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Myths and Legends One-Shot Contest - Results

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Myths and Legends One-Shot Contest

That's right, it's finally time! The judges have been working overtime to read and write feedback for of all the entries. We had fifteen this year, so it was a big job! Now the results are in and we can crown the winners of Thousand Roads' first one-shot contest. A quick overview of what to expect, and then we'll dive right in!

The next post in this thread is an index with summaries of all the stories submitted to the contest, with links to anywhere they've been published, a link to their highlight post in this thread, and an interview with the author (if available) giving some insight into their entry. It'll give you a quick overview of the entries and hopefully help you decide which ones you might want to read!

After that, each submitted story gets its own highlight post. Each of these contains an excerpt from the story to give you a taste of what it's like, links to anywhere it's been published, and the judges' feedback for the story. For the top three stories, the judges' individual ranks are indicated in addition to their feedback.

Scoring ended up being done differently than the system outlined in the contest's sign-up post. Ultimately, each judge ordered the list of stories from their number one pick to their last pick. Their score for a story was determined based on the point scale below, and then the points awarded to a story by each judge were summed up to yield the story's final overall score. Stories were ranked based on their overall score, and the top three became our winners!

Place - Points
15th - 10
14th - 20
13th - 30
12th - 40
11th - 50
10th - 60
9th - 70
8th - 80
7th - 90
6th - 100
5th - 115
4th - 135
3rd - 150
2nd - 170
1st - 200

After all the story highlight posts, the thread will be open for your comments, discussion, congratulations to the winners, or whatever else you'd like to add. And now, without further ado... the results!
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
Myths and Legends Contest Entries

"ammil" by auspicious-clouds
Once there were three, one and the same. Now only an icy shell remains.
Links: Judges' Comments




"Better Left Unown" by Tanuki
Two unown, named ? and !, fight for their lives in the search of their innermost strength.
Links: Judges' Comments | Thousand Roads



Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

Hidden Power has always interested me since there's not really much hidden about it besides its typing. I thought It'd be fun to make it something a little more.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

There was initially a love pentagon between ?, her Soul Mate Charizard, a picture in a book of a beautiful crook, a motorbike, and !, but my betas noted that its conclusion resulted in a plot-hole, so I had to axe it almost entirely. Charizard, luckily, made it into the final draft, however.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

I drew from the traditional idea of dragons as hoarders of wealth and tried to interpret how that may look in a more modern economic system.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

One thing that I wish I could've expounded on more is their team name "The Exclaimers?" is actually a reference to a band's name. They don't have a lot out, but what they do have is an interesting modern take on punk rock.

"Carraig na Coinnle" by Starlight Aurate
Legend has it that the mountain of Cairn Thierna is inhabited by some monster who lures in travelers and keeps the abandoned castle Carrigogunnel frozen year-round. But Colm knows they're just tall tales, and needs to go through Cairn Thierna's mountain pass during the winter to get to a neighboring town. Together with a Mareep and his Grumpig, Barry, the three of them try to make their way through but the winter weather forces them to take an early stop. When he stops in Carrigogunnel for a quick rest, he soon realizes that the myth holds more truth than he initially thought.
Links: Judges' Comments | Thousand Roads | Serebii

Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I always wanted to write a one-shot on Glalie's Pokedex entry; that was the main driving force behind it. Seeing the visuals from the Disney film Frozen also inspired me to write an icy winter-themed story. I'm also big into Irish fairy tales, and one called "The Rock of the Candle" provided inspiration for it also.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

I originally wanted my main character, Colm, to start praying "Ar nAthair..." when he was in the cave but I just don't think it went with the urgency of the situation. So I moved the prayer to later on, when he sees his mother and brother at home. I thought of writing more about having no fear of death, or elaborate on the souls of the departing going to the afterlife at the funeral, but ran out of time before I could really brainstorm on it so I just made brief mentions of it.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

Yes! Like I mentioned before, it was inspired by the Irish fairy tale "The Rock of the Candle," where a hag named Grana lures night travelers in by the light of her enchanted candle and killed them before sunrise. A group of men called the "Finnii of Erin" were known for their bravery and their leader, Finn, sent a man named Regan to defeat Grana. After the events of the story, the rock on which Grana placed her candle has the castle Carrigogunnel built over it, though the castle is long in ruins by the time the narrator tells the tale. The Finnii is where I got the name of the protagonist's relative, Finn, from. The name "Cairn Thierna" came from "The Legend of Cairn Thierna," though nothing else from that particular tale inspired my story.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

The prayer that Colm's family recites towards the end of the story is the beginning of The Lord's Prayer (AKA the Our Father) in Irish. I included it to add more Irish flavor and I was inspired by the film The Secret of Kells where the main character, Brendan, starts reciting it when he's in danger. It's a fundamental prayer and thought that it would be appropriate for Colm's family to be praying it when he was in bad health. I also feel like it's easy for a reader to tell which parts I wrote years ago and which I wrote recently, as my writing style used to be so much more flowery and descriptive whereas the recent scenes are a lot more concise. Other than that, this is just a short little fic originally inspired by Glalie's Pokedex entry and the visuals of Frozen that I wrote a long time ago and then re-hauled it by adding the inspiration taken from "The Rock of the Candle."


"Celebii" by CSchollen
My story is the birth of the Celebii myth and peoples belief in it following Celebii.
Links: Judges' Comments



Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I wrote about Celebii because I feel she's an underrated legendary. I mean there is so much there to talk about. From the conflicting between her and Dialga as the time guardians. Her being the protector of forests against man. The fact that she can time travel and also that she is not one of the big legendaries like The creation trio or Ho-Oh and Lugia or Mew and Mewtwo. It just inspired me to write her.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

I wanted to go a bit more into Cynthia's backstory and such but the deadline creeped up real fast. Also it's about Celebii so it's hard to squeeze in a lot of non Celebii content.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

I mean theres very obvious parallels to Greek and Roman mythology. Especially in the way that Celebii is punished by Dialga and such it mirrors the punishments of people like Prometheus? Sisyphus and obviously Pandora's box with her tempting herself by power and being lost.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

I only saw the post off the fic within 5 days before the deadline and wrote the entire story before then. So altogether I'm pretty impressed with how it turned out in such a short time.

"The Crystal Prince and the Heart of Life" by Pen
Third-Place Winner
There was once a perfect garden, where nobody died. There the Crystal Prince lived in bliss, until Strangers came, bringing death with her . . .
Links: Judges' Comments


Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I frequently see Xerneas and Yveltal mapped onto a Christian God/Satan framework. I wanted to tell a story that isn't so quick to make Yveltal a stand-in for evil.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

Hah, nope! I was well under the word limit. The life of a former drabble-writer.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

The subtext is certainly the Garden of Eden story, but my story uses the symbols in a different way.


"Finding Mahoun" by Cresselia92
First-Place Winner
The life of a wild Pokémon is harsh and full of hardships. The life of a runt of a family of rats and with an impossible dream is ten times harsher.
Links: Judges' Comments | Thousand Roads


Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

The inspiration for my story came from a discussion on Discord, where I had thrown the random idea of "What if a wild Pokémon saw humans us as some kinds of deities?". After saying that, I wanted to build the story around that concept, by introducing a legend from the point of view of a wild Pokémon. However, it isn't a traditional legend, but something that even goes to meta level. The finale cements that.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

Alas, yes. I wanted to show more of the relationship between Tiny Fang and Far Searcher to show how truly connected they were, as well as give more hints about the Mahoun, but was forced to scrap them to give room to other events that impacted Tiny Fang far more.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

Nope. The mythology of the story is a bit more... mundane, we could say.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Well, this story is very experimental, as it was my first true test with a first person perspective. So, probably some things are a bit rough, here and there. Aside from that, get your tissues ready. You may need them. :p

"Fire of the Mind" by NebulaDreams
A Braixen tries to save her ageing mentor's life by seeking a tree blessed by Xerneas that can give life to those that consume its ivy leaves.
Links: Judges' Comments



Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I've had this story in mind for ages. Back in 2018, I attempted to write a story involving Demi (known as Destiny back then) and Agnes, where Agnes becomes her mentor and helps her get over her dependency issues. It was set in the modern times rather than being a myth within a story, and the first 10k words covered everything up to the point of Agnes taking Destiny in. So it was sloooooooooow as hell.

To be honest, that story was bad, and after feedback, I initially trashed it to continue working on my longfic. I liked the idea itself, so when the Myths and Legends contest came up, I decided to retool it as an in-universe legend in the space of a one-shot. The story would've benefited from being tighter and simpler in scale, so I wanted to give it another go.

The reason I wanted to write about it in particular was looking up the myths of Xerneas and Yveltal, and how they could tie into the theme of death and accepting that all things must pass. The title Fire of the Mind is taken from a Coil song whose lyrics contemplate death. That, and I had been thinking about death with stuff going on with my personal life and my family, so in part, writing this was a bit therapeutic.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

I initially wrote a 2k word intro detailing the life of the writer of the myth and how they gather inspiration to write it. Unfortunately, it didn't fit in with the rest of the story and it took up too much space when I could've fleshed out more of the myth itself, so I ended up cutting it out.

If and when I do end up releasing this one shot, I might add a meta follow-up which reverse engineers the story and show how the ideas were gathered in-universe. Kind of like the One Cut of the Dead film.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

Not particularly. It was more about evoking the mood of a myth rather than taking direct influence from one bit of real-world mythology.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

The story also ties into my longfic The Curious and the Shiny, where there are more in-universe entries of Sinnohan Myths and Fables.


"The Godslayer" by Namohysip
My story, The Godslayer, is about Arceus sitting atop Destiny Tower, watching as an extremely powerful Pokemon rips through all of his guards with ease. During this "Godslayer's" ascent, Arceus asks the other Legendary Pokemon how this entity became so powerful without any of them realizing it, culminating in the inevitable climax of their encounter.
Links: Judges' Comments

Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I thought it would be entertaining, in a way, to have a story about the greatest legend of them all, Arceus, finding out about a myth that even he wasn't aware of the full truth. It's basically taking the concept of who the subject of a myth or legend is usually about and flipping it.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

During the planning phases, I had plans to have a sort of prologue, epilogue, or in-betweens of little cutaways of mortal Pokemon talking about The Godslayer and what he did around town, or things that he had been seen doing. Various feats of strength to make this person look incredibly powerful and heroic, and maybe a little mysterious. However, it made things a little unfocused, and I ultimately decided to make the story a "one-room" fic where it all takes place in a single location.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

Nope!

...

Okay, well, not consciously. But I suppose any story about a mortal or otherwise normal person ascending to the divine realm to beat up God is probably going to have similar beats, even if the result might not be as expected.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

I'm not usually one for making one-shots, at least not compared to where most of my time is dedicated. It's rare for me to have a whole story contained within 10,000 words or so, or in this case, even less than that. It's nice to be able to keep it short and simple, though I won't deny I still have some tie-ins to other short stories I've written. Hopefully I can keep getting better at shorter fiction rather than spending all the time on epics.

"In Search of Haven" by canisaries
In a desolate world ravaged by ghosts, a group of mon tries to get by with only each other and stories of a faraway Haven as comfort.
Links: Judges' Comments | Thousand Roads



Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

This was actually a story I'd had in the works for a longer time. I initially came up with it for a randomized prompt received from Bulbagarden Forum's Genre Gambles thread ("Horror / Expansion / Pokemon Protagonist / Fakemon Region"), but progress slowed down quickly and motivation dwindled.

For this contest, I had a new idea at first, but couldn't really work out the end of the outline and decided to instead repurpose this old WIP that had sat there for quite a while by then as it actually did fit the theme. As for what made me go for a story like this in the first place, I knew with "expansion" and "horror" that I'd really love to explore more of some Ghost type Pokémon and their potential. I'd had a great time with it when doing so in Hunter, Haunted, after all.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

There was a lot that I came up with for the setting that didn't end up being used, namely more Ghost Pokémon. One example that nearly made it in was a scene where lightning struck, electrifying some formless wandering spirits and creating Rotom from them.

Relating to the narrative itself, there were a couple of details or quirks I had to leave out to fit under the word limit or that didn't fit comfortably in the sequence of events otherwise, ranging from something really mundane like Ivan and Jason (Incineroar and Purugly respectively) grooming each other in places they can't normally reach to something pretty emotional like Kunal giving his bow to Paul at the very end. I am still happy with how the story turned out even when squeezed under the word limit, though.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

Not extremely. I did get a comment from a beta that Haven is pretty obviously a stand-in for heaven, though, in at least one scene. In a way it is - it's something that give some people hope and a sense of purpose even if they can't verify its existence, while some people take believing something you can't be sure exists to be ignorance and look down upon it. I'm not sure if that actually falls under mythology specifically, but it does tie into religion, which we know usually includes mythology.


"The Lonely God and the Littlest Growlithe" by kintsugi
Second-Place Winner
One day, at the very beginning of the world, a child dies. This was not supposed to happen.
Links: Judges' Comments


Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I love the growlithe line, and I always thought it was strange that arcanine is "the legendary pokemon" but never has any lore to go alongside that! The Kanto lore in general feels very legendary but not very mythological, so I wanted to take a stab at that.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

Yeah! I originally had a sassy ghost-type pokemon (gengar maybe?) who accompanied the main character, but there was way too much going on already.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

It's Prometheus but with socialism.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

I wrote most of this fic before the quarantine started, I swear.

"Lost to Retellings" by Windskull
Coming across a lost, young sentret in the woods, a zoroark waits with them to see if their parents will return. He passes the time by telling the young child stories: legends of the gods, and to the war that tore the world apart.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3 | FFN | Thousand Roads


Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

So this fic is loosely connected to my ongoing PMD story, Places We Call Home. My goal was to flesh out the world and some of its supposed history, and so I chose to focus on legendary pokemon that are relevant to my fic, but aren't all that actively involved in the plot.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

Not particularly, but I feel it's worth mentioning that this was my third attempt to write something. The first two attempts centered around Regigigas, but I felt like they relied too heavily on the context of the original story.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

There are bits and pieces of inspiration here and there, but for the most part, no.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

5. The way I styled the prose in this story was a bit of an experiment and probably a bit risky. Particularly the "present" portions where the zoroark is talking. I hope it payed off!


"Make Mew Friends, but Keep the Old" by eeveeribbons
Mew hiding under a truck in Vermillion Harbor? That's just some crazy rumor, right?
Links: Judges' Comments



"Selphus" by Ivy Towers
A local villager addresses the scandalous internet-propagated mythology of his hometown of Selphus. In doing so he tells a story about a dead boy, a man on the periphery, and group think.
Links: Judges' Comments


Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I came up with the story first. For the story I needed a Pokémon that would be seen as precious and sacred. I chose the one I did because of what I consider sacred.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

I did have an idea to include another post at the beginning, one written by another character; but I thought it would be better to stick to the format of a single post for the story.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

As much as I am glad for the opportunity to take part in this contest, this story became about more to me than Pokémon and this contest. It means something to me, and regardless of what anyone thinks of the story, this contest gave me the opportunity to articulate that.


"Shadow" by Farla
Someone living in an alley tries to understand what a beloved pokemon living in the lap of wealth and luxury could want with the garbage and risk of his kind of life.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3


Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I found the story of Alolan meowth having once been exclusive to royalty intriguing. It's already strange enough when you apply the only-for-royalty to living creatures like dogs and that's amped up enormously when it's a sapient species. And the way they're talked about in the present day also stood out to me - it felt like we were being invited to say they're stuck up and haughty, but it sounds like they were thrown straight from palaces to the gutter, and the idea wanting to get dirty means they're full of themselves... It's a strange standard they're being judged by. And for a species supposedly pampered and lazy, they don't seem all that willing to suck up to humans a second time in order to get that. Also, they're a friendship evolution of all things.

That they're still being described as prideful, as knowing where they came from, would mean they're passing down their understanding of what their position used to be and they're proud of it. I developed this a bit with another character, because it made sense to me that from the meowth's perspective this would be an incredibly traumatic event. And from there, how did they transmit that to the next generation? Not just the knowledge, but the mindset? How long do the scars last?

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

The original seed of this would be that it had some sort of overt/decoy plotline with a persian and the meowth in the background whose relationship wasn't initially clear. What that other plotline would be did not materialize and the persian's motives are hard enough to understand when they're being explicitly laid out without any distractions, so I very grudgingly accepted everything about that was a bad idea.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

Arguably real world history, but you can see how much ideological weight the idea of royal ownership has on us because while it's rarely pulled off in practice it comes up all the time in fiction.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

I do not understand why anyone thinks Persian cats are a good look. It's been monetarily proven that people do, but it baffles and hurts me. Please appreciate the effort it took to write my narrator being impressed by what an Alolan persian looks like.

"Slowpoke yawns, but does it rain?" by Meridian
My work is a magazine article about recent research into the subject of a classic Johto myth that I think most fans will remember: Slowpoke Well.
Links: Judges' Comments | AO3



Tell us a bit about your story! What made you want to write about the myth or legend that you chose?

I had a short list of a few different myths to write about for the contest, and this one jumped out the most at me. Sure the pokemon world is one of fantastic powers, but the idea that everytime a slowpoke yawns it rains just makes me concerned for the safety of the pokemon world given how associated they are with, well, yawning.

Was there anything you wanted to include in your story but couldn't make fit?

I think I was really worried about making the whole piece too scientific when it's meant to be more of a lifestyle column in a magazine rather than the academic journal the study was actually posted in. I managed to come up with a whole schematic of how the phenomenon would work, at least one that resolved the conflict I feel is in the original lore.

Does your story draw on anything from real-world mythology?

Not to my knowledge, but I did try and do just a little digging into what colleges in both hawaii and the kansai region. I think I may have done too much research into it honestly, because at the end it probably doesn't matter which irl colleges have a meteorology or biology department and get represented in the pokemon world.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about your story?

Rida, the main character of this fic, uses They/Them pronouns and is nonbinary.
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"ammil" by auspicious-clouds

Can you remember the feeling of wind under our wings as we flew—the joy of seeing the first touch of sunrise on the horizon, the last hint of dusk in the evening?

Can you remember the whirling flames that lit up the night sky with every wingbeat, the lightning that had sparked over feathers-scales-fur, the ice that had frosted the clouds in our wake?

Can you remember being balance and peace and justice, black and white and grey, three beings in one?


Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

Right off the bat, I already love the way you’ve decided to portray the Original Dragon. I’ve always had a hard time taking it seriously that most portrayals have them so torn up over being forced to choose a side that they just go and split into two out of nowhere. Like it makes for a good folktale and all, but trying to write it as a serious drama tends to fall flat for me. So I was pleased when your portrayal of them was always multiple beings in one body. Three hearts, kept in balance since the beginning because that’s what balance is. A single heart couldn’t be expected to properly keep multiple conflicting truths and ideals in balance. Having them as multiple hearts in one body just feels right. And maybe that’s more common an interpretation than I realize, but even if it is, I do love the way you wrote it. There’s this constant sense of duality undercutting the descriptions—things being one thing, and also another thing—as the dragon keeps its own multiple views in balance, and I think it adds a lot.

I think one of my favorite things about this story is the way that you played with the mythic theme. Humans are the mythic ones here—they’re continually described in flowery, fantastical words that make them feel alien and larger than life. They almost come off as celestial. (“Stardust and moonbeams”—more duality.) This is a story from the point of view of a god dragon, and you managed to make the humans feel way more otherworldly!

I enjoy the way the story kind of flits from one moment to the next in a way that’s reminiscent of a fairy tale, but without sacrificing the personal emotional stake in the narration, which is really dang hard to do in a fairytale. (And again, if this is a fairytale, then humans are the fantastical creatures on display. I really love that reversal.) A couple of the transitions were a bit too jarring though, like the one after the sage gifts them with the stones. Some of the paragraphing left me a bit puzzled, and while I like the use of parentheses to indicate side thoughts, thoughts that aren’t fully voiced, some of them didn’t quite feel like asides at all.

I would have liked to see more in-the-moment thoughts when the schism first began, when the dragon is trying its hardest to stop them from going to war. That part is a bit noticeably bare compared to the rest. That said, you really delivered on the following part. The moments leading up to Casimir splitting. So nicely broken and disjointed, absolutely taking full advantage of the 1st person to make the reader feel every bit as disoriented and—dare I say—incomplete. I really love the confusion and hoping and guilt and longing in the aftermath of it. The emptiness is practically tangible, and is there anything more fitting for Kyurem?

Overall, this entry took a well-established myth from canon and explored it to its fullest, in a way that was both new and interesting, and powerfully emotional, using its narrative style to back up the themes. On top of that, it played with the contest theme in a way that I didn’t expect. I enjoyed it a lot.

