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Thread: Operation: Saltus Valley

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    Default Operation: Saltus Valley

    Knightfall here! This is a side story to my main work, PMD: Overthrown, and thus will share the same universe. It is encouraged you read it before moving on to this story.

    Rating will be around PG-13 to 15 for the occasional scenes of violence and some themes present in the later parts of the story.

    Operation: Saltus Valley

    ~
    Chapter One: Under the Ice




    "We the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”
    -- Konstantin Josef Jireček (Author Disputed)




    “State your name and species clearly into the Frism.”

    There is always a time for everything, a time for growth, a time for decay, a time for summer, a time for winter. Everything has its rightful place of when, where, and how it is supposed to occur. Dialga’s mighty heart determines how far and fast the stream of time will flow, whether it will strike rapids, or burst its banks at the slightest agitation. There is a time to live, and there is a time to relinquish the desperate hold on the mortal realm to transcend onto a higher plane.

    “Did you not hear me? State your name and species.”

    Verus was a world of time. Controlled, directed, and guided every step by its never-ceasing measures. It was built in an attempt to create a perfect world after the great conflict which had for so long rendered it asunder. The previous world had been consumed in order to shape the existing one from the ashes. For these long centuries, the balance was kept. The imperfection sealed away and the innocent allowed to flourish in a bountiful world free of prejudice. That was until corruption finally caught up with the current state of affairs, dragging it down into the depths of depravity and immorality.

    “Do you need me to hit you? State your damn name and species for the record. Do it, otherwise I’ll call in the guards again and this time I’ll grow deaf to your screams.”

    A figure, hidden by the dim light shining from the flickering torch mounted on the wall, was slumped on the wooden table. His legs were immobile against the cold iron supports. His heavy restraints clinking as his once-sleek body sagged in defeat. The Pokémon’s blue skin was chafed raw against the slightly rusted cuffs linked around his wrists. He let out a weak groan as he let out a cough that felt like his body was wrenching his lungs from his torso.

    The interrogating guard came into the small circle of torchlight. The globular being floated above the rough surface of the counter, his circular face and underdeveloped body and organelles suspended in a viscous green mass of organic gelatin. His beady black eye twitched as one of the limbs stretched forward towards the exhausted prisoner. The gel solidified as it forced its way around his unresponsive head and gripped the entire space of the blue, spiked cranium. The captive had little idea what was happening to him, only that his body was on the verge of collapse.

    A mischievous glint flashed in the Reuniclus’s eyes as a pulse of cyan energy shot outwards from its central body in the green cytoplasm through the extended limb and finally reaching a terminal at temples of the blue Pokemon’s skull. Vivid images of the past: choking smoke, blistering winds, and the faces of the cursed all shot into the forefront of his fatigued brain from the blackest pit of hell.

    The sunken eyes of the Golduck widened in utter terror while memories long since buried by time were pressed into his sight. He shook his head wildly, attempting to throw off the gelatinous hand that gripped him and the twisted images of the citizens now crying out to him for his help. He tried closing his eyes, hoping that the darkness would purge the demonic incubus from his mind, but to no avail. They cried out to him, still after all this time, while their shattered faces froze in the bitter cold of their penal realm.

    Before he could scream in a final act of desperation as the stone-cold limbs grasped his skin, contaminating him permanently, the Psychic-type law officer released his tight grip on his psyche. The Golduck wanted to fall to the table again, his body needed the rest, but the fear had crawled into his spine and kept it straight as a ruler. The suspended Pokémon grunted as he left the prisoner’s side and returned to his original post directly across the counter.

    “I’m going to ask one more time before I get the truly invasive Psychics down here. State your name and species so we can get this over with!” the expressively annoyed Pokémon demanded, slamming down an odd ice formation on the splintery surface of the table. The pokémon slowly moved his arms and legs, rattling the chains that bound them as he shifted forward onto the table. Splinters pressed into his river-blue skin and webbed hands, but he was far too numb to their trivial pain to notice. His stoic gaze locked with the floating officer’s as he sucked in a breath through his bent beak and readied his worn voice.

    “Name: Jackson, Jack for short. Species: Golduck.”

    “Please state the charges you were arrested under and former ranking,” the interrogator’s voice droned as he went through the standard procedure. Jack closed his eyes as he thought of his response, wanting to spent as little of his remaining energy on it as possible.

    “Ranking: Gold Badge: First Class, Kingdom Disaster Response and Containment Unit, otherwise known as Gold Squad. Charges: Serving my king dutifully, preventing a mass genocide, and destroying the most dangerous artifact in Verus.” Jack felt the psychic force from the disgruntled officer paralyze his upper body and smash his unvolunteering head into the wood.

    “I’m not here to hear your comments on the matter. Don’t make me have to squeeze your mind again. Now again, state the charges brought against you.” The Golduck panted as he painfully raised his bruised head. Blood dripped from his nearly shattered nose as the darkened prison cell swayed dizzily in his eyes. The grey cobblestone floor rocking sideways along the similarly-built stone wall. Fire danced and split in the air as his temporarily duplicated vision slowly restored itself to normal functioning. Forcing back an urge to vomit, Jack gripped the sides of his throbbing head as he made his mouth choke out the “correct” facts.

    “Charges: Arson ... grand theft ... murder ... high treason,” he uttered in between gasps of agonizing fire that seemed to consume the inside of his skull.

    “Good, good. Now, eat this,” the Psychic-type officer gruffly ordered. Jack barely managed to look up as a small, round berry materialized in front of him. Its speckled blue surface reflected the light of the fire as his webbed hands wasted no time in snatching it up and shoving it into his beak in one gulp. His eyes shut from the sudden twinge of hurt, but was almost immediately dulled by the rush of the healing properties of the Oran juice.

    “As soon as you can talk without sounding like a Glameow slit your tongue and shoved it down your throat, you are going to explain to this Frism just what happened three years ago in the Saltus Valley Province.” The very name sent a convulsion that wasn’t from the pain down his spine. As the Oran worked its otherworldly reconstructive powers on his failing body, Jack sat up once again to face the floating Pokémon in front of him.

    “Officer Hythal, do you know what happened there? Not what the Kingdom told you, but what actually happened there, in Saltus Valley?” The Golduck’s voice was barely beyond a whisper in the darkened chamber. The Reuniclus betrayed no emotion or response from his face inside the green jelly. The prospect of death being only a few yards outside the hall gave him fuel for the fire beginning to combust inside of him. It had been three long years since then. And now, as the clock ticked closer and closer to the end of his life at the Kingdom stockade, he would make sure that his story was recorded.

    “What I say here is true. Every word, officer. What I did was a crime if you trust the reports from the teams that investigated afterwards, but that’s only if you chose to believe them. What I’m going to tell you if the truth: the truth about what happened in Saltus Valley and Post Town.”



    Saltus Valley: Three Years and Two Weeks Earlier




    It had long been told that the King of Silver came from the eastern lands. Ever since the beginning of the Days of Ash, the first among the scattered species of the land was one who had clawed his way up from the depths of the chasm with his claws. His stature against the unceasing waves of war was that of a shield, single-handedly pushing back the senseless onslaught. For several long years, this endured: the Innocent pitted against the Guilt-Ridden as both sides let go of their morals to unleash the fullest measure of destruction upon their foes.

    However, as time passed following their secession from the empire of evil, the eastern lands once again grew lawless and wild. The King forgot his homeland and fled to the coast where he built up high castles and towers to bring order to the world. But in his efforts, the eastern mountains and valleys were left to their own devices. And so they remain, in definition they were one with the Kingdom, but have little involvement with the burgeoning empire.

    It was in these distant and uncharted lands, and the chain of mountains that extended to the western coast across the continent that became known as the Borderlands, that oddities of the climactic sort were wont to occur. It was in the western end that the star nearly fell from the sky and and time nearly ceased to flow, but in the east, it had been quiet. Its disaster was far more potent, far more latent, and far from unpredictable.

    Saltus Valley was a place where the outside world never seemed to bother on account of it being of seemingly little importance. Tucked away like a single star in the vast fringes of the galaxy that was the Kingdom, officials in Silver City barely recognized it on the censuses that went through every now and again. It became a place to exile political prisoners and various Pokémon that too eagerly voiced their disdain with the monarchy. Because it was so removed of temperate climate and possessed an amiable population, there were no qualms about moving to this piece of absolute paradise. The cool, lush forests and protective mountains provided an aura of ease about the valley, allowing a culture unlike the increasing greed and corruption of the Kingdom surrounding it.

    It was the end of spring when the Incident occurred. At the time, no one knew what it was, nor of the disastrous consequences it was about to rain down upon them. That day, the gods of Verus turned away from the Valley as in the course of thirty unforgettable seconds, the world changed. Under the calming rays of the late spring sun, a time of life and creation, a flood of dread and death swept from the fallen fortress of ultimate evil. The heroes had overlooked one pivotal piece, and now it had exploded in a supernova of absolute zero over the natural culvert of the mountains.

    From on the opposite side of the mountains, the citizens of Post Town, a regional trading hub located on a barely traveled crossroads, watched with uncertainty as an ominous white mist rose from inside the Valley. The astronomical sign of hope and happiness that had recently reemerged from the glaciers of the northern end of the Valley had disappeared once more under the endless cold mist that drifted into the sky like an unending tower to the heavens. And so, it remained for fourteen long days.

    Inside the Valley was a mystery. No one was able to scale the mountains to see what had caused such a catastrophe, nor if there were any survivors from the thousands of souls that inhabited the isolated townships within. If they had all been killed by the strange mist, or if they were stumbling around in the fog for an escape, there were no answers. It was that reason that King Nickolas Lucario in Silver City swiftly set up a squad of the finest fighters and explorers the Federation and Royal Army had to offer to investigate and potentially mitigate the impact of the disaster.

    Gold Squad was the lucky one, if such a job could be called fortunate. Entering uncharted and potential hazardous and hostile territory was never an issue for them. Regardless of where the situation was, they managed to surmount it. Their finest hours had come from such low-points in the Kingdom’s history such as the Stun Seed Gas Crisis in Abor Town that threatened to permanently paralyze half the nation once the winds changed, and the infamous Battle of Volcanic Pit which ended the Second Bandit War in the Borderlands. They possessed a tangible aura of confidence and superiority which suited them well and won them the adoration of the crown and subjects alike.

    The synergistic combination of these two factors lead to them being selected by unanimous decision by the Senate and King, the later of which gave the twenty Pokémon squad his personal thanks in settling the matter. It was their directive to restore Saltus Valley and rescue who they could. And so, with heads held high with the promise of eternal good favor and rewards from their nation, they set forth to the lands which held their greatest trials against them like a sword waiting to strike.

    The Amara Salis Sea, The Kingdom, Western Borderlands




    Splinters. Why in the name of Suicune’s Wind did we have to use the cheapest galleon of the fleet for this job? The one ship that had to be built entirely out of splinters... The thoughts of a healthy Golduck wondered as he plucked another of the devilish miniature spears of pine out of the thin webbing on his feet. He sat against the sturdy railing of the swiftly rocking boat as he held his right leg over his left. His eyes narrowed in concentration as his claws carefully caught the visible tip of the wooden piece invading his body and pulled against the deeply embedded artifact.

    Tears began to bead on the Water-type’s eyes as he pulled harder against the unyielding thorn of pure and unrelenting evil. Fortunately, the splinter’s resolve broke first and vacated the sensitive skin between his clawed toes. Jack let out a triumphant laugh as he held his enemy up to his face, examining his relinquished foe in closer detail. It was hardly worth his attention, and deciding this, Jack vanquished the prisoner of war by throwing it over his shoulder into the churning depths of the sea rushing below him.

    “T’is tha’ a tear I see on ya’, Jacky?” The accented voice pulled the blue Pokémon out of his victorious thoughts and back onto the unstable deck of the Kingdom Royal Navy clipper. He looked up to see the thickly armored bipedal Pokémon looking down on him with his usual grin plastered across his steel jaw.

    “You’d be tearing too if you had a thorn stuck in your foot, Calur. Don’t you start with that!” Jack laughed as he hopped to his feet to stand up in front of the large Steel-type. Calur laughed, a tremendous roar that seemed to make the entire deck shudder, and possibly gave heart attacks to the unfortunate Pokémon bunking underneath the bow of the ship.

    “Tha’ ain’t no thorn, mate! Try tha’ piece again when ya’ get a real injury!” Calur heartily joked, patting the Golduck on his shoulder. Jack was unprepared for the friendly gesture by his physical squadmate and felt his legs buckle under the massive pressure forced down on them. The Aggron immediately stopped his giant paw from accidentally pummeling his downed partner and offered him the same hand up. The Golduck eagerly accepted the ‘mon’s offer and was thrown to his feet an instant later.

    “By the storm, Cal, you’re going to dislocate my shoulder by the end of this clean-up job,” Jack said with a playful smile as he leaned his back up against the rickety railing.

    The Golduck took a deep breath of the sea air. He always loved the missions that came out this way, rarely were they assigned a job from this sleepy corner of the Kingdom. The entire environment was one that acquainted itself with him excellently the very first time he had come its way. The Amara Salis Sea was the strongest reason he enjoyed doing jobs in the region. The giant inland sea was an oddity, even for a land dotted with spatial anomalies as if they were ticks on the back of one of the stray dogs that roamed the alleys of Silver City.

    The salty air mixed with the thick covering of grey clouds which obscured the sun behind their tumultuous masses. Waves swirled and crashed about them, constantly spraying the worn deck with a mist of stinging water. Jack was one of the few among the unrivaled Gold Squad that liked the journey along the sea. Aside from the floor of splinters, the Water-type enjoyed the harsh winds of water droplets and rocking ship. There was an unseeable quality that instinctively made him feel right at home among the waves and wind. For the three days they had traveled on the ship, only now had the weather decided to act in this manner.

    “Ya’d best be carefal, Jack. I heard tha’ Kalitka’s goin’ on the warpath today. She’ll have you tied up and shipped back ta’ Silver if ya’ don’t take this job serious,” Calur warned grimly as both Pokémon could distinctly hear the muffled curses and swears coming from their commanding officer from below deck. Jack winced as he heard a door slam against its frame and the enraged footsteps of his leader quickly moving up from the central stairwell. Jack quickly stood from his reclined position against the guardrail and gathered up a small brown pouch with a strap from the deck.

    Just as the Golduck slid the leather strap over his shoulder, a wooden door just across from the capstan slammed open, its rusted hinges screeching as it swung wide to reveal a white-furred vessel of anger. There was almost no time to brace as she shot a withering glare in their direction. Jack felt his skin prickle as the Pokémon strode across the deck. The jagged crimson streak across her chest seemed to glow in intensity as she approached, the line of color having no rival against the dull brown wood or the grey skies. She stopped right in front of the two soldiers. While she was a foot shorter than Jack, her biting stare seemed to make both him and the towering Aggron shrink rapidly in her sight.

    “What are you both doing? Did you not hear the announcement that land’s been spotted?” she asked, waving her pointed claws towards to bow of the ship and the dark mass of land that began to emerge from the fog.

    “Umm... We were honestly just relaxing up top now that the storm’s passed. I didn’t think we’d arrive that quickly,” Jack sheepishly admitted as he rubbed the back of his head with his webbed hand. The Zangoose simply closed her eyes and let a swift stream of air hiss from between her clenched teeth. Jack looked out of the corner of his eyes at Calur, the mighty Steel-type doing the same to him. The unmistakable presence of fear was evident in both.

    “There’s no time for relaxing! We make port in ten minutes, and I want us on the move towards the mission in eleven! Get your hides down below and help the others pack the cargo or else I’ll chop you both up and dump you overboard for the Sharpedo! Move it!” the commanding Zangoose snapped as she dug inside her own satchel and dug out a small-handled object that had a large, curved, blood-red blade tied to the base. She brandished the weapon, holding it up to Jack’s neck as she slowly circled in between the Golduck and Calur. Jack, wanting to keep the contents of his throat inside his skin, obliged to let her though as she got behind the two.

    “Get moving, you slackers. There’s crates that need to be positioned to the gangway, and Cal, you’re going to be one of the primary movers.” The Zangoose jabbed the Seviper tail knife towards the direction of the lower decks. Calur lead the way, crunching the decaying wood floor as his giant form ducked to get under the narrow passageway down.

    “I’m glad those relaxation sessions with Liya have helped. It’s been three days on this ship and you haven’t stabbed anyone yet. Good job, Kali,” Jack said to her with a chuckle shortly before the aforementioned blade once again became well acquainted with the skin of his neck. The laughter died on his beak instantly. Behind him, the Zangoose bristled her fur and urged him to move downwards.

    “First, what did you call me? And second, just because I haven’t yet, doesn’t mean you won’t be the first, Jack. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit stressed over this mission and trying to keep things running to course is a nightmare. So, try any of your ‘wise’ talk, it’ll be overboard tied to a cannon for you,” the Zangoose swiftly replied, her voice swelling with rising rage as her breathing hastened.

    “You know, it isn’t good for you to be this stressed. We haven’t even landed yet ... Kida,” Jack noted, quickly adding in the Zangoose’s prefered name of choice. As Jack feared for his life, he got the chance to see the Zangoose closely for the first time that day. She looked as if she had missed out on a night or two of sleep, and had failed to keep up the sharp, uniform style to her white fur as it was now starting to become matted in a few places.

    “Thanks for your concern, Jacky, but as soon as we’re back on schedule and on land, I’ll feel a whole lot better. But for now, you, down below. Now,” Kida snapped while she shoved him through the passageway to the lower areas. But before she turned away, Jack saw her give him a faint smile. Smiling a bit to himself, Jack jogged through the cramped hallway as he turned down the tight passages until he skidded to a stop in front of a doorway.

    His temporary quarters had already been packed, the few belongings he personally owned inside his leather pack, and the general mess had been cleaned. All that remained was the tool that he had come to love leaning against the rocking wall. He bent down and gripped the cool metal grip of the steel artifact. Jack swung it into his hands, examining the sturdy companion of over a dozen missions for blemishes. The icepick had saved his life on multiple occasions, probably more than he could remember at this point in his career.

    Jack vaguely wondered when Gold Squad would be returning to the small port of Fedczecka in the far north, where he had bought the handy tool from a kindly blacksmith in the marketplace. He had only returned there once afterwards, and not nearly for enough time to properly thank the Machamp working the furnaces. With a shrug, Jack clipped the bottom of the handle to his equipment belt on his right side.

    “Still the best batch of Silver Poké I ever spent,” he remarked as he patted the ever-sharp edges supposedly forged from the skin of a Registeel. Jack doubted the validity of the claim, but the dual-sided pick had yet to fail him and it made for a good story, so he allowed the rumor to persist. Exiting his cabin, he rounded the corner and descended into the main cargo hold where the vast majority of his squadmates toiled at Kida’s tasks.

    There, for exactly the next ten minutes, he helped the other Pokémon carefully hoist the small host of crates to the pulley and platform system. From there, he, along with Calur’s massive form, went back up to spin the tense ropes of the capstan for the cargo lift. Together, the entire Gold Squad managed to have each of the crates in position on the top deck as it glided into position at the darb harbor town.

    Greycliff City had earned its name not from the cliffs that surrounded it, but from the perpetual gloomy atmosphere that appeared to smother the port. The Pokémon working the moorings appeared to be just as grey and lifeless in the overcast light from the grey clouds above.

    Jack hated coming here. It was the only downside of traveling on the Amara Salis Sea. This port was the only one capable of taking in a ship of their size safely. He figured he knew why Kida had wanted everything to be ready to disembark and leave as soon as they arrived. He had nearly forgotten how horribly depressing the town was.

    No wonder why this place is called “The Dreamer’s Pyre”. It looks like a thousand of them were burned and this town is what was left... he thought as he internally criticized the town.

    The metal-roofed buildings always carried the appearance of just surviving an ashen rain. Even the streets, supposedly built out of white stone from the cliffs, carried a mood-crushing grey color to them. As soon as the lines were secure on the docks below, Kida’s voice startled him out of the hypnotic trance the lifeless cityscape had drawn him into. At once, he began the process of controlling the cargo platform as it was hoisted down onto the dock below under watchful eyes.

    “Look alive! The Drifblim are here to take the stuff. Go help make it ready for them!” the Zangoose shouted as she vaulted over the side of the ship and descended down one of the mooring cables with her claws to the rickety dock. Jack looked up from the capstan bar as he saw the group of three primarily purple blimp creatures floating down from the sky over Graycliff City.

    The gentle-hearted Drifblim had been the primary source of transportation of rescue and exploration teams back during the bleak days of political tensions and crises. While most had solemnly returned to their homeland far beyond the mountains in droves during the downturn in business, a few stayed behind to continue the legacy. Fortunately, despite its shortcomings, the Royal Navy and Army had done well with securing a contract with this particular flock for cargo transport. As the Ghost-types wrapped their trailing arms around the wooden crates, they joyfully exchanged conversations with various members of the Squad, including Kida.

