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    Default River Styx (Pokemon/Harry Potter crossover)

    No, this will not involve Harry getting a starter or Ash getting a wand.

    Yes, I know the dangers of running multiple fics at once.

    This fic is based on Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (but is certainly darker), taking place post-PMD2/3 and during/after Order of the Phoenix. I originally got the idea months ago, but I didn't begin actually writing it until recently, when I finally decided to try my hand at a crossover that's at least decent. (You wouldn't believe what FF.Net's Pokemon crossover archive looks like.) Hopefully I did okay in that regard, though of course your opinion on the matter is most likely better than my own.

    Let it be known that I haven't read Harry Potter in several months, so I'd appreciate it if any details I mess up are pointed out. And by mess up I mean more than usual for a crossover.

    Updates may be a little sporadic, but since I have college stuff to do, that's probably to be expected.

    Rated PG-14 for thematic elements, fantasy violence, and mild language.

        Spoiler:- Table of Contents:


        Spoiler:- PM List:


    River Styx



    I. Songs of the Oblivion

    "There's nothing you can do, nothing . . . he's gone."








    The first thing he knew was a distant memory, dancing at the edges of his empty mind, so faint that he almost dismissed it. The memory gnawed at him, chilling him with some unknowable sadness and terror – a sensation of falling, a rush of numbing cold, a voice of someone screaming, a pressure in his chest as his lungs were forcibly emptied, a set of chains made from nothingness. A memory of something dark, something like death.

    He couldn't understand why it would mean anything to him, but the memory struck him with an inexplicable sadness. It was as if he had lost something precious, something that no amount of wishing or praying or pleading would ever bring back. He didn't know why, but he thought he felt something inside him shrivel up at the thought, leaving only emptiness behind.

    But whatever it was, he realized after a long while of contemplation, had to be over now – he could feel something soft beneath him, and the gentle breeze carried the scent of something sweet and fruity. The warmth of sunlight caressed him, so different from the chill he remembered. Safe now, he thought, not knowing what he was supposed to be safe from. He felt his lips twitch into something like a smile. I'm safe.

    He opened his eyes slightly, squinting in the glare of the sun, letting his eyes adjust as he gradually took in his surroundings. The sight that greeted him was one of a broad landscape, blue sky above and green grasses below, stretching before him as far as the eye could see, with only a few distant trees disturbing the otherwise unbroken horizon. He felt a slight surprise at how endless it looked, though he wasn't sure what he had been expecting. It was more than a little overwhelming.

    His smile grew as he considered how peaceful it all was.

    Yet something nagged at him. The dark memory crawled back to his attention, and try though he might, he couldn't help but shiver at the replayed sensation of numbness and fear. And there was something else, too – a twinge of guilt, as if he had let someone down, someone very dear to him. The feeling confused him. He couldn't think of anyone he cared for, or even anyone he knew, but it gnawed at him all the same.

    And then he realized he was alone.

    There was no one else on that field. It was something he would have come to realize anyway, considering the sheer emptiness of the land before him, but somehow, on some base level, he knew that he would have smelled anyone nearby. He wondered where that thought had come from. It was a silly thought, though it seemed that the instinct was both natural and foreign. His nose twitched reflexively as he considered it.

    As he pondered lazily on his situation, the sun slowly slid down from the top of the sky towards the horizon, casting a gradually lengthening shadow before him. He could feel himself growing tired, although he had done nothing but lay there on the grass since he had first awoken. Reddish streaks had begun to paint the dull blue evening sky when his eyelids, growing increasingly heavy, eventually settled shut. Tomorrow, he decided sleepily, resting his chin on the ground, he would figure out what to do about the situation. Tomorrow he would find something else with meaning.

    Tomorrow …

    *

    It seemed as if he had merely closed his eyes for a second when a distant shout roused him. Blinking and yawning widely, he glanced around, taking in the rapidly darkening sky overhead. He could see the last light of the day silhouetting the trees, but there was no sign of anyone else.

    "What are you doing?"

    Frowning a little in confusion, he raised his head, glancing behind him curiously. However, the scenery before him only revealed a short four-legged creature that was galloping towards him, the sun just peeking over the horizon behind it. Aside from that, there was nobody else.

    With a sigh, he tensed himself, preparing to face the animal. It wasn't as if it frightened him – he had the strange feeling that he'd faced worse than this, though for the life of him he couldn't say why. But at the speed it was coming, it probably meant business. The last thing he wanted was to be mauled by some random beast. Shaking his head to clear it faster, he pushed himself onto his feet.

    What he hadn't expected was to fall over almost immediately, toppling forward and landing uncomfortably on his stomach. Wincing in surprise, he stared down at the ground a bit stupidly, wondering why he couldn't stand on his own two feet. He noticed for the first time there was something that looked black and furry beneath his body, and he felt rather grateful that it had cushioned the fall slightly, though the sight brought an inexplicable twinge of unease.

    "Get up, you idiot! What the hell are you still here for?"

    Now seriously confused, he whipped his head about wildly, but still only saw the animal coming ever closer. Half giving up on looking for the mysterious shouter, he examined the creature sprinting swiftly towards him. As it approached, he realized that it was just a fawn – and then did a double take when he realized that its fur was a deep emerald green.

    His mouth fell open in astonishment, and he blinked rapidly in an attempt to clear his vision, but it remained stubbornly unchanged.

    The fawn's brilliantly colored fur was indeed obviously green, even in the fading light. Its white face and lower body seemed to shine in the darkness, revealing its strangely determined-looking face. He noticed that its large eyes were narrowed in some sort of determination. Mind reeling at its strange appearance, he shifted his gaze a little and noticed the yellow flower sitting on its head, nestled between two large ears. He couldn't help but raise an eyebrow in amusement.

    There was some sort of white scarf tied around its neck, just above a sack similarly hanging from it, bouncing against its flank as it continued to run. He wondered why that was. Perhaps it was a strange messenger animal, or else someone's lost pet. The breeze wafted from its direction, and he picked up its scent: fear and fury, tinged with an odd grassy flavor.

    He sighed, starting to push himself onto his feet again. Well, pet or not, it was about to attack him, and the owners would just have to forgive him for defending himself.

    Then the fawn opened its mouth and shouted, "Damn it, dog, get the hell out of here!"

    He froze and toppled over again, too shocked to register hitting the ground. "You talked …" he mumbled, with a throat that felt strained and unused. His own voice seemed rather strange, but that was nothing. Deer were not supposed to talk.

    A disgusted snort was his only reply.

    As the fawn drew into his line of vision, he could only cringe. Up close, it seemed to be far larger than it'd originally appeared to be, perhaps even as large as himself. If only he could actually stand up and take the little thing on like the beast it was! But that seemed out of the question. He'd been unnervingly unbalanced the last two times he'd tried … and now that he thought about it, his body did feel a little strange …

    But when the fawn, never slacking in speed, at last loomed over him, it simply ducked its head down, bit his ear hard, and charged on as it dragged him backwards through the grass.

    "Ow ow ow ow ow!" he howled, feeling tears sting his eyes at the surprisingly painful grip of its teeth. "Ow ow ow! Put me down!"

    He heard it mumble something through its strained breath that sounded suspiciously like "Idiot".

    Letting out a long, quiet moan of pain, he peeked through his squinting, tear-stained vision at the long furrow left in the grass beneath him. And somehow the furry thing beneath him was being dragged along as well, which was strange. Then again, compared to waking up in a strange field with no memory, and having a talking green fawn haul him along by the ear, it all seemed relatively … relatively mundane …

    There were a couple of black paws dragging beneath him as well. That was odd. Had he been lying on top of some creature this whole time? He hoped not. Whatever it was, it was certainly huge. And those white, bone-like bands around its ankles were a bit unnerving as well. Where were his own feet?

    He let his blurry gaze travel lower, noting the stout legs they were connected to, then the short triangular tail and reddish belly above that, then the similarly colored chest and the black forepaws dragged along at the sides …

    His chin touched the furry chest, and he suddenly realized that he was looking over a reddish, somewhat long snout.

    "No," he moaned, horror rising in him as he put the pieces together. "No, no, no, no, no …"

    The fawn grumbled something irritably.

    "No, no, what is, what is this, why am I, I like this, no, no, no, no, no—"

    "Be quiet!" the fawn snapped around its mouthful of his ear. "They'll be waking up, you git!"

    "No …" He shook slightly, ignoring the extra pain that motion sent into his bitten ear. "No, no, this can't be happening, no …" He began to breathe rapidly, flinching as he realized how sharp some of those teeth were. "What am I, I'm some kind of, I'm an animal!"

    And he let loose a terrified howl, though he quickly clamped down on it.

    "Shut up!" hissed the fawn, now sounding more fearful than angry. "Shut up, you stupid Houndour!"

    "I don't even know what that is," he gasped, panting harder now.

    Up ahead of them, where the hapless Houndour couldn't see, the topmost edge of the sun flared briefly, sidled beneath the horizon, and vanished, leaving only the faintest traces of light in its wake.

    "Damn it," the fawn whispered, ignoring the other's whimpers as it bit down on his ear harder and flew into a new burst of speed.

    A terrible screeching sound like tortured violins wailed across the fields, and the breeze morphed abruptly into a vicious wind, carrying a hint of staleness as it grew into an eerie, unnatural howl. The noise grated against the Houndour's ears, and he yelped in shock and confusion. Why was all this happening to him? What was going on?

    There was a soft, hair-raising hiss as all of the grass abruptly shriveled and died, bright green fading to dull gold, to deep tawny, to the color of long-dried blood. The dried-out stalks shivered in the wind. The fawn huffed nervously, not slacking in its stride.

    The Houndour winced. Why did the ground feel rock-hard? "What's going on?" he managed to call over the howling gale.

    To his surprise, the fawn grunted the answer through its gritted teeth. "The reason why nobody sticks around in Eversive Fields until nightfall, idiot."

    He stared ahead, still completely unsure as to what was going on – and then his heart practically leapt out of his chest: on the dark horizon. He could see the huge, spiky shape of what he'd thought was a tall tree swaying in the wind. He'd been absolutely sure of it ten minutes ago. But it wasn't.

    It was moving.

    "Deer," he called out hesitantly, "there's something out there."

    The fawn only ran on. Behind them, the Houndour could see the not-tree's faint outline swing its many limbs wildly to and fro, creating a whipping sound that was audible even at their increasingly large distance. He thought he could feel the ground tremble slightly beneath them, as if from some sound far too deep for either of them to hear. He wondered in horror if it could be the not-tree creature, growling.

    But the fawn continued to run on, seemingly oblivious to his shock, and little by little, agonizingly slowly, the not-tree faded gradually into the distance, until it was only a mere speck on the dark horizon. Yet the unknowable shrieking sound continued to hurt his ears, never wavering in pitch or volume, always continuing on in that high-pitched, eldritch whine.

    With all that nerve-wracking and painful experience, it seemed to be hours later that the fawn at last began to slow its run. Curious and more than a bit apprehensive, the Houndour tried to turn his head, but he found himself cringing in pain at the renewed surge of pain lancing through his ear. "Are we almost out?" he asked a bit nervously.

    Still the fawn did not reply.

    They had only traveled on for a few more minutes when the fawn skidded to a halt, letting go of the Houndour's ear as it did so. Yelping in surprise, he rolled over a couple of times through the rust-colored grass, until the momentum of their flight quickly ran out. Finding himself lying flat on his back, he let himself simply remain still for a moment, squeezing his eyes shut as the tooth-marks in his ear throbbed with a vengeance. Ten, twenty, thirty seconds passed before his breathing slowed to normal and the pain had died down to a tolerable level.

    He let his eyes flicker upwards, and then abruptly scrambled to his feet and backed hastily away as he realized why the fawn had stopped.

    They had reached a wall. At least, that was as apt a description as he could put to it: the void-like thing stretched upwards and to the sides as far as the eye could see, a barrier of such complete and utter blackness and foulness and emptiness that even the starless sky above seemed a little less menacing in comparison.

    "We can't get through the bloody thing to the next field, not until morning." The nearby fawn sighed in exasperation. "Damn it."

    And it turned and stalked some ways away from the terrible wall, as if it were no more than an inconvenience. The Houndour, still shivering in fright, followed it cautiously until they both stopped about twenty yards away, which was still far too close to the thing for his comfort.

    "We'll wait here," the fawn said tersely, settling down into the dead grass. "No falling asleep until we can get through the barrier tomorrow."

    The Houndour nodded mutely, laying himself down nearby and cowering a little as the air shrieked and the wind wailed above them. Trying to calm his wildly beating heart, he attempted to clear his mind of all this, lying to himself that this was all just a dream, a silly, stupid little dream and he would wake up in his own bed soon, his own warm, soft bed with bright sunshine warming his face and someone whispering to him to get up, and he would remember who he was very easily, and laugh at all this before it slipped away into the oblivion where all forgotten things go …

    But then he remembered the cold, and the screaming, and the feeling of something like death, and he knew that it was all real, terrifyingly real. He buried his muzzle in his paws, moaning quietly.

    The scream stood out to him particularly. Why did it make him feel as if he had failed somehow? There was such anguish and horror and rage in that scream, as if someone perfectly sane had snapped into something primal. And yet, there was a sense of rationality behind it, an obscured word that embodied shattered hopes and dreams, as if the one who screamed had lost something too and was calling after it, perhaps even now.

    Perhaps the one who screamed, whoever it was, had lost him. Were there others where the Houndour had come from, others who loved him and missed him and wished him to return? Considering the events that'd happened so far, it didn't seem particularly likely, but it made him feel a little better.

    "S … S …" he mumbled, trying to make out what word had been screamed after him. "S … S … Sirius." Blinking in surprise, he lifted his head to glance up at the fawn, eyes shining in wonder. "My name's Sirius!" he said, a feeling of excitement starting to creep up in him. "What's yours?"

    The fawn merely snorted quietly, not taking its eyes off of the horizon.

    Realizing that it didn't intend to answer in the slightest, the newly self-discovered Sirius sighed softly and lay his head back on his paws, trying to relax a little. Well, fawn or not, he'd relearned his own name. That was certainly a start.

    After all, in the midst of the terrible screeching and the prospect of an uncomfortably long night, it was nice to know that a little of himself had been found.
    Last edited by SugarPesticide; 1st November 2011 at 2:46 AM.
    FF.Net profile | Blazing Frost | Project Valentine | River Styx | Hexachromalurgy | Fizzy Bubbles

    Latest PV pair: Shedinja/Sylveon - What if the MST3K guys did Roshomon? I think it would go a little something like this.

