Transcending the Abyss [Collab] PG-13

Hello, all. This story is a collaboration project written by my friend Pokenutter and myself, Knightfall.

This is loosely inspired by the Incarceron book series by Catherine Fisher, and as always, we own nothing from that universe or Pokemon. All characters and plot within this story, however, are owned jointly by Pokenutter and myself.

This will be rated PG-13 to be safe, though at times it may be bumped up to PG-15. We will say at the beginning of the chapter if it reaches that rating.

So, without further adieu, Pokenutter and I proudly present:

Transcending the Abyss

Chapter One: The Sealed World

World Abyss was a cruel paradise.
A world where every care was met and every case of struggle was resolved with compassion.
A world that could change and shift to conform to its denizen’s needs at their will.
A world that provided shelter and warmth to those who required it, treatment to those unfortunate enough to need it.
A world that sealed itself off from the surface.
A world that denied its inmates a view of the true sun.
A world that oppressed the souls within it far worse than any tyrant in their wildest dreams.
A world running out of resources and energy required to maintain it.
A world that feared its inmates as much as they feared it.
A world that refused to let them go.
But that was a fact that we, its inmates, refused to accept.
To escape from this hell, we will do anything. Hope is the last thing to die in a being.
And hope is all we have left.

Excerpt from The Abyssal Codex

Something had changed.

This was not right. Not in the slightest. Things did not change here.

Long had the prison’s doors remained tightly shut. The population had remained about the same. The human-Pokémon ratio had remained roughly about one to ten. The predestined seasons came and went as they had for generations.

But now, after all this time, a new arrival? Unscheduled at that.

That in and of itself was suspicious. Even more so was the fact that, in spite of this arrival, was the fact that he had not opened the gates to let another inside.

This vexed him, and when he was vexed, someone took the heat for it… He closed his eyes, and focused on the marshlands wing. They were about to have a monsoon.

Barely focusing on the disastrous change in climate his whim had caused, he began to ponder this development. He was never lied to in this room, and it could not be a mistake.

So, who had the power to open the gate without his knowledge? And furthermore, who exactly was this new arrival? Who was this intruder who had brought the disastrous notion of change to his realm?

Finn yawned, stretching his arms as he attempted to drive the feelings of sleep away from his eyes. As soon as he found the energy to move his body out of the poorly constructed hammock made of vines that comprised his bed, his feet hit the dirt floor with a thud. Blinking in the artificial light that shined through the gap between the logs of the shelter, he slowly shuffled to the entrance and shoved the tattered piece of cloth that served as a door aside.

He was greeted by a blast of dense, hot, wet air mixed in with the smells of pungent plants, rotting leaves, and the remains of the small fire they lit the night before. If he hadn’t smelled that same mixture for the past year of his life, he would have probably thrown up the little remains of his dinner. But he’d had the ultimate misfortune to have been born in the rainforest wing; a fact he cursed every day at noon when the torrential rains came crashing down from the vast set of water pipes and hydraulics system in the vast ceiling above.

The microscopic water droplets in the air made a chill run through his body when they came into contact with the fire patches on his head and tail. Finn took a deep breath and caused his body to tense up, concentrating on the twin patches of pyro-synthetic nerves. The two areas of skin glowed dull red and swiftly erupted into flames, instantly driving away the uncomfortable humidity. As soon as his body was warm enough, the flames on his tail and head subsided.

Now, let’s see… I lost the bet last night, so now I have to shore up the camp and go collect firewood, he repeated in his head, going over the checklist of chores that had been part of the wager among him and the other six Pokemon of this section of the criminal camp.

He shook his head in annoyance as he walked towards the smoldering remains of the fire to begin the first of his forced chores. He looked through the tools and cooking-ware strewn around on the ground until he found a decently-sized wooden pail. He wouldn’t need it to put out the fire’s embers, but if he wanted breakfast, someone had to go get the water needed for the stew he knew they were undoubtedly going to have, as they did for every meal.

He stepped over the ring of small, jagged rocks that outlined the firepit and stamped his foot down on the coals. The heat of the embers which would have easily burned anyone else in the camp, was not felt by him even as he twisted the coals and charcoal into dust.

Why the night watch let the coals smolder and continue to release tell-tale smoke into the air was beyond Finn. He had suggested the idea of a more efficient night watch countless times to Creon, but the stubborn captain of the Ventus Raiders refused to hear the word of a rookie.

Once the coals were put out completely, Finn climbed over the fire ring and tried in vain to shake the grey ash off his feet and lower body. Not that it matters much; the rain will clean it off in an hour or so anyways, he thought glumly as he knew the bright artificial light of the rainforest’s skies wouldn’t last.

Giving up on trying to clean himself, Finn set off for the opposite side of the camp where the only well was located. As he passed by the ramshackle dwellings made of decaying tree bark and vines, he wondered when Creon was planning on leaving the clearing. The Ventus rarely stayed in one place for very long, and the five days they’d already spent here was pushing that tradition.

There was nothing left here: the fruit trees weren’t in season yet, the berry bushes had all been picked clean, and the only village close to them had been thoroughly looted --“liberated of possessions” as Creon called it. There was nothing left for them in this section of the perpetual rain forest that covered the entire wing.

He shrugged his shoulders. It wasn’t his place to decide what should happen, though he did like having slightly larger rations than he was normally allotted by the stringent Togetic cook after a good day’s raid. Looking around, he saw no one aside from the remnants of the night watch awake, but that would change soon enough. His gaze traveled to the giant, rusted metal plate used as an alarm to signal the arrival of morning and also enemy attacks. Everything in the Abyss was required to be useful for more than one thing. If it wasn’t, it didn’t survive for long.

The camp itself was less-than-impressive. As much as Creon tried to convince himself that he and his cronies were running a tight ship, Finn knew he had to have been blind not to see the disarray of the Ventus encampment. Precious metal and stone tools were left out overnight, bags stuffed with miscellaneous materials were nearly as common to step over as fallen leaves, and sacks of dried berries were left strewn haphazardly around the “tents”.

Finn reached the well with no encounters with the Pokemon he was supposed to call comrades, and he was perfectly fine with staying apart from them. He would have left them long ago, but he was certain he would be slaughtered the minute he left the relatively safe confines of the Ventus. That, and Silas would almost certainly forget to come to dinner if it weren’t for him. The prophet was impossible to drag away from his studies of the Abyss.

Finn attached the pail to a small metal hook, turned green after years of use. He grabbed the fraying rope attached to a rudimentary pulley system and gently gave it some slack, allowing the bucket to drop lower into the well. Since it was more uncommon to have a day without rain than with, the water level in the well constantly stayed high above the water table, making it incredibly easy to fill.

Once he felt the bucket fill up, Finn tugged on the rope to pull it back up. The course surface burned his paws and threatened to open up the blisters he received the day before. He was barely able to let go of the rope and sprint forward fast enough to catch the bucket by the handle before it fell back into to depths of the well.

Hugging the container of water to his chest, Finn waddled his way to the kitchen area of the Ventus’ camp. As he struggled to keep a hold of the item, he vowed never to make any type of wager with the Pokemon in the D-crew ever again.

“How was I supposed to know that those small, red berries they told everyone to eat were that hot?” he grumbled as he approached the cooking area. Thankfully, Kaligo seemed to still be asleep, so he took the opportunity to simply leave the bucket next to the large iron pot used for stew.

“Alright, so that was the water, and now I’ve got to go gather some firewood. Oh, great…” he groaned. Gathering usable firewood in the rainforest was one of the worst jobs a Pokemon could be assigned. It often involved digging through layers of dead and decaying plants and leaves on the floor to find pieces dry enough to use for fires. The Ventus had coal, but the supply of the precious black stone that produced both ample light and heat was in constant short supply, and Creon had been wise enough to lock the remaining supply away.

Shaking his head, Finn jogged to the edge of the clearing. He knew if he went fast, he might be able to make it back before the scheduled noon downpour was set to begin. At the sentry post he caught the eye of the half-asleep Gabite guard who waved him onwards before he started to snore.

Finn continued to run through the dew-ridden undergrowth of the forest past the barren berry bushes and low fruit trees picked of their not-yet-ripened produce. If he was lucky, he’d find a dead tree or a branch that was easy to snap off. If the gods of the surface found favor with him, he would have all the wood he needed and could be on his way back within the hour.

Slowing his pace down, Finn kept his eyes peeled for the rare spot of dead brown in the vibrant green forest. Despite his best effort though, he couldn’t see anything past the unrelenting wall of accelerated life that surrounded him. Slightly dismayed, he jogged further into the woods, his paws coming into contact with the springy ground with an uncomfortable squishing sound.

And then, he saw it. Pointed to the great vaulted ceiling of the wing was a single tower of dull, dusty brown that signalled that the tree was long dead and waiting to be harvested for fuel. Finn nearly felt his heart leap, the prospect of not having to dig through the countless layers of leaves and bugs to find sticks was enough to make him laugh giddily as he approached the base of the trunk.

Unfortunately, there were no branches that had already fallen to the ground, but Finn hadn’t expected this job to be easy in the first place. The tree itself was a blessing enough. Looking up, he saw a few decently sized branches several feet above his reach, and beyond that, the top of the tree was covered by the leaf-covered limbs of its neighbors.

Seeing no other readily-available option, Finn squatted down and leaped as high as his short legs could get him. He dug his claws into the soft, dead, tree bark and used all four of his paws to slowly climb up the side. Finn had the branch in sight; it was fairly large and rounded, and from the ground he was pretty sure he could get enough leverage to break the thing free without falling. And, if this succeeded, the camp wouldn’t need firewood for at least two days.

He reached for a branch underneath his target that seemed sturdy enough to support him and pulled himself onto it. Though it probably wasn’t the best idea, Finn looked down. He was probably fifteen or so feet up in the air, and quite suddenly he felt a whole lot smaller and the branch a lot less sturdy. His breaths became shorter and quicker as the nerve patches on his head and tail flashed with fire.

No, I can’t panic now. I’ve been through worse than this. Just keep it together, Finn, he told himself, taking a deep breath to calm himself. The flames on his body gradually subsiding as he once again focused on the prize above him. The branch was partly concealed by leaves from the nearby trees, but they wouldn’t be an issue is he held the limb at the right spot.

Finn shuffled along the support branch until he found an area of the limb above that bent down towards him slightly, giving him a natural place to grip. Once again ignoring the several reasonable doubts he had about this, he placed both of his paws on the hold and shifted his weight so that when he pulled, there was more power behind it.

He took a deep breath and yanked down on the branch. He felt it bend and crack slightly, but as soon as he eased up on his grip, it returned to its normal position. Undeterred, he tried yet again. This time, several fine cracks audibly made their appearance near the base of the limb. Third time’s the charm, right? he thought as he planted his feet on the branch and pulled down with all his strength.

He expected the branch to come down, he knew it would happen when he saw the results of his other two attempts and he had prepared himself accordingly. He positioned himself that the branch would fall to the side of him and down to the ground where he would collect it. He had expected all of this. What he wasn’t expecting was the green and white body of a Servine to come crashing into him from the thicket of leaves above him, and knock him off balance.

Finn screamed much louder and higher pitched than he would ever admit to doing as he, the branch, and the unconscious Pokemon all fell the terrifying distance down to the ground. Time seemed to slow as he was able to see every splinter of wood that broke as it spun mid-air and each leaf that accompanied them down from the canopy.

Grab something! Anything! Do something! his mind shouted as it tried to think of anything to save its host. Finn whispered a prayer to the gods of the surface that they would accept him into their afterlife as time accelerated back into its normal pace and he slammed into the springy, soggy ground of the rainforest.

“I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m dead. I died. I’m dead,” he muttered frantically as he expected the immediate darkness and the fabled light at the end of the tunnel to take him away. Instead, he felt an incredibly painful rush of agony rush through his entire right side as the very layers of dead leaves he despised bent inwards and rebounded his body.

When he dared to open his eyes, Finn was greeted by a loud ringing in his ears and an intense pain in his right shoulder that told him it was probably dislocated. He tried to get to his feet, but suddenly his vision swayed dizzily, making him fall to the side onto his damaged shoulder, the impact popping it back into place.

His next round of screaming startled several flocks of tropical birds and Pidove alike from their roosts in the towering trees. Tears welled up in his eyes as Finn lay on the ground, trying not to make his situation any worse. He didn’t know how long he stayed on his stomach on the plants, but when his shoulder finally stopped throbbing and his vision stopped swaying like a tree in a hurricane he mustered the strength to attempt to stand.

Finn swayed in the air as he tried to get himself upright and stay there. Once he was steady on his feet, he surveyed his surroundings. He was still at the base of the dead tree, the branch was largely intact and hadn’t splintered too badly in the fall, and the unconscious Servine started to stir from its spot on the grass.

“I-It’s still alive?” Finn asked himself incredulously even as a feminine groan from the Pokemon reached his ears. Ignoring his own pain, Finn rushed towards the Servine. He had acquired some knowledge of herbal cures and remedies from the foragers of the Ventus, but he didn’t know what to do for a possible injury.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no. Umm, what was it that the healers said? Check for broken bones? Or was it pulse? Come on, Finn, remember!” Finn stammered as he kneeled over the Servine.

Her eyes popped open as she started to rise, but she seemed to be struck by a wave of pain.

“…Gah!.. My side… What?”

She didn’t seem to be aware of her surroundings. Given her frequent twitching and heavy breathing, however, she was very aware of a pain along her side. Her movements and cries were discomforting to Finn, and he found himself shouting at her to calm her.

“Just hold still a moment!”

Her movements slowed down to a stop. She seemed to be dimly aware of his words at least…

“Now, I’m going to see if you’ve broken anything. Hold still…” he said as he began to move his forepaws along her side, noting where she seemed to be the most injured. Funny, he didn’t actually find any breaks. It was almost as if she had survived with only a few bruises. A few seconds later, she tried to sit up again. She teetered unsteadily for a moment, and finally sat still.

“…I think I hit my head…” she said, holding her head in her hands.

Finn nodded. “Let me have a look.”

He moved his face over her head. He examined her, but didn’t see any kind of mark.

“I don’t think-” he began before she cut him off.

“Look, something’s obviously up with my brain, so I had to have smacked it.”

Her abrupt change in attitude was certainly jarring, and Finn did a double-take. He regained his composure, and glared at her.

“Rudeness doesn’t help you in the slightest,” he said crossing his arms before immediately undoing them when his shoulder suddenly flashed with pain.

“Look, there’s absolutely no way I’m talking to a gigantic Quilava,” the Servine stated, motioning towards Finn with her hands, “I guarantee you- there’s been some kind of trauma to my brain case.”

Gigantic Quilava? What does she think is going on here? Finn wondered, feeling as confused as she must have felt then.

“…Are you okay?” he asked her tentatively.

“Do I need to reiterate myself?” she immediately snapped, glaring at him.

Was she raving? Finn tried to think of a response, but arrived at none. He abruptly changed tactics. A more simpler question was in order.

“…What’s your name?”

She began to speak, and then closed her mouth. “I’m… Now, hang on. I know this…” she said, suddenly unsure of the answer.

Finn was about to try and ask another question when she spoke over him. “Don’t tell me, I… Huh. I’ll be damned. I don’t know.”

She sat down on the ground, concentration written across her face. “Who forgets their own name? …Okay, Quilava-guy? Any advice?”

Finn had absolutely no idea on how to respond to the clearly confused Servine. He’d never met someone with amnesia before, though he had met the rabid Pokemon of the South Jungle Plateau and he desperately hoped she wasn’t anything like them.

“I’ll be honest here, I really don’t know what to do. Injuries on a whole aren’t my forte, and I know even less about head trauma. Hmmm… What to do?” Finn pondered as he paced around the female Servine. “Well, I could take you to the Ventus. They have some healers, and Silas might be able to help you out. He knows about this sort of thing,” he suggested to her.

“Well, alright. Any other humans around there? Do you know?” she asked him after hearing his suggestion.

Finn was unprepared for her latest question. Humans? Why would anyone want to know about them? he thought as he tried to formulate a valid response.

“Why do you want to know about them? The last of their villages the Ventus raided was … Well, it was horrible. No sane Pokemon would go near them,” he told her, trying to block out the memories of what the older Ventus members had told him about that certain village. Images of grisly corpses of Tauros butchered and set to cook over fires was only the first of the horrors they told him about.

“Horrible… Well, thank you very much. I guess you guys are more than a bit frightened of us, though… I just think they’d have a better idea of how to treat one of their own than a Pokémon would,” she told him with a small laugh.

“Well, of course we are afraid of them- what…?” he trailed off, as his brain finally picked up on a phrase. Us? One of their own? What is she talking about? Rightfully puzzled, Finn stopped pacing and stared at her.

“What kind of Pokemon are you?”

“Pokémon…? Oh, wait, I think I get it now. Wherever we are now, humans are like boogeymen, right? You’ve never actually seen one?” she said with another small laugh, though this one more forced than before.

This threw Finn off even more. He sat down on the ground across from her and held his head in his paws. He only came here for firewood, not some inane discussion about humans. He took a deep breath and looked back at her.

“… I’ve seen one. Granted, it was dead, but I won’t forget it anytime soon…” The vivid memory of the desiccated corpse hanging from a noose swinging in the breeze. It’s mouth and eyes frozen open in a single, silent, strangled scream. He shook the memory away. “I’m wondering why a Servine like you would want to know where the humans were,” he asked.

“Servine? You think I’m a-” She broke off chuckling. “I think you need your eyes checked, buster,” she said with a titter.

Finn tilted his head to the side. She certainly looked like a Servine in every way, shape, and form: green and white scales, a small gold crest about her neck, leaf-like hands, nothing about her was different than any Servine he had seen before. Finn groaned; this was almost too much. His head still hurt and she wasn’t making it any better.

“You are a Servine, just look down. You’ll see just who needs their eyes checked,” he snapped at her. She quieted down after a minute, and followed his advice.

“See, nothing unus-” she broke off, and her red eyes swelled to the size of dinner plates. She didn’t say a word for a good thirty seconds. At that point, however, she sank down onto the ground, before shouting at the sky.

“Alright, universe, what the hell?”

Again, Finn was unsure at how to respond. Nothing he had seen or met before compared to this. After waiting for her curses to the rapidly darkening ceiling of the Abyss to finish, he gained the courage to talk again.

“Miss, what’s going on? What do you think you are?” he asked, trying to be as polite as possible as he saw that her reality was just shaken pretty badly.

She seemed to ignore him at first, muttering to herself. “Okay, family. Drawing a blank. Okay, friends? Hm… Either I had none, or that info’s gone, too… Place of residence? Let’s see… A shopping center, a game corner, a gym, but oh, no name…”

She turned to face Finn. “I’m… I’m supposed to be a human. I don’t know why I’m a Pokémon now, nor do I know why there are half a million blanks in my memory … What do I do now?”

Finn began to think. She was crazy. Either that, or she was having some kind of identity crisis. Either way, though, she needed help. Leaving her out here was the worst possible thing for her.

Before he could offer to help her though, she leaned close to him. “Tell me, where did you find me?”

“Up that tree, but I don’t think-” Finn said, pointing up at the tree in question.

“Spiffy! Be back in a moment!” she shouted as she began bounding up the side of the tree trunk. She got about ten feet before her feet slipped on the vertical bark and came crashing back down. She landed hard on her tail, nearly crushing the leafy appendage against the ground.

“Gah!!! Er… Any clue how I use the vines that Grass-types are supposed to have?”

Finn shrugged. “I’m not a Grass-type. Anyway, I seriously doubt-”

She didn’t wait for him to finish, already making another attempt. When she barely made it five feet up, Finn decided that he’d had enough. As she fell, he quickly placed his forepaw on top of her, preventing her from trying again. She slumped down to the ground.

“It’s very rude to run off when someone’s trying to give you advice. I doubt very highly that you’ll find any answers in that tree, and it’s a dangerous drop if you manage to fall again. Now, I know of a few Pokemon who could help you, but they’re not going to be able to do much about a fractured skull, so why don’t you just calm down, and let me take you to them?” The Servine was silent for a moment. He went over to her and offered her his left paw.

“…Sure. You’re the boss,” she told him as she accepted his paw and pulled herself up.

“My name’s Finn, by the way,” he told her, aware that he had yet to tell her his name.

Suddenly, the ceiling exploded with the sound of thunder that made both Pokemon jump a foot in the air. Finn looked up, the misty ceiling was pumping out thick, black artificial clouds that signaled the coming of a major storm. He cursed staying and talking with this girl; he had stayed out too long. He needed to make it back to the camp before the rains hit and the eyes of the Abyss opened up.

“Alright, we need to get back to the Ventus. But first,” he said as he walked over to the fallen branch that started all the trouble, “We need to take this back with us otherwise Kilago will skin me alive.” Finn squatted down and hoisted one end of the log into the air. He looked back at her; she was still sitting numbly on the ground.

“Come on! Let’s go, we don’t have time.”

“Er, right!” She hopped to her feet, and nodded. “I don’t know my way around whereever we are, so why don’t you fill me in on our present location as we leave?”

Finn pushed aside the strangeness of the fact that she had no idea where she was, and decided to indulge her. “We’re in the Rainforest Wing of World Abyss; otherwise known as hell. Now that you know, can you please grab the other end of this branch? We’ve got to double time it back to camp before the storm hits,” the Quilava ordered, directing her to the opposite end of the branch with an urgent wave of his paw.

She hoisted it up onto her shoulders, muttering to herself about how little that actually managed to explain. After a moment, she nodded to Finn. “Right, then. You know where we’re going. Lead on.”

[b]Continued on next post[/b]

Continued from previous post

As soon as he started jogging with the log, Finn’s body suddenly registered the fact that he fell twenty feet out of a tree. Sparks of pain flashed through his torso whenever he moved his injured shoulder and the bruises he received from the fall shooting waves of soreness across his entire body. His steps began to falter and stumble over the overgrown roots of the forest as the pain made him light-headed and dizzy. The Servine suddenly tossed the branch onto the ground.

“Hey! What’s wrong?” she asked as she finally noticed Finn’s reaction to his pain.

Finn barely registered her question as he failed to hold the branch up by himself and was forced to let go. Interia had different plans for him though, his body kept moving forward until he slammed shoulder-first into a nearby towering tree. Finn saw stars as he rebounded off the tree and clutched his shoulder in absolute agony.

“Alright, sit down. Breathe as slowly as you can. Now, this is going to sound like the most stupid of questions, but where do you hurt the most right now?” The Servine sighed, leaning down next to him.

Despite the intense spasms of fire shooting through his shoulder–which he was fairly sure was dislocated again-- Finn found it almost ironic that the Pokemon he found and was supposed to be helping was now asking him what was wrong.

“E-everything,” he muttered, gritting his teeth tightly. He tried to get to his feet, but her leafy hand on his uninjured shoulder kept him on the ground.

“In that case, better that you not move. I’m not even sure what happened to put you in this state, but let me say this- if it happened before I woke up, you’ve got one hell of an adrenaline rush, you know that?” the Servine observed as she continued to hold him down. Finn wouldn’t stay put, the Abyssal storms waited for no Pokemon and had little mercy for those foolish enough to get stuck in their rage.

“You don’t understand,” he said with a grimace as his injured shoulder was moved. “The storms. They’ll cause me more pain than anything.”

She tilted her head to the side. “Huh? Oh, wait, right, Fire-type. Hmmm… Do you see any large leaves of any sort, or anything that could be used as a makeshift umbell… er… mobile cover for you?”

“Yeah, I’m one of the unlucky few born into this wing. Anyways, this part of the forest doesn’t have any plants like that. Silas says those are all in the southern areas,” Finn huffed, his exhaled breath slowly turning into a visible mist as it met the rapidly cooling air that preceded the storm.
It’s only ten minutes until the rain now. The temperature always drops before the rain, Finn calculated, figuring in his past experiences with the weather in this wing.

“We have about ten minutes before it pours. I think we can make it back to camp before then if we hurry,” Finn said even as he mentally braced himself for a world of jarring agony on the way back. His shoulder was still misaligned and the dark bruises all along his back and sides were getting worse with every step.

The Servine slowly removed her hand from his shoulder and held it out for Finn to grab onto. Using his uninjured arm, he grasped her leafy appendage and quickly pulled himself up to his feet. The pain was unbelievable; Finn tried to mask the grimace on his face, but failed miserably.
He tried walking, but the ground conspired against him and caused him to stumble over a giant, gnarled root. The Servine reached out and grabbed him just before he fell, and steadied him.

“Here, just hold onto me. You’ll end up killing yourself otherwise,” she ordered, a little bit of concern mixing into her voice. Finn readily accepted her offer, eager to rest even a little bit of his body. He leaned in and draped his left arm over her shoulder. Once again. he thought of the irony of him being the one needing help when he originally found her.

“Thanks. Now, let’s move,” Finn urged as the Servine began guiding him across the spongy ground. The clouds were turning from darkened grey to pitch black and thunder roared through the cloak of darkness, as if it was eager to unleash the torrential rains onto the wing below.
The two continued to walk through the forest in silence. Finn knew why he wasn’t talking, but he figured that this girl would at least have some questions if her claims were true.

“What’s on your mind?” he managed to ask shortly before a plant stalk whipped around in the wind and hit his bruised side, eliciting a pained hiss to escape from his bared teeth.

“Hmmm… Well, a rather lot. I’ve got no name and no past, and yet I’ve got an entire future in front of me. It’s an odd feeling to say the least… Like I should feel good, and yet I’m really bothered by the first two,” she told him, with a twist of her free hand to signify her confusion.

That got Finn thinking. “Why not simply name yourself?” he said after a few second.

Her face lit up. Apparently, she’d not thought of doing that. It is a rather small thing to think about, considering her situation, Finn observed. The Servine had her eyes trained on the ground as she concentrated. “Okay, there’s a start. Hmmm… What about Kelly?”

Kelly? What kind of a name is that? Finn wondered. “I don’t think that sounds like your name,” he told her as they continued to plod along through the undergrowth of the rainforest.

“You’re right. Kim? No, that’s not it either… Samantha?” she suggested before settling on the last name.

“Does it sound right to you?” he asked. Finn saw her mouth the name over and over as if debating the pros and cons of it.

“Yeah, I think it does. Alright, I’m Samantha. Sam for short. As for the bit about the past, well, not a lot either of us can do about that. I’ll worry about it if I ever have to,” she said with a nod, affirming her new name.

“We could always ask Silas. He’s always pouring over his books and making weird medicines and tools. I’m sure he’s got something for memory loss. Though, I’m not sure how he’ll react when he finds out you’re-- used to be a human,” Finn suggested, images of the prophet’s perpetually cluttered tent and countless interesting odds and ends spilling out of every inch of it fondly flashed through his mind.

“Alright, then. Still, something about those clouds tell me that if we want to get there before it starts raining, we’re really going to have to hoof it. You up for trying to move a bit faster?” Finn grimaced, but managed to hide it from the newly named Servine.

“Sure. I think I can manage. For now. My shoulder is killing me, but I’ll survive. Silas will patch me up somehow,” he said with a sigh, resigning himself for a good deal of pain these next few meters. “Right, then! Let’s go!” he yelled with forced bravado. Sam nodded, and began a quick sort of hopping skip after Finn.

“So, while we move, why don’t you try and explain this place to me again? Explain it to me like you would an idiot,” she said, every word separated by small gasps.

An odd way of putting it, Finn thought as he tried to focus his attention into an answer instead of the nagging pain he felt.

“This is World Abyss. I know that it might be difficult to believe, but this is only part of an entire world down here, or at least that’s what Silas tells me the ancient texts say. It’s hard to explain. There’s countless other wings and paths, according to Silas, and there’s many, many more Pokemon down here. We’re all trapped,” Finn said all in one breath. His concentration was working for now, but he knew that the camp couldn’t be much further away.

“What are you all down here for? I mean, something like this could function as some interstellar vessel, but you specified ‘down here,’ meaning we’re underground. What happened to the surface?” Sam asked, looking even more puzzled than before.

Finn would have shrugged his shoulders if his injury allowed, passing over the foreign terms she used. “That’s the thing. No one knows. Not even Silas. He has some theories that have been passed down, but no one’s certain. The surface could be perfect world for all we know and they just wanted to keep us away from it,” he told her with a heavy sigh. Sam curiosity wasn’t sated.

“…Okay, then. Why are you trapped? Does it have something to do with the underground thing? Or is something actively keeping you down here?” she asked, firing off the questions as they appeared in her mind.

So many questions! And I doubt anyone in the entire Abyss knows the answers. Finn thought. “I don’t think anyone knows why. It’s a theory that the Abyss is underground, but it could be miles above the surface in the sky for all I can tell…” And so it went on for the next few minutes, Sam asking questions not even the most renowned philosophers and prophets of the Abyss could give a definitive answer to.

Despite their best efforts to ford the tree-filled terrain, the sky would not wait. The massive waterworks in the high, vaulted ceiling creaked and shuddered as giant gears turned and valves snapped into position. Huge volumes of water surged into the network of pipes that directed and pressurized it until was ready to thunder down through the clouds onto the ground below.

Finn’s entire body nearly seized up when the downpour hit the sensitive patches of fire-creating nerves along his back like a sack of jagged boulders. His steps slowed to a walk as the chilled rain slowly froze his body.

“Finn, come on! You said that the camp wasn’t too much further. I don’t want to be the one carrying your frozen tail into camp, so keep walking!” Sam ordered, getting behind the Quilava and pushing him forward.

Don’t you think I’m trying? he wanted to scream, but he couldn’t get his chattering teeth to cooperate and make coherent words. Nevertheless, he willed his feet to move forward through the thick, cold mud that now covered the forest floor. It was then that the Ventus camp came into view. Never before in his life had he been so overjoyed to see the jumbled heap of tents, wooden poles, and bags of looted goods before in his life.

“…So, this is the place?” Sam asked. Something about her tone rubbed Finn the wrong way, and he turned to see that the look on her face seemed to indicate that she thought the place was a total dump.

“Either you take it or leave it, because I doubt any other group would take you in, much less help you. I don’t know what you’re used to wherever you came from but this is what we have,” Finn groaned as they hobbled past the now-abandoned sentry post into the heart of the camp.

“…Shutting up now,” Sam muttered quietly to herself as the two Pokemon trudged their way through the seemingly-deserted camp, the rain having drove every sensible Pokemon inside where they would have a small reprieve from the weather.

“T-there! There’s his tent!” Finn somehow managed to say through his chattering teeth. The tent in question was marginally larger than the identical piles of cloth, vines, and wood that surrounded it, but it had a single, tattered, green banner with a golden key in the middle. A relic from a successful conquest long ago.

Sam nodded, and looked over to the clearly uncomfortable Quilava. “Go on ahead in. I don’t have a problem with you running on in.” Finn sneezed and almost threw himself off balance. Without further delay, he stumbled forwards and through the curtain that acted as a door.

Sam followed, and was Finn saw she was caught off-guard as she entered. The sheer number of knickknacks scattered throughout the tent was mind-boggling. Most of it looked like junk with no real purpose, but she thought that she saw a book or five in amongst the sea of clutter.

“So… um… what exactly does one do with…” She grabbed at a round, white object. When she turned it over, she jumped a little.

“Erk! A Pachirisu skull…” she squeaked, her voice rising higher than usual at the piece of bone.

“Oh! Please don’t touch that! It’s quite rare! You have no idea the trouble I had to go through to procure it. I’d rather not say how many mercenaries I had to contact before I found one who had the item. Put it down this instant,” a voice, wizened from his many years, called out to her. Sam nearly dropped the artifact, but managed to juggle it in her hands before getting a firm hold on it.

From behind a wall of wooden chests, crates, and colorful cloths, a brown, bipedal creature nearly a foot taller than both Sam emerged. It wielded a segment of what looked to be a large bone as a walking staff and quickly navigated through the piles of strange items until he was face to face with her. Finn followed close behind him, still shivering slightly, though he looked slightly better off with a blanket wrapped around his body.

Sam smiled sheepishly as she gingerly placed the macabre object back on the top of the crate she had found it on.

“But what use is it, out of curiosity?”

The Marowak huffed as he dug about in a different crate, pulling various odd items and putting them on the floor next to Finn. Among the objects was a long rag, a few dried Cheri berries, and a round copper coin.

“The skull still retains some of the electrical nerve endings and is vital to perform some of the cures. Fortunately, one skull lasts an extremely long time. I got that one years ago in the black markets of the mountain villages, and it still holds up,” he explained as he slammed the drawer shut and turned his attention to Finn.

“Alright, now, let’s see what you’ve done to yourself this time,” Silas gently applied some pressure to the Quilava’s injured shoulder. Finn yelped in pain as Silas appeared to write the result down on a scrap of parchment.

“Yep, definitely dislocated. Now how’d you go and do that to yourself?” he asked as he used his club to knock aside several intricate pieces of machinery to make space on the desk. He motioned for his patient to hop up and sit on the wooden piece of furniture. “I assume it has something to do with this curious lady, right?” he guessed while a loosely wrapped the rag around Finn’s shoulder. Sam shrugged.

“…Well, not exactly. Apparently, I was in a tree he was climbing, and I fell on him when he removed a branch.” Finn simply nodded in agreement to the prophet who continued his task of winding the rag around Finn’s shoulder.

“Ah, so the firewood was a bust, I take it? Kaligo will have a few choice words for you when the storm passes, I reckon. Now here, bite down on this. I’m going to slowly pull your shoulder back into place,” Silas commented as he handed Finn the copper coin. He turned to Sam. “So, what’s your side of the story?” he asked as he prepared to pull on the rag.

“Well, let me ask you this, first- what can you do about amnesia?”

Silas stopped his operation for a moment, rubbing the bottom of his skull helmet as he thought.
“Let me think … There’s always the Ganlon Berry, it’s mainly for colds, but it’s acidic juices might shock your head into remembering. Though they only grow in the mountains where it’s drier… I could try a simple brew of herb leaves, that might work,” Silas said as he returned his attention to Finn.

“I’d like that, because I can’t remember much about myself. Only that I’m human-” she broke off, and paused for dramatic effect before continuing. “-and I’d like to know exactly what bits of my memory are missing.”

At the mention of the word “human” Silas’s body immediately turned back to face her, inadvertently pulling the rag on Finn’s shoulder. The bone snapped back into place with an audible pop and caused Finn to scream into the coin. Flames ignited on his back briefly as he struggled to contain the sudden pain.

“What did you say? Tell me again, please,” he asked, his breath short and ragged.

“Human. Homo sapiens sapiens,” she told him blandly. Despite his pain, Finn was amazed she had managed to remember that when she couldn’t recall her own name.

The Marowak immediately sprung into action. He threw down his bone staff and dashed over to a nearby table with a teetering stack of worn scrolls and books piled over it. He snatched one off the top and flipped through the pages while excitedly muttering under his breath the entire time.

Once he seemed to have found the page he was looking for, he hopped to another chest on the floor and pulled out a small wooden ruler and a small piece of curved glass which he fitted into the small indentation in his skull helmet in front of his right eye.

Before Sam or Finn could even begin to ask what he was doing, he started pacing around the Servine anxiously. He bent down and measured the length of the tip of her tail and the width of her almost nonexistent arms. Scribbling down each measurement while both Pokemon watched, one with curiosity, the other with confusion, Silas consulted his book once more, and, once satisfied, slammed it shut.

“I-I don’t believe it. To think that it would actually happen… Here, of all places…” he mused to no one in particular as he started going through his possessions and gathering small pieces of everything it seemed.

“The Gift of the Forest, indeed. I never thought it would be this literal… I thought the translation was off, but now… Tiresias was right. He was right… ” he continued to rant as he pushed Finn off the desk and rummaged through the contents of it.

“…Excuse me, but what?” Sam asked the older prophet, very much puzzled with the situation. Finn was equally perplexed, and now that the pain of having his shoulder roughly set was subsiding, he could process the situation as well.

“Silas, what’s going on? What are you doing?” Finn asked, standing next to Sam who was looking at him for some form of an explanation, but he had none for her.

The old Marowak poked his head up and turned to face them both while stuffing what looked like an entire dried jar of basil leaves into a satchel he produced from another pile of objects.

“Both of you, why are you standing there?! Go on, pack! We have to get going at once!” he yelled at them as he dashed by them to gather a small jar of red powder off of a shelf.

“…Going? Sir, I only just got here, and I’m no less confused than I was five minutes ago. A lot more confused absolutely, but that’s not even close to what I was going for…” Sam said, the words trailing off as she saw Silas grab the Pachirisu skull and gently place it in his bag.

“I’d like to second her statement, sir. I’m a little confused as well,” Finn concurred as he watched the prophet reluctantly stop his fervid packing and stare at them both.

“Finn, I’ve taught you some of what I’ve known over the last two years. Tell me, what is the basis of the Last Prophecy of Tiresias?” he asked while tapping his foot impatiently against the packed dirt floor.

“Sir, I don’t see how–” Finn started before the eccentric Pokemon cut him off.

“It means everything, boy! Now tell me!” Silas fumed.

“Umm… It was of the existence of the surface world and the theory of the gate, I think,” Finn answered, trying to recall a very specific segment of the ancient prophet’s massive collection of sayings and vaticinations during his fabled augury career.

“Correct! Now, there’s an old prophecy by Tiresias before he vanished saying how the way out would be revealed by a gift from the forest. ’Neither one nor the other, lost between two worlds.’ Those were the exact words. And, that’s where you come in, my dear. You have no idea how happy I am to finally meet you,” Silas explained with a slight bow towards Sam.

“…Um, thank you? I guess? Right?”

“No, no! Servine, I thank you! This is truly an opportunity of a lifetime- no, a century, a generation. Nothing like it has ever happened in the Abyss to my knowledge. You will be the means by which the Abyss opens up to us, my dear. So, go on and pack up. We haven’t the time to dawdle,” the Marowak said excitedly. Sam slowly began to look for something to pack in the pile of crates behind her before something in her head clicked.

“Wait, ‘the means by which the Abyss will open?’ You think I’m some kind of savior or something like that?”

Silas shook his head. “Not a savior, no, more like a trigger. A key, if you will. To open the sealed doors that have remained shut to us for so long. You’ll see the way out for us who are blind,” Silas explained as he carefully shoved a leather packet of lavender into his bag.

“I see. And ignoring prophecies for a moment, how else can you be sure I’m the one you need?”

Silas paused, a kind of pause when someone realizes their dream might come crashing down around them. After a second, he quickly shook his head.

“Well, your very presence here is evidence enough. No one suddenly arrives in the Abyss, not anymore. Not since the gates sealed themselves eons ago. You appeared in a tree, without memory, and had a life previously as a human from what you’ve told me. If I had the correct psychic instruments, I could tell if your story is true or not, but I have no reason to suspect you are lying,” Silas told her, pointing out the circumstances of her arrival that he had gathered.

Sam took a moment to carefully consider her response. The old man had seemed heartbroken at the prospect of her not being this hero, but she didn’t want to lead him along if she wasn’t…

“Sir? We’re ignoring some very real possibilities with this. First, you say that you have no reason to believe I’d lie. The only thing is that most would probably write off my story as a load of malarkey. I could be doing it for attention, or to try and rip you off. Second is, even if I’m telling the truth, what if it’s what I genuinely believe to be the truth, but it turns out to be wrong anyway?” she countered. She watched the prophet close his eyes, and take a deep breath.

“You don’t understand, child. Tiresias foretold this long ago; it is by his words we will find our way out. He has never lied in his prophecies, not once. Please, you must help me, Samantha. Help us all,” Silas pleaded, tears beginning to build up in his eyes.

“…Wait, how did you know my name? I didn’t tell you, and Finn was busy being treated by you, so… ” Sam said, backing away a few steps from Silas. The oracle straightened up.

“I am a prophet, my dear. I can see more than others can. Give me a moment to prove it to you… You hail from a city of vile stone far beyond the boundaries of the Abyss. You were not born here like us. That much is certain; not even the blessings of amnesia can wash away all knowledge of the Abyss from one who was born here. You are not of this world, and you are exactly what we need to break free of this prison,” he revealed to her after a moment of concentration. He gasped as if exhausted and leaned on the bone club.

“I haven’t had a vision like that in a long time. It must be true then, it has to be,” he said as Finn walked over to him and supported the Marowak.

Sam paused, not exactly sure how to react. It was a lot to take in, and she was still processing it. She found herself feeling a strange mix of emotions over this- apprehension, skepticism, and some fear, but at the same time curiosity, desire, and even a little bit of smugness about the whole thing.

Is any of this plausible, let alone possible? She began to stare at her hands while she thought, and abruptly had an epiphany. I’ve already seen a number of impossible things today, from behind impossible eyes, no less. Who’s to say that more won’t follow? And I haven’t had any complaints so far, so I may end up enjoying the ride anyway…

“What do you need me to do? Well, not in the long term, but as far as packing goes?” Sam asked with a tone that told the prophet she had accepted the role of savoir.

Silas’s eyes gleamed from behind his mask --not owing to the fact that he still had the glass fitted into one of the sockets. He quickly ran up to her and gave her a squeeze, wrapping his arms around her. He was almost in hysterics.

“Thank you! Thank you, for agreeing! This Pokemon may live to see the surface yet!” He swiftly let go of Sam, who was getting weirded out even more by his actions. The Marowak shook his head. “Anyways, umm… Yes, packing. Samantha, if you would be so kind as to head to the back of the tent and collect the two leather bags hanging on a hook? We’ll need those immediately. Finn, you go and see if you can swipe some food from Kaligo, preferably without him seeing you. Get dry things; we can’t afford to let anything spoil,” Silas ordered while he pulled several browned pieces of aged parchment out of the inner cover of a book. Finn groaned and silently headed towards the front of the tent wondering how he would manage the task.

Sam nodded, and began looking around for the hook in question. After about two minutes of looking around, rummaging, and outright moving large objects from one end of the tent to the other did she actually come across the bags in question. Slinging the pair of them over her shoulder, she maneuvered past the pile of Silas’s junk she had left out on the floor back to the front of the tent.

“Got them, right here.”

Silas didn’t seem to hear her at first, as he poured over various documents that could have had the answer to all the world’s problems but Sam couldn’t understand a bit of the strange symbols studded around the map. Silas was muttering something about finding the vein that leads to the heart when she decided to try and get his attention once again.

“Hey! Old dude- er, Silas!”

This got the Marowak’s attention. “Miss, I’ve been called a great many things in my many years alive, but I’d rather not be called ‘old dude’ in any way shape or form. Understand?” Without waiting for a response, he continued. “Ah, I see you found the bags! Wonderful! I had honestly lost track of the things when the Ventus moved camp last week. Anyways, I’d like you to help me get these maps and tools folded up and put into them. Try to distribute the weight evenly and leave space open for food when Finn gets back.” He directed her attention to a great array of faded documents and small metal instruments. He opened one of the bags and started placing the tools in the inner pouches and instructed her to do the same.

Sam began to carefully place the maps inside of the bag. She was about a quarter-way into the stack before a noise at the front of the tent very nearly startled her into knocking the rest of the stack onto the floor.

Finn marched out from behind the piles of objects followed closely by a large black-furred wolf. The Quilava rubbed the back of his neck in pain, and to Sam, it seemed like someone had forcefully grabbed him right where the patch of nerves sat. The black wolf turned to face both her and Silas while shoving Finn beside them with his paw. The beast’s piercing crimson eyes seemed to resonate the anger he felt.

“So … Exactly how were you planning on escaping without telling me about it? Silas, I thought I could trust you. And you, boy, you’ll be receiving much worse punishment than collecting firewood. Mark my words. And you, Servine, who are you, exactly, and why have you caused my prophet to abandon us?” he said to each one in turn with a low growl building up in his throat.

Sam shrugged, and rose to her feet. “I’m Sam. I woke up after falling out of a tree earlier. The only thing I can remember is that I’m human. Apparently, that’s a pretty big deal around here.”

Silas’s face went pale underneath his mask as he tried to get Sam to be quiet, but the damage was already done. “No, no! Creon, you must understand!” Silas said, panicking.

The Mightyena smiled. “Well, now things are beginning to make sense. I’ve known you ever since you advised my father, and you’ve talked non-stop about escape, so I know exactly what you’re planning,” the leader of the Ventus said. He took a breath as if preparing what he was going to say.

“And so, I and a few of my friends are coming with you. We refuse to be left to rot at the bottom of the Abyss. We’re going to escape, with or without you, Silas,” Creon told them. It wasn’t a request; it was the final word.

Finn’s head hurt, he hadn’t the time to process everything that had happened in the last thirty minutes. He had a vague idea of what Silas was planning, but not much more, though he knew Creon would kill them without a second thought if he needed to.

“Creon! What are you talking about? We’re not leaving,” Finn lied, hoping against hope that the gang leader bought the false statement.

“And I suppose these bags are packed up to reduce clutter?” Creon asked, his eyes flashing.

Sam smiled nervously. “Er, yeah. You see, Silas almost got buried by a pile of his stuff, so he decided to put it all together, and you’re not believing a word of this, are you?”

“I might have had the slightest possibility of taking your word for it had you not broken off at the end to confirm your lie.” The Mightyena was staring daggers at Sam. The altercation might have escalated from there if Silas hadn’t swung his club in between the gang leader and his new-found heroine.

“Listen to me, all of you! Creon, your sense of seeing lies is as acute as ever. Yes, we are leaving. And I do mean we, as in myself, Finn, and the girl, Sam. Now, I’ve served you and the Ventus for many years, but it’s time I take my business elsewhere,” he said as he steered himself in front of Creon, shielding Sam.

“You are planning on escaping, old man. I know you are; there is no business in this plan. I told you before, I am coming with you,” Creon stated as he looked down on the prophet. The two silently stood there, glaring at each other before Silas finally broke the stalemate.

“You may come. But mark my words, you and your friends will be one of the first to fall,” Silas said darkly, turning his back on the wolf. Creon simply nodded as he made his way to the exit.
He turned around before he left.

“Like you, I’ve waited my entire life for a chance to get out of here. I don’t plan on wasting it. I will get out, even if I have to use your corpses as a stairway.”

Sam eyed him as he left.

“Nice guy. Anyway, I’m curious, Silas- was that a threat, or a bit of prophecy?”

Silas sighed, still holding his club defensibly as if he expected another intrusion. He looked toward her and Finn. “If we’re lucky, a bit of both… I assume our ‘leader’ wants to leave at night, so we only have this day to ready ourselves. We’ll set out for the North Wall as soon as the sun sets.”

[b]Authors’ Notes:[/b] 

[b]Knightfall:[/b] I’m pleased with how this turned out. This story takes part of an idea I had been working on and sticks with together with Pokenutter’s idea. I look forward to writing more of this, and remember, reviews and constructive criticism are always welcome. 

[b]Pokenutter: [/b]I’m pretty happy with the results as well.  I’ve actually been interested in doing a collab for a few weeks now, and I’m glad I got the chance to start on one.  Any suggestions for improvement would be awesome- anything to help me become a better writer.

Knightfall & Pokenutter signing off...

