My story here is basically an adaptation of PMD: Explorers of Sky, but don't let that spoil you -- knowledge of the game is not a requirement and there are many differences between this and the original game besides.
It is also (still) in need of a formal title - I titled the chapters more or less randomly as I went along, and the topic header is more or less a placeholder. Anyone with a better idea for a title, please speak up!
Standard fanfiction disclaimers apply.
There is one only disclaimer truly unique to this story: I treated Pokemon species names as common nouns on purpose (I will not consider it an error).
Table of Contents
[original first draft]
The night was stormy and dark, a tumultuous cascade of rolling black shadows as fierce winds whipped the rain down in lashes. Few creatures abided this weather, most of them settling in their dens, nests, burrows or roosts as they waited out the storm. Such storms were uncommon features, but not unrecorded, as they always blew in from the western ocean. Trees took the brunt of the winds, with a few weaker ones being the first to topple or uproot as their stronger counterparts stood in firm defiance of the gales, almost laughing as the rain pelted through them.
Maybe there was a moon out tonight, but underneath these roiling thunderheads it was impossible to tell; the dark shadow of this storm was so vast that it was nearly impossible to see anything, even for those born with night-vision. The only light to see by came from occasional bursts of energy flashing inbetween the clouds, the lightning far above soon answered by earth-shaking claps of thunder that echoed across and above the hills and forests of the region.
One could only imagine what it must be like out in the roiling ocean swells, judging by the waves crashing violently against rocky bluffs and washing across what otherwise would be a peaceful, level, even scenic, beach. You might say one must be insane to be voluntarily out braving a night like this. It would be better to be caught unprepared in this storm rather than venture out in it knowingly, even willingly.
And yet, despite the blackness of the night there were precisely two such souls, in fact one in each circumstance.
The first was a small lion cub -- not a baby, mind you, but an able, almost pubescent child -- darting from one safe haven to the next as he did his best to ignore the rain stinging his face. His blue and black fur was already soaked through; he hated rain. But the lightning and thunder he didn't mind -- in fact he rather enjoyed them; the four-pointed star that tufted his tail gleamed softly in resonance with such energy and his ears perked up at the echoes of each clap. His destination was near, but not unguarded; a drape sewn from leaves and fortified with sticks, weighted down by rocks covered the entrance to the burrow he was seeking, and though there was probably enough room to squeeze around it, there was nary any other shelter from the rain. And a seemingly black feathered figure stood atop a downed limb next to it, its sleepless white eyes scanning the area as the small child approached.
The soft soil in front of the entrance was rendered a puddle of splashes and rain in this weather as the child dared to step across it, and the avian lookout immediately identified the additional noise as something other than rain and wind. Their gazes locked for a moment, but before the old owl could greet the child and welcome him inside, out of this dreary weather, the child took fright and bolted back from where he came.
The owl watched as the lion disappeared from view. It was this bird's job to batten down and guard the entrance in inclement weather such as this; so long as the visitor was willing to return a greeting, perhaps even exchange their names, no harm would come to him. But something had scared the child away. Maybe it was the way a flash of lightning glinted across the nocturnal's face - the way it framed the owl's eyes underneath a large feathered brow, or the way it highlighted the razor-sharp edges of the bird's beak. But once again, the young lion startled too easily, turned tail and ran back home.
As for the other soul that ventured out in this night -- the one thrown into these winds and waves naked and unprepared....
That was me.
Chapter One: This is my story; this is my tail
[revised first draft]
My name is Arlio ... or at least I think it is; I can't seem to remember anything else. Somebody was shouting my name; I think I can recall that much. And a firm grip on my arm. And some pleading that we would survive this storm together. But who were they? What was going on? I have no image of them in my mind; only the rough seas and harsh winds that tore us apart.
I think I can hear them calling still. Calling my name. But I can't be sure. It doesn't sound quite like their voice. Would I even be able to recognize it as their voice if it was? And the name doesn't ring the same in my ears. No, that is certainly not my name ... so whose is it? Who are they calling to?
* * *
I must have looked a fright, my body splayed out against the sand at odd angles and disturbed only by waves inundating the beach (and how exactly I did not wind up with lungs coughing up saltwater I can't explain). I could hear somebody running up to me at a ... wait, was that actually a run? It was hard to tell.
"Hey!" Was that voice again reaching my ears. And I think my ears had water in them, too, because they stung a little.
By the time I could open my eyes, I found a pair of glowing, golden feline eyes staring straight back at me from above.
A lion cub?
At least it seemed to have stopped raining. But the sky, or should I say clouds, were still black; and judging by the how the fur rippled across the young lion's face, as well as the way he angled his posture above me, the wind was still quite fierce.