Dragonfree

You do a nice job with atmospheric, evocative prose in this entry, and I think you sell the emotional impact. We can feel Kyurem's loss and sense of incompleteness and the pain of it all, and it aches. There's a dreamlike, mythical quality to it at the same time as it's very personal, and I think you make that work well here - you make good use of repeated motifs, slightly unusual formatting without it being distracting, the sense of alienness to the POV and Kyurem's self-corrections in its strange identity crisis, and so on.

That being said, I do think in your dedication to this style you veer into making things simply confusing at times. The biggest spot where this happened for me was here:

I heard the crack—like an echo of thunder, like the snap of a wildfire—that split the sky as your heroes fell. I saw the stones fall from the sky, meteorites crashing down to earth from heaven, saw your heroes catch them in their hands.

One dark as your scales, Ideals, and the other a pure, pristine white like your fur, Truth.

I watched your heroes fall side by side, each impaled on the other’s weapons. Truth’s King stabbed through the heart, Ideal’s Hero slashed from shoulder to hip. Everything bathed in red-red-red.

I sought them out—the bright ones, the ones that had started this war and ended it in the same breath. (The ones whose death would bring peace. The ones whose death I would mourn for years and years and years-)

They were cradling the stones in their hands, weeping with salted tears falling from their eyes of stardust and moonlight, weeping at what they had done. Their wounds wept blood, red-red-red.

I brushed them with my muzzle, the bright ones, with their souls of bronze and silver, eyes of stardust and moonlight. My princes, my kings, my heroes. Your princes, Your kings, your heroes.
This is evocatively written - but it's quite hard to make out exactly what's happening here. First I read "as your heroes fell" and thought right, so the princes just died... only no, then the heroes are catching "them" (the stones, I'm guessing, although the last plural thing you mentioned was the meteorites - unless by that you just mean the stones?) in their hands. So they're not dead? Except wait, no, they're falling side by side, impaled on each other's weapons, stabbed through the heart and slashed from shoulder to hip, that definitely sounds pretty dead... only then no, they're weeping at what they did? So they're still alive, and conscious enough to be weeping and cradling the stones in their hands, despite those extremely fatal-sounding injuries, I guess... and then there's no indication of when they do die after that. My brain spent several paragraphs here just confusedly flipping back and forth between imagining Schrödinger's princes dead or alive, reading back up to try to reconcile what I'd read previously with what I was reading now, and it killed the emotional impact of this moment a bit for me.

I was similarly puzzled by the bit where they're trapped under a rockslide. You jump from "We had saved the forest - at the expense of ourselves" to "Great, both of you grumbled, while I searched for a way to free us." Free them from what? You don't explain what actually happened or why they need to free themselves until a few sentences later, and it just makes this needlessly unclear. If you'd cut straight to them trying to free themselves from a landslide as the opening of a scene and then explained how that happened, that'd be one thing, but that's not what you're doing here - you're in the middle of things describing them quelling the wildfire when suddenly you just omit a chunk of time, and it feels very strange and confusing.

Meanwhile, you don't use any Pokémon names at all, and most of the time it's difficult to tell what Pokémon you're actually talking about; I think I can see what you're doing with this, this thing of Kyurem not using or knowing the human names for these creatures, but ultimately I'm just distracted whenever you bring up "quick-hounds" or whatever and I have to stop and flip through my brain for what Pokémon could fit. I pictured the sage's blue dragon with crimson wings as a Druddigon (I misremembered exactly what parts of it are red), all the way until he started to mega-evolve it and I realized it was probably actually a Salamence. (Is Salamence even actually "blue as the sky just before dusk"?) All in all, the refusal to just call it a Salamence ultimately just took me out of the story, first to recall a Pokémon that might fit the description, then to revise that guess when it was wrong, then to go back to the original description and question whether Salamence actually fit it to begin with. The "hydras" are probably Hydreigon, but how am I meant to figure out what the "drakes" are? It doesn't matter, perhaps, but ultimately it just makes it harder to visualize what's happening and distracts from the story as my brain tries to resolve the indeterminate cloud of nothingness into what might be the correct Pokémon. It would be one thing if you wrote generic descriptors that clearly could be any of many Pokémon - the mention of "two warring dragon clans" I have no problem with - but when you make it sound like you mean a particular specific Pokémon, it just becomes frustrating when I can't tell which one.

I felt kind of similarly about the choice to give Reshiram, Zekrom and Kyurem new, unrelated names and use them exclusively. Again, I think I get what you're doing: these are their names as individuals, whereas Reshiram/Zekrom/Kyurem are the human names for what they are. But what it means is we have this set of unfamiliar names and have to spend additional mental effort associating them to the correct dragon. (And side note, but "Casimir" just sounds like a portmanteau of "Casvi" and "Simir" - later revealing the "mir" part is actually from "Miru" and not just "Simir" feels kind of off. Maybe that's the point, that Kyurem is just what's left behind so as far as most people are concerned the original dragon really was just Reshiram and Zekrom? But it sounds like they considered themselves three individuals at the time, so that doesn't quite fit, unless someone else who wasn't aware of the Kyurem part gave them the name Casimir.) I wouldn't mind this by itself, but as it is I feel like it becomes a contributing factor to making this story kind of opaque. I'm having to juggle not just Casvi and Simir but also which brother is the stardust brother and the moonbeam brother (what does it mean to have eyes like stardust versus eyes like moonbeams?), and I'm not sure exactly when people are dying or what species half of the Pokémon around are - it all just adds up to feeling a bit like I'm having to read the story while squinting through a fog. I can mostly make it out all right, and I like what I'm seeing a lot, but I wish I didn't have to squint!

I'm not quite sure what the point of the brief interlude about Kyurem hanging out in (I assume) Celestial Tower is. You describe them being there, that the "illusion-foxes" (Zorua/Zoroark?) are keeping records there, and then the paragraph ends in the middle of a sentence in a way I'm not quite sure is intentional because I don't think I see a stylistic point to it; then you say also there were golems (Golett/Golurk?) and candles (Litwick); and then Kyurem just leaves. I get that you say all this stuff in the tower reminds them of what happened, but all in all I'm not sure why Kyurem wanted to stay there in the first place, or what the story would lose if this bit weren't there and Kyurem just went straight north, not because they were being reminded of what happened but because it just happened. This chunk sticks out a bit as it is, I feel, and kind of brings the momentum of things to a halt.

There are also some mechanical mistakes here, in particular misuse of tenses - you use a bunch of the past perfect (It had started like this) when what you want is just the simple past (It started like this). The past perfect is only used when you're already talking about the past, saying that already in that past, something else had previously happened even further in the past: for example, it's correct when you say "Moons later, the hydras and the drakes settled into uneasy peace at last, and we had all but forgotten about the bright ones" - because you're talking about a past (when the hydras and drakes settled into uneasy peace), and in that past they had already forgotten. But the main narrative of the story here is in the present tense ("It haunts me", "Can you remember"), so when you're just going from there to describing how things started, the past perfect isn't appropriate. Tenses can be a bit confusing to work with, and apologies if I just made it sound more confusing here, but being careful to use them correctly improves the clarity of the story.

That's a lot of complaining, I know, but I really did think this was a pretty gripping entry. You hit upon some stark, beautiful turns of phrase, and you make the tragedy of these events vivid and painful in a stort space. Kyurem's pain is palpable and biting. But I think it's hurt by being more confusing and opaque than it has to be, and that that's what holds it back from being great.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: It’s interesting that you decided to explore and expand on the moment where the original dragon split into three pieces. Kyurem in particular is unusually empathetic here -- normally they’re portrayed as vicious and/or indifferent, but here they just want to be whole again. I’ve marked a couple places where I’d recommend adding more specific detail. A lot of this story is told through summary and thoughts, and adding in more tangible detail and a sense of chronology would make Kyurem’s feelings more impactful. Giving us fleshed-out scenes would also make it clearer what is happening when. I’d be curious to hear how the dragons’ voices have shifted since the split and how their way of seeing is different from the two brothers. My favorite line was where you walked about war needing two sides, making the split necessary and inevitable.

Umbramatic

So this is slightly awkward but one of my near-future projects was going to tackle this exact myth but holy hell you did it better than i could i love this

I just love the stupid high fantasy vibe you've given to the origin of the Tao Dragons, and seeing it all unfold in this flowery poetic language was a treat, not a turn-off. And it all being from the dragon's perspective? -chef's kiss- Also poor Kyurem.

(also the nod to the Lorekeepers. NICE.)

I do note that while the prose mostly adds to the mythological feel of this it does make certain bits more cryptic than I feel you were intending them to be. Like the stuff about the stones. What do the stones doooooooo. Tell me!

But yeah I really liked this? It contains multiple things that Please The Umbra and that is Good. Now to hastily adjust the notes on my own Tao Dragon Origin Story.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Better Left Unown" by Tanuki

Mystery is inherent to myth, especially among those with a lisp. They know the impossibility of parsing one from the other perhaps better than anyone else ever can. Same with legends and legers, though that’s difficult for many a manner of speech impediments, and even the general populace while not holding the same point as the initial phrase. Or any point. Not all that relevant. What is relevant, is that myths come with only as many answers as further questions asked. Many such questions are far better left un—er—answered. Yet, it is the nature of life to seek forbidden knowledge.

Two unown endeavored deep in the depths of Wish Cave on such a journey. They were named ? and !, because their parents hated them, a tradition among the unown. ? in particular had lived a life of abject misery because of her name. No one could ever pronounce it properly, calling her “question mark,” or “question,” or, worst of all, “?.” She would never forget the day she met !.

“??” he’d asked, so eloquently, beautiful. Not the slightest hitch in pronunciation.

“!!” she cried, that half-shut, tired look in his eyes telling her he felt the same joy and relief she had.

They’d become immediate friends, inseparable. It only made sense they’d form a rescue team together, a job they hated: another tradition among unown, hating their life’s work (they tend not to live very happy lives). ? still did her best to make the most of it, though. She loved exploring the world, dungeons, seeing what all the cultures did to survive despite the hellish landscape worsened by the ever expanding dungeons that mercilessly swallowed lands and lives whole. It was beautiful.

Her intrigue drove their team across the lands, searching far and wide for pokémon to understand the (hidden) power that’s inside.. One secret had always eluded them, though. A deep, and personal secret to both of them, and all unown: the meaning of their species’ name. Tales told of the truth it held and its relationship to hidden power. Supposedly, the knowledge could unlock the hidden part of the power and make it any semblance of combat relevant.


Read the rest: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

“Mystery is inherent to myth, especially among those with a lisp.”

Oh so that’s how we’re starting this. Alright then. :P

Right off the bat, I’m delighted that you chose to write about Unown. I was also surprised that you made them more grounded like regular Pokémon—joining a rescue team, with the mundane reality of normal life. You focused less on the mythic view of the Unown to others, but rather, the myth that they held of themselves. That’s clever!

So let’s get the obvious out of the way—you did a great job with the humor in this piece. I was constantly unprepared for the barrage of jokes saturating the narration. Everything from dragonfire as a wonder spice to dragon gold needing reasonable taxation to the reveal of what the name Unown means. Also I loved the way the story gears up to almost give us a title drop early on before backing down.

While the prose was highly expressive and hilarious, I will say that it was unclear at times. There were a couple moments where I couldn’t quite tell who was saying what, or if a brief aside was dialogue, or just part of the narration. Also there was some awkward formatting and broken paragraphing that occasionally made it harder to follow (which… might have just been a file conversion error?)

I was a little confused at one point near the end of the fight with Sal, when ? used Hidden Power Ice, where it felt like you were setting up an “overhyped attack falls comically flat” joke. But instead it’s described as if it was… actually devastating, but Sal just… didn’t care or something? It was sort of like it was missing the punchline.

Also while I enjoyed the random detours the narration took, there were a few that fell a little flat for me, going on for too long and derailing the story too much (most notably, the one ending in “a jam no grape or berry could hope to produce.”) It’s a great pun, but the whole paragraph just left me like “alright, let’s get back to what was happening.” And like, the constant references to ? being into Charizard were amusing, but also kind of bewildering when the story opens with ? and ! being the first to truly understand each other. It felt a little like the intro was setting up a different dynamic for ? and ! than we actually saw onscreen.

As an extension of that, the transformation at the end was… also a bit bewildering. It didn’t really feel like the natural extension of their character arc, which had been all about self-discovery. I could totally get behind the idea of Jirachi’s wish granting them ludicrous strength, as it’d be both fitting and hilarious for the weakest Pokémon to suddenly be nonsensically powerful.

In any case, I did really enjoy the anticlimax of Jirachi’s arrival. There was also some excellent foreshadowing leading up to it with the line: “Fate wouldn’t be so merciful as to let this myth be false.”

I think, overall, I mostly would have liked to see the mythic theme explored a bit more! You actually had the perfect setup with the Unown, right from the get-go: they don’t know their own heritage! I’d have loved to hear what kind of myths the Unown tell about themselves, and it’d make for some good jokes too. It also would have helped make the journey feel more related to the theme of self-discovery.

However, I gotta give you some bonus points on one thing. Right at the end when I was thinking to myself that I would have liked to see the Unown’s myths explored more, you went and nailed me in the face with this line: “Guess it was just a myth.” That was possibly the best joke in the whole fic. xD

Dragonfree

This is a delightfully absurd entry, and I'm happy to have gotten something more on the silly side in this contest. My favorite gag was the bit about dragons and hoarding and the haves eating the have-nots no longer being quite so allegorical; I actually read it out loud to my husband when I was first reading this.

The story itself is a bit of a mixed bag for me, though. I like Jirachi and how ordinary and just done she seems, I enjoy that it turns out the Jirachi dying if she grants her own wish thing was just an actual baseless myth (would be a cheap anticlimax in any other sort of story, but it felt appropriate to the generally silly tone of this one), and the answer to the mystery of why Unown have their name is satisfying, in a horrible sort of way. All in all there are lots of fun ideas here, and the way you tell it is amusing.

On the other hand, I think some of the jokes don't land super well. The whole speech impediment joke in the opening paragraph strikes me as being in slightly poor taste and doesn't really do it for me, nor does the subverted title-drop there - such questions are far better left unknown doesn't make sense anyway, because it's the answers that are unknown, not the questions! You sort of vaguely start to make a joke out of ! and ?'s names, but ultimately you don't seem to think of enough to do with it; quotes containing only punctuation marks get old quickly and aren't really all that funny by themselves to begin with. And there's a bit (the initial bit talking about the beefcake Charizard) that I'm assuming is a reference to a song, but as it happens I don't know the song, and it's written in such a way that without getting the reference it's just kind of weird nonsense. I do get the later reference to Pink Floyd's "Money", but that one'd probably read pretty strangely if you don't know it, too, and I don't feel like it contributes all that much beyond the pure sense of recognition.

The biggest thing getting in the way of my enjoyment of this, though, was that ! and ? were just kind of grating to me. They're both very exaggerated and overdramatic and unlikable in a way that's less funny than just offputting, and the entire 'romance' storyline between them is a hodgepodge of annoying clichés and stereotypes. That's obviously intentional, of course, but that doesn't really change that reading about this Unown being obsessed with having babies with a beefcake Charizard she doesn't even know, while another Unown insists on pursuing her despite her repeated rejections, is more irritating than entertaining to me. I don't really want to see them succeed on their quest, and I definitely don't want to see them get together; I mostly just kind of want them both to shut up.

In a comedy, of course, character likability is a very fuzzy concept. Many highly successful comedy characters are in principle unlikable but still very funny or entertaining to watch. In this case, though, I think ! and ? are unfortunately unlikable in the bad sort of way, the way where I just don't really enjoy reading about them, and the fact the story is about them means I'm not having nearly as much fun as I could have if the story were just about somebody like Jirachi (who's still a comedic character, but I really enjoy her!). I'm sure this is subjective to some degree, and other readers might not feel so strongly about them, or even actively enjoy their characters. But for me personally, they and their interactions are just really offputting and not very enjoyable.

Probably partly because of this, the moment ! and ? have learned the secret of Unown's name and decide to commit this mutual suicide with their iron spikes just feels grotesque and flippant and kind of inappropriate. It's not a joke, and it's written as a moment of despair that drives Jirachi to sacrifice herself for the two of them, but my complete inability to empathize with these characters here makes it impossible to feel anything for them, and ultimately all I'm left feeling is a sort of unpleasant discomfort. I think the buildup renders this moment feeling very weird and the story'd probably be better off without it, as is.

For the most part this was a basically fun story, though, and whether you can stand the characters is definitely a matter of taste. It's up to you to what extent you want to take this on board for your future writing, but for me personally, I'd have liked this more with characters that are easier to care about.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This is fun and playful. I enjoyed the reinvigoration of an often ignored pokemon, and you made shockingly good use of the pun! The opening was really strong, but the action sequences were a little cluttered. In some places the asides were funny and fun but in others I found them too outlandish and distracting -- because you are also telling a story here. For me, the arc of the characters and the themes should come before the jokes. Goofs are great and clearly a strength of yours but should always be played in service of your story! The dragon breath in particular was too far out of left field for me. I would love to see more riffs like, “because their parents hated them, a tradition among the unown” that tell us about our protagonists even though they’re silly. I think keeping it grounded on the unknown would help me a lot -- in a silly story, I need something concrete to hold onto to keep me afloat. I also would’ve like to have a clearer picture of the cave they were exploring and of Jirachi’s deal. Some of the important world-building around her happens so fast it doesn’t quite land, which is a shame since the punchline of the story hinges on it. I think spending more time exploring that would help. But I was certainly surprised by this story! It kept me guessing.

Umbramatic

Okay this was pretty funny. As a comedy oneshot this delivers a lot of good gags, and nearly everything that would happen on ! and ?'s quest made me at least internally giggle. Props in particular to the multi-layered twist ending. And it's cool to see Unown protagonists (at least for a bit).

I do have two main complaints though:

A.The joke about the iron spike suicide was kind of in poor taste. As someone who's had actual suicidal ideations and yet fucked up the topic of suicide in one of his fics himself that kind of thing needs to be handled with a lot of care and not as that kind of joke. (Jirachi's "sacrifice" doesn't lean into the icky stuff as much and is mostly fine, though following up the gag I mentioned with that does fuck with it a little.)

1.This doesn't feel like a particularly good fit for this contest specifically, solely for the fact it doesn't actually go into Unown lore all that much. There's a gag about how the Unown got their name from a bad human pun about how useless they are, but... that's it. There is so much actual lore about Unown populating mysterious ruins and warping reality that you could have used even for comedy, and it's a shame not to see it here. What you have technically qualifies as a legend of your own creation, but since it's so adjacent to the legends I mentioned it seems like something's missing, and the story wibbles as to how much focus even that gets.

But yeah, this is mostly a really good comedy fic. It would probably have been a slightly better fit for a PMD or comedy contest though.
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Carraig na Coinnle" by Starlight Aurate

Cairn Thierna’s beauty lies.
Its ice and snow—none can defy.
If you see the frozen men,
Turn, turn away,
Lest you join them.

Colm sang softly as he rocked his baby sister. Siobhan’s cries gradually lessened to whimpers as she stared angrily at her brother with bright blue eyes. He sang the old lullaby over and over again—the ancient poem was the only remotely-soothing-melody that came to mind at three in the morning.

The windows showed piles of snow shining beneath a star-speckled sky. In the distance stood the mountain Cairn Thierna with the old archway of the ruined castle Carrigogunnel. The sight was nostalgic; Colm had spent winter nights as a child looking out the window with his grandfather. Grandfather often told of the monstrous hag, Grana, who lured in travelers and sent them to their doom.


Read the rest: Thousand Roads | Serebii

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

To start, I like the mythos you’ve presented us with right from the beginning. There’s something nicely grounded about forgoing the obvious grandiose stories about Legendaries with region-spanning influence and just focusing on a folktale told in a single village. It’s very human, in a way. Plus it gives you the chance to take a Pokémon that we’re used to seeing in a pretty normal light and make it feel foreign and terrifying.

While I really liked the detail that you put into the setting, the exposition at the beginning was a bit rough to get through. It’s not so much the quantity of the exposition so much as the fact that quite a bit of it felt forced, and maybe could have been incorporated more gradually. Also there were some bits of conversation that felt pretty “as you know Bob.” Particularly the bit with Colm and his mom, it reads like she’s telling him things he hasn’t heard before, even though he clearly already knows them.

I thought it was a bit odd that Colm mentions having traveled through Cairn Thierna a thousand times, but then immediately says that the blizzards can make it impossible. I couldn’t tell if what you meant was that the pass is safe outside the blizzards, or if Colm feels capable of navigating it in spite of it being unsafe. Especially since Colm later goes on to feel frustrated at the idea of making this trip in the dead of winter.

There were also some moments where the description dragged a bit for me. A lot of filter words one after the other, telling us that Colm sensed or felt or saw something, rather than just describing the thing outright. Some aspects of the narration also could have been trimmed up imo. A common thing I noticed was where the narration tells us a thing, but then proceeds to show us the thing anyway, which made the telling feel a bit unnecessary.

