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|A short-story based on the roleplay "Crimson Dawn: A Tale of Conquest."|
Date: 1047 AP
“Only doing my jo-- whoa!” The Scrafty couldn’t even finish his sentence before the Lilligant princess grabbed him in a half-hug, half tackle. The princess, Cassandra, held onto the rather dashing Scrafty pirate, Marshall. Suddenly, Marshall grabbed the princess and turned her around, letting her fall and lean back in his arms as he held her.
“Oh Marshall, how can I ever thank you? You’ve saved the kingdom!” Cassandra swooned, giggling as Marshall leaned his head closer to hers, flicking her a mischievous smirk.
“How about like this?” Marshall said, grinning at the princess seductively. Cassandra simply laughed at his antics; she couldn’t help but fall for the handsome rogue. Marshall leaned in close, closing his eyes as Cassandra followed suit. Their faces only inches apart, as they were lost in the moment, closing in…
“Mistress Cassandra, I have your chamomille tea!”
Cassandra was jolted out of her daydream by the interruption. She looked around, still in her room, sitting on the bed. An open book lay in her hands: ”Marshall Leroy and the pirates of Carajol.” She had gotten lost in her fantasy novels again. She let out a sigh, before lifting her head towards the closed door to her room.
“It’s open, Varkas.”
The door opened slowly as Varkas, a rather large and intimidating Pangoro, stepped in. Contrary to his appearance, he wore a friendly smile, carrying in a small tray with a steaming teapot and a small teacup.
“Your tea, Mistress Cassandra. It’s piping hot, fresh off the fire!” Varkas, despite his species reputation, was quite the gentleman. His status as a house servant didn’t seem to bother him in the least, in fact, he seemed to enjoy his job working for the Eldren family.
“Thanks, Varkas,” Cassandra said, as the Pangoro servant placed the tray on her nightstand. With a gentle hand, he took the teapot and began to pour the boiling water into the glass, taking the tea-bag in his other hand and lightly dipping it into the cup. He flashed Cassandra a friendly smile, handing the small teacup to the Lilligant, the latter taking the cup and returning Varkas’ smile. “And please, Varkas, you don’t have to call me ‘mistress.’”
“Ah, but your mother is out now, which makes you the lady of the house, mistress,” Varkas said teasingly, though a small amount of seriousness in his tone as well. Cassandra always insisted against it, but Varkas never abandoned the formalities of his position. Cassandra brought the tea to her face, taking a whiff on the contents and letting out a sigh of contentment.
“Thanks, Varkas…” Cassandra said. She kept her smile as she held her tea, but something was off about her demeanor. Her smile seemed… insincere. Varkas looked at her, studying her expressions, his smile fading as he noticed that something was wrong.
“Is something troubling you, mistress?” he asked, genuinely concerned for her. Varkas had noticed that Cassandra seemed a bit distant over the past few days. She must have had something on her mind, but he couldn’t decipher what exactly it was.
“Oh, no… it’s fine,” Cassandra said. She was lying, and she knew it, but she had no intentions of dragging Varkas into her personal troubles. As kind and caring as he was, Cassandra couldn’t bring herself to burden him with her issues. “I’m just… thinking. That’s all.”
Varkas could sense her deception, but decided against pressing her on the matter. Still, he wanted to cheer her up if he could. He noticed the book she had been reading previously now lying on the bed beside her. “You enjoy those fantasy novels, don’t you?”
Cassandra looked over at the book as well. The cover depicted the titular Scrafty, Marshall, fighting off an army of soldiers, a confident grin on his face despite the overwhelming odds. She laughed slightly as Varkas brought the subject up. “I do. This one is special. I found it collecting dust an old library. It’s silly, I know, but I love it. It’s a guilty pleasure."
“Well, if would like, I could keep an eye out for some of them when I visit the market next. Just say the word.” Varkas replied. He never saw the point in those types of cheesy romantic stories, but Cassandra enjoyed them, and if they made her happy, he would buy all the books in Exathor for her. Anything to bring her out of her slump that had been plaguing her.
“Oh no, you don’t have to do that for me,” Cassandra said. Even though Varkas was considered the servant of the house, she thought of him more as a friend. She could never ask him to do something like that for her, especially paying out of his own pocket. “I don’t think Father likes me reading them anyways, when I could be devoting time to more important things.”
Varkas frowned a bit. Her attempts to be modest were not working. He knew Cassadra’s father had bought those books for her on occasion. Why would he have any problem with her reading them? Regardless, it was apparent that Cassandra wanted to be left alone for the time being. He took the tray he had brought in earlier, picking it up as he began to walk out of the room. As he reached the door, he turned back to face the Eldren’s daughter.
“I must tend to the garden now. You should come out sometime, get some fresh air. The Gracidea flowers are almost in bloom; they’re absolutely beautiful this time of year.”
“Thank you, Varkas,” Cassandra replied, giving the Pangoro a weak smile. With that, Varkas had left, closing the door behind him.
Once she was alone again, Cassandra dropped the smile, letting out a long exhale. She took a sip from her tea, placing the cup on the nightstand near her bed. She took a look around her room. Her room was very extravagant, great care and precision going into every last detail and decoration. It exuded an air of regality, the mahogany dressers adorned with various gold-plated decorations, brightening the room with their lustrous guise.
Here she was, wasting away in her room yet again, unable to find the motivation to go out and do something. She hadn’t spoken to her friends in so long; it almost felt as if she had none at all. a year earlier, she’d be outside, playing with her companions: Vincent, Alexis, Eliza…. They’d be off exploring the city of Skyhaven, going to places they shouldn’t have, pulling pranks, all in the name of the Guild…
Cassandra cringed at the thought. Originally, when she was younger, the Guild was just her and her friends. It was a silly club they had made, an exclusive group of sorts, but they had fun with it. Well, had being the key word.
It started off innocent enough. Just simple exploring and harmless pranks. Simple pranks, though, no longer became sufficient for them. They delved into the less-savory acts. A misplaced key here, and stolen coin-purse there. It only got worse from there. Over time. the Guild continued it’s unwitting pursuance of depravity. All at the behest of their leader, Atris.
“Atris…!” Cassandra slammed her fist down onto the bed. How she abhorred the mere thought of that Braixen. That cruel, manipulative, loathsome…. And yet, as much as she resented it now, Cassandra would be lying if she hadn’t enjoyed her time in the Guild.
Cassandra pouted, still sitting on her bed. She enjoyed her time with them, to an extent. She didn't approve of their later actions, but they were harmless enough not to raise any serious concerns. It was not until the incident a year ago that she began to question the Guild’s actions. What had been planned as a simple holdup had quickly escalated out of control. Cassandra made a split-second decision, one she regretted ever since. After that day, she and the Guild had a falling out. She questioned their leader, Atris, and their actions as a whole. Atris simply dismissed her, successfully turning Cassandra’s friends - her former friends - against her.
Cassandra clenched her teeth, her hands forming into fists, fuming with anger. It was all Atris fault! That woman had ruined everything, turned her friends against her. Now she spent her days isolated in her room; self-imposed exile.
“Ow!” Cassandra’s train of thought was abruptly interrupted as a stray pebble struck the side of her head. She rubbed her temple, looking down at the projectile that had landed on her bed. She picked it up, examining it; it looked like one of the rocks from the garden. Cassandra quickly got up off the bed, walking over to the door of her room. It was still closed, curiously enough. She opened it slightly, looking through to the other side. Just outside the door was the main hall of the house, where a small Pawniard child sat cross-legged on the floor - her adopted brother, Tavhir. The Pawniard was silent, a few scattered papers and writing utensils on the floor around him as he drew pictures to entertain himself. The house was eerily quiet, as most of the maids and butlers were off attending matters outside.
“Well, couldn’t have come from out here…” Cassandra thought to herself, clutching the pebble in her hand. She left the door cracked open, turning to face the inside of her room again. She looked around in confusion, until she noticed she had left the window open, the navy curtains swaying slightly in the breeze. Suddenly, another pebble flew in the window, landing on the floor with a small tapping sound. She walked over to the open window, looking out at the ground below. Her room was several stories high, and for a moment, she couldn’t make out anything from such a height. “Who’s throwing rocks up--”
She stopped, looking down and noticing the perpetrator. It was an Ivysaur, flinging small rocks at the window with her vines. Cassandra instantly recognized her: it was Alexis, her old friend. She hadn’t seen her in over a year. It had been so long, Cassandra was about to jump with glee.
