This story contains dark elements. You have been warned!
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The entrance behind us caved in with a deafening crash. We weren't going back that way, it seemed. A team of the most eminent historians and Pokémon researchers in the Unova region, finding our end here in the heart of the Relic Castle? It seemed almost fitting. Still, I was not yet satisfied with our discoveries. We pressed on, edging deeper into the darkness of what appeared to be a royal tomb, judging by the carvings etched into the walls and the valuable jewels filling the chamber.
We began to examine the many treasures surrounding us, rich goods, thousands of years old, and exotic spices that retained their curiously enchanting scents even to this day. The walls were lined with statues of ancient kings and queens, looking down on us with haunting eyes that made it ever clearer that we were not welcome. We continued all the same, in pursuit of ancient knowledge.
There was a single passage on the other side of the tomb, the only way to proceed, that we could see. We eventually finished examining the artifacts and entered the solid gold archway that led us into a massive hallway. The walls, floor and ceiling of the hall were, amazingly, also made of that warm, glowing metal. Many candles—or rather, Litwicks, ghostly candle Pokémon, began to burn as we progressed down the cavernous corridor, lighting up the walls with a fiery brightness. The brightness became nearly blinding as they were joined by Lampent and Chandelures.
When we finally reached the end of the hallway, the candle Pokémon all seemed to go out at once, leaving us in a void of blackness. While the darkness only lasted a moment, it was the most horrific experience of my life. All of the warmth in the room departed with the light. It felt as if my body no longer gave off heat, or perhaps I had no body, no feeling. I had no smell, no sight, nothing, no sense at all. That still dark was death incarnate. Then, suddenly, the light returned.
I found myself in another chamber, this one perfectly circular, with a round bonfire in the centre somehow burning away still in this ancient place. While the rest of the castle was filled with ghost Pokémon, I could see none here. The room had little decoration besides a stone stele on the opposite side, along with two simple, stone coffins. I turned around, hoping to see my comrades. My heart sank. There was no one. Worse, the entrance was gone. Perhaps it was never there to begin with. All that remained was a wall. It had no creases or graspable matter. It was smooth aurelian stone and adamant. All around me was a golden expanse, hugging and tugging at my soul. Such beauty should not be so terrible.
"What now?" I thought, "How can I possibly get out of this?"
I crossed the room, avoiding the abnormally large sparks erupting from the central flame. I could think of nothing to do to save myself from this cruel fate, so I thought that I might as well examine my last findings. The stele read, in an ancient dialect that I managed to translate: "Here lies King Arcus the Sunless. May His Majesty be warmed forever in the Sun's Fiery Dance." Did the stone refer to the bonfire's "dance"? Perhaps I will never know the true meaning of such a thing. Seeing nothing more to glean from the strange rock, I moved on to the coffins.
There were two coffins, as I mentioned previously, one large and one small. The large coffin was, though made of a dull grey stone, engraved with an impressive design. The design depicted a crown, skewered with a brilliantly shining gold sword, within a square of four silver swords lain across each other. An actual sword, that I seemed to miss in my original appraisal of the room, rested on the floor between the two coffins. It was indescribably beautiful, yet I felt wary of picking it up. It seemed to radiate a powerful aura that was nearly visible. It was otherworldly, like the sword's existence in this world was a mistake. My curiosity got the better of me, and I held the sword, immediately regretting it. The golden hilt glowed a harsh red and burned my right hand into ashes. I cried in pain as the sword fell to the ground with a loud crash that echoed throughout the room.
"The Sun takes his toll once more, I see, the toll paid in blood.", a young man's voice seemed to say from every direction, echoing throughout the room on both physical and spiritual wavelengths. I apologise, as a Pokémon researcher, I should be more concrete in this report, but there is no other way to describe the situation. It was ethereal.
"The Sun, wha—who are you!?", I cried, my voice shaky from the pain. My blood dripped steadily onto the floor, tainting it's golden surface, flowing towards the flame.
"I am King Arcus of the great Kingdom, Castelia, my friend. You have met a most unfortunate fate here in my tomb. Come, I shall console you. You need but to open my coffin, and I will be with you."
