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  1. #1

    Echoes of the Rift

    HELLO WELCOME. This is my new story.

    Echoes of the Rift

    (I'll get a chapter picture eventually. XD)

    When Jameila the helioptile's family disappears, she sets out on a quest to rescue them. But malevolence runs deep in this fragmented society, and various organisations seek to pursue their goals to the end at any cost. As remnants of an ancient disaster slowly return, otherworldly forces threaten to end what remains of a recovering civilisation. With the help of surprise friend, Jameila finds herself on a path to find her family, mend broken ties, and stand up to seemingly invulnerable threats.

    Chapter Directory:

    Chapter One: Road to Felsunk
    Chapter Two:
    Chapter Three:
    Chapter Four:

    I'll fluff up the thread later. XD

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  3. #2

    It had been hours.

    Large oval eyes stared at a spot on the ceiling. A splotch made by something long ago seemed to stretch in the dim light, only to bounce back when the pokémon’s sight refocused again. It wasn’t a particularly enriching task, but it beat focusing on the rampant panic that had embodied her hours earlier. Many, many hours earlier.

    The cold cement wall pressed into the mustard-coloured pokémon’s back, arms outstretched above her bulbous head and wrists secured in place by restraints. Chained charcoal feet stood on the dirty stone flooring, and a long tail snaked around her left side. The helioptile breathed steadily, arms numb from their vertical position and head thumping. Her tongue had started to feel dry a while back, and the constant cold was sending occasional shivers down her torso. A combination of frustration, fear and impatience flowed through her as she groaned, her dry throat only allowing her a small croak.

    She didn’t know how long she had been a prisoner. She had attempted to keep count of the minutes and hours that passed by, but without a source of natural light or any sort of clock in the holding cell she had been locked in, she had quickly failed. She had remained awake for the duration of her imprisonment, at least; fear had kept her too alert to drift into sleep. She perked up at each shadow that passed by the cell’s singular door, which was large and made of iron, and twitched at every distant sound. Each time she heard something new, she held her breath to focus on the noise and determine its origin. Most times, she was left without answers.

    There was not a single window lining the cement walls around her, the main sources of light a set of flickering torches mounted on opposing walls. A strip of light bled through the bottom of the iron door and served only as an indicator for passers-by. So far, she hadn’t seen anyone use the rectangular sliding window in the door, but she imagined it could be used to check on her, or perhaps drop something inside.

    Something she was able to deduce was that there was a guard stationed outside her door. From the throat-clearing and occasional murmuring, she guessed the pokémon was a male, but had not gleaned his species as yet. Her only other clue was that the few times he had crossed from one side of the door to the other, his shadow appeared to suggest that he was two-legged and bipedal. The few times she had called out to him, he had not responded.

    As she pondered how she could get herself out of her predicament, her mind wound back to her earlier attempts at using electricity. The weak sparks that had bounced off the floor and fizzled into nothing combined with a small injection mark in her arm had left her with a persistent suspicion: her captors had injected her with an elemental dampening agent. It was normally a tablet or liquid administered orally, but could also be injected with a syringe. Though the latter form was not manufactured and distributed in most pokémon circles, she had heard that it was common amongst humans. Given how frequently human goods were pedalled in the northern parts of Monunne, it did not surprise her to find that common thugs had gotten their filthy claws on some. Although she had no confirmation that her captors were common thugs, she could only imagine that some kind of gang had apprehended her, just as they had her sister and mother. It would make sense that the same group would abduct her shortly after her arrival to Felsunk City, where she had begun asking around for her kidnapped family. Evidently, she had asked a little too loudly.

    Figuring she had nothing to lose, the helioptile clenched her jaws, mustered her strength, and again forced a spark of electricity to bounce from her head frills. It glided towards the iron door, falling before it arrived and dissipating into nothing but a crackling whisper. She blew through her nostrils in defeat, rolling her large head against the wall as her frills settled back into their folded position. Her limbs ached, her mind continued to race, and she again wondered how much longer she would be confined to this soulless, empty cell.

    And wondered if she would ever see her family again.

    The sound of footsteps tugged the helioptile from her lamenting thoughts, and she relocated her alert eyes to the iron door. Her mind turned as voices accompanied the steps—just two, and exchanging only a few mumbles until they greeted the guard. The helioptile felt her heart rate quicken as the figures stopped at her cell, their shadows dividing the strip of light, and began to unlatch the giant bolt on the other side. She attempted to steel herself, feeling an implosion of adrenaline spark in her stomach and stretch into her chest. She adopted her best face of ire as the sound of the door’s locks and stoppers echoed through the chamber before it swung open, revealing three figures.

    A lumbering spherical pokémon with two long, burly arms and two stumpier legs strode in first, the large fiery eyebrows on his face exaggerating his intimidating look, tinged with a touch of depravity. He seemed to take up much of the room as he stopped on the helioptile’s left, while the second figure, an asparagus-coloured bipedal pokémon with a brimmed headpiece, hoofed feet and clawed hands followed next, stopping beside the darmanitan. The third figure, a muscly and uncaring machoke, closed the door behind them and used only one of its locks to secure it.

    The helioptile unconsciously kept her jaws clenched as her heartbeat shook her ribcage. While she attempted to mask her fear with a face of impatience and outrage, she was sure she merely projected panic. She was met with one haughty expression and a bored one, each painted upon the faces of the visitors respectively.

    She anticipated a mere moment more of silence before one of her captors would break it, so she focused on the image of her older sister in an effort to channel her.

    “It’s about time. I’m getting hungry.”

    She nailed it, aside from her warbling voice.

    The darmanitan sneered in amusement. “Cute.”

    “I’m sure you know why we’re here,” the breloom said, placing her weighty hands behind her back. When a frown touched the helioptile’s brow, the grass type continued, “Your little family is hiding some very important things from us.”

    The helioptile swallowed. Her conclusions had been correct. Not only were these the same pokémon who had abducted her family members, but they had done so out of retaliation. The only member of her family who would have invited retaliation was her older sister. Somehow, it did not surprise her that her sister had gotten herself wrapped up in yet another unsavoury affair.

    She cursed silently to herself as she grimaced. She inhaled a long breath, and eased it out as she angled her head upwards against the wall again and tried to find a different ceiling splotch. She attempted to appear nonchalant as her mind turned.

    “Hey. Are you listening?” grunted the fire type, his eyebrows flaring up a little.

    The electric type, not even half the size of either captor, resisted making eye contact as she instead began wiping the floor with the tip of her tail out of anxiousness. Eventually her eyes fell to him.

    “I don’t know what you buffoons are talking about.”

    The breloom stole a look from the darmanitan before she took a step forward, capturing the helioptile’s attention. “That was very impolite. You wouldn’t want your mother paying for your impoliteness, would you?”

    The electric type felt a pang in the pit of her stomach. She realised she had taken the wrong approach.

    “Leave her out of this.”

    “They always say that!” the darmanitan groaned, throwing an arm up and using one of his large mitts to scratch the side of his belly. “Doesn’t anyone understand the concept of leverage? Do you understand the concept of leverage?”

    “I’m your leverage,” answered the prisoner. “You don’t need my mother.”

    The red pokémon lumbered closer. “She’s leverage for you; you’re leverage for your sister. Get it?”

