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Thread: Crack'd, or How the Love of Seafood Saved Unova

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    This is great, it adapts the main series games in a wonderful way; it's like the events of the game were only leftover clues pointing to a realer, much bigger story, and here we're seeing it. I love the parts of it that are familiar tokens from the game, and also how sparse those parts are. There are people whose names we recognize but the people are different, there are the names of all the Unova places but they're settings for something else, and your universe too matches a name with the pokemon one but it's made of a different stuff. Isn't that the best part about fanfics. Or adaptations of versions. Every writer's White is a different person. I always write my reviews by typing in what I think about scenes as I read them, so pardon if I make a remark that got obsoleted by an update, like, a year ago.
    Hello! And thank you; I've really got into my interpretation of Unova in a way that, for whatever reason, I didn't with my other adaptations, and from what you say it's coming across all right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    When I first got to this fic in August I cried forever, because it was on hiatus and I hadn't even seen it yet. Now I'm happy. Because you actually name old authors I'm gonna start with some nonsense talk about traditions. The vague idea I'd had of you was that you write in the British sf parody genre, Terry Pratchett and such, that Bartimaeus fellow, randomness probably inherited from the great Douglas Adams, which the first chapter seems to justify a little -- particularly the gentle satire on the ridiculousness of daily life -- Regenschein the war zone. Relatively this is smooth, sensible stuff though -- I know how wrong random parody can go -- the prose stays practical and unknotted, the situations all feel credible in that special, ridiculous way. The casualness of the first scene rankled at me, the shortness of the prargraphs or something, but that's because I'm a humorless *******.
    High praise indeed! You're sort of right. I'm not a big Pratchett reader - I don't know why, but reading his books makes me feel ill, though I do like them - and I don't tip my hat as much towards Adams as I used to. The random elements of my work, such as they are, probably owe more to Robert Rankin than to anyone else. Some of the farcical stuff I probably picked up from Wodehouse. Overall, I'm probably more the product of the British comedic writing tradition in general than a specific subgenre of it, but I suspect that not everyone who influenced me is as widely known for their comedy as Adams and Pratchett.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Oh, wait, but it only starts out random! Then it gets down to business. I am interested in your fitting the Unova versions into a framework for your fic; this is probably one of those things that can be done with Unova and I ought to look into it.
    Unova is definitely an interesting place. All over the place are massive version differences, and given the way the duality permeates both setting and story, it invites some really interesting interpretations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Tiresias, blind old man with wrinkled dugs ... How did a prophet become a city-razing demon?
    Excellent question. And one which gets answered later on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    An immediate reaction of mine reading Ch. 4 onwards: Teiresias' treatment seems a little heavy-handed, in that absolutely every mention of him involves, not just a reference to how infernal she is, but flowery descriptions, emphatically intense words, nineteenth-century syntax, etc. I think I recognize why you're doing it -- Teiresias is like a force so far outside nature, or even so deeply ingrained in nature, that his evil penetrates even to the narration; it's a part of the text itself. But one thing that isn't necessarily achieved by handling it this way is actually convincing the reader she's horrible. Sometimes the force of your allusions and metaphors is strong enough to make an impact. Sometimes, because your prose is usually is very taut and action-oriented, it feels hurried and compressed. When you use all that rhetoric for her being terrible to behold, it's fine that I don't personally experience terror, but I don't get to see the qualities and consequences of his being terrible either; they just feel like different variations on a perfunctory "she is one seriously bad mother".
    Quite right. It is an inelegantly heavy-handed treatment, and you're right to point it out. I'm starting to phase it out, as it happens; I didn't want to stop it abruptly for fear of jarring the reader, but starting from a couple of chapters ago and going on throughout chapters that are yet to be posted, it ought to become a bit more reasonable. I hope. Please don't hesitate to tell me if I start veering off in the wrong direction again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    There are a few other immaturities in the narration, probably marks of the fic being a year younger than it is now; I bet they'll disappear as I get to newer updates.
    As all stories do, it took a while to develop, and unlike a novel written in one cohesive lump, when you have the luxury of looking it over at the end and editing the beginning to better match the rest, serial stories are harder to do large edits to once posted. Hopefully these things should disappear as the story goes on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    The free pokemon press release was awesome. That was the first thing I thought when I played White, someone is going to do a fanfic where these guys get to be taken seriously. Now I expect all sorts of elaborations and betrayals and bad propaganda on both sides of the matter. In general I had a nice shock of recognition as soon as I realized there was going to be a scene from game canon; isn't it cool that we are going to see the story we recognized in a much expanded/reverted/suverted way. (This is heartening to me personally because my fic will rely heavily on recognition, though it doesn't have hardly the same geopolitical epicness to fall back on.)
    That's part of what makes fanfiction so special, I think. We recognise the skeleton, but there's endless delight in rearranging the meat. (There was probably a less disturbing metaphor I could have used there, but I have made my choice now and don't regret it.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    He was high-pitched and wheezing? An image of how he must have sounded failed to form in my mind.
    An image of how he sounded fails to form in my mind, too. I do not know what I was imagining when I wrote that, and when I read it back afterwards. Presumably something weird.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    One thing I felt might have been lost from N's conversation -- and, of course, it's your scenes you're writing, not the game's -- was how immediately arresting this guy is. Which partially has to do with his appearance which you can't write in a story: as soon as his sprite came out there was titter, fangirls, speculation etc. But his dialogue too sounded not... hm, impossible to interrupt? as in the games: it was just him, in a silence after the crowd'd left, saying something that was intimate to him. Like Steven at Sootopolis going "Listen, do you think POKeMON are to be feared?" There could be no impertinent children there asking who the hell are you.
    Hm. I never saw N as that arresting. He was just a guy - any guy, really. The only person to whom he had special significance, I thought, was the player - his equal and opposite. I imagined that to everyone else, he would just be a random stranger on the street, hence his unremarkable dialogue. All the importance, all the specialness - I kept that inside my protagonists' heads. Head. Is it one head or two? There's a question for someone who remembers more philosophy than me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    The Halley-Cheren conversation was highly appreciated, I liked it more than any other single scene with any dramatic tension. I see you're very good with characters. And will, like Psychic, sit back and feel catered for in terms of writing quality.
    Thanks! Comments like that make me feel like I'm doing something right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Thank god, other people have peaceful dreams about cucumbers too!
    Sure we do! And we also have those terrible dreams about the end of the world, where the dead walk the earth and the dinosaurs tear themselves loose from the trammelling stone of ages past.

    ... you guys have those too, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    All this talk about the differences between human and pokemon, I bet, will eventually lead somewhere. Especially the moral ambiguity of what animals (have to) do.
    Now that would be telling. But, ahem, we all might want to look forward to certain revelations to be had at Dragonspiral Tower.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Is it artifical intelligence? Wouldn't it be able to handle smelling creatures that must have been scared a while ago (the pheromones smell old, possibly), but recovered themselves very recently?
    I don't know how pheromones age, really. I assume that the animal can handle it, but that it would be a little uncertain as to whether it needed to run or fight. It might make it hold out a little longer to test the water, as it were.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Ooh, rigorously naturalistic pokemon training. The natural behavior of the purrloin nicely fits together those 'personality types' that whole species are supposed to have, according to the pokedex, with like individual variation, also the influence of accidents and mistakes. As natural as it is, I seem to be rudely uneducated about the idea that newly caught pokemon would probably be feral in exactly that way, even according to the games.
    One of my favourite things is taking Pokémon and making them into animals. They are animals, after all (except those that are plants, or rocks, or clouds of gas) and I've always found myself inspired by the old Gen I Pokédex entries that describe things like Pidgeotto hunting for Magikarp. There's been a bit of a tendency in later generations, and with the other media that have grown up around the Pokémon franchise, to turn what were originally creatures very similar to wild animals into sort of... humans in fur coats. I loathe that kind of anthropomorphism, so I always try to do my bit to counteract it in my stories.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    By the way I see that particular development about Halley not being a nice person has been put in cold storage, at least for these chapters. I suppose it was Cheren who really noticed it. Before, and afterwards, Halley kept going on with Jared as mean yet fundamentally protectable as always. Still, I had the impression, when you sprinkled the scenes shortly afterward with all those hints about her nature, that you were building up to something. I suppose it's a choice, continuous tremors leading up to a climactic eruption of the hidden, or only one click betraying the setting of a bomb that goes on ticking quietly until its time.
    I am building up to something, as it happens. I had a series of those scenes, followed by a time where I felt I had to devote space on the page to current affairs - and now, as we get closer to the Dragonspiral Tower chapters, I'm reintroducing them and starting to break apart some of the characters' misconceptions about each other. In fact, it's funny you should mention it now: there's an instance of it in the chapter I am currently editing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I'm seriously digging the scene-building in chapter ten: the long, towering construction of your Dreamyard's mood and scenery, the reconnaissance, the sudden trigger of the Green Party chekhov's bomb. One of those Psychonaut-style fps games where everything develops all at once. I haven't had this much fun in ages. As soon as the chase started, I could see the Green Party soldiers were marked out for the Musharna's wrath.
    Thank you! That chapter was quite fun to write. I felt that since I had an area suffused with psychic dread, I might as well devote the space to atmosphere - as if the psychic nature of the place were leaking out through the narrative.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Misspelled Throh.
    Oops.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I think the source of this phrase is when somebody's skipping who would be a lot more ridiculous if found skipping, cf. "[Capt. Prentice] will then actually skip to and fro, with his knees high and twirling a walking stick with W. C. Fields' head, nose, top hat, and all, for its knob [...]"; the power is much reduced when a teenage girl is found doing it. That was an excuse to tell you I disapprove of what you're doing with Bianca so far [disclaimer: her writing in this early part]; her airheadedness I feel is such an obvious canon trait that a writer ought not to even focus on it, except to riff off in different variations. What you're doing is making it her dominant note, with every other character development in reference to it; and it also doesn't feel like a natural character trait that real people have, but simply a cliche: an artificial set of behaviours pasted over a probably human girl. The harshness of everything I just wrote, of course, should be mitigated by your obvious gift for making characters feel natural. But still, I do feel there's something lacking/hollow/mechanical there.
    It's true, this is a problem. And it's something I've been struggling with for a while - the fact is, I'm writing through other people, and their (or rather, Jared's) opinion and interpretation has coloured my own, so that now it seems that Bianca's so-called 'uselessness' is dominant. (Yes, I am exactly that stupid: I have been conned into misjudging someone by a person who not only does not exist, but who I created.) Again, I think it would be jarring to change it abruptly, and as with the issue with Teiresias, I'm trying to change it slowly and incrementally. I started small, with the meeting with her dad in Nimbasa, and I'm building up to a different view of Bianca. To facilitate that, in the next chapter I've given her some page space where she isn't viewed through Jared's eyes, and in fact where we can see the dynamic between her and Cheren without Jared's presence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    There! That's Douglas Adams. Now I just need to catch you quoting Terry Pratchett, and the paragraph at the beginning of this review won't be totally useless.
    I honestly expected more people to notice that reference. Someone get Luphinid a prize, and the rest of the readers a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I wouldn't mind watching that. Even if it were a comic strip by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Looping out of a shaky grey ghost-dog's mouth: "IN A UNIVERSE REDUCIBLE TO LANGUAGE, IT MIGHT BE ENOUGH TO POSIT THAT THE SELF EXISTS. OR ANYONE ELSE EXPERIENCED BY THE SELF. BUT ARE YOU SURE THIS CAN AVAIL IN YOUR SITUATION?"
    I IMAGINE A TREE IS CALLED A DOME AND IT IS STILL A TREE: WORDS ARE SIGNIFIERS, NOT TRUTH. LANGUAGE IS NOT FIXED; LANGUAGE CIRCULATES IN A SERIES OF GAMES. IF A LION SPOKE, WE WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT HE SAID.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I want this sentence smaller, it's an interlude detail between two beats of dialogue, and its effect is also stronger if it quickly establishes N as St. Francis of Assissi or whatever in one forceful impression, and then departs. Besides how many pokemon are you, um, positing landed on him at the same time?
    Many. I could have a few pigeons and a flying squirrel land on me, no problem. (I don't hold with the sizes and weights given in the Pokédex entries; they're flagrantly unrealistic.)

    As for the actual narrative criticism - yeah, you're right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    This story has found its proper beat by now; it's winding its ornate fore-steps, not rushing, not slow for us, confident of every new image it puts forward.
    That's as pretty a piece of praise as any is in Messina! Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Missed the '8' key in 'fucking'.
    Oops. So I did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Terminal? I'm sure your sense was along 'perennial' or 'continuous'. Probably you were swayed by the idea of afflictions or conditions being terminal and momentarily didn't give it any thought.
    No, I wrote terminal quite intentionally: it's something that is not only continuous but will most likely only finish in death. Of course, whether or not my metaphor succeeds there is another matter. Perhaps it needs clarification or simply outright alteration.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    If you still write your prose quickly and don't look back, please do glance at your stuff one or twice more; there are details and especially reading effects that the writer can't see at the moment of writing. Even though at this point you're good enough that there's nothing discernible to my eyes, it's better to give it more time.
    Certainly. I do reread, and do edit as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Now my idea of Bianca is she's a very nice treatment of the ordinary person in hero plots, and I'd even be happy if (as inevitably happens) she doesn't in the end turn out to be The Most Special of All -- but my first indignation, when I wrote the earlier paragraph, still has its remnants. It is slightly related to Lauren intially having been the girl, and the timid/less combative character. It's because -- why should Bianca be thrown into a corner like this, in what decent situation would everybody so naturally file her away as a loser, because she doesn't have one of those specific talents that are needed to justify absolutely all characters in this kind of sf. For instance doesn't it hurt when everyone is surprised to see her display any semi-useful skills at all, and does it hurt even more when she turns out to be less adequate at it than one of the other characters. I know this is a save the world plot, not a decent situation, but still. That makes it all the more interesting to see what you intend to do with her. I will be watching quite carefully.
    Ah, it isn't everybody, though. It's Cheren as he is now, Jared, and to a lesser extent Lauren - who is easily swayed by Cheren, who she sees as more than he is. Of course it does hurt - but more of this later. I can't say much more without giving stuff away that should not be given.

    I think I will limit myself to saying that Bianca is not useless. But of course, in full planning mode, Cheren doesn't really have time for that which is not immediately useful, and Jared simply doesn't see her other qualities. We will see more of Bianca anon - in herself, and through Lauren.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Surprisingly 'mucus' is not a simplification or Americanism of 'mucous'; rather 'mucous' means 'relating to mucus'. Mucous membrane. Turns out the Latin root is 'mucosus'. Excise an '-us' and do the traditional English spelling shift, you get 'mucus'.
    Quite right. I remember originally writing something about 'mucous membranes', which do have the U since they use the adjectival form, and then later editing that into a sentence that required only 'mucus'. I must have deleted 'membranes' but forgotten to delete the U.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    She does? : D
    You bet she does. Who wouldn't? You hear about someone like Steven Stone, you imagine they're going to be quite the hero. (It helps that in his case he is.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Line break I think.
    Yep.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I remembered you identified yourself more with Lauren than with Jared or Halley. If Lauren gives a minute of pity for the Driftveil train guard, you must have been thinking hard about Bianca for a while now.
    Don't worry. Like I said, I'm not leaving her behind. No one gets left behind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    This smacks of a crammed-in reference. Think, think. Ice cream vans. Where could I have...?
    I'll wait. *leans back and luxuriates in their withheld knowledge*

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Oh, yes! Presumably the designers only thought, since it's a freezer level, let's put in some ice pokemon around the area for scenery. But in a game, those touches make it a force of nature. It has to have been an inexplicably cold island for all time.
    Yeah... I really tried to think of reasonable ways I could explain the Cold Storage, but in the end, I just couldn't. It makes literally no sense to have a cold spot like that level with a desert, so in the end I just had to leave it as an Act of Game Freak. (It also makes no sense to have a desert north of Castelia in the middle of what seems to be a classic temperate climate, but I managed to explain that away.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    On the contrary, I think a reader's work in some ways ought to be more massive than the writer's herself; the reader has to construct as much as the writer, from less workable material; and most of all it's the reader who can cut up and analyze a story in a million different ways that a writer can't. A reader who thinks a million things about the story but never gets them to the writer is leaving a silence, one that I can't imagine being good for either of them. I mean the writer is actually going out on a limb with everything she's been thinking about for so long. The reader never feels obliged to do the same. (I realize that in actual publishing, writers sell 20k books and 20 letters come back to them, but necessary as it is I'm still not comfortable with the idea.)
    You are right. A good reader will be an active reader - but still. I don't write with the aim of receiving vindication. I write because I have stories and the more stories there are in the world the better; that is where my feeling that I owe the world stories comes from. As I see it, a storyteller deserving of the name has only one obligation, and that is to tell good stories.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Lovecraftian horror is just a treasure trove of mind-searing ideas; I let myself think for a while about the Sleer and the void's habit of changing people, then thought about the glutinous apathy described in the Void and how it would feel when it was done with your mind. Changed to a lifeless construction of only chaos. The sack of Rome as an accidental collateral phenomenon of same.
    Ah, I see someone missed a reference there. I'll let you think about it. Also, yes, that sort of thing is great. I like me some Lovecraft; I like putting a faintly humorous veneer on top of it even better. I think the dark is darker when you can contrast it with a joke or two, and I always feel that it better represents life: a group of shaved apes joking and laughing atop a hill filled with bones and nameless gnawing beasts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    That's not a compliment I've ever heard of. Her alarm bells ought to be going off pronto.
    Oh, they probably were, somewhere, but I doubt Niamh could hear them. She was in a very strange place, after all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    What if the enemy is poured con behind reinforced glass? Huh? What if the enemy is a 'her'?
    Alas, poor Jared. He's really quite ignorant, isn't he? I doubt the idea of his enemy being a her didn't really occur to him. Silly boy. Silly ignorant boy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    He has access to hellfire?
    Perhaps. There are demons, right? So, probably hellfire too. (Really, I'm speculating just as much as you are.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I don't know if the theme of "how are all these impossible things happening, my realistic life has been turned upside down", at least as often as you repeat it, might be a bit of a banal choice for your fic, which deals with magic pretty much exclusively and in a professional capacity; if, for instance, one of the explicit things about monsters, legends, the magic your characters have grown up dealing with, is that they defy reality, then just how surprised would a monster hunter be on seeing something else that also defies reality, in a different way. To what extent is the plot of this story an eruption of impossible things over and above what goes on in the magical world anyway; and how far is it completely unprecedented, considering your characters keep making references to other (sometimes greater) calamities throughout history that were just as, so to say, mirabilis. Hm? When I read the first chapter I was almost thinking, Jared lives in a pokemon world, he should be half jaded to these things already. Now I realize that was naive, but I still think the "magical things are happening" theme has been repeated a bit too much not to grate.
    Most of the people in my Unova don't really know anything about this world that exists in the shadows - the world of impossibilities, demons and magic. I thought I had reduced the instances of my characters wondering at the marvels they come across as they saw more of them and became more habituated to that other world; evidently I've not done that right. Thanks for pointing it out; I'll see if I can't work out exactly what's stopping me from getting it right, and, when I've done so, repair the damage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Holy ****. Endless lines of cryogenically frozen N clones. Who saw that coming?
    Oh, me! Me! I saw it! Wait, that doesn't count, does it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Heh. Scene transitions that are followed by the exact same scene picking up where it left off. They're quite mandatory is some situations, aren't they? We've been raised on television and we borrow our dramatic rhythms from all sorts of different media.
    Actually, I wasn't really, so much - I grew up in between the pages of books. Pretty much all the TV I watch at present is a program about competitive bakery; I took this style of transition from the work Matthew Reilly, the Australian writer, who specialises in blisteringly fast-paced thrillers that read like the most action-packed of action movies magically transferred to paper.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Thought the "I felt sick that our plan was totaled and we were helpless" paragraphs needed a bit more leading up to them, as in, they need a longer justification of why they are completely helpless, the steady wringing of each escape possibility contradicted, a checkmate properly and unassailably assembled. Not necessarily for the scene's logic, but simply to pull off the mood expressed by the paragraph. It wasn't exactly hard for me to consider that they were in a far worse situation than they had been when it was just Roy, but you know, Cheren's handled himself in the very presense of Tiresias before, I'm surprised he didn't even try to think of something in this emergency.