Or was that really fur? The layer surrounding his face was too thick to be fur. And it wasn't the right color.
I shook my head -- did I have sand in my eyes? I rubbed my face clear as best I could, but that wasn't it because it didn't help.
"Are you all right?" The lion asked me, the tone of his voice indicating it was not for the first time, as he rolled me over onto my side with a nudge from his head and I flopped over onto my stomach.
Well, at least now my view of the world was rightside up again.
But my head was still ringing, and not just because of the winds passing through us. The gales themselves weren't particularly cold, but another wave sweeping in onto the beach confirmed that my clothing must be completely soaked through after however-long I must have been adrift in all those waves. The oceanwater was a cold shock even though it only washed up to my waist instead of across my entire body like so many previous waves must have. Yet when the wave receded back, it took the cold back along with it.
I looked up at the lion child as he looked back at me with a hint of orange. Concern. I mean concern. Was I even thinking straight?
"Oh good, you're awake," the lion answered with a sigh of green. No, relief. A sigh of relief.
What was wrong with my vision? Or my head? Why can't I seem to think the right words?
I shook my head and tried to stand up, but an incoming wave knocked me back down before I could get my two feet under me, and once the water's cold grip released my legs I crawled upshore and settled for a sort of sitting, kneeling, half-upright position on the wet sand.
"...are you all right?" The lion repeated yet again, but softer this time, his eyes locked on me inquisitively, with a hint of concern, though I still could not return the favor.
"I'm sorry," I answered. It seemed like such a simple question, but I couldn't give it a straight answer. Somehow, a simple 'yes' or 'no' just didn't suffice. "I don't know...."
Indeed, I didn't. Although my body was definitely not swimming in these ocean waves, a dizziness confirmed my head still was.
"What's your name?" The lion asked in a change of color -- er, tone. Sorry. "Mine's Rae!"
"Arlio," I answered. At least it was the one question I knew for sure that I could answer.
"Arlio...," Rae, the lion, repeated to himself. "That's a nice name." He then turned himself around, pacing in a quick catlike circle before plopping his hindquarters down into an upright sitting position, with his golden-starred tail laying casually out to one side, but lightly twitching with each change of thought in his head.
The glow of that star caught my eyes. It was a distinguishing feature of these felines, I knew that much, but I felt there was something missing. A name of some kind.
A distant arc of lightning flashed between clouds, illuminating the beach in such a bright flash I felt blinded for five seconds after it faded. The clap of thunder was not nearly so far behind, as it rolled over the sands, through us both, as I found myself clenching both ears shut in the process, though Rae barely even flinched. In fact, he was far from it. He perked up and looked out over the waves the way a cat would eye a scampering mouse or flittering bird.
Well, at least one of us was enjoying this stormy weather. I, on the other hand, wondered how long it would take to wring out my clothes this time. I'm sure the last time I was thrown into a body of water it took at least half a day, and that was in warm summer weather, too. But my feet? Shoes take at least a full day when you're still wearing them.
But at least the flash of lightning burned an afterimage of Rae into my vision for my soaked and windblown mind to process. Even though I covered and rubbed my eyes to get any remaining saltwater out of them, I could still clearly see that Rae-shaped silhouette sitting in front of me in a light green tone.
No, wait, now it was blue. And was it still moving? It's just an echo, a short-term sensory memory. It can't possibly be....
"So I guess you don't like thunderstorms?" Rae asked me. I opened my eyes and looked back. Maybe my eyes had re-adjusted back to the darkness again, because I could definitely tell his colors now. A face and upper body covered in a layer of blue fur, a lower body clad in black, including the two hind feet he rested upon. Single stripes of golden fur glowed like rings around his front legs, or should I say arms.
The exact name of these felines was coming to me ... I remember seeing them somewhere before ... somewhere not far from a mountain range....
"Shinx!" I realized.
That name caught Rae's attention.
"...right? You're a child of the luxray family, also known as shinx."
"Yeah!" Rae answered with a chuckle and a blue smile -- or was that silver? Whatever. He definitely had a set of fangs in that mouth; maybe that's what I saw glinting back at me as he responded. "That's me. But..."
Then his color soured. He looked down, ears drooping.
"Wait, what did I say?" I asked.
"You've actually seen a luxray before? ...That would make one of us...."
"You've never seen another of your own kind?"
Rae shook his head mopingly. "No, I was adopted. And Mother Varea never told me what my egg mother looked like...."
"I'm sorry," I apologized. I probably don't have to say I didn't know that.
"But let's not talk about that, okay?" Rae looked back up at me, his colors brightening and shifting from blue to a warmer green.
