Darkness. That's what he remembered seeing, darkness. He was numb, he felt nothing of his body, just a tug at his soul like the tide rolling out. Slowly, black turned to grey turned to a brilliant white warmth. He saw nothing, but he felt everything. Warmth; love; a smile of satisfaction. The Charizard couldn't pause though to study these strange states of emotion, something was telling him he had to keep going.
"Guh-HUNH!" He gasped. Air filled his lungs, it was sudden, unexpected, and unannounced. The world around him, full of creatures talking and calling, the water lapping, wind blowing, all raced into his ears at once as light faded into shapes. He was on his back, and the moment he was aware, he threw himself forward into an upright position.
"NICK!!!" He yelled. A memory flashed, and he grabbed for his stomach in an imagined pain. "Nick!"
"Ah, I wondered when you would awaken." Said a wise sounding voice. "You must be hungry. Reintegration can be quite troubling you know."
"No, I don't I'm afraid." The Charizard climbed to his feet, still holding his chest with his right hand. The creature addressing him was a Samurott. Bold and powerful; his strong, muscular body showed little sign of his age. His regal blue fur disguised many wounds of battle. From his snout hung a much longer whisker than was typical for his species. He walked on three legs, his fourth holding what looked similar to a Magikarp. it was certainly fishlike, but it was much smaller. It wasn't aware like he or this Samurott were, it was simply alive to provide nutrition.
He was in a forest, and near a lake of some size it seemed. The trees around him were a healthy green, untouched by the fog of war that had touched the Pokémon across from him.
"Who are you? Have you by chance seen my trainer?"
The Samurott chuckled a bit and took a bite from one of the fishlike things.
"What's so funny?" The Charizard snorted. His right hand dropped to his side;only afterwards did it register on his mind. He looekd down to his stomach. "Arceus!" he exclaimed and tumbled backwards over his tail in shock. Again, his strange companion stifled a small laugh. The Charizad couldn't believe it. The wound he'd been imagining was gone.
"Bu, but I was stabbed. Took a spear for Nick. I should be..."
"Dead?" The Samurott posed. "Please, eat something. It's best for the shock."
"Where am I? What's going on?"
"Has you're soul degraded that much? Have you forgotten the lessons of life? Did your parents not instill religion into your life?"
"I didn't have parents. I was cloned."
"That means nothing to me."
"Cloned. Science. Mewtwo made me."
"Ah, yes I have heard of this from travelers. That would explain the brown striping." The Samurott glanced briefly at several large, jagged dirt brown shapes on the Charizard's body but paid little attention to them otherwise. "Still, it means nothing. Science may have made your body, but it was Mew who instilled your soul."
"Where's Nick? My trainer?! Will you PLEASE stop speaking in riddles and answer me!?"
"Nick? Hmm. Well, I suppose he's there." The Samurott pointed to the Sun, still high in the east. "Or he's there." He swept the sky with his right front paw. "I'm not entirely sure where the waking world is exactly. But most importantly, he's right here." The water type poked the Charizard in the chest, above his heart.
"You're more cryptic than that old man who travelled with us. What was that about Waking World?"
"You do not know where you are, do you? You're a resident of the Dream World now. This is Camelot, my dungeon, and I am its keeper. My name is Arthur; a thousand condolences on your recent demise."
"My what? You speak of me as if I'm dead. I've heard of this dream-world before. Some Pokemon can travel there while they sleep. If I'm here, I must still be alive."
"But you said I'm dead!"
"That's right. You are."
"Arceus dammit! Make up your mind! Am I dead?"
"In a sense." the Samurott took a deep breath. "If you're not going to eat this last trout," But the Charizard swiped the meal from Arthur's paws. "Within the confines of this existence, you are alive. In a sense anyway. But outside of here, your body is gone, shriveled and returned to the Earth."
"How can you tell?" the Charizard asked with a mouthful of fish.
"You lack the pink aura. Those who are just passing through have a faint rippling shimmer about them, the portal back to their own existance. You lack such a thing.
"So I'm alive, but I am dead. So I ask again, where am I? This is Purgatory then? Have I made it to Heaven? Is there some quest I must complete first?"
