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Thread: Communication

  1. #1
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    Default Communication

    Hey there, me again. What we have here is the latest version of my second Pokémon fic, started back in '04 and completed roughly ten years later. Expect updates every couple of weeks or so.

    I'd rate this a hard T at most; there'll be violence, there'll be gore, there'll be naughty language here and there. There'll also be a bit of nudity, but it's mild and not exactly described in loving detail.



    And away we go...

    ___

    Chapter 1 – Foreign Relations


    In the depths of Shoal Cave, unknown to humanity at large and almost completely untouched by other species of pokémon, there was a place known by the snorunt and glalie who called it home as Virc-Dho. Here, in a cavern whose ice-covered surfaces glittered eerily in the glow given off by her eyes, a glalie by the name of Azvida Zgil-Al sat waiting for two different things.

    She was watching, staring intently at a round, black, featureless egg that was now beginning to shake slightly a couple of times each minute. It was bound to hatch at any moment now. She was also listening, just as she&#146d been doing for months now, for the first sign of an approach that might or might not even come.

    Invoking the power of her element, the glalie spontaneously generated a small heap of snow, which she arranged in a ring around the increasingly animated egg. The baby would be ravenous upon hatching.

    A grinding sound in the distance caught Azvida’s attention. She winced at its volume, not only out of physical discomfort but also concern over others hearing it. She had told him emphatically that he needed to make as inconspicuous an entrance as possible… but, as she reminded herself, the very nature of just what he was surely made that especially difficult.

    Keeping the egg at the edge of her vision, Azvida only turned partly toward him as he came to a stop in the shadows nearby. “Hello, Grosh.”

    Grosh only grunted in response, his face looking almost ghostly in what little of Azvida’s cyan light touched it.

    Azvida’s attention was quickly monopolized by the egg again as it gave an almighty lurch, rolling straight into the snow that had been piled in front of it. The glalie inhaled with a long, rattling hiss and held her breath, anxiously watching the event that was unfolding before her eyes. The egg gave one last rustle, and then, with a tiny crack, something small and pointed broke through the shell. With something of a drilling motion, the tip of a cone-shaped head continued to emerge from the hole it had made, cracking it open wider and wider until finally the egg simply fell apart.

    Amidst the broken eggshells, there now sat a tiny male snorunt. He tried to stand up, only to immediately fall right over. His conical body rolled pitifully as he attempted in vain to right himself.

    Azvida could not suppress the gale of hissing, elated laughter that came forth at the sight of him. He was here. He was finally here. She rose from the ground and descended upon the snorunt, picking him up very gently and carefully and then setting him upright once more.

    Her son blinked up at her for a moment. Then he noticed the fresh, powdery snow that surrounded him, and he became oblivious to all else.

    Azvida grinned brightly at her new baby. She then looked into the shadows at her side. “Look, Grosh,” she said, her voice alight with pure wonder. “Look at your son. Isn’t he beautiful? Why don’t you come closer? Don’t you want to see him?”

    The shadowed form of Grosh stirred in the darkness. His gaze turned toward the newborn—then turned away. The rest of Grosh immediately followed.

    “Grosh, wait!” Azvida called to him. But Grosh kept moving on, scattering numerous rocks and chunks of ice in his wake. Within seconds, he was gone, back into the shadows from whence he’d come—never to return, Azvida was certain.

    The new mother sighed. “It’ll just be us, then,” she said as she set herself back down before her son. No surprise, she thought, yet she couldn't deny the pang of disappointment she felt at Grosh’s departure. “We’ll have to be everything for each other. But I know we can,” she said, hoping to sound reassuring.

    Not that it mattered to the snorunt. He was too focused on the snow, which he was devouring voraciously. Once he’d eaten his fill, he discovered that he could also play in the snow, and he quickly became fully engrossed in that activity.

    Azvida smiled again. “Now, what to call you?” she wondered aloud. She thought about it for a little while, rejecting several potential candidates for her son’s name until one that felt right finally came to her mind.

    “I know exactly the right name for you,” Azvida said triumphantly. “You shall be called Solonn.”

    * * *

    A little over seven years into his life, Solonn was deemed old enough to go up to the snowgrounds, where he could meet and play with other children. But to get there, one first had to make one’s way through a rather long series of tunnels, much to his displeasure. This was the farthest that he’d ever had to walk; it was a little tiring, not to mention kind of slow compared to being carried in his mother’s jaws. But ultimately, he'd be too big to carry that way. He had to get used to walking everywhere, whether he liked it or not.

    His weariness, combined with the fact that the tunnel they were taking looked practically the same through yard after yard, caused his patience to run out fairly quickly. “Are we there yet?” he finally asked, unable to keep himself from whining a bit.

    “Almost,” Azvida answered, gliding along a few inches off the ground at less than half of her usual pace to let the snorunt’s tiny feet keep up with her. “I told you, you’ll know right away when we get there. It’s very different from this place, and from every other place you’ve seen, for that matter.”

    Better be, Solonn thought rather grumpily.

    Shortly thereafter, they finally arrived at the snowgrounds. Solonn saw at once that his mother had been right about this place—it was different. It was a huge, open space, nothing at all like the close confines of the winding tunnels and small caverns that made up the warren in which he lived.

    What he found most remarkable about this place was not its size, however. Rather, it was the fact that the floor of this vast cavern was entirely blanketed in sparkling, white snow, just begging a snorunt to dive right in. Which is precisely what Solonn did.

    Azvida laughed. “Have fun with the other kids,” she said, her son poking his head out of the snow at her words. “I’ll be back soon.” With that, she turned and left Solonn behind in the field of snow.

    Solonn watched her leave, wishing that she would stay, wondering why she didn’t. He also wondered where those “other kids” she'd mentioned were. He didn’t see anyone else there…

    POP! With absolutely no warning, something burst out of the snow, launching out right in front of his face.

    “Aaah!” Solonn was scared right off of his feet. He tumbled over backwards and landed upside-down, his pointed head sticking in the snow, his short legs kicking uselessly.

    He then heard a sound—laughter. Someone was laughing at him—and grabbing his feet. He screamed again as whoever it was started pulling on his legs just a little too hard. His ambusher didn’t relent until he suddenly pulled Solonn from the snow. Solonn went flying from his grasp, landing in the snow several feet away with a whumpf (and fortunately not landing on his head this time).

    Solonn managed to right himself fairly quickly, and as he did, he heard footsteps approaching him. He turned to face the sound and found another snorunt, one who came to a stop a short distance before him. Was he the one who’d given Solonn that scare?

    Solonn’s eyes flashed in anger. He lunged at the other snorunt, snapping his teeth and missing him by only a fraction of an inch.

    The other snorunt jumped backward away from Solonn, staring back in surprise for a moment. Then he burst out into laughter once more. Solonn glared as though he might try to bite him again, which made him fall silent in a hurry. He backed up a bit farther and held out his hands as if to keep Solonn at bay.

    “Hey! It’s okay!” the other snorunt said. “I didn’t mean to scare you… well, not that badly, anyway…”

    Solonn hesitated, frowning in uncertainty.

    “I’m sorry,” the other snorunt said earnestly. “It was just a joke.” He approached Solonn again, albeit a bit gingerly. “I’m Zilag. Who are you?”

    Solonn hesitated a moment before answering. “…Solonn,” he finally responded. “Are there any other kids here?” he then asked warily.

    “Yeah. They’re hiding,” Zilag answered. “Come on out,” he called out, “and don’t scare him!”

    At Zilag’s call, twelve other snorunt popped up out of their hiding places beneath the snow. Solonn remained wary of them at first, but through the minutes that passed, they heeded Zilag’s advice; no one attempted to frighten him or to otherwise make a joke at his expense. By the time his mother returned to take him home, Solonn had managed to shed his distrust and reluctance almost completely. As he departed the snowgrounds, he actually looked forward to returning there.

    * * *

    Azvida brought Solonn to the snowgrounds almost daily from that point onward. As the weeks went by, he and Zilag became very good friends. Every time Solonn returned to the snowgrounds, Zilag was there waiting for him.

    One day, Zilag gathered eight of his closest friends, including Solonn, to tell them how they were about to have the “best day ever”.

    “I’ve found something so awesome, you’ll go crazy when you see it,” he said.

    “And what’s that?” Solonn asked.

    Zilag smirked. He rolled up a snowball, turned around, and chucked it with full force into the ground. The snow it struck crumbled away on impact, falling into the rather steep-looking, downward-slanting passageway that he'd just revealed. The other eight snorunt all drew closer to the hole to try and peer down into it, but they were all wary of getting too close to it.

    “Right down there is a portal to another world,” Zilag said in a exaggeratedly grand tone.

    “Yeah, right,” Reizirr said.

    “It’s true!” Zilag insisted. He grabbed her and pushed her face toward the hole, eliciting a very sharp little shriek out of her. “All you have to do to see it is to just go through there.”

    “No, thanks!” Reizirr said as she managed to wriggle away from Zilag.

    “You’re gonna miss out…” Zilag told her. He glanced about at the others, seeing a lot of uncertain faces looking back at him. Their clear trepidation did nothing to deter him from putting on a huge grin and going on to say, “Okay. Who wants to go first?”

    The others all exchanged nervous glances. Then, in unison, they took a big step farther back from the hole.

    “Oh, come on. It’s so cool, I promise… Sical, how about you?” Zilag asked.

    “No way,” she said firmly.

    “Davron?”

    Davron shook his head, insofar as he could.

    “Faroski?”

    Faroski just turned and left the small crowd, having decided that he’d be better off just watching the others from the opposite side of the cavern.

    Zilag sighed loudly in frustration. Then he turned to Solonn. “I know you’d love it. So come on, go for it.”

    Solonn remained doubtful. “Uh…”

    “It’s just a little slide and then a little climb,” Zilag said a little impatiently. “You’re not a wuss, are you?” he added.

    “What? No!” Solonn said. He looked down into the hole, wondering just how deep it really was. “I guess I could…”

    “That’s the spirit!” Zilag said cheerfully, and then he shoved Solonn into the hole.

    “Aaaaaah!” Solonn screamed as he found himself rushing down the slide. The tightly-packed snow coating its walls made the ride smoother than it might have been otherwise—that is, until he reached the bottom and smacked right into a stone wall.

    Solonn pitched backward and fell to the floor, little lights exploding in his vision, his face smarting. After a few moments, he came back to his senses and became fully aware of his surroundings. He was in a very small chamber made of stone. Before and slightly above him, he saw a hole in the wall, one that was more than wide enough for him to enter.

    Solonn stood and stared with uncertainty into the hole for a short while, reluctant to enter it. He turned back around and looked back up the length of the snow chute… how in the world was someone supposed to get back up there? Zilag had neglected to explain that detail…

    Sighing, Solonn turned back toward the hole in the wall—there seemed to be no other way to go. Resigned, he hopped up, pulled himself into the hole, and started crawling upward.

    The climb through the secret tunnel was hardly enjoyable. At a couple of points, it was fairly steep; Solonn feared that he could easily slip and go tumbling back down the tunnel. Furthermore, the rocky surfaces of the tunnel’s floor and walls were uncomfortable and more than a little worrisome to crawl over—one wrong move, and those jagged edges could slice right into a hand or foot.

    Why, he wondered, had Zilag thought anyone would like this?

    Quite a while later, Solonn finally reached the end of the tunnel and gratefully hoisted himself out of there. Exhausted, he just lay still for a short time, glad to be on smooth, level ground again.

    Once he’d caught his breath, he got back on his feet and took a look around. He was in a very large cavern which, just as Zilag had promised, was like another world. For one thing, it was much brighter up here than it had been below. Solonn found the source of the light overhead: strange, pale rays were seeping into the cavern from the cracks in the ceiling.

    As Solonn explored with growing curiosity, he found snow, ice and rocks—all of which he could find at home, of course. Here, however, they were just scattered about; rocky, uneven surfaces abruptly gave way to vast, shimmering expanses of smooth, ice-coated floors, and mounds of snow rose randomly over both. This contrasted considerably with the way things looked back in the warren; there, every aspect of the environment had been adapted and conformed by glalie to suit their tastes and purposes. Solonn wondered to what sort of people and purpose, if any, a place like this could possibly belong.

    Right around the next hill of snow, he got his answer.

    He didn’t move. He barely even breathed. The same was true of the creature that stared back at him through her dark brown eyes.

    Her appearance was stranger than anything Solonn could have ever imagined, especially with regards to the fact that there was a peculiar, mesmerizing glow emanating from her entire body. He’d never seen anything like it; he didn’t have that glow, and neither did any of his friends. For that matter, neither did glalie.

    “What… what are you?” Solonn finally worked up the courage to ask.

    “What are you?” the creature countered.

    Solonn was almost too bewildered to answer. This creature even sounded so different… “I’m a snorunt,” he said finally.

    “Oh. Never heard of that… Anyway, I’m a spheal.”

    “I’ve never heard of what you are, either,” Solonn said. As he stared at this creature—this spheal—his curiosity gave rise to a compulsion. “Can… can I touch you?” he asked.

    “Uh… sure, I guess,” the spheal responded.

    Solonn stepped forward after a moment’s delay. His hand shook as it reached out toward the spheal. When he touched her, he gasped and pulled his hand back at once, his eyes wide. She felt strange, and in a way that was rather startling.

    “What? Is something wrong?” the spheal asked.

    “No… it’s just that you’re so… ” Solonn trailed off and stared with both fear and wonder shining through his eyes as he realized that he knew no word for the way that the spheal felt. He had no way of knowing it, but he'd just felt heat for the very first time. Though it hadn’t hurt him, it had definitely made him uneasy.

    In spite of this, his curiosity led him to touch the spheal again, and he wasn't so startled by her warmth this time. Something else soon caught his fascination.

    “It’s… soft…” Solonn remarked, “and fluffy… What's this stuff you’re covered in?” he asked.

    “Er… that’s fur,” the spheal answered, giving him a funny look.

    “It’s neat,” Solonn said.

    “Uh, sure it is… Hey, could you stop petting me already?” the spheal finally demanded.

    “Oh… sorry,” Solonn said, quite embarrassed, and took his hands off of the spheal in a hurry.

    Just then, a voice sounded from not too far away—another strange, foreign voice. “Sophine? Where are you?”

    Before Solonn could wonder about the voice’s owner, she came into view. Solonn didn’t know that it was a sealeo who had just arrived on the scene, but he could guess from her appearance that she was an evolved spheal.

    “There you are! You can’t keep wandering away from me like that!” she scolded the spheal, though not too harshly. Then her gaze fell upon Solonn, and it froze there. “Sophine, get away from that,” she said tensely. “Now. Those things are dangerous.”

    “What? I’m not dangerous!” Solonn protested, stepping forward with his arms outstretched. “Honest!”

    “You stay away from my daughter, you little monster!” the sealeo cried, and then she lunged at Solonn.

    But just then, Sophine screamed, and the sound jarred her mother out of her charge. Her mother looked to see what had frightened Sophine and then cried out in fear, as well.

    Confused, Solonn followed the others’ gazes. Now it was his turn to scream—hovering there with an absolutely livid expression was none other than his own mother.

    “Leave him alone!” Azvida spat. With a furious hiss, she darted forward. Her massive teeth snapped together with bone-shattering force bare inches away from the face of Sophine’s mother.

