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Pokémon Fledglings

Shadow of Antioch

Viaggiatore
Location
Messina, Italy
Pronouns
he/his
"Well now it's a simple one-way ticket for you patéticos parásitos out into the Wastes!" a Granbull with a lavender headband growled back.
WOAH. Surely they don't actually ship off convicts to the Wasteland. Surely it's just an 'angry mob' thing. Because if it isn't...

"Aha, now I'm ready! I, Judge Hatteras now call this court into session!"
Nida: "Is there no such thing as 'separation of powers' on this island?" o_o'
Crom: "What--you mean you're not supposed to have the Guildmaster, chief judge, mayor, and head of the tourist board be the same person? Because if they fall ill/die the island's institutions are essentially paralysed? Maybe those pirates hit you in the head too hard. Poor Nida..."

"They stole from my bakery like a bunch of ill-mannered ferals!" Gwenith's voice roared from the crowd, the Druddigon shaking a fist in the air.

"And Grand Theft Pastry…"
Ah, good, so she wasn't hu--

You... you...! You have no right making me chuckle with that joke!

"And... Uh… We didn't kill anyone? I think?" a Carvahna weighed down by a rock tied to her tail offered.
Wait--she can breathe above water? Weird. Either way, this was very PG-13 for a pirate raid. You can definitely tell the story's aiming for that rating. :LOL:

"Duly noted," Hatteras replied, before he raised his voice to ask the assembled Pokémon, "Now then, I ask the humble jury, just what should be the sentence for these ruffians?"
No civil law code on this island? Tsk tsk. Asking an angry mob hardly sounds like the best way to determine a sentence. It makes sense for a small island like Tromba, sure, but still.

"J-Just let us go! We won't come back to this island again! E-Ever!" the Ekans cried out as the serpent curled tighter against his bindings into a rough ball.
My suggestion: hard labour. They help rebuild the damage they caused (under strict supervision, of course) and sleep in a makeshift prison. Once that's taken care of, uuuuh... I'm not sure. The town can ill-afford feeding prisoners for any long period of time. I suppose they could have their sentence run for various years, forced to do menial labour/maintenance work/tending to the fields, and only getting meagre rations? You'd hope that by the end of that they'd be beaten into being civil members of society.

"It sounds good to me!" a voice called out, before all eyes in the gathering turned towards the direction of a certain white and blue Protector, whose teammates were visibly burying appendages into their faces.
Kiran: "Did a child just determine the verdict? Is Hatteras going to hand him over the role of Judge, too?" -_-'
Pleo: "Oh! Can I play with more pokémon as a Judge?"
Kiran: "Gods... please, don't make me have to teach him criminal law next."

"Whelp, that's my verdict. Those of you who wish to go to the Wastes anyways are more than welcome to ask Osmund here to make arrangements with one of his teleporters if you so insist," Hatteras declared.
Woah--there's teleporters powerful enough to take people that far out? The Cradle's been hinted at being a huge place, and while we don't know its exact size, I would imagine at least something close to the Mediterranean. And unless Tromba's particularly close to one of the edges, that's still a 1000+ kilometres teleportation. Not unreasonable, but still, very impressive.

"Oh trust me, I'll survive him. I've wrangled my fair share of Fire types before. And I'm sure he'll learn how to find his softer side for younglings… Or else learn to like being a lawn ornament for a few hours at a time," she replied, shooting a frosty glare at the Quilava.
Oh, this ought to be good.

If only he could convince Hatteras to let him borrow the Trapinch or Gabite from earlier…
Oh! Oh! Whoever's chosen will become a teammate! I know it's too late, but pleasepicktheGabite pleasepicktheGabite pleasepicktheGa--

"The doggy!"
Damn it! So close.

Crom: "Awww, I wanted a fellow dragon in the team... Would have made chats with your mami a little less scary, Nida."
Nida: "Bold of you to assume you're even part of the story's main team. Did you even look at the banner?"
Crom: "... 'O_O. P-please don't leave me alone."

"The name's Eltenios!" the Growlithe barked proudly. "It means I don't ever, ever give up and-"
Aaaaah, that's what you were referring to in your Rebirth review! Say, Elterios isn't a bad name for a quick cameo at all. Fits into the setting quite well...

You know what? I'm feeling motivated today. Doppia recensione!

"And we're here, too!" a purple spike ball proudly declared, puffing his spikes out.

"Yeah, if we have to, we'll make that mutt see stars!" another blue Nidoran added.
Nida: "... Good thing he doesn't know how little of a threat those two are." -.-
Nido(?): "Hey, sis! What did you just say? I couldn't hear."
Nida: "Hm? Nothing, nothing."

"Dorin? Ani? Don't you have work right now?" Nida grumbled, frowning and flattening out her ears.
... Welp. It might not be "Nido", but it would seem that my hunch on Teja and Marley's naming capacity was on point, ahahaha!

Oh who are we kidding? Pleo couldn't think of many things at that moment other that he desperately wanted to be anywhere but where that dreadful-sounding voice was coming from.
That first part--Virgil and Fobbie speaking directly to the audience? Nani?! Jokes aside, it was a tiny bit odd to read. The story's been pretty solidly third-person limited so far (although with a certain vice of switching POV character mid-scene for a couple of paragraphs).

"Aw kurczę-"
Hehehe, the benefits of having a Polish neighbour in real life. I do appreciate hearing more languages on a regular basis! Spanish is nice and all, but variety is the spice of life.

"And it's fur, not fat!"
Awww, poor Elty, hehe. It's a neat detail to have the audience relate to him, since it's not used very often at all--not in pokémon fiction, at least.

"Wait, what?!" Elty cried, as his expression hardened into an exasperated scowl that seemed to be doing its hardest to all but bore through Crom's hide.
I mean... to be fair, he did. Should have listened more closely, Eltenios.

"Uh huh! Uh huh! She's supposed to help Pokémon learn moves they normally couldn't with the help of tee-yems!" Crom replied, before he put a claw to his mouth and continued on in a more puzzled tone. "Although... some of them are called eych-ehms for some reason or another."
Aaah, so these exist in this world, too. I wonder how they're mass-produced...

The Porygon abruptly chirped and gestured excitedly at Elty with her beak, much to the Growlithe's surprise.
Oh! Technology! Okay, this explains the fractal cube walls. Perhaps Porygon are a remnant of that bygone age, too. If so, has Melissa been alive since before the humans were wiped out?

"That is where I come in," Melissa droned. "Every properly-functioning Porygon instance contains data IO capabilities, including an interface for biodata mass storage."
Props to you two for such a thoroughly thought-out TM system. It's believable, cool, and betrays hours and hours of brainstorming.

The wizened Ampharos of many trades was a steadfast shepherd for Bluewhorl Town through its trials and tribulations, but what had brought him here?
Hattas: "Tell Melissa to pack up. I'm taking over her position, too."
Kiran: "Wh-what? How?!"
Hattas: "Don't ask. And my professional ambitions won't end here, either..."
(Hattas glances at Crom with malicious intent, who gulps)

"I'm afraid that as fast as Pleo has been progressing towards awakening his true power... That he might be running out of time," the Ampharos sighed, as he rubbed his brow with a free paw.
Uh-oh. It's the Company, isn't it?

"But how can we do that?" Kiran demanded. "I mean, if we organized a mock pirate raid… If we succeeded at drawing out Pleo's power, wouldn't we put the volunteers in danger?"
Careful--wouldn't want to create a 'boy who cried wolf' situation, and have Pleo try playing with the next pirates that come raiding, ahahaha!

"Everything takes practice, Kiran," Melissa chirped. "Surely you of all Pokémon would understand that."
Oh, that's good! I was a bit afraid you'd fast-track his progress here and make it so he wouldn't really be earning his flight. Good call.

Great pair of chapters! The overall pacing's still slow, but the characters are vibrant enough, their interactions so genuine, and the hints at the wider world frequent enough that I don't particularly mind. Plus, I doubt that this dungeon crawling will be an end unto itself. I see something important happening on the horizon!
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
WOAH. Surely they don't actually ship off convicts to the Wasteland. Surely it's just an 'angry mob' thing. Because if it isn't…

Well, it is an angry mob thing here, which is why they're able to get talked out of it. But yeeting 'mons to the Wastes is indeed a thing in this setting, and if the Iron Fleet had been a bit more competent and a bit more vicious, at least some of those captured pirates would be getting punted off to a very hungry and dreary end to their lives.

Nida: "Is there no such thing as 'separation of powers' on this island?" o_o'
Crom: "What--you mean you're not supposed to have the Guildmaster, chief judge, mayor, and head of the tourist board be the same person? Because if they fall ill/die the island's institutions are essentially paralysed? Maybe those pirates hit you in the head too hard. Poor Nida..."

Marley: "Oh, they'd hardly be paralyzed. 'mons like me would step up and fill the void."
Crom: "(Oh dear gods.) H-Hatteras! Please don't die on us here!" O_O;

Ah, good, so she wasn't hu--

You... you...! You have no right making me chuckle with that joke!

What can I say? This story does model itself after Saturday Morning Cartoons, so it has a goofy bent at times.

Wait--she can breathe above water? Weird. Either way, this was very PG-13 for a pirate raid. You can definitely tell the story's aiming for that rating. :LOL:

She was in a tub for that sentencing, which I went back and made a bit more explicit in the text.

No civil law code on this island? Tsk tsk. Asking an angry mob hardly sounds like the best way to determine a sentence. It makes sense for a small island like Tromba, sure, but still.

Things are a bit varied from island to island in Fledglings. While this isn't the only island with de facto sentencing by fiat, there's other places that run on a different system that get explored later on.

My suggestion: hard labour. They help rebuild the damage they caused (under strict supervision, of course) and sleep in a makeshift prison. Once that's taken care of, uuuuh... I'm not sure. The town can ill-afford feeding prisoners for any long period of time. I suppose they could have their sentence run for various years, forced to do menial labour/maintenance work/tending to the fields, and only getting meagre rations? You'd hope that by the end of that they'd be beaten into being civil members of society.

Fortunately for the Iron Fleet, they got off with a forced labor sentence that was played a bit more for laughs and had less active mistreatment involved.

Had they wiped out in a couple other places later on in the story's run, your suggestion actually would've been one of the nicer fates they could've expected after being captured.

Kiran: "Did a child just determine the verdict? Is Hatteras going to hand him over the role of Judge, too?" -_-'
Pleo: "Oh! Can I play with more pokémon as a Judge?"
Kiran: "Gods... please, don't make me have to teach him criminal law next."

Nida: "To be fair, he's a very important child. And I'd think Hatteras would've stepped in if Pleo suggested anything too crazy."
Elty: "That's not saying much, just saying." >_>;

Woah--there's teleporters powerful enough to take people that far out? The Cradle's been hinted at being a huge place, and while we don't know its exact size, I would imagine at least something close to the Mediterranean. And unless Tromba's particularly close to one of the edges, that's still a 1000+ kilometres teleportation. Not unreasonable, but still, very impressive.

Tromba's within a couple days' journey sailing from the nearest edge of the Cradle. It's not that big of a world anymore.

Also, whoever said that teleporters were making those jumps without the assistance of some manner of in-setting tool? There is such a thing floating around from PMD canon, you know.

Oh, this ought to be good.

Fortunately for the Quilava, Hariti never has to make good on her threat. Unfortunately for him, he has a whole different set of misfortunes you'll see him go through instead.

Damn it! So close.

Crom: "Awww, I wanted a fellow dragon in the team... Would have made chats with your mami a little less scary, Nida."
Nida: "Bold of you to assume you're even part of the story's main team. Did you even look at the banner?"
Crom: "... 'O_O. P-please don't leave me alone."

Shh…

If it's any consolation, that won't be the last time you'll see that Gabite in a long while. And even if he didn't make the banner. Crom will still be poking his head around in the story well into the later parts of it.

Aaaaah, that's what you were referring to in your Rebirth review! Say, Elterios isn't a bad name for a quick cameo at all. Fits into the setting quite well…

A little surprised to hear that given that that's not Latin that 'Eltenios' comes from. The vibe behind it definitely tracks with what I've seen for what a 'mon needs to get by in Rebirth's setting though.

Nida: "... Good thing he doesn't know how little of a threat those two are." -.-
Nido(?): "Hey, sis! What did you just say? I couldn't hear."
Nida: "Hm? Nothing, nothing."

Poison Pin plus sheer numbers is nothing to sneeze at, good sir. A new face in town will be getting a lesson firsthand in that in the near future.

... Welp. It might not be "Nido", but it would seem that my hunch on Teja and Marley's naming capacity was on point, ahahaha!

Marley: "Hrmph, when you have to come up with 10 names, you're allowed to take some shortcuts."

That first part--Virgil and Fobbie speaking directly to the audience? Nani?! Jokes aside, it was a tiny bit odd to read. The story's been pretty solidly third-person limited so far (although with a certain vice of switching POV character mid-scene for a couple of paragraphs).

I think that's best chalked up to early installment weirdness from when the story's style was a bit more in flux. Virgil and I might tweak this one later on, though for the time being, it's probably best to just leave it alone.

Hehehe, the benefits of having a Polish neighbour in real life. I do appreciate hearing more languages on a regular basis! Spanish is nice and all, but variety is the spice of life.

Yup. There's a fairly healthy spread of languages represented in Fledglings, so you'll be seeing a bit more than just Spanish during the run.

Awww, poor Elty, hehe. It's a neat detail to have the audience relate to him, since it's not used very often at all--not in pokémon fiction, at least.

Well it is a bit of a running gag for his base character. It was honestly too memorable and funny not to include it as a part of Fledglings' spin on the character.

Aaah, so these exist in this world, too. I wonder how they're mass-produced…

Well, they were mass-produced, but that time came and went ages ago. TMs in Fledglings' setting are more or less lost technology at this point, so the ones that do turn up are scavenged and guarded jealously.

Oh! Technology! Okay, this explains the fractal cube walls. Perhaps Porygon are a remnant of that bygone age, too. If so, has Melissa been alive since before the humans were wiped out?

Nah, Porygon can reproduce. Somehow. I'm gonna chalk it up to "something something gray goo and silicon-based lifeforms". Melissa here's a post-human instance that's coasting off of inherited instructions left behind by her creators, but has no firsthand knowledge of the world-that-was.

Props to you two for such a thoroughly thought-out TM system. It's believable, cool, and betrays hours and hours of brainstorming.

I mean, TMs are canonically depicted as optical disc media that you "boot up" in mainline, so they'd logically need some sort of reader in order to be usable as something other than a reflective surface. Porygon happen to canonically evolve from disc media, which would indicate that they at least potentially have an onboard disc drive in them.

Uh-oh. It's the Company, isn't it?

But of course. Sort of. The full story's a bit more complicated, but the Company is absolutely on their mind right there.

Oh, that's good! I was a bit afraid you'd fast-track his progress here and make it so he wouldn't really be earning his flight. Good call.

Well, it'd be just a little anticlimactic for a 'mon to magically become an expert at a move after a little light show. Throughout this story, even if you're being given a massive leg up, TM and HM moves are treated as something you have to work at to become good with. So it usually takes at least a few chapters for a character to begin to effectively wield a move after picking it up in such a fashion.

Great pair of chapters! The overall pacing's still slow, but the characters are vibrant enough, their interactions so genuine, and the hints at the wider world frequent enough that I don't particularly mind. Plus, I doubt that this dungeon crawling will be an end unto itself. I see something important happening on the horizon!

Well, you're not wrong. Though I'm sure I'll be reading your reactions of those happenings soon enough.

Anyhow, while there's no fic update, there are a couple announcements to be made. The first is that the first trivia section alluded to in Chapter 26's preamble is now here, which was originally posted on Serebii when Fledglings picked up 3,000 views over there. Its contents roughly correlate to the Prologue plus the first three Episodes of Fledglings, and while it largely holds up, there are some additional notes added that are specific to Thousand Roads that add some information that didn't make it into the original trivia section and are more reflective of where Fledglings has evolved as a story since the trivia section was originally posted.

Additionally the 'Glossary' section is now 'Glossary + Extras' which will include a few new things such as an Episode List denoting the rough arcs of this story, hyperlinks to story trivia entries so as to avoid cluttering the threadmark list of chapters, and some art pieces that were commissioned over the course of Fledglings' run by me and Virgil134 that will be ordered by date of commission and updated as the story progresses here on Thousand Roads.

And with that, let's get into that first trivia section:
 
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Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Author’s Note: This trivia section was originally posted alongside Chapter 14 of Fledglings on Serebii. Annotations and revised commentary not originally in this trivia section are noted in bolded text.

What's the story behind those chapter headers?

As I recall mentioning once or twice in prior pre-ambles on Serebii, I took a healthy bit of influence from television structures when still in the planning stages, which lead to me tackling this fic's chapters in batches roughly corresponding to "episodes" (I will think of proper names for them… Someday). The actual idea for putting them up came from Tangent128 from Serebii, who fairly adamantly suggested presenting the fic in something beyond straight text from fairly early on in the planning process. While it's not nearly as fancy as some of the original proposals we bandied around, the headers act as a means to subtly touch on important elements for a given block (i.e. the first and its eggshells, the second and its ship, the third and its team badge) and act as an eyecatch.

How do you come up with that release schedule anyways?

It's a series of guesstimates based off of the progress of my "drafting" and "editing" queues. Once I get a block of chapters fully drafted, I spend some time along with my beta readers to chop them up into initial chapters that will both be less intimidating to polish and intimidating for readers to parse (currently I aim to keep things between 12 and 20 pages each, though have tripped above the latter limit on a couple occasions).

LOL, that was a real blast from the past. There are a number of later chapters that were added after this trivia that went well beyond that length limit, but that’s a bridge to cross when we get there here on Thousand Roads.

After splitting, each chapter is then polished from the trainwreck-tier writing it is into something that is hopefully readable and absent of plot holes (granted, I could be failing at that, but if so, I haven't seen it yet) and titles thrown around, any further splitting (as in the end of the second block) is done, little touchups such as accenting the 'e' in 'Pokémon' happen, and then things actually get published.

Drafting and editing are done in more or less rotating blocks, and on good stretches I can get one cycle out in about 10 days (granted, lately with all the late deadlines it's probably been skewing closer to 14), with the presence of the editing queue (usually about 4-5 chapters long) helping to provide a safety buffer for the drafting queue for busy or otherwise creatively dry spells.

Yeaaaaah, the cycle’s been taking a bit longer in recent arcs and Virgil134 has since joined forces as a co-writer, though the fundamental organizational structure is still basically the same all these years later. Fortunately for those of you following from Thousand Roads, you get spit-shined updates on a consistent two-week schedule here.

How did you come up with Pleo?

As mentioned in an earlier chapter preamble, Pleo owes his name and a good deal of the core of his character premise to an old off-site friend of mine. More specifically, it was Luke924 from fanfiction.net who came up with OG Pleo. The decision to make Pleo a "mutant Wingull" was done after I realized that whoever I chose to fill the role of a cosmically important underpowered midget with lots and lots of room to grow should be someone who should more or less embody the sort of setting that this story takes place in, namely "7.8 - Too Much Water" and a few sea rocks.

The decision also has influenced a few of the titles that have popped up for this fic. For one, I probably would not have called it 'Fledglings' if Pleo was say… a Kyogre.

How did you come up with Kiran?

Kiran's species has more or less been constant from his initial envisioning as a character somewhere in between a "Little League coach" and "apprentices' master" whose primary role in the guild would be to help graduate young Pokémon into being able to function on their own at the guild. Kiran is also the character that has gone through the most name changes of any of the more major characters at this point in the story, his initial working name being "Mikoyan", and then later "Anastas" all the way up until about half a week before the first chapter got published. After a bout of dissatisfaction with his name, I chanced to browse a list of training aircraft, and thus "Kiran" came to be, named after an airplane used by India's Air Force to train its pilots.

How did you come up with Nida?

So a lot of you are probably wondering, "why a Nidoran?" Well, once upon a time, during a late night session when I was stuffing placeholders into slots for the rough characters in the fic. One of those roles was to be someone who had a tendency to chomp at the bit and be a touch self-anxious about standing out in a crowd. After going down the Bunnelby hole about using a Numel for a while, I thought to myself "Hmm, why not use a Pokémon from the original set of PMD games that readers would easily recognize… Like Nidoran!" Once I had about 8 hours of sleep afterwards and grew a bit more lucid, I remembered that Nidoran wasn't exactly a starter, but... It fit everything else that I wanted from the character role just perfectly, and so the Pokémon that would become Nida came into being.

I am actually indebted to Tangent128 for coming up with Nida's name, originally as a throwaway placeholder. After a while, I decided that given Nida was intended to have a crowd of siblings, that it might make sense for her parents to tend to name their kids after lame simple, cute rearrangements of 'Nido' phonemes, and thus 'Nida' stuck.

How did you come up with Crom?

As readers who also pecked through some of my other writing might have guessed, Crom and the rest of his family are a reference to the narrator's family in the first fic that I ever published, Dragonspiral's Children. His name owes its origin to Crom Cruach, an Irish fertility/harvest deity that was allegedly served with human sacrifices. For obvious reasons, the name for our favorite baker's child was chosen moreso for the ties to grain and harvest, though he would probably be a-OK with eating bread effigies of other Pokémon and the occasional purchase from a 'scavver'.

If you're wondering why he's part of a baker's family of all things, I must confess that back in the original spitballing stages, he carried some non-trivial influences from another yellow-eyed childish dragon from a different series, one with a bit more red and white on his hide. A few of those influences lingered and carried on into the little Dragon-Type that we know today.

How did you come up with Elty?

The process of filling Elty's role of "formerly shady and less-than-innocent teammate" was actually the one that went through the most species of any of the main characters. Offhand, Pokémon that were considered for the role included Pancham, Scraggy, Litwick, and a few fire starters, before Growlithe was finally settled on. As with Crom, Elty too also owes a good deal of his existence to being an homage. In this particular case, Elty gets a good deal of his character's broad strokes (and his proper name) from a recurring character concept that my good friend Venia Silente from Serebii plays with, the first appearance that I know of being in the fic Playfield.

The "tongue" that Elty uses was originally going to Esperanto, as a nod to some meta surrounding his inspirations (his "proper" name being a splice between the present and future forms of the Esperanto verb for "to endure", making his explanation for his name back in Ch. 8 not too far off from the mark). After spending some time thinking it over, Esperanto wound up seeming a little too "inorganic" for the setting I wanted, so I decided to go with a linguistic nod to Esperanto's origins instead for his source of little loanwords and phrases.

Why the languages?

A few reasons, actually. The first and most important reason, which those of you who read my Freshman effort at fic-writing probably picked up on, is that I simply don't interpret "Pokémon speech" as being unified or universal, but rather a mixture of mutually unintelligible languages. As such, "Charmander" and "Hitokage" would both be accurate, but not understandable by local Pokémon outside of rather specific geographical ranges. The second reason for going down the route is that it provided a relatively easy way to distinguish fairly divergent cultures from their speech alone.

As mentioned in passing by Nida in Ch. 4, the main reason why "English" (or more accurately and more probably, some manner of pidgin rendered as English) predominates is due to the relative proximity of Pokémon in the Cradle, which lead to the emergence of a "common tongue". Well, that and the fact that as much as I'd like it, I'm not quite an omniglot and most of the loanwords/phrases that pop up in the story are either vetted by native speakers such as Venia Silente, who provides translation assistance for Spanish terms in this story or are "best guesses" thanks to brushing up on some phrasebooks and basic grammar. (As such, if you happen to speak Polish and see me doing something egregiously wrong, please do tell me about it.)

What's with those Protect users?

They are just putting their skills to use for the mundane purpose of helping to cut down on some property damage, which was influenced by a nifty little one-shot that Venia Silente wrote a while back about the workings of a stadium complex in the Pokémon world. Unfortunately in the Pokémon universe, it seems to be a recurring trend that Pokémon are significantly tougher than a number of things around them: simple buildings, air balloons, ketchup bottles…

As such, when surrounded by things that are much frailer than you and need to keep things you value dry from water either falling from the skies above, or as Hess' crew demonstrated in Ch. 6, the seas beneath, making an attempt at keeping that object from getting shredded by a stray beam attack becomes a decently high priority.

Why do you always have those special thanks in your preambles?

This question is referring to a practice that I do on the Serebii version of the fic. I’ve decided to include it since the spirit of it still holds for Fledglings regardless of where it’s published.

Because as much as I'd like to hog all the credit for myself, Fledglings would simply not exist as the fic that you know (and hopefully enjoy reading) today if it weren't for the shoulders of others to stand on. As such, I just felt it was appropriate to spend a little time to give credit where credit was due, this week to Tangent128, Venia Silente, and Virgil134 in particular, along with the people that read and review this thing.
 

Shadow of Antioch

Viaggiatore
Location
Messina, Italy
Pronouns
he/his
After all, the sea god had become more and more a fixture of their mundane routines.
Growing accustomed to a god's presence so quickly... truly, a far too realistic quirk of psychology.

"Most teams don't have members that tried to rob other Pokémon just a week ago. Just saying," she retorted, narrowing her eyes at the Growlithe.
Nida: "Good thing that we also have guards closely watching the ships currently moored at port, in case the former pirates get any ideas. ... Right?"
Elty: "Hmmmm..."

"Hey! Hey! I didn't torch this shop!" Elty protested before he stopped himself to try and jog his memory.
Elty: "In fact, I think I torched your competitor's place just on the opposite end of the square. You should be thanking me! Maybe... a position as business partner? I know all the best suppliers, believe me. Just, uh, put me onto one of your supply ships and I can totally find you good deals. Yup yup."
Calino: "..."
Nida and Crom: "Hmmmmm..."

"Psst! Managed to sneak one past your slave driver, eh?" Elty whispered to the Trapinch in a hushed tone from behind the Nidoran. "And got any tips?"
Wow, I was joking with the gag text. Looks like I hit the nail on the head, huh?

"Mami usually leads my siblings home from there at this time of day. So if we catch her there, we can explain things on the way to the guild hall-!" Nida explained, only to have her words interrupted by a protesting voice from the direction of the Day Care.
Ah, so her siblings were readmitted to the Day Care? It must be a recent development.

The Quilava suddenly yelped, and stumbled forward as a shard of ice promptly struck his rear. As the Nidoran caught up with him, the creature nursed his rump and hastily tried to mollify a glaring Hariti at the tent's entrance.
Same punishment as the little ones, I see xD

"This way, me and your papi can count on you wrapping up your service and coming to help work in the field again a bit sooner!" the Nidorina cheered.
Aaaaah, and therein lies the problem. This was a surprise development, but a welcome one. As common of a trope as it may be, it's common because... well, it works. More or less everyone has had to contend with the expectations and desires of their parents clashing with their own. It's a universal theme. It goes along with the general trend of this story starting to solidify the direction it's going in, as you anticipated.

"That's where the 'saw' comes from!" the Loudred cheerily explained.

"Yup, and Alto and I here have got the teeth!" the Croconaw added, proudly opening his stout jaws and showing off the fishhook-like teeth that lined them.
:unamuseddewott:

Eating at the Guild Hall was always a rather raucous occasion in Bluewhorl Town. Every day- morning, noon, and night- food was served in a long, wooden hall full of rude tables and stools illuminated by candles and bioluminescent moss stashed in jars.
Oh, I'm already starting to imagine all these characters in sprite form chomping away at food like in the recurring EoS dinner scene

Nida couldn't remember what exactly went into them, but she was pretty sure that she remembered hearing 'seaweed' being involved once.
Makes sense; it's abundant, and much tastier than it sounds.

