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Little Miss Sunshine
19th January 2012, 4:24 PM
http://i303.photobucket.com/albums/nn140/epicMOO/GIRLFRIENDBANNEROMG.png


Pʀᴏʟᴏɢᴜᴇ
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I am not your chosen one.

I’ve known that since the day I was born. I’m Mary Jane Reeves. I’m seventeen years old. I like fruit and curling up with a nice book. I don’t like Pokémon. They’re confusing things that I can’t understand, and I’m just fine with that. They can go on living on their own, just as Lord N decreed however many years ago. I don’t really care.

I live in Nalik. I don’t know much about where it is, but I know it’s an island surrounded by a forest. There’s something beyond the woods, though. I know that much. Sometimes the elders like to sit around the fire and talk about the old days.

It’s funny that we call them elders, because they really are rather young. I imagine my parents would have to be around their age. The only thing that separates them from the rest of us is that they were trainers when The Lord declared the first executive order: Trainers of the world, free your Pokémon. They like to tell us—the ones either too young or not even born at the time—of what they called ‘the good old days’.

Preston tells the best stories. He keeps his hair long and brings his guitar with him wherever he goes, writing songs about his two blitzles that he had before the release. He says their names were Bolt and Volt. The three of them had many adventures together, and all you have to do is ask and he’ll whip out his guitar, spinning his yarns and entertaining everyone who stops to listen.

I think we’re the only ones who haven’t given up. When I was very tiny, people still lived with Pokémon. Even though Lord N demanded that everyone let them go, many ended up staying with their owners. The relationship between human and Pokémon is something that’s evolved over thousands of years. It’s not something that can be erased with just a decree.

The elders—and many others, too—still believe that someday, someone will rise up and challenge the Lord, just as Hilda did before. I know all about Hilda’s journey, of course, as many of the books I have access to document it. The only difference will be that while Hilda failed, this new someone will succeed.

So every year, the citizens of Nalik gather. Every year, a ‘chosen one’ is selected from the lot of us to be celebrated, to have a Pokémon bestowed upon them, and to be sent out of the safe haven of Nalik and into the world, which may or may not be hospitable.

We don’t know because none of them have ever come back.

It’s my second year in this drawing. I’m somewhat familiar with it now—the thirty-eight of us potential ‘chosen ones’ gather in the town square, and the mayor has us draw stones. One stone is painted red. Whoever gets the painted stone is the 'lucky winner'.

No.

My heart’s in my throat as I stare at the stone in my hand. It’s a trick of the light. It has to be.

Everyone’s around me now, patting me on the back and ruffling my hair and congratulating me. “The Chosen One is among us!” someone announces, and the crowd cheers.

No, I want to tell her. No, you’re wrong. The rock isn't red. It's a trick of the light. It has to be.

But she's wrong beyond that. They have the wrong girl. I'm Mary Jane Reeves. I'm seventeen years old. I like fruit and curling up with a nice book.

And I am not your chosen one.

Sepser
19th January 2012, 5:09 PM
This story seems pretty interesting, I like the idea with N winning and the life after that happens. I'm just a bit curious, do you plan to incorporate Gethsis plan about him being the only one to own pokemon later in the story?
I've come up with a similar concept about the main character not being the "chosen one" some time ago, but never more than that.
Other than that i would just like to say that its an interesting idea and I'll be following the story.

SerenadeSP
19th January 2012, 11:22 PM
A world where N and Ghetsis succeeded? Sounds like a good story to me!

The lottery-esque thing was a nice touch, it reminded me of the Hunger Games, or even the short story Lottery, where winning the lottery isn't exactly what you want to happen. But it happened here.

The structure of this story is very well done and, even though it's short, I can tell you put a lot of thought into it. If you ever start a PM list, please put me on it.

Squiddly Dee
19th January 2012, 11:24 PM
This seems very interesting for the same reasons the above posters have stated. I will definitely check back to see more. :>

LuigiBros
20th January 2012, 2:39 AM
This story definitely seems full of potential! I can see it become quite good. Also, I like how the lottery drawing is based on the Hunger Games; those were some good books. One thing I noticed...


He keeps his hair long and brings his guitar with him wherever he goes, writing songs about his two blitzles that he had before the release.

I'm not sure if it's just me, but I have always capitalized pokemon names? But that was all. I will eagerly await your first chapter. c:

Psychic
20th January 2012, 4:57 AM
This is an interesting concept. It’s certainly a different take on what happens post-game, and I’m curious to know more about this society and the current relations between Pokemon and humans. I’d imagine that many who were partners/teammates in the past would stay together despite Pokeballs, so I was surprised that Preston didn’t seem to have his Blitzle anymore, nor were any of the elders mentioned to have Pokemon. Either way, I like stories forcing characters who’d be happier staying home out on a quest or journey. You’ve set up an interesting situation for Mary Jane, and I imagine she’s going to go through some wonderful character development.

That said, there were parts I found a little strange. For instance, that some random village finds it important to choose a kid every year and send them out into the wilderness without any instruction. Is there some ancient legend they’re trying to fulfill here? I’m mainly wondering how they find a Pokemon to give out each year if it’s illegal to catch/own them.

I liked reading about Preston yearning for the old days, but I wish you’d given more examples! It sounded like you were about to give small snippets of a few of the “elders,” and I really liked what I read of Preston’s story. For that reason I was a little disappointed you didn’t tell more about some of the others. I also find it strange that these “elders” were people who were around before N’s reign, but if they were the same age as the average kid’s parents, therefore those parents were around before N’s reign, how are some of them considered elders and others aren’t? Maybe “elders” is just the wrong word, here? Maybe just call them “former trainers” or “keepers of Pokemon” or something?

