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kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
krookodile_tears_title-01_30.png

When the world was younger than you are now, a great tragedy befell the desert, and the krookodile wept. Listen and learn, child, from the Two who warred for the Dragonmother’s heart.” // It’s easier to excuse when it could never happen to you.

first gift: the seeds
second gift: the flame
third gift: the river
※​


author's note: this may be familiar to some readers of the envy of eden, as it was initially published as a super long, kind of out of place chapter. ultimately I decided it would work better as a standalone, so here we are. some tweaks have been made, so if you've read it before, it might look a little new. this is a threeshot that will update suNdays, for old times' sake.

preferred crit: I'm open for anything!

cw: there is a slight mention of blood (akin to biting your tongue) in the second chapter, and some death in the third chapter
 
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first gift: the seeds

kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
※​

first gift: the seeds

※​

They don’t bind you when they take you to your judgment, and you’re grateful for the dignity that affords you. Besides, you know that even if you wanted to run, there’s nowhere for you to go. Without Nali you would stray from the path and quickly fall to the sun, no doubt. Without the sanhim, you would surely be able to live, but the shame would fester at your insides until the day you died.

The sun had just been peeking over the horizon when your group had started, and as the grasslands turn to sand beneath your feet, the shadows grow long and the winds slow. Despite your apprehension, despite your shame, it’s impossible to see these lands as anything but beautiful. Beyond the Southern Stones where you’d been born, the river washed into the grasslands; thick marshes buzzed with life. The landscape was broken up by craggy, overturned stones, but beyond that, the land was flat to the horizon, like a river’s stone run smooth.

This far from home, the ground forms dunes undulating across the horizon, looming ever-larger as they snake into the distance. The land beneath your feet is ground to a fine, orange powder that shifts as you stumble through it. The land that holds your judgment feels softer somehow, even as shame curdles in your chest.

Nali croons something to the sanhim, pointing with one spike-studded arm towards the horizon. The sanhim nods and adjusts course in response to the maractus’ advice, and the two of them plod on in shared silence. You trail behind them, hunched against the bright sun. The sanhim’s ceremonial cloak is a deep red; as the grass becomes more and more sparse and the oranges of the desert are all the remain, he remains the lone flower. Your gaze traces downward, to where his staff makes circular imprints, in even sync with his footprints, and then further down the line to Nali. The maractus bobs evenly, the swings of her arms almost exaggerated, placing one stubby foot in the direct center of the sanhim’s sandalprint each time.

Nali you have known your entire life. She’s young as far as maractus go, only fifty and barely up to your waist. You’ve been told stories of how she taught you how to walk—the bright pinks of her flowers were too tempting, and she would proudly take one step backwards and another until you finally crawled after her.

She watched you when you were young. You swallow past the uncomfortably tight knot in your throat. She didn’t have to come here today. The sanhim knows the way, even if Nali knows the shortcuts. And between you and the sanhim, you could’ve carried enough water for the both of you. But you suspect she came for you, and that knowledge gives you the strength to keep walking after her.

The dunes grow taller and closer; they cast long shadows and tower over you by the time you finally reach your destination. Lost in a walking trance, you don’t notice when Nali chirps something, and you crash into the sanhim’s extended arm. And then you look up. What you thought was a great dune shifts and sways, and then sand begins to cascade down its base as the peak stirs. Red shards flash silver in the sunset as the earth stirs to life, and with a lazy tailflick the biggest krookodile you’ve seen in your entire life emerges, the gap between her yawning jaws as large as you are tall.

“Samira,” the sanhim says solemnly, while Nali bows low next to him. “We have brought Baku of the Southern Stones for your judgment.”

The sands around Samira’s legs shiver as well, and another krookodile emerges, staring haughtily down at you. This one is closer to regular size, its wedged head as large as your torso and its body twice your height, but your heart still catches in your throat—when you cast your gaze around the dunes, you see dozens of pairs of beady black eyes peeking back from the sand. There is a low, vibrating hiss. You can’t tell from where.

“His tongue is heavy and his ears are young,” the sanhim explains in response. “As such I must use the dancer’s tongue for him to understand in full, and he must do the same to be heard. Forgive us the disrespect. Were it anything but asking your judgment, we would make do without it, but I fear he will only feel like justice is dealt if his words are also heard.” He waits for a moment. Another hiss, this one higher-pitched; the sanhim’s head tilts to the krookodile on the left. “Yes. That is likely part of why this happened. I cannot disagree.”

Samira does not look at you. Slowly, impassively, she turns her head to the krookodile that emerged beside her and growls something in a low, vibrating note. The smaller krookodile’s claws twitch in a short, gesticulated response, and then Samira turns to the sanhim and hisses. Nali chimes in then, and you watch mutely as the maractus waves her arms and chirrups in turn.

Finally, the sanhim turns to you. “She wants to hear your words, Baku,” he says. His face is unreadable. “She wants to hear why you did such a thing.”

With trembling legs, you walk forward until you’re standing before Samira. Each of her inhalations is large enough to pull your hair forward; each exhale cloaks you in a warm, moist breeze. You manage a shaky bow.

What you want to say is, I’m sorry. What comes out instead is: “Greetings, oh great one, Samira of the Sands.” When you pull up the respectful greeting that the sanhim passed to you, your voice finally quavers.

Samira blinks back, unimpressed.

Why you did such a thing.

It isn’t an answer that you’d like to admit.

On the winter solstice of each year, the peoples of the desert gather in your home in the south, along the banks of the river. From the northern foothills marches the darumaka troop; from the eastern plains comes the sonder of maractus. The krookodile must come from the western dunes, although the way they rise and vanish into the earth makes their movements impossible for you to track. The solstice is a time for coming together and growing apart: two of the desert peoples bring the relics of the Dragonmother, which they have safeguarded throughout the year; when the night is over, the relics are passed to their neighboring peoples, to be guarded for the next year. The same, too, is done with the desert’s children—those who wish to take a companion and stay in the oasis of the Southern Stones are invited to do so.

This was your tenth solstice. You were old enough. So when the sun touched the edge of the sky and it came time for the children to gather, you stepped forward alongside the other children of your clan with pounding ears, trembling hands clutched around a berry. You waited as two darumaka toddled past, their footprints briefly glowing orange in the sunset sands, and your excitement slowly faded to dread as they paired off. Mila beamed, bending down and offering her berry to a sputtering darumaka; when the two young maractus filed past solemnly, they went to Aruno and Harana while you stood still like a statue, your unclaimed berry suddenly like a stone that threatened to pull you under. Then came the sandile—just the one this year—and you were the last child. The other five were already sharing their meal together; there was just you left; there was no one else for it to choose. It slipped close to you, its short legs wobbling as if overcompensating for the firmness of the ground, and you saw its nostrils flare as it inhaled the scent around your hands. The sandile leaned in, dark eyes gleaming—

—And then it turned away.

You took half a step after it, but the sanhim’s hand was on your shoulder, firm. “This was her choice,” he said, a pang of regret in his words. Was that pity? “You must respect that, Baku.”

The rest of the celebration felt grim. You watched the familiar sight as an outsider while everyone chattered and danced and ate. Utamo, the weaving elder of your village, cracked his stern lips into a smile as one wizened hand roved over the silvered hide of a darmanitan, marveling at the new rivers that time had carved in both of their skins. Nali grabbed Harana and her newfound maractus by the hands and introduced her to the other maractus, and four of them marveled at the stack of fruits laid out on the festival table. Your aunt Livari, toddler on her hip and Mila at her side, translated the desert tongue for her daughter from the darumaka who had chosen her.

And all the while you festered, silent, while one thought crystallized: that sandile hadn’t known what it was doing. That was the only reason it hadn’t chosen you. And it had been close—it’d leaned in, after all. As the night wore on, the pit in your stomach only grew. Could you be lonely like this for an entire year? When the sun rose, your clan would return to the south, with five new children. Five, not six. Everyone was already whispering, surely, about foolish Baku who couldn’t even get a pokémon if he was the last boy in the plains.

No. It had been so close. It hadn’t known any better. If you just could make it see—

The courage finally filled you when they were gathering themselves to leave. You chased after it, feet pounding on the reeds by the bank. It moved with an almost exaggerated slowness through the river, trailing behind the adult krookodile; together, their scales formed a glistening streak of red that moved upstream.

Wait!” you shouted, and then a krookodile’s head snapped towards you, beads of saliva dripping from its maw. And in that moment, despite the enormous creature in front of you, you noticed the lack of stones beneath your feet, the trampled grasses around you, and you realized what you had done.

Your arms fall slack to your sides now as you look up at Samira. You had miles and miles of desert to plan your defense and this is all you can think about. “I don’t have a defense,” you say quietly. “I didn’t realize I had left the Southern Stones. I didn’t realize I had set foot on the Dragonmother’s Gift.” The words come more easily than you’d expected, once you understand what actually must be said. It had all happened so quickly: the sanhim had declared that because the lands were guarded by the krookodile, they would be your judge instead of him. The other humans you could convince, maybe, but not this ancient creature who stands before you, already older than you’ll ever be. Your only defense is the truth, and for you it is paper-thin.

Samira shutters one red eyelid solemnly, and then the other, and then turns her head back towards the krookodile at her side—that one must be the one who found you, you realize belatedly. At one point, Nali puffs up her chest and chimes in; both of the krookodile turn to look at the maractus with ponderous eyes. They converse too quickly for you to understand, and finally, Samira straightens and hisses back at the sanhim.

The sanhim’s shoulders seem more slouched than usual. You imagine for a moment that it’s from the solstice ceremony, when the leader of the darumaka pressed the Dragonmother’s white relic into his hands. Surely the stone was so heavy that it began to press him into the earth. All that’s left is for you to wait with bated breath before the sanhim passes back the translation. When he does, it is like his face is carved from stone. “They have heard your plea. The grasslands beyond northern banks are sacred grounds, the last gift from the Dragonmother to the desert peoples. Among the krookodile, to tread on them means death, but Samira recognizes that the old stories may have been forgotten for us in the south.”

Your ears burn with shame: that is a kindness she assumes of you. You’d learned the lessons when you were young. The Southern Stones were for you and yours, but every child knew not to cross the river.

“That much is understood when considering what must be done next.” The sanhim swallows, and even through his stern mask you can see the beginnings of anguish. “To Samira and her kind, it is clear that we of the Southern Stones have failed in raising you to respect the ways of this land. So she proposes this: they will raise you instead, and teach what we could not.”

The weight of his words crash in on you all at once, and your composure drops immediately. They will take you? But you need your home, and your friends, and—“Father, please,” you croak.

The sanhim’s face wrinkles, but he does not falter. “You will be permitted to visit on the solstice, and at that time your judgment will be reassessed, but your lesson must be learned.” He swallows once again. “She will return for you at sunrise. So shall it be.”

All eyes turn to you. Your eyelids suddenly sting when you blink, and the dunes blur.

“So shall it be,” the sanhim repeats expectantly.

You shouldn’t have done it. That much is clear. You want to scream and beg for your innocence, to explain to Samira that the people of the Southern Stones were not to blame. Your father, the sanhim, please, spare him the humiliation of having to return home to the people he leads empty-handed, because his own son could not follow in his footsteps.

“So shall it be,” you echo instead.

※​

You would later realize that Samira offered you a kindness—krookodile prefer to travel at night, when the baking sun could not pierce their scales and warm their blood. But they waited to set out until sunrise. Perhaps the kindness was for the sanhim instead, but all you know in the moment is that the two of you can spend one last night beneath the stars.

Nali has wandered off into the moonlight; you can only barely see her hazy outline, silvery and lilting against the dunes. So that just leaves you and the sanhim.

Here, in the firelight, with his cloak draped across both your shoulders, he’s just your father again. He twists his fingers around one another like he’s trying to tie a knot with his knuckles, and he stares into the fire even as you tend it with a small stick.

“I didn’t mean it,” you say at last. Your voice cracks. He has to know this, if nothing else. You can’t imagine what he thinks of you now, and you don’t want to, but you need him to understand: you know you shouldn’t have done it. You know you did something monstrous. You can be better. You will be better. It wasn’t his fault.

“I know, little flurry,” he says, and he pulls you a little closer. “I know.”

The fire pops and shifts. You don’t have anything else to say. Everyone knows you didn’t mean it, and yet here you are.

A weak smile cracks his lips and he says, “This is a lesson. Not a punishment.”

You stare glumly at your knees. Even with the fire to your front and his warmth to your sides, you still feel cold.

His grip tightens encouragingly on your shoulders when he continues: “Samira is an old friend. I have known her since I was younger than you are now. She once took your aunt Livari as her companion, and journeyed across the sands into our stones each week to see her and seek her company. Did you know that?”

He’s prodding you to answer, but you can’t make the words come.

Not to be discouraged, he continues: “She will be kind to you, little flurry. She will make sure you do not melt. And she taught my sister so many things. Imagine all the sights you’ll see with the krookodile, Baku. When we meet again you’ll have so much to tell me! The dunes are a beautiful place, and you’ll have so many adventures.”

“I don’t want adventures.” You sniffle. “I want you.”

His smile fades, and he grows silent. Then, wordlessly, he pulls you into his arms and holds you close to his chest. His chin presses your curls down tight to your head, and you grab his forearms, clutching them fiercely against you. You bury your face in the insides of his wrists, inhaling his scent with shaky gasps, and bite back tears.

“Oh, little flurry,” he whispers huskily into the crown of your head. When he swallows, you can feel his throat contract. “Do you know when I first fell in love with your mother?”

Wordlessly, you shake your head.

“We were so young, barely your age. On the winter solstice, during the night, it snowed. It was a truly beautiful sight to wake up to in the pink sunrise that followed. Everything was so soft, and the air was so still.” Dimly, you’re aware of how he’s gently rocking you back and forth, marking the rhythm of his words between you. “I found her in the dawn with her hands cupped around the Dragonmother’s black heart, the stone covered in snow, her body angled so her shadow could hide it away from the sun. She turned to show it to me, and when she did she was so gentle that not one flake melted, or even moved. I remember the way her voice lilted when she said that the way the stone embraced the snowfall made her think the white and black could be reunited, if only for a moment.” Even though you can’t see his face, you can hear his smile. “I was foolish even then, Baku, though as a boy I thought I was wise. I proudly asked her if she knew that the snow would melt no matter where she put it, that this stone would always be black. Instead of scorning me where I stood, she told me the story of Sun Sister and the Three Gifts. Do you remember that one?”

You remember it. You even remember when your mother told it to you herself. And you shouldn’t be wasting time on stories now, not when the time you have left is so strictly measured. But an aching part of you wants to hear the familiarity of the words, to curl up and close your eyes and lose yourself like Little Sister almost did. So instead you ask, “Could you tell it again?”

If he’s surprised by your answer, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he smiles, and begins speaking with the same ceremonial cadence with which he spins the solstice retellings. This time, the story’s just for you:

When the world was younger than you are now, Little Sister opened her eyes, and for the first time she was alone. She shivered; there was an emptiness in her side and a coldness in her palm. For as long as she could remember, she had held her twin sister by her side. Although the two of them had known nothing save for one another in the darkness before the world, she had been content, for there was nothing else she had known.

But this time, she opened her eyes and saw a brilliant light in the sky. For a moment, she hesitated. If she chased this light and her sister returned while she was gone, would her sister then wander off to look for her? Was it not more pressing to find her only companion? But the light was so unlike anything that she had ever seen, and even as she took a step into the darkness to see where her sister had gone, she could now see her shadow cast ahead of her, framed by that light.

Perhaps, she reasoned, her sister would also seek out the light. And then the two of them would be together once more.

