Dungeon 1 - Brotherhood
The void. A place completely absent of any light and without anything to fill its space. And yet, a small Pokémon was there in the middle of it all: a Riolu walking around thin air, with sweat running through his blue fur.
The pup trembled and looked around, trying to find an escape from the inky darkness. A high-pitched, maniacal laugh echoed behind him and he froze with a startled gasp. The Riolu trembled before slowly making an effort to turn around.
There across the void, something had suddenly appeared. He could see some sort of humanoid figure with two red eyes, staring at him. The figure opened its mouth, revealing it was lined with razor-like teeth, before letting out another laugh. The Riolu flinched and stumbled back, raising his voice at the figure in a frightened whine.
"P-Please, go away!" The Riolu stammered. The figure in front of him laughed again from afar just as the canine felt a sharp pain in his chest. Looking down, he saw a set of three fresh, red, claw-like marks in the middle of his torso.
"What are you going to do now, Number 10?" the figure said, smirking with bared teeth. "You think running away will get rid of what happened?"
"A-Ah… h-help me… someone please… help me…”
The Riolu struggled to stay upright and began to walk away, using what little energy he had left to try and flee. His body shivered and his eyes were fixated on the figure in front of him, all while blood leaked from his torso.
Ignoring his pleas, the creature started to multiply, as multiple sets of eyeballs materialized around the pitch-black space and a laugh echoed across the void, getting louder and louder until...
The Riolu woke up, gasping for air.
He was inside a bedroom, on the top of a bunk bed, safe from the dark figure plaguing his dreams. The comfort and warmth of his purple blanket managed to calm him down a little.
The canine breathed deeply, clambering down a wooden ladder to the carpeted floor. The morning light shone in his room, and the breeze filtered in through an open window made of tempered glass and ruffled his fur. So far, so good.
He took a deep breath, clutching his chest for a moment. The pain that it brought him, while not particularly strong, was enough for him to realize his present sensations were real and not another dream.
Now ready for the next part of his routine, the pup took a good look around the room. First, he saw a bunch of tools fit for a mechanic, including an assortment of screwdrivers and wrenches. A nearby bookshelf also caught his attention, and the neatly placed books almost tempted him to pick one up. The Riolu ignored the urge and shifted his gaze to a mirror where he saw his reflection staring back at him.
"It’s alright, Lance. You're fine," he said. Gazing at his reflection, Lance pawed nervously at his chest and tried to coax himself to believe his own words.
"I-It was just another nightmare."
Lance felt his paw run against deep grooves on his chest’s pelt, not that his reflection left any room for doubt. On the Riolu's chest was a set of three scars that looked much like a claw swipe. Each of them so deeply ingrained that he doubted anyone could miss them if they tried to.
This made him remember the nightmare, and made him to snarl as he shook it off his mind. After a moment to gather his thoughts, Lance noticed a bag on the floor. After swiveling his ears, the Riolu put it on, leaving the room by the door.
"Well, my stuff’s packed," he shrugged. "Hopefully, Brian’s ready to go, too."
Lance descended the stairs to his living room, glancing around for any sign of his brother. The well-worn sofa in the corner went empty and unused, and a few books were scattered across the sofa. Of course Brian wouldn’t organize their bookshelf before he left.
There was a brown, rounded, metallic radio in the center of the room that sat on a table, untouched and covered in a thick layer of dust. It had been a gift from one of his surrogate uncles, but he had used it as little more than a paperweight. Books had always interested him more than fancy technology, though he hadn’t realized it’d been that long since they dusted the thing off.
"Brian must have already left," he mused. The Riolu felt his stomach rumble, reminding him of how hungry he was, and made a beeline for the kitchen.
Lance went to a corner, opening a white, metallic refrigerator, where he found it barren inside beyond an apple and a pitcher of water.
Normally, he'd be worried to find the fridge this empty, but he'd expected it'd be like this. After all, it'd be the last time he and Brian would use it for a long while.
After a moment of deliberation, he took the apple and ate it on the table. After finishing it, the Riolu then left the house with a stern look on his face.
Here goes nothing…
Outside, the surrounding settlement of Thornwell seemed to be thriving, as most of the villagers were going about their daily jobs. The Riolu lived in a large suburban house, and down the street were several storefronts. One of the first was a grocery store, where two Kecleon were talking to customers.
Next, there was a building made of black bricks with a line, consisting of a Machop, a Meowth, and a couple of Wurmple queued up at the entrance. Lance could even hear one of them complaining about it “taking too long to make a deposit”.