    “You all have no idea how glad we are to see you. This would be truly impossible otherwise,” Kida calmly spoke. Jack noticed that her tone towards the floating Pokémon was not reflective of the stress she exhibited earlier. “Geraz will go with you all to make sure you reach the right location. Is that acceptable?” Kida asked as a being of wings and talons clattered to the deck beside her.

    Geraz was the most aerially competent bird Jack had ever met. He had once seen the Fearow dive from miles up in the sky and pierce an apple with his spear-like beak. The Flying-type could be trusted with a job, that much Jack knew. After a few last confirmations of directions, the Drifblim started to ascend into the skies with their payload of crates. After an affirmative nod from Kida, Geraz took off into the sky, his expansive wingspan making the task of monitoring the flock a light one. While the brown-plumaged bird became a speck in the distant grey skies, Kida immediately reverted to the attitude she bore on the ship.

    “Alright, that was the easy part. You lot, gather what supplies you have left and let’s march. It’s eleven miles to Post Town from here through mountains and valleys. We will arrive before sunset, is that understood?” she iterated, her naturally compelling voice receiving a hearty cheer from the milling group of Gold Squad. Jack tightened the straps of his pouch and belt, making sure that they would not slip off him during what he knew would be an eleven mile long sprint to the trading town. Calur carefully stepped off the cargo platform onto the dock and followed along beside Jack as they began their swift hike through the hollow harbor town.

    Fortunately, the horrible, little town eventually left their sight as they exited the city gates and entered into the arms of the widening foothills that ascended into the unnaturally tall Divine Mountains. The vast stone edifaces crowned with spires of snow glittered mockingly at the sun’s melting rays. The band of Pokémon pressed onwards, stamping over the dew-ridden grass and dusty trails of the forested hills. Jack remained alert and upbeat as he and several others, with Kida’s slight encouragement, took the opportunity to fight the feral Pokémon that lived in the woods.

    The training, combined with the relentless pace that the Zangoose set at the front of the party, made the trip fly by in what seemed like no time at all. One moment, Jack swore he just concussed a rather feisty Raticate with a blast of water, and then just another moment later he found himself trudging up a steep stone trail through the final pass in the Divine Mountains. The Golduck didn’t even notice the sun’s position change in the sky while he was busy perfecting his combat skills with both his elemental attacks and true physical strategies.

    Maybe you’re having a little too much fun with this, Jack. You should try and take this seriously, a little voice inside his head, possibly his conscious, suggested. As Jack contemplated following its advice, he found himself in the rear of the group of twenty Pokémon alongside Calur.

    There the two Pokémon shot off into one of their varied conversations that concerned everything and nothing at all. That was one of the best things about his Aggron friend; after several years, the two of them just seemed to be able to create topics to discuss out of thin air and continue their talks even under dire conditions. Jack found himself debating the proper way to knock out a charging Stantler while he crossed the craggy pass, and which of the many taverns they had visited on their missions had the absolute best drinks in the Kingdom. Fierce breaths of winter threatened to stall their talks at times, but not even the worst of these frigid breezes in the holy mountain range could break apart their excitable conversation.

    Once their squad had left the mountainous areas, the alien and desolate land seemed to instantly terraform into a series of smooth hills that were blooming with the lush grass carpet of spring. The fresh air emanating from the vibrant grass came like a benevolent slap to Jack’s face after most of the day among the lifeless Greycliff Town and in the crags of the Divine Mountains.




    “Sorry to interrupt, but I asked for what happened in Saltus Valley. Not what happened ten days before the incident,” Officer Hythal huffed, slamming his green hand on the table, and snapping Jack out of his thoughts. The Golduck simply bowed his head and sighed as he gave a half-hearted tug against the chains that bound him.

    “I expected that when you wanted the full story, you actually wanted the fully story, not the abbreviated version. Allow me to condense the Incident into a few choice words: ‘cold’, ‘hell’, and ‘failure’. There, is that short enough for you, Officer?” Jack shot back, his claws scratching against the rough grain of the table in irritation. The Reuniclus appeared to be stunned for a single moment, his internal structures going still with disbelief before regaining his forceful posture.

    “Very well, Jackson. Have it your way. You may continue, but can we at least move it along until we get to Post Town and not spend fifteen minutes describing the scenery?” Hythal softly conceded as he turned away from the Golduck. Jack let a small smile pull against the frown in his beak as a small part of his mind celebrated the pointless victory.

    “Alright then. So, Post Town was just as I expected it to be for being a frontier town...”





    It was the exact opposite of Greycliff. Plants, trees, and flowers seemed to line every path in the bustling, mirco-city. There was something about the town that screamed the glories of life at every available opportunity, as if the entire city was ecstatic about being alive. A small waterfall spilt from the spring at the top of the central hill that supplied the town with clean water. The sparkling mist from the falls rose like an ethereal snow over the town square.

    Just about everywhere Jack looked, he saw a rows upon rows of tents, shacks, and shanties filled with foods, fruits, and dungeon exploration equipment all stationed right next to each other. There were Orbs that held the power to change the weather, enigmatic disks that possessed the power of ancient skills and attacks, and a wide assortment of highly illegal seeds. Jack briefly considered how many of these merchants would be arrested on the spot for their wares.

    Shrugging away the thoughts of calling in the illegal operations, Jack gave into the temptations of buying a few of the oddly shaped seeds and spheres of blue glass. His mind suddenly filled with the things he could accomplish with the purchase of these items. Aside from the colorful merchants, there were only surrounding streets filled with houses of various shapes, sizes, and designs. While he had seen more unique dwellings from his travels around the Kingdom, Post Town was doing its best to endear itself to him.

    After being stalled at the city gates for several minutes with Kida yelling at Geraz for directing the Drifblim porters in the wrong direction, the group finally entered the inner reaches of the trading town. Almost immediately, the ambling crowds turned to look at the rugged band that marched into their city. Jack was certain that this was the first time that some of them, especially the wide-eyed children, had seen a true Kingdom soldier.

    “This place doesn’t get much action if a military squad like us gets a full-blown reception the second we walk into town, huh?” Jack asked Kida. The Zangoose seemed to have temporarily let go of the stress that burdened her as she dismissed the squad to interact within the market.

    “Heh, I think you’re right for once. We’re being treated like heroes, yet we haven’t actually done anything yet. Either that or they think of us as a freak show that just rolled in,” the Zangoose said with a light laugh as she caught an orange berry that was tossed her way by a passing rescue team.

    “Hospitality at its finest, right there,” she commented happily as she bit into the freshly picked Qualot.

    Jack immediately looked behind and waved a hand to the passing Pokémon team. The yellow mouse and primarily blue otter stopped and dug out another berry, this one pink in color. The Oshawott gave it a firm toss that Jack snatched out of the air with a smile and wink. He examined the berry for dead spots before he raised it to his beak.

    The Pecha was gone in two bites from the Golduck. Tossing the remaining leafy stem to the roadside, Jack returned to the crowd around his team, wanting to ask in the limelight just a little longer. The impromptu celebration of their presence eventually settled down in the two-story inn directly beside the town’s spring and natural waterfall. Inside, the main floor was crowded with exhausted members of Gold Squad ordering plates of steaming food or milling among the interested citizens.

    Jack saw Efang, the Arbok poison specialist, smoothly chatting with a Liepard in a corner table of the cafe, while Terminance, the odd Trevenant, seemed to be enjoying himself as he listened to the excited conversations around him at the counter. Jack slid onto a stool next to the haunted tree and called for two drinks from the Timburr barkeep. Within no time, two wooden goblets clattered down the smooth counter and came to a rest in Jack’s outstretched hands.

    “Quite a shindig they’ve put on for us, wouldn’t ya say?” Jack asked, holding out the second cup to the tree Pokémon. Terminance, one of the best fighters when it came to forest missions, shifted his trunk and single, gleaming, crimson eye to Jack.

    “I am inclined to agree, young Jackson. This is a very festive atmosphere they have put on for our arrival. Though, something inside me worries about how this imbibement in the others will affect our performance tomorrow. I think that it would be wise if we ended the festivities and rested,” the Trevenant said, his voice sounded like the groaning of trees in the woods.

    “You’re a buzzkill, you know that, right? Though, as much as I want a drink, I think you’re right to some extent. We should see about getting to Kida,” Jack remarked as he took a light swig of his drink.




    “Get to to point already, son. There’s not a lot of time until you’re due to die,” Hythal grumbled as he psychically tapped the torch to increase the light. Once again, Jack leaned back in his uncomfortable metal seat with an exhale of exasperation.

    “You want me to skip to Post Town, and I skip to Post Town. Now you want me to bypass Post Town. What am I supposed to tell you then?” Jack asked, his voice was muffled as he placed his aching head down against the table.

    “I want you to get to the actual Incident. I want to know how your side of this tragedy plays out. So please, get to the point.”

    “Very well.”


    Continued on Next Post
    Last edited by Knightfall; 24th June 2014 at 6:37 PM.

  2. #2
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    The mountains stretched up into the clouds, their jagged peaks concealed by the thorough covering of coagulated water vapor. Jack took a moment to stop and try to peer beyond the white cloak of the unknown, but failed miserably in doing so. The clouds were thick and unending here. The fact that Jack hadn’t seen the sun once since they exited the city proved this point.

    It had been two days since Gold Squad had left the gentle refuge of Post Town for the rocky slopes of the Saltus Ridge Mountains. For two days they had attempted to break through every known and untested pass through to the valley, but so far nothing had worked. From top to bottom, the pass was filled with an impenetrable block of white ice that no one in the squad could even dent. Not even the combined efforts of Calur’s brute strength and Yemda’s fierce fires, the block still stood. Jack had tried using his precious pick until the metal threatened to bend and dull against the unmoving ice. Kida eventually called off the Aggron and Flareon duo before they exhausted themselves in a futile endeavor.

    Saltus Valley had truly become a fortress to them, and almost certainly a prison for its inhabitants. Gold Squad was never one to be defeated by the elements. Even in the harshest deserts and pits of magma, they had succeeded. But here, they could do nothing against the barriers. As the visibly depressed squad returned to their humble camp at the foot of the mountains, Kida suddenly climbed up on top of an overturned crate. Her fur reflected the flames of the fire brightly in the dark night as she stamped on the empty box to get the group’s attention.

    “Listen, you guys. I think it’s time I told you something about this mission. This isn’t some normal clean-up job, or even a standard search and rescue as it appears to be,” she stated, holding her head low. A low wave of murmurs swept through the attentive Pokémon as Jack stopped his polishing of the sharp end of his pick. Kida took a deep breath before continuing with the declassification of the confidential information.

    “I was told by the Senate that we were to find the source of this disaster and secure it for the Kingdom. This isn’t a search and rescue, guys. We’re here to find whatever caused what happened inside that valley,” she said out of the corner of her mouth. Gold Squad was completely silent. The crackling fire was the only sound to break the dark hold of the night. Jack shifted his glance to his sides. The others, Terminance, Efang, and Calur among them also cast unsure looks at each other.

    This was hardly the first time the specifics of a mission were withheld from them. Jack bitterly remembered those missions as his neutral expression turned into a scowl. They had nearly failed each and every one of them because they didn’t fully know what to expect. The relatively innocent tasks of cleaning up a chemical fire in the Frosty Forest and repairing a collapsed mine shaft in Lapis Cave had both turned into vicious fights to subdue the final remnants of the belligerents of the Second Bandit War. Why the Kingdom felt that keeping that pertinent information from them, Jack would never rightly know.

    What Kida told them didn’t seem as much of a revelation as the previous ones did, but Jack knew something was up. Kida had always been unreadable when she had revealed similar confessions in the past, but now she visibly appeared worried.

    “So, wha’ gives then? Why didn’ they tell us that? Why’s it so bad?” Calur asked from the back of the seated group.

    “Since there’s no way through the passes, tomorrow we’re going to try going over the peaks. Perhaps we’ll be able to enter the Valley that way...” Kida said, half talking to herself as she turned away from the squad. The Zangoose’s apparent attempt to brush off the Aggron’s question only brought up a flurry of new questions from the Pokémon.

    “What’sss up with the peaksss?” Efang hissed as he slithered closer to the fire.

    “Yes, indeed. What is really going on, Kida?” Terminance asked, also moving closer to the Zangoose captain.

    “Quiet! That’s an order!” The Zangoose’s eyes flashed with the light of the fire as she twisted around on her makeshift pedestal. Her claws curled threatening around the hilt of her Seviper tail weapon as she silenced her soldiers with a deathly stare. Jack crossed his arms as he heard the camp’s volume drop to zero.

    “Listen. I realize that I haven’t told you all everything. But that’s how it has to be!” she snapped. The lack of noise made her words echo mockingly against the mountains that impeded them. Jack knew full well that there was more to the story, but decided against vocalizing against the troubled Zangoose as she slowly lowered her trembling hand and the weapon. Before more could be asked, she jumped down from the crate and walked to her tent.

    Not one of the hardened Pokémon dared to follow. Instead, they sluggishly returned to the process of setting up dinner for the night. Jack rather enjoyed how there wasn’t one designated cook for the group. Everyone in Gold Squad had seemed to pick up a small tidbit about cooking during their many travels, leading to a unique meal almost every night, even if it was made from the same ingredients. Fortunately they still had a good supply of fresh foodstuffs from the generous residents of Post Town, which contributed greatly to their general meals of dried berries and biscuits, the standard military rations from the Kingdom.

    That night it was a humble feast of boiled steak and potatoes taken directly from the productive farms of the Paradise territory just outside the glorified trading post. While he enjoyed the rare food, Jack’s thoughts constantly drifted to Kida as his gaze seemed to draw towards her tent. While the higher-ranked Zangoose was sometimes a pain to live under, Jack knew it was part of her designation. She had been in the Kingdom Army for several weeks before he joined, and ever since then it had been that way.

    She had done more than her fair share of work to get to where she was now. Kida deserved the position of captain more than anyone on the team. She had clawed her way up from the very bottom, and despite the stress of the job, Jack could tell that she truly enjoyed the rank and all the glory that came along with it. However, each mission had gotten harder. The stakes rose higher and higher with every new assignment, along with the stress. Kida was hardly the only one on the team to feel it. There had been many sleepless nights before they had to fight outlaw gangs, or contain a situation. Those feelings came and went as they always did, but they never seemed to leave Kida from what he saw.

    She always appeared to be burdened by some secret or guilt, and judging by the information the higher-up Kingdom officials told her, his guess wasn’t far off from the truth. He slowly picked at his meal, wondering just what knowledge was so bad that it seemed to be consuming her from the inside out. Jack put down the small wooden platter that held the last morsels of his uneaten food and hooked his ice-ax to the belt of toughened leather around his waist.

    The Golduck shifted his gaze from the glowing fires that his comrades huddled around and talked about what challenges and trials lay ahead of them to the glorious black titans that stretched into the sky. The mountains had perpetually blocked their passage and stymied their mission for the last two days. Jack had spent long hours amongst the drafty crags and cravasses with the others, forever searching for a passage to their goal. None of them were accustomed to this sort of blockade when it came to missions.

    Why did the Kingdom send us? The question sat on his mind like a gluttonous Snorlax, refusing to budge until its desire had been slaked. The demolition teams of Steel Squad or the phasers of Translucence Squad would have been far better suited for the task of forging a path through the impenetrable ice. Gold Squad specialized in containing disasters that were out of control, not breaking into inflicted areas. It simply wasn’t their forte and the government bureaucrats knew it perfectly well.

    Is this just some sort of training exercise? Did they send us here as a sort of boot camp? he pondered as he looked up past the shadowed peaks into the clouded skies above. Jack grew annoyed with the weather. He had wanted to see the stars, especially on this stressful night. It had become a tradition to spend at least one night before an operation stargazing, but now this simple pleasure was being denied to him. While Jack wasn’t one to believe in the claims of some of the so-called “star-mystics” he’d met on his travels, he held the abstract constellations in high esteem. They were the friends who would never truly leave him and were always keeping an eye out for him.

    He had tried to get several of the others to join him with his observations of the nightly skies, but try as they might, none of them found the glowing pinpricks of light as soothing as he did. Calur and Terminance had both tried their hardest to sit and stare into the void with him on occasion, however they claimed they received their fill of the astrological wonder only a few minutes in. As he stared up into the roiling clouds on this night of fate, he wondered just how those mystics would claim his stars aligned. Was tomorrow etched into the numerous patterns of the nebulae, or had it yet to be ordained?

    Jack didn’t know. All that he knew was that tonight would be one of unease under the starless sky. Tomorrow’s dawn would bring little relief, as the indomitable giants glared mockingly down at them. The mountains dared him to surpass them. To transcend their lofty heights to reach the limitless glory just beyond them. Unable to stand another moment in their glare, the Golduck went back into his faded, green tent. He unrolled the small, thick blanket made of refined Mareep wool designed to retain heat without the coarse, staticy feeling.

    As he closed his eyes and let the wispy mistress of sleep take him away, the stars danced and shifted in their celestial promenade behind the opaque curtain of clouds. The long hours of the night passed all too quickly as the first dim glow of the dawn soon pressed against the purple mountains. Calur’s booming voice echoed through the camp, the Aggron had been assigned the mocking position of “Wake-Up Officer” from Kida after he lost to her in a duel last year in Delgura City.

    In a whirlwind of actions, Jack found himself hastily scarfing down a breakfast made of a plethora of berries plucked from near their camp. Calur had never been excellent at cooking, and so the slightly blue mixture in front of him had been developed by the Aggron as a way to avoid having to put effort into a disaster. Jack had found that he could stomach virtually anything Gold Squad had to throw at him, and was delighted to see that his friend’s food was not ranked at dead last in terms of edibility. It was quickly established that Terminance was not fit for food preparation by the fact that he tried to argue that topsoil could provide basic sustenance.

    Within ten minutes of waking up, all breakfasts had been forced down as Kida got the day’s expedition of the mountain range moving at a breakneck pace. Jack had his small backpack filled with necessary supplies such as rope, rations, a small skin of water, and his blanket. The pack rested comfortably on his back as he aided the others in securing the camp while they would be out for the day and packing their own supplies. Within twenty minutes of waking up, the entirety of Gold Squad was mobilized and ascending the rocky base in the shadow of the mountain.

    Jack unclipped his ax from his belt and gave it a light swing into the hard granite of the edifice. It stuck with a reassuring thud and Jack marked his first foothold on this third day of rock climbing. The others were taking the rapid climb well by the observations Jack made as he nimbly scaled towers of rock and crawled up sheer faces on the mountain with ease. His Zangoose leader was close behind him as he offered her a hand up onto the stable ledge. This was the one event that he excelled in more than she, and he took every opportunity to make sure she knew it well.

    Her paw tightly grasped his and he hoisted her up onto the rest ledge.

    “So, in about thirty minutes, we should be at the summit?” he cheekily guessed as he glanced up at the towering spine of the mountain range in the dim morning light. Kida scoffed in reply as she nudged a small pebble off the steep edge of the embankment.

    “For you, maybe. The others will take two hours to get there at the very least,” she said as the two of Pokémon watched the rest of their team claw, slither, and fly up the rock path. Calur could easily be up there with them if he wanted to, being immediately at home among the mountains, but the Aggron had taken it upon himself to carry some of the less dexterous of Gold Squad as he half-charged-half-burrowed a winding path through the steep slope.

    Again, Jack noticed that the dark clouds that seemed to brood over the Zangoose disappeared for an instant as she stood on the edge. The two of them took in the cold, bracing winds as the smell of the land below filled their noses with the scents of growth, pine, and early summer. It was calming and almost intoxicating. Their weariness fled like the darkness in the rising sun.

    “This mission isn’t normal, is it?” Jack didn’t hesitate with the question. He knew that he had to ask her while he was virtually alone with her. The Zangoose known formally as Kalitka stiffened as her claws curled up into her paws.

    “It’s dangerous. The hazard level for this one was through the roof, Jack. They were desperate, the Senators. Both Diamond and Platinum Squads had already refused on the grounds that they would throw their lives away.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper caught in the wind of the crisp mountain dawn. Her back slumped against the rock face behind her.

    “Then why accept it? You’ve rejected dangerous missions before, why not now?” Jack inquired as he leaned up against the mountain beside her. Her mouth pressed in a stern frown as she seemed to mull over an answer in her mouth.

    “I ... I don’t know. Nickolas came to me himself, Jack. How can I refuse the king? And with all the rewards and promotions they promised to our squad if we succeeded ... Well, I couldn’t say no.” She stopped for a second as she turned her head away from him.

    “But, I’ve been dealing with this feeling of dread. That something terrible is going to happen to all of us and it’ll be out of my control to stop. No one knows what happened in Saltus Valley, so we’re going in there blind. We’ll have to be careful,” Kida allowed as she looked up at the foreboding peaks. There wasn’t much farther to go until they reached the summit and it would be easier finding a path down into the valley from there. Jack watched the rest of Gold Squad climb over the final ledge and reach the small rest stop. They were all blissfully unaware of the doubtful thoughts Kida had just shared with him.