    That paragraph... needs to be produced by a mood of frustrated helplessness; it cannot itself produce such a mood. Or shouldn't, for elegance. See how I'm getting more minute and nitpicky up to the recent chapters? That's called foresight! *fails to notice a banana peel*
    Yeah, I get it, and to be honest I really ought to have noticed that sooner. Perhaps it's due to me coming back to these characters and situations after so long spent immersed in a completely different narrative and world. Perhaps I'm just making excuses. At any rate, I'll fix something up and slot it in there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Hah, Ezra's a fallen angel. A non.. anti-fallen... The exact opposite of that.
    A risen angel, I guess? Risen like bread, because nothing says 'reformed demon' like a fistful of yeasty goodness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    You've outright stated who... Oh, goddammit, Niamh's an Unoriginal Name now, of course.
    No creature in Crack'd has an original name. Since my Unova is bound up with myth, its monsters are ettins, fetches and other creatures of Celtic, Nordic or Ango-Saxon mythology. (The exception being ghuls, which are technically Arabic but, well, ghouls and revenants are so universal that I didn't think it really mattered.)

    I can't remember at all what happens to their free will after the procedure. At this juncture I wonder about the title of your fic, which you must have absolutely planned out in the beginning from something that's yet to happen in the story. The love of seafood? Or is it a reference to your wider fic multiverse? You put terrines somewhere in all your fics, apparently. Obviously the solution to this puzzle is very simple, Halley was always a cat-monster, and she stole something fishy due to her being a cat, and the loss of that fish is the only thing standing between Harmonia/King Weland and the sack of the modern world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Do add me to the PM list.
    Consider yourself added!

    Thank you so much for your review. I don't at all mind if you nitpick: how else am I to improve as a writer? I know I'm at least half decent, but I've not been writing all that long, and I could always use more practice and feedback. So, once again - thank you, and I hope the story continues to amuse and entertain!

    Now, back to the editing of the next chapter. Wouldn't do to serve up a half-baked offering after a review like that, would it?
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 22nd September 2013 at 11:36 PM.

  2. #177
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    Chapter Thirty-One: The Magic Number

    In the dark, the retriever woke. Twitched. Felt the weight of new organs swelling within it.

    It had learned.

    It had changed.

    And it was hungry.

    ---

    “You may already know who I am,” said the stranger, as we threaded our way back through the passageways towards the bridge. “Ezra Schwarz – investigative journalist.”

    “Demon,” corrected Cheren.

    “Ah. You know slightly more than I thought.” Ezra shrugged. “No matter.”

    Of course. N had mentioned him before, hadn't he? The demon who had made it his mission to kill Weland. And now, somehow, he was here, and he had saved us.

    “Thanks,” I said. “For – uh – for that.”

    “Not at all,” he said. “Thank you for providing me with a way in. Weland has guards on the dark paths, and there are curses on that back door: I would have struggled to get in if you hadn't already broken the seal by defeating the guardian.” He smiled. “It never ceases to amaze me how useful someone totally without magical aptitude can be.”

    “What?”

    “Oh, never mind. I'm rambling, I think.”

    “Mister Schwarz,” said Cheren, “I—”

    “Ezra.” He frowned. “I don't really have a surname; I use that one mostly to sound more human.”

    “Ezra. How did you know we were there?”

    “I didn't,” he replied simply. “I've been waiting here for a while, thinking about what I ought to do next, and happened to notice that the door was open and the seal broken. You were very lucky.”

    Bianca and I shared identical looks of incomprehension.

    “Right,” I said. “So it would seem.”

    Ezra pushed open the gate and led us back out to the root of the bridge. The traffic did not seem to have moved an inch. “Now,” he began, “I'd like to give you some advice about the photos you just took—”

    There were three men standing in front of us.

    I blinked. They hadn't been there a moment ago, and the more I looked at them, the less certain I was that they were men after all; they had the right number of arms and legs, but something in their eyes told me otherwise. They were dressed in black, with black wrappings wound around their faces, and they stood as if they were ready to run at a moment's notice.

    “Jared Black,” said one. His voice sounded like the susurrus of wind-blown ash, as quiet and unobtrusive as its owner. “Come with us.”

    “Who in Neorxnawang are you?” I asked, not unreasonably.

    “Good question,” said Ezra, stepping forwards. “Who are—?”

    One of the men touched his arm, and then they were gone.

    I blinked again. There had been no theatrics – no darkness or smoke or flashes of light; none of the showiness of Teiresias. They were just gone.

    “What – where did—?”

    The man returned.

    Ezra did not.

    “What did you do to him?” asked Cheren, narrowing his eyes. “And what are you?”

    “We are the Shadow Triad,” said the lead man. “We can do certain things.”

    “No sh*t,” said Halley. “What exactly is it that you did?”

    “I took him somewhere,” said the man on the left – the one who'd grabbed Ezra. “Forget that. He will be back eventually.”

    “We have been sent here for you, Jared Black,” said the leader. “We were to take you from Zinzolin.”

    “Who sent you, then?” asked Cheren, but I already knew the answer to that.

    “N,” I said. “What does he want? He said we weren't going to meet—”

    “The situation has changed,” said the leader. “You found his birthplace.”

    That shut me up. That did change things – quite a lot, actually.

    “How did he know?” asked Cheren. “That doesn't make any sense, unless he's watching somehow.”

    “Cheren, it's N,” said Bianca, as if it were obvious – and it was, to anyone less logical than Cheren. “He felt it.”

    “I don't see how—”

    Bianca shook her head.

    “Never mind,” she sighed.

    “I can't help but think we're wandering a little far from the f*cking point,” said Halley. “Magical teleporting ninjas, anyone?”

    “So why did you get rid of Ezra?” I asked the Triad. “If you were just sent to fetch me away from Zinzolin.”

    “He would have been an obstruction,” replied the leader impassively. “Nothing permanent has happened to him. He is simply elsewhere.”

    “You are wasting time,” said the man on the right. “Jared Black, you will come with us, willingly or not.”

    I hesitated. Each of them looked tough enough on their own, and I had seen for myself how fast they were: there didn't seem to be any way I could resist this particular invitation. Besides, I told myself, it was from N, and he wouldn't do me any harm – I was pretty sure of that. Not until the time came for us to actually get down to the fighting would either of us lay a finger on the other.

    “What about the others?” I said at length. “Are they coming?”

    “No,” said the man on the left.

    “Just you,” said the one on the right.

    “Where are we going?” I asked. “And am I coming back afterwards?”

    “Chargestone Cave,” replied the leader. “Where you go from there is up to our lord N.”

    I sighed.

    “'Sraven,” I said. “He couldn't have just called me, could he?”

    The Triad said nothing. I was starting to wonder if I'd even seen them blink throughout all this; I suspected I hadn't.

    I looked back at Cheren and Bianca.

    “What do you think?” I asked.

    “I don't think you have a choice,” said Bianca.

    “Neither do I,” I said. “Cheren? Any, uh, tactical opinion?”

    “On teleportation into Chargestone Cave? No, oddly enough, I don't.” He sighed. “I don't know. We'll wait in Driftveil—”

    “Shouldn't we go to the cave?” asked Bianca. “We could catch up. And it would give us something to do.”

    “Are you coming willingly or not?” asked the leader of the Triad, and I turned back to face him.

    “Uh – sure, I guess. I mean, there's not really any other option, is there?”

    “No,” he said brusquely. “There is not.”

    He didn't say anything more – just reached out and took my arm.

    And all at once I was somewhere else entirely.

    ---

    Cheren and Bianca exchanged a look.

    “Chargestone Cave,” said Cheren. “That's north of here.”

    “Cheren,” said Bianca, “Jared was just abducted by ninjas.”

    “To be fair,” pointed out Halley, “they weren't really ninjas. They were sort of a Viking equivalent. Although I'm not sure what that would be, exactly. Maybe a less shouty Viking?”

    “Shut up,” said Cheren. “We need – we need to go north.”

    “What about Ezra?” asked Bianca. “Should we wait for him? He had something to tell us.”

    Cheren chewed his lip.

    “I'm not actually sure,” he admitted. “But I don't know how long it will take him to come back.”

    “That's assuming those Triad people were telling the truth, anyway,” said Halley. “If they work for N, God knows what kind of twisted bastards they might be.”

    “Could you stop being so irritating for a moment?”

    “Could you stop being such a suspicious dick for a moment?”

    “Stop it!”

    Cheren and Halley paused, the one glaring down and the other returning the favour with equal force; their anger hung in the air for a second or two longer, then they turned away and it vanished back inside them.

    “Frige,” said Bianca. “Jared's gone for like two minutes and you've already started on this.”

    Cheren frowned.

    “What do you mean, 'on this'?” he asked.

    Bianca rolled her eyes.

    “You don't exactly keep it secret,” she said. “I hear you at night. Arguing about stuff.”

    Cheren and Halley shared another glance. It was rather more anxious than the last.

    “You know,” said Halley abruptly, “Ezra's gone, and Zinzolin and Roy are still around...”

    “And it's a long way to Chargestone Cave,” added Cheren. “We should probably get going.”

    They started on hurriedly, and Bianca stared after them for a moment.

    “What? Did I hit a nerve there, or...?”

    She glanced at Munny, which booped blankly, and ran to catch up.

    “You're being weird,” she told Cheren. “Weirder, anyway.”

    “What about me?” asked Halley. “I turned into a f*cking cat. That's pretty weird.”

    “I think you were probably this weird before you transformed. Anyway, aren't we forgetting something here?”

    “What's that?” Cheren looked alarmed; he never forgot things. The possibility that he might have forgotten something was quite disturbing.

    “Jared's been abducted by ninjas,” Bianca said. “Doesn't that strike you as... I don't know... kind of important?”

    “Of course it is,” replied Cheren. “That's why we're going to Chargestone Cave. But we don't know any more, so there isn't much to discuss.”

    The traffic moved suddenly, and a cluster of lorries roared past them out onto the bridge; petrol fumes billowed out low across the footpath, and Halley jumped up onto the railing to avoid them.

    “Bleagh,” she said. “Disgusting.”

    “Aren't you afraid you'll fall?” asked Bianca. “That's, like... a sixty-metre drop to the sea there.”

    “I'm a cat,” said Halley. “I've got perfect balance.”

    “Right,” said Bianca, though she did not by any means sound certain. “Anyway – look, have I gone crazy, or did no one else see Jared get abducted by ninjas?”

    “We all saw it, Bianca,” said Cheren. “And I am processing the information and will get back to you when I've made some sense of it.”

    Bianca sighed.

    “Of course,” she said. “Should've known.”

    She fell silent, and on the railing Halley clicked her tongue in despair.

    They reached the mainland in silence and caught a bus back to the Centre where they'd been staying, where Cheren packed while Bianca looked at Google Maps. (They had once tried this the other way around, but Cheren had not been able to bear seeing clothes stuffed unfolded into the bags and had forcibly taken over the packing.)

    “Hey,” said Halley, curled on the bed. “What're you doing about those photos? There's free WiFi here; you can send them anywhere you like.”

    “I thought we should wait for Ezra,” replied Bianca. “I mean, he had something to say about it.”

    “I agree,” said Cheren. “He's obviously been playing this particular game much longer than we have; we should take advantage of his experience. I've already sent the pictures back to my computer at home via Dropbox, so we have them backed up. As long as the Party doesn't interfere, it can wait for a couple of days – and if Ezra doesn't turn up then, we can send them to the League so Shauntal can send them to her media contacts.”

    “You think of everything, don't you?” said Halley.

    “Yes,” said Cheren. “Including things that people are hiding from me.”

    Halley stiffened slightly for a moment, then yawned and relaxed, every inch the unconcerned cat.

    “Whatever,” she said. “You speculate away, Cherry.”

    “What did you just—?”

    “There's a hiking trail that goes around and through the Chargestone Cave area,” interrupted Bianca, half to forestall the argument and half because she'd been waiting to say it for a while. “It's got a train station – trains arrive and depart three times a day. I'm right in thinking we aren't walking there, right? It'd take like most of a week to get there.”

    “Right,” agreed Cheren. “We need to get there as soon as possible. I expect the Shadow Triad move around instantaneously.”

    “Shadow Triad,” mused Halley. “Hell of a crappy name, isn't it? Comic book villain stuff.”

    “When's the next train?” asked Cheren pointedly.

    “Three twelve.” Bianca checked the time. “That's four and a half hours.”

    “Enough time for lunch,” said Halley. “Maybe a visit to the park, chase some birds. Catch one of your little lizards.”

    “Do you really not care at all?” asked Bianca. “That Jared's been – that he's gone Frige-knows-where?”

    Halley considered the matter for a moment.

    “Nope,” she replied. “Frankly, it seems like we're out of danger right now, which is my main concern.”

    “She is an utterly self-serving creature,” said Cheren. “Reprehensible in every respect.”

    “Yeah, I kind of suck,” purred Halley. “But what're you going to do, eh? Some people are just pretty sh*tty.”

    Bianca stared.

    “F*ck you, then,” she said, and turned back to the computer.

    Halley sat up a little.

    “Rare praise indeed from you,” she said dryly. “F*ck you too, Bianca. No one's any different to me; I'm just more honest.”

    Bianca didn't answer.

    Cheren looked from one to the other, puzzled, and for once in his life found that he had absolutely no idea what he ought to say.

    “I'm going to get Jared's phone charger from his room,” he said at last, and walked out.

    ---

    Portland Smythe materialised in a municipal park, cried out in elation, was blinded by the sudden sunlight and fell over backwards into a duck pond.

    It was not the noblest of jailbreaks.

    “Aagh!” he cried, and “Ooh!” he cried, and other variations on the same theme; these outbursts were accompanied by various thrashings and writhings in the water, and to cut a long story short, he was fairly quickly thrown out of the park by a concerned warden.

    That was ignominious, said Teiresias. I suppose it will suffice for purposes of camouflage.

    “Oh, sh*t on a stick,” said Smythe. “I'd almost forgotten about you.”

    He flicked a skein of weed off his sleeve and took a few squelchy steps – then stopped, as he realised he had no idea where he was.

    “Where are we?” he asked.

    I am not sure, said Teiresias. I caught the nearest way, and did not stop to see where it led. It was difficult enough to drag your meat through the passage.

    “Oh, thanks Portland for letting me hide from Weland's guards inside your head,” said Smythe. “No problem, Teiresias. Anything to get out of here.”

    You are upset.

    “Because you're being a prick,” said Smythe shortly. “And I don't have to take it any more, because you can't hurt me.”

    There was a slow rumble in the back of his head, as if a distant storm was coming.

    Smythe snorted.

    “Don't give me that,” he said. “Please. Compared to that Yaghda thing, you're an amateur. Besides, you swore on your blood that you wouldn't damage my mind in any way, and I know for a fact that if you suppress my will while I'm resisting you, that damages my mind. So there.”

    You forget that you only have the advantage of me temporarily, said Teiresias. I will leave your head when I am strong enough to take on the wretches who seek me, and then there will be nothing to stop me eating your mind and grinding your body into bloody mulch.

    That made Smythe pause for a moment.

    “O-K,” he said. “So, er, we're equals in this. That's OK. You don't f*ck with me, and I won't f*ck with you.”

    That seems sensible.

    What was irritating, Smythe thought, was how calm Teiresias was being; it didn't seem to be offended at all. It wasn't even trying to project its usual atmosphere of horror; it was acting almost like a normal human being, albeit one with the emotional range of a coffee-pot, and Smythe didn't like it. It was outside his experience of Teiresias, and it felt like a trap.

    “Right.” Smythe returned his attention to the world outside his head, and noticed he was attracting rather more attention than he would have liked. “Ah. Er... excuse me,” he said, addressing one of those bystanders who was staring at him openly. “Excuse me, but where exactly am I?”

    She probably would have looked at him as if he were mad at that point, but she was already doing so, and so settled for adding a certain gape of the mouth to her current expression.

    Smythe wilted a little.

    “Any idea at all?” he asked. “No? What about you?”

    “Icirrus City,” said the man, and hurried off.

    “Icirrus,” said Smythe slowly. “Wow. We came quite some way.”

    We did, agreed Teiresias. Now go and acquire fresh clothing, cleansing and sustenance. You are damaged, and the pond water is not helping matters.

    “I'm not a car,” said Smythe, squelching unhappily down the street.

