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Pokémon In Search of Haven (Contest Oneshot)

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
Now that the contest results are out, the stories can be posted, and here is mine. It was in progress for basically a year until the contest came around and I found new motivation in finishing it up. Unfortunately this also means I'm basically very burnt out on it and will not be making revisions based on the judges' feedback. :P Speaking of which, catch the feedback here (spoilers for the story, obviously).

Without further ado, here is In Search of Haven. Rated teen for graphic violence and moderate language.

annieandpatch.png
Annie and Patch, by yours truly. Click to view on DeviantArt.

---

IN SEARCH OF HAVEN

Synopsis:
In a desolate world ravaged by ghosts, a group of mon tries to get by with only each other and stories of a faraway Haven as comfort.

Genre:
Drama, Horror

Status:
Complete oneshot.
Submitted to contest privately on 23 Mar 2020.
First uploaded publicly on 5 June 2020.

Length:
10 000~ words

---​

Wings wide and barely flapping, the mandibuzz slide through the air with ease. Their circling seems directionless at first, but anyone looking closer can tell they're slowly moving eastward.

When this all began - if it really had a beginning, and wasn't always this way - it must have been heaven for the mandibuzz. Carcasses everywhere, full of untouched meat. People too busy to bury their close ones, trying their best to avoid their own deaths. Sure, the mandibuzz had to watch out as well, but their typing makes it easier than for anyone else.

Being dark, they can detect ghosts from disturbances in the shadows and mold that darkness to defeat the hostile spirits. Being flying, they can reach heights no ghosts but drifblim can, and drifblim take one peck from their sharp beaks to be eliminated. If mandibuzz were also fire like me, they'd be the ultimate anti-ghost mon.

But, despite all their perks, they're still not immune to the decay of this world. Wild mon have plummeted in numbers, and the ones left have better learned to survive. Civilized mon like us know to utilize every scrap of meat we can get. And, lastly...

The mandibuzz scatter in a blink. An arrow sticks out from the wing of a low-flying one. It falls a little, yes, fall -- no, the arrow comes loose, the arrow drops off and the mandibuzz glides away with the others.

“Augghhh!” caterwauls Jason in the distance, voicing our shared disappointment.

I groan too. “I’ll get the arrow,” I shout at the others in the field and head for where the arrow seemed to have fallen. It's not long before I find it lying on the sparse grass and pick it up. Bloodless. Must’ve only gotten lodged between some wing feathers.

But what's that smell? It's not from the arrow. Smells like… I don't know what mon specifically, but some kind of medium-to-large mammal, and that should be edible. There's still hope for a proper dinner!

I rush back the way I came, backpack bouncing up and down. "Guys! I smelled something! I think it's a good-sized mammal!"

Paul's face, somber only moments prior, lights up. The simisage runs to me. "Well, lead the way!"

I hand him the arrow and he quickly slips it into the quiver on his back. We take running steps towards the way I came, but stop. The kricketune and purugly have stayed behind.

“Hold on now,” says Jeb, our moustached leader, and points to the sky. “Those clouds are fast approaching, and I sense they bring rain. It’s high time we look for shelter. By the coming night, we’ll need it anyway.”

“Come on, it wasn’t that far,” I groan, “and we’re hungry… it’ll just take a while!”

“Hrmh...” Jeb runs his sickle-like foreleg through the hairs of his mustache, eyeing the fire of my tail.

“I can take a bit of rain,” I keep going. “You know that. And Paul only likes it!”

The simisage nods, strengthening my point.

“Wh-what if we look for shelter,” Jason says to Jeb, “and they look for the prey? You can play your sickles real loud to let them know where we are.”

“Yeah, Jeb, please,” I chime in. “It could be a really good catch...”

“Hmh. Fine,” the kricketune finally obliges. “But I’d rather not play too loudly too long, you know,” he says to Jason. “It gives away our position.”

“Thanks, you’re the best!” I shout, running with Paul by my side.

On our way, I worry if the mammal has alreadyleft, but luckily, I soon catch the scent again. We follow it to a small patch of forest. The stronger the scent gets, the slower we walk, until I catch a glimpse of something that makes me stop entirely.

“Over there,” I whisper, pointing between two trunks in the distance. Something gray appears to be moving. Paul nods as he spots it, and we initiate our usual strategy of surrounding the prey. I withdraw my flame as best as I can and hide what remains behind my back.

Covering up my flame would be a whole lot easier with a set of wings, but evolution just refuses to come. Is it malnourishment? Maybe, but I've still spotted charizard in other groups despite food being short for just about anyone. I could be one of those mon that just can't evolve. Those appear in every species.

Well, doesn’t really matter. Even if I evolved, that'd still leave the rest of my group bound to the ground, so it's not like I could just join the mandibuzz in their worriless flight...

Head held low, I watch the mon from a safe yet gradually shrinking distance. It seems to be a poochyena. I prefer to eat herbivores, but if it's a carnivore or nothing, the choice is --

A twig snaps underneath my foot, perking up the poochyena's ears. It turns to my direction, yellow-red eyes wide and… there's that spark of intelligence.

Aw, man. It's civil like us. Its big forehead confirms it - there's a larger brain inside that skull. I better let Paul know before we accidentally become one of those murdering savages…

I stand up straight and let my flame show. "Hey, Paul, this one's not --"

Right as the startled poochyena stumbles into a run, an arrow sinks into the dirt at her paws.

"Paul, don't shoot!" I shout, forcing my way through the shrubbery. "It's not a feral!"

The poochyena slows down, unsure whether to keep running.

"It's okay, pooch!" I yell at her. "We're friendly! We just mistook you for a wild one!"

She stops. "R-really?"

"Yeah, we're nice," I confirm. "Sorry, our bad."

The bushes rustle, then one of them gets up -- wait, no, that was just the top of Paul’s head.

The simisage marches our way, sighing. "You should wear something like a scarf to let people know you're not just game," he remarks to the pooch, picking up his arrow.

The poochyena cautiously approaches. "I'm sorry," she says. "My group didn't give me anything…"

"Your group?" I ask. "Are they nearby?"

"No… I mean, maybe," she whimpers, tail between her legs. "I got lost this morning, and I've been looking for them since, but I haven't found them…"

I check the sky. The clouds have really crept up on us.

"You should come with us," I tell her. "It's probably gonna rain, and the day's almost over, anyway. You can spend the night with us."

"C-can I?" Her tail draws out from under her body, hesitantly wagging.

Paul sighs. "Well, yeah. Just one night isn't too much trouble."

I clap my hands together. "Great! Let's get going, then."

We set our course for where our group had split up. Initially, I lead, but soon change places with Paul behind me to give the tagalong poochyena some better company.

“So, what’s your name?” I ask with a friendly smile.

“Uhh, I’m Patch,” she replies, as skittish as before. “I got the name ‘cause of the black patch on my head...” She raises a paw to her forehead, which indeed has a vaguely rhomboid black marking surrounded by her base gray.

I try to resist, but a comment slips. “Your parents weren’t very creative.”

“Oh, it’s not my real name. Patch is what my group calls me ‘cause it’s easier to remember. My real name is Kirka. But you should call me Patch, too, ‘cause I’m more used to it and I might not notice if you call for Kirka…”

Oh, okay. I guess I’ll just call her Patch if she wants me to. “Well, I’m Annie. Short for Annabelle. And my friend here is Paul.”

“I’m Patch,” Patch says, then realizes her mistake and withdraws into tense silence.

We make it out of the woods and back into the field. Keeping our ears perked - well, just figuratively for me - we wait for the sound of Jeb’s playing as we reach and proceed past the point we left him. Eventually, Paul’s huge heary-flappers do catch the wailing we’re looking for, and we climb up a ridge to see where exactly it’s coming from.