And some quick minor nitpicks:


They’re confusing things that I can’t understand, and I’m just fine with that.
I think the emphasis is on her being fine not liking Pokemon, not with finding them confusing and hard to understand. Maybe just end this with “but that doesn’t concern me” or something in that vein.



I live in Nalik. I don’t know much about where it is, but I know it’s an island surrounded by a forest.
This feels a little strange for Mary Jane to consciously be thinking about. Most people don’t really ask “where am I?” because the answer is usually literally “I am here.” Is she concerned with where Nalik is in relation to the rest of the world? The rest of the region? She already seems so introverted (considering her love of books and preference to stay home) that I wouldn’t think she would spend time thinking about these things.



Sometimes the elders like to sit around the fire and talk about the old days.
Should be “something that makes the elders like to sit around”



It’s funny that we call them elders, because they really are rather young.
Instead of saying “they really are rather young,” what about saying “they really aren’t old”? I figure they’re not that young that I would use the word “young.”



He keeps his hair long and brings his guitar with him wherever he goes, writing songs about his two blitzles that he had before the release. He says their names were Bolt and Volt.
I would merge these into one sentences, making it “writing songs about his two blitzles, Bolt and Volt, he’d had before the release.” Capitalizing Pokemon names isn’t mandatory, though generally the plural of a Pokemon name doesn’t add an “s” at the end. Either way, it’s up to you, just make sure to be consistent. :>



When I was very tiny, people still lived with Pokémon.
I would say “little” instead of “tiny.” “Little” implies being young as well as small, but “tiny” just sounds like she was the size of a thimble or something. XD



I know all about Hilda’s journey, of course, as many of the books I have access to document it.
The end of the sentence is very wordy. You could just shorten this entire sentence to something like “I’ve read about Hilda’s journey countless times.” I also find it a little curious that Team Plasma didn’t erase all records of Hilda or make her sound like a villain or something, so that nobody would want to try and repeat Hilda’s attempt or view her as a hero.



Whoever gets the painted stone is the 'lucky winner'.

No.

My heart’s in my throat as I stare at the stone in my hand. It’s a trick of the light. It has to be.
I REALLY like this part. The jump from exposition to that stomach-clenching feeling she feels in the moment feels strong and sudden, making us feel the same way Mary Jane does.



No, I want to tell her. No, you’re wrong. The rock isn't red. It's a trick of the light. It has to be.

But she's wrong beyond that.
I really like that she’s trying to convince herself it’s a trick of the light here, and that she can't accept it even by the end. Although I think you should go with “they” instead of “she” so as to give more of an impression that it’s not just one lady – it’s everyone, and it’s not just this lady who’s wrong – it’s everyone.


This is a really nice prologue in that it's getting people interested and making them wonder what's to come. I certainly like your style and am quite curious to see where this goes! Good luck!

~Psychic

Tox
20th January 2012, 8:08 AM
Ooh I love the written style and the flow. One thing about B/W's story is that, unlike the others, it really made me wonder what would have happened if N and Ghetsis had succeeded. I can't wait to see where you take this--if you start a PM list, I'd love to be on it!

Little Miss Sunshine
21st January 2012, 1:58 AM
Chapter One
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When I wake up, there’s a strange crick in my neck and every part of my body aches. It’s dark and it smells like dust. By the time I reach out and find myself touching a thick pipe, I remember where I am.

I get onto my knees and push forward, groping for the doorknob as every muscle in my body groans in protest. The doorknob’s cold against my hand, but I twist it anyway and shove myself out of the supply closet. I’d like to stay there forever. I can’t. I know I can’t, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing.

“Get up, you two!” I recognize Sarah’s voice, loud and stripped of any of its usual warmth. If I hadn’t remembered that I was in the town hall, I probably wouldn’t have recognized it. The usually pristine building’s filthy to say the least. Chairs are knocked over, remnants of food are scattered about, and there are two men sprawled out on the floor.

“Up!” she asserts again, and my gaze drifts upwards, almost sluggishly. Sarah’s just a few years older than me, with long brown hair and delicate features that make her the envy of half the village. She jerks her head to the side—evidently not taking notice of me—and whistled.

I hear a low bark, and then the pounding of paws against wooden floor echoes around me. I jump to my feet to make sure I’m not in the beast’s path, and not even a second later the scraggly mess of fur bounds past me and towards the others.

It stops short in front of Sarah, its tongue lolling out of the side of its mouth. It’s almost as tall as she is, but she simply greets the beast with a scratch behind the ear. “Scruffy, why don’t you help me get these boys off the floor?”

“Stou.” It’s more of a snort than anything else, but the massive canine understands what Sarah requested. He has to, as he buries his short snout under one of the men on the floor and nudges him in the general direction of the door.

The man in question lets out a noise that manages to encompass both a yip and a moan. “I’m going, I’m… goin’… getchur filthy paws offa me!” His speech is slurred and he stumbles as he rises to his feet. “C’mon, Reese, lesgo!”

I dare to creep a bit closer, feeling very much like an intruder. The man still on the floor groans, half-crawling and half-being dragged by his friend out of the door. “And don’t come back until you sober up, y’hear?!” Sarah calls after them, placing her hands on her hips and staring hard after the retreating duo. The stoutland, once again at her side, lets out a snort that matches the girl’s sentiment.

A moment passes, and she drops her arms, sighs, and turns to me with a half-smile. “Where’ve you been, M.J.?”

Sarah has a certain gift of being everyone’s best friend the moment that she starts talking to them. That probably has something to do with why most of the people my age in the village want to either be her, or be with her. I try to smile back at her but fail. “Sleeping,” I deadpan, gesturing with a weak shrug towards the still-opened supply closet. “I don’t like parties.”

