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.
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.
"The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them,"- Unknown
ohhhhhhhhh...........i was thinking ninetails
i really don't know what to make of the chapter
don't click this link...
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!”
“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.
“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.
*has a heart attack on realizing there's a new chapter*
So... Pilgrims are just from anywhere? Mostly from the Pokemon world it seems...
"The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them,"- Unknown
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.
...Yes. It WAS long winded. but you answered the question. Thank you. I take it there's going to be a reason for this "Great Pilgrimage"?
"The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them,"- Unknown
Absolutely. It is a very good reason, and it will be alluded to in the next chapter.
... And speaking of the next chapter, I've actually started working on that. So it should probably be up within the month, assuming college doesn't drown me in its swampy machinations.
Great job with this fic, it’s just wonderful! I love your description and the use of language. You managed to create a very eerie atmosphere too. I like how you interweave desperation and dark moments with humour. Well, question time…
Spoiler:- Question Time:
Thanks! I'm glad you're liking this ^_^
Ah, good questions. Let's see if I can bring some satisfactory answers to the table.
Yes, it is in part due to the fact that he's in a world that's completely alien to him. He did wake up in a mystery dungeon that was actively trying to kill him, after all; and it doesn't help that the only memory from his past life is traumatic and somewhat mind-screwy. In fact, most Pilgrims are also afraid upon arriving in the mystery dungeon world, and understandably so. Sirius' reaction is a bit more extreme because ... well, that would be telling. But rest assured, his wimpiness will be addressed quite soon. He'll get better. Probably.Why is Sirius such a wimp? Is it because he is in a new place? I doubt the old Sirius would be so afraid of everything. Or is it because he doesn’t remember a thing from his past? (our past has a big influence on our personality, but it’s still strange that Sirius’ personality actually reversed). The same goes for James. The old James wasn’t so mocking.
James ... James isn't a Pilgrim, so his case is a bit different. His soul is the same as it was when he was human, so naturally streaks of his personality have been carried on. And as a teenage Deerling, it's logical that he would have much the same bossy attitute he did as a teenage human.
Ahahaha :D Lily. She'll definitely be showing up, that's all I'm saying.Then, if all who die in the Harry Potter world (and don’t become ghosts) are born in the mystery dungeon world, where is Lily? And how does time flow in that world compared to the Harry world? Does the time in the dungeon world pass faster? I mean, we don’t expect other from the Harry Potter world soon, do we?
Time in the mystery dungeon world passes at about the same speed as it does in the Harry Potter world. Up there I said that James was a teenager, and since about fifteen years have passed since he died, that fits together pretty well. (And yes, I'm overlooking the fact that real-life deer would be extremely old at that age. This is Pokemon.)
Now consider that the second wizarding war is about to start in the Harry Potter world, and you can expect a few more Pilgrims to be trickling in.
He does have a better chance of remembering, yes. As do Blair and the other Pilgrims, although the possibility of that actually happening is still very, very small - aside from tiny nuances in behavior. After all, Sirius is pretty attached to James despite the fact that he's only known him for about a day, so ...Also, according the memory thing… Everyone who is born in the dungeon world after dying has no chance of remembering his previous life (unless a miracle happens) as we don’t remember our previous lives, right? But since Sirius is a Pilgrim, then he has more chances of remembering, or what? Or will he remain in the unbeknownst like Blair? It’s just a bit sad that Sirius and James won’t remember each other.
It's coincidence ... sort of. There's a couple of reasons for this.Now about the names… Fine, those who are Pilgrims, they remember their names. But what about those who are reborn in this world? James for instance. Since their new parents give them their names, is it coincidence that they have the same name as in their previous life, or is there a procedure by which they get to know what name shall their child have?
First, there's the fact that it makes everyone's identity less confusing to readers. Say for instance that when James was born, his parents named him Bob. Naturally nobody would realize that this was actually James; they'd just write him off as a random Deerling named Bob and move on with it. By calling him James, it's easier to see who he actually is.