"Hm. Didn’t expect the bank to be full today. At least I’ve already got my allowance," Lance sighed and looked up. In the distance, he could see a large, glassy building, shaped like the letter ‘H’. Pinned to it was a large sign which read: Hero Exploration Guild. The Riolu paused for a moment, before shaking his head.
"Meh, I don’t know why I’m so worried,” he said. “Brian's probably just at the guild.”
Lance gave a shrug of his shoulders, before walking off to the left for a beach that could be seen around the corner.
“It’s probably not the end of the world if he takes a while,” he murmured. “I… could probably use a bit of time for myself anyways."
The Hero Guild was famous for being a creation of the legendary Team Hero, led by four Pokémon: Shiron the Swampert, Nick the Lucario, Yukino the Sceptile, and James the Typhlosion.
While the guild occasionally copped jokes for having such an on-the-nose name, it and its founding team had very much earned their monikers, and accordingly were always in demand for missions.
So much so that Team Hero’s members were usually kept busy with tasks on distant continents, with James staying behind on his companions’ behalf to take care of the guild’s administration and the recruitment of new members.
James was in his office that day, looking at the village of Thornwell through his window. He’d taken a brief break from his paperwork and stood up to enjoy the view along with a cone of Oran Berry ice cream. He quickly looked at the sofa nearby and wished he could lay in it, but alas, he was still on his shift, and he couldn’t afford to get too comfortable. The Typhlosion turned around, and sat at his desk with his dessert still in hand and looked down at the papers on it.
It was the paperwork of one of the guild’s newly graduated teams, Team Liberators. The team only had two members at the moment, and James already knew both of them well: Brian and Lance, the sons of Nick. Of course, they hadn’t graduated just from having connections to one of the leaders.
"Hm. They’re strong, I’m sure they’ll be fine on their own,” James mumbled to himself, licking at the frozen treat in his hand.
The Typhlosion stiffened up and flicked his ears after hearing someone knock on his office’s door. Curious, he hurriedly swallowed the rest of the dessert and cleaned his mouth with a napkin to make himself presentable for the stranger at the door.
"If you have an appointment, you can come in!" James said, waiting for the mysterious visitor. The door opened and a Zorua sporting a toothy grin ran inside the office.
"Good morning, Uncle James!"'
James’ ears perked up and he turned around, instantly recognizing the child. With a smile on his face, he got up from his desk and went over to greet the visitor.
"Talk about perfect timing, I was just looking at your team’s file, Brian," James said with a smile, getting down on his knees and extending his hand to little Pokémon. “You and Lance are really a chip off the old block, you know that? I’m still surprised you two graduated so fast!”
“Considering how much of a perfectionist my brother is, I’m surprised we didn’t graduate sooner !”
Brian shook James' hand with his paw, wagging his tail slightly. The larger Pokémon returned the gesture.
"So, what are you doing here anyways, Brian? Have you and Lance found your first mission?"
"No. Kinda? Not really… uh, Lance and I are leaving,” Brian replied, with a faint laugh. “I woke up early to try and get ready for our journey... and I figured I’d use the extra time to say goodbye."
"Hoho, going so far out right after graduating? You and Lance really do take after your dad," James chuckled, "And where are you two going?"
Brian cracked a grin and jumped up, transforming himself into a Metang and letting out a noise that sounded almost like a machine.
"We'll be going to Bright Dawn, the biggest city on Eutrios!" Brian said. His eyes sparkled. "We’re gonna be the most powerful team there! Or maybe just… like, heroes too! Strong and powerful heroes!"
Brian shape-shifted again, this time becoming a Machamp proudly flexing his muscles. Brian clearly had been practicing his illusions for a while, and James couldn’t help but find himself clapping at the little Zorua’s show.
He’d grown used to Brian shape-shifting whenever he got too excited, and it was always entertaining to see Brian’s excitable creativity quite literally take form in front of him.
"Heh, you're excited about all of this, aren't you?" he asked.
"Yup! I’ve been looking forward to this day since we graduated!” Brian exclaimed, striking a pose. “And Lance is…"
Brian trailed off as his illusion wavered and dissipated. The Zorua went back to his normal self, except he seemed troubled now, and his ears visibly drooped.
"Well… he's indifferent about it as usual, I guess. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what goes through his head."
The Typhlosion frowned. He let out a long sigh and got on his knees again, looking directly at Brian.
"I suppose it’s understandable. He's still thinking about the incident, right?" James sighed. "I don't blame him for that, though it's just that it's been so long since then…”
He gulped, looking out the window for a moment, before eyeing Brian again.
“I just thought he would have gotten better."
Brian shook his head back sadly at the Typhlosion guildmaster.
