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Pokémon Wandersword

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
31

art by me, qva/skylar/kyeugh.
banner edited from this
weird viking metal band that inexpicably shares a name with a word that i made up.
Author's Note
howdy folks. i'm qva, though you might know me from serebii as kacklord. my previous fic, Mongrels in Castelia, sort of fell through, so rather than attempting to actually finish what i've started, i'm making up some new thing for you all to suffer through! :D for real though, i feel quite a lot better about this idea, and am intent on sticking with it. i've only done a bit of planning for this, which is HIGHLY unusual for me, but i really just wanted to put this iron in the fire already, and i know that if i get too hung up on planning, it'll never happen. so here we are! i'm going to leave a content warning here for good measure: language, violence, and mild gore avast! i try not to be excessive, but, you know, it's a medieval pokémon story. shit happens. anyway, let's get to it! hope you guys enjoy. i'll leave this masterpost for a table of contents. as always, i'm open to suggestions and critique! additionally, feel free to ping me on discord at @kyeugh#0046. cheers!

 
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Prologue: An Auspicious Meeting

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
Prologue: An Auspicious Meeting
High Priest Doran had the finest horse in the empire. He knew this for certain, because he had personally ensured it. The horse's name was Providence, and he stood eight feet at the shoulder. His fur was a perfect, immaculate white, with brilliant blond hair up to the knee, and a striking, golden tail half the length of a man. Precious gems were threaded deftly into his radiant mane. Of course, Providence was a pure mudsdale, true as far back as the records of his ancestry stretched. There was not a purer, more perfect horse known to any groom in Callouse.

As it should be, for as they say, the horse should befit the man. And as of his ecclesiastical inauguration exactly nine days ago, there was quite officially no purer, more perfect man of the Lord in Callouse, either. His pristinely white vestments flapped in the wind behind him, bobbing with each of Providence's great steps. They clung tightly to his frame, accentuating his lithe yet lean build. The blond hair that framed his gaunt, stern face almost matched his mount's, though it was a touch duller. Between his larger-than-life appearance and the sizable escort of over a dozen soldiers trailing him, they must have cut quite an intimidating figure, he reckoned.

Far more intimidating, at least, than the droning lucario at his side. It was speaking slowly to Doran as it tried to keep pace on its little gogoat. The pathetic thing barely reached Providence's shoulder. Doran appreciated the way it forced the lucario to look up at him as it spoke.

"We're very glad Your Grace thought it wise to pay a visit to our tribe," the lucario said, gesturing around itself at the small community they were passing through. Though its Calloussian was respectable, its voice was rough and gravelly. It was the voice of a creature used to communicating in barks and grunts, Doran thought.

Doran took in at the area around them. It was quaint, he had to admit, and not all too different in character from the village he grew up in, if technological differences were to be ignored. Tents made from tauros leather stretched over branches dotted the area, though it seemed that most everyone was outside. Lucario of various shapes and colors tended to flames, or fussed with their cattle, or chased after rambunctious riolu. Doran would not wish squalor like this on his most pathetic inferior, of course, but despite it all, the inhabitants of this simple village seemed content and at peace. For these people— the lucario— Doran could see how it might feel like home.

"Relations between the Shalorrian Empire and the Lucario Tribe have been stagnant for the past few decades," the lucario continued, the foreign quality of its voice making its tone inscrutable. "We hope that Your Grace's visit will be the start of a new era of positive diplomacy between our peoples." Doran said nothing as they trotted onward. He had some words to say eventually, of course, but they were not for this prattling footman. The lucario opened its mouth to speak again, then hesitated. They made the rest of their way to the chieftain's hall in silence.

The building itself, unlike the teepees erected about the village, was just that: a proper building. Its walls arched from a stone base to form a semi-sphere of woven wood. Not a proper building in the sense that Doran knew a proper building to be, of course, but it was certainly leagues closer to a civilized structure than the tents. As they approached it at last, Doran dismounted Providence and turned to his escorts, patting the grand horse lightly on the shoulder. He snorted and shook his head in response.

"Soldiers," Doran said, looking right through them. "Keep after Providence for me, won't you? I don't imagine this meeting will take terribly long." The lucario that had led them there reached out haphazardly and opened his mouth again to speak, but this time Doran shot him a pointed, supercilious look, and gently placed a hand on the pommel of his ceremonial sword, as if daring the lucario to speak. He did not dare, so Doran stepped through the tapestry that served as the hut's door, white cape swishing behind him.

Within moments of entering it, Doran concluded that the hut's interior was unremarkable. Some more tapestries hung from the walls of the unlit room, and vases with simple, folksy patterns adorned the edges of the worn tile floor. Doran's splendid white clothing seemed radiant in the lackluster dimness of the space.

At the room's center stood an elderly lucario, dressed in a tattered red cape. A series of scars traced his face, as though from a scratch, crossing a cloudy white eye down to to the tip of his muzzle where the whiskers went silver. Here was a chief who had visibly won his office tooth and nail. These victories were just as apparent in the way he stood, sizing up the high priest with a wise pair of eyes, as they were in the physical signs of age and extensive combat that painted his body. If there were a lucario to fear in this whole tribe, there was no doubt that this was the one. High Priest Doran, of course, did not fear him all the same. In all his grizzled glory, the lucario did not even come up to high preist's chest.

"Good day to you, Your Grace," the lucario said, inclining his head slightly but keeping his eyes locked in contact with Doran's. Surprisingly, his accent was quite near perfect. He sounded more like an old, gruff man than a beast making attempts at a distinguished tongue.

Doran nodded curtly. "Good day to you as well, Chief Silverfoot. Shall we get down to business?"

The lucario did not let down his front of wariness, though a spark of confusion did rise behind his expression. "I am not aware of any business, Your Grace," he said slowly. "It was you who arranged this visit."

"Indeed," Doran replied, forcing his tightly pursed lips into a smile. He began to walk about the room as he talked, pretending to closely analyze the tapestries on the wall. He could feel the elder chief's glare burning holes into his back. "I am new to my office, as you know. The previous high priest was a... differently minded man than I, that much is for certain. Careful to please, never overstepping his perceived boundaries, even for the spiritual wellbeing of the empire. Why, though he sought merely to avoid strife, the empire reached new heights of corruption under his careless eye. Relations abroad grew icy and unfamiliar as time weathered on... Even you, our nearest neighbors, are now but distant friends. Do you know this to be true, Chief Silverfoot?"

"I know it to be true," the lucario confirmed, "though I never knew why. The politics of Your Grace's people remain a hazy mystery to the sharpest lucario minds, I'm afraid."

"Indeed," Doran muttered, breaking into a small, skewed grin. He turned about to face the lucario, and met eyes with a beast different than the one who had greeted him just moments ago. Now the chief's eyes seemed curious, searching. Genuine. "Tell me," Doran continued, taking a few leisurely steps forward, "would it affront you to hear the former High Priest Antoine called a coward?"

"Mm." The chief narrowed his eyes, thinking. "No. The man you have described to me sounds like a coward. It is fitting," he said.

"Yes." Doran turned back to the wall and gazed out the makeshift window. There were riolu playing outside, mocking swordplay with straight sticks as their parents watched, lips contorted upward in bestial smiles. "This is where he and I differ. Antoine was spineless, I daresay. The High Regalia should have never graced his unworthy head. But I am no coward. I am righteous. I am justice. I am the right hand of God. The tiara on my temple decrees it. I have come here to speak with you, Chief Silverfoot, not as an emissary of the empire, but as an ambassador of the One Most High. Do you understand me?"

The lucario did not respond immediately. Doran stood there, hands clasped behind his back, until he did.

"I shall attempt to, Your Grace."

"Good. Then, understanding my place at the side of God, I cast away my reservations and tell you this: there are those within Callouse would would slander your people as godless pagans. Idol worshipers and servants to worldly things. I must know, Chief Silverfoot. Is this true?"

Again, the lucario did not say anything at first. Doran could hear him slowly lowering himself to his haunches, grunting exertedly as he fell into a sitting position on the ground. "You have spoken of yourself at great length now, Your Grace," he said. "Would you hear my words for a moment?"

Doran turned about, looking down at the seated chieftain. "If I must."

The lucario took a deep breath, a knot in his brow betraying his displeasure. A moment passed in silence before he began to speak. "There are those among my people who can see the souls of the living. What do you think of that?" he asked.

"It sounds to me like blasphemy," Doran sneered. "God alone sees the souls of men. And of... Others. Any who claim to do so themselves are lying apostates. They should be forced to repent."

"I thought you might say so," Silverfoot replied solemnly, shutting his eyes and pressing his hands together. His position seemed somewhat meditative now, but he continued to speak, eyes still closed. "Yet I am among those who can see into the hearts of others." He pressed his brows together, and his body began to tremor almost indetectably. "I can see Your Grace's as we speak. Flickering beneath those gaudy robes of white and gold, I see a flame of dark black. What is it you truly wish to know, High Priest Doran? I can see now that you are not here merely to chew the fat with an old lucario."

The priest's face contorted. He forced his lips apart to speak, vein bulging in his neck. "You dare—"

Silverfoot held up a paw to stop him. Remarkably, it worked. "Your religion decries that which I know to be true. That which I can see plainly with my own eyes. How, then, do you suggest I follow it, or urge my people to follow it?" His lips curled into a snarl as he drew a deep breath. "I mean you no disrespect, and it is true that I am many things, Your Grace. A murderer, even. But I am no liar."

The elder chief's eyes snapped open. Sharp, icy blue pierced through his milky cataracts and granted him True Sight. He expected it to show him a face knotted and pulsating with unbridled anger, but it did not. High Priest Doran was leaning over the lucario, cape draped at his sides. A serendipitous smile split his face, sweet and serene. His heavy eyelids fell halfway down his knowing gaze, and if Silverfoot didn't know better, he might think the priest was staring into the eyes of a lover. The lucario frowned deeply. The priest's spirit was inscrutable now.

"I respect your honesty," Doran said, standing straight again and moving toward the exit. "Truly, I do. You have told me exactly what I wished to hear. For this, I thank you. But... Yes. I have heard all I needed. I'll be taking my leave." He paused just before passing through the curtain at the hut's door, and turned back. "I did make one misjudgment of you, however. Perhaps you'd like to know? I saw your scars and read them, foolishly, as testaments to your prowess in combat. Testaments to your resolve. Yet I see them for what they are now." His innocuous grin twisted into one of condescension. "Lines of weakness. Perhaps if I'd interpreted them correctly from the start, we would have finished this little chat ages ago. They are not symbols of your victories. Memories of hits you have taken, that you could have evaded. They are symbols of your inability to protect yourself. " He turned back around, and walked through the curtain. "Or your people."

The brightness of the outdoors almost blinded Doran as he stepped out of the hut. He raised a hand over his face to block the sun from his squinting face. The escorts stood at attention at the sight of him, two of them holding Providence's reigns. One of them stood slack, and was chatting casually with the lucario who had led them there. He seemed unaware of Doran's presence. The priest approached them.

"You."

Both the guard and the lucario snapped to attention, stricken with fear. "Your Grace," the soldier said, saluting stiffly. Doran looked him up and down. Though he stood a few inches taller than Doran himself, the priest couldn't help but find him pathetically small.

"Take care of your friend here," Doran instructed, pointing at the lucario with a thin, outstretched finger.

"Your Grace?"

"Kill him. Immediately."

The soldier swallowed hard, hand moving reluctantly and clumsily to the sword at his side. The lucario's eyes flitted back and forth between Doran and the guard, and the look of panic in its eyes slowly melted into one of understanding. It leaped backwards, raising its paws and then clapping them together. They came away from one another cloaked in translucent blue flame.

"Now, soldier," Doran reiterated. The soldier nodded, and the hesitance in his eyes fell away. Though he had been chatting with the lucario just moments ago, his training held true and would not be erased. At his core, he was a soldier, conditioned to follow the order of any superior, harsh as it may be. Doran knew this. He expected no less.

There was no fight. The soldier proceeded and caught the small lucario by the arm. It struggled to no avail as the guard raised his sword underhand and plunged it through the canid's neck. Its head fell to the grass soundlessly, body following shortly afterward. Dark red blood spilled over the field.

Someone screamed. Commotion ensued. Doran was only aware of it peripherally as he turned to his soldiers, and frankly he did not care to watch it more closely than he had to. Soiling his fingernails with dirt was not part of his job. He was here to give orders, and that was exactly what he intended to do.

He walked over to Providence and allowed a pair of soldiers to lift him onto the great mount's back wordlessly. He settled himself into the saddle, took the reins, and then looked down to his guard.

"Men," he said, looking them over. They all seemed fearful in the smallest way. Fearful? Anxious perhaps. Doran did not know. He was not acquainted with the emotions of war. "Subjugate this village. Kill if you must. These beasts are our property now. I expect to see them all in shackles a week from now."

The soldiers saluted. "Yes, Your Grace," they chanted. They were obviously practiced words. Familiar. Easy to cling to in moments of doubt, Doran suspected. He didn't care if they doubted, really. If he returned to a mutiny, well... He'd have a guard twice as large at his side then, and quick work would be made of the dissenters. No, it did them no good to resist. He looked down at the guards as the expendable muscle that they were, and nodded.

"I want the chieftain dead. Preserve the rest if you can. Best of luck to you, men. Do not disappoint me."

He took a deep breath before departing. Screaming. The cleansing smell of rising flames. Righteousness. Justice. I am the right hand of God.

They drew their swords and began to fight. Doran urged Providence forward and did not look back.
 
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Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
High Priest Doran had the finest horse in the empire.
Oh, this guy is gonna be pleasant to read about, isn't he?

"Relations between the Shalorrian Empire and the Lucario Tribe have been stagnant for the past few decades," the lucario continued, the foreign quality of its voice making its tone inscrutable. "We hope that Your Grace's visit will be the start of a new era of positive diplomacy between our peoples."
So, I think with this bit, you did a pretty good job at sort of establishing what sort of setting we're looking at here. Medieval of some kind, with at the very least Lucario who are capable of speaking in some capacity, and can build societies of their own. And most importantly, the sort of conflict being set up in the prologue, though since it's a prologue, it's kind of hard to determine exactly what's going on.

