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About Literature / Hobbyist Member Ian Chisholm26/Male/United States Group :icongrammarnazicritiques: GrammarNaziCritiques
Truth can be harsher in a Crit
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The vast cavern is dark, even with the few beads of light scattered across the walls and ceiling like faint stars. The shadows of people merge together as the citizens of Goldenburg gather in large groups, whispering and looking about at the natural-hewn rock walls. At the edges of the open area the stalagmites grow like the teeth of an encircling beast, while the few candles and torches held by the many people cause those shadows to flicker and dance. Those wearing silver and gold robes stand near those wearing similar rich designs, while the citizens in work clothes and old worn fabric have clustered together in their own groups and circles, but all are united under a pall of fear and uncertainty.

Roughly circular in shape, the cavern has three apparent entrances along the sides. Through the first streams a river of people still filling the cave, and a quarter turn to the left is a giant door, the frame golden and covered in glass of different colors gleaming with some internal light source. The face of the door is some kind of black material that pulls in the light around, like looking into the vastness of space itself, and all across that surface is perhaps a hundred goldfish-sized keyholes that swim and dart about. Children crowd around, but the adults avoid looking at the door.

Three giant crates sit another quarter turn to the left, each as large as three orcs standing on shoulders, with a few people poking at them. And one more quarter turn to the left of that is a dark archway leading to a dim tunnel. Liveried butlers and castle guards stand in a wide half-circle, warding away curious citizens, but just in front of the tunnel mouth stands the Count, the Forge Master, the Drunk and Sorrow.

Throwing his hands wide toward the tunnel, the Count smiles, “And so you face the Gauntlet! At its end awaits the final key to our escape, protected by traps and riddles to test your strength and will! Each was designed by a different person and constructed by the greatest trap maker I could hire!” He pats the Drunk and Sorrow on their backs, “Go forth and bring back our salvation!”

Sorrow tilts his head to the side, his black eyes focused on the dark tunnel, as the Drunk coughs before asking, “Lad, are ya serious?” The Forge Master sighs and covers his face with a calloused palm, but the Count smiles and nods. “The key to that fancy black door is behind a mess of booby traps and puzzles? And ya want me and my boy to retrieve it?”

“Do not make unnecessary requests Father.” Sorrow takes a soot black knife from his sleeve and points the tip at the tunnel, “I will solve the riddles and you will use your strength. This will be like the time we took the Old Round challenge, and I do not think any goblins could be living this deep.”

The Count grins and rubs his hands together, “Ah, but what would a trial be without monsters?”

“That's not the point lads!” The Drunk sighs and crosses his arms, standing firm, “This is your escape tunnel, and yet it can nae be used to escape? Are ya daft?”

The Forge Master nods and looks up at the Count, “I told you people would think it stupid old friend. Perhaps we should wait in the antechamber for whatever will happen above. We have our supplies, we can hold for quite some time, and then go back out with weapons ready.”

The Count's smile droops and he looks at his feet, “But it's a secret escape tunnel. It has to have a Gauntlet, to test the worthiness of the people using it.” He looks over at the Drunk, “I mean, just consider if some thief entered the castle and then tried to escape through here. We would find them stuck in the Gauntlet, undoubtedly!”

“The way ya had this place hid lad, I doubt a thief could find it,” counters the Drunk.

“So you refuse?” Sudo steps up behind the Drunk, whose shoulders bunch up for a moment as his hands clench into fists. Sudo glances to the Count, “Perhaps the fabled old man is feeling his age. I will find my tunnel crawler and the old man can return to the surface to do as hired.”

The Drunk grumbles, “I never say I wouldn't do the thing lad, I said it's daft!” He turns and brushes past Sudo, storming away toward the black door, “Daft and unnecessary. I'll open your fancy door me own way.”

Following behind him the Forge Master chuckles, “This I have to see.” He glances up as the Count matches his pace, “Should I tell him old friend?”

The Count sighs, “If he can break the door we'll recoup a little from the shards. We spent so much time on the Gauntlet though, I wanted someone to go through it.”

“Is that a no on sending my tunnel crawler sir,” asks Sudo, stalking two steps behind the Count with his hands held behind his back.

“Thank you Sudo, but we can wait a little longer.” His eyes on the Drunk's back, the Count grins. “Perhaps the old man will do it. And it shouldn't hurt to allow more citizens to arrive before we move on.” Sudo sighs and nods.

Sorrow stays behind as they walk away, the black dagger still in his hands and pointed at the Gauntlet's entrance. A soft wind drifts out, flowing around him and rustling his clothes and short ashen hair. With the half circle of butlers and guards looking outward and the citizens all grouped farther away, no one is looking as he slips through the tunnel archway.

Standing before the void-black door, the Drunk looks up with his arms crossed. His gaze darts across the surface to follow a few of the moving keyholes in turn, then he blinks and focuses on the door face itself. There are no cracks or seams in the material, and up close the door looks to be made of a single block of opaque glass in which all light that attempts to pass through is absorbed and trapped forever. The children that were crowded around the door now stand back with the Count and his retinue.

The Forge Master calls out to the Drunk, “Need a clue do you? I'll tell you I made it myself, with the help of three wizards and their respective students.”

The Drunk reaches out toward the door, “Three ya say?” His hand brushes near one of the moving keyholes, which darts away to avoid his grasp. The Drunk smiles and moves his hand faster than the keyhole, but when he smacks his palm against the spot there is a small ripple and then an electric shock that pushes his hand away. The keyhole vanishes, reappearing elsewhere on the door as the other keyholes dash away from the spot. “Aye, now I see all three. The repeller is nae obvious.” The Count spreads his arms wide to nudge the children back, the Forge Master frowns and crosses his arms, and Sudo moves to stand in front of the Count with a silverware spoon in each hand.

The Drunk lifts his shawl of furs up over his head and tosses the garment aside, leaving only the old breeches to cover himself. Aside from his messy mop of hair and torn knee-length pants, he looks like the marble statue of a god carved by someone with only the faintest grasp on reality. The muscles in his arms and shoulders and back and waist and legs all flex as one when he holds out an open palm toward the door. He doesn't seem to have anything but muscles covering his compact frame. As each finger of his hand closes one by one into a fist, a sound like boulders crunching can be heard.

“Three strikes.” The Drunk pulls back his arm and squares off against the door, his eyes closed. “If three can nae do it, I'll go as ya suggested.” And without seeming to move his fist is planted against the door. The whoosh of displaced air is heard like a typhoon in a bottle, and then the electric field across the door pulls inward to the point of impact just after a ripple of black roils outward. The free-swimming keyholes scatter to the edges of the door, and the Drunk grunts with a whisper, “Not bad.” His arm holds steady but his whole body is pushed several helms backwards as his bare toes dig in to the rock floor. The door's black face is soon calm again, but the electric field buzzes with energy and remains that way for several breaths before fading.

People are beginning to watch in the crowd behind. A few butlers guard the Count's back, silverware forks in their hands, but the gathering citizens have spread out to all get a good view. Rich or poor, beggar or lord, they all have their eyes glued to the Drunk's back. The Count glances down to the Forge Master, “Would you bet with or against him old friend?”

“Against him old friend, of course. I know better than any what that door can withstand.” The Forge Master grunts and adds, “Now if it didn't have all that magic augmenting it, maybe he could. Why did you have me enhance the door so much anyway?”

Standing close to the door again, the Drunk pulls back his fist. He stamps his feet against the ground, forming two indents in the rock for his feet to brace against, and then he opens his eyes. They shine with a blazing golden light, like pools reflecting the sun, or perhaps they are twin suns themselves. And again, faster than the eye can follow, the flat of his fist is against the door.

Another rush of air, and this time accompanied by a heart-rattling boom and a shock-wave of compressed air originating somewhere between where his fist was and where it now rests. The door's surface ripples like a black lake after throwing in a stone, the many keyholes disappearing altogether, and the repellent field buzzes with the sound of vicious bees against his fist. Flashes of lightning arc across the skin of his arm, spiking through and burning the flesh, but each wound disappears as quick as it formed. The Drunk gives a small, rueful smile as he is lifted upwards by the energy and thrown backwards, tumbling through the air with his arms and legs flailing, straight at the wide-eyed Count.

Sudo spreads ten spoons in a fan shape and meets the Drunk with their combined surface. For the tiniest moment the Drunk seems to be frozen in motion, one shoulder pressed against the spoons, but then Sudo changes the spoon's angle and the Drunk continues on, his trajectory altered enough to fly over the heads of the stunned crowd. He crosses the entire room and hits the opposite wall ten or so helms to the right of the Gauntlet's archway and close to the ceiling, compacting the rock and leaving a crater in the shape of his body as he falls to the ground. Sudo drops to one knee, breathing heavy as the bent spoons clatter to the ground.

With a dry chuckle the Count replies, “Same as the Gauntlet old friend, to see if I could. There are a wealthy few who would pay handsomely for the design specs of a perfect door.”