So she braced herself, and for the first time, she began to walk with direction. Before long, she reached a vast chasm, one that she could not possibly cross. Seeing this, she hesitated. When the Dragonmother had given all the peoples of the world gifts, Little Sister had been forgotten. Her oldest sister had always protected her from the dark, and Little Sister had always been afraid to venture out of her sister’s shadow. But she could not hesitate now. Kneeling down, she dipped her head to the grass beneath her feet, and she closed her eyes, and she whispered, ‘Please hear me, oh great grass. I need to reach the light beyond you and use it to find my sister. Could you lend me your aid?’

The grass stirred at her words, and a great spirit emerged: Aranu, the First Maractus. Aranu smiled kindly at Little Sister and then plucked a flower from his head and threw it to the ground. Immediately, it sprouted into an enormous branch that grew and grew until it spanned the chasm, sturdy and strong enough for anyone to walk upon it. Thus Little Sister and the First Maractus planted the First Seeds.

She walked further, and the grasses guided her, and soon she reached a dark tunnel that even the brilliant light above could not penetrate. Her frail eyes could not guide her through the darkness, and though she strained and strained, she could see nothing. Kneeling down, she clasped her hands to her heart, and she whispered, ‘Please hear me, oh great warmth. I need to reach the light above you and use it to find my sister. Could you lend me your aid?’

The air rumbled at her words, and a great spirit emerged: Melai, the First Darmanitan. Melai smiled warmly at Little Sister and exhaled a puff of embers for her to cup in her hands. When she held it, it burst into a bright light that she could carry with her into the dark. Thus Little Sister and the First Darmanitan tended the First Flames.

So she entered the darkness, with the fire to light her way, until she came to a vast plain. The horizon seemed to stretch on endlessly, and yet the light was further ahead still, and plunging out of sight. Little Sister felt desperation fill her—if she lost the light now, all this would be for nothing. Kneeling down, she bowed her head to the earth, and she exhaled, and she whispered, ‘Please hear me, oh great earth. I need to reach the light in you and use it to find my sister. Could you lend me your aid?’

The earth trembled at her words, and a great spirit emerged: Zaathi, the first Krookodile. Zaathi smiled widely at Little Sister, and a tear slipped from her enormous snout. When it hit the ground, it blossomed into an enormous flood of water, so vast and powerful that it cut through the parched earth and surged towards the horizon. Thus Little Sister and the First Krookodile bounded the First River.

So she was borne, and at long last, she reached the end of the world. She had drawn close enough to the light that she had to thrust an arm up to shield herself, for it was brilliant. As she grew closer, though, she lowered her arm—the sound of her sister’s voice was unmistakable.

‘Sister?’ asked Little Sister. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I realized,’ replied Sun simply, ‘why we were made.’ And for a moment her sister’s brilliant light faded, and her form was revealed a little. Radiant white wings glowed brighter than anything Little Sister had ever seen. Sun smiled sadly. ‘You were made to do great things, and I, to illuminate you.’

This did not make much sense to Little Sister. ‘Can I stay with you?’ she asked.

‘Look at all the beautiful things you have seen and done.’ Sun pointed at the beautiful world that was beginning to form below them. ‘All of that without me.’

‘Beautiful things that I could not see without your light,’ Little Sister replied petulantly. ‘We should be together. That is how we were always meant to be.’

‘But if we are always together, how could you do so much? How could my light guide you?’

‘Come back with me,’ Little Sister pleaded. ‘We belong with one another.’

Sun was brave and strong, but she never had it in her heart to refuse her younger sister. So she alighted. No sooner had her feet touched the earth than the radiance faded from her and her wings fell away. Little Sister was overjoyed, and held Sun close to her, and the two of them slept soundly.

For a few days, all was well. Little Sister was happy. But in the darkness, she heard a great cry of anguish. Little Sister looked back to where Sun slept, but Sun did not stir. The crying continued, and finally, Little Sister braced herself and felt her way back through the darkness again.

Soon, she stumbled across a desiccated husk. She felt leathery bark crumble away beneath her hands, and she sensed Aranu’s presence beside her. The First Maractus mourned the dying of the First Tree; his sorrow was so great that all the grasses had withered away as well.

Melai soon joined them, although her face was shrouded in her shadow and even her gleaming eyes could barely illuminate the dark and the cold around them. Without the brilliant light above to guide her, the First Darmanitan could not produce flames.

But Zaathi was nowhere to be found. In the silence between Aranu’s cries, Little Sister could still hear the rushing of the river.

Heart heavy, she trudged home, and shook Sun to rouse her.

‘Sister,’ she said. ‘You were right. The world needs you. You must go be who you were meant to be.’

But Sun, tightly curled, did not stir. She had spent too much time in the earth’s embrace, and the darkness had sapped her strength. She still glowed faintly, but her body was like it had turned to stone. Little Sister shivered. The darkness was growing only colder, and Little Sister’s mind was numb with despair.

The thought of the river bearing her to the horizon, never faltering, ever constant, gave Little Sister strength for what she needed to do next. Sun would need to be returned to the edge of the world, and Little Sister would need to be the one to do it. She could not ask the others, who had already lent her so much.

So, with her sister on her back, Little Sister climbed across the vast chasm and felt her way through the dark tunnel. It took nearly all of the strength she had to reach the river, where her hardest task awaited her:

Arms trembling, Little Sister hugged Sun close, and then cast her into the river that led to the edge of the world.

“Little Sister and Sun love each other very much. Their cyclic dance gives us everything we know. In that moment where the sun embraces the horizon, the world is full of their color, their beauty, their joy. But it is not like that forever. That was when I understood why your mother cradled the snow.”

You choke back a sob.

“Little flurry, the things we love are only ours to hold, not to have,” he whispers into your scalp. “One day, we must let them go.”

In response, you clutch him tighter.

At some point, you fall asleep in his arms.

※​

When you awake, your father is breaking down the remains of your camp, scattering the burnt scrub brushes into the dunes, folding his cloak back up around his shoulders. He stoops carefully, slowly, but eventually his work is done. Wearily, he picks up his staff, and he is the sanhim again. “It’s time.”

What you want is to run away. Not even to save yourself; just anything to save your father the shame of having to accept this judgment you have brought upon yourself, upon him. You knew long ago that you would have big shoes to fill, but now with this stain you know you’ll never fill them. But that should be your shame to bear, not his.

What you want to do is tell him all the things you wish a son could say. You want to reassure him that this isn’t his fault, that you’ll learn his lessons well, that one day he’ll be proud of you again. There’s a hollowness in your heart, but it can’t stop you from seeing the way the shame you created craters his shoulders.

What you do instead is echo, “It’s time.”

Your face is like a mask. The rest of the morning blurs. Samira emerges from the sands. She exchanges quiet words with the sanhim. Nali throws her arms around your leg, her spines carefully withdrawn. You do not cry when the sanhim bids you farewell; all your tears came the night before.

The sanhim shakes his cloak out and wraps it around your shoulders. Your heart catches. This is a gift you are not meant to receive until you are a man. You look up, mouth cracked open in protest, before he says, “This cloak is not what makes me sanhim to our people, Baku; nor will it make you a leader to theirs. But what it will do is keep you warm, little flurry, and it will keep us with you.” He finishes arranging the cloak around you and takes a step back. “May the sands be kind.”

Samira circles in front of you, the fins on her back rippling in the sunrise. You look to the sanhim before you can stop yourself, and he jerks his chin forward in response.

You shouldn’t have asked him. Soon you won’t have him to fall back on. Carefully, you swing one leg over the krookodile’s waiting back—the gap between her fins is large enough for you to lay down in, so you kneel unsteadily on the slow-heaving scales. It’s cooler than you expected, rows and rows of rippling muscle, and then she plunges forward, halfway submerged in the sands. Her tail swishes out a low, sweeping rhythm.

You keep your back straight and your eyes straight ahead.

※​
 
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Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
Exciting to dig into this as a stand-alone story; it definitely has the heft to support it. The cut-off point you chose felt well-timed. We've gotten our set-up and introduction to the world and characters--now it's time for the plunge. It looks like you're structuring the three-shot along the lines of the Little Sister myth, which is delightful. The gift of seeds feels especially appropriate here with Nali's presence.

One thing I particularly enjoy structurally is the delayed reveals. We start only knowing that our narrator is going to his judgement, but we don't know who is judging him or what for. The 'sandhim is Father' reveal hurts every time, and I like that we don't hear anything about his crime until he's asked to explain it. It's both dramatic and makes us experience his sense of being on the spot, not having justification. We know he doesn't have any excuses prepared, because he hasn't been making them in his own mind.

I had a few logistical questions still about the solstice gathering. Two relics are passed at the solstice each year and they circulate between the tribes. So is the meeting always at the Southern Stones each solstice or was it only there because at that moment they had the artifacts? And if the meeting is always at Southern Stones, why?

The myth of Little Sister is doing a lot of different work. Obviously it has the moral his father gives it--that you can't hold onto your loved ones at the cost of the world (left unspoken is what the cost would be here if he didn't go). The three gifts establishes the interdependency of the desert peoples, with one glaring exception. The krookadile can survive when the Sun goes away. Their gift is the only one unaffected.

The heart of this chapter, of course, is the relationship between the narrator and his father. It's so clear from his actions that he's trying to balance these two cloaks mantles of being the leader of his people and being a father here. He can't comfort his son as they stand before Samira. He has to stand there and be official and conciliatory and condemnatory. The comfort has to come later and it's a gut-wrenching, tender scene. I love the narrator just wanting to hear familiar stories--I've done that, asked my parents to tell me stories about their past I already could tell myself. It's comforting. And his father obliges, but also has to turn it into a lesson about duty and loss. The narrator wins a lot of sympathy not just by the fact that he doesn't make excuses for himself, but in how he's so on the look out and appreciative of things others do for him. He recognizes that Nali didn't need to come, but she came anyway for support. He (in retrospect) assigns his gratitude to krookadile, for giving him and his father the gift of a final night. He's young and frightened, but he's not bitter.

Prose is gorgeous and I love how you paint the desert world. It feels beautiful in a lived-in way--not an exotic locale, but a place that holds a lot of significance to the narrator.

Looking forward to the next part!

Besides, you know that even if you wanted to run, there’s nowhere for you to go. If you wanted to slip away, you could. Without Nali you would stray from the path and quickly fall to the sun, no doubt. Without the sanhim, you would surely be able to live, but the shame would fester at your insides until the day you died.
I felt like this paragraph was missing in some logical connector words it needed, between the first and second sentence and between the second and third.

The land that hides your judgment feels softer somehow, even as shame curdles in your chest.
I wasn't sure about the 'hides' formulation. I know the krookadile live underground, so in that sense they're hidden, but it read oddly to me.

The sanhim’s ceremonial cloak is a deep red; as the grass becomes less and less frequent and the oranges of the desert are all the remain, he almost shines like a gem.
Gem metaphor felt a bit out of place with this setting.

Were it anything but asking your judgment, we would make do without it, but I fear he will only feel like justice is dealt if his words are also heard.
Funny how that works . . .

“I don’t have a defense,” you say quietly. “I didn’t realize I had left the Southern Stones. I didn’t realize I had set foot on the Dragonmother’s Gift.”
Ah, well rip, trespass is strict liability.

The sanhim’s shoulders seem more slouched than usual. You imagine for a moment that it’s from the solstice ceremony, when the leader of the darumaka pressed the Dragonmother’s white relic into his hands. Surely the stone was so heavy that it began to press him into the earth.
Losing loved ones is heavier than stones :(

but every child new not to cross the river.
*knew

But you need your home, and your friends, and—“Father, please,” you croak.

The sanhim’s face wrinkles, but he does not falter.
Almost forgot to comment on it, since I already knew this going in, but I love the delayed reveal that the stern figure of the 'sanhim' is his father. Baby is trying so hard to be grown-up by just thinking of him as the sanhim.

“I know, little flurry,” he says, and he pulls you a little closer.
That nickname spears me through the heart.

Everyone knows you didn’t mean it, and yet here you are.
🙃

I remember the way her voice lilted when she said that the way the stone embraced the snowfall made her think the white and black could be reunited, if only for a moment.
Really intriguing and beautiful image.

You even remember when your mother told it to you herself. And you shouldn’t be wasting time on stories now, not when the time you have left is so strictly measured. But an aching part of you wants to hear the familiarity of the words, to curl up and close your eyes and lose yourself like Little Sister almost did.
💔

Zaathi smiled widely at Little Sister, and a tear slipped from her enormous snout.
title drop!!

‘Look at all the beautiful things you have seen and done.’ Sun pointed at the beautiful world that was beginning to form below them. ‘All of that without me.’

‘Good that I could not see without your light,’ Little Sister replied petulantly.
Had to read this a few times before I understood that 'good' referred to the things Little Sister had done. I think it's confusing because the previous sentence says 'beautiful things.'

‘Come back with me,’ Little Sister pleaded, petulant.
Second petulant

“Little flurry, we cannot control the things we love,” he whispers into your scalp. “Sometimes, we must let them go.”
'Control' doesn't feel like the right word here, based on the myth he told. Hold onto?

“This cloak is not what makes me sanhim to our people, Baku; nor will it make you a leader to theirs. But what it will do is keep you warm, little flurry, and it will keep us with you.” He finishes arranging the cloak around you and takes a step back. “May the sands be kind.”
a big cloak to fill
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
Me: *Picks up a new, longer fic*
Also me: Oh look, kint has something new!

But yeah, I see why it felt awkward in eoe. Assuming from the narrator not speaking pokemon-tongue and the description of his father (*cough* and the cover *cough*) I conclude that we actually have a human here. And one of very ancient times, since we don’t come across these people in the games.

So far, the first chapter is divided into three parts: The judgment being cast over Baku and its consequences – the tale of the two sisters – Baku and his father parting ways.

The first part is, in good old fashion, all mystery and I’m very preoccupied finding out who’s viewpoint I have this time. The first hint was actually Baku not understanding Nali, and then when he described the sanhim and later referred to him as father, I could accept that we have a human here.

I’m amazed again how you manage to pack so much information into so little paragraphs. The read is very long (40mins on TTS), but somehow, whenever I lose the line on the page, I scroll down way farther than I actually am. It just feels like a lot of words have gone by since. And the description of the desert feels so wondrous and foreign.

Baku is distraught about a mistake he made and that he going to be judged for. Since the transgression had happened on the land of the Krookodiles, they are going to judge. From what I can take away, he stepped onto some sacred and forbidden land, that only the Sandile-line is allowed to cross?

But the thing he did doesn’t strike me so much as a problem as the fact that he doesn’t know why he is judged. He only knows he did something wrong, and that that something is terrible, but he doesn’t know why he shouldn’t do it. Only that, if he does it, he is in trouble. That sounds like a system prone to fail in a few generations regardless. Yes, Namira said that they taught him badly, but I wonder how many other children of his clan also don’t know why they shouldn’t go there. A “Because I Said So” never did much in the long run.

Also, big ouch being rejected by the Sandile. I hated that selection thing is PE, and it was only for an hour or so. My heart goes out to him. Also, he’s ten. Of course he’s going to run after the Sandile.

Another thing about being ten: His outward actions mirror his father in a very mature way, but on the inside we see how frightened he is. I almost wanted to say “Toxic Masculinity Moment” here, but then his father and him share this rather intimate (one could also say “normal”) father-child moment at the campfire. I guess my standards of parenting don’t align with those of this ancient fictional desert tribe. Also that whole issue of shame that is so deeply ingrained into this little boy? Yeah… I see issues…

Also, dad just goes into ‘How I met your mother’ mode for a second, which I find hilarious. After a second read, I don’t see how the tale of mom and the black orb and the snow ties into the tale of the two sisters, but that’s really not a big deal. Maybe it was just to distract Baku from the “Aktschually” moment that his dad pulled. How he got this girl is a secret worth a forth chapter, I believe. The white snow on black orb is a really nice picture.

