The orchestra started an ominous theme as the lights came up on the set of the royal apartments. "How is she earning the attention we so rightfully deserve?" the blue-clad Pikachu complained.
"I don't know--I wasn't the one that summoned the fairy here!" the male Raichu shot back.
"Everyone, please!" the female Raichu interjected. "I have an idea...remember the big race tomorrow?"
"Yeah...let's have Kiiro ride the wildest Ponyta we can find!" the red clad Pikachu suggested.
The male Raichu nodded "Prince Mamoru will have no Ponyta to exchange this time..."
"Boo"s filled the air as the lights came up on the simple room. A knock startled Lita awake. "Permission to serve lunch?" a female voice asked.
"Lunch?" Lita gasped. "Oh Arceus, it is nearly noon! I'd better not keep Prince Mamoru waiting!"
"After eating the simple meal, Kiiro quickly got dressed." Brenna narrated as the lights went down , hiding Lita changing into another costume. "She was dressed in pale yellow riding togs, embroidered in the front and at the hem with rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Her hat was of white velvet, ornamented with plumes of a thousand colors, taken from the plumage of the rarest bird Pokemon and attached by a sapphire larger than an egg. On her neck was a chain of sapphires, at the end of which was a watch, the face of which was opal, the back a carved sapphire and the glass diamond. This watch was always going, never was more than a minute fast or slow, and never required winding."
More cheers filled the air as the lights came up on the ballroom set, where Lita met the Luxio in the costume Brenna described. "Well, dear princess, what did Hikari say to you?" the Luxio asked.
"That which my heart desired, milord." Lita replied. "I give my life to you as you have dedicated yours to me."
"Thank you! Thank you, a thousand times over, Kiiro!" the Luxio smiled as he joyfully hugged Lita. "When may I ask your hand of the king your father?"
"At the close of the races, milord." Lita replied
"Permit me to add to my first petition that in addition being married to you this very day, I cannot bear to see you subjected to the tyranny of your family and I wish to take you to my kingdom as soon as possible." the Luxio requested.
"Accept, Kiiro--Mamoru truly loves you, and wishes to see you safe." Lita heard the Dedenne say from offstage.
The Dedenne than appeared before the Luxio. "Press the marriage, milord, and speak to the king without delay. Kiiro's life is in danger, and I'm not sure if I will be able to reach her if something evil befalls her."
The Luxio froze as the Dedenne disappeared. "K-kiiro, did you hear that?"
"Every word." Lita replied. "Hikari gave us a warning we must not ignore." She let that hang as the lights went down.
The lights came up on the set of a fantasy racetrack. The Luxio noticed a "dancing" Ponyta puppet, and held Lita close. "You will not ride this Pokemon, princess. See how wild it is?"
He made a grand gesture to an ornately decorated shining Ponyta puppet. "Here is your mount."
"Allow Kiiro to mount this Ponyta; she is a present from me." the Dedenne told the Luxio from offstage. "Follow her wherever she takes Kiiro--she must be safe in your kingdom before the day is done."
The orchestra started an exciting melody as the lights went down, and the puppeteers brought to life what Brenna described. "A few moments later, Ponytas ridden by veiled Pikachus advanced in front of Kiiro. One of them shoved Kiiro so hard, she would have been sent flying if it were a mortal Ponyta. The veiled Pikachu was thrown upon the rocks, where she remained immovable while Kiiro, who had recognized Homura, tried to stop her own Ponyta. The other rider shoved against Kiiro, was sent flying like the first and the veiled woman was also thrown upon the rock, which seemed meant to receive her all along."
"Go, flee quickly!" the Dedenne warned from a spotlight, seemingly alongside the two Ponyta puppets. "The king is pursuing you with a great company to kill you both. The sun will set in a few hours. I barely have time to rescue you from this danger so give my Ponytas the reins; Mamoru, abandon Tsubasa."
"Right!" The Luxio replied as he jumped onto the shining Ponyta puppet with Lita.
The audience held their breaths as the orchestra played. But after five heart-pounding minutes, cheers went up as the lights revealed a beautiful fantasy kingdom set. "After six long and grueling hours, they arrived at the gates of Prince Mamoru's kingdom, Violight." Brenna narrated as a crowd of extras welcomed Lita and the Luxio. "The whole palace was lit up in millions of sparkling lights, and all the courtiers were waiting at the entrance in their most magnificent costumes to welcome the princess and the prince. Prince Mamoru and Kiiro were amazed, not knowing what to make of this unexpected reception."
The Luxio gasped when he saw the Dedenne. "Hikari!"
"Welcome home." the Dedenne smiled. "Prince Mamoru, come with me; all is prepared for the wedding. Show Kiiro to her room that she may change, while I explain to you why things have happened as they have."
"Right away!" the Luxio smiled before escorting Lita offstage.
The orchestra started a soft victory theme as the lights came up on the Luxio and the Dedenne in an elegant royal suite. "The hatred of the king and queen against Kiiro had become so intense that they had blindly resolved to defy my warning and get rid of Kiiro." the Dedenne explained. "Seeing that their cunning arrangements in the race had not succeeded after I substituted my Ponytas for those which would have killed Kiiro, they resorted to violence."
"What?" the Luxio gasped.
"The king employed a band of thieves, who swore to him in blind obedience; they pursued your steps with vengeance in their hearts and as the king knew your love for Kiiro and foresaw that you would defend her to the end, he resolved to sacrifice you too to his hatred." the Dedenne went on. "Homura and Sora, ignorant of this last project of the father, attempted to kill Kiiro, as you have seen, by ramming their mounts against Kiiro's mount. I have punished them as they deserved--they have had their faces so crushed and wounded by the stones that they have become frightful to look at. I have aroused them from unconsciousness, and cured their wounds but left the hideous scars behind. I have deprived them of all their rich clothing, dressed them like peasants, and married them off to two brutal good-for-nothings whom I told to beat and mistreat them until their wicked hearts are changed—something I believe will never take place."
"A fitting punishment..." the Luxio muttered.
"As for the king and queen, I have transformed them into Pokemon of burden, and given them to wicked and cruel masters who will make them suffer all their brutality to Kiiro many times over." the Dedenne explained. "I have but one piece of advice to give you, milord; you are not to utter a word of the punishment I have inflicted to Kiiro. She is so good and tender-hearted that her happiness would be affected by it, but I cannot and will not take pity upon wicked people whose hearts are so vicious and unrepentant."
"Thank you, Hikari--I promise I will not utter a word of your judgement to Kiiro." the Luxio smiled. "She will not be troubled by her evil family any more."
"Now then, let us meet your lovely bride." the Dedenne agreed.
Wild cheers went up when they saw Lita in a magnificent costume. "Kiiro was dressed in dazzling golden velvet, embroidered with garlands of flowers and birds, in stones of many colors, of admirable beauty; the jewels which formed the birds were so disposed as to produce, at every motion of Kiiro, a singing more melodious than the sweetest music. A crown of flowers made of gems still more beautiful and rare than those on her robe sat on her head. Her neck and arms were covered with rubies more brilliant than the sun."
She went on over the orchestra's victorious theme "Prince Mamoru presented his hand to Kiiro, and Hikari went on before them. They walked towards the shrine, which was brilliantly illuminated and here they received their wedding vows, with Arceus, and all of Violight as their witnesses."