    “Alright! Catch your breath and let’s hit it double time, you lot! The Kingdom isn’t paying us to watch the sunrise! I want us to be halfway to the summit before it comes past the horizon!” the Zangoose ordered as she went through the small crowd of gathering Pokémon. Jack went behind her as he congratulated the others on their climb, saying trivial bits of encouragement as he went.

    Someone among the group, probably Efang, opened up a small sack of Aspear Berries and passed them around. Kida grumbled that they were wasting time, but Jack observed as she gave in and chomped into her own fruit. His own berry was gone behind his beak in no time at all as he felt the warm, insulating feeling beneath his skin that the juice provided.

    Once they had all properly celebrated their accomplishment near the edge of the mortal world, Kida quickly ushered them all back on course up the remainder of the mountain. Despite its lofty position as the crown of the mountain, the peak was much easier to climb than the initial ascent. Even as Jack removed his pick from the last foothold before he grasped the very pinnacle of the mountain, the others were only five minutes behind him, Kida being only a few feet below him.

    His eyes grew wide at the sight he beheld from the top. To the east, the sun’s fully awakened face just separated from the chains of the horizon and had begun its fiery ascent to the realms of Elysium in the sky. And, to the west, towards destiny, towards Saltus Valley, was a vast plain of white. Jack had to shield his eyes from the very beginnings of the harsh glare from the rays of the rising sun.

    “What in the name of Azelf’s tails happened here? Where’s the damn Valley?” Kida swore as she gazed out on the pure white landscape. She was right; Saltus Valley was gone and replaced by this void of white nothingness. They both stood there in stark disbelief as the last eighteen members of Gold squad reached the summit. Jack heard their shouts of confusion, but he did not look back at them.

    Instead, his foot took a single stride forward on to the unknown white mesa from the rocky mountain. His webbed toes did not slide through the mist-like substance, but rather pressed down a few inches until it stopped. It was almost like snow, except it was far more airy.

    He took another step, and then another as he blazed a trail into the mysterious field of white crystallized air. Despite the vague sense of instability that came with every crunching step, he continued into the unknown wilds. After he had taken roughly twenty strides away from the summit, he turned around to face the anxious Gold Squad.

    "Seems stable! Some type of snow from how it feels! It's packed pretty tight, so it should hold," Jack called as he reported on his qualitative observations. Back on the rocky precipice, Kida nodded as she waved her claws forward. The crowd around her interpreted her signal and gingerly began inching their way onto the plain.

    Jack held his breath as his Aggron friend took his first step into the solid white mass. Calur's massive tree stump-like foot sank into the wispy element before crunching to a halt only one foot beneath the visible surface.The Aggron allowed a rocky smile to form on his mouth as he let out a gravelly laugh of triumph.

    Seeing that the weird landscape would hold them all, Jack turned back to the path ahead. This was their destiny: to search and find the source. If the impetus keeping their righteous march true was to remain, they would have to cross this vast field. Jack was feeling unusually good at that moment. Despite having climbed a mountain in the very early hours of the waking dawn, his body still remained primed with energy. In that point in time, he would not have refused an offer to run the Royal Highway across the Kingdom. Something about this alien land sent waves of energy up through his feet, like he was walking on the very essence of air.

    There comes a time in the course of events that the threads of Fate cross and intertwine in such a way that brings forth the worst possible scenario. It was then, as Jack took another step into the white void of faux-snow that the threads coiled and snapped, letting the chaos of the universe rush in and have its way. From far beneath the surface, a fierce shudder shook the plane. The Golduck swore it sounded like the feral roar of a dragon that rose up from the core of the world.

    Jack fell to his side as his legs were jolted out from beneath him. His ice-ax flew from his grip and clattered across the powdery substance. The rumbling continued to shake the land as Jack struggled to pick himself up from the ground. He crawled over the unstable floor, his blue hands and knees crunched with every slow step he took to regain his lost tool. Far behind him, he saw Kida, Calur, Terminance, Efang, and the others in the same predicament he was in, stumbling and clawing for some sense of stability.

    The roar beneath the land grew louder and louder with every passing second. Jack’s lungs worked harder than before as he flailed over the shifting mass to his beloved ax. The clear skies above the strange anomaly turned from the endless blue of the approaching dawn to darkened grey as roiling clouds rushed in from the west to block out the sky. A bitter chill swept over Jack as the feeble rays of the rising sun were overtaken by the opaque cloak sent from the heavens. It was then that his mind had the epiphany.

    Wait ... This isn’t snow. We’re too high up for it to be snow ... This is ... Luiga preserve us... his mind whispered as he looked down at his hands pressed into the white crystallized land. Jack pushed away from the material like lightning and shakily stood on his feet as the world continued to crumble away. He waved his left arm high in the air in his fevered try to attract his teammates’ attention while he dug inside his bag with his other hand. He brushed aside the supplies of food, bandages, and rope as his webbed hand desperately searched for one item in particular.

    “It’s not snow! Get back! Get back!” he shouted as loud as his voice would allow. He could only watch as they continued on without hearing him. They were too consumed in their own survival of the immediate quake that they were blind to the underlying danger that would soon reveal itself. As his hand closed on the small glass sphere, he knew exactly what he had to do, but something inside him made him hesitate. His action would hurt them, but the wounds they might suffer at his hands would be a fraction of what they would gather if they continued as they were.

    “Kida! Calur! It’s not snow! They’re clouds! They’re frozen clouds! Get everyone back!” he screamed as he readied the small glass Orb in his hands. The artifact filled with the compressed energy of the wind would activate as soon as it hit something hard enough to crack its fragile surface. He had to make sure his aim was accurate, otherwise his efforts would be for nothing. Beneath his feet he felt something akin to a bolt of lightning shoot through the deteriorating web of frozen water.

    “There’s no time. I have to do this!” Jack shouted to himself as he reared his right arm back with the specialized Orb in hand. He had to aim for the one target he knew would activate the item and that would be the most likely to forgive him after the fact. Even as his legs were constantly shifted by the growing faults in the immense cloud, he took a deep break to calm his beating heart. Jack tried to think back to the numerous snowball battles he had fought with his brothers as a young Psyduck. He was feared for his accurate aim then, he hoped now in this crucial time that it would save his squadmates.

    Without a second thought, he hurtled the sphere directly over the expanse of white at Calur, the Aggron still trying to find balance in the collapsing ground. Jack watched the path of the projectile as the thunderous cracks continued to spread beneath him. He would save himself as soon as the others were out of harm’s way. The electric-blue object spun in the air as it caught the few rays of light that still shone from the sky in its reflection. Jack held his racing breath as it began to descend towards the struggling Aggron.

    Jack didn’t even notice the fact that his own feet were starting to drop through the cracking layers of solidified, aerated water as the Orb slammed into the back of Calur’s steely head with a clear shattering noise. The effect was instantaneous. From within the mystical core of the blue sphere, the awesome might of a terrible gale ripped across the plane. Jack could only brace himself as he was thrown backwards by the rushing wind, away from the safety of the mountains. The panicked screams coming from his friends and comrades filled his ears as they were all forced back against the stable peak of the mountain range.

    The Golduck felt his back hit the rumbling cloud with a crunch that gave way to a loud crack. Thunder roared against his throbbing ears as he fell through the frosty layers. White flew by his eyes as he descended beneath the surface of the collapsing cloud bank. Jack didn’t even know if such meteorological formation was even possible, but it hardly mattered now. All that mattered now was his own survival. He tried to focus his disorientated body as he twisted himself over in midair and spread out his hands and feet to try and slow his freefall. He had been forced to learn a few basic strategies for surviving falls while in training, but he had never expected he would have to use them from falling from the sky.

    Jack took a quick glance at the land below him. It was hard to make out in the darkness from the falling chunks of cloud and the grey sky, but he saw enough. The land below was as frozen as the clouds had been, completely coated in a thick layer of white frost. This was their ground zero. At last, this was Saltus Valley. A scathing wind tore past his falling body, trying hard to rip away his precious bag of supplies strapped to his back and the ice-pick he grasped tightly in his frozen hand.

    This is it. This is where I die, isn’t it? At least it’ll be quick and painless, his mind observed as he tried to maneuver himself to a place where the land didn’t seem to be frozen solid. He didn’t have much choice as he plummeted to the forest below. As the ground came closer and closer to him, the Golduck gave up trying to change his course. In the final moments before impact, Jack closed his eyes and prayed to the Guardian of the Seas that he be kept safe.

    Agony shot through the left side of his body as the thin branches of the flash-frozen trees whipped against him. Jack let out a shriek as he continued to rocket downwards, slamming into more and more branches as he went. There was no stopping the intense flood of torture that filled his nerves. The frozen tips of the tree limbs tore deep gashes all across his body or simply whacked against his unprotected skin, leaving a series of angry welts at random intervals. Jack was certain that more than several of his bones were shattered.

    His falling form shot past the final series of branches that tore off the bag from his back. Jack landed facing up with a bone-crunching thud in a thick pile of snow. A red haze misted over his vision as the sudden onset of packed snow embraced his battered and broken body. His breaths were short and shallow and his mind felt like it was lost in a deep fog. He knew he had to move. He knew that he had to find help quickly. Otherwise, he would die.

    Even though his mind screamed for him to move, it was several, long minutes of throbbing agony before he was able to twitch his right arm. Air playfully eluded each gaping gasp of his mouth, each failed attempt to breathe felt like a hammer slamming against his blood-spattered chest. His vision quickly flickered between black and white as he stared unblinking into the crumbling sky. Beams of sunlight streamed through the patchwork of unfallen clouds and the gaping holes left by the aerial avalanche.

    One of these beams struck the packed snow beside his right hand and reflected a metallic gleam. He didn’t have to see it properly to know exactly what it was. The golden shine only could come from one object: his exploration badge. His neck felt as if it was shoved inside a furnace as he moved it a few degrees up to confirm his suspicions. The circular insignia was only inches from his fingertips. He could easily reach it and activate it without shifting his fragile body too much.

    And besides, the damage is already done, right? What’s the worst that could happen? his blurry thoughts slurred as the Golduck suddenly rolled his body to the right and grasped the badge. He felt like he had just been slammed between a cliff and a wall of flaming steel. His body seized up as fresh blood began to seep from his recent wounds. His hand refused to let go of the metal circle, though. His survival depended on its mystical communication properties. Every heaving cough that came from his bruised lungs brought forth a spray of dark red blood onto his scarring chest and crimson snow around him. But, Jack knew what he had to do.

    He brought his stiff, cold hand closer to his mouth as he jabbed the center button in the badge. Words came surprisingly clearly from his mouth amid the spurts of internal blood from his damaged innards.

    “This is Corporal Jack Golduck.” A scream of agony. “I request immediate rescue. Medical care needed.” Jack let out a haunting cry that echoed through the dead Valley. “Situation: dire. Estimated time until expiration is--” Another scream that seemed to tear out what remained of his lungs. “One hour ... Forty-five minutes if internal bleeding persists...”

    There was nothing left. He had foolishly challenged Saltus Valley.

    “This is Jack Golduck. Corporal, Gold Squad, Army of the Kingdom.”

    Saltus Valley had accepted and swallowed him whole. His screams now were met with the vast emptiness that resonated from the frozen forest.

    “Requesting immediate assistance from any Rescue Team that can hear me. Multiple military personnel in danger. Please respond!”

    His words were carried along the sorrowful winds to be forever destined to echo among the lonely crags and peaks. The pleas he made would never make it through to a rescue relay. Much like him, they were cut off from the source.



    End Chapter One




    Author’s Notes: This is a project that’s been buzzing around in my head since June. As I said earlier, this is a side-story to my main story, PMD: Overthrown.

    Ever since I introduced his character way back in Chapter Four of Overthrown, something about Jack urged me to continue with him. For the longest time, I had no idea how I was going to do it, but now, I know exactly what I want to do with him. There’s plenty of plot to be had from him, but this story will be short. I hope to share Jack’s story to its fullest extent.

    Anyways, this shouldn’t hinder the progress with my other stories too much. Transcending the Abyss and Overthrown are still undergoing progress.

    If you enjoyed or you want to point out an error, a review would be highly appreciated.

    Knightfall signing off...
    Last edited by Knightfall; 24th June 2014 at 6:50 PM.

  3. #3
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    Wow, another story to read! So much stuff from you this week.

    Anyway, I noticed a three errors, but I forgot to take notes and I can't find them now. Nothing too major though. On the same level as TTA's error report I left.

    So, Jacks story, eh? I love it when side stories are presented like this, it gives more information and lore to the reader without being excessive as it's entirely optional.
    I quite enjoy this side story so far and the quality is just as good as the mainstory. If you had posted it as a chapter 17, I wouldn't even have been mad.

    Looking forward to how this unfolds, though moreso for TTA and Overthrown, keep up the goodwork.


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
    -Azurus

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Wow, another story to read! So much stuff from you this week.
    I really wish it came more often...

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    So, Jacks story, eh? I love it when side stories are presented like this, it gives more information and lore to the reader without being excessive as it's entirely optional.
    I quite enjoy this side story so far and the quality is just as good as the mainstory. If you had posted it as a chapter 17, I wouldn't even have been mad.

    Looking forward to how this unfolds, though moreso for TTA and Overthrown, keep up the goodwork.
    Thank you, Azurus! I'm happy you liked this small project of mine. As I said in my notes on the chapter, Jack's character has been one that's been on my mind for a long time now. I have had minor characters before, but Jack remained on my mind until his story began to take shape earlier in 2013. That's when I knew I had to write his story.

    Again, I'm happy you enjoyed it! And you can be certain I'll keep up the hard work!

    Knightfall signing off....

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    Chapter Two: The Personification of Glaciers




    “Celebi ... Celebi, please forgive me. I have killed the world. I have become the reaper, and the souls of nations are under my scythe. My gods, my gods... What have I done?”
    -- Administrator Martor Serperior on the first tests of Project: Marble King




    Light flickered on the aged stone walls. The Luminous Orb overhead was finally beginning to dim. While it slowly faded, the Golduck reclined in his metal chair as far as his chains would let him. Jack looked up at the floating Reuniclus officer with a emotionless stare.

    “So? Good enough for your bosses back in Silver City to execute me?” Jack asked with a sneer. Telling his story to the disgruntled officer had unbolded the former soldier. He felt a strength within him that had been absent for too long, and with that strength came defiance. The Loyalty Square officer merely grunted in reply and ignored the Golduck. His gelatinous arms rose and fell in the air as they shuffled through the papers detailing the report thus far.

    “Jackson... I find it a bit unbelievable that your own government would try to send you to your death. Gold Squad was a decorated team— virtually a national asset. Why would the king and Senate simply send you to your death? Doesn’t add up for me,” Hythal grunted before psychically lifting a wooden mug to his membrane. The blue contents within swiftly diffused into his cellular as he let out a gasp of contentment.

    “Then I’ll continue until you do understand just how it could happen... Let me first explain what happened to the other members after the clouds began to crack beneath our feet...” Jack sighed. The Golduck leaned over the table once again and closed his eyes. Memories of the events swirled around in his mind until he found what he had been looking for.

    “It all started for her after I fell...”




    Thunder rumbled under her padded feet. The Zangoose commander looked down from the flawless sky only to find that the white ground was not entirely solid. She tried to hold her position and keep her scrambling squad in line, but that goal was quickly shoved aside. A blast of air from Jack’s Blowback Orb sent them all flying backwards away from the epicenter of the collapse. She flipped over the frozen ground just before a series of jagged cracks appeared through the thin clouds. The Zangoose dug her claws into the ground and pulled herself upright. A threatening growl escaped her lips as she frantically looked over her battered team.

    “Regroup! Regroup! Damnit, get up!” she screamed, tugging on Terminance’s branch-like arm and pulling the Trevenant up to his roots. She barely had time to give the possessed tree a slap on his back before the ground gave way. The tops of the mountains rushed by past her sight until she was looking at the wide, rocky slope beneath her. She twisted around in the air, yelling in rare fear.

    The darkened ground of Saltus Valley opened up, and seemed to be ready to devour her whole once she landed. Her mind raced; memories of her training flashed in her head. She needed an idea— that and a miracle if she was to survive the plummet. Nothing was useful to her now. She hadn’t prepared for this. She had knowingly dragged her squad into an unstable environment and now she was going to face the consequences splattered against the side of a mountain.

    Kida glanced at her struggling teammates through the stinging air. Each of them chaotically flipping around and flailing beside the chunks of frozen clouds. Come on, Kida! Think! There’s gotta be a way to — Her thoughts were quickly disrupted by the mountainside she was trying to avoid. She didn’t have time to brace herself as her body slammed into a bank of packed snow.

    Breath was forced from her lungs. Her body twisted against the icy powder, but did not break. She turned her body so that she flipped over her shoulder, slowing her slide along the slope. Grunting in pain, she dug her clawed feet into the snow to stop her momentum. Her body lurched forward, barely avoiding tumbling over the precipice down into the frozen abyss. Kida gasped, holding her paw to her chest to keep her heart inside. She frantically scanned the lonely mountainside for the remaining members of Gold Squad. Yet only a scathing, frozen wind met her gaze.

    The Zangoose’s feet uncomfortably shifted on the small snowbank. Her fur was doing a poor job at keeping her warm as her heart slowly calmed. Looking about the deserted mountainside, she found herself utterly alone. For once, the tall, stone vines ensnaring her heart withered and broke apart. She could do nothing to stem the rush of emotions that thundered down upon her.

    Kida kneeled to the ground; paws pressed hard against her face. Tears of terror, pain, and regret streamed down her face. She wanted nothing more in the world than to reverse the decisions she’d made in the last week. Her desire for gold and glory for herself and the squad, now left her alone on a desolate mountain. All the training she had forced her body through meant nothing. She was stuck in a hostile environment, rapidly running out of sunlight, and held the blood of her missing squadmates in her claws.

    No. Kida... Kalitka! You have to focus! You have to live! Come on, girl...

    Looking up from her tear-streaked face, she fumbled around the leather belt around her waist. Inside one of the pouches was a small, gilded seed that glinted brightly in the canted light. She despised the item, yet she needed it. Her paw shook wildly as she tips it into her mouth. Her teeth instantly chewed the smooth surface, crunching the contents out of its kernel. She roughly swallowed the bitter seed, but the aftereffect was worth the minor discomfort.

    A false surge of courage welled up inside her mind and drove the tears from her eyes. A small, insidious part of her brain berated her for relaying on the so-called medicine seeds. However, Kida quickly stomped out the voice before rising to her feet. Her paws unclasped the golden badge from her crimson scarf and pressed the central button on its circular surface. She cleared her voice and took a deep breath before she confidently spoke to the mechanism.

    “To all rescue centers, this is Commander Kalitka Zangoose of Gold Squad. Requesting immediate assistance from Saltus Valley. Priority one! I repeat, this is a priority one rescue call! Any and all available rescue teams are to report to Saltus Valley immediately! Many lives at stake!” Her breath turned into mist and her words became whispers in the wind. She knew that no one would hear her plea. Even if Post Town managed to detect it, she doubted there was anything they could do to help.

    The Zangoose brushed her claws through her matted fur and tried to retain the last shred of her dignity. Picking up the badge again, she felt her courage leave her, and her confident words melted into insecurity.

    “P-please! Gold Squad is s-scattered! H-hostile environment! We need assis-t-tance!” She felt her knees give out, the snow pressing into her fur, and the weight of her guilt pulling her down. “P-Please! F-for the love of P-Palkia! S-save me! I-I can’t die here! C-can’t die here! Plea— AHHHHHHHHH!” Her transmission was cut brutally short by the mountain’s sudden decision to collapse beneath her.




    “That’s wonderful, Jackson. However, I’m not getting paid to listen to you explain how your squad reacted. I am here to hear your story.” The Reuniclus officer grunted, psychically stirring his drink. Jack huffed, leaning back in his chair and rattling his chains.

    “I tell you it’s important... But, fine. If you wish to get back to me, then I’ll tell it. And Hythal? I’d rather not be interrupted again unless you have a genuine question. Is that too much to ask?”

    “Jackson, you are a traitor. You have no rights here. I’ll ask what questions I need to, you hear me?” Hythal growled with an impatient glare.




    Wind softly whispered through the frozen forest. No branches stirred, no leaves fell, nothing changed from the weak zephyr. Time in the iced woods meant nothing. The rays of the sun shone cold on the abysmally frozen Valley. Though the sky was broken, it changed little on the ground. The only evidence that something had happened was the dying echoes that paced through the hardened trees like lost souls.

    “My name is Jack. Jack Golduck. Can anyone hear me? Anyone! Help me!”

    His broken voice had echoed through the empty wastelands for the better part of two agonizing hours before his heart stopped from the penetrating cold. Against his will, he had blissfully began to slip into the numbing void of unconsciousness. The heavily injured Golduck entertained slim thoughts of survival by that point and uttered a final, sloppy prayer to the gods of the ocean before his eyes closed and his head slumped to the side in the snow.