She lets out a sound of sympathy and begins stroking Scruffy with the back of her hand. “But surely you must’ve been having fun last night, right? I would love to be the Chosen One just for the party. You’re the center of attention, and then you’ll come back after everything and you’ll have saved the day! And everyone will love you, forever and ever.”

I bite my lip to keep from saying anything. There’s simply no way that someone could be so ignorant. The stoutland snorts again.

“Scruffy and I could take N on, no problem! Right, boy?” she asks, and now the stoutland lets out an excited yip. It doesn’t sound natural coming from such a large and intimidating beast.

If I think hard, I can remember when he was a herdier. If I wasn’t fond of him now, then I liked him even less back then. All of the tameness that defines him now wasn’t present in his earlier days. But of course, he’s also the only truly tamed Pokémon in Nalik, so everyone in Nalik naturally doted on him.

Except me, of course. I don’t think he ever forgave me for that.

She’s talking again and I force myself to focus. I’m still just slightly groggy. “You read a lot, right?”

I nod.

“Have you studied what you’re up against?”

“Nobody’s written anything about life outside. Or if they have, I don’t have access to it.”

Sarah lets out a laugh that sounds like tingling bells. “Oh, not nature, silly! I meant N!”

I want to say no. I want to prove a point that I’m not ready for this, and that sending me out to do this is a horrible mistake. But the fact is that I do know about Lord N. I know that his first and only executive order was for all of Unova’s citizens to free their Pokémon. I know that not long after that declaration, his stepfather was assassinated on the steps of the castle by an extremist. I know that he rides the white dragon of truth. I know that ‘ride’ is used figuratively, as he never actually leaves his castle.

So I nod. “Yeah. A bit, I guess.”

I don’t know what I was expecting her to do, but when she simply shrugs I feel incredibly underwhelmed. “That’s good,” she murmurs, before burying her face in the fur on top of Scruffy’s head.

He lets out a purring noise—something odd to hear from a canine, let alone such a massive one—and looks up at Sarah as if I’m not even here. In fact, I shouldn’t be here. “Sarah,” I ask softly, feeling awkward reminding either of these two of my presence, “do you remember where the mayor told me to report to?”

I don’t know if she actually heard me and I’m just about to ask again, slightly louder this time, when she raises her head to gaze out the window. “It’s the same place it’s been every year. Really, Mary Jane, you should pay more attention to these things.” She takes a breath and turns to face me. “The town square. But please, tidy yourself up a bit first?”

My hand flies to my hair before I even have time to think. It feels wet, and greasy, and matted. Hadn’t I just showered yesterday? And I must’ve been presentable last night, as no one had any comments outside of the usual ‘congratulations, Chosen One!’ and ‘our fate lies with you, Chosen One!’

“How much time do I have?” My mouth is suddenly dry and I have to force myself to swallow.

Sarah turns her head again, pushing her smooth and silky hair (which I’m suddenly very jealous of) behind her ear. “Well, you’re supposed to be there at ten, and it’s nine-ten. So what’s that, forty minutes? Fifty?”

“Fifty,” I confirm, already excusing myself from the conversation. I’m not the most socially aware person. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I have enough pride to be embarrassed when my hair is such a mess.

“Good luck, Chosen One!” she calls after me, and Scruffy lets out an echoic bark. I don’t know what he’s saying, but he’s probably excited I’m leaving. Then the entire village will definitely love him.

I resolutely avoid the town square. That’s where everyone should be right about now, after all, and with most of the residents saving seats, the village is mostly empty. It’s warm. I find myself focusing on trivial details in order to avoid thinking of what this day will surely bring. The grass is beautiful. I’d miss it.

It isn’t a long walk to the bunks. I pass a little girl and her father—‘say congratulations to the Chosen One, Emily’, he says, but she just buries her face in his pant leg. That’s exactly what I wish I could do right now.

My bunk’s towards the front. I think it’s empty—or rather, I hope it’s empty—so I cross over to the mirror the moment I enter the room.

To say that I look unpresentable would be too kind on me. I’m covered in soot. Or at least, I think (and hope) it’s soot. My eyes are red and puffy. My hair—short as it is—is tangled in such a way that it looks more like a nest landed on my head.

I’m a mess. I try to run a finger through my snarls helplessly, before trying to brush some of the soot from my face. Both have little effect. I should shower. I should, but I find myself rooted to where I stand and staring at the girl in the mirror.

She’s young. She’s too young to be leaving town. What sick creature sends a girl as little as her out to fight? To die? Because that’s what she’s about to do. She’s about to be shipped out, on a raft, into the unknown world where there’s no one to help her when she falls.

She’s crying. She’s crying and I can’t blame her. It’s only when I feel the hotness in my own eyes that I force myself to look away, to leave this girl in the mirror. I need to shower.

I don’t pass anyone on the way to the bathhouse. It’s creeping closer to ten o’clock, and only a select few people wait until now to find a seat in the square. Seeing the Chosen One off only happens once per year, after all. It’s the most exciting event in Nalik.

The shower passes too quickly. I try to make it last, but it doesn’t. I’m done before the water even starts to run cold. The water that goes down the drain isn’t black anymore, so I can only assume I’m clean. Even my hair is tamed enough for me to be able to run my fingers through it. I turn off the water and reach for my towel, drying myself before putting on my clothes.

They aren’t fancy. That’s something I can’t bring myself to do. Usually the Chosen One dolls him or herself up for the adventure. Girls wear pretty dresses, and guys at least put on a nice pair of trousers.

Not me. I’m wearing jeans and a short sleeved shirt. The shirt’s teal; people tell me it makes my eyes pop. I have a jacket, too. Just in case it gets cold. If I’m going to die, it’s not going to be by freezing to death.

I toss the towel in the hamper outside and head back to the bunks. It’s time to pack. I’ve been trying to compile a list since last night but nothing comes to mind. It’s like choosing your last meal. There’s something in the back of your head that thinks maybe if you don’t choose, you won’t die.

