to slog through the marsh once more with renewed vigor. She could catch up!
But soon, Tricky was faced with the situation she had secretly been dreading all along: the marsh had gotten too deep. Tricky – whose belly was half-submerged at this point – was loath to go any further on foot, and both paths around the marsh were blocked by the gnarled tree trunks of dying trees. Tricky's ears lowered. How was she going to find Budew now?
And just like that, she could see again.
A single lilypad floated in the middle of the lake, a mysterious air surrounding it. It illuminated everything around it with an ethereal glow, and the light quickly caught Tricky's eyes. She watched as slowly; it began to drift towards her as if guided by an unearthly force. Soon it was at the very bank of the lake, and it stopped right in front of Tricky. The glow was almost hurting Tricky's eyes at this point. Her heart leapt in joy – Budew was trying to help her! But she didn't want to go on the river… but there was no other way. Out of options, Tricky hesitantly stepped on the pad, laid down, and began to paddle with one of her paws.
The lilypad floated back out onto the lake with Tricky on top of it. Despite all her efforts to make the paddling go faster it went stressfully slow. Tricky could barely see the other end of the lake, and in a place like Poliwrath River that was too scary. She attempted in vain to make the lilypad go faster.
It wasn't long before she began to notice ripples in the water ahead of her, like something coasting just under the water's surface. Tricky barely caught the movement over the lilypad's glow, but it was there and she saw it. She watched it coast out further into the lake with bated breath, hoping that it wouldn't notice her floating along. The water quieted down a moment after, and then Tricky saw fit to continue paddling.
The lilypad had continued floating by in the absence of her paddling, but now it seemed that no matter how much or how hard she paddled it was slowly coming to a stop. And soon it came to a standstill in the middle of the lake. Tricky looked down at it in fear. This was bad. She was as far out from either side of the lake as she could get! And this stupid lilypad—
There. She caught it again. Something rippled through the water in the dark distance, coasting right through. And it was heading right for her lilypad. Tricky watched it with horror. This was the end wasn't it…
As it approached the ripples disappeared, and for a split second, Tricky wondered if it had lost interest and was leaving. Then the bottom of her glowing lilypad suddenly tore open, and a mottled blue hand shot out and pulled Tricky into the water.
Underwater she couldn't breathe. Tricky had just enough time to take a breath before she went under, and then she was in the grasp of a skeletal poliwrath. The glow of the lilypad illuminated it from above, and she saw that half its skin was missing; seared off by flame. Tricky just stopped herself from screaming underwater and releasing all her air, but did her best to get away anyway. The poliwrath wouldn't let her go. It grabbed her and began to pull her apart. Tricky felt it she felt all the pain and it was horrible. She couldn't stop herself from screaming, and she released all her air.
But it wasn't water that flowed into her mouth. Air didn't flow in either and Tricky felt like she was suffocating, but she knew what water felt like in her mouth and there wasn't any. And even through all the pain she was experiencing, that one thought stayed in Tricky's mind: No water…
She took a breath, and air flowed in. And even though all her other senses were telling her that was underwater and she couldn't breathe, she was breathing. And if she could breathe she could—
Tricky snapped her head forward, took a deep breath of air underwater, and then blasted the poliwrath in the face with fire. It dropped her, and Tricky fell to the bottom of the lake like a deadweight. The poliwrath screeched loudly as it covered its face in pain, and all around her Tricky saw the Poliwrath River begin to crumble away.
The trees dissolved upwards, taking the vines with them Tricky couldn't see the lilypads or the mud of the marsh anymore, and within minutes even the lake itself had become nothingness. The poliwrath had disappeared long ago. And all that was left was blackness. Blackness all around, and Tricky was once more alone. And then, the blackness began to take shape…
—Tricky violently snapped awake. She saw the narrow, goo-covered hallways once more, and Tricky realized she was laying against one. Half her face was covered in the goo! She sat up like a shot, quickly trying her best to rub it off her in disgust. Gross!
It was about a minute before full clarity returned to Tricky again. It must have all been a trick! But if it was a trick, then… Budew… Tricky's ears lowered ever-so-slightly. What a mean thing to do.
