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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 moon shines down on the gap-toothed fort walls. A tent crouches in the moon-shade below them, a little light seeping out through the thin leather sides. White beetles the size of bucklers are fastened to the tent, as if to drink in the escaping light.

Laying atop a bedroll inside the tent, Zarah opens one eye. The sounds of someone panting and the occasional grunt come from behind her. She grimaces, clenches her fist, and does a silent stretch. “Are you two seriously doing it in the same fucking tent as me?” At last she turns to face the glow.

“None of yer wit now, Miss Zarah.” Back in his natural insectoid form, Rolf kneels in the middle of the tent. The shape-shifter is the source of the tent's glow. His back is to Zarah. “Miss Teal is concentrating.” Tress is asleep on a bedroll beside him.

The paladin sits with her back against the wall of the tent, stripped down to her padded armor. Sweat beads her brow and her breathing is labored. Her legs are crossed before her, and her bare arms rest on her knees.

Teal's hands and feet change their form in constant motion. They grow scales or hair or bare skin of every color and texture, only to have something else appear next. Teal watches every change. She grunts and the changes slow to a stop on one hand. Teal flexes the razor-clawed fingers of a black, silky paw. For a moment the paw remains, but then slips away.

“Light Damn.” Zarah crawls across the tent. “What are you doing?”

Teal sighs and looks up. Her hands and feet start changing faster. “I am trying to master this curse. It is not going well.”

“Ye are incorrect, Miss Teal.” Rolf leans forward and places a hand on Teal's shoulder. “Consider all that ye have learned so far, and in so short a time.”

She pushes his hand away, but nods. “I know that. But it is difficult to actually believe.” Her eyes narrow and she frowns. “That is the wrong word. To comprehend? Or digest. To know truly and fully.”

“To know in yer heart,” suggests Rolf.

Zarah smirks. “No, for ladies you say in their tits.”

Teal grunts. “Or wherever.” She closes her eyes and takes a breath. “Striger's The Soldier's Companion says that a soldier who waits for their heart to agree with their mind will fail the mission. But Striger is often too rigid for any situation other than full combat.” She opens her eyes to stare at Rolf. “What am I missing, Rolf? What is the next step to this training?”

Rolf leans back. “I do not know, Miss Teal.” He shrugs. “In my case, I cheat. I am able to shift my ether lines as easily as I shift my carapace. For humans it must be difficult to understand.”

“It is not difficult,” Teal mutters. “It is nigh-impossible.”

She resumes her meditative pose, hands on her knees and watching all four limbs. As she begins to breath in and out at a measured pace, the changes slow. Rolf nods and smiles.

Zarah stares at the rapid transformations. “Okay, I think I get it.” She points at Teal's hand. “You want that to stay as just one. But they keep changing.”

Teal inclines her head. “I wish to choose the form. I know now that such forms can aid me greatly, so I won't try to leave one or more human. Nor do I wish a form that hinders my normal activities. Previously I was able to prevent the fire elemental's hand from changing, and so it remained when the witching hour was complete. But trying to choose a particular form from among the many is difficult.”

She looks down and flexes her fingers, which morph from granite to obsidian flesh to silver fur as she watches. “It is like trying to catch a bird with only my hands. Every time I come close, the form I want flies away and does not return.”

“Huh. I thought only Father used those lines about nature stuff.” Zarah chuckles and leans over to rest on her elbow. “So your problem is speed. The changes happen too fast.”

Teal sighs and nods. Rolf turns to look at Zarah, who nods.

“Speed is my specialty. Father taught me everything he knows, and I figured out some stuff myself.” Zarah looks up at the roof of the tent. “I guess ... don't think about every step it will take to reach your destination. You have to see yourself there, and then let your body take you.”

She looks back down, and grins at Teal and Rolf's frowns. “It sounds crazy, but it works. Like with walking. You would trip over your own feet trying to control every single muscle you use to take even one tiny step. So you don't do that. You just move.”

Zarah stands and seems to vanish. She appears behind Teal, one finger to the back of her head. “The less I try to control what happens between, the faster I go. Instinct and intuition are faster than thoughts and decisions.” The half-human saunters out from behind Teal and returns to her original seat. “You looked like you were trying to control something. Stop that. See what you want, and let it happen.”

Rolf nods and turns back to Teal. “There is truth to her words, Miss Teal. I do not shape each new carapace detail by detail. To do so would be enormously difficult and a waste of my time. Instead I form it whole from some image in my mind, and only later do I fix the details. You should try this end-state visualization to see if it will help.”

After looking from one to the other, Teal closes her eyes. First the changes slow as her brow creases with effort. But then her forehead clears. Her right hand becomes a blur, the changes happening faster and faster. A black sphere of all colors and forms appears around the hand. Then the sphere shrinks down to a clawed hand with five webbed fingers and dusty-green scales.

Teal opens her eyes and stares at the hand. “I am not attempting to hold it from changing, and yet it does not change.”

Zarah grins. “You're not trying to control it. You're letting it be what you want.” She lays back against her bedroll and rolls over. “That's the problem with you authority types. Always trying to control things. It makes you slow.” She yawns. “Anyway, safe night.”

“And I no longer wish to hug you now.” Teal smiles and looks away. “Thank you for turning your point into a personal attack, Zarah.”

“Ye can always hug me, Miss Teal.” Rolf's mandibles stretch outward on the sides. “If ye wish to hug someone.”

Zarah snorts from her bedroll and curls around her stomach. Teal sighs and closes her eyes. The changes from her left hand speed up as her breathing slows. Rolf watches in silence, still with a slight smile.

The moon is not much farther in the sky when the ground begins to shake. A golden aura appears around the black orb set in the ground, and lines of the light extend outward in the cracks between the stones. The orb rotates like the head of a turning screw, and the outermost circle of stones spins with a loud groaning from below.

Teal, Rolf, and Zarah stumble from the tent. Standing at the entrance in his natural form, Rolf holds up his crossbow and aims it at the circle. Zarah drags her Cleaver along the ground, her eyes half-closed.

The gem on Teal's maul is lit from within, though the blue light doesn't reach very far in the darkness. Teal drops her bark helmet down over her head and steps forward, fully armored. After lifting her maul from its harness, she stares at the blue glow.

“What do you suppose this means?” She shows the maul to Rolf.

He frowns. “That looks to be a finding or detection enchantment, Miss Teal.” His eyes go wide and he gulps. “Perhaps undead detection?”

“Perhaps.” Teal stares at the gem. She glances at Rolf. “Defend Tress with your life.”

One by one the outermost stones lower into the ground. Zarah flips Scarfenstein over her shoulder as a cape. Rolf fiddles with the scopes of his crossbow. Teal presses the head of her maul against the ground and forms a hefty cube of rock.

The ground stops shaking, and the stone circle is silent. The orb in the center continues to shine like a golden coin reflecting sunlight. Then a shuffle like hundreds of footsteps comes from the hole in the ground. Heads emerge, covered in a thin layer of loose dirt.

The first wave of Goldenburg's citizens trudge up from the hole in the ground brandishing their swords and crossbows. Zarah drops her Cleaver and falls backward to start laughing. Rolf ducks inside the tent and exits again a moment later in his smiling human form.

Teal runs forward and almost bowls over the Drunk as he climbs up the wide, stone stairs. They stare at each other before embracing like an old man and his lost daughter. Teal releases him and steps away, turning her head back and forth. Her arms reach out and she hugs the air. Sorrow appears in her grasp, shimmering in and out of sight under the moon above.

Packed into the fort behind them, the citizens of Goldenburg celebrate under the stars. People dance and sing and chat and sneak off together, rich and poor alike. Fires and floating globes of light are everywhere, with priests in white robes nearby. The priests in black robes are gathered near the edge of the giant party, praying below the open sky.

The Count stands below an overhang of the fort walls. In his right hand is the winged spear, the small gem inset near the tip glowing blue. At his left shoulder stands Sudo, hands clasped behind his back.

Tress and the two tow-headed children lay in front of them, asleep on a blanket. Teal, Rolf, Zarah, and the Drunk stand spread out around the sides of the blanket. Klax bends over the children, twin halos around his hand and his head as he watches over them. Bell stands behind, wrapped in her silver cloak.

Teal stares down at the three children. “Klax, why will they not wake up?”

The Small Folk glances up at her with a small smile. “I believe they will eventually, Miss Teal. They appear to be extremely tired, both physically and mentally. I can only assume it is.” He looks back to the children. “An after effect.”