“Perfect?” The Forge Master snorts as he turns around to look in the direction the Drunk flew, “There isn't anything perfect in this world.”

A snarl from across the room becomes a growing howl, and Sudo stands with a wobble and a grimace, “Sir.” He places a hand on the Count's shoulder and speaks in a low, urgent tone, “You must get yourself and the people to the room's edges. The Monster has awoken.”

The Count winces and places a hand inside the pocket of his coat, pulling out something like the cross between a large bubble wand and a small butterfly net. Holding the circle to his mouth he speaks to the crowd, his voice booming loud, “Please move to the edges of the room. Everyone, please move to the edges of the cave. Please now, quickly, to the edges of the cave.”

“Now wait, who?” The Forge Master helps Sudo to walk as they follow the Count. “Who is the Monster?” The citizens are all scattering to various places along the cave's sides as directed. They spread out and walk with urgency, though many look puzzled or confused as they glance in different directions.

“The old man's berserk side.” Sudo sighs and looks out at the citizens, “A separate personality that seems to relish fear and destruction. This is very unfortunate. We must find a healer.”

The Forge Master's eyebrow raises, “You were hurt?”

Sudo shakes his head, “To pacify the Monster.”

People are thrown aside like rag-dolls as the Monster charges heedless through them, nostrils flaring wide and teeth clenched. He sprints across the cave, bounding back towards the black door in a zigzagging line, stones and rocks flung up in the wake of his pounding feet. Two of the castle butlers stand in his path and ready their long-tine forks and butter knives, but the Monster vanishes and reappears behind them still running. The butlers fall away, the sides of their livery scattering in a twin bloom of black shredded fabric.

He throws himself against the tall black door, starting with a bent-knee kick and then following up with punches and scratches and more kicks that rain against the door even as he remains airborne. Black ripples spread and clash, one for each strike and sometimes appearing even when no strike could be seen. The repellent field follows each strike, lightning energy forcing his fists and feet back as the Monster flurries against the door, but the Monster seems to be getting faster with each blow and the energy slower. His feet land against the ground with a thud, his back arches and his head drops down as he pours everything he has against the door. The ripples come faster, pressing the keyholes against the door's sides, as the Monster's arms become a blur.

The Forge Master watches from afar, leaning against a stalagmite, “Damn. Is this Monster stronger than the old man normally?”

Sudo laughs, “No. Thankfully.” He sits cross-legged on the ground, pulling his wooden stump in, “But only from lack of focus. The Monster is more vicious, more reckless and perhaps more dangerous.” Several butlers step from the shadows around and he gives a terse command, “Find a skilled healer among the citizens.” The butlers are gone even before the Forge Master turns his head to look. Sudo smiles at him, “Now we wait and see how long your door lasts.”

The lightning sparks and crackles in a tempest that covers the entire door. Red cracks appear in the energy field, a spiderweb of lines that grow wider and more complex. The Monster grunts as it digs blistered fingers in and pulls back, peeling the magic off like a wet coat and compacting the raw energy between its palms. The many swimming keyholes have vanished and the ripples are gone; the void black door remains, though looking more solid than before and with a single, unmoving, ordinary keyhole in the very center about four helms up. The Monster throws its arms high, waving its pressed palms around like a child after catching a frog, and then the Monster brings its palms down and opens them. A lightning bolt rests in the center of the Monster's open hand, coiling and sparking but otherwise placid; the Monster brings the bolt up to its face, sniffs it twice, and then bites down on one end.

The Forge Master gapes, “Is he trying to eat that broken spell? He's mad!”

Sudo sighs, “The Monster does not retain intellect, only an animal-like instinct.” The Monster shakes and rattles from the pulses of electricity buzzing through its body, but then throws the entire lightning bolt inside its mouth and clamps down. It chews through the shocks and then swallows the lightning with a gulp; the Monster gives a toothy smile and licks its lips. Sudo's eyes narrow, “Er, should that have been possible?” The Forge Master shakes his head, speechless.

A Small Folk man wearing a white vest runs out from the crowds, followed by a tall human figure in a long silver traveling cloak. Klax points above the Monster and shouts, “Light, please - .” The Monster is now standing before Klax, one hand pressed against his mouth to silence him, as the Monster reaches its other hand back around to grasp the back of his head.

The slim human tackles the Monster before it can snap Klax's neck. This startles but doesn't do much to move the sturdy Monster, who throws Klax aside and grabs the figure around their neck. With its now free other hand the Monster takes hold of the struggling human's cloak and rips it off. Under the cloak is Bell, who flails trying to pull the cloak back around herself.

A clump of rock smashes against the Monster's back and it turns to face a gaunt and stooping man in a black coat. Despite looking near death the old man cackles with exuberance, wielding a shovel to scoop out another chunk of stone from the floor and fling it at the Monster like a shot from a cannon. The Monster backhands the flying boulder, sending it flying in another direction, and then throws Bell at the old man like a javelin.

“Light please catch Bell!” Klax is back up and pointing toward the Monster. A bubble pops into place around Bell as the Monster releases her. She tumbles through the air, slower than she would have but still enough to knock the gaunt man over. He continues cackling on the ground as a few other frail men and women in black coats inch forward to pull the two back. The Monster turns back to the waiting Klax; the burly man takes in a deep sniff of Bell's cloak as the Small Folk facing him shouts, “Sir, I will heal you. Do not fight me!” The Monster grins and licks its lips again.

“Give back the cloak!” The Monster swings its upper body down low as Bell again throws herself at it from behind. She almost passes over the large man's back but the Monster presses its palms against the ground and bucks with its arms and legs, slamming into Bell and sending her flying upwards. Klax watches her and is moving his hand to point at her when the Monster appears at his side and grabs the Small Folk by the extending arm. With something like a discus throw it hurtles Klax towards Bell and the two collide in the air, just as the Monster appears above them and kicks. Small Folk and human hit the ground together with a thump and the Monster harrumphs as it drifts down like a twirling leaf, gnawing on Bell's silver cloak like a piece of tough jerky.

Sudo grunts and tries to stand, “It seems I must step forward. Please join the Count sir Forge Master and guard him in case the fight goes out of my control.”

The Forge Master shakes his head and holds up a hand to stop Sudo. The reptile scales spread to cover his entire body like a skin of red chain armor. “Allow me to go this time.”

Sudo settles back on the ground with a shrug, “You are welcome to, but at this point only a healer can help the old man regain his senses. And I have tried killing the Monster, but somehow it refuses to die no matter how many knives I stick in it.” The Forge Master pauses, a hammer made of flame in one hand. He looks back as Sudo comments, “I have heard you once worshiped the gods sir Forge Master. Can you heal?”

The Forge Master sighs, “Not any more.” The flame hammer disappears and he resumes walking. “But I can take a beating.”

The Monster turns its head as the Forge Master approaches, sniffing and taking the slobbery cloak out of its mouth. Its brow furrows and the Monster snorts, tearing the cloak in half and throwing the pieces away as it stomps its feet and snarls.

The red-scaled Small Folk grins, “Don't like me? I wonder why that is.” The Monster flashes away, then appears behind the Forge Master and punches him in the middle of his back. The Forge Master turns around as the Monster crumples to the ground, rolling around and licking its hand. “Was that a punch or a poke? Sorry, I can't tell when armored.”

The Monster stops rolling and kicks up at the Small Folk's midsection. The Forge Master is lifted just off his feet, another kick sends him several helms up in the air, and the Monster flips up in to a handstand as it kicks a third time and sends the Forge Master flying. The Small Folk laughs as wings of fire sprout from his back and flap against the air, holding him aloft. When the Monster appears above his head to kick the Forge Master, he crosses his arms and takes the strike against them along with a powerful beat of his wings. The Monster tumbles backwards and hits the ceiling, clinging there to a stalactite as it screeches at the Forge Master.

“Light please grant to your servant fortitude in this task.” Klax stands as a thin cloak of light wraps around his body. The Monster stops screeching and turns its attention toward Klax, but the Forge Master flies up and grabs the Monster by the leg, pulling the large man away from the ceiling with great flaps of his burning wings. Klax spreads an open palm toward the ceiling, “Light please send a proxy of your star.”

The large globe appears high in the air, bringing daylight illumination to the cavern. The Monster struggles as the Forge Master flies him closer, whipping its upper body back and forth to get free, but the burly Small Folk's grasp is like iron. Klax presses his hands together in prayer, “Light your star has been seen by the faithful. Now please bring healing to all that you behold!” The light from the floating globe grows brighter but not harsher; the light is warm and kind. All around the room people come forward and raise their hands and faces toward the light, though some like the men and women in black coats turn away. Bell sits up, but her gaze stays to the ground.

The Forge Master holds the Monster up directly in front of the globe and the Monster howls, scratching at its eyes and wrapping its hands around its head. But then the howls and scratching cease, and the Monster falls limp. After another moment the Drunk opens his eyes and looks around, then stares up at the Forge Master.