But it’s different for me. If I don’t pack, I die faster. I enter the bunks for the second time and freeze up. This is my home. More than Nalik itself, this room is my home. I read my first words here. I’ve cried here. I’ve laughed here. I’ve spent days here without ever having to worry about what was going on outside.

I’m floating to my dresser. I don’t have much, and very little of what I own would be useful to pack. I pick up a hair band—shimmery and purple, stretched out from overuse. I almost slip it around my wrist before I remember the length of my hair. It used to be long. I used to use that hair band every day, to keep my long chestnut curls out of my face. All that hair was getting out of control, so I cut it short without much thought.

I put the hair band down and move on.

By the time I’m satisfied—rather, not satisfied, but aware that I won’t find anything else—I have just enough to fill my pockets. I grab a knapsack anyway. Mostly because I don’t want a box of matches digging into my thigh the entire time.

Then I scan the room, one last time. The bed. My bed. It’s made of wood, just like the rest of my room. It’s still tidy from yesterday morning. Yesterday morning when I didn’t need to worry about never sleeping in it again. My neck pulses, as if to remind me where I spent my last night at home.

The dresser. The desk. The chair. I try to take it all in, because I’m never coming back. I want to sleep in my bed again. I want to catch my hip on the corner of the dresser again. I want to live in this room forever.

I avoid looking at the mirror.

Then my feet are carrying me away from this room. Away from my home, my childhood, and the little girl in the mirror. And soon I’m outside. This grass is beautiful. The sky is beautiful. Nalik is beautiful and I never want to leave.

“Here she comes!” someone bellows, and then the dull roar of the crowd turns into deafening cheers. There’s something that I suppose is meant to resemble a stage, and people are surrounding it. The mayor’s standing in the center, facing me with arms wide and a proud smile. As if picking the right stone is actually something to be proud of.

“Come on up here, Chosen One!” he calls, extending a hand to me. The excited members of the crowd push me up, to the point of me not even needing to take his hand. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Chosen One!”

I’m starting to resent that term. He grabs my hand and raises it into the air, cuing a second roar from the crowd. He milks this for all that it’s worth. He keeps my hand clasped in his for too long, long enough for his heat to make my hand start to sweat. He’s a tall man with large hands.

He lets me go only when the crowd is silent. “I am sure you are all aware of the journey our Chosen One has to take.” His voice is loud and booming. He doesn’t even need a microphone.

Some of the crowd cheers. Others simply nod. When the cheers die down the mayor continues. “Following the first executive order, Lord N sealed himself away in his castle.” Some boos. “He left the world to deal with the consequences of his actions!” More boos. “But he invited of us this: ‘bring me a hero, one to challenge the truth I know.’”

The crowd is eating out of his hands. I pick out Sarah’s face, towards the way back, seeming sincerely captivated by the story. The mayor continues. “He said, ‘bring me a hero who has conquered fire, water, and earth! Bring me a hero who holds their respective stones. Only then will this hero be my equal.”

The mayor takes a deep breath, the smile still on his face as his gaze sweeps over the crowd. “But!” He lets the silence sit. “He lied to us! Those stones alone do nothing! What the Chosen One must possess alongside the stones…” he takes a palpable pause, reaching under his suit.

“Is this.”

He pulls a necklace from his neck, holding it up for the crowd to see. The stone on the chain sparkles in the sunlight, and some of the crowd closest to the stage lets out ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s of appreciation. “The dark stone!” The mayor continues, cradling the stone in his hands. “To summon the black dragon of ideals. Only of use to he— or she—who collects the three stones. Then the Lord falls, and human and Pokémon may once more exist hand-in-hand!”

At the end of this, the crowd cheers even louder than before. I wince. The mayor places the necklace back where it came from, and turns to me. “O Chosen One,” he begins, and I have to wonder if he keeps calling me that because he doesn’t know my name. “Fetch the stones of fire, water, and earth. Return here, and you shall be entrusted with the dark stone. And you shall be revered through all of Unova for all of time to come!”

I nod. I’m overwhelmed so I nod. It’s one thing to know that you’re going to die. It’s another thing entirely to know you’re going to die, and that all of these people are counting on you.

“But of course, we cannot send you out there on your own!”

No, of course not. That would be murder.

“Rosalyn!” he calls, and for a second I think that he honestly had forgotten my name. But he’s not addressing me anymore—he’s turned, calling to someone off stage. “Bring forth the Pokémon to accompany the Chosen One!”

A plump redhead steps forward. I recognize her. It’s been years since I’ve had any interaction with her, but you don’t tend to forget the person who saved your life.

She was in charge of the daycare that I was in when the executive order was decreed. She was the one who took me, and about half a dozen others to the safest place she could think of.

Then my gaze drifts to the gray… thing, in her arms. Its wide eyes are darting around. Its large ears are practically pressed against its head. As it gets closer, I hear its teeth chattering. I recognize it. It’s one of the few wild Pokémon that live nearby. Not as common as some of the other species, but still familiar enough.

Applause and the occasional ‘aww’ rise from the crowd. The mayor’s voice is doing nothing to calm the creature down. “A minccino! Common to the area, but that by no means indicates that he cannot be a fierce fighter!”

I stare at the rodent. Fierce? No. Fighter? No.

Rosalyn smiles as she approaches, and I wonder if she remembers me. Does she remember that she saved my life? Does she realize the irony here? That after keeping me alive, she’s effectively aiding in sending me to my death?

She holds out the creature, and I’m hesitant to take it. This thing is wild. Feral. Pathetic it may be, but still a Pokémon. Still completely capable of destroying anything that gets in its way if need be.