The paladin growls. “Tress is one of my charges, but the other two.” She closes one eye and shakes her head. “They are children of the Orphanarium's laundress. If she and her husband died in Burroughs, they have been made orphans as well. The Phoenix Army deserves nothing less than to be put down in its entirety for their crimes.”

The Count nods. “And what will you do now, Miss Teal? Vowing revenge is all well and good, but we need a plan.”

“I will travel to the Capital, by way of Karth and Riverside.” Teal glances away to look toward the horizon. “I will tell everything that I know to the Queen, and abide by her orders.”

“Good. The people of Goldenburg and I will accompany you.” The Count smiles. “If you will have us. And I can have someone look after these children for you. You will not have to worry about them in the slightest.”

Teal sighs and nods, staring down at the two girls and one boy again. Then she smirks. “Your old deal with me is finally done with. The Palace is no longer habitable, I assume.”

“True.” The Count nods. “But were you sleeping here when we arrived? As the Hallows Fort and Palace are connected by a tunnel, I consider them the same.”

Teal snorts but says nothing. The Count shrugs and smiles. Rolf stares at the Count and bites his lip.

Zarah frowns and turns to Sudo. “Father, my mission to protect Teal is complete. Now that she's with you all, she doesn't need me. I want to split away and go directly to Foe Hall on my own.”

Before Sudo can respond, Teal turns to Zarah. “The Army fort? Why?” Zarah only smiles. Teal shrugs. “Come with us then. The fastest way to get to any city is via Rift Circle, and Riverside is now the closest city with a Rift Circle.”

The half-human shakes her head. “Foe Hall and Riverside are about the same distance away. I've run both routes before.”

Teal blinks. “But the swamps will be slow traveling. We can hire a boat in Karth to get across Peace Lake, and there is a good road leading to Riverside on the other side.”

Zarah growls. “I'll do as I want, Teal!”

Sudo stares from one to the other with a half smile. “Daughter, I accept your decision. Your mission was completed to my expectations, and perhaps beyond. But if you are leaving, perhaps one of my agents should accompany you. When winter comes, the birds flock together.”

“May I be the one ta accompany ya, lass?” The Drunk grins at Zarah, then Sudo. “I'll look after her for ya. Traveling by boat never agrees with me anyway. Funnily enough though, I was once the cabin boy of a grand caravan a merchant ships. The seas were bigger back then, an the storms wilder, but I could nae feel them because our ships were bigger yet.”

Sorrow appears from the air as he steps below the overhang. “That is a lie, father.” His eyes flash black and he nods. “It was, because seas do not become larger or smaller.” He turns to the Drunk. “Father, tell me if I should travel with you and Miss Zarah, or with Miss Teal and the Count.”

The Drunk considers Zarah, and then turns back to Sorrow. “With the others, boy. I believe the lass an I will be running full tilt.”

Zarah grins and nods, and Sudo inclines his head. Sorrow blinks. The gray-skinned young man walks over to stand behind Teal. The black pickaxe hanging at his hip rustles against his leathers.

The Count raises his spear up and thumps the butt against the ground. “Then we are agreed on our plans. Please, everyone rest here for the night. In the morning we will set out.”

Teal nods. “Though if it's all the same to you, we will move our tent outside the Fort. It has become quite crowded anyway. Safe night.” She turns and marches away. Rolf and Sorrow follow her.

“Oh!” Zarah chuckles. “That deal.” She smirks at the Count. “You know she doesn't feel the same, right? You have zero chance of getting any with her.”

The Count sighs and turns away. Sudo pats him on the back and glares at Zarah, who runs after Teal with a wide grin. The Drunk sniffs at the air and frowns.

“Aye, the smell a disappointment in the night.” He nods his shaggy head at the Count. “You an me lad, we should visit a good bar or three when this is over. Ta.” The Drunk ambles away, lifting his flask from its pocket.
High War - Chapter 17.3

Almost but not quite late! And the conclusion of chapter 17! So begins the grand journey to the west for our heroes, Zarah to reunite with her husband as all war breaks loose, and Teal to seek guidance from the Dragons Queen. Does it feel epic yet? Heh, maybe it would if everyone would stop going on about their love interests. And you know I kinda like that.

This is a part of my High War project, a story set 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 ...

“This will be a one on one battle. Use as many Pokemon as you have. Winner takes half of the loser's Pokedollars.” The young woman is sitting in a harness that hangs down from the cliff edge above. Below her is a long drop to the canyon floor.

Zack steps out from a ledge to a harness opposite his opponent. Between them is a stretch of vertical climbing wall mixed with ledges. Several of the ledges have holes in the dirt wall large enough for an average sized Pokemon to walk inside. Cid and a herd of Scraggy watch from above, only their heads poking out over the edge of the canyon wall.

“Oh, and if you return a Pokemon that falls off, they are considered knocked out for the rest of the battle.” The other Trainer stares at Zack for a moment. “But otherwise, standard battle rules apply.”

His eyes on the ground far below, Zack nods. “I guess this is better than holding on to the wall while battling. My arms would fall off. It's not good to strain your muscles from doing the same thing for a long time. Say, does the harness of whoever loses fall to the ground? I don't see a net, but maybe it's really hard to see. I think I saw a TV show like that once.”

The Trainer shakes her head. “No, these harnesses are perfectly safe. There's no need for a net. Just don't leave it and your safety is assured.”

“Demon Trainer Cid will cut your harness if you are defeated!” Cid chortles and reaches out to flick the rope for Zack's harness. “Now you will have the motivation to win!”

Zack takes a deep gulp of air. “Oooookay! My name is Zack. I have my good buddy Slakoth and our new friend Kinder. Leeeeet's get this battle thing started!” He stares down at his two Pokeballs and mutters to himself. “Having two makes it a tough choice.”

“It's good to meet you, Zack. My name is Sayde and I'm a Pokeclimber. I have four Pokemon.” Sayde takes a Pokeball from her hip and calls out the Pokemon inside. “Go, Wall Climber!”

“Go on and let's see what you can do, Kinder!” Zack activates his Pokeball and snaps the other back to his side.

Chansey and a Sandshrew appear in a flash of light on two separate ledges. The Sandshrew scrapes its claws together. Kinder adjusts the tiny cowboy hat tied to her head. She looks around at the terrain and her predicament, then back to Zack. He shrugs.

“You can do it, Kinder! You just have to,” Zack punches the air. “Bam! Like that!”

Kinder turns to stare at the Sandshrew, then at Sayde. The Chansey wavers on the ledge as wind gusts through the canyons. She shakes her head. “Chan chas, ansey. Sea?”

The Pokeclimber frowns at Zack. “If you won't attack, I'll go first. Wall Climber, use Sand-Attack!”

The Sandshrew nods and runs on its ledge toward Kinder. The Pokemon scrapes its claws against the ground and leaps toward Kinder's ledge. In mid-air the Sandshrew twists around and flings the sand in its claws at Chansey. Kinder gets a large dose of the sand in her eyes, and she turns away with a whimper to wipe at them. The Sandshrew lands on her ledge in a crouch.

“Huh? Come on, Kinder!” Zack leans forward in his harness and grabs the ropes. “Are you okay?” Kinder doesn't answer him, her paws still against her eyes. Zack bites a corner of his lip. “Um, Kinder, I believe you can do this. Just tell me if you don't know what to do. I'm new at this too, but I do know a little about how battle works.” He clenches his fist. “You can fight like my buddy Slakoth! It's time to use his attention grabbing super cool Body Slam! Go ahead, it's not like he and I trademarked it.”

Sayde sighs. “Wall Climber, I don't know what he's doing, but use Poison Sting!”

The Sandshrew lopes forward. The middle claw on its right turns purple, and stabs into the defenseless Kinder's thick hide as she bawls into her paws. Her skin at the spot turns purple as well. The Sandshrew scurries backward after the attack, but Kinder does not retaliate.

“Hey, idiot!” Cid shouts at Zack from above. “Even Demon Trainer Cid knows to check her Pokedex in this situation. You must discover what moves a Pokemon knows and does not know.”

“Can't she use ordinary fighting moves?” Zack places Kinder's Pokeball in his lap and flips open his Poketool. He types in a few commands, and holds the Poketool up to scan Kinder. “Oh, neat! That app Lana showed me has all sorts of useful information! Oh no, you're hurt! I'm sorry, that's my fault. Kinder, use.” He stares at his Poketool screen and nods. “Refresh!”

“Wall Climber, use Scratch!”

