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Pokémon Places We Call Home

windskull

Member
21
Places We Call Home
Haru is more than happy to live the slow life of a hard-working bidoof. But when a strange, injured sneasel from far-off lands throws Theran Village into disarray, she finds her life flipped upside-down dealing with pokemon with morals far different than her own, and with strange pokemon from beyond the sea that will stop at nothing to capture the deities of their land.

Places We Call Home is a fic that's been in the planning stages on and off for a little less than three years, and that I finally got around to writing recently. This work is set in an original universe based loosely on the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. I'll be uploading a chapter every Friday until I get caught up with the FFN and AO3 versions, then I'll be updating them all simultaneously.

Rated T for mild to moderate violence and blood, death, and the occasional mild swear. This may be subject to change at a later date.
Additionally, I am including a content warning for discussion of pokemon eating other pokemon. If you read through and feel there should be content warnings for anything else, please don't hesitate to let me know.

 
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windskull

Member
Prologue

A young sneasel sits at attention, wide awake as the other children have drifted on to sleep, entranced by his elder’s stories. Stories of a great bird, with wings of black and red, the ender of lives. A deity that grants them favor in the afterlife.

The sneasel looks up to the night sky before puffing out his chest, and proudly declares that one day, he’s going to be the one to find their god.
The elder gives him a warm chuckle and reminds him that he needs to sleep and grow strong if he wants to grow strong enough to find them.

...

A bidoof settles down to bed next to her younger brother. He asks their dad for a story in a chipper tone. Just one more, please?

Their father huffs, but settles down in the straw to share the legends of the mountain. Of the great beast that slumbers there. The mountain mover, continent tower, protector of the small.

The big sister rolls her eyes and declares that those legends are for babies. But her brother’s eyes are full of stars. Her father insists the story is true, that one day, the king will reawaken, and that when he does, he’ll protect them all from the coming calamity.



A proud ninetales sits with his mate, murmuring the stories his father used to tell him. Of a deity far to the north. A dragon that had lost its purpose. Of a dragon that was as empty inside as the people that followed it, that blew icy winds from the mountain tops and froze their hearts, so they might be strong enough to survive.

His mate tells him what a horribly sad story it is, and he gives her a grunt of agreement. He hopes that they’re only tall tales.



A bisharp stands in a clearing, the pelt of a slain mamoswine draped over her shoulders. She speaks to her fellow pokemon of the teachings of their deity, of the life-giver. Of their importance. For if the forest were to quit providing life to the prey mon, then surely they would perish as well.

She raises a hand into the air and asks for their deity's blessing.



A litten takes his place in front of the sacred stones, sitting down between the two for his vigil and closing his eyes as he recalls the inscriptions.
We give thanks to the Sun Devourer. We give thanks to the Moon Bringer. We ask for their blessings and we pray for their safe returns.
He raises his head and lets out a mournful cry.


Chapter 1: The Stranger
Haru’s morning routine typically started out with a slow stretch in front of her family’s hut, watching twigs and leaves float by in the river’s lazy current. She’d lap at the water’s edge in the shallow pools created in her mother’s dam, quenching her thirst after a long, restful night and contemplate the same old schedule for the day.

Today as she exited the hut, she found herself blinking in the mid-morning light. One by one, she stretched her legs, sniffing at the air in hopes of catching a whiff of breakfast on the breeze. Her mother had brought bread home the day before and had planned to make fresh blukberry jam this morning, a treat she eagerly awaited. She could still smell the lingering scent of berries, despite her mother having got up early to finish it in the first place.

She continued on to the water’s edge, slowly lapping at the water as she contemplated her day. After breakfast she would head out into the yard for her day’s work, helping her father by prepping the trees he had brought back the day before, chipping away at the branches and gnawing away at jagged cuts, cleaning the leaves from the wood and stripping the bark from the trunk. Perhaps she would head to the village around lunch time, trading her money for vegetables or a trinket or two as she listened in on the day’s news. Perhaps, if she was lucky, one of the local expedition teams would come by, with news from some far-off village, with new stories that the village pokemon had yet to hear. Then, satisfied with her peek into the outside world, she would return home for the day to finish her chores, and for a well-earned dinner.

The life of a bidoof was hard work, certainly, but taken at a slow and steady pace that would make many a pokemon jealous.

But lately, these past few months, her days seemed less than normal.

“Is that Haru?”

“I believe so.”

“Hey! Hey Haru! Helloooo! Good mooorrrning!”

Haru let out a groan, raising her head up to the air. Of course, her morning would be interrupted by those two.

She turned to look up the path that led to their house. Headed down the dirt and gravel path was a young absol, calm and composed. On her back, on the other hand, sat a much more cheerful looking kirlia, waving down at her. The kirlia’s hair had been bound together in thick, pink bands on either side of her head, an accessory anyone in the village would recognize. Haru caught herself considering returning to bed.

“Good morning Shimmer, Muse,” the bidoof called out, holding back a sigh.

With only a quick acknowledgment, the duo finished their climb to the bank.

“Good morning, Miss Haru,” the absol, Muse, greeted with a dip of her head. “Shimmer was hoping that your brother might be home this morning.”

The bidoof looked back towards the house. In truth, her brother was probably still asleep. And she was sure he would rather stay asleep than deal with Shimmer’s antics. “I’m afraid he’s a bit busy at the moment,” she lied.

“Aww, and I was really hoping we could talk to him!” Shimmer pouted.

“Sorry to disappoint,” Haru responded perhaps a bit too bluntly. “Some of us have to make a day to day living.”

If the kirlia realized the statement was meant to be passive aggressive remark, she did not show it. “We had been hoping he’d come with us to pick wild herbs in the forest today.” She paused for a second before a realization seemed to hit her. “Oh! Why don’t you come with us instead then! It would be fun! Besides,” she added in a teasing voice. “You could really stand to get out more.”

“As nice as it sounds,” Haru began in a much more tactful tone. “I really have a lot of work to do. More important things.”

“What’s more important than spending time with your future in-law?”

“You do realize you’re not my brother’s mate-“

“Yet.”

“You’re not even dating!” The bidoof let out an indignant huff and turned away. Why did every conversation with Shimmer seem to end up like this?

The kirlia waved a hand dismissively. “That’s beside the point. I’m sure we will eventually. So.” She paused to clasp her hands together. Are you coming or not?”

Haru turned back to stare down the kirlia. “I just said-” Haru began, but a voice behind her cut her off.

“I think you should go with them, dear.”

The group of pokemon’s attention was turned to towards the speaker, a bibarel that had lumbered out from the family’s hut, stretching in the morning sun. Muse dipped her head in respect to the older pokemon. “Good morning, Mrs. Saku.”

“But Mom!” Haru began to protest.

“No buts!” The bibarel chided. “You could use a day off. Besides, I could use some more dandelion crowns, if you can still find any this late in the summer. And it’s not safe to go into the forest alone, so why not go now, while the opportunity arises.”

“It’s not that dangerous in this part of the woods,” Haru argued. “I could take care of it myself if that was the case.”

“But why risk it? Besides, Anu stopped by this morning - on his way back from patrol - to say he spotted a wildener kangaskhan nested not far from here. You don’t need to be running into something like that alone.”

Haru opened her mouth, but bit back a reply, and instead let out a groan. There was no winning with her mom when her mind was made up. She lowered her head. “Okay, Mom, fine.”

Behind her, Shimmer clapped her hands once. “Great! Muse and I already have our gathering supplies, so we’ll leave once you’re ready!”

“Just give me a moment to eat,” the bidoof responded sullenly, turning back to try to scoot past her mother by the door.

“Have you two ate?” The bibarel asked, turning her attention to her guests. “We have day old bread and fresh blukberry jam, if you’re hungry.”
Muse took a second to look towards her kirlia companion, who gave her an excited nod. She dipped her head to the bibarel. “We would appreciate it. Thank you for your hospitality.”

The absol followed behind their bibarel host, lowering her head to speak quietly into Haru’s ear as she passed by. “Sorry about this,” she mumbled.
“But look at the bright side. There’s always something to find or something to do in the forest.”

“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.”

*****​

Once their bellies were full of delicious bread and jam, and Muse’s back had been laden with satchels for herbs and a bundle of berries and sweets for an afternoon snack, the trio set off, following the path up the river towards the northern forest. Shimmer sat atop Muse’s back, softly stroking the absol’s mane and chatting about her plans for the evening and about her father’s plan for expanding the village daycare to add a separate, permanent nursery.

Haru brought up the rear, ignoring the conversation entirely. Instead, she found herself lost in thought about where she’d rather be: back at home helping her dad prepare trees for carpentry. Did she enjoy getting out and exploring from time to time, or taking long walks after a stressful day? Sure! Did that mean she wanted to be out here spending time with Shimmer and just wasting her time when there was work to do? Absolutely not!
If she was going to be out and about, she would much rather take a trip to one of the neighboring settlements, helping spread her parents’ business. Her dad’s lumber work – both felling and the finer art of carpentry – was the finest work in the village. And her mother’s wooden sculptures were uniquely beautiful in her eyes – not that her lumberjacking was subpar. Oh, if only she could spend all day working away at processing lumber, it would make her a very happy, relaxed bidoof!

But no, she just had to be out here with one of the few pokemon she couldn’t stand to be around. Maybe her brother could try to ignore it and be nice for civilities sake, but Shimmer drove her nuts! At least Muse was nowhere near so bad. In fact, as they made their way deeper into the woods, Muse at least made an effort to try and keep the conversation away from Shimmer cooing about her brother.

Muse had always been an interesting case, in Haru’s opinion. She had never known the details about Muse’s early life, only that she had been working and living alone in the Mayor’s – Shimmer’s father’s – estate. At a younger age, she served just as a friend and companion for the Kirlia. But as they grew older, she also took up the mantle of bodyguard, especially when the two ventured to a neighboring village or into the surrounding forest.

Haru did not envy her one bit.

“Hey Haru! What would your brother think about these flowers?”

The bidoof snapped out of her thoughts just a little too late, accidently bumping into Muse’s legs. After a hasty apology, she turned her attention to the kirlia, only to closer her eyes and take a deep breath after giving the patch of flowers a quick glance-over. “Well, I think they're nice, but the flowers won't matter to Toshi because he doesn't-”

“-Care about the kind of flowers, he cares about me? Aw, that's so sweet of him!”

Haru considered snapping back that no, she meant that he doesn't care about her. Not like that at least. But she held her tongue. They had been over this dozens of times the last several months, but it never did any good. Shimmer’s long-standing crush had always been annoying, but lately it had been the cause of most of the stress in her life.

“Sure,” she finally grumbled with an edge of sarcasm. “That’s definitely why.”

She turned away as the kirlia bent down to begin gathering up flowers, fuming. She could hear Shimmer and Muse talking behind her as Shimmer put the flowers in one of the baskets on Muse’s back. Wasn’t this trip supposed to be for wild herbs and other edibles, not the cutest flowers for a love bouquet?

In desperate need of a distraction, she took a moment to look out for trouble, sniffing at the air. The wind carried the scents of the forest. Moist earth, wild herbs, the smell of a rattata that had ventured from its burrow. The rancid scent of some long-dead pokemon. And some scent that seemed familiar, and yet a little odd at the same time. Perhaps someone from another village had passed through recently? Nothing too out of the ordinary.

Satisfied with her assessment for the moment, she closed her eyes and settled down in the grass to wait for the other two girls to finish what they were doing, listening to the sound of the forest around her.
Then she heard it.

Her head jerked up in alarm as a fierce screech sounded from somewhere beyond the trees. And a roar. The sounds of a battle raging nearby. At once she was on her feet in a defensive stance, should the combatants come barging in their direction. Muse had taken notice too, now on edge and standing in front of the kirlia. Even Shimmer, despite not having as good of hearing as her two four-legged companions, had stood up apprehensively, able to hear the ruckus in the distance. Haru shivered as her mother’s earlier warning about a kangaskhan rang in her ears.

