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Pokémon Swamping Ground

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
Swamping Ground
Welcome to my one shot for the Friends and Partners contest! Swamping Ground follows a newly evolved Marshtomp on his journey as he searches for a trainer. I'll save most of my thoughts for after, however... a couple quick notes!

1. This fic is rough. It was written with about 2 1/2 days to go before the deadline. As it stands I am aware the messages may come across rough and muddled. I am aware of this, but I continue to welcome constructive crit anyway and plan to rewrite this. The more specific critique you are able to give, the better.

This includes:
-grammar notes
-dialogue rephrasing
-Worldbuilding clarity

The tone is meant to be a little light hearted, a little comedic and just wee bit exaggerated for morals sake. It's meant to be just little little bit like a goldilocks-ish type tale.

As far as critique, I would be appreciative if you keep the above part in mind. If you have specific ideas on how to implement the intended vibe, I welcome it. At the end of the story I will have a second authors note about all the things I intended, so if you were willing to read, it might give you a better idea and clearer context! Much appreciated!

Warm, thick mud cocooned Marshtomp up to his neck. He twitched his two tail fins restlessly, flexing his arms as he peered from his spot in a marsh, scanning the area for trainers. He narrowed his eyes, then sighed, blowing a thick mud bubble. Despite sticking near a main route not far from one of the towns in hopes of meeting a trainer, he hadn’t seen anyone particularly interesting for the past two days.

There had been a few travelers, but when he challenged them and they didn’t send out a pokemon for him to battle, he sent them running with a blast of muddy water. The nerve of some humans, just walking! Didn’t they know how rude it was to decline a challenge? Especially traveling along a route like this.

He’d trained so hard to evolve, hoping it would help him to find a trainer, and this was his reward? Basking in the mud all day? He blew another bubble, this one larger than the last, and it exploded with a loud ‘pop!’.

A movement in the distance caught his attention and he stared intently at the approaching figure. Once it drew near, he was able to make out more concrete details. Small. Young, he guessed. Long hair, grass-green eyes that darted all about, curiosity pulsing from her every movement.

Marshtomp tensed. He couldn’t pick out any pokeballs on her belt yet, but perhaps they were in her pocket? The girl’s gaze passed over him, then flickered back, locking in. Without hesitation, he burst from the mud and landed in front of her, crying out with an obvious challenge.

Her gaze lit up. “Wow! Hey there, do you want to battle?”

Marshtomp nodded fiercely and took up a battle stance.

“Are you sure? I’m not forcing you. You don’t have to battle if you don’t choose it-”

He cut her off with another loud cry. Why did this trainer feel the need to drag this out?

“Taillow!” she called. A Taillow swooped down from the sky somewhat suddenly, landing in front of her. The trainer stooped down. “Alright Taillow sweetie, do you feel like battling? Remember, you don’t have to.”

The Taillow subtly fidgeted from talon to talon as her trainer spoke. She exuded a sense of restlessness as if she were familiar with the speech.

“Alright then. Go Taillow!”

Taillow gave an excitable cry and whirled around, tensed and ready for battle. Marshtomp met her gaze. Something sparked between them. The trainer called an order. And Taillow exploded into battle.

Taillow proved to be fairly competent if a bit weak. She was able to get some good hits on him though, which he attributed to him still getting used to his new body. He’d only evolved a day or two ago after all.

After getting struck by a particularly rough Peck, Marshtomp caught himself and panted. Oh, this battle was fun. He hadn’t had the chance to spar against many aerial foes. Taillow might actually win this as well. Well, only because she could fly and he hadn’t had much practice. He was still way tougher. Sucking in a deep breath, he gathered his remaining will.

Taillow shrieked and angled to dive again. He would see this fight through until the end -

“Alrighty Taillow, thats enough.”

Taillow pulled up short and landed, a flash of frustration in its gaze. The trainer rushed across the field. “Oh, Taillow sweetie are you ok?”

Taillow nodded vigorously.

The trainer then crossed to kneel in front of Marshtomp. He regarded her defiantly, though he also wondered why she’d stopped the fight. “Oh you poor thing, are you ok? I hope that wasn’t too rough.”

Marshtomp shook his head vigorously. He was fine.

“Say, you’re really strong. Do you want to join me?”

Marshtomp paused. Join her? On one flipper, this wasn’t exactly how he pictured trainers. But on the other, she was the first trainer he’d seen.

“Only if you really want to though! Of course, I would never force you.”

Slowly, he nodded.

“Ok! I guess that makes you my new pokepartner.”

Marshtomp croaked out a weak agreement.

“Come on then!” The trainer started down the Route. For the first time, Marshtomp noted a distinct lack of pokeballs on her waist. That was strange. And maybe a little disappointing. He’d been hoping to see what pokeballs were like.

He walked alongside his new trainer for some time. The landscape shifted, from water and marshy pools to tall thick grass and sparse trees. He kept occupied making occasional conversation with Taillow. She seemed pleasant enough and more than willing to tell him about her short time with her trainer. For starters, her trainer's name was Karina. Taillow also apparently had no nickname. Supposedly, Karina didn’t give nicknames, although he detected a hint of bitterness when Taillow said that.

“So if Karina’s your trainer, why doesn’t she have pokeballs?”

Taillow let out a whistling sigh. “Doesn’t believe in them.”

“Oh...” Marshtomp paused, trying to consider this. Maybe trainers were just like that then. “Ok. And how come she stopped our fight?”

Taillow let out another whistle. “Says she doesn’t want us to get hurt. She’s done it in a couple other fights too. She always stops early.”

Marshtomp tilted his head and regarded Taillow. “If we didn’t want to fight, we could just stop though.”

A resigned ruffle of feathers was all the response he got.

Despite his initial excitement over finding a trainer, he didn’t feel at ease. Was this what the trainer life was like? It seemed different than what he expected from talking to other Pokemon. Still, he respected the fact that she’d fought him in battle. Perhaps another battle with her would settle things.

They hadn’t been traveling for long before a Zigzagoon darted across the road.

Marshtomp charged after it and fired a blast of water, striking it in the side.

Immediately it whirled and barked a challenge. “Ohohoo so you wanna fight huh, huh?” Zigzagoon bounced and weaved from side to side, hissing.