Hmm, not much by the way of replies yet…

Chapter Two: Erebus Station

[i] “The sound resonated throughout the entire Abyss, I’m sure. The clang of steel clicking into place, the doors closing, the giant locks coming together for eternity. I knew that we were now separated from the world above, trapped in the world’s abyss. The Warden has spoke to us today. He told us that we would be safe. That we would be safe forevermore. Never was such a more wrong statement uttered.”[/i] 
[b]-Journal of Prophet Koal Atmos Torkoal, dated two days after the Closing.[/b]

Some might say it was a decision made on foolish impulse--- a dream of utmost folly--- but Creon knew what he was doing when he forced himself into the old Marowak’s plan. He slowly paced around his tent, looking for any potential items he would need on the journey. 

His choice to leave his position of power in the Ventus was something that he had thought about for a long while. There was the benefit of receiving the best loot of the raids and almost being assured food, heat, and shelter at all times, but the position was plagued by risks. He refused to learn the same way his father did as the acidic poison destroyed his body from the toxic meal he ate. 

[i]He was brought down by one of his closest friends out of greed, and I refuse to let that happen to me,[/i] he thought as he slipped a small leather pouch filled with a few pieces of coal around his neck. It mattered not to him if it was the last of the camp’s supply; he was no longer one of them. 

The Mightyena sighed as he took one last look at his dwelling --the nicest in the entire camp, as it actually stood on its own without need of support. He would miss it, but if his dreams were anywhere close to being true, the riches of the wings above would be his for the taking. If Silas was telling the truth and actually did have a way out, he would make sure he got first dibs on the spoils of the world outside the Abyss. 

He stealthily crept along the rows of tents, his dark hide blending into the pitch-black night of the rainforest. Creon breathed in the refreshing cool air, the humidity of the day sucked away by the vents and ducts on the ceiling. He tried his best to avoid touching the damp ground in fear of making noise, but it was unavoidable. He was glad he decided to order Kaligo to doll out more food rations tonight, as most of the Pokemon were sound asleep by now from the slightly increased meal they received. 

“Creon... What are you doing?” 

The Mightyena froze mid-step. He hadn’t expected any encounters on his way to meet the prophet and his two tagalongs. Creon slowly turned his head to face the Pokemon who hailed him, his paw still paused inches above the ground. As soon as he saw the right red feathered-crown and the bone-white claws of his security captain, his he let out a soft curse that rode under his breath. There was no way he was getting past Cedric like this. The Weavile would surely want to question where he was going with the last of the coal and a bag laden with supplies. Creon straightened up and faced Cedric. The ice-weasel was tapping his foot impatiently on the ground waiting for an answer. 

“Ah, Cedric. It’s you, just the one I wanted to see!” Creon said with forced enthusiasm, even managing to put on a toothy grin to top the facade. “I recently heard a rumor of a small stash of goods in a clearing up north in the forest, abandoned by some humans. I was going to check it out tonight and if needed, return with a crew the next day to retrieve it,” Creon told him. He knew it wasn’t the most convincing lie he had ever told; even the girl’s half-hearted attempt earlier was more believable than this. He only needed to distract the Weavile for a minute while he casually raised his forepaw to the bag around neck. 

“Hmm, a cache of supplies? That will prove useful if the rumor is true. But tell me, Creon, why do you go out alone? You usually never go without a guard. What is it you are really doing with the last of our coal? Treason is something I would not expect from you,” Cedric sneered, taking a step forward towards the Mightyena, his claws raised and at the ready. 

[i]Damn the Prophets![/i] Creon bitterly thought as he tried to think of an answer. He still hadn’t found what he was looking for and he didn’t have much time. The tiny, round surface of the Blast Seed he had stowed away remained hidden from him. 

“What is this? Are you threatening me? Is this mutiny?” he shouted, his voice deliberately raised so that the camp could hear. Cedric immediately recoiled, pulling his claws away at the shout. 
Creon would have smiled in satisfaction if he had the time. It was an old trick his father had taught him, twisting a question around completely against an enemy. 

It was now or never. Cedric would almost certainly try again to find out the truth in a few seconds. Creon gave up on finding the explosive grain and settled on the small glass sphere. He pulled out the Orb and slugged it into the Weavile. The object shattered upon contact with Cedric’s torso and instantly, a blinding light exploded from among the shards. Creon looked away at the last moment, avoiding the worse of the Orb’s effects. 

Over the loud curses and swears of the security captain, Creon heard the sounds of the camp stirring. He had hoped that it wouldn’t come to this, but there was nothing he could do now but run. The ex-leader tensed his legs and bounded over a low-lying shelf, putting a little distance between himself and Cedric. Creon watched the vague shapes of tents, Pokemon, and crates go by in a blur as he sprinted through the camp. Dirt sprayed up in all directions as his claws tore across the ground. 

A flash of blue from behind him and a thud and explosion of gravel nearly threw him off course, but he continued his dash. He didn’t expect Cedric to start attacking so soon, but as long as he kept up the pace, he would easily evade the blasts of ice. 

He saw the sentry posts come into view, and the dark forest looming just beyond them like mountains. Somehow, his legs moved even faster, and his panting more rapid as his body lessened the distance between him and freedom. A large shard of ice shot past him and demolished half of the right watchpost in a shower of glittering fragments. He paid no attention to it as he thundered on through the exit and into the forest. 

He knew exactly which clearing the prophet’s crew and Kaligo would be waiting for him. Now, it was a matter of evading the Ventus for a few hours longer until they found a way through the Wall. Creon moved his legs even faster, his lungs beginning to burn as he darted through the forest. 
Sam shifted her bag over to her other shoulder. It had now been an hour, and she was beginning to get tired of waiting. She turned to the Togetic over to her right. “Does your boss always take this long?”

The old and grizzled cook shrugged, barely bothering to nod slightly. “No one’s leaving until he returns. You’re just going to have to wait.”

Sam sighed dramatically, and laid down in front of a nearby tree. “This is freaking dull! Remind me to have a word with him when he gets back-- it’s not cool to force people to wait on you!” she whined. 

“Throwing a tantrum won’t make him arrive any faster,” Kaligo grumbled as he tried to plug his ears with his small hands. 

“I know, but it’ll make me feel better...” Sam replied with a huff. Kaligo fixed her with a glare, and she realized that he seemed to be close to snapping. “Er...  Right. I’ll stop bothering you.”

Deciding the others may be slightly more sympathetic, she wandered over next to Finn, and leaned against the tree he was sitting under. “So...  Does he usually take this long?” she asked.

Finn looked up from a scroll he was reading by the light of the small fire in the center of the clearing. “Not usually. He has a history of being quick with everything that he thinks is important. I don’t know what’s keeping him,” he said with a shrug before rolling up the faded scroll.  

Sam thought for a moment. “You think there’s any chance he’s run into trouble?”

Again, the Quilava’s body language signaled his lack of knowledge on the subject. “I don’t know. It’s a possibility. If anyone saw him heading out with supplies, they’d be suspicious. At least two kids, a cook, and a old prophet aren’t as important to the Ventus, so we got out easily enough.” 

“I’m actually kind of surprised that I didn’t get as many people asking me who I was. Are you guys a large organization?” the Servine said, recalling the overall causal nature of their flight from the camp. 

“Shows you how much the [i]Pokemon[/i] here care about things outside their own pile of loot. And kinda, we’ve got over two hundred Pokemon in all,” Finn told her, putting emphasis on the word Pokemon before lowering his voice, “but if it weren’t for Creon, Cedric, and Silas keeping order, they’d all slaughter each other over a piece of bread.” 

Looking up to make sure the Togetic by the fire wasn’t listening in, he continued. “Silas is the real reason the Ventus is an organized group, as long as he backed up Creon’s orders, they all followed him like sheep,” he told her, his eyes darting across the glade over to the old prophet, who was trying to talk to the former cook.

“...So, this place is going to go nuts after we leave?” Sam theorized 

“It depends. I’m sure that someone will try and take control, but it won’t last. There was a time where Silas went away for a week last year, and Creon barely managed to keep things in order. Even then, it resulted in five Pokemon being put to death,” Finn explained with a small shudder running up his back. 

“Ah. So, it’s probably not going to be pleasant if we ever come back. How did they keep order?” she inquired, becoming drawn into the tragic tale. 

Finn closed his eyes and shook his head. “It’s something I’d rather not talk about. I only just arrived in the camp then, and it was … It was bad. Seeing someone killed a few feet away from you leaves a lasting impression. Cedric, the Weavile. He kept them from revolting using fear of immediate death,” he recounted, his mood sobering immensely as Sam could almost see the  vivid memories return to him. 

“Hey, relax. You don’t need to say anything more about it...” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. 

Finn nodded. “Yeah, last year wasn’t good. Well, anyways, what about you? Do you remember anything, yet?” he inquired, only vaguely looking towards Silas and Kaligo, both of which had somehow gotten into a shouting match over the rationale behind the prophet’s plan. 

“Well, not much as far as personal memories. Tell you what, though, I’ve got about eleven songs stuck in my head, although that’s probably not helpful at all,” she reported with a light chuckle. 

Finn tilted his head to the side. “You don’t seem to be taking your situation seriously. I mean, you have no memories, and you’ve transformed from a … one of them. It just seems to me that you’re not reacting like I’d expect someone to,” he observed. 

“Well, I’ve got two reasons for that. First off, I was probably unconscious when I lost my memory.  If I were conscious, I’d probably have been a screaming mess initially-- probably still would be.” Sam broke off, and was quiet for a moment.  When she realized that Finn was staring at her, she quickly continued the original thought.  “Oh!  Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah! Anyway, I didn’t experience the memory loss, so there’s nothing for me to be scared of. Second, it’s not like I know what I lost. If I had a better idea of that, I may be more concerned. I could be literally anyone- it’s hard to get all worked up over a very large loss like that. Like, say... Hmm, not a lot of really good examples of this that don’t involve dead family members...” she explained calmly, brushing off the memory loss as if it was not a big deal. 

Finn didn’t seem completely satisfied with the answer. He was about to ask her another question when the sound of branches snapping and breaking echoed through the clearing. Everyone turned their heads just in time to see the large black figure of Creon come crashing through the wall of undergrowth and skid to a halt in the middle of the glade, his claws making deep lines in the soft dirt as he slid. 

“W-what are you all doing? Get up! We have to go!” the Mightyena barked, panting heavily. 

Sam stood, and looked like she was about to give Creon a piece of her mind.  A second before speaking, however, she took note of the urgency in his voice.  She nodded.  “Okay, but the minute we get away from whatever’s chasing us, you and I are going to have words. Capiche?”

Creon glared at her. “We can talk later, [i]human[/i],” he snarled, putting as much venom as he could into the word. “Right now, though, we have to move unless you all want to be decapitated!” His sudden outburst snapped Silas and Kaligo out of their argument and they quickly fetched their various possessions.  

Sam picked her bag up again, and nodded to Creon.  “Which way are we running, and who from?”

The Mightyena seemed to have calmed down somewhat after getting his breath back from earlier. “North, as our master seer would tell us, towards the Wall. And, I believe Finney here knows just who it is we’re running from,” he answered as he kept a close watch on the southern path leading towards the enraged camp. Silas had just finished shoving the last of his charts he  had been studying into his satchel, Finn was busy stamping out the small fire they had used for light, and neither bothered to explain Creon’s vague response further. 

Sam turned to Finn. “Want to explain while we run for our lives?”  She could barely see him, or anyone else in the darkness, but she saw Finn’s outline give her a nod as he gathered up his bag from the forest floor. Kaligo cursed loudly at not being able to find his own bag, while Silas threatened to smack him with his club if the Togetic didn’t shut up. 

Silas hadn’t moved this fast in years. The last time he could remember sprinting for his life, it was easily a decade. When he had foolishly wandered into the human settlements. His short legs felt as if he had stepped in a pile of hot coal as he tried to keep up with Creon and the short-tempered Togetic that seemed to easily fly through the air with his small wings.

Finn and Sam were both purposely staying slow to stay with him, even though Creon constantly yelled at them to get a move on. The dense growth of plants scratched and clawed at them like vicious animals wanting scraps as they dashed through the brush on the forest floor. Silas barely had the time to check the direction with his makeshift compass of a Magnemite’s hand and a polished rock to ensure they were still heading north, even though the Wall loomed even through the tops of the trees as a obsidian megalith .

“We should be nearing a set of ruins! Look around for anything made of stone, that’ll be what we’re looking for, not the Wall itself!” Silas yelled up to the rest of the group, desperately hoping that the charts he had read proved to be correct. He scanned the area, searching around for the ruins. Despite the fact that stone would naturally stand out from a forest even at night, it was some time before he heard Finn shouting.

“There! Over to our left!” the Quilava exclaimed, small jets of fire bursting from behind his neck in excitement. Silas tried to focus on what his apprentice was pointing at through the mass of dark trees. The forest seemed to meld together into a single shadowy cloak, but, sure enough, Silas could see several small, jagged pieces of dull white breaking through the growth like shattered teeth on a jawbone.

With a quick yell to Creon and Kaligo at the front, the Marowak dove into the thicket, his club beating aside the branches in an attempt to make a path to the ruins. Even above his own excited heartbeat, he could pick up the faint cries and curses of the Ventus mob gaining ground as they trampled through the forest.

With a final swing of the bone, Silas broke through a wall of vines and, gasping slightly, walked into a small clearing dotted all around with the stone structures. He looked behind for only a moment only to see if the others were following as one by one they stepped into the glade.

“Alright, according to my copy of The Abyssal Codex, we’re looking for a metal porthole. A hatch of some sort. It doesn’t offer much by the way of description, but I’m pretty sure you’ll know when you find it. It should be very close to these ruins, so keep a sharp eye and use your feet to feel for it if necessary,” he addressed the small band of Pokemon in front of him. More or less, they all nodded and began their search, even, to Silas’s pleasure, Creon was shuffling his feet in the thick grass. He heard a shout from beyond the clearing, and he knew that the mob Creon had stirred wasn’t far behind.

Just a little longer. Please Tiresias, keep them away.

Finn couldn’t help but feel excited. Within the span of a few hours, his entire life had been turned upside down: he was away from the Ventus--save for Creon and the cook--, he met the enigma that was Sam, and he had Silas to guide him. He couldn’t think of anything better to have happened to him in the last three years. 

He shuffled his feet through the grass, only forcing the nerves on his neck to ignite for an instant to give him a quick glance of the ground. So far, he hadn’t felt anything out of the ordinary in the spongy soil, and he was almost out of the small circle of oddly placed stones. Looking around, he saw Silas probing the dirt near the stones with his staff, Creon and Kaligo pushing side weeds in search of the metal hatch, and Sam walking around the stones searching for the hatch, same as him. 

“Any luck yet?” he inquired, walking over to the Servine. 

“None. You’d think a metal circle’d be easy to find around here, but I suppose not...” she replied while she peered through another clump of weeds. Sam turned, and was about to look behind a bush when she let out a yelp, and fell forward into her face. She didn’t react for a moment, and then called out, “Silas! Big, round, painful metal thing?”

Finn ran forwards, and offered her his paw. While she got up from her spill, Finn saw what exactly it was she tripped over. Just as she described it, it was big, round, and from the look of it, probably metal. How they all overlooked the thing for five minutes straight was odd, but he wasn’t going to question it. [i]Maybe the prophets of old are finally going to help us,[/i] he thought to himself. 

Silas came hobbling up to them, leaping over a stone, and stumbling behind them until he saw the strange object with his own eyes. The sounds of grass shifting told Finn that Creon and Kaligo were observing as well. Silas bent down to examine the surface. 

“Finn, shed a little light on this, please. My eyes can’t see their best in the dark anymore,” the prophet told him. Finn nodded as something in the back of his mind told him this wouldn’t be the last time he was going act as a lantern on this journey. He ignited the patches on both his neck and tail and crouched next to Silas. 

“Hmm, alright, the translation might be a bit rusty as some of the letters have rusted off themselves, but I’m fairly certain that we have to have a key,” he told them, pointing to a small, cylindrical, indentation on the ancient surface. 

Sam nodded. “Do we have one? Or is it going to be easier to just try and break our way through?  What do the hinges look like?”

“Very observant of you, Samantha. Though, unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if this hatch is locked on both sides and no one has the key. But, I do happen to have an instrument that might work just as well. I came across it during my travels, and hopefully it will be worth the silver I paid for it,” Silas answered as he pulled off his satchel and started to dig through it, trying to find the object in question. 

Finn wasn’t sure which one of the many strange tools the prophet was referring to, but as soon as Silas pulled out a thin, metal, cylinder with a single delicate prong on the end, he remembered the story behind it and barely suppressed a chuckle. Silas was partly right with the silver, but he left out that he had dropped the money and his entire bag after swiping the item from a merchant in the mountains. 

Silas carefully stuck the pronged end into the indent and shifted the tool around until it traveled further into the hatch. Once it was in up to the handle, Silas slowly twisted his hand around, his helmet pressed against the hatch listening for the tell-tale clanging noise of the lock opening. 

“You may want to hurry that up, Silas. I can hear Cedric from here,” Creon warned from behind. Finn watched as the nervous black wolf kept watch on both paths. Silas simply shushed him as he continued turning the handle. 

Finn was tiring from keeping his fire going for so long; the feeling was akin to holding his breath in for a long time. Both activities left him feeling light-headed and disoriented afterwards. He desperately hoped that his mentor was close to cracking the lock, otherwise he wasn’t sure how long his fire would last before he passed out.

“Silas, you almost there?” he gasped, the dizziness starting to set in. Whatever the prophet was going to say next, it was cut off immediately by Creon. 

“Hit the deck, now!” the Mightyena shouted before dropping down into the grass. Finn didn’t entirely register the order in his dazed state, but he didn’t have the time to wonder as Silas grabbed the back of his neck below the flames and forced him down onto the metal surface of the hatch. A grunt from Sam told Finn that the prophet had done something similar to her before flattening himself against the ground. 

Finn heard several low hisses as blasts of freezing air rushed over his head, nearly putting out his dimming fire. The icy missiles shattered as they collided against the row of trees beyond them, instantly freezing the trunk and branches under a coat of thick ice. 

“So! This is where our leader is! Cowering on the ground with a senile priest, two children, and the cook. I’ll admit, I did not see this coming. Not from you, Creon,” the Weavile observed disappointedly as he cautiously walked into the clearing. 

Sam poked her head up and got a good view of the speaker before ducking back down.  “Creon!” she hissed.

“What is it?” he said, a low whimper caught along the edge of his voice. Sam could tell that even he, the ruthless gang leader, felt afraid at this new intruder. 

“Why do you desert us, Creon?” the security captain asked, his voice echoing through the field of stones.

“That Weavile- is he the strongest one here?” she asked, getting another look at the Pokemon as he inched closer to them, his claws glowing in preparation of another attack. 

The Mightyena thought for a split second before nodding. “Yes, but he’ll have the rest of the camp on him in a second. I can hear them now; they’re not far off.”

“Right. Two things- first, have you ever heard the old saying about hacking off a Serperior’s head?” she asked, her voice barely audible among the swaying grass. 

“Answer me, Creon! What could you possibly want with these imbeciles?” Cedric shouted, getting impatient at the Mightyena’s silence towards him. 

“Yeah: cut off the head, and the body dies. You’re seriously suggesting that we take him out to try and demoralize the rest of them? It’s not probable,” he muttered grimly. 

“Look, the more we argue, the closer they get. It’s worth a shot. Anyway, he’s a Weavile. Hit him with Fighting-type attacks, and minimize yourself as a target. If we all gang up on him at once, we might stand a chance. He’ll be pretty fast, too, but it’s unlikely that he’ll manage to take all of us out. After that, he’ll have carved symbols in trees that tell the rest of the Ventus where we are, so we’ll have to skedaddle. Sound good?”

“I think you underestimate my security captain. The boy did tell you of the executions last year, right?” Creon grumbled, defeat firmly gaining hold of him. Finn however, was somewhat fascinated by Sam’s sudden shift in attitude. For only having known her for a few hours, she had already exhibited several different facets of her personality.

“What of the Ventus vow? No one leaves the Ventus, Creon!” Cedric exclaimed, but his yell was cut off as a loud metal thud echoed throughout the forest from directly underneath the group. All of the talk ceased for a brief moment as even Cedric looked about for the source of the disturbance. 

Suddenly, the metal hatch beneath them flew upwards, the rusty hinges shrieking in agony as they were rudely awakened from their eon-long slumber. Finn, Sam, and Silas were thrown off the rising cover and tumbled onto the grass. 

Time seemed to stop as the wide maw of the hole opened up to them. Fumes of stale air rose from the hole, along with a large cloud of rust-colored dust that sprayed the surrounding areas a dull orange color. The Weavile just stood where he was, rooted to the spot in a strange awe of the structure. Opening the once forbidden and now forgotten pathways into the Abyss’s heart were enough to stop anyone for a moment. 

Silas had barely rolled off his his back before running to the side of the hole and dropping down inside. As if snapping out of a trance caused by the opening, they, one by one, followed the prophet as fast as they knew how. The Togetic was the first to flutter over to the hole and drop down, immediately followed by Creon, who leaped over the rim into the pit. 

Giving an affirmative nod to Sam, they both got up off the ground and dove for the pitch black opening. Finn giving a slight jump as he grabbed the edge of the hatch with his paws. Using his weight, he swung himself to that the metal barrier shifted forward and began to close on itself. 

“No one leaves the Ventus, Creon! No one!” the enraged Weavile howled as he started sprinting for the opening himself. Finn let go a fraction of a second before the barrier slammed shut, cutting off Cedric’s voice. The Quilava dropped, a split second of terror ensued as he fell through the dark air until his legs jarred themselves against the floor. A series of sharp clangs resounded off the closed hatch, and Finn suspected it was Cedric’s claws trying to pry the cover open. 

“So, we’re in … where ever this is. What do we do now?” Creon asked as he slowly raised himself up from the hard floor of the shaft. Ignoring the dull pain in his lower body from his fall, Finn tried to look around the area. After a few seconds, it became apparent that there was no light source in the ancient structure. 

Suddenly, a bright yellow light flashed to his right. Shielding his eyes, Finn could see Silas holding a small branch with a flame on the end while he slipped a small steel tool back into the bag slung around his shoulder. The Marowak waved the torch in front of him as he called out to the group. 

“Alright, who’s not dead. Sound off,” the old prophet ordered, eliciting a chorus of various groans and muffled ”Here”s from the group of Pokemon. Finn walked into the small circle of light produced by the torch. “Finn, we’ll need a bit more light. I’m sorry to ask you again on such short notice, but the circumstances have changed. We need to see what we’re up against,” Silas asked as he knelt down beside the wall of the shaft and examined the floor. 

Had it been any other situation, Finn would have groaned at the thought of being pushed to exhaustion again. But Silas was right; the situation had changed. He took a deep breath as he ignited the twin patches on his head and tail. Immediately, light flooded the entire chamber, revealing it to be a cylindrical room that had a small set of stairs heading downwards into the darkness. 

Sam pulled herself upright and looked over towards Silas. “So, where exactly are we? I mean, it’s obvious that we haven’t gone far- I can still hear that Weavile’s claws up there. Um, further question- what do you think the odds are that he breaks through?” she asked, worriedly looking up towards the faint circular outline of the hatch. 

Silas brought himself up from his observation. “Well, it looks as if we are in some sort of maintenance shaft. Though, what exactly it is for, I’m not sure yet. But, we are one step closer to the surface. And, that hatch above is made of some sort of iron alloy. Very strong, which is why I did not try to break the hinges. Cedric might break through, though it will be a long while,” Silas told her as he paced around the room and made sure everyone was on their feet once more, even offering Kaligo a paw up. 

“So we’ve got time, then. That’s good.”  Finn noticed that she seemed to be making an effort to relax. Kaligo shuffled over to the torch light.

“Well, Silas, we’re in a hole. That’s all I can see. I don’t see no treasure or light down here. So, you’d better have a good plan on getting us outta here,” the Togetic snapped, slapping a paw on the metal walls in anger as he approached Silas. Finn immediately moved in front of the cook and shoved him away with his paw. 

“Listen, we just escaped being killed up there. Give us a minute to figure this out,” Finn hissed as he flared his fires even brighter. Kaligo simply turned away muttering hushed curses against magic and prophets. Silas ignored the outburst and walked through the group until he reached the rectangular hole in the floor that signaled the beginnings of the stair downwards. 

“Well, as going up is no longer a viable option, we must go down. I’ll go first, and Creon, you can take the end. Don’t come down until I say so. I want to test the stairs out,” he said as he disappeared into the hole, the small orange light of his torch bobbing up and down on the walls with each step the Marowak took. 

As they all waited for Silas’s all-clear, they listened to the rhythmic clanging and heavy thuds on the top hatch by Cedric and the rest of the Ventus mob. By the light of his fire, he could see Creon nervously pacing on the very edge of the hole, cringing every time a particularly strong hit from above reverberated through the steel room. Kaligo was sitting down against a wall, thankfully far enough away from Finn to avoid any direct conversation. Sam, however didn’t seem as worried or angry as the other two; in fact, Finn could almost swear she was tapping her foot in time to the thrashings of the enraged Pokemon above. 

“Sam, have you ever been in a room like this? I mean, it’s made entirely of metal … I’ve never seen so much in one place in the forest,” he asked her, looking around the room curiously. 

“Hmmm...  Tough to say.  Let me think...”  Sam continued tapping her feet for a minute, and then spent several seconds trying to snap her fingers before giving up and getting to the point.  “Ah! I think I have something. It was a warehouse of some sort...  The owners had long since skipped town. No idea what I was doing there, but It was large and metal on the inside.  This, however...  The general lack of light seems to fit more with a number of fictional works I’ve read...  The width of that stairway over there is kind of similar to the archetypical narrow hallways of military spaceships in science fiction,” she answered, closing her eyes as she tried to visualize the returning memories.

“Oh, so you have... So, I guess that means your memory is coming back a bit. And, I know I’m going to regret asking, but what is this ‘space’ you mentioned?” Finn asked her, puzzled by her use of unfamiliar terms. 

“Well, you see...  Imagine the world is a marble.  Space is everything around that marble- you know what?  Let me start over.  The marble’s floating in the middle of a void. The void in question holds...  Okay, one more try,” she said as she fumbled over her words searching for an appropriate explanation. “The world’s a marble. Space is an area of vacuum outside of it and all the other planets, moons, and stars. And a spaceship is a device in fiction that lets humans and Pokémon travel through space. Does that make any kind of sense?”

Finn didn’t say anything as he tried to let the strange and new terms sink in. He sat down on the floor, letting his feet hang off the edge of the hole above the stairs. [i]Space? Moons? Stars? Planets? What is she talking about?[/i] he thought as he turned to her again. 

“I’ll be honest, the only word I understood in that entire explanation was ‘marble.’ Not even Silas has ever used terms like ‘space’ and ‘stars’... You really must not be from the Abyss,” he sighed, his flames dimming down a degree, making the shadows in the room even longer against the walls. 

“Would you like me to try and explain any of those terms?  I swear, it won’t be as embarrassing as trying to explain space,” she asked tentatively. 

Finn shook his head. “You know, I think I’ll wait until we get out of here. Then you can explain them to me. Deal?” he told her, holding out a paw towards her.

“Alright, sounds like a plan. Tell you what, though, if even the concept of stars is alien to you, then I think we’ll have to wait for your mind to finish being blown from the surface before I explain anything else,” she responded, barely managing to shake his paw in agreement. 

“Tell me, is it really as Silas and some of the other Pokemon said? Is it a paradise up there?” Finn asked, his voice low as to keep Creon and Kaligo outside their conversation.

Sam sighed a little. “Well, that’s tough to say. In most parts I’ve been, it’s got its share of problems, but no one’s going to try and shank you at the slightest provocation,” she explained, searching her surfacing memories for details.

Finn shrugged his shoulders. “That’s a start at least...” Finn wasn’t sure where the question came from, but he asked it nonetheless. “Sam, did you have any family up there?” 

Sam thought for a while, and sighed. For the first time, her reply sounded somewhat dejected.  “Either the answer is no, or I simply can’t remember. I guess the amnesia’s only willing to give up so much at a time.”

Finn looked down into the stairway. “Oh, I see. I’m sorry to hear that. I … I remember my mom, though it’s been a while since I last saw her. At least I remember her, though,” Finn said as Silas’s bone club was heard thumping on the metal steps below, signaling that it was all clear below. 

Sam stood, and Finn got the sense that she was smiling a little. “Want to tell me a bit about her while we walk? Or is that a topic for another time?”

Finn got to his feet as he allowed Sam to enter down the stairs first before entering himself. “Well, I think we can save it for another time. Something tells me that we’re going to have a lot of time for discussion until we get out of here,” Finn told her as he tried to keep up with her pace, with was only slightly below a sprint. He watched as the circular walls coiled around like a serpent and around as they ran down the spiral stair, almost hugging the wall on their right as there was a hole that lead straight to the heart of the Abyss in the center. 

The shaft seemed to go on endlessly, the walls repeating the same coiling pattern every hundred steps, making it hard to judge whether they were actually moving or not. Finn could barely make out the small pinprick of light that glowed further down on the stairway from Silas’s branch. 
The Abyss was not used to having intruders within its inner workings, however, and more than once, Sam nearly lost her balance as a metal step snapped and fell into the darkness below. Then, it became a concern for Finn, Creon, and Kaligo not to fall into any of the gaps themselves as they followed her down the path. Finn was fortunate enough to have his own light, but the ex-leader and the cook had a more difficult time making their way down the poorly lit path. 

As the light from Silas’s torch grew closer, Finn could faintly make out the prophet’s excited yells from down below. The small figure of the Marowak seemed to be stopped at a small outcropping along the sloping stair. Finn wondered what exactly the prophet could have found that had made him so eager to get them down there, but then again, Silas did have a tendency to overreact to the simplest of things at times. 

“Move it, boy!” Creon snarled from behind Finn, causing the Quilava to nearly yelp as he was shaken from his thoughts. “We haven’t got all day. The wise-one wants us to see something shiny he found down there, and this time, I actually want to see it,” the Mightyena growled as Finn tried jogging as fast as his legs would carry him. Sam was almost to Silas, Finn noted, and it had only been a minute since she was right in front of him.   

“Use your paws, boy! I swear, you better move otherwise I’ll knock you off myself!” With that last threat, Finn grudgingly shifted his bag further up on his back and dropped to all fours. Getting a better grip on the stairs, he was able to double his pace on his way down. 

Soon enough, Finn ground to a halt on the very edge of the small platform, nearly slamming into Silas as he tried to rise off the ground. Finn’s head swam as he leaned against the wall for support. His field of vision tilted upwards and sideways despite not moving his head, only making the problem worse. 

“Finn, what’s up? You feeling alright?” Sam asked as Finn simply nodded, rubbing the sides of his head with his paws. 

“He’s fine, it’s just his fire. You can go ahead and put it out now, Finn. I think we’ll be alright without it for a bit,” Silas told him as he reached forward to examine the section of wall in front of him. Finn sighed with relief as he allowed his overtaxed flame to take rest, leaving only Silas’s torch to light the small platform. 

Silas took his bone staff in one hand and slammed it against the center of the wall. Unlike the dull, metallic thud they expected to hear, a sharp, hollow, ringing noise echoed throughout the shaft. Silas backed away from the seemingly normal section of wall with a grin. 

“That nearly confirms it. There is a door here. Cleverly hidden, I’ll give it that. You could pass right by it if you were not looking,” he explained as he traced the almost invisible outline of the doorway in the groves of the wall with his club. 

“Alright, so, now we have a door. How do we get in? I don’t see any slot for a key, and I don’t think you have another one of those unlocking machines hidden on you, correct?” Creon demanded as he ran his own forepaw along the smooth metal surface. 

Silas handed the torch to Sam as he bent down and turned the contents of his bag inside out. He carefully set aside folded charts and maps, a small cloth bag filled with nearly stale wafers of bread, and two other metal contraptions, though neither were what he wanted. Silas uttered a hushed curse as he suddenly realized that the machine in question was now probably smashed by Cedric and the mob far above their heads. 

He slowly looked up at the Mightyena, the flickering light making the skull helmet he wore cast sinister shadows upon the walls.  “Well, it seems we truly are in a bind, aren’t we Creon? Do you suppose it is too late to ask Cedric for forgiveness?” 

“What are you talking about? There are stairs going downwards, right? Why don’t l just go until we find a door that [i]is[/i] open,” Creon suggested, moving towards the edge of the platform where the ramp for the stairs would have continued downwards. 

Silas shook his head. “No, the entire section has collapsed, and I doubt that even you, Creon, could make the jump to the other side.” The Marowak turned and faced the faux wall once more, rubbing the bottom of his helmet in deep thought. 

Finn got to his feet and stood beside Sam, looking for some sign on the seemingly barren metal surface that might provide a clue as to how to open the thing. Creon paced impatiently in a tight circle to the right of them and Kaligo was standing near the remaining stairs with his small arms crossed, looking as unpleasant as ever. 

“There’s got to be a way... I mean, they wouldn’t just put a dead end here, would they?” Finn wondered out-loud as Silas once again tried whacking the steel wall with his club, but despite the ferocious swings, the action was in vain. 

Sam raised a hand.  “Mind if I have a whack at it?”

Silas turned around, looked at her quizzically, and shrugged, putting down his club and moving to the side, gasping for breath. She handed him back the torch, and hefted up the bone club.  “Wow, this is a lot heavier than it looks...” she commented as her feet wobbled underneath the weight of the club. 

She leaned backwards, gripped the bone loosely, and swung forward. Too late to shout a warning about how wrong she was holding the weapon,  Silas was forced to watch as she dropped the bone a second later.

“Gah, my hands!” she exclaimed in pain as the rebound from the strike jarred her hands. Letting off a grumbled curse, she kicked the fallen club away with her foot. 

She leaned against the door, busy shaking her leafy hands to cool off the burning sensation from rough surface of the weapon.  “If I ever use that thing again, don’t let me swing it without asking for a short tutorial, alright?”

Silas never got the chance to respond, for as soon as Sam’s body touched the surface of the door, a great shudder ran through the ancient shaft. Eons-worth of rust shook loose and rained down on them from the metal steps above, dusting the entire platform an orange color. Slow, heavy clanging resonated throughout the area as hydraulics and gears strained somewhere deep inside the walls. 

Sam hopped backwards in alarm, almost falling over the edge of the stairs.  Finn grabbed at her, and steadied her before she finally gave a verbal response.  “Holy hell, what just happened?” she shouted, shock clearly written across her face.

Finn couldn’t have answered her even if he tried, as the volume of the unseen machines grew with every passing second. Each thunderous thud of the gears made the entire platform shake violently and sent multitudes of the metal steps above clattering down upon them as a lethal hailstorm. 

Just as it started, however, the noise suddenly stopped. The group silently stared as the wall slid backwards with a hiss of high pressure steam and raised to reveal yet another dark hallway. They wasted no time ducking inside the new sanctuary as the rain of metal continued to pelt the small area they stood on. 

“Remind me to hit more things with bones, though. I’d call this a good result,” Sam breathed as they ran through the passage. 

“No. It wasn’t the club. It was [i]you[/i], my dear. Tiresias promised he would send us a key that would shake open the foundations. And what you just did by touching the door proves that the prophecy is true!” Silas gasped as he gathered his wits inside the relative calm of the damp, dark corridor. 

There was a loud creak from the staircase outside the passage. The group went silent as the metal staircase bent and snapped its holdings, the entire structure collapsing into the endless abyss below. Sparks went up from the tremendous screeching against the stone walls, lighting up the destruction in thousands of miniscule flashes as it thundered downwards. Clouds of dust billowed into the hallway, forcing the group to run further inside to escape the choking particles. 

Sam glanced behind her as she ran, and shouted forward to Silas. “Shake open the foundations? This Tiresias person was a bit of a literalist, wasn’t he?”

“Well, Tiresias was the first Prophet in the Abyss. His sayings were always literal in a sense, but I’m certain no one expected this one to be as literal as it was. Your appearing from the forest, opening the door with only your touch, all of that was unexpectedly linear with what he foretold, which is different than his previous prophecies,” Silas wheezed as he dropped back to take up the rear of the group, letting Creon take point. 

Sam was curious. [i]This guy had other prophecies too?[/i] “Previous prophecies? What were they like?” 

Silas shook his head. “For another time, my dear. It would days to go through even a fraction of them all. Once we find a suitable place to rest, you can get Finn to tell you a few of the classic ones,” Silas suggested as he urged them forward through the pitch-black hall. 

The prophet’s torch was nearly out, and Finn’s flames were glowing dimmer than even the lowest embers, making the passage even more ominous-looking than it already was. Far ahead, Sam could see a faint grey light that might as well have been the only star in space with how out of place it looked in the dim tunnel. 

They continued to dash towards it, every one of them breathing hard as they sprinted over the cracked and weathered stones. Finn could feel a stitch building up in his side as he ran on all fours behind Creon and Kaligo, the Togetic flying slightly above the hard ground with ease, much to Finn’s annoyment. 

The dust was far behind them, and the threat of suffocation further still, but they did not slow for even a moment. The light at the end of the tunnel was nearly in their reach at long last, and they would be the first to reach it without the discomfort of death. 

The Mightyena was the first to emerge in the world of fading light, the old cook hovering directly behind him. Finn saw the two freeze as they entered the light and he ran even faster to find out what they saw. He quickly glanced back to Sam and Silas to see how they were keeping up, and then turned around to rush past the exit of the tunnel. 

He quickly halted himself and stood up. The pain and dizziness in his head were immediately forgotten when he beheld the chamber before him. The ceiling was lost far above in the dim light. Seemingly corroded pipes, rusted chains, and disintegrating metal beams criss-crossed the length between the two massive walls. But those were not what caught his attention. That went to the titanic metal automation sitting a hundred feet from him. 

[b]Continued on Next Post[/b]

Continued from Previous Post

It was unlike anything Finn had ever seen before in his entire life, and he doubted that Creon, or even Silas had ever seen anything remotely close to whatever this thing was. The machine ran horizontal to the ground on a wide set of shiny metal tracks laid out over the ground while the front section of it was tipped with what looked like a massive metal plow, making the meager tool he had seen in the western forest villages a complete joke. This plow would demolish the entire village with a single pass. 

The rest of the front seemed to be a large cylinder sitting on a set of grooved wheels that fit on the tracks beneath it. Two massive exhaust vents on the front gave the structure an almost demonic appeal as it dwarfed the Pokemon below. 

Finn’s voice was struck down mid-gasp and his jaw had actually dropped as he tried to take in the entire vehicle. He didn’t even turn around when Silas and Sam finally ran up from behind, the prophet chastising the three Pokemon for not waiting up. The prophet’s words suddenly fell flat as Finn heard him drop the wooden torch with a clatter on the stone floor. 

“Erebus! It’s Erebus! Just as Tiresias said! We’re on the right path!” Silas suddenly exclaimed as he broke Finn’s trance on the machine to look up on the wall where it was printed in large block letters: [b]Erebus Station-- Platform 2A[/b].  

Sam raised an eyebrow.  “Erebus?  Huh. I guess someone really wanted to give the passengers the wiggins...” she wondered as she examined the sign far above. 

[i]Passengers?[/i] Finn thought as he looked at the giant machine once more. He didn’t see where anyone could even hope to ride on the metal beast. “Sam … What [i]is[/i] that thing? Is that what those … spaceship things look like?” Finn asked with a hushed voice, not wanting to be heard lest he wake the slumbering monster that sat on the rails. 

Sam gave a small laugh. “No- well, not usually. Some stranger authors make them look like this, but not most.  No, this is called a train.” she clarified, motioning towards the metal hulk. The entire group was looking at her now. Creon and Kaligo shared looks of vague interest in the subject, while Finn remained lost to the true workings of this “train”. Silas, however, ran up to her excitedly. 

“You [i]know[/i] what that is? This--! This is wonderful! I’ve heard tales of gargantuan machines that moved prisoners through the Abyss in the early days, but they had fallen silent with the passing of eons. Now, not only do we have a way of transport, we also have someone who can drive it!” Silas yelled with a giddy laugh. The Marowak nearly spun around in joy, the thought of escape intoxicating his mind like a strong berry wine. 

Sam looked surprised for a minute, and then shook her head. “Hold your Ponytas, Silas. I know what it is, but I’ve never been inside the front. If you ask me to drive it, you’re asking for trouble.  I’ve only ever been a passenger,” she said, cutting through Silas’s eager thoughts. When Finn looked at her for further details, she seemed lost in thought for a minute.  “And...  The train in question was between...  Goldenrod City and...  Ah, somewhere else.  And I took the train...  because...  because...”  After a second, she beamed at Finn.  “Oh, well. I suppose I’ll remember later.”

She turned back to Silas.  “Anyway, the cabin could be in one of any number of configurations, or it could be automatic. We’d best keep our fingers crossed on that last one- that’ll be the easiest for us,” she reasoned. 

Silas wasn’t sure how to respond. “Cabin? Automatic? Goldenrod? Is that a--? Nevermind. We’ll figure this out. Regardless, we have someone who knows something about these ‘trains’. Your experiences will be invaluable to us regardless,” Silas said curtly before pushing past Creon and Kaligo to inspect the strange machine up close, Sam following him at a slight distance. 

Finn jogged up to met her. “So, you’ve actually ridden one of these things before?” he whispered to her in amazement as he stole a cautious look up at the towering steel giant. 

“Yeah. The amnesia’s in the way of why I did, but it happened multiple times, twice a year, I think.  That was when my family would-” She broke off, and grinned as her eyes went wide.  “We’d meet at my grandparents’ house for Christmas and the last week of summer vacation! I have grandparents!” she exclaimed in a minute of joy as the amnesia tossed another small scrap of memory her way.

[i]Vacation? Christmas?[/i] the words were completely foreign to Finn, but from the way Sam said them, he could tell that they were a happy time for her in her past. “You had grandparents? They actually lived to see you grow up? Wow.... The surface must be amazing...” Finn sighed longingly as he watched Silas drop his staff on the platform and jump up onto a small metal ladder on the side of the train. 

Sam shrugged. “Well, the survival rate is a lot higher than down here, at the very least...  If you’d like, once we get there, I could show you...” she trailed off, her eyes going wide as she realized something. “Wait a minute, how am I going to be able to go home if I’m a Servine?” she asked while she motioned up and down her body. 

“I think getting home is your biggest problem at the moment. I’m sure your family will understand,” he answered before a small grin formed on his face. “And I think Silas and I could convince them that you’re doing great as a Pokemon so far.” Finn chuckled a bit, it was the first time he felt at relatively ease in the last several hours. 

“Well, there’s the issue of the language barrier, and the way human/Pokémon relationships work right now..."  She grimaced as Finn stared at her expectantly, and continued slowly. "I suppose you’d find this out eventually, but the current state of the world is based around humans capturing Pokémon, and using them in some sort of contests of strength. I never got into it, but I guarantee you that even if I didn’t have any friends, I still knew at least one person who was really into it,” she explained, watching the Quilava’s facial expressions grow more and more perplexed.

“W-what?” Finn was confused. “Why do the humans not understand Pokemon? Even the tribes in the forest could hold a conversation with Creon after the Ventus raided their village. And … Capturing them? I-I just don’t see how...” Finn trailed off as the strange and foreboding revelations of the surface world were revealed to him. He was about to ask her more concerning this barbaric relationship when there was a loud metallic crash from deep within the train. Finn and Sam both looked up to see no trace of Silas on the surface of the machine. 

“Silas! You alright in there?” Creon yelled from behind them, running up towards the giant wheels. Suddenly the sound of screeching metal ground against their ears as a large panel opened up on the side of the second segment of the train. Powderized rust rained down from the chains and pipes above as the Abyss groaned as the door slammed open. 

“I seem to have found an entrance!” Silas’s excited voice loudly echoed from within the machine. Finn smirked as he detected the faint air of sarcasm he was accustomed to hearing from the Marowak present once more. 

The four Pokemon jogged down to the second gigantic box-like car, Finn making sure to snatch up the prophet’s staff from the ground before he followed the others. Silas stood on a small platform beneath the main chamber of the car, scratching his helmet in thought. 

“Well, I didn’t get a good look at anything inside aside from a few doors and levers, but the thing is huge, that’s for certain. We’ll need everyone up here if we’re going to have a chance of figuring it out,” he told them as he paced back and forth on the thin metal flooring. “Kaligo, you can fly up here. Finn and Sam, you two can use the ladder if necessary, but Creon … we’ll have to find something for you to walk up. I’ll try to find a ramp up here, but you should look around in case there’s another way up.” 

Creon simply snorted as he casually walked further along the side of the train. Finn signaled to the prophet with a wave, and then chucked the bone club as far as he could up onto the train. Fortunately, it didn’t land too off-target from Silas, for he reached and snatched it out of the air with the reflexes fitting of a much younger Pokemon. 

Sam took an opportunity to call up to Silas. “If it’s quite alright, I would like to see if there’s anything I can do in the cabin.  ...And as an addendum to that thought, I’d like Finn up front with me. Is that alright?”

“Is that alright? I expected both of you to be up there with me in the first place, so you don’t have to ask me!” he shouted back down to them. “Now, go take the ladder I did up at the front. Unless I find a ramp, it’s the best bet of getting up here,” he added, urging them back towards the plow-like front of the train. 

Once they reached the area where the small ladder sat dwarfed in between two of the giant rimmed wheels, they debated as to how they would get up to it. The bottom rung of the structure was at almost three feet above their heads and Finn could barely reach a foot with his most powerful jump. Sam attempted to reach the rung as well, but only got a few inches closer as her leafy hand grabbed only air. 

“Sorry, Finn. I can’t reach it,” she grumbled before looking at Finn and then back up at the rungs. “Tell you what, though- if you can get up there, you might be able to pull me up. Stand on my shoulders,” she ordered suddenly. 

Finn stared at her, not really seeing any shoulders on the Servine to begin with. “Umm, Sam... I don’t see how that would be possible,” he told her flatly

Sam raised her eyebrows, and looked down at her hands, which seemed to connect directly to her torso.  “...Oh. I never noticed that. Um, well... You do seem to have more shoulders than I do.  You want me to pull you up?” she suggested after seeing her original idea fall flat.

“Somehow I knew it was going to go there,” Finn said with a mock sigh as he held down his paws. “Alright, put your foot here and I’ll boost you up. Lean against the wheels if you have to while I stand up.”

Sam carefully stepped where he indicated, and tentatively leaned against the wheels. “Alright.  Go ahead,” she told him when she was ready.

Finn gently raised his paws, allowing her to step onto his bent shoulders. After waiting a moment for her to regain her balance, Finn slowly straightened his back, trying not to show any signs of the strain she was putting on his recently-healed shoulders. Once he was standing straight, he silently motioned for her to get a move on. A pained hiss escaped from between his clenched teeth as his shoulders felt as if they would pop off at any moment. 

She quickly grabbed onto the ladder, and looked down towards him. “Okay... So, there’s not enough space for me to try what I was thinking... Tell me, how fast can you climb?”

“Umm... I can climb a tree without too much trouble. Pretty fast if I need to. Why?” Finn answered her, suppressing a groan as his shoulders felt like they were going to separate again. His right shoulder in particular felt as if it was moving forwards in its socket. 

Sam shifted her grip on the rung slightly. “Okay, here’s what’s going to happen- I’m going to hang down from this rung. I need you to climb over me as fast as you can.  Be careful- if you move too slowly, the both of us will end up injured. Alright?”