I was in no state of mind to refuse, not when my insides were inside out in front of me! I struggled onto my feet and crawled with my one hand to the coffin. It took great effort, but my remaining hand proved enough to open the impossibly heavy lid. I saw nothing inside but blackness. I immediately knew that I had made yet another mistake.
The shadows seemed to extend out of the coffin as a near physical entity, a tendril that formed into a massive hand. Before I could react, I was engulfed. The hand grabbed me and pulled me into the darkness. I could see nothing in the coffin, only a black void. Eventually I saw something appearing. A pair of red eyes seemed to open out of nothing. I had seen this before, it was a Confagrigus. The coffin was unorthodox, but I suppose that is to be expected in the tomb of an ancient king.
The young voice spoke once more, "Fear not, friend, I only wish to tell you a story." I tried to speak, to beg the Pokémon for my life, but I could not. "It is the story of my life, the life of myself, King Arcus of Castelia." While my predicament haunted me still, I must admit that the chance to hear of the life of an ancient king from his own lips was appealing. I was practically excited. "I shall now impart onto you the knowledge of my Kingdom's past and the basis of yours. I believe I will began with the First Battle of Castle Castelia."
"Castle Castelia, like the city?" I interjected.
"Yes, I suppose that may be correct at this point. This castle had that name once, but I suppose it is lost to your people. Regardless, in the beginning of that ordeal, I was standing on the battlements of the castle with my childhood mentor, General Sorr.
He said, 'Arcus, your highness, you recall the day we met, do you not?' Together, we gazed off into the distance through the crenellations knowing, perhaps, in some small way, what would come.
'Of course, master,' I replied.
'It was a simpler time, my son, a time that you must remember well in the darkness to come... It will give you strength, let you know that this world has something to fight for in it. That which you will experience in the near future certainly will not.'
Indeed, I yearned for those days. The terrors of the world felt so far away when I was so young. There on the battlements, they were practically at our doorstep.
I forced myself to ignore reality and find solace in nostalgia for a moment. Ah, yes, I remember it even now, Castle Castelia, the centre of power in this region, built by a great Hero with the help of his Pokémon, in times that were ancient even then, a place where Pokémon and humans coexist in perfect unity, bustling with activity, as one would expect on such a beautiful Summer's day, it's white walls standing as a bastion of civilization over the wild forests below, the Sun high in the sky, projecting its divine rays indiscriminately. Traders peddled their goods on the street, mostly food, building materials and other essentials, but also rarer items, exotic berries and potions. Soldiers were returning to their wives from yet another overseas conflict, most mourning the loss of comrades and Pokémon alike. We were at the height of our civilization, but one factor would bring us to ruin and that was war.
The wars that my father nourished put a stain on our nation's pride. They served no purpose but to gain land and resources, and at what cost? The lives of our loyal companions. Even then I resented them, though I knew not yet the true companionship Pokémon could bring in my childhood, not until I experienced it and its loss firsthand.
'Pokémon are not toys, they are weapons!' My father, the king, had always told me when I was lonely and asked him for a Pokémon. 'Weapons are for warriors, soldiers and demons. You are neither yet and have so much more to live for now than violence.'
He died in the war and was mourned little, as there was no time for it. I barely knew him and needed to begin my training, despite his wishes, to lend respect, of which there was close to none, to my rule, to protect my people, to protect my mother... and myself. Rumors of rebellion in the native tribes of the north didn't help matters.
It is traditional that young boys receive Pokémon at age ten to prepare them for military service, and I was no exception. I had been training my Vulpix for about a month and was just beginning to get the hang of issuing commands to it, yet still, Pokémon training was more arduous back then, and I was having trouble getting Vulpix to even respond to me when under the pressure of battle. Additionally, Poké Balls were not widely used as they were very expensive and rare. Instead, most people used restraints to hold their Pokémon when they were not in battle. This made both capturing and training Pokémon difficult, as some level of physical finesse was required of the trainer. Luckily, as king, I had some extra privilege and was given one Poké ball for Vulpix, though even then, ancient poke balls did not restrain the power of a Pokémon as your modern ones do, and so I suffered many burns in my training. Additionally, the rest of my Pokémon would have to be caught traditionally. In more blunt terms, 'brutally'.