A sudden glow caught her eyes. At the end of the hallway, that same ghostly glow that the lilypad had shone from around the corner. Tricky glanced at it, first in confusion and then in hope. Maybe, just maybe…
She got up and followed.
Pancham had been stuck underground for a while. Actually, was this underground? The answer eluded Pancham, but it didn't matter – he was trapped nonetheless. There had to be some way out – he'd gotten in, after all – but no matter how many times he had rushed up or down the two stairways that led in and out of the room, they all led back to the same stone chamber that Pancham had been stuck in forever. He had tried everything: he'd searched for secret passages, went back up and down the stairs in patterns, and even tried pleading with the stairs at one point (that one was something he would never tell Shelmet, no matter what). Nothing had worked. Somehow, he had been thrown in here, and there was no way out.
He'd taken to just leaning against a wall, staring at nothing in particular. This was his nightmare come to life, being trapped all alone with no-mon to talk to forever! But right now all he felt was boredom. A lack of anything to do that cut through his fear and turned it into indifference.
Maybe it was just the way that the dim light in the cavern reflected off the stone walls, but Pancham could have sworn that the cavern was slowly getting smaller – no, it was definitely getting smaller. The amount of wall between the stairway and the roof had decreased by quite a bit. Pancham sat up quickly. That put him on a clock. He didn't know whether to be terrified by the fact that the room was shrinking or invigorated that he finally had something to do now. It was then that he noticed the room was a bit lighter than it had been before. Light! And light had to come from somewhere…
Pancham spotted a crack in the ceiling, one that was slowly opening up as the room got smaller. But it was too high and too small; Pancham would never fit through that!
Pancham took a few deep breaths in fear. What was… what was he going to do?
The room got smaller and smaller, and the crack didn't get any larger. And there was nothing that Pancham could do but watch as the roof slowly descended upon his head. He shut his eyes and hit the ground as the roof became too low for him to stand. No this wasn't real this wasn't real this wasn't real it wasn't it couldn't be it was all a dream—
The room collapsed into nothingness. Slowly, Pancham looked up. He glanced around in confusion. All he saw was blackness. Why wasn't he dead?
The room was gone entirely, and in its place were the cramped halls of the Ancient Barrow once more. Pancham picked himself up, brushing a copious amount of black goo from his arm and the right side of his face as he did. He slowly stood up, marveling at the fact that he was still alive. Had it all been a trick?
He glanced over. On the other side of the hallway, Shelmet lay against the wall, fast asleep. He was writhing in apparent pain, murmuring unintelligible gibberish to himself. Pancham wasted no time. He crawled through the swamp over to Shelmet, shaking his shell violently.
"Shelmet! Wake up!" he yelled, his cry echoing through the dungeon's halls. Shelmet stirred once more, and then his eyes opened.
"…Pancham?" Shelmet asked wearily. Pancham wrapped him up in a large bear hug.
"Ugh… save it," Shelmet struggled to say through Pancham's . "We don't even know where we are yet…"
"There you guys are!"
Pancham quickly looked behind his shoulder, noticing Deerling and Tricky running up behind him. Shelmet took the opportunity to squirm out of Pancham's arms while he was distracted.
Pancham quickly got up, just noticing that he had gotten his legs completely covered in swamp water. He grimaced.
Deerling silently counted them.
"That's four of us," she muttered. "Where's Espurr?"
"She pushed me down the stairs," Pancham said, standing up once again.
"...Wha?" Shelmet asked, still trying to regain his bearings.
"Somehow, that doesn't surprise me," Deerling said, and then she marched past Pancham. Pancham quickly ran to catch up.
"Wait! Shouldn't we be focusing on getting out of here? I've seen a lot of weird stuff!"
"We've all seen weird stuff today," Deerling said, and then she gave Pancham the cold shoulder. Pancham stopped walking with her, allowing her to continue on. Tricky gave him an oddly smug look as she passed him.
A few splashes from behind Pancham, and Shelmet quickly hopped up.
"Did you think something was off about that?" he asked. Pancham nodded.
The fog closed around Goomy, and then he was lost in endless blankets of white mist. Unsure of what to do, he continued to slime through it in a straight line, keeping an eye out for anything he could see in the fog.