    His mind however, did not feel so tired or cold. Clarity seemed to rush into it as his body began the process of becoming one with the snow. Jack didn’t know what to make of it. He had been pushed to the brink of death before, his position in Gold Squad demanded it constantly, but he had never experienced this sudden calm.

    Beyond the transcendence of thought and the sudden euphoria that rushed through his body, he found not the comforting embrace of Cresselia, but rather a realm fit for her dark rival. He wasn’t guided through to the waiting light, but rather found himself chained in the darkness. Manacles of solid ice sealing his limbs to the ground as the seething emptiness closed in on his struggling form. Jack couldn’t breathe, yet there was no need for him to. This was death, and he had earned this eternal punishment. The unseen gods of Verus decreed it so.

    His bonds tightened, nearly breaking his blue skin. The Golduck viciously kicked and clawed at the living shards, but it instead creeped around his body. The darkened ice whispered inane words, uttered sayings to pollute his mind, and prophecies to make him slip away into the depths of death. Tendrils of frost wrapped around his arms and torso, making every movement more difficult and his mind wallow in lethargy. His body was enveloped in the ice. He felt it bite into his skin and strangle his heart. Jack let out a stifled yell with the last breath he had before the hellish ice clamped a thick hand over his beak.

    Sight, smell, and feeling were robbed from him as the ice masked his head. He willed his body to move, to break down the frost, but there was nothing to be done. He would become one with the ice as it choked the life out of him. His mind raced while the ice froze him to the floor. Around his body, he felt it crack and grow like an insidious vine. The numbness set in just as the last of the ice solidified around his body.

    This can’t be my eternity! No! NO! His thoughts screamed, seemingly driving away the darkness that tried to consume his consciousness. But it was for naught as the ice clamped down harder. Jack tensed and prepared for his permanent end. He had heard the tales of Erebus being a place of eternal cold and darkness, but he had failed to grasp what “eternity” truly was until then.

    Seconds passed, but it could have been days for all the Golduck knew. In his dismal prison of cold and weakness, there was nothing he could do to count the minutes and hours he spent chained to the unforgiving wall of Erebus. He had deserved this. He truly did. Being a member of Gold Squad came with the stipulation that one would obey orders. No matter what they were.

    Whether the damning sin came from the small Sentret girl he orphaned by murdering her mother in cold blood to leave no credible witnesses, or by he and his squad torching the thriving forest city afterwards. It could have also easily been the off-the-record raids they conducted at the Senate’s request on individuals who supported the Colonial independence movement. He might have looked away when the murders took place, but that didn’t change the fact that he still held the targets down while they died. Their blood was on his hands, and it was more than enough to earn the attention of Darkrai.

    This was the fate of his soul: to rot forever under the dark chill of Erebus. In his haste to achieve glory on Gold Squad, he had condemned himself here until Arceus ended the world. His memories, the only figments he had left of the outside world and warmth, swelled around him. He was about to dive amid them and lose his mind to reliving his past when the mighty chasm that was the darkness shook.

    A ray of light shone through the abyss, parting the nothingness. Claws, driven by the fury of freedom, slashed through the clutching arms of the ensnaring ice. He felt their sharp tips dig into his face as the ice on his head shattered, allowing air to flow again. Systematically, his arms, legs, and body was torn from the ice. He could not see his savior in the darkness, but he did what he could to stand and flee the mass of frozen water.

    The weak light that had accompanied his rescue flickered as the shadowed figure grabbed his wrist and dragged behind at a mad sprint. The Golduck had no idea what was happening, yet he needed no reassurance that he was doing the right thing. His purgatory had tried to seal his soul, but he had been freed. He had been guilty, yet he was being given a second chance to escape this hell. The light grew brighter as he and his savior dashed up the endless stair towards the small pinnacle of light, with the darkness and ice trailing only a few steps behind. A single misstep on his part would destroy his only chance at life.

    “Who--” he asked breathlessly.

    “Shut up! Run!” The figure cut him off abruptly. Despite being able to see his own blue skin --now alarmingly paler from the ice-- he was unable to see past the hue of shadows that seemed to cling to the ethereal figure. The voice at least, sounded feminine to Jack, so that much was solved. However, he didn’t have the time to think about the information as shards of ice swiped across the back of his calves, leaving trails of blood in his skin as he ran faster.

    As they inched closer to the light, he noticed more about the mysterious female who had single-handedly severed the darkness. Droplets of light rained down on them; the downpour growing with each weighted step they took towards escape. The personified shroud of fluid ice tried to snatch his soul and return him to his eternal sentence. As his eyes swung to the shadowed girl beside him, he saw that the shadow seemed to melt away from her in scattered droplets in the canted light.

    The nearer they got to the light, the more of her he could see. Patches of white fur appeared from beneath the gentle grey covering as the shadows faded away. In the final stretch into the square doorway of pure light, she shook her head during her sprint. The mask of night that hid her face broke apart in an explosion of twilight. Jack nearly stumbled on the ancient stone stairs. During his sprint, his gaze met hers and memories clicked into place.

    “Kida!” he screamed, his heart somersaulting in joy even while the essence of Erebus hunted them down. The Zangoose smiled her usual devious smile at him as they screeched to a stop at the threshold of the archway. Jack tried to see beyond the dazzling light, but his eyes could not see past the splendor. Kida didn’t pant or breathe. She simply pointed a claw at him and then the exit. Erebus roared after them, the pitch-black ice slithering quickly up the crumbling stone.

    “No! Come with me, Kida! Come on!” he pleaded, but she continued to look at him with her usual, cold analytical stare. She shook her head and walked up to him. Her paws gripped his shoulders and she marched him to the edge of the light.

    “I am not her. You have to find her in the real world. I am giving you that chance. Do not waste it by letting Erebus catch you now,” the Zangoose whispered into his ear as a blood curdling roar shook the stone foundations. “I go now. And so do you!” she yelled as she reared up her foot and kicked his stomach. As he stumbled into the wall of light, he saw the Zangoose melt back into the shadows as she leapt at the encroaching ice with her claws extended. A furious yell met his ears just as everything of the fabled realm of purgatory faded with a flash of white.

    “Doctor .. Doctor! ... Ampharos! He ... The Cloud-Breaker is awake!” The sounds of the outside world pounded against his ears. Jack felt a spark shoot through his body as his arms twitched. His eyes still refused to open, but the Golduck noticed that his body was no longer numb from the cold. In fact, as far as he could tell, the cold was gone.

    “Open your eyes, Golduck. There is much we need to discuss now that you are awake.” The voice was filled with knowledge. Wise, yet not hobbled with age. Jack’s eyes struggled to peel themselves apart before flying open and letting the light of the outside world overwhelm his senses. The Golduck let out a pained squawk as his hand shot to cover his burning eyes.

    “There is not much time left, Golduck. Get up. Now.” The voice boomed against his aching ears as Jack’s eyes slowly flickered open and got used to the light. Disorientated, the Golduck coughed as he sat up from the bed of hay he was in. Instantly, he was met with an intense soreness from his chest. Clutching his stomach, he lowered his gaze to inspect himself. His gasp was stifled by the pain that followed.

    His entire torso was wrapped in blood-stained bandages. The dull-white linen clung to his chest and limbs while he struggled to stand on his feet. A wave of dizziness washed over the soldier; threatening to make him double over in dry heaves. His aching legs stumbled out of the soft bed and onto the cold stone floor. Jack’s bleary eyes slowly fought through the fatigue. After a few minutes of blindly shuffling, the Golduck was able to properly survey the swaying chamber and the ones who had talked to him. A small paw grasped his right shoulder.

    “Hello, Cloud-Breaker.” It was the same, wise voice from earlier, yet his body reacted differently. Jack’s hand shot down to his side, looking for his ice-axe, and grasped only bare flesh. Within a split second of realizing his beloved weapon was gone, his left hand curled into a glowing fist and swung at the speaker.

    His energized, webbed fist was halted by a similarly charged paw. In the light, Jack saw that its owner, along with the wise voice, was a yellow and black Pokémon just shorter than him. The Ampharos grunted and easily pushed back his Brick Break attack. With his concentration diffused, Jack could only breathe deeply in relief when the irritated Electric-type lowered his own glowing paw in non-aggression.

    “E-hem. As I was saying before you rudely attacked me... Greetings, Cloud-Breaker. We are pleased to have you among us once again. There are some of us here who wish to thank you for bringing back the sun to our frozen sky,” the older Ampharos elaborated and extended a paw to Jack. The alert Golduck didn’t accept his paw immediately, rather taking a moment to study his surroundings and the Ampharos.

    He was inside a dimly lit cave. The floor was smooth and swept, but incredibly cold. Everything around him seemed to scream out how bitterly cold it was: the stone, the hay, the puffs of mist exiting his beak, and the air itself. Turning his attention away from the grizzled Ampharos, he saw that there were other Pokémon milling about the cavern also.

    “H-hello...” Jack coughed as his body straightened up to full height. “I appreciate the treatment you gave me, sir. However, I must ask about the whereabouts of my weapon and gear that you found with me. They are Kingdom property,” Jack briskly stated. His mind swiftly spouting the protocol for interacting with civilians in a hostile environment. The Ampharos male chuckled as he reached into the large satchel that hung from his shoulder. A flash of silver met Jack’s eyes when the older Pokémon withdrew his treasured ice-axe and leather utility belt. Jack’s arm instinctively shot out at the weapon and belt, intending on snatching it back. However, his eager claws gripped nothing but air.

    “I’ll give it back once you answer a few questions for me. Is that fair? Consider that your payment for fixin’ you up, son,” the Electric-type stated, holding up the axe out of Jack’s reach. The Golduck nearly considered tackling him for it, but backed away from this thought when a cackle of electricity sparked from the Ampharos’s other hand.

    “Fine. What do you want?” Jack grunted. The older Pokémon merely gave him a disapproving glare before disappearing further into the cramped caverns. Not wanting to let his precious weapon and his other supplies out of his reach, Jack hastily followed. Trotting along behind the strange Pokémon, Jack glanced around the narrow passage. His webbed feet slapped against the smooth cave floor at regular rhythms. Each loud echo was only punctuated by a curse from Jack every time he stepped on a small stalagmite.

    “You come at a troubled time, Cloud-Breaker. We are trapped under this infernal ice, as you saw. We are running out of time. A malady, cold as the ice, attempts to strike us down.” The Ampharos’s paw gestured to the rows of threadbare blankets along the cave wall. Looking closer, Jack saw that Pokémon were sleeping in them. “They appear sleeping, do they not? However, they sleep until death... And beyond...” Jack took another look at the row. This time he noticed what he had failed to see before.

    Among the piles of rags, a Skitty lay still, its pink fur dulled to a sickly grey. In another pile was a Snivy and a Serperior, together, a family perhaps. Their green and white scales turned to blue and grey, as if they were freezing in the snow. And in yet another mess of cloth, the sight grew worse. Jack nearly heaved up his non-existant lunch when he saw the Tauros. The tawny beast’s fur had turned from a light brown to a patchy section of grey that was falling out of the skin. However, that was not the worst. The worst was the small, jagged shards of ice that stuck out of the Pokemon’s stomach and sides.

    Jack’s vision began to weave in and out. He hadn’t been awake for ten minutes and he was being shoved into a world of sickness and ice. “Now you see, Cloud-Breaker, do you not? The sickness that eats us? Since the ice came, so has the clutches of infection... The children were among the first to fall.” Jack put his hands against his ears. This was enough. He wanted no more. Regardless of what they did for him, he knew he could not stay. He could not listen to the rambles of sickness and ice any longer.

    With a yell, he twisted around and stormed out of the contaminated cavern. Ampharos’s paw was quick to hold onto his shoulder. “Where do you aim on going, young sir? You are desperately needed here.”

    Jack huffed and turned on the Electric-type. With a fire in his eyes, he snatched his ice-axe and belt out of the Pokémon’s grip. Backing away from the surprised Ampharos, Jack hastily buckled the leather strip around his waist and held his weapon defensively. The curved, jagged blade glinted its sharpened steel in the flickering light of the cave.

    “I am leaving. Thank you for healing me, but I have to go. I am sorry,” Jack retorted stiffly, giving the despairing older Pokémon a terse bow signaling that the conversation was at an end. Without another look at the aged healer, Jack turned his back and trudged up the sloping cave. He heard the Ampharos’s steps following him, but he did not acknowledge them. Every emaciated Pokémon the Golduck passed pressed itself against the sides of the cavern to let him by. Jack thought this a bit weird, but shook off the troubling observation. He continued upwards, moving along whichever path that felt the coldest.

    After an unnaturally long stretch of minutes, Jack was met with his goal. Almost immediately, eyes widened in a mixture of surprise and fear.

    “W-what in Erebus is this...?” He whispered while he gazed out at the entirety of Saltus Valley.

    White. Everything was white. The endless stretch of forest was painted in the stark colors of a deep frost, despite it being the zenith of spring. Winter's hold arrested every movement. All around him, nothing stirred. Not the leaves on the trees, the water on the mountain stream, or even the wind itself.

    Jack heard the crunching of pebbles behind him and quickly started down the slick, iced-over mountain. His feet barely managed little more than a controlled slide past the still trees. Jack huffed and carefully leaned backwards. Cold dirt hit his sore back like a hammer, yet he slid faster down the mountain path. His lungs sucked in the crisp, freezing air.

    "Almost there...." he muttered. His arm held his axe and dragged it along the packed ice to control his descent. Rough stones tore at the thin, blue feathers on his back. Jack squawked in pain, closed his eyes tightly, and tried to focus his thoughts elsewhere. Before he knew it, his aching feet slammed into the hard earth at the base of the mountain. Jack looked up into the sky, determining how much daylight was left. Except the sky was still broken.

    His eyes widened. At once, the weight of his deed fell upon him. Sunlight poured in solitary beams through the jagged holes in the frozen clouds. Wisps of solidified clouds shrouded the majority of Saltus Valley in darkness, but Jack could tell that there was not much time left until sunset. Wiping the chilled beads of frost off his forehead, Jack trudged through the icy dirt. His heart pounded inside his chest. Clutching his axe protectively, he tried to calm himself.

    What are you doing, Jack? You’re a soldier. You are part of Gold Squad! Man up! Stop acting like the rookie you aren’t! His thoughts attempted to reassure, but the eerie quietness of the frozen forest around him quickly sapped his courage away. Within the shrinking light, Jack found the long, frost-worn branches that loomed over him a lot more menacing. He swallowed a lump in his throat, yet the fear failed to pass with it.

    The Golduck continued his solitary march through the ominous wood. Not a single sound reached his ears other than the crunch of his own feet against the frozen dirt and leaves. After a few moments, Jack twirled around as a small branch snapped and fell to the ground. His heart was ready to explode out of his chest, and Jack had to clutch the sides of his head in order to keep his brain from overreacting. Somewhere in his memories he held the hours of strict training under the Kingdom. Somewhere inside his mind was the fortitude and stone-cold demeanor he held on missions. Try as he might, his mind was intent on letting him squirm in bone-shaking anxiety.

    ”If the truth is too horrible to believe, lie until it isn’t.” The words of the grizzled Senator Cicero Torkoal suddenly rang in his ears. Jack blinked. The old, steaming tortoise had wheezed out that gem of advice on their final day of training. It was puzzling to his young mind at the time, but the very next day he found out just how true the phrase was. It was his first mission under Gold Squad to the catastrophe zone of Zero Isle. It was there that he had first experienced what hell truly when the mystery dungeon engulfed the archipelago.

    “Lie until it isn’t....” Jack mumbled under his breath. His webbed hands shivered in the darkening cold. Deciding that frostbite wasn’t a pleasant way to die, Jack reached inside one of the pouches on his belt, found a small reddish seed, and plopped it inside his mouth. Careful not to break the brittle skin, he sucked gingerly on the Blast Seed, feeling its generous spiciness kick into his system within seconds. The grip of Kyurem was broken in an instant.

    Armed with warmth coursing through his veins, Jack swung his axe in front of him. The curved blade was not suited to hacking down branches, but it snapped the icy limbs down easily enough. Grinning smugly, the Golduck hiked down the new path through the woods. He grunted in pain every time a branch nicked his skin and drew droplets of blood, but pressed onwards despite the clear path he left behind him in the snow.

    The comfort the Blast Seed brought was slowly ebbing away all too soon. Huffing, Jack downed a final branch with his axe and stepped into a clearing. It was hard to see in the fading light, but Jack could make it out well enough. He even rubbed his eyes to ensure he wasn’t dreaming, but it was reality. An entire village was in front of him; every building seemingly untouched by looters and simply left to freeze. Jack whooped in triumph and holstered the axe to his belt. His bruised bones ached for any shelter from this unbearable cold. Abandoning all military conduct, Jack praised Kyogre and Suicune at the top of his lungs. The Golduck sprinted faster than any Linoone into the village, smelling deeply the sterile air as if he could still detect the scents of life.

    Panting in the square, he slowly halted himself and surveyed the surrounding buildings. He needed something that was airtight and preferably stocked with blankets. However, seeing that the town would have been sweltering in the summer heat when the ice came, his hopes of finding such a dwelling were dampened. Jack walked around, his feet crunching loudly in the old snow. He stalked around the square, inspecting the houses made up of clay and branches for something that offered to keep out the chilly air. Jack stood on the tips of his toes and peered into a window frame of a rather large hut. It was then that he noticed something inside that was absent from the others: movement.

    Jack flew away from the building, his feet backpedalling through the snow just before a roar shattered the unearthly silence. The wall of the house was decimated by the huge claw that tore through it. Jack numbly stared. The beast’s thick flesh was peeling back around its body, instead replaced by an icy hide. Exactly like the Pokémon in the infirmary, jagged shards of ice stuck out at odd intervals from beneath its skin and bones. It was no longer any Pokémon that Jack knew.

    It let out a ragged breath though its torn jaw and its decayed nose sniffed the air for the intruder. Jack’s heart nearly stopped as the creature’s gaze captured him. Its sunken, yellowed eyes narrowed in their sockets on his quivering form. Part of his mind wondered how much he looked like prey just then. What remained of the canine’s large, shaggy mane fell off as it shook its head in a guttural roar.

    Fear attempted to upset the adrenaline-fueled courage in his heart. Jack’s feet stumbled backwards in the snow before his back slammed against a wall. Fear, he knew, could not rule him now. Sucking in a deep breath, Jack decided that he wouldn’t be caught off guard by the creature. Curling his toes into the ice, the Golduck grasped his axe tightly and held it at arms length. In three fluid movements, he crossed the frozen street and leaped up at the snarling, ice-covered Arcanine. Jack smiled. He felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time. He wanted to kill.

    In less than two seconds, his arm swung forward, twisted the jagged point of the axe downwards, and slammed through the frozen flesh of the Arcanine. The entire curved end disappeared inside where shoulder bone and heart should have been. Next to his head, a low, angered growl vibrated through Jack’s body. His eyes not daring to look beside him, he gazed at the hole he left in the massive dog’s side. No blood, no viscera, no organs, just a haze of sub-zero mist that leaked forth from the wound. Jack felt his entire body fall numb in sheer, unnatural terror. His head craned to the side and he saw exactly what he had desperately hoped wasn’t real: the beast’s barred, yellowed teeth inches from his face.

    Jack’s hardly saw the teeth before they opened, revealed a gaping, empty maw. Instead of the sharp tools tearing into his neck and severing his life, a jet of blue fire blasted forth from the hollow depths of the monstrous Arcanine. The Golduck blinked in surprise even as the tongues of the faux fire licked his face. It didn’t burn. Nothing burned. In fact, it was deathly cold against his skin. Confused, the Golduck barely stumbled back a step, yet that did not stop the hollow canine. With a rattling howl, the beast pounced into the air. Jack was quickly acquainted with the frosted ground and the dead weight of the diseased Arcanine pinning him down.

    Air barely managed to squeak through his beak. A massive, frostbitten paw pressed down on his chest, crushing the life from his lungs. In an increasing fit of desperation, the soldier fired a frigid blast of his own from his beak, yet the Ice Beam did nothing against the infected Pokémon. Water quickly followed, only to dry to a trickle as another paw stepped on his throat. The mental prowess that his species commanded fled him when the creature proved to have no mind.

    The ice controls the beast. Jack’s grip tightened around his axe and his arm flailed. The serrated edge slicing through the deadened flesh with each panicked blow, yet no blood was spilt. Jack met the creature’s primal, unfeeling gaze again. A drop of cold saliva fell into his cheek, and the Golduck’s military training fled within a microsecond of seeing the teeth. The jaw snapped forward. And then in a flash, the jaw was no more.

    A bolt of blue lightning shot forth from above and seared away half of the Arcanine’s frozen face. Instantly, the heavy paws flew off his torso and Jack rolled onto his stomach. Pushing himself up, he scrambled away as fast as he could from the wounded monster. His heart pounded against his chest in a rhythm fit for a tribal drum. When the world finally ceased spinning, Jack looked up despite his head’s protests.