An anguished cry. A victorious roar. Then silence. Life continued on. Slowly, the wildlife around them returned to their normal noises, as if nothing had happened at all.

Shimmer immediately turned to her companions. “I’m going to check that out,” she announced.

“Shimmer,” Muse responded grimly, shaking out her fur. “I cannot advise that. It is not our place to interfere in the affairs of wildeners. The survivor may be something very territorial as well.”

“But what if the other pokemon survived?” Haru pointed out uneasily, trying to relax as she turned to look at the absol and kirlia. “And beyond that, what if they’re not a wildener? What if they’re just some unfortunate traveler?”

The absol seemed to consider Haru’s explanation for a moment, before finally conceding with a sigh. “Very well. We will go look. If they’re alive, we can take them back for medical attention, should they allow us to. And if they’re not and there’s enough of a body left… well, I’m sure Mandi will know what to do.”

With the decision made, the trio began to move as quietly as possible through the underbrush. Muse took the lead, nearly crouching as she walked, pausing to sniff the air every once in a while. Shimmer and Haru followed closely behind on either side, Shimmer allowing her psychic powers to focus and branch out, keeping an eye out for danger from behind.

Before long, they came across damage to the underbrush, signs of a fierce battle, of a larger pokemon coming through without care of what they destroyed. The odd smell she had noticed earlier was growing stronger, Haru realized, along with the hair-raising smell of fresh blood. They were moving along at barely a crawl now, all senses peeled for danger.

Muse stopped in front, raising a top to stop the other two from advancing and sniffing at the air. A few seconds later, she lowered herself onto her belly and continued forward at almost a crawl. The two behind her did the same. Or at least, as similar as they could; neither of them were built for sneaking around the forest, after all.

The absol tilted her head back and motioned for silence as she crawled under a bush, poking through with her nose low to the ground. Haru took note of a streak of blood on the leaves. The injured party had come through here, it seemed.

Suddenly, the leader stopped, backing out of the bush with an unreadable expression. Her attention turned to the bidoof.

“Haru, listen,” she started quietly and firmly. “There’s someone back there. They’re bloodied and unconscious, but still breathing. But… they need medical attention. Fast. You’re the smallest. I need you to go in there and bring them out. Shimmer can help you get him on my back once you’re out here. Then we need to take them back to the village as quickly as possible. Understand?”

Haru responded by dipping her head before moving in front of the absol, who stood up straight at attention and sniffed the air, watching for danger. The bidoof crouched low to the ground and shimmied her way inside, following a small trail of blood droplets past the bush and through a small thicket of thorns.

At the far end, almost as deep as they could have gone, was the unfortunate victim. They were a sneasel, albeit smaller than the ones she usually saw around the area. And they were an absolutely a mess.

She took only a second to make the assumption that he was a male, based on the size of his ear feather. Speaking of the feather, it looked as if it had been torn to shreds, and his tail feathers were not in much better shape. The tip of his ear had been sliced away, it and another nick on the side of the ear oozing blood. A nasty bite wound decorated his upper leg, the marks jagged, as if his attacker had thrown him around. And right in the middle of his back was a nasty burn, the scent of singed hair combined with the smell of blood nearly overwhelming the poor bidoof. Several other small cuts marked him as well, though they were not nearly as bad as the bite or the burn.

The sneasel’s breathing was labored and shallow. Haru set to work crawling through the brambles until she was right up next to him, angling her head underneath his stomach to roll him onto her back as carefully as possible. Even with him being small for a sneasel, he was still quite a bit bigger than her, his feet and front claws scraping along the ground as she practically dragged herself and the injured sneasel out into the open.

She heard Shimmer let out a gasp as she emerged with the injured pokemon on her back, before she felt him lifted up from above. As soon as the weight was off her, she stood up on her hind legs, carefully helping position him so that he was straddled across Muse’s back.
With the stranger now set, the trio began to make their way back to the main forest path, speaking in hushed voices.

“I’ve never seen a sneasel like him,” Shimmer whispered first, her eyes darting to the unconscious dark type.

Now that she mentioned it, Haru realized Shimmer had a point. The sneasel’s colors were a bit off. Although his fur was fairly close to the grey she was used to - though perhaps with a bit of a more brown undertone – his bent and broken feathers were more of a mint color.

“Neither have I,” Haru agreed. “He doesn’t smell like any of the nearby villages. Where do you think he’s from? Seadra’s Tail? He doesn’t smell like Ruffle though.”

“Maybe,” Muse muttered. “Ruffle hasn’t lived in Seashoal village for a long time, so she doesn’t have as distinct of a smell. There’s a whole world beyond the Great Misty Canyon; there’s always a chance he came from there. If he survives, maybe we can find out.”

If. That one word managed to somber the trio even more. They were back on the open path now. The absol gave one last wary look back and forth, checking for any danger on their route, then took off at a sprint, bounding into the lead.

“I’m going on ahead,” she called back to her companions. “Shimmer, you stay with Haru and go get back to the village together. Watch each other’s backs. I want to get him back as soon as possible though, okay?”

Haru set her face with determination and uttered a sound of agreement. She would set aside her complaints about Shimmer. For the moment. The kirlia seemed to hesitate though, running to try and catch up. “But I could teleport back and let them know what’s going on!”

“And that would leave Haru alone in the woods,” Muse pointed out.

“I can take care of myself, you know,” Haru interjected.

“I’m sure you can usually, but whoever - whatever did this could still be nearby. None of us should really be alone here right now.”

“What if I were to teleport him back?”

“You know you still have trouble taking companions along. Just trust me, please. We have little time.”

The kirlia hesitated again, before giving a sullen nod. “Fine, you win,” she grumbled. “But I’m so going to chew you out when we get back.”

The absol slowly blinked back to Shimmer but said nothing more, darting off down the path.

Haru gave the kirlia an unamused look at her response before continuing at a slower pace. Hoping, for once in her life praying that Muse would make it back in time.
 
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NebulaDreams

Well-known member
Yo! It's nice to see a new face on the forums! I'm woefully behind on starting new fics, so I thought I'd pop in and check this one out. I'll briefly mention a few bits and pieces I noticed throughout this first chapter, as well as things I just liked and wanted to add commentary to.

A young sneasel sits at attention, wide awake as the other children have drifted on to sleep, entranced by his elder’s stories. Stories of a great bird, with wings of black and red, the ender of lives. A deity that grants them favor in the afterlife.

The sneasel looks up to the night sky before puffing out his chest, and proudly declares that one day, he’s going to be the one to find their god.
The elder gives him a warm chuckle and reminds him that he needs to sleep and grow strong if he wants to grow strong enough to find them.
So on the whole, I really like this prologue, as it's atmospheric, previews what I assume will be the important characters in the story, and showcases the mythology in this PMD world. The only issue I had was the phrase 'he needs to sleep and grow strong if he wants to grow strong enough to find them', since it's a tad redundant, but aside from that, it grabbed my attention.

She continued on to the water’s edge, slowly lapping at the water as she contemplated her day.
Again, a little redundant, since this bit of description was repeated from chapter 1's first paragraph.

“As nice as it sounds,” Haru began in a much more tactful tone. “I really have a lot of work to do. More important things.”

“What’s more important than spending time with your future in-law?”

“You do realize you’re not my brother’s mate-“

“Yet.”
Subtle Shimmer is subtle.

Oh, if only she could spend all day working away at processing lumber, it would make her a very happy, relaxed bidoof!
Yes, if only, and there certainly won’t be a future call to adventure... nudge nudge wink wink

I don't really have much to say on the first chapter except that it's a solid start. We get a good idea of what the characters are like, with Haru being the down to earth workaholic, (and props to you for having a Bidoof as a POV character), the stoic bodyguard Muse, and the airheaded Shimmer. Their chemistry is quite enjoyable, and it also presents them with clear enough motivations that they feel like living, breathing Mon in their own setting. That is, until crap hits the fan and they stumble upon the injured Sneasel (which I can only assume is from the prologue). The setting also feels wide despite taking place in one location for this chapter, as we get hints that there's a bigger world out there outside of Haru's home village.

The only thing other thing I would say is the way that it ends doesn't provide much of a closing hook. It just sort of stops as Muse takes the injured Sneasel to safety, leaving the other two alone. Maybe if it hinted at some danger lurking, that would've provided a bit of a cliffhanger or a segue into the next chapter, but oh well.

Aside from that, I'm invested and excited to find out more. I'm aware this is on FFN, but I'll probably be reading it through here so I can check back periodically. I tend to be a slow reader with fics, so I tend to come back more to updates rather than binge-read through stuff. If you wanna chat more about the review or anything else, I'm on Discord, so I'll catch you later.
 

Negrek

Spindrift
Staff
Welcome again! Nice to see this here, and I like having the prologue and first chapter posted together here like this. The prologue flows nicely into the start of the story, and having chapter one gives the reader something a bit more substantial to bring them into the story proper. I've already talked about the prologue, so, starting with the first chapter...

Haru let out a groan, raising her head up to the air.
Saying that she raised her head up "to the air" makes it sound like she's underwater and going up to the surface, which I don't think she is? Unless I missed her getting in the water. If she's standing next to the river and raising her head, I think leaving it as "raising her head" would work well.

The kirlia’s hair had been bound together in thick, pink bands on either side of her head, an accessory anyone in the village would recognize.
Hmm, I hope it's not an accessory that I'm also supposed to recognize, because I totally don't, heh.

“I’m afraid he’s a bit busy at the moment,” she lied.
Sleeping totally counts as busy in my book! XD

“Oh! Why don’t you come with us instead then! It would be fun! Besides,” she added in a teasing voice. “You could really stand to get out more.”
Since "Besides, you could really stand to get out more" is broken up by a dialogue tag, you actually want a comma after "voice," and "you" shouldn't be capitalized. Like this:

Besides,” she added in a teasing voice,you could really stand to get out more.”
Same kind of deal in the next sentence:

“As nice as it sounds,” Haru began in a much more tactful tone. “I really have a lot of work to do. More important things.”
There should be a comma after "tone," rather than a period.

“That’s beside the point. I’m sure we will eventually. So.” She paused to clasp her hands together. Are you coming or not?”
Missing the opening quote on the second piece of dialogue here.

“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.”
Once their bellies were full of delicious bread and jam, and Muse’s back had been laden with satchels for herbs and a bundle of berries and sweets for an afternoon snack, the trio set off, following the path up the river towards the northern forest.
Hmm, was there supposed to be a scene break here that got eaten?

Did she enjoy getting out and exploring from time to time, or taking long walks after a stressful day?
Somehow I get the feeling that Haru's probably going to be doing a lot more exploration/adventuring than she's really ready for soon...

Maybe her brother could try to ignore it and be nice for civilities sake, but Shimmer drove her nuts!
* civility's

At once she was on her feet in a defensive stance, should the combatants come barging in their direction.
Kind of weird phrasing here. Something like "in case the combatants came barging..." would sound more natural to me.

And if they’re not and there’s enough of a body left… well, I’m sure Mandi will know what to do.
D: What's Mandi going to do with a dead-but-not-too-destroyed body??

Muse stopped in front, raising a top to stop the other two from advancing and sniffing at the air.
Raising a top?

Shimmer can help you get him on my back once you’re out here.
Kind of weird for Muse to use "him" here, when it's "them" for the rest of the paragraph.

- The detail of the characters discussing where the sneasel might be from based on his smell is neat. Of course pokémon like absol and bidoof would get a lot of information about the world through scent, and different places would certainly smell different. It's nice to see you using the pokémon forms as more than just window dressing.

That one word managed to somber the trio even more.
I think you want a verb after "managed to," so something like "sober," rather than an adjective like "somber."