He had some words to say eventually, of course, but they were not for this prattling footman.
Yeah he's pretty much awful in every way, isn't he?

I am righteous. I am justice. I am the right hand of God.
Yep.

--

Alright, so the prologue was short and sweet, though I meant sweet in an ironic sense considering the subject matter! I think you did a good job at depicting this central character as, well, all-around a bad person, to the point where his aura/soul is a black flame. At least you justified it! Though I am left scratching my head about the power dynamics here, and just how far that's strayed. The Lucario didn't put up a fight against... a human? He had blue flames and everything, yet the soldier can just walk up and grab him? For the sake of theatrics, I sort of understand, but it did take me out of the moment. Maybe there's some political background to why nobody retaliated or attacked back, but it was... just an odd standout portion of the scene for me that was odd.

Anyway, short prologue leads for a somewhat short review, but it's definitely an interesting take, despite the odd theatrics. I'm curious to see where this will go... though I'm hopeful this prologue is the only time for a while that we'll see the world from this guy's perspective, hoo boy.
 
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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Hoo boy, I'm glad I decided to check this out. You pretty much caught my attention right away with that... ahem flattering picture of Doran painted by the opening paragraph. I'm already totally on board for your interpretation of medieval Kalos, and after such a short opener too.

Like Namo, I did find it a little weird that the Lucario didn't fight back. I understand that them being brutally murdered like that was important to the story, so maybe the knights' shields can deflect Aura Spheres or something like that. Just something to think about--if we're gonna see a blood-soaked, war-torn land, I expect the Pokemon's strength to not be forgotten. ;)

But anyways, very much looking forward to seeing where this goes.
 
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Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
It's nice to be reading something from you again! It's too bad I missed Mongrels in Castelia since it looks like exactly my kind of thing, but it'll be fun following this story from the beginning! It looks like you're going to be exploring some similar themes, too.

Far more intimidating, at least, than the babbling lucario at his side. It was speaking slowly to Doran as it tried to keep pace on its little gogoat.
Usually "babbling" makes me think "talking fast," so it's a little weird to have the lucario described as "speaking slowly" in the next sentence.

Lucarios of various shapes and colors tended to flames, or fussed with their cattle, or chased after rambunctious riolu.
The singular and plural form of pokémon species names are the same, so it'd be "lucario" rather than "lucarios." You use plural "riolu" instead of "riolus" later, but then "lucarios" again, so not sure if you were going for an intentional stylistic change there.

The building itself, unlike the tee-pees erected about the village, was just that: a proper building.
I think it's "teepee," without the hyphen.

He snorted and shook his head in response.
Certainly telling that the horse is a "he" and the lucario are all "it"...

Stepping out of the dim hut, the brightness of the outdoors seemed almost blinding.
Because of the way this sentence is constructed, "brightness" is actually what's stepping out of the hut. Rewording to something like "Stepping out of the dim hut, Doran was nearly blinded by..." would put the subject in the right place.

He settled himself into the saddle, took the reigns, and then looked down to his guard.
*reins

Welp, I pretty much knew how that was going to go down as soon as Doran arrived at the village. :P You've definitely hinted at a very interesting world here--I'm really curious about how pokémon fit into this world! You have the lucario who have their own society, language, etc., and then you have Providence, who is... a horse. Is he actually a super smart horse who just has the terrible job of carrying Doran around all day, or do pokémon have dramatically different levels of self-awareness and intelligence depending on their species or circumstances? Likewise that gogoat the lucario's riding. Clearly treating pokémon like animals isn't just a human thing! I'm also wondering if pokémon are rather powered down in this setting--like, ordinarily I'd expect lucario vs human, even human with sword, to not be a very good matchup for the human, but here human with sword definitely won, even though the lucario appeared to have some aura abilities. How humans managed to create and maintain a society where they're superior to the magical murderbeasts (especially without the advantage of pokéballs(?)) is always something interesting to explore in settings where there's such a clear disparity.

Since this is a prologue, I'm also curious whether Doran is going to be our main character going forward. You've set him up as a real love-to-hate kind of guy, which could make for an interesting narrative in and of itself, but this whole "slaughter the entire village" scene would make the classic setup for a "hero rising up and overcoming the evil empire" story. I could easily see us switching POV to a riolu or other pokémon who ends up coming for Doran in the end. The prologue sets up a clear direction for the narrative, but there are still different ways you could choose to execute on it; it'll be fun seeing which one you choose to go with.

I like the amount of detail you put into describing things like the lucario camp--I really liked details like how the leader's lodge had a tapestry for a door, and I thought your description of the leader himself was particularly arresting. The description of him using his aura powers was particularly cool. However, I think you might be going a little hard on the modifiers; in a lot of sentence, it seems like nearly every noun has some kind of descriptor attached to it, which makes the writing feel a bit boggy at times. I think it's generally more effective to try and be selective about where you spend your adjectives--when everything gets a lot of descriptors, nothing in particular truly stands out. By being a bit more sparing, you can direct readers' attention very effectively with just a couple of well-chosen descriptors.

Regardless, there's a lot of interesting stuff in this prologue. tbh I'm kind of curious how Doran ended up such a dick--he's kind of a fun love-to-hate-him character, reminds me a bit of the preacher dude whose name I forget in Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. The broader politics you hint at here, the church and human society and how it relates to pokémon are something I'm interested to learn more about, and if we do end up with a different protagonist, I'm eager to meet them! Anyway, you mentioned you haven't done much planning for this, but I hope that doesn't hold you back! This looks like a fun story, and I'm eager to see more. Good luck with it!
 
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Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
Location
The Yangverse
Pronouns
Any
So I really, really wanted to check this fic out because we are both doing medieval fic! Starring the Riolu line! But I can see we have very different approaches to the affair regardless, haha.

First off, since we start with him I wanted to talk about Dorian. He leaves... an impression, a good one in terms of how well he's characterized and a bad one with everything else. The fact his aura's a black flame is a nice touch. He's gonna be a fun antagonist!

The Pokemon being powered down with no formal training makes sense to me, I say since you were talking about that. Still, pretty brutal what happened. Hope some of those aura doggos end up OK. :(

But yeah this is a really good start and I'm hoping to see more.
 
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Chapter 1: The Twilight of Youth

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
hi guys! thanks a ton for your reviews. i took them all into consideration when writing this next chapter, so hopefully it's improved! sorry for the delay, i was really having a hard time writing this all out in a way that i was totally comfortable with, but ultimately it's better just to get it out and written even if it's not perfect, right? i've got a bit of a double feature here to make up for the lost time. with that, here's the first few chapters of the fic. hope you guys enjoy!

The Twilight of Youth
Fifteen years later…

What is the best way to spend one's final hours of freedom?

Some of the lucario were out feasting, singing traditional songs from their youth, laughing and cheering, celebrating their culture. And who could blame them? It was the last time they were permitted to do so, after all.

But Ferrycloth had no room in his heart for festivities and joy today. He was in no mood to celebrate. Rather, he was filled with dread. What was the sense in pretending otherwise? He wasn’t going to squander his last moments of liberty maintaining a facade for people he’d never see again.

Instead, he sat at the riverside, eyes closed, feet in the water, as he did every other morning. Unlike every other morning, however, his whole body was pulsating with a dull ache. God, but that human had made quick work of him yesterday. Years of combat training, just to be beaten into the dirt by the first hairless, duck-footed, flat-toothed monkey to swing a sword at him. He could only blame himself. Why wasn’t he better?

Well, no use in dwelling on it. For better or worse, here he was now, biding his last few hours of freedom in throbbing discomfort. The ambient pain and the numb feeling of the cold water as it flowed over his feet made it hard for him to hone his focus, but not impossible. With each deep breath, infinitesimal traces of life whispered across his inner eye, radiating warmth as they floated down the river lazily. Specks of algae, slow-crawling snails, the occasional school of minnows. All drifting away with the current, not thinking of their destination, content just to move. Ferry lost himself in their amorphous feelings, privately envious of their simple existences.

Something larger approached from behind. Ferry recognized its aura even without focusing on it. His ear twitched at the sound of its footsteps.

“Ferrycloth,” it said, coming to a stop behind him. Ferry pried an eye open and turned his head back, sizing up the speaker. Quicktail was a fist or two taller than Ferry, though at the moment he towered over Ferry’s sitting form. His legs were marked with sable stripes, and the fur on his face came to a point behind his eyes, giving him a fierce appearance.

“Shouldn’t you be out celebrating with the others?” Ferry asked, frowning. His focus on the auras of the river were gone now that his concentration had focused. The signatures reverted to nothing more than tiny, formless pinpricks of sensation on the back of his neck.

Quicktail shrugged and sat down next to Ferry, kicking up a bit of dust. Ferry raised his lip in gentle annoyance, dusting off his fur. “I’m feeling a little too pensive for all that,” Quicktail replied. “I could ask the same of you, couldn’t I? But I already know you’re wound up too tight to party with the rest, eheh.”

Ferry said nothing and cast his eyes back down to his feet. He wasn’t tightly-wound, he was just reasonable. All those lucario out in the tents, drinking and laughing and joking… They were in denial. Ferry was just seeing the situation for what it was rather than burying the pain under trite festivity.

“I heard you lost to your first opponent,” Quicktail said after a moment, his voice delicate. Ferry grunted. “I’m surprised to hear that. You’re one of the best fighters in the platoon.”

A growl rose in the back of Ferry’s throat. “Did you just come here to torment me?” he demanded, meeting Quicktail’s eyes with a scowl. “It doesn’t matter. The pairings are random. You fight until you lose. I happened to pair with a powerful human right away, and lost. Is that you wanted to hear?”

Quicktail raised his paws defensively. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I was just surprised, is all. I lost to my first opponent too.”

“Mm.” Ferry wasn’t surprised by that. Quicktail wasn’t a particularly accomplished fighter. He wasn’t sure if it made him feel better or worse that Quicktail had been beaten so swiftly, too.

“Looks like there’s only an hour or two left before midday,” Quicktail remarked, showing Ferry his timepiece. The chip of adamant crystal at its center was only off transparency by a slight white tint, indicating the approach of noon. Ferry frowned. “Guess this is it, huh? The end of our lives as free mon.” Ferry nodded idly, not speaking. It was true, but what was there to be said?

“Well,” Quicktail added, “I guess I don’t really have any regrets. I wasn’t the best fighter or anything like that, but I think I spent my time well. I enjoyed myself while it lasted. I don’t think there’s anything I would change.” He trailed off, eyes glassy and face relaxed. “What about you, Ferry? Are you content with the way things ended up?”

Instead of answering, Ferry leaned forward and plunged his hands into the chilly water, drawing a sharp breath at the sudden sting of the river’s touch. Feeling. Fleeting sensation. The things that kept him alive. He’d allowed himself to plummet pathetically into the shapeless whims of reminiscence and longing, but no more. He pulled his cupped paws out of the water and splashed it onto his face, his breaths again coming jerkily and loudly as his skin tingled beneath the beads of water clinging to his fur.

“You’re weak,” he said through a snarl as he stood up, water still dripping from his face.

“What?”

“I said you’re weak. Like the rest of them, pissing their last hours away. You’re a sentimental fool.”

“Okay, no need to be an ass about it, I’ll just get going—”

“You’re ‘content’ with the adolescence you spent in captivity like an animal, being trained to raise your fists against your brothers, all to eventually be sold into slavery to some ungrateful human like the object you are?” Ferry snapped. “Fine, go drink and make merry over the end of your free life with the others. You all make me sick, every last one of you.” His lips were curled now, baring his pointed teeth.

Despite the mutual knowledge that Ferry could pound him into dust trivially, Quicktail didn’t seem all that intimidated. “Where the fuck do you get off?” he asked. “You’re the one who threw yourself into their training. You’re the one taking all of this seriously. You really think you’re better than everyone else because they’re capable of pulling the sticks out of their asses even though you’re the one who’s been treating this whole thing like religion? You’re a hypocrite.” He put a paw to his forehead. “I can’t believe I felt bad for you. You deserve to spend your last free hours alone out here.”

Ferry gritted his teeth and slugged Quicktail in the face with all his might. The lucario stumbled backward with a loud grunt, but didn’t return a blow of his own. Instead, he stood up straight and clutched at his jaw, scowling at his assailant.

“Fuck you,” Ferry growled. “I don’t have to explain myself to you. Just go.”

“Fine.”

Quicktail was on his way, but Ferry wasn’t watching to see him leave. His vision was a rapid blur of red and black, anger so intense it made his head light. He curled his fist again and smashed it into a nearby tree. It crumpled with a resounding crack, splinters spraying from its surface, but did not fall.

The sun did not pause for Ferry as it climbed toward its zenith. Time was slipping through his hands like sand, flowing through the adamant shard in his pocket like the steady, unyielding course of the river. There was precious little of it left before Ferry surrendered himself to the shackles of servitude for the rest of his life. He was spending it raging at the world and bloodying his fists.

On one thing, he could agree with Quicktail. He had no regrets about the way he’d spent his time. Training, honing his skill, and now burning with rage at the unjust world, fury so hot it was painful to behold.

That’s the way a warrior fought and died. And whether it was for his people or another, a warrior is just what Ferrycloth was.
 
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Chapter 2: The Dawn of Adulthood

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
The Dawn of Adulthood

“So today’s the big day, eh?”

“That’s right,” Primeveire replied through a hearty bite of food. She hadn’t really checked to see what she was eating, but it was some kind of meat for sure, and damn, it was good.

“I can’t believe it,” Rowan said, kicking back and gulping down a mouthful of beer. “There really is a light at the end of the tunnel, huh? The training tunnel.”

“The training tunnel,” Prim echoed.

“Yes. You know what I mean. We’ve been doing this so long, it’s really strange to think of going to bed tonight and not waking up at four in the morning for formation.”

Prim shrugged. “Eh. Not really.”

“That’s because you never woke up at four in the morning for formation, you fucking slakoth,” chimed in Ulric from across the table, a grin splitting his face.

