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Pokémon handfuls of dust

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Wes and Michael didn't save the day. Or, Orre: the story of a woman, a girl, a ghost, and the desert world they burn for warmth.

handfuls of dust
i. your shadow at evening
ii. the all-seeing land
iii. except for the birds
iv. madame sosotris
v. confused sounds beating against—
vi. the amber of the moment

a/n: welcome to my red-headed stepchild of a fic, aka the one I don't acknowledge except in passing references. it's a bit of a wild one and i love it dearly.
for full disclosure, I originally uploaded this to ff.net in january 2019 under a different account than the account I normally use. this was done both to avoid some ff.net drama and because i wanted to keep this fic off of my main account. I deleted the story so that that account isn't back-searchable with this one, but I maintain access to that account and can provide confirmation of my ownership, as well as screenshots pre-deletion, if needed.


general content warning: language, violence/blood. specific chapters with additional content will be tagged as needed. for example, the following chapter contains multiple stabbings.

 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
ASTRA
i. your shadow at evening


⁂​

The most horrific thing about the monster is how closely it resembles a human.

It has enough features to make it unrecognizable if she doesn't look too carefully: the coarse mass of static-filled yellow fur that casts its silhouette into harsh, disjointed shadows; the knife-like claws on both of its oversized feet; the way that its tail, banded in shocks of gold and black, lashes wildly behind it with a mind of its own. But she is looking too closely, so she can't help but see herself in the skewered electabuzz's hunched shoulders and its defiantly curled fists and its narrowed eyes—

all the better to see you with

—Astra can't help it. She looks away. Her blade yanks upward and then outward, ripping back out of the creature's chest. The electabuzz slumps to the ground, electricity fizzling weakly between its horns. She looks back when she hears the thud. It isn't a strange sight to her any more, but it hasn't gotten any easier in the passing years. Astra steps heavily over the electabuzz's body and walks toward the smoking settlement, feeling the rich scent of ozone settling around her. She keeps the sword drawn warily, even as the electabuzz's blood sizzles away on its surface.

Asi is thirstier than normal; before today, the blade hadn't tasted flesh in weeks. Astra can feel its weight on her arm, can hear its parched growls almost like a heartbeat deeply in synch with her own. She's started to understand the ebb and flow of the sword better. Enough to know that when it gets to this point, where the dark blue of its tassel is wrapped so tightly around her forearm that she can barely feel her own blood in her fingertips, she needs to give Asi something soon. If she doesn't, it will start to pull the blood from the only place it can find, until it sucks her dry.

That's what happened to the last wielder. Astra's lasted longer than most.

Soon, she almost whispers back to the blade, but she licks her chapped lips against the blistering wind instead. They both know that soon is never soon enough, and that even now, it craves more.

There's a rumble of thunder in the distance, one that comes not from the cloudless desert sky above, but from the ruined houses below. She starts running, past the limp body of a jolteon, past the corpse of a middle-aged man that's been smeared across fifteen feet of sandstone. Past the charred rubble of what was once a town, past the broken road, past the furrows that looked like they'd been smitten from the heavens. Astra can almost pity them. But the people of Quartzite were foolish, trying to keep a settlement this far out in the wastes. Pyrite, and the scant protection that it still offers, is a good thirty miles west of here. An altogether human arrogance led them to believe that it'd be safe to teeter this far out into the dark, as if the outlands of Orre didn't have teeth and claws and the power to bring all challengers to heel.

The thunder rumbles again. Closer, this time. Astra can feel the electricity rising in the air, tingling all the way up Asi's hilt, around the tassel that binds them together, and up to the hairs on the back of her neck, standing sharply at attention. Whatever's down there is stronger, much stronger, than what she's been picking off up here.

Asi, thirsty as ever, tugs her down towards it.

She hears the clash before she sees it, feels the reverberations of a collision emanating so loudly that she can feel the echoes tingling up her bones even after the sound fades. There's a prolonged shriek, not quite like anything she's ever heard before—this one is long, drawn out, some strange mix of the bass undertones of a charizard interwoven with the keening trill of an electabuzz.

And then she hears a sound that sends chills down her spine, one that makes her more afraid than any of the bloodied monsters she's seen today. She's seen a dozen villages burn in the past year, but she's never heard a sound like this here, never expected it, never told herself what she'd think when she finally—

Hears the defiant, countering scream of a human.

Here's the thing about humans, the lesson Astra learned the hard way. They might never have gotten the blessings the way that pokémon did, may never have been given teeth and claws and sheer power. But what they did get was far worse, far more deadly, far more beneficial in keeping them alive in this hellscape.

She sees the girl first, a tiny wisp of a thing, probably no more than thirteen. She's got the same gaunt body that all the survivors do; hunger's carved her features sharply into her face. Her face is smeared with a thin patina of ash and blood.

Astra sees the golem unfurl second. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sort of affair: one second, the girl is raising her arm skyward, where it silhouettes against the desert sun, and the next second, there's a huge explosion of metal as a huge, hulking humanoid figure seems to form out of shards of metal around her tiny form. She’s dwarfed by the creature that constructs itself beside her, brandishing a pair of fists that individually are larger than her entire body.

She sees the electivire third, mentally thanks her time with Cipher for giving her a name for this monstrosity. Where the electabuzz was lean and wiry, this one's hulking and oversized. Tangles of fur bristle with static. Fists the size of car tires are slowly flexing and unflexing in the face of its new foe.

When the gods parceled out their gifts and saw fit to place defanged, slow bipeds on the same earth as dragons capable of levelling mountains, they gave the bipeds only tenacity. And somehow that proved enough. Kick a pidgey out of the nest and it'll fly away. Defeat an arcanine for the right to rule the pack and it'll stay down and lick its wounds, keep its head low for the new alpha. But humans, well. Kick it out of its nest and it'll build a new, bigger one. With necks too short to lick their wounds, there was never a defeat, no matter how many times you pushed them down, until every last one of them was dead.

This was why places like Orre would never truly settle, not as long as humanity remembered that they'd once had a foothold. It didn't matter if the pokémon had suddenly mutated into uncontrollable killing machines that could reject pokéballs. It didn't matter if these monstrous shadow pokémon were more powerful, more vicious, than their tamed counterparts, and filled the biological niche that Orre had once lacked—that of apex predators. It didn't matter if shadow pokémon had received the one gift that their creators could give, and that they had the same desire to defend and destroy. All that mattered was that humanity had tenacity still, and they had the memory of a time they'd been pushed back.

"Shy!" the girl is screaming, pointing the mechanical pokémon toward the real one like it's some sort of farce of what they used to call battling. Not like she's old enough to remember.

Astra weighs her options. Electivire tails sell for a fair amount in the Under. Something about the capacitance. But she isn't sure there's a price high enough that'll make her fight the kid for it. The golem looks vicious.

Asi has different thoughts. It wants all three of them, and it tugs at her arm insistently. She grits her teeth. Time to feed, then.

The electivire catches sight of her first; she's approaching the girl and the golem from behind. She sees the comprehension dawn across its face as it's about to wind up a solid punch at the golem’s midsection. Instead, it aims its blow downward, slamming one electrified fist into the ground. A spray of sand rises up, spitting into Astra's eyes and making her pause her assault.

Unfazed, the mechanical humanoid barrels onward. Fists erupt into flashes of silvery light, propelling it easily over the makeshift barricade and clipping the electivire between the eyes. The electric pokémon screeches in pain, but then its twin tails lash upward and wrap tightly around the golem’s arms.

Astra knows what's coming next. She shields her face.

Blue arcs of electricity course between the electivire and the girl’s golem, so bright that they wash out the shadows in the red desert beneath her feet. She can hear the girl shriek in pain from behind her, but Astra's already moving. There won't be a better opening. She surges forward, steel-toed boots making heavy impact on the ground, and then she lets Asi guide her hand toward the electivire's heart. Distracted as the electivire is with its first target, it doesn't notice her until it's too late, and Asi's already buried halfway up the hilt in its chest.

The electivire responds by raising its arm and punching her in the ribs. She flies back, ripping Asi with her, and blood begins to spurt freely from where she'd hit it, watering the parched earth.

Asi drinks deep, too. She feels its strength growing, understands what will happen now that it's gotten a taste of an opponent. The metal has claimed its offering. The course is set now, as inevitable as water flowing downhill.

She finds herself staring at the hilt of the sword as the blood slowly drains across the surface, desperately wills it to focus on that and not the thin crimson trickle that's leaking out from where the electivire threw her into the rock. Astra's mind goes in a million directions at once, sends her images of the girl kneeling frantically at the side of her mechanical companion, trying to repair the sizzling hole in its midsection. Flashes over to the hulking yellow monster pounding its fists across its chest, spurting electrical sparks across its own body. Reminds her of the study Cipher had once done on pokémon with the ability to absorb electrical energy and convert it into kinetic energy—

Oh.

Then the electivire is running at her on all fours, fingers gouging great holes into the ground. She isn't sure if it's her vision that's causing the tremors or the weight of the pokémon barreling towards her. Blearily, she points Asi forward, but the blade is suddenly so, so heavy in her hands.

Up. She has to get up.

The golem is suddenly back, lumbering across the ground with steps so heavy that the entire earth seems to shake, and it bodily tackles the electivire to the ground. It isn't enough to knock it entirely off course—stopping it with a body would be like jumping in front of a train—but it's enough to send them both skidding into the dirt beside her, enough to jolt Astra out of her half-concussed state. She scrambles to her feet. Limps to the pair of downed fighters on the ground. Raises Asi high, and then lets it plunge back into the electivire's neck, tracing out a crimson smile across its throat.

She collapses to the ground, breathing heavily. She can feel Asi chuckling beside her, and she lets the blade drink deep.

Behind her, the girl screams. Short footsteps announce her arrival, and then she's shoving Astra out of the way, hands threading into the electivire's matted fur. At first, her words are so frantic that Astra can't even understand them, but even when the girl slows down, they don't make any sense, rattle around in her head alongside the rest of her thoughts: "I didn't think you were going to kill it!"

Astra's so stunned she doesn't even bother responding for a second. She looks between the weapons both she and the girl have fashioned for themselves—Asi, with its unquenchable thirst and eversharp blade; the golem, with its huge figure and enormous fists. What did they claim these weapons for if not for blood?

"What were you going to do?" Astra asks at last. Her voice is cracked with disuse.

The girl's still got her head bowed, trying to staunch the electivire's wound even as its lifeblood drains into the thirsty earth around her. Splashes of hot, red blood lace around her wrists like henna. "I… I thought we could hit it hard enough and… and convince it to stop being so violent."

They're both heavily concussed. That's the only reason Astra could be hearing this bullshit the way she is. She makes a point to look at the cratered settlement around her. It wasn't very big—probably twenty or thirty people before it was destroyed—but that wasn't the aftermath of something that could be convinced.

Astra sighs. "Where are your parents, girl?"

The girl stiffens. One hand points toward a pile of rubble.

Of course. Astra doesn't have time for this. She heaves herself over to the electivire's feet, where its twin tails snake out from beneath its legs. The blood hasn't stained them yet, but if she doesn't harvest them soon, they'll get soaked, and the smell will be permanent. Which, she's been told, ruins the price. "Then let me teach you something that they didn't," she says darkly. She severs the tails with a swift slash from Asi. "You don't save things that can kill you. You can't."

The girl doesn't look up. One bloodied hand is leaving streaked fingerprints across the hull of her metallic companion. A robot, perhaps? It’s too reserved to be a pokémon; it’s eyes are yellowed, foreign, but there’s too much understanding in them for it to be shadowed. "I don't believe that."

Once upon a time, Orre had believed in heroes. There'd been plucky kids and brave adventures and everything in between. Astra had watched the news; she remembered what it was like. But it'd all been hopeless in the end—humanity had inadvertently been creating their own worst nightmare. In patiently believing that pokémon would help them gain greater power, in trusting in something stronger than themselves, they'd all collectively sealed their fates.

That's how they'd lost the first time. When the plucky heroes thought that their beloved companions could be saved, rather than slain. And then they'd all lost.

Astra bends down and picks up the electivire's tails with her free hand. Pretends not to be off-put by the way that the golem’s fingers are twitching insistently, as if it's still powering itself back on. "You will, soon."

The girl looks up this time, and fixes Astra with eyes that are too resolute to understand the truths everyone in Orre already knows, too black to be fully human. "I don't," she repeats, "believe in that."

Astra sees it written all over the girl's eyes, all across her face and her unnaturally-bright hair—shocks of gold and black—and the realization washes over her like a cold blast of wind. She shivers despite the searing heat. Looks over at the twitching hull of the golem’s bluish steel. Connects the dots. The two of them look like they’d crossed into the uncanny valley because they had; the girl and her golem look too humanoid for a pokémon and too pokémon to be human and yet—

After people realized that pokémon weren't enough to stop shadow pokémon, they tried something stupider, something far more desperate.

Someone, somewhere, had realized that if they couldn't safely give resolve to creatures with power, like pokémon, they could try giving the power to the things with tenacity instead.

"You're one of them, aren't you?" Astra asks heavily. "A morph, right?" She should've known back when she'd heard the thunder; electivire only go for ranged attacks when they feel threatened.

The girl seems to make some sort of understanding deep inside of herself, and then she nods.

This time, it isn't Asi who lunges forward when the blade aims for the throat. It's Astra.

She doesn't close her eyes this time. It's the least she can do, facing this monster that so closely resembles a girl.

But she can't save the things that can kill her.



CONTENTS | NEXT
 
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Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
okay first things first: HONEDGE WIELDING HONEDGE WIELDING HONEDGE WIELDING YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

But yeah this is a very... interesting intro. Something Fucked Up has happened to Orre (Or, well, more fucked up than usual :V) and now mutant Shadow Pokemon and Pokemorphs and frigging robots have taken over and there's murder everywhere. I assumed there'll be more of an explanation for what the hell happened later.

The outlook of your protagonist is very interesting - it seems they're doing a lot of the murder partially because their Honedge companion demands it and partially because of their hopeless outlook and partially because, well, they can. Said hopeless outlook and the dark nature of this fic does make me worried about "this is too dark to give a fuck abut anyone" and all that but eh, it's the first chapter, things can change.

But yeah, regardless I am morbidly curious about where this fic will go and how it'll make Orre even more of a dystopia. :V
 

Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
Oh man, I'm ALWAYS here for Orre fic, and throw in pokémorphs, too? It's like a dream come true! Loads of really cool ideas in this story even just in one short chapter. Some more picky sentence-level comments first, and then I'll get into the meat of the review.

There's a rumble of thunder in the distance, one comes not from the cloudless desert sky above, but from the ruined houses below.
one *that comes

A spray of earth and dirt rises up, spitting into Astra's eyes and making her pause her assault.
Did you maybe mean to use something other than "dirt" as the second item here? "Earth and dirt" strikes me as a bit redundant.

Blue arcs of electricity course between the electivire and the bird, so bright that it washes out the shadows in the red desert beneath her feet.
Since "arcs" is plural, it should be "they wash out" rather than "it washes out."

"I… I thought we could hit it hard enough and… and convince it to stop being so violent."
Ahaha, yes, that is the best plan.

She heaves herself over to the electivire's feet, where its twin tails snake out.
The tails come out of its feet?

She doesn't close her eyes this time. It's the least she can do, facing this monster that so closely resembles a girl.
Interesting! From the way Astra's been talking, I'd assumed she wasn't human, and she doesn't seem to be a pokémon, either. I guess either she doesn't consider herself fully human (maybe due to the demon-sword stuck to her arm) or generally considers herself apart from/above other humans, considering the othering and generally contemptuous way she talks about them. (Or I suppose she could be another morph who's just threatened by others of her kind.)