Then she remembered why she hadn’t seen her in such a long time.
Cassandra, in a fit of rage, threw the pebble she held in her hand down at Alexis, smacking the Ivysaur square on her forehead.
“Ow! Cassandra, what was that for!?” The Ivysaur said with irritation.
“You have a lot of nerve coming here, you know!” Cassandra accused, staring daggers at her former friend. “Go away! Now, before I call the guards!”
“Cassandra, please, we need to talk,” the Ivysaur pleaded.
“No!” Cassandra spat, grabbing the other pebble from the floor and throwing it as well, once again hitting her target. “I have nothing to say to you! Now, go away!”
Alexis winced in pain from the second rock. She knew Cassandra would be mad, and to be fair, Alexis felt the anger was justified. Still, she was here to make amends, and she was going to do so, whether Cassandra wanted to or not.
“Cassandra, this is important! I know you’re angry at me, and I deserve it, but we have to talk!” Alexis shouted from the ground below. Cassandra let out a sigh of exasperation; she had half a mind to slam the window and shut Alexis out completely. However, it had been so long since she had last seen the Ivysaur; maybe she had changed? As much as she didn’t want to, she decided to give Alexis the benefit of the doubt. Cassandra reached into one of her dressers, pushing aside the fabrics and accessories and grabbing a long, sturdy rope that she had kept hidden. She tied one end of the rope securely to her bedpost, walking over to the window once again and dropping the remaining length of rope out the window. The Ivysaur smiled, grabbing the rope with her vines and pulling herself up towards the window.
Alexis made it to the windowsill, pulling herself through the opening and rolling clumsily onto the floor. She picked herself up, looking over at Cassandra who stood at the other end of the room. The Lilligant was fuming, her arms crossed and her face bearing an expression of rage and irritation.
“Well, what is it?” Cassandra demanded. No ‘hello, how have you been,’ no ‘good to see you;’ they had past the point of such pleasantries long ago. “I told you already I’m not going back. You and your little… friends can go and fall off the edge of Exathor for all I care!”
“I’m not here to bring you back,” Alexis responded, unable to look her friend in the face out of shame. She never realized just how hurt and angry she had made Cassandra. Alexis filled with sorrow and grief, knowing that she was the sole cause for Cassandra’s rage.
“Then why are you even here?!” Cassandra said, nearly shouting at her once-good friend. “Come to mock me some more? What was I again? Weak? Spineless?”
Alexis recoiled in guilt and shame, those last words cutting her like daggers, those unpleasant memories rushing back to familiarity. The day Cassandra left, the resulting argument, their falling out. Alexis felt lower than dirt, and she couldn’t help but feel that she deserved it.
“I bet the Guild put you up to this… those... those… bastards!”
“Cassandra, please!” Alexis said. As much as she probably deserved the verbal abuse, she needed to talk to Cassandra, something which was becoming increasingly difficult with her constantly raising her voice. “I’m not with the Guild anymore! I left them!”
“You-- wait… what?” Cassandra calmed down considerably, trying to process what had just been said.
“You were right,” Alexis started, looking down at the floor. “You were right and I was wrong.”
“Wha… what do you mean?” Cassandra asked, puzzled, her anger beginning to subside.
“You were right about the Guild…” Alexis answered, the Ivysaur bringing her head up to meet Cassandra’s gaze. “You were right about them, about Atris, about… everything.” Alexis continued, beginning to tear up slightly. As quickly as she met Cassandra's gaze, she turned away, shutting her eyes. “Look, I know I was an awful friend, and I said some terrible things. You have every right to be mad at me, and if you never want to see me again, then I--”
Alexis was interrupted by Cassandra leaping at her, wrapping her arms around Alexis’ neck in a hug. Alexis was shocked; how could she be forgiven so easily?
“Alexis, I’m so sorry! Please don’t say things like that!” Cassandra said, trying to hold back tears of her own. Alexis simply stood in surprise. She was sorry? Alexis was confused; what did Cassandra have to be sorry about? Alexis was the one who should have been apologizing.
“I-I don’t understand…” Alexis managed to stammer out. “What do you have to be sorry for?”
Cassandra withdrew from the embrace, looking into Alexis eyes, tears streaming down her face.
“I missed you so much,” Cassandra said, her tone changed completely. There was no more anger now, a mixture of joy and sorrow taking it’s place. “And now you’re back after so long… and I treat you like dirt…”
“I deserve it…” Alexis said, once again finding herself unable to look Cassandra in the eye. “The things I said when you left a year ago-”
“-are in the past,” Cassandra interrupted, leaning in to hug Alexis once more. “I’m just happy to see you again…”
The two of them stayed silent as they embraced, quietly crying. Not tears of sadness, but of joy, having made their amends. No words were spoken for minutes; there was no need.
Eventually, they ended their embrace, both sitting on the floor as they wiped the tears from their eyes. Cassandra gave Alexis a warm smile, showing that she was indeed forgiven, and Alexis returned the gesture.
“So…” Cassandra said, wiping the remaining moisture from her eyes as she broke the silence. “Why did you quit the Guild?”
“I told you,” Alexis said, finally able to look at her friend again without guilt. “You were right. The Guild has changed, and not for the better. Atris has gone nuts. I feel so stupid having taken this long to realize that.”
“Don’t feel that way,” Cassandra said, attempting to comfort her friend. “Better to realize it now than never.”
“I suppose…” Alexis said. She was glad Cassandra had accepted her again, but she still felt bad for having taken so long to recognize the truth in her words so long ago. “Atris… she’s just gotten worse and worse since you left. Kept babbling on about her ‘mission,’ and how we were ‘serving the greater good.’ She’s convinced that what she’s doing is right and just.”
“What do you mean?” Cassandra asked, confused. “What is she doing?”
“She started taking on bounties,” Alexis responded. “Killing people for profit… I was appalled, but for the longest time I was too scared to say anything, afraid she’d do something terrible.”
Cassandra held her hand over her mouth, a gasp escaping her mouth. Robbing people was one thing, but taking on bounties? It was almost unthinkable, even for Atris.
“I kept thinking about what you had said before you left,” Alexis continued. “I found the courage to stand up to her. I told her she was in the wrong, and that I was going to tell the city guard if she didn’t stop. Atris just laughed at me, almost as if she was daring me to do so.”
“So what did you do?”
“I left. I told her I couldn’t take part in the Guild anymore, that she had gone too far.” Alexis said, growing slightly angry at the thought of Atris. “She just laughed again, and told me I wasn’t ‘good enough for the Guild.’ I told the guard. I told them everything. But by the time they came to investigate, Atris was long gone… she had packed up and left without a trace.”
“I see…” Cassandra said, a bit disheartened that Atris was still on the loose. “What about the others?”
“They left with her,” Alexis stated plainly. “Unlike you and I, they were practically under her spell.”
“That’s awful…” Cassandra said, sadness in her voice. All of her old friends were now gone, off doing Arceus-knows-what with that mad-woman, Atris. As much as she missed them, she was more than grateful that Alexis had come back.
They shared a solemn silence, the past haunting their memories. The Guild, their former colleagues and compatriots, off continuing their heinous acts. It was unthinkable how they had fallen so far - how they had gone from tame fun to such extremes. How could the others not see the moral implications of their actions? Vincent with his fun-loving and care-free attitude; Gabriel’s calm and collected self; Eliza, the indomitable spirit… all of them, for all intents and purposes, brainwashed by Atris and her vision of ‘justice.’
Alexis looked towards the door, noticing the Pawniard from earlier, drawing pictures by himself. Before Cassandra had left the Guild, she had told about the boy’s situation.
“How’s Tavhir holding up?” she asked, desiring a change in subject, something less sullen. Cassandra sighed, her gaze following Alexis’ and looking over at the orphaned boy in the main hall.
“He’s doing better. He’s still very distant, though. Very… reserved.” Cassandra said. Ever since Tavhir had come into their home, he hardly ever spoke a word. Of course, that much was to be expected. To lose your family, in front of your own eyes even, was certain to leave it’s scars. Even a year after being found and adopted by the Eldrens, Tavhir was just as quiet and distant as ever.