Prim shrugged again. “And yet here I sit, a free woman. Didn’t seem to matter that much, did it?” With that she took a hearty bite of her unidentified meat item.

“She’s right, you know,” Rowan added, half impressed and half depressed. “Reckon she could kick every one of our asses. Probably at the same time. You can afford to sleep in a little when you fight like that, the sergeants turn a blind eye.”

“Yeah?” Ulric challenged, squinting sardonically at Prim as she chowed merrily at her food. “I bet she couldn’t beat me in an arm wrestle.”

Rowan shot him a flat look. “That’s a bit unfair,” he conceded. “She’s a woman. Upper arm strength isn’t everything, anyway. You saw the way she beat the shit out of that lucario, didn’t you? Dead impressive.”

“What, I’m supposed to be blown away that she was able to kick a dog down like everyone else did, after years of specific training to do just that?”

“That thing wasn’t fucking around, man. You saw the way it punched.”

“We were all fighting lucario, Rowan. They all—”

The bone to Prim’s meat clattered loudly onto its metal plate. It was totally clean of flesh— the bone itself was scraped away in places by her teeth. “You want to arm wrestle?” she said, wiping off her greasy face on the back of her sleeve. “Okay, let’s do it.”

Everyone around the table chattered excitedly as they cleared out of the way, Ulric scooting to the side in order to sit across from Prim. He swept aside plates and napkins and cups with his big, calloused hands, and smacked his elbow onto the wooden surface of the table with a loud thump.

“Ooh,” Prim cooed, raising her eyebrows. “Big scary muscle man. I guess I’m in trouble, huh?”

“Guess we’ll see,” Ulric replied. Prim frowned. It was more fun when they took the bait.

Still she placed her elbow on the table cautiously, holding her hand in the air for a minute as she inspected her opponent. He was a big man, that much was for sure. His shoulderspan was probably close to double hers, and his hands were no doubt big enough to cradle her skull as easily as she might an apple. He was a man whose size was not just inherent, but honed and increased through hours of intense training. It made sense to her, suddenly, that he was so dismissive of her strength, and so irritated by her laziness. He’d worked hard to get where he was. Someone like her didn’t deserve the acclaim she was receiving.

But she got it anyway, didn’t she? Sucks to suck.

She clasped his hand and shivered at the grainy feeling of his giant callouses. He squeezed her hand back— he was hunched all the way over just so his hand could be level with hers. His eyes bored into her own with a smug confidence. This was not going to be a challenge at all for him, and he knew it.

“Three,” Rowan chanted excitedly, “two… One!”

Prim drove her heel into Ulric’s crotch from beneath the table. His eyes bulged in surprise and anguish, and an exerted grunt forced its way out of his lips. Prim’s face screwed into a crooked smile as she slammed his arm down onto the table effortlessly.

Rowan’s eyes were dinner plates. “W… Winner?” The table erupted into bewildered applause.

“Hey, what the fuck!” Ulric exclaimed, his face red from what was likely to be a cross between embarrassment and anger. “She just kicked me in the nuts! She cheated!”

“Yep,” Prim replied, beaming. “But I won, didn’t I?”

“Fuck you.”

Prim threw back her head and let out a hearty laugh. “Not today, I'm afraid.” She sighed as her smile faded, then stood up. “Right, I’m bored of this place. I guess it’s almost noon, huh?” she asked, checking her timepiece. The time crystal was just about fully transparent, clear as glass. “Ready to start the rest of our lives, boys?”

Her proposition was met by a round of cheers, save for from Ulric, who muttered some vague affirmative as he tenderly massaged his undercarriage. The other tables took note and rose to their feet with them. Just like that, they were swept out of the tent and onto the road, toward the clearing where their new lives would begin.

* * *

The lucario were all lined up and looking quite grim, as they often did. They looked quite funny, Prim thought, with their satchels and clothes and hand wraps. Like dogs playing human. But Prim had learned enough about lucario, both in her training and through her personal interactions with them, to know they were far more than that.

The soldiers were all queued up, facing forward. Prim had been told many times in the week leading up to today just how this ceremony would go. They were to step up, one at a time, and speak their name to the sergeant at front. The sergeant would then call out the name of the soldier’s paired lucario, and that lucario would step out of line and move forward to join the soldier. The sergeant would present the deed, and then the soldier and their newly bestowed lucario would be on their way… somewhere.

And it did advance just like that. One after another. And another. And another. A lady could get tired, standing out in the heat like this, nodding gently to the rhythmic patter of feet and distant calling of names. Why did the transition into adulthood have to be so bloody boring?

The lucario didn’t seem particularly thrilled, either. Most of them stood staring at the ground, tails swishing, fists clenched. Some of them were panting, pink tongues undulating from behind their pointed teeth. Prim thought she was burning up… How hot must they have been under all that fur?

It wasn’t all bad, though. Lucario and humans alike, everyone standing in this miserable, sweaty formation was standing in formation for probably the last time. Every one of them had spent most of their lives in training, and every one of them was looking forward at their final formal transaction before stepping out into freedom for the first time ever. The thought of it restored some vitality to Prim’s otherwise balmy, drowsy bones.

And before too terribly long, she was at the front of the line. Her turn. She proceeded carefully, boots clicking on the steps as she made her way up to the square-jawed sergeant. She met his eyes and spoke her name carefully. “Lady Primeveire of Cromlexia.”

A moment of relative quiet hung over the crowd as the sergeant peered over his paper, scanning for her name. Then: “Ferrycloth the lucario, come forward.”

There was no movement at first. Some of the lucario looked up and around, searching for their absent comrade. At least, he shuffled out from the queue and made his way down the aisle and up the stairs. Prim wasn’t particularly talented at telling lucario apart, but there was no way she could forget this lucario’s appearance. A furious scowl, eyes burning with fury, sharp teeth poking out from below a curled black lip. His hand wraps were stained with dry blood, his fur scruffy and his tail sweeping low, kicking up clouds of dust as he walked. From their single, brief bout of combat, Prim knew this lucario to have more raw, animalistic fury and strength than anyone or thing she’d ever met. Even though she’d bested him easily in combat, she couldn’t help but wince as he stepped up beside her, chest puffed and furious eyes fixed on the sergeant.

“Here I am,” he growled. The sergeant looked the lucario up and down, clearly dissatisfied with his disheveled appearance, but apparently decided it wasn't a matter worth his time, because he just turned his gaze back to Prim and began to speak again.

“As sergeant of the King’s Army, I hereby transfer stewardship of this lucario, Ferrycloth, to you, Lady Primeveire of Cromlexia. You are henceforth graduated from combat training and are pronounced an official Wandersword, ordained by His Royal Majesty King of Shallor.”

Prim saluted stiffly. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected to feel. Pride, perhaps? But no such thing was welling up in her bosom now— she felt empty and desolate, standing here at the altar of her duty and achievement. A frail scarecrow. This sweltering heat, the rugged and unkempt lucario she was to call partner for the foreseeable future, this empty and silent pit in her chest… It all felt so wrong. Void, underwhelming. But it was exactly as it was meant to be. This was her moment. The sergeant saluted her back and Prim walked to the end of the stage and down the stairs, her steps practiced and formal and rhythmic. Ferrycloth stomped unceremoniously behind her, skipping a step as he descended, fists clenched.

And then the ceremony was behind her, and she was free. The great blue sky stretched over her head, great alabaster clouds drifting gently across it, the heat of the sun at her neck. There was only one way to go from here.

“I hate you.”

Prim turned her head to look at Ferry. He was standing to her side, just a few feet behind, but he was not looking at her. His furious glare was focused ahead, fixed somewhere in the distance. She could feel the angry heat pouring off his body. It gave her the chills.

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, and continued walking. “But I guess we’re stuck together, huh?”

“Yes.”

Prim wasn’t going to say it, and it didn’t seem like Ferry was either, but there was a reason Ferry couldn't just walk away.

If he lashed out, or tried to escape, Prim would kill him. It would be quick and effortless. They both knew it, and the brief silence as they walked together back towards town was a nonverbal acknowledgement of that fact. For better or worse, they were stuck together.

“Make no mistake,” Ferry added, “I will serve you to the best of my ability, as is my duty. But I will not be pleased to do it.”

Prim frowned. At least he was going to be cooperative. That was the best she could ask for, right?

Yet, with a sulking wolf by her side, the road ahead seemed so much longer now than it had before.
 
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Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
Well! These have certainly been short chapters, but if there's anything I wasn't quite expecting, it was a jump 15 years later. Looks like all that happened previously isn't quite the main story, just the backdrop, though I imagine we'll be seeing that guy later.

I don't have very much to say about the chapters as a whole (I mean, they're short, so what do you expect?) but I will say one thing: the atmosphere is dreary! I know you're going for that, so good work on the depiction there of basically a sort of hopeless situation of a race of weaklings (which is also a bit jarring, but at least you established it early) oppressed by the humans.

I think you do a good job at depicting that hopeless/dreary atmosphere, though that's not quite the sort of thing I personally enjoy reading~ Perhaps some other time I'll get back to this when there are more chapters, but otherwise, I just want to let you know that you write it well.
 
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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
You know, I'm glad you opted to post these two chapters together. One, since they're pretty short, so one might not have been enough. And two, because of the fun contrast in seeing the two completely opposing views on this meeting. The instant we switched to a human pov I was like "oboy this is the one who beat Ferry isn't it lol." I think it's gonna be a lot of fun to see how these two's interactions progress. And I'm really curious what sort of work these soldiers are heading off toward.

Even though Pokemon are low power in this setting, I was still a bit surprised that it would be "effortless" for Prim to kill Ferry. Even killing a fellow human tends to take a fair bit of effort! But maybe it's a reference to how easily she beat him earlier. Still, it'd be hard to keep your guard up 100% of the time...
 
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Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
Eyyy, two more chapters! I'm glad you're continuing this. Less glad that it took me so long to get back to it. Let's get started...

His focus on the auras of the river were gone now that he’d dropped his focus, reverted to nothing more than tiny, formless pinpricks of sensation on the back of his neck.
Seems a bit odd to say that his focus was gone now after he'd dropped his focus. Maybe look into rewording that first bit there?

I like the little details that distinguish Quicktail from other lucario. Even in stories where there are multiple pokémon of the same species, there's usually no indication that they aren't identical.

The chip of adamant crystal at its center was only off transparency by a slight white tint, indicating the approach of noon.
This is a pretty cool little tidbit. So how does the crystal work? Presumably it cycles every twenty-four hours, but not in response to sunlight, presumably, or they'd be worthless if you kept them in your pocket or indoors. Maybe something to do with gravitational pull e.g. position of the moon, or attuned to a magic/energy field, such as the one Ferrycloth can sense?

Ferry grit his teeth and slugged Quicktail in the face with all his might.
*gritted

Throughout this chapter the big question for me is, just what is this big event that Ferrycloth's dreading? It sounds like he's been training to fight, and I believe it's stated that the lucario are going to be split up, so presumably it's an individual thing rather than all of them training to be soldiers or something. So, a pokémon battler? Who might also fight humans? For sport? There's no pokéballs right now, I'm guessing, so it will be interesting to see how that works. No league-like structure, either, I'm guessing? I'm really curious to see what the whole pokémon/human relationship is going to end up looking like.

Probably my favorite thing about this chapter is the portrayal of Ferrycloth's aura senses. You did a great job of describing how it feels for him to focus in this way--really get the physical sensation of it and not just the "vision" part. It makes it feel like a much more real, concrete part of the world and not just kind of slapped on top of normal vision. It's also nice to see how Ferrycloth actually relates to his ability and uses it to soothe and ground himself--again, not so much kind of a superpower that just gets used when he's battling or needs to aura-sense something to move the plot along or whatever, but an actual part of his life and something that exists for more than its utility alone. It's really well done.

Next chapter!

“I can’t believe it,” Rowan said, kicking back and throwing back a gulp of beer.
Might want reword so you don't have the parallel "kicking back" and "throwing back" right next to each other.

Reckon she could kick everyone of our asses.
*every one

You saw the way she beat the shit out of that lucario, didn’t you? Dead impressive.
Hmm. Ferrycloth's opponent, perhaps?

His eyes bore into her own with a smug confidence.
* bored

At least, he shuffled out from the queue, and made his way down the aisle and up the stairs.
Should be no comma after "queue."

A furious scowl, coming sharply to a narrow point, eyes burning with fury, sharp teeth poking out from below a curled black lip.
Hmm, I'm not having a lot of luck visualizing a scowl that comes to a narrow point.

From their single, brief bout of combat,
lol, yup

an official Wandersword
Oh snap, TITLE DROP

Ferrycloth stomped unceremoniously behind him, skipping a step as he descended, fists clenched.
Behind "her," I think?

"Wandersword" is a great name for what I assume is probably like a roaming knight-errant? Interesting that the humans who are going to take on that title also have to go through a super-serious training program. I was kind of thinking that the groups must be kept separate up until this tournament ritual thing, since neither Prim nor Ferry seemed to be at all familiar with each other, but Prim mentions having worked with lucario a lot in the past, so, not sure?

I am deeply curious to see what the position of wandersword entails. Like I said, definitely sounds like a kind of knight-errant thing... Sort of like a roving lawman, I guess? Keeping an eye on the provinces and so on? Presumably it's somehow related to what we saw in the prologue. Definitely curious to see where you'll take it... Prim says she's getting her freedom, but exactly how free can she be, after getting indoctrinated for who knows how long? You've set up a good deuteragonist pair in her and Ferrycloth, and I look forward to seeing how their relationship develops.

Random thing I'm wondering--how old is Prim? I was thinking she was early twenties somewhere, but if this is an adulthood ritual thing, you'd expect her to be younger.

These were some fun chapters, and I'm itching to see what happens in the next. It feels like that's where things are really going to take off. These first three chapters do kind of feel like prologues in their own way... they're good and short, not a trial to get through, but if anything I might like a bit more of a hint about what's to come, what Prim's hoping to get out of this wandersword business (I assume Ferrycloth simply wants to survive and escape if possible), and how it might get her there. But for now, you've set up an intriguing premise, and I'm looking forward to finding out where you'll take it.
 