    “And so you see what the sickness does to us, Cloud-Breaker. You now see what the Frost does to us...” Jack’s head ached and blood pounded in his skull. Pressure built up against the ruby set in his forehead, yearning for a way to relieve the tension. In his bleary vision, the long, yellow face stared amusedly down at him. After a few seconds, Jack realized that he was holding out a paw for him to take. Pushing back his discomfort, his free hand reached up and grasped the Ampharos’s.

    Thoughts pulsed in his head, all trying to take in the array of new information. Why was the Ampharos here? Had he followed him somehow? What is this Frost? What happened here?

    “The Frost. The Frost... See how it changes us... Frey-tal... I had feared for you, my friend... Though it appears the sickness captured you as well...” Jack slowly realized that the older Pokémon was no longer talking to him. The healer walked away, towards the smoldering body of the headless Arcanine. Jack leaned against a wall in exhaustion, despite being enchanted by the Electric-type’s actions. The Ampharos knelt down next to the frozen, smoking carcass, placed his hands over its pockmarked chest, and whispered a few verses of what seemed like a prayer.

    “Maybe you shall walk the blessed fields again. There be promise in eternity; the world will again be green and bright. If your heart be as pure as your deeds, then you shall go before me. Drink up the new world. Be born anew in its splendor. Treasure everything you see. Be you rested and hale. Take in the golden hue. Maybe, if the legends will it so, I will walk there too...”

    The Ampharos rose and turned back to Jack. A withering glare pierced the chilling wind. “Come, Cloud-Breaker. There is much to be done and a debt of life you owe to me now. Night falls faster with Time’s fading heart, so rise and run! We shall take refuge among the houses of the dead and spill your tongue to me there, you will.” Jack swallowed the lump in his throat and his thoughts sunk. The strange-speaking healer gently opened a door. The Ampharos stopped in the doorway and spoke out the side of his mouth. “It is time you learned what your Kingdom has done to us...”

    To Jack, the open door was more than a passage from outside to in. It was the culmination of everything that had transpired in the last two days. He had lost the world, yet had gained a purpose. He was no longer Jackson Golduck, of Gold Squad. He was Jack the Golduck, the Cloud-Breaker and indebted to the Ampharos. His thoughts were interrupted by said Pokemon’s sudden voice.

    “Are you coming, Cloud-Breaker? Be swift on your feet! The Frostbitten do not wait long after dark to find the living. If you are to see the sun again, the night must be endured. Time snaps at our heels, so make haste!” The fervered shouts boomed in the quiet cold of Saltus Valley. Jack still couldn’t take it all in, even as the last echoes faded away into the night. It couldn’t be real. This wasn’t an operation anymore; it was a nightmare born from the snow. With the death of the last echo, a chorus of howls erupted from the mountains. Screams taken from the depths of Erebus chilled his bones worse than the ice.

    Jack took a breath and stepped through the door.



    End Chapter Two

    Last edited by Knightfall; 24th June 2014 at 6:55 PM.

  6. #6
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    Chapter 1

    "We the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”
    -- [Author Disputed]
    Did you make that up for the fic? Or is that a real quote?

    A time for growth. A time for decay. A time for summer. A time for winter.
    I feel like the periods add to much separation for what you're trying to achieve. Might sound a bit better like, 'A time for growth, for decay, for summer, for winter.'

    asunder
    Asunder? Really? Awesome word usage, loved it

    The globular being floated above the rough surface of the counter, his circular face and underdeveloped body and organelles suspended in a viscous green mass of organic gelatin.
    Lovely description there. I was able to picture it perfectly. Nicely done sir

    “I’m going to ask one more time before I get the truly invasive Psychics down here
    Shiver

    “Charges: Arson ... grand theft ... murder, ... high treason
    Misplaced comma

    And now, as the clock ticked closer and closer to the end of his life at the Kingdom stockade, he would make sure that his story was recorded.
    Way to pull a veil of depressing darkness over our heads right off the bat haha

    The thoughts of a healthy Golduck wondered as he plucked another of the devilish miniature spears of pine out of the thin webbing on his feet.
    I liked that. You managed to describe physical attributes of the ship while showing its effect on Golduck at the same time. Especially against his particular feet. I had this awful vision of a bamboo splinter being shoved into the webbing of my feet. Believe me, its not pretty haha

    Tears began to bead on the Water-type’s eyes as he pulled harder against the unyielding thorn of pure and unrelenting evil. Fortunately, the splinter’s resolve broke first and vacated the sensitive skin between his clawed toes. Jack let out a triumphant laugh as he held his enemy up to his face, examining his relinquished foe in closer detail. It was hardly worth his attention, and deciding this, Jack vanquished the prisoner of war by throwing it over his shoulder into the churning depths of the sea rushing below him.
    Probably the most overly descriptive and amazing description of pulling a splinter free in the history of mankind. Lmao that was epic

    As the Ghost-types wrapped their trailing arms around the wooden crates, they joyfully exchanged conversations with various members of the Squad, including Kida.
    Inventive, I wouldn't have thought of using Drifblim that way

    “Alright, that was the easy part. You lot, gather what supplies you have left and let’s march. It’s eleven miles to Post Town from here through mountains and valleys. We will arrive before sunset, is that understood?” she iterated
    I can already tell that she is going to annoy the **** out of me lol

    Jack saw Efang, the Arbok poison specialist, smoothly chatting with a Liepard in a corner table of the cafe,
    Question. In this cafe, are there tables of all different sizes and heights? Because when I was reading about Arbok and Liepard, I started thinking that you're gonna have Pokemon as small as Clefairy and as large as Aggron in this place. There's such a huge size, height, and weight difference between every different Pokemon that I'm really interested in how this Cafe is set up in your world.

    “What in the name of Azelf’s tails happened here?
    Hah! Nice!

    “Kida! Calur! It’s not snow! They’re clouds! They’re frozen clouds! Get everyone back!”
    Wow. Super ****ing inventive. I realized it right before I read this quoted bit and it cranked this up for me about a dozen notches. I'm surprised and almost speechless (which is rare for me) at how much I'm getting into this

    The frozen tips of the tree limbs tore deep gashes all across his body or simply whacked against his unprotected skin, leaving a series of angry welts at random intervals. Jack was certain that more than several of his bones were shattered.
    I know that his mind wasn't working right during all this chaos, but why didn't he at least attempt to use some of his powers? Water, psychic energy, anything? Jack just doesn't seem like the type that takes anything lying down. Hmm

    Chapter 2

    She twisted around in the air, yelling in rare fear.
    Even though there is so much going on, I know that was really hard for her. I know its only been one chapter but you've set her character up well enough for me to say that. I'm really impressed buddy

    Looking up from her tear-streaked face, she fumbled around the leather belt around her waist. Inside one of the pouches was a small, gilded seed that glinted brightly in the canted light. She despised the item, yet she needed it. Her paw shook wildly as she tips it into her mouth. Her teeth instantly chewed the smooth surface, crunching the contents out of its kernel. She roughly swallowed the bitter seed, but the aftereffect was worth the minor discomfort.
    Sorry if I'm being thick here, but I'm not understanding what the seed is

    “That’s wonderful, Jackson. However, I’m not getting paid to listen to you explain how your squad reacted. I am here to hear your story.”
    I get why we need to see Kida's part of the story too, and don't get me wrong, I demand that her POV stays with the story, but when Hythal asks him why he's telling him that, he has a good point. How does Jack know what Kida did and was thinking? See what I mean?

    Do not waste it by letting Erebus catch you now,
    ****ING EREBUS!

    The Cloud-Breaker is awake!”
    For as long as Jack is alive and in this story, his name will be the Cloud Breaker to me haha. So awesome

    Jack’s hand shot down to his side, looking for his ice-axe, and grasped only bare flesh. Within a split second of realizing his beloved weapon was gone
    I know I'm bringing this up again but why does he keep going for the axe when he obviously has considerable power and ability? I feel like it would be reflex for a Pokemon like Jack to summon a psychic wave or a jet of water to protect himself.

    A bolt of blue lightning shot forth from above and seared away half of the Arcanine’s frozen face.
    I feel like a bit more description would have served you well there. You started with a powerful visual, and it was great, but I feel like it could have used a little more power. Dig?

    With the death of the last echo, a chorus of howls erupted from the mountains. Screams taken from the depths of Erebus chilled his bones worse than the ice.
    I almost feel like you should have ended the chapter with that line instead of the one you did lol

    Great two chapters buddy. Jack is so believable and real to me, he's really the standout of the story. I know that its centric on him but still, he's just wonderful. I could go on for a bit on my thoughts of the story as a whole, but to be honest I just had a lot of fun reading it. Period. Keep up the good work man

    An Ancient Treasure, a Terrible Price. Take the Risk, Eat the World
    (Final Chapter added 05-15-2014)

    -Thanks to PopPrincess_Lyra for the banner above, and Sworn Metalhead for the banner below -


    All Hail the Six Kings...
    Chapter Three added (03-31-2015)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Did you make that up for the fic? Or is that a real quote?
    Sidewinder, you give me too much credit. xD That is a real quote, and I just now included the probable author of it.

    That quote is one of my favorites and it fits the story really well.

    I tend to make it a tradition that I start all my stories with a real quote from the real world.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post

    Shiver
    Rightly so. I really did want to make this interrogation scene dark and somewhat brutal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Way to pull a veil of depressing darkness over our heads right off the bat haha
    Well, his fate is already determined, to an extent. In Overthrown, it was shown what happens to him...


    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    I liked that. You managed to describe physical attributes of the ship while showing its effect on Golduck at the same time. Especially against his particular feet. I had this awful vision of a bamboo splinter being shoved into the webbing of my feet. Believe me, its not pretty haha
    It's something new I tried, instead of simply describing the ship. I aim to do more of that, in place of just plain, old description.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Probably the most overly descriptive and amazing description of pulling a splinter free in the history of mankind. Lmao that was epic
    It was very overly descriptive, but I loved how it turned out. xD

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Inventive, I wouldn't have thought of using Drifblim that way
    Thanks! I've seen Drifblim used to carry people before (Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Alima) so I figured it could be used for cargo.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post

    Question. In this cafe, are there tables of all different sizes and heights? Because when I was reading about Arbok and Liepard, I started thinking that you're gonna have Pokemon as small as Clefairy and as large as Aggron in this place. There's such a huge size, height, and weight difference between every different Pokemon that I'm really interested in how this Cafe is set up in your world.
    .... Umm... Yes? XD I seriously did not consider that! D: The games really do gloss over that fact and simply have it so "one size fits all" for buildings. Granted, I don't do this with normal buildings, but this was really minor, so I didn't realize it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Wow. Super ****ing inventive. I realized it right before I read this quoted bit and it cranked this up for me about a dozen notches. I'm surprised and almost speechless (which is rare for me) at how much I'm getting into this
    Huh, everyone seems to be impressed about the clouds... XD Thank you, Sidewinder!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    I know that his mind wasn't working right during all this chaos, but why didn't he at least attempt to use some of his powers? Water, psychic energy, anything? Jack just doesn't seem like the type that takes anything lying down. Hmm
    ... Give me a minute while I think of a good explanation...


    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Even though there is so much going on, I know that was really hard for her. I know its only been one chapter but you've set her character up well enough for me to say that. I'm really impressed buddy


    Sorry if I'm being thick here, but I'm not understanding what the seed is
    Again, thank you. Kida is one of my favorite characters.

    And, it's an odd seed from the newest games. It's called an Encourage Seed, and while it does a different task in the games, I made it so that it did what its name implied and encouraged her.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    I get why we need to see Kida's part of the story too, and don't get me wrong, I demand that her POV stays with the story, but when Hythal asks him why he's telling him that, he has a good point. How does Jack know what Kida did and was thinking? See what I mean?
    Just you wait.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    ****ING EREBUS!
    That means a lot to me. Thanks, man!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    For as long as Jack is alive and in this story, his name will be the Cloud Breaker to me haha. So awesome
    That's fine. He's going to be known as Cloud-Breaker for a while. xD

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    I know I'm bringing this up again but why does he keep going for the axe when he obviously has considerable power and ability? I feel like it would be reflex for a Pokemon like Jack to summon a psychic wave or a jet of water to protect himself.
    I promise I will eventually establish a reason for this! D:

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Great two chapters buddy. Jack is so believable and real to me, he's really the standout of the story. I know that its centric on him but still, he's just wonderful. I could go on for a bit on my thoughts of the story as a whole, but to be honest I just had a lot of fun reading it. Period. Keep up the good work man
    Aww, thank you very much! This story really was an experiment for me. I wanted to see how well I can tell a shorter story (with shorter length), and I'm pleased it's been getting good reception!

    Sorry it took so long to reply to this, man. But, to make it up to you, Chapter Three is on its way shortly!

    Knightfall signing off...

  8. #8
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    Chapter Three: Standard of Infamy




    “It was said long ago that Pokemon crawled out of the Abyss... Based upon the violence and cruelty I see in this day and age, I wonder if we have ever left it...
    We are a species plagued by greed.

    —Historian Frederick Floatzel




    “Please cooperate... Come on, you can’t stay silent forever...” Hythal asked annoyedly. This prisoner had proved to be the most stubborn Pokémon he had ever met. Since earlier this month when the officers had dragged her in, she had made it her personal goal to make his job as hard as possible.

    A thin air of desperation hung around the floating Reuniclus. His mind began to grow fearful at the prisoner’s steadfast silence. It was his duty to get her and the others implicated in the treason charges to talk, yet every attempt to coax her words out failed miserably. She was tenacious to the extreme and Hythal knew it would take a miracle to break her will.

    Based on what her profile says, she’s special forces trained... Damnit... He thought while he uttered a quieted curse. His job could be done right now if the stiff-necked administrators of the prison would answer his requests for a Tier Three psychic, yet they refused to grant his wish. He opened his eyes and glanced at her. She, like Jack, was chained to the interrogation chair, however she was far less willing to spill her story. He floated up to her, the transparent, green cytoplasm inside him trembling with desperation.

    “Please... Your execution date is coming up. If you decide to speak, the date might get postponed! ... A-And if your story has weight... Then the courts might overturn your...” Her head, which had hung low for the past several days slowly lifted. Her tired face became etched over with a knowing grin. “...Sentence...”

    He waited, floating inches from her face, yet her words never came. Hythal let out a colorful swear against the gods.

    “Girl! You will die! They will gladly execute you without hesitation! I’m trying to help you! I really am! But I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me!” He screamed, his fiery eyes staring into her apathetic glare. He sighed, nearly defeated. His body sagged in mid-air while his mind raced for a solution to their impasse. Suddenly, it clicked. There was something.

    “Your partner is currently spilling his story. We just took a break actually, it’s coming along quite well... He knows what’s best for his life, you should do the sa—GAH!” His gelatinous neck suddenly constructed as a pair of razor-sharp claws sunk into it. For a moment, he was stunned, beyond the help of his limited mental abilities. The prisoner, somehow free of her bonds and standing on the table, hoisted him up to her face. Hythal had seen multitudes of expressions in his time as a jailer, but it would only be hers that struck the fear of the legends into him.

    “Do. Not. Lie. To. Me...” She hissed through her disused vocal chords. Hythal nodded his organelle head furiously even while her claws dug in deeper to his membrane. “Jack ... Jack did not talk..”

    “O-Okay! Okay! Okay! Let me go!” He screamed pathetically. However, her tired, bloodshot eyes showed little room for reasoning or mercy. She growled, lifted him above her head, and flung him to the ground. He slammed into the wall with a sickly splat. The tiny, underdeveloped body spread out within the malformed cytoplasm.

    She leaped off the table, her claws drawn, and turned towards the fallen officer. Hythal couldn’t scream, mostly because his head was still rejoining with his body. Just before swung down her claws for a killing blow, she froze. Hythal shut his eyes as a shocking, yellow aura enveloped her body. The prisoner let out a feral-like screech and twisted upon her attackers.

    Hythal couldn’t see the ensuing fight beyond the tipped interrogation desk, but by the time he had reformed and lifted himself into the air, it was over. Surrounded by six Magnemite and a Bisharp, she lay panting amid her hastily made restraints. Smoke drifted off her fur while the putrid odor of burnt hair filled the small, stone chamber.

    Gripping her with their magnets, all of the Magnemite lifted her stubborn form, and muscled her back into the chair. Once they refastened the chains she had miraculously slipped through before, the droids radioed each other their success. On the other side of the room, the Bisharp officer approached a trembling Hythal.

    “... Get back to the Golduck. This one is beyond your capabilities. I will have her reassigned to someone that is more adapt at interrogation,” He hissed, his voice cold and grated with irritation. Belittled and humiliated, Hythal’s body sagged in midair.

    “Yessir...” As he floated past the chained traitor, he swore he saw her mouth curl into a curt smile.




    “Cloud-Breaker...” The wizened Ampharos gazed intently at the panting Golduck. They sat on opposite sides of the room with a dim shard of a Luminous Orb in between. “Do you know what this place is?”

    Jack looked about the abandoned room. There seemed to be nothing of significance here: a few simple wooden stools and chairs, a pile of colored rugs, and several mixing bowls and utensils stacked on shelves. There wasn’t anything special here from what he could tell, yet he knew the eccentric Ampharos had a point to his question.

    “I... I do not. What is this place?” The Ampharos sucked in a tired breath and pressed his paw to his forehead.

    “So much you do not know... There is so much...” Jack remained silent, not wishing to object to the claim. He raised his head and stared at him, his eyes narrowing at the blue-feathered Pokémon. “Let us start from the beginning then. Do you know where you are right now? What is the name of this place?”

    “Saltus Valley, ma’am— I mean, sir!” Jack quickly returned, fumbling over his words as his thoughts wandered to Kida. He wondered where the Zangoose could possibly be in this wide valley, or if she was even within it at all.

    “Very good, Cloud-Breaker. But to be more precise, you are in the village of Caer Gfan within the southwest side of Saltus Valley. Now, Cloud-Breaker, you are of the Kingdom, are you not? Tell me, when was the last time you heard the humble name of this valley said in the lands beyond?” The Ampharos began digging in his worn satchel for something.

    Jack wracked his thoughts. Saltus Valley, despite being the central focus of their original mission, was a new name to him. Not anywhere in the wide lands of Verus had he heard the name before.

    “Your puzzled face says it all, Cloud-Breaker.” He shifted himself against the wall and pulled out a small, parchment map from his bag. With careful paws, he unrolled it and placed it in front of Jack. “It does not appear on most Kingdom maps. Anyone who does business with us already knows where we are and we have little need to leave. We make our own decisions about our lifestyle and simply pay the Kingdom’s taxes every year. We are little more than a splotch of land the king can glean for coins...” The Ampharos’s voice darkened. “Yet... They sent you here. Tell me, young Golduck. Why do you think that is? We have nothing here, much less anything that should cause this accursed winter...” He trailed off, rolling the map back up, and stowing it away.

    The gears in Jack’s head turned while he tried to keep warm in the drafty house. Outside in the darkness, shuffling and scratches beat at the sturdy, clay walls and roars resounded across the frozen forest. Trying to keep his thoughts collected and calm, Jack forced himself to delve deeper into the question. If there was nothing here, then why were they here? The unnatural winter, of course, yet the cause behind it was something Kida hadn’t told them.

    “I... I don’t know... What happened here? ... Sir?” Jack asked, stealing himself to hear what his mind already guessed.

    “They did... The Kingdom...” The older Ampharos spat bitterly. “It started last year. Suddenly a group of foreigners came marching up here, waving a deed to the glaciered land to the east. No one lived up there, so we thought nothing of it when they dragged their covered supplies and machines through the towns...” He took a deep breath and lifted his paw over the darkening shards of light. A small bolt of electricity shot forth at the crystals, reigniting them into a furious, blue light.

    “Cloud-Breaker, I would not expect you to know, but it was they who began this crisis. Through the months they were here, the stranger things became. Pokémon who once loved and respected each other were suddenly as cold and distant as the glaciers...” He brought his paw to his eyes, wiping away his weariness and sadness. Jack could only shiver as he took in the Ampharos’s claim. His head pressed against his knees and he whispered to himself that the story was false. Yet, even while the cold bit at his skin, he knew it was likely true.

    “I hear your whispers, Cloud-Breaker. Yet, you know the truth. Do not defend your Kingdom, for they are the root of the evil curse here. They are the ones who poisoned Saltus Valley and the inhabitants within it... Filling them with artificial thoughts of greed and malice.” The Ampharos scratched his head. “I do not know exactly how they did this, but I saw its effects upon our good, innocent populace... And then, came the day...”

    Jack’s bill quivered in the cold. Shaking badly from the chilled air, he scooted himself closer to the healer. He was slightly worried that he offended the mystic by getting closer, yet the Ampharos simply nodded and beckoned the Golduck to sit beside him.