“He’ll open up in time, I’m sure of it,” Alexis said reassuringly. “It’s a good thing you’re doing for him, Cassandra.”
Cassandra gave a weak smile. She appreciated her friend’s kind words, even if she herself was unsure of their truth. She had felt guilty over her actions in the Guild; helping to raise this misplaced child was her own sort of redemption.
“Vennson is home! Malorie, strike up the stove and prepare supper!”
The voice rang throughout the house, one of the maids announcing the arrival of Vennson, Cassandra’s father. He had been on a tour of duty for the past few months, stationed in Fargal Keep. Now he was finally home, to stay for a few weeks time.
“I should go,” Alexis said, turning towards Cassandra. She gave the Lilligant a reassuring and heartfelt smile. Their time together was cut short, but they had made their amends. The time for catching up would come later. “We’ll have to get together again soon.”
“I’d like that,” Cassandra said warmly. Alexis got up, walking back toward the window. With a secure grip on the rope that she had used to climb up, she descended down to the ground below. Once she had left, Cassandra reeled the rope back in through the window, rolling it up quickly and stashing it back in it’s drawer. As soon as she was finished, she heard the front door in the main hall open, a familiar voice calling out.
Cassandra smiled, running out of her room and into the main hall. She looked towards the main entrance, seeing the form of a Tropius standing in the doorway: her father, Vennson.
“Father!” she exclaimed in joy, rushing over to greet him.
“Cassandra!” Vennson replied, lowering his head to her level as she approached. She grappled his neck in a joyful hug, wrapping her arms around him and showing the biggest smile she had in weeks. Withdrawing from her embrace, Vennson looked over his daughter and smiled. “You grow more and more beautiful every time I come home.”
Cassandra beamed at the compliment. Vennson raised his head up, looking over towards the Pawniard, Tavhir, still sitting at his spot on the floor. Tavhir simply looked at the Tropius, though it wasn’t clear as to what he was thinking.
“How are you doing, Tavhir?” Vennson asked the boy, concerned, bringing his head down low to meet the boy’s gaze. Tavhir looked at him for a moment, pondering over the question.
“I’m okay, Mr. Eldren…” He responded, his quiet voice sounding almost monotone. Vensson’s smile faded at being called “Mr. Eldren.” Even after a year, it seemed the boy still hadn’t opened up.
“If there’s anything you need, you need only to ask,” Vennson said before straightening his neck and raising his head. “I’ll be in my study. I’ll see you all for supper.”
As Vennson left the room, Cassandra stood in the main hall with Tavhir, the latter resuming his drawing. She looked over the Pawniard's shoulder, seeing the illustrations that he was making. For a child of only seven years age, he drew with remarkable detail and precision, using techniques like shading and perspective. While it wasn’t the best, it was clear he had experience. Cassandra was intrigued. She took a seat on the floor next to him, hoping to get him to open up with some small talk.
“These are some really nice drawings,” she said calmly, looking over the scattered drawings around the Pawniard. Images of caves, tunnels, cities, places, and Pokemon. She picked up one of the papers, depicting several Pokemon mining in a tunnel, expressions of determination of their face.
“Thank you…” Tavhir responded quietly, his gaze remaining on the picture in front of him as he continued to draw. Cassandra looked at the drawing he was working on; it bore the image of an Aggron, who looked to be a warrior of sorts. His steel scales and armoring were adorned with various jewels and gold trimmings, and the look on his face showed bravery and courage.
“Who’s that?” Cassandra asked. Tavhir stopped drawing for a moment, seemingly lost in thought as he formulated an answer.
“That’s Ascan,” he replied, pausing to look over the image as a whole. “He was the first chieftain of the Eshir. They say that Ascan fell into a large pit where the city of Ascanfell now stands, which is how the city got it’s name.”
Cassandra was shocked at his answer. She normally had a hard time getting more than two words at a time out of the boy, let alone a complete sentence. Perhaps it was simply a matter of finding things he wanted to talk about?
“He looks like a brave warrior,” Cassandra replied, thinking of ways to continue the subject, hoping to get Tavhir out of his reclusive shell. She noticed several other pictures, all bearing the images of different Stygian historical figures she recognized from her studies. She saw Serena Nightsong and Shatrath, of the Otori and Tocan tribes respectively; she recognized Chantalai, the first Lord of the Vanir, and Fiaje, the Eshirian who fought against the Dark Cult. Even still, there were some figures she couldn’t quite place.
There was one picture in particular that caught her eye. Looking it over, it contained a host of lords and chieftains from the Stygian tribe, all standing side-by-side, battle ready as they looked towards the horizon. Some of them she recognized, and others she didn’t know at all. “Are these all Stygian heroes?”
Tavhir nodded in response to Cassandra’s question. “Papa used to tell stories about all the Chieftains. Mama really liked Serena...”
Tavhir suddenly paused as he thought of his family. His expression was blank as he stared at the pictures in front of him, thinking of his parents and his home.
“I miss them…”
Cassandra looked at the boy with worry, yet Tavhir’s expression was blank. No sadness… just pensive thought. She put her arm around his shoulder, assuring him without words that everything was okay. They sat like this for several minutes, silently, comforting one another. Eventually, Cassandra spoke up and broke the silence.
“Do you want to come out and walk in the garden with me?” Cassandra said in an effort to cheer up the boy. “Varkas tells me the Gracidea flowers are in bloom.”
Tavhir nodded his acceptance of the offer, putting his drawing utensils down and rising to his feet, Cassandra following suit. Together, they both walked outside to the gardens, enjoying each others company.
"You forget, Doctor. I'm the one who asks the riddles..."
|A short-story based on the roleplay "Crimson Dawn: A Tale of Conquest."|
Date: 1053 AP
Cassandra burst through the front door of her home, dragging Tavhir in by the arm behind her. Her face bore an expression of both anger and concern, while Tavhir looked increasingly annoyed by the way his step-sister was dragging him. They quickly made their way to the washroom, Cassandra slamming the door shut behind them, locking both her and her step-brother in the room.
Cassandra looked over Tavhir; the Pawniard was covered in scratches, scrapes, and bruises. He looked as if he were about to cry, but he held his composure as he stood silently in front of the watchful eye of his sister.
“I can’t believe you,” Cassandra said finally with an annoyed tone. “I just cannot believe you. Getting into a fight during your lesson? What’s gotten into you?”
“He was asking for it,” Tavhir spat back. In his mind, his actions were justified. That bratty Charmander, Francis, had it coming. “That stupid Francis kept mocking me.”
“So you beat him up?!” Cassandra said angrily, nearly raising her voice. She quickly grabbed a nearby bucket and rag, filling the container with water from the washroom faucet and soaking the rag. She wrung out the cloth and began to clean up her brother’s wounds. Tavhir simply remained motionless as Cassandra tended to his injuries. “Tavhir, you know better than to start a fight!”
“He challenged me, I retaliated,” Tavhir said as Cassandra continued her hurried ministrations. “This wouldn’t have happened if he had just shut his mouth.”
“No, this wouldn’t have happened if you had acted your age and not lashed out like a child!” Cassandra rebuked, growing weary of her brother’s excuses. “If your father finds out you instigated another fight--”
“He’s not my father,” Tavhir said coldly, anger etched on his brow.
Cassandra stopped her actions, shocked at his words. She resisted the urge to slap him for what he said, instead letting out an exasperated sigh. She had wished that Tavhir would move on and accept her father as his own, but his continued denial was wearing heavily on her nerves. She placed the rag she had been using back in the water basin, placing both her hands on Tavhir’s shoulders and meeting his gaze with her own.
“Tavhir, please don’t say things like that,” she pleaded with him. “Vennson only wants the best for you. He takes you in and treats you as his own son, the least you could do is show some gratitude!”
“I don’t remember him asking me if I wanted to be his son,” Tavhir responded, Cassandra’s grip on his shoulder getting tighter. She was furious. The boy simply would not listen to reason.
“Would you prefer he left you to die out in the wastes!?” she said, trying desperately not to lose her temper, a battle that was becoming more and more difficult to win.
