Part one: Prologue
I came awake with a startle, the images of flames and screaming people tearing through the labyrinth of my mind. I stopped to catch my breath as my lungs were devoid of air; I hadn’t realized I had been screaming in the dead of the night. The door to my room burst open as my uncle, gleaming sword in hand, came charging into my room, dressed only in cloth breeches. Right on his heels came my aunt in her robe. Seeing no danger, she walked over to my bed and sat besides me. I could tell she was talking, trying to soothe me, but all I could hear were sounds, my mind focused on the images seared into my very brain.
Some time passed, I couldn’t tell how much, when my sanity returned. The sounds from my aunt turned into words of comfort and encouragement. She was still next to me while my uncle sat at the edge of the bed, the sword gone and being replaced with a cup.
“I’m sorry, it was another nightmare.” I shuddered and tightly shut my eyes. “The images were so real, I could feel the heat baking my skin. It was like I was there.”
My caretakers exchanged a glance before my aunt spoke. “It was just a dream, dear. You have nothing to worry about.”
I mutely nodded as I turned my thoughts inward. These dreams had been happening for as long as I could remember, but only recently had they got so intense. Most of the nightmares remained the same, but sometimes I would see an old one that was longer or had more details in it. The latest even showed a couple looking down at me. I had quizzed my aunt and uncle, plus the other villagers, but nobody knew of me being in any kind of fire. My relatives never even talked about how I had come to live with them; they only said that my parents had died when I was a baby and that I had come to live with them since then.
I gave my aunt a quick hug. “You guys can go now, I’m fine.”
She turned her caring eyes to me. “You sure honey? We can stay longer if needed.”
“No thanks, we all need some sleep,” I pointed out. Her blue eyes showed her concern but she simply nodded and rose from the bed, taking her husband’s hand in her own. When they had left I laid back down and tried to get some sleep. All the while, hoping that my dreams wouldn’t return to haunt me some more that night.
When I woke up later I was greeted by shafts of sunlight bursting into my room. I groggily blinked my eyes until they had adjusted to the blinding light. A washbasin had already been placed next to my bed, no doubt placed there by my aunt. I pushed away the heavy deer pelt and walked over to the small hearth, which contained a small fire and a kettle filled with water. I hurriedly stripped and bathed before retrieving some fresh clothing from my wicker basket. I opened the door to see my brother, who was really my cousin but I called him that because we had grown up together, come out of his room. I gave him a fist bump and together we walked past the sleeping area and into the main room. My aunt was already up and getting work done. She was in the room next to us bent over a cooking pot.
She raised her weathered face to look at us. “Good morning boys,” she started, “your father has already gone out to check on the cattle.” She turned to me. “Septimus, you’ll be in charge of the sheep today. Thomas, I want you to see to getting that south field ready for planting.” Her blue dress rustled lightly as she returned her attention to the kettle.
I grimaced. I hated watching those sheep because the alpha ram hated my guts and tried at every opportunity to gore me. Which would not be too much of a hassle for him seeing as how his horns reached to my shoulder blades. That was considering my height was five six and he was average weight and height for his species. That being said, I didn’t envy Thomas’s work neither. In order to get that field ready he would have to use his earth powers to check the field, remove any large rocks and tree stumps before he could even start to till the land. No doubt, he had his work cut out for him. Fortunately for us both, we knew that today’s work would be a hard one. We both had picked breeches and light tunics. I wore green for the shirt, brown for the pants; while Thomas chose black for the shirt with the same colored pants. We both sat down at the family table, carved from stone, and attacked our food with a passion. A few minutes later when I was on my second bowl of oats, Thomas had already wolfed down four.
We were both eighteen, but Thomas was huge. He stood at six two, shoulders broad, thick arms and legs, and a muscular body. To top that off, he weighed two hundred and eighty pounds. Thomas was by no means fat, he just had a large body type coupled with his affinity for earth powers. In total, that equaled one big dude. By contrast, I weighed one fifty and was still growing. My shoulders were beginning to broaden, and although I was thin, my large hands and feet called for a larger body. Going beyond that, Thomas had light brown hair with matching eyes and good looks that the local women seemed to fond over. Myself, I had the looks no one would call handsome, I had rough, rugged features that weren’t ugly, but gave me a serious look. My features were completed with shoulder length black hair and green eyes. Although similar in many ways, we both were vastly different.