But I take it because I don’t know what else to do. It’s lighter than I thought it would be. It’s also shaking like a leaf. “Thank you,” I say. Thank you for sending me to my grave.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Chosen One!” the mayor announces once more, and Rosalyn disappears from the stage. She can’t have recognized me. She wouldn’t have gone through with this if she recognized me.

The crowd roars, and the creature in my arms winces. “Let us accompany the Chosen One to the coast!” the mayor calls, and like a wave of conformity the crowd surrounds me, helping me off the stage, guiding me away from the square. Hands dart out to touch the trembling rodent, and it lets out sharp high-pitched barks at every touch.

So, is this my fate? The fate of the Chosen One? This is what everyone wants, isn’t it? For them, I am no longer Mary Jane Reeves. I’m stripped of everything that identifies me—I’m not the girl who likes fruit and books. Not anymore. I’m simply ‘the Chosen One’. I carry the faith of all of these people. No—all of the people of the world. If there are any left, that is.

I resent this. I resent the title and I resent my fate. I am not the Chosen One. I am chosen, that much is true. I am systematically chosen to walk face-first into death. Is that something to celebrate? Is that something to commemorate each year with the same song and dance?

We arrive at the coast and I see my raft. It’s made of wood and doesn’t look like it would be able to handle much of anything. If I was meant to cross anything more than about fifty yards of relatively still water, then I wouldn’t have made it. A long stick sits next to it—presumably what I’m supposed to paddle with.

The crowd sits me on the raft before lifting it into the water. “O Chosen One,” the mayor begins again, and the crowd falls hushed. “To the east lays the old bay, where the water stone is said to be kept. To the south is the desert, which holds the stone of fire. To the west, the great forest, which home to the stone of earth. And to the north, when the time comes… is the Lord’s castle. Where your journey concludes.”

The crowd remains silent. It’s unnerving. I’m acutely aware of the minccino in my arms. It’s trembling. Silence. It’s the mayor who leans down to push me off, gripping the side of the raft with both of his large hands. “Godspeed, O Chosen One.”

That’s when I catch it. It’s not until I’m already floating in the water that I process it, but it was undeniable. It was a flash of understanding in his eye. Of resignation. He doesn't want to do this. Because he knows that I’m never coming back.

The minccino wriggles free and panics, darting to each side of the raft. It’s probably looking for a way out. Like me, I guess.

I pick up the makeshift paddle and begin making my way across. The minccino’s trembling, perched on the corner of the raft and staring at me. I hear the cacophony of noises from the island behind me, but I don’t turn around.

It isn’t too long before I hit the opposite coast. This is the forest—the one that hardly any human walks in. The trees start right at the coast and only grow denser. The minccino looks like it’s about to run. And it does, for a second. It hits solid ground and takes off. But then it sniffs in—its ears perk up for a brief moment before plastering once again against its head. It turns around, skittering back towards me.

I climb off of the raft and let it drift in the water. Only after I have my footing do I turn back around. Everyone’s still there, waving and cheering. I see Sarah up front. Scruffy’s there too, staring at me. I imagine he’s counting the ways that he can think of for me to die. The mayor’s waving. I bet he’s smiling. Rosalyn’s waving, bidding me farewell.

They probably want something from me. A goodbye. A battle cry. Something, anything, to let them know that I’m doing this for them.

I turn around and disappear beyond the cover of trees. I don’t like lying.

Sepser
21st January 2012, 5:18 PM
ok, I got the wrong idea from the prolouge, but still good job! I'm really exited to see how onuve would be, if split like this. Guess Ghetsis won't have a place in the story after all huh? Wow i don't really feel very helpful. But i can't find anything negative to point out. I'll just sign off with saying keep at it!

opaltiger
22nd January 2012, 6:47 PM
I would comment on the prologue, but I think others have covered most of what I had to say. A few quirks aside, it was very well written (I particularly liked the repetition in the first and last lines), and it made for an excellent hook - I'm glad you cut straight to the chase.

Right, moving on to chapter one. First a few notes on the writing:


The doorknob’s cold against my hand

The usually pristine building’s filthy to say the least.

It might just be that these examples were very close together, but it kind of grated on me that you contracted "is" like that. It's okay sometimes, but here I read it as the possessive, which didn't make sense, so it got in the way of the flow.


“Up!” she asserts again

'Asserts' seems ever so slightly off to me, since it suggests that you're affirming something rather than telling someone what to do. I think plain old 'says' would have done just fine.


“Sarah,” I ask softly, feeling awkward reminding either of these two of my presence, “do you remember where the mayor told me to report to?”

I don’t know if she actually heard me and I’m just about to ask again, slightly louder this time, when she raises her head to gaze out the window. “It’s the same place it’s been every year. Really, Mary Jane, you should pay more attention to these things.” She takes a breath and turns to face me. “The town square. But please, tidy yourself up a bit first?”

This exchange was a bit awkward. It felt a lot like game dialogue, in the sense that you're trying to give Mary Jane some information that she should already know. In games it makes sense, since the player and the player character don't necessarily share the same set of information, but here there doesn't seem to be a reason for her not to know (presumably it's the same every year - surely she remembers all those other ceremonies in the town square?).

The middle of the chapter felt a bit directionless. First, being so worried about her appearance didn't really seem to fit with what we know of Mary Jane so far (which is admittedly not much, but she does seem quite introverted, and later she doesn't care about her clothes, so why is she so concerned about her hair?). I think I understand what you were trying to do here: contrast the mundane everyday sort of activities (showering, being in her room) with the realisation that she would likely never do them again, which was good, but I think you could condense that section a bit.

Finally, I don't think you needed to spell out that Nalik is the Entralink. The mayor's directions (desert to the south, in particular) make it fairly obvious, and the revelation was forced.

But, really, those are all pretty minor quibbles. On the whole your writing is very good.