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    {In totally Umbridge fashion} Hem, hem, excuse me while I flail in a fangirl moment.

    Done. I was just so excited in reading this because I know what the Pokemon crossover archive looks like. It's horrendous, and I've only read one Pokemon crossover that was decent (Pokemon x Full Metal Alchemist). Imagine my surprise when you posted a crossover to the very fandom I just got into again. ^-^

    First of I love the fact that you used Sirius. He's such an awesome character that needs more love. So this is what happened when he passed through the Veil. Very interesting and amusing. If he had remembered he was an Animagius maybe he wouldn't have freaked out so much. Then again, where would the fun be in that?

    Other than that everything else left me with questions. I have no idea where they are. I have no idea why the field began to die. Pfft, I didn't even know Deerling's name until I checked it right now. xD Of course that just wants me to read more.

    I have to say I love how you use description, especially when it comes to emotions and thoughts. I can really imagine the cold, the death, Sirius felt as he fell and the mixed emotions he feels about Harry screaming out his name. Poor thing, though I think he may be better off not knowing what happened. D:

    Like I said before, I have to read more. If you have a PM list, I would like to be on it. If not then I'll just stalk this thread. Either way, great job and I can't wait for more!

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    Wow, I wasn't expecting such a positive response! Thank you so much for your review =D +1 ego

    First of I love the fact that you used Sirius. He's such an awesome character that needs more love. So this is what happened when he passed through the Veil. Very interesting and amusing. If he had remembered he was an Animagius maybe he wouldn't have freaked out so much. Then again, where would the fun be in that?
    Indeed. The poor guy really only showed up in a few scenes in the books if you count D: Part of this fic's inspiration was wondering what the heck was up with the Veil (and why there were seats around it, of all things o_0), and I guess it just started building up from there. Yes, it is a very weird answer to a nagging question, and it only gets weirder from here.

    Other than that everything else left me with questions. I have no idea where they are. I have no idea why the field began to die. Pfft, I didn't even know Deerling's name until I checked it right now. xD Of course that just wants me to read more.
    The story actually takes place in a different land than wherever PMD2 is set, so I'm not surprised you're confused. (The PMD2 land will be involved in the story, but not immediately.) Not to mention that it plays up on the supernatural/fantasy/horror elements more, because, you know, magic. Hence the dying field. *nod*

    And Deerling is a bad name for such an awesome Pokemon, something like Florauna would've been better.

    I have to say I love how you use description, especially when it comes to emotions and thoughts. I can really imagine the cold, the death, Sirius felt as he fell and the mixed emotions he feels about Harry screaming out his name. Poor thing, though I think he may be better off not knowing what happened. D:
    ^_^ I was wondering if the description was too repetitive, but I guess not. So thanks. And I agree, Sirius is getting a bit of a break here. He gets to forget about the Dementors and Azkaban, for one.

    Like I said before, I have to read more. If you have a PM list, I would like to be on it. If not then I'll just stalk this thread. Either way, great job and I can't wait for more!
    *starts PM list* And you're on spot #1. I'll let you when the next chapter comes up, which should hopefully not be too long a wait. ^^;

    Thanks again~!
    FF.Net profile | Blazing Frost | Project Valentine | River Styx | Hexachromalurgy | Fizzy Bubbles

    Latest PV pair: Shedinja/Sylveon - What if the MST3K guys did Roshomon? I think it would go a little something like this.

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    Did you put this on FF.net? i think i read it there as well... and enjoyed it! It's VERY rare to see a halfway decent crossover story, and even rarer to see such a good one as this. if there's space, can you put me on a PM list as well?
    "Nothing is impossible- The word itself says, 'I'm possible!'"- Audrey Hepburn

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    Did you put this on FF.net? i think i read it there as well... and enjoyed it! It's VERY rare to see a halfway decent crossover story, and even rarer to see such a good one as this. if there's space, can you put me on a PM list as well?
    But of course! There's always room on the list. And yes, I did put this up on FF.Net. Glad to hear it stood out to you there!

    Thanks for the compliments ^_^
    FF.Net profile | Blazing Frost | Project Valentine | River Styx | Hexachromalurgy | Fizzy Bubbles

    Latest PV pair: Shedinja/Sylveon - What if the MST3K guys did Roshomon? I think it would go a little something like this.

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    I actually haven't read any Pokemon/Harry Potter crossovers, but I love this one! Please put me on the PM list! And I am abusing exclamation marks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shiroun View Post
    I actually haven't read any Pokemon/Harry Potter crossovers, but I love this one! Please put me on the PM list! And I am abusing exclamation marks!
    Done, and I hope you continue to enjoy this!

    Next chapter, hooray. The Florauna Deerling sure loves saying "bloody" a lot. XP

    *

    II. Into the Nothing

    When morning came around, Sirius quickly remembered the events of the previous day. He wondered briefly why he wasn't groggily trying to figure out where he was, before coming up with the solution that since he had very few memories at this point, it was only logical that he would clearly remember the ones he did have. At least that proved that he didn't seem to have a head injury, at any rate.

    He cracked his eyes open, his head swimming. Overhead, the sun glared down at him. He squeezed them shut again, not much looking forward to another strange day. He crinkled up his nose; there was a scent in the air of something in the last stages of decay.

    Above him, he heard the sound of someone scoffing. "Nice to know you can wake up, idiot."

    With a halfhearted grunt, Sirius arced his back in a stretch, yawned widely, and pushed himself into a sitting position. At least, he supposed it was a sitting position. As little as he knew about his old life, he did know that he wasn't used to scrunching his hind legs up on either side of his flanks, with his forepaws touching the ground in front of him. His body might be used to it, but he wasn't. He wasn't sure how he was able to tell the difference between the two situations, but he could tell all the same.

    When he finally opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was the emerald fawn glaring back at him. He – for its voice was certainly masculine, and Sirius didn't feel as if he should constantly refer to it as an "it" – already had his bag slung over his shoulder, wearing an impatient expression. Sirius frowned, unsure why the fawn was already annoyed with him. He hadn't even done anything yet that day, after all.

    It was daylight again in Eversive Fields: the sun hovered over the eastern horizon, casting its rays over grasses that were, once again, green and alive. As he yawned again, he noticed that there was a large tree perhaps half a mile away. He blinked in confusion, thinking. Had there been a tree over there when he'd fallen asleep? He didn't think there'd been one, but now …

    Then he noticed the shapes around them, and his breath caught in his throat.

    Monstrous bodies, no less than six of them, lay in crumpled, twisted, unmoving heaps. The gashes in their fleshy hides dripped thick reddish-silver liquid onto the grass below, making it hiss and smoke as if it burned. He made out from the nearest one that there were dreadfully long claws protruding from their hunched shoulders, and three huge, wickedly sharp beaks sticking out from where a face might have otherwise been. Beyond that, the dead creatures were simply too bizarre and terrible to look at directly.

    "Veel," the fawn spat in disgust. "You're lucky I didn't fall asleep, idiot."

    With a pang of horror, Sirius suddenly realized why the fawn was angry at him. "I-I'm sorry," he stammered, feeling his throat closing up as the bile threatened to rise. "I didn't know—"

    "I should bloody well hope not," the fawn said icily. He shifted ever so slightly, and Sirius caught full sight of all the filth and scratches on his body. "We'd best get a move on."

    Embarrassed and afraid, the Houndour just nodded mutely, but the fawn had already turned and headed towards the wall.

    Not wanting to be left behind with the dead monsters, Sirius started to stand up, then paused, remembering that dogs typically didn't walk on only two feet. Feeling a bit hesitant, he pushed himself into a hesitant four-legged standing position, feeling his limbs wobbling uncertainly beneath him. Biting his lip, he pushed his weight into one of his forepaws, lifting the other and slowly moved it forward, lest he ruin the moment and fall over. But nothing of the sort happened: soon the paw sank into the green grass. He grinned in triumph. He could do it! He could walk!

    Then he remembered that he had another pair of legs. He sighed, glancing back at his hindquarters. How was he supposed to deal with all of these limbs at once? At least he wasn't an octopus, he mused dryly. Bracing himself, he quickly jerked a hind paw forward, stomping it into the ground before he could lose his balance. He'd been ready to steady himself, but to his surprise he remained relatively stable. This was sort of easy.

    Of course, he realized dejectedly, this might be the beginning of a journey of a thousand miles.

    As if sensing that he wasn't being followed, the fawn ahead abruptly halted and swiveled around, staring at him. After blinking at him for several seconds, the fury dissolved into exasperation, and he shook his head in disbelief. "Honestly, idiot, I don't want to know what you're thinking right now," he said.

    "Sorry," Sirius said. "I'm just learning how to walk, is all."

    There was a long moment of silence. He realized for the first time that he'd never heard any birds singing here.

    "… What."

    He blushed underneath his black fur.

    The fawn stared at him for a while longer, then twisted his neck around and rubbed his head against his lean shoulder, probably to massage a headache. "Dear Creator, you can't even walk."

    Trying and failing to ignore the jibe, Sirius made his way just a bit cautiously towards the fawn, his hobbling very gradually morphing into a more regular pace. "Yes I can," he retorted, with just a smidgen of smugness. "Soon I'll be romping around like you, deer."

    The other's lip curled up into a sneer. "What, you've never seen a Deerling before?"

    Sirius shook his head. Of course he hadn't; surely, even without knowing a thing about his past, he would have known if he'd coming across deer with flowers sticking out of their heads.

    "Good," the newly identified Deerling remarked, turning away. "I was worrying you might have rubbed off on them. All right, let's see here …"

    Sirius resigned himself to his companion's mockery, following his gaze.

    His jaw dropped.

    The wall was still a void, still almost as vast as the sky and still incomprehensible … but its utterly unknowable blackness had vanished. Instead, and to his complete astonishment, the thing was now pale and partially transparent, seemingly filled with a misty, smoking substance that made him think of bubbles. On the other side, he could make out the vague details of the grass and sky on the other side, but they didn't seem particularly interesting.

    "It's pretty," he blurted stupidly.

    The Deerling shrugged, unmoved. "It's the same as before, if toned down a few notches. Now listen to me, idiot," he said a bit sharply, turning slightly to glare at the confused Houndour. "If we want to get out of the Fields, we need to get through this bloody barrier. I honestly don't know why I decided to take pity on you and help you get out of here, but I might as well warn you about what's in the barrier in advance. It is not safe. It may look safe, it may feel safe, it may even smell safe to your smoke-clogged dog nose, but it is definitely, absolutely not safe. If it was possible to go around it, I'd lead you a hundred miles just to avoid this damn thing; but as it is, we're just going to have to suck it up and deal with it."

    Sirius tore his gaze away from the shimmering wall to stare at his companion in confusion. "What's so bad about it?"

    "What's bad about it?" The fawn snorted, but Sirius could detect an undercurrent of fear in his voice. "What's bad about it? I'll tell you what's so bloody bad about it. It's the same as it was at night, although since it's daytime, the things inside are … relatively harmless. The mist won't hurt you, but it'll soothe your eyes. The void won't choke you, but it'll make every breath light and sweet, don't ask me why, I don't have a clue. The Veel will … the Veel will lure you away from your course, if you let them. You'll want to let them. You can't not want to let them. But if you value your life and sanity, you won't."

    "You mean …" Sirius glanced over his shoulder at the twisted abominations behind them, but quickly looked away with a revolted expression. "They live in there?"

    The Deerling nodded solemnly.

    "But … but why would I want to let them?"

    "Because it's daytime, and they're not dead in there. The barrier and the trees aren't the only things that change. If they try to drag you away, fight back. They can't hurt you until they change again. Just … just focus on crossing to the other side. I'll be right behind you."

    "But it's right over—"

    The fawn shoved him in.

    The first thing he noticed was an almost complete lack of sensation. Blurs swam across his vision, and he seemed to have gone suddenly deaf. Even the air seemed to have vanished into nothingness, leaving him feeling cold and tingly, with his tongue feeling weightless in his mouth. The only thing he was sure of was the ground beneath his paws, and even that seemed strangely distant and disconnected.

    It was pleasant, and he paused for a moment to savor the almost incomprehensible situation. But he clearly remembered the fawn's sharp instructions, and he forced himself to trek onward.

    He couldn't tell how much time had passed when he noticed the first Veel. Time didn't seem to have much meaning at all, for the creature seemed to appear out of nothingness nearby. He saw it out of the corner of his eye – or rather, didn't see it. This was, after all, its home element, where reality and dimensions blurred into a confusing, muddling mess.

    It had a blinding radiance to it, light screaming through his brain and stunning him into halting. Instinctively he panicked, just before he was soothed by the sound of a soft, gentle whispering from a mouth-like thing with multiple tongues. There was a sensation of something feathery brushing against his side, there and not there at the same time.

    He closed his eyes; they were useless to him at the moment. It was rather peaceful here—

    Another memory crawled across his brain, in which he had also been caught in an icy nothingness. Terror. Guilt. Screaming. Nothing.

    Instinctively he recoiled from the creature, walking forwards almost automatically. He knew vaguely that he had to get out of here, had to get out, get out, get out

    Two more floated, or perhaps crouched, before him. His shut eyes couldn't block out the supernatural light that numbed his mind, sending shivers up his spine. It was getting hard to understand anything. The creatures were invisible, nowhere to be seen. They were there, right before him. They were dead. They were alive. They were so beautiful.

    Screaming.

    Guilt stung the part of him that could still feel. Without thinking about it, barely comprehending that he was doing anything, he lifted his muzzle and howled.

    Sound shouldn't have carried in that eldritch void. But in the place of the Veel, rules did not apply, and the mournful wail rose swiftly in pitch, carrying the emotions and pain he could not feel on the wings of some animal instinct that he might never fully understand and …

    They were gone. He didn't know where or why.

    He had to get out of here.

    He could vaguely feel the ground beneath him, pressing against his paws as he lumbered mindlessly through, half-seeing the invisible beings around him and wondering where the end was and if there even was an end and knowing that they were going to take him and there was nothing he could do and he had to get out—

    Blackness. He hesitantly opened his eyes.

    There before him stretched an expanse of broad green grassland, underneath a brilliant blue sky and blindingly beautiful sun. Nothing came rushing back to him; it was already there, reawakened and alive within his vitalized mind.

    It was as if time had refused to pass while they were inside.

    Something choked beside him. Glancing to his side, he watched the Deerling fully emerge from the wall, shivering and squinting in the light. Noticing his look, the fawn grinned weakly up at him.

    He grinned back triumphantly. Then he realized he desperately needed air, and abruptly broke into a pant that well suited his canine shape.

    "Huh," the Deerling said shakily, once they'd gotten their breaths back. "You know, maybe you're not totally useless after all."