Just as we had finished eating, Thomas’s father, Brutus, walked in the room. His son was built from the same cloth as his father, down to the same type of features. The only differences was that Brutus’s hair was starting to show gray and his arms showed scars from long ago. He also happened to be dressed identical to his son. He gave my aunt a quick kiss on the cheek and sat down at the table and outlined for us both exactly what he wanted us to do.
With his instructions done we both rose from the table and made ready to leave. When I walked outside I was greeted by the many sounds of nature and the dazzling sunlight. As usually in mid summer, the entire farm was dappled in color, from the many vegetation, to to man made implements.
My uncle’s farm was situated at the northwest part of the kingdom in a valley. The town of Silversprings was nestled in the center of the valley with farms spread all around it. To the north was a giant mountain and beyond that the dangerous sea. To the west was the trading routes leading to the major cities and other small towns. To the south were the black hills; while the to the east sat the garrison to guard the border against the Aliarn nation. Although the valley was a great place to live, it was essentially considered untamed, compared to other parts of the kingdom. Out here wild Pokemon were plentiful and powerful. One would sometimes run into a peaceful Pokemon, but the vast majority didn’t abide human contact and could be violent if approached incorrectly.
I walked over to the wooden stables next to the house and retrieved a midnight black stallion from among the horses there. Like most out here on the border, I went bareback on the mighty animal. With a quick tug in the right direction the horse was off to the cattle area at the back of the house. As usual, the sheep were all clustered around the oak fence. I got down from the horse and walked over to the gate, exactly were my old foe, the alpha ram, was. He looked at me with barely disguised hate and snorted loudly. The wickedly curled horns gleamed in the sunlight while his bountiful coat made him seem bigger than he actually was. I fixed the ram with my own baleful glare and opened the gate, retrieving the shepherding rod in the process. I quickly climbed back on my horse and waited for the two score flock to emerge from the pen.
Even though the ram hated my guts, for reasons unknown, if I was firm but gentle with the flock the old ram wouldn’t give a care in the world. He started for the path that led to the black hills, but I used my rod to point him toward the north mountain. Brutus wanted me to water the flock at the river that flowed down the mountain to the valley. Once again the walking stew, as I fantasized, looked at me before baahing at his flock to follow him. I released a sigh I hadn’t realized I had been holding. Soon enough we were on the gentle dirt path leading to the bottom slopes of the majestic mountain. About two thirds of the mountain were rolling forests, while the top third was rocky terrain with a snow capped peak.
It was about mid morning when we reached the spot of the river we used for watering the herds. The spot was a shallow part of the river, no more than twenty feet in width, and about eight feet deep. To either sides of the river were fields of lush emerald colored grass and beyond those the tall trees that covered the mountain side. While the flock drank from the cool waters and grazed the land, I kept a watchful eye for any wild Pokemon or the many predators that hunted this range. Normally it would take about two hours for the entire flock to get its fill of water; so Brutus had crafted a tree into the shape of a small tree house. It was one room containing only a simple chair and desk. And, seeing as how the tree was placed directly next to the river I had a clear view of the flock and the surrounding area while remaining hidden and safe from any predators. I dismounted from my house and strolled over to the tree. I placed a hand on the rough bark to let the tree know I was friendly, before a branch extended down and hauled me up into the room. When Brutus had crafted the tree he had his Pokemon’s powers to create an awareness within the tree. Because of that, it either identified humans as friendly or foe. I leaned my rod against the core of the tree and sat back to watch the flock.
All was fine until half an hour into the watering when I saw a rustling in the trees directly in front me. I grabbed the weathered rod and squinted into the forest ahead. I could see an outline of something standing about four feet in height, but I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. A few seconds later a deer-like Pokemon emerged from the undergrowth. It had a brown pelt and long antlers topped its head while soft flowers grew up from the horns. A quick search through my memory revealed that it was a Sawsbuck. It wasn’t strong by Pokemon standards, but because it was a Grass type and we were in an area filled with vegetation it would have the advantage in any encounter. I silently hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
The antler Pokemon looked at the flock by the river for a few tense seconds before it ambled off about twenty yards upstream so it could drink in peace. It must not have wanted to get into a tangle with the flock. It may have been a Pokemon but the rams of the flock wouldn’t be an easy fight for the lone warrior. Just in case though, with an effort of will, I had the tree lower me to the ground below, my rod firmly in hand. Nothing came of it though, the Sawsbuck drank its fill and bounded back into the quiet confines of the forest.
