On the last story... Norton was actually inspired by King Bowser! And Minion N is the Pidove's name, pretty much. He meant subterfuge.
This story was inspired by a children's cartoon show, believe it or not. It certainly doesn't read like one. Basically, the show was making light of gladiatorial games, but the matches would have been nightmarish if someone took them seriously or historically.
All Hoenn starters are covered now!
In process: Whimsicott/Tirtouga
On Deck: Zweilous/Ferrothorn, Corsola/Shellder, Slowking/Regigigas, Tepig/Vanillish
Marshtomp and Sceptile
The waiting yard was thick with tension. The blaring sun overhead baked the air, causing several of the Pokemon there to sweat profusely. As a challenge was about to start, they were restless, anxious, and rowdy. Flies buzzed around to further annoy everyone, boasts and taunts were being exchanged, and no wind gave relief. At the gates and outside the fence, Pokemon acting as guards were armored, stopping fights but not doing anything to calm those waiting.
Fortunately, there was a muddy spot that had not yet been dried up. A few more days of this kind of weather and there might not be any mud on these grounds. That worried Max because as a Marshtomp, he needed to keep his skin moist. Since he was paying off a sentence, he had to be up here anyhow in case he got a spot in a challenge. He only had a few more points to earn too, another three matches, or less if he was lucky. He could be out in a week. But he had yet to figure out how they decided who would be a challenger, so no way to know for sure when he'd be out.
The Pokemon with him were a mix of prisoners and professional gladiators. Some of the prisoners were like him, those with tax debts or minor crimes. In his case, he wasn't sure if a crime had been committed, as it seemed like the Emperor had just been in a bad mood when Max had encountered him. Other prisoners were thugs and murderers, here to avoid a death sentence. Some of them went on to become the gladiators, and then some gladiators were Pokemon of nobility that wanted to show off their high class training. Although, the noble gladiators did not have to wait in this dusty fenced in pit to get in a challenge.
He rolled around a bit to make sure his back was covered, then checked on those nearest to him. There was a Scyther who was one of the murderers, also one of the the most violent of the prisoners in this place. Thankfully, he seemed more intent of harassing fully evolved Pokemon and picking fights with them. There were also a few of the Scyther's flunkies around, those who kissed up to him and did as he ordered. And their attention seemed to be on a Sceptile who was up on a crate, lounging in the sun. This Sceptile was missing a few of his leaves and had a dark scar on the side of his neck. Most of the time, he didn't say much to the other prisoners. And most prisoners, and even the lower-class gladiators, seemed intimidated by him.
Not the Scyther. “You have to be careful of making me look like a fool in challenges, o prince,” he said mockingly. “I should have won last time.”
“The pole challenge was like thickly clustered trees,” the Sceptile said. “I am a master of the jungle. That was simple.”
“Oh yeah? Well how does a 'master' get caught on his home turf, huh?”
From the look on the Sceptile's face and the twitch of his tail, the Scyther probably had the story wrong. But he didn't respond.
The Scyther buzzed his wings. “And I heard about your kind, a bunch of lazy pansies who spend all day sleeping in the sun and all night planting trees and stuff. What kind of bone-headedness is that? The trees will plant themselves, so what you do is utterly worthless.”
The Sceptile seemed to think the Scyther was an idiot, if Max was reading his expression right. But he didn't bother responding to that either. Instead, he stretched and shifted how he was laying.
“Don't you ignore me,” the Scyther said, shifting his blade arms to a ready position.
A guard kicked the fence next to them. “Hey, no fighting in the waiting area!”
“You try talking like that to me without that protection,” the Scyther muttered, then headed off. On his way, he kicked at Max. “Out of my way, mud pig.” His lackeys laughed at the joke and kicked mud at him.
While he wasn't bothered by being hit with mud, Max did shift further back into the mud puddle. He didn't want to cause trouble, especially this close to his release. On the other hand, the Scyther's group went looking for someone else to pick on. And then the gates opened, revealing a solid line of armored Pokemon going before an officer of the imperial army.