"He’s... never been the same after everything happened, Uncle James," Brian said. "That’s why I wanted to go to Bright Dawn with him. I thought that maybe the change of scenery would help him."
“Will it, though?” James asked. These kids had been through a lot, he knew. But if they thought they were ready for the journey...
"I dunno how much it’ll really help if Lance is just dwelling on the past during it all, but I suppose I understand where you’re coming from, Brian,” James said, scratching his chin. “I don't think your father will be very happy with this decision, though. Especially considering you're both only sixteen."
“Nah, don’t worry kid,” James smiled. “You go out and take on the world, okay? Just remember to visit when you can. I’m sure both your dad and your mom would like to still see you every now and then.”
"Actually… I came to ask a favor too, Uncle James. Listen, if Dad comes back while we're traveling, can you let him know we went off to Bright Dawn?” Brian asked. “I'll try to convince Lance to come back here as soon as possible, but… You know how Lance can be. He can be a real hard-headed dork when he sets his mind to something..."
James laughed a little, rubbing his hand on the Zorua's head.
"All right, I can do that. And good luck to you both, journeys that long can really take a lot out of you. Just… be careful, okay?” James insisted. “I might not be as uptight about travelling as your father, but as your uncle, it’s my job to worry about you. I know your brother’s been training for a while, and I’m sure you’ll be fine, but... you can never be too careful. You understand that, right?"
Brian just nodded in reply and left the room running. That was the decisive moment: if they were going to leave, it had to be now. Their dad would be returning home later today, after all.
And he knew full well what path he’d chosen. The Zorua ran and ran, out of the guild, past the bank and the market, until the village's exit was right in front of him. The exit out into the great world beyond Thornwell, and out to his and his brother's future.
Meanwhile, Lance walked around Thornwell's beach, idly thinking about the ocean waves that were splashing up against his feet. In the distance, he could see a few Lapras swimming along the waves.
He needed that moment, away from all his problems and distractions. To forget about everything that made the nightmares that haunted him at night begin in the first place. To soothe his anxieties, he decided to take a deep breath.
"I'm not Number ten anymore," he snarled, taking a deep breath. It was one of the best things he’d discovered for managing his anxiety. "And I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna make the world a better place so that nothing like that happens again."
He tried not to think too hard about what happened, it always dredged up too many painful memories. Even so, he knew full well he wanted his promise to himself more than anything, and he was determined to fulfill it. The Riolu took a deep breath, wrapping a gray bandana around his head, and then walked off the beach to meet his sibling.
Brian was already there waiting for him in front of the town’s welcome sign.
He was ready to go, donning a backpack and with a set of goggles slung around his neck. Brian was thoughtful, this was the best thing to do, wasn't it? It had to be, he hoped it was.
Turning his head, Brian saw his brother approaching and waved to him.
"Lance! Ready to kick off that journey? Come on, Bright Dawn’s not going to come over to us , you know!" the Zorua exclaimed. Brian wagged his tail as he waited for the Riolu to approach. Lance came over and stopped to look at the town sign, as a hint of melancholy came over his eyes.
"Right... our journey begins here,” he said to himself. “Goodbye, Thornwell."
Lance shuffled along the path, walking forward without bothering to look back at the village, he wasn’t going to miss it. Brian looked at the sign next to his brother, and at the village where they grew up.
With its suburban buildings, unpaved roads, in hindsight, Brian knew it wasn’t all that pretty, but it was home. After hesitating briefly, he shook his head and followed his brother in silence.
For all of six paces.
"Dad said he’s gonna get back today, but knowing him, he’ll probably take a while to come back home, his team's mission is supposed to be dangerous… I’ve heard they found an unusual teenager. About our age, I think,” Brian mused. “Do you think he’ll come back in one piece?" he asked, staring at the Riolu.
Lance shrugged in reply and turned ahead with a quiet harrumph. He was hoping that Brian would be a bit less talkative on this journey, but clearly that was a bit much to hope for.
"Dad’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself, Brian," Lance remarked. "He and his teammates are strong Pokémon and have come back from plenty of missions others call ‘dangerous’. Don’t worry yourself over such morbid hypotheticals."
"Hehe, well when you put it that way, it feels silly to worry about him!" Brain laughed, staring at the horizon. "And we’re gonna succeed on our own mission too, right?! We're gonna make our own destiny!"
Lance gave a faint smile in reply. Sure, Brian could be more of a chatterbox than he’d like, but his cheerfulness had a way of rubbing off on other Pokémon.
The two didn’t know what the future held in store for them, but they were sure that the journey ahead would bring challenges and conquests for them both. And so, they left their hometown, the place where their journey all began, eagerly looking forward to finally having a chance to shape their own destiny.