“Hullo lad. Sorry but can ya let me down now?” The Forge Master nods once and descends, placing the Drunk down on the dirt floor where the burly man stretches out and rests against the cool ground. “Thanks lad. I think I'll take a quick nap before my third try. I'll have that door licked soon enough.” He chuckles and turns to face the Forge Master, who has returned to the ground as his wings and scales diminish, “By the by lad, excellent craftsmanship. I doubt the like has been seen in hundreds of years.”

The Forge Master gives a small bow and turns away, walking back towards the Count and Sudo. The Drunk closes his eyes and rests his head in his arms. Klax sits next to Bell, sweat dripping from his brow, but he soon turns and places a hand on her shoulder. All around the room, the citizens of Goldenburg move toward the center of the room where they can stand below the globe of light.
High War - Chapter 16.1

Not so very long ago, perhaps twenty years, a band of heroes arose to save the kingdom. A Prince of Flame was sending his soldiers through the planar boundaries, and the young King and Queen were busy enough just stemming the tide, so they hired the land's greatest heroes: a burly Small Folk priest of Light, a tall human teen with a certain roguish air, and several others. But try as they might, raid after raid, the heroes could not reach the Prince of Flame through his many walls and soldiers and barriers. So they consulted with a great wizard living in the Plane of Air, and he made them a bargain: If they should give up their names forever, the wizard would give them power enough to defeat the Prince of Flame. They agreed. And when the Prince of Flame lay before them most of their great power faded as if it were never there. But they were scorned by the gods for consorting with devils, and soon scattered to the winds on their own journeys. And no one could remember their names.

This is a part of my High War project, a story about people in a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.


Next: soon ...

She's homeless. You wouldn't know it. She greets the morning with a smile from the backseat of her mother's station wagon between a murmuring older brother and twitchy younger sister. Her mother - who took the three kids and rusting car one perfect morning and who will never go back - sleeps upright behind the wheel. Their clothes are divided between the front passenger seat and trunk by what needs washing.

She's homeless. You wouldn't know it. Her smile shines in the mirror as she flosses her upright teeth and brushes her perfect hair in the bathroom of a Starbucks whose employees never ask questions. At night the family will receive dinner at a shelter and drive to a different Starbucks before parking behind a church.

She's homeless. You wouldn't know it. Sitting upright in class she lifts her hand with a smile. She keeps perfect grades in every subject and has friends in every clique. Her brown bag lunch was filled behind the counter by her school's free lunch program. She uses the locker room showers after PE and carries a hotel shampoo bottle in her purse.

She's homeless. She doesn't want you to know so she makes her smile perfect.
Character - She Is Homeless
Is it a story? A free-verse poem? Someone was all, “Write some flash fiction! I dare ya!” and I was all, “Yeah, I'll make it exactly 200 words and there won't be any linguistic frills whatever that means!” And then I wasn't going to do it but a story on NPR about the nation's unseen homeless schoolchildren inspired me. The story ended with this girl who sounded ultra-smart talking about how difficult it was to do homework in the backseat of her mother's station wagon because her writing was all wobbly. And I thought to myself, “She's homeless, but I bet she would do anything she can not to let anyone at her school know.” From that story I got most of the details I needed such as using public restrooms to get ready in the morning and sleeping in the back seat between her siblings, and then I made her perfect because only in fiction can someone be perfect.
A cheer goes up when Cid walks out past the hedge, Slakoth trailing a ways behind her. Zack – the solo cheerer – Clay and Hiero stand by the mailbox, while Lana paces up and down the sidewalk with her fists clenched. Kinder is riding on Cotton's back and wearing a tiny pink hat over the scar on its head. The rest of the street is houses and apartment complexes, some fenced and others open to the street. A small lot filled with hovercars in all stages of repair sits at the corner, near the turn to a busier part of town with shops and small office buildings.

Zack runs past Cid to pick the lagging Slakoth up under his arm and then dashes back to their spot outside the yard, “Slakoth buddy! That was either super brave or awesomely crazy, Rae said we weren't allowed to go inside! Where did you go? What did you do? Did you get anything good to eat? I'm kidding, I'm kidding!”

“Hey, what did daddy say?” Cid shoos at the whole group, pushing them away with wide sweeping motions of her arms, “Get your asses of daddy's lawn! That extends to the sidewalk, now move it.”

Clay chuckles as he backs away, “Yer daddy? I recall ya saying a sister was all the family ya had.”

“Demon Trainer Cid doesn't recall promising absolute honesty in her personal details.” Cid looks around, her gaze resting on Lana for a moment before moving onward, “Where is the interloper Rae? I have words to speak with her. She should not have brought you all to my evil lair, nor demanded you speak with daddy.”

Throwing Slakoth around his shoulders like a backpack, Zack laughs, “She was right! Rae told us you'd be angry with her, but maybe that's a pretty easy guess to make? She said she shouldn't be here when you came out, so Rae - .”

Clay cuts him off with a hand, “I reckon ya don't need to say where she went boy.” Tipping his hat low to cover his eyes he smiles at Cid, “Not for someone who keeps things from us.”

“Then I'll find her myself. There's four or so places she could be in this hole, at most.” Cid stomps off down the sidewalk, passing Lana and shaking her fist at the sky, “She will rue the day she exposed the location of Demon Trainer Cid's secret lair! I will enact vengeance tenfold today, and then one-hundred-fold when I have time to plan how! One hundred and ten times will she be shamed and brought low!” Cid stops and sighs, then turns back to the others who are standing still watching her, “Are you coming? I'll show you around town or whatever.”

“Oh!” Zack laughs, then starts running in place, “This was fun and all, but me and my buddy Slakoth are going back to get the free climbing gear we saw, we're going to become the best tandem climbers ever!”

Clay shakes his head and turns to Zack, “First you'll be going to a Pokemart for Pokeballs. Cotton can't carry yer pink girly everywhere.” Zack sighs and stops before running away, and Clay turns back to Cid, “And I reckon I'd better get myself to a Pokecenter, there's a charging station there I've got ta visit.” Clay looks off in to the distance, one hand rubbing his chin, “If you'd only point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it.”

Lana grabs Hiero by the arm and pulls him closer to Cid, “We'll go with you. My name's Lana, nice to meet you, I guess you could say Hiero and I are together now.” She pets Hiero on the head and he looks away with his cheeks bright red, and then Lana turns back to Cid. “I'm sorry I got angry with your dad, the way that Rae girl explained it he wasn't letting you leave.”

“Yeah, he wasn't. I was grounded.” Cid turns her face and mumbles, “One thousand fold, I swear!”

Hiero shrugs, “At least you have parents that worry about you, you should be happy to have parents who will ground you.”

Cid holds up one finger, “Parent. Demon Trainer Cid has one parent.” Lana and Hiero only look at her, but Cid turns away, “Now follow me. We're all going to the mall, so I'll take you.”

The wide plaza would be perfect for late night events. The space is half park of cobblestone grounds and greenery overflowing the low planters, half shopping center with people and Pokemon milling around carrying bags and visiting the various open-fronted retail outlets. Each business shows its wares as close to the entrances as possible, everything from clothes and Pokemon accessories, to fast food treats and specialty snacks, to Pokemon-themed party games and entertainment, to rare and expensive Trainer tools and devices. An ordinary Pokecenter sits at one corner of the large square, opposite an ordinary Pokemart.

A brick bell tower dominates the skyline from within the square, and hanging off the side of the tower facing the crowds is a giant Poketron. The display shows a Kingdra performing some kind of purple energy wave move, with the Pokemon centered in the shot and the wave encircling it like a dim portal opening to another world. After a moment the screen changes to a new image, that of a Hitmontop spin-kicking a Pinap tree as one of the large berries from the tree is about to land at the center of the Pokemon's rotation. Many people in the crowd below lift up their Poketools as if to take a picture of the screen.

Cid leads the others through an archway at the side of the plaza, “Behold, Conon's mall!” She throws out an arm to encompass the place, her cloak swirling. “Truly a site fit to be called a den of pride and avarice! Demon Trainer Cid has spent much time in this place and surrounded by its people, luxuriating in the filth of their sin.” Lana waves goodbye and pulls the unresisting Hiero toward an outdoor cafe, as Zack's Poketool beeps in his pocket. When he pulls it out, the message New App Discovered is on the screen. Clay looks over his shoulder as the app installs, and Cid sighs as she points to the Poketool, “Don't go downloading the mall's official Snap-Snap App, there's a much better one in the local marketplace.”

“I didn't!” Zack looks up at Cid, his eyes wide, “I swear, I didn't mean to take this! This just keeps happening to me! Am I stealing? I don't want to steal, I don't!”

“What, no.” Cid shakes her head, “The app is free, they broadcast it to anyone who enters the mall. Do you have Auto-Install New Apps selected in the options?” Zack shrugs in response, looking back to the screen as the app approaches the end of its install. “Your Poketool can be hacked if you have that option turned on, even Demon Trainer Cid is aware of this.”