From there, the winds that reshaped floors in the Distortion would catch them up, the note's light weight allowing the winds to carry them out of the Mystery Dungeon.
I sure hope it's waterproof, judging from those first two floors of the dungeon 😅

Crom muttered something about "Yay, flour!" as Elty grumbled about some cards or some other manner of game he played with his old companions in the past, apparently not very well.
Oh, this is pure gold. I love segments like this.

This review felt a bit short. Why not--let's turn this into a double review, too!

Before long, Pleo found the fork in the path that led to the shrine and darted up to it, staring at this rude little structure with a strange upside-down cup thingy in it. Oh, so that must be a bell! Except Pleo couldn't understand for the life of him why that Aggron that attacked them back in the raid would think it would've been tasty at all.
Strange; the Aggron's thought process makes me think that these bells are usually much closer to the town itself, if not inside its square. To have it all the way out here, close to the dungeon, is apparently abnormal. I might be overreaching, but I get the feeling that this detail is relevant somehow.

"Uh huh! Uh huh!" Crom replied. "And as you protect us, and other Protectors start to wake up around the Cradle, the world around the Wastes will start to go back to normal!"
If that does happen, I wonder how many pokémon will be willing to move to the mainland. I can envision settlers moving to fertile places along the coast and perhaps up rivers, but there would inevitably be a strong contingent of 'mon that are perfectly happy in their small, monotonous island life. I wonder if islands like Tromba would even be left with a sustainable population after such an event.

"But it's mine! It's my 'anime'-thingy!"
NO. Bad, Pleo. No anime for you--it's for your own good. The world is not yet ready for that ancient human practice to be reawakened.

"It's alright, you haven't eaten for longer than me," Pleo replied. The Pikachu then eyed the frozen berry cautiously, and as she cautiously eyed the surrounding Pokémon, she scooped it up, gave a bow to the little guardian present, and then scurried back off into the bushes.
Awwww! Learning valuable life lessons, little at a time. If his coming-of-age keeps going at this rate, though, 100 chapters from now he'll still only be in his early teens xD

"Eh?!" the young Druddigon cried out of surprise. "But you always-!"
Crom: "Don't you love me anymore?" ;-;
Nida: "I'm sorry, Crom. I... I can't live the rest of my life eating only bread! I NEED TO EAT OTHER THINGS, TOO!"

"Yeah, nice try, Elty," he said. "But you'll be sticking with me today."
Crom: "Fine, then. I'll just get myself a replacement! Hmpf."

"Not that we'd ever know for sure," Kiran explained as Pleo watched the Swellow's face became harder and harder to make out in the fog. "All of those Distortions, if they're even around anymore, would be somewhere out in the Wastes."
I wonder if perhaps the humans kept this archipelago as a nature reserve of some kind. It would explain the lack of human traces (Melissa and TMs excluded), although I suppose the gods might have simply removed them.

"right here... -side you."
Wow. The distortion is so heavy that it blocks off sound, too? I can see why it's so dangerous. Pleo wasn't mentioned as explicitly letting go of Crom's tail, though, so it's kind of odd. Perhaps he was panicking too much to notice as it happened, but I still think it's worth mentioning even if that's the case.

Was Pleo going to do this for everything out of the ordinary he ran across?
Awww, come on, let the little guy be. Adults wish they could have the same sense of wonder about the world.

Pleo and Nida looked behind them and saw a Growlithe hopping between stones over the stream of water which emptied up the wall. The little dog keenly eyed each rock, tensing up before each leap.

Splash!

Only to slip on his final jump and fall into the stream. The Growlithe slipped under the surface for a moment, before he bolted back up to his feet and quickly climbed out of the stream, coughing up some water.

"Bah… At least it's shallow," the Growlithe grumbled to himself. The little dog crept up the edge of the pool, dripping all the while before he stopped and vigorously shook himself to try and dry his pelt.
It was a little odd to have Elty be referred to as "a/the Growlithe" so many times in a row. I was convinced this was some kind of new character, perhaps a feral Growlithe, until you switched to his name again.

"My mother told me that back in the days of humans, a secret dance was used to summon the Protector in caves like this one! If that bird's really the Protector, he must have taught you it!"
Nida: "Okay, but... even if that were true, you do realise that traditions change over time--right?"
Crom: "Yeah! Maybe... the dance was condensed into a three-verse song?"
Elty: "Just freakin' slash her already."

"It's said that unlike things like Blast Seeds, orbs are pure crystallizations of the essence of the Distortion," Nida explained, as she nudged the orb over to Pleo. "And that depending on the orb, once they're broken, they'll either affect everyone close enough who's touched it… Or for orbs like this one, everyone close enough who hasn't touched it."
Heh, every story needs its own explanation for how orbs work. This one makes sense, and adds a little bit of strategy with its touching/non-touching mechanics.

Until next time! It's been a pleasure to read as usual. The writing quality's been staying pretty consistent, so far. I'm curious when we'll get to meet the Cubone character that the banner spoils, and when... (sniffle) poor Crom will be left behind once the group sets off on their journey.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Growing accustomed to a god's presence so quickly... truly, a far too realistic quirk of psychology.

Yeah, everything normalizes after you start getting used to things.

Wow, I was joking with the gag text. Looks like I hit the nail on the head, huh?

I mean, did you really think he wasn’t going to try and think of ways to weasel out of his sentence? He is a pirate, after all. :P

Ah, so her siblings were readmitted to the Day Care? It must be a recent development.

Yup. Such is life when you have a second body to take the effects of Poison Pin for you.

Same punishment as the little ones, I see xD

Yup. None are spared in Hariti’s care. Especially when you’re acting childish.

Aaaaah, and therein lies the problem. This was a surprise development, but a welcome one. As common of a trope as it may be, it's common because... well, it works. More or less everyone has had to contend with the expectations and desires of their parents clashing with their own. It's a universal theme. It goes along with the general trend of this story starting to solidify the direction it's going in, as you anticipated.

Yeah, Pokémon who manage to make long-term livings from guild work in the Cradle are rare birds. Most will stick to it for a few years and then cycle out into more normal work, which is what Marley and Teja are expecting here.

:unamuseddewott:

Oh come now, it’s not that bad, is it? Surely it’s still better than the likes of ‘Team Meanies’. o3o;

Oh, I'm already starting to imagine all these characters in sprite form chomping away at food like in the recurring EoS dinner scene

Yup. That’s what it’s intended to evoke.

Makes sense; it's abundant, and much tastier than it sounds.

Well, you’re not wrong, but it’s a bit more complicated than that, and that’s a topic for a future arc.

I sure hope it's waterproof, judging from those first two floors of the dungeon 😅

Letters in the Distortion don’t necessarily go through every floor on their way out? o3o;

Strange; the Aggron's thought process makes me think that these bells are usually much closer to the town itself, if not inside its square. To have it all the way out here, close to the dungeon, is apparently abnormal. I might be overreaching, but I get the feeling that this detail is relevant somehow.

He was definitely expecting it to be a lot closer to town, yeah. Though having the shrine in the boonies isn’t that uncommon in-setting, for reasons you could probably gather from this scene.

If that does happen, I wonder how many pokémon will be willing to move to the mainland. I can envision settlers moving to fertile places along the coast and perhaps up rivers, but there would inevitably be a strong contingent of 'mon that are perfectly happy in their small, monotonous island life. I wonder if islands like Tromba would even be left with a sustainable population after such an event.

When that does happen (mind you, over a timeframe beyond what Fledglings covers), it’ll most likely be a bit-by-bit process along similar lines yeah. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and restoring the world won’t go by in a day either.

NO. Bad, Pleo. No anime for you--it's for your own good. The world is not yet ready for that ancient human practice to be reawakened.

Pleo: “B-But what’s wrong with anime?” ;_;

Awwww! Learning valuable life lessons, little at a time. If his coming-of-age keeps going at this rate, though, 100 chapters from now he'll still only be in his early teens xD

I mean, Fledglings is the first third of its original concept. So you’re not that far off, actually. He’s still going to be a youngun at the end, even if he’ll be more ‘juvenal’ than ‘fledgling’.

Crom: "Fine, then. I'll just get myself a replacement! Hmpf."

He’d really, really regret that a few chapters down the line if he actually said that. o3o;

Wow. The distortion is so heavy that it blocks off sound, too? I can see why it's so dangerous. Pleo wasn't mentioned as explicitly letting go of Crom's tail, though, so it's kind of odd. Perhaps he was panicking too much to notice as it happened, but I still think it's worth mentioning even if that's the case.

He actually never let go of Crom’s tail. I went back and made some edits to make things clearer there.

Awww, come on, let the little guy be. Adults wish they could have the same sense of wonder about the world.

Something something ‘too much in a hurry to grow up and not fully appreciating childhood innocence’.

It was a little odd to have Elty be referred to as "a/the Growlithe" so many times in a row. I was convinced this was some kind of new character, perhaps a feral Growlithe, until you switched to his name again.

Hm. I think I see your point. Went and tweaked that bit slightly to add some explicit namedrops for Elty.

Heh, every story needs its own explanation for how orbs work. This one makes sense, and adds a little bit of strategy with its touching/non-touching mechanics.

I mean, it felt like a better way of depicting things than orbs magically knowing what Pokémon to target on their own since enemy-effect orbs also work fine in-game on Pokémon that hail from outside dungeons like Outlaws.

Until next time! It's been a pleasure to read as usual. The writing quality's been staying pretty consistent, so far. I'm curious when we'll get to meet the Cubone character that the banner spoils, and when... (sniffle) poor Crom will be left behind once the group sets off on their journey.

Don’t worry, you’ve got about an arc’s worth of chapters left before the big moment. And it won’t be the last you’ve seen of Best Druddigon.

And with that, let’s pick up from where we left off last time on Kenobi Island in a galaxy far, far away small and waterlogged world of fantastical creatures that live in huts.
 
Chapter 27: False Pretenses

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His


"Where have you three been?!"

The Yanmega along with his Manectric and Marowak companions flinched from the sound of the snarl reverberating down the narrow, stone-walled alley in the Company's atoll compound. They were sure that they'd be able to easily sneak down these alleys to their unrewarding and tiring job of moving crates around, only for their hopes to be squashed by a churlish Rhydon bobbing out from a blind turn. With a lavender scarf bearing four squares anchored on the corners of a larger square, their accoster was none other than…

"You're supposed to be down at the docks loading crates!"

Their supervisor. A chorus of gulps went about the three ex-pirates, who looked at each other nervously before trying to offer an explanation for their tardiness.

"'sa? It's not our fault!" the Manectric protested. "Our ferrymon was drinking Lansat syrup before we set off!"

"We can't go any faster from Mossaisle Town than that tokage will take us!" the Marowak added. "Alvise and I can't exactly swim, you know!"

The Yanmega took the opportunity to flit and rear up, attempting to join in the Ground-Type's defense with a buzzing protest.

"And if the Company doesn't want us coming late, then what's the big idea of the lodging we got stuck with being across the wa- Gack-!"

The Bug-Type felt pain shoot through the back of his head as he slammed hard against the ground. The dragonfly gagged and coughed, twitching his wings weakly as he looked up at the scowling Rhydon, his fist still pulling back from a downward punch.

"Don't give me that garbage, Valatos! You can fly! And your buddies have been late every day this week!" the rhino bellowed. "All of you better start moving your feet instead of your yaps! If I don't see you at the yards in five minutes, you can forget about getting your day's Thalers!"

"Alright! Alright!" Alvise cried. "We're going!"

The Yanmega got up and uneasily flitted back up into the air, leading his partners down the alley in a hurry. The three came upon a small side door in a stone wall and slipped down it, leaving the Rhydon to disappear from view as he continued down the alley outside. There were crates to be moved, yes, but it didn't take five minutes to reach the docks! Surely it could fit a moment of peace by taking a scenic route.

The trio snuck down a few of less-travelled hallways of the local fort, devoid of all but the occasional fellow grunt to smile and wave at. The three Company Pokémon hurried up a flight of stairs, where an unwatched passage with windows covered by costly metal grating provided a view of the harbor and the ships in the water. A fine enough stretch for the three Pokémon to slacken their pace and their jaws.

"I told you two we shouldn't have lied about the ferrymon being high in the past! The boss would've believed us!" the Manectric grumbled, before shooting a glare at the Marowak. "And thanks for getting us into this mess in the first place, Nori."

"How is it my fault that Maru misinterpreted my advice for getting over being rejected?" the lizard protested. "When I said 'Sleep will help it', I didn't think he'd visit the tapir at Andaku's guild that sells Sang on the side!"

Valatos frowned, and shook his body with an irked buzz. The supervisor's blow still stung his head, along with his pride, prompting the Bug-Type grumble noisily to himself.

"Ugh… when on earth are we going to find a crew to join?"

"Er… as soon as we find one that doesn't hang out in Company waters?" Alvise replied. "I mean, you know what'll happen they caught us deserting to a crew…"

Yes, it was a solid plan. Get far away from the Pokémon who would be in any position to exact revenge for betrayal… Except for the part where a crew that would avoid Company waters would also come by Kenobi about as often as a fire sale at a Kecleon Shop, a matter which drew a displeased grunt from Valatos.

"Well, we certainly picked the right neighborhood to look for tha-"

The Yanmega trailed off and turned back to a worn section of the wall where some trowels and a few wooden buckets filled with water and mortar sat beside the bottom. The Ground-Type and Electric-Type carried on a short way before noticing their companion had stopped to flutter by the damaged section of the wall, which drew consterned puzzlement from them.

"Eh? Valatos?" Nori asked. "Are you coming or what?"

"Yeah, we're already late!" Alvise exclaimed. "What's taking you so long?"

The Yanmega paused and settled his feet against the worn, stone wall, and after a quick glance both ways down the hall to make sure no one was watching, moved his head closer towards a crack in the grouting.

"Koppen dicht, something's going on on the other side…"



On the opposite side of the wall laid a rectangular stone chamber, its high walls bedecked with tapestries of maps and landscapes. Slit-like windows were built near the ceiling to let in light while thwarting eavesdroppers; for night meetings, there were a pair of large torches that could be lit near two large, sturdy wooden doors. A small trail of lavender rugs with square friezes led the way from the door to the chamber, up to a ledge with a low table and ottomans with detachable cushions set around them, obscuring a trap door for hasty exits if needed.

Click click click

Behind the table, the form of a glowering Luxray could be seen perched a detached cushion. Her tail beat impatiently against the stone floor to the rhythm of a set of metal balls threaded with wire clicking against each other from two supporting rails. This space was her office, the room from which she handled much of the administrivia of Kenobi's affairs, and her place for welcoming Pokémon in for correspondence…

Click click click

If one could call a greeting from Administrator Farn a 'welcome'.

At the far end, the doors were pushed open from outside by a keenly watching Chesnaught and Houndoom. A Braixen with a scrunched-up scarf came in, followed quickly by a Samurott and a fluttering Mothim.

As the guards slid the doors shut, the fox darted off to the side, leaving Lyn and Ellsberg to lock eyes with the waiting Luxray at the opposite side of the room.

Click click cl-

The Electric-Type stuck a paw out, stopping a metal ball mid-swing and guiding it down to rest. With the balls in the cradle now stilled, a tense silence filled the room as the Samurott and the Luxray stared speechlessly at each other. The Mothim took it upon himself to try and get the meeting rolling.

"Good afternoon, Administrator Farn," the moth offered, only to be answered with the sound of a quiet, but fierce growl. The Electric-Type narrowed her red eyes and sparks danced on her pelt, yes… pleasantries wouldn't be enough to take the edge off of this Administrator.

"Er… right," the Bug-Type sheepishly responded. "I suppose we should start as soon as Administrator Elilan comes in-"

"Oh, there's no need to wait," their guide suddenly answered. Lyn and Ellsberg turned their heads just in time to catch the Braixen's form get enveloped in a magenta-colored flash, giving way to a gray and red form with sharp claws. A creature with a spry, bipedal stance emerged from the dissipating light, a thick mane tied down around a bead hanging from its head. When the light cleared away, all that was left was unmistakeable form of a Zoroark wearing a scarf with the four-layered design of a Company Administrator, much to Ellsberg's buzzing surprise.

"Ah!" the Mothim recoiled, as he fluttered back from the sudden appearance of the Administrator's true form.

"With all due respect, was that really necessary to start a meeting, Administrator Elilan?" Lyn asked. The Samurott grunted irkedly, locking eyes with the Zoroark's almost taunting gaze.

"I've never been a fan of dragging things out longer than they need to be," the fox scoffed.

With that, the Dark-Type made his way to the table and pulled out an ottoman to sit on. He traded a brief glance with Farn as he neared her, before turning back to face the Commissioner and Notary at the other end of the desk. "Do you have anything further to add before we start, Farn?"

"If I recall my scheduling, there might be some wall repairs just outside this chamber starting in a bit," the Luxray harrumphed, as a weak crackle of static crossed her mane just above her brow. "But aside from my obvious feelings right now, I don't think they'd pick up anything important through those little cracks."

"Well then, why don't you start us off?" Elilan offered. Farn bared her teeth and focused her glare on the Samurott. Her muscles tensed as if she was ready to leap and pounce at a moment's notice, as was custom when the Luxray was displeased.

"Lyn, where is the bird?" she growled. "I received word that you captured the Protector of Tromba and were en route back to port for an inspection, four days ago."

The last few words came out with a particularly venomous enunciation that echoed around the room. For a moment Ellsberg wondered if he couldn't see little droplets of water form just below Lyn's keratinous helmet.

"Yes, well," the Samurott began, his words coming out tense and guarded. "Things didn't go quite to plan-"

"I know they didn't!" the Luxray roared in interruption, slamming her paws against the table's surface. "What I want to know is why you don't have that bird in your paws this moment!"

The Samurott's muscles began to tense during the exchange, much as when staring down an impending battle. The Commissioner carefully mulled his words, before offering a guarded response back to the Administrator.

"The Guardian was stronger than I thought it would be," Lyn answered. "It broke free, got loose in my hold, and invoked its power to slip away while crippling my own ship."

"Slip away how? It's a bird!" she cried. "If its wings are clipped, it can't go anywhere at sea without swimming!"

The Samurott paused and for a fleeting moment, sported an expression like that of a Graveler about to be thrown off a ship. The Water-Type steeled himself, shook his head, and begrudgingly answered Farn's inquiry.

"I… didn't clip them, Administrator."

"WHAT?!"

The room was filled with an outraged roar, making Lyn subconsciously lift one of his paws up by reflex, as he would in an ambush. The Samurott suppressed his instinct and stood his ground with a stoic gaze flecked by latent hints of unease. The cacophony gave way to a tense silence, punctuated by the seething breaths of a glaring Luxray.

"Gods, preserve me," Ellsberg muttered to himself.

"Nice candidate you and Zorn picked there, Farn," Elilan grumbled under his breath. The lion folded her ears back and gritted her teeth, her audible seething giving way to a heated question.

"What do you mean you didn't clip his wings?!" she demanded.

"Administrator Farn, as you know, as part of the mission debriefing, my crew had to be made privy to certain… sensitive details about the Guardian's nature," the Samurott answered in a defensive, protesting tone, as his head lowered begrudgingly. "I was worried that things would get out of hand if he were handled too roughly-"

"Lyn, we didn't pick you for this mission so that you could get hung up over potential sacrilege!" Farn bellowed. "We picked you because of your track record of getting the job done by any means necessary!"

"Need I remind you, Farn…" the Zoroark prodded. "I just drew up the protocol for responding to events like this in the wake of our past missed opportunities. It can't exactly deliver if the extractor is too wary to damage some feathers that would grow back in what? A week?"

Lyn screwed his eyes shut in frustration. Yes, it would've been trivial to cut the Lugia's flight feathers. But with a creature that was supposed to be frail in the time after hatching, it should've also been trivial to foil his attempts to get away! Alas, in the face of the Protector's powers awakening when it did, all those 'should've's were moot.

"I understand that. It was an underestimation," the Samurott replied with a gruff, but apologetic tone. "I will remedy that as soon as the Guardian is back in my grasp."

"Well then, that settles it, doesn't it?" Elilan answered nonchalantly as he picked at some grains of dirt that had caught themselves between his claws. "Assuming that you know where the bird is, all that's left is to recapture him and do your job right this time."

It was hard to tell whether or not the Zoroark really seemed to pay mind to the proceedings, until he suddenly cast a glance over at the Mothim fluttering beside Lyn.

"So then, Ellsberg. What's your excuse for why you two haven't found a solitary bird yet?"

"Erm… you 'two'?" the moth squeaked, flitting up out of surprise.

"Yes, both Lyn and you," the fox pressed. "He seems to have gotten help in his search lately, unless you have some other explanation for why you came into port today with a broken tiller."

Ellsberg began to fumble for words, stammering and searching his mind for an acceptable excuse to feed the two Administrators.

"Er… that's- W-Well…"

A smug grin spread over the Zoroark's muzzle as Lyn shot a glare at the Dark-Type. The bug and otter both expected the fox to open his mouth to say something, but he never did. There was no need for him to do so…

"Lyn. You're hiding something from me. Spit it out. Now."

Farn's growling tone indicated that the Luxray had already pieced together that something was amiss about the Commissioner's tale. Lyn exhaled through gritted teeth and reluctantly amended his story.

"There was an extraction team from Tromba that infiltrated my ship… and turned the Protector's powers against us," he conceded.

Lyn carefully chose to neglect mentioning that the team had consisted of a pair of whelps, but even with the limited details he provided, Farn's response came as loud as it was swift.

"Why didn't you say this earlier?!" she demanded. "And what did Ellsberg have to do with this?! He was here two nights ago!"

"We followed the team to Boisocéan, where Ellsberg helped me enter an aggressive negotiation with the local leadership yesterday," the otter answered reluctantly. "But we were caught off guard by unexpected resistance when the Guardian flew off."

The Luxray was bristling now, deeply displeased at the new revelations that the Commissioner had brought to light. With her ears folded back, and sparks arcing off her hide, Farn gritted her teeth and snarled out her frustrations.

"How on earth do you get bested by a bunch of untrained peasants?!" she hissed. "Twice?!"

The otter opened his muzzle to protest that it was the Protector, and then a meddlesome dragon, that had allowed the group to get away, only to be halted by a smug, taunting voice.

"It seems like it was a bit much to be expecting results from the pup of a former employee dismissed for insubor-" Elilan began, his snide words cut off by the sound of keratinous blade scraping against sheath. The Zoroark shifted his gaze and caught the sight of a Samurott hunched up on his hind legs, blade in his left paw, and ready to spring at him.

"Well now, have I hit a nerve, Lyn?" Elilan asked, a satisfied smile creeping over his pointed muzzle. "Best not do anything too rash. The Company might not give out a reward for an attempted capture, but it certainly will hand down a sentence for attempted murder."

"Administrator Elilan, I was perfectly aware that this was going to be a delicate mission!" the Samurott bellowed, his words not bothering to hide a bubbling hatred for everything the fox had done to undermine him in front of Farn. "Everything that I've done for this mission, I've done because it seemed to be what was best for delivering the results that were needed. There was nothing in my debriefing that suggested I'd have to deal with a Protector that could invoke its powers!"

"That's wonderful, but we're not letting you take Darzin's position for the first hamlet that Guardian pacifies without results," Farn snapped. "Surely your little bird's flown back to his nest. Head back to Bluewhorl, go door-to-door if you must, but make sure that bird comes back with you!"

The Samurott calmed himself, begrudgingly returned his seamitar to its sheath, and turned to the Luxray, shaking his head.

"I'm afraid that's not possible, Administrator. After the extraction team broke out of our cordon around Seahive, we saw them flying along the direction of Spiral Steam, not against it," he explained. "Based off of the sightings we were able to piece together on the way over, they seemed to have charted a course that would take him near, if not directly through Kenobi."

"Are you telling us that the Protector might be here on this very island right now?!" Farn exclaimed.

"That is correct, Administrator."

"Well then, how do you propose that we find a god without letting the world know, Lyn?" Farn demanded. "In case you've forgotten, sea fog is very common on this island. Any cordon after it's rolled would already be porous at best, and that's assuming the Pokémon here stay ignorant of what's going on."

"Also, there's the matter of the interior as well," Elilan added. "The less we know about where they are on this island, the more likely they'll be able to slip past a cordon."

"We can have the locals help our work. We'll put up bounties for the extraction team and post them in the local guilds," Lyn answered, his voice coming out calm and controlled. "The extractors helped themselves to some of my cargo when they fled. I believe 'stealing Company assets' is grounds for a piracy charge, isn't it? And getting them is bound to either turn up the Protector, or leave him vulnerable for capture."

There was a long pause as both Farn and Elilan stared at the Samurott. Everyone was left to try and divine each other's thoughts in the unmoving silence, until Farn broke it with words that came out business-like, but surprisingly calm.

"Ellsberg, I will need you to pass word to Mengir and the Capital of the Guardian's presence in our territory, along with these bounties," she finally responded.

"B-But my ship is still-!" the moth began, only to be cut off by a growl from the Luxray.

"Your sea escorts are still able-bodied. Pick some of them and form a caravan to bring the news!" she snapped. "By the time you get back, both your and Commissioner Lyn's ships should be repaired!"

The Luxray shifted her balance as the Mothim shut up and reluctantly flitted back, before turning her attention to Lyn.

"As for me, I'll have my Commander get the bounty notices you need printed and distributed on my island by the end of tomorrow," she said. "As soon as you're done giving him a description, I want you and your crew to go with the local Rangers along the shoreline and start searching the interior."

The Samurott exhaled in relief as he realized that there was a way to disguise his loss of the Protector to a pair of fluffballs. As long as he fed descriptions of one or two more imposing Pokémon along with the team, who would question if a pair of peasant pups drug along?

"I understand," Lyn replied. "And I'll be sure to dispatch a team for Seahi-"

"Immediately, Lyn," she growled. The Luxray's eyes narrowed into a glare as a weak current flickered down her pelt and her tail batted impatiently back and forth. "No distractions. You can settle any scores you have there after you do your job."

The moth and otter shifted their glance over to Elilan, who had returned to dispassionately picking at his claws. No comments from him, it seemed.

"Understood, Administrator," Lyn grunted. "I'll take my leave now. Come on, Ellsberg."

The two Pokémon turned and headed back for the door which, after a sharp rap from one of Lyn's paws, swung open as the waiting guards on the other side of the wall pulled them agape. After the pair left the room, the sound of the doors sealing shut reverberated in the room. With that, Elilan stopped fiddling with his claws, got up from the ottoman he was seated on, and shook his head.

"I can't believe that Inler consented to putting this mission in his paws," he sighed.

"Again, Elilan? We already settled this debate!" Farn interjected. "We can't afford the potential blowback of anyone on the Board getting directly involved in this, and we need the extraction to go off without a hitch. I know the selection process obviously didn't go how you wanted, but didn't you think the rest of us would prefer a candidate with more experience at moving around? Lyn was the best candidate when we got the news and you know it!"