Finn tried to process what she was proposing in his head. [i]Yeah, that could work if I’m fast...[/i] he thought as he felt her weight shift as she readied herself to jump. Finn felt her weight leave his shoulders and barely overrode his body’s desire to slump to the ground in relief. He saw Sam had got the bottom rung firmly in her grap. Taking a deep breath, he jumped up towards her, managing to get a grip around her feet. 

Not wasting any time or allowing Sam a moment to express her pain, Finn swung himself up and shifted his arms to grab around her waist. Hoping that the action wouldn’t get him slapped once the ordeal was done with, he then planted the very edges of his claws on her back. He heard her hiss in annoyance and he knew she probably wanted to hurt him right now, but he continued to climb. 

He quickly scrambled over her back and stepped on the golden collar around the base of her neck. Before Sam’s grip failed her, Finn jumped up and grabbed the second rung from the bottom. Sam pulled herself up after him, slipped her bag off, and flopped down on top of the engine. “Right. Let’s take five a minute, alright?” she suggested as she squirmed in discomfort as the small claw marks on her back came into contact with the cold metal.

Finn leaned against the steel. “Agreed, I need a breather as well,” he said as he took off his bag and placed it on the floor next to hers. 

“By the way, as long as Silas and Creon are out of earshot, I do have to apologize to you.  Now that I’m actually thinking about it, I can’t really give you an accurate description of life on the surface. I can tell you how humans live, but I’m in the dark about how Pokémon live.”

Finn looked up at her. “It’s alright. I mean, you’ve done a lot for us already, after all. At this rate, we’ll get to the surface in no time. Who knows, it may not be as bad as you remember. That’s always a possibility, right?” he asked with a weak laugh. 

“It’s true, but if it turns out not to be, let me just say this- none of you will end up captured on my watch.  I’m not going to let you give up on the idea of an ideal surface world.”

Finn nodded as he gazed out over the railing of the engine. During the few minutes they sat there, he noticed that the station didn’t seem to grow any lighter or darker even with the passage of time. It seemed to be permanently stuck in greying light that resembled the early dawn. 

There was another metal clang from down below. They both leaned forward on the rails to see that a thin ramp had connected the edge of the second car to the ground and Silas was busy walking up and down the length of it, testing out the structure. 

“Well, now that problem’s solved. I think we should have a look inside to see what we’re up against,” Finn said as he reached down and grabbed his bag off the floor of the engine. 

“Indeed. I hope it’s automatic--- all I can think of as far as piloting one of these things is a scene of a hammy immortal using one of these things to commit vehicular mass...  And this isn’t helping at all, is it?” Sam recalled as she stopped herself before it got any worse. 

Finn shook his head. “No, not really. Now come on, I think Silas got in over here,” he said motioning to the next level of railing above them. “Fortunately, I think we can reach it without having to climb over each other this time.” He walked over to the overhang and jumped. His paws barely catching on the metal edge as he tried to secure his grip. 

Sam followed after him, making her jump well after Finn was out of the way. The metal door on the side of the structure sported several deep dents in its surface from when Silas forced it open on his way into the train. After taking a precautionary look inside the dim compartment, Finn went in first, igniting the patches on his head and tail to illuminate the chamber. 

The chamber was unlike anything either of them had seen before. There was a smooth glass window that wrapped around the deck like a pair of glasses. Various switches and levers dotted along the back of the wall next to several dozen small circles containing needles labeled with words such as “Pressure”, “Power Level”, and “Temperature”.  

Sam took a look around the cabin. “Hmmm... This is a lot more complicated than I’d hoped.  Then again, I was hoping for ‘press button, train goes by itself.’  Any clue where Silas is right now?” she wondered, staring around at the vast number of strange devices and tools. 

Finn scratched his head, the wall of valves and gauges was completely alien to him. He doubted that even Silas knew what half of these things were, much less how they worked. “He’s probably on his way after getting Creon up into the train. I guess we could always push things until something happens, I mean, it worked when you touched the door. Maybe that’s what we need now,” he suggested as he ran his paw along the dust covered glass, rubbing the grimy surface away to reveal yet another gauge that made no sense to him. [i] Why would anyone need to measure speed over fifty … whatever ‘MPH’ stands for?[/i] he thought to himself. 

He turned around from the confusing wall and faced the window. There was another glass surface directly underneath it, however, unlike the gauges, this rectangular pane of glass was completely dark. Sam looked around the room. “I don’t know... You think it would work?  I mean, I unlocked a door. I don’t even know how I did it... Even if I did, where would I try to unlock it?”

“I- umm, I don’t know either...” Finn thought for a moment. “I mean, it seems like any one of these switches could do it if we knew what they did. And then there’s this weird piece of glass right where whoever drives this thing would sit. It’s not making any sense to me,” Finn said as he casually flipped a lever the wall. After waiting a few seconds, he shrugged seeing that it did nothing and flipped it back to its original position. 

Sam began looking around, and examined the panel of levers.  “Maybe I just need to touch it?  I mean, the door unlocked when I slumped onto it...  You think that could work?” she asked, unsure of what to even try to do. 

“It’s definitely worth a shot. I mean, what’s there to lose in trying?” he said to her as he examined the levers himself more closely. 

Ignoring the myriad number of limbs that immediately jumped to her mind, Sam placed her hands on the console. Despite the destructive nature of the last time she touched one of the Abyss’s workings, this time the results were much less noticeable, said results being that her hands were now covered in dust from the ancient screen. 

“...Huh. I guess not. Perhaps we have to really figure this out... Um, do you see anything labeled anything to the effect of ‘Start?’” Sam inquired, gazing at the dusted screen. 

Finn glanced around the forest of buttons, levers, and pressure gauges. Even if there was a single lever with “Start” written on it in bright neon letters, Finn doubted if he could find it among the confusing mass of machinery. “No, I don’t... Should we just try flipping things and see what happens? I admit, I’m pretty lost here. And Silas is taking his sweet time out there, too, which isn’t helping us at all,” he grumbled as he walked towards the opposite wall once more. 

“Yeah. Random levers sounds good. We might want to get Silas up here, at the very least. If all else fails, maybe having a prophet up here could stop us from blowing the entire thing up.”

“Uh-huh,” he mumbled. He was barely listening to her, as his eyes caught on one lever among the others. Its wide grip and alluring silver surface called to him. Almost unconsciously he reached for it, ignoring Sam’s protests to wait for Silas. As soon as he got a grip on the cold metal, he yanked it down. The lever creaked in anger at being moved after so many years and, with a rusty squeak, finally relented, snapping downwards. 

Sam turned around, and looked over towards Finn’s hand on the lever.  “...Okay, waiting on Silas is now not an opt-”

She was interrupted as the train lurched forward a foot before jarring to a stop, and the screen lit up in the front of the cabin. Lights suddenly snapped on from the top of the compartment, almost blinding them as sparks laced their way around the cabin, traveling along long-unused circuits to their respective devices. 

“...Huh. Okay, good for you, Finn!” Sam commented, looking at the Quilava’s handiwork. 

She examined the screen. “...Okay, it’s asking if we want to head to Tartaros or Kerberos.  Whoever made this place was some kind of loony.”

Finn rubbed the spots out of his eyes and stumbled across the cabin until the screen came into focus in his vision. “Location: Erebus Station 2A … Destination... Wow, uhh, I don’t know. I think we should wait for Silas this time. I’m sure we don’t want to go to these places, whatever they entail,” Finn said as he gazed in awe at the screen. Blue lights lit up the background as miniature orange displays of the train popped up in the top left corner. Circles bearing the same labels as the gauges in the back of the room appeared in a semicircle around the black words asking for the destination. 

“Even so, this actually makes this far easier. This seems like an automatic system that never had the old tech removed. We just wait for Silas, and he’ll tell us which way we need to go,” she noted as she leaned in to look at the screen. “...Looks like Tartaros is another station like this one. Kerberos, meanwhile, barely shows up here. It’s this little dot at what looks like the center of this place,”

Suddenly, the door behind them slammed open. “J-Just what happened? What did you do?” Silas gasped as he rushed inside the chamber. He pushed past Sam and Finn to get a look at the screen. “You started it? Unbelieveable! Sam, you are helping us out immensely. Now, Finn, I want you to that wall and find a green wheel. Turn it clockwise, or at least that’s what this screen is showing,” he quickly ordered breathlessly as he observed the glowing computer. 

“Silas? Finn actually figured this one out. I just stood around planning, and he was the one who took action,” Sam said, telling Silas what really happened.

Silas glanced at his apprentice. “Really? Well, good job, Finn. I had hoped that some of my logical thinking made it into you. Now, the green wheel, if you please,” Silas commended while he gently touched one of the flashing circles on the screen. Finn jogged over to the small wheel in question and turned it to his left, trying not to damage his shoulder once more in the process. 

The screen immediately changed, boxes with numerous names and charts appeared in place of the transparent circle. Silas’s hand hovered above the screen, unsure as to what to do next. Deciding that the name Tartaros did not sound too appealing as a destination he scrolled through the names, the list automatically moved down with a simple motion of his finger. “Absolutely amazing...” he whispered to himself in wonder. 

Sam leaned over his shoulder, eyeing the display. “Any of it mean anything to you?”

Silas looked over at her before returning to the screen. “I’ve read the Chapter of Ramblings of the Prophet Isaiah Dusclops, and even that makes slightly more sense than some of the symbols on here. I can read some of it, but it seems to combine three languages, two of which are most likely dead. Needless to say, it will take a few minutes to decipher. Now, can I ask you and Finn to check on our two rogues in the second car?” he asked as he tapped an icon on the screen and watched as smaller box popped up. On it were strangely shaped blocks falling down in order to make rows. “Astounding,” Silas said, pulling out a small piece of parchment from his bag along with a quill and began scribbling down notes. 
Sam nodded, and turned to Finn as they departed.  “Now that I think about it, you said that the humans could understand our speech and speak the same language. What’s the one we’re speaking called?”

Finn twisted the metal wheel that operated the lock for the metal door and motioned for her to go first. [i]I never really thought of that before,[/i] Finn realized as he shut the door behind him. They carefully walked over the thick coupling that linked the two stationary segments of the transport together and entered the second car. 

“Er, Finn? Hello?” Sam asked once more, waving in front of his face to get his attention.

Finn carefully shut the compartment door and turned to her. “Sorry, I was thinking about it. I never really asked what it was called, I just … spoke it. In the Abyss, you don’t usually ask where things came from as long as they benefit you. That’s the way things generally work here. I think we could ask Silas about it later if and when we get this thing moving,” he told her as they walked through the small passageway that lead into the main chamber of the car. 

“Sounds like a plan. Are we keeping our pair of troublemakers in the back, do you think?” she wondered as they neared the main compartment. 

“Keep it down, Creon’s hearing is pretty good. And yes, they’ll probably be staying back here. But then again, I didn’t see anywhere to sleep in the control place back there, so we’ll probably be bunking here too,” he whispered to her as they entered the spacious chamber. It had a much higher roof than the engine room did and seemed to be full of huge stacks crates covered in dust-coated tarps. The sheer amount of the cargo made Silas’s tent seem like a bastion of cleanliness. 

Sam gazed up at the towers of boxes. “Any clue what they are or were transporting?” 

Finn tilted his up at the huge pyramid of crates, the top of which seemed to reach the ceiling of the car. “I have no idea, but I don’t think it was food,” he sighed bitterly, his stomach suddenly growling loudly. He hadn’t eaten since the afternoon when he brought Sam back to the Ventus’ camp, and he wasn’t entirely sure how much time had passed since then as the perpetual darkness of the staircase and the unchanging grey light of the station gave no indication as to what time of day it was in the wing. 

Sam noticed this. “...You know, we really ought to look into finding something to eat. You’re pretty loud over there. Still, I wonder why I’m not as hungry. I haven’t eaten since before you did last...”

Finn chuckled a bit. “I know, but Silas says we need to make our rations last for a good long while. I can wait a bit longer before I waste away. Also, you’re not hungry because you’re a Grass-based Pokemon. You can get some food simply by standing in a patch of light. At least, that’s what Silas told me, I think,” He then pointed through the towers of crates over to where Creon and Kaligo were busy muttering among themselves. “So, should we go see what they’re doing?”

“Can’t hurt. Do you want to approach them first, or should I? Or is Creon going to make the first move?” Finn looked back towards the two former Ventus and sure enough, the Mightyena was slowly walking over to them, Kaligo shuffling along after him seemingly in his usual sour mood. 

Sam turned to face them.  “And how are the two of you?”

“I am doing [i]wonderful[/i]. Running down a dark staircase and through a dusty hall right after my gang betrays me is a great way to spend my time. I couldn’t possibly be better, [i]thank you for asking[/i],” he said, injecting the phrase with as much venomous sarcasm as he could. 

Sam nodded.  “Good for you. Silas sent us to check up on you guys. Any concerns?”

Kaligo raised an arm.  “Yeah. I’m concerned that we’re running around following two pups and a senile fool,” he spat. 

Finn noticed that Sam seemed to be barely concealing a grin.  “Anyone with a real concern want to voice it?” Creon leaned forward, his face inches away from Sam’s. 

 “As a matter of fact, yes. I’m concerned about the soon-to-be maimed snake who’s giving my cook a casual brush-off after he raised a valid point,” he snarled.

Sam didn’t seem worried at all. “You can’t touch me, Creon. You try anything, and I won’t work for you,” she told Creon, unafraid of the Mightyena’s threats. 

Finn decided to speak up before Creon tore her to shreds.  “Hey! Cool it, Creon. You’re not the leader here anymore. In fact, you’re just tagging along. Silas is in control now, and he knows what he’s doing,” Finn interjected, stepping in between the Mightyena and the Servine, who were still staring daggers at each other. As if on cue, Silas let out a loud, frustrated curse from the engine that echoed through the station, devaluing Finn’s words as soon as they left his mouth.  

“That sounds exactly like he knows what he’s doing. A true leader, indeed,” Creon growled as he slowly pulled his face back from the two. “And you’d better not stop working your ‘divine magic’, or whatever the hell Silas calls it, or else I’m sure [i]even he[/i] would agree to dropping you off in a nice deep pit along the way.” 

Sam looked like she had a comeback readied, but Finn jumped in front of her. “I said, that’s enough. Sam, come with me,” he ordered, not giving her any room to argue. 

Sam shrugged, and followed him back to the front of the car. She was surprised when he abruptly turned around to face her. “What do you [i]think [/i]you’re doing, Sam?”

“Having a bit of fun at our tagalong’s expense,” she answered nonchalantly with a small wave of her hand.  

Finn groaned in frustration. “That ‘tagalong’ happens to have been the leader of the Ventus. I can think of maybe one or two besides Cedric who were as efficient at killing as he can be. You keep going like this, you’re just giving him an excuse to snap your neck. Push him far enough, and he won’t care who you are. You’ll just be another corpse-in-progress.” Finn placed a paw on the base of her neck to drive his point. “Understand?” 

Sam seemed to be mulling it over for a moment before nodding awkwardly.  “...I hadn’t thought of that.”

Finn let go of her. “In the future, it’s probably best to consider that when dealing with just about anyone down here. You never know who might be able to give Creon a run for his money. Now, let’s pretend that you didn’t just try and gamble your life away for the sake of a cheap laugh and make our report to Silas.” Finn shot the Mightyena a dark glare as he twisted the handle to the door, ushering Sam through it. In silence, they marched over the coupling to the engine and opened the second compartment door leading into the control room. 

Silas was still bent over the screen, touching segments of it and watching it respond to his every action. He took a quick look behind him at the two teens before returning to his guesswork. “Seems to me that it didn’t go so well seeing as both of you look about as sour as that damned Togetic,” he said with a wheezing laugh. 

Finn shut the steel door and spun the locking wheel back into place. “No, it didn’t. Now I remember why I was so eager to leave the Ventus behind... But I just can’t seem to get rid of them, can I?” 

Not even turning around from the screen, Silas answered him. “You know, Cedric was right to an extent: you never truly leave the Ventus. The memories will always be there. So tell me, what happened between you both and those ruffians?” the Marowak asked as he slid his paw back and forth across the screen, watching as segments of lights on the ceiling dimmed and turned back to bright. “Fascinating, isn’t it?”   

While the prophet was occupied with the lights, Sam looked over to Finn and mouthed, “What do we tell him?”

Finn shrugged and mouthed, “I don’t think it matters.”

“You know, I can see you two, right? My peripheral vision is excellent despite the helmet. Did Creon threaten either one of you?” the Marowak asked, spinning around to face them, picking up his bone staff. 

Sam sighed, reaching for the instrument. “Put the club down, Silas. I started it.”

Silas raised the staff out of her reach. “Samantha, you may be new to this world, but you must be careful. I can only do so much to protect you,” he told her, disappointedly shaking his head. 

“I know. Both Finn and Creon explained that to me already. And I get the sense that Creon’s not the sort you just apologize to, especially if it’s a thinly-veiled attempt at extending your life...” she sighed, flipping a lever back and forth despondently. 

“Well, at least you know. Now, there will be time to try and mend bridges later, I think I’ve almost got the starting sequence down. I need one of you on opposite sides of that wall. There’s a set of controls labeled ‘Power’ and ‘Water Pressure’ I believe, on each side, and one of you will have to activate each when I say so,” Silas ordered, pointing towards a two small panels with a series of levers and a single gauge on each. Nodding, both Sam and Finn jogged to opposite sides of the chamber, each standing next to a panel waiting for Silas’s command. 

The Marowak slowly pressed a section of the screen and then pressed a series of boxes and circles that popped up after it. “Alright, Sam, raise the blue lever up until the gauge is about at the two hundred mark in the orange zone.” 

Sam stood up on the tips of her feet to reach the colored lever in question. Getting her leafy hand underneath it, she pushed the stubborn piece of machinery up until it snapped into place in the “up” position. “There, got it!” she yelled over the sudden loud gurgle of water as it raced through the numerous pipes beneath them into the main boiler of the engine. 

Silas tapped a few more circles on the screen before shouting a similar order to Finn. The Quilava had a slightly easier time reaching his lever and was able to push it up with ease. He watched as the needle inside the gauge rise rapidly until stopping directly in the middle. 

“Alright, both of you, come here! I think we’re ready to start,” he said giddily as an unknown energy seemed to seize him once again, and he tapped his foot impatiently on the metal flooring as the two Pokemon came up to him. 

“Here goes...” he whispered as he prayed a quick prayer to Tiresias in his thoughts as he pressed his paw against a spinning icon on the screen with the word “Piras” written underneath it. 

Suddenly, the entire train shook violently as jets of fire shot up from the twin vents on the front of the vehicle. The surface of the engine outside the room glowed a dull red as the flames heated the water within, vaporizing the water within form the first trails of steam. The cranks attached to the tall wheel groaned as they were prevented from moving forward by some yet unchecked device, making the train excitedly rumble in place instead of moving forward. 

Silas’s initial cheer of joy was cut short as the wheels refused to turn and he immediately consulted the screen as to what the problem was. Except instead of a solution, the screen flickered once before suddenly dissolving into a harsh display of quickly alternating grey, white, and black pixels. 

Outside the train, the great steel walls groaned, the chains and long-still gears in the high vaults of the Abyssal ceiling above clanked and clattered in a horrendous symphony of screeching that grated against the groups’ ears like sandpaper. 

[i][b] “So, just where exactly do you think you all are going in my Abyss?”[/i][/b] 

They all froze at the sound of the voice. It appeared to originate from no one place in particular and reverberated from each and every inch of the station. Finn quickly looked up at Silas. The prophet seemed to have gone completely catatonic as the Abyss continued to shake and shift around them.

From the window, he could see steel plates along the wall raising and revealing large circular vents. Every five panels it seemed to duplicate this pattern endlessly around Erebus Station. Finn himself was transfixed by the transforming wall of metal until a shudder ran through the station and a thin yellow gas blasted forth from the vents, beginning to flood the air with the poison.  

[i][b] “I’m sorry, but your sojourn into my realm ends here.[/i][/b] 

[b]End Chapter Two[/b]

[b]Authors’ Notes[/b]

[b]Pokenutter:[/b] Alright, then, so there’s Chapter 2.  Honestly, I enjoyed writing this one.  I’d say that Sam in particular displayed a bit more personality than last chapter, so that’s always good.  Hoping the next one goes well!  Later!

[b]Knightfall:[/b] Well, this came along a lot faster than I expected it to. It’s a long chapter, yes, but there’s a lot that happened, so it’s more material for everyone to read! Anyways, I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. The characters are starting to gain their personalities and from there we can do so much more with them. Remember, any comments, reviews, and/or advice are all greatly appreciated. 

Knightfall and Pokenutter signing off...

Chapter Three: Off the Rails

[i] WallS that move,
   Doors that crAsh,  
   Don’t trust the fire or the gas.
   Beware the marshes,
   aVoid the snow,
   Be wary of the rivErs that ebb and flow.
   See past the visions,
   Hear not the voice,
   To live or die is yoUr own choice.
   Seek not the treasures,
   Nor abysSal might,
   Stray not from the Path that Leads towards the light.
   The dragon’s roar is the sign of doom,
   FalsE promises lie inside his room,
   DeAth alwayS is in his wake,
   Preventing life and Escape...[/i]
[b] Excerpt from the [i]Scriptis de Incarceratus[/i], the Ramblings of Prophet Isaiah Dusclops[/b]

Sam was the first to move, grabbing and shaking the prophet. “Silas! Tell it to go! Anywhere but here!” she exclaimed as the great laugh shook the walls and vanished without a further word.

She watched as Silas slowly seemed to return to reality and he took a quick look out the front window of the cabin. Wispy clouds of gas swirled around the train, not yet choking the air, but time was running out faster than the oxygen. Silas reached out and touched a small icon on the fizzling screen. The action caused the metal hulk to screech forward on the tracks slightly, but as soon as it started, the movement ceased.

The screen flashed a bright red as numerous runes and archaic words flashed across it in quick succession. Both Silas and Sam tried to keep up with the words and decipher them at the same time, but he was only able to catch portions of each phrase. “Jammed… Err… Tracks… Break… Poison? B-breaks… Emergency… Stalled…,” he read quickly as he tried touching the icons in the screen in frustration. The screen responded by angrily hissing and scrambling the images even further.

“For Arceus’s sake, just push a button!” Sam started touching any icon that looked remotely interactive. Her hand happened to brush against one of the icons, and another window popped up under the fizzling glass.

Sam gaped at the screen. “Enter authorization code? What in the nine-”

Silas pulled her hand away from the screen. “Sam, that’s not going to do anything! There is an issue with the brakes that needs to be manually fixed. Until that’s taken care of, we won’t be able to do anything,” he explained as he pointed to the small, oscillating model of the engine on the screen. Sam’s eyes were drawn to the small flashing circle targeting a small area near the wheels.

She sighed, and turned to Finn. “I’m sorry to ask this, but can you have a look?”

The Quilava took a quick glance out the window. Taking a deep breath, he nodded in her direction before approaching the steel chamber door. Sam watched as he twisted the access wheel and slipped out the exit. The door shuddered and immediately sealed itself behind him; its metal surface blocking any of the fumes from entering the cabin.

Finn stumbled out onto the surface of the engine and, still holding his breath, climbed down the series of railings until he dropped onto the final platform before he hit the wheels. The entire frame was shuddering madly as the power produced in the engine had no place to release itself. He thought he remembered seeing something like the icon the malfunctioning screen in the cabin above displayed on his way into the train initially.

His lungs were on fire and Finn was certain he couldn’t hold in his breath for much longer, lest they explode. He grasped the metal railing as he desperately searched for the panel that controlled the breaks. Suddenly, a particularly violent shudder ran through the engine, knocking Finn’s feet out from under him.

He slammed onto the floor, the breath being forced from his body as it recoiled from the impact. The bitter taste of the mixture of gas and breathable air entered his lungs as Finn tried to stand back up. His head swam slightly as the dull grey color of the engine blurred for a moment before clearing up. Finn shook the feeling away. It didn’t seem like there was enough gas in the air to kill him yet, so, holding a paw to his mouth, he continued forwards along the edge of the motor.

Tucked away in a corner of the vibrating frame, Finn saw what he had been searching for. The panel contained only a single switch that was set in the down position. [i]It can’t possibly be this easy, can it?[/i] he wondered as he used his free paw to shove the switch upwards. Immediately, the giant wheels to his left shuddered as they rolled forward several inches before screeching to a stop once more. The jarring motions slammed Finn against the hard walls of the chassis, forcing him to inhale more of the toxic vapors as he tried to stabilize himself. His part of the mission complete, he began his climb up to the cabin as the poison gas swiftly followed.

Sam stared out the window, keeping track of Finn as he climbed over the railings back up to them. Silas interrupted her observation when he knocked his staff against the wall.

“I have an idea for getting the train started-- lay your hands across the screen,” he told her eagerly. Sam reluctantly looked away from Finn, and placed her hands on top of the console. A second later, the popup window vanished, and another replaced it.

“Are you sure that you want to head to this destination…” Sam trailed off. “…Silas- where exactly are we headed? Do you know?” she asked as she stared at the strange words that flashed impatiently on the screen.

She stepped aside as the Marowak looked at the small window. “Hmm … This language is difficult to make out. It’s as if they used a separate dialect for every three words. How they ever managed to communicate is beyond me. Now, as for our destination, I have absolutely no idea. I can make out the words, but … It’s just … I don’t know!” he exclaimed as he suddenly looked back up at her. “Wait. Before, you said … You said something about the destination. Can you really read this script?” he asked her hopefully.

Sam squirmed slightly as she fumbled for an answer. “Well… Maybe a third of it-- Or less… Probably what you can already read. That was based mostly on context clues and what typically shows up on computer interfaces when performing some operations,” she weakly explained as she ran her hand under a few of the odd words.

Silas bowed his head in exasperation. “No, that doesn’t help us any. Finn got the breaks, but it was a fool’s errand if we can’t get it to work for us, much less know where we’re going. Regardless of where the screen says we’re going to go, we can’t stay here,” he said. Leaning over the panel once more, Sam heard the old seer mutter a prayer to the prophets to help him understand the controls.

She nodded. “Right. What button says ‘yes’? This one?” she asked as she reached for a flashing green icon on the console monitor with all intentions of tapping on the symbol.

Silas’s eyes went wide as he blocked her hand from the screen. “No! Don’t press that! That button is for stopping all systems, not ‘yes’. That is the very last thing we need,” he explained as their gazes shifted across the sea of icons as they both searched for the correct button.

Both Pokémon were suddenly drawn away from their task as the steel door slammed open with a metallic clang. Finn emerged from the sea of yellowish gas as he stumbled into the cabin. The door slid back into position before too much gas entered the chamber. The Quilava took one step towards them before collapsing to the floor as a fit of dry heaving overcame him.

“Finn!” Sam dashed over to his side and tried to hold him upright. She spun around to face Silas, “Tell me how I can help him!” she screamed as Finn clutched at his throat in pain.

Despite the computer’s demands for his attention, Silas quickly knelt down over his apprentice as well. Without a word, he took his hand, felt under the coughing Quilava’s chin, and waited a few seconds before making a verdict.

“His pulse is still strong, so it’s unlikely the gas was some sort of stuntoxin, otherwise he would be completely unresponsive,” he reported as he stood up once more and went back to the screen. “The gas needs to exit his system; there’s nothing we can do except let him cough it out. And pray that it doesn’t have too many side-effects,” he said to her, muttering the last part under his breath.

“…Alright, then.” She seemed struck by a thought, and looked towards the back of the train. “Just get us moving. I’m going to check on our tagalongs,” she stated as she propped Finn up against a wall.

Silas looked back at her. “You’re serious? I can’t imagine why you would even… Anyway, if you are going out there, be quick about it and hold something against your mouth. You have no idea if their compartment is clean or completely flooded,” he warned her as he fished around in his bag for a moment before pulling out an extremely worn bandana. He balled it up in his fist and tossed it across the room to her.

She nodded as she caught it. “Thanks. I don’t like either of them, but I don’t think I want either of them dead. Just see if you can get this thing started.”

Tying the bandana around her head, she quickly opened the door into the next car. The foul air hit her like a punch to the gut. She couldn’t remember ever smelling anything this bad before. Even her vague memories of her life as a human said that the rotten smell was entirely new to her. Worse than expired milk, she thought as she tried to shake away the smell.

Balancing her way over the rattling couplings between the two cars, Sam grasped the wheel of the entry door. The smooth metal was not eager to turn in her leaves, but eventually it clicked to the left and the door swung open. Wasting no time, she quickly slammed the door behind her as she entered. She turned just in time to see Creon’s face inches from hers.

“Er, Creon! Hello, there! Um…” she stammered as the Mightyena let out a loud, pained cough. Her snout wrinkled in disgust at the black wolf’s hideous breath. It’s even worse than the gas!

“J-Just what exactly did you idiots do up there?” he wheezed. He bent his head down to blink away some of the tears brought on by the toxic miasma.The air inside the car seemed better than that outside, but only just.

Sam shook her head, and tried to explain. “It wasn’t us. There’s something out there- didn’t you hear the booming voice a moment ago?”

Creon nodded. To Sam, he still seemed unnerved by the mere mention of the event. “Yeah, we heard it right after the entire car started shaking like crazy. And as soon as we heard the demonic voice from the walls, we tried to shut the door. We figured we’d want something between us and the outside before everything went to hell on us,” he explained to her with a grimace as he coughed again. “We didn’t get it closed fast enough though, as you can tell…”

“How’s the grouchy bast-- I mean, Kaligo? You seem to have taken a faceful, but how’s he?” she asked as she looked about the spacious room for the cook.

The Mightyena turned his head to his left shifting Sam’s attention to the Togetic slumped on the floor. “He got a lot more than I did, but he’s breathing. We’re both alright back here for now. The gas won’t get inside that quickly and hopefully by that time our ‘all-seeing’ leader will have gotten us out of here,” he said, his voice barely having the strength to put emphasis on the sarcasm before he descended into a series of choking coughs. He turned his head to the side and spat out a sickly yellowish glob of phlegm onto the steel-plated floor.

She ignored the disgusting action as best she could. “Okay, as long as you guys are surviving.” She paused a moment before looking towards the front of the train. “Come to think of it, how long does it take to start this thing?”

The Mightyena looked up from his small pile of discolored saliva. “Hell if I know, human. I figured Silas just read it out of a magic book somewhere. I suggest you go and tell him that he’s not getting rid of us that easily and to get this thing moving,” he ordered, nodding his head towards the chamber door. As Sam curtly turned around, Creon spoke up once more. “Don’t think I forgot about earlier, my dear, because I haven’t,” he said darkly, nearly spitting the last two words at her.

She sighed, and turned back around. “Creon, take a good long look at me. Now look at Kaligo. What do you think should be more of a concern right now?”

Creon stared at her for a moment. His mouth moving slightly, but the words refusing to form. He heaved as another coughing fit came over him. Without answering her, he slowly walked over to the collapsed Togetic and sat down on his haunches beside him.

Sam nodded. “Make sure he’s okay, and I’ll see about maybe dealing with the events of earlier, later.” She stopped for a second, about to try and rephrase her statement to be less confusing. Taking note that Creon did not seem to be listening to her, she shrugged, and returned to the cabin.

The passage to the first car was choked with an even thicker layer of gas, but Sam dashed over the narrow coupling and twisted open the chamber door as fast as she knew how. In less than ten seconds, she was inside the control room. She coughed slightly from the little gas she had inhaled.

Silas called over to her from his place at the screen. “They still alive back there? Hopefully they had enough sense to close the door,” he inquired as he hesitantly tapped another set of symbols and buttons on the panel in front of him.

As she crossed the room, she noticed with a small sigh of relief, that Finn was now leaning against the wall beside him instead of collapsed on the floor in the pitiful state he was in earlier. His eyes were closed and his breathing looked shallow, but he didn’t seem to be coughing his lungs out anymore. Hang in there, Finn. We’ll be out of here soon.

“Well,” she said as she stood next to the prophet in front of the transparent screen. “Kaligo’s down for the count, but Creon…” Sam fought to suppress a small chuckle. “He’s mostly okay. He’s looking after the grouchy bastard.”

Silas nodded in reply. “That’s fine. A little choking gas won’t kill them. I figure that means they closed the door?” he asked as he pressed a few symbols on the screen. The train shuddered once more, but still refused to move forward.

“Yeah. They managed to get it shut before it killed them, but the gas will eventually leak in. How are we for starting this thing?” she reported, quickly shifting the gears of their conversation. Before she got an answer Silas suddenly slammed a fist against the console and let out a frustrated yell.

“Blasted thing! I try to get the correct sequence to move forward, but it keeps resetting before I can complete the circuit!” he exclaimed as he looked over at her. “Sam, I’ll need your help. This is a job for two Pokémon. Finn’s still out of it, so a former human will have to do.”

“What do I do?” she asked, eyeing the screen. “It seems that you have a better idea of what you’re doing than I do.”

Silas cracked his fingers. “Alright, when I start the sequence. I’ll need you to press these six icons in the order they flash. Once we do that, we should be moving,” he said as he gestured to clustered myriad of small symbols on her side of the screen. Sam just hoped that her ‘hands’ would be able to reach the indicated icons in time.

There was a small hissing noise from above them. Both she and Silas looked up and, to their horror, saw dull yellow vapors beginning to seep in through the pipes and vents. Silas looked to the Servine. “There’s no time to waste,” he said as he pressed a flashing icon in the center. The action started a chain reaction of separate icons, all of which Silas tried to keep up with.

Sam nodded, and tapped at the icons that Silas had indicated. Once she finished, the entire screen flashed a bright blue before fading to reveal a small set of transparent arrows and a series of speed gauges. A digital map of the tracks and station around them flashed into existence along the entire left of the monitor.

“Okay, do you know what that means?” she asked as she watched the screen transform from the complex maze of incomprehensible runes to the new simplistic interface.

“We got it! It’s running! I can’t believe it!” he exclaimed as he jumped in the air in excitement. “Now, let’s get this thing moving before we all die, shall we?” he asked as he pressed the illuminated red arrow that faced forwards.

The wheels screeched as their gears and components let loose their war cry as they battled against centuries of stagnation and rust. Their movement jarring the entire body of the train as it inched ahead ever so slowly on the tracks.

Sam stood back from the console, and nodded. “Okay, so which way are we headed?”

“Forward. Now let’s hope that we move out of this gas cloud before … well, before we die,” he said as he carefully tapped the speed gauge on the screen causing the numbers to increase with every touch. The machine shuddered as its stiff joints began moving faster and faster. Sam could barely see the platform beneath them move by through the thick layer of gas.

Sam looked back towards the front of the car, where the gas seemed to be not as thick. She was about to sigh in relief when the voice returned from the depths of the Abyss.

”Did you really think that you are beyond my range? The sound blasted throughout the station. Sam covered her ears as the voice and the Abyss continued to roar. Not two hundred feet ahead of them, a large steel wall descended from the entrance of the tunnel on the tracks in an attempt to seal off the station.

“No. we’re not giving up that easily!” Silas yelled at the seemingly omnipresent demon that haunted the station. Sam watched as the Marowak slammed his paw against the gauge. The entire engine threatened to shake itself to pieces as the gears and wheels turned even faster. The gas that surrounded the train seemed to thin somewhat as the growing wind swiftly pushed it away. The tunnel was almost within reach.

Suddenly, a noise like thunder shot from above them. They couldn’t see it from inside the control room, but they felt the entire station quake as the demonic voice screamed once again.

“No one leaves without my permission. No one! Rules cannot be broken. Disobedience will not be tolerated.”

Sam watched as the distance slowly closed between the front of the train and the closing barrier. She nervously pressed her hand against the vibrating wall of the room as she desperately willed the train to move faster. Silas pressed the gauge even harder. In response, small jets of fire blasted out of the vents on the engine as it surged forwards.

The titanic iron plow of the train slammed into the bottom of the metal bulkhead, firmly wedging itself between it and the tracks on the floor. All three Pokémon in the control room were slammed around by the cruel force of inertia. Sam was propelled into the wall of the room. Even through her dazed vision, she saw that Silas was not as fortunate. His helmeted head slowly lifted away from the thick glass of the window; leaving a small web of cracks as he shook off the impact.

Sam picked herself up slowly, stumbling over to the prophet. “Hey! Silas! Are you okay? Still conscious?”
Holding his head, the prophet looked in her general direction. “Yes… I am all right. My helmet has taken much worse than that before,” he told her as he rubbed his neck and plucked several shards of glass out of the surface of the helmet. “I’m just happy I’ve held up this long,” he told her as she saw him wipe away a small trickle of blood from under his chin.

A tremendous grating noise from the engine interrupted their conversation. The steel door shot a shower of sparks into the air as it scraped against the anterior of the train; the bulkhead gradually giving way to the pressure.

“You think we’re getting out of here, Silas?” she asked as she observed the struggle of machine verses wall outside of the window. “I mean, while it seems like the train’s winning this one, I’m not too sure if that thing outside could just lock us in again…”

“It’s quite possible, but we should have disabled whatever that thing did to the controls, so it can’t interfere again anytime soon,” he said as Sam continued to watch the barrier slowly fold upwards over the plow of the train. “Has Finn snapped out of it yet?” he asked.

Sam looked over to Finn, who seemed to be unsteadily rising to his feet at the mention of his name. “Looks like it.” She strode over to his side. “How do you feel?” she asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.

Finn glanced up at her. Sam could see the exhaustion of the day wearing down on him just by seeing his eyes. Man, he looks horrible, she thought as the Quilava attempted to summon the energy to answer.

“I’m … just perfect. Couldn’t be better,” he wheezed, coughing out a small puff of yellow gas. He vaguely glanced through the window over at the steel door peeling up over the straining engine. “When did that get there?” he asked Sam as he weakly waved his paw at the barrier.

She leaned down next to him. “Shortly after you got back in. You want to lie down again for a while?”

He shook his head in response. Without verbally replying, he placed his paws on the rattling wall and attempted to walk over to the window where Silas was urging the engine onwards with a series of muttered prayers. The Marowak stopped his plea to long-forgotten deities when he saw Finn stagger next to him as Sam made sure he did not fall again.

“Glad to see you’re up, Finn. As you can see, we’ve run into a bit of an obstacle, but we’re almost through from the looks of it,” he reported despite knowing that the Quilava was probably still too exhausted to fully grasp his words. “Sam, just make sure he stays upright and awake. We can’t have him sleep until that gas is out of him completely, understood?” he ordered.

Sam nodded and turned to face Finn. “So, I have to keep you awake… Why don’t you talk to me for a while? Um… Who exactly was Tiresias?”

Finn groggily agreed although his eyes were only half-open. “Well… See, I don’t think anyone knows.” He yawned quickly as he tried rubbing the fatigue out of his eyes. “There are a lot of conflicting stories about him. Silas can’t even get an approximate type of his species. The guy is a complete mystery,” he thought for a moment before looking back at her. “Well, he did prophesize about you, so we can thank him for that,” he told her with a small grin. “Still, we know next to nothing about you,” he said as his grin faded.

“Well, to be honest, I know about as-” Sam’s reply was cut short as the steel barricade was torn from its foundation as the engine jerked forward. The car itself raising several feet off the rails before roughly landing back down on the tracks.

“We’re free!” Silas shouted as he tapped the screen and raised the speed and pressure exerted by the engine. The wheels sparked as they turned in place on the tracks shortly before catching on the grooves and pushed the machine away from the toxic gas that enveloped Erebus Station.

The yellow haze of the toxins blew past the window and was swiftly replaced by fresh air. Despite sporting a few new bruises from the train’s rough behavior, Sam took the moment to breathe in the cleaner air that now blew through the vents on the ceiling.

The violent vibrations that shook the car quickly subsided and were replaced by a rhythmic clinking sound of the wheels going over the tracks. The sound grew more rapid as the metal titan flew through the steel corridor; the engine humming contently at finally being able to move along the rails once again.

Sam watched in silence as the stark walls of the station disappeared and only the jagged swatches of rock and steel columns remained along the sides of the tunnel. She knew that somewhere ahead where the answers she wanted.

Time, as in measurements of hours and minutes, had no meaning here. The light never changed inside the walls of the Abyss. Stuck in a perpetual grey light that slowly filtered in from some unseen source in the ceiling far above. Finn knew he had missed at least one complete cycle from the time he jumped down the hatch into this maze, but he had no idea how long it had actually been. 

He sat on the edge of the second car of the train, his short legs dangling off the side as he let the rushing wind clear out any of the poison left in his lungs. He thought back to a few short hours ago, or at least that was how much time he assumed to have passed since the train left Erebus Station. 

The ride through the initially pitch-black tunnel was entirely uneventful except for when Silas, Sam, and himself went to the second car and reopened the large sliding door to air out the room. Creon and Kaligo came around soon after that, though, like him, both seemed on the verge of falling asleep. 

Finn had taken it upon himself to count the grey support pillars they passed in an effort to keep himself awake while Sam and Silas kept the Mightyena and the Togetic from passing out from exhaustion until the gas cleared from their systems. Finn was around the five-hundredth pillar when he saw a dim red glow rise up from the floor beneath the tracks and felt a pulsing heat that seemed to press against his body.

He curiously looked down to see that in between the cracks of the metal floor a river of red sluggishly flowed. The tremendous raw heat generated from the glow of the molten substance warmed Finn up considerably from the dry chills of the wind. Finn let out a drawn out sigh as he tried to absorb as much of the heat as he could. 

[i]Ahhhhh, now [b]this[/b] was what I was missing out on back in the forest,[/i] he thought as he let the gentle pulses of rising heat from below flow over him, dragging him into a rare state of bliss.

“Err … You enjoying yourself?” Sam’s voice snapped him out of his trance. He turned his head up at her while still letting his feet hang from the side to take in the warmth.

“I am. Seriously, you have to try this, Sam. It feels absolutely amazing!” he exclaimed as he poked his head out of the compartment, letting the heat rush over him again. He pulled his head back in and shook it. 

“Hmmm ... I know I’ve seen some Pokémon sit on top of vents during the winter. I think I knew someone’s Persian who did that year-round.” She poked her head out, and immediately pulled it back in. “Okay, eyes are watering now.”

She blinked a number of times, trying to get her vision to return to normal. She seemed to notice that he was giving her an odd look, and she smiled a little. “I guess it’s not for me.”

He shrugged in defeat. “Oh well. I mean, I just never felt so much heat before in one place. The closest I ever came to this in the rain forest was the fire Kaligo cooked over. That woke me up a bit; I feel pretty good right now.” he inched forward along the edge to expose more of himself to the heat. “So, how are Creon and Kaligo holding up?”

“Well,” she began as she looked back at the makeshift camp they had set up for the two Pokemon in the middle of the room. “I’m fairly certain that Creon’s un-poisonable. He and Kaligo each took a face-full of the stuff, and he seemed fine.” 

Finn looked toward them as well and noticed Creon glaring at them fiercely from where he was sitting.  “Well, fine enough so that he was on his feet and confrontational. Kaligo’s in worse shape than you, but he’ll survive,” Sam continued, shrugging a bit as she did so. 

He didn’t show too much concern for the two anymore. “They wanted to come along, so what happens to them is their own fault.” He stretched out on his stomach along the edge of the railcar. “So, you have any idea how long it’s been since we started moving? I can’t tell if it’s been two hours or two days in here. The light never changes,” he asked while he gazed down at the slow moving flow of magma far below.

“I think it’s only been a few hours. Truth be told, I haven’t been paying much attention.” She leaned against the door. Finn knew she was watching him, but he poked his head out of the compartment again regardless. “So, I’ve been thinking, and I think I remember a bit more. If I push at the amnesia, it lets small details slip out. If you ever want to know more about me, just ask.”

He pulled his head back inside. The heat felt so wonderful that his flame patches were glowing on their own for once and not consciously ignited. “Anything on your name? Sam is just a placeholder until we figure it out. So, any progress on that?” he asked her while trying to avoid falling asleep to the heat and rocking of the train.  

“Not yet, but I’m not sure I’d mention it if I remembered. A name’s just a word you use to refer to things, and I like the sound of Samantha. Who knows- I may never remember my given name,” she told him as she seemed to verbally shrug her shoulders of the issue.  

An idea seemed to strike her. “Hey, as long as we’re here, why don’t we do a back-and-forth question exchange thing? I’ll ask you something, and you ask me something, and then we repeat for however long it takes us to get wherever this thing’s headed?”

Finn readily nodded in agreement. “That sounds good. So, you want to start?”

“Sure. I mean, you just asked one, so I may as well... Can you tell me about your parents?” 

Finn’s mood instantly darkened. Somehow, he knew that was going to come up. However, he managed to put on a brave face and forced out an answer. “Well … As far as I can remember, it was just my mom raising me in a small village in the mountains. She was a Typhlosion. She was a great parent: cared for me, sheltered me, and fed me when food was available, though in the winters it was pretty harsh.” He closed his eyes as he remembered their small earthen shack among the village of similar poorly built dwellings. “Until around two years ago, that is ... That’s when the plague struck our town ...” he trailed off as a different sort of memories flashed before him. The gaunt, pale faces of the infected, the blazing fevers, the nightmarish hallucinations, and finally, the slow, withering death that the disease wrought on most of its victims after only two weeks.

He gulped back the sickening feelings of guilt. “I barely got over the sickness. Somehow, my body survived it. But she …” [i]Keep it together, Finn. It’s in the past, remember that,[/i] his thoughts tried to reassure him as he finished up his answer. “She … didn’t. She succumbed to the plague along with the majority of my village.”      

Sam sat back, seemingly surprised at the fact that he had gotten that far into describing the memory. “Finn, how does this sound?  If you don’t want to talk about something, you’re allowed to ask the other person to choose a different question.”

Finn shook his head in disagreement. “No. It’s not good to have repressed emotions. I’ve seen Pokémon drive themselves insane that way. I’ve come to terms with it for the most part. Just … It’s hard sometimes. I’ll try and answer anything you ask,” he told her as he took a deep breath to gather his thoughts. “So, my turn, I guess. Let’s see … I’m still curious as to how you got on top of a tree, but I’m certain you don’t remember anything of that, right? So, how do you feel about all this?” he said as he motioned to Silas tending to Creon and Kaligo and the train. “About everything that’s happened so far?”

“Well, it’s certainly a shock. I never expected to wake up as a Servine one day, nor to end up in a place like this. I had a few escapist fantasies that were kind-of-sort-of-not-really similar to this, but that’s the closest I’ve come to this. Anyway, I like you and Silas.” Her eyes shifted over towards the group in the back. “As for the tagalongs... Well, Kaligo’s not my favorite person on the planet, and Creon... The fun meter slides back and forth between ‘fun to screw around with’ and ‘avoid.’”

Finn chuckled a bit. “Yeah, I would feel the same way if I suddenly woke up as a human. I have had daydreams of the surface from some of the stories my mom told me when I was little; finding a way that somehow lead out. And yeah, Kaligo is someone I could live without. Ever since I stumbled into their camp after the plague, he’s taken every opportunity to call me a waste of food rations,” he replied as he gave a bitter gaze over to the two former gang members.

“Speaking of the Ventus, how’d you end up involved with them?”