Second ... er ... it's obscene luck? Or destiny? That's the best in-story explanation I can come up with.
Absolutely! *adds*One last, very important question: can I be on the PM list, please?
I like your title. I have thought much about it and just came to fully understand it. Very original and fully expresses the main idea of your fic. "River Styx", the river of the dead. "Styx": primeval horror and darkness. We can say that the PMN Dungeon world is "Hades" (from which there is no returning) for those who come from the Harry Potter world, all of whom came to this world through an "River Styx"... Something like a metaphor.
Last edited by Blue Astra; 3rd October 2011 at 4:47 PM.
Okay, so I lied. In my defense though, I wasn't expecting to have such a heavy load of homework so early in the semester. This is what I get for expecting school to be reasonable :/Originally Posted by darkdragontamer
There should most likely be some actual action in the chapter after this one, in case you like that better than psychological drama and stuff. In the meantime, Happy Halloween ^_^
VII. Madness’s Wake
For a brief yet terrifying moment, Sirius believed that he really was on trial.
The cavernous elliptical space looming before him held several rows of seats lining the single curved wall, all intricately sculpted from glittering marble. A thousand bleached-white chairs, all facing his direction yet as empty as the still air between them … Somehow that mere skeletal formation seemed more ominous than an audience glaring down at him in disdain. In the dim light of the room, which seemed to permeate everything within rather than shine from a single source, they sprawled before him in a twisted parody of life, stooping like undead beasts.
Four broad stone columns interrupted the otherwise unbroken pattern within the seating, connecting the arched ceiling to the shallow curve of the floor. Each boasted a collage of utterly bizarre creatures – a vast collection of dragons, fairies, and monsters, all staring silently into space with the same smooth blank eyes. And partway up each column rested a fairly simple throne, embellished only with a shining array precious stones, and carved as naturally from the stone as the twisting beasts above and below. Something seemed to sit upon them, peering down from the shadows of those cold recesses.
It took an irritated sigh from the serpent beside him to jolt him out of his gaping daze; he stepped cautiously past the double doors biting back a whimper.
As he drew nervously into the courtroom – or was it a throne room? It was fairly impossible to tell – he thought he could make out the beings who sat in those thrones above him. In the leftmost throne, in which rubies glinted sharply, crouched a massive beast cloaked in a thick mat of fiery fur … beside it, in the throne of topaz, stood a stout creature with gleaming claws and beady eyes … in the throne of sapphires, a proud scythe-wielding figure roosted, feathers rustling softly.
At the far right, the throne of emeralds was empty.
Sirius’s ears perked automatically as he heard the doors swing quietly closed behind him, defying their massive size as the room was plunged into near total darkness. Yet he could see the eyes of those who sat in the thrones, glittering softly in the mysterious faint light.
“Pilgrim Sirius!” boomed the beast in the throne of rubies. “We are pleased to receive you. Step forward.”
The beast’s jovial tone was surprising, but it did little to soothe Sirius’s anxiety. Swallowing hard, he padded to the center of the room where the floor was at its lowest. He stared up at those creatures as they followed him with their eyes, imagining that the sound of his claws clicking were their own claws drumming impatiently against stone.
He had just begun to wonder what was supposed to happen now when he serpent slithered past him, swiftly reaching the base of the empty column. Without missing a beat the serpent pulled himself up the stone, winding around in nine tight coils before sliding easily into the throne of emeralds, his eyes burning down into Sirius’s hide.
But … but if the snake could sit up there … then did that mean he was—?
“We have been informed that you first appeared in Eversive Fields,” said the bird in the throne of sapphires, in a voice sharp and clear. “Is this correct?”
“Y-yes.” The Houndour licked his lips; his mouth suddenly felt dry. “Inside the … the third barrier, I think.”
For a moment the silence was broken only by a light scratching sound. Sirius resisted the urge to paw at the floor, and hoped that his claws hadn’t marked it up too much already.