"Just like Darzin was the Board's best candidate for taking over Tromba's Administratorship ten years ago?" the Zoroark accused. "The instinctive focus on self-preservation, the inability to consider possibilities without living through them, the defaulting to brute force when faced with a difficult problem…"

"He's a little cutthroat and single-minded, sure," the Luxray began. "But it's a fine set of tools for getting the job done. Exactly what we'd need from a new colleague…"

"Farn. That's the thought process of a feral that hasn't fully left the wilds!" the Zoroark exclaimed. "It's why Darzin was able to claw his way to Administratorship from that soggy sea dungeon he used to live in but be utterly blind to the rebellion brewing under his feet on Tromba!"

"Hrmph, don't be daft, Elilan," the Luxray scolded. "I know Lyn's background well enough, and you ought to as well considering the island you administer. In spite of it, he's demonstrated himself to be a loyal and effective operative. Besides…"

The Luxray gave a nonchalant flick of her tail as a smirk crept up over her muzzle, and a look like that of a veteran card player pouncing upon an obvious novice came over her eyes.

"If something goes wrong, Lyn's our insulation," she explained. "Would anyone really care about the fate of a disgraced rising star's child following his father's footsteps for carrying out instructions that officially don't exist?"

The Zoroark paused and glared back at the Luxray, before relenting with a sigh. This matter had been chosen already, and by the Director of the Company no less!

"I should have expected as much from someone whose idea of fighting pirates is letting them run wild in a local district," he grumbled. "But I'm telling you, I don't trust that otter…"

"Well now, Elilan. I must say that I never expected you to object at bending a few rules to ensnare some greedy fools. Kettle calling the pot black, much?" Farn chided. "And this is a business, you aren't supposed to trust Lyn! After all, isn't that why you snuck your own little plant aboard Lyn's cre-?"

The Luxray trailed off as from the corner of her eye, she noticed bones and chitinous plates past one of the walls. They belonged to three creatures that were pressed up against the wall… without the trowels she expected. Farn glowered before turning to her counterpart to ask for his patience with a "One moment…"

The Luxray crouched low and crept silently towards the wall. She was evidently quietly enough for the lazy bones on the other end not to hear her, as the three Pokémon did not budge much beyond the occasional shift of limbs or heads as they loafed around. The Electric-Type reached the place where the bones were all pressed up, sat down and tidied her fur… before she roared through the cracks in the grouting with the loudest voice she could muster.

"You behind the wall! For a repair crew, I don't see many tools in your paws! Stop dozing off and get back to work!"



On the other end of the wall, the three former pirates leapt back in a panic from their listening place, and came to a tumbling stop in a heap along the other wall of the hallway. The three flinched and waited for their worlds to collapse into the Apricorns they knew were used for exile sentences to the Wastes… when they suddenly realized their fortune was better than they thought.

Farn thought they were sleeping on the job!

"E-Erk! Sorry, Administrator!" Valatos squeaked.

"Y-Yeah! We've got the tools!" Alvise yelped. "We were just inspecting this damage here!"

"W-We'll fix it right away!" Nori stammered, as the three quickly scooped up the trowels along the wall, slathered some mortar on them, and set to work repairing the cracked grout… Or at least pretending to.

After all, they'd only need to keep at it for as long as Farn was on the other end… But… they were already running late for their work at the docks… and when would they know if she had left or not?

"The boss is gonna withhold our pay today, isn't he?" the Marowak whined, much to the Valatos' buzzing displeasure.

"Not helping, Nori!"



The sun had already peaked over the narrow alleyways of Mossaisle Town, and slowly but surely was beginning its descent. Elty led Pleo and Nida down a narrow and twisty street whose shadows had already shifted from leaning westwards to eastwards. The team passed the scavver's shop with bones displayed openly on the counter as a brown lizard and vulture haggled over them, a shop with an Audino offering to build up stamina for battle with just "three easy sessions!", and an unsavory-looking three-story shack with firmly barred windows and red glass lanterns hung from the eaves. All the while, Elty continued to ply Pleo with chatter about this 'bokuya' the team was headed for, much to Pleo's curious delight.

"So what sort of food do they serve at 'bokuya, Elty?" he asked. "Is it like the mess hall back home?"

"It's a little different- as long as you've got a way to pay, you can eat and drink as much as you want," the Growlithe explained. "No rations, either! You get to pick from a menu! Just read it and say what you want!"

The Growlithe kept up a cheery demeanor with the bird and the rabbit, as he lead them down a blind alley in between a den with Pokémon gathered about a roulette wheel and a dingy apothecary. If one could call the teeny gap just wide enough to accommodate Pleo's body an "alley", but given the puzzled stares and "what's with the bleached Swanna?" the team had earned on the way over, a little privacy wasn't the end of the world. All that was left now was the intersection with the perpendicular gap of another alley, and then a left turn to head to 'bokuya.

If all went well, over the next couple hours, he'd have food in his stomach, be able to force the spike ball to take a hike and give his bag back, and be free to return to the old business of hit-or-miss attempts at lighting things afire with the Iron Fleet. The explanation he fed the mewa seemed to sit well enough with the bird, except for one small problem that Pleo thought of as he rounded the corner…

"But… I can't read, though," he chirped, tilting his head quizzically. The young Protector's unease drew a small chuckle from Nida as she followed Elty around the bend.

"I can help you out a bit, Pleo," she offered. "Heh, maybe we could even teach you a littl- Aah!"

Nida's words gave way to the abrupt sound of a cry and the sound of blows landing on hided flesh. Elty and Pleo whirled around and saw that Nida had been knocked down onto the lane, kicking back wildly at air as a Scraggy with a lined blue scarf with a red arrow design attempted to tear the satchel along her back free from behind.

"Eyaaah! Stop!" the Nidoran squealed. The Poison-Type thrashed about, her kicks connecting with empty air, and her barbs sailing uselessly away from her assailant. "Let go! You're pulling out my barbs!"

"Stop squirming and give me that bag, you lousy-!"

Elty lowered his ears and ran for the Dark-Type, only for a squawking cry to ring out.

"G-Get off of her!"

And a glowing ball to sail past the little dog's face, prompting him to skid to a stop as it carried along, and slammed into the Scraggy, sending him tumbling along the ground. The lizard righted himself and brushed some dirt off his scales, snarling back at the group.

"Ow! Oh, you're gonna pa-a-aah…"

Only for his aggression to melt away and become replaced with wide-eyed stammering. Team Traveller looked up at the Pokémon's forehead and saw that on it, in between scuff marks from a headbutt, there was a five-tailed blotch. So their attacker was a Marked, and that meant that to him, the white bird with them was a…

"AAAAAAH! Monster! Monster!"

The reptile turned and dashed down the alley, upending a pile of broken-up planks along the way in his mad dash to escape the group. Elty spat a cone of cinders down after the would-be mugger, frowned, and turned back to Nida getting back to her feet. The Nidoran twitched her whiskers irately as she pawed at a bruise on her flank where the reptile headbutted her.

"Elty, do we really have to take a mission from this hole?" she growled. On closer inspection, it seemed that the scuffle with the Scraggy had torn out some barbs after all. Elty frowned as he noticed little blotches on the straps and back, likely poison that would have to be neutralized with fire after he got away. The little spike ball really was going to make these last couple hours stuck with her a pain, wasn't she?

"What are you complaining about?" Elty huffed. "Normally I have to fight to shake off a rabunek like that! Besides, that's 'bokuya right there!"

Sure enough, just past the next intersection on the corner sat a tile-roofed shack with orangish wood that seemed as worn and pitted as driftwood and a slitted cloth over the entrance with red runes in a circle. Much to Nida's surprise, the glyphs seemed to read "Driftwood House"… 'bokuya' was the local way of saying it perhaps?

The cloth over the entrance suddenly parted as a dark purple serpent with a bladed tail and fresh scrapes slithered out grumbling "next time, that spot won't just be on paper!" to herself. As the Seviper headed off, Elty saw a wave of skepticism flush over the faces of the Nidoran and Lugia, only for them to look back down the blind alley and shake their heads. Nothing like a good old-fashioned mugging to remove the skepticism from food and a roof over one's head.

"Fine," Nida sighed, flattening out her ears. "Let's just go inside before something else happens here!"

The three passed through the cloth, Pleo pushing the partition aside with his beak as the three pushed open a creaky door behind it, and were immediately overcome by the smell of cheaply-made spirits. The pressed on and let the door close behind them as their eyes adjusted to the light. Much like the exterior, the room's flooring and walls were made of an orangish worn wood, dotted with funny-smelling stains. There was a simple, low round table next to the door, with stumps for shorter patrons to sit on, with other tables further in hosting parties of obviously unsavory characters.

"Hey, you!"

The team froze and whirled about to see a Granbull, a Lucario, and a Stoutland at a table on the other side of the entrance with cards depicting flowers and Pokémon spread out in the middle. The lot of them scowling and growling at the newcomers.

"We're in the middle of something here!" the Stoutland snarled. "So stop hovering over our game!"

Before Pleo could ask questions, he was yanked away by the others. The team hurried along, keen to find a table where the team wouldn't fall afoul of the regulars. Nida reared up on her hind legs, and sniffed the rum-laden air around her…

"Ah! There!"

There was one unclaimed table in a corner that seemed to be away from any neighbors, a perfect place to lie low and not attract attention as the three ate. Nida motioned for her teammates to follow her, and they made their way past the other tables, reaching the last one when they chanced upon a party consisting of a Banette rubbing his brow, an exasperated Flareon, and a freshly-scuffed Zangoose.

"Travellers Above, Scian," the Banette sighed. "How many times have you gotten black spots from those snakes by now?"

The Ghost-Type flicked an unfolded piece of paper with a black dot at its center across the table to the Zangoose on the other side. He glanced over it disinterestedly before crumpling it up and flicking it into a corner, returning his attention to the contents of a rude clay cup on the table.

"Only 87 times," the Zangoose, evidently 'Scian' grunted back. "Not my fault that I'm unpopular with Seviper."

The Flareon with the group lowered his ears and narrowed his eyes, shaking his head in annoyance

"You'd get fewer if you didn't constantly pick fights with them, you know!" he cried. "Could you at least try not to get us thrown out? It gets old having to constantly bail you out of trouble!"

"Hey, I didn't start anything this time!" Scian shot back. "That péist stuck her tongue out at me after giving that spot!"

As the three Pokémon continued arguing with each other and the subject drifted to whether to search for a rumored stash of loot some rivals were said to have buried near the barrier, Nida froze until Pleo suddenly roused her back to attention.

"Psst! Nida?" he asked. "What's a black spot? Didn't we hear Pokémon at the docks talking about them?"

The Nidoran noticed that all this time, she had been stuck in one place due to anxiety, and that while the corner table was a nice place to hide, that it would also be a good place to be waylaid without being seen, and-

"Daj spokój! Are we taking this table or not?!" Elty demanded.

"Let's… keep moving," Nida grumbled. The Nidoran lead the team off away from the corner table as a "What's their problem anyways?" came from the Banette back at the three ne'er-do-wells' table. The three made their way around and around the eatery, every vacant table being similarly unfriendly-looking. Why did this horrid dive have to be so popular with awful Pokémon anyways-?

"Hmm? Haven't seen you three around before. Not that you'd be hard to forget wandering around like that."

The three looked up and saw that they were passing by a raised counter with stools, and shelves lined with jugs, berries, and herbs behind it. On the other end, a Throh cracked his knuckles and shot a glare off in the direction of the entrance before turning to address Team Traveller,.

"You know, if you were waiting on these stools, you're not going to get a better chance than now to have them," the ruddy fighter said, casting an icy glare at a bruised Beartic and Exploud hastily ducking out of the door. "It's not often that I get customers boneheaded enough to try funny business right in front of me, and these are pretty popular seats here."

Nida looked back at the entrance and saw that there was a clear shot to the exit from the counter. Knowing the duo that had just made themselves scarce, this barkeep clearly was able to keep things in line here… in a manner of speaking. So then, as long as they paid their bill… this was probably the safest spot in 'bokuya they could hope for.

"Well, I'm usually more of a corner guy myself, but I know your mug just fine. You're Shuho!" Elty barked as he hopped atop one of the stools. "Let's get that 'local flavors' menu of yours! I'm treating some company to a taste of Aisle Town here!"

The Throh shifted his glance down below the counter before turning and grabbing an object from a counter behind that clattered. After bringing it up into view, the object was revealed to be a set of small, wooden panels held together by string with rune-riddled cloth glued to the sides.

"Knock yourselves out, then," the Throh replied, sliding the menu over. "You must've had a tiring stint out there, pick what you like and unwind a bit."

Elty cast a glance over to his partners as Pleo began to inspect the the wooden menu along with Nida. A content look crept over his eyes as the spike ball prattled on reading the items on it aloud to Pleo before he turned back to Shuho.

"I don't think I'll have any trouble with that at all."



Crom's encounter on the deck with Ander faded away into uneasy memories with the call for food. Breakfast that day was a simple meal of gummis, with a few more Royal Gummis than normal to reflect the chefs' tastes. A little over-heavy on flavoring, but still decent… or at least edible.

The crates repurposed into tables and seats near the steerage were only big enough for groups at a time. The setup inevitably leading to a rotating cast of crewmates bedecked in lavender to come by and trade gossip between nibbles, only to then head back for work and to bring portions to their seabound companions.

After the deck hands stopped coming, it came time to wrap breakfast up. Pladur and Crom ate their fill of leftover gummis and gathered up the dishes to be cleaned before deck work. Eventually, the ruddy lizard made his way down the orlop deck along with his father for the last cleanup task; namely to return a sack of Gummi base back to the cargo hold.

"Ack!"

Only for the ship to suddenly jolt underneath their feet. The two dragons flailed and fought to retain their balance, giving relieved sighs as the ship settled down…

"Watch it! You almost hit the pier!"

Along with muffled, exasperated cries filtering through the timbers overhead. Some more shouts went up and the sounds of footsteps rang out, the realization of what caused them dawning upon the two galley hands from their place in the hull.

"Ehehe, well, I guess that's one way of announcing that we're in port!" Pladur sheepishly offered. The Fraxure's words made Crom's eyes light up, and the Druddigon quickly climbed up the stairs to the deck. Upon reaching the top, he saw a harbor surrounded by huts nestled in the branches of tall mangroves. The scene was a riot of color: there were the other ships at dock, Pokémon milling about, and creeping vines with their flowers gracing huts and walkways here and there.

"Wow, it really is pretty!" Crom cried. The sound of footsteps behind him quickly revealed themselves to belong to none other than Pladur, who sidled up alongside his son.

"Heh, I knew you would like it," the Fraxure chuckled. "There's not another town this side of the Cradle quite like it."

The young Druddigon ran up to the railing and took in the sight of the harbor. The customary complex of wharves, warehouses, and sea shanties were anchored at the base of a cluster of mangroves that stretched across two banks astride an island between forks of a river emptying out into the harbor and up into the branches. The skies were abuzz with Bug and Flying-Types flitting between treetops, though the sea Pokémon passing up the river seemed to be constrained by rocky channels built into the river's forks. Off in the distance, there was the form of a great tree with a small shack dangling from a branch, all marvelous sights…

"You there!"

Except it sure seemed like there were an awful lot of sea-green scarved Pokémon near their ship. Down at the gangplank, a glaring Durant and Masquerain blocked a Timburr and Hitmontop as they tried to make tried to make their ways onto the dock.

"Where do you think you're going?" the Masquerain demanded, gesturing at the First-Rank scarf about the Fighting-Types' neck.

"Er," the Hitmontop murmured uneasily. "We were just docking?"

"Yeah, well casse-toi!" the Durant chittered. "You Company sods can't honestly expect to be welcome after what your friends did to us yesterday-!"

"That's quite enough, you two," a voice interrupted, cutting off the metal-plated ant. "I believe I know why they're here."

All eyes turned to see a Leavanny approaching the ship, who looked about the vessel's crewmembers, her eyes eventually settling upon an Illumise flitting above the railing and her Second-Rank company scarf.

"The name's Maranda, I'm la Mairesse of this town. We have who you're looking for," she told the Illumise. "If you want them back, prepare a negotiating team. We'll continue this matter somewhere more privately in a few hours after my shift at the medic's hut."

Captain Beatrix flitted back and buzzed out of surprise. The firefly paused, and after taking a moment to mull things over, spoke back to the Leavanny.

"Er… right, give me a moment to pick some help," she said. The Illumise turned her attention up to the flying escorts who were perched among the tops of the masts and their crow's nests, her attention settling on a certain Swellow. "Kiran, it's your team, right? Can you give me a wing?"

"I can do that, yes," he chirped, fluttering down beside the captain as she tried to settle on a second Pokémon for this "negotiating party".

"And, for the other-"

"Right here!"

The Servine from the crew shot up a leafy hand, only to be shoved out of the way by a beaming Raichu. Then came the other deck hands, and the fliers, and even the sea escorts! After watching the proud crew of the Siglo Swellow devolve into behavior fitting for children in a ballgame, Beatrix screwed her eyes shut and shook her head.

"Okay seriously, guys?" the Illumise buzzed, putting a tarsus over her brow.

"What?" the Servine asked. "It's a big occasion!"

"Fine, fine, whatever," she grumbled. "Let's go with… Pladur."

The Fraxure immediately stiffened up at attention, and darted out in front of the rest of his crewmates as a few disappointed groans rang out.

"Mrph! R-Right!" he cried. "It'll be an hon-"

Pladur's words trailed off as he saw that his son looked a bit downcast. The Fraxure wondered why his son's spirits seemed to have sunk as abruptly they did, when it occurred to him…

This was his friend that the bug had. The one that he'd gone so far as to try and sneak aboard a Company ship to try and free from Lyn. Then…

Maybe it wouldn't hurt to let his child catch up with him a bit sooner.

"Oh… er… actually, can I let my son stand in, Beatrix?" Pladur asked. "He could use some more experience and all…"

Crom's eyes brightened and his tail wagged a bit expectantly as the Illumise turned and stared, mulling before she finally came to a conclusion.

"Fine, he's on."

"Oh!"

"Heh," Pladur tittered. "Just make sure that our Pro-OUCH!"

The Fraxure was cut off by his son pouncing upon him, pulling the flailing tusked dragon into an eager hug.

"Thank you, dad!" Crom cried. "I won't let you down, I promise!"

"You really are a softie, Pladur," the Bug-Type chuckled, shaking her head.

"Just wish that my armor was a bit less so," he winced back as Crom relaxed his embrace and turned to face the Illumise and the Leavanny beyond.

"Anyhow," Beatrix answered. "Let's get to business."



Plate after plate, the peckish travelers eagerly made up for their skipped meals. They started with some Gummis, to take the edge off their hunger and start their stomachs on something easy. Afterwards, they ordered a small bowl of local produce, and some battered vegetables and mushrooms that were apparently called 'tempura'. Elty hoped to get the pair to discover a taste for Kenobi's famous Lum Wine, but the two seemed to be repelled by the strong flavor. Oh well, more for him!

Elty occasionally looked back at the windows by the door to watch the shadows shift with the moving sun. As Nida and Pleo munched on an order of star-shaped sugar clumps the mewa dubbed 'sweet seeds', he saw that the sun only seemed to be about an hour or so off from sunset.

Just another hour until sweet freedom-

"Oi, Gardie," the Throh gruffly prodded. "I need to take a break to eat dinner before the evening crush, you and your friends going to pay or what?"

The three looked around as Pleo wondered aloud what a "Gardie" was, and saw that the seats had cleared out, leaving them behind as the only customers. The wooden sign propped up against the window had been flipped so that the runes that read "Open" were visible from inside rather than out. So Shuho here didn't like leaving things unattended while eating, though it was hard to fault him considering the neighborhood. As for the matter of the bill…

"Er… put it on my tab!" Elty answered. The Throh raised a brow skeptically, clearly not liking where the little Fire-Type was taking the conversation.

"Yeah right," the barkeep scoffed. "If you've got a tab, show me your crew's colors. I don't keep tabs that I don't know I can collect."

Elty froze as he realized that the scarf around his neck was still the blue and white scarf of the spike ball's team. The Growlithe then remembered that his old golden-threaded ones were still with the guards back in Bluewhorl…

"Er… I can get you them by sundown!" he replied.

"Huh?" Pleo chirped. "What's at sundown, Elty?"

"Elty, just how do you expect us to get pirate scarves by sundown?" Nida hissed quietly. "We're only three Pokémon!"

The Growlithe was about to reflexively explain that the Iron Fleet would surely cover the tab of one of its own, when he suddenly remembered that the spike ball and the mewa were still right there and bit down on his tongue.

"Uh…"

The Growlithe fumbled in his mind for something to feed the barkeep, but… just what was he supposed to say? What explanation would Fighting-Type would buy that wouldn't get Nida and Pleo tanning his hide?

WHUMP

The three watched as Shuho suddenly hopped the counter and came to a rest behind them. As Team Traveller whirled around, they saw the barkeep was now standing between them and the exit, glaring and cracking his knuckles.

"If you don't have a tab, I'm gonna need you to fork over coins for your bill," he snarled. "Ima sugu!"

"B-But we have any Poké!" Pleo stammered. "We haven't even picked a mission yet!"

As the little Lugia's words left his beak, Elty folded his ears back and pulled his tail against his legs as he stared up at the glaring fighter.

"Uhm… W-Will you take berries and orbs?" he stammered. "Our team leader's got some! Ask her!"

"Elty, you said that you had a tab for us!" the Nidoran hissed, glaring daggers of her own at the Growlithe.

"Er… I was mistaken?" he offered.

"Oh you're mistaken, alright!" Shuho shouted. "Mistaken if you think I'm not going to take your bill out of your hides for this-!"

Just then, the sound of the tavern's door creaking open could be heard, as a familiar squeaking Sentret voice cried out inside.

"Hey! Has anyone here seen a Snorunt?" it asked. "Short, a little scruffy, and-"

"Scout?!"

Sure enough, after poking their heads past the Throh, the three saw that Scout really was at the door. The Sentret for his part seemed equally surprised to see Team Traveller in a dive like this, the brown creature springing back with a start.

"Eh?! You three are here too?!" he cried. "And before you ask- Don't worry, I got your letter back home before I moved on."

"Oh, er… that's great, but," Nida began, before shaking her head. "Could you help us out here? We kinda need to pay off a bill…"

There was an awkward silence, Nida, Pleo, and Elty giving sheepish, pleading grins from one end. And on the other, the frown of a Sentret who saw Team Traveller's smiles, the unpleased Fighting-Type standing over them, and the pile of what were surely unpaid dishes on the counter.

"Whelp, enjoy your dishwashing, kids!" he exclaimed, as the next sounds that rang out were Scout ducking out of the tavern and slamming the door behind him.

"Grr…"

And a fist being punched into an open palm, and the low growling of Shuho still glowering at the three non-paying runts before him.

"Ahehehe," Elty offered. "U-Uhm… A-About that bill-"

CLUNK

"Sorry we're late, the money's right there," a voice suddenly answered. "Lucky break we saw you through the windows, huh?"

Team Traveller and the white-garbed fighter looked at the counter, where sure enough, a bag full of glistening golden-colored Poké sat on the counter.

"Huh?" Shuho began, as he turned around. He saw that at in front of a pair of just-opened doors were the forms of an Archen, a Marshtomp, a Tropius, and a Nidorino in red scarves with a white design that looked vaguely like an opened book with a horizontally divided circle in it. The fossil bird of the group hopped up on the counter by the bag of Poké and waved at the Throh.

"Yeah, we hired these three for an urgent mission in the Mystery Dungeon," he squawked. "They were in a bit of a rush so they walked out without their advance!"

"Yeah, Scholls and the rest of us just wanted to make sure that we were in agreement about what needed to be done," the mudskipper added, before turning to Pleo. "Isn't that right?"

"Wait, what's an 'adv'-?" Pleo began, only to be cut off as Elty stuffed a paw over his beak.

"That's right!" the Growlithe over-eagerly replied. "Sorry about the misunderstanding!"

"Wait just a minute!" the Fighting-Type demanded. "Your friend just said you hadn't picked a mission yet!"

"Uhm… well… we hadn't picked one for today…" Nida sheepishly offered. "I don't like to spend money without a couple missions in the pipeline, it leads to trouble like this!"

The Throh glared, and then looked at the bag of coins on the counter. After picking it up and finding that its weight seemed to be enough to cover the bill and a generous tip, the thick-browed Pokémon rifled through the bag and decided that even if the explanation wasn't adding up, the money certainly was, and that would be more than sufficient.

"Hrmph. You oughta be more careful next time," the Fighting-Type growled, as he stuffed the bag of coins into a satchel he wore around his waist. The Archen hopped back to the floor and the leafy sauropod motioned to Team Traveller to join them.

"Come along, we remembered there were some details that we missed out from that debrief earlier."

"Garth," the Nidorino whispered to his Marshtomp partner. "And how did we let Wally talk us into trusting three delincuentes juveniles to get back our field notes?"

"Machalí, we tried the normal guild! They said they wouldn't get our listing up until tomorrow!" the Marshtomp whispered back. "Desperate times call for desperate measures!"

Shuho cast a glance at the two parties before ducking behind the counter, and loitered at the edge of a back room ready to make itself a long-deserved meal once these last stubborn customers left, leaving Pleo to raise the long-pending question…

"Who are you all?"

"The name's Team Taxonomy," the rabbit replied, following with a gesture of his paw relaxedly pointing to the rest of the group, "El equipo de incansables buscadores de las verdades perdidas."

The other three Pokémon of this 'Team Taxonomy' rolled their eyes at the Nidorino's boast. Even so, Nida's ears pricked up out of surprise as she realized...

"Ah! Eres Trombense!" Nida cried.

"… Trombense?" The Nidorino lowered his paw and stared at Nida quizzically. He then let his ears down and smiled. "Alas, the truth's more complicated than that," the Poison-Type answered. "I've never been there outside of field work, but my family has roots from there, yes."

"We saw you three were in a bit of a pinch. So how about a trade?" the Archen offered. "We got you out of your jam there, now we need the favor repaid a bit…"

Favor? No way! Hess and the Iron Fleet were going to be here in a couple of hours! The team couldn't just go off dungeoneering right now!

"Er, yeah, about tha-" Elty began. The Growlithe then felt a pricking sensation along his left hip and turned to see a glaring Nidoran prodding him with her barbs. From the back room, he could also hear Shuho growling, evidently irked at the team holding him up from his meal.

"Bogowie..."

Gah… this wasn't supposed to happen! But still, as long as they were quick about this mission, he could still catch up with the rest of his crew when they came back to rest at night, right?

"What do you need us to do?" the Fire-Type sighed.

"We've got a place at a hostel outside this hive," the Tropius answered. "We'll talk when we get there."

That seemed fair enough to Nida and Pleo, even if the idea seemed to make Elty a bit agitated. It was a little riskier than they'd like, but these four did help them out in their trouble earlier…

And with that, Team Traveller exited the sordid little shack, leaving its barkeep to tend to his food, and the three to wonder just what was getting back these "field notes" this "Team Taxonomy" lost going to entail?