The mist was thick and invasive, and it was impossible to see anything until Goomy was almost close enough to touch it. He had almost slimed into a wall more than once. But what he heard in the mist was more unnerving by far. Every so often in the distance Goomy would catch wind of a growl or a screech, and he'd course correct to avoid it. But they only got closer, no matter which direction he slimed in. Goomy had taken to the walls, checking for places to hide as he continued. But there was nowhere to hide. No holes were large enough for him to hide in.
The sound of several screeches behind him caught Goomy's attention. He quickly turned around the best he could, glancing down the long, long hallway he had just crossed.
Goomy could hear them rioting just around the corridor – and there were more than Goomy could count. There was nowhere to hide.
Goomy began to panic. Where was he going to go what was he going to do how would he get out of this? But there was nothing to do but wait.
He saw them as shadows in the fog first. Shadows that quickly grew in size and intensity, until a pair of furfrou broke the mist—
The furfrou were not okay. They were half-decomposed all over, and Goomy could even see the bones in some places. And then they attacked. Goomy, who had never had to fend for himself, had no line of defense – he was snapped up and mauled like a chew toy. One of the furfrou shook him in its mouth and then threw him against the wall. Goomy slowly splatted to the floor, then weakly reformed himself. Thankfully, his body wasn't solid enough to be mortally damaged by mauling, but it had still hurt him.
Hoots and hollers and screeches abounded in the distant fog. Goomy began to tremble. He was going to die, wasn't he?
No. There had to be a way out of this! There just had to be! If he just tried hard enough….
With determination, Goomy slimed back out into the middle of the corridor. He was going to fight this time, not run and hide like a scared rattata.
The next pokemon that dashed out of the fog was a zebstrika. It was mottled and rotting in all the same places the furfrou had been, but Goomy held his ground this time. He tackled the zebstrika to the ground just as it reached him. As scary as it looked, the pokemon was frail, and Goomy watched in awe as it degraded into dust.
He looked at the fog ahead of him. He could see the outlines of many more pokemon advancing through the mist.
Goomy braced himself. That was too many to deal with all at once. He looked around. There was no way out; he wasn't fast enough. There was nowhere to hide; he was too large. And if he tried to run now he'd be cornered. There was only one option.
Before Goomy even knew what had hit him, he was swarmed by dungeon ferals galore. They piled on top of him, all snapping at him with their rotting mouths and skeletal claws. Their claws hurt, but Goomy continued to fight back as best he could. He wasn't taking it lying down anymore! He was going to fight until he couldn't fight anymore!
With that thought, Goomy suddenly began to glow. He saw his body light up with a bright flash, and the bright flash was the last thing he saw, before his surroundings went black.
Led by Deerling, the four of them travelled through the Barrow's cramped halls silently. The floor was long and expansive, and perhaps more like a labyrinth than any of the floors above it. Pancham would never admit it, but all the silence was beginning to put him on edge more than everything that had happened tonight did. No-mon was talking to each other, instead just stewing in their own negative thoughts. Pancham didn't know how, but he could feel it. Something about the dungeon made him able to feel it, and maybe everymon else felt it too.
The only 'mon who seemed perky was Tricky. Tricky, who had the greatest negative energy of them all. It almost repelled Pancham with how strong it was.
But worst of all was that feeling of something being wrong. Something that neither he or Shelmet or even Deerling knew about. And Pancham couldn't keep it in much longer.
"We should talk to each other."
"What?" Deerling turned her head back at him, and Pancham saw that she'd been silently crying the whole way.
"I said we should talk to each other," Pancham repeated. "Can't you feel that energy in the air?"
He waved his paw around just to make a point. "That's us. And the longer we're walking here in silence the worse it's gonna get."
"You're gonna stop us from finding the path," Tricky suddenly butted in. "If we're talking all the time, we're not looking!"
"I agree with Tricky," Deerling said. "We should be focusing on getting out, not talking."
Tricky sent Pancham another smug look, before continuing with her nose in the air. And slowly, the group returned to silence.
Every so often Pancham would look at Tricky, who was prancing along gleefully without a seeming care in the world. It infuriated Pancham. How could she be so happy in their dire situation! The last thing he knew about Tricky was that she was a total wuss about this place.. was she just so carefree that she genuinely didn't care if they get out or not?
