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    Registered User Stratelier's Avatar
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    Post PMD: Explorers of Memory

    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
    Chapter One: This Is My Story, This Is My Tail
    Chapter Two: Why Did It Have To Be Bats?
    Chapter Three: Stop Thinking About That, Arlio
    Chapter Four: [TBA]




    Prologue
    [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!"

    What?

    "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?

    "Riolu!"

    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."

    "Then why...?"

    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."

    What?

    "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....
    Last edited by Stratelier; 18th May 2013 at 04:12 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Stratelier's Avatar
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    Default Re: PMD:EOS - (Untitled)

    Okay, time for chapter two.

    (And a drinking game: Take a shot any time you see the word "Pokémon".)



    Chapter Two: Why Did It Have To Be Bats?
    [revised first draft]

    By the time I caught up to Rae, the bird had vanished into a dark cave near the waters' edge, and the two of us chased in after it. And it turns out that, despite having fewer legs to stand on than the young shinx, I was able to keep pace with him easily. Guess my strides are a lot longer than his.

    Anyway, we splashed through puddles of water as the last bits of starlight yielded to total darkness. Had the thief lost us? It was impossible to see anything in here except Rae; the only light was back the way we came.

    Rae glanced around wildly. "Darn it, it's so dark in here. Where'd he go?"

    A cackling laughter, if birds were capable of such a thing, echoed in response.

    Rae changed colors again -- great, more of these hallucinations -- and then the area surrounding us lit up in a dim golden light as he looked back at me with a smile.

    "Much better. Right?"

    Well, at least this color wasn't shifting or shimmering. Rae's eyes were glowing like searchlights; the inner linings of his ears also cast soft light to each side. The star-shaped tuft on his tail radiated brightly, and the single golden rings around his front legs clearly illuminated the barnacled rocks upon which he stood.

    That's right: Shinx are also known as the Flash Pokémon.

    Wait ... did I just remember that? A label coined by humans? It assuredly couldn't be the same term these lions use to address each other?

    "I will find you!" Rae shouted out to the darkness. "I can light this whole place up, you know!"

    Rae led onwards towards the darkest areas we could see -- the only places lacking walls for his light to reflect back at us from. Though I could still feel wind blowing through the cave, it was growing quieter as we travelled further in, with dripping condensation from the ceiling becoming the primary sounds (aside from our footsteps) that we heard.

    "How far does this cave go...?" I cautiously asked Rae as he led onwards, around one pool of water and another, drops landing each with a small spelunk as the stalactites above us slowly shed groundwater from above.

    "Depends on the tide," he answered. "High water cuts it off in the middle. Otherwise, it continues onward for a good walk and comes out on another beach."

    Well, at least that explains the relatively fresh air. We continued our search onwards with nothing but Rae's illumination and an occasional laugh (a taunt, I presume) from the foe ahead to guide us.

    And soon the tunnel simply ... stopped. The ground gradually gave way to deepening water (which Rae ventured no more than a paw in), and the ceiling above it lowered to a gap only about one head high. The only way further was to swim.

    And Rae's illumination was starting to grow a little weaker.

    "Rae?" I asked.

    "I'm fine ... just a little tired," Rae confessed. "Keeping this light up takes a bit out of me... but I can manage."

    I knelt down near the edge of the water, one hand splashing down into it. It was cold, but not terribly so -- heck, it barely even penetrated my fur. Ripples in the water ahead of us suggested to me that perhaps another tunnel connected this directly to the ocean outside. And while the ceiling around us did taper down above the water, it left enough room to keep one's head above it. Not enough height for a bird to glide across. Swim through, yes, but we'd have heard that if so. The rest of the ceiling here was probably about fifteen or twenty feet (well, my feet anyway) high. The walls, though, were quite rough, possibly concealing places where a bird of that size (about my size, I think) could alight.

    "...Do you hear anything?" I asked quietly. It would be nice to know which of us has the better ears.

    Rae looked around. "It's too dark. And the air's funny down here ... do you smell that?"

    "Smell what?"

    Well, I guess Rae has the better nose, at least. I continued to scan the area, trying to identify something -- anything -- that might betray where that winged thief had disappeared. A stalactite here, a mineral column there ... and a faint glow of a greyish color nearby? It wasn't a plant. It didn't seem like a mineral deposit, either. I walked over to the wall, and out of curiosity placed my hand against it. Some of the strange stuff clung to my hand, and it seemed warm, though I didn't feel anything else, and I couldn't smell anything about it either.

    "Rae," I asked. "Do you know what this stuff is?"

    "What stuff?" Rae asked as he walked over to me, bringing his illumination with him.

    I held out my hand to him so he could examine the color.

    Rae looked my hand over, sniffed it over, then shook his head. "Nothing."