Then we take a break from Baku’s narration and focus on the tale of Little Sister. This seems to be the origin myth of the desert people. Or at least one myth. As far as I understand, it doesn’t account for the Dragonmother’s Black Heart. But it sets up the four tribes that populate the desert (I wonder what happens to other desert-dwellers or even strangers moving to this land), and the three gifts the pokemon gave (warmth, grass and water) as well as a hidden fourth gift, the sun. I like how Sun’s body touching the horizon on the river marks the beginning of a new day. Reminds me a lot of Ra and how he carries the sun over the sky every day.

The third part is rather short. They say their goodbyes and shame is still the only thing Baku can think about. Worrying.

Looking forward to the next chapter! It’s a good practise to get my brain back into eoe space.
The weight of his words crash in on you all at once, and your composure drops immediately. They will take you? But you need your home, and your friends, and
Hey Wataru! Is that you?
So she she was borne, and at long last, she reached the end of the world.
Is the "she she" intentional here?
‘You were made to do great things, and I, to illuminate you.’
This hurts on so many layers. I want to give Sun a hug.
Littte Sister was overjoyed, and held Sun close to her, and the two of them slept soundly.
Littte instead of Little
Carefully, you swing one leg over the krookodile’s waiting back—the gap between her fins is large enough for you to lay down in, so you kneel unsteadily on the slow-heaving scales. It’s cooler than you expected, rows and rows of rippling muscle, and then she plunges forward, halfway submerged in the sands. Her tail swishes out a low, sweeping rhythm.
That. Is. Awesome. Can I be abandoned in the desert, too? On that note, Kudos to how you described Namira's first appearance. Gives a lot of Jurassic Park vibes!
 

kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
hi hi!! review responses!

Exciting to dig into this as a stand-alone story; it definitely has the heft to support it. The cut-off point you chose felt well-timed. We've gotten our set-up and introduction to the world and characters--now it's time for the plunge. It looks like you're structuring the three-shot along the lines of the Little Sister myth, which is delightful. The gift of seeds feels especially appropriate here with Nali's presence.
bless you for talking me through having the courage to post this separately; it really does work better plus the cover art was so much fun.
I had a few logistical questions still about the solstice gathering. Two relics are passed at the solstice each year and they circulate between the tribes. So is the meeting always at the Southern Stones each solstice or was it only there because at that moment they had the artifacts? And if the meeting is always at Southern Stones, why?
It's always at the Southern Stones! Because the peoples of the Southern Stones are not allowed to cross the river, because the lands are sacred and also the desert is very big and the peoples of the Southern Stones might get lost or damage something. Instead the peoples of the desert visit them! Sometimes if you're really nice you can get an escort--Baku is really quite lucky here! Think of all the adventures he'll get to have that literally no one else will! This will come up later but I'm glad that it seems weird here.
The myth of Little Sister is doing a lot of different work. Obviously it has the moral his father gives it--that you can't hold onto your loved ones at the cost of the world (left unspoken is what the cost would be here if he didn't go). The three gifts establishes the interdependency of the desert peoples, with one glaring exception. The krookadile can survive when the Sun goes away. Their gift is the only one unaffected.
Yeah, this is probably the fifth time that a shitpost title really made me realize how I wanted to restructure a core element of story. Gotta embrace what works at some point tbh.
The heart of this chapter, of course, is the relationship between the narrator and his father. It's so clear from his actions that he's trying to balance these two cloaks mantles of being the leader of his people and being a father here. He can't comfort his son as they stand before Samira. He has to stand there and be official and conciliatory and condemnatory. The comfort has to come later and it's a gut-wrenching, tender scene. I love the narrator just wanting to hear familiar stories--I've done that, asked my parents to tell me stories about their past I already could tell myself. It's comforting. And his father obliges, but also has to turn it into a lesson about duty and loss. The narrator wins a lot of sympathy not just by the fact that he doesn't make excuses for himself, but in how he's so on the look out and appreciative of things others do for him. He recognizes that Nali didn't need to come, but she came anyway for support. He (in retrospect) assigns his gratitude to krookadile, for giving him and his father the gift of a final night. He's young and frightened, but he's not bitter.

Prose is gorgeous and I love how you paint the desert world. It feels beautiful in a lived-in way--not an exotic locale, but a place that holds a lot of significance to the narrator.
I'm glad you enjoyed! Baku is probably my most empathetic oneshot protagonist, but it was a lot of fun to break the mold with him a little--tender relationships with his parents, empathy and perception for the world around him.

Made line edits + stole "losing loved ones is heavier than stones :(" for my taglist lmfao

hiiiii! thanks for stopping by here <3

But yeah, I see why it felt awkward in eoe. Assuming from the narrator not speaking pokemon-tongue and the description of his father (*cough* and the cover *cough*) I conclude that we actually have a human here. And one of very ancient times, since we don’t come across these people in the games.
this is a logistically sound assumption and that is all I can say at this time, yes.
Baku is distraught about a mistake he made and that he going to be judged for. Since the transgression had happened on the land of the Krookodiles, they are going to judge. From what I can take away, he stepped onto some sacred and forbidden land, that only the Sandile-line is allowed to cross?
Yeah! North of the river is krookodile territory--if you cross into it, you're basically forfeiting yourself to their rule. Baku made the mistake of stepping onto a very sacred spot for them.
But the thing he did doesn’t strike me so much as a problem as the fact that he doesn’t know why he is judged. He only knows he did something wrong, and that that something is terrible, but he doesn’t know why he shouldn’t do it. Only that, if he does it, he is in trouble. That sounds like a system prone to fail in a few generations regardless. Yes, Namira said that they taught him badly, but I wonder how many other children of his clan also don’t know why they shouldn’t go there. A “Because I Said So” never did much in the long run.
it's not a great system, no!
Also, big ouch being rejected by the Sandile. I hated that selection thing is PE, and it was only for an hour or so. My heart goes out to him. Also, he’s ten. Of course he’s going to run after the Sandile.
Yeah, I'm always boggled by how much responsibility we place on ten year-olds in this fandom, like their choices really are informed or if they're just kids who want friends ...
Another thing about being ten: His outward actions mirror his father in a very mature way, but on the inside we see how frightened he is. I almost wanted to say “Toxic Masculinity Moment” here, but then his father and him share this rather intimate (one could also say “normal”) father-child moment at the campfire. I guess my standards of parenting don’t align with those of this ancient fictional desert tribe. Also that whole issue of shame that is so deeply ingrained into this little boy? Yeah… I see issues…
<3
... there are lots of issues, yes.
Also, dad just goes into ‘How I met your mother’ mode for a second, which I find hilarious. After a second read, I don’t see how the tale of mom and the black orb and the snow ties into the tale of the two sisters, but that’s really not a big deal. Maybe it was just to distract Baku from the “Aktschually” moment that his dad pulled. How he got this girl is a secret worth a forth chapter, I believe. The white snow on black orb is a really nice picture.
I had a line in my head about how Sun turns to stone each night. Is it the moon? Is it like the Dragonmother's heart? No one will know because somehow I cut it from this draft I am stupid.

And yeah, it's inherently hard for me to imagine what a father would tell a son if the father thought this would be the last time they'd see each other for a long time. But I think comforting stories would be my go-to, so this is what I had here!
Then we take a break from Baku’s narration and focus on the tale of Little Sister. This seems to be the origin myth of the desert people. Or at least one myth. As far as I understand, it doesn’t account for the Dragonmother’s Black Heart. But it sets up the four tribes that populate the desert (I wonder what happens to other desert-dwellers or even strangers moving to this land), and the three gifts the pokemon gave (warmth, grass and water) as well as a hidden fourth gift, the sun. I like how Sun’s body touching the horizon on the river marks the beginning of a new day. Reminds me a lot of Ra and how he carries the sun over the sky every day.
I'm glad you got Ra from this! The lore for this version of Unova's desert has three major inspirations--Ra/Egyptian mythology (I really can't do sandile and not do that), the stories of the Western Pueblos (specifically the two sisters Ia'tik and Nao'tsiti), and some lategame shit in EoE that I can't really say without spoiling.
Hey Wataru! Is that you?
honestly Pen and I are the same person. Among other things, she wrote a character named Kintsugi into her fic, and I wrote a small boy who abandons home but keeps his cloak with him--well before we actually shared these ideas with each other.
Is the "she she" intentional here?
nope! nor was the littte! thanks for the typo catches! fixed those

That. Is. Awesome. Can I be abandoned in the desert, too? On that note, Kudos to how you described Namira's first appearance. Gives a lot of Jurassic Park vibes!
Yeah just send me six payments of $19.99 and your social security number and you, too, can disappear in the desert! crocodile not included.

Thank you so much for stopping by! You've been on a roll with Blitz fics, goodness. I'm glad you enjoyed, and thanks for leaving your thoughts here!
 
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aer

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
he/they
[This one is closer to regular size, its wedged head as large as your torso and its body twice your height, but your heart still catches in your throat—when you cast your gaze around the dunes, you see dozens of pairs of beady black peeking back from the sand]

Missing 'beady black eyes'?

[You took half a step after it, but the sanhim’s hand was on your shoulder, firm. “This was her choice,” he said, a pang of regret in his words. Was that pity? “You must respect that, Baku.”]

Haha, a flip of the usual and it's still children picking children. And it seems like the first time they meet each other and the sandile doesn't reject the narrator for any obvious reason...

[“This was her choice,”]
[And all the while you festered, silent, while one thought crystallized: that sandile hadn’t known what it was doing.]

though not paying attention to the sandile's gender probably doesn't help lol

[to wait with baited breath]

bated breath

[“She will be kind to you, little flurry. She will make sure you do not melt. And she taught my sister so many things. Imagine all the sights you’ll see with the krookodile, Baku. When we meet again you’ll have so much to tell me! The dunes are a beautiful place, and you’ll have so many adventures.”]

I mean, narrator's traumatized yeah but I'm just starry-eyed because getting raised by krookodile is really cool. But, yeah, this is totally not going to end well.

[The solstice is a time for coming together and growing apart: two of the desert peoples bring the relics of the Dragonmother, which they have safeguarded throughout the year; when the night is over, the relics are passed to their neighboring peoples, to be guarded for the next year. The same, too, is done with the desert’s children—those who wish to take a companion and stay in the oasis of the Southern Stones are invited to do so.]
[You will be permitted to visit on the solstice, and at that time your judgment will be reassessed, but your lesson must be learned.]

So basically the same deal as the pokemon, just flipped! You really wanted a pokemon so now the pokemon chose you, and you get to go back on solstices the same as everyone else. (Do pokemon children that decide they don't want to hang out with humans anymore get to go home before the solstice?)

[I smugly asked her if she knew that the snow would melt no matter where she put it, that this stone would always be black.]

Oh wow yes what a "smug" and not a normal kid thing to ask.

Hm, not sure about the placement of the legend. It's kind of a drag in the pacing.

I have not finished the envy of eden but have some wild speculation. "krookodile tears" seems like an obvious play on crocodile tears, an insincere display of sadness. The krookodile seem sincere and the whole story seems to be anti-trickery so far, with emphasis on stories that kids should know and the broken rules being unfair rather than not warned for. Maybe it's going to be tears that were genuine become ingenuine in someone's eyes. If there's going to be a war, maybe the kid is going to steal the rock! Or die? Steal the rock and die?

Anyway the title card is super pretty and I love the foregrounding of dark krookodile jaws.

You waited as two darumaka toddled past, their footprints briefly glowing orange in the sunset sands

Utamo, the weaving elder of your village, cracked his stern lips into a smile as one wizened hand roved over the silvered hide of a darmanitan, marveling at the new rivers that time had carved in both of their skins.
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Staff
Location
the freaking swamp
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. custom/gfetchd-kyeugh
  3. custom/onion-san
  4. farfetchd
i. the seeds

boy, i didn't realize how much i wanted to read this until i read it. it feels like it's been a long time since i've read a story like this, where i start out feeling very chatty and am leaving a bunch of line comments before just suddenly getting very, very engrossed and unable to lift myself out of the story that's being told.

this is a story deeply steeped in its particular setting—i'll gush about your descriptions in a moment—and i thought you did a really good job at getting across your worldbuilding without ever making it feel like an imposition. this is something i struggle with personally, so it stood out to me. at the start, we're in a totally foreign world, but by the end it makes intuitive sense... and without an infodump!!! all the new information is presented intuitively as it relates to the narrator, and i never found myself particularly tripped up by any of it. i find that pretty hard to pull off, so kudos!

your prose is beautiful as ever—i was really sucked into your gorgeous descriptions of the environment. the desert is imo a comparatively monotonous landscape—basically flat and relatively featureless in some ways—but you really draw out the color and dramatic shapes within it and make it feel genuinely awe-inspiring. i really enjoyed the way the landscape gradually becomes less familiar to the speaker until eventually the dunes are huge and surrounding them like walls in every direction; it's already a stunning picture to paint, but for me it really made the moment where one of the dunes shakes off the sand and becomes a creature even more awesome. all-around, i found myself very immersed, and that made the worldbuilding (which is inextricably tied into the atmosphere) feel very intuitive.

in terms of characterization, i was particularly struck by the way that the two major characters of this part—the speaker and his father—were sort of split and half. each of them has a side to them that is stony-faced and observes the rites and traditions, as well as a side that is emotional and wants nothing more to abandon tradition in favor of familial comfort. before the the speaker rides off, it's noted that he has no more tears left to cry, as he'd cried them all during the emotional moment with his father the night before. i thought it was interesting that in a way this inverts the story's title—"crocodile tears" denote insincerity, but on some level it's actually the withholding of emotion that feels like a denial of the speaker's true feelings.

not much to say on the myth other than that it's really great and feels excellently tied into the world in that way that you do. echoing pen that working it in as a source of comfort for the character really makes it hit harder, and the irony of it when juxtaposed onto the reality of eoe—a world where the relationships between humans and pokémon have literally been transmuted into relationships of ownership and property—was not lost on me.

the only real issue i had with this story is that i found the actual judgement a bit hard to believe. like, nominally the punishment for this transgression is death, which suggests to me that it's something that the culture takes extremely seriously, but all the speaker has to do is offer a self-professed flimsy defense and he's immediately offered such a large benefit of the doubt as to be actually inaccurate (assuming that he actually did not know the law when in reality he did), and then offering to spend years personally raising the child on that basis. on some level i'm willing to look past it because it's setting up for the speaker getting raised by gigantic krookodile in the desert which is cool as fuck and whatever you need to do to get to that point just do it pls, but i did find it surprising. i think it could be somewhat easily ameliorated by just reducing the ways in which the narrative itself emphasizes this contradiction—we start out with all this dread and the sense that a serious offense has been committed and the assurance that the speaker really has no excuse etc. maybe just toning down the gravity of it pre-judgement would make it more believable for me.

anyway, this ruled and i'm really looking forward to the rest of it. i mention it in the line comments but i have been industriously absorbing as much dune content as possible for the last couple months so this story really hit a lot of sweet spots for me atm. beautiful cover art, btw! of all your stories i've read, this one has been the most evocative for me—once i recover my stylus, i'd love to paint a scene from it! hold me to that!

They don’t bind you when they take you to your judgment, and you’re grateful for the dignity that affords you.
lately i've been paying a lot of attention to first lines, and i'm a big fan of this one. compact, tells us about the protagonist's situation, demonstrates their pride, and gives some insight into heir relationship with their captors. good stuff honestly, left me with lots of questions and a desire to read further!