    Your flesh is formed of interacting elements. You are a machine of meat, as a car is of metal, and similarly you require maintenance. See to your repairs; it would be inconvenient for both of us if you died.

    “Inconvenient,” Smythe repeated. “That's it? Inconvenient?”

    Teiresias did not reply. Perhaps it had had enough of him, thought Smythe. Well, that suited him just fine; without the nagging voice of the demon in his ears, he could get down to the serious business of enjoying the air, light and other luxuries he now had access to.

    He took a deep breath, and smelled the flowers from the park.

    Smiling, he set off in search of a cash machine. He had a demon in his head – but he was free, returned from the underworld to a land of light and space, and for today at least, nothing else mattered.

    ---

    The silence still hung between the trio when they took their seats in an empty carriage on the train. Halley stayed curled in her seat, occasionally twitching her tail; Cheren and Bianca sat opposite each other, neither quite meeting the other's eyes.

    Jared's absence was proving more troublesome than expected.

    Beyond the window, trees and mountains flashed past; western Unova was famously hilly, and from Driftveil to Icirrus it was hard to go five miles without having to go around a mountain. The railway wound through the hills like a drunken snake, ducking under the shadows of cliffs and on occasion straight through tunnels bored into mountains; it was reckoned one of the most scenic routes in Unova, but no one was really in the mood to appreciate it.

    “We can't go on like this,” said Bianca at last. “Someone has to say something.”

    Cheren looked at her.

    “I don't really know what happened,” he said. “I don't know what you want me to say.”

    “Well,” said Halley, “you might want to finish 'processing the information' about Jared being kidnapped and get back to her about it.”

    Bianca glared at her.

    “You can shut up too,” she said. “You don't care about that at all.”

    “Guilty,” said Halley, and closed her eyes as if sleeping.

    Cheren caught Bianca's eye and put a finger to his lips. She frowned, puzzled, then smiled as she saw him take the collar he'd threatened Halley with before from his pocket. Quickly and quietly, he reached over and slipped it around her neck, and had his hands back in his lap before she'd managed to even get to her feet.

    Cheren!” yowled Halley, scratching furiously at her neck. “Get that f*cking thing off me—”

    “Look,” he said, infuriatingly calm, “we did say that if you kept being so horrible—”

    “I can be a hell of a lot f*cking more horrible if you don't—”

    “Maybe we'd take it off if you were a nicer person,” suggested Bianca.

    Halley turned her blazing eyes on her.

    “Don't you start,” she said. “I have enough trouble with this bastard—”

    “Calm down,” said Cheren. “Let's all calm down a little— ah, Thunor!”

    He whipped his hand away, blood welling up in the scratches, and glared at her.

    “Carry on like that and I staple the clasp shut,” he snapped.

    Halley glowered.

    “I – I – f*ck you both with a rusty chainsaw,” she said, and went back to scratching at her neck.

    “Are you OK?” asked Bianca.

    “Yes,” said Cheren, fumbling in his bag for the first aid kit. “I've had worse scratches from Justine.”

    “Let me get that,” said Bianca, and took it from him. She cleaned the cuts and wrapped a bandage inexpertly around his hand, which Cheren then proceeded to straighten until each band was perfectly aligned.

    She gave him a look.

    “Sorry,” said Cheren. “It bugs me.”

    “Not that,” she said. “Have you processed the information yet?”

    Cheren winced.

    “OK,” he said. “That was bad phrasing, even by my standards.”

    “I know you like to have a plan,” said Bianca. “But it wouldn't kill you to be... I dunno. Not to act like a robot 24/7.”

    “I don't—”

    “You have done,” she said. “You've been in robot strategic genius mode since we started this – this – whatever this is.” She sighed. “Quest, I guess. Whatever.”

    Cheren blinked.

    “I haven't really had much choice,” he said.

    “You can plan and still act like a human being,” pointed out Bianca. “Like in Olga and Benito's Dread Adventures – the one where Raoul the Clockwork Ghoul gets a heart.”

    Cheren smiled.

    “You're about to tell me the episode number, aren't you?” he asked.

    “Series three episode twenty-five,” she said. “Season finale.” She grinned. “You remember that one, right? You don't forget anything.”

    “I think you might have mentioned it, yes.”

    Bianca chuckled.

    “Admit it, you watched it.”

    Cheren sighed.

    “OK, I was twelve—”

    “Knew it,” she said happily.

    Cheren laughed.

    “Frige,” said Bianca. “That's like the first time you've laughed since Accumula.”

    He gave her an odd look.

    “You know,” he said, “I think it might be.” He frowned, then shook his head and smiled. “Well, so be it,” he said. “Why not?”

    “I look like a bloody stuffed animal,” said Halley mournfully, staring at her reflection in the window.

    They glanced at her.

    “Someone's calmed down,” said Bianca.

    “After the anger comes depression. Oh God, it's too bright. The red clashes with my eyes.”

    “Don't be such a drama queen,” said Cheren. “It makes you look more domestic, anyway.”

    “Kill me now so my family never hear of the shame I've brought upon them.”

    “OK, now you're overreacting in a whole different way—”

    “I will cut off my feet,” she said. “And then throw myself off a cliff.”

    “Why cut off your feet?” asked Bianca.

    “So she can't land on them,” replied Cheren. “Cats, remember?”

    “Oh yeah.” Bianca bit her lip to smother a laugh. “Halley, are you even being serious any more?”

    She turned and fixed her with a piercing glare.

    “There was a time when you thought I was cute,” she pouted. “You picked me up when I was tired of walking.”

    “That was before you started being a b*tch,” said Bianca.

    “I'm not a b*tch,” said Halley. “I'm a queen.”

    “What? Why?”

    “It's the term for a female cat,” sighed Halley. “I was making a joke about the fact that a female dog is a b*tch, and – ah, whatever, doesn't f*cking matter.”

    She turned back to her reflection and started pawing forlornly at her collar.

    Cheren looked at Bianca and smiled.

    “You know,” he said, “I think we might have finally tamed her.”

    Bianca smiled back.

    “I think we might,” she agreed. She held up a hand, and Cheren stared at it uncomprehendingly for a moment – and then grinned, and high-fived her. “There we go,” she said with satisfaction. “That's back to normal, that is.”

    Halley let out a little groan.

    “If anyone wants me,” she said, “I'll be under my seat, hiding my shame.”

    “OK,” said Bianca. “Have a nice time!”

    Halley dropped down to the floor and paused, casting one last lingering look over her shoulder – and then, when she was ignored, slunk away beneath the seat.

    Bianca and Cheren shared another smile, and the train rattled on north, a pale, clanking line in a silent ocean of green and brown.

    ---

    It was dark in Chargestone Cave.

    Almost completely dark, in fact; the only source of illumination was a great claw of bluish rock in the distance, which gave off a faint blue light. Other than that, there was nothing but darkness, and silence.

    “Hello?” I called. There was no answer. The Shadow Triad did not seem to be around.

    I could feel the presence of stone all around me. It was oppressive, in the dark; I sensed the whole weight of the hill pressing down on this little pocket of air, as if it would have loved nothing better than to sink down to earth and rest.

    “Hello?”

    A flash of light – something skittered across the path ahead, gleaming in the light of the distant rock. It must have been exceptionally shiny to catch that faint glow, I thought; I couldn't even see my own hands in front of my face here.

    “Where'd you guys go?”

    I felt a little flicker of fear – what if they didn't come from N at all? what if it's a trap? – and squashed it firmly.

    “Not going down that road,” I said to myself. “Now. What do I need? Light. Yeah. So... ah!”

    I got my phone out and thumbed the torch app, turning the screen into a rectangle of bright, solid white. It wasn't much light, but it was enough to avoid the loose rocks and holes in the floor while I made my way towards the blue stone.

    Suddenly, hands took hold of my arms, and I almost dropped my phone in surprise – but it was just the Shadows, back from wherever they had been.

    “We were delayed,” said one of them. “Something happened.”

    I noticed with a certain amount of unease that their eyes reflected the light, like those of wildcats or wolves; I was no expert on biology, but I was fairly sure that no humans had eyes like that.

    “This way,” said another. Other than their eyes, they were virtually invisible in the dark; I could just about make out their white hair, but no more than that. “Turn off your light.”

    I clicked off my phone and let myself be led away from the rock and down what felt like a slope covered in loose scree; I kept slipping, but the Shadows never missed a step, and held me upright with firm hands.

    Eventually, the ground levelled out beneath us, and we came to an area where several of the phosphorescent stones were clustered together; their combined light cast a wide blue glow around them, and for the first time I could see the cave walls, close by on either side. The light didn't reach the roof, though, and I would have wondered exactly how high the ceiling was – except that between the glowing stones was N, and he, of course, stole my entire attention as soon as I noticed him.

    “Thank you,” he said, as we approached. “You've done well. You may leave now.”

    There was no lessening of pressure on my arms, but I suddenly felt that the Triad was gone, and took a cautious step forward; when I felt no one move with me, I relaxed a little. Not too much – I was still in the middle of nowhere – but a little.

    “I'm sorry for bringing you out here,” said N. “But I was on my way through the cave to Mistralton, and I wanted to talk to you.”

    “You could've called,” I said. “Generally, that's considered politer than kidnapping.”

    “We currently stand beneath more than seventeen million tons of soil and stone,” he told me. “There's no signal here. Besides, electrical equipment doesn't like the adamant.”

    “The what?”

    “These.” He patted one of the glowing stones. “Adamant. It's an old word for lodestone, although these aren't the same sort of lodestone you find elsewhere. We doctored these a long time ago, at the request of the spiders.” He sighed, and let his hand fall limply back to his side. “I suppose you must know why you're here?”

    “Because I found where they cloned you?”

    “Correct.” N smiled an exhausted smile. “I didn't expect this to happen. Sometimes even a spider can be tricked.” He paused. “I don't know why I feel the need to justify my existence to you,” he said. “I just feel... I feel as if you might disapprove of it.”

    “No,” I said. “I don't. Well – maybe.”

    I didn't know what I felt any more. Everything had come far too fast for me to really take any of it in; a moment ago we had been facing certain death, then we'd been saved, and now I was in the bowels of the earth talking to a man cloned from a prehistoric, prehuman king. I would have been surprised, but I honestly didn't have the energy for it; I had fallen into this strange world a while ago now, and while new oddities kept on surprising me, I found I'd become surprisingly accepting of the twisted bones of magic and myth that ran through its core.

    “Don't,” he said earnestly. “Really. It was all foretold.” He ran his tongue nervously over his lips. “I – I can't tell you exactly what's happening,” he said. “You know I can't. But I can tell you a story.” He cleared his throat. “The Heroes killed Naudri,” he began, “when they came to conquer his city. They stole his dragons and destroyed his city so completely that they turned the country for miles around it into a desert – a desert that still hasn't recovered now, thousands of years later, despite the fact that it exists in a temperate European climate. But that,” he went on, checking himself, “is something for another time. The point is that Naudri was killed, and the fight had to end. But wyrd wasn't finished yet; the war between the two peoples was put on hold, but it wasn't finished. So his surviving servants fled with his body to the royal tombs, where they prepared it so that it would last until the power existed to resurrect him so that the fight could begin anew.”

    N looked away for a moment, as if he had heard something in the distance.

    “Of course, that never happened,” he continued, returning his gaze to me. “You can't bring the dead back to life. But you can make them engender new life, nowadays.”

    There was a silence.

    “So that's you,” I said. “It's not... not a sacrilege?”

    N shook his head.

    “No. Just destiny. Harmonia never knew that raising me would raise you,” he added. “He didn't know that if I exist, so too must you. Until the end.” He shook his head again, slower this time. “He had... other reasons for making me.”

    “Which you can't tell me about.”

    “No.”

    Neither of us said anything for a while.

    “Is this what you brought me here to say?” I asked. “Couldn't it have waited until you got out the cave and could call?”

    “It's not good for me to use phones, really,” said N quietly. “I suppose Lisbeth told you about that.”

    I froze.

    “Ah,” I said. “Right. Er... sorry,” I said, feeling inadequate.

    “It's all right,” he said. “I, ah... I also have some other things to tell you.”

    “Important things?”

    “Immeasurably.” He gestured out into the darkness. “Come on,” he said. “Let's walk.”

    “Walk where?”

    “To the exit,” he said patiently. “Unless you want to find your own way out.”

    “Oh. Right, OK.”

    He stepped into the dark and made an odd noise in the back of his throat; immediately, three silvery elvers swooped down from nowhere and began to circle his head.

    “Are those Tynamo?” I asked, staring. “I've never seen them before.”

    “Yes, they are,” he said, reaching up and stroking one. It rubbed itself against his fingers, leaving sparkling slime where it touched. “They've kindly agreed to light our way while we go. Come.”

    He started walking, and I hurried to catch up, not wanting to be left behind in the dark.

    “What did you have to say that's so important?” I asked, ducking to let one of the Tynamo slither overhead.

    “I meant to start with it,” he said. “Really, it's more important than the rest of the story, but you discovering that... that place unnerved me.”

    “And what is it?”

    N sighed.

    “That's the annoying thing,” he said. “I can't tell you. I just can't. I am physically incapable – maybe I was wrong about us having free will after all.” He clicked his tongue. “I... I will remind you,” he said at length. “Er, how shall I do this... You remember that something was stolen from the Green Party, yes?”

    “Yeah,” I said. “I imagine it must be something critical to their success in the election.”

    “Mm,” he said noncommittally. “The election is not far off, you know.”

    “I know. It's, er, next week or something. Actually, I've kind of lost track of time over the past few days.”

    “Understandable. So. You remember the theft. You remember that Harmonia wanted to find the thief.”

    “That's why he was looking for Halley,” I said. “She's connected to them.”

    N looked at me expectantly.

    “And,” he said, as if he were about to explain – but went no further. I realised that this must be the thing he couldn't tell me; I had to work it out for myself.

    “And...” What could it be? What could N mean? “And... 'sraven, he's found them?”

    N let out a sigh of relief and nodded.

    “Yes,” he agreed. “He's found the thief. Or rather, I have. I'm going to tell him as soon as I get to Mistralton.”

    I paused.

    “But you're telling me first,” I said slowly. “So it's important that I know, right?”

    N nodded.

    “I... You need to be there,” he said. “Three days from now, at dusk. That's when we'll arrive. That's where the first battle will be fought.”

    “Three days...? What? How am I supposed to know where it is?”

    He shrugged.

    “I would tell you if I could,” he said. “I don't know what will happen if you miss it, but it won't be good. Destiny isn't kind to those who thwart it.”

    I sighed.

    “OK, OK,” I said. “I know that.” (In fact, I had just that second realised that I did, and that did not seem strange at all. I seemed to be getting the hang of N's world – my world now, I thought.) “Forget how, then. What about the why? You said that that's where the first battle will be fought – what does that even mean?”

    He looked at me for a long time without words.

    “I told you that the war wasn't over,” he said. “That it was on hold. Well, when we come to the castle of that thief, it will start again. Your army and mine will meet – and Sandjr will ride to war against Unova.”
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 23rd September 2013 at 12:26 AM.

  3. #178
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    With Cheren and Bianca's luck, I expect them to go to the opposite entrance to Chargestone cave that N and Jered come out of................................................ .................................................. .................................................. ......and I still don't see what seafood has to do with any of this.


    FC:
    SS- 3223 9732 1772

  4. #179
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    Seafood sparked the initial conversation with a paring of characters earlier, that's all I remember.

    Anyway, I like how you used the shadow triad here, I was actually wondering if they would make an appearance. I bet if ezra hadn't shown up, the triad would have saved Jared regardless but most likely bianca and cheren would have been left behind (I don't care to capitilize their names)

    Really liking this right now and look forward to the next instalment.


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

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

  5. #180
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    No creature in Crack'd has an original name. Since my Unova is bound up with myth, its monsters are ettins, fetches and other creatures of Celtic, Nordic or Ango-Saxon mythology. (The exception being ghuls, which are technically Arabic but, well, ghouls and revenants are so universal that I didn't think it really mattered.)
    Oh, I was trying to be clever and allude to when Niamh read "M. Gentleman" and wondered who the hell came up with that name. I'm awful.

    Sure we do! And we also have those terrible dreams about the end of the world, where the dead walk the earth and the dinosaurs tear themselves loose from the trammelling stone of ages past.

    ... you guys have those too, right?
    ...Now I'm gonna subject you to a dream I had a few days ago. There was somebody in a fandom, talking about a race of golems left behind from an ancient civilization or whatever, the golems were quite spiffy, they were made of metal and thin and angular like Tin Men. The plot is, some invading race came in and did something horrible at some point. Okay so the person goes into WW2 horror-poetry mode, with everything she's saying (possibly she was JX Valentine) conscious as all-caps logorrhea:

    NOTHING THEY DID NOTHING THEIR CHILDREN SLAUGHTERED DO YOU THINK THEY KNEW DO YOU THINK THEY CARED THEIR LOVE THEIR CRANIAL STOPS THEIR LAUGHTER THEIR MADNESS THEIR

    etc, while I looked up from the POV of a fallen golem Tin Man, watching an ill-defined black samurai approach me, the laughter in my soul escalating smoothly to terror as it bent down to hew me. Why are all my nightmares so tacky?

    And on that note, let's begin the review!

    In the dark, the retriever woke. Twitched. Felt the weight of new organs swelling within it.

    It had learned.

    It had changed.

    And it was hungry.
    Shiiiiiiii... Did you intend anybody to realize what the retriever was until this scene?

    “Cheren, it's N,” said Bianca, as if it were obvious – and it was, to anyone less logical than Cheren. “He felt it.”
    This is pedantic: what is the precise mechanism by which less logical people understand what N does? I mean of course this comes from the tradition of things in British sf that sometimes, people 'just know'. But then, I dunno, you're playing around with that tradition, making rules like 'logical people don't have that sense' (which, I admit, is the most natural way to proceed). But could it stand for some elaboration beyond 'just knowing'? How exactly someone like Cheren would be led to miss it?

    Doesn't the group feel a little forlorn and awkward without Jared/Lauren? Their chemistry isn't coming together. They've no idea what each other are talking about.

    “I agree,” said Cheren. “He's obviously been playing this particular game much longer than we have; we should take advantage of his experience. I've already sent the pictures back to my computer at home via Dropbox, so we have them backed up. As long as the Party doesn't interfere, it can wait for a couple of days – and if Ezra doesn't turn up then, we can send them to the League so Shauntal can send them to her media contacts.”
    ****, Cheren, you're using Dropbox to ensure data against the Party's more private secrets? Remember when it was hacked last year? Dropbox is not the most secure thing, if N's people really wanted to destroy this sensitive information.