    The sealeo gave a yelping bark as she frantically backed away from the striking glalie. She then gathered up her daughter in a single flipper and waddled off with her as fast as she could go.

    Solonn watched them leave. Then, very nervously, he turned and approached his mother. Azcida turned to face him in an instant, making him jump back in startled surprise. She then opened her jaws and grabbed Solonn up in her teeth by the top of his head. Her hold on him was painful, and he cried out, but she didn't put him down, carrying him in this fashion for the rest of the trip back home.

    * * *

    “For the love of all gods, what were you thinking?” Azvida demanded.

    It wasn’t my idea! Solonn thought but didn’t dare say, fearing that doing such would mean betraying Zilag. “…I don’t know!” he finally blurted.

    “Well, you’re not going up there again, that’s for sure,” Azvida said firmly. “In fact, you’re not going to be going anywhere for a long time, not even to the snowgrounds.”

    “But… Mom, no! You can’t!” Solonn protested. Surely she had to be bluffing, or so he hoped.

    “Oh, yes I can, and yes I will! It’s for your own good, Solonn. You have to learn that there are places where you don’t belong, places that are not safe!”

    “Not safe?” Apart from the behavior of the sealeo he’d met there, the secret cavern above hadn’t seemed terribly dangerous, just strange…

    Azvida lowered her face, staring right into Solonn’s eyes. “You think you’re the first who’s ever gone sneaking around up there? There have been plenty of kids before you who've had that bright idea. And you know what? Many of them never came back.”

    “…What happened to them?” Solonn asked in a very small voice, though he wasn’t altogether certain that he really wanted to know.

    “They vanished,” Azvida replied simply. “Taken away by the creatures from above, we suspect,” she elaborated.

    “You mean the spheal? Spheal took them?” Solonn asked incredulously.

    Azvida shook her head. “Other beings. Stranger beings.”

    What could be stranger than a spheal? Solonn wondered, rather amazed by the notion.

    But that wasn't all he wondered about. “Mom?”

    “Yes?”

    “That spheal’s mom… she called me a monster,” Solonn said quietly. “She said I’m dangerous, but I’m not dangerous at all… am I?”

    “What? No, of course you’re not,” Azvida said. “And you’re not a monster, either.”

    “But… then why would she say that?” Solonn asked.

    Azvida sighed. “It’s all right, Solonn. She meant nothing against you personally. It’s just that… well, her kind fear ours. They always have.” She sighed again. “To be fair, they do have a perfectly good reason to.”

    “Well… what is it?” Solonn asked, a little afraid of the sort of answer he might receive.

    Azvida broke eye contact with Solonn. This was not a discussion she’d been in any hurry to have with him—she’d dreaded it as much as the eventual discussion of how eggs are made.

    Reluctantly, she sat down beside him. “There are certain things that every living creature has to do to stay alive,” she began uneasily. “We have to breathe. We have to sleep. We have to eat. When living creatures are different, the ways they keep themselves alive are also different. The spheal and their evolved forms, the sealeo and walrein, are different from us, and so they have their own ways that are right for them. Likewise, glalie are different from snorunt. And we have our own ways.

    “Now, one of the ways that living creatures can have different needs is that for some, like snorunt, the things they need to eat in order to live are not alive themselves. But for others… like glalie… well, the things that creatures like us need to eat in order to live are alive.”

    Solonn absorbed that. Then his heart froze. “You… you eat the spheal?” he ventured in disbelief, his voice cracking.

    “Yes,” Azvida answered honestly, “sometimes. But not usually. Usually, we take the winged creatures instead; zubat, they’re called.”

    “It doesn’t matter what they are. You still kill them!” Solonn shouted.

    “Yes,” Azvida said, sounding very flustered. “Yes, we do, but we do it quickly. We do it gently. It doesn’t hurt them. They just… they just stop. It’s just like going to sleep, only permanently.”

    How can you know that?” Solonn countered. Azvida didn't answer. Solonn said nothing more for several minutes, just sitting and shaking silently. Then, with barely any voice at all, “Why can’t you just eat the snow? Why?”

    “It’s just not enough for us, Solonn,” Azvida said quietly. “Someday, once you’ve evolved, you’ll understand.”

    “No, I don’t want to! I don’t want to grow up and eat people!”

    “Listen, I know how it sounds, but there really isn’t anything wrong with it!” Azvida tried to assure him. “It’s just part of how nature works. And a lot of creatures live this way, too, not just glalie. Even the spheal you met and her people; they feed on creatures called magikarp…”

    But Solonn wasn't listening anymore, and Azvida knew it. She sighed and fell silent, and neither of them said anything to one another for the remainder of that day.

    * * *

    After the long weeks separating Solonn from the snowgrounds were finally behind him, he returned there to find Zilag just sitting there by himself.

    Solonn was immediately wary. “Where is everyone hiding?”

    “There’s no one else here,” Zilag said gloomily.

    Solonn walked over to him, frowning. “You got me into huge trouble, you know,” he said.

    “Hey, I didn’t get away with it, either!” Zilag shot back.

    “Well, I didn’t tell on you!” Solonn insisted. “I swear!”

    “You didn’t have to,” Zilag said grimly. “My big sister came in and saw me trying to get Dileras to go down that hole. She went straight home and told Mom everything.” He sighed. “And then everyone else’s parents found out, too. Now no one wants to hang out with me cause they’re all scared of getting into trouble again.”

    “Oh…” Solonn sat down beside Zilag. “Well... I’m not really worried about that,” he said, although a small part of him was. “I’ll still hang out with you.”

    Zilag’s eyes widened, and he broke out into a huge grin. “Really? Thanks!”

    It was then that a strange sound caught the attention of both snorunt: a sort of fluttering noise coming from above. Zilag and Solonn looked up and saw its source flying about overhead. It was yet another creature that shone with that strange glow—the glow of heat, Solonn now knew.

    “A zubat,” Solonn guessed aloud in a hushed voice as he gazed up at the newcomer. “What’s one of those doing here?”

    “I don’t know… I’ve never even seen one before,” Zilag said.

    “I bet your parents have,” Solonn said darkly. “My mom told me that the glalie eat those things.”

    Zilag turned to face Solonn at those words and stared incredulously at him for a moment. Then he broke into laughter. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! They do not!”

    “Oh, yes they do,” Solonn said as he continued to watch the zubat flit around, seemingly without direction, near the ceiling of the cavern.

    “No way!” Zilag said, still laughing. “I know! Let’s ask the zubat if it’s true! HEY, ZUBAT!” he shouted.

    The zubat steadfastly ignored the snorunt below, just wanting to focus on getting out of that place. It was bad enough that she’d gotten herself lost there—she didn’t want to add to her troubles by getting herself mixed up with the locals.

    “The zubat’s not listening, Zilag,” Solonn pointed out.

    “Well, maybe this’ll get that thing to listen.” Zilag made a snowball and chucked it into the air, but missed the zubat entirely. His second shot missed, too. “Come on, hold still!” he urged his target, throwing a third snowball. That one very nearly didn’t miss, whizzing past the zubat’s face just a hair’s breadth away.

    The zubat shrieked, then turned on Zilag. Chittering angrily, she fired a spiraling, sparkling confuse ray at him. It struck him before he could do anything to avoid it and instantly and severely disoriented him, leaving him staggering around and screaming intermittently in a spontaneous panic.

    “What did you do to him?” Solonn demanded of the zubat, both scared and angry. The bat responded with a wing attack, forcing Solonn to duck in a hurry to avoid her as she dove at him, her wings glowing.

    As the zubat arced back up toward the ceiling, Solonn got back up onto his feet, gathered a number of snowballs as fast as he could, and began throwing them at the zubat, but to no avail. The zubat soon wheeled around for another wing attack; he only barely ducked out of the way in time.

    At this point, Solonn decided to give up on the snowballs. He began to gather ice-type energy… then lost hold of it as Zilag, who was still confused, came stumbling right into him and nearly knocked him over.

    “Hey!” Solonn shouted as he got himself out of the way of his brain-addled friend. He tapped into the power of his element once again, and this time he managed to summon a powder snow attack. It scattered snowflakes all about as it whistled toward the zubat on a small gust—but before it could connect, a similar but much stronger attack, a blizzard, came howling in and blew the powder snow completely off course.

    The blizzard was the work of Azvida, who had apparently just arrived and was clearly quite displeased. “Solonn Ahshi Zgil-Al!” she shouted. “You stop picking on that poor zubat right this instant; she’s obviously lost here and needs help, not harassment!”

    Azvida’s shouting brought Zilag back to his senses. “Ahshi?” He exploded into giggles. Both Azvida and Solonn glared potently at him—he shut up at once.

    “But Mom, she did something to Zilag! She made him freak out—I couldn’t just let her get away with it!” Solonn said. “And what do you care what anybody does to her, anyway? She’s just meat to you!”

    Azvida’s eyes widened greatly, and their light intensified. “How dare you say such a thing,” she hissed, appalled. “I would never think of such a creature as ‘just meat’. They give us life; they’re to be honored and respected!”

    To the zubat, Azvida said, “You’ll certainly die from the cold if you stay here much longer. If you’ll follow me, I’ll lead you back up where you belong.”

    The zubat made no response, no sound at all other than the faint flapping of her wings as she hovered warily in place.

    “It’s all right,” Azvida said, trying to sound as pleasant and soothing as possible. “I won’t even touch you.”

    The zubat hesitated at first, then flapped a short distance forward. She hesitated again, for longer this time. Finally, though still obviously very uncertain about the whole thing, she descended and began to follow Azvida out of the cavern, albeit at a healthy distance.

    “Please stay put until I return,” Azvida instructed her son as she left. “Please.” She and the zubat then vanished into the tunnels of the warren.

    As Solonn watched them leave, he found that he was no longer sure which was stranger: other species or his own.
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 17th October 2014 at 6:40 PM.
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication

  2. #2
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    Jul 2005
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    I remember, when I joined Serebii, this and Origin of Storms when they first came out; they were some of the few things I really remember, from when Iwas back in middle school. I really discovered how much I love writing and literature when I became engrossed in the things that were being done in the Fanfic section, this included. Yeah, those were better times, but anyway.

    I don't like to be critical, in the sense of going real analytical on a story, on the first installment of any long-ish series, so this isn't going to be a detailed review. In the future, I'm sure there'll be much more to go into.

    What I will say is that it's a solid effort. I don't go into spell checking and grammar rules, so I'm really talking about the general effect and stylistic qualities of it. There's nothing really to complain about here. I do think that going into the hidden qualities of wild-Pokemon cultures is an interesting premise, in and of itself, though I don't sense that that is being entirely appreciated this early in the story. I like the touch of the exotic names and the leaving of the father after the birth of the child, which make sense in the environment you have chosen, but there isn't much in terms of the complexity of intra- and inter-species Pokemon relationships. Of course, I am leaving out the obviously difficult subject of sustenance and food chains in the Pokemon wild, which is also a nice touch on your part to address that concept rather than ignore it.

    Another thing that maybe is not so good is that much of the chapter was pretty conventional. From the actions of the children when they play and discover the secret passage (speaking of the children, I find that they lack real personalities, at this point, but that is understanble given that they are small children), to the scene where Solonn mets the female Spheal, I get this archetype-ish, Hollywood-ish, Romeo&Juliet-ish feel from the whole thing. I'm not trying to condemn the whole fic right here, right now; I am describing the sort of "feeling" that this chapter is giving me when I read it. I'm sure, in the future, the overall atmosphere and tone will have changed dramatically.

    A third thing that I kinda have a problem with is that I'm crazy about the descriptions of the Pokemon here.Specifically, I don't think you're appreciating the non-humaness of the Glalie and Spheals and such when you write. Excerpts like this:

    Azvida broke eye contact with Solonn. This was not a discussion she’d been in any hurry to have with him—she’d dreaded it as much as the eventual discussion of how eggs are made.

    Reluctantly, she sat down beside him. “There are certain things that every living creature has to do to stay alive,” she began uneasily.
    Strike me as odd. There's something about describing a Glalie as "sitting" down that doesn't seem right to me.It's very hard to pin-point the nature of my disagreement here, but when I think of someone or something "sitting" I think of a rather specific set of motions that can only be done by humans and human-like things.

    Here's another part that I thought was wierd in that respect:
    Zilag smirked. He rolled up a snowball, turned around, and chucked it with full force into the ground.
    When I think about how a Snorunt is physically built, it's difficult for me to imagine one so casually rolling up snow into a ball about a quarter its size and then "chucking" it.

    This whole pat of my review is very personal, and I may be the only one with this response, and I may also be ignoring other parts of the story where the actions of the Pokemon are better actualized, but this is something I think is worth thinking about in later chapters.

    Overall, this is probably not the best opening to a fic that I've read, but I do think there is enough intrigue being introduced to believe things will be at a different level once the narrative hits its stride. My memory isn't what it used to be, but this was a neat story back when I first read it so I'm totally a believer in this story.

    I hope this review didn't seem overly negative or fault-finding., because a lot of things here are being done right. I like your overall prose style and the extent of your descriptions, and how you give the promise of more to come. This is the first chapter, so there is always a lot of latitude for a series in terms of the major elements -- plot, characters, setting, narrative pace. I'm sure you can understand when I say it's easier, for a reason, to elaborate and discuss at length the weaker parts of any work of art than it is to explain why other parts of great.

    Anyway, this was a lot longer than I wanted to be, soI hope I wasn't blowing hot air this whole time. I will be keeping an eye for updates.
    nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
    the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
    compels me with the color of its countries,
    rendering death and forever with each breathing

  3. #3
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    This is pretty exciting ! If Communication is going to be finished soon, I want to be around for it. I used to review this fic a number of years ago, I was Luphinid Silnaek? maybe you remember me. Like armaldo said, it was one of the veteran stories in SPPF when I came here and I picked up a lot about writing fics from this one.

    The feeling I got from these first scenes this time is that they're very matter of fact, which I like. It's this biography of a character and you're describing his birth, which is not exactly accompanied by comets or any kind of fanfare, since he's just another baby snorunt. It's really cute how you characterize the mother and small child. Their dialogue sounds almost totally human, with a few modifications for the kind of society they live in. At the same time, what comes through in all of the scenes and especially the birth is how unworldly the way they live is, their biology and surroundings and society are kind of fantastic in a low-key way. I remember finding this cool when I first read it because of its world-buildy sketches of different parts of the pokemon world. Also helps that it's set in Hoenn, my favorite region

    Once he’d caught his breath, he got back on his feet and took a look around. He was in a very large cavern which, just as Zilag had promised, was like another world. For one thing, it was much brighter up here than it had been below. Solonn found the source of the light overhead: strange, pale rays were seeping into the cavern from the cracks in the ceiling.