“Always the hard questions, isn’t it?” He grinned a bit. “Well, I was one of twelve in my village to actually survive the sickness. It fell apart after that. Any traders that used to bring food avoided our town like ... Well, the plague. So, we all left. That was a little over two years ago. After a few days of wandering through the forest, we came across the Ventus camp in the west forest desperate for shelter, food, and warmth,” he recounted to her as he recalled that day. “And besides, in the forest during the rainy season, it’s much harder to survive. You have to join a gang; otherwise, you’ll end up being much less than a slave if you’re caught. I was just lucky Silas was looking for a Pokémon to help him out at the time.” Finn casually looked over to the prophet in question. Silas had finally finished treating Kaligo and Creon of their mild poisonings and was walking towards the compartment door to go back up to the command room. Finn looked back at Sam.

“So, another question. What was your home like? You mentioned someplace called ‘Golden-rock’ before, right?” he asked, even though he knew he butchered the name somehow.

“Goldenrod. I have family there, but I came from a city one or two regions over called Veilstone. Busy place, but overall uneventful. A few years ago, there was a criminal organization that was headquartered there, but a mystery Pokémon trainer showed up, and booted them right out again. No one ever found out the details- I know one person who claims it was a young girl from Sandgem, but I know another who swears up and down that it was a boy with questionable tastes in headgear.”

She shrugged after a minute. “Basically, a lot of people, but not enough going on to justify it.  Did you have any friends besides Silas among the Ventus?”

Finn drank in the details. “That sounds … interesting. Do all of the places on the surface have problems like that?” he asked as he tried to picture what sort of criminals could be taken down by a single human child. [i]Everything about the surface is backwards,[/i] he thought. “Anyway, not really. Some of the Pokémon from my village were put into ‘D’ squad --the cleanup crew. I hung out with them on occasion whenever Silas didn’t immediately need me for something. They always used to trick me into doing their chores by having me lose bets against them,” he told her as he explained the last bet that involved eating five Cheri Berries without spitting out the incredibly spicy fruit. “It was a stupid move on my part, but if I didn’t lose, you might have never fallen on me out of that tree.” He could barely hear Silas’s voice from the first car beyond the noise of the train. Whatever it was he wanted, Finn couldn’t understand him.

“That’s true. I could have ended up dead.”

The train seemed to shake a bit on the rails as the river of magma faded from view and the heat along with it. They were back inside the grey light of the tunnel. Finn scooted away from the edge before the cold winds got to him.

He looked back at Sam as he wondered what to ask her next. [i]I already asked her almost everything I’m curious about...[/i] he thought as he mulled over the small pool of questions he had left for her. [i]Wait a moment. What she said earlier about Pokémon on the surface...[/i] The idea struck him like a hammer between the eyes. Part of him didn’t really want to know her answer, but the curious part of his mind wouldn’t let him forget about it if he didn’t ask her.

“Sam, did you …own any Pokémon as a human?” he slowly inquired as Silas’s voice gradually got louder and louder from the front of the train.

“Not for battles. My family owned a Porygon-Z, but he was around mostly to help my dad, who had a tech support job. I interacted with other peoples’ Pokémon on a daily basis, and I can remember owning... I think it was a Monferno.”

Finn raised an eyebrow. “Not for battling? What about before, when we fought Cedric? Your strategy for fighting him seemed like ones that an amateur tactician might use.”

“I don’t know why, but I have a memory of watching two opposing tribes of Weavile fight each other. That advice was taken from studying their tactics.”

“Oh, I see.” It was not as bad as he expected, though the fact that Pokémon were pets on the surface worried him. [i]And where could she have possibly have seen two Weavile tribes fight?[/i] 

“What was your Pokemon like?” The question still felt wrong on so many levels. As if he was equating himself with whatever slaves Pokemon on the surface had become. 

“Well, he seemed to enjoy being a gofer. I couldn’t understand the Pokémon language, so I could never tell much about what he was thinking. I wonder what would happen if I ran into him now...  What he’d really be like...”

Finn was thinking of a reply to her question when the metal compartment door slammed open behind him. Finn turned around to see Silas standing there; gasping for breath as small wisps of steam radiated off his helmet and skin. “Finn! Sam! Creon! Come here! We’ve got a problem!” he exclaimed as he tried to shake the heat off himself.

Finn twisted around and pulled himself off the ground. Sam was on her feet an instant behind him. “What’s the problem, and how do we fix it?” she asked as she sprinted up the stairs, taking them two at a time. 

“It’s not really something I can explain, except that the control room is now hot enough to boil water. Sam, I’m hoping you’ve at least heard of something like this before, and Finn, you are the only one among us who can possibly hope to fix it in those temperatures,” he said as he gestured for the Quilava to walk ahead of him back towards the engine. Finn heard him shout a warning to Creon and Kaligo before he shut the door behind them.

As soon as the door closed, they could feel the sudden rise in temperature. The waves of heat coming off the engine ahead of them were stronger than the ones Finn felt over the lava flow.  

The second Sam was exposed to the heat, Finn saw her recoil as if she’d been hit in the gut. She took a second to compose herself, and nodded to Finn.

“I’m... fine. I’ll be alright.” Silas knocked his club against the walls to get their attention from the front car.

“So, Samantha, have you ever heard of anything like this?” he asked as he pointed his staff over to the first car, which was radiating waves of heat that distorted the air around it. 

“Afraid not. Like I said, I know very little about how these things work.”

“Well, that leaves us little choice. Finn? We need you. Somehow, you have to find a way to cool down the car, or at least find out what is happening up there,” he explained as he handed Finn a small piece of cloth he took from his bag. “Just in case there’s any gas or fumes up there.”

Finn took the cloth and pressed it against his mouth. He walked forward up to the couplings; they seemed far less solid than they had felt earlier at the station. The twin hooks creaked and strained in protest as he slowly placed one foot in front of the other one on top of the link.

“Please, be careful. I would hate to lose my apprentice when I need him the most!” Silas called out over the ferocious breathing of the machine ahead of him. Finn nodded and took a deep breath to focus himself. 

The engine looked like it had been dipped in the magma flow. The outside was a dull, pulsing red that gave it a demonic appeal. Sparks flew from the vents on top and the sides of the huge car. As soon as Finn stepped on the metal floor before the compartment door his feet were greeted with temperatures that made the coals of the fires he stamped out seem like a joke. The searing heat was uncomfortable to him, but he was able to endure it as he twisted the glowing handle of the door. His paws left dark, cooler patches on the red-hot  wheel as it finally came apart and swinging open.

The heat was worse than Silas had said. He described it as boiling inside the room, but to Finn, it seemed as if it was hot enough to melt the entire room until it was only a puddle of molten steel. 

He gasped in pain as the cloth he was holding to his mouth instantly ignited into flames from the superheated air. He dropped it with a yelp as he rubbed the slightly singed fur on his cheeks. The cloth curled and twisted into blackened ash as soon as it touched the floor.

Disregarding the now useless protection Silas had given him; Finn took several cautious steps inside the torrid control room. The wall of nozzles, valves, pistons, levers, and gauges seemed to be hanging from their sockets as the rivets that bolted them into place were dissolved by the heat. The floor was a maze of jets of skin-melting steam Finn was keen on avoiding and hot patches that made the grate a literal frying pan to his feet.

He quickly skipped and hopped over the sizzling floor, narrowly avoiding a blast of scalding steam that would have melted his entire head if he had been closer. Without any other close calls, he finally made it to the front of the room. He glanced out of the window; aside from the jagged patterns of the walls of the tunnel, Finn saw something in the haze of the rapidly melting glass that was far more worrying. The dim light of the hall revealed that the tracks they traveled were not as endless as they seemed: they seemed to abruptly cease at a massive wall of bolted steel.

Finn gaped at the huge barrier for a moment. It did not matter how impressive the train had acted earlier against the bulkhead. [i]There’s no way we’re going to break this one down by brute force [b]and[/b] stay alive in the process.[/i]

He remembered Silas’s orders. [i]Alright, got to find a way to cool this thing down...[/i] The glass screen in front of him seemed to fizzle in and out of static as the picture rapidly flashed symbols and words that Finn could only guess were some sort of warning signal. 

He watched helplessly as the runes, numbers, and gauges on the screen kept flashing and rising. [i]Four hundred degrees … What does “K” stand for?[/i] his mind mused as the needle inside temperature gauge in question kept rising beyond the blood red “danger” zone on the circle.  

Finn cautiously tapped his paw on the surface only to have the glass crack down the middle of the screen. He swiftly withdrew his hand just in time to shield himself when the monitor exploded in a shower of sparks and glass dust that sizzled as soon as it hit the floor.

Backpedaling from the newly formed crater that used to be the control screen, Finn barely had time to raise his paws to his face as the engine underneath him shuddered violently and his vision went entirely red as jets of fire engulfed the entire cabin.
[b]Continued on Next Post[/b]

Continued on Last Post

Sam counted the seconds that Finn was gone, [i]Thirty. Thirty-one. Thirty-two.[/i] She was not incredibly worried about the Fire-type, but she was still concerned about the possibility of him being caught in an explosion.  

After about two minutes, though, she braved a faceful of heat to try to poke her head into the cabin.  The resulting blast of air almost fried her eyeballs, and she reeled into the wall she had been hiding behind before. As she began to rub at her eyes, she was dimly aware of Silas sitting down next to her.

“It’s reached a point where I’d be unable to work in there. Finn’s our best option now. If any of us try and go inside, whoever did would probably combust.” 

Sam opened her eyes wide, and began blinking as hard as she could. “Gah... Wait,” she said as her senses returned to her. “Do you have any berries on you? Specifically, Occa Berries?”

“I brought a number of damage-reducing berries. However, it wouldn’t do you any good.  They’re only good up until a certain point- say, about 60°,” he told her, taking out a small, clearly rotten, red berry and showed it to her to demonstrate his point. 

At that point, she heard the compartment door of the car in front of them quickly open. Finn crawled out from inside the room and turned around, placing his back against the door. He dug his heels into the floor as he forced the door shut; small jets of fire still scorched the floor and walls in between the cracks in the doorframe.

Finn stood there, gasping, as he tried to catch his breath. Sam saw that his fur was colored a dull grey from the flames, though her brief fears of it being a permanent mark were put to rest when he rubbed the soot off with a brush of his paw. He looked over at her and Silas across the small chasm in between the cars. Seeing them waiting for him, Finn dropped to all fours and scampered over the metal hooks that bound the cars together.

“Silas, we have a problem. A very big problem,” he gasped as he got to his feet again.

Sam leaned forward, still trying to rub the stinging particles of smoke out of her eyes.  “Let me guess- we can’t fix it, and it’s going to explode?”

Finn looked at both her and the prophet. “Partly right, I think. I’m pretty sure we can’t fix it, and if we don’t get off this thing soon, we have a high chance of dying in a fireball,” he said as he quickly recounted how the screen had shattered and left the train without any means of control.

Silas’s eyes, buried within his helmet, still showed signs of confusion as Finn continued to explain their predicament. “Up ahead, there’s a giant metal wall that we’re going to hit at high speed. Any ideas on how to avoid that?” he irritably asked them both while he impatiently gestured beyond the front of the train to the dim, immense steel roadblock that towered above them like a mountain. 

Silas thought for a few seconds, as he seemed to look around for possible solutions. His eyes widened as he grabbed his staff. “Finn, you may be standing on it. Here, move,” he said as he motioned for the Quilava to stand aside. Finn hopped to the side as he knelt down beside Sam to get a look at what the Marowak was referring to.

Sam saw him raise the bone club up and slam it down onto a thick, metal apparatus she had used as a bridge between the cars earlier. The bone hit hard against the surface, but the actual damage to the binding device seemed minimal at best.

“If we can break this coupling, we’ll be free of the engine and be able to coast to a stop,” he theorized.  Silas suddenly picked his head up. “Well? What are you two waiting around for? Go search for some tools or something we can use to break the hold! There’s got to be something in all those crates!” he yelled as he swung the club down once more.  

His fervid order made both her and Finn jump up in alarm, though she stopped before blindly running off into the cargo hold. “What exactly are we looking for? That club of yours is a pretty heavy load-- it stands to reason that conventional tools won’t be able to break it,”

Silas shook his head in exasperation. “Anything made of metal! It stands to reason there would be something of that sort stored there. Now go! According to Finn, we’re running out of track. I don’t think I need to remind you that our lives are in danger, right?” The question was obviously rhetorical as the old prophet immediately turned back towards his attempt to free the second car from the flaming engine.

Following Finn, Sam passed through the creaking compartment door that lead into the massive hold of the second car. Mountains of wooden boxes piled high on each other created an impossible jumble for them to navigate through as the train’s movements shifted them around even further.

She shrugged. “Alright. Finn, you think there’s anything useful in these crates?”

She traced Finn’s gaze as the Quilava scanned over the sea of freight until meeting up with the figures of Creon and Kaligo, both Pokemon seemingly dwarfed by the towering cliffs around them. “There’s gotta be over a thousand in here. They can’t all be empty, right?”

“Well, why don’t we open one of them and see what’s inside?” she asked as Finn nodded in agreement. Together they walked up to a few of the crates that weren’t supporting the mountain. He used his claws to pry open the lid while Sam managed to dig her flat, leafy hands under the top. Luckily, age seemed to have weakened the wood a bit, and the top snapped open like dried bark. The container was void of anything useful; only thick, folded quilt-like blankets were inside. She pushed it aside and moved on. 

“Alright, we’ve got ... a sack of dried berries, possibly Rawst, judging from the bitter smell,” Finn listed as he flung a sack to the floor and continued digging through his box’s contents while Sam managed to easily break off the lid of another. A sugary sweet smell slowly radiated from the newly-exposed contents.  

“Hmmm... Dried Nanab Berries. Whoever was stocking this train was probably preparing for something...” She pondered exactly what sort a person would need so much food and supplies for before a thought hit her. “Incidentally, weren’t you saying earlier that these crates probably didn’t have food inside of them?” Finn shrugged as he pulled out a small pouch containing a set of sharp iron thorns. He set it aside to give to Silas as he answered her.

“It was just a guess. I’m kind of angry at myself for not doing this earlier, because I’ve been starving. You mind handing one of those berries over?” He reached into the box again as he retrieved an odd circular disk. As he turned it over in his paws, the fragile piece shattered. Not thinking any more of it, he tossed it to the floor as he continued his search. 
When he lifted his head up again, Sam tossed one of the raisins at him. He barely managed to intercept one of the dried berries that she threw his way in his paw. He popped it in his mouth as he continued to rummage through the contents. Sam decided to eat one herself. The dried berry still had flavor, but it was hardly close to filling up her empty stomach.

Sam cracked open another one, and pulled out a bunch of pink, needle-like twigs.  “Er, Finn?  What does one do with these things?” she asked as she turned over one the spines in her hands. The Quilava glanced her way at the small handful of brittle spines she held as she tried to avoid pricking herself on the pointed ends.

 “Well, from the looks of them, they look like they’d hurt if they hit you. That’s all I got on them. But, we’re wasting time. Put all the food you can in your bag and just look for anything hard and made of metal Silas can use. I’m going to go give him these spikes. Just keep looking,” he said as he picked up the sack of wrinkled, blue berries and the pouch of iron spikes. Sam watched as he shoved the bitter berries into his bag and tucked the spikes under his arm as he ran off towards the compartment door.

As Finn departed, Sam pulled open another crate to discover a large number of drawstring bags. Curious, she opened one of them up to discover a number of orange seeds. They certainly didn’t seem like anything special. Sighing, she tossed the bag behind her, and turning around to look at another crate.

What she did not expect was the loud explosion that rocked the train car when the bag struck a nearby crate. She spun around in surprise, looking at the smoking remains of a large chunk of the crate, a few orbs, and a smoking crater that used to be a bit of the floor.  

She opened up another one of the bags eagerly, hoping that it would be filled with the same seeds. As her hypothesis was confirmed, she grinned to herself as she tightened the drawstring on the bag filled with the tiny, explosive seeds.

“Alright, then. Somebody set up us the bomb...”

Finn ducked as Silas angrily threw another broken spike where his head was a second ago. The metal pins had not been nearly as sturdy as Finn thought they were when he found them as yet another snapped in two as Silas tried to wedge it between the clamped hooks. Enraged, the prophet picked up the pouch of frail metal and tossed it over the edge of the train where it immediately was torn to shreds by the high-speed impact with the ground.

“Come on, Finn! There’s got to be something in there better than this! I need something stronger!” he yelled over the screeching of the wheels as he threw the last thorn off the train.

Finn winced at the sound of his master’s harsh words. He quickly got up from his crouched position and made to go back through the door to search once more. Just as he was about to twist open the handle, the bulkhead swung open, and the dull metal corner slammed into his nose. Stars flew in vision as he clutched his aching snout, trying not to shed tears.

Through his watering eyes, he could vaguely make out Sam standing in the doorway. She seemed to be carefully balancing two large cloth sacks in her hands, initially looking quite pleased with herself before realizing what the door had done to him. She leaned down next to him, shouting apologies.

Finn shook his head. “It’s not my ears you hit, Sam. Stop shouting,” he growled as he tried to tell her he would be fine, but his words sounded slurred. From what he could tell, she hadn’t understood a word of his. Giving up on talking as a means of communication, Finn got up, and pushed her along the passage until she was at the opening where Silas was. He saw the prophet had reverted to using his club once again in an effort to smash through the coupling.

“Please tell me you found something useful, Sam,” the Marowak grunted as he continued to slam bone against steel; neither giving way to the other.  Sam held out one of the bags.  

“There are exploding seeds in here. Will that work?” 

Silas spent no time examining the bags. Finn observed as the Marowak gently pulled the sack from her hands. Making sure not to lose his balance on the metal link, Silas set the bag down, and carefully undid the drawstring seal on it. Both Finn and Sam looked over his shoulder. There were thousands of the rust-colored, seeds all heaped inside the sack. Silas let out a gasp. Quickly drawing the sting shut, he motioned for Sam to hand him the other bag. 

“Those seeds,” he began breathlessly, “are the most volatile things I have ever seen in my entire life. To save time, yes, they will work. We must be quick and extremely careful about it. One wrong move and we’ll all be in the market for a new set of arms and legs, if we’re lucky,” he warned as he accepted the second sack and placed it snugly across the couplings next to the other one.

“So...  How do we set them off?” Sam asked just as Finn went over the same question in his head. Silas did not answer her as he hopped off the couplings onto the second car next to them. He immediately corralled them into the very back of the front part of the car and then twisted open the compartment door.

“Hey! What’s going on? What did you all do now?” Creon barked at the three Pokemon from the floor. The Mightyena crouched and then bounded up the small flight of steps that lead up to the compartment door. Finn vaguely noticed that he seemed to have recovered from the gas exposure as he scrambled onto the top platform. “Tell me this instant, Silas,” he growled as the train shook once more.

Wind screamed inside the open freight door as it raced around the compartment. Tarps covering the crates were tossed weightlessly about and flapped around on the currents like trapped bats.

Silas marched over to the Mightyena and held the club at ready in his right hand. “We’re going to go up in flames in a few moments if we don’t act fast. I suggest you hold onto something and pray that sack of dead weight Kaligo doesn’t fall out,” he whispered through his clenched teeth before fighting through the wind back to the door.

Finn quietly watched as Silas quickly peered through the small metal hallway to ensure that the twin burlap sacks were still in position. Once satisfied, he knelt down next to Finn and put an arm around the Quilava’s shoulder.

“I need you to fire an Ember down onto those bags. I know the wind’s against you, but all we need is a spark to hit them and we’re good to go. As soon as you’re finished firing, get back here.” Finn knew Silas was watching as his entire body seemed to sink at the thought of risking his life yet again when he barely got back from inside the inferno in the control room. “Listen, I promise you’ll be alright. I haven’t been wrong --more or less-- yet. Please, Finn. We all need you right now,” he said as he placed a hand on the Quilava’s shoulder in an attempt to reassure him.

Finn nodded slowly, resigned to the duty of bomb lighter pressed upon him. He took a last glimpse of Sam, Creon, and the prophet as he climbed through the doorway into the hall.
He advanced over the rumbling steel plates as he approached the couplings and the rushing wind of the tunnel once again.

Sparks danced in the air as they were exhaled from the mouth of the furious engine. Unfortunately, the wind prevented any of the lively sparks from landing on the sacks and doing his job for him. Finn clutched a small box as he took a deep breath; preparing to launch a flame at the organic explosives.

The already boiling air simmered in his lungs for a moment as his body slowly churned it into liquid fire. Finn reared his head back and forced the substance out of his chest, spitting the ball of clear liquid towards the general direction of the bags. The attack instantly ignited as soon as it hit air; the new flares raced through the hallway until they were mercilessly batted away by the howling wind that flew by the doomed train.

Finn gulped as he saw the flares fizzle out uselessly against the metal floor. He was going to have to get closer if he wanted a chance to beat the wind, separate the cars, and play the hero and save the day. He inched forward as he approached the fragile railing right above the coupling. The blazing gale was blowing directly in his face, making it difficult to see in the intense fumes.

He put his paw above his eyes to block out the wind as he looked through the space in between the engine and the second car. There was a curve in the tracks coming up that would still the rushing winds for a few seconds. He would have to time his attack just right, otherwise he would have to light it from point-blank range.

Finn felt his body sway as the titanic engine screamed onwards through the turn in the tunnel. [i]It’s now or never,[/i] he thought as he took another breath. As the engine changed directions and the wind dissipated , Finn exhaled all the breath he had in his lungs. A millisecond later, he twisted around away from the coupling. He heard the Embers strike the metal around the bags.  The world seemed to slow as he sprinted behind a small alcove formed by the hall and instantly dropped to the ground, curling into a ball behind the wall. 

He heard each individual thread on the bags quietly burn as the fire ate away at them, not knowing that an unstable cache of unholy plant matter that awaited only nanometers away. Finn barely had time to cover his ears with his paws as the bags detonated and thousands of incendiary grenades went off in a hellish symphony of twisting steel and hissing fire.

The train car buckled at the blast; the front rising up over the rails for an instant as the fireball blew apart the entire area around the coupling. Finn could even hear the crates in the cargo area behind him crash down and spill open over the tremendous noise in front of him. He felt the scorching fire trace its glowing fingers along his back briefly as they passed by him and slammed into the sealed bulkhead door.

Finn tried to shut out the noise as the wall above him cracked and tore away from the train.
Moments passed and the noises of the wheels clicking on the tracks and the demonic shrieks of the seething-red engine never faded in his ears. [i]It can’t burn me. It can’t burn me. It can’t burn me...[/i] his mind repeated to itself as the tongues of fire swelled in the air around him as the explosion entered its decay phase.

Red-hot flakes of broken steel swirled around in the air as if they were snowflakes sent from the ash-choked skies of hell. The flakes alighted on his curled back; fiery sparrows looking for a branch to rest upon. Finn whimpered as the flakes burned through his flame-resistant skin and ate into his back. He opened his mouth to scream, but his voice was snatched away by the greedy heat. Tears boiled into steam as they rolled down his face. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t see, and for all he knew, the explosion had killed him and this was the true Erebus that awaited his soul. At last, his vision started to darken and fade, and Finn welcomed unconsciousness with open arms.

As the explosion rocked the train car, Sam lost her footing and fell towards one of the walls. She managed to catch herself on a rail, though she lost her breath momentarily as the impact knocked the wind out of her. She turned to Silas.

“That was… far louder than the single bag. Was all of that necessary?” she practically yelled over the roar of the blast on the other side of the door. Immediately after she said that, a thought popped into her head. Finn!

The Marowak kept his back pressed against the door as he dug his feet into the metal floor to keep it closed. “Don’t ask me, my dear. It was you and the boy who gave me both bags! I’m just surprised that the car is–” a loud creak interrupted him as the entire compartment rumbled and shook. “-- holding up,” he sighed. Silas took his club and wedged it under the wheel for the door, jamming it in place temporarily.

“We have to go after him! It sounds like he might have been injured- I mean, unless he managed to hit it from farther than about six or seven meters away…” she exclaimed as the door creaked under the pressure of the flames on the other side.

Silas knelt on the ground as he picked up the bag he had cast down in the moments before. “Sam, if he had been able to hit it from that distance, he would be here with us,” he said as he looked up at her. “It’s … It’s very unlikely he escaped the blast … unscathed,” the prophet choked as his voice began to falter. Sam could see the Marowak’s eyes beginning to water through his helmet.

Sam was silent for a moment, and nodded. “Right. I’m going in.” Not bothering to wait for a response, she charged towards where Finn had gone. She kicked away Silas’s club and began to twist open the wheel.

Seeing her intentions, the prophet immediately rushed in front of her, forcing himself in between her and the door. Before she could struggle against him, he grabbed her and roughly shoved her away from the bulkhead.

“Idiot! Do you us want to be burned alive?” he roared as he hurriedly twisted the wheel back into the closed position. He turned to face her. “Blast Seeds have lingering chemical agents and their fires will burn for several minutes before going out. You would have killed us all if you opened that door,” he angrily rebuked her.

“I don’t care. For all we know, he could be dying or dead! I’m going in, and grabbing him. After that, you can see if you can help him. I’ll be…” Sam trailed off, and shuddered a bit. “…fine.” He walked up to her, even though her stare was almost enough to kill. He kneeled down so that he was on her eye level.

“Listen to me. Please. I hate to think that Finn might be … gone. It was foolish of me to send him in there alone, and I will hate myself if anything happened to him. However, we cannot risk our lives just to save him. Going out there now would be just as good as throwing yourself on his pyre,” Silas told her as blinked away a few tears from behind his helmet. Without another word he stood and took up his position in front of the door again.

“Again, I don’t give a damn! Let me through!” she yelled as she made to charge the door again. Silas simply crossed his arms and shook his head before taking his staff and fitting it through the spokes of the opening wheel once again.

“Well, that was certainly interesting. I never figured the old 'mon would ever get angry at his precious ‘key’. I guess even his patience wears thin with you after a while, doesn’t it?” Sam heard the Mightyena comment from behind her as he climbed up the lower steps.

She turned to face him, her voice filled with barely-contained rage. “Creon, if you’re not here to offer anything constructive–” He cut her off.

“You can stop with the attitude, human. I saw what just happened. And for the first time on this adventure of ours, I agree with Silas. I’d rather not burn just because poor Finny might be ashes right now.” The Mightyena paced around her as if a vulture circling an abandoned carcass.

“So go back to another car. I’m going in to help him.”

Creon let out a single snort of laughter. “Too bad there aren’t any other cars; the rest snapped off back in the station.” He jerked his head towards the door Silas was guarding and the twisted, burning wreckage in the hallway beyond it. “So, you really think he’s still alive, huh?” he asked in apparent disbelief. “I felt that blast all the way back here. Just because he’s stamped out a few coals before doesn’t protect him from hugging a fireball.”

“Whether he is or not doesn’t matter --I’m going in, and taking him out. Even if he’s … gone. If that ends up being the case, he at least deserves a burial…” she mumbled.

“Be it far from me to offer advice to you, but I would suggest forgetting about him until after the fires stop burning. Also, I have to ask. What is with your sudden loyalty to him? You’ve only been here two or three days. You can’t tell time down here,” he questioned.

Sam briefly looked at the rushing tunnel outside the freight door. “In the time I’ve been here, I’ve met you, a cook who clearly doesn’t like me, a prophet who’s dropped some heroic destiny I still don’t fully understand on top of me, and him. Just who do you think I’m going to gravitate towards?” she snapped, her leaves trembling in anger.

Creon shook his head. “Not exactly what I meant. I can understand that he would be the nicest to you. But, your desire to risk your life just to bring back a body. That’s something I don’t get. Is it different among you humans? That sort of trust it not so easily earned down here. What has he done for you to deserve yours?” His claws clicked on the steel plated floor as he continued to pace around her. Wind blew from the open door of the still-moving train, chilling the occupants.

“Out of all the people here, he’s the only one who has been decent without wanting anything from me, in return or otherwise. I’d say that’s worth my respect.” She turned towards the door. “Now let me through, Silas!”

The prophet seemed to have heard her as he lightly placed the back of his paw on the surface of the door. “Alright, I am going through first. Sam, Creon, both of you remain on standby just in case … should the worst happen.” With that, he shifted his staff free from the spokes and slid his satchel over his shoulder.

Sam and Creon watched anxiously as Silas motioned for them to back away from the doorway as he twisted the wheel. The bulkhead creaked open, though fortunately, only accompanied by a wave of heated fumes instead of all-scorching jets of fire.

She saw the prophet shield his face from the blasts of hot air as he cautiously inched forward through the door. From the ruined hallway small flickers of orange and red light danced inside the compartment as the fires sputtered out of existence.

It was an entire agonizing minute before she heard Silas cry out from within.
“Come quickly! I’ve found him! I’ve got him!” the prophet’s breathless voice screamed.

Sam charged in after him, and stumbled a bit as the still-present heat slammed into her. It wasn’t enough to cause her any actual pain, though, and she slowly moved forward.
Spotting Silas alongside an unconscious Finn, she jumped over the piles of shredded metal towards them. “Is he alive?”

The prophet did not answer her at first as he hurriedly dug through his bag for something. Now that she saw him up close, Sam could see exactly why Silas was rushing. The Quilava looked mostly unharmed at first glance, but after a closer look she saw dozens of small, angry welts and fresh cuts trickling blood all along his back. Ash seemed to cling to his entire body like a grimy film.

Silas grunted as he found a small cloth pouch inside his bag and pulled it out. “It’s a blessing by the Prophets that he’s alive. But now, we have to wake him and treat his wounds before,” He struggled to rip open the threaded seal on the pack. “Infection sets in,” he told her once the string finally snapped.

His hand hovered over the gold tinted seeds before selecting one particularly shiny seed from the pile. Silas gently moved Finn’s head so that it was facing upwards, held the seed under his nose, and snapped the grain in half. The scent quickly spread through the room from the draft coming from the front. To Sam, the pungent smell that resembled dried herbs shot through her head.

“What’s that?” she asked as she held her snout in pain at the strong, bitter smell.

“A gift made up of whatever good still remains. It’s a Heal Seed. Now give it a minute to take effect…” Silas said as he continued to hold the broken seed. While she was patiently waiting to see the smell have some sort of effect on Finn, Sam couldn’t help but notice Creon slowly padding around them and heading towards the broken coupling.

Her ill thoughts regarding the rogue Pokemon were forgotten when a sudden groan sounded from beneath her. She glanced down to see Finn’s body twitch and his eyes slowly open as a round of weak coughs immediately overcame him.

Sam leaned down next to him. “Hey. Just hold completely still a minute,” she calmly told him even though her entire body seemed ready to collapse with relief that he was alive.

Silas went around the Quilava and crouched to observe the burns on his back. “Sam, I am going to need you to keep him still. The weak acids in the Rawst should keep him protected from infection, but it will feel like a knife wound to him. So please, just keep him from struggling too much while I apply it,” he instructed as he pulled out a single badly bruised blue berry from somewhere within the depths his worn bag.

Sam nodded and placed her hands on top of him. “Sorry about this…”

“It can’t burn me…” he whispered through his barely open mouth as if in a trance. Silas didn’t appear to hear the strange whisper as he squashed the berry in his hands.

“It… What?” Sam looked down at him in confusion.

“It can’t burn me,” he again whispered numbly. He didn’t even seem to be addressing her at all, his stare passed straight through her as he said it once more. “It can’t burn me.”

Sam looked up at Silas, concern written across her face. “…He’s going to be okay, right?”
The prophet held the crushed remains of the fruit in his hands as he prepared to apply it to the burns.

“I will try my best, but the burns are ugly, and, from what he’s doing now, I figure he’s gone into shock. I’m hoping this wakes him out that, otherwise … well, let’s hope he wakes up,” he told her before he took a deep breath. “Here goes.”

Silas rubbed the sickly green substance over his hands and suddenly slapped them down on the Quilava’s back. Almost instantly, the pupils in Finn’s eyes grew wide as a shrill scream broke through the quiet of the fires, the clattering of the tracks, and the demonic chugging of the engine ahead of them.Sam immediately pressed down against Finn’s arms again as he tried to squirm and get some form of relief for his blistering back.

“It burns! Get it off! Get it off!” he howled as he struggled against her grasp. He attempted to throw a punch at her to make her let go, but Silas seized his flailing paw mid-swing and held it down as he continued smearing the Rawst paste along the Quilava’s burns.

“Please… just hold… still!” she hissed as he struggled against her grip, still screaming at the top of his lungs. “Silas, how much more do you have to apply?”

“Not much, but it has to stay there for a minute after I finish in order for it to do its job. Finn, listen to me and endure it. I don’t want to have to use a Stun Seed, but I will if you try and attack one of us again,” he said as he lifted his hands from Finn’s back and clapped them together to get rid of the residue. “You’re worth more to me alive than you are not, so please, just allow me to do my job to keep you that way.”

Silas gathered his materials into his bag and got to his feet once again. Sam loosened her iron hold on Finn a slight bit as his resistance lessened. He squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth to get through the pain.

She surveyed the remains of the hallway around her. The parts of metal wall that weren’t jagged, smoldering pieces on the ground were a half-melted, twisted, dull red formation crowning the front of the still-moving car.

“…Okay. We don’t use those things again. Is that reasonable, Silas?” she asked as she picked up a tiny, burnt husk of one of the small seeds.

The prophet turned to her. “Actually,” he began with a slight gleam in his eye, “I think we’ll be taking a few more bags with us for good measure. No door will be able to withstand a well-timed blast from those. It’ll be idiotic to carry them the way they are, so I’m thinking of a way to take them with us that cuts down the risk of someone accidentally setting it off,” he told her as he shoved a broken fragment of the roof off the side of the car where it clattered wildly on the metal platform beneath the train wheels.

Suddenly, Creon squeezed through a gap in the melted debris. “Silas. I think we have a serious problem,” he reported breathlessly. Sam noticed that several small patches of his dark fur were completely blackened and scorched. Silas straightened up and clutched his staff protectively in his hands.

“What … problem?” he whispered as Sam heard his confident tone fade away.

“I’ll show you. You two, you’d better come see this as well,” Creon coughed as he addressed the later part of his statement towards Finn and her.

Sam looked down towards Finn. “Are you up for moving?”

Finn grunted as he gingerly tried to get to his feet. “Not really,” he said with a grimace. “But, I don’t expect I’d have a choice if I said ‘no’. Can you help me? My back feels like it was just splashed with boiling water.”

Sam nodded. “Right. If I’m moving too fast, don’t hesitate to tell me.” With that, she lifted him up to his feet, letting him lean on her back. She turned to look at Creon. “Lead on.”

The Mightyena nodded as he ducked through the barricade fallen metal with Silas at his heels. Finn draped his arm over her as he limped over the jagged flakes of steel over to the makeshift tunnel Creon had formed through the rubble.

“What? No! This can’t be possible! We were supposed to coast to a stop! There’s nothing there connecting us!” Sam heard Silas exclaim from the other side of the metal. She urged Finn to move and shortly after, they emerged near the epicenter of the detonation in between the two cars.

The wind struck the both of them as soon as they came forth from the shield of debris. Sparks swirled around in the air as they brushed up against her skin. Choosing to ignore the stinging particles of fire, Sam looked beyond Creon and Silas to the open air behind the engine.

White-hot metal plating oozed off the sides the flaming machine in front of them while it continued to chug forward towards imminent destruction. For every movement it made, it triggered a reactionary movement in their own car. It was as if the physical coupling made no difference to the link between the cars.

Sam sighed, not voicing the single thought in her head. We blew Finn up for nothing.

A bolt of lightning suddenly shot between the engine and the wrecked remains of the connectors and wrenched the second car even closer to the smoldering motor. The floor shuddered and shook beneath Sam and nearly knocked her off balance. She had just regained her footing when the deck fell out from underneath her.

[b]End Chapter Three[/b]

Authors’ Notes:

Knightfall: You would not believe how long it took to fully edit this thing until we thought it was good enough to post… Either way, it’s slightly shorter than the previous chapter and the POV errors are virtually nonexistent!

Pokenutter: And there you have it- the slowest advancing wall of doom ever! I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter, and are ready for a location change in the next one!

Knightfall: And, Pokenutter, it’s all about the pacing. Even with walls of doom. XD

Knightfall and Pokenutter signing off…

Well, another long chapter, I’m afraid. But, we are trying. It’s shorter than the last one by quite a few pages, so that’s a step forward.

Chapter Four: Beware the Marshes

[i] “Tiresias looked about the Abyss. His eyes beheld inmates held blind by the Tyrant. Unable to see, they could not follow him out, for they stumbled along the path. In anger, the Prophet yelled to the Abyss to let the captives see. The Ancient One shook with laughter and mockingly rattled its chains. But Tiresias did not despair. He went to each of the Thousand Wings and preached for the prisoners to see. Wherever his voice was heard, most fled his words, for they were unable to accept the truth and the light of the sun. Some, however, opened their eyes and cast away their chains to follow him. Those few became the Watchful.”[/i]
--[b]Passage from [i]Tiresias and the Gate of Sight[/i][/b]

He heard the twisted metal floor snap, Sam’s surprised gasp before she disappeared entirely through the fissure, and the engine screeching in triumph as it snatched up another victim in its smoking jaws. Finn wasn’t about to allow that, and there was no force in the Abyss that could stop him. With a scream in protest of the Fate’s decision, he burst into action as a spring released.

He wasn’t sure what possessed him --despite being recently bruised, burned, and beaten-- to lunge towards her. His body slammed against the ground after the momentum from his jump petered out. Ignoring the small jagged pieces of steel cutting into his chest, he scrambled forward towards the newly created hole in the bottom of the train car.

Finn peered forwards over the edge, hoping against hope that he would see her unharmed. He squinted to glimpse through the dust blowing up from the tracks, but his efforts were not in vain. Sam was hanging on the side near the very bottom of the hole, struggling to hold herself up on the pieces of torn steel. It was a miracle that she hadn’t fallen through completely-- it looked like she would have been swept away underneath if she had fallen another inch or two.

“Finn! Silas! Creon! Someone!” she shouted after failing to pull herself up. Finn couldn’t help but release the breath he had been holding. Thank the gods, she’s alright! his mind exclaimed joyously.

Air and other debris pushed underneath the train buffeted Finn’s face as he tried to reach down to her. Through the stinging pieces of ash and dust, he saw the Servine clutching to a segment of a broken metal beam --the main culprit in the structural failure-- several feet below him.

His stomach grew sick as he saw the actual rails flicking directly beneath Sam’s flailing feet at unreal speeds. Finn heard her let out a sharp cry in pain as the very bottom of her foot brushed against one of the rough, iron rails. He saw her squeeze her eyes shut as she tried in vain to keep from shedding tears.

“Sam! Just-- Just hold on! Please! We’ll get you out of there! I promise!” he yelled even though he knew he was too far up to help her even if he stretched as far as he could. Realizing this, he pulled himself up and turned to Silas and Creon who were looking over the opposite sides of the opening. He just about to open his mouth when Silas shook his head.

“I know what you’re thinking. Unless it’s in the cargo area, there’s not a rope up here. The one I have isn’t long enough to rescue her,” the prophet said correctly anticipating Finn’s question. The Quilava glared at Silas for an agonizingly long second as the train continued to rush towards destruction.

“No! There’s got to be something! Anything!” he snapped, the flame patches on his neck and tail igniting as anger raced through his body. Without waiting for a reply from the Marowak or an insult from Creon, Finn leaned over the edge of the hole once more.

From what he could see through the crude wind tunnel, Sam was trying to pull herself back up. She wasn’t having much success-- every time she managed to pull herself up a little bit, her strength seemed to disappear. The end result was that she looked like she was trying to do pull-ups. She became frustrated with this about ten seconds in, and appeared to completely lose it. She began a strange kind of flailing, possibly an attempt to swing herself up. Finn bit his lip, if she couldn’t keep herself up for a few more minutes, there would be absolutely nothing he could do to stop her demise.

And then, out of nowhere, a vine appeared, initially flying out from just under the golden collar around her neck. The newly created plant twitched for an instant before hanging limply by her side, completely useless. She didn’t seem to notice it at first, only spotting it when she gave up trying to thrash her way onto a higher piece of piping just out of her reach. Finn saw her muttering to herself in bewilderment, and then the vine began to move. As she watched it move up and down, she seemed to be hit by a bolt of clarity. She reached the vine up, and shouted, “Hey! Is this thick enough?”

Despite having watched the entire scene unfold before his eyes, Finn wasn’t sure what just happened, much less what she had asked. He had never come into close contact with strange Pokemon that exhibited unnatural power over the plants and trees that had lived in the depths of the jungle. He had no idea what sort of powers they had. His utter confusion must have shown on his face, because Sam shouted up at him again, and loudly thumped the vine against the train floor.

“Errm, yes?” he said uncertainly.

“PULL. ME. UP!” she bellowed up at him, thumping the vine again, and almost losing her already flimsy grip on the beam. Finn felt like smashing his head into a wall, but suppressed the urge. Why else would she be doing that, genius? his thoughts scolded him as he tried to make up for lost time and stupidity.

Not wasting any more precious time, Finn leaned further down into the pit to grab the vine. Sam didn’t seem to be able to push it any higher from where she was, and it still remained out of his grasp by several inches. Just as he was about to pull himself up and try again, he felt a pair of rough paws grab his hind legs.

“Go on, Finn! I won’t let you drop!” Silas called as he secured his hold. His confidence bolstered by the prophet’s reassurance, he forced himself to descend deeper into the pit. He was beginning to grow dizzy from the effects of vertigo as he extended his paw to the moving vine.

As soon as he touched the plant, it instantly wrapped itself around his paw and wound around his arm in a vice-like grip. Panicking, Finn tried to shake the tendril off before Sam growled from below him to stop and pull her up. Putting aside his emotions, he tried to grab onto the side of the hole with his free paw while also attempting not to flip over and send both of them to the tracks below.

Silas began pulling up on his leg at the same time Sam let go of the beam. Her added weight on his arm felt like was going to rip in two and pull his bad shoulder out along with it. He gritted his teeth to what he felt was their breaking point and prayed to the ancient prophets that his body wouldn’t fail him now.

As soon as the lower half of his body touched the edge of the pit, he reached up with his free arm and scrambled over the rim. Together with Silas, he pulled himself further away from the hole and dragged Sam out. The instant she was securely on the solid floor of the car again, the vine wrapped around his arm slackened and dropped off. Sam tried to stand, but hopped upward and toppled off to her left when her right foot touched the ground.

“My foot…” was all she managed to gasp before Finn saw the damage. The front half of the sole of her foot seemed to have been sliced clean off. Small bits of blackened specks of rust peppered the wound, as a thin stream of pale green fluid bled from the laceration.

She leaned against a wall as she held her foot as best she could. Finn quickly ran up beside her with Silas at his side and Creon behind them.

Breathing heavily, she eyed the prophet. “Right, so what do about this? Any clue? I’m not going to be able to move anywhere with my foot like this…” she asked weakly as her body shook in pain as the wound connected with the surface of her leaves.

Finn watched as he rested against the wall while Silas kneeled down before her and opened up his satchel. The Marowak shifted through the contents until he pulled out a thin strip of brownish cloth that might have been white at one point, according to a few clean strands of it. He carefully lifted up her foot, causing Sam to wince and swear under her breath.

“Good news is that it’s not a deep cut. It seems that the rails only took off the first layer of skin and only a little bit of the second. We need to stop the blood loss first, then disinfection, and after that you should start recovering as soon we get out of this damn tunnel into some proper light. This is going to hurt quite a bit.” he announced as he took the dirtied rag and held it above the wound. “Finn, let her hold your paw while I do this. The last thing I need is for her to attack me this close range.

Sam held her hand out. “Better watch my shoulders, too- if I hold my neck a certain way, the vines come out. If I thrash at all, there’s a good chance they may slap one or both of you,” she added, wincing as Silas prepared the wound for treatment.

For a human, she knows an awful lot about being a Pokémon, Finn thought, though he didn’t dwell on it too much.

Obeying Silas’s orders, he grasped her leafy hand as held it tight as Silas quickly took out the remaining bits of the Rawst Berry he’d used on Finn earlier and dabbed the wound with it. Sam hissed in agony as she tried to keep her body under control. Her leaf squeezed Finn’s paw even tighter as Silas finished applying the salve. Not allowing any time for a reaction, he reached down, picked up the cloth once again, and started wrapping the dirtied rag around the newly sterilized wound.

It was a few seconds before Sam slowly released her grip on Finn’s paw. She was about to speak when their world erupted in a titanic crunch of steel against steel. Finn had only enough time to glance up before the glowing engine slammed into the wall at the end of the track.

As soon as the heated machine touched to cooler steel plating, the engine exploded in a supernova of light that resembled the legendary stars that hung over the surface world above. However, it wasn’t the heat or force of the blast that hit them first. The sound resonating from the detonation thundered through the tunnel and on Finn’s ears. After a second of the noise, he couldn’t hear.

In the split second before everything fell, he saw Creon’s jaw stretched open in a yell as he tried to vault over a pile of strewn boxes in his vain attempt to save himself. Silas ducked behind an outcropping in the wall as he pulled Sam against his side trying to shield her from the inevitable blast. He just stood there in the middle of the ruined car as his body seemed to seize up. His mind screamed for him to duck beside Silas or run like Creon, anything besides the numb response it was receiving now.

Air crumpled and withered around him as the full force of the exploding star that was the engine rended it to shreds. Finn felt like a sledgehammer had slammed into his chest as the blast lifted him off his feet and threw him into the air. He had often heard stories that one’s life sped before their eyes in times of impending doom, and now, he could personally attest to the validity of those accounts. It wasn’t entirely old memories such as his mother, several were from only a few days ago when his misadventure had began. From the tree to his shoulder, to the hatch, and the showdown with Cedric. He saw it all again.

Unlike usual, the laws of gravity seemed to have decided to take the day off. Finn slowly opened his eyes, though he immediately wished he hadn’t. The entire car, every ton of welded metal was rotating around him; he was staring down at what was supposed to be the roof. Just beyond the twisting metal, Finn saw the tracks, though he was certain they were not supposed to be touching the roof, nor making a horrid screeching sound as they slid along them.

Returning his attention to his immediate surroundings, he could only watch as Silas, Sam, and Creon were battered against the walls of the flipping machine. Crates and debris seemed to dance in the air around him as he tried to maneuver his body to avoid collision with the jagged and heavy objects.

He had just evaded impalement by a shard of floating piece of jagged iron when he felt the fires. Of course there was fire, he had been foolish to think that his encounters with the comforting, yet terrifying substance were over for today. Flames slowly licked the edges of the tumbling car as if a connoisseur from the underworld sampled what part to burn first.

Creon tried to dig his claws into the small groves in the paneling. Finn almost snickered as he saw the Mightyena clinging to the ceiling, his face frozen in utter terror. Their eyes only locked for a split second --despite the fact that Finn was currently upside down–, but he was sure the former Ventus leader was screaming at a higher pitch than the screeching steel.

It was about then, just as he was getting used to the sensation of weightlessness that his mind betrayed him. His thoughts wandered and eventually settled to have the worst possible statement enter his head. This has been the longest two seconds of my life. Why his brain had decided to stab him in the back like this, Finn didn’t know, but he knew that he would someday get revenge, however that might work.

