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Old October 29th, 2010 (12:23 PM). Edited October 29th, 2010 by EmeraldSky.
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EmeraldSky EmeraldSky is offline
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Episode 2: A Minstrel's Quest

[BGM: Safe at Home]

A furry sensation against his arm spurred Ash to groan a little. He wasn't in the forest anymore, and the Scyther that attacked him was nowhere to be found. But where was he? Was the soft harp playing a calm melody a sign he had ascended to the Holy Realm? I couldn't have died back there... he thought as he felt his shoulder and heaved a sigh of relief at the warm touch. Then why am I hearing a harp?

His eyes flickered open, allowing him to see the large pale yellow cat circling the bed he lay on and the harpist that was performing by the entrance to the room-judging from his age, he appeared about eighteen to twenty years old, his earthen hair and tan skin the perfect complement to the dull red and gold tunic and white leggings he wore. A dull red cloak identical to the tunic's color hung on a hook by the door. Ash recognized the cloak's clasp--a Taillow spreading its wings signified that the cloak's owner was a minstrel.

When the hypnotic melody concluded, the small silver tiara the cat was wearing glowed. "The mage has awoken, master." she began. "I was able to heal the wounds on his arms and hands, but the ones on his body are too deep for my simple magic to heal."

[BGM: Wisdom of the Heart] (begin at :23)

Ash couldn't believe his ears--Pokemon speaking the language of humans only existed among archmages and those they favored. He sat up and prepared to ask the minstrel how his Persian could speak, but a sharp pain in his chest forced him to lie back down again.

"Peace, Master Mage--you're safe now." the Persian replied. "I found you in the woods and carried you to my master's house, where you now lie."

"Th-thank you...." Ash stammered, his mind swimming with questions and his chest throbbing with pain. "Although, might I know your name, lady Persian?"

"My name is Kissa." the Persian replied. "I speak because of the Archmage's Tiara given to my master from the archmage of the northern lodge of Miranai as thanks for performing for the archmage's 30th year of service."

"Kissa found you bleeding and beaten in the forest and brought you here." the minstrel replied before lifting his hands to the harp strings again. "Healing water, immerse this hurting and weary soul...Cleansing Pool." With that, he started playing a soft and gentle melody, creating a warm and wet feeling around Ash. Although he knew full well that he was actually lying in a bed, Ash was shocked that as long as the minstrel played his harp, it looked very much like he was in a puddle of water--yet neither the bed he was on, the linens on it, nor the floor showed signs of being wet!

"Suprised?" the minstrel smiled as Ash examined the wounds on his chest--they had shrunk significantly and were not causing him quite as much pain as before.

"Yeah...was that...Song Magic?" Ash gasped.

"You speak the truth." Kissa replied. "My master discovered he had the talent when he was just an apprentice--every song he sang caused plants to grow, dying embers to reignite, and dry springs to fill with water once more, among other things."

The minstrel set his instrument on a shelf as he studied Ash's healing wounds. "Your wounds are deep, and I may have to play Cleansing Pool a few times before they heal completely...you were fortunate to have Kissa find you, or you would've died out there."

"Oh, but it was not mere chance I found him there--his Pikachu guided me to him." Kissa assured the minstrel. Pikachu romped in the room, elated that his master was alive.

[BGM: The Mysterious Singer]

"I owe you my life, Sir Minstrel..." Ash began as he cuddled Pikachu.

"Sir Brock of Hopea, trained in the Amhran Order of Minstrels." the minstrel replied. "Now that I have told you my name, might you tell me yours?"

"I am Ash of Asimiro Lodge--I was on my way to Hopea when that Scyther attacked." Ash said. "Although I must ask how you know Song Magic--or why so few minstrels can wield it."

"The first question I cannot answer so easily--you would have to ask a High Minstrel how it works." Brock replied before sitting down in a chair beside the bed. "Your second question has an easier answer--the reason why Song Magic is so rare is because it is a very difficult art to learn even if you have innate talent. Most minstrels often don't teach anyone for that reason alone."

"Forgive for intruding in your discussion, but what were you doing out in the woods so late at night, Master Ash?" Kissa asked as she trotted up close to the bed. Pikachu decided to hop off the bed and hurry off into the house's foyer, where he returned carrying the bag containing Ash's saefleita, sword, and potion.

[BGM: Dreaming of Adventure]

"Many mages, in addition to teaching apprentices, also serve a companion, as a reminder of our founder's devotion to serving others." Ash explained.