Your prose is generally strong, but at times it strikes me like you're reaching a bit to sound fancy, like in these cases:

Astra steps heavily over the electabuzz's body and walks toward the smoking settlement, feeling the rich rumble of ozone around her.
Ozone rumbles?

An altogether human arrogance led them to believe that it'd be safe to teeter this far out into the dark and think they'd come out unscathed, as if the outlands of Orre didn't have teeth and claws and the power to bend nature to its heel.
Couple of things here. In the first half of this sentence, "and think they'd come out unscathed" strikes me as redundant... you already stated that they thought they'd be safe, so what do you lose by cutting this phrase off after "dark?" The second half is something of a mixed metaphor. Normally you'd bend something "to your will," or bring something "to heel." But "bending to heel" doesn't make sense to me; bringing something to heel means making it fall in line with you and usually refers to something alive that can choose to do so, while things that are bent to one's will are generally forces of nature or otherwise inanimate.

The bird has no such qualms, soaring easily over the makeshift barricade and clipping the electivire between the eyes.
Seems weird to use "qualms" here; I get what you mean, but qualms usually refer to some moral or psychological objection to something, whereas here it's just that the bird doesn't care about getting dust in its eyes.

Splashes of hot, red blood lace around her wrists like a tattoo.
This is a nice image, but I don't think blood really does that. Unless it's supposed to be weird monster-blood or something.

Anyhow, like I said, there's a lot of interesting stuff going on here! Hyper-mutated pokéball-rejecting shadow pokémon is already a fun start, and then throw in some morphs and mechanical pokes (maybe inspired by/descended from robo-Groudon and similar?) and there's a whole lot of fun to go around. It's quite a different situation than what we see in the Orre of the games, but at the same time doesn't feel like an inappropriate departure from what's presented there; it's kind of the foundation of what was presented in Colosseum, especially, taken to its logical end. I wonder how far in the future we're looking, here, and how the rest of the pokémon world is doing out there. I think you've done a great job capturing the feel of the setting while bringing a fresh take on it... lots of emphasis on blood and dust here, which seems kind of like the essence of the pseudo-post-apocalyptic desert region of Orre to me.

Astra's an interesting character, definitely an antihero at best. I'll be curious to learn more about her time in Cipher and how she ended up with a literally-bloodthirsty aegislash companion. Right now her goal appears to be "survive" above all else, which looks tough enough to do in this kind of place, but doesn't give me a lot of indication of where the story will be going from here. Given that the pokémorph is explicitly dead at the end of this chapter, I wouldn't be surprised if she stuck around. As an antagonist? A reluctant ally in something bigger than either of them? One way or another their dramatically different outlooks would probably make for a fun character dynamic. Even if this particular character's a goner, I imagine Astra will have to encounter some pushback against her worldview, and it'll be interesting to see whether it ever gets swayed at all.

I'm also looking forward to seeing more of the dynamic between Asi and Astra. Asi's obviously the one actually in control, here, and Astra may not totally agree with its decisions, but she doesn't have a lot of choice but to go along for the ride. Is there anything more to it than a lust for blood? Did it actively choose Astra, or was their partnership someone else's idea? Astra's sort of a vampire-by-proxy here, not forced to drink blood herself to survive, but instead to help her sentient sword sink out blood; the consequences are the same if she refuses to kill people. It's always fun to see how characters deal with that kind of brutal bargain... you gain power, but you have to murder people constantly in order to survive. How do you go on living like that, and why?

Anyhow, welcome to the forums! Thanks for sharing your story, as well as leaving reviews around the site--you've been giving some great feedback! This is a fascinating fanfic, and I'm excited to see where it goes from here. I enjoy me a dark and gritty story, and it looks like this one won't disappoint.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
okay first things first: HONEDGE WIELDING HONEDGE WIELDING HONEDGE WIELDING YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
YUSSSSS. I love that pokedex entry. There's so much wild shit that can go down.

I assumed there'll be more of an explanation for what the hell happened later.
yeah I'd say that's at least 10% of this story, although no promises on the timeline for when that explanation will arrive

The outlook of your protagonist is very interesting - it seems they're doing a lot of the murder partially because their Honedge companion demands it and partially because of their hopeless outlook and partially because, well, they can. Said hopeless outlook and the dark nature of this fic does make me worried about "this is too dark to give a fuck abut anyone" and all that but eh, it's the first chapter, things can change.
This is definitely something I like to keep in mind! Grimdeath is fun, but true human interactions are meaningful, ya! This honestly started out as an exercise in redeeming a protagonist who sucks and/or neck-stabs a small child in their first appearance, so fingers crossed for how that goes.

Thank you so much for reviewing, and I hope you enjoy what comes next!

one *that comes
oh man, my normal method of reducing wordcount by going through and removing as many that's as possible *really* falls apart here. other typos/phrasing/over-pomping things were absolutely appreciated and edited to a more correct state!

It's quite a different situation than what we see in the Orre of the games, but at the same time doesn't feel like an inappropriate departure from what's presented there; it's kind of the foundation of what was presented in Colosseum, especially, taken to its logical end. I wonder how far in the future we're looking, here, and how the rest of the pokémon world is doing out there. I think you've done a great job capturing the feel of the setting while bringing a fresh take on it... lots of emphasis on blood and dust here, which seems kind of like the essence of the pseudo-post-apocalyptic desert region of Orre to me.
Ahhhhh, thank you! Worldbuilding for fanfiction is something I've personally struggled with a lot, since I tend to find the games a little light as far as deeper construction goes, but also find that my personal tastes don't always mesh well with a franchise marketed to kids -- what results is usually viewed as a significant departure from canon. Orre was a bit easier because it's already the edgy black sheep, but I'm glad that it feels right here.

Given that the pokémorph is explicitly dead at the end of this chapter, I wouldn't be surprised if she stuck around. As an antagonist? A reluctant ally in something bigger than either of them? One way or another their dramatically different outlooks would probably make for a fun character dynamic. Even if this particular character's a goner, I imagine Astra will have to encounter some pushback against her worldview, and it'll be interesting to see whether it ever gets swayed at all.
A lot of this is really right!

I'm also looking forward to seeing more of the dynamic between Asi and Astra. Asi's obviously the one actually in control, here, and Astra may not totally agree with its decisions, but she doesn't have a lot of choice but to go along for the ride. Is there anything more to it than a lust for blood? Did it actively choose Astra, or was their partnership someone else's idea? Astra's sort of a vampire-by-proxy here, not forced to drink blood herself to survive, but instead to help her sentient sword sink out blood; the consequences are the same if she refuses to kill people. It's always fun to see how characters deal with that kind of brutal bargain... you gain power, but you have to murder people constantly in order to survive. How do you go on living like that, and why?
This is actually the root of why I wanted to bring pokemorphs into this: Asi presents a sort of faustian bargain that contrasts nicely with how I normally see the pokemorph dilemma approached (you get cool powers BUT the evviillll scientists want to view you for evilll and you have to protect humanity that haaaaaates you), because this bargain was most certainly willing.

Astra's definitely around to stay, though -- edited the chapter headers to tie that more directly into the summary to make that more clear!

Thank you so much for the feedback! It sounds really masochistic but I definitely appreciate the level of detail you invested here, both with the grammar/style edits and the general thoughts at the end.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
A GIRL
ii. the all-seeing land

x​
the blade will rip through the air first.

please, wait, I don’t want to die.

the only thing that will be in the way after that will be the body of the young girl who had, stupidly, fiercely stood in the blade’s unceasing path a few seconds prior.

I don’t want to die

it will then bite into her skin, ripping through the subcutaneous layer in an instant

I don’t want

from there, it’s a simple matter of travelling remorselessly through the tight-bound, lean layer of neck muscle before following through to dig into her trachea.

I don’t

there will not be much biomaterial after that to stop the impact, so it won’t.

I
x​

In the ten seconds afforded to her before she bleeds out into the dirt, she remembered ten years.

Vajrin Indra was named for the old legends. Her parents picked a name that meant she was as adamant as a diamond, and as irresistible as the thunder. She was born in a simpler time, when such a name was only a wish for good luck instead of a prayer.

She was three the day her world ended. She didn’t fully remember it. What she had instead was a collection of blurs. The imprint of the white ferry on the sparkling sapphire waters outside of Gateon port. The scintillating scales of an enormous blue pokémon erupting out of the sea. A blast of heat, so hot, so bright, so painful on her face. Her mother pulling her from the rubble, running. One hand outstretched for Father.
x​

That was Before. There was a chunk of time in Before, when the entire world, not just her, learned to be happy. She got the images of those sometimes, hints of them slipping into her dreams when she least expected them. She’d find herself crying, but she couldn’t fully understand why.

Kana, her mother, took her on a nomadic journey across Orre. It wasn’t by choice. When Gateon fell to shadow pokémon, the two of them stumbled over to Pyrite. When Pyrite proved too dangerous to raise a daughter who was just learning what it meant for her family to be less than three, they fled to the outer territories, to a land beyond the maps. When that failed, they went further.

From there, they moved again and again, until all that was left of a family of three was a wary, battle-hardened woman who saw an enemy in every pokémon and human, and a bright-eyed girl who learned the exact opposite. The little girl lost every home she ever had after the shadow gyarados razed her hometown, but you couldn’t tell that she had the scars if you only looked at her face.

The smiling girl became the darling of every settlement they stayed in. She had a sort of optimism that survivors in Orre found quaint, something to be cherished and put on a shelf, like a cute pokémon without the threat that it might one day become a shadow.

By the time she was four, she’d moved forty-seven times. Not that she was counting.

x​

It was at the age of five that she finally got the courage to ask about her father. Kana looked away.

They walked on eggshells around each other. Kana didn’t believe that her daughter would ever truly have a place in this world that was learning to devour itself alive. And in turn, her daughter was learning what it meant to love and lose someone who had walled themselves off from loving and losing ever again.

The girl went by Rin, now. In her mother’s native tongue, it meant cold, distant—everything she needed to be in this world in order to survive, and everything she still wasn’t. There wasn’t much trace of what her life used to be. She couldn’t help but wonder if there was something missing, something spelled into the syllables of a name that was starting to sound foreign even to her own ears. Orre certainly didn’t remember it.

But that didn’t stop her from lying awake at night, staring at the crumbling ceiling above and rolling her full name on her tongue. Vajrin, she would whisper. I am Vajrin. And with that seditious word came the memory of two parents who were nothing like the one she had now. She didn’t understand why, but she understood the loss.

She was re-learning to spell now, and she practiced by writing letters, crudely, to a man she once remembered as father.

x​

She didn’t get toys growing up. They simply weren’t necessary, so Kana didn’t give them to her. And besides, everyone reasoned, what would a tiny girl do with creativity in a world like this?

And yet, trapped behind walls, a little girl’s imagination had to wander. Rin reached for what she can find, scraps of a world that used to have more than she could have asked for, and started to create. She wasn’t sure at first what caused the whisper, the drive, but by the time she was six, she’d built her first motor out of scraps in the junkyard. Machines were fascinating and boring to her in the same way that people weren’t: they were predictable. Sparks followed the same path; charge always flowed one way.

x​

It was at age seven that she finally made her first friend.

They talked all night and all day. While her mother spent the days and nights fighting to make her world safe, her new friend told her stories of far-off places, of fantasy and daydream. He kept her company when she played in the scrap heaps, gave her advice on how to wire the circuits up in the lights so she could read even at night. He even helped her practice her spelling out her letters to her father.

One night, he helped her sneak off to the walls of their settlement, encouraged her to climb to the top. He showed her the constellations and told her of how far, far away they truly were, so far that it took the light years to cross down to her. She threw a letter to her father from the wall, watched it vanish into the night and hoped it would reach him. Her friend told her tales of the wide, wide universe, and he told her a great many stories that were laced in the stars. There was the little boy who flew a small biplane and discovered a floating castle in the clouds. Here was the woman who befriended Suicune and learned of their true nature; fought alongside them to defend against the forest’s black heart.

He sounded out the first syllables of his name to her, and then stopped, silent. Which was strange, because for a voice in her head he was normally quite well-spoken.

He was too scared to talk anywhere but in her mind, and he never did finish saying his full name, so she called him Shy.

x​

When she was eight, Rin witnessed the first killing.

A growlithe leapt over the walls of Quartzite. The people screamed, but Kana didn’t hesitate. She was a protector now, big and strong like the heroes Shy has been telling her about, and she impaled it with a piece of steel rebar.

The people cheered for her. Kana did a good thing, defending Quartzite. Guardians like her were the reason that they could stay in one place for as long as they had. This was good. Rin knew it. Pokémon were bad. They hurt humans. That was all they’d ever do, and all shadow pokémon needed to die if humans were ever to live peacefully in Orre.

Shy was awfully quiet that evening.

x​

Her ninth birthday was a lonely affair. Kana was busy repairing the barricades around Quartzite from where a swarm of raticate almost broke through, so it was Shy’s turn.

He sang her a quiet song from his homeland and told her a surprise story he’d saved just for her birthday. It was a special story about an enormous bird with beautiful, rainbow feathers. And the bird loved a little boy, and they played together, and the bird was happy. But one day the boy asked for some of the bird’s rainbow tail, and the bird gave it, so that the boy would be happy. And the bird loved the boy. On a different day, the boy asked for some of the bird’s rainbow wing, and the bird gave it, so that the boy would be happy. And the bird loved the boy, and—

It was at this point that Rin got distracted by a new transformer that she found in the engine they were taking apart, so Shy instead told her about a celebratory tradition from his childhood, where they celebrated their birthdays by producing massive showers of sparks from themselves to spread their joy outward, and taught Rin how to do that too.

x​

Rin spent a lot of the next year thinking about how it was unfair that Shy didn’t get a proper body. Listening to him talk to her, letting him whisper stories in her ears, imagining she was on his back to see the world. It was like there was a weight there that she wouldn’t ever quite get back, something she was missing but—

father? when will you come home?

—and it was certainly not fair to Shy, who had no body at all.

She decided to make him one, to pass the time. Kana was starting to say that Rin was too old for imaginary friends, so Rin decided to prove once and for all that he wasn’t imaginary at all.

What she created instead was lopsided and hacked together; there was a seam in the engine that powered his core that threatened to burst his entire hull, and yet it stood together. Hulking and humanoid with massive, exaggerated features, it stood. She gave it big hands, to help her create.

In return, Shy told her a story of a faraway land filled with longago people. They had once created machines like this one, and in the cores of those engines they believed their resided a soul. They shaped each of these creations to be guardians, not warriors. The difference was important, you see. A warrior had weapons, for fighting and killing. But a guardian had nothing more than its body, for the strength of a guardian was in its heart.

Later, she would ask him what happened to those longago people who lived faraway, and the answer was quite sad indeed. But for now, Rin rolled a new name across her tongue, the name that Shy told her came with the his new form. He flexed his overlarge fingers, ran one of his hands over the crack before his beating heart. In the voicebox that replaced his tongue, he hesitantly grated out the name for his new body.

Golurk.

In a very quiet, very small voice, so she wasn’t demanding like the boy in the story, she asked Shy if he could use his new legs to jump the walls out of Quartzite and take a letter to her father.

x​

At age eleven, Rin saw Cipher for the first time.

She was ushered inside before the talks began, but she asked Shy to go listen for her, so he did.

What he told her was quite surprising: Cipher wanted them to kill as many shadow pokémon as they could, and Cipher would pay them for it.

That didn’t make much sense, she told Shy, because they were already killing as many shadow pokémon as they could. That was sort of the whole point.