Slowly, Tricky began to fall slightly behind. Soon she fell behind Shelmet, and trotted right next to Pancham, humming a cheerful tune and eyeing him almost tauntingly. And then, Pancham came to realization: Maybe it was in the way she moved, or the fact that she wasn't wearing the scarf she had come in with, but Pancham realized all the same. This wasn't Tricky.
He acted quickly, grabbing 'Tricky' by the throat and pinning it to the side of the wall.
"Who are you?" he yelled in the creature's face. "And what are you doing pretending to be my friend?"
"Pancham!" Deerling and Shelmet quickly turned around and ran back to where Pancham was. "What are you doing?!" Deerling cried out in horror.
"That's not Tricky!" Pancham yelled.
"What are you talking about?" Tricky feigned, squirming in Pancham's grip. "I- I'm Tricky! Your best friend!"
Even Deerling was caught off by that. She kept her attack position, but stayed still. Shelmet relaxed as well once he saw Deerling.
"What happened to your scarf?" Pancham asked.
"I… lost it," Tricky said. "in the dungeon. But that's not what's important now, right?"
Pancham wasn't satisfied.
"Then tell me your name," he said. "Everymon knows that one."
"Duh." Tricky rolled her eyes. "It's Tricky."
Deerling couldn't take it anymore.
"Pancham, just let her go," she said loudly.
"That's not the real Tricky!" Pancham yelled back, saying it in a panic as if on repeat. "It's not real! It's not real!"
"Pancham! Stop this!" Deerling yelled louder.
"Guys!" Shelmet tried to interject. He was ignored.
"I won't! That's not the real Tricky!" Pancham continued to yell.
Unnoticed, Tricky grinned with a mouth full of fangs. This was exactly what It had wanted, and that panda bear was dumb enough to fall for all Its traps. They had broken free of the nightmares, but the negative energy from this argument alone was giving It all the energy It needed to finally finish them off. Slowly, It sank into the goo-covered wall when no-mon was paying attention.
"Guys!" Shelmet loudly yelled, cutting both Pancham and Deerling off. They both looked at him with the same annoyed face: "What?"
Shelmet gestured to the wall where Tricky had been. Sure enough, there was nothing but black goo in her place. Both Pancham and Deerling went silent.
A sudden splashing from around the corridor caught the attention of all three pokemon.
"There!" Deerling yelled. "Follow it!"
Pancham, Deerling, and Shelmet all ran down the corridor and towards the noise.
Deerling was faster than Pancham and Shelmet combined. She rounded the corridor first, followed by Pancham and soon after Shelmet. Deerling froze. Her legs trembled for a minute. Then she quickly bolted forward.
"Goomy!" she called out as she ran. Sure enough, once Pancham looked, he saw Goomy slumped against the black goo of one of the walls.
A sudden gurgling stopped Deerling in her tracks. She watched in horror as slowly, the monster pulled itself out of the wall. It stood over the sleeping Goomy, reaching down for him menacingly…
"No!" Deerling ran forward, her head down. At the last minute, she came to a screeching halt, opened her mouth, and shot a beam of green energy directly at the monster.
"Hey—wait!" Pancham called out as he and Shelmet tried to catch up. "Wait for us!"
The monster was barely fazed. Ignoring Goomy, it began to step forwards, focused on Deerling instead. All her bravado suddenly lost, Deerling began to back away.
A voice echoed down the hall, drawing the attention of both Deerling and the monster. Pancham dashed forward, his fist glowing with black energy. "You stay away from her!" he cried out valiantly, dashing forward and striking the monster in the chest.
The monster reeled back a bit, and Deerling took the opportunity to blast the monster with another Energy Ball. That sent the monster careening backwards.
Pancham, Shelmet, and Deerling stood together as it got up, ready to attack once again. But the monster didn't attack. Instead, it studied them as if it were slightly wary of their power.
Then, without warning, it suddenly scooped up Goomy in its claws, and dove into the wall, taking Goomy with it. Deerling's cry of horror was lost as the last of Goomy's lavender goo disappeared into the wall along with the monster.
And then all was quiet.
Deerling's legs trembled. Once. Then twice. Then, she collapsed to the ground. Pancham didn't hear her say anything. He walked over.
"We're gonna find it," he said.
"It took Goomy!" Deerling yelled at him. "What do you think there's going to be to find?"