“Whoa, look at that,” Paul says upon peeking over. I clamber up the last stretch and take in the view myself.

Before us stretches out a field much like the ones before, but with one key difference - this one houses the ruins of a small abandoned town a few hundred meters ahead. Houses overtaken by moss and mold, made of mostly wood, stand on the edges of sprawling dirt roads by the dozen. Most interesting, however, is the largest of the remaining buildings, which appears to be a tower or even a castle of some kind. Its many little windows leak some light, and a better glance around the building shows a parked carriage near the door. There are other travelers here - and judging by Jeb’s undisturbed playing beside the tower’s stony wall, they’re friendly.

“Sweet!” I say and almost run straight for it out of excitement, but remember our guest just in time and turn to make sure she’s still with us. She is, but not quite past the last stretch yet. She can’t grab onto the cliffs quite like us, lacking longer fingers.

I climb a little way down to encourage her. “Come on, Patch, you can do it!”

She shivers. “A-are you making fun of me?”

“What?” I frown. “No.”

“Oh… okay.” She climbs the rest silently. I shrug it off.

The ridge is luckily less steep on the way down, and we find our way to the ground rather quickly. I’d say having a nice shelter in your sights also makes for a smoother walk.

Halfway to the tower, though, an unfortunate surprise emerges. A cold tap on my snout awakens me to the fact that the sky above has become rather gray, and a subsequent painful sting on my flame reminds me of my natural weakness.

“I think it’s starting to rain,” I tell the others. “Let’s speed up.”

Paul nods, and we pick up our pace.

The downpour only gets worse on our way to the tower. Jeb decides to move inside, but stays in the crack of the front door to wait for us. Finally, after what seemed like ages in a very specific kind of purgatory, I slip in through the door and practically collapse on the floor. I swing my tail up high and sigh with pleasure as my flame burns freely in the dry air. If only we had the fabric for a fireproof raincoat...

I hear a chuckle. "Not a fan of rain either, are ya?"

I look to my side to see a striped, bipedal feline of intimidating frame. An incineroar. Must be one of the other travelers.

He steps forward and offers me a paw. I appreciate the gesture, but get up on my own as it just feels simpler.

"I'm Incineroar Ivan," he says, paw still extended, but now for a handshake. This one I take him up on, and as expected, it's a firm and warm one.

"Charmeleon Annabelle," I respond. "Annie for short."

Behind me, Jeb reopens the door, and a soaked Paul stumbles in. Nested in his arms lies Patch, sheltered by the simisage’s ears and pompadour.

“Aww, you carried her?” I ask. “That’s so cute.”

He humphs. “She’d just be more trouble if she got sick,” he says and shoves the poochyena away. She lands clumsily with a yip and skitters off to the side, eyeing the incineroar next to me nervously.

“Ah, the rest of your group?” Ivan asks, walking to Paul and offering him a paw. “Incineroar Ivan, pleased to meet you.”

Paul answers the shake cautiously. His hand seems quite limp and posture hunched, much in contrast to the incineroar standing tall. “Simisage Paul,” he says. “Is it just you here, or are there more?”

“Oh, there are plenty more,” Ivan replies. “They’re in the back. Come in! You must be hungry!”

The implication of food perks Paul’s posture right up.

Ivan then turns to Patch again, this time crouching. “And who might you be?”

Jeb steps forward. “Yes, who would this be?” he asks me and Paul. “The mammal you two tracked?”

I nod. “Her name is Patch, and she got separated from her own group. We offered to let her stay with us tonight. That's okay, right?”

"Oh, certainly," answers Jeb. "I wouldn't want to lead a group that turned away those in need. Not to mention more dark types are always useful these days!"

Patch flinches. Ivan takes it as a sign to back off.

A cluster of whiskers twitch at the corner of my vision. It seems Jason has arrived to check on us. His nose wrinkles at Patch, but he stays silent.

"So…" starts Paul. "Dinner?"

"Yes, of course. Follow me!" says Ivan and marches up the stairway before us, the tip of his upright tail happily swaying.

He brings us to the second floor where a large hall awaits. Discoloured wooden planks cover the floor, walls and ceiling, hiding the stony outer shell of the building. A long table stands in the middle, flanked by benches with six other mon sitting on them - tangrowth, marshtomp, sandaconda, passimian, nidorina, watchog. In the middle of the table, there sits a large pot filled with a stew whose warm, meaty smell has all of us newcomers salivating.

"Whoa, you must've had a successful hunt," says Paul and swiftly takes a seat at the end of a bench.

"You can thank Kunal for that. He's our sharpshooter," says Ivan as he returns to his own dish and points to the tangrowth. "He bagged us a big mandibuzz today!"

The vine-covered creature gives a greeting wave with his arm. A quiver and bow much like Paul's rest on the floor under his seat. A hint of jealousy comes upon the simisage's face.

We seat ourselves, and the marshtomp of the group washes some dishes clean for us to use. Having removed our baggage and slid it under the table, we gladly dig into the stew.

No conversing takes place for a while after that, or if it does, I don't notice it over my vigorous shoveling of stew into my mouth. The satisfaction is comparable to slamming my tail into a carriage full of tinder and letting my flame breathe.

Once my hunger is sated, my ears pick up some speech again.

"So, where are you all on the way to?" asks Ivan. "Or are you simply wandering about?"

"Searching for Haven," answers Jeb. "So, I suppose that's a form of wandering."

"Ah, aren't we all… how much do you know?"

"North and west. That's about as specific. One would think a city of endless light would be easier to find..."

"Mm, yes, yes…"

A faint tap at my thigh pulls my attention away from the nodding Ivan. Patch stares up at me from her seat next to me. "What is it?" I ask.

Despite my friendly tone - at least I hope it was friendly - she winces a little. "Um… can I ask you something?"

"Sure, go ahead."

She scrapes the bench with her forepaw, apparently still unsure of the question she's about to pose. "Do you believe Haven exists?"

Oh. "Well… kinda," I respond. "I mean, I feel like there must be a kind of Haven, at least. Maybe not the exact one all the stories describe, with the blazing walls and so on, but some place where mon can live in safety and at peace. I want to believe a place like that exists, and that's the place we're searching for."

"Uh huh…" She stares into her emptied bowl. "A place like that sounds really nice," she adds quietly.

"Why do you ask? Do you believe in Haven?"

"Um, well, the group I was with before - I mean, still am, I guess… they didn't think any of it was true, 'cause there'd be more proof and more mon that have been there, and people that do believe are just dumb and naive…"

Oh, those kinds of people. "Well, do you agree?"

“U-um… I… my group...”

Seeing her distress, I realize I’m pushing too hard. I lean back. “...Sorry. You don’t have to answer.”

“Okay.” Her gaze stays on her paws.

After finishing our meals, we bring the dishes to a pile near the window for the marshtomp to clean. I take the opportunity to check on the weather. Still pouring down, and now much darker. Sunset was close before… should we expect some ghosts to wake up early in this darkness?

“What’s wrong?” asks Patch.

I realize my frown and wipe it off my face. “Oh, nothing.” It basically is nothing in practice, considering this castle’s well lit and sturdy. Ghosts couldn’t possibly sneak in here.

I leave the window and fetch my backpack from under the bench. I may as well go set up my bed now and rest to gather energy in case of wakeups in the night. Patch can join me, as she really seems like she needs it.

---​

We arrive at the sleeping area - two floors up from the dining hall, just like Ivan had told us. The room looks structurally similar to the previous one, but this one has mattresses spread across the floor. I find an empty spot and begin laying down my own.

"You don't seem to have your own, so you can share a bed with me," I tell Patch as I unfurl the mattress. "It might get a bit cramped, but I don't mind if you get close. Just watch out for my flame."