    Not exactly a helpful answer. "You don't see it? It's like a tangible mist, or dust, or something."

    "I don't see anything...," Rae frowned in a change of color. "Just rock and moisture."

    Great. Just what I need -- more confirmation that I'm hallucinating. Whatever is wrong with my eyes, or my head....

    I took a few steps back from the wall and gave it another look. Perhaps because I knew what I was looking for, I could see more traces of this stuff climbing the wall. It seemed to be a trail, of sorts.

    Wait, was that movement? In this absolute darkness? No -- wait a minute....

    "Rae, up there!"

    "What? Where?"

    Whatever it was, an orange light illuminated the walls from up there, and I saw a black-feathered head with two eyes pop out from the alcove it was hiding behind.

    We found her.

    "There you are! Now give that back!"

    The bird cackled in response. "Yeah, right. Not until I get Ebony's opinion of this. Whatever's in it, they are real beauties!" Then the thief attempted to peck at the stone slab.

    "Stop that!" Rae shouted in a reddish blaze.

    "Wait...," I hushed Rae. "She's not alone. Something else is approaching...."

    I pointed back to the entrance to hear a light, leathery flapping sound approaching. A blueish shape flittered in and around us in a quick circle before locating a point on a nearby stalactite, hooking its short toeclaws into it and hanging down to look at us first, then at its partner in crime.

    Of course, I say 'look' but the fact is its head didn't have any eyes to see us with. But there was a mild tingling in my ears as we stood below it....

    "A ... zubat, is it?" I asked.

    Rae nodded, and the bat laughed back at us.

    "Right, score one point because you can recognize me. So what?"

    Did I mention that I hate bats?

    "So, what did you find this time?" The bat asked its partner. "Hopefully something better than last time ... we barely even got one day's meal out of that thing, and that went straight for the boss. Really don't want to have to resort to insect nests again, sure the mothers can spare a few losses but they're really protective of their nests this time of year."

    The bird lifted up the stone slab and showed it to the bat. "This little slab here has got a really neat design to it; I think there might even be gemstones buried inside it!"

    "And it's MINE!" Rae interrupted. "Now give it back!"

    "A what?" The bat asked indignantly. "Did you say...?"

    "That's MY stone relic fragment and if you don't give it back to me I swear I'll pluck all those feathers off you!" Rae threatened.

    "A rock...," the bat huffed.

    "Yeah, but look at the pattern! It's full of mystery. And it sparkles, too!"

    "Do I LOOK like I have eyes? WE DID NOT RISK OUR LIVES DODGING LIGHTNING BOLTS JUST SO YOU COULD OGLE SOME STUPID ROCK!"

    Clearly, he was not impressed.

    "I don't care if it's got even Team Venus's sigil on it! This is the last time I talk the boss into pairing us up with YOU and your stupid shiny obsession!"

    "But...," the bird complained as the bat took off and began flying around her, harassing the thief with nicks from its small teeth and slices from its wings.

    "Hey, what's going on? Are you two having fun without me?" Announced a third voice, this one coming from behind us.

    I tried to get a glance at the visitor, but there seemed to be some kind of mist, or perhaps smoke, occluding our path back. Still, I could see a round, relatively featureless glow rippling inside all it. Mischevious and slightly dangerous, but at the same time a bit of calm and aloofness.

    "Who are you?" I asked the floating ... thing ... behind us. "What are you?"

    "Yo, Bazi, did you two find anything?"

    "You idiot!" The bat accosted the newcomer. "How many times do I have to tell you, you do NOT use our names in front of strangers? They have no right to know that! And the answer's no. All the stupid krow here found was some stupid rock!"

    "Then give it back," I interrupted. "And we'll be on our way again."

    (Whatever our 'way' actually is I don't know; I was just using an expression. Wish I could remember where I learned it.)

    "No," the black bird responded. "Not until Ebony gets here to look at this thing. Whatever's keeping him so long...?"

    "He's not coming out in this weather," the round visitor behind us informed her. "You know he doesn't take kindly to harsh winds."

    The bird was disappointed to hear that; her color shifted slightly towards blue.

    "Seriously," I addressed the bird. "Just give it back and we won't cause any trouble."

    "...is that a threat?" Rae asked me quietly; I nodded, and he smiled.

    "Hey, you don't suppose they have anything else on them...?" The third, round voice inquired of us with interest.

    "Doesn't look like it," the bat dismissed. "They obviously don't have a bag on them, not even a badge. Even I can see they got nothing on them but their own fur."

    One of my feet slipped, and I was on the ground. I recovered my footing easily, but remained in a crouching position, with one hand on the wet stone ground for stability as I checked my legs and tail. Yeah, thanks for reminding me how I'm standing here stark naked, without the slightest bit of clothes to cover me.