"Aw"s filled the air as Lita and the Luxio kissed on a magnificent shrine set, to cheers from the extras. "At the height of the wedding festivities, Prince Mamoru presented the new queen to his court." Brenna concluded as the curtains closed on the happy scene. "Everybody found her as charming and good as the prince, and they vowed to love her as they loved him. They all lived happily ever after in the greatest happiness and love."
The theater exploded in applause as the lights came up for the curtain call...
"Our performance in Silver Town puts us at the Silver Rank!" Ruby smiled as the group and their caravan--now with even more excited actors and crew--made their way up Citron Pass. It had been a few days since their successful performance in Silver Town--"The Legend of Kiiro" had won the hearts of the press and the townsfolk. But now, the band of actors was climbing Mt. Citron for what they believed to be their biggest challenge yet--performing for Zapdos and the Pokemon of Mt. Citron.
Lita just smiled at the glittering silver badge Ruby carried. "They say that performing for the Legendaries speeds up the rank up process, so performing for the three mountain guardians and Lugia should at least get us to the Gold rank, if not higher."
"What about Xatu of the Great Canyon?" Shimmer wondered. "Surely he too would appreciate a fine show..."
"As a Psychic type, Xatu would turn away troupes he feels are not good enough." Lita cautioned. "But he learns of good shows even from the Legendaries. So if we do well for Zapdos, Xatu might hear of it, and allow us to perform."
"Here's hoping..." Brenna sighed as the caravan approached a bend in the path, where two Manetrics stood guard at the road leading to the peak.
"Hold! You are approaching Citron Peak, where the great Zapdos roosts." one Manetric announced.
"Please state your business at the peak." the other Manetric requested.
"Good sirs, we are but a humble troupe of actors traveling around the world." Lita explained to the two blue dog Pokemon with spiky, yellow manes and yellow tufts of fur on their haunches and front feet. "May we have the honor of performing for the great Zapdos?"
The Manetric's stern looks softened. "It is not often that actors journey up into these harsh peaks..." one smiled.
"You may enter the peak--we will prepare the Stormy Stage for your performance." the other Manetric replied.
"Sir Zapdos is away bringing rain to the eastlands right now..." the first Manetric explained as he led the group and their caravan to the peak. "Should he return while you set up, I will inform him you wish to perform for him."
"Thank you, good sirs." Lita smiled as the caravan approached an alcove with a rock like stage inside. Every once in a while, the rock pulsed with electricity, giving the structure an ethereal blue sheen.
"At least we won't have to worry about lighting..." Charlotte smiled as she helped unload the costumes.
The whooshing of wings got the group's attention. "Zapdos!" Lita gasped as a majestic yellow and black bird with thick thunderbolt like wings elegantly circled down to a large perch overlooking the peak and the Stormy Stage.
It has been some time since the Stormy Stage has been awakened. Zapdos smiled, his voice powerful and yet gentle. The Pokemon in the valley have spoken of a highly promising young troupe...are you the ones they speak of?
Lita nodded. "We are, Great Stormbringer. If it pleases you, we would like to share our skills with you."
All right...what sort of performance have you prepared? Zapdos asked as he watched a fantasy house set take shape on the Stormy Stage.
"It is a tale entitled 'Destrian and the Stolen Treasure', milord." Lita explains. "Basically, a boy encounters three magical treasures while on a journey to find his three sisters. He then uses these to save a kingdom from the terrifying water dragon, Leviathan."
Zapdos' feathers pulsed with excited sparks. Inform the Pokemon of the mountain to gather here at the peak. he instructed one of the Manetrics. They too deserve to see this troupe perform.
"Yes, milord!" the Manetric replied before hurrying off down the mountain path.
Lita and Ruby looked at each other and smiled as the Pokemon of the mountain started to arrive. "You ready?" she asked as throngs of Growlithes, Nidorans, and Electrikes arrived to watch the Stormy Stage take shape.
Ruby nodded as Electabuzzes, Stantlers, Beedrill, and Ampharos joined the growing audience. "My first britches role, and I can't wait."
Lita smiled as some Pidgeottos and Gligars perched on outcroppings overlooking the Stormy Stage. "Whether I'm a hero or a princess, I'll always be happy to perform with you."
The crowd of Pokemon applauded as Shimmer departed backstage, and the orchestra started a quiet overture. "There was once a king who wasted his money on wine, women, and games of chance." Brenna began from a nook at stage right. "Before long, all his money was gone. But he knew that he would have to get more somewhere, for he wished to continue in his evil ways. So over time, he sold each of his three daughters in exchange for money."
Angry whispers floated over the overture at this. "Like you guys, the people of the land were outraged that the three princesses were sold to strangers." Brenna assured the antsy crowd and Zapdos. "No one knew where they had gone or what had become of them. Their mother often cried over them. Only her son, whose name was Destrian, was left with her."
"Aw"s filled the air as the overture turned sad. "The king soon got his just desserts of his wicked life, but he had not used up all the money he had received for Princess Christina, and left some of it behind." Brenna continued. "When Destrian grew up, he started school. His mother had told him nothing of his three lost sisters. But his schoolmates told him, for they had heard their parents talk about them..." She let that hang as the overture ended and the lights came up on the fantasy house set. A Cinderace in in a simple red peasant woman costume feigned cooking in the kitchen.
"Mom?" Ruby called from offstage. "I'm home!"
"Welcome home, Destrian...how was school today?" the Cinderace smiled as Ruby--now in a simple red tunic and leggings to match--arrived in the scene.
Ruby sighed. "My classmates won't leave me alone! They tell me each of my three sisters was sold to strangers for money...and I want to know if that is true or not. If it is true, I want to find them."
The Cinderace was silent as the orchestra started a sad melody. "It's true....they were each sold to a stranger for a high price. Your father lived a life of excess, and wished to continue wasting his money on wine, women, and song."
She looked up at Ruby with feigned tears. "But now...I don't know where in the world my girls are! What if they were sold to evil people, or worse, monsters???" With that, she burst into convincing stage sobs.
"Take heart, Mom--I will venture forth into the world, and find my sisters--or die trying!" Ruby vowed as the orchestra's song turned hopeful. "Even if I have to go to the very ends of the world to find them, I will not rest until I see they are safe."
"All right..." the Cinderace replied as she dried her feigned tears. "I will have enough supplies for three weeks waiting for you in the morning."
She hugged Ruby as the lights went down. "Be safe, my son..."
The orchestra started a quiet interlude as the lights came up on a forest set. "It's so quiet out here..." Ruby mused as she entered the scene. "A quiet forest can be a good thing...or it can be a really bad thing! What if there's a Mightyena or an Ursaring around the next bend?"
Some voices arguing in the distance snapped Ruby to attention. "Someone must be having a big fight...whoever these people are, let me see if I can solve their problem!"
"As he walked along the forest path, Destrian discovered three bandits sitting on a patch of grass under the trees fighting about something." Brenna narrated as Ruby approached an Umbreon, a Zorua, and a Sneasel in ragged garb feigning an argument.
"What seems to be the problem?" Ruby asked, snapping the three Dark types playing bandits to attention.
"We have here a coat, a sword, and a pair of shoes which have magical power." the Sneasel explained. "The coat can make its wearer invisible; the shoes can make the wearer run faster than the wind; and the sword can overcome all enemies."