The world seemed to speed up once again as the forces of gravity and its friend, inertia regained control. He saw the welcoming embrace of the wall an instant before he slammed into it. His vision turned to a field pure white on the spot as his skull bounced off the hard surface. His hearing and limited sense of touch followed soon after, leaving him with a final ear-shattering blast of the epic fight between machine and wall and a feeling of dull pain slowly creeping along his body.

Oddly enough, his sense of smell did not fade as quickly as the others had. The bitter fumes of charred metal and chemicals continued to assault his weakening mind well after he had passed into unconsciousness. The only thing different than the ash and destruction was the faint smell of rotting plants and stagnant water.

“Hey, are you coming along?” An impatient voice spoke from ahead of her. Sam turned in place to face the speaker-- a young blonde woman.  

“Er, yeah. Just having a look around,” she quickly lied, not sure of where she was or why this woman seemed insistent that Sam follow her so closely. The other woman shrugged her shoulders, and strode away from Sam towards a cave mouth. 

“They say that these ruins are connected to ancient tribes in the area. They date back hundreds if not thousands of years. They’re thought to date back to antiquity, and you’re not interested in the slightest, are you?” she huffed as she crossed her arms. Sam was about to answer when a voice spoke from behind her. 

[i]“Ruins, yes. Twisted with the wrath of time. Yet the power of the ancients continues to decay in the caverns beneath.”[/i] It was little more than a whisper carried by the nearly stilled wind, but she heard it. 

The woman next to her didn’t seem to notice it. “Alright, calm down. I know there’s nothing like this in Sinnoh, but you could pretend to be interested at the very least.” 

Sam was quiet for a moment before responding, the words seemed pre-programed for her to say and felt foreign. “...Alright, I understand, Aunt Sharon.” 

[i] Aunt ... Sharon? Name almost rings a bell, but it’s not clicking.[/i] 

The woman cut across her odd response. “I mean, this here is history --surrounding us on all sides! The remnants of past civilizations --the glories, the battles, the legends! It’s simply--” the woman exclaimed as she motioned to the barren stone walls around them. 

The voice overrode her aunt’s speech. [i]“History. A painful repetition of mistakes that humanity cannot seem to correct. It will soon pay reprimands for its evils,” [/i]

“--more interesting than the Sinnoh League quarterfinals?”

Sam tilted her head to the side. “Can you hear that at all?” Unlike earlier, these words were her own, not the ones pulled from her mouth before. 

Her aunt shook her head in defeat. “Commercials...  I swear, I don’t understand your generation...” 

[i]Wait a minute. That doesn’t match up to what I just asked.[/i] Her thoughts observed. It was as if this woman --her supposed aunt, didn’t hear her at all. 

[i]“The restoration of balance will only be achieved when one is willing to sacrifice for the goal of peace.” [/i] The voice slowly grew louder as it echoed off the ancient ruins. 

Sam spun around in place. “Hello? Is someone there?”

Her aunt continued talking as if Sam was still engaged in the completely off-topic conversation. “Well, when I was your age, we really only stressed over the finals. That was when Lance the Dragon Master would take the field, and let me tell you-”

[i] “In the Cave, the Fire controls reality.”[/i] With that, shadows of leaping flames appeared on the wall opposite her, despite there being no fire to produce the scene. 

Sam looked around again, unable to pinpoint the source of the voice. “Hello? Is anyone there? Where are you? Who are you?” A small quiver of fear snuck its way into the final syllable as the voice did not answer. 

“-takes a lot of skill to make them evolve at Level Forty-Five-”

[i] “Prisoners, held to stare at the unchanging wall. How much longer must they remain subjected?”[/i] The invisible presence easily drowned out the ramblings of her aunt. 

Sam began to look around the ruins. “Prisoners... Why does that--” She jumped, her heart freezing for a full cycle before restarting as she realized that she was a Servine. “...Who and what are you?”

[i] “The cataclysm of the allegory is this: will you live outside the cave, free and guiltless, or will you confront the mistakes your ancestors made and face the darkness?”[/i] 

Sam shrugged nervously as her aunt continued speaking to seemingly no one in the background. Still unsure who or what was addressing her, she responded again. “...Okay, you’re not going to answer that one... What about this: do you know who or what is responsible for my entry to The Abyss, and why I was chosen?”

[i] “The land you tread upon is built on the very souls of the imprisoned. Those humanity chained and forced to stare at the Fire they kindled.”[/i]  

As the voice refused to answer her question, Sam’s aunt rose, and began examining a rock under a magnifying glass. “Nothing? Okay... What about telling me straight what you mean? It sounds like some kind of condemnation, but I don’t know why it’s being given,” she suggested with a faint hope that the voice would abandon its vagaries of speech. 

[i] “But until that fateful dawn, the prisoners must toil in the Cave. Yet the overseers will soon taste the sting of the taskmaster’s belt. The wardens of the old regime humbled before the monarch of the new dynasty.”[/i] 

Sam sighed in defeat, the voice wasn’t going to explain itself anytime soon, she just knew it.  “I suppose that kills any hope of my understanding this conversation anytime within the next week...” she sighed. 

Sam’s aunt leaned over next to her. “Oh, look! This one has Unown script on it!” she joyously reported. 

[i]Have you not noticed that your niece is no longer human?[/i] Sam felt like shouting at the oblivious woman. 

[i] “The question remains. Or rather, was it ever asked at all? The cries of the damned choke the air.”[/i] 

Sam turned to her aunt, who was beckoning her to follow. “Give me a minute here.” She turned around again, looking for the source of the voice. “Can you tell me at least one thing I’ll be able to puzzle out now?”

[i] “Listen to my emissaries. They speak true. Stay close to the endbringer. He will not abandon you. Avoid the pessimist. He will not live to see the sun. Reconcile with the angered. He will prove himself. Rescue the one condemned for sins. He will return the deed. Heed this advice, and thou mayest yet live. Otherwise, the fates, with traitors do contrive.”[/i]   

She nodded, ignoring her Aunt, who was entering the cave without her, followed by a black-haired girl of about seventeen who had seemingly materialized out of the aether. Sam felt a cold wave pass through her as the air seemed to pulse like a disturbed puddle while the human doppelganger of herself obeyed her aunt. She concentrated on the voice, the entity being the only variable in this dream to remain unchanged.  “You’re getting better at communicating your ideas. I think I can keep that in mind.”

[i] “And Samantha, I recommend also holding your breath.”[/i] 

She tilted her head to the side as she puzzled over the last statement by the voice. The pair of humans vanished, as did the colors of the world. Black and white sapping every other wavelength of light in the spectrum as the landscape faded to a dull grey. “Wh-”

Her confused remark was cut off as the world around her appeared to break apart. The gears of time seemed to come screeching to a halt as the ruins and ground about her launched into the air. The air itself tore open as she was abruptly jerked out of her unconsciousness. It took her about five seconds to realize that she was submerged under a mass of murky water, and, more importantly, unable to breathe.

She tried to push herself towards the faint, shimmering light above her, but no matter how hard she pushed, her body wouldn’t move. Her vision was beginning to fade, but she was able to see that several jagged, steel beams from the car were pinning her to the ruined wall. 

Her lungs were on fire. She needed air now, but the beams merely laughed as she shook against them, their harsh voices diluted and warped in the water. Her time was up. Unable to hold in her breath any longer, she tried to gasp, but only warm, stagnant water was there to greet her. 

[i]Damn! I have to...[/i] was all she managed to think before the darkness of unconsciousness dragged her back down. Everything left her as the light faded and cut to black. 


How he had remained alive through the wreck Finn had absolutely no idea. One second, he was floating in the middle of the air, the next, nearly cracking his skull on the wall. Once he had come to his senses, he was outside. Not knowing what else to do, he looked up. Huge, twisted boughs from a tree, each one weighed down with ancient, green moss that drooped towards the ground. Light from above gently filtered down from above. It was almost unreal to Finn. 

“Is ... Is this Elysium?” he wondered aloud as he took a hesitant step forward. If he really was in the afterlife, he didn’t want to risk taking a bad step and falling back down to the Abyss as old folklore often warned was the fate of the foolish. Once he gazed beyond the protective shade of the aged tree, Finn stopped, his mouth slightly agape. [i]This ... is Elysium?[/i] 

If the legends he had heard in his old village were true, then the heaven had really let itself go. Instead of the pristine fields and sparkling waterfalls the elders had filled his head with, there was a vast ocean of twisted trees, massive overgrown bushes and weeds, and pools of still, discolored water. A thin miasma seemed to evaporate off the surface of the stagnant pools, bringing with it an overpowering smell of rotting plants. 

“Finn! You’re up! Took long enough! Get over here and lend a hand; there’s no time to waste!” Silas’s voice shattered the relative tranquility that had settled over him. It was as if his call had yanked off a warm blanket that had been covering him and now a cold, damp chill hit him like a sack of rocks. 

Carefully walking forwards along the natural bridges made by the exposed, gnarled roots, Finn made sure not to slip on the coating of slimy moss and fall into toxic-looking pools. He could see the Marowak trying to drag a battered wooden crate from the mire onto a small patch of dry bushes that poked above the putrid waters. Creon paddled around in the marsh near a platform of metal at the surface of the deep swamp, occasionally going under for some reason. Even Kaligo seemed to be doing something. Despite having been virtually dead to the world for the entire fiasco with the train, he seemed to be breaking apart some of the washed up crates and trying to salvage some of the dried food packets stored within. 

“And no. I know what you’re thinking and this is not Elysium. Now snap out of it and get over here!” Silas snapped as he finally hefted the fragile wooden container onto the spongy shore. With a single hit from his bone staff, the box broke apart into a pile of splinters to reveal several plastic bags filled with compressed air. Apparently ignoring the utterly pointless cargo, the Marowak swiftly kicked all three bags into the marsh thicket. 

Finn jogged past Kaligo who, for once, seemed too preoccupied in his doings to insult him. He saw that the Togetic had procured a small iron pot from among the waterlogged cargo and was currently treating it as one would a precious treasure. Finn even thought he heard the cook whispering softly to it as he clutched it to his chest. 

Once he reached the shore, Silas was again wading out into the murky swamp water among the small islands of crates. Finn watched as an eruption of bubbles appeared just off-shore and shortly afterwards, Creon’s head broke the still surface of the mire. 

“Nothing yet! But I’ll keep looking!” the Mightyena reported in between gasps as he hauled his upper body onto a crate sitting low on the water. “Just ... Just let me rest a moment,” he panted. 

Finn looked around again. There seemed to be something missing from the scene, though his still-dazed head couldn’t process just what it was. It was, however, interested in how they had arrived in a swamp. He shook his head, trying to regain some form of clarity. 

[i]Think, Finn. What happened?[/i] His mind began slowly, with vague images of a dark hallway and doors. Gradually, it picked up speed as sounds began to accompany the slideshow. [i] The station. That’s it, we found the train there. Now, what happened next?[/i]

Then the sense of touch and smell reignited within his memories. Repulsive gas, acidic poison, burning flames, weightless floating, and pain all around. [i]The engine![/i] The dense fog that had blinded his thinking since he slammed his head faded. 

He looked about once more, this time taking a greater observation. It took only a few more seconds for him to finally realize the cold truth. His aching mind slowly put the arithmetic together. [i] There are five Pokemon in our group. There are four here. That means--! [/i] 

“Sam!” Finn frantically twisted around in a circle, desperately checking and double checking the marsh around him for any sign of his friend. He glanced at Silas, who didn’t even have to speak in order to convey his thoughts. Finn quickly dashed into the water towards the prophet and Creon, not paying any attention to the slight stinging sensation coming from his flame patches as he splashed into the deepening water. 

“Silas! Where-- Where’s Sam? What happened to the train? Tell me!” he screamed at the Marowak in his adrenaline-fueled panic. Silas simply lifted his staff and pointed it in the direction of the thin sheet of metal on the surface.  Now, to his horror, Finn could see that it wasn’t an odd piece of metal, it was actually the flat top of the train car. The entire gargantuan vehicle had been completely submerged. 

“She’s...” he said, his voice suddenly breaking as his heart sank deeper than the bottom of the swamp. [i] She can’t be down there! She had to have gotten out![/i]

“We’re doing all we can, though Kaligo and I both can’t swim as well as we used to and Creon isn’t built for it. I’m trying to find a tool to break in through the top, but I’ve found nothing so far,” Silas replied as he continued to smash his way into another half-way submerged crate. 

[i]I’ve been the guinea pig for the last two days, why stop now?[/i] his thoughts reasoned. “I’ll go down there,” he stated, managing to keep the immense fear and doubt out of his voice. He had to do this, if Sam really was down there, he had to do everything he could to find her. 

“No. I forbid you. Besides your water weakness, it’s a death trap of jagged metal down there. I refuse to risk the lives of both my apprentice and the Key. We will find another way, I promise you, Finn.” The Marowak’s tone was firm, to Finn it was almost as if the prophet had done this exact speech before. Not that it deterred him any from his resolve. 

“Fine then.” With that the Quilava took a deep breath and quickly plunged underneath the surface. The water stung his flame patches as it had before, but he was able to ignore it as he pressed his feet into the silty bottom and pushed off, propelling forward through the murky swamp towards the sunken train. 

After a few seconds of blindly swimming, he felt the cold wall of metal with his outstretched paw. He decided to surface one more time. Using the wall as a ladder of sorts, he quickly rose to the top of the water where he was immediately greeted with a frantic curse from Silas. 

“Dammit Finn! You are as stubborn as the girl!” he howled from the shore. “You’re insane! The both of you!” Finn cringed at the sound of his master’s harsh words, but he knew what he was doing. Despite being fire-based, he had often swam in the river near his village during the brutal summer months. 

[i]It’s just like back then, except I just have to dive deeper this time. That’s all.[/i] 

He paid no attention to the prophet’s increasingly worsening curses as he carefully swam around the side of the car, looking for a possible entrance among the razor-sharp metal pieces. He almost didn’t notice as Creon paddled along side him. 

“Right there, about six feet under, is a hole. Those big side doors are broken, I’ve already tried them. This is probably your best bet. I can’t get in there myself, but it looks possible for someone like you,” the Mightyena said as he tried to point to a spot in the metal below the surface with his paw, but failed in this as he couldn’t stay afloat at the same time. 

Creon gave a low growl and paddled towards the small island of unsunk train roof. Finn helped him get a foothold as the wolf pulled himself up. “As I was saying, it’s right here,” he said again, this time indicating directly beneath him and in front of Finn. 

The Quilava didn’t know how to reply for a moment. “Are you actually helping me rescue Sam?” 

The Mightyena seemed to wince at the statement as he shook the brown swamp sludge out of his thick black fur. “Well, let’s just say I promised her we’d finish our argument. You two have grown on me. Like a pair of tumors, but still, you’ve grown on me,” he bitterly admitted, though the sentimentality lasted only a second more. “Well, what are you waiting for? A hug? A tearful apology? Get your tail going!” he snapped, reverting to his usual self. Finn got the message as he took another deep breath and dove beneath the putrid waters. 

The Mightyena’s shift in behavior struck Finn as incredibly odd. Creon had been a near tyrant back in the Ventus, his rule supported heavily by Cedric’s brutality, but, now, after seeing him like this. Away from the prison gang, away from Cedric, showing what could almost be classified as concern for both him and Sam. He would have to confront him later about this, but Finn willed his mind to concentrate on the current mission.    

Despite the fact that the water was probably only a degree safer than raw sewage, Finn opened his eyes. To his surprise, the initial contact did not sting nearly as much as he had anticipated. Unfortunately, he found that it hardly made a difference. Mud and swirling debris clogged the water, making it hard for him to see more than a foot beyond his own nose. The daylight may have penetrated the water, but it was as good as night for all it was worth.  

[i]Focus, Finn. You’ve got to find her,[/i] his thoughts reminded him as he descended in the water. An instant later, he had reached the opening Creon had indicated. Basically blind, he slowly inched forward to the vague black gap in the metal surface, holding his paw out in an attempt to feel the jagged metal with that before slicing his head on it. The endeavor was more or less successful --he avoided kissing the razored outcroppings, but at the cost of the center of his paw, which now sported a clean, red line across it. He winced at the sudden injury, losing a few bubbles of his precious air and a cloud of crimson blood as he clutched the wounded appendage with his other paw. 

He had to focus, Sam was still down there, somewhere, and he [i]was[/i] going to get her. Finn shook his head and concentrated in navigating the entrance without sustaining another injury. Twisting his body through the narrow porthole of knives, Finn propelled his body forward with every frantic kick of his short legs. 

The interior of the train was pitch black. Not a single beam of prisonlight penetrated the wreck, and Finn had absolutely no idea of where he was inside the structure. He had hardly familiarized himself with the train when it was still upright, so being upside down confused him even more so than usual. As he swam into the uncertain waters ahead of him, clouds of blood diffused from his hand into the filthy depths behind him. 

The lightheadedness struck him like someone pulling away part of his brain. His vision began to grow dizzy and his lungs started to ache. His thoughts grew hazy, and encouraged him to turn back while there was still time. He wanted --no-- needed to force away the feelings and continue downwards into the dark, but his instincts won over his mind. He immediately switched directions and frantically kicked and paddled upwards towards the dark ceiling. He needed air and he prayed that there would be some up there for him to use. 
[b]Continued on Next Post[/b]

Continued from Previous Post

I’m done. You messed up royally, Finn. Silas was right, after all. Damn, you are a failure. Finn was certain his lungs were going to explode just as his head broke the surface of the dark water. He wasn’t sure what surprised him more: the fact that there actually was a small pocket of air at the top of the sunken train, or the fact that there was a partly open crate floating just beside him perfectly situated for him to use as a temporary raft.

As he gasped for lungfuls of the precious, stale air, he managed to grab hold of the edge of the wooden box. Breathe, Finn. Just breathe, his thoughts told him as he let his body flop down on the lid. He simply laid there for a moment trying to recover from his newest near-death experience. Oh, Fates…Thank you,

Once he had got his breath back, he allowed the flame patches on his head to burn low, warming him up slightly, and casting a small glimmer of light onto the inky cavern of the submerged cargo hold. He turned his attention to his paw once again. Finn knew what he saw wasn’t promising.

The cut seemed to have turned from a clean slice on his cream-colored skin to a sickly brown. Dirt clogged most of the surface and had gotten inside his paw. He tried to brush it off, but the sharp stinging refused to be ignored.

With a sigh, he tried to shift his body on the lid so that he could reach inside the crate and see if there was anything useful. His uninjured paw ventured down into the box and felt around. There was a few glass spheres in the nearest corner, what felt like a section of rope, and a small bit of cloth, possibly a bandana. Regardless of that it might have been in the distant past, it was going to serve as a tourniquet for his paw.

Finn bit into the fabric and tore off a smaller strand that seemed like it would fit around his paw. Biting down on his tongue, held one end of the cloth down with his foot as he wrapped the rag around the cut, making each round tighter than the previous. Soon, he had effectively stopped the bleeding, along with most feeling, in his paw. Now that the pain was no longer clouding his head, his thoughts seemed to come more clearly.

It was during this sudden moment of clarity, he had the idea to check the other objects in the crate. He scrambled off the lid of the floating box into the water. Once the cargo container regained its buoyancy, Finn pried the fragile wooden lid off with relative ease. Leading over the side and he used the flickering light from the flames on his back to explore the interior of the box.

There seemed to be a few unidentifiable sacks lining the bottom of the crate, but his attention was on a reddish glass sphere that had rolled just into his reach. His cloth-bound paw had a bit of difficulty picking up the object, but with a little coaxing he managed to will his fingers to close around it.

It was then that the artifact exploded in a bright flare of blinding red light. He fell away from the crate as the orb suddenly sputtered and started whizzing around the inside of the box like a trapped bird in a cage. The show lasted only a few seconds longer when the haywire Orb shattered the frail wooden container and shot towards the ceiling. Floating in the dark water, Finn had to cover his eyes as the sphere made contact with the ceiling with a loud thump and grew even brighter.

As the seconds slowly ticked past, Finn’s eyes adjusted to the new-found light. The cavernous room appeared much bigger now that the front lines of darkness had retreated from the merciless onslaught of this small spawn of Helios. The water, still filthy as ever, seemed to become far less threatening under the miniature shining orb. Is … Is that what the … sun looks like? The thought was random, but it fit with the loose description Sam had tried to paint for him during their long conversation on the train before it blew apart.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it. A faint disturbance in the surface of the water. A small trail of bubbles broke the sludge with a release of trapped air. He quickly put two and two together.

“Sam!” he screamed, his echo mocking his efforts as it bounced off the metal walls. Forgetting his paw or any other distractions, he inhaled as much air as he could fit in his lungs and plunged beneath the organic film of waste. The water seemed to get more and more frigid the further down he went from the light.

Squinting his eyes as he kicked his way down into the depths towards the few lingering signs of life that floated up from the wrecked transport. How Silas and the others had escaped the disaster he would never know. He continued to force himself downwards, looking at the wrinkled iron walls and debris. Creon had been telling the truth, the giant freight door had been punctured with the snapped branches and submerged roots of the cyprus trees as if it was tissue paper. Silt and sand oozed in through the gaps in the exterior. Finn was certain it would take no less than an earthquake to dislodge the train car from the clutches of the marsh.

What now amounted to the ceiling was riddled with fallen metal beams and pipes. Finn somehow dodging the falling debris as it snapped from the interior. Pressure began to build inside of his lungs and ears as Finn kicked his legs even harder to distract his mind from the pain. It felt like a vice clamped around his head and kept getting tighter the further he went.

Crates, hundreds of them, were strewn about the floor. Their contents either laying in disarray on the ground beside them or else shattered and their pieces separated in the water. He began to recognize the stairs and the doorway that lead to the very front of the car. He was unsure if it was a blessing or a curse that he did not spy Sam among the collapsed towers of boxes, but he tried not to let it deter him from his journey to the very bottom of the upsidedown structure.

The door leading to the shredded exterior was crushed by a mass of twisted metal and waterlogged wood. Finn scanned the area as best he could, the faint shimmering light from the Orb far above him didn’t reach to the depths, leaving him the guesswork of trying to distinguish Sam from among the chaotic wreckage.

The light-headed feeling was starting to return when again, he saw a single bubble wedge its way through some a large pile of debris. The sphere of air passed right in front of him. He reached out as he floated above the ruin, and, caught the bubble in his uninjured paw.
As if in a trance brought about by the acute lack of air reaching his head, he passed the bubble in between his paws, watching as it ran across the pads on his paws before finally letting it float to the surface.

Idiot! Focus! his thoughts sharply screamed, rebuking him. Finn snapped out of the neigh catatonic state he was in and returned his attention to the massive, dark pile. Flaring the patches on his head and back slightly, he was able to make out colors from the mess. Immediately, he saw a verdant flash of green among the dull steel. The searing pain brought about from activating his flames kept his brain functioning despite the lack of air need to fuel it.

His mind snapped somewhere deep within him, as instincts Finn didn’t know existed rose up and took control. He found himself tearing at the beams with his claws, prying them away as fast as he could, well aware that his capacity for mobility should have long been used up along with his oxygen.

Blood started seeping out from the pitiful bandage on his hand, but he paid it no heed as he kicked a plank of rotting wood aside. His vision started to focus in and out like the eyes of a dragonfly, yet he sunk his claws into a heavy board and hefted it up, thankful for the near weightlessness the object had in water.

Slowly, but surely the white and green form of Sam came into view from underneath the jagged shards of iron and wood. She might have been simply asleep if she hadn’t been buried in a sepulchre of water and steel. How can she look so calm? Finn’s thoughts idly wondered as he attempted to force another beam away. Finn bared his teeth as the last of his spent air escaped from his mouth. Come on! Move! Please!

With a strained shove, the beam finally lifted from on top of the Servine. Resisting the urge to take in his victory --brought about by the panicking synaptic firings of his oxygen-deprived mind-- Finn crouched down and hugged the unconscious Pokémon to his chest. The pressure in his lungs was unbearable yet he scraped up enough strength to push his feet off the unstable floor of beams and wood.

The ascent dragged on for eons; patterns of monotonous steel walls and shattered fragments of wood seemed to endlessly tessellate as Finn tried to keep his legs moving. Though the added weight of Sam might as well have been a mountain for all he could move against it. It was then that he noticed that he was sinking back towards the floor. Flashes of past memories flitted like spirits before his eyes, his mind going into survival mode in an attempt to preserve itself.

Primal instinct can only override basic necessities for a small amount of time. The blind force that coursed through Finn’s veins now dissipated in a fiery explosion that stabbed every one of his nerves like a glowing spear. His body seized up and suddenly refused to obey his fevered commands.

His mind seemed to have given him up for lost as the nearly numb nerves in his feet told him he had reached rock bottom once again. The cold metal instruments attached to the wall stung as he settled on top of them, unable to move under Sam and the crushing weight of his own stupidity. It really is your own fault, you know? You should have tried harder, his fading thoughts chastised one last time before fleeing his suffocating body. As if giving him a final look of pity, his body saw it fit to twitch violently as Finn gasped for a breath only to have his lungs filled with swamp water.

What happened next was nothing short of an increasingly less believable string of coincidental events that worked together in such a fashion to change the course of fate. A better translation might be that Finn’s twitching leg pulled another lever that hadn’t been there an instant earlier. In that instant, a small ripple moved over Finn --not a movement in the water, but a disturbance in the dimensional fabric of the Abyss. The next second, it was gone, replaced with a titanic shudder that rattled the wrecked train car.

Sparks of electricity danced in the dislodged wires and in the weakened light fixtures studded all around the structure. Just as his vision went black, Finn saw the entire darkened length of the freight door flash with a bright red alarm just before it slammed open, ripping away the roots and crates that had previously jammed it.

The water around him grew bright as pale light from the surface penetrated through the combined layers of filth and darkness. Unfortunately, it was at this time that Finn’s body effectively stopped.

It started with the humming. A quiet, incessant pinprick of noise on the very edge of hearing that tends to accompany even the deadest of silences. It was this silent humming that Sam first noticed. 

After the unfortunate interruption from her dream that resulted in her drowning, she had arrived in a stark white room. There were no doors, windows, furniture, or any hatch indicating a way out.  

“...Huh. A bit on the weird side, but I suppose more peaceful than drowning...” A thought struck her, and she groaned. “Aw, crap, I’m dead, aren’t I?”

The humming continued, seeming to increase in volume just enough to be discernable. From somewhere beyond the walls, a door opened --or rather, somehow appeared from the space in between spaces. 

[i] “Dead? Hardly. Just in a temporary state of confinement while the others in your entourage attempt to retrieve you. I regret having to have your experience drowning, but it was the only way I could achieve your preservation. I hope you understand, Samantha,”[/i] the voice from her previous dream explained as it seemed to echo from every inch of the wall around her. 

“Er... I guess, sort of... So, obviously, you’ve got my best interests at heart, but I’m about ninety-nine percent sure I don’t know who you are. If I ask you, will you give me a straight answer?” She tried hard not to show it in her face, but she was on the verge of lashing out at the tranquil voice if it continued its vague games, despite not seeing any physical body or point of reference to attack the enigma. 

The humming seemed to waver as it seemed to travel from wall to wall. [i] “I am glad you see my reasoning, to an extent. And yes, my dear, it is in everyone’s best intentions that you remain among the living. Unfortunately, the current situation of matters constricts what information I can give you. My identity falls under those parameters. Feel free to ask another question as we need to wait a few minutes longer,”[/i] the voice replied. Sam detected an odd cheeriness to it despite the formal tone. She took a breath to keep her anger with the lack of answers under control. 

“Hmmm... Okay, then. I’m guessing anything I asked in the previous dream is off-limits, right?” 

The humming seemed to pause for a split second, as if thinking of the answer. [i] “Regrettably, yes. But, now I can converse in less ... confusing proverbs. There is something in dreams that alters my speech. Anyway, that is not the point. I will try my best to answer.”[/i]

She thought to herself for a moment. “Hmmm... Okay, an odd one to start. Finn, Creon, Silas, and Kaligo --are they some kind of chosen ones? Or are they largely incidental?” she ventured, hoping that this time she would be rewarded with a straight, or at least understandable answer. 

The humming suddenly ceased altogether. [i]“Well, I find it a matter of perspective. From their perspective, it was a matter of the Fates. To me, however, well, it’s like a chessboard --I assume you recall what that is. Each piece has their place in the game,”[/i] he explained. Sam noticed that the annoying humming had returned by the end of his speech. 

“Alright. So, if I had to guess, I’m either the king or the queen. The queen’s a possibility because, well, Silas indicated I was special in some way. Same time, though, that could just mean that I’ll be an incredibly useful late-game piece, which is in line with the king’s position. Is there a piece more vital than I am? More than one?” She pressed the voice, but backed off after a second. “Or am I simply over-analyzing your simile?”

The humming seemed to suddenly spike in volume for a second before subsiding to its normal, barely-audible level. The voice chuckled. [i] “I’m afraid you are over-analyzing it, to an extent --though I am pleased that your knowledge of the game remains sharp. I would very much like to get in a game with you once everything is over with. You are indeed special, Sam, make no doubt there. You have a latent power that will, as my prophecies state, shake the Abyss to its core. However, think of yourself not in vanity as a queen, but rather as a noble pawn leading the valiant masses to overthrow a tyrant.”[/i] 

The humming stopped once more. [i] “That ... was far more information than I should have given you. This has the potential to become dangerous, especially if anyone outside of your party were to find out. I could take your memories, but I’d rather not have to do that again. So, I will trust you not to spread this around beyond the Quilava and the prophet. Is that understood?”[/i]   

She nodded slowly. “I understand. Mind if I ask a bunch all at once?”

[i] “I pray you truly do understand. And, the caveat remains that it must fall within the parameters of what is allowed. I cannot slip up again.”[/i] 

“Not a problem --just let me know if one can’t be answered. First, you’ve indicated that some answers can’t be freely given. Who moderates that? Are they listening to us now?  Furthermore, you’ve indicated that you wiped my memory before --was that my initial amnesia on arrival? Why have I started to recover from it, if so? Wouldn’t it make far more sense to make it irreversible? You also indicated wanting to play a game of chess with me at some point, and that I retained my skill with the game. Obviously, you know me --did I know you?  And finally, what in the name of the monstrous Zoamelgustar is that humming?” She rushed through her list in one breath, nearly gasping for air at the end of it. 

[i] “Unfortunately, much of that is confidential. And, no one moderates me, but I know that it is for the good of everyone that I keep you out of the loop, as it were. Yes, it was I who triggered the amnesia, though, my dear, you are far from even beginning recovery. Try to envision your parents, friends, anyone familiar to you. You can’t. Trust me. It is for your own good.”[/i] The humming seemed to grow louder and louder with each passing second. 

[i] “Well, yes, I do know you --and yes, you happen to have a certain skill with the game. However, you do not know me. And, the humming? It is telling me your connection with life. From the way it’s gaining in volume, I’d say it’s about time to wake up, Miss Sam.”[/i] The room seemed to shake with the increasing volume of the humming; a spiderweb of cracks spun its way across the walls. Sam opened her mouth to reply to the cryptic voice, but at that moment, the cracks in the walls broke as blinding light blasted through the newly created opening. Distant sounds drifted through the gap barely distinct from the loud humming. 

“I think I found a pulse! Come on! Breathe!” It sounded vaguely like Silas, though the humming nearly drowned it out. 

She turned in place, trying to get one last chance at glimpsing Tiresias. “Hey! I guess I have to go now, so... Let’s talk again later, alright?” The voice did not make any confirmation, but Sam knew that this would not be the last time they would converse. 

“I did not nearly kill myself down there for two dead bodies. You two better start breathing or else,” Creon growled from beyond the shattered wall. 

Sam was about to begin walking when she was struck by a coughing fit, and felt water splash out of her mouth.  Before she could even question the strangeness of this, the wall shattered completely, and the pieces vanished as the world seemed to spin. She found herself looking up at Silas.

She stared at him for a second, breathing heavily.  “...Hello.”

“Oh, thank the Prophet! You’re alright!” Silas exclaimed as placed a hand on her shoulder and tried to help her sit up. “You ... No, both of you nearly killed me. Please, try not to get yourselves sent to Elysium ahead of schedule. We have work to do here,” the Marowak said as he quickly stood up. “Finn, as soon as you’re able, get over here and help me finish salvaging food from the washed-up cargo,”

She didn’t say anything for a few moments as her body recuperated. While still a little unfocused, she could make out most of the sights around her. An ancient tree swayed above her, gnarled branches seemingly clawing down at her from their positions in the air. Her back felt like it was laying on a damp sponge covered with dirt. 

“...Where are we?  I’m pretty sure that the train never stopped...”

Something dark moved to her left. “Glad you’re awake, princess. I’m glad my efforts to fetch you both from the bottom weren’t wasted. Anyways, Silas can explain it better than I can, as he remained conscious through the entire wreck. From what I gathered, the engine literally melted through the wall and we crashed in this lovely puddle,” Creon explained as he paced around her, his piercing red eyes never straying from her as he continued talking. 

“Before you ask, I believe Silas now. There has to be [i]some[/i] truth behind his blind trust in you. I know for a fact that you were underwater for at least an hour. Something is watching out for you, and if that something is what’s going to get us out of here ... then I’ll believe in it for now.” 

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Er... Okay, then. An hour, you say?”

“Yep. And that was only from when I woke up. Who knows how long it was since Silas first dragged himself out. I’ve got to give him some more credit, he managed to get everyone out of there, except you, obviously. We were searching for you when Finn suddenly wakes up and dives into the wreck like someone possessed. A few minutes later, the doors fly open and everything else falls into place,” the Mightyena recounted.  

“...Huh.” She began looking around, wondering where the Quilava was. It didn’t take long for her to find him. He was attempting to stand against the base of the aged tree, though he didn’t look at all ready to be moving. With every one of his ragged breaths, his entire body seemed to shudder. 

Kaligo’s voice carried from somewhere beyond her field of vision, noticing her observations of the Fire type. “Oh, him. He started breathing a few minutes before you did, though his experience wasn’ as kind as yours. Watching Silas chew him out while tryin’ to force water out of your lungs was surprisingly entertaining, though it’s not a show I’d ever pay to see again,” the Togetic told her, remembering the recent events

“Kaligo. Vitriolic, as usual...” Sam hissed at the cook before picking herself up, and leaning on the tree next to Finn. “Hey,” she gently asked. “How are you?” Finn wearily glanced her way before he seemed to regain functionality of his legs at last. 

“Hi ... You’re up. I’ve been worse, at least. I just feel ... a little tired,” he groaned as he took another breath. “Silas is still angry at me for going after you earlier, but, at least it worked, right?” he tried to force a smile her way, but ended up paying for the action with a wince of pain shooting across his arm. 

“Yeah, I suppose so... Thanks a lot, by the way. I know I was down there a while, and there was basically no chance I survived. Thanks for going after me anyway.”

“N-no problem. Even if there was no chance, I still had to try. I mean, I couldn’t leave you down there. You would do the same for me, and I’d do it again, but not right now. I feel like I could sleep for a day,” he responded with a weak laugh. 

She chuckled a little with him. “Well, maybe you’ll get the chance once we figure out where we are, and if it’s safe.”

Sam waited another moment for Finn to fully retake control over his motor functions. Once he had, the two then walked over the mossy ground to the shore where Silas had returned to his self-appointed duty of salvaging whatever he could from the wreck. She could see Creon paddling out in the swamp, the Mightyena nudging a floating crate towards land a few feet at a time. 

“Finn, good, you’re here. Go pry open this box next to my left, look for some Orbs and a container if you can find one. Other than Kaligo’s pot, we don’t have anything to hold water with, which isn’t a good idea.” The prophet looked up from his task and saw Sam along with his apprentice. “Sam! What are you doing up? You need to rest. No one can recover from your ordeal that quickly!” he exclaimed as he immediately tried to usher her back to the makeshift camp under the tree. Sam refused to go. 

“Obviously I’m fine, Silas. I mean, especially considering how long I was down there.  Technically, I should be kaput.”

“But, you...” Silas began, but her glare was enough to tell him she wasn’t going back. “Fine. I’m glad you are feeling alright. But, if you insist on being here, go on and take this pile of wood pieces to Kaligo to use as fuel. We’re going to need some clean water to drink so I can dress Finn’s paw before it gets infected. Tell him to boil whatever he can out of this sludge. I’ll have go over there once we finish searching a few crates,” Silas ordered as he waved his staff in the direction of a sizeable pile of cargo box fragments that was almost the same height she was. 

Sam shrugged and started by hauling a stack of three planks over to the camp where Kaligo had set up. This process repeated itself for the better part of thirty minutes, though she severely doubted that not even twenty roaring fires could use up all of the planks Silas was having her shuttle. Perhaps it was a punishment of sorts for making the prophet worry, but whatever category the task fell under, it still was exhausting work. Kaligo seemed to notice this as well, but simply smiled a toothy grin at her each time she dropped off the fuel. 

Around the fifteenth trip --give or take a few-- Finn went along with her up the embankment and wheezed up several weak embers onto the wood. The tiny fires took hold and with a little bit of kindling and coaxing from Kaligo, there was a decent fire underneath Kaligo’s cast-iron cauldron. As the flames happily munched through the wood, the murky water in the pot stirred. 

Kaligo fluttered just above the living wall of thick bushes and vines, the Togetic examining the plants closely as he plucked small springs off of a few of the vibrant offshoots. Sam watched as the cook meticulously snapped off the browning leaves and buds before floating back down to the ground. 

Taking the shoots in his hands, he threw them into the water one by one, each one making a disquieting sizzling noise as soon as it struck the surface of the sludge. Vague memories of a dull school room filled with a droning voice that dictated which acids and bases would cause a neutralization came to her briefly before flitting away like an excited bird. 

She continued to observe as the plants, along with the near-boiling water, seemed to drive away the filth. After a few more handfuls of shoots, the water was nearly crystal clear save for the floating remains of the plants that bubbled in the miniature geysers of heated water. 

Kaligo gave an eager nod of approval as he hopped over to the pile of dried food packets Silas and Finn had recovered from the jetsam of the train. The Togetic tossed a few of the packets towards Sam and Finn and instructed them to start opening the tightly sealed pouches. She shot the cook a scathing glare and highly suspected Finn was doing the same. 

“Open them, or else you can try your luck in the marsh for something to eat. I saw some pretty hungry beasties out there that’d snap up the both of yas in a heartbeat. Good luck,” he cackled, nearly falling off the stump he was perched on.  

Sam huffed with discontent as Finn gave a low growl as they both got to work trying to loosen the thick stitches on the top of the packets. After several minutes of trying to claw, bite, slice, and burn the seal, the stubborn defender of the food within refused to back down. Their commotion eventually attracted the attention of Silas and Creon, who had apparently finished their task of acting as a salvage team. 

Seeing the two Pokémon struggle, he sighed as he reached in between them and took one of the packets. Still caught up in their battle against the threads --the strings apparently imbued with the power of the surface gods according to Finn-- the two hardly noticed the smooth zipping noise from behind them. Silas then reached over them once more and calmly tossed the now clearly open sack to Kaligo. 

Finn watched as Sam facepalmed.  “Oh my Arceus, I’m a moron. Zippers- how’d we miss that?” 

Kaligo cackled again. “I woulda told ya earlier, but it was pretty entertainin’ to watch.” He then swiftly fluttered upwards as two unzipped sacks of Cheri Berries came flying on a trajectory aiming for his head. When he returned to the ground, he glowered at them as he unceremoniously dumped the contents of the bags into the volatile water in the heated cauldron.  

Sam glared at him venomously. “Next time, I’m going to throw with a vine and aim for your head. If there’s something we need to know, just tell us. Got it?” She looked over to Silas and Creon for some support. The callous Mightyena gave a terse chuckle as he continued to rest inside the ring of firelight, thoroughly ignoring her. Silas was leaning up against a vine-choked bush, his skull helmet pushed down over his eyes and one hand loosely on his staff. Faint snores caused the bone case to vibrate slightly with each breath the prophet took. 

Seeing that her plea for an intervention failed, Kaligo continued undeterred by her threats. “I’ve managed to stay alive for almost fifty-eight winters, so I’ve deserved a bit of fun now that there’s no mob or gas chasen’ us halfway ‘cross the world. Now, toss me an Oran, an’ two Chilans, would ya? Then we’ll be nearly ready, ” he reported while wafted the vapors emitted by the broth towards his nose. 

The transfer of the requested dehydrated foodstuffs occurred largely without incident, save for a few choice curses exchanged between Finn and Kaligo over one of their long-standing arguments from back in the Ventus. Soon, the water was simmering happily with the new additions of dried fruit which Kaligo stirred with a piece of broken piping he had managed to bend into a crude ladle. 

As the food finished the final leg of its race to be edible, Sam decided to follow along with seemingly everyone else and leaned back on the pile of unopened food packets. Her gaze traveled upwards to the sky, and what she saw --or rather it was what she didn’t see-- that forced a disquieting shiver to run through her. If she had any doubts of being buried alive in a massive terrarium under the earth, they were satiated immediately. 

There was not a speck of light in the sprawling ink curtain that hid the mechanized ceiling. 

[i]...It’s exactly what Finn was saying. No stars... No wonder the concept was totally alien to him...[/i] her thoughts realized as the night sky seemed to cast its spell upon her, closing her eyes for a brief moment. 

“They live. That … is a major problem.” The cavernous chamber echoed as the voice reverberated off the unseen corners. A sphere of dark mist congregated in the center of the room; the voice --a low, cold whisper-- emitted forth from the opaque cloud. A wind-blown sigh sliced through the cobwebs of the ancient hall.

[b] “That is why you are here. You and your legions have long policed the Wings. Now, there is a new threat to the traditional way of things. Ensure our regime’s preservation. Do what you must,[/b] the great collection of the darkest night spoke.

There was a small movement on the ground. A single cloaked figure rose up from its prostrate position among the layers of dust on the floor. As the dust lazily hung about the air, the figure strode forward one step. Metal creaked and screeched as the creature’s limbs moved.

“What I must?” the soft, masculine voice inquired as his hand clasped around the assortment of strange and exotic weapons on his belt. His face and skin hidden by the drawn cloak, but he knew his master could see through any barrier. The black sphere rippled and from deep within the swirling soul of the Abyss, a pair of crimson eyes stared out of the pocket of void.

“There is one condition,” the voice stipulated as the figure paused, his hand frozen on the hilt of his sword. [b]“I want them alive. All of them. No atomization is allowed this time.”[/b]

“Understood, my liege.” The creature on the ground smirked as he bent his entire body forward in a bow. Metal armor and flesh clinking against each other in a final, unholy amalgamation. He swiftly turned around from the Warden’s omnipresence, his tattered cape swishing in the air behind him. His heavy, metallic footfalls echoing in the massive central room as he went to raise the long-silent armies chained to the very foundations of the Abyss.

Semi-solid chunks of berry floated lazily around in the center of Finn’s bowl --a piece of pliable metal bent into a vaguely usable apparatus for eating the broth. To any Pokémon in the Abyss privileged enough to afford quality food, it was a crude meal at best, but to Finn and, by judging their reactions, the four other members of their group, the watered down soup was fit for a king. 

As he slurped the liquid --disregarding any semblance of mannerisms, Finn wondered how he managed to survive since leaving the Ventus. Everything he had been through since that night, with the exception of a single raisin on the train, had been done on an increasingly empty stomach. The events had passed so quickly, it was almost as if he didn’t have the time to focus on being hungry. 

The mythical powers behind the Abyss seemed to share his sentiment concerning the time, as in the span of the few minutes it took to boil and cook the soup, the massive flood lights on the ceiling miles above winked out one by one. Sam had approached him asking something about a “sunset” --he figured it must be another part of life on the surface-- but he explained how the cycle of days worked here. Day and night depended on how well the forces of World Abyss kept the lights running according to their predestined timers. He had heard tales from some of the more eccentric Pokémon in the Ventus about how in one forsaken wing, it was stuck in a permanent night. Nothing grew there, the environment simply collapsed, and with it, order. 

That tale was fairly well known from how many times and different variations Finn had heard of it in the rainforest alone, and each time it was told was enough to re-instill the fear of the Abyss --the cold, unfeeling monster that held them in its claws-- deep in his heart. Every night when the lights went out, Finn, for as long as he could remember, would whisper a small plea that they would be shining bright when he woke up. 

He took another uncouth gulp of the broth. Despite knowing the nature of some of the ingredients, he found the meal on the verge of delectable. He quickly glanced up towards the Togetic, who was busy downing the final dregs of his own bowl. Finn found it hard to believe, but somehow, the meal the cook made in the middle of a hostile swamp far exceeded anything he made during the entire time Finn had spent among the Ventus. 

Several short minutes passed until the last of the broth had been sufficiently terminated, during which, Finn watched as Silas had tried to initiate a conversation to avoid the stagnating, uncomfortable silence that was almost assured to follow.  

“Well,” he addressed the group as he got to his feet. Finn, Sam, and the others sat up to listen. “Give yourselves a round of applause. You all have done what no other Pokémon --or human-- in our wing has done since the Closing: we left the wing,” he announced, with somewhat forced enthusiasm.  

In response, Sam clapped her leaves. “Great. Now we’re in another. Getting out of this one should be easier, though --right? I mean, as I understand it, the train punched a hole in the wall.” As she said this, Finn’s head immediately turned towards the great steel enclosure. He hadn’t thought of looking earlier, but now, in the darkness, it was clearer than ever. An oddly-shaped circle of bright red fires still burned in the middle of the lightless wall, and from it, thick, black smoke continued to churn out from it in angry huffs. 

“Well ... Possibly.” Silas’s answer dragged Finn’s attention back to their own circle of firelight. “But first, I must confess something; [i]The Abyssal Codex[/i] did make a mention of a transport hidden behind the north wall of the forest. I apologize profusely for not saying anything.” The silence he sought to avoid now hit the group full force. Finn was slightly taken aback at the revelation. He knew the ancient leather-bound book Silas perpetually carried with him was filled with all sorts of strange facts and legends, but he had only read the slim portions the prophet had let him see as he learned the basics of written language. 

It was Creon that shattered the oppressive silence. “So, that book told you about that train?” he barked as he got to his feet and began to pace around the Marowak. “What [i]else[/i] does it say, Silas? Hmm? Tell me now!” he shouted, the Mightyena’s voice carrying in the damp night air around them. 

Surprisingly, it was not Sam or even the Marowak himself that answered. “Hey! Don’t you go attackin’ him, Creon!” Kaligo suddenly snapped, as he furiously fluttered from his sitting position to directly in front of the wolf. “Here I was thinkin’ that he was leaden’ us without a plan or anything. Now that I hear this ... Well, I’m willin’ to give him a shot!” he stated firmly, causing Creon to stop in his tracks. 

“Hm. Why thank you, Kaligo. I’m glad I now have your vote. I--” Silas began before being sharply cut off by the cook. 

“Don’ think that I won’t be keepin’ an eye on ya. Just keep using that little book of yours to get us out of here, and we’ll be just fine,” the Togetic said, making little effort to conceal his threats. The remark seemed to make Silas uneasy, especially as the cook calmly walked back to his seat on the stump like nothing had passed. 

“Umm, Silas? Sorry to interrupt, but you still haven’t answered my question,” Sam lightly asked as the tension between the older Pokémon seemed to slowly diffuse once Creon sulked back to his original spot on the spongy ground. Finn continued to watch the scene unfold as he gave an unconscious yawn. 