    Sirius barely heard him. His head was still swimming, and he was mostly concentrating on keeping the oxygen flowing to his brain. Still, all that was nothing compared to the wall. "What?"

    "That Howling … you know, I never heard of anyone who could keep themselves together and actually scare the things off. Which was a bloody good thing, I've never seen so many in one barrier before." The fawn shrugged. "Eh, I guess that shows how much I know, doesn't it."

    Shaking his head so that his ears flopped about slightly, he bent his neck towards the mouth of the sack around his neck, muttering something indecipherable into it. Half a second later, two large yellowish objects flew out of its depths and into his mouth. He managed to toss one to Sirius while easily keeping the other clenched firmly between his teeth, and the Houndour caught it just as easily.

    It was some sort of food item, he realized, crunching it between his teeth. To his surprise, the crushed object expanded almost instantly into a decent-sized mouthful of food, filling his mouth with some mushy, slightly spicy substance. He wasn't sure if he liked the texture much, but as he hadn't eaten anytime he could remember, he swallowed the stuff rather eagerly, feeling rather surprised and pleased as a satisfying sensation flooded his stomach. He liked eating a lot, he decided.

    "Thanks," he said, feeling the last vestiges of their encounter with the barrier fade at last from his mind.

    The Deerling nodded, swallowing his own food. "James."

    He blinked. "But I told you, my name's S—"

    "You asked me for my name the other night," the other interrupted, a hint of amusement coloring his tone, "and now I'm telling you: it's James. What, d'you think you'll just keep calling me 'Deerling' all the time?"

    He chuckled at Sirius's dumbfounded expression, before turning away slightly to survey the land before them.

    "Well, it's a bloody good thing you could handle those Veel, Houndour. There'll be a whole lot more of the buggers to deal with before we can get out of this cursed place altogether."

    "… But … But …" Sirius's eyes darted from his companion to the horizon, to the innocently shimmering wall behind them, and back to his companion again. "But we … we …"

    "Yeah, we just crossed that barrier. One of many. It's Eversive Fields, honestly, why do you think it's referred to in the plural?"

    Sirius let out a long, anguished, exhausted groan. James smirked at him.
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  8. #8

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    Now it's getitng creepy. Those Veels just sound horrible, like the perfect predator that will do everything to lure you into its jaws. It's intresting how they live within the barrier and are most dangerous at night. Did the Deerling really defeat all of them at night, by himself? Sounds like there's something more to it, but I may be looking too much into it.

    Once again, I love the descriptive emotion as Sirius goes through the void. From what he felt, I feel the Veil and this void are similar, so maybe there's something in there, too. I mean, there has to be a reason he got turned into a Pokemon after being shoved into the Veil.

    And James! Okay, now it's getting creepy. That cannot be a coincedence. I wonder: does that mean we'll see a Remus and Pettigrew (gah, that rat) in here in some way? For some reason, after I read that, I got this idea that Sirius is just imagining all this, that it's all in his head because he's stuck in some kind of limbo between life and death.

    The questions just keep on coming. Great job, and I can't wait for the next chapter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    Now it's getitng creepy. Those Veels just sound horrible, like the perfect predator that will do everything to lure you into its jaws. It's intresting how they live within the barrier and are most dangerous at night. Did the Deerling really defeat all of them at night, by himself? Sounds like there's something more to it, but I may be looking too much into it.

    Once again, I love the descriptive emotion as Sirius goes through the void. From what he felt, I feel the Veil and this void are similar, so maybe there's something in there, too. I mean, there has to be a reason he got turned into a Pokemon after being shoved into the Veil.

    And James! Okay, now it's getting creepy. That cannot be a coincedence. I wonder: does that mean we'll see a Remus and Pettigrew (gah, that rat) in here in some way? For some reason, after I read that, I got this idea that Sirius is just imagining all this, that it's all in his head because he's stuck in some kind of limbo between life and death.

    The questions just keep on coming. Great job, and I can't wait for the next chapter.

    - Kat
    ... My head went funny on the limbo comment o0; Now that would be weird. Anyway, it turns out that's not the case and Sirius is really dead, because a) I don't know if I could delve into all the psychological baggage an only-mostly-dead person would be carrying, and b) because it never occurred to me while writing that he could be anything other than dead. So he's dead, and by extension Peter and Remus aren't around, as they're still alive in the HPverse.

    And as for the other stuff, I'll let it sit unanswered for now, since speculation is good for the soul. Or something.

    *

    III. Reach into Emptiness

    By the time the sun had reached its zenith, Sirius could only barely tell they'd made any progress at all.

    After the episode with the barrier, they allowed themselves a minute or two for a brief breather. Sirius had barely managed to slow his heart rate, however, when James had pawed at the ground with a small hoof, announcing that they had better get a move on if they were going to go anywhere. What are you complaining about? he had quipped, upon hearing Sirius groan again. You had extra rest. Look, do you want to get out of this place or not?

    Getting started on the day's journey, however, had been slightly more problematic than either of them had predicted. As James began to gallop off, Sirius realized with some anxiety that he had no experience in running. Walking was easy enough, he supposed; but how could he possibly move all those legs as quickly as his companion? Deciding to simply take it slow for now, he hesitantly began to walk, gradually building up to a mild trot. James, glancing over his shoulder, snorted at this, but nevertheless slowed his own pace, allowing the Houndour to catch up.

    And so they had set forth through Eversive Fields again, trekking through grass as green as James' fur.

    Following a long and grueling time of nonstop movement, James had suggested they take a quick power nap. After all, the Deerling had said, giving the Houndour a look, we'll need all the energy we can get if we're going to get anywhere. And it's not as if we're going to let the Veel sneak up on us in the middle of the night again, are we?

    No, Sirius had agreed, trying to hide his embarrassment at the memory. No, of course not.

    And so they had lain down on the grass, Sirius almost collapsing from exhaustion, his paws trembling slightly. How much farther, he had wondered tiredly, before sinking into a welcome unconsciousness.

    When James had nudged him awake, the sun didn't seem to have moved at all. Grunting in slight displeasure, Sirius had forced himself to stand up again, and they were off.

    And now, perhaps hours later, noon was slipping away as they trotted on. Against his better judgment, Sirius's mouth had dropped open, emitting harsh pants and steaming strings of white slobber. His tongue stuck out to one side, vibrating a little with each breath. He wondered vaguely how he had managed not to faint. Perhaps Houndour could endure more than whatever creature he had been in his old life.

    "How're you holding up back there?" James called over his shoulder, not sounding the least bit tired or out of breath.

    Sirius wheezed.

    "Good. As long as you're still awake." He turned his head forward again, taking a deep, even breath that wasn't the least bit shaken by the rapid beating of his hooves.

    Oh, how Sirius envied him.

    They passed by very few landmarks as the afternoon stretched on, the day slowly growing warmer and warmer. At one point Sirius caught sight of a tall spiky shape on the horizon, perhaps half a mile or so away. He hoped they wouldn't be headed in that direction, remembering all too vividly the flailing of the not-tree's limbs; but James merely continued forward, and the motionless tree gradually slid behind them as they walked on, eventually vanishing out of sight.

    Aside from that, there was nothing but sheer emptiness. It was as if the entire world had somehow vanished, leaving only the Houndour and the Deerling on a vast expanse of grass. Even the cloudless blue sky, stretching from horizon to distant horizon, had not so much as a far-off bird in midflight to break its monotony. It should have felt open and free, a place without any kind of walls or boundaries for miles in any direction, a place where he might simply run and run and run without a care in the world forever and ever.

    But it didn't. For all its peaceful appearance and uneventful journey that it offered, there was something about this place, outside the cloudy lull of sleepiness, that made Sirius's skin crawl. He couldn't help but glance to his left and right every other minute, keeping a nervous eye on the surrounding field that lay innocently around them. No birds sang, no insects hummed, and even the grass failed to rustle in the gentle breeze. Only the soft crunch of the grass giving way beneath the travelers' paws and hooves, together with Sirius's ragged panting, prevented the area from falling into something deeper than silence.

    Somehow, he knew, it was all subtly, inexplicably wrong.

    "Ah," he heard James say, as something flashed in his peripheral vision.

    Tearing himself from his nervous thoughts, Sirius looked up from the blades of grass – blades which, he had noticed, invariably shared the exact same height and shape – to see the tall, broad formlessness of another barrier. The swirling, misty shapes within danced in his vision as he and his companion slowed to a walk as they approached, then to a stop. "Where – where did that come from?" he forced himself to say, determined not to let the thing entrance him. The western sun shone dimly through it, its rays seeming to be absorbed rather than amplified.

    "It's always been there," James replied, watching it with narrowed eyes. "You just don't see it 'til you're close enough. Lucky for you I ran into you, Houndour, or else you might have ended up wandering in circles back there for eternity."

    Sirius frowned. Surely such an enormous thing as this would have easily stood out in the emptiness of the field. "But how?"

    James shrugged. "Nobody knows. It's a mystery dungeon thing."

    "A what?"

    "You know, like the one we're …" He trailed off at the sight of the Houndour's confusion. "You don't know what a mystery dungeon is, do you."

    Sirius shook his head.

    James made a face. "Ugh … guess the Pilgrims aren't going to stop coming in any time soon, then."

    "Huh?"

    "It doesn't matter." James sighed, rubbing his head against his shoulder. "I'll tell you about it once we're through. We're going to need a long rest before we both stay awake tonight, so we wouldn't be wasting any time or energy in that. You're up to crossing another one, right?"

    Sirius nodded mutely.

    "Good."

    The fawn stared at him awhile, and seconds ticked by in awkward silence. When James rolled his eyes, Sirius realized that his companion intended him to go through first. As if he needed help with it, he thought. Hadn't he seen earlier how the Houndour had Howled the monsters away?

    With a light huff, Sirius turned towards the barrier and – determined not to let the Deerling see any trace of fear – resolutely stepped through.

    He felt as if he were floating, weightless and unbound by gravity, with the faint sensation of earth under his paws as a mere afterthought. Everything felt full of air, numb and tingly, as if on the verge of dissolving. His mind was cloudy; notions trekked through it at a slow pace, dragging through mental weeds swaying lightly to and fro. It was as if he had been freed from some terrible curse, a curse of thought and will, care and concern.

    As if he were dead.

    With a light shiver at the rogue thought, he willed himself to take a step, methodically lifting one forepaw and pushing it as far forward as his too-relaxed muscles would allow. He couldn't stay here, he remembered, moving a hind paw in the same manner, just a little more quickly. It would be evening soon. The Veel would change.

    He moved a little faster at the thought.

    An ethereal light flared somewhere to the side, flooding his mind rather than his eyes. Feeling himself begin to slip into complacency, he yanked a memory to the forefront of his mind, an image of huddled shapes lying in congealing blood, born in the deepest abyss of nightmares, all wings and beaks and teeth and claws and bulging skin, limbs twisted unnaturally in death but surely flexible and lightning-fast in life.

    These, he reminded himself, were the things inside the barrier, this barrier, right now, and only a steadily narrowing window of time prevented them from ripping him apart.

    Shocked by the picture forming in his mind, he instinctively broke into a trotting motion, unable to tell whether the blindingly bright light was left behind or not.

    There were more, he saw, or perhaps didn't see: three, or four, or twelve, or a hundred, or thousands, it was impossible to say, perhaps coolly regarding him from a distance or crowding around with their feathery whisperings. All he knew was that they were there, in their own bizarre, incomprehensible fashion.

    But the image in his brain remained firmly put, and he brushed the impossibly distant beings aside, or behind him, or above him, in spite of the deathly numbness that ever threatened to consume him.

    And then he was through.

    A rush of sensation returned to him as he opened his eyes, with the warmth of sunlight settling into his fur, the usual expanses of green and blue stretching across his vision … He drank the air in deeply, letting himself smile in satisfaction as his lungs expanded. It was good to be alive.

    He turned around to stare at the barrier again, squinting against its misty brightness. He expected the fawn to come bursting out just behind him, and certainly enough, after several minutes of increasing tension and worry, his expectation came true.

    "Oh," the Deerling grunted, once he had gotten his breath back. "So you are out here. Thanks so much for rushing it, I thought I'd lost you in there."

    "Sorry." Sirius blinked, thinking that through again. "But … you lost me? How could you even see me in the first place?" He shivered, remembering the misty blankness within.

    "Try not to think about it too hard." James huffed, then froze, staring at something behind the Houndour. "What …?"

    Sirius had only just finished turning around again when the fawn had bound past him, skidded to a halt by an object in the grass, and sniffed at it curiously. "What?" he piped up curiously.

    "The … yes!" James exclaimed suddenly, with such volume that Sirius almost fell over in surprise. "I found it! I actually found it, yes! Yes! Yes!"

    Blinking, Sirius cautiously trotted forward, keeping a careful distance between himself and the prancing, whooping Deerling. Peering down, he saw that the herbal-smelling object lying there was a strange pink orb, oddly tinted with pale green. There were deep green lines running across it, he noted, crisscrossing just beneath its smooth surface like veins. "What's this?" he asked, cautiously nudging it with his paw.

    James swooped down and snatched the object in his mouth, still looking highly pleased. "Thish," he managed to slur around it, "ish a Shoothe Orb. It'sh one of teh mosht important tingsh a grassh-type can have out here." Pulling his head back slightly, he delicately placed the orb into the folds of his white scarf, then tugged said scarf around until, to Sirius's surprise, it had almost completely encompassed the orb while not seeming to have changed shape at all. "It's lucky it's one of the incorruptible items."

    Sirius stared, still at a loss as to this new development. "The what?"

    James rolled his eyes. "Oh, for … incorruptible items are specially charmed to keep them unchanging. They can't be destroyed, or transformed into something else … but more importantly, they're not affected by places like these." He tilted his head to the side, indicating the fields before them. "Same as the Veel and the … other things, most inanimate objects in mystery dungeons like these can be warped into something very, very nasty, unless they're worn or kept under separate magic to counteract the change. Like a Bag of Holding." He shifted a shoulder, jostling the bag hanging around his neck a little.

    "… Okay," Sirius said at length, having no clue as to what half the Deerling's words meant.

    "Damn, would my parents lay it on me for losing this!" James went on with a nervous laugh. "Things like these don't grow on trees and … and …"

    The fawn trailed off, eyes darting from the orb in his scarf, to the barrier they had just crossed through, to the green fields they had yet to travel.

    "I lost it here!" he exclaimed suddenly, eyes widening as if making some sudden connection.

    "… Well, since you found it here, that would make sense."