“Do you have any memories of your life before?” asked the creature in the throne of topaz. She sounded surprisingly soft, not at all the way her massive claws would suggest. “Any history, family, friends, talents, fears, dreams, religion or lack thereof … anything?”
Sirius could feel his heart sink at the question as he shook his head. “No, nothing,” he said quietly. “All I remember is falling through something dark and cold … somebody was calling for me, but I was alone. That’s all I know.” His voice trembled slightly as he spoke.
“Do you know who was calling for you?” The bird in the throne of sapphires sounded unconcerned.
“It … it felt like I should have known him. Or her. I just didn’t.”
scratch scratch scratch
The beast in the throne of rubies cleared his throat, pulling Sirius away from the gloomy angst he had been drifting towards. “So for your side there was nothing? I see, I see … does the name Zekrom mean anything to you? Or perhaps Reshiram?”
“W-what?” He blinked rapidly, feeling puzzlement twist something in his gut. Hadn’t they summoned him here to ask about him?
“Have you heard of Zekrom or Reshiram?” was the patient reply. Then, in a faintly disdainful afterthought: “… Or Kyurem, I suppose.”
Sirius considered this as he attempted to push his indignation to the side. “I don’t think so, no.”
scratch scratch scratch
“Belarus, then? Or Adam? Ganymede?”
Someone else chimed in. “Pilate? Selwyn? Isolde? Darkrai?”
Sirius found himself shaking his head almost constantly from the onslaught of names; the room spun around him menacingly, with voices questioning him from all angles. Why would he know any of these people? He had only been in this place for a couple of days, and at any rate he barely knew himself. It was almost as if they suspected him of some grievous crime.
After several long minutes that stretched like hours, the Overlords fell silent. Sirius’s brain raced in anticipation as he kept his eyes drifting across the shadows of the empty seats, trying to avoid their judging stares.
scratch scratch scratch
Finally the serpent in the throne of emeralds sighed, sounding almost disappointed. “Very well. You may go.”
What? That was it?
He glanced up at them again, certain that he had misheard somehow; but they had turned their attention away from him and towards each other, speaking in clipped tones. They were supposed to ask more about where he had come from, not simply brush him aside after asking about random people. Wasn’t that the point of this? Wasn’t he a person?
Then again … hadn’t they been doing this for a thousand years? Sending for the ones with no past or memory, a hundred thousand faces and a million inane questions blurring together into a meaningless montage … There was no reason for him to stand out. For a Pilgrim, he was simply average, just a footnote in an expansive study.
But the serpent had seemed almost interested in him before …
Biting back a sharp question, he turned and climbed up the shallow slope towards the door. They didn’t seem to need him there anymore, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to stay in this gloomy place any longer than necessary. The room itself felt mocking and accusatory, like a massive goblin leering at his retreating back. He fought the urge to toss a glare over his shoulder.
To his surprise, the massive doors fell open at his tentative push. Squinting in the sudden evening brilliance of the marble hall, he stepped out into the light and let the shadows and whispers pass behind him. He wouldn’t be going back there if he could help it.
“Sirius? Hey, Sirius!”
His tail wagged and his nose twitched in recognition as he noticed Lucian and Blair standing just outside the corridor he had entered through. Neither seemed particularly awed by the majesty before them; Blair was even leaning against a broad marble column with his arms folded in a cool manner, though he stood up straight as he beckoned Sirius over. Feeling his spirits a little, the Houndour broke into a trot, letting the hall slide past him.
“So how’d it go?” Blair asked as Sirius drew near. “Was it fun?”
“Er … not exactly—”
“Yeah, it was pretty boring for me. Ah, I should’ve warned you not to fall asleep before! Too late now, I guess.”
“Yes, these meetings are typically quite uneventful,” Lucian agreed, and his statement would have seemed a lot more believable if he didn’t sound so relieved. “But come now: I had best help to escort the two of you out. I believe that the Overlords are expecting to meet with a delegation from the Treasure Provinces soon, and the farther away we get from that the better, if you’ll pardon my bluntness.”