The sandy brown Pokemon walks forward, swipes at Kinder, then stands and stares at her. She nods and gives a final sniff. Pressing her toes against the ground, Kinder raises her head to the sky. She shines for a moment, and the spot of purple disappears when the glow has gone, though her scratches and wounds remain.

“Way to go, Kinder!” Zack bounces up and down in his harness. He catches Kinder's Pokeball before it can fall out of his lap. “Your move thing worked like the app said! Okay, now.” He stares down at the Poketool screen. “Where's your … don't you know those moves like Awesome Punch and Mega Beam and Hyper Kick? Can't you even do a Football Tackle?”

Kinder shakes her head to every one. Zack bites his whole lower lip and stares at the screen. He nods.

“Tail Whip sounds like an attack. Go for it, Kinder!”

“He doesn't know what he's doing, Wall Climber.” Sayde shrugs and points at Kinder. “Use Scratch until his Pokemon faints.”

The Sandshrew circles Kinder, scratching the Chansey with its claws at every turn. She winces, but her rubbery skin bears the brunt of the attacks. The Sandshrew doesn't even try to attack with precision now, and the ground cracks a little from its wide swipes. Kinder twirls and whips the Sandshrew with her tail, and Zack cheers.

“Okay, that was good!” Zack glances down at his Poketool and his eyes widen. “But no damage? Um … Use Helping Hand, Kinder! I bet that will help, it's always good to give a helping hand.”

Sayde raises an eyebrow but says nothing. Cid shakes her head, and the Scraggy around her all start muttering to each other. “Scra crag. Raggy scrag. Sag craggy rag.”

Kinder's paw glows red, and she reaches out to hold Sandshrew's arm as the Pokemon swipes at her. The claws glow red and swing down to smash the ground. The ledge explodes. The Sandshrew tumbles out of the burst of sand and dirt and hurtles toward the canyon below, its arms and legs swinging, but the wall is too far away to grab. Sayde catches the falling Pokemon with a beam of light from its Pokeball. Kinder stands on the lip of the broken ledge and blinks several times.

Zack jumps up from his seat and yells, “Oooooh yeah!” With his arms up in the air and his eyes on the battle, he doesn't notice Kinder's Pokeball fall from his lap. “Way to go, Kinder! That's one down!” The Pokeball lands on a ledge below and rolls into a crevice.

“No way.” Sayde shakes her head and takes another Pokeball from her side. “Wow. There is no way I'm letting that happen again. Go, Sky Climber!”

A Spearow appears and flaps down to rest on a ledge above Kinder. The Chansey stares up at the Flying type and whimpers.

“Okay, Kinder, I understand. I'll bring out Slakoth so you can take a break!” Zack glances down at his lap. His eyes widen and he looks around for the missing Pokeball. “Uh-oh. Um … Kinder, use Tail Whip until I can do that!”

“Sky Climber, use Peck until it faints! Don't worry, it can't do anything dangerous.”

The Spearow flits from its ledge, darts down through the sky, and lands on Kinder's head. The Flying type starts drilling its beak against her head, poking the cowboy hat to shreds. Kinder cries out as the scar tissue on her head is assaulted. She bends low over her egg and snaps her tail from side to side. Each sharp whip-crack causes Spearow to shiver, but it doesn't stop attacking. Eventually the Tail Whips stop having any effect at all.

A Nuzleaf runs straight up the cliff wall, a Pokeball in its grasp. The woody brown Pokemon leaps outward, flips through the air to catch the hanging ropes of Zack's harness, and slides down. The Pokemon hands Zack the Pokeball.

Zack smiles and pats the Pokemon. “Hi there! Is that Kinder's Pokeball? Thank you! Hey, actually I could use some help in this battle. Would you want to?”

The Nuzleaf shakes its head and salutes Zack before falling backward. The Pokemon vanishes before it can hit the canyon floor.

Zack shrugs and turns back to the one-sided fight. “Come on back, Kinder! Go, Slakoth! It's a whole new battle now!”

“This calls for a change of tactics, Sky Climber.” Sayde nods. “Use Leer!”

Wobbling on her feet, wounded all over her body, Kinder sighs in relief as the light from the Pokeball captures her. Slakoth appears soon after on a different ledge. His eyes grow big as he takes in the precarious arena, and he turns back to Zack with tears in his eyes. Zack snaps both Pokeballs against his side and gives Slakoth a thumbs up.

Slakoth flops against the ground and lays there, crying big tears. The Spearow flies a tight circle in the air and stops to hover at eye level with Slakoth. The Flying type glares at him, its eyes glinting. Slakoth hides behind his paws.

“Oooookay! Slakoth, use your sleepy yawny battle ending move!” Zack stares down at his Poketool and smiles. “Use Yawn!”

“Sky Climber, that one's a physical attacker! Use Growl!”

The Spearow opens its beak and makes a warbling, grunting cry. Slakoth shakes, turns tail to lumber away, and enters the hole in the middle of his ledge. After a moment he pokes his head out from another hole higher in the wall and peers down at Spearow and the ground far below, still shivering.

“Awesome, Slakoth! You found a secret path that I bet few have traveled and lived to tell the tale! But now we have to fight!” Zack points at the Spearow. “That one pecked Kinder a lot. Return the favor with your earth-shaking, rock-breaking, everyone loves it Body Slam!”

Sayde crosses her arms. “It's sufficiently debuffed, Sky Climber. Use Peck!”

Slakoth emerges fully from the tunnel, his eyes wide. “Sla? Lakoth loth, thos.”

The Spearow flies up and straight for Slakoth like an arrow. “Row! Ear spea pear, ower esparo!”

The Flying type charges Slakoth, who raises an arm to swat the Spearow. Spearow's beak pierces the skin of Slakoth's forearm and Slakoth blinks as a tear forms at the corner of his eye. But he does not cry. Slakoth closes his eyes and frowns. His forearm swings around and slams the Spearow against the cliff wall. Spearow coughs as its eyes go blank. The rock face shatters behind the Flying type.

Sayde captures the fainted Spearow as it falls away from the cliff face. Zack gapes for a second, but then starts to cheer and wave his arms. Slakoth harrumphs, and places a paw over his forearm to cover the battle wound.

Above them all, Cid grins. “Using Tail Whip to bring your foe to a weakened state, and then defeating it with a single strong attack. Demon Trainer Cid could have done better, but she will clap for you all the same.” She claps her hands with a stern nod.

“Is that what I did?” Zack grins and rubs his hair. “I'll have to remember that!”

Sayde shakes her head. “You've done well to climb this far, Trainer Zack. But there's no way you can defeat my last two. Go, Diglett!” She aims the beam of light from her third Pokeball at the cliff, and a Diglett appears in a burst of dirt. The Ground type pops into the wall and back out again several times, moving through the dirt like a Horsea through water.

Zack pumps both fists. “This looks like a fast one, Slakoth buddy! Give it your all!” He looks down at his Poketool. “Oh! And tell your opponent to give it their all too, with Encore!”

“Diglett, use Sand-Attack!”

The Diglett appears from the ledge in front of Slakoth and spins around, throwing a spray of sand everywhere. Slakoth grunts as the sand enters his eyes, and he rolls around on the ledge. He stops and blinks his eyes. A few grits remain, but he can see. Slakoth sighs and opens his mouth as if to yawn, then stops and rolls over to lounge against the cliff wall.

“Nooooo!” Zack grabs his hair. “Slakoth buddy, come on! This is the time to be serious! Use Encore so your opponent will try their best and you'll become the fastest!”

“Diglett, try that new move you learned. Use Astonish!”

Slakoth nods. The shaggy Pokemon stands up and looks around, but the Diglett is gone. Slakoth inches toward the edge and peers down, but the Diglett isn't there either. Turning around to face the wall, he places his claws at his hips and tilts his head to the side. “Lak thoth?”

Diglett bursts from the wall as shadow duplicates emerge from its body. The shadows reach out toward Slakoth and each one forms a grinning face. They stop right in front of him and scream in a cacophony of shrill shrieks, their eyes swirling and their tongues wagging.

Slakoth blinks. He nods and brings his hands forward. With a big smile, he claps.

“That's right, Slakoth buddy!” Zack's smile is shaking. He grips the ropes of his harness with pale fingers. “That wasn't scary at all. I mean, who would be scared by something like that? Not me. Ha!” His hand shakes as he checks his Poketool. “Okay, now use Body Slam again!”

Diglett's shadow duplicates shrink away and retreat. The Ground type stares at Slakoth.