    “Rare praise indeed from you,” she said dryly. “F*ck you too, Bianca. No one's any different to me; I'm just more honest.”
    That was a precious thing to hear. I wonder if you leave the three secondary characters alone with themselves for long enough, what kind of **** will come crawling out the holes.

    Portland Smythe materialised in a municipal park, cried out in elation, was blinded by the sudden sunlight and fell over backwards into a duck pond.
    That was a lovely beginning, so tranquil that it made me think of Woolf of all people. "Septimus Warren Smith heard the birds singing in Greek" (not an actual line).

    “Inconvenient,” Smythe repeated. “That's it? Inconvenient?”
    I fail at 'helpful', so I'm gonna try for 'fertile bed': I wonder how much the evil of supernatural beings is rooted in just this point, which seems to be, they don't understand suffering. Damage that is an annoying impediment to action, vs. damage that is physically suffered. Teiresias has no sense of what Smythe might be feeling under the effects of starvation and cold, and this is why compassion is lost to him. Ezra's condition is similar, I think. But these Castiel figures who try to help mortals anyway, I wonder how far their sense of good or compassion really goes, how much they simply try to do good mechanically, imagining an absent sense of compassion. Wait I forgot Ezra's probably not on a moral mission. Even so, he sometimes does things that are only motivated by a sense of right, small as they are.

    Teiresias did not reply. Perhaps it had had enough of him, thought Smythe. Well, that suited him just fine; without the nagging voice of the demon in his ears, he could get down to the serious business of enjoying the air, light and other luxuries he now had access to.

    He took a deep breath, and smelled the flowers from the park.

    Smythe smiled, and set off in search of a cash machine. He had a demon in his head – but he was free, returned from the underworld to a land of light and space, and for today at least, nothing else mattered.
    Slightly anomalous? Maybe it's just the fact that you wrote "Smythe" in the third one, to avoid repeating "He", which in turn made it feel somewhat like "Smythe" and "he" were different people.

    Oh yeah, and what does my previous rambling about good and evil mean for the evil of someone like Halley, who has a sense of suffering, but doesn't use it for other people? An evil maybe less justifiable? But also a lot less absolute?

    “Frige,” said Bianca. “That's like the first time you've laughed since Accumula.”
    Lauren waits patiently, holding her OTP folded over her bosom. (I didn't mean to pull Lauren into it, but she was the one who declared it, you know.)

    I noticed with a certain amount of unease that their eyes reflected the light, like those of wildcats or wolves; I was no expert on biology, but I was fairly sure that no humans had eyes like that.
    ****.

    I didn't know what I felt any more. Everything had come far too fast for me to really take any of it in; a moment ago we had been facing certain death, then we'd been saved, and now I was in the bowels of the earth talking to a man cloned from a prehistoric, prehuman king. I would have been surprised, but I honestly didn't have the energy for it; I had fallen into this strange world a while ago now, and while new oddities kept on surprising me, I found I'd become surprisingly accepting of the twisted bones of magic and myth that ran through its core.
    A nice modulation, on what we talked about in the last review. In the first place, the events of a full-tilt plot actually happening to someone in real time, they've got to have a very particular dislocating effect. In the second, I feel this is hinting towards Jared actually learning to come into his own, in a way; this might be how he matures the natural abilities you need to deal with so much supernatural ****.

    “Immeasurably.” He gestured out into the darkness. “Come on,” he said. “Let's walk.”

    “Walk where?”


    “To the exit,” he said patiently. “Unless you want to find your own way out.”

    “Oh. Right, OK.”
    I can't be sure if this line break was intentional. Bringing it to your attention anyway.

    He stepped into the dark and made an odd noise in the back of his throat; immediately, three silvery elvers swooped down from nowhere and began to circle his head.
    “Are those Tynamo?” I asked, staring. “I've never seen them before.”
    This definitely isn't. I like the way you sometimes describe pokemon in reference to mythical rather than real creatures. The idea of Taillow being a sparrow pokemon in a world where no sparrows exist is problematic; your fic slides through it, by having real animals. I hadn't thought about this in the last review.

    “That's the annoying thing,” he said. “I can't tell you. I just can't. I am physically incapable – maybe I was wrong about us having free will after all.”
    Cool. I was also going to be pedantic, like in the Cheren quote above, about when N says "I simply can't do it, because destiny". One of my old thoughts was that destiny ought not to work in a way that directly contradicts the actors somewhere -- nudges them, not through the working of normal cause and effect, but by a magical deus ex machina. Now I also think it's that d.e.m. that provides the element of actual magic; a story ought to have a d.e.m. somewhere, or it gets really ****ing banal. What do you think?

    Plus, it suddenly makes it incredibly cool that these characters are jacking the system -- getting past a d.e.m. by ingenuity, as though it were a jumpable fence set up by wyrd, and not the word of wyrd, itself.

    “I told you that the war wasn't over,” he said. “That it was on hold. Well, when we come to the castle of that thief, it will start again. Your army and mine will meet – and Sandjr will ride to war against Unova.”
    SH*T! That dragon who stole a tower is what they're talking about! Everything loops back to itself, ultimately! There is no god! Your update schedule is quite awesome!

  6. #181
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    Quote Originally Posted by repoman View Post
    With Cheren and Bianca's luck, I expect them to go to the opposite entrance to Chargestone cave that N and Jered come out of................................................ .................................................. .................................................. ......and I still don't see what seafood has to do with any of this.
    You'll see about the seafood later on. Although I have started laying the groundwork for the seafood part of the plot.

    Side note: I really, really love seafood.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Seafood sparked the initial conversation with a paring of characters earlier, that's all I remember.

    Anyway, I like how you used the shadow triad here, I was actually wondering if they would make an appearance. I bet if ezra hadn't shown up, the triad would have saved Jared regardless but most likely bianca and cheren would have been left behind (I don't care to capitilize their names)
    I'm not sure whether they would have saved them or not. Certainly they could have done, since there are three of them, but if they had they almost definitely wouldn't have taken them all to N.

    For reasons that will be revealed later, I don't think N would let Cheren and Bianca die... yet. As such, I think the Shadows might have saved them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Really liking this right now and look forward to the next instalment.
    Thanks! We're getting towards the first of the two Enormous Events that I've had planned from the start and which have been guiding the plot so far, so I hope the story continues to hold your interest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    ...Now I'm gonna subject you to a dream I had a few days ago. There was somebody in a fandom, talking about a race of golems left behind from an ancient civilization or whatever, the golems were quite spiffy, they were made of metal and thin and angular like Tin Men. The plot is, some invading race came in and did something horrible at some point. Okay so the person goes into WW2 horror-poetry mode, with everything she's saying (possibly she was JX Valentine) conscious as all-caps logorrhea:

    NOTHING THEY DID NOTHING THEIR CHILDREN SLAUGHTERED DO YOU THINK THEY KNEW DO YOU THINK THEY CARED THEIR LOVE THEIR CRANIAL STOPS THEIR LAUGHTER THEIR MADNESS THEIR

    etc, while I looked up from the POV of a fallen golem Tin Man, watching an ill-defined black samurai approach me, the laughter in my soul escalating smoothly to terror as it bent down to hew me. Why are all my nightmares so tacky?
    A dream for a dream, as they say:

        Spoiler:- For length:


    Sometimes I dream in short stories like that. When I do, they are almost invariably terrifying.

    Maybe I write too much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Shiiiiiiii... Did you intend anybody to realize what the retriever was until this scene?
    I have to confess, I'm not sure what you mean by that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    This is pedantic: what is the precise mechanism by which less logical people understand what N does? I mean of course this comes from the tradition of things in British sf that sometimes, people 'just know'. But then, I dunno, you're playing around with that tradition, making rules like 'logical people don't have that sense' (which, I admit, is the most natural way to proceed). But could it stand for some elaboration beyond 'just knowing'? How exactly someone like Cheren would be led to miss it?
    I think what I meant is that Cheren would look for a logical reason why N could know - whereas anyone else would have been able to intuit by now that N and Jared are not like other people, and that N does not necessarily have a 'logical', or indeed a knowable, reason for his connection with Jared.

    Nevertheless, I take your point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Doesn't the group feel a little forlorn and awkward without Jared/Lauren? Their chemistry isn't coming together. They've no idea what each other are talking about.
    Wouldn't you? After all, without the hero, how can the rest of the legend carry on successfully?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    ****, Cheren, you're using Dropbox to ensure data against the Party's more private secrets? Remember when it was hacked last year? Dropbox is not the most secure thing, if N's people really wanted to destroy this sensitive information.
    I think the story's set before the Dropbox hack, although I confess I'm a bit hazy about the exact time. Besides, I imagine that what happened was that Cheren's phone automatically syncs its photos with his laptop via Dropbox - I imagine there was very little choice involved at all.

    This is all theory, of course. I don't own a phone complicated enough to run any sort of app at all, let alone Dropbox. I chose a phone that slides open over a phone with functionality, and I've never regretted that decision.

    Because, y'know. Slidey!

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    That was a lovely beginning, so tranquil that it made me think of Woolf of all people. "Septimus Warren Smith heard the birds singing in Greek" (not an actual line).
    Septimus Warren Smith was always a bit more disturbing for me right from the off. In fact, this is probably more Robert Rankin than Virginia Woolf - though hey, I'll take a compliment when it comes my way. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I fail at 'helpful', so I'm gonna try for 'fertile bed': I wonder how much the evil of supernatural beings is rooted in just this point, which seems to be, they don't understand suffering. Damage that is an annoying impediment to action, vs. damage that is physically suffered. Teiresias has no sense of what Smythe might be feeling under the effects of starvation and cold, and this is why compassion is lost to him. Ezra's condition is similar, I think. But these Castiel figures who try to help mortals anyway, I wonder how far their sense of good or compassion really goes, how much they simply try to do good mechanically, imagining an absent sense of compassion. Wait I forgot Ezra's probably not on a moral mission. Even so, he sometimes does things that are only motivated by a sense of right, small as they are.
    You mentioned Lovecraftian horror before. Although Derleth later added a morality to the Mythos (which I think was a terrible move), originally there was no good or evil at all in Lovecraft: just humans, and creatures so far above them that they simply do not understand or even care about humanity, any more than we would care about lice. Creatures with alien minds and moralities. My demons come from the same tradition: it's not that they dislike us, particularly (except Weland, who has a specific reason for disliking humans that will be discussed later), it's just that we don't matter, and we have an annoying Gorsedd of druids that interfere with them if they come up here.

    Ezra, of course, is not quite the same as other demons. There is some morality in his mission, or at least he thinks there is. But there is another motive, and one that he has not yet admitted to anyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Slightly anomalous? Maybe it's just the fact that you wrote "Smythe" in the third one, to avoid repeating "He", which in turn made it feel somewhat like "Smythe" and "he" were different people.
    Oops. I rearranged the order of these sentences during the edit and forgot to alter the pronouns/proper names accordingly. Well spotted.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Oh yeah, and what does my previous rambling about good and evil mean for the evil of someone like Halley, who has a sense of suffering, but doesn't use it for other people? An evil maybe less justifiable? But also a lot less absolute?
    There is something of an extenuating circumstance in her case, which I can't tell you about (and which frankly doesn't excuse that much). At the moment, though, it does look like she is morally worse than the demons: you could say she is a true moral evil, whereas they are more of a natural evil.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Lauren waits patiently, holding her OTP folded over her bosom. (I didn't mean to pull Lauren into it, but she was the one who declared it, you know.)
    Well, it's not necessarily that they'll end up lovers. They may well simply be returning to a previous state of close friendship. Perhaps I'll decide one way or the other; perhaps I'll leave it open, and up to the readers to interpret as they see fit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    A nice modulation, on what we talked about in the last review. In the first place, the events of a full-tilt plot actually happening to someone in real time, they've got to have a very particular dislocating effect. In the second, I feel this is hinting towards Jared actually learning to come into his own, in a way; this might be how he matures the natural abilities you need to deal with so much supernatural ****.
    Yep. I'd written this before your review, but I went back and edited it to make it a bit more obvious afterwards when it became clear to me that I wasn't managing the segue into familiarity-with-supernatural-stuff very well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I can't be sure if this line break was intentional. Bringing it to your attention anyway.

    This definitely isn't.
    Yep, those were both mistakes. Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I like the way you sometimes describe pokemon in reference to mythical rather than real creatures. The idea of Taillow being a sparrow pokemon in a world where no sparrows exist is problematic; your fic slides through it, by having real animals. I hadn't thought about this in the last review.
    I'm not sure what you mean. Elvers are eel larvae - as are Tynamo. I think one of us is misunderstanding the other, though I'm not sure who.

    But yeah, there really have to be actual animals alongside Pokémon, or the ecosystem just doesn't work and any sense of realism is simply gone. It was one of the very first things I decided when setting up this Unova.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Cool. I was also going to be pedantic, like in the Cheren quote above, about when N says "I simply can't do it, because destiny". One of my old thoughts was that destiny ought not to work in a way that directly contradicts the actors somewhere -- nudges them, not through the working of normal cause and effect, but by a magical deus ex machina. Now I also think it's that d.e.m. that provides the element of actual magic; a story ought to have a d.e.m. somewhere, or it gets really ****ing banal. What do you think?
    I'm not sure. I suppose it can be done well, but equally I suspect that it's not something that would suit all stories.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Plus, it suddenly makes it incredibly cool that these characters are jacking the system -- getting past a d.e.m. by ingenuity, as though it were a jumpable fence set up by wyrd, and not the word of wyrd, itself.
    Thanks. I'm trying to make my fate fluid. Everyone's constrained by fate, and some more than others - but there's a way around it if you really want to bypass it. Free will torn from the jaws of destiny, if you like.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    SH*T! That dragon who stole a tower is what they're talking about! Everything loops back to itself, ultimately! There is no god! Your update schedule is quite awesome!
    We'll see about the dragons. They haven't been mentioned for a while, have they? I wonder why that is.

    Also, thanks! I do try to keep to a schedule of one update each week, if I can.

    Thank you all for reading, commenting and (possibly even) enjoying! It's very much appreciated.

  7. #182
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    Interlude: The Prophet

    In the old days, they knew how to treat a proleptic.

    Now, they get a letter from their doctor and an autoinjector to stave off their more disturbing visions. Back then, ah! Back then, they got a shrine, and an altar, and a title.

    Such a shrine it was that the king came to at the beginning of winter, when the grass was beginning to pale and the trees had resolutely ceased to give out olives. He was planning to make war on someone and wanted advice; who he was, and who his enemy was, are long since lost beneath the tide of history. (Not so the oracle, however. No one would forget them – indeed, no one could, even if they had wanted to. Immortality and creative cruelty are exceptionally fine preservatives for one's legacy.)

    So came the king to the cave where the oracle resided. He left his retinue behind him at the door and his companion in the antechamber, and at the bidding of the attendant (a haunted fellow whose face had been replaced with a dirty piece of leather, sewn with crude stitches to his skull) proceeded into the sanctum.

    The sanctum was dark.

    The attendant left the room and closed the door behind him.

    The sanctum was very dark.

    A king is only a king in the company of other men. Alone, he is a man. And when he is alone in the dark, he is just as afraid as anyone else.

    He tried to speak; he failed. He stammered out a weak charge to the oracle to speak.

    Two blind white eyes opened in the dark – young eyes, the eyes of a creature weak and unformed, and yet still more puissant than any man in Greece.

    “I speak,” said a voice that issued like smoke from cracks in the floor. “What would you learn?”

    And in the king's whiteness of countenance, in his trembling voice and hesitant request – in all that, you would have seen the unmistakeable mark of one who has gone too far into the night to ever truly return to the light.

    Oh yes, they knew how to treat a proleptic in the old days.

    Chapter Thirty-Two: Twain

    “—you?”

    Ezra blinked.

    “What did you just do?” he asked, but the man in black had already vanished again, faster than even Ezra's eye could follow.

    Ezra stared.

    “This,” he said at last, “is very strange.”

    He looked around, and saw nothing so very out of the ordinary: a quiet street that would have been at home in any town in the country. Not at all odd – not, that is, unless a moment ago you had been somewhere else entirely.

    “Hm,” said Ezra. “And where is this, exactly?”

    He felt tentatively for an entrance to the dark paths, but there was none nearby – not even a gap in reality that might lead to an entrance, such as he normally took. However the man in black had brought him here, neither of them had left the everyday mortal world.

    “Hum,” said Ezra, and frowned.

    He walked down the pavement, looking for street signs; he found one on the corner, which informed him that he was on Lombard Place.

    “Not helpful,” he concluded, and turned the corner in search of answers.

    None were forthcoming. The street beyond was busier and had more shops, but that was all that set it aside from that which he'd just come from.

    He roamed aimlessly for a while, looking for clues, but there were few indications; a lot of the older lampposts had ornate wrought-iron crowns set into the crooks of their arms, but all that meant was that this was a royal district – and the Unovan Royal Family had had residences in a good six parts of the country before their forced abdication at the hands of the British.

    In fact, Ezra was on the verge of becoming invisible and taking flight to see if he could spot a landmark from higher up when he saw a familiar figure trudging down the street.

    He frowned. The man was not one he had any memory of meeting, or of corresponding with – or anything at all of that nature. And yet he had the distinct impression that he had seen his face before.

    “Now who...?” Ezra's eyes widened. He knew where he had seen him before – flickering like a ghost through the back of Niamh's head. He wasn't quite as handsome as in her memory, but there could be no mistaking it: this was Portland Smythe.

    But if there was Smythe, thought Ezra, where was Niamh? Surely they wouldn't have parted so soon? And why did Smythe look so wet? No, there was something wrong here, and Ezra was determined to find out what it was.

    “Excuse me,” he said, sidling past a knot of pedestrians. “Excuse me... Excuse me!”

    This last was directed at Smythe, and accompanied by a tap on the shoulder. He turned around sharply, a hunted look in his eye – and the sight of Ezra did not apparently comfort him.

    “Who are you?” he asked guardedly.

    “Mister Smythe, am I right?” asked Ezra. “Portland Smythe?”

    “Yes,” he replied, narrowing his eyes. “Who are you?”