“Attention!” the officer said, getting the prisoners and gladiators to stop what they were doing. “The next coliseum challenge will take place shortly. Today's competitors include Elrick the Sceptile, Max the Marshtomp,” he went on to name a few others, but Max had heard all that he needed. He would be aiming for a high score to get released quickly. At the end of the list, the officer instructed, “All of you, into the wagon. The rest of you, stay back or else.” The guards parted enough for one Pokemon at a time to pass through them to the wagon.
The wagon they were taking was being pulled by four Machokes marked as slaves. There were benches on the sides, as well as a tall steel bar cage. To the annoyance of most of the group, the bottom of the wagon was soggy with mud. They got up on the benches, avoiding it as much as they could. Max was quietly pleased and settled himself in the middle of the wagon.
On the way to the coliseum, residents of the capitol city parted to make way for the wagon. Some watched with awe, some with fear. Some cheered for a favorite competitor, while others took advantage of the cage to jeer them. Halfway there, a Mudkip hopped alongside the wagon for a little bit. “Max!” she called out. “Mom's better; she can't want to see you home again!”
Once he heard her voice, Max got up on his hind legs and stepped over to the side of the wagon, to see his sister better. He waved to her. “All right, I hope to be there soon!”
She squealed happily, then slowed down and headed back into the crowd, presumably to go home.
At the coliseum, the greetings were much different. The armored guards still accompanied them, taking them to the rooms where they would wait their turn. There were silent threats of being attacked if any of them stepped out of line. Down here, the cheers and ruckus of the crowds were muted from earth and stone, but were enough to tell them that it was quickly becoming a packed stadium. There were no hints as to what today's challenge would be.
Pairs kept getting called out, so it might be a battle challenge. But not many were returning to the room. When one fellow came back, Max caught sight of some coliseum workers carrying a severely burned Mankey away. He was burned so bad that he'd lost much of the fur on his body. That did not look like regular battle damage, and none of them had been Fire types. The numbers dwindled until only two had not been called into the stadium.
“Elrick and Max, it's time for your challenge,” a coliseum worker said.
Him against a Sceptile. That didn't sound like a favorable match for him. Max rubbed his headfin, then walked out of the room on all fours. When he was going for more than a few steps, this was easier than walking on just two legs. Elrick came out with him, quiet and serious as usual.
The armored guards escorted them to one of the higher entrances of the arena. They emerged into a field that was usually a plain dusty floor. Not today. Today, it had been turned into a lake of fire. Red lava moved sluggishly at ground level, moved by unseen mechanisms. Sturdy rock platforms came out of it at various places, all leading up to the largest and tallest formation. Down below, some crumbled pieces of rock indicated that not all of the platforms were stable. Behind them, the iron gate clicked shut, trapping them inside.
“And now, for the final round of today's challenge!” the announcer called out, raising more excitement from the audience. Flame spouts suddenly erupted around the arena, reaching far above many of the platforms. “Again, this is the fire run, where both competitors will race against each other to reach the flag while fire blazes all around them. Anything goes in this heated event. And for our grand finale, we have the jungle prince Elrick,” this caused a great many boos and hisses from the crowd, “against a local commoner, the dockworker Max!” He got far more cheers than he usually got, probably more from loyalty to the empire than his own merit.
In a straight battle match-up, this would have gone badly for him. But since it was a 'fire run', Max might have an advantage. Elrick would have to be careful in his run. Although, the heat and dryness of the arena was going to work against him too, drying out his skin and making him feel weaker.
The signal horns blared. Again, the fire spouts burst to life, coming from the lava, from pipes in the platforms, and from pipes in the arena wall. Elrick stalled for a moment, judging the platforms. Ignoring him for the time, Max summoned up a water guard against fire. He could take a few impressive risks to get points and not have to worry about getting burned with the guard up. He then ran and leapt between two active fire spouts to reach another platform. For that, the crowd cheered.