Author's Notes:

- tokage (蜥蜴) - Japanese: "lizard" (Hepburn Romanization)
- Sleep (スリープ) - Japanese: "Drowzee", used here as a pun/double entendre. (Official Romanization)
- Koppen dicht - Dutch: "Shut up" (plural subject). Compare "Kop dicht" for singular subjects. lit. "heads closed"
- rabunek - Polish: "mugging", "robbery"
- péist - Irish: "worm"
- casse-toi! - French: "get lost!", "get out!"
- Gardie (ガーディ) - Japanese: "Growlithe" (Official Romanization)
- Ima sugu! (今すぐ!) - Japanese: "Right now!", "Immediately!" (Hepburn Romanization)
- El equipo de incansables buscadores de las verdades perdidas. - Spanish: "The team of tireless seekers of lost truths." Ordering of adjective and noun is convention in romantic descriptions in Spanish.
- (¡)Eres Trombense! - Spanish: "You're Tromban!"
 
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Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
  3. custom/roserade-adam
After all this time, I finally got around to giving Fledglings a read and I managed to read the third and fourth chapters.

The third chapter gave us the proper introduction to baby Lugia, who we'd come to know as Pleo. Seeing how naive and fish out of water Pleo is while everyone simultaneously reveres his existence was a lot of fun to read. I'm a bit surprised how quickly the others found Nida when she fell down the pit in the previous chapter, but I suppose there was no reason for things to drag on further either. I'm curious to see the pace at which Pleo's power may grow, and that remains to be seen for now.

Chapter 4 is much longer than chapter 3 by comparison, which is fine honestly. That just gives me a lot more ground to cover and talk about. Aside from that, this chapter is where Pleo got his name as well as his current caretakers until further notice.

All was well and good, but then that marked Scyther showed up spewing ominous warnings and premonitions. It's strange to see that coming from a descendant of the marked considering their ancestors are the reason half the planet is a mess. On that note though, I get the feeling there's more to the story of the marked than we've been told so far and things aren't quite as black and white. Furthermore, I can't say I agree with the prospect of punishing the descendants of some ancient folks who happened to commit a great evil. It's unfair and unreasonable since their descendants should have had nothing to do with what those that came before them did.

I'm also curious about this Company that keeps getting brought up. From what I can gather, they're probably some large organization that go about islands extorting them for resources in exchange for granting some kind of service. If the company learns of Pleo, it's very probable they'll show interest in him. If there's other legendary pokemon popping up on other islands as well, then it's likely those ones are just as vulnerable to being exploited by the wrong folks.

Anyway, this was an enjoyable pair of chapters for me to read. I think the plot is steadily growing legs and moving forward. I still have little idea where the story is going in the future, but I'm all here for this boat ride.
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
The third chapter gave us the proper introduction to baby Lugia, who we'd come to know as Pleo. Seeing how naive and fish out of water Pleo is while everyone simultaneously reveres his existence was a lot of fun to read. I'm a bit surprised how quickly the others found Nida when she fell down the pit in the previous chapter, but I suppose there was no reason for things to drag on further either. I'm curious to see the pace at which Pleo's power may grow, and that remains to be seen for now.

I’m glad to hear you found those interactions a fun read. As for Pleo’s powers, it’ll be a bit of a journey, but he certainly won’t be anywhere near as helpless at the end of the story as he is right now.

All was well and good, but then that marked Scyther showed up spewing ominous warnings and premonitions. It's strange to see that coming from a descendant of the marked considering their ancestors are the reason half the planet is a mess. On that note though, I get the feeling there's more to the story of the marked than we've been told so far and things aren't quite as black and white. Furthermore, I can't say I agree with the prospect of punishing the descendants of some ancient folks who happened to commit a great evil. It's unfair and unreasonable since their descendants should have had nothing to do with what those that came before them did.

Well, even though it vibes after a Saturday Morning Cartoon, Fledglings generally tries to aim for shades of gray in its conflict, so you’re right that things aren’t as black and white as presented regarding the Marked.

Also despite what most believe in setting, the way a Pokémon gets a mark may not be entirely hereditary, but you’ll have to keep reading if you want to find out more ~

I'm also curious about this Company that keeps getting brought up. From what I can gather, they're probably some large organization that go about islands extorting them for resources in exchange for granting some kind of service. If the company learns of Pleo, it's very probable they'll show interest in him. If there's other legendary pokemon popping up on other islands as well, then it's likely those ones are just as vulnerable to being exploited by the wrong folks.

All in due time, good sir. ^^

Anyway, this was an enjoyable pair of chapters for me to read. I think the plot is steadily growing legs and moving forward. I still have little idea where the story is going in the future, but I'm all here for this boat ride.

And we hope you’ll enjoy it as long as you’re on that ride! It was a pleasure to get another review from you!

No fic update today since it’s midcycle, though I do have the next trivia section queued up and ready to go. This one was originally posted on Serebii when Fledglings picked up 5,000 views over there with its contents correlating roughly to Episode 4 of Fledglings, but also touching on some content from earlier Episodes that wasn’t covered at the time.

Curious what’s there? Well let’s get right into that trivia section:
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Author’s Note: This trivia section was originally posted alongside Chapter 20 of Fledglings on Serebii. Annotations and revised commentary not originally in this trivia section are noted in bolded text.

How did you come up with Hatteras?

Hatteras was initially envisioned as a character that much like Wigglytuff, would be a goofball off in his own world for a good portion of the time that still manages to get things done. Obviously, doing a direct retread of Wigglytuff would have been boring (plus Ampharos probably don't say "yoom-tah"), which lead to Hatteras picking up some divergent traits down the road. The major ones would be his ability to better sell a firm, no-nonsense impression to tough customers; being a little further up there in years; and his comedic jack-of-all-trades shtick. The whole "being an electric sheep" came along after talking over some possibilities along with Venia Silente from Serebii one night, where we figured that since the town was by the sea, it might make sense for its leader to potentially be someone who could help out with some sort of major practical role, such as making sure ships don't run aground. Funnily enough, this all happened before Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon was even revealed.

As for why he's called "Hatteras", our favorite electric sheep's name takes after his night job a bit, complete with black stripes.

How did you come up with Ander?

From a very early point on, it was decided that in the world of Fledglings, small numbers of the Pokémon known as the "Marked" would be intermixed into communities around the Cradle.

As such, when coming from a background that is commonly viewed with suspicion and misgivings (to put it generously), it makes for characters that exist at the fringes of their respective societies, with a hefty dose of siege mentality.

Ander owes his origins primarily through his (budding artist) daughter's species in a throwaway idea-generating session. His current occupation as a "scavver" is informed by a mix of being something that would naturally attract suspicion and unease (especially from Pokémon that aren't apex predators), as well as something that having a pair of long, sharp blades on your person constantly would be useful for.

As for where his name comes from... his and the other names in his family are all derived from fragments of one shared name that alludes to some plans from the original draft of Fledglings. While they don’t occur in full in the final version, they’re still retained enough that I feel it’s one of those things that’s spoilery enough to punt off into its own bit, and is best looked at after the story gets quite a bit further into its run.

Ander and his family’s names are all based off fragments of "Cassandra". That’s all I will say on the matter.

How did you come up with Tromba?

Tromba's natural features were informed by wanting to make an idyllic tropical island that could plausibly support constant cultivation for more than one crop cycle in the year. The Mystery Dungeon was stuck where it was in order to give a bit of a surreal vibe to the place.

The island having Spanish as its "tongue" is one that I chose because it was one of the more simple and reader-friendly ones to start out with. Have a passing knowledge, know people like Venia Silente who have a better knowledge, and the Spanish localizations for Pokémon names being the same as English kept the dialogue from the main characters from being overly cluttered, as opposed to being bombarded with "Crimgan"s or "Schwalboss"es right off the bat.

As for the name, it is merely Spanish for 'waterspout', which being an island named after a whirlwind, seemed to be pleasantly appropriate for the home of a Lugia. The other beta names that were floated around for Tromba similarly kept the 'whirl' theme in the local tongue, which included 'Torbellino' and 'Giro'. Or 'whirlwind' and 'turn'/'whirl' respectively.

How did you come up with Bluewhorl Town?

Bluewhorl since its earliest concepts has always been intended to be one of those small, sleepy, peaceful-seeming villages where most locals know each other and look out for each other without a whole lot going on, to the point where its working name during the planning stages was literally 'Podunk'. Obviously, trouble is not nearly as distant as it seems from a glance, but such is life in most towns chosen to host the protagonists of a story involving journeys faraway. Especially when beings seen as gods and shady ambitions come into play.

Bluewhorl's name was chosen to be a cutesy and simple two word "word salad" title that would be in the "common tongue" that is spoken in the Cradle. 'Whorl' once again being a play off of Lugia's haunt back in G/S/C. As for "blue", well when you're surrounded by sea and sky, blue tends to be on the mind quite a bit. :P

What's with the Apricorns?

Apricorns in this setting are an interpretation that I borrowed from Tangent128 from Serebii that I felt suited the setting and chose to roll with because conservation of mass is a thing it presented plot and worldbuilding threads that could be drawn upon, with most applications in setting coming from conversations with Virgil134 about potential uses.

Specifically, Apricorns in this setting are nuts that grow with natural pocket dimensions inside of them that suck in unfortunate Pokémon that overly disturb them. The pocket dimension gets interrupted and reformed depending on if the nut's shell is fully enclosed or not. It's a bit on the out-there side of interpretations, but when taken on its own logic, allows for it to become something that is both threatening to the locals in-setting and also a vector that would have both allowed old codgers in Johto could fashion them into things that could catch murderbeasts in an age before mass-produced plastic and metal contraptions, and also be able to make them into nutritious drinks for more athletic types.

How did you come up with Lyn?

Whelp, I'll admit that this is one of those parts of the meta backstory that's kinda lame, but... Back when I was putting together rough character roles, I came to the decision that Pleo and company would get punted out of the proverbial nest by someone who basically carried the same shtick as Admiral Zhao from ATLA as someone who was far too ambitious for his own (or anyone else's) good.

On the other hand, I also wanted a villain that wouldn't be an "expected" species, which per PMD/franchise trends, basically ruled out Poison, Ghost, and Dark-Types, along with all of the "stereotypically jerkish" Pokémon such as Salamence.

Cue remembering an old character concept that Tangent128 from Serebii batted around elsewhere in the deep, dark corners of the internet. Specifically a concept of a jerkish, underhanded Dewott in a PMD setting that had a tendency to bully around some locals lower on the totem pole, who lends Lyn his current name.

After pushing Lyn up the power ladder a bit relative to the concept that inspired his character, I thought to myself, "hey, this actually covers both bases pretty well!" After all, Samurott may be a starter and trend "le noble swordsmon" in prevailing depictions, but it also draws influence from a warrior class that gave the world Night Slash tsujigiri, or in plain English: the practice of going out to a crossroads and testing out your sword’s sharpness on random passerby peasants. And so it was that our "favorite" Commissioner came to be.

There are a few layers to the onion that got added during the planning process regarding how Lyn came to be the not-so-little terror he is in the story now, but it will be a little while longer before they come into play on-screen. (Lol, okay so barring some hints here and there, it was closer to six years, but who’s counting?) After all, when on the run from someone who's kidnapped you from home, there's higher priorities than going into life stories off the bat.

How did you come up with the Company anyways?

Those of you who have a passing knowledge of 17th and 18th century world history (or have otherwise have seen a Pirates of the Caribbean movie) have probably picked up on the Company drawing rather non-trivially from historical outfits such as the British and Dutch East India Companies. Namely outfits that blend corporate structure with on-the-ground power and governance and casual exploitation of those unlucky enough to be under their authority.

Obviously, the British and Dutch East India Companies never butted heads with their sponsoring governments quite to the degree that Ellsberg hinted at during his stint in Bluewhorl, but this is a fanfic and not a historical allegory. :P

What's with those purple squares on the Company scarves?

They are T-Square fractals, with the complexity increasing by one level with each rank up the ladder.

i.e. Lyn is a Third-Rank, as such his pattern is as depicted in the headers of the chapters in Episode 4. Osmund and Ellsberg as Second-Ranks both have a square with four smaller ones anchored on the corners. The common grunt (and Pleo in the chapters immediately after Lyn caught him) has a sad, single, lonely square. After all, a shady company-turned-government needs some way to encourage its more petty members to climb the internal ranks.

Why does Lyn's ship have cannons and why don't they shoot proper cannonballs?

Lyn's ship has cannons because for a society that can cobble together crude huts and ships, the ability to throw together a reinforced wooden tube that channels explosions to shoot things out is fairly trivial, especially when prepackaged low grade explosives turn up on a fairly regular basis in Mystery Dungeons.

As for why they don't bother shooting proper cannonballs, it has to do with a confluence of factors:

The first, and primary one, is simply the lack of metal to work with, as mentioned in passing in earlier chapters back. As in real life, metal tends to by hard to come by on isolated sea rocks unless you hit the geological jackpot, and lack of thumbs tends to get in the way of metallurgy at low tech levels. Both of which make metal a wee bit too valuable to the perspective of the Cradle’s locals to risk losing a collection of cannons' worth of metal to the bottom of a sea. Let alone use it to make proper cannonballs that would similarly turn out to be pains to try and retrieve after shooting.

The second biggie is the materials constraints of what they do have. In real life, wooden cannons are frail pieces of junk that rarely last more than a few shots before breaking when shooting out heavy projectiles, often explosively. As such, for the sake of ease of reloading and getting the most uses as possible out of it, a dangerous, but lightweight projectile that doesn’t require that much to get going is ideal for such cannons. Hence Apricorn grapeshot.

The last contributing factor to why Lyn's weaponized wooden tubes are the way they are is due to them occupying a different niche relative to cannons in our history. Much like throwing a Pokéball would, a cannon that shoots Apricorns in this setting would fundamentally have most effect being put to use kicking a weakened Pokémon while they're down, putting Pokémon into sticky situations thanks to sudden terrain changes (i.e. busting out at the bottom of a lake), or for intimidation purposes.

For more practical endeavors such as bringing your foe to their knees, or putting a hole in a relatively frail wooden ship, there's a whole list of attacks and usable items that will do the trick almost as well as a cannon and not break into pieces from an errant Brick Break or Thunderbolt.

What's with all the pirates and ships anyways, isn't this a PMD fic?

Well, in my defense, my exact words when this fic started were that Fledglings was a PMD-like fic. But the features of this fic that are more sea-oriented were chosen since they seemed like logical outgrowths of transporting a PMD-like society into a setting with a lot more seawater.

PMD-esque settings commonly have outlaws, a setting as waterlogged as the Cradle has a bit more of a premium on land. Thus, the analogues to outlaws in the Cradle adopt a modus operandi that is better suited to their craft out on the underwatched sea.

Similarly, such societies have an understanding of basic carpentry and stonecutting, which would imply that when push came to shove, that making simple wooden floaty things to take the burden off of Lapras and other sea Pokemon needing to lug or tow around cargo and passengers by themselves would both be possible, and desirable as long as they could be defended.

But most importantly, they’re there because they help make the setting a bit more unique and fun to read. o3o
 
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Chapter 28: Putting Two and Two Together New

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His


As the hours went by on the deck of the Siglo Swellow, Crom and Kiran did what they could to try and keep themselves preoccupied until Maranda's medic shift ended. When that time came to pass, the two and Captain Beatrix would be led to "a place of my choosing", where Team Traveller would finally be returned to them. Mentor and pupil played a couple rounds of monster cards here, struck up a few idle conversations about nothings such as "what do you suppose that big tree with the dangling hut is for?", and occasionally cast glances off at the town's scenery. Crom took the time to reexamine his wounds from the beating aboard Lyn's ship; fortunately, most of them had healed by now.

But as much as they tried, nothing seemed to fully dislodge a lingering anxiety among the ship's crew. The Pokémon with sea-green scarves glowering at the ship from the docks and the water the whole time certainly didn't help, but more importantly... this town was holding their Protector and the missing children from town, and it didn't sound like it would just be giving them back… But… why?

Had they gotten wise to Pleo's nature? Were they trying to extort them? Were they unwilling to leave him in the claws of Company lavenders?

"Aherm."

Until, at about the time of Team Traveller's visit to the Ryūbokuya bar, Maranda returned to the docks. From the bottom of the still-lowered gangplank, she looked up at a wary-eyed Illumise, wearing a stern and serious expression.

"It's time," the Mairesse said. "If you want your friends back, do come along."

"Yeah, and don't try any funny business!" the Durant from earlier chittered.

Crom, Kiran, and Beatrix made their way down the gangplank and were quickly flanked by a small detail consisting of a handful of Pokémon, headed by an antsy Durant and a Masquerain that occasionally attempted to calm his counterpart with "Calme-toi, mon fils." The churlish-looking reception quickly whisked the three lavender-scarved sailors along Maranda's steps.

In spite of the uninviting glares, the path over to the warehouse was still a treat for Crom's eyes. One could see shops, huts, and even what looked to be a shrine nestled in the trees off in the distance. The tantalizing smell of fresh gummis wafted here and there from eateries along the wind...

The treat was cut short as the trio and escort arrived at the warehouse Maranda had mentioned. It was a tall structure, "50% taller than the lighthouse" as Kiran put it, formed by erecting wooden walls in between trunks of a roughly rectangular clump of mangroves with a shingled roof. As the three slipped in, the light and color from the town around them faded away into tight, dimly lit corridors between stacks of crates and barrels.

The trio were led down a few dimly-lit twists and bends, past stacks of crates and barrels that Crom was just able to notice were worn and cracked from repeated use. When the three made their way a little further along, they caught sight of a ray of light peeking down from the ceiling.

"We're bringing your friends in right now," Maranda said. "Go on, and follow the instructions that the guards give you."

The three Pokémon looked uneasily up ahead as Maranda, the glowering Masquerain, the Durant, and the other guards fell back into the shadows, leaving Crom and his companions to carry on. Crom, Kiran, and Captain Beatrix shuffled forward uncomfortably towards an illuminated spot under a hole in the ceiling. The three squinted ahead, looking for any sign of Pleo, when a voice from the direction of the light called out.

"Come nice and steady," it barked. "Keep your limbs raised where we can see them and no sudden moves."

One by one, the trio followed the voice's orders and raised their arms and wings, stepping forward slowly towards the light as thoughts raced through their minds.

Did these Pokémon know about Pleo's true nature? Had the team gotten into trouble here? Were they still alright? Would these Pokémon try to blackmail them for something to get them back?

"Mrph!"

Everyone jumped as the sound of two protesting creatures pierced the warehouse's silence.

"Ow! Watch it, you dumb bugs!"

A Frogadier and an Ursaring, hogtied and loosely gagged with silken bindings, flopped forward in front of their three guards; a Crustle, a Galvantula, and a Seismitoad. The three Pokémon from the Siglo Swellow paused, blinking at the sight of the two strange Pokémon now in the circle of light, before turning to trade uneasy glances with each other.

"Er… are either of those yours, Kiran?" the Illumise asked. "They're kinda big for rookies."

"No, they're not," Kiran sighed, as he buried his face in a wing.

"E-Eh?!" Crom cried. "This wasn't who you were supposed to have at all!"

The guards on the other end, for their part, seemed to grow impatient from the outburst, and growled back irritatedly.

"Oi! Don't give us that nonsense!" the Galvantula hissed.

"Yeah, don't play sly with us!" the Crustle interjected. "We didn't catch any other troublemakers from your ranks here!"

"Come on, you jerks!" the frog huffed. "This isn't funny! Misha and I have been stuck in this white glop for a day now!"

"Stop stalling and get these bugs to let us-!" the Ursaring began, before noticing something amiss with these 'rescuers' of theirs. "Wait… you're..."

The bear sized up the three lavender-scarved Pokémon on the edge of the illuminated circle, glaring once his eyes came across the short Druddigon among them. The Ursaring growled, realizing that the lizard was none other than...

"You're that brat from Tromba who snuck aboard our ship!"

"Er…"

Crom felt the color drain from his face as he saw Kiran and Captain Beatrix grimace. The Druddigon's mind recalled that dark moment of getting discovered aboard Lyn's ship, and he instinctively fell behind the Swellow and Illumise to try and hide.

"Yeah, you'd better be scared!" the brown Pokémon snarled. "You're all finished as soon as we get out of this-!"

"Send these two away for a moment," Maranda's voice chittered, the Leavanny pushing her way through the guards to take a place alongside the three Tromban Pokémon. "It sounds like things are a bit more complicated than we thought they would be."

"Yes, madam," the Crustle chittered.

The Ursaring and the Frogadier were unceremoniously dragged off shouting and struggling against their bonds, out of the illuminated circle and into the darkness. Some angry words continued to stream out, particularly from the Ursaring, until they were replaced by muffled noises (the gags around their muzzles had been tightened, it sounded). In their place, the Mairesse of Seahive Square stepped into the light and turned to the three now-shaken Pokémon in lavender scarves.

"Care to explain to me what's going on here?" she demanded. "Either the Company's been having more trouble in its lower ranks than I've heard of, or you three aren't quite what you seem."

Beatrix, Kiran, and Crom traded uneasy looks with each other. If they were in trouble, there wouldn't be anything that this Leavanny wouldn't figure out soon enough. So then, for the sake of being able to get Pleo back...

Perhaps it was best to take a gamble.

"Not one word of this leaves your mandibles, alright?" the firefly finally answered.

"They're sealed," Maranda replied. "But I do want an explanation."

"We're a team sent by Bluewhorl to look for our Protector, and some local kids who went off after him," Kiran explained. "You could say that we've had a little bit of trouble keeping him at home."

"They told us they were here in a letter!" Crom added "And we thought that the Pokemon you were talking about would have been Pleo... and Nida... and Elty… but…"

The Druddigon trailed off and began to droop his head and wings, leaving Maranda to pause and give a curious twitch of her antennae. After a long pause, the Leavanny's eyes softened, and she patted at the young dragon's shoulder as she began to speak.

"Well, they were here. But yesterday, one 'Commissioner Lyn' came by and claimed they were pirates," she responded. "Before we could act one way or the other, the three flew off and got past a pursuit with a little help from a concerned observer."

"Eh?! So then they left?!" Kiran squawked, beating out his wings in surprise. "Where'd they go?!"

"I'm afraid that I don't know myself," Maranda said, shaking her head. "I lost track of them fairly early on, and I don't know if the team changed course once they got out to sea."

Dejected looks passed among the three Pokémon. So here they were, out on Boisocéan, with even fewer leads as to where Pleo and the others could be than when they left Tromba! It was then that Maranda cleared her throat and began to speak again.

"It's a long shot, but... there might be some Pokemon in town that overheard their plans. Spending some time asking around certainly couldn't hurt…" the Leavanny offered, before pausing and pointing a leafy tarsus at Crom's lavender-scarved neck.

"But do wear something a bit more presentable than what's around your necks right now," she instructed. "You'll be hard-pressed to get anything out from the Pokémon here in that attire!"

BOOM

Just then, the sound of a blast and crates crashing against the ground could be heard. A cry rang out among the guards that had drug the captured Company Pokémon away. Apparently the Ursaring had managed to shoot a Hyper Beam through his muzzle, punching a hole through a few crates and into the ceiling.

BOOOOM

The boom was followed by a fiery flash, several yelps and more crates crashing. As Crom squinted to see what was going on across the warehouse, he saw the Ursaring and Frogadier get blown back into a pile of ruined crates- now with their gags and most of their cords singed off, and copious burn marks.

"I thought we got rid of all the Blast Seeds in this warehouse," Maranda sighed, burying her face in a leafy hand.

"Er… what do we do with those two again?" Kiran asked.

"Yeah, if they get back to their home base, we're in some serious hot water," the Illumise buzzed, shaking her head.

"Well, the official record shows that you're the Company representatives who came here," Maranda explained. "If you for whatever reason wanted to keep them busy here, well… it would be hard to argue with Company orders, wouldn't it?"

The three thought about it, and as quickly as the question was raised, Crom, Kiran, and Beatrix knew exactly how they wanted to keep the two Company lackeys from going anywhere quickly.

"Community Service," they collectively replied.

"Very well," Maranda answered, before turning to the guards behind her. "Help your colleagues with taking those two back to the cells, I'll hold a sentencing for Community Service for them later tonight!"

"Wait, what?!" the Frogadier protested.

"You can't just-!" Misha began, before he was cut off by a swarm of guards. In the dim light, Crom could see the mob of guards unceremoniously burying the Ursaring in sticky silk, hoisting him up, and carrying him on their backs; his partner met a similar fate as the two struggled futilely against their bonds.

As the… colorful sailors' language of the duo faded away, the sound of a door opening and closing could be faintly heard. After the warehouse returned back to silence, Maranda turned back to the group, and cleared her throat to speak again.

"Is there anything else I should know right now?" she asked.

"Actually… we have some posters with fake bounties on our Protector," Kiran explained, as he dug into his satchel and pulled out a stack of papers. Each one of them had a simple wanted notice with the depiction of Tromba's Protector, and a listed reward great enough to make a prince of a pauper. "Obviously, we don't want them up right now, but we need someone to keep them in the wings to go up if anything goes pear-shaped for us."

"Consider it done," Maranda answered. "And good luck with your search."

"Thank you…" Crom replied, lowering his head gratefully.

And with that, the three Pokémon of the Siglo Swellow headed back into the darkness towards the entrance of the warehouse. Back for the town, where hopefully they would be able to find some lead as to where the missing members of Team Traveller had gone to after changing out of Company Lavenders.



Not too long after leaving the bar, the red-scarved members of Team Taxonomy lead Team Traveller's members back up the winding path of the seaside bluff into the more reputable parts of Mossaisle Town. Now that they weren't darting down cluttered alleys, Nida began to see things that reminded her of home back on Tromba.

The crowded, but seemingly cheery town the team made their way through might as well have been an island apart from the scruffy scum-bucket they just left. Nida noticed the local Kecleon shop, as its proprietor cheerily passed an Apple "on the house!" to a Cleffa as her Noibat partner perched upside-down from the eave muttering something about "pre-dusk naps". A little further, there was a card shop lined with carefully-drawn slips of paper covered with all manner of images. A few young Pokémon and a few elder ones that were still young at heart played a prize-taking game on the counter. The streets were all filled with a warmth and vibrancy like the square back home, even if the colors were drabber than the buildings down at the Andaku Docks.

They passed a great wooden gate with tiled, square-eaved roofs in front of a taller building that loomed five or six stories tall in the background; after chancing to overhear a Beheeyem chattering with a Dugtrio about 'that new batch of Three-Star Missions' Nida realized that this must have been that 'second guild' Elty talked about. The lack of a mission board at the entrance struck Nida as strange, until she remembered that the 'guild' at Andaku had also hidden its mission board inside. Local custom, perhaps?

There were other things that struck the Nidoran as strange about the town… Now that Team Traveller were on the main lanes and not preoccupied with watching out for pursuing Company grunts, they noticed that most of the windows were barred and reinforced. Most of the shops and houses appeared to have sturdily-built doors; the ones without seemed to always have a carefully-watching Pokémon not far from it. Even the passerbys looked more guarded, as Pokémon heading down more secluded lanes would always carefully look down and sniff or listen for unexpected presences. She hadn't seen these little tense and unsettled details in the town's atmosphere back at home, with the notable exception of when Lyn came to collect the Company's dues.

"Well look at it this way, Wally. If we have to redo all that work, then we'll at least have a place to start in town."

As this 'Machalí' and 'Wally' from Team Taxonomy led the group past a mural with dot-like runes on it, Nida spotted a small square pavilion beside it and realized that the shack and wall must have been the town's shrine.