    As Solonn explored with growing curiosity, he found snow, ice and rocks—all of which he could find at home, of course. Here, however, they were just scattered about; rocky, uneven surfaces abruptly gave way to vast, shimmering expanses of smooth, ice-coated floors, and mounds of snow rose randomly over both. This contrasted considerably with the way things looked back in the warren; there, every aspect of the environment had been adapted and conformed by glalie to suit their tastes and purposes. Solonn wondered to what sort of people and purpose, if any, a place like this could possibly belong.
    I felt a bit of an image failure here because, even though you described the character of the terrain pretty well, you don't give us a clear picture of 'what' kind of thing(s) exactly Solonn enters -- is it one huge cavern with mounds of snow and rocks on the ground, is it a network of caves, or is it something else? The way they render the Shoal Cave in the games is also, admittedly, a little weird -- it's like there a lot of subterranean stuff placed around in a big, rocky, closed/open space (and then, there are levels?). I hope what I'm saying makes sense.

    Her appearance was stranger than anything Solonn could have ever imagined, especially with regards to the fact that there was a peculiar, mesmerizing glow emanating from her entire body. He’d never seen anything like it; he didn’t have that glow, and neither did any of his friends. For that matter, neither did glalie.
    Is he seeing her body heat?

    This whole scene where the snorunt meets a warm-blooded creature has a very nice dynamic -- the main character who we're sympathizing with, and already know that he's cute and humanized, still comes from a species that's ice-based and has a somewhat foreboding reputation. Just the fact that one pokemon's biology is warm and another's is cold shouldn't mean terribly too much, but still, what exactly is the difference between a warm furry spheal and a cold glalie? How do you fit the food chain and the predatory fear between them into it? What does it mean for either of them, and how does it make Solonn feel? IIRC you come back to that a few more times in the fic. I think it would be interesting to write about pokemon that are naturally predator-prey coming into the artificial situation of a pokemon team, and having to work together.

    It's a pretty nice first chapter, and probably the one offputting thing is that it jumps straight into the action. I probably have a habit of expecting people to write teasers or something for their first post, which is nonsense. We have the birth of our character, and some of the key things happen that make up the confusingness of life for a snorunt. I'm glad to look at these chapters again, since I haven't seen them for so long.

  4. #4
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    armaldo: Shhh nah it's ok; it wasn't excessively negative at all! Picturing things that barely (or don't) have limbs and are about as flexible as... something that's not very flexible at all is tricky--even from this side of the keys. And even by my reckoning, "sitting" is an odd way to put what a glalie is doing when they get the heck out of the air. In my case, it's because given the way I reckon glalie anatomy, it could just as accurately be described as lying down.

    But for that matter, so could the act of getting on the ground and turning face-up.

    I do believe I've finally found a good opportunity to get into my headcanons about glalie anatomy.

    (This is gonna get slightly PG-13ish, just to warn ya.)

        Spoiler:


    THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN OH MY GOSH. I hope I get more opportunities to fanramble like a huge dork in future.

    ABOUT POKE-PREDATION: yeah there was pretty much no way I wasn't gonna touch on that, heh. That's a subject that's pretty much always fascinated me: the moral and ethical implications of snacking on the sapient. Which, for the record, literally all pokémon are in this series. You can't even snack on a silly little wurmple without snuffing out hopes and dreams.

    If I just ruined your dinner plans, I apologize.

    WITH REGARDS TO THE KIDS: yeah they are probably the flattest characters in this whole thing. XD Probably. There's some further down the line that might give them a run for the money.

    (There's also a couple of one-off characters who probably have more personality than members of the actual supporting cast. I'm not entirely sure how that happened, either.)

    Wild pokémon cultures are pretty much my favorite thing to read about in pokéfic, period. (Which makes something lying on the horizon kind of... odd, but I'll not spoil any more about it than that.) Glad you like 'em, too.

    It's so neat to see so many people who actually remember my stuff and nonsense from back in the day. Neat, and surprising, and honestly rather touching. :') Thank you all.

    Praxiteles: THERE YOU ARE. I'd wondered whatever became of you.

    YES HOENN ROCKS. \ o / Second favorite region right there. (Orre takes top prize.)

    ABOUT THE BORDER-CAVERN: you pretty much hit the nail on the head with the first guess. It's a big ol' chamber based loosely on the "bottom" level of Shoal Cave, where you can catch snorunt. It leads out to a more extensive network of caves, where spheal and such live.

    It's probably for the better that you can't actually descend into Virc-Dho in-game. Imagine how many repels you'd have to buy.

    Yes, he is seeing her heat. She is appearing as a glowy ball of fur and cute. Well okay, he's not exactly seeing the "cute" aspect, but yeah.

    Really, the thermal vision ought to be impacting their perception more than it does, and more than it will. In an environment like that one, the heat of the living might be more distinct, but in a warmer place everything would probably look more like one great big glaring pile of psychedelic vomit. Ah well. Plenty of opportunities to crank up the otherness dial in future xenofic.

    And yes, yes it is very nearly finished. In fact, I predict the last chapter (or chapters, depending on how long they feel like running and how they feel like organizing themselves) will be done by this time next week. Damn does it ever feel good to be getting this close to completion.


    Thanks for reading, you two. Hope you enjoy the ride to come!
    Last edited by Sike Saner; 24th September 2014 at 8:25 PM.
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication

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    It's a bit early to post the next chapter, I know. But I figured I may as well go ahead, seeing as I have a very special announcement to make:

    Communication is now 100% complete.

    After all these years of working on it, I am beyond happy and relieved to be done at last. :')

    Now that we know this thread's gonna have a proper end when all is said and done, let's get on with the next step toward it, shall we? :3

    ___

    Chapter 2 – Carried Away


    The sound of footsteps echoed through the tunnel as Solonn walked along the route that led to the snowgrounds, and he walked alone. At the age of nineteen, he was old enough to go there unaccompanied and had been for several years.

    Solonn usually didn’t run into anyone when traveling to the snowgrounds, and this was shaping up to be yet another uneventful trip. He heard no steps other than his own, and the level of the blue eyelight shining on the ice-covered surfaces that surrounded him stayed constant and low. There was nothing to indicate anyone of any other kind around, either.

    Without much farther to go to reach his destination, Solonn took to wondering who might already be there. He also wondered if today’s activities would include sparring—he rather hoped they wouldn’t. He'd battled on not only the previous day but the day before that; he wanted something different for today’s trip to the snowgrounds.

    Then, abruptly, he ceased to care about the other snorunt’s plans—or anything else, for that matter. The light in the tunnel cut out altogether, and the footsteps stopped and gave way to the sound of their now insensible maker falling to the floor.

    * * *

    The next sight to greet Solonn’s eyes quickly confused him. The space surrounding him was significantly wider now but also far less empty—a crowd of glalie now surrounded him. No sooner had he awoke than a great rush of murmurs rose up around him.

    “Oh, thank the gods, he’s awake!” said a voice that he recognized as Azvida’s, which just managed to rise above the din. “It’s all right now, Solonn,” she then told him, responding to the growing bewilderment in his eyes. “You’re home again.”

    “Huh?” Solonn sat up, trying to finish awakening his senses quickly. “What’s going on?” he asked.

    “We found you here this morning. You were unconscious for a while; you’ve only just awoken,” answered an elderly male glalie whom Solonn didn’t know. At the sound of his voice, the crowd ceased its murmuring.

    “Solonn, this is Sile Van-Kil,” Azvida said, introducing the glalie who had just spoken. “He’s with the Security Guild. Don’t worry, you’re not in any trouble with them,” she added quickly, seeing the troubled look that flitted across her son’s face. “He just wants to ask you some questions.”

    “That’s right,” Sile said. “First, we’d like to know if you left the warren of your own accord, or if you were taken involuntarily.”

    Solonn’s eyes widened. “…What? I didn’t leave the warren,” he said, growing even more confused. He hadn’t set foot outside of Virc-Dho’s borders even once since that day roughly twelve years prior when he’d encountered Sophine and her mother—or, at least, he couldn’t recall having gone out there since then… What in the world is going on here?

    “You did leave, Mr. Zgil-Al,” Sile said, his tone considerably sterner than before. “You were gone for nearly fifteen days.”

    Solonn's confusion shifted toward fear. Part of his life was missing from his mind, and it wasn’t exactly a small part… “I… I don’t remember going out there, though, sir,” he insisted. “Last thing I remember, I was on my way to the snowgrounds…”

    “You’re certain you have no memory of where you went or whom or what you might have encountered?” Sile asked.

    “Yes, sir… I’m certain,” Solonn answered shakily. “It’s… it’s like nothing happened at all.”

    “Well, I’m afraid something did happen,” Sile said, his tone softening with what sounded like pity. “As for what… well, we can’t be certain, but one possibility is that your missing time is the result of a deliberate act of memory erasure. That, in turn, could be evidence of abduction by unknown psychic pokémon.” At these words, murmurs arose in a fresh wave throughout the attendants.

    “But why? What would any such creatures want with him?” Azvida asked.

    “Your guess is as good as mine,” Sile replied. “Needless to say, this means we'll all have to live with increased vigilance. We must keep our eyes open for anything strange. Mr. Zgil-Al is safely among us again, but the next victim may not be so fortunate…”

    “Well, whoever and whatever it was that took him, they’d better not show themselves around me. Not if they want to avoid pain, anyway,” Azvida said with a flash of her eyes. She smiled weakly at Solonn. “I’m just so glad you got back safely. You had me worried half to death!”

    Solonn might have been glad to be back, too. The only obstacle was that lingering hole in his memory. Guess it’s my turn to be worried half to death, he thought dismally as the crowd dissipated and he and his mother headed for home.

    * * *

    Weeks passed before Azvida felt certain enough of her son’s safety to let him set foot outside their residence again. Once she had, however, Solonn quickly came to wish that she hadn’t. It seemed there wasn't a single person Solonn could run into who didn’t try to ask him a battery of questions about his disappearance. He had no answers for them regarding that topic, and at first he was able to explain that to them in a calm and patient manner. But it quickly became clear that they wouldn’t accept that answer. They continued to hound him about the matter, and it wasn’t long before he lost patience for their persistent interrogations.

    As a result, he took to spending as much time alone as he could. He visited the snowgrounds only when he was absolutely sure that no one else was there (he had long ago learned how to detect snorunt trying to hide in the snow) and thus not very often. For a time, at least, he was able to successfully avoid others and their questions both in the snowgrounds and everywhere else.

    Ultimately, it wasn't a snorunt or a glalie who broke his solitude. It was a zubat, one who came fluttering unexpectedly into the snowgrounds one day. It wasn’t the same one Solonn had seen all those years ago, however; this one was noticeably smaller. He did have something in common with the previous zubat, though: he looked lost—very lost, in fact, and very anxious about it.

    Solonn watched as the zubat flapped about in frantic figure-eights overhead. The flying creature appeared not to notice the snorunt below at all and talked continuously to himself about how scared he was, how he didn’t know where he was, and how he didn’t know what to do—Solonn half expected the poor thing to pass out and fall to the snow below from not pausing to take a breath.

    When Solonn thought he could get a word in edgewise between the zubat’s chitterings, “Hey!” he called up to him. “Do you need help?”

    The zubat gave a startled squeak. The next second, he plummeted from the air without any warning, diving right into the snorunt’s face—Solonn braced himself for a wing attack or something equally unpleasant, but the zubat thankfully didn’t attack him. Instead he merely asked, in a very high-strung voice, “Where am I?”

    Solonn winced at the volume and pitch of the zubat’s voice. “You’re where you don’t belong,” he then answered, which immediately earned a shriek of terror from the zubat. “Relax! I can take you to someone who knows the way out of here.”

    “Really?”

    “Yes, really,” Solonn said a bit wearily. “Now, come on!”

    If the zubat had possessed eyes, they might have been sparkling. “Oh, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you—”

    “Are you coming along or not?” Solonn interrupted. He turned and started walking away.

    “Oh yes, yes, right,” the zubat said hastily, fluttering after Solonn in a hurry.

    As Solonn made his way through the warren, he tried very hard to ignore the person following him. True, the last zubat he'd encountered had been rather hostile, but at least she had also been relatively quiet. This zubat, on the other hand…

    “Wow! This place is so weird!” the zubat chittered, rattling on and on and on. “But it’s still pretty cool, though! Super cool! …And super cold. Brrr! I don’t like the cold. No, I sure don’t like it. Of course, for that matter, I don’t really like the sun, either… But that’s okay, cause I still like you! And that’s cause you’re helping me get out of here! What a pal!” he squealed.

    Solonn cringed. He reminded himself that he was doing the right thing by aiding this creature… or tried to remind himself of that, but the zubat’s voice seemed to be trying its hardest to destroy his mind.

    The zubat got right in his face—again. “Name’s Zyrzir, by the way,” the zubat said.

    Solonn knew that already. Zyrzir had already introduced himself six times since leaving the snowgrounds.

    “So, what’s your name? Huh? Huh? Huh?” Zyrzir asked as he resumed following behind the snorunt.

    “Mr. Ice Beam,” Solonn said, utterly deadpan.

    “Hey… that’s not what you said last time!” Zyrzir said with a frown. “Last time, you said your name was Mr. Bitey! The time before that, you said your name was Mr. Snowball! And all the times before that, you didn’t say anything at all, as if you didn’t have a name, and that was your answer! Why won’t you just please cooperate and tell me what your real name is, huh?” Zyrzir whined.

    Because you are annoying me to death, and I am trying to ignore you so my brain doesn’t explode! Solonn thought.

    But then Zyrzir laid down his ultimatum. “I won’t stop asking until you tell me the truth.”

    The snorunt produced a sound halfway between a groan and a sigh. “Fine. My name is Solonn. Satisfied?”

    “Oh yes, yes, yes! Thanks a thousand, Mr. Satisfied!” Zyrzir squeaked joyfully, at which Solonn made a face. “Oh, by the way, are we almost where we’re supposed to be going? Are we? Are we? Are we?” the zubat then asked.

    “Yes, we are, luckily for you.” And even more luckily for me, Solonn added silently. Sure enough, they soon reached the Zgil-Al residence, where they were greeted almost immediately by Azvida.

    “Oh good,” she said. “I was hoping you’d get back soon. Zilag was here looking for you. He just left not too long ago. I told him he could come back here after a little while.”

    Solonn started to turn to leave at once.

    “No, you don’t,” Azvida said. She shifted the ice on the walls to form a barrier in front of Solonn. “Now, I don’t know what’s going on between you two, but I think it’s time you sorted it out. And you’re not leaving until you do just that.”

    Solonn grudgingly started toward his room, but was obstructed once again, this time by his mother’s face.

    “And might I ask why you’ve brought a zubat here?” she asked.

    “He needs out,” Solonn said.

    “Fine, then. I’ll deal with that, and you’ll stay here and wait for Zilag,” Azvida said. “And I mean it, stay here. I’ll know if you don’t.” With that, she left, leading Zyrzir away with her.

    And just how would she know if I left? Solonn wondered, but he decided not to chance it. He went to his room, and for several minutes he just sat there with nothing to do but dread Zilag’s visit. He wished he could devise a way to distract himself from that inevitability, but when he tried to think of one, he couldn’t come up with anything at all.

    The reason was that the memory of Zyrzir’s voice was, for some reason, now infesting his brain. It was leaving no room whatsoever for any other thought processes to take place. Solonn tried to displace that memory, but it remained firmly stuck in his head, the words repeating again and again at a maddening pace.

    He groaned in aggravation. “Why couldn’t he just shut up?” he wondered aloud. “Gods, it was nonstop: ‘Are we there yet? Brrr, it’s cold! You’re my friend!’”