Chapter 3: A Bandit in the Night

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
hi guys! thanks for reading my fic, and sorry for the long wait. i'm moved into my new place now (hopefully for at LEAST the next five months) and am more or less on a steady schedule now. oddly enough it seems like having a bunch of free time actually decreased my motivation to write, so i guess we'll see about getting back into a groove, haha. to answer a few questions/comments:

Well! These have certainly been short chapters, but if there's anything I wasn't quite expecting, it was a jump 15 years later. Looks like all that happened previously isn't quite the main story, just the backdrop, though I imagine we'll be seeing that guy later.


I don't have very much to say about the chapters as a whole (I mean, they're short, so what do you expect?) but I will say one thing: the atmosphere is dreary! I know you're going for that, so good work on the depiction there of basically a sort of hopeless situation of a race of weaklings (which is also a bit jarring, but at least you established it early) oppressed by the humans.


I think you do a good job at depicting that hopeless/dreary atmosphere, though that's not quite the sort of thing I personally enjoy reading~ Perhaps some other time I'll get back to this when there are more chapters, but otherwise, I just want to let you know that you write it well.
i'm glad i established tone effectively here, haha. i don't mean for it to be too terribly dreary so maybe in a few chapter's time it'll be closer to something you're more interested in. thanks for giving it a read!

You know, I'm glad you opted to post these two chapters together. One, since they're pretty short, so one might not have been enough. And two, because of the fun contrast in seeing the two completely opposing views on this meeting. The instant we switched to a human pov I was like "oboy this is the one who beat Ferry isn't it lol." I think it's gonna be a lot of fun to see how these two's interactions progress. And I'm really curious what sort of work these soldiers are heading off toward.


Even though Pokemon are low power in this setting, I was still a bit surprised that it would be "effortless" for Prim to kill Ferry. Even killing a fellow human tends to take a fair bit of effort! But maybe it's a reference to how easily she beat him earlier. Still, it'd be hard to keep your guard up 100% of the time...
i've been wanting to write a dynamic like prim and ferry's for a while now, so hopefully their interactions don't disappoint. :D i think the power scale in this fic is quite different from what you'd expect to see in the average pokémon fic, and i'm having some trouble nailing it down completely, but there are a few things to consider here i think. one thing kind of bouncing around in my head here is that lucario are pretty lithe pack hunters, like wolves, so i assume they chase after smaller pray unless they're attacking in a team, which ferry wasn't. lucario are actually pretty small— the pokédex lists them at 4'11", so we're looking at a fight between a highly trained, athletic adult and a canine the size of a human child. pair that with the fact that the aura powers of lucario in this era are relatively watered down... but you're right, prim can't stay vigilant forever, and ferry does have the stealth advantage on his side. i guess we'll see!

Eyyy, two more chapters! I'm glad you're continuing this. Less glad that it took me so long to get back to it. Let's get started...
thanks! glad you're staying tuned. :D just want to say thanks a ton for pointing out my mechanical mistakes/awkward phrasing etc... it really helps a ton not just to polish my prose but to get that insight into the areas where i need to grow, so i'm really grateful for that. now to answer a few of your questions...

This is a pretty cool little tidbit. So how does the crystal work? Presumably it cycles every twenty-four hours, but not in response to sunlight, presumably, or they'd be worthless if you kept them in your pocket or indoors. Maybe something to do with gravitational pull e.g. position of the moon, or attuned to a magic/energy field, such as the one Ferrycloth can sense?
i don't see this ever coming up in the lore so i think it's safe to just say outright that these little timepieces are shards of an Adamant Orb. they're cut and faceted in such a way that their inherent temporal properties are harnessed to roughly indicate the time of day. probably not super plot-relevant, but i like slipping in fun little world details like that where i can. :p

I was kind of thinking that the groups must be kept separate up until this tournament ritual thing, since neither Prim nor Ferry seemed to be at all familiar with each other, but Prim mentions having worked with lucario a lot in the past, so, not sure?
i'll go more into depth on this as the story progresses, but lucario occupy many niches in shallor— only the toughest are selected to accompany a wandersword. prim and the other humans have definitely interacted with other more servile lucario throughout their lives.

Random thing I'm wondering--how old is Prim? I was thinking she was early twenties somewhere, but if this is an adulthood ritual thing, you'd expect her to be younger.
hmmm. i'd put her at around nineteen. good question!

thanks again to everyone who's been reading for all of your awesome feedback! now without further adieu...
A Bandit in the Night

The road is long, and in the height of summer, it feels longer.

Fledgling wanderswords, fresh from their training, were not given much in the way of equipment or gold. Prim was issued a set of boiled leather armor and a few outfits' worth of walking clothes. Spare what she was wearing, these were tucked away in her rucksack, among some other odds and ends— some dried meat, some cheese, some wine, some water, the like. She was also permitted to keep her training sword, dull edge though it had, which swung from her waist as she walked.

Ferry had been given even less, though in this heat he was grateful for the lighter load. Fresh wraps adorned both sets of paws, and a skin for water hung at his side. This was more than Ferry had ever owned, and he was glad to have it.

Yet for all the things they did have, there were hundreds they did not. Prim was all too aware of this. For instance, she thought to herself, they lacked a horse. Two would be ideal, really, if Prim was honest. They lacked gold, too, and would until they completed their first contract. They lacked a map. They lacked a compass. Prim would have been quite glad for an apple, too, if she could get one. Anything crisp and moist and not so damnably dry.

They were passing west through the country via the Lanceroute, so called because it was about as broad as a lance was long. Its maintenance was the responsibility of the lords whose lands it carved through, but Prim could see plainly that it was not a responsibility they paid much mind. Its surface was about as even as a sandslash's, and there wasn't a single tree for shade in sight. Some road indeed.

"My feet ache," Prim said with a frown. "The roads at camp were so nice and smooth. Drills on roads like that couldn't have prepared me for this."

"Perhaps they should have drilled you harder," Ferry suggested. Prim wished she could beat that scathing tone out of him, but she knew she'd have better luck scrubbing the blue out of his fur. "I confess that I have wondered when this journey will end. I'm... poorly learned on the lay of your country." It pained Ferry to admit a shortcoming like that, but it was true. His kind carved territory out by scent. The human way of lines on maps, markings on papers, was foreign and incomprehensible to him.

"Not sure myself," Prim admitted. "Don't have a map or compass. I'm not sure it would help us much even if I did though... It's hard to tell one mile from the last out here."

"Hm. Hopefully it isn't much longer."

They carried on in silence after that, though Prim was rather happy to have made any conversation with her broody companion at all. He was so awfully standoffish and terse, she could hardly bear it. Making small talk about the trek was something, at least.

She was about ready to collapse when the sun finally kissed the horizon. "Well, I suppose we should set up camp soon," she said anxiously. The words had been lying on her tongue for hours now; it was a great relief to finally say them aloud.

Ferry was less enthusiastic. "There won't be much of a camp to speak of, unless you're hiding a tent in that bag of yours," he said, gesturing at her back. Prim bit her lip. She was not hiding a tent in that bag of hers. In fact, she wasn't hiding so much as a sleeping mat. There were no trees in sight, either, so they'd have to do without a fire to sleep by. It would have to be Prim and Ferry on the grass under the stars.

Ferry frowned; he had known the answer before he’d posted the question, but it didn’t pain him any less. Conditions weren’t fantastic for the lucario at camp, but at least they’d had cots to sleep on. "We should sleep in shifts," he suggested, though it didn't sound much like a suggestion at all.

"Yes," Prim said. "Yes, of course."

They had practiced sleeping in shifts in training. The instructors had stressed its necessity, though it hadn't occurred to her that she might have to do it here, now, on the side of this desolate road. It seemed so empty out here— they hadn’t seen another soul in their entire day’s journey, human or not. The other recruits had gone east, or north, or south, or anywhere else really. It was known that the lands around the Lanceroute were sparse and agrarian. But Prim had supposed that if she were the only one going that direction, all the contracts there would be hers for the taking. Well, perhaps that had been a mistake. Still, Prim knew from her training that the emptiness of the day did not imply emptiness in the night. When the sun receded and the air cooled, the creatures of the night shook themselves from their slumber and crawled out of their dens to hunt.

She moved off the path and set her pack down with a breath of relief. Her shoulders were soaked with sweat and aching something awful, not to mention her back. Fortunately, the rucksack was mostly full of clothes, so it would serve as a suitably comfortable structure to rest against. Or perhaps "suitable" was too charitable a descriptor, but it would have to do.

"Are you going to run away?" she asked Ferry, suppressing a yawn. The question was mostly rhetorical. Ferry could try and run if he wanted, but there were only three ways to go: back to camp, where he would be executed for deserting; forward, to a town where he would no doubt be captured and sold as a slave to some other, inevitably less kind master; or away from the road and into the wilds, where wild beasts waited for bumbling blue-furred idiots to traipse into their maws.

Still, a brief span of silence betrayed Ferry's hesitation. At last he said, "It is my duty to serve you. I will keep watch.” His tone was begrudging, yet Prim had no choice but to trust him. She studied his expression. Even for a lucario, he was inscrutable. His hard eyes bored into her searching ones, gaze almost unbearably intense. At last Prim was forced to look away.

"Okay. I'm trusting you."

"Good. That is what you must do if we are to survive."

Prim smirked at that. Where was his trust, then? But there was no use in arguing about it now. She wearily slumped onto the ground and leaned against her rucksack— God Almighty, had it been that comfortable when she was wearing it just a few minutes ago? She opened her mouth to say something else to her partner before she drifted off into sleep, but it never came. Exhaustion overcame her, and in moments she was soundly asleep.

* * *​

Ferrycloth had always hated zoroark. Like most lucario, he had been brought up on old wives' tales of evil tricksters in the night, mischievous and malevolent and without honor. They were said to be everything a lucario should not: conniving, unscrupulous, solitary. Or so the stories went, anyway. He had never actually met one, and as far as he could tell, the zoroark liked it that way. They lurked in the shadows, choosing to remain unseen, clandestine and sheltered from disapproving eyes.

Until the moment they weren't.

This was one such moment.

"Get your claws off of me," Ferry snarled.

"Silence," the zoroark replied, and he did not get his claws off of him. Ferry was face-down in the dirt, his wrists pressed against his back by one of the zoroark's hands. The other was running its long, curved crimson hooks along Ferry's body, searching for hidden possessions. His wraps, waterskin and timepiece already lay discarded on the ground a few feet away.

The feeling of the zoroark's claws gingerly tracing his skin forced a shudder through Ferry's body. "For the last fucking time," he growled, "I don't have anything else. You can take what you found. Just let me go." Bargaining for his life with a bloody zoroark. Ferry was disgusted at his own pathetic desperation.

"Let prey go? Foolish," the zoroark replied, sounding quite genuinely defensive. "Now silence." This time the zoroark's command was coupled with a sudden sharp pain in Ferry's back. The fox was running his claws through Ferry's flesh, leaving shallow wounds in their wake. Ferry could only grit his teeth and try not to cry out, but hatred for his shadowy captor roiled in his gut even as pain flashed across his back. Pain inflicted not for utility but for sport. Despicable.

It was late enough in the day now that the golden sun was glistening off the dew. Ferry saw it acutely from this vantage, his face pressed into the grass. The horizon was a radiant watercolor of pink and blue— in another time, he might have been enjoying that sunrise by the river. But the creature had taken him in the night instead. Ferry had seen him coming, and sensed him coming far before even that, but he looked and felt like a human traveller. Unusual for the hour but not impossibly so. He had not realized it then, but it was the trickery of old, dark magic— the twisted cousin to the sparks that Ferry saw with his inner eye. Unaware, Ferry had allowed the bandit passage without raising a ruckus. For his compassion he had been awarded a slash to the face and a thorough beating. Perhaps if the hour had not been quite so late, the journey quite so long... But no. The zoroark had prevailed, and Ferry had lost. There was no sense in blaming that on anything but his own weakness.

Then he had dragged him here, to his den perhaps a mile away. Dragged him, claws digging into his ankles, pulling his back against the grass and the stones. Ferry had been too tired, too bruised to resist. He still was. And now the damned thing was digging his claws into his back, rending his flesh apart for the hell of it, licking his chops excitedly, pushing his hot breath onto the back of Ferry's neck.

Of course that good-for-nothing human had slept through the entire affair.

Something moist and rough rubbed over Ferry's fresh wounds. Gods, the thing was lapping up his blood now. Ferry squirmed again, as intensely as he could muster. The zoroark grabbed the back of his head, lifted, and then slammed his face into the ground. The lucario couldn't help but yelp. He was now eye to eye with the dirt. There was a little ant crawling by.

"I will tell you a truth now," the zoroark said in the rough accent of a wildling. The shadow fox's muzzle was only a few inches away from Ferry's ear. With each breath the zoroark took, a blast of warm air filled the lucario’s twitching ear, uncomfortably loud due to the proximity. "The flesh of a hunter is not good for eating. It is tarnished by the deed of killing. Impure. You are hunter. You know this. Does your kind eat hunters?"

Ferry said nothing. The zoroark gripped the back of his head again and raised it once more. The lucario's body entire body tensed painfully, still tender and sore from the beating. He saw his own blood drip from his muzzle onto the grass. "Please," he croaked despite himself. Begging, again. He had half a mind to let the zoroark have his way. Ferry hardly felt he deserved life after falling this low. But still he begged, "Please don't."

The zoroark released Ferry's head nonchalantly. It slumped back downward again harmlessly, though a jolt of pain surged up his face where it had been smashed into the ground the first time.

"You know this, yes?" the zoroark repeated. "Your kind does not eat hunters, yes?"

"... No," Ferry wheezed. "We do not eat other predators. It is... unclean."

"Yes," the zoroark said. "Yes. Unclean. You know this. Your kind knows this. I know your kind. You are lovers of the rules. You are very proud, yes?" The zoroark paused. This time, Ferry was quick to answer.