“Better out there than in here!” Tavhir shouted back at her.
That was the final straw. Cassandra simply let go of him, standing up and looking down at Tavhir, her eyes showing sadness and disappointment.
“Just clean yourself up before Vennson gets home,” she said quietly, her voice quivering slightly. She quickly turned and headed towards the door, opening it and leaving the washroom, slamming the door hard behind her, the crash echoing throughout the rest of the house.
Tavhir angrily kicked over the bucket of water, spilling the liquid across the floor. Cassandra would never understand. He felt like an alien ever since he had first been brought to the Eldren’s home. No matter what he did, he never felt like he belonged. He felt helpless and trapped, and he hated it. He slowly picked up the wet rag again, cleaning his own cuts and scratches off as best he could, mopping up the spilled water afterwards and returning the bucket and rag to their original place.
Tavhir quietly left the washroom, part of him starting to regret his outburst towards Cassandra. He had gotten caught up in the heat of the argument, and had lashed out without thinking of the impact of his words. He silently cursed himself for his impulsive behavior, before resolving to find Cassandra again and apologize.
Tavhir walked the long hall down from the washroom. The house was eerily quiet this time of day, for the butlers and maids were off on break. The walls of the hall were lined with various hand-painted oil portraits, each conveying a different picture from the last. Some of family members, some of landscapes; it was all very refined and regal.
Tavhir finally came to Cassandra’s room, stopping in front of the closed door. He raised his hand to knock on the door, but couldn’t complete the motion, anxiety and guilt holding him back. Suddenly, he heard a sound from behind the door. He pressed his head to the wood, listening closely. What he heard made him feel terrible. Cassandra was crying.
He truly felt horrible now. He couldn’t bring himself to confront her in this state. He retreated away from the door, walking solemnly to his own room. Upon reaching his own quarters, he quietly opened the door, walking inside and closing it behind him.
Tavhir collapsed, his back against the closed door as he ended up sitting on the floor. He shut his eyes tightly, slamming his fist down on the ground. Why was everything so difficult and confusing? Why were his emotions so conflicted? Why couldn’t he just have a normal life? Part of him resented his surroundings; Skyhaven was nothing like Ascanfell. The Hesperians and Stygians were worlds apart in ideology, and his forced transferal from the latter to the former had been the most difficult experience of his life. Had this been his home, Tavhir would have been praised for standing up for himself in fighting Francis. He would have proven his strength against the Charmander and been better off for it. Yet here, in Skyhaven, he was reprimanded and disciplined, for ’acting out’ and ’bullying another student,’ in the words of his instructors. Actions that would have earned him respect in Ascanfell were met with scorn and contempt here in Skyhaven.
On the other hand, Cassandra was right. If he had not been found by Vennson those years ago, he would have been dead for sure. He thought back to that pivotal moment, the day his caravan was attacked by thieves. His parents had tried to defend themselves, but their efforts proved in vain. He had hidden himself among the cargo, avoiding the catastrophe, but only barely so.
Now here he was, adopted by the Eldrens, feeling stranded, confused, and alone. He opened his eyes, his expression showing no sadness, just anger. Anger at his situation, anger at the thieves who ruined his life…
… anger at himself for acting the way he was.
He closed his eyes again and took in a deep breath before letting out a long exhale. He felt guilty over his blowup earlier. He needed to apologize to Cassandra today. She was one of the very few people he actually cared for. He saw now that she was only trying to help, just as she always had. He cursed himself again for his actions.
“Vennson is home! Prepare the dining room, supper is nearly ready!”
One of the maids called out, interrupting Tavhir’s train of thought. He sighed, before standing up again. He gave himself a once over; he still had a few cuts from his fight with Francis, but nothing more. If Vennson asked, he could claim he tripped and fell on the way home. He opened the door to his room, silently closing it behind him as he made his way to the dining hall.
It was evening, supper having ended a few minutes prior. Tavhir stood at the door to Vennson’s study, closed so he could work. Tavhir raised his hand, lightly knocking on the wooden door.
“Who is it?” Vennson called out from the other side.
“Tavhir,” the Pawniard replied.
Tavhir did as instructed, slowly opening the door to walk into Vennson’s study. The room had a completely different feel from the rest of the house. Bookshelves stood against the stone walls, lined with dozens of tomes on history, tactics, and literature. At the back of the room was a large ornate window, offering a gorgeous view over the city of Skyhaven. The sun was just beginning to set, casting an orange glow across the city and illuminating the inside of the study. In front of the window was a desk, covered in various books and scrolls haphazardly scattered across it’s surface, as a tropius, Vennson, gleaned information from them. The room felt more disorganized than the rest of the house, as papers lay scattered across the shelves and books lay in lazily-constructed stacks. Vennson looked busy, but Tavhir only needed a small moment of his time.
“What can I help you with, Tavhir?” Vennson asked, turning his head to meet the Pawniard’s eyes. He bore a friendly smile; as busy as he was, he always had time for his family, and he considered Tavhir as family, even though the latter wouldn’t acknowledge such.
“My instructor today wanted us to go to the library,” Tavhir said quietly. “We’re studying the Third Threat, and she asked us to read up on it before the lesson next week.”
“The Third Threat?” Vennson asked, walking out from behind his desk. He went over to one of the bookshelves, examining the contents. “I’m pretty sure I have a book on that, actually, so you don’t even have to--”
“Actually, Mr. Eldren, sir,” Tavhir interrupted, hoping he wouldn’t offend. “I was meeting a classmate at the library. We were going to study together, if that’s alright.”
“I see,” Vennson said, turning away from the bookshelf. “Very well, you may go. Just be sure to be back before curfew.”
“Of course,” Tavhir answered, nodding his head in approval. “Thank you… father.”
Vennson perked up at that word. He turned towards where Tavhir stood, but the boy had already left. Still, Vennson grinned; perhaps the boy was finally beginning to open up….
Tavhir walked the streets of Skyhaven. The city was quiet and the streets vacant, as the setting sun prompted most people to retire to their homes for the night. Tavhir kept a steady pace as he made his way to the library, the sun shining a brilliant orange glow across the streets. After a few minutes of walking, he saw the library at the end of the street. It was quite impressive, both in architecture and size, several stories filled with various works of literature and writing, both fiction and non-fiction. He looked towards the entrance, seeing a small Cacnea sitting on a bench, a wide grin on her face as she hummed a tune to herself. Upon seeing Tavhir approach, she waved at him to grab his attention.
“You’re late,” she teased, her smile not fading.
“Sorry Irene. I got a little held up at home,” Tavhir said, not picking up on her joke as he rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
“I was only joking, Tavhir,” Irene replied, hopping off the bench and walking to the pawniard’s side.
“Oh, uh, right… I knew that,” Tavhir said, trying to regain his composure. “I was just, ah, well…”
“It’s fine, Tavhir,” Irene interrupted. Seeing Tavhir fumble over his words like he was amused her. She looked over Tavhir, noticing the cuts on his body, her smile fading slightly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,’ Tavhir said quietly. “Just some cuts and bruises. It’s nothing.”
“That was really brave of you to stand up to Francis like that,” Irene complimented, holding her hands behind her back.
“The others don’t seem to think so…” Tavhir confessed, a small frown crossing his face. “Cassandra gave me an earful after the fact.”
“Still, I think it was very sweet,” Irene said, trying to reassure him. “You didn’t have to defend me like that, but you did.”
“I couldn’t just sit there and let that bully harass you,” Tavhir said, feeling comforted by Irene’s words. “I had to do something.”
“And I’m glad you did,” Irene said warmly, putting her arm around Tavhir’s shoulder. “The others may not think so, but you did a good thing. Now come on, let’s go get those books we need.”
“Sure,” Tavhir said. He never knew why, but he felt so different around Irene. He felt a sort of comfort and a sense of peace. They had met during one of their lessons, and became fast friends. No matter how Tavhir was feeling on any particular day, Irene always knew how to cheer him up and make him feel better. Admittedly, he had a crush on her, and he suspected she felt the same way.
They made their way inside the library, entering into a large lobby. A long staircase ascended upwards towards the back of the building, leading to the upper floors, each one filled with hundreds of shelves containing hundreds more books, scrolls, journals, and other materials. Each floor was visible from the ground, having balconies that looked down to the lobby below.