Once he knew the platform was solid, Max glanced over the arena. He had to find a path, and quickly. Seeing a set of platforms that came up to the central one from the other side, he set off making more running leaps from rock to rock. Sometimes they cracked under his landing; one even began to fall apart, but he was able to get to the next one in time. If he saw a moment to do something dramatic, like passing safely over a fire spout right as it was starting to burst, he took it. The flames came unnervingly close to his skin, brushing against it once. While he didn't have to worry as much about them, a serious burn could still occur and cause him pain.
Max focused on his running and didn't check to see how Elrick was doing. He didn't try an attack; the Sceptile wasn't close enough for that anyhow, having taken another route. As he got closer, the platforms became less steady. The central platform was further away from the one he had ended up on than he had thought, but Max ran and jumped with all of his strength.
And made it, first. He slowed as he arrived at the center of the platform, relishing the cheers from the audience. Would that performance allow him to go free today? Just to make sure, he got up on his hind legs and struck a victory pose with his forelegs up high, to appeal to the audience. They seemed to love that.
With that assured, he checked to see how the Sceptile was doing. Elrick was rapidly making his way from platform to platform, but he had to take a more winding path to avoid getting close to the fire. He seemed like a green flash at times as he moved so quickly. As he came to the central platform, he was focused on a particular jutting rock on it.
Max looked at it and noticed that it wasn't fully attached to the platform, but Elrick wouldn't be able to tell. It was one of the unstable ones. When the Sceptile landed on the edge of it, the piece immediately tipped over.
For a second, Max thought he might see someone die here. The fall off this platform into a mobile pool of lava would be lethal to a Grass Pokemon. Thinking nothing more than that, the Marshtomp immediately dropped down and put his forelegs on the rising edge of the platform piece. This gave Elrick the opportunity to securely grab the piece and clamber onto the safe portion of the rock tower.
“Treason!” a voice called out over the stadium, preceding a round of boos. It was the Emperor himself, hiding his true identity in his oversized clothes and jeweled large mask. “Kill them both.”
“Treason?” Max said, stunned. How could that be treason? What should he do about this? He just didn't want to see someone die. And now the pillar they were on was beginning to shake.
Keeping a much cooler head, Elrick looked around until he spotted something. “You, come with me,” he ordered, then jumped away onto another platform.
Not knowing what else to do, Max followed him. They made their way to the edge of the arena where, using a high platform and the best jumps they could muster, they ended up in the stadium seating. Elrick let loose a flurry of sharp leaves, causing panic among the spectators. With the security guards having to fight against those who were fleeing, the two prisoners bolted into the halls within the coliseum.
Max thought they would leave the arena, but Elrick led him to an out of sight hallway that led into the working areas. The Sceptile slowed there, checking in rooms until they came across a storage space. By pushing some crates forward, they were able to find a space to duck and hide. “Wait until the audience starts to leave, then we get out of here,” Elrick said quietly.
The Marshtomp crouched on the ground and lowered his head. “What happened? I was about to go free. What about that was treason?” His heart was pounding, to the point where he feared it might be heard.
Snorting, Elrick nudged the crate a little, trying to get a peeking space. “You saved the heir to a land they're trying to take over. Did you think they were kidding when they called me a prince?” He looked at the space he had and decided against widening it, in case someone noticed. “I didn't want to get someone else in trouble when I made my escape. I apologize. But if you work with me to get back to the jungle, I swear upon my mother's egg that I will make sure that you are protected. And with as ruthless as this Emperor is, I doubt he will pardon you any time soon.”
While they were waiting, Max tried to think of another option. He couldn't and so with a heavy heart, he left the city he had been born in. But as terrible as it was, it was the beginning of his road to becoming the conqueror of an empire.
Marshtomp Emerald entry: Its toughened hind legs enable it to stand upright. Because it weakens if its skin dries out, it replenishes fluids by playing in mud.
Sceptile Emerald entry: In the jungle, its power is without equal. This Pokemon carefully grows trees and plants. It regulates its body temperature by basking in sunlight.