That didn’t make much sense, Shy told her back, because shadow pokémon didn’t deserve to die, and Cipher had created them.

Rin made the mistake of repeating this out loud.

No one from Quartzite heard, but the gaunt, silvery-blue man from Cipher swiveled his head to stare. Then he smiled at her with sharp, pointed teeth.

x​

She was twelve when shadow pokémon overran their new settlement. The day before that was the last day that she was truly allowed to be happy.

The next day, Quartzite was wiped out by shadow pokémon who brought thunder and blood. Rin was the only survivor, until she met the stranger with the sword, and then she wasn’t.

And the day after that, Vajrin Indra woke up in the reverse of the situation she'd spent the past ten years learning. She blinked her tired eyes open and found that instead of she and Shy borrowing her body, they were piloting his. They were both guardians now.

Sometime along the years, on a day she couldn't remember, Orre took away Rin's ability to call herself "Vajrin".

This was the day she stopped being able to call herself "I".

x


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Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
Somehow the "waste land" references you've got here only hit me about two hours after I wrote my last review. They work wonderfully for Orre and for this story--some great imagery there, and a fitting frame for the bleak picture you want to paint here.

The scintillating scales of an enormous, blue pokémon erupting out of the sea.
No comma after "enormous." For adjectives you normally place them only where you would naturally want an "and."

She got the images of those sometimes, hints of them slipping into her dreams when she least expected them.
The little girl every home she ever had after the shadow gyarados razed her hometown, but you couldn’t tell that she had the scars if you only looked at her face.
Missing a word after "little girl."

Rin reached for what she can find, scraps of a world that used to have more than she could have asked for, and started to create. She wasn’t sure at first what causes the whisper, the drive, but by the time she was six, she built her first motor out of scraps in the junkyard.
Some tense slippage here... Rin reached for what she *could find [...] wasn't sure at first what *caused the whisper [...] by the time she was six, *she'd

You fall out of past tense a few times in the coming paragraphs, like here:

He showed her the constellations and told her of how far, far away they truly are, so far that it took the light years to cross down to her. She threw a letter to her father from the wall, watched it vanish into the night and hoped it’ll reach him.
Should be "how far, far away they truly *were," "watched it vanish into the night and hoped it *would reach him."

You also do all the stories Shy tells in present tense, which strikes me as weird; I think those ought to be rendered in past tense like the rest of

Rin's backstory is interesting and definitely as dark as one would expect, heh. I wonder to what extent Shy's influence allowed her to stay optimistic and determined to save pokémon rather than killing them. She apparently didn't meet him until she was seven, but she was building things even before then, and I wonder if that's just naturally her inclination or if there was some spooky ghost influence involved there as well. Rin makes it sound as though Shy kind of just magically appeared in her head one day, which seems mildly suspicious to say the least. At least through her later years he's had a lot of impact on her. I wonder at what point she realized he was a pokémon (or if she's kind of still in denial about it), given how she otherwise seems to have accepted that pokémon can't be trusted.

Curious what happened that caused shadow pokémon to go out of Cipher's control. In the games they're obviously manufactured, but they must have gotten enough of them that they started reproducing, maybe, or perhaps Cipher did something really dumb like decide to make shadow pokémon capable of shadowifying other pokémon. ("Our army will grow and consume Orre's pokémon defenders, bwahaha! Wait, shit, not like that.")

I'd kind of expected that pokémorphs were a Cipher thing--bio-manipulation sort of seems like their thing, and they evidently employ them, based with the encounter Rin mentions in this chapter. But on the other hand, Rin apparently managed to make herself into a morph, simply by bulding a golem that became occupied by a ghost? It's not totally clear where Shy came from or why, so perhaps there was some outside party that actually made the introductions there, or what have you and the lack of clarity on that point is a result of this being a fuzzy childhood memory where Rin didn't really understand what was going on at the time. It's sad to see how Shy continues to stick up for pokémon and gets all sad whenever Rin says something along the lines, "Well yeah, of course we're killing as many as we can, you can't trust any pokémon." Besides being a pokémon himself, he presumably remembers a time when things weren't like this at all. That little scene with the Cipher operative was probably my favorite in this chapter.

Just a brief taste of things, this chapter. Looking forward to what happens now that Rin/Shy are awake, and how they'll deal with permanently(?) sharing a golurk body. And how their paths will, presumably, cross with Astra. What does Rin have left to motivate her now that literally all her family is dead and the last thing that could qualify as her home's burned down?
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Somehow the "waste land" references you've got here only hit me about two hours after I wrote my last review. They work wonderfully for Orre and for this story--some great imagery there, and a fitting frame for the bleak picture you want to paint here.
Thank youuuu! I'm usually on the fence about how aggressive I should be with these references, but there's a really great set of references that fits itself so well to Orre that I couldn't resist.

Fixed those grammar issues; thanks so much for your patience. :') I swear I can write gud.

You also do all the stories Shy tells in present tense, which strikes me as weird; I think those ought to be rendered in past tense like the rest of
This specific one I might keep; unsure -- part of it is for spoiler-reasons, but the tense switch there is pretty intentional. I do get that it looks weird without the context, though.

Rin's backstory is interesting and definitely as dark as one would expect, heh. I wonder to what extent Shy's influence allowed her to stay optimistic and determined to save pokémon rather than killing them. She apparently didn't meet him until she was seven, but she was building things even before then, and I wonder if that's just naturally her inclination or if there was some spooky ghost influence involved there as well. Rin makes it sound as though Shy kind of just magically appeared in her head one day, which seems mildly suspicious to say the least. At least through her later years he's had a lot of impact on her. I wonder at what point she realized he was a pokémon (or if she's kind of still in denial about it), given how she otherwise seems to have accepted that pokémon can't be trusted.
Oh yeah, we're a looooong way from acceptance, and a loooong way into denial. These are themes that are going to be explored in detail, though.

Cipher did something really dumb like decide to make shadow pokémon capable of shadowifying other pokémon. ("Our army will grow and consume Orre's pokémon defenders, bwahaha! Wait, shit, not like that.")
👀

I'd kind of expected that pokémorphs were a Cipher thing--bio-manipulation sort of seems like their thing, and they evidently employ them, based with the encounter Rin mentions in this chapter. But on the other hand, Rin apparently managed to make herself into a morph, simply by bulding a golem that became occupied by a ghost? It's not totally clear where Shy came from or why, so perhaps there was some outside party that actually made the introductions there, or what have you and the lack of clarity on that point is a result of this being a fuzzy childhood memory where Rin didn't really understand what was going on at the time.
This is, I think a bit of a goof on my end as far as publishing format goes. These intro chapters are all really short, and most of them are 70/30 focused on the viewpoint character and the character who comes next/before -- I can see now that reading them each individually rather than all at once definitely leaves a lot of lingering questions. I think, especially given the shorter word count of each, a more beneficial way to publish would've been to release the three first chapters all at once.

Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to write detailed feedback! V v appreciated.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
SHY
iii. except for the birds

...​

First: all things considered, they lived quite a lot longer than he expected to.

Second: not this, not again.

In the ten seconds before Vajrin bleeds out into the dirt, Shy weighs these two thoughts. He hopes that she spends her ten seconds better.

He doesn’t quite know how the humans told their stories, but his kind is supposed to be born in the heart of a storm, when the clouds come so dark and thick that it seems like the sea itself has descended from the skies. When nature’s wrath meets human desperation, and a bolt of lightning heralds the birth of something new and altogether different, monstrous.

Naturally, this being Orre, it has been quite a long time since that last happened. Unnaturally, instead of becoming Frankenstein’s monster, after the most recent death, Shy was reborn into the heart of a human child.

As a result, Shy is probably more world-weary than he should’ve been: in a different life, if things had been different, he probably would’ve been as short-fused and fleeting as the lightning that gave him breath. Now, though, he finds that he’s slowed a bit—not too much, mind you—enough to recognize the beauty in the small things that inch around him. He’s lightning in a bottle now, a snapshot of a spark, frozen in a way that wasn’t quite meant to be. Time has tempered him a little, perhaps enough for him to accept his current state of affairs.

They were always going to lose the fight with the swordswoman. That was a strange realization for him to make, early on, when he saw the intent to kill in their enemy’s eyes and the way she wielded her weapon with impossible proficiency.

That’s the one trait of humanity he’d never be able to understand, no matter how many years he’s spent trapped in their skins and souls: humans fight for all sorts of reasons. Pokémon engage in combat because it is their way of life. It’s how they express themselves to one another, their universal language that spans across their hundreds of species. It is their mother tongue, already known before the hatchling has even shed the pieces of its eggshell from its body.

He’s not entirely sure why, but he often finds that humans are cute in that way—they have little bells on their houses that they ring when they want to talk to each other; they make musical repetitions with their mouths when they want to say they were happy; they make water from their eyes when they are sad. There are more spoken words for humans to say how they feel about Mondays than most manectric say in their entire lives, for example, and a dozen more unspoken words. Pokémon don’t have any of that. The fight is all they know.

So coming to that understanding, that there is a fight that they’ve started and that they’re going to lose, impossibly so, to a human, that they need to back down or they will perish—is something that Shy, in his many years of being alive, dead, pokémon, human, and something in between, has never felt before. Thunder and steel are not used to feeling the inevitable.

He doesn’t fully understand faces, but there’s no mistaking that look in the woman’s eyes in the moments before she strikes. That is who she is, a fact of the universe as immutable as gravity. Even if he had his full power, and his full body, he knows: to fight her would be to lose.

He’s tried to prepare Vajrin for a lot of things. It wasn’t her fault that the soul of a pokémon landed in her body, after all. But he’d never prepared Rin for what it meant to put her life on the line. You have to mean a sacrifice like that, and you can’t just give that gift freely, but it’s too late for regrets now.

It’s to be expected. He’s filled her up with stories about heroism and protecting the helpless and all of the fighting that he knew as a fledgling. Of course all that hot air makes her rise too close to the sun.

In the moment, his decision is the only possible one. Shy knows that. Hopefully, she understands as well. Her physical body would’ve been destroyed, and, unlike his, it isn’t going to be coming back very easily. He isn’t even sure if he would survive without her, if their mutualism was such that they needed to stay in her body. He’d hitchhiked onto her body, after all; it’s not really clear if humans can casually fling their souls around different vessels. But there isn’t any other choice, not if he wants to save her.

Vajrin Indra is many things—naïve, pragmatic, sheltered, adamant, guilty—but most of all, Shy knows that she is not someone who deserves to die. He might be able to leave and meld his soul onto another host, but if her spark of life is to be protected, desperate measures must be taken. She was kind to him, after all. She sheltered him, even unknowingly, when no one else would.

So he does the only thing he knows how, the only possible solution he sees to an impossible problem, and, in the seconds after the sword rips open her throat, he reverses their symbiosis. He’s already resigned her to the inevitable when it happens: instead of his soul latching onto her body, as it had once, he reaches out and grabs her flagging spark and pulls, pulls it into the twisted metal wreck of his golurk form. The souls of pokémon, human, and machine become one.

The pain flares to life. It’s dull at first, slow and aching, and then inevitable. Trying to cram his soul into Vajrin’s body was like trying to pour a bucket of water into a glass. There’s too much. The metal shell helped scoop up all the pieces, but the container was never right; it doesn’t feel right. He’d managed, over time, to come to terms with the inevitability of his prison. A glass of water filled to the brim, so to speak. So now that there are two of them in the space meant for half…

Cup runneth over. Wasn’t that how the phrase went?

The swordswoman gives him something to focus on, something to keep him grounded in reality. A motivation to keep his thoughts in order, to dedicate every remaining facet of his soul into making sure that the golurk’s eyes stay unlit, that he stays folded on the ground besides Vajrin. They cannot win this fight.

And yet the swordswoman is lost as well. Arm limply at her side, the tip of her blade glowing a faint red, her eyes dim and stay unlit. Her gaze is as blank as the one mirroring her from Vajrin’s body, and she stays standing for a moment longer before collapsing heavily onto her knees.

There are words whispered at first, too frantic and choked for Shy to make out even if he weren’t devoting his entire being into patching up as much of himself and Vajrin as possible. There’s too much here, too much. He’d helped her build the golurk body as an extra space for the bits of him that couldn’t fit in her heart, sort of like putting your antique furniture in the attic; but now they’re bursting against the walls. And it’s more complicated than that; the lines between them are starting to smudge out like a desert illusion.

Outside, there’s the dim hunting call of a mightyena. It must’ve been drawn to the scent of blood scattered all across the horizon. Shy pivots his gaze back to the woman. She hasn’t moved.

The swordswoman’s breathing comes in harsh pants; the fingers that aren’t wrapped around the sword have curled so tightly into themselves that he sees blood. But the rest of her is rigid as a statue, pale and still like marble. Her expression is carved deep into her face: grit jaw, wrinkled brow, flared nostrils. Twisted into an expression that he’s seen on too many humans, too many times. Loathing.

For them? For Vajrin?

The call rings out again. Closer, this time. Close enough to echo distortedly against the remains of the wall that offered little protection from the final onslaught. The sound seems to rouse the swordswoman at last. She blinks, smudges a hand across her eyes, leaves a trail of blood and soot in its wake.

And then pauses, sword resting heavily in the ground. She still hasn’t stood up. Tentatively, with the hand that isn’t on her weapon, she reaches out. Her entire arm trembles as she grows closer, and her eyes are trained out in the distance, as if looking will make it real. She tucks Vajrin’s hair away from her face, closes her lifeless eyelids. “I…” she husks out—

The howl sounds for a third time.

Despite his better instincts, Shy almost grates out a warning, but he’s too slow. In a flash of dark shadow, a barrel of flesh and fur arcs through the air, fangs glinting like four diamonds nestled against the deep red of its gums. It’s aimed like an arrow, straight at her throat, and for an instant Shy thinks that this is the end, that they’ll all be lying in crimson together, as it tackles the unresponsive swordswoman to the ground.

The impact catches her in the chest, and the mightyena’s claws punch straight through the ragged leather of her jacket as it bowls her into the ground and pins its full weight on top of her. And her eyes are still staring out distantly, even as the mightyena rears back to snap its jaws like a steel trap around her throat, even as her sword arm jerks up and slashes the wolf’s exposed underbelly from sternum to hip.

Its eyes go wide. Shy averts his gaze, but he still hears the dull splatter of warm liquid falling onto dry earth, followed by a quiet thud of dead weight hitting fresh mud.

He doesn’t dare reach out to Vajrin yet, not when they’re still in such deep danger, but he mentally chalks this up to his ever-growing list of ‘I told you so’. There was no winning this fight.

The woman’s breathing slows and quiets, until it’s no longer grating against the desert air and all he can hear are the labored whines of the mightyena. There’s the quiet squelch of her boots as she approaches the mightyena, the whistle of steel through air, and then silence.

In the distance, more howls. Even if they’ve devolved into monstrosity, mightyena never hunt alone.

The woman doesn’t say anything else, and she’s moved now to where Shy can’t see her face without turning. She doesn’t turn back to Vajrin. Her dust-filled footsteps slowly fade off as she runs away.

He waits. Patience. He understands that about humans, if nothing else. There is a time and a place; that is how they have managed to eke out survival. The rest of the mightyena pack arrives, sniffs Vajrin’s lifeless body, sniffs his own lifeless form, moves on. He lets their automaton body drift as the sun rises and sets above them, dimly aware of the passing of the world on the outside.

When the coast is finally clear, their spark flickers, and then the engine powering the golurk’s core whirs to life.

Rin? he asks tentatively. Are you there?

The resulting scream is so loud that it’s actually quite stunning.

But they’re alive. They’re both still there. That’s all that matters.

