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Pokémon (PMD) Between the Mountains and the Sea

zion of arcadia

too much of my own quietness is with me
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. marowak-alola
Between the Mountains and the Sea

Seafolk’s guild was not spoken of alongside the greats—even its own members could attest to that. But between a town that hates them and the threat of larger guilds coming to subsume them, they'd better think of some way to pull themselves together or else be dissolved. Fortunately, that’s not Solder’s problem, not when all he needs is to pick up the shattered remains of his memory and move on. Yet things can only get more complicated and it seems that for every reason he has to leave, another tells him to stay.
Ah, here's the PMD fic I've been threatening myself to release for a while. It's a little low-key and meandering, but there are enough bright spots to say I still like it. Anyways, I've banked something like a completed arc, sixty-thousand words and nine chapters in and I'm hoping to release them every week or so while I work on my other fic. Enjoy!

General warning for violence, swearing and adult themes. Death, references to abuse and alcoholism, self-esteem issues, anxiety, and general mental health issues. Finally, friends and non-friends being cruel to each other.


Part One

Chapter One
The Sea



Solder lay on a bench in the shade, the storm in his gut just quelled enough to open his eyes.

So he did. Unfortunately, the bench he lay on faced the ocean.

Solder groaned and shut his eyes again. He slumped back and took a deep breath. The wet slats weren’t pleasant on his spine, but it was better than standing. Or laying on the puddle-riddled stone harbour, instead. As if taunting him, a massive wave crested over the stone pier not too many metres away, mirroring the tremendous waves sloshing through his mind. He felt his stomach lurch at the memory.

He’d never take a boat again.

An electronic crackling interrupted his groaning. He cracked one eye open. The crooked fabric overhang he slept under filled his vision, but as he craned his neck, he noticed a brown-box radio sitting on the open window beside him. Its two dials stared at him like the eyes of a child.

A boyish, enthusiastic voice leaked from it with a little sing-song intro.

“...Aaaaand good morning, Seafolk! Welcome back to the broadcast! It’s fa~bulously sunny again today and the sea—she’s faring well. For all you sea-dwellers, be prepared for weeks of fortune and prosperity and ships brimming with fish. Now, let’s diiiii~p into the harbour for a moment~”

Solder tuned out the broadcast at that, letting it fade into background noise. After a few moments, he’d finally gathered himself enough to try sitting up again.

Taking a deep breath of salty ocean air, he swung his legs over the edge of the bench and dragged himself up. The harsh glare of sunlight forced him to squint. He looked out over the gatherings of strange creatures walking across the harbour, talking in groups or sitting alone at the edge of the ocean with fishing rods cast before them. Despite sharing a ship with an odd collection of them, he still couldn’t get used to the odd mutations, vibrant colours and absurd biology. Like, one of the sailors that he chatted with on the voyage here was a living key ring—Klefki, she called herself—she looked absurd, but how could he judge? She functioned perfectly. He could barely walk.

Solder frowned. He hadn’t seen a single recognizable creature yet—including himself (a quilava, according to the sailors, who gave him worried glances when he asked)—but they all talked and acted like it was normal, so…

Best not to rock the boat on that one. Pun intended. He could shut up and pretend this was normal for a while. Still, his mind spluttered and Solder felt a flash of anger as he tried to reach even basic memories. There existed flashes of vague, unreachable objects, creatures and images that slipped through his mind like water through a sieve.

“...Now, onto guild news. Un-fortunately, Zazz, our resident froslass, resigned this morning. Many of you may have seen her battle with Guildmaster Haxorus in the valley, but, needless to say, she did not beat him! What a surprise~. Of course, this brings into question the duties of the guildmaster. Can he really throw his weight around like that? Where does it stop? Personally, I’m wondering if more shows of discipline are sneaking up on us. We’ll see~”

Solder found himself listening to the voice again, latching onto the mention of the guild before he let it drift off again.

When he’d interrogated the sailors in between bouts of seasickness, the topic of guilds popped up frequently. And with it came endless praise. Endless stories of teams they’d ferried to other continents, their triumphs, their failures, their brilliant confidence and selflessness. Valotrope, Treebow, Sanclaw: all big guild cities, thriving utopias inland that housed the bravest er… pokemon (according to klefki) in the world.

Well, they certainly sounded impressive, but Solder had to wonder why nobody mentioned that Seafolk had a guild.

Half the sailors had, at one point, applied to enter a guild. None had succeeded. Klefki wasn’t shy about crying—literally crying, which sounded faintly like windchimes being shaken—on his shoulder as she shared that. They’d done written exams, interviews, background checks, battles.

He glanced at the masses wandering across the pier. One hulking, bipedal alligator-looking thing stomped by, giving him a sidelong glance before snorting and turning away. Solder barely caught the disarming flash of knife-sharp fangs as it grinned.

He shuddered, a sudden chill cutting through him.

He’d be torn to shreds.

Solder sat up as the radio continued to ramble behind him. He hopped off the bench, his stubby, alien paws meeting the ground with a splash. Water soaked him up to his ankles and he instantly wanted to get back into the sunlight.

He left the shaded bench behind without a second glance, spit into the warm sunlight and open streets of Seafolk.

Wandering around the busy pier on all fours proved to be awkward even without motion sickness bogging him down. Not the mechanics of it—he had no problem putting his legs forward in the right order or weaving his surprisingly flexible body around the crowds—but he was so short. Pretty much every pokemon was taller than him as he walked.

Feeling slightly shaken and pinned under the gaze of so many pokemon, Solder turned to the first street he came across, leaving the noisy pier behind. He breathed a sigh of relief as he left. The street was narrow and much less busy than the pier.

The city seemed built on a hill. The laid bricks and boards by the pier becoming trodden dirt the further into the city they went. They sloped up as well, going on until they, along with the city’s buildings, trailed off into the mountains and cliffs surrounding.

Solder was impressed by the architecture. Every house was erected as a block, kept up by wooden pillars and stone foundations. Few had glass windows, instead using thick wood slats or swinging planks to cover them. Each building connected to the street with massive, arching doorways that even the largest pokemon could fit through. Not many had second or third storeys, but those that existed were small, becoming progressively less massive until the top floors looked like garden sheds from the street.

As Solder strolled up the dusty street, he puzzled over the mess of T-shaped poles and platforms that reached from the slanted rooftops. There he saw a group of intimidating blue birds, long tail feathers jutting behind them in impressive Vs, roosting on the platforms. He squinted at them, wondering if they were just simple birds or if they could talk like everything else.

Then they burst into a chorus of laughing caws that echoed through the street. The biggest one flung its wings open, gesturing widely to the group. It brought another round of laughter. Solder shook his head and turned away, back to the street. Unfortunately, with another look, none of the buildings screamed ‘guild’.

Okay, fine. Time to ask for help.

He huffed and searched for a pokemon that didn’t look like it would kill him, passing over a group of intimidating monsters lurking in the wide arch of the building next to him. He scampered further up the street, turning the first chance he got; another row of stacked houses met him, this time sandwiching a square of overgrown trees, vines and shrubs that spilled out into the street. Pokemon milled about the street, but the park lay empty aside from a roundish pokemon with long rabbit-like ears sprouting from its head. Solder recognized this one, actually—it was an azumarill, like one of the sailors he talked with on the ship. She stood in the shade of a tree, seemingly content watching the pokemon pass by.

“Excuse me?” Solder waved as he entered the park. She didn’t respond. “Hey!”

One of her large ears twitched and she turned towards him. As their eyes met and Solder opened his mouth to speak, a brief spark of… something passed her face. And then it left. Not because she schooled her expression or smiled, she simply left. One moment they shared awkward half-smiles, the next she loped into the street, the blue orb at the end of her tail bobbing behind her.

Solder could do nothing but stare at the shaded patch of dew-grass she used to occupy, mouth open as if trying to find the words he was trying to say. He ran his tongue across his teeth. They felt sharper than they should.

“Fine.” He grumbled, turning back to the crowds in a huff. “Alright. Cool..”

Wandering around led him behind trails of creatures, all gathering around a set of open streets. He stumbled through the crowd and Into a bustling marketplace, with colored awnings arching between the buildings above him and a swarm of multicoloured pokemon crowding around wooden stalls jammed in the wooden buildings that framed them. The noise of it rivalled the colours, all manner of voices, crass and musical rang out over the crowd. None of it appealed to Solder at all.

For a second Solder thought to spare himself, to turn around and give up, but a thought struck him as he watched a fish-seller chat up a customer, waving him off with a brown wrapped package and a grin.

So he sighed and bore the noise, scampering around a passing pair of pokemon. Then he raised himself from four legs to two so he could look at his options.

The shops across the street were stocked mostly with produce. A wide array of herbs crowded together, overflowing from their boxes. They were the busiest stands. Absolutely crowded, pokemon all shoving past each other to get the best products. Further down, more pokemon hawked products in shaded tents with bits of jewelry and other trinkets hung around them. The rest of the market was just… fish. Solder didn’t notice at first, but most of the market consisted of buckets and trays of dead fish—none of which he recognized—sitting in beds of crushed ice.

He supposed it made sense for a seaside town, but as he sniffed the air—finally noticing the sharp, briny scent—he couldn’t help but shrink away.

Spotting a promisingly empty jewelry tent, Solder dropped back to his feet and skirted through a gap in traffic, silently thanking his nimble frame as he narrowly brushed a massive, scaled leg. He ignored the subsequent shout as he slipped past a group of chatting cats sharing an awning.

The shopkeeper looked like a walking sunflower, with a happy narrow-eyed face plastered in the centre of the radiating yellow petals. Solder didn’t bother trying to understand how that worked—or the way she manipulated her leaf-arms to hook and unhook the accessories from her wall. He reminded himself of the key ring he talked to on the ship, fought the urge to slam his head into the table, then cleared his throat.

“Hey, can you help me? I’m looking for the guild.” He thought about standing and bringing himself eye-level with her, but the moment of hesitation she held before speaking kept him on all fours.