    Solonn abruptly shut his mouth in surprise. That impression of Zyrzir’s voice had been eerily close to the real thing… Feeling a giddy little spark of wonder, he tried it out again. “Hi, I’m Zyrzir! And I’m… so… annoying!”

    Dead on! he congratulated himself silently, bursting into laughter. It was then that the iron grip of the Zyrzir-voice on his brain finally relented and an idea occurred to him: perhaps now he could provide something for people to talk about that they just might find more interesting than his recent abduction…

    Grinning in anticipation, Solonn put on the Zyrzir-voice once more. “Wait’ll Zilag hears this!”

    * * *

    In time, Azvida returned, checking at once to see if her son was still home. Shortly thereafter, Zilag arrived. Azvida showed him to Solonn’s room right away, then left the two snorunt alone.

    “Uh…” Zilag started somewhat warily as he stood several paces behind Solonn, who had his back turned toward him.

    Solonn turned slightly to acknowledge Zilag, wearing an unreadable expression.

    “Yeah, hi,” Zilag said awkwardly, sounding a bit troubled. “I just… you know, wanted to make sure that you’re okay.”

    “Why wouldn’t I be?” Solonn asked nonchalantly.

    “Well… since that thing that happened—”

    “I really don’t want to talk about that, Zilag,” Solonn interrupted flatly. “I can’t anyway—I said I don’t remember anything about that, and that’s the truth.”

    “I know! I believe you!” Zilag said.

    “And what about the others?” Solonn asked. “Have they finally got it through their heads yet?”

    “I told them to quit bugging you about that. I figured out that was why you’ve been avoiding everybody.”

    “And you’re sure they’ll really listen to you, too?” Solonn asked, wearing a skeptical look on his face.

    “Well, even if they won’t listen to me, I bet they’d listen to you. You’re taller than any of us,” Zilag pointed out.

    “Not by that much,” Solonn said, rolling his eyes. “And I am not going to start pushing people around just because I’m bigger than them,” he said, sounding slightly offended.

    “That’s not exactly what I meant… ” Zilag said—although it was almost what he meant. “Look, I just want you to be able to go out without having to worry about being harassed,” he said earnestly, “and I promise I’ll do whatever I can to keep people off your back about—well, you know what.”

    Solonn turned around completely to face Zilag. Smiling, he said, “Thanks. I appreciate that.”

    “No problem,” Zilag said coolly. “So… feel like hitting the snowgrounds and letting everybody know you’re still alive?”

    “Well…” Solonn began. Then, he smiled craftily. Time to bring out the secret weapon… “Sure, why not?” he said perkily in his impression of Zyrzir’s voice.

    Zilag stood completely still and silent for a moment as if petrified, his mouth slightly agape as he stared like an idiot. “…What was that?” he finally asked.

    “That,” Solonn said slyly, “was the voice of a zubat.”

    Zilag continued staring stupidly for a moment. Then he broke into disproportionately loud giggles, the sound of which brought Azcida rushing into the room.

    “What's going on in here?” she asked, sounding fairly bewildered.

    “I’m sorry,” Zilag said, gasping a bit. He gestured toward Solonn. “It’s just him; he’s doing something funny. Do that zubat voice again!” he then requested of Solonn.

    “Zubat voice?” Azvida asked with a puzzled look at her son.

    Solonn hesitated, not sure how his mother would react to his impression; perhaps this sort of thing fell under the category of disrespecting the “sacred prey”. Finally, he reckoned that she probably wouldn’t take it too seriously—it was just a silly little impression, after all.

    Proceeding with his performance, “Hi, I’m Zyrzir! My voice causes brain damage!” he chittered cheerfully.

    Azvida’s eyes widened. Then she laughed, albeit in a much more subdued way than Zilag had. “Oh gods,” she said once it had subsided, “that sounds exactly like him. I’d thought I’d never hear that horrid voice again!”

    “Isn’t it just awful?” Solonn said, keeping the zubat voice.

    “Oh yes,” Azvida agreed, chuckling a bit more as she turned to exit the room.

    “You have got to go and do that at the snowgrounds,” Zilag said once she'd left. “I bet everyone’ll be there if we go now.”

    “Okay, then,” Solonn said in his own voice, smiling. “Let’s go.”

    The two of them passed by Azvida as they headed out. “Guess you’re going to go show off to everyone you can, aren’t you?” Azvida teased Solonn.

    “Guess so,” Solonn admitted as he and Zilag exited the Zgil-Al residence.

    Azvida was glad to see that Solonn was up for social interaction again, especially given the way that he’d found to go about it. She chuckled to herself again in amusement and pride as she thought about Solonn’s zubat impression again. She not only thought it was funny—Zyrzir’s was the single most ridiculous voice and manner of speaking she had ever heard, after all—she also thought that it was uncannily, even disturbingly accurate.

    How does he do that? she wondered. Solonn’s zubat impression was so accurate that it was as if he wasn’t just using the zubat’s voice, but also—

    Azvida stopped laughing, quite astounded, as she realized that no, her son wasn’t merely using the voice of a zubat. He was using the language of one, as well.

    * * *

    Once Solonn and Zilag arrived at the snowgrounds, Solonn produced the zubat impression yet again. It went over fairly well with the crowd of snorunt who were gathered there.

    “That was so cool!” Reizirr said.

    “Yeah,” Davron agreed. “Hey, let’s see if I can do it.” Davron’s attempt at a zubat impression didn’t sound like anyone or anything other than Davron, however. “Aw, crap…”

    “Just keep trying,” Solonn said, and using the zubat voice in demonstration, added, “Like this, see?”

    “Wow, that’s so impressive,” said a sarcastic voice, one not belonging to a snorunt. Everyone in attendance turned toward its source. There, at the entrance to the snowgrounds, lingered a smirking glalie.

    “Kashisha, go away!” Zilag urged. Kashisha was his older sister—though he wished she weren’t.

    Ignoring her brother entirely, Kashisha advanced into the room, shoving aside any snorunt unfortunate enough to be in her path. “Seriously, I thought there was an actual zubat in here,” she went on, “but it turns out to be just a bunch of snow-twerps. Shame, really. I was looking forward to biting its wings off.”

    She stopped in front of Solonn. “You’re the one responsible for that little trick?” she asked.

    Solonn remained utterly silent and still, wary of interacting with Kashisha in any way.

    “Better answer her,” Zilag said. “She’s evil incarnate.”

    “Why, thank you for the compliment, dear brother,” Kashisha said in a sugary tone, abruptly getting in Zilag’s face; with a tiny squeak of fright, he dove right into hiding under the snow. Then she got in Solonn’s face. “Well?”

    “Yes,” Solonn confirmed in a small voice.

    “Oh, I’m sorry, what was that? I didn’t hear you…” Kashisha said melodiously.

    “I said yes! It was me!” Solonn shouted hastily.

    Kashisha backed off slightly—very slightly. “Well, then. I guess that makes you pretty cool—for a stupid kid, anyway,” she said.

    Stupid kid? Solonn thought indignantly. You’re barely any older than I am! Which was true; Kashisha was only twenty-one months his senior, and just a year older than her brother. But she, like all her friends, had chosen to evolve early (six years ago, in her case). And like them, she treated those who waited until a respectable age to evolve like dirt.

    “I have a request for you, zubat-boy,” Kashisha said then. “Let’s hear… a spheal. Can you do that? Or is that too hard for the little baby?”

    The distinct feeling that Solonn got from Kashisha was that he’d better deliver. He tried hard to remember the way that Sophine had sounded. All of a sudden, the memory of that voice flooded his mind in just the same way that the memory of Zyrzir’s voice had done right before he’d replicated it for the first time.

    “Is this what you mean?” Solonn asked, using Sophine’s voice. This earned some impressed noises from the crowd and an approving nod of sorts from the glalie hovering before him.

    “Bravo,” Kashisha said, grinning wickedly. “Say… why don’t you come with me and entertain some of my friends?”

    “I don’t know…” Solonn wanted to back away from her, but he felt rooted to the spot.

    “Oh, I think you’d better—unless you’d rather I snap you in half…”

    “Okay, fine, I’ll go!”

    “Good! And while we’re at it…” Kashisha plunged her face into the snow, pulled Zilag out of hiding, and dropped her protesting brother at Solonn’s feet. “He’ll be coming along with us, too. He is your best friend, after all, right? Surely he wouldn’t want to miss your big debut in front of a real audience?”

    “No, ma’am, I wouldn’t,” Zilag said weakly in defeat.

    “Off we go, then!” Kashisha said merrily. She circled around Solonn and Zilag and began shoving them along before her. The two snorunt got moving in a hurry as Kashisha herded them out of the snowgrounds.

    “What should we do?” Reizirr asked once Kashisha and her victims had left.

    “Start composing their eulogies,” Davron answered grimly.

    * * *

    Solonn and Zilag scrambled to stay on their feet and ahead of Kashisha's periodically snapping jaws. She had driven them into a part of the warren that Solonn had never seen before.With one last shove, she brought the journey of the two snorunt to an end, forcing them into a wide, low-ceilinged room.

    Solonn saw at once that he, Zilag, and the glalie who had brought them here weren't the only ones present. The room was also occupied by nine other glalie who were sitting in a row and glaring at the two snorunt like some sort of sinister council.

    “I see you brought your pathetic little brother again,” the male in the center of the row said. “I’m getting bored of tormenting him, though… but who’s this other brat?”

    “This is Solonn,” Kashisha told him. “He’s our new court jester,” she added with an enormous grin. She nudged Solonn toward the glalie in the center of the row. “That, Solonn, is Sanaika, the Master of Ceremonies. And I do mean ‘master’. Bow before him!”

    “Yes, bow!” Sanaika snapped.

    Solonn lowered his head slightly. Sanaika responded by spitting a chunk of ice that struck him in the forehead, eliciting a shout of pain from the snorunt.

    “The Master approves! You are now initiated into the Fellowship of Slaves!” Kashisha said gleefully. “Now! Perform for your master!”

    With a small sigh, Solonn ran through his impression of Zyrzir’s voice, followed by that of Sophine’s voice. Then, after rummaging briefly through his memories, he produced a third impression: the voice of Sophine’s mother.

    “What an entertaining little weenie you are!” Sanaika remarked once Solonn had finished.

    “I knew you’d like him!” Kashisha exclaimed proudly. “That sealeo voice trick at the end was a nice touch, by the way,” she told Solonn.

    “Yeah, but I can think of one impression that I guarantee you he doesn’t know,” Sanaika said. The glalie at either side of him gazed expectantly at him with looks of toadying curiosity. “Human.”

    “Oh, that’s brilliant!” Kashisha crowed, her eyes flashing diabolically. The other glalie echoed her enthusiastic approval.

    “…Wait, did you say ‘human’?” Solonn asked. He was sure that he couldn’t have heard that right…

    “Yes, you little turd, human,” Sanaika spat disdainfully. “You know, those weird, stupid-looking things with the long limbs and tiny little heads who sound completely ridiculous when they talk…”

    “And taste like crap,” the glalie to Sanaika’s left offered.

    You wouldn’t know,” Sanaika scoffed at him. “But yes, they do taste like crap.”

    “Humans don’t exist,” Solonn dared to say. “They’re just a myth…”

    All of the glalie stared incredulously at Solonn. Zilag quickly looked away from him, terrified that something hideous was about to befall his friend.

    “Oh, they do exist,” Sanaika said in a low, rather ominous voice. “In fact, you’re going to find out for yourself just how real they are, and you might find yourself very, very grateful that they are, too.”

    Sanaika brought himself to hover right in front of Solonn, just inches away from his face. “I am giving you a quest and an offer. You’ll go up to where the humans are. You’ll meet one, see them with your own eyes, and hopefully get to hear the idiotic sound of their voice. And if you can return to us with a perfectly realistic impression of that voice, then I promise you’ll never have to come here again if you don’t want to.”

    “What do you say, little baby? You want to go human-hunting?” Kashisha asked playfully.

    “Oh, it’s not his choice,” Sanaika told her. “Now, you and the others can stay here and babysit your little brother while I deliver this twerp to his date with a human.”

    “Aw, we wanted to come and watch!” Kashisha said. The other glalie griped, as well, and one of them even snapped at Sanaika in her outrage. Sanaika turned toward the offender. His eyes suddenly turned a blazing white, and with a resounding crack, he struck her with sheer cold. His would-be attacker’s eyes rolled back, and she dropped heavily to the floor, unconscious.

    “You brain wrecks! We can’t all gather at the exit like that!” Sanaika said. “Do you not realize how conspicuous we would be? What if we were spotted by some ball-chucking human, huh? Or worse, by the authorities? Now, all of you, stay put, or else you’ll all find icicles where you’d rather not.”

    With that, Sanaika seized Solonn rather harshly in his jaws and set off into the warren with him. He carried the snorunt through a series of tunnels that led, much to Solonn’s surprise, up to the very same cavern where Solonn had met Sophine and her mother all those years ago. Then Sanaika left the cavern, sealing the exit behind him with a wall of ice.

    Solonn knew there was no way for him to get through that ice wall. Barriers like that one were commonplace in the warren, existing to control where snorunt could and couldn't go. The ice they were made of was too thick for even teeth like his to break through. It was reinforced with the raw power of the ice element and could only be removed by the kind of control over ice that no snorunt possessed.

    He knew the tunnel that led up into this place from the snowgrounds had been blocked off in the same way not long after Kashisha had told on Zilag for encouraging others to travel through it. Zilag had told him as much years ago. So it seemed there was no option for Solonn other than to sit and wait for some glalie—and hopefully a decent one rather than someone like Sanaika—to discover he was here. He figured he couldn’t rightly get into trouble like last time once he’d had a chance to tell how, and because of whom, he had ended up here—or, at least, he hoped he couldn’t get into trouble…

    Solonn began to wish that he wouldn’t have to wait much longer to be discovered, regardless of any punishment that might or might not be awaiting him. He was growing nervous about being here, and when he realized that it was because of those humans that Sanaika had spoken of, he couldn’t help but give a little laugh.

    Gods, that’s not what you’re afraid of, is it? Solonn thought incredulously. Don’t be stupid, he scolded himself silently. You know there’s no such thing as humans!

    “Well, well, well. I just knew that if we kept coming back here, we were sure to find one sooner or later.”

    Startled, Solonn jumped at the unexpected, somewhat gruff-sounding voice. He turned toward its source. Standing only a couple of feet away was a manectric, but Solonn had no way of recognizing that. The electric-type had managed to sneak right up behind Solonn, completely unnoticed until he had spoken.

    “Who… who are you?” Solonn asked nervously.

    “Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for introductions once we’re back in Lilycove, buddy,” the manectric said. He then unleashed a chilling, wavering howl, which was magnified and echoed by the cavern.

    As the howl faded, another sound arose. Solonn recognized it as the sound of snow crunching underfoot, but these footfalls sounded much heavier than his own or those of any other snorunt. The footsteps were approaching swiftly, and soon their owner came into view.

    For a very long moment, Solonn’s mind went blank at the sight of the newcomer. They do exist, he finally managed, his eyes wide with wonder. Some tiny part of him still insisted it was impossible, but the creature that now stood a short distance before him fit Sanaika’s description of a human well enough to make him believe otherwise.