The sanhim’s ceremonial cloak is a deep red; as the grass becomes less and less frequent and the oranges of the desert are all the remain, he remains the lone flower.
i wasn't sure about "frequency" of grass—i think "sparser and sparser" might work better here.

She’s young for a maractus, only fifty and barely up to your waist.
i got a little tripped up on this line. after a bit of thought i think the meaning is something like "she is young relative to the average lifespan of maractus" but i was trying to interpret it as, like, "she is young compared to most maractus" and was trying to puzzle out why it would be the case that a species is categorically Old. i'm not actually sure how i would rephrase it but it felt worth a mention.

What you thought was a great dune shifts and sways, and then sand begins to cascade down its base as the peak stirs. Red shards flash silver in the sunset as the earth stirs to life, and with a lazy tailflick the biggest krookodile you’ve seen in your entire life emerges, the gap between her yawning jaws as large as you are tall.
this is cool as fuck, thanks. i've been dune-obsessed lately so this description took my mind to wonderful places lol.

Each of her inhalations is large enough to pull your hair forward; each exhale cloaks you in a warm, moist breeze.
so cool!!!! this is what pokéfic is for tbh.

The solstice is a time for coming together and growing apart: two of the desert peoples bring the relics of the Dragonmother, which they have safeguarded throughout the year
oh you know i love a good word like "dragonmother."

your unclaimed berry suddenly like a stone that threatened to pull you under.
really loved this line.

You took half a step after it, but the sanhim’s hand was on your shoulder, firm. “This was her choice,” he said, a pang of regret in his words. Was that pity? “You must respect that, Baku.”
* until the invention of the patented Poké Ball™ capture device.

Your aunt Livari, toddler on her hip and Mila at her side, translated the desert tongue for her daughter from the darumaka who had chosen her.
oh, this is fascinating. i'm curious, is it possible for any random human in eoe to understand pokémon if they were taught properly? i assumed N had some kind-of-magic thing going on.

“Little flurry, the things we love are only ours to hold, not to have,” he whispers into your scalp. “One day, we must let them go.”
wew. this line really cuts deep—feels very pertinent to the narrative, but to the wider narrative you cast in eoe too; at some point, it feels like this must have stopped ringing true, in a world where pokémon and humans are bound by property relationships rather than relationships between equals.
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
There's always something so beautiful and sad that runs through your writing, yet it's gripping and wholly immersing and doesn't leave me with a sense of loss at the end. There's something akin to awe every time I finish reading an excerpt from you. Whether it's awe at your ability to whisk me away to another time and place so effortlessly, or the fact that the experience I have while I'm there is so unlike anything I could imagine for myself, I can't be sure. Either way, it's simply pure joy reading your work, and this soon-to-be threeshot is no exception.

I'm reminded a lot of a few other stories I've read recently, namely ones about Zoroaks and Volcaronas, that take place not in a future setting, or even the current poke-earth as we've come to know it. But rather in a time before our time, a time when things were very different, but no less magical. A time when the core tenant of life was a bond with pokemon who shaped the world and the culture of the humans they inhabited the world with. There's no Gym challenge, no pokecenter healing tech, not even pokeballs to carry our poke-partners around with us in a world that's paved with asphalt and illuminated with electricity captive in wires. I wouldn't say it's a simpler time, because that implies some kind of inferiority. There's nothing crude or rough-hewn about this past-Unova, despite it's lack of the modern adornments we've come to know from the mainline series.

It's actually got this kind of forlorn longing for the past in it (and I can't remember which version of the BlackWhite2 games it was in) but one version of the games has a similar attitude of lament to natural habitat lost to the expansion of the modern age, where the desert is built over with an overpass, and the beauty of the expansive dunes and endless sky is reduced to a shaded patch of sand with oil run off and litter strewn about.

Because here, in a past Unova without cars or bridges or pollutants, remarkable things are abound, like a krookodile deity the size of a house slithering through the sand, or the fact that it lives in concert with humans to the point where it's a guardian and a judge of sacred lands untouched by the human influence. It gives this feel that the pokemon are the ones in charge of this land, and they're allowing humans to live in it with them. It's a wonderful flip on the head of the usual human-pokemon narrative, and I enjoy the experience of reading a story from this perspective.

I know I've spent this whole review gushing about stuff that doesn't even take place in the damn chapter, but maybe that's okay, because it's the experience that's enthralled me the most, and that's what will keep me coming back to read more. And that's what an introductory chapter should do. When the second chapter comes out, I'll circle back with my thoughts on the overall plot. Thus far, though, our special snowflake has made a mistake, and we'll see what happens to him next.

Perhaps the best part of the whole thing, though, is the quiet moment in the night before he's left alone with the desert krookodile. In a land of expansive untouched nature and giant pokemon who roam as the most powerful entities around, we're privy to this tiny speck of humanity sat next to a campfire, and it's the beauty of their moment that touches me the most. It's a drop of water in an ocean, but I felt the ripples. It's a grain of sand in the desert, yet it shines golden in the sun. In the grand scheme of things, these are two very insignificant life forms, yet you've made me care about them so much. Bravo.

Can't wait to read more.
 

kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
review responses!

heya! long time no see; hope you've been doing well.

General note that I fixed the typos and such, thanks for the catches there.

Haha, a flip of the usual and it's still children picking children. And it seems like the first time they meet each other and the sandile doesn't reject the narrator for any obvious reason...
a lot of roles are flipped in this one ...
though not paying attention to the sandile's gender probably doesn't help lol
A lot of things happen to Baku that are beyond his control and this isn't one of them.
So basically the same deal as the pokemon, just flipped! You really wanted a pokemon so now the pokemon chose you, and you get to go back on solstices the same as everyone else. (Do pokemon children that decide they don't want to hang out with humans anymore get to go home before the solstice?)
Yes, and they do! The solstice is where a lot of those pokemon tend to come back and visit the human companions they picked, but otherwise, the pokemon mostly go off and live their own adventures.
Oh wow yes what a "smug" and not a normal kid thing to ask.
Ooh, I think you're right--he's definitely like, haha, I was a little shit back then, but I think he's wise enough not to be ashamed of it either.
Hm, not sure about the placement of the legend. It's kind of a drag in the pacing.
The pacing on this one is generally odd, tbh--initially I'd meant it as a really long oneshot, but the wordcount kept going. I'll revisit but open to suggestions if you've got any.
I have not finished the envy of eden but have some wild speculation. "krookodile tears" seems like an obvious play on crocodile tears, an insincere display of sadness. The krookodile seem sincere and the whole story seems to be anti-trickery so far, with emphasis on stories that kids should know and the broken rules being unfair rather than not warned for. Maybe it's going to be tears that were genuine become ingenuine in someone's eyes. If there's going to be a war, maybe the kid is going to steal the rock! Or die? Steal the rock and die?
👀
Anyway the title card is super pretty and I love the foregrounding of dark krookodile jaws.
thanks! honestly the title art is half the reason I ended up publishing. had an image in my head that I couldn't get out.

Thanks for stopping by! Always a treat to hear from you.

i. the seeds

boy, i didn't realize how much i wanted to read this until i read it. it feels like it's been a long time since i've read a story like this, where i start out feeling very chatty and am leaving a bunch of line comments before just suddenly getting very, very engrossed and unable to lift myself out of the story that's being told.
sobbbbbb this is so nice

i'm really glad that the setting worked! I love desert landscapes; there's something so alien and foreign about them that I was really drawn to the idea of someone who'd call them home.
in terms of characterization, i was particularly struck by the way that the two major characters of this part—the speaker and his father—were sort of split and half. each of them has a side to them that is stony-faced and observes the rites and traditions, as well as a side that is emotional and wants nothing more to abandon tradition in favor of familial comfort. before the the speaker rides off, it's noted that he has no more tears left to cry, as he'd cried them all during the emotional moment with his father the night before. i thought it was interesting that in a way this inverts the story's title—"crocodile tears" denote insincerity, but on some level it's actually the withholding of emotion that feels like a denial of the speaker's true feelings.
what if we were the real crocodile all along
not much to say on the myth other than that it's really great and feels excellently tied into the world in that way that you do. echoing pen that working it in as a source of comfort for the character really makes it hit harder, and the irony of it when juxtaposed onto the reality of eoe—a world where the relationships between humans and pokémon have literally been transmuted into relationships of ownership and property—was not lost on me.

the only real issue i had with this story is that i found the actual judgement a bit hard to believe. like, nominally the punishment for this transgression is death, which suggests to me that it's something that the culture takes extremely seriously, but all the speaker has to do is offer a self-professed flimsy defense and he's immediately offered such a large benefit of the doubt as to be actually inaccurate (assuming that he actually did not know the law when in reality he did), and then offering to spend years personally raising the child on that basis. on some level i'm willing to look past it because it's setting up for the speaker getting raised by gigantic krookodile in the desert which is cool as fuck and whatever you need to do to get to that point just do it pls, but i did find it surprising. i think it could be somewhat easily ameliorated by just reducing the ways in which the narrative itself emphasizes this contradiction—we start out with all this dread and the sense that a serious offense has been committed and the assurance that the speaker really has no excuse etc. maybe just toning down the gravity of it pre-judgement would make it more believable for me.
oh! this one is fair, albeit tricky. most humans would die; most humans aren't the sanhim's son; most humans would probably understand that, but Baku is smol. I might play it down a little or drop a line that normall the krookodile don't temper their judgment like this. but it's like taking the child of a prominent rival house as your ward rather than killing them outright.
anyway, this ruled and i'm really looking forward to the rest of it. i mention it in the line comments but i have been industriously absorbing as much dune content as possible for the last couple months so this story really hit a lot of sweet spots for me atm. beautiful cover art, btw! of all your stories i've read, this one has been the most evocative for me—once i recover my stylus, i'd love to paint a scene from it! hold me to that!
you're too kind and I will hold you to nothing

fixed the line-by-lines!
oh, this is fascinating. i'm curious, is it possible for any random human in eoe to understand pokémon if they were taught properly? i assumed N had some kind-of-magic thing going on.
honestly, I see pokespeech as just another language, so, yeah. I think that's an especially uncharitable interpretation of humans for not learning, but at the same time between a language that's 100% completely untranslatable and humans just not caring enough to learn, the second one feels more realistic to me.
wew. this line really cuts deep—feels very pertinent to the narrative, but to the wider narrative you cast in eoe too; at some point, it feels like this must have stopped ringing true, in a world where pokémon and humans are bound by property relationships rather than relationships between equals.
what no they're fine it's all fine

thank you so much!! I'm really glad that the world and everything lands; this is a fun setting and I'm glad I got to share it with you.

There's always something so beautiful and sad that runs through your writing, yet it's gripping and wholly immersing and doesn't leave me with a sense of loss at the end. There's something akin to awe every time I finish reading an excerpt from you. Whether it's awe at your ability to whisk me away to another time and place so effortlessly, or the fact that the experience I have while I'm there is so unlike anything I could imagine for myself, I can't be sure. Either way, it's simply pure joy reading your work, and this soon-to-be threeshot is no exception.
hi hi!! Thank you for these kind words, omg. I'm glad that this one lands, and you flatter me a lot.
I'm reminded a lot of a few other stories I've read recently, namely ones about Zoroaks and Volcaronas, that take place not in a future setting, or even the current poke-earth as we've come to know it. But rather in a time before our time, a time when things were very different, but no less magical.
It is! tbf I had this drafted before z-games, and the setting is reached in eoe as well, but there's something really beautiful about Unova's deserts.
A time when the core tenant of life was a bond with pokemon who shaped the world and the culture of the humans they inhabited the world with. There's no Gym challenge, no pokecenter healing tech, not even pokeballs to carry our poke-partners around with us in a world that's paved with asphalt and illuminated with electricity captive in wires. I wouldn't say it's a simpler time, because that implies some kind of inferiority. There's nothing crude or rough-hewn about this past-Unova, despite it's lack of the modern adornments we've come to know from the mainline series.
<3
It's actually got this kind of forlorn longing for the past in it (and I can't remember which version of the BlackWhite2 games it was in) but one version of the games has a similar attitude of lament to natural habitat lost to the expansion of the modern age, where the desert is built over with an overpass, and the beauty of the expansive dunes and endless sky is reduced to a shaded patch of sand with oil run off and litter strewn about.
This is such a beautiful way to put it. I have so many questions for the desert resort lol.
Perhaps the best part of the whole thing, though, is the quiet moment in the night before he's left alone with the desert krookodile. In a land of expansive untouched nature and giant pokemon who roam as the most powerful entities around, we're privy to this tiny speck of humanity sat next to a campfire, and it's the beauty of their moment that touches me the most. It's a drop of water in an ocean, but I felt the ripples. It's a grain of sand in the desert, yet it shines golden in the sun. In the grand scheme of things, these are two very insignificant life forms, yet you've made me care about them so much. Bravo.
Thank you for stopping by! I loved hearing your thoughts on the quasi-Unova-AU I've got running here.
 

IFBench

Rescue Team Member
Location
Pokemon Paradise
Partners
  1. custom/chikorita-saltriv
  2. custom/bench-gen
  3. charmander
  4. snivy
  5. treecko
Here for catnip!

This starts off in a really intriguing way! Right from the get-go, there's a ton of questions brought up. Why would the protagonist be bound? What is this "judgement"? Who's Nali, and what's the sanhim? These are all questions I had reading the first paragraph, and their answers later in the section only made me more intrigued.

Unfortunately, though, this was also very hard for me to follow. For half the first section I had lots of trouble telling what was going on, and had no clue what the POV character's species was. I think they're an ice-type, but they might also be a human? I'm still not sure. Maybe you could add some more hints to it earlier on, and simplify the description a bit? It's very vivid, but it's also a bit purple and distracting.

I also don't entirely understand what the protagonist did wrong, but I also feel like I might not be supposed to, given how this is the first chapter and we're only just learning about the culture of this place.

I do really like the "So it shall be" part, though. I could really feel the protagonist's anguish, fear, and solemn acceptance, and it pulled on my heartstrings. I already really care about this person, just this far in.

The story of Sun Sister and the Three Gifts was really neat! It felt just like a fairytale, whimsical and magical, but also with tragedy and loss. The repetition of the three gifts really helped add to the feel of it.

I really liked how the start of the last section echoes the end of the first section, with the sanhim saying something, and while the protagonist wants to protest, they instead repeat what the sanhim says. It helps emphasize how lost the protagonist feels, not being able to find their own words.

Overall, this was good! It has a lot of great elements and was generally well-executed with a lot of intrigue, though could also use some more polish and focus. I liked it, though!

Thank you for writing this!
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
It is me. No googledoc this time. Keeping it unpredictable. You never know what I'll do next.

“This was her choice,”

Letting pokemon make choices—what a revolutionary new idea

Red shards flash silver in the sunset as the earth stirs to life

Not quite getting where these colors are coming from.

They don’t bind you when they take you to your judgment, and you’re grateful for the dignity that affords you.

This sets up some good questions and suspense. (What is he being judged for? Why do they trust him not to run away?)

Without the sanhim, you would surely be able to live, but the shame would fester at your insides until the day you died.

(What is a sanhim, halp)

The maractus bobs evenly, the swings of her arms almost exaggerated

A bit of a dissonant image, given the situation—it makes me think of a carefree gait.

You’ve been told stories of how she taught you how to walk—the bright pinks of her flowers were too tempting, and she would proudly take one step backwards and another until you finally crawled after her.

Well that's cute

the river washed into the grasslands

Nice verb

The landscape was broken up by craggy, overturned stones, but beyond that, the land was flat to the horizon, like a river’s stone run smooth.

I tested out a less passive version of this sentence and wound up with "Craggy, overturned stones broke up the landscape, but the sand beyond them was flat to the horizon, like a river's stone run smooth." I think it might be a little smoother—one less comma, eliminates the pseudo-repetition with "landscape" and "land"—but don't know that it's a huge improvement. Either way, I found the simile effective here.