I can't say too much about the plot right now, since it's fairly obvious this is going to be a subversion of your generic heroic journey. Fifteen years or so doesn't seem long enough for the mythology surrounding the Chosen One to have plausibly developed in the village, especially not to the extent that they're willing to more or less sacrifice a child a year to it. In fact, the whole enthusiasm surrounding the business seems very out-of-place. I suppose it could be a kind of coping mechanism (if the world as you know it ends, it must be nice to tell yourself there's a way of bringing it back), but I still don't see that justifying the loss of a child. I'm more inclined to think something else is afoot, especially since the mayor seems perfectly aware that this is a hopeless journey.

I'm also not sure why N would make what essentially amounts to a prophecy, especially one that would very likely involve training Pokémon were it to be fulfilled. I can see him paying attention to Zekrom, like he does in the games, but why would he care about some MacGuffin collecting? In the games the dark stone works just fine on its own. I'm going to predict that a) the prophecy is false and b) the fire/water/earth stones are there to provide an excuse as to why the Chosen One isn't given the dark stone immediately. But, again, it's a bit early for such speculation.

Minccino, yay! I like minccino. I like that it's scared, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that interacts with Mary Jane's ambivalence towards Pokémon. Somehow I don't see it being a winning combination.

Anyway, excellent start. I'll be waiting for the next chapter. :3

Little Miss Sunshine
1st May 2012, 8:38 PM
Chapter Two
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

I don’t know how long I walk for. The forest is too dense to see the sun, and I’m pretty sure that the adrenaline is keeping me from being tired. My head pounds and there’s a constant ringing in my ears that keeps me from hearing anything.

My gaze strays from the forest in front of me and focuses on the minccino, who has taken to the treetops. It never strays too far from me, large charcoal eyes ever staring down at me like a hawk. A small, fluffy, pitiful hawk. It chitters as if I’m supposed to understand it. I don’t.

The forest has grown dense, even if it has been under two decades since the decree of the first executive order. The beginning of the Third Unovan Peace, as Lord N called it. Every step I take I crush some bit of foliage. I squint and try to see the edge of the forest, but the trees and the lack of light keep me from seeing much beyond what’s immediately in front of me. The minccino drops to my left and I hear its teeth chatter.

The trees aren’t healthy. The branches are drooping and the leaves are dropping, despite the warm and dare I say pleasant air of early summer. The dirt crunched beneath my feet. Why? Wasn’t this forest supposed to be surrounded by water? Some of the elders talked about it—there were two glorious bridges connecting Nalik to the outside world, both crossing a wide, pristine river that flowed through all of Unova. It was much larger than the body of still water that separated Nalik from this forest, they said—compared to the river, what I had crossed earlier was supposed to be like a puddle.

The minccino’s on my right, now, squeaking. Then a moment later it’s back in the trees. I keep my head down and press forward—if it doesn’t hush up, any pokémon that could be in here would know where I am. I wonder how much longer this forest goes on for. I never got the impression that it was supposed to be that thick, but this is—

As immediately as the forest started, it ended. And I’m not sure what I’m seeing at first. There is a sharp cliff that I almost fall down right up against the edge of the tree line, and I grab hold of a tree just in time to prevent myself from tumbling down. The tree creaks under my weight, but it doesn’t give. My heart’s in my throat as I stare down: what is it, a twenty metre drop? A little more? My heart pounds in my ear as I stay there, suspended mid-fall and in no state to try and move.

The minccino scurries down the tree that is currently my lifeline and climbs onto my arm. Its tiny claws scratch my arm and I wince, but there isn’t much I can do. “Ci cino,” it chirps, and nestles into my hair. If this thing wasn’t my only form of defense, I would have thrown it off the cliff the second I had the chance.

“Min min,” it squeaks, except—no, this is a distant noise, and from behind me. I turn my head a bit too quickly and the minccino’s claws unsheathe, digging into my scalp. I hiss, but the sight of a second minccino startles me out of doing anything too drastic.

The one on my head chirrups and then something brushes against my hand—two more minccino clamber past, rubbing against my feet and staring up at me with those big stupid eyes. “Minci,” one calls. They interlock tails briefly before separating.

All around me the noises echo, and when one of them starts addressing me it takes me more than a few seconds to realize it. “Minccino! Minci ci cino cino min!” it exclaims, as if I’m supposed to know what it’s saying. I still don’t.

“What are you saying?!” I shout down at him, and the incessant noises cease in an instant.

“Ci,” says the one at my feet, and then it leaps to the closest tree.

“Ci! Ci!” echoes all around me, and then every single furry mass is leaping from tree to tree, some looking back at me and barking.

I stare at them and feel particularly stupid. “Like… like this?” I ask after a short while, and I swing myself forward with all that I can muster. I grab for the next tree—a minccino scurries out of the way just in time—and I cling to that one instead.

A chorus of praise and encouragement erupts, followed by even more yips of “Ci! Ci!” I look past the stormy mass of gray fur to see where they’re guiding me: at first, I don’t know what I’m seeing. A blocky… thing is propped up against the cliff, and that’s all I can tell. I don’t trust these minccino, but the only alternative is to waste away.

I swing across these trees slower than the minccino jump, but they wait for me. The one on my head—the one that’s been with me since this morning—still digs its claws into my scalp, but the pain’s dulled by now. I don’t bother counting how many there are. I’d guess about a dozen, but they move too much for me to get a precise number.

At some point I must get better at swinging from tree to tree, because I can almost keep up with the minccino by the time I get close enough to see what the block is. It’s a bridge. Or, rather, it was a bridge. Now it had collapsed, sloping down to the bottom of the crevice where a bit of rubble remained.

“Cinno, ci cinno!” yips one of the minccino, and then they’re all sliding down the broken bridge.