“No, it’s all good,” Blair said with a dismissive wave. “Nobody likes those guys. Hey Sirius, I bet if we hurry we can get to the cafeteria just before dinner starts. First food is best food, I always say.”
As they headed back down the corridor, Sirius did his best to smile and nod and laugh as Blair launched into some long-winded anecdote about some hostile creature called an Exeggutor and how he had managed to make it back off with just a frying pan. But the laughter seemed to sink into the thick carpet and wooden walls, fading into nothingness around them as they walked. He simply couldn’t make himself forget the sense of having failed somehow, no matter how hard he tried.
Naturally, they didn’t get to the cafeteria before anyone else.
“I told you to come see me when you came back,” Nurse Charity sighed, ignoring Blair’s whimpers of pain as she pulled a thick bandage off of his arm. “The poultice needs to be removed six hours after application, not eight. If you ask me, I say you’re lucky I caught you when I did.”
“If you ask me, I say it hurts!” Blair retorted, only to suddenly squeak as more fur was yanked out.
Stifling a chuckle at the scene they were making, Sirius sat down on his hospital cot to examine the green gemstone that the girl had dropped earlier. For now that he had time to really look at it, he could clearly see that it was a gemstone – not an emerald, the color wasn’t quite deep enough for that, but most likely valuable anyway. It twinkled mischievously, wedged in between two of his furry toes; he pulled it out with his teeth, resisting the urge to wince. Carrying it in his paw hadn’t exactly been comfortable, but it was either that or his mouth, and he hadn’t wanted to risk swallowing it.
Now that he thought about it, the girl probably wasn’t supposed to be sneaking gems out of the castle. Maybe he could go back and tell someone about it … but no, that wasn’t a good idea. With his luck he’d probably end up facing the Overlords again. The only other option he could see was confronting the girl himself, but he had no clue how he was supposed to go about finding her.
Shaking his head, he slipped the gem under the thin mattress. He’d have to come back to the problem later.
“And done!” Nurse Charity stepped back proudly, having applied a slick swab of something slimy to Blair’s arm. “That should help cool that burn down once and for all. It should wash off eventually, but don’t you dare consider licking it off. It’s not chocolate-flavored, you know.”
“Is it coconut, then?” Blair asked hopefully, glancing down at the opaque white paste.
The nurse almost bent double trying to pinch the bridge of her nonexistent nose.
Blair sighed dramatically. “I was afraid not.”
Sirius had just begun trotting over to rejoin them when his ears perked, picking up several tense voices. They were too far away to hear properly, but his hackles lifted at their collective tone. He was fairly sure he didn’t want to be around if they brought their argument this way.
“You can sleep here for a couple of days, dear, but I’m afraid no longer than that,” the Nurse told him kindly, patting his head. To his own amazement, he felt absolutely no indignation at this. “I can never tell when some poor soul is going to need it more than you. But we can try to get you settled somewhere nice, how about that? There’s probably a really nice place somewhere for you to stay …”
The two males exchanged glances at this. Something flashed in the Dewott’s normally cheerful eyes: if you’re going to say something, you’d better say it now. Now or never. Are you going to stay?
Sirius’s breath caught. Stay here, at Team Phoenix headquarters? If he was honest with himself, he hadn’t considered the matter very much at all, being too caught up in his past to realize just how near the future was. Everyone he knew was here – James, Blair, Lenora, the nurse – but he couldn’t help but wonder … would it be worth it? They went through so much just to earn their keep here; the images of the Veel and the Archangel were still burned into his mind.
He opened his mouth, not really sure what he was going to say—
The door smashed rather violently into the wall, forming an ear-shattering noise of booming crash and strident squeal of hinges. Nurse Charity hooted in alarm, swiveling her egg-shaped body around so violently that Blair had to leap aside in order to avoid getting pushed against the far wall.