This far from home, the ground forms dunes undulating across the horizon, looming ever-larger as they snake into the distance.

I get kind of confused here because the land was described previously as being flat.

The land beneath your feet is ground to a fine, orange powder that shifts as you stumble through it

Does this individual not know what sand is? They mentioned sand in one of the earlier paragraphs.

The sanhim’s ceremonial cloak is a deep red; as the grass becomes more and more sparse and the oranges of the desert are all the remain, he remains the lone flower.

I feel like the last "and" should be "until", and I also feel it would be better without the repeated "remain". My best shot at rewriting was: "The grass becomes more and more sparse; the sanhim's deep red ceremonial cloak remains the lone flower in a sea of desert oranges." I feel like there's a lot going on in that sentence, making it tricky to tame. It might sound more natural if split somehow.

When you pull up the respectful greeting that the sanhim passed to you, your voice finally quavers.

What does "pull up" mean? (repeat?)

Mila beamed, bending down and offering her berry to a sputtering darumaka; when the two young maractus filed past solemnly, they went to Aruno and Harana while you stood still like a statue, your unclaimed berry suddenly like a stone that threatened to pull you under.

This sentence confuses me. Who are the two maractus?

(Also what species is the mc and the sanhim, halp)

No. It had been so close. It hadn’t known any better. If you just could make it see—

Oh no oh dear. This is actually more concerning to me than the mere fact that he accidentally treaded on sacred grounds.

baited breath

"bated breath"

On the winter solstice of each year, the peoples of the desert gather in your home in the south

When the sun rose, your clan would return to the south, with five new children.

I thought they were already at their home in the south, so the second quotation confused me

Could you be lonely like this for an entire year?

It's curious that having a pokemon companion is so important to him. There are still others who love him, after all. I wonder if we'll get more on why he feels this way.

“Samira is an old friend. I have known her since I was younger than you are now. She once took your aunt Livari as her companion, and journeyed across the sands into our stones each week to see her and seek her company. Did you know that?”

Baku's father's attempts to comfort him really tugged on the ol' heartstrings. It feels very real somehow.

I felt like Baku's punishment was reasonable. After all, it is in the name of conservation, if you look at it a certain way. It does suck that he has to leave his family, but a year isn't that long, and he probably will learn his lesson by the end of it. It seems less retributive and more restorative.

I imagine Baku will grow to respect the krookodile more as he serves his time, so to speak. He already feels genuine shame, but I feel like much of it comes from the disgrace his actions brought to him and his family—it's not really about the harm to the krookodile. I don't blame him for that because, as an outsider, it's hard to imagine why he would be particularly invested in their sacred grounds, even if he was told stories. (That's just not how emotional investment works.) I am interested to see if that changes going forward.
 

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
I recall hearing quite a bit about this (part of?) story, so it's convenient for me that you decided to split it out! Hope I'll be able to follow along with it as Blitz progresses. I enjoyed your last deserty story a lot, so I'm looking forward to this one, too!

I really like the picture you've painted of the society here; it feels like the sort of arrangement you might logically expect to see before much technological advance from humans--when they're sort of "just another species" out in the desert. Intriguing that we already have the Dark Stone/Light Stone being passed around here... I wonder whether we'll eventually get any stories about the twin heroes as related by members of these ancient civilization. How did their desert come to be?

I enjoyed the partner-choice ceremony--it's kind of funny that in a sense what we have here is an inversion of the old "what happens to the professor's unchosen pokémon" with "what happens to the unchosen human?" It's also fun that the humans seem way more desperate to pick up a pokémon friend than the reverse. The narrator's dismay at remaining unchosen is both super relatable--forget being picked last, how about not being picked at all?--and appropriately childlike. Needing to wait an entire year before getting another shot? He might as well just die, basically. (And comes dangerously close to doing so, heh.)

I always have a lot of enthusiasm for beeg pokémon, and I really enjoyed Samira's introduction! All in all, the atmosphere of the desert is great, and Samira appropriately awe-inspiring; I love the detail that her breaths were strong enough to pull the narrator's hair forward.

I quite enjoyed the Sun Sister and the Three Gifts. The moral of letting go of what you love/sometimes people can do more apart than together is certainly intriguing, knowing where this excerpt is coming from, and makes me very curious how we'll be seeing that theme reflected throughout the story here.

Whatever else happens, I'm super excited to see what krookodile society is like!

Without Nali you would stray from the path and quickly fall to the sun, no doubt.
This sentence feels like it would be stronger without the "no doubt" at the end; maybe move it earlier in the sentence (e.g. "Without Nali you'd no doubt..." or "Without Nali you'd surely...").

Beyond the Southern Stones where you’d been born, the river washed into the grasslands; thick marshes buzzed with life.
Hmm, why is this sentence in past tense?

The land that holds your judgment feels softer somehow, even as shame curdles in your chest.
I love the idea of the land "feeling softer" as it literally crumbles to sand. But the parallel here didn't quite work for me... curdling technically involves some degree of hardening, but it doesn't feel like a proper foil to the softening of the land to me.

The smaller krookodile’s claws twitch in a short, gesticulated response, and then Samira turns to the sanhim and hisses.
Not sure what "gesticulated" gets you here that "a short response" or even "claws twitch in response" wouldn't.

When you pull up the respectful greeting that the sanhim passed to you, your voice finally quavers.
Don't like "pull up" here

It isn’t an answer that you’d like to admit.
I feel like "isn't something you'd like to admit" works better than "isn't an answer you'd like to admit" here.

At one point, Nali puffs up her chest and chimes in; both of the krookodile turn to look at the maractus with ponderous eyes.
Hmm, ponderous? Are you wanting to get across that they're thinking over something Nali just said?

All that’s left is for you to wait with baited breath before the sanhim passes back the translation.
*bated

You would later realize that Samira offered you a kindness—krookodile prefer to travel at night, when the baking sun could not pierce their scales and warm their blood.
*can't rather than "could not"

Nali has wandered off into the moonlight; you can only barely see her hazy outline, silvery and lilting against the dunes.
I usually associate "lilt" with sound, although I think I can see what you might mean for movement here. It did stick out a bit to me that you used that word twice this chapter.

Instead, he smiles, and begins speaking with the same ceremonial cadence with which he spins the solstice retellings.
Don't think you want a comma after "smiles."

When you awake, your father is breaking down the remains of your camp, scattering the burnt scrub brushes into the dunes
Scrub brushes? Maybe you meant scrub branches?

Carefully, you swing one leg over the krookodile’s waiting back—the gap between her fins is large enough for you to lay down in
*lie down

Love that cover art! This first chapter ends on a somewhat ambiguous note--the narrator's terrified and grief-stricken over leaving home, but his father trusts the krookodile and it sounds like it would be a pretty cool adventure, right? Those jaws on the cover, though, they certainly seem to suggest that this can only end in... tears. ;)

I think that's enough out of me! I think this is a lovely setup chapter, and I look forward to the next one, where I imagine things are going to start getting a bit... complicated.
 
second gift: the flame

kintsugi

golden scars | pfp by sun
Location
the warmth of summer in the songs you write
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
  4. custom/booper-kintsugi
  5. custom/meloetta-kint-muse
  6. custom/meloetta-kint-dancer
aaaaaa Blitz has spoiled me immensely but I'll be getting responses + edits up this week except for that stupid baited/bated typo! thank you all <3

cw: some minor mentions of blood (akin to biting your tongue), allusions to violence

※​

second gift: the flame

※​

The krookodile live further in the dunes than you’d ever thought. Samira and her kind must have traveled much further than you and the sanhim, you realize. She rips through the desert, her tail leaving a great serpentine trail that slowly collapses in on itself as the sand rushes to take its place. In the morning, a low, crooning sound leaks from her lips, almost incessantly; by noon, she’s fallen silent and put herself headlong into the travel.

Eventually, you grow bored, and you lay yourself along Samira’s back. The sun beats down. By midafternoon, Samira’s back is a rippling mass of heat. Although it’s stifling, you end up wrapping yourself in your father’s cloak to hide yourself from the scorching rays. The sky blurs by in a blue arc above. You trace over the dark embroidery in the cloak and vaguely wonder if it was red because of the krookodile, or if the krookodile trust the sanhim for wearing their colors.

Samira finally slows by nightfall. When you peek out above her fins you don’t recognize the landscape. The dunes faded into an indescribable mess a long time ago. She rumbles something, and belatedly you wonder if she’s been trying to speak to you this whole time.

Then, before you can do anything else, she plunges deep into the earth. You almost gasp—but then sand rushes around you, threatening to flood your lungs, and it’s the best you can do to hold your breath and wrap your arms around Samira’s fins. You hold your cloak as tightly as you can as the desert turns to darkness and a deluge of sand swallows you whole.

You clutch. That’s all you can do, clutch and wait for it to end. An eternity inside of a moment later, the air clears again, but the light does not return. Samira shakes beneath you, sand rolling down her sides, but no matter how many times you blink your eyes you can’t make you see. There’s only scent and sound and feel. She’s moving again. The air here feels more damp somehow; faintly, over the sound of sand shedding from her tail, you can almost hear a trickle of water. But you can’t see. Your hands reach instinctively for a torch, but there’s nothing. Samira presses on beneath you, unfazed, and when she pulls herself to a halt her breaths echo in the darkness. She hisses something.

The darkness hisses back. It must be an echo. Samira settles into place. You wait, feeling around on Samira’s back, but in the darkness she’s gone completely still. Minutes pass, perhaps hours. You can’t see your own hand in front of your face, and eventually you realize she must be letting you rest. But the weight of the day presses down on you like a stone; there’s nothing here but blackness and if you think about it too much it’ll rise and choke you, tendrils of worry and shame around your throat—

The air is cold down here, colder even than the night air above. Your father was right: the cloak will keep you warm. You clutch it close to you and fall into uneasy slumber.

※​

You awaken in the darkness. Samira is moving beneath you—not traveling, you decide; it’s not fast enough for that—and hissing fills your ears again. The echoes down here are louder than any cave you’ve ever been in.

Will she surface again? You wait for the deluge of sand, a warning, anything, but Samira slithers forward. They must have tunnels, you decide, and they must be enormous. You try to imagine how big they are based on the echoes.

With your ears strained, you finally hear it—the hissing isn’t symmetric. Samira hisses something; the darkness hisses something back. It is different.

Your eyes widen uselessly with the realization. This must be where all of the krookodile stay, you realize. A conversation is chattering around you, and yet you have no idea what’s being spoken, what’s being decided. How many of them are even here? Eventually, Samira stills. Their words pepper the air around you unintelligibly.

“Hello?” you ask tentatively.

For a moment, the darkness hushes, and then the noise doubles.

Your heart thuds in your chest, and you clutch the cloak closer to yourself. They mean no harm, and yet. To hear a voice in the darkness with no body to place to it sets off a fear in you, one primal and ancient, one that you cannot control. If you could just understand what was being said here ...

“My name is Baku,” you say, finally, when you realize there’s no understanding what they’re trying to say.

What comes next is louder than a hiss; Samira’s scales shift beneath you and the bass vibration rattles up your bones.

Your stomach rumbles in response. “I’m hungry,” you say, trying your best not to sound plaintive. How long has it been since the campfire with your father? You don’t even remember, but the pangs in your chest suggest that you’ve simply forgotten about eating until now. “Could I eat?”

There is a lurching stab of movement as Samira slithers forward with you on top of her, and then a wet, slapping sound against her scales a few feet away from where you’re sitting.

“Was that … was that for me?”

Another rumble. This one trails off into a hiss.

“Could you hiss twice if you’re talking to me?”

Silence.

Your fingers clench involuntarily around her fin. “Samira?”

She hisses twice.

“Should I wait here?”

Silence.

You crawl forward on your hands and knees towards where you heard the sound. Blindly, you feel your way around on her back, biting back a scream as your palms collide with something soft and slimy. Curiously, you grab onto it; it doesn’t resist, and you pull it closer.

“Is this for me?”

No response. It isn’t fair. You were supposed to learn the desert tongue in your own time, with your own people. The sandile who’d rejected you was supposed to teach you patiently, your father by your side to translate, all the elders of your village to guide you. Not this.

Hesitantly, you pull the thing close to your nostrils and inhale. It doesn’t smell like anything you could recognize.

“Samira?”

She doesn’t do anything else. You exhale slowly. In the dark and silence, you can feel your heartbeat throbbing in your ears. Even without words, you know what she’s trying to say. Your father apologized for using the human tongue with her in front of you, and you should as well. It is a disrespect to flaunt the Dancer’s tongue in front of those who cannot speak it.

“I’m sorry,” you say. “I don’t know the desert tongue yet.”

No response. You imagine it instead: Then you must learn it quickly.

You exhale shakily. This is a lesson, you remind yourself. Not a punishment.

For now, your stomach growls louder than she does. You focus back on the thing in your hands. There’s nothing to lose, you suppose. Either she tried to feed you something inedible or you go to bed hungry. It isn’t reassuring logic, but it’s all you can think about as you close your eyes—stupid, despite the darkness, but you can’t help yourself—and bite.

Tiny stabs between your teeth, your gums. The taste of minerals on your tongue, quickly giving way to something softer and flaky. You chew, try to swallow, but it feels like your mouth is full of pebbles. On reflex you spit it out, and with it the coppery taste of blood—your own. It cut you.

Not badly, you reassure yourself before you can cry, using your spare hand to clutch your father’s cloak closer to you. You aren’t hurt. The taste is familiar, despite the pain, and it takes a few more shuddering breaths for you to place it. At the solstice. This is special food, ceremony food—and that’s when you realize belatedly that perhaps it was only special in the southern stones. But before, someone must have taken the scales off of the fish for you.

Laying out stones in the desert to bake breads and dry fruits. Carefully harvesting from the cactus fields with Nali by your side to delicately unpick the spines from your hands when you were too eager. These are not things they would do in the dunes, you realize, thinking of Samira’s gargantuan frame and maw.

What you want to do is cry. But hunger calls louder, so silently you spit out more scales and begin carefully picking out bits of the flesh beneath the skin, where it’s softer. It’s hard to find the bones in the dark, but at the same time you know Samira would not be able to help you if you missed one. With no vision and nothing else to do, you’re able to drown yourself in the task, and your thoughts circle in a vortex as you pick the carcass clean.

Your father told you a story once, of a beautiful pokémon with a voice so compelling that anyone who listened would believe her. She sang so beautifully, he explained, that everyone would immediately understand what she meant, and why she meant it. And eventually, through her generosity, the Dancer’s tongue was passed on to you. That was the fourth gift that your village received, after the seeds, the flame, and the river. That one was special, because could be shared in only one way, and only to those who listened.

Can you make yourself believe that this is a lesson? Can you believe away the punishment that it seems to be? Despite the darkness you clench your eyes shut. When you open them you will have learned, you tell yourself. You have the Dancer’s tongue. With her voice, you can make your hopes reality.

You open your eyes to darkness, and a silence you do not break.

On the moonless nights back at your home, you used to go out and trace stars with your father. This one was Venent, the Watcher, with his arms outstretched. There was the Thunderer prowling across the heavens. Each star had a name, and a story, and a place.

If you squeeze your eyes shut, you can pretend to feel his hands on your shoulders as he carefully points your arm up to the eastern horizon. In the summer, the six stars that form Little Sister rise across the mountains. She shimmers against the milky glow of the starry river, somehow brighter than all of the stars around her; on those warm nights, she is the first to appear, and she guides her shimmering brethren on their path across the horizon.

