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Tarnished Lands - Realm of the Golden King

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. purrloin-salem
  2. sneasel-dusk
  3. luz-companion
  4. brisa-companion
  5. meowth-laura
  6. delphox-jesse
  7. mewtwo
  8. zeraora
Hazel placed her head on Sleet’s shoulder. “It’s a good thing that you already are, then. The easiest things to want are things you already have.”

She took a deep breath. “What I saw… it was a place from a memory, where I used to be kept before Gladion saved me. But it was different. He was there, the real him. They used me to hurt him. I never figured out it wasn’t real. I killed someone, and I thought it was real. Now I’m preparing to do it again. I still hear it, the end…

Sleet went stiff at the physical contact, but didn't recoil. Friends. This was friendship. This was... a good thing, and not a problem.

"Everrrryone dies," she muttered, once Hazel finished speaking. "Usually ssssomeone else is involved."

Then, not feeling that this was enough, "Hazel, it is going to be... oh-kay. We are all of us together in this fight. We can... look out for each-otherrrr."

Watch each other's back in battle; watch each other for moments they might regret.

Sleet flexed her trigger finger, not doubting for a second that she could fire a lethal shot at Orzo, that she would. She didn't give a fuck. She didn't.

...But she might care if Hazel – or Laura – looked at her differently, after.
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. purrloin-salem
  2. sneasel-dusk
  3. luz-companion
  4. brisa-companion
  5. meowth-laura
  6. delphox-jesse
  7. mewtwo
  8. zeraora
Jade tried to smile. It probably looked really strained, but it was better than nothing. "...Not really. At least, not recently. But my friend back home is always looking for ways to make things feel normal, and... I need to try following her example."

Nothing had changed about their situation, but things felt a little bit lighter at least. "Yeah. I--I really want a vacation. A real one." They deserved it after all this, dammit.

Laura's smile felt a little less heavy on her face. It really was a pity they wouldn't see each other again after this. Maybe they'd get a little time, after all the terrifying conflict shit blew over...? She could stand to get to know this kid better. Seemed like they had more and more things in common, though Laura only wished she had a friend who made everything feel normal. Or that Jade's friend was here.

She'd try to do it, if it weren't for her complete lack of conception of 'normal', and that they were still basically strangers to each other. But screw it, wasn't this the time to be brave? The taunting whispers kept telling her she was weak, that she was soft. Well, sod that.

Laura gave Jade a light thump to the upper arm.

"Alright, then it's summer holidays for us, just as soon as we wallop this bellend."

Good enough. In this bleak fucking wasteland, 'good enough' was as good as a victory.
 

unrepentantAuthor

A cat that writes stories.
Location
UK
Pronouns
they/she
Partners
  1. purrloin-salem
  2. sneasel-dusk
  3. luz-companion
  4. brisa-companion
  5. meowth-laura
  6. delphox-jesse
  7. mewtwo
  8. zeraora
"I'm not sure I understood all those words you just used, but it sounds like we're on the same page. That's good. I leave it up to you to keep an eye out for any more funny stuff before we get there. I'll hold down the fort here. Not in the mood for any more surprises, anyway. Be ready for anything."

Malachai blew a confident noise of agreement, and dipped his wing to Aggron as a salute.

<I am ready for victory; I am ready for death. I will see you in battle before either. Travel safe, Aggron.>

The party would win by strength of numbers, by apt strategem, and by sheer force of will. But Malachai flattered himself that his own contributions would be significant... and perhaps Aggron and himself could, by joint effort, do something more significant still...
 

HelloYellow17

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
  3. mew
  4. lycanroc-wes
  5. leafeon-rui
"You heard me," Nate growled. "You got a problem with my name? I don't know what the hell your damage is, but fine, you want to get this done before we punch out The Golden Jackass, then fine, let's get this one." He stopped before reaching the umbreon, folding his arms over his chest.
“Wh—my damage?” Wes spluttered. He bristled as Mitch stepped closer, and suspected that were it not for Novo, the guy would have gotten up in his face. He mirrored Mitch’s stance and returned the withering glare. “Look. I’m not the one picking a fight out of nothing. You really wanna start shit now? Here? And for what, exactly?” His voice dropped into a growl. “I like you, but if you’re going to lose your head at the worst possible time, then I won’t hesitate to knock some sense back into it. Think carefully, idiot.”
"Hey, calm down," she said, raising her voice. "Whatever you think you heard, it's just some nonsense this place is doing."

"Orzo must be trying to challenge our friendships with one another," Spirit mused.
What—oh. It was one of the other trainers, a young girl Wes wasn’t familiar with. She looked awfully calm and confident, considering she was butting into an argument between two grown adults. Wes was about to snap at her to mind her own business when the Ninetails spoke, and he frowned. “The hell does Orzo have to do with—”
"Nate...?"
Another voice, one Wes didn’t recognize. He looked around for the source, but all he saw was Mightyena bounding over, looking at Mitch with a worried expression—wait. What?

He stared. “You—you just talked. Like talk talked. And did you just call him Nate?”
 

Negrek

Windswept Questant
Staff
“Wh—my damage?” Wes spluttered. He bristled as Mitch stepped closer, and suspected that were it not for Novo, the guy would have gotten up in his face. He mirrored Mitch’s stance and returned the withering glare. “Look. I’m not the one picking a fight out of nothing. You really wanna start shit now? Here? And for what, exactly?” His voice dropped into a growl. “I like you, but if you’re going to lose your head at the worst possible time, then I won’t hesitate to knock some sense back into it. Think carefully, idiot.”
Nate wavered a moment. What the hell was this "I like you" bullshit? Why the hell was this guy fucking with him all of a sudden? Had he not just been minding his own fucking business?

"I ain't the one trying to start shit," he growled. "You're the one out here calling me stupid. And a liar? You think I'm just going to sit around and take that shit?"