Marshtomp smirked at it and made a taunting motion with his flipper.

Zigzagoon puffed out its fur. ”You’re going down!”

Marshtomp grinned. He liked the little things spunk. Beating it down would be fun. Marshtomp flexed his flippers and leaned down, resting on three legs. Any moment now Karina would give a command. He’d have his first proper battle with his new trainer-

“Marshtomp no!” Karina called out. “You shouldn’t start fights. What if that poor Zigzagoon doesn’t want to fight. Did you even ask permission?”

Zigzagoon barked and bared its fangs as it fidgeted impatiently. Marshtomp glowered back at it, twitching his tail fins impatiently. Come on already. Did Karina really think either of them didn’t want to fight? This is what they were made for.

There was a long pause before she spoke. “Are you two sure you want to do this? You don’t have to-”

In a blur of movement, Zigzagoon lunged across the ground, fangs glowing. Marshtomp croaked urgently, glaring at Karina from the corner of his eye.

“Mud Shot!” she cried frantically.

Summoning his strength, Marshtomp spat a thick glob of mud at Zigzagoon, striking it head-on. Despite getting knocked back and the mud coating its fur, it leaped again. A buzz of excitement rushed through Marshtomp. Finally! A battle.

To his disappointment, it ended as fast as it began. As soon as the Zigzagoon began to weaken, Karina’s voice cut in.

“That’s enough!”

Zigzagoon paused and Marshtomp bristled. The battle wasn’t over. He could sense that Zigzagoon felt similarly. He hadn’t even gotten to put the plucky raccoon pokemon in its place.

Casting a glance at Karina, Zigzagoon flared its nostrils, then relaxed. “Ugh, I’m out,” it growled. It turned and skittered into the grass.

Frustration bubbled across Marshtomp’s skin. He whirled around and croaked at Karina, crossing his arms.

She smiled at him. “Are you alright, Marshtomp? I hope you’re not too badly hurt!”

Marshtomp just turned away and huffed. Maybe the next battle would be better.



Just an hour later, outside a small town, they encountered a young boy trainer carrying two pokeballs. Karina spotted him first and began to chide him for using the pokeballs. Marshtomp just watched with Taillow as things quickly escalated.

He challenged her. She insisted she didn’t want to battle like this, and how she never forced her pokemon to do anything.

Taillow rolled her eyes and flew forward, landing in front of Karina and chirping encouragingly.

“No Taillow, you don’t have to fight.”

The boy took the opportunity to send out his own pokemon, an Electrike. It emerged with a howl, sparks crackling over its fur and teeth bared. Taillow puffed up her feathers, trying her best to look tough.

Marshtomp let out a deep long sigh. He had a feeling he knew what Taillow was trying to prove, but he knew this was a bad matchup. Besides, it would be fun to bash an Electric type. He waddled forward. “Let me take this, Taillow.”

“Very well,” she said after a moment.

They brushed wing against fin, then Marshtomp took his place on the battlefield while she fluttered over to perch near Karina.

“Marshtomp, it’s alright, there’s no need to fight,” Karina said primly.

The boy groaned, and Electrike barked angrily. “Get your stupid trainer in line! Are we gonna battle or what?” she shouted.

Marshtomp rumbled and dropped into a fighting stance. “Oh, I am.” If Karina wouldn’t command him, he’d do it alone. He glared at Elektrike and she glared back. Marshtomp cast a brief look at Karina, who looked displeased.

He didn’t know what her deal was, but he was growing sick of it. Sick of her acting like he couldn’t make his own choices, sick of her acting like he was too weak or stupid to think for himself.

“Electrike, Quick Attack!”

Marshtomp pushed any further thoughts to the back of his mind, focusing instead on the battle. He lunged to the side, narrowly dodging the blow, then tried to fire a blast of mud after her. Electrike blurred out of the way. He set his mouth in firm line, watching Electrike carefully as she darted about the field. This was going to be tricky. Especially without the help of a trainer acting as a second pair of eyes and ears.

So an elaborate dance began, Marshtomp focusing on trying to dodge Electrike’s faster attacks as he countered any way he could. After the first couple blows, Karina finally joined in, and he started to feel a little better. Maybe they could win this.

He caught Electrike in the side with a powerful strike of his flipper, sending her sprawling. He opened his jaws, intending to finish it, when Karina stepped in. “Marshtomp!”

The brief distraction was all that was needed for Electrike to recover. She scrambled to her paws and snorted disdainfully, an expression mirrored by her trainer.

Karina stepped forward, face pinched into a frown. “I won’t let you make poor Marshtomp fight like this.”

“Forget this.” Electrike turned and strutted back to her trainer's side. “Trainers like yours disgust me. I’d rather eat a hundred spoiled Pecha berries than hang around here a second longer.”

Her trainer frowned, then returned Electrike. “Seriously?” he shook his head and muttered something under his breath that Marshtomp was pretty sure most humans would classify as extremely rude, then walked away.

Marshtomp cringed, then scowled. He felt humiliated. Not because of what Electrike had said (although that had ticked him off), but because it was increasingly clear that Karina didn’t respect him. Or Pokemon. However well she meant she wasn’t helping. He didn’t need her to baby him. Unease knotted his stomach and his posture drooped.

“That was really good,” Taillow chirped. Her eyes, however, shimmered with shame, revealing her true feelings.

His unease stayed with him as they entered the town and Karina made their way to the Pokemon Center.

The town itself was a small, quiet town, dotted about with houses and a few businesses. No roads cut through it, rather packed sections of earth marked the closest thing. They didn’t stay long, just enough for Karina to purchase some supplies, then they were back on the road again.

By the time they stopped that evening, Marshtomp felt exhausted. Not just from walking most of the day, but from the steadily growing anxiety in the pit of his belly. They made camp next to a small stream, and Marshtomp flopped into it, the cool sensation of water running over his skin soothing him. Taillow found a perch on a tree branch that hung over the water and watched him.

As they waited, Karina started to take out supplies to prepare a meal. Marshtomp watched her, his gaze distant and unfocused. “I’m going to leave.” The words tumbled out of his mouth. He hadn’t even meant to say them out loud like that. But now that he had, he felt some of the tension in him loosen.