You can almost hear your father’s voice. In the winter, she rests. This is when she holds Sun Sister close, when the skies lose their warmth. Little Sister sinks with the sun and hides behind the mountains.

You raise your hand uselessly in the darkness and count. One to six. There is Little Sister. May she journey far and return the sun to us one day.

Although you know it’s foolish, you hope that halfway across the desert, your father is doing the same.

※​

Samira resurfaces at night. You aren’t sure which night. You traced the sky, and later you’d grown hungry and she’d fed you—ten times, you reason. Perhaps more. You stopped counting.

She’d shifted beneath you, stirring you from your slumber, and that was the only warning you got before she plunged bodily into the sands. You almost were washed off—you reached blindly for her tail, screaming, before you felt it smack you in the face and you managed to wrap your hands around it on reflex.

The world around you burns your eyes. The moonlight is silver and it hurts. How long were you underground, without seeing?

Krookodile do not mind the dark. That much you knew even before this. Most hatchlings do not see the light of day; they live safely underground in their broods until their scales harden—that is why the solstice celebration must happen at night. You think from last night you heard three different registers: the sandile, the krookorok, and the krookodile. The krookodile are the deepest. The knowledge is hard-earned, from endless hours spent in the dark, straining, categorizing, trying to understand.

Now the mountains, sillhouetted in the silvery glow of the moon, cut across your vision like a spear. You don’t bother saying anything—Samira will not answer you if you speak, and you don’t know what else you’d tell her anyway. Surely she must know that you are not like the rest of the brood; that your eyes were not made to piece the subterranean darkness and that when you live among them you live blind. This was part of her lesson for you, not her punishment.

You blink rapidly to help adjust. On reflex, before you can stop yourself, you try to see if you can recognize the mountainshapes here, if you feel any closer to home now that you’re above ground. You don’t, try though you might to find a familiar piece of horizon. You clutch your father’s cloak to you.

Samira begins to move, slowly, methodically. You can tell in the way that she travels that this time she’s doing it differently, although you can’t tell why or for what purpose—but before, she seemed to surge through the sands; now, she moves almost lazily. You’re reminded of how you used to lounge in the river in the summertime, letting the warm waves carry you along. In time, the movement in your peripherals becomes distracting: down, in the underground caverns that the krookodile called home, the world was quiet and still. There were occasional hisses, tiny shifts in movement. Sometimes Samira would shake until you slowly climbed off of her, and then you would sit huddled in the darkness until the rasping of her scales against the cool sandstone announced her return.

An unfamiliar sound assaults your ears—it’s like the creek, but louder, and then all at once the dunes give way to a massive deluge of water that winds through them, white-crested rapids gleaming in the starlight. You inhale sharply. The river in the southern stones flooded sometimes in the summer, but never like this; the water seems to stretch on with no end, ripping mightily in the center and then lapping along the banks.

You have one moment more to appreciate the sight, and then Samira leaps into the water.

There’s no time to scream. It’s nothing like diving into sand, not for you. The water slams into your chest and flings you off of her immediately, and then you’re floating, free, sinking, tumbling—

Beneath the surface the water churns. Your father’s cloak fills immediately and wraps around your limbs like rope, and no matter how much you flail you can’t propel yourself upward again. Panic seizes you when you look down and can’t even see the bottom. The river at home was no deeper than you were tall, and your father was careful to keep everyone clear if it ever flooded. You’ve never been submerged like this before, and the sensation of weightlessness combines with the massive, crushing force of the waves around you.

Your lungs burn. You inhale; water floods your nostrils; you cough on reflex and water fills your throat. Overhead you can just make out the glimmering of the moon, suddenly obscured by a four-limbed shadow descending upon you. You flail desperately for her, the last bubbles trailing from your lips, but the eddy currents that she creates send you spiraling out of her grasp. Samira lunges for you but her swing goes awry; her claws rake a gash in your arm. Blearily, your throbbing vision focuses on a thin ribbon of blood trailing towards a surface you can’t reach, and then Samira’s tail collides with your ribs with bone-crushing force, flinging you upward.

The surface of the water breaks against you, and you barely manage to inhale a greedy, damp breath, desperately churning your legs to keep yourself from being forced under again. But you can’t; your strength left you long ago. You barely register the feeling of slick scales beneath you, and by then Samira is gently depositing you onto a reedy shore with her tail.

You lay on your side for a moment, curled up as small as you can before a spasming cough unfolds you. One enormous, black eye watches you with a look that you can parse as concern. A hiss cuts across your labored, damp breaths, and you startle when you realize: the sound is familiar. You’ve heard this word from Nali before.

{Alright?} she’s asking you, fixing you with a burning gaze.

You splutter for a moment, shaking the water from your hair.

{Alright?} she presses, and the rest of her words are unfamiliar to you. You see the hesitation burning at her; her muscles are tensed but her eyes are fixed on the bloody water that’s dripping down your arm.

You cannot answer in the Dancer’s tongue if you want her to listen. That fact cuts through even your panic and your pain. But you don’t know what other words you can say.

{Alright,} you respond weakly.

The trip back is colder and far less wondrous. You arm throbs. The cool night air is only made worse by the dampness of your father’s cloak around you, but you hold fast to it, too tired to look at the new landscapes rushing by, petrified by the thought of it floating away in the breeze. Eventually she pulls you back beneath the surface, and you’re almost grateful for it—you don’t have to feel guilty for wasting your precious surface time on tears.

You’re lying soggily on her back, eyes closed, sleep eluding you, when suddenly the thought strikes you and you sit upright. There’s nothing to see down here, where the krookodile gather to sleep during the day. But there’s something to hear.

You listen.

There’s a pattern in the hissing around you, if only you could figure it out. You strain to replicate that brief moment of clarity, back when you’d finally understood for a fleeting moment what Samira was trying to say, but you this time it doesn’t come. The sounds of their language washes over your ears, and eventually exhaustion overtakes you and you drift asleep.

The next sunset, Samira stirs you awake with a familiar hissing sound. You’ve heard this one before; she always seems to ask it before she moves you. Curiously, you echo it back.

She freezes beneath you, and then after a pause she repeats it. There’s something different here, something you can’t quite place or replicate—it echoes in a more sibilant way and the pauses feel less protracted.

“Ready,” you croak. Your vocal chords twinge with disuse. “That’s what you were trying to ask me, right?”

This time you understand the difference in her response. {Ready?}

{Ready.}

※​

Your father was right: there are many beautiful things to witness out in the dunes at night, sights you’ve never dreamed of. You grow to crave these moments, each of them wondrous in their own way, but you treasure each of them for what you learned.

With Samira you watch the glowing red lines of darmanitan troop steadily cross the northern plains, little more than motes of glowing light from a distance. At first you take them for stars, but you quickly learn that the orange glow sets them apart from the rest. “Darmanitan?” you query, and she repeats it back to you in the desert tongue.

(You wonder briefly if the darmanitan have the tale of Little Sister, if in their culture the First Darmanitan is held in the same high regard as she is for you. You hope so, but when you pose the question to Samira, you must use the Dancer’s tongue, and so she offers you no response.)

You fish again. This time you’re safely tucked to one side as she gathers an enormous treasure trove of fish in her jaws, and you learn many words for thanks.

She takes you to enormous spires of sandstone, weathered into layers and with as many colors as the cloaks you used to help weave, towering even taller than you and her stacked together. There, she introduces you to the vulture queen, a young but proud mandibuzz who pecks curiously at your skull before a warning hiss sends her scooting back.

{Caution,} she says, to both the mandibuzz and to you. And then, just to you, on the way home: {Your father’s-sister was injured in this way.}

(Aunt Livari hadn’t mentioned this, but once more you have no words to ask the question, so you bury it away for the time being).

In the nights you travel with Samira and see great things. Most of the time she swims through the desert, her tail churning through dried earth, you on her back. She seems to seek no destination, no company. During these times the world is peaceful; she’s so large that when she’s at her full speed her body barely rocks, and if you don’t peer over the edge of her back you’d barely know she was moving at all. But during these times the rush of wind on her back is so loud that when you speak, she can’t hear you, and you’re left to your own thoughts as the world rushes by. You wish you could ask her purpose but you don’t have the words.

During the days you rest with them underground. Samira holds council. As you learn more and more words you realize how important she is to them—she is a sanhim of sorts, although you struggle to follow the conversations. You cling to her scales in the darkness and try to guess at what they’re saying, gradually piece together a slapshod vocabulary made up of things you’ve heard them say. At first it’s slow. These words you gather and hoard greedily—greetings, ways to count fish, descriptions of traverses across the desert—but no matter how hard you try, you cannot form the question you want to ask.

Am I learning what you want?

※​

The nights begin to blur together interminably. Halfway through the summer, when the days grow long—you and Samira must spend most of your time under the sands—you find yourself longing for the sensation of harsh warmth on your skin, the tingling feeling of imminent sunburn, soft light against your closed eyelids. You miss the others, of course, and above all your father, but you’d learned to miss them in the quiet nights you’d spent alone. You’d expected that feeling of loss, and learned to codify it, and treasured their faces carefully so that you could still hold them tight even when you went far. But you’d forgotten to hold fast to the simpler aspects of your old life, and now you can only catch the sun on the edge of each night, a red orb peering over the horizon while Samira runs further away.

You spend many starlit nights with Samira. She’s quite talkative for a krookodile of her age, you learn. After a few centuries, many of them simply burrow their way underground, far enough away from the young ones who still disturb the earth. And Samira certainly loves to answer your questions, so long as you ask them in the desert tongue.

{Do you have many …} you trail off. “Children?” you ask. “Hatchlings?”

{We call our young hatchlings,} she says in response, carefully churning through a dune before plunging the two of you down. Tonight there is a soft, warm breeze. {And yes. I have many. All of them are older than you.} She pauses to consider. {Most of them are older than your father.}

You struggle to think of the right phrasing. {Is that uncommon?}

{Perhaps. Krookodile have children when the desert can bear it. We live long. It would not do if there were too many of us.}

You think that through while she swims through the sands. {What is that word you call me? What is its … meaning?}

A low rumble shakes her, one that you’ve come to associate with amusement. {I forget how quickly hatchlings become distracted. Always something new for you. Very well. Your name is hard to pronounce without the Dancer’s tongue. Because of who we are—we take great care to ensure that there is never more or less of our number each year—our names are passed down. When we lose one of our own, the new hatchling takes that name. Thus we remember our burden, and what our burden is to the desert.}

You understand where Samira’s going with this. {But whose name would I take?}

{There was not one for you. There was not one for your father’s-sister, either. I named her Fangkeeper, for she had teeth like us, though they were not in her jaw.}

{My father had a name for me. As a parent. To make me feel like his.} The sentence is difficult; Samira has yet to teach you the words you would need to encompass those feelings. You understand Baku has no translation, but you try to string together the words: {Small Snow. You could use it if you want.}

{Small Snow.} She rolls it around, thinking, and then she rumbled the word she’s called you before. {Your father’s name is one he made for you. I will not steal it from him.} She chuffs the sound that you think is your name again. {So I made one. You are so named because you have no fangs.}

You wait expectantly.

{Never in my life have I had to name something. This is new to me. I consulted the other krookodile and they though this name fit you well.}

“Nofangs?”

{Precisely.}

※​

In the weeks before the solstice, you finally remember to count the days—the nights are long again, and even though the underground was never warm in the summer, now the chill has settled into your bones. But you’re used to it now, and you’ve learned to sleep like a sandile, curled safely under Samira’s foreleg where her warmth can protect yours.

{My aunt,} you begin. {Fangkeeper. How did she become hurt?}

{She looks unhurt now,} Samira observes, which you realize doesn’t have the intonation-hiss for an answer. An observation instead. {I forget how quickly your kind heals. We live much longer, and hold our pain for longer as a result.}

{You warned me to be careful,} you remember. {Or else I would be like her.}

There’s a dull rumbling sound behind you, and you realize it’s Samira’s tail lashing across the floor. Anger. Instinctively, you recoil, before she asks a question of her own. {How did your father tell you the First Mandibuzz lost her crown?}

You rack your brains, but you don’t remember. So Samira tells you:

Mandibuzz was one of the First Peoples as well. Her name was Nekya, and she had a long, beautiful crown of feathers on the top of her head. The feathers were a gift from the Dragonmother herself, plucked from her wings to protect Nekya from the harsh talons of Death. For Nekya had a solemn duty: when someone died, Nekya was to descend upon their body and devour their heart, so that it would be freed from the corpse and be born once more.

This was the cycle that Nekya knew, and she served the Dragonmother faithfully. Though she was kind, many of the First People’s still feared Nekya shadow overhead, for they knew what happened when she drew near. Only the Dragonmother did not shy from her, because the Dragonmother could not hate her children.

For this reason, when it came time for the Dragonmother to pass, Nekya hesitated in her duty for the first time. The Dragonmother curled up and entered the eternal slumber; the desert waited for her to be returned to life. But Nekya descended; seeing her mother in such a state, she wept.

The peoples of the desert pleaded with Nekya, but it was too late. The Dragonmother’s heart had turned to stone.

At this, the desert burst into chaos. The First Darmanitan and the First Maractus began to squabble, each unable to decide who was responsible for the fate of the sands now. But then Zaathi, the First Krookodile, burst forth.

{Fix this,} she commanded of their sister.

Nekya refused, saying, {I cannot.}

So Zaathi seized the mandibuzz in her jaws and thrust her into the sun. Nekya’s crown burst into flames and fell in ashen lumps to the ground. But Zaathi did not have it in her to kill her sister, so before Nekya could burn, she withdrew them both and threw Nekya to the ground.

{Fly beyond the horizon, sister, and pray that we never see you again.} Samira finishes the story for you in a low, dramatic hiss.

You wait.

{My aunt flew into the sun?} you guess at last.

{She forgot her role,} Samira says cryptically, and no more.

※​

The solstice arrives before you know it. Your father is there, welcoming the clans as they arrive one by one at the oasis. You see him stiffen when the krookodile arrive, but you’re already leaping off of Samira’s back, the ground weirdly firm beneath your feet as you pelt towards him and bury him in an embrace.

“Baku!” He picks you up and swings you onto his hip, almost staggering under your weight. {Were the sands kind?} His smile is so wide it threatens to cleave his face in two.

{The sands were kind,} you reply proudly, your heart almost bursting.

His eyes twinkle, and the pride in his voice when he responds in the desert tongue makes you feel like you could run a thousand miles. {You must tell us all that you have learned,} he says, setting you back down onto the ground. {And look how much you’ve grown!} He puts you down and places his hands on your shoulders, and for a moment you can’t help but revel in the feeling of soft, unscaled skin. How long has it been? You hold him close, suddenly aware that over the year your hands have turned leathery, chafed to callouses from the scales, and yet even in the moonlight you can see how much paler you are than him, sun-starved as you are.

“I missed you,” you whisper into his chest.

For a moment something in his face crumbles, but he turns triumphantly. “Come, Baku. Tonight we sing for you.”

And they do sing. The Dragonmother’s relics are passed from the humans to the darumaka, and from the maractus to the krookodile. Your father presses a plate full of food into your hands and triumphantly steers you to the fire. You can’t help but notice that Haruna’s grown taller in the past year; she’s unfolded like a sapling and stands a full four inches over you. Her maractus, a new flower bloomed on his forehead, introduces himself as Aji. Mila wears a cloak you’ve never seen before; her darumaka peers out anxiously from its folds. You watch, mostly, while they chatter. Has it really been a year since you heard the human tongue?

Mila is halfway through explaining a joke—for your benefit, you suspect; those of the southern stones already know—when the sensation hits you all at once: they’ve moved on. They missed you, but they’ve moved on. An entire year passed while you lived under the sands. Suddenly the food tastes like dust in your mouth. The evening begins to blur and pass you by.