"Not proud. Honorable. We follow the old way. We are unyielding..." He realized the irony of his words, speaking of honor and unyielding as he lay pinned and beaten on the ground, bleeding out of his mouth and bending to interrogation by a patronizingly conversational zoroark. It was hard not to cry. He was ashamed of himself for that, too.

"Yes, honor," the zoroark echoed. "Your kind calls it honor. Our kind, we call it pride. You... You are proud even for your kind. This is why I smashed your head." Another gust of hot breath accosted Ferry's face as his captor laughed at his own joke. If it could be called a joke. "Yes, you are proud, but you are hunter. This is why I cannot be eating you. You understand."

"Please," Ferry rasped one more time. "Just let me go then."

This request did not please the zoroark. He grabbed Ferry's skull tightly, claws sinking into his head and drawing blood. Ferry groaned in anguish, but that was all he could do. "Silence," the fox seethed. "Fuck your honor. I do not let you go. I take your things and I leave you here to die. Then I feed your body to the hunter of hunters."

Ferry had never heard of a hunter of hunters, but he decided he was fine with whatever it was, as long as it meant the zoroark left him alone and didn't force him to grovel any further. Anything was better than that.

The sound of metal passing across leather. Ferry felt a wave of relief wash over him, so powerful it bordered on euphoria. It was the gentle sound of a sword being drawn from its scabbard.

The zoroark leapt away, and just in time. The thin edge of Prim’s blade sliced the air where the sable fox had been crouching just a moment before. At last relieved of the zoroark's hold, Ferry forced himself onto his feet, legs shaking. His whole body ached and seared in protest, but it didn't matter now. Adrenaline was pulsing through his body as fast as his heart could pump it— the pain felt distant and dull. For the first time, he was indescribably glad to see Primeveire of Cromlexia standing before him, dressed in her full set of boiled leather, golden hair pulled back and sword arm extended.

The zoroark's blood-red eyes were sizing Prim up, evaluating her worth as an opponent. Ferry knew it was not below the creature to flee from the fight by any means necessary if it considered its opponent too formidable to handle. That was the zoroark way. But the fox did not make that decision. Instead it lunged forward, claws out. Ferry fell into a fighting stance and raised his fists, baring his teeth and growling loudly. Unlike Ferry, the zoroark was only a few inches Prim's junior, and was far more physiologically equipped for combat than any lucario could hope to be. Given that Ferry was effectively out for the count, it might be close to a fair match. Ferry could not blame the zoroark for taking his chances— if he had not known the contents of his partner's bag or the level of her skill, he might have considered it a worthwhile match himself.

But of course, he knew it was not. Prim raised her sword against the zoroark, deflecting his slash. Without missing a beat, she thrust her boot into the fox's chest and forced him backward. Yet quick as a whip the zoroark rolled onto his feet again and darted forward, slashing out again with both hands. Prim evaded the first, but the second slashed triple canals into her new leather armor. The knight gritted her teeth in frustration and stumbled backward, holding up her sword as she regained her footing, but the fox had the advantage now...

Ferry moved in. Ignoring the pain in his limbs as he moved, the lucario forced his knee into the zororark's thigh, then wound up and socked the creature in the shoulder with all his might. The fox staggered backwards, missing his balance. That moment of discombobulation was all Prim needed to do her deed. There was a slash of the sword, and then the zoroark was finished, just a mess of tangled black fur on the ground.

The sun was aloft now, and it was beginning to grow uncomfortably warm. Ferry was too aware of this as he panted raggedly, tongue hanging loosely from his mouth. Prim sheathed her sword unceremoniously and dabbed at the sweat beading on her brow as she regarded her fallen opponent. Then she looked to her battered partner, who looked away.

“By the time I woke up, it was early morning. You weren’t there. About scared the shit out of me,” she explained between breaths. “But he didn’t cover his tracks very well. It was easy enough to follow them here.”

"He came in the night,” Ferry explained hastily. “He used his black magic to deceive me. I should have been able to resist, but I—”

"I don't care about that," Prim insisted. She looked him over one more time, eyes passing over the gashes on his cranium, the blood dripping from his muzzle. "You look... awful. We need to find a medic. We can't be far from the nearest town. Let's go, now." She reached out to take Ferry by the arm, but he withdrew, scowling.

"I wear these wounds as a consequence of my own failure," he declared. "My ineptitude jeopardized us both. It is only right that I should suffer any pain incurred as a result of—"

Prim rolled her eyes. "Don't be stupid! Let's go!" And this time Ferry did not resist as she took him by the arm and led him back to the road.

He would die a thousand deaths before he admitted it, but just this once, he was glad to be saved from his own sense of duty.
 
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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Hey, glad to see you working on this again! And hoo boy, you sure captured the desolate air of their journey well. I hadn't realize just how ill-prepared they were for traveling out in the wilds! It made for an unforgiving atmosphere, which of course made it all the more appropriate that Ferry got mugged on his first night keeping watch. And I liked the way you portrayed the contrast between the way that Lucario view themselves versus how they view Zoroark.
Ferry could try and run if he wanted, but there were only three ways to go: back to camp, where he would be executed for deserting; forward, to a town where he would no doubt be captured and sold as a slave to some other, inevitably less kind master; or away from the road and into the wilds, where wild beasts waited for bumbling blue-furred idiots to traipse into their maws.
This is interesting! Since Pokemon are depowered here, I'm wondering what exactly is so fearsome out in the wilds! Zoroark mentions the 'hunter of hunters' later...
Unlike Ferry, the zoroark was only a few inches Prim's junior, and was far more physiologically equipped for combat than any lucario could hope to be.
Okay, as a martial artist, I do gotta take issue with this bit (and the earlier mention that the main reason a Lucario can't fight well is due to being too small.) Size does confer one major benefit in fighting, but it might not be what you think: range! Taller fighters have superior range, but that's mostly it. Any short fighter worth their salt should know how to work around this (of course, Prim is armed in this scenario, so her range is even greater than it would be normally.)

It took me a bit, but I think I understand the exact flavor of depowered Pokemon you've got in this setting (and correct me if I'm wrong.) Pokemon seem to lack elemental power here. Sure, they're still got their various special abilities (Lucario's aura-reading, Zoroark's illusions, etc.) But there appears to be no elemental power in their moves. No fighting aura in Lucario's physical blows. No dark aura in Zoroark's slashes. And by extension, no type advantages. That's interesting!

Anyway, curious to see how things will go once they reach their destination~
 
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Negrek

Rise Toward Descent
Staff
It's great to see another chapter of this! The journey bit is pretty much inevitably my favorite part of a story, so it's a lot of fun to see Prim and Ferry on the road here and get to see a bit more of Kalos.

Yet for all the things they did have, there hundreds they did not. Prim was much more keenly aware of this than Ferry, who was simply content to have been given anything at all.
In the first sentence, you're missing a word after "there." I think the second one is redundant; in the previous paragraph you mentioned that Ferry was grateful to have received what he did.

Its maintenance the responsibility...
Maintenance *was

Prim wished she could beat that scathing tone out of him, but she knew by now that she'd have better luck scrubbing the blue out of his fur.
This sentence implies that Prim has tried beating the scathing tone out of him, and more than once, which I'm not sure you're going for.

His kind carved territory out by scent. The human way of lines on maps, markings on papers, was foreign and incomprehensible to him.
This is a neat detail, and not one you see very often in stories even though it makes sense. Pokémon usually seem comfortable with the concept of the written word, maps, etc. even if they aren't actually literate.

I hope lucario have some method of scent-marking that doesn't involve peeing on everything like actual dogs, though. XD

The words had been laying on her tongue for hours now; it was a great relief to finally say them aloud.
*lying on her tongue. "Lay" always needs to have an object, something that's being laid somewhere.

His hard eyes bore into her searching ones, gaze almost unbearably intense.
*bored

The zoroark gripped the back of his head again and rose it once more.
*raised

Unlike Ferry, the zoroark was only a few inches Prim's junior, and was far more physiologically equipped for combat than any lucario could hope to be.
Prim rose her sword against the zoroark, deflecting his slash. Without missing a beat, she forced her boot into the fox's chest and forced him backward.
*raised her sword, and in the second sentence, maybe look for a different word than "forced" so you don't repeat it.

"I wear these wounds as a consequence of my own failure," he declared. "My ineptitude jeopardized us both. It is only right that I should suffer any pain incurred as a result of—"
lol, so uptight. I like this exchange; it really encapsulates both Ferry and Prim's personalities. But while Ferry's stiff insistence on honor and noble suffering is laughable at times, especially here, it's also quite sad... After all, he has to cling to it, because he really has nothing else.

This is a nice opening for a journey, with a real emphasis on what rookies this pair are. I imagine that more experienced wanderswords travel in a bit more style! At the least I'd expect them to have a tent.

This also makes me more curious about Prim's origins in particular. "Lady Primeveire of Cromlexia" sounds pretty highborn, but it may just be that people have fancier names around here and all female wanderswords are "lady." But I'd definitely expect them to treat someone of noble blood a bit better, unless she's in one of those, like, "eigth child that no one knows what to do with" situations. So, what's her story? I doubt Ferry had much choice about going into this line of work, but why is Prim here? Was she just enchanted by the glamor of the knight-errant thing, or is there something more going on? Definitely something I'm interested in learning more about as the story goes on.

From the way things are looking, I also imagine that a lot of wanderswords wash out pretty fast--with such meager equipment and direction, I can't imagine that a lot of them succeed. What do you do if you fail as a wandersword? Go into mercenary work? And why the pairing of lucario with human? I have to imagine that a lot of wanderswords, especially new ones, are in danger of getting murdered in their sleep, whatever the risks... I do love that this story has the feel of a world that's much more deliberately thought out than your typical high fantasy pokestory that runs more on tropes than anything else.

(Chibi's right, though, being small doesn't have as many disadvantages as you might think when it comes to fighting, and there are advantages to being short, like a lower center of gravity.)

A long way to go yet, and a lot more to learn about the characters. I'm really curious to know more of their backstories. As I said, I'm really curious to know how Prim ended up here, but I wonder about Ferry as well. What would he even do, if given his freedom? Does he have any family or other attachments he misses? Does he actually enjoy fighting, and/or do his talents lie elsewhere? I'm sure these two will learn a lot about each other out on the road, and I look forward to accompanying them in their wanderings.

Thanks for answering my earlier questions as well. The adamant-orb timepieces are a really neat idea--I, too, enjoy little worldbuilding details like that. I'm glad you found my last review helpful, and I hope this one is, too. I can take a while to review, but you can bet I'll be reading!
 
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kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
shortish review because I keep putting it off; sorry :')

He walked over to Providence and allowed a pair of soldiers to lift him onto the great mount's back wordlessly.
I always love little details like this because they show that not only is the villain a massive shitlord, but he's so shitty at being high up on his high horse that he needs two people to help him get there.

characters

Ferrycloth and Prim are a really fun duo to play around with, and while we haven't really seen them interact too closely, I like how you're writing this tenuous friendship. It's a story and they're both on the cover, so it's somewhat inevitable that they're going to set aside their differences, but at the same time I wasn't sure if Prim was going to show up to rescue Ferry from the zoroark, or if she'd assume that she'd been abandoned. You balance their tension on a knife's edge here and it's awesome -- they're both trying to prove themselves and are set up to be a pair of lovable misfits playing off of each other's insecurities and lack of place in the Wandersword wandering and swording. And yet the conflict between them doesn't feel manufactured at all; it doesn't get wiped away just because Prim makes the strategically advantageous choice of saving Ferry; it doesn't get any less awkward because she's not popular with the guys and he's not happy with the lucario. Loving these two so far and looking forward to more fireside chats with them in the future.

I love how you set up characters in broad strokes so quickly. Even characters who probably won't get more scenes, like the elder chief and the zoroark, get one or two really good sentences that cut to the quick of what they're all about -- the elder chief had that one about milky blind cataracts that granted him True Sight; you do a great job of making the zoroark all philosophical about pride/honor while licking Ferry's cuts and feeding him to the predator of predators. It makes for a really memorable cast in what's honestly not a very long story so far. I feel like we'll be seeing more of the peanut gallery like Doran and Quicktail later down the road, so I'll hold off on them for now, but overall your cast is a really fun one to dig in to!

worldbuilding

mmmmm yes medieval people and weird knight assemblies and pokemon-human relations; this is such a rich concept and you're definitely unfolding it very delicately. It's too early for me to really comment much on the overall world that you're coaxing out here; in the scene-to-scene operations, everything feels really realistic and fleshed-out, but I'm sure that the overarching questions like the political state of the kingdom/are all pokemon subservient/what is a Wandersword anyway? will be coaxed out in time.

random thoughts
the twisted cousin to the sparks of like that Ferry saw with his inner eye
oop

Unlike Ferry, the zoroark was only a few inches Prim's junior, and was far more physiologically equipped for combat than any lucario could hope to be.
there's been some back-and-forth in the reviews about how height does or doesn't matter as much as you may say, so I'll just throw my two cents in to muddle the mix? Am also a martial artist; in my experience, being short is a massive disadvantage. You can try to play around it but you're fighting an uphill battle at that point; if it's unarmed fighting, a shitty tall fighter can knock a skilled short fighter around for days. The only other disadvantage that would probably make things even worse would be being unarmed while your opponent has a ranged, bladed weapon, which... yeah, is also a disadvantage that the short team has here. So honestly I found this assessment completely valid if you're going for a more grounded fantasy setting rather than the kind where Yoda does kickflips off of Palpatine in an arena of floating chairs.

Overall this is so much fun to read. You've got a great knack for phrasing things in a way that make your characters/worlds feel like you're really spiderman alive. Can't wait to see more!
 