Clay takes out his silent Poketool device and looks down at the screen, “I reckon Rider didn't have that Auto-Install thing on. Where's that marketplace ya mentioned? Should I get the app?”

Zack's Poketool dings and displays the message Install Complete. He cheers, “It's done! So what does it do? How do I use it? Show me!” His Poketool's screen changes to static, with a sidebar on both sides advertising the day's deal for Potions at the Pokemart.

With one black nail-polish finger aimed up at the Poketron – where the current image is now a Magnemite using Mirror Image and Flash to create a shining star pattern in the air – Cid explains, “Point the camera at the screen and press whatever you would normally to take a picture. That will give the photo up there a vote, and you receive a copy on your Poketool. The snapper with the most votes at the end of the day wins a prize, like a free item or cash.”

Zack's eyes go wide and he holds his Poketool up toward the display above. Pointed in the right direction now, the static is replaced with a closeup image of the photo. Zack begins pressing the camera button over and over, as fast as he can. Cid shakes her head with a roll of her eyes.

“A snapper?” Clay glances at Cid, “I've heard a that before, a Pokemon Snapper takes pictures a wild Pokemon for newspapers an journals.”

“You can only give each picture one vote, and the snapper gets the prize, not you.” Zack stops taking pictures and grins Mareepishly, and Cid looks up at Clay. “Professional Snappers get paid to do that, but Demon Trainer Cid looks down on those miserable fools practicing their art for only cold pitiful cash. Stunt Snapping is where the fame and fortune is, that's where you find a wild Pokemon doing something interesting and take a picture.”

“What? That sounds easy!” Zack looks over his shoulder at Slakoth, “Next time I'll take pictures of the awesome battles you have and we'll sell them for a million Pokedollars! Can you imagine what we could do with that much money?” Slakoth smiles, a little drool dripping from its mouth.

Cid shakes her head, “You can't just take a picture of a battle, everyone will know the difference. True Snapper experts take pictures of Pokemon in their natural environments, with only the minimum of provocation and never during a battle.”

Clay chuckles, “Ya seem ta know an awful lot about snappers girl. Ya planning on being a Pokemon Snapper yerself someday?”

She glares at him, “Demon Trainer Cid will become a Demon Trainer! I will bring pain and misery to this lying world!” She looks down at the ground, her voice low, “There will be no time for artistic endeavors when I have become the great destroyer of civilization.” Clay snorts with a small grin, and Zack takes a few quick steps away from Cid.

“I have money now!” After blurting that out, Zack picks Kinder up off Cotton's back and places the Pokemon down, then takes the small hat off its head and offers the accessory to Clay. “Here's your hat back.”

“It was my sister's hat.” Clay pushes the hat back, looking away. “Keep it, yer pink girly seems ta like it.”

Zack's eyes shine, “Thanks!” He gives the hat back to Kinder, who hops up and down before placing the hat back where it was. “Now I'm going to spend all my money here so I don't get tempted to spend it later on stuff I don't need. I'll see you guys when I'm done!” With that Zack leads his two Pokemon away toward the Pokemart.

Checking on the outdoor cafe, Clay spots Lana enjoying a small personal pizza and Hiero sipping at a Berry shake through a straw. The boy doesn't need to say much as the girl eats, and from here the two look content. Clay glances down at Cid, whose eyes are watching the screen above as it changes to show a Weepingbell with its mouth wrapped around the head of a flailing Cubone.

“All right girl. So what changed yer mind?” Cid looks back up at him, and Clay sighs. “Hiero said ya agreed. Was it because a Hiero asking?”

“Oh, that.” Cid looks away with a shrug, “Demon Trainer Cid has long needed to be gone from this sinful small town, to explore her world and be free of parental persecution. I learned yesterday that your group would be helpful to me, so I told daddy what he wanted to hear and left home at last.”

Clay tips back his hat and scratches his head, “But we tried some four or five times an kept getting no.”

“That was daddy. You can't lie to him, he takes only the craziest things seriously. Hiero was the only one of you to ask Demon Trainer Cid forthrightly.” Cid checks on Hiero, “Perhaps that is how he gained a hanger-on since last I saw him. It can't be his looks.”

“Yeah, we don't know how that happened.” Clay takes a deep breath and starts toward the Pokecenter, Cid following a step behind him like a shadow.

Lana finishes the last piece of pizza on her plate and sighs, leaning back, “Delectable. These small pizzerias each have a unique taste based on their skill and local ingredients. I think I will enjoy traveling with your group to other places and sampling the national variety.”

“As long as we don't do that again, I don't want to ever do that again.” Lana raises an eyebrow at him, and Hiero frowns, “You know what I mean, you must be aware of my meaning.”

She grins, “You can't take your sweet words back now Hiero. You said you would do anything for me. Anything. I'll admit our first time was a bit messier than intended, but practice will make perfect.”

“That man, he - !” Hiero stops himself and then whispers, “You can't go around doing that to every Gym leader in the nation, it won't go easily for you if you target the nation's best Trainers. There will be an investigation, someone will be coming after you.” He puts his head in his hands, shaking a little. “And they'll be after me, I'm a target for it too.”

Lana leans over and pats him on the head, “Aw, is my little accomplice upset? You were small time before but now you're in the big leagues, where we play for keeps. But don't worry so much. If I look out for you and you look out for me, we two will be fine.”

“I can't have a criminal record Lana, they don't let you fight in the Grand Leogre Tournament if you have a criminal record.” Lana growls at him and Hiero waves his hands back and forth, “And they won't let me battle your Elite Four either, I just want to face opponents like that.”

“Don't be silly Hiero.” She takes his hands and presses them against the table. He blushes and she grins, “Who do you think will be in my Elite Four if all goes well? The strong opponents will come to you.” His mouth falls open but she shuts it for him. “No one can stop you if you become powerful. They won't be able to do anything, so why not do whatever it takes?”

The screen above changes to a Glameow blowing a kiss toward the viewer, and Hiero sighs before mumbling, “I will become powerful, I know I can be strong. But this is dangerous for me, I'm not suited to be under this kind of stress.”

“Is anyone?” Lana smiles and leans close, “The answer is no. But the human mind is adaptable, and they who push themselves can get used to anything. You will either sink or swim Hiero, and since I'm right here beside you I'll be keeping you afloat.” She lets go of him and leans back in her chair, “I see potential in you. You have drive and ambition, as strong perhaps as Zack and much more focused. Don't forget that.”

“Okay Lana, I will. I'll try to remember that, or I'll keep it in mind.” He sighs, reaching out for his Berry shake. Lana grabs the cup from his hands. “Lana, hey!”

She takes a sip and then hands it back, grinning as he blushes and brings the straw to his lips, “That's a promise Hiero, and sealed with a kiss.”
Pokemon: the Game - Chapter 19
So apparently 4 AM on a Sunday is my new upload time. I am very displeased with myself. But anyway … the Conon Mall! Small towns often have these really cool places that visitors don't know about but all the locals do. Kids always know where these places are (whether or not they are allowed in) and you could spend your entire day just hanging out there because they are where things are happening in the town. They probably don't even compare with the same kind of place in a big city, but the city has ten such places and the small town has one so it almost feels bigger and more important. You can expect everything that happens outside of them to relate in some way to things happening or that happened inside them, and over time the place almost becomes a representative microcosm of the town. Conon is a city of photographers – or Snappers, which of course comes from the old Pokemon Snap game – and so their primary destination is a mall that caters to their desire to have their photos be seen. Next time, more mall shenanigans!

This is part of my Risen Saga, a Pokémon story with blood and violence and occasionally even death. There may also be nudity, sexual themes, strong language and material that is almost certainly ideologically sensitive ... but I rarely put up the mature content filter because I don't want to restrict anyone from reading this story. If you feel strongly that I should for a specific piece, please say so, I would appreciate that! Oh, and if you go here you can check out a map I made of the Leogre Region, complete with routes and location information. Pokémon belongs to the Pokémon people and not to me; thank goodness, I'd probably do this to it.


Next ... soon?
The opaque white smoke is taking some time to disperse, until a thin whirling tunnel of air reaches down from the sky above. The funnel spout drags the cloud up and away to reveal Teal and Zara standing as they had been, a short distance apart in the middle of the Rift Circle. Teal has dropped the faceplate of her helm, Zarah has her eyes covered with an arm and Scarfenstein is poking two corners up above her shoulders. Above them Kem has his hands throttling the air, his smile a slim curve.

Surrounding the two now are a large squad of Beast-men, twenty in all. The hirsute creatures stand or hunch or crouch in various stances, but their bone armor plates are translucent and half formed and below that their body-covering fur looks slick and bedraggled. The ground is covered in a thick layer of ooze like the wet slime of birth, as if the Beast-men all hatched fully formed but still weak from the fragmented orb which is turning to dust on the ground. Low growls can be heard from within their mob but the sound is thin and mewling. Their shoulders are slumped, and as they break off bone daggers the cracking sounds brittle.