Tavhir and Irene made their way up the stairs to the higher levels, which were mostly empty, as the library dwindled in activity during the later hours of the day. They stopped at the fourth floor, which separated into two separate sections. The left side covered history, while the right side focused on fiction and novels. Since the two were looking for historical books, Tavhir and Irene headed for the left and began searching the shelves.
“Find anything yet?” Tavhir asked Irene, who was searching on the opposite side of the same shelf.
“Not yet,” Irene said. She looked around the area, hoping to find a librarian to help her locate the books in question. She didn’t find one, but she noticed a peculiar looking metang, colored a brilliant white instead of the normal blue. The metang sat at a nearby desk, surrounded by stacks of books, one such book in his hands as he intently focused on his reading.
Irene approached the metang quietly, clearing her throat before speaking up.
“Excuse me, sir?”
“Ahh!” the metang exclaimed, nearly falling backwards in his seat. He reagined his composure somewhat as he turned to address the cacnea. “S-so sorry. You just, ah, startled me…” Irene simply giggled at the metang’s reaction.
“Hehe, sorry about that,” she said. “I was just wondering if you would know where we can find books on The Third Threat.”
“Oh, that?” the metang said, quickly pointing a claw towards a set of shelves in the back. “Uh, I think they’re, ah, over there? Yeah, that’s right… I think… I hope… sorry.”
“That’s fine,” Irene said with a smile, finding the metang’s apparent nervousness amusing. “Come on, Tavhir, let’s go look.”
The two found the shelf that had been pointed out, once again scanning the contents for any relevant materials.
“I think I see something up there,” Tavhir said, looking up at the top shelf. Figures it would be at the very top. “Is there a step ladder around here?”
“Way ahead of you,” Irene said, approaching from the side with a ladder in tow, setting it up in front of the shelf.
“Ladies first,” Tavhir said teasingly.
“Oh? You’re going to make me go way up there and get it myself?” Irene replied jovially, a sly grin on her face. “That’s not very gentlemanly, you know.”
“Well, excuse me, princess,” Tavhir replied sarcastically. Irene stuck her tongue out at Tavhir to tease him. Tavhir quickly ascended the ladder, reaching for the top shelf and grabbing the books they needed.
Irene, feeling slightly mischievous, lightly began to shake the ladder, causing Tavhir to lose his balance.
“Whoa, hey, watch it!” Tavhir said in shock, trying not to fall. Irene didn’t listen, poking the ladder once more. Tavhir lost his footing, falling off the ladder and landing on the floor with a loud thump. Irene burst out laughing, disrupting the silence of the library.
The metang at the desk shot them both an annoyed glance, Irene beginning to settle down once she realized they were being noisy. Tavhir brought himself upright, rubbing his head with an annoyed expression on his face.
“What was that for?” Tavhir said. He wasn’t seriously hurt, just irritated. Irene simply giggled some more.
“Oh come on, I’m just having some fun,” she said with a smile, before walking over and helping him to his feet. “You look cute when you’re irritated.”
Tavhir groaned, trying in vain to hide the blush on his cheeks from her comment. Irene smiled at him, before grabbing his hand and tugging, asking him to follow her.
“Come on, let’s go look around some more. We should get some fun books while we’re here too.”
The sun had vanished from the sky, sinking past the horizon as the moon rose to take it’s place. The streets were dark and quiet, the citizens long having returned to their homes to rest for the night. Tavhir and Irene walked in the light of the moon, laughing loudly as they made their way back home. Irene was trying to finish a joke, but kept losing her words due to laughter. After taking in a deep breath, she resumed.
“And then the Aipom says ‘Whoa man, how much water did you drink!?”
Tavhir and Irene both began to laugh at the punchline. For the first time in a long time, Tavhir felt happy. It was like he was a completely different person, roaming the town at night and telling jokes to pass the time.
The two stopped at a nearby bench, taking a seat as Irene began to rummage through her book sack.
“Alright, so what did you get?” Irene asked, pulling out the books they had rented. They had found their history book, and picked up several fictional novels as well.
“I found ‘The Door in the Dragonite’s throat,’ and ‘Wait for the Siren.’” Tavhir answered, as Irene picked out the two mentioned books and handed them to the pawniard. “What about you?”
“Well, I got ‘The Assist Club,’ and ‘The Shattered Fortress,’” Irene said, holding up the books for Tavhir to see, a large grin on her face. “I can’t wait to start reading these!”
“Me neither,” Tavhir said, smiling back. Irene place the books back in her bag, sighing in relaxation. She looked at Tavhir, placing her hand on his shoulder.
“I had a lot of fun today,” she said warmly. Tavhir looked back at her, nodding.
“Me too,” he replied. He looked up towards the moon, realizing it was nearing time for him to return home. His thoughts shifted from happy to sad, remembering the events at home earlier in the day. He had neglected to apologize to Cassandra for his outburst. His smile slowly faded, feeling guilty over his actions. Irene looked at him with worry, seeing his expression change.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, concerned.
“Cassandra and I got into a fight today,” he started, his voice growing sullen as the memories of their spat returned to him. “I lost my temper, and I said some really terrible things… I think I hurt her feelings. Bad.”
“I’m sorry,” Irene said, wrapping her arm around Tavhir’s shoulder to comfort him. “Did you apologize?”
Tavhir shook his head. “I wanted to, but I was afraid she was still mad at me. She’s probably asleep now. I don’t want her to sleep on hurt feelings….”
“It’s not that late,” Irene said, trying to reassure him. “If you hurry, you might be able to get home in time.”
“Thanks, Irene,” Tavhir said. He quickly gathered his books, hopping off the bench and beginning to head home.
“Hey, Tavhir,” Irene called out. Tavhir stopped and turned around to face her. “We don’t have any lessons tomorrow. Want to get some breakfast at the bakery down the street tomorrow morning?”
Tavhir smiled. He enjoyed spending time with her. “I’d like that.”
“Tomorrow morning then!” Irene beamed, before shooing him away. “Now hurry home! Go make things right!”
Tavhir nodded, turning again and running towards his home. He ran quickly, tightening his grip on his books so as not to drop them. If he hurried, he might be able to catch Cassandra before the day was over. He needed to resolve things today.
After a few minutes, he finally made it to the Eldren’s mansion. The large stone walls were intimidating, causing the house to look more like a small fortress. It stood several stories high, and looking up at the windows, Tavhir could see a light was still on; it was Cassandra’s room. She was still awake!
Tavhir quickly rushed up the stairs to the front door, running inside towards the stairs to the bedrooms above. He ran to his room, placing his books on his bed before running back out towards Cassandra’s room. The light was shining through the bottom of the door, giving Tavhir a sense of relief. He knocked on the door, hoping she would answer.
“Who is it?”
“Tavhir,” he answered. “Can we talk for a moment?”
He heard footsteps approaching the door. The knob turned and opened up, Cassandra looking at Tavhir with a confused expression.
“It’s really late, what is it?” she asked, yawning as she did.
“Listen, Cassandra,” he started, looking down at the floor, feeling too guilty to look her in the face. “I wanted to apologize for what happened earlier today. I lost my temper, and I said some really terrible things. I’m sorry for what I said, and I’m sorry for hurting your feelings….”
Cassandra smiled, thankful that Tavhir had thought to apologize. She bent down to his level, placing her hands on his shoulder and drawing him into a warm hug.
“It’s okay. I forgive you,” she said quietly. They embraced for some time, until Cassandra drew away and looked Tavhir in the eye. “Look, I know it must be hard for you right now, but whatever happens, we’re here for you, no matter what.”
“Thank you,” Tavhir said, feeling comfort at the fact that they had made up. “I didn’t mean what I said… it’s just…”
“I understand,” Cassandra said reassuringly. “Listen. I know you miss them, your family, and no one can ever take their place. We're not trying to replace them. We just want to help you... I just want to help you.”
She drew him in for one last quick embrace before drawing away and standing up. “It’s getting late. We should get some sleep.”
“Indeed,” Tavhir said. “Goodnight, Cassandra... and thank you....” With that, Tavhir turned to head back towards his room.