He stared. “You—you just talked. Like talk talked. And did you just call him Nate?”
Mightyena slowed as she caught up with Nate, giving Novo a hopeful wag to indicate that she meant no harm. "I did talk!" she said brightly. "Clink made it so all pokémon can talk to their trainers so long as we're out here. Unless they don't want to. And of course I called him Nate. That's his name!"

"Mightyena!" Nate's voice came out strangled with horror. "You can't just say that!" Oh, fuck, she'd always been calling him that, hadn't she? But when pokémon couldn't talk, it didn't really matter.

Mightyena cocked her head at him. "Why not? What are you afraid of?"

"You can't," Nate spluttered. "It's dangerous. If anybody recognized me--"

"Nobody around here's even from our world. How would they ever recognize you?"

"Look," Nate said in a warning tone.

"What are you even doing?" Mightyena asked. "Why are you yelling at Wes?"

"Because he was all going on about--" He didn't even want to say it. He wasn't going to say it because he was not going into that, not here, not now. Especially not if Mightyena was going to blurt something else out and then everyone in every fucking multiverse would start going on about it. "Look, he's the one trying to start shit, not me."
 

HelloYellow17

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
  3. mew
  4. lycanroc-wes
  5. leafeon-rui
"I ain't the one trying to start shit," he growled. "You're the one out here calling me stupid. And a liar? You think I'm just going to sit around and take that shit?"
“Did you hit your head or something, or have you always been this stupid?” Wes snapped. “I haven’t said a single damn—”
"I did talk!" she said brightly. "Clink made it so all pokémon can talk to their trainers so long as we're out here. Unless they don't want to. And of course I called him Nate. That's his name!"
Wes forgot his simmering anger almost instantly. So he…he hadn’t imagined it. She was talking, really talking, and apparently Mitch wasn’t a Mitch but a Nate, and did she say all Pokémon could—?

“Wow, really? Is that true? We can talk to Wes and he will understand us? That’s so cool! That’s cool that’s cool that’s cool! Wes, Wes, can you hear me? What do I sound like? I bet I sound really strong, huh? Wowowowow I can tell you so many things now but I can’t think of any because I’m too excited!”

Wes stared. And then stared some more. He gaped at Neo, who bounced all around him in a circle, chirping—no, talking at a million miles an hour, and it felt as though his brain had come to a grinding halt. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized must look like an especially stupid Magikarp, but he didn’t quite have it in him to care at the moment.

Then he looked at Novo, and the Umbreon stared up at him with wide eyes, looking about as thunderstruck as Wes felt.

Novo blinked, then hesitantly wagged his tail. “…Hi?”

Wes suddenly felt a little light-headed.
 

Negrek

Windswept Questant
Staff
Mightyena laughed as Neo bombarded his trainer with questions, her tail starting to wag. She glanced up at her trainer, who looked perplexed at how fast the mood had turned. "See? He's not looking to fight."

"I don't get it," Nate groused. "I seriously don't fucking get it." But he unclenched his fist and patted Mightyena's head, and her tail started going even faster.

"Well, fine!" Nate called across to Wes. "I guess I can't stay mad at you if you're going to get all sappy like that." But he couldn't help but smile at the guy's dumbfounded expression. He knew that feeling.

Mightyena leaned heavily against his side, and Nate rubbed around the base of her ear. He glanced up into the seething yellow sky and added, a bit less loudly, "And sorry for getting in your face over nothing." Ugh. He wished Orzo would show up right the fuck now. That fucker had better stay the hell out of his head.
 

AbraPunk

Cosmic Guardian
Location
The Circle
Pronouns
he/him
Partners
  1. luxio
A sound, like a whimpering, terrified squeak. A familiar cry, one belonging to a Zigzagoon... yet it was impossible to say from what direction it came.

Wes froze, and his heart skipped a beat.

No. No, no, no...

He knew that sound all too well.

Fifteen years ago...

A scrawny preteen boy sat against a rusted metal wall, face buried in a large book, with two Eevees and a Zigzagoon next to him.

He was so engrossed in learning about the various myths and legends of other regions that he didn't notice the sets of footsteps approaching him.

"Hey, fuckin' freak. What'cha up to?"

The young boy lifted his head to see a pair of older, teenaged boys sneering down at him.

The one who'd spoken was a prominent Snagger by the name of Casimir, and he was known to be a persistent bully to all the kids in Snagem.

The Eevees and Zigzagoon growled at the older Snagem members, warning them not to come any closer, while the young boy shrank back and tightly clutched his book.

Casimir scoffed and ran a hand through his electric blue hair. "Right, I forgot, you don't talk to nobody 'cept your 'mons. Y'know they can't understand you?"

It took the small boy several tries to speak up. "W-Well, they can understand me, it's just that I can't understand them... not in words, anyway."

The other teenager spoke up now. "Load o' bullshit, that is. Say, what're you doin' down here? Ain't anybody come down here for no reason."

"Um, I don't think that sentence makes sense. S-Sorry, um, that's actually exactly why I come here, because... well, nobody else is ever here." The young boy paused. "W-Wait, how did you guys--"

Casimir waved his hand dismissively. "Eh, we've been lookin' for you all over the base. This was the very last place we were gonna look."

"...Okay, but why--"

"No more questions, kiddo." Casimir turned ever so slightly to his companion. "Elliot. Get him."

Elliot barreled forward, shrugging off the attacks from the Eevees and Zigzagoon, and yanked the young boy up so that he was now standing, then wrenched his arms behind his back, forcing him to drop the book.

"H-Hey! Let me go!" The boy squirmed.

Casimir stalked closer, a predatory glint in his eyes. "Listen here, kid. Word 'round the base is that you've been rocketing up the ranks of us Snaggers. Well, I can't exactly have competition, now, can I?"