The strange glyphs carried transcriptions in runes underneath, done in the archaic footprint style that nowadays saw little use outside of seals on documents. It was a series of scenes depicting the local Protector moving about islands, its fate in the death of the old world, and its egg being carried to the local Mystery Dungeon…

Not unlike the paintings on the anima at home... was Tromba doing alright right now?

As the pair prattled happily along with each other about the mural and their research, it too brought back wistful memories of home and her father and the apple-farmer from the orchard next to the family's Leppa field. Growing feelings of homesickness began to gnaw at her, leaving Nida to drift further and further behind her teammates and their new guides.

"Something the matter?" the Marshtomp called 'Garth' interrupted from behind. "You've been looking kinda glum."

Nida looked back at Tropius and Nidorino and, after pausing, tried to throw on a brave face. The rabbit shook her head and turned back to the Marshtomp.

"It's nothing, really," she said, her tone still coming out with a plaintive tiredness that made the Marshtomp frown and twitch his antennae.

"You're not a very convincing liar, but I won't pry into it," he sighed. "Besides, the hostel's right here."

The Marshtomp pointed out an inn just up ahead built into an earthen slope. The structure's ground floor was formed from stacked earth and stone, while its second floor rested atop a layer of sod with the same spartan wood and thatch construction as the other buildings around it.

A short walk past its entrance revealed a room with exposed timber columns and supports hosting a small collection of low, square tables with stool-seats on a floor covered with reed mats. Towards the back, behind a counter next to a hallway heading further back and some stairs heading to the upper floor, there sat a Bellossom sipping at a cup full of steaming liquid. As the Grass-Type noticed the party entering, she gave an askew glance at the three strangers that Team Taxonomy drug in.

After a brief conversation with the receptionist, and convincing her that these three strangers would be out before the hour was over to avoid raising their room's rate, they navigated down a narrow, wooden hallway lined with strange wall partitions jutting out slightly. The partitions seemed to be made of paper over pieces of wood, and had runes for numbers written on them. Curiouser still, they also let in light from behind much like windows. After passing a few partitions, Garth stopped in front of one and pulled at the side…

Pjaaaaaak

Ah, they weren't walls at all! But a strange sort of door that slid open and shut! Once it was pushed aside, the contents of the room behind were revealed: the simple, mostly featureless room had straw beds laid out, a round table shoved in a corner with cross-segments of logs hacked into stools for seats, and an exposed rafter down the below the ceiling from which articles could be hung.

"Whelp, the roof leaks and the walls don't keep the sound out, but… this is it, our home away from home during our stint here," Garth said. "And it's a bit more private than the sleeping halls on the first floor."

The Marshtomp shook his whiskers before heading off to the corner to pull out the table and seats for the new guests. One by one, Team Traveller cautiously took their places about the low table as the mudskipper stretched out a kink in his body and his companions drew near to the table.

"It takes a bit more out of pocket than staying at guild accommodations," he added. "But in our line of work, sometimes the extra privacy is needed."

"Elty, why didn't we stay in this place?" Pleo asked, craning his head down to peck the Fire-Type's shoulder curiously.

"Oi! Just how are we supposed to pay for rooms when we don't have any money!" the Growlithe grumbled back. "And I told you, we're in more danger of getting in trouble here!

"Relax," Wally answered. "As long as you three keep your end of the bargain, no one's getting in trouble."

"Right," Nida murmured to herself, before she tilted her head curiously at the Tropius. "So what's it that you need us to do?"

"Well, for starters… let's have you stand right there for a moment!" Scholls said, puffing his chest feathers out. "Need to take some measurements and samples…"

The Archen fished out some sticks and strings marked with lines and began to compare them against Pleo's body as Machalí grabbed a notebook with a worn, green cover, flipped it open, and began to sketch and doodle in it. The Flying-Type was surprisingly pushy, moving Pleo's head down, his wings out, and pulling out a loose feather, which made him fidget more and more uncomfortably until...

"E-Eh?! What are you doing?!" he cried.

"Observing you, of course!" the bird replied. "We've never seen a Pokémon like you before in any of our travels!"

Nida stared agape at the two bird Pokémon circling each other in that particular game the Archen was trying to get Pleo to join in. Her teeth showed, more out of incredulity than any sense of threat. She turned to ask Elty something, but instantly found her answer in how his baffled expression matched her own.

"You sure about that, Scholls? I could've sworn we've seen a Pokémon like him somewhere before," Machalí mumbled, as he moved the charcoal nub from the journal to the corner of his mouth. "But it's eluding me… Maybe it was a picture back at that last library we visited?"

The Archen darted away from Pleo and, after looking over the scribbles and sketches his Nidorino teammate made, gave a satisfied grunt and returned the measuring tools back to the bag as Pleo tried to figure out why any of this was needed. Nida shook her head and now felt somewhat silly for feeling homesick from overhearing Machalí earlier. Papi and the Pokémon he knew weren't this strange!

"Eh, but- Why is it that you want to do that?" Pleo asked.

"As we mentioned earlier, we're a team of researchers," Wally answered. "We go around from place to place in the Cradle, taking notes on the Pokemon there while financing our next leg from odd jobs in town."

"Huh? How come?"

"Well, back in the old world, it's said that humans had magical tablets with writing that would change in front of your very eyes," the Tropius continued. "In these tablets, they'd keep all the knowledge they knew about Pokémon gathered together so that anyone could see it for themselves as long as they had one of them."

"Now, we don't have a way to make any of those fancy tablets," Garth added. "But we can get the information that was in it by putting it back together piece by piece and recording it."

"Eh? Can you narrow that down a bit?" Nida asked. "What kind of information about Pokemon?"

"Well, we decided to start with the basics," the Marshtomp said. "To record about how Pokemon like you and I live and behave. The moves they'd learn. Things like how your friend's belly fire reacts to different things that he'd eat or drink."

"We even tested out those rumors about some Pokémon having an easier time breaking out of Apricorns!" Scholls squawked. "Except we couldn't really find many volunteers other than ourselves…"

"Gee, I wonder why?" Elty grumbled, rolling his eyes.

So Team Taxonomy went around studying all about Pokémon? Then, they must have learned all sorts of things about all the different kinds out there. Then maybe… they also knew the answer to something that he had been wondering about since Boisocéan...

"If you've been studying all about Pokémon," Pleo mumbled as he moved a wing under his chin quizzically. "Does that mean you also know what Pokemon the Prince of a Thousand Enemies was?"

"Heh," Machalí chuckled, casting a glance at the blue Nidoran in his midst. "You told him una versión of that story, didn't you?"

"Just a little-" Nida sheepishly began, before she suddenly caught herself and shook her head as she realized something amiss with the Nidorino's question. "Wait, una version? There's more than one?"

"Well, yes. Just about every island has a group of rabbit Pokémon that seem to remember details differently. Sometimes the Prince is a Nidorino, sometimes he's a Lopunny, sometimes he's a Diggersby, and so on," the Poison-Type explained. "The stories about him shift details in versions, but a few seem to have constants such as him tricking different foes like a "Prince of Rainbows" or some monster with a lettuce patch."

"The thing we were trying to observe here is actually something distantly related," Wally added.

"Hrm?" Pleo asked. "What is it?"

"Ancient writing!" Scholls cheered.

"Ancient writing?!" Elty spluttered. "But what does that have to do with Pokémon?!"



Much to Elty and his teammates' swift regret, Team Taxonomy's members were all too eager to indulge the Growlithe's curiosity. They went through the legends of how Arceus had passed on the skill of writing by teaching Pokémon to form runes with footprints to preserve what they remembered of human knowledge.

Things became foggier once Wally moved on to talking about how the contact between the Cradle's islands led to the creation of a common tongue for trade, and with it, a unified set of runes. Pleo nodded off entirely as Scholls explained how the various tongues used the same writing in spite of different grammars and conventions thanks to a standardization of readings. By the time the Flying-Type got to lecturing about how the current age's paw-stroked runes were simplification of those stamped runes of the past, the sun had dropped from the sky and the moon and stars were up.

Not that any of that seemed to weigh down on the bubbly Archen.

"Did you get all that?" Scholls cheerily asked.

"Zzz… Whuh?"

As Pleo stirred awake and pulled his head out from under his wing, Nida and Elty groaned tiredly, trying to remember what they had done to bring this torment upon themselves in the first place.

"Uhh… yo… creo?" Nida replied. "Was there anything after the 'common tongue' part?"

"Oh?" the Archen chirped. "Well, I suppose that I could give a bit of a refresher-"

"NO."

Everyone jolted awake at the sound of a loud, growling refusal from Elty. The dog cast an agitated glance out the window at the night sky in the distance. His friends were surely at Ryūbokuya by now, and it wouldn't do any good to be any later than he absolutely needed to. The Growlithe shook his head and tried his best to re-rail the conversation.

"What does this have to do with watching Pokémon here on Kenobi anyways?" the dog groaned.

"It's simple!" Wally exclaimed. "According to myth, Unown helped humans create their very first mystic scripts back in the old world, so we wanted to spend some time watching the Unown here in town and their feral counterparts in the Mystery Dungeon."

"And the old counterpart to this island's Protector," Garth added.

"Wait, Unown?" Nida asked.

"You may have seen one or two before," Machalí responded while hastily scrawling out some shapes on a page of the notebook. "These look familiar at all?"

When the Nidorino passed the notebook over she saw the rough forms of strange, floating creatures with single eyes and several small appendages attached to them. Why, these were the Pokémon the team had seen playing cards while sneaking to the Andaku Docks!

"So as Machalí was saying," Wally explained. "If we learned from those Pokémon, we might be able to figure out how to read those mystic scripts that we Pokémon can't seem to decipher."

"Huh?" Pleo chirped, giving a curious tilt to his head. "Aren't they just like the writing that Pokémon use?"

"No, not at all!" Scholls interjected. "Some of their writing systems only have a handful of runes to work with, far too few to render any ideographic meanings to them like ours. They look like they convey a different concept instead- from the way they look, we think they were used purely for rhythmic value."

"Eh?" Nida replied. "Runes that were used 'purely for rhythmic value'? As in each of these runes meaning something like 'Nee' or 'Dah'? But how would you understand anything that way?"

It would be a strange way of writing indeed. After all, how could anyone tell "Nee-dah" from "Dee-nah" when runes had no meaning beyond their rhythm? As Elty saw the Archen's beak began to move, his fur bristled, and the Growlithe swiftly interrupted what would surely be another long lecture.

"Okay, so back onto the main topic… why can't you get these notes back yourself?" Elty demanded.

"Er… we kinda might have trespassed into a graveyard belonging to feral Cubone and Marowak while we were going through the Mystery Dungeon last time," Garth explained sheepishly, the mention of the incident making the Water-Type's partners fidget uncomfortably.

"For the record, I told you guys it was a bad idea!" Scholls exclaimed.

"So… yeah. They kinda hate our guts right now, and the last time we tried to get our notes back, we were getting ambushed by Monster Houses on every floor," the Marshtomp murmured, before suddenly growing particularly cheery and gesturing at the three members of Team Traveller. "Which is where you three come in! They don't know that you're with us yet, meaning that you'll have better luck than us at getting our notes back!"

There was a long silence as one by one, the three Pokémon traded uneasy looks with each other.

"Er… Nida?" Pleo asked.

"That… uhm… well, I'm not sure-" Nida began. The Nidoran folded her ears back and began to understand just how different Machalí was from her father in spite of similar appearances, only for her train of thought to be cut off by a startled bark.

"J-Jesteś szalona! How are we supposed to do that?!" Elty cried. The Growlithe fumed, and then shook his head and gave a frowning scowl. "I don't know about these two dweebs, but there's no way that I'm getting drug along for that!"

The Growlithe then got up and began to head for the door.

Thu-Thump

Only to see that a glaring red-scarved Marshtomp was now blocking it. And that behind him, a Nidorino was glowering and pawing at the ground. And an Archen. And a Tropius, too. And that they were all ready for battle...



About twenty minutes later, Mossaisle Town and the fields that stretched up the mountainside next to it were but an indistinct haze poking out from behind a heavily wooded peak. On the other side was the other arid peak of Kenobi Island, with its scraggly trees few and nestled in between dry, golden grasses under the moonlight. Behind them was the worn path that had taken them from the town up to this place, the trail's dirt occasionally flecked with the footprints of crossing ferals. And up ahead...

The familiar fog that separated a Mystery Dungeon from the outside world around it.

"'No way, I'm getting drug along for that', huh?" Nida scoffed.

"Oh, shut up, spike ball," Elty growled. "You could have at least tried to fight off the crazy Pokemon threatening to beat me up like a teammate's supposed to instead of letting them march us out of town!"

The Growlithe shook his head, and stared off into the shifting mists ahead.

"Are we sure that it's too late to go back to the angry bartender?" he asked. Nida and Pleo looked ahead and stared uneasily. Yes, they did owe Team Taxonomy a favor (one the researchers made clear they'd take out of their hides if they tried to bilk them), but even so…

That was still a completely unknown Mystery Dungeon ahead of them, with their hopes of escape hinging on the teleporters back at that shady guild by the sea...

"Well… if we work together, we can finish this mission, right?" Pleo chirped. "We've done scary-sounding missions before!"

"Let's hope," Nida mumbled to herself.

With that, the three set off, trudging away from the island and deeper into the fog shrouding the mysterious dungeon ahead of them.



After the sun dipped below the horizon at the Andaku Docks, Ryūbokuya was abuzz with activity, packed with patrons who overwhelmingly wore scarves bearing gray teardrop-like spikes on golden fabric.

"Bugh… what a day…"

Among the handful that didn't were three Company grunts: a Manectric, a Marowak, and a Yanmega, waiting on drinks from behind the counter. They had spent an unwanted portion of their day repairing a wall that they weren't even meant to touch in the first place! Really, the only way the night could become any worse was if the Aggron glaring and growling from a few tables over would act on his threats to claim his place at the bar. Fortunately for the three, the creature would curiously shrink and avert his gaze whenever the Ground-Type traded back a glare. Getting the cold shoulder out here while wearing Company scarves was to be expected, but this was just ridiculous!

"Seriously, getting forced to fix a wall and getting stiffed out of pay by an angry overseer?" Nori whined. "What did we ever do to deserve this?"

"Well, I dunno about the past piracy, or the current shakedowns you three do every now and then," the Throh barkeep added from behind the counter. "But I do know that you're behind on your tabs. And last time I checked with one of your square-neck friends that passed through here, they said you weren't on theirs yet."

"Thanks for the comfort, Shuho," Alvise grumbled. The sound of some excited chatter came from a nearby table between a Grotle, a Combusken, and a jittery-sounding Scraggy, the lot of them bearing lined blue scarves with red arrow designs and five-tailed blotches on their heads. The Scraggy continued on and on about a most peculiar topic, which drew stares from some of the nearby golden-scarved customers.

"I'm telling you guys, we need to get out of here!" the Dark-Type cried to the others. "I ran into one of the demons from the stories out in the alley across the lane! He even attacked me when I was trying to pick up some extra goods for our next job!"

"Oh, for crying out loud!" the Grotle growled back. "You didn't find a mark tonight. We get it, Eric! You don't need to make up a story to try and cover your tail about it!"

"I'm not lying!" the orange and yellow lizard protested, before turning to the Fire-Type pleadingly. "Come on, Sela! You believe me, right?"

"Urgh… did you take him out drinking Lansat Syrup again, Hanuna?" the Combusken groaned, putting a claw over her beak. "I thought we agreed to stay away from that stuff after that one raid where tripping on those lousy berries made us get 'pillage and burn' backwards with that Kecleon shop..."

"Oi, don't look at me! This is all him here!" the tortoise shot back defensively. "Lansat Syrup's supposed to make you happy, not a nervous wreck!"

"Mrph. As if that Iron Fleet captain's headache about some lackey of his who can't stick to a schedule wasn't enough," Shuho grunted, shaking his head as 'Eric' continued on in the background. "Ever since those three blotch-heads came in, that Zuruggu just won't shut up about that deadbeat bird from earlier today."

"Deadbeat bird?" Valatos wondered, giving a reflexive beat to his wings.

"Well, I think it must've been the same bird since the description matched up. It was a big old white and blue one, like some sort of mutant Swanna, or an overgrown Camome," the Throh replied as he slipped crude cups filled with strong-smelling liquids over the counter for the waiting Pokémon. "I thought he'd stop being a problem after his clients roped him and his buddies back into their job in the Dungeon, but apparently not..."

"Wait, Valatos," Nori asked. "Didn't we run into a majū like that earlier?"

The Bug-Type lowered his head over one of the cups, and paused for a moment, before pulling it back. The Yanmega then shot up into the air, and pulled his compatriots along with him towards the door.

"Oi! Where are you going?!" Shuho cried.

"Didn't touch our drinks yet, so don't need to pay!" Valatos shot back. The Fighting-Type was about to give chase after the three, until the Aggron from earlier got up and quickly claimed one of the freshly-vacated bar stools. After an offhand comment about "Thank gods that monster with them's finally gone," the Aggron's conversation turned to pushing aside a couple stools to sit on the floor before claiming the drinks for himself. The metal lizard shook his head and placed an order for a bowl of "those 'star bits" or "whatever that rock candy's called" to make up for a particularly dry and rough spell since their last haul. The sound of the Throh reciprocating in conversation, apparently satisfied enough that someone was paying for the poured drinks, faded away as Valatos and his cohorts dashed out of the bar, and ducked down a nearby alley."

"Ciò! Why did we just leave?" Alvise growled.

"Yeah, I was looking forward to that drink!" Nori whined.

"Stop thinking with your stomachs and listen to me a moment!" the Yanmega snapped. "Don't you get it? That bird with the ugly mug. That's the Protector that Administrator Farn was going on about!"

"The one that they were going to go through all that trouble for? Rooting around the island and putting up those bounties and everything?" the Manectric asked.

"Exactly! So if we got that bird and those dweebs with it…"

"We'd get their bounties!" Nori exclaimed, the Marowak's eyes lighting up in sudden realization that those little runts earlier were worth getting to work late after all! "Heh heh! I like the way you think, Valat-"

SMACK

"OW!"

The Marowak rubbed his belly after being struck by a large, flying stone as Valatos settled over the gouge in the earth where the projectile had been called and torn out from. The dragonfly buzzed loudly and buried his face and compound eyes into one of his tarsi. Did he have to explain everything to this bonehead?

"Nee, domkop!" the Bug-Type growled. "The bounties aren't up until tomorrow night! If we catch them before then, we could name our price! And as long as it isn't too insane, we could probably get it!"

"Oh! I get you!" the Ground-Type insisted. "Like getting promoted out of crate work! Or getting our records cleared!"

"Or getting that stupid rhino demoted so we can push him around!" Alvise added.

"Exactly!"

Valatos' thoughts turned to just what would be the best thing to try and trade in return for the runt and its buddies, when he suddenly noticed Nori growing uneasy.

"Eh? What's that look for?"

"Eto... there's just one problem, Valatos," the bone lizard said. "Those runts are going into the Dungeon, right? How are we supposed to catch up with them?"

"What do you mean 'how are we supposed to catch up with them'?" Valatos huffed. "You've got family that's still feral out in the hinterlands! Don't they know some shortcut in and around the place?"

"That's not the point!" the Marowak protested. "Say we set off for the Dungeon, we go through all that trouble of going through it… and they've already come and gone?"

The dragonfly blanched. That… was actually a really good point. There was nothing to keep their golden opportunity from just flying away from them! And with as thin ice as they were on as former pirates, if they did waste a day in the dungeon without their overseer seeing them at work, they’d likely be exiled to the Wastes.

Alvise looked at the ground and paused. For a moment everything seemed lost for sure... until a sudden idea came to mind that made him perk his head back up.

"Actually, Valatos… we might have a way around that," the wolf grunted. "You remember how that Drowzee on the teleporter team at the guild here in Andaku has a partner for his hobby selling Lansat Syrup?"

"Yeah?" the bug buzzed back. "What about it?"

"Well, that partner's a Beheeyem in the clean districts of town. If he got caught with that stuff past the barrier… well, a little favor sure sounds better than time in a cell or getting pushed around by the likes of that lunk-headed Rhydon, don't you think?" the Manectric explained. "And best of all, I think I know how we can find him..."



"Oi, can we make this go any faster?"

Elty's whining rang out along the corridors of the dungeon, much as it had in the two floors above. And as it had when the team found a second Oran Berry at the end of a corridor, and as it had for the Fresh Apple just by stairs on the first floor. Even as it had for the team's hasty dive for the set of stairs on the floor above, right after slipping past a charging Machop they had stirred awake.

"Well, if you keep bellyaching out loud like that, the ferals will find us and this will go even slower!" a Nidoran's voice hissed back. The forms of Team Traveller rounded a sharp corner, with a round, broken-down stone pillar jutting out of the walls to the side.

Yes, while most of the floors they had encountered consisted of tawny-stoned chambers with the expected stalactites and stalagmites of a mountain cave. The Distortion here provided light through little tongues of wispy earth-fire flickering from holes along the ground providing hints of illumination… which every so often, allowed the team to notice that parts of their surroundings clearly weren't just part of a cave system that the Distortion warped…

There were many pillars, some broken, some whole, but all clearly constructed by something other than natural forces. Every so often, portions of the floor or wall would be formed of flat, stone bricks. Though if the pillars' horizontal orientation on the current floor were anything to go by, the matter of whether the ground consisted of the ruins' flooring, its walls, or its ceiling seemed to vary with the whims of the distortion. Most curiously, some of these mysterious ruins sported drawings on them. There were strange, dotted runes much like the ones seen on the mural back in Mossaisle, but also a number of drawings depicting Unown in neat arrangements…

Ones that the Pokémon of Team Traveller would have sworn were watching them had they not thought better of it. Or at least they would have were they not preoccupied with their own disputes.

"I knew we should have chanced it with Shuho," Elty grumbled to himself. The dog flattened out his ears at Nida's rebuke, as Pleo chirped quietly to himself and put a wondering wing to his beak.

"Didn't we need to get as many items we could anyways, Elty?" he asked. "All we had when we came in were a Pecha and an Oran Berry… and we have been finding things here! Like that Apple and that other Oran Berry!"

"Yeah, yeah, to wspaniale," the orange dog grunted back. "If we take too long, who knows what'll happen to that book!"

It was a half-truth. While it was true that the longer they took, the more likely it would be that Team Taxonomy's journal would be lost to the Distortion or the dungeon's residents, it was at best a secondary priority to the Fire-Type's mind. After all, his ticket back onto the Iron Fleet could be at 'bokuya right now, and here he was stuck in this hole in the ground!

"Alright, alright!" Nida hissed.

The spike ball thankfully didn't know about his reasons, and for the sake of not getting knocked into next week and dumped in this strange dungeon by the huffing Nidoran ahead of him, it would probably be better that it stayed that way… at least until this mission was done.

"We'll try and pick up the pace a little-" the Nidoran began, only for Pleo to cut her off with an abrupt cry.

"Nida, look! There's a strange stick here!"

Sure enough, there was indeed a stick ahead. As Pleo shuffled it with his beak, the three Pokémon noticed that on one end, there was a round glowing, yellow jewel embedded in a whorl of wood.

"But… what's this thing on the end of it?" Pleo wondered.

"Well first off, that's not a stick, that's a wand," Elty sighed.

"A wand?"

Pleo looked back at the jewel in the wood and noticed that the yellow color seemed to be coming from yellow orbs shifting around inside, much like the Totter Orb from the night the team escaped Lyn's ship. Were wands also orbs? If so, they seemed to be awfully strange ones… The glassy surface felt thinner and easier to break, and upon closer inspection… there seemed to be a second layer of glass inside, also enveloping yellowish orbs.

"They're formed when essences of the Distortion cling to sticks and twigs that get brought in here," Nida explained. "It might have once been someone's Stick that they brought in for a mission a long time ago."

The Nidoran darted ahead, and took the Wand from Pleo's beak with her forepaws, rearing up as she sniffed at the wooden article and its nested, glassy spheres .

"Looks like this one's a Confuse Wand. They're pretty fragile, even compared to orbs," she said, slipping the twiggy staff into the satchel on her back. "A hard swing's usually enough to break open one of the layers. Once it does, it'll make a Pokémon on the business end of that jewel see stars!"

"Yeah, yeah, great lesson there," Elty grumbled, flattening out his ears. "Can we move on now-?"

The Growlithe suddenly paused at the faint sound of a pebble tumbling along and shot his ears up, Nida quickly following suit. Pleo blinked and watched uneasily as the two looked around and sniffed at the air uneasily, their noses and Nida's whiskers twitching in tense anticipation…

And then, there was a long silence, leaving the three casting leery glances at each other.

"Nida? Elty?" the little Lugia asked. "Did you hear something?"

After another wary sniff at the air, Elty shook his head and turned down the corridor.

"Whatever it was, it's gone. Probably a passing feral," he muttered. "So, are we going, or what?"

"Fair enough," Nida sighed. "The faster we move, the better our odds of getting Team Taxonomy's journal back."

The three set off down the corridor, heading deeper down the floor as their paces grew fainter and fainter, leaving behind silence… But then, the sound of another pebble being disturbed, of shuffling feet, and finally...

"Iku ze, they went that way."

The quiet murmur of small, raspy voices, and the sound of movement after Team Traveller's direction.



Author's Notes:

- Calme-toi, mon fils - French: "Calm down, my son."
- una versión - Spanish: "a version".
- Zuruggu (ズルッグ) - Japanese: "Scraggy". (Official Romanization)
- Camome (キャモメ) - Japanese: "Wingull". (Official Romanization)
- majū (魔獣) - Japanese: “Magical Beast”, used in as a historical name to refer to Pokémon in M12 prior to creation of 'Pokémon'. (Hepburn Romanization)
- Ciò! - Venetian: Interjection/Intensifier. Means roughly "Hey!" or "Oi!" in this context.
- Nee, domkop! - Dutch: "No, blockhead!" (lit. "No, dumb-head!")
- Eto (えと) - Japanese: Interjection. Roughly analogous to "Uh...", "Er...", or "Well, actually..." (Hepburn Romanization)
- to wspaniale - Polish: Interjection. Roughly meaning "that's great", "that's wonderful"
- Iku ze (行くぜ) - Japanese: "Let's go", has 'commanding' connotations. (Hepburn Romanization)
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Author’s Note: This trivia section was originally posted alongside Chapter 27 of Fledglings on Serebii after its thread received 8,000 views. Annotations and revised commentary not originally in this trivia section are noted in bolded text.

How did you come up with Maranda?

Maranda owes her origins to choosing to flesh out a background gag from all the way in Chapter 1 where her letter popped up as part of a load of mail to Bluewhorl's guild, which saved a lot of time coming up with a species. In the original drafts of EP 5, Maranda was entirely the local medic, and the Mairesse was a distinct character. After a few stabs, it became quickly apparent that neither of the distinct characters really had that much screentime or depth, and so the fateful choice to merge the two was done, and our favorite medic-mayor came into being as a character.

How did you come up with Daraen and Margi?

Margi was actually the first of the duo to be developed thanks to her role helping Team Traveller slip off the island all the way back to when Episode 5's plot was a really, really derivative retread of the Kiyoshi Island plot from ATLA. After going my own way a bit more aggressively with the plot there, Daraen wound up coming into play thanks to a plot bunny exploiting how a Marked would see a Legendary if he was kept in the dark (har har) about its nature.