    “Come close, Cloud-Breaker. We all must love each other now in these cold times. The warmth of our hearts is almost as good as any fire,” he said with a huff. Once Jack had settled himself next to the aged Pokémon, the story continued. “... It was that day, not long ago. It happened about a week after the great, twisted Rainbows of Hope returned to our skies. That day, a normal, peaceful day here, there was a flash. A brilliant beam of light shot forth from the eastern glaciers.” The mystic sucked in a ragged breath, cringing at the memory. Pressing his mouth shut, Jack placed a hand over the Ampharos’s. The healer instantly turned to face him, stubborn tears sliding down his face.

    “... Your trust and comfort mean much to me, Cloud-Breaker, yet that alone will not free me of that day...” He coughed and straightened up, breathing freely. “... The air turned blue that day and a rumble quaked our feet. In an instant, a wave of ice covered the land. I was shielded, yet many among those were lost,” He chuckled suddenly. Jack gave him a bewildered look, wondering if the elder had given up his sanity.

    “Fear not for me, Cloud-Breaker. I am just reminiscing. You remind me of myself ... If only at a younger time in my life...” He coughed and got up. Jack could hear his stiff joints pop with his moment and the orb on his tail flashed. The Ampharos knelt down and picked two small blankets. Inspecting them carefully, he tossed one towards the freezing soldier who snatched it out of the air as if it was a safety rope on a mountain slope.

    “T-Thanks... S-Sir..” Jack replied through his chattering teeth. He groaned to himself, knowing none of his moves would do him any good at keeping away the cold. Wrapping the blanket around himself, he curled next to the Luminous Orb crystals in the center of the room.

    “You do not have to call my anything formal, yet in lieu of knowing my name, you may call me ‘Sir’ if you wish, Cloud-Breaker,” The Ampharos smiled, seeming satisfied with the nickname he gained. With a small flourish of his stiff hands, Sir hung his blanket around his shoulders and leaned against the wall beside him. “And no, Golduck. We shall not call ourselves by name for now. Perhaps when this crisis is at its end, but not now... Also, you owe me your life from before. You will be taking the first watch. I will not ask you to go outside, but you must remain vigilant... But you are a soldier, are you not? I should not have to tell you this.” His chest expanded and contracted gently, signaling that the older Pokémon was settling into sleep.

    “Until a short while, Cloud-Breaker... Pray for the morning. Pray as if the gods listened...” Sir muttered, turning on his side, and eventually falling silent aside from his light snores. Jack meanwhile shivered, counting on his clouded breath the second tick by in the bitter night. His heart, less fearful than before, still, however jumped at the maddening, guttural howls of the Frost-stricken monsters that roamed the land.

    Seeing little else he could do, Jack bent his head against his paws. He searched through his memories, seeking for any prayer the Whiscash elder had taught him in his youth.




    “So, you claim that King Nickolas authorized the placement of... Whatever caused the disaster in Saltus Valley?” Hythal roughly asked, grilling the Golduck once he finished this segment of his farfetched story.

    The former soldier of Gold Squad lifted himself up in his chains. He gave the Reuniclus a fatigued stare, coughed, and spat a glob of phlegm onto the filthy, stone floor.

    “Nickolas? ... No, not him. I don’t think he was part of this... No, the Senate... It was them who assigned us this suicide mission! It was the Chancellor! He delivered the mission personally to Ki—Commander Kalitka!” Jack thundered back, his chest heaving rapidly beneath his restraints. “Hythal, this is the truth! The Chancellor knew about the disaster!”

    “Of course he did! It’s his job to know when a calamity strikes in the Kingdom! Yet here you are marking him as a traitor,” Hythal shot back, remaining a respectful distance away from the struggling Golduck while a ink-dipped quil scribbled notes down on a piece of parchment in the air beside the officer. “Prisoner appears to be experiencing acute paranoia and delusions of persecution. Recommend screening for mild schizophrenia before going further with interrogation.”

    Jack’s sunken eyes shot open and he sat straight up in the wooden chair. His claws clutched at the splintery armrests while a subtle pool of water began to condense on his arms from the air.

    “No! I’m not insane! You screened me before!” The former-corporal screamed, the water rippling along his chained arms. “This isn’t right! Let me finish my story! And you’ll see just how right I am!”

    Hythal shrugged, psychically folded up the parchment, and watched as it blinked out of existence.

    “You have until the officials get here with the screeners to continue, Jack. Best make the most of it,” The blob of cellular material retorted, watching the Golduck seethe in his bonds.

    “You—! Gah! Know what?! I’ll continue! You’ll see I’m right!”




    Jack awoke to the sounds of the death of the world. All around him, from outside the tiny, cold hut, the dawn sun shone through the gaps of the mountains down upon the frozen valley. And from the light, he heard the creatures that stalked all around them the night before scream and hide. His tired, bloodshot eyes were held open by their terrible screeches.

    He turned to his side, tossing the blanket away. His hand clutched his groaning stomach while he lay in the grey light. Sir slept soundly beside him, seemingly unaffected by the chores of Erebus’s demons wailing about their frail bastion. As his stomach growled angrily again, he slowly stumbled to his feet. Jack fumbled about his belt for anything that might be of sustenance.

    For once, the uncaring gods smiled down upon him. His nearly-numb hands trembled, pulling on the tiny, drawstring pouch from his belt and dumped its contents into his cupped hand. A few pitifully-small, dried Cheri and Pecha raisins. Hardly enough to fill his stomach, yet it would do to drive hunger away for a small while longer.

    I’ve certainly gone a lot longer with a lot less.” He shook the half a dozen berries in his hand before he tipped them into his maw, chewing them a few times for the dried flavor, and swallowing.

    “Ah... So you are awake, Cloud-Breaker? Good, good...” Sir groaned, stirring from under the thin blanket and shaking off the layer of frost that accumulated over him. The Ampharos blinked and looked out the window. “Dawn’s far off yet, but it’s time we move. There is little time for us.”

    As the dawn rose upon the forsaken place, Jack and the elder packed up their meager supplies and swiftly exited the desolate village. Around them, the stiff and silent forest only made the foreboding sense of dread worse and worse. When the fiery circle of light finally rose beyond the fractured clouds, Jack looked to the mountains. Their vast, innumerable faces sneered back.





    Ice. It surrounded her, bit into her fur, and crept into her blood. Her lungs stung, the stale air only burning her throat with every breath she took. It had tortured her for so long, she had no idea how long she had been under its grasp. A haze drifted over her eyes and head. She tried to focus and concentrate her thoughts on freeing herself, but her body wouldn’t cooperate.

    Kida shivered, a small whine escaping from her numb lips while her claws refused to move. She had fallen from the mountain. Fallen for a day and night, through the light and darkness and into the frozen hell of Erebus. Azelf kept her will burning bright in her heart, but it was not enough to thaw her wet, numb limbs. Somehow, she was not broken from her fall down the slope. Only bruised, frozen, and laying buried in a crevasse.

    The Zangoose grunted, her stiff legs kicking against the tremendous weight of the powdery snow on top of her. Several clods of snow broke free and fell from the ceiling of her tiny air pocket. Immediately she ceased her efforts, trying to preserve what little air she had left. Kida slowly clenched her claws, bringing back what little feeling was left in them. Painfully, she drew her arms to her chest and attempted not to panic.

    The Encourage Seed she had taken hours prior was all but exhausted from her body and she knew it. The insidious feelings of doubt snaked through her frigid head; her personal demons from Erebus hissing into her mind. The seed had dispelled them, but now they returned with greater force than ever before. Bent on destroying her impetus for surviving with their biting words and slashing chants. Kida shook her head and grit her teeth, unable to do much else to ease her fears in her icy coffin.

    Vibrations. Gentle shudderings of the snow above her. Powder fell into her face, causing her to sputter and gag on the cold dust. Her body began to race, fighting back the demons wanting to chain her to her cold demise. Kida worked her claws down her chest through the layers of fallen snow. She bit her tongue from the intense chill that spread up her arms, but she dug through until she reached the leather belt around her waist. Grunting, she forced her trembling paws into the pouches.

    “C-come on! Come on!” Her weak words meant little to the weighted snow or the numbness making it difficult to move. She lay still for a moment, gathering her strength and feeling. The thumping vibrations were fading. A lightning strike of fear electrified her body. Whoever was up there was her only chance of making it out of here alive. She couldn’t let them leave.

    Hissing with frustration, her claws extended, and sliced through the leather straps holding the pouch in place. She instinctively grabbed the loose sack and brought it to her chest, spilling the few contents out on her snow-covered fur. The Zangoose panted as her sight grew hazy, her body trembling under the forces of asphyxiation. She knew Dialga was not on her side. Time was running thinner than the viable air in the small pocket beneath the ice.

    Kida’s eyes narrowed, trying to see through the creeping tendrils of darkness. Her shaking paws brushed over the colorful seeds on her chest, the only keys to salvation. In her fading sight, she managed to find what she sought: a small, bright red seed. She hesitated in taking it—under normal circumstances, the seed was a risk to both self and others. Under these dire, close-quarter conditions, it was nothing short of suicide.

    Be calm, Kida... Stay calm... You don’t need that seed to think. Take a breath and use your head, Kida...

    However, the thumping footsteps of her potential rescuers grew more distant and her air less breathable with each passing second. There was no alternative other than a suffocating death. Taking what might have possibly been her last breath, she took the volatile seed in her paws, pressed it against the crumbling ceiling of snow, and snapped it in half.

    At once, a great tongue of crimson fire erupted from the tiny kernel. It laughed and cackled, eager to be finally free of its shackles and eat away at the snow and fur. The explosion rattled the snow. Kida yelped weakly, pulling her paws away as the flames seared the fur on her arms. A torrent of lukewarm water rained down on her.

    She kicked and struggled, trapped by the falling snow and melt-water caused by the Blast Seed’s fire. Kida screamed, only forcing more water down her stinging throat. Numbness froze her limbs and she could only twitch underneath the gurgling flood.

    The vibrations returned in a fury, shaking the snow and water more than any earthquake. In a blinding instant, the thick iron claws of some huge creature clamped around her forearm. With a near-shoulder-dislocating lurch, Kida was pulled through several feet of half-melted snow and slush into the shaded surface. The moment she was free, she dropped to the ground, her legs instantly failing her. Kida gasped like a Magikarp on the shore, sputtering and heaving up lungfuls of water.

    “Comman’r! Haya, o’er here! Found ‘er! Found Kalitka!” The contents of her stomach seared her throat alongside the taste of blood. Her lips trembled, matted with bile and blood while her burned paws clutched her stomach. The light, dim as it was, blinded her and she pulled her knees to her chest, shivering in the snow.

    “Kal! Kal! Come on, Comman’r! Get up, ma’am!” After what seemed an eternity in the darkness, her mind flipped a small switch. The thickly accented voice slowly registered in her head to belong to Calur the Aggron. “Heyo! Efang! Get o’er here and help! ... Fer the love of Mew ... YES! Kalitka’s alive! No, I’m not see’n things!.... Oh gods... No! No! No! Efang, move! Gods!” Calur roared, making the snow vibrate under her prone body. A shadow loomed over her and a pair of huge, rough claws scooped her numb body from the frozen ground. She was pressed against the biting steel armor of the Aggron’s chest, but he didn’t let her go.

    “D-Don’t worry, Comman’r... Ol’ Cal will git you outta this mess... I promise.” She couldn’t see much beyond her own paws and the giant Pokémon’s protective embrace. By the sudden lurches in momentum, she could tell that they were moving fast. “D-Don’t worry! I-I said n-not to worry, Kal! D-Don’t worry!”

    As much as she was able, Kida was worrying. Calur was never one to panic. In all his years of service, even before she had joined Gold Squad, she’d never seen the veteran Aggron bat an eye at the worst war crimes and disadvantageous positions they’d been in. He was the literal rock on which she often steadied herself against, and now there was something she couldn’t see that had him scared out of his mind. For once, she was glad that she couldn’t see the threat.

    Despite being in an openly hostile situation, the Zangoose was quickly losing the will to keep her eyes open. The jostlings of Calur’s movements only aided her desire to bury her wet and cold self into the Aggron’s arms and sleep. Even as she tucked her head into his armor she could still hear the panicked screams of the hardened soldier and the horrific host of feral roars that grew louder and louder with each passing second.




    Thirteen Days Prior:
    Silver Coast Imperial Palace— Hall of the Kings




    Silver glittered from the walls of the final stronghold of aristocracy. The muffled sounds of the town gently drifted through the multitudes of open windows on the private, royal promenade. A stranger walked among these privileged halls. Her commoner claws clacked against the elegant slabs of polished marble lining the floors. Paintings of czars, kings, and princes long dead to the world stared at her from atop their mountains of golden spoils.

    “Lucario the Explorer... Michael Peace-Taker... Peter War-Changer... Alexandria Queen of Elysium....” The Zangoose addressed each portrait of past monarchs of Verus out of respect. Each hard, cruel gaze of the Lucarios only hastened her walk through the wide hall. The disapproving glares of the royal line beat down upon her: a mere commoner in the house of virtual gods of the land.

    It seemed to be only her in the magnificent, empty palace. There was no patter of servants’ feet hastening to indulge their master’s wishes. There was hardly a sound in this wing of the Imperial Palace, and the slightest tap of her claws was echoed off the expansive marble flooring. Ahead, barely noticeable in the lavish, silver-gilded mansion, a hushed conversation wafted through an open study door. Taking a deep breath, Kida tightened her belt and straightened her scarf and badge.

    “Alexei... You must understand...— can’t expect you to see the reason why for the execution, but.... — I’m sorry, my son...” Kida gulped, hearing the distinct, hard-but-genuine tone of the current Lucario king address the royal prince. Bottling up her timidness under the effects of her most recent Encourage Seed, she raised her paw to the cracked-open, wooden door and gave a few soft knocks.

    “Ah! She’s right on time! Wait right there, Alexei,” Nickolas’s voice boomed from within the study just before the door swung outwards, revealing the stern, but pleased Lucario, adorned in his casual attire—a single shining-silver sash and a thin band of gold encircling his forehead.

    “Come in, Commander Kalitka. My Senate informs me that your squad has accepted the mission?” He stated, it not being a question she was supposed to answer. With a nod of her head, Nickolas moved aside, motioning for her to enter the lavish, private chamber.

    She gave a slight bow and swiftly straightened her back. With the discipline of the soldier she’d been trained to be, Kida walked inside. The door clicked shut behind her immediately afterwards and the regal Lucario strode back to the center of the room. Holding her silence, Kida quickly glanced about the ornate study. Silver trim glinted softly off the pure white walls while the sunlight streamed in through the paneled window.

    “It is good of you to come. I would very much like to discuss a matter with you...” Nickolas began, sitting back in a stuffed, velvet chair. However, a smaller voice interrupted.

    “Father...? I-Is that her?” Kida gasped slightly, breaking her focus on the king’s stern expression and twisting to her left. Standing there, timidly turning over a piece of paper in his paws, was a Riolu. The older Lucario nodded, poorly hiding an exasperated sigh.

    “Yes. This is the commander I told you about that would be visiting the palace. Her squad is—”

    “Gold Squad! Heroes of Arbok’s Ridge and many, many more places in Verus!” The boy stated excitedly, his voice revealing his youth and also his closeness to adulthood. “I’ve read all about your squad’s deeds in quelling the Sapphiria region and Sawgrass Town! Oh, I’m so happy to meet you in person, Commander!” The royal prince’s face beamed as he happily recounted her team’s most infamous missions to date. Alexei’s paws grabbed onto hers and shook in an enthusiastic greeting. Kida’s eyes shot to the king, who looked disapprovingly at the scene and gave a slight shake of his head to her.

    “W-Well, it’s certainly an honor to meet you as well, Your Royal Highness. I and my squad were simply doing our job for the Kingdom.” There, that wasn’t hard at all. Just a simple, respectable response. The Riolu in monarchical attire didn’t need to know that her squad had simply murdered the previous king of the neighboring kingdom of Sapphiria and sent the region into anarchy. And as for Sawgrass Town, Kida desperately hoped that the prince had only heard the censored version instead of the horrid details in that hell.

    “Oh, no! It’s truly great to meet you! I’ve wanted to talk to one of you...” The prince’s voice faded into silence at a wave of the king’s paw.

    “Yes, Alexei has often told me of his desire to see a squad leader. He admires you all so much...” Nickolas commented, overriding his son’s own statements while Kida remained respectfully silent. It would be utter insanity on her part to dare speak out against the Lucario.
    “At any rate, thank you for indulging his curiosities. Perhaps you both may talk more another time...”

    Alexei’s large eyes widened with the hope of another time. There was a small pause in the talk before the king waved his paw towards the door. With a resigned nod, the Riolu began to slowly walk out of the room. Part of Kida’s heart, which was trained to resist such emotional weaknesses, pained to see the eager prince forced from the chamber. He was almost old enough to be considered an adult and, in her opinion, he carried himself in such a manner— except for that childlike eagerness. He deserved something; he needed a memento to keep.

    Thinking fast, Kida looked down at the weathered satchel on her shoulder. The brown, leather bag was among the thousands of others used by explorers the world over, yet this one carried the seal of the Kingdom embroidered with silver thread on the flap. She hadn’t packed it heavily— in fact, it was nearly empty from after her last mission. There was nothing of value left in it, maybe a few seeds, coins, and rope, but nothing more. With a shrug, she shook off the strap and held it in his direction, blocking his exit.

    “W-Wha...?” He inquired, reeling from the sudden object in front of him. Trying to ignore the burning gaze of the king, she only jiggled the bag in front of him. His eyes looked to hers, asking without words if he could accept. She nodded.

    “Take it. Go find your own adventures with it.” She smiled as the Riolu snatched the battered bag and clutched it to his chest protectively. He gave a rapid bow to her before nearly sprinting from the room. The instant the study door closed behind him, the king spoke up.

    “... Normally, I would have not allowed that. My son should not be encouraged to crawl through some dungeon when he needs to be learning how to rule...” Kida cringed. This meeting was going downhill very fast. She needed to turn it around fast before she further insulted the ruler. “...But, I have not felt his happiness soar so high in a long time... Only his mother was capable of that... So, this time, I will allow him to keep the gift, Commander.”

    A genuine thanks from the king was not something given every day. Bowing her head lightly, Kida stammered a hurried response. The tall Lucario shifted in his seat, placing one leg over the other. With a sweeping wave of his paw, he directed her to sit down on the plush couch opposite him. There was no hesitation on her part. He cleared his throat with a cough.

    “... Now that we are alone, I wish to discuss with you the mission to Saltus Valley you accepted from my Senate...” Nickolas said, holding his paws together and staring at her. His striking, blue eyes commanded her complete attention. “You are aware that a disaster has occurred there, I assume. However, Kalitka, do you know that the leaders of Platinum, Diamond, and Silver Squads all rejected the mission?”

    “... That is news to me, Your Majesty...” Kida replied calmly, but behind her stony face held a sudden flood of doubt. The Chancellor had not told her this when she accepted. The Scyther only gave her a cold smile and a curt nod while her pawprint and badge number were stamped the mission papers. “... Chancellor Darnéy did not inform me of that.”

    Nickolas sighed and shook his head, however, not in disappointment. Kida couldn’t place the emotion, but the unbreaking gaze seemed to call out to her that she made a grave mistake.

    “... Nothing can be done if you signed the papers. Backing out now is treason... While reversal is no longer an option, I want to take this chance in private conversation to tell you that the incident in Saltus Valley is not a mere rescue mission as the papers state.” The Lucario paused to undo his position, lean forward, and pour himself a small cup of Oran tea from an ornate pitcher to a glass cup. The liquid was no longer steaming, most likely several hours cold, but Nickolas seemed not to care. He raised it to his muzzle and drank in slow, measured sips.

    “Your squad will face a great danger there, from what my sources tell me. Something horrible has happened there, and I, no, all of the Kingdom is relying on you to find the truth and destroy it,” His stern voice stated after he finished off the tea, placing the cup back on the saucer.

    Kida simply sat there on the exquisite couch. Her paws pressed into the fabric while she listened and with his final statement, her claws extended, ripping into the stuffing. She wouldn’t act like she didn’t know what he meant. She had long been privy to the Kingdom’s orders to destroy any and all incriminating evidence of their mission and only leaving behind the praiseworthy details. However, the king had asked her to do something completely opposite of Senate’s mission.

    “D-Destroy it? ... Sir, begging your pardon, but the mission told me to recover any artifacts found there...” Kida ventured, her face exuding confusion through her stoic persona. Nickolas nodded in affirmation.

    “... Kalitka? Do forgive me, but I wish to share another topic with you briefly. Do you know your archaic mythology? Specifically from the very beginning of the Abysmal Eras before the Kingdom’s founding by Lucario the Explorer?” The Lucario asked, almost off-handedly, seemingly more concerned with flipping through a small, leather book he picked up from the table beside his tea cup.