“Why on earth would you want to go to our guild and not inland?” She said in a soft hum, before turning back to her work. “They’re not so friendly up here, honey. Ohhh, but I heard on the radio that Treebow’s guild is simply lovely in springtime—what with all those flowers. And such a nice stroll up the valley. Hmmm...” She trailed off with another hum, finishing her work with a pleased clap of her leaves and stepping back up to the counter.

Maybe she didn’t expect Solder’s completely flat expression, but her smile dipped a bit as she locked eyes with him.

“I guess you didn’t hear me, I wanted to go to this guild, not Treebow. In fact, I never even mentioned Treebow. Maybe I should’ve screamed,” Solder said, a soft venom to his voice. “But, okay. Yeah, yeah, trees, flowers, whatever—can you give me directions or not?”

“Oh, honey, maybe you should calm down first. I know how your type…” She gestured to him with a leaf. “...tend to get.”

“You don’t know me. And I’m not upset.”

“Sure, honey. Maybe I can help you later. After this customer.”

Then she simply ignored him, turning to another pokemon Solder hadn’t noticed had snuck up beside him. He clenched his teeth. The creature (taller than him, with a pair of scythes for arms) took his place and hit him with a side-eye. He let his irritation out in a laboured sigh, nodded and turned back to wait and watch the street.

There was no neighbouring stall across the street. So, with nothing to stop for, all the stray pokemon passed by like the swing of a metronome—back and forth, back and forth. Solder leaned against the shopkeeper’s table, happy for the moment to relax. But the more he counted, the more time passed with the sunflower’s enthusiastic conversation melting into the background noise, and the more he felt his irritation evaporate with nothing to spend it on. He let out a wide yawn. His muscles went slack and he found himself half-laying on the table. Soon enough, his eyes fluttered closed…

But a shrill squeal pierced through the crowds. Solder jerked awake, slamming his elbow on the table with a jolt of pain. He flicked his attention to the offender. There, across the street, some sort of yellow rat with a big wedge of teeth jutting from her muzzle sat on the dusty ground, clutching a brown bag against their side. Jewelled pins lined her shoulder-strap. They scrambled to their feet, scolding the orange, two-tailed weasel who must’ve knocked them over.

Mostly, Solder was fascinated by the… yellow swim floaty wrapped around their neck. Paranoid little weasel.

He started to lose interest as the mouse further overreacted. She whined in the same annoying squeal, she huffed, she flailed as if the light coat of dust she’d taken from being knocked over was toxic. Solder couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Not only at the mouse, but with how the weasel made a big show of apologising in a sickly-sweet tone of voice, patting her on the shoulder like a child—which she tried in vain to shrink away from.

Then they parted. Solder was just about to brush it off, turn, and make another go at the sunflower, but something caught his eye. While the mouse’s bag-strap once had a neat row of gems pinned to it, now half—a good eight or so—were missing. Solder blinked once, not believing the weasel could’ve pulled it off so seamlessly, but…

No, they were gone.

And the weasel had just reached the thicker crowds up the street.

Solder considered saying something, but… well, he didn’t really care that much about some stolen jewellery. Still, a nagging voice lurking in the back of his mind. Imagine if he showed up to the guild with a criminal in tow. It was just a petty criminal, sure, but his resume was a big, fat nothing right now. He’d take anything.

Solder took a quick glance back to the shopkeeper, still chatting away endlessly. It’s not like she was going anywhere.

With that, he took off, following the blaring yellow collar as it bobbed through the crowds. He lost sight as they turned a corner and, for a second, Solder paused. The weasel simply disappeared. Solder blinked, glancing around some scattered groups of pokemon in the otherwise empty street for a telltale flash of colour. For a while he was stumped. Then he noticed an alley—or, more of a construction error between houses. Any pokemon too much bigger than Solder wouldn’t be able to fit.

He crept up, peeking around the corner.

If Solder hadn’t followed him, the alley might’ve been paradise for the thief. It was easy to skip over, easy to hide in. But instead of leading to another street, a heaping pile of broken furniture and scrap blocked the end. And there, crouched on an upturned wooden crate, the weasel examined his spoils, a grim frown on its muzzle.

Perfect.

Solder stepped around the corner and into the alley, blocking the only exit.

Only to realise he hadn’t thought of a plan.

“Hey, you… stop,” he said, good criminal-stopping words lost on him. He couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm for it either, so his voice came weakly, like he was reciting a speech. “Drop the pins, weasel.”

The weasel looked up, blinking owlishly.

“Weasel? Wow, I haven’t heard that one since I was just a little scamp chasing after fish in the bay. You need some better material, kid; it’s bui-zel.” He winked and gave Solder a crude smile, but after a second it dropped. “Hey, wait—you’re a bit of a weasel yourself, aren’t you?”

Solder blinked. He looked down at his long, furry torso. Was he?

“That’s not important,” he huffed, letting his shoulders slump.

“And you can’t just accuse me of something like that! What proof do you have?”

“I saw it.” Solder pointed at his eyes with a nubby paw, then he glanced back over the pins sitting on another crate beside the weas— ah… buizel. “I still see it, actually.”

The buizel hesitated for a moment, the twin tails behind him spinning slowly. Then he followed Solder’s gaze, slowly, slowly, until he reached the pins. He must’ve just remembered they were there because, with a quick flick of his paw, he knocked them to the dirty alley floor.

“Woah, how’d those get there? Haha!” He chuckled awkwardly. Solder returned the buizel’s forced smile and shrug with a flat scowl. “That’s so weird! Anyways, I’ll be going, now. Got… important… things to do, ya’know?”

The buizel stood, dusted himself off and started a casual stroll towards Solder, stopping once he noticed that Solder had advanced further and stood up, bracing himself against both walls of the alley in a makeshift barricade.

“No, I think you’ll be going with me.” Solder said, forcing his voice deeper. Inwardly, he was faintly happy with the way the buizel held his paws up to his chest and stepped back. Solder’d intimidated him, at least a little bit.

It was a much better line than before, to be fair.

“What, you wanna battle?” the buizel said, shaking out of his hesitation and crouching. “I’m game.”

Solder raised an eyebrow. While he thought he could certainly take the other pokemon, he’d rather not have to fight. Ever. Luckily, he had a much better idea.

“What if I just scream?” Solder asked and the buizel hesitated again. “Like: ‘Help, this monster’s attacking me!’ or something?”

“Umm… don’t?”

By the way the buizel’s eyes widened and his tails’ spinning slowed to a stop, Solder knew he couldn’t resist the idea. With a glint in his eye, he took a deep breath through his nose. Then he let it out in a harsh shout.

“HELP! Help, he’s—“

Solder was cut off as the buizel lunged, slamming into him, eliciting a winded ‘oof’ and knocking them both to the ground in a tangle of limbs. While Solder lay, stunned, beneath the buizel straddling him, he felt two paws wrap around his muzzle and hold it in a firm clamp.

He blinked the stars from his eyes and squinted at the shaky smile of the buizel looming above him.

“Okay! Okay, um… let’s just calm down. If I let go, will you scream again?”

Solder nodded. The buizel’s smile dropped completely. He shifted on top of Solder.

“Oh.” His jaw clamped shut with a sharp clack. Solder jerked back and forth beneath him, struggling to get free.

The buizel grunted and put more pressure on Solder’s chest, forcing a jolt of pain through his lungs, exhaling harshly into the paws clamped around his muzzle. The buizel opened his mouth again.

Then Solder watched his pupils dilate, catching on something at the mouth of the alley. The sharpness of a brief exhale echoed from behind Solder and he craned his neck, struggling to wrench himself from the buizel’s grasp. Still, he managed to catch an upside-down glimpse of another yellow duck standing behind them, a deep spark of fear in its eyes.

“I’m not kidnapping him!” The buizel snapped, jerking backwards without releasing Solder. “I’m not! We’re just— wait, no! Not that! Ah— wow, there’s really no way to make this look good, is there?”

The duck didn’t look like it had been listening at all. It took a tentative step back, then one more; then that turned into a sprint.

Solder couldn’t help but snicker under the buizel’s weight. He and the buizel shared a look—one uneasy, one amused.

Though that amusement didn’t last long. This was… certainly not how Solder imagined this going, but if someone else got involved, he bet they’d just steal his thunder. Give him a pat on the back, maybe, then take the buizel off his hands.

Taking advantage of the buizel’s momentarily stunned state, Solder finally managed to wrench his face from the vice grip holding it.

“Wait!” He said, before the buizel could jerk forward and catch him again. “I’ll be quiet. Let’s just talk, alright?”

The buizel kept his paws up as if waiting for Solder to bite, but after a moment of nothing he reluctantly dropped them, dropped his guard, and nodded. Solder took the opportunity to push himself off the ground. The buizel tumbled off him with a startled yelp, hitting the alley floor and laying stunned on his back for a moment before he scrambled deeper into the alley.

“Look, I don’t really care about the pins that much,” Solder said.

“What? Then why did you cause a scene?”

“It was funny.”

Solder didn’t smile, but he wanted to as he watched the buizel’s bemused expression grow. Then the other pokemon shook it off, forced a smile and cleared his throat. Solder noticed the way his tails spun more vigorously behind him.

“W-well then. What can I do for a… fine mon like you?” The buizel tried for a casual lean against the wall. It didn’t work, mostly because his orange fur was a matted mess of dirt. It looked more yellow than orange. “If you want a cut, I’m telling you now I’m not selling the spoils.”

Solder paused, actually needing to think about the question. What he wanted was to get credit for catching a thief, which the guild could apparently help with. Except, he still didn’t know where the guild was.

Right. He forgot about that.

So maybe his plan wasn’t very well thought out. Or thought out at all. Although…

“Can you take me to the guild?” Solder said.

For a second—where the buizel scrunched up his muzzle and gave Solder an odd look—Solder thought he saw through it, but as quickly as it came, it left.

“What?” The buizel stood up from the wall. “That’s it? Sure. You won’t tell anyone if I do, right?”

“Yeah.”

No.