    The helioptile’s reflexes kicked in as an electric shock leapt from her body, arcing directly to the darmanitan. For a brief moment, her target winced, turning her fear into surprise, until he straightened back up. A hideous grin stretched across his face as he drew in closer, looming over her.

    “You know how much dampener it takes to weaken me? Two full doses,” he breathed, making her recoil. “You know how many it took to weaken you? One fifth.”

    “You’re as good as sitting prey,” teased the breloom, and launched a hoofed foot into the helioptile’s midsection.

    Immediately the wind was knocked from her lungs and she gasped for air, the adrenaline that had begun to surface flaring back up again. This time it took her entire body, screaming at her to get away at the touch of a fighting type. She pressed out jagged breaths as she tried to regain her composure with little success.

    “One more and it’s lights out,” the breloom warned.

    The helioptile heaved, binding her eyes closed. She considered a multitude of responses, then donned her dignity and tilted her head back up. “Do it, then.”

    The darmanitan puffed out a laugh, but the breloom looked merely inconvenienced. She sighed, raising a hand in front of her and stroking the back of it with the other. The darmanitan suggested that he be the dealer of the final blow, but the breloom, eyes fixed on her massive claws, denied his request.

    She trained her eyes back on the electric type. “Jameila, is it?”

    The surprise that washed across the prisoner’s face gave her the answer she needed.

    “You seem like a smart pokémon. We have your sister, and we have your mother, as I know you are aware.” She kept her gaze steady as she tilted her head. “As a possible accomplice to your sister’s chosen path to join the ranks of RARE, we just need to ask you a few questions. And you wouldn’t want to defy the Darkening Dawn, would you?”

    The helioptile flinched at the mention of both organisations. Though the two were not in direct opposition with one another, the Darkening Dawn was known as a pokémon extremist group, while RARE was a simple research and medical organisation. The conflict stemmed from the Darkening Dawn’s recent accusations that RARE, although its members were composed of pokémon, had ties with the humans. And if there was one thing pokémon extremists hated, it was humans.

    Jameila swallowed again, her dry throat feeling like it was lined with sand. She had no idea if her sister had aligned with RARE, but if she had, it would make sense why the Darkening Dawn had an issue with her—in the past, her sister had been a member of the Darkening Dawn. Jameila could only assume that they now saw her as some sort of liability. Whether or not she was actually guilty of anything, she had attracted the attention of an enormous and dangerous organisation. The thought of local thugs no longer seemed so bad.

    The breloom continued, “I don’t want us to have to beat answers out of you because it’s terribly inefficient, and frankly, we’re bound to end up at the same place anyway. Surely you would prefer to have a nice chin-wag than to leave here with bruises and scars.”

    The helioptile’s eyes flicked toward the door and then back, asking the question before she spoke. “So you’re going to let me leave?”

    “If you cooperate, yes. We won’t have a reason to hold you if you tell us what your sister won’t. Neither your mother if she proves innocent.”

    “She is innocent. And so is my sister,” Jameila insisted, though she wasn’t convinced of the last statement herself. “And I have nothing to tell. I haven’t seen Yursa in months, and I don’t know what she’s been up to.”

    “If they were innocent, we wouldn’t be here, now, would we?” The breloom drew a steady breath, lowering both arms and waiting a few moments. “Given we know your name, it’s only fair that you know ours. I’m Ajulah, and this is Rak.”

    The darmanitan said nothing, but his face betrayed elements of impatience. “There, we’re acquainted. Now give us some answers, degen.”

    “No need for derogatory slurs,” Ajulah scolded, passing her companion a light frown.

    Jameila let out a small breath, reminded of all the simple-minded, frustratingly ignorant pokémon who she had encountered over the years who kept prejudiced views on first-stage pokémon. To them, first-stages were capable of few things, viewed as weaker and less intelligent, and considered generally inferior. She knew these opinions were baseless, and had manifested only as a by-product of the increased hostility permeating communities in recent decades. Unfortunately, users of the term felt differently.

    The breloom turned back to her prisoner. “All I want is to ask you a few questions, Jameila.”

    Jameila tensed at her name, as if irrationally offended that her captors were using it. She kept a glare trained on the grass type.

    “We believe that Yursa may have discussed some sensitive information with you. If you can cooperate and give us truthful answers, we will let you go.”

    The helioptile had no guesses for what ‘sensitive information’ her sister could have shared with her. Rather than addressing that, however, she focused on another angle. “What about my mother?”

    “The same applies to her,” the breloom answered. “She is free to go if you divulge what we need to hear, and she stays with you and your sister if we don’t get what we want.”

    “I don’t know what you want,” Jameila protested. “Like I said, I haven’t seen Yursa in months, and neither has our mother. Neither of us have any information about her.”

    “You little liar,” the darmanitan growled, drawing Jameila’s attention. “You were with both of ‘em a few days ago. We captured them together, for legends’ sake.”

    The electric type gave a small frown, realising her mistake. It wasn’t unreasonable that they would know she was with them too. In fact, it now made her think that perhaps they had been aware of her presence in the city from the moment she walked in through the gates. She had been lured into a trap.

    “You don’t think the Darkening Dawn has eyes everywhere this far north?” queried Ajulah. She pointed two red claws at her prisoner. “That’s lie number one, helioptile.”

    Jameila gritted her teeth. “I meant other than the last few days.”

    “Let’s make this simple,” the breloom offered, pacing slowly. “Tell us your recent movements, Jameila. Your conversations, your activities, the pokémon you saw; you know, that kind of thing.”

    Jameila failed to see how any of those things were significant, but relented. She was certain that Yursa had not revealed anything of import to her, and cautiously assumed that answering any questions they had would prove such.


    The breloom’s greasy smile returned. “Start from when you went to visit your mother.”
    Last edited by Suicune's Fire; 03-26-2022 at 11:53 AM.

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  5. #3
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
    Senior Moderator

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Melbourne Australia
    So this is your story you told me about...

    I'll read it religiously...

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  7. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by [Desolate Divine] View Post
    So this is your story you told me about...

    I'll read it religiously...
    omg thank u so much honestly I think that's fair given how I've read like so much of your story. c8

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  9. #5
    I came in like a wrecking ball... [Desolate Divine]'s Avatar
    Senior Moderator

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Melbourne Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by Suicune's Fire View Post
    omg thank u so much honestly I think that's fair given how I've read like so much of your story. c8
    The longer you put it off, the more you will have to catch up on ;)

  10. #6
    Aaaaaaaaaaand here's a Chapter One! Could NOT have done this (or the prologue) without @Scytherwolf so THANK YOU! C:

    Chapter One: Road to Felsunk

    A small dark paw crunched into packed earth as Jameila crested a modest hill. She paused, tightening her grip on the straps running over each shoulder as her eyes fell to a familiar sight. Nestled in unassuming plains and guarded by trees rested a mound. Had she not known exactly where she was, she would have thought this mound to be another regular hill, but she knew better.

    It felt good to lay eyes on her former home. Although she no longer lived with her mother, she still considered this burrow her home. Visiting was nostalgic, but always brought to the surface the guilt that she could not help but feel for having left her mother to live by herself. She knew her mother held no resentment towards her for leaving, but the feeling lingered nonetheless.

    The touch of sunlight warmed her skin as it peeked between the occasional cloud, reminding Jameila why her mother still thrived in this location despite it not being a desert. Although she didn’t live too far from her mother geographically, the difference in climate was notable. Just one of the things she missed about these parts.