    “I do, Your Highness. It was part of my training to learn about the history of Verus... And I took great interest in the Abyssmal Eras literatures. I...” She trailed off, silenced by a wave of his paw.

    “Good, good. Well, allow me to share a tale you may have heard before, then. I do hope you’ll indulge me and listen attentively, Commander.” Kida nodded immediately. There was no way she was going to show any signs of resisting him, however subtle they were. Nickolas held the power to sack her position on a whim, so she stayed silent for his tale.

    “The Legend of the Marble King states that eons ago, before the Kingdom, there was a king who ruled a mighty state— truly a kingdom to rival all kingdoms, even this Kingdom. If the legends are to be believed, I only rule a fraction of his mighty empire...” He coughed once, flipping a few pages in the book. “There was great turmoil in his land. War was rampant, famine starving the world, and the death toll mounting... By his own hand, he crafted a way to end the war and begin the First Abysmal Era. A power so great that the resulting peace lasted for three thousand years...” He paused for a moment, glancing up at her. Kida straightened in her seat and perked her ears up.

    “But in between the moment the war ended and the long peace, the king was driven from his city by his enemies. His kingdom broken down and destroyed—never to be recovered. It is claimed that as he fought to protect his city of light with all his might. Legend has it that on the day the siege broke, the king leapt up on the walls and tore away his royal attire and crown. He yelled to his soldiers that the he would not fall while breath remained in his body and fought among them as the walls fell.”

    Kida patiently waited for the king to continue. She had heard this tale dozens of times before. It was among the most well-known legends of that age. Many politicians she and her squad spied and assassinated were fond of using it in their speeches to signify unwavering leadership. It was a huge, almost-sickening load of jingoism for whatever nation said Pokémon was from. However, instead of ending the tale where it usually did, in the famous last words and death, Nickolas continued.

    “The enemies never found his body among the slain. According to the ancient accounts, an angel— some scholars say Cresselia, and I am inclined to agree— rescued him at the last moment. To spare his life, she spirited him away to the bitterly cold mountains in this very lands, just beyond Saltus Valley, or so they say. There, Cresselia froze him into marble, so that he would remain until he was awakened to reclaim his empire.”

    Kida was still as a statue while the Lucario finished off his story. That had been a version she’d never heard before. She always thought the name “The Marble King” signified the ancient king’s resolute leadership and was not actually literal. A fancy analogy for politicians to use, nothing more.

    Nickolas put down his book and looked into her with his piercing, blue eyes. For an instant, she was frozen where she sat.

    “Commander Kalitka. Since you go into Saltus Valley, I urge you to listen to the myth’s advice. Do not wake the Marble King from his slumber. This world is not yet ready to face his wrath...”

    With that, the meeting was over. Nickolas said nothing more to her. He ushered her to the door and within moments, Kida found herself standing outside the palace gates, somewhat dazed and bewildered at the whirlwind of events. He only wanted to tell her a story. A simple story. No vital information, no tips on how to tackle the mission, only a fairy tale.

    She faced her waiting squad minus one exploration bag, a great deal of patience, and time they could not spare.

    “Let’s go. We’ve got a lot of ground to over, boys...”


    Present Day, Silver City

    “My liege, these are very tenuous times... Gold Squad has failed in their objective. So, rather than endangering more lives, experts must be called in. Covert operations, sir. There is no alternative,” The mantis reported, a hiss ending his dialogue.

    “... As much as I loathe the idea, it seems we have no other options.” The lupine figure slumped in his favorite ornate chairs, yet it brought him little comfort. Across from him, the creature he had come to call his rival glared back at him and nodded.

    The future was sealed and a fresh shadow fell across the room. And the world.




    End Chapter 3


    Last edited by Knightfall; 25th May 2014 at 3:58 PM.

  9. #9
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    So, if I am guessing correctly, the failure was considered treason? Or is there more to this?

    Anyway, good couple of chapters, I have to wonder if it was the Marble Kings power that caused the Frostbite infection or if it was some other entity.

    Loved how Kida beat the crap out of Reuniclus, always fun to see interrogaters get the odds turned against them.

    I also wonder what role the Ampharos elder will have, I guess I have to wait and see in the next chapter.

    Looking forward to the next installment. Keep it up man.

    (See, I can keep a promise.)


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
    -Azurus

  10. #10
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    “State your name and species clearly into the Frism.”

    There is always a time for everything, a time for growth, a time for decay, a time for summer, a time for winter. Everything has its rightful place of when, where, and how it is supposed to occur. Dialga’s mighty heart determines how far and fast the stream of time will flow, whether it will strike rapids, or burst its banks at the slightest agitation. There is a time to live, and there is a time to relinquish the desperate hold on the mortal realm to transcend onto a higher plane.

    “Did you not hear me? State your name and species.”
    This was a really good way to start out. I can imagine whoever is being told this is thinking about the transient state of life and is totally ignoring the speaker. Beautiful descriptions, too.

    “Ranking: Gold Badge: First Class, Kingdom Disaster Response and Containment Unit, otherwise known as Gold Squad. Charges: Serving my king dutifully, preventing a mass genocide, and destroying the most dangerous artifact in Verus.” Jack felt the psychic force from the disgruntled officer paralyze his upper body and smash his unvolunteering head into the wood.
    This golduck's got a lot of guts, that's for sure.
    Splinters. Why in the name of Suicune’s Wind did we have to use the cheapest galleon of the fleet for this job? The one ship that had to be built entirely out of splinters...
    Lol, I like the "Suicune's Wind" curse here. Making curses out of pokemon legendaries is always fun. :~)

    Jack was unprepared for the assault by his physical squadmate and felt his legs buckle under the massive pressure forced down on them.
    Wouldn't use the word "assault," it sounds more dramatic than it needs to be. It was just a pat on the shoulder, after all.

    “Still the best batch of Silver Poké I ever spent,” he remarked as he patted the ever-sharp edges supposedly forged from the skin of a Registeel. Jack doubted the validity of the claim, but the dual-sided pick had yet to fail him and it made for a good story, so he allowed the rumor to persist.
    Like this little bit of worldbuilding here.
    It had become a tradition to spend at least one night before an operation stargazing, but now it this simple pleasure was being denied to him.
    Remove the second "it" or it doesn't make sense!
    In a whirlwind of actions, Jack found himself hastily scarfing down a breakfast made of a healthful mush of a plethora of berries plucked from near their camp.
    The two "of a" clauses so close together made this sentence particularly difficult to read.
    It was quickly established that Terminance was not fit for food preparation by the fact that he tried to argue that topsoil could provide basic sustenance.
    A perfect, cute, and funny fit for a trevenant.

    “Then why accept it? You’ve rejected dangerous missions before, why not now?” Jack inquired as he leaned up against the mountain beside her. Her mouth pressed in a stern frown as she seemed to mull over an answer in her mouth.

    “I ... I don’t know. Nickolas came to me himself, Jack. How can I refuse the king? And with all the rewards and promotions they promised to our squad if we succeeded ... Well, I couldn’t say no.” She stopped for a second as she turned her head away from him.

    “But, I’ve been dealing with this feeling of dread. That something terrible is going to happen to all of us and it’ll be out of my control to stop. No one knows what happened in Saltus Valley, so we’re going in there blind. We’ll have to be careful,” Kida allowed as she looked up at the foreboding peaks.
    You do a good job at building suspense with the Reuniclus-drilling-Golduck breaks and particularly with this section. Well done.

    Her mind raced; memories of her training flashed in her head. She needed an idea— that and a miracle if she was to survive the plumet.
    "plummet"
    She wanted nothing more in the world then to reverse the decisions she’d made in the last week.
    "than" not "then"

    There are some of us here who wish to thank you for bringing back the sun to our frozen sky,” The older Ampharos elaborated and extended a paw to Jack.
    Un-capitalize "The"

    Jack’s vision began to weave in and out. He hadn’t been awake for ten minutes and he was being shoved into a world of sickness and ice. “Now you see, Cloud-Breaker, do you not? The sickness that eats us? Since the ice came, so has the clutches of infection... The children were among the first to fall.” Jack put his hands against his ears. This was enough. He wanted no more. Regardless of what they did for him, he knew he could not stay. He could not listen to the rambles of sickness and ice any longer.
    I would think someone like Jack, who's been in the Gold Squad for quite some time now, could handle these kinds of sights by now?

    “Maybe you shall walk the blessed fields again. There be promise in eternity; the world will again be green and bright. If your heart be as pure as your deeds, then you shall go before me. Drink up the new world. Be born anew in its splendor. Treasure everything you see. Be you rested and hale. Take in the golden hue. Maybe, if the legends will it so, I will walk there too...”
    Beautifully written and it's a perfect voice for the Ampharos considering what we know about him thus far.


    “It was said long ago that Pokemon crawled out of the Abyss... Based upon the violence and cruelty I see in this day and age, I wonder if we have ever left it...
    We are a species plagued by greed.
    —Historian Frederick Floatzel
    Your writing style is perfect for these kinds of quotes. Just saying.

    Around them, the stiff and silent forest only made the foreboding sense of dread worse and worse. When the fiery circle of light finally rose beyond the fractured clouds, Jack looked to the mountains. Their vast, innumerable faces sneered back.
    Perfect imagery for a dreadful time as such as the time Jack is going through.

    Your description is really great, though a little overdone at times. Try to say as much as you can in as little words as possible. I also love your worldbuilding skills, particularly your use of the in-game items such as Blowback Orb and the Blast Seed. Really creative and inspiring. Your characters are also pretty great. I enjoy Kida and Jack's interactions a lot and I'm really rooting for them both. My only problem lay with Hythal, who seemed pretty confident with Jack, but really weak with Kida. Not sure why that was. Also, I'm sorry it took so long to get to this!
    YOU AND ME AND THE DARK MAKE LIGHT.
    | | survival project | | phantom project | |
    | | flying in the dark | | love and other nightmares | |

  11. #11
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    @Diamondpearl876 Thank you very much for your review! I have made the changes you pointed out and I am flattered that you like the story so far. And, as for being more concise with my writing, trust me. I'm trying. It's been a long process, but I'm getting there. And, as for Hythal's sudden change to reacting to Kida... Well, Kida managed to break out of her bonds and can be quite scary. XD

    Now, the chapter!

    Chapter Four: Enter the Fray




    “This is the tool to end all wars, Darnéy. Give the order. The world is ready. It is time to awaken the Marble King.”
    — Administrator [REDACTED] to Chancellor Darnéy Scyther of the Kingdom Senate.




    Wind whipped by Kida’s face as the world shook. Snow and ice bit into her fur after being kicked up by the Aggron’s heavy steps. Down and down Calur carried her, barreling through anything that stood in between them and the bottom of the mountain. Solid ice and rocks shattered against his worn, steel armor as the Aggron moved faster than a Graveler shooting down a mountain slope. He might have rescued her from the avalanche, but no matter how fast he ran, Calur seemed to be losing his ground to the new threat. She squirmed in his embrace, peeking out from his grip, and saw the gates of hell open up on the slopes above.

    She heard the howls: terrible and loud, scratching at her ears the entire time during the chase. Above the wind and the Aggron’s loud breathing, she heard them. Ringing through the empty, cold mountains of Saltus Valley, the howls only grew louder and increasingly ominous with each passing second. Not even the screeches from the protesters she put down during the riots in Cobalt Town last month were that loud or persistent. However, she wanted to fight. Dying to these demons wasn’t an option.

    Snow and fragmented rocks blistered her face from Calur’s race down the slope. Kida looked back and saw them. Their horrendous howls matched their dead, rotting appearance. They weren’t Pokémon. Not anymore. However, the defining features of the demons were not their necrosis, but the ice that coated and jutted out from their putrid skin.

    A decayed Blastoise lead the charge with a broken shell and canons. A roar blasted from its cracked, frozen jaw and echoed through the mountains. Beside the roaring tortoise, a Rapidash, Shiftry, and several others, each in various states of decay stampeded through the thundering snow. Kida saw just why Calur ran instead of fight.

    “A-Almost there, Kida! I see the bottom!” Calur screamed as they went careening towards the earth. Wind blew in her face, making her fur whip back and fourth. She opened her squinting eyes just in time to see an obstructing boulder shatter instantly with a single thrust of Calur’s arm, clearing the path down the slope. Kida wasn’t sure if the Aggron was even running any more and simply surfing the frozen gravel down to the ground. Her heart pounded furiously, threatening to burst from her chest if it kept up.

    Snarls echoed behind and the beast’s icy forms leapt through the air, bearing down on the two fleeing Kingdom warriors. They were catching up to them, seemingly propelled by the strength of Erebus itself. Calur took one look behind and swore quietly before looking down. The pack was far more vast than they both could imagine; they wouldn’t be able to fight them all.

    “Alrigh’ Comm’ander! Hang on! Time to go!” Calur shouted at the top of his lungs. Kida didn’t have time to process what he meant before he squeezed her cold, wet, and bruised body to his chest and jumped into the air. They flew for a split second until gravity acted and without delay, they crashed to the slope. Ice and rock split under his weight and soon the slope transformed into a crude slide of frozen gravel beneath them. Kida simply tucked her head down and silently said good-bye.

    Efang... Terminance... Jack... I’ll miss you guys...

    Air was knocked from her lungs at the sudden lurch of Calur’s steel-plated back slamming against the slope. All around her, she saw nothing but snow spraying up around them in glorious blasts of white powder. Calur curled his body to protect her from the snow and to decrease his friction. Kida’s mouth hung open— there was no way this was happening. Calur had always had a reputation as a bulky fighter, but not a rescue strategist. Yet despite being outnumbered and nearly outrun, Cal hadn’t fought back, but instead thought up another life-saving plan.

    Kida sat on his rough stomach as she looked out over his curled, armored knees. Chased by bandits in an underground lake, sure. Surviving lethal poison clouds, done. But this... Sliding a fellow soldier down a mountain face while escaping hellish monsters ... This is new...

    Snow and ice peppered her fur, but compared to being entombed in it, this was nothing. Kida glanced back at the rapidly disappearing mountain heights and saw no trace of the demons. They had outrun them for the brief moment. We... We did—

    “Whoah! HOLD ON!” Calur suddenly screamed.

    Kida felt herself and Calur launch upwards, leaving the earth in an explosion of rock and snow. They were airborne, hurtling through the air in a long arc over the jagged slope, and rapidly approaching terminal velocity. All in all, she had faced worse odds. Digging her claws into his steely chest, she felt his thick arms surround her as their arc through the air began to decompose. Don’t worry, Cal. I’m holding on... Just get us down in one piece, please...

    Mist whipped by them and wind tore at her grip, threatening to rip her away from the only being who could keep her alive. Sound whistled over the chinks and groves in Calur’s armor, piercing her ears the way nothing had before. Fortunately, she wouldn’t have to worry any longer as her world exploded in a surge of shattered ice.

    Impact occurred in a flash of pain and sudden panic when she couldn’t feel her legs. Gasping for pained breaths, she rolled off the motionless Aggron. Her battered body slid down the side of the crater their impact created at the foot of the collassial mountains. Above her, frozen clouds rumbled at their actions, sending chunks of powdered ice down to baptise them into Saltus Valley’s cruel worldscape in rage. Dazed, legs weak, and her stomach threatening to turn itself inside out, she crawled on all fours over the flattened snow to Calur’s limp head.

    “C-Cal...?” No answer greeted her wobbling question. Grunting, she pulled herself up on her elbows and lightly tapped the dented steel on his cheeks. “C-Cal?! ...C-Come on, big guy... Wake up, Calur...” She felt the overwhelming urge to cry, but found she couldn’t. Instead, she just placed a despondent paw on his face.

    “... Kalitka? ... W-Why is your paw on my face?” Calur’s gravelly voice echoed through the rumbling valley.

    “Cal!” Kida nearly squealed, embracing the top portion of his head in an unsoldierly fashion. The battered Aggron groaned and shook his head, freeing himself before he sat up.

    “Oy! That’s gonna leave a bruise...” Kida could plainly see why. On his back, several of his rigid, steel plates were dented inward. All along his body, he bore the scars of their harrowing escape from the mountain heights. Calur shook himself off and a flurry of powdery snow fell from his dented armor. “But bruises heal in time, doncha worry, Comm’ander!”

    The next several minutes were blank for the Zangoose, most likely spent leaning against Calur’s study frame while she gasped for breath and rationalized what just happened. She had been trapped beneath the snow on the mountain after the avalanche that occurred after the sky fell. Kida groaned, rubbing her temples with her paws. It was nearly surreal, no matter which way she looked at it. But, nothing in her dizzy head could make sense of the tree-like figure quickly closing in on them.

    It took her a moment to realize the figure as Terminance. The odd but loyal tree had somehow survived the fall as well.

    “It is truly good and right that I have seen you both again. I feared for your lives, especially when you ascended that mountain. ... Calur? ... I take it you are alone with Kalitka?” The Trevenant’s dry voice was sudden and it quickly locked in Kida’s attention. She was glad that Terminance had survived as well, but she needed answers. Groaning, she lifted herself up and dusted her fur off.

    “Cal? Terminance? ... What happened to the others? Geraz? Efang? Everyone else?” She said stiffly, trying to take control of the situation again and avoid another breakdown.

    The Trevenant stiffened, his woody body trembling. She looked to the Aggron and that marked the second time she had ever seen the Aggron cry.





    “Get back on track, Kalitka. What happened after you evaded these ‘demons’ on Mount Ferlan?”

    The Zangoose growled, her arms rattling against her restraints in the stiff, iron chair. Her interrogator eyed her impassionately, tapping the table impatiently with his metal claws. She saw his lack of patience, but wasn’t about to satisfy him or his Kingdom bosses.

    “I am telling the story. You’ll hear what I want to say, Bisharp...” Kida hissed, putting extra emphasis on his species’ name. He flinched slightly, a reaction she had hoped to garner. However, instead of ordering or forcing her to talk, he simply sighed while lifting up the icy-blue Frism. The mystical, recording device sparkled in his claws. Kida watched intently as the interrogator whispered to it.

    “Prisoner is uncooperative. Will resume interrogation after prisoner has been reasoned with.” With that, his claw tapped the frozen device and the mystical recording device’s round opening immediately froze over, sealing away everything Kida had said so far forever.

    Kida glared at the Bisharp harshly while she squirmed in her bonds. Her Zangoose claws had managed to slice through the ropes holding her, but not the chains around her wrists she was still working on. A sharp, metallic clang echoed through the chamber and the fatigued Zangoose looked up to see the Bisharp officer lock the dungeon door shut. Silence hung in the air following the action as the guard quietly walked over to her, a sharpened blade raised. As soon as he was directly in front of her, his face staring into hers coldly, the claw dropped.

    However, not a hair on her body was cut.

    “... No one else is listening, Kida” the guard said with a wry smile, retracting the blades on his hands.

    Kida remained resolute for a long while, her glare not wavering until one of the Bisharp’s hand gently brushed out a tangle in her fur. At that point, her stony facade faded.

    “Thanks, Kaiser... “ she whispered, a genuine smile spread across her face.

    “No problem, Kida... Never thought I’d see you here, to be honest. Thought you and Jack would be beyond capture, you know?” he whispered, turning his head towards the door every few seconds.

    “Kaiser... Is it—” she began, but never got to finish.

    “Before you ask, no,” he grunted, as he fiddled with the lock for her chains before letting go in frustration. “I can’t get you out of here, Kida. It’s through sheer luck I managed to get myself assigned to your interrogation, but I can’t do anything else at the moment except keep up the facade and hope something opens.”

    The room had been dark before, but now Kida thought it went even darker. What little hope she had of escaping this ordeal faded further into the abyss. Sighing, the Bisharp eventually looked up at her again.

    “Listen... I know the impetus behind your and Jack’s actions... I know most of the story. I know you’re not traitors. They’ve got an execution date set, Kida. I’m trying my best to find out more, but—” Kaiser’s whispered explanation was interrupted by a swift rap on the thick wooden door. A metallic tap, but not like Kaiser’s blades. Kida’s eyes widened, if her suspicions were right, things were about to get much, much worse.

    From the other side of the sizable door, a voice sounded out in protest, demanding it be opened. While muffled, the tone was unmistakable. Bringing a hand to his mouth to signal silence, Kaiser put on his facade of the cold, passionless guard and she swiftly resumed her role of the bitter, betrayed squad leader. With a deep breath, the Bisharp pulled the deadbolt open and swung the door open for the visitor.

    It was him. Instantly, her body was filled with a rage that shook her small frame.

    “Thank you, Officer,” said the new voice, dripping with privilege and money.

    “Lieutenant, sir. Not officer. I’m ... from the Army,” Kaiser stiffly corrected, an uncertain, bitter frown on his face hid more.

    “... You will address me as ‘Governor’ not merely ‘sir,’ understood, Officer?”

    A tense moment passed as Kida watched Kaiser’s mouth twitch under his helmet. “Yes, Governor...”