    "No, no, I mean when I first entered Eversive Fields! I noticed I lost this after I'd crossed the second barrier in, but I sure as hell wasn't going to go back … so this means we only have one more to get through before we're out!"

    Sirius's mouth dropped open. "Already?"

    James glanced over at him, raising an eyebrow. "What the hell do you mean, 'already'?"

    "You made it sound like we'd be crossing a lot more than three," the Houndour remarked, trying not to sound accusatory.

    "They're not the sort of thing you can keep count of easily. Now look." The fawn pointed his nose towards the sun above; Sirius lifted his gaze as well, eyes watering at its light. "We've got … I'm guessing four hours before sunset, tops. I'll bet my Soothe Orb we can reach the last barrier in time."

    "Are you crazy?" Sirius blurted; James' words seemed to have brought all his previous exhaustion rushing back. "We need rest, and—"

    "I'm crazy?" James glared at him, though there was a bit of dark amusement in his eyes. "You're the one who doesn't know what a mystery dungeon is. Hell, you were asleep last night anyway, you don't need rest that badly. Now, I meant to save these, but we're already almost out of here anyway …" He mumbled something into his sack, and several objects popped out, landing on the ground between them. "Eat those," he ordered, using a hoof to drag half of the items towards himself.

    They seemed to be berries, Sirius decided, pausing for a moment to drink in their strange, fruity scent. He plucked one from the ground a little cautiously, pressing down on its purple skin with his teeth. When nothing happened, he tossed his head back, sending the purple berry towards the back of his mouth. He had to gnash at it for a good several seconds before it finally burst, sending juice squirting out from between his teeth.

    "What the—" James jumped out of the way only just in time. "Damn it, you idiot, can't you eat a little less messily?"

    "Sorry," Sirius mumbled, swallowing the remainder of the berry. He smacked his mouth a couple of times, slightly off-put by the unfamiliar taste. He cast his mind about vaguely, trying to think of what it tasted like – and then froze, feeling a sudden, welcome rush of strength flood his body, sweeping his exhaustion away as easily as swatting a fly. Eyelids snapping open, he quickly snapped up his other berries, which were luckily less tough than the first; he only chewed a couple of times before hastily swallowing them, tail wagging furiously as he began bounding around in circles.

    "Whoa, watch it!" James laughed, almost choking on a berry at the sight of the Houndour's sudden playfulness. "Chesto's your thing, huh? Better remember that, just in case … it might be easier just letting you fall asleep next time! If there is a next time …"

    Sirius flushed, pride slowing him down as his tongue snaked out to lick his juice-stained chops.

    *

    By the time the sun was nearing the horizon, however, they found themselves desperately wishing for more of those berries.

    The run had been painless enough at first: having grown confident in the use of his legs, Sirius had quickly increased his speed to a loping gait, easily bounding alongside his fawn companion as they traveled much faster than before. His movements weren't quite as graceful as James', to be sure, but he supposed it would come with time. After all, he had only had these paws for one day, and weren't canines supposed be able to run more smoothly than most animals?

    These were the thoughts that had rushed through his mind as sugars pumped through his blood, giving him the energy to run without breaking into too heavy a pant.

    But naturally, nothing lasts forever; it was only a matter of time before his strength slowly but surely began to fade, forcing him to strain himself more and more to keep up with the Deerling's constant pace. By the time the glaring sun threatened to vanish into the west, painting the sky pink and orange, it was an exhausted Houndour who, between ragged breaths, pleaded almost incoherently for a rest, his legs miraculously keeping pace through reflex. Naturally, James ignored him. Had he been thinking more clearly, Sirius might have seen the logic in this – why would anyone want to remain in the Fields for another hellish night? As it was, however, he wanted nothing more than to drop where he stood and fall asleep in the blanket of green grass beneath his paws.

    Why, oh why couldn't they just stop …?

    "C'mon … c'mon …" James' eyes were narrowed, darting left to right and back again almost desperately. "Where is it, damn it? We should be reaching it soon …"

    As if on cue, there was a sudden flash as, a good distance ahead of them, another barrier appeared out of nowhere … or rather, it didn't, for there was an odd feeling that somehow, in some way, they had always known it was in this exact spot, and had simply forgotten it upon seeing it again. This might have actually registered to them if they weren't in a hurry, however, for James was instead concentrating on the faded-looking sun halfway below the horizon, while Sirius, though captivated by it as before, was only truly concerned about getting the whole ordeal over with.

    "Dog," James grunted, barely heard over the air rushing past them, "just run through."

    Sirius only woofed a rough, coughing reply.

    And so they charged into the vast shimmering nothingness.

    His exhaustion, like his thoughts, were pushed to the background of his mind as the mental fog flooded in. It was as if from afar that he noted his legs were rapidly pushing against the distant ground, their motion more automatic now than anything. It vaguely reminded him of the importance that he leave this place as soon as possible, but his swift pace remained unaffected by the thought, though it dragged through the emptiness as if it were water.

    They were there, crowding too close and keeping their distance, whispering silent songs as blinding as themselves. He passed them, or perhaps didn't pass them, it was difficult for his sluggish mind to decide. Instinct made him shy away from their soft, nonexistent touches, as a memory not his own and older than his bones screamed at him to avoid them. Whenever predators tried to circle like this …

    Briefest sensation: blacker than night.

    Claws claws claws stab pain claws darkness claws fog smother pain pain pain pain

    He was through.

    His legs were still moving as he burst into the new nightfall, sheer panic flooding his over the places that the numbness had once occupied, preventing any relief from washing over him. He had to get away from it, he knew, had to get away, had to get away, get away, though every rapid step sent a shock of pain through him.

    A pair of fairly large rocks marked the place where he stumbled at the sound of an otherworldly screech, filled with the sheer, unknowable hunger of something who wanted nothing more than to feel his flesh tear beneath its claws. He rolled a ways past them, the momentum somehow swinging him back onto his feet, and he was on the run again, trying desperately to shut out the yowling shrieks of rage, the violent ripping of grass and the sound of air rushing beneath feathers that were not meant to exist.

    Something thundered after him, vibrating the ground beneath his paws. He forced himself to put on a new burst of speed, ignoring his screaming muscles and wounds.

    He was abruptly pinned to the ground by a far larger body all the same.

    Make it fast, he pleaded silently, paws still jerking about on their own under the creature's rumbling form. His mind and sight and pain slipped away into blankness, though his terror remained a while longer. Make it fast, please, please …

    And so amidst shrieks and growls he sank mercifully into unconsciousness.
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    So Remus and Pettrigrew won't appear because they're dead? Interesting... *thinks about what it all means*

    And yesh, action! What was James doing in Eversive Fields in the first place to lose the Soothe Orb? (Hehe, he has parents. James is such a rebel. xD) So the Fields is a mystery dungeon, so I'm assuming something really bad happened between PMD 2/3 and this fan-fic. I wonder if whatever happened is connected to the wizarding world or if this is something completely unrelated (maybe that's why Sirius and James ended up here.)

    And those Veels. After mentioning "corruption" those Veels could be corrupted Pokemon that couldn't escape the corruption, however that works.

    I'm interested to see what happens next. I have a feeling we'll get some answers next chapters. Great job! ^-^

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    this
    this is a goo- great fic

    but....uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh in the books they are all dead
    I hope you keep writing this


    If peter appears I bet he's raticate's pre evo


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    @ Phantom Kat: But ... Remus and Peter aren't dead yet o.0; Unless you were referring to James and Sirius there, in which case never mind. The speculation about the Veel is very insightful, I like it. Though their true origins are actually rather simpler than they seem. *coughinthenamecough* As for the rest, I'm afraid for now it's all a mystery~

    @ Chimpchar: Done. And that is an interesting thought about Peter, we shall see if that's true ... eventually.

    Anyway, hooray for me finally getting up a new chapter. Though this may create more questions than it answers ...

    *

    IV. Internal Derision

    Before his eyes feebly flickered open, Sirius was first aware of the gentle rocking motion beneath him, as if he were floating on tossing, rolling waves. But that couldn’t possibly be right. His ears were picking up the rustling of grass rather than the crashing of ocean water, mixed with the sound of a voice whose words seemed to mean nothing. His body … it seemed to be draped over something, like an object left out to dry. He had to still be in a field, or at least near one. Could he still be in those Fields? … He suppressed a shudder. No. No, they couldn’t be. James had said that had been the last barrier. James knew what he was talking about.

    It took him a while before he realized that his eyes had already opened; his unfocused vision gradually resolved into a view of the grassy landscape, slowly moving up and down. He blinked, wondering why that was, before his eyes slid down from the dark sky and rested upon something beneath him, moving in time to his own swaying motion. Whatever it was, he thought idly, it was very, very hairy.

    Wait, what?

    He stared down at whatever it was, watching its muscles ripple smoothly beneath him, feeling too paralyzed to howl. Something had taken him, he realized. Some giant monster had snatched him up while he’d been unconscious, and was now taking him to its shadowy lair to feast on his flesh. Had it already eaten James? Or had the Deerling escaped when he had the chance, leaving that nuisance of a Houndour behind forever? Assuming he had escaped the Veel in the last barrier. But it was still night, the Veel could still be wandering outside of those barriers and … Sirius squeezed his eyes shut again, terrified of the possibilities.

    “—likely reached the far end long before you did, to be honest. I wouldn’t have guessed that this would be the reason for your slow speed, though.”

    “I only found the idiot yesterday!” another voice hissed. “I’d been at top speed before. Are you sure you actually made it to the far end? You probably ended up wandering in circles for a while before just stumbling across a barrier. Hell, I know that wouldn’t be beneath you.”

    “Aren’t they supposed to be fast? That’d be a perfect excuse, I think … couldn’t catch up to him unless he stopped and waited for you to trot up from behind—”

    You—”

    “No fighting under my watch,” a third voice interrupted; Sirius felt something rumble beneath him at the words. He swallowed nervously, wondering if the thing beneath him was growling at the speaker. “Thought you boys’d know better than that by know.”

    “I would’ve thought he’d know better by now than to pick a fight with me,” the second voice growled. It was a familiar voice, the Houndour realized … Was that James? So he was alive! He felt a wave of welcome relief wash over him – they weren’t going to die immediately, then. He had to be arguing for time, waiting for Sirius to regain consciousness. Forcing himself to set aside a sudden rush of affection, he tried to reconsider the situation, mind still confused.

    There was still the creature beneath him to deal with. If they’d really been captured … his thoughts couldn’t go on from there. It was an utter blank – try as he might, he couldn’t force himself to fathom how this would end. All he knew was the rapid thumping in his chest and air rasping down his throat, and that both would soon cease forever, still and quiet and deathly cold like the nothingness from memory …

    Then again, James didn’t sound particularly worried … But had the deer ever really sounded worried?

    “But I wasn’t picking a fight with you.” The voice’s owner seemed to be confused, as if challenged with a difficult problem. “I was just saying you’re slow.”

    “I bet you’d be slow if you suddenly had a bloody leg torn off,” James snapped.

    “Well, of course, what with the center of gravity out of whack and all—”

    Sirius swallowed, feeling sick, mouth suddenly dry.

    James’s leg had been torn off.

    They had torn it off.

    The deer wouldn’t manage to escape to anywhere, and he was willing to sacrifice himself for Sirius’s sake. For a moment he considered helping him anyway – stand by the Deerling’s side, facing their kidnappers in a battle for their lives … but fear and self-preservation consumed him too easily. Sirius simply needed to get away, he knew, mind beginning to whirl as the thing beneath him rumbled again, get away, run, run fast as he can, sink into that long grass and just run through until his paws fall off or the creatures catch him, whatever happens first. At least he wouldn’t be taking death lying down this way. That fact was important to him, though for the life of him he couldn’t say why.

    He tensed his sore muscles, trying to will energy into his limbs, and pushed himself off.

    “What—?”

    He landed paws first on the ground, stumbling slightly but regaining his balance as he took off, just in time to avoid something large, something that pushed into the exact spot he had been a second before – had that been its paw? He wasn’t going to look back, though, just stare forward at the horizon with dilated pupils, running through the long grass as fast as he could go, maybe hide in the shadows of the night until they gave up and headed away in defeat—

    “Hey—!”

    He hadn’t gone three steps before something slammed into him, pinning him to the ground with its heavy body.

    “Don’t eat me,” he wheezed; the air had been crushed out of his lungs. “Don’t eat me don’t eat me don’t eat me don’t eat me don’t eat me don’t eat me don’t eat me—”

    “What the hell are you blabbering on about, idiot?”

    He blinked. The blurry world around him gradually resolved into actual shapes as his racing heart began to slow. That voice above him had been familiar.

    “… James?” he asked tentatively.

    “Damn straight,” was the reply.

    Slowly, Sirius lifted his head – he was suddenly aware of his inexplicable soreness again – and the Deerling’s incredulous expression slid into view. Not quite daring to believe it, he moved his gaze towards James’s lower body, counting … one, two, three, four skinny legs, all in perfect condition aside from the grime of travel.

    “Your leg hasn’t been torn off,” he remarked automatically, feeling a wave of relief wash over him. Everything was fine, they were going to live …

    “Of course it hasn’t,” James scoffed. “Why would you think my …?”

    He trailed off then, a grin forming on his snout as his eyes lit up with realization.

    “It’s not funny!” Sirius exclaimed over the fawn’s chuckles, in a whinier voice than he had intended.

    “Ahaha … you actually thought we’d been captured or something? Wow, are you for real? I wasn’t even screaming in pain or anything and you thought my leg was really ripped off! Are you serious? Bwahahahaha!” James guffawed, shaking so hard that he rolled off of Sirius and into the long grass.

    “I was worried about you, you know!” Sirius protested indignantly, pushing himself up onto his paws with a wince.

    “That’s what makes it hilarious!”

    “Not really,” somebody else commented. “What’s so funny about whether your leg’s been ripped off or not? Wouldn’t that be a really serious injury to deal with?”

    “Exactly!” Sirius turned towards the speaker, eager to look toward whoever was supporting him in this.

    He froze.

    There was a blue creature, standing on its hind legs, paws clasped behind its back and nodding in agreement – but that was all he noticed before his attention was completely and utterly consumed by the other creature standing near, a canine like himself, though looming unbelievably large. It had to be at least twice as tall as he was, and a hundred times as powerful … Then it actually moved towards him, and his eyes widened in terror at how effortlessly fast it could move, even with all that bulk. It reached him half a second later, but whether it was looking down at him was impossible to say; he had thrown himself down again, ignoring the feel of his body striking the ground, pressing his ears against his skull, hoping it wouldn’t decide to eat him, squeezing his eyes shut as he felt its warm breath dance over him for a moment before lifting.