I put down a clay dish of sorts I use to keep my fire safely separated from the floor and strap the tip of my tail onto it with the belt on its edge. Not the most comfortable, but a lot more secure. I lie down on the mattress, sighing from the respite to my body. I smile at Patch and tap the mattress next to me. Hesitantly, she creeps near and lies down. Her bristly fur tickles my scales.

"...You're really nice," she says quietly.

"Oh, thanks. I like being nice," I reply, eyes nearly shut.

"Your whole group seems so nice," she continues. "And even that other group, with Ivan…"

"Ivan seems really nice, yeah."

"I'd hate to let any of you down…"

Huh? I open my eyes wide. "What do you mean… let us down?"

She tenses. "I-I mean, I'm gonna try my best, but I'm just not very good… I'm sorry…"

"Good at what?"

"I mean… you know I'm a dark type. Your leader knows that, he said I'd be useful because of it, but I'm just… not very good at that shadow detection stuff," she peeps. "I can't tell very well where the ghosts are, and I get lots of false alarms… I-I don't want you guys to d-die because of me…"

Her voice is teary, and now she sniffles. What… what made her like this? How bad was her previous group?

I place a hand on her side for comfort. She flinches. It twists my gut.

“Listen,” I start. “It doesn’t matter if you’re good at that stuff or not. We didn’t take you in because we wanted a dark type. We took you in because you needed help, and you always have to help people in need. Even if they can’t help you back. That’s just the right thing to do.”

“B-but...” She sniffles again, but she sounds a little less distraught. “They s-said that everyone’s gotta pull their weight, or they’re gonna bring the group down… so slackers and screwups get left on their own...”

I sigh. Those mon… “Patch, did they call you a slacker or screwup for not being good with shadow detection?”

She bursts into a sob. “I am a screwup...”

I sit up. “Patch, no, you’re not a screwup.”

“I can’t pull my weight...”

“Yes, you can. It’s only your weight if you can pull it. A slacker doesn’t try their best. You clearly do.” I grasp her with both hands, gently but firmly. “Look at me.”

She whimpers, but finally turns her snout to my direction. Anguish has distorted her face, and her maroon eyes glisten with tears.

My heart aches at the promise I’m about to make. I want to keep it, and I want to believe I can keep it, no matter what, but the world is just so dangerous. At least I can find solace in the fact that this is what she needs to hear right now.

“I’m gonna be there for you,” I say, eyes locked to hers. “I’m gonna take care of you, and I won’t let you go until we either find a better group for you or Haven itself. I promise.”

Her sobbing calms. She can’t seem to find her words, but seeing her pain relent even a little tells me enough.

I pat her side and lie down again. “For now, let’s try to rest, okay?”

“Okay,” she whispers.

We both quiet, only breathing and occasionally wiggling for a better position. Pity for Patch and fury at the cruel world rage inside my brain, but I try my best to not get too wound up. I know I could really use this rest.

---​

Some time later, perhaps an hour, one of the noises from the lower floors ascends the staircase, arriving at the mouth of the room. I open my eyes and spot Paul.

"Hey," he greets quietly as he sees I've noticed him. "People are getting together, and Jeb's gonna sing some songs. Do you two wanna come?"

I rise to check whether Patch is asleep, but she turns her head to me, making the answer obvious.

I smile at her inquisitive look. "Wanna go? Jeb's songs are very nice."

"Um, sure," she replies and gets up as I free my tail from the fire dish.

Paul smiles at us both, and we follow him one floor down. The other mon await us there, sitting in a rough circle - though Jason sits further away in his own little corner, grooming his coat. I’m not surprised. He never was a mon’s mon.

No light shines in from the cracks in the window covers. The rain seems to have stopped by the lack of noise, so it must just be that dark outside. The sun has set. That means the ghosts are out.

Paul bumps me with an elbow. "Don't worry," he whispers. "I checked, and they have a lot of light at the entrances. Nothing should be able to sneak in."

Well, I trust Paul's word. "That's good."

We find our spots in the circle of mon and sit down. Ivan, who sits next to Jeb, clears his throat.

"Alright!" he begins with an infectious grin. "All those who want to be present seem to be present. Let's get this shindig going." He gestures to Jeb. "Our guest Jebediah has promised to perform some songs and tell some stories. His group tells me they're quite entertaining. I hope we can all have some good fun!"

The mon of Ivan's group, optimistic though somewhat unsure, give some applause as encouragement and a polite gesture. I join in along with Paul. Jeb deserves this applause.

"Thank you, thank you," says Jeb, stretching his sickles in preparation. "The first song I'd like to perform is an old folk tune - a lot of these are folk tunes - about a trevenant's forest and two lovers within. It came to mind today when there was discussion of Haven. I truly hope we'll all get there someday, or it grows and expands to meet us. Much like a trevenant's forest grows even in this ravaged land."

Oh, I know this song well. I've thought about the lyrics of the trevenant's woods a lot. It's lovely to think that there are still places where mon can live in peace… even if I wouldn't be allowed in.

I raise a hand. "Can I sing along?"

Jeb nods with a smile. "Anyone who knows the words can. The more, the merrier."

I reflect his smile with one even stronger.

"Alright," the kricketune says, then begins to tap his foot. "And a-one-two-three, two-two-three…"

He plays the introductory melody, sickles wailing as they rub together. Already it’s so beautiful. Beautiful, yet sorrowful, yet still content in a way. In fact, it’s so captivating that I almost miss the mark of the first lyrics.

The wilderness howls with its winds cold as ice
Beasts roam the land from sunset to sunrise
but would you believe me if I were to say
there's a place with no worries, no fear for the prey...


Verse by verse, the familiar story unfolds. Two denizens of the woods, an eevee and a skitty, love each other dearly and spend each day together in bliss. Their happiness, however, sparks jealousy in the heart of a persian who'd rather have the skitty to himself. Then he devises a sly plan...

Some days later, the eevee finds a delicious apple and sinks his teeth in. They hit a fire stone hidden within, triggering it, and the poor mon evolves into a flareon. He tries to hide, but it's no use - the guardian trevenant sees all, and his rule is absolute: no fire types. All the forest's mon as witness, the flareon is exiled to the cold, cruel wilderness outside the trevenant's protection, all on his own.

But just as the wicked persian thinks he's won, the skitty steps up. She proclaims she would rather face a thousand freezing winters than leave the one she loves, and she leaves the forest behind, disappearing in the fog of the outside.

Whether the two lovers make it in the wilderness is not said. While I'd like to think that they did, the story just wouldn't be as moving if it was told.

I let the last note go. Jeb has done the same with his voice, but the final draw of his sickle still persists until it, too, ceases.

In the silent second that follows, I feel my heart pound from the performance I'd put my soul in. Then the clapping of our audience drowns it out. It's authentic, and that brings a smile to both Jeb's face and mine.

Something hairy softly leans into me. It's Patch. She's smiling too, though shyly.

"Y-you sing really beautifully," she says.

I grin. "Thanks. I like doing it."

I shift my weight, but at that moment realize a feeling I didn't realize before. I clench my teeth - it's rude to leave in the middle like this, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

"Um, excuse me," I say, getting up. "I need to go relieve myself. Where would the place for that be here?"

"Oh, two floors up," answers Ivan. "The door is marked, can't miss it."

I thank him and shuffle out of the circle. Patch gets up too.

"I-I'll come with," she says and skitters to my side.

"Shall we wait for your return?" asks Jeb.

"No, go ahead and continue," I reply. "The show's for the hosts, after all."

He nods, and I begin climbing the stairs, Patch on my tail.

On the next floor, I dare start a conversation. "So did you need to go too?"

"N-no," she replies. "Or maybe I should -- but I just kind of… wanted to be with you. I'm sorry, I'm clingy…"

"No, that's alright! I like company. And you're with new people, it's understandable."