"We cannot agree on how to divide the loot." the Umbreon sighed. "Please be the judge in our dispute and decide for us."
Ruby nodded. "I will be happy to decide the question, but first let me think about it a little so I can make the fairest decision."
"The bandits went to work fixing dinner. One gathered wood for a fire; another went to a stream for water; and the third looked after the food." Brenna narrated as the Sneasel, the Umbreon, and the Zorua feigned cooking. "When their backs were all turned, he put on the coat and shoes and took the sword. In moments he was invisible, and the bandits had no idea they'd been had."
Even Zapdos laughed at Ruby sneaking up on the items and disappearing. "Destrian raced down the road, and before long he stood before a very large house." Brenna narrated as the lights came up on a majestic house exterior set.
"Hello, anyone here?" Ruby called as she arrived in the scene. "Is the lady of the house here, at least?"
"I'm here!" A second Scorbunny in a dull gold costume met Ruby onstage. "What's your business here?"
"Orla, my sister....do you remember me?" Ruby asked.
The gold clad Scorbunny balked in surprise as the orchestra started a joyous melody. "Destrian! Is it really you?" she asked as she and Ruby embraced, to some "aw"s from the audience.
"After I heard you were sold to a stranger for money, I had to come find you." Ruby explained. "But who was the stranger you were sold to?"
"He is a great wizard of the sea who can do wonderful deeds." the gold clad Scorbunny explained. "He should be here soon--then I can give you a proper introduction."
Just then, a Wartortle in a sparkling silver and blue robe materialized in a cloud of mist. "Who is this with you, Orla? I was not told we were having guests..."
"This is my brother, Destrian." The gold clad Scorbunny gestured to Ruby, who waved hello. "He came all this way to see me."
The Wartortle smiled. "Well met, Sir Destrian. Please, make yourself at home."
The lights went down over a quiet interlude. When they came up again, the Wartortle offered Ruby a glowing prop sapphire. "This has very wonderful power. If you ever get into trouble, sing to it 'Rou iitsa ron selga vichii' and it will bring you aid from the sea."
"Rou iitsa ron selga vichii--got it!" Ruby smiled. "I promise to use this gift wisely and well."
The lights went down as Ruby departed offstage. "Before long, Destrian found himself at the home of his second sister, Ariana." Brenna narrated as Ruby arrived in front of another majestic house set.
She went on as Ruby, a Grovyle in a red and gold robe, and a silver clad Scorbunny acted out what she described. "Like her elder sister, she did not recognize him at first, until he called her by name. She told him that her husband was a great wizard of the land. Soon her husband came home and greeted him kindly, and they had a happy time together for many days."
She let that hang as Ruby prepared to exit the stage again. "Before you go, please take this gem as a gift from me." the Grovyle told Ruby as he gave her a glowing prop ruby. "This has great power. If you ever get into trouble, sing to it 'Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul' and it will bring you help from the red earth."
"Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul...--got it!" Ruby smiled. "I promise to use this gift wisely and well."
The orchestra started another interlude as Ruby departed again. "Then Destrian found himself at the home of his youngest sister, Christina." Brenna narrated as she watched a pale blue clad Scorbunny, a Pidgeotto with a sparkling green cloak, and Ruby act what she described on the set of a third house. "She too did not recognize him at first; but when he called her by name, she knew that he was her brother, and he found that her husband was a great wizard of the sky. He was welcomed by the sky wizard, and Destrian stayed with them a long time."
The lights game up on Ruby and the blue clad Scorbunny in the den of the house. "Christina...I believe Arceus is calling me to seek a bride." Ruby mused. "Your beloved has flown all over the world, I'd wager...has he found where the most beautiful princess in the world is?"
"Well...he tells me that in a land far away lives a very rich king who has two beautiful daughters." the blue clad Scorbunny replied. "Would you like me to use the Crystal of Seeing to show them to you?" she asked, starting towards a crystal ball on an ornate pedestal. "This is how my husband knows what is going on in the world when it is too dangerous to fly."
"Are you sure you're allowed to use the Crystal of Seeing?" Ruby wasn't so sure.
The blue clad Scorbunny nodded. "All you have to do is tell the crystal who or what it is you want to see. If you just want to see all that is going on the world, just tell it 'I want to see the world'."
"What are the names of these two princesses?" Ruby asked.
"Alma and Perla are their names." the blue clad Scorbunny replied.
"I'd like to see Princess Alma and Princess Perla...please." Ruby nervously stammered.
Even Zapdos was amazed as the crystal ball glowed, revealing the image of a normal and Shiny Sylveon in royal garb greeting their subjects as they walked down a street. "Hm...while both of them are very beautiful and pure of heart, I will try to win Perla's hand first." Ruby mused as the image faded away.
The lights came up on the house exterior, where the Pidgeotto and the blue clad Scorbunny were seeing Ruby off. "Christina told me everything." the Pidgeotto explained. "Before you depart on your quest, take this--it is a gift from me."
With that, he dropped a glowing emerald into Ruby's hands. "This has wonderful power. If you ever get into trouble, sing to it 'Karuto, iichiida shou...' and it will bring you help from the sky."
"Karuto, iichiida shou...--got it!" Ruby smiled. "I promise to use this gift wisely and well."
"Farewell, Destrian!" the Pidgeotto called as he and the blue clad Scorbunny waved goodbye. "May Arceus grant you His favor on your noble quest!"
The orchestra started a regal melody as Brenna narrated "Destrian soon found himself at the castle of the rich king. Before going to the castle, he went to a house on the outskirts of the town where two women lived."
The lights came up on a set of a large cabin, where Lita and a Shinx met Ruby. "Welcome, traveler." Lita smiled. "What brings you here to our fair city?"
"My name is Destrian, good ladies." Ruby replied. "I have come from afar to seek the king's younger daughter, Perla."
"The king's elder daughter, Princess Alma, is to be wed tomorrow, but she will not live long with her husband." the Shinx sighed.
"Why not?" Ruby asked as the orchestra started a sad melody.
"Have you not heard of the Giant of the Sea, Leviathan?" the Shinx asked.
"No, I have not." Ruby replied.
"They took him to the window, and pointed to a high cliff far across the sea. The waves were crashing at its base, and the spray dashed high on its side. But he could see an entrance in the face of the cliff." Brenna narrated as Lita and Ruby pantomimed what she described.
"In that cave lives the water dragon Leviathan, the Giant of the Sea." Lita explained. As soon as a girl is married in this land, he carries her off to the cave and she is never heard from again. He cannot be killed, for he keeps his heart hidden where no one can find it. He is the terror of all the land."
"He may keep his heart hidden, but I will find out where the heart is hidden, and slay Leviathan!" Ruby vowed over a hopeful melody. "Either that, or die trying!"
"If you can defeat Leviathan, it would bring this realm peace." the Shinx smiled. "Even more so if the missing girls were found alive."
Ruby nodded. "Leave it to me! I'll find a way!"
Awed chatter filled the air as the lights came up on a beautifully decorated shrine set. "The next morning, Destrian went on to the castle to see the wedding of Princess Alma." Brenna narrated as the wedding procession paraded inside the set. "The wedding was a grand affair, and there was much rejoicing, for the people did not think that the sea dragon would carry off Princess Alma. But during the wedding feast, Princess Alma vanished without a trace." She let that hang as the lights went down and "Here Comes the Bride" came to a halt.