    “James,” the canine sighed, “you know it isn’t nice laughing at people.”

    Sirius’s fear gave way to confusion. He hadn’t expected its voice to sound so … so … something. What was the word? He couldn’t decide, but even though he could hear, or rather feel, a faint rumble emanating from its huge body as it spoke, its smooth, deep, feminine voice was a far cry from the guttural snarl he had imagined.

    “I’m not laughing at him.” James’s voice still hitched with giggles. “I’m laughing with him.”

    “Isn’t a lot a difference from everything I’ve seen,” the canine replied, with just a hint of dryness. A brief pause followed, followed by a curious sniffing. “You okay, hon?”

    Several long seconds passed before Sirius, still willing his heart to stop beating so frantically, realized that she must have been addressing him. It had to be okay, he assured himself. James wasn’t worried, so he shouldn’t be either. Just look up and stare back.

    He pulled his head up and let his eyes sink into the white mask.

    Except it wasn’t really a mask, he realized. True, her face was mostly covered in the creamy-colored fur, which stuck out in well-groomed tufts and seemed to drape well past her shoulders in the form of a long mustache; but now that he was looking more closely he noticed the long brown ears perked above the three-pointed crest of fur that decorated her brow like feathers. Brown ears, like the slender paws sticking out of … was that coat of fur blue? And unbelievably thick, from the look of it …

    She tilted her head, and he was shocked to see how long her mustache really was. “Sweetie, you okay?” she repeated, in a gentler voice this time.

    “Hm …?” Tearing his attention from the large bag she had slung across her back, he shook himself back to his senses, blinking a couple times to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. “Yeah … I think so. Er, not to be rude or anything, but what exactly are you?”

    To his surprise, she chuckled warmly at the question, mustache shaking slightly at the motion. “Pilgrim, huh?” she asked, looking over him at James.

    “I guess so,” the Deerling replied. “Like I said, didn’t even know what a mystery dungeon was.”

    She nodded, returning her beady black eyes towards Sirius. “Not rude at all,” she assured him. “I get how confusing arrival can be, hon, I’ve been there too.”

    “I … huh?”

    She’d been in his position too.

    He couldn’t believe it – she wasn’t from this place, wherever “this place” was. The sheer force of the revelation barreled into him, sending his mind reeling with thoughts. She knew what it was like – she had turned up here, amnesiac like him most likely – she’d been confused and scared – a land full of nonsensical creatures – a monster or two like the Veel – though as such a huge animal she probably wouldn’t have had much of a problem. But the shadow of the unknown still shrank back a little.

    He wasn't alone.

    And yet a small whisper of disappointment crawled across his thoughts. If he wasn’t the only one to turn up in this strange land, in a strange body, with a mysterious past … He pushed that line of thought away. This shouldn’t be something to get petty over, he reminded himself. How could he be special in any way? He understood he was a nobody, at least as long as he had no known past to look back to.

    But why any of them had arrived here in such a way still remained a mystery that tied his brain in painful knots.

    His silence was met with an inquisitive look, and he gave her a tired nod because yes, he was confused.

    *

    The canine’s name was Lenora, he learned, as they continued their trek through the tall grass. She said she was something called a Stoutland, and he nodded and continued staring down at her mustache as it brushed the grass to either side of her body, paving a temporary path through the wild field. She’d insisted on continuing to carry him on her back; he was still injured from the Veel, she’d told him, even if he felt nothing worse than sore from the encounter due to their emergency Reviver Seed, whatever that was. He couldn’t understand how that was supposed to work, as he clearly remembered the feel of those claws stabbing hungrily into his flesh. But then again, he supposed he should simply accept that he seemed to be fine for the most part.

    They seemed to be headed towards some village now – Jusfeld, he thought they’d called it. Apparently they hoped to reach it by morning; once there, they would rest for a while, and then do … then do something he wasn’t quite sure he had heard correctly … to complete the journey home. He still had no clue of why they were on this strange journey in the first place; apparently they were headed back to wherever they had come from, yet he couldn’t see what they might have gained from it, or why the three had parted ways for whatever reason. It didn’t seem to matter very much, though. If they hadn’t been traveling, James never would have found him, and he wouldn’t be riding on this back of … surprisingly soft fur …

    “You can just fall asleep back there if you want, hon,” she remarked over her shoulder; startled out of the slumber he had been drifting into as she spoke, his eyes fluttered open feebly. “I won’t mind if you do. Bet it’s been a pretty long couple of days, huh?”

    “Yeah,” he agreed. His eyes drifted upwards towards the faint line of light shimmering on the horizon. “Yeah …”

    “Really sorry for jumping you before,” she went on. “When you got out of the Fields, I mean. But you probably would’ve bled to death if you’d just kept running—”

    “Or the Veel would’ve eaten me,” he mumbled.

    “Oh, don’t worry about them, the wards keep them in – James, you told him about wards before, right?”

    “Nope!” James answered in a voice of mock cheeriness, stepping carefully to avoid tripping in the grass.

    “Course not.” Sirius couldn’t see her face from his angle, but from her tone he could hazard a guess that she was rolling her eyes. “Wards mark the boundaries of where a mystery dungeon begins,” she went on. “’Cause it can be pretty tricky to see where they are otherwise, and nobody wants to just wander into them unprepared. Plus they work to keep things like the Veel locked inside. Remember those rocks you ran past earlier, hon, after the barrier? Those keep them in place.”

    “Interesting.” He wanted to ask exactly how these wards were supposed to work, but something seemed to be burning the inside of his nose, diverting his thoughts from putting the right words together.

    “Yep.” She sounded distracted; he noticed one ear flicking out every couple of seconds, as if to swat a line of passing flies. “So we won’t have any trouble from them. Blair, sweetheart, try not to lag behind too much, all right? We might lose you back there.”

    “I know, yeah.” The voice wafted up from a few yards behind, punctuated with a long, drawn-out yawn. It belonged to the blue creature, Sirius knew, though he still hadn’t had a clear look at him. His scent reminded the Houndour strongly of water, though, and since that made the burning in his throat instinctively flare to life with painful force, he felt none too charitable towards the unknown creature.

    “The thing is, though,” James remarked, “nobody said that Blair getting lost would be a bad thing.”

    “It would be, though,” the creature called Blair protested; from the rapid soft crunching noise behind them, he was most likely trying to catch up. “I might get trip and get tangled up in the grass and get stuck there forever, for example. Or get caught by some Arbok or other thing, or get hit by a giant meteor and die, or maybe even get kidnapped by mercenaries and sold as a slave to the Treasure Provinces!”

    “Again: not necessarily a bad thing in your case. And stop saying ‘get’ so much, you sound like even more of an idiot that way.”

    “I was … wait, what do you mean, ‘more’ of an idiot?”

    “An excellent point. Thanks for correcting me there. I’m glad we both agree you couldn’t be more of an idiot.”

    “Cool!”

    “Blair, hon, James was …” Lenora froze, staring straight ahead. “Hold on.”

    James and Blair abruptly halted in their tracks at her tone; Sirius could see the ears of the former swivel sharply around towards the direction of Jusfeld, while the latter sniffed attentively and audibly at the air. Feeling a sense of growing unease at the unexpected stopping, the Houndour flared his nostrils and pricked his ears, wondering what had triggered the sudden tension.

    It was then that he realized that the scent of something burning hadn’t been his imagination.

    The fur on his back began to stand on end, as if controlled by the sound of that sudden far-off scream.
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    Quote Originally Posted by darkdragontamer View Post
    “Yep.” She sounded distracted; he noticed one ear flicking out every couple of seconds, as if to swat a line of passing flies. “So we won’t have any trouble from them. Blair, sweetheart, try not to lag behind too much, all right? We might lose you back there.”

    “I know, yeah.” The voice wafted up from a few yards behind, punctuated with a long, drawn-out yawn. It belonged to the blue creature, Sirius knew, though he still hadn’t had a clear look at him. His scent reminded the Houndour strongly of water, though, and since that made the burning in his throat instinctively flare to life with painful force, he felt none too charitable towards the unknown creature.

    “The thing is, though,” James remarked, “nobody said that Blair getting lost would be a bad thing.”

    “It would be, though,” the creature called Blair protested; from the rapid soft crunching noise behind them, he was most likely trying to catch up. “I might get trip and get tangled up in the grass and get stuck there forever, for example. Or get caught by some Arbok or other thing, or get hit by a giant meteor and die, or maybe even get kidnapped by mercenaries and sold as a slave to the Treasure Provinces!”

    “Again: not necessarily a bad thing in your case. And stop saying ‘get’ so much, you sound like even more of an idiot that way.”

    “I was … wait, what do you mean, ‘more’ of an idiot?”

    “An excellent point. Thanks for correcting me there. I’m glad we both agree you couldn’t be more of an idiot.”

    “Cool!”

    “Blair, hon, James was …” Lenora froze, staring straight ahead. “Hold on.”



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    ... Treasure Provinces? is that a reference to Treasure Town? and was the "giant meteor" a reference to the first game?
    *suddenly realises chapter is actually posted and dies in not-exactly-mock horror*
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    I'm pretty sure I forgot an "aren't" in that review, darkdragontamer. Silly mistakes. ^^;

    Sirius always jumps to conclusions, huh? I loved the way you went describing Sirius' raddled brain and the thought of him being eaten. I wouldn't expect less from someone who had just been attacked and was certain they were going to die. Wonder how far he would have run if Lenora hadn't stopped him.

    Speaking of Lenora, I'm guessing her, James, and Blair are more of a family that found themselves than actualy blood family, much like a rescue team. I wonder how many people are in Sirius' situation and how this ties in with the Veel problem.

    I can't wait for the next chapter. Awesome job! ^-^

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    @ scizorstrike: Yes to the first; the Treasure Provinces are related to Treasure Town. As to the meteor comment, it was indeed a reference, though to a different in-game event ... but your guess works too ^^; It won't have any impact on the plot, though, so it doesn't matter too much.

    @ Phantom Kat: He sure does, doesn't he? I think he would have run until he fainted, or until some Arbok caught him and ate him, or something. The poor guy isn't really thinking straight at all, haha ... Yes, those three are most definitely like a Rescue Team. You're quite close to the truth there, in fact. I can see where the family dynamic comment is coming from, Lenora is definitely a team mom here. And you can bet she and Sirius aren't the only Pilgrims in this story ... far from it, to be vaguely honest.

    @ Chimpchar: Thanks, although next time would you mind using a few more than four words to review? That way it gives me a more fleshed-out idea of what you think of it.
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    Wow this fic has me glued to my seat only the first few chapters I'm like yay all over, keep up the good work my friend, I like your going all out to put all the Pokemon characters in one way or another

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    Much thanks ^^; And believe me, when it comes to Pokemon characters showing up ... well, you ain't seen nothing yet.

    Anyway. This took a ridiculously long time to write, I'm sorry. D: Funny, considering how I've been on break for half of that wait. I blame writer's block. And laziness. And TV Tropes.

    *

    V. United in Apathy

    In a way, the sudden emergency was a good thing. Had they not started off for Jusfeld at so late an hour, they might have missed the entire situation, and Lenora would not have burst into a sudden flurry of motion, meaning that Sirius, who immediately latched onto her for dear life, would not have discovered that he did, in fact, have claws. They weren’t particularly large claws, obviously. If he were forced to attack some creature to defend himself, they wouldn’t be a very big help as weapons, and certainly not as an intimidation tactic. Still, since they dug into Lenora’s fur enough to keep him from flying off, he supposed that they might give him a decent grip on the ground. He was fairly sure he didn’t want to end up slipping and falling at an inconvenient moment.

    That was roughly the extent to which Sirius’s thoughts were coherent, considering the astonishing speed of the Stoutland beneath him. If the world had seemed blurry before, it was nothing to its current state, with the dimly visible grass and shimmering stars almost meshing together on either side of him. So, feeling slightly sick, he simply tried to ignore it and locked his eyes onto the horizon ahead, gradually registering the situation as they drew swiftly nearer.

    The light on the horizon hadn’t been the distant dawn, as he had supposed. It was fire.

    It was as if the village belonged to the inferno alone. Golden flames raced through the grasses on the outskirts; they waltzed throughout the doomed buildings, wood crackling beneath them as if in protest. Against the brilliant blaze, thick black smoke could easily be seen puffing upwards from who knew where, obscuring much of the awful view; in spite of that, however, it was only too easy to spot a distant, panicked, limping silhouette of whatever creature still survived there, and the unending roar of the flames couldn’t completely extinguish its cries of horror and pain.

    Between the speed of Lenora’s sprinting and that of the spreading fire, they were swiftly swallowed up in the chaos and destruction: walls of flame leapt up to fill Sirius’s vision, lunging for them even as Lenora dashed away and onward through the drying grasses. Shadows darted in and out of view, pitch-black against the blinding firelight. An abandoned bucket collapsed in on itself as they passed, nothing more than ashes; nearby lay the blackened, raw-red mass of its owner, which twitched soundlessly – Sirius attempted to make some sort of cry at this, but the sensation in his throat burned more powerfully than before, while his nose twitched and his stomach rumbled at the scent of sizzling fat. He only managed a tiny, thirsty croak, not quite sure of what he was protesting.

    Abruptly the world spun around him. He seized Lenora’s fur even more tightly, wondering if he were about to faint again, before realizing that she had come to a halt.

    “We’ve got to split up!” she hollered over the crackling and screaming. “James, take Sirius and go make sure the Badge is safe and where we left it! You find any savable survivors, get them all somewhere safe! Blair, come with me and help me find the culprit! We’ll meet where we first got here – don’t let the smoke put you to sleep!”

    Sirius had barely begun to feel his dizziness intensifying at these cryptic commands when something seized his ear and, without warning, pulled him off of Lenora’s back.

    “I’m kind of glad I get to do this again,” James commented somewhat tersely around a mouthful of Sirius’s ear.

    Tears of pain sprung up in Sirius’s eyes as he watched the Stoutland leap through another burst of fire and vanish, Blair clinging to her leg. “Do what?” he half-whimpered. “Deal with arsonists?”

    “Never done that before, no,” James admitted, dragging him in a new direction. Sirius noted vaguely that the Deerling seemed to be giving the flames as wide a berth as possible, going so far as to circle far around a particularly bad spot rather than skirt past it. “I meant your ear. It seems to be the only way I can get you to move, and really, it’s hilarious when you cry like that.”

    “I’m not crying!”

    “Ha! You did, just now. Whimpering like a coward, or an idiot … Of course, if you’d like to actually walk on your own, be my guest.”