This is a nice first chapter! I think that it does a good job of getting us acquainted with the characters, while giving some important information about the setting and putting together the beginnings of a plot. Haru is a fun protagonist; I like that she has strong opinions that are contrary to what you normally see for heroes (e.g. not particularly invested in fighting or exploring). Much better than having a kind of bland character who goes along with things, imo. It's also neat to see someone hardworking and with a strong sense of family, though I imagine the story's going to force her to leave her life behind. It's also really nice to see a bidoof character who isn't played as a joke (although sorry, Haru, I find the kirlia crushing on a bidoof hilarious).

Some interesting tidbits with the mention of "wildeners" here. It's always interesting to see how MD fics handle the pokémon that live in civilization vs the ones out in the dungeons. I imagine we'll be seeing more of them later.

Overall this is a solid example of a story beginning with an ordinary day that quickly develops into something unusual. You spend enough time devoted to Haru's usual morning to build up a sense of the characters and the kind of life that they're used to, but not so much that it's overlong or infodump-y. I have to imagine that the mysterious sneasel's going to kick the plot right off, and I look forward to seeing how the hard-headed bidoof is going to get swept up in everything. Hopefully not by having her village destroyed by the bad guys or anything, it would be nice if she could hope to go back to her peaceful home at the end of anything. In any case, I look forward to seeing what happens next!
 

windskull

Member
@NebulaDreams
The prologue was really fun to write. Especilally since it doubled as building up bits about the world, as well as dropping hints about what is to come.

@Negrek Thanks for bringing those errors to my attention. Even after multiple editing sessions, sometimes things slip right under my nose. I'll be sure to fix them next time I do a cleanup of the first chapter. I did go ahead and fix the scene break though. I swore it was there when I looked the chapter over. Oh well, it's fixed now.

D: What's Mandi going to do with a dead-but-not-too-destroyed body??
We'll learn about that in just a couple chapters.

Raising a "top" was supposed to be raising a "paw." I have no clue how that one happened.

Hmm, I hope it's not an accessory that I'm also supposed to recognize, because I totally don't, heh.
Oh, they're just extra thick hairbands, more or less (that I totally forgot to put in the cover art, whoops!)

Thanks for the feedback, both of you. It always helps to have things like that pointed out, since sometimes stuff like that even slips past my beta readers. With that out of the way, onward to the next chapter!


Chapter 2: Theran Village
As the sneasel slowly opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed were the empty plains that stretched out beyond the horizon. With his vision blurred, he could not make out where the ground ended and where the sky began. Carefully, he pushed himself to his feet, holding his arms out to steady himself as his perception cleared.

He looked down to his pristine white claws, narrowing his eyes, before looking out at the nothingness that spread out around him. It looked like sunset, a deep red tinge just barely clinging to the sky. But there were no moon or stars here. The ground seemed watery, reflecting the bit of light. The reflection was unusually opaque; he could not tell how deep the water was at any point.

Looking up and squinting, he could make out a small dot on the horizon. He began to walk towards it, his feet causing a quiet splish-splash as he trekked through the fortunately shallow water.

At least, it seemed shallow.


Is this a dream? The sneasel wondered quietly. Certainly, he had never seen a place like this, not even in the depths of a mystery dungeon.

Before long, the dot began to take form. A small, earthen mound rose on the horizon, an island reflected in the water. On it, a single, withered, leafless tree stood against the sky.

He began to creep closer, aware of his exposure in the open air. Cautious steps closed the distance between himself and the mound.

But then it was far deeper than he expected.

The sneasel let out a startled screech as he tumbled in, engulfed by the watery depths. He thrashed and flailed and tumbled as he sucked in a lungful of water, gagging as he tried to pull himself to the surface. But something seemed to grab hold of him. Dragging him deeper and deeper, his lungs filling with water…


*****​

He gasped awake with a start, sitting up bolt right, wheezing as if water still invaded his lungs. But no, he was okay. It was a dream. All just a dream.
Even as he came to the realization that it had been a dream, he continued to suck in air with a slight rattle. Sharp, throbbing pains coursed though his body as he moved, and with every breath. And a chill cut through even his thick fur and down into his bones. He tilted his head down to take a look at the damage, only to notice weird white bands that wound around his stomach and back, and leg.

Finally taking a look at his surroundings, the first thing he noticed was the nest he was in, made of straw and grass woven along with twigs, and lined with a something fluffy and white. The second thing he noted was the wooden ground beneath him, cut into uniform, near perfect boards, something that seemed far too unnatural to him.

The wall behind him, however, was more natural: the wood twisted and warped as if he was inside the trunk of an old, hollowed tree. The room stretched high above him, a domed roof covering the top; if he could hazard a guess, the walls were at least five times his height. A single hole near the top of the room allowed light to filter inside.

If he strained his hearing, he could make out muffled voices of other pokemon, though they were too distant for him to make sense of their words.
He turned his attention back to the floor around him. More empty nests lined the wall, with a second ring of larger nests looping around the center with a walk space between the two circles. Across the room was a wooden partition. And beyond it, the single exit: a large, unnatural opening leading down a wooden tunnel.

The sneasel tried forcing himself to his feet, fighting the dizziness and nausea produced by the movement. This room was too large, too open, and yet left him cornered at the same time. Straining his senses, he tried to make out any sounds or scents of danger. He needed to move. To escape. To hide. To shroud himself in the bushes or trees.

Cautiously he sniffed at the air, ears straining for any sound of movement. The voices from outside still seemed distant. He could hear more voices beyond the wooden barrier too, though their sounds were muffled. And what traces of scent he could make out in this room were masked by the pungent smell of berries. Lots and lots of berries.

“Pull yourself together,” the sneasel mumbled to himself. Despite his body’s protests, he slowly inched forward in a crouching position. “Think. You’ve been in worse situations. Just… relax.”

As he reached the opening, he paused, ear twitching. A buzzing sound caught his attention from beyond the tunnel. Between the partition and the tunnel was another room, this one with a small wooden platform balanced on cut stone in the center. Beyond that, the tunnel curved out of sight at an angle.

The buzzing, as it turned out, was an illumise, who came zipping around the corner a moment later, excitedly blabbering about something until they took notice of dark-type up and about. Their ramblings came to a stop. The sneasel froze, cautiously flexing his claws and baring his fangs in a pitiful threat that he couldn’t back up.

For a moment the illumise stared at the slightly larger pokemon, blinking once. And then seemingly without a care, they smiled, and spun around to buzz back down the tunnel. “Lecha!” They called out in an accent unfamiliar to the sneasel. “Your patient is awake!”

The illumise’s reaction disarmed the sneasel, his threatening glare wilting into a confused tilt of the head – his pupils were still narrow slits. Once again, his attention shifted to escape. The only ways out were either to follow the illumise back down the tunnel, or to try climbing the wall and continue through the hole in the wall.

As he put weight down on one foot, a sharp pain shot through his leg.

There would be no daring climbs today.

He managed only a few steps beyond the partition before his leg gave out. He fell to the ground with a startled yelp. Mere seconds passed before the illumise returned. This time, a fluffy, feathered pink and purple pokemon followed behind. An aromatisse, he thought.

“See,” the illumise said, gesturing towards him. “I told you they brought in one of those wild ones.”

The aromatisse let out a concerned chirp before placing a bundle she had brought with her to the side, then turned to chide the illumise.

“Now, now Twi. He’s no less deserving of help than anyone else here.”

“I know,” the illumise, Twi, responded. “But you think they could have left us with someone who could help out if he got… violent?”

The aromatisse sighed. “I know you’re young and this is your first time dealing with something like this, but not every wildener is out to get you. Many of them are quite nice, in fact. Honestly, what have your parents been teaching you?”

The sneasel blinked. Had they forgotten he was there already? Carefully and quietly, he pushed himself into a sitting position.

After a firm look in the illumise’s direction, she looked down to her bundle for a moment. She paused, then turned her head back. “Besides,” she added with a wink. “I’m stronger than you might think. I’m sure I can handle things should it come to that. Old Lecha still has some tricks up her sleeve yet!”

With that out of the way, the aromatisse busied herself with the bundle, pulling loose a knot. The fabric fell open around the contents: a couple oran berries, a sitrus berry, and another pale blue berry that the sneasel did not recognize, as well as a small wooden bowl. Lecha hummed, looking over the contents, then looked back to the tense, sharp-clawed pokemon.

Finally, she picked up the pale berry and tore it in half, taking one half and the sitrus berry, while holding out the other to the illumise. “Twi, I want you to use the two oran berries and the remainder of the rawst berry to make a poultice. Can you do that?”

“Both oran berries?”

“Yes, I don’t want to apply the rawst to the burn itself, but I’m hoping absorbing the juices into the other wounds will still help.”
Twi shrugged before landing on the ground. “Whatever you say.” They reached an appendage down to grab one of the oran berries to inspect it for a moment, then finally got to work peeling the thick skin away.

Satisfied, Lecha turned her attention to the anxious sneasel watching from across the room. She began to approach slowly, eliciting a warning growl from the dark type. She held her hands up, holding nothing but the berries.

“You don’t need to fear me,” she began in a soft tone like she would use to speak to a frightened child. “We do not wish to hurt you dear. We only want to help you, if you’ll let us.”

The sneasel’s growls quieted, but he still stayed hunched, eyeing her cautiously, sizing her up.

“You seem like you went through a terrible ordeal,” she continued, taking another small, calculated step forward. “Some of the pokemon in our village found you collapsed in the forest. We just want to treat your injuries. Okay?”

The sneasel pondered her statement for a moment. When he finally spoke, it was in a cautious, guarded tone. “This is a… village?”

Lecha nodded slowly, taking another step towards the crouched pokemon. “That’s right. You’re in the medic building of Theran.”

“I have never heard of this… ‘Theran.’”

“We’re a little village by the Gorebyss River!” Twi piped up from behind Lecha. “Our carpenters and lumberjacks are some of the best in the region. We also have the best oran berries this side of the mountains!”

The sneasel considered their words, scrunching his nose, but at least managed to relax a little bit for a moment, his hair lying flat.
Encouraged by the change of demeanor, the aromatisse closed the gap between them, and offered out the berries two berries.

“Here, eat these,” the fragrant-smelling pokemon said in a soft tone.

The sneasel gave the berries a skeptical look, but eventually struck out, spearing the berries on the tip of his claws, and gave the sitrus berry a cautious nibble, sucking and licking away the juice that spurted out.

For some time, he nibbled at the berry in the near silence of the room. While he did so, Lecha made herself busy unraveling the white bands wrapped around him, revealing nasty cuts and bruises underneath. But finally, the sound of buzzing made him jerk, his attention springing back to the illumise.

The bug had arisen from their spot across the room, buzzing across to deposit a bowl of blue pulp in front of him. He recoiled, the fur on his shoulders raising.

“Thank you, Twi,” the aromatisse hummed, reaching a paw down into the pulp, inspecting it. “Now, would you please go get some fresh gauze from the shelf?”

The bug type buzzed in response, taking to the air. A quick zip to a shelf carved into the walls, the they were back with a white substance that reminded the sneasel vaguely of woven spinnerak silk. Now that he thought about it, he realized it was the same type of stuff that had been wrapped around his wounds.

With another hum of thanks, the aromatisse scooped a pawful of the berry pulp reached over to begin working it into the fur around the sneasels ear.

The sting of the juices caught the sneasel off guard. He shrank away from the paw with a warning hiss.

The aromatisse seem unconcerned, however, keeping a calm composure as she slowly lowered her arm to hold it in front of the sneasel. “This is to help you heal, the juices have healing properties that will help with your cuts. Will you allow me to help you?”

For a moment, the sneasel stayed stiff, eyeing the paw through narrowed eyes. But after a tense moment, he relented, lowering his head.
The aromatisse let out a cheerful chirp as she returned to her work, spreading the pulp over the stinging wound before beginning to wrap the gauze around the sneasel’s ear and moving down to do the same with his leg.