But! All that said, there were still plenty of moments that knocked it out of the park for me. You did a great job setting up a thick air of suspense, and the atmosphere in this piece was top-notch. Finding Finn was pretty chilling (ha) and there was some really powerful description when Colm was following the floating light, and when he first stumbled upon the room full of frozen corpses. The slowly building feeling of dread was practically tangible, and gave a great sense of what Colm was feeling in the moment. (A Spoink being among the frozen corpses was a nice touch.)

Also, there were some nice bits of foreshadowing, like mentioning ahead of time that Barry fell asleep, and would be hard to wake, so that it doesn’t come off as contrived when Colm has a hard time waking him later. Speaking of Barry, I enjoyed the snark from him in the first half of the story, as it helped make it feel more meaningful when he shows up to rescue Colm at the end.

Dragonfree

I enjoyed the Irish setting and flavor here a lot; it's very distinct and makes this entry stand out. You've got a classic folklore-turns-out-to-be-real scenario and do quite a nice job writing out the buildup and the horror of the scene within the castle. There's a strong sense of atmosphere and a folkloric feel.

That said, I found the opening here rather slow. You've got a lot of front-loaded exposition laid out in the narration in the opening scene with Colm calming Siobhan, and I don't think you need to open with all these explanations of exactly why Colm needs to go through the mountain and exactly where his father and brother are and exactly what Pokémon might be involved in the trip. It's okay to just learn this sort of stuff when things are happening; hearing Colm's mother say "I hope your father and brother return soon" is plenty to tell us that Colm's father and brother are on some kind of trip, and we don't actually need to know the precise nature of that trip because it doesn't have anything to do with the story. When Colm's already going to mention they're going to ask Mr. Padraig if they can borrow Mareep to pull the cart, we don't need the preceding musing on what Pokémon to use; when we're going to see Colm take Barry along for protection we don't need to first be told here that Barry's his Pokémon that he takes along for protection; and so on. The parts of this information that are actually relevant can be worked into scenes where the narrative is progressing, instead of being told to us beforehand in this way. That isn't to say you shouldn't have a scene of Colm singing this lullaby to his sister at all, mind - I think it's a nice opening - just that I think it could be a lot shorter and less crammed with expository information.

The exposition-heavy beginning also unfortunately renders the story a bit predictable. I knew exactly where this was going within the first couple of pages, because in the first couple of scenes you practically spell out everything that's going to happen in Carrigogunnel. You talk about Grana, the floating nothing-but-a-face, and how she keeps everything frozen; what else could that be but a Glalie? You talk about 'frozen men' and 'living statues'; obviously that means the Glalie will have been freezing people solid on the spot. You say Uncle Finn got lost in Carrigogunnel and was never found; well, inevitably he's going to turn out to be there. It's a little tough because of course you do want to establish this folklore exists beforehand, but I think ultimately what we learn beforehand is so specific, and there's so little else to the situation once we actually get there (I admit I didn't see the "candle" being Confuse Ray, which was a nice touch), that it feels like a letdown when that's almost all there is. I also think this has a dampening effect on the horror - you write it nicely, but we can't quite have any moments of chilling realization when everything that happens is precisely what we've been led to expect, and it makes it harder to empathize with and be there in the moment with Colm, because he's so surprised and shocked at things that we've known were coming since before he even set out.

I think this story would be well served by letting the folklore be a bit more vague and symbolic so that the real deal can come as more of a revelation. Instead of frozen statues, which just completely directly correspond to the truth of the matter, perhaps it tells of ghosts trapped forever in the moment of their death, or a hundred pillars of ice, or stopped time, or just that there are statues without indicating they're actually people? Rather than a floating face that freezes everything, which really telegraphs the exact Pokémon in question, what if Grana were just described as a hag who lures people in with the light of her candle and swallows them whole? That way we could really experience suspense over precisely what's awaiting Colm and a sense of clever revelation when we put together what the folklore was actually referring to.

I also wish I could've gotten a bit more invested in the characters here. Colm just feels like a bit of a nonentity, and although I'm a huge sucker for sweet Pokémon/human relationships, and you sort of hint at Colm and Barry being lifetime partners and friends, I couldn't quite feel much for them. I think this is largely because at the start it overall feels mostly like Barry is just the Pokémon that Colm brings along with him for purely practical reasons, and we only learn pretty late that Colm has had him since he was a Spoink and see them refer to each other as friends. I think it could've added a bit extra to the story if we got a better sense of the two of them and their relationship as childhood friends from the beginning.

You've got some typos and mistakes in here, as well; it could have benefitted from more careful proofreading.

All that said, though, this was a solid entry and I enjoyed the setting in particular a lot - it adds a lot to it.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS

Overall thoughts: I was surprised by the glalie reveal -- I totally expected a froslass. Lots of really nice descriptions throughout and the stakes for Colm felt high. I wanted hints at the inciting problem a little earlier -- either push back the grandpa folktale nostalgia or sprinkle more of the present problem in. I also felt like the cooldown after the glalie fight went a little long, and it felt a little too perfect. I wanted Colm to have lost something for his foolishness. The bond with Barry wasn’t clear at first, but by the end was really nice. Loved the sweater, the banter between them.

Umbramatic

Didn't expect to see stuff about Glalie's Pokedex entries in this! This has a wonderful fairy tale/fantasy feel, and the fic's legend really gets to shine through with vivid and sometimes unsettling imagery. I do like the ambiguity near the end of what role exactly played in the legend.

Also Barry is the real hero of this story and I will not accept any evidence otherwise. Grumpig appreciation is nice.

I do feel like I had a slightly harder time than I should figuring out what the story is about. At first I was like "is this even Pokemon" then Barry showed up and that was fine and then I spent a while trying to figure out which Pokeverse legendary or myth would show up before it clicked that this was a whole thing with a mix of local fan lore and Glalie's Pokedex entries. This can potentially be chalked up to my expectations and reading comprehension than the actual writing though.

But yeah I can safely say this fic is really, really... cool. -buried in a storm of bricks-
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Celebii" by CSchollen

I am a lorekeeper like my parents before me and their parents before them. My entire life is dedicated to keeping alive the myths and stories that have been told for generations. To pass on the torch to future generations so they may enjoy them as we have and to teach them new stories as well. It is one such time that this story I tell begins.

At this point I was still a young trainer, cocky and fresh off winning my eighth badge yet not ready to take on the pokemon league. So I decided to take my winnings and travel to another region, partially for vacation and partially so I may grow against new foes but mostly so I could learn something new. After long deliberation I decided on Johto as my destination more specifically the Ilex forest for it was here I hoped I would come into contact with a legend of not much importance in my native region of Sinnoh but of great importance to myself. My choice was on Celebi, protector of the forest and guardian of the time stream.

You see there are five sides to every myth. There’s what another region believes, what it’s home region believes, what the locals believe, what your own experiences are and the truth. On my journey I came to know three out of five of these. So as I got on the boat to Olivine city from Snowpoint city and the weeks long journey that would follow it, let me tell you the story behind what Sinnoh believes.


Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

I like the direction you chose to take the contest theme in this. The idea that there are five sides to every myth, each equally important, is a fun take that contrasts the usual approach of there being one central truth, with the story being about that truth.

I enjoyed the description of how Celebi’s mind wasn’t able to handle becoming lord of time. And the idea of having Celebi become a disciple of Dialga’s is a fun one that’s pretty much begging to be explored—I mean, they’re both associated with time, and yet nothing is ever made of this in canon. Although I’m a bit iffy on how taking over the Hall of Origin factored into her plans. Did she intend to use its power to stop the humans? Was it revenge on the others for not taking her concerns seriously?

I think my biggest criticism with this piece is that it felt a bit detached and lacking in personality in the way the narrator described everything to us. I’m a big fan of Cynthia, but her stories didn’t have a very strong voice—it almost could have been anyone. I think I would have liked to get more thoughts and opinions from her as she was telling the myths, so that we could better get to know her. We do learn that she likes the Johto version of the myth better than the Sinnoh one, but I didn’t get a strong impression of what these myths mean to her on a personal level. Even the one that actually involved her personally. How did that encounter make her feel? What details of it stood out in her mind the most? How did that very personal encounter shape her reaction to learning the other myths later in life? Stuff like that could go a long way toward helping the reader connect to her.

Another thing holding it back is that there were a fair amount of awkwardly worded sentences like “However it was the arrival with the creation of the first Homo Sapiens that this changed.” That combined with some repetitive wording took me out of the story a bit.

Overall though, I think you did a good job of exploring the contest theme and looking at the ways that a story can have multiple versions—the narration just needed more of a personal touch in order to draw me into the story.

Dragonfree

I really love that this truly is a story about myths and legends - the concept of just telling a few different conflicting myths, without then establishing a definitive truth of the matter at all, is perhaps the most acutely on-theme one in this contest. The idea of different regions and cultures having different takes on Celebi giving her different importance within their own mythologies, and of the Sinnohan religion having overtaken Johto's original myths, is just so true to life and real-life mythology and how you'll have later religions influencing and overriding older interpretations and different versions of the same stories casting different gods in a variously sympathetic light. Mythology is messy and weird and contradictory; I'm really thrilled at how you portray that here and I love that we never find out what really happened. The Sinnohans think Celebi is something of a trickster god redeemed to assist the god of time; Johto casts her as an overwhelmed hero granted time powers so she could play her role as a protector; Arborville has a different name for her, makes her the most important creator deity, and casts themselves as her chosen people. There are shared elements to these myths, about Celebi overwhelmed by environmental destruction caused by humans, but they each tell a noticeably different story around that core, with different sympathies and emphasis.

It was also fun to realize the narrator here is Cynthia - I caught on when you got to the grandparents in Celestic Town. Knowing the character telling the stories, and letting her have a little encounter of her own to share, adds a bit more of a personal flavor and color to the story, while just telling some myths makes for something pretty detached and hard to get invested in. It was sweet to realize Cynthia's taken an interest in Celebi in particular after Celebi helped her in a time of personal distress, and that lends the story a bit extra.

However, I find the framing device itself here kind of needlessly awkward and confusing. At first you present this as Cynthia about to tell us about her trip to Ilex Forest after earning eight badges, only to immediately veer off into telling us about the Sinnohan myth of Celebi, then the Johto myth. By the time she starts talking about Arborville I've entirely lost the thread of Cynthia being on this trip to Ilex Forest, and you describe it weirdly as "It is here my first real journey ever took me" - so is this not the trip she was talking about before, the one she took after getting eight badges? (After all, one would think the journey getting all those badges would count as a "real journey".) And then she tells her own story kind of disconnectedly at the end, without ever properly closing out the story of her trip to Arborville, or making the actual story of her trip seem to have much of a point to it beyond explaining the Arborville version of the myth. All in all I think the structure of this story is a bit strange and aimless, almost rambly, and it feels very weird.

I'm also pretty skeptical of Cynthia's talk about "five sides to every myth" - why is there only what "another" region believes, when there could be more than two regions with a take on the same myth? Is every myth actually going to have "locals" that believe something different from what the rest of the region believes - are most myths even necessarily tied to one particular place such that there are relevant "locals" to begin with? Why does "your own experiences" qualify as a side to every myth - if that counts, aren't the vast majority of people going to have no personal experiences with any given myth, and aren't there going to be thousands of sides, then, since not everyone has the same personal experience if they do have any? It just doesn't feel like an entirely sensible classification to me, more like a system invented to squeeze these particular stories you had into it - and furthermore, Cynthia says that she encountered three of the five but you go on to name four, all but "the truth". I'm not sure what's up with that. All in all I find this sort of a fun idea but I don't think the way you present it here makes quite enough sense - it just raises a lot of questions, for me.

Last but not least, there are a lot of mechanical mistakes in this. For one thing, the Pokémon's name is Celebi, with only one i, both in English and other languages (that's also the official romanization of the Japanese name, while if you were going for a straight transliteration you'd want Serebii or Serebyi; as far as I can tell absolutely no version of its name goes Celebii with two i's). There are various other grammatical mistakes all over the place, such as confusion of "its" and "it's", missing commas and capitalization of things that shouldn't be, plus ´ getting used in place of an apostrophe a couple of times, and all this really drags the story down - it's not unreadable, but it makes it feel very rough and lacking in polish. I would highly recommend more careful proofreading and/or finding a beta-reader.

Overall, I enjoyed seeing this real take on mythology in the Pokémon world, in all its messy, contradictory glory, and having Cynthia tell it. But I think it's hurt a lot by the mechanical mistakes, and the framing is strange and awkward.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: I like the idea of Cynthia sharing a personal story and putting it in context with small- and large-scale myths. I think you could get even more use out of her perspective and narrative voice. In places, the wording is oddly formal and doesn’t ring quite true to me for her character. But then, in a few other places, it feels very casual, which is jarring next to the rest of what you’ve written. In your next draft, I think you should really lean into Cynthia’s experiences and make this more personal and tangible from her point of view -- what kinds of beliefs does Cynthia hold that are unique to her? Is she serious or funny? What values does she respect?

It’s interesting that you offer multiple answers to the question of Celebi’s origins. I like that you approached each one from a different perspective. I think the transitions between them need work. The two options I see are to either treat it more like a research paper Cynthia is writing, or lean into the idea that she is telling stories to someone and let cues from her environment/audience shape how she moves from story to story. Either way, I don’t think the repeated framing with “here is one such story,” is helping you because it makes it feel like a series of false starts instead of one continuous narrative.

Grammar - Be extra careful with its/it’s. The one with an apostrophe is a contraction for it is -- it’s a verb. The one without is the possessive pronoun. Also be careful with your comma placement. You’ve got some long sentences here -- they need commas breaking up independent clauses for clarity. Some of them would read better if broken into two sentences. You also changed tenses in a few places. Since she’s telling a story about the past, past tense seems best.

Umbramatic

You have a really fascinating and interesting take on the whole Celebi mithos! I reeeeeeeeeeeeeally like the extra touch that there are big differences between the Celebi myths between regions and even within regions, it makes the whole thing feel genuinely mythological. And it being Cynthia writing this down in the end and deciding "you know what all this shit could be true somehow" is a really cool touch - this kind of thing is definitely up her alley.

I will say the intro kind of sets this up to have more of a plot and then it's mostly exposition of the cool lore - which doesn't not make sense with how Cynthia is writing all this down but it would have been cool to see a little more of her side of the story aside from the snippets we got and generally give the tale more meat to its bones.

(Also, you keep alternating between "Celebi" and "Celebii". MIght wanna fix that, in English at least it's just one i.)

But yeah this fic has a really nice premise and lore. Just needs more of a backbone to support it. Or maybe a tree trunk. Geddit, trees, Celebi? ...I'll see myself out.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"The Crystal Prince and the Heart of Life" by Pen
Third-Place Winner

There was once a perfect garden, where nobody died. When a berry swelled to ripeness and dropped to the ground, a new berry bloomed in its place, of equal weight and sweetness.

This vast garden surrounded a city built of gleaming pink alabaster. The wall that encircled the garden was constructed from the same material. This wall stretched higher than the fruit trees, higher than the highest look-out point of the city. It had been a very long time since anyone had seen outside the wall.

The beauty of this perfect city was matched only by its stillness. Almost a century had passed, since the last child had been born there.

Thus, the celebrations were great, when the queen at last gave birth. Her son was perfectly formed, rosy and healthy. He grew into a bright-eyed and sunny boy, romping ceaselessly around the gardens in the shadow of the high wall. Where he stepped, the grass grew even greener; when he sang his joyful nonsense songs, the fruit tasted even sweeter. They named him the Crystal Prince, and he was content.

The Crystal Prince had passed sixteen sun cycles, when the new thing happened.


Judge Comments

Chibi Pika (Ranked: 8th Place)

Now this is an interesting reversal. Where normally, a city like this—an isolated utopia—would be the myth, the story is framed like the entire outside world is the myth.

I like the way you set up for the reveal of the Heart. Right from the beginning, we’re told that life blooms around the prince, but since we don’t yet realize the significance of that, it just seems like another fantastical detail about this eternal paradise.

I thought it was charming how you portrayed the prince’s naivety—from him not knowing what the word strangers even means (how could you in a city with 144 people!) To him responding “you must have a big garden” at the idea of an uncountable number of people living outside. To him sensing that killing is an ugly word, despite not knowing what it means.

The descriptions are simple but pretty, and they serve the story well. You did a good job with using the description to establish the contrast between Strangers and everything else in the garden. I noticed that the prose tended to focus more on the feel of things rather than the literal appearance—technically, we never actually learn what Strangers or the prince even look like! But there’s enough care given to the feel of them both that I didn’t have a hard time following along, and didn’t even mind that I didn’t know what they look like.

There’s a shift halfway through the story where it seems like the two have become friends. The pronouns even switch to calling Strangers “she” so they must have gotten to know each other better. I definitely would have liked to see this get expanded on. Maybe the prince realizes that Strangers just wants to help her people, and thinks that’s beautiful, maybe even coming up with a song for it, since that was a recurring theme for him. Or Strangers reluctantly asking him to sing another song, realizing that while the days of empty searching feel hopeless, it’s slightly less empty having a friend. Or the prince wanting to help her, wishing he could do something, maybe even trying to help her find the Heart of Life (though he obviously wouldn’t get very far). Something like that would help give more of a conflict to Strangers when she discovers that the prince holds the Heart of Life.

I also would have liked more of a sense that the song he sings at the end was one that came to him specifically because of his time getting to know Strangers. It’s the kind of song he never could have sung before, in his sheltered naivety, a beauty that could only come from the meeting of both life and death. It’s also the climax of the fic, so I think it could stand to get a bit of extra focus.

All in all, I really enjoyed this story’s themes of beauty through contrast and the duality of life and death being more than the sum of their parts. I think if you expanded on some of the character interactions to make their development more convincing, you’d have an excellent story on your hands.

Dragonfree (Ranked: 6th Place)

This really felt like a fairy tale, and I think the way you write it is very effective. The prince's naïveté really colors the way the story is told as he's largely oblivious to what's going on, while we understand much more than he does, and it makes it easy to care for and be protective of the prince and his simple innocence. Strangers' portrayal is also well done; it's so obvious to us she came there ready to kill to steal back the heart (which we can pick up is probably really him), and she's so righteously, sympathetically bitter at the awful inequality she's witnessed, yet precisely because the prince just doesn't understand any of this and it all flies over his head, it's achingly easy to see why her heart grows soft for him as they keep talking. I think you really nailed getting across character, and making them feel sympathetic and genuine, even in this sort of distanced, simplistic fairy tale style.

Perhaps because you did such a good job making me invested in these characters, though, I couldn't help but feel a little cheated by how abrupt the ending was. You've got this intense scene going, the prince about to be sacrificed, Strangers reaching out to him and embracing him and it causes them both to release this Xerneas and Yveltal energy that breaks the wall and equalizes everything... and then you just cut off and zoom out to a narrator musing on the moral of the story. I wanted to hear what happened next with the prince and Strangers! Did this destroy them both, or did they survive and lead societal change? Did they go on to be friends, lovers? This felt like their story, more than the story of this world, and thus, when their story is cut off in this way, it doesn't feel like we've quite come to a satisfying conclusion, even if the world has been fixed.

I also found it a little jarring that there, during the ending, is the first and only time this story has anything to do with Pokémon. I spent most of my first time reading this just thinking it was original fiction, trying to remember if that was supposed to be allowed in this contest, and to be honest, even by the time I read it for the second time I'd forgotten Xerneas and Yveltal had been involved at all and was still wondering if it was original fiction! I think it really wouldn't hurt here to ground this in the Pokémon universe somehow before we get to the end, just so it doesn't come quite so out of nowhere.

(It was neat, though, how the prince's first song is about whether beauty comes from the ground or the sky, or whether it comes only when the two embrace - it's easy to associate Xerneas with the ground and Yveltal with the sky, isn't it?)

It was a bit strange to me how the use of pronouns for Strangers shifted over the course of the story - at first you usually use "it" and once "them" in what I kind of assume is a mistake, but then you switch to "her", without any actual indication the prince learned her gender in the interim. I do notice this shift coincides with where the prince calls her beautiful - but it doesn't make sense that he'd just decide beautiful -> girl, when he couldn't tell her gender before that and his point of comparison for what's beautiful is fruits and the moon! The shift comes off as weird, almost accidental. I think if you do want him to switch to her, it should be a bit more obvious why.

Finally, for a grammar nitpick, you use some commas here where there shouldn't be, such as in the sentence "Almost a century had passed, since the last child had been born there." In English, you don't put a comma before "since" referring to time - with the comma, this sentence reads as meaning "Almost a century had passed, because the last child had been born there." You do a similar thing with commas before "when" in some other sentences. I think in some other languages you would put commas before clauses like that, so perhaps that's why - but in English it's not done in this way.