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Chapter 4: The Sheep Thief

qva

Pokémon Trainer
Location
florida
Pronouns
she/her
thanks so much for the reviews, everyone! they're super motivational, and the grammatical/spelling corrections help a lot. i'm glad you guys seem to be liking the story so far— i feel that these first couple chapters have been very dry reading back on them now, so i guess it bodes pretty well that people found them enjoyable :'D

Hey, glad to see you working on this again! And hoo boy, you sure captured the desolate air of their journey well. I hadn't realize just how ill-prepared they were for traveling out in the wilds! It made for an unforgiving atmosphere, which of course made it all the more appropriate that Ferry got mugged on his first night keeping watch.
hey, thanks for reading! i'm glad i established the tone well. i personally really enjoy when stories open with underpowered scrubs who get the crap beat out of them a lot, and it probably shows here a bit too much. :'D it's fun though right!?
It took me a bit, but I think I understand the exact flavor of depowered Pokemon you've got in this setting (and correct me if I'm wrong.) Pokemon seem to lack elemental power here. Sure, they're still got their various special abilities (Lucario's aura-reading, Zoroark's illusions, etc.) But there appears to be no elemental power in their moves. No fighting aura in Lucario's physical blows. No dark aura in Zoroark's slashes. And by extension, no type advantages. That's interesting!
haha, something like that! i think some type advantages would still make sense in this setting, like water vs. fire, etc... but for the most part, yeah, i really like the idea of pokémon as animals that have specific adaptations that they do cool stuff with. :p hopefully it proves interesting!

This is a neat detail, and not one you see very often in stories even though it makes sense. Pokémon usually seem comfortable with the concept of the written word, maps, etc. even if they aren't actually literate.

I hope lucario have some method of scent-marking that doesn't involve peeing on everything like actual dogs, though. XD
hahaha, i can promise you at least that i will never WRITE a lucario peeing all over the place. i haven't thought much about this honestly, but i think maybe lucarios leave aura-based markings to carve their territory out? that would make sense to me at least. maybe i'll bring that back up later...!
*lying on her tongue. "Lay" always needs to have an object, something that's being laid somewhere.
you know, i am almost twenty years old and i did not know this before you said it. this helps a ton, lol. thanks a lot for picking out the minor errors like this, it helps a ton to have someone do that! hopefully i'll leave fewer and fewer for you over time. :'D

I always love little details like this because they show that not only is the villain a massive shitlord, but he's so shitty at being high up on his high horse that he needs two people to help him get there.
this is a key insight. thank you for bringing this Extremely Intentional Symbolism to the public's attention. i love it.
mmmmm yes medieval people and weird knight assemblies and pokemon-human relations; this is such a rich concept and you're definitely unfolding it very delicately.
thanks, i'm glad you think i'm handling it well! medieval intrigue can be really interesting, i think, but it's one of those things that falls flat on its face if you fail to write it in an engaging way, more so even than most subjects. :p so hopefully i continue to keep it interesting going forward!

re: the combat height thing, i definitely see where you're coming from although i was coming at it from less of a "short human vs tall human" angle and more of like, the broader morphological differences between the species here. zoroark are actually quite a lot bigger than lucario, more than i expected:
32
my thinking here is that, while lucario and zoroark are both pack animals, zoroark are solitary hunters... sort of like a lion, i guess? as a result, i figure they're much more strongly built, seeing as they're not depending on other individuals for their success in a fight. put that up against something wiry that relies on numbers and communication to win, and you get a pretty lopsided fight when it's one-on-one.. that's the way i was coming at it, at least. however...
So honestly I found this assessment completely valid if you're going for a more grounded fantasy setting rather than the kind where Yoda does kickflips off of Palpatine in an arena of floating chairs.
honestly? there's a place for this too. ninja yoda is AWESOME.

anyway, thanks again for the reviews everyone! i was VERY slow writing this chapter, but it's because i was planning the next couple chapters at the same time... i started this story with no plan whatsoever, and it just was not working, so i had to get that out of the way. but we should be good to go now! with any luck, the plot will really get going from here forward, and i'll be a bit quicker about getting chapters out, haha.

without further ado! i've reread this, like, ten times, backwards and forwards, so i think i'd better just bite the bullet and post it already. i hope you guys enjoy this one!

Spoiler Warning: This chapter contains a pokémon from the upcoming games Sword and Shield. If you're avoiding spoilers for the new game altogether, you might not want to read this chapter.
The Sheep Thief

A dull ache throbbed inside his skull, and stripes of pain traced his scalp. His head was heavy.

Before he looked on the new morning, Ferrycloth opened the eye within, and he saw.

It was hard to discern where he was, but it had an unfamiliar feeling to it. Most probably somewhere he had never been before. He was lying face-up on a fairly comfortable bed, certainly much nicer than anything he’d slept on before.

With a sigh, he pushed both of his eyes open, but only one found light— the vision of the other was obscured by a blurry field of white. Ferry raised a paw to his head and felt rough linen. Bandages.

Relieved he had not gone blind, he turned his attention to the room around him. It was built from wood, and in fairly nice condition. Another bed like his stood at the opposite side of the room, and a depression on its surface informed him that Prim had slept here last night, too. A window pane on the wall to his left opened up to the bright blue sky. Judging by the position of the sun, Ferry surmised it was either mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Based on the sour taste in his mouth and the heavy deposits of crust in his eyes, he guessed it was the latter.

Damn it. It wasn’t like him to sleep so late. Though it was true that the rest was probably well-needed after his battering the night before, it still felt like he’d pissed half his day away. And he didn’t feel like he much deserved rest after that embarrassing display with the zoroark, anyway. But there was no sense in wasting any more time. Ferry sat up slowly, his back prickling and cracking loudly as he did. He frowned at the unpleasant sound of it. This was what happened when you went to bed without stretching first, wasn’t it?

He reached for his bag as he swung himself off the bed and fished his timepiece out of it. A quick look at it confirmed his suspicions— it was several hours past noon, at least.

Moving his bag revealed a piece of paper on the bedside table. He snatched it up and looked at it for a moment, but his eyes glazed over at the loopy handwriting. Loopy meant it was written by a woman, right? So probably Prim.

He felt anger rush up inside him at the thought of it. Didn’t that blasted woman know that lucario can’t read? Why had she just left him here alone? Now we’d have to go search for her, or even worse, try and convince some other human to read her letter off to him. What if they harassed him for not being able to read it himself? What if the letter mentioned his embarrassing failure form the night before? What if—

Ferry noticed his face was scrunched up and his arms were shaking. He took a deep breath and stuffed the letter into his bag. Then he took one last look around the room, head out, and descended the stairs. The steps were clearly engineered for humans, so each one was just slightly too large for him. He was forced to hobble down them awkwardly, one at a time, as he made his descent.

The ground floor of the inn was a small restaurant of sorts. There were a number of patrons already sipping at their beers and tearing up their chickens, although Ferry thought it was still quite early for such things. Every single one of them was human, and they were all appraising him with suspicious eyes as he made his way into the room.

Ferry felt his anger swell. “What?” he growled, the corners of his lips raising in a snarl. “Never seen a lucario before?” The humans all casually averted their glances and went back to what they were doing, some of them looking afraid and others irritated. As he descended the final step, Ferry heard someone near the back say something that sounded quite a lot like “fucking mon,” but for his own sake he chose to ignore it.

Come to think of it, even though it was quite early for eating, those chickens didn’t look half bad. Ferry winced as his stomach growled, and he hoped dearly no one else could hear it. Eating would have to wait for now, he knew. The items in Prim’s bag were all they had to their name, and most of that was trail food. There was certainly no gold in there.

A man leaned against the bar from behind it, drumming his fingers on its polished surface. He was all but ogling at Ferry as he proceeded toward him, making no attempt to veil his interest at the lucario’s appearance. Ferry pulled himself up on a bar stool, permanent scowl painted on his face, and fished the letter out of his bag.

“Good morning,” the innkeeper said, his voice friendly to the point that it teetered on patronizing. His expression was smug, yet curious. “You must be that Wandersword’s lucario.” Ferry didn’t return the salutation, instead fishing the letter out of his bag and slapping it onto the bar’s surface.

“I assume you can read,” he said gruffly, pushing the piece of paper towards the man.

The innkeeper’s face fell, probably dispirited by Ferry’s refusal to take the bait. “That I can,” he replied smugly, taking the page up and holding it close to his face.

‘Ferrycloth’,” he read aloud, smirking. “Is that your name? I’ve never heard such a—”

“Just read the fucking letter,” Ferry demanded. The innkeeper narrowed his eyes, but continued.

“‘Ferrycloth, I am out foraging for vegetables in order to repay our debt to this innkeeper. He healed you as well, so please treat him well.’” The innkeeper was wise enough not to remark on that line. “‘I will be back before sundown. I insist you stay in bed and rest— you will do no one any good by straining yourself. Primeveire.’ Why, I could have told you all that, if only you’d asked.” The innkeeper set the letter back down, and Ferry hastily snatched it up and stuffed it back into his bag. “She’s in the woods behind the inn, if you must know. Though I agree, you hardly look to be in the best shape. Perhaps it would be better if you stayed here.” Ferry shot him the nastiest look he could muster, and the man raised his hands defensively. “I’ve told you where she is,” he said. “Do what you will.”

“I always do.” He hopped off the barstool and marched to the inn’s exit, head pounding from standing so quickly. He pretended not to feel it as he pushed the door out of his way and walked out into the afternoon sun. The day was ageing already, so the air was sticky and uncomfortably warm. Suddenly Ferry felt very itchy and uncomfortable under his bandages. He decided tearing them off would be worse, though, and tried to ignore the discomfort as he walked around the inn’s perimeter and headed to its back garden, reaching out with his inner eye in search of his partner.

He felt Prim there before he saw her, hunched over in the woods. The pine needles were dry but pleasantly cool under his paws as he picked through the woods in her direction, gently touching the trees as he passed them. The canopy overhead provided decent shade, and made the air just a touch more bearable. Ferry took a deep breath as a gust of wind passed through him, pushing through his fur and chilling his skin. In another time, in another world, perhaps it would have brought a smile to his face.

When he arrived at Prim’s side, he found her bent over and rooting through the pine needles for vegetables and mushrooms, her fingers raw and her nails dirty. There was a basket a few feet to her left, containing only a handful of pickings. Not a very good harvest at all, if she’d been out here as long as he suspected.

He watched her foraging fruitlessly for a few moments before saying, “Not much luck?” Prim just about leapt out of her skin, hand flying to her sword as she scuttled backward. Ferry just stood there, and she relaxed when she saw it was only him.

“God, I thought you were a stranger,” she said breathlessly, placing a hand over her heart. “What are you doing here? I wanted you to stay inside. You need rest.”

Ferry felt a wave of ire rise in his gut, but he suppressed it. Blowing up on Prim would only make life worse for them both. He was above that. “I can make decisions on my own,” he said, only scowling a little. “I feel fine.”

Prim frowned. “I suppose I didn’t really expect you to stay,” she admitted. That made Ferry angry too, though he wasn’t sure why. He clenched his fist and took a deep breath.

“It looks like your harvest hasn’t been very good,” he said again.

“Yeah,” Prim replied, wiping her brow. “The innkeeper said there were supposed to be a ton out here, but I’m not seeing much.”

“Why don’t you go tell him?”

“Well, I’m worried it’s just because I’m looking in the wrong spots, eheh...”

“Mm.” Ferry could understand that self-consciousness, but only because he was a lucario. It made sense for him to avoid situations where humans might sneer at him for admitting weakness. Coming from a human, though, he didn’t think that kind of behavior made very much sense. “Let me see if I can detect any…”

Ferry clamped his eyes shut and reached out again with his inner eye. The sensors on the back of his head were beginning to ache from overuse already, probably on account of his empty stomach and injured head, but he pushed through it. He brushed over the forest floor with his mind, caressing the fading signatures of the copper-hued pine needles and grazing the little worms and beetles that crawled under the thicket. There were a handful of vegetables that Prim had missed— scallions, if he were to venture a guess based on their shape and feeling— but not as many as he would have expected.

Still, he probed deeper, straining himself as he ran his consciousness over the ground, feeling its dips and hills. And its divots. Hundreds of tiny divots, almost imperceptible, partially filled with loose, crumbly soil. Divots with lingering traces, however faint, of life that had once inhabited them. It seems, in fact, that there were once hundreds of scallions here, but the vast majority of them had been plucked away.

Ferry shut his mind’s eye and opened his real ones. His sensors were burning hot and painfully sore. He massaged them gently, grunting quietly in pain, then spoke: “Something’s been through here and taken all the vegetables. There’s almost nothing left in the forest.”

Prim looked surprised. “You figured that out with your…?” She gestured at the back of her head. Ferry inclined his head in affirmation. “Mm. Well, I guess this is the best we can do…”

The harvest was pretty pitiful. For all the hours of work she’d spent out here, she’d gotten virtually nothing for it, and Ferry wasn’t sure the innkeeper would be satisfied with their work. He clenched his jaw in annoyance. He really didn’t want to help. He wasn’t even supposed to be out here in the first place, and now his sensors were aching to match his head injury, not to mention the fact that he would have been happy to sleep under the stars if it had saved them from this foolish debt…

But if he left it to Prim, she’d present her half-empty basket to the innkeeper, bow her head in apology, and hope for the best. Reluctantly, Ferry fell onto all fours and pushed his nose to the ground, sniffing for more scallions. Lucario didn’t have as refined a sense of smell as some other species, but he certainly out classed Prim. Having scanned the area over just moments before didn’t hurt, either. He plucked the scallions out of the earth as he crawled, and increased their stock by about a third within a quarter of an hour. By then the sky was already waxing indigo. Ferry fell back on his haunches, exerted, and huffed.

The basket still wasn’t full, but at least now it didn’t look downright meager. Prim rearranged the vegetables to improve their appearance, then stood up with the basket and stretched. Ferry stood too, still feeling quite spent.

“Thank you,” she said as they began to walk back to the inn. Ferry opened his mouth to brush her gratitude off, but she continued. “I know you’re aching and tired, but you helped a lot. I really appreciate it.”

Damnable girl. The way she was acting made things so much harder for him. Still, as they approached the inn, Prim thought she heard him mumble something that sounded suspiciously like “you’re welcome.”

The innkeeper was still behind the bar when they entered again. Now the place was completely filled with patrons, talking and laughing loudly as they ate and drank. It was overwhelming to Ferry, whose head and sensors were still pounding and whose belly was still profoundly empty. He almost would have been glad that the innkeeper ignored him in favor of Prim, if only it didn’t piss him off so much.