Sayde gasps. “How could the move have no effect? Diglett, quick, get away from it! Use Scratch!”

Diglet pops back into the wall, then out again from the same spot. It twirls around but does nothing else.

Slakoth walks over to lean against the cliff wall beside the Ground type. “Lak loth. Sla lat ko, koth slo slothak.” Slakoth shrugs.

“That's right, Slakoth buddy! Tell it not to use that weird move again!” Zack exhales and nods. “And I guess you can't use Body Slam from close range. So start using Scratch or Body Slam, whichever you can do!”

“Diglett, why?” Sayde stares at her Pokemon, then shakes her head. “Your opponent is debuffed, so use Scratch until it faints!”

Diglett dives into the dirt and is gone. Slakoth searches inside the tunnel and around the ledge, but the other Pokemon remains underground for several seconds. Then Diglett pops out of the ledge in front of him. The shadows emerge and grin at Slakoth, who grins back at them. Slakoth hops into the air and drops down on Diglett, passing through the shadows and slamming against Diglett. The ground breaks and they fall to a lower ledge. Diglett escapes into the dirt as Slakoth stands up.

Sayde frowns. “I didn't say to use Astonish again.” She pulls out a Poketool and starts tapping the screen. “Oh! That was Encore. Which means.” She sighs.

She holds out Diglett's Pokeball and waits for the Pokemon to emerge. When it does, the Ground type spins around until the beam of light grabs it. “Return, Diglett. Go, Scraggy!”

The herd of Scraggy on the cliff above all cheer as a smaller Scraggy appears in front of Slakoth. The two Pokemon's eyes meet. Scraggy glares at Slakoth, who smiles and reaches out a paw to shake. The Scraggy holds its loose skin in both hands and stomps toward its opponent. Slakoth's smile shakes and falls away.

Zack sighs. “Aw. Slakoth buddy, this guy doesn't look very fast. Use Yawn for a quick win!”

“It's a Normal type, Scraggy.” Sayde smiles. “You know what to do. I just wish it was a larger weight class.”

Scraggy nods. It twists around in a flash and brings its leg out to kick Slakoth's feet out from under him, bending the leg in and causing Slakoth to cry out. Slakoth falls over and hits the ground with a thud, his eyes wide and filled with painful tears.

Despite his pain, Slakoth opens his mouth and lets out a Yawn. Scraggy blinks and gives a small yawn too, its eyes drooping.

Zack shakes. “Are you okay, Slakoth buddy?” He glances down at his Poketool, which is beeping and flashing a red light at him. “Just hold on, buddy! I know what to do!”

He pulls a Potion out of his bag and stares at it, then at the vertical battlefield. After a resolute nod he stands in his harness, bends his knees, and leaps to the nearest ledge. Without looking at the potential drop, Zack starts running and jumping between ledges. A Magnezone floats out and through the canyons below him, ready to catch him should he fall.

Zack bends over Slakoth to apply the Potion. The shaggy Pokemon sighs with relief as the Potion is sprayed against its leg. Slakoth moves the leg around and pats Zack on the shoulder in thanks.

Sayde sighs. “So close. Should have used Leer more. Okay Scraggy, use Faint Attack!” She stares at Zack. “And Trainers should return to their positions. Most aren't crazy enough to use items on this field. It's why I battle here.”

The Scraggy yawns, but then vanishes. Zack scurries away as the Scraggy appears above Slakoth and stomps on his gut, causing Slakoth's head and legs to jerk up into the air. Slakoth is left gasping for air, but still conscious. Scraggy backs away and then falls over, pulling its loose skin up around its neck as it falls asleep.

Above, Cid laughs. The herd of Scraggy are silent.

Zack stares at the Scraggy. He smiles. “Oh yeah! Hey, Slakoth buddy, come on!” Zack motions for Slakoth to come help him. Wincing and limping, Slakoth does so. Together, they push the sleeping Scraggy over the ledge.

Sayde blinks. “No way.” She returns the falling Scraggy and looks down at her third Pokeball. “And Encore will still be affecting Diglett.” She closes her eyes. “I forfeit. You win.”
Pokemon: the Game - Chapter 24

Fight! And my favorite kind of fight, one with wacky terrain and different rules! I gave Zack a few lucky breaks here, but I also had some unfortunate things happen as well. I'm going to miss that tiny cowboy hat, but that means Zack will have to buy her a new one! And to be honest my plan was for Zack to lose, because he should be someone that wins and loses battles, but he actually won! And does anyone know who that Aerodactyl, Nuzleaf, and Magnezone were? The clues are all there, you don't even need to read the Risen to make a correct guess! And seriously, who would want to read the Risen? I went back and read a little last week to check my facts on something, and wow was it difficult. I had no idea how to paragraph back then.

This is part of my Risen Saga, a Pokémon story with blood and violence and occasionally even death. There may at some point 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

Stone towers rise to various broken heights, half-collapsed under their own weight, overgrown with ropes of ivy. The stout walls are breached in many places, the holes clean of rubble. Through the holes and a closed iron portcullis, some interior of the fort is visible. Grasses and shrubbery grow there, along with large mushrooms the color of a midnight sky.

Teal stares at the fort. “What is that?” She and Rolf turn to look at Zarah, who shrugs.

“A fort?” The half-human hefts her Cleaver. “An old fort?” She squints and frowns. “The Hallows Fort? Could be. Father said it was around here somewhere.”

Rolf laughs. “The Hallows Fort? That is a campfire story, nothing more.” He glances at the sky, where a full moon is rising opposite the orange sunset. The shape-shifter smiles at Teal. “Even so, best not to chance it. We can make our camp down the road a ways.”

Turning towards the fort, Teal approaches with Tress held close. Zarah snorts and follows after her.

Rolf holds out a hand. “Wait!” He takes a step forward, but goes no farther. “Miss Teal, what are ye doing?”

“This place will do.” Teal doesn't turn around. “I am tired. A child becomes heavy to carry for so long.” She approaches one of the larger gaps in the wall. The sides of the hole are smooth, as if sheared clean through, and she runs a gloved hand across the surface. “But go ahead, tell me that campfire story you mentioned.”

“Miss Teal,” Rolf groans. She disappears through the gap in the wall and he trudges toward the fort with a grimace. “It is safer with her. I am safer. I will be safe with Miss Teal.”

Zarah crouches down and vanishes. She appears inside a hole half way up the fort's wall and leans against the side. “Skeletons or zombies won't be a problem. If it's ghosts or wraiths, I'm out of here.”

Inside the fort is a large, open field. The walls and towers surround the space, a few platforms running along and under their tops. They look no more fortified than a wooden palisade, and several are propped up on large beams.

The center of the field is paved with a circle of black flagstone. Symbols have been inscribed upon each stone: daggers and shields, starbursts and moons, wavy lines and skulls. The stones themselves are arranged in concentric rings. Each layer is smaller than the last, and the very center is a black orb three-fourths buried in the ground.

“Hmm. Miss Teal, I do not trust that one bit,” Rolf mutters, glaring at the circle.

She and Rolf stand a few helms away from the outermost ring. Teal glances at him and shifts Tress to her other shoulder. “Yet there is no magic. It is a strange design, nothing more.”

The shape-shifter shakes his head and points down at the ground. “Not if the magic were buried, Miss Teal. The pictographs on them look purely decorational, but that stone would provide a natural block. I have the feeling that something is being concealed here.”

“It's just a big circle,” Zarah shouts from above and behind them. The half-human leans out from a high rampart to stare down. “Right? Like a big target on the ground. Maybe they were using it for target practice.”

“Now that ye mention it.” Rolf grunts. “If not for the walls the whole thing could be a big sundial. Perhaps the gnomon emerges from that sphere.” He sighs and pulls at the straps of his backpack. “What do ye think it looks like, Miss Teal?”

She stomps on the first flagstone and marches forward, her bark armor boots thudding against the stone. Rolf stands frozen, mouth open and eyes wide, his hands still on the straps of his backpack. Teal crosses the rings to their center and stares down.

“It doesn't look like anything.” She glances back at Rolf. “Although, I was going to say a practice mound for one versus ten drills. But I wouldn't want to stand atop this center point. The footing would be terrible.”

“Miss Teal!” Rolf throws his arms wide. He shouts, “What were ye thinking? Why would ye walk upon the stones? Anything could have happened. Ye could have been killed, or taken somewhere, or transfigured, or anything!” He takes a step forward, but remains off the flagstones.