I thought you did a very good job on the actual fairy tale here; it feels very authentic, even while you do a much better job making us care about these characters as people than most genuine fairy tales. The primary thing to hurt it is just the abrupt ending, which I find a bit unsatisfying.

OldSchoolJohto (Ranked: 1st Place)

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This reads so cleanly. I highlighted a few places where the comma conflicted with the place where I naturally wanted to pause when reading, but otherwise I have precious little to criticize. The interactions between The Crystal Prince and Strangers are both heartfelt and cutting, where innocence meets generational systematic inequality. The ending reminded me a lot of The Dark Crystal -- I thought it worked well.

Now, the pokemon-iness of it all does come in late. I didn’t mind it because by the end you see how the Kalos lore was intertwined with everything all along, but I imagine that’s what other judges will most likely pick at. This little tale did feel complete on its own, but it also felt like it could fit nicely into a longer fic as an interlude.

Umbramatic (Ranked: 8th Place)

Hoo boy I am like really super conflicted about this one. Almost everything about it is absolutely my jam. The setting, the fairy-tale like nature of how it's all told, the prince and Strangers having this super-cute friendship, legendaries, it's. It's all so good.

But the thing holding it back is. Making it an endgame plot twist that this was a Pokemon fic at all really doesn't work in this context and drags the whole thing down immensely.

Like. This is a contest. For Pokemon fics. So me reading this and seeing no Pokemon elements was just kind of weird and awkward, especially because my pet peeve in Pokemon fics is stuff that doesn't involve the titular critters at all. And like, there are contexts to which that bait and switch would work wonderfully and be kinda admirable but again an explicitly Pokemon-centric contest ain't it.

But, like, I otherwise loved this? It's this fucking close to being an amazing oneshot and one of my favorites in this contest? And I especially hate being mean to it? All it needs is a little sprinkling of reminders this is a Pokemon-based world other than "the plot twist at the very end."
 
  • Heart
Reactions: Pen

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Finding Mahoun" by Cresselia92
First-Place Winner

However, Elder Koratta had kept one last story, the scariest of all: a myth of legendary creatures known as Mahoun—huge bipedal monsters, capable of controlling creatures with their powerful mind and poison magic, and hunters of all creatures. They were stronger and more dangerous than Noctowl, Growlithe, Ekans, and Furret together. No creature could ever hope to face them, especially not Rattata. We had to avoid them at all costs—no one knew what happened to the creatures caught by those monsters.

My siblings were so terrified after the tale! They began squealing in fear, cowering at the idea of the Mahoun. They were so scared that Fuzzy Fluff didn’t complain when Big Eater and Long Tail cuddled by her side. Hard Biter and Far Searcher weren’t faring much better, snuggling with each other for comfort. Mother and Bright Eyes twitched their whiskers, appearing nervous. They knew the stories about those creatures, but even they were still unnerved at the single mention of Mahoun.

However, it was very different for me. Those Mahoun didn’t scare me, but instead fascinated me—there were creatures stronger than the strongest hunters? That was amazing! If there was a way to befriend a Mahoun and make it our ally, it could help protect my mischief. I would no longer be the bad of the mischief! I would be good!


Read the rest: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika (Ranked: 2nd)

I really, really like the writing style on display here. It flows wonderfully with light, breezy descriptions that have a heavy focus on sensory input, which is just great for a bunch of rats whose senses are very different from humans. Normally I’m a bit iffy on starting a story with the viewpoint character’s birth, when the story could begin with the actual story. But it works here because literally from birth, Tiny Fang knew he was the runt, and seeing the first moment he realizes that ends up setting the tone for the entire story.

This whole fic is chock full of charming little details. And even when there’s exposition, it’s just so dang fun to read that I don’t mind it one bit. I love the word mischief for a group of Rattata. And I like that you establish early on that no one would ever want to leave the mischief, so that it stands out more when Tiny Fang decides to. In general you did a great job describing things in a solidly Rattata-ish way without making the reader spend too much effort trying to decipher familiar things. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the different types of magics. And “their snuggles were very painful” was hilarious. xD

So obviously the focus of this story is the mythical status of humans, and I think you did a great job painting them as these mysterious and powerful beings, making their familiar traits seem alien and strange. It’s really sad that Tiny Fang can’t see how he’s already being brave by wanting to face the scariest creature that no one else would dare to face.

I really liked the detail that Rattata get new names from their mischief—I’m always a sucker for Pokémon having unique name philosophies. It was a nice touch how you hinted at Black Whiskers having met humans well before the conversation where he says so outright (ignoring, of course, that it’s hard to imagine any other way an Alolan Rattata could wind up in Johto without humans being involved).

You really did a good job establishing Tiny Fang and Far Searcher’s friendship so that it would feel meaningful even in a short amount of time. It really got me when Tiny Fang admits that he doesn’t feel like his life has meaning from helping the mischief because he’s not good enough to help them—but that he can find meaning by finding Mahoun. And he can’t help but feel guilty about this, but at the same time he’s resigned to it—he’s already long since accepted that he’s the bad. And the fact that Far Searcher was willing to help him even though he had so many reservations, just because he realized that this was the only way for his best friend to find his purpose in life. Which of course makes it all the more gut-wrenching when Far Searcher is killed and it’s his fault.

It was a little odd that Black Whiskers changed his tune on Mahoun. I can understand trying to stop Tiny Fang from finding the Mahoun until he realized how desperate he was—but even in terms of his descriptions, he starts out only saying that Mahoun are dangerous, but then later reveals that they’re able to make weak creatures strong. I’d expect Tiny Fang to ask why Black Whiskers didn’t reveal that earlier (I’d imagine his reason was probably something like not wanting Tiny Fang to get his hopes up when most humans would reject Rattata for being weak? Maybe?)

One thing I really liked was the way that you introduced details early on only to call back to them later. A big one is how the Pokéball scene calls back to the opening of the fic—the last time Tiny Fang felt comfortable, since he was forced to be the runt as soon as he was born. He then goes on to say that he feels like he’s been born again after coming out of the ball, fully healed. And then soon after that, the callback to scent sharing.

It was a nice touch how you referred to the boy as Gorou so that his identity wouldn’t be obvious right away. You’d used a few Japanese names before like Koratta, so it wasn’t totally strange. I would have been satisfied enough with the portrayal of humans as mythical figures, but then you went and made this a story about a basic NPC and a basic Pokémon that have managed to reach legendary meme status in the fandom, and ended up with one of my least-expected meta-interpretations of the contest theme. This story made me feel a lot of pain and a lot of joy and I loved it.

Dragonfree (Ranked: 2nd)

This story really delighted me. I love that you went for a proper xenofiction approach to the Pokémon POV, with the Rattata having their own way of looking at and thinking of things through and through, and the way that humans are a strange, frightening but fascinating myth to them. And when I realized where this was going towards the end, I was just so tickled. I loved it. Tiny Fang is a top Rattata and deserves to be happy.

The way that you use the POV to make things that are ordinary to us seem strange and alien is really fun. Tiny Fang's musing on how losing red is bad but gaining red is bad too is just such a special way of looking at it. Mahoun are shapeshifters because they never look the same; painting is 'putting a color on a color'; smiles are weird and look kind of threatening; a lot of things Tiny Fang just doesn't understand at all, but we do. You've got these little details and unique ways of looking at things everywhere, and it lends authenticity and life to the point of view.

I also enjoyed a lot how, while the style of the narration is simplistic and has these weird, quirky ways of putting things, the Pokémon dialogue is even more pared down, with highly simplified sentence structures, dropped verbs, etc. - it gets across a sense that their language in particular is very terse and limited even beyond the way that they think, which makes a lot of sense. All in all the flavor and feel of this is just excellent - I never forget that I'm reading about wild Rattata, and you really bring us into their mindset and worldview.

More than that, though, you really get me attached, too. Tiny Fang's POV is so purely sincere that it hurts. Perhaps usually a Pokémon moping about being the weakest of their clan would just be kind of a cliché, but here, in this POV, when Tiny Fang laments being the worst bad of the mischief, it just punches me in the heart. I think my favorite scene here is Tiny Fang's conversation with Far Searcher near the human place, where Far Searcher realizes that finding Mahoun is Tiny Fang's reason for living, and resolves to help him do that because he's a good friend - the amount of interaction between the two of them is minuscule, really, and the actual lines they say to each other are so simplistic, but despite that it's just so clear and pure how in this moment Far Searcher understands, and he cares, and he wants to make his friend happy by helping him fulfill his own reason for living even if it's not his own. And then of course he dies and all he wants is for Tiny Fang to go on and find the Mahoun and be happy and my heart. I thought Black Whiskers was fascinating, too - you don't spell out his backstory, and Tiny Fang never actually learns it, but we can gather that he must have had a trainer once but was abandoned and chased off as a pest, and although he knows more about humans than the other Rattata, his view of them is still distinctly colored by that experience.

I do find sometimes there are grammatical mistakes or awkward sentences here that don't look intentional, such as in the human characters' dialogue (as one example, "You did a very good action, darling" doesn't really sound like a thing an actual person would say in English) - I get the sense you're not a native English-speaker. It might be a good idea to try to find a good native beta-reader to help smooth out those rough spots where the language doesn't read naturally. And although it is clearly intentional, I'm torn on the use of "bestest" - it's strongly associated with internet sarcasm, so it doesn't entirely read as a sincere grammatical error, and I think it's the only case of Tiny Fang actually inflecting a word incorrectly, as opposed to just phrasing things in a quirky way or using odd sentence structures (compare how he consistently uses the correct "worst" rather than ever using something like "baddest", for example), so it doesn't read 100% consistent with his voice otherwise.

Sometimes the POV also does stretch disbelief a little - it feels a bit strange for Tiny Fang to understand what "siblings" and a "runt" are literally at birth when colors are something he has to learn, and it's surprising that his first reaction to learning about the Mahoun, as simply one of many dangerous monsters, would be that it might be possible to befriend them (why doesn't he wonder if it's possible to befriend a Noctowl or Furret, in the same way?). It might be more natural to let that in particular be an idea he develops later, because this seems a little prescient, as if he already knows humans are different - perhaps initially he's just fascinated and wants to see one, but then Black Whiskers mentions it's possible to befriend them and he becomes taken with that thought?

And finally, this is quite a long story, and while I was pretty engaged throughout, I did think the opening and ending felt a little draggier than the rest. We get several scenes of the Rattata just being Rattata before we even learn about the Mahoun, and after the proper climax where Tiny Fang is caught, there are again several scenes before the actual end - I think the story could be tightened by shortening these opening and ending bits to get to the point earlier and drag things out less after the resolution.

But - all in all, this was one of my absolute favorite entries. It's just ridiculously charming and unique and I felt things and the ending just made me grin. Good job.

OldSchoolJohto (Ranked: 2nd)

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This was so dang cute it should be illegal. As soon as Tiny Fang came into contact with humans, I suspected how this would end...but it was still very satisfying to get. There were a few places where I felt the wording was a little clunky or where you slipped into another tense -- I’ve marked those. In a few places I wanted a stronger sense of place -- would’ve helped raise the stakes and ground me. I also loved rattata culture where we got it, so in a few places I wanted even more or wanted it to be clearer. All of my criticisms aside, this was a sincerely enjoyable read. I kept making noises as I was reading -- my HEART -- and making my roommates worry for my health and sanity.

I also want to note that G Docs has done some weird things to the formatting -- those aren’t suggested edits on my part, but I don’t want to take the time to go back and reformat it all.

Umbramatic (Ranked: 1st)

This was absolutely delightful. The perspective of wild Rattata and their legends about humans is a treat, and when I guessed where it all was going I had the biggest, stupidest grin on my face. It even ties back into the theme too - Youngster Joey and his Top Percentage Rattata are fandom legends in their own right, so props for that. Also props for working an Alolan Rattata in there! I just love Rattata OK? Also. The Houndour. Frien. The call back with the naming was wonderful too.

One thing I feel is a little weird is the narrative kind of sets up that joining the humans will be Bad for Little Fang and then it... works out... perfectly fine. Like I was expecting something ELSE to go horribly wrong for our Rattata protagonist but then it doesn't. I'm DECIDEDLY not complaining about Top Percentage earning a happy ending because poor baby needs it bad, but the narrative could have set the happy ending up a bit better. It would have been cool to learn more about what happened to Black Whiskers before joining the Mischief too.

But this was really super cute and funny and even sad at times and I love it. I will protect Top Percentage with my life.
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Fire of the Mind" by NebulaDreams

“What can I do to help?” Demi asked.

“Time is short. I do not wish to stay if you are to feed me.” Agnes dug her claws into her lap. “It would not be right. One should fend for oneself.”

“You taught me how to.” She dug her claws into her palm, keeping her voice hushed. “I’d be lost without you.”

“But you are young, you can grow. You have grown.” Agnes leaned back, closing her eyes. “I am merely a bag of bones now.”

The room laid silent. The shack creaked as the wind blew. One candle next to Agnes snuffed out, and the rest would soon follow. Demi laid on the floor, picking at some dirt in between the floorboards with her claw. What would she do without her mentor?

Out of the blue, Agnes laboured a loud, hearty laugh that descended into coughs. She leaned forward on her staff and waved her free paw in the air, splaying them. “I heard a rumour, one I am cautiously optimistic of.” While she caught her breath, Demi leaned in closer. “Have you heard of the legend of Xerneas?”


Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

It took me a long time to pin down how I felt about the narrative style in this fic, and I think the reason for that is because the second half of the fic is noticeably stronger than the first. The opening has a lot of intensely emotional stuff happening to Demi—her home being invaded, forced into servitude, and separated from her mother and siblings—and yet it’s told in a very detached, emotionless style. I know it’s a retelling from a third-party, which makes it a bit tricky to get into her head. Maybe bits where the narrator speculates how she must have felt? Right now I don’t really know what she wants, what she yearns for, or how these ordeals are affecting her, and I think it’s possible to get that even without her as the actual narrator.

In any case, the feeling that Demi exists only for others and not for herself—that’s pretty clearly the core emotional hurtle that she’ll be grappling with through the entire fic. I would’ve liked to see a bit of how that mindset was drilled into her. Maybe the narrator could have given us the rhetoric that Demi was subjected to, or a few key events that hammered this truth home. That’d make it more meaningful when she runs off right after this, because it would feel more strongly like she’s finally managing to turn her back on that rhetoric. It’s a turning point for her, but it doesn’t fully feel like one to us. She concludes that she wants to find her own purpose far too easily.

The description admittedly feels a bit overwritten compared to your normal stuff, and a lot of actions used kind of roundabout wording when a more direct wording would convey the same thing in a smoother fashion. I did want to share one line I really liked though: “Much enlightening was made, except the supposed shining beacon of knowledge was a dim candle.” Here the overwording directly adds to the comedy of the scene.

I think where your prose shined best was in scene setting, and in places where the descriptions reinforced the themes of the story. I liked quite a few of the recurring motifs, such as the burning candles and the colors of inner fire.

The fic picked up for me quite a bit once Demi met Agnes. I like a lot of the little details, like her remarking on this being her first time feeling like a guest. And her not even understanding the idea of drinking something for pleasure and not for thirst, when offered the tea. And as with your other works, I really enjoy the detail put into the act of creation. From the glassblowing to the woodcarving, the details here work because they let you reinforce the story’s themes without stating so outright. The act of creation has an extra meaning for Demi because her recurring struggle is not knowing what she exists for, which can easily be applied to art—something that exists for its own sake, not for its usefulness to others. The parallel there is great.

The choice Agnes gives Demi didn’t have very much impact for me. I mean, it was kind of a no-brainer—there’s no way she would ever not take the offer. Maybe if you focused on more of the fear of the uncertainty. Even if it’s still an easy choice for Demi (as I’d expect it to be) she still has to figure herself out now, whereas before she knew what she was expected to be. It was easy, being told what you’re supposed to be. It’s easy having a use and keeping to it. It’s harder to pull meaning from nothing. It’s scary. Unfamiliar. So I think focusing on those emotions for a bit would give the decision a bit of weight.

I like how you incorporate the emptiness Demi feels from not being able to find any passion in the glassblowing, especially the bit where she admits that she doesn’t know what she wants. It makes it doubly hard for her to find meaning in herself without Agnes, so the idea of losing her is even more crippling than it already would have been.

Overall, this piece was very well-written, just didn’t quite draw me in as well as some of the others. If there’s going to be a third-party narrator, I want a bit more personality from them, or some other way of having them get into the characters’ heads. I’m not sure if having a third-party narrator added anything here. But like I said, this was less of a problem in the second half. I think my favorite parts were the moment when Florges explained the truth behind the myth, and the subsequent meeting with Yveltal. Both moments really let you dig into the emotional turmoil that Demi was feeling.

I really liked a lot of the themes on display here, and I think those were your biggest strength. Finding purpose in something meaningless. Having your work outlive you. The somber truths behind false hope. It was a bold choice to write about a myth that’s explicitly wrong, and it let you explore the idea of finding the truth behind a myth. All in all, a great direction to take the contest theme.

Dragonfree

This is something of a coming-of-age story intertwined with a myth that turns out to be the false rumour sort of myth - with a drop-in from an actual legendary. I enjoyed getting to see multiple perspectives on the Xerneas myth as it has evolved in different societies and how it turns out none of it is quite true, and I thought the Yveltal scene was nicely done - the image of it crumpling into flame like a phoenix was vivid and distinctive, and it as a god of death giving Demi the capability for acceptance of her mentor's death felt right. I liked the whole sequence from when Demi learns the tree can't save Agnes through the end of the Yveltal scene, actually - I liked her stabbing the tree in her desperation and thus breaking the carving knife that she got from the human, a nice moment of real hurt underlined by the pointless, irreversible destruction of something that could have been actually positive and good. And overall I was fond of Demi and Agnes's relationship; I thought you got across nicely how Demi comes to idolize and become somewhat dependent on her as the first person to show her true kindness since her mother.

The story didn't quite grab me enough before those last few scenes, though. To start with, the framing of this as being part of a series of collected fables is confusing to me - both because this is being submitted to a contest as a standalone one-shot, and because while the story itself touches on fables to a degree, it doesn't really have the feel of being a fable; nothing here suggests Demi herself is a mythical figure, so the story we're reading really seems like just a regular narrative story and not an in-world fable. This just makes that framing device pretty strange, and I don't see what it's meant to add here - usually, framing a story as a fable may suggest perhaps not everything in it happened exactly as stated here and elements may be embellished or made up, and tells us something about the culture that tells this story, but I don't think anything in this story needs or benefits at all from that sort of disclaimer and it doesn't feel like a story being passed down culturally.

Mostly, though, I just found it hard to truly empathize with Demi's plight for the first half. We open with her being suicidal - but instead of truly focusing on what has driven her to this point, the story just launches into an explanation of what Augers are and how she came to be an Auger's Pokémon. We only actually see her Auger being an asshole after a while of neutral exposition and Demi angsting, and even then it's only a few lines - the lack of actual character to the Auger or real development given to how Demi's spirit was crushed to this point just makes the whole thing fall kind of flat, for me, and dampens the impact of the character arc as a whole.

Furthermore, I don't understand why Demi hasn't just left long ago, given that being with her Auger is sucking all her will to live and nothing actually seems to be keeping her there. You sort of try to justify why she stays by saying Augers are companions and providers - but Demi clearly doesn't really believe this, given immediately after that the narration says the Auger isn't a companion at all and expresses contempt for the very idea of being given food instead of hunting. Then you say that staying is her duty, but none of her thoughts convincingly convey this, make it seem like she actually believes that she ought to stay - after all, she's in the middle of contemplating ending her life altogether! At no point does she express any kind of actual affection for or sense of duty towards the Auger, or ever having felt anything like that; she doesn't worry about what's going to happen to her Auger without a Pokémon, or think her mother would want her to stay, or seem genuinely convinced that Pokémon's only purpose in life is to serve their Auger, or anything. It truly sounds like she's simply loathed the Auger from the day they set out together, not even for mistreating her but as a matter of the general principle of the thing, and that feels very incongruous with the idea she's still stayed all this time without anything forcing her to.

All in all, I just can't seem to get a good grasp on Demi's thought process or why she's still here or how she really lost all will to live, and that made it hard for me to get really absorbed and invested the way I would have wanted. On paper this setup is something I'd usually find pretty captivating, but I don't think you really make it seem coherent and convincing, as it is, and that's a real shame.

The part with the tribes of Golduck and Swanna struck me both as oddly comedic and out of place compared to the tone of the entire rest of the piece, and as kind of cartoonish. These two families of Pokémon having a long-standing feud with each other only for this outsider to immediately persuade them to stop the feud and work together in the space of two minutes, simply by telling them "But what if you work together?", just doesn't feel like a real thing that would happen. Real people's conflicts just aren't this easily resolved, especially not by random third parties barging in and reciting platitudes - there's no way these sworn enemies' only problem was that they'd just never thought of cooperating. All in all I just felt this bit was hard to take seriously and undermined the world and the atmosphere you had built up.