"Although the founder of Asimiro Lodge is now known only to Lady Anima, his passion for serving others spurred other lodges to command their mages seek out companions, a practice continued today." Brock interjected before beckoning Ash to continue.

"So even though I have only been a full mage for a short time, I made myself a Misty Potion of Vigor and set out for Hopea in hopes I would find someone to serve there. But since I've met you two and actually seeing Song Magic with my own eyes, I've decided that maybe I don't need to search any farther for a companion." Ash mused before inviting Pikachu into his arms. "That, and I really want to learn Song Magic."

Brock thought for a moment. "If you need someone to serve, I could teach you Song Magic in return for your service..."

"I accept your offer." Ash smiled as Pikachu gave Kissa the potion. "Please accept this Misty Potion of Vigor as a sign of my loyalty to you."

"Consider your gift accepted." Brock replied as he went to set the potion on a shelf in the kitchen before returning. "But before we begin any service at all, let's have your wounds heal first."

[Cut BGM]

A sudden spasm of pain caused Ash to moan a little, but he was soon calmed by the soothing melody of Brock's harp wafting around him. Kissa resumed her patrol around the bed as her master performed, allowing both Ash and Pikachu to doze.

---------

A few days later...

[BGM: Safe at Home]

Kissa watched as Brock examined Ash's wounds--after several days of rest and many performances of Cleansing Pool, the bloody gashes that once dotted the mage's body were either pink outlines or healed completely. "He appears to be fully recovered, master..."

"I know, but if he needs more time to heal, leave him be." Brock cautioned. "Anima knows when it is time for a full recovery."

"But I'm ready to get up now..." Ash yawned as he groggily sat up in the bed. He heaved a sigh of relief that there was no longer any pain in his chest, just some stiffness in his legs. "I want to set out on an adventure, travel across the land, learn Song Magic...."

"I don't know about the first two things, but we can start with the third after you get up and eat." Kissa replied, stiffling a giggle as Ash stepped behind a screen to dress. Ash sighed--he had been cooped up in bed, and now Kissa was seemingly laughing at his eagerness to get out of bed? He wasn't sure if that was the real reason for Kissa's giggles, but for the moment, he assumed she meant well and found his enthusiasm charming.

[BGM: Carried on Heartstrings]

"You're here..." Brock smiled as he offered Ash a place at the table overlooking the window with a view of the forest and Hopea, with its stone houses and grey tile roofs, in the distance. Ash made himself comfortable at the place his new friend offered him, and smiled as a plate piled high with fresh bread, some meat, and a dizzying array of Berries was set before him--this was way better than the stale bread and hard cheese he often had to eat at the lodge! Of course, his becoming a teacher not long after he had become a full mage meant he got slightly better food, but that didn't matter now. Just the fact that Brock had clearly made the food with just as much love and care as his family or the bakers in towns showed how much he cared for his guests.

"Tell me...how does a mage hone their skills?" Brock asked as he bit into a piece of bread, every so often offering a piece of ham for Kissa.

"Likewise, how does a minstrel train?" Ash replied. "I'll tell you about my time at the lodge if you tell me about the minstrel's hall."

"Well, minstrels begin training at ten years old, like most any profession, and become a full fledged minstrel at age fifteen or sixteen." Brock replied. Ash thought for a moment--assuming Brock had fledged at that time, that would mean he had been a minstrel for about three to five years, judging from his age. "Although if they have the talent for Song Magic, they may stay longer, depending on when the talent is discovered."

"Mages fledge after three or four years, and many stay at the lodge to teach new apprentices..." Ash started as he got up from the table and retrieved his sword. "When we fledge, we receive a weapon to commemorate the occassion--I received mine six months ago." He procceeded to show Brock a few fighting moves to illustrate his point.

"Strong enough to wield a sword, are you?" he heard Brock say before another sword met his blade with a CLANG! "Most mages I see wield staves or bows...."

"The apprentice can choose what sort of weapon they want to receive when they fledge." Ash explained as he disengaged. "and I chose a sword because I admired the many heroes in tales minstrels like you told."

"Oh, master, must we spar where there are many precious items about?" Kissa sighed--she had not expected a swordfight to almost break out in the kitchen.