"No; not exactly as you think of it; and typically. You make the afterlife so convoluted. This is the Dream World."
"That means nothing to me." the Charizard said sarcastically.
"Think of this as an in-between. The Afterlife is what it sounds like. After life, You are given time to think about your existence. to learn, to grow. You live out your life based upon your past experience until such a time that Mew calls upon you for your next lesson, or mission."
"And if I die here? Where do I go?"
"Someplace else. We are immortal here, you cannot die, per se. Your soul will leave behind the body, and you'll wake up someplace else. I know several who have used this suicide express to travel about, although it is not recommended."
"Gee, you make it sound like what I just experienced in death."
"Perhaps." Arthur spoke thoughtfully. "In that light, the mechanics are very similar."
The Charizard stared at his feet. He wiggled his toes. He sure felt alive, felt the dirt beneath his clawed feet. "So I'm dead."
"I'm afraid so, traveller."
"A pleasure to meet you." Arthur offered a forepaw, which Flayme took firmly.
“Have any of my kind surfaced before me?"
"You mean clones? Not that I've met, but there are many villages and dungeons here, there's no telling for sure."
Flayme dwelled a moment on these new revelations, until a few pieces began to align themselves. "Arthur, if the Pokémon visiting in their sleep are in the waking world, surely there must be some way to cross back over."
"There are a few. Ghosts can master the ability to walk between the two worlds with a bit of time, and a dark magic tore my love away from me, but in general, no. You must have something to go back to, and anyways, all memories will be wiped until you return here, barring the assistance of a Psychic on the other side, but if you don't remember your goal for leaving..."
"I won't know to look for someone to open up my past memories." Flayme looked down at his feet again. "So Nick's gone."
"Most likely, but the Entree magic is a powerful thing. The Human afterlife is separate from our own, but if He and Arceus decide it’s in the better interests for you two to have a final parting, you may get another chance."
"No." Flayme said, starting to remember his passing. "No, Nick and I, we had our goodbye. I suppose it's just my longing for those who I cared about."
"I completely understand. It's natural." Arthur nodded.
"He was the trainer I was meant for. We bonded instantly; were always in each other's head. You have a trainer like that?"
"No, actually. My post is here. For now and always, I will be a fixture of Camelot, protecting its people. I have never been beyond the Dream World, have never met humanity."
"Protect? What evil is there to protect against in death?"
"Plenty, Flayme. This is a real world; where there is good, evil must balance it. Every creature who dies must pass through here, either to receive their penance and learn from their mistakes or to be judged and handed to Giratina."
"And you look after the young and the innocent?"
"Them, those who wish to not fight for themselves, and to protect those who simply wish to make a name for themselves until it is their time to be reborn. There are children, there are families. Makers and craftsmen. Farmers too."
"And you do this alone?"
"Not hardly. I am old. I rely on my knights to help me."
"I see." Flayme rolled this idea around in his head for a moment before he kneeled, placing both hands on a small but thick knee. "Arthur of Camelot, I cannot promise the future to you; in time, I should wish to find my brethren clones that we might catch up with each other, but I owe you for your enlightenment. Please, I wish to offer what services I can to protecting the lives of the deceased, that I might live nobly for them."
Flayme watched the swords on Arthur's forelegs, expecting him to pull one to anoint him but the Samurrot did nothing of the sort. Instead, he placed a hand on Flayme's shoulder. He said reassuringly: "Something tells me you already have. Welcome home, child of Arceus."
This was a story that popped into my head when I sat down to write something else. Nick and Flayme aren't even my characters. Arthur's been sbject of three scrapped stories now, why he didn't appear with an original I don't know. Someday, I do wish to write the DreamWorld Camelot story. To me though, the Dreamworld and the Dungeon games dovetail quite nicely, both are a world where humanit is something they've heard of, but not encountered specifically, and both can be accessed through out-of-body experiences, if you stretch it right.
I'll probably add to this once I think of other stuff to say, there's one other reference I'd like to see if anyone catches. I'll give you a hint, it's a three-part minisereis done by Sci-Fi back when that was how you spelled it.