    “Ah, Brett, you found one! Good job!” the human said brightly. Her voice surprised Solonn; he didn’t think it fit Sanaika’s descriptions of how humans sounded at all.

    The human then detached a pokéball from its resting place at her hip. It expanded in her hand, more than tripling in size. “Come out, Aaron!” she said.

    The sphere burst open at its equator. Energy exploded from within it in a surge of white light, and then, much to Solonn’s astonishment, it coagulated into a living creature. A sceptile now stood at the human’s side.

    “Don’t be afraid, snorunt,” the human said gently. “We don’t really want to hurt you. We’re going to make this as easy on you as possible. You won’t even feel a thing.”

    She looked toward Brett and then toward Aaron. “Thunder wave and false swipe, please,” she instructed them respectively. The two pokémon gave quick nods of acknowledgment, then began moving toward Solonn. Brett’s fur crackled with dancing sparks of electricity, while one of the bladelike structures at Aaron’s left wrist took on a white glow.

    And Solonn only stood and stared, transfixed by fascination and lingering disbelief at the human and the two pokémon who accompanied her. He failed to even realize he was being attacked until it was too late.

    Brett released a small pulse of electric-type energy. Solonn cried out at the initial pain as the attack struck him, but a second later, that pain was gone—along with all other sensation throughout his body. His legs gave out from under him in the next instant, and he toppled over onto his side.

    Aaron was now standing over him, peering down through dull yellow eyes as he raised his glowing wrist blade. But Solonn couldn't see this. His view of Aaron was limited to the sceptile’s tail and clawed feet. He didn’t see the careful, precise strike that left him on the sheer edge of consciousness, and just as the human had promised, he didn’t feel it either.

    “All right, that ought to do it,” the human said. From a pouch strapped to her shoulder, she produced another capture ball, a great ball this time.

    Barely able to stay conscious as he was, Solonn didn’t quite register the human’s next action: she threw the ball at him. It opened in midair before him and released a red beam that struck him and filled his fading vision with crimson light.

    One second, Solonn was lying paralyzed and nearly unconscious on the cavern’s floor. The next… he was nowhere.
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication

  6. #6
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    Chapter 3 – The Deal


    Solonn felt a number of things when he was released from the capture ball. First came sheer relief, both at no longer being drained and paralyzed (he distantly wondered how he had recovered so completely and suddenly) and, to a greater degree, at just being out of that ball—its particular style of confinement was just too surreal. He'd been conscious all the while that he’d been inside, but didn't seem to actually exist. It was as though the great ball had reduced him to nothing more than a mind without a body, impossible though such a thing should be. Trying to make sense of it earned him nothing more than a sore head, so Solonn pushed that particular matter aside for the time being.

    With the mysteries of the capture ball no longer first and foremost on his mind, Solonn’s focus shifted to the human who stood nearby. Since his captor was no longer wearing the heavy clothing that had protected her from the cold of Shoal Cave, she looked somewhat smaller now, and with her head no longer covered by a hood, he could now see her brown, shoulder-length hair.

    The next thing Solonn noticed about his present situation was that the environment he had been brought into was too warm for his liking. “Er… excuse me,” he said as he looked up at the human. “It’s a little too warm in here… could you do anything about that?”

    The human merely stared at him in response.

    Solonn repeated his request. This time, the human cocked her head a bit and smiled at him, but she still didn't answer, nor did she make any move to change the temperature.

    It was then that Solonn realized the human wasn't understanding a single word he was saying. This didn’t make sense; whenever Solonn had encountered a member of another species before, they'd been able to understand him just like his own people could. Why, he wondered, was the human any different?

    Solonn wondered if she might understand him if he were to speak to her with a human voice. As he considered it, memories of her voice filled his mind, and he was sure he could pull off an imitation of it.

    With that confidence, he was about to give it a try—but then stopped himself. Doing these “impressions” was what had gotten him swept up into this situation to begin with. It was because he'd revealed that talent that he'd gotten mixed up with Sanaika’s gang, and now—it hit him all at once—he would likely never see home again.

    Solonn started trembling in a sudden panic, and the human reacted right away. “Oh, poor little guy,” she said, looking upon him pityingly as she knelt down in front of him. “It’s okay; you have nothing to be scared of.”

    She opened her arms to Solonn, which only confused him. She then wrapped her arms around him and tried to lift him up, but he was heavier than she'd expected. Solonn, meanwhile, didn't like what she was doing. For a moment, his instincts took over, and he tried to wriggle free of her grasp. He just barely managed to stop himself short of biting her.

    Finally, recognizing both the futility of her efforts and Solonn’s aversion to what she was trying to do, the human gave up and let go of him. Shaking the cold from her hands, she stood fetched a pillow from the bed. She placed it on the floor for Solonn to sit on, hoping it'd make him more comfortable. The snorunt ignored it completely, giving her a penetrating stare.

    The human sighed. “Okay. I’ll tell you what: I’ll go get you something nice, something I promise you’ll like. In the meantime, I’ll give you a chance to get acquainted with a couple of your new friends. You’ve already met Aaron and Brett, but I have three other pokémon friends. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to meet Sei until she gets out of the pokémon center; she’s been pretty sick. But you can go ahead and introduce yourself to these two.”

    She removed two capture balls from her belt and released their occupants in twin surges of white light. A skarmory materialized at her right, while a claydol appeared at her left. There was something strangely disconcerting on a very primal level about the former, but Solonn couldn’t quite place what it was.

    “This is Raze,” the human said as she pointed at the skarmory, “and this is Ominous.” She pointed at the claydol. “Oh… I forgot to introduce myself, didn’t I?” she realized aloud with a giggle. “My name is Morgan Yorke. Anyway, these pokémon are some of my best friends, and I just know that ultimately you and I are going to be really good friends, too. See you in a few minutes!” she said, then left the room.

    For a moment, the other two pokémon just stared at Solonn, and he could only stare back. He soon began to wish they'd stop it, particularly with regards to Ominous—it was more than a little unnerving to have that many eyes staring at him from the same face.

    All those eyes left no room on Ominous’s face for a mouth, which made it quite the surprise when the claydol spoke to him—although it didn’t sound as though Ominous was actually saying anything. Their voice consisted of a rapid-fire series of low-pitched, hollow-sounding noises. Solonn got an immediate sense that he could never replicate that voice, no matter how hard he tried.

    “With your brain, nitwit!” Raze squawked, interrupting the claydol.

    Ominous winced, closing all of their eyes in unison. <I apologize,> they said. <I should not still be forgetting about that…>

    A second after Ominous had spoken, Solonn realized, astounded, that he hadn't exactly heard what they'd said. While their actual voice had rattled on incomprehensibly in his ears, the claydol's words had sounded within his mind as if it were one of his own thoughts. Solonn wasn’t quite sure what to make of this phenomenon.

    <As I was attempting to say,> Ominous went on, <the name by which Morgan called me is not my actual name. My true name is Oth.>

    “My name really is Raze, though,” the skarmory said, sounding less than happy about it. “I was born in this house, and that’s when Morgan gave me that name. I don’t think it’s such a great name, but…” She ruffled her magenta-feathered wings in the skarmory equivalent of a shrug. “So, what'd she name you?” Raze asked then.

    “Er… I don’t know,” Solonn admitted. “My real name is Solonn, though.”

    <She must not have given him his new name yet, then,> Oth supposed.

    “Maybe she isn’t going to give me another name,” Solonn said.

    “Oh, she’ll give you one,” Raze said. “Maybe you’ll like it, and maybe you won’t. But you’ll be grateful for it, and also grateful that you got landed with Morgan and not some other coordinator, because with some coordinators, you would just get called ‘Snorunt’.”

    “…Coordinators?” Solonn had never heard of such a thing.

    Raze cocked her head at Solonn. “You have a lot to learn,” she said.

    “Then you have a lot to explain,” Solonn countered. “What’s a coordinator?”

    “Well, a coordinator is your human coach and partner for the contests,” Raze explained. “And before you ask: in a contest, you just basically have to show off your powers. You use them in ways that impress humans. In your case, that means you can’t just blow a couple of snowflakes at them and expect to win.”

    Somehow the idea of “showing off” for the humans was less than appealing—in fact, it rather reminded Solonn of being ushered off by Kashisha to show off for her friends. “Wait, why would I want to do this, anyway?” he asked. “What’s in it for me?”

    Raze’s yellow eyes suddenly widened with glee. “I’ll show you!” she said eagerly, then speedily crossed the room. “Come here!” she beckoned, standing before a bookcase that was just a bit shorter than she was. After a moment of skeptical hesitation, Solonn complied. “Have a look at these!” Raze said once the snorunt had joined her, inclining her head toward something sitting on the bookcase’s top shelf.

    “I can’t see up there, Raze,” Solonn said.

    “Oh… oops,” Raze said with a small, embarrassed laugh. Somewhat awkwardly, she used her beak to pick up the thing she was trying to show to Solonn, then set it down on the floor between herself and the snorunt.

    Solonn peered at the thing she'd placed before him. It was a large, flat, plastic case. Through its transparent lid, he could see a collection of twelve small trinkets: colored ribbons, each adorned with a little metal medallion. The case also contained slots for eight more of these ribbons.

    “The red ones are mine,” Raze said, positively radiating pride, “the yellow ones are Oth’s, and the green ones are Sei’s. Now, yours, if I’m not mistaken, are gonna be blue.”

    “Hm.” You sure are assuming a lot, Raze… It was going to take more than just a bunch of ribbons to convince Solonn that these “contests” were anything he wanted to be involved with. “So,” he spoke up after a long moment’s silence, looking up from the ribbon case and right into Raze’s eyes, “this is what Morgan keeps us for?”

    “Well, yeah, pretty much,” Raze answered. She put the ribbon case back up on top of the bookcase, taking one last moment to admire her ribbons before turning her attention fully to the snorunt once more.

    “So… suppose I didn’t want to be a part of these contests… would she take me back home, then?” Solonn asked.

    There was a prolonged silence. Raze and Oth exchanged awkward glances.

    “Well?” Solonn pressed.

    <Solonn…> Oth began hesitantly. <Morgan had been seeking a snorunt to train for entry into contests for quite some time. She has spent many hours composing routines and strategies for you… I do not imagine that she would want her plans to go to waste.>

    “Well, maybe she can just go find some other snorunt for the job,” Solonn suggested. “Someone who actually wants it.”

    <I do not believe you would really want that,> Oth said. <You do not truly wish for another snorunt, possibly one of your friends, to be taken from his or her home just so that you can return to your own.>

    Solonn stared agape at Oth for a moment. The claydol was completely right; Solonn didn't even try in the slightest to contradict them.

    “This… this is your home now, Solonn,” Raze said, knowing the consolation to be futile even as she offered it. “You’ll get used to it eventually; I know you will.”

    “Yeah, of course you can say that,” Solonn muttered, not really bothering to make himself inaudible. “You were born here.”

    “I—” Raze began to counter, but she couldn’t quite find the right words and thus abandoned her comeback with a sigh.

    The door opened, and Morgan returned. Another human female accompanied her this time, slightly taller and with shorter, darker hair.

    “There he is,” Morgan said as the two entered, pointing at Solonn. “What do you think of him?”

    “Oh, he’s adorable,” the other human remarked. She stooped slightly to bring herself closer to the snorunt’s eye level. “Hi,” she said amiably. “Let me introduce myself. I’m Eliza, Morgan’s mother.” She extended her arms to Solonn with an expecting gaze.

    “He doesn’t do hugs,” Morgan informed her.

    “Oh… Well, that’s all right,” Eliza said, withdrawing her arms and straightening her posture. “What’s his name?” she asked.

    “I’ve decided to call him Azrael,” Morgan replied.

    Solonn gave her a funny look. That’s really the best you could come up with?

    “Oh, that’s lovely,” Eliza commented.

    Morgan smiled in response. Then she held a small, polystyrene bowl out in front of Solonn.

    Distracted by the new human, Solonn hadn’t even noticed that Morgan had been holding the bowl. He now stared at it with uncertainty, edging somewhat closer to it to get a look inside. It contained something that looked more or less like snow but was bright blue.

    “This is for you,” Morgan told him. “Try it, it’s really good.”

    Solonn gazed into the bowl for another second or two, then turned a skeptical gaze toward Morgan.

    “Go on, it’s tasty. I promise you’ll like it,” Morgan tried to assure him.

    Still wearing a doubtful expression, Solonn took the bowl from Morgan’s hands. He hesitated for another long moment before unenthusiastically dipping his hand into the blue snow, scooping some of it up, and putting it in his mouth. The snow had a flavor he could have never imagined—he conceded at once that it was good as Morgan had promised, if not moreso.

    However… the knowledge that performing tricks for people’s amusement like some kind of jester was apparently his sole purpose here, and that there seemed to be no way to return to the life that he’d previously known, was now attending heavily upon him, leaving a rather unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn't feel like eating. With a despondent sigh, he set the bowl down and turned away from Morgan.

    “Hey… are you feeling okay?” Morgan asked worriedly.

    Solonn didn't respond to her, neither then nor following her several subsequent attempts to get through to him. More than once, she tried to tempt him with that blue snow, but he continued to refuse it. He couldn't change this new life, but for a while, at least, he could try to ignore it and pretend it wasn’t happening.

    * * *

    The rest of the evening consisted of an awkward pattern of failed interactions between Solonn and his would-be coordinator. Morgan tried time and time again to converse and be friendly with him, but each time, she was met with resolute silence. After each unsuccessful attempt to socialize with him, she left him alone for an hour or so before giving it another go, only to fail to get through to him yet again.

    She did, at least, leave Solonn out of the great ball through the night, for which he was grateful. Perhaps, he considered, she'd thought that this would offer her new pokémon some time to get more accustomed to his surroundings. Instead the snorunt viewed it as a potential opportunity to flee from the human’s custody while she slept.

    Unfortunately, he found out very quickly that escape wasn't an option. The door was rendered an impassible barrier by a sliding lock, one that was installed at a height beyond Solonn’s reach. If it weren't for the fact that Morgan’s bookcase contained small, pewter pokémon statues and nothing else, he might have been able to stack up a few books as a means to reach that lock.

    The room’s only window was within Solonn’s reach, but it didn’t offer an avenue of escape, either; Morgan’s room was upstairs in a two-story house. Though by no means enjoying his present situation, Solonn didn't want to escape it by falling to likely injury and possible death.

    Having given up on finding a way to slip out, he just sat there on the windowsill, staring out through the window at the alien environment outside. This was not his world, not his place… but he couldn’t deny that he found it fascinating, even rather lovely, as he watched the light show put on by the cars below.

    Though tired in many ways, most of which weren't physical, Solonn found that he couldn't sleep. His eyes remained open and fixed on the city outside, watching as the rising sun brought a new day over the border of the horizon.

    A couple of hours later, Morgan stirred nearby in her bed, waking up. Sighing, Solonn turned away from the window at last, wondering how the human would try to reach him today.

    He got his answer quite shortly. Morgan left the room for a few minutes, then returned with more of that blue snow and set it down in front of him. He accepted it this time and ate nearly all of it, but only because he was earnestly very hungry. The human smiled at him as she took away the empty bowl, then left to have her own breakfast.