"Let's talk about you!"
"If you've actually seen other lions like me, maybe I can play that game too. Just give me a minute, and I'll try to name what you are!"
I looked aside from him. I didn't exactly need him to tell me I was a human (or whatever their word for 'human' is), but I may as well let him play this little game. It's not like I was going anywhere for the time being anyway....
Rae circled about me a few times, ignoring the droplets of rain that still pelted down; what had once been pounding down on us was now little more than a gentle mist, though the wind still whipped it about in a frenzy. Most of the storm must have passed by now.
I turned my attention back to Rae as he completed a fourth pacing around me. Something felt amiss, but I was at a loss to what....
"Hmm...," Rae frowned with a hint of dull silver, or perhaps gray. "I'm pretty sure I've seen one of you before, but it was a long time ago. What did Mother Varea say you guys were again...?"
Come to think of it, the last time I remember seeing young shinx they were only about knee-high -- so why is Rae standing at nearly my eye level? Since when do young lions grow that large?
And, wait, did I actually just remember something? What is wrong with my head?
"Oh!" Rae shouted in realization. "That's right! I remember now!"
Okay, what is it? When was the last time you saw a human exactly?
What did he just call me?
"Last year a mother lucario passed through, and she had her daughter with her. You really don't get to see baby lucario very often ... Mother Varea must've talked to them for like over an hour!"
"What did you just call me?" I inquired of Rae.
"Oh, it's nothing to be afraid of," Rae chuckled. "I'm a shinx, all right, and you ... are a young riolu."
"That's not possible!" I objected. I waved one hand in his direction, and ...
I saw it.
Rae looked at me in a strange mixture of colors as I took my arm back and examined my forearm closely. Hair...? A fine coating of medium blue hair covered my arm, and my hands were dressed in a similar layer of black. I wasn't wearing any gloves. On the back of each hand I found a patch of white or silver coloring, something that was not hair but possibly nail. Speaking of which, as I combed my hands over each arm, I could identify the short fingers on each hand and feel the impressions of sharply curved nails buried inside them. Relatively short things, but pointy little white claws they were.
How could this . . . ?
"...Are you alright?" Rae asked for what may as well be the quintillionth time, but this time I could tell his concern was genuine. That color was definitely genuine.
"I don't know," I answered blankly as I continued inventorying my self. From my arms to my shoulders, I checked down my front and back -- this body wasn't mine. It couldn't be. Where was my uniform? My shirt, my vest, my gloves? -- wait, did I just remember something? What color were they? How often did I clean them? Why won't my mind tell me the answers?
At any rate, I found absolutely nothing on my upper body aside from a coating of black fur, which despite having been soaked in oceanwater still did a decent job warding off the night's winds and whirling mists. That black fur -- my fur? -- tapered and gave way to a waist coated in a thin layer of blue, with longer, coarser fur covering my upper legs. Below the blue-furred knees my ankles were short and coated in black fur, and my feet likewise were shaded in a dense, but thin mat of black hairs. A larger-than-average wave crashed onshore and reached just high enough to lap at my two unshod feet -- I could clearly count the three toes apiece, each bearing a small claw somewhere in that fur and, as I lifted up one foot to check my soles, discovered a set of greyish, unfurred pads, one upon each toe and a fourth, larger one behind the set, it no doubt the one which bore the most weight.
Okay, then . . . no shirt, no shoes, and not a shred of clothing anywhere to be found.
Wait, am I sitting out in the open completely naked?
Well, as embarrassing as it sounds I may as well answer that question. Yes, in addition to my legs and feet I did find two more things to note, the first of which needs no mention beyond confirming that I was definitely still male. A male riolu instead of a male human, I guess, but enough about that --
-- I also had a tail.
There, laying on the ground between my legs, was an appendage covered in thick blue fur, a similar shade to the fur on my upper legs and arms; a tail easily as long as my legs, if not longer still.
And my tail twitched slightly as I picked it up for a moment before letting it flop back down onto the sand. I've never had a tail before....
"What's wrong?" Rae inquired of me again.
I didn't answer. I didn't have any answers; only questions. Rae was correct - the body I called my own was definitely that of a young male riolu, but ... how? Why? When or where? This is not the body that lingers in my memory -- not that I remember all that much about it, mind you -- but my head assured me that I wasn't born into blue fur and a tail, and that I used to wear a layer or two of clothing.
I probably could have requested a mirror just to be certain, but I'm not sure Rae would know what such a thing is. I buried my face in my hands, partly in an attempt to hide my undressed self from the world, and partly because it was the only way to inventory the shape of my head. Though I could already see hints and traces of black fur around the nose and brows that framed the edges of my vision, the rest of my face and head -- all I could tell was that I still had ears, and my head was (not surprisingly) still somewhat round in shape.