    “I will,” he growled, pulling himself free and standing resolutely. He was not crying, he knew, no matter how much this horrible and chaotic place made him want to curl up into a furry ball. His throat burned again, and it was only with great effort that he managed to ignore it.

    “Sure you will.” James snorted, not pausing to look behind; Sirius was quick to trot up behind him, quite unwilling to be left alone. “Hm. If I remember right, and of course I did, it was this way …”

    They trekked on through the destruction, soon passing a few flaming ruins of buildings that must have been mildly impressive once. This was closer to the heart of Jusfeld itself, Sirius knew, eyes darting about nervously at those ashy skeletons around him glowing in the firelight. Blinding light and unfathomable shadow, juxtaposed around him and leaping swirling and changing in no earthly pattern … his vision began to swim again, and with every hellish second that passed it became more and more likely that some demon would leap out of the flames, screeching hungrily over those terrible roars …

    “Wh-what makes you think arsonists did this?” he forced himself to ask, mostly in an attempt to extinguish his paranoia. “It’s summer, I think … lightning could’ve struck, right?”

    “It could’ve, sure.” James’s terse voice brought to mind their first meeting, a collision of fear and confusion. “But you’d better believe the people living here’d be quick to deal with it. Not to mention how quickly the damned fire grew … and how fast it’s suddenly going out, thank the Creator.”

    Indeed, the towering flames around them had inexplicably dropped a few feet in height as he spoke. Curiously sniffing the air, Sirius was relieved that his burning thirst was growing slightly more tolerable. Something else seemed to be wafting through the air, too, aside from smoke and ash and the aroma of charred meat … he squinted, not quite sure whether it was a scent or a sound he detected.

    “HA!” James exclaimed, making him jump; only narrowly did he manage to avoid crashing into the suddenly halted Deerling, who was staring intently at a box nestled near what was once an enormous log. “Here it is, the stupid thing! Probably hot as hell by now, though. Hey idiot, make yourself useful and open this for me, will you?”

    Sirius cringed; the metallic box was glowing, hot enough to make the dirt beneath it sizzle a little. Even James, leering down at it, couldn’t get close to it … James, whose sweat-soaked fur shone in the slowly dying light, though his nose looked dry and dull. Was that flower on his head wilting? The heat – for there was probably quite a bit of warmth here, Sirius realized, considering there was a fire going on – was quickly taking an enormous toll on the Deerling, though he was trying very hard not to show it.

    But … but he didn’t feel as terrible, Sirius noted. Merely a little more fearful than half an hour ago, he guessed, and somewhat thirstier. Warm, too, perhaps. Not very hot at all … James had to see that, right? He couldn’t have missed how Sirius was still fresh rather than exhausted, and undeservingly so at that. Was this how he meant to even out the experience? Giving Sirius pain all in one go, instead of pressing down on him gradually? It probably made sense to him, Sirius decided, watching distantly as the Deerling’s eyes flicked to him in impatience. After all, this was probably the only way such a stupid, inexperienced dog could make himself useful.

    He had reached out and flipped it open with a shaking paw before he realized what he was doing. With a gasp, he withdrew it quickly, out of surprise rather than instinct, ready to cradle his charred limb to his chest – except that, aside from the gray ash dusting his fur, it was impossible to tell that he had touched the glowing-hot box. He hadn’t felt anything at all, in fact; and in the absence of the stinging or throbbing or melting he had imagined a terrible burn to feel like, his paw seemed weightless and numb.

    James nodded. “So you’re one of those,” he said with a nod, looking oddly pleased. “Good. Should’ve guessed, though, with you being awake so little of the time …” His voice trailed off at Sirius’s expression. “… You did know it wasn’t going to hurt you, right?”

    “No,” the Houndour murmured, still staring at his unharmed paw. “It should’ve burned me … why aren’t I screaming?”

    A flash of some expression flitted across James’s face. Sirius wasn’t sure what to make of it – “discomfort” was the closest description he could give it, though it had come and gone so quickly it was difficult to tell it had ever existed. “… Of course it wouldn’t have burned you,” the Deerling said, looking off to the side. “Fire-types aren’t affected by that sort of thing … I thought you knew that.” He shuffled a bit, hooves sending up tiny clouds of ash. “Er … you mind getting it out? I still can’t get close to it …”

    So thoroughly baffled at all of this was Sirius that he barely paid attention to the mysterious object within the box, even though it poked the roof of his mouth uncomfortably before he had placed it at his companion’s feet. It seemed to still retain a bit of heat, for James hastily backed away from it, eying it warily. A wave of guilt threatened to consume Sirius at this, and he directed his gaze away and out into the ever-shrinking fire around them …

    A quiet, lonely fluttering sound. Curious, he stared into yet another patch of shadow, sensing a faint movement in the blankness – except it wasn’t really blankness, he realized, but a large black cloth some distance away. A cloth with eyes, at that: two enormous, slanted eyes, somehow failing to reflect the firelight. A child’s toy, he decided, left hanging from some unseen nook in the wake of the fire. Perhaps its owner might still be nearby.

    To his shock, it slowly rotated around to face him, and its mild swaying motion made it quite clear that it was not hanging, but hovering in place. A balloon, then, he tried to assure himself, staring back into those otherworldly eyes, feeling as if it were looking straight through him. Which it was, of course. It wasn’t alive, so it couldn’t possibly be looking. It was just a balloon. Still, its blank, lifeless expression made his skin crawl.

    In the span of about three seconds, its eyes snapped into focus, locking onto his as it nodded deeply towards him – deeply and deliberately slowly, considered the part of him not gibbering with horror. As if it were caught between mockery and respect.

    A few stray sparks skimmed its quivering hem, and within seconds the thing was devoured in a brief, intense flare, until that piercing, unflinching gaze was swallowed up, and the cloth-turned-ash floated away on a smoky updraft to reveal that nothing had lain beneath its fluttering form.

    “—hell if I know, though, this place looks eaten up already. Hey idiot, are you even listening to me?”

    “Huh?” Startled out of his trance, Sirius hastily shook himself back to reality, ears and lips flopping.

    James rolled his eyes. “Didn’t really think so,” he stated dryly, before reaching down and picking up the mysterious object with no apparent discomfort. “Now follow me, dog, sho we can get out of here already and get shome shleep … Acshully, can you shmell Lenora and teh fool from here? Or ish teh shmoke shtill clogging your big old nohsh?”

    “I might,” Sirius said, flaring his nostrils experimentally. The air was still saturated with smoke, but he noticed that it seemed even more concentrated coming from a particular direction. “Er … seems like another fire’s starting that-away. And if it’s really an arsonist, and they’re looking for h—”

    He froze, ears pricked. From the direction of the new clouds of smoke, he picked up an odd sound drifting faintly through the air. A sweet, piping, slightly hoarse sound, to be exact – as if someone were trying to hit the very lowest notes on a flute, pitch-perfect and chilling in its clarity.

    It was the sound of someone singing.

    “You hear tat?” James hissed, ears flicking around, suddenly all seriousness.

    The Houndour, unable to find much humor in his companion’s impaired speech, nodded wordlessly.

    Eyes glinting, James abruptly broke into a gallop; Sirius, far from willing to be left behind, scampered after him, leaving a trail of upturned ash in their wake.

    It was impossible to tell how long they ran. Nothing changed around them, no matter how quickly they moved – all was fire and smoke and crumbling buildings, creaking and crackling, eerie voices providing a chorus for that far-off melody. Perhaps it took an hour or two, or otherwise a single minute, for in that maze of destruction there was no distinction between them. Sirius, trying and failing to mimic James’s confident determination, found himself in his first memory again, trapped in complete darkness, identity lost in an impossible void, and nothing but an anguished scream to break the timeless silence.

    Strange how similar they seemed to him.

    Regardless of time, he was still startled when he found himself bouncing off of James’s unmoving rear, tumbling backward a short distance before momentum ran out and left him lying dazed on the ground, the fiery world still spinning madly around him. His muscles twitched, protesting as he pushed himself shakily onto his paws again. Why had James—?

    “You bastard!”

    He blinked, glancing about case someone had been shouting at him, before his senses returned and he padded forward to the place where James had skidded to a halt. He had expected an irritated expression to be aimed his way; but the Deerling was slightly crouched behind a pile of ashy rubble, peering just above it and keeping his eyes fixed on … something. The singing had stopped, Sirius realized, feeling the hair rise on the back of his neck as he joined the Deerling in his hiding spot.

    Beyond the rubble lay a small expanse of land, littered here and there with piles of ash and debris, tinged red-orange with tongues of dying flame. A town square, perhaps – yes, that crumbling platform in the center supported the theory, sure enough. And above that platform, floating effortlessly in the billowing smoke, was an angel.

    At least, Sirius thought it was an angel. After all, what else could he call such a creature? For against the suffocating backdrop of the smoke and sky, its white feathers might as well have glowed, a shining pillar in the night. Its small, tapered wings could not possibly be what kept it aloft, for they beat too slowly and leisurely, accomplishing nothing aside from clearing a little smoke. Still it floated, lightly as a cloud, displaying its elegance for all to witness – a neck stretching like a swan’s, a circle of spikes jutting from its head like a crown, a soft sigh of air passing beneath each superfluous wing-beat – this must be their savior, then, here to rescue them from the hellish blaze. Completing its regality, a glowing blade floated by its side, made from some material that seemed alien to him.

    Yet something nagged at him. He couldn’t put his paw on what it was – perhaps it was the incongruous colors of those stubby hands, better resembling a shadowy patch of slime than a light of divinity. Perhaps it was those eyes cast languidly over that furry thing over there, a ghost of a lazy grin haunting its carefree face. Perhaps it was instinct, keening silently at some unknown threat. It didn’t matter much what put him on edge, really; his mind could only struggle with the paradox of how such a stunning and wondrous creature could feel so … what was the word … off.

    “Why are you doing this?” the furry thing shouted, drawing Sirius’s attention. Feeling a vague sense of relief at this, he distantly noted the large ears, creamy-looking collar, bushy tail, and furious expression of the fox-like creature. Soot and grime patches stained her fur – that voice could not possible belong to any male – and her tail drooped in the supposed heat, but the glint in her narrowed eyes sent a clear message to her angelic foe. Die smiling if you like, or die scowling, or screaming; it makes no difference to me.

    “Stop hollering at him!” somebody hissed. “You want to get yourself killed?”

    Sirius started: two figures stood a short distance behind the fox, warily watching the scene. Lenora and Blair? He hadn’t expected to meet up with them so soon. If there was such a thing as soon, that is: from the midst of destruction and shadow and light, the motion of the stars and the color of the sky were as good as invisible. Hours or minutes had passed, who could say … His reverie was interrupted by the sight of Blair, who had stepped forward to tug on the fox’s large tail; growling in irritation, she kicked him without glancing around, sending the blue creature scuttling back to the Stoutland.

    But … Lenora and Blair had been searching for the arsonist. He doubted they would have stopped their hunt for even a moment … which must mean …

    “Why are you doing this?” the fox shouted again, and suddenly Sirius felt a slight rise in encouragement at her boldness. Nothing was happening, although bits of building still crashed around them and fire leapt and fell in its own arcane dance. How could she still have the courage to stand so tall, when the world crumbled around them? He could only gaze at her in admiration, wondering what it took to become as strong and brave as she was.

    The angel only smiled in reply.

    Sirius began to sag in relief, feeling that the fox had at last managed to stop this madness, the tension in his aching muscles easing a little – and at that moment the angel fell into a lazy twirling motion, swinging out its arms and casually slashing its sword through the fox’s face as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

    It took her far too long to fall – that image of her tumbling forward stuck firmly in his vision, bits of red and white and gray spurting from her ruined eyes like berry juice – but eventually she had crumpled at its dangling feet, frozen in silent shock at what must have been a sudden onslaught of blackness devouring her sight. No movement on her part was forthcoming: the scent of death was quickly tainting the smoky air, mingling with blood.

    Much of the foul eye liquid had splattered on the angel’s face; to Sirius’s growing horror, it licked its white-stained lips clean, then closed its eyes in contentment. “A taste of oysters,” it sighed, and proceeded to scoop the stuff off of its face with a withered hand and sip at it like tea.

    The fox screamed then: a terrible, gut-wrenching, blood-chilling shriek magnified in echoes ringing off of the ruins. Impossibly loud, as if every breath she had ever taken, every movement she had ever made, and every emotion she had ever experienced, was expelled all at once into a final bellow of mindless agony, at extreme odds with the calm, sweet, flutelike voice of the angel.

    It was the first truly animal sound he had yet heard.

    There was a great crash – Lenora moved, quick as lightning, smashing into the angel with astonishing force – reeling back at a burst of some strange, glowing energy – striking again, mouth wide, fangs glinting yellow – the angel floating nimbly out of the way, lazily summoning a stream of fire from nowhere – Blair darting about the two, not quite in tune with their movements, whisking in and out of the fray with a blow to the angel’s form wherever he could get one in.

    Beneath them, the fox’s noise faded into a pathetic whine. She twitched, just barely, and was still.

    Sirius choked and heaved, bile stinging his nose and throat as the last remnants of yesterday’s meal trickled through his teeth, foul-smelling droplets splashing rapidly on James’s prone form beneath him. The Deerling had fallen … when? His face was slashed as well, why else would he be unable to see it? Everything swam before him, blurring into a foul concoction of blood, feathers, vomit, song, smoke. Sounds of the scuffle meshed into a single unending hum, ringing in his ears. He was dead; this was hell, and heaven had betrayed them.

    Chin still dripping, eyes full to bursting with tears, he lifted his head a little, mind blank, paws numb, staring at nothing. He stiffened suddenly: from the mad chaos a white face leapt into his vision, its smile as clear and distinct as knives.

    He screamed.

    “A Pilgrim,” it stated, its curious voice as bloodstained as its victim. Its head tilted to the side, a bird staring at some unknown toy. “Watching. Join us?” it asked, childlike and casual, burning him with those smiling black eyes. “Help heal the world for gods. Delightful play, hardly work at all.”

    “Help.” Weak and raspy, throat burning again.

    A savage voice barely resembling Lenora's bellowed out. “Survivors?”

    Sirius jerked his head to the side, an automatic movement.

    The angel fell out of view, just as a great paw shot out of nowhere to snatch at it – a terse growl, a hasty rustling, a smaller blue paw seizing his own and guiding it away from him, further into the thickening smoke, touching it to something metallic that probably should have been warm.

    Something in his stomach lurched again, more forcefully this time, and everything finally dissolved into nothingness.
    FF.Net profile | Blazing Frost | Project Valentine | River Styx | Hexachromalurgy | Fizzy Bubbles

    Latest PV pair: Shedinja/Sylveon - What if the MST3K guys did Roshomon? I think it would go a little something like this.