"Didn't you see?" Pancham asked. "We scared it off! It's running from us!"
"What does that matter?" asked Deerling forlornly.
"If we're fast enough, we can still get Goomy back!" said Pancham. "Espurr and Tricky too."
He began to trudge forward in the muck, looking back at Deerling and Shelmet. "Even if it looks like it's all been for nothing… don't you at least want to try?"
Tricky ran through the hallway, carelessly splashing through the muck. The glow was disappearing. She had to keep up with it! Tricky rounded one corridor, then the next. In the distance, she heard what sounded like a large gurgle, and only then did the glow begin to stay in one place.
She slowed down as she approached it. Carefully turning the last corridor, Tricky finally laid eyes on what had been casting that ghostly glow all this time: in the middle of the hallway floated Budew.
Tricky didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. So she did the first thing she could think of – she bolted forward and hugged him tightly.
"Budew…" she half-laughed, half-sobbed. "It's really you…"
"All I remember is… dying," Budew said, in a small, cracked voice. "And then I ended up here. I've been here for years… wandering around all in the dark… I had to drink swamp water!"
"I know…" Tricky still hadn't released him from her hug. A single tear slid down her cheek. "I'm sorry I got you killed."
Budew was the one who eventually parted them. He looked at her with big, pleading eyes. "Have you come to take me out of here?"
Tricky's face lit up with what was perhaps the most joyful expression she'd ever had. "Of course! Of course you can come back! You can come back to school, and meet Espurr and Goomy and…"
Tricky's head tilted, as she looked behind him.
"…Huh," she said. "Is that Goomy?"
"What?' Budew looked behind himself as well. "Who's Goomy? I don't see anymon."
"But he's right there, Tricky said, beginning to pad around Budew. Budew quickly made to stop her.
"Aren't you going to take me out of here?" Budew asked, louder and more firm this time.
"But we've gotta get Goomy too!" Tricky pleaded.
"There's no-mon there, Tricky," Budew said sternly. "We should go."
Tricky was silent. Slowly, her ears drooped, and a few tears fell from her eyes silently. But she didn't cry.
"Alright," she said. "Lead the way."
Budew happily veered off in the opposite direction, heading down the hallway she had come from. But Tricky didn't follow. Budew looked back in confusion once he had reached the corridor's entrance.
"Are you coming with me?" he asked. Tricky shook her head.
"You're not the real Budew," she said.
"But I am the real Budew!" Budew yelled. "I am! I am! i Am!"
Tricky just hung her head and shook it.
"I'm so sorry," she breathed. And then she took a deep breath, and spat an ember directly at Budew.
The fire was hungry, and soon Budew was completely alight. Tricky tried to drown out his screams by covering her ears, and soon with her own. But they didn't last long. The familiar voice of Budew droned on longer than it should have, increasing in pitch until it was a loud, demonic screech. And then it cut out entirely, and Budew was gone.
Tricky sniffled, then blinked the tears from her eyes.
"Goomy!" she yelled, running over to his sleeping form. She quickly nudged him with her paw, then her nose. "Wake up!"
It was a minute, but Goomy stirred. He blinked his eyes open wearily, looking at Tricky.
"…T-Tricky?" he asked hopefully. Tricky nodded ecstatically.
"Come on- get up!" she hissed, barely able to sit still. "We've gotta find the others!"
"Hey! Over here!"
Both Tricky and Goomy turned to see a welcome face: Pancham ran around the corner, followed by Deerling and Shelmet. Everymon was there, except for…
…But Espurr was smart. Tricky was sure she was fine. She quickly ran to join the other three 'mon, looking back to make sure that Goomy was keeping up.
"How'd you guys find us?" she asked.
"We heard the screeches," Pancham said. "We just followed the sound. What were thos screeches, anyway-"
"GOOMY!" Deerling cried out, galloping over to meet Goomy in the middle. She quickly checked him over to make sure he was fine. "Are you alright? Did that monster do anything to you?"
"I-I'm fine," Goomy said, shrugging off the attention. He didn't like it when Deering fawned over him like that. He was big enough to care for himself!
A sudden gurgling from the wall stopped everymon in their tracks. They all watched in horror as a clawed arm erupted out of the wall, followed by another. And then a leg. And then the monster stood before them in Its full glory. Enraged.