"Alma! Alma, where are you?" a Jolteon called as he frantically searched a set of a royal hall. "I've searched this entire castle from top to bottom, and I can't find Princess Alma anywhere."
"That's because Leviathan has taken her." a Leafeon playing a maid sighed.
"Many a brave hero has tried to slay Leviathan, but so far, all have failed." an Umbreon playing a noble agreed. "Arceus have mercy on the poor girls..."
"Aw"s filled the peak as the lights came up on a throne room set, where Ruby bowed on one knee before the Flareon playing the king. "Your Majesty...I have come from afar seeking the hand of your younger daughter. Princess Perla."
The Flareon balked at this. "What good will it do you to marry her? You know she will be carried off by the Giant of the Sea, Leviathan!"
"But I can kill that big ol' water dragon." Ruby smiled, to some giggles as she struck a heroic pose.
"How?" the Flareon asked. "No one can do that!"
"On my travels around this world, I met three great wizards, who granted me three magical stones." Ruby explained. "I also managed to recover three magic items from the clutches of bandits."
"What sort of treasure?" The Flareon was interested.
"One was a coat that can make its wearer invisible." Ruby explained. "Another was a pair of shoes that can make the wearer run faster than the wind. The third was a sword that can overcome all enemies--not even the primal dragon Eternatus can stand against the one that wields it!"
She vowed "You have my word I will use my treasures to defeat Leviathan and bring back Princess Alma and the other lost girls, or die trying. I also promise to be faithful to Princess Perla, now and forever."
The Flareon smiled. "Very well, Destrian. I give my heartiest blessings on your marriage. May Perla be faithful to you, now and forever."
The orchestra started an ominous melody as the lights went down. "The next day the wedding feast was held." Brenna narrated from her nook. "There was not much happiness this time, for the people knew that the king's only remaining child would soon be stolen away by the Giant of the Sea."
She intoned "Sure enough, at the feast, the bride disappeared without a trace; and everyone within miles knew she was taken to the dragon's cave."
The lights came up on the royal hall set, where Destrian noticed a crowd of extras playing nobles feigning crying. "I knew this place would be an uproar when Perla was taken by Leviathan, but nothing like this!"
"How long, O Arceus?" a Sylveon playing a priestess cried. "How long until we are delivered from the scourge of Leviathan, and our daughters and sisters brought back to us?"
Ruby grimaced at this. "This has gone far enough!"
This got the crowd of extras' attention. "For far too long you have suffered because of the great water dragon Leviathan, and lost many beloved daughters. But I intend to break this cycle of woe, so your daughters and sisters can unite before Arceus without fear!"
"Are you sure?" a Glaceon playing a noble asked. "I applause your willingness to slay Leviathan, but you have a long quest ahead of you. Are you sure you want to try and bring back your beloved Perla and the other girls?
Ruby nodded. "Tomorrow I will go and bring them back!"
"The next day, Destrian put on his magical coat and shoes, took his sword, and went to the sea dragon's cave." Brenna narrated over a tense interlude. "The hole in the cliff was closed up, and he could not enter, but he cut a hole in the rock with his sword and got in that way."
She let that hang as Ruby lightly jumped into the set of a cave, where hundreds of female extras feigned crying. At the back of the cave set, a large blue glittering snake-like dragon puppet "slept". "Wow...so this is Leviathan..." Ruby mused. "Good thing he can't see me!" She gestured to a dull red coat as part of her costume.
After a few tense moments, the beautiful dragon puppet woke up with a yawn, then elegantly "flew" offstage. "Leviathan's no doubt gone to take another maiden..." Ruby mused. "If I'm going to rescue Perla and her sister Alma, now's my chance!"
With that, she jumped and skipped over the rocks on the set, locating the Shiny Sylveon by stage left. "Destrian?" the Shiny Sylveon gasped when she saw Ruby. "How did you make it in here without Leviathan seeing you?"
"My cloak has the gift of invisibility." Ruby explained. "That's how I got in."
"So, how do you plan on saving us?" the Shiny Sylveon asked.
"When Leviathan returns, ask him where his heart is hidden." Ruby explained. "This way, I know where to begin in rescuing all of you."
The Shiny Sylveon smiled. "Whatever your plan is, I hope to Arceus it works."
About then, the blue dragon puppet returned, gently setting down a "struggling" Petilil before returning to its roost.
"Leviathan, may I have the honor of asking you a question?" the Shiny Sylveon asked.
"What is your question? You are welcome to ask me anything at all." the majestic puppet assured the Shiny Sylveon.
"Well, I have long wondered...where do you keep your heart?" the Shiny Sylveon asked.
Some awkward giggles went up at the puppet's surprised reaction. "No one has ever asked me that before, but since you are the first to ask me, I will tell you." it replied. "I keep it in a box far out in the sea. It is in an iron box. There are seven boxes, one inside the other. It is in the innermost box."
"Okay...where do you keep the keys to the box?" the Shiny Sylveon wondered.
"They are hidden beside the box." the Leviathan puppet replied.
The lights blinked over to Ruby listening in from an alcove. "This is perfect! All I have to do is use the three jewels to find the box, and cut the heart!"
The lights went down, then came up again on Ruby arriving on a beach set, complete with palm trees and glittering "waves". After a few tense moments, Ruby took out the prop sapphire, and sang Rou iitsa ron selga vichii...
The audience gasped in awe as the sapphire glowed, and a huge Wailord puppet appeared in the prop "water". "Ye have called, Sir Destrian, and I have come." it began in a deep, gentle voice. "What do you need?"
"Please bring me the iron box and the keys that lie at the bottom of the ocean." Ruby requested.
The Wailord nodded, dove into the "water", then returned with an ornate prop box and matching keys. "Here you are. If you need me again, only call."
"Thanks!" Ruby smiled, waving as the Wailord puppet departed. "Now...let's try opening this!"
Laughter rippled through the peak as Ruby feign struggling to open the box. "It's no use...the keys are all rusted from being in the water for so long!"
She tossed away the prop keys and sighed. "NOW how am I supposed to open the box?"
A red glint got her attention. "Oh, of course!" she smiled as she unearthed the prop ruby from her bag
She held the ruby to the sky, and sang Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul...
The ruby glowed, and after a few moments, an Ampharos puppet dashed into the scene. "Ye have called, and I have come." it smiled in a gentle voice. "What is it you need?"
"Can you please break open this box and each box you find inside?" Ruby asked, offering the puppet the box. "I've tried opening them myself, but the keys are all rusted."
"With pleasure." the Ampharos replied as Ruby set the box on the sand, then stepped back to stage left.
The audience watched in awe as the Ampharos puppet Headbutted the outer box until it broke, and Headbutted each one until it broke them all. When the last one broke, an ornate ruby encrusted heart with glowing magenta wings flew out, to Ruby's shock. "Well, the box is open, at least..." she deadpanned. "Thanks!" she called as the Ampharos puppet departed.
Then she took out the prop emerald, and sang to it Karuto, iichiida shou...
The audience gasped again as the emerald glowed, and a beautiful Talonflame puppet appeared before Ruby. "Ye have called, and I have come, little one." it smiled in a gentle female voice. "What is it that you need?"