The buizel’s smile returned with a vengeance. He sauntered over to Solder, trying to slip by him and out the mouth of the alley. It was a nice try, but Solder managed to wrap an arm around the buizel’s shoulders—just enough to catch him if he tried to run. Still, the other pokemon didn’t seem to mind as they walked out of the alley together, practically conjoined with how close they were.

“Alright! I’m Larcen, by the by,” the buizel said, returning Solder’s favor by throwing his own arm around the quilava. Solder grunted under the weight and the irritating scratch of the buizel’s dust-stiff fur against his face. “May I know the name of my co-thief?”

“Solder.” He didn’t bother to dignify that last part.

“Weird name.”

Solder just bit his tongue.

~(0)~

There wasn’t a chance in the world Solder would’ve found the guild on his own. Not only was it not in the city, it was a kilometre out, through winding dirt paths that snaked around and over cliffs, until they converged and cut through a valley. According to Larcen, this was the only way out of Seafolk on foot.

The flat roof of a gatehouse greeted Solder and Larcen in the distance, over a hill, and Solder breathed a sigh of relief. After a long day, the sight was a blessing. It helped that the mountains were quiet and awash in a fresh breeze that welcomed him to his destination.

They chatted all the while. Solder tried to resist, at first, but Larcen eroded him over the course of a thousand words. He went on about Seafolk, mostly. Solder didn't have much to say. He just gave vague half- truths and shrugs.

But by holding his tongue, he learned nothing. So he talked. Latched onto easy, mundane details.

“I got a lot of pokemon tiptoeing around me in town.” He asked, strolling beside Larcen. They’d stopped dangling off each other as they entered the valley. Now, Solder glowered at Larcen’s back as the buizel waded in the neck-high grasses growing from the cliff base, picking flowers as he passed. “A merchant was talking about ‘my type’, whatever that means. Do I look like a punk to you?”

Larcen turned, staring at Solder with a quirked eyebrow. His whiskers twitched. A limp bouquet of irises dangled from his paw.

“It’s ‘cause you’re a firestarter,” he said. Then he gave a small smile, as if what he said made sense.

Solder looked at himself with a frown. What was different about him? Were all quilava arsonists here? Did that make all buizel thieves? Solder waited until they were on the road again before talking, letting the awkward silence simmer between them. He stared at the back of Larcen’s head, watching it bob through the flowers.

“How can anyone tell I’m an arsonist? Not that I am, of course, but you seem to think so.” Solder said.

Larcen paused, turned, and gave him an open-mouthed stare.

Maybe he shouldn’t have asked that.

“You— “ Larcen’s voice came as a whisper. He composed himself. “Are you okay? You know what you are, right?”

“A quilava. I’m confused, not stupid.”

“Yeah, but… your type?”

Solder froze, staring off into the mists swirling in the valley, past the guild. Type… type… had he heard anything about type? It sounded like a judgement of personality, but maybe it was a little more significant.

So Solder stammered for a few moments, feeling like his brain was stuck in sap.

“Ars— heat… heat type. No! Fire! Fire makes sense. Fire type.”

Solder turned back to Larcen. Needless to say, the buizel’s tense muscles and confused frown were not reassuring.

“Okay…” he drawled. “What type am I?”

Any pride that warmed Solder’s chest at the ‘okay’ fled as he looked at the buizel. He bit his lip and tried to think.

I’ve got no clue. What type is a thief? Stealing type? That swim-ring collar of his might be a clue, but what type can’t swim?

“Umm… land?”

Larcen smiled, but it barely breached his cheeks.

“Wow, you might be stupid, then. That’s not even a type.”

“How would you know?”

“There’s only eighteen of them. I’m water.”

That explains the fins...

“Why the collar, then? Weird fashion choice; can’t you swim?”

Larcen grinned, giving his collar a firm tug.

“I can’t take it off. It’s a part of me, actually.”

Solder hummed and turned away, avoiding Larcen’s suspicious smile. Maybe it was best he shut up for a while; the last few minutes have been nothing but him putting his foot in his mouth over and over again. He burned up beneath his fur despite the light breeze. He didn’t know anything about himself before the ship, but somehow he got the impression he wasn’t used to being put on the spot like this—being so ignorant he couldn’t understand the most obvious concepts.

“You okay, Solder? This is getting less funny and more sad.”

Solder thought about it for a while, the scuffing of his feet across the dirt path and Larcen rustling through the grass melting into background noise. Eventually, the guild became more than a flat-roofed gatehouse as they grew closer. Now, Solder spotted some jutting wooden structures hanging from a particularly large cliff behind it, framed by windows carved into the lower cliff face.

As tempted as he was to deny anything was wrong, to keep lying forever, he realised that he’d already failed, to no one's surprise, least of all his own. But eventually he’d have to trust somebody, and it wasn’t likely Larcen would forget about that one weird pokemon that knew nothing about anything.

All of a sudden a faint, irritating spark of guilt clogged Solder’s throat. He coughed.

Fine…

“Look,” Solder said, letting his frustration out in a weary sigh. “I woke up a couple weeks ago, beaten nearly to death, remembering nothing—not even my own name—and being shipped to… well, here. It’s not a big deal or anything, just... confusing and frustrating and terrible.” He took a deep, deep breath, the pressure high enough he felt like a balloon. Then he let it slip out through his nose. It felt hotter than it should as it passed over his chest.

Larcen winced and clicked his tongue once, the sharp sound barely reaching Solder.

“That… sucks. I kinda feel bad now,” Larcen said.

“Don’t. It’s not your fault.”

“Nah, not for that.” Larcen toyed with his whiskers, his pace slowing to a crawl. He refused to elaborate beyond that, even as the duo walked in silence.

At this point, the wide, arching doorway of the guild crept out from behind the gatehouse, into Solder’s vision. Created from massive stone bricks, it looked plain besides the illegible runes marking the top of it.

“If you want to know about types, I can give you a nice little catch-up when we get in the guild. For now…” Larcen smiled and held out his fistful of drooping violets.

Solder glared at them. What was he supposed to do? Eat them?

He plucked one and gave it a sniff. It smelled like grass and sugar.

“Am I supposed to feel better, now? What’s the point of this?”

Larcen didn’t take back his hand. His smile froze a moment too long.

“It’s an apology, I guess. Thought I’d trick the foolish newcomer, but oops, he has head problems! And now who’s the fool?” He pointed to himself and rolled his eyes. “Me, like usual.”

It took entirely too long for Solder’s brain to catch up, looking from Larcen to the guild, then back again. Then back again…

“You—”

“That’s right! Welcome to Seafolk guild, home of me! And other pokemon, too, but I’m obviously the most important.”

Larcen’s cheeky wink did nothing to soothe Solder’s pounding heart and grinding teeth. The heat in his chest boiled. He raised himself up on two legs and opened his maw to say something, to spit maybe.

Instead, when his lips parted a spurt of red-hot flame licked across the paw clenching Larcen’s violet, charring it in an instant, spilling out across his fist and swallowing it in a blanket of fire. He yelped and threw himself back, hitting the dirt wide-eyed as he shook his paw, desperately willing the fire to…

It vanished. Actually, it was never there. There was no searing heat, just the faintest hint of it. The tan fur on his paw was just… ruffled. Mildly.

“Uh…” Anger gone, Solder looked to Larcen.

“Yeah, that’s the whole ‘fire type’ thing I was talking about.” Larcen said. Then, noticing the still-smoldering flower lying in the dry grass, spat a stream of water at it as casually as a snap of the fingers.

That was about the moment Solder’s brain melted.

“That’s… not possible.”

“Yes… it… is?”

Solder clambered back to his feet and crawled to the flower—now sad and petalless and dripping—sniffing it as if it wasn’t real. He turned to Larcen and wrinkled his brow, waiting. For what, he didn’t know. An explanation, maybe, but Larcen only shrugged and Solder let out a hot breath through his nose; no flames escaped this time.

Right, this is how things were. No matter who he was and what was impossible to him, the world would work without his permission.

So he just let it simmer in the back of his mind.

“So what’re ya here for?” Asked Larcen. Solder paused, raising an eyebrow at him.

“You couldn’t have just told me?”

“It was funny.”

Solder decided it was best to just breathe. Sit there, take in some clean air and calm the nausea and frustration and quaint little urge to do violence to a weasel.

He looked around. He’d barely noticed, but they’d reached the foot of the gatehouse. It was a flat-roofed wooden building with more heavy wooden slats barring the windows, floating a good inch above a desk that stretched across the outside. It looked like some kind of border control booth, complete with a sliding gate beside it—stretching across the gap between the gatehouse and the cliff beside it.

“You wanted our help with something, right? And as an… ah apology for leading you on, I’ll take you on now, instead of putting you through the whole rigmarole, y’know?” Larcen continued, leaning in and giving Solder a condescending pat on the back.

Solder had half a mind to bite his hand. He huffed and focused on more important things.

“So this is the guild, huh?” Solder squinted at the entrance beyond the gate—the blocky stone arch etched with strange runes. “What’s that say?”

Solder dreaded the sharp, inhaled hiss Larcen let out beside him.

“Just ‘Seafolk Guild.’ Can’t you read?”

Great. Can’t read either. Can act, can’t read, what’s even the point of trying?

“Is there a cliff I can jump off around here?” Solder snapped.

Larcen let out a dry chuckle. He patted him once again, which transitioned into a warm arm around his neck. Solder groaned under Larcen’s weight.

“Slow down a bit, kid.”

“I’m older than you.”

“Eh, you don’t know that.”

Solder gave up at this point, just leaning into the buizel and letting him lead the way. Closing his eyes and just breathing. He could pretend it worked, but really it left him shaking like a leaf in a storm.

“I want to join the guild,” Solder said. Larcen stopped.

“Really?”

There was a faint hint of disbelief to his voice, just a whisper under his tone. Solder simply shrugged under Larcen’s arm and nodded slowly.

“I can probably make it happen. You’re sure, though? You were looking around town for the guild so you’ve probably heard… things…”

He just sighed and nodded again.

“Alright!” Larcen unlatched himself from Solder and clapped his paws together. “Come on, we need some help to open the gate.”