“Goodnight, Tavhir,” she replied, quietly closing the door to her room as both Tavhir and Cassandra retired for the night.
"You forget, Doctor. I'm the one who asks the riddles..."
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and find myself wanting to read more! I'm a fan of your speech, which flows freely, as well as your ability to create interesting situations without a story too bold and powerful that will leave a reader tired. Family drama and simple conversations between the siblings are enough to keep you hooked, and that's a job well-done for a writer. Last post, tension rises with the conflict of the siblings, but it is all appeased by the slight romance between Tavhir and Irene - and there is also the twist that Tavhir fought with Francis to protect her, and not purely to get back on Francis for taunting him. Tavhir seems to be a character that you can relate and get attached to, and though Irene seems nice and all, she seemed to be taken from a hollywood movie which portrays the typical sweet girl the protagonist would fall for. It's not entirely bad, but I would prefer it if you gave her some depth. I suggest perhaps a slight change in her speech. I liked her mischievous behavior - that's where she showed some character, you know what I mean?
I'm looking forward to seeing more of Vennson, too. Keep it up, well done!
P.S. Pendro showed up too, cool!
|A short-story based on the roleplay "Crimson Dawn: A Tale of Conquest."|
The first rule...
Date: 1055 AP
The moon was just beginning it’s rise over Skyhaven, dimly lighting the streets below with it’s white gaze. The city was silent, save for the occasional gust of wind, as Pokemon slept soundly in their residences. City guard patrolled the streets, though in much smaller numbers than in the day. The city was peaceful enough that what little patrols they had were sufficient. The few citizens up at this hour began to head home. A Riolu and Buneary couple were chatting as they walked down the street; a Metang hurried along, trying to get home before midnight, carrying a sack of books; a Whimsicott skipped merrily down the street, having closed her shop for the day. All of them preparing to retire for the night, along with the rest of the city's inhabitants…
All the inhabitants but one, actually.
In the shadows of the alleys, away from the watchful gaze of the guards, a Pawniard walked; slowly, quietly, his eyes shifting back and forth, making sure he wasn’t being followed. He made some turns down the alleys, turning his head back to check behind him every so often, just in case. The Pawniard had made this trek a few times before, and despite having never been caught - the city far too peaceful and lazy for that to happen - he always felt a sense of paranoia hit him. He hadn’t been caught yet, though if he were discovered, it would not end well.
The Pawniard scanned the path ahead, seeing a large doorway on the wall up ahead, and a familiar face sitting with his legs crossed just beside it: a Scraggy, whom the Pawniard recognized as Trent. Trent appeared to be scribbling something in a notebook, before raising his head and seeing his friend approach. The Scraggy gave a smile and waved, motioning for the Pawniard to come closer.
“Good evening, Tavhir,” he greeted, his smile not fading as Tavhir approached. Trent was one of Tavhir’s school mates, jovial and care-free, but he had his serious side too. The Pawniard was now standing in front of him, as Trent put his notebook down to the side momentarily. “Out for a late night stroll?”
“You could say that,” Tavhir responded. Trent’s friendly tone didn’t ease Tavhir’s paranoia, as he once again turned his head to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He looked back towards Trent, noticing the notebook he had out. “What are you doing up?”
Trent followed his friend’s gaze towards the notebook, picking it up once again and grinning. “Just working on some poetry. I find that I get the best ideas in the peace of the night. It’s relaxing. Oh, since you’re here… you like to read, right? Perhaps you can help me. I can’t quite seem to find the right words for the last line of this poem. Care to give me some ideas?”
Tavhir shrugged, deciding to indulge his friend with his poetry. “I suppose so, but can you make it quick?”
“Right, right. Of course!” Trent said, beaming as he looked over what he had written down on the paper in his hands. He cleared his throat, before assuming a more dignified voice as he read over his poem.
“Proud enough for you to call me arrogant,
greedy enough to be labelled a thief.
Angry enough for me to go and hurt a man…”
Trent trailed off, looking towards Tavhir eagerly, motioning his hand towards the Pawniard. Tavhir thought it over for a bit, before finishing the verse.
“Cruel enough for me to feel no grief.”
A sly grin crept over Trent’s face, giving Tavhir a nod of acceptance.
“Well met, my friend.”
Trent turned towards the door to his right, tapping on it three times. A moment passed, before the door creaked open, nothing to be seen beyond the doorway but pitch black darkness. Tavhir looked over at Trent with an amused expression.
“Was the passphrase really necessary for me?” Tavhir asked. Trent shrugged, laughing slightly at the Pawniard’s question.
“Hey, I’m on guard duty tonight. I gotta ask everybody, even my friends.” Trent raised his hand, pointing down inside the doorway. “Now hurry up, you’ll let in a draft.”
Tavhir did as instructed, walking past Trent as the Scraggy returned to his writing, into the darkness beyond the doorway. It was warmer inside, almost humid, the inside sheltered from the breeze. The door closed quickly behind him, completely snuffing out the light. Tavhir stood still for a moment, before he heard movement to his right. He turned his head to face the sound, though with the room engulfed in darkness he couldn’t see anything.
Without warning, a small flame ignited to illuminate the room as Tavhir brought his hand up to cover his eyes, which had become adjusted to the darkness. After a moment, his vision readjusted, and he saw a small Pansear with a flame in his palm as a light. The Pansear looked at him with a welcoming smile, nodding in greeting.
“Welcome back, Tavhir.”
Tavhir nodded in turn, “Good to be back, Samuel. Lead the way.”
Samuel walked past Tavhir, holding the flame in front of him to light the way as he led the pawniard down a large flight of stairs. As they descended down the steps, the air became more humid, and slightly fetid. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was bearable, at least. The sounds of battle could be heard in the distance, and a small light was visible towards the end of the stairs.
Upon finally reaching the ground level, Tavhir could clearly see the source of the noise. Of course, it was no mystery to him, having made this trip before, yet it always gave him a sense of excitement upon seeing it. Several pokemon were gathered around at the edges of a large room, lit by oil lanterns hanging from the walls. In the center of the room was a small, makeshift arena, the boundaries drawn into the dirt floor, where two pokemon were currently sparring. The room had two doorways on either side, each leading to a separate chamber which could be used for warm-ups and practicing.
This was the place which had simply come to be known as “The Underground.”
It was a simple premise; a small group of pokemon who gathered for recreational fighting. Yet they had to keep themselves hidden; such activities were considered illegal unless they were tightly monitored by the nobles of Skyhaven, and the nobles imposed tight restrictions on the sport, so much so that it became less of a true fight and more of a scripted show. The Underground was what separated the boys from the men, at least in the opinion of it’s proponents. Here, there were no restrictions; man, woman, child, adult, there was no discrimination. If you could fight, and fight well, you were welcome in the circle. Participants fought until they gave up, referred to as “calling out” of the fight.
In the arena, two pokemon, a Breloom and a Skarmory, were currently engaged in a match. The Skarmory eyed her opponent eagerly, quickly lunging herself at the grass-type, but meeting nothing but air. The Breloom dodged the attack and hopped a few steps back away from his opponent. The Skarmory turned angrily, staring her opponent down.
“Come on Eli, you can’t play twinkle-toes forever! You gotta fight back eventually,” the Skarmory taunted, jerking herself forward and throwing out a steel wing attack. The Breloom, Eli, quickly dodged again, evading the attack and circling his opponent.
“Oh, I intend to fight back, Alice,” Eli responded as he weaved his body to and fro, ready to jump at a moments notice. Alice smirked, straightening her neck forward and throwing herself forward in a drill peck. Eli quickly reacted, throwing himself to the right, just so much as to avoid the attack but remain in melee range. No sooner had the attack missed than Eli had thrown out a mach punch in retaliation, hitting Alice’s wing and knocking her off-balance. She tumbled to the ground, and Eli saw his chance. He launched forward at high speed, unleashing a devastating dynamic punch on his downed opponent. Alice was knocked back some distance, rolling just outside the edges of the arena, dazed and confused.
“Had enough?” Eli taunted. Alice panted heavily, trying to reorient herself but failing.
“Alright, alright, you win! Call out!” she exclaimed, and in that instant, the fight was over. A Hitmontop ran to Alice’s side, helping her to her feet and tending to her injuries as a Hitmonchan walked into the center of the arena.