"B-But I don't even steal Pokémon like you guys! I just catch the wild ones--"

"SHUT IT! I don't wanna hear no more shit from you." Casimir jabbed a finger at the young boy. "See, that's why you're goin' as far as you are. You think you're some goody two-shoes, only grabbing the 'mons that ain't already owned by others. Well, I don't know what fuckin' worms nested in the Admins' heads, but they seem to think you're the shit for it." He snarled, and raised his fist. "No more. I'm gonna make sure you never get any higher in these ranks, Wes."

His fists slammed into Wes' face again and again. Blood covered, and dripped off of, his knuckles when he was done, leaving Wes a bloody, beaten mess.

Wes' Pokémon had tried to attack both of the other Snagem members, but had been easily shrugged off.

Casimir drew a long knife from his belt, and licked his lips. "Heh, got one more thing to do to you, kiddo."

The knife swung, and came away with a coat of blood.

Wes shrieked in agony, a deep gash now running across his face.

His Pokémon yowled in anger and launched themselves at Casimir in another attempt to protect their Trainer.

Casimir pivoted and launched his foot into the Zigzagoon's side, which produced an audible crack, and sent the 'mon flying into the opposite wall, where it slid to the floor and did not move, save for the sporadic rise and fall of its sides.

Wes, still restrained within Elliot's grip, choked out a sob. "B-Bandit, no...!"

The two Eevees fared better, being able to claw their way up Casimir, and biting at whatever they could reach.

Wes knew what had to be done, if he could do it at all... something he'd never figured he'd have to use. As best as he could, he whistled a short, shrill tone.

To the two other Snagem members, it would mean nothing.

To his Eevees, it was a kill signal.

The two 'mons renewed their attack, with both biting and slashing viciously at Casimir, leaving trails of blood wherever they hit.

The older boy screamed and tried to pry the Eeeves off of him. "Elliot, help!"

Elliot let go of Wes, causing the younger boy to immediately collapse to the dimly lit concrete floor, and rushed over to try to help Casimir get rid of the kill-eager Eevees.

Both 'mons latched onto Elliot and clawed at him until he ran away, his arms lacerated.

Wes whistled again, though it was hardly more than a weak sputter of air, and his Pokémon stopped their attack.

His Eevees rushed to his side, and he watched through blurred, doubled vision as Casimir struggled to his feet.

The older boy spat and glared at Wes. "Pathetic little shit." With a trembling, bloody hand, he plucked a ridged purple-and-orange Pokéball from his belt. "I'll be taking this, though."

Casimir limped over to Bandit, the 'mon barely conscious. He lifted the little Zigzagoon by the scruff, which produced a series of weak, whimpering squeaks of pain and fear.

"Thanks for the 'mon, kid."

The odd Pokéball touched the Zigzagoon, and the Pokémon was absorbed into it, and officially stolen. After that, Casimir left the room, leaving only a bloodied Wes and his Eevees.

Wes was powerless to do anything, and he wasn't going to send his Eevees after the older boy. He didn't want his remaining Pokémon to get hurt or killed. It wasn't worth it.

"I'm sorry, Bandit..."

Those were the last words he managed to get out before he fell into unconsciousness.

...That was the past. This is now.

Wes shook his head and stared ahead.

Nico and Merian were by his side, as they always had been, even on that day.

And Bandit...

I'll get you back one day. I'll find you if it's the last thing I do. I swear it to all the gods in my world, I'm gonna fucking find you.

Well, shit, now there was a tear in his eye. Just fucking great. He quickly wiped it away, and hoped nobody saw that.
 

Seren

Lurking
Staff
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. sableye
Once the voices died down, Odette was finally able to register the question. She reached around to grab at her backpack, her frown deepending. "Honestly, I think I only have my main and a spare. Hopefully that'll be enough."

Kimiko also frowned at the news, wishing she'd thought to ask sooner. (Although, really, when would she have a chance? 'Can you hold on a sec Orzo, we need to get some water bottles out of this vending machine.' Yeah, that would have been spectacular.) The fact that Odette had two bottles, and that was hopefully enough... She knew powering up Odile took a lot out of her, but that was worrying... maybe Lucy could create some ice and let it melt. Blue did have a gyarados with him, too... it was safe to drink pokemon water, right? Somehow, the thought didn't really sound appealing, but perhaps it would do in an emergency. "Well... we can ration it, but we'll figure something out if we need to." She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt.

"Perhaps not. That does sound like a good time. And I do owe you a karaoke session, so that's even more of a reason why you need to make it back."

Her expression suddenly became a little more wistful as she took another look toward the horizon. "Though, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a little homesick. At this point, I'd give my fingernails for a hug from Clovis and a kiss from Guzma."

Odile had struck a nerve with Darkrai and they began their own conversation; clearly she wasn't worried, so maybe the water thing wasn't as pressing as her brain insisted. (Or maybe she was just worrying too much. She was known to do that, too.)

The music talk brought back the lighthearted mood, if only for a moment. "I know how you feel... that's why I tried to text Alex in the first place. I could really go for a cuddle and a nap right now. As much as I could use a legit vacation... I really just wanna go home.

"That said, who knows when or if I'll ever get to see you again, so I'm willing to make Alex and the rest of my team wait just a little bit longer."

She looked up and was somewhat surprised to realize they weren't far off from the castle now. It had seemed so distant at first, but talking with her friend really did make the time fly by. She knew the fight wasn't going to be an easy one, but for the first time, she felt ready for it.
 

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
  7. salandit
  8. tyrantrum
  9. porygon
They arrived both slowly and all once. A dark, broken castle looming over them, casting an endless shadow. Crumbling parapets, shattered windows and decayed semblances of what might have been trees clawing their way from the earth. A semblance of courtyard lay around them, though it was only barely indistinguishable from the broken stone.

Cracked cobblestones crawled over the ground and wound up to the castle's interior, which had no door. For a moment, Darkrai paused, gazing up at the structure. Chef Flygon stood next to him; claws curled into a fist. The whispers and taunts crescendod, jabbing at the psyche of everyone, though perhaps to little effect now.