Later you drift. Your father is speaking to Samira in a hushed voice. Both of them look up when you draw close. At ten feet away you can see the arched trepidation ingrained in Samira’s spine, even if in the soft moonlight you can’t make out the expression on your father’s face.

“Please,” you begin, although you aren’t even sure what you’d ask for. The second judgment crept up on you throughout the night, and yet you know—the stones Samira and the sanhim needed to decide here were cast long before this moment. But you can’t help but be a tiny bit desperate. You think about how Mila spoke in stuttering, halting words to her darumaka, how much smoother your own response was in kind. {I’ve learned. I’ve grown}

“You have learned much,” he says at last. “And yet you have much to learn still. Samira will teach you for another year. So shall it be.”

You want to be angry at both of them. At Samira, for keeping you even though you’ve struggled so hard. At your father, for not protesting. It stings. They’re acting out of love, you remind yourself, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. It isn’t fair. If you’d known that this would be your fate, you would’ve never done it. But that isn’t the lesson they want you to learn, you know.

You want one of them to protest. You want to protest. But—

{So shall it be,} you echo.

The desert tongue is heavy on your lips.

When you return to the circle of human children for your farewells, you’re sure that you look like a stranger to them. Even in the moonlight you can see how you’re so much paler than the rest. You get a change of clothes, but your father’s cloak is tattered, cut nearly to ribbons from the constant beating it’s received in the past year. It’s tattered. You let that happen. It’s tattered and it’s irreplaceable.

Truthfully you hadn’t even thought of your cloak until you catch Livari’s eyes lingering on it. She looks away guiltily before you can say anything, and she hurriedly brushes hair over her face so you can’t see her expression, but not before you see her upturned brow, her parted lips with the words dead upon them. Livari had been kind to you, and promised one day to teach you how to tend to the field of wheat that she raised. It would be your duty as the sanhim to know these things, she’d explained proudly, shifting her weight from her bad leg, but she shook her head and smiled as Mila pulled you away to play Stacking Stones. One day.

Self-consciously, you pull your cloak more tightly around your shoulders, painfully aware of how threadbare it has become. This cloak is supposed to last until you are a man, old enough to make a cloak to guard a child of your own. Your father began spinning the threads as soon as your mother realized you were growing inside of her; together, they dyed the flaxen strands to match the winter sunrise. Standing in the shadow of your home, for a moment you’re struck with a memory you never had—the sensation of the two of them tracing their fingers over the freshly-woven fabric, discussing in soft voices the patterning of the golden grass stitched into the border, their hands drifting to the swell of your mother’s belly as they imagined the world they’d show their son.

Was that world full of plunging into dunes, of raging rivers, of krookodile scales? Had they woven with extra care, to ensure it could withstand the chafing of Samira’s back? Or had they expected you to hold tight to them, to stay protected in their visage in a world they’d always known?

It’s almost a relief when you clamber onto Samira’s back at the end of the night.

On the way back, you almost wish Livari had looked scornful or judgmental when her eyes lingered on you, on your cloak. Instead, she’d just looked sad, the corners of her eyes tinged with the shame you’d forgotten to feel until this moment.

Thus the first year passes.

※​
 
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aer

Bug Catcher
Pronouns
he/they
heya! long time no see; hope you've been doing well.
I've been trying to finish zoroark reviews and instead I've been messing with other stuff. Alas! Now I'm just trying to something done before January ends.
You trace over the dark embroidery in the cloak and vaguely wonder if it was red because of the krookodile, or if the krookodile trust the sanhim for wearing their colors.
Those seem to be the same thing? It was red because of the krookodile's preference, or if the krookodile trust the sanhim for wearing their colors.
Might be less confusing if it was 'it was red to symbolize krookodile' or something.
No response. It isn’t fair. You were supposed to learn the desert tongue in your own time, with your own people. The sandile who’d rejected you was supposed to teach you patiently, your father by your side to translate, all the elders of your village to guide you. Not this.
My new interpretation of this situation is that Baku has been sent to a boarding school of fear, lol.
Samira resurfaces at night. You aren’t sure which night. You traced the sky, and later you’d grown hungry and she’d fed you—ten times, you reason. Perhaps more. You stopped counting.

She’d shifted beneath you, stirring you from your slumber, and that was the only warning you got before she plunged bodily into the sands. You almost were washed off—you reached blindly for her tail, screaming, before you felt it smack you in the face and you managed to wrap your hands around it on reflex.

The world around you burns your eyes. The moonlight is silver and it hurts. How long were you underground, without seeing?
Something funky's going on with the tense here.
the krookorok
krokorok
Samira lunges for you but her swing goes awry; her claws rake a gash in your arm. Blearily, your throbbing vision focuses on a thin ribbon of blood trailing towards a surface you can’t reach, and then Samira’s tail collides with your ribs with bone-crushing force, flinging you upward.
Ow ow ow, sorry kid, you nearly drowned and then you got cut and violently thrown.
This time you understand the difference in her response. {Ready?}
Man, school of hard knocks. Poor Baku. I actually feel really bad for him - there are a lot of incidents where he has to go through something unpleasant, like eating raw fish or nearly drowning, while the joy of learning the language or seeing new things is more subdued and less comprehensive.
“Nofangs?”
'Harmless'! Nogills might work too, because the lack of cause what happens when you try to swim with a baby human on your back.
{My aunt flew into the sun?} you guess at last.
Ahahaha, omg. I'm not 100% sure what's up with krookodile and mandibuzz but the legend here is entertaining. I guess I'll find out next chapter!
They missed you, but they’ve moved on. An entire year passed while you lived under the sands. Suddenly the food tastes like dust in your mouth.
D:
They’re acting out of love, you remind yourself, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. It isn’t fair. If you’d known that this would be your fate, you would’ve never done it. But that isn’t the lesson they want you to learn, you know.
:((( Yeah Baku I would really not blame you if you decided to fuck off from these losers for all this bullshit. The love that is the grand mercy of not murdering the child where he stands for stepping on the wrong rocks and all, and holding tight to that judgement for another year in fear of tradition. Baku doesn't know exactly what Samira wants to teach him and I'm very curious what his dad thinks.
Her maractus, a new flower bloomed on his forehead, introduces himself as Aji.
This sentence reversed itself into my head and now I'm just thinking 'Her human, an unusually pale boy with torn up clothing, introduces himself as Nofangs', haha.
 

bluesidra

Mood
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-reup
  2. custom/hoppip-bluesidra-pink
  3. custom/hoppip-bluesidra3
this is a logistically sound assumption and that is all I can say at this time, yes.
Concern...
Yeah, I'm always boggled by how much responsibility we place on ten year-olds in this fandom, like their choices really are informed or if they're just kids who want friends ...
I wholeheartedly live the lie that they are actually all around 18 years old and go backpacking between highschool and whatever else :)
I rest peaceful at night.
Yeah just send me six payments of $19.99 and your social security number and you, too, can disappear in the desert! crocodile not included.
Concern..? Nah, sounds legit
This sentence reversed itself into my head and now I'm just thinking 'Her human, an unusually pale boy with torn up clothing, introduces himself as Nofangs', haha.
Pffft.... 😆

Big :veelove: overall for the second chapter! How cute! Baku slowly slowly learns to cope with his situation and word for word learns the desert tongue. It is so heartwarming seeing Namira care for him, and how she also has to adapt to him (as in, not drowning him). Their first attempts at speech are so precious! Namira is also a very good parent (as good as a krookodile can be for a human. I guess her lessons on shedding vary a bit in importance from his father's lessons on... idk shaving, but hey). When the two talk, Baku seems a lot more curious and encouraged to ask questions than when he was with his father.

Interesting lore tidbit about the Dancer's tongue, which is universally understandable but also means that the speakers of it don't understand the other universal tongue, the desert tongue. Nali and Namira seem to share a lot of words, and later, when Baku's back at the village, he can understand the other pokemon just fine, even when they aren't sandiles. Kinda sad to think of the Dancer being understand by everyone and not being able to understand anyone in return.

Hard to believe that it's been a whole year. Baku sure was alone a lot with his thoughts. He handled being disoriented and in the dark quite well. Other people might have gone crazy. I sure would. But after a rough first nights, he clings to Namira (which is so precious!!!) and lets her be his entire world.

When he's back at the village, he is at first really happy to be back home, but it soon shifts into the realisation that he doesn't quite feel at home here any longer. Poor boy. He certainly doesn't feel at home with the sandiles either, he just feels at home with Namira. His outburst of anger feels understandable and still very childish. It's just something he expected to happen and now he's angry and insecure that he was wrong. But even before that decision, he clearly felt some sort of anger against his village (and himself) for not seizing more opportunities.

All in all a very wholesome chapter. Pls moar!

A conversation is chattering around you, and yet you have no idea what’s being spoken, what’s being decided
{Ssssamira, there'sss sssomething on your back...}
{Looksss kinda grosss}
Samira’s tail collides with your ribs with bone-crushing force, flinging you upward.
Yeet
“Darmanitan?” you query, and she repeats it back to you in the desert tongue.
:veelove:
You fish again. This time you’re safely tucked to one side as she gathers an enormous treasure trove of fish in her jaws, and you learn many words for thanks.
:veelove: :veelove: :veelove:
“Nofangs?”
Nofangs? Nothanks
{There was not one for you. There was not one for your father’s-sister, either. I named her Fangkeeper, for she had teeth like us, though they were not in her jaw.}
{Never in my life have I had to name something. This is new to me. I consulted the other krookodile and they though this name fit you well.}
Is this intentional? As far as I gathered, Namira named his aunt, but four lines later she says that she never named anything.
You want one of them to protest. You want to protest. But—

{So shall it be,} you echo.
For a story about learning to speak, he rarely speaks what he thinks, doesn't he?
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Back for more tears of the krookodile variety! Here we learn more about the krookodile in the same uncertain way that Baku does. Living in darkness, eating sushi, coming to the surface only at night, and hissing and rumbling to each other deep underground. Overall I do think this chapter is not as strong as the first one. The sense of progress of Baku learning the customs and speech of the krookodile, while gradual, feels kind of drip fed at the start, until he's already picking up on words and forming full questions after [x] amount of time? I think there's merit to being uncertain about the passage of time, because Baku himself is given the fact that he lives in total darkness for the most part. But I was also surprised when at end of the chapter it had been a full year passing by. I guess it felt very logarithmic, in that sense. Very slow for the first half of the chapter, then we blink and he's doing okay, and then we blink again and he's at the end of a year with lots of learning under his belt.

I little part of me also wished we had a more intimate look at how he taught himself the desert tongue. Sure picking up on repeated words makes sense, but what does it feel like to speak the desert tongue, for a human? Krookodile hiss and rumble naturally, but do humans do the same? How does one form the hisses and rumbles to communicate? We go right into the subtitled speech, and are told that Baku's vocal chords are rusty with disuse. But he's speaking aloud to the krookodile no? It might have been more interesting to notice the difference in speech between forming words for the dancer's tongue, vs the more guttural sounds of the desert. I think feeling first-hand Baku's realization of his own evolution to become closer with the krookodile clan would be more impactful, especially with the ending of him returning to the Southern Stones to be among his human family.

I'll be honest, too, I entirely forgot who Baku's aunt was. She only got mentioned twice in the previous chapter alongside the names of a lot of other less-important human characters. Mentally I didn't file her away as someone who would crop up again in this chapter from both the krookodile and in-person again. There's an interesting disconnect between what Baku has learned with Samira vs what his aunt had learned, though what that is exactly isn't clear. I also don't remember the possibility of Baku's "punishment" extending to a second year as part of the terms. The decision feels like it kind of came out of nowhere, especially if this was to be a lesson, not getting any sort of feedback and then getting tossed back into the desert again feels unfair (despite it actually being a punishment). At least as the reader understanding that Baku might not realize he's not ready yet, but I feel equally in the dark about the whole thing as him. (Though this might be the point of writing in second person? I'm not that learned about reading second person fic, so this might be a moot point if that's the actual point of this style)

Again, though, the imagery and use of the senses to make the desert come alive is fantastic. Using the contrast of complete darkness to make moonlight feel like high noon is a great decision. Taking away Baku's primary sense and seeing him still figure out how to adapt and cope with his new situation is great to see. Perhaps the only thing that's a bit clunky is this passage, in which the first part is kind of a mouthful to read.
but no matter how many times you blink your eyes you can’t make you see. There’s only scent and sound and feel.
I like the follow up, though, of the actual scents and sounds and feels of the underground krookodile nests.

There's also the bit about Baku almost drowning in the river where Samira shows remorse and caring for him. She's not some cold, unfeeling judge, doling out punishment to the wrongdoer. It'd be kind of interesting to see how he got along with other krookodile in the clan, or is he really only ever interacting with Samira the whole time? Kind of crazy that for a whole year he's only interacted with one other individual.

I did really like the sense of time passage coming to the forefront once he returns to the human tribes a the Southern Stones. The idea that people have grown, and have moved on from him, and that he's changed drastically as well. Makes me wonder how much time his aunt spent with Samira, and whether or not she also noticed some of the same changes from her time spent with the krookodile. She wasn't there for punishment, though. So it's not really and apples to apples comparison.

I get the feeling this second chapter will really shine when bookended by the final installment of this fic. Baku's got another year ahead of him, and I imagine things will go a bit differently this time around.
 

Negrek

Whole of the Moon
Staff
Chapter two! All in all this was less horrifying than I was expecting, heh. Here we have sort of a more creeping sort of hurt, or an unintentional one--makes sense, given the themes of the larger story this was extracted from! Samira seems to like Baku well enough and have no intention of hurting them, but ends up doing so by accident out of misunderstanding (or perhaps simply not thinking of) his needs. This is most clearly illustrated when Samira drags Baku into the river, of course, but it threads through in smaller ways throughout the story, such as when Baku wonders whether Samira realizes that he can't see at all when underground. The line about both Samira and Baku's father acting out of love when sentencing him to another year with the krookodile strikes me as ominous; I wonder if Samira's gotten a bit too fond, and from fond, possessive. Would certainly parallel a pokémon trainer valuing how much they love their pokémon and love having them around over what's best for them. Love the subtler ways in which the relationship has hurt Baku as well--how he's fallen out of step with his own people as a result of being away.

I'm curious what the story is behind Livari's time with the krookodile. Unclear to me whether she was sent to stay with them under similar circumstances to Baku, or whether she was otherwise learning from them and then her injury resulted as some breach of krookodile custom while she was under their care but that she hadn't caused any previous offense. One way or another I'm curious whether Baku can escape incurring something similar--seems unlikely.

It's interesting to me that Baku's punishment--or lesson--is to go and live with the krookodile. Makes me wonder how that relates to the practice of pokémon pairing off with humans and going to live with them. We don't see any human children going to live with the maractus or darmanitan partnering up with sandile--why this one-way sort of partnership? Perhaps it's just that human society is better able to approximate acceptable living conditions for a variety of species than the pokémon ones; like, a maractus kept underground except at night is probably gonna just fuckin die, for example. But in general I wonder why the exchange seems to mostly be one-way, and wonder how the various pokémon societies view pokémon that choose to take up with humans--apparently for the long term, since it sounds like e.g. Nali's been around for years at least, so even longer than Baku's supposed to stay with Samira. Perhaps the other species are like krookodile and tend to live way longer than humans, so some time spent in human society is just an interesting vacation?