Teal turns to her companion, “The smoke has cleared Zarah, you can - .”

“No shit.” Zarah uncovers her eyes and takes Scarfenstein in one hand as she grabs her Cleaver in the other. She readies both in front of her, watching the Beast-men, “Scarfen told me.”

“Scarfen? – never mind.” Teal turns her back on Zarah and lifts her shield arm, “We should fight back to back, with defense in mind for a possible long battle.”

Zarah laughs and darts away, raising her sword up in preparation to slice through a Beast-man leaning against a column for support, “As if! These guys look - !”

“Lambs.” He remains high away atop the stone column, but both women freeze when Kem's voice rings out above them, light and sweet like golden honey. “You must not harm your fellow living creatures my sweet lambs, not under my benevolent eye.” His left eye is indeed open and shining with a warm light, a match to his gleaming smile. When Zarah swings her sword, her movements are slower than usual and the Beast-man dodges out of the way with plenty of time. “Thus will you reach paradise.”

The Beast-men stumble and stagger in to action, swarming forward to surround Teal and Zarah. They slash and stab with their bone daggers; Zarah twists away from or uses her wide sword to block each attack, but Teal is too slow in positioning her shield and several bone daggers shatter against her armor. One comes in through a gap between her shoulder plates, and Teal grunts in pain as the lucky Beast-man pulls back a bloody knife with a howl.

Zarah swings her Cleaver in a circle, scattering Beast-men like fleeing birds and giving her room to step toward the column she nearly hit before, “Who said anything about harming your pathetic soldiers? I'm here to break things!” Zarah plants her feet firm on the ground and performs a two-handed horizontal slash against the column. A red skein of magical armor around the column shatters and her sword goes through in the blink of an eye. The column wobbles, turns and then topples to crush a slow pair of Beast-men. “For mom!”

“If you won't fight with me, you can at least help.” Teal thrusts the head of her earth maul against the stomach plate of the nearest Beast-man, causing the creature to double over in pain. After a follow-up strike with her arm shield to the head of the same Beast-man it collapses on the ground. Teal adds as an afterthought, “Use non-lethal attacks if possible. I want to see what happens if - .”

Kem mutters, “No, no, no!” His black pit of a right eye is open now, and with each 'no' from his mouth a wave of darkness bursts somewhere below him. The waves send Teal and Zarah and plenty of the Beast-men flying in random directions. “Your blood will flow from a thousand cuts! My thirst will be quenched one way or another!” On hitting the ground Zarah rolls and jumps to her feet, as Teal stands up with a warding swing of her earth maul.

Most of the Beast-men turn and crouch down, bunching the muscles in their legs before leaping up atop the three remaining and unoccupied columns. With three or four hairy creatures on each one, some clinging to the side by an arm and others perched on the top, this leaves the six Beast-men that were closest to Teal and Zarah remaining on the ground; they surround the two women and begin spinning around them like wolves encircling a meal. Meanwhile the Beast-men above pull back their bone daggers and throw, sending a flurry of the knives down all at once.

Dropping her Cleaver and flipping Scarfenstein at the face of a Beast-man in front of her, Zarah vanishes. She reappears several helms away, a bone knife held between each finger. Two bone daggers clatter harmless against Teal's armor, and one hits the leg of a Beast-man sniffing around for Zarah. The injured creature cries out and falls over, holding its leg, as the Beast-man with Scarfenstein wrapped around its face collapses next to it. Zarah grins and flexes her arms, “Who wants a spike to the face? Come and get it!”

Teal stomps her boot against the ooze-covered ground and a small bump of crystal pops up below the  foot of a Beast-men circling around her. The creature stumbles back and gets tangled with the Beast-man behind, and Teal swings her earth maul to strike the third Beast-man in the center of its chest. The bone-plated creature falls over holding its midsection, reacting as though her strike cracked several internal ribs. Teal meanwhile brings her hand up to shade her eyes and mutters, “Reinforcements?” In the far distance of the plaza, a Beast-man wearing a giant backpack and carrying a heavy crossbow is running towards them.

With a wry chuckle Kem stands on his high perch, “You lambs really are too much for these young ones.” His glowing left eye is open as he faces the palm of his right hand toward the ground, “Rise my kin. Wake and greet the day, feed on these lambs and grow strong.” The ooze covering the ground bubbles and then begins to swirl around.

At a distance of some twenty helms away, the Beast-man with the crossbow aims and fires. The heavy bolt splits in the air, one shaft a cherry red and the other a plum purple. The red half hits Teal's shield and the purple half hits the third Beast-man that was circling Zarah, bowling the creature over. The two shafts glow and a red aura covers Teal, and the Beast-man with the crossbow hollers in grunting words, “Did it work?” Its voice is thick and gravelly but just understandable.

The herd of Beast-men atop the columns roar their anger and break off new bone daggers, then leap as one toward Teal and Zarah like a murder of descending crows. The half-human still holding their daggers from before smiles, her arms moving in a flurry as she throws each dagger with quick flicks of her wrists. The eight bone knives each find a home in the skull of a leaping Beast-man, and so eight of the creatures fall to the ground. The other three leaping Beast-men were going for Teal and she readies her shield in an attempt to catch the strike of at least one of them. Her red-aura covered arm moves up in a blur, perhaps faster than she was ready for because she stops halfway.

Firing its crossbow again, the distant Beast-man hits Teal with a bolt that transfers a crackling lightning field to her armor. The descending Beast-men and their bone daggers bounce off the electric field, the energy causing their fur to stand on end. All three fall prone, so that Teal is now surrounded by the last five enemy Beast-men, all tangled together or on the ground. She shouts a command to the earth, “Skewer!” and strikes the nearest prone Beast-man with her earth maul. A spike of stone juts up from the ground and through the Beast-man's chest, and then all around her more spikes pop up within a growing circle. The last five Beast-men, except the strange distant one, all end up impaled on the earth spikes.

Checking around herself, Zarah smiles to find no more Beast-men. Most of them have changed back into animals by now, but a few remain as Beast-men. Zarah runs and picks up Scarfenstein and her Cleaver along the way to the next column, slashing up at it with another heavy strike, “For Jorg!” The column slides back toward her and falls; Zarah leaps out of the way and the column hits the center of the swirling ooze with a dull thud. Then the column rises up a little before rolling away, as the ooze flows toward the center and collects in a growing mound.

With high-pitched maniacal laughter and his dark eye open, Kem throws his arms up to the sky, “Rise my kin! Rise and feed! Rise and conquer!” More dark explosions burst below him, this time after each 'rise' and with more precision than before, throwing Teal and Zarah and the Beast-man bodies back away from the quivering hill of translucent goo. A single white orb of an eye forms in the center as the smooth-skinned monster grows to double the size of a tall human, its base contracting to match its growth. Kem crows, “Do you not tremble at the sight of it lambs? I call them Magic Enhanced Killers! Fall to your knees in awe of my magnificent MEKs!”

All across the monstrous MEK's body, small swirls appear and solidify to become flat rings with empty holes in their middles. Segmented and rope-like chains then emerge from each aperture, formed from small sections of hard goo ranging in size from a human finger to a whole hand and connected by soft flexible joints. These long tentacles wave about in all directions, some hanging low like drooping hair while others feel their way up and away to a maximum length of about fourteen helms.

Teal is climbing to her feet again and the MEK's central eye focuses on her. As if she can tell she is being watched, Teal looks up just before two of the long tentacles reach out toward her, twirling around each other before they press together and pound against her armor. She almost falls backwards, but now the tentacles are reaching up for her throat; they latch around her neck and pull tight, holding her upright but also dragging her closer. Teal fights against the pull, her shield arm trying to loosen the hold but the other arm holding her earth maul hanging at her side.

“Miss Teal!” The Beast-man's voice is still gravelly when it calls out again, but then its form shifts to become Rolf in his human form and traveling cloak. The Shape-shifter aims his crossbow at her back and shouts, “This will help!” He whispers something unheard to his crossbow and pulls the trigger; the crossbow twangs with its usual recoil but nothing comes out. Teal also jerks forward as if hit, but then raises her maul with revitalized strength and bashes against the tentacles holding her. One comes loose and retracts, but the other remains.

Zarah laughs and holds up a psyhic knife, “Those big eyeball inside things? I know how to kill those dumb things!” She throws the spectral blue knife and it flies true, passing through the ooze skin to pierce the MEK's eye. The many tentacles twitch and quiver, then swirl about in a storm of whipping appendages. Zarah, who was about to run closer, backs away as she considers her next move. Scarfenstein wraps closer to her neck, almost hiding itself under her black cloak.