    “Jameila,” a soft voice cooed as the young helioptile descended a snaking path between some grass-littered mounds. The mouth of a small burrow stood wide and open around the form of an older, weathered pokémon of the same species, only slightly bigger than Jameila. Her skin was sun-bleached and her eyes were tired.

    “Mum,” the younger electric type said with a smile, melancholy relief tugging her brow. She closed the gap between her and her mother, and was enveloped in a hug. She rested her head on her mother’s shoulder for a moment before they parted, and Jameila’s mother gave her a warm, quiet smile. “Sorry I’m late. I was held up; Jukil needed help collecting insects when his foraging partner fell ill.”

    Her mother barely seemed to register her comment. “It’s so good of you to come see your mother.” She held the eye contact for a few moments before scanning her daughter’s form. “You look well.”

    “Of course I would come and see you, Mum,” Jameila said, drawing both paws to the straps of her pack. She hesitated, wanting to ask her how her health was, but part her of was afraid of the answer.

    “Come in and put your bag down,” her mother advised, motioning for her daughter to enter after her.

    Jameila followed her into the dimly lit burrow, noting it looked very much the same as last time: familiar furniture and décor, relatively tidy and clean, and no sign of any other occupant. Various globes powered by the battery affixed to a side wall provided limited light, but it was enough. The burrow was one spacious room with a few smaller alcoves off to the left as the ground declined, blocked by a modest curtain. At the back corner of the room, neighbouring the kitchen area, was a dip in the wall where a raised, flat boulder sat. It was bathed completely in sunlight that streamed through the large window cut in the ceiling above it.

    Jameila smiled to herself as she scanned the modest home, noting that not a single thing looked out of place. It was usual for her mother to keep a tidy home, and though it suggested to Jameila that she didn’t have much else to occupy her time, it was comforting to her to know that her mother valued her cosy, private space. Its modesty and seclusion were a stark contrast to the first home they had lived in when Jameila was barely old enough to remember.

    Their old home had been on the fringes of the Laffse Desert, far further southeast. Although the climate was ideal for a family of helioptile, there had been a change of plans after the tragedy of Warden’s Fall seventeen years ago. Jameila was not familiar with the reasons why the event was the catalyst for their relocation, as she had been one year old at the time and had not asked since. All she knew was that her father left them first, and a few days later, she, Yursa and her mother abandoned the desert and travelled more than a thousand kilometres to Felsunk City, right near the border between the Alleraea Province and the pokémon-controlled Firalands. Eventually, they wound up a few days’ travel from the city, which was where her mother dug the burrow.

    “I’ve set bedrolls up for you and your sister in the small room,” her mother said, drawing Jameila’s mind back to the present.

    “Oh, thank you,” she answered, turning to the first small alcove, where she spied a small unfurled bedroll a little to the right.

    On the left was a second bed made up of multiple bedrolls, which her mother had obviously arranged for her sister. With a thought, she realised that both sleeping areas were untouched, which told her that her sister had not yet arrived.

    “Yursa too important to show up on time?” she muttered, failing to conceal her judgement.

    As her mother waded across the sandy floor, her tail brushing it softly, she emitted some disapproving clicking sounds but did not turn around. “You know your sister is busy.”

    “Yeah, Mum, so was I, but I made an effort to be here.”

    Her mother plucked a bowl from a shelf structure along the back wall, then a container filled with some sort of snack. “I sent for you both; she’ll be here in time.”

    Jameila felt a sigh seep through her small nostrils as she craned her neck at the ceiling, running her gaze over some rocky bumps before she dropped it to her bedroll in the smaller room. She slid the pack off her shoulders as she approached it and began unpacking some supplies she had brought with her. Once she was done, she set the pack against the rocky wall and stood up. She rolled her eyes at the multiple bedrolls comprising her sister’s bed and frowned, quietly pushing them away so they scrunched gently against the wall. She glanced at her mother, whose back was turned, and whose perspective of the alcove was blocked anyway.

    “How was the trip?” the older helioptile queried, prompting Jameila to leave the alcove and enter the main room. Her mother held two wooden bowls: one with some berries, and the other with some dried crickets. On the first bowl, Yursa was carved, and the second read Kirrah.

    “Fine,” Jameila sighed, plucking a few dried bugs from the second bowl as her mother set them down on a simple table. Seeing the old bowls brought back memories, and she briefly remembered how she had accidentally broken the bowl with her name engraved. She tossed the bugs into her mouth. “Quick. I took a water carriage along Tarfurk River.”

    Kirrah gave a light frown and remarked with concern, “That must have been expensive.”

    “Not really. I just took a regular one. And...being an electricity operator doesn’t pay too badly.”

    Kirrah gave a few soft nods. “It’s important work. And...safer.”

    Jameila paused. “Than Yursa’s work? Whatever in Mew’s name she does?” A disapproving scowl from her mother caused the younger electric type to dive for more crickets. “Whatever... I just hope she’s not too busy saving the world to see her family.”

    The two ate the snacks in silence for a bit longer. Eventually, her mother, Kirrah, kickstarted the conversation again with more pleasantries and small talk, before Jameila finally brought up the topic she had been hesitant to address.

    “So, what’s the occasion for the invitation?”

    Kirrah gave a small puff of amusement. “Jameila, sometimes there is no occasion. Sometimes a mother just wants to see her daughters.”

    Jameila met her eyes as her mother gave a smile, tempting her to reflect a smile of her own. However, the cogs of her mind turned as she continued to hold her mother’s gaze, and her smile began to fall. Her mother caught the recognition in her daughter’s eyes and broke the stare, breathing in deeply and picking up the empty cricket bowl to return it to the kitchen area.

    “...Mum,” began Jameila, her voice low.


    “No, I know you’re going to try to brush it off again,” the younger helioptile huffed, leaping to her feet. She was met with silence as her mother wiped the bowl. “I knew something was... Has it gotten worse?”

    Kirrah was silent.

    Mum,” Jameila pressed, a flicker of fear lighting up her chest.

    Kirrah stopped cleaning the bowl, her head hanging as she remained with her back to her daughter. She gave the bowl one last wipe before setting it down and returning the cloth to its place.

    “Yes,” the older pokémon admitted, slowly turning around. “It has.”

    Jameila held her eyes as she quietly swallowed, feeling the soft rise and fall of her chest. Her mother’s gaze was stern with an impartial understanding, as if she had just donned mental armour that protected her against the emotional implications of the situation.

    Jameila felt the familiar and unwelcome sense of helplessness set in as she bit the inside of her lip while her mother span back around and began to arrange some of the objects on the shelf unit.

    “Is that called us? Because you’re worried that you’re gonna...” She fought back the urge to cry as her face betrayed her, flickering between fear and stoicism. She swallowed, clenching her fists. This was happening far faster than she had anticipated. “I’m...I’m going to find you help. And don’t tell me that Yursa is already looking into it, because she clearly hasn’t made any progress.”

    “I don’t know...if I can be helped,” Kirrah rasped, finally turning around. Her face was wet with tears, her chin trembling. “I just want to be with my daughters while I can.”

    “Mum!” Jameila snapped, causing her mother to flinch. “Stop it. I refuse to believe there’s no way to cure this.”

    Kirrah sighed, shaking her head lightly. “You know as well as I do that these new rift effects haven’t been around long enough for anyone to know.”