“I know,” Taillow chirped. “I could sense it. You’re not happy.”

“But neither are you.” He peered up at Taillow. “You want a nickname. You don’t feel like she treats you as an equal.” More thoughts bounced through Marshtomps mind. “You don’t even like not having a pokeball.”

Taillow glanced briefly at Karina, then back down at him. “You’re right. Karina thinks she means well. She’s insulting. And demeaning. I know this.” She closed her eyes and sighed.

“Why stay then?” Marshtomp slapped his fin against the water. “You can fly away! Even if she had a pokeball you could just break it. It’s hardly as if she could hope to stop you. Why stay?”

“Because I want to help her understand.” Taillow preened her wing briefly. “Maybe one day she’ll get it. She'll understand that she doesn’t have to be my voice. I want to stay.”

A moment of silence fell as he contemplated her words.

She spoke again. “But you don’t have to. I made my choice. You should make yours.”

Marshtomp didn’t have to think twice. He bid Taillow farewell and never looked back.



The very next day Marshtomp found another trainer. Or rather, another trainer found him.

“Oh my gosh!” A loud squeal broke the peaceful morning air.

Marshtomp, who had been wandering through a patch of sparse woods, amusing himself by trying to knock berries off trees with a single water gun, flinched in shock at the noise. That had been louder than a Whismur’s wail, for Groudon’s sake!

Turning around, he spied a girl staring at him, eyes shining and hands pressed to her cheeks.

A Swalot was at her side, a fancy red bowtie perched just below his mouth. (Was that its belly? Chest? It was hard to tell.)

“Swalot, we have got to catch him!”

Swalot slimed forward into a battle stance. Or at least, he assumed it was a battle stance, although it just looked like the Swalot was resting in place.

Marshtomp grinned. He’d never fought one of these before. This could be fun. And this Swalot appeared blue. How odd. Was it stronger?

“Swalot, get em’ with a Sludge Bomb!” He opened his mouth wide, toxic purple energy gathering inside.

Instinctively, Marshtomp leaped to the side to dodge.

Swalot, however, didn’t fire the attack yet, instead raising up and doing a flamboyant spin before firing. Caught off guard, Marshtomp landed, only to get a face full of toxic goo. He staggered back and shook it off, a queasy feeling rising inside him. He swayed and groaned involuntarily.

Oh great. Poison. He’d forgotten how frustrating that could be. Only a few moves later, the battle ended. Marshtomp collapsed and blacked out. When he opened his eyes a couple minutes later, the girl was crouched over him, holding out a Pecha Berry. He took it and greedily wolfed it down, his strength returning.

“You are just the cutest!” She knelt in front of him and smiled widely. “Join me!” The words had hardly left her mouth before something pressed against his head. Red light filled his vision. And then the world around him faded. Excitement replaced tiredness as he realized what this sensation was.

This was it! A Pokeball!

A comforting, quiet darkness, yet not quite pitch black either, surrounded him. He could see, but there was no light. Emotional impressions flashed through him - excitement, passion, love for things beautiful. Foreign emotions though, not his own. Were these the girls' emotions?

He lashed out, striking at the inside of the ball. His fin connected and he heard a slight crack. He struck again, noting how a fine web of cracks seemed to appear. So it was true, the pokeballs could be broken. Raising his fin, he was about to strike again when he stopped. Did he want to break out?

Maybe this trainer would be it. Maybe she would give him what he was looking for. Fidgeting from one foot to the other, he weighed his options. Stay, go. She might be annoying like Karina, or she might be fun. Maybe she would be the one. Closing his eyes, he stopped and sat down. A stillness blossomed, then he heard a pleasant chime.

Light grew beyond his closed eyes. Opening them, he blinked and looked around. He stood on a strange, small sphere. It was almost like standing on a large ball, as he could see the ground curve away from him. Soft grass carpeted the area, almost mossy in feeling, and a short distance away he could see a pool of clear water next to what looked like a small den and a waterfall.

So this was the true inside of the pokeball.

Curiosity overtook him. He scampered all around the area, first to the pool of water, then all across the round grassy expanse, back to where he first started. A burst of happiness rushed through him.

Perhaps he had chosen well this time.



A short time later she released him from the pokeball. He emerged and looked around. They were in what appeared to be a small park in a city, a stretch of grass with some bushes and benches scattered about.

“Hi there!” she chirped. Her voice reminded him of a Starly. “My name is Felicity.”

The girl stood in front of him, flanked by Swalot, a Baltoy and a strange-looking red and white orb that he soon recognized as a Voltorb. Not a bad group, he guessed. Waving his flippers, he croaked out a tentative ‘hello’. He could see himself having some fun battles with them. And Felicity seemed nice. Less annoying than Karina.

He couldn't wait to start training and get even tougher-

“I’m gonna make you the most beautiful Marshtomp ever!”

Wait, what?

Next thing he knew she had scooped him up, put a bowtie and a suit jacket on him and was fawning over him. Swalot rumbled in approval, while the Voltorb rolled in circles, making a buzzing noise that sounded suspiciously close to laughter.

Marshtomp let out a long sigh. Oh by Jirachi’s stars... this was beginning to feel ridiculous.

“Oh my gosh, you’re just too much!” She scooped him up and spun in a circle, then hugged him. “You’ll do amazing in the PokePageant tomorrow!”

The what? She put him down, still beaming.

“Now you wait right here. I’m gonna get us all signed up!”

When she skipped away, Marshtomp turned to her pokemon. “What does she mean? What’s a PokePageant?”

Voltorb buzzed again, as if thoroughly amused.

Swalot chuckled. “Felicity is a performer. She specializes in doing contests you see, performances and displays that show off us and herself. She really enjoys performing with Pokemon people don’t commonly see.” He gestured with one of his stubby arms to Voltorb and Baltoy. “Like them. Or myself.”

“Oh. Are performances like... battles?”

Baltoy wobbled a nod. “Sort of.”

The two gave him quick explanations of the different types of performances. Some were contests that involved things like dancing and dressing up, while others were about showing off a pokemon with flashy moves. It all sounded pretty weird to him. Too weird. He could always leave but... Felicity was nice enough. It couldn’t hurt to give it a shot.