  19. #19
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    That's.... interesting....
    Was that a Zoroark? it's the only thing I can think of when you say "fox" but the discription dosen't quite match up... at least, the way I'm reading it. and yes, you are a living example of Tv Tropes Will Ruin your Life.
    "Nothing is impossible- The word itself says, 'I'm possible!'"- Audrey Hepburn

    One crazy trip: The adventures of a beret-clad boy and his best friend the sky. One day I will learn how to forum-format at a decent speed. Promise.

  20. #20
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    The fox was an Eevee. The "creamy-looking collar" part sort of gave that away :P
    FF.Net profile | Blazing Frost | Project Valentine | River Styx | Hexachromalurgy | Fizzy Bubbles

    Latest PV pair: Shedinja/Sylveon - What if the MST3K guys did Roshomon? I think it would go a little something like this.

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    Eh, blame my veiwing Eevee as a cat/dog/gerbil thing. you can't relly tell what they are at first glance... or forty thousandth glance for that matter.
    "Nothing is impossible- The word itself says, 'I'm possible!'"- Audrey Hepburn

    One crazy trip: The adventures of a beret-clad boy and his best friend the sky. One day I will learn how to forum-format at a decent speed. Promise.

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    ohhhhhhhhh...........i was thinking ninetails


    i really don't know what to make of the chapter
    [IMG]http://i43.*******.com/2vkg5s5.jpg[/IMG]


    don't click this link...

        Spoiler:- Credit:

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    Long wait, I know. Excuses ... I've got nothing.

    But to make up for that, here's the longest chapter yet! A bit of a breather, too. No, I totally did not write this in the last ten hours, wtf.

    *

    VI. Sequence of Yearning

    Something was smacking repeatedly into Sirius’s side. He wished it wouldn’t, because it kept him from believing that he was happily dead. He was content to remain in the darkness whirling around him forever, and though a thousand garbled sounds rang in his ears, it was merely white noise that he would happily sink into. He could forget everything quite easily here, which was lucky because, for the first time, he wanted nothing more than to forget absolutely everything.

    He was treated with only a few seconds of this bliss, however; the blackness suddenly gained streaks of vivid color, which grew broader and more vibrant as they spun. From the depths of the meaningless noise a single voice emerged, its echoing quality fading as it grew clearer.

    “—nora’s team arriving in approx— five! We have a tagalong incoming!"

    His motion came to an abrupt halt as the colors around him solidified, dumping him back into the world with an unceremonious thump. His mind only had time to sluggishly decide that the hard surface beneath him was a floor; then there was a soft whooshing sound behind him, followed by a sharp blow to the back of his head, nearly snapping his neck from the sudden whiplash.

    “HA! Take that, you foul would-be ruffian! Thought you’d infiltrate this base that easily, did you? Well, you sure as hell picked the wrong place! Let’s skin your—”

    Broderick!” another voice snarled, and the first was cut off with an abrupt squeal. “That is enough. This is the third time, you thickheaded buffoon! Three strikes equals no more chances!”

    “And no more chances,” a third voice chimed in, “equals you’re fired. We’ve warned you not to jump to conclusions about tagalongs, you know.”

    “But – but – I – but—” The first voice spluttered indignantly. “You can’t – you can’t fire me! I’m the most effective Badge traffic guy you’ve got—”

    “You might want to recheck your dictionary,” the second voice growled. “Effective. I don’t think that word means what you think it means. You have ten minutes to pack your stuff.”

    “Well – I’ll take this up with—”

    “With who?” the third voice asked coolly. “Ariana? You do realize that she wanted you kicked out the first time you pulled this, don’t you? We defended you then. We’re firing you now. Ten minutes.”

    There was a moment of tense silence. Then a swift pattering of feet was heard slapping against the floor, growing gradually softer.

    “Report?” the second voice asked, as if nothing had happened.

    “She’s dead,” Lenora said huskily, and there was a sound of something soft scraping gently against the floor. “It was an Archangel.”

    A sharp hiss. “Ambassadors’ Union won’t be pleased. Which Archangel?”

    “The Togetic, what's-his-name.”

    “Damn. Gideon, send a notice for an emergency mission, won’t you?”

    “Already done. Your mission, Lenora?”

    “Successful, I’ll guess. Headed straight back from the Fields just a few hours ago.”

    “And the Houndour?”

    “James brought him. Said the poor pup’d been in the Fields when he first saw him. He’s a Pilgrim.”

    “A Pilgrim in a mystery dungeon?”

    “Apparently. Look, these kids are hurt. Where’s Charity?”

    “Running a bit late. Our, er, guest had a bit of an urgent need.”

    “Course he did.”

    “Smashed skulls have that unfortunate effect. Now about the Houndour, we should send him up to—”

    No.” Lenora’s voice thundered echoingly. “He needs rest. Poor thing’s been through enough for the day.”

    “He’ll need to see them as soon as possible. You know that.”

    “At least let him sleep!” The words rang in the air for a while, punctuated only by heavy breathing. Then the floor trembled slightly as heavy footsteps drew close. “Look at him, you two. He’s shaking. Poor thing’s been traumatized through and through. He watched him tear her eyes out. I heard him scream. James and Blair here were trained to expect that sort of thing. He wasn’t.”

    A pause, followed by a sigh. “You’re right, Lenora. I apologize. They do need sleep … but first – Blair! Yes, you. Repeat the fourth line on the obelisk in the Fields.”

    “’These strange aeons unravel, vast corpses in the storm,’” was the recited reply, though in a slightly unsteady voice. “Can I head up to the hospital wing now?”

    “Sure thing. Congratulations, by the way. Lenora, you want to take them all up?”

    “Better believe it.” She patted the prostrate dog’s back, her powerful paw feeling surprisingly soft. “It’s okay, hon,” she murmured, before gently grasping the scruff of his neck in her teeth and setting him down on her furry back. “You can rest now, Sirius. You’re safe.”

    With that, his body, as if it had been awaiting permission, relaxed into a limp sprawl at her words; eyelids drooped shut as he sank into the comforting blackness of sleep.

    *

    Someone lightly shook him awake.

    “Hnngh …?” His eyes slid open, stretching the cracked residue of dried tears. He didn’t want to wake up, not to this world of monsters; but the security of sleep was already melting away.

    “Good evening,” a voice whispered sweetly from above. “I’m so sorry to be disturbing your rest like this, but they need you to get up. The Overlords are expecting you.”

    With a sleepy grunt, Sirius pushed himself into a sitting position, taking in the sharp scents of the large room. A hospital, he decided. Then he froze, realizing he had just come face to face with a huge feathery pink-and-white egg.

    “ … I don’t even …” he blurted thoughtlessly.

    She giggled. “I’m Nurse Charity, at your service. Nice to see you awake!”

    Extending a stubby arm, she helped him get off of his cot, letting him have a moment to get his footing before turning and leading him across the stony floor. A few more strange creatures passed them, moving from light to shadow as they passed the golden sunlight shining through tall high-set windows. One of the creatures seemed to be on fire; he turned his head to stare as it crawled past, wondering how it didn’t melt the floor as it moved. Upon nearly tripping over his own paws, though, he decided to keep his focus on following the giant egg.

    One cot was completely surrounded by curtains. As they passed, a low moan emanated from whatever poor soul lay inside, a quiet, tired, anguished moan that spoke more of pain than any raw-throated scream ever could. Sirius shuddered, his pace morphing into a trot.

    Outside of the hospital wing stretched a long hall bustling with activity – so many strange things – Sirius wasn’t quite sure he had really woken up. A gentle push from the egg brought him out of his disbelief, though, and she directed him towards three creatures in particular who appeared to be waiting for them.

    “Sirius, is it?” said one of them, a large lavender cat whose voice Sirius recognized from his earlier terrified haze. “I hope you’re rested enough. If not, our apologies; we’ve already stretched the rules enough, not sending you to the Overlords immediately.”

    “The Four Overlords,” a tall black fox went on, noticing Sirius about to ask, “are the rulers of Asphodel – that’s the land we’re in, by the way. They’ve been doing research for ages on Pilgrims—”

    “—amnesiac guys like you who just show up out of nowhere,” the cat clarified. “But the Overlords are pretty sure they come from somewhere, so they’re trying to figure out—”

    “—where they came from, how they got here—”

    “—why they left, if they left willingly—”

    “—why they never remember anything—”

    “—if their past memories can be unlocked—”

    “—and the general workings of an age-old mystery!”

    They beamed at him. He failed to notice this, however, as his brain was spinning too much.

    “They’re twins,” Nurse Charity explained, sounding as if she was rolling her eyes.

    “Yes indeed.” The black fox wagged his tail briefly, the yellow rings on his body growing a little brighter. “I’m Fabian—”

    “—and I’m Gideon,” the cat finished. “Deputies of Team Phoenix, that’s us.”

    Sirius opened his mouth, tried to think of something relevant to say, came up with absolutely nothing, realized he looked stupid, and clammed up again.

    “Much as we’d love to stay and chat,” Gideon said after an awkward pause, “we’ve got a meeting with the Head of the Ambassadors’ Union. You can bet your black bottom they won’t be happy that we let one of their own get killed right under our noses.”

    “So if you have any questions, concerns, or meaningless complaints, Blair here will be happy to take them for you,” Fabian added, tilting his head to gesture at the third, and so far the quietest member of the little group. “You met Blair, didn’t you? Almost died together or something? Splendid! Now follow him over to the Castle, there’s a good pup.”

    With that they trotted off side by side, tails swishing in unison behind them.

    “Those two,” sighed Nurse Charity, shaking her body in the way that most people would shake their head. “Well, you’d better be off then. When you come back here, could you drop by me first? I want to change that bandage, check on that burn again, you know. Sirius, dear, you can rest at the hospital wing as long as you like, so until then try not to fall asleep on your feet, all right?”

    As she waved them off, Sirius got a good look at his blue companion for the first time. He stood quite a bit taller than the Houndour, though still not as tall as Fabian and Gideon. His light blue fur seemed to faintly glow in the light of each hall window they passed, providing even more of a contrast to the royal blue fur adorning his waist. A large shell hung at each hip, swinging slightly with each step he took.

    “So … Sirius, huh?” Blair finally said. “Nice to finally meet you. Meet you for real, I mean, because I don’t think almost getting killed by Veel and blood loss and fire and smoke and Archangels and various other dangerous things would count. Where’re you from?”

    Sirius frowned at the question. Where was he from? He hadn’t really considered that particular mystery yet, wrapped up instead in his mysterious past. What sort of city had he lived in? Maybe a large imposing place, or a humble little town full of smiling people? Or maybe he’d lived in the country, fending for himself in a vast wilderness.

    “I don’t know,” he said at length. “I’m a Pilgrim.”

    Blair’s mouth morphed into a perfect O-shape. “Huh, that’s right,” he said. “I forgot about that. But we’re heading out to the Castle because you’re a Pilgrim, aren’t we. I remember now. That was what Fabian and Gideon were talking about before, weren’t they …?”

    “Yeah, they were,” Sirius said, feeling a familiar confusion creep up on him as they passed through a large door at the end of the hall and stepped outside. Several tall buildings loomed over them all along the broad street, creating a view of wood and stone that looked positively rich in the evening light. As they set off to the right, Sirius noted that many of them seemed to be small castles spaced neatly apart from each other – including, to his surprise, the one they had just left. “So … I guess you must not have met many Pilgrims, then.”

    “Oh, but I have!” Blair said, nodding in passing at a weasel in silvery armor. “I’m a Pilgrim myself, actually!”

    “You’re—!”

    “I know! Part of the Great Pilgrimage, in fact. That was a whole five years ago. I think. I don’t remember anything from before either. Maybe we’re actually dead … nah. That wouldn’t make any sense. But anyway, loads and loads and loads of people came in during the Great Pilgrimage … me and Lenora and Nurse Charity … a lot of nurses, actually … then there’s Duchess Caitlin and her consort … my pal Bianca … her friend Joey … Bill the science guy … Cynthia from Team Impact … that crazy Eusine … oh, and Cheren, can’t forget about him … I think that’s it. Well, maybe a few more that I can’t remember were there too. I’m a Dewott, by the way. Anyway, it’s weird being a Pilgrim, isn’t it? I remember when I was brought to the Castle myself. Some street kid, I think it was a Pichu, or maybe a Pachirisu. Unless it was a Wailmer? But yeah, somebody threw a flower at me. It was a nice gesture, though I think it would’ve been nicer to take it out of the pot first …”

    Blair’s voice went on and on for so long that the words stopped meaning anything, which was fine with Sirius because he wasn’t in the mood to go cross-eyed. His attention went to their surroundings instead. They crossed an intersection clogged with even more strange creatures carting various goods, the traffic pausing and pulling back and pushing forward as each attempted to navigate their own path. Its overall movement was not so much of a flow as it was a trickle; more than once Sirius caught sight of someone actually napping on their paws, only to be nudged awake by a grumbling neighbor as their cluster edged forwards again.

    They passed a towering fountain carved into strange shapes: a huge spiked monster, its head arched towards the sky as water bubbled up from its jaws, while the two smaller shapes faced it with stances that might have been defiant once but now, after years of wear, only seemed tired. Water trickled through their mouths and eye sockets, splattering against pits in the monster’s hide which Sirius assumed were wounds. At its base stood a small sign whose words were all but illegible beneath the graffiti, one could still make out the hopeful phrase: Donations to Team Conundrum (Treasure Provinces).

    Despite the sign, though, the fountain held only water.

    As the road beneath them thinned slightly and passed emerald-green lawns on either side, Sirius was struck by a sudden, horrible thought. “James!” he exclaimed, mostly unaware that he was cutting off Blair’s monologue about the perils of water balloons. “Is he still alive? Is he okay? He was in the hospital, probably, since his face was cut open and … oh no. He died, didn’t he? I saw him there, he was all crumpled on the ground and—”

    “Whoa, whoa, slow down!” Blair waved his forepaws as if to fend off the Houndour’s wave of speculation. “James is perfectly fine! Better than I am, actually. Only some heatstroke, at least that’s what Nurse Charity said. I think. And maybe a bit of ego coming down around his ears, too, I heard that his parents actually came over and started chewing him out about going on the mission. Because apparently he wasn’t supposed to go on the mission without talking to them first, see, which is pretty reasonable since I’ve never heard of someone graduating apprenticeship without at least getting tired enough to sleep through two days. Though I did hear that Ariana did it in like two days and didn’t even break like a claw or anything. And maybe somebody else, like …”

    But he’d seen James there, collapsed beneath him, through the haze of heat and smoke. Or was it terror? The Deerling hadn’t moved, he was sure of that. His face had been slashed wide open like the fox’s, dripping blood and all manner of foulness from a new gaping hole … but the angel … was it called a Togetic? An Archangel? The thing hadn’t come near them, at least not until the very end. So James wasn’t dead after all. Except that he was. How could he be dead and alive at the same time?