"Hey...." Rae intruded, nudging my head out of my arms. "Are you all right? What's wrong?"
"I'm not supposed to be a...!" I wondered aloud, my voice almost breaking. "I was ... I'm supposed to be ... a human ...."
"Ahyu-men?" Rae tried imitating the word, but to no avail; clearly he'd never heard the term before. "What kind of species is that?"
"Human," I corrected. "A human... is ...."
"Oh, is it like a hit-mon?" Rae exclaimed, with a peculiar accent on the last two syllables.
"No!" I shoved Rae away with one furred arm. "Nothing like a hit-mon. A human is . . . ."
Ah, forget it.
Rae slowly walked back over to me and nudged again, trying to get my attention.
"Hey, watch it!" I pulled my legs backwards, lest the young cat step on me somewhere indecent, then covered myself up primarily with my tail.
Rae looked at me curiously (this improvised posture of mine must have looked priceless), and his fur seemed to shift through a rainbow of colors. The tip of his tail twitched here and there as hues of yellow, orange, magenta, green, silver, peach, and at least six shades of blue and turquoise echoed through his -- wait, now I am hallucinating?
I rubbed my eyes, neverminding how I let my tail relax against the ground, nevermind that there was someone there just staring at my utter lack of clothes. Even with my eyes closed, I could still clearly see a Rae-shaped silhouette in front of me, still standing with focused attention, still looking at me.
I tried standing up, only to fall right back down onto my haunches. I quickly covered up, leaning forward and placing my hands against the ground as I shifted my legs, and without thinking I had swept my tail behind me. Rae still stood there watching, but at least he couldn't ... see anything now.
He tilted his head to one side as I tried once more to stand up. I was effectively already kneeling, or crouching, my toes digging into the sand as I tried to maintain balance. It felt odd that I could not rest the full length of my feet (heels included) against the ground; riolu legs are just not built like that, they only ever stand on tiptoe. Even though my posture was not shifting, I could feel my balance shifting subtly forward, side or back, and only then I realized the reason for this was because of the long, furred tail that extended behind me. At least I was conscious of that fact now; I willed my tail to hold still, and in so doing found that my footing was more stable than it at first appeared.
Rae laughed. "Boy, you look funny ... you look almost like...."
What's this sense of impending anxiety? Why did I seem to dread what he was going to say next?
"You need to go pee somewhere! Right?"
And I fell right back down onto the beach sand, face first. What is this child thinking!?
"Oh, that's gotta be it. I know Mother Varea could always tell when I needed to go, sometimes even before I could myself. Well, you shouldn't go on the beach ... you need to take it uphill where the bushes and grasses are. This way!"
Rae charged uphill, and no sooner had I spat the sand out of my mouth I instinctively leapt to my feet and began running.
"No, that's not it!" I shouted as I pursued him.
Rae disappeared around one bush and I cleared it with an almost -instinctive leap, landing toes first, followed by one hand.
And I have no idea how I managed to keep my balance so well on my first try.
"See?" Rae nodded to the base of a clump of grass. "You just sniff out a secure a spot like this...."
Rae walked to one side of it, then --
Oh, I did not need to see that. I did NOT need to see that!
Rae finished his business to discover me looking away.
"You can really use just about anywhere, as long as it's not along a trail, and you keep it contained. After all, anyone else can smell it from a mile away...."
I gave a sigh of mild exasperation as I rolled my gaze skyward.
"...Are you okay?" Rae asked again. Will he ever stop asking me that?
"I'm fine," I rebuffed. "I don't need to. I can ... go ... later."
I stood standing away from Rae, barely affording to look at him; what he did right in front of me was just ... I don't know what he was thinking....
I also faced away from him because at least from that angle he couldn't see anything. Sure, he walks on four legs; he can cover his hindquarters with that tail and nobody will see it. Me, though, I stand balanced on two legs (tiptoe, but still) and anyone in front of me can ....
"Arlio?" Rae asked.
"What now?" It barely registered that he actually addressed me by my name.
Rae walked up aside me -- nevermind if he was or was not staring -- and looked out towards the ocean waves, the same as I was.
I looked at him; he stood about waist-high, and given our relative postures I guessed that seemed right. As species standards go, shinx and riolu tend to be about the same range of body size and weight; I was only twice Rae's height due to my bipedal stance.
It slowly sat myself down, discovering that from this posture we were about eye level with each other.
"You're ... not from around here," Rae admitted.
Was it that obvious?