“I’m baaack!” Felicity bounced up to them. “We’re all set for sign-ups...now, for the fun part!” she announced, clapping her hands together.

Marshtomp just snorted and folded his arms. This would be...interesting.

That day and the next passed by in a whirlwind of activity. Felicity changed his outfit more times than he could count, practiced some weird flashy moves with her other pokemon, and tried to show him some different dances. Unfortunately, the strange motions felt alien to him and proved to be frustratingly difficult. Still, he wanted to try for her. There was an infectious passion to her that had begun to spread to him.

Eventually, the time for the pageant came. She dressed him in a strange suit jacket, an orange bowtie and perched a little hat on his head. The outfit was weird in his opinion, but Felicity and Swalot went absolutely crazy over it. Mere minutes later, Felicity urged him onto a stage in front of a wide crowd of other people and trainers.

Roaring applause flowed from the audience as he stepped awkwardly onto the stage. A few of the younger ones cheered loudly or squealed in delight, not unlike Felicity. Awkwardness prickled over his skin, but he shrugged it off. He was tough enough to handle this. Holding his head high, he strutted across the stage just as Felicity had shown him.

Walk to the end, walk back. Then it was over. He let out a sigh of relief once he was safely back in their private room with Felicity and the rest of the team.

“You did so well!” She squealed and hugged him tight enough to give a Machoke a run for their money, then set him down again. “There's gonna be another one in just a couple weeks and you’re gonna love it!”

She left to ‘take off her makeup’, whatever that meant, leaving him alone in the room with her other Pokemon.

Baltoy gave an excited spin. “So what’d you think?”

“Lovely, isn’t it?” Swalot offered.

Marshtomp gave them quizzical looks. “Lovely is not the word I was thinking of,” he muttered. “You guys enjoy this?”

Turning away, Voltorb sparked. “No. It’s ridiculous.”

“It’s fun!” Baltoy replied.

“But why?” Marshtomp protested. “I mean, what’s the big deal? You put on a weird outfit and stand in front of a bunch of people. How is this fun? I’d rather be having a battle.”

Swalot hummed for a moment, clearly considering his words. “I love Felicity. She makes us feel special. A lot of people used to think I was just an ugly blob. But Felicity is special. She wants to show people that all Pokemon are beautiful in their own way.”

Marshtomp glanced at Voltorb, who was scowling. “What about you?”

“I mean, Felicity is ok I guess.” He turned away, hiding his face.

Baltoy gave him a playful slap. “I saw you in that contest last week. You loved it.”

More sparks flickered across its around body and its eyes shifted. “Like I said, she’s ok, I guess.”

“Ignore the lad,” Swalot said amiably. “Pretends to not care, but we all know the truth.”

“I remember doing my first dance performance with Felicity.” Baltoy twirled in an elegant spin, its voice echoing a sense of fondness. “It was a disaster! I fell over and tripped her.”

Marshtomp grimaced. “That sounds horrible.”

“It was at the time, but Felicity helped me get so good!” Baltoy spun even faster and then somehow sprang into the air, doing a perfect 540 before landing. “See?”

“That’s pretty cool.” Marshtomp wasn’t sure how useful, but it was cool.

Her three pokemon soon lapsed into conversations of their own. Marshtomp listened for a while as they recounted prior performances and showed off some of their moves. They were certainly passionate, that much was clear. Even Voltorb, who pretended not to care, clearly did. And he did want to make Felicity happy. She was kind and cared well for her Pokemon, and wasn’t demeaning like Karina had been. In that moment, he resolved to give her a chance.

So for one week he stayed with her. He practiced the moves, tried his best to do the dances and wear the outfits. He practiced how to try and make his moves ‘flashy’ like the others could. By the end of the week though, he didn’t feel any better. He still tripped over his own flippers and his moves just knocked the other mons out, instead of exploding into sparkles, like Swalot somehow managed to do. Somehow (He still didn’t understand that logic).

The fact that Felicity had asked him to compete in a contest soon only made him more worried. She assured him she wasn’t worried about if they won, but he only felt worse. He wanted to win. For her. But he just wasn’t getting the hang of it.

“What if I never get the hang of it?” he remarked to Voltorb during a break in their training. They watched as Baltoy and Swalot practiced a technique that involved manipulating a wave of sludge spinning it around in an elaborate dance.

Voltorb grunted in response. Marshtomp had quickly learned Voltorb wasn’t much of a talker. But that was fine by him. Whatever he lacked in advice and talking, he made up for in being a willing listener. Or at least, Marshtomp assumed he was listening.

“I mean, I’m trying but... it's hard.” His mind wandered. Maybe he just wasn’t cut out to be with a trainer.

“Marshtomp.” Felicity’s voice jarred him from his thoughts and he looked up. She stood a few feet away, watching him, her normally cheerful face serious. Voltorb buzzed in unspoken acknowledgement and rolled away. Felicity knelt in front of him, staring into his eyes. Guilt and fear radiated from her. He saw a tremor in her hands as she crouched down.

He cocked his head and peered at her. What could she be so worried about? Was it the contest?

Felicity took a deep breath, wrapping her arms around her knees. “Marshtomp... do you want to stay?”

His jaw dropped open and he blinked dumbly at her.

Her voice wavered as she continued. “When I first saw you, I got so excited. I thought you were amazing the moment set eyes on you. I wanted the whole world to see that. But I’m afraid I got carried away.” She reached out and patted his head. He leaned into the touch slightly. He could sense so much uncertainty from her. He didn’t like seeing her sad.

“But I can tell. You don’t enjoy this life. My other pokemon all enjoy it, but you’re not having fun, and I’d never ask you to stay.” Her eyes shimmered slightly. She sniffled. “I’m sorry-”

He quickly reached out and patted her knee, rumbling as comfortingly as he could manage. Sure, the performances weren’t his thing, but he didn’t want her to feel bad.

She fumbled on her belt, then held out a pokeball. His pokeball. “I want you to leave. Find a trainer that suits you.”

Slowly, Marshtomp reached out and took the pokeball from her. He’d thought about leaving of course, it would have been easy enough to do. But her asking... he appreciated the sentiment. He gave a happy croak to let her know, and she smiled, despite the tears trickling down her face.