Shy pushes them upright. It’s a bit laborious at first, what with the damage from their encounter with the electivire. And it’s a bit distracting, too, what with the continuing screaming from the other half of his mind.

Hmmm. He probably should’ve told her about this earlier, explained what had happened. This probably wasn’t the best way for her to find out. But how is he to explain this to a child? He was a pokémon, he died, and as his soul left him, he did the only reasonable thing and looked for a new body. There was the slight problem that the new body was nothing like the old body, and that someone else was currently in it, but every good solution came with a few snags. And Vajrin Indra as she was at the time was far too young for her body to house his entire soul, so he followed a recipe he’d heard one or two times before and helped her build an extra place for him to stick all the leftover bits of himself, where they wouldn’t hurt anyone.

And now here they are again, trying the same trick, but with everything different. Humans used to move homes all the time; this was like taking a vacation.

Rin? he tries again. Rin, we’re safe. You’re safe.

He makes the mistake of looking up, which gives their mechanical eyes a perfect view of her former body sprawled limply across the ground, eyes closed, mouth open, blood pooling around her like a sheet of red velvet.

Shy guesses what will happen a second before it does, but he’s too slow to stop Rin from re-asserting. She seizes control of their shared body on sheer reflex, clumsily.

She doesn’t quite know how to stand at this height, unfortunately, so that leaves them frozen in mid-air for a moment. The next moment sees them plowing a furrow deep, deep into the ground. Five hundred pounds of clumsily-welded steel hit the sandy earth with a thud.

It’s okay, Shy’s telling her quietly, trying to be soothing. He projects the mental image of a bird flitting around the nest, chirping gentle songs to the hatchlings inside, but it’s hard now. A lot of things are different now. He could speak to her mind before; now they’ve got a shared maze of circuitry that really wasn’t meant to host this much complex thought. She was a bit more receptive before; now she’s figured out how to vibrate the piezos in his voicebox and is using it to project a dull, monotone scream that echoes across the empty desert.

She was always so smart. And she is, even now, even when it’s frustrating.

Rin, he tries for a third time. Rin, it’s me. Shy.

The golurk’s voicebox shuts off. Abruptly, the connection between them is stifled, sluggish. She doesn’t answer when he prods her, doesn’t even respond. Poor thing must be in shock.

Shy ponders this for a moment, in the slow, logical way that only a dying soul with no way to seek death might. It’s only fair that she’s confused by this whole situation, he decides. The fingers flex and uncurl thoughtfully. After all, he sulked for quite a bit inside of her body before finally making his presence known.

Control of their body shifts back to him, and Shy is able to gingerly direct them back so that they’re standing, not faceplanting alongside the body of the massive electivire, the matted mightenya, and the tiny girl.

Maybe it’s the way the dying light casts harsh shadows, makes Vajrin look even smaller. Maybe it’s because he’s lived among the humans long enough for her thoughts to bleed into his, long enough for him to start to wonder about how mortals must feel about the end of their own tiny, insignificant lives. Or maybe it’s just that the sudden trauma of today has rewired a synapse that he thought went dead long ago.

Shy looks at the empty eyes of a fledgling who should’ve been full of sparks, and remembers.

Long ago, when this land once was beautiful, pokémon and people alike used to look to the thunderstorm and worship it, because they knew what it meant. They recognized the divine when they saw it. There used to be three—the destroyer, the sustainer, the creator. They knew their roles, and so did every mortal that ever walked Orre.

It’s hard, without her hands, and with the puncture holes in his sternum from where the electivire fried the welds out of him. But he manages to scoop her into his enormous palms, where her limp arms dangle around his neck. An albatross for an albatross.

Feeling her dead weight on his hull reminds him. She used to be more than this, and once, he was better than this too. She and him and every single pokémon and human in this entire world alike, until they’re all thirsting, waiting for rain.

He looks away from the carnage on the ground and makes a tiny promise, one that’s impossible as the storm that would give him life. He will right this wrong. He will bring her back.

Slowly, gingerly, he begins to walk. Feet plod heavily into the moonlit ground. Eyes point him north.

There’s someone they need to see.

...

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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
more nano = more questionably edited chapters.

ASTRA
iv. madame sosotris


⁂​

Cold.

And it is. Astra knows that by this time of year, the desert starts to get cold an hour before sunset, and the air temperature is below freezing long before the night reaches its darkest. But she has nowhere else to go. The ruins of Quartzite might’ve been an option, but Astra doesn’t want to risk it. Not after today. The stench of so much death would be a beacon for anything within a dozen miles. And besides.

When she blinks, the girl is on the back of her eyelids, staring vacantly up from the ground. Mouth open, tears in the edges of her eyes. But it’s the sound that sticks with her, the rattling of her breath against her ruined throat—

No, there would be no returning to Quartzite. Freezing would be preferable.

She makes camp by the base of her hoverbike. The winds will shift directions as the night goes on, but for a while they’ll blow east. Astra stretches her tarp over the bike’s metal frame to help it block the worst of it, and she checks on the rest of the bike as she settles down. Fuel’s at about half. Everything else looks good for now. The only blessing she’ll get today, but she’s thankful for it—one more setback would probably send her reeling.

Before total darkness falls across the sandy plains, she scrapes a small pit into the ground. Uses Asi to gather the scraggly clumps of scrub and brush that she can find, and tosses them in to burn. It’s far too dangerous to stoke a fire on an open plain like this one, but it’s not like there’s enough kindling anyhow. The embers are the best that she can hope for, and she uses the task of transforming the desiccated wood into a glimpse of warmth to keep her distracted for a little while longer.

Spark.

There’s a faint pop as the firestarter finally catches, and the bit of desert bush finally catches alight. She hastily shields the flame with her free hand as the wind picks up in a different direction as if to spite her.

She reaches into her pack and pulls out her blanket. It’s threadbare, tattered. Used to belong to an old man out in the wastes somewhere, but corpses don’t need to stay warm, so it’s hers now. He used to sew patches into it, or someone else in the long chain of handing-me-down did. At night, by the firelight, she’ll trace over the different colors of thread, the different squares of patchwork. Sometimes she likes to make up stories for where each one came from. Perhaps the old man was an artist in his past life, before.

Now it’s stained with dirt and rust like everything else she owns—it’s hard enough to find water in Orre, hard to wash things clean, but it’s not like she stays by the cities anyway. And out here, out in the wilds, water is too precious to be wasted on scrubbing the past from where it’s sunk into her skin.

Astra curls around the embers, almost catlike. The warmth licks at her belly and brings the barest hint of sensation into her toes. Orre is a place of highs and lows, with little in between. When it’s blazing hot she wishes for respite; when it’s freezing she wishes for the sun. And all the while she knows she should know better than to wish.

Weary.

Asi’s more talkative than normal tonight. Astra’s thankful for that. The girl’s vacant expression is plastered all over her thoughts, across her eyelids when she shuts them, against the horizon when they’re open. For her the unsettling thing is always in the cheeks—most people bundle their emotions in there, even if they aren’t aware of it. They keep their anger and their laughter and their sadness penciled up in the lines around their mouths, and it isn’t until they die that they learn to let it all go at once. And when those emotions bleed out from their lips into the rest of their faces… well. What remains isn’t human anymore.

Weary. Hungry.

After episodes, she knows it’s important to feed herself, even if it’s mechanical. She tries to blank out when she shovels food down, stares at how the sands dance in the shifting winds at her feet. Thinking makes her throat constrict violently. Dinner is dried jerky and a handful of nuts; even as she swallows, she feels it trying to force its way back out, crawling up her throat and threatening to choke her.

Sleep won’t come easy. Not today. Not that the sword would know that. “I’m not tired,” she murmurs. Aloud. Firmly, almost, as if hearing it in her own ears will remind her brain of the truth.

The blade whispers to her some nights. Whispers, murmurs. She’s not sure what the word is. It comes across in flashes of emotion rather than words, but even so it’s muted, alien. She’s learned the language of the sword over the years. At night, when the bloodshed is gone, the metal has room for nuance. Most of the time, in the day, it’s hunger.

And Astra whispers back. She felt stupid the first time she did it, in the middle of a desert night, the moon shining down from the cloudless sky above. But who was there to watch her? And who else was there to listen but the blade to which she’d sworn her soul? Asi knows who she really is better than anyone else ever would.

Tonight she feels the thoughts simmer and shift.

Name.

It comes across as a stream of sounds. Unintelligible words whispered into newly-forged steel. A promise for a weapon and its future.

“Astra.”

Sometimes, in her moments of dark humor, Astra has to wonder: did her mother and father know, when they lovingly named their daughter, how prophetically they had done so?

She remembers the stories, whispered into her ears as her mother’s hands swum through her hair, coaxing it into a braid. In times of great need, the gods themselves would look on humanity’s suffering and realize they had no choice but to intervene if they wanted to save that which they loved. And so they would guide humanity to whisper words into the heart of a weapon, and through those words they would imbue the weapon with a fraction of their power, so that it would become uncounterable, unstoppable, infallible. And so the humans would beat back the darkness, so that one day they might cast aside their weapons for good.

In the stories, the weapons had all had names, and great ones, but once imbued such a weapon was and would always be an astra.

Some nights, she wonders if she’s wrong to lie awake at night, haunted by the past. A sword doesn’t feel bad for what it is, after all. Someone pulled it from the earth and hammered it into the shape that it is, imbued it with a purpose, and set it on a path.

The next thought from the sword is a clamor. The mental rebuke is so harsh that she can almost feel the blade chatter beneath her, or perhaps it’s the shivers from the cold. But the sound in her mind is of a sword being pulled from a sheath; defensive, proud. Owned.

Mine.

“I am not yours,” Astra whispers back, her cheek resting on the icy steel.

She says it aloud both for Asi’s benefit and her own, so that the two of them remember where the line is drawn. It would be prettier to think that she was nothing more than an unwilling thrall to the sword, that she was only an arm for the weapon to wield, drawing her to blood. But she chose the blade. She set herself upon this path, let Asi wrap itself around her fingertips and twine their destinies as one.

The girl’s breath rattles in her ears, even through the popping of the coals beneath. Astra clenches her eyes shut, but that does nothing to the sound. The girl had died in seconds, and in that time she had choked out four and a half sobs. The half is what plays on endless loop now, the way it clogged in her throat and choked her, choked the life from the girl, and now it’s choking down Astra’s throat as well.

Child, I am so sorry.

Astra doesn’t let herself say the words out loud, just like she couldn’t apologize to the girl back in Quartzite, just like she can’t apologize to any of them. Astra can’t let herself ask for forgiveness because she already knows: she doesn’t deserve it.

She didn’t mean to, back there. The girl hadn’t been a threat. That much had been obvious the second that the fog cleared from Astra’s eyes, when Asi’s bloodlust cleared from her ears, when she’d seen the girl crumpled in her puddle. Logic told her now that there hadn’t been danger, but logic hadn’t been what guided her hand. For an instant the girl had blurred into something that appeared horrific—a human with the face of a monster, and in that instant Astra had become something truly horrible—a monster with the face of a human.

You don’t get to keep your hands clean if you want to survive Orre. Astra learned that long ago. Learning that was a battle in itself, but the day that she woke up and realized that she wasn’t one of the heroes was the day that she was finally able to start winning the war.

But today was worse than that. When you become an arrow, everything else becomes a target, even if it doesn’t want to be, even if it isn’t.

Astra’s fingers snag on one of the patches in the old man’s blanket. Her breath snags against her throat. She closes her eyes as another wave of terror threatens to overwhelm her, counts to three, repeats the breathing mantras she’s learned by heart. Exhales, shuddering. Exhales, in every way that the girl hadn’t. And all the while Astra hates herself for being able to do so.

The girl had been shrouded in the skeletons in Astra’s closet. That was her only mistake. And for that, Astra—judge, jury, and executioner—had meted out death. It isn’t fair.

But it doesn’t matter if Astra meant it, if she felt bad for it, if those rattling ten seconds would keep playing in a loop louder than the desert wind. So it doesn’t matter if Astra’s sorry, even if she is. The act has already made her into a monster, and there’s nothing in this godforsaken desert that will wipe that away from her.

An astra is a very specific kind of weapon—it is not one that you wield forever. It is a weapon that is thrown or shot. The ones in the stories were usually arrows. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some summoned rain; some brought guidance and light; some carved an unstoppable path of vengeance and destruction.

All of the arrows come with an ugly truth. The instant after you fire an arrow, you cannot take it back, no matter how much you want it.

“I am not yours,” Astra whispers again, even though the sword has fallen silent. She can’t let herself forget that she’d chosen this path, that she’d brought herself to this state—that’s all that matters now. “I am not yours.”

That night, she dreams of the storm that will wash her clean.

⁂​

Witch.

Asi’s voice whispers to her, cutting through the drowsy half-sleep that she’d managed to sink into. What she gets is a shatterglass image of a priestess shrieking words to an unseen radiant figure; a match being lit before the heady scent of incense fills the room; a flash of fire before a crackling pyre.

There’s a light flitting over her eyelids, and then Astra’s awake in an instant, eyes flicking open, and she whips Asi up from beneath her to point at the newcomer. Adrenaline surges through her like a wildfire, and it’s all she can do to keep her arms steady and unshaking in the cold wind as a light tracks unerringly toward her, bobbing amongst the dunes.

There wasn’t any sound to warn her, outside of Asi. Of all the things that worry her, this concerns her most of all. Nothing arrives silently if not to hunt.

“Who’s there?”

She revs the engine of her hoverbike on and catches a silhouette in in its harsh white headlights. A quiet voice calls, “Peace, Astra. I mean you no harm.”

“Fati.” Astra exhales when her eyes adjust against the glare of the light to reveal the pink-haired woman in front of her. She lets the sword point back to the ground, exhales most of her anxiety through her mouth. Of all the people in Orre who could've found her, Fateen was probably the only one who wouldn't cause any harm. Hell, with luck, she might actually be good. “What brings you out here?”

Maya Fateen—Fati to those who know her, which is almost everyone—is very much a true child of Orre, constantly in a state of flux between two extremes. Her eyes are somewhere between blue and brown; she looks like she’s somewhere between twenty and seventy. Even now, she stands with her flashlight extended, lips quirked upward into a smile that is both amused and sad.

Her eyes flicker up and down Astra’s bloodied form. “I had a dream,” she responds, serene as ever.

Astra smiles weakly at that. After the collapse, Orre clung desperately to those who claimed to be psychic. It was a thin strand of clarity in a world that was otherwise uncertain; a lifeline in a stormy sea for those tossed about, seeking answers.

But for Astra, there was no question of who she was, or what she was doing, or where she was going. She had chosen her path from the very beginning, and all that remained was to trudge to its conclusion, whatever the price. Knowing that gives her solace where others might’ve found despair. “And what did you dream?”

“I dreamed,” Fati murmurs impassively, “that you were drowning.”

Astra gestures emptily to the desert around her. The sands haven’t seen rain in years; the earth itself has cracked to form a mosaic a thousand miles wide. “It’d be a little hard to do that out here.”

“Perhaps.” Whether or not she is bothered by Astra’s show of cynicism, it’s hard to tell; like the rest of her, Fati’s face is constantly in a between-state of amusement and sorrow, as if she’s savoring the punchline of a sad joke no one else can hear. “You have always been one for impossible things, Astra. I was afraid for you. It's been so long.”

At any given time, Fati has two fingers on the pulse of Orre. She knows all that happens. Perhaps that’s why she’s so unflappable—see enough horror and nothing shakes you ever again. “Why did you really come out here, Fati?”

“You needn’t act like I’ve come all this way. Pyrite isn’t far for those who seek it.”