    “I don’t care,” growled the younger helioptile. “I don’t know why Yursa swore me off doing this when we first found out. She’s a selfish—”

    “Mum,” came a third voice, both helioptile turning to see a taller, broader form in the burrow doorway. Yursa’s face was serious. “You’re worse?”

    Jameila scoffed at the sight of her sister, and she turned to the side, shaking her head. Her tail began to wave. “Nice of you to show up.”

    “I was on important business,” the heliolisk snarled, meeting eyes with her sister.

    “Important business away from your sick mother?”

    “Enough,” grunted Kirrah, her voice jagged. She glared at Jameila, who merely snorted and shook her head.

    Yursa ignored her younger sister and met with her mother, drawing her into an embrace. For ten seconds they said nothing, and Jameila merely watched, her anger fading as a tide of dejection began to slowly roll in. Her tail slouched.

    As angry as she was at her sister, and as much as she longed to hear her own up to the ways she had neglected their family for years in pursuit of personal endeavours, the helioptile could not help but want to take a mental picture of what she looked upon. Her mother’s wish was simple, and although Jameila refused to believe that her mother was not long for this world, she could not deny that the three of them spending time together while they had the chance was more important than anything. It was hard to want anything to do with her sister, for every time she did, Yursa let her down.

    After a moment longer, Yursa withdrew from the hold and pulled the pack she was carrying off her person. “I brought some things that could help.” She began extracting ointments, foods, tonics, and what looked to be parts of animals and pokémon, such as claws and feathers. Kirrah attempted to convince her not to concern herself with the potential curative components, but her eldest daughter was quick to overrule her.

    A seed of guilt sprouted within Jameila’s belly as she wondered if this was the reason that Yursa had been late. She may have spent days, even weeks, researching, gathering, and trading for medicine for her mother, while Jameila’s reason for her tardiness revolved around a non-critical chore for someone else.

    Breathing a difficult sigh, the helioptile refocused her glance on the alcove off the main room, where she had scrunched up Yursa’s bedding pile. Quietly, she slipped into the room and reset the bedrolls.


    Jameila’s nostrils twitched as she paused, looking up at her two disinterested captives.

    “So your mother’s got rift sickness. Boo-freaking-hoo,” the spherical fire type grumbled as he leaned back against the wall beside the door. “Cut to the stuff we care about, degen. I’m getting bored.”

    Jameila glowered at him, wishing that her abilities had not been dampened. She knew that she would barely leave a scrape on the darmanitan, but at least she would get the satisfaction of seeing him wince. Instead, she settled for a verbal retort.

    “I’m getting to that, you impatient oaf.”

    The fire type stiffened, then closed the space between them and shoved his forearm against her torso. She grunted. “You want to call me that again, sparky?”

    “Stop it, Rak,” ordered the breloom flatly, impatience carrying her tone.

    There was a moment of contemplation before the darmanitan pulled away with a grunt, pacing the width of the room as the grass and fighting type addressed their prisoner once more.

    “Please continue.”

    The helioptile, disinclined to show appreciation for the less aggressive hospitality, breathed evenly and continued, “We were only there a—”

    “From your arrival in Felsunk,” specified the breloom.

    Jameila narrowed her eyes, flicking her eyes between her captors. “Fine.”


    A buzzing swarm of insects flittered by as a small yellow pokémon dropped a few tiny silver lumps onto a flimsy wooden countertop. The dull clatter of the objects hitting the wood came to an early stop as a large furred paw clapped the counter. A broad bearlike creature with a yellow, oval ring dragged the silver droplets off the counter and observed them in their palm. With a nod, the creature slapped a small pouch on the counter with their other hand, which was promptly accepted by the helioptile.

    “Thanks,” Jameila muttered.

    She departed the merchant’s stall with her newly acquired pouch, undoing the string with small black hands and reaching in to pinch a few dried mealworms. She threw them into her mouth, crunching on them as her large blue eyes raked the distant gates to Felsunk City, which were partly visible beyond a dirt path snaking between numerous trees before merging with a wide stone bridge. The only way in through this gate was by crossing the bridge, a fact well-known to the many merchants, mercenaries, travellers and tradesmon who frequented the Allaraea Province’s northernmost city. Although Felsunk City was not a location predominantly known for its extensive trade offerings, many merchants frequented its walls to provide wares from both the north and the south, servicing many surrounding habitats.

    Ready to be on her way again, the pokémon cast a final glance about the quaint market that she had stopped in. Her plan had been to simply head straight into the city, but the growing hunger in her belly had persuaded her to make a stop and purchase some food. She didn’t have the sort of time needed to forage in the underbrush along her way—she didn’t know how much time she had. It occurred to her that it would be wise to purchase some other provisions, but the urgency of her task gnawed at her and insisted she move on as fast as possible.

    She flinched as a larger form pushed their way into view with heavy footsteps. Jameila looked up to a hulking rocky form sporting grey and orange armour: a rhyperior. The way they dwarfed her as they lumbered by made her feel in danger of being stepped on. She drew her tail closer to remove it from harm’s way and slipped further off the path, coming to a stall bearing a number of questionable produce baskets. She continued eyeing the rhyperior with a light glower, aware that it would go entirely unseen, and huffed to herself. One thing she always had to be careful of in crowded areas were large pokémon who weren’t always so careful around smaller ones, making no secret of their carelessness.

    Jameila waited a few more moments for her nerves to calm, then she was on her way again, storing the remainder of her mealworms in her pack, which she fastened to her back. She followed behind a sizable wagon of goods as it rolled through the market, heading along the path that would lead them to the wide stone bridge—and the destination she suspected her mother and sister were being held.

    She could recall, in all the vivid horror, the moment she had discovered that both family members had vanished from the den. Jameila had been returning home from an ordinary trip back to her village to purchase additional goods for her stay. With both herself and her sister living at her mother’s den for what was meant to be a few weeks, more supplies were needed. And since the den didn’t have much space for three pokémon, Jameila had eagerly jumped at the chance for a breath of fresh air. Her trip had been pleasant, but her peace had been brutally shattered when she had arrived back at her mother’s home.

    The den had been utterly trashed. Her mother’s furniture and belongings were strewn everywhere, many trampled and broken. Other items were missing completely. Amongst the wreckage, there had been no sign of either her mother or her sister. Once Jameila had refocused after the initial shock, she had searched the room thoroughly for any sign of the culprit, or some explanation for what had happened, but found nothing concrete. It wasn’t even entirely clear that they had been taken, but Jameila had been firmly of the belief that Yursa and Kirrah would not have done this themselves and then left without any word. Some sort of forced removal seemed the only explanation.

    She and Yursa had only been staying at their mother’s house for a week and a half. When Jameila left them to go on her short supply trip, she’d had no idea it would be the last time she would see them before disaster struck.

    Her train of thought was interrupted as she noticed more movement around her at the tail-end of the marketplace. Several of the shopkeepers began hastily packing up, which struck Jameila as strange. The market outside Felsunk always ran until after sunset unless there was some special occasion, and this rushed, almost frantic packing made her instantly feel a pang of unease. She looked up just to confirm that the sun still hung in the sky. It was low, but it was there.

    Frowning a little, she stopped as the wagon in front of her continued to roll forward, pulled by its owner. Inconspicuously, she crept closer to a pair of shopkeepers – a manectric and a fraxure – who were muttering to each other with hushed breaths.