Five steps are taken in silence. Ignoring the chatter downstairs, that is.

"Well… I also wanted to ask about the song," Patch says.

"Uh-huh?"

"This is stupid, but… I-I feel like there's more to the world I don't know now, and…"

"It's okay, you can ask. Asking is never bad."

"Is, um, are trevenant real?"

Just then, we arrive at the destination floor. Just as Ivan said, the door is clearly marked - it has a carving of a holed seat with a raised lid - but I decide I can wait until the end of our conversation.

"Well, I guess it's a bit like it is with Haven," I respond. "Some folks believe, some don't, and you don't really find people that would've been there, as no one who actually got in would want to leave. People do say they've seen entrances, though, and just barely missed them. Trevenant don't want to let just anyone in." Especially not fire types...

"Missed them… so they really move around?"

"Apparently. People say the reason these entrances appear in the first place is to let wild mon in and out to search for other woods or mates. Unlike virtually all other ghosts, trevenant care about the wellbeing and survival of wildlife. It's why they only let in a few civilized mon, like I said. They need to be kind souls and… well, not set the place on fire." I flick my tail.

Patch frowns, staring at her paws. "It sucks that you couldn't go in just because of your type…"

I sigh, but shrug. "I can see where they're coming from. Fire types can be a hazard if they get careless, especially if their flames are always on, like mine. And I suppose we do already have an edge in this world, given our ability to stay warm and surround ourselves with light. Other mon need more help in getting by."

"I guess so…"

The wailing of Jeb's scythes arises from below. It seems they've started the next song.

"Well, I'll just go ahead and take care of business now," I say and open the door. The faint stench confirms that this is indeed the room I want. "See you in a bit."

Patch nods, and I enter the room, shutting the door behind me.

---​

After that's done and Patch has had her turn as well, we head back downstairs to rejoin the merriment. It seems that the timing was just right as the final notes herald our return to the room. We retake our seats during the applause, giving a hand of our own - well, just me, really, as mon like Patch can't really clap.

“Glad you all liked it,” says Jeb. “Now, the next one I’ve got planned I believe is called The Knight and The Maiden. It’s a story again, like the first song I played --”

Screaming.

Screaming cuts the air, slashing at everyone’s eardrums. It yanks the marshtomp upright, as she’s nearest to the window. She rushes to open it - but not before grabbing a torch from the closest sconce. She peers out with widened eyes.

Ivan, along with others, have stood up as well. The incineroar leaps to the window with his own fur glowing from heat. “What is it?”

Just then, the screaming ends. Cut by a sharp silence.

I realize the coarse fur pushing against me. Patch has flattened herself onto my side. She's shivering. I place an arm around her. She flinches, but accepts it. I hope she can't feel my own tenseness. At least stroking her fur helps me as well.

The marshtomp swallows. "Dusclops," she says, throat dry. "Got some lone mon, it seems."

My imagination shows me a visual without my say in the matter - a deathly gray figure marching onwards with steps far too slow for its speed. A single crimson eye burns near its top while dusty smoke pours out from parts of its body, leaving behind a short-lived trail as it approaches the innocent traveler. Closing in, its lips separate to show a growing void, a bottomless hole that stretches to cover nearly its whole body, and when the pale hands have finally grabbed the mon, in it goes. And so the mon is gone, like it had never been there at all.

"Oh, dear…" sighs Ivan. He puts a hand on the marshtomp's shoulder, fire fizzled out of his fur.

Each mon lowers their head, staring at the floor. The passimian of the group performs some gesture. Must be a blessing. The tangrowth next to him - Kunal - nods.

Ivan inhales sharply, puffing his chest, then straightens his back. "Well," he begins as he turns to us, "we should be thankful, then, that we have this safety. And should anyone else seek refuge here, we will welcome them."

Patch still shivers. I bring my other arm to her too and squeeze her in a gentle hug.

"We're safe," I whisper. "There are lights all around."

She gives a small acknowledging whine.

“But how about we let our guests continue their show, huh?” Ivan’s voice regains some cheer. “Better to be thankful with smiles rather than frowns. What do you say, Mister Kricketune?”

“Hmm, I believe you have a point,” answers Jeb. “Who wants to hear that knight song?”

Weak but positive hums and nods come from the crowd.

“Sounds like a yes,” says Ivan and moves to the door at the end of the room. “Say, how about some costume play? I think I saw some armor in this closet before --”

The marshtomp dashes to him. “Whoa, don’t just open that! There might be more sableye.”

“Wait, more Sableye?” interjects Paul. Patch pushes onto me harder.

“Um… right, yes,” says Ivan, scratching behind his head. “There are sableye in the basement. But they’re under control!” he adds, raising his palms to soothe Paul who’s gotten up in a hurry. “They only care about the treasure, like sableye do, and we’ve boarded the door downstairs. As long as we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us. We didn’t tell you before so you wouldn’t be worried for nothing.”

He clears his throat. “Anyway, yes - good point, Alma, but I’ve checked this closet before and there were no sableye.”

“Still, it’s dark in there,” Alma insists. “It doesn’t hurt to be careful.”

Ivan nods, and so his fur lights up again. He opens the door, and while Alma winces, there seems to be nothing dangerous within. I hear a few sighs, including one from Patch.

Ivan enters the room, and soon clanking can be heard. “Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of stuff here. I can definitely work with this. Though it might take a while...” He returns to the frame. “Oh, Jeb, do feel free to start already. I’ll just make my dramatic entrance a little bit in.” With that said, he dives back in, drawing the door shut. “Oh, cool sword...”

Jeb clears his throat and stretches his sickles. “Alright, so, The Knight and The Maiden. It’s not very groundbreaking when it comes to plotlines, but if it’s tried-and-true, why change it. I just hope no dragon in the audience takes this personally.” He chuckles, then focuses. “And a-one, and a-two, and a-one-two-thr-”

Clang!

It sounds like something fell, something pretty heavy and big. Several mon gasped, and I could feel Patch flinch. Now her fur has risen on end.

“Everything alright in there?” asks Alma.

No response. A knot forms in my stomach.

I see the marshtomp’s lips tighten, as if to say this was no time for pranks. She opens the door. “Ivan?”

A shining edge slashes across her throat.

Her hand leaves the door handle and grasps her throat, but it's no use. Blood pours out of the gaping wound, and in shock, she falls onto her back with an unceremonious thump.

She does not get up.

For a second or two, silence reigns. No one knows what to say, what to do.

Then, steps.

From the crack of the door, a figure emerges. Incineroar, Ivan. But not Ivan. The Ivan we’d seen only moments ago had vibrant stripes, glowing red-orange, but this Ivan only has gray. Pale gray, like ash.

But there are other colors - in his right hand, he holds a sword with a bloodied silver blade and a golden hilt. From the hilt stares an azure jewel like an eye, and from the pommel stems an ethereal sash of the same hue. It wraps around his arm, breaking up into shreds and finally strands that dig into the flesh itself. Its blue glow, as if spread to Ivan's whole interior, shines out the incineroar's expressionless eyes as he slowly walks towards Alma.

I hear Jeb gasp a word. "Honedge…"

This Ivan, this shell of Ivan, reaches the body of the marshtomp. He -- no, it raises its sword again, blade pointed down, down at the body --

Twack!

An arrow sinks into the incineroar's skull.

Paul has stood up and fired. His bow and quiver had been right next to him, and his reaction had been lightning fast. I see mon of Ivan's group with widened eyes and even raised forelimbs, but it seems their shouts had been held back by a shared realization - that as much as they'd loved Ivan, this shot was justified. Paul had been the hero we needed. He has saved us.

But the incineroar still stands.