Larcen wandered off, letting Solder trail behind. He sauntered around the corner of the gatehouse, then back. He ambled around a pile of rocks. Finally, he let out a sharp cry as he rustled through a scraggly Laurel bush on a little outcropping overlooking the road. Solder, who’d been right behind him, narrowly avoided trodding on the buizel’s tails as stepped forward, sidling against the scratchy branches and wax leaves of the bush. Two new pokemon sat there. One, a black-and-blue lion lazing about in an empty patch of grass; and the other, a tall, graceful creature with a flowing white dress and a crop of green hair.

“There you are! Solder, meet Veille luxray and Auloin gardevoir, they’re some other guild members.”

The tall one—the gardevoir, from Larcen's point—turned to face him. She had a clipboard in her hands and a flat, unimpressed look on her face. Her other hand clutched a stick of charcoal, the dusty black smearing against her hand.

“Where did you come from?” Auloin said, her voice monotonous but with an odd edge, like she was waiting to cut him with it. “You couldn’t possibly have come through the valley. We would’ve noticed. Certainly not through the mountains. Veille?”

The luxray—who Solder only now noticed had been sleeping—grumbled and rolled over. She blinked and yawned widely, showing off her fangs. Solder grimaced as the sunlight glinted off them, like a mouthful of little mountains.

“I was watching…” Veille grumbled, then turned to face Solder and Larcen. Her eyes were piercing and gold, sharp even through tired tears. “Oh. Hello,” she said. Then she turned back over, stretched out and relaxed into the grass again. “Sorry about my disposition. I’m nocturnal. Gives me an edge. You know, a healthy luxray sleeps eighteen hours a day.”

Larcen turned to Solder and rolled his eyes as if the quilava was in on the joke.

“That’s great, Veille, but we need—“

“That’s hardly true,” Auloin cut in, leaving Larcen’s mouth flapping open, “a healthy luxray only needs twelve hours. Besides, what possible advantage could you gain from a nocturnal lifestyle rather than a diurnal one—You’re apex, even in the current ecosystem where your prey is immobile and your territory drawn on deeds.” Auloin hummed and tapped the stick of charcoal in her hand on her clipboard, then pointed it at Solder. “Now, considering I haven’t missed any travellers coming into Seafolk—which I doubt I have—I can only assume you came by boat.”

Solder stared down the length of her charcoal stick as it hovered centimeters from his nose. It seemed to stare back.

“Yeah?”

“Heh,” Veille huffed, “a quilava on a boat. That’s a good one.”

Solder flashed back to his time on the boat. All that time spent hunched over a sick bucket or in bed, eating gruel and trying desperately to fall asleep so the nightmare would pass quicker. In his mind, a wave crashed over the harbour and he felt the sudden urge to retch.

“Oh, yeah,” he drawled, dipping his voice and glaring at the back of Veille’s head. “I was laughing the whole way here.”

Larcen took the moment to jump in.

“Yeah! Haha, good joke. Very funny. Listen, Auloin we need you for just a sec—“

“Oh! Veille.” Auloin jumped up, her eyes flashing a bright pink. “Someone’s coming down the path.”

Sense?

Veille grumbled and cracked a single eye open. The motion lasted half a second before she closed it again, but Solder swore he saw a sliver of golden light slip from under eyelid.

“Hmmm… one serperior. Two servine. Goodnight; try not to wake me up again.”

Auloin quickly scribbled something on her clipboard, but Solder barely noticed, taking a sudden interest in the road, too busy peeking through a gap in the spindly branches surrounding him. There, framed in a little window created by the yellow-green leaves, a group of pokemon passed along the trail—a long, green snakelike one pinned between two smaller snakes. Snakes, with legs.

“Uh… yeah,” Larcen said, smoothing out his whiskers, “Speaking of awesome powers, could you open the gate for us?”

“If that’s what you wanted, why didn’t you say so earlier?”

Larcen groaned. Veille yawned. Solder ignored them, wishing he could sleep like the luxray stretched out on the grass. The same pink glow as earlier returned to Auloin’s eyes and, although the effect wasn’t immediately obvious, soon a faint, hollow grinding sound emanated from behind him. He turned just in time to watch the gate slide open—nestling itself behind the gatehouse.

Solder did his best not to let his persistent headache lay him out. Or his jaw hit the floor. It was fine. Everything was fine. Lions can see through walls! Weasels can spit elements! Telekinesis exists! He was certain these things weren’t supposed to happen, but he couldn’t fashion a single reason why not. And now the fresh mountain air started to taste a bit sour.

“Okay. Alright," Solder said. "No, that’s good. Let’s get inside, I think I need to lie down.”

Solder pushed through the bush, Larcen, mumbling a goodbye to Veille and Auloin. The gardevoir waved them off without a word as they padded down the hill, Solder almost sliding down on a patch of wet grass. Larcen didn’t laugh, to his credit, but Solder still caught his smile.

“Auloin is a psychic type, that’s how—“

“No. Shut up. I’m serious about lying down. Guilds are supposed to have places to sleep, right? Just let me get some rest.”

Larcen only shrugged, unoffended.

Solder thanked him in silence and they continued walking past the open gate and gatehouse. Beyond that, before the open arch of the guild, lay a quaint little square of trodden grass and dirt. Some brick planter boxes overflowing with massive red flowers and vines and scraggly, stunted trees sat in the middle. The entire place was framed with bulletin boards. Two of them were empty, the two on the other side were plastered with notices, all scrawled with frustrating, wandering runes. Solder turned away from them.

“Here we are,” Larcen said, nearly whispering, as they passed under the stone arch. “Welcome to Seafolk guild...”

His voice echoed faintly down the long, stone-carved hallway beyond the arch. The hallway itself was dark, mostly stark beside some unlit lamps hanging from the ceiling and framed somethings that hung off the wall.

Then they reached the middle—the dark center of the hallway, where Solder couldn’t feel the sun on his back and the light from the room at the end couldn’t reach his eyes. A moment of blessed calm hit him there. He hesitated a bit and let Larcen skip ahead. It almost felt like he’d closed his eyes even though he could still see the light.

The last few seconds before the guild were spent in blissful silence.

Hello! I thought I’d pop by and give the first chapter a read, since we’ve had some pretty fun conversations on discord. And wow, what an enjoyable first chapter! Very brisk pacing, does well with setting up characters and establishing their dynamic. The dialogue and Solder’s internal observations all felt very idiosyncratic.

Solder and Larcen’s introduction was memorable too. Most fics take the easy way out and put characters in isolation to some extent, essentially forcing the mc and partner to meet, but theres just something so very urban about how it happens here, with Solder meandering lost through the city and alienated from most of the city folk. (Is it even an actual city, or just a town? I can’t remember but the vibe just screams port city to me so much, struggle to picture anything else.)

I also like how, despite how much the circumstances are out of his control, Solder tries again and again to determine his course by making his own choices, for better or for worse. It’s pitch perfect example of agency.

The opening reminded me of a poem:

That night, while he slept, the tide moved.

The long arms of the moon

Reached inside him pulling the Pacific free.

When he woke the next morning,

He lay in a puddle of ocean that was his."


—The Ocean Inside Him

It captures an emotional truth about Solder, I think. He masks it with misanthropic humor, but the boy seems to have quite a lot of self-loathing. I’m also intrigued by how often he’s associated with water despite being a fire type. To paraphrase Clarice Lispector, he’s become intolerable to himself. He lives in a lacerating duality.

The humor is quite funny. Often understated or roundabout, then suddenly acerbic sarcasm. I quite enjoyed it. There’s sort of a British sensibility to it too, especially sections like where Solder and Larcen fight and it’s a pretty pathetic showing on all sides.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about Larcen or the rest of the guild just yet, other than I found them charming. They’re easy to root for because they’re so obviously underdogs.

As for criticism… the big one is that I’m not sure what to think about Solder remarking on how weird other pokemon are. They feel like very human observations, but I’m not sure we’re meant to think that given his backstory? Or maybe I’m jumping the gun there.

I did find it a little odd when Veille and Auloin were introduced with their species names as surnames, but they weren’t capitalized. Maybe could have toned back some of the ellipses too, but that’s super minor nitpick.

So he did.

And so it goes.
 
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Part Two, Chapter Twelve: My Brother, My Foe

tomatorade

The great speckled bird
Location
A town at the bottom of the ocean
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. quilava
  2. buizel
Chapter Twelve

My Brother, My Foe


They didn’t find the mother. Not surprising, but eh. Always a chance.

Not many surprises came around her house. Not many clues or signs. True enough, a tight corner lead to her building, smuggled in a shadowy nook. Perfect for anyone in from the mountains, mostly ice types which popped up more as they got closer to the wall of hewn cliffs propping up the apartments. Here, the structures sorta tilted this and that way, lots more like the windcut mountain pines they imagined themselves as. Anyway. Mounds of slate rock and shield carried them up to the doorstep, all rubble and pebbles skipping back into the street as Seawall’s heavy footsteps rattled the floor.

He could just barely fit in the entrance door with Volaphomet on top—and she noticed the rough sawed edges of the planks suggesting it had already been sized up. Course, they stood awkwardly in an empty lobby for a bit until they realised they had no room number, but a quick chat and knock on the closest room pointed them all the way down the hallway, Seawall walking hunched over so Volaphomet didn’t conk her head on the crossbeams.

They knocked. Didn’t get a response and Volaphomet waved Seawall off as he suggested trying to get in. Turns out it wouldn’t have worked anyway, one of her neighbors came out at the sound instead, another weavile, fur flat and gray, headfeathers serrated and verging on pink. They jostled so much as she limped out that Volaphomet was tempted to pluck them. A gnarled wood cane kept her propped up.

“Not home, sorry. Hasn’t been.” She shrugged. Then ignored them, a rhythm of padded feet and a clunking cane passing by Seawall as if he were a weed. Impressive given he was twice her size.

“Hold on,” Volaphomet said.

The weavile stopped. A pattern of thuds sounded from her cane—it jittered as she stilled. Strangely eager for a bag of bones and skin.

“Waddya at? Couldn’t say where she is?”

“No,” she bit out.

“You know her?”