At this point in training, most boys left their homes for an extended period on journeys of self-discovery and noble deeds. This served to add Pokémon to the trainer's party, train the trainer's Pokémon, and, most importantly, train the trainer himself. Unfortunately, not many return from the wild lands outside the castle. Those lands not already domesticated were uncharted and treacherous. The superstitious rumours of the monstrosities within the deep forests surrounding Castelia made my body shake with fear, yet it was my duty to go. Could I turn tail, run into my castle and hide, then expect my men not to do the same? Never. No royal entourage backed me, all the men who would normally have followed on such tasks being dead or away at war. And so, Vulpix and I left the castle, left all that we knew, entering the deathly embrace of the unknown, both of us feeling completely and utterly alone.
We eventually found ourselves walking along a narrow path, or what barely resembled one, in this thick forest, and stumbled upon a clearing. It was surprisingly large and contained a sparkling pond that shimmered in the cascading sunlight. A Pokémon drank from the pond desperately, as if it hadn't seen water in days. I had to think for a moment, but I recalled the Pokémon's name. It was an Eevee. My mother had one as a child. It had evolved into a Vaporeon and helped around the house, bringing water where there were no pipes to pump it. An invaluable tool, and, though I wasn't going to be doing much housework, it could still be a useful weapon, especially if the rumours about its varied evolutions were true.
I eventually decided to try to catch it, cautioning Vulpix to be quiet and to approach stealthily. The Eevee perked up its ears as it heard a twig break under Vulpix's paw, but seemed to think nothing of it and continued to drink from the pond. I knew that a Pokémon had to be weakened before being subdued, so I ordered Vulpix to attack.
'Vulpix, use Ember!' I called out.
Vulpix issued a small burst of flame from its mouth, barely missing the Eevee, though the grass around it was consumed. Luckily, the blaze didn't reach the forest surrounding the clearing. The Eevee turned to flee, horrified, but found itself unable to find a way to escape. It retaliated with Quick Attack, a mad dash at Vulpix and delivered a swift, yet ruthless strike. Vulpix was hurt, perhaps more than it had ever been in the security of the castle, and was too afraid to listen to any of my commands. The two Pokémon began brawling barbarically within the inferno, tossing each other onto the ground in a bloody struggle, each forgetting the reason for their quarrel, all goals descending into the simple destruction of the enemy.
I was sick of watching the madness that was unfolding before my eyes and cried out, 'Vulpix, listen to me! Use Fire Spin!'
It was a cruel move, surely. But it would keep Vulpix from its suffering, at least, and perhaps put the Eevee out of its own. That was my justification. Vulpix let out a ring of flame that surrounded the Eevee and trapped it. I couldn't see what was happening inside the vortex until it died down and watched helplessly as it was burned. I was relieved to see that the flames had left the poor Eevee with its life—though only barely.
'An excellent catch!', roared a thunderous voice from behind me. I turned to see an old general who I recognized from his visits to the royal court. He was an enigma, kind yet stern, strong yet elegant, wild yet civilized. One thing certainty could be said of him: he had done a monumental service to the crown and was respected for it. He displayed it proudly through the royally appointed sword on his belt and in his price paid in limbs. He had but one arm, one leg and one eye remaining and walked with a massive walking stick. Poor man. 'Indeed, a fantastic display. Perhaps, a bit rough around the edges, but we can work that out.'
'Work it out?' I said absently. Shocked by a sudden realization, I shouted at him, 'You were watching this whole time? Why didn't you help? Those Pokémon could have been killed!'
'There are some things in this world that we must face alone, my liege. I cannot intervene in your path.'
'You are our king now, are you not? And from what I've seen of you so far, you've got a great path ahead of you, even for a king! But enough of this contemptible prattle. I beg that you accompany me to my home. I live in a small cabin to the north where I train aspiring trainers, most of them of the nobility like yourself. It isn't Castle Castelia, surely, but it's comfortable enough. Ah, and there are so many things I can teach you now that will help you to stay alive in the forests and on the battlefield.'
Startled by his suggestion, I paused a moment to think.
'I would hope that one would introduce oneself to their king,' I noted.
'Hah! Of course. Sometimes, I forget such courtesies. Forgive me, sire, I am First Marshal of the Royal Military, General Sorr.'
'I thought General Fir was in charge of our military.'