Not just stands - plunges its sword into Alma's belly with a sickening squish. Vivid red begins to creep up the blade, following thin grooves to form a pattern that doesn't deserve to be as beautiful as it is.

Paul, finally snapped out of the shock of his headshot not killing, reaches for another arrow.

"Don't!" hisses Jeb. "It won't do a thing, and you won't get that arrow back!"

Paul does stop, but he hisses back. "What else can we do?"

"We can't stop it," Jeb rasps. "We have to run. Now!"

I trust Jeb. I push myself up to my feet, slamming my tail to the ground for a boost. I’m about to nudge Patch for encouragement, but she’s already up. It seems she jolted the moment she felt me move.

The floor thumps as the few others still down rise up and the ones on their feet speed for the doorway behind us. It startles the primitive part of my mind to see so many come towards me at once -- but then something worse overrides it. The incineroar has seen our motions. Fire blazes from its belt - blue fire - and shoots down along its left leg, diving into the floorboards, coming for us, oh shit!

“Look out!” shouts Paul, but I’ve already reacted, grabbed Patch and leapt to the side. The mon speeding for the door all halt, their destination now aflame. Frightened curses leave their mouths.

“How are we gonna --” starts Jason, but the passimian cuts him off.

“Alma!” he shouts, light in his eyes. Then he remembers. The light dies.

Alma’s gone, that’s right, the one water type is gone. But then what can we… I mean, I'd be fine, but the others --

“I-I can do it!” shouts a new voice. The sandaconda. “J-just stand back!”

Of course, his sand, it could work! I move to give space -- "Look out!"

The serpent barely avoids the incoming chop of the incineroar's sword, perhaps only saved by my call. He slithers frantically for the doorway, but the monster has realized his importance -- and it's faster. Another raise of its sword, no, I have to do something!

I fuel the fire within, building up all the smoke I can, and puff a thick cloud of black at the incineroar. It envelops its face, removes its vision, it can’t strike, yes! The sandaconda slides past me and inhales - I take it as a sign to cover my eyes - and there it comes, the swoosh.

"Come on!" he shouts, he's succeeded and I want to go - but no, I should go last, I'm fiery.

"Patch, go!" I shout, but the girl freezes up with startled eyes. "I'll be fine!" I swear and push her, and finally she obeys, leaping after the mon rushing out.

The smoke begins to thin, its dissipation sped up by the incineroar’s fanning. Blue eyes shine through the gray veil, and they find me fast. I check the doorway - the last mon is out. My turn now.

I dash through. The blue flames at the edges - which have spread alarmingly quickly - lick my scales. They don’t hurt, per se, but if natural flames were sweet, these would be bitter.

I’m about to leap down the stairs, but someone’s standing in the middle. Patch.

“What are you doing?” I shout. “Go!”

She flinches, but doesn’t move. “But y-your stuff...” she says, staring upstairs.

“It doesn’t matter! We need to --”

A glint flashes from the corner of my eye, and I follow my instinct to duck. A bloodied blade swings right above my head.

“Go!” I scream, leaping down, and thankfully Patch dodges and breaks into a run herself. Heavy thumps chase us as we descend floor after floor - but a few steps from ground floor, I hear something else. Crackling. From above.

Then a crash.

Sensing imminent danger, I leap the last steps and slam the side of my tail into Patch. We fly forth just in time to dodge the collapsing stairs above.

This place is breaking down. How fast did those flames spread?

"Come on!" shouts a figure in the frame of the front door - Paul. He shouldn't have stayed behind...

Patch whimpers as she clambers up from my strike. I hope she wasn't hurt too badly. We rush out of the door, escaping even more crackling from above.

The night outside has practically fallen in full. The rest of the group is not hard to find given their light - someone must have grabbed a light from a sconce on the way out. Dangerous, but even more dangerous would be to venture out into pitch black. For them, anyway, I do have my tail…

Before I can ask Paul if the monster's still behind us, the crackling of the building surges. Structure gives way, and stones fall with deafening clacks and thumps. A fluttering orange glow lights up the grass and dirt around us, and the earth tremors like Groudon himself had awakened --

And then it's quiet.

I'd told myself not to look back once the moment I rushed out, but this… could this mean we're safe?

Others have had the same thought and stopped. Once I've reached them, I let myself look.

The tower that once stood there had now disappeared. In its place lay a giant mound of boulders and broken, burning beams.

There's no sight of the incineroar. It must have been buried under all that rubble. And even if the sword is powerful, the body that carries it is pinned down, isn't it?

I look to Jeb for answers and notice the others have done the same.

Having met the glances of each, he finally speaks.

"Well, I doubt he'll come back - but whatever the case may be, we should keep moving. We need to find new shelter."

Everyone nods, more or less. In that brief silence, I hear Patch's breathing - far too fast and mixed with sniffles.

"H-hey, it's okay, we're gonna be safe," I tell her, crouching to be level with her distorted face. "Listen, I'll carry you for a while, you can catch your breath that way."

But she whines. "N-no… no, I --"

More rumbling cuts the air. Stones roll down the hill of rubble. At their origin, a gray-black figure wriggles to emerge. Eyes shining blue, it holds up its sword, the blade still bloodied, shining and as straight as ever.

Jeb wheezes. "No, that's…"

The creature stands up despite its mangled body… and comes for us.

"Run!" someone yells, but it's a redundant call. Every mon scrambles to flee, scattering at first but soon following the buzz of Jeb's wings. We run towards the forest in the distance, opposite the hill we once scaled, and do not look back towards our pursuer.

Or they don't. But I have to, as the last of our group is Patch, and she's wheezing in hyperventilation. It's cutting into her speed -- and then, she trips.

"Patch!" I stop and run for her, but the glare of the monster freezes my insides. It's so close, in fact, so close that it might reach Patch before I can pick her up and flee, and it's only walking right now - if it were to sprint, there'd be no question, and surely it would sprint to catch its prey, but then -- then what do I do? Could I spit smoke in its face like before to buy us time? No, the wind is blowing towards me and it's strong, it'd only hinder us if anything --

Patch's glistening eyes have met mine, and she wails, but not for help. Sobs and wheezes slip between her words. "No! Leave me! It's all my fault! I'm gonna get you all killed!"

She's not even trying to get up. "Patch!" Snap out of it! Fight for your life!

And then it happens - the incineroar speeds up. Its freezing stare, its deadly blade only meters away, they surge my primal fear, reminding me that this monster can and will kill me if I advance. They tell me that I should stop. That it's not worth it. That Patch is right and I should save myself.

But I promised. I promised I'd keep her safe. I promised her and I promised myself. No mon should be left behind. No mon should have to die.

The monster raises its sword, preparing to strike.

And my feet betray my morals.

Hisss!

The incineroar recoils, its sword swaying aimlessly. Something's leapt onto its back, something dark, another ghost?

No, who cares, this is our chance!

"Patch!" I shout, forcing myself to approach again. She looks up, clambers up, thank the Gods, she's seeing the chance, too!

The incineroar snarls in the background, flailing around its blade and claws to catch the creature crawling on it - a creature with glimmering spots among its shadowy body, sableye! It's enough of a distraction for Patch to find her footing and leap onwards, to me, and I seize her by the scruff and grab her into my arms before she can protest. Squeezing the poochyena tight, I run back for our group, or more towards their light as they've fled quite far now.

Behind us, the sableye - joined now by more of its peers, judging by the noise - keeps hissing and screeching, presumably trying to steal the jewel at the hilt of the sword, or perhaps taking revenge on the first one it saw to blame for the destruction of its home. Maybe even both. I'm just thankful those things didn't go for me instead.

"Y-you shouldn't carry me," says Patch. But as she's not wriggling out of my hold, I can safely ignore her. I'm not letting her try anything suicidal again.