Every thought of the future – where he would live, what he would do, how he would live with the mystery of himself – all of that vanished from Sirius’s mind when he saw who stood there in the door, breathing so heavily that it was a wonder there weren’t tendrils of smoke streaming from his nostrils to catch his scarf on fire.
“Yeah, and – oof!”
Sirius couldn’t help himself. He could see James standing there, really alive and breathing, which was better than any second-hand report from Blair any day. But now, from clean out of the blue, he suddenly felt the need to assure himself that this wasn’t just some phantom that would vanish into thin air upon contact. He still wasn’t sure he could trust himself not to hallucinate.
Which was why he barreled clean into the Deerling, sending them both tumbling through the doorway and onto the stone floor out in the hall. With a relieved bark-like laugh, Sirius pinned the other down with his forepaws, tail wagging furiously like a celebratory flag.
“Oh hell,” James stated flatly, rolling his eyes while Sirius gazed down at him happily. “Suddenly I remember how stupid it was of me to actively go looking for you.”
The Houndour instinctively tilted his head to the side. “You … were you looking for me?”
“Is today ‘Repeat Everything James Says’ Day? Get off of me already, you’re making them consider asking us weird questions.”
Wondering who exactly “them” were supposed to be, Sirius glanced curiously over his shoulder. He was rewarded by the gaping astonishment of two more deer-like creatures, both far larger than James. One of them was a stout fellow with antlers curved like eyes and a bulbous tail. The other, half as tall again as her mate, matched James’s body shape more closely, though her fur was a deep brown instead; she sported a pair of antlers that – here Sirius had to blink very hard to make sure his eyes were deceiving him – her antlers were growing thick masses of leaves like trees.
A moment of awkward silence ensued.
“… Oh, hi,” Sirius finally said. He dropped back onto all fours again, hoping that he looked properly abashed. “Are these your parents then, James?”
“Indeed they are,” James replied shortly, wasting no time in rolling back up onto his hooves. “Well, those two are. Ariana there isn’t, though, I’m almost sad to say.”
Sirius felt the question die on his lips when he realized that there was in fact a third creature standing there with James, so still and silent that there was little wonder he hadn’t noticed her there before. His eyes traveled up her yellow and red legs, past her wiry arms with their thin-clawed hands, before resting on her crested head. Bright golden eyes peeked down at his through her long hair-like feathers.
“Ariana the Blaziken, Leader of Team Phoenix,” James explained, smirking at Sirius’s astonishment. “She doesn’t talk much, which is okay because honestly you talk enough for two people. Ariana, this is the idiot I was talking about, Sirius. That one Pilgrim.”
For a few long seconds Ariana was still, simply examining the Houndour. He felt the urge to blurt something random start to overwhelm him, but fortunately it was at that moment that she nodded sagely at him, feathers rustling and eyes twinkling.
“… What’s going on exactly?” Sirius asked nobody in particular.
“Well, I graduated from the team the other day,” James stated casually. “So I can start my own. Even though a certain pair of overprotective weirdoes thought it was a bad idea.” He threw a not-so-subtle look at his parents, who were denied the chance to speak up as he pressed on. “But I need two people to start a team, and apparently putting two hundred percent into everything doesn’t count as being two people, so …”
He trailed off.
Sirius tried to answer, but his jaw seemed to be forsaking his face in favor of gravity.
“So I was wondering …” James fell silent again, glaring off to the side with a prideful glint in his eye.
With some effort, the Houndour managed to pick his jaw up off of the floor. “Are … are you asking me to be part of your team?”
James nodded mutely.
“But … but I …” Sirius shook his head in disbelief. A team … with James? How could that possibly work out? He didn’t even know what these teams were supposed to do. Mind reeling with questions, he plucked one at random to keep himself from babbling idiotically at this new development. “But wouldn’t I need to graduate or whatever?”
“Nah. Only the leader needs to be a graduate, technically,” James said smugly. “It’ll give me even more reason to boss you around.”