Darkrai wore a grim expression as he took in the marred landscape. Hoopa wrung his hands together, eyes darting about as if expecting an attack. The air felt thick now, even thicker than before, and the atmosphere somehow even more hostile, despite a complete lack of life.

Chef Flygon snorted disdainfully "Lovely place I see."

"There's... so much evil," Clink whispered. They gripped their keys tighter, their expression filled with determination.

Darkrai's gaze narrowed. "I suspect Orzo will have long since guessed we might try to confront him, so pure surprise will not be on our side. We must be ready for anything."

Hoopa trembled shivered. "No surprise? But he's so strong...How-"

Darkrai placed a firm hand on Hoopa to still him. "Take courage, there is still hope." His gaze swept across all the trainers and their partners. Those who had never asked to be drawn into such a terrible place, yet faced it together with such resolve. "Hope will give you the strength to see a better future. Your willpower will give you the strength to make it happen. Whatever we face ahead... Have faith always in those by your side, and victory will always be within reach."

Then with calm resolve, Darkrai floated forward and crossed the threshold into the castle.

Once across the threshold, the whispers cut off abruptly, plunging all into a dreadful silence. Stillness smothered the group, and a chill pervaded the air. Despite the lack of sun or moon, a dull light seemed to be cast through what remained of stained glass windows, revealing tattered scraps of carpet across the floor. There was precious little to see - no grand staircases or great halls, just a cavernous room that stretched on too long before ending in a decrepit throne. Perhaps this had once been a grand castle, but now it seemed closer to a poor facsimile.

Despite the stillness, there remained the pervasive sense of being watched from all sides.

Clink shivered and drifted closer to Darkrai, glancing warily about.

“Be careful,” Darkrai spoke softly to the group. He started moving slowly towards the far end of the hall, where the throne sat.

Though it appeared draped in shadows, it almost seemed there might have been a figure sitting upon it... Oddly enough as they moved forward, it felt as if the throne was not drawing much nearer...
 

Hanafuda

Novice Ornithologist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. rowlet
  2. koraidon-apex
As Zack flew down towards the rest of the group, Seb safely hopped down to the ground. “Huh. We’re here now,” Seb said, fidgeting with his hair awkwardly. “Man, I’m scared…”

“Me too…” Zack muttered, giving a nervous smile. “And here I thought I was afraid of nothin’. Well, heroes aren’t immune to this, after all.”

“Don’t forget we’re together,” Seb said. He looked around with worry. When he looked at the castle’s entrance, he noticed a solitary figure. If the feathers weren’t an instant reminder that it was a Farfetch’d, the leek and humanoid body shape definitely helped him recognize his Pokémon. He gasped and pointed forward. “There he is! Jack!”

Jack went ahead. There was no hesitation in his movements nor expression.

“Don’t be dumb, Jack-o! We’re here too!” Zack was about to dash forward, but he was stopped by his Trainer stretching out his arm onto his chest.

“Stand together. Remember, divided we fall.”

They entered cautiously. The Mega-Pidgeot hovered above his Trainer with rhythmic flaps of his wings. The atmosphere certainly made them feel heavy with fear, but they didn’t stop moving forward.

“So this is what it’s like to have mixed feelings,” Zack muttered, looking around the derelict castle.

“Yeah, I know,” Seb replied, holding onto his jacket. “It’s just like when you’re about to do a test you studied hard for. You’re afraid, but you can’t avoid it, so you brave through.”

“Couldn’t have said it better myself, buddy. I mean, we’re about to fight to save the worlds. I thought it was gonna be a piece of cake. I’m glad Dad was right, though. If everything was easy, we’d all be winners, right? That would include the bad guys.”

“Yeah. Words to live by…”

“But we’re a team. Everything will be fine if we’re together. That’s why we gotta get Jack-o back here.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t stop him in time…”

“Hey, you didn’t do anythin’. It was just a weird voice that got to him. We just gotta push him in the right direction, just like he did.”

“Okay…”
 

Negrek

Windswept Questant
Staff
Nate was almost relieved when the castle seemed to loom out of nowhere, the strangling sensation of latent power ramping higher and higher the longer they walked. Made it easier to slip away from Wes and the ninetales girl so they all could start properly pretending that little outburst never happened. Not that Wes had been paying attention to much besides his pokémon after he'd found out they could talk to him.

At least somebody was having a good time out here. The smothering feeling of the air, the way it felt charged and watchful, almost like a thing alive, was far too familiar. Fucking psychics. All that spooky bullshit with the voices and then the no voices, the shadows and the crumbly castle, it was all so obviously tailored to freak people out. A hell of a lot of look-how-powerful-and-scary-I-am. And it was pissing Nate off that it was working.

The far-off throne didn't seem to be drawing nearer, the golden asshole apparently content to lurk around and let everyone come to him. Irritation prickled through Nate's chest with each apparently-pointless step.

Well, Darkrai had said the guy knew they were here anyhow. It sure as hell felt like Orzo had his eyes on them. Nate was done with his whole "I'm-so-powerful-and-spooky" shtick. He signaled Mightyena to be ready, then cupped his hands around his mouth and called, "Hey, dickface! Are you gonna sit on your ass all day, or are we gonna do this already? You fucking scared or what?"
 

HelloYellow17

Gym Leader
Pronouns
She/Her
Partners
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
  3. mew
  4. lycanroc-wes
  5. leafeon-rui
"Well, fine!" Nate called across to Wes. "I guess I can't stay mad at you if you're going to get all sappy like that."
Wes was jarred out of his stupor by Mitch’s—no, Nate’s?—shout over his shoulder. Under normal circumstances, Wes wouldn’t have let him off without demanding an explanation, but at the moment he could no longer bring himself to care. Still, he filed away a mental note to confront “Mitch” later.

Neo was still chattering away, but then he looked up at Wes and wilted at his trainer’s ashen face. “Do you…not like me talking?” His tail and ears drooped.