Rolf jumps when Zarah laughs from behind his shoulder. “What are you scared for, shape-shifter?” She steps forward to stand beside him and crosses her arms. “You have a crush on Teal or something?”

The half-human blinks. She turns and stares at Rolf, smiling. “You chubby-chasing fucker. I bet you'd like to jump her bones.” Zarah chuckles and looks away. “Good. The bitch will loosen up if someone fucks her hard enough.”

With a soft cough, Teal walks off the stone circle and away from them. “Rolf, I believe you said you knew the story of this place.”

“I did, Miss Teal.” The shape-shifter smirks and whispers to Zarah, “Does that theory of yers relate to why ye are so loose-lipped, Miss Zarah?”

Rolf walks around the circle's edge, following Teal as she approaches the fort's wall. After a moment, Zarah snorts and dashes straight across the flagstones after them.

Her back against an intact section of stone wall, Teal sits with a sigh, holding Tress in her lap. Sitting down cross-legged near her, Rolf unclasps the handles of his backpack. Zarah flops down on Teal's other side.

Scarfenstein slips down from her head and wraps around her wrist. The half-human sighs and places her Cleaver in the grass. Sitting back on her heels, she pets the creature snuggling against her bare skin.

After a deep breath, Rolf nods. “So. The Hallows Fort. The legends diverge on whether people were buried here, or died here. Also on whether they were soldiers, or simple, peaceful folk. And in some they were massacred, while in others they committed some ritual of mass suicide.” He chuckles. “That is why the place has been spoken of so many times. Each version can be related to the worries of the teller.”

Zarah nods. “Father told me when people die, they walk to the Hallows Fort and enter their next life. I thought it was pretty dumb, especially if they had to walk from the other side of the world or something.” She glances back at the circle. “That thing's a doorway to the afterlife? I can believe it.”

Rolf shakes his head. “Actually, what most of the legends say is that the Hallows Fort is a doorway away from the Gray Lands, not toward them. In other words, this is a place of rebirth.”

“If it's a door, they can walk in or out.” The half-human stares at him and then smirks. “I'd rather they walked in and stayed there, but some people don't die easily.” She winces and strokes Scarfenstein.

“What do you mean, Rolf?” Teal reaches to move Tress's hair away from the girl's eyes. “Rebirth how?”

“Rebirth as in a magical rebirth of the body, Miss Teal. The legends agree that many people died, but they will be reborn here. That is why the place is called the Hallows Fort, it is a sacred place where the dead will someday rise.” The shape-shifter shivers. “Whether they rise as the living or as the undead is unknown.”

Easing Tress off her lap and on to the grass, Teal leans forward to stare at the circle. “This place. Can it really allow the dead to travel back to our plane?” She glances at Rolf. “Is that truly a possibility?”

His eyes close and Rolf rests his head against his pack. “Bringing the dead back to life is possible. I have heard that particularly powerful divine casters can do so, though I have not seen such for myself.” Teal nods and Zarah opens her mouth, but Rolf continues. “So it is possible that a location could be enchanted to do the same. But I find it unlikely.”

Rolf opens his eyes to stare back at Teal. “Where would the energy for such a spell come from?” He raises three fingers. “Perhaps from an ether cauldron buried below. But that energy would leak over time.” He drops a finger. “Perhaps from the enchanter, or more likely the enchanters. But that would be an immense and impractical drain on their resources.” Only one finger remains up. “Or from the target. But the dead are stripped of their energy in death.” He lowers his hand and sighs.

“In short, there is only one sensible method for those rare few casters able to bring the dead back to life. They would use the spell when needed, rather than enchant a location.” Rolf points back at the stone circle. “Perhaps the dead will indeed rise here. But only when something so apocalyptic has happened that the natural order of life and death becomes reversed.”

With a frown, Teal leans back against the wall. Her gaze comes to rest on Tress. Teal blinks. The vines woven in Tress's hair are planted into the ground, and the flowers are showing black spots amid their orange blooms. Teal grunts and reaches down to uproot the vines one by one. The ends have frayed and split into tiny roots.

Zarah's eyes are wide. “What the fuck. Is that kid's hair alive?”

Pulling Tress off the ground and back up into her lap, Teal snorts. “All hair is alive. That is why we must cut our hair. Tress is only different in that she needs trimming.”

Zarah stares at Teal before turning to Rolf, who nods.

“The people of Panoramio all have hair like that, Miss Zarah.” He smiles at her blank stare. “Do ye not travel much? Everywhere is unique, and some places are quite unique indeed.”

Zarah shakes her head and stares back at Tress. “Okay, but that's still fucked up. Those vines are eating that kid's head. Is she free?” The half-human glances at Teal. “Is she in control of her own body?”

Teal raises an eyebrow. “It's strange to hear concern coming from you. And yes, I do believe Tress has free will.” She looks down at the girl's hair. “I realize it would be hard to know for sure. But she and the vines seem to be separate entities. Tress is tired more often than a child of her age, so I believe they are only tied to her energy.”

“Directly to the ether lines,” Rolf adds. He shrugs when Teal and Zarah look at him. “The humans of Panoramio have studied them. Normal plants require nutrients and water from the ground to live, but the plants of that city only require a little magical energy.” Rolf points at Tress. “The child would have a slightly more difficult time becoming an arcane caster, but her connection to those plants will make her an excellent primal caster.”

“She can become anything she wishes.” Teal grimaces and looks down at her own  hands. “I will not allow her birthright to control her destiny.” She flexes the human skin, then sighs as she stares at the darkening sky.

“I traveled to Panoramio to pick Tress up.” Teal strokes the girl's hair, running her fingers through the flowers. They swivel to follow her hand. “Her father was one of the Head Gardeners there. Or he had been, until he started saying people should be governed by the plants of Panoramio. He gathered a few people to his way of seeing the world, but the majority of the populace viewed them as mentally disturbed. Which they were.”

“When no one else would listen to them, they staged a demonstration.” Teal closes her eyes. “They stuck their heads in the ground and stayed that way, with signs all around saying they would be the first. No one bothered to help them. They were officially declared dead after five days.” Teal opens her eyes and blinks several times. “Tress was eleven years old. No one in the city would take her.”

Zarah grunts and shakes her head. “Uh, that sounds like that guy was being controlled.” She pulls Scarfenstein from her wrist and hangs the red cloth over her shoulder. The scarf is a little larger and thicker now, and wraps across her body like a bandolier.

“I don't believe so.” Rolf smiles at Zarah. “Why should the plants cause him to die? Their symbiotic relationship would end. No, that man was someone who believed something silly would happen for him and his followers.” He glances at Teal. “Nothing did happen, correct?”

Teal nods. “Their hair didn't cause them to start giving orders and ruling over people. He and his followers became rooted in their holes, just like anyone from Panoramio would. Their bodies needed food and water to live, and neither they nor their hair could get it from the ground.”

“That is how our world is, Miss Teal.” Rolf leans forward and reaches out to pat Teal on the shoulder.  “People make mistakes and do stupid things and trust magic to save them. They believe magic is something fantastical and unexplainable.” He smirks. “It is not. Magic simply exists, like gravity. We can measure and study magic, even use it to our advantage, or we can allow it to kill us.”

He stands and opens a pocket of his backpack. “Miss Teal, I have a tent big enough for four if ye would like to make use of it.” Glancing around at the fort, Rolf sighs. “And if ye are sure this should be our camping spot.”

“Yes, Rolf.” Teal looks to the fort walls, and to the dirt road beyond. “We are less visible here, and the walls will provide extra protection if we are attacked.” Teal glances from Rolf to Zarah as she growls, “That means no fires or lights.”

Zarah laughs. “You think I'm scared of the dark or something?” She jumps to her feet and helps Rolf to pull a hefty bundle of fabric and poles from the pocket. “But sleeping on the ground is not my idea of a good time. Hey, merchant-mage. This had better be one of those magical tents with a house inside.”

“Tragically, it is of the mundane variety.” Rolf shrugs. “Do ye think I am made of geld?”

Teal watches the two from her spot against the wall. She sighs and smiles, crossing her hands over Tress in her lap.
High War - Chapter 17.2

Stories within stories. Just to recap, Zarah told a story about killing a guy who had shape-shifter body-doubles. Rolf told the story of the Hallows Fort. And Teal told the story of how Tress became an orphan. Did magic make those stories occur? Yes and no. Yes, because without magic they would be different. And no, because stories are universal. Real people use body-doubles to protect themselves. Real people form cults and believe strange things. And we'll see in the finale of this chapter what the Hallows Fort really is. This is what it means for a story to be fantasy, or for that matter sci-fi or alt-history or alt-reality. Magic just makes them a little different, but the story must be one that speaks to people.