    "Yeah, you're right I guess, but...." The one behind us chuckled. "I wouldn't mind a good brawl. We can use the exercise...."

    "You idiot!" The bat cursed his accomplice. "We don't know what they're capable of! And if we get another complaint landing on our boss's record they'll derank us!"

    "Not if nobody ever hears about it," the round one laughed. "I won't tell if you won't."

    "What if we started it first?" I asked, interrupting such an entertaining conversation as theirs. "Either give us his relic back ... or we'll take it back the hard way."

    The crow laughed at my threat, then motioned to the bat with one of her wings. "If they think they can take us, I say that's a fair challenge. Let them try; we can indulge that!"

    The bat gave an exasparated sigh before pointing to me with one wing. "Fine. But remember: This is YOUR idea. You'd better not go complaining to the Federation about it!"

    The who?

    "Not a word," Rae smiled in agreement.

    "Alright!" Announced the round one as he unleashed a wave of smoke across the area, blocking out much of our vision, including whatever light Rae still had left in him to give.

    "Um, Arlio...?" Rae asked as he took a stance beside me, close enough to be almost uncomfortable.

    "You can take that bat and the bird, right?" I asked. "Leave that ... chubby ... thing to me."

    "Oh, yes I can," Rae nodded. "But with all this smog, I can't really see much of them. And those bats are speedy things. If I discharge a shockwave I can get him for sure, but I might also get you in the process."

    "Don't worry, we can do this," I tried to comfort him. I could see Rae locking eyes with me; I'm sure he has some decent capability for his size, what he lacks is confidence....

    Rae's expression changed, the strange colors surrounding him shifted as well, and his illumination strengthened. He was ready.

    I wish I could explain my own confidence. I've barely spent an hour in this blue-furred body of mine, I honestly don't remember anything about what a "riolu" is supposed to be physically capable of.

    "So are you two ready, then?" The bat asked us. "Let's get this over with."

    All we have to accomplish is get his fragment back from the talons of that dark crow, and maybe give the others a jolt (or two) to send them packing....

    The bird was the first one to strike. I could spot it coming, but she was fast, and how I managed to avoid taking injury as she sliced her beak above me, missing by just a few hairs I don't entirely know. The bat continued to hang onto his perch and watch, the round foe stayed at a distance shrouded in its own smoke, while I signalled to Rae that it was time so spring into action.

    I threw myself into an upright stance, keeping my feet apart (nevermind if anyone is, well, staring), minding for once the effect my long tail has on my overall posture, then swung my my right arm fully out to the side, fingers outstretched and --

    Nothing happened. Wait. What was I doing? My mind told me something was supposed to happen by doing this, but ... nothing. I think a crucial piece of information is missing.

    Rae's first move, on the other hand, was far more useful: With closed eyes he raised his head and let out the mightiest roar his small frame could produce -- even if it only sounded more cute than fearsome -- and at the same time unleashed a brilliant flash of light from every gold marking on his body.

    I couldn't see anything for a few moments, but I could hear the sound of the black crow slamming blindly against a wall, and I could see a bird-shaped silhouette hitting the floor in front of me with a splash.

    "Hey, that's not fair!" Complained the round one, choosing to merely hang back and block any attempt of us at escaping, as I sprang forward and pounced upon the bird, pinning her wings to the ground. Yet the bird was stronger than she appeared, and wrestled me off -- though I did manage to keep a grip on one of her legs; I was apparently heavier than she could carry as she tried unsuccessfully to flutter into the air.

    But my grip was severed as the bat cut between us, almost literally -- my right hand was definitely bleeding. But Rae was watching the bat's movements already, and with good timing already snagged one of the bat's legs in his fangs, bringing the creature down onto the hard rock floor with a spark of his energy.

    The crow managed to flutter airborne, and she attempted to make another dive at me. I could barely see anything amidst the thick smoke that continued to flow into the room, but I could definitely identify a red crow-like shape flying towards me at high speed. With gritted teeth and closed eyes, I readied my left fist and as the bird closed distance, and thrust it forward hoping I would somehow strike her first.

    I don't remember hearing a sound of impact, but when I opened my eyes next, I found the bird laying on the ground about four steps in front of me, with a twitching leg and possibly broken wing. I actually hit her? The answer seemed to be yes, but something didn't add up -- the bird was definitely out of my arm's reach. Nonetheless, Rae looked really impressed, and for that matter, so did the round one blocking our path out.

    The black bird struggled but failed to get up as I walked closer to her.

    "Now can we have that stone fragment of ours back?"

    She nodded weakly. "You ... you actually hit me ... that stings. It ... really stings."

    "And I think we'd better clear out of here now...," the round one observed.