So there was no reason he couldn’t do it. But that didn’t change the fact that he hadn’t been in this strange land for even a week; how was he supposed to cope with its dangers? … Although he supposed that was also a good reason to join, considering that it would probably be more treacherous to simply live on his own … But how could he be sure he wouldn’t just be dead weight? He didn’t know how to do anything yet; he couldn’t even be sure if he could last out a mystery dungeon if he somehow got separated … Then again, these creatures apparently had a lot of endurance as well as ridiculous powers, so perhaps over time he could grow strong like that as well … But what if he died? …
But what if he lived?
He didn't know. He simply didn’t know.
James would probably better off without him, being more experienced and cool in the face of danger … But seeing him right now, wearing what might possibly be a hopeful grin … Could he let him down? But he needed somebody else on his team, didn’t he? Maybe if there could be a compromise, or—
“James dear, I think you’re remembering it wrong,” Nurse Charity called out from the hospital wing. “Policy says a team needs two members in addition to the leader. So you’re going to need to pick someone else if you really want to have your own—”
“Oh hey!” exclaimed Blair as he bounded out into the hall, swinging his arms so wildly that he inadvertently smeared some paste onto James’s mother, much to her dismay. “It is quite the lucky coincidence that I happened to be within listening distance of this crucial conversation, isn’t it?”
Everyone stared at him. “You have got to be joking,” James said flatly.
“Oh James, if I were joking we would all be laughing and generally making merry,” Blair replied happily.
Sirius’s eyes nervously bounced between the two. Blair on the team … would that be safe?
“There aren’t going to be any more solo trial for at least a month,” Nurse Charity added helpfully. “I guess if you were really desperate you could go put up a notice for someone from another team to join, but from what I’ve seen the competition’s been pretty vicious lately and this isn’t the best time of year to be treating knife wounds—”
“Okay, fine!” James growled. “You’re on the team then. Both of you. But you’d better remember that this is going to be my team, and any protests are going to get the protestant kicked off in favor of the first Weedle we come across. Are we absolutely clear on that?”
“Crystal, captain!” Blair practically shouted, saluting.
Off to the side, Ariana nodded her approval of this arrangement.
“And don’t either of you two start about how I shouldn’t be throwing the family business away over a random cliff or anything,” the Deerling said fiercely to his parents, who looked as though they had been about to object to his words again. “I’m an adult now. Practically. I can make my own decisions, and I trust myself to keep myself safe through every bloody problem I come across out there. Yes, I said ‘bloody,’ don’t look so shocked about it! I can swear if I want to, I don’t have to follow your house rules anymore, damn it! Damn it damn it damn it damn it damn it damn it damn it — wait, where are you going in such a hurry? Stop crying, Dad!”
Sirius stared blankly into the confusion. What had he gotten himself into?
Last edited by SugarPesticide; 9th November 2011 at 2:20 AM.
Wow...this is great. As I've said countless times all ready on these forums: I'm a sucker for a good PMD fic. This...this is just awesome, I like the HP series myself, and so when I saw this I had to read it.
I'm glad I did.
Keep up the great work, I look forward to the next chapter. *gets popcorn*
I promise a more extensive review soon.
Knightfall signing off...
Nice chapter. Nice change of atmosphere between the scene with the Overlords and then with the formation of the new team. James is epic! Oh, and I think I picked up some mistakes…
Somehow that mere skeletal formation seemed more ominous than an audience glaring down at him in disdain.“I told you to come see me when you’re back,” Nurse Charity sighedAlthough he supposed that was also a good reason to join, considering that it would probably be more treacherous to simply live on his own …
he couldn’t be even be sure if he could last out a mystery dungeon if he somehow got separated …I’m not sure about the last one, though.“And don’t either of you too start about how I shouldn’t be throwing the family business away over a random cliff or anything,”
Well, I also have a treat for you. Better than the non-stab-able pen. The Union of Unfortunate Writers has vanished for some reason, but I got to learn how the pen looks like. So, its end is round and bzz the ink bzz like a bzz laser bzz bzz bzz… … … End of transmission.