This is a part of my High War project, a story set 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 trail dead-ends at a vertical cliff face. The wall is covered in small holes, the largest no wider than a human thumb on the surface, and narrowing to a point as they go deeper. In front of the wall stands a wooden signboard, adorned with a red arrow pointing skyward.

Zack glances at Cid, who is standing beside him. They are alone on the trail. Zack looks at the cliff face, then the sign, then back to the cliff face, and back to the sign. He nods, his eyes narrowing. “Do you think it means we - ?”

Cid cuts him off, “Of course it means we climb here! Demon Trainer Cid cannot believe you would have difficulty discerning the meaning of such an obvious symbol.”

“Oh!” He looks back to the sign and tilts his head to the side. “So I was thinking red means stop, like people should stop climbing here and go somewhere else.” He steps forward and runs a hand along the pockmarked surface. “Because its seems like lots of people have gone up this way.” One of the small holes collapses, raining dirt on his hand as Zack pulls away. “Maybe this cliff is too dangerous?”

Cid scowls. “Demon Trainer Cid is loath to admit she now understands your earlier confusion. Red can be the color of stopping, but it can also be the color of a Pokeball.” She pulls the ball from her side and sends out Jigg-O. The Igglybuff hops atop her head as Cid points to the sign. “A red arrow sign indicates a place of Pokeclimbing. Mountain Climber Kegger had them installed in various places to promote the activity, and thus his shoes.”

Zack's eyes light up as he looks down at his shoes. “His shoes! Oh wow oh wow oh wow the Spike Shoes! Stop making me think about them, because I get distracted remembering how awesome they are!” He bends his leg to stare at the shoe on his right foot. “Sooooo awesome!”

The shoes have hard, rubber soles covered in steel-tipped cleats. The toe is larger than for a normal shoe, rising to almost the same height as the ankle. Zack taps the side of his shoe, and a triangular spike – roughly an inch wide and three inches in length – emerges from the toe. He does the same for the other shoe and looks to Cid, who taps her feet together to make both spikes pop out.

Zack sighs with a grin. “I remember getting these shoes like it was yesterday.”

“It was yesterday!” Cid grunts and folds her arms. “If you had not spent so long on the practice wall, we would have been Pokeclimbing for real yesterday. But instead, Demon Trainer Cid was forced to endure hours of watching you and the quiet one reiterate that most simple of tasks.”

Her voice fades from Zack's hearing as he smiles up at the sky.

The curling mists part to reveal many pillars of stone rising from unseen depths. Atop the pillar's tips stand men and women of unequaled grace, balancing on a single finger or toe or heel. They do not shake or quaver as they wait in a meditative silence.

Two men with bare chests and wearing only workout shorts swing in from opposite directions. The taller of the two has his hair braided in ropey dreads, while the shorter (but no less muscular) has a roguish grin. They let go of the vines they swung in on, flip through the air, and land on two close pillars. Finding their point of equilibrium in an instant, they bump fists to produce a flash of brilliant light that burns away the remaining mists.

The taller of the two bobs his head and snaps his fingers. “Yo yo yo, my bro Zack! On that last climb you did not lack!”

The shorter (but no less rugged) man snaps back and continues the rap, “Thanks Keggar, I ain't no beggar. I came here to win and that's what I been. So how did I do, I'm looking at you!”

The taller man holds his long arms above his head, and a golden star forms between his hands. “You did the best, better than the rest! I give that climb an A-plus-plus, a record absolutely no one can bust.”

Keggar brings his arms down and the star flies across to the shorter (but no less handsome) man, where it sinks into his forehead and forever marks him as the world's best at everything. The other people on nearby pillars turn to clap for the man with the golden star. Some of them have forehead stars too, but their silver and bronze stars are dim in comparison.

The man with the golden forehead star lifts his hands to the heavens. He spins atop his pillar, to face all of the cheering people. Above him, a woman wearing a dress with a rainbow pattern smiles at him from her passing cloud. The world's most beautiful woman does not tread upon the earth like other people. Below, a shaggy blur leaps between the pillars, too fast to be seen. The world's fastest Slakoth streaks past, producing a sonic boom in the shape of a paw that Zack low-fives.

Three of those surrounding do not clap or cheer or smile: a man, a woman, and a shadowy abomination of tentacles, horns, and claws. They are silent, and remain visible as the mists return and cover the other people. The man has a star as well, but only silver so far. The word's coolest dude wouldn't be any cooler with a gold star anyway, and he slouches atop his pillar as if considering the meaning of life or something deep like that. The woman has a gold star, but its shine is dull below her vibrant pink hair. The world's smartest lady laughs behind the sleeve of her doctor-scientist-professor coat.

The shadowy abomination leaps from one foot to the other and screams, “Demon Trainer Cid is unimpressed! I demand Zack do a real test! Achieve the A-grade in half the time, now that would be a truly masterful climb.”

Kegger grunts, “He already did, young broski of mine.”

The world's coolest dude shrugs and flips back a tuft of his hair. “So if we all have our certification, we can climb anywhere in the nation?”

The world's smartest lady nods and says something so intelligent that no one can understand her. She speaks and speaks and speaks, finishing by holding her hand out to Kegger, palm up.

He laughs. “It's been said I would, and now it's time I should. I'll give you all a pair of my climbing tools, so out on the slopes you won't look like fools.” He raises his arms again, and a solid sphere of awesome light expands from between his clasped hands to cover Zack, Hiero, and Lana.

When the light recedes, all three are wearing a pair of the world's coolest shoes. The world's coolest dude looks down at his and nods, immune to their stunning coolness. The world's smartest lady looks down as well, trying to calculate their coolness factor, but she ends up only frowning.

Zack pumps his arms and shouts, “Wow, wow, wow! You'll give away something this cool now?”

“Of course I will bro, my shop's not for show.” Kegger snaps. Shoes fall from the sky, raining down around them. “When you want upgrades they won't be free, but for now the basic kit will be on me!”

The shadowy abomination laughs. “Look deeper and his motives you will see.”

Kegger nods. “Now there's two basic rules for you all to follow, don't worry they'll be easy to swallow. First is to use the shoes on appropriate cliffs, only those with a special sign that you can't miss. Second is to never, ever use them on a living creature.”

The shadowy abomination chimes in, “Unless you want Mountain Climber Kegger on the news to feature.” It clicks its claws together and spikes emerge from its body, dripping with ichor.

Kegger glances up at the abomination. “Sometimes I thank Arceus that I was able to be your teacher.” He laughs and turns back to the others. “And with that I've covered all of the bases. First, only use the shoes in appropriate places. Second, never on some dope. Now, go climb without rope!”

Zack throws his arms wide, as light beams from his body and pierces the mists. The light of the sun beams down on him as a slanted pillar. “Awesome, so awesome, these Spike Shoes are the best! Please tell us what you call them, that's my only request!”

The Mountain Climber nods, and sunlight beams down on him as well. “The RKE system, bro! Allow me to list 'em! In other words I call this the Radical Klimb Everywhere system!”

Zack grunts as he digs the spiked toe of his shoe into the wall. Reaching up, he grabs another hole above and uses the thin ledge to hold himself against the cliff face. With his foot he pushes himself higher up the vertical wall. Slakoth is wrapped around his neck, shaking a little as the Pokemon presses its face against his neck.

A little ways below and to his left, Cid climbs the wall with Jigg-O napping on her head. She is silent, other than a low and steady breathing coming from her pursed lips.

The boy above laughs through a panting exhale. “This is awesome exercise! There aren't any places to climb in Vitalian, other than houses, and nobody would let me.”

Cid sneers. “Never allow another's opinion to decide your actions. Demon Trainer Cid does as she pleases, when and wherever she is.”

“Uh … yeah, I guess so!” Zack grins and nods, before focusing on the wall in front of him. “I guess I could have guessed that about you.”

“As for this 'exercise' that you speak of,” Cid continues after a short glare at him. “That is not the true purpose of Pokeclimbing. Demon Trainer Cid climbs to reach the top of this cliff, not for any side benefit.”

Zack's eyes widen. “Really? But it's the Radical Klimb Everywhere system! It's all about klimbing!”

Cid stops climbing and looks away. “That is not its true name. Mountain Climber Kegger is not so simple a man to give away a tool without some benefit to himself. He is an amazingly duplicitous man in that way.”