Oh, gods, that little voice was so earnest. The wounded note in Neo’s tone felt like a knife to the chest. “I—I…no. Not at all. I just…wasn’t prepared.”

Neo perked up slightly, but didn’t look entirely convinced. “Are you sure?”

Wes bent down and picked up the Espeon with a warm, if somewhat shaky, smile. “…Yeah. I’m sure. Tell me everything you want me to hear—but make sure Novo gets a turn, too.”

Novo gave a soft, amused snort. “I do not care much for talking, anyway.”

Wes laughed at that; he supposed being gifted with the ability to understand their speech didn’t change much about their relationship at all. “Well, speak up if you like. I…I won’t mind. At all.” He looked back to Neo, who brightened with a hearty purr, and he felt Novo affectionately bunt his leg with his head.

With Neo in Wes’s arms, they marched onward to the castle, the Espeon’s enthusiastic chatter accompanying them the whole way. Once they reached the doorstep and Neo faded into nervous silence, Wes held him tighter and looked him in the eyes, then to Novo.

Words had never been necessary to communicate their feelings to each other, and this moment was no exception. Wes let Neo jump from his arms and take a bold stance in from of him and steeled himself with a deep breath. Then all three of them stepped through the door with the rest of the company, internalizing their silent message to one another:

Together. Always.
 
Partners
  1. skiddo-steplively
  2. skiddo-px2
  3. skiddo-px3
  4. skiddo-iametrine
  5. skiddo-coolshades
  6. skiddo-rudolph
  7. skiddo-sleepytime
  8. snowskiddo
  9. skiddotina
  10. skiddengo
  11. skiddoyena
  12. skiddo-obs
The air was thick, heavy almost like it should've been water, but even if Gyarados tried to filter it with his gills he didn't really feel any better. Certainly Charizard hadn't liked flying through it. He was walking alongside Gyarados at the moment, growling unintelligibly every time he nearly caught his claws on some inhospitable-looking snarl of earth. At least it wasn't too hard for Gyarados to push his way forward, sweeping aside whatever he slithered over, but even then he couldn't help but imagine the ground itself was snatching at him, trying to hook cruel, crooked fingers into his fins and hold him back.

...Was anything really trying to grab him? He supposed it was possible, in a wretched place like this. It didn't really matter, though. If they were real then they were still tiny things, far too small to avoid being crushed as he went past. Not worth worrying about. They had a job to do, after all.

We have a job to do, Charizard. I know I can count on you. I've always been able to count on you. And only you.

He almost stopped, almost tripped over his own fins and had to catch himself before he accidentally sent his passenger tumbling.

"Little late to the party, there, Froot Loops," Blue yawned from his perch atop Gyarados's head, seemingly unperturbed by the bumpy ride. Gyarados wasn't sure if the yawn was because he was still exhausted, or if it was just part of the whole rude-on-purpose thing. Probably both. "Literally just dealt with shit about a million times worse than that, and that was apparently an accident. Darkrai forgetting to turn off the alarm system before letting us in has better material than you? Ouch, man. Seriously, I'm having a hard time articulating how embarrassing this is."

Oh. Had Blue heard that? (Certainly he hadn't actually...) "...How embarrassing what is?"

"Just the world's most amateur-hour ventriloquism act." His human yawned again and took another bite of the fruit Charizard had insisted he bring along. "Supposed to sound like Wallace telling me I'm too awful for anyone to want me as a son or as a friend or whatever. Extremely realistic and convincing, and not at all like Wallace is waaaaay over there holding hands with Gen or anything. I'd be utterly devastated if I wasn't too done with this to care.

"Why? Did you have to listen to him whining at me, too? Or—" Gyarados felt him sit bolt upright, then pause to swear when the sudden motion probably didn't improve his headache. "Or did you hear something else? The fuck did that bastard say to you?"

"Nothing," Gyarados said, so quickly that it was immediately obvious he was lying. "He said that you didn't think you could count on me." He paused, unsure whether he should be more specific, but lying once felt bad enough already. "You... he made it sound like you said you didn't think you could count on me."

A bout of incoherent but decidedly indignant spluttering ensued, followed by more probably headache-induced cursing, followed in turn by a few beats of uneasy quiet.

"...And do you believe that?" Blue asked at last.

"No." The answer came more easily than he'd thought it would. Then again, why wouldn't it have been easy? "It doesn't make any sense in the first place. You're one of the only people who's never said something like that to me."

"See? Like I said. Amateur hour." (Gyarados was probably just imagining the momentary hitch in Blue's chuckle.) "Entirely impossible to take seriously. S'pose there's nothing else for it but to show ol' Golden Girls how it's really done. I mean," Blue clarified after a beat of confused silence, "if we've gotta sit around and listen to a bunch of shit-talk while we're choking to death in this goth-tryhard hellscape, it might as well be entertaining shit-talk. And if Fool's Gold here can't provide, well, it's only polite of us to oblige."

Gyarados rumbled thoughtfully. "It is more interesting when you're mean than when he is, I think."

"'Mean'? Me? Oh, how you wound me." There was a light thump atop Gyarados's head as his trainer slumped in a pretend swoon. "Can't a man call somebody a desperate, talentless hack in self-defense? Can't I counter a little 'selfish brat' with a teensy 'prick with his own horns up his ass' of my own? Is turnabout not fair play? Anyway," he added, tapping Gyarados's crown with a finger, "I said us, pal. He tried—and failed, but whatever—to mess with you guys, too, so you're more than entitled to roast him right back."

"I... huh." The serpent almost stopped for a second time, and almost dislodged Blue a second time when he couldn't help tilting his head in confusion. "I've never... really... done that... before?"