And lastly, although the prose here mostly gets the point across all right, you've got various strange or convoluted turns of phrase in here that either take me out of things or leave me kind of confused as to what you're talking about. Some examples I noted down were "She didn’t need to drink when it was not a necessity" (weird tautology) and "Tears escaped the prison" (obviously a metaphor, but kind of a strange and stilted one, especially with that "the") - as well as "Demi looked back at the forest behind her where she rushed out from, shed a tear, then evaporated it as she made the long way back home" and "Her eyes began to mist, but she soon evaporated them", which are not only confusing regarding what's being evaporated (the latter sentence is literally saying she evaporated her eyes), but just read kind of strangely in general. What does it mean to say she evaporated her tears? Is she somehow using her fire abilities to turn them into vapor (if so I think you should explain this better), or did you just mean to say she dried her tears, such as with her paw - which isn't the same thing as evaporating?

So overall, I appreciated the take on myth here and the climactic scenes, but I couldn't quite believe in what was happening in the first half here and it hurt my ability to care. It's a good foundation, though, and a nice take on the contest theme.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This story really picks up when Agnes comes into the picture. I enjoyed their bond and the theme of accepting loss. I’d start closer to the moment they meet and let the details about her life before be scattered throughout the story. (For example, when she reflects on drinking tea and being a guest -- that’s a concrete moment from her past that flows smoothly in the conversation happening in the present. More of that!) What comes before is clearly important to Demi, but needs more development -- we’re told that her relationship with her auger is bad without it being clear exactly why or exactly why she stays anyway.

The glimpses of braxien culture we get are really neat, and I’d like to see more of them! I’d also like to know more about why, in spite of having positive feelings about humans, Agnes left human company.

I wasn’t as into the scenes with Yvetal or the swanna and golduck -- I feel like they could be trimmed or cut in favor of other passages that work better.

Umbramatic

The intro made me think this would be multiple short stories in one and when it wasn't I was mildly disappointed but I'm gonna judge based on the one we have.

This has a wonderful fable feel. Feels sufficiently like a in-universe Pokemon Legend, which is good for this contest! Gives me huge Epic Of Gilgamesh vibes. Agnes and Demi's apprentice-mentor bond is really sweet and tragic and hnnnnnngh.

The one thing that kind of rubbed me the wrong way was Xerneas kind of getting the shaft thematically compared to Yveltal. I know, I know, it clearly seems to be part of the point but it's still kind of weird thematically that Yveltal shows up even in a dream while Xerneas is implied to be just a fairy tale. But that may just be me Kalos Life Trio stan talking.

But yeah, good Pokecentric take on the contest, nice job.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"The Godslayer" by Namohysip

Destiny Tower trembled. Mew turned her attention to one of the pillars, where the Godslayer strode through the halls of the seventeenth floor. “Oh, hey, is that what’s-his-face?”

“Yes,” Arceus said with a seethe. “He’s tricked us. Got in our good graces. And now he’s violently ascending Destiny Tower to slay me.”

“Well,
Your Omnipotence, that shouldn’t be much of a problem for you,” Mew said with a wry smile. “C’mon, what’s so scary about a human? You know, aside from everything.”

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

Ohhh boy. I knew this was gonna be something within the first paragraphs. :P

I wasn’t expecting your entry to be quite so comedy-focused, but it worked out fantastically. As always, Mew and Arceus have a great dynamic that’s fun to read, but stripped from their usual high-stakes conflict, they have a bit more room to play off each other, unlike your other works. It’s easy for the reader to get the impression that Mew is a troll, but not so overwhelmingly that they immediately guess that she’s behind this whole debacle.

The descriptions of the character actions during the lengthy stretches of conversation were fun and lively and kept things from getting boring. The characters are never just standing there talking, there’s all these little physical reactions that keep them grounded in the scene.

I really enjoyed the characterization of the legendaries since we normally don’t get to see them.
Palkia in particular was a delight. (“The experiment was a complete failure! :D”)

While I liked the joke about Arceus being a technophobe, I gotta admit, I really don’t see why he needed to use the videocall device that Mew hooked up. His pillars really did seem to do the exact same thing. (Unless the device was needed for 3-way calling?) Usually a technophobe joke involves the user going to ridiculous lengths to do something in the least convenient way possible when confronted with tech, so his pillars being perfectly functional left me scratching my head.

Also, I was expecting a bit of a side mention that the dragons never showed up. I mean, of course they didn’t—they were in on the joke. But the fact that they didn’t get mentioned again left me kinda waiting to find out if they never showed up, because I expected Arceus to be angry about it.

I think my favorite aspect of this is the way you got into Arceus’ head as time went on. The denial is so thick it’s practically tangible. He’s not scared (even though he totally is) and his slowly devolving composure is great to watch. It feels so intensely urgent even though we’re pretty sure that nothing bad is actually gonna happen to him! His pride is the only thing in danger! This is where the comedy angle really plays to your advantage, because even without all the previous jokes, this scenario is one that would inherently be hard to take seriously.

I liked the subtle shift where, after Arceus had just decided to call the Godslayer The Insolent, the narration then goes on to call him The Usurper anyway. Even though he just said he wouldn’t accept that it was a foregone conclusion. And then there’s the fact that he had just decided not to attack without a speech, and then… immediately goes and does just that. I also enjoyed the foreshadowing that led up to the reveal itself—I didn’t even question why you kept mentioning that the “human” was wearing a hat. xD

There were a few things that puzzled me though. While we learn that Mew was behind all the myths, I’m not entirely sure if that means that she literally just made them up wholesale right on the spot (taking advantage of the fact that Arceus is so isolated that he wouldn’t know any better.) Or if she actually went to the effort to spread those tales throughout the population ahead of time in order to support this (in order to give them more plausibility). Basically, I don’t know if “the myth is fake” means “the myth is describing something false” or “the myth isn’t even a myth at all.” Has anyone else actually heard of the Godslayer tales?

I also can’t quite tell where the name Godslayer came from. From Mew? I guess that would make sense—another aspect to get Arceus all hyped up over nothing. But her reaction upon hearing the name didn’t seem like it. And Arceus said it was a mortal nickname so I don’t think he came up with it himself. Also… where did the idea that he was a human come from? Was it more of Star making things up to get under Arceus’s skin? It felt a bit out of place since it was treated as this unshakable truth that the Godslayer was human. Especially since the fact that he was human was kind of central to the mythic theme going on here! (Humans having basically faded into myth at this point.)

Anyway, minor points of confusion aside, this oneshot had a lot of fun character moments, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Dragonfree

I enjoyed this a lot. It's a humour fic about the simply embellished sort of legend, with a clever final reveal, executed in a way that's just really fun.

My favorite part of this is the characterization of Arceus. The way he's so obviously freaking out about this legendary human hero ascending his tower to slay him while trying to insist of course this is no big deal and it's just a mortal and he's never going to get there and Arceus can totally get him first is just really fun; he's such an actual person, in his own goofy sort of way, and I love it. I loved him taking this so very seriously and being so sure the Godslayer is here to kill him while nobody else assumes that (nice foreshadowing), and grumping about technology, and seeing himself in the group chat video and turning it off because he hates how disheveled he looks, and (probably my very favorite bit) having this whole thought about speeches, how he should think up a speech, and it'd be a cheap shot to attack first when the human will probably start with a speech - only for him to just immediately do so anyway because for all that he's been trying to insist otherwise he's just terrified. I love him.

You also made entertaining scenes out of his talks with the other legendaries, and I think you made them flow nicely into one another without starting to drag. Mew's just a first-class troll, and characterized clearly enough within that one scene to make it very easy to believe that Mew was responsible for this. I love Palkia's mad scientist vibe and the comedy of the god of space as a Dwebble scuttling around turning pages in an oversized book. Poor Darkrai just wants to make a cake and is in no way ready for Arceus interrogating him. And Reshiram and Zekrom sneaking "the truth is" and "ideally" into their dialogue is exactly as facepalm-worthy as intended. All these scenes are amusing, don't overstay their welcome, contribute to the overall narrative of Arceus first trying to figure out what's going on with the Godslayer and then his desperate attempt to call in his greatest warriors, and the jokes land well. This story looked kind of intimidatingly long looking at the page count, but it doesn't really feel that way at all.

The final twist that the Godslayer is just a Smeargle mailman who Sketched moves off the legendaries, delivering the punchline to Mew's practical joke, is funny while also just making a lot of sense. Smeargle can learn and use moves off other Pokémon, no supernatural godslaying powers needed. The nature of the reveal could be a letdown in another context, but because of the entire comedic buildup about Arceus taking this so seriously, it was inevitable an anticlimax of some sort was coming, and I think this made for the good kind, where the resolution is comedically satisfying.

I did find the whole element of him being stated to be a human, and then turning out to presumably not be, sort of out of place, though; out of everything here, I'm not quite sure why that had to be a thing. After all, him supposedly being human didn't affect much of anything - nobody really assumed being human gave him powers or was really scary in itself or the like. Arceus briefly talked about how humans were supposedly clever and deceitful, but that could just as well have been a passage about how this hero must be clever and deceitful. As far as I can tell, unless I'm missing something, the story would have played out exactly the same way without the Godslayer being supposedly human, except that it would've been harder to hide his species from the reader. This makes it feel kind of contrived in-world that Mew would have bothered with that element of the prank - if saying he's a human doesn't really add anything, isn't that kind of an overly elaborate detail to include? I'm kind of surprised you didn't let him just be a human-turned-Smeargle who is happily working as a mailmon - the entire joke still works - or, since humans are apparently mythical figures here, make it significant that he's supposedly a human, and have Arceus worried about powers that humans are said to have, or about this intruder from another world being determined to take over this one, or something of the like. I think it would've made this element feel more meaningful in-universe, and less like it was there purely to hide information from the reader.

I also think it's not entirely clear how Arceus concludes so early that the legendaries have been giving the Godslayer some of their powers; Mew's been recounting that he fixed a bunch of things the legendaries screwed up, but that doesn't mean they gave him their powers, and that sort of seems to come out of nowhere - or rather, from you as the author, who know that that's what's going on. It might be better to wait with that assertion until the bit where Arceus sees the Godslayer using Dark Void, or at least until the bit where Jirachi admits to granting his wish to befriend the gods and become as strong as them.

Those are minor nitpicks, though, and all in all I think this was a well-executed humour piece! It's a lot of silly fun while grounded in real lovable characterization. It's not the most interesting use of the theme, but it succeeds very well at what it's trying to do.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This was a playful way to subvert the way legendaries are portrayed -- silly and personable. Darkrai baking really stands out as a funny twist. The themes of resisting modernity and anti-social behavior weren’t what I had expected either. I was also genuinely surprised by the smeargle, even though it makes absolute sense after the fact. The hat was a good red herring.

It wasn’t clear why Arceus was convinced that the human had to be trying to kill him. Where does this anti-human attitude come from? Might be useful to hear some of these myths. I also had trouble suspending my belief at the smeargle finally entering the room so cheerfully, as if he hadn’t been fighting what sounds like legions of other pokemon -- unless that was part of the prank, it seems like he should’ve been a little more concerned or curious about that. I also had trouble understanding how the legendaries fit into broader pokemon society. Knowing more about that would help us either empathize more with Arceus or see more completely how snooty and distant Arceus is, depending on how you play it.

Some of the character voices/tone could use refinement. In places, Arceus is oddly informal/modern, which clashes with his other dialogue. Mew has the opposite problem, sometimes sounding too formal (and too much like Arceus) compared to other moments of levity and bubbliness.


Umbramatic

This is a very surprisingly cute comedy, given it starts off seeming semi-dark but then devolves into silliness. This faux legend the story revolves around was a treat to watch unfold across various gags, and I didn't guess the plot twists, including not guessing the final twist until the very ending line, after which I was like HA

The one criticism I would point out is that after a point it all starts to drag. The gags don't stop being funny, but something itched at me that things were getting a little... not necessarily longer in and of themselves but more drawn out than they should have.

But this is good. Didn't blow my socks off but it was good and funny and entertaining and I liked it.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"In Search of Haven" by canisaries

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

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

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


Read the full story: Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

This fic has a strong opening that sucks you in and piques interest at the same time. You set the tone for the world while also inviting the reader to want to know more about it. As usual, I enjoy your stream-of-consciousness style and the prose is easy to sink into.

I liked the folktale about Haven and thought it was a good way to bring up the fact that fire-types aren’t allowed in, which struck me as very relevant to the story’s overall theme (more on that later). What I would have liked to see are some folktales about how the world actually got to be like this! Does everyone know? Was it so long ago that the exact details are lost to time, or does it still burn painfully in the back of everyone’s memory? Are the stories about it realistic or fanciful? Granted, I’m not sure where the best spot for this would be. Definitely not near the beginning—you do a good job setting up an air of suspense, and getting the answers too soon would ruin that. I feel like it probably wouldn’t happen during the songs, as that would kind of dampen everyone’s mood, heh. There’s also the fact that this was already a very long and ambitious entry, and a lot of things probably went on the chopping block.

Side note, but not being sure what the rules are for how ghosts work in this world, I kinda expected ghosts to just like… come through the walls. :P But I also figured that if that was possible, someone probably would have mentioned it.

I will admit that on my first readthrough, not a lot of the side characters jumped out at me, although I do think I was able to appreciate them more on the second read. Ivan, on the other hand, made a strong impression right away as a lively personality, and you did a great job at getting me attached to him in a short amount of time. (No joke, my initial notes for this review said “I like Ivan” all of 30 seconds before he got killed lmao.)

You did a really good job setting the scene for the possession, by the way. The suspense is layered thick. First the knowledge that there are ghosts in the castle, but they’re harmless, which puts us on edge. Then the crash that triggers the anticipation for something horrible while still giving us a bit of plausible deniability (having mentioned a suit of armor before, the clatter could have easily been it falling over.)
And then the sudden, blunt line “A shining edge slashes across her throat” just instantly punches us with absolutely no ambiguity. I know this isn’t really a horror fic, but your strengths at writing horror still managed to shine through here.

And there are just lots of little details scattered throughout that add to the scene in a big way. The sash digging into his flesh. The shift to ‘its’ after he was possessed. The beauty of the blood pattern. The blue fire and the unnatural way that it moves and the bitter feel that it had. That moment when the passimian briefly forgets that Alma’s gone. I didn’t even notice that you telegraphed the Honedge by having Ivan’s last words be, “Oh, cool sword.”

I really like Patch as a character. There are a lot of cute and subtle details that help bring her personality across, like the way that she accidentally introduces herself twice. You do a good job scattering hints toward her fears and insecurities even before those things come to the forefront. The way she instinctively reacts to praise by thinking it’s condescension. The flinch when Jeb mentions dark-types being useful. The way she has a hard time voicing her own opinions without her group. It makes it really easy to get the feeling that she’s seen a lot of death and blamed herself for it, and it makes the ending of the fic that much more of a gut punch. That, and I liked a lot of the cute moments between her and Annie, especially the bit where Annie wants to reassure Patch but doesn’t know if it’s realistic. (And the moment when Patch doesn’t realize that Ivan was a dark-type was a much-needed lighthearted moment.)

Also, yes, I admit it, you got me with the line “Annie! Are you okay?” :P

So, now that we’re at the end, I wanna talk about Annie for a bit. Overall she’s a pretty steadfast character, and she’s not the sort to dwell on negativity much. Which makes her… I’m not sure if optimistic is quite the right word, but there’s a definite drive there that keeps her moving forward. So it’s probably going to sound odd when I say: I would have liked to see a bit more inner conflict from her.

There’s a recurring thread of her bringing up things that could bother her, but then saying she’s not bothered by them, and all I could think was, “ok but it would be really interesting if she was bothered by them, even just a little bit.” Like when she brushes off the concern at not having been able to evolve yet. Or, the big one, when she first talks about the fact that fire-types aren’t allowed into Haven. I was expecting some genuine pain from her admitting that it’s fair that fire-types aren’t allowed into Haven.

It’s such a bittersweet concept—a protagonist who wants to make life brighter for others (literally and metaphorically) in a story literally about searching for Haven who knows that she can never go there. And her making peace with this because it’s in everyone’s best interest, but still feeling the sting, deep down. In that sense, her optimism would come from the way she wants others to have what she cannot have.

I dunno, I guess Annie just strikes me as a little too immune to inner conflict. But at the same time, I like her optimism, and I think it’s an important part of her character. She’s not the sort to dwell on bad things. Maybe if they just twinged at the edge of her mind, but she’s just so used to not focusing on them because that’s what it takes to survive in this world, then I think I’d have gotten a better feel for her as a character. That bittersweet quality would add some depth without compromising the optimism that’s central to her character. And I wouldn’t be suggesting this if I didn’t think it would also fit the tone of the story. First-person is practically tailor-made for a character saying one thing and feeling another thing. Instinctively forcing back doubt and bitterness, for the sake of others. Seeing mon like Patch and reminding herself that Haven needs to exist for their sake.

And the reason I want this is because we get a taste of it near the end. I love the line, “It warms my heart, stronger than any flame could. Even if… I already know I can't follow.” In fact, I think the last few pages of the story were my favorite part in general.

Anyway, I hope none of this is too discouraging. I know you’ve mentioned having a hard time getting into the headspace of characters other than you-know-who, but if anything, I think you’ve got all the ingredients for a fascinating arc with Annie, and I wouldn’t have rambled near as long if I didn’t think she had potential.

Dragonfree

I've barely read any PMD fic, so I'm not overly familiar with the conventions of the PMD scene, but at least from my perspective I thought you portrayed a neat post-apocalyptic PMD-esque setting here and made it feel lived-in. It's a horror setting, with ghosts lurking as an ever-present threat wherever there is darkness, and I think you did a good job of playing up that horror with the Honedge and zombie!Ivan and making it unsettling while still making it seem normal for the people in it, who are dealing with this every day. The sense of no one being safe lends urgency to the the search for a place where they can live in peace.

You also did a really good job with Patch as a character; it's so obvious from her first moments how abusively she's been treated, like with how she assumes she's being made fun of when Annie encourages her, and it's so good seeing the way Annie supports and guides her. Their relationship was super-sweet and formed a very successful emotional core to the story.

I did find it a little awkward, though, how the story ultimately features two myths like they're important - the myth of Haven and the myth of Trevenant forests - but then one of them just turns out to be completely irrelevant to the story. This entry is named after Haven, but Haven ultimately just has nothing to do with anything, and we never find out anything more about it than what is said in the one single conversation where it comes up. To me, it kind of muddles and overcomplicates things, given you're not going to do anything with that myth. (To be clear, I mean the city of light thing, the idea that there is a specific place called Haven and it's to the northwest and it's such and such - the general idea of varied rumours about the existence of possible safe havens that they're searching for, of which Trevenant forests are one, is of course very natural here.) Even just bringing up Haven again after leaving Patch in the forest - Annie saying I'll be fine, we'll keep on looking for Haven and maybe one day we can all meet again there, even if she privately isn't sure there even is a Haven - would have brought that aspect full circle a bit, but as it was it felt like everyone forgot about the concept of Haven entirely for the whole second half, and it left that setup feeling like it just went nowhere.

And speaking of Patch getting left behind in the forest... I'm not sure you made this entirely satisfying. Patch really bonded with Annie in particular, and then a little with the rest of her group; leaving her with a bunch of total strangers who vaguely seem nice, while all of Annie's group (Patch's actual friends) stays behind, just leaves me wondering if it wouldn't really be better for Patch to just come with them than be left effectively alone in the Trevenant forest with some people she barely met for an evening, who as far as we can see never even exchanged a single word with Patch. In the lovers' tale Jeb sang at the castle, the whole point was Skitty would rather leave the forest's safety to stay with the Fire-type she cared about! To then have the main story decide actually safety is so important they're going to just have to be separated feels incongruous - especially when the contrast to the myth goes completely unremarked upon (I might have bought it more easily if you actually made a point of how life's not like in the fairy tales or something).

Moreover, I really would've expected Patch herself in particular to not want this. After all, you've already made a point of how Patch is incredibly insecure and abused and instinctively expects others to treat her badly by default, and it took her a bit to even realize she can trust Annie - wouldn't it be especially mortifying to her to have to leave behind the one person she finally feels safe with, in favor of this other group that she doesn't really know? Would she really not rather go with Annie and her group in search of somewhere they can all be safe together? I feel like if this is the ending you choose to go for, the setup should probably make it more convincing that Patch would feel safe and confident with the remnants of Ivan's group now, rather than having been entirely focused on Patch finally developing a bond of trust with Annie only to end up leaving her behind and never seeing her again.