    “…Said it was rift activity,” the fraxure was saying to his partner. “Too close for comfort. They’ve never been so close to a city before.”

    “A-are you sure?” asked the manectric, worried.

    “That’s what they’re all saying,” the fraxure responded. “Could be rumours, but I’m not taking the chance with our cargo. If we need to make a hasty retreat, we’re taking everything with us.”

    “So, say it is just rumours... What then?” the manectric queried, straining to keep a hopeful tone to his voice.

    The fraxure stopped loading his cargo into a wagon, turning to his companion and locking eyes. “Say it isn’t? Then we’ve got devourers on our heels...” he hissed. Jameila flinched. “We’ll want to be far, far from here then. Now, come on.” He gestured to a crate on the ground. “Help me get this up on the cart.”

    Their conversation shifted to the contents of their makeshift stall, and Jameila, remembering her urgency, moved on. The words they’d spoken lingered in her mind, a strange, haunting feeling to them. Rift activity? She found herself growing more unsettled as she passed other groups of pokémon hurrying to take down their stalls and tents.

    The electric type felt her heart in her throat as she headed down the dirt path, the slap of her charcoal feet sending up puffs of dust in her wake. The clink of goods on the back of a nearby merchant caught her attention, distracting her again from her thoughts as she took note of the many pokémon travelling the same road around her. It didn’t take long for her to catch up to a rather sluggish magmar hauling their modest collection of belongings along the road. He was muttering something worriedly under his breath. She caught the word ‘rift’ again, but nothing else. Effortlessly, she slipped around him.

    The sun continued to fall, and she knew that although she had made it with plenty of time to spare before dusk arrived, she would not have much time to scout the city before she needed to find some lodging.

    Nervousness twisted in her stomach as she scanned her mind for places she knew of that offered a night’s stay for a fair price. There were a few inns she was familiar with that she was sure would easily rent her a room for the night. She couldn’t afford any of the luxurious establishments usually reserved for the wealthy, but even if she could, it still sounded like a waste of money. The other place her mind brushed over was Fell’s Guild, the local mercenary organisation that Felsunk City was famous for, but that idea sounded the least appealing of all.

    It was not uncommon for settlements in this part of the continent to house mercenary establishments, and in many smaller settlements, mercenaries also doubled as the local authority or guards. Felsunk had its mercenary establishments as a form of preference, however, rather than necessity. This far north, Jameila knew that most larger cities and many of the smaller towns were subject to a presence of Darkening Dawn members. They claimed to be a productive and noble order, run by pokémon to serve pokémon. But anyone not brainwashed by their local propaganda could spot their questionable methods from leagues away. Of course, those who knew better didn’t dare voice their observations this far north.

    The helioptile’s mind had started wandering back to the mercenary group when she spotted a well-outfitted wagon emerging from around the final bend in the dirt road, directly in her path. Leading the wagon was a conkeldurr, a medicham, and a pinsir, each looking fit for battle and capable of tearing anyone’s limbs off. It was with a hint of surprise that, as the trio and their wagon came closer, Jameila realised she recognised the medicham. She quickly averted her eyes, darting behind a cart being pulled by a rather bulky brown-and-black quadruped, and leaped onto the lip at the back. She heard their harsh voices as they passed, but they made no remark about her, which led her to believe that she went unseen.

    After they had gone, she breathed a sigh of relief and dropped down from the back of the wagon, stopping a moment to watch them fade out of sight. The magmar merchant that had been trailing behind her met her gaze with subtle suspicion, and she quickly looked away, realising that hopping into the back of someone’s wagon was probably a questionable sight. She attempted to ignore him, walking on.

    Jameila breathed out as she drew closer to the city and its huge walls, thick and seemingly impenetrable. A flood of memories threatened to burst through the barrier she had built around her mind, but she shoved them aside once more. Wrapping her small charcoal fingers around the straps of her pack, she began to waddle over the wide bridge, careful to avoid eye contact with others. She tried to remain focused as she approached, coming to a large crowd gathered before the gates. She frowned. This was an unusual sight.

    At first it seemed as if there was no purpose to the mass of pokémon gathering at the gate, many of them carrying goods or services in some capacity. However, as the small helioptile wedged her way through the babbling individuals comprising the gathering, she determined that there did seem to be two distinct lines, while the middle channel was just clogged with those wishing to enter, and the few exiting the gates.

    She tested a frown once more as she kept her head angled up, watching for any large feet to accidentally come blundering into her side or onto her tail.

    ‘I should probably pick a line,’ she thought with an internal sigh, hoping that this process would take far less time than it appeared it would. She noted she was closer to the line on the left, and made the decision to fall into step with the trail of pokémon there.

    As she began squeezing her way to the back of the line, she shrieked as she was suddenly pushed, her head jerking back as her body sprawled forward. She barely had time to correct her balance as she felt the hessian pack pull free from her back, the straps effortlessly slipping off her arms as she failed to brace herself during her fall.
    She slammed into the stone as the hood around her head settled over her forehead and obscured her vision. She cried out in panic, promptly feeling her back turn cold as the absence of her pack became glaringly noticeable. She whirled around while still on the ground, watching as the bustling crowd swallowed the thief, a taller biped with a cloak and her pack in its grasp.

    “Stop! My pack! Hey!” shouted the small electric type, scrambling to her feet as fast as she could. She pushed off the ground, propelling herself forward as she dropped to all-fours. “Hey! Someone stole my—”

    Her words were cut short as a cufant lumbered forward at the wrong moment, their leg slamming into her side and knocking her into a larger, fluffy piloswine. The ice type grumbled as she turned, barely alarmed but clearly offput by Jameila’s accidental assault. She blurted out a quick apology and attempted to glare at the cufant, who was entirely oblivious to their actions, and a curse slipped out of her mouth as she sprang forward again in pursuit of the figure she could no longer see.

    “My pack was stolen!” she shouted again, barely hearing herself over the chatter of the crowd. She felt a sinking feeling as her eyes frantically searched, but revealed nothing. She asked several members of the crowd if they had seen a two-legged figure with a pack – a rather unspecific description – but was met with nothing useful. Once she came to the gates, earning her some sharp glares for skipping the queue, she glanced about, attempting to spot the perpetrator. Surely, the figure could not have entered so quickly.

    “Back of the line,” rumbled a deep and faintly feminine voice. Jameila tossed her glance to the hulking form of a chesnaught keeping the gate at the front of the right-hand line, a metal helmet covering the top half of her face. Draped over her body was maroon cut cloth bearing the crest of an order Jameila recognised, and in her right hand she clasped a spear.

    Jameila’s eyes widened in a plea. “My pack got stolen by a thief!” she protested, throwing the hood back. “Please, you have to let me—”

    “Back of the line, helioptile,” the guard grunted.

    Jameila released an exasperated breath, unable to conceive how this was not being taken more seriously. “But someone took all my—”

    “Do I need to repeat myself again, outsider?” boomed the grass and fighting type, lowering the spear towards her. At this, Jameila’s mouth fell ajar and she stared at the weapon, which she only now noticed had glowing veins curling around its length.

    Shock held her for a few moments more before she began to back up, unwilling to plead her case further, and she slipped away from judgemental eyes back into the crowd. She curled her fingers into her palms, feeling their tips dig into her skin, and shook her head to herself. As she fell into the left-hand lane again, this time a few places further back, her mind trawled through the multiple losses she had suffered already. Her rations, medicinal berries, a sun shard, her mother’s lucky pebble...