"No... no time like the present!" Blue puffed a little as he hauled himself back up and into a more comfortable sitting position. "While we can shoot the breeze together like this, I mean. C'mon, give it a try! I know you don't so much do the whole 'raaarrr angery raging' thing like most gyarados, but a little venting now and then's still healthy, right? And it's not like there's a single damn person here who'd argue he doesn't deserve it. Bullying Honey Nutcase Cheerios is practically a public service!

"So go on, let him have it. Swirl his head in the toilet a couple times before we march over to his bouncy castle and take his lunch money."

Gyarados was not entirely sure what a third of that sentence meant, and it never would have occurred to him to describe the gnarled structure clawing at the sky up ahead as "bouncy". That seemed proof enough that this game was better suited to his trainer than to him. It was true that they probably wouldn't get too many more chances to talk, though. (One way or another.) It was also true that he was, to put it mildly, not particularly happy with the hoop-thing.

"I... hm." He had to think for a long moment, hissing low as he wracked his brains for a suitably unpleasant condemnation. "I don't... I don't like you, Orzo," he said to the stifling air. "At all."

"That's... a start. Blunt statements of the truth can be harsh, I can vibe with that," mused Blue. "You gotta give us some more detail, though. Let loose a little! This guy's the scum of the earths, an asshole who trapped us all in a situation where I actually had to say 'earths' just now, a waste of the effort it takes to bother remembering his actual name. What's the worst thing you can think to call him?"

Gyarados squinted hard at the looming castle, trying to picture the creature that presumably waited for them inside. He was... wicked, and tiny, and an orangey-gold color, and... "You... you, wicked, tiny... orange, pointy... thing."

"Aw, c'mon, give him some credit," Blue drawled. "He's totally not orange, he's gold. The Golden Dingaling! The glittering ruler of absolutely fuck-all with a gilded dunce cap crown on each horn! Surely he deserves a fancier title than that!"

"He's not even a pretty kind of gold," Gyarados grumbled. He remembered the sight of the last dregs of paint slurry washing away in the restaurant, and leaving something that was only kind of shiny in their wake. "Not like a golden magikarp. He looks like... like dirty old human money like there was at the bottom of the lake. Oh! Oh, you're, you're Dirty Money, Orzo."

"My new favorite use of the term. Keep going, tell me more!"

"I heard that sometimes humans like to haul up shiny stuff from old boats at the bottom of the sea, but if they found you they would probably just sink you again. You're an old and leaky ship that can't, it can't do anything by itself. No," he added as an analogy dawned on him, "you're just a nasty little barnacle, clinging to something bigger and stronger and, and better. Otherwise you wouldn't need to steal everybody else's friends just to stand a chance against us. That's not even very interesting, if you think about it. Because all of us already had that friendship first.

"But we're actually friends, right, me and Charizard and Blue, and all of these other humans and pokémon. And the real friendship that we share is more than enough to stand up to a pathetic, louse-tongued liar like you."

"Attaboy!" Blue cheered. "Maybe a little on the sappy side, but hell if I'm gonna question the facts, right? We'll work on punching up your delivery later." He shifted position so he could lean over the side of Gyarados's head and look down. "And what about you, hm? Had enough time to cook up a sick burn?"

"Doesn't seem like a productive use of my energy", Charizard said idly. "Much more useful to think about what it'll sound like when his whiny, wheedly little voice is begging for the burning to stop. Or I could ponder the workings of the world. I wonder how fast gold melts, for example?"

"Probably too fast to get a good look, I think," Gyarados offered, cheerfully ignoring the fact that he had no idea how melting gold worked. "I've seen ich on a goldeen that would probably last longer."

"Absolutely savage, gentlemen. You're both terrible. I can only imagine how sorry and heartbroken he'd look if he weren't so busy cowering behind Barbie's Nuclear Fallout Dream House over there."

If nothing else, trading increasingly outlandish insults and threats with his friends made the slog to the bouncy castle pass much more easily. None of them even bothered to notice the ugly little snarls of darkness that Gyarados left smashed to nothing in his wake.

It was one of those things where no matter how long you walked the destination magically never got any closer, because screw the physics I have overblown theatrics or whatever. Blue supposed it was decent enough for ratcheting up the anticipation; if nothing else, it made it hard not to spend the endless death march imagining increasingly torturous and sticky endings that the hoopa might have in store for them should they fail.

It was also really fucking ugly and boring.

"Jeez, Snorezo, at least outside the scenery changed every once in a while. An ominous mountain rising up like a deadly spike over here, a pretty swirling cloud of miasma over there, the rare strangled-looking tree accent to deaden up the place. How many more times d'you think we can walk past the exact same piece of hideous, clashy, looks-like-an-eldritch-horror-finger-painted-on-this carpet before I hurl all over it? Which, by the way, please tell me the first person you murdered after you regained your fancy sparkle powers was your interior decorator. There's your real enemy, whoever conned you into believing that travesty goes with stained glass."

"We're ready for you, Louse-Tongue," said Gyarados. He seemed steadier than Blue had ever seen him. (Aside from the movement involved with, y'know, walking forever.)

Charizard's tail flared. "Or is the high and mighty Orzo-quivers-in-fear just going to keep hiding all the way over there where he thinks he's safe?"

Blue wiped a mock tear from his eye. "My precious dragon sons have grown up so fast," he sniffed. Fuck whatever Orzo was about to do next. This was gold, and he wouldn't have traded it for anything. "Now. Let's bring this home and wreck his fucking shit."
 
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Broken Throne

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
  7. salandit
  8. tyrantrum
  9. porygon
Inch by inch, all pressed forward. Each step seemed to grow heavier, the air denser and an overwhelming pressure on all sides. And finally, despite the sense that the land itself was trying all it could to hold them back, they stood before the shadowy throne. And it was... unimpressive. Broken, rusting and falling to pieces. Yet more consuming of ones attention was the figure upon the throne, blanketed in such darkness it was unnatural.

A humanoid figure.

Darkrai paused, but Clink drew closer, peering at it...