She worked in silence for several minutes. But when the sneasel continued to stay quiet the doctor finally spoke up.

“So, you’re not from around you, are you dear?” she questioned, not looking up from her work.

“Are you from the forest?” Twi butted in. “Do you have a name? Do forest ‘mon have names?”

Lecha shot the illumise a sharp glare for a split second before returning to her work.

The sneasel glanced blankly between the two pokemon, narrowing his eyes suspiciously as he looked over to the illumise. But once he was fairly certain there was no ill intent between the two, he relaxed slightly.

“Nip,” he finally grunted. “My name is Nip.”

Lecha hummed in response. “Nip? Okay Nip, that’s a start. Do you mind telling me what happened to you? It might help me treat your wounds better after all.”

Another pause. “A kangaskhan,” he admitted with a bitter tone. “Got me with a fire punch in the back.”

“Your voice is kinda funny,” Twi interjected.

Your voice is kind of funny,” Nip hissed back.

The doctor hummed as she finally finished dressing the wound. “Mhm, that makes sense. You must have gotten too close to the one nesting nearby.”

A pause. “You could say that.”

Lecha nodded sagely. “The wilder ones usually stick to the plains on the other side of the forest. I take it she’s responsible your leg and ear also?”

He glanced down to the dressed wound and responded with a grunt. “Yeah.”

Licking the last remains of the sitrus berry off his claws, he began nibbling on the second berry. Already, he could feel a bit of his strength beginning to return as the berries began to do their work. He began to chew faster as his nurse stood back to look over her handiwork.

A distant sound caught Nip's attention. His ear-feather twitched as he made an attempt to listen, stiffening and straining to get a better sound.
“Lecha!” A voice called from down the tunnel. “Are you here? Are you busy?”

The aromatisse turned her head back towards the tunnel. “I’m in the back! You can come on back here though.”

There was the sound of shuffling in the distance, then of footsteps from a rushed, waddling gait. Finally, a plump, brown rodent came around the corner, a small satchel dragging the ground behind her.

“Oh Haru!” Lecha called out, turning her attention away from the sneasel. “What are you doing back so soon? Is everything alright?”

Haru gave Lecha a quick affirming "mhm" sound. “I’m fine, nothing bad happened, dad is just feeling a little weak this afternoon. I was wondering if maybe I could pick up a few white herbs?”

The aromatisse seemed to consider for a moment. “I believe I’ve only given him two this month… Okay, give me just a minute and I’ll prepare some for him. I can give him three more.”

The bidoof quickly bobbed her head. “Three sounds perfect.”

Lecha nodded again in return before pausing to wipe her paws off on the cloth she brought the bundle in. “Wait here for a moment while I go jot my patient’s information down in my books, then I'll be back with those for you.” With that, the aromatisse scurried off.

As the bidoof waited, she caught a glance of dark fur behind where Lecha had been standing. She propped herself up on her hind legs, straining to get a better look before recognition seemed to light up in her eyes.

“Oh, it’s you! You're awake!”

The pokemon waddled over with a toothy smile, sniffing at the sneasel, who recoiled as she approached, narrowing his eyes.

She paused with a tilt of her head. “What, never met a bidoof before?”

Nip blinked a couple times in stunned silence. “No, just never one without sense of self preservation.”

The bidoof seemed taken aback by the response at first, but quickly shook it off. “Nah, there’s nothing to fear inside the village gates.” But she still backed off, regardless. “But I’m glad to see you doing alright. When we brought you in yesterday, we weren’t sure you were going to survive.”

“Haru here was with the group that found you,” Lecha interjected as she returned from the tunnel. “You should consider yourself lucky.”

The sneasel looked towards the rodent pokemon, then back to the aromatisse before turning his head away with a grunt. “All I mean is that I have never met a plant eater that wasn’t overly cautious and was so willing to put themselves in harm’s way.”

“You aren’t exactly in any condition to cause anything harm though,” Twi buzzed. “Even if you were, Lecha would never let any harm come to Haru or anyone else here.”

Nip opened his mouth to say something else, but nothing came out and he quickly shut it, lowering his eyes, though not before shooting the illumise a sharp look. Earlier they were cautious, but now they acted like he was totally harmless. How foolish could these pokemon be?

“So,” Haru started, settling down a few feet away as she changed the subject. “You don’t sound like you’re from around here. Are you a forest ‘mon or other sort of wildener? Or are you from one of the other villages? Oh, could you be from the other side of Mount Domo? We don’t get visitors from there very often.”

Stuck between staying and talking or retreating to the room of nests, Nip chose to sit down. “You keep using that term. Villages?”

“You know, Pokemon settlements. Places where all types of pokemon gather instead of just a single species.”

Finally, something seemed to click with the sneasel. “Oh, you must be speaking of tribes. Yes, I come from the Half-Moon tribe of the north.” He paused, scrunching his brow before continuing. “Are they known out here?”

The bidoof shook her head. “I've never heard of any village that called themselves a tribe. Let alone any called the Half Moon Tribe. Maybe… I might have heard an explorer mention a tribe in passing, but nothing comes to mind.”

“I see…”

“Is something the matter?”

He scrunched his brow for a second, before perking up - his expression relaxing - and shaking his head. “I must have come further south than I realized. You.” He raised a paw to point at Twi. “Where did you say I was, exactly?”

“You’re in Theran village pal,” the illumise chimed in. “Home of the best carpentry and the finest oran berry orchard this side of Mount Domo.”

“I see… Wait. You guys grow oran berries down here?”

“Of course!” Haru replied, tilting her head. “They're delicious and make for a great food supplement for anyone traveling through the mists or over the mountain.”

“And are an invaluable part of any good medics first aid supplies,” Lecha interrupted, returning from the tunnel. “Does that surprise you?”

“Of course not,” Nip responded. “Even the youngest kits should know the values of oran and sitrus berries. I've just never heard of see anyone growing entire fields of berries. Let alone using them as food. Not when they're so hard to come by.”

“Oh, but they grow great here, there's so many produced, that there's no reason not to use them as emergency rations. Are they rare where you come from?”

The sneasel nodded. “Very. A well protected bush may only yield one or two harvests in the warm season. And the bushes are few and far between. Not to mention the race to gather as much as possible up before outsiders take them for themselves.”

“Outsiders?”

“Pokemon that are not a member of our tribe, whether they be single mons trying to survive on their own or rival tribes trespassing on our territory.”

“Oh!” The illumise perked up. “We call the pokemon that live in the forest ‘wildeners,’ since they live off the land and are a bit more on the wild side, what with the usual lack of a code of honor.”

“Some of them have morals,” Haru interjected. “Some just prefer the quiet of life on their own. But living alone has its downsides. There's no one to protect them if a hungry wildener thinks they look like easy prey.”

Twi piped up. “Killing pokemon for food or for sport, instead of trying to settle in and either change their diet or work with a meal vendor? I wouldn’t call that morals.”

A moment of awkward silence filled the room as Nip gave the bug-type a blank expression, until Lecha broke the void by clearing her throat. “Now, now,” the aromatisse started, waving a paw. “Every loner pokemon and wildener makes their choice, you can’t force a pokemon to change the ways that their fathers and forefathers taught them.” She shook her head, adding with a mumble, “I really need to speak to your father about what he’s been telling you next time he’s in town.”

Twi gave a grunt in response. Then their facial expression relaxed before they buzzed their wings, taking to the air, the awkward pause forgotten. “Oh! I should go let the others know that Nip woke up. Shimmer and Muse would want to know, right?”

Haru let out a groan and tilted her head up towards the ceiling. “They were over at my parent’s place when I left. Off pestering my brother, as usual. Let my mom know I’ll be back home soon, would ya?”

“Of course!” The illumise buzzed. And then they were off, zipping down the tunnel in a rush, leaving Nip, Haru, and Lecha alone in a slightly more peaceful room.

Nip continued to stare down the tunnel Twi had disappeared through for a moment. “You mean they don’t-” he began to mumble, before cutting himself off with a shake of his head. Carefully, he began to push himself back to his feet, finding himself with a fair bit more strength than he had when he had woken up. Though the pain had yet to subside.

“I thank you both for your hospitality,” he began. “But I should take leave as well.” He began to take a step forward, still limping slightly.

“Now hold on,” Lecha interjected. “You’re still in an uneasy condition, and in no way in shape to travel. Where do you intend to rush off to?”

The sneasel paused mid step before slowly turning his head to the fairy type. How much should he share? “I am on a… spiritual journey of sorts,” he explained. “For my tribe. For myself. I really must get going.”

The bidoof shifted her gaze to the side. Lecha, however, was far less shy about speaking up.

“A spiritual journey you say? I can understand the desire to hurry dear, but you really must rest. At least overnight. I need to keep an eye on those wounds of yours, apply another round of medicine. You’ll never complete any trip in this condition. If I find you’re doing significantly better in the morning, you can leave then.”

“And if not,” Haru added in, “you can always stay in the village for a day or two. Most ‘mon here would love to hear about what the northern part of the land is like. I know I would. Are you from the other side of the Great Misty Canyon? Actually, you must be. All the land between here and there is charted out, and like I said, I’ve never heard of any ‘half-moon tribe’.”

Nip tilted his head, his ear feather flicking. “A canyon? Well, yeah, I did pass through one, now that you mention it.”

“Not many ‘mon risk passing through the canyon,” Lecha added in an impressed tone. “It's the most dangerous known mystery dungeon this side of the continent.”

“That rift?” The sneasel scoffed. “I went through far more dangerous challenges for my coming of age.”

“Who in their right mind other than an explorer or seasoned rescue crew would enter a mystery dungeon?” Haru asked.

“Are you kidding? All kits have to go through a dungeon’s mists to complete a task and earn their final spot in society!”

“It sounds like your tribe puts value on different things than our village,” Lecha interjected. “Perhaps you two could continue your discussion over in the resting area? You do need rest, after all, my dear guest.”

“Actually…” the bidoof began, “I should probably get back home.” She bowed her head slightly to Lecha. “Thank you very much for the herbs though. I’m sure my dad will make good use of them.” She then turned her attention to the sneasel. “You know… I have tomorrow off. Perhaps if you’re in better condition, I could show you around the town? You seem like the type that would visit the local temple… what did you say your name was?”

“Nip.”

“Alright then Nip, if you want to check out our temple, you’re free to come with me tomorrow.”

Nip closed his eyes for a moment, considering his options. He was in no condition to rush off on his own at the moment, and it certainly would not hurt to find out how things were run around this part of the land. He finally gave the rodent a nod. “It would be appreciated.”

The bidoof gave a signature buck-toothed grin. “That would be great! I’ll see you tomorrow then!” With those parting words, the pudgy pokemon waddled on out around the corner, leaving Nip alone with the doctor.

“Now,” Lecha started. “I can help you back to a nest, if you need me to.”

The sneasel shook his head quickly. “No, no I’m fine.” Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet, testing his strength, then turned and began to limp back into the room he had been in just a short time before.

“Trust me, I know how to take care of myself.”

The aromatisse clucked her tounge. “Well, if you insist dear. Don’t push yourself too hard though. You’re safe here.”

Reaching the nest he’d been in before, Nip settled down and closed his eyes. As he listened to Lecha leave the room, he mumbled to himself, “easy for you to say.”
 
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NebulaDreams

Well-known member
I don't really have much to say this time around except that it's a good continuing chapter, and all from the perspective of the Sneasel this time around! Nip seems like an interesting character, since he has a moral code of his own, appears to be on some sort of ascetic journey, and is a bit more rough around the edges compared to everyone else. I felt kind of sorry for the poor guy, seeing how he spent most of the chapter being so wary of everyone around him, not to mention, well, Twi being a bit of a rac-- I mean, tribe-ist pain the ass. I can tell Nip's really out of his element here, which I'm sure will lead to plenty of 'fish out of water' moments on the way.