I don’t let myself hesitate before I let go of the final tree, falling onto the cobblestone. I’m unable to stop myself or even slow myself. The minccino abandons my head at some point, and I can hear it screaming as I pass it on my way down.

The landing is rough. There is a pile of leaves at the bottom, and if it actually did anything to lessen the impact of my fall I would have found it thoughtful. It didn’t. I lay there for a while, flat on my back and staring up at the sky, the world slowly ceasing to spin around me and air slowly refilling my lungs.

The minccino mill about me, chittering amongst themselves and occasionally brushing their tails against me. When the world stop spinning I sit up, but my stomach doesn’t agree with the sudden movement and makes me wish that I hadn’t. But I’m not about to crash back to the ground, so I grit my teeth and work my way to my feet.

This should have been a river. I can tell by the sediments and the cracks in the ground. But this river bed is dry, and one of the smallest minccino paws at the ground to prove this fact true. It looks up at me with the stupid eyes that I’m beginning to learn are a trait of their species, blinks at me, and then turns away.

“All right,” I announce after clearing my throat, “thank you, minccino, for helping me get here. You may now return to your forest.” I try to sound as authoritative as I can, but I’m still out of breath from the fall and my voice is weak. “So… shoo,” I conclude, pointing back up towards the woods that they had emerged from.

All of them turn to look at me with those doe eyes. “Ci?” the tiniest one asks, and then the largest one brushes its tail and answers with a chirrup.

The tiniest one jumps to its feet. “Ci! Ci cinno cinno ci!” it squeaks, and then all of the furry beasts are hopping forward, away from the forest. The one from this morning—I can recognize it because it looks slightly more groomed than the others—rests on its haunches at my feet.

“Min?” it asks, cocking its large head to the side.

I swallow, and only then do I realize how dry my mouth’s gotten. “Alright,” I finally snap, turning away from the creature to keep trekking forward. Before I can even take a step, I feel it scurry up my pants leg, coming to rest on my shoulder.

“Cino minccino cino no!” barks the largest minccino from before, stopping to turn back to me. I glare at it for a moment, as if could understand just what the vicious look in my eyes meant, before brushing off my pants and following the yipping pokémon.


//

By the time I realize that it’s getting dark we’re almost at the other side of the dried river bed. The adrenaline’s left me, now, and I’m beginning to notice just how much my feet ache, and how sore I am from the fall earlier, and how thirsty I am. My head pounds, too, and the fading light isn’t helping.

“Cinno?” the one on my shoulder asks, tiredly brushing its tail along my neck. I crinkle my nose and keep going, my gaze trained on the uneven ground in front of me.

The minccino stopped hopping a while ago, now just walking in almost complete silence. Every so often one would chitter, but aside from that there wasn’t a sound. My mouth’s completely dry and I wish I had thought to bring water.

I’m distracted by this wish and only when I crash into the wall of the far side do I realize that we’ve made it across. The minccino on my head yips and digs its claws into my shoulder, but I’m too tired to do anymore than hiss in discomfort. My head lolls back and I stare helplessly up at the cliff; there isn’t a bridge to help me get up this time.

“Well?” I ask angrily, turning on the minccino that surround me, “what now, huh?!” They all stare at me with those charcoal eyes. A few of them begin speaking up at once, but the cacophony of chirrups and yips does nothing to aid me in my current predicament.

“Shut up!!” I finally scream, and they do in an instant. “Just shut up, all of you! I don’t want you here, just go home! All of you! Go!”

Only the sounds of the wilderness surround me, and that’s when I hear it. Faint and far away, but I definitely hear it.

Running water.

The tiniest minccino creeps forward, while the rest of them seem hesitant to be near me. “Minci?” it asks, ears twitching in the direction of the presumable stream

The minccino on my head answers for me with an affirmative “no no cinno,” leading to the herd relaxing their stances. “Ci! Ci!” the entire group chants, bouncing with renewed vigor and brushing against me with their tails.

“No cin,” the one on my shoulder squeaks into my ear.

I don’t know what it’s saying, but I thank it anyway.

I’m only half-aware of the trip. My mind’s in a haze and I can hardly keep from toppling over. I know when we reach where they were leading me, though; the cliff slopes into a climbable incline. Not easily climbable, but climbable.

Every ounce of energy that I have left goes to me clawing my way up the steep gradient. Grime gets under my nails, and I scrape my arms more than enough times. The leg of my pants gets snagged on a dangling root, but I don’t realize that until it’s already torn free. The minccino stay on the ground, and I can feel them staring up at me. They stay quiet, though, and I don’t know if it’s because they’re simply too tired, or because they actually know that I would prefer silence.

Only when I finally heave myself over the ledge do I realize how high up I am. The minccino look impossibly small from where I am, and before the vertigo can get to me I roll back. “Alright,” I call down to them, breathless, “I’m up.”

The herd explodes into chatter, and within moments they’re pouring over the edge as well. The one from this morning rushes towards me as I lay on the ground, stopping short a short distance from one of my hands. “Ci minci!!” it gasps, and I prop my head up just in time to see the minccino swarming me.

My breath is caught in my throat and I instinctively flinch, squirming into myself in a desperate attempt to get away from the mob. Their combined weight is pinning me down, though—their little paws and claws and tails are assaulting me from all angles. They’re going to kill me. It’s a sobering, insulting fact. I’m going to be mauled to death by minccino.

But then it starts to tickle, and the sheer confusion causes my squirming to stop. Something brushes under my fingernails and I flinch back, but it doesn’t hurt. The largest one runs its paws through my hair, as if trying to comb it to be somewhat less of a nest and more like hair. Its tail brushes against my face, and I squeeze my eyes shut, but even for them, this attack is pitiful at best.