“Perhaps.” It’s Astra’s turn to be vague and dismissive. Pyrite is off-limits for Astra for all the reasons Quartzite isn’t. But for all Fati knows, she can’t understand that. Not fully.

“Why do you exile yourself to the wasteland, Astra? What are you still running from?”

A tight smile stretches across Astra’s lips. “I’ll answer your questions when you answer mine.”

Fati takes a step forward, close enough that Astra can finally recognize the detail that’s been off-putting above all else in this entire encounter: through all the howling wind, Fati’s voice has been projecting with unerring clarity. And, stranger still—she is unflinching in the wind, hair and clothes perfectly still. Fati’s stormy eyes wash over the shadow of Asi in the sand.

“I came out here because I dreamed,” Fati repeats softly, “that in your quest to wash yourself clean, you dove so deep that you were drowning.” She continues, calm as ever, as if unaware that her words are slowly becoming the catalyst to tear down Astra's entire world. "I was worried for you, Astra. I do not want you hurting."

Somehow it’s when she hears the words from a stranger that it becomes impossible to deny reality any further. Whispers from Asi and lies from herself can take her far. But when someone else repeats the truths, it becomes so much harder to run from. Tears sting up in her eyes, which she automatically attributes to the blistering winds. “I’m not drowning,” Astra replies, twisting her heel into the dried ground for emphasis. “I’m standing right here on solid ground, same as you.”

At that, Fati’s lips finally quirk into a toothy smile, one that shows all of her teeth. “Come find me in Pyrite, Astra. I’ll wait for you here.”

Suddenly, the wind seems to affect Fati all at once, and her silhouette flickers once before it’s torn to shreds. The colors of her hair and grin get picked apart by the headlights of Astra’s hoverbike; she’s pixelated into a sandy image and thrown into the desert night in an instant. The imprints of her feet in the dust remain for half a minute longer, before the sand blows over them and there’s no trace that she was even there to begin with.

Astra sighs heavily, and then flicks the ignition switch of the hoverbike off. The lights die out all at once. Damn psychics. Maybe there’s more to them than she’d like to admit; it’s not like precognizant pokémon aren’t completely unheard of. Being uneasy of your fate in a world where no one knows for certain is one thing, but denying someone who can see the road ahead is like shouting up to the crow’s nest that the iceberg doesn’t exist, blithering and unaware until they’re all…

“I’m not drowning,” Astra repeats, to the sword this time. As if speaking will make it real. As if telling Asi that she isn’t prey will cull the blade’s bloodlust. “And I am not yours.”

In response, Asi’s sword shivers. A stream of lilac sparks dance down the hilt, ghostly pale against the sands. it’s so faint that when Astra blinks, they’re gone. The whispering in her ears, though, is harder to mistake for a mirage: the splattering sound of blood on wood, a heretic’s offering to a chopping block.

Denier.

She wraps the old man’s blanket around her shoulders and leans up against the hoverbike, squaring her shoulders between the muffler and the seat. There are a few hours left before the dawn. What she’ll get out of it is anyone’s guess, but Astra expects her dreams to be even more troubled than they normally are.

Today is a clamor of sounds that will haunt her nightmares on the desert plains for many nights to come. But tomorrow?

She would be a fool to ignore Fati’s call. Of all the people in Orre, Pyrite’s fortune peddler is one of the few who could even hope to help Astra now. The only thing more foolish than swimming to a siren’s call is pretending that it doesn’t exist in the first place.



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windskull

Bidoof Fan
Staff
Partner
sneasel-nip
I'm always down to check out an Orre fic. Let's see where this goes.

1
Ooh, that's a nice and brutal start. It definitely gives me an idea of what I'm getting into. It’s been a while since I read an openly darker fic like this, and it’s kind of refreshing.

Honedge wielding? Neat!

Woah, the ending to that first chapter was… not what I expected at all. But in a good way. It really sets up for a less morally pure protagonist, something that I’m always a fan of

2
The girl lives! Well… sort of. If you can consider this living.

I like that we get a pretty good idea from this chapter about how much time has passed between the events of the games (at least 10 years after Colleseum, but possibly 10 years since Gale of Darkness?), as well as the state the world is in.

Also, what the heck was going on with that Cipher guy? Guess we’ll have to wait and find out! Very ominous.

One thing that isn’t quite clear to me is if Rin was always a pokemorph or if she became one later. I’m assuming the latter, based on the chapter from Shy’s perspective, but I’m not sure. There is a shift in the chapter where it logically makes sense. I feel like that might have been intentional, but I figured I’d point it out, in case it’s not.

3
Not again? Oh my…

I’m assuming he’s zapdos, based on some of the narration. But I could be totally wrong. I’ll just have to wait and find out!

Golurk? Oh my god, I’m an idiot. I have no idea why that didn’t click with me. That’s really freaking cool, though.

I don’t quite know what to think about Shy yet. I’ll have to wait and see when we next see him and Rin again.

4
Hm, so Astra isn’t quite as above things as she tries to pretend she is.

It looks like we’ll get to see how some of the canon locations (besides Gaeton Port, I suppose) are getting along. I think you mentioned The Under earlier, which means that it never got sealed up in this universe. I look forward to seeing how you depict it.


Alright, now that I’ve read through everything, let me gather my thoughts.

You do a great job of setting the scene and the tone. Everything feels gritty. Almost helpless, even. Orre has fallen to chaos and it’s all most can do to survive. You’ve also done a great job of setting up intrigue and little mysteries to figure out. Why did Astra choose to take the honedge? Is Asi the reason she can’t (or won’t) go into the main towns? Or is there something more? When and why did Rin become a morph? And how did Shy die?

All that said, I do think there’s just a bit of… something and I’m not sure what, that’s keeping me from being hooked into the story so far. It might be the pacing? It feels like, in four chapters, a lot has happened, and not much has happened at the same time. I think part of it is the multi-perspective thing since the first three chapters are mostly establishing the pov characters, so the world has been established, but the plot has only just started to move.

I would say that, for me, your strongest chapter was the first one. It had strong action and established both the state of the world and the tone very well. For me, the weakest was probably chapter 3, if only because by that point, most of what it was doing feels like it had already been established. It was important, yes, but it felt like it needed just a bit more.

Even if I’m not totally hooked (yet), I will definitely be checking back in on this in the future, because I am curious about where this plot is leading.
 

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
dang, i thought i’d left a review here, but i guess we just talked about it on discord, huh? well, all the better for the review event i guess, bwahaha. anyway, since it’s been a while since i read the first three chapters, i’m only going to go in-depth on the fourth, but i’ll leave some general thoughts below.

this fic is probably the furthest up my alley of any of the fics on this forum, and reading some of the other reviews on it, i can see why. dystopian, gritty, and also someone wields a honedge!? i think you might have written this for me. for real though, there’s a lot going on here that checks my boxes, and the writing itself is a joy to read. you’ve got a very snappy style that’s different from what i usually read, but that’s part of what makes it so fun. as far as the world goes... well, i don’t really know anything about orre, but so far i‘m getting the impression that you’ve really made it into your own world anyway, which is awesome and i’m looking forward to learning more. the details you’ve dropped are really cool, and the gritty, post-apocalyptic feeling you’ve established is really unique.

learning about shy was a ton of fun. i think golet and golurk have a lot of untapped potential, and you draw a lot of cool stuff out of them here. you do the same with honedge, sort of taking bits of lore from the pokédex entries and expanding them/integrating them into your world. it’s really cool to see, and i think you’ve done a great job with shy. the story of his creation was really interesting too, almost like a less menacing version of the frankenstein-esque story you often see for mewtwo in other fics. the idea of his mind being too small for the two of them is really intriguing too, and i’m excited to see where you go with that.

chapter four felt a bit slower than the previous couple, but it does a good job at setting up astra’s internal conflict and giving us a bit more detail about the lore, and also about asi which is great moarplz. i’d agree with windskull that this fic does feel like there’s simultaneously a lot going on and also like not much is happening, but not to an extent that it really bothers me—i think maybe it’s just because we sort of get the same events retold and reconsidered by multiple characters, so while each viewpoint does present interesting new information, it’s also reiterating over stuff we know, so there’s not much narrative progress. it feels fine to me, though.
But it’s the sound that sticks with her, the rattling of her breath against her ruined throat—
i honestly love this line, there’s something so evocative and haunting about the imagery. the words “rattling” and “ruined” just have such a strong feeling to them...
She hastily shields the flame with her free hand as the wind, blisteringly cold, picks up in a different direction as if to spite her.
“blisteringly cold” reads sorta weird to me... maybe “She hastily shields the flame with her free hand as the blistering cold wind picks up...”? just a small thing, but it jumped out at me.
What remains isn’t human, any more.
this should be *anymore, i believe.
After episodes, she knows it’s important to feed herself, even if it’s mechanical, and yet—thinking makes her throat constrict violently.
i am here for the dashes, truly, but it felt a little strange here. not sure if maybe it’s just the way i’m reading it in my head but it seemed a little of place.
The blade whispers to her some nights. Whispers, murmurs. She’s not sure what the word is. It comes across in flashes of emotion rather than words, but even so it’s muted, alien. She’s learned the language of the sword over the years. At night, when the bloodshed is gone, the metal has room for nuance. Most of the time, in the day, it’s hunger.
man, this is so cool. i am just a sucker for all this asi stuff. i can’t wait to see where it goes. you’ll have to forgive me if i end up lifting this concept of honedge-wielding for wandersword, lol.
But she chose the blade.
When you were tinkering, I studied the Blade. When you were experiencing a traumatic childhood, I mastered the Blockchain. While you wasted your days roaming from home to home in pursuit of safety, I cultivated inner strength. But now that the sands are on fire and the shadow pokémon are at your gate, you have the audacity to come to me for help?
For an instant the girl had blurred into something that appeared horrific—a human with the face of a monster, and in that instant Astra had become something truly horrible—a monster with the face of a human.
this is a super good line. i love the parallelism here. lines that make me feel things, man...
Of all the things that worries her, this concerns her most of all.
i think you want *worry, here.

closing thoughts: i hate to gush too much but this fic is awesome and i can’t wait for more. you’ve definitely got a returning reader in me. there’s room to grow, but i think your writing is better than most and in general i have a blast reading your stuff for pretty much every reason, so i hope you keep on keeping on.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
blargh sorry for not responding earlier! initially based on some of the feedback I was gonna merge SHYENA 1 with SHYENA 2, but that was way too much, so then I was gonna do some misc. edits to SHYENA 1, and ultimately I did end up making some changes but not scrapping the entire chapter like I thought I was going to. Oops!

Woah, the ending to that first chapter was… not what I expected at all. But in a good way. It really sets up for a less morally pure protagonist, something that I’m always a fan of
Haha, the initial drafts of Astra were a bit more... rough, I think. This is ultimately a story about guilt and redemption, but there's "morally grey" and then "murdered a child", so getting Astra to straddle more toward the former is definitely a big push I've been trying to make.

One thing that isn’t quite clear to me is if Rin was always a pokemorph or if she became one later. I’m assuming the latter, based on the chapter from Shy’s perspective, but I’m not sure. There is a shift in the chapter where it logically makes sense. I feel like that might have been intentional, but I figured I’d point it out, in case it’s not.
It's later than her birth; the exact time hasn't been pinpointed (and is somewhat of a spoiler). I think Shy starts talking to her/taking a more active role where I think you feel the shift in chapter 2 (the age seven bit)

Golurk? Oh my god, I’m an idiot. I have no idea why that didn’t click with me. That’s really freaking cool, though.
ngl this is just me writing about my favorite ghost types

You do a great job of setting the scene and the tone. Everything feels gritty. Almost helpless, even. Orre has fallen to chaos and it’s all most can do to survive. You’ve also done a great job of setting up intrigue and little mysteries to figure out. Why did Astra choose to take the honedge? Is Asi the reason she can’t (or won’t) go into the main towns? Or is there something more? When and why did Rin become a morph? And how did Shy die?
Thanks! Things start looking up in later chapters and I think the fic overall has an upward trend for a bit; I do love writing my post-apoc but at the end of the day I try to inject a little optimism in it.

All that said, I do think there’s just a bit of… something and I’m not sure what, that’s keeping me from being hooked into the story so far. It might be the pacing? It feels like, in four chapters, a lot has happened, and not much has happened at the same time. I think part of it is the multi-perspective thing since the first three chapters are mostly establishing the pov characters, so the world has been established, but the plot has only just started to move.
Yeah! I think that's absolutely fair. Per above, this is something I really went back and forth with -- Shy/Rin's arc ends up being a lot more of a slow burn in contrast to Astra's, but it's hard to read slow burns in chunks and I don't think it comes across well in this publishing format as well (as opposed to being read all at once).

This is also a bit of an experiment in POV and shorter chapters -- I think I'm still working on balancing it since right now each POV is telling a distinct story, so the result is three different stories going at 1/3 the speed. I definitely get where you feel like this is moving too slowly, though -- I think once their threads remerge again things will pick up, and hopefully I can hook you there!

in the meantime here's chapter four which absolutely will not merge those threads there's a reason for this i swear

you’ve got a very snappy style that’s different from what i usually read, but that’s part of what makes it so fun. as far as the world goes... well, i don’t really know anything about orre, but so far i‘m getting the impression that you’ve really made it into your own world anyway, which is awesome and i’m looking forward to learning more. the details you’ve dropped are really cool, and the gritty, post-apocalyptic feeling you’ve established is really unique.
Surprisingly it's a lot more based on the games than you'd think! Orre is a bit darker (and at the same time way wackier) than the mainstream games. Most of the locations and NPC's outside of Astra/Shy/Rin are at least loosely based on their canon counterparts.

the story of his creation was really interesting too, almost like a less menacing version of the frankenstein-esque story you often see for mewtwo in other fics. the idea of his mind being too small for the two of them is really intriguing too, and i’m excited to see where you go with that.
using science for GOOD

chapter four felt a bit slower than the previous couple, but it does a good job at setting up astra’s internal conflict and giving us a bit more detail about the lore, and also about asi which is great moarplz. i’d agree with windskull that this fic does feel like there’s simultaneously a lot going on and also like not much is happening, but not to an extent that it really bothers me—i think maybe it’s just because we sort of get the same events retold and reconsidered by multiple characters, so while each viewpoint does present interesting new information, it’s also reiterating over stuff we know, so there’s not much narrative progress. it feels fine to me, though.
threaaaaaad that needle real carefully rip

When you were tinkering, I studied the Blade. When you were experiencing a traumatic childhood, I mastered the Blockchain. While you wasted your days roaming from home to home in pursuit of safety, I cultivated inner strength. But now that the sands are on fire and the shadow pokémon are at your gate, you have the audacity to come to me for help?
oh, fuq, I really did set that up didn't i
made the other grammar/typo edits pointed out though; thanks!

closing thoughts: i hate to gush too much but this fic is awesome and i can’t wait for more. you’ve definitely got a returning reader in me. there’s room to grow, but i think your writing is better than most and in general i have a blast reading your stuff for pretty much every reason, so i hope you keep on keeping on.
guh, oh you
thank you, though! the encouragement means a lot, as does the feedback -- glad I could create something that engages you like this!
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
A GIRL
v. confused sounds beating against—


x​

They woke up sad about something. There was a dream—

no, machines don’t have dreams; there are only recollections

—a recollection, then, of a woman with laughing eyes framed by harsh wrinkles, her hand clenched into a fist, her kind eyes turned away and portending thunder.

“I will not forgive you for this.”

They blinked away the memory and funneled the rest of their energy into powering up their system. They had to focus, they say, even as they were reeling from the thoughts of a lost past that hung over them like a specter.