“Go ahead, Silas. Go ahead with whatever you were going to say. Go ahead and keep all the secrets you want, too, while you’re at it,” the Mightyena grumbled as Kaligo shot a stinging glare over to him, silencing his protests almost instantly. 

“Anyways. Sam, you brought up an excellent question.” Silas continued, attempting to restore the conversation to a level that wouldn’t end up with one of them killed or exiled. “Honestly, I have little idea. It depends on how ... ‘civilized’ the Pokémon are here, to put it plainly. If we’re lucky, they’ll be willing to trade with us and offer support. If not, well, we’ll be here for much longer,” he elaborated as he pulled out the small booklet of folded maps, somehow, Finn noted, still dry and undamaged despite the earlier wreck. 

Silas unfolded the browning paper and laid it out on a patch of flat dirt. With a wave of his hand, he motioned for them all to approach him. Finn readily hopped up, eager for anything that might keep him from falling asleep just yet. The dimming firelight showed an area that Finn was certain was definitely not anywhere inside the rainforest wing. From what he could see, it appeared to be a very rough map of a swamp. The collective shadows of all of them flickered on the paper. 

“This isn’t complete, but it’s got the basics down. I compiled it after studying a chapter on it in the [i]Codex[/i]. It has the potential to get us through here.” Finn watched as the Marowak continued to talk and explain the crude map he had pieced together. After identifying a water path through the thicket that was almost impossible to see in the darkness, even the two ex-Ventus members were thoroughly impressed, and, more importantly, Finn noted, had seemingly forgiven the prophet for withholding secrets. 

“So, I think our next objective should be to get some rest and find out how to traverse the paths without sinking --again,” he told them as he tapped on the map to signal he had finished talking. Finn had to blink several times just to reorient himself; he swore he was paying attention to Silas as he spoke his way across the wing, but the near-sleep his mind was in revealed otherwise. 

He tried to gauge how long he had been out. Though the light -or rather, the lack thereof, hadn’t changed at all, and wouldn’t until morning, the fire had burned down a considerable bit from earlier and Creon almost looked calm. [i]At least two hours. That’s a new record for him,[/i] he thought as he recalled the prophet’s previous attempts to hold the near-illiterate Ventus captured as he recounted tales of the mystical Tiresias. 

The Quilava let out an unrestrained yawn and seemed to trigger a similar reaction from the others. Finn was just about to stumble over to the pile of tattered sheets he’d gathered from among the reclaimed cargo and planned on using as a bed when he heard something splash in the swamp behind him. Turning around, a task his groggy mind was slow in accomplishing, he saw a sight that he’d never seen before. 

“Silas...” he muttered, only eliciting a low grunt from the Marowak in response. Finn finally found the will to pinch himself on the arm, awakening his mind for a brief, pain-filled second. 

“Silas!” he yelled tersely, putting as much force behind his voice as he could as the strange sight glided closer along the swamp surface. From what he could see of it in the dying light of their fire, it was some sort of oddly-shaped, large, wooden bowl. Though it was what was inside the bowl that caused him alarm.  

“What is it, Finn?” Silas asked as he shot up off of his cot of dirt and a pile of insulated packaging from the boxes. But by then, it was too late. Finn stood there frozen on the shore as the floating bowl skirted the shore and gently came to a stop. 

There were two beings in the strange wooden structure. The Abra he recognized easily enough by its golden skin, the fact that it floated, and that it appeared to be completely asleep while doing the aforementioned action. The other being, however, was harder for him to match. 

It stood on two legs and nimbly stepped off the bowl onto the shore where it looked down at Finn. The being was covered in thin, metal, plates and had a colored uniform beneath them. Two thin, yet strong arms held a heavy spear aloft as his two legs made the short jump onto the shore. 

“Lassus, tell the City that we’ve found them,” The armored figure brandished a short sword in addition to his long spear as he climbed up onto the embankment. Finn unconsciously backed away in terror at him. He knew what he was. Everything matched at last: the body, the clothes, the weapons. The being was a human and the man was still talking.
“You all are hereby placed under the protection of the Countess, effective immediately. Lassus, Hypnotize, now!” he screamed suddenly. Before Finn, Silas, or any of the others could react, the floating Abra raised its frail arms and glowed a slight mauve color. A pulse of energy phased through him and seemed to attach lead weights to his eyelids as his mind went black. He only vaguely felt his body crumple to the soil as the world faded from his senses.

End Chapter Four

[b]Authors’ Notes:[/b] 

[b]Pokenutter:[/b]Alright, and there you have it. Overall, I think a decent chapter, particularly the dreaming bit.  Anyway, please enjoy what’s to come!

[b]Knightfall:[/b] Well, this chapter took a long time to write. Blame school and life. Other than that, I quite liked how it turned out. We’re finally advancing the plot now. 

Knightfall and Pokenutter signing off...

Awesome story–what a cliffhanger! :sad:

It’s been so long since the last update here…

That’s because Knightfall and PokeNutter (the two working together) haven’t been able to group up and work on this story. Don’t worry, the story’s still going. It’s just on hold at the moment. :3

That’s because Knightfall and PokeNutter (the two working together) haven’t been able to group up and work on this story. Don’t worry, the story’s still going. It’s just on hold at the moment. :3[/quote]

Shadow is mostly right there, but Pokenutter and I have been able to work together recently, it’s mostly due to time constraints. But, don’t fret. This entire next week we are dedicating to finishing up the next chapter.

Knightfall signing off…

Important: Chapter 5 is in the following link! Please read that first! Link:

Chapter Six: Negotiations

“Escape is impossible. We’ve secured every possible exit and effectively rendered them useless. Failsafe protocols have been added to ensure any remaining “loopholes” in the system cannot be exploited. The Warden will be a prisoner in his own prison.”
– World Abyss Initiative Project Report.

Flashes of light, voids of darkness, panic, screams. Sam had no idea how the citizens of this Wing usually celebrated hangings, but she was sure that letting prisoners escape and cause chaos in the crowd was not part of the ceremony. The Servine dragged her gaze away from the flickering market-place up to her companions on the balcony.

Finn had already backed away from the edge, trying to track the black blur of the Zoroark as he zipped through the houses and stores of the tree. Ince, however, was still firmly transfixed at the now-empty platform that used to house the gallows. To Sam, it looked as if her beak was stuck on some sort of muscular tick.

“He got away. He got away. He got away. He got away,” the Swanna repeated, her voice becoming less and less proper and regal with every instance. Further down the line Silas, Creon, and Kaligo seemed to have lost interest in the commotion below some time ago and the later two had gone back to their feast.

Sam cautiously approached the entranced Countess. “So… What are the chances he’ll be recaptured? I mean, that list of escapades was pretty impressive.”

“Got … Away … He … Got … Away …” she huffed, each word partnered with an angered exhale. Ince’s wings curled around the wrought-iron bar and began to quake.

Sam backed away slowly, shaking her head. “Right. Good talk. I’ll just be over here.”

“No. I pray you remain here, my dear. By my side. Come now, Samantha, don’t be shy. I just need a small favor,” Ince sharply whispered, not even turning her head to face Sam.

Not knowing what the Swanna had in mind, Sam slowly inched forward. “Er… yes, ma’am? What do you need?”

Ince smiled, forcefully unclasped a wing from the guardrail, and beckoned her closer. “Peer over the side here. Tell me, is he dead? If his corpse is not riddled with arrows at the base of this tree, then you, me, your friends, every citizen in this city will not stop until it is. So please, tell me.”

Again, with an abundance of caution, Sam approached the railing. She peered out over the edge, looking towards the tree Ince had mentioned. “Er… I don’t see it, but then again, it’s pretty tough to tell from up here…”

She trailed off as she saw it: the sudden blur of twisted night rocketing out of a window beneath her. The glass shards continued on their trajectory down to the square hundreds of feet below, but the torpedo of clouded darkness spun around in midair and latched onto the bark with a set of crimson claws. Within the miniature void, a pair of glowing blue eyes gleamed out at her and Ince. Its gaze flicked quickly between the two of them for an instant, before locking onto the distraught Countess.

A second after this registered, Sam hopped over towards Ince, and shoved her to the side. There was no way that wouldn’t come back to bite her in a few minutes, but there was always the off chance that the Zoroark’s sudden appearance plus the small jolt might make the Swanna seem marginally less homicidal.

The very next second was filled with Ince’s shrieks in protest of the sudden push, the shadow leaping up from far below onto the balcony, and the tension that weighed down the air like a sandbag. Sam froze where she stood as the bent form straightened up on the balcony. The black fox towered over her even without the added height from standing the iron railing. Her eyes slowly traveled up to his head and torso, where she saw an arm raised to strike.

If the entire room had not froze with the sudden intrusion of the Zoroark, Sam might have noticed that the criminal hesitated in his attack. Pausing for several full seconds as he began to show signs of panic. Sam knew she should have run. She had the chance, but her legs refused to move. She was effectively paralyzed.

The Zoroark seemed to unfreeze before the rest of the room did, before Ince did from her shove, before Finn from his conversation with Silas, before Creon and Kaligo during their intermission between mouthfuls of food. He lightly hopped down from the balcony, his red claws scraping against the marble floor as he landed directly in front of Sam.

“Well, this is annoying,” he grumbled. “You’re supposed to be someone else. How in Erebus do you screw that up?” He asked, peering down at her.

Sam took a second to reply. “…I’m sorry I’m not who you’re looking for. There’s not a lot I can do to fix that, though, is there?” A second later, she grimaced --was it even possible for that to sound more idiotic?

He let out a weak laugh. “Apology is accepted, but I’m afraid you underestimate how helpful you can be.” With that, he lashed forward. Sam gasped as he reached his claw around to the back of her neck, squeezed, and turned her around in one strong movement. She was crushed against the fur of his chest, one set of his claws held uncomfortably close to her neck.

Taking a moment to catch her breath, she turned her head as far as it would go, keeping the Zoroark in her line of sight. “Bad move, there.”

She shifted a bit in his grip, and dropped one of her vines out, not wasting any time in lashing him across the face with it. She quickly drew it back, and with a shout, she readied it for another lashing blow. There was little doubt in her mind that this was the Dmitri Ince mentioned earlier. Dmitri growled behind her and snatched the vine midway down with his free hand. The appendage struggled and slapped his wrist, but was ended as he sliced it in two with a quick motion of his claws.

His face was twisted in a forced scowl as his cheek smarted from the hit. “I don’t make bad moves, sweetheart. Now, you’re going to be a good hostage and tell your friends right there not to make any sudden moves.” He tightened his claws around her throat, just letting enough air through for her to fulfill his command.

What he got instead was a chuckle. “And when I don’t? Even a total newbie can tell you that you never give orders to the hostage. I take it you haven’t done this sort of thing before?”

“Would a drop off a two hundred foot balcony change your mind? Also, there you are, Countess, over there. And to all of you, hello. I had a bit of business to discuss with the Countess, but someone rudely interrupted me.”

“What’s the point of killing me, newbie? At that point, you have no hostage. You really aren’t very good at this- you want some pointers?” The Zoroark sighed, completely exasperated with her.

“Do you think I want you as a hostage? But, as long as you’re willing, go ahead, give me some pointers. I’d love to he-- Not one more step Quilava! I saw that! Stand back! And, you, Marowak, I implore you to lower your club. There, that’s better. We will have no interruptions, otherwise I’ll have to close this meeting a bit early,” Dmitri hissed at the slowly advancing Pokémon. As if struck by an attack, both Finn and Silas slowly backed down.

Sam nodded as much as she possibly could. “Well, why don’t we start with the biggest one right now- taking a hostage in the spur of the moment is a stupid idea. You want to be far away- or at least, have the hostage far away from where you’re dealing with the heroes. Otherwise, you’re asking for a knife in the back or a bullet in the eye. Number two’s also pretty important- the law of two hands. Plain and simple, you only have two hands. It takes both of them to reliably hold a hostage- you won’t be able to defend yourself. If you drop me and go for the countess, suddenly no one else in the room has any reason not to attack you. Meanwhile, Ince barely knows me, and really shouldn’t care about my personal safety. Really, coming up here was a mistake. That ties into rule three- make sure the hostage matters to everyone in the room. And now, probably, the most important one- never- and I really do mean never- let the hostage talk to you. This is right around the time when you end up surrounded- when you let the hostage get your attention more than the people around you. Ince, about how long does it take your guards to climb up here, would you say?” she finished with a gasp.

“Yes, indeed. I’ve made all the mistakes, haven’t I? Let’s fix them, shall we?” Even as Finn and Silas were again making their subtle advances with intents to do more than injure the criminal, Dmitri tightened his hold on her neck. The tiny bit of oxygen that Sam was able to suck down was just enough to keep her conscious. He reached into his mane with his other claw and pulled out a dusty, round sphere of glass. He closed his eyes for an instance as he threw down the Orb at the Quilava’s feet.

As soon as the impact drove millions of cracks through the body of the sphere, it shattered in an inferno of neigh-explosive light. Dmitri heard his soon-to-be attackers yell and fall to the ground in shock. Through the skin of his eyelids, he saw the sharp glow of the light fade as soon as it had erupted. Seeing his chance, he opened his eyes. It had worked more or less how he had expected: everyone but him had been blinded for a few precious seconds.

Rather than observe the scene around him, he sprung into action. He knew he had to make a choice. He knew Ince was defenseless, but refused to act on that opportunity. There was another chance --a complete gamble with the Fates, that was true-- but he was willing to take it. He hoped his racing thoughts would be right as they always had been.

Continuing the hold Sam by the neck, he grabbed one of her hands with his, and pulled her up along with him as he jumped onto the balcony once again. He heard the other Pokémon in the room trying to stand and see. Had he the ability, sweat would have been pouring from his forehead in nervousness. Swallowing his panicked thoughts, he returned his attention to his struggling hostage.

He shifted his claw from her hand to the golden collar on the back of her neck. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Quilava stand and rear his head back in preparation of some sort of attack as his flame patches ignited. It was time. Either his gambit would work, otherwise it would be a very quick plunge to the base of the tree. He took in a deep breath.

Just as the Quilava was about to let loose his attack, Dmitri extended his arms to his right. Sam was now fully in the air, held aloft in the Zoroark’s precarious grip above two hundred feet of nothingness filling the space between her and the market-place.

“I’ll ask you to stop right there, Quilava. Odds are in my favor now. Problems one, two, and three are now rectified. And trust me, I don’t think you’ll be wanting to attack me now. Ince, call off your guards,” Dmitri ordered, his slick confidence returning swiftly to his voice.

Sam choked out something that might have been “…bit better, but-” before Dmitri silenced her again with another squeeze around her neck. Ince finally seemed to free herself from the spell of shock that had consumed the room. She did not step closer, but brushed herself off with her wings. She coughed lightly before turning her head up to him.

“Go ahead, drop her. I’ll find another servant to replace her from the slums. Despite what you may think, Dmitri, you do not have any upper hand here. My guard will–” Ince stated as she paused to extend her wing out in front of a wide-eyed Finn. The Quilava was shaking with rage and terror as he heard the Countess’s words.

“A-hem. I’m afraid I’m going to stop you right there as well, Ince. This girl … “ he said, as he motioned with his head to the faintly-struggling Servine in his hands. “She isn’t some trash you hired off the street, is she?” Ince’s beak snapped shut that instant as Dmitri’s mouth curled into a grin.

“Oh yes, Ince. I know you too well from the countless times I’ve been inside your house. She is important. Important enough for you to invite her and her group of uncivilized companions into this palace. The Servine isn’t a dignitary, neither are any of them. She’s important to you, Ince. In fact, I’m willing to bet that to you, she is the most important Pokémon in this entire room. No, the entire city! Tell me that I’m wrong!” He was shouting now, fully aware that the no one could possibly hear them. Ince had been right, everything within the balcony was completely muffled to the outside world.

Sam choked something out again, this time impossible to understand. Dmitri let out another small laugh. “Just how important are you, Miss Servine? Just how much is your life worth to your companions and the Countess?” He released the claws around her neck a fraction of an inch.

Sam took a few gulps of air before answering. “I… can’t speak for Ince, but… Let’s just say that there’s… something huge I’m involved with. If you want any more… well, I rather like oxygen…”

“Thank you for finally cooperating. If more folks did that, well, I doubt the Abyss would even exist. Anyways, you’ll get your chance, darling. Now, you all will get one chance to tell me just how important she is and why you all are here. Marowak, you start. Name, and reason.” Dmitri ordered, nodding his head towards Silas. As the prophet quickly gathered his thoughts, he eased his grip by another fraction, just enough to give her more air. Sam took the opportunity to shout over to him.

“Silas! ‘Rescue the one condemned for sins. He will return the deed.’ Does that make any sort of sense to you?” The sudden phrase seemed to send a jolt through the prophet. He bowed his head and rubbed the side of his helmet as he thought.

“No offense, pal. But, you didn’t pick the most stable Pokémon to take hostage. I swear, spouting nonsense is only the top of the tree stump when it comes to her problems,” Creon shouted from the back of the room, strips of meat caught between his teeth, and dangling out of his mouth.

“Charming. Now, Marowak --Silas, please, continue with your thoughts,” Dmitri calmly observed, brushing off Creon’s remark like it was an annoying fly. At that moment, Silas looked up at him and Sam.

“The Commands of Tiresias: Volume One. Page thirty, lines fifty through fifty-one. The commands on the justice administered to criminals. Samantha, how did you know that? D-did He speak it to you?” Silas recited from perfect memory before asking.

Sam rolled her eyes. “Wonderful. And now both he and Ince know that. It was supposed to be private, anyway; I wasn’t supposed to mention it. Given the circumstances, though, I guess it was the easiest way out of this situation. Speaking of which, can you put me down now?”

“So, my guess was right. That’s good. Samantha, Sam --which do you prefer?. We’ll have this all sorted out in just a few minutes. Just hold still. Now, Quilava, it looks like you have something to say. If you could perhaps tell me what it is your mission is, that would be excellent,” Dmitri asked, directing the later half of the question to Finn. The Fire-type pushed Ince’s wing out of his way and took one step forward.

“We’re getting out of here. That’s all there is to it. Now, let her go,” Finn tried his best to keep his voice from wavering as he faced the menacing Zoroark.

“Out. You’re getting out. Wonderful, that’s all I needed to hear. That is it. Countess, it’s time for my demands. Nothing extravagant, or impossible, I assure you, and I promise it will be worth it.” The room fell silent as Ince straightened up to listen.

“Two demands. One: Ince, I want a full pardon, I want it made public to the entire city, and I want you to swear by Tiresias that no harm will come to me at your doing while I am in your domain. And two: I request to join their exploration party to find a way to the Surface. I believe I possess skills that might be of value to you all during this mission.” His voice was like a snake: smooth, wrapping around them, persuasive.

Ince lowered her head. Her neck no longer able to support the crushing weight of humiliation the gloating criminal was heaping upon her. “Words cannot express how much I want you dead, Dmitri. I want to push you off the railing myself … But I won’t. You want a damn pardon? You can have my pardon, my promise, and go along with them just as long as you leave! I never want to see your filthy face in my city ever again! Just let her go! You are not going to harm my only chance at Escape!” Ince was freely spitting with every enunciated syllable at this point. All pretenses of elegance, charm, friendliness, and civility had long since vacated her person. Every soul in the room chilled with the venom of the Countess’s words.

Dmitri took the rabid behavior of the Swanna in stride. “You swear in the presence of a prophet? You swear in the face of Tiresias himself? That he will bring plagues and disaster upon you should you fail to keep this pledge? I will not be harmed by anyone in this city, and I will travel with this group. You swear to this? Will you put it on permanent record for all to see?” Dmitri was taking no chances. He had seen the Countess’s deceptive behaviors before, her skewed dealings with other Wings, the vague promises she interwove with lies and loopholes. He could not under any circumstance allow her to do that. Public opinion kept the Countess’s line in power, and if she were to double back on a public promise, there would be hell to pay for her. Or so he hoped.

“… Of course, Dmitri. A deal is a deal, especially when you have the upper hand. May the Fates curse me if I or my city ever do harm to you forever more. Now, can we finally end this standoff?” Ince huffed, making a poor attempt to regain her composure.

“The Abyss will know if you lie, Ince. Now, Sam, I think we’ve reached an agreement. It’ll be an honor to be acquainted with my new companions,” He told them as he began to lower his arms to the ground. Just before he unclasped his claws, Sam jumped into the conversation.

“Just a moment, Dmitri,” Sam announced, eyeing him venomously. “I don’t have an issue bringing you along- hell, I could have kept my mouth shut about what might be coincidence anyway if I wanted to. However, always keep this in mind-- if you try and strangle me again, I’ll be perfectly willing to say ‘screw destiny,’ and garrote you in your sleep. Understood?”

“After I torch you within an inch of your life!” Finn bitterly interjected, frustrated at being forced to remain still while the entire scene unfolded.

Dmitri smiled. “I wouldn’t dream of hurting any of you. My only goal is to get Out and find the paradise of riches on the Surface. I will do all I can to help us all achieve that goal. Strangling you all would be counter-productive to any profits we’ll get in the end. Silas, Phineas, Mightyena, Togetic, Ince, Sam, you all have my word.” As soon as he finished, he attempted a short bow, though Sam threw his balance off slightly.

Sam shrugged. “First off, that was your first warning to put me down. Secondly, I think it’s pretty obvious that strangling me is just one of the many ways you’ll be capable of getting yourself killed. You betray us in any way, I’ll be first in line for the beatdown. Got it?”

“Heh, so sorry. I beg your forgiveness.” He lowered her fully to the floor and unclasped his claws from her neck. He did not even try to retreat, fully confident that his agreement would hold up. “I do hope we can put this incident behind us. I do know of a rather charming tavern down on the second layer that serves the best drinks I’ve ever had,” he commented, casually leaning up against the railing, and examining a chip in his claw as if the previous five minutes never happened.

Finn strode up to him. “I don’t know who you think you are, but rest assured that if you try anything to hurt Sam or any of us, I will end you,” he hissed through gritted teeth. Dmitri chuckled and rubbed the top of Finn’s head with his palm.

“Don’t worry, kid. You won’t have to worry about me at all. Now, drinks anyone? Luke, the barkeep, and I go way back, so he’ll hook us up with a few rounds to celebrate my new freedom!” Dmitri bellowed, forcing a stream of hushed swears from the Countess as she waddled off to write out the terms of the pardon.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “…That’s quite a bit of mood whiplash-- hostage negotiations followed by a round of drinks a minute later. Is that normal at all in this area?”

“Eh, I can think of worse. I mean, there could have always been a murder and then a round of drinks. And, normal? Not at all. It’s how I do my business. It might not make sense, but I’ve survived by being dynamic. Static characters are the ones to die first in every play and story, you know,” Dmitri mused as Silas exited the balcony behind the Swanna.

With Ince and Silas gone, the remaining tension in the room seemed to disappear. Finn did not appear to be too keen on remaining in such close proximity to the thief, but stayed put. Creon was sniffing around the table of now-cold food in search of another morsel. Kaligo belched and fluttered up from his seat.

“‘Ey! ‘Mitri! I’ll take you up on thos’ drinks! Haven’ had a good brew in ages! Been thirsty for too long!” Kaligo’s voice boomed through the chamber. Dmitri looked up and grinned.

“Wonderful! I’m sure Ince’s got a few coins ‘round here that she won’t miss…” he said as he clapped his paws and immediately began opening the ornate drawers and cabinets around the room in search of loot.

“Dmitri, we’re not taking Ince’s gold. I get the sense that we’ve stolen enough from her today,” Sam announced, rolling her eyes. Dmitri sighed as he reluctantly shut the drawer.

“Fine.” He reached into his mane and pulled out a small cloth pouch. “Besides, I’ve still got some left from the prison jockeys. I swear, they just left everything within my reach except the keys,” he explained with a triumphant grin as he shook the bag and heard the hefty jingle of a large amount of coins.

“So, you all going to join me? There’s enough here for everyone to enjoy themselves, and besides, I feel like I should try to celebrate joining the greatest escape attempt the Abyss has seen in a century,” he jovially asked as he stuffed the pouch back in his voluminous hair and made his way through the now-cold food tables to the door. Kaligo quickly fluttered along behind him, and he was in turn followed by Creon.

“Are you going? I don’t know what his deal is, but I don’t like him… You’re not hurt, are you?” Finn huffed as he paced around her, examining her for any obvious cuts or other injuries.

“Right now, I’m more or less alright. I’m not sure I like him either, but if he doesn’t slit all of our throats on the first night, he might be useful. In any case, I think we ought to go, if not for the alcohol, then for the opportunity to keep an eye on him.”

Finn breathed a sigh of relief. “Glad you’re fine. I swear, the moment he tried anything, I was going to rush in there. Anyways, I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on him. If you’re going to go, I’ll go too,” Finn decided, not entirely happy with the turn of events, but willing to walk with Sam out of the room in search of the trio of miscreants that had preceded them through the Countess’s lavish halls.

Behind the tightly shut door of the Countess’s private study, Silas found himself small room furnished more books than he had ever dreamt of seeing in his life. He almost found himself getting lost among the endless sea of knowledge that flooded the walls when the enraged Swanna let out a terse scream and flung a nearby book at him. Silas immediately ducked behind his upright staff as the chronicle of flora in the Marsh Wing at him.

“I don’t believe this! He was supposed to be dead! Not joining your crew! This is a disgrace! To you! To me! To my nation!” Ince screeched, letting out an unintentional squawk in the process.

Silas cleared his throat with a deep cough. “Well, your highness, it’s far from my place to judge, but from my experiences, setting up elaborate and publicized deaths often leads to escape. It’s just a fact. Back in the forest, the Ventus always kept it quick. ‘A short drop and a sudden stop’ was their method,” Silas recalled as he raised his staff to deflect yet another volume of the history of Itre at him.

“Prophet! I will have you thrown out if you continue!” she huffed, her rage only building as she curled the tip of her wing around another book from the wall. He was fairly sure his humble staff would not be able to last a hit from the economics tome.

“Perhaps, Countess, we should egress from this topic? As I recall, we need to make plans for my crew’s expedition to escape the Abyss. Are you willing to do that?” Silas suggested as he lowered his staff. Ince closed her eyes and let loose a slow, pent-up breath.

“Yes. Let us do that. So, your crew, six members in all as of … recently. Four adults, two teenagers. That does not seem like much to defend yourself with, even with the girl of prophecy on your side. I can ready a squad of my finest men and Pokémon to accompany you, if you so desire, prophet.” Silas could not but help to be amazed at how quickly the Countess had collected herself. He tried to keep his own mind off the events of a few minutes prior and focused on the future.

“Well, as much as we would appreciate the protection, Tiresias made his journey to the Surface with only a group of eight of his most devoted followers. I intend on doing the same with fewer,” Silas stated, tapping his staff on the floor in triumph before continuing. “But we would greatly benefit from receiving optimal gear and rations for our journey. We weren’t able to start out with much and our food from the train was left behind.” He motioned on a nearby, lamp-lit desk and indicated for her to follow.

“I can get you all supplies and equipment, even for the thief… But, it will all have Itre’s seal imprinted on it, so even the Surface will know that is was with our help you bested the Abyss. Now, why are we at this desk, Silas?” Ince said, brushing aside the prophet’s request with an acceptable answer. Silas answered by retrieving the worn copy of the Codex from his equally-worn bag and placed it on the table with a grunt. He quickly thumbed through the tattered pages, skimming past long-forgotten remedies, paths, pacts, oaths, and scribblings until he found the section he wanted.

The prophet recalled the countless hours he spent studying these pages. The worn colors of lands and passages spreading out from the sealed off world of his home in the forest. It had been his first glimpse into a realm beyond what he saw. It had been the very last thing his mistress had shown him in the Codex before she passed on. As Ince studied the map for herself, Silas could not help but crack a smile underneath his helmet.

Finn, as about as capable of discerning the will of the Abyss as he was at remaining unhurt for more than several days, was going to get to see everything he had dreamed about as an apprentice. He would be going beyond the edges of the map and even farther. Silas knew he would have been lying if he said he did not feel the slightest twinge of envy for the Quilava.

“Prophet! Could you please tell me why you unfolded this map?” Ince’s demand snapped him out of his idle thoughts. He coughed, the action making his helmet rattle slightly.

“Well, once we rest up for a few days --two or three, but not more than four-- and are fully supplied, we will travel by barge, or whatever form of transport you have for the marsh, until we reach the badlands in the east. At that point, we will begin our search for an entryway into the Wall and into the passages using Samantha’s talents to open the doors.” Silas pointed at a long, winding, blue path jutting out from the east part of the giant tree-city of Itre. His brown finger traced it through the marshlands on the paper all the way to a large grey line labeled “East Wall”.

“We do have overland paths of bridges that are much easier to transverse than a barge. Again, you may use whatever we have, just, please make sure the Zoroark is taken far away from here. What you do with him afterwards, I do not care. Some of the Wings you face are worse than the death he would have received,” Ince stated as she motioned with her wing to the dark patches outside of her domain on the parchment.

“I have my reasons for allowing him with us, despite the fact that I too, would rather seem him hang. Now, Countess, we have much to discuss. I never did finish my story on our group, did I?” Silas asked rhetorically as he sat down in the leather-covered chair and began exactly where he left off in his life’s story. Ince groaned as she struggled not to order her servants to hand her the strongest drink they could get ahold of.


Finn was not happy. Despite what he said to Sam, he could not come close to forgiving the Zoroark for his sudden actions. He wondered why the Fates had decided to saddle them with this criminal. Tiresias could not have intended for this to happen. Nothing he had studied under Silas ever mentioned the rescuing of a thief.

Doubt flashed across his mind as he followed Sam and the others through the streets outside of the palace. Did he really think that she was who Silas said she was? The thought flitted through his mind like an incessant fly. Did he? Did he honestly think she would be the ticket to the Surface? He had seen impossible things over the last several days, things that he was certain cemented his confidence in her, but the doubt still remained.

Even if she isn’t the ‘Key’ Silas was hoping for, he thought as he numbly stepped through the wooden-plank streets, You’ve saved her life, didn’t you? She’s been a great friend hasn’t she? Has she ever given any reason to doubt?

“Phinny? You coming? You seem rather … dazed, back there,” Dmitri’s voice snapped him out of his conversation with his thoughts. “You alright?” Finn felt a jet of steam shoot from his nostrils as the Zoroark’s claw touched his right shoulder. He immediately jerked away from the claw.

“It’s Finn. And, don’t touch me,” he snapped as he turned his head away from Dmitri.

“Hey, I didn’t intend to hold your girl hostage. I’m not the type of Pokémon to do that. I steal, not barter lives. Murder doesn’t look good on anyone’s legacy.” Finn had no idea what Dmitri was trying to play at by making this small talk with him, but he was not going to be bought by it.

“I don’t care what you were. If you so much as think of hurting us, you will never walk again. Understand, Dmitri?” The Quilava spat. The Zoroark mockingly put his hands in the air.

“Don’t worry, Finny, I won’t be touching anyone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and introduce you all to the greatest building in all of Itre.” With that quick qip, he bounded back to the front of their group, sidestepping Sam, Kaligo, and Creon as he drew horrified gasps and whispers to call for soldiers from the citizens around them. Finn only watched beside Sam as the Zoroark announced the name of the dingy tavern in front of them.

“The what? What did you call it?” Creon barked.

“The Sleazy Weasel, a marvel of taste and elegance, as you’ll surely see inside. Come on, the Countess didn’t give me a pardon for nothing,” Dmitri said again as he slipped past small group of Pokémon milling on the front steps and swung the set of creaky wooden doors open wide.

Finn took another close look at the structure: it was almost as moldy and degraded as the docks at the foot of the city. The panels that made up the exterior walls seemed to have melded with the trunk, leaving it to question how much of the mottled wooden structure was actually artificial.

A swinging sign depicting a drunken Pokémon that might have been a Weavile on the front. The sign appeared to have weathered poorly in the constant humid air, but Finn could not help but crack a smile at the mental image of Cedric replacing the Pokémon on it.

As he walked through the set of doors, Finn knew Dmitri had been right. It certainly was a marvel. Perhaps not of taste and elegance, but of rather the smell of alcohol and the sound of raucous laughter. The fact that such a place that seemed soaked in stale drinks still somehow seemed appealing and in business baffled Finn. He might have lived his life in a rainforest, but even then he had thought that most Pokémon in these fabled cities preferred their possessions and buildings clean.

He didn’t even have the time to absorb the packed crowd that miraculously squeezed into the tiny tavern before Dmitri swept them through the sea of people to the front of the bar. The Zoroark appeared to be taking his newfound immunity within the city too far as he did not hesitate to roughly shove three grown men, an angered Armaldo, and a Heracross brandishing its sharp claws out of their stools to make way for their group. Once again, he couldn’t make out in the hustle and bustle how exactly he ended up on the stool next to Sam and the criminal himself, but he was there.

“Not bad seats for just arriving, eh?” Finn’s closed mouth twitched at the corner in annoyance. The thief’s overwhelming smugness was just one of the many, many things Finn was beginning to add to the list of reasons why he loathed the Zoroark. The fire patches on his head smoldered in discontent as he refused an answer to the criminal.

“I do all this for you all and all I get is the cold shoulder? Not even a ‘thank you’? Man, and I thought the folks in the slums were rude. At least they can appreciate an excellent seat for a drink when offered to them. In speaking of drinks…” Dmitri commented to his left even though Finn tried his best to focus on Sam and the drone of conversation happening around him. He decided to look away from the stained wooden counter and the dusty of bottles of liquid and at the others.

Sam was busy curiously eyeing a bottle of a strange, blue substance that seemed to slosh around by itself. Creon was nowhere to be found. Beyond Sam, Kaligo seemed to be attracting the attention of several unsavory looking men as they exchanged the usual set of obscenities that were part of the Togetic’s normal greeting. Finn prepared for the men to get up and start threatening the old cook, but it never happened, even as he went onto insulting their extended family and their weak drinks.

“I’ll bet you’v’ all never even tasted a true drink!” That was the phrase that started the night, it seemed. Everything went back to that one statement. It was within a minute after that piece of dialogue that Finn found himself accepting a drink the Lopunny barkeep fixed for him as per Dmitri’s orders. The disgruntled Pokémon seemed to be on the verge of a stress breakdown with the tremendous volume of customers that clamored for his attention.

Something told him that refusing the drink would probably lead to being punched in frustration, he slowly grasped the wooden mug with both paws. He glanced over at Sam, who was doing the same thing with her own cup. He lowered his snout to the rim of the filled vessel. It was strong. The blast of burning molecules seared the inside of his nose and threatened to overload them. Yet, something in the back of his mind tried to tell him that it was alright to drink.

He had seen some of these beverages back in the rainforest. There was a simple one that he knew was made out of a certain berry that the Pokémon in his old village made for special occasions. He’d only ever tasted it once as a sip from his mother’s bowl, but he disliked it almost immediately. Finn didn’t know why he was giving it a second chance, but seeing Kaligo gulp his down like water and Dmitri calmly snipping his planted the seed that the drink wasn’t all bad.

Carefully putting aside his doubts, Finn raised the mug to his mouth once more and gulped down a large swig of the strong substance. Almost immediately, his tongue felt as if he had swallowed a burning coal, his throat was lined with a grease fire, and his stomach was deciding whether to suffer through the drink or expel it back from whence it came. Slamming the mug to the counter, he coughed and sputtered as he tried to force himself to keep the drink down.

Finn felt his head pounding, yet, despite how the majority of his mind screamed for him to dump the mug out, a small portion wanted more. To experience the burning sensation once again. Leaning up from the wooden bar, he saw Dmitri grin and tip another sip of his drink down his throat. Groaning, he gripped his mug with both paws and dragged it back in front of him.

In an effort to satiate the small corner of his mind, he quickly downed the rest of the drink, letting his body writhe under the strangely-pleasant fire. It no longer felt like it was trying to tear him apart, but simply warm him from the inside. He motioned for the barkeep to hand him another as a roar of cheers rose from Kaligo’s table as the Togetic agreed to a drinking contest. Grabbing his newly-filled mug, he sat next to Sam directly in behind Kaligo. His opponent was a man --a soldier not-unlike Gordan, except with an additional layer of thick muscle added under his armor.

It was about then that the edges of the night began to blur for Finn. He recalled his second mug, and possibly a third. He remembered being with Sam, seeing Kaligo go through his game, and a whirlwind of other things as the night soon passed into morning with little indication that any time had passed on his end. The wood-backed chair of the tavern became a soft feather bed within the richly decorated walls of Ince’s palace.

When he first registered that he was no longer where he last remembered himself being, he opened his heavy eyelids. Which was a huge mistake as the blinding lights of the Abyssian morning shot into his eyes, forcing a horse scream of discomfort and an immediate closing of eyes from Finn as he dove beneath the richly-stuffed red comforter. In the faint space of time that had passed, somehow an entire night had slipped away from beneath his nose.

His head was pounding like the drums of the tribes of the deep jungle Pokémon, and if it weren’t for the hunger gnawing at his stomach, he would have stayed underneath the sheet forever. He felt like a slug as he practically oozed out of the feathery depths of the bedding. The wooden floor of the room felt like ice on his unprepared feet, and almost immediately his half-lidded eyes shot open as he began hopping towards the closed ornate door.

Finn yanked down on the golden handle and shot into the thankfully carpeted hallway.
Now somewhat awake, Finn briskly jogged through the oddly silent corridor as he tried to navigate his way through the interior of the palace oak. He had never seen this part of the immense residence in the short time he had been inside it. As he wandered, stomach noisily grumbling for nourishment, a thought came across his mind:

How did I get here? He had no good answer. He had no idea how he had been at the tavern one moment and in a guest room in the bowls of Ince’s palace the next. He continued to walk through the forlorn, richly-decorated halls, thankful that the dim fires on his back provided him light to see by in the poorly-lit area.

A wind swept through the passage despite there being no window or vent in sight. The dim light died completely as a chill pressed into him like a crushing weight. Finn shivered as he held the enameled wall. His breathing picked up behind his chattering teeth as he looked around for the source of such devilry.

A whisper, barely on the edge of his hearing, echoed from further down the vast palace. Finn twisted himself around to check behind him only to find that the hallway stretched equally endlessly in that direction as well. The door to his room now lost to the sea of identical, engraved doors that lined the walls at such equal intervals that Finn found to be impossible. Seeing no other choice, he blindly followed the voice as if it were a swift breeze.

“Here. I am here.” Against his better judgement, Finn tried to open one of the doors closest to him, but found it locked tight. He did it with another, and another, and another only to find each and every one of them locked firm.


At once, a great rumble shook the palace and every identical door as far as Finn could see slammed open, some shattering their frames with the violent force that blew their locks asunder. The tremendous sound rushed into his ears and instinctively brought his paws to his head to try and block them out.

”Here, Finn. Here.” Finn spun around in the middle of the corridor, the voice seemed to be everywhere, yet nowhere at the same exact time. Fear took a hold of him as he silently prayed to the gods that whatever this vision was, it would soon end.

“Come forward, son of my soul and flesh. Use what life I bestowed upon you to walk to me, Finn.” His breaths did not stay long in his lungs as his heart beat faster and faster. Darkness spread from the unseen rooms, pooling as heavy smoke on the floor and sticking to the fur on his feet like cooling tar.

He immediately tried to free his legs. Finn gripped his ankles and tugged futilely even as the flood of viscous liquid seethed and frothed up the walls of the palace. His body went into overdrive, igniting his head and tail flame patches full force. The Quilava reared his aching head backwards and spat up a small ball of fire into the boiling lake of opaque fluid.

”Why do you fear me, child? Why do you fight against your father? The one who breathed life into your stubborn lungs? The one who blessed you with the blood of the cure? You are poisoned, and now you must be detoxified.” The mass entrapping him surged upwards, creeping up his body as it glued it to himself. Before he could even twist his arms away, they were caught in place.

“Silas! Sam! Creon! M-mom!” Finn cried as the sentient ooze slithered up his neck and began the process of prying open his sealed lips and moving up to cover the rest of his face. His brain began to flash as his body pinned for oxygen. Surreal sensations of drowning filled his crowded mind as unheard whispered urged him to release his jaw.

”Phineas. Do as you’re told. Help me be free.” He could not see. The black substance covered his eyes and bubbled in his ears, blocking him out from the outside world. He tried in vain to kick his arms and legs against the solidifying mass. Hands formed from the tar gripped him and held him down as it dug into his taut mouth. He felt the liquid force its way into his open mouth past his bared fangs and down his convulsing throat.

“Finn! Stop struggling! You’re only going to hurt yourself! Finn! Finn! Wake up!” The hoarse, raspy shouts of his mentor suddenly washed everything away like a rushing river rapid. The clinging darkness tore away violently from his face as his eyes opened. The sulfuric smell of burning torches wafted past his nose as he tried observe his surroundings.

“Finn! Come on, Finn! Get up!” Light entered his rapidly blinking eyes as the Quilava attempted to stop the world from spinning in rotations of green, blue, and brown.

“S-Silas? Wh-Where …?” He barely managed to stutter out as he felt the prophet’s rough paw grip his arm and heave him out of the tangled mass that clung to his body.

“You’re in the fishing district on the lowest section of Ira. Fates know how in the Abyss you managed to get down here,” Silas grumbled as he tore the final piece of Finn saw to be smoldering casting nets off of his chest.

“I … What? H-How did I …?” Finn murmured as the Marowak pulled him out of the fish-smelling pile of melted nets.

“You were drunk, boy. No doubt about it. I’d say what you did last night, but not even I can make sense of what’s presented. I’ll tell you this right off the bat, boy. You’re never touching another drink under the supervision of Dmitri as long as I’m alive.”

Finn groaned, not at Silas’s promise, but at the sudden pounding that began in his head. It as if the drums of the Ventus had been somehow placed right inside his heads. The Quilava stumbled as he clutched onto Silas for support.

“Come on, fool boy. There’s still more to this mess to clean up.”

Continued on Next Post

Continued from Previous Post
The smell of ash was the first thing that came to her as she slowly regained consciousness. The second thing was a stabbing pain in between her eyes as she slowly tried to open them to try and ascertain her location.

Sam clutched her forehead and groaned, squinting her eyes shut, suddenly aware of how a dartboard felt. Even ignoring the all-consuming pain in her forehead, she seemed to have fallen asleep right next to a broken piece of wood. She was lucky she hadn’t rolled a few centimeters to the right in her sleep --otherwise, she’d have splinters down her front in the best-case scenario.

Come to think of it, where am I? She wondered as she tried to recall her surroundings.

Gah, pain. She slowly opened her eyes again, trying to move past the fact that the light seemed painful. After a few false starts, she managed to get a good look around. She was… Inside the bar. And everything was charred.

Um, what? Every single wood surface in the bar had been burned black, and the windows in the front of the bar had been blasted out. A large number of thick support beams had come crashing down around her, and now lay smoking on the ground.

Aside from her, one object seemed to have survived, possibly due to being tossed in after the flames had been extinguished --a note.

Curious, she approached it, and picked it up carefully.

[i]Hey, Sam. Impressive you managed to survive that. I’m leaving this here for when you wake up. Look, it’s a shame the plan didn’t work out last night, and you can see the result. However, I personally blame Gallagher --he was talking about running off and pursuing his dreams of fame and fortune in another wing last any of us saw him, and he didn’t show up to finish the job. Leroy reckons we’ll never find him. Oh, well. In any event, last night was certainly memorable, one way or another. I hope we’ll get to chat again sometime.


She blinked. …What the hell? Who are these people?

She tried to recall the previous night, but ran into a roadblock after the first drink. After that, it was a bit blurry --something about a drinking game with Kaligo gone horribly, horribly… Wrong, maybe? It got less clear as the night went on. Someone might have eaten a poker chip, and it disturbed her that she wasn’t entirely unconvinced that she was the guilty party.

…Never again. Pain and shenanigans do not a normal morning make. The hangover brought her back to reality, and she clutched her head in pain again. She awkwardly stood, and shuffled towards the door.

Have to do something about this hangover. Hmmm… I think… someone I know once said that Tepig sandwiches were good for this sort of thing… I wonder if that’d be socially unacceptable… she mused.

She grabbed the door handle, and was thoroughly unsurprised when it fell off its hinges, instantly exposing her to the morning sun. The light, which had previously been painful, abruptly became excruciating. She stumbled backwards, and then began a slow approach back into the light.

Oh, yeah, and if Kaligo ever suggests anything like this again, I get to smack him. Her body instantly reacted to the input of light, clearing her groggy head better than a splash of chilled water and infinitely more comfortable than that option.

The outside, initially bathed in blinding light, slowly came into focus. A set of wooden barriers had been set up outside the bar, most likely to keep civilians out of the wreckage. Several of them stopped and stared as she exited, apparently baffled by her appearance. She didn’t blame them --her invisible friend was making survival suspiciously easy.

She nervously waved to one of them as she began looking around the square. One of the group had to have noticed that she didn’t come out of the bar last night. That combined with her absurdly long time underwater upon their initial arrival in the wing meant that someone was probably sticking around nearby, just in case.

After a few minutes, she caught sight of Dmitri leaning against the front of one of the shops. His attention was focused on the gallows where his hanging had been scheduled. Or what was left of it, anyway- a crew of various Pokémon were in the process of dismantling the broken remains. He seemed to be enjoying his first day of the contrived freedom he had bargained for last night. Regardless of past crimes, he was the only one who bore a familiar face in the sea of Pokémon and humans hurrying through the square on the way to their jobs.

Shoving past the crowd, she called out to him. “Hey, Dmitri!”

At once the Zoroark twisted around and greeted her with a wide smile as he quickly dashed past his gallows to meet her in the middle of the square. He skidded to a stop right before they collided.

“Sam! You’re alright! You had one drink and then … Bam!” He clicked his claws together sharply. “You were gone for the entire night. Same with Finn. The two of you were all over the place. One moment you’re both betting with the guards that Kaligo could outdrink them, and the next you’re waltzing all over Itre like you found Ince’s private vault,” he recounted with an audible sigh of relief, listing off their actions on his claws.

After a second of digesting this, Sam slowly nodded. “Um… Okay, then. Hey, listen- I didn’t do anything I’m going to regret today, right? Like setting the bar on fire?” She was not reassured as Dmitri immediately began chuckling to himself. A sinking feeling of dread began to form in her gut.

“Heh, not you, at least, not whenever I managed to see you. Though, you did bet some poor soldier’s wages you won that Finn couldn’t hit a shield mounted on the wall with an Ember.” He paused to catch his breath from the fits of laughter that interrupted nearly every one of his words. “Turns out he couldn’t. Set the whole thing ablaze just before the Lights snapped on this morning.”

Sam started to breathe a sigh of relief before pausing. Was it okay to be relieved about this? She shook her head, and turned her attention back to Dmitri. “…Well, alright. Was anyone seriously injured?”

“Naw, everyone knows the drill by now. That place is burnt down or elseways demolished every other week. By this evening they’ll be starting to rebuild it again. It’s a tradition by this point, Finn just started it a day earlier than it usually happens on the end of the work week,” Dmitri explained, staring past Sam at the ruined tavern as if lost in his memories.