    Kida jerked violently against her bindings, desperately trying to break free. An impassioned rage burned from her heart at the mere sight of the creature before her. Her claws extended behind her back, vainly trying to slice through the linked metal as the sniveling, aristocratic rat with wings walked towards her. A sneer was firmly etched into his metal beak.

    “Hello, Kalitka.” He glanced down at her bindings, clucking disapprovingly. “Freedom really doesn’t suit you, my dear. Chains really are the only way to go for the likes of you.”

    She said nothing in retort, insteading opting to silently fume in her rage towards the bird. Her head hung low, refusing to meet his gaze.

    “Hmm... I really don’t like that attitude of yours. Seems three years of playing fugitive haven’t helped it at all.” One of his wings pressed under her chin, holding her head up to his level. “Tell me, Kalitka. Do you fear me now?”

    This time, she reacted. Kida coughed once and then immediately spat straight in the Skarmory’s face.

    “Not at all, Richelieu.”




    The one thing Jack hated more than snow was being lost. Now, both those hatreds were being put to the test. Together, he and Sir hiked through the white substance that blanketed absolutely every uncovered inch of Saltus Valley. Rocks stuck to his sore, cold feet as they walked on and was putting his military training to the test.

    “Sir? Do you even know where we are going?” Jack asked, huffing for breath behind the Ampharos. Sir twisted his head back at him and glared.

    “Quiet your mouth, Cloud-Breaker. We are on treacherous territory. Walk the path and watch your steps cautiously. Erebus and evil do not sit idly while we wag our tongues,” Sir snapped back, slipping in yet another old saying into his words. Jack groaned and bit his tongue, barely hissing in his irritation. Despite the heart-to-heart they had the night before, Sir had not told him anything on what their plan was going forward. Only that the he had it in mind to melt the entire valley. Such a plan was strange, even by Jack’s standards.

    The Golduck paused where he stood, legs knee-deep in the thick snow. “Sir, considering I am a vital part of this plan of yours, I am politely asking to know what we are doing...” Nothing.

    “Sir!” Jack was running once more now, kicking aside snow furiously until he faced the resolute Ampharos. “Tell me what we’re marching off to! Please! I refuse to go a step further unless you reveal our destination!” Sir stared at him incredulously, folding his arms across his chest. Wind whipped about them both on the highroad, driving more snow over their feet.

    “I thought you trusted me, Cloud-Breaker? Apparently, this was not so. And, is it not a military strategy to not confide in one being a plan in its entirety?” The Electric-type shook his head in mock disappointment. “From your stare, it seems like you never learned of it. Well, Cloud-Breaker, unfortunately it means it is wiser for you to know little until we get to where we need to—”

    “No!” His roar echoed through the valley and Sir stiffened. Jack panted hard, looking for some way to follow up his defiance. The ice-axe in his hand rose to be level with the Ampharos’s face, yet even as he did so, Jack felt a sensation of falling and failing. It was like he was threatening his parents or friends— someone beyond his capacity for violence, despite barely knowing the Pokémon.

    His eyes glowed with an inner rage and power coursed through his body. He had given up everything. There was a choice he made back outside the caves to follow the Ampharos instead of searching for his squad. He had made the choice that claimed to be morally correct—helping the helpless restore their home from the wrongs committed against them. And he had taken the bait completely like a floundering fish.

    “ What is the plan, Sir?! Tell me!

    “The Palace... The heart of its evil enterprise—”

    Suddenly, the rocky path collapsed and a blast of energy pulsed through air, rippling it as if it was water.

    It happened without warning; one invisible explosion triggered the complete destruction of the path. Like a leaf, Jack’s body crumpled in the wind and flew in a long arc through the air. Snow provided little cushion for the Golduck as he slammed into the ground, skidding across rocks, fallen trees, and black ice. However, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as before from his fall from the sky. Groaning, he felt his training begin to kick in and the pain being ignored. Jack rose to his feet; his precious axe still gripped tightly in his bloodied hand.

    In the first few seconds, he noticed two key things: Sir was still alive, albeit in worse shape than he was in, and that the enemy responsible for the invisible strike was approaching. A black cylindrical being floated above the rubble and ice. White carvings on its body glowed menacingly while its head made a strange series of hollow clicking noises before moving closer to the two injured travelers. Jack swore. There was no escaping its line of sight—its head was encircled by ten wide, orange eyes.

    However, it looked different from any Claydol Jack had ever seen before. The black, stone-like skin was pierced from within by jagged shards of ice and its enigmatic head twitched erratically.

    “Frostbitten... Don’t get infected...” Sir wheezed from beside him, coughing up a spot of fresh blood onto the pristine snow.

    Nodding, Jack stood in front of the fallen Ampharos and held his axe tight. The deranged Claydol let out a grating screech that drilled into Jack’s ears. Cringing, Jack managed to look up to see that the floating Pokémon had vanished from atop the ruined path.

    Huffing, Jack slowly turned in a full circle, his webbed feet crunching in the dirtied snow. The Claydol was gone, but he knew that it wasn’t. All around them was the gentle quietness of the frozen landscape, but nothing else. He wanted to scan more for the elusive assailant, but Sir’s wounds were more pressing. Gnarled, barren trees stood in a silent watch all around them as Jack bent down to examine Sir’s injuries.

    “Shoulda seen that coming... Gah! Bit my tongue hard back there...” Sir groaned, leaning up slowly while spitting out another wad of blood onto the snow.

    “Come on, Sir. Let’s see it...” Jack urged, tugging at Sir’s paws that he held over his stomach.

    The Ampharos was battered, but the old Pokémon was conscious and definitely capable of hissing curses through his clenched teeth. Jack moved aside his paw and saw the worst of the wound. Fortunately, it was only an ugly splotch of discolored skin across his white stomach and a few minor cuts along his body. Jack dug in his pouch and dropped two Oran raisins in Sir’s paw.

    “Thank you, Cloud...” Sir suddenly tensed. Putting a hand on his shoulder, Jack searched the older Pokémon for a sign of discomfort, but found nothing new. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, his gaze fell on Sir’s wide, fearful eyes as they rapidly darted from Jack to his left. Without a word, Jack realized what the Ampharos was trying to communicate.

    Gripping the ice-axe in one hand, Jack stood up and spun around to face to irritate Claydol. Focusing, Jack brought his other hand to the handle as the sharpened pick began to glow a dark, watery, blue as fluid energy rushed from his body to the axe.

    “Grraaaa-AHHH!” Jack yelled as he swung the axe up towards the cylindrical Pokémon’s floating head. The creature’s orange eyes glowed and a wave of mind-squeezing pain came over him, trying to throw off the arc of his attack. It was too little, too late for the enemy.

    Craaack!

    A agonized screech nearly blasted Jack’s eardrums asunder. Barely managing to keep his eyes open, Jack saw his aim was true. Out of the ten pink eyes surrounding its wide head, only nine remained functional. Deeply embedded in the center of the cracked, crystal eye, the axe trembled in Jack’s grip. Yanking it back, it was forced out of the Claydol alongside several fragments of stone.

    Without missing a beat, Jack planted his feet firmly on the snow and held his free hand at the ready. He closed his eyes while the red jewel on his forehead glowed bright with power. Moisture condensed out of thin air in his palm and swirled rapidly under the same bluish glow of his gem. Once Jack opened his eyes again, the Claydol was fuming under its own anger and waves of energy radiated out from its damaged socket.

    As Jack sucked in a breath, the floating statue charged towards him. For two tense seconds he waited on stand-by as the swirling ball of water grew even larger in his hand. When he could see the glowing, curved lines along the Claydol’s body, his gem flashed and he launched the water from his hand. From its sphere shape, it rapidly expanded into a tremendous surge of water that slammed into the enraged Pokémon.

    Almost instantly, the stone monster was hurled back and bobbled weakly in the air. Each limb of its body barely dangled from its floating form. Visible cracks spread along its ice-ridden body like faults in the earth and corrupted psychic energy leaked from each one in a violent torrent of mauve.

    It was then the skirmish turned for the worse. Jack didn’t even have time to suck in a breath or cheer in victory when the statue Pokemon’s body suddenly glowed with a white light. Like a deadly machine, its floating arms whirled around itself, creating a whirring noise as they sliced through the air. Jack brought up his arms to protect his face, but that didn’t stop the stoney hand from shooting towards the weary Golduck.

    Several dozen pounds of rock slammed into the Corporal’s chest and knocked him clean off his feet. But it didn’t stop there. Almost instantly after the first, another detached limb socked him hard, and before he landed, its next swing around nailed his stomach. Again and again, the arms whipped about the Frostbitten Claydol and pummeled the duck. Until finally, one hit sent Jack spinning across the rough snow and left him gasping from his bruised chest.

    Tiny flecks of blue feathers peppered the ground as the Claydol’s Rapid Spin soon lost its velocity. A low grumble filled the forest as the infected Pokémon dizzily floated towards its two victims. Jack’s vision tilted and he could just make out the Ampharos getting to his feet despite wheezing heavily thanks to his wounds.

    “Go back to Erebus... Go back! Tell it to take all you demons back!” Sir screamed at the Claydol, but to no avail. Whatever sentience it may have had before the Incident was gone; it was now replaced by mindless, feral urges of preservation and to kill. Electricity crackled in between Sir’s paws as he faced the approaching, floating statue. The ice jutting from the black stone in its body glowed a bright blue as a white beam shot forth.

    Sir nimbly sidestepped the attack while a tree trunk shattered behind him. Electricity blasted from his paws and enveloped the Claydol’s body. However, despite the ferocity behind the blast, the Frostbitten Pokémon hardly seemed phased by the attack. Sir’s determined glare fell away to one of despair as their enemy shrugged off the attack and shot another white beam at the Ampharos.

    Sir moved, but not fast enough. The icy ray of energy bit into his left side and caused him to double over in the snow. Jack groaned and lifted himself up on his shaking arms. His vision went white from the sudden surge of pain and he promptly collapsed again onto his bleeding stomach.

    Sir was still standing, but barely. The Ampharos hobbled out of the way of the Frostbitten Claydol’s blasts, but grew weaker with each pass. Jack could see exhaustion wrapping its deadly tendrils around his legs as they slogged through the snow. However, the old ‘mon’s eyes still burned with the fierceness Jack had come to expect from him.

    “The Frost has taken you, friend! But not I! Let your tired soul walk in paradise and leave us, please!” Sir pleaded as his paws glowed with another, desperate attack. Tears of both exhaustion and heart-wrenching sadness welled up in his eyes.

    Just when the Claydol seemed most determined to finish off its pesky targets, it paused in midair. All but one of its orange eyes flickered around its head. Its head twitched and shook slowly while a low groan emanated from its stone body. Jack could see it clearly. Somewhere deep in its infected brain a small ember of civility was stirred by Sir’s words and burned against the icy, primal clutches of the Frost.

    “AAGHH—YA!” Sir screamed. The bright red ball of unstable energy in his paws flared as Sir lunged forwards. The glowing sphere launched from his paws and an instant later, struck the Claydol directly at its floating body.

    The air rippled as the following concussion threw all three Pokémon away from the epicenter. Jack’s usually racing mind was quiet as he flew back another few feet into the snow. Fading in and out of consciousness, Jack only faintly heard the low din of the aftermath from Sir’s powerful Focus Blast.

    Grunts and blasts continued to make the ground shake and vibrate beneath his limp body. While he wondered how he was still alive, Sir and the Claydol still seemed to be fighting for who got the chance to live a little while longer. His breathing was faint; his chest barely moved against the frozen ground. Instead of the roaring battle raging just beyond, his unfocused eyes locked on the gentle swirling flakes of snow that danced in the air. Tainted a light blue, Jack faintly thought that they matched the color of his skin as they landed on his prone form.

    There seemed be more yelling and roars—or rather, voices, but Jack was unconcerned with that. In his damaged state, he didn’t care for what Sir, the Claydol, or the possible others did. All that mattered to him now was breathing, his cold axe still clutched in his hand, and the whirling snowflakes falling from the fractured sky above.

    His dazed gaze followed the snow all the way up from where they spawned. Barely registering the bursts of wind and minute explosions rumbling the ground from the battle beside him, he tried to squint to see the sun. What remained of the icy cloud covering did its job at blocking the sun’s light from entering Saltus Valley, but Jack smiled. He could see it, faintly, through the icy wisps of frozen vapor. Its heat was a long way gone, but just the faint rays of light that trickled through were enough to cause his cold heart to leap in his chest.

    In that moment, Jack knew he had made the right choice. Even though he was likely in the same dangerous place when he first fell through the clouds, some small piece of his heart was content that he had made this odyssey through the ice. Even if it ended here, he at least brought light back to this dark and frozen valley.

    As he took in the beauty of the far off noon, silence reigned. The tremors of battle ceased as abruptly as they came. Jack blinked, the quiet briefly snapping him out of his dreamlike trance of the snowflakes.

    Footsteps crunched in the snow as Jack raised his sore head slightly. Except they weren’t Sir’s feet standing in front of him. These feet were green and featured impressive claws. Before he could react in alarm, an equally green reptilian head bent down and filled Jack’s view.

    He squirmed in the snow, but a pair of oddly gentle claws forced his bruised body to stop. A low groan of protest formed in Jack’s throat, but it was quickly silenced by a terse hiss.

    “Quiet now, Golduck... Be still. Give us a few moments and I’ll have you right as rain.” The sounds of a bag opening and items being shoved around were heard by the gasping Golduck.

    Slowly, Jack was able to look up at the voice. “W-Who? ... Where’s Sir?” Jack grunted, but the green claw pushed him back down and hushed him.

    “Rest, man. Your friend is fine. Elliot has got him under treatment. To be honest, that old Ampharos would have handled things just fine without us.” The Pokémon smiled cheerily down at him.

    Breathing deeply, Jack let himself relax. Despite knowing nothing about this band of Pokémon who came to their rescue, he felt at ease knowing that Sir had survived and the Claydol was defeated.

    “By the way, so you can thank me later, my name’s Blade the Grovyle. We’re a freelance exploration squad called Team Emerald. We were hired to investigate Saltus Valley. What’s your story, Golduck?”




    End Chapter Four


    Last edited by Knightfall; 30th June 2014 at 4:08 AM.

  12. #12
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    Chapter 4

    Alright, time to give my thoughts on this chapter.

    So here in this chapter we had a few perspective changes. Namely, we had one perspective of Kida in the past, then it went to Kida in the present with King, and then it went to Jack in the past. I must admit that I'm not exactly sure about the transition between Present-Kida and Past-Jack since from how I see it, Present-Jack needs to somehow mention that he is telling the story again. That way, it makes sense that his story is being resumed. But I digress.

    We also get to see more of the Frostbitten creatures in this chapter, namely, how they fight. It seems that they can fight just like normal Pokemon could, except they now have an ice power to each of them. Huh. It kinda reminds me of those who are infected with Kyurem's influence in Defenders of Warmth on Fanfiction.net. Sort of. But either way, it is an interesting idea. The idea of "The Virus" can certainly be used in a very crafty and interesting way, so long as you add certain twists to it. But the Frostbitten are intriguing for now, especially since it seems that the creatures that are possessed have the capacity to fight back against the ice.

    Credit to Brutaka for the epic banner and Haychel for the image on such banner.

  13. #13
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    Liking this chapter, but I agree with Vulpi's assessment of the lack of a "present" scene to transition to the past.

    So, grovyle is here, surprised he didn't evolve between stories, though I've a feeling he won't be as friendly to Jack later.

    Also nice to see that Kida has a friend on the inside, though we'll see how that goes.

    An error I noticed:
    You had written "Calurs study frame" when I know you meant "Sturdy"

    Looking forward to another chapter.

    Oh, does the Shiny Skarmory I traded you still exist?


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
    -Azurus

  14. #14
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    The interrogating guard came into the small circle of torchlight. The globular being floated above the rough surface of the counter, his circular face and underdeveloped body and organelles suspended in a viscous green mass of organic gelatin. His beady black eye twitched as one of the limbs stretched forward towards the exhausted prisoner. The gel solidified as it forced its way around his unresponsive head and gripped the entire space of the blue, spiked cranium. The captive had little idea what was happening to him, only that his body was on the verge of collapse.

    A mischievous glint flashed in the Reuniclus’s eyes as a pulse of cyan energy shot outwards from its central body in the green cytoplasm through the extended limb and finally reaching a terminal at temples of the blue Pokemon’s skull. Vivid images of the past: choking smoke, blistering winds, and the faces of the cursed all shot into the forefront of his fatigued brain from the blackest pit of hell.
    Somehow I would've never imagined a reuniclus could be so creepy, at least not prior to today. It was easy to imagine their nasty, goopy touch, and of course the psychic frellery (that much, at least, I ought to have considered before now) only added to the creepiness. Well done.

    The sunken eyes of the Golduck widened in utter terror while memories long since buried by time were pressed into his sight.
    Oh sweet, I guessed correctly about what he was.

    Charges: Serving my king dutifully, preventing a mass genocide, and destroying the most dangerous artifact in Verus.
    Such sass. I like this guy.

    Tears began to bead on the Water-type’s eyes as he pulled harder against the unyielding thorn of pure and unrelenting evil.
    This is a hilarious way to refer to a splinter, all while being not exactly inaccurate. **** splinters.

    The Zangoose jabbed the Seviper tail knife towards the direction of the lower decks.
    I wonder if there's still any poison left in that thing.

    She always appeared to be burdened by some secret or guilt, and judging by the information the higher-up Kingdom officials told her, his guess wasn’t far off from the truth. He slowly picked at his meal, wondering just what knowledge was so bad that it seemed to be consuming her from the inside out.
    She couldda hadda V8.

    Among the piles of rags, a Skitty lay still, its pink fur dulled to a sickly grey. In another pile was a Snivy and a Serperior, together, a family perhaps. Their green and white scales turned to blue and grey, as if they were freezing in the snow. And in yet another mess of cloth, the sight grew worse. Jack nearly heaved up his non-existant lunch when he saw the Tauros. The tawny beast’s fur had turned from a light brown to a patchy section of grey that was falling out of the skin. However, that was not the worst. The worst was the small, jagged shards of ice that stuck out of the Pokemon’s stomach and sides.
    Oh dang... yeah, that sounds rough.

    However, it looked different from any Claydol Jack had ever seen before. The black, stone-like skin was pierced from within by jagged shards of ice and its enigmatic head twitched erratically.
    Creepy... out of all the frostbitten creatures thus far, this one's probably the creepiest despite coming across as much less gory than the others.


    Should you add to this, I'll certainly be back for more.

  15. #15
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    Sep 2011
    Location
    [Redacted]
    Posts
    526

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    First off, I'd like to apologize for not being so active recently. I just saw this post. Life's been quite busy for me lately and I've not much time to write... But, rest assured, none of my stories are dead, just taking a back seat until I have time to write again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sike Saner View Post
    Somehow I would've never imagined a reuniclus could be so creepy, at least not prior to today. It was easy to imagine their nasty, goopy touch, and of course the psychic frellery (that much, at least, I ought to have considered before now) only added to the creepiness. Well done.
    Why thank you. I took quite a few deviances with this story, mostly in choosing Pokemon that were away from my comfort zone. When I got to describing Hythal... Well, that just sorta happened. xD I'm glad you enjoyed him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sike Saner View Post

    Oh sweet, I guessed correctly about what he was.
    Yep, and for your correct guess, a prize.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sike Saner View Post
    Such sass. I like this guy.
    Jack is as Jack does.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sike Saner View Post
    This is a hilarious way to refer to a splinter, all while being not exactly inaccurate. **** splinters.
    I'm still not sure what compelled me to write this scene... The splinter scene... I'm glad I did, because people love it, but man, I don't know why it struck me that this should be one of the opening scenes. xD

    Quote Originally Posted by Sike Saner View Post
    I wonder if there's still any poison left in that thing.
    Maybe we'll find out together.

    [QUOTE=Sike Saner;17621621]

    Oh dang... yeah, that sounds rough.

    Creepy... out of all the frostbitten creatures thus far, this one's probably the creepiest despite coming across as much less gory than the others.[QUOTE=Sike Saner;17621621]

    I try to find a balance between descriptive-creepy and gore... Obviously, I don't want too much of the latter, but it's hard to find a healthy balance of the two. I'm glad the Claydol was your favorite. I enjoyed writing that fight scene.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sike Saner View Post
    Should you add to this, I'll certainly be back for more.
    I'll definitely add to this... Though, there are edits I must make before I add another chapter. Small things, but there's backstory and details I want to correct in this story before going further.
    And once I have time, I'll finish up Chapter 5, because it's been long enough since the last one.

    Thank you for the review and to all others who see this, know that I am not dead!

    Knightfall signing off...

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Fortifying my position
    Posts
    402

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    It's nice to see you again Knightfall, I can barely wait for the next chapters.

    Well it is time for the..     Spoiler:
    Last edited by Omegagoldfish; 2nd March 2015 at 1:55 PM.
    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I lay down my weapon, and watch it rust.

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