I keep running. I worry that the fading commotion behind us will surge again, or worse, the incineroar will catch up on us silently, but occasional glances reveal that isn't happening.

As the adrenaline wears off and Patch starts to feel heavier and heavier, I decide that perhaps it really is safe to let her down now.

I stop for just a second to lower her to the ground. She follows my brisk walk afterwards, which I knew she would, but I still feel relieved.

The light ahead of us is quite dim. It seems carrying her slowed me down - not that I’m the fastest in general, though, reptile and all - but I know they’ll eventually see my flame and come back for me. At least Jeb and Paul. Jason I don’t know about. I never really know about Jason.

The noises behind us have quieted, though. Nothing blue is shining, either. Who knows how that brawl turned out. Sableye are way quicker and slicker than any of us, and they have no flesh for that sword-thing to dig into. Ghosts have their own kinds of attacks, too…

I suppose if that’s no longer an immediate threat, I can spare to spill a few words.

I look at Patch. She’s walking with her head held low. Maybe she doesn’t want to talk right now, but this needs to be settled.

“Patch… why didn’t you run?”

She winces. Then, a deep breath. "Because I deserve to die."

My stomach turns. "No, Patch, that's nonsense. Why would you think that?"

She breaks into sobbing. "Because it's my fault this all happened…"

"No, it's not. How could it possibly be?"

"I-I didn't see that ghost in the sword," she stutters. "But I'm a dark type, I should see ghosts, so c-clearly I wasn't paying attention a-and now two mon are --"

I have to stop now. I grab Patch by the head and force her to face me. Her face is all scrunched up again, and her teary eyes still avoid mine.

"Patch, please. Ivan didn't see that ghost either, and he was focused. None of this is your fault."

"No, Ivan isn't -- wasn't dark, he couldn't --"

I raise a brow. "Ivan was dark, what are you talking about?"

She returns my gaze now, equally confused. "But he was an incineroar…"

"Yeah, fire and dark."

"...Really?" Her face brightens somewhat.

"Yeah. What did you think?"

"Fire and fighting…" she mumbles. A little snort leaves her snout. "I-I'm so dumb…" she says, but there's a faint smile in her voice. It makes me smile too. This is just absurd…

"Well, do you see how it wasn't your fault now?" I ask.

She sighs. "Yeah."

I let go of her face, and we resume walking.

"Even if it had been your fault," I add, "it would've just been a mistake, you know? An understandable one. Everyone thought the tower was safe. And no one was expecting a haunted sword… only Jeb seemed to know what that was, and he was surprised too."

"Uh-huh..." She still sounds unsure.

I sigh. "Listen… you shouldn't let these things think you're not worth saving, alright? Everyone's worth saving. Even Jason. Don't tell him I said that. But he's kind of a prick."

She snorts, then nods. Maybe that's good enough for now.

The light ahead seems to be strengthening now. We must be catching up.

Hold on. Something's moving over there…

I tense up. Patch tenses up too. She's a lot more alert than she gives herself credit for.

A dark silhouette approaches between the trees. A ghost?

Beginning to gather fire inside myself, I call out. "Who goes there?"

No response for a second. But then…

"It's me, Paul!"

I sigh in relief. That's the simisage I know.

His silhouette rapidly sharpens as he sprints for us, and soon my flame illuminates his face. "Annie! Are you okay?"

I nod. "Patch is, too."

He exhales, then slumps over to catch his breath. "That's good. That's good…"

He points a thumb behind him. "Let's hurry back. We don't wanna worry the others."

We nod and follow Paul as he heads back for the light. On the way, I catch him up on what happened to us and the incineroar, but leave out Patch's moment of weakness.

"Saved by sableye, huh," the simisage muses. "Can't be a common occurrence."

"Well, I'm glad to be reminded that not all ghosts are out to get us," I say.

Not long after that, we reach the rest of the group, who have sat down around a flimsy fire of twigs while waiting for Paul to return. They all seem relieved that all of us made it back in one piece, even if the other group's members have known us for less than a day. That's the kindness of our fellow mon. Without it, we surely would have all perished by now.

We repeat what I told Paul, and Jeb listens keenly, stroking his moustache.

"I do hope those sableye succeeded in stealing that jewel," he says. "From the tales I know, that's where a honedge's power resides, and I doubt anyone wants a murderous swordsmon roaming around."

One of the other group's members, the nidorina, hesitantly steps closer with a dejected look. "So… is Ivan really…"

Jeb's expression mirrors hers. "I believe so. I'm sorry."

The nidorina sniffles and nods. The other members gather close to her, equally dispirited.

"It really can't be easy to lose two members of your group in one day," Jeb continues. "And in such a sudden, cruel way at that…"

"Gods, Alma," wheezes another group member, the watchog, in realization. "I-I wanted to tell her…"

A strange noise interrupts the moment.

A low hum has slithered into the air. It sounds hollow, airy, like a wooden flute. As it grows stronger, so does a strange glow up ahead, ethereal green.

"Another ghost?" asks the nidorina, tense.

Jeb stares at the glow, pensive. Then he turns to Paul. "Paul, do you feel…"

Paul nods faintly. "It feels… lively. Grassy…"

He looks at Kunal. The tangrowth nods as well. What do they mean?

Something hairy touches my leg - Patch.

"It feels like a ghost," she quietly says. "A strong one…"

A ghost. Grassy. Powerful. Could it be…?

"Annie, can you lead us?" asks Jeb.

My answer is obvious.

I sprint for the light. The others tail me with varying degrees of eagerness. Our queue soon arrives in an opening, and from there, we can clearly see the source of the glow.

At the opposite edge, a circular arc of brilliant green light has formed. It frames a view of a lush forest, starkly contrasting the sickly gray trees around it.

A hoof steps through the portal, and a rare sight emerges - a sawsbuck. Dense vegetation covers its crown of antlers, fluttering in the wind as it saunters without fear into our barren realm.

Its noble demeanor quickly crumbles, however, as a madly dashing Jason startles it into a leaping run.

“Jason, slow down!” Jeb calls after him, but the purugly doesn’t seem to care, still rapidly approaching the gate. It’s hasty, but maybe Jason has a point. We wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity…

We sprint after the feline. He's running like the gate was already closing, though it doesn't seem to be fading or changing in any way. Finally, he reaches it and --

Bonk.

An invisible barrier stops Jason in his tracks. At the site of impact, symbols appear, drawn in more of that green light - but they're completely foreign to me.

"Wh…" Jason shakes off the shock of the collision. "Hey, lemme in!"

He paws at the barrier, but the same symbols appear, brightening and fading with each touch.

The passimian of the group now also zooms for the gate, not that we're that far behind. He reaches the gate and extends a hand…

It goes through. No light stopping him.

Jason stares at the hand, dumbfounded, then tackles the barrier again. The light blocks him. He grimaces. "No fair!"

But the passimian looks back at us, eyes alight with wonder. Hesitantly, he smiles. Then grins.

"Come on!" he says, gesturing at us, and it gets us to hurry the last meters.

The nidorina makes it first. She tries the barrier and goes through. The elation spreads to her, too, and laughter leaves them both. It warms my heart, stronger than any flame could. Even if… I already know I can't follow.

But Patch! A safe place for Patch! I turn to the poochyena. She's smiling as well, albeit more hesitantly. She's also not rushing for the gate - she only ran with us not to fall behind.

"Try it, Patch," I urge her. "See if you can get in!"

Her smile slips off, and she shrinks. "O-oh, no, I don't think I'd be…"

Gods, not this again. I repress a groan as I know that wouldn't make things any better.

"Just try it," I say. "There's no harm in that, right?"

It seems my warm smile encourages her enough. Cautiously, she approaches the barrier, each step slower than the next. And the final… goes through.