“Ciiii-no!” the one from this morning finally called, and just as suddenly as they had swarmed me, they remove their weight from my body. I spring up, breathing heavy and frantically giving myself the once-over.

Well, I’m not dead. That much is certain. I’m not even really injured. In fact… I’m probably even better off than before. The scrapes on my arms are cleaned, and the grime under my nails is gone. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a speck of dirt or dust on my entire body. Even the tear in the pants looks tidy—no threads hang loose, and it practically disappears when I stand a certain way.

I turn my incredulous look back to the minccino, who are jittering about anxiously and looking into the woods. I can hear the running water much more clearly now. It still sounds like barely a trickle, but it is definitely close. I consciously decided to not make any comment on their failed ambush, and begin once more pushing towards the sound of the tiny stream.

“Pawni?”

I freeze in my tracks as a twig snaps under my foot. I don’t dare move a muscle, but out of the corner of my eye I can see the minccino twitch their large ears towards the sound. Somewhere in front of me, there’s a glint, as if against metal, but it vanishes as soon as it appears.

“Niiii, ni pawni pawniard, niard,” comes a similar voice. Slowly I crouch closer to the ground. Two bipedal creatures, no larger than a minccino, are crouched low to the ground, right next to the—my heart skips a beat—tiny stream of running water. My mouth is so dry.

The one who had spoken first turns away from the other, continuing with a metallic “Pawni! Pawni pawniard niard ni ni!”

There’s the faint sound of rustling leaves, and then a tail brushes against my leg. I dare to glance downwards and find the minccino from this morning flanking me on the left, and the largest minccino in the group on the opposite side. The second biped near the stream whips around, as if trying to find the source of the noise.

I am so thirsty.

That’s probably why I lunged forward, spreading my arms wide and screeching as loudly as I could. I make as much noise as I can and when the two pawniard jump to their feet, clearly startled, I roar. I don’t say anything coherent, but my sheer presence is enough to send the creatures fleeing into the foliage, not even sparing a glance behind them.

I remain in my offensive stance for a few more seconds, before collapsing to my feet and all but crawling towards the tiny stream. It’s a pitiful amount of water, but it’s water. All thoughts of cleanliness or bacteria leave my mind as I cup some of the flowing water in my hands, raising it to my mouth to drink. It tastes like nature, but I don’t care.

I offer a handful of water to the minccino at some point, and the tiniest one happily drinks from my cupped hands. They all take turns—the last to drink being the one from this morning.

The water leaves me giddy. I take another handful of water and drizzle it over the minccino’s head, a goofy smile spreading across my face as I announce for the rest of the heard to hear, “I hereby declare thee Sweepy, prince of the water!” As the water trickles from my hands, I turn to the closest minccino in turn. “And Little Sweep,” I say, pointing to the smallest one, “and Big Sweep,” pointing to a large one, “and Super Sweep!” At this, I gesture to the largest minccino in the group, before falling back in a fit of giggles.

Maybe I wouldn’t die after all. It occurrs to me for the first time since I saw the painted stone in my hand. As I lay on my back once more, staring up at the sky through the leafy branches of the surrounding trees, I stretch languidly and yawn. I might survive this after all. I might be a hero.

That’s when I hear the angry growl of something slicing through trees.

The minccino hear it first, squeaking and chirping in a panic and scattering every which way. Whatever’s approaching is moving impossibly fast. By the time I sit up I can hear its light footfalls as it runs towards me, and I don’t even get to my feet by the time it’s emerged into the clearing.

It’s taller than I am. Not by much, but still taller. The beady eyes of the bisharp find my gaze, and we stare at one another for just a moment. Then it raises the blades that it has for hands and I’m running away as well.

“Bishaaar!” it screeches, lunging for me with a blade outstretched. I feel it miss my arm by a hair and that’s all I need for the adrenaline to return to me. I’ve never moved so fast in my entire life. As the forest around me slowed down, I navigated the woods as if I’ve lived here since I was young. Through the ringing in my ears, I can hear the furious noises of the beast behind me. I didn’t risk looking back to make sure.

“Ci!” I hear, and then Big Sweep—or maybe it’s Super Sweep—lunges over my shoulder and lands with a clang, presumably hitting the bisharp. The minccino hisses and spits at the much larger biped, and in turn the biped screeches again. A moment later the minccino yips and there’s a sickening thud, but I’m too far away by now to know exactly what’s happened.

My breathing is wild and all I can focus on is how my feet beat against the uneven terrain. “Minci!” calls a voice, and only then do I realize that Sweepy’s running alongside me. I don’t look at it, instead pressing my head down and running forward.

The forest is gone suddenly, in its place the barren and rocky ground of a wasteland. I lose my footing in panic, stumbling to the ground and surely scraping myself up once more. Sweepy’s left. I briefly catch a glimpse of the minccino skirting the edge of the forest, but I keep moving. Tripping back to my feet, I fling myself at the first sizable rock that I see and begin to climb once more.

By the time I reach the top, I swivel back around to find two minccino scurrying towards me. I recognize them as Sweepy and Little Sweep, although the latter seems to be lagging behind with a visible gash in its side. They call something to me, but with the ringing in my ears I can’t make it out.

Then the bisharp bursts from the foliage, shrieking to announce its arrival and training its beady gaze on the two small pokémon. It doesn’t even stop to aim—it just lunges.

Everything leaves my body—adrenaline, breath, muscle tension. I collapse and can feel myself tumbling off the rock and landing with a thud on the dried, rocky ground. A minccino reaches me, but I can’t tell who. Then there’s a shadow over me, and I find myself unable to even close my eyes.

Chell, aqua tail!

I don’t even know if that was a thought or if someone actually called that out. All I’m aware of is a sudden splash against my face, something furry burrowing under my arm, and then nothing.