I found this to be more of a transitional/opening chapter where not much happens, but still lays the groundwork for the rest to come after. Really, it's only just one scene, not including the dream sequence at the beginning (and our tree of foreshadowing). So in the grand scheme of things, it didn't really progress the plot that much, but I'll be looking forward to the next one in any case to see where it goes from here.
 

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
Heyoooooooooooo I wanted to do some newbie fic reviews and I figured I'd start with you since you're not as far along here.

I love, love, LOVE your prologue. That sort of in-universe myth and legend shit is -chef's kiss-

I like the term "wildeners" to describe non-civilized Pokemon - the difference is a common enough thing in PMD and other Pokemon-POV-heavy fics but it's always fun to explore. Nip's reactions to the "civilized" Pokemon were a treat.

(Also Nip is a mood. Haru is also a mood.)

One thing I like in fanfics in general that PMD fics tend to be pretty good at is intrigue. Yours has what I'm talking about - a sense that Something is going on and the story is working toward building up to it - within, what, a prologue and two chapters? That's good.

Anyway I will try to get back to this after later updates. Try. Keep up the good work in the meantime.
 

Negrek

Spindrift
Staff
On to Chapter 2!

He gasped awake with a start, sitting up bolt right, wheezing as if water still invaded his lungs.
It's "bolt upright."

Finally taking a look at his surroundings, the first thing he noticed was the nest he was in, made of straw and grass woven along with twigs, and lined with a something fluffy and white.
The only ways out were either to follow the illumise back down the tunnel, or to try climbing the wall and continue through the hole in the wall.
I think this would sound a little better if you rephrased it so you aren't repeating "the wall" near the end.

One thing to watch out for is that when a character calls another by their name or title in dialogue (e.g. "Hey, Tim!" or "Whatever you say, Mom."), the name should be set off by a comma. For example:

“Now, now Twi. He’s no less deserving of help than anyone else here.”
There should be a comma before "Twi" ("Now, now, Twi.").

We do not wish to hurt you dear.
Likewise, "dear" is here being used in place of a name, so it should be "We do not wish to hurt you, dear."

“So, you’re not from around you, are you dear?” she questioned, not looking up from her work.
Same deal here; should be, "So, you're not from around here, are you, dear?"

This happens a fair amount throughout the chapter; I just picked a few examples.

Encouraged by the change of demeanor, the aromatisse closed the gap between them, and offered out the berries two berries.
Looks like something went wrong at the end of this sentence.

A quick zip to a shelf carved into the walls, the they were back with a white substance that reminded the sneasel vaguely of woven spinnerak silk.
*spinarak, unless there's a fakemon or the name's supposed to be rendered differently in this story

With another hum of thanks, the aromatisse scooped a pawful of the berry pulp reached over to begin working it into the fur around the sneasels ear.
I think you're missing an "and" before "reached."

His ear-feather twitched as he made an attempt to listen, stiffening and straining to get a better sound.
Tch, this sentence really wants whatever the equivalent of "view" is, but for hearing. Unfortunately I don't know what that is (or if it even exists), but "straining to get a better sound" reads strange to me. Maybe consider rewording this one.

Finally, a plump, brown rodent came around the corner, a small satchel dragging the ground behind her.
Dragging *on the ground. What a cute image, though! It does seem pretty awkward for quadrupedal pokémon to have to carry stuff without proper shoulders or arms or anything, though I hope Haru's got a better system rigged up for stuff she has to tote regularly, heh. Like saddlebag-style things or whatever.

“And are an invaluable part of any good medics first aid supplies,” Lecha interrupted, returning from the tunnel.
*medic's

They were over at my parent’s place when I left.
*parents', if her parents live together

A quiet chapter here, but I think it serves as a nice way to give some more information about your world. Nip's quest also lays in some hints about where the story will go on from here... Guessing we'll get more info about that next chapter, unless something more immediate comes up and it ends up being a later-story reveal!

I like how you used Nip's POV to get across how different his culture is from Haru's, with details like him not recognizing the bandages to how different his body language and mannerisms are from the other pokémon. At first I thought he was a wildener, so it's interesting that he's actually from another pokémon settlement, just a rather different sort than what they have around here. Plus some confirmation in this chapter that mystery dungeons do exist in this world, and simply aren't something that Haru and her friends would have much knowledge of or interest in. I'm guessing a lot of Nip's emphasis on self-reliance and general suspicion of outsiders is cultural, but I also wonder if he's particularly independent even for his tribe.

I also imagine his reaction to Shimmer will be pretty great. If he doesn't think these "villagers" are weirdos already...

Using Twi's misconceptions was a clever way to draw out more of the worldbuilding in a natural fashion, and it's nice in that it says a lot about some of the assumptions people in the village might make without being super didactic about it. Overall you did a really nice job of getting a lot across here without a lot of pure exposition dump and illuminating character while also delivering info about the world.

All in all, a nice little chapter. I'm curious to see how things will move on from here.
 

windskull

Member
@NebulaDreams
I felt kind of sorry for the poor guy, seeing how he spent most of the chapter being so wary of everyone around him, not to mention, well, Twi being a bit of a rac-- I mean, tribe-ist pain the ass.
Nip is definitely a fun character to write since he's so different from the rest of the main cast. As for Twi, I would consider them a case of "teen parroting nasty remarks from their parents," something that comes up again later down the road.

I found this to be more of a transitional/opening chapter where not much happens, but still lays the groundwork for the rest to come after. Really, it's only just one scene, not including the dream sequence at the beginning (and our tree of foreshadowing). So in the grand scheme of things, it didn't really progress the plot that much, but I'll be looking forward to the next one in any case to see where it goes from here.
Haha, yeah, most of my chapters end up keeping themselves to the pov of one character, outside of short scenes at the end of a chapter with one exception a few chapters down the road. On the negative side, it ends up limiting the movement of some chapters, but not often. This next chapter is really the last of the "setup" chapters before the plot really starts to kick off, so I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

@Umbramatic
I like the term "wildeners" to describe non-civilized Pokemon - the difference is a common enough thing in PMD and other Pokemon-POV-heavy fics but it's always fun to explore. Nip's reactions to the "civilized" Pokemon were a treat.
Glad you're enjoying it so far! Most PMD fics I've read tend to use "ferals" to describe pokemon living in the wilderness, but I wanted to do something different and give that idea an in-universe name. It came down to wildeners and wildlings, and wildeners won out in the end.

@Negrek
Thanks once again for pointing out those errors! I'll keep what you pointed out in mind, for when I get around to fixing everything.

At first I thought he was a wildener, so it's interesting that he's actually from another pokémon settlement, just a rather different sort than what they have around here. Plus some confirmation in this chapter that mystery dungeons do exist in this world, and simply aren't something that Haru and her friends would have much knowledge of or interest in. I'm guessing a lot of Nip's emphasis on self-reliance and general suspicion of outsiders is cultural, but I also wonder if he's particularly independent even for his tribe.
In early planning for my fic, mystery dungeons didn't exist in the world, but they were added later when it made sense to add them to the lore and I found a couple of places where they could be plot-relevant, so they ended up coming back. As for Nip's suspicion, you are at least partially correct, though you'll have to wait to learn more.

Using Twi's misconceptions was a clever way to draw out more of the worldbuilding in a natural fashion, and it's nice in that it says a lot about some of the assumptions people in the village might make without being super didactic about it. Overall you did a really nice job of getting a lot across here without a lot of pure exposition dump and illuminating character while also delivering info about the world.
Even though there's a lot of lore to cover in my world, since I created an original PMD setting, I try really hard to not let things become an info dump and for it to be revealed naturally, so I'm glad you feel like I did well here.

With that said, we're on to chapter 3, which is really the last set up chapter before the plot begins to unfold. Enjoy.



Chapter 3: Customary
In truth, although Haru had stopped by Lecha’s to pick up herbs for her father, she had volunteered in the first place because she wanted to check in on the sneasel. Although she never had the adventuring blood of her brother, she still found herself wanting to learn more about places far from home. Certainly, she had no interest in exploring them for herself, but how would she ever draw business from other places without learning about their wants and needs?

So, a strange and mysterious pokemon was certainly someone to question, right?

As she began to make the trek back home, she let her mind wander back to the meeting, only giving distracted greetings to pokemon that passed her by. A pokemon from the other side of the Misty Canyon, how rare an occasion! Only the strongest expedition or rescue teams ever ventured out there, many of which only traveled if hired as bodyguards for a weaker research team or to rescue an unfortunate soul that had managed to wander in and become lost in the maze of ever-shifting landscapes.

“Yoo-hoo! Haru!”

The bidoof shook her head, clearing it as a familiar voice caught her attention. She slowed to veer off the road and to one of the nearby stands where the voice originated from. The wooden stand was painted a bright, pale yellow, though the paint was chipped and faded with age. Baskets of berries sat out both on top of the stand, and in front of it. Also standing on top was the shop keep: a lone bellossom.

Haru stood up on her hind legs to get a better look, placing her front paws on the shorter end of the counter. “Good evening, Ruffle. How’s the shop been?”

“Slow today,” the bellossom said with a dismissive wave and a sigh. “Making up for yesterday’s rush, I suppose. But the long-term exploration teams returning from the west should be pass through in the next moon.”

Haru closed her eyes, letting out an understanding “hmm”. Much of the foot traffic in and out of the village came from expedition teams passing through on their way to or from one of the western mystery dungeons. With summer shifting to fall though, many of the more research-based groups would soon head back to their homes in Brinash for the winter.

“But enough about me,” Ruffle continued. “I happened to see you leaving Lecha’s. Is everything okay? How’s that sneasel doing?”

“Oh! He actually had woken up sometime today. He looked worse for wear, but he at least was alert. In fact, I think he was already ready to leave, not that he was well enough to. Lecha put a stop to that.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Ruffle responded firmly, smoothing down her petal skirt. “When Muse came rushing through town yesterday with the poor thing on her back, Roselei and I were worried he’d already passed. It’s nice to hear otherwise. Did you happen to find out where he’s from?” A pause before she continued with a hint of unease in her voice. “He’s not a local wildener, is he?”

Haru shook her head. “Nope, said something about being from some ‘tribe’ north of the canyon though.”

The bellosom’s eyes grew wide in surprise. “That far away, really?” She only continued once the bidoof nodded. “Huh. Well, it’s a relief that he’s not a wildener sneasel at least. I’d hate for poor Tor to have even more on his plate to worry about on top of the daycare renovations and those two ghost kids he took in a few months back.”

“You have a good point there,” Haru agreed before pausing. “You’re from one of the barrier islands south of here, right Ruffle? What was it like, traveling here? Did you have to pass through any mystery dungeons?”

“Indeed I am!” Ruffle responded, following with a pleased hum. “I grew up in Seashoal Village, on Seadra’s Tail Isle. There’s an entrance to an underwater mystery dungeon not far from there, but it can be sailed around, so no. Why do you ask?”

“I was just trying to get an idea of what traveling so far would be like,” she admitted. “Especially travelling through a mystery dungeon alone. At least, I figure he traveled alone.”

“You can always ask him tomorrow,” Ruffle pointed out.

“You have a point there.” At the thought of tomorrow, it suddenly occurred to Haru how late it was getting. “Oh shoot! I just remembered I need to get these herbs home to dad. Sorry to cut things Ruffle, but I really gotta go!”

“No worries,” the bellossom replied with a pleasant wave. “Say hello to Saku and Chipper for me, would you?”

“Of course. Take care Ruffle!” With that, Haru turned, scurrying back along the road home.

*****​

Fortunately, Haru had no more interruptions on her way home, managing to get back to the river before the sun had dipped even halfway below the horizon.