    It was when she returned that she attempted to step up the level of interaction between herself and her new pokémon a little more.

    “I’ll bet you’re wondering why you’re here, aren’t you?” she said, trying to sound as kindly and non-threatening as possible. “Well, you don’t have to worry. It’s not going to be anywhere near as scary as you might think. In fact, I bet you’ll have more fun than you’ve ever had before.”

    Morgan proceeded to illustrate her intention to enter Solonn in contests, not really telling him anything that he hadn’t already heard from Raze and Oth the evening before. He pretended not to pay any attention to her, though in reality he was absorbing her every word. It seemed that he simply couldn't tune out an alien voice.

    The day progressed, and Morgan continued to share her ideas, telling him about the routines he could employ in contests. As she spoke, he had to admit to himself that she didn’t sound as though she truly had any malevolent intentions for him. She wasn’t really coming across as a human version of Kashisha; as far as he could tell, she only had a friendly desire to invite him into her strange little hobby, not any intent to prey on him in any sense.

    Whether Morgan’s intentions were benign or not, Solonn still wasn't too keen on the idea of making a spectacle of himself, having learned all too well how that could earn the wrong kind of attention. There was also still the matter of his captor’s unwillingness to let Solonn leave if he wished, which made it hard for him to readily accept any sort of friendship or partnership with her. As such, when Morgan offered to begin Solonn’s training, he refused her efforts to bring him into the role that she had chosen for him in silent protest of his detainment.

    That night, Solonn sat in the moonlight once again, contemplating his situation as he perched upon the windowsill and gazed outside. Lilycove bore no resemblance to the world Solonn had known, which left him certain that he was very far from home—too far for him to make it back there by himself.

    His eyes fell upon the bed where the human was peacefully sleeping. Solonn wanted to go home again, but this creature wouldn't allow it.

    Wait, though… how do I really know she wouldn’t? the thought occurred to him. Raze and Oth had implied that Morgan had no intentions of letting him go, but the human herself had never said anything along the lines of, “You’re never leaving. You’re mine forever.” Morgan had never specifically mentioned anything at all regarding whether or not Solonn could ever leave. Moreover, she didn’t even know that he wanted to.

    What if she knew that I want to go back home? he wondered. But he could really only guess what her response would be, for the problem remained that she was, for whatever reason, unable to understand his speech. He could not communicate with her.

    …Although, maybe he could. After all, he still hadn't tried to see if Morgan could understand him if he were to speak like a human. He was still hesitant to attempt it, however. The memory of what the last use of his mimicry had earned for him was still fresh on his mind.

    But the fact remained that Solonn would probably never know how Morgan would respond to his wish to go home unless he shared it with her. As he thought about it, it began to seem like he was doing himself more of a disservice by not giving it a try than by taking the risk.

    Furthermore, he questioned if there really was that much of a risk involved where she was concerned. True, he'd gotten into trouble the last time he'd done impressions. But as he considered again, Morgan was no Kashisha, at least not as far as he could tell, so maybe it wouldn’t be like last time. Perhaps Morgan would simply hear him out and give him what he wanted without making him sorry for reaching out to her.

    But then, Solonn found himself considering what Oth had told him: I do not imagine that she would want her plans to go to waste. Morgan truly seemed to have her heart set on entering contests with him, and he suspected that she wouldn't abandon those plans so readily. He could tell her he wanted to leave, but as long as she held these intentions for him, what chance was there, really, that she'd let him go?

    That’s when the idea hit him: maybe, just maybe, a deal could be struck.

    Solonn carefully gauged the distance between the windowsill and the bed, then sprang from his perch. The mattress yielded with a bounce to his weight as he landed, yet Morgan slept on, snoring slightly. Solonn gazed at her from the foot of the bed. Her sleeping form glowed softly through the darkness with her warmth, giving her an almost spectrelike appearance.

    Solonn made his way toward the concentrated glow that surrounded the human’s head as if it were a beacon. Morgan’s face was half concealed by a few errant strands of her hair. Solonn moved them aside, revealing the serene face of his captor. It was interesting, he thought, how a creature whose practice was to abduct people from their homes could look so incredibly benign. The snorunt then reached toward her face again, slowly drawing his hand across her cheek this time.

    Morgan stirred, but only slightly. Solonn had assumed the contrasting cold of his hand against her warm skin would wake her, but he realized now that he should have recognized her as a heavy sleeper when jumping on the bed had failed to do the job. He began prodding her in the temple, hoping that that would wake her up. If it didn’t, he was prepared to do whatever was necessary. He wasn't averse to giving her a small bite if that was what it took.

    Luckily for Morgan (at least compared to the biting she would have received otherwise), Solonn’s current efforts succeeded, if only because one of his prods missed its mark somewhat and found its way into her left eye.

    “Hey!” she responded at once, waking up instantly but not quite fully. She lifted her head slightly from the pillow, grumbling incoherently and rubbing her sore eye for a moment, then shook her head in an effort to more fully awaken herself. Yawning loudly, she shifted and turned, sitting up a little more and craning her neck awkwardly to try and get a look at what could have possibly poked her in the eye. Her still-blurry vision just managed to make out the pointed silhouette of the snorunt standing next to her. Solonn’s eyelight partially illuminated his face and reflected brightly off of his teeth, giving him a rather eerie appearance.

    “Hello, Morgan,” he said quietly, nearly whispering, in a voice that wavered slightly but sounded like Morgan’s nonetheless.

    Morgan blinked sleepily at the snorunt for a second. “…Hi,” she said finally, half-yawning as she spoke.

    Then she realized whom and what she'd just replied to.

    In an instant, she was wide awake, sitting upright and staring with wide eyes at the pokémon beside her. For several seconds, a vocal response of any sort to the situation failed her. Eventually, she managed a half-gasped, “What?”

    “I said hello,” Solonn repeated, his voice deceptively calm.

    Morgan was silently agape for a brief while before she could get her next words out. “…But… no, you can’t…”

    “Yes, I can.”

    “But… how?” Morgan asked, her voice sounding rather strained.

    “…I don’t know how I can,” Solonn admitted uneasily.

    Morgan took a moment to digest that silently. “This is a dream,” she then decided aloud, and began to turn away from Solonn and back toward her pillow.

    “No, it’s not,” Solonn said. “And you know it’s not.” He leaned over her slightly so that the light from his eyes washed over her face. “But if you want to be sure, I can bite you. It’d hurt, and I’m sorry it would, but you’d be sure you were really feeling it, I promise you.”

    Morgan sat up once again. For a second, she looked at Solonn as if she wanted to accuse him of lying, but that gaze faltered almost as soon as it had formed. She turned slightly, seeming less than willing to look him in the eye now. “It’s okay, Azrael. You don’t have to bite me. I… I believe you.”

    Solonn nodded slightly. “Good. That’s good,” he said, then sighed in slight relief. There went the first obstacle—Morgan seemed to have accepted that she could now understand him. Hopefully, he could count on her to hear him out now. “…But Morgan? My name isn’t Azrael. It’s Solonn,” he told her.

    Morgan looked surprised for a moment, but quickly relaxed once more. “It shouldn’t surprise me that you have your own name,” she said, sounding a bit apologetic. “I bet a lot of pokémon do. Like Sei; she told me hers the first time she evolved, and I’ve been calling her that ever since. Before that, I’d been calling her Enchantress…”

    Morgan chuckled faintly. “I liked that name, but she told me not to call her that anymore, so I don’t. Now, Ominous… Sei told me what their real name was, and so I asked them if they wanted me to start calling them Oth from now on—that’s their name—but according to Sei, they said not to. I think they might have been worried about hurting my feelings by turning down the name I gave them; they’re such a softie, really…”

    “So… you mean you can understand Sei, too?” Solonn asked, a bit surprised.

    “Yeah. But that’s only because she’s a very powerful psychic-type. She has really advanced telepathic skills, and that’s how she can make me understand her.”

    “Oth has telepathy, too. Why can’t you understand them?” Solonn asked.

    “…I actually didn’t know that they had telepathy,” Morgan said.

    Oth must be hiding it from her… Solonn realized. He began to wonder why they would, and also began to worry that perhaps he shouldn’t have told Morgan about their telepathy, seeing as Oth apparently desired to keep it a secret.

    Morgan, meanwhile, was able to make eye contact with Solonn again. Her expression now spoke of burgeoning amazement. “…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be goggling at you like this,” she said as she realized the way she was looking at Solonn. “It’s just… God, this is so incredible. I thought pokémon had to use telepathy to make themselves understood.”

    “Guess you were wrong,” Solonn said simply.

    “Guess so.” Morgan laughed softly and smiled; she looked as if she were proud of him. Why she should be, Solonn couldn’t figure out; it wasn’t as if she were responsible for his ability to speak to humans.

    The human’s features shifted suddenly, becoming strangely unreadable. “Hey. Could you do me a favor, though?” she asked.

    “What?”

    “Do you… do you have to sound like a human when you talk?” Morgan asked. A very odd look came over her face as she realized something. “Do you have to sound like me? How can you sound like me?” she asked, sounding fairly alarmed.

    “Shh! Try to keep quiet; I don’t want your mother to wake up,” Solonn said. “And I already told you: I don’t know how I do it.”

    “…Sorry,” Morgan said, lowering her voice significantly. “But anyway, could you just… um, not sound like me? No offense, but it’s… kind of weirding me out. Why don’t you just use your normal voice from now on, okay?”

    Solonn was about to tell Morgan that she wouldn't understand him anymore if he stopped using that voice. But then something caught in his mind: Why should what voice I use affect whether or not anyone understands me? A different voice should still produce the same words; it shouldn’t have the power to transform those words into others. If someone couldn't understand him, he should have to use different words to be understood. Their words. Their language.

    The gears of his mind momentarily stopped turning as epiphany struck him like a falling stone. The only way Morgan could be understanding him was if he was, in fact, speaking her language instead of his own. And that was precisely what he was doing.

    Solonn was stupefied. How this could be possible? How could he just fluently speak a language that he didn't, couldn't know, a language of which he had only heard a couple of handfuls of words? He swallowed hard, and his mouth went immediately dry afterward. He was fond of wondering, but his desire to understand this matter was so desperate that he could hardly stand it. He started trembling, his eyelight wavering.

    “Is… is something wrong?” Morgan asked, sounding more than a little concerned.

    Solonn met her gaze, the earnest care behind the human’s eyes managing to register despite everything else going on behind his own eyes at the time. He tried to respond but couldn’t decide what to say, especially since he wasn’t quite sure of how he should say it. He should be able to use his own voice, he tried to reason silently—it had to be the language and not the voice—but he still couldn’t quite believe it.

    “It’s okay,” Morgan said. “If you’re not comfortable talking to me in your own voice, you don’t really have to.”

    Solonn closed his eyes. “No,” he croaked softly, continuing to use Morgan’s voice, his throat feeling as though it were trying to seal itself shut. “No, it’s… it’s not that.”

    To prove that wasn’t the issue, he determined that he'd have to try and speak to Morgan with his own voice while still speaking her language. The mental block was still there, the sense that he was doing something that shouldn't be possible, but he'd just have to find his way around it.

    Solonn took a deep breath and forced himself to return Morgan’s gaze once more. “…It’s nothing,” he finally managed. Conscious as he was of the seemingly impossible thing he was doing, every word felt like he was pushing a boulder out of his mouth. Get a grip, he tried to command himself, you’re supposed to be talking to her for a reason, remember? “Listen…” he began slowly, all too self-consciously. “I’m sorry I woke you… but we need to talk.”

    Morgan nodded. “Okay. What about?”

    “Well… it’s about those contests…”

    “You don’t want to do them, do you?” Morgan said. “I’ve kind of gotten that impression.”

    “…What?” Solonn was taken aback—he hadn't expected her to have recognized his desires already. “No… I mean, I’d rather not, but… I’ll do them.”

    “Azr—Solonn… you don’t have to. Seriously, if you don’t want to…”

    “No, it’s okay,” Solonn insisted. By the impression he’d gotten from Raze’s and Oth’s words, he'd imagined that Morgan would take offense to his wishes to have nothing to do with the contests. He'd thought she would vehemently refuse to relinquish her plans for him. Yet here she was, ready to give up her intentions for him without any sign of a conflict. Suddenly Solonn felt rather guilty about his unfavorable preconceptions of her.

    He sighed. “I know… I know you’ve been planning for this for a long time… and I know it means a lot to you. It’s… it’s not a big deal. Really. I’ll do it—but only on one condition.”

    “What?” Morgan asked, with a troubled, doubtful look into Solonn’s eyes.

    Solonn took another deep breath. “Okay. Raze and Oth… they showed me their ribbons. Four each. That’s… that’s how many I have to get myself, isn’t it? Four?” he asked. Morgan nodded. “Okay. After I get the fourth one—you have to promise me, Morgan—after I get that fourth ribbon… you have to let me go. You have to take me back home. Promise me, Morgan. Or I won’t do it.”

    “Oh, Solonn…” Morgan’s gaze turned from merely troubled to earnestly sad, earnestly sorry. “If you want to go so bad, I’ll take you home right now. I’ll get Ominous out of their ball and wake them up, and we’ll teleport there right—”

    “No!” Solonn interrupted her. His guilt had increased greatly—not only was Morgan fully accepting of his wishes regarding the contests, she was even completely ready and willing to take him right back home. And here he'd imagined her as immovably, irreconcilably possessive of him, as a creature who'd never release his life from the grip of her own…

    “No… I said it’s okay, and I meant it,” he insisted, trying his best to convey firm conviction in spite of the way his voice was shaking. “I’ll do this. I don’t mind, I really don’t, just as long as I know I’ll be going home when this is done. That way… that way, we can both get what we want.” He swallowed. “It’s only fair, don’t you think?”

    There was a long silence. Morgan just stared at Solonn until an odd, strangled sound escaped from her throat. In the next moment, her eyes filled with tears, which shone in the moonlight as they streamed down her face. Solonn had never seen such a thing in his life; he couldn’t help but stare in wonder at it.

    Morgan nodded, but that action was overshadowed by a sudden, forward motion that was halfway between lunging and collapsing. Her arms encircled Solonn, and she pressed her forehead against his. The snorunt stiffened, initially surprised by and resistant to the unexpected embrace, but he managed to get himself to relax quickly enough.

    “Okay,” Morgan said, half-whispering. “If you’re really okay with this, then we’ll go ahead with it. And then afterward, I’ll take you home. I promise.”

    Solonn nodded, acknowledging Morgan’s acceptance of his terms. He'd imagined that he would be greatly surprised should the deal go through. Now he couldn’t believe that he’d honestly expected it wouldn’t. Morgan cared as much about his wishes as her own; that much was now certain. She was perfectly willing to give him what he wanted. In return for that—and as an apology for harboring such harsh preconceptions, though he did a fairly good job of convincing himself that guilt had little to do with it—he'd give her what she wanted. It seemed only fair, after all.

    The definite impression Solonn got from the human now was that her word could be trusted. One day, she'd take him home. But until then… It was now, with the initial panic at the thought of never returning to the warren having passed, that the opportunities of Solonn’s situation dared to come forward at last. Until the day when he'd return to Virc-Dho, perhaps he'd get to encounter and experience more strange things, more wonders of which he could never have conceived. This, he reckoned, could be interesting…
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication

  7. #7
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    Jun 2005
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    Chapter 4 – Spell of the Spotlight


    The following morning brought a choice.