Ignoring the appearance of Rolf, the MEK and even the tentacle still wrapped around her, Teal looks up at Kem and shouts, “So you admit it! You are the one who did this to my children!” She swings her maul in his direction with all her might, and when the maul head reaches the right point the earthen head detaches and flies through the air toward Kem like a small boulder, but her aim is off and the boulder is only on course to go by his right side. His left arm becomes a sword again, splitting the boulder in two as it passes him.

His hand is back to normal even before he replies, “Silly lamb, you asked if I was responsible for their abduction! I gave that task to the Green Chief, but it was my White branch which transformed your children into my lovely MEKs.” His black eye closes and his light eye opens, with his voice changing to match, “Now sweet kin of mine, you are stronger than this! Become strong I say, take strength from my voice!”

The MEK calms down and an aura of silvery light covers its skin and tentacles. The long arm grabbing Teal pulls taut again, trying to drag her closer as its joints flex and bulge. And even as she is pulled one helm's length toward the MEK and then another, the sections wrapped around her neck extrude many tiny fibers that dig in around her armor to pierce her skin like mosquito needles. Teal slumps again as strength is sapped from her. Rolf fires his crossbow and this time a bolt emerges, which thunks down in the ground a few steps behind Teal; a line of red energy springs from the back end of the bolt and attaches to Teal's armor, holding her from being brought closer to the MEK.

And even with this going on, the MEK's eye has turned to focus on Zarah. A swarm of tentacles reach out for her, some lifting high before they crash down, others combining for a direct blow. Zarah dances around the attacks, striking the tentacles with her sword a few times and cutting them with ease, but more tentacles emerge from the solid rings. Zarah spins around a combined attack and brings her in Cleaver with the same spin, striking the MEK's side. Her sword slows down traveling through the thick gooey body, but does reach the central eye and crack it.

As Zarah struggles to pull her Cleaver out, Rolf feeds a long chain of bolts to his crossbow, “Let me help Miss Teal! I will end this creature threatening ye!” He points the crossbow at his other hand and squeezes the trigger; bolt after bolt emerges, but pass through a small rift that opens in the palm of his hand. A cloud of similar rifts open around the MEK and bolts fire at it from every direction, passing through many of the solid rings and jamming up the tentacle holes.

The MEK quivers and shakes again, its tentacles swinging around in a frenzy of pain, but then it calms down and with one giant heave contracts to slam its innards against the ground. Cracks and fissures open all around as a countless number of the MEK's grasping tentacles surge up from below the group's feet. They completely blanket Teal and Zarah with their numbers, along with the many animal Beast-men corpses, and even reach Rolf to wrap around his legs. Rolf holds out a hand, his eyes wide, “Miss Teal!” The strength-sapping fibers emerge again and drink from the trapped party, leaving the MEK looking fully revitalized as the cracks in its eye disappear.

Grasping for the sky, Teal's arms emerge from confinement and then push down the tentacles wrapped around her, freeing her upper body. She turns and shakes her maul handle at Rolf, “I do not need your help Rolf!” His human-like face falls and her expression softens in response, “But – thank your for returning. I did not think you would after you left at the Temple.”

Rolf shrugs, smiling despite their predicament, “Of course I returned. Why would I not Miss Teal?”

Kem cackles above, “You should not have my lovestruck lamb!” His black eye is open and he points a finger at each of the party in turn, “You will die at the arms of my viscious MEK!” A black wave bursts behind Rolf, knocking him over. “Your blood will flow in the gutter!” Another black wave buffets against Teal. “Your life will cease and I will ferry you to the afterlife!” This wave strikes Zarah, but she is too restrained to be thrown.

The tentacles flex and bulge again, dragging Teal and Rolf closer to the MEK by a few helms. Zarah and Scarfenstein are close enough to be pulled inside its transluscent skin, where frost and then solid ice begins to creep across Zarah's body even as her cloak forms up as black armor. The MEK ejects her sword and it thuds against the ground.

Rolf points his crossbow toward the MEK and sighs, “I do not think I can kill this thing Miss Teal.” He fires and the bolt strikes against the monster's rubbery skin; the bolt flashes yellow but does nothing more. “But I will keep ye from being swallowed for as long as I have bolts. Each will push the monster backwards when hit by the next, and so - .”

“That's not a good plan Rolf.” Teal sighs and points at Kem with her red crystal arm, who is chortling as he floats above them, “I have little doubt that he will stop – wait.” Teal stares at her crystal hand, then looks at Rolf, “You said you recognized this arm. What did you say it belonged to?”

“I did recognize it Miss Teal, a fire elemental.” Rolf frowns, “A strange species native to the inhospitable plane of Fire. Why?” Teal only grins back at him as her crystal hand glows. A skin of fire flares up around the hand, then spreads along her arm and covers her entire body. Rolf's eyes go wide as the flames burn away the tentacles surrounding Teal, and she stands as a humanoid creature formed entirely of the red crystal. “Miss Teal? How did ye do that?”

Teal laughs, her voice coming out thin and breathless, “I don't fully know!” A sphere of flame covers her hand, and without pause she charges the MEK. Her footsteps burn away the tentacles carpeting the ground and she punches the MEK, her crystal fist puncturing its side with a blaze of fire. Inside she opens her hand, no longer burning now, and grabs the ice-covered Zarah, just as the yellow flashing bolt glows bright. A red and yellow explosion slams the MEK and throws it backwards, releasing Zarah as Teal keeps a hold on the half-human. Holding Zarah close, Teal melts the ice around her. The thawed Zarah drops to her knees, but then grabs her Cleaver from where it lays.

“So you can wild shape lamb?” Kem spins in the air to lay on his stomach, bringing his hands up to support his chin as his glowing eye glimmers down at her, “But such a form! And I sense the work of He Who Damns somehow entwined. The poison will do its work if I do not.” His voice rings out, all honey and sweetness, “Rejoice my kin! You are healed of your illness!” And even as an inky black substance had begun to spread inside the MEK from where Teal struck it, the infection disappears without a trace.

The MEK shakes and tosses its tentacles around, quivering with anger. The tentacles shoot out like a wide volley of arrows, raining down upon Teal as one giant slam. She raises her left arm and a shield of white-hot flame appears, burning the tentacles to cinders before they can touch her. The MEK quivers and shakes again, but now starts backing away from Teal as if frightened.

The black armor becomes a cloak again and Zarah stands unflinching beside Teal under the rain of ash, “That ice-box thing is mine Teal. It signed for its own death.” Her voice is cold and she hefts her Cleaver resolutely. “I call it, so back off now.”

Teal nods and, turning to Rolf, points up at Kem, “Is there a way you can help my hit him at range Rolf?”

“That is a matter of pure simplicity Miss Teal.” Rolf aims his crossbow up at Kem, the many sights and dials spinning to lock on. He pulls the trigger and another yellow bolt fires; Kem smiles and slips to the side, but the bolt snags on his trailing cloak. A yellow bubble expands outward and encloses Kem, causing his eyebrows to raise in surprise.

Zarah vanishes. A second later she leaps up from behind the MEK, coming out of its shadow, and on the downward fall she brings her Cleaver through the MEK's body from top to bottom. With a sigh she turns around and sits, “Nothing gets to eat me.” Zarah spits as the MEK flops into two pieces behind her, the central eye cracking down the middle as it rolls away. Scarfenstein slips out from within her cloak to shiver in her lap, and Zarah adds, “And you hurt Scarfenstein.”

A ball of fire grows within Teal's upward facing palm, fluctuating wildly as it grows brighter and larger. She hefts it and shouts to Kem, “Any last words, Demigod of the White?” He only smiles, both eyes closed as he sits cross-legged in the air. “No? In the name of the Queen's Paladins, I enact justice.” Teal throws the fireball and it bulges outward as it flies toward Kem, exploding in a brilliant firestorm around him.

The storm above sends down another tunnel of wind, roiling a section of sky as the heavy winds battle against the raging flames. When both are gone Kem remains, smiling down at Teal, “I will allow you to have your small justice pretty lamb.” He pinches out a small spark smoking in his white cloak and then shrugs, “Next time I will not be so considerate. Farewell lambs.” And without any words or gestures he fades away like a white mist.

Rolf turns to Teal, “Um. Did we win Miss Teal?”  Zarah gives him a thumbs up as she flops down on her back, and Teal returns to her normal form before picking up her maul handle. Standing over the white MEK core, it cracks open to reveal a young girl with cold blue flowers growing in her hair.

Teal picks up Tress and carries the child against her chest away from the Rift Circle, “It's enough of a win for me.” Behind her Zarah is slicing through the remaining columns, bringing the Circle to complete ruin. Animal corpses litter the ground, though one Beast-man body remains.

As Rolf follows Teal and Zarah runs to catch up, the largest War Vine yet grows from the center of the city behind them and blooms with a immense flower that covers the sky. More fog rains down and surges behind as they escape the city.
High War - Chapter 15.3

Now that was a chapter I had to work for! This is actually how far one campaign got before ending due to outside circumstances (although the next chapter or two is based on events from the other attempt and so I'll still be in re-telling mode) which means pretty soon I'll be venturing in to completely new territory, telling the story that I wanted to get out but found myself frustrated in achieving. It only gets crazier from here, and one of my reasons for writing this story was the hope that those people I played with will read it. And yes, crab monsters are boys and tentacle monsters are girls.