He had chosen to join her, and he would choose to leave. But he didn’t regret it. With a twitch of his flippers he exerted as much force as he could, cracking the ball in his fins. Then he dropped the broken husk on the ground and looked up at her face. He offered her a smile, which she returned, then a high five.

As he left, however, he found himself glancing back once or twice. Felicity might not have been his trainer, but he’d miss her all the same.



Marshtomp’s cheeks bulged as he continued to plod along the dirt path. The field before him seemed to stretch out like an endless sea of green, broken only by the forest off to the east and the sea to the west. A week had passed since he’d left Felicity, and what a boring week it had been. He encountered a few trainers, but none really appealed to him. One or two had managed to throw a pokeball at him, but he’d simply broken free and left.

Of course the first two trainers he’d found weren’t fits for him. What luck. Some small part of him was beginning to wonder if perhaps he was doomed to do this for the rest of his life. Was he too picky? Maybe he was overthinking. Perhaps he should just join any trainer, or even go back to Felicity. At least she wasn’t hopelessly annoying like Karina had been.

Maybe he should just give up. Go back to roaming the wild... chilling in the mud all day...blowing mud bubbles...nope. Too boring. He needed a trainer.

“Groudon, send a good trainer my way. Please?” Some of his podmates thought it ridiculous to wish on Groudon but it made perfect sense - Jirachi was always sleeping but Groudon would probably hear him. After all, Marshtomp were practically cousins to Groudon! They were both Ground types after all.

Either Groudon heard his prayer or a pleasant coincidence happened because not five minutes later, a sudden blast of energy passed over his head. He whirled around to see a Ledian hovering a short distance away, antennae twitching. Behind him stood a trainer in a dark jacket. His arms were folded and his mouth turned into a scowl.

Marshtomp paused. He stared defiantly at the trainer, who stared back with equal ferocity.

“Well, weakling? Gonna fight?” the trainer growled.

Ledian said nothing, but a faint smirk of arrogance played across its mouth.

Oh, it was on. Letting out a loud croak of challenge Marshtomp fired a Mud Shot at Ledian. It crashed harmlessly to the ground, Ledian seemingly having vanished. He narrowed his eyes. Where-

A blow connected with the back of his skull and he faceplanted. Shaking himself, he got up and spun, only to get clobbered in the face again. By Rayquaza, that thing was fast!

He blinked and jerked about, trying to get a bead on the Ledian as it buzzed about unpredictably. It suddenly fired a beam of red energy at him, which he narrowly dodged. He retaliated with a jet of water, nicking its leg.

The battle blurred into a hail of blows and strikes. Marshtomp only managed to get in two more hits the entire match, to his fury. Ledian proved terribly agile and quick, coupled with his trainers sharp commands he proved a worthy adversary. In minutes, he found himself on his all fours, panting and dizzy, his energy spent. He looked up, trying to gather his strength to rise. The trainer didn’t hesitate.

“Finish it.”

Ledian zigzagged, then rushed forward. Marshtomp felt the brutal blow connect with his chin. Dark clouded everything for a brief second. His senses dulled but his mind remained active. He could feel his body go slack as it rapidly healed, recovering some of the energy spent in the fight.

Excitement over rode any frustration he may have felt about losing. He’d actually been KO’d! No stopping the fight, no pulling punches. A clean knockout. Something bumped his head. Red filled his vision as a familiar tingle spread over his body. Warm darkness wrapped around him, a feeling of safety and relief. He blinked open his eyes. The sensation was strange, otherworldly. He stood in a spherical expanse, neither light nor dark.

He immediately recognized the pokeball. Something was different now though. Experimentally, he reached out and tapped the inside. The walls felt tougher somehow. Ah, so this was a fancy pokeball. Clearly this trainer really cared. From what he did understand about the human ways, pokeballs beyond the basic kind weren’t easy to come by.

Raising a flipper, he prepared to break free, then paused. He could leave now if he wanted, and yet he wasn’t sure he wanted to. That battle had been so good. Not at all like his first human. This trainer had absolutely beat him down, knocked him out. Fearlessly bold in battle. He wanted to fight like that. Respect began to grow within him.

Lowering his flipper, he smiled, lay down, and curled up. Yes, maybe this one was someone he could stay with.

A soft ding echoed through the space a few seconds later.

“I’ll call you Thelonious.” His new trainer's voice carried through the ball easily. Inside, he smiled. He had a good feeling about this one.



“Razor Leaf.”

Thelonious stiffened and braced himself as the leaves crashed against his skin. The sudden drain of energy made him sway and he fell forward, barely catching himself with one flipper. Sucking in a sharp breath, he forced himself to stand again. Hardly had he risen before more struck.

A croak slipped from his jaws and he fell to all fours. He could feel himself slipping... His limbs trembled. No. No he could take this!

Another struck. Green filled his vision, his flippers slipped but he caught himself just before falling flat.

“Come on Thel!” his trainer’s insistent cry roared.

Thel’s head shot up. He narrowed his eyes, determination pulsing through him, then opened his jaws wide. A beam of pure white energy poured out, striking the Nuzleaf and knocking it clear off its feet.

Triumph replaced any tiredness Marshtomp felt at the moment and he stood tall, chest puffed out. His trainer, Simon, called the technique Bide. He could store up energy and absorb hits, then unleash it back at the opponent.

He gazed up at Simon, and met his eyes.

“Tch. Not bad.” The tiniest of smiles tugged at Simon’s lips, and Thel could sense the pride pulsing off him. And Thel was happy.



The next week blazed by with more rigorous training. Thel delighted in every second of it. He’d never fought so much or frankly, gotten beaten so much. Most of his sparring partners back home had consisted of the occasional Zigzagoon and Rattata. Maybe a bold Wurmple or two.

Here he had real sparring partners. There was Bu, a brash Grumpig, who never held back in battle. Cronis, the Ledian he’d fought, and Noki, the Nuzleaf. Simon’s starter and strongest member, who was wily and cunning.

They would travel all over, fighting lots of wild pokemon, and sometimes each other. Once, he even got to fight somewhere the humans called a ‘gym’, which was apparently something of great importance to Simon. The battle had been one of his most enjoyable yet, and pushed both him and Simon to their limits.