    “All right, Solonn. The contest hall here in town will be holding two normal rank contests—those are the ones for newcomers—in the upcoming months,” Morgan said. “There’ll be one in three weeks, on the twenty-fifth, and then there’ll be another one two months afterward, on August twenty-fifth. Now, if you start your training now, you could enter into the earlier one, but you might want to wait until the August contest so that you can get more practice in and be more prepared. But it’s your call, Solonn.”

    “I’ll go for the earlier one,” Solonn said at once. In his mind, it was no question at all—the sooner he got started with these contests, the sooner he could be done with them and go home.

    Morgan nodded. “Okay, then.” She’d have preferred for him to wait until the later contest; the extra time to prepare might have done him good. But she chose to respect Solonn’s choice and allowed his decision to stand.

    * * *

    That afternoon, Solonn’s contest training began in earnest. It started in a strange manner: Morgan offered him a small, indigo-colored cube and told him to eat it, claiming it would help him do well in the contests.

    Solonn looked at Morgan as if she were crazy. “How is this thing supposed to make any difference in whether or not I win?”

    “Well… what it does is it refines your appearance. These pokéblocks will help you look as healthy and as… er, handsome as you can look. Making a good visual impression on the audience and judges is very important.”

    Solonn continued to gaze skeptically at the human. Whatever, he decided finally, and took the pokéblock from Morgan, devouring it quickly. The little candy was… okay; it was kind of good, except it had this funny, sort of sour aftertaste. That was really the only fault Solonn could find with the pokéblock, though, and it was really only mildly unpleasant—at first. Then he found the little candy cube beginning to disagree with him… and then to strongly disagree with him…

    Morgan looked on with pity and poorly concealed revulsion. But the snorunt’s reaction to the candy didn’t dissuade her from attempting to feed him another one later that evening. Solonn resisted at first—he wasn’t exactly eager to throw up again, after all.

    “This one’s different,” Morgan tried to assure him. “I made more than one formula since I didn’t know which you’d do best with. Unfortunately, they just so happen to be the same color—but I promise you, they’re not the same. I even got rid of all of the other kind, so there won’t be any mix-ups.”

    Solonn stared warily at her for a long while, his stomach threatening to go sour at just the mere memory of what the last pokéblock had done to him. Then, with a resigned sigh, he accepted the identical yet supposedly different pokéblock—and immediately discovered that Morgan had indeed been telling the truth. This little indigo cube was a far cry from its predecessor, with a great flavor and no disagreeable aftertaste. Seconds passed, and it showed no threat of sickening him. Solonn looked up at Morgan with an approving smile.

    Morgan smiled back. “Ah, so this one’s a winner, huh?” Solonn nodded. “Good! Okay, then. You’ll be getting two of these a day until they’ve done as much for you as they can,” she told him.

    This was certainly an aspect of contest training that Solonn didn’t mind in the least. Still, he was skeptical that merely eating candies would be enough to prepare him for any sort of competition. What else, he wondered, might Morgan have in store for him?

    * * *

    Around noon the next day, Morgan left and returned a short while later accompanied by someone unfamiliar.

    “Solonn, this is Sei Salma, an alakazam,” Morgan said.

    The pokémon at her side bowed, her blonde mustache twitching slightly as she smiled warmly. <A pleasure to meet you, young sir,> the alakazam said, her telepathic “voice” simulating a slightly gruff contralto that Solonn guessed was also the sound of Sei’s actual voice. <I understand that you and Ms. Yorke have a most unique relationship, yes?>

    “…What?” Somehow Sei’s statement had come across in a way that she had certainly not intended.

    <You’re able to speak to Ms. Yorke in her own language, are you not?> Sei elaborated.

    “Oh… Yeah, that’s right,” Solonn confirmed, albeit a bit hesitantly.

    <Ms. Yorke and I were discussing this on the way here. We’ve arrived at a conclusion regarding your abilities, and I know you’re already very much in agreement. It’s best that other humans don’t discover your abilities, don’t you agree?> Sei asked.

    “Yeah,” Solonn said. “I’d really feel better if as few people knew about this as possible.” By “people” he was referring not only to humans but to other pokémon, as well. In fact, he really would have preferred for Morgan to ask him for permission before revealing his secret to Sei…

    <I understand your concern,> Sei said then, <but I assure you, Ms. Yorke had your best interests in mind when she told me what you’re able to do. She wouldn’t have told me otherwise. Furthermore, you have my word that I won’t reveal your secret to anyone without your consent… And yes, I have just read your thoughts. I do try to tune such things out for the sake of courtesy, but…> She shrugged. <Sometimes thoughts are simply too strong to block.>

    A mind-reader… Solonn figured that, courteous or not, Sei would have probably absorbed the knowledge of his abilities on her own sooner or later.

    <The privacy of those with no form of mental defense is something my people take very seriously,> Sei assured him earnestly. <We wouldn’t be trusted very well by the majority of other species if we didn’t stay out of their minds as much as possible. Even with our measures to respect their privacy in place, many species still don’t trust us.>

    Whether or not that was meant as a guilt-trip, it certainly worked as one. “…Sorry,” he said. “I’m sure you don’t mean to pry into anybody’s business.”

    Sei gave a relieved, satisfied smile. <Now. Since protecting the secret of your skills is of such importance, I’m offering you a means to speak more securely with Ms. Yorke.>

    “And what would that be?” Solonn asked.

    <This.> There was a brief flash of light in Sei’s eyes.

    <Well? What do you think?> Morgan asked.

    <What do I think of… Hey! How are you using telepathy?> Solonn asked—then, with a jolt, he realized that he, too, was speaking telepathically.

    <Sei. She’s connected us via her own mind,> Morgan explained. <That way, we can talk to each other without anyone figuring out that… well, that we can talk to each other, get it?>

    <…I think so,> Solonn said, still somewhat bewildered at the notion of being able to communicate telepathically. There was something about it that made him feel oddly powerful yet kind of vulnerable at the same time. He wondered if he’d have agreed to try this if he’d known beforehand that it would involve his mind being opened and shared in such a way.

    <Telepathic communication is undetectable to humans,> Sei told Solonn then, <and you should be concerned with protecting your secret from humans above all others. You see, pokémon who are able to speak to and be understood by humans are quite rare, and humans often look upon rarity as something from which they can profit. If certain humans learned of your abilities, they would seek to exploit you for their own ends. I can guarantee you that you wouldn’t find such exploitation to your liking.>

    Solonn cast a troubled gaze at Morgan. <Is this true?> he asked. Morgan had come across as trustworthy, but now Solonn wondered if she was merely a rare exception to a generally untrustworthy species.

    <Yes,> Morgan said, sounding more than a little ashamed. <Solonn, I would never want to see you exploited like that.>

    <Well, I wouldn’t want that, either,> he said, shuddering slightly. He turned toward Sei. <Okay. I’ll accept your connection,> he said. <Thanks.>

    <Think nothing of it,> the alakazam said, and with that she severed the psychic link between herself and the other two.

    Sei’s offering was a welcome convenience indeed. As Solonn thought about it, something dawned on him: he wondered if the link could be used to let Morgan to communicate with her other pokémon. After all, Sei’s telepathic abilities could trick people into hearing words they understood, thus eliminating the language barrier between Morgan and her pokémon. Why hasn’t Sei offered this to the others?

    To Solonn’s surprise, Sei turned her gaze upon him and then shrugged her plated shoulders. “Because they never asked,” she said simply, using her natural voice and the language of her own kind this time. The snorunt only stared at her in response, not quite knowing how to reply.

    Sei let out a long sigh. <Whew… It seems I’ve still got a bit of recovering to do before I’m quite up to speed again…>

    “You want to return to your ball for a while?” Morgan asked her.

    <Mmm… yes, I think so,> Sei answered. <I could do with a little time out of this poor, downtrodden flesh,> she added with a laugh.

    Morgan chuckled. “All right, then.” She removed an ultra ball from her belt and recalled Sei with a beam of red light. The alakazam smiled wearily at Solonn before dissolving into energy and being drawn back into her ball.

    “I just don’t understand how anybody could stand being inside one of those things,” Solonn said with a small shudder, eying the ultra ball as Morgan minimized it and reattached it to her belt. “It’s just so… ” He trailed off, unable to truly describe what it was like in a capture ball.

    “So you really don’t like being in a ball, huh?” Morgan asked. Solonn made a disapproving noise and shook his head. “Well, okay. You don’t have to go back in there if you don’t want to,” she told him.

    Solonn smiled at her. With no return to the great ball looming over him, the time he’d spend with Morgan would be much easier to endure—and perhaps even enjoy.

    * * *

    Several hours later, Solonn stood outside with Morgan and Sei in the backyard. Though evening was approaching, the sun was still hot enough and bright enough to bother him. Direct sunlight had a peculiar sort of harshness about it that the artificial light indoors lacked.

    There wasn’t much Solonn could really do about it, other than to seek shade. Without delay, he made his way across the yard to stand under the large sitrus tree that stood tall in the backyard. Much better, he thought, satisfied.

    Morgan and Sei crossed the lawn to join Solonn. Sei promptly took a seat, leaning back contentedly against the trunk of the tree and opening a magazine. Meanwhile, Morgan came to stand before the snorunt and presented a small, cylindrical plastic case. She opened it and produced a cyan-colored disc from inside.

    <I’ll bet you’re wondering what this is, huh?> Morgan said, making use of Sei’s telepathy. <Well, this is a technical machine, Solonn. You can gain a new technique from it.>

    An elemental technique being obtained from a little plastic disc. It wasn’t the most ridiculous idea Solonn had ever heard, although it came very close.

    <Now, we might not even need to use this,> Morgan continued. <Let’s find out if we do… Solonn, could you show me the strongest ice-type technique you know?>

    <The strongest? I guess that would be this.> Solonn called on the power of his element. The glow of his eyes intensified momentarily as he gathered the ice-type energy that he’d need for the technique. A second later, the elemental charge coalesced between his hands, then fired forth as a jagged, electric blue beam that blasted a flurry of frozen leaves and twigs from the branches as it streaked off toward the sky.

    <Ice beam, huh? Okay, then it looks like we will need to use this.> Morgan knelt before Solonn, then popped open a compartment on one end of the TM case and slipped the disc inside. <There’s another, stronger ice technique that you’ll need to pull off your routine,> she said as she closed the compartment once more. <You’ll get that technique from this.>

    Solonn eyed the case with uncertainty, his gaze caught and held by the lens that seemed to stare right back at him from one end of the case. <…This won’t hurt, will it?>

    <No, it doesn’t hurt,> Sei tried to reassure him. <I’ve received one myself. It’ll be a funny feeling, but it won’t last long. You have nothing to fear from it.>

    <Oh. Go ahead, then,> Solonn said, modding toward Morgan.

    Morgan nodded back, then activated the TM, bringing the lens to bear on Solonn’s forehead and pressing a button on the top of the case. It whirred to life, but apart from that nothing seemed to be happening at first; the beam projected by the case was invisible, and its initial impact was intangible.

    Then, with a rather strong shudder, Solonn found himself overwhelmed by a sudden surge of power. It reminded him of how it felt to summon certain of his ice-type techniques, only it was stronger and went straight to his head rather than spreading throughout his entire body. It escalated into a giddying rush, and when it reached its abrupt end, he found himself feeling incredibly lightheaded.

    Solonn teetered comically for a moment, nearly falling onto his butt before he managed to shake himself out of his dizzy spell. <That was weird,> he remarked. <So, that’s it? That’s all it took?>

    <Mmm-hmm. You’ve just learned the blizzard technique,> Morgan confirmed as she removed the now spent and colorless disc from the front compartment and set it aside. <Go on, try it out—but be careful where you aim it, though; it can be pretty nasty.>

    <…Wait, blizzard? Are you serious?> Solonn asked. Morgan nodded, smiling brightly. But Solonn remained too bewildered to try out his new technique right away. It was just all too incredible that a simple disc could bestow any sort of power upon him, let alone one of the highest powers of his element.

    Though still skeptical, Solonn finally decided to go for it. Once again, he gathered elemental energy. He felt a sizable thrill as the surge of power defied his expectations and answered his summons, then manifested itself in a blast of icy wind and snow.

    As the blizzard howled forth, Solonn realized with a jolt of horror that he’d forgotten to aim the attack—its present course could blow a hole in the Yorkes’ back fence. Fortunately, the blizzard proved underpowered, petering out before it could do any real damage.

    Solonn stared briefly at the small pile of snow that sat in the grass, watching as it began to melt in the heat of the June afternoon. That thing actually worked… He laughed to himself, pleasantly surprised.

    <Not bad,> Morgan remarked. <That was just a little one, but with practice, you should be able to pull off a much more impressive blizzard. And wait ‘til you see what you can do when you combine that with other techniques!>

    <You can actually do that?> Solonn asked, intrigued. He’d never seen multiple techniques used in combination, not even by glalie.

    <Oh yes,> Morgan said. <In fact, artful combination of techniques is what contests are really all about. A good, creative, graceful presentation is what comes out on top every time. Now,> she went on, opening the technical machine case once more, <there’s another one of these that you won’t necessarily need, but it could still do you some good. Do you want to go ahead and take it now, or do you want to wait a little while before you take another one?>

    Solonn considered it for a moment, finally deciding that there was really no reason to turn the offer down. <I’ll take it,> he told Morgan. <Let’s do this now.>

    The human nodded in acknowledgment and pulled another TM from the case, a fuchsia-colored disc this time. Solonn watched as she loaded it into the front compartment and activated it, wondering what sort of new power it would give him.

    Absorbing this technique felt quite different this time. The sensation of connecting with the raw power of his element was absent—it wasn’t an ice-type technique being bestowed upon him this time. Solonn didn’t even have a chance to guess the alien element of his new power; the rush that accompanied its acquisition was gone almost as swiftly as it had come.

    <So what did that one give me?> Solonn asked once his head had cleared.

    <Light screen,> Morgan answered. <It’s mostly a defensive technique, but there are also some pretty cool things you can do with it that are just for show. Try and call one up now,> she suggested. <It’s not as difficult or powerful a move as blizzard, so you should be able to pull it off pretty easily.>

    <Okay.> Seeking the new, unfamiliar element within him, Solonn found the root of his new power and called it forth. There was a fleeting, tingling sensation in his head, peculiar but not unpleasant. Then he saw a bright pink aura form around each of his hands. He watched, fascinated, as it swiftly spread out into a force field that surrounded him completely.

    <Wow… this is pretty neat…> Solonn said as he gazed upon the wall of psychic energy that now surrounded him. <Wait, though… how do I get out of this thing?>

    <Oh, you don’t have to get out of it. You’re not trapped in one place by that thing; it’ll follow you as you move,> Morgan said.

    Solonn decided to test that claim for himself. Sure enough, as he walked across the lawn, the shield that surrounded him stayed up and around him through his every movement. Then, unexpectedly, the light screen simply vanished.

    <What happened?> Solonn asked.

    <A light screen can only stay up for a couple of minutes at a time,> Morgan explained.

    <Oh. So are there any more of these I can use?> Solonn asked with a glance at the case.