    “My silver,” she breathed finally, groaning inwardly and slapping both hands to her forehead. Immediately she knew paying for lodging was out of the question, as well as purchasing any fresh food or drink. She had even packed extra from her mother’s stash in case she needed a handful for bribery.

    The electric and normal type hung her head as she waited in line, noting, at least, that most pokémon were being let through the gates. She was in the queue for at least twenty minutes while she hopelessly relived the thievery in her mind time and again, dissecting the event each time with an additional dose of self-deprecation as she attempted to pinpoint how she could have prevented it.

    After another heavy sigh to herself, Jameila shuffled forward in the queue, a particular word from behind her catching her attention. She had been tuning most surrounding conversation out, but the mention of rifts once more had her curious.

    “I can’t believe they’ve been spotted in the area,” a girafarig directly behind her muttered to his companion. “We’re not even close to a rift.”

    “I know,” his companion replied, worry coating her tone. “It makes no sense. It has to be fake.”

    “Why would it be fake?” the girafarig barked nervously.

    “Creating fear,” whispered the companion. “Think about it... the Darkening Dawn could say anything and pokémon around here would believe it.”

    The helioptile turned her head at this, pretending to look to her right as she properly focused on their conversation. She identified the companion as an illumise whose fluttering wings were keeping her airborne as she spoke. The two didn’t seem to notice that the helioptile had begun to listen.

    “Shh,” the girafarig hissed, “not so loud.”

    “I whispered!”

    “Anyway... I just hope it was a false alarm. I didn’t travel all this way just to be attacked by a devourer. Or a sweeper.”

    Jameila gasped at the word and immediately turned around, facing the girafarig and the illumise. “Sweeper?”

    The two pokémon gave her a strange look and the psychic type lowered his head a little in a half-nod. “Yeah... Isn’t that why you’re trying to get in, too?”

    “No,” she answered, “I’m...”

    The bug type looked inquisitive. “You didn’t hear about the warning?”

    Jameila merely shook her head, but thought back to the hasty actions of those in the market not far off from the bridge. It all made sense now.

    “Next,” blurted a gruff voice, and the girafarig nudged Jameila with his front leg.

    “Your turn,” he told her, traces of impatience in his voice.

    The little yellow pokémon blinked, trying to snap herself out of the raboot hole her thoughts had begun to descend into. She instinctively drew both hands to her shoulders before realising with a bite of annoyance that her pack was not there, and walked up to the looming form of a large purple pokémon. He was adorned in similar attire to the chesnaught: helmet, loose maroon cloth bearing a golden emblem, and a spear bearing carvings and embellishments in his left hand.

    “State your name and business,” he ordered, holding a marker in his free hand, which rested upon a small stand bearing a ledger.

    “J-Jameila, helioptile family. I’m here to...” She paused. “I’m seeking shelter from the rift-born.”

    “Are you bringing any magic items into the city today?”

    “Uhh...” She pulled up the edge of her cloak with one hand, shaking her head. “Nope. Pack got stolen and this is just regular cloth.”

    “How unfortunate,” the nidoking grumbled, finishing noting down the information into the ledger. “Do you have any tattoos?”

    Jameila wanted to frown at the question before it occurred to her that the nidoking was referring not to decorative inkwork, but to magical markings made with embedded materials. Some pokémon commissioned such magical enhancements to serve as power amplifiers in the place of using regular magic items. Nobody she knew personally had access to such riches or resources, but she knew it happened.


    He raised an eyebrow, though she was barely able to tell beneath his helmet. She breathed a sigh and lifted the cloak, slowly turning around so he could verify her claim himself.

    “Very well,” he mumbled, “you’re free to enter.”

    “Thanks,” she murmured insincerely, making her way past the guard and through the open gates. More armoured guards just inside the gates watched warily as she walked slowly in, and she met their eyes before flicking up her hood.


    “This is a freaking joke,” growled the helioptile. She kicked a piece of rubbish on the cobblestone street as she made her descent down the slope.

    She had gone straight to an outpost housing the local authority – a guard division and extension of the local mercenary presence from Fell’s Guild – to report her stolen pack, and was met with jeering dismissal. According to them, thefts were far too common and difficult to trace, and there was little they could do. When she made her case about her missing family, the guards had asked her if she had any proof that they had been abducted. When she had told them no, their concern waned to nothing more than entertainment, and they insisted that her sister and mother had probably gone on a “family outing” without her. At this absurd comment and the guards’ apparent apathy, Jameila had been outraged.

    “Can’t you at least be on the lookout for my family?” she had asked rather incredulously.

    One guard had brought a lilac paw to her face and used a small claw to scratch her muzzle beneath her helmet and replied, “Yeah, sure, kid.”

    She groaned as she angled her head to the murky orange sky and eyed off the overhead streetlights still yet to activate when dusk fell. The long-beaked, dark form of a murkrow sat perched on one of the metal arms, eyes fixed on her as she walked. She would have considered the behaviour odd were it coming from another species, but murkrow were well-known for their silent watching, and it was accepted as an inherent behaviour. At present, she hardly cared about an extra set of eyes watching her anyway.

    The helioptile shook her head to herself as her mind pored over her conversation with the guards, picturing the granbull’s nonchalant attitude, and muttered, “Bloody useless guards... They could have at least pretended to care.”

    “Sympathy is not their strong suit,” chimed a voice away from the road.

    The electric type jumped a little, her head frills immediately splaying out. She stopped, surveying the buildings lining either side of the cobblestone road, and pinned her eyes on an alley between two buildings.

    “I can give you a booster jolt if it’s needed,” the voice offered, its owner still obscured.

    “Who are you?” she questioned, voice stiff. She heard the rolling of a cart approaching, which caught her attention briefly and she glanced to the top of the street, where a merchant and their cart pulled into view. At the sight of another witness, she felt more at ease.

    A long, boxlike form began to wriggle out from the shadows, revealing a pokémon that was mostly muted-green in colour, had vertical mandible-jaws, and two horn-like protrusions beside the jaws. Their two eyes looked glossy and unspecific, and Jameila wasn’t sure if they were looking at her as the creature seemed to attempt a smile.

    “Call me Maintenance,” the pokémon responded, small crackles in his voice as he spoke.

    The helioptile felt her frills lower as she sensed that this creature was not dangerous, and after realising that the pokémon pulling the cart coming her way was giving her a curious look, she promptly folded her frills back up and brushed down her cloak. She gave the passing pokémon a polite smile and then turned back to the alley-dweller.

    “I’m...Jameila.” She cocked an eyebrow. “Why were you...listening to me?”

    “I was just checking the streetlights, of course,” he responded, briefly turning his flat face to the nearest pole and then back again. “I go where electricity is needed. I do apologise for eavesdropping.”

    Jameila turned her head. “You’re an electric type?” she wondered, running her gaze over his form again.

    “I am a charjabug. We are part electric and part bug.” He faced the same streetlight and spat a white string-like substance from his mouth. It stuck to the lamp with ease, and then he ate a bit of the string, pulling himself off the ground. He continued to munch the string, pulling himself further and further up until he reached the overhanging light itself. Still hanging by a small length of the string, he swung himself back and forth until the momentum tossed him over and onto the lamp. Once on top, he met her eyes again and opened his jaws as if to smile in a victorious pose.