As for their origins… this is another one of those behind the scenes bits that gets on the lame side again, but Daraen and Margi draw a hefty dose of thematic influence from the protagonist and main antagonist of Fire Emblem: Awakening. In the game, the two have a (significantly less happy) child/parent dynamic going on (okay, it's more complicated than that, but still) and the protagonist has an implied background that is not too dissimilar from the situation that Daraen was born into (if with significantly more cosmic power). Daraen's name is a straight lift of the protagonist's default name in French-language copies (and European versions of SSB4), while Margi's name is a lazy anagram of the antagonist's.

So yeah, if you were wondering where the description of Daraen's scarf design came from, or why he was depicted as being the main brains behind his team's plays in his "Substitute Battle", those influences were kind of a help coming up with that.

That said, it's not a total rehash. The characters here are just a mother seeking to get by with her child and be left alone, and a kid trying to be a normal kid with friends in a world that doesn't like them very much. Which would have made for a much more boring story in Awakening.

How did you come up with Team Chasseur?

As you may have noticed in a prior response, Team Chasseur is a nod at some of the cast from the original version of Love and Other Nightmares, specifically Kephi, Obieme, and Virokoe. I remain eternally grateful to diamondpearl876 from Serebii for allowing me to mangle do a broad-strokes cameo of her characters.

Now obviously, Team Chasseur is just a little different from their sources of inspiration, namely by having a few fewer demons that they struggle with in their series (that we know of). That said, the major traits of each character heavily guided the ways that the team's members turned out. Since the explanations are a bit spoilery for the original version of LaON, I've dumped them into a separate spoiler for those of you who haven't gotten to reading through it yet. (And you should, it's great!)

'Venner' carries a name that can mean a couple of things depending on the language you interpret it in. In Dutch and Northern German, the name is a topographical surname for someone who lives next to a pit, moor, or marshy area. In English, the name is an occupational surname for a 'hunter'. Both meanings obviously fit in the story here (albeit for a different value of 'hunter'), and it's a way of nodding at the old job Kephi used to have in LaON.

'Francoeur' is a name that means 'open / generous heart', which is a take off of a white lie that Annie feeds Obieme later in the story with regards to his name supposedly meaning '"strong heart" in Kalosian'. This was just a little bit of a mean irony here, since as of the time of writing, Francoeur's namesake had a long way to go before he was an open or generous anything and has not been reintroduced into the rewrite just yet. The skeptical personality is not too far from the mark, though.

'Actor' is a non-name since I couldn't really get a bead on something to nod to 'Virokoe', which was reused here as Actor's stage name. The epithet, and Actor's background as a… well… actor, are an allusion to Virokoe's own history in LaON.

As for 'Team Chasseur', which Actor knocked as being 'uncreative' way back when. Chasseur is a French term for 'hunter'. So our team is strutting around as 'Team Hunter', in a world where 'Hunter' is common slang for Rescue/Exploration Team members. The snowflake design on their scarves mentioned early on in EP 5 is a nod to the Legendary their LaON counterparts are affiliated with.

How did you come up with Boisocéan?

Boisocéan as a location was envisioned from fairly early on as being a heavily wooded island overrun with bugs, which influenced its working name during early planning, "Vizsla"- a transparent ripoff of the bug-infested island of the same name in Solatorobo.

After a little while, Boisocéan as a concept evolved into something a bit less hazy, and the name also got a bit less lazy. After settling upon French as the local tongue, the current name was quickly narrowed down to "Boisocéan" (rendered as "Boisocéane" originally thanks to typos), or roughly, "Woodocean".

The name was also settled on because it happens to be plausibly close enough to sound like a corruption of "Bois aux chênes", or the French localization name of "Ilex Forest", which in turn influenced the choice to make Celebi the local Protector.

How did you come up with Seahive Square?

Seahive's name was chosen based off of the same word salad naming rules that informed Bluewhorl's name, in this case, being named after location, and the fact that its locals are disproportionately chitinous. As for why it's Seahive Square, not every settlement can be a "Town", just ask PMD R/B, and it's filled with bugs. The style of architecture is more or less a less anthropogenic, and soggier Fortree City, with little French-style flourishes here and there such as the latticing on the shrine tree.

Earlier names toyed with for Seahive at various points during planning included "Versillage", "Woodwake Town/Square", and the oh-so creative "Creepy-Crawlie Square".

What's with those Gummi Fabs?

They're a somewhat fudged way of depicting the creation of magical food pills that provide nutrients to Pokémon well enough to serve as a compromise to different species, much like the anime's take on kibble.

As such, the places where these mysterious food pellets come from struck me as places where the means of assembly would be a touch processed and artificial and use some more obscure techniques for extracting the crude nutrients necessary, that with a little flavoring, would be passable enough to serve as 'dinner' to the average resident. Hence the depiction of crude electrolysis.

As alluded to in passing, the gummis on their own won't magically make you smarter like they do in-game. Or at least not coming fresh off the line. They're more analogous to those colored spheres that the Treasure Town guild fattens you up with in the Explorers games during dinner cutscenes.

What is Tromban New Year based off?

Tromban New Year is the result of putting four winter holidays into a blender. Namely Christmas, which was responsible for the gift-giving; Gregorian New Year, which gave the fireworks and use as a "cardinal point" in the local calendar system; Diwali, which provided the emphasis of light and color for decorations; and St. Martin's Day, which provided the door-to-door lanterning and candy-grubbing.

The rest of the details are a mix of taking facets of the local setting into mind and a few nods at different bits of the franchise. The occurrence on the Winter Solstice was chosen because it is a natural divider between the point where days get shorter to when they start getting longer and spring starts getting closer that occurs over a very specific range of dates in the year, helpful for a society where "technology" is fairly primitive. The "berry powder" in the fireworks is a nod to AG033, with the choice of explosives being the type that involves the least effort to procure locally.

And of course, much like most other winter holiday, the primary purpose of Tromban New Year is to make winter a bit less miserable and celebrate another year keeping the dreary elements away, namely by marking an expectant dawn to a long night without Legendaries by defying the lack of light on the longest night of the year.

What's the big deal with scarves in the story anyways?

They're partly a big deal in this story thanks to their ubiquity in the canon games for Rescue/Exploration Teams. That, and as simple effects that are highly visible, they serve as a means of telegraphing identification and affiliation in a society where literacy is not necessarily as strong as it is in real life.

There are other articles of clothing that are used to similar effect in-story by some other Pokémon in the Cradle, but it will still be a little while down the road before we really see them beyond chatter in passing.

Do you have headcanon VAs for any of your characters?

I certainly do, the same VA that is used for the Explorers games.

For a more serious, less trolly, and somewhat lame-ish answer, I do not have any headcanon VAs in particular. Though I will say that thanks to drawing a heap of influence from ATLA and Digimon Tamers, I sometimes hear characters here and there in the story with VA's voices from those series.

Do you have a headcanon OST for your fic?

Not particularly, no. I do have a shortlist of OSTs that I'd feel wouldn't be too out of place with the story up to this point, though. Aside from the obvious of PMD and Pokémon music in general, I've found One Piece music, and the OSTs of Final Fantasy IX and Bravely Default to be fairly fitting with the story. Which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I listened to those songs on loop during planning and early writing from time to time.

Oh yeah, Lugia’s Song from M03 would totally be a prominent part of the OST. Not sure how that got missed in the original version of this trivia way back when. Virgil additionally is of the school that some tracks from Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts would be very at-home in a Fledglings OST.
 

Shadow of Antioch

Viaggiatore
Location
Messina, Italy
Pronouns
he/his
Chapter 12 review:

Economics was always such a dry subject, and had a worrisome tendency to bring out unfavorable sides of Pokémon.
Hey! Economics can be incredibly fascinating at times. The phenomenon of financialisation and the institutionalisation of Chicago School economic theory are a prime example, and I better hope Mayor Hatteras knows how to handle a financial crisis if those banks start doing anything dodgy.

"I was afraid of that, actually," Hatteras said, putting a paw over his brow. "Did they at least give any ideas as to how soon-?"
Ah, literary timing, you never disappoint.

"The name is Ellsberg. As for why I'm here..." the Mothim replied. "I believe that it was you that shot those distress flares off. You needed help to fend off an assault, yes? A ship captained by an Aggron, I believe?"
I can see someone desperately needs radios to be invented. Although, you'd figure they'd at least be able to use messenger birds to communicate between ships. Or... psychic badges, perhaps? I get that Mothim's probably using this as an excuse, but nevertheless.

"But that was then. The Company has a third of the former realm to work with right now. The rest is under the control of the so-called 'rightful heirs' to the Empire. And then there's those places that are now ungovernable due to strategic difficulties,"
Aaaah, this has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting. And complex. So this Company isn't the Venetian Republic of this story, but an actual private corporation that either represents this Empire's interests (state-owned, perhaps?) or leeches money off it by having state functions privatised to it. And not just one Empire--but multiple pretenders, possible breakaway islands, and a ruined capital? I really like where this is going. Politics--I really like politics. It's that simple.

"Don't lecture me on history you weren't alive for!"
Funny. If we're going by some vaguely realistic lifespan for pokémon--which I believe you're hinting at here--then bug-types live for a considerably shorter time than most of their peers. That must be rough, living, say, 20 years compared to the hundreds of years some dragons are (I imagine) capable of.

"Yes it would!" a voice from the counter protested. "Pleo would protect us!"
And thus goes the story of how a child caused the Company's blockade and eventual annexation of Tromba.

"It's Hatteras, and what can I say? Children these days are easily impressionable," Hatteras answered flatly. "She must have remembered a particularly memorable traveler that passed through."
A decent story, but I personally would have gone with "Oh that's our guardian, still slumbering somewhere in that ol' mystery dungeon, hehehe. The legends say it will protect us in case of great calamity. He's definitely still in there and not living among us ahahaha"

The noise prompted Ellsberg to quickly slip away whatever it was he had found in the square- probably some dropped Poké considering Company types- before he turned back.
Oh, this is just precious. It speaks volumes about public opinion of the Company is people think they'd stop to pick up pennies on the road despite already being filthy rich.

In a matter of speaking, it was indeed ‘normal' stuff… except for the fact that putting out a fire on a ship was a dangerous, convoluted ordeal for any crew unfortunate enough suffer through one. Too little water spent fighting it off or simply not applying it in time to keep particularly flammable cargo from burning would doom the ship to becoming a collection of cinders… and too much would weigh down the craft and send it below the waves.
An interesting analysis of fire-types on ships, especially as I'd just figured they'd be too much of a liability if they got in the water. I suppose though that captains would focus on keeping the ship above the water, rather than if the crew will or won't drown if it goes under it.

Great chapter overall! There's multiple plot lines going on and you somehow managed to leave both on cliffhangers. I'm happy to get back in the swing of Fledglings!
 

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His
Hey! Economics can be incredibly fascinating at times. The phenomenon of financialisation and the institutionalisation of Chicago School economic theory are a prime example, and I better hope Mayor Hatteras knows how to handle a financial crisis if those banks start doing anything dodgy.

Well, having a local Cazadragones to very pointedly help with your ethics reviews helps for keeping shenanigans tamped down. Just saying, that Honchkrow might not be a Dragon-Type, but I can't imagine he'd fare well against a Dragon Buster's skillset.

Ah, literary timing, you never disappoint.

Well, I'd imagine Hatteras and Osmund were pretty disappointed by the literary timing, just saying. o3o;

I can see someone desperately needs radios to be invented. Although, you'd figure they'd at least be able to use messenger birds to communicate between ships. Or... psychic badges, perhaps? I get that Mothim's probably using this as an excuse, but nevertheless.

Psychic badges are actually used in setting, but their useful range in this setting is too short to have meaningful applications for cross-island communications. I'd presume that initial word got out relatively quickly, though even if the Company was motivated (which as you probably gathered from Ellsberg's dialogue, they weren't), it'd most likely take them at least a day to sortie any off-island response.

Aaaah, this has suddenly gotten a lot more interesting. And complex. So this Company isn't the Venetian Republic of this story, but an actual private corporation that either represents this Empire's interests (state-owned, perhaps?) or leeches money off it by having state functions privatised to it. And not just one Empire--but multiple pretenders, possible breakaway islands, and a ruined capital? I really like where this is going. Politics--I really like politics. It's that simple.

All in due time, but there's definitely more than one power player in Team Traveller's neck of the woods, and it has significant implications for the sorts of things they'll have to endure as part of helping Pleo to find his wings as their island's Protector.

Funny. If we're going by some vaguely realistic lifespan for pokémon--which I believe you're hinting at here--then bug-types live for a considerably shorter time than most of their peers. That must be rough, living, say, 20 years compared to the hundreds of years some dragons are (I imagine) capable of.

Lifespans admittedly are a bit fudged/undefined in this story, though Ellsberg is actually around 20 years old at this point, and Dragon-Types aren’t quite that long-lived in this story. Regardless of whatever a Mothim’s normal life expectancy is, Hatteras is quite right to chew him out on trying to appeal to history against an old fart like him since the events they referenced happened more than 20 years ago.

And thus goes the story of how a child caused the Company's blockade and eventual annexation of Tromba.

To be fair, at a minimum, it'd be two children's fault since a random kid’s comments aren’t admissible evidence on their own. o3o;

A decent story, but I personally would have gone with "Oh that's our guardian, still slumbering somewhere in that ol' mystery dungeon, hehehe. The legends say it will protect us in case of great calamity. He's definitely still in there and not living among us ahahaha"

Hilariously enough, the "lol, this totally ridiculous thing that's actually true" gambit actually gets used at a few points later on in the story by a few different characters. You'll have to read along and see how they pan out, though. :P

Oh, this is just precious. It speaks volumes about public opinion of the Company is people think they'd stop to pick up pennies on the road despite already being filthy rich.

Yeah. They're not exactly seen in a high light by the locals, especially when they're so pushy about "profit margins" and "productivity" and the like.

An interesting analysis of fire-types on ships, especially as I'd just figured they'd be too much of a liability if they got in the water. I suppose though that captains would focus on keeping the ship above the water, rather than if the crew will or won't drown if it goes under it.

Funnily enough, but sailors having super drowning skills historically wasn't seen as a liability. As recently as WWI, it was not uncommon for 40+% of a navy's seamen to be flatly unable to swim, with that percentage usually being a large majority in earlier eras. To add insult to injury, in a number of navies back in the Age of Sail and beforehand, sailors that couldn't swim were often preferred for recruitment under the rationale that they couldn't defect/desert and would be more motivated to fight to keep the ship going.

Things aren't quite that cynical in Fledglings and having a de facto band of armed babysitters in the water all around you can help with lifeboat problems/somebody falling overboard. Though you're correct that the matter of staffing of a crew for a ship in the Cradle doesn't always tightly align with swimming aptitude.

Great chapter overall! There's multiple plot lines going on and you somehow managed to leave both on cliffhangers. I'm happy to get back in the swing of Fledglings!

Well, Virgil and I are always glad to get reviews from you, and we'll be looking forward to seeing more of these come down the pipe in the future. ^^

And on that note, I believe we had a dungeon crawl on a certain island in a sea far, far away to get back to:
 
Chapter 29: Press Gang New

Spiteful Murkrow

Pokémon Trainer
Pronouns
He/Him/His


After a trip down the next set of stairs, the team's search came to a floor with more natural rock walls and stalagmites…

"Eh? Nida? Elty? Where's the ceiling?"

As Pleo craned his head up and squinted off into the distance, it became apparent that if there was one, it must be somewhere very far above. Beyond the lips of the walls, there was the dimly-lit shape of askew floors above stacked one atop the other, with features that seemed as far away as the journal Team Traveler had been fruitlessly searching for.

A fabric fragment the team mistook for part of one of Team Taxonomy's scarves had given them hope… until they realized it was merely a shredded and unusable fragment of a Power Band, whose fabric was still undyed beyond the faintly ruddy tinge the Distortion left while changing it. A book-like shadow against the wall had raised their hopes as well... only to turn out to be a stack of rocks in front of a hole with a wisp of earth-fire. And so it went, with every meager lead the team fumbled upon turning out to be naught but a dead end…

"Bah… how long is it going to take to find a stupid book?!"

Literally in the case of the first ruin-like portion the team had run across on this floor- much to Elty's growling consternation. The team found themselves in a square-ish chamber whose brick walls were engraved with strange, dot-like glyphs, offering nowhere to go but back down the passage from where they entered...

"Well, Wally said that he and the rest of Team Taxonomy dropped it while they were fleeing," Nida sighed. The Nidoran scratched a mark into the wall to make sure they didn't wander back into this room later, and shook her head. "And the Distortion shifts things around, so…"

"So we're searching for a needle in a haystack," Elty spat. "Fantastic-"

Pat-pat-pat

Everyone looked around, hearing a small, pattering sound. It stopped, then after a moment of silence, kicked up again.

"Whuh- What's that noise?" Pleo asked. It didn't take long for it to become apparent the noise was of approaching footsteps. Worse, the sound of distant voices joined in, reverberating from further down the passage.

"Sounds like a dead end," one of the voices said. "You're sure the intruders went this way?"

"These are their tracks, and this is their scent! It has to be them!"

Team Traveller blanched as a creeping realization came over them that the Pokémon speaking were…

"It's ferals," Elty whispered. "And they're blocking the passage we came from!"

"Eh?!" Pleo squawked. "B-But there's no other way out of this chamber!"

Nida stood stunned for a moment, before shaking some sense back into her head, and fanning her barbs out from her pelt.

"Come on," she murmured. "Let's see if we can try and get out of here without a fight."

The Nidoran lead her teammates along, Elty walking beside her, Pleo behind her, only to come to an abrupt stop as a murky shape began to take form down the passage. The spike ball twitched her whiskers and flicked her ears, but couldn't seem to get a firm bead on what the approaching creatures might be.

"Hey! Are you friendly?!" she shouted. "We just want to head back out of this chamber!"

"Hrmph," a voice called back. "It's nice to want things!"

The sound of footsteps approaching rang out and hushed whispers of "that way!" and "come on!", which made Nida fidget nervously. They needed to get through to these Pokémon somehow, but… how?

She cast a glance at her raised barbs, and the thought came to her. Maybe a warning spike would get the ferals to turn back?

"We're serious!" she cried. "If you keep coming at us, we will fight back!"

Nida flicked a barb down the corridor, and watched as it sailed out of sight into the darkness. After the expected faint plink of a barb slowed by such range landing against the ground...

"Ow!"

...came the sound of a loud yelp, followed by the sounds of hurried footsteps, with a small, brown creature darting into the room. The Pokémon had a bony head with line-like markings under the eyes- Eh?!

Nida watched as the Pokémon tugged at the ossified snout and pulled it lower against her face. So it wasn't a head at all, but a helmet!

"Rrr!"

More importantly, there was a glaring scowl over her face, and a barb stuck in the side of her foot. The Cubone plucked the spike out, shook some feeling back into her wounded foot, and shot a harsh glare in Team Traveller's direction. Nida's ears drooped and her heart sank as she realized the Pokémon was glaring at her precisely because of her attempt to try and warn them off.

"Er… oops... I mean, I did warn you- Agh!"

Before Nida, Elty, and Pleo could talk the creature down, the lined-skull Cubone charged ahead with three helmeted companions: a runty-looking Cubone whose gait betrayed a nervous unease, a larger Cubone with a reed in her mouth, and a final Cubone with a darker-colored helmet than the others. Then Lines, Reed-chewer, Dark-skull, and the runt split into two groups, charging in pairs at Nida and Elty. Nida yelped and hopped back as Lines swung at her head with a bone before running past her along with the reed-chewer. From the corner of her eye, she saw Elty weave out of the way of a club swing by the small Cubone at his leg.

"Świetnie, it's Cubone," Elty snarled, before leaping back from the runt's swipe. "Just the ugly little faces that I needed to run into down here!"

Nida sprinted ahead to try and get some space from her attacker to mount a counterattack, and, after a harried sprint, whirled around to see the dark-skulled Cubone charging her.

"Stand your ground and fight, intruder!" the creature growled. Wait a minute, this was only one Cubone, and not even the one that she stung earlier! Then, where had the other-?

"Gyaaah!"

The creature lost his concentration at the sight of the reed-chewer pinwheeling in an overpowering gust of wind along the dungeon floor into an opposite wall. Without thinking, Nida shifted the bag on her back to the ground, and grabbed the long, wooden-feeling Confuse Wand inside while the dark-skull was still distracted by his teammate getting back onto her feet. The Nidoran pulled it out, almost tripping over in the process as the Cubone in front of her began to run at her...

And swung it.

Tink

The outermost layer of glass on the wand shattered into pieces, flinging a barrage of glowing yellow orbs at Nida's foe. The orbs dissipated, leaving the flinching Ground-Type to stagger disorientedly from their effect as the sound of a loud smack rang out.

"Gwark!"

Nida turned, and saw that Lines had headbutted Pleo from his underbelly and sent him tumbling along. The little Lugia got back up with a panicked squawk and desperately attempted to break away from Lines and the reed-chewer's pursuit.

Elty still had the runty Cubone hounding him, the creature swinging wildly at the Growlithe's head to no avail as he weaved and sidestepped around the forceful, though slow swings.

"Yoink!"

Until during one of the swings, he grabbed his attacker's club and wrenched it free with his maw, pulling the Cubone into a stunned and wide-eyed pratfall.

"A-Aah! My bone!"

"Nyeh!" the Fire-Type taunted, his teeth clamped firmly down on the runt's club. "Not so tough without it, are ya?"

"My bone- You- You stole my-" the creature stuttered, before it threw itself to its feet in a blind panic.

"A-Aah! G-Give it back! Give it back!"

The Fire-Type turned and saw that the small Cubone was now charging him, head lowered, with the desperate, dangerous look of a cornered Pokémon in its eyes. Before Elty could react, he felt a sharp pain on his stomach and tumbled along the ground with a yelp. The bone fell out of his grasp and slid along in front of him as the Growlithe gasped for air, seeing the little Ground-Type running for his position.

"Ack! Alright, alright!" the Growlithe yipped. "Take it back!"

Elty clamped his jaws back down onto the purloined club and flung it behind the Cubone. Without a further thought, the Ground-Type abandoned his pursuit of the little dog and beelined for the club as if it were his heart torn from his little body. During his reprieve, Elty staggered up and started to nurse his tender flank as the sound of a stick clattering to the ground, followed by a loud blow, rang out.

"Nrgh!"

The Growlithe whirled and saw that Dark-skull had knocked away the Confuse Wand from Nida's grasp, only for the Nidoran to counter with a stiff kick at the Cubone's belly. When the Poison-Type drew her leg back and reared up to attempt a second spinning kick to the Ground-Type's stomach, the creature to rolled to the side and left Nida to continue sailing on head over heels into the ground.

"Oof!"

The sound of the spike ball tumbling was followed by a flinch-worthy thwack and the loud, shrieking cry of a distressed Nidoran. Elty saw Nida on the ground thrashing, club still pressed against the place where it struck her head, and without thinking further, darted for the poison rabbit. As he closed the gap, the Cubone lifted his club high, ready to bring back down on its foe.

There was no time to do anything… except act.

"Hey, ugly!" he barked. "You've got this 'hothead' thing all wrong!"

Elty inhaled and spat a cone of cinders at the lizard, engulfing its back.

"Eyaaah!"

The Cubone flailed and staggered before it slumped over and fell on the ground, slipping out of consciousness as Nida panted on the ground, still jolted and wide-eyed from her encounter. For a moment, a feeling of pity swept over the Growlithe.

"O-Oi! Are you alright?!" he cried. Elty caught himself and shook his head, growling gruffly as he reminded himself that he just needed her to hang in until they could get back to Aisle Town. "G-Get it together, spike ball!"

"I- I'm fine," Nida said, getting back up to her feet as she eased back into a tensed stance. "I just got a little over- Eh?! You're on fire!"

Elty paused and chuckled a little. He knew that it was a timely save, but this rabbit sure was easy to impress.

"Heh, well, I mean I do-"

"Literally, Elty!"

"Huh?!" he yelped. And sure enough, on his back were the lingering, smoldering remains of embers that flickered for a moment before finally dying, leaving the Growlithe to stare stupefied...

"I didn't know I could do- Ack!"

Until he felt a sudden, dull pain against his hindquarters and tumbled to the ground, followed by the sudden weight of a creature pouncing on him from behind.

"You stole my bone!"

Gah! Why couldn't the stupid lizard let him enjoy his moment a little?! Elty felt claws digging into his pelt, trying to hold him down in place. Without thinking, he jerked his head up, felt something brush against his muzzle and clamped down onto the runt for dear life.

A loud shriek filled his ears, and the Growlithe felt another blow against his head. And another- but he didn't dare let go… until suddenly, the shrieking stopped.

"N-Nrgh…"

The Cubone went limp and fell on his flank. Elty hastily unclenched his jaws and pulled himself free, his vision starting to blur as his head felt lighter…

"P-Pay more attention!"

He could see that Nida was standing in front of him, along with the groaning runt sprawled out behind with a spike lodged firmly in his back. Those lizards had done a number on the rabbit, with how ragged and worn down she looked, she had to be feeling about as awful as he was...

"A-Ack! Nida! Elty! H-Help!"

And the mewa was still in trouble and need of help. The lined-eyed Cubone had clambered up his back and was alternately landing blows and hanging on as Pleo lurched wildly along the ground; meanwhile, the Cubone with the mouth-reed was chasing him from behind, and attempting to pounce and swat at him.

"I don't think I'll last much longer like this," Elty grunted. "If we're going to pull through, we need to make these next few moves count!"

The Growlithe then summoned a series of dancing blue sparks onto his body, and ran up and tagged Nida to let a blue aura pass onto her. As the Nidoran felt a surge of vigor through her body, the dog barrelled on towards Pleo to likewise tap him before the charge faded.

"I'll try and give Pleo a boost!" he cried. "Just don't let that other Cubone get to him!"

Nida turned to see the reed chewer, and saw that she was almost upon Pleo. She had to do something, but the Confuse Wand was all the way on the other side of the room! How was she ever supposed to catch up with it?! Unless…

Nida quickly dumped out the contents of the satchel, and without thinking, grabbed a big and bulky object in her paws…

"Oi! Bonehead!" she cried out. "Swat at this!"

And sent it flying at the Cubone's head. As she watched a red missile sail in an arc through the air, Nida realized… Wait a minute! That wasn't supposed to be an apple!

Thwack

"Ow!"

The Cubone stumbled for a moment and whirled to look at the apple next to her. It had clearly not been that great of a Gravelerock substitute, but at least it managed to distract her.

Nida sprinted for the Cubone, the creature hastily whirling around to try and brace herself for the Nidoran's charge, only for Nida to stop at a distance.

"Nr-hrk!"

Rather than rush headlong at the creature, she caught the Ground-Type in her stomach with a barb, sending the reptile bowling over in shock.

"Argh!"

The sound of a loud burst rang out from Pleo's direction, prompting Nida and Elty to whirl towards him. He had finally flung Lines off and hit her with a Weather Ball, one that looked a bit more forceful than normal thanks to Elty's Helping Hand. As the two remaining Cubone staggered back to their feet for battle, Nida noticed that they were in a rough line with one another…

And at one end, in the air above, was Pleo, bringing a burst of wind together between his wings.