It also bugs me a bit that ghosts are in this world portrayed as generally dangerous and monstrous (at least now), except then randomly Trevenant are okay (and Sableye are sort of chaotic neutral). Certain species being inherently evil is always a bit of a can of worms, but it works all right when there's a clear, obvious distinction between their nature and the nature of the sympathetic characters; it's reasonably easy to swallow that ghosts are a frightening menace and inherently different from corporeal Pokémon, if we imagine that Ghost Pokémon are literally vengeful spirits or something of the like. But when you then reveal that actually not all ghosts, it just invites a lot more questions - what makes Trevenant different from other ghosts? What is it that makes all the other ghosts evil, if it's not inherent in being a ghost?

Also, the opening suggests no one knows if the ghost attacks had a beginning or if it has always been this way, but then just a few paragraphs later says wild Pokémon numbers have plummeted. This is incongruous: if they've plummeted in numbers because of this, then clearly there must have been some previous time that could sustain a larger population. (And of course, if that really is the case, one wonders exactly what happened to make the ghosts appear or change their behaviour - but I don't think you really need an explanation for this in a horror-oriented setting.)

As a minor worldbuilding nitpick, the mention that everyone clapped except Patch can't really do that stuck out to me - Pokémon society in PMD is very humanlike, but only a small proportion of Pokémon is actually capable of clapping, so the idea Pokémon applaud by clapping and the ones that can't just kind of don't feels super weird - why would they ever develop clapping as a way of showing appreciation in the first place, over something all or at least most Pokémon can do? Clapping only makes sense for a society of people that overwhelmingly are able to do that.

The treatment of Jason as a character bothered me a bit here, too - specifically, he's barely a character and only gets a few inconsequential lines here and there, but then you make a point of how Annie doesn't like him ("even Jason" is worth saving) and how the Trevenant doesn't even let him in. There just isn't enough Jason here to justify this; the only actually unlikable thing he does is a vague mention of him wrinkling his nose at Patch. That does suggest he might be kind of a dick, sure, but it could be for any number of reasons, and he goes on to never express any kind of animosity or disrespect towards Patch after that point at all, so it kind of seems more like it wasn't about that if anything. Paul is even kind of a dick towards Patch too ("She'd just be more trouble if she got sick," he says and shoves the Poochyena away) but he gets in just fine. It feels weird how the narrative's just decided this character we barely see anything of is so awful he doesn't deserve safety with the Trevenant - if we really need to see Trevenant doesn't let bad people in, I think we first need to properly believe that he's a bad person and not just sort of an aloof loner who was a little skeptical about taking Patch in.

And lastly, there are some tense mistakes in here, random sentences in the past tense where most of the story is in the present. Nothing a careful proofreading wouldn't fix.

All that said, though, I liked this entry a lot! Again, the successful emotional core of Patch and Annie's relationship just works, and the horror and worldbuilding is overall effective to create an immersive story.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This story seems to be about the importance of unity and strength in numbers -- a nice sentiment during a pandemic. We love some feel good friendship vibes. <3 I liked the glimpses at pokemon culture we got here, but I’d like a little more. Understanding what’s typical in this world would help make the sacrifices at the end -- and the choice to stay together -- feel more impactful.

We could use more moments of bonding between Paul and Annie. Since most of the emphasis is on Patch, with little on Paul, it makes Paul’s choice to stay less impactful. At the beginning we do see them hunting together, but we don’t get a good sense of their bond. And Jason I forgot about until he offered to stay at the end too. You might want to consider trimming your cast down and focusing on just the most important members to make them easier to keep track of.

It would also be nice to get more detail about Patch. Her abandonment seems like a worst-case scenario in a setting like this where the group means protection and resource-sharing. I’d love to see more exploration of her experiences -- what are the consequences of being alone? I’d also like to see a moment of Patch making a choice and finding strength -- she’s really just being shuttled from place to place throughout, and it makes me wonder what Annie got out of helping her so much.
The main conflict -- the protagonists seeking haven away from the ghosts -- comes into the story a little late, and I’d consider trimming from the beginning to help us get to the main plot sooner. We also don’t even get hints about Haven until page nine -- it would be nice to get hints sprinkled in earlier. I was also unclear about the exact nature of the conflict with the ghosts and why they seemed to be more feral than everything else. At one point it seems like a duskull is rounding pokemon up, and it feels like a bit of a police state. Later it seems like they’re just agents of chaos. Either way, they’re driving the conflict here -- more clarity will make the stakes feel higher.

In your next draft, be careful of tone. The setting seems pretty grim, which makes some of the jokes and flippant comments feel misplaced. There’s a way you could play them for comic relief, but it’s isn’t working for me here. I’d say you could use those moments for comic relief at a moment where one character notices someone else needs cheering up and they reach for a joke. Or, alternatively, ease up on the “trying their best to avoid their own deaths” and “Civilized mon like us know to utilize every scrap of meat we can get,” and the lighter comments won’t feel so out of place.

Umbramatic

- pmd: -i sleep-

weird post-ghost-apocalypse survival pmd: -REAL SHIT-

This was very much an interesting entry! It's got a fascinating and terrifying world, cool characters, harrowing stakes, and subtle but effective worldbuilding and foreshadowing. Also I, like the protagonist, would protect Patch with my life.

The problem is that this entry doesn't quite revolve around its titular legend as much as it probably should. It's mentioned once, foreshadowed a little with the Treveant stuff, then kinda maybe sort of shows up at the end it's blatantly ambiguous? Aside from that it's mostly the main characters trying to just survive. Which was great! Just not as on brand for the contest as it probably should be.

But don't get me wrong, this is a good fic! I hope Patch stays happy. (Also I burst out laughing when she thought Incineroar was Fire/Fighting.)
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"The Lonely God and the Littlest Growlithe" by kintsugi
Second-Place Winner

Life as a domainless god was, in many ways, no different than Barky’s life before. He still ran outside, looked for interesting smells, and explored the woods he’d once called home. He just had to do all of it alone.

Mew had warned him, you see, but Barky wasn’t a very good listener yet. So on his first official day of godhood, while Mew went to figure out where dead souls went, Barky tried talking to the mortals he saw.

“Hello,” Barky said proudly to a pidgeotto that was perched up in a tree. “I’m Barky! I’m a new god in these parts. How are you today?”


Judge Comments

Chibi Pika (Ranked: 1st)

Opening lines are hard, and you nailed this one. A child died. “Oh dear. That wasn’t supposed to happen.” Amazing. This entire opening scene is a delight, and I love the dialogue. So much charm—you immediately got me invested in both Barky and Mew, and I felt like I could read about the two of them forever, just exploring this new world and figuring out how things work together.

The prose has a fun whimsy that makes it a joy to read. Like, I can’t say any more plainly than that—this fic was just plain fun to read on every level, and I had the biggest, stupidest grin throughout most of it. It has a storybook feel, but in a way that I didn’t feel detached from the characters at all, which is a very good thing, because the emotional connection with the characters was one of the strongest elements here (more on that later). The descriptions are simple but buttery smooth, occasionally slipping into more vivid prose when needed. And when you do break out the more elaborate descriptions, you focus on the abstract, the feel of the legends, not their literal appearance. I also loved how much focus you gave the characters’ body language. There were lots of little actions that kept the prose engaging between the dialogue while also giving us a good view of the character’s emotions.

Your interpretation of Mew was a lot of fun (God, at some point I’m gonna run out of things to call fun). The way they cover up their loneliness with energy and enthusiasm for the joy of working out all the rules of creation. I got a real kick out of Barky spacing out at the flatlanders (I’m a huge fan of the flatland story, heh). At the same time, as much as Mew is engaged in working out the problems in their creation, there’s almost a… detached quality to their engagement with creation. And that’s a good thing! They’ve accepted this lonely path, but Barky cannot, will not accept it, and that’s so important to his character.

I was not prepared for the second half, and just how hard you’d make me feel Barky’s loneliness. Loneliness through cold, through desolation, through devastation. He’s immune to all of those things, and yet he feels them all through everyone around him, because he’s unwilling to leave them to suffer alone. Because he knows the loneliness so well, he’s determined to keep everyone else from having to feel it too, and if he can’t do anything, then he’ll suffer with them, a small, powerless puppy curled around the dying, trying in vain to give comfort to those who can’t see or feel him. Don’t be afraid; I’m here; I care. You perfectly captured that bittersweet feeling of wanting others to be happy without you, to let you go, but also wanting them to miss you.

The whole story, Mew was focused on offering concrete solutions to physical problems, while Barky, who could do nothing, tried his hardest to give comfort. Sometimes it can feel a bit useless, only being able to offer comfort when others are suffering very real problems. Comfort won’t solve those problems, and yet it can sometimes be what people need most. And inspiring others to take action even when you can’t take action yourself is still meaningful.

Arcanine, the Legendary Pokémon. Spirit of hope. It’s so perfectly fitting. A god that would live among the mortals as one of them, because being there for them was his only desire.

On my first readthrough of this fic, I managed a paltry three sentences of notes. I think that shows just how completely and utterly the story captured me. It’s just pure, charming, heart-rending simplicity.

Dragonfree (Ranked: 1st)

This story made me cry, multiple times. I definitely did not expect that from an entry that began with Mew telling a dead Growlithe, "Have you tried not doing that?"

You've managed to make this simultaneously unbearably cute and genuinely moving. Barky's frightfully adorable in his perfect puppyish sincerity, and the particular way that you phrase and describe things especially in the first half is incredbly charming. You really nail making the reader just want to die for him within a page or two. And then there's Barky trying so hard to help and reassure the Pokémon in hard times (like a dog, of course), thinking he's useless and can't help anyone, only to finally learn that is his domain, that he's a spirit of hope and inspiration and comfort in hard times (like a dog!)? Ohhhh, man, I cried. Barky is such a good boy and I'm so proud of him.

I think you do a really good job building up to that, too; after all, Mew shows us how they can cause and influence things without mortals precisely being aware that it was Mew, and we go on to see Barky do just that, encouraging the Oddish to cuddle up for warmth, inspiring the Wooper and Quagsire to go on and sing, calming the dying so they can pass in peace, even causing the warring Vaporeon and Jolteon to hesitate. We can tell that he is helping them, so much, even before we see it more explicitly with his family and he gets to realize it. All I wanted to do was tell him he's already the best god over the domain of my heart.

I'm also struck by your portrayal of Mew, though. They're a goofy, playful, lighthearted sort of Mew, spending a lot of the first half being kind of goofy and amusing, not entirely knowing what they're doing but trying their best, very casual and unserious for a creator deity - but then at times we (and Barky) can see just a glimpse of the ancient, tired, so terribly exhausted and lonely being beneath the surface. Seeing Mew lose the ability to create anymore, confessing it's Barky who's really strong and able to carry the mortals through the hard times, helps the somber undertone along here. I wonder if Barky can help Mew be less lonely, too.

All in all, this is just such a beautiful way to tackle that whole awkward concept of Arcanine being called a legendary Pokémon in the games when it's not really. Out of universe, it was just meant to be one previously during development and then got quietly demoted. But maybe the legendary Arcanine really was just a mortal Pokémon, who was such a good dog that he ascended to legendary status, and I love this.

I think your prose is really lovely; you weave seamlessly between cute silliness and effortlessly punchy, vivid imagery, written fluidly and without ever going overboard. You've got a knack for getting across little details that really drive home the impact of what you're writing about - Wooper's fins dry and crinkly against its body, the Oddish's yellowing leaves, the crisp scent of ozone accompanying Zapdos's creation. And you've got some really good use of callbacks in here too, like "The corpse, the ghost, the god."

There are a few mistakes, though - a word or two missing or typoed, rendering a sentence sounding weird. Here and there are bits where I'm just not entirely sure what you're getting at - Mew's explanation of how mortals recognize them as who they are doesn't entirely elucidate things for me. Also, while I can see the similarity between Mew and Articuno's tails and how both could be compared to ribbons, it seems an extreme stretch to call them "the same".

And I do feel that I would have wanted more out of Barky towards the end, or an extra scene - more of his thoughts on getting his own domain and becoming a god, him actually realizing how he helps, or even just a summary of how he went on to help and inspire mortals from there. I think the way he kind of fades out at the end of the final scene and the focus shifts entirely to Mew is a bit of a shame. I can see what you're doing with the "And the mortals saw, and they rejoiced" ending for each of the legendary creation scenes, but I'm not sure this leads to the most impactful ending possible - perhaps you could insert more before that line? Or, again, a small extra scene after it.

As a whole, though, this entry just really captivated and charmed me and played my heartstrings like a harp. Good job.

OldSchoolJohto (Ranked: 3rd)

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This was really sweet! Really enjoyed the tone and narrative voice. The interactions between Mew and Barky were spot-on -- so charming and sad and full of The Power of Heart. The rhythm of each “episode” was also really nicely done -- really captured that fairy tale feel. The ending felt juuuuuuuust a touch forced, but I think it’ll sing with some fine-tuning. It also might’ve been nice to see the growlithe family a little sooner, but that point I feel a little less certain about.

Umbramatic (Ranked: 10th)

This was a really cute and creative take on how Arcanine is the "Legendary" Pokemon despite not being a true Legendary. The mythological/quasi-religious language with the creation of each Legendary really helps sell it and Barky and Mew are fun protagonists with fun perspectives.

One thing that did kind of strike me as odd is how thoroughly Kanto-centric everything was aside from the Wooper and Quagsire, especially since there's nothing establishing this as being in Kanto - for all I know this is the prehistoric days of a PMD setting.

Also, Mew is supposedly creating these Legendaries to help with people's problems but they aren't shown... doing that? Like, how the hell is Articuno gonna help those freezing Oddish? How is a FIRE legendary supposed to quell the fires of war? How is Barky, now he's an Arcanine, supposed to help with the plague aside from maybe a symbol of hope? Of these only Zapdos made sense. I can see some vague justifications for the others but it's kind of head-scratch-y.

But don't get me wrong! This is a creative angle for the contest entry and I'm glad someone took it.
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Lost to Retellings" by Windskull

Who dares to trespass on my domain? Turn back now, or else have your bones scattered across-

Oh, goodness me, you’re just a child! How did you get out here all by yourself?

Oh. Oh no no no, please don’t cry, little one. Look, look! I’m nothing scary. Just a zoroark, see? Please don’t cry.

Gods, I don’t know how to deal with children. Why me?

Look, look, the big scary pokemon is gone. I’m just a little sentret. Just like you, see? Please stop crying.

See, that’s better, isn’t it? Where are your parents, little one?

…I see... Well... Maybe if we wait here, they’ll come back for you. Come on. I’ll wait with you. I’ll make sure no other scary pokemon come by, okay?

There, there. Would it help pass the time if I told you a story?


Read the rest: AO3 | FFN | Thousand Roads

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

Alright, we’ve got not one, not two, but three stories in this one, all linked by an overarching narrative. I guess it’s only fitting that I tackle each one separately and then give my thoughts on the overall themes.

So, let’s open with the first story! For starters, I quite like your descriptions. They flowed nicely and involved a lot of striking imagery, especially during the clash between Lugia and Ho-oh. There’s a nice sense of rhythm to the prose that kept the action scenes moving without being slowed down by the description, and I can always appreciate that. I was particularly fond of the phrase, “she fell when an icy spear pierced her broken heart.”

One part that stood out to me as lacking was the moment when Raikou Entei and Suicune were born. Which was pretty noticeable, since that was kind of the dramatic climax of the tale! Having their introductory paragraph just say that they were “larger and stronger than their predecessors” is pretty weak compared to the excellent wording in the previous scenes, particularly Ho-oh’s revival. I think it’d be cool to dig deeper into the aura that each one gave off, and how the onlookers felt witnessing the birth of new gods.

I also would’ve liked to see the narration sink more into the emotions that Lugia felt upon killing his counterpart, as I think there’s a lot you could do with the guilt there. That said, I really enjoyed the fact that Lugia genuinely didn’t think he could kill Ho-oh. These Legendaries have been warring and mortal Pokémon have been paying the price, and all it meant to Lugia was winning in the name of his god, until it turned out that there actually was a price for it. And the realization that this loss wouldn’t even matter to Dialga and Palkia… it reinforces the theme that just as the gods didn’t care about the sacrifices that the mortals made in their name, so too the higher gods didn’t care about the sacrifices made by lower gods.

The second story didn’t feel quite as fleshed out at the first. There wasn’t nearly as much emotional stake presented as compared to the clash between Lugia and Ho-oh. And I really would have liked to see more to the moment where the original dragon split apart. I mean, that’s a pretty dramatic event! What did it feel like, to them? How was such a thing possible to begin with? It could easily have tied into their theme as the incarnation of balance.

I do like how you were able to tie Kyurem’s emptiness motif back into the first story’s theme about the pointlessness of war. And the bit where the Pokémon who followed them became their ice-type regional forms was a neat detail and easily feels like the kind of thing that Pokémon would come up with in their folklore.

Onto the third story, then! The moment when Dialga and Palkia realized their wrongdoing fell a bit flat for me. I mean, yes, Arceus’s final stand was pretty dang dramatic, and I’m not surprised that it brought the war crashing to a halt. But what was it, specifically, about Arceus’s speech that moved them not just to pause fighting out of fear, but to actually show remorse? I would have liked to see them sort of… taking stock of the cost of the fight for the first time. Trying to dismiss it, but knowing in the back of their mind that Arceus was right. Each instinctively blaming the other but then being faced with the crushing realization that they themselves were at fault. That sort of thing. Something to give this pivotal moment the emotional weight it deserved.

I think the weak link in this overall was actually the framing device itself. It felt a little bit… incomplete compared to the stories themselves. I’m still a bit unclear as to why Maneth wasn’t allowed to tell the story, and my best guess is that it has to do with Arceus’s decree, (since Maneth is a messenger for a legend.) And even if they weren’t allowed to tell the whole story, you could still do something where, once Maneth realizes that the hatchling is asleep, they could kind of go on with the rest of it to themself, to give the reader the opportunity to learn a few of the details that were omitted. At the very least, I kinda feel like we should get to know which Legendary Progne is. :P

But overall, I enjoyed the overarching themes of this story, and if you give a few of the emotional moments more punch, it’ll go a long way.

Dragonfree

I enjoyed the framing device here, with Maneth telling this young Sentret stories and the slow revelation that there's more to that than just being a framing device. It's also just cute - this Zoroark softening at a baby Sentret and telling stories to distract it from its disappeared parents is sweet.

I also like a lot of the ideas you've got in the actual myth retellings here. Three Oricorio becoming Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres in a symmetrical way to the common fan theory that a Vaporeon, Jolteon and Flareon were resurrected as the legendary beasts was fun (though it does bug me a bit that there isn't an actual Ice-type Oricorio to become Articuno). Kyurem being left as an embodiment of emptiness and apathy when both the devotion to truth and ideals have split off feels like it makes sense. And the idea that mystery dungeons originated as the sites of battles between Dialga and Palkia that made these areas permanently wonky is pretty cool! The general way you're doing a PMD take on Pokémon myths, giving alternative versions of some of the canon lore - rather than human princes, Reshiram and Zekrom split off to follow Dialga and Palkia, etc. - was fun. I also enjoyed the known unknowns - some things Maneth just doesn't know (supposedly), or there are many versions of the story, and it's always fun to see that in something themed around myths.

I'm less enthused about the actual content of the stories, though. The motivation for Dialga and Palkia's war is lost to time - so unavoidably it just feels a bit flat and arbitrary. By itself, as a background element, Dialga and Palkia fighting for entirely unknown reasons would be fine - but then at the same time you're talking about how this was a great war and all the other legendaries and armies of mortal Pokémon took part as well and are telling their stories, and it just doesn't feel very convincing or compelling to read about everyone joining an arbitrary war over nothing, with no sense of what they're actually fighting for. (It also makes it harder to believe the motivation was actually lost to time. The intention may be that it wasn't at all and Maneth is just not telling, but I think that's not a great choice storytelling-wise and I'm not sure how it'd hurt to give it.)

And from there, we move on to these legendaries that have been so fiercely determined to wage war on one another being persuaded to let it go and stop in what seems like the space of five minutes. It just kind of leaves me cold when supposedly Ho-Oh and Lugia are so passionate about their respective legendary dragons' unknown causes that they sacrifice scores of Pokémon to it, only then when Lugia successfully kills the leader of the army opposing him, surely the one person whose killing he should consider justified if anything, he abruptly realizes fighting is wrong. He's seen so many die already, and seemed to have no particular sympathies for Ho-Oh; I'm just not convinced of his change of heart, especially when it turns out Ho-Oh isn't even really dead. And why did this experience change Ho-Oh's mind about anything at all? The story just kind of loses me there, and the legendaries' actions seem arbitrary and forced.