“Thank you for your hard work,” he said, though as Ferry predicted he didn’t seem terribly impressed with their yield.

“Sorry there isn’t much,” Prim said quickly, apparently catching onto the man’s heedless expression. “You said your last harvest was a few months ago, right?”

“Indeed,” the innkeeper replied, counting the scallions as he spoke. “One would expect the harvest to be more… bountiful.”

Prim looked to Ferry with a pleading expression. He sighed. “Something went through there and took a bunch of your vegetables,” he explained. “That’s why we don’t have much.”

“And you know this how?” the innkeeper inquired.

“Why the fuck else would we have brought you a half empty basket of vegetables after hours in the woods?”

“Laziness, perhaps.”

“You fucking—”

Prim extended an arm in front of Ferry, preventing him from moving forward. Probably for the best, even if he hated to admit it. Ferry clenched his fist with all his might, arm shaking.

“What my friend means to say,” she interjected, tone apologetic but firm, “is that this is all we could find, so our best guess is that something big came through and ate them all. You can check the forest yourself, if you’d like.”

The innkeeper’s eyes flitted down to the basket for a moment, and he moved some vegetables around as he considered them. Then, he pulled the basket toward himself and said, “No, this will do. Thank you.” Prim deflated in relief, though Ferry was worried about where the hell they were going to sleep now that this avenue was exhausted.

That didn’t seem to be a worry in Prim’s mind, however. “If that’s all, then, we’ll be taking our leave,” she said, bowing slightly. The innkeeper nodded absentmindedly, then raised his eyebrows and vocalized as though he had just remembered something.

“Oh, I’d nearly forgotten. A local came by here today asking after you,” he said. “He was a farmer who lives on the northeastern border of the town. His name is Frans Mertens. I’m not sure what the job was, but he said it was fairly urgent and he was willing to pay you well for your work. I’d advise seeing him if you have the time.”

Prim looked to Ferry, and then nodded. “We have all the time in the world. Thank you, sir.”

“The pleasure is mine, my lady,” the innkeeper replied, though his voice indicated that the pleasure wasn’t really his at all. Prim and Ferry at last left the inn, and Ferry suspected the innkeeper was glad of it.

The air was cooling now, and the sky was a brilliant display of violets and deep crimsons. Stars twinkled from behind the magenta clouds, and the sun was sinking behind the forest, painting the trees in radiant gold. “So... our first job,” Prim said excitedly. Ferry wasn’t really very excited about it all, in truth— all he wanted right now was a mouthful of chicken and a nice warm bed. But a job was a means to that end, so he didn’t protest.

It was only about a ten minute walk to the farm the innkeeper had described. Large wooden posts partitioned off the man’s land, and a finely engraved sign that Ferry assumed bore the farmer’s name hung over the entry gate. A young man was herding a group of mareep and wooloo into a barn for the night as Ferry followed Prim to the front door.

She rapped on it sharply with her knuckles, then stepped back. Ferry felt the man coming— fifty years old, perhaps, sleepy yet anxious. He braced himself for confrontation as the door swung open.

The man, presumably Merten, looked exactly how Ferry supposed a farmer ought to look. His impassive expression was painted over an otherwise kindly face creased with laugh lines. His clothes were unremarkable, though Ferry could appreciate them for their practicality— breathable linen, loose for maneuverability at the expense of fashion. Ferry seldom trusted men, but those who lived off the land by hard work and the sweat of their brows were not so different from him, he thought.

The man’s eyes flitted between Prim and Ferry, then down to the scabbard at Prim’s hip. “You’re the Wanderswords, I hope?”

Prim pressed the back of her sword hand to her opposite hip, then moved swiftly moved her hand back upward and and placed it against her heart. Ferry recognized it as the Wandersword Salute. He’d learned the motion in his training, too, although the policy was that adjutants like him were only allowed to use it with other Wanderswords.

The man’s eyes lit up in recognition of the motion. “Excellent,” he said, bearing a slight smile as he motioned for the two to enter. Ferry anticipated a glare of suppressed contempt from the man as he walked past him into the house, but received none. He took a seat next to Prim at the farmer’s behest.

“Can I offer you a drink?” the farmer offered, already making his way to the kitchen. “Some ale, perhaps?”

“No thank you,” Prim replied, her tone respectful.

“Ale, please,” Ferry said. It was bad form for him to accept what his keeper declined, but by now he was willing to do more than breach etiquette to put something in his belly.

Mertens assented kindly, retrieving an already-opened bottle of ale and pouring two cups of it— one for Ferry and a slightly taller one for himself. Ferry accepted the mug gratefully and wasted no time taking a hearty sip. The stuff burnt his mouth and nose, and then it burnt all the way down before settling in his stomach and burning there instead. Ferry’s eyes watered as his head danced just a touch. The sensation of the farmer’s spirit blurred a bit too, edges running from the straight stroke of a quill to the soft blur of watercolor. His head was still pounding from his run-in the night before, and the drink wasn’t doing much to improve the matter. But God, it felt good to drink something.

Mertens took a sip too, then smacked his lips and set his cup on the table between them. “It has been a terribly long time since a Wandersword passed through our town,” he mused. Ferry bristled slightly at his wording— a Wandersword? Singular? They came in groups of two. Everyone knew that. Unless you didn’t count the lucario, of course. “It’s normally not a problem. The Royal Guard usually has quite a strong presence here, but these past few months, they’ve been diverted somewhere else, and we’ve been left to fend for ourselves.” His expression darkened, but he just pressed his mouth into a line and left it at that. “At any rate, your timing is impeccable. It was just this morning, you see…”

He gestured over his shoulder to something on the ground. Ferry had to stand to see it. It was an opened parcel of fluffy white wool. “Are you not a shepherd?” Ferry asked, narrowing his eyes in confusion.

“I am,” Mertens said. “But I found this parcel on my doorstep this morning, you see, and when I went to count my sheep this afternoon, I was missing one. Someone or some*thing* made off with one of my wooloo.”

Ferry frowned. “Do you think it might have been a zoroark?” he asked. Zoroark were known to steal from farmers, and they had just found one only a few miles from the town last night. Hadn’t it been going on about some philosophical nonsense about predation, too? Perhaps the pack had gone out for a wide-area hunt that night. It would make sense.

But the farmer shook his head. “I’ve dealt with zo’arks before. Sometimes they’ll get over the fence and climb through the barn and get away with a sheep or two. But their claws are huge— they always leave scratches on the barn’s face from their climbing. There was nothing like that there today. No scratches, no signs of forced entry. It’s as if the sheep just disappeared… And yet here is its wool.” He looked back at the wool himself, and looked depressed at the thought of it. “Besides, no zoroark could tie the parcel like that. I think a person did this, and I think it’s a threat. If you could find out who was behind this, I would reward you greatly.”

Prim tapped her chin thoughtfully. The reminder of a reward jogged Ferry’s motivation, but he was still thinking that a zoroark was likely the captor here. What if it had just developed a bit more finesse since last time? It wasn’t unthinkable.

“It’s growing late,” Prim said eventually. “Perhaps we can stay the night around your barn and keep an eye out for the perpetrator? If we don’t see anything, we’ll investigate further in the morning, but it’s worth a try.”

Mertens nodded. “Yes, that sounds like a good idea.” He stood up and gestured for the pair to follow him. Ferry became suddenly aware of the cup in his hand, from which he’d only taken a single sip. It would be unwise to drink any more if they were going to have to keep watch. He felt silly asking for a mug only to waste most of it, but set the cup on the table anyway, grimacing as he stood.

They were led to the house’s side door. Mertens fiddled with the bolt lock before opening it and stepping into the clammy night air. The sky had shed its evening brilliance by now, slipping instead into inky night. The moon was nowhere to be found; only the dull luminance of the stars penetrated the murky dark. The low light caused Ferry to subconsciously reach out with his inner eye rather than relying on his normal vision, despite the dull ache that came with overuse. He could feel the sheep nestled safely in their barn for the night, many of them sleeping. Orange light spilled from a house in the distance, where Ferry could feel a man eating— probably the farm hand from earlier. The fuzzy mental static of a million blades of grass caressed him from below. A hardwood fence enclosed the ranch on all sides.

“The barn is that way,” Mertens said, pointing. With its white facade peeking through the heavy mantle of night, the barn was probably the most visible thing in the area. The farmer fished a brass key from his pocket and dangled it in front of Prim. She accepted it and turned it over in her hand, examining it. “That’s the key to the barn. There’s some straw in there for you to sleep on, if you want it. Sorry I don’t have more for you.”

“It’s not a problem,” Prim responded cheerily. “We’re Wanderswords. Sleeping under the stars is what we do.” Mertens smiled warmly.

“I’ll see you in the morning, then. Best of luck to you.” He raised his fingers to his brow in a tired salute, then returned to his house, locking the door behind him and leaving the pair of Wanderswords alone.

Prim started toward the barn, so Ferry followed at her heels. “Stand beside me,” Prim urged. “We’re a team.” Ferry suppressed the urge to roll his eyes as he caught up to her. The words were nice, but that didn’t make them true. Ferry knew his lot as a lesser knight, and acting like Prim’s equal wouldn’t make him so, even if he desired it more than anything.

“Do you mind taking the first watch?” Prim asked sheepishly. “I hate to ask that of you, but I’m tired from working in the sun all day.”

“Yes, that’s fine,” Ferry replied. He’d expected as much anyway, seeing as he hadn’t woken up until the afternoon.

It didn’t take them long to reach the barn. Prim unlocked its door gently and entered, cautious not to wake any of the sheep. After a moment, she returned with an armful of straw and got to laying it out on the ground before locking the door again.

Ferry seated himself and tried his best to meditate as Prim lay down and drifted into sleep. His inner vision was dampened by the ale he’d had earlier, but he could feel his intense focus burning away the haze as time passed. Using his extra sense so much in a day, especially on such little energy and after taking such a beating, was painful to be sure, but Ferry had endured more before. Besides, the peace of mind it awarded him was worth it. He could feel Prim’s consciousness waning with each breath, then ebbing and flowing like the tide in the strange but familiar way that sleep did. The sheep were sound asleep too, and the flames of their consciousness flickered in the same way. It was tranquil at night to the average person, and even more so for one in tune with their inner eye. The rhythmic pulsation of those slumbering gently, lying in quiet bliss atop the soft whispers of grass and the little pinpricks of life that crawled beneath the earth… One became sharply aware of the world beneath the world at this hour, the tiny insects and animals of the night that lived their whole lives beneath the starlight, where men seldom saw.

It would have been easy for him to lose himself in them, to immerse his whole mind in their collective consciousness and plunge himself into thoughtless oblivion. It wasn’t quite the same as sleep, functionally, but in practice it was close enough that it would be unwise to indulge right now. He forced himself out of the alluring hypnosis, focusing on his own sense of self, grounding himself in the moment.

Me.

Ferrycloth the Red.

He dreamt of them.

The memory was so potent he could almost smell the smoke.

The men, so tall, bearing swords. The lucario didn’t stand a chance. Some of the more powerful ones, the sorcerers, they could fell a soldier or two. Three if they were lucky. None of them lasted forever. The men were so much larger, their reach so much wider, their armor so much stronger. And there were so damn many of them.

The pups were spared. The men grabbed them by their scruffs and threw them in the wagon. Put them in shackles. They were tools now, resources. Ferry had known as much from day one. The soldiers moved the pups out of harm’s way, but they didn’t care if they saw their elders, their mothers and fathers and uncles and cousins, with throats agape, shooting ruby blood into the afternoon air, their limbs torn off and discarded like playthings. Gasping, screaming, grunting, dying.

Singing.

Smoke borne from the ceaseless burning of Ferry’s ancestral home coiled through the air. And he stood there, his curtains of platinum blond hair waving gently in the hazy breeze. Framing the piercing blue eyes that sunk into his face. A face like a skull, its skin stretching around its extended lips. Whistling merrily, as though it was watching children at play. Ferry had heard the song before. He knew how the words went.

A loving God, compassion grows
Deeper, wider than you know—


Ferry had never hated someone so much. His anger had not ceased since that day. Raging forever and ever. Every time he closed his eyes, there was his face again, haunting his dreams, his subconscious, his very being.

The High Priest of Shallor.

They had begged Ferry and the others to forgive the massacre in the years that followed. It was a necessary evil. Surely they could understand. Many submitted. Many chose to forget.

Ferry wished he could strike it from his mind. It was the only thing he wanted in the world. But he could not forget the song that day, ringing through the grotesque cacophony of an entire village going to slaughter. Clear and perfectly on-key. Practiced.

Cross his path, incur his wrath
Your flesh to ash, your bones to snow.


Fuck.

Something was there. Something real. He could feel its presence. It shook Ferry from his trance, throwing him back into the real world. Night. It was night. Prim was sleeping. The sheep were sleeping. It was not the afternoon, there was no whistling, no smoke, no one was dying. It was night, and something real was there.

Ferry reached out and felt it with his mind. It was hard to discern just what it was from a distance. There was something familiar about its signature. A bird? A staraptor or noctowl, perhaps. Probably a staraptor, by the size of it. The cogs began turning in Ferry’s head. With some difficulty, a staraptor could conceivably fit through the window of the barn and carry a wooloo off. It wouldn’t need to enter forcibly, and it wouldn’t leave scratches. It made sense.

He cracked his eyes open and paused for a moment to allow his vision to adjust to the darkness, careful to keep track of the bird as he waited. He nudged Prim gently, and forced a finger to his lips when she stirred awake. Quiet. Then, cautiously, he gestured for her to stand. They both rose slowly.

Wherever it was, Ferry couldn’t see it from here. The pair of them advanced as slowly as they could manage, trying their best not to make any sound as they moved. Prim kept her hand on the hilt of her sword, her eyes wide.

Ferry led them toward the signature, but the closer he got, the less familiar it became. And still, they couldn’t see it. Where the hell was this thing? In the air, perhaps? Could it be a ghost?