I enjoyed the way the pokémon myths continued to be incorporated into the story here, and that while pokémon have different stories than humans, and as Baku wonders about, some of their interpretations of mythological happenings/figures may be different, they nonetheless contain so many of the same elements, the dragonmother and the first maractus, krookodile, etc. Once again, gives a good sense of the desert as having a sort of consistent meta-culture that all the species participate in, unlike the modern day when the humans no longer tell any of the same stories, or they're so transformed as to be almost unrecognizable. Probably my favorite parts had to do with language, though. I loved the idea of krookodile passing around a constant set of names and having trouble coming up with new ones, as well as Samira's assertion that she's not going to steal the one that Baku's father came up with for him and use her own instead (perhaps a worrying bit of possessiveness there?). Also the comment that Livari had fangs, even though they weren't in her mouth, and the contrast with poor Baku's nickname, lol.

Your descriptions of the desert continue to be a highlight. All in all this story has a lovely sense of place, and one could almost long for the desert... all that sand, though. I guess Baku must just be used to it getting everywhere so he can properly enjoy the sunset without thinking about that, lol.

Commas between modifiers take the place of the word "and," so if it sounds weird to replace them with that word, they don't belong. So:

In the morning, a low, crooning sound leaks from her lips, almost incessantly; by noon, she’s fallen silent and put herself headlong into the travel.
Here, "low and crooning" isn't incorrect, but I don't think it's what you were looking for; I would say no comma between those two. (Also, "put" might be kind of a weak verb to go with "headlong.")

There is a lurching stab of movement as Samira slithers forward with you on top of her, and then a wet, slapping sound against her scales a few feet away from where you’re sitting.
No comma between "wet" and "slapping."

One enormous, black eye watches you with a look that you can parse as concern.
No comma between "enormous" and "black."

That one was special, because could be shared in only one way, and only to those who listened.
Missing an "it" after because, but I liked this bit. I took the Dancer's tongue to mean the maractus tongue last chapter, since having lived with a maractus that's one I thought Baku might know--but I definitely should have thought of Meloetta first, oooops. The "only to those who listened" bit is particularly interesting here. Humanity doesn't seem to be doing a whole lot of listening in modern-day Unova, so it's ironic that their language could have only come about from them doing exactly that.

Surely she must know that you are not like the rest of the brood; that your eyes were not made to piece the subterranean darkness and that when you live among them you live blind.
*pierce the subterranean darkness

You lay on your side for a moment
*lie

You arm throbs.
*your

but you this time it doesn’t come.
Random "you."

The sounds of their language washes over your ears
*wash

Your vocal chords twinge with disuse.
*cords (they are literal cords, heh)

With Samira you watch the glowing red lines of darmanitan troop steadily cross the northern plains, little more than motes of glowing light from a distance.
Something went sideways in this one. I think maybe it's supposed to be *troops *crossing? Or alternatively "a darmanitan troop."

(Aunt Livari hadn’t mentioned this, but once more you have no words to ask the question, so you bury it away for the time being).
Period escaped the parentheses.

Though she was kind, many of the First People’s still feared Nekya shadow overhead, for they knew what happened when she drew near.
*Neyka's

Very curious to see how you're going to wrap this one up. I'm expecting a tragedy, but will it be a quiet one where Baku is irreparably changed, but not through any particular act, not with any ill will from either side? Or will he end up more dramatically maimed when Things Get Worse? Or perhaps even both... Both is good. :P
 

kyeugh

onion witch
Staff
Location
the freaking swamp
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. farfetchd-galar
  2. custom/gfetchd-kyeugh
  3. custom/onion-san
  4. farfetchd
ii. the flame

to the shock and surprise of all, i really loved this.

as before, your descriptions of the environment are really evocative. i think my favorite part of the chapter is the bit where baku is reflecting on all the cool shit he's seen while out in the desert, like the journeying darmanitan and the vulture queen. we got to see the human culture he came from, and we're learning the world of the krookodile now, but there's this suggestion of so many other moving parts that we only scrape the surface of. it leaves the impression of a very wide, complex world that even most people in-world can ever have a partial understanding of. it's super cool and makes me want to learn more.

i found the krookodile's lifestyles interesting. there's a very ancient and alien aspect to baku's time underground. the way he's forced to adapt to using his other senses was interesting, and his gradual assimilation into their society was cool to witness. i liked the way that the world really seemed to come alive as his cultural understanding improved. in the beginning he's basically just vibing in the dark and making his mouth bleed on fish, but towards the end you start seeing the outline of their society. this is reflected by the character of samira, who starts out as an intimidating inhuman creature that's beating the daylights out of baku by mistake, but eventually becomes a fairly talkative, almost maternal presence. however, i did find myself wondering what they like... actually did all day. you talk about the council meetings a bit, but aside from that it's hard to imagine what baku is actually doing all the time aside from just sitting in the dark and occasionally going out to travel and see some cool stuff. are the excursions daily? i wasn't sure. the language learning was cool and felt real without inhibiting the narrative. echoing pano that it would have been cool to see him struggling to produce the physical sounds necessary to speak the desert tongue. the sounds you describe for it are distinctly inhuman so it seems like that would have been an issue. i also found it pretty surprising that baku was able to follow the relatively long-winded and advanced myth relayed to him by samira towards the end, especially since he'd just been struggling to find words a few minutes before that.

the big theme i picked up here is that you can't truly exist in two worlds at the same time. baku learns a lot about the krookodile's way of life as he lives with them, and that's cool and he's excited about that, but it doesn't come for free. when he returns home, things aren't the way they've always been—he's traded that time, lost something, and returns as something of an outsider. that's pretty painful, especially when he has the knowledge that he's about to go right back and spend even more time away. but it does sort of drive home the thinking behind the punishment. baku made a careless mistake, but it was only something he could be careless about in the first place because he was so deeply entrenched in his own world and way of life that he doesn't adequately respect the needs of those outside his community. this experience, while painful, is sort of forcibly culturing him and breaking that bubble. i could see that being important for someone who's poised to become sanhim someday. with that in mind, it seems like realistically this was the best path for him... but again, it doesn't come for free.

anyway, v cool stuff. i liked the mix of wonder at the natural world, enthusiasm to be learning, and melancholy at the end. it's a bit of a quieter chapter but to me every piece of it was interesting—i'm having so much fun in this world that i'm fully happy just to kind of vibe in it for a bit. looking forward to returning to see how it all wraps up!

edit: btw, art still incoming. 👁️

In the morning, a low, crooning sound leaks from her lips
does she have lips?
The dunes faded into an indescribable mess a long time ago.
i wasn't sure what to visualize here.

faintly, over the sound of sand shedding from her tail, you can almost hear a trickle of water.
almost hear?

What comes next is louder than a hiss; Samira’s scales shift beneath you and the bass vibration rattles up your bones.
really cool. love how ancient and inhuman they feel.

If you squeeze your eyes shut, you can pretend to feel his hands on your shoulders as he carefully points your arm up to the eastern horizon.
i feel like "you can imagine his hands on your shoulders" might flow a bit better here.

You almost were washed off—you reached blindly for her tail, screaming, before you felt it smack you in the face and you managed to wrap your hands around it on reflex.
swapping the positions of "almost" and "were" here would be good i think. also i love the tail smack and the screm, lol.

down, in the underground caverns that the krookodile called home, the world was quiet and still. There were occasional hisses, tiny shifts in movement. Sometimes Samira would shake until you slowly climbed off of her, and then you would sit huddled in the darkness until the rasping of her scales against the cool sandstone announced her return.
i really liked this description, especially the last part. i think you can drop the first comma though.

Samira’s tail collides with your ribs with bone-crushing force, flinging you upward.
the use of "bone-crushing" here left me with the expectation that his bones were actually crushed, but it doesn't seem like they were. i really like this part though. it really underscores the differences in their size. samira is beating the fuck out of him basically by accident.

Halfway through the summer, when the days grow long—you and Samira must spend most of your time under the sands—you find yourself longing for the sensation of harsh warmth on your skin, the tingling feeling of imminent sunburn, soft light against your closed eyelids.
i wasn't sure about this em-dashed aside, i feel like it would work better with a more conventional structure. maybe: Halfway through the summer, when the days grow long, you and Samira must spend most of your time under the sands. You find yourself longing for the sensation of harsh warmth...

{Never in my life have I had to name something. This is new to me. I consulted the other krookodile and they though this name fit you well.}

“Nofangs?”

{Precisely.}
absolutely fucking owned. love this boy-and-his-dragon story where the boy is named toothless instead


{My aunt,} you begin.
there's a word for "aunt" now other than father's-sister?

You hold him close, suddenly aware that over the year your hands have turned leathery, chafed to callouses from the scales, and yet even in the moonlight you can see how much paler you are than him, sun-starved as you are.
i really like this. he's not just changing in mind or behavior—his body has physically adapted as well.

Your father presses a plate full of food into your hands and triumphantly steers you to the fire.
i was kind of surprised we didn't get anything about baku's feelings about the first real food he's had access to in ages.

Mila is halfway through explaining a joke—for your benefit, you suspect; those of the southern stones already know—when the sensation hits you all at once: they’ve moved on. They missed you, but they’ve moved on. An entire year passed while you lived under the sands.
ouch. ouch ouch ouch
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
Part 2 review

The scene where Baku almost drowned really stood out to me, though I am not sure if it was for the intended reason. Samira shows concern, but I kind of wanted to see some form of apology too because, even though she clearly doesn't want to coddle him, plunging into a river without warning struck me surprisingly negligent. Whether you'd want to keep the scene depends on how you want me to feel about Samira and your future plans. Instinctively, I feel like the scene should serve as a sort of turning point that inspires him to try to learn/speak the desert tongue because that's what he does very shortly after. I guess it sort of serves that purpose, but only because he coincidentally understood a word she used, which could have happened in another context.

The imagery works for me, no big issues there.

My concern has shifted from "how will Baku endure his time with the krookodile?" to "how will Baku find a sense of belonging once his non-punishment is over?" Riding on a krookodile is cool, but being with a loving family is probably better. By his admission, he's felt lonely for a while, and this is just exacerbating that.

Comments on the googledoc

Grammar note: If you have a complex sentence where the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, you have to have a comma. You're also supposed to put a comma after introductory words/phrases at the start of a sentence.

This review felt kind of negative, but I look forward to the third part.
 

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
  2. custom/dratini-pen
  3. custom/dratini-pen2
The moment that really gets me in this one (and got me back when it was an eoe chapter) is when Baku says "alright" despite the fact that he's not alright, that nothing is alright. Samira will only listen to him if he speaks in the desert tongue, and he only knows the words she's willing to give him. When the Dancer's tongue is described, it's described as being able to make anyone understand who listens. Samira intentionally chooses not to listen to Baku.

I really like the stuff about Baku's aunt. There's enough there to form the outline of something, but a lot left unknown. His aunt had "fangs" in the way Baku lacks, she forgot her place and was injured for it. In contrast, Baku never protests. He's always trying to read minds instead, to find the moral he's supposed to be learning. It makes sense, because it's a way of making meaning from what he's going through.

There's a sense of detachment all throughout, punctuated by hunger and pain. Baku's mostly living in his own head, only grounded by Samira's touch and the words she gives him. The few times he is above ground seem almost unreal. And by the time he's home with his people, it felt dreamlike. It's like his world has been inverted and the nightmare goes on so long it becomes the reality. The sense of inevitability in Baku's second judgement hurts. He thinks he went there to learn to speak, but what he's really learned to do is to echo.

Very here for the additional mythology about the Vulture Queen. This part is 'the flame' and that makes me think of the warmth of Baku's father's cloak and the fires of his home. He is losing both of them.

The krookodile live further in the dunes than you’d ever thought. Samira and her kind must have traveled much further than you and the sanhim, you realize.
Double further.

Although it’s stifling, you end up wrapping yourself in your father’s cloak to hide yourself from the scorching rays.
This sentence felt a bit jumbled.

On reflex you spit it out, and with it the coppery taste of blood—your own. It cut you.
Just on a meta level, something very oof about even the act of eating causing Baku to lose something of himself.

Your father told you a story once, of a beautiful pokémon with a voice so compelling that anyone who listened would believe her. She sang so beautifully, he explained, that everyone would immediately understand what she meant, and why she meant it.
It's interesting that this seems to conflate being believed and being understood.

The conditional of "anyone who listened" kind of made me expect a turn to what use the dancer's tongue is if someone doesn't want to listen.

You have the Dancer’s tongue. With her voice, you can make your hopes reality.

You open your eyes to darkness, and a silence you do not break.
😶

Surely she must know that you are not like the rest of the brood; that your eyes were not made to piece the subterranean darkness and that when you live among them you live blind. This was part of her lesson for you, not her punishment.
Baku's trapped in this dichotomy. The existence of a third option, that's it's neither, because it has no intention, isn't something he can contemplate, because it would take the meaning away. A punishment can be endured, a lesson can be learned, but an apathy, what's done out of one person's convenience, can only be adapted to.

You cannot answer in the Dancer’s tongue if you want her to listen. That fact cuts through even your panic and your pain. But you don’t know what other words you can say.

{Alright,} you respond weakly.
💔

Eventually she pulls you back beneath the surface, and you’re almost grateful for it—you don’t have to feel guilty for wasting your precious surface time on tears.
Oof.

You fish again. This time you’re safely tucked to one side as she gathers an enormous treasure trove of fish in her jaws, and you learn many words for thanks.
:/

There, she introduces you to the vulture queen, a young but proud mandibuzz who pecks curiously at your skull before a warning hiss sends her scooting back.
The Vulture Queen, huh. kint is a Persephone sock confirmed.

At first it’s slow. These words you gather and hoard greedily—greetings, ways to count fish, descriptions of traverses across the desert—but no matter how hard you try, you cannot form the question you want to ask.

Am I learning what you want?
Big upside-down face.

{Never in my life have I had to name something. This is new to me. I consulted the other krookodile and they though this name fit you well.}

“Nofangs?”

{Precisely.}
Uwu

Though she was kind, many of the First People’s still feared Nekya shadow overhead, for they knew what happened when she drew near.
Missing apostrophe?

For Nekya had a solemn duty: when someone died, Nekya was to descend upon their body and devour their heart, so that it would be freed from the corpse and be born once more.
Love the vulture/death god as having this important role of life-giving.

For this reason, when it came time for the Dragonmother to pass, Nekya hesitated in her duty for the first time. The Dragonmother curled up and entered the eternal slumber; the desert waited for her to be returned to life. But Nekya descended; seeing her mother in such a state, she wept.

The peoples of the desert pleaded with Nekya, but it was too late. The Dragonmother’s heart had turned to stone.
Fantastic myth explanation for the dragon stones.

{Fly beyond the horizon, sister, and pray that we never see you again.} Samira finishes the story for you in a low, dramatic hiss.

You wait.

{My aunt flew into the sun?} you guess at last.
Lmao Baku.

{The sands were kind,} you reply proudly, your heart almost bursting.
Baby!

For a moment something in his face crumbles, but he turns triumphantly. “Come, Baku. Tonight we sing for you.”

And they do sing. The Dragonmother’s relics are passed from the humans to the darumaka, and from the maractus to the krookodile. Your father presses a plate full of food into your hands and triumphantly steers you to the fire.
Double triumphantly.

You want to be angry at both of them. At Samira, for keeping you even though you’ve struggled so hard. At your father, for not protesting. It stings. They’re acting out of love, you remind yourself, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. It isn’t fair. If you’d known that this would be your fate, you would’ve never done it. But that isn’t the lesson they want you to learn, you know.
And Baku thinks whatever lesson they want him to learn must be the right one.

You get a change of clothes, but your father’s cloak is tattered, cut nearly to ribbons from the constant beating it’s received in the past year. It’s tattered. You let that happen. It’s tattered and it’s irreplaceable.
Cloaks 💔

Instead, she’d just looked sad, the corners of her eyes tinged with the shame you’d forgotten to feel until this moment.

Thus the first year passes.
:(
 
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