And then the figure rose from the throne, movements jerky and unnatural, limbs twisting, the angles all wrong. Puppet-like.

“Xavian!” Clink shrieked. They rushed forward, but Darkrai shifted and held out a clawed hand to stop them. The look in his gaze was unmistakeable. Wait.

The figure smiled, mouth too-wide and red eyes flashing as it cocked its head. It was unmistakably Xavian, but only in body. His clothes were tatters, and his face gaunt and exhausted.

“Darkrai... and friends. What a pleasure,” he leered. The voice sounded both like Xavian, yet completely wrong.

“You monster!” Clink shrieked, rage coloring their voice. “What have you done? Let him go!”

Orzo-Xavian laughed, his laugh, but mocking. He continued in an almost playful tone. “No, I don’t think I will.”

Chef Flygon’s tail lashed side to side, and his wings tensed. He looked nearly ready to say something, but Darkrai cast him a look before drifting forwards and facing Orzo.

He spoke calmly, tone filled with restrained yet righteous wrath. “Orzo, Once Golden King, we have come to demand the release of Xavian Montorzi and the kidnapped trainers from Kunolo Island. Relinquish them, now and surrender, and perhaps some minor degree of mercy shall be awared to your fate.”

A dark chuckle dripped from Orzo’s mouth. “No, it is you who must surrender, Darkrai. For so long I waited and planned for this day. How grand it is that you will be one of the first I will kill. I believe your predecessor was the one that first led the crusade against me, milennia ago. Then I shall tear apart that sniveling little hedgehog. She always was too keen for her own good. And then I shall move on to all the rest of you pathetic mythicals. You, who stole my realm, my power and everything that rightfully belonged to me." The room, and even the air itself vibrated with rage.

"And once all of you are dead for good, then the world will be right again. My world.” His voice deepened to an unnatural, malicious hiss.

The smile Orzo-Xavian wore shifted again, this time to a broad, cheerful grin. Yet Xavian's eyes didn't match it. Stepping forwards, Xavian’s arms spread out in an unsettling approximation of giving some kind of speech.

“However... I am a merciful king. I am willing to spare the lives of your partners, silly humans. All you must do is kneel.”

His red gazed danced across the assembled trainers. Amusement twisted his tone. “Kneel and you shall be spared. Resist and face annihilation.”

With each word he spoke, the air seemed to tremble and a great, horrible presence grew. A crushing pressure, closing in on all sides, crushing, overwhelming, almost unbearable. Yet at the same time, there was a sense of peace. Resolve. As if the pressure were there, but being repelled by a force.

The shadows in the roomed deepened, rising around him. Orzo spoke again, with a voice that drowned out thought.

“Kneel.”
 

Hanafuda

Novice Ornithologist
Pronouns
He/Him
Partners
  1. rowlet
  2. koraidon-apex
Jack stood alone, gazing defiantly at the enemy at the throne. To think that the King would be using the host’s body like this… Repulsive. Had he no dignity? Then again, Orzo was throwing a tantrum simply by claiming that the world was ‘stolen’ from him. There was hardly any dignity in a selfish individual. His punishment would come in the form of a leek in the face; a fitting humiliation for a ruined king.

“I can definitely see some symbolism here,” Seb said. “But man, this is gross.” He looked away from Xavian’s body and shook his head.

“All I see is a poor guy who doesn’t deserve this,” Zack replied with a grimace. “Mister X… You were awesome. Thanks for listenin’ to my story.” He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, blew out and glared with determination. “Lemme repay you for this party you hosted.” He flew towards the ceiling as he looked down at Orzo. “Yo, King! You seein’ this fabulous bod?” He showed off his bright orange and blue feathers and wild crest. “I’m not done with ya!”

“Oh, right, I forgot you still had your Mega-Evolution active.” Seb looked at his Mega-Ring with a smile. Of course the battle wasn’t over yet. “Well, time to win back our friends!”

“Hold on, Alakazam. We’re gettin’ ya back.”
 

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
  6. slugma
  7. chinchou
The oppressive pressure in the air was deafening. Xavian stood there, limbs all wrong, unnatural grin plastered across his face, and she felt sick. In the end, this was just a legendary battle, wasn't it? Just another one of those, with more people, and fewer Pokémon each.

Spirit growled by her side. "We will not kneel before a creature like you."

"Let's just get this fight over with," May said, gritting her teeth. "Coleane said you're supposed to eat this, right?"

She held out the Empowerment Seed, and Spirit took it from her hand. In a second, the Ninetales erupted with golden light, her fur lengthening and flowing out behind her in a nonexistent wind.

"Power," Spirit whispered in wonder. "Even greater than what I had." She looked up at 'Xavian', tails lashing, her eyes blood red. "We will make you sorry you ever tried this scheme, fiend. When we're through with you you will be the one to kneel as you beg for mercy."
 

Panoramic_Vacuum

Hoenn around
Partners
  1. aggron
  2. lairon
Inch by inch, all pressed forward. Each step seemed to grow heavier, the air denser and an overwhelming pressure on all sides. And finally, despite the sense that the land itself was trying all it could to hold them back, they stood before the shadowy throne. And it was... unimpressive. Broken, rusting and falling to pieces. Yet more consuming of ones attention was the figure upon the throne, blanketed in such darkness it was unnatural.

A humanoid figure.
frustrated.png
Steven blanched as the darkness that suffocated the room suddenly parted with sickening clarity. Even still cloaked in shadows, it was painfully clear who sat atop Orzo's decaying throne. He very well could have gone a thousand lifetimes without hearing Clink's desperate shriek. Kind, gentle Xavian, being toyed with like that. It made him sick. It made him angry.

"That's terrible," he breathed through gritted teeth. "How could you do something like that?"