    "Yeah, a big fat help you were!" The bat comdemned. "Pick me up, will ya? My wings won't work in this condition."

    The round one moved -- seemingly floated -- over to his comrade the bat, barely touching the ground while the bat clumsily tackled his way on. And with both Rae's and my eyes monitoring them, together they walked away. Which, come to think of it, is quite an accomplishment for a creature with no legs.

    We turned our attention back to the battered bird as she pushed herself up off the ground. I could definitely spot a limp in her step.

    "How bad is it?" I asked. "Anything broken?"

    "No," the bird lied. Don't ask me how, but I could tell. "And why do you care?"

    Come to think of it, she's right: Why am I concerned over her injuries? I don't know. It just -- seemed like the right thing to do. I can't explain it further.

    "I'll be fine, thank you for caring," she cawed back. "But you know, if you're fast enough to hit me like that, climbing up to reach that shiny treasure of yours should prove no problem, right?"

    I took a look back up at the ledge the bird had roosted on. It appeared about three times my height upwards, but the tunnel wall around it was curved and rough, offering plenty of potential handholds. Plus, there seemed to be an additional landing, perhaps a broken stalagmite or something, which I could hop to as a midpoint.

    "Fine," I answered as the bird continued to limp away from us. I crouched down (ignoring a mild draft between my legs and tail in this position), then sprang up, and much to my surprise I was able to grasp the edge of that nook easily, and subsequently pull myself up.

    Since when did I have that kind of upper-body strength? I found Rae's stone fragment laying there right as promised and grabbed it, looping its strap around a shoulder as I looked back down. The height of this alcove seemed greater looking down, but certainly if I leapt up here easily then leaping down should be no problem, right? I took that chance, keeping my legs in a loose posture. My feet hit the ground toes-first, did not slip in the least, and my long legs effortlessly absorbed the impact as I found myself in a somewhat squatting or kneeling position, completely unharmed.

    A perfect landing.

    I handed the stone fragment to Rae, who wasted no time looping it back around his neck like some kind of collar.

    "Thanks," Rae smiled. "You know, that kind of leap was really awesome."

    Awesome? "It was nothing," I answered humbly.

    "No, really!" Rae commended again as we started walking back through the tunnel.

    That bird chuckled.

    "You're still here?"

    "Well, I'm not exactly breaking any speed records here," she answered as she limped a step forward. "Can I ... lean on one of you?"

    Rae and I exchanged glances. Now that we were all standing on the same ground, I could see that this bird was about Rae's height. I gestured with one arm, and Rae walked over. The bird draped one wing over Rae's back and, although slowly, we began making our way out to the night awaiting us outside. I led the way (partly so that he wouldn't be able to, well, stare at me), making sure my pace of walking was slow enough that I wouldn't get too far ahead. Besides, this gave me a chance to critique my gait as I shifted my weight from one set of toes to the other. I hadn't given it much thought before, but the sooner I figure out how this furred body works, the sooner I'll be able to start trying to figure out what exactly happened to me.

    Of course, unless this whole experience is some kind of dream. That could certainly explain everything (dreams that involve being seen naked in public are supposedly common) ... but on the other hand, dreams usually have a recognizable, ethereal quality to them and that scuffle we had was anything but. The anticipation, the adrenaline ... those sensations were wholly visceral, not dreamlike in the slightest.

    "And by the way...," the bird added as we kept walking. Wait, was I so busy thinking that I missed a conversation?

    I glanced back over my shoulder, spotting how easily Rae bore the weight of his passenger.

    "...my name is Ivory. You can stop calling me a crow now."

    "But you are!"

    "Yes, of course I am, but if I give you my name I want you to use it. Okay?'

    "Okay...."

    "Of course, provided you do give me one thing in return...?"

    "Oh! Right!" Judging by that voice, Rae already knew what. "My name. It's Rae."

    "And I'm called Arlio," I added over my shoulder. I could see a change of color in response as the bird, Ivory, glanced back.

    "What was that for?" She asked.

    "What was what?" I replied, stepping aside and facing back towards them for a moment.

    "You offered your name freely," Ivory said. "That is not wise."

    "But you already gave yours," I answered.

    "Not to you...," Ivory answered with a frown and a shade of dull orange -- a color which slowly shifted to silver as Ivory let out a sigh. "But you're right; my name is Ivory...."

    The hallucinatory color around her shifted again, towards a golden yellow. "What is that look for?"

    Oops -- I know better than to answer a question like that, so I shrugged and turned away without a word. Ivory seems a strange name for a black bird, but I guess my reaction was too obvious. I'll have to watch that.

    "The color of my beak. Father's idea ... Mother would've named me Luce...."

    I resumed walking while Rae kept the two of them occupied in a lively conversation. How far down this shoreline cave had we come, anyway?