Similarly, it doesn't seem to take all that much to convince Dialga and Palkia, instigators of this whole conflict, either - a few lines about how much destruction and death's been caused, and they realize whoops they were wrong? If it was that easy, why couldn't Arceus have stopped the war long ago? Why couldn't Ho-Oh and Lugia just go see Dialga and Palkia and say a few lines about how much destruction and death's been caused themselves, by the time they figured out maybe war is bad? I just found it very hard to understand the legendaries' characters or motivations at all, and as a result I found it hard to properly get invested in any of this legendary war or care about it. Which is a shame! On paper these are hugely intense, dramatic events, but I'm just not feeling anything.

The framing device was a lot more successful in that regard - Maneth is pretty much instantly likable, we don't even see the baby Sentret and I'd still die for it, and it's very intriguing when we meet Progne and you begin to hint that Maneth knows way more than he's letting on and Progne isn't a regular Kangaskhan at all.

However, I'm afraid I don't think I fully get it. The way the framing scenes are built up strongly suggest Progne is a legendary in hiding - but which one? Even on a third close read of the story I can't tell at all. There's no obvious legendary connected to Kangaskhan; Progne is referred to as a she, but the only explicitly she legendaries in the story are Ho-Oh and Raikou, and Progne doesn't really sound like either of them, plus the way Maneth sounds unsure about some of what happened in the Ho-Oh story seems odd if he heard it first-hand; Progne as a name doesn't appear to relate to any particular legendary. If you've left any hints in here somewhere as to who Progne actually is, I've completely missed them on multiple reads - though I can't rule out that this is just me being slow, of course, and apologies if so. Maybe we're just not supposed to be able to tell - but if so, I feel like the framing narrative could have been done differently so as to not suggest that, such as by not actually including Progne and instead just hinting Maneth learned some of these stories straight from the horse's mouth. As it is, I just feel frustrated that I can't figure it out or see how I'm meant to.

You've also got a number of proofreading errors in here - missing quotes in particular are something I noticed several times.

All in all, a charming and intriguing framing narrative around some pretty neat ideas, but I couldn't quite get into the actual myth narratives, and unless I've just missed something, it feels like you're glaringly leaving a mystery unresolved, which is a bit unsatisfying.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: The zoroark (?) narrator charmed me immediately! The opening lines are really strong. I wish that narrative banter seeped into and interrupted the myths they tell instead of coming in between. Kids interrupt -- they don’t wait to ask their questions. Letting kid sentret and charming narrator interrupt the story’s flow would give you more natural places to question the gods’ ethics and the reasons for the war. I was not at all invested in the third character who comes in later, and I didn’t like the sudden inclusion of dialogue in quotes for them-- made the quoteless narrator strange.

The first two myths are fun inversions of the typical canon narrative, but it seems like the third one is meant to be the main focus. Instead of telling a bunch of small stories, I’d focus on just the last one.

Umbramatic

I was HOPING someone would do an anthology!

I really, really love the framing device for this a lot, I love that it's a Zoroark in the know telling all these tales to a lost kid. And the end twist explains a lot. I like that each legend feels distinct and sufficiently mythological and explains a lot about the nebulous PMD setting.

I do wish the stories had slightly more meat to their bones. What's there is fascinating but I want more detail and characterization! MORE! ...But then again this contest had a wordcount cap so that's more a question of if you'd want to revise this story later.

But yeah, mad props for this one, fits the theme super well.
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Make Mew Friends, but Keep the Old" by eeveeribbons

“Didya hear? Somebody really saw that mythical Pokémon under the truck!”

Red jerked his head up, immediately spotting a little boy talking to a girl beside the Pokémon center’s counter, gesturing wildly as he raved.

“Timmy swears it, or at least he swears his brother says it’s real.”

The girl crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t believe that dumb legend. Nobody ever shows any proof. Who knows if it’s real or not?”

Red jumped to his feet and ran over, ignoring the kids’ shocked expressions.

“Did you say there’s a mythical Pokémon around here?”

The boy nodded. “Well, that’s what people are saying. There’s this weird little beach you can find if you surf around the S.S. Anne. They say there’s only a truck on it, and if your Pokémon lifts it up, Mew flies out.”


Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

This was a cute story. I like the idea of taking a real-world myth and applying it in-universe. I just think I’d have liked to see a little more focus on the rumor itself! How did it start? How far has it spread? Do most people think it’s nonsense, not even worth investigating? If there’s even the slightest inkling that some people might take it seriously, I have a hard time buying that investigating the truck would be too much effort. :P Is there rampant misinformation going around that makes the truth harder to verify (much like the early 2000’s internet). Adding details like that would go a long way toward helping make the myth feel more grounded in its setting, like the sort of thing that actually would spread excitedly amongst the trainer population. Maybe it gets shut down constantly, but everyone’s still secretly kind of intrigued by it anyway. Trainer culture can be a ton of fun, and I’d have loved to see how it factors into this myth.

As an extension of the above, I think the kids in the Pokécenter could have used more personality. They’re just sort of there to exposit about the Mew rumor, and then stop being important the moment Red leaves. Not that I really expected them to like, show up later or anything. I just think you could add a few details to make them more distinct and memorable. Off the top of my head, it’d be fitting if they had Pokémon out. One thing your story did well was giving the Pokémon a lot of cute little moments, so having Pokémon interacting in the background would be a fitting way to spice up the exposition and make the trainers more distinct.

I also think I’d have liked a better feel of what the setting is like. I of course know what the island with the truck looks like in-game, but there’s a lot of room for interpretation there. Is it really that hard to get to? Far enough that most trainers wouldn’t bother checking, even with flying and water Pokémon at their disposal? I have a hard time buying that.

In any case, I thought the Ditto reveal was funny, and I loved the cute moments between Red and his Charizard—the way he’s genuinely concerned just by slightly inconveniencing his team gives us the sense that Red and his team have been together for a long time.

Overall this was a fun concept with a lot of cute moments that I think just needs a bit of expansion to better explore the contest theme.

Dragonfree

I loved that you made a fic with this real-world rumour as an in-world one - that's just a really cute concept. I was also incredibly tickled by the mention that Red's lucky he lost a battle on the S.S. Anne, as historically that's what you needed to do in the games to access the truck, and the suggestion someone planted a Ditto on the island to prank those who came to investigate the rumour. The nods to actual rumours and how they work just lent a sense of fun, creative nostalgia to this.

I was a bit disappointed to find there wasn't all that much to the story otherwise, though - it's just Red finds out about the rumour, he goes to investigate, there's a short battle, and then it turns out to be a Ditto. This is one of the shortest entries in the contest, but despite this, a significant chunk of the word count here feels a bit fillery - describing Red sending out Gyarados and jumping onto his back and how they surf around the boat and the cool sea spray, Charizard throwing several moves at the Ditto while it just dodges. All in all it could have been even shorter without really losing anything. It feels a bit like you had this really fun concept in mind about this rumour being an in-world one, but then didn't quite think of enough of a story to write around it; there aren't any real stakes here, nor much character development or exploration, nor a real central thesis. It's just hard to care all that much, which is a shame.

You've sort of got a hint of a theme, particularly in the final line, about Red appreciating his other Pokémon and realizing he doesn't really need a mythical. I think it'd strengthen this story if this theme were more prominent and focused and brought more to the forefront. Suppose, for instance, that Red gets so excited about potentially finding Mew that he kind of neglects his Pokémon's needs for a bit while investigating - pushing them too hard, recalling Charizard suddenly after a difficult battle without even a thanks - and then, when he realizes it's a Ditto and all this was for nothing, perhaps he also realizes he's been a bit of a jerk in the process of pursuing it and that he values the Pokémon he has more than any mythical, apologizes to them, and they make up and show how much they appreciate each other. It wouldn't change much about how the broad strokes of the story play out, but it'd focus the story more and give it a clearer and more satisfying point to it, a bit of conflict and character development and cute character interactions, while retaining the same core premise and idea as a key component in making it happen.

Or, of course, you could take this somewhere else, if you didn't actually want Red to be a jerk or just felt like doing something else. Maybe Red makes a bet with someone about whether the rumour is true, and returns triumphantly to declare victory, only to send out a Ditto and be left facepalming at himself as he reluctantly pays up. Or perhaps he actually does find out who planted a Ditto there and why, instead of just speculating on it. Or perhaps this is all Mew playing a prank on humanity. I think there are a lot of things you could do to flesh this out to build a more satisfying narrative out of it! But at the moment, in its current form, I think it lacks direction and purpose and doesn't quite make the most out of the fun premise.

All that said, it's still a really fun idea and a creative take on the theme, and I'm still really fond of that line about Red having lost a battle on the ship.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This is ultimately a story about Red’s relationship with his pokemon -- there’s some prickliness during the mew quest, and the aftermath insists that the real prize was the friendship we built along the way. In your next draft I think you should explore those tensions more and draw out the solution a little longer. I have some lingering questions about Red’s relationship with his pokemon that I want the story to address.

His motivations for seeking Mew could use more development as well. He’s really frustrated by the failure, but the stakes don’t feel high enough.

Lastly, I was confused by the ditto’s behavior. I think the ditto either needs to have more personhood -- to be visibly enjoying trolling Red -- or to be more like an animal and shapeshifting in response to perceived threat and to try to get Red to leave it alone. I also feel like the difference between ditto and Mew is that ditto mimics things it sees and Mew can be anything. I suppose that could just be my head canon though.

That said, this is a fun way to look at how the old glitch/myth might play out in 3D. Kids spreading rumors and bragging about what so-and-so’s brother said is a mood.

Umbramatic

This one was really short and sweet - it doesn't cover much, but what it does cover makes sense, and it's a good take on the contest. Also the Charizard and Ditto are adorable and so is Red's relationship with the former.

I will say once the "Mew" started transforming and Red went "oh mew totally knows Transform" it was easy enough to guess the "twist." Doesn't help it's basically the plot of an old Awkward Zombie comic.

So maybe try telegraphing that less? Regardless, this was cute.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Selphus" by Ivy Towers

You know the stories. I’ve lived in Selphus my whole life. Now that the internet is becoming popular here, hardly a day goes by when I don’t see an allusion to my town or a sick joke about its people. Where there are blurry photos of rare species, or those phenomenal and adorable close-up photos of the Shaymin from three years ago, amid the ooh-ing and the heart emojis there are comments saying to keep the pokémon away from Selphus. On every news article about a crime against pokémon, there are suggestions the perpetrator might be from “too far north.” (This particularly stings in the case of Gent Hartman, though I hope no one wants a rehashing of his criminal activities.) But generally speaking, people have developed a reputation for us as profane killers of the sacred.

As seems to most often be the case in these situations, I don’t know how the rumors started in the first place. What I mean is, I believe I understand the basis for the rumors, but I don’t know how they’ve reached the world outside Selphus. For the most part the people here stay where they are, and for the most part everyone not from around here stays that way. At any rate, the rumors started, and they haven’t stopped. I mean, things have clearly gotten out of hand when it’s considered acceptable to speculate that we here are raised at birth to hunt pokémon with spears and eat them raw. (Okay, I’ve only seen one person suggest this, but can you blame me for being offended? Judging by popular belief, maybe you do.)

Anyway, I’ve kept quiet about this for a few years now, obviously. Sure, it hurts my feelings, but we here have learned the hard way that outrage, as a rule, has more negative consequences than positive. And beyond my feelings, it doesn’t affect me that much. On the internet, if I don’t say I’m from Selphus, no one knows; and outside the internet, the world pretty much leaves us alone. It was only after leaving an unusual funeral recently that I realized the real story should be told, and that if anyone were going to tell it, it should probably be me.


Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

I’m of two minds about the framing device used in this story. On the one hand, I can see what you were going for by using the well-known Reddit story format to reinforce what is, essentially, a tale about the dangers of misinformation. On the other hand, I think it might have gotten in your way more often than not, as there were a lot of times where being aware of the fact that Ivan was telling this story years later made it harder to get absorbed into what was happening in the moment. He made a lot, and I mean a lot, of… clarifying side statements that broke the flow for me without meaningfully adding to the story. His asides made the story a lot slower to read through than it would have been otherwise, and sometimes they were outright repeating what had already been said. It mostly made me wish that the story wasn’t being told as an internet post.

There were also, oddly enough, a lot of times where Ivan’s narration had the opposite problem—not providing enough information. He mentions that Hoshi was an outsider, but then doesn’t say why—rather, he lists a few reasons why Hoshi isn’t an outsider, but then doesn’t follow up with an actual reason, in which case, why bring it up?

The funeral had a nice somber feeling to it, and I especially liked the mention that it was the first time Ivan didn’t feel invincible. But I kind of got distracted at the end of it because I couldn’t figure out why the mom thought Hoshi killed her son, and for some reason, Ivan barely reacts. Later, he says that he doesn’t believe that the old man killed the boy anymore, which kind of made the previous bit feel pointless, since it doesn’t actually go anywhere. This actually would have been a really good point for Ivan to give one of his side notes, maybe introducing some wildly false rumors about that guy that would make an accusation of child-murdering fit right in. And it would also make it more meaningful when they actually meet Hoshi later and discover that all the rumors about him are false.

Anyway, now we come to the point where they finally meet Hoshi for real! I actually liked this bit quite a lot—you do a good job showing that he gets along well with his Pokémon. I also quite liked the scene where Hoshi introduced Eelektross. It was one of the first scenes that really put me into the moment with the characters’ emotions, since the narration had been somewhat detached until this point.

Particularly because of the contest theme, I’d have liked to see you incorporate more of the stories about how Hoshi and Eelektross defeated legends. I mean, that sounds like it could be pretty cool! I’m all for skipping unnecessary dialogue to get to the heart of things, but this would be fun to read. And it would also let you set up some foreshadowing for the fact that he actually has a Legendary.

Hoshi’s explanation for why he didn’t just go after the boy who fell in the ice was a little weird. He doesn’t really answer the question, he just detours into telling them how going into shock works? Even though icy water actually extends the length of time before someone drowns. (I’m also unclear on if he suspected Celebi might have actually been able to do something, even though she’d come back empty-handed at the time.) Also it’s a bit anticlimactic to have the conflict between Hoshi and the boy’s mom presented to us and then resolved so easily offscreen.

I was thrown off guard about why the town was talking like Hoshi had his last Pokémon trapped and that they needed to free it. Did Sten make that up? Did the town blow that out of proportion? I do like the idea of this strange outsider being the subject of town rumors that eventually get put to rest, but it sort of clashes with the fact that Ivan said that Hoshi really didn’t have any stigma or fear attached to him. Also we don’t get told what the wild outlandish theories they come up with… why not?

Anyway, since Ivan and Sten decide to warn him, I want to know what they’re feeling at the time. Do they regret telling the town? Do they feel bad about the rumors, do they sympathize with the rumors? I particularly would have liked to see you explore the guilt they could be feeling here.

I did enjoy the battle. The description was snappy and flowed well. I also liked quite a bit of the descriptions around it, like when they first enter the cabin and see the signs of the full life that Hoshi has lived. I think my favorite moment was when Ivan takes the Dusk Ball. The reveal that Celebi saved the boy from the ice was clever and satisfying—a fun way of playing with the fact that his Pokémon didn’t return with the boy back then. And the fact that Sten described the boy’s own funeral to him was a fun touch. Overall, this part of the story was the highlight for me.

The Selphus savages thing didn’t seem to relate much to the main story and could pretty much be removed without changing anything. It also just feels… incredibly bizarre. Now don’t get me wrong— I am definitely not doubting the internet’s ability to spread rampant misinformation. :P (Especially not right now.) But even the most wildly false rumors usually come from something, and it’s really hard to see what led to this myth. Did Sten really just… make it all up for shits n giggles? Speaking of Sten, the reveal that he’s the one responsible really didn’t do it for me, since it comes out of nowhere and kind of reverses his character arc. As a kid, his carelessness led to dangerous rumors spreading, and then as an adult he’s… still doing the same thing. Well, I guess it’s not unrealistic, but it is a bit unsatisfying.

I’m not sure how Ivan sharing this story of Hoshi really dispels the outside opinion that Selphus is full of savages—or even how it relates to it at all. He says he wants to tell “the real story,” but Hoshi’s tale didn’t really have much to do with all the false rumors? It’s almost like two different stories combined into one—one about how internet culture spreads misinformation, and one about a town learning the truth behind a remarkable old man.

The easiest way to fix this, I think, would just be to have the rumors spread by the town and the rumors spread by the internet actually overlap. I noticed that Hoshi’s mention of having defeated legends didn’t seem to factor into that much. What if there were rumors involving him killing Legendaries. That definitely would have fed a lot of urgency to the men confronting him in his cabin that day. And then the internet rumors could have spiraled out from that years later! Imagine a bunch of urban legends about some creep going around killing or imprisoning Legendaries, and then when word got out that he had settled in Selphus, I could easily see those rumors rubbing off on the town. And that would also make Ivan’s decision to share the truth about Hoshi very relevant to clearing his town’s name.

Despite my complaints, there really is a lot here to like. The overarching theme of the dangers of misinformation was an interesting direction to take the content theme. Hoshi himself was an enjoyable character, and the Celebi twist was well done. I just had a hard time getting into those things due to the storytelling format, and I would have liked the two halves of the story to relate to each other better.

Dragonfree

I enjoy the framing device of this being posted as a forum thread on the internet in response to urban legends - modern-day myths about a legendary Pokémon, rather than the old-fashioned kind. You do a nice job building up intrigue in the intro and suggesting a real, wider world affected by the rumours, and I was amused by the edits at the end talking about the response to the original post and then revealing S was the poster stirring up all the Selphus rumours - he does feel like the trolling type, and you foreshadow it nicely with the way he's established as a gossip within the main story.

My favorite bits of the inner narrative here were the appearance of Celebi and the depiction of it as very special and magical in a tangible way, and the scene with the boys challenging Hoshi to a battle and him humouring them and asking to see their Pokémon and showing an interest, even though of course he's not going to battle two twelve-year-olds with his legendary-fighting Eelektross. It was very endearing, and these two kids going and wanting to battle the scary old man is really genuinely kidlike and cute. It was also fun to imagine this legendary and her human partner retiring in a small town after (before) a life of adventure, unknown to everyone.

All that said, though, I found a lot of things in this story kind of puzzling. Just to start with, I find it hard to entirely reconcile the ways you describe how Hoshi is seen in town: first you talk about him as an outsider who never integrated and kept to himself and was subject to speculation, but then in the very next paragraph you say nobody batted an eye when he showed up at a boy's funeral because everyone considered him part of the town, which seems like the opposite of what you just said. If he really hasn't integrated at all, surely it would be kind of unusual to see him at a funeral?

The whole bit about the funeral story is kind of awkward. It's a little overdramatic that this boy's mother would yell at someone at the funeral that he killed him just because she's upset, but sure, I'll accept it. It's much harder to swallow, though, that despite the two of them becoming friends later, she doesn't seem to have ever bothered to clear up this very alarming rumour she'd accidentally started that her friend had murdered her son. In this sort of small town community where everyone knows everyone, there's no way she could remain unaware of the rumour or unable to speak out against it, nor that people would just completely fail to notice if she did. In general, I'm just not sure this entirely works, if it's just based on the mother's one out-of-context shout at the funeral that she's changed her mind about since. If Hoshi is meant to still be subject to rumours that he murdered this child, I think you can't have the mother the sole source of it while also having already renounced it; there needs to be some other basis for people to have latched onto (or the mother could simply still believe he murdered him and continue to insist it's the truth).

And given there end up being rumours that Hoshi not only killed the boy but also is keeping a Pokémon captive for sinister reasons - rumours that you indicate the boys believed, given you say they never went to confirm it with the boy's mom and instead spent their time speculating what a child-murderer might be doing with a mythical Pokémon - I think it reads very strangely that the boys choose to go out and warn Hoshi about the men coming to free the Pokémon. Do they actually believe this or not? I can buy that, having heard this one rumour that he might have killed a boy, they'd still want to confront him for a Pokémon battle, together, because they're kids and they're curious and they probably imagine he's not really going to be able to hurt them if there's two of them and they've got Pokémon. But if the rumours go further, and they're actively participating in the rumours, and the adults around them think something legitimately needs to be done about him, why are these children suddenly deciding they should warn him about it? If their previous encounter with Hoshi persuaded them that he's innocent, sufficiently to make them want to go out of their way to protect him later, then why did they spend the interim speculating that he's a Pokémon-kidnapping murderer? This just doesn't seem to add up.

Then, while time travel and the image of the boy shaking hands with the same Celebi eleven months apart is neat, I'm kind of baffled as to why Celebi took the boy eleven months into the future instead of just pulling him out of the water in the present and being done with it. It'd make sense if Celebi had specifically needed the help of her eleven-months-later self to heal him or something - but no, you seem to specify that it's the Celebi from the past that handles that. I'm just left wondering what the point of this whole exercise was, then - did Celebi just cause the boy's family untold grief, and leave Hoshi to be the target of rumours that he's a child-murderer for the better part a year, simply for the hell of it?