It was just after midday when the flock had finished watering and partially grazed the land. I mounted up and led the flock back into the forest. Our destination one of the grazing fields lower on the mountain reserved for my uncle’s cattle.
We were in a thick cluster of brambles when a growl to my right caused me to pull up short. I scanned the foliage around me, but my human eyes couldn’t spot the source. The flock, hearing the noise too, had already drawn up into a circle with the young sheep on the inside and the rams watching outward for any predators. I slowly dismounted from my ride and slid a hand over to the pack nestled on a thigh of the horse. A sound of metal clearing a scabbard filled the air as I withdrew a blade from the pack. It wouldn’t be much use against certain types of Pokemon, but for some it would be better than nothing and it could kill any wild predator that dared showed its hide.
I was still scanning, my sword raised in a high guard, when a small red and black striped Pokemon appeared from under a bush. I inhaled a sharp intake of breath when I recognized the Pokemon as a Growlithe. It was little more than a puppy right now, but when it evolved into an Arcanine it would be a powerhouse in its own right. The small puppy had a tuff of cream colored hair around its neck, puffed straight up in a threatening manner. I lowered the blade into a low guard and waited to see what the Pokemon would do. If it charged me I knew I had the reflexes to sidestep the charge and slash at it with the blade. If it used a fire attack I would have to dodge and be quick about it if I didn’t want to get roasted alive.
To my complete and utter shock the Pokemon looked at me for a few solid seconds then lowered the fur around its neck and lowered its lips over the once bared fangs. I kept my guard up just in case it was a trick, but my mind raced furiously to find out why the Pokemon was acting in this strange manner. Most wild Pokemon would have either attacked or run away by now. It was at that moment when I felt something deep inside me. It felt like something had exploded inside my very soul. I fell to one knee gasping for air, the sword point buried in the loamy dirt. A heat soon spread from my core that rippled throughout my entire body, the sensation felt so intense that I felt ready to collapse on my side. A sweat broke out on my brow as my whole body quivered. I spared a quick glance forward and saw the Growlithe laying on its side, tongue lolled out, panting heavily.
The Pokemon rose shakily to its paws and stumbled over to me. Right then, I felt my end was near; I would surely die at this spot. I closed my eyes and braced my body for the blow to land, but when a few seconds passed and nothing happened I lifted my head up to see the Growlithe staring fiercely at me. Its snout mere inches from my face, I could feel the muggy, hot breath striking my face. The Pokemon appeared to be staring into my very soul. I felt the cool wetness and the rough dry texture of its tongue as it gently licked my face. It bent down to nuzzle my hand and when it did so a brilliant and vibrant orange colored light flooded the area. The sheep behind me bleated in alarm, but my attention was solely focused on the events in front of me. As the flash dissipated I felt all the feelings I had been experiencing abruptly vanish in an instant, except for one. Deep inside me there was something I couldn’t fully put into words. I could tell that something had changed. I looked around for the wild Growlithe, but I couldn’t see it, only a few floating leaves, as if they had been blown about.
It was then that it dawned on me. I had just experienced my first soul bond. At first I was shocked beyond speech, but the next emotion of elation flooded my senses like one of the many wind storms that battered the area. I thought back to the lessons on soul bonding that Brutus had taught me and Thomas. Although Pokemon were very dangerous, they could be tamed by one method only. That method was through a soul bond between the Pokemon and human. Soul bonds could be started by two ways: the first way was when a human with one Pokemon already, battled a wild one. If that human won and had the skill plus will, he could initiate a bond with the defeated Pokemon. The second method was where the Pokemon initiated the bond with a person it felt a soul connection to. I had just experienced the later form.