    At least they kept up a decent pace. But I wasn't sure which would end sooner: their idle chitchat or the night itself.
    Last edited by Stratelier; 18th May 2013 at 04:00 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: PMD:EOS - (Untitled)

    Chapter three!

    I would have finished the revision earlier except that a certain character levelled up from 'one-scene wonder' to 'minor side character'. I also had technical issues with my PC's HD, and the other usual distractions...

    Take a drink any time my MC has a TMI (too-much-information) moment.



    Chapter Three: Stop Thinking About That, Arlio
    [second draft]

    I don't know how long it took for us to leave this shore cave, but there was clear moonlight shining over the beach when we did. The storm had moved on, leaving only a scattered layer of higher clouds in the night sky, from which the waning half-moon's light was certainly visible enough to see by.

    "How's the leg?" I asked Ivory as we left the mouth of the cave and the ground below us faded into wet sand.

    "Still can't bear much weight on it, thank you," she answered as she continued limping forward, keeping one wing across Rae's back as a crutch. "I hate to be such a bother to you two, but do you think you can escort me back to our Guild?"

    Where?

    "Yeah, we can do that," Rae answered as he pressed onwards, uphill, offshore, and we reached the sand-blown grasses.

    "What is this 'guild'?" I inquired.

    Both Rae and Ivory stopped and stared. How embarrassing! I turned away and almost tried to cover up -- the last thing I need is them staring at a naked --

    -- Stop thinking about that, Arlio! I could tell by their eye contact they were looking at my eyes and not . . . down there....

    I sighed and turned back to face them. A slight smile crossed my mouth as a thought flittered through my head -- that's right, they're standing here just as naked as I am: Never worn a shred of clothing in their lives, and they're probably unfamiliar with the concept to boot. They don't seem to notice it at all, so why do I?

    Because I was once human and they weren't?

    Okay, that's probably why. Quite obvious, really. But if I'm doomed to spend the remainder of my days with naught to cover me but a layer of blue and black fur (fur which, I might add, is necessarily shorter down between the legs), I'll have to stop thinking about that.

    "You've never heard of guilds?" Rae asked.

    "No," I answered with a shrug. "Are they related to that Federation thing I heard you guys mention?"

    Ivory gave me a quizzically (and chromatically) shifting gaze, as if wondering what planet I came from. "You've never heard of the Explorers Federation!?"

    I shook my head.

    "Wow. I know lucarios tend to live in isolated families, but you must've been born really wild if you've never heard anything about the Federation...."

    I must be missing something; and something more than just my clothes.

    "Okay, you got me. But where is this Guild?"

    "Up there," Rae piped up, gazing northeast. I admit I could see some manner of lighted colors -- real or imaginary I do not know -- up on the hillside, possibly some signs of an organized civilization or town. Come to think of it, assuming that really was northeast, and judging by the phase and position of the moon . . . dawn should be on its way in about an hour or two more. Wait a minute, did I just identify the time of day (well, night) by skygazing? My brain told me this wasn't the first time I've done that, but I wish it would tell me more.

    "And, um . . . Arlio?" Rae asked me.

    "What?" Had I been tuning him out?

    "I want you to come with me," he requested. "You know my lucky charm here? I want to find out what it is, where it came from, why Mother Varea gave it to me. But I think there's only one way I can do that -- register as a Federation team."

    "Then why haven't you already?" Ivory interrupted him. "You already know where our guild is...."

    "Yes, I know, but...." Rae frowned. "I just can't do it ... not by myself, at least...."

    Rae was gazing at something affixed to Ivory's feathers; something near one of her shoulders as it was.

    "Are you afraid of being eaten or something?" Ivory jested.

    "Well, who isn't!?" Rae leapt back, and without him to lean against Ivory crumpled to the ground.

    "Rae, that was a joke!" I corrected as I ran over and helped Ivory stand back up, allowing her to lean against me this time.

    "I'm sorry," Ivory apologized with a hint of genuine color. "Not a very good one, I know, but you're not on the menu. Even Team Razorwind knows that."

    "Who?"

    "Our best hunters," Ivory shook her head. "They are not the most social team our guild's had, but you can't question they get their jobs done very well."

    "Yeah, but their smell . . . ."

    "Ah," Ivory nodded as Rae kept some distance between us. "You must've stumbled across them on one of their missions, before they've had a chance to wash themselves up. I imagine that could be quite scarring to someone your age, but you know not everyone can get by on just fruits and leaves...."

    "Yeah, but...."

    And I think I'm starting to get hungry. What kind of diet does a riolu have again? I don't know; I don't remember the last thing I ate, what or when, or for that matter how.

    "But enough of that...," Ivory tried to change the subject. And it worked.