Sam nodded. “Ah. Well, that’s… not good, but less awful than I thought it was. Ummm… Tell me, did you see anyone eat a poker chip?” She immediately felt that she said something weird when the Zoroark only met her with a confused look replacing the smile he wore a few seconds before.

Okay, good. I guess that means it didn’t happen, she thought to herself. A second later, her thoughts did an about-face. Wait a minute. If it didn’t happen, why am I so convinced that it did? She shook her head again, and sighed.

“Never mind. Anyway, do you know where the others are?” The recently-freed Zoroark let out another forced laugh.

“Heh, the old one, Creon, and two of those soldiers from last night are out scouring the city for you and Finn right now. Kaligo’s sleeping off his hangover I assume, either that or buying the city with all the loot he won,” Dmitri remarked as he waved his claws to indicate some place beyond the plaza.

It was then that everything changed. Sam didn’t know how or why, but it was at that moment, as soon as Dmitri finished the comment on Kaligo that the Abyss shuddered. It was unlike any earthquake she had felt in the past, at least, from what she remembered. This felt like a roar of pain vibrating the giant tree beneath her feet. The entire city grew quiet as the enclosing metal walls of the Wing screeched against its weldings. The shadows on the ground swayed uniformly as the countless lights on the ceiling were jostled from their centuries old position.

Her balance was skewed as the Servine stumbled on the rough wood platform. She flailed her leaves in a futile attempt to stop her fall, but a particularity hard shockwave through the Abyss knocked her and every other Pokémon and human in the city to the ground. She heard the crashing of glass and other metal and wood objects as the once-peaceful market was subjected to another wave of chaos. Panicked screams echoed through the tree city as limbs shook and the buildings strained against their fragile fastenings.

The sky seemed to echo the tormented screams of metal and earth as the jolting quakes began to subside back into the bowels of the Abyss. Sam stayed completely still for a moment, not daring to move as more sounds of falling objects punctuated the uneasy silence that had come over Itre like the reaper’s black vial. Her eyes were locked on the similarly unmoving forms of Dmitri and several Itre guards directly across from her. As the rumblings of the Abyss descended in volume, the inhabitants all shakily got to their feet, Sam included.

Almost immediately the plaza was filled with the intense murmuring and occasional episode of hysterics as commuters and shoppers alike burst into conversation and rumors. Dmitri jumped to his feet and walked over to the wobbling Servine, offering a claw out to her. Sam gratefully accepted the free support as she tried to gather her thoughts. Her head was pounding all of a sudden and she didn’t know why. She knew she didn’t hit her skull on anything during the Abyssian shudder, but it didn’t bring her any closer to finding out the source of the battering rams of pain slamming against her temples. She clutched the sides of her head with her leaves as she let out a low agonized groan.

“Sam? Sam! What’s wrong?” Dmitri asked as soon as he became aware of the abrupt change in her condition. She felt his claws gently shaking her shoulders as he continued to ask if she was alright.

She was far from perfect. Her head felt as if it had been stuck between a Snorlax and a Slaking during a body slam competition, the pressure simply built and built inside her skull with each pounding pulse. As much as she tried to compose herself and tell the crouched Zoroark that she was fine, but the forces running amuck over her body were inclined to disagree with her efforts. A sharp twinge of pain brought down the dam behind her shut eyes as tears began to fall to the wood. It wasn’t any normal migraine, those were messages compared to this essence of writhing darkness clouding her synapses.

From beyond the pain and outside noise, she could envision the force trying to turn her brain into mush. A mass of darkness probing about the innermost reaches of her mind, its seaking waves and arms bypassing the relative amnesia that still kept a few select memories from her as it saw what she couldn’t. It might have been stealing the thoughts and experiences from her past for all she knew, but Sam had no power to do anything aside from struggle against the torture.

“Sam! Sam!” Dmitri’s voice sounded far away and distorted as the fog of shadow rippled and swirled around her. Voices, speaking in hushed tones in languages she didn’t know, whispered to her calmly through the storm. Part of her mind seemed to be on the verge of transcending the void to understand the words, but the other half remained firmly rooted in the dizzying mist.

“ … Truly you must be the sign of the end. Anomaly. Harbinger of the collapse. You must burn, lest we all are consumed …”

Sam’s eyes suddenly snapped open as the pain hurriedly vacated her head. She let out another groan as she pushed against Dmitri as she looked up at the sky. Her lungs were breathing heavily, as if she had been held underwater for a second too long while her skin felt like she had been drenched in a cold sweat.

Before she had a chance to even say a word of warning to the concerned Zoroark about the alarming premonition, the Abyss shook once more. This time, there was only one quick jolt as the lights flickered and died, drenching the Wing in complete and utter darkness.


He felt it in his bones of steel scaffolding, on his skin of folded iron, and his soul of the Abyss. There was indeed something different, something foreign, something impure, something from the Outside. This object had breached protocol and bypassed every security measure he had overseen installed and upkept. For once in this, his third millennium, he did not know what to do.
The list of orders he had been given long ago gave no mention or guideline as to what to do in case of a breach of the containment. He was completely on his own this time, and despite the solitary nature of his assignment, the thought unsettled him in a way he never remembered.

Metal clanged in uniform bursts of noise as he walked the unseen corridors of the Abyss. His form glinted in the unceasing lights of the tunnel as he resisted the common urge to mask his body in the darkness of the prison. The Warden had felt it, so there had to be some validity to his claims as the massive creature hardly ever called forth his presence. He had let this error in the system go uncorrected for too long. He had to purge it to restore normal functioning to the Abyss once more, in order to keep the peace.

His mind stretched out, slithering over the long-forgotten passages and through the hidden dark passages to the source. Here would be the place where this brief threat was extinguished before it grew into a flame. With a wave of his hand, the lights shut down.


The entire square rose up in a shrill cacophony while the light of day suddenly winked out of existence. Sam felt a tide of dread rise up inside her. There had to be some correlation between the pain, the hallucination, and now the lights failing for no apparent reason. She stood up on her own power at last, the final twinges of head squeezing misery exiting her system. She felt the fur of Dmitri’s back rub against the scales of her own as he surveyed the area with his watchful eyes.

“Sam, stay next to me. I’m not liking the looks of this. Not at all,” he stated as massive crowd around them seemed to harmonize in a perfect mix of fleeing in terror and dumbfoundedly staring into the sky, wondering with a stupidly lost expression where their light had fled to. Sam huffed a short agreement as she tried her best to remain vigilant in the dim lighting of the few burning torches and glowing shards of crystals that studded the sides of buildings and trunks. Soldiers, from her observations, were just as lost as everyone else as they pitifully attempted to retain some semblance of order in the nexus of Itre’s market.

The sounds of anarchy por tempore were replaced by a sharp electrical hum that reminded her of her dreams with Tiresias, but this time, an unexpectedly pleasant conversation was not what Sam expected the Abyss to provide her. She knew she had to get out of this crowd and find Finn and the others. That was imperative. Right now, she didn’t care about what danger Itre was in, her world consisted of the team of four Pokémon she had come to know that somehow extended to the Zoroark criminal to her back.

After a moment of nothing but the pointed stings of electricity against her ears, she saw what was happening. It began far off in the distance, towards the western end of the Wing, but one by one, hundreds of sets of searchlights snapped on besides their larger counterparts from overhead. The golden beams of focused light began to sway and arc in place, dragging their revealing gaze over predetermined search patterns. It was only a minute later that the miniature lights above the tree city switched on as well, casting down their scrutinizing gazes down at them.

The marsh became ablaze with the circling lights, their apertures widening and closing in intervals as the scanned the landscape below. Sam looked up into the mechanical sky as the massive branches above produced shadows from the lights above. The Servine felt her heart beat quicken as the beams passed over her. The light felt like a tangible gaze from an all seeing eye across her scales. Dmitri stiffened against her as the searching beam swept across them again.

Every being in Itre, be they human or Pokémon was frozen in an amalgamation of awe and fear of the strange events occurring to their beloved Wing. The lights continued to pass over the square, growing ever more frequent as the number of beams rivaled the stars in the skies on the Surface world. This continued for several silent minutes, the noiseless air only broken by the faint creaking of the metal joints on the rotating lights. She wanted to say something, but she was certain that the first sound the lights detected would be dead before this sudden night was over.

The self-contained world of the Abyss had never been on her side. It had conspired against her ever since she woke up in that tree what felt like so long ago. She reasoned it was only because of the mysterious force that identified itself as Tiresias was the reason why she didn’t fall out of that tree before Finn arrived to cushion her impact. She would have died and the Abyss would have won. But she was still alive, and so, the Abyss would never cease until that fact was no longer true.

So when one of the lights above her suddenly froze directly above her, she knew it was all over. Almost instantly, an alarm sounded from some ancient speaker far above the projected clouds as the beam of light transformed into a deep crimson. The entire populace shifted their gaze towards her and simultaneously took several large steps away from the two Pokémon.

“Something tells me that things are about to go very badly for us,” Dmitri whispered as he carefully eyed the retreating circle of terrified Pokémon. Sam didn’t say anything. She cursed herself for being so stupid. For not taking the chance to run when they still could. It was her fault for staying in the square to watch as the eyes of the Abyss switched on to hunt her down. They would have caught her eventually, but a head start would have been better than waiting until their fate was decided.

Finn, Silas, where are you guys? We could use your help right about now… Sam thought as a cold wind blasted its way through the emptying square. It didn’t come from any single direction, the bone-chilling tempest simply materialized against Sam’s back. Judging by the collective gasp that swept through the crowd, they too experienced a similar phenomenon and wildly looked for a source.

It wasn’t until a blot of spinning darkness formed in the square across from her and Dmitri did she realize that this was not a random selection brought on by the Abyss’s constructs. Sam swore she felt the thousands of minute scales on her skin shiver as she stared into oval portal into the darkness, and a pair of acid green eyes stared back. Sam found that she could not remember what had happened from the time she saw the pair of glowing eyes in the vertical gateway to when their owner had fully emerged from the now disappearing portal.

The form that strode forth from the portal stood roughly six and a half feet tall. Its skin appeared black through the red light, but Sam couldn’t tell if that was its actual color. It stood on three legs, each one appearing similar to a muscular arm. The feet of the creature looked more like large four-fingered hands, standing on their fingertips. Its upper body sported a single, massive arm carrying a medieval longsword. The eyes she had seen before blazed at her from the center of the torso- it had no head of any sort. She didn’t see a of mouth on it, but she knew it had to have one somewhere-- as she could hear it snarling somehow.

Sam’s mouth gaped as she took in the thing’s appearance. Ummm… What the hell am I looking at? They definitely don’t have those on the surface… She began to back nervously away as the creature began to speak.

“Prisoners … Why do you disgrace yourselves by hiding a key among you? Are you perhaps not content with your lives? Do you wish to abandon the blessings we heap upon this Wing?” His rasping voice seemed to carry the very sound of decay into the air. Each pause the hideous creature took to enunciate a word held the hushes wails of the damned. Sam felt the words ripping at her soul, trying to tear it asunder. The lights above seemed to grow a darker shade of crimson, becoming the exact color of spilt blood. As her eyes tried to adjust to staring at the creature in the worsening light, she swore she could smell a sickly metallic scent in the air.

“I smell it too. It’s not your imagination,” Dmitri whispered to her as the crowd burst into hushed conversations of what the words could possibly mean.

“Cease your mutterings. I care not for past transgressions, only for present redemption and future compliance. I come to this city to offer an ultimatum: return the key, otherwise the lights will remain off until Judgement Day,” the twisted creature spoke, its words soft, yet somehow boomed in the hearts and ears of every listener in the city. As the demand left the demon’s gaping mouth housed between its splintered ribs and disfigured spine, its piercing green eyes twisted until they locked with Sam.

The second eye contact was made, Sam ducked behind a nearby Grovyle, barely stopping to notice his look of surprise. Okay, then… Part One- find Silas, Finn, Creon, and Kaligo, and get the hell out of Dodge. Worry about what that… thing is later.

Once she was certain that the thing was no longer making eye contact, she looked over to where Dmitri had been standing, and motioned him over.

Just before she, the Zoroark, and any citizens unfortunate enough to be in their way engaged in a hastily thought-up attempt to escape the square, a Gallade adorned in the same armor as the human guards of Itre strode out of the crowd. The green and white swordsman placed himself in between the being of death and Sam as he held his bladed arms in such a way as to block an attack.

“I’m afraid you’ll not be laying a hand on any of our citizens, or guests while our Countess still rules, or while the Guard is present. I order you, as Captain of the Guard, to restore our lights and egress immediately or else face the consequences,” the experienced Pokémon ordered as three armored men armed with loaded crossbows took up positions behind the ranked guardsman.

Despite everything she had seen and heard from the creature in the last five minutes, nothing could have prepared her for its laugh. It appeared to mix the sound of bones shattering inside flesh with the low, guttural tones produced from the depths of its contorted body. The mouth stationed on its back moved, but like usual, the sound seemed to echo from everywhere at once. Sam had a feeling that her ears would never be able to purge the evil sound from themselves.

“You dare, Gadric son of Gade? You dare? Well, then, I accept.” The stone-faced captain had no time to prepare a parry against the archaic weapon the demon possessed. Its darkened, grotesque body didn’t appear to move from its original spot, only flicker rapidly between spaces. Sam was unsure about where the creature actually was until the swish of swinging steel broke the silence. And then, screaming exploded from Gadric as the entire top halves of his bladed arms fell to the ground, sliced cleanly just above his elbow.

“KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL THE DAMNED THING!” the Gallade screeched amid his agonized cries as he collapsed to his knees in a puddle of his rapidly pooling blood. Almost instantly, the three guards behind the writhing Psychic-type dropped into a crouch and let loose a volley of pointed bolts from their swiftly firing bows. Sam ducked as even more arrows and projectiles shot through the air from the branches above the square.

The creature staggered backwards for a moment as two other guards, this time a man and a woman, darted forward and dragged Gadric’s unconscious form out of harms way. Sam felt Dmitri’s claw close around her leafy hand as he slowly pulled her out from behind the transfixed Grovyle. It took a moment for Sam to understand what was happening, but soon understood as the Zoroark began to edge his way along the perimeter of the crowd of citizens.

“The weapons of the Abyss cannot harm one built from its walls, such as myself. Rather, they obey me,” the demon said darkly as it appeared to stretch its form, completely ignoring the bombardment of arrows penetrating his fleshy, desiccated skin. The existing arrows embedded in him seemed to sizzle at their base and fall to the ground as a smoking, useless shaft. The relentless war cries and assault of Itre’s finest were nothing against him, he was simply tolerating it until it was time to retaliate.

Dmitri seemed to predict exactly when that time was, as they were nearly through the crowd as the demon stretched out its single hand, sword still clutched in between its rotting fingers. Physics and the laws of nature seemed to be suspended for one instant in time as the weapons in the hands of the guards jerked violently as the unfired ammo within them became live. The steel bolts fired backwards through the wooden handle and trigger of the crossbow weapons. The dull bullet shattered fingers and ripped through arms before they instantly killed several unprepared men. Their bodies fell from the branches with a shower of leaves stained crimson.

“I implore you, prisoners of Itre, to reconsider my offer. The Key, for your lights. Become one with me, and you will be forgiven.” Sam could barely see in the crimson light, but she knew there was a disgusting smile etched into the ripped spine of demon’s back.

“And now is when we run,” Dmitri whispered once again as they peeled away from the crowd, which was rapidly regaining its panicked and malleable composure. The demon’s words would have full control here amid the chaos, and this time, they would come for her. Without another thought, she took off down the wide, wooden street along the branches that was considerably less lit than the square. Her short legs sprinted as fast as they would carry her as she tried to keep up with the dashing Dark-type ahead of her. Behind her, the demon’s voice roared in unknowable languages as the crowd let out a similar frenzied shout.

Dmitri swung his claws in front of him as he batted disoriented Pokémon out of the way. Shouts of terror erupted from the startled citizens as the blunt edge of crimson sent them flying to the edge of the road. Sam tried her best not to glance at any of the potentially injured Pokémon and humans. Her lungs expanded as she tried to gulp down air to keep up with her demanding body. Fortunately, her recently given instincts seemed to know what they were doing as she began to lean forward. Her mind screamed in panic for an instant before it realized that she was not going to fall flat on her face.

Sam could only focus on it briefly, but she was running at an angle that seemed to defy the laws of physics. The white scales on her belly only seemed to be an inch above the rough wooden road. Her legs, despite the obvious disadvantage of their lack of length, were making up for their shortcomings by stepping fast than she thought possible.

Being a Servine has more perks than I thought. There’s no way I could run this fast as a human, Sam silently noted as she ran for her life. Behind her, in the square, the crowd let out another heinous roar in a tongue that chilled her skin. She gulped as she fought back the urge to look behind her. No matter how hard she tried to concentrate on keeping pace with Dmitri, she knew she had to know what had befallen the central market of Itre. As soon as the road ahead curved to the right, Sam shot a quick glance in the direction of the square. The sight that caught her gaze for an instant drove a spike of fear into her heart.
No way! There’s no way! T-that’s–! That’s not possible! That can’t be possible! her thoughts screeched in a stuttering panic.

The narrow road they had used to flee the demon was a mass of bodies. The entire crowd, dozens upon dozens of Pokémon and humans alike, seemed to have forced themselves through the alley. They seemed to contort and wail in that strange, shrieking language she had heard earlier. Sam forced her head to look straight ahead and block out the terrifying cries of the possessed mob behind her. The road and massive branch seemed to shake as the pounding of hundreds of claws, feet, and paws beat down upon it in a mad rush to claim her blood.

“Keep up, Sam! Come on! We’ve got to get out!” Dmitri yelled from ahead as he checked an unsuspecting human male to the side of the darkened alley. Sam had no idea where in Itre they were. She was certain she had never seen this part of the city, and prayed to whatever gods were in this hell that Dmitri knew where he was going.

The street continued to wind around the trunk of the massive tree, neither ascending nor descending as the two continued their sprint. She followed the Zoroark as best she could, dodging abandoned carts, and weaving in and out of the path of clueless citizens. Sam felt the dark feeling of fatigue grow upon her with every frenzied step she took to preserve her life. It slithered down her legs and up through her chest to her mind where it attempted to take root. The near-crippling ache of her legs felt like someone had taken to them with a baseball bat while her chest decided to spontaneously burst into figurative flames.

Just as she felt like collapsing in a quivering heap, she felt Dmitri’s claws reach down around her waist. By the time her mind could register what was happening, she had already been roughly flipped in mid-air and deposited on the Zoroark’s shoulder as he resumed his full-on sprint once more. Sam had no time to comment on the sudden maneuver as her eyes locked on the road behind them packed with the writhing, trampling wave of frenzied Pokémon.

Her head was jostled by Dmitri’s erratic sprint as he wove in and out of pockets of obstructions in the near-darkness of the street. Sam couldn’t see where he was taking her, but she didn’t care at the moment. The only thing mattered in the world to her was escaping the hoard of possessed citizens pulsing after her.

But what about Finn? Sam froze. The thought had forced its way from beneath the selfish ideas for her own survival. She never once thought of where her friend was during this chaos, she only focused on herself.

Finn… Where in this hell are you? You’d better be alright. For God’s sake you better be safe, or else I’ll … I’ll… Just please, be alright, she willed as she looked up at the swiftly moving branches above her. They swayed calmly in the crimson light that shone from the ceiling. She knew Finn had to be up there, somewhere. He, Silas, and the others had to be safe. They had to be. The Quilava wasn’t one to simply die when the odds weren’t in his favor. He, Silas, Creon, and Kaligo were stubborn enough to find a way to live.

Her guilt-ridden thoughts were roughly interrupted as Dmitri suddenly took a ninety degree turn into a nearly invisible alley. The claws on his feet scraped against the stone as his body shifted in its new direction. Sam felt Dmitri go even faster through the narrow passage until he suddenly stumbled in an effort to slow himself. Sam felt herself nearly fly out from the Zoroark’s protective grasp as Dmitri’s velocity dropped to zero and inertia attempted to take her to the floor.

As Sam refocused her spinning vision, she saw why Dmitri had stopped. A small wooden door had opened in the dark wall of the alley. It was more than a door, it was a blinding portal of light that stood invitingly to accept them from the blood-red darkness.

“Quickly! They’re almost here! Get in!” Sam’s eyes widened at the voice. She knew that voice all too well. Even if it had only been for a few hours, she would never forget the noble, haughty tone.

“Countess! You have no idea how happy we are to see you!” Dmitri exclaimed as he did as the panicked Swanna commanded. Once inside, Ince slammed the door shut and knocked the heavy wooden bolt into place. As Dmitri gently placed Sam on the ground, she got a good look at the room they had escaped to. It was a small chamber that was built into the side of the trunk. Beside them were piles of crates and cases of bottles that seemed to indicate that this room was a supply entrance to the palace.

“Come on! Down the hallway! We cannot stay here!” Ince exclaimed as she ushered the two exhausted runners into the dimly lit passage. Flickering shadows danced across Sam’s skin from the sparsely placed torches on the walls. She didn’t bother to question how the Countess had known to open the door for them at that exact instant, or even how she knew they would be in the alleyway. The strange coincidences and unanswered questions from everything that had happened in the last five minutes were pushed to the back of her mind.

“I saw it all from my balcony. That thing … I’ve never seen such a thing before. But, I knew that I had to keep you safe, Samantha. And you, Dmitri,” Ince huffed as her white feathers flew over Sam’s head, guiding them down the path of carved wood. Behind them, Sam heard the muffled roar of the demonic Pokémon clawing at the aged wood of the palace exterior and bashing their unfeeling bodies against the barricaded oak door. She looked up at Dmitri, his face was downcast and his eyes involuntarily shut each time the citizens rammed themselves against the unmoving wall. The Servine fought the urge from her disgusted stomach as she heard the loud, fleshy cracks of bones snapping and blood spurting from down the hall.

This was nothing like she had been through before. The Abyss had tried her before, certainly, but not in this regard. Impossible train crashes, poisonous gas, drowning, and being held under the control of a criminal were all challenges that she had surmounted with Finn and the others, but a demon-possessed city was completely terrifying. She fought to keep a calm composure as the crashes grew ever-louder.
“You two have to get out of the city and this Wing as soon as you can. There is a tunnel at the very end of this passage that will lead you under the marshes and into the Walls where you should be safe. From there, you both can continue to move up through the Abyss,” Ince rapidly said as she flapped her wings harder to fly ahead of them. The Swanna gracefully turned the corner into chamber on the side of the hall.

Both Sam and Dmitri jogged the short length of the corridor to the entrance of the chamber. Inside, Ince was quickly rummaging through boxes and crates of unknown contents, two leather satchels laying on the ground in the very center of the room. The Countess was hastily throwing what appeared to be cloth-wrapped ration packets, skins of water, small coils of rope, and other gear needed for exploration on top of the bags.

“Both of you! Hurry up and pack these bags! You’ll need them if you are to survive! Please hurry!” Ince snapped as both Sam and Dmitri recoiled at the sudden command. The Countess craned her long neck at them and shot them a desperate look. Sam’s eyes locked with hers and in that instant, she knew what the Countess’s desires were. She was doing this for them. She was turning against the will of her corrupt people and putting all her hope in them.

“Right. Dmitri, come on!” Sam called as she quickly went to the floor and tried to grab onto the multitude of objects Ince kept raining down from the upper shelves of the storeroom. Her leaf-like hands constantly slipped on the smoother objects such as the strange crystal spheres and fruit that were tossed her way, but she still managed to shove the supplies into the bag. Across from her, Dmitri was going equally as fast, but since he had the benefit of having claws on his hands, he managed to somewhat organize the compartments of his satchel.

They spent less than two minutes in the room as Ince squaked that there were no more items of value and hurriedly pushed them out into the hallway once again. At once, the Swanna prepared to fly ahead down the narrow tunnel into the roots of the giant system of trees. Far behind them, Sam heard a demented roar and felt a shudder pass under her feet. They all froze immediately and listened for a moment as the roars continued to grow louder.

“God above … They broke through…” Sam whispered as the panicked fire behind Ince’s eyes flared.

“Don’t stand here! Move! Move! Down the tunnel! Go!” the royal Swanna yelled as she took to the air, furiously flapping her wings. Sam didn’t submit to reason anything. She didn’t try and figure out why a bloodthirsty horde of formerly civilized Pokémon was chasing her. She couldn’t be asked to theorize how a demon had shut down the lights and found her amid the chaos. She cared little about why she was running side-by-side with a criminal Pokémon who hard, not even a day prior, threatened to kill her. None of those odd circumstances mattered in her mind as she sprinted downwards into the depths of the colossal tree.

She ran, never stopping or looking back. She ran from the demons. She ran from the guilt. She ran from everything she had known since waking up in the forest. Small droplets of tears formed in the corners of her eyes before being evaporated by the rushing air. She didn’t know what the think anymore. Between the promises that the strange being of Tiresias had told her and the forces of the Abyss actively trying to murder her, she was unsure of which side spoke the truth. She had seen evidence for both, but as of right now, the odds were against her and the Abyss was succeeding in driving her into an inescapable corner.

“There! There’s the tunnel! Over here! Quickly now!” Ince breathed from overhead as she forced her wings to turn against the flow of air, bringing her to a halt. The Countess fluttered to the ground in front of an open bulkhead of sorts. From what Sam could see, it was made of a steel that still retained its shining luster despite the eons it had been against the aged, underground wood.

“Ince, why? Why are you doing this? Why are you trying to keep us safe?” Dmitri asked as he crossed his arms in confusion. The steel opening led into complete darkness. Not even the light from the flickering torches of the hall penetrated an inch beyond the threshold of the mechanized door. Ince shot a paranoid glance up the flickering passage before turning back to Sam and Dmitri.

“Listen. I admit I only just met you, Samantha. But for the longest time I have believed in the ancient words of the Prophet. I believe that there is a Surface above the Abyss, and I firmly believe that Tiresias would send a Pokémon from that world to free us in His stead. After seeing the evidence that I had, I knew that it had to be you,” Ince whispered, trying to avoid tipping off the ravenous mob above them to their position among the twisting passages.

“You knew? You knew I was the ‘messiah’ that quickly?” Sam inquired, keeping her voice the same level as the Countess’s.

“I knew it was you. J-just please! Trust me on this! I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life! Nothing that Itre can offer me could compare with the thought of finally escaping this wretched realm. My dear, you have to believe me when I say that I would gladly do anything to help you reach the Surface again,” Ince spoke, her words wavering as Sam saw past the facade of indifference she held the day before. Now, she was showing her true colors as a Pokémon who hated the Abyss so strongly she was willing to place her life on the line for a band of complete strangers.

“And you, Dmitri. I still hate you. That feeling is unchanging from now until the day the Abyss crumbles. But, as much as I hate to say it, you are the only one that that girl knows. It is because of her that you aren’t back under the gallows.” The Countess’s sudden shift in tone made both Sam and Dmitri jump. The irate Swanna sucked in a swift breath. “There is an unofficial segment the pardon I gave you, Dmitri Zoroark. It is that you are bound to Sam. Your life is less valuable than hers by an infinite factor, do you understand, criminal? You will do whatever it takes to see her through to the end. Even if you must do it alone through the withering hollows of the Abyss, you will guide and protect her.” It wasn’t an order that she could enforce. Sam knew that perfectly well, but to her surprise, Dmitri nodded in acceptance.

“I do understand, Countess. The feelings between us are mutual, but I accept the responsibility. I wanted freedom, so it would seem the Surface would be the best place to find it. I will not cross this deal, on my honor,” Dmitri quietly stated as the rumbling of trampling footsteps grew louder and louder as the mob forced its way downwards. All was said and done. Dmitri gave one more nod Ince before the grudgingly held each other’s claw and wing as a sign of agreement. As soon as the impromptu ceremony was completed, the Zoroark shouldered his satchel and made ready to step into the darkness. Sam fell into step behind him as she prepared to abandon the life she had known for the last few days. As she stood in front of the looming darkness, a thought flew across her mind, one that wasn’t centered on her own survival for once.

“Ince! What about you? What will you do after we leave?” Sam exclaimed as the Swanna held the edge of the heavy door with her wing. Her regal face looked at the floor.

“I … I have to stay. My people are here, and they need me. Now more than ever, as you can no doubt tell from their cries of pain,” Ince whispered, her voice breaking over a series of sobs issuing from the Swanna. The ground began to shudder as the agonized cries of the damned made the air vibrate with their ghastly crescendo.

“Ince … Those aren’t people anymore. Anyone who is left has probably already split. There’s nothing for you here.” Sam glanced at the Zoroark. She hadn’t expected him to try and convince Ince. If anything, she believed that he’d be happy if she was devoured by a demon.

“B-but … My duty … I’m supposed to look out for my people. If I cannot keep them safe, then why should I be allowed to flee? I failed at my duty, so I need to face the consequences like those who ruled before me,” she stated, her voice growing stronger the more she resolved herself to face the tide of darkness rushing towards them.

“Ince! You said protecting me was more important than anything in Itre, didn’t you? Come with us! Dmitri and I probably can’t do it alone, and there’s no telling if we’ll find the rest of our group. Please!” Sam yelled as the ground became more and more unstable. The wood was shuddering as if a all-powerful gale was bearing down upon the tree in an attempt to break its mighty spine. The Servine knew that there wasn’t much time left. As much as she refused to admit it, she knew the others were likely lost forever. She wasn’t going to let the last familiar person she had succumb to that same cruel fate.

“I-I need t-to…” Ince began before her voice was drowned out by a deafening concussion of air from above them. From the quivering darkness emerged figures Sam had never seen before. They were the same Pokémon and humans she had seen earlier in the square, but there was certain things off about them. Every piece of their skin, feathers, and hide had been dulled to a sinister grey and their mouths were all stretched wide as if to show off every razored tooth they possessed.

It was only an instant, but the horrid faces of those monsters would never fade from her memory. Their skin seemed to writhe and crack, as if a sea of snakes were trapped underneath their ashen exteriors. Only their eyes seemed to retain some semblance of who they used to be, as if their former self was crying out from behind them in horror at the monster they had become.

“Ince! Now! Let’s go!” Dmitri roared above the deafening shout of the mob of citizens closing in on them. Sam watched as his left claw swung back at her and swatted her backwards beyond the metal threshold of the door. Using his right side, he roughly grabbed ahold of the straight and long feathers of Ince’s wing and pulled the Countess bodily inside the doorway. Ince disappeared into the inky darkness with a shriek and a thud as the ocean of demons screeched.

“Sam! Help me close it!” the Zoroark screamed as he dug his claws into the intricate holdings of the interior of the heavy bulkhead. As if some unconscious process responded to the desperate yell, the two vines that resided underneath the skin of her neck made themselves known once again. The twin dark-green tendrils shot forward, wrapped themselves about a section of the door’s ornate handles, and pulled back. Both Sam and Dmitri groaned as the enormous bulkhead slowly screeched inwards.

It was only a few inches from closing on their pasts’ when a wide assortment of claws, talons, and hands slipped between the gap. Their forsaken owners screamed and ripped at the steel. The door shuddered while the two opposing forces struggled to overpower the other. Sam pressed her feet against the smooth steel floor while her vines shuddered against the pressure that pulled against her. Dmitri’s claws screeched against the ground as he pulled against the door. His face was contorted in a mixture of exhaustion and fury as he slammed his shoulder into the uneven metal.

No matter how hard they pulled, they couldn’t seem to shut the door fully. It was as if some type of barrier existed between the door and the wall that prevented it from union. Dmitri was strong enough to withstand the pulls of the demons, but not enough to break through the impediment.

“That explains it … Sam, hold the door for one second, would you? There’s one slight issue I need to address. When I say ‘pull’, you pull as hard as you can,” Dmitri quickly commanded as he let go of the large, rounded metal handle. Sam’s eyes grew as wide as the plates in Ince’s palace as the sudden onset of pressure nearly flung her off her feet, but she barely managed to keep a hold of the floor.

The creeping darkness retreated for an instant as a glowing ball of purple and black energy materialized at the Zoroark’s blood-colored claws. His entire body seemed to flicker much like how the first demon in the square before Dmitri slashed forwards. His claws seemed to project farther than his arm actually went, as if their shadow continued on without its owner. A groping forest of writhing, mangled, grey limbs stuck in between the edge of the door and the wall.

In the weak light of the dark energy, Sam saw the tangled body parts suddenly rip apart as if struck by an unseen sword. Her eardrums nearly shattered as the Pokémon on the opposite side of the metal blockade let out a shriek that was unrivaled by any before it. Her short hands flew to the sides of her cringing head while she tried to stifle the tears of pain that started to flow.
Soft, fleshy thuds echoed on the metal floor next to her. Blood pooled from the countless severed and crushed body parts that fell from Dmitri’s assault to clear the door. Sam once again felt the burning sensation rise in her throat as she felt the sticky, metallic-smelling liquid spread around the soles of her scaled feet.

With one final blast of energy seething with negative emotions, Dmitri yelled as the last blockage was removed from the track. He grabbed ahold of the handle once again and heaved, succeeding in moving the creaking door the last few inches it needed to lock in place. Sam stumbled and fell on her back as the force on her vines suddenly changed in the direction.
Her tail landed awkwardly beneath the rest of her body as she felt the oozing mixture of blood and shredded flesh come into contact with her skin.

“Christ, get it off me! Get it off me!” she yelled as she clambered to her feet in the pitch black room. With the end of Dmitri’s attack, the last light faded with the final clang of the steel gears locking into place on the bulkhead door. Sam stood in the darkness, evaluating her life at the current time with growing disgust with each observation she made about herself.

I can’t see what I’m doing. I’m stuck traveling with a convicted criminal and possible murderer, and a disposed monarch. I’m … covered in blood from Pokémon I don’t even know. Sam didn’t know whether to feel angry, frustrated, or relieved in their small victory, so she just continued to stand in place, letting her body attempt to adjust to the dark and calm. She heard the sounds of Dmitri’s clawed feet tap against the Abyssian tunnel as he helped the confused Swanna get to her feet

You moron! You left Finn! Does he mean nothing to you now? What the hell are you doing? What did he do to deserve being trapped in there with those demons? The sudden onslaught of thoughts his her like a train. And they didn’t stop, they simply kept piling on top of each other. The added weight of her guilt made more and more apparent with every spirit-crushing thought.

Nothing … Finn didn’t do anything … He didn’t deserve this …

Continued on Next Post

Continued from Previous Post

“Finn, we need light! Come on!” Silas’s gruff voice rang out through the rumbling darkness as the Quilava dashed on all fours up the wooden stairs. Finn gasped as he forced the flame patches on his back to ignite, the glowing spots creating a swift flash of light in the consuming darkness of Itre.

“Go up! Go up! Run! There’s hundreds of them down there!” Gordon’s panicked shout echoed from behind him in the rushing wind. Finn’s heart still pounded from the massive surge of adrenaline that still pulsed through his veins. The past five minutes had been nothing short of a living nightmare. Nothing he had seen before, not even the cruelties of the Ventus could prepare him for the sudden transformation of an orderly city to a realm on the lowest pit of Erebus.

Finn twisted his head behind for an instant. Further down the flight of stairs cut into the massive trunk was a sight that made his stomach tie itself around in knots. Pokémon and humans, some of which he had idally made conversation with not ten minutes ago were writhing on the ground levels. Their once normal skin boiling and peeling away as it seemed to wither away into ash. For an instant, they looked horrified at what their bodies were doing before a foreign scream rang through the upper areas of the city. In an instant, their civilized manners were wiped clean only to be replaced with a primal urge that Finn had only seen on the feral creatures of the jungle: a desire to kill.

Silas stopped suddenly on the steps as some flying creature flew up from the masses below at him. The old Marowak fell into a defensive stance with his bone held firmly in front to deflect any sort of attack. A grey-feathered falcon screeched as it tried to swipe Silas with its wing, and succeeded in knocking the prophet back a few feet. The former-Pidgeot, caught up in its sudden victory, was unprepared for the sudden counter attack. Silas gave a yell as he raised his arm and flicked it forward, expertly tossing the bone club.

The rapidly spinning projectile slammed directly into the bird’s fragile skull, cracking it open mid-flight with a swift blow. Finn watched, once again in awe of his mentor’s fighting skills as the perfectly balanced bone carried its momentum along the path back to its master’s hands. The Pidgeot, however dropped like a boulder off a cliff down to the roaring mob of possessed citizens below.

“Why won’t you die?” Gordon yelled violently from behind them as the human in battered armor stabbed his long-handled spear directly into the exposed chest of a grey-furred Primape. Crimson blood spurted from the deep wound as the man forced the weapon out of its target with a crack of bone and flesh. The empty carcass received a rough kick from Gordon’s thick boots before he continued to bring up the rear of their fleeing party.

Finn still couldn’t remember what had happened the night previously. The dream of the palace was still etched painfully in his mind however, leaving him at least once souvenir from his wild night. Shortly after Silas found him tangled in the cast nets, they had met up with Lassus, Gordon, Creon, and Kaligo at the nearest guard station where they had all freshened up from the hours of searching for him. The Togetic, despite slamming down enough alcohol to drown in, had appeared to be in far better shape than Finn had been. Unfortunately, they neither had time to interrogate each other on the happenings last night nor to ponder just how Kaligo was still standing upright as the lights turned off on them.

The entire ordeal came and went so suddenly that Finn had to keep himself from blinking. The earthquake was over with before Finn was certain it started. The giant lights on the ceiling switched off while the searchlights turned on, moved, focused on the square in the distant center of Itre. There, every bulb turned a blood red. From their high-up position in the branches, none of their group could see the goings-on of the square as strange shouts rose out from its high walls.
It was shortly after that event, that the entire city seemed to turn itself over as the skin of those around them began to turn grey.

Back in the present moment, Creon and Kaligo blazed the path ahead of them, forcefully bulldozing any demonic Pokémon off the railless edge of the road down onto the unforgiving wood below. Silas huffed alongside him, lugging his heavy satchel in strong strides up the tree away from the ocean of darkness below. Behind him, Gordon and the Abra, Lassus were doing their best to catch up with the others while fending off the occasional demonic Pokémon. The human’s spear and armor were stained a light crimson from the wayward blood of fallen citizens.

“Where are we going, Silas? What’s ahead of us?” Finn screamed over the tremendous noise of the droning roar that permeated the air. The Marowak didn’t stop his stride, but turned around to the two guards pulling up the rear of the group.

“Good question. Lassus! What’s at the top of this branch? Why were you and Gordon so insistent we flee here and not down through the city?” Silas demanded as the wide branch grew thinner and thinner as they raced past abandoned and darkened buildings among the tree top.

In a small flash of purple light, the odd, golden form of the Abra materialized in the air in front of the prophet and his apprentice. As they continued to run, Lassus maintained an equal speed moving completely backwards up the incline.

“At the top, there is a spot that is fairly popular among the few daring denizens of Itre. It’s a spot where one can jump from the top of the tree into the marsh below without shattering most of the bones in your bodies. The passage below is consumed by the demons that roam our streets. The only way left is by throwing yourself to the wind in the most literal fashion I can imagine,” the Abra broadcasted through their minds. Neither Finn nor Silas answered immediately. They both knew the ramifications of Lassus’s report. If everything below was gone, then Sam might be automatically included among the swiftly rising count of the dead.

Silas turned masked head towards Finn. He shared the same troubled look as his mentor did. Finn knew exactly what he was thinking, and it filled with just as much dread. While it was true that they didn’t get the chance to search through the entire top section for the Servine, it was almost confirmed by the weirdness beneath their feet that she was down among the midst of it all. Finn cast a quick glance over the edge of the winding road up the long branch. Itre was cloaked in a thick fog of darkened crimson. Each tiny speck of light in the void of artificial night was slowly being consumed by the omniscient force enveloping the city.

Sam? Where are you? his thoughts screamed as his paws continued to move up the rough wooden stair. He wanted to know if the Servine he had come to know over the past few days was safe. They had survived worse than this simple apocalypse, and Finn was certain that she’d survive this one just as unscathed. She had to, that was the way things worked for her in the Abyss. The impossible simply happened and the natural order was temporarily suspended when she was around.

His satchel was in danger of catching on fire each time it bounced on his back, but luckily he kept a strong hold of it as he sprinted. Finn knew he had to remain focused on the task at hand, otherwise he would take a false step and fall down the first steps of his dark descent. His paws twisted against the grain of the wood as they approached an intersection set in the crossing branches.

“Where to now?” Creon snapped, his black, shaggy head shaking from left to right over the dim road in the tree. Gordon and Lassus entered the small circle last, the human gasping as he clutched his bloodied spear against the path they had just ascended from.

“Hey! Human, list’n up! Wher’ do’e go now?” Kaligo rudely asked, breaking into the man’s short period of respite from the wave of monsters. Gordon give a grunt as he snapped out of his trance-like state.

“Up until you reach a wooden platform extending out over nothing. Then jump. nothing to it,” he said with a quick motion of his hand towards to mentioned path upwards. Just as Silas nodded and Creon began scouting the path, Gordon suddenly continued with his report.

“Now, Lassus and I have to take our leave of you all. We’ve still got a city to protect.” In that instant, all eyes were locked on the two Itrian guards. Finn found his mouth hanging open at the audacity of the statement. There was no way the two partners could be naive to the severity of the situation. They were both coated in splotches of blood that wasn’t theirs, a sickening testament to their victory over the pitiful vanguard of the horde writhing beneath their feet.
Lassus held up a claw to deflect the inevitable wave of criticism that was about to spew from Silas’s mouth.

“We know full-well the danger that lies ahead, but we have a duty to serve our city. This is our home, and we must protect it. If circumstances do not go in our favor, we will then flee after we have tried our best to reverse the situation. Failing that, go with the knowledge that we died in the glory of Itre,” Lassus projected, his solemn words entering their minds directly. Gordon nodded as if to reaffirm his resolve.

“You’re daft! Both of you are fools! There are times where you have to abandon duty, and this is one of those times!” Silas screamed, his indignation at the two younger males was one Finn had rarely seen. The well-traveled prophet was often indifferent on the cruel ways of the Ventus, but the one thing he constantly preached to the filthy warriors was against their nature to throw themselves into hopeless situations with the hopes they’d survive. Unfortunately for Silas, the war-hardened gang never took the advice to heart.

“Please Silas, don’t chastise us. The same can be said about your journey from a certain point of view. Now, if you excuse us, we need to get going,” Lassus briefly retorted before his clawed hand grabbed ahold of Gordon’s gloved one and the two dissipated in a flicking of glowing mauve energy. Silas didn’t even have the chance to utter a single, disapproving syllable before they were gone completely. The Marowak held his staff firmly as he bowed his head and let out a low and lengthy Ventus swear.

“Alright. Let’s go. Up and out, just like he said,” Silas said hollowly as he resumed his march up the raised branch. Finn decided against bringing up the subject to his master as they made the last leg of their journey to exile from this mystical city in the bog. Finn could see the platform ahead in the gloom. The wind stirred the cold branches in the eerie night, leaves fluttered down like raindrops onto the wooden floor.

The Quilava stood up on his hind legs once again, relieved to be in the more comfortable position as he walked over to the edge of the floor. True to Gordon’s words, they were at one of the highest places in Itre and below them was void. Nothing was below his feet but a pool of inky, black stillness in the low, red light. He spat over the edge just as an experiment to see if there was any indication how far the virtual chasm went. Finn strained his ears against the dull chanting and screeches of the citizens below, but could not hear the faintest noise of a splash.

“Gordon said to jump from here, didn’t he? I’m a bit sceptical. I mean, what if he’s crazy?” Creon suggested as he peered over the side next to Finn. The Mightyena’s eyes seemed to be glued wide open as he looked into the abyss below. Finn had only known Creon to be fearful of a few things, but this was a new one to add to that list. The terror of jumping from a height that could surely reach terminal velocity well before the ground seized the hardened leader of the Ventus.

“There’s no other way down, unless you want to follow him through the city,” Silas observed as he took off the bag strapped to his back and began rearranging the contents. Finn knew what he was doing, he had seen this very same tactic used by the prophet when fording the swollen jungle rivers in the spring. The Marowak placed the massive tome of the Abyssal Codex inside several layers of cloth and scarves. Around it he stuffed the remainder of his items: the few rations that had survived the train, various pouches filled with silver and copper coins, a small length of rope, and a few glass bottles of the health tonic he had swiped from the massive storage room inside Ince’s palace.

“Silas? Are we seriously jumping?” Finn asked as he fearfully eyed the edge. He wasn’t afraid of the jump itself, that wasn’t it in the slightest. He was uncertain because of the consequences.

“Of course we are. I trust the guards, as stupid as they just were. I trust them not to throw away our lives at the very least,” the Marowak grunted in response as he tightened the straps on his bag. He slung the leather satchel around his back and messed with the strap until it was flat across his chest.

“Alright. Shall we get going?” Silas asked with a wave toward the edge. Creon was already there, making a small conversation to himself on the logistics of him jumping from here. Finn was about to walk forward when a sudden thought raced across his mind. It had always been there ever since the initiation of this crisis, but now it had forced its way to the very front of his mind.

“But what about Sam? What about her, Silas?” Finn asked, hesitating to move closer to the edge. His feet suddenly felt weighted down with an intangible heaviness. The inside of his chest gravitated to the lower parts of Itre, a piece of him longing to know the fate of the Servine he had come to know and protect.

“You said it yourself that she was special. That she was the one that could get us out of the Abyss, right? Why are we leaving her?” Finn demanded, his voice growing with a subtle rage at the prophet’s sudden lack of apathy towards the Pokémon he had fawned over the last several days.

“Samantha will be alright. The Abyss will test her and she will pull through as she always does. There are forces protecting her that are far more adept at their job then we,” Silas explained as if he was reading a passage from one of his many books of prophecy. Finn fumed from the patches on his back as small jets of smoke exited his nose.

“You’re just saying that! You don’t know, do you? You have no idea if she’s alive or --!” his voice ceased in the middle of his enraged cry as Silas lunged forward and slammed the blunt end of his staff into the Quilava’s stomach. Finn doubled over wheezing immediately as Silas kneeled down next to him and placed his calloused hand on the Quilava’s back.

“Finn, listen to me. Sam means just as much to me as she does to you. I may not know where she is or her status, but I am confident that Tiresias will shelter her through this storm. We cannot do anything against the demons that separate us, so we must flee so we can meet again in a safer place. Fate will bring us together again. I promise,” the prophet whispered as Finn’s breathing slowed to a calmer pace. Soon, Finn was able to look up at his mentor’s skull, a look of hurt still etched on his face.

Whatever Silas was going to say next to him was drowned out as a wave of energy leapt forth from the wide trunk of the tree. All four Pokémon were knocked to the ground as splinters of wood showered them and instantly ignited from the dark energy that surrounded them. The tree groaned as its innards were wrenched apart by the explosive force. Finn held his paws over his head as the heat energy rushed past him.

“Where. Is. SHE?” a voice almost as loud as the previous explosion boomed as Finn slowly uncovered his eyes. What monstrosities the citizens from before were nothing compared to the violation of the laws of nature that twisted and growled before them. The pulsating tower of decaying flesh and bone rose up from the mass of nearly-dismembered arms it used as legs collimated in a single scathing eye. It’s one muscular arm clutched a sword the size of his body as it crawled from the depths of the otherworldly portal.