Patch looks at me in disbelief.

“You can be safe now,” I say.

A smile creeps onto her face, but then… it melts away.

“You can’t come with,” she says.

I nod, solemn.

“B-but… just try! M-maybe you can after a-”

I cut her short with a touch of the barrier. Red symbols light up against my hand.

Patch’s ears flatten. “Oh...”

“It’s alright,” I tell her. “I’ll be fine. I’ve survived so far, and...” I flick my tail, drawing a streak of fire. “I’ve got this.”

I look to the other group. It seems all the members have gotten in. They’re sniffing the leaves, touching them, taking in the atmosphere so different from the outside world. The watchog has already started munching on the grass. By her expression, it’s the best darn grass she’s ever had.

"And you've got them," I add to Patch. "You won't be alone in your new home."

"Y-yeah," says the nidorina, shuffling closer to the Patch. "We promise to take care of you."

"Th-thanks…" Patch turns back to me. "But what about you? Won't you be alone?"

I look back to Jeb and Paul. Paul's stuck himself halfway through the barrier to sniff the much cleaner air, but Jeb hasn't moved. The simisage notices my stare and returns it. He frowns.

"It's alright," I sigh, smiling at both. "You should go. You deserve it. A-and, well…" No, don't let your voice waver! "I-I do have Jason..."

Jeb shakes his head. "I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind."

His words twist my guts. But in a good way. But also in a bad way… I don’t know.

“How about you, Paul?” Jeb asks the simisage.

Paul glances between me and the woods - then pulls back, scoffing. “I don’t wanna live in some goody-two-shoes garden, I’m a rebel!” He knocks his chest and walks to my side.

My organs reach a full turn-around. “Guys… y-you don’t have to...”

Jeb places a sickle on my shoulder. “We want to.”

I can't find the words for a response. I'm just… very thankful.

A hum arises. The same one as before, which I suppose I didn't notice quieting. But that must mean…

I check the frame of the gate, and indeed, it's slowly shrinking. The others take quick notice as well.

"Well," I sigh, staring into Patch's misty eyes, "I guess it's time to say goodbye."

She shrinks. "R-right…" She takes a shaking breath in. "Goodb-bye…"

Her voice jams a shard of glass right into my heart. No, no, I can't leave her, she's breaking apart - that's what it screams, the foolish organ, but this is how it must be. She'll be safer this way. She gets the haven she deserves.

But to soothe the pain in my core and hers, there's something I can still do, and if I can do it, I must.

I get to my knees and open my arms. Patch needs no words to understand. She leaps into my embrace, pressing hard against my neck. I squeeze her back. Her fur is soft, and her chest heaves with sobs. I close my eyes to just feel the moment.

It ends too soon. Jeb says something about the portal closing up, and I have to let go. Patch sees the green rim approaching and pulls back herself.

I give her one last smile. "Goodbye, Patch."

She smiles back. "Goodbye, Annie…"

One last thought crosses my mind.

"Actually… goodbye, Kirka."

She flinches - but right before the window shrinks to nothing, I see her smile grow the widest I've ever seen it.

Whatever the future may bring, I know I'll never forget that sparkle in her eyes.

---

END
 
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Starlight Aurate

Ad Jesum per Mariam
Location
Route 123
Partners
  1. mightyena
Hey! I've been looking at some of the contest one-shots, and I wanted to give yours a look! I kept misreading the title as "In Search of Heaven," and by the way the characters think of Haven, I don't think my misreading was very far off. I'll do a line-by-line review, with more thoughts at the end.

Quick question: any particular reason you refer to Pokemon as "mon" here? Is that a typical PMD thing?

Also I LOVE the artwork you did of Patch and Annie! So cute.

But what's that smell? It's not from the arrow. Smells like… I don't know what mon specifically, but some kind of medium-to-large mammal, and that should be edible. There's still hope for a proper dinner!
The mention of a mammal caught me off-guard. Would Mandibuzz also count as an avian or a bird?

“Come on, it wasn’t that far,” I groan, “and we’re hungry… it’ll just take a while!”
I think "it's" should have a capital I, since "It'll just take a while!" is a complete sentence and wouldn't connect to "and we're hungry," except with a semicolon.

“I can take a bit of rain,” I keep going. “You know that. And Paul only likes it!”
The word "only" threw me off here.

On our way, I worry if the mammal has alreadyleft, but luckily, I soon catch the scent again.
Missing a space between "already" and "left."
I also think you could find a better term than "if," since this sentence isn't an "if... then" scenario. Something along the lines of, "I worry that the mammal may have already left..."

Head held low, I watch the mon from a safe yet gradually shrinking distance. It seems to be a poochyena. I prefer to eat herbivores, but if it's a carnivore or nothing, the choice is --
I wonder why his food preference is the way it is; is there something about herbivores that makes them tastier? Is it that carnivores may have more meat digesting in their stomach while they're being eaten?

A twig snaps underneath my foot, perking up the poochyena's ears.
This could be two sentences. The way it reads right now, the twig is what perks up the poochyena's ears--when it should be the sound the twig makes that causes such.

It's civil like us.
Missing a comma after "civil."

Initially, I lead, but soon change places with Paul behind me to give the tagalong poochyena some better company.
I like the little display of his pride here--it's a nice show of his personality!

“I’m Patch,” Patch says, then realizes her mistake and withdraws into tense silence.
I'm surprised that Paul and Annie didn't respond to this. Annie only makes a mention of "her mistake," but otherwise neither of them react to it. Is Patch just awkward? Or does she just have some sort of short-term memory loss?

“...Sorry. You don’t have to answer.”
You want a space between the ellipsis and "Sorry."

Patch crying about how she feels that she'll fail no matter what and either others will die or she'll be left behind got me! It's so easy to relate to, especially with her feeling so insecure and scared.

“I’m gonna take care of you, and I won’t let you go until we either find a better group for you or Haven itself. I promise.”
You might want to switch "a better group..." and "Haven itself," because, with the way it's currently written, it reads that they're looking for a better group for Patch or they're looking for a better group for Haven itself. "... I won't let you go until we either find Haven itself or a better group for you," is less confusing.

I enjoy the scene where they perform and sing songs together--this is something my friends and I do a lot, and it's a lot of fun and definitely a good way to grow closer to each other.

"But he was an incineroar…"

"Yeah, fire and dark."

"...Really?" Her face brightens somewhat.

"Yeah. What did you think?"

"Fire and fighting…"
Hehe, nice one.

"Annie! Are you okay?"
HAHAHA I love references like these!

Hesitantly, he smiles. Then grins.
I think you could do without the "Then grins" part, since grinning is smiling.

I liked the ending; it was sweet to see Annie refer to Patch by her real name and for Patch to have a heartwarming goodbye. In general, I like Annie's overall positivity. It really helps to have a protagonist who stays cheery and keeps things going instead of dwelling on the negatives. As the judges said, it can sometimes come across as her being oblivious to inner conflict, but I liked her overall.

I think this is a good story! I'm not really into PMD or post-apocalyptic world, but I think this managed to be a cute story (at least until Honedge-possessed Ivan pops up). It managed to avoid feeling depressing or dark until Ivan is possessed, and I think that's a good thing. In a post-apocalyptic setting, I'd totally expect this to be a darkfic, but the characters and mood of the first half make it balanced.

That being said, I found the pacing of this--especially the first half--to be slow. About a third of the way into the story, I knew the Pokemon were searching for Haven, but I didn't understand how they chose where to look or why certain types were seen as bad. The Honedge possesses Ivan later on, so if all Ghost types are like that, then that makes sense. I only got the stigma about Dark types in that they're expected to detect Ghost types, but didn't see what was otherwise so bad about them. And the ending was cute, but I didn't see why the portal locked out Jason and Annie. Was it due to their typing? I might have missed something, but looking back, I didn't see anything that alluded to it. At the end, I get the idea that the fic is supposed to be about Patch being found, loved, and finding her way to Haven after a road of suffering, but I felt like it took a bit for her to appear (although tbh that's probs my own impatience). I think some of the beginning--with the descriptions of the Mandibuzz--could have been cut out.