Unfortunately, Shimmer and Muse were still hanging around by the time she got home. Twi also had not returned to Lecha’s clinic yet, but they were less of a concern to the bidoof.

The absol had taken up a spot laying by the river, watching water slowly seep through the bibarel dam the occasional leaf floating by in the lazy current. Twi had fallen asleep against the absol, relaxing in the evening light. Haru dipped her head to the absol as a greeting when she passed by.

As she continued indoors, she was greeted by the smell of cooked potatoes and carrots and onions. Her mother had mentioned making a soup today. The bibarel in question was busy at work, carefully balancing filled bowls on her tail as she passed it out to the other occupants of the hut: her father, her brother, and Shimmer. Her dad - another bibarel - had spread himself out on the dirt floor, his eyes closed - though he still appeared to be awake. Shimmer had seated herself on a stool. It happened to be the only stool in the house, used specifically for guests since her family had little use for it. Her brother, Toshi, a slightly smaller bidoof, sat nearby looking like he wanted to be anywhere but here.

“Oh, there you are Haru,” Saku greeted as she held her tail up to Shimmer and Toshi. The two took one each, Shimmer lifting hers with ease while Toshi carefully balanced his between chubby paws until he could get it to the floor. “I invited Shimmer and Muse to stay for dinner, and Twi too, if they choose to.”

“That’s…” Don’t be rude, Haru reminded herself. “That’s great. Mom. I just got back with the herbs for dad.”

The other bibarel cracked open a single eye, a small smile growing on his face. “Oh, thank the gods, he groaned. “I swore I could carry that log, ya know, but I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.”

Haru backed herself out of the satchel’s strap and reached a paw inside to pull out the three herbs, then grabbed one with her teeth and carried it over to her father.

“I was just telling Toshi about how we rescued that sneasel yesterday, and how brave I was, isn’t that right, Toshi-boo?”

“Yeah…” her brother, Toshi, began with a nervous chuckle, turning his head in an apparent attempt to hide his discomfort. “It sounded… awesome.”

“Oh, I knew you would enjoy hearing about my exploits!” The kirlia exclaimed.

“So, Twi tells us that the sneasel woke up and seems to be recovering.” Muse’s voice came from the doorway behind Haru. She turned her head to look back at the absol who had entered the hut, Twi hanging onto her back.

“That’s right,” Haru responded with a nod while her mother continued to pass out bowls, using a wider, shallow bowl for the four-legged mon in the room. “His name is Nip, and apparently he’s from north of the Great Misty Canyon. He came down this way on some sort of spiritual journey, and he’s not planning to stick around for long.”

“Well, I can understand that,” her father chipped in. “You know, your grandfather went on a pilgrimage all the way up to the peak of Mount Domo back in his youth, before they relocated the main shrine down here.”

Haru resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “I know, dad, you’ve told me the story before. And he swore he caught sight of Regigigas in the swirling mists.”

“He did!” Her father insisted. “Now I know that no one has seen Regigigias for certain in several lifetimes. But perhaps that’s because fewer pokemon risked the trip up to the old shrine?”

“Fewer pokemon go, because they have more important things to do than to go off chasing legends that might not even exist!”

“Haru. Chipper,” Saku interrupted, her tail slapping the ground impatiently. “I know you two don’t see eye to eye on these things anymore but… can we please be civil. In front of our guests?”

For a moment, Haru stared down at her mother, then averted her gaze, staring down to her bowl of soup. “Sorry.”

“Didin’t mean to start an argument…” Her father grumbled.

The bibarel continued to stare at her daughter for a few seconds before giving a terse grunt. “Good.” She then turned her head to Shimmer, Muse, and Twi, who had taken seats next to each other. “Sorry you three had to hear that. I hope you’ll forgive our inhospitality.”

“It’s all fine,” the kirlia responded. “Father isn’t the most spiritual mon himself. But he says that it’s important to let everyone follow the deities they want to. It’s fortunate for some of the pokemon here, since some of them follow less widely-accepted gods. Did you know that Ruffle has a small shrine to Hoopa in her house?”

Really?” Toshi interjected. “Hoopa? I find that kind of hard to believe.”

“It’s true!” Shimmer insisted. “I mean, it’s not just to Hoopa. She and Roselei are also firm followers of the nature gods, but Ruffle says that Hoopa reminds her of home.”

“Huh.” Chipper shook his head. “I don’t know a whole lot about Seadra’s Tail, or Hoopa. But I never thought I’d hear about someone worshiping it, from what I do. Especially someone as… friendly as Ruffle.”

Shimmer shrugged. “You’d be surprised. I learn all sorts of things from dad about the other pokemon in this village.”

Haru tuned out not long after that, her mind drifting between Shimmer’s information and Nip. She found herself wondering what kind of pilgrimage Nip was on, what kind of god he might follow. Could he be traveling down to Seadra’s Tail? Perhaps he too was a follower of Hoopa. What was Hoopa supposedly like?

She had quit listening to the religious tales of other pokemon long ago, even though she knew it was probably a poor idea with how ingrained it was in many pokemon’s lives. Sure, it might hurt future working relationships, but it drove her nuts, how much some pokemon depended on following supposed teachings about mythical beings, without at least taking the time to investigate it for themselves. Even some expedition groups focused less on research and exploration, and more on trying to find some of these mythical pokemon.

What a waste of time, when there was so much they still did not know about the world! So many places that needed to be charted. The fact that she had never heard of where Nip was from was proof enough of that. And who knew what was really across the sea! Everything they new about the lands beyond were second-hand stories from water pokemon.

Though… Perhaps she should try to listen to whatever Nip had to say about his deity. The more that she could find out about the uncharted territory, the better. Maybe she could even pass that information on and make a name for herself! Certainly, it would be a great way to build up the family name.

Even as their guests said their goodbyes and she settled into bed for the evening, she found herself thinking about what questions she might want to ask, what she might be able to learn.

She was going to make the most out of tomorrow.

*****​

“You shouldn't be putting so much stress on your leg, dear. You’re going to worsen your wound.”

“I wasn’t born yesterday! I’m no newborn kit, exposed and mewling for the safety of a nest. I know how to take care of myself.”

Waiting in Lecha’s reception room, Haru caught herself having second thoughts. Despite having arrived bright and early, it seemed Nip had arisen even earlier, and was causing a heap of trouble for the poor aromatisse doctor.

He still had a limp as he rounded the corner of the hallway into the reception room, sniffing cautiously at the air. Still, he certainly seemed better than he had the day before, his strength starting to return. His fur also looked better, groomed neatly into place with no straw sticking to it. And despite the look of discomfort on his face, he seemed determined to stand on his own, removing his paw from the wall as he stepped into the open. Finally, he caught a glimpse of Haru, locking eyes with the smaller pokemon.

“Oh, the bidoof from before. So, you did show up.” His voice was quiet, perhaps a bit surprised.

For a moment, Haru was stunned into silence, disarmed by the blunt response like she had been the day before. She shook her head to clear it. No. She had promised herself now that she would get to know the strange sneasel. If nothing else, she’d do it for the possible fame, to spread her and her family’s name! Resolve set, she took a firm step forward. “Of course I did. I said I’d show you around, and I intend to keep that promise.”

For a second, a frustrated expression crossed his face. But he quickly shook it away. “Fine, I wouldn’t mind checking out the shrine you mentioned at least. And I could use a proper meal. Lecha only offered me vegetables and berries, and told me I needed to speak with a ‘Mandi’ if I wanted anything with meat in it.”

Haru hesitated. She always made an effort to avoid Mandi’s shop, and all the unfortunate implications that came with it. She had no need for it, after all. But if she wanted to get on Nip’s good side and learn more about where he came from… “Alright, I guess I can help you with that.”

Lecha finally appeared from the room beyond the hall, a cloth stained with berry juices in her paws. “Are you going to show our guest around town, Haru? Take it slow, would you? I’ve told him he needs to rest his leg, but since he insists on moving around, I suppose I can allow it as long as he stays nearby and rests frequently.”

“You can’t make me stay here if I don’t want to,” Nip argued. Lecha chose not to respond to that.

“Don’t worry, we bidoof aren’t exactly known for our speed,” Haru joked. Her comment seemed to placate the tension. For now.

She turned to the curtain-shrouded exit, making sure that Nip followed before making her way back into the open air. The sneasel followed afterwards, blinking as he adjusted to the mid-morning light. Haru gave him a moment to gather his senses as he made his way out into the open before beginning to walk.

“So, this is Theran Village’s central square. You’ll notice that there are a lot of small vendors around here. Ruffle - that’s the bellossom over there - has a stand where she sells the berries that she and Rosalei grow. The building next to it is a sweets shop that works with them for supplies. It’s run by a swallot, but you’d be surprised how careful he is about keeping his workspace clean. There’s a slurpuff that sets up shop around here sometimes but… it’s really just a bunch of junk. But she’ll buy some of the weirdest things from you for high prices! Don’t ask where she gets all that money, you won’t get an answer. Let’s see, what else…”

“What about that place over there?”

Nip had paused to point at one of the larger buildings in the square. It was a miss-mash of bright colors: pink, blue, and purple. A few pokemon were hanging nearby at the moment, running around with lumber and dirt and metal. “Oh, that’s our nursery and daycare. They’ve been working on expanding it. Grombert - that’s the diggersby over there - and my father have been hard at work the last moon or so to get it ready, and they’re almost done. Tor, the blissey that runs it, lives there, along with a couple of orphaned mons that stay there all the time.”

The sneasel scoffed, catching Haru off-guard. “Why would you make your nursery the brightest, most obvious place in town? You’re only going to attract trouble, you know.”

“Well…” She began, averting her gaze as she considered his question, and the relatively valid point. But soon, an answer came to her, making her respond in a firm, confident tone. “It makes the kids feel more comfortable, apparently. Tor also really likes the bright colors, not that you would know from the way he talks about it. Besides, it’s safe here, especially in the middle of the village. We only have a few guards, but they take their job very seriously. No wildener would ever dare try to break in here.

His ear twitched, appearing unconvinced. But he dropped the matter. “So, how about you tell me where this ‘Mandi’ is? Or who, for that matter.”

“Oh. Right.” Remember what you’re doing this for, Haru. “Her shop is actually a bit of a walk away from here, so, um, if you could follow me, please?” She began walking at a slow gait, making sure that the injured sneasel would be able to keep up. Though perhaps she was dragging her feet a bit. Until they arrived though, she supposed it would be as good of time as any to learn more about him.

“So, I know it hasn’t been very long yet,” she started, “but what do you think of the village so far?”

“It’s… odd. You have all these… ‘buildings,’ as you call them. Weird dens that seem too to be safe. And they’re so spread out. Why would you do that?”

“I think a lot of pokemon like to have space. And with them being more spread out, it both gives larger ‘mon a way to maneuver and helps keep a fire from spreading, should one of them catch fire.”

“I guess… But why is there no tree coverage? Or brush? I can understand a central clearing for everyone to gather in, but trees and the brush provide cover and protect from danger. Why would you settle somewhere with so little coverage?”

“There’s no trees in the center because we cleared them out and leveled the ground so we can build on it. Same for the brush, although you’ll notice we have a few bushes and trees here and there for decoration. Why? Are things different where you come from?”

“Oh yes. Where I come from, we build and carve our dens out of dirt and stone and bring in brush and moss and other plants to build our nests. They’re lit by sunlight and moonlight, and glowing mushrooms harvested from nearby caves. The nursery and children’s den are built the same way, but with brambles and thorn bushes protecting the entrance. And we use harvested pelts from our hunts to line our nests and to build more mobile shelter for emergencies.”

Haru came to a sudden stop, stiffening. Nip almost bumped into her. She turned back to look at him incredulously. “I’m sorry, did you say that you hunted other pokemon?”

He blinked a couple times. “Of course. How else would we get the food we need?”