None of them spoke. Even the bitter-tongued Kaligo was struck speechless by the infernal monster that writhed only feet in front of him. Finn looked on with a mixture of revulsion and fear as his fires stopped burning for an instant. The creature’s hideous gaze shifted to each of them in turn as if it was trying to search through their souls for something. Finn swore he felt the meaty hand tear into his chest and rip apart the confines of his personality before the disgusting eye shot up to Silas.

“If you value your lives, give her to me now. Her neck will meet the edge of this blade this very hour, even if it must meet yours first,” the demon snarled from the jagged mouth of ribs that opened on its side like a festering wound. It wanted Sam, that much was clear. The fact that it demanded her told Finn that she was still alive and, apparently out of his deathly reach. The Quilava smiled for the first time since the drunken spree the night before.

If Sam can face up to him, then so can I! his thoughts shouted as he tapped into the building rage in the very core of his body. He reared his head back and let gathered a volley of embers from the fire within himself. The spheres of glowing heat seared his throat as they blasted from his mouth at the pulsating body of the demon.

Sparks and flickering embers were expelled from the collisions against the monster’s vague head. It let out a feral roar from the hideous mouth attached to its body as it leapt forward at them with its sword raised for the killing blow. Finn could only grimace as he prepared to feel the bite of steel rip through his body. There was a sound like wind buffeting against a wall as the sensation of being sliced in two never came about. The Quilava opened his eyes to see that a barrier of pulsating, green light held the heavy sword at bay. As his eyes were drawn down from the top of the mystical barrier, Finn saw the source of their salvation.

Eyes tearing up and limbs quivering in exhaustion, the old and bitter Togetic barely held up the protective shield. Finn stood there in confused disbelief, despite the clear and present danger that pounded against the green field of light. The cook had done nothing but berate him and make his existence in the Ventus camp miserable. Even on this perilous adventure, the Togetic hadn’t used his wings once for the benefit of the group. Everything he did was for himself, Creon, or because Silas threatened to bludgeon him if he didn’t. This selfless action hardly fit with the sickened, apathetic Pokémon he had endured for so long.

“Wha’ ya’s standin’ around far? Go! Run, ya morons!” Kaligo yelled. His stern, accented voice oscillated in pitch as the demon swung his sword down against the barrier once more. Cracks shot across the translucent wall under the strength of Erebus’s spawn. It’s roars grew more and more enraged as it draw its sword back and sent it crashing against the Protect maneuver.

“Do not impede me, prisoner! I will tear you to pieces!” rabid screams erupted from the opposite side of the barrier as the sword slammed down upon it. Cracks flew and coughed up showers of glowing fragments, but Kaligo had yet to let up.

“Kaligo!” Finn turned to his side to see Creon bound across the branches over to the struggling Togetic. His black form blending in with the fabricated night that had descended over Itre. The wolf let out a snarl as he launched himself over Kaligo’s barrier and tackled the demon with as much force as he could muster. Finn refused to be left out again as he prepared another attack while he reignited his flame patches.

The archaic creature howled in the crimson-stained darkness as it flailed its single arm in an effort to eject Creon’s clawing form. The Mightyena slashed and bit at every piece of cursed flesh he could as he tried to wear down the creature. His maw was coated with dark energy as he ripped away hunks of decaying flesh. Finn instinctively reared his head back and shot forth a true stream of fire at the enemy.

“Burn, you insufferable dog!” the words were barely out of the demon’s mouth as the jet of fire Finn produced was caught in the center of the demon’s giant hand. Holding the ball of fire against its skin with no adverse effects, the creature reached around and forced its palm against the black fur of its attacker. Finn had never seen anything that wasn’t made of water deflect and control fire so easily.

“Creon! No!” Finn screamed as the Mightyena instantly ceased his assault and howled in agony as his back and side caught on fire. Creon dropped to the floor rolling awkwardly in an attempt to suffocate the flames. Unfortunately, Creon couldn’t see what Finn and the prophet beside him could: the demon readying several of the arms it used as feet. The monster screamed as Finn recalled the folktales of the banshees that dwelled in the mountains above his home. His latent fear was only compounded by the intense visual provided by the shuddering beast before him.

The creature forced its grotesque “feet” forward into Creon’s singed side with a low, guttural growl of satisfaction. Creon’s limp body was launched into the air at first contact. Finn’s eyes traced the trajectory of his former leader as he flew over the weakened barrier and skidded across the bark until he lay motionless on the edge of the city. The wind seemed to crack and split as the demon swiftly returned his bloodlust to the feeble blockade set up by the Togetic.

Kaligo was slumped nearly motionless against the ground, every further second that the barrier stood drained the life from him. Finn breathed in as the demon raised its massive sword and prepared to end the pitiful show of resistance. Kaligo lifted his shaking head from the exterior of the tree. His brown eyes wearily opened as they stared at Finn. For the first time Finn could remember, the gaze wasn’t filled with an underlying loathing or malice.

Finn knew the look well, having gone through it each time the Abyss saw fit to take away the final joys of his life. Kaligo was showing genuine remorse. Finn nodded, the only action he could muster in the final moment calm before chaos returned. The demon swung down with a possessed roar as the sword broke through the glittering green barrier.

“Finn, stay behind me!” Silas yelled as he stepped in front of the transfixed Quilava. The prophet held his staff out in front of him preparing to take the brunt of the force as he forced Finn behind him. Kaligo’s scream was the last thing Finn heard before the concussion of the explosion of released energy slammed into their group. The pulsing shockwaves went straight through Silas and Finn. In that instant before the main field hit, Finn was certain that his skin had been shaken off by the tremendous wave.

There was a slight pause in between the pulse and the wall of energy, but as soon as it slammed into Silas it knocked them into the air. There was no sound anymore, only an all-consuming hum that plagued his ears. There was no sight either. The blinding white of the explosion was quickly snuffed out by the encroaching darkness. Air raced by him as he fell from the last bastion of civilization. Finn’s dimming flame patches gave him the appearance of a dying comet as he plummeted into the unknown.

He didn’t want to know what waited at the bottom of the jump, nor did he care. There was no use anymore. The lights had been taken away, the innocent citizens of the city were changed into monsters, Kaligo was gone, and Sam was lost somewhere in the eternal darkness, possibly dead because of him. He didn’t see the use in trying to struggle against a world that wanted them dead when it would momentarily succeed in its endeavor.

Finn opened his eyes once more. He blinked away the tears caused by the rushing wind to take one final mental snapshot of those who fell with him. Both Silas and Creon had taken the brunt of the attack to shield him. There was no use anymore. The Abyss would have its way with them and recycle their corpses into its systems as it had done unceasingly for eons. Finn closed his eyes as he hit the putrid water.

His stunned body gave no effort to fight for survival. There was no reason to. Everything was gone, and unlike before, there was no lucky switch next to his paw. Only the entangling vines of peat that pulled him down further into the murky depths.

The Surface is a lie, the promises Tiresias gave us are all lies, and Sam is a lie. If she truly was the promised key to the Abyss, none of this would have ever happened. None of it.

End Chapter Six

Authors’ Notes:

Knightfall: This chapter took way took long to complete. Hopefully both of our schedules will be better suited for writing Chapter 7.

Pokenutter: Alright, here’s Chapter 6. Pretty fun to write; both of us got to stretch our creative muscles in different ways.

And before you guys ask, I don’t know who ate the poker chip, or even if it actually happened. Ponder away.

Knightfall and Pokenutter signing off…

Finn noooooooooooooooooo!!!

Awesome chapter! (but it was kind of confusing at the beginning…how did they get there :?: )

Keep up the good writing :D

Heh, him, Silas, and Creon are in a difficult situation aren’t they?

Thank you very much! Your comments are always appreciated. And, at the beginning they were in the same palace that they entered in Chapter 5. Ince, the Swanna, just invited them up to a balcony so they could talk over a few things when they were interrupted by Dmitri.

Again, thank you. Remember, this is a collaborative story. I don’t do all of the writing, but I will pass your sentiments to Pokenutter.

Knightfall signing off…

Did they enter a palace in chapter 5? I thought they were in the woods near a boat when they were hypnotized… :?: I didn’t even hear of an Ince before…

They did. After they were captured in the marsh by the guards, Gordon and Lassus, they were taken up through the city to the palace. Finn was taken there by Lassus the Abra.

The Countess was indeed a character in the previous chapter.

Hm…I’m not sure if it is a typo, but there is no chapter labeled “Chapter 5”…just chapter 4 to chapter 6 :?:

0.0 … Umm… Apparently, I forgot to post Chapter 5 on here. May Arceus smite me for such a mistake…

Here it is. Hopefully this should clear up some confusion, Glaceon_8. I’m so sorry.

Chapter Five: Misdirection

“We will not let the history that plagued us on the Surface repeat down here. We shall make a new order to society. A society where we are the masters, not the slaves. It will be glorious. It will be revolutionary. And best of all, it will be bloodless … In theory, that is.”
– Cleopatra Persian, first Countess of Wing #435M, one week after the Closing.

He had never meant for it to go this far. He had told himself that he would stop after the last heist, but his instincts overrode his rational mind. The sudden monsoon was a sign from the Fates! There was no other possible reason for it. Dozens of shops, even more houses in the lower branches, all abandoned in the floodwaters, and stuffed to the brim with valuables.

Now, here he was: sentenced to sit here in this cell until she had settled on an exact time for execution. The figure sighed as he pressed his claws against the sturdy metal bars embedded in the wood of the tree. He could see the bustling market square below on the nexus of branches. The pungent aroma of freshly cooked swamp trout made his mouth water, unlike the toxic sludge of his prison meal that nearly killed him the last time he ate it. He opted to go without food during the duration of his incarceration. It had been three days.

The prison lights were just beginning to flicker on in the constantly fog-bound ceiling above. He couldn’t feel their warmth from within the living prison cell, but he could imagine. He knew he should have stopped. He had known of the strict anti-looting policies the Countess had enacted during disasters, but the allure of perhaps-forgotten vaults of gold and silver pulled at his heart until he could bear it no longer.

It was greed that got him caught. Stupid, stupid greed. He had overestimated his skills and now, he would pay the price. He flicked his claws against the steel bars idly as he watched the low-floating mist clouds hover over the market-place. Then, his gaze froze. In the very center of the square there was a wooden stage being erected by a crew of a Machoke and a Gurdurr. From the barred window, he watched in knowing terror as the two lifted a sturdily-cut wooden pole into a square hole in the top right corner of the stage.

He was far from stupid. He had received an education --however brief-- from the trade school built upon the higher branches of the enormous cluster of trees. He might have not used his knowledge for the best of purposes, but it had given him the means to his greed-driven ends. He knew enough about the legal system of the huge city-state that his crimes didn’t deserve a trial. That those gallows were being built specifically for him.

If he was going to be a spectacle for the swamp-bred citizens of the city, then he was going to fight until his corpse swung from the noose. The figure leaned back from the window and smiled. He wasn’t worried anymore. Masked behind a cunning smirk, his mind raced to formulate the means to avoid his own end.

The first thing Sam was aware of while she slowly staggered towards consciousness was a gentle rocking sensation, like the ground underneath her was pitching from side-to-side. As she gradually became awake enough to open her eyes, she realized that her vision was indeed lurching from left to right. In a slight state of panic, she sat up quickly, looking around. If the ground was moving, the others could be in-

A boat. They were in a boat. Okay, that made sense.

She looked around, taking stock of her surroundings. The others had been placed in a row at the bottom of the boat alongside her. The human from earlier and his Abra partner were in the back of the boat, the human working the rudder while the Abra psychically propelled the vessel forward through the tinged waters.

“So, you’re finally up. I told your friends to keep quiet and not to wake you, ma’am. Lassus, could you perhaps pick up the pace a bit? Ince wanted us back last night,” the bearded human shouted back at his floating partner as Sam looked towards the bow of the small raft.

”I’d like to see you push this thing for three hours non-stop without using a paddle. I’m not used to moving it fully loaded like this. Did we really have to bring the Togetic’s pot and the Marowak’s books? Those things weigh more than I do.” Sam nearly jumped overboard as the nasally voice whined directly in her head. The Abra, apparently called Lassus, shook his head in defeat as a slight tinge of purple energy emanated from his claws. Sam felt herself move towards the stern as the dingy suddenly picked up speed as it sliced through the muddied water. After taking a moment to steady herself as the boat accelerated, she turned to face the man and his Abra.

“Arceus Christ… You’re a human!” she gasped in disbelief after staring at them for nearly half a minute. The soldier shot a glance over to the Abra before facing her once again.

“Last time I checked, that was the case. What exactly are you asking, miss?” the man replied, raising a bushy eyebrow underneath the lower edge of his metal helmet. Sam was barely able to contain her excitement, trying to keep her voice at a normal pitch.

“No questions, none at all. It’s just, you’re the first other one I’ve seen, and well, from what Finn was implying, it may not have been a good thing to run into you guys, and wow, I just realized how very excited I am over something that you think of as totally mundane,” she concluded with a gasp. Both the man and Abra let out a hearty laugh, the Abra’s being broadcast once again into her mind. Wiping a small tear from his eye, the armored man managed to look at her once again.

“That’s got to be the best reaction we’ve seen from an Outwaller yet, and we’ve been at this job for ten years, haven’t we Lassus? I didn’t know there were wings with so few humans in them still. By the way you’re reacting, you’d think you’d seen the Prophet himself!” With that, the man laughed even harder, slapping his palm across the leather thigh armor he wore.

“Quite true. Though, I do wonder. She said the phrase ‘first other one she’d seen,’ I recall it perfectly. What does this imply, though, Gordon? Perhaps the Marowak was telling us the truth earlier? If so, I feel bad about putting him and the others back to sleep on the bow,” Lassus observed quizzically as he floated through the air closer to her. Sam backed away towards the bow, before stopping once she realized she was stepping on the sleeping form of Creon. The guard, Gordon, Lassus had called him, merely shrugged.

“Go on and wake ‘em up if you want. Seems a bit of a waste considering how much trouble they were to get down again,” he suggested, motioning with his spear towards the piled forums of Silas, Finn, Creon, and Kaligo at the front of the small boat.

Lassus simply floated as he raised a small claw at the slumbering group and aimed a nearly invisible blast of energy their way. Sam quickly ducked to the left, causing the vessel to rock violently in the muck as she dived to the port side of the dingy. The rocking only grew as the amassed forums of her companions awoke and immediately tried to separate themselves all on the thin bow. Ignoring Creon’s sudden complaints that his side was sore, she leaned down next to SIlas.

“Silas! Look, another human!” she whispered excitedly like a child at a zoo, waving her leafy hands in delight.

The prophet groaned as he kicked his right leg free of Kaligo’s wing.
“I figured you might react like this once I knew who had captured us. I wish they would have let us stay awake, but those two idiots wouldn’t stop arguing,” he answered, jabbing his staff at Kaligo, perched on the very side of the small craft, and Finn, who was trying to dig himself out from under Creon. He huffed again as he tugged his worn satchel from under Finn even as he was struggling to gain his footing. While the Marowak was struggled, he secretly bent close to Sam.

“Just listen to me, Sam. You don’t tell those two anything. We only talk to their superiors, understand?” he whispered into her ear before backing away. He then purposely stomping on Creon’s paw and ensued to make a scene out of it.

Sam was surprised at how well the prophet’s ruse worked. His planned exchange with Creon had gotten so heated that both Gordon and Lassus were needed to keep both Pokémon from coming to bites and blows. She managed to hiss a quick “I’ll ask why later,” before she fell back, letting the scene play out.

As she retreated from the shouting match, she saw Finn’s paw weakly grabbing at air from under a pile of baggage shifted by Creon when he got up. She grasped his paw with both leaves and tugged, digging her feet --including the injured one-- into the floor of the boat. The Quilava emerged gasping heavily from the items. He stumbled in a small circle before his legs decided to work together.

“H-hey. H-how you feeling?” he croaked, his voice weak.

She shrugged, still smiling a little to herself. “Pretty decent.” She shifted her tone to a whisper. “There’s a human over there, but we’re not supposed to tell him anything. Remember that.”

Before he could offer any kind of reply, she shifted back to normal volume. “But why are you worrying about me? You were the one being crushed underneath Creon.” She watched Finn rub the sides of his head and right shoulder.

“Well, I have to make sure you’re alright. And … There are some things that can never be mentioned again. That being one of them,” he replied with a visible shudder running across his back. The two were silent as they watched Gordon and Lassus attempt to separate the two squabbling Pokémon before one or both of them seriously injured the other.

“So, any clue where we are, or where we’re going?” Sam asked, breaking the silence after a good long while. She watched Finn stand on the tips of his feet as he tried to make out any major landmarks inside the dense fog that hung in a wide circle around the boat.

“I have no idea. This is the first time I’ve seen a place like this. I don’t know what to look for. Your guess is as good as mine at this point,” he shrugged as he sat himself down on the port edge of the dingy. Sam swiftly followed his example on the opposite side in an attempt to keep the craft balanced while the violence began to break apart on the bow. Kaligo’s disturbed, accented laughter was heard far above the curses and swears of the four others below him.

She was about to reply when a great shadow suddenly passed over their boat. At once, everyone ceased their actions and craned their heads up. Sam couldn’t help but stare in awe.

There were humans and Pokémon, dozens more, all looking down at them from atop a huge wooden structure jutting out to make an arc several meters higher than their boat over the water. As if a giant, invisible hand grabbed them like a toy, they ground to a halt in the water directly before passing under the arch.

A Pokémon shaped vaguely like a bouncing spring waved down at Lassus, who returned with an angered shake of his clawed fist which Sam was fairly certain was accompanied by a mental flurry of choice swear words.

After what looked like a heated, psychic exchange between the two Pokémon, the boat began moving once again, passing under the giant, wooden arch as the fog lifted. Beyond it was a structure the likes of which Sam would have thought impossible to achieve in architecture.

It was, in fact, not a single building at all, despite the misty, towering, ominousness of it. But rather, upon closer inspection and clarification from Gordon, a cluster of three trees, so massively huge and twisted together that they seemed to form one giant organism with fogbound branches that reached halfway to the heavens.

Through the heavy mist, Sam could see high around the trunk of the trees and branches, giant platforms attached to the bark. She could make out entire buildings upon them, some even going above four stories she estimated. She glanced to her side, Finn seemed even more in awe of the city than she was of seeing actual humans, his mouth agape as his eyes fixated on the bustling market centers a hundred feet above his head.

Sam leaned next to Finn and chuckled. “Okay, yeah, this is pretty impressive.”

“I didn’t know anything like this could even exist … I’ve never even been in a city before. Silas told me about them, but this isn’t anything like how he described them … Wow,” Finn sighed, the Quilava not blinking for fear of missing out on something new.

The boat continued on, passing through a channel filled with smaller trees and roots, all of them with some sort of building on them. Again, the closer they got, the more Sam saw. These buildings all seemed to be damaged in some way: one had a branch skewered through its front door, while another sported a missing roof, and yet another looked like a furious north wind had ripped it to shreds. Both Pokémon and humans shouldered lumber and other tools as they sat atop the ruined urban center, planning out the emergency repairs.

Sam leaned closer to Gordon. “So, there are lots of humans here?” The guard shot a warning look at Creon as he turned to answer her.

“Yep. Lots of us here. Bit surprised myself that the Countess let us back in, considering the previous one exiled all humans. Still, we’re grateful. We’ve got plenty of jobs, especially in construction when the monsoons roll in each year. Again, I take it there wasn’t many of us back in whatever Wing you lot escaped from?” he asked, mopping his brow with a rag he pulled out from in between segments of his armor.

Sam took a moment to remind herself that she was supposed to be hiding her humanity. “Um, apparently, there weren’t a lot in the area we came from.”

Gordon leaned on his spear as Lassus floated between them to take his position at the helm once again now that Silas and Creon were pacified, though Sam still saw both Pokémon staring daggers at each other.

“Interesting. Even though you’ve lived there your whole life, you don’t know? Must be pretty isolated. But, I guess that’s how the Abyss works, isn’t it? You there, Quilava, you seem to have been around a bit more, how were the humans there, if you know? I’m guessing pretty rough, right?” Gordon inquired as the boat passed through another channel with even more construction going on, it seemed. Finn gave a quick nod to answer the man.

“From what I heard, pretty unpleasant. Truth is, though, I never came across one while I was there, so I wouldn’t really know,” she admitted somewhat sheepishly, desperately trying to keep her humanity hidden, despite the gaping holes in her experiences. Gordon nodded knowingly.

“Don’t you worry, I haven’t ventured much outside this city either. My patrol to the Outer Marshes is the furthest I’ve ever gone, I think. And, don’t be too concerned about the humans here. We don’t bite too much as long as you stay on our good side. If you have any trouble after you talk with our Countess, just find a guard somewhere around up there,” he explained as the boat seemed to hone in on a small dock at the base of the giant bundle of trees.

They passed a few other barges carrying loads of timber as they entered the marina, the Ursaring standing post at the guard house lazily waving them through the port entrance. Lassus quickly guided the patrol boat next to one of the wooden docks as Gordon hopped out and secured the moorings. As soon as he finished tying down the ropes, the human motioned for all of them to disembark. Finn was the first one off, the Quilava expressively muttering how he had enough of the muck water, followed by Silas, Creon, and Kaligo. Lassus motioned for Sam to go on ahead of him as she cleared the small space between the boat and dock.

”Now, you lot listen. Gordon and I will be escorting you through the city to our Countess’s palace. This is not an interrogation, you all are ‘Pokémon of interest’ , but, any attempts to leave without speaking with our lady will not end well for any of you. Guards will find you quickly in the city. Is that understood? A simple nod will suffice,” Lassus pointed out, watching the group intently with closed eyes as each of them nodded in answer.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “I keep hearing about this countess- who is she?”

Gordon immediately spun around. “I suggest you not say that out loud here. It’s commonplace to have foreigners here, but everyone of them knows who she is. Since you lot are not ‘conventional’ foreigners, I’ll explain quickly. Ince Swanna is the 105th Countess of this Marshland wing. She is pretty much a dictator, but she is among the kinder and less heavy-handed of the rulers the Wing has had,” the man explained in one breath as Lassus continued as Gordon took a minute to regain his lost air.

”To simplify: Countess Ince is our good ruler, just don’t act like an idiot and ask questions like that in public or, the Prophet help us, in front of her,” the Abra thought as he took the lead and motioned for them all to follow. Creon shot them all skeptical looks at the Abra’s command, but a stern hiss from Silas kept him from voicing his doubts. Sam took a moment before nodding.

“…Alright, I’ll keep that in mind.” The Psychic nodded as he started floating up the moldy, wooden steps of the humid dock, leading them towards a Luminous Orb lit opening in the massive trunk. Despite nearly slipping on the rotting steps, Sam kept near the Abra, Finn walking along beside her, and the other three being hurried along by the guard and his spear.

Inside the passage was another flight of wooden stairs carved from the trees’ heartwood, this one akin in length of the metal stairs they had run down during their escape from Cedric in the forest. Sam heard the loud complaints from Silas about having to walk up them all on his old knees. Finn stifled a laugh beside her, and she knew why, they both had seen the Marowak do things far beyond the limits of his age. A flight of stairs should be nothing to him after surviving a train wreck and carrying most of them --minus herself-- out of the wreck on his back.

The two guards largely ignored the prophet as the group continued to make their way up the dimly lit stairway around the inside of the tree. They occasionally passed a lone Pokémon or human jogging down, but other than a nod to Lassus and Gordon, they didn’t interact with the group at all.

After what seemed to Sam to be an eternity, they finally saw an exit. A shimmering portal in the dark interior of the tree. It was almost painful for Sam not to dash ahead of the Abra to reach the outside, but she figured that a psychic blast from Lassus would probably hurt far more. Fortunately, Lassus seemed to sense her anxiousness to get outside again and swiftly floated above the remaining steps, freeing Sam and Finn to dash up the stairs behind him.

Once through the exit, Sam had to shut her eyes from the blinding light. Even though they had only been in the tunnel for ten minutes, it felt like ages since she felt proper light on her skin. Slowly, her eyes adjusted and she and Finn found themselves standing on the edge of a branch that overlooked the city.

Holy crap … It looks even more impressive from up here … Sam let her gaze take in the sight. There were the wooden buildings she saw earlier, but those were only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Stone towers and grand mansions adorned the higher branches, each held in place by an intricate web of iron beams stuck into the trunk. Some of them even seemed to weave in and out of the interior of the bark as if it was being threaded along by a needle. Every edifice was flanked on all sides by clumps of lush, green, foliage, making the city seem more alive than anything she had known before.

“So, this is the fabled city of Iter. It looks even more grand than the Codex said it would be,” Silas commented with a grunt as he finally reached the lookout point. Sam heard Kaligo whistle as he fluttered to the very edge, while Creon stayed back and stoically looked down from the higher section of the branch.

“Are you lot ready to go on?” Gordon asked after a few minutes of quiet conversation from the group. “Ince needs to see you all as soon as possible.” The human tapped the branch impatiently with the end of his spear.

Sam slowly tore her eyes away from the view as Lassus directed them to another area of the branch with a large building sitting impossibly on the spindly end of the limb. Lassus psychically turned the handle on the wooden door and floated inside.

Sam was greeted with what appeared to be a primitive version of an hotel elevator lobby. There were three platforms connected to the ceiling via a pulley system of thick chains. No one else was inside the room, but Gordon and Lassus seemed to know what they were doing as they ushered the group towards the metal platforms.

“Uh … Sir? What exactly is this thing?” Finn asked as Sam saw him tentatively touch one of the levers that controlled the pulley mechanism.

“You’ve never seen a … Never mind, I forgot. Forest dwellers. Anyways, in essence, it’s a means for us to go up and down the layers of Iter without climbing eternal lengths of stairs. Now, let’s see: there are seven of us in total. Gordon, you take the two youngest and yourself in one, while I’ll take the other three. Then the weight will be bearable for the platforms,” the Abra ordered. Finn hardly seemed satisfied with the short answer given, but none of them were in a position to go against the guards at the moment.

“It isn’ so much a problem for me with my wings, but are you two sure that this thin stuff’ll hold?” Kaligo inquired, eyeing the rusted iron links apprehensively.

“I have to agree. What’s the danger involved?” Silas asked directly afterwards. Gordon chuckled as he walked onto the platform. The grown man in armor managed to do several small jumps. Sam heard the collective gasp from the other four Pokémon as the metal floor bounced and jolted against the chain supports, but made no indication of falling.

“See? Completely safe. I’ve ridden up and down these babies all my life. There’s no reason to worry,” the human assured them as he gestured for Sam and Finn to join him.

Slowly but surely, everyone boarded their respective platforms. Creon had been the last to get on, growling about already putting too much trust in machines they knew nothing about. Sam felt butterflies fluttering around in her stomach, the combination of being in the city of Iter, the simple --previously human-- privilege of riding an elevator, and something else made her nervous. She knew that she didn’t have much reason to be: Gordon and Lassus, despite the kidnapping incident last night, seemed to be pretty alright guys.

”Don’t worry, we’ve only had five fall this month. That’s down from last month’s death total. Now hold on, the descent is rather quick,” Lassus suddenly broadcasted as his body glowed purple and both levers were simultaneously switched.

Strike that. The Abra is a sadistic bastard, Sam briefly thought before the floor dropped out from under her feet. She was instantly pulled back to the similar scenario on the train. The sudden weightlessness, nothing but air to grasp, knowing impact would most likely be a quick and painful demise, every sensation came rushing back to her as they dropped. She wasn’t sure when she started screaming, but she could definitely hear that she was not the only one.

She opened her eyes: buildings, branches, and sky flew past in quick succession, eventually turning into blurs of blue, green, and brown. Above the wind and her own screams, she heard Gordon laughing as he held onto the chain that was welded into the center of the floor.

Just as the feeling started to take its toll on her, she felt the floor under her again as the platform slowed down to catch her and Finn. The Quilava had fared no better than she had in the freefall. Gordon yelled something inaudible as he clutched his spear to his chest with one hand and held onto the chain with the other. Before Sam could even process the human’s actions, she felt the equivalent of a wrecking ball slam into her chest. There was no slow fadeout, only a sudden onset of nothingness.


The first thing Finn sensed was the overwhelming smell of decaying fish. It was that alone that brought him back to life. He was on a dock, that much was clear.

“I did warn you that the descent was quick, though I admit that I failed to specify the effects of the sudden drop in altitude on those not acclimated to such events.” Finn growled, he was quickly coming to hate the Abra almost as much as he did most members of the Ventus.

“W-what happened? Where’s the others? Why are you here?” Finn asked as he clutched the sides of his head tightly in fear that it would fly off if he didn’t hold onto it. He let out a low groan, dropping to his knees, and bending over the side of the splintery dock. His stomach churned violently as the thin remnants of his berry soup violently disagreed with the sudden height difference.

It wasn’t long before he gagged and threw up into the brackish waters below the wharf. After the acidic burning in the back of his throat subsided and the queasiness went away, Finn rolled himself onto his back. He dug his claws into the wooden planks and brought himself into a sitting position, fighting against the rapidly spinning world the entire time.

”Assuming that you’re finished polluting our city’s water supply, I would like to command your attention as I answer your questions. First, you, as well as the other four members of your entourage, passed out from the effects of dropping three hundred feet in a very short timespan. Secondly, they are all inside the Countess’s palace currently. We learned with the Mightyena not to let you all wake up inside the palace, that is why you are on a dock . It will take days before that stain is removed,” the Abra replied at once, flooding Finn’s spinning head with the massive thought. Finn only groaned again as he rubbed his temples in an effort to alleviate the forming headache.

”I often forget that my thoughts do not quite require the necessary pauses associated with breathing. Do accept my apology and try not to be sick again. You took quite some time to wake up, so we are tremendously late,” Lassus quickly added as his eyes glowed. Finn felt something hook around his head and jerk it forward into the floor of the dock. Instead of smashing his head against the slippery planks, Finn found himself headbutting the softest surface he had ever felt in his life.

The Quilava found himself not wanting to lift his head out of the exquisite material. In fact, it felt so good on his aching body that he tried to bury himself completely in it. While he was wrapped up in his moment of self-indulgence, he heard a soft cough above him.

“A-hem. I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop getting intimate with my carpet. It was imported from Wing 253P, you know?” said something Finn finally recognized from the rainforest. However, this Swanna’s feathers weren’t torn or ruined like others of her species inside his home wing. She was the picture of elegance: her feathers were pure white and reflected the soft light of the palace like a polished mirror. Finn felt his face burn up with embarrassment as he quickly lifted himself off the floor, despite the pain resounding through his nerves and bones.

Now that he was upright, Finn got a true look at the lavish mansion. They were all in a large, cozy foyer. Elegant tapestries and rugs covered every inch of the floor and walls. Finn took a deep breath. The air inside was sweet, like someone had sprinkled sugar on his nose, and kept out the humid, fishy smell of the town.

From the circular, glass windows in the walls, Finn could tell it was nearing dusk outside. Yet the light inside didn’t fade with the Abyss’s systems. He looked up, an odd metal contraption hung from the high, wooden ceiling from a chain. It looked vaguely like an Octillary with the way its iron limbs curled about the base. Light poured down from a series of glass spheres embedded in the arms of the structure.

“I take it you all are enjoying my humble abode?” the Countess asked. A chorus of awed ‘yes’s answered in return as the five Pokémon continued to take in the splendor. The Swanna lightly laughed.

“I’m quite glad. Everything here is real, not synthetic --not poor replications made by the Abyss. This entire town was forged from the marsh by our blood and tears,” Ince told them as she brushed her large, white wing along a silken banner that appeared to be threaded with gold. She looked up at the two guards standing behind the group near the doors.

“Lassus, Gordon, you two are dismissed. Take the rest of today and tomorrow as leave. I feel you both deserve it after getting this group here in one piece,” She ordered, receiving an immediate salute and a smile from both guards. “Just try not to indulge too much at the taverns, I expect you both to return well-rested and sober,” she quickly added as the human and the Abra nodded once again before sharing a swift high-five and bolting through the massive wooden doors. Their jubilated yells and hollers took several minutes to fade from hearing.

“Now that they’re gone, we can finally talk in private. If you all would follow me to the upper balconies, that would be truly excellent. Food and beverages will be served while we discuss recent and future events.” Finn couldn’t believe it. The prospect of someone not only inviting them into their dwelling and offering food without the threat of death attached was unheard of to the Quilava.

“Damn, this beats rottin’ tarps in the woods any day,” Kaligo said with a whistle as he fluttered around behind the Quilava. The Swanna turned her neck toward the impressed Togetic.

“Why thank you for the compliment, my dear sir. Now please, come along,” Ince gently ordered as she waddled up the carpeted stairs that led higher into the luxurious building. Finn swore he saw the smallest hint of a blush form on Kaligo’s face. The cook gave a slight bow and quickly moved himself directly beside the Countess.

“Did they have anything this nice where you came from, Sam?” Finn whispered as he continued to gaze at the magnificent interior of the mansion. Silas and Creon eagerly went ahead up the marble stairway, the promise of food weighing heavily on their minds and stomachs.

Sam shrugged. “Kind of a tough question. I never saw anything like this myself, but it’s supposed to have existed. Does that make any kind of sense?”

“Wait. You know it’s there, but you’ve never seen it? I guess that makes some sense, I mean, that’s the surface for me … I think it’s a lot like this. Somewhere up there,” Finn mused as he tried to imagine himself through the millions of tons of rock and steel that separated him from the supposed paradise.

“Well, I don’t guarantee that it’ll be one-hundred percent like this-- the places I can remember were far less nice than this…” She trailed off and shrugged. “Sorry. All I’ve got in my head right now is a green cloth with a floral pattern. Not sure what it’s supposed to be connected to.”

“Mother of Mew, they got meat! And the food is actually cooked!” The entire mansion echoed the Mightyena’s joyous yell from the second story. A violent growl from Finn’s own stomach further interrupted any of his planned thoughts. He glanced at Sam and nodded.

An instant later, both Pokémon were sprinting through the lavish hallway and rounding the corner up the polished marble steps. He hadn’t eaten a decent meal since the day he left the Ventus, and even then it was only a half ration. Sam was beside him, and slowly gaining as she seemed to glide up the flight in their race to the balcony.

In hindsight, it probably was considered cheating to jump onto a silk banner and swing across the entrance to the room, but to Finn, it was a tie. Both of them slid into the open-aired patio and nearly knocked over the tables piled high with food set up. In a flash, they both scrambled to their feet and dug into the food.

“We have plates for a reason, young Quilava. I pray you use one while you are in my company,” Ince softly scolded as she directed her wing towards a neat column of china plates. With the attitude of a starving animal, Finn slowly dropped the food he had loaded on his arms back onto the table with a stare that threatened to bite anyone who dared take it.

He turned his back for one moment as he snatched a large plate off the counter. The glassware was larger than his face, but he hardly cared. He spun around towards the food with such force he lost his grip on the smooth platter. Finn caught the plate before it shattered, thanking the gods that he would avoid another disapproving glare from the Swanna as she oversaw the group’s meal.

Returning his attention to the food table, Finn saw exactly why Creon yelled before. Delicacies of properly cooked meat were lined up in neat rows next to circular piles of what looked like soft biscuits covering thin slices of meat and plant leaves.

“Sam? You know what … this is?” he asked as he held up the odd food by the outer biscuit and watched as the entire content of meat and green leaves slid from their placement and landed with a chorus of splats on the floor.

“It’s a sandwich. You’ve never seen one before?” Finn only shook his head in answer, puzzled at the odd name of something that didn’t seem to contain any sand. She held one of the sandwiches.

“Sand … Witches? I didn’t see any sand in these … And what do witches have to do with it? Why call them that?” Finn asked, still wondering just how the two words could have anything to do with the layered food she held. Sam paused a minute, thinking very hard about her answer. When she finally spoke, there was an unmistakable waver in her voice.

“Well… Back in the fifteenth century, it was discovered that peanut butter, cheese, or meat between two slices of bread was ideal for the channeling of magical energies. What witches would do was place five of them in a pentagram, and use the energy to summon the hordes of the undead–” She broke off into raucous laughter. Finn was more than slightly perturbed at the Servine’s sudden, mad-sounding action. He wondered if the Abyss had finally gotten to her at last. It would hardly be the first time he’d seen someone break down because of it. The cruel whims of the Abyss often sent many Pokémon spiraling down into their own personal abyss. After a few more seconds of laughter, she calmed down.

“To tell the truth, I have no idea why they’re called that. I only know that it’s a convenient way to eat certain kinds of food,” she added, wiping a tear from her eye.

“So … They don’t summon the undead? Or channel magic? Silas and I used to visit a few self-proclaimed witches in the forest to trade materials. They might have liked a few sandwiches if they really were magical,” Finn replied, eyeing the remainder of the sandwich in his paw as he remembered the odd trips he and the prophet would make at the dead of night into the depths of the woods to find the mysterious Pokémon. After his first, chilling encounter with Ezra the Chimecho, the so called “Eater of Souls”, he remained extremely wary of their kind.

Sam shrugged. “About the only thing really magical about them that I know of is the taste of a well-made one.” She then proceeded to bite off a corner of the neatly cut food and carried her plate over to the lavish tables on the balcony. Finn quickly shoved another sandwich on his plate, along with a few steaming strips of meat and fish, and followed her example, finding a seat next to her and Silas at the table nearest the Countess.

“It appears that everyone is situated. Splendid, I’ll go on ahead and begin,” the Swanna said with a sincere smile as she cleared her throat with a small cough. “As you probably have heard, my name is Ince Swanna, the forty-third Countess to rule over this wing since the inception of the Abyss. The city of Itre you now see beneath you is the capital, and it has grown strong with our humble nation,” she said, swinging her wing over the cityscape.

The lights were almost out for the night, holding the city in a grey twilight, but Itre still shone bright in the light of the hundreds of light crystals inside the buildings and in the squares. Finn looked out over the city as he hungrily tore off another bite of the succulent meat.

“I have requested your presence for a few reasons. The first being that your group seems to be the cause of the giant, smoking crater on the South Wall. Seeing no one has come from that direction since the days of the Prophet, I figured it had to be something important.” She walked behind the tables, sliding her wing slowly along the edge.

“As it turns out, I was right. A prophet, his apprentice, a tribe leader, a cook, and a lovely lady is not the sort of refugees you find based on luck. This is the stuff of the Fates. I’m certain of it.” Her voice had risen an octave as what seemed to be excitement entered her.

“I’m sorry. So sorry. I got excited for a moment there. Allow me a moment to compose myself, please,” Ince apologized as she turned away from them and faced the balcony. Silas leaned towards the two younger Pokémon.

“She seems a bit odd, don’t you think?” The Marowak asked, trying to whisper as he munched on a small loaf of bread. Sam shrugged, and whispered back.

“To be honest, I think I’ve met weirder. Still, best not to tell her. Unless she can hear us, in which case, we’re kind of screwed.”

“And I am back. As I was saying before, there is something unusual about you all. From the reports of Gordon and Lassus about the wreck of the train, there is no possible way you should have survived. The fact that you are here means you are destined to do great things in the Abyss. Forgive me for my words, but I believe firmly in the truth of the Prophet. I’ve been looking for a long time now, and have yet to find any group more unique. Surely, prophet Silas, you must agree,” Ince explained, walking over to Silas. The Marowak quickly gulped down his food before looking around the room.

“My dear, are we in complete privacy up here? There are no servants, correct? Because, I fear our answer might be used against us if heard by the wrong ears,” Silas asked as the Swanna assured them they were alone on this floor of the mansion. He then pushed his chair back from the table and grabbed his staff. Finn knew they were in for a long story. The Marowak always stood when telling stories and only used his staff for support when they went past an hour in length.

“It will be best if I explain our scenario right from the beginning so you have a full grasp of it. Now, when I was but a Cubone, the elder in my village discovered that I possessed the qualities of a seer …” Silas began as he dove into a lengthy narrative about his youth and early training in the ways of Tiresias. Finn had already heard the spiel a hundred times before from the prophet, and had basically memorized Silas’s entire life story verbatim.

… and then I took the ceremonial staff from the elder. The power I felt from it … I swear it gave me chills … Finn said in his mind as Silas descriptively went on about the scene.

Sam took a moment to try and picture the prophet as a Cubone. Unfortunately, the only images of Cubone she could picture came from movies, and none of those seemed to match Silas at all. She couldn’t see the old, wizened, and slightly eccentric prophet that had lead them all this time as a Cubone child weeping for his mother. It simply didn’t match at all.

The next two hours passed about as quickly as a ship caught in a doldrum on the warm seas. Fortunately for the four Pokémon not actively listening to the story, fresh food was still available. Finn counted at least seven plates each for Creon and Kaligo, the two behaving as if they hadn’t eaten since the dawn of time. Both Finn and Sam had to periodically shield themselves from random bits of flying food that originated from the Mightyena’s plate. When they confronted him about it, Creon simply looked up from the wide sofa he used as a chair and belched as he continued to messily devour his small mountain of meat.

Kaligo was, much to Finn’s surprise, the lesser of the annoyances that plagued him during Silas’s story. He half-expected the cook to have his own commentary on events, but it seemed that he was busy figuring out how to reverse engineer the advanced cooking techniques from the food for his own use. Finn couldn’t tell how much luck the Togetic was having with the endeavor, but the excited whispers about temperature and time emanating from his proximity suggested he was making progress, as implausible as it seemed.

He and Sam spent the time finishing off their plates and idly picking at seconds as they chatted more about the various foods Sam remembered from the human world and of Finn’s encounters with the witches of the rainforest.

“And then that bit with the peanut butter and Ezra? You never explained that to me,” Sam inquired, hardly able to believe the tale.

“Well, you see there was this frog and–” His explanation was abruptly cut off as an exasperated Ince finally surfaced from underneath Silas’s sea of words.

“Thank you, my dear Silas for the … detailed story. A condensed version would have sufficed, I have to say,” She huffed before shaking her stiff wings out and taking a light stroll over to Sam and Finn’s spots. “So, you believe that this lovely, young lady is the key to getting Out?” she asked Silas, placing one of her wings gently around the base of Sam’s neck. Silas straightened up on his staff.

“Not believe, your Highness, I know she is the one.” Ince held her wing in place.

“I’m a firm believer in the Prophet, Silas, but out of all the millions of Pokémon and humans down here, I have to ask: why her?” Silas chuckled a bit.

“How do I know? Because, Countess, she’s not from the Abyss. She was sent from the Outside. She has memories, she knows nothing of the Abyss despite being at an age where most are fighting tooth and claw for their place in life, and she remembers bits of the surface.” Silas took a breath before continuing. “She’s opened doors sealed for a millennia, she’s garnered the wrath the voice of the Abyss, and she’s survived everything thrown her way, no matter how impossible. Now tell me if that is not proof enough.”

Ince was silent for a moment. During that time, no one spoke. Only the sounds of breathing and the slight murmur of the crowds below breached the dense fog of silence around the balcony.

“I … I will have to think this over. This is quite the revelation you are trying to push on me. But, for the meantime, you all are welcome to remain here, in my house and peruse our fine city. As long as you obey standard order, of course,” Ince sighed as she waddled over to the railed edge of the patio. “Samantha? If what Silas says is indeed true, I cannot even fathom the immense weight you must bear. You may always talk to me if anything troubles you, provided you and your companions remain in Itre.”

Sam thought to herself about this. While it was true that it was a large responsibility, she wasn’t really sure that she felt burdened by it. Unsure of what to say, she settled on a nod.

“Wonderful. And now, I can have you all shown to some rooms if you … Oh! Look down there! I completely forgot that it was set for today! You all, come to the edge! They’re starting the hanging!” Ince squealed with delight as she motioned for them all to take a place by the wrought-iron rails.

Finn could barely see over the railing by standing on the tips of his hind-paws. The Swanna was right; there was some sort of commotion going on down in the square. Tall wooden poles with lanterns and glowing crystals were hastily assembled around the perimeter around the center of the town center. In the very center, a large stage stood with another wooden pole impaled in it.

Finn grimaced. The gallows brought back harsh memories of the gruesome aftermaths of the raids the Ventus often had against the other gangs and tribes, both human and Pokémon. Cedric used the premise of there being too few resources to feed prisoners as his excuse to further the slaughter. They didn’t have any fancy stages in the forest, but the Weavile made good use of the strong vines and handy supply of sturdy tree limbs.

He hoped that they were high enough that he couldn’t see the condemned prisoner’s face as the rope dropped. He had seen enough of the discolored, contorted faces and bent necks to last a lifetime. Humans milled around next to Pokémon in the square, all eyes directed at the activity on and around the stage.

Guards vigilantly watched all over the packed, illuminated square and held their spears and, in the case of the Pokémon soldiers, attacks at the ready. Finn had to squint in order to see the actual target of all the attention. From the base of one of the large trees, a squad of at eight armor-clad guards marched out of the heavy, metal doors of the building inside of the massive plant. In the middle of the grizzled men, walked a figure. Finn could not see exactly who was being lead into the square, but he could see that it wasn’t human.

Crowds parted and hushed as the group went around the stage to the small staircase on the side of the platform. The prisoner was a creature Finn had never seen before, not even in Silas’s thick books on biology back in the prophet’s tent. The fox possessed a strange coloration of grey and black fur with a large, crimson mane.

The fact that it was a completely new sight for him wasn’t what had him captivated with the prisoner. Finn had seen many hangings under the Ventus, most of which began with a session of a sobbing prisoner pleading in vain for their life to be spared. Despite the massive distance between him and the prisoner, Finn could see it clearly: he had no fear.

There was no sign of nervousness, no desperate glances at the crowd or guards, no tear-ridden tirade, just calm, even as the guards shoved him under the noose and tightened the rope around his wrists. Finn swore he could almost see a smile on the fox’s muzzle as the human executioner slipped the rope over his head and voluminous mane.

“Finally. Dmitri Zoroark. He’s been an annoyance to my city for far too long. As soon as we caught him after last week’s monsoon, I personally sped through the judicial process so he would hang almost immediately,” Ince observed, intently watching the final preparations of the penalty.

Sam nodded. “What’d he do? Homicide?”

“No. Nothing of that sort. He’s too good at what he does to stoop that low. He didn’t need to murder when he could practically walk in any building and take what he pleased unnoticed. Do you believe that he even entered my home and made off with every set of silverware? Masquerading as one of my servants to do the deed. I even waved to him as I passed him by,” Ince growled, an odd sound to hear from any avian species.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Really? Was the servant he masqueraded as harmed?”

“Not permanently. Just drugged with a Sleep Seed in his quarters. Once we found him and realized what had happened, it was too late. It’s the same scenario at shops, slums, the treasury, the shipyards. He sold everything in the Wings adjacent to mine; must have a fortunate stashed away somewhere, though we couldn’t get the location out of him no matter what we tried,” Ince said, shaking her head as one of the guards on the stage pulled out a sheet of parchment from a folder and began reading off a list of charges.

Finn couldn’t help but be impressed and slightly confused at what he heard. The guard’s voice carried up to them in small bits, but he could piece them together.

“… Reckless use of cargo boxes … Flagrant defacing of public works and memorials … Theft of two hundred assorted pieces of silverware … Grand theft of the statue of Countess Cleopatra Persian … “


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