    Jameila, surprised and impressed, flicked her eyes to the murkrow watching from another post, then back to the charjabug. “Wow. You’re agile.”

    “No matter if the problem is up high,” he called, and took a moment observe his surroundings before gluing his sticky string to the lamp again. He jumped off, using the length of his string to lower himself gently to the ground.

    “What about that?” Jameila asked, gesturing to the string that still hung over the street.

    The bug and electric type began crawling back to her. “For street cleaning to clean.”

    “Do this for a job?” asked the helioptile once the charjabug was crawling past her and back into the alley.

    “The streets call me, as I’m sure you, too, have a calling.”

    “Oh...sure,” she pondered, unable to relate. She watched the creature disappear into the alley and glanced down the street at the cart. She wasn’t entirely sure where she would be sleeping, but she still had some time to enquire about her missing family. She looked back to the shadowed alley. “ trip home.”

    “It was,” the pokémon replied.

    Jameila wasn’t quite sure how to respond to the small charjabug as she watched him place the front of his rectangular body onto the brick wall and begin wiggling up in tiny increments. She was going to say some kind of farewell, but elected to leave the pokémon as he was.

    She glanced behind her, then up at the winged dark type pokémon, feet still wrapped around the metal pole and eyes surveying the area. The night was growing darker, and she imagined that once a layer of blackness filled the sky, the murkrow would venture off the post and into the city.


    After a further hour of searching for her pack and attempting to glean any information about recent abductions or possible culprits, Jameila felt her enthusiasm and hope begin to dwindle. The air had grown colder as the sun had traced its path down closer to the distant hills. The streets were still lit by the sun’s last touches, but already the lanterns and streetlights present along the walkways in the city had sprung to life. Only cities with intricate infrastructure and a dense population utilised the use of stored electricity to power lighting and machinery, while most other small settlements stuck to the use of fire, relied on waterwheels, or had an electric-type feeding electricity directly into a conductor for live use. The concept had a human background, and as Jameila had heard, they had many other methods of generating power. According to stories she had heard, the humans also enslaved pokémon to generate power for them.

    Her mind turned as she wandered down a cobblestone street, feeling the chill of the air sweep beneath her brown cloak and zip up her spine. She had not wandered around much of the city yet, but was running out of ideas for where she could find answers. She knew that Felsunk had a nightlife, at least. Her energy was at its peak when the sunlight soaked her skin, and although she didn’t need a constant source of it to function, she was well aware that she needed to rest during the night. In the very least, she would have been able to rely on the sun shard she had brought for extra energy, but that option was out of the question now, too.

    Only two locations stuck out to her as places that might harbour some answers for her; the first was the local dojo, but as she considered the idea of confronting the dojo master after their last few encounters, she elected to try her other option first.

    The second was in the heart of the market district, towards the end of the plaza, and she quickly settled on this as she watched the last of the sunlight twinkle out. She was quick to find her way there, slipping through some back-alleys with which she was familiar, and popped out near the end of the plaza. She noted that most of the shops had packed up and closed, but a night market always ran on the far end of the plaza for nocturnal pokémon which was beginning to open up. At the other end, where the plaza tapered into a main road that descended into the housing district, rested the famous Damn Good Grubbinn.

    The lively inn and bar had a famous reputation for only closing its doors to the public for a single hour every week. Its massive doors, stretching over twenty feet tall and fifteen feet wide, welcomed travellers of most shapes and sizes, and its interior was nothing short of diverse and enormous.

    It had been a good twelve months since Jameila had moved away from Felsunk City following the events that persuaded her to leave, but in that moment as she stood at the base of the enormous open doors, it felt like a mere week ago that she had set foot inside the Damn Good Grubbinn, often shortened to the Grubb Inn, to celebrate a successful mission alongside her mercenary teammates.

    She felt the pang of painful memories wash over her, but she forced her feelings down and breathed out, throwing back her hood and entering through the doors. The well-known logo of a cartoon grubbin holding an enormous pint of something alcoholic was split in two, half on each door, and seemed to watch Jameila as she paced down a short set of wide steps. The interior was massive, designed to cater for pokémon of varying sizes, with relatively simple décor. A few flags, artworks, trophies, and signs were hung around the walls, and various types of small pub games were set up in sections. There was a large rectangular bar in the centre of the tavern, with a separate bar lining the left-hand side, and numerous sitting areas with tables and benches, perches, and other types of furniture. Practically the only pokémon that the inn didn’t cater for were those who lived and breathed water, but there were few of those in Felsunk anyway due to its absence of water channels.

    Glancing around the tavern, Jameila could not see a single soul she recognised, and for that she found herself grateful. As nice as it was to be back on familiar ground, there was something oddly off-putting about returning to a town she had previously lived in and had so suddenly moved from. She had not maintained any connections after leaving, mostly due to the fact that she had made so few during her time spent living there; Felsunk was a city of alternating patronage anyway. Brief feelings about her past year swept through her mind and, feeling a jarring sense of under-accomplishment, she attempted to shift her thoughts to her goal, and released a long breath.

    She headed for the bar lining the left-hand side of the establishment, passing a small cluster of pokémon sitting on simple seats around a stained wooden table. The group boomed with jolly laughs, sloshed their drinks about, and made exaggerated gestures to one another. From somewhere in the room came a chorus of drunken singing, while a limb-wrestle attracted a small crowd toward the back of the tavern involving an aggressive krokorok and a gangly-looking oranguru.

    The helioptile attempted to block out most stimuli tickling her senses as she weaved her way around the rocky form of a graveler and slinked up onto one of the bar stools. She began perusing the labelled jugs of liquor lining the shelves behind the bar, but as the drunken singing towards the back wall grew louder, she couldn’t help but look. A few instruments were revealed and various pokémon began strumming, blowing, or banging in a discordant melody. As jolly as it looked, the electric type was less than interested in engaging, and turned back around.

    “What’s eatin’ you?” asked a shaggy, pig-nosed bartender.

    Jameila looked up, briefly glancing to the closed eye on the primeape’s left side—her right. He had shoved his glove-like mitt into a large tankard and wiped the inside of it with a cloth.

    The electric type, head resting on one palm as frustration gnawed at her, gave a brief snort through her nostrils. “Don’t pretend you care.”

    The primeape paused on a light frown, then turned away and tucked the tankard under the counter and moved to serve the next customer.

    Jameila felt a pang of guilt as she reiterated her words silently, surprised at herself for her uncouth response. After her encounters so far, she did not expect anyone in this establishment, or possibly the entire city, to have any care for her thoughts or trials, so she dismissed any attempt to discuss them as ingenuine. It had been like to a reflex, despite the fact that she did not have a firm reason to believe this pokémon was disinterested.

    She groaned inwardly and waited a minute, sinking further onto the countertop and running a finger along a groove in the wood. Her eyes wandered until they stopped at a drunken heracross wielding a hefty, sloshing tankard as he recounted his previous night’s antics to a small circle of listeners. His voice carried enough for her to hear that he had found two of his lost knapsacks while out on a walk, only to wake in the morning and realise that the knapsacks were not his, and that he had accidentally stolen them from a closed market stall while inebriated. The roar of laughter hopped about the sweaty, busy air as the bartender returned, catching Jameila’s attention again. Trying to seize the chance while he was near, she removed her elbow from the counter and sat up a bit straighter.