    “My name is Ezra. I'm a friend of Niamh's.”

    Smythe's eyes lit up, and the cares fell away from it in an instant. It was rather like watching a shaft of sunlight breaking through storm-clouds.

    “You are?” he asked. “Where – is she nearby? Can you take me to her?”

    “I rather fear I cannot,” said Ezra, a sudden dread taking hold of him. “Er – Mister Smythe—”

    “Portland.”

    “—Portland, if Niamh didn't come for you, how did you get out?”

    Smythe stared.

    “What? What do you— how do you know where I was? And what's this about Niamh coming for me?”

    Ezra was hardly listening. He should have foreseen this, he thought; Weland never broke his word, of course, but that was with demons and men of the old sort – with humans? No, he wouldn't have regarded a promise made to Niamh as anything at all, and he could have broken it without a second thought...

    “I'm so sorry,” he said at last. “Portland – Mister Smythe – I'm afraid we need to have a talk.”

    ---

    Of all the people they might have met on the trail that wound up through the hills to Chargestone Cave, Professor Juniper was the last one either Cheren or Bianca would have expected.

    They'd been walking up the path for a while before they realised who she was; the path was full of twists and turns and lined with a thick growth of trees, and she kept vanishing behind corners before they got a good look at her. It was only when, on a particularly straight length of track, Bianca remarked that she'd only seen that hairstyle once before that Cheren noticed anything familiar about her.

    “I'll tell you why,” he said. “It's because that's Professor Juniper.”

    “No way – no, wait, it is.” Bianca's eyes widened. “What's she doing here?”

    “I have no idea. Shall we ask?”

    Bianca agreed, and they hurried on to catch up with her near a cairn that stood by the roadside.

    “Professor!” called Bianca. “Professor Juniper?”

    She stopped and turned.

    “Bianca? Cheren?”

    “Good afternoon, Professor,” said Cheren, coming to a halt before her. “We didn't expect to see you here.”

    “And I didn't expect to see you, either,” replied Juniper, brows knitted in puzzlement. “What exactly are you doing out here? I thought the plan was for you to build up the strength to take on the Gyms nearer Nuvema?”

    “Plans change,” said Cheren. “In this case, quite spectacularly.”

    Juniper's eyebrows rose.

    “Is that so?”

    “I think we can safely say yes,” said Bianca. “I mean, we met two heroes out of legend and got dragged into a plot to take over Unova.”

    Juniper's eyebrows rose further.

    “We solved the mystery of the Dream World,” added Cheren.

    “And got tangled up with some demons,” put in Bianca.

    “You're forgetting the talking cat, but whatever,” said Halley. She lacked her usual acerbic energy; she'd been sulking since they got off the train.

    Juniper's eyebrows rose still further – so much so, in fact, that they appeared to recede into her hairline.

    “I see,” she said, in the tone of one who absolutely does not. “Er... To be quite honest with you, I'm not sure what I'm meant to say in response to that.”

    Bianca and Cheren looked at each other.

    “You do it,” said Bianca. “You won't forget anything and you'll get it all in order.”

    “Right,” said Cheren, and launched into a thirty-minute explanation of all that had occurred since they had left Nuvema. At the end of it, Juniper looked a little like she'd been hit over the head with a hammer, but all things considered she seemed to bear it rather well.

    “This,” she said at length, “is going to change quite a lot of current scientific thought.”

    “I know,” replied Cheren. “At least half of everything that's happened to us seems to have broken the laws of physics.”

    Juniper pinched the bridge of her nose.

    “And so... I'm sorry, demons? And magic?

    “Professor Juniper,” said Bianca, “Cheren doesn't have the imagination to make all that up.”

    “Hey—”

    “She's right,” said Halley. “And anyway, I'm proof, ain't I?”

    “Well,” said Juniper doubtfully, “I suppose...” She crouched down and poked Halley hesitantly.

    “You satisfied?”

    “You certainly feel real...”

    “That's because I am real,” said Halley. “No hallucination could be this annoying.”

    Juniper straightened up.

    “OK,” she said. “I just poked a woman who turned into a cat.” She took a deep breath. “This is all quite strange.”

    “That's one way of putting it,” muttered Halley.

    “Yes, it is,” said Cheren. “And anyway, that's why we're here. To find Jared in this cave.”

    “Why are you here, Professor?” asked Bianca.

    “What?” Juniper looked like she'd forgotten where she was entirely. “Oh. Er, I was here to catch a few Klink. I wanted to take some metal samples and find out how old they are – my father has a theory about them that I thought was interesting.... no, wait! Forget that. You're here to find your friend who was abducted by magical teleporting ninjas! What does it matter what I'm here for?”

    “Oh. Um, yeah, it is kinda weird,” said Bianca. “But I was just making conversation.”

    “Anyone feel like moving any time soon?” asked Halley. “We're not even at the cave yet, and we need to get in there soon.”

    “Ah. Of course,” said Cheren, inwardly marvelling at how much less disagreeable Halley was being. (That collar had been the best three pounds he'd ever spent, he thought.) “Professor – we're going in the same direction. Shall we walk together?”

    “OK,” agreed Juniper. She still looked somewhat dazed; whether she was actually making a conscious decision to go with them or simply saying whatever came into her head was open to debate. “Sure, we should go...”

    They started on down the path again, and kept up the conversation. After a few minutes, Juniper seemed to recover her senses a little, and by the time they reached the enormous hill that rose over Chargestone Cave she was theorising about whether or not any of the demons might consent to undergoing a few tests for the cause of Science.

    “Somehow, I don't think so,” said Bianca, thinking of Teiresias. “I'm not even sure they have any blood for you to take.”

    “Ah well,” said Juniper wistfully. “There are other tests, you know. Professor Linden in England has come up with some interesting ways to sample the spirit-stuff of Ghost-types, so maybe I could adapt that... of course, I'd be working with the Gorsedd, of course, so we could work out exactly how much of the Treatises is true—”

    “Professor,” said Cheren gently. “Do you have a torch?”

    “Hm?” Juniper looked around, and realised that they were currently standing in the cave mouth. “Oh. Right.”

    She took a dynamo-powered torch from her pocket, unfolded the handle and gave it a few brisk winds; the light stuttered and flared into life. In the darkness before them, a distant blue glow winked in sympathy, and a few distant flecks of brightness darted away from the sudden glare.

    They looked into the mouth of the cave for a moment, all conversation forgotten. Juniper's light flicked upwards; they saw no roof, only more darkness, rising in silence right up to the crown of the hill.

    “It's... it's bigger than I thought,” murmured Bianca.

    “Gets me every time,” said Juniper.

    Halley stalked a little way into the dark and turned, eyes shining bright with reflected torchlight.

    “Are we going or what?” she said. “If it's this big, we're going to have a hell of a time finding Jared. Or any Klink, whatever those are.”

    “Right,” said Juniper. “Of course.” She looked at Cheren and Bianca. “Shall we, then?”

    “OK,” they agreed, and they walked in. In just a few moments, the dark had swallowed them up entirely; soon enough, when the torchlight was faint and distant, there was nothing at the entrance to show that anyone had ever been there at all.

    ---

    “War,” I repeated. “War? What do you mean, war?”

    “I mean what I say,” said N. The Tynamo whirled around his head, a luminescent crown of slime and suckers. “I'm going to take back what is my rightful property as King of Sandjr – of all humans – and I'm going to reclaim this land.”

    “You're not – you aren't going to kill everyone or anything, are you?” I asked, worried. If his war was going to be anything like the one the Twin Heroes had waged against Naudri in the past, it would be unspeakably brutal.

    “Not quite.” He kept his gaze straight ahead, never meeting mine. “I can't say more.”

    I sighed.

    “How convenient,” I said.

    “I've given you what I can,” he said. He sounded tired. “I... I would give you more, but for me to do what I must, Harmonia must succeed.”

    “But you know what's going to happen if he does,” I said. “You know about his deal with Weland – it's going to be a disaster...”

    He fixed me with those ice-coloured eyes, and my voice died in my throat.

    “Please trust me,” he said. “Everything will be all right.” He paused. “As long as I win,” he added.

    I frowned.

    “I don't buy that.”

    “Of course you don't. You're my opposite: you believe in your own cause, and I believe in mine.” His head drooped. “Unfortunately, we can never agree here.”

    No, I realised, we never could. N and I had reached the end of our collaboration, it seemed: things were coming to a head, and we had to finally face the fact that we were diametrically opposed, devoted to contradictory causes.

    We walked on in silence for a while. The Tynamo darted ahead and back again; one of them hovered over a pothole, anxious for us not to fall.

    “I have a question,” I said at last, trying to salvage the conversation.

    “Is it one I can answer?”

    “I think so.”

    “Then ask it.”

    “I'm – we – er, Lauren and me,” I said. “I'm male, she's female. I get how that's division. But I was thinking, how does it work with you? I mean, you're a guy, right? That's not united, that's just choosing one over the other.”

    N smiled. On anyone else, it would have looked patronising; on him, it was beatific.

    “Lauren knows the answer to that one,” he told me. “I imagine Halley does too, although perhaps she might not give the kindest answer.”

    “OK,” I said, concealing my impatience, “but I'm not Lauren right now, I'm me, so perhaps you could tell me?”

    “I'm neither of them,” said N. “Or both. I've never quite pinned it down. I never saw the need to; my people don't use the same categories as yours.” He shrugged. “Just a difference in the way we look at the world, I suppose. You tend to put things into categories so that you can sort and divide them; we – or I, I guess, since I'm the last one – tend not to sort at all. We like randomness.”

    I sucked my teeth thoughtfully. I'd understood maybe one word in six there; I wasn't all that certain what N meant by 'neither or both', or indeed what he was getting at with that talk of categories. Perhaps, I decided, it would be best to leave that for Lauren to think about. Maybe I could try to contact her again, as I had done a couple of nights ago.

    “I see,” I said.

    “No, you don't,” he replied. “But it's OK. Lauren does. This conversation is a little different with her.”

    I think that was the first time that I realised N lived both my world and Lauren's simultaneously, without even the benefit of the midnight switchover that Halley perceived; he was at the same time talking to me and to Lauren, and exploring two different avenues of conversation at once. How did you do it without going insane, I wondered. And what made me so sure that N had done it without going insane? If he hadn't, then it explained an awful lot about him.

    “Huh,” I murmured.

    “What was that?”

    “Nothing,” I said, pushing the thought away before it got too overwhelming. “What were we saying?”

    “Not a lot,” he replied. “We'd just finished with the topic at hand, actually.”

    “Oh. OK.”

    What else could I say? It didn't really seem right to just make small talk. No talk with N could be small; everything had meaning.

    “There's nothing else to say, is there?” said N, as if reading my mind. “It's all right. We're meant to be enemies now, anyway, and I suppose enemies don't really talk much.”

    I didn't say anything. I couldn't have if I'd wanted to. The connection between us was mutating into a cold gulf; it was as if fate had used the link to draw us into itself, and, now that it had us, no longer cared about maintaining it.

    The Tynamo flickered. Candy whimpered. We walked on in silence.

    ---

    “Professor,” said Cheren. “Correct me if I'm wrong, but Klink are usually quite fearless, aren't they?”

    “Yes,” replied Juniper. “They have very few predators, and don't perceive humans as a threat.” She sighed. “Which is exactly why it's so weird that we aren't seeing any.”

    They had been wandering the cave for a while now, searching for either Jared or Klink, whichever came first; neither, however, appeared to have any desire to reveal themselves.

    “There aren't any Pokémon,” said Halley. “I mean, I can smell their trails, but they aren't here.”

    “Well, where are they?” asked Juniper.

    “I don't know,” replied Halley irritably. “Ask a dog.”

    “There!” cried Bianca, and they looked up just in time to see something small whizz past a foot above the ground, flashing in the torchlight. “Is that a—?”

    “A Klink!” Juniper waved the torch around frantically, trying to find it again. “Where did it go? Where...?”

    “There,” said Halley, eyes flashing. “No, wait, it's further away...” She leaped forwards and sniffed at the floor. “I think I can just about track its scent,” she announced. “Which makes me a person of some importance, don't you think?”

    Cheren sighed.

    “Please,” he said. “Halley, now isn't the time for your bile—”

    “Oh, but I think it is,” she said, grinning. “Maybe you could take this collar off, and then I could see my way towards tracking—”

    Or,” said Cheren, “if you don't help track down the Klink, I wire the buckle permanently shut.”

    “That way,” said Halley meekly, pointing with a paw. “Follow me.”

    Juniper, who had been watching the proceedings with interest and no small amount of confusion, turned to Cheren.

    “What was that about?” she asked.

    “Oh, nothing,” he said airily. “Right, Bianca?”

    “Yeah,” she agreed with a smile. “Nothing.”

    Juniper frowned, but the matter of the escaped Klink was too pressing for her to dwell on anything else for long, and she followed Halley without further comment.

    They passed between two of the enormous blue stones and on down a path that grew increasingly narrow until the three human members of the group were forced to move sideways; Juniper voiced a quiet concern about possibly getting stuck, which Halley countered with the assurance that she could see a way out at the other end. Juniper said that she didn't doubt there was a way out, but that that didn't really preclude the possibility that the passage might narrow so much that she couldn't get out again. To which Halley had no reply, though Bianca promised to pull really hard on her arms should Juniper actually get stuck.

    All in all, tensions were rather high, and everyone was glad when the path began to widen again, and eventually gave out onto what the torch revealed was a cavernous space divided up by walls of fused stalactites and stalagmites.

    “There are more Klink here,” said Halley suddenly. “And other things – something like fish? And more.”

    “Tynamo, perhaps,” said Juniper.

    “They're all – they're all going in the same direction,” Halley went on, sniffing back and forth along the stone. “It's weird. Like they're all going to a meeting or something.”

    “Sounds like N,” said Bianca.

    “Yes,” agreed Cheren. “I wonder if he said something to them.”

    “What's this?” asked Juniper.

    “Oh, didn't we say before? We're fairly certain that N can talk to Pokémon.”

    Juniper looked like someone had battered her over the head with a brick.

    “You didn't think that might be good to mention?” she asked. “To someone who's dedicated their life to understanding Pokémon?”

    “I'm not sure it actually benefits you,” said Cheren. “Something tells me N isn't the sort of person who would be willing to do translation work for you.”

    “Yeah,” said Bianca. “He's a pretty big Liberation Policy fan.”

    Juniper groaned.

    “Oh Frige,” she said. “The only person in the world who can communicate reliably with Pokémon, and he's a Green Party supporter.”

    “Probably more than a supporter,” said Cheren. “Probably a member.”

    She shook her head sadly.

    “What a waste,” she said. “What a waste...”

    Halley coughed.

    “Didn't you want to catch that Klink?”

    “Ah!” Juniper nodded. “Yes, of course. The Klink. Lead the way.”

    They walked on, threading their way through the maze of rocky jags; occasionally, they would pass one of the great crystals and the torchlight would be lost in their brighter glow. After a while, they began to catch glimpses of things moving in their peripheral vision – furry yellow spiderlings the size of fists; gleaming elvers, some as long as Halley's tail; sentient geodes, dragging themselves along with small, stony claws.

    “Joltik, Tynamo, Roggenrola,” listed Cheren in a whisper. “Dozens of them, all going the same way...”

    “They don't seem to mind us,” said Juniper. “I wonder why?”

    “There's something more important happening,” said Halley. “I smell Jared.”

    “Which means N,” said Bianca.

    “It means we're close,” said Cheren. “I don't think you'll have any problem finding a Klink now, Professor. We'll go on and meet up with Jared.”

    “I'll come too,” said Juniper. “I'd like to at least see this N guy. Like you say, I won't have any problems finding a Klink, so I can afford the delay.”

    Cheren shrugged.

    “All right,” he said. “Lead on, Halley.”

    “Barely need to,” she replied. “Listen!”

    There were voices nearby, they realised – quiet, but not far away.

    “Jared,” said Bianca.

    “N,” said Cheren.

    The four of them hurried around a corner and out onto a ledge overlooking a much larger pathway – and saw below them a pair of figures, one in black and the other crowned with brilliant, phosphorescent white.

    ---

    N blinked.

    “Who's there?” he asked suddenly, tensing beside me. Above his head, the ring of Tynamo started crackling nervously with electricity, and I noticed that some of the rocks around us were uncurling to reveal geodesic ears; we had bodyguards, it seemed.

    “It's only us,” said a familiar voice. There was a flash of light from patch of darkness a few metres up and I looked over to see Cheren, Bianca and Halley up on a ledge above the path, along with a woman I didn't recognise. Candy chirped a relieved greeting at them; she hadn't liked the darkness of the cave, and seemed to be slightly afraid of the unearthly light of the Tynamo.

    “Hi,” called Bianca, waving. “Oh – uh, this is Professor Juniper.”

    “Hello,” said Juniper, lowering herself off the ledge and dropping down with practised ease. “You must be Jared – and you must be N. I've heard a lot about you.”

    N didn't relax.

    “And I about you,” he said. “Professor, you are in a position of some importance with the Unova League. You are at the forefront of the drive to increase Trainer activity. I have to wonder that you had the audacity to come here, after Cheren and Bianca have told you what I am capable of.”

    “What?” Juniper looked disconcerted. I doubt she'd been expecting this; I certainly hadn't.

    “I strongly disagree with what you do,” said N flatly. “You perpetuate a master-slave relationship between humans and Pokémon – encourage people to view Pokémon as a means to an end. Certainly, some people come to see their Pokémon as friends – but how many more see them as tools? I fear you overestimate humanity's... well, its humanity.

    “And what does that mindset lead to? The potentially world-ending crisis in Hoenn a few years ago, the Black TMs affair in the 1980s, the monster birthed in the Rocket labs in Kanto. The destruction of three thousand years of accumulated wisdom and knowledge – and the subsequent creation of perhaps as many as eight hundred thousand Gengar – with the end of the Kadabra Wars in 1906. The repercussions of that one are still being felt to this day.” N's lip curled slightly. “That is what you stand for, Professor. A world beneath the heel of your species and suffering for it.”

    “I... I can see why you would say that,” said Juniper, recovering valiantly, “but honestly, it's just not that simple. We can't just cease to interact with Pokémon – quite apart from what would happen to the world's energy supplies if electricity farms were shut down, rather a lot of Pokémon interact with us anyway. It's how Training started: without it, we're all just prey. You can't order anyone to take apart the system without laying down a clear praxis for what comes next – it'd be chaos.”