Simon was tough, harsh and demanding, and his training exhausting. And Thel loved it. Oh, he loved every moment of it, every repeated attack, every exercise, every shout to try harder and get stronger. This was what he’d been searching for. Someone to push him.

One such bout of training found him frantically dodging attacks from Cronis, Noki, and Bu, all at once. They’d stopped in a wide clearing, deep in a forest, far from other trainers and any routes. Simon gave them instructions on how to practice, then stepped away to give them space as he did his own training.

Psybeams exploded at Thel’s feet, while blasts of energy rained from above, all while Noki’s razor sharp leaves nicked his skin. He lunged, sprang and hurled himself out of the way of the attacks, struggling to keep up thanks to his small hindlegs.

He rolled to the side, narrowly missing getting hit by one of Noki’s razor leaf attacks, only to be rewarded by Cronis’ fist in his side. Grunting, he jerked away. Something crashed into his other side and he caught a flash of purple in the corner of his eye. Bu.

Before he could move again, the pearl on Bu’s head pulsed blue. Thel’s body froze up. Psychic. Attacks rained on him from Cronis and Noki. He thrashed against the psychic hold. If he could just break free-

“What are you doing!?” A high-pitched yell cried out.

The attacks stopped. Bu released him and Thel scowled and looked up, as did Simon. Another trainer, one with spiky red hair and a black cap, stomped into the clearing, a Minun perched from his cap.

They stared at the newcomer, annoyance shared among them.

“What are you doing?” Simon demanded. He folded his arms. “You’re interrupting our training.”

“My name is Ember Givitallo!” Ember smirked. “I’m from Nuvema Town!” His face shifted to a frown.

‘What kind of human gives their full name like that?’ Bu muttered.

Simon sighed. “I don’t care who you are. Give me one good reason you’re interrupting us or get out of my face now.”

Ember puffed out his chest and glared at Simon. “You can’t train like that! You’re just having all your pokemon gang up on Marshtomp! It’s not fair!”

Simon staredly coldly at Ember. “Are you kidding?” Snorting disdainfully, he turned his back on the red-haired boy. “Don’t tell me how to train my pokemon.”

“Hey! Don’t turn your back on me!” Ember stormed up to Simon. “Pokemon are our friends! You can’t treat them like that!”

Well this was new. They’d encountered a few trainer’s who’d battled them, and once they’d gotten some odd looks from another and moved on, but this was the first time someone had tried to say anything about training. Thel spared a perplexed glance at Bu, who simply shrugged. “Humans,” he muttered. “Always acting like they know us better than we do.”

Simon didn’t turn around, keeping his back to Ember as he spoke, his tone harsh. “I don’t remember asking for your opinion. Leave me alone.”

“Not until you stop!” Ember narrowed his eyes. His glare burned into Simon’s back.

Thel tensed as he noted Simon’s body stiffen. His hands clenched into fists. Thel’s frown deepened. Something wasn’t right. He’d seen Simon angry before, but this wasn’t anger he sensed from his trainer. This was something deeper. He sensed hurt from Simon. He glanced at the others. “What’s going on?”

Noki’s gaze was dark, and he remained silent. Cronis buzzed his wings, watching the scene unfold. “Savior complex, if you ask me.” He cocked his head to regard Ember. “I wish they’d leave Simon alone.”

Noki nodded quietly in agreement. His gaze was fixed on Simon, sympathy flickering behind his dark look.

“So this happens a lot?” Thel asked.

“Unfortunately, it's not the first time,” Noki murmured. “Thing is, Simon isn’t what most humans call overly amicable. So he doesn’t have many friends.”

So Simon had to deal with this all the time? His team too? Being talked about like they all hadn’t chosen this? Like they were just stupid? Too dumb to think for themselves?

Simon started to walk away, his movements stiff. Noki sighed and followed. Cronis began to follow, as did Bu.

Quite suddenly, Ember moved in between them and Simon. Minun shifted to peered at them curiously. Then Ember spoke, his voice annoyingly friendly. “You guys don’t have to go! It’s ok, come on. You don’t have to stay with someone like him.” He held out his hand and smiled. “You can join my team if you like. Come on.”

Noki rolled his eyes, stepped around him, and kept walking. Cronis simply flew over his head, while Bu pushed him aside.

Ember’s earlier words kept playing in Thel’s head however. Pokemon are friends. Pokemon are friends. Rage boiled in him. How DARE he! How dare he imply that he and Simon were not friends?

Instinct seized Thel. He dropped to all fours, energy swirling inside him. The tug of land and sea... The ground under his flippers grew damp. He felt the sensation of that energy rising behind him, growing larger and larger.

Ember’s expression shifted from one of pity to terror. Minun’s eyes widened and it sprang nimbly away.

Then a wave of dense, muddy water surged across the earth and splashed into him. The boy was carried off his feet and down the hill, where he sloshed to a stop, gaping in utter bewilderment.

Bu snorted with laughter. “Nice, Thel!”

Thel stared down at the boy and waited until he made eye contact. Then he stuck out his tongue and walked away.



Later that day, Thel curled up in his pokeball, feeling content for the first time in awhile. Outside, he could sense the faintest movement as Simon traveled by foot down a route. There probably weren’t any good opponents around, or Simon would have sent him from his pokeball. Which was fine by him. He had little interest in walking around constantly. Leave that to the humans. Besides, he liked it here. It gave him time to think.

His thoughts kept circling back to Ember’s words. He’d had had it all wrong. Pokemon were friends. But there was more than one form of friendship.

Yes, Simon was harsh and tough. But they had all chosen Simon as much as he’d chosen them. He worked hard and asked the same of his pokemon not because he was trying to be cruel, but because he respected them.

Just as Felicity wanted to bring out the beauty of her pokemon, Simon wanted to bring out their strength. Thel loved that about him. Simon never patronized him, or pitied him. He recognized Thel as the powerful pokemon he could become, and he was happy to oblige. Simon wasn’t just his trainer. Simon was his friend. No matter what anyone else thought.

A pulse of warmth flowed through him and Thel realized Simon had brushed his hand against the pokeball. From inside, Thel heard Simon’s voice as he spoke softly. “Thank you, Thelonious. For defending me.”