Also, today's Type-B O-MEK is something I had some help designing, and so I'd like to thank :icondarkeangel: for that help. He designs and draws mecha and so I asked him for some mecha design advice, and he even made some very cool illustrations of the O series which I will share if anyone wants to see them. Once again thank you :icondarkeangel: and everybody go check out his page!

This is a part of my High War project, a story about people in a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.



The fat man sticks a pudgy finger through the window blinds, rattling them. Bringing one watery blue eye close he checks the tall front hedge with the practiced eye of a peeper, then pulls out his finger and turns back to the kitchen table where Cid is ignoring him with ease. The girl lays sagged back against her chair, staring at the tile ceiling.

“Your friend isn't out there any more Matty.” He waddles back to the stove, where a caramel-brown sludge simmers. “You going to tell me yet where you met her and why she followed you home?” Stirring the contents of the pot, he checks on the girl still saying and doing nothing behind him. “Matty! If I told you once I told you a thousand times! The Gov watches strangers and the people they go home with.”

Cid sighs, “Don't be dumb daddy. The Gov doesn't watch anyone.”

“Oh they don't?” The fat man chuckles, glaring down at the cooking. “Sure they don't. Just like the Insect type isn't a lie promoted by Big Ag.” He stirs the pot, the swirls a little too hard, “You can't believe everything the Gov tells you Matty. You have to be smart. I know you're smart.”

“Daddy!” Cid bangs a hand on the table, looking at him now, “I will burn your vegetable garden and salt the earth it grew upon if you persist in speaking about Big Ag, the Gov or any of it! It will be a swift and brutal murder with zero mercy!”

The fat man flinches, his shoulders falling, “Matty dear, don't threaten my vegetable garden.”

She continues, her voice going shrill, “And I told you to call me Cid! I am Demon Trainer Cid! My name will be feared for generations!” The fat man hunches over his cooking with a snort. Jigg-O bounces in to the kitchen and hops up on the chair beside Cid, puffing up and allowing her to put an arm on its head and lean on the pink Pokemon in what is almost a hug. “You remember my name Jigg-O, I know you do. My name will be feared.”

A series of three loud knocks comes at the door, and the fat man perks up. After giving the pot one last stir he waddles over to the front door and peers through the eyehole, then jumps back. “There's no one there! The Invisibles have come for me!”

Cid sighs, “Or someone knocked and then ran away.”

A voice drifts in from the outside, “Sir! I'm out here! May I speak with you?” Cid turns in her chair and looks over, as the fat man jumps again before pressing his eye against the door.

“I do not see you!” The fat man dabs at his sweating forehead with a handkerchief. “Do you represent the Tiny People? Are you an agent of the Roving Mirrors? Are you a user of or have you ever been exposed to a weird science ray?”

The voice outside takes a moment to respond, “Um, what? Please sir, I don't understand. I don't think I've been exposed to weird anything, except for today when I met a psychic and he – oh, but that wasn't science! Anyway, can we talk? Just for like a minute, and I'm definitely not anyone strange!”

“Not strange?” The fat man's eyes narrow, “That's exactly what a follower of the Blind Cabal would say. What color is my front door?”

“Um, sort of purple red?”

The fat man pauses, then nods, “Close enough.” He undoes a chain connecting the door to the wall, along with several other locks, and opens the door enough to poke his head out.

On the small front stoop outside, below the height of the peep hole, Zack waits in disguise. Bushy white cotton covers his eyes and mouth like an old man's eyebrows and beard, and he wears a white lab coat that is a little long on him. He holds his Poketool under one arm and Slakoth hangs from his shoulder. His free hand extends to shake, “Hello sir. I am the distinguished scientist Doctor Readsalot and this is my buddy Slakoth.”

The fat man's eyes narrow and he asks, “A doctor for corporate interests or the good kind?”

“Oh the good kind!”

The fat man nods, then smiles and opens the door wider so he can wrap Zack's hand in his meaty right mitt, “How ya doing doc. I'm Donny Graeper, nice to meet ya.”

Zack nods, “The pleasure is mine sir, and I'll get right to the point. I need the help of a Trainer with a,” he checks his Poketool, “Igglybuff, of the rare Demon type. This is for important research and studies, so is there any Trainer living at this address with such a Pokemon?”

Donny blinks, then turns and shouts back at Cid, “Matty! This funny little doc is talking about your crazy stuff. Do you want to talk to him?” Slakoth drops from Zack's shoulder when Donny is looking away and slips in through the open door.

Cid shouts back, “I don't know what you're talking about, I don't have crazy stuff! Leave me alone!”

Donny nods and turns back to Zack, “She don't want to talk to you doc. Get your ass off my lawn.” He slams the door in Zack's face. Grumbling under his breath, Donny returns to the stove and resumes stirring. After a silence he asks, “Matty, is that demon thing really real? I wouldn't have thought a distinguished scientist would know about it.”

Cid sighs, “There's proof daddy, that Professor who disappeared made a video proving them. Get with the times already.”

“Huh.” Donny shrugs, “Maybe I'd better research the subject a bit, see what's been said by trusted reporters and independent sources.”

“Nobody but you trusts those crazies daddy.” She leans back in her chair again to stare up at the ceiling, “And I do not wish for you to perform research. You always come to the wrong conclusions.”

“Matty, I do not - .” An angry knocking is heard and Donny growls as he marches to the door again, “Better not be that doc, I don't want to get my shotgun down.” Opening the door he sees Lana standing outside and his eyebrows raise, “What?”

She puts her hands on her hips and snarls, “Are you keeping a woman here? I promote the rights of all women seeking to escape the bonds of male oppressors and so I ask, nay demand that Cid be allowed to leave these premises. When can I expect your unconditional surrender?”

Donny rolls his eyes, “You sound like my ex-wife. Has militant feminism ever gotten you anywhere with anyone? I'd wager not, because attacking people isn't how you start any kind of useful dialogue. My daughters come and go as they please, and now I demand you get your ass off my lawn.” He slams the door closed and walks away, running a hand across his balding head. “You're still grounded Matty.” Cid groans and slumps back down in her chair. “And you'd better not be involved with any strange people. I don't want you ending up like your momma.”

“Demon Trainer Cid will destroy the institution that dares hold momma!” Cid shakes her fist at the ceiling, “And together we will wreck vengeance on the world that opposed her!”

“Matty, momma won't,” Donny sighs and looks up at the ceiling for guidance, “momma did something bad, you know that. She has to live at the asylum for her own good.”

Cid crosses her arms, “You won't even let me visit her! Demon Trainer Cid wants to,” she glares even harder at the wall, her arms locked together as wetness drips down her cheek, “I want to see momma!”

Donny grimaces and returns to the stove, where he gives the pot one more stir before turning off the heat. He checks Cid, who is sulking at the kitchen table, then Donny waddles over to the adjoining living room and settles back in a reclining easy chair. Slakoth is draped across the chair's footrest and for a moment the fat man stares at the lazy Pokemon before asking, “Where did you come from?” Slakoth responds by raising its clawed hand and waving at him. Donny shrugs. “Must have left the door open. You're not getting any food, but you can take it easy if you want.” Slakoth's waving hand becomes a thumb's up, then flops back down.

A knock comes at the door just as Donny is settling in to his chair. His face puckers with a sour expression and he calls out, “Who is it?”

“Yo, yo yo! My name's Cole Kidd and I'm here to say, open the door and let Cid come play!” Slakoth slaps a clawed hand against its face, but Donny grumbles and stands from his spot to go open the door. When he does, Zack is outside wearing mirrored shades along with Hiero's jacket worn inside out and a backwards Trainer cap. Zack smiles and grins, “Yo yo! Me and some other cool kids are planning a track and field competition, and we need Cid to participate! It would be twice as cool with her there! Don't you want Cid to be cool like me?”

Donny's eyes go wide, “Track and field?” He turns back to look at Cid, “Matty!” His voice is high and breathless, “I was the king of my pole vaulting club! You have to uphold the family title! I – I'll put your grounding on hold for this, if you just go jump your very best! Jump like no one ever has! This is your real test Matty, this is your cause!”

She sighs out loud, “Sounds boring. Demon Trainer Cid will not go to compete in their sporting event, I would rather wait for my grounding to be finished.”

Donny frowns, then turns back to Zack, “Sorry Kidd. Do you have a flier or anything for the event? Something that gives the location and starting time?” Zack shakes his head, and Donny sighs, “Tough beans. Get your ass off my lawn.” He slams the door in Zack's face and waddles back to his easy chair, grumbling the whole way.