Now that I had successfully created a soul bond with a Pokemon it meant a few important things. For one thing it meant that whatever I felt or experienced, so would Growlithe, or Gruh, the Pokemon amended in my mind. That too, we could share thoughts when it was with me. While the Pokemon was ‘inside’ me I would be able to use powers of the type it was. That meant I would be able to summon fire with an effort of will. By that same rule, when I ‘summoned’ Gruh he would appear from my body to take physical form and at that point I would no longer have the ability to use its powers as I essentially manifested it to do battle. This bond also meant that if my Pokemon were to die I would have a chance to perish also. And conversely, if I were to die I could either release the Pokemon from our bond or it would die also.
More alarmed bleating jolted me back to the present and away from my thoughts. I rose wearily to my feet, a soul exchange sapped both Pokemon and human unless one was strong in will. The flock was alright, they were just anxious to get away from the area. Seeing as how I was in no condition to lead the flock, I needed some rest. I decided to set off for home. By the time we returned to the farm I was all but ready to collapse off my horse. I was leading the sheep to their pen when I spotted my aunt milking a cow. She waved to me and I waved back.
Just as I had finished securing the animals she strolled over. She turned her blue eyes to study me. “Are you okay?”
I smiled faintly at her. “I’m okay, aunt Bertha. I just need some rest.” My body chose that moment to collapse on me. I heard her startled cry before a wave of blackness enveloped me in its warm embrace.
When I awoke I was in my bed with a wet cloth placed above my head. I groaned aloud and sat up, I seemed to have acquired a headache from somewhere. Thomas came strolling into the room, a rather cheerful expression on his face.
“I see you have got your first Pokemon?” His mood infused the words with a sense of cheer.
I groaned again and waved a hand in a go away gesture. “Ugh, if I had known I would have got this bad a headache I would have resisted the bond.”
He punched me lightly on the shoulder. “Get real, we both know you would never have done that.”
I glared at him. “What time is it?”
Just after three in the afternoon. You had everyone worried for a second there, that was until Bertha figured out you had your first bond,” his voice dropped to a conspiratory whisper. “What Pokemon was it?”
“A Growlithe called Gruh.”
His smile widened. “Cool, now you have a Pokemon like me.”
The sound of horseshoes striking the ground drifted to the room. I frowned. “That sounds like at least five, and nobdy around here would approach like that. We better go check it out.”
As I climbed from the bed, Thomas leaned down and placed his hand flush against wooden floor. I could tell he was using his earth powers, which stemmed from his own Pokemon, Sudowoodo. “Make that six.”
Together we walked out of the house. Bertha and Brutus were already out there conversing with the group of riders. I concealed my surprise at our ‘guests’. All the men wore armor that had the black raven symbolizing the Lord of Riven. The city of Riven was a two day journey away from our farm. The men were armed to the teeth with weaponry, no doubt they had Pokemon with them as well. I didn’t see the telltale marks that signaled a specialty as knights, but that didn’t mean their Pokemon weren’t powerful.
We caught the end of his message, “Are hereby ordered to report to the town square two hours from hence.”
Finished with their errand, the group of soldiers turned their mounts around and rode towards the next farm further up the valley. Brutus turned to us. “Boys, pack up some supplies and get ready to head to the town,” he said gruffly before stalking off.
We were about to question Bertha when she raised a hand in a stop gesture. “Do as your father said.” We passed a quizzical look at each other and walked back into the house while she followed Brutus.
Soon enough we were all on the main road heading for Silversprings. When we reached the town square the whole town had already been gathered there and more stragglers were coming in from farms like ours. A Riven officer stood atop the town podium flanked by by two other soldiers on either flank. Another two score soldiers were scattered about the square. It was just after five when the last of the people arrived. The officer, most likely a centurion, nodded and held up a scroll of parchment.
“Citizens and freedmen of Silversprings, by order of Arkus, Lord of Riven, these people are hereby ordered to step forward.” He held up a second piece of paper and listed off fifteen people, including Bertha and Brutus, who dutifully stepped forward. The man scanned the faces and gave another slight nod. His eyes then scanned the crowd, as if he was looking for someone. His eyes alighted at Thomas and I at the front of the crowd. His eyes narrowed in suspicion for a quick second before his face visibly paled beneath the fading glow of the sun. “Them two!” He pointed his baton at us. “Place them under arrest!”