Whoosh

Sending an overpowering wind at the lined-skull Cubone that had so harried him, sweeping her up and sending her tumbling along…

Thwam

Directly into her reed-chewing counterpart, bringing the two to a stop in a groaning pile atop each other as the room became quiet barring the sound of tired panting.

"Hahh… hahh…"

Although the Cubone had been defeated, the Ground-Types had left their mark on the team. Elty was visibly tottering; Nida winced at the tail end of hops forward; and Pleo's course through the air was as erratic and unsteady as his gait darting along the ground.

"Ugh… I really didn't want to use the Oran Berries this fast," she said, shaking her head. "Come on Elty, let's start with you."

The Nidoran went back over to the pile of items she dumped out of the team satchel, and fished out an Oran Berry that now looked about as bruised as the lot of them. She stripped away the rind as she and Pleo made their way over to the stricken Fire-Type as Pleo weakly chirped.

"I didn't think the little Pokémon would be so strong," he murmured

"Oh trust me, they're trouble. They hit way harder than they look, and you can't knock around their heads easily," Elty grunted, wincing from the juice of the berry as it seeped into a scrape on the back of his head. "That's something I've known even before I put my old scarf on and started sailing around."

"Everything's trouble when you're trying to steal from other Pokémon, Elty," Nida grumbled. The Nidoran moved the crushed berry to a spot on Elty's flank, when she felt a nervous peck at her shoulder.

"E-Erm… Nida?" Pleo stammered.

The Nidoran's ears flicked as she heard the sound of groaning coming from the dark-skulled Cubone. The Ground-Type was starting to stir from the spot where he slumped over after Elty's Ember.

"Nrgh… is that tubby furball still there?"

"Oi!" Elty growled, folding his ears back irkedly. "It's fur, not-"

"Not now, Elty!" Nida quickly whispered before dropping the remains of the Oran Berry at Elty's feet. "Eat the rest, we'll worry about patching ourselves up when we're away from here!"

Elty snatched up the partly-crushed berry and snarfed it down as Nida haphazardly shoveled the pile of objects on the floor back into her satchel. The three Pokémon hurried back down the corridor, as Dark-skull dragged himself back to his feet.

"Oi! Get back here!" he huffed at the corridor. "Wherever you are! Stay here and fi-!"

"Urgh, not so loud," a weak, but chastising voice groaned.

One after the other, the rest of the Cubone began to stumble to their feet. They inspected each other's wounds and picked at the spines that the little blue rodent left in them, all the while trying to piece together what had just happened.

"Argh, was that also part of your lorekeeping, Shugodeshi?" Lines' pile companion grumbled, as she staggered up to feel for her missing chew-reed. "If I'd known you'd get me and my patrol beaten like this, I wouldn't have followed that bird!"

"Nrgh... it's not my fault, Machitabi!" Lines, evidently known as 'Shugodeshi' answered with a shake of her head. "That picture didn't say anything about it being so tough!"

"Th-This could be dangerous!" the small Cubone cried, clutching his bone anxiously against his chest. "Wh-What if it's a y-yajū?!"

"Don't worry about it, we'll tell the colony," the line skulled Cubone said, as she glared down the corridor and grumbled under her breath.

"This isn't over."



A little while after sunset, Pladur and Crom waved off a disappointed-looking Delibird at a Storage shop nestled among the treetops, much as they had done with all her neighbors along the riverside walkway. The two had begun their search shortly after Crom returned back to the Siglo Swello after Maranda's debrief. There, after informing the crew, a few small teams were instructed by Beatrix to change back into their more normal blue-and-whites, and snuck back off into the town when the guards were distracted.

Though with how unfruitful their circuit starting from the local Kecleon shop was, Crom couldn't help but wonder if the change of scarves even made a difference. Father and son carried along, mulling over what little they had managed to glean in this leg of their search for Team Traveller.

"Well, he definitely came along this river, at least… All of the shopkeepers on this path remember seeing him," the Fraxure murmured to himself. "But it doesn't sound like any of them really met with him other than those Pokémon at the Kecleon shop. They were Bader, and… 'Alfonso', right?"

All of the places they had tried so far had proven to be dead ends for finding the Pokémon Maranda had said to have helped the team escape. Why would the Pokémon even want to keep it a secret? Wouldn't helping Pleo be something they were proud of, even if they didn't know he was a Protector?

Suddenly, the sound of some excited chattering came from up ahead. The Druddigon and his father peeked and saw that it came from a large-ish hut in the shape of a Drapion's head. Beyond its entrance, a handful of children darted about a colorfully decorated space in front of a counter, playing with Substitutes, stone blocks, and one another. Towards the front, one such group consisting of a Rattata and a Wingull were wrapped up in a simple game with a Bunnelby where they tried to guess what the rabbit was hiding under his small, gray paws, evidently expecting a stone or a stick. Why, this must be...

"A day care? What about this place, Crom?" Pladur asked. "You said the Protector was young, right? Maybe he'd want someone to play with?"

The Druddigon paused, and tilted his head skeptically at the sight of the Day Care. It wasn't what came to mind as a first place the team would have gone to, but...

"I guess it's something Nida and Elty might have done," Crom murmured. The little dragon carried along with his father to the three young Pokémon in the midst of their guessing game, before interrupting with a wave behind the Rattata.

"Hey!" he cried. "Have you seen a white bird?"

The three turned their attention to the pair of larger, tough-looking Dragon Pokémon. The Bunnelby and the Wingull traded quizzical looks with each other, while the Rattata abruptly froze and went rigid; his red eyes widening and focusing on the tall blue-and-red reptile before it.

"A-Aah…"

"He's about as tall as me, and has wings that open out wide like this-" Crom began, spreading his arms and claws along with his wings. Unfortunately, it had the inadvertent effect of making the craggy, sharp-mawed creature seem even bigger than he had first appeared to the unnerved Rattata.

"AAAAAAH!"

The sight sent the small rat screaming and leaping to the surprised shock of his playmates, running deeper into the hut, crying out all the while:

"Auntie Paige! Auntie Paige! Th-There's a monster at the door!"

"H-Huh?!" Crom stammered. The racket was followed shortly afterwards by the sound of heavy, tapping footsteps as a looming Drapion scuttled over. As was her kind's practice, she carried a curiously watching party on her back consisting of three Skorupi, a Chingling, a Weedle, and a Budew, leaving the shivering Rattata to hide behind one of her forelegs.

"It's alright! It's alright!" she reassured, trying to nudge the rodent out with a pincer. "They won't hurt you! You see their scarves, don't you?"

"B-But they're big and have teeth and claws!" the violet rat squeaked. "And-! And-!"

"Eh?!" Crom protested. "But you just ran to hide behind a Pokémon with bigger teeth and claws than us!"

The Rattata stubbornly refused to budge, and continued to shrink behind his caretaker's leg, poking his head out and twitching his whiskers warily. The Drapion sighed, and shook her head as she began to explain the reason for her charge's lack of nerves.

"Apologies for the wariness," the Poison-Type said. "He's still recently arrived from feral company and doesn't fully trust some Pokémon of our sort yet."

That… would actually explain a lot. Back home on Tromba, some ferals would bring their children over to the Day Care to be watched over for a part of their youth so they could grow a bit without the pressures of their lifestyle. When they came, they usually brought along some habits from feral life; sometimes these habits simply didn't go away, leading them to drift back to their old lives instead of staying in town after a few seasons (even if Crom had trouble envisioning the skittish little rat before him having the bravery to return to the wilds).

"Were you looking for a little brother of yours or something?" the Poison-Type chittered. "I don't believe anyone's brought in a Druddigon today."

"Oh, er… have you seen a white seabird come here?" Pladur asked. "About as tall as my son here, blue markings, accompanied by a Nidoran and Growlithe?"

"Sorry," the Drapion replied, shaking her head. "I've seen the Pokémon you're talking about, but he only passed by. Wouldn't he be a bit old for my services, anyways?"

Crom reflexively opened his mouth to try and explain how Pleo was young enough to be here, only to catch himself after realizing that the explanation might let on a bit more than was wise. Disappointed frowns crept over the faces of the two Dragon-Types, as they realized that this place too was but another dead end.

"I see," the Fraxure answered, shaking his tusked head. "Well, thank you for the help anyways."

The two left the Day Care, and made their way back onto the path. As the chattering of the children faded into the background, Crom gave a low grunt and prodded at his father.

"Is there anywhere else left to check, dad?"

The Fraxure looked ahead to see Bader and 'Alfonso's' shop from earlier, meaning that they'd seen everything in their search circuit. The Fraxure reluctantly turned back to his child.

"I don't think so, Crom... and it's getting late," Pladur sighed, shaking his head. "Let's head to that tavern we picked as a meeting place to see how everyone else is doing."

The two dragons turned and retraced the path, following the river's course past the lively, if peculiar, sensations of the town in the evening. Many of the shops they had passed were starting to shut for the night. A raft with crates that smelled of gummis floated lazily down the river, thanks to the efforts of a Volbeat pilot and a red and blue Basculin pushing from behind. A group consisting of a Venipede, Purrloin, and Tepig pressed a partly-obscured black form about 'can't you can tell us what happened?' on some docks near a tree trunk below.

Finally, the pair came to a wooden shack perched in a mangrove's branches overlooking the harbor, raucous chatter emanating from inside it. As they stepped in the open doorway, they saw a wooden hall with long, low tables, stump-seats, and clay cups set out for a motley gathering of sailors of all shapes and sizes. There were an Escavalier and Accelgor arguing in slurred tones over 'stolen armor' at a corner table. By the counter, a large and aged-looking Clawitzer with a white scarf with a red saltire wound around a belt under her head’s exoskeleton perched on a stool with a clay cup full of drink and a rag in a bowl of water to stay hydrated set out in front of her, muttering something about 'sailors these days' under her breath...

"Crom! Pladur! Over here!"

And of course there were the Raichu, the Servine, the blotch-headed Scyther, and the waving Swellow, all perched around a table towards the back. The lot of them murmured among each other as they pecked at a crude map with little doodles spread out before them, moving their appendages over various points that were marked out.

"Hey!" Pladur cried. "Any luck?"

Crom and Pladur's companions lowered their heads, giving quiet shakes as one after the other, they delivered a disappointing chorus of "Nope"s and "Sorry"s.

"Yeah, I didn't think so," the Fraxure sighed, as he and his son joined their teammate at the table.

"We've gone through half the town by now!" Crom exclaimed. "Just how many places are there left that Pleo could have gone to?"

"Hrm? Looking for someone?"

The worn-shelled Clawitzer from the counter scuttled over to their table, she seemed to still be damp, as a moist on the floor following her course evidenced. For a sea creature, she seemed to have a remarkable sense of balance on land, steadying her unevenly-sized body by resting upon a curled tail. The shrimp peered at the group with a piercing, if curious gaze.

"Oh! Er… yes, a friend of ours, actually," Crom explained, putting a claw to the back of his head. "He's a seabird. White feathers, about this tall, blue markings..."

"Hrm? If he's a seabird, couldn't you all just agree to meet up at the shrine or the docks if you got lost?" the Clawitzer questioned. "They wouldn't be that hard to spot for a Pokémon that can fly."

Some uneasy glances went around the group. After a few mental fumbles, the Raichu from the Siglo Swellow hastily cleared his throat and offered up an explanation that would hopefully seem plausible to the inquisitive Water-Type.

"Uh, well… you see," the Raichu interrupted. "He kinda got here before us."

"Yeah, what Philips said! We got caught up in that storm a couple of days ago," the Servine added. "The kid got separated from our ship's aerial detail.

"A storm? Just where are you all from?"

"No es obvio?" Kiran answered. "Tromba!"

"Oh, so like the Company crew at the docks right now, then," the Clawitzer nonchalantly replied. The Pokémon around the table froze and blanched at the shrimp's words. As some of the patrons began to cast wary glances at Crom and the others, the six searchers thought that they noticed a satisfied glint in their interrogator's eyes, only for her to shake her head and break the silence.

"Hrm, well, I can't say that I've seen any Pokémon that really fits your description but..." she trailed off. "If you happened to know your friend's species…"

"Ah… er…" Pladur stammered.

"We don't know how to say it in common speak!" Kiran squawked. "Solamente Trombense! So it's not like it would be a big help…"

"Yeah, we were just headed back out to search!" Ander hastily buzzed, as the six quickly dumped some coins on the table to cover a few drinks, and then got up and darted out of the tavern. The group ducked down a side passage, and only after putting a good enough distance between them and the shack, everyone let out a collective sigh of relief.

"Th-That was way too close," Pladur said.

"Isn't she a nosy one?" the Servine spat. "For a second I thought she was going to just go ahead and ask why we weren't wearing lavender on our necks!"

"What should we do next? It's getting late and Kiran and I still haven't found any lead beyond a few sightings..." Ander buzzed. "Are we better off staying the course? Or try a different tactic here?"

"Well... we've been double-checking more than we'd like," Kiran sighed, shaking out his plumage. "Maybe if we went in bigger groups, we'd cover the places we searched more thoroughly."

"You might have a point there, Kiran," Philips murmured. "Natrix and I will take Pladur into our group, and his kid's your pupil normally right? We'll take the south side, and you take the north. We'll switch things up again if we haven't found anything by lunch tomorrow."

"Right!" Crom grunted. "We can do that!"

As the three parties of two became two parties of three, the Shuckle's Juice Bar they had left returned to its normal bustle, and the aged Clawitzer scuttled back to her place at the counter. On her way, she chanced to notice an indigo thread clinging to the hem of her scarf, and with a pluck from her smaller claw, snipped it and tossed it away.

"Hmph, I see courtesy's become a rarity in these times," she grumbled. "Hey, barkeep. Got a refill?"

"Oh? Coming right up!" the Shuckle replied. The bug grabbed a clay cup set aside under the counter and poured some fluid in a pitcher before passing it along to the shrimp. As the Water-Type nudged the cup towards herself with her smaller claw and returned to her drinking routine, the barkeep absent-mindedly turned the conversation to the abruptly departed customers.

“So what brought you up here out of the water anyways?” he asked while fetching a berry from the shelf on the back wall and throwing it into his shell. “You do know that I take orders from the dock at the trunk outside, right?”

“Eh, I’m already used to spending a little time out of water here and there,” the shrimp said, twitching her antennae as she nipped at the fresh cup. “Besides, I wanted to find out what was going on, and you only get half the picture of what’s going on if you stay in the water.”

"That’s why you went over to that shifty group back there, huh?" he mulled. “You suppose they were trying to hide something?”

"Oh I’m sure they are, though it’s probably just smuggling or something of that ilk," the shrimp answered. "Though, changing the subject a bit… There was a Company ship that came in and stirred up trouble before the one in port now, right?"

"Yes…?"

"Mind telling me a bit about what happened back then?"



Like Mystery Dungeons, the one on Kenobi Island had its own stable zones. Most of the small ones were unclaimed by the locals, and provided pockets of shelter for Rescue Teams that had lost their way in the maze.

"You know, nothing is gonna appear out of that fog no matter how hard you stare at it, " a Marowak with a scar from a claw swipe on his back said. The scarred lizard shook his head before turning to his companion, a fellow Marowak with a bone club broken at one end.

"Bah, that's what an intruder would want you to think!" she retorted. "You've gotta keep your eyes trained ahead, paying attention for any little disturbance..."

The larger stable zones, like the one these two Bone Keeper Pokémon defended, were usually occupied by the Pokémon of the dungeon. It had been a long, uneventful day for the pair watching over the small, but steep ledge emptying out into the fog ahead- until the sound of a faint shuffling suddenly reached their ears.

"Ah! Like that!" the broken club's wielder grunted, as she drew her club and braced herself for battle. Her partner did likewise, and cautiously rapped a few beats onto a rock by his feet.

The entrances to such claimed shelters were guarded, with sound and smell the key differentiators between friend and foe for the sentries. The noises and scent of the Pokémon ahead were usually enough to make weaker or more easily cowed intruders turn tail at once. And as for their friends…

Tap tap tap-tap tap

The sound and rhythm of a local's bone-message was enough to dissuade their unease. The two Marowak relaxed their stances, the Marowak with the broken club calling off into the fog...

"Come on through!"

...and watched the battered forms of four Cubone shuffle out of the fog and up the ledge, their condition immediately drawing cries of concern from the duo of guards.

"Ack! You all look terrible!" the scarred Marowak cried.

"Come on, quick!" his partner added. "We'll summon the healer!"

The four Pokémon limped along towards the light down the passage as a message was tapped into the rock behind them, signifying that wounded members of the colony had returned from the maze beyond the fog. As the four approached, it became evident that the light was from a fire at the center of a spacious chamber, started by a small vent of earth-fire and kept alive with a stream of sticks and other combustibles gathered from the Mystery Dungeon. The walls were marked with paintings and runes with eyes in them styled after the Unown that shared the dungeon, while a handful of holes in the cave roof let in foggy light from above. The sides had narrow, but tall dens bored into them where groups of Cubone and Marowak would sleep. In the back was a mound of dirt with a scavenged and beaten exposure chest on it where the colony's leader slept and perched. Finally, a collection of dot-like glyphs could be seen behind the chest.

Not that the four Cubone could really notice them. A crowd of concerned compatriots rapidly gathered around them, their concerned cries echoing off of the stone walls of the chamber..

"Machitabi?! What happened?!"

"We heard your patrol was wounded!"

A Marowak holding a clawful of Oran Berries darted out of a burrow, led along by an anxious-looking Cubone with rounded eye-holes in his helmet, and set about inspecting the four creatures' wounds. The healer peeled and squeezed the berry, revealing its contents to be unusually thick and syrupy with glimmering grains, and began dabbing the strange fluid on their wounds one after the other. The four Cubone traded looks with each other, before the reed-chewer known as 'Machitabi' spat out her chew-twig and grunted irkedly back at the voices in the crowd.

"Shugodeshi got us beaten up by an intruder," she winced, as the healer dabbed the thick, syrupy juice against some bruises and scrapes. "What was your excuse again? 'Lore-gathering'?"

"How was I supposed to know that would happen?" the line-skulled Cubone growled. "The picture that I saw this morning in that book the defilers dropped didn't say anything about that bird being so tough!"

"Well of course not!" the Cubone with rounded eye-holes interjected. "When Tetsuzui-sama showed it to the two of us, we saw it was in town runes and not the sacred inscriptions that- Wait a minute… 'this morning'?"

"Your training's during the evening, and I've been keeping that book in my perch when we're not looking at it," a gruff voice interrupted. Its owner, a Marowak with a femur club that had a gray, metallic tinge to its surface came to the fore, giving Shugodeshi a stern look. "Unless you'd care to explain something that I, your tutor, and Zokuchō of this colony don't already know of."

The gathering went silent as the crowd's eyes focused on the line-skulled student in the center. Acutely aware that she had been made the center of attention, the Ground-Type fidgeted and attempted to deflect an incoming earful about breaking colony propriety.

"I… er… overheard the intruders?" Shugodeshi sheepishly offered. "Th-They said that a 'Wally' set them up to coming here! Wasn't that what the leader of the defilers called himself?"

Some whispering went about the gathered bone lizards, as they realized… that was the name of the banana-saur and his cohorts who had disturbed the burial grounds just two days ago.

"That's right! It was!"

"Now that you mention it, one of the defilers did call himself 'Wally!'"

As the colony's members murmured, a few voices started to become upset that these 'defilers' had dared to return to their territories, even by proxy. Others started to become anxious, as perhaps these others were a sign that the defilers turned the 'knot-necks' from the town below against them on false pretenses in order to do as they pleased to their sacred place.

But everything started to quiet down as it became apparent that the leader Marowak with the metallic club had started smirking, her elderly eyes alight with an impish, knowing expression.

"Tetsuzui-sama, what's that look for?" the dark-skulled Cubone asked.

"I think I have an idea of what these intruders are after," the Marowak answered, casting a glance back at the chest on the mound at the end of the chamber. "Perhaps we could use it to get an explanation of what happened at our burial grounds."

Excited chattering began to fill the chamber. Their leader had something that the defilers wanted? Then… as long as she could lure their cohorts in, the colony had a way to exact justice on them! Then what were they waiting for? It was time to rush off and confront them right away! One voice after another volunteered themselves for the effort, as their leader turned back to the four wounded Cubone.

"Rest up, I'll go arrange for an appropriate greeting for this group," she said. The Marowak turned to return to their chamber, when a young voice suddenly cried out.

"Wait!"

The Marowak paused, before turning towards the direction of Shugodeshi. The little Cubone had stepped forward, and was giving the same sort of awkward look that a prideful creature pleading for some favor might have.

"Tetsuzui-sama, I know that I'm not in my best shape, yes… And, maybe I was a bit reckless earlier," the Ground-Type murmured. "But... if it's not too much trouble. May I join?"

"Huh?!" the runty Cubone squeaked in a start. "Sh-Shugodeshi!"

"Us too, Zokuchō!" the patrol leader grunted.

"E-Eh?! Machitabi?! You too?! " the little Cubone protested. "But we're-!"

"Getting a chance to get even, Keikaiashi!" the dark-skull explained. "Don't you see?"

The runty Cubone paused a moment. While the yajū were tough and intimidating, that bone-thief was with them! And, well… even he had to admit that he wouldn't want to pass up a chance to give that thieving mutt a piece of his mind if it was safe...

"It's part of my duties as a lorekeeper-in-training to learn as much as I can for the colony," Shugodeshi responded, before shaking her head. "And besides… I want a rematch."

The Marowak paused and pondered, before finally giving a smiling nod.

"Very well, then. Be prepared for battle," she answered. The elderly Marowak looked back at the chest on her mound, and then down the passage at the fog beyond. After this pause, the creature shook her head, and continued on confidently. "Though I don't think we'll need to resort to knocking heads around… beyond the fog, anyways."



After twilight gave way to the deeper parts of the night, the full array of stars filled in the heavens, and glass and paper lanterns started to get set out in front of the various abodes of Mossaisle Town. Against this backdrop, the bustle of the day began to simmer down as Pokémon started to retire for the night and trade places with a smaller cast of night owls. Among them was a Beheeyem, who tiredly chatted up a Slowbro in front of the gate to the Kenobi Island Guild.

"I might be a little late coming in tomorrow," the Beheeyem sighed. "I've got business in the morning to tend to."

"It's alright," the Slowbro said. "It's been a long day, so just make sure not to burn yourself out, you hear?"

The Beheeyem waved his counterpart off and began the weary telekinetic float along the way back home after a long day's work... The normal in-and-out pulling of teams was particularly taxing that day, no thanks to having to make an emergency extraction of that Tropius' team bright and early in the morning, or the second emergency extraction after the Grass-Type and his companions went back only a few hours later. After all that, any teleporter would've struggled to throw together the energy and focus to try and make another jump, let alone a jump into the cramped and obstruction-riddled second floor of a wooden shack.

The crescent moon in the sky glinted down on the Psychic-Type as he made his way down Aisle Town's narrow lanes and alleys. He passed a Gogoat and Piloswine arguing over a rough wooden cart laden with thatch blocking the normal path home with a snapped axle. The Beheeyem shook his head and proceeded down a detour past a low-roofed local eatery with a lavender-scarved Aerodactyl cheerily devouring a meal of soup and gummis.

At long last, the Psychic-Type's journey finally took him to one of the riotously-painted shacks that sat along one of Aisle Town's narrower streets. The shack had a gardening shop that sold flowers and sprouts on the ground floor, though its Sunflora proprietor had closed it an hour ago and retired to the burrow of a basement apartment next to the front entrance. More importantly, it also had a rickety wooden stairway up to the second floor that was the teleporter's home. As the Beheeyem floated sluggishly up the steps, beat from a long day's work, he fished out a small, ceramic key from a bag around his shoulder to undo the padlock he had bought for the door.

"Huh?!"

The creature noticed that the door was slightly ajar, and on closer inspection the padlock had been removed. It was common practice in many settlements in the Cradle for Pokémon that lived in buildings to not have locks (and occasionally doors at all) and rely upon a rotating group of neighbors and particularly trusted local guards to perform watch duty (not that there were many of those in Aisle Town with the Company's hiring policies in more recent history)...

Those Pokémon however, usually did not have things to hide from others, and he did. The Beheeyem dashed forward and threw the door open in a panic, and after darting inside, saw that his abode had been untouched. The bedding was still undisturbed, the storage chests didn't appear to be tampered with, everything seemed to be together from a glance...

Except, on the low, circular table next to the window, there was a bag filled to the brim with spiky reddish berries. The Psychic-Type darted over, and bent down to pick up the satchel on the table.

"Oh for crying out loud, Eeden," he grumbled. "If you're gonna drop another shipment on me, don't-"

SLAM

The Beheeyem jumped with a start, and whirled around to see a Yanmega, a Manectric , and a Marowak at the door in lavender scarves. As the Psychic-Type blanched and tried to puzzle out why the three had come, the trio made their way over and ringed the creature beside the table.

"Hey, it's 'Zamora', right?" the Manectric of the group asked. "You don't mind if we have a little chat, hm?"

"Uhm… I… guess I can?" the Beheeyem uneasily began. "If there was something that you needed me for, we could have met at a Juice Bar or something…"

"Oh don't mind us, we'll be out soon enough," Valatos said. "Just had a little matter that we needed to be discussed behind closed doors."

"Deals with something Company calls 'proprietary secrets' or something like that," Nori added.

"Erm, well," Zamora stammered. The Psychic-Type instinctively floated back, only to feel the ledge of the table bump against his rump, leaving him to gulp and try and placate the square-necked strangers. "What do you need to talk about?"

"We're looking for some Pokémon from the Andaku Docks that have been involved in some serious trouble up here," Valatos replied. "We think that they might've taken a job from your guild."

"A female Nidoran, a Gardie, and some strange white seabird with an ugly mug?" Nori questioned.

The Beheeyem stared for a moment, and after letting a brief flicker of relief cross his face, the creature shook his head.

"Sorry, haven't picked up a badge of any team that fits the description," he answered. "I did see a team with a Nidorino, if that helps, though…"

The response made the Marowak frown and give a grumbling whisper to Alvise.

"I told you they wouldn't have taken a job from here-!" he growled, only for the Manectric to cut him off.

"Cestìl, we're not done!" he piped, as the Yanmega ringleader of the group gave a loud buzz with his wings and cleared his throat.

"We figured. We were hoping that you could ask your buddy Eeden at the Andaku Guild for a bit of help. You know, your Drowzee friend? We need him to bend his guild's confidentiality rules and help us out a bit to track those runts down," Valatos grunted. "After all, the unofficial policy here might be to look the other way from what goes down down in Andaku, but there are limits. Stirring up trouble in the rest of the town goes well beyond them!"

"Buddy at the Andaku Guild?" Zamora scoffed. "Me? Hah! You're mistaken!"

"Explain the bag full of Lansat Berries, then," Alvise demanded, lowering his body into an expectant crouch. "Those aren't exactly cheap."

"S-So I like stocking up on fruit while it's in season!" the Beheeyem protested. "What's the big deal about that?"

"Hmm, really now…?" Valatos retorted.

The Yanmega nonchalantly dumped the bag out and a pile of red berries spilled onto the table along with a cloth pouch, a clay bowl, a pestle, and a pot with a spout. The Psychic-Type grimaced as the three Company Pokémon shot satisfied smirks at the now-paling creature.