    N smiled then – smiled. It wasn't a mocking smile, either; it was a warm, happy smile – a smile that looked like it was born of real joy, and which was totally incongruous under the circumstances.

    “You're quite right,” he agreed. “If I take apart the system, there will be chaos – but it will be my chaos, and my chaos is not at all the chaos you're familiar with.”

    We like randomness, I remembered him saying. What did he mean by all this?

    “You people see everything in shades of grey,” sighed N, shaking his head. “But it only looks blurry to you because you try to categorise it and realise you can't. If you approach the world as I do... well, ironically enough, everything is resolved into simple strokes of black and white.”

    “That doesn't even make sense as an argument,” said Juniper, frowning. “Do you not consider anyone else's view?”

    N sighed.

    “Jared. Tell her.”

    “Tell her what?”

    “That she's wrong.”

    I opened my mouth to tell him he was wrong – and then realised what he meant. It was not that Juniper was objectively incorrect in her opinions; it was more that she was approaching this the wrong way. This was not a matter for debate or rational argument: you couldn't bridge the gap between N's chaotic and our rational minds with an argument based only on our rules of engagement. In such a situation, I realised, there was only one way to argue a point that both parties could understand: let slip the reins of legend, and choose your champions to fight their corners.

    “I...” I shook my head. Explain it to a third party? No, I couldn't. Lauren might be able to, perhaps – but not me. I could never put the magic into words. “I'm sorry,” I said at length. “I can't explain it.”

    N sighed deeply, and nodded.

    “We can't agree,” he said to the cave in general. “The fault is mine, and for that I apologise. I can't make myself clear to you. I would like to be able to, but I can't.” He smiled a crooked, rueful smile. “But I suppose that doesn't really matter. Matters aren't going to be decided here and now, in a debate with a scientist in the middle of a cave.”

    There was a silence.

    “I'm sorry,” said Juniper, and she really did sound apologetic. “But I honestly don't understand what you mean by any of that.”

    “I know.” N sighed. “I don't want to be your enemy – I would rather not be anyone's enemy – but quests take dedication, and if I have to be opposed to you then I'd rather do that than not reach my goals.” He took Juniper's hand and shook it. “I can divorce my feelings about what you stand for from my feelings about you as an individual,” he said. “You aren't a bad person – none of you are – but put a lot of not-bad people together and you don't end up with a good world. You end up with one that is, at best, not too bad.”

    He let her hand go and stepped backwards, out of the circle of white torchlight; the Tynamo moved with him, circling restlessly.

    “Three days, Jared,” said N. “No more talking. No more diplomacy.” He smiled, but his heart wasn't in it. “Goodbye.”

    He turned away into the blackness and disappeared, the Tynamo dispersing in the gloom. I heard no footsteps, but I knew he was gone – just as something else was gone, something that had kept us together until now but which had started to decay as we talked earlier; something that had at last withered away to nothing during his strange, nonsensical argument with Juniper.

    I was on my own now, I thought. We all were.


    Note: Updates will be a bit less frequent from now on, I'm afraid! I go off to university this week, so my free time's going to disappear pretty quick. I hope that doesn't cause too much of a problem for anybody.
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 28th September 2013 at 11:52 PM.

  8. #183
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    ...Wow, I am an absolute idiot, who should never try to make two long reviews in the same day.

    I have to confess, I'm not sure what you mean by that.
    I probably misunderstood the purpose of that scene; I thought it was telling us to identify the company's retriever with that abominable thing the trio (+ Alder) found in the passage leading to Driftveil. I hadn't thought of that before. Is that right?

    Wouldn't you? After all, without the hero, how can the rest of the legend carry on successfully?
    Oh, yes. It's hilarious.

    Septimus Warren Smith was always a bit more disturbing for me right from the off. In fact, this is probably more Robert Rankin than Virginia Woolf - though hey, I'll take a compliment when it comes my way. Thanks.
    You have to understand that I'm so literate, I must have read approx. one British novel per era; when duck ponds are mentioned I go straight to the one story in my life that involves them. (That's a fabrication, I can now remember two more American novels with duck ponds. Point is, I haven't read Robert Rankin.)

    Well, it's not necessarily that they'll end up lovers. They may well simply be returning to a previous state of close friendship. Perhaps I'll decide one way or the other; perhaps I'll leave it open, and up to the readers to interpret as they see fit.
    Charming!

    I'm not sure what you mean. Elvers are eel larvae - as are Tynamo. I think one of us is misunderstanding the other, though I'm not sure who.
    Yeah, that's me without a handy connection to Wikipedia. I actually had heard once of what elvers are, but then I decided, no, go for the most facile connection possible. elvers ~= elves!

    On to the chapter. An interlude, how nice. The olive trees a very subtle hint towards who exactly we're talking about.

    (a haunted fellow whose face had been replaced with a dirty piece of leather, sewn with crude stitches to his skull)
    ...It's not any trying-too-hard horror plots, it's the little details in your fic that gets one every time. *shudders*

    The most puissant man in Greece. I wonder what else it might be that attends prolepsis in cases as progidious as Tiresias's, because the darkness the interlude implies is definitely going beyond, say, Munny's little visions. Prolepsis is knowing the future but what is it anyway: a medical condition, a biological ability, a state of the soul, an affinity with certain Outer powers...? That is my guess as to how Tiresias's backstory will reveal itself.

    Ezra and Portland randomly teleported to the same town? I don't believe in coincidences. *shades*

    "That's because I am real," said Halley. "No hallucination could be this annoying."
    XD Oh, Halley. And to think I still haven't imagined her continuously with a British accent.

    we had to finally face the fact that we were diametrically opposed, devoted to contradictory causes.
    It's interesting to inquire into how exactly you mean this: I wrote a paragraph about how Jared's own cause doesn't feel to be very clearly defined yet, either to himself or to us, and in fact if we're considering the 'Muggle world'/'magical world' dichotomy, where you can either stick up for the common people of our feeble human world or dive unashamedly into cosmic politics, Jared/Lauren seem to be pretty firmly on the magical side, they've gained all their strength, knowledge, conviction from their mythical legacy. That way, I suppose you mean that even though Jared isn't clear yet exactly what he is and what he must do, his opposition to N is clear to everybody (by their having been defined as diametric opposites). It's the fact that he doesn't trust N that solidifies their being enemies; otherwise I still felt they didn't necessarily have to be. There is a difference of principle between them: N is fundamentally riding the wave of a story, counting on the inevitability of fate for his securities and convictions, while Jared doesn't believe in this cosmic unity, he wants to do what he can do in the ways he can figure out.

    furry yellow spiderlings the size of fists; gleaming elvers, some as long as Halley's tail; sentient geodes, dragging themselves along with small, stony claws.
    If you want to make pokemon realistic, put them in near pitch darkness.

    and saw below them a pair of figures, one in black and the other crowned in brilliant, phospohorescent white.
    Particularly appreciate how this effect is achieved by something very physical and ordinary coming together, which you don't realize until a moment after you read. N's saintly, semi-divine status, coming through in a classic way of divinity: nature fitting together around him in an almost non-miraculous way. (If somebody ever makes a platformer out of this, we'll have N fly by means of ten small bird pokemon attached to his shoulders.)

    Missed a quotation mark:

    "I strongly disagree with what you do," said N flatly. "You perpetuate a master-slave ... [end of this paragraph]
    "You aren't a bad person -- none of you are -- but put a lot of not-bad people together and you don't end up with a good world. You end up with one that is, at best, not too bad.
    A stance that strikes me as incredibly objectivist -- even, if you'll excuse me, to the extent of Rorschach (Watchmen). He was willing to start as much for the sake of his absolute morality, good people and inadequately-good people. N does say he sees everything in black and white. Of course as happens with something like 'his' chaos -- something purported to be outside human understanding -- the story might come under the danger of never explaining it very clearly, under the excuse that it can't be explained -- but this scene does try to approach it, from an angle. And it seems like before the story's done, we will know exactly what N's intentions and motivations are, and what happens to them when they come in conflict with the other things in the world.

  9. #184
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    I am reminded of Devil Survivor 2 and the interactions of the main character with "The Anguished One" it seems, to me anyway, to be very similar.

    Anyway, pretty much the same as before, looking forward to more.

    I don't mind waiting longer, scholarly pursuits are important.


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

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

  10. #185
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    I am reminded of Devil Survivor 2 and the interactions of the main character with "The Anguished One" it seems, to me anyway, to be very similar.

    Anyway, pretty much the same as before, looking forward to more.

    I don't mind waiting longer, scholarly pursuits are important.
    Thanks! Your understanding is important.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I probably misunderstood the purpose of that scene; I thought it was telling us to identify the company's retriever with that abominable thing the trio (+ Alder) found in the passage leading to Driftveil. I hadn't thought of that before. Is that right?
    Oh yes, yes of course. I thought everyone already knew that they were the same creature?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    You have to understand that I'm so literate, I must have read approx. one British novel per era; when duck ponds are mentioned I go straight to the one story in my life that involves them. (That's a fabrication, I can now remember two more American novels with duck ponds. Point is, I haven't read Robert Rankin.)
    That's all right. I'm pretty sure not many people outside the UK actually have, although he has a certain dedicated following. He's a crazy-looking old man. This, for instance, is a picture of him with his steampunk ray gun. It says pretty much everything you need to know about him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    The most puissant man in Greece. I wonder what else it might be that attends prolepsis in cases as progidious as Tiresias's, because the darkness the interlude implies is definitely going beyond, say, Munny's little visions. Prolepsis is knowing the future but what is it anyway: a medical condition, a biological ability, a state of the soul, an affinity with certain Outer powers...? That is my guess as to how Tiresias's backstory will reveal itself.
    Perceptive. It's certainly linked to that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    XD Oh, Halley. And to think I still haven't imagined her continuously with a British accent.
    She's probably from London, if you're looking for the specific voice. Or else she has that middle-class-southerner voice that people from abroad mean some variant of when they say 'British accent'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    It's interesting to inquire into how exactly you mean this: I wrote a paragraph about how Jared's own cause doesn't feel to be very clearly defined yet, either to himself or to us, and in fact if we're considering the 'Muggle world'/'magical world' dichotomy, where you can either stick up for the common people of our feeble human world or dive unashamedly into cosmic politics, Jared/Lauren seem to be pretty firmly on the magical side, they've gained all their strength, knowledge, conviction from their mythical legacy. That way, I suppose you mean that even though Jared isn't clear yet exactly what he is and what he must do, his opposition to N is clear to everybody (by their having been defined as diametric opposites). It's the fact that he doesn't trust N that solidifies their being enemies; otherwise I still felt they didn't necessarily have to be. There is a difference of principle between them: N is fundamentally riding the wave of a story, counting on the inevitability of fate for his securities and convictions, while Jared doesn't believe in this cosmic unity, he wants to do what he can do in the ways he can figure out.
    Jared/Lauren's cause is on the cusp of crystallisation. They have to figure out what to do before they can do it: N can go ahead and just do what he feels is fated.

    This all becomes clearer at Dragonspiral Tower, which I really need to stop talking about because if I keep promising stuff there's no way I can fulfil all these expectations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Particularly appreciate how this effect is achieved by something very physical and ordinary coming together, which you don't realize until a moment after you read. N's saintly, semi-divine status, coming through in a classic way of divinity: nature fitting together around him in an almost non-miraculous way. (If somebody ever makes a platformer out of this, we'll have N fly by means of ten small bird pokemon attached to his shoulders.)
    That would be awesome. He can have limited flight time, and there's a Light/Dark Stone floating randomly through the level; if you can find and catch it, it becomes a Reshiram/Zekrom and he blasts his way in supercharged mode for a while. Jared/Lauren, on the other hand, act as a kind of tag team, where they can phase in and out of existence to help each other up high ledges, or perhaps switch over for combat (if Jared) and climbing (if Lauren).

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Missed a quotation mark:
    No, it's like that intentionally - when you have multiple paragraphs in a block in one chunk of dialogue by one speaker, you leave off the quotation marks at the end of the internal paragraphs and keep the leading ones. At least, that's what I've always been taught, and what I've always seen in books. Perhaps it's different elsewhere, but it's the convention I stick to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    A stance that strikes me as incredibly objectivist -- even, if you'll excuse me, to the extent of Rorschach (Watchmen). He was willing to start as much for the sake of his absolute morality, good people and inadequately-good people. N does say he sees everything in black and white. Of course as happens with something like 'his' chaos -- something purported to be outside human understanding -- the story might come under the danger of never explaining it very clearly, under the excuse that it can't be explained -- but this scene does try to approach it, from an angle. And it seems like before the story's done, we will know exactly what N's intentions and motivations are, and what happens to them when they come in conflict with the other things in the world.
    It really is. He's not as psychopathic, but he is exactly like that. N is mentally not in tune with the times at all: his ways of thinking simply don't match with this world. There might have once been a society that his way of thinking could be applied to without problems - but not any more. We'll see exactly what his motivations are in time, and what he means to do, but he won't make it easy for us, if that makes any sense.

    Thank you all for reading, commenting and (perhaps) enjoying; you are all very kind!
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 8th October 2013 at 3:15 PM.

  11. #186
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    Chapter Thirty-Three: Waiting For the Bus in the Rain

    Candy broke the silence – and the mood – with a cheerful squawk. Familiar faces were once again around her and the Tynamo had gone; all right, so everything was still a bit dark for her taste, but things were definitely looking up.

    “What was that?” asked Cheren, climbing down from the ledge. “That three days thing?”

    “Oh,” I said vaguely, head full of muddled thoughts. “I'll – er, I'll tell you later.”

    “Hm.” Juniper glanced in the direction that N had taken. “That didn't quite go as I thought.” She sighed and thrust her free hand into her pocket. “I guess I didn't expect him to come around that easily, but maybe at least he'll consider my point of view...” She shook her head. “I don't know. Anyway – sorry, we haven't been properly introduced. Professor Aurea Juniper,” she said, reaching out to shake hands.

    “Jared Black,” I said. “But you know that. I guess Cheren and Bianca told you everything?”

    “They did.” Juniper looked intently at Candy, who stared back with frank idiocy. “Is that an Archen?”

    I sighed.

    “I wish for once someone would believe me when I said she was a rare parrot.”

    “That's what it said on the news, wasn't it?” asked Juniper. “When you were reported as a runaway.”

    “Yeah.” I scratched Candy's throat and she chirped happily. “Not that that seemed to fool anyone at all.”

    Bianca cleared her throat.

    “Er... can we move on?” she asked. “It's dark and, well, pretty nasty in here.”

    I looked around.

    “Seconded,” I said. “I've spent more than enough time in here now.”

    “The nearest exit is just up that way,” Juniper said, pointing to where N had vanished. “It's a couple of hundred yards north, sort of hidden between two rocks. I'm sure Halley can lead you to it.”

    “Sure,” said Halley sourly, dropping down from the ledge like a brindled ribbon. “I suppose I might be able to see my way towards doing that.”

    “Mm.” Cheren turned to Juniper. “Professor?”

    “It's been lovely to catch up with you two,” she said, “and to be a, uh, a brief part of your weird cosmic mission, but I haven't caught a Klink yet.” She smiled. “I don't think it'll be too hard to find one now; there's loads of Pokémon hanging around just outside the lights. N helped me out after all, it seems.”

    I wondered why he hadn't sent them away before he left – he must have known that if he didn't, they would stay to be caught by Juniper. Perhaps he'd forgotten in his anger, but I didn't think so; N wasn't the sort of person to lose control very easily. His will was more unshakeable even than Cheren's, if not so openly displayed.

    Bianca smiled.

    “OK,” she said. “Well – see you then, Professor.”

    “Bye,” she replied cheerfully. “Good luck with, uh, whatever it actually is that you're trying to do. And if you need anything, you have my number.”

    “Yes.” Cheren cleared his throat. “And, um – you wouldn't happen to have a spare torch, would you?”

    “Don't worry about that one,” I said, clicking my phone into torch mode. “I've got it covered.”

    “Oh, OK. Good, because I actually don't have a spare one.” Juniper chuckled. “Anyway. It's been good to see you both. Now, I'd really better get going before the Pokémon disperse too much...”

    “Right, right,” agreed Cheren, and in a flurry of goodbyes we parted ways – Juniper heading back into the dark, and Cheren, Halley and Bianca coming on with me towards the distant light.

    ---

    Smythe stared.

    “So she's...?”

    Ezra nodded.

    “It seems very likely, I'm afraid.”

    They were sitting in a small, sunlit bar in the Old Town; it was a bit early in the day to be drinking spirits, but Ezra had felt Smythe might need a slug of something strongly alcoholic to handle the shock, and he'd been right.

    Smythe took a deep breath.

    “She went to rescue me? They were going to let me out?”

    “Yes.”

    He closed his eyes and groaned.

    “You knew about this, didn't you?” he asked Teiresias. His voice was hollow. “You came to get me because you knew that if I were freed before you did you wouldn't have anything to bargain with.”

    It was the most effective way to go into hiding, it answered. I had to have your mind and no other; I took it by whatever means I could.

    “What do you mean?” asked Ezra, puzzled. “I didn't know this would—”

    “Not you,” said Smythe, sighing. “I have... Teiresias is in my head.”

    Ezra blinked.

    “What? I can't—”

    “I know you can't sense it. That's why he wanted my mind – something about me being from Hoenn.”

    Ezra nodded slowly.

    “Almost directly opposite Unova on the globe,” he said. “As far away as one could get... Yes, no Unovan demon would be able to see past the different mental structures to detect the demon within. Clever. But what is that monster doing in there?”

    “Hiding from Weland. It was happy to work for him until he granted it its powers back, and as soon as they started returning it began to think maybe it didn't need to take orders any more. So it's in hiding for a while.” Smythe took a too-large mouthful of Laphroaig and half choked. “But Niamh...”

    “This is, at least in part, my fault,” said Ezra, chewing his lip. “I... Well, you know, I'm still bent on killing Weland. That means I still want to get back into the tomb-city – and so, I presume, do you.”

    Wait, said Teiresias. Before you trade any more words with the rebel, I would remind you that you and I have sworn oaths. You must help me first – or have you forgotten that I want to enter the Last Bastion?

    Smythe paused.

    “What is it?” asked Ezra, eyes narrowing. “What does Teiresias say?”