“No!” Brutus roared. He slammed a fist into the earth and a mini shockwave rapidly spread out, knocking most of the people off their feet. With another roar he summoned forth a Pokémon I didn’t know he possessed, a Rhyperior. Rhyperior was massive. It flexed the sienna with mottled patches of orange colored rocky plates that served as its skin. The large horn atop its head added to frightful appearance of the Pokemon..
Our mouths agape in surprise, we stood rooted to the spot until Bertha stepped in front of us with the purple and black pig-like Pokemon called Grumpig. “Run!” she all but snarled at us as her Pokemon lept forward using its spiral tail as leverage.
The square all but erupted in chaos as battles started to wage. Thomas still wasn’t moving but I seized his arm and hauled him to our horses. We had climbed atop the beasts when I saw my uncle, blade in hand, as he engaged five soldiers. His blade was a blur, so fast that I couldn’t track the movements, as he wielded it like a swordsmaster. Six heartbeats later all the soldiers were down as he moved onto the next batch. I wheeled the horses about and took off for the mountain to the north. She hadn’t told us where to go, but when we were both old enough to talk we were told to head to this mountain cave if anything was to happen, that’s where I guided our mounts now. As we thundered away I could hear the sounds of battle receding as we furthered the distance between us and it. Hearing sounds I looked back to see two riders on our heels when an invisible barrier knocked them from the horses. The horses cried out in panic, but the men were silent as they hit the ground with a bone crunching thud. It must have have been a Psychic attack I thought as I urged the horses for more speed. Soon the town was nothing more than a speck in the distance.
When Thomas finally emerged from his shocked stupor I had him use Sudowoodo’s powers to cover our tracks. After we had reached the cave I hid the horses inside and we both waited, watching for any signs of movement. Two hours later Brutus and Bertha emerged, walking weary up the trail to the cave. We rushed over to meet them and half carried them up the rest of the way. We laid them on the floor of the cave and they prompt fell asleep. We studied the pair.
The dress Bertha wore was shredded in parts and was covered in patches of dirt and blood. Brutus was also covered in splatters of blood, but none of it seemed to be his own, but there were multiple cuts dotting his tunic and pants. We tried rousing the two, but Thomas remembered that his father had once told us that when humans used or called upon Pokemon extensively it would weaken the user. Seeing as how they had faced over two score soldiers that was understandable. We both took watch that night while the couple slept. All throughout the night we could hear the braying sounds of horns and the beating of drums.
The couple didn’t wake until the next morning, and by then myself and Thomas had a ton of questions we needed answered. The sun was just beginning to come over the horizon when they both finally stirred. When both had become awake enough we fired off questions as fast as we could. Finally Brutus spoke, “Quiet before you talk my head off my shoulders,” he growled.
“Why don’t we get something to eat before we continue this discussion,” Bertha said quietly.
Thomas and I went into a flurry of activity as we prepared bread and cheese. It wasn’t until both had ate before Brutus started to speak. “Let me provide some cover first.”
With an effort of will he called forth a Sandile. The small four legged alligator cousin turned to look at us. Its sandy coat and black rimmed eyes blended well in the cavern. With a quick burst the Pokemon disappeared beneath a mound of dirt. The ground started to buckle and heave until the cavern slowly sank into the earth, until the cave entrance was only a horizontal line no bigger than the width of a hand.
“Now that that is done, let’s get started. You both recall the end of the Troation war eighteen years ago?” He waited for us to nod affirmative. “The end of the war came about when a betrayer within the king’s advisor betrayed him to a Troation Lord. Six legions of over one hundred thousand men assaulted the capital that night. The crown legion engaged in a pitched battle with two auxiliaries against the foreigners. But vastly outnumbered they were defeated. During the battle the king and queen were slain, the capital burned to the ground, and our legions annihilated to a man.” A sad smile crossed his face. “Since then the Troations have established Lords to watch over regions of the land while a High Lord rules over everything. As you both know they also divided the population into Citizens, freedman, and slaves. With Citizens being those who can use Pokemon.”
Thomas cut him off. “We know that. But how does that tie into us?”
Brutus gave him a reproachful look. “Well, I was part of the royal guard attached to the king as his personal bodyguard.” This elicited a startled grasp from myself and Thomas. “But that is only the beginning.” He looked at me. “We are not related by blood, only by the bonds we share as a family. You, Septimus, are the rightful heir to the kingdom of Gramoen.”