“By not killing at least!”

The sneasel shook his head and scoffed. “I wouldn’t expect a plant-eating mon to understand. The gods blessed us with sharp claws and teeth for killing and tearing. We do what we must to survive. Besides, death is an inevitability. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get in Yveltal’s good graces!”

“Who?”

Nip looked taken aback. “Yveltal, the overseer of death itself! My tribe follows the teachings of Yveltal, the most important of the legendary pokemon of our land.”

Haru blinked. “Nope, never heard of them. But I’m not the best mon to ask. If you ask me, I think too many pokemon follow the myths and legends too closely, and don’t think for themselves. Sometimes I wonder if we’d be better off forgetting the legends in the past.” She paused to shake her head. “But that’s beside the point. Anu is supposed to be tending to Regigigias’ shrine today, so perhaps you can ask him if he knows more about Yevetal or whatever their name was.”

It occurred to Haru that she might be acting like a huge jerk. But the idea of anyone hunting down innocent pokemon - whether for food or sport - made her blood boil, and made everything else hard to focus on. There was plenty to go around, right? Mandi’s business proved that, did it not?

Speaking of Mandi’s business…

“Sorry,” she said bluntly, in a tone that suggested that she was not very sorry at all. “Anyways, this is Mandi’s.”

She stopped in front of a small, plain wooden shack. It was old, but still looked to be in good condition other than a worn paint job. Mandi probably had not spent much time worrying about that. What really sat the building apart from the others they had passed on the way, however, was the entrance. Instead of the usual open doorway, or cloth covering at best, the entrance was covered by two separate wooden doors hinged at the top. One was quite big, obviously built for larger customers, while the other one was small and looked to be made with smaller and weaker pokemon in mind.

Haru lead the way inside. As she pushed her way past the wooden door, the movement set off a bell, prompting a voice to call from inside, “I’ll be with you in just a minute!”

She heard Nip shuffle in behind her, silent after her outburst. The room they stepped into was surprisingly clean, if mostly empty. There was a counter at the far end with both a tall and short portion, made from carefully carved and polished stone. Above her, she could see a hole cut in the roof that light leaked through; likely an entrance for any flying types that could not easily push one of the doors open. Beyond the counter was another doorway, this one just covered by a cloth like most. There were even a couple sweet-smelling potted plants next to the counter and a couple stools and woven mats. Everything seemed relatively normal for a shop.

Except for the smell.

Even with plants to help mask it, and the curtain to help contain it, Haru could pick up the scent of blood and the stench of death. It made her hair stand on end. Nip, perhaps unsurprisingly, seemed rather undisturbed.

Finally, after what felt like forever to the poor bidoof, Mandi emerged from the backroom, thankfully cleaned up.

The bird that waddled inside was nearly four times Haru’s size, her head nearly devoid of feathers with a thick, tan, feathery collar around her neck. Tucked and woven neatly inside the few feathers that she did have on her head was a single bone.

“Ah, Miss Haru!” The mandibuzz said in a cheerful voice. “Never thought I’d see you visiting my little shop. Either you’re here to help that sorry looking sneasel over there, or you’ve suddenly grown a taste for meat. What can I help you with?”

Haru thought it best to ignore the sorry excuse for a light-hearted joke. “I am here to help the sneasel, actually. This is Nip. He’s from some far-off place and is looking for a... meal more to his tastes. We’re hoping you could help him out.”

Mandi seemed to catch on immediately. “Of course, dear heart,” she said in a sing-song tone before turning her attention to the sneasel. “So, what kind of flavor are you in the market for? We have a couple rattata ready to go, just brought ‘em in this morning and already checked them over for disease. If you’re more a fan of the watery taste, I have a remoraid I could sell ya. Or I have a bit of ponyta flank left. Everything else is still being processed I’m afraid.”

“Oh, I haven’t had fish in forever. I could go for some of the remoraid.” He paused, considering a word that stuck out in her statement. “Er… what do you mean, processed?”

“Ah, you really must have come from somewhere far off. All the meat vendors around here are required to process any bodies they bring in and check with neighboring towns to see if any unfortunate souls are missing, so their bodies can be returned for a proper burial instead of being salvaged.”

“Do you have no way to tell that you aren’t hunting pokemon from neighboring… villages, then?”

“Hunt?” she squawked. “Oh, heavens no! Everything we bring in is scavenged. Along with all the other vendors around here. It would be questionably moral at best to hunt others. Every pokemon that’s brought in here died of causes out of our control. They could be of something natural like old age, or something less natural like drowning or being unfortunate enough to cross a territorial wildener’s path.”

“Do they have ways of knowing who belongs to what tribe where you’re from?” Haru asked.

“Of course! Every tribe marks their members with something. Dying fur or skin with berry juices are the most common ways, but some of them use more permanent marks, like specific scars or piercings.”

Haru looked the sneasel over. “So, what’s your mark then?”

“We typically use half-circle markings and occasionally asymmetrical lines. But, er… mine were washed off during my travels, and I haven’t bothered to reapply them.”

The bidoof mentally stored that information away. “Interesting… but that’s getting sidetracked, sorry.”

“It’s all fine,” Mandi said. “Now, for the next question. Do you just want that dethawed to prepare yourself? Or did you have a specific preparation in mind? I assure you, Zylar is quite skilled in all sorts of preparation techniques. He can do it as a filet or on the bone. He has equipment for grilling, frying, deep-frying… you name it.”

“Why would you cook perfectly good meat?”

“To reduce the risk of contamination, dear. But I assure you, we keep everything frozen so that it lasts longer.”

“Is it really that old?”

“You never know with scavenged meat. Usually it’s not that old, but we believe in playing things safe.”

For a moment, Nip hesitated. “Fine, fine. Just dethaw it, I guess. And I guess you might as well cut out the bones if you’re going that far.”

The mandibuzz bobbed her head cheerfully a few times. “You got it! I’ll get Zylar on it right away!” With that, the bird turned to shimmy back towards the back room, squawking out an order to whoever Zylar might have been, leaving Haru and Nip in an awkward silence.

The dark type watched the doorway that Mandi had disappeared through, and when it became obvious that she would be a while he instead hobbled over to one of the stools, looking it over for a moment before taking a seat himself. Haru followed after, choosing one of the mats.

She was starting to have regrets about this whole situation. Maybe she had jumped into things just a little too quickly. Maybe this was not the best way to begin making a name for herself.

With her turmoiled thoughts, she was the first to break the silence.

“How… do you live with yourself?”

The sneasel shot her an unamused glare. Crap. Maybe she should have worded that better. But the words were already coming out of her mouth. “How do you live with yourself knowing you cut someone’s life short. You’ve cut several lives short, all for the sake of eating when you could have… I don’t know, not done that? At least I’m assuming you’re eating, and not just hunting for sport.”

Nip was silent for several moments, staring down the Bidoof. When he finally responded his tone was cold. “No. There is no way that we could have sustained everyone on this ‘scavenging’ concept. Not while competing for territory with some of our sibling and rival tribes as well.” He paused to shake his head. “Death is inevitable. And while I agree that killing for sport is wasteful and wrong, taking a life to be able to live is just the way the world works.”

She quickly sensed that she would get nowhere with this. So, she opted to drop the subject, turning her head. It was silent again, for a time. Hoping to brighten things up, she asked, “so, what is the climate like where you come from?”

For a moment, he seemed to consider whether he wanted to answer. “Cold,” he finally said. “Well, cold in comparison to here, I mean. Where I come from, snow is not uncommon by this time of year. It was forested, where I lived. Live. To the north, there are mountains. We don’t travel up there - Tempest always warned that the tribe up there was even less receptive to outsiders than us.”

“Hold on, back up please. Who’s Tempest?”

“He was - still is, I suppose - my mentor. A majestic ninetales. He was adopted into our tribe at a young age, orphaned after his father, Snow Weaver, vanished - and was probably killed. He never really talked about it, so I did not force the matter. He taught me much of what I know.”

“Including how to hunt?”

The blunt interjection earned Haru another sharp glare. She muttered a quick apology, if only because she had not meant to bring the issue back up.

“If you must know. He taught most of my hunting skills, yes. And most of my battle skills as well. I would consider myself a seasoned fighter, and one of the better in the tribe, thanks to him.”

Thankfully, before she could stick her foot further in her mouth, Mandi returned to the counter, this time followed by a cubone in a cloth apron, carrying a bundle wrapped in wax paper. Haru recoiled when she noticed the bloodstains on the cubone’s apron.

Nip rose from his seat, meeting with the cubone across the short counter.

“Your order,” the cubone began. “It’s ready. Take it.”

“Ah, thanks. Er… what’s your name, again?”

“Zylar.”

“Thank you then, Zylar,” the sneasel said before backing away with the package in his claws, already starting to tear into the paper.

“Pleasure doing business with you two!” Mandi chirped. “Now, about payment… That’s going to be ten poke for the meat, add five for the dethaw, and two for the cut… that’ll be seventeen poke.”

Haru glanced back to the sneasel - who had paused to stare dumbfoundedly at Mandi - as it suddenly occurred to her that he probably had no money. Did they even use poke where he came from? Who knew? With a sigh, she pulled off her satchel. Fortunately, she always carried a little with her when she was around town. She dumped a few of the coins onto the counter, carefully counting out just enough for the meal. A glance back revealed that Nip had already sank his teeth into the slices of meat almost ravenously, without even cooking them! How weird. And kind of gross. Maybe not totally weird since she’d heard of others eating aquatic pokemon raw, but still.

With a quiet thanks to the shop keep she moved to exit back the way they had come.

Cosmos, please let the rest of the day go better.

*****​

Fortunately for Haru, most of the remainder of her tour went off without a hitch. She had the opportunity to show off some of the other shops, the dojo where the town guard trained and where many of them stayed, and even showed him the sprawling fields of berries and vegetables at the town’s edge. Nip had seemed to be in awe of just how much food they grew there.

But as the sun began to descend from the sky, there were still a few things left to show. Still, she had saved the temple for last, hoping that he might open up more about his home while there.

The two were now on their way up the path towards the temple, Haru leading the way, with Nip trailing a bit behind, his limp more pronounced than it had been in the morning. She paused when he started falling too far behind.

As he finally caught up, she spoke up. “Do you need a break? We can stop for a bit if you need to.”

The sneasel responded with grit teeth and shook his head. “I’m. Fine,” he huffed. He glanced up the street and, noticing a building up ahead, pointed it out.

“Is that. The place?”

Haru turned her head to the building he was pointing at. It was more isolated than most of the village’s huts, and far bigger too. The land around it was surrounded by a carefully placed wooden fence, four uniform horizontal planks making up each section.

“Oh, no that’s not the shrine. That’s Mayor Jhorlo’s house.”

“Is this… Mayor Jhorlo one of your village elders?”

“Er… No. He’s just our Mayor.”

“Oh, Mayor is his title. I see. What is a ‘mayor?’”

“He’s sort of like… the guy in charge of making sure everything runs safely and efficiently here,” Haru explained.

“Oh, so he is not an elder, but his function is similar to one. I understand.”

“I… guess? Are these elders something important in your tribe?”

“The tribe’s leadership is made up of the elders,” Nip explained. “Pokemon that have been fortunate to survive into their twilight years, that choose to impart their… wisdom. To the rest of the tribe.”

Haru took a moment to digest that. And to digest the hesitance in his voice. “Are you okay?”

He blinked at her a couple times. “It is nothing important, it’s fine,” he finally said. “Well, I have no need to learn about this mayor’s house. The shrine must be further ahead?”

“O-oh. Of course.” With that, Haru took the lead again, traveling in silence for some time until another building came into view.