Thel smiled. Thank you, Simon. For everything


Thank you all for reading!! First up, I'd like to talk a little about what my intentions are, and hopefully see how close I came to that. I'll review the major story beats.

First off, the tone of the story is intended to feel a little exaggerated to make a point. But I also know I probably come off too hard in places and don't balance it as well as I'd like. Let me talk a bit about the characters... Each one draws a little from personal experience.

Karina. Karina is meant to represent a type of person I've encountered before irl. Someone who seems like your friend but patronizes you and acts like you can't think for yourself/make your own choices. Despite acting like she cares about her pokemons well being. She's decided, based on her own personal beliefs, what is best for them, instead of trying to understand them. In her head, she's already decided she's their voice, therefore; she knows best, what she wants for them is all that matters. Instead of actually trying to work together with them. It only about her interpretation of whats best for her Pokemon.

Shown in the way she tends to talk over her Pokemon instead of understanding their unique needs and desires.

Some real-life allegories are:
Parents who helicopter their kids and decide whats right for them, people speaking over people to decide whats best for them and whats right, not actually listening, toxic friends who ignore your wishes; saviour complexes.

Now, I understand I may have fallen short in this regard, and welcome any critique in how to portray this smoother.
Karina isn't meant to say 'looking out for someone's well-being/making sure they want to do something' is bad. It's meant to display a false savior complex and a belief that you're allowed to dictate the desires of another being based on what you think is right. That its your wishes above theirs.

Next up. Felicity.
Felicity is a foil to Karina, in a way. A regular trainer, out to catch a new pokemon and make a new friend. She's definitely not in the wrong, she's simply overexcited. Through it all, Marshtomp makes a conscious choice to stay as well, which he acknowledges. By the end of it, both realize they aren't a good match. This is to symbolize that its quite common to find trainers who 'release' a pokemon, and have pokemon choose to leave.

It's meant to show a bittersweet, positive side to pokemon training, that a lot of trainers can be decent too. After Karina, I didn't want to rain or rail or contests/pageants etc, so I went for a middle ground. All of her pokemon love her and love doing the pageants. Marshtomp simply doesn't. Eventually, she realizes this and asks him to leave.

Both parties made their own choices.

Simon. Ah Simon. Simon is a classic 'bad rival' stereotype that I hoped to examine further. I've always found the notion that pushing Pokémon hard is 'bad'. After all, if Pokemon are sapient, thinking beings, how is it any different from a personal trainer who goads you to try your best?

I tried to highlight that Thel enjoys all of this. He wants to pushed because he needed it. He didn't want babying, patronization, or someone speaking over him. Thel himself values strength, skill, power and stoicness. This is meant to highlight that striving for something hard, putting in a little pain for gain is good. Thel chose it the same way Simon's other pokemon have.

This chains lastly into Ember. Ember is meant to represent, once again, a very specific sort of person. A well-meaning but once again, oblivious sort of person. His patronization comes from him assuming something with no context. He thinks that because him and his pokemon operate one way, thats the only way a trainer can behave. A sort of moral superiority.

Without asking, thinking, or further examining, he wanted to enter in on the lives of 5 fully thinking and feeling beings, and tell them how to live their life. I experienced this personally myself, when I was a young adult. A group of friends and I were talking, joking and having fun. Because we were all close friends, we would often make sarcastic or seemingly 'mean' comments. From the outside, perhaps it sounded bad to anyone who was a total stranger, but we were all laughing and having a good time.

Another adult, someone who did NOT know us well came over and began criticizing us, inserting himself into our conversation, and telling us how to behave. Telling us we weren't allowed to talk to each other like that, demanding we not do that even when informed otherwise. Even when reassured by everyone present that it was fine, he pressed the issue.

It was frustrating and annoying, and frankly a bit demeaning too.

In this context, I focus on battling, because its integral to a Pokémon (specifically Thel).

If pokemon are truly equals but play different roles, and battling isn't a harmful sport (in the context of this world), Ember is the equivalent of an angsty kid running up to a martial arts training match and yelling at them that friends can't hit each other. Simon cares a lot about his pokemon, they just happen to have different values. He's no better or worse than someone like Felicity, whose team loves beauty and finesse. And no worse than Ember, either.

Ember isn't meant to show that being friends with pokemon or having a different training method is bad. Ember is meant to show that it is not up to you to dictate exactly what a friendship looks like, or how a group of friends or colleagues are allowed to work together. That while being concerned for someone is fine, acting like your way is better is wrong.

Now I understand I may have come off too heavy in all these instances I wanted to portray. Swamping Grounds is supposed to have a strong undercurrent of choice and different forms of friendship, as well as what it means to be a trainer. It's supposed to show different trainers and their pokemon, and their relationships they've chosen. My real goal was just to examine some different situations and types of people, drawn a little from my own personal experiences.

I hope to revise this more and more cleanly and concisely address these issues and how they are framed. I especially hope for specific critique in how to portray this message clearer.

If you read all this.... well thank you!!! it means the world to me and I welcome critique!
 
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canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
  2. custom/houndoom-elliot
  3. custom/yamask-joanna
Hey, I found this in the story index spreadsheet and gave it a read.

Warm, thick mud cocooned Marshtomp up to his neck. He twitched his two tail fins restlessly, flexing his arms as he peered from his spot in a marsh, scanning the area for trainers. He narrowed his eyes, then sighed, blowing a thick mud bubble. Despite sticking near a main route not far from one of the towns in hopes of meeting a trainer, he hadn’t seen anyone particularly interesting for the past two days.
I like the way Marshtomp just chills in the mud like this. Feels like something a Marshtomp would do.

But on the other, she was the first trainer he’d seen.
This feels like it contradicts a bit with Marshtomp describing how he'd try to challenge other humans with the assumption of them sending out Pokémon? That implies he assumed they were trainers, right?

He set his mouth in firm line,
I didn't understand what this meant.

Her eyes, however, shimmered with shame, revealing her true feelings.
I can't really visualize this, especially when "shimmering" is such a positive-sounding term.

Light grew beyond his closed eyes. Opening them, he blinked and looked around. He stood on a strange, small sphere. It was almost like standing on a large ball, as he could see the ground curve away from him. Soft grass carpeted the area, almost mossy in feeling, and a short distance away he could see a pool of clear water next to what looked like a small den and a waterfall.