    "Yeah, enough of that," Rae nodded. "Arlio . . . I want you to come with me. We could both register as a team!"

    Both of us?

    "And why not?" Ivory asked me as she turned her head to stare at my eyes.

    Crimson eyes. That's right; birds like her have crimson eyes.

    "You seem pretty good in a fight for your age," Ivory added. "And he can watch your back. The Federation is always accepting apprentices to form new teams...."

    "Yeah!" Rae concurred. "I mean, I don't know exactly what you hit her with, but it had to pack a punch! So what do you think?"

    What do I think? Well, where to begin? First, I have no coherent memory of anything (beyond my name) prior to tonight; second, I have a red-eyed black crow leaning on my arm, and I'm talking to an electric lion cub in the late middle of the night. Third, none of us three are wearing any pretense of clothes -- I'm trying to ignore the fact I'm standing here stark naked, while Ivory's feathery coating is thick enough that I wouldn't be able to notice anything anyway, and Rae doesn't mind the fact that between his legs I can clearly see a --

    Oh, stop thinking about that already! I don't know if I lost any of my marbles along with my memories, but if I keep digressing into subjects like this I probably will.

    Fourth -- well, he's right. Whatever I hit Ivory with, she's definitely injured; I've got physical strength to spare and I'm apparently quite fast for having only one pair of feet to walk on (and feet which force me to stand on tiptoe all the time, I might add -- I am literally unable to touch my heels to the ground without sitting down as a result). And despite a cut across one arm I don't feel particularly tired or beaten; I think my newfound coating of fur helps stem bleeding.

    I kneeled down so I could face Rae level, and raised my left hand toward him in a gesture that was probably just another old habit. Rae looked at me for a moment in a puzzled color, then returned the gesture by raising one of his front paws and placing it on my hand. I clasped my hand around his, and gave it a quick shake before releasing.

    "Okay, we'll be a team then. You lead the way."

    * * *

    A large deep brown owl, with prominent feathered brows above his eyes, was currently shifting the rocks that weighed down a woven leaf curtain next to what seemed at first to be a large rock against a tree and mass of branches glued together with mud and leaves. He paused as we approached (possibly sensing us) before turning around to gaze our way. There was a subtle hint of green light shimmering around this bird -- yet another strange color I still lack the explanation for. His eyes scanned across me, then settled on Rae.

    "Back again, young child?"

    Rae immediately darted behind me, quivering slightly as he tried to avoid making eye contact.

    "And Ivory," he greeted, noting how the black bird leaned against my side with a wing. "What happened to you?"

    "It's nothing," Ivory lied.

    "Is it, now...?" The owl frowned, if a beaked creature is capable of such an expression. Or maybe it was the hallucinatory color surrounding him. "You'll worry Ebony sick if you keep doing this . . . just make sure Ino has cleared you for missions before you go galavanting off on another wild gem chase, then.

    "And who is this?" Me? He was definitely staring at me now, and that owl's gaze was quite fearsome. If Rae's been here before, I can see why he might turn tail and run off; something in the back of my mind warned me I should be running, too.

    "You are a lucario child . . . we do not see very many of your kind around here."

    In truth I am not a lucario's child (or at least I do not think I am) but as I can't expect anyone else to know that, I will have to get used to being called one anyway.

    "And you may be at ease," the owl assured us. "Particularly you, young lion..." He addressed Rae with a gesture of one wing.

    "Um...," Rae dared to venture out from behind me and face the owl. "H-hello...?" Then he darted back behind me again. For someone who doesn't even flinch at a strike of lightning, why does he cower before a feathered owl?

    "My name is Arlio," I introduced myself.

    "And you have quite the good manners, child," the owl nodded back at me. "After all, I can't allow you to enter unless we have exchanged names first; if you truly were here to cause trouble you wouldn't offer yours so freely."

    "And this is --"

    "No, let him be the one to say it," the owl stopped me. "Otherwise the name has no value."

    Oh, right. There I go again, making another faux pas ... why do these animals take names so seriously?

    "Rae," I whispered behind me, giving him a nudge with one leg. Slowly, Rae crept out from behind me again, daring to look the owl in the face as he gently smiled back.

    "Y-yeah . . . gotta be brave, I can do this...," Rae muttered underneath his breath as he took another step forward along my right side.

    "M-my name . . . my name, it's Rae."

    "Thank you," the owl answered. "That wasn't so hard, was it? You may relax now. It is merely my duty to guard our main entrance at night, especially during storms such as tonight's; I for one am not afraid of the thunder." The owl finished tying down the remaining edge the woven curtain with a few rocks, then turned back to face us and with a relatively proud color as he stood before the opened entrance to this guild.

    "And as for my obligation to you...," He bowed his head slightly and took a stride forward. "My own name is Fletch."