“Your victor: Eli!” the Hitmonchan called out, eliciting an applause from all those gathered around. “Well met, Eli.”
“Heh, it was nothin’,” Eli said with a smile, breathing heavily. “You nearly had me this time, Alice! Good fight, lass!”
“Likewise, friend!” Alice called back with a determined smile. “You better watch out. Next time it won’t be so easy!”
Eli laughed at her comment. “You call that easy? I’d hate to see what you consider a challenge then. You did well.”
Tavhir had already walked in and taken a seat, watching as the battle had unfolded before him. This was his stress relief, a way to release the pent up emotions he had kept inside him; his own personal therapy. Participation wasn’t even necessary for him; he was content to simply stand on the sidelines as a spectator, cheering along with the pokemon beside him.
The Hitmonchan walked over to Eli, gesturing to the crowd. “As you are the victor, you may choose your next opponent.”
Eli smirked as he looked through the crowd. He saw a few eager looking spectators, some practically giddy with anticipation, hoping to be picked by the Breloom. He saw hopefuls both young and old, but one person in particular caught his eye. He looked exceptionally young - couldn’t be more than fifteen or sixteen - but he had a certain look in his eye. Eli couldn’t quite tell what the boy was thinking, but it was nothing short of intriguing.
“You there… young blood.”
Tavhir looked up in surprise, seeing Eli pointing a single red claw at him. “Me?”
“Yes, you. I challenge you.” Eli said, sending Tavhir a cocky, almost daring, glance. The Hitmonchan looked over at Tavhir as well, before Eli spoke up again. “Do you accept?”
“I accept your challenge,” Tavhir said, rising from his seat towards the arena. Eli smirked. Despite his young age, the boy looked confident. The crowd murmured amongst themselves. It wasn’t the fact that Tavhir was young, it was the fact that he was going up against Eli, who was easily his veteran. Eli was well into his thirties, and his unassuming appearance belied his experience. Even though Eli was relatively new to the Skyhaven underground arena, he was able to prove himself from the very beginning, quickly establishing himself as a skilled combatant.
Tavhir entered the arena, standing opposite of Eli as the Hitmonchan spoke up. “You guys know the drill. Use whatever methods at your disposal. When your opponent calls out, you must stand down. Are we clear?”
“Clear,” Eli said, his confidence evident on his expression. “You ready, young blood?”
“I am,” Tavhir said calmly, assuming a battle stance. The Hitmonchan raised a hand, then quickly brought it down.
Tavhir dashed forward in attack, drawing his hands behind him as he rushed to meet his opponent. Eli grinned, quickly side-stepping the pawniard’s attack as Tavhir met with nothing but air. Tavhir stopped in his tracks; he hadn’t expected the Breloom to be so swift, despite having observed him in battle beforehand.
“You’ll have to go a bit quicker than that, friend!”
Tavhir turned to face Eli, quickly spinning around in a horizontal sweep. Eli brought his hands up just in time to block, though the attack managed to cut him slightly. Tavhir followed through, forcing his opponent on the defensive, stepping forward. Each step was accompanied by a violent slash, causing Eli to step back. The Breloom blocked each attack, suffering only minor damage.
Suddenly, as Tavhir lashed out again, Eli grabbed his bladed hand, stopping the pawniard’s attack mid-execution. In one deft motion, the breloom forcibly flung Tavhir’s arm in the opposite direction, breaking the younger mon’s guard before retaliating with a powerful Counter technique.
Tavhir was sent flying away, before he ended up sprawled on the ground. Eli smirked, wiping sweat from his brow as the Pawniard slowly rose back to his feet.
“Persistent lad, aren’t ya?” he called out. Tavhir grumbled, dusting himself off as Eli resumed his combat stance.
”Damn,” Tavhir swore. Normally, when he participated in these battles, he would overpower his opponent with a pure offensive. And normally, it worked, his opponents unprepared for a relentless onslaught. However, this man was clearly well-versed in the art of combat and self-defense, able to effortlessly block and redirect his attacks. Tavhir thought for a moment, both him and Eli staring each other down; he’d have to switch up his tactics if he wanted to succeed.
Both pokemon circled each other, waiting for their opponent to make the first move, engaged in a staring contest. Eli kept that same coy smirk plastered on his face; Tavhir furrowed his brow in irritation at Eli’s confidence.
“You know, one of us is going to have to attack eventually,” Tavhir taunted, trying to coax the Breloom out of his defense. Eli chuckled slightly at his comment.
“I’m waiting,” Eli replied confidently, a hint of challenge in his tone. Tavhir grunted in frustration, before dashing forward towards Eli once more. He’d show that smug Breloom an attack, all right.
He brought his hands back once more, preparing for a Metal Claw as he lunged straight towards the breloom. He squared in, focusing intently on Eli, noticing the Breloom’s feet shifting in preparation for a dodge. Tavhir smirked… he was ready for it, this time.
Just as the pawniard was about to make contact, Eli dodged again towards the right. As soon as he did, Tavhir quickly side-stepped to follow, swinging at Eli’s new position. Just as Tavhir was sure he would hit his target, Eli quickly dashed backwards, surprising Tavhir with his agility. The Metal Claw swung at the empty air, and before Tavhir could even regain his footing, Eli retaliated, unleashing a Mach Punch at the pawniard full force.
Tavhir reeled backwards, tumbling some distance back before stopping. He was in pain now, and now matter what he did, he couldn’t seem to even land a decent hit on the breloom. Eli was just too fast for him…
“Call out!” Tavhir said, rising shakily to his feet. Eli dropped his combat stance, standing up straight and giving Tavhir a bow of respect.
“Your victor: Eli!” the Hitmonchan once again called out, more applause coming from the spectators. Tavhir, though still bitter over his embarrassing defeat, stood up straight, returning Eli’s gesture with a bow of his own. He took his leave of the ring, heading towards the side room to recuperate.
“You win again, Eli,” the hitmonchan spoke. “Up for another round?”
“No, I’ll let someone else have fun,” Eli replied, sounding as if he wasn’t paying attention fully. His eyes followed the pawniard as he left. There was something about that boy that bore further investigation. “If you’ll excuse me….”
Eli left the ring, following after Tavhir. The hitmonchan took center stage again, calling out to the fighters. “Alright, we’ve not much time left, so make these next rounds count. Who’s next?”
A few minutes passed after the fight, Tavhir waiting in the side-room to regain his vitality and nurse his wounds. He had a few bruises here and there; nothing major, but he had to take care and clean himself up before arriving home if he wanted to keep this a secret from his family. He sat on a small bench, wiping himself off with a small, damp rag. The side room was mostly empty, save for a small remnant of fighters, conversing over the days activities as some of the pokemon began to head home for the night. They’d all be back next time, sometime in the next week. The club’s meetings were sporadic, randomizing the days to make detection more difficult.
“So, tell me,” a voice said. Tavhir looked up, as he presumed the voice was directed towards him. He was correct, seeing Eli standing a few feet away, keeping his gaze fixed on him. “What’s an Eshirian child doing all the way out here in Skyhaven?”
Tavhir paused, surprised that the man apparently knew of his origins. Did Tavhir know this person? He was fairly certain that he didn’t… he had never met any Shroomish or Breloom during his time here. He looked at Eli quizzically. “What do you mean?”
“Your fighting style,” Eli replied, walking closer towards where Tavhir sat. “Though it’s been muddled by the Hesperian ways, your combat style still shows traces of an Eshirian flair. Not to mention that a Pawniard is not exactly a common sight in Skyhaven.” He motioned towards the vacant seat next to Tavhir. “Mind if I have a seat?”
Tavhir nodded, welcoming the Breloom to sit next to him. Eli smiled, taking a seat next to the boy, turning his head to face him. “So, am I right? Or am I just an old ‘mon losing his marbles already?” Eli gave a hearty laugh at his own joke. Tavhir simply looked down at the floor; he wasn’t used to talking about his past… he rarely did it with people he knew well, and certainly didn’t share with complete strangers. However, this Breloom has already deduced his origin; there was no sense in denying it now.
Tavhir shook his head slowly in response to Eli’s question. “I’m not from here, no.”