"Can you please bring me Leviathan's heart? Ruby asked. "It has just escaped from the box and is flying to Arceus-knows-where."
"With pleasure." The Talonflame puppet soared offstage. It returned a few moments later with the ruby heart. "Here it is. Cut it quickly, before it escapes again!"
"HIIIIIIII-YAH!" Ruby cried, making a dramatic stab at the prop heart with the prop sword, to cheers from the audience.
The lights came up on the cave set again. "You did it, Destrian!" the Shiny Sylveon smiled as the various girl Pokemon danced and celebrated. "The moment you cut Leviathan's heart, he fell down, dead as a doornail!"
"Well, now he won't bother any more girls." Ruby smiled. "Let's get everyone home!"
The lights went down as the orchestra started a victorious theme. "Of all those in the realm, none was happier than the king, as he watched the girls of the land reunite with their beloveds." Brenna narrated. "The king gave Destrian a large house close to his castle, and there Destrian and his wife Princess Perla lived happily. Destrian also sent for his mother, and brought her to live with him and his wife."
She concluded "Destrian did many more wonderful deeds with the magic jewels, and the sword, the shoes, and the cloak which he had taken from the bandits in the forest."
She looked out on the smiling Zapdos, and the enthralled mountain Pokemon. "But that is another story for another day!"
The Pokemon of the mountain cheered as the curtains closed. They cheered even louder when the lights came up for the curtain call. That was very well done. Zapdos smiled after the group had taken their bows. But every performance, be this a child's bedtime story or a grand adventure in many parts, can always be improved on.
He went on Your road now leads you into the Great Canyon and Xatu--no doubt he has already felt our excitement and joy watching you all perform. You've all put your hearts into your performances--and it shows in every play you perform. Keep the spirit of the stage alive as you travel, and it will carry you through all life's storms.
He next conjured a thunderbolt shaped topaz. As thanks for your wonderful performance, I bestow upon you the Topaz of Spirit. May it remind you to never let the glory go your heads--and that every show you do is a team effort.
"Thanks, Zapdos." Ruby smiled as she accepted the Divine Treasure. "We promise to protect the spirit of the stage."
"No matter what happens, the show must go on!" Lita agreed, to more cheers as the group celebrated a successful show...
"How much further do we have to go?" Ruby complained as the caravan wound its way through the majestic rock formations of the Great Canyon. "Even as a Fire type, this is killing me!"
"Not much further." Lita assured Ruby as she looked up from her map. "We should be reaching Xatu's abode on the Hill of the Ancients very soon."
"Good--it's hot enough for even a Water type to be miserable." Brenna sighed as she misted herself to keep cool in the scorching heat.
"Even though we only left Mt. Citron two days ago, it feels like an eternity now..." Charlotte agreed as the caravan emerged from the canyon to approach a large hill.
A white humanoid Pokemon brandished its blade-like arms as the group approached. "Hold! The great Xatu is meditating now...if you wish to see him, state your reason for coming all this way."
"Sir Gallade, we are but a humble troupe of actors on a great journey to Luminous City." Lita explained. "I ask if the Great Xatu is interested in a performance."
Suddenly, the group heard a gentle male voice echoing in their minds. So this is the troupe that is making others happy no matter where they travel...Shaymin and Zapdos have informed me they give a fine show.
"Would you like for the Moonlight Players to perform for you, great one?" the Gallade asked.
Yes--allow them inside, and prepare the Canyon Stage. the male voice replied. They have already accomplished much on their journey so far, and they will accomplish a lot more.
The Gallade nodded. "Very well, great one."
He addressed the group next. "Come on inside--the Great Xatu has foreseen many of your shows so far, and likes what he sees."
"Thank you." Lita smiled as the Gallade admitted the group to the hill's expansive peak. A condor-like Pokemon with tribal designs on its feathers looked out on the canyon below and the sun in the sky, a peaceful look on its face.
It appeared to smile as the group approached. Welcome to the Hill of the Ancients, Moonlight Players. From humble beginnings, your shows are quickly growing popular no matter where you travel. But there is still more you can learn, to make your shows even better.
Lita shuddered a little as Xatu looked at her, as if he was analyzing every thought in her head. "W-well, we have hoped to be able to do musicals as well as straight plays one day, great one..."
And you will get a chance to learn the art of the musical, but first, I have a challenge for you... Xatu began. To this point, you have had a chance to reasonably prepare for a show. But any good theater troupe is able to adapt on the fly, even if they have never seen the script before.
"So, you want us to put something on that we have never seen before?" Ruby asked, confused. "I mean, we had something prepared to perform for you, but if you want to see something else, we can do that..."
Xatu focused for a moment, conjuring a script in Ruby's paws. This is the script I would like you to perform. However, it is not quite the same story you remember!
"'The Brave Little Tailor...we can do this!" Ruby smiled as she thumbed through the script. "Okay...seven with one blow...kills a giant or three..."
She balked when she reached a scene near the end of the play. "Wait a minute--every version of the show I've seen always ends with the tailor killing the giant. In this version, he has even more to do!"
This is why I warned you that this is not quite the same story you remember. Xatu explained. Will you be able to perform this for me and the Pokemon of the canyon?
"Even though we have never seen this script before, we'll give it our best shot." Brenna replied as she looked over at a stage near the peak that looked like it had been carved from the canyon itself.
That is all I ask--that you simply attempt to perform something you have never seen before. Xatu explained. Even if the resulting show is terrible, it will still be beautiful if you put your hearts into it!
Lita nodded. "Okay...if we can have a little time to choose roles and rehearse a little, we should have a decent show to put on..."
You have three days to decide roles and rehearse, with the performance on the third night. Xatu explained. I believe you can have a show ready in such a short time.
"That's fair." Charlotte replied.
She addressed the members of the troupe. "Come on, everyone! Even though we only have three days to prepare, let's make this one of the best shows Xatu has ever seen!"
A pleased look appeared on Xatu's face as the group cheered, then hurried off to set things up and make preparations. If you do well with my challenge, I will allow you access to the Garden of Melodies, where Meloetta dwells. She can give you the musical training you have longed for.
Lita smiled. "All the more reason to give this show everything we've got!" She let that hang as she hurried off to the Canyon Stage to prepare for a quick rehearsal...
The stars twinkled over the Great Canyon as the resident Pokemon hurried to join Xatu in watching the group's performance. But backstage, the group was undergoing their final preparations. "Nervous?" Lita asked as she emerged in a princess costume.
"More than any other show we have done." Ruby replied as she emerged in a simple fantasy outfit--with a big red 7 concealed behind a piece of fabric. Rio had come up with the idea of the hidden 7 to save Ruby time and a costume change.
"Remember--this was given to us as a challenge, and we've never backed down from a challenge before." Lita assured Ruby.
She looked out at her excited troupemates. "Let's show Xatu what we can do!"
Cheers went up in agreement as the group hurried into position. After a few moments, the orchestra struck up a dreamy overture. "On one warm summer's morning in a far away land, a little tailor--we'll call him Tomlin--was sitting by the window, happily sewing as he always did." Brenna narrated from a nook at stage right. "Though the pay he earned wasn't much, it was enough to get by from day to day."
She smiled at the excited audience. "It helped that Tomlin enjoyed his work." She let that hang as the lights came up on the set of a simple fantasy house, where Ruby was pantomiming sewing a jacket.