    “S-sorry," she began, successfully catching his attention. "About before. That was rude."

    The fighting type merely raised his brow while keeping his eyelid halfway closed. He stepped away to serve another patron, leaving Jameila feeling a little deflated, before he returned to pick up some ice blocks that had overflowed from a previous order.

    “Aye, it was,” he agreed, this time raising his fluffy brow expectantly.

    Jameila sighed. “Yeah... Sorry."

    The primeape took a full-body breath and followed up with a shrug. “Ah, lass, you don’t owe me a thing. You’re clearly havin’ a rough time, but it’s none’a my business.”

    She scoffed a little. “That’s one way to put it... Um, could I get some water?”

    The bartender nodded and poured her some water from a tap, handing her the glass. The condensation immediately wetted her hands, and she took a sip.

    “Well, if ya ever want to talk...” He paused. “Don’t come to me; I’m just a bartender,” he chuckled in jest, giving a playful shrug.

    Jameila snorted in amusement. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

    The primeape waited a moment before asking, "You new in town?"

    The helioptile took another sip, cupping her glass between both hands. "No. I used to live here."

    "That so?"

    "Mhm. I trained at Master Denji's Dojo. Was even part of Felsunk Mercs."

    The primeape turned around briefly to punch a block of ice that one of his co-workers had brought him on a wheeled tray table. It broke into small shards that he scooped into a bowl, then placed it on the lower shelf of the tray table, which the other pokémon wheeled away. He turned back.

    "Why'd you leave?"

    Jameila stared at her drink. "My mother got sick and I had to take care of her. She lives...east."

    The fighting type made motions similar to a nod. "And she's better now that you're back? Or'd she...keel over?"

    Jameila flinched. “No.” She stared into her glass, holding her tongue. The primeape was friendly, but she was hesitant to reveal more. For all she knew, he could be one of the kidnappers. She felt ridiculous even entertaining the possibility, but that didn’t make it impossible. “I’m just getting some supplies here.”

    “Here?” asked the bartender, who had received an order and started preparing it. “At the inn?”

    She knew he was only teasing, but she wasn’t in much of a mood to joke. “No... My pack got stolen as soon as I walked in the front gates. Before, even!” she threw a hand up dramatically and dropped it back to the bar, releasing another sigh.

    “Aye, lass, sounds like you need something a little heavier than tap water.”

    “My pieces were in the pouch,” she murmured into her elbow as she slouched over the bar. She stared ahead at nothing in particular as the primeape finished making the drink someone had ordered, and passed it to them.

    He picked up a few tankards and glasses from a group of pokémon a few stools away and tucked them under the bar. “I’d give ya one on the house, but the boss doesn’t like non-payin’ customers. Learned that one the hard way.”

    “It’s fine,” the electric type muttered as the bartender’s attention was caught by another patron.

    Jameila rolled her head on her arm and watched some more pokémon enter the inn, a zubat flitting by her head and perching upside-down on a joist. The sight of someone hanging from overhead cycled her mind back to the charjabug she had encountered a few hours earlier, and quietly she wondered if he would be a good person to ask about free lodging. Judging by his comment as he had been leaving, she imagined that he lived on the streets, and therefore could be of some assistance to her.

    She slipped off the barstool, her head flaps clapping against her cheeks, and felt a wave of tiredness suddenly hit her. She shook her head, waddling towards the exit. She turned around to view the bartender, who was busy tending to some customers. She flipped the hood up and left the inn, heading back in the direction of the electric and bug type from earlier.


    “I didn’t find him, so I slept somewhere else. Then I woke up in the middle of the night to being kidnapped, and here we are.”

    The two captors looked at each other. The darmanitan gave a snort, then turned to Jameila as her arms still hung from the wall in shackles.

    “That’s it?” he scoffed, lifting both his arms in a questioning motion. “No secret meetings with your sister’s contacts? No item exchanges?”

    Jameila scrunched up her face. “No?”

    “You’re not part of that annoying little conspirator group?”

    The helioptile opened her mouth to query his comment when the breloom elbowed her colleague, giving him a subtle sneer. She turned to the electric type. “Some annoying little vigilantes, Jameila; nothing for you to worry about.”

    The helioptile flinched at her name again. She wouldn’t get used to these cretins using it, and nor did she like when they did.

    She watched as the two of them backed up to the front of the cell, near the iron door. Their backs faced her as she sighed, feeling the ache in her arms persist as she tried once more to send a tiny shock through her body and into the shackles, but felt nothing close to success. She attempted to pull herself up at all, but to her displeasure, her arms merely ached back at her, causing a groan of exertion to slip from her mouth.

    The two captors span around, moving closer to her again. The darmanitan used his enormous arms as he walked, while the breloom took long but low bounds with the support of her tail.

    “I need you to be honest, Jameila,” the breloom said sternly as she closed the gap between them, turning her hand palm-up and tucking the tips of her long claws under Jameila’s chin. She lifted the helioptile’s head. “Did your mother or sister ever mention anything about...magic items?”

    Jameila stared her in the eyes for a number of seconds, remaining silent, until she slowly opened her mouth. “No.”

    “Liar!” shrieked the darmanitan, driving a fist into the wall.

    Jameila felt her entire body jump as the breloom pulled her hand away. Images swarmed her mind of adrenaline filling her bones and tightening her muscles, and she felt her breathing quicken. It took her a moment to realise that the sudden pain in her neck was due to a new scratch from the breloom’s claws.

    “Rak,” hissed the grass-type, raising her claws threateningly.

    The darmanitan dusted his knuckle and growled, “She’s wasting our time!”

    Ajulah snarled and turned back to her hostage. “Are you?”

    “No,” she spat, feeling her body quiver but her mind fill with rage at the darmanitan. “My family isn’t rich. We aren’t treasure collectors, or antique hunters. The only magic items I’ve ever seen have been on the backs of merchant wagons.” She paused to breathe, watching as the fire type rolled his eyes and turned to walk a few paces away, tucking his arms behind his head in frustration. “Wait... Do you think we’re thieves? Is that what this is about? You—you lost something and you think my family stole it from you?”

    “We know you have it, you stinking little degen,” pressed Rak, whose teeth were clenched. Again, Ajulah shoved him, but this time, he reacted. “Get your claws off me!” he shouted, his fist bursting into flames. “One wrong move and you’ll be a smouldering pile of leaf litter.”

    At this, the breloom’s face darkened, and she took a step towards him. Although they were a similar height, the green pokémon suddenly seemed to loom over him. Her voice was deep, slow, and she spoke with purpose. “Let’s not forget whose connections matter most here. Now calm the f**k down, and don’t ever threaten me again.”

    Her gaze drilled into him, and after several seconds, his fist flame went out. Reluctantly, he lowered his arm. Jameila got the sense that he felt legitimate fear, but attempted to mask it with resistant obedience. He snorted at her, and lumbered towards the iron door.

    Ajulah slowly turned to Jameila, whose expression betrayed curiosity and mild concern. The two shared prolonged eye contact before the grass type passed her a fake smile.

    “That’ll be all for now.”

    The two captors exchanged a few hushed words by the opposite wall before they gave Jameila one last look. Without another word, they exited the room, and the machoke guard slammed the door and bolted it behind them.

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