    <I’m afraid not. Nearly all of the techniques you’ll be using come naturally to you—your routine will mostly be ice-based. Anyway, it’s not really very good for you to learn so many of these moves in one sitting. You could get a nasty headache,> Morgan said.

    Solonn’s eyelight dimmed slightly; he was mildly disappointed to hear that he wouldn’t be gaining any more new abilities anytime soon. <Well, okay then. So now what?>

    <Hmm. Right now, nothing,> Morgan replied. <You’ve really had enough excitement for one day. You may not feel like it right now, but physically, you’ve just had quite an experience. You’ve instantly learned two moves that usually take pokémon several years and lots of hard work to learn. Give it a little while, and you’ll probably start feeling pretty tired. So let’s just take it easy for the rest of the day, okay?>

    Solonn nodded. He would have liked to go ahead and continue preparing for the upcoming contest, but his energy had begun to wane the moment that Morgan had said it would.

    <Your training will really start tomorrow,> Morgan told him. <You see, there are three rounds to each contest. Each one is different, so you’ll be training in different ways.

    <For the first round, we’ll just go out on stage along with all the other contestants, and the audience will basically just compare all the pokémon contestants based solely on their looks, and they’ll all vote on which one they think looks the best. You don’t really have to train for that; the pokéblocks pretty much take care of that aspect.

    <The second round will be your solo performance. This is where you’ll be showing your techniques, combining them to make nice effects, et cetera. Don’t worry too much about it—you’ll be rehearsing your routine plenty every day. You’ll get it down just fine.

    <Now, the third round is a battle,> Morgan told him. <Have you ever battled another pokémon before? You know, just for fun.>

    <Yeah,> Solonn answered, <but not very much, though.> He recalled the matches that Zilag and a few of his friends had held just for sport. The snorunt had never seriously hurt each other; they’d mostly just wrestled, with only the occasional, half-hearted bite or headbutt thrown in here and there. Ice-type techniques had been thrown around sometimes, to little effect. On several occasions, Zilag had invited Solonn to take part, but Solonn had only occasionally obliged. By and large, Solonn had been unenthusiastic about battling, even though he sometimes won those matches. As far as he’d been concerned, it was merely something to do in the event that there was absolutely nothing else to do. It hadn’t exactly been his idea of fun.

    <That’s okay,> Morgan assured him. <Some experience is better than none. Besides which, contest battling really isn’t the same as battling anywhere else. Your goal won’t be to hurt the opponent so much as to upstage them. You don’t even necessarily have to ‘beat’ the other guy as long as you manage to look better during the match. I’ll let you practice battling against a couple of the others here. Raze’d definitely be up for it—don’t worry, she won’t use any steel moves on you. Her style’s a little different than the one you’ll be using, but you’ll still get the gist of how to handle yourself in one of these matches. All you have to do is to keep your poise and battle with grace.>

    Solonn nodded in acknowledgment, mentally reviewing what Morgan had told him to expect. It seemed there was more involved with being a contest pokémon than he’d initially imagined. More than ever, he hoped the span of time separating him from that first contest would be enough to adequately prepare him. The sooner he could get that first ribbon, that first step behind him, the better.

    * * *

    Each day that followed brought diligent training. Solonn spent many hours rehearsing his solo performance, as well as battling with Raze and even once with Sei Salma. He also continued to receive two pokéblocks each day until Morgan told him that they’d finally done all they could for him.

    Solonn had assumed these measures were the only ones they’d need to take in order to prepare him for his debut. Then one night, five days before the date of the next contest, he was offered one last suggestion.

    He was sitting on Morgan’s bed, waiting for her to return from an errand. When she got back, the first thing she did was take a capture ball from her belt, maximize it, and release Oth from inside it.

    “All right,” Morgan said to the claydol. “It’s time for you to check him out and see if he’s ready.” She gestured at Solonn.

    Huh? As Oth brought themself before Solonn, he wondered what in the world could possibly be going on. Without any form of explanation or warning, the foremost of the claydol’s eyes dilated dramatically, and a pale red beam lanced forth from it and struck the snorunt. He almost cried out, but realized a split-second later that there was no pain. Very puzzled, he merely stared at Oth as they expanded the beam and swept it up and down over his body.

    Mere seconds later, Oth stopped scanning him, the beam disappearing. They turned toward Morgan (which seemed strange given the fact that Oth had eyes on every side of their head) and nodded as well as they could, inclining their entire body slightly in her direction.

    Morgan smiled. “Good news, Solonn. Ominous says you’re ready.”

    “That’s nice, but ready for what?” Solonn asked in a quiet voice. He and Morgan had decided that it was safe enough to converse openly in Morgan’s room as long as they kept their voices down. Solonn had also decided, though not at all hastily, that Morgan’s other pokémon could be trusted with his secret; he didn’t mind Oth’s presence there as he spoke with her.

    “Ready… for this!” Morgan reached into her pocket and pulled something out for Solonn to see. Nestled in her palm was something small in a blue wrapper. “I’d been looking around town for one, and I finally managed to scare one up.”

    Solonn gazed at the proffered object for a moment, then turned a questioning gaze up toward Morgan.

    “This,” Morgan explained, “is a rare candy. These give pokémon something of a boost. According to Ominous…” Morgan paused as excitement flitted across her features. “Well, this’ll give you just enough of a boost to make a huge difference. With this… you could evolve.”

    Solonn’s eyes widened. “…That thing can’t possibly cause evolution!” he said, laughing.

    “Oh, yes it can. So what do you say? Are you ready to do this?” Morgan asked.

    Solonn hesitated to answer. Part of him still couldn’t believe that evolution could be induced by a piece of candy, but the part of him that could remained apprehensive in its own way. “Is there any particular reason why I need to evolve?”

    “Well, you don’t necessarily have to do it, but it might work out to your advantage to go through with it,” Morgan said. “Your routine is based almost exclusively on your ice-type powers, after all, and glalie have more finely-tuned abilities where their element is concerned. They can handle ice-type techniques more easily than snorunt can.”

    Solonn couldn’t argue with that. He knew firsthand that his people didn’t truly come into their ice-type abilities until they evolved. And he had no doubt that he could execute his routine more easily as a glalie, and he was certainly concerned with succeeding in the upcoming contest.

    Still… this was a physical transformation she was suggesting. This wasn’t something to be taken lightly—particularly not where his kind were concerned. Snorunt who evolved too early ran the risk of being corrupted by incomplete instincts. Furthermore, the changes involved with becoming a glalie were so drastic that it was almost like a change into a different species altogether. They began as snow-eating bipeds. They turned into limbless, floating predators.

    “The choice is yours, Solonn,” Morgan told him gently. “I won’t make you evolve if you don’t want to.”

    So… am I really ready to evolve? Solonn asked himself. Well… technically, I probably am, he answered. He was at roughly the age that was considered the safest and most appropriate time to start considering evolution. In fact, once they got to be very much older than he was now, his kind found themselves having to make a conscious effort to stop the process from occurring on its own.

    But… do I really want to go through with this now?

    Solonn couldn’t answer that question, though he certainly tried. He wished he’d been given more time to think this through rather than having it dropped on him out of nowhere at nearly the last minute. In the end, he could only lower his gaze and sigh in response.

    “You don’t want to do it, do you?” Morgan asked. Solonn shook his head. “That’s okay, Solonn. That’s perfectly fine.”

    “Okay.” Solonn’s eyes followed the rare candy as Morgan put it back in her pocket. “Hey. Hold on to that. Just… you know, for whenever.”

    Morgan nodded in acknowledgment. “Sure thing. If you ever decide you want it, just let me know. Do you want back in the ball?” Morgan then asked Oth. The claydol nodded in their curious fashion and was subsequently recalled.

    “All right, then,” Morgan said. “Now, don’t worry about your decision, okay? Like I said, you don’t really have to evolve to do this. You’ll do just fine.”

    Solonn sincerely hoped that Morgan was right.

    * * *

    In what felt like no time at all, the twenty-fifth had arrived. All at once, the task at hand was upon him, and it swept him up into a situation that made him realize that nothing could have truly, completely prepared him for it.

    Next thing he knew, he found himself riding in a car for the very first time. As he gazed out through the window, the scenery rushing by mirrored his perceptions of this experience: hurtling irresistibly forward, he scarcely had a chance to take it all in.

    The car came to a stop, and as he hopped out into the parking lot, Lilycove’s contest hall seemed to blossom into being before him, right out of thin air. It was huge, and it loomed even larger with each step closer to its entrance.

    Solonn was immediately awestruck as he passed through the front doors into the contest hall’s lobby. All around him, humans of widely varying appearance stood, accompanied by pokémon partners Solonn could have never imagined.

    Morgan led him into a queue, and there they waited for their turn at the desk before them. After a fairly short wait, they made it to the front, and the receptionist waiting there asked Morgan to present her contest pass. Without delay, Morgan produced a card and handed it to the human behind the desk. The receptionist held on to the pass for a few seconds; Solonn wasn’t tall enough to see exactly what she was doing with it.

    When the receptionist gave the pass back to Morgan, she took a moment to peek over the edge of the desk at Solonn. “Oh, now isn’t that a cutie,” she remarked airily, flashing a very bright smile.

    Solonn returned her gaze with a slightly skeptical look. Cute? I’m not cute

    “You may now proceed,” the receptionist then said. Morgan smiled at her, then led Solonn out of the lobby and toward the backstage area.

    Several minutes of doing nothing but waiting followed. The other contestants gathered backstage along with Solonn and his coordinator, anticipating the impending events with varying degrees of patience. A television mounted in the corner showed the scene that awaited the contestants. With an incredible amount of noise and a level of enthusiasm that was almost tangible, an audience was filing into the seemingly endless rows of seats, eagerly cheering for the show to begin.

    Their wait wasn’t prolonged much further. The voice of the announcer came blaring forth, the audience quieting somewhat while he spoke.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” boomed his greatly magnified voice, “get ready to witness the hottest up-and-coming faces in the Hoenn contest circuit! The normal rank beauty contest shall now begin!”

    “It’s time,” Morgan informed Solonn in an excited whisper, then began guiding him before her as they made their way to the stage in an orderly procession along with all the other contestants.

    As Solonn emerged onto the stage, he was greeted by an unbelievable level of light and noise. The number of humans gathered just to look upon him and the other contestants was staggering—Solonn had never seen so many people in any one place before.

    He hadn’t expected the audience to be that large…

    The coordinators and their pokémon partners formed an orderly line across the stage, facing the audience. One by one, the announcer stopped before each team and introduced them, then moved on down the line to the next team. Before long, he arrived at Solonn and Morgan.

    “Next up, hailing from right here in Lilycove, it’s Morgan Yorke and her snorunt, Solonn!” the announcer said. The audience gave them a peal of applause, just as they’d done for the other teams. Part of Solonn wondered just what they were applauding; neither he nor any of the other contestants had actually done anything yet.

    “Now it’s time for you to cast your votes,” the announcer told the audience after introducing the last few contestants. “Who will make it to the next round? You decide!”

    Solonn couldn’t count the moments that passed as the audience cast their votes. His awareness of their scrutiny only intensified now that they were literally judging him. Unbeknownst to him, a close-up view of each of the pokémon in turn appeared on the colossal screen behind him—he might have been surprised, to say the least, to see a gigantic image of his own face staring back at him.

    Finally, the votes were all tallied, and the results appeared on the screen behind the contestants, who all turned to see who among them would proceed to the next round.

    “Look!” Morgan exclaimed. “There we are!” She pointed to the upper right corner of the screen; she and Solonn were indeed pictured there. They’d made it through the first round. With that obstacle out of the way, Solonn followed Morgan with a funny little detached sort of thrill as they and the other contestants returned backstage to prepare for the second round.

    The television there allowed him to watch the contestants who’d been slated to go on before him. For a crop of newcomers, their performances were generally pretty competent; none of them thus far had made any mistakes, at least not as far as Solonn could tell. He found a few of the routines boring despite their technical integrity, but there were a couple of the others that really stood out.

    Those performances easily held Solonn’s rapt attention—and also managed to stoke the doubt within him even further. As his own turn came along, he found himself worrying that maybe he hadn’t sufficiently trained for this after all.

    That worry followed Solonn out onto the stage as he was called forth. It was much darker as he emerged than it had been during the first round, but he could still see the crowd, could still make out all those faces. He’d been told what to expect since his training had begun, yet Morgan’s descriptions seemed awfully weak and ill-fitting when held against this moment, these surroundings, the expectations held by all these people he had to impress…

    He came to stand in the center of the stage, and a single, bright spotlight fell upon him as the music that Morgan had chosen to accompany his routine rose up, seeming to emanate from the very walls of the contest hall itself. Under the ray of white light bearing down upon him, he felt overemphasized to dimensions far greater than his own, yet all too aware of how small he was compared to the vast, scrutinizing crowd.

    A moment later, the spell of the spotlight abated enough to let Solonn realize that he’d missed his cue. With a jolt, he hastily cast the hail technique up into the air above him. The summoned hailstones began falling at once, but at twice the normal intensity and not at all in the pattern he had rehearsed—it was fortunate that this was a solo performance. Had Morgan accompanied Solonn on stage for this round, she’d have had to take cover from his bungled first move.

    Solonn winced inwardly at the mistake and tried desperately to make some sort of recovery with his next move. He called upon powder snow and felt the faintest relief as it bowed to his will, its winds sweeping up the falling hail in a gently turning, tamed cyclone. Solonn’s creation partly obscured his view of the audience, for which he felt a wave of gratitude spread throughout his nerves. But he knew that his next move required him to forfeit that comforting veil.

    Sighing softly, Solonn kept the powder snow blowing as he slowly expanded the vortex of snowflakes and hailstones around himself, the music swelling in a slow crescendo. The winds swept around him in a growing spiral, and as the cyclone widened and thinned out, the multitude of humans before him filled his sights once more.

    Don’t pay attention to them, Solonn urged himself, just pretend they’re not there… He fought the urge to close his eyes and **** them out; letting his nervousness show could count against him in the judges’ eyes. He was also fighting a burgeoning desire to simply cut his performance short and run.

    Trying desperately to keep a hold on his fraying nerves, he called upon the next element of his routine—the one that had given him the msot trouble during his training. He still couldn’t quite believe that he’d gained one of the highest powers of his element in a single moment’s rush, disbelief that had caused him to struggle all the more with the technique.

    Don’t think about what you’re doing, Solonn tried to remind himself, just do it… At the music’s cue, Solonn unleashed a blizzard to join his dancing cyclone. It howled forth, stirring the spiraling snowstorm into a frenzy as it was meant to do… but then, disobligingly, its winds began to falter. Solonn swore that he could feel his heart stop as the blizzard, along with the rest of the cyclone, came apart right before his eyes. As if in slow motion, snowflakes, sleet, and hailstones alike all fell to the stage.

    No… Solonn lamented, certain that his chance to obtain the ribbon and thereby take his first step back to Virc-Dho had died along with his enchanted snowstorm. His musical accompaniment suddenly blurred into a formless din in his ears. The spotlight swelled to an abnormal brightness, then swiftly vanished altogether, taking the stage, the audience, the surrounding noise, and Solonn’s consciousness along with it.
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication

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