'He is, I am merely of a higher rank as a technicality. Once, I was the actual leader of your military, but I threw that responsibility away and moved into the forests once it seemed that this war would continue forever. I could no longer bear the bloodshed, or the sea of grieving widows in the streets.'
'I can empathise with that, sir, I too despise these wars. '
He bowed formally and said, 'Then I have yet greater reason to aid you, your majesty. May your reign see the true end of violence! Now, if we can get this one packed up, I would ask that you accompany me before more savage beasts arrive.'
I agreed to follow him to his home with the injured Eevee in tow, where I found many other children, around my age, with their Pokémon. They trained in battle techniques against tree stumps and other dummies set up in front of the shack. The shack itself had a traditional, but rugged quality to it and was surrounded by a serene ring of vegetation. The building had an evolved style of architecture based on the native's buildings, but improved with a more advanced, refined sensibility.
I knew a few of the boys training there from the royal court. One was the future Lord Bryant of Opelucid City to the far north, training his Bagon against a tree. Bryant seemed to me to be a reclusive and cautious boy. He had trouble making decisions and maintained a neutral stance on most issues, making him quiet the loner. I had no doubt that he would become just as frustrating a political force as his father before him. Opelucid City was located in the far north of the region, a place ripe with native tribes. This made Opelucid an important political entity that often required defence during times of strife and was almost always threatening separation from the kingdom if it didn't get its way.
On the other side of the shack from Bryant was Cale, a short kid with brilliant red hair who always wore heavy, silver armour. Cale was the heir to Fort Virbank's lordship and somewhat of a friend of mine as a child when he visited the castle. Cale trained the Sneasel who had been his first Pokémon at the age of six (something he bragged about to me constantly, since I didn't have one), while yelling commands loudly. That was like him. He was always very energetic.
The children all bowed to us upon noticing my arrival, as was expected of them, Cale being one of the last to notice. I expected to join them in their training, but General Sorr simply walked past them, up to the shack's door.
He said, 'I'd like to start your training as soon as possible, but I think your Vulpix deserves a good rest for now, hm? Besides, I think you'll want to come inside, I have myriad things to show you.' He opened the creaky door to the shack, letting out some dust. I was surprised by what I saw inside. It was my brother, Prince Rico.
'What are you doing here!?' I yelled, somewhat louder than I should have. Rico immediately began to cry.
'Are you mad, brother?' he said through his tears.
'No,' I said, 'but I'm worried about you, how did you get here? It's unsafe in the forest!'
'I brought him here,' said Sorr, 'He has been training with me in secret for years.' It was then that I noticed the Pokémon floating beside Rico. A Driftloon, judging by its purple, balloon-like body.
'If you were training Rico against my father's will, then why not me?", I said, honestly feeling quite jealous.
'Your brother came to me! he was very insistent about it. He said he wanted to protect you or... something. I didn't want to train you two until you came of age, but I gave him a Pokémon to test his abilities, and he's quite the natural, so I simply couldn't resist training him. Anyway, I had something else to show you, and it's getting late, so we should get to it.'
'What is it?' I asked.
'A sword. I made it especially for the event that your majesty would visit me here, to make up for the great honor that I am blessed with. You will need it if you are to be an effective soldier and trainer. Your Pokémon may not be able to protect you from a sword in the chest. Besides, it fits that when you train your Pokémon to be savage beasts, you do the same to yourself.' He presented it to me, kneeling down reverently. The sword had a flawless steel blade and an intricately carved wooden handle. No, I know what you are thinking, this is not the same blade that rests with me in my tomb, I will get to that, but this sword was special to me all the same. It carried me through some of my greatest hardships.
After, I went home to the castle to rest and heal my Pokémon, but that was only the beginning of my training with General Sorr. I owe everything to him. Without his guidance, I doubt that I would have been able to withstand the pressure of being king. He was an advisor as much as he was a tutor, and he taught me a lot. I learned the way of the sword and advanced Pokémon training techniques from him, though my brother still managed to outdo me in pure, innate talent. I could have reminisced in those memories all day, but they were interrupted.
'Sire, the enemy has been spotted to the East! Their army ranks in the thousands, and they will be here within minutes,' cried a scout from the Eastern watchtower.
'I see. So it comes to this,' I said."