    “Part of the contract I made with it to get out of that crypt,” said Smythe, brows knitted. “It wants to get into some fortress somewhere – calls it the bastion or something. I have to take it there along the tunnel we used to escape.”

    “The Last Bastion?” Ezra looked suspicious. “And what exactly do you propose to do there, Teiresias?”

    It is none of his concern, said Teiresias contemptuously. Oh, he is old, yes, but never was he strong. He lives on his wits; he hasn't the might to rule by force.

    “It doesn't want to say,” said Smythe. “Look, I – what exactly is it that they're doing to Niamh?”

    “I don't know,” answered Ezra. “Perhaps they have taken her for Harmonia to question. I just don't know.”

    “Is that all?” Smythe almost looked relieved – almost. “That's... that'll be OK, then. I survived that and didn't say anything. She could do that with her eyes closed.”

    Ezra smiled, but it was strained.

    “Yes,” he agreed. “Assuming that's what they've done. Anything could happen to her – but she will be alive, I'm certain: if he'd wanted her dead, Weland would have simply had his messenger kill her when she wasn't ready.”

    “She's alive. Alive. That's a good start.” Smythe latched onto the information and held it tight in case it fled him. “Alive...”

    Immaterial, said Teiresias. Finish your drink, change your wardrobe and find food. Then we go to the Bastion.

    “Shut up,” muttered Smythe. “Just shut up a minute, damn you!”

    “Mr Smythe,” said Ezra carefully. “Portland. I am here to help. I have been banished from the tomb-city and the exile sealed with a curse: I cannot enter it by conventional means. But I had a plan to get in that involved Niamh Harper. If you want, I can help you get in to find her, and show you how to let me in to help further.” He hesitated. “You and Niamh love each other very much,” he said. “I don't pretend to understand you very much – I have been in the darkness too long – but I do know love. I would rather Weland didn't destroy another pair of lovers. So I'll help you – I'll even help you take Teiresias to the Last Bastion, if that's what it takes to get rid of it.” He ran a thin tongue over his lips. “I... I have lost everyone, over the centuries,” he said. “And everything, as well. My home, my lover, my freedom, my very species... All I have left now is the desire for justice and a part-time job as a freelance journalist. And, until very recently, I had a new friend, and I will not leave her in that monster's hands.”

    Smythe stared. A little kernel of hope warmed in his heart.

    “You'll help?” he asked. “You know how to get in?”

    “There are many ways in,” said Ezra. “All of them are sealed to me. But I can help you get Niamh back.”

    If he will help me, then I have no objection, said Teiresias, in response to the unasked question. What you do after I am gone from you is of no consequence.

    Smythe held out his hand without hesitation.

    “You have a deal,” he said.

    Ezra shook it.

    “Now, Portland,” he said. “The passage to the Bastion isn't easy to navigate. You need more food than that sandwich, a new set of clothes and some medical attention before you're ready to go – not to mention some sleep. You'll be no use to Niamh in your current state.”

    He drained his glass and jumped to his feet.

    “Come,” he said. “You have a quest, Portland, and no hero ever slew their dragon looking like that...”

    ---

    “Three days,” said Cheren. “Three days to find this place.”

    “That's it,” I confirmed. “Three days, or I think N might win by default. I'm not sure.”

    “Well – hey, look!”

    There was light up ahead – a little sliver of a glow in the dark; just as well, really, since my phone battery was almost dead. We redoubled our pace and came within a minute or two to a thin crevice, barely wide enough to squeeze through, in the rock – and, on the other side, the relentless dripping of rainwater.

    “Oh, at last,” I sighed, as Candy wriggled into the breast of my jacket. “Fresh air!”

    “And rain,” muttered Halley darkly. “Ugh. The ground's all wet, and I don't have shoes.”

    Before us, a path snaked off through the trees; it looked like it was normally dirt, but the rain had churned its topmost layer into a thin but clingy coating of mud. I glanced from it to Halley's uncovered paws, and then got distracted.

    “You're wearing the collar,” I said.

    “No sh*t, Sherlock,” she replied.

    “Halley,” said Cherne warningly.

    “Look, we both know you aren't going to take this thing off,” she snapped. “So I don't see any obligation for me to be nice—”

    “I could always tighten it a couple of notches,” said Cheren. “Depends how much you enjoy breathing, I guess.”

    Her reply was given in the form of a glower, but it didn't seem to have any effect and she gave up with a sigh.

    “OK, whatever,” she said. “Can we go? Before this road turns into such a horrible glutinous mess that I have to – ugh – lick this sh*t out of my fur?”

    “I think it's already at that stage,” Bianca said happily. “Come on, then. Jared, you were saying?”

    “Huh? Oh. Yeah. Uh, so, like I said, we've got three days to find out where the hell this place is.”

    We walked on for a moment in thoughtful silence.

    “What did you say N said, exactly?” asked Cheren. “About the battle at this place.”

    “He said we'd meet where the thief was in—”

    “No, his exact words,” he said. “What did he say to you?”

    I thought for a moment.

    “I think,” I said, “he said, 'The war isn't over. It was only on hold. When we meet at the hiding place of that thief, it will start again. Your army and mine will meet, and Sandjr will ride to war against Unova.'” I frowned. “No. Wait. He didn't say 'hiding place', he said something else... something really specific...” I racked my brains, and as we rounded the bend it came to me: “Castle! He said that when we met at the castle of that thief, it all starts again.”

    “I thought you mentioned something,” said Cheren. “Yes, so castle. There aren't many of those left in Unova, actually.”

    “There's the Celestial Tower,” said Bianca. “Lacunosa Castle. Gannat Court.”

    “Is the Celestial Tower a castle?” I asked.

    “Yes,” answered Cheren. “The remains of one, anyway. It was one of the forts of King Ethlraed, I think, but it was destroyed in a siege during the Viking raids. Only the tower was left.”

    “They mention that in Estebán's Unovan Grand Tour,” added Bianca. “That's, er, why I know.”

    I gave her a puzzled look.

    “I don't remember that one,” I said. “What was it about?”

    “A Spanish kid going on an adventure around Unova with a talking Seismitoad,” she told me. “I think it was meant to be superficially educational, but if you read into it, it was really an examination of how Estebán dealt with the untimely death of his mother.”

    “Jesus!” put in Halley. “No wonder you're all so bloody weird. Aren't there any normal TV shows in Unova? Or at least, any shows that don't deal with dead Spaniards?”

    “Technically, Olga and Benito featured a dead Mexican rather than a dead Spaniard,” pointed out Bianca.

    “OK, OK,” sighed Cheren. “Enough quibbling about cartoons. Back to castles, perhaps?”

    “Oh yeah. Uh, what did I have... Celestial Tower, Lacunosa Castle, Gannat Court. Any more?”

    “Dragonspiral,” said Cheren. “That's like Celestial, the remains of a bigger castle. So technically it could be there as well.”

    We came to the point where the track ended and merged with the main road; here, the motorway foundations meant the ground was harder underfoot, and less unpleasant to walk on. Across the road from us were the railway tracks, cutting north through the forest towards Mistralton by the most direct route.

    “OK,” I said. “Four castles, one reasonably nearby, one in the north, one in the east and one in Castelia. It's going to be a pretty tall order to figure out which one he means before the time's up.”

    “Not really,” said Cheren. “We can rule out Dragonspiral right away.”

    “We can?”

    He sighed.

    “Yes, Jared, we can. No one can get inside it, remember? The entrance is underwater, flooded and collapsed. The last lot of archaeologists who tried to get in said they couldn't find a way of breaking in without potentially causing the tower to collapse, and since it's the oldest building in Unova short of the desert ruins no one's risked it.”

    “Oh,” I said. “Right. Uh, I guess that makes sense. So I suppose the thief hasn't gone to ground there.”

    “I should think not,” agreed Cheren. “There's nowhere to hide.”

    Two cars roared north and drowned out Bianca's next words.

    “What was that?” I asked.

    “I said that maybe the thief's in Castelia, in the middle of Gaunton. Harmonia might not expect them to stay that close to his base.”

    “I think the demons would have found him there,” said Halley. “I've been in Hawthorne House. There's serious magical sh*t going on in Gaunton. If the thief was savvy enough to penetrate the Party defences, they definitely knew better than to stick around.” She sounded almost admiring, I thought.

    “OK, so not there either,” I said, hiding a smile. “Which just leaves Lacunosa Castle and the Celestial Tower.”

    “Both are major tourist attractions, though,” said Bianca. “We've been there, haven't we, Cheren?”

    “Have we?”

    “Oh. No, wait, just me.” She smiled apologetically. “I remember that they're both really busy, especially around Eostre-time – everyone wants to get away during the holidays, but they want to visit indoor attractions because of, well, because of this.” She held a hand out and caught a palmful of raindrops.

    “You're telling me,” said Halley, who was looking distinctly bedraggled. “You guys all have coats, you know. It isn't fair.”

    “Candy doesn't have a coat,” I pointed out.

    “Ark?”

    “Candy's in your coat,” she retorted. “It's the same thing.”

    “Ark,” agreed Candy, snuggling deeper into its lining and nearly giving me an accidental and very much unwanted nipple piercing with one talon.

    “Ouch!” I tapped her beak. “Stop wriggling.”

    “Chee,” she said sheepishly, and settled down on my sternum.

    “Anyway,” said Cheren. “We seem to have hit a kind of dead end as far as castles go. Do you think maybe the thief could be a demon and concealed invisibly in one of the tourist castles?”

    “If they were a demon,” said Bianca, “they could probably get into Dragonspiral Tower, too.”

    I shook my head.

    “There's only one rebel demon in all this, and that's Ezra,” I said. “N would have mentioned it in his list of betrayals if there were more. Whoever stole that thing must be human.”

    “Which means they're using conventional hiding methods,” concluded Cheren. “OK. So, probably not in Gannat Court, Lacunosa or Celestial. Which leaves...”

    “The impossible one,” Bianca said, sighing. “Dragonspiral. Are you sure we haven't missed out a castle somewhere here?”

    “Maybe we have,” agreed Cheren. “We'll check when we get into Mistralton and can find a Pokémon Centre.”

    Mistralton was about a mile and a half further down the road, and it took a further forty minutes of walking through the outer suburbs before we found anything even remotely resembling a link to the city proper. Our salvation, when it turned up, was a bus stop, and we joined two other exceptionally weary-looking young people who were altogether too charred to be anything but Trainers.

    “Did you come through the cave?” Bianca asked one.

    “No,” she replied, shaking her head. Flakes of ash came out of her hair as it moved. “Went through the hills. There's a frickin' enormous Heatmor there, sittin' on a Durant nest.”

    “We got maybe a little too close to the barbecue,” said her friend unnecessarily. Like her, he had a strong southwest accent; I guessed they were from Aspertia or Virbank. “Grace of Thunir.”

    “Huh?”

    “Oh. Uh, it's a Floccesy thing. Saved by the rain.”

    “Ah, OK.”

    “You're Trainers too, I guess?” asked the girl, looking at Munny, drifting as ever just above Bianca's head.

    “Yeah,” she replied. “That's us.”

    “Here to challenge Skyla? Or just for Trainin'?”

    “Maybe,” said Cheren. “Right now, I think we just want to get to the Pokémon Centre.”

    The girl nodded. It looked heartfelt.

    “I hear that,” she said, scratching her head. I didn't think her hair was meant to be as short as it was; it looked like a substantial part of it had been burnt off. Was this the kind of mess Trainers got themselves into? Why on earth had Cheren and Bianca ever wanted to go off with Pokémon when there were so many ways to get yourself killed?

    “We're goin' to the Celestial Tower,” said the boy. “Ghost population's risen lately – all those bodies, all that sorrow, gives 'em so much to eat. The League's ordered a cull.”

    “How exactly do you cull Ghosts?” I asked.

    “You call Ghostbusters,” said the girl, perfectly seriously. “Which is us, more or less: we specialise in Ghost- and Dark-types. I do Ghosts, Owain does Dark.”

    I knew that the Gym Leaders specialised in specific types, but I'd never given much thought about where those Leaders came from – there must, I realised, be quite a few Trainers who worked solely with one type, or all the Leaders would be woefully unskilled. And of course, even if they weren't Leaders, there was nothing to stop certain Trainers being employed by the League to do tasks that the Elite Four were too busy to deal with themselves.

    “Can they die?” asked Cheren with interest.

    “Yeah,” answered the girl. “They're alive, they're just not made of meat. Gotta use intangible ways to kill 'em.”

    “Such as?”

    “Feed 'em to other Ghosts, mainly,” she admitted. “Or hit 'em with the right set of Dark attacks. Get it right and you shake their spirit apart. Quick and painless.”

    “Depends on the Ghost, though,” added Owain thoughtfully. “'Member that Chandelure back in Humilau, Sadie?”

    “Oh yeah.” She nodded, and shed a few more ashy hairs. “Hit it with a standard set of vibrations and somehow triggered an uncontrollable growth spurt. It grew to the size of a rhino, burned down a pub and nearly killed six people before we managed to drive it into the sea and weaken it enough to put it down.”

    “I see,” said Cheren politely. “How, er, interesting.”

    “Yeah, it was really somethin',” said Sadie.

    The bus came then, and thanks to the pattern of unoccupied seats, we were separated from the Ghostbusters and squeezed into the back row. Half an hour later, an automated voice told us that we were at Tannhauser Gate, and we crawled exhaustedly off the bus and into the Centre. Cheren put on his ultra-serious deadpan face and did the business of convincing the receptionist I was a visiting Swedish Trainer, which Candy helped to prove by crawling out of my jacket into the warmth of the lobby and throwing up a handful of pebbles to show she wanted attention; that done, we got upstairs to our rooms, dried off as best we could, and gathered in the deserted cafeteria to eat. Of Sadie and Owain there was no sign; they were probably still scrubbing ash out of their hair, I thought.

    “Hm,” said Halley, stealing a mussel from my plate. “Would you lot mind investing in some f*cking umbrellas next time you go out in that kind of weather? I feel like a drowned rat.” She fumbled for a moment, and then added hopefully, “Er – any of you lovely people feel like opening this for me?”

    I sighed and snapped the shell open for her, then turned back to my plate to realise Candy had seized a beakful of mussels and was cheerily smashing them on the side of the plate to make sure they were dead.

    “Oh, no! No, Candy, stop that!”

    She looked at me unapologetically, as if to ask what else I expected such a magnificent predator to do in this situation, and retreated to upset the salt shaker instead.

    “She's in, uh, high spirits,” observed Cheren.

    “That's one way to put it,” I muttered, picking shards of shell out of my chips. “She's happy to be out of that cave, I think. I don't think she liked those rocks.”

    “Anyway,” said Bianca. “What's the plan after this? Go to the computer room and see if we've missed any castles?”

    “That's the idea,” agreed Cheren. “And if we haven't, well, er...” He shrugged. “Actually, I don't know what we do then.”

    Halley stared.

    “Whoa,” she said. “An admission of ignorance from the Man Who Knows Too Much.”

    He gave her a withering look.

    “If you have any ideas, then, Halley...?”

    “Hm? Oh, no,” she replied breezily. “I'm untrustworthy anyway, aren't I? Better leave the planning to you.”

    “Halley, you're not ever going to get shot of that collar if you don't change your attitude,” said Bianca. That seemed to shut her up, and she went back to moodily batting mussel shells between her paws.

    “Right,” said Cheren. “So. I guess that's it.”

    “Mm,” I agreed. “What happened with you guys while I was in the cave with N?”

    “Oh, not much,” he said. “We went back to the Centre and caught a train to the cave. Then we ran into Juniper outside, and volunteered to help her find a Klink.”

    “Why'd she want a Klink?”

    “Something to do with her father's research.”

    “Her father?”

    “Professor Cedric Juniper,” said Bianca knowledgeably. “He has a TV show.”

    “He does?”

    “Yeah. Or at least, he did about eight years ago.” She popped a cherry tomato into her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. “At least, I remember him having one. He's pretty weird. Does a lot more fieldwork than Juniper.”

    “I know him,” said Halley unexpectedly. “Well, not personally, but he worked with David Attenborough on a series about Bug-types a while back.”

    “With who?”

    She made a face that indicated either displeasure or indigestion. I wasn't sure which.

    “Sir David Attenborough? British national treasure? Possibly the finest wildlife documentary narrator in the history of time and space?”

    This was met with blank stares, which Halley did not apparently find reassuring.

    “Seriously, is his fame just confined to the UK?” she asked, shocked. “Really? Don't you get his programmes on TV in the Commonwealth or anything?”

    “We don't get much foreign TV here,” said Bianca. “Like I said to Jared the other day, I think it's too sensible.”

    Halley rolled her eyes.

    “Give me strength,” she said. “Never mind then. Get on with your miserable Attenborough-free lives.”

    We did, and, finishing our meal, went over to the computer room. Unfortunately, there was a member of staff sitting there trying to repair a recalcitrant PC, and in order to maintain the Swedish façade I had to sit next to Cheren and pretend I didn't understand anything that was being said. This got boring very, very quickly, and I went back up to my room after about thirty seconds. There wasn't anything more interesting to do here, but by that time it was getting pretty late, and after another day of weirdness, death threats and interminable walking, I was exhausted – and so almost before I knew it, and long before I'd managed even a token attempt at undressing, I was asleep.

    Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Soon afterwards, Bianca came in and shook me awake.

    “Hey,” she said. “We might have a problem.”

    “What? What is it?”

    “Well, there are a few more castles in Unova than we thought,” she said. “Quite a few more, actually.”

    “How many?” I asked, suddenly awake.

    “About one hundred,” she said, nipping the corner of her lip between her teeth. “Of which about thirty have anything really left of them. Six are in the same sort of shape they were when they were first built.”

    “Sh*t,” I groaned. “Why did we have so many wars?

    “Blame the Patzkovans,” said Bianca. “If they'd left us alone, we wouldn't have needed to fortify the border so much.”

    “So most of these are along the border?” I asked.

    “Yeah,” she said. “But there's no way we can visit them all in three days. So we need your help now, Jared.”

    I blinked.

    “OK, but what exactly do you expect me to be able to do?”

    Bianca shrugged helplessly.

    “I don't know. Cheren asked if maybe you could remember anything else about what N said? Anything else that might have been a clue?”

    I shook my head. There had been nothing, I was certain; just that the thief had hidden in a castle. No more, no less.