    Fletch regained his composure, then waved at us with a wing. "You may enter now; follow me."

    The path into this "structure" led downhill at a moderate (though not steep) angle before opening up into a large, slightly-underground room. Judging by the walls and ceiling, it must have been excavated a long time ago, possibly a generation or two. There were clear holes for skylight, though only some starlight made it down to illuminate the room right now. Still-darker passages split off in scattered directions like the arms of a compass, each bearing different scents and colors. A shallow pit of some kind lay in the center of this area, with hints that someone used it for a fire. It seemed to me like an impressive accomplishment for these animals....

    That is, until a small black canine (of about my size) exhaled upon it and it flared to life, bathing the whole room in its amber glow. Right -- if Rae was an electric lion, this other creature was a hound of fire.

    "Isn't it a bit early for visitors still? Even Kimiko is asleep at this hour...." The small dog asked, before spotting Ivory limping alongside with me as her crutch.

    "Oh, my... I will get Ebony," he volunteered.

    "No," Ivory answered as she lifted herself off my side and tried to stand on her own, albeit mostly on one leg. "I can make it to our medical wing...."

    Did she just say that? Please tell me that was some bird-brained pun....

    But with a flap of her wings Ivory hopped across the room towards one passage and disappeared down the darkened hall.

    "I leave our visitors to you," Fletch bade as he turned to head up the tunnel leading towards his station outside.

    In the meantime, I took a moment to observe the canine who sat down on the near side of the fire to us: No discernable tail; thin, pointed ears gracing the sides of his face and white fur on his forehead resembling some sort of skullcap; a red muzzle with a set of fangs barely poking out from his lips; complemented by a red chest, a black torso draped with two bars of silvery, white fur, and four black legs adorned with what looked like one white ring on each. I'm pretty sure I've seen one of their kind before, but the name escapes me....

    "Shall we get to introductions, then?"

    Rae and I answered in turn, and in reply we learned that this hound was named Dante. (An odd name.)

    We each took a seat near the firepit, with Rae closer to the fire than myself; not that either of us needed the warmth, only the light.

    "So what brings you to our Guild?" Dante asked of us.

    I was hoping Rae would answer, but I could see the blueish tint around him fading to a yellow hue of anxiety. He seemed to be almost cowering behind me.

    "He's just nervous...," I chuckled, though my comment was probably redundant. If I'd heard someone else saying that, I'd probably be rolling my eyes and burying my face in one hand.

    "It's okay, it's okay...," Rae repeated to himself with quick breaths. "I ... I mean, we ... we came here to ... wewanttoformanexplorationteam!"

    Yeah, that last part came out just as blurtingly fast as it sounds, but Dante didn't seem to take notice.

    "New recruits? Hah, I remember those days...." Dante chuckled. "It's the Guildmaster who accepts and officiates new teams, but he never wakes before sunrise. So for now, just make yourself comfortable and enjoy the fire."

    A minute of silence filled the room; neither of us had anything in particular to talk about....

    "So, Rae...," Dante finally broke the silence. "You finally decided you want to join up? It's about time...."

    "Y-yeah," Rae stuttered out an answer.

    "You two know each other?" I asked.

    "Not really," Rae answered with a shrug.

    "We've spotted each other around here for some time," Dante nodded. "Crossed scents and paths, but that's about it. Until now, we've never been formally introduced."

    Aha.

    "So ... what does it take to form a team?"

    Dante stood up on his four legs. "Well, like I said, it's the Guildmaster's duty to register new teams with the Federation. I suppose I can give you a tour of our den here while we wait for the sun to rise, but you'll get one later anyway so it's not entirely my place."

    Dante walked to one dark passage marked by strange traces of illusory colors and and smells of such nature that I was glad we weren't downwind of it.

    "In the meantime," Dante motioned to whatever room lay beyond it. "If either you need to relieve yourselves while you wait, the bathroom is over here."

    Did I really hear that? Did he really just call it a 'bathroom' ? Or did he actually pronounce another word and my brain interpreted the meaning for me? I'm really not sure which. But maybe I shouldn't be surprised that an organized group of animals would keep their communal den clean by designating one room exclusively for ... nature's call....

    Speaking of which . . . nope, I didn't have to. Not yet. But I was certainly starting to feel hungry. I don't remember when I last ate; without a reliable memory to check, it could easily be most of a day and I simply hadn't noticed it yet.

    "And do not mind the noise," Dante nodded. "The lower depths are maintained by a sludge family."

    And if by 'sludge' he means creatures who subsist on -- eww, that is just . . . I don't want to think about that!

    Dante must have seen the look on my face. "Believe me, we do not have much contact with them, and most of us prefer it that way. They keep to their business, and we to ours."