“Ahuh,” she said. Cut through her teeth, sharp for an old crone. “She wants to be alone.”

“And the kid?” Volaphomet pointed out. She tried to hold herself back a bit. A couple paces away from smug or accusatory. “She pokin’ around for him?”

Her walls crumbled a bit. Not much, but enough to see through and to a sadder, older weavile than the one gripping her cane like a queen. Her hand wobbled a bit, fangs nicking the grooves in her lips.

“We’re with the guild, looking to help. If you could point us in a direction—let us look around her apartment, anything,” Seawall chimed in, leaning forward to meet closer to her eyes. He didn’t make it very far, only up to her ears but boy he could be flexible. “Please. If you could.”

The weavile took a paw and wrapped it around the other, choking the knob of her cane. Strong grip didn’t keep her from thinking, though, head down and somber for the second.

“It’s for the kid,” Seawall continued.

She broke. Sighed. Gave two sharp taps with her cane.“Give me a second.”

And then stomped down the hall she came from at a scary clip. Spry for an old lady. Likely faster than volaphomet, honestly. Seawall kept more patient than the emolga, too. While she clung to his horn, leaning far forward to squint down the hall at where the weavile’d gone, he kept still as a pillar. She didn’t end up needing that much of a look. A violent knock echoed from a ways, then sharp whispers growing and growing into muffled shouts. Which cut and left the creaking of the apartment. Then came back as something a little more civil.

Volaphomet couldn’t catch a word no matter how she adjusted her ears. Didn’t matter so much when the weavile came back with a key. She shoved it into the chunky black door lock, turned and pushed open the door. The open room bathed them in the faint musk of old blankets and sap.

“You won’t find much. Anything valuable, she took.”

“Still might’ve left something,” Volaphomet said, taking a tentative peek inside. “Clues, y’know.”

“Thank you anyways. We’ll be quick,” Seawall added.

The weavile nodded heavily. She opted to stay in the hall, planting her cane in the cracking wood floor and leaning heavily against the far wall. It left her in shadow, just the glint of her eyes reminding Volaphomet that she was watching.

Volaphomet screwed her face into a stern frown, trying to dig to the centre of the situation. Absent mom. Lost kid. Deserved her game face. She patted Seawall on his plates and urged him forward, under the shadow of the door and into an aged-smelling apartment.

This kinda empty place that’s not supposed to be empty—it had an atmosphere. Volaphomet could only tense as she entered, even feeling Seawall rumble uncertainly beneath her. Everything seemed in its right place, but sat awkwardly. Two chairs stood, skewed and quiet framing a lopsided wooden table—all under a grimy window that let in the suggestion of light but not much else. Two bowls still sat on the table, a little dust around the rim. That made up the dining room and kitchen, which was just a counter and board beside it, hidden in a dark corner. Volaphomet lingered in the shadows there. And the dark mass at the back of the couch right centre of the room, with some shelves and wooden boxes and scattered toys and knicknacks—ol’ carved stone animals she recognised Hiudix chippin’ at sometimes.

Seawall took some tentative steps around, huffing slow breaths, craning his head this way and that so Volaphomet could hunch over his brow and scan the area. Around the corner, a short hall led to a bedroom. And beside, a closet shut by a heavy-looking reclaimed barn door. Odd, but the whole place seemed thrown together. No two bits of furniture seemed carved from the same wood.

“Ya sees anything?” Volaphomet whispered. She barely meant to, it just came out like that.

“Nothing unusual,” he responded. He raised an arm, sliding it up to his horn with a dull whine. Volaphomet blinked. “You want off? Might find something if you’re a little closer. I can take the bird’s eye.”

Ah. Volaphomet sniffed. Placed a paw on his thumb and drew tentative circles over the rough ridges detailing his skin while he waited. She feared this. Always. Not like she hated being small or whatever, just meant she always had to look out for danger, always had to keep a bit of static in her in case a stray foot came swinging around some corner. Which kept her muscles sore and powers weak. She didn’t mind so much usually, with just the boys, but ehh…..

She peeked over Seawall’s arm, glaring at a pile of dustbunnies hardly peeking from a dim corner. Lots could be hiding there.

But Seawall pushed eagerly. He scratched his claws across his plates and held an open paw for her.

Frig, he always got her. Didn’t know how he always convinced her so easy.

“Fine.” She sighed. And wrapped her little paws around his wrist and let him whip her up like a loose hair and gently drop her on the ground.

She sneered feeling cracked, splintery wood beneath her paws. Not to mention the dust already herding itself to cling to her ankles and all the stray fur she could see backlit against the ground. Nothing like the clean, smooth feel of Seawall’s plates.

But he seemed to sense her hesitation.

“It’s for the kid,” he pleaded. Not gently. More like he used to when he’d caught her talking with her old gang right out of prison.

Right. She took a deep breath. Grit her teeth and focused forward. They’d find this scum and put everyone back in their place and she’d have a tangible milestone to jump off of. With a vigorous rub of the paws scattering sparks everywhere, she put her nose forward, bore against the dust and scampered on. Seawall stomped off behind her.

It had been a while since she needed to poke around nooks and crannies like this. Last time was in prison—lots of trade goods in the clink were small and unwieldy and itty bitty little things in the hands of an aggron or swampert or whatever. She ended up being a bit of an accountant. Handling berries and smokes and… y’know. Other stuff. Or if not, she’d scrounge around corners for lost bits and bobs.

Not always by choice, but she didn’t like to think about that.

Anyway, her heart pounded even just shoving her nose under the couch, whiskers twitching in wait. Not that she’d find anything, but the thought got her adrenaline goin’, muscles twitching and urging her to bolt whenever a bug toddled from around a chair leg.

She searched the couch first, then behind. Tuning over carvings and toys and kicking the lids off boxes until she unveiled a mouldy old apple inside one, flesh leathered and stinking and realised there wouldn’t be much to find and took to just poking around. Which led her across the sunken gaps where the floorboards met the walls. She managed to scrounge up a wooden die, some stray needles and thread and an old coin she took far too long staring at. Turned out what she thought were secret runes was actually just rust.

About this point, the old weavile made herself known again. Migrating into the doorframe, all confidence returned and now staring down at her like a warden.

Volaphomet scoffed, but took the hint, kicked herself into gear. She scampered around Seawall’s leg as he moved to examine the kitchen table, skimming over a crumpled napkin left forgotten under the table. When it came time to check the dreaded dust corner, she didn’t spare it more than a glance, only turned her nose up at it and moved on.

Or, she wanted to. But in the movement, a minute shine caught her eye. She paused.

She’d want to go in there, huh?

She sighed. Sidled up against the wall and tried to avoid the tumbleweeds of hair threatening to tangle around her ankles. At first, she didn’t catch what drew her eye, but craning her neck around got another glimmer—a tiny dot wedged in the crack of a floorboard.

She reached out and snatched it, wrinkling her nose as clouds of hair wrapped around her arm and hugged her chest. But with a bit of a shake and a retreat back to the lit centre of the room, she got a chance to examine her clue.

Looked almost like a pebble at first, smooth and flat, but rotating it around in the light and getting every angle revealed it to be a scale. Nubby little thing, too, but different depending on the angle; sometimes it looked dark or earthen red, sometimes jungle green, sometimes almost clear enough to see her own white fur. She hummed and let some curious sparks free.

Quite an odd thing to find in the home of a weavile.

“She get many visitors? Bedpals, y’know?” She asked, waggling her paw in the direction of the old weavile.

She curled up her lip. Took a deep, gravelly breath and huffed. “Don’t think I like the implication.”

“Somebody’s been doin’ somethin’ in her house, eh?” She held up the scale, met by an uncertain squint. “Not a weavile scale, I tells ya that much.”

“Fine. Maybe I’d like to talk to the nidoking about it,” she said, pointed and hunching her shoulders back like she could pop her spine and grow taller.

Well, darn. The old crone seemed a little more sensitive than she let on. Fine. Volaphomet waggled her paw, drawing Seawall to her.

“Not a fan of me, so it’s you instead,’ she said.

He held out his paw, massive right next to her chin. And the way the scale fit in the middle was comical—a little star in a great purple night.

“Could you check the rest of the apartment? I haven’t finished,” Seawall said. He let out a slight grin as his fist closed around the scale.

“Gots what we came for, though,” she said.

He tutted and curled up his fist, brows raised.

She avoided that somber, questioning look. Alright. Yeah, yeah. She’s got it. He could handle it, he wanted to be thorough even though they got an easy lead and she desperately wanted to catch up.

She let him talk to the old crone and scampered down the bedroom hall, eager to get back and listen in.

Lucky there wasn’t much to check. She passed the open door to the bedroom, pausing just long enough to piece together two empty cots, an empty box propped up at the head as a kinda table, and a ratty blanket folded at the foot. Not enough space to really poke around and no corners or nooks to hide anything; the bed sat right on the floor, anyway. Beside that sat the closet, leaking an old smell of rust and salt that kept her off. She knocked on the door, cracked it open to peek into the darkness, saw little more than a pile of scarves and robes and other tangled garments all piled into a mound easily bigger than her, and slid the door shut with a sharp clack.

She scampered back in time to catch the tail of their talk.

“--somebody. I dunno. From the guild, he said.”

“The guild?” Volaphomet cut in, panting from the bare run. Times like these, she wished she had Seawall’s stride.

She only got the next best thing, hooking her claws in the cracks lining his legs and drawing herself back onto his head before a fish could leap. He sighed but didn’t do much. Which meant she had final say. Perfect. She grinned just for herself.

Meanwhile, the weavile took herself a moment to breath and go back to tapping her cane.

“Yes. The guild,” she mumbled, “had a badge and everything.”

“A badge?” Seawall said. As high as his normally gravel voice could reach.

He was right to be surprised. Far as Volaphomet could remember, they’d never been given badges. She’d have to scrounge up memories years in the past, on first joining. Heck, even before, when Seawall had first pointed out a poster to her in some fringe town somewhere. Dunno how a Seafolk ad got mainland, but that’s beside the point.

“Ya sure?” She stressed, leaning forward with a serious frown. The weavile still scowled at her, but answered, at least.