I was a little let down to find that despite the framing device setting up that Selphus has this seedy reputation as a town of legendary Pokémon killers, this turns out to just have no actual basis in reality at all. I was expecting Celebi to actually die or disappear in some way that'd make it appear as if she might have been murdered by Hoshi or other townspeople, but then it turns out she just disappears in the same fire as Hoshi, which you don't indicate was in any way suspicious - who is even supposed to have murdered her? Of course you go on to reveal that the source of the rumours is Sten, who has just been making stuff up to mess with people, and in that context it's entirely feasible he'd just invent something out of whole cloth like this - but when you write an intriguing framing device introducing rumours of this kind, you make the reader anticipate and look forward to learning about some real event and understanding how it sparked the rumours. Ultimately, that moment didn't actually come here at all, which I found a bit unsatisfying.

To a lesser extent I think this is also true of the reveal about where the Hoshi killing the boy rumour came from - it's not that Hoshi was seen doing something that seemed like he was drowning the boy but was actually an effort to save him, but simply that the mother blamed him at the funeral, seemingly arbitrarily in a general grief-stricken lashout rather than because she had any kind of actual reason to think this. It just doesn't quite deliver on the intrigue that in-story rumours generally promise.

Lastly, although I think you mostly do a good job writing first person from an established later POV, I found the prose and phrasing here strange at times in a way that made the story harder to understand. Some examples I noted down on my third readthrough:

- "With our pokémon we had always been proud, gentle and a little shy, but he showed us we could treat them with warmth and familiarity." The first half of this sounds like you're setting up a contrast between how the boys acted with their Pokémon versus without their Pokémon, but then it seems actually what you're going for is how they acted towards their Pokémon, which isn't the same thing and not what I'd ever read out of the first half of the sentence.
- "A few of our pokémon spoke up, and Hoshi’s pokémon traded them a soft rumble." Saying the Eelektross "traded" them a rumble just sounds kind of weird as a way of saying he answered, and it took me a moment to parse what you were talking about.
- "Then S and I would have given ourselves away, if not for the blizzard, by the volume of our cries of surprise when Eelektross sprang outward and took out Weavile in one motion." This sentence feels like it's written in entirely the wrong order. Surely the natural order in which to say this would be "Then, as Eelektross sprang outward and took out Weavile in one motion, the volume of our cries of surprise would have given us away if not for the blizzard" - their cries of surprise come after Eelektross takes out Weavile, after all, and the insertion about the blizzard being stuck in the middle of the sentence only makes it more confusing. All in all this is just hard to parse. I also find "the volume of our cries of surprise" a really strangely detached and mechanical way of phrasing it.

Overall, though, I thought this was a neat story and enjoyed the internet rumour angle in particular, even if some of it was a little unsatisfying or left me scratching my head.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: I liked the bait n switch of the old man being other than what he seemed. There were definitely some eerie moments here -- I was worried about these two dumb kids approaching this man before we learned what was really going on with him. I found myself wanting things to take a more tragic turn with Hoshi. It would’ve made more sense that the men felt guilty if they would’ve done serious harm to him and only found out after that he had Celebi’s blessing, for example. His disappearance and the fire at the end felt unsatisfyingly random, incomplete, and disconnected.

I’m also not sure I don’t agree with the village men’s first assessment, honestly: Celebi doesn’t seem like it should ever be kept in a ball. How would it protect the forests that way? The insistence that Celebi approved of this arrangement felt flat, maybe too good to be true. I was almost disappointed the mystery pokemon turned out to be something as important as Celebi, actually. I would’ve been more surprised had it been something more humble.

I wasn’t as interested in the frame story of the online community posting about Selphus. It felt disconnected from the rest, especially because being so slanderous felt way out of left field for the other kid. Unraveling the town’s myths about the stranger was plenty for me.

I did enjoy the narrator’s casual and simple voice.

Umbramatic

This was an interesting story to say the least. It was fun seeing exactly what was going on unfold. The framing device is cool and it's fun to see the main characters bond with each other. And it's cool to see Celebi in action.

...Which makes it slightly disappointing it takes a while to get to Celebi without much in the way of the contest theme beforehand. Once you get there everything makes sense but the stuff leading up to it felt like a fun mystery romp and not tied to Pokeworld lore in particular.

But this is good! Pretty fun! Just needs sliiiiightly more grounding in the contest theme.
 

Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Shadow" by Farla

The thing is, he really should have nothing to do with the strange pokemon. But she's gorgeous, in every way and angle, the rich darkness of her thick fur, the steel-cable coils of muscle as she leaps, the diamond glitter of her collar, and when she passes through he's helpless but to look. When she walks along the top of the rusting metal of the fire escape he wants to apologize to her feet.

He doesn't know what someone like her is doing here.

He's here because he eats from their trash. That's no concern for her. He imagines her sitting prim and perfect on a chair beside her owner, a plate of the choicest cuts set before her.

And yet. She springs from the fire escape to the top of the dumpster and then slides like she's made of oil to the bags beside him. "How's things?" she asks.


Read the full story: AO3

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

The first thing I noticed with this piece is that your prose is very nice. The language is silky-smooth and manages to perfectly capture the feeling of its subject. You made the Persian sound absolutely captivating, which makes it pretty easy to relate to the narrator, as we’re asking ourselves a lot of the same questions as him. Who is this gorgeous Persian? What is she doing here?

While the descriptions are very nice, the dialogue feels kind of forced. I do get that the narrator is asking questions in his head, and not voicing them to her, because of how nervous he is to be around someone as proper as her. But he’s not even asking the obvious questions: what is she doing here, why’s she speaking to him. But then she goes and answers those questions anyway… or rather, addresses him as if he’d asked those questions… while also not giving any real answers himself. Overall, it just feels kind of odd. It’s like they’re both having a conversation at each other instead of organically reacting to the things each of them is actually saying. And the line "Plenty of empty bottles roll down there, still capped," was just so impossibly callous that it was hard to relate to her from there.

There was a cool bit of lore on how Alolan Persian got their form, and I’m always interested in seeing the stories that Pokémon tell in their culture, as opposed to just the stories that human culture tells about them. But it doesn’t feel like it factors much into the story, and doesn’t have much of a lead-in. And I’m not sure what exactly the lesson they learned is. Is it saying that the Alolan Meowth won’t get too close to humans after what happened in that folktale? Or that they can, but won’t let themselves be truly vulnerable? It’s an intriguing legend, but it almost leaves me with even more questions than I started with.

Also, I don’t quite understand the ending. Nothing exactly… happened, or changed. It’s just the narrator observing a rather unusual situation—a rich Persian choosing to raise her Meowth in squalor—and remarking on it, but I feel like the core of a story should be something changing or happening in some way. As it stands, this piece felt rather incomplete, like it needed something more in order to be a fully-fledged story.

Dragonfree

This one was short and sweet. I thought the style of this was well done; you've got some vivid imagery and neat phrasing, and I enjoyed the way that the narrator has this clear inferiority complex going on and is so dazzled and intimidated by this fancy, upper-class Persian that it just drips off every word used in reference to her. Showing street Pokémon in a human city in a fairly realistic, ugly, unromanticized light was interesting, and it was fun to see something expanding upon the Pokédex entries for Alolan Meowth and Persian.

However, I didn't think this entirely fit the theme of the contest. It does contain a legend in it, but the actual content of the legend is barely relevant - what's relevant is only the Persian's behaviour that she happens to justify with this myth. I'm not sure that's quite in the right spirit - most of the entry doesn't really seem to be about myths or legends at all, until this brief infodump towards the end which then isn't discussed any further.

I also must admit that the first time I read this I had a hard time properly understanding what the legend was even getting at or what the point of it was. I think I get it now - Alolan Persian just refuse to let humans get their hands on their children ever since - but it's very unclear, since all you actually say here is "her children would not need to be taught such a lesson twice" and "this is as it shall be". The only way to infer what "lesson" is being referred to is by looking again at exactly what the Persian is doing, squinting to see how that might connect to the content of the legend, and making an educated guess from there - she doesn't properly say what she means by it at all, and it's genuinely hard to make out.

In general, I think although usually your actual individual sentences are nicely written and you're not getting bogged down in convoluted sentence structures or overly complicated vocabulary, one way or another this entry is nonetheless kind of opaque and hard to follow. I think the main issue is the dialogue, unusually enough - it's just not always easy to tell how the lines of dialogue actually relate to one another. This can be exacerbated since especially near the beginning you've often got so much description in between lines that by the time I get to a bit of dialogue I've forgotten what the previous line even was - but even the dialogue that does immediately or near-immediately follow from the previous line can have this problem.

To take an illustrative example: after Persian says her human doesn't know about her kitten, the narrator says "It could rain." The problem is Persian hasn't said anything yet suggesting she's going to leave the kitten here alone. First time through, I thought she'd left the human so she could raise the kitten and keep her safe; the idea she was going to leave her in the street hadn't even occurred to me. But not only does the narrator somehow instantly know this, his remark is multiple invisible levels of inference beyond that: she's going to leave the kitten alone, for a substantial amount of time, to the point where it becomes worrying that the kitten might not be able to deal with rain on her own.

Her response to this is even more puzzling, though: "Plenty of empty bottles roll down there, still capped." I had no idea what on earth she was getting at with this until I read the paragraph of narration following it, where the Meowth seamlessly understands her to be suggesting the kitten could stay afloat by holding on to such a bottle. But what he just said was "It could rain", not "She might drown"; most rain doesn't lead to catastrophic flooding where that'd be an issue in the first place. Again, there are multiple nonobvious and invisible levels of inference between these lines - rain could lead to flooding, which might put the kitten in danger of drowning - yet apparently she's somehow certain this is what the Meowth was getting at with "It could rain", rather than simply that she'll get cold and wet. And then she counters this by saying sometimes empty bottles roll down here - and he immediately knows exactly what she means, because she was inexplicably right to assume he was talking about the kitten drowning, and he instantly infers that when she mentions bottles she means the kitten could use one to float on!

On the face of it, these dialogue lines just read like they have nothing to do with each other at all. I can only barely follow the invisible line of logic between them, and that's with the advantage of being able to literally read the narrator's mind - if I couldn't do that, this'd just read like a sequence of total non-sequiturs. I'm a big fan of subtlety and letting the reader infer things that aren't quite stated, but I think here you're just making the characters out to be mind-readers somehow. I can't imagine any conversation between real people proceeding like this.

Lastly, I also found it pretty strange that the narrator appears to be unfamiliar with Alolan Meowth and Persian, yet knows that they evolve through high happiness with a trainer, because he "recognizes the principle". What does that mean? Can you somehow tell from the outside? How? It's a strange line to include without any clue as to what it is that he's recognizing.

So on the whole, I thought this was an interesting, atmospheric little story - but it's unnecessarily hard to understand what the characters are even talking about at times, and I don't think it really makes much use of the contest theme.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: So many lines and interactions in this piece were striking and lovely. There’s something really special in this one. I’m enjoying the subversion of what a good mother typically looks like. However, I was confused about the specifics in the myth that’s at the heart of this story, and it kept it from hitting as hard as it should’ve. She seems so blase… yet avoids naming clearly what happened when she’s talking about it. The lack of specifics make it hard for me to picture and hard to understand why she’d rather risk her baby drowning than let it fall into her trainer’s care. I also think we could do with more reactions from the protagonist (and maybe more facts about him, like species or what he thinks parenting should look like). In those last lines it feels like he doesn’t understand or relate to the story she told him and is hoping for “better” from her, disappointed when she persists in her ways… but it needs a little more to make it clear that he’s feeling that way. Really, really excited to see what the next draft of this looks like -- I feel like with a few of those points cleared up it could become a favorite for me.

Umbramatic

There's some good things to be found in this fic. Some of the prose is good. I like the perspective of a bunch of Meowth trying to get by, and the romantic pinings of the protagonist.

But, uh, I hate to sound like a broken record here but you do know what contest you signed up for right?

There is no legends to be found here, no Legendaries or myths or lore. Just some Meowth and Eeveelutions (I think) trying to get by. The entire point of the contest is just. Not there, as far as I can tell.

And I say "as far as I can tell" because I could easily be missing something because while some of the prose is good a lot of it and a lot of the dialogue is vague and over-poetic and confusing. Like I couldn't fully tell what the plot was aside from the stuff I mentioned at the beginning of this review.

I actually feel fucking awful about being this mean for the record. I hate being mean in reviews. With a bit of cleanup to the prose and dialogue (and a bit more length, to be a pot calling a kettle black) this would be a perfectly good Pokecentric oneshot. You'd just have to find, uh, some other contest.
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
"Slowpoke yawns, but does it rain?" by Meridian

A recent study coming out from Hau’oli Regional University examines a phenomenon often talked about, but rarely witnessed: the ability of a slowpoke to cause rainfall. This unassuming pokemon is found ranging from Johto to Sinnoh, Teuton to Galar, and Alola too. Beyond variants the most well-known slowpoke colony would be the eponymous Slowpoke Well, which sits a very short trip east of Azalea Town in the middle-south of the Johto Region.

The same rumored ability also traces it’s origins largely to the written and oral history regarding the same population that brought rain so heavily it ended a drought roughly 400 years ago. Rain in the local area is a frequent occurrence and as one grad student noticed, the bulk of videos online recording a slowpoke’s yawn often are followed up by a rain shower. This, Rida says, is what sparked the study.

Grad Student Rida was available to tell the story in their own words.


Read the full story: AO3

Judge Comments

Chibi Pika

Okay, I’ll admit that it never would have occurred to me to take the “myths and legends” theme and do a Mythbusters angle on it. That’s pretty clever and fun.

I think I would’ve liked to just see it go all-out like an actual episode of Mythbusters, rather than summarizing things after-the-fact. I get the feeling there are all kinds of hijinks you could get into with that kind of setup. Rather than being told the conclusions of the research, it’d be a ton of fun to see how the researchers learned it directly. Maybe cutting between different snippets of field recording and lab hypotheses. That’d make it easier to get the reader invested in the same questions the researchers were dealing with.

This story did a good job of setting up a larger world, casually dropping regions and professors we don’t know of in canon. Also you got me wondering what the situation was like outside of the Azalea colony, so I think it would’ve been fun to hint a bit at some of the differences across the regions, even if it’s a subject that they still have yet to do more research on. And the worldbuilding details were genuinely really cool— I love the idea that Slowpoke’s yawn works like a communal Rain Dance across their psychic network. And that little note about why, essentially, Slowpoke don’t have Truant—that might have been my favorite detail.

Basically, this is a really fun idea that I just wanted to see fleshed out more!

Dragonfree

I like how this is basically presented as something like an in-world newspaper article about genuine scientific research on an old wives' tale following it being something of a viral social media phenomenon. That's a delightfully modern take on the theme and I really enjoyed that. I was also amused by referring to the grad student as "Grad Student Rida" in the style of trainer class titles in the games.

That being said, this isn't really a story. There's no real narrative or plot here, just a concept explained briefly, pretty dryly, with a tiny bit of surrounding fluff about the background and the researcher behind it. We have no way of getting invested in this mystery, or really caring about Rida. It's just sort of a single idea written out into a faux article that isn't really terribly exciting, and it doesn't leave much behind other than that single idea, that Slowpoke yawning is a release of built-up psychic power that creates a Rain Dance-like effect.

To some extent this is simply a result of your chosen presentation - you're obviously going for an in-universe article thing and not a traditional narrative, and that's a valid choice. But I do think you could have made this more compelling as a story even while sticking with that. After all, good journalism can be extremely engaging and take the reader on a wild narrative ride! At its most extreme, you could write a 10,000-word investigative account of this mystery, detailing the history of these social media videos, going into Rida's life and childhood and what gave them the qualities that led to them finally uncovering it. I'm not saying you should go quite that far; this doesn't seem like a mystery of quite the importance and level of associated drama that would motivate that sort of long-form treatment. But I think this absolutely could have been a more immersive in-depth article that makes us care about and root for Rida to figure this out. More buildup about the background, who Rida is and how they came to take an interest in this, worldbuilding regarding the history of the old wives' tale, etc. could have really helped build investment and made the story more memorable.

You do the article style pretty well on the whole, but not quite flawlessly; there are some typos or grammatical mistakes here, and I think at times it's a little unclear or phrased in a way that doesn't quite sound like good journalistic style. (I'm not a journalist or an expert on journalistic standards, but "At first it looks like a coincidence" is one example that stood out to me - the present tense is incorrect, and I'm pretty sure ordinarily journalists are not supposed to make subjective statements like saying something "looks like a coincidence" without attributing it to a specific person or persons.)

I was also a bit confused by the concluding paragraph. After going so carefully over how these scientists have been doing legitimate research that strongly points to it being true that Slowpoke's yawns do cause rain and have proposed a plausible mechanism for it, Rida concludes that... it should be treated as neither fact nor fiction, and all myths are a blend of both? This seems really incongruous and weirdly waffly - Rida was clearly interested in finding out whether this myth was actually true or not, or they wouldn't have done all this research! It makes sense to say that further research is needed before concluding anything for sure, of course, but they seem to be suddenly just handwaving that everything is ambiguous, and all further research will show is more ambiguity. It's just a really weird ending that feels like it's kind of in opposition to everything you'd been building up! I'm confused by why you'd take it in this direction suddenly. I think I may just be misunderstanding what you/Rida were even trying to say there, but if so you've not made it very clear.

So all in all, I think you had a really fun concept here and enjoyed that a lot - but I don't think the format of this made full use of its potential, even within the constraints of imitating in-world journalism, and the ending feels pretty strange.

OldSchoolJohto

[ CLICK HERE FOR FULL COMMENTS ]

Overall thoughts: This is a very cute idea! I love that you looked at such a small-scale myth. That lends it a lot of credibility all by itself. I was also happy to see a nonbinary scientists as the main character! Scientific study in the pokemon world raises a lot of questions, and I’m excited to see it explored a little more here.

In terms of tone, I feel like this piece couldn’t decide if it wasn’t to be a scientific paper or a news report. I’m leaning towards news report, but if that’s the case a few lines need to be adjusted to maintain that setup. News reports are intentionally written with very simple language. Another option is to let it be a personal essay by Rida instead, since the text is dominated by their interview and it would let us get a more personal view of them. There were also a couple instances of missing commas and run-on sentences.

Umbramatic

I love love love that this is presented as an in-universe paper. I could easily see this fic being published on some in-universe Science Website as a breaking discovery. And relatedly, the explanation of HOW the Slowpoke-causes-rain myth actually makes a lot of sense in-universe.

Also. The fucking. Mythbusters and social media jokes. I can't.

Part of me feels like this could have benefited from a bit more scope and a bit more of an actual plot instead of the article format but a lot of me likes this a lot just the way it is. Nice job.
 
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Negrek

Angel of Memory
Staff
That's a wrap! The thread is now open for discussion, congratulations, feedback on the event, or whatever else you'd like to post. In the coming days, keep an eye out for in-depth intereviews with our top three winners, and as the contest entries are published I'll be adding links to this thread so it'll be easy for anyone interested to check them out. I'll also begin featuring published stories on Thousand Roads' Tumblr, so you can follow along there if you'd like an easy way to keep track of when entries have been published for you to read.

If you were familiar with Serebii's fanfiction contests, we did a few things differently with this one (anonymized entries for judging, only showing the rankings of the top three stories, etc.). I'd love to hear feedback on what you thought about these changes, or anything else about how the contest played out! Feel free to comment in this thread or send feedback to me privately if you'd prefer. If you have any ideas for themes for next year's contest, feel free to throw them out, too!

Huge thanks to Chibi Pika, Dragonfree, OldSchoolJohto, and Umbramatic for working hard to rank the entries and write quality feedback for each one, and in a short amount of time, too! Thanks also for your patience while we worked out some of the kinks in this inaugural contest. It was a pleasure working with you all, and I hope you enjoyed judging. Thanks also to everyone who took the time to write and submit a story. I hope you had fun writing to the prompt and that you find the judges' feedback valuable, whether or not you ended up placing. And finally, a big congratulations to our winners, Cresselia92, kintsugi, and Pen!
 
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Pious_Mage

Youngster
Pronouns
His
Congrats to Pen, Cressand Kintsuggi, you guys all deserved it.

As for myself? Well I'm honestly surprised my story was as well received as it was considering I wrote it in such little time and therefore consider it crap. I'm sorry for all the grammar and spelling mistakes again wrote it in such little time and I will hopefully have a fixed versionfor you guys decently soon so you can actually enjoy the story to it's full extent.

Cheers everyone and thanks for letting me take part in this competition. I had a lot of fun and I look forward to the next one.
 
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