"It's like this," I tried to explain. "I don't know where 'here' is. I don't know how I wound up here, how I --" No, it's better if I not bring up the 'human' subject again. "...who was with me, or anything. I still have my name, but the rest . . . is a big blank. Something happened to me, but I can't remember exactly what or why."
Rae nodded. It was a solemn, blueish nod. And not just because of the blue fur on his face. Maybe those hallucinations again.
"Well, you know what?" Rae asked. "I don't really know anything about me either."
"Well, not exactly like you, but -- you know how I said I was adopted?"
That's right, he did mention that....
"Mother Varea never told me anything about my egg mother. You know, the one I was really born from. I used to ask her all the time. What did my egg mother look like? What color fur did she have? What happened to her? But Mother Varea never told me anything about her. Someday, I want to find out. Where I actually came from ... where all the other shinx are ... or luxray, I think that's the word you used...."
A flash illuminated the eastern hills as a distant arc of lightning forked down out of the clouds into the distance. Though much more distant, that storm must still have a few charges left in it.
"Whoa! That one looked like it actually hit something!"
Rae was brightly excited. And by bright, I mean he was glowing, and literally. It was strange that only I seemed to notice it.
"And you're not worried?" I wondered as its thunder rolled over us a moment.
"Of course not," Rae answered with a smile. "Lightning's actually really amazing. I know Mother Varea was always a bit leery around it, but not me. It would be awesome if I could spit lightning like that...."
Ah, that's right - not only were shinx young lions, but electric ones. The golden glow of his eyes, his tail star -- even the thin insides of his large ears coursed with a hint of that energy.
Rae frowned. "...but I don't really know if we even can. I mean, I've never seen another lion. Ever. And Mother Varea never taught me anything about what we're supposed to be capable of, either. I can do a few things here and there -- Mother Varea says I have a wicked bite -- but it's nothing impressive, really. Not like that."
Rae's mood had changed colors again -- wait, again with these hallucinations? Why will they not leave?
Rae sat upright and raised one back foot up to his neck, as if he was going to scratch away at a flea or something. Instead, his toe claws caught on something about his neck, and he carefully lifted whatever it was off of his collar and face before setting it on the ground.
I hadn't noticed it before. I could describe it as a necklace, or perhaps an amulet (two terms that I felt out of place using). A loop of some material (vines? fur?) holding what looked like a shard of rock that was about two paws wide. There was also a peculiar pattern of lines and shapes in it, forming some sort of design.
"What is that?" I asked as Rae set it on the ground, the loop under one foot.
"My lucky charm," Rae nodded. "Mother Varea says it belonged to my egg mother. It's really the only thing I have. Do you see those odd lines in it?"
With some moon and starlight beginning to shine through between the travelling clouds, I could more easily notice the fine details in it. They weren't random scratches, that was for sure; in fact, I'm not sure this stone could be scratched at all. The lines formed some kind of design, with hints of small crystals or minerals reflecting the night's illumination back out. Whatever it was, it had to have been deliberately fashioned that way.
"Someday I want to know what this is. Until then...."
Somebody interrupted us. I don't know who but it must have been a bird -- I caught hints of a beak and red eyes, black feathers, and a set of black feet grabbing the fragment faster than it could say "shiny!" and the bird attempting to flutter upwind away from us.
Rae exploded in a burst of fiery red color. "Hey! You give that back!"
The bird flipped around with its wings spread to look back at us, and cawed back to taunt him. "Make me! Bye now!"
"Oh no you don't!" Rae sprang to his feet abd began running. "I will skin your wings clean off for this!"
"You'll have to catch me first...!" The bird taunted again as it flew off, deliberately keeping its flight almost within jumping distance of the ground.
Rae snarled and then darted off after the feathered pickpocket, bounding and leaping down the sands as he tried to close distance. I leapt to my feet and gave quick pursuit as well -- no way was I getting separated from the first person (and I use that word metaphorically, for I'm sure no human would ever refer to the two of us as 'people') who knows anything about wherever I managed to wash up on at such a late hour.
I didn't bother thinking about exactly how I could manage such a fast pace by just the toes on my feet -- call it instinct, I guess -- I just hoped I wasn't getting myself in over my head.
PS - And to anyone who's heard of a little something called "National Novel Writing Month", I actually wrote the bulk of the story entirely during last November. It was wild, unpredictable, lasted for a total 70,000 words and I really need to go back and tweak/revise a number of scenes (and fill in the missing subplots and chapters I deliberately skipped over to reach the climactic final scenes "on time"). If I can fill in the missing material then the overall story size might even hit a total of 100k ... but let's take it one chapter at a time....