    Not to mention that our 'business' literally is their business . . . wait, enough about that. Stop thinking about that!

    Dante distanced himself from the bathroom by a few paces, then picked a spot on the floor to lay down.

    "For now, try to get some rest. Even an hour of sleep will help prepare you for the day ahead...."

    Rae didn't need to be told; he seemed to be already dozing, curled up almost to a ball, with that starred tail wrapped around one side.

    I lay myself down on the floor, curling my feet and tail up into what seemed like a normal position as relaxed. I probably nodded off before even I realized it.

    * * *

    The rain. The winds. Lightning. Thunder.

    I knew someone was grabbing onto my arm for sure. I could feel a set of claws tearing into my sleeve, grinding through my skin; and a voice crying my name, pleading that I should hold on.

    Who were they? What were they?

    Arlio, they cried. Arlio!

    A black wave rolled over us and we were separated by its force. Or maybe the other lost their grip on my arm, taking the sleeve of my uniform with it. Maybe that's how I lost my clothes? My body literally stripped naked before being tossed into the ocean of darkness that swirled around us.

    Whomever that was held on in the safety of their course, calling out after me, repeating my name, and cursing whatever fate might await me as I drifted away, lost amidst that storm. And it was no ordinary storm; no weather could possibly have this kind of power.

    But where is the rest? Why are so many pieces missing?


    * * *

    That dream again . . . .

    I awoke to the sight of a dirt ceiling residually lit by the indigo hue of an approaching sunrise. No, it wasn't morning yet, but it was certainly getting closer. Perhaps the moon had set already, with the sun's debut not long afterward.

    I rubbed my eyes open, taking conscious note of the blue fur covering my hands and clawed fingers as I did so. Nope, this body of mine is definitely no dream. I was aware of the fact that I was now laying on my back, with my thighs and knees up while the length of my black feet, from heel to toes, lay flat against the floor. With this came the uncomfortable but familiar realization that I lay here naked as an animal in a forest, the drafty area between my legs exposed and visible to the world, my long tail doing nothing to cover it as it merely lay outstretched between my legs, twitching mildly with each of my thoughts.

    Damn it, stop thinking about that, Arlio! You have better things to occupy your mind with....

    Rae, meanwhile, lay on the ground nicely curled up, much more photogenic and in no way indecently exposed despite that he wore as much as I did (by which I mean, of course, nothing at all). I have got to stop noticing this, I told myself as I shifted onto my side and curled up. Rae's laying there just as naked as I am, and Dante likewise, so if he doesn't let that trample on his modesty why can't I do the same?

    Wondering how much longer it would be until sunrise (or whenever the members of this Guild wake in the morning), I tried to get some sleep. But I didn't get much, as that question would be answered sooner rather than later.

    Last edited by Stratelier; 19th May 2013 at 01:03 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: PMD: Explorers of Memory

    I simply loved what I've read so far! (prologue and first chapter) Your descriptions are seriously great, especially for the storm in the prologue - I was able to vividly imagine everything in my head, making the story all the more realistic and likable. You described the scene with Rae scouring for shelter very nicely, keeping his emotions in mind. I also liked the way you ended the prologue - it was certainly an intriguing one, making me just want to read more. You leave us this sort of tension just hanging in the air with those last words; there's just this sense of foreboding of some sort, like I can imagine something just waiting to reveal itself, ready to pounce on me from behind covers of darkness. I dunno, it's hard to explain, but you've got the right vibe going on there; well done! :3

    I felt that the first chapter was sorta inferior compared to your prologue, but maybe that's just me lol. XD Nevertheless, it was a good read - I guess I just have a biased eye towards really good detail. Not saying that your first chapter didn't have that, though - personally I thought you described the Riolu's confusion/hallucinations/lack of memory very well and very realistic. And you kept leaving us with questions about his past and everything, which is a nice little thing to do especially since it's just the start of the story - you've set the sortof theme, I guess you could say, of the fic with those little details... It's about self-discovery and piecing back together fragments of his memory. The pick-pocketing was a bit sudden, I think, and you kinda ended the chapter too quickly, in my opinion. You didn't really build it up that much, I think, and I personally felt that the taunts were a bit lacking. However, you ended the chapter on a pretty good note, paving the way for the readers to get all jumpy and anxious for the next installment.

    Overall, it was a nice read, and it was better than what I had expected xD (generally, I don't take much interest in fics that sortof follow the games' plots or something along those lines) There were a couple of errors here and there, like a few missing commas, and there was a typo somewhere towards the end of your first chapter. Oh, and a couple of times, you switched from using "--" to using " - " and back again. These are really just some minor stuff I thought I'd point out ^_^;; You've got a really good grasp on detail, so keep up the good work! :)
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