“I already said. This old, chipped badge. A wave and a pair of sails. I don’t have good eye for colour anymore, but I remember seeing something like it, ways back. It's a guild badge, no doubt.”

Huh. Volaphomet tried to share a look with Seawall, but only caught the edge of his pupils over his brow. They were guild badges alright, and old ones. Maybe people around here still recognised them, but she hadn’t seen one in years.

“And who was the pokemon?

“Kecleon.”

Volaphomet coughed, tongue catching in her throat as she tried to speak. A couple sparks erupting and curling around Seawall’s horn.

“Kecleon?”

“What colour?” Seawall pressed. He shrunk down slightly to try and meet the weavile’s eyes. She held back.

“Don’t know. Told you I’m losing my colours. Dark, maybe. Cool.”

Well, dang. She knew Soleiro was trouble, but didn’t expect him to get into kidnapping quite so soon.

Seawall’s fist raised into her vision while she thought, uncurling like a flower in the sun. “Could be either Unico or Soleiro. See anything?” he asked. And nah, the colour still fled every time she turned her head. But why even ask the question? Between Soleiro and Unico, who’s in with this kinda business? Between an inconsiderate loudmouth and a sly creature she thought could be a psychopath? No contest. She let a determined grin slide back on her face, ignoring the impatient thumping from the weavile’s cane and Seawall’s worried hum.

“Well, wes gotta bag somethin’ rotten, b’y,” she said, giving Seawall a couple encouraging slaps. “Let’s get skippin’.”

So Seawall led her out, saying some quick goodbyes and letting the weavile totter off with a promise to bring back the boy safe. They marched out the apartment with purpose and fled from the dreary, mountain-shadowed East end and back onto the sloping central paths. Sunlight warmed them there. Bright and hopeful and just. Almost telling Volaphomet they’d got their breakthrough easy.

That scale may be a bad omen, a triangle stain on Seawall’s royal purple.

But it caught the light beautifully.

~(0)~

Supposedly Hiudix had also agreed to escort Alexander back to town hall. On perhaps the longest route around the city, in order for him to greet all who passed and examine the restaurants and businesses with a strange sort of concern. All for the restaurateurs, of course, who came out to watch with an equal, if not greater concern.

Azazel followed behind. Or vanished once he got bored. Hiudix could track him by the sudden jerks and disturbed downward looks in the crowd and then pretend not to know him if anyone asked.

Of course, this path had not been in the mission statement, but the one time Hiudix thought to argue, Alexander threatened to recall payment and complain. Normally money did not motivate him so much, but when that happened to be the only redeeming quality of a job, Hiudix had to make some exceptions.

So he ended up following beside silently. Trying to retain some dignity stumbling through pools for the hour or so it took to get back to the harbour.

He sighed through his nose as they turned a corner onto the bustling boardwalk and spotted the Town Hall across the way. Over the heads of sailors and fisherman lugging in nets or buckets of bait or otherwise taking a smoke in the shade of a greasy old awning.

Azazel had no such tact.

“Finally,” he whined, throwing his head back and letting his tongue flop wetly out and over his forehead. By some miracle, he seemed not to mind and before Hiudix could once again scold that he was on the job and not making them look any better, he shot forward, ducking under one of King’s thick blue fists as he made for a grab and cackled madly, weaving through a group of croconaw struggling to tie a sailboat.

Alexander combed a paw through his ruff. Tilted his crown back and drew his voice low.

“I hope you’re not planning to share the pay with that mutt.”

Hiudix resented the language, but oh how he wished he could punish Azazel in any way that mattered. He settled for staying silent and letting Alexander have no satisfaction. And then they were on their way. The crowd seemed to part for them, giving a clear path by shops and residences and straight to their destination.

The town hall itself was odd and oddly fitting. It, unlike most of the buildings around, was made of stone. And did not tower so much or really seem to accommodate anyone beside those who worked there. A swampert like King had no hope to make it through the door without injury—even Alexander would have to duck through the foyer. Clearly, it had been here long before any of them

But the door should not be Hiudix’s first mention. The thick, smooth cut limestone rock made an intimidating face for the building, even if it largely formed the shape of a brick. An ornate brick, to be certain, with columns holding up a pediment and oceanic-themed reliefs squaring off either end. It only had two floors compared to the five or six around it, but seemed ever solid in comparison and avoided the treelike nests and shedlike rooftop homes that cluttered the wooden buildings. It did not look like home.

But Hiudix might have been impressed if he had no knowledge of what it represented.

He ended up simmering under the pediment as they approached, shadow darkening his mood further.

How long had it stood here? Perhaps longer than any other building. Perhaps once, when the first settlers took stone from the old ruins because they were unable to carve their own. Long, long ago when the ruins had been free and open. Hiudix could not pretend to know why they were buried in the first place. A decaying structural integrity was his reasoning, with an obvious cause that now took the form of a chubby pink blob and his forefathers, one now strutting gut first around town.

Hiudix shook his head, huffing. He could not dwell on this and hope to stay composed for the rest of the day. Especially without the comfort of a mountain-hewn guild for the moment.

He hoped construction went quick so they could return.

In the meantime, Alexander had been watching. Waiting by the door, chin up and a pinch to his gummy lips.

“Well?” he asked, a dry nasality to it like he’d just woken up.

“What?” Hiudix responded.

Alexander waved to the door, as if his point should be obvious. When Hiudix didn’t move, he took an overdramatic breath and sighed.

“It’s open.”

“So?”

“I’d locked it.”

Hiudix would’ve liked to cut him with some snarky comment, but the implication stuck his tongue to the roof of his mouth.

He had locked it.

Hiudix had not expected Soleiro to strike so soon.

“Come on Azael,” Hiudix said, trying to keep the first shakes of panic from his tone. “Let us clear out the building.”

Azazel, who’d been winding around King’s ankles as the too-large swampert waited outside, ignored a near stomping, shot the giant a wink and cackle returned by a glare, and took quickly to Hiudix. Unfortunate. He butted past and up to the door too quickly, too. By the time Hiudix joined him the door had been thrown open and Azazel sniffed the air inside.

Hiudix struggled not to cut his claws together. He held in a curse and let the door squeak shut rather than desperately slam it. Soleiro had said he would be after Aexander’s writings, correct? Which suggested his office, especially given this being his workplace. From what he remembered, Alexander had a reputation for working by the wide, stained window overlooking the bay. Which meant the second floor.

In an effort to gain some control, he strode in front of the lobby stairwell and pointed down a random hall.

“You check the bedroom. And ah… larder.”

Azazel paused, nose still up and his concentrated tongue a worm peeking between his teeth, but he didn’t say something stupid or sprint in the opposite direction, so that had to be enough. Hiudix didn’t spare him another glance as he tore up the stairs.

He wound up taking harsh stone steps two by two, avoiding the blazing wrought sconces staining the walls black and skidding around the corner at the top. A quick sweep was all it took to spot a wide pair of double doors, barely cracked between a pair of unfurled tapestries in the middle of the hall. Hiudix ignored the clanking of his claws against the stone, and pushed on through.

The disaster was immediate and obvious. At first blush, a total ransacking, the safe conspicuously thrown open and across the floor, landing in front of a solid wood desk. It spilled its guts across the floor and covered the faux-leather top with its insides. A downy coat of white paper in this case, also hiding the tail ends of scratches carved deep into most surfaces. All of this in the brilliant light of day, streaming through the wall-to-wall window stained yellow over a picture of the sea.

Hiudix would not feel much normally. He had seen worse in his own home. That is, until he realised how staged it seemed.

He doubted the safe normally kept guard in front of the desk, yet there it was. Chalk white skids leading to it from around the corner. And out its mouth trailed an uneven line of papers. And on the desk, which at first seemed to blend in with the others, some unrolled prints sat. All carefully constructed. A breadcrumb trail.

Hiudix swallowed the lump forming in his throat. With only a moment to perk his ears and listen downstairs, he crept up to the rolls, prodded them open with his claws and let them unfurl.

They seemed not to be exciting at first glance. Development plans. Drafted by someone far more talented than Alexander, all these ink lines hopefully, almost naively straight and solid. Massive blocks of buildings, some titled—industrial sections, large, stone homes and etcetera—some left empty and open. As Hiudix scanned through these, then cast them aside and moved onto more underneath, a hazy wave of confusion cast over him. He leaned further in and let his snout wrinkle.

They were not so strange. Normal plans, as far as his experience told him. But didn’t he recognise them somehow? They were abstract, but all framed around the mountains in a specific way, all crowded into a tiny nook, all absent from the rest of town—

Oh.

Hiudix nearly bit the tip of his tongue off trying to keep his startled hiss inside.

East Seafolk. All gone, then built up again. He did not want to imagine where the pokemon were meant to go. When the denser areas were now meant to be replaced by wide streets and factories.

His brain skipped a moment. Returned. Urged him to look again. To remember that Alexander had never had any ambitions before and certainly wouldn’t start now. But frantically flipping through the rolls again revealed nothing new.

He could not even bring himself to react hearing the stomping of footsteps behind him. Or the gasp. The start of an accusation spitting from fat pink lips.

“Your mutt told me things were clear and I come back to this?” Alexander pressed.

Hiudix scanned through them once more. Then flipped to the next page, a zoom—revealing the absolute state of town in this hellish future. Not just the East End, all along the mountains, all along the ruins. Possibly more inside.

He shook his head. Dug his claws into the desk and tried not to say anything untoward. Not even his general rage at Azazel failing once again could slip out in public.

Well!?

Hiudix turned. On point, posture perfect and snout smoothed as if he’d seen nothing and didn’t imagine spearing the pink creature on his spikes.

“A burglar broke into your office,” was all he could release. One great exhale and out with all his rage.

Alexander did not look impressed. His features curled so violently they threatened to escape his face. A fat hand found its way to his belt, but to Hiudix’s great relief, his key still sat there, jangling on his hip. Somehow slipped back on while nobody noticed.

Of course that also meant Soleiro couldn’t be far, but Hiudix would not be making any attempts at him now.