So this was the true inside of the pokeball.

Curiosity overtook him. He scampered all around the area, first to the pool of water, then all across the round grassy expanse, back to where he first started. A burst of happiness rushed through him.

Perhaps he had chosen well this time.
This was a very interesting take on the inside of a Pokéball! Though I didn't really get why it was dark at first and only lit up after a while?

“Groudon, send a good trainer my way. Please?” Some of his podmates thought it ridiculous to wish on Groudon but it made perfect sense - Jirachi was always sleeping but Groudon would probably hear him. After all, Marshtomp were practically cousins to Groundon! They were both Ground types after all.

Either Groundon heard his prayer
Groudon misspelled (I doubt it was intentional?) in the last two mentions.

He dropped to all fours, energy swirlin inside him.
Typo.

---

General Comments

So... this is where I would usually try to talk about a few different aspects of the story (I can say that I think the comedic bits have their dialogue and timing down well), but unfortunately I feel like they're overpowered the problems I have with the message and its presentation here.

A little bit into the interaction with Karina, I started to feel like this story was written from a place of spite, and that feeling only strengthened throughout the story. Karina feels like a meanspirited strawman based on the people that believe there are ethical quandaries related to Pokémon training and like to see trainers make sure that their Pokémon really wants to do what they're asking of them. The angle of the helicopter mom and the whole patronizing thing that emerged better once her section of the story went on did ease this feeling, but I still got the impression of "look at this stupid idiot, this is what you sound like", which felt like its point was more to insult than to make a constructive argument.

Felicity's segment I didn't really have any ideological problems with - it was pretty fun, actually - though it did feel like it went on longer than was relevant to the story. I'll move on to Simon and Ember, because I feel like that's where the bulk of my issues lie.

I can get the sentiment that some Pokémon do want to train hard and for them, trainers like this are just fine, but the presentation made it feel more like this was something that would be compatible with any Pokémon and if you question someone's training methods, you're someone that patronizes Pokémon and doesn't actually care about what they think. It seems that the message you wanted to give is that Pokémon can always choose if they want to stay with a trainer or not and thus abuse isn't possible, and that you shouldn't claim you know better than someone else's Pokemon about what's best for them.

But the thing is... there are countless, countless scenarios of abuse in real life where the abused could "just leave", but they don't. They may be physically able to leave, go to the cops, tell an adult or so on, but they don't. The reasons are social, psychological, financial, so on. And while Pokémon are these magical creatures, their psyches do seem humanlike, and it's a fair assumption to make that they, too, are vulnerable to the traps of mental manipulation. To imply that someone should avoid abuse by "just leaving" and that if they don't, they're causing it to themselves, is honestly horrible.

Moving on from the implications to my problems with the presentation: you explain that this story is meant to put a strong emphasis on choice, but that is simply not what I get. While Marshtomp does make the choice to leave both of the first two trainers, in neither case is he pressured to choose differently. It's very easy to choose something when no one is stopping you. Had Marshtomp actually ended up in a scenario where he was being forced to be on a team against his will, him being able to walk away would have felt much more like it mattered.

I'm gonna put my cards on the table so that you don't get me wrong: I don't think Pokémon training is inherently wrong, nor do I believe it's inherently problem-free. I believe it's very much possible to have and write healthy training relationships, but I also believe that having a power dynamic that lends itself to possible abuse means that some caution ought to be taken. Ultimately, a lot of the ethical status is dependent on worldbuilding details - how smart Pokémon are, whether they have an internal drive to battle, how much are they injured in a typical battle, how much legal power trainers have over their Pokémon, so on. It's reductive to say training is always problematic or always problem-free.

This story wants it to be as free of problems as it can, but what muddles this is how there are characters that clearly assume abuse can happen, which very much implies that it does happen - if there were no problems, ever, no one would feel the need to act against them. When Ember stepped in, I thought it was responsible. You should be able to question someone else's parenting/training methods, because if you weren't able to do that, abusive cycles would keep on turning. Him offering to take in all the 'mon he just met is his real sin, as that in turn is irresponsible and ignorant. If you see abuse, you ought to let professionals handle it.

(And this isn't about the story, but I feel like I should say it... what you described for the person that inspired you to write Ember sounds like something I did as a kid because I was autistic and did not understand social cues right but wanted fervently to fight against bullying. It may have been the case for that person, too. Ultimately, you're going to know the situation a lot better than me, but I just wanted to voice this possibility.)

Sorry about the rant, but I wanted to give my opinions. If you want to discuss these things further, I'm open to talking about them in DMs.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
I like the way Marshtomp just chills in the mud like this. Feels like something a Marshtomp would do.
Thank you!
This feels like it contradicts a bit with Marshtomp describing how he'd try to challenge other humans with the assumption of them sending out Pokémon? That implies he assumed they were trainers, right?
Heck, you're right, I'll fix this too.

I didn't understand what this meant.
Kind of like pursing your lips, or a grim smile? I'll try to clarify when I edit.

I can't really visualize this, especially when "shimmering" is such a positive-sounding term.
You're right tbh.

This was a very interesting take on the inside of a Pokéball! Though I didn't really get why it was dark at first and only lit up after a while?

Groudon misspelled (I doubt it was intentional?) in the last two mentions
Frick I always do this!!! Every time!!!! TY for pointing out

Thank!

So... this is where I would usually try to talk about a few different aspects of the story (I can say that I think the comedic bits have their dialogue and timing down well), but unfortunately I feel like they're overpowered the problems I have with the message and its presentation here.
So, I just wanted to thank you for being honest. I was aware that there was a lot of mixed messages and confusion in the delivery, and getting this review really help the perspective. I only know what's in my own head, so I really really really needed this. The message isn't presented well. I certainly didn't want to wholesale imply that training can't be bad, and abuse doesn't happen. Or that anyone trying to be mindful is bad, or even that this is the greatest version of reality. But I also see now why it's so muddled.

We discussed this over DM's already so I don't need to go in-depth, but I will be addressing a better balance in the future and to improve delivery.

I really want to rewrite this soon and I hope you'll be willing to check it out when I eventually renovate the whole thing. Thanks again!
 
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