After creeping along about a hundred feet, Ferry stopped. They were right on it, as far as he could gather, and yet it was still out of sight. What the hell was going on? It occurred to him suddenly that it could be a zoroark, cloaking its presence with illusory magic. His heart jumped at the thought of it, and he abruptly fell into a fighting stance, whipping his head about in search of a flaw in the illusion, anything to determine the damned thing’s location.

Then it disappeared. Ferry’s grasp on its signature faltered completely. He reached out for it again desperately, but it was nowhere to be found. His sensors began to ache and pound from overuse, but he steeled himself against the pain. “What the fuck?” he whispered, his eyes wide and searching desperately. Something was seriously wrong.

A blur of grey. Ferry was on the ground, his legs knocked out from under him. His back hit the grass hard, knocking the breath from his lungs. He barely heard Prim draw her sword over the sound of his own desperate gasping. It didn’t last long, however— within a moment, it had disarmed her, and Prim’s sword fell to the ground, almost silent against the soft grass.

Ferry wrenched himself to his feet. The thing was vaguely visible now, a mass of grey against the dark. Ferry noticed it was clinking as it moved, as though made of metal. Was it a skarmory? He had seen those down south before, but this far north—

It launched another hit at him with some kind of weapon. This time he was ready. He leaned out of its way swiftly, and the huge weapon whiffed less than an inch to his side. It had a sword?

It lifted the thing back up, and then swung down again. The size of the weapon made it somewhat slow, apparently, so Ferry should have had little difficulty dodging its hits now that he could see it. It wasn’t changing the trajectory of its strikes by much. And yet, he seemed to be miscalculating its course by a small margin each time. Ferry leapt out of the way of yet another swing, breath pressing through his teeth as the blade narrowly missed his head.

Was it aiming for his bandages? This was no feral mon. Too clever. Yet it was far too small to be a man…

Ferry realized with a start that his depth perception was being skewed by the bandages blocking his vision. He threw a paw up to his face and tore the bandages off his face, grunting loudly in pain as the dry blood peeled from his scalp. It took a few moments for the newly freed eye to adjust to the darkness, but once it did, dodging the sluggish blows was virtually effortless.

However, the range of the weapon was so great that Ferry was unable to get close enough to return hits of his own, even as he tumbled out of the way of hit after hit. Where the hell was Prim at?

Clang!

There she was, with her sword recovered. The thing was apparently alarmed by the hit she landed. It turned toward Prim and threw up its sword in defense. The blades didn’t make much of a ruckus as they collided. The sound was more like an ax against wood.

Ferry stepped back as he felt the thing’s signature focus. Holy hell… It’s been playing with us. Ferry watched in awe for just a second or two as it traded blows with Prim masterfully, forcing her back and hitting her hard with the flat of its weapon several times in just a few moments.

It turned toward Ferry quick as lighting as Prim recoiled. He had no time to react before it smacked him hard with its weapon, launching him onto the grass like a ragdoll and forcing the breath from his lungs again. He gasped loudly as his ribs burned. With difficulty, he pulled himself to his feet again.

By the time he’d recovered his wits, the thing had made its way past Prim and was rushing toward the farm, vocalizing with each stride. “Hup, hup.” Then, it tossed its weapon in the air, caught it with an inverted grip, and forced it into the ground as it dashed. It was about to vault into the barn.

There was nothing Ferry could do in time. He ripped his eyes off the thing and turned to Prim, his expression panicked. He couldn’t make out her form in the light, but he could sense her resolve, not just in her signature but in the purposeful, determined way she moved. She drew her arm back, sword in hand, and she threw her weapon.

The projectile struck true. It bounced off the thing’s metallic body with a loud clang— not enough to maim it, but just enough to disrupt its balance It let out a cry as it lost its grip on its weapon. Prim was already running toward it by the time it began its descent.

It squawked in anguish as it hit the ground fast and hard. Prim was on it within moments. She fell to her knees, pinning it face-up as its blade fell to the ground next to it. Ferry jogged to catch up, his ribs searing in pain and his breaths coming short. At least the fight was finally over.

Ferry looked at the perpetrator.

It was a fucking duck, decked shoulder to waist in heavy, gleaming armor.

“I have been bested in fair combat,” it said between pants, its voice deep and booming. It took a moment to steady his breaths, beak curving into a smile as it moved its gaze between Prim and Ferry. “Fair as a bout with two trained fighters twice my height can be, at any rate. Ohoho!”

No one said anything for a moment. They all just remained there, filling the night with their loud panting.

“Well?” the duck demanded. “You’ve captured me. I didn’t expect to go out this way, but you’ll make my death quick and honorable, won’t you? A proud old duck like me deserves at least that much.”

Prim looked to Ferry for a moment, then back to the duck.

“Get on with it, then!” it cried. “Do I have to—”

Prim raised her fist and then brought it down on the duck’s face with a surprising amount of force. It quacked comically and then fell silent. Ferry felt its consciousness extinguish abruptly, but not entirely. It would be out cold for a few hours at least.

“Well,” Prim said, and she let out a chuckle. “We got him.”
 

kintsugi

golden scars
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partner
silvally-grass
Yet for all the things they did have, there hundreds they did not.
caught this in chapter 4 when scrolling -- accidentally forgot a word here

onto the present day!

Most probably somewhere he had never been before. He was lying face-up on a fairly comfortable bed, certainly much nicer than anything he’d slept on before.
There's something here about repeating ending a sentence with "before" twice that disrupts your cadence, methinks. Normally your prose is buttery-smooth so this one stuck out a little to me.

but only one found light— the vision of the other was obscured by a blurry field of white
as a paladin of em dashes, I am legally obligated to point out to you that you needn't have the space after the em dash and before "the". They usually have either no spaces; sometimes they have before/after; unlike most punctuation, they never have just the space after.

a depression on its surface informed him that Prim had slept here last night, too
can't believe she doesn't make her bed, the lazy fool

Didn’t that blasted woman know that lucario can’t read?
The reading B-plot here is honestly pretty enjoyable. It's a great way of making Ferry have to be nice to people he'd normally be a dick to, and it's excellent humor in a fic that's been grim so far -- "read this / it says bE nIcE tO tHiS mAn" -- but why can't lucario read/why doesn't Prim know this? If they're basically squires to the wanderswords, it'd actually be pretty useful to have them be able to read/write, both for situations like this or so that they could take note of what was happening/send letters on behalf of their knights, so it would seem like something lucario would be trained to do. If it's more of a common "let's disenfranchise lucario as much as possible so they don't rise up against us", then it seems strange that Prim would leave this note in the first place since a societal norm like that would be pretty ingrained in all involved, and especially irresponsible of Prim/whoever taught her for her not to know what her servant can and cannot do.

The steps were clearly engineered for humans, so each one was just slightly too large for him.
I never knew how much bigger zoroark are than lucario until you posted that image in your review response, just like I never knew how much I needed the image of lucario awkwardly hobbling down stairs one-by-one until this exact moment.

“Well, I’m worried it’s just because I’m looking in the wrong spots, eheh...”
Mebbe just me, but writing out vocalizations like "eheh" always reads a little awkwardly to me in prose.

It seems, in fact, that there were once hundreds of scallions here, but the vast majority of them had been plucked away.
This is a *massive* dick move to point out, and the far more interesting thing is definitely whatever's been swiping all the veggies, but scallions typically prefer full sun. They'll do okay in partial shade, but you do drive in the point about how dark and shady the forest is, and how hot/sunny it is right in front of this garden -- a root plant like carrots or radishes would be better in a shaded garden, or the inkeeper is dumb (also an option).

Prim deflated in relief
This is such an excellent use of that verb I cannot even.

It’s as if the sheep just disappeared… And yet here is its wool
bUt a WoLf iN sHeEp'S cLoThInG iS mOrE tHaN a WaRnInG

It was a fucking duck
yup this was a ride from start to finish

This chapter brought a lot of depth to Ferry "so edgy I can't smile when a cool breeze blows my way" Cloth. His backstory is a specific flavor of angst that I think you set up pretty well; the first time that you tell it with Doran it's a setpiece for how big of an asshole humanity is being and gives a good gauge for what level of grimdarkness we can expect from the fic; this time, it's personal. And the image of Doran smiling like a smug piece of shit and whistling over the slaughter is... damn, lol. It's hardcore and pretty overkill but I think you've earned it?

That being said, I really loved the cheerful/calmer moments of this chapter. Prim digging for mushrooms and being nice to the innkeeper later, the sirfetch'd being a chivalrous little shit -- you have a really grim overarching world but it's nice to have little bits of time where your characters are actually happy to be in it. Lotta fun this chapter; really digging the extended/multi-scene pacing here!
 
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Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
Alright, I just read the prologue. You had me in the first half, I'm not gonna lie. At first I thought it'd just be about a narcissistic horseman having a mundane meeting with a tribe of Lucarios, but then shit hit the fan quickly and now the dude is trying to subjugate/kill of the village settlers. Gotta admit, I didn't expect that Lucario to go down so easily, but then again it makes sense soldiers in their world are trained to combat pokemon if necessary.

I have no idea where the story is going from here, but I'm excited to find out.
 
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NebulaDreams

Pokémon Trainer
Partner
luxray
Chapters 0-3

Hello! I've been meaning to check out this story for a while, since Lucario protagonists are my guilty pleasure, and that, mixed with the medieval/low fantasy setting got my attention, since I haven't read many fics in that genre. It fits the Pokemon setting like a glove though, since there are plenty of ways you can go about the worldbuilding with a series so full of fanfic fuel. I was not disappointed by the way this story has gone so far, in fact, I've been floored by quite a few aspects of it.

From the very beginning, you captured my attention with the description of Doran's steed, held it with the descriptions of the Lucario village/the contrasts between his high furnished life and their relative squalor, and used that in an excellent way to reinforce the viewpoint of the villain. This continued throughout the fic as we got into the heads of Ferrycloth and Primeviere, our two main protagonists. Ferrycloth is a very nice contrast from a lot of Lucario characters in fics, being honour bound, but also really pissed off and for good reason. Sold into servitude and having to worm his way through being a lesser knight, he has nothing but contempt for his situation and doesn't hesitate to let the other characters know it. This felt like a deconstruction of the Pokemon/trainer bond to an extent, even though there are no trainers to speak of. Prim does contrast with him by being a strong, fun female character on introduction, but has characteristics beyond that by treating Ferry with some sort of dignity while not being free of her own shackles or prejudices herself. Together, the two have some interesting baggage, which I'm sure will only be laid out bare as the fic goes on, and their bonds strengthened over time despite being forged by fire.

And man, what an introductory chapter. So far, it remains to be seen how it affects the rest of the story, but from inference and from the nature of what the Lucario's allegiance could've been, Doran has just royally screwed over the rest of their species. At least, until he eventually kicks the bucket. That's what I hope anyway.

The worldbuilding, from what we've seen so far, has also been great. The use of Zoroark as bandits, the way the description works Ferry's aura senses into the prose so effortlessly by getting him into the heads of less sentient beings, and the nods to the Pokemon canon (I love that archaic spelling of Kalos as Callouse, by the way) made my world crafting senses tingle. So on the whole, fantastic stuff.

For me, there are only two issues so far with the story, and while one of them is more of a nitpick, the other one isn't so much of an issue right now, but could be a big one the further the story gets.

So... one, for a Pokemon setting, while I appreciate that it doesn't use it as a crutch, since the story really could work on its own without knowledge of the Pokemon series, there's not been much variety so far in this world in terms of species, since Lucario have been at the forefront so far. While I found the exploration of that kind of Pokemon very rich as well as heartwrenching for the shit they get put through in this story, it also begs the question of how the other species influence the world and if they'll either be present in the story. Dragons would be a big one, for instance, and there are many other Pokemon with powers of their own, that would give humans a heck of a time. As Namo pointed out, Lucario are presented as a lot weaker than their game counterparts, so perhaps it's the same for other species as well. Still, the absence of many other Pokemon aside from the Mudsdale and the Zoroark seemed odd, though it didn't get in the way of the story.

Two is a bit of a tonal issue which might turn some people off, I'm afraid. I've discussed this with you already through Discord, but so far, the tone has been relentlessly bleak. It has provided some great drama so far, especially in the prologue, and I'm starting to see some of the payoffs for it already, but the start of the story for these three and a half chapters have been a bit tough to swallow. Not only has the story started with a Lucario village massacre by an absolute hate sink of a villain, the main Pokemon protagonist has also effectively been sold into slavery, as well as beaten up by his superior in a previous fight and almost killed by a Zoroark, humiliating him in the process twice. Everyone around him, including himself, is rightfully bitter about the world, and what we've seen so far, the world is a huge shithole, which is par for the course for a medieval setting, but still. This isn't reflective of the writing quality, which has been excellent so far, but because of the bleak tone, it also has me wondering how far the story can take it before I lose my interest.

I predict this will lead to much more satisfying moments later when the characters do gain small victories, develop for the better, as well as make positive changes to the world around them. We have shades of that at the moment with Ferry and Prim's relationship since they've been somewhat amiable while not on great terms, as well as the nature of their jobs as Wanderswords. The intrigue of the prologue, as well as the rich worldbuilding and evocative prose, has grabbed my attention so far. But for me to be engaged by this story in the long term, there needs to be some hope for the characters finding peace. If the rest of it is just going to be them getting put through the wringer, and there isn't a world for them to return to that the reader would want to live in, then it will become harder to care for what happens to the point that it gets too much.

For now though, I have been really engaged by what I've read so far. Once I've taken a little break, I'll return to chapter four.
 
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Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partner
mew
Sorry it took me so long to do, but I finally sat down to read the first chapter. It seemed to pick up not long after where the prologue left off, though the chapter title saying 15 years later threw me off at first.

I must say though, I felt pretty bad for Ferrycloth. Must've really hurt his pride that he lost quickly despite all his training, a thing that still surprises me tbh. You did well in portraying his sense of dread for losing his freedom soon, and it makes me dislike that narcissistic dude from the prologue even more. I wonder how Ferry and his tribe will get out of this pickle, assuming they can.
 
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