“Well.” Alexander coughed. His face unscrewed only slightly, paws sliding behind his back with the grace of a slug, lording over his office as if it had any dignity left for him. He glanced at the safe. Then Hiudix. Then The plans. Then the parchment on the table, but never quite settling on something. He began walking around his desk. “I suppose you’ve seen the plans. A little too late for either of us to play pretend.”

“Indeed.” Hiudix stated simply. He let his voice unwind, recognising the invitation. That look—the venom lurking behind the slowking’s eyes—but also the way he gnawed at his lip.

So Hiudix cleared his throat. Allowed some of his own venom to slip through.

“You would lose,” he said. He let his quills perk up, stiff and ready and showering the walls with firelight.

And Alexander must know that. He flinched. Turned. searched the desk once more. Drew up a hand to scratch at the thin hairs on his chin. Let out a belaboured sigh.

“My personal reserves are gone. My developments are out in the open,” he cut out, “Oh, if only I’d trained more as a youth. Trained my body rather than my mind. My own writing’s being turned against me.”

Which meant nothing to Hiudix. Not yet. He simply waited for the end of the sentence, begged for a dismissal. Itched on his spot. He had much to do and none of it involved Alexander. Of course, Alexander gave him little, instead absently pawing through the scattered paper.

“That bastard radio host is part of the guild isn’t he? Truthfully, I don’t care who you tell so long as it's not public knowledge. And I know how it would get out—if I tune in one morning and hear even a suggestion that something’s happening on the East End, I will ruin you, understand?” he spat.

And he did understand. More than Alexander ever could. Hiudix could do nothing. He could not hurt Alexander without arrest. He could not think of a way to prevent this, and could not say anything—even to his team. Volaphomet had her own code and she would not tolerate this sort of deception.

But Hiudix also felt no change. Isn’t this how he lived anyway?

“Fine,” he said. And hoped not to express how tired he was.

“Leave. Alexander will pay you.”

Hiudix scanned his face, looking for a twitch of deceit. None came. Normally it would be unwise for the mayor to short the guild anyway. If only he knew how easy that would be amongst the guild’s chaos.

He could only hope, letting out a shaky huff and following the nervous itch begging him to leave. Go back to what’s comfortable.

But as he picked himself up and store to exit the office, he noticed a message. A torn bit of paper, evenly lined and smeared in thick black charcoal, posted on the backside of the door, right at level to his snout. He blinked. Squinted. Scanned through the text—handwritten, not one he’d recognise.

Do not thank yourself,
for you are wild and unshorn,
thank instead those whose hands have lifted you.


Hiudix pinned his ears back. Tried not to bite his tongue. These were words he recognised. Not anything he’d heard in his lifetime, even his parents had to be told by their parents. Who were told by their parents, who were told the same by the settlers who moved here.

They’d never been written out, as far as Hiudix knew. They were too ugly to sit nicely on white paper without bleeding. He couldn’t imagine his parents writing the same without their claws trembling and scouring the paper and spilling black, seeping dark into the paper.

So maybe Soleiro had just been the first. The first to ever write these words.

Hiudix’s mouth dried. He tried to swallow, but a heavy lump blocked his throat. He stumbled out of the office, ignoring the confused noise Alexander chased him off with.

Outsiders would not know. Should not, certainly.

So how could Soleiro?
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. mew-adam
  2. celebi-shiny
  3. roserade-adam
Hey there, Tomatorade! I’m swinging by over here for Review tag on Writer’s United. I chose to pick this one up out of the story options you provided and gave it a shot. Having seen a lot of your spectacular artworks, this serves as a good opportunity to see your weasel bois in action in written form. Without any further ado, here we go.

First off, I like how this chapter began. Where a lot of PMD fics involving human protagonists begin with the immediate arrival, amnesia and body dysphoria—something I’m also guilty of—this story begins sort of in media res. We do get to learn that Solder also has no recollection and doesn’t know much about the pokemon world, but at the same time we’re meeting him here at least a few days after he’s probably already had the initial identity crisis. That’s a detail I quite liked.

I’ve only vaguely skimmed over the synopsis of this story in order to go in as blind as possible on what to expect, but I could quickly tell from this chapter that Guilds are obviously going to have a key focus here. The impression I got is that the story might very soon delve into political intrigue and conflicts between these guilds, if the radio broadcasts we heard are anything to go by. This excites me. While I never write much of it myself, I do enjoy me some political sleuthing in action with the way characters in position of power try to one up each other and all the scheming at play. If my hunch turns out to be wrong then that’s okay too as I already get the feeling I’ll like whichever direction you take this story.

Solder and Larcen make for a fun pair if I’m being honest, and I’m not just saying this because I’ve seen their artworks. I can’t put my finger on it, but the two really bounce off each other well. Their first meeting was really fun to read, as was Solder’s journey through the seaside town. Poor guy even experienced typism on his first day in town. Even the worldbuilding we get here was very fascinating.

All in all, there’s a whole lot of things I’ve liked about this story so far that I don’t really have a whole lot to criticize if at all. I’ll certainly be coming back for more in the future!
 
Part Two, Chapter 13: My God, The Mountain. New

tomatorade

The great speckled bird
Location
A town at the bottom of the ocean
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. quilava
  2. buizel
Chapter Thirteen
My God, The Mountain


With the guild being under construction, team Killpoint had to find somewhere else to sleep. Lots of other pokemon managed to pitch tents in the square, or up along the valley, or, in Veille and Auloin’s case, already had a nice little shack to take shelter in.

But Volaphomet got something a bit better than all that. A nice ol’ attic in the top of a boathouse. Seawall’s old stomping ground. Mostly, he lived in the guild now, but they still kept up the cleaning and the maintenance and the telling off of stingy seamen tryna thing upstairs.

Those cranks liked to keep their nets up there, all stinking of fish. So you gotta keep up with ‘em.

They all settled in a corner, under the angular eaves and bare hint of starlight through a crack in the wooden wall. The creaking of beams, slapping of water against the stone below, the howling of wind and gulls outside. Warmer there, in a sea of thrift blankets and pillows bought over years and years and still kept fluffed.

Everyone lounged in their own little space. Seawall took up half, but that’s noone’s fault. Big boy, he was.

And then they got to sharing. That part, Volaphomet vibrated at. She shimmied on her little throne of pillows, her sparks wild and untamed and keeping the others a couple steps back no matter how she tried to keep them back.

“Soleiro’s fer the birds,” she spat out after ranting a while, before anyone else could respond and leaving them there, blinking. Hiudix, especially, stared at her with wide eyes.

“Vol—” he tried to butt in.

“Found one of his scales in the momma’s house. Gotta be his. He bes the type fer a little kidnapping. A little theft, too, I thinks.”

Seawall sighs beside her. She can almost feel it through the floorboards.

“You can’t say that. All we know is that either Unico or Soleiro visited the mother’s home. At some point.”

Well, sure. Leave it to him to dampen her spirits. She huffed, scratching a cheek. Hiudix didn’t stop staring.

“Fine. We talk to one lizard over the other, though.”

And at least that got an approving snort from the nidoking.

Then, “How about you?” he asked. Turning to Hiudix.

The sandslash didn’t take up the offer too eagerly. He sorta sat there a bit, quills sharp, brow sunken over his twitching snout.

“We finished the job easily,” he said, “A minor break in at the mayor’s office, but nothing worth being concerned about. The money I received easily after. There is nothing else to do.”

Volaphomet nodded, stuffing that info into her head for her electricity to keep hidden. Fit kinda weird in there, though. Got her whiskers twitching, especially to see the way he turned from her after, watching out the little porthole to the darkened bay.

“You’re right crooked today. Whaddya at?”

“I—” He started. But something caught in his throat. Something heavy seeing as how long it took to shake his head and get it out. “Nothing. I hated working with Alexander, that is all.”

Right. She understood that. Sometimes his flabby pink face popped into her mind, a quick nightmare about the day, and it ruined the next couple minutes. She smiled, taking after a shark.

“Good that you’re sharing, bud. We’ve got your back, eh?”

Hiudix looked back. His ears pricked up a bit. Seawall shuffled forward, floorboards bending ominously under his weight. He tried to lean into Hiudix, and the sandslash took to it hesitantly, finding as much comfort as he could against his hard, stonelike plates.

Volaphomet puffed up her chest, grin widening. It did her good to see her boys get along. Still, she couldn’t ignore the difficult frown still staining Hiudix’s face.

“I think—” he started, getting shifty against Seawall. Made him look like a big baby. “Perhaps I’d like to take a break.”

Volaphomet paused. Her energy stuttering, rumbling over a pile of rocks. A break? Bit strange, she couldn’t remember the last time Hiudix wanted anything close to a break. No matter the grumbling or rotten mood, he kept up.

“Ah… a break?”

He nodded, glancing away shyly, snout hiding in his quills. A feral kinda hide, a creature venturing outta the long grass. Volaphomet scratched her cheek, watching on.

And that just raised all sortsa questions. Did Alexander get to him that much? She wouldn’t put it past him for bein’ a creep, but the slowking was a sack of lard with about as much of a spine. He’d get pushed over real easy. Could just be the… weight. General weight of living. Volaphomet felt it, too, sometimes.

Mostly, she shook wondering why he asked. He coulda just nodded and walked off and they’d sit there wondering where he went all morning, but let him go. Let him do his thing. He had his family. He had his clan.

Maybe that’s what this was about. It’s a serious creature and not even she could break the wall down around that monster.

So she shrugged a little. She gave him a crooked smile. He didn’t smile back, but he didn’t smile often anyway.

“Ah… go ahead, eh?”

He nodded. His quills lowered. He leaned back into Seawall, finally.

That… was that, then.

But she couldn’t sort through this feeling. The lamp went out as she thought, flickering, sputtering, choking on the last bits of oil and coughing out a couple bits of smoke. Smelled like grease and lightning.

Hiudix shone barely in the moonlight. She watched him a long while, distantly trying to poke at the rotten things inside him. How she could chase them away, she couldn’t sort out.