Brock blushed. "You're right, Kissa..." He waited for Ash to sheathe his weapon, then offered his blade for Ash. "This is the Mystical Sword of Colors--most blades we minstrels receive have eight gems in the guard in rememberance of the first wielder of Rainbow Symphony." Ash nodded as he admired the butterfly shaped guard of Brock's weapon, each section of its wings inlaid with a gem. "But now is not the time to spar..." he continued as he too sheathed his weapon and began clearing the table. "I have a gift for you too, in return for the gift you gave me."

[BGM: Basics of Song Magic]

"What is it?" Ash wondered as he watched his friend place a small gold flute in his hands. Unlike his saefleita, which was sideblown, this flute appeared to be endblown, judging from the small mouthpiece.

"That is a Dreamer's Flute--an instrument specifically designed for using Song Magic." Brock replied.

"But why do I need another flute? I have my saefleita..." Ash protested as he fished his saefleita from his bag and played the four note melody to call Pikachu to his side.

"The bird's flute is all well and good for calling familiars, but didn't the archmage or high mage tell you why every summon song was so short?" Brock asked, taking his harp and motioning for Ash to follow him outside.

"So that if a mage had many familiars, they could remember and keep track of them all." Ash replied as he followed Brock and Kissa out to a clearing not far from the house.

"Song Magic is not meant for short bursts of magic like the bird's flute--to get the full effect of a spell, you need to play for as long as you can, like a lucid dream." Brock explained. "The Dreamer's Flute can play more than six or seven notes at a time, which will help you tremendously with casting Song Magic." After pausing to tune his harp, he continued. "Flutes aren't the only instrument you can use--harps, fiddles, horns, anything that is capable of making continuous sound is a viable way to cast Song Magic."

"Even drums?" Ash challenged.

"Even drums, if you keep a steady beat going." Brock assured Ash before readying his harp to play. "Now, draw your blade and watch what happens here." Ash complied with the request and watched as Brock commanded "Flames of passion, give this blade an anger that burns! Fire Blade!"

As Brock began to play, Ash gasped in awe as his blade began to turn red, then burst into flames--and his weapon didn't even melt! "How...is this happening?"

"For as long as I played, I willed for your blade to gain the power of fire--that's the other part of using Song Magic." Brock explained.

"So I have to want the desired spell to happen? Easy!" Ash smiled before taking his new flute and playing a stream of random notes in hopes his blade would ignite again. Pikachu laughed as Ash's song grew more desprate and out of tune, his face scruncing up with determination all the while.

"Just wanting the spell to happen and playing something won't do a thing." Brock cautioned, stopping Ash's song. "You have to name the desired spell first."

"So that stuff about flames of passion wasn't just for show..." Ash noted.

"Now..." Brock paused to set his instrument aside and draw his own blade. "Can you enchant my blade with fire like I did yours? Let's see if you have the talent to sing magic!"

Ash took a deep breath and stammered "Flames o-of passion, give this b-blade a fire that burns! Fire Blade!" With that, he started to play the tune 'The Silver Sword', making Brock's sword begin to glow red--until he stumbled over a wrong note, making the glow fade.

Brock grimaced. "It's a start--you may have a little talent in you after all."

"I apologize for interrupting the Song Magic lesson, but the Midday Hour grows near, and the children of Hopea await you." Kissa interjected.

"Very well." Brock replied as he sheathed his blade, gathered his supplies, and followed Kissa down the forest path, Ash not far behind.

---------

[BGM: A New Day in Town]

The sun was already high overhead as Ash and Brock arrived in Hopea that afternoon. "So, what sorts of stories do you tell?" Ash asked as he followed Brock to the town square.

"It depends on my audience--if it is a mixture of children and adults, they are tales of heroic deeds or magical Pokemon." Brock replied as he accepted his harp from Kissa. "If it is mainly children, like it is today, they will mainly be tales of how things came to be and tales of virtue."

"What do you want me to do?" Ash asked, toying with the Dreamer's Flute.

"Depending on the tale and your acting ability, you may play a role--otherwise, assist with props, and play the Flute at the appropriate time." Brock replied before beginning a calm melody. Come one, and come all, for I have stories to be told, of adventure, and magic, and treasure worth more than gold. Ash nodded and found an outcropping by the fountain as a variety of children and some adults gathered around Brock's feet.

"Sir Brock, who is your new friend?" a woman asked.

"This is Ash, a mage from the lodge at Masuliro--my new companion." Brock replied. "He will be assisting with performances."

One girl saw Pikachu peeking from Ash's cloak. "Sir Brock, why do Pikachus have stripes on their backs?" she asked.