"Fresh berries!" Shimmer called from offstage. "Fresh berries, picked with love from the vine! Come buy! Come buy!"
Ruby snapped to attention. "Cherida's here! Let's go see what berries and treats she's brought this week!"
After setting the prop jacket aside, she hurried offstage. She returned a few moments later with a few jars of jelly, marmalade, and other spreads. "Okay--Rawst jam and Oran marmalade go in the cupboard for tomorrow..." she mused as she placed some of the prop jars in a cupboard on the set.
A stomach growl got her attention. "I see no harm in getting into the Grepa jelly now..." she smiled as she got some bread from the cupboard.
She noticed the jacket as she spread some of the Grepa jelly on the bread. "But this jacket's just about done...I should finish it first, then have a snack."
She set the bread on a plate, then returned to her work. After a few moments of quiet, the sound effect of Venonats buzzing played, annoying Ruby from her pretend work. "Hey! Who invited you?" she asked, swatting at the imagined Venonats while the audience laughed.
Finally, Ruby got a glass from the cupboard, and clomped it down hard on the table. When she counted how many feigned Vanonats she had killed, her face lit up. "Wow! I managed to kill seven with one blow...the whole town will know of this!"
"Tomlin eagerly set to work making a suit of cloth armor, with a huge number 7 embroidered in red on the torso." Brenna narrated as the lights went down, save for the ruffing and thumping of Ruby pretending to work.
A 'ta-da!' stinger played as the lights revealed the large red 7 on Ruby's costume. "Why stop at just the town? The whole world will hear of it!" she smiled, to some light applause.
The orchestra started an excited interlude. "Tomlin eagerly packed a few weeks' worth of supplies for his journey, and set out the next morning." Brenna narrated at the light went down. "At first, the journey was uneventful. The road led him up a mountain, and when Tomlin had reached the peak, there sat a powerful Machoke looking down at the valley below...
The lights came up on Ruby strolling into a mountain road set. A Machoke sat on a rock at stage right. "Good day, comrade, sitting there overlooking the whole wide world!" Ruby smiled. "I am just on my way there, and want to try my luck. Want to come with me?"
The audience laughed as the Machoke reared back at the huge red 7. "Maybe that big 7 means the number of rogues this lad has slain in battle..." he mused in an aside. "So it may not be the best idea to battle him...maybe I should test his wits."
He picked up a rock. "If you can squeeze the rock so that water runs from it, I'll trust you."
"Is that all? That's child's play!" Ruby smiled.
The audience laughed as the Machoke balked at the melted cheese. He located a rock and heaved it skyward. "Let's see you top that."
"Well thrown, but what goes up must eventually come down--I will throw you one that doesn't come back at all." Ruby confidently smiled.
With that, she heaved a prop Fletchling from her pocket, which fluttered offstage to the Machoke's feigned amazement. "How does that please you, comrade?"
"You can certainly throw, but now we will see if you are able to carry anything properly." the Machoke replied as the lights went down.
They came up on a forested set some moments later. The Machoke led Ruby to a prop tree. "If you are strong enough, help me carry the tree out of the forest."
"Sure! Take the trunk on your shoulders, and I will carry the branches and twigs; they are the heaviest." Ruby offered before scrambling into the prop tree's branches.
The audience howled with laughter at the Machoke straining to carry the "heavy" prop tree. When he set it down, Ruby climbed out. "You are such a great fellow, and yet you can't even carry the tree!" she taunted, a confident smirk on her face.
The audience roared with laughter over a trumpet's "wah-wah-wah-wah" stinger as the Machoke trudged offstage and the lights went down...
The orchestra started a quiet interlude. "Tomlin went on his way, following where the wind led him." Brenna narrated from her nook. "After he had walked for a long time, he came to the courtyard of a royal palace. As he was very tired, he lay down on the grass and fell asleep." She let that hang as the lights came up on Ruby "sleeping" under a tree.
After a few tense moments, a crowd of Pokemon in fantastic costumes arrived in the scene. "Wow! Look at the size of that 7!" an Emolga gasped as he soared on the stage.
"I wonder what that 7 means..." a Roselia agreed.
"Maybe it's the number of warriors he has defeated?" a Mienshao asked.
"If this is in fact the case, then what is a great warrior doing here in a time of peace?" a Ninetales asked.
"Maybe he must be a great lord of a far away land!" a Shinx suggested. "We must inform His Majesty!" The other extras cheered in agreement as the lights went down.
They came up on a majestic throne room set as an Arcanine in royal garb came out to meet the extras, with a Delphox in royal garb not far behind. "Oh my...this must be a grave concern if so many of you have come..."
"We have seen the oddest thing, Your Grace..." the Shinx explained as the throng bowed before the Arcanine. "There is a traveler dozing on the hill outside the royal city. The strange thing is, a large red 7 is emblazoned on his clothes."
"That is strange..." the Arcanine mused. "Do any of you have an idea as to what the large red 7 means?"
"We believe him to be a great hero who has slain seven evils." the Roselia suggested. "Perhaps he updates the number when he kills a new evil lord or monster, to warn away those that would do evil. So the large 7 is a warning--if you battle him, you may be slain opponent number 8." Nervous giggles went up in agreement.
"What the townsfolk have said is true." the Delphox assured the Arcanine, conjuring an image of Ruby "sleeping" for the Arcanine to see. "If war ever broke out, this would be a good person to have in the royal ranks."
The Arcanine nodded. "Very well, Aslin. Will you go to this hero and offer him service in the royal court?"
"Right away, Your Grace." The Delphox gave the Arcanine a little bow, the hurried off as the lights went down.
They came up again on the hill set. The Delphox arrived just as Ruby woke up from her feigned nap. "Oh! Are you maybe one of the residents of the city?" she asked.
The Delphox nodded. "I am Lady Aslin of Beltany, envoy and chief advisor to His Majesty King Liam of Beltany."
"A royal envoy?" Ruby gasped as she scrambled to her feet. "What message does His Majesty have for me?"
"The townsfolk are in awe that you managed to kill seven evils." the Delphox explained. "Whether you killed them all at once, or one by one, I don't know, but His Majesty is well pleased with your bravery and valor. He wishes to offer you a place in the royal court, and an honored resident of the royal city."
Ruby smiled. "That's why I came here. I would be more than honored to enter His Majesty's service."
The orchestra started a majestic melody as Brenna narrated "Tomlin was honorably received, and he was well loved and well liked by commoner and nobility alike. The other soldiers, however, were unsure that Tomlin was even worthy of being at court. They knew well if they argued with him, and it came to blows, seven of them would fall at every blow. So they came to the king and asked him to find a way for Tomlin to prove his courage and wits..."
The lights came up on Ruby bowing before the Arcanine on the throne room set. "Tomlin...you have proven yourself a fine resident of the royal city, and many can vouch for your courage, your wit, and joyous heart." the Arcanine explained. "But there are some who don't believe in your skill. So I propose to you three challenges. If you can successfully complete them all, I will give you my only daughter, Princess Natalie, as a bride for you, and half the kingdom as a wedding gift."
"That would be a wonderful thing for someone like me!" Ruby smiled. "It's not every day one is offered a beautiful princess and half a kingdom! Name your challenges, and I will do it, even if I have to go to the very ends of the world and slay a thousand Hydreigons!"