“What!” Zack gasps, staring down at her. “Oh wait, yeah! You said he made money from upgrades.”

The girl below rolls her eyes. “No, Demon Trainer Cid said that he had a deeper motive, nothing more. He sells upgrades at cost, which truly aid the climber in their task.” Cid sighs and continues climbing. “The true benefit is found within the shoe and its spike. He calls it the Radius Kernite Emitter system.”

Lana and Hiero are sitting on a bench along the trail. Hiero is only wearing one of his Spike Shoes, and the other is spread out in pieces on the ground. Lana leans over them, glaring down. Her purse sits open at her side, various mechanic tools sticking from inside.

“I knew there would be some other purpose!” She grins. “Interesting. I see why that odd Cid girl looks up to him.”

Hiero looks from Lana, to the shoe pieces on the ground, and back to her. “Lana, will you explain the other purpose to me? I would like to know what the other purpose is, Lana.”

She nods and points to a small, black box. “That is a Kernite Emitter. They work like a radar system you might see in a submarine, but throw subatomic particles known as Kernites. When the Kernites hit any item emitting a particle known as a Boron, both particles combine and return in the direction that the Kernite came from.”

Rendered speechless, the boy beside her blinks several times. Lana laughs and pulls out her Poketool.

“Have you ever heard of the Item Finder app?” She presses a few buttons and brings up a screen with a line waving back and forth. “This is mine. It works because my Poketool has a weak Kernite Emitter, along with a few other detectors and such crammed together.”

Lana points back to the black box on the ground. “That is a strong Kernite Emitter, which allows it to send Kernites deeper into the ground. I would guess the spike works as the focusing wand, and also the antenna for returning Kernite-Borons.”

Hiero closes his eyes and tilts his head back. The sun coming through the leaves of a tree dapples his face with light and shadow. “But, that's … Why is a Boron so important? What do Borons come from?”

“Evolutionary stones.” Lana reaches down to pick up the pieces of the shoe. As she puts the shoe back together, she frowns. “Which means … he's using people to find stones?”

Zack and Cid pull themselves up over the final ledge and onto a flat surface. They rest there, both panting after their climb. Crying big tears, Slakoth jumps from Zack's back to kiss the cracked and dusty ground several times. Jigg-O sneers at the other Pokemon's display.

Zack sits up and stares toward the horizon. A twisting Spinarak web of dark gaps in the ground is spread out for miles before him. “Wow! So we're above the canyons now?”

Cid nods. “From here, climbers can venture down into the upper cliff maze. Reaching the other end will deposit one back on Route Eight, going to Bonif.”

“Wow … I wish Rae could see this.” Zack stares at the horizon, smiling as the sun warms his face. “I know! I'll get a hot air balloon and learn to pilot it and get a balloon license and bring her here with it!” He glances at Cid. “I think she didn't like the idea of climbing. I guess it is kind of dangerous. And it's probably better that she stayed behind to look after Clay.”

She shakes her head. “World Savior Regola fears no danger. She is my archenemy after all.”

Zack tilts his head to the side with a half smile. He jumps to his feet and runs to the nearest cliff edge. “Wow! There's lots of ledges and walkways down there!” A small beep comes from his shoe, and he looks down. “What? Did my shoe just level up?”

As he bends down to take a closer look, the cliff edge crumbles below him. His eyes go wide and he flings his arms back, waving them in a useless attempt to stop himself from falling forward.

A dark shape tears through the sky above and swoops down, vanishing and re-appearing as it darts from side to side. The Aerodactyl twirls right in front of Zack, causing a small burst of air that pushes him backwards onto safe ground. The Pokemon is gone as fast as it came, and Zack is left sitting on his butt with a blank expression and his hair tossed around.

Cid stands with a shout, “Hey! What?” Her eyes search the sky, but then she runs to Zack's side. “Are you seriously unhurt? I've never - Are you crazy? Never mess around near a cliff edge!” She glances around again. “I can't – Demon Trainer Cid cannot believe how lucky you were.”

Zack reaches up to his face and presses a hand against his cheek. He mumbles, “Something hit me?” With dry eyes, he looks up at Cid and shows her the droplets of water on his fingers. “It was crying, Cid.” Slakoth crawls forward to slump against Zack's back and start patting his shoulder. He shows Slakoth the wetness too. “It was crying, buddy. I wonder why.”

A young woman pops her head up above the side of a cliff and stares at Zack and Cid. “Hey, did you two see … You!” She points at Zack, who looks back at her. “You challenged me to a battle the other day! So you finally came up?”

Cid glances at Zack. “Is this woman telling the truth?”

Zack stares out at the horizon. He shakes his head and looks up at the female Trainer with a big smile. “Yeah, okay! I'm ready when you are! Leeeeet's do the battle thing!”
Pokemon: the Game - Chapter 23

Setup for a battle! And a couple other things getting all thrown together. Mostly though, this chapter is about the Spike Shoes! Yes, I know they probably wouldn't work at all in real life. But think about a game, where they would be pretty simple: you walk up a special wall, press the Spike Shoes hotkey, and bam! You are clinging to the wall. And if you can Dive and Battle at the same time, you can definitely Climb and Battle at the same time. So I say it works!

This is part of my Risen Saga, a Pokémon story with blood and violence and occasionally even death. There may at some point 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.



Fields of apple trees stretch in every direction. The sky is dull and gray with clouds, with the sun well past its midpoint. The whole world looks dirty and cold.

Teal walks along the road. The upper section of her armor is removed and she carries Tress against her chest. The child is still asleep, a Stim Patch stuck to her forehead. The flowers in her hair have turned orange.

Walking behind Teal, Rolf mixes potions on his floating table. His eyes are on Teal. He glances back once at Zarah behind him. The half-human holds her Cleaver up against her shoulder. Scarfenstein is balanced atop her head, spread wide to shade her eyes.

Zarah grunts and asks, “Are we there yet?”

Rolf's walking turns stiff as he moves out from between the two women. One of his flasks begins to bubble and froth, and he returns his attention to the potion making.

Teal shakes her head. “Karth will be several hours of travel. The sun will be low in the sky when we arrive.” She raises a hand from Tress' shoulder to point at the horizon. “You will see it reflecting off Peaceful Lake.

The half-human groans. She looks to Rolf. “Hey, alchemist. Amuse me. Make something blow up.”

He pours the frothing liquid into a white jar and caps it. “That would be counter to my desire to mix useful potions.” Smiling back at her, Rolf suggests, “Perhaps we could tell stories to pass the time.”

She grins. “Sure! Here's a story. Once I had to kill this guy, but he had three shape-shifters working for him as body-doubles. Long story short, I had to kill the shape-shifters before I could kill him.” She points to Rolf with her Cleaver. “Is it your turn?”

Rolf's hands are pale as he puts his potion kit away in a drawer of the floating table. “Oh, I thought I would have more time to think of one. Allow me to confer with Miss Teal.”

He walks faster to catch up with Teal. His voice is a whisper, “I don't think that woman is joking about being a killer for hire.”

“I am aware of that, Rolf.” Teal presses Tress closer to her chest and sighs. “Zarah is an assassin. She is under the employ of the Count”

Rolf stares. “If ye knew … how long have ye known? Why have ye not arrested her?”

“Oh don't think she hasn't tried.” Rolf jumps as Zarah speaks from beside his shoulder. The half-human laughs as the shape-shifter scurries around to Teal's other side. “We've had our clashes, and she's tried to stop me. But I'm faster, and official as fuck.”

Zarah vanishes, and reappears standing beside Rolf. Her arm drops down around his shoulder. “Hey, shape-shifter. Amuse me.” She smiles and shows him a spectral knife in her hand. “Run.”

His form writhes and melts away as his insectoid body appears. Standing still, he stares at Zarah.

Teal shakes her head and continues walking. “Stop acting like a child.”

Zarah dismisses the knife. “I'm finished here anyway.” She follows Teal, whistling.

The all-but-naked shape-shifter stares at the ground, his faceted eyes twitching. The lower half of his white face cracks open, and a tongue emerges to lick his eyes. Rolf shakes his head and takes a step forward. “No.” He raises his arm and points at Zarah. “Ye are not finished here.”

Zarah turns back, smiling as she lifts her Cleaver. “I'm not?”

“If ye wish to kill me, I doubt I can stop ye. But I expect ye would have done so already if ye wanted to. Ye do not appear to be the type to hold yerself back.” Rolf's hand is shaking as he lowers it. “Thus, all ye wished for was to scare me.”