That was the difficult thing about being two souls—before, when they both had bodies, it had been easy enough to differentiate them. Two individuals with two different thoughts in two different bodies. Now, the line was blurry, and it hurt in all the ways that having their head cut off hadn’t.

Your head wasn’t actually cut off. It was just a very deep neck wound, one of them pointed out, but that didn’t really make them feel that much better.

She had a name, didn’t she? Did he? What were they doing here?

This time, the dream-woman had a voice, but her face was blurred. No. Looking closer, her face was crunched up, an unreadable smudge of human skin, emotions too complicated for them to possibly understand. But they could try, and what they got was like a mirror: a deep wave of shame, like a chasm, yawning up inside of their chest until it ripped out of her heart, where it carved itself deep into the wrinkles of the dream-woman’s face. It roared and clawed and became so cavernous that it threatened to tear the earth in two, and yet it would not do the one thing they wanted and swallow them whole.

They couldn’t go on like this, could they? Something was wrong here, something in this dream, recollection. They were like a puzzle with too many pieces; some were duplicates and some were missing, and yet none of them fit together.

You’re lost, he (she?) was saying, trying to make it sound comforting, but the deluge of shared sights and sounds was too much for her. There weren’t eyes to close when the outside world was too scary; there was no explanation for why their voicebox responded to him and not her. Outside, bluesteel legs that were not her own carried them ceaselessly across lands she couldn’t name. Inside, thoughts tumbled around without direction, waves crashing against the shore.

They were lost. That much she could figure out.

Once upon a time, there was a story, and the story went something like this:

Of all the creatures that roamed this mythical land of Orre, humans were unique for one factor.

(You’re partially correct, Rin. There are actually fourteen factors that make humans unique in Orre, but only one is important to this exact story.)

She (they? he?) didn’t quite care. The words of the story, repeated to her so many times that she knew it by heart, even now, were what mattered. This was a reality in which she could ground herself.

But it isn’t. Rin, we have to—

How did it go again? Oh, yes. The story went something like this:

Humans were the only species to put on and take off masks. And they did so with great frequency. There was once even a whole holiday where they would dress up as things they loved and things that they feared, things that made them laugh and scream. They had festivals in honor of this act, of this subtle art of skinchanging that even the youngest of them learned to perform at such a tender age.

It wasn’t wholly unusual that they did this for fun; there are several species of pokémon that transformed for jest and mischief. Some changed their shape, some changed their skin; granted with this innate nature, they all often learn to take it for granted.

It was the fact that humans could change and unchange their skin for serious purposes that made them unique. For you see, when a ditto transformed into a pidgeot to lure a mate into an unexpected surprise, when a zoroark projected into a tall tree to trick girafarig to forage for berries in midair, these weren’t meant to be taken seriously. The transformation reverted, the illusion shattered. That was the normal way that things were supposed to go. Even Mew, who takes all shapes, had a true form and did not forget it.

So often, pokémon were quite fascinated by the way that these humans donned and doffed their masks. There was a reason pokémon need to change back, you see. The closest metaphor that they had for it was flying. Fly at the height that you were meant at, and you’d be fine. You could fly there for miles; there was no real difference between the air above and the earth below.

But stray too long, too far upward, too far away from the lands in which you were born, and the air began to thin out. It became harder to breathe. And then your wings would fail and you’d tumble and then plummet, spiraling, out of control. You might sink back to the safe heights again, but at that point it no longer mattered. Gravity was famously lacking in concern for what your intent was.

But that was a story about a human girl, who flew too close to a sun of different sorts.

x​

Triss, the baker’s daughter. There wasn’t much to say: she was sharp in wit and tongue, but a baker is judged by the work of her hands. Had she been a bard’s child instead, she may have had a happier life.

The travelers arrived one night when Triss was seven. It was a grand affair that utterly changed her world.

You see, for a quiet village, the day the travelers chose to arrive was utterly unexpected and also the best day in the whole world. Their wagons were filled to the brim with strange treasures: lanterns filled with vileplume powder that could burn with blue fire when lit aflame, a strange piece of ice from the east that was not cold and would never melt, costumes made with more colors than most villagers would ever need in their entire lives. But that wasn’t all that they brought, nor was it the most important: they brought stories from far and wide, impossible sights, tales true and false of far away worlds. They brought imagination and wonder.

For a little baker’s daughter, this was a true delicacy indeed. Triss clapped and cheered with the other village children as the traveling troupe donned their masks. They told a funny story about a group of forest pokémon who accidentally mistook a shining pidgeotto for the goddess ho-oh, and a sad story about a minior that tried to make a wish on itself, and an altogether confusing and very long, rambling rhyme about a girl’s misadventures with her murkrow. There was quite a bit of imagination to be had, and there were dramatic parts and triumphant parts and everything in between.

For you see, baking bread was a fun task, but it was also not a glamorous one. It was very consistent. You mixed the parts together. You kneaded, mixed again. Too much flour, add water. Too much water, add flour. The bread rose in the same way, and it did so slowly. It was easy to shape bread.

But the travelers were masterful jugglers indeed, coaxing the threads of a story out from the hearts of each watcher. They must have woven mirrors into their costumes, or in their hands, or in their masks, for they then reflected that story back into the eyes of their adoring audience, where it nestled back in hearts as something wholly different. It was tricky work, but they had dedicated their lives to it.

Triss laughed and clapped with all the village children. The travelers did their bows and were coerced back onto the stage for one more performance, and then another, and then another, until the night did pass them by. Triss stayed up all night with the travelers, enraptured, and when they made their turn to leave she scraped together all the money she had (which wasn’t very much, but it was good money, mind you—three copper pieces mean all the world when they’re earned with flour) and proudly tossed them into the travelers’ pot.

And with that, the travelers left in a cloud of wagon smoke. Triss watched them trail away over the horizon, and then she quietly went back to make bread and patiently waited for the next time they would return.

Except that wasn’t what happened, because that would’ve made for a very boring story.

What happened instead was altogether more sad, as interesting stories often are.

As she turned to leave the village square, all sign of the travelers lost on the horizon, Triss stumbled upon something very strange indeed. It stubbed her toe first, and she bent down to pick it up and brush the dust off. It was a little too big, especially for one as small as she, but she recognized it immediately.

The paint had chipped where someone had dropped it, and she wasn’t quite able to smear the mud away from its porcelain white surface, but it was unmistakably a performer’s mask. Perhaps it had fallen off of the back of a wagon as the travelers went about their busy work tearing down the platform for the imaginary world they had created. Perhaps it had sensed that it would have a greater life here, and so it had answered the call of the child.

It didn’t quite matter the reason, you see. For Triss immediately put it on, let the bone-white surface, smoother than anything she’d ever felt, touch the skin of her cheeks and obscure her face from view. And in that moment, Triss was no longer a baker’s daughter, but whatever else she wanted to be.

Triss put on her own performance that night. The crowd was far larger for the travelers, but that was quite to be expected. And she wasn’t quite good at recreating their stories, after all, for there was just the one of her and she had no magic lanterns that glowed with blue vileplume powder, but that was quite to be expected as well. Her peers didn’t applaud nearly as heavily, but they laughed and had a good time.

The next night, Triss tried to perform the same thing. It was hard, you see. The travelers had only performed the one time, and she was sharp of wit and of mind, but there was quite a lot of ground to cover and Triss only had quite so much memory. She stumbled over the lines this time, and some of the parts got lost. Had the pidgeotto had seven feathers or eight? Was the minior blue or green?

The villagers did not applaud so hard this time, but they were kind. The smith pulled her aside and offered her surprisingly sage advice, something she’d come to expect only from the kinds of adults who spent their time reading books, not the kinds of people who wrought with their hands. In metalworking, he explained, there were only so many problems you could solve by copying other people. At some point you had to strike out on your own, to apply what you’d wanted to learn to the craft. Otherwise it wouldn’t learn and grow.

Some crafts weren’t the same as bread, you see. These crafts didn’t have a fixed recipe. In bread you could add three scruples of flour and two of water and expect the same thing every time; in theater you couldn’t add three grams of heart and two of tears, because for some of the arts you needed to add a bit of yourself as well, and that was altogether harder to measure out in scruples and grams.

The next day, Triss donned the mask and performed a story about a baker’s boy who found a strange mask that let him turn into anyone he wanted. And he changed himself into a handsome prince, and tried to woo a beautiful princess, and there was a whole bunch of drama in the middle. It was interestingly structured and eventually the both of them realized that they were madly in love with other people—this was to save Triss the trouble of acting out two people kissing each other when she was just the one person in the mask.

They applauded quite hard at that one, which Triss thought was strange—couldn’t they see that this was just the same story they’d played out before their very eyes, but the people were in slightly different shapes?

She looked at the mask in her hands. It didn’t seem magical, and yet she knew with certainty: this gave her the power to be someone else. It was incredible.

The next day, the baker died. It was an altogether horrible accident involving an alchemist’s cart and a stray rapidash, the kind that would leave villagers whispering sadly for months.

Triss screamed, and sobbed, and for one day and one night she was inconsolable. She locked herself in the bakery and refused to come out, clutching herself in a tight ball and sobbing by the base of the unlit ovens.

Until she realized one terrifying thing indeed: beneath the porcelain mask there was someone who was unbothered, unbusy, unshaken by the shattering that her world had undergone.

That evening, in the town square, she performed a truly heartbreaking story. It was about a little firebird who could speak to ghosts and a tall tower, and the journey that the firebird and her ghost went on. In the end she learned that the bird was a ghost too, and the world had missed them but had moved on. She sang the bird’s part, and when she did so, it was with a crystal voice that was so pure, so sweet, that even the most stoic man among them was moved to tears.

The villagers sobbed and applauded as the masked girl took her bow, but the porcelain face was unflinching.

The performances got more stilted, more sad. The travelers always brought a happy twist to things, you see, but while the mask’s surface wasn’t visibly changed, something had colored it beneath the surface. It was like adding drops of lavender essence to a frosting you were mixing: the color changed, slowly at first, and then all over, until it was purple everywhere and altogether impossible to remember exactly what shade of cream it had been in the first place.

Surely, at some point, there was an obvious point of no return. But which story was the last straw? There was one about a boy who rode on the back of a mantine to the edge of the world, seeking his lost father, and they went to the very ends of the earth only to mourn him still. There was a story about a little dragon trapped in a magic mirror world, who would accidentally make anyone who looked into the mirror become trapped alongside them, until the entire world was reflected through.

One night, Triss took a bow and did not take the mask off.

She did, of course, look like she was taking the mask off to the villagers, so none of them questioned it. But that night when she looked at her reflection in her water basin, she could clearly see it, affixed as if welded to her cheeks. She touched the porcelain gently, and while the girl inside was happy, her reflection made no smile, no response. The girl in the basin was not happy for her understanding, nor was she sad for her lost mother. It made more sense that way, you see. It made far more sense to be the face beneath the mask rather than anything else that the world could see above it.

And the stories grew darker, darker still. A fire-vulpix and an ice-vulpix who fell in love with one another, and yet their clans were sworn enemies, so when the two finally met as enemies on the battlefield, she slew him with her flames and, as he melted, he quenched her fire. A froslass who smiled sweetly as she guided human children up a frigid mountain, and they lit her aflame her in an attempt to bring an end to the blizzard that had buried their village.

One day, there was no human performing at all. The words from the mask were not anything that anyone in the village understood. They tried to shepherd the performer away, but she stood firmly in the town square.

“Take it off of her,” the smithy said at last, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

But when they tried and pulled, they found that the thing would not come off. It was stuck to her face, almost grafted horrifically to her skin, and although he grabbed his tools and the cartwright used his ox-like strength, nothing they could do could dislodge it from her face.

The smith looked on sadly, but there was nothing the villagers could do. One by one, they trickled back to their homes. The smith stayed in the center of the square a moment longer, knelt down and wrapped calloused hands on her shoulders, looked into her wild eyes. “You can take it off now,” he said quietly, gently. “You need to take off the mask. It’s just an act, Triss.”

And in a hollow, echoing voice, she grated back, “Act… tress.”

The smith hung his head in shame, and left her to her duty.

A fortnight passed, and a traveling scribe came into the village. The masked performer was still in their town square, crying out a mournful performance in a song with no words, but the villagers had been unable to bring themselves to show up any more.

The scribe whispered low and quiet to some of the village folk, asked in a hushed voice what they’d done to lure a cubone orphan to their midst, how they’d managed to teach such a rare and shy pokémon how to perform for coppers, and the villagers had no true answer to say. Because what could they say, truly? That they’d applauded her into her cycle of grief?

No, better to remain silent, better to say it had happened by chance.

The next year, the travelers came by and took the dancing, wailing cubone into their troupe, and the incident faded from the village’s memory, like the taste of bread on your lips after an hour has passed you by.

x​

For you see, that was the altogether too logical truth that pokémon understood intrinsically: zoroark knew that their illusions would need to shatter the instant someone questioned them, ditto reverted as soon as they could, because the alternative was to forget that which lay beneath.

Humans were so different. They put their masks on and off and on again, as if unaware that every time you did this, a little more of yourself went into the performance. The face you had for your friends, for your families, for your strangers—there was you in it, but you had to be so, so careful, for if you were too generous with what you passed around, you’d eventually forgot what you had on beneath.

But at the same time, in their kind of company, what more were you to do? Humans had two kinds of fighting, unlike pokémon, because they weren’t very happy with either of them. The casual battles, and then the war.

This created an uncomfortable sort of a dichotomy, a backstage and a center stage upon which they unwittingly performed. For how could the same voice that coaxed out your son’s first laugh also be used to chastise him? How could the same lips that welcomed a lover also be used to shout battle cries? It couldn’t; they couldn’t; humans couldn’t. And so the first mask had to be put on, and then the second, until humans were playing so many roles that no one, not even you, could really know what was beneath.

The story of the cubone girl was a sad one, you see, but it was hard to remember from how it had started out that this was the way the story was supposed to end.

“How long has she been like this?”

“Our minds have been fused for almost ten years,”
the robotic voicebox of a golem croaked.

The ending of the story blurred and shuddered, and then the smudgy outline of a woman’s face returned. She was three dimensions, but she looked like two—harsh, thick lines painted her furious eyebrows until the anger was dripping out of her eyes and down her face.

“I’m sorry, Kana. I did not know what to tell you earlier, so I did not say anything at all. I hoped it would never come to this. But she is in grave danger now that Cipher knows about her, about us. Rin—“

“You.” One finger stabbed through the air. A command for silence. The dream-woman’s knuckles went white on the table. There was no more laughter in her eyes now, not even in the dream, or recollection, or fantasy. “You. Ruined her. You don’t. Get to talk. About keeping her safe.”

This wasn’t how things were supposed to go.

But the dream-woman was already pulling herself upright, her spine snapping vertical almost like it was being pulled on strings. She was stiff, disjointed, like a toy tin soldier, her twisted in a stony mask, when she looked at the golurk and said the words that would begin their undoing: “You took her from me. You took my daughter.”

Daughter. She latched onto that word, turned it over in their mind, trembling. She was a daughter.