“Aha, I knew it!” Eli said jovially. “I just knew there was something different about you. It wasn’t until we started our battle that I could see what it was.” He placed a hand on Tavhir’s shoulder as a friendly gesture. “So, young blood: what are you doing so far from home?”
Tavhir frowned slightly. He wasn’t comfortable talking about it, even with close friends. In fact, he wasn’t sure anybody really knew aside from his adopted family. “I was… relocated here, a long time ago.”
“I see,” Eli said, before asking another question. “Your parents forced to move here, I suppose?”
Tavhir nodded. It wasn’t entirely truthful, but it was a forced move, to be sure. “You could say that.”
“Trouble back home in Ascanfell?”
“That’s one way to put it.”
Eli nodded, sensing Tavhir’s reluctance. It was apparent that this was a touchy subject, and it wasn’t important for him to know regardless. Eli thought for a moment, before shifting the topic. “So how did you find out about this place?”
“A friend of mine told me,” Tavhir said with a shrug, referring to Trent. “His brother comes here a lot, and he said it would be good stress relief.”
“Aye, I see,” Eli said. “Nothing wrong with getting out those pent-up feelings, though there are multiple different avenues for relieving stress. Any particular reason you chose this one?”
Tavhir thought over the answer. This Breloom was certainly pointed with his questioning, wasn’t he? “I picked this one so that I could get stronger, honestly.”
“Ah, strength,” Eli said, looking up as if reminiscing about some past event. “Strength..." he repeated, "A noble pursuit, in most cases. Why do you wish to gain strength?”
Tavhir began to grow slightly irritated. “Why do you wish to know? I want to become stronger. Do I need any other reason?”
Eli shrugged. “Because only a savage brute desires strength for strength’s sake. I do not think you are a savage brute…” He turned once more to face the Pawniard. “... are you?”
“No…” Tavhir said.
“Most people desire strength in order to accomplish some goal,” Eli continued. “Whether it’s to better prepare themselves for upcoming trials, or to protect themselves or the ones they love. What is your reason for strength?”
Tavhir groaned. It was apparent that Eli wasn’t going to give up on his questioning. “I need to become stronger so I…” he paused, thinking back on his home. “... so I can go back home.”
“Back home to Ascanfell? To your people?”
Tavhir nodded. “If I become strong, I can prove myself worthy of going back home. They’ll only recognize me if I am strong enough.”
“Understandable,” Eli said. “The Eshirian people definitely have a certain admiration for strength and ability.” Eli paused for a moment, trying to decide how best to phrase his next question. “But I have to wonder, and please, do not take offense, but… what makes you think they would want you back?”
Tavhir looked up at Eli, almost insulted that he was even suggest such a thing. “What do you mean? Of course they would want me back! I’m an Eshirian by birth, and if I can prove my strength, then they’ll be forced to recognize me! They’ll have to accept me!”
“Do you have any family in Ascanfell?” Eli asked.
“No, but that’s--”
“Any friends? Contacts? Acquaintances?”
“... no…” Tavhir replied solemnly.
“So then, if I’m understanding this correctly, you, for all intents and purposes a Hesperian, with no friends or relatives to speak of residing in Ascanfell, desire to dwell amongst the Eshirians? And to accomplish this, you have only your strength in combat to prove your worth?”
Tavhir stopped, his gaze falling down to the ground yet again. He hadn’t even considered how his circumstances might have looked to the Eshirians. It had been so long since he last dwelled among them… long enough to forget his own people’s ways, it would seem.
“I’m sorry, lad,” Eli said, placing a hand on Tavhir’s shoulder for comfort. “I don’t mean to dash your hopes… it’s just that, given your circumstances - even if you were to prove your strength - I doubt the people of Ascanfell would welcome you back with open arms. They aren’t exactly fond of Hesperians, even if they are strong.”
Tavhir expression showed defeat, closing his eyes as he let out a sigh. He didn’t belong in Skyhaven, that much he was sure of. Now, the one thing he had hoped for was apparently not feasible. What was he supposed to do? Just accept it, give up his heritage, and become a Hesperian?
”Absolutely not,” Tavhir said to himself. That was not going to happen. He was far too stubborn to do that. But the question came back… what exactly was he going to do? He looked at Eli questioningly. “How exactly do you know this?”
“I’m a traveler,” Eli said, looking out into the distance. “Been around many parts of this place we call Exathor. Once stopped by Ascanfell, too, though the Eshirians were…” he paused, “less-than-hospitable, you could say. They still bear grudges against certain nationalities.”
“Are you Hesperian, then?” Tavhir asked.
“Hah, goodness no!” Eli said with a hearty laugh. “No, young blood. I couldn’t stand being born in this stuffy, uptight city, let alone living in it. All those bureaucrats and nobles with their rules and regulations…”
Tavhir couldn’t help but grin along with Eli. “You got that right.”
Eli placed a hand the boy’s shoulder. “I imagine that’s why you want to leave? This place too strict compared to your home?”
Tavhir nodded, his expression growing neutral once more. “That’s right. But what am I supposed to do now? If I can’t go back to Ascanfell…”
Eli thought over it for a moment, before posing another question for the pawniard. “Well, you’re clearly proficient in combat; I can attest to that personally. And growing up here in this city of upstanding citizens, I imagine you have a pretty good head on your shoulders, no? Well educated?”
“You could say that, I guess,” Tavhir said with a shrug. “Though I don’t do as well in my lessons as I ought to.”
“Understandable,” Eli said, nodding. “Tell me, young blood, have you ever considered the Gold Tribe?”
Tavhir looked up, puzzled, shaking his head. “No, I haven’t. I don’t really think that’s for me, though…”
“Don’t be so sure,” the Breloom replied. “The Gold Tribe is more than just a standard military. They come from all walks of life, all nationalities, united under one common cause. Honorable warriors, all of ‘em. I’ve known quite a few people who’ve taken that path; it’s a real eye-opener, to be sure. Plus, it would afford you a chance to leave the city.”
... all walks of life, all nationalities, united under one common cause. The phrase stuck in Tavhir’s mind. “I never thought about it like that,” Tavhir said, fiddling with his hands as he thought over the situation. Would that really be something he could do? Would that be something he’d want to do? He wasn’t sure, honestly, but it was something he would give some more thought to.
“Give it some thought, lad,” Eli said, patting the pawniard’s back. “It’s not an easy decision, of course, but I think something like that would do you good.” Eli glanced around, seeing that the room they were in was nearly empty as all the other ‘mon had packed up and begun to leave. “We should get going.”
“Yeah, we should,” Tavhir said, rising from his seat. He looked up towards the Breloom, speaking up once again. “Any chance I can find you here next time?”
“Well,” Eli replied, tapping his chin in pensive thought. “For the time being, I’ve got nowhere else to go. I s’pose I could come by again…” he grinned, looking down at Tavhir again. “You up for a rematch, young blood?”
Tavhir laughed. “You know it.”
“Then I humbly accept your challenge,” Eli said, beaming. "By the way, I never caught your name, lad."
"Tavhir," the Pawniard responded.
"A pleasure to meet you, Tavhir," Eli said with a small bow. "My name is Eli, if you haven't guessed by now." He laughed at his own comment, before motioning towards the exit, "let's go." With that, the two departed the underground, heading back up to the surface and heading their separate ways.
Tavhir began to walk back, thinking over their conversation. Gold Tribe wasn't something he had considered. He had heard stories about their exploits, and even had some lessons on them for history, but he never really paid them much thought. He was mainly focused on going back to Ascanfell, somehow, though now it seemed that avenue had been closed. Even still, from what he had heard of the Gold Tribe, they were all noble, honorable warriors, fully devoted to keeping the peace on Exathor and protecting the innocent. Was that a standard he could live up to? Could he consider himself a noble warrior? He didn't feel like it... he was far to brash and impatient to consider himself as any sort of protector or brave defender. Perhaps, if he were to pursue the Gold Tribe though... could he be taught? Yes... maybe? He wasn't sure, but he resolved to research the matter further. Perhaps he could ask Vennson about it, as well. At the moment, he was nearing his home, and it was getting far too late for him to be awake. For now, he would sleep, but tomorrow, and the days following, he would look into this option personally.
"You forget, Doctor. I'm the one who asks the riddles..."