The Arcanine smiled at Ruby's enthusiasm. "All right, here is the first challenge...in a certain forest live two giants, who cause great terror with their robbing, murdering, plundering, and burning. No one can approach them without putting themselves in danger. Should it happen that you need help, a hundred soldiers will go with you."
"I will soon subdue the giants, and do not require any help to do it." Ruby grinned. "He who can hit seven in one blow, has no need to be afraid of two."
Excited chatter filled the hillside as the orchestra started an adventurous theme. "And so, Tomlin went forth, and the hundred soldiers followed him." Brenna narrated as the lights came up on Ruby and a crowd of a hundred Growlithes in prop royal armor arrived on a forest set...
The audience watched as Ruby told her entourage of Growlithes "Wait here, I will soon finish off the giants."
She then bounded off into another part of the forest set, where she clambored into a tree, where she could see the imagined giants. It was probably for the best we had the giants be offstage voices... Lita thought as she watched Ruby drop a rock from her perch. Pokemon on top of each other would look silly...
Some offstage dialogue alerted her the rock had hit its target. "Did you push me?"
"I did not!"
"Then who did?"
"I never touched you!"
"Oh, yes you did!"
"I did not!"
Even Xatu had to laugh at the whirling cloud of dust on the stage near Ruby's perch. "It is a lucky thing that they did not tear up the tree I was sitting in, or I would have had to jump onto another like a Pachirisu." Ruby noted to the audience as the cloud of dust whirled about, complete with fighting noises. "But we tailors are nimble enough."
Once the dust had settled, she tiptoed up to the large sand bags standing in for the giants, made a few gashes on them, then returned to the waiting Growlithes at the other end of the stage.
"Well?" one Growlithe asked as Ruby returned.
"Are the giants slain?" another one asked.
"The battle is over." Ruby smiled. "I have given both of them their final blow, but it was hard work! They tore up trees to use as weapons, but all that is to no avail when someone like myself comes, who can kill seven in one blow."
"But are you not wounded?" a third Growlithe asked.
"You need not worry about that. They have not harmed one hair of mine." Ruby assured the Growlithe.
"Will you allow us to see what you have claimed for ourselves?" a third Growlithe asked.
"Gladly. I have nothing to hide." Ruby replied as the group of Growlithes ventured to the dark part of the stage.
They returned a few moments later in shock. "By Arceus...what the tailor said was true!" one Growlithe gasped. "He has more than passed the first challenge!"
The orchestra played a victorious theme as the lights went down, then came up on Ruby and the Arcanine in the throne room again. "The soldiers confirmed that you have completed the first challenge--well done." the Arcanine smiled.
"What must I do now, Your Grace?" Ruby asked.
"The second challenge is this--in the forest roams a wild Beast which does great harm, and you must catch him first." the Arcanine replied.
"I fear one Beast still less than two giants. Seven in one blow, is my kind of affair." Ruby grinned over her character's triumphant trumpet motif.
"Tomlin took a rope and a bow with him, went into the forest, and bade those who were sent with him to wait outside." Brenna narrated as Ruby entered another forest set. After a few tense moments, a majestic Raikou puppet "ran" on the stage. But Ruby waited until the majestic Pokemon was quite close, shot an arrow with a rope around it into the tree, then leaped like a Sawbuck behind the tree. The Raikou puppet was easily tangled in the rope, and struggled mightily to get out, to the delight of the audience as the lights went down.
When the lights came up on the throne room again, Ruby proudly gestured to the "stuck" puppet. "Here is the Beast--he will not harm again!"
"That is a clever way to catch a Raikou..." the Arcanine smiled. "Now for your third and final challenge--I want you to catch a certain wild Emboar that wreaks great havoc in the forest. Some of the royal rangers will give you their help."
"Willingly--that is child's play!" Ruby smiled as the lights went down.
The orchestra played an interlude as Ruby and a crowd of bow wielding Charmanders arrived on a third forest set. "This is where the Emboar was last spotted?" Ruby asked.
"It is." one Charmander replied. "If you need help, we stand ready to lend our bows to your aid."
"Okay--if I need you guys, I'll just whistle!" Ruby smiled as the lights went down.
After a few tense moments, Ruby arrived in a more woodsy forest set. She gasped when she saw an Emboar puppet charging at her, but then spotted the entrance of an abandoned shrine close by. "SAY..."
She hurried into the shrine, and went in and out the window. The Emboar puppet ran in after her, but Ruby ran around outside and shut the door behind it, trapping the puppet inside.
Once satisfied with her handiwork, Ruby whistled, spurring the Charmanders to arrive with their prop bows drawn. "Stand down--I caught the Emboar." Ruby assured the rangers. She made a grand gesture to the trapped puppet as the orchestra started a victorious theme and the lights went down.
When they came up on the throne room again, Lita was with the Arcanine and Ruby in the scene. "You have passed the three challenges I gave you with aplomb." the Arcanine smiled. "My royal word is my bond--as promised, here is Princess Natalie. You will have half of the kingdom now, and the whole of it when I join Arceus in heaven."
"Aw"s went up as Lita and Ruby hugged. "Tomlin and Princess Natalie were married within the year." Brenna concluded as the curtains closed on the heartwarming scene. "The wedding was held with great magnificence and equally great joy, and out of a tailor a king was made."
Wild applause rang through the canyon as the orchestra started a joyous song for the curtain call...
Now that I have seen your ability with my own eyes, I can say you have passed my challenge with flying colors. Xatu smiled. You did well working with what you had, and knew when to leave things out or cut them short. I will commend you for making the king a nicer character to Tomlin...is there a reason you took this different approach?
"Well...we felt it wasn't nice for the king to stall and break his royal word." Shimmer explained. "That was why we made the king a kinder character."
A pleased look appeared on Xatu's face. That creativity will serve you well on your travels. Don't be bonded to one specific version of a story--make every story your own.
He focused his psychic power for a moment. I have informed Meloetta that you are coming to the Garden of Melodies. I hope her musical training will be helpful to you, and allow you to add both musicals and music infused plays to your repertoire.
A happy look formed on his face. I believe...you all will perform for the Great Lord himself one day!
"I'm glad we're out of that hot canyon..." Shimmer smiled as the caravan turned down into one of the caves a few days later. It had been a few days since their performance for Xatu, and the group was both looking forward to learning how to do a musical, and looking back at their previous performance. "But I'm also thankful we passed Xatu's challenge."
"I mean, we did the best we could with what we had..." Lita agreed. "But look at it this way--at least Xatu gave us a story we were somewhat familiar with to do--what would we have done if we had received a script we had never seen before?"
"Xatu was wanting us to practice improvising, I think..." Charlotte mused. "He did it in a relatively safe manner compared to what pro troupes do--gave us a script of a story we knew fairly well, with a twist and a reasonable time limit to put it on. If we ever have to do that again, it may not be as safe as Xatu's challenge."
"That's true..." Lita mused before changing the subject. "How can a garden exist inside a cave?"
"This is Meloetta, here--she can sing anything she wants into existence." Brenna explained. "So a beautiful garden inside a cave should be no problem!"