Once.

x

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Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
I've been meaning to check this story out for months and today I finally decided to give it a shot. Probably should've done so sooner because this first chapter was quite a ride. I really like the fact that Astra weilds a Honedge that may or may not be forcing her to meet its demands against her will. Your prose and descriptions were so on point throughout the chapter and I loved how you portrayed Astra's internal thoughts which helped us see how she thinks of the world. Also, that cliffhanger lol.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
I've been meaning to check this story out for months and today I finally decided to give it a shot. Probably should've done so sooner because this first chapter was quite a ride. I really like the fact that Astra weilds a Honedge that may or may not be forcing her to meet its demands against her will. Your prose and descriptions were so on point throughout the chapter and I loved how you portrayed Astra's internal thoughts which helped us see how she thinks of the world. Also, that cliffhanger lol.
Talked about this with you over Discord, but thanks so much for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed, and thanks for checking this out.
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
SHY
vi. the amber of the moment

...​

Agate is beautiful and gleaming, the kind of place that Shy would love to explore if they still had Vajrin’s body, if the golem’s massive form didn’t draw the eye of anyone with eyes.

And perhaps Vajrin doesn’t even know what she’s missing. She’s never seen this much green except in his memories, and those are surely hazy, dreamy. Sometimes he would fixate her eyes on a bit of cloth that hadn’t faded too fully in the sun, or on the flash of an emerald in someone’s necklace. But it’s not enough. He remembers true green only from his time before her body, from Orre’s time before her fall, and it has no true substitute.

Do the people of Agate know what they’ve been shielded from? Do their children hold on to scraps of orange and brown, wondering if there is or ever was an entire expanse of this a dozen miles in any other direction?

Surely not, but Shy wishes he could ask them.

Agate is a diamond in the rough, the shining crown jewel in Orre’s desiccated waste. It is as if someone took all of the green in the entire continent and placed it in one concentrated bundle here: save for the places where humanity erected electrified, chainlink fences to guard their stronghold from outsiders, everything is a tangle of green and blue and white. It reminds him of gentler times.

Shy does not know if Agate’s children dream of orange and brown, or if their armed guards and barriers let them sleep soundly at night. He’ll probably never know. But what he does know is that this land stays green for a reason, and that if humanity ever knew that reason, Orre would be a very different place indeed.

Beneath the mountain of the city, untouched by the ravages of time, Shy travels. There is a spiraling path overgrown with leaves and roots; when he arrives at first, an enormous tree trunk bars the way. He places the golem’s blue hand on it, his fingers barely curling over the wooden curvature.

“I have travelled far. Please grant me entry,” he grates from a tiny voicebox.

The vines whisper, suddenly stirred by a breeze that doesn’t touch his skin. On the breath of that breeze, he can barely pick up a murmuring of words. Oh? And what is it that you seek?

The word falls heavily from him, like a stone. “Kala.”

The breeze stops. There is no mistaking the whisper this time, crawling with the familiar touch of telepathy up the back of his skull. {How did you learn this name?}

The word he speaks is an ancient one. Long ago, when all of Orre was a mix of blue and green and orange, this land had its three gods: the Beast of the Sea, the Forest Queen, and the Sacred Flame. One to wash away the old to make room for the new, one to sustain all that was good and proper, and one to breathe life into the ashes so that the cycle could continue.

Of the three, the destroyer and the creator are the most worshipped. It is only proper, of course. Mortals tend to think in grandiose terms. A journey to them is only a means to an end; they think best in terms of beginnings and endings. It is so easy for the middle to be drawn out, to become so commonplace that—blink—and suddenly it is gone altogether. The name Kala is a relic so heavy that it plunged like iron once he uttered; it was all but forgotten, but Shy in his unending lifetime is too old to forget.

“It is me,” he grates out in response, and then hesitates. His words stutter and grind to a halt, two gears sticking together. “It is Shy—”

{Oh. Your form is different, old friend, but you can never fool me for long.} There’s a gentle, almost musical laughter. {You’ve come quite a long way, haven’t you.}

The trunk in front of him bursts into bloom, pink flowers threading their way up through the bark in a splash of color. The buds are white, and then pink, and then they quickly fade to brown, rot revealing itself all throughout the tree. Most blossoms spiral up around the decay, blossoming and then withering in an exaggeration of life, and the tree itself slowly rots away until it reveals a yawning cavern large enough for Shy to pilot the golurk body through.

To hear the soft, gentle, beating surging through the tunnel is almost to be transported a decade into the past, when the world still had room for the music of everyday life, when the barren winds didn’t drown out all sound, when he still had a heart pumping lifeblood serenely through his ears. Thumph-thumph.

The tunnels start to glow with amber light as he passes deeper. The light ebbs and flows alongside the sound, pulsing through the network of vein-like vines that shape the passageway before him, drawing him deeper, deeper still. Thump-thumph.

Finally, he reaches the heart of the mountain. What stretches before him is a scene that is identical to how it lives in his memories, timeless. A jagged spire of amber stone, nearly as tall as the golem’s form, ripples up from the center of a basalt dais. Veins of golden glass flow from the spire down through the dais, plunging into the network below, pulsing with that same rhythm that had pulled him in. Thump-thumph.

{You gotta excuse the mysterious act. I have a reputation to uphold, you know. Too many mortals get ideas of a Relic Stone and think it’ll solve all their problems somehow. Tough titty. It won’t. I won’t.}

The Forest Queen flits down between him and the heart, a waifish green body on gossamer wings. She dips down and faces him head-on, so that all he can see are the pools of sky rimmed with black that form her enormous eyes. {My, you’ve changed quite a bit.}

“You haven’t aged a day,” Shy rumbles back. The golurk doesn’t have a way to smile; for all of her laughter, Vajrin never gave him one to match her own. And the voicebox has a way of dissecting the ha-haha-ha of a chuckle into something truly terrifying indeed.

But the Celebi laughs hard enough for the three of them, threads her musical voice through the air on his behalf. {See, this was why you were always my favorite of your siblings.} She’s zooming around him in gentle circles now, angling her arms to keep herself banked in. {Mortals always seem to think that just because we’re masters of these big, wieldy concepts that we don’t get to enjoy things the way that they do. But you know better, right?} She pauses for emphasis before moving on again, peering at the strangeness of his new form.

“Because.” Shy doesn’t trouble himself to elaborate past the first word. There were half a dozen realities in which he’s already given her a response, and the Celebi knows all of these answers already. He trusts that she’ll find the one that’s most sufficient.

{Mmm, true. It’s because we get these big, wieldy concepts that we truly get to enjoy things the way they do.} There’s something off with how the flap of the petal-like wings on her back line up with the speed of her movements; they’re blown by an unseen wind and unaffected by her momentum; she’s zipping through time in a way that doesn’t line up with her trajectory in space. {There was a little human boy with an eevee who came in here once, tried to beg me to intervene on behalf of humanity and save everyone. “My people are dying, he said. “You have to help us. You’re our only hope. Say, are those fingers?}

Her conversation cuts off as she alights on the tip of the golem’s empty hand, and Shy overturns it so that she’s able to set in his palm, surrounded by five stone flanges each larger than her entire form. “They are.”

{Weird. That’s new for you, right? How do you like them?}

“Handy.”

The Celebi tilts her head to one side, almost freezing in motion as she considers. {Hmmm. You’re less talkative in this form, I think.}

There’s a lot to unpack there, but Shy knows this isn’t the time. One enormous hand gestures to his throat. “Voicebox was never great. Recently damaged. Worse now.”

{Not that I don’t mind. You’re still very lovely this way.} She alights on the golem’s shoulders, so that the glistening tips of her antennae gently tickle the side of his head. {Anyway, like I was saying earlier. Kid wanted me to march on up there and take on whatever disaster wave everyone else was facing. I didn’t know what to tell him. For him it was the end of the world. For me, it’s, you know, another Tuesday.}

They’d have a conversation like this, once before. Shy remembers it all too well. “Orre was once an ocean.”

{Millions of years ago, yes. We’d all be underwater. And a million years from now, this land will be a lush forest, and none of the mortals will ever remember this scar of a time. So when this kid came in now with his problems, I feel—felt?—bad for him, but what was I supposed to do? Mortals die.}

“It is certainly in the name.”

The Celebi chuckles again at that one. {Oh, I’ve missed our talks quite a bit. I might go visit your past again once you leave.} Her voice grows uncharacteristically sober. {But you’re here, now. Something tells me you didn’t come here just to shoot the breeze.}

Shy looks down at the heap of a girl in his arms, the secret in the room they’ve all been trying to avoid. How had she put it?

Mortals die.

“A favor.”

{I figured as such. No offense. No one ever comes here just to chat.}

Shy weighs his next words carefully. It’s hard to gauge the Forest Queen sometimes; what do you offer the queen of a dying domain? She’s trapped in much the same way he is, but with one key difference: for her, it’s only a blink of an eye to travel to a time where none of this matters to her, or him, or anyone currently alive in all of Orre. None of it has meaning once the sands of time have washed things over.

For him? Trapped now in a body that wears scars that can never heal?

“Captured by humans. Few years back. They didn’t try to make me fight.” This is more words than he’s tried to make the voicebox say all at once. That’s why it’s hard to make the next words come out. That’s the only reason why it’s hard to say. “They killed my body instead.”

The golurk’s voice has no room for emotion, but the Celebi curls tighter into his neck, slender arms wrapping around the sides of his head. There’s a calming aura around them both that wasn’t there before. {I see,} she murmurs. Tendrils of her curiosity brush up against him, almost imperceptible. The façade of childish carelessness has crumbled away. {They killed you? But here you stand.}

“Could not kill my soul. Soul took refuge. In a human. She built—” he gestures jaggedly to the golem, to himself “—this. To house my soul.”

{They killed your body, but your soul remained.} The Celebi’s brow furrows in an altogether too-human gesture. {So this must be how the morphs are formed.}

“The Sacred Flame did not create them?”

Her response is immediate. {Absolutely not. But you… you did not inhabit her body? You chose to reside in the golem instead of as a morph?}

There’s an unspoken question there, one whose answer even Shy does not fully know. Vajrin was too young. Vajrin was not ready. Vajrin— “She did not wish it.”

{I see.} The Celebi gestures pointedly to Vajrin’s folded corpse. {But now…}

“Peaceful for a while. Pokémon and human living as one. Change of fate. Her body was killed too. Now we are both the golurk.” He holds Vajrin’s limp form out; the tiny figure is cast into gentle silhouette by the still-pulsing amber light from the shrine. The last words are hard to form. “She deserved better.”

There’s a long pause with just the three of them, washed in the pulsing golden light from the mountain’s heart.

{And you want me to bring her back.}

“Body. Soul. Have all the pieces. Only a matter of time that separates them.” That was his working theory. It’s not like he’s got anything better to go off of. “Turn her back.”

{Let me speak to her.}

“What?”

{I want to speak to her, this child to whom you entrusted with your entire soul, even if you did not inhabit her body.} The Celebi has pivoted into motion again, and she’s hovering in front of his voice so that golden eyes can meet blue. {Don’t worry, I’m not going to bite. I just want to understand this mortal to whom you’ve bound yourself so callously.}

He imagines the voicebox hardening to reflect his resolve, even if the words are the same pitch as they’ve always been. “Was not callous. I weighed the choice.”

{Perhaps not callously, but you are certainly, shall we say encumbered, as you are now.}

Shy weighs his options. Vajrin is far, far too young to be speaking to a goddess like this. There are dangerous waters ahead. A forest may look peaceful, but everyone knows that the leaves on a victreebel hide the teeth. But what other choice do they have? “Very well.”

There was a slight twisting through the air as he feels the change overtake him, willingly this time, and although there was no movement in the chamber whatsoever, the Forest Queen suddenly shifted, immediately aware of the change. Gossamer wings pulled her back into a flying position, and she hovered directly in front of the golem’s mismatched eyes, head tilted to one side.

{Oh, my,} she says—said—eyes flickering. Around her, the thump-thumph of the spire seemed to quicken. {You must be Vajrin Indra.}

…​

When their mindscsape twisted and Shy is once again tumbling back into control, he feels the shift in reverse this time. It’s almost like zoning back in from a daydream; he’s semi-conscious of where he is and what he’s doing here, but he has no idea what the specifics are. The Celebi is perched on his hand again, and the golurk body is squatting up against a vine-encrusted wall.

They must have been speaking for quite a while. Hesitantly, Shy lets his gaze drift to the still-unmoving body of Vajrin. Her body is still limp and still, and his mind is still roiling and aflame with the presence of two souls.

“You did not put us back.”

{No shit.}

“Why?”

He tries not to be angry at her. After all, how could he possibly understood how she feels? Endure enough centuries and disasters start meaning nothing to you. The world has a way of burning itself to the ground and rebuilding from the ashes once every thousand or so years. Cross enough of those off your to-do list and nothing matters any more. And if you’re the Celebi, and time is a dimension that you can travel through as easily as someone else might go north or south, not only does nothing matter any more. Nothing else matters ever again; nothing else ever mattered to begin with. Urgency stops existing right alongside the barriers into the fourth dimension.

{I did try,} she amends quickly. {But she’s not ready for it, and I’m not sure if she ever will be.}

Anger boils through his circuits, followed by confusion. “What do you mean. She is not ready?”

And, something more pressing still: the Forest Queen has access to all of time. Witnessing the events of next year is as easy to her as looking across the horizon is for Shy. There should never be a time where she isn’t sure if something will happen.

{I spoke with her. She’s a bit of a mess, this one.} The Celebi makes a huffing sound that is best described as a sigh. {She’s trapped in the past. I can’t exactly reunite it with her present if she refuses to leave. It’s bad form, even for me.}

Shy begins a response and then stops, suddenly realizing the misunderstanding that has occurred here. “She cannot time travel,” he says firmly, hoping that his hunch is right, lest he sound insane with what he will say next. “She is not in the past.”

{Perhaps for you she isn’t, but she is with me.}

Oh. Interesting. The Celebi always has a unique way of looking at thing, colored as her vision is by a looped timeline. Shy ponders this for a moment. “Those,” he says slowly, “are memories. Dreams. Stories. She wishes to go back, so she thinks of those times. She is absolutely still here.”

{I am a time traveler. She is currently nothing more than a ball of thoughts and energy. If her thoughts are locked in a different time, I can’t tell the difference; everything is equally incorporeal at this point.}

He lets the desperation fill his telepathic voice, just a little, just enough. “They are not the same. Please. We promise.”

{it isn’t a matter of what you want, I’m afraid.} The Celebi looks at him, one hand askew, childish eyes older than he’ll ever be. {Her mind is far, far away from me, and yet every time I try to reach out to her she jumps further into the past still. I cannot coax her to come back. You know better than I how to teach her. Do it. I cannot.}

“Why me?”

{Why you, old friend?} With another sigh, the Celebi turns back towards the amber spire in the center of the chamber. She doesn’t answer his question right away. {Millions of years ago, when Orre was an ocean, there used to be enormous pokémon that ruled the earth and the skies. Crazy, prehistoric things. Written records now wouldn’t even begin to cover it. My siblings would probably be impressed, unflappable though we try to be.}

One hand moves up so it’s touching the surface of the translucent relic, golden light washing between her tiny fingers. {And a meteor hit and they all got wiped out. Relegated to memory and nothing more. I literally have seen it happen multiple times, and then again and again as I kept revisiting to try to understand, and yet—there is no explanation for why it happened. It simply did. One day there was an apex predator. Then, it was only amber.}

Shy tilts the golem’s head to one side, half expecting to see a prehistoric maw snarling back at him. What he sees instead is a distorted, jagged network of golden shards that resolve first into skeletal wings, and then into his own twisted reflection.

He turns away.

Perhaps the Forest Queen notices his reaction, perhaps she does not. She has a lifetime to revisit it and witness him from a different angle, after all. {For my siblings,} she’s saying, {the humans built enormous towers. Perhaps you can ask them what for if you see them next. I do not know. And they plated the roof in metals that shone like silver and gold.} She chuckles a little. {The poor things. Thinking we can be bribed by petty, shiny things.} She blinks up at Shy with somber eyes. {And, true, they tried to build me a tower as well, but one thing led to another and I grew a large bellsprout through it instead.}

“But here you reside now,” Shy says instead. The golem’s hand, almost reverent, reaches out for the glassy surface of the amber spire.