"Care to explain where this junk comes from then?" Nori asked smugly. "Last I checked, this sort of stuff was used by apothecaries to make vitamins. And you need berries like Camula or Yatapi for that, not Sang."

"I- I've never seen any of that before in my life!" Zamora stammered. "Someone must have switched my bag!"

Alvise rolled its eyes and grabbed a scrap of paper lying amidst the pile of clutter from the bag. On it were some messy runes, which the Electric-Type unfolded and nonchalantly read aloud.

"'Zamora, meet me at Ryūbokuya when the Continent Tower's Traveller crosses the moon for the next batch. Need you to make the syrup at your place this time. Eeden'," the Manectric said. The wolf crumpled up and flicked away the slip.

"Got any other explanations you'd like to try?"

The Beheeyem blanched, and looked around in a panic. The Pokémon closed his eyes and began to make the sweeping motions of a teleport…

"Argh!"

… only to be cut off by a slashing gust of air. The Psychic-Type was sent flying into the wall with an audible crash, tumbling face-first to the ground. Before Zamora could get back up, he felt a pointed leg dig into his back, and turned his head to see Valatos smirking at him.

"Well now, I was going to say that we could understand if you had something a little shady going on since we've gone down that road ourselves," the Yanmega said. "But since you don't have anything going on, and that little stunt there obviously wasn't you 'resisting arrest', I guess it wouldn't hurt for us to go and tell-"

"A-Aah! Wait! Alright, alright!" the Beheeyem cried. "I'll talk it over with Eeden! Just- Just what do you need us to do?"

"We need you and your buddy to help us get the drop on the dweebs we told you about earlier," the bug replied.

The Psychic-Type got up, and after an uneasy pause, relented and shook his head. There couldn't be that much harm in playing along, could there?

"Alright, I think I can do tha-" Zamora began, only to come to abrupt, spluttering halt as he watched the Marowak of the group take out the cloth pouch from the pile, and rifle through a mix of gold and silver-colored coins.

"Wh-What are you doing?!"

"Oh, didn't we mention? We needed to cover a couple things for tomorrow," Nori explained. "Fair trade for the whole 'not ratting you out' bit, don't you think?"

The Psychic-Type froze, grimaced, and furrowed his eyes shut, burying his face into a hand. He could already tell, this was going to be an experience he'd be keen to forget about.

"Hey, don't worry about it, we know exactly what we're getting into," Alvise snickered. "Just play along, and this'll all be over before you know it."



Team Traveller continued on to the next floor after a long and circuitous search for the stairs. The Distortion shaped the floor they came upon into a maze of tight, twisty corridors composed of the same brickwork the ruinous sections of the last floors were. Interspersed among them were cavernous rooms, the only 'architecture' there to speak of consisting of speleothems and piles of stones. After their encounter with the Cubone, the three made a point of being more vigilant, stopping to sniff at the air, to listen for the paces of approaching ferals, to hop up onto rocks in order to gain a better vantage point…

"Yah!"

Including a couple that were a bit more alive than they first appeared and swung back at the team, only to be quelled by a pair of thumping kicks.

Thump! Thump!

"Gack!"

Much like the moody Geodude now splayed in a groaning heap against a nearby cave wall, leaving Nida to pant and shake her head.

"Okay, I should've been paying closer attention."

"No kidding!" Elty growled, casting a wary glance at the unconscious Rock-Type off by the wall. The Growlithe turned and began to continue down the ruin chamber the team came from.

"Look! Look! There's a shiny thing!"

Pleo suddenly turned and flitted off ahead towards a glistening green, teardrop-shaped jewel lying at a forking intersection. The little Protector alighted near the little bauble, noticing that it seemed to vibrate as he drew nearer, and craned his head down to peck at it with his beak...

Tink

...only for it to suddenly burst into pieces. Pleo screwed his eyes shut and flinched as he felt pointy shards glance off his body. After hearing the sound of small shards settling on the ground and Nida and Elty's rapidly approaching footsteps, he opened his eyes, and saw that in place of the jewel were glassy fragments scattered around his feet and a good distance ahead.

"A-Aah! It broke!" he cried.

"Well yeah, they're emeras. They break if they're disturbed too much or brought past the fog of a Mystery Dungeon," the Nidoran explained. "That’s usually how Pokémon prefer them. Though maybe we can take some of these shards back to town with us and try to sell them…"

"Eh? Why’s that?" Pleo asked, as he watched Nida stoop to gather up some of the shards into the team satchel.

"Well, it's said that their shards help the Distortion to change things inside them faster, so Pokémon like to put them in exposure chests to help give effects to things like scarves or the like," she answered. "Though, when you gather enough inside Mystery Dungeons, sometimes they'll come together and make a brand-new emera. It makes you wonder if they have abilities when they're unbroken, and maybe we're just missing something to draw them out…"

"Oh? But if Pokémon like using their shards, why wouldn't they just break ones that are already there?" Pleo asked. "Like all those emeras and boxes over there!"

The young Lugia gestured with a wing down the passage to the right, and into an approaching cave chamber. Inside, various emeras and exposure chests were scattered all around, the glittering sight making Elty's eyes light up.

"Hey! Not a bad find!" he yipped excitedly. The Growlithe darted off ahead past a line of Unown-shaped runes on the wall, as Nida and Pleo cried for him to wait before following after him in a hurry. Why, with a nose for treasure like that, maybe he oughta offer them a place aboard the Iron Fleet! He was going to go back anyways, and they were on the wrong side of the law already… so why not make lemonade out of lemons-?

"There they are!"

As the three crossed into the chamber, it suddenly burst into growling activity with forms leaping down from clefts in the walls and from behind the chests. A Roggenrola, a Clefairy, a Baltoy, and six Cubone, four seeming rather familiar, were all rapidly approaching on the team's position...

"A-Ack!" Pleo squawked. "N-Nida! It's a Monster House!"

The Nidoran froze and tensed her barbs and in a startled panic. As she struggled to think of what the three of them could do against such a big crowd, she suddenly felt a jerking tug at her bag and something getting pulled from it.

"Don't just stand there, spike ball!" Elty's voice barked.

"H-Huh?!"

Nida turned just in time to see the Growlithe pull out a glassy blue orb with his maw and fling it towards the center of the room where it dashed against the stony floor. Sparks and glass-like shards flew everywhere, as the Poison-Type realized it to be the Petrify Orb they took from Lyn's ship. One after the other, the mass of Pokémon froze in place and a few toppled over, able to do nothing but yelp and cry out in useless surprise as Elty stuck a tongue out at them.

"Nyeh!" he taunted. "How do you like them apples-?"

Just as the sound of something panting running into the room interrupted him, the culprit quickly being revealed to be a Tyrogue popping in from a passage on the left side.

"I'm not too late for the amb- Eh? What's going on here?!" the creature cried.

Team Traveller's members quickly darted in and sent a gout of fire, a flying spike, and a glowing ball after the Fighting-Type to try and quickly overpower him. Unfortunately, the feral caught sight of the incoming attacks and rolled so that they did little more than graze his body. The three braced themselves, expecting the Tyrogue to rush at them at once...

"Wh-What are you all just doing standing here?!" he yelped. "Come on! Help me!"

Only to kick up blue sparks on his body, and run about tagging and causing vaguely electric auras to settle upon the petrified Pokémon. The creatures wrenched themselves free, and much to Team Traveller's horror, stumbled back up to their feet and once again began to advance on the group. This time, appearing more energetic than they were before he threw the orb.

"...K-Kurczę," Elty gulped. "Forget this! We're getting out of here!"

The three Pokémon turned to bolt for the passage behind them...

"Not so fast!"

Only for four of the Unown-shaped runes they passed on the way into the chamber to shake off some dust, and reveal themselves to be actual Unown hiding among the strange script around them. The floating runes quickly interlocked with each other, forming a barricade in front of the way out with their bodies.

"You hut-dwellers aren't going anywhere!" one of the Unown hissed.

"Th-They're all around us!" Pleo cried.

And indeed they were. The three Pokémon backed into each other tighter and tighter as the Pokémon continued to advance on them. As their foes drew closer, it became evident why four of the Cubone seemed familiar...

"Well, I wasn't expecting the orb, but I told you that putting all the Lapis and intruder crates here as bait would work!"

It's because the four that ambushed them from the earlier floor had come back! The line-skulled Cubone was at the fore, leading her companions growling and glaring at her cornered quarry.

"Thanks a lot, Elty!" Nida growled. Ten Pokémon, and no way around them. Even with the items they had left in their bag, this was sure to be a hairy battle. Maybe… they could talk their way out of this one?

"Ehehe… if we let you keep this stuff, you'll let us go?" the Fire-Type offered. The Growlithe gave a nervous grin, folded his ears back, and even threw in a few tail wags to try and look endearing, but…

"You stole my bone!" the runty Cubone shouted.

Rrr…

Yeah, he didn't think it would work either.

"Not likely, Gardie!" the lined-skulled Cubone spat. "This time, I'm gonna strike first-!"

"Hold your club!" a gruff, coarse voice suddenly barked.

The gathered Pokémon of the Monster House looked around, before they saw a Marowak with something tucked under her free arm, perching on a small stone plinth jutting out of the ground. From the deferential looks and bows the Cubone gave, it seemed this creature was their leader, which elicited some confused-sounding words from the other Pokémon.

"Eh? What's she going on about?" the Clefairy asked.

"Yeah! They're intruders!" the Roggenrola cried. "So let's drive them out alrea-!"

The two abruptly shut up after the Marowak with the metal-looking club shot a withering glare at them. She was a fellow resident of the dungeon, and much stronger than them, no point in cutting her off, they supposed. The bone lizard cleared her throat and shifted her piercing gaze over to Nida, Elty, and Pleo, all of them moving heads and limbs near to their badges to try and slip away.

"Gyah!"

Which was quickly thwarted by the Marowak's metal bone sailing overhead, prompting the three to duck and hit the ground. The club arced and returned to its thrower's arm, who caught it and slung it across her shoulder.

"Going somehere so soon?" she huffed. The creature then grabbed at a red, bulky item under her arm, and let it flop open dangling from her free claw. "You three sure seem to be willing to go through an awful lot of trouble for intruders. You wouldn't happen to be looking for something, would you?"

As the three got back up, they warily began to inspect the object in the Marowak's claw. It seemed that it was a red-covered book, now dangling with its spine splayed along some pages filled with messy-looking script. Wait a minute...

"A-Ah!" Pleo squawked. "Is that Team Taxonomy's journal?!"

"Team Taxonomy? Oh, you mean the flying tree and his friends who defiled the burial grounds my colony watches over," the Marowak answered as she shifted her grasp on the ruddy tome and clamped it shut along its spine. "Yes, it's theirs."

"Wait, then just give it to us!" Nida squeaked, hopping up and down, flailing her paws. "That's what we need to complete our mission!"

"Yeah! We'll get out of here like you want and everything!" Elty added.

"Hrmph. I, Tetsuzui, Zokuchō of the Dungeon Colony and Slayer of the Kodora, don't just give away anything! Especially not to intruders like you," the Marowak scoffed. "Why don't you three come along and we'll have a talk at our colony's grounds, hmm? If I'm satisfied afterwards, I'll give it to you."

"Wait, this story about the Kodora again?" the Tyrogue groaned. "Didn't she just steal it from some town grave?"

"I'm pretty sure she did," one of the fresh Cubone grunted. "What kind of 'Slayer of the Kodora' only has a single bone to show for i-?"

The Cubone quickly caught his tongue and clamped his mouth shut, after noticing that Tetsuzui was now glaring at him, her bone slightly raised. As the Cubone nervously put some space between himself and the Marowak, Nida and Elty screwed their eyes shut in frustration, leaving Pleo to wonder aloud what had come over the two.

"Um… Nida? Elty? Why are you two frowning like that?" he asked. With a growling shake of his head, Elty glared back at the Marowak dangling the team's prize in front of their eyes.

"Grr… you're trying to blackmail us!" he spat. "Well, you've got another thing coming! There's no way that I'd ever-!"

"Oi! Tell your leader to butt out!" the Baltoy huffed impatiently at a smaller helmet clad lizard beside it. "I want to tan these three's hides already for that orb they threw at us!"

Elty bit his tongue as he noticed that the Pokémon around Team Traveller still appeared restless and aggressive, clearly itching for the chance to pounce upon them. The Marowak gave a small smirk before shaking her head.

"Or I can let you enjoy your company here and try to flee with one of your wall-talking friends while I give this 'journal' over to the colony's younglings," the Marowak on the plinth continued, pointing with her club at the still-glowering Monster House ringing the team. "The pages with pictures can be pressed up on their den walls for decorations, and I'm pretty sure the rest would serve well as bedding or kindling for our fires. Your choice."

Team Traveller paused, and stared blankly for a moment. Pleo watched as Nida and Elty's ears drooped, the Growlithe seeming particularly unpleased with the turn of events things had taken.

"Urgh…" Elty growled.

"Er… Nida?" Pleo whispered uneasily. "What should we do?"

"I don't think we have many options here," the Nidoran reluctantly said. She shook her head before meeting the Marowak's gaze. "Fine. We accept."

The Pokémon of the Monster House looked at one another, and then at the Marowak perched on the plinth. After realizing that they were serious, the different Pokémon went off their ways, leaving the intruders to the Cubone to deal with, if none too eagerly.

"Some ambush this was!" the Clefairy growled.

"You boneheads better punish them good!" the Roggenrola grumbled.

The Monster House dispersed, leaving behind six Cubone who rapidly circled around the members of Team Traveller, lest they had any second thoughts about the spike-ball's acquiescing to their leader's demands. The Marowak leapt off the plinth and made her way over to the group, giving a wary, inspecting stare at the three.

"Come along now," she demanded. "I'd prefer to ask my questions on some more stable ground. There's a few shortcuts we know for getting around this place, stick close and we'll arrive at our destination soon enough."

The Marowak turned and began to make her way off deeper in the dungeon. With a prodding shove, Nida, Pleo, and Elty were made to follow suit by their captors. Their instincts screamed to fight back or flee, only to remember that with the circumstances they’d left Team Taxonomy under, if they returned to Aisle Town without Team Taxonomy's journal, they’d be lucky if they were merely kicked back into the dungeon to search again.

For now then, perhaps it was best to play along… and to keep their paws and wings ready to go for their badges at a moment's notice.



Author's Notes:

- Świetnie - Polish: Interjection, roughly meaning "(Oh) Great"
- yajū (野獣) - Japanese: "beast" (Hepburn Romanization)
- (¿)No es obvio? - Spanish: "Isn't it obvious?"
- Solamente Trombense - Spanish: "Only Tromban"
- Zokuchō (族長)- Japanese: Title, roughly meaning "clan/family head", used here for name of leader position. (Hepburn Romanization)
- -sama (-様) - Japanese: Honorific, roughly analogous to "Lord/Lady" or "Sir/Ma'am" depending on context of usage. (Hepburn Romanization)
- Cestìl - Venetian: Interjection meaning "Shut up" or "Be quiet"
- Camula( no mi) (カムラのみ) - Japanese: "Camula (Fruit/Berry)". Language version name for "Salac Berry". (Official Romanization)
- Yatapi (no mi) (ヤタピのみ) - Japanese: "Yatapi (Fruit/Berry)". Language version name for "Petaya Berry". (Official Romanization)
- Lapis (ラピス) - Japanese: Language version name for "Emera(s)" (Official Romanization)
- Kodora (コドラ) - Japanese: "Lairon" (Official Romanization)
 
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Shadow of Antioch

Viaggiatore
Location
Messina, Italy
Pronouns
he/his
Chapter 13 Review:

The primary exceptions were a few glowing moss beds and a network of what, depending on one's perspective, were either rather shallow pools or particularly deep puddles on the ground.
Neat description, I like the uncertainty of that last sentence.

The other two, a pair of passages that trailed off deeper into the Mystery Dungeon…
Oh, dear. I can absolutely see the team (or, let's be honest, Pleo) taking a different exit from everyone else as they all try to escape the fight.

"Oh, you'll be going places, alright!" a Zubat from the approaching group screeched.
I get that they're territorial, but these ferals would really benefit from trying diplomacy every once in a while. It always ends up with them being knocked out, and they're also responsible for part of the problem in the first place: if these (note: visibly scared) children tell you they're trying to get out of your territory, let them!

Everyone flinched for a moment, and then, after the wind subsided, everyone looked around… and saw that the only change Pleo had effected was some disturbed dust and pebbles on the ground and tousled fur on one of the Zubat, whose expression was hardening into hostility once again.
Sigh... oh, Pleo, what are we going to do with you?

"Take this!" Crom cried, biting down on the orange seed. A brilliant gout of fire erupted out of his maw and onto the Finneon, who had unwisely charged on ahead into terrain that was out of his element.
Mmmm, grilled fish... Er--anyway, it seems that you're into the more traditionalist camp of Blast Seeds, rather than the basically-a-hand-grenade camp.

Ultimately, the creature came to rest in a pool, floating upside-down on the surface, groaning and unable to muster the strength to right his body.
Looks like we've got tonight's dinner! ... What? What do you mean they don't eat other pokémon?!

"Oi, you salt-suckers!
I misread this at first. I'm sure you can imagine how.

Crom: "Wh-what? I wouldn't even know of another similar-sounding insult! Not unless Tromba is uncharacteristically advanced when it comes to sexual education..."

"Grr, let's see you do that twice, spike ball!" the Buizel spat before she lunged for the Nidoran, only for the little blue creature to hop over her shoulder and behind the sea weasel.

"Huh? Where'd she-? Eargh!"

The creature abruptly pitched forward and slumped onto the ground. Embedded into her back was a Nidoran's barb... further behind, was the barb's previous owner, astonished with her achievement.

"Wait, that was a sting!" she cried, her voice beginning to grow giddy as she realized... "I finally stung a-! Gah!"
The odd absence of the name "Nida" made me think that a third, blue-coloured party had shot that barb. It's often necessary to use descriptors to shake up the narration, but here you could have used Nida instead of "the little blue creature" and "the Buizel" instead of "the creature". Had me do a double take and reread to understand what was going on.

"Gyaah! You ferals aren't supposed to be smart about picking fights with me!" he whined, before he turned to see the Corsola responsible for the Bubble Beam drawing near to him in the pool.
Meanwhile, Crom: "You spin me right round... baby, right... round..." (Vomits)

As Nida fanned out her barbs and braced herself, she heard and felt a whoosh of wind. Much to her astonishment, Nida saw the Slow Orb abruptly change direction in midair, getting sent into a wall before exploding in a shower of green shards.
Pleo: "Nida! Did I help? Did I help? I helped, right?"
Nida: "Ah, fine--I guess I will pat you on the head later."

"A-Ahh… Stay back! St-Stay back! None of this would have happened if you never came!" he cried.
Same argument applies for if you'd let them pass through.

Would be a crude doll-like figure of a Kirlia, the Pokémon who had clearly gone through far more trouble than necessary to put it there.
Pffft, but of course! I love that Kirlia, shame she doesn't get much screen time.

"It only took me three tries and wearing myself down a little to make a substitute of myself that looked as good as-"
Crom: "I sure hope you didn't stare at it creepily for ten minutes straight before you decided to bring it here ..." o_o

"Music to my ears," Pataki crooned, her expression brightening after hearing that she would have another chance to be close to the Protector.
God, she's great.

Pleo: "G-guys? Why's she staring at me like that? Do I have something on my face?" o_o'

Pataki: "Oh, nothing... Only your radiant splendor, o Protector. How may I best serve you?"

Pleo: "P-please don't get so close, miss."

"You know, Protector," the Kirlia babbled cheerily. "The best way to keep a chain of Pokémon together is to have a bigger Pokémon holding on directly to the teleporter."
Oh god, I was joking about the not getting so close part xD

"Er… I guess it would make my shrine look a little less lonely?" Pleo volunteered, moving a wing behind his head sheepishly.
Nida, whispering: "Pleo, no! Take that back!"

Pleo: "Wh-why?"

Nida: "I'll, uh, explain later."

Crom: "I'm really surprised she didn't choose to take it back to stare at in the middle of the night." o_o

Elty: "Eh, just burn her and get it over with."

"I… understand," Hatteras replied. The Ampharos still wore a smile in front of the young Pokémon, but for a second, Nida and Crom swore that they had seen his expression droop a bit.
Yep, no sudden godly abilities that'll help against the Company. Better crack open that history book about the Siege of Malta while you have time, you're going to want to take notes.

The Druddigon, still high off of the euphoric mood, lifted her up and eagerly spun her around in front of the others.
Dawwww.

As Ellsberg yawned and beat his wings on the railing of the deck, a Pidgeot from among the ship's escorts squawked her sighting of land ahead to the west lit by the moon and stars.
Ah, so birds are used by ships!

But Ellsberg's ship had no need to go that far to pull into port. Instead, the craft slowly turned and bobbed towards a complex of docks, rudely-constructed warehouses, and yards filled with wooden crates, all under the shadow of a sturdy stone fortress on the atoll in the foreground .
Oh-hoh! Somewhere with a population higher than 100? A seaside fortress? You've certainly caught my interest.

One fielded a match on a clearing covered with craggy rocks between an Eelektross, a Chesnaught and a Houndoom against an opposing squad consisting of a Vigoroth, Arbok, and an Aerodactyl. Another hosted a Staraptor and Crobat diving and weaving around each other's attacks in a pitched aerial battle.
Much tougher than the pirates, eh? This doesn't bode well.

"You can make them," he sneered.
Yup.

干得好!
 

Shadow of Antioch

Viaggiatore
Location
Messina, Italy
Pronouns
he/his
Chapter 14 Review:

"Eh?! But that totally should've-!"
Nida: "Your overconfidence is your weakness, young Elty."
Elty: "Will you stop quoting that old human story?!"

"He's on top of you!"

Pleo's eyes widened realized that Elty's voice behind him was too loud and the load on his back too heavy.
Crom: "Do a barrel roll!"

Elty: "AGAIN, I said to STOP with the quotes!"

"The more Pleo improves here, the sooner you can pull your weight doing something other than being a punching bag."
If they both improve at a roughly linear pace, then Elty will most likely stay his punching bag xD

"They have a curse attached to them that will trap Pokémon that disturb them inside,"
Seems... far-fetched.

"I'm not here to be mean!" Pleo squawked after the Bug-Type. "I'm not here to make you meet your makers!"
Crom: "Dawwww, look at this cute little mafioso growing u--wait..." o_o

"Wait, really?" the Growlithe asked excitedly from the side, as he began to sniff at the hunks of meat littering the hut's floor. "Because I could actually go for some-"
Okay, this part made me laugh xD

Nida: "... And here's Pleo's lackey. Sigh..."

"M-Mom?! What is the demon doing at our house?!"
Nida: "Drop the drawing! At least drop the drawing behind us, Pleo!"

"We're just other Pokémon from town! Mom buys things from you from time to time!"
Buying meat? Oho, I didn't think many pokémon would have the courage to overcome that social stigma. Maybe something about dragon biology makes it necessary for them to consume at least some.

"A-And if we try and do anything about it, you'll try and end our world like the old demons!"
This cult isn't exactly an optimistic one, is it?

"Because this is all we have," Ander finally replied, lowering his gaze to the ground. "And it only takes a few upset Pokémon to lose everything."
I do feel bad for them, to be fair. And I'm almost certain the Marked/unmarked split is going to become a lot more relevant as the plot goes forward.

Hmmmm, not a lot to say this time around... you know what that means! It's double-review time!

Chapter 15 Review:

Perhaps he should make a point of going to their session tomorrow, and move his meeting with Hatteras about Pleo to tomorrow night, during Hatteras's customary tending of the town lighthouse.
Only to create a perfect dramatic moment where the two of you spot an approaching Company flotilla out of the distant fog? You clearly aren't familiar with literature, Kiran.

Hatteras' tail was still winking out light as he dozed from the top of his domicile, which doubled as the town lighthouse
Hatteras... lives in the town's lighthouse? Man knows no words to describe this lad. He's genuinely one of the greatest characters so far. Shame we'll most likely leave him as soon as the crew (minus Crom, sniffle) set off for adventure.

"Let me rephrase that, Crom," the Nidoran said, flattening out her ears. "Are all of the jobs that we can reasonably do supposed to be finding things?"
Crom: "Hey! You've got to believe in yourself a little more!"

"Meh," Elty huffed in an unimpressed tone. "You'd get more if you kept it for yourself!"
Tsk tsk, the greatest rulers understood that they profit the most when their subjects prospered. This is why you couldn't make it to Captain.

"Kiran," he murmured. "Is everything bad that's happened to the town lately… Is it really my fault?"
Huh, I'd expected a couple of "Nothing! Everything is fine" before he went ahead and said this. Cutting right to the chase, I see.

Pleo looked back at Team Traveller's captain and gave a small smile (inasmuch as any creature with a beak can smile)
Wait--"inasmuch" is an actual, valid, single word? I had no idea.

As Team Traveler busied themselves with another day of flight and sparring practice, the Ninjask that flew for the sea was zipping out of the harbor with the wind's course.
Oh, dear, I hadn't thought anything of him when you first mentioned him! Nice way of hiding him in plain sight.

The ship was an imposing vessel, larger than the Iron "Fleet's" craft with three-masts flying lavender sails with purple squares that attached to notched cross-shaped piers dyed on them.
Ah, so we're dealing with barques, I see.

Reaching the ship, the cicada passed over a tube made of planks bound together by metal hoops on the deck, the entire contraption resting atop a wooden block on crude wheels.
CANNONS! Yes! Aaaah, so much destructive power! Now all we need is Greek Fire and we have near limitless potential for cool naval battles.

Hiding one's true colors like a bunch of stranded pirates trying to evade capture was a bit of a dirty trick, yes… but it was hard to argue with results.
It's not against the Geneva Conventions if no conventions have been held!

The Tauros in the group hopped the side of the ship into the water with a splash, coming up paddling the water furiously and waiting for his partner to clamber down a rope ladder onto his back.
Huh. I would have expected them to use a raft. And I really didn't expect a Tauros to be so adept at swimming, either.

"Oh, hello Osmund. I see half of the negotiators are punctual, at least.
Elty's distant voice echoes: "For the last time, I said stop it with those prequel quotes!"

The smoke lingered a little before it dissipated and melted away, revealing the forms of five Pokemon slumped over onto the ground, asleep. A Tauros and Electabuzz then poked their heads past the corner of the dojo and walked up the creek.
NINJAS! Damn it, it's Occam's Shuriken! When the answer is elusive, never rule out ninjas.

Without bothering to dust themselves off from the ambush, the team took off flying and running for the harbor, desperately hoping that they would not be too late to rescue Tromba's little Protector.
Incoming diplomatic incident... o_o'

Back at the harbor, Osmund continued to uneasily stare Lyn down on a rickety wooden dock. The Samurott outranked him in the Company's hierarchy, and had the strength to make the design on his lavender scarf mean something- a fact that Lyn seemed to be aware of given the predatory gaze and smirk on his face.
Come on, you've got a type advantage! Give 'im all you've got!

"Please still be here, please still be here..."
This is not good. Even if they expose Lyn's crime to the public, he might still feel cocky enough--what with his manpower and organisational advantage--to order his troops to start a fighting retreat to get Pleo onto the ship. Oh, well: it just means more excitement for what's to come!
 
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