I still think this is an enjoyable one-shot, and I'm glad you posted it for all of us to read!
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
Quick question: any particular reason you refer to Pokemon as "mon" here? Is that a typical PMD thing?

I think a bunch of other PMD authors do it as well, but I decided to go for it on my own. It's just simply that "mon" is a shorter, more convenient word and sounds more natural than "pokémon", not to mention we know pokémon is a shortening of "pocket monster" which doesn't really make any sense in a PMD world. "Mon" also resembles "man", which centuries ago meant "human" gender-neutrally.

The mention of a mammal caught me off-guard. Would Mandibuzz also count as an avian or a bird?

Naturally, as it is very much based on a vulture and has no traits that significantly point to a non-bird animal. A Pokémon that was more like a griffon would be harder to categorize, but for these simpler cases I use common words to group them together.

I think "it's" should have a capital I, since "It'll just take a while!" is a complete sentence and wouldn't connect to "and we're hungry," except with a semicolon.

This is actually something I used to do, but I got complaints about it looking inconsistent. Since I didn't want to capitalize words mid-sentence, I opted to keep them lowercase in all cases outside names or such.

I wonder why his food preference is the way it is; is there something about herbivores that makes them tastier? Is it that carnivores may have more meat digesting in their stomach while they're being eaten?

I think herbivore meat is generally considered better or more normal to eat than carnivore meat on this planet, so I figured the same might apply here. I'm not a meat connoisseur myself so I'm not totally sure what's behind that, but it may have something to do with the ecological efficiency - a herbivore needs a certain amount of vegetation available to sustain itself, but a carnivore needs to eat multiple herbivores to sustain itself (since it cannot absorb all the bioenergy gone into the flesh), meaning it requires multiple times the vegetation a herbivore would.

I'm surprised that Paul and Annie didn't respond to this. Annie only makes a mention of "her mistake," but otherwise neither of them react to it. Is Patch just awkward? Or does she just have some sort of short-term memory loss?

Just awkward - she's the type to overthink social situations and, say, tell the waiter "you too" when told to enjoy her meal.

I only got the stigma about Dark types in that they're expected to detect Ghost types, but didn't see what was otherwise so bad about them.

There actually isn't supposed to be a stigma at all against Dark types - they're revered because of their ability to detect and combat ghosts. This unfortunately means pressure to perform for some or a mistaken belief of that pressure existing, as it is with Patch's case.

And the ending was cute, but I didn't see why the portal locked out Jason and Annie. Was it due to their typing? I might have missed something, but looking back, I didn't see anything that alluded to it.

This passage explains it:

"Well, I guess it's a bit like it is with Haven," I respond. "Some folks believe, some don't, and you don't really find people that would've been there, as no one who actually got in would want to leave. People do say they've seen entrances, though, and just barely missed them. Trevenant don't want to let just anyone in." Especially not fire types...

"Missed them… so they really move around?"

"Apparently. People say the reason these entrances appear in the first place is to let wild mon in and out to search for other woods or mates. Unlike virtually all other ghosts, trevenant care about the wellbeing and survival of wildlife. It's why they only let in a few civilized mon, like I said. They need to be kind souls and… well, not set the place on fire." I flick my tail.

Jason, it seems, is not a kind soul, and Annie as a Charmeleon would cause fires with her tail.

Thank you for the read and review! Glad to hear you enjoyed it.
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. custom/purrloin-salem
  2. custom/sneasel-dusk
Hey Cani! This was a fantastic read, and I'm so pleased to have finally got around to it.

As promised, I was highly invested in the main character duo, Annie and Patch. Patch's characterisation is spot-on throughout, with her anxieties being specific, justified, and shown. The way Annie does her best to handle Patch's nerves is wonderful, and I was rooting for them both enormously. Annie herself is a lovely and heroic figure, and I didn't realise until after I'd finished how much I appreciate a story with a genuinely good and decent female lead capable of and willing to bodily carry a friend to safety. As you know, I'm a sucker for cute f/f pairings, but my investment in these two has nothing to do with my shipping preferences. They make a really sweet dynamic irrespective of that.

The rest of the cast were fun and interesting, and I like that you had some unusual takes on a few species and some less common species show up as characters. I did find that you could have done with one or two fewer, or some additional attention to their description, as I found myself having to check species a couple of times. It didn't especially harm my enjoyment of the story, but it was an additional effort for me with my crapshoot memory.

The worldbuilding isn't 100% thorough and consistent, but it is compelling. The way that almost every decision and behaviour of the cast is informed by the nature of the apocalypse they're facing without dumping a shedload of exposition on the reader is rather well-executed. I also just plain like the concepts! Dark types being a desirable asset for their favourable matchup against ghosts, for example, is a take I can't believe I'vve not seen elsewhere, as it's very compelling. There was a real feel of desperation and ever-present struggle over resources and risks. And yet, the bulk of the characters are fundamentally kind and generous, which was a wonderful contrast to the dark tone of the setting and something I really appreciated. I love when altruism is framed as advantageous instead of foolish in apocalyptic fiction.

In terms of storytelling, I found pacing, plot and prose all to be in good nick. In particular, I want to praise the framing of individual scenes. I found myself constantly wanting to illustrate favourite moments from this fic. The arrow landing at Patch's feet, the pokémon gathering round to enjoy folk songs, the tension of the clatter in the armoury and subsequent attack, Ivan standing amidst rubble with the honedge held aloft, Annie carrying Patch, Annie with her claw against the barrier. This is a story with a great many striking, memorable scenes which left strong visual impressions on me despite being presented in a prose medium.

In terms of criticism, I could certainly find a few nitpicks, (actually the only nitpick I really care about is that Jason's barrier to entry over his implicit flawed character wasn't as intuitive as Annie's, and I found myself double-checking that he was a purugly and not a torracat with a fire typing) but the only actual significant point of contention for me is the choice of conclusion. I fully expected that Patch would want to stay with Annie, and choose the positive relationship with her friend over the possibility of a safer life with strangers, and for Annie to have to fight to get Patch to stay (whether successful or not). The lack of turmoil over Patch staying felt incongrous with what the story had worked so hard to get me to care about (that Annie's friendship is transformative for Patch) and with the folk tale mentioned previously. It's not that I don't like the ending or anything, but it's the one scene I felt didn't hit the same as the rest.

I understand your desire to leave this to rest after spending so long on it, but I'd like you to know I think it's one of your strongest pieces I've yet read, I enjoyed it tremendously, and I'd love to read more from you with this setting/with these characters/in this vein. Hell, I'd even give this an editing pass for no other reason than that it's now one of my favourite oneshots. No joke! Cheers Cani, I'm looking forward to reading more of your work, mate. See you then!
 

Jedi Shulk

Master Driver
From the crack of the door, a figure emerges. Incineroar, Ivan. But not Ivan. The Ivan we’d seen only moments ago had vibrant stripes, glowing red-orange, but this Ivan only has gray. Pale gray, like ash.

But there are other colors - in his right hand, he holds a sword with a bloodied silver blade and a golden hilt. From the hilt stares an azure jewel like an eye, and from the pommel stems an ethereal sash of the same hue. It wraps around his arm, breaking up into shreds and finally strands that dig into the flesh itself. Its blue glow, as if spread to Ivan's whole interior, shines out the incineroar's expressionless eyes as he slowly walks towards Alma.

You were supposed to fight the sword fighters! Not join them!
 
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