Pancham, Deerling, and Shelmet took attack positions.
"Behind me, Goomy," said Deerling. Goomy was going to object, but then saw the monster and did exactly as Deerling asked.
"Now what?" Shelmet asked, as Tricky charged up and ember too.
"On three, we all attack," Pancham said. "One… Two… Three!"
Tricky fired an ember. Deerling fired an energy beam. Pancham grabbed ahold of Shelmet, and ran straight for the beast with the pointy end of Shelmet's shell. The energy ball and ember combined sent the monster reeling back, but it was quick. It grabbed Shelmet, stopping Pancham in his tracks.
"Hey- stop!" the monster lifted both Pancham and Shelmet up into the air. Deerling lost it. She put her head down, and charged for the monster once more, intending to headbutt it. Her head became stuck in the goo.
Tricky fired another ember at the monster, but it blocked the attack with Shelmet's shell. Tricky growled and charged forward, , biting the creature in the leg, But her muzzle went all the way through, and Tricky found she couldn't remove it. Muffled, she screamed in horror as she tried to pull her nose and muzzle out. She was suffocating!
Goomy watched in terror as the monster dealt with all his friends. He couldn't… he couldn't take this anymore! If no-mon was going to help his friends, then somemon had to step up! And he was going to.
The same spark Goomy had felt in the nightmare resounded within him. There was a sudden flash, and for a few seconds Goomy felt nothing. And then everything went black. Goomy could feel his eyes, and he could hear his friends scream, but he couldn't see them!
And then his antennae twitched, and suddenly Sliggoo saw everything. He looked around, his antennae focusing on the monster. Somehow, he knew what to do. He opened his mouth, and he felt a newfound energy build up within. And once it became too much for his mouth to bear, he spat it out. The ground suddenly boomed, and the creature was thrown back to the end of the hallway. All of Sliggoo's friends fell back into the muck, catching their breath from the harrowing encounter. They all saw Sliggoo and gazed in awe, but their attention soon returned to the creature at the end of the hallway.
It was gone.
Slowly coming to. Espurr blinked her eyes open. She sat up in the blackness, looking around. The all-too-familiar blackness of the In-Between met her eyes. She stood up, looking around.
A wind began to howl in the distance, and suddenly Espurr was knocked backwards, falling on her behind. She glanced up at the howling wind above her, staring up in wordless horror.
Oh so FOOLISH… you make my job too easy. All it took was one dream, and you came skittering into my lair without another thought to pay.
Espurr stayed quiet as she looked for a way out. Just the thought of pulling another psychic trick made her head want to explode, but there had to be another way out!
A new voice reverberated in her head. Espurr quickly stared up at the sky in hope. "It's coming…"
The winds suddenly picked up, the howling drowning out whatever she could hear of the voice.
Now your friends will die… and you will die with them. My shadow will consume you ALL.
"…Wake up! Wake up wake up wake up—"
Espurr felt herself suddenly get violently shaken, and all of the sudden she was in—
The Ancient Barrow
The Ancient Barrow
The cramped halls of the Ancient Barrow greeted her eyes once again. Espurr was lying against the black goo that coated the walls, and a good amount of her fur was covered in it. Over her stood a riolu. Espurr was startled; she almost yelped in surprise. But the riolu frantically gestured for silence with his paws.
"Quiet! It's coming," he hissed.
Sure enough, Espurr's ears caught the sound of something gurgling in the distance, and then a large splash echoed through the hallway. Riolu began to panic- he looked this way and that, his eyes finally settling on a dead-end corridor nearby.
"This way!" he quietly hissed, and then he quickly led Espurr towards it anyway.
They both sat down in the swamp water, hiding themselves from sight. Riolu motioned for silence, and Espurr stayed as quiet as she could. They quietly listened as outside the passage, something large tromped by.
Slowly, it passed, and only after it had been gone for a good minute did Riolu uncup his paw from over his mouth.
"Who are you?" Espurr hissed, once she was sure that the monster wouldn't be coming back for them.
"I'm Riolu," he said. "And I'm the one who's gonna save the world."
Music of the week!
Babyproofing/Bonfire – Marco Beltrami