She blinked asleep once, cheek smushed against Seawall’s leg, feeling the rumble of his heavy snores and slopping of water against the boathouse foundations below.

Hiudix had gone once she woke up.

Or he coulda turned into a circle of moonlight against the floorboards.

She huffed. Her sparks were too ragged to join her.

He believed in that kinda spiritual stuff.

~(0)~

Hiudix did not have many temples left. Nobody could go into the mountains anymore, so all that he might have had was lost.

He scoffed to himself. In the moonlight and white-hot puddles which reflected it, and the shining cobblestones and glimmering windows. He thought—as if he had ever seen the mountains. But only his parents had, and all those before. He would be the first generation to grow up solely in Seafolk.

The thought sent shivers down his spine.

No. He would not. They would get the mountain back.

They would get the ruins back…

Somehow.

And perhaps Soleiro knew. But now the thought that he’d had something to do with a kidnapping cut into Hiudix. And his invariable ties to that, as well.

He should not have taken Soleiro's offer.

Hiudix turned a corner at the docks, right at the precipice of the East end, where it met the cliffs and pitched into the ocean. He watched out for the late-night drunks, the slamming open of harbourfront bar doors and spilling out of raucous music—the sounds of stomping and fiddling followed him all along the wooden holding pillars and creaking, ancient ships. The chill bite outside did, too. Still cold, not quite humid. His environment. His god speaking to him, drawing him, wrapping their fingers around his quills and yanking him in certain directions.

So he was piloted off the beaten path. At the far end, where the pier terminated and the hewn stone crumbled to old volcanic rocks and slate. Brown and gray, holding against the beating fists of the sea. He stumbled down some untimely crags in the rough shape of steps, nearly collapsing in a shallow tide pool that still held some warmth from the day. It splashed around his ankles, some seaweed catching between his toes. A dry crunching underneath his feet told him he’d crushed something. He didn’t have time to inspect.

Further, when the path turned narrow against the rocks and an overhang reached above him, he held his breath.

It was good form to hold your breath when crossing over. In a mythological sense, to prevent your breath being stolen. To protect the soul and the vulnerable mouth and throat. Hiudix didn’t know if his belief extended that far—he’d found children playing around the area before and would prefer to believe they were still whole; he still held, though.

No light reached around the corner. It all vanished in the pockmarked stone. He almost glowed, himself, his clear quills holding onto some light or, if not, reflecting the moonlight which reflected off the waves.

With that, he could barely find the outline of the shrine.

Frankly, it was better lit now. In the day, with the sunlight directly over the mountains, the shadows fell too heavy. Now the moon watched them directly.

His breath held longer attempting to trace the silhouette of the shrine. Details popped out as his eyes adjusted. Some whittled, dull circles that might’ve once been eyes. Outsplayed arms ragged and coated with deposit such that the shape was lost. Were they arms? Wings? Antenna? It had been a debate forever, but without the fuller picture (which may be lurking in the ruins even now. The thought spiked his adrenaline.) nobody could now.

Their god remained a shapeless creature for now. Nameless and shapeless, through lack of knowledge alone. Simply: The Mountain. But it held power and favour. Under the warped spire that might be a muzzle, small jars of flowers and scattered stone carvings stood upright and with dignity. Hiudix chanced a smile at a lopsided carving of a… glaceon, perhaps. Clearly a child’s work.

And all the messages written, paper scraps pouring out from under the offerings, plastered to the stone with seawater and spreading out, a thick white surface smeared with old words.

Hiudix crouched there. Finally released his breath. Tried to calm his heart, claws clenching over his knees.

He met the eyes of the statue.

For the moment, he hesitated. He did not know what to say. Did not know how to explain his issues and all the events of the past few days. Perhaps he could only ask for guidance and hope they knew.

“I… I am stuck. I am caught between beliefs. Please, I ask for guidance.”

Hiudix shut his eyes, folding him into the dark. For a while, not much happened. Then, the world quieted. The waves stilled. Distant mountains began to rumble, deep from within their bellies. HIudix could imagine a great emptiness there, waiting and hungry.

He had felt this before. Seen it since he was young, his parents watching over with concern. But nobody else would ever know.

I see you, sandslash.

The whisper was quieter than words. Hiudix certainly could not speak it, and it would be inappropriate to respond anyway. He could only listen, ears perked. Nod and listen.

You are right. In all ways. Believe this.

Hiudix perked further.

But you may not avert the fate of the mountains.

He sank once more. With such weight, too. He knelt until his forehead touched the ground, numb against the floor.

“Why?” he let slip out.

This is the nature of things. You will never see the white peaks. You will never carve from the glaciers a home.

The words beat down on him. The shifting of rocks sounded louder, filling the space with a terrible grinding. He sensed no strain in the voice, nothing but a faint indifference that still soared over the noise and a growing heat in the cave.

But.

All at once, everything vanished. The waves returned. Hiudix did not trust it. He stayed.

But?

The mountains may fall. Nevermind may, they shall. So slowly no single generation will notice. The pokemon remain. The ruins remain. I remain.

It was true. Hiudix believed that fully.

No. You do not. No creature can.

Hiudix hesitated. Instinctively, he tried to clear his mind. But wouldn’t that be antagonistic? He released it again.

Why do you not speak?

“It would… do you want me to?”

Treat me like a friend, it whispered. Though its voice was cold and scattered. It pinged through his mind, unable to be placed in any direction.

That would be impossible. Hiudix shrunk in its presence. Even looking at the pale, craggy statue representing it he felt a brick form in his throat.

“I see,” he said.

You have something you want to ask. I will only force you in order to assist.

That… felt like permission.

“Do you know… a kecleon? His name is Soleiro.”

I know everything that lives between the mountains and the sea.

“I understand. I want to ask about him. He—he knows more than he should.”

Indeed. All living gravitate towards wells of knowledge. Is there a question there?

“Is he of the mountains?”

Despite the warble in his voice, the god seemed to laugh. The world shuddered and buckled around him in a way he could only describe as… amused.

Does the kecleon find home in the snow and ice like we would find home in a volcano? No he is not.

Hiudix wanted to sigh. To bring himself back up and meet the statue’s swollen, marbled eyes and whisper thanks. A strong reaction, certainly, but true of his feelings on Soleiro. The kecleon’s existence would not stain him or his people.

But this still did not explain how he knew.

“Does he—” Hiudix started, but bit his tongue at the end. Should he ask?

Once again, he turned to the statue. He felt nothing from it. Here, with a god with no name or shape, he could only have faith—this intense faith strong enough to carry him when the world threatened to collapse around him.

No he would not. He swallowed the brick in his throat. Sank back down.

“--No. It is a mistake to ask.”

If you believe so.

It knew. Of course it knew. But offered no information. Out of respect, hopefully. Hiudix could only dream. Chew on his lip and believe.

But this belief is cowardice. You must take something and hold it so strongly that removing it would kill you and kill everything around you and destroy the world utterly. This is why the mountains fell. This is why they will crumble.

Hiudix nodded once again. Enthusiastic, scraping against the rough edges of stone still felt under a layer of paper. But as he opened his mouth again, the presence had gone. The gulls cawed out over the sea, sprays of mist and tide rushed into the cave and lingered, the sounds of brawls and song spilled out onto the distant streets.

He didn’t get many answers. In fact, he felt like he may have lost favour—though it was so hard to tell. He stared at the statue longingly, but did not have the heart to beg for a second time.

So he would have to go back to Soleiro. To find out both his own information and to learn of this new… kidnapping allegation. He should’ve forced Soleiro to ask for a favour—now, the kecleon believed they were even—but that was in the past. As instructed, he should reject cowardice.

But for now, he would stay a while curled against the rock. He felt simpler here.

And here, he could breath again, at least.
 

canisaries

you should've known the price of evil
Location
Stovokor
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. inkay-shirlee
  2. houndoom-elliot
  3. yamask-joanna
  4. shuppet
  5. deerling-andre
Hey there! Here for Catnip. Read the first chapter, and here are my thoughts.

thriving utopias inland that housed the bravest er… pokemon (according to klefki) in the world.
Should Klefki be capitalized? Is it according to Klefki the person or klefki the species?

“Alright. Cool..”
Two periods instead of one or three.

“Alright! I’m Larcen, by the by,” the buizel said,
the thief is named larcen. its the perfect crime

He just gave vague half- truths and shrugs.
Stray space after "half-"?

“I got a lot of pokemon tiptoeing around me in town.” He asked, strolling beside Larcen.
"He asked" seems to be punctuated as its own sentence rather than a dialogue tag. I'm also not sure if what he said is really asking, technically speaking?

“That… sucks. I kinda feel bad now,” Larcen said.

“Don’t. It’s not your fault.”

“Nah, not for that.” Larcen toyed with his whiskers, his pace slowing to a crawl. He refused to elaborate beyond that, even as the duo walked in silence.
ominous

Solder, who’d been right behind him, narrowly avoided trodding on the buizel’s tails as stepped forward,
I think there's a "he" missing between "as" and "stepped".

“Oh! Veille.” Auloin jumped up, her eyes flashing a bright pink. “Someone’s coming down the path.”

Sense?
Did Auloin's dialogue use to contain the word "sense" in a previous version? I'm not sure where the "Sense?" comes from here.

---

So, we're introduced to Solder recovering after seasickness, then shown around the town until we witness a theft. Solder confronts the thief and wants to bring him to the guild for some esteem and manages to coerce the thief into leading him to the guild. The thief gives his name as Larcen, and on the way to the guild, Solder explains his short past, which confirms he is an amnesiac. They make it to the guild and talk to the Pokemon there, then continue forward to find Solder a place to lie down.

Your suggestion of the story being on the slower side seems to be accurate for this first chapter, but it's not a bad thing. We do have the mystery of Solder's amnesia (though that one we PMD fans can probably figure out already) and why the townsfolk think so lowly of the local guild. There's also very nice descriptions of the environments, and the characters already have plenty of personality, made clear by their ways of speaking and behavior. I think you've got a solid start to a story here!

Nothing else really comes to mind right now, so I'll bring this review to a close. Good luck with writing onward!
 
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