Then I shall tear apart that sniveling little hedgehog.
Aggron Expression_SNARL.png
Aggron surged forward with a snarl. "How dare you talk about Shaymin that way!" he roared. "She knows more about the world than you ever could! Right from the start she smelled how rotten you were. Rotten to the core, just like your shitty realm." He swiped a claw across his body, cleaving the air in half. "If this is your vision for a perfect world, I want nothing to do with it."

The smile Orzo-Xavian wore shifted again, this time to a broad, cheerful grin. Yet Xavian's eyes didn't match it. Stepping forwards, Xavian’s arms spread out in an unsettling approximation of giving some kind of speech.

“However... I am a merciful king. I am willing to spare the lives of your partners, silly humans. All you must do is kneel.”
angry straight ahead.png
"Show us mercy?" echoed Steven, disbelief clear in his voice. "The same mercy you've shown to Xavian? To the trainers you've imprisoned?" He shook his head and leveled an icy stare at the figure on the throne. "What you've done to them is twisted and cruel. It's unforgivable."

grumpy.png
Aggron gave a derisive snort. "I don't kneel for cowards. A king should be a leader, someone strong and brave. All I see is a weakling who hides in the dark and uses nothing but cheap tricks."

He could feel the pressure in the room rising, even as Orzo yammered on, puppeting Xavian's body like it was just a plaything. Steven was right, there would be no mercy. They were going to be in for a fight. Aggron shuffled himself in front of Steven and the others, lowering his horns. To get to any of them, Orzo was going to have to go through him first.

"Even if you are a real king, which I doubt, I'd never kneel for someone like you."
 

MintyMimix

Otherworldly Dessert
Location
Florida
Pronouns
They/Them
Partners
  1. lurantis
  2. noivern-astrea
And then the figure rose from the throne, movements jerky and unnatural, limbs twisting, the angles all wrong. Puppet-like.
Hazel growled at the repulsive sight. How dare they! Every bit of her goal and lifeblood was being spat in the face of by the demonic act. He was tossing aside every bit of effort that Pokémon and humanity had done to connect. Pokémon were not threats to be feared nor playthings for the entertainment. It was not their power that would be valued, but their hearts! They were living beings that could be cherished and understood — they and mankind lived side-by-side, hand-in-hand. An unspoken bond that was far more powerful than any speech or social barrier could inhibit. But to severe such a bond by enforcing another, far more sinister one... it was an affront to everything Hazel believed.

"You want us to abandon our friends?! To just act like power-hungry animals?!" the Weavile yelled, clenching her claw as she held steadfast under the searing pressure and assumed a battle stance, "Fine then; I'll just go feral on your sorry ass!"
“However... I am a merciful king. I am willing to spare the lives of your partners, silly humans. All you must do is kneel.”
"Kneel... Now that's a familiar command," Violet remarked with a hollow chuckle. "However, as someone from whence those with heads as swollen as Drifblim believed they truly had power over others..."

The girl rolled her shoulders and craned her neck up. "...Thine ideas as antiquated as that garishly rusted gold of yours," she taunted, barring her teeth in a sneer.

"Just as the kingdoms of yore fell as their lords became nothing more than footnotes in history, so too shall thine own name be lost in the winds of time." No matter how much it hurt to fight against the pressure of a thousand hammers barring down on her from Orzo's presence, she puffed her chest out in defiance. "May thou clutch onto what little thou hath engraved... for it too shall crumble into dust, and thine 'rule' forgotten forevermore!"
 
Partners
  1. skiddo-steplively
  2. skiddo-px2
  3. skiddo-px3
  4. skiddo-iametrine
  5. skiddo-coolshades
  6. skiddo-rudolph
  7. skiddo-sleepytime
  8. snowskiddo
  9. skiddotina
  10. skiddengo
  11. skiddoyena
  12. skiddo-obs
Yet more consuming of ones attention was the figure upon the throne, blanketed in such darkness it was unnatural.

A humanoid figure.

"-Oid" being the operative suffix in that thought, because a human body had no god damn business moving like that. Blue had been joking about the carpet—well, about it making him hurl, that monstrosity needed to be set on fire yesterday—but the sight of Montorzi's limbs twisting and cracking and swinging at impossible angles very nearly did make him physically ill. He had to fight the urge to clutch at his arm, remind himself that that hadn't really happened. (Fight the urge to imagine that Montorzi was probably a sneak preview of what was about to happen to him.)

The Golden King said:

"Never," said Gyarados. "You're terrible. You're a disgrace who has no right to call himself a pokémon. You don't deserve or even understand anything you have. And also I don't think I can physically do that, so clearly you're not very observant, either."

"There won't be enough of you left to kneel when this is over," Charizard snarled, wings flared wide and tail blazing so bright it was hard to watch.

Not an ounce of fear. No wavering, no backing down. God, but his partners were so strong. So brave. And so stupid. All of them were, Charizard and Gyarados and the reverb demon and Steven and Victoria and Gen and that fucking guy and Clink and Darkrai and Blue, deeply, frustratingly, irredeemably stupid. This thing was going to fucking kill them all, nothing more than target practice before he turned his attention to every other universe he could get his hands on. It was one thing to talk trash while they were alone, and another to do it while stomping through the maniac's front garden, but it was a new and exciting level of death wish entirely to spit directly into his face. There was no way that was going to make being tied into a balloon animal any less painful.

Was this bastard really the type to honor a promise to let them live? It'd mean selling out, it'd mean servitude, it'd probably mean indefinite existence as this monster's personal friendship batteries or whatever the hell had happened to all the others. It would still mean living (it would mean them living), but it couldn't possibly mean living well.

...Besides. Orzo probably wasn't the type to keep his word. They were all dead no matter what they did.

"Bend a knee to you?" He paused, as if unable to meet the eyes of the broken thing leering down at them, shifting his gaze between Gyarados and Charizard instead. "...Hmph. Fine. If that's how it's gotta be."

Blue looked the spider-jointed mockery of their host up and down one last time, took a deep breath, and grinned.

"Come closer so I can give my bent knee a good swing at your nuts."
 
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