    “Here we are!” Blair cheered, gesturing up at the enormous stone castle that appeared suddenly before them. He frowned, squinting over at some sort of commotion at its base. “But what’s that going on over there, hmm …?”

    Sirius, jerking out of his brooding, noted that in spite of the towering castle’s sheer size, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as he might have imagined. It was surrounded by more lawns rather than a moat, and no drawbridge yawned imperiously to greet them. Instead there were a couple ordinary doors spaced here and there along its side, with windows glinting in several other places.

    He voiced his opinion, and Blair replied with a laugh, “Well, of course not! This is going in by the back way, after all. The front looks much nicer, but it’s for important people. And by important I mean more important than us. But there’s a bit of a scuffle here, it seems.” He pointed at one of the doors, which was partially ajar; two broad-shouldered, burly guards had just stepped through it, each keeping a firm hold on a dainty-looking creature wearing a pale yellow dress. Her hair was tied back in a thick black ponytail, which was bobbing up and down slightly as she struggled in vain to break free from her captors’ grip.

    “And stay out!” one of the guards growled, before he and his companion tossed her several feet away. With satisfied huffing, the two of them turned and marched back inside, slamming the door behind them with an echoing bang.

    She hit the ground with a squeak, and at the impact a few vividly colored small objects flew from her dress. With a gasp she scooped them up and stuffed them back in, though where exactly they had gone was a complete mystery.

    Shadows fell across her. She looked up.

    “Hello!” Blair said cheerfully, giving her a wave.

    Sirius, who seemed to be alone in observing the colored objects, frowned thoughtfully. “Are you all right, miss?”

    She rolled her red eyes, but it was so brief that he couldn’t be sure he’d really seen it. Clearing her throat, she spoke up in a fairly high voice. “Oh, d-don’t mind me,” she stammered, getting to her feet with as much dignity as she could muster. “I’ll b-be quite all right. It’s j-just a m-misunderstanding I’ve gotten into, that’s all.” She sighed, pushing her black bangs out of her face. “They have such t-trouble remembering my face. If you’ll excuse me …”

    “She seems nice,” Blair said, watching her go with mild interest. Then he shrugged. “Not that it matters, since we’ll never see her again. Such is life.”

    As they made those few final steps towards the castle, something sparkly in the grass caught Sirius’s eye. It was one of those things the girl had dropped, he realized; its deep green color ensured that the surrounding grass concealed it almost perfectly. He considered calling her back to point this out, but a glance over his shoulder revealed that she had somehow vanished. With that possibility out of the question, he instead made a mental note to remember its location.

    Blair knocked on the door, and was consequently almost knocked off of his paws as it was opened immediately by a guard who appeared to be made entirely of rocks. “NOW LOOK HERE, WE TOLD YOU TO — oh.” The guard paused mid-bellow, frowning down at the two. He lowered his four arms, looking slightly abashed. “Sorry. I thought that … well, doesn’t matter. You here on business?”

    “Yep! I’m Blair from Team Phoenix, sir—” He pulled something small and shiny out of nowhere, letting it flash at the guard for a second before returning it to wherever it had come from. “—and this is my buddy Sirius. He’s a nifty guy.” He glanced around, as if wary of eavesdroppers, and then added in a near whisper, “He’s a Pilgrim.”

    The guard nodded. “Come on in, then,” he said, pushing the door open for them.

    Beyond the door they found a dark corridor, and as it shut boomingly behind them the room fell into complete blackness save for a few candles weakly lighting the way. “This way,” he grunted, pushing to the front and stomping off into the shadows. They followed, and Sirius felt his ears flatten against his skull as the gloom swallowed them. He tried not to think of his first memory, the darkness and the screaming.

    Only a couple of minutes passed, though, before they felt the ground beneath them tilt upwards and the earth turn to stone, and by the time they leveled out again the air smelled fresh again, with hints of other flavors – Sirius’s nostrils flared, and he let himself smile a little at the faint scents of rose and cinnamon.

    “Well,” the guard finally said as they reached another, rather ornately carved door. “Here we are.”

    He stepped back, gesturing for them to go ahead. Sirius obediently started forward, only to stop again as Blair pushed him back. He then did something that Sirius thought was very strange: he stomped on the floor three times, then broke into a sudden tap-dance, paws pattering and claws clicking against the stone. Before the Houndour had time to fully register this, the Dewott paused for a couple of seconds, then stomped again and smacked a wall, which gave way beneath his paw.

    The guard chuckled. “Good on you, Blair of Team Phoenix.”

    Sirius could only stare for a moment as he watched Blair step through the new opening. Then he cautiously followed, mind still reeling from what he had just seen. As he passed the still-shut door he thought he could hear a faint sound: something chittering hungrily. He shuddered, quickly deciding not to imagine what could be behind it.

    They emerged into a dimly lit room that seemed to be a study, lined with books and richly carpeted. A few comfy-looking armchairs faced a lit fireplace, and seated in one of them was one of the oddest creatures Sirius had yet seen. Its blue, decorated body was vaguely bell-shaped, and from the top of it grew a pair of flat arms. Said arms were currently holding a book, which for some reason was concealing its lower body.

    “Ah,” it said, and its metallic-sounding voice could be construed as a male’s. He closed his book, revealing a pair of unblinking red eyes that skimmed briefly across the newcomers. “You’ve arrived at last. Thank you, Liam.”

    “Sir,” the guard grunted, raising its hand in some form of a salute. He turned and stomped through the hole in the wall, which then closed up again, making it impossible to tell that there was anything behind that expanse of dark wood.

    The giant bell than floated out of his chair. Sirius was only a little astonished at this; he was starting to suspect that everything in this place was mind-bendingly strange.

    “Good evening to you, Blair and Sirius. The Overlords have been waiting. Please follow me.”

    Outside the study stretched a vast hallway, similarly-carpeted; they set off, and their paws sunk into it with each step, making no noise at all. Sirius strained his hearing, but the quiet was only broken by faint whisperings from some distant part of the castle. Flickering lanterns hung from the ceiling, casting eerie shadows.

    “A-are you an Overlord?” Sirius asked nervously, as much to break the silence as out of curiosity.

    Soft clanging emanated suddenly from the bell. Sirius jumped, but at the sight of Blair’s grin, he decided that it was probably a strange form of laughter.

    “You flatter me, Sirius,” said the bell, regaining his composure. “But I am not as noble a being as those you will soon meet. I am but a mere Bronzong, Lucian by name. I am charged to escort Pilgrims such as yourself to them, but that is the extent of my importance. Unless one considers the scholar as an important figure, which so few do, at least these days.”

    “Oh.” Sirius cringed inwardly as they rounded a corner, half expecting some great beast to leap out at them with outstretched claws. “Er … so what are they like?”

    “Very powerful, and very wise,” Lucian replied. “Rowena is particularly renowned for her intelligence. They are scholars themselves, and much more learned than I. They are warriors and rulers, and it is they who speak to visiting gods.”

    “Gods?” Sirius glanced at Blair, who was strolling leisurely beside him. “What do you mean by gods?”

    “By gods I mean beings with such vast powers as to manipulate whatever they wish. But to the Overlords they grant some degree of respect. It is a simple thing to build a reputation over the course of a thousand years, after all.”

    “What, the gods?”

    “I mean the Overlords.”

    Sirius’s eyes practically bugged out of his head. Blair grinned again at his expression.

    “No, I don’t know how they accomplished such a thing. But you need not understand much about the Overlords. They are not as mystical as one might assume from their age, and it is really not particularly difficult to talk with them. After all, they are extremely … reasonable … oh—”

    Lucian paused before another corner, suddenly looking nervous.

    “What?” Sirius asked, apprehension beginning to claw at his belly. He looked to Blair again, but the Dewott’s usual smile had morphed into wide-eyed surprise, perhaps even fear. “They’re … they’re not that bad, are they? It’s not as if I’m on trial or anything, is it?”

    “That,” a new, sleek voice replied, “is a matter of perspective.”

    Sirius froze. Dread flooded through him as he peeked past the others, wondering what they were staring at.

    This time there was something around the corner – a towering green something. His long body stretched a good ways behind him, decorated with curling patterns of yellow and darker green. His narrow head, also patterned, stretched forward to reveal a pure white neck and a pair of hornlike scales. For a moment he simply studied them, his red eyes calculating. Then he smirked.

    “Thank you, Lucian,” he said. “I don’t believe you’ve examined the Pilgrim yet?”

    “W-w-w, w-well—” Lucian fidgeted, a movement that would have otherwise been quite funny. “It doesn’t exactly work, of course, with dark-types—”

    “Yes, that is obvious,” the serpent interrupted coolly. “Pilgrim, come forward.”

    Sirius swallowed. The massive snake could probably crush him in those coils with ease, or swallow him whole, or whatever else snakes did. There was nothing else to be done, though, and he forced himself to take each uncertain step towards the creature, feeling like he might sink right into the carpet under his gaze. And something else niggled at the corner of his brain: What does he mean, dark-type …?

    Then the serpent’s eyes met his own, and the red within those eyes expanded wider, wider, wider, out of his eyes and past his head, swallowing up the hallway and the castle until the whole world was filled with that scarlet gaze and everything revolved around those pupils, and he was only part of this world, and must abide by its laws or fall prey to its dangers, and it wanted him to open his mouth and he did, and it wanted him to speak and he spoke, and everything was red, so red—

    He blinked. Nothing had changed around him, nothing at all, though he felt slightly dizzy as the serpent looked past him.

    “Not a spy,” he said, sounding unconcerned. “I dislike having to do your job for you, Lucian. No, stop groveling, I understand your limitations … Follow me, Sirius. I will take you the rest of the way.”

    He whipped around, body trailing behind him, and began to slither away. Sirius looked apologetically back at Blair and Lucian, both still fearful, and darted off to follow the snake.

    They emerged from the dark hall and into a magnificent, brightly lit chamber, its floor and walls and ceiling and columns and adjacent stairways all glinting with polished marble. The serpent, not bothering to check if the squinting Sirius was following, turned to the left and headed towards a simply enormous pair of doors at the far end of the chamber, his scales just as soundless on the floor as on the carpet. Naturally, Sirius felt highly self-conscious at the sound his claws made, echoes of clacking against marble.

    Yet the sheer beauty of the place was overwhelming. He stared up as he walked, openmouthed; vast windows near the ceiling stretched nearly from one end of the chamber to the other, admitting torrents of evening sunlight that stretched across great swathes of the place to turn white marble to shades of orange and gold. Stained-glass murals dotted the walls beneath them, twinkling in the light; what they depicted exactly escaped him, yet he was sure he could make out a few distant shapes: a raging inferno, spitting sparks – a towering tree, branches curled – a frowning storm, casting bolts of lightning – a looming mountain, capped with snow … they all seemed to tell a story, one just out of his ability to read. He raised his gaze a little, and a peculiar crest embedded in the ceiling, composed of emeralds and sapphires and topaz and rubies, sparkled down at him. He found that he liked it most of all; for some reason, in spite of everything that had intimidated him so far, he felt as if he had at last come home.

    Everything was so incredible, so dazzling and light and real, that he almost forgot about the nameless horrors of the previous nights and the immensely powerful beings he was about to face.

    Almost.

    “We have arrived.”

    Sirius blinked, drifting back down to earth as he came to a sudden halt.

    The serpent dextrously curled the end of his leafy tail around the two glimmering door handles. He paused, then looked down at Sirius for the first time since the dark hallway. The Houndour half expected to fall into the red world again, but the serpent seemed just a little thoughtful. “… Remember what transpires behind these doors,” he said at length. “Perhaps, if you are cunning enough to put everything together …” He trailed off, shaking his head. “Well, I suppose we shall see.”

    And with that, letting Sirius puzzle over his words, the serpent pulled the massive doors open.
    FF.Net profile | Blazing Frost | Project Valentine | River Styx | Hexachromalurgy | Fizzy Bubbles

    Latest PV pair: Shedinja/Sylveon - What if the MST3K guys did Roshomon? I think it would go a little something like this.

  24. #24
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    *has a heart attack on realizing there's a new chapter*
    So... Pilgrims are just from anywhere? Mostly from the Pokemon world it seems...
    "Nothing is impossible- The word itself says, 'I'm possible!'"- Audrey Hepburn

    One crazy trip: The adventures of a beret-clad boy and his best friend the sky. One day I will learn how to forum-format at a decent speed. Promise.

  25. #25
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    Well ... it's complicated.

    Normally, when people in the Harry Potter world die, they end up born in the mystery dungeon world soon afterwards (unless they become ghosts and linger in their own world). Why this is the case, we don't know yet; but they remember absolutely nothing about their previous lives. Since they're actually born and don't appear out of nowhere, they aren't Pilgrims. James is a perfect example of one of these people.

    But there are things in the Harry Potter world (such as the Veil) that don't kill per se, but rather devour a victim's soul or even body and then ... something happens to them. This something is, again, an unknown. For whatever reason, they end up in a Pokemon's body, with only an extremely faint memory or two left in their minds. The frequency of this event depends on several variables, but the slow-and-fairly-steady migration into the mystery dungeon world has been occurring for so long that, for centuries, few people aside from the Overlords were particularly curious about it. These newcomers, such as Sirius, are of course Pilgrims.

    BUT, about five years before the story began, a massive amount of Pilgrims started to appear. Hundreds would turn up in just a single day. Quite a few of them were killed before making it to civilization — it was a bit of a troubled year. The timing of this event naturally drew scrutiny, and so everyone began to refer to it as the Great Pilgrimage. Look carefully at Blair's list of fellow Great Pilgrimage people: all of them are from the Pokemon world. Conversely, you wouldn't be wrong in supposing that all Pilgrims from the Pokemon world came in on the Great Pilgrimage. Why they all came in at once, and what the timing had to do with it, is a mystery. (Of course it is.)

    ... That was a bit long-winded, wasn't it?

    So, short answer: most of the Pilgrims are indeed from the Pokemon world. And now you know.
    FF.Net profile | Blazing Frost | Project Valentine | River Styx | Hexachromalurgy | Fizzy Bubbles

    Latest PV pair: Shedinja/Sylveon - What if the MST3K guys did Roshomon? I think it would go a little something like this.

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