“What happened to children upholding their family honor? When I was young we would fight tooth and nail to defend our parents, but these days it's all friendly Pokemon battles and leaving home far behind.” Donny settles back in his chair and glances at Slakoth, “You know what I mean fella? What's the world coming to when a father can't trust his children to look after the family legacy?” Slakoth spins its body around on the footrest, turning in a circle with the least amount of effort, and Donny nods. “Maybe you're right. Maybe life just goes in circles. You're pretty smart fella.”

“Demon Trainer Cid will destroy the circles and patterns when she destroys everything.” Cid pounds a fist against her inflated Igglybuff headrest, causing some of the passive pink Pokemon's air to puff out. “There won't be anyone left to make the same mistakes as their forefathers then.”

“I don't care if you make my mistakes Matty.” Donny looks up at the ceiling again, “I just want – I want you to have a purpose in your life. I want you to have a goal, a dream. When you're old enough to have a job, I want you to do something you love.”

“I do have a dream daddy.” Cid takes out her camera-phone and turns it in her hand, then checks the main screen. Only the time shows, with no missed messages or calls. “But I need time, I need to learn about it. When I do, you'll be as proud of me as you are - .”

A single loud knock comes at the door. Donny snorts, “Today must be my lucky day!” But even as he says it he gets up from his seat. He waddles over and opens the door with a gruff, “And who are you?”

“Clay sir. Junior Ranger Clay.” Standing alone with his his hat in his hands, Clay greets Donny with a humble nod, “I'm here today ta talk to ya about the newly formed Junior-Junior Ranger troop. Do ya have anyone who needs structure an guidance in their life? The Junior-Junior Rangers takes everyone, especially at risk youth who've been grounded and need something ta do. We travel around, help our community an teach these young people about - .”

Donny interrupts him, “Is this a Gov sponsored initiative?” Clay starts sweating, he wipes away the moisture but can't quite get himself to nod or shake his head. “Because the last I heard, the Rangers were propped up and supported by the Gov and that would make you a Gov agent. Get your Gov ass off my lawn.” He slams the door in Clay's face and spins around, returning to the living room with a big smile.

“I told him off. I told that Gov agent good. Donny Brines Graeper can't be intimidated, ha ha no he can't.” Donny looks down at Slakoth, “I'm doing pretty great today fella. There isn't anyone I can't shut the door on.” Slakoth sighs and nods in agreement. Donny tilts his head to the side, “And with all this excitement I'm feeling hungry.” He turns and heads in to the kitchen area, where he pulls out a spoon from a drawer and picks up the cooking pot by the wooden handle to start eating straight from the brown goop. Donny turns to Cid, “Want some Matty?”

“No thanks daddy,” she replies, eyes closed and looking half asleep. “Demon Trainer Cid will not partake of your disturbingly delicious Berry gruel today, I'm not hungry.”

Donny shrugs, “You snooze you lose Matty.” Waddling back to the living room he sits down with the pot in one hand and the spoon in the other, “Now I just wish I could reach the radio.” Slakoth looks around and then reaches out with one long foot to hit the power button on a large radio below the room's TV, and a soft jazz starts to play. “Hey, thanks fella. You're pretty smart.” Slakoth waves off the compliment with one claw.

A loud knocking is heard and Donny sighs, “Well isn't that just perfect, I can't even sit down to eat without being interrupted.” Getting up he places the spoon in the pot and walks over, opening the door with his free hand.

Zack is outside, wearing Clay's hat tipped low over his eyes and trying to spin the lasso Styler, “Hey there! I'm the wealthy and powerful Rancher Rick Richardson and I'm here because - .”

Donny slams the door in his face and grumbles, “Gov agents and rich tycoons are everywhere today.”

Zack's mournful voice can be heard outside as he walks away, “Has anyone seen my buddy?”

Sitting down and relaxing back in his easy chair, Donny wonders aloud, “Maybe the Trinity Kindred have put some weird hit out on me, some order to busy me until their secret aims are met ... if that's it, I might be winning their game. Ha, nobody beats Donny Brines Graeper.”

“Daddy, there's no such group. And do you know how Demon Trainer Cid knows this?” Cid gives him a second to speak, then answers her own question, “Because you're the one saying they exist.” Donny snorts and eats his Berry goop. Cid hesitates before asking, “Daddy? I'm thinking I should - .”

A series of three identical, polite knocks comes at the door. Donny sighs, “Matty, open the door and see who it is. I'm tired of greeting all these people.” Cid nods and slouches her way over to the door, opening it to find Hiero on the front stoop.

He blinks several times to see Cid staring back at him, then ask, “Would you like to go on a Pokemon journey with us? The others all want you to go on a Pokemon journey with them, Rae is especially sure you should, actually she says you have to go.”

Cid shrugs and starts to close the door again, then stops, “All of you? Is everyone here?” She looks past him, “I thought I heard that Ranger guy earlier, Demon Trainer Cid would never forget the voice of her only worthy foe.” Hiero nods, and Cid nods with him. “Get your ass off daddy's lawn. I'll consider it.” And she closes the door in his face.

Going to another room, Cid returns after a minute wearing her heavy robe and a traveling pack. Donny takes one look at her and scowls, “Matty, I said you're grounded until - .”

“Daddy, I'm sorry for leaving without telling you and not calling before.” She returns Jigg-O and places the Pokeball at her side. “But there's nothing to do here and I was bored. Demon Trainer Cid needs to go out and see the world before she goes mad dreaming of the fire and brimstone that should by all rights engulf everything I see. I'm leaving whether you say I can or not, but maybe this time I'll call every now and then. Deal?”

Donny chuckles and looks to Slakoth, “What do you think fella? She sound sincere?” After a moment to consider Slakoth nods, and Donny grins. “You are pretty smart fella. If you think so, I agree.” He looks back to Cid as she swirls the cloak around herself, “Don't do anything too dangerous. Eat healthy, get enough sleep and have fun. Find your dream and tell me all about it.” Cid opens the door and walks outside without looking back, and Slakoth lopes after her. As the door shuts, Donny sighs, “Don't forget about me Matty.”
Pokemon: the Game - Chapter 18

I got to have some fun with this chapter coming up with all the plans that the group would use to get Cid to join them, but the most surprising part to me was how much Cid's character got fleshed out. To me the premise of the chapter was simple, the group tries to convince her dad to let her go with a bunch of crazy plans but in the end she convinces him herself. But of course that meant Cid and Donny were talking in the quiet moments between, and they starting talking about the things that mattered to them. Donny talked about his conspiracy theories, Cid got to bring up her mom, somebody finally told Lana off and Slakoth saved the day. Why does Zack go through so many disguises and characters? Because the guy who played him was an actor. What is Cid's actual name? Matilda Sydney Graeper. What is my favorite part? Donny recreating the Pokemon theme song!

This is part of my Risen Saga, a Pokémon story with blood and violence and occasionally even death. There may also be nudity, sexual themes, strong language and material that is almost certainly ideologically sensitive ... but I rarely put up the mature content filter because I don't want to restrict anyone from reading this story. If you feel strongly that I should for a specific piece, please say so, I would appreciate that! Oh, and if you go here you can check out a map I made of the Leogre Region, complete with routes and location information. Pokémon belongs to the Pokémon people and not to me; thank goodness, I'd probably do this to it.





Ian Chisholm
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
I'm here to tell my stories; I love Anime and I'm aiming at a career writing animation scripts, but for now I'm a writer-in-training creating worlds and characters and telling stories with them for my amusement. I'm also searching for a visual artist to collaborate with; if you read something here that inspires you and if you can make them picture things, I would be interested in enlisting you for a creative partnership with the goal of collaborating on something awesome. And I'm here to learn; I want advice on how I can improve, I gladly work with, co-author or even take on requests to sharpen my writing skills, and if you'd like a critique or some proofreading you only have to ask.

I upload something new every week, typically on Friday afternoon, either part of an ongoing story I am writing or something more random like a character piece or personal opinion. I also try to do prose critiques every week, and I write webcomic reviews semi-regularly for my Journal section and collect them in archived compilations of ten. Occasionally I look back at something I have uploaded to DA (at minimum a year old) in the hopes that I can glean something useful from it, and when I'm bored I hang out in the Philosophy / Religion forum. Of course the busier my life gets, the less I can do.

My 2014 avatar is Trubl, my Pathfinder Cat Hengeyokai Gunslinger from an old ill-fated pirates campaign. You may notice the Internet's CatBeard under that Paint-job, but the sometimes-calico-cat sometimes-blunderbuss-wielding-dwarf is all mine. I need to get this guy in to High War!

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Bclement117 Featured By Owner 4 days ago
Have you checked out the next chapter yet?
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mydlas Featured By Owner Edited 4 days ago  Professional General Artist
thanks a lot for the comments, I came in and checked your gallery ^v^
decided to add you and give you a llama as well, you deserve it!
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GTS978 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome. =)
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seika Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you so much for the llama :3

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paa-kun Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
btw thanks for the fav <33
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