"It is because of Sorin's boasting to an Ursaring--perhaps you would like to hear the tale?" Brock asked the crowd. Ash's eyes lit up--aside from tales of heroes, tales of the crafty Pikachu Sorin were his favorite stories when he was younger. He would always laugh at Sorin's over the top tricks, and revel in how Mightyenas, Raikous, and the occassional Ursaring got their just desserts by the paw of a tiny Pikachu. But this was a Sorin tale he had not heard before, so he crossed his legs and listened as Brock began a quiet melody.

[BGM: A Tale of Wonder]

"Long ago, the Pokemon of the world lived in peace and spoke the language of humans." Brock began. "Sorin was a confident and brave Pikachu, and always had something to say on even the most trivial of matters. Yet the Pokemon listened anyway, because in those days, everyone listened to everyone. The problem was, Sorin did not know when to stop talking." He played a brisk yet steady melody, as if mimicing someone talking. "When anyone passed his burrow, he would run up to them and talk for hours. Shinkijika, for example, would smile, nod, and continue on her way, but Sorin would be right behind her, eager to talk even more."

The crowd laughed at this before Brock's melody turned quiet again. "One day, Ursaring happened to pass by Sorin's burrow. Sorin saw him and called. He then switched to a high pitched male voice. "Good day, Ursaring! Won't you walk with me?" Even Ash couldn't help laughing at how very similar Brock's "Sorin" voice sounded to a Pikachu cry.

As himself, Brock continued. "Now, Ursaring was a proud Pokemon, and fancied himself as the strongest among them, so he had little patience for smaller creatures. So he said to Sorin..." he next switched to a deep, gruff voice. "No thank you, Sorin--I have more important matters to attend to today."

"Why do you think so highly of yourself?" he asked as Sorin.

"Uh...I'm big...I'm strong, and I can do anything!" he replied as Ursaring.

"ANYTHING???" he challenged as Sorin.

"Anything." he replied as Ursaring. Ash joined the crowd in applauding Brock's ability to singlehandedly carry a complete conversation between two personas.

Brock waited for the applause to die down before continuing as himself "Sorin began to laugh, and Ursaring was angry that someone had the nerve to laugh at him." The children giggled as Brock mimiced someone laughing on the harp before demanding as Ursaring "Why do you laugh at ME????"

"I know one thing you can't do!" he proclaimed as Sorin. "You can't stop Ho'oh's journey across the sky!" The crowd gasped at this, but Ash was chuckling at how Ursaring would likely react.

"You could've heard a pin drop all through the forest at Sorin's challenge." Brock continued as himself. "The birds stopped singing, and Shinkijika, who had been passing by at that moment, stopped to hear Ursaring's answer. The Ekans, the Squirtles, the Bunearies, and the Rattatas all stopped what they were doing--every Pokemon waited to hear what Ursaring's answer would be." He lets that hang for a moment.

After a few tense seconds, Ash worked up the courage to ask "So, what did Ursaring say?"

"He thought for a moment before replying..." Brock pauses to switch to his Ursaring persona. "I have not tried that, but I'm sure I could if I wanted to."

"Oh no, you can't!" he mocks as Sorin.

"Yes, I can!" he counters as Ursaring. "Tomorrow, I will stop Ho'oh's journey to the west!" Some "oh"s waft through the crowd at this before Brock began a panicked sounding melody. "The forest erupted into a panic, and many Pokemon stayed up all night in fear of what would happen in the morning. But Sorin slept peacefully that night, confident Ursaring could not stop Ho'oh." His song calmed down as he continued. "Naturally, Anima commanded Ho'oh to begin her daily flight the next morning, and try as Ursaring might, Ho'oh paid no mind to his commands."

"Now, see? Ho'oh ignored you, you're not that powerful!" he taunted as Sorin. As himself, he continued over his panicked melody "This was the last straw for Ursaring, and he ran after Sorin, swiping him all the while with his great claws." Gasps go up from the crowd--even Ash had a lump in his throat in fear that Sorin didn't survive. "Sorin made it back to his burrow alive, but he had scars on his back where Ursaring had scratched him. In time, these claw marks turned brown and healed no further. Since then, Pikachus bear these stripes as a reminder of Sorin's folly." Applause filled the air at the story's conclusion.

"See why my master is so respected?" Kissa smiled before running to collect the coins the crowd threw on the ground.

"I do..." Ash smiled--maybe he had made the right choice of a companion! He wondered what Milina would say if he told her about Brock and Kissa....

To Be Continued....
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