{But here I reside now,} the Celebi repeats calmly. {The towers fell. Maybe not all in the same century, maybe not all in the same way, but they sank into the sands of time. For that is what towers do.} She looks away, far away, and Shy wonders if she’s looking in the same time as they are or if dinosaurs are ruling the earth. {I do not want a tower. I remember watching the meteors fall. In a moment of caring, I felt… bad. The prehistoric pokémon did not deserve to be wiped unceremoniously from existence. For me it was Tuesday, and for them it was the end of the world. I did what I could for the few that I could, but time is a river, and I am a tree. My roots cut through time, but time cuts through me as well. So when the humans built their shrines to my sibling’s endless power, I chose this instead. My Relic Stone. A monument to all that time can do.}

“Why tell me this?” Shy is well-versed with speaking in riddles, but he likes it far less when someone else does it to him.

In response, the Forest Queen loops back to the shard of amber and perches atop it, her body dwarfed by the immense presence of the shrine. For a moment, the pulsing light dulls and the heartbeat goes silent, until it’s just her voice: {Old friend, I am not all powerful. I am the sustainer. All I know is how to keep things the way that they are, to freeze them in their moments of jubilation or desperation or greatest peril. I cannot help your human child any more than she can choose to fly. When you look into the amber of my shrine, what is it that you see?}

She does not wait for him to answer. {I only see my reflection from every timeline, every angle, a monument to all the things long past that I can experience, but that I cannot share with others. All the fractured things I cannot mend.} As the cavern grows quiet and still, the Celebi’s voice echoes, whispers bouncing off of one another again and again. {Do what I cannot. Change her.}

...

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Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
Read chapter 2 and boy, was that depressing 😭. The chapter was an emotional thrill to read from the beginning of the end, and I'm sad Rin ended up dying after all. I really liked how you showed her life in small segments. It went from her living in a happy world as a three year old and then everything just went down hill from there. Even after she was the only survivor in her village, a random Astra showed up out of nowhere and went for the head. FeelsBadMan.

I didn't understand it all that much, but the ending bit implies she fused with the golurk? Or at least her consciousness now resides in Shy's shell as well, which means Rin is technically still alive, though it'd seem her identity did die nonetheless. For a story about a broken world, I'm surprised I'm enjoying it this much lol.
 

Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
Been too long away from this one! Unfortunately I started a review earlier, but it got eaten, so there won't be so many quotes from chapters 3/4 in particular, I'm afraid. Still loads to talk about, though! Obviously a thing or two has happened since I last was reviewing here...

Starting with getting into the POV of Rin's golurk! Who apparently was a zapdos in a former life, which isn't the kind of thing you'd tend to expect for a golurk, heh. At least he can (presumably?) still fly. That definitely has to suck, though, a creature of air and lightning stuck in your earth-aligned metal shell, especially now that he has even less room in there. I thought the description of how Shy had to pull Rin into the Golurk's shell was very cool, an evocative way of describing what was going on... Cup runneth over, indeed!

The idea of pokémon communicating through battle and not being as verbally expressive as humans is very cool, although Shy himself seems rather chatty, with all the stories he's told Rin. Always love to see explanations for pokémon's yen for battling and what sets them apart from humans.

The rest of the mightyena pack arrives, sniffs Vajrin’s lifeless body, sniffs his own lifeless form, moves on.
...I'm a bad person, because my primary thought during all this was why the mightyena wouldn't eat Rin/the electivire/the dead mightyena. They might not be scavengers, but this lot has been dead for like 15 minutes tops, it's perfectly good food. :P

I was a bit surprised by how little Shy seemed to react to Astra's behavior after she killed Rin. He was kind of sitting there, narrating it in a fair amount of detail, but didn't seem to react to it at all. Which, yeah, he was a bit distracted by having to handle Rin's soul at the moment, but even after she leaves and it seems there's a bit of downtime, nothing. How does he feel about Astra's apparent remorse? Does he feel some sympathy for despite what she did? Is he angry or disgusted, thinking that her display is hypocritical, or bitter because no amount of regret on her part can undo what happened? The chapter starts on a good melancholy note, with Shy grieving what happened to Rin, but most of Shy's narration is rather detached.

I didn't really expect Rin to be gone completely, given how she was introduced, and I'm glad we'll get to see more of her in the future. Also, her reaction to waking up inside Shy was excellent and also totally understandable, heh. A nice little moment of levity after an otherwise pretty heavy chapter. With this new development, this story is actually reminding me quite a bit of Ninefox Gambit... rather different genre, rather different circumstances with the body-sharing, but similar tone and some similarity in the prose style, I think.

And then it's back to Astra! It's nice to see a little more of her relationship with Asi here, since it was kind of alluded to before but we didn't see much of them actually interacting as such. Asi's an interesting character(?), because to some extent its motives have to be aligned with Astra's; presumably if she dies, Asi will starve to death, unless it's actually capable of going off and doing stuff on its own. But does it have its own angle besides wanting blood and to survive? Is the sword necessarily malicious, or is it also not too pleased to be stuck with this constant hunger thing? Asi seems a lot less loquacious than Shy, so perhaps it doesn't have as much of a real personality or spirit, or perhaps it/Astra are simply not as good at communicating as Rin and Shy. In any case, it's a fun dynamic between these two, where they don't necessarily like each other, and Astra at least is in fact rather uncomfortable with Asi, but they're stuck together and have to cooperate, at least to some extent. And it seems like of the two of them... Astra's the one who has less say in what they do, at least in the heat of the moment.

It seemed odd to me that Asi would announce Fati as "witch" and let Astra quietly freak out over who might be coming, when Astra knows Fati, and Asi is presumably aware of this and that Fati's not a threat? Or perhaps the sword has a rather different opinion of Fati than its owner/knows more than she does, heh. Very cool to see Fati here, in any case; she definitely felt like a character that the Orre games could have done a lot more with, so it'll be fun to see her get more screentime here.

Verrry interesting that Shy, a ghost, is the soul of a pokémon that now inhabits a robot shell. He goes by a three-letter name that derives from something longer. Meanwhile, Asi is a ghost inhabiting a sword, with a three-letter name. Does it come from something longer? Does Asi also have a history from before it was a sword, and are we ever going to learn more about it? I wonder whether all ghost pokémon are literally the ghosts of former pokémon, or whether they can arise independently, be their own unique souls with no previous life. Might just be a coincidence, but I'm definitely curious!

The next chapter is a bit of a departure, although having already read six I'm guessing this is what Kala was talking about with regards to Rin "time-traveling," although if that's actually the case I'm not sure why you put this one before six instead of after. One way or another, we appear to have both the future and either the distant past or myth going on here--maybe an alternate future where Shy and Rin are still stuck together, maybe a look at the actual future of this story.

There wasn’t much to say: she was sharp in wit and tongue, but a baker is judged by the work of her hands. Had she been a bard’s child instead, she may have had a happier life.
The tenses in these sentences are pretty tricky, but I believe it should be "isn't much to say [...] she might have had a happier life."

It’s just an act, Triss.”

And in a hollow, echoing voice, she grated back, “Act… tress.”
I cannot believe you made this pun, lol.

They told a funny story about a group of forest pokémon who accidentally mistook a shining pidgeotto for the goddess ho-oh, and a sad story about a minior that tried to make a wish on itself, and an altogether confusing and very long, rambling rhyme about a girl’s misadventures with her murkrow.
Hmmm, is that a little self-shade I see?

For you see, baking bread was a fun task, but it was also not a glamorous one. It was very consistent. You mixed the parts together. You kneaded, mixed again. Too much flour, add water. Too much water, add flour. The bread rose in the same way, and it did so slowly. It was easy to shape bread.
This paragraph seemed oddly placed to me, like the one before it and the one after it look like they would have flowed into each other seamlessly, but there's this tangent in the middle instead.

She was stiff, disjointed, like a toy tin soldier, her twisted in a stony mask,
I think you're missing the word "face" in here.

The story here is interesting, but I don't know that I buy the central conceit about humans being more inclined to wear masks/more reckless about doing so, more likely to try to become whatever they pretend to be. I mean, one of the primary characteristics of pokémon is that a lot of them evolve, thus permanently and irrevocably changing their nature sometimes multiple times during their life. It's not quite the same thing, since this story is more about acting and that's about literally becoming, but it still didn't sit quite right for me. I would tend to say that pokémon are more changeable than humans! But I think that you did a good job of capturing the structure and feel of a fairytale. In particular, the bit at the end where the traveling players come and pick up the now-cubone and take her off with them has that lovely shivery quality where you wonder whether they dropped the mask intentionally, hoping/expecting someone in the village would find it so they could add another to their number. Also a very cool interpretation of cubone... Given the mask and the ghostly themes of this story so far, I was definitely expecting Triss to end up as a yamask instead!

Not totally sure what to make of the framing scene here. "Kana" instead of "Kala" makes me think, again, that this is some kind of alternate future Rin's picking up on somehow, but too early to say, really. On to the next chapter!

I want to speak to her, this child to whom you entrusted with your entire soul, even if you did not inhabit her body.
Should either be "this child to whom you entrusted your entire soul" or "this child you entrusted with your entire soul."

it isn’t a matter of what you want, I’m afraid.
Missed the caps on the first letter here.

The idea that Agate is now a walled compound makes a lot of sense in this setting, but is also so tragic. It used to be a place of hope and respite from the desert that anyone could enjoy, and it's sad that it couldn't continue, that presumably the townsfolk decided that the only way to preserve any of the green at all was to keep outsiders out. Reassuring that the place still exists, but the decay Orre's gone through is obvious even here.

Your description makes Kala sound *tiny* here, which is honestly a very fitting way to go for a forest god sprite thing; adds to the magical, fae sort of atmosphere that pervades this scene. In general I thought the descriptions of Kala's realm were very nicely done, vivid and appropriately otherworldly. The door that ages out of existence I thought was a particularly neat touch. And this scene did give you a chance to go big with your description, which was a joy to read. This scene has a rather fairytale atmosphere to it, which combined with the literal fairytale in the previous chapter make for a very different tone than the sort of gritty cyberpunk tone that the rest of the story has had. Makes sense, in a way, since Agate Village is its own isolated place, a kind of respite from all the rest of the region.

(If pokémon communicate primarily through battle, shouldn't these two have fought instead of having a fairly normal conversation?)

Interesting that Shy went to see Kala, the sustainer, instead of what I'm presuming is Ho-Oh, since resurrection is kind of that guy's thing. And Kala thought that Ho-Oh might behind the pokémorphs, too... What's up with that guy, then? Are the other pokémon wary of them for some reason, are willing to believe they might be causing some of the problems that plague Orre, maybe? Or is it maybe more that nobody knows where they've gone off to, and they could have been captured/corrupted by Cipher, or something along those lines? Very curious. Hard to say at this point whether we'll necessarily meet the other members of Orre's big legendary trio but, well, we *have* met two legends in just six chapters, after all.

There's a ton to like about this story, and I've been enjoying it this far! In particular I feel like we're getting a rich sense of what this Orre is like; there are already way more myths and mysteries floating around than I think there were in the whole of the actual Orre games, heh. The tone and focus of the story also works really well with the setting and, again, what we've seen of Orre in canon. If anywhere was going to go full-on feral pokémon post-apocalyptic, it's probably the best candidate! It's been fun to see you put your own spin on the region and put some more flesh on the bones--Orre is one of those places that I think is compelling in part because it puts out a lot of tantalizing ideas and a really different, cohesive tone, but there really isn't that much there, and the author is therefore left with plenty of leeway to make stuff up, for lack of a better way to put it.

I love how complicated the relationships are between the characters. We actually haven't seen too much of Rin and Shy interacting, since Rin's been pretty out of it the whole time we've been in one of their POVs, but I think it'll be fun to see how they come to terms with their situation and try to move forward from here. I think I'm even more interested in the relationship between Astra and Asi, and what it's going to mean for Astra in the future. And, since I assume Shyrin and Astrasi are going to cross paths again at some point, I imagine that's going to be a lot of fun--and very, very Complicated.

Things have moved a little slowly so far, I think. Part of this is because 1/3 of the chapters so far haven't taken place in the present (or at least the majority of the chapter hasn't). I'm not totally sure what's up with Chapter V, and I'm willing to reserve judgement if you think it's important for it to be as and where it is now, but I think you definitely want to be mindful of how you introduce all of your background lore while still keeping the A-plot moving at a reasonable clip. For example, I enjoyed Chapter II and definitely appreciated getting to learn more about Rin and Shy, but where I am now I think if that chapter hadn't been there I honestly wouldn't think I had missed anything. Perhaps some of that backstory could have been spread out a bit over multiple chapters, or perhaps that exposition could have come at a different time. Part of it's the length of the chapters--we aren't actually that far into the story, word-wise--but it feels like while we've covered a lot of background material, we only have a sketchy idea of where the main characters' story is going to go from here, especially in Astra's case.

Anyhow, this continues to be a super interesting story, with a fantastic setting and fascinating characters. I will do my best to keep up a lot better from now on, but I resolve to do that a lot, lol. I will try! And I hope you'll have a good time putting more of this story together. I'm definitely in for the long haul with this one.
 
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OldschoolJohto

Never not editing
Pronouns
She/Her
Partner
solrock
Responding to Chapter 1.


First and foremost, love the chapter titles. Juicy stuff on the horizon. Wondering why the title for this one uses “your” though.


I also love that we’re starting with this fucked up honedge, a pokémon that never stimulated my imagination until encountering it in fic. Nice and unsettling here! And what a loose canon — as likely to go for her as for an enemy once blood has been spilled. Big yikes. Can’t wait to learn more how that partnership came to be.

The action feels palpable and urgent. The descriptions of sounds buffeting the body, the raw and terrible power—love it.

Something tells me the girl will survive the attack. A battle of wills incoming.

Specifics (grammar and line-by-line reactions):

Her blade yanks upward and then outward, ripping back out of the creature's chest.
Passive voice — suggestion: she yanks her blade... (Also eliminates confusion with “it” at the top of the next sentence. As-is, wasn’t sure if “it” referred to the creature or the blade.)

as if the outlands of Orre didn't have teeth and claws and the power to bend nature to its will.
Felt a little funny to me because, unless I’m missing something huge because I didn’t play Pokémon XD, the outlands ARE nature. Suggestion: as if the outlands of Orre didn't have teeth and claws and will.

slow bipeds on the same earth as a fifty-foot aquatic dragon capable of levelling mountains,
I think just “on the same earth as dragons capable of leveling mountains” gets it done nicely!

The use of golem threw me because I immediately thought of the rock/ground type, but it sounds like this is a literal golem — a human construction. I’m seeing golurk in the tags, but it’s not what I’m picturing from this passage.

But humans, well. Kick it out of its nest and it'll build a new, bigger one.
👌🏻 And probably in a place we never had any business building in the first place.

steel-toed boots
I love ladies in steel-toed boots!

lumbering across the ground like an with steps so heavy
Missing a word.

You don't save things that can kill you. You can't."
Oof! This is an interesting “thesis” and I can’t wait to see how it will be unpacked. Also:
in trusting in something stronger than themselves,
What an absolute mood. And it’s real. Trusting a Pokémon is pretty damn wild when you think about it for any amount of time. Some of them explicitly eat people, many are faster and bigger than you...Also I guess Astra isn’t the religious type.

Also OH MY GOD why didn’t I think of a contents/next link at the bottom for navigation? Duh. So smart.
 
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