    “That's all he said,” I told her. “I'm sure of it.”

    She sighed and flopped down on the bed next to me.

    “Great,” she said. “That's just great.”

    There was a silence, punctuated by little avian snores from Candy on the nightstand.

    “Where's Cheren?”

    “Downstairs, putting every castle in Unova individually into Google, just in case they've appeared in any recent news stories. He says that maybe someone noticed the thief's presence and reported it as a ghost or something.” Bianca made a pfft noise. “I don't think either of us thought that was likely, but without any other leads to go on...”

    I nodded.

    “I get it. We're stuck.”

    “Yeah.”

    We sat there for a while, listening to Candy's feathers shifting in her sleep.

    “Oh,” I said.

    “'Oh' what?”

    “I just remembered something N said. He said the conversation was different with Lauren... Which means she might have heard another clue!”

    Bianca looked confused.

    “So... wait... tomorrow you'll be able to tell us?”

    “Remember to ask her. Me. Whatever. Just ask tomorrow about what N said. And maybe we'll get an answer worth having.”

    “O-K,” said Bianca. “But in the White world, wouldn't we have already asked Lauren today? I mean, how does that work? Does that mean tomorrow we'll already know what N said to her?”

    “I don't know,” I replied, holding my head in a futile attempt to stop it falling apart at the seams. “'Sraven, this is confusing... I mean – I guess – the people around me seem to stay in the same world as me. I think. So I think in Lauren's world, you asked her the same questions today that you asked me, but perhaps she forgot to mention something? Something that she'll mention tomorrow? I think the result at the end of each day has to be the same, or things get out of sync. Like... like when we fought that monster in the dark,” I said suddenly. “Lauren must have been hit on the head during the fight, because when I woke up I had a headache. Things got out of sync, and I ended up with too many injuries... Oh, I don't know! I have no f*cking clue how this works.”

    Bianca patted my arm.

    “That's OK,” she said. “I think I understand even less than you. I mean, I only got about one word in three there.”

    I smiled, but I had to force it; I wasn't in the mood. Thinking about how all this might work, and how little I knew compared to N – what was I even fighting for, anyway? – was just depressing.

    “I don't know,” I said. “I get the feeling I don't know anything at all.” I dropped my head into my hands with a sigh. “I hope Lauren knows a little more, I really do. If I'm the strong one, does that make her the smart one?”

    “I don't know,” said Bianca seriously. “I'll let you know tomorrow.”

    Then I really did laugh, and the moment passed, and I set aside my worries and talked.
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 21st October 2013 at 11:09 PM.

  12. #187
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    Wow, I really need to catch up on this... I haven't been on the forums for a while.

    I'll start reviewing chapters as I finish them.

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    I think Jared has to do that dreamlink again if he wants answers.

    Sorry I didn't respond sooner, all the games this october turned me into hermit and I haven't wanted to do much else.

    I wonder which ingame or made-up castle they will go to, or maybe not a conventional castle at all.

    Looking forward to another chapter.


    It seems your schooling doesn't hold you back too much on updates, which is cool.


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

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHill005 View Post
    Wow, I really need to catch up on this... I haven't been on the forums for a while.

    I'll start reviewing chapters as I finish them.
    Don't feel any pressure! What with the advent of the new academic year (and also the release of X and Y, which are taking up much of what is normally my writing time), it's taken me two weeks to write 500 words of the next chapter so far, so, uh, there's definitely no rush to squeeze out the reviews before we get too far ahead.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    I think Jared has to do that dreamlink again if he wants answers.

    Sorry I didn't respond sooner, all the games this october turned me into hermit and I haven't wanted to do much else.

    I wonder which ingame or made-up castle they will go to, or maybe not a conventional castle at all.

    Looking forward to another chapter.


    It seems your schooling doesn't hold you back too much on updates, which is cool.
    Actually, it kind of does. I had that chapter 90% done before I left for uni, so there was no problem getting it out. Expect the next chapter to take a few more weeks; between university and Pokémon Y, I'm not currently spending all that much time writing. Or even online (gasp).

    I'm glad everyone's still enjoying the story. I'll try not to take too long with Chapter Thirty-wherever-we-are-now, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took much longer than normal.

    Thank you to both of you for leaving comments!

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    Take your time, speaking of X and Y, what do you think? Do you think a more prominent/fleshed out storyline like this and BW may you come up with a plot for that particular game fic (if you get around of course, no pressure), or do you think it hinders your creative process?


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    Quote Originally Posted by repoman View Post
    Take your time, speaking of X and Y, what do you think? Do you think a more prominent/fleshed out storyline like this and BW may you come up with a plot for that particular game fic (if you get around of course, no pressure), or do you think it hinders your creative process?
    It doesn't hinder it, it directs it. With Emerald, I had a very loose plot to work with; with Gold and Red, I had practically none. With B/W and X/Y, there's a specific story in place, but it's up to me to reinterpret that and make it my own.

    Nowadays, literary critics write essays and articles on poems and books. In medieval times, you rewrote the original story that, but changed and adapted it to lay more emphasis on the points you found interesting, or to highlight themes which you felt were raised but perhaps not fully explored. This sort of game fanfiction, for me, contains something of that proto-literary-critical spirit: it's a semi-critical response to a work given in the form of a retelling.

  17. #192
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    Nowadays, literary critics write essays and articles on poems and books. In medieval times, you rewrote the original story that, but changed and adapted it to lay more emphasis on the points you found interesting, or to highlight themes which you felt were raised but perhaps not fully explored. This sort of game fanfiction, for me, contains something of that proto-literary-critical spirit: it's a semi-critical response to a work given in the form of a retelling.
    Very interesting! I don't think I knew about this old convention (how much mediaeval literature have I read anyway); can you mention some examples? I also appreciate that your response to the game storyline is critical, with that kind of intellectual engagement and respect; there's something crude about the way most fanfiction handles canon, some need to 'civilize' it or make it adult. (For that matter, is Game Freak a team of adults or children?) It's very nice to know that the B/W storyline admits critical response. Once I actually start understanding what's going on, I'll be sure to look at your fic that way (and, after all, there's a lot more going on in criticism than just highlighting or expanding on certain pre-existing themes).

    The first scene... mmm. I certainly agree that the previous one in Ch. 32 needs a come-down, it's ending was a break and not a conclusion. Still, there's not a lot really that happens in this scene. I see that detail about N leaving the Klink behind, and there's something that seems indispensible: an unresolved question. I wonder somehow if you're not hiding it in a haystack of obvious, perfunctory details, Juniper's introductions, people looking to disperse from the area.

    Candy broke the silence – and the mood – with a cheerful squawk. Familiar faces were once again around her and the Tynamo had gone; all right, so everything was still a bit dark for her taste, but things were definitely looking up.
    This is how I am all the time.

    I knew that the Gym Leaders specialised in specific types, but I'd never given much thought about where those Leaders came from – there must, I realised, be quite a few Trainers who worked solely with one type, or all the Leaders would be woefully unskilled. And of course, even if they weren't Leaders, there was nothing to stop certain Trainers being employed by the League to do tasks that the Elite Four were too busy to deal with themselves.
    Isn't it a little weird that Jared (who apparently has never heard of such a thing before) goes from seeing two specialist trainers to conjecturing a full, worldwide tradition of specialist trainers who eventually step up to become gym leaders? (I'm wondering how much trouble such single-type trainers would have on a normal trainer journey.) It might be more plausible that Jared already knows about such things, while the reader (of course) does not; though that of course precludes exposition of it.

    “That's one way to put it,” I muttered, picking shards of shell out of my chips. “She's happy to be out of that cave, I think. I don't think she liked those rocks.”
    She's a beast of the skies!

    “Her father?”


    “Professor Cedric Juniper,” said Bianca knowledgeably. “He has a TV show.”
    This doesn't look like an intentional line break.

    “Sir David Attenborough? British national treasure? Possibly the finest wildlife documentary narrator in the history of time and space?”
    I didn't know she kept that much stake in wildlife documentary television! Is it a British thing, to worship David Attenborough?

    “I don't know,” I replied, holding my head in a futile attempt to stop it falling apart at the seams. “'Sraven, this is confusing... I mean – I guess – the people around me seem to stay in the same world as me. I think. So I think in Lauren's world, you asked her the same questions today that you asked me, but perhaps she forgot to mention something? Something that she'll mention tomorrow? I think the result at the end of each day has to be the same, or things get out of sync. Like... like when we fought that monster in the dark,” I said suddenly. “Lauren must have been hit on the head during the fight, because when I woke up I had a headache. Things got out of sync, and I ended up with too many injuries... Oh, I don't know! I have no f*cking clue how this works.”
    Oh yeah! I didn't think of that either, but it seems to be pretty fundamental to your Entralink situation, there's no reason you wouldn't have it well-developed. We know that the black and white worlds are definitely never identical -- geographical differences. But this seems to be more of an assertion on the storyline -- the plot-significant 'common' characters between the two realities have to go through identical stages. (Now I'm getting confused too, what is it exactly that switches reality every day at midnight, if both worlds are always existing in parallel? Jared/Lauren's consciousness? But apparently there are two consciousnesses working in ignorance of each other. The common characters? But even they seem to have two copies, one Jared-inspired and one Lauren-inspired. Only Halley?) *clutches head, moans, swears*

    Then I actually remembered important details, and you (Juniper) said something like everybody's mind gets switched into the other reality -- but where is that reality in the meantime? *moans again* A dark (undisclosed) rift in your system! If it's not actually a rift in my sleep-deprived consciousness. This is the rift all the demons come out of.

  18. #193
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Very interesting! I don't think I knew about this old convention (how much mediaeval literature have I read anyway); can you mention some examples? I also appreciate that your response to the game storyline is critical, with that kind of intellectual engagement and respect; there's something crude about the way most fanfiction handles canon, some need to 'civilize' it or make it adult. (For that matter, is Game Freak a team of adults or children?) It's very nice to know that the B/W storyline admits critical response. Once I actually start understanding what's going on, I'll be sure to look at your fic that way (and, after all, there's a lot more going on in criticism than just highlighting or expanding on certain pre-existing themes).
    Examples? Pretty much anything. Off the top of my head, Chaucer's Book of the Duchess contains a treatment of the story of Alcyone and Ceyx which lays emphasis on different parts of the story to the version it's based off, and you'll find endless rewritings of the same old stories by different authors, all treating them in different ways - things from Boccaccio's Decameron turn up in The Canterbury Tales, the Arthurian romances come back from the dead more times than Dracula, and so forth. Formal medieval writing made a big deal of auctoritee, which is a word that's made it into Modern English as both author and authority: what you found in old books, from earlier scholars, from classical Rome or Greece or what have you, was considered extremely important. Literary criticism as we know it didn't exist, and nor did the emphasis on originality as shown by new plots and ideas; a lot of the originality of medieval writing is in the treatment of old ideas.

    So it's not exactly critical in the sense you're thinking of - and it would be wrong to consider my stories a critique of the games. What they are is a deliberate engagement with what I see as the themes and unexplored potential of the games. I made my Hoenn story an end-of-the-world B-movie-giant-monster sort of thing because that's what Emerald feels like it could have been to me, and I had this idea of people and the land and sea themselves in relation to each other because that seems to be one of the other main themes of R/S/E. Similarly, the Platinum story is bleak, bleak, bleak, a story where you can't stop Cyrus, only Giratina can, and so I gave it a darker twist, made it a pseudo-detective story that I could make my main character consciously play noir clichés off, and made sure to end it on a black note with a glimmer of hope for the future. In Black and White, the main theme as I saw it is duality, with a few subordinate things playing second fiddle to it, and so I took that to its extreme in my treatment of its story. And that is, unfortunately, all I can say about it for now without ruining what happens later on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Isn't it a little weird that Jared (who apparently has never heard of such a thing before) goes from seeing two specialist trainers to conjecturing a full, worldwide tradition of specialist trainers who eventually step up to become gym leaders? (I'm wondering how much trouble such single-type trainers would have on a normal trainer journey.) It might be more plausible that Jared already knows about such things, while the reader (of course) does not; though that of course precludes exposition of it.
    I'm fairly certain Jared's probably heard something about it, but never consciously thought about it before. It must happen: people must work to become Gym Leaders, or else new Gym Leaders would be as pathetic as Cheren is in BW2.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    This doesn't look like an intentional line break.
    Oops. No it is not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I didn't know she kept that much stake in wildlife documentary television! Is it a British thing, to worship David Attenborough?
    She doesn't. But it is a British thing, or at least an English thing, to treat documentaries narrated by David Attenborough as fundamentally better than other documentaries.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Oh yeah! I didn't think of that either, but it seems to be pretty fundamental to your Entralink situation, there's no reason you wouldn't have it well-developed. We know that the black and white worlds are definitely never identical -- geographical differences. But this seems to be more of an assertion on the storyline -- the plot-significant 'common' characters between the two realities have to go through identical stages. (Now I'm getting confused too, what is it exactly that switches reality every day at midnight, if both worlds are always existing in parallel? Jared/Lauren's consciousness? But apparently there are two consciousnesses working in ignorance of each other. The common characters? But even they seem to have two copies, one Jared-inspired and one Lauren-inspired. Only Halley?) *clutches head, moans, swears*
    Here's a clue: it's all a matter of perception.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    Then I actually remembered important details, and you (Juniper) said something like everybody's mind gets switched into the other reality -- but where is that reality in the meantime? *moans again* A dark (undisclosed) rift in your system! If it's not actually a rift in my sleep-deprived consciousness. This is the rift all the demons come out of.
    Eh, it's all conjecture on their part. Shadows and caves; people in Unova can only see the effects of the underlying mechanism on Unova. To actually see how it works, you'd need to step outside their reality.

    But we will see how it works, eventually. Not for a while, but we will see it.

  19. #194
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    I've been thinking about this for some time now, and I'm afraid to say that I can't continue writing this story. It's not that I'm bored with it, or that I don't know where to take it, but for a variety of reasons, ideological, artistic and personal, I simply can't in good conscience keep going. I may post something else soon. I may not. It may be a long time before I do; there are still things that need to be sorted out.

    To those who were reading and enjoying the story: I apologise, but there's nothing to be done. Whatever corner of my imagination housed Crack'd has been gutted by fire and now stands derelict.

  20. #195
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    Well, I had long hoped that I would never have to read the above in one of your stories (or write this very message), but I understand completely. Sometimes a story just isn't possible to carry on anymore.

    Despite my rather silent nature on your works as of late, I do keep up with them every time you post new material and such. So, I am sad to see this go, but I know that there is a point in time where "good-bye" must be said. I am sorry about the imagination fire, you'd really think that it would set up a more efficient fire department after all this time, right? Well, at least they were able to contain it to a single house. As long as it doesn't torch the entire city, we're good.

    Anyways, you have all my wishes for good luck in whatever you decide to do, regardless if it be another story on Serebii or something else entirely. You have my most sincere wishes for success in all your endeavors. Your stories have brought me an immense source of joy and are often some of the most interesting (and hilarious) things I will read the day that they're posted.

    Thank you for everything, Cutlerine. This present story, past stories, and if applicable, future stories.

    Knightfall signing off...

  21. #196
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    Um, um, "WHAT THE CHARMELEON SAID!!"

    ...looks like my reply at the other site has been outclassed...
    If there was a like button, I'd have clicked it or something: (N.b.: fic recommendations may be outdated, haven't updated sig in years)
    First Contact (PG-13) (Galaxy_Hunter) | The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World (PG-15) (Cutlerine) | Morphic (R) (Dragonfree)

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    I will miss your story Cutlerine. In my lurking-time, I have been reading your stories. They gave me a lot of joy, giggles and exitement. I have the feeling that you are a inspiration for other writers.

    Your view of the Pokémon world is a special one. The way you show evolution is one of the best I've seen. And it looks more logical in my opinion too.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    ~Pink Harzard

    Currently in Hoenn.
    Claimed Scyther

    Thanks to Chapter of Charizard for the Button
    PASBL explained ~ WF ~ Incoming absence alert
    Coming next year in the fanfic section:

    Thank you Astral Shadow for the Banner


  23. #198
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knightfall View Post
    Well, I had long hoped that I would never have to read the above in one of your stories (or write this very message), but I understand completely. Sometimes a story just isn't possible to carry on anymore.

    Despite my rather silent nature on your works as of late, I do keep up with them every time you post new material and such. So, I am sad to see this go, but I know that there is a point in time where "good-bye" must be said. I am sorry about the imagination fire, you'd really think that it would set up a more efficient fire department after all this time, right? Well, at least they were able to contain it to a single house. As long as it doesn't torch the entire city, we're good.

    Anyways, you have all my wishes for good luck in whatever you decide to do, regardless if it be another story on Serebii or something else entirely. You have my most sincere wishes for success in all your endeavors. Your stories have brought me an immense source of joy and are often some of the most interesting (and hilarious) things I will read the day that they're posted.

    Thank you for everything, Cutlerine. This present story, past stories, and if applicable, future stories.

    Knightfall signing off...
    Quote Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
    Um, um, "WHAT THE CHARMELEON SAID!!"

    ...looks like my reply at the other site has been outclassed...
    Quote Originally Posted by Pink Harzard View Post
    I will miss your story Cutlerine. In my lurking-time, I have been reading your stories. They gave me a lot of joy, giggles and exitement. I have the feeling that you are a inspiration for other writers.

    Your view of the Pokémon world is a special one. The way you show evolution is one of the best I've seen. And it looks more logical in my opinion too.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    ~Pink Harzard
    Thank you very much, everyone. You're very kind, and I really appreciate the support you've given this story, whether by posting or just by reading.

    Unfortunately, as I've been uncomfortably aware for a long time now, Crack'd is moving towards an ending that supports a series of propositions about the world that I fundamentally disagree with, and I've sort of come to hate working towards those ends. If there was a way for me to to change that ending so that I'd feel comfortable writing it, then I would, but - as I have been forced to admit to myself over the past few weeks - there isn't: at this point in the story, the ending is set in stone and its philosophy is immutable.

    So yeah. That's the main reason why I'm having to cut it short. I do have another project in mind - something quite different from the series of fics that I've posted so far - but that may not materialise for some time. I hate to be unreliable, since it feels like I'm short-changing readers if I cease to be a reliable producer of diversions and entertainments, but I'm afraid I can't avoid it. My apologies for that.

    Anyway. That's it from me for now. See you later.

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