“Uh, yeah.” Zarah shrugs and plants her Cleaver in the dirt. “So?”

Rolf nods. “Apologize.”

Zarah stares at him, her mouth stuck open in a half-smile. Teal stops and turns around to watch the two, hefting Tress higher.

“It is a simple request.” Rolf crosses his arms and tilts his head to the side. “Actually, no. It is not a request. I demand ye apologize.”

Zarah snorts. She pulls her Cleaver up out of the ground and laughs. “You'd have lived longer only requesting it, shape-shifter. No one tells me what to do without a fight.” Scarfenstein coils down from her head to drape itself over her free arm. Zarah takes a breath and tightens her grip on the Cleaver.

Teal steps back and holds Tress closer. “Rolf, this is unnecessary.” She sighs. “I won't bother saying you shouldn't do this. That's obvious. But what do you want her to apologize for?”

“For threatening me, Miss Teal.” Rolf undoes the clasps on his large backpack and stoops to lay it on the ground, without looking away from the waiting Zarah. “Even if she did not plan to follow through.” The potion box floats away from his side and rests atop his backpack. “Especially because she did not plan to follow through.” He glances at Teal. “If a fight is what it takes, I will risk my life.”

The shape-shifter stands tall and flexes his many-jointed fingers. He remains unarmed, and his mandibles begin to twitch. The half-human in front of him moves her foot forwards a hair and licks her lips. Teal takes another step away from the two.

Zarah dashes forward, her Cleaver held straight like a rapier. The tip is aimed for Rolf's heart. He grunts and waves a hand in front of himself, and a rift forms. Zarah's sword plunges through the rift, but she stops. Another rift is open in front of her face. The point of her sword is against her forehead.

Rolf nods. “I could have positioned the exit rift closer to yer head. Remember that.”

Zarah frowns and pulls her Cleaver out of Rolf's rift. Her other hand snaps forward, throwing Scarfenstein like a flat disc. The red fabric wraps around Rolf's head.

He starts to reach up for Scarfenstein, but instead his head balloons outward to twice its size. A flat, stretched version of his normal human face forms on his white chest and Rolf speaks. “Yer familiar will get no sustenance from my carapace. Now, how shall I defeat ye.” His fingers twist and contort at his sides, drawing designs that leave colored lines in the air.

Zarah grunts and brings her Cleaver down to her side. She breaks into a run that takes her half a circle around Rolf. “You talk too much.” With a sudden turn, she darts for him. But her foot slips on a patch of slick ground behind him and she collides face-first with his back side. A crackling lightning field appears around Rolf's body and Zarah is flung backwards.

“Ye think too little.” Rolf's hand stops waving and he reaches through another rift. His pointer finger glows plum purple and taps Zarah on the shoulder as the half-human regains her footing. “Of course I would protect my back from an assassin.” Rolf becomes covered by a cherry red aura as he turns to face Zarah, who is now covered by a purple aura.

She swings her Cleaver at Rolf, but her aura burns brighter and her movements are sluggish. Despite slashing Rolf's front several times, the electric field bounces her slowed attacks back.

On one swing, Rolf reaches out and touches her Cleaver, his finger now glowing yellow. The red aura around his body burns bright as his hand smacks the Cleaver a second time. A yellow burst throws the large weapon from Zarah's hand, where it sticks in the ground some ten or fifteen helms away.

Rolf nods. “Ye are now defenseless. Do ye concede?”

“I don't!” Zarah runs toward her sword. “Whatever you said.”

The shape-shifter smiles and holds out his hand. The Cleaver wavers a little, but doesn't move until Zarah reaches it and yanks the sword free of the ground. Rolf frowns. “Yer sword is not enspelled for weightlessness? Yet ye lift is so easily.”

Turning around, Zarah runs at him and pulls her sword back for a slash. Facing her, Rolf brings his hands together. His normal slight glow, almost invisible in the daytime, disappears. An orb of blinding light appears between his hands, and grows to engulf him and the half-human. Teal shades her eyes with a hand.

The Cleaver thuds to the ground as the light subsides. Scarfenstein is back on Zarah's head, and she is sitting in a small, throne-shaped chair. The half-human struggles and shakes, trying to move, but she is strapped down in multiple places.

Rolf's human face appears on the back of the chair, and he smirks. “Yet ye do not have monstrous strength as I feared. Ye are truly a mystery.”

Zarah scowls and pulls against her bindings. Then she smiles. “Is this how you get off? Forcing women to sit on you?”

The shape-shifter laughs. “If it was Miss Teal in yer position, I might find some way to enjoy myself. But I have no interest in yer skinny ass.”

The throne ejects Zarah with a popping of the bindings, and she stumbles away. The half-human takes a breath and brushes herself off. Meanwhile the throne behind her grows taller and shifts to become Rolf's normal human form. He glances down to the Cleaver at his feet, and then at Zarah.

“Apologize for earlier, please.”

Zarah sighs. She stares up at the sky. “I'm sorry. I was bored and acting like a bitch because I thought you were weaker than me. Okay?”

Rolf chuckles. “Yer apology is accepted. But I still doubt I could stop ye, if ye really wanted to kill me. I truly am weaker than ye.”

Teal steps forward and shakes her head. “You fought well, Rolf. She was not going easy on you.”

“That's right!” Zarah turns and stomps her foot. “I don't go easy on anyone!”

The shape-shifter shrugs. “It required every trick I know just to stay alive. Using my crossbow against ye would have been my downfall. I did not have any battle-specific potions ready to aid me. My Stim Patches cannot save me from the mortal wounds yer sword would give. Presumably ye fought battles in Goldenburg that sapped your resources, while I avoided fighting until I joined ye two.”

He inclines his head to Zarah. “More to the point though, I doubt an assassin would have qualms against slitting my throat while I sleep. That is what I meant. I will have to trust ye, since Miss Teal does so as well.” He glances from Zarah to Teal. “Correct?”

Both women only stare at him. Scarfenstein ripples atop Zarah's head, waving in a soft breeze.

Teal lifts Tress higher against her chest and turns around. “Come on. The faster we arrive in Karth, the sooner we can book passage to Riverside.” She walks off down the road.

Zarah walks up to Rolf and crouches down to pick up her Cleaver. “I'm not really the type to slit throats.” Leaning the sword against her shoulder, she nods at Rolf. “But you're smart to believe I'll kill you if I feel like it.” The half-human follows Teal.

Rolf tilts his head to the side and frowns. He picks up his backpack and jogs after the two.
High War - Chapter 17.1

Fight scene to start the chapter! Zarah and Rolf are alike in some interesting ways, so I guess it was only a matter of time until they fought over some small issue like this. Both are a little messed up emotionally (oh wait, that's all my characters) and both have an ego and a pride that can cause them to act out. Both will say inappropriate things at the best and worst times (which ended up working quite nicely here) and both are struggling with that whole “Grow up? Nah” issue. They are both powerful and slowly growing more so, but haven't achieved their maximum potential because they are afraid of the responsibilities that come with being powerful. Teal makes for an interesting comparison here; she always strives to do and be her best, because she heaps responsibilities upon herself. Zarah and Rolf needed a threat like the Phoenix Army to start growing into their full potential, while all Teal needed was for someone to help her with the things she didn't yet know. People still dealing with their pride and fear require opposition, while those who have their pride and fear under control instead need a guiding hand.

This is a part of my High War project, a story set 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.





Ian Chisholm
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Favorite Quote: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

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 you can make dem perdy 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, either part of an ongoing story I am writing, or something more random like a character piece or personal opinion paper. 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 forum. Of course the busier my life gets, the less of all that I do.

My 2015 avatar is me, writing down by the lake! Of course you can't see much of me, especially not the sweet hat I'm wearing, and this image is from forever ago, like high school or something, and I'm writing data findings on the water for science, some project my Grandpa gave me to help his fishing club ... but it's me!

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Add a Comment:
TheArchosaurQueen Featured By Owner 9 hours ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hay, I want to apologize for not contacting you sooner, but I've been really busy with other things since last year to the point I even put my story on hold, but once I get enough time I'll get back to you and review your story too. I hope I didn't come across as rood, for that was not my intent in the lest :(.
(1 Reply)
samosvulter Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2015
Thanks for the fave~:D
Have a nice day~~:iconlucywaveplz:
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ColorCosmosFlurry Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
thank for the fav!
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alexthetyger Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Do you do critique trades?
(1 Reply)
CommnderShepard117 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2014
Have you checked out the next chapter yet?
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