This one also stood out from most of the other city architecture. While most of the houses had been built out of wood and clay, and occasionally cobbled together stones, this building was made of carefully carved stone. It was square in shape, with intricately designed pillars, depicting the stories of Regigigias that she’d heard her whole life. Stories of the titan dragging the continents and islands into place, of him forming the golems. Of the golems taking their place resting in the mountains, protecting Regigigias’ “Tomb,” the shrine supposedly somewhere deep in the peak where they slumbered. Haru could not help but have her doubts.

Nip, on the other hand, seemed entranced by the design. By the stone building and all its art. The two made their way up the ramp leading into the building through a huge open entryway.

The inside was lit with a combination of candles and of the luminescent plant life that many of the villagers used in their home. The building was surprisingly empty for the time of day, save for a pair of pokemon. The first was a reserved lucario, a broom in hand, sweeping away dirt and leaves that had managed to blow in through the entrance. The second was a proud hawlucha, her arms crossed as she spoke quietly with the lucario. She was the first to notice the visiting pair, tilting her head up slightly to signify to the lucario that they were no longer alone. The lucario turned his head to look back towards the duo, his eyes widening slightly in surprise.

“Haru, is that you? I never expected to see you here.”

It seemed like that was the theme of the day. “Good afternoon Anu, Whisper.” She nodded her head in the direction of both pokemon. “I, um, this is Nip. The sneasel we found the other day. He said he’s on some sort of spiritual journey, so I offered to show him the shrine.”

Only then did Anu seem to notice the sneasel standing beside her. “O-oh, o-of course! Good afternoon sir.” He paused when the hawlucha, Whisper, interrupted him, mentioning something to him quietly before taking her leave. She brushed her claws against the lucario’s shoulder before she left. Whatever she said, it seemed to fluster Anu.

He turned his attention solely to the sneasel. “A-Anyways. So, tell me, what made you make this journey. Are you a follower of the great Regigigas? Or perhaps of his titanic creations?”

Nip quietly shook his head. “Not directly. I know very little about Regigigas, actually, other than snippets of a long-forgotten story of the land’s formation.”

The lucario seemed taken aback for a moment but smiled regardless. “I suppose I should not expect much more from a foreign mon. After all, I knew little about the gods followed by the pokemon of Seadra’s Tail until Ruffle moved in. It’s to be expected that pokemon from other places would have limited information about Regigigas. So, tell me. Who do you follow?”

“My tribe follows the legends of the trio of balance, although the elders say they were once known as the aura trio, so you might know them by that name. However, Yveltal is our patron deity. Our neighboring tribes though, the ones we are friendly with, pay tribute more specifically to Zygarde and Xerneas.”

The lucario smiled weakly. “I’m afraid I haven’t heard of them. I would love to hear more about them sometime, but I’m afraid now is not the time, as I need to finish clearing the shrine of debris before the evening patrons come in to pay their respects.”

Now it was the sneasel’s turn to act surprised. “Really? No one down here has heard of them?”

Anu shook his head. “I don’t know for sure, but I would be surprised. Not even the passerby explorers have ever mentioned them. Where did you say you were from?”

“The northern mountains. On the other side of… I believe your healer called it the Great Misty Canyon?”

The lucario let out a hum. “Oh! That would explain it. Last I heard, the Expedition Society only just started making plans for a permanent outpost on the other side. Information is… quite limited, if they haven’t been there yet. Not many explorers travel north of the canyon, unfortunately.

“Regardless, you are free to stay here for a while, if you would like. We have a small room to your left for visitors that wish to pay their respects to their own deities.” Anu gestured to another large doorway to the side him, leading to another dimly lit room. Haru could make out a handful of candles on a stone slab, as well as a few other items that she couldn’t identify from here.

“I appreciate it, thank you.” With a dip of his head, the sneasel limped past the lucario and into the room.

In hopes of passing the time, Haru turned her attention to Anu, who had returned to sweeping. “So,” she started, “how are things with you and Whisper? I believe your egg should be close to hatching, right?”

The lucario looked up with a surprised expression, then quickly busied himself with sweeping again, a tiny smile on his face. “We were talking about that, actually. She was heading over to check with Tor when she left.”

Sensing how flustered Anu was, Haru just gave him a quick hum before turning her attention to the display beyond. The main statue on the shrine was of Regigigas. Unlike most everything else, his statue had been molded from bronze. Metal could be a bit hard to come by. And metal-workers were even rarer, so getting the statue built had to have taken a lot of work and money.

A few offerings lay at the feet of the statue. She still had no clue what Anu did with those, but she remembered them disappearing from time to time when her dad used to bring her and Toshi, back when they were younger.

In front of the statue of Regigigas were three smaller statues of his titans, the golems of rock, ice, and steel. Unlike the first statue, these were only made of stone, though they had been painted. Or at least, they had been at one time; much of the paint that had covered them had chipped and weathered away over time, and never been replaced.

Her attention turned up to the wall behind the statues. Although there was little light to make them out with, she could see the bits of the paintings of the creation trinity, and the single egg painted in the middle. Of all the legends she had been told, the story of Dialga, Palkia, and Girintina was the only one she could believe. Because unlike the others, there was something that told her beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had to be real: the mystery dungeons were proof enough of their existence.

Deciding to not dwell on the stories that would sour her mood, she began to make her way over to where Nip had gone, to see if he had finished whatever he was doing.

He had not. As she approached the room, she could make out the outline of the sneasel in the dim light. He was sitting with his legs almost crossed, his claws in his lap. She suspected that his eyes were closed, but she could not tell from here. As she got closer, she began to make out bits and pieces of something that he was mumbling.

“Do I disgust you, Yveltal? ...Sorry… I don’t… why… can’t forgive…” Then his words became completely incomprehensible for a moment, mumbled.

On their own the words would mean little, perhaps being a little weird at most, suggesting a wrathful relationship with Yveltal. But then he said something that made her blood run cold.

“I don’t know how much longer I can keep running. Yveltal, if you hold any favor for me still after what I did, let me make it someplace safe.”

Haru backed away slowly. Perhaps it meant little. Perhaps she should not be quick to judge. But after all the odd behavior, she found herself having a hard time believing that any of what he said was for something good.

She waited by the entrance, ruminating on the feelings until the sneasel finally emerged, a hard to read expression on his face.

“Thank you for waiting for me,” he mumbled.

“No… no problem,” she said, trying to not avert her gaze. “We should… probably go back to Lecha’s, huh? It’s getting late, and she’ll probably want to apply fresh bandages.”

He grunted an agreement before beginning to make his way back down the ramp. Haru followed behind at a slower pace, her mind dwelling on what she overheard, and what little she knew about Nip. He had said before that he was on a spiritual pilgrimage. Perhaps it had some truth to it, but what he said suggested he was running from something, or someone. And based on what Anu said, there was no knowledge of Yveltal down here, which would suggest that he was not here to find something about them. So it raised the question.

If he was not really on some sort of pilgrimage, what had he come all the way here for?

*****​

Twilight was perhaps the liveliest time of day in the forest. As sleepy pokemon made their way back to their nests and shelters, out came the kricketot and kricketune, singing their evening songs. Out came the volbeat and illumise, dancing their twilight dance. And out came the nocturnal pokemon. Hoot-hoots and sneasel, murkrow and stantler, all waking for their evening activity.

As dusk began to settle in, a particular kangaskhan was settling down in her carefully constructed shelter. Today had been kind to her; no pokemon had come to try to kill her or her unhatched child. No threat had been stupid enough to trespass this time.

But as she tried to settle in, she found a sense of unease coming over her. Something was wrong. She quickly realized the forest around her had become silent. No chirps, no buzzing, not even the rustle of a rattata dashing from bush to bush. She gently rubbed a paw over the egg hidden in her pouch, as if worried it would no longer be there. Slowly she stood back up, sniffing at the air, peering deep into the undergrowth.

Suddenly, she heard something burst from the bushes behind her.

By the time she spun around, they were already upon her.

She felt a powerful set of jaws clamp down on her leg. She let out a howl and tried to shake the pokemon free, swinging her leg wildly. The pokemon did not let go; if anything, they bit down harder. She caught a glance of cream and black in the fading sun. She could not easily reach down to bite, so she did the next best thing she could think of to do. She took a deep breath, focusing energy into her left hand. It became alight with fire, a technique she had inherited from her father and perfected with help from her mother. In one swift strike, she struck the jaws that had clamped down on her leg. The blow was just enough to dislodge her assailant, sending them flying in an arc when she swung her leg again.

The other pokemon landed on their feet a short distance away, finally giving the kangaskhan a short opportunity to look over her opponent. She was tiny, not even a fifth of the kangaskhan’s size. But just as big as her body was the massive second set of jaws that protruded from the top of her head. Besides the black and cream, a red curved design had been dyed into the fur on her chest. Another design, a spiral, had been dyed around her right arm.

The kangaskhan let out a huff. “Try to attack me, eh?” she roared. “I’ll smash ya up like I did that runty sneasel the other day!”

For a second, the other pokemon seemed caught off guard by the statement. But then her resolve strengthened. She dashed forward head-first.

The kangaskhan was faster. When the mawile had almost reached her, she spun, swinging her tail in hopes of knocking her attacker off balance. Her tail connected, tripping up the mawile and throwing off her momentum. But it did not keep her down for long. As soon as she had her balance, she dashed again, this time springing up. The kangaskhan brought her hands up defensively, protecting her chest from the brunt of the steely headbutt. Even so, despite the small pokemon’s stature, the force of the blow made her skid back a few inches.

By the time the mawile landed she had already begun her next attack. As the mawile sprang again, this time with her second pair of jaws first, the kangaskhan focused just long enough to allow her hand to become alight with flames once more. Jaw made contact with flame. The kangaskhan felt jagged teeth graze her arm, only for them to be knocked away as her fist connected. The mawile was knocked backwards, bouncing in the grass. She did not move.

The kangaskhan let out a triumphant roar and turned her back. That’s what she gets for trying to attack her!

Then she felt a blow to the back of her head.

She whipped back around. The mawile was gone.

Another blow, this time to her flank. She tried to whip around, but the mawile was already gone again. Another blow to the head. She let out a frustrated roar, snapping at the air.

She turned her head back. The mawile was already upon her, striking her directly in the stomach, knocking her off-balance. As she desperately tried to regain it, she felt teeth snapping at her heels. She stumbled, falling back onto her back.

The mawile was on top of her in an instant. She felt teeth sink around her neck. At any second, she expected the pokemon to rip her throat open.

But it never came. Instead the mawile remained there, staring her down.

“I had planned to kill you,” the mawile began, “but you have piqued my interest.”

The kangaskhan tried to raise a fist. The teeth sank in deeper.

“Do not try my patience. You said something about a sneasel earlier. Tell me, what did he look like?”

Sensing the danger, she and her unborn child were in, the kangaskhan began to stutter, fumbling over her words. “I-I- yes! The-the sneasel! He was kind of a gre- a grey brown! W-with weirdly colored feathers. Y-yeah, they weren’t red!”

The mawile narrowed her eyes, the jaws threatened to tighten. “And what did you do to him?”

“He- he tried to steal my egg! S-so so I made sure he wou-wouldn’t be able to do that again, see?”

The pressure relieved slightly. “Tell me, did you kill him?”

“I-I don’t know, he tried to drag himself off but- I never saw the body, I swear! He might’a survived!”

The mawile seemed to consider it for a moment before finally pulling her jaws away, only to strike at the kangaskhan’s shoulder, digging fangs in and ripping a small chunk of flesh free, making the normal-type shriek in pain.

“Something to remember me by,” she grunted with one last look at the kangaskhan before hopping down.

She began to walk away, leaving the kangaskhan to tend to her wound. She could have killed her; she had planned to in the first place. But it would have been such a waste, with only herself to feed. And besides, the kangaskhan had given her valuable information, valuable enough that she considered sparing her a fair trade.

Nip was nearby. And if he was alive, he could not have gotten far.
 
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