She stopped in her tracks when she saw what looked like a wall of grass, leaves, and flowers. Two large bushes that resembled tubas framed the wall, with a Cinccino manning one of the tuba-bushes. A Chatot eyed the group for a moment. "This is the Garden of Melodies, travelers. Are you maybe the troupe of actors Xatu told us to be expecting?"
Lita nodded. "We are. Xatu gave us explicit instructions for Meloetta to train us in how to perform musicals."
The Chatot nodded, then motioned to the two Cinccinos. "Play the combination--these are the ones we are expecting.
The group jumped as four deep rumbling notes that harmonized rang through the canyon. As soon as the last pair of harmonic notes faded away, the wall of leaves and flowers opened with a rumble, allowing the group inside. "Come on inside--I will inform Meloetta you're here."
"Th-thanks." Lita stammered, still a little rattled from the loud blasts of the tuba-bushes.
"Who would've thunk you could make a working brass instrument from plants?" a Leafeon mused as the caravan made its way down the flower spangled carpet of leaves leading into the garden.
"Much less instruments that are part of the plants..." Charlotte smiled as she admired some music note flowers, and the pleasant song of flute-branches in the breeze.
A sprite Pokemon with green music staff-like hair smiled as the caravan arrived in what Lita assumed was a central square. "Welcome to the Garden of Melodies, Moonlight Players. You have done well in performing for the Pokemon of the world, but it never hurts to diversify your repertoire, and find new ways to present old favorites. Here, you can learn how to infuse music into your plays, and perform musicals for your audiences."
Lita smiled at a memory of the Aurora Players at the Rising Star Festival. "We have long desired to put on a musical or two after seeing some at this year's Rising Star Festival. So, where do we begin in learning how to put on a musical?"
"Understand the role music plays in your show." Meloetta explained, running a finger across some harp-vines to conjure a chalkboard in the square.
After drawing a diagram, she went on. "A play may have music, but the music does not actually tell the story--the dialogue does that." she explained, pointing out the left side of her diagram.
She next pointed to the other side of her diagram. "In a musical, both the music and the dialogue tell the story."
"Oh"s went up at this as Meloetta erased the chalkboard. "On that note, you don't want to cram too many songs into a short time frame. Think about where the big emotional beats, major character introductions, and meaningful moments of the show are, and put your songs there. On the other side of the coin, you don't want too few songs, either."
An idea occurred to Charlotte. "Shimmer...would you want to play a role in our hypothetical musical?"
Shimmer balked in surprise. "Really? You want me to play a role when I've mainly emceed and done backstage work so far?"
She thought for a moment. "Well...it depends on what we're doing for a practice musical..."
As if in response to Shimmer's request, Meloetta sang Imultaos, ame no hao bakezo... conjuring a large book called '1001 Musicals For All Occasions' before the group. "There...that should give you plenty of choices to look through."
"Hm..." Lita thought as she studied the table of contents.
"Cinderella?" a Sylveon suggested, pointing out a story in the contents.
The group cheered at this. "Actually..." Lita began. "I was thinking we do a slightly different version of 'Cinderella'...in this version, there is no fairy godmother. The Cinderella character fled her homeland, and eventually comes to another land, where she makes her keep as a kitchen maid..."
"I know that story!" a Growlithe smiled. "That's 'Princess Furball'!
"Even better!" Meloetta agreed. "That version has plenty of room for instrumentals as well as vocal numbers."
She went on "If this one is the story you wish to do, I will let you write the script, choose roles, and plan the songs. If you need songs and instrumentals, I will be happy to write you some songs, or arrange existing ones."
"Any suggestions on how to pick roles?" Charlotte asked.
"No differently from picking a role in a straight play." Meloetta replied. "You do want to be aware of the ranges of the different roles--don't give a heroine's role that is clearly a soprano to an alto."
Lita noted. "That last thing we want is someone struggling to hit the notes in the songs..."
"You also don't want to make your hopefuls perform material from the show you're putting on." Meloetta cautioned. "Your hopefuls will feel more at ease if they sing something they know well."
Lita nodded. "We'll keep your advice in mind..."
She addressed the group. "Come on! Let's make this a musical to remember!"
Lita sighed as she looked over a half done script. No matter how we try to make "Cinderella" a musical, it's just not working... she sighed.
"Should we try a different story?" Ruby asked. "I know some troupes have done 'Cinderella' as a musical before..."
Meloetta materialized before Lita and Ruby some moments later. "Having trouble with the script?"
"Yeah--we're thinking of doing a different story all together." Lita sighed. "'Cinderella sounded appealing at first, but every attempt we tried sounded like a copy another troupe has done."
Meloetta nodded. "This is the danger of doing a common story like this--there will be so many different versions that it's hard to make yet another version stand out--unless you did something drastic to the story. So why don't we try a lesser known tale?"
She brought over the book of musicals for the group to see. "Don't just look at the contents--take a good look at each show, until you find one that resonates with all of you."
"Say..." Ruby flipped a few pages until she stopped at the musical "The Nine Talonflames". "Anyone ever hear this tale before?"
"I have!" Charlotte called, spurring more affirmative answers to come wafting in Lita and Ruby's direction.
Ruby nodded. "Okay...how many staged versions do we know about?"
"The Solaris Theater does a musical of this show, but it's quite a bit longer than this script." Sammi remembered. "Each one of the Talonflames gets a name and a unique quest."
"That would be a bit much for us, even though we've grown a lot and learned much from when we left Harmony Town." Brenna agreed. "The book's script seems to follow the original story fairly well..."
"So let's start there." Charlotte suggested. "Rather than the hero releasing the Hydreigon, why not say the Hydreigon was causing trouble to begin with?"
Lita nodded. "That's a good idea...but what about the songs in the show? Is there any we can cut or change at all?"
"Let's see..." Ruby studied the book's version of the show. "The king and his three sons have a song, the king and the youngest son have a really nice duet, Brian and the ninth Talonflame have a pretty duet, Brian gets a solo a little later proving his loyalty to the Talonflame princesses, a reprise of the king and Brian's song earlier, Brian and the ninth Talonflame get a reunion song..."
She giggled at a stage direction in the script. "Kitsune gets a character song, complete with a brigade of dancing Braxiens; Kitsune's congratulations song, Brian sings the Swanna Song to kill the Hydreigon, and a victory song."
"Ten songs sounds about right." Lita agreed. "So, are we ready to choose roles?"
"Charlotte has to be Kitsune..." Shimmer suggested. "If you still want me to play a role, I can be one of the Pokemon Prince Brian helps..."
"Not at the moment." Lita replied. "A Goldeen, a Fennekin, and a Braviary will do just fine. Of those, the Fennekin will be a live actor--the others will be puppets."
"I'll play that part!" a Fennekin volunteered as more Pokemon crowded around Lita to either request a role or a place on the crew.
Meloetta noticed the growing crowd as more of the troupe's members arrived. "It seems you have chosen a show..."
"We've decided to do 'The Nine Talonflames'." Ruby explained.
"Ours will be a little closer to the original tale than Solaris' is." Lita agreed.
"Great choice." Meloetta smiled. "If you need help with the songs or the music, I will be happy to help."
"Our orchestra does pretty well with each show, but we would appreciate your help overseeing our auditions for the parts, and helping us learn to sing for a musical." Ruby requested.
"Well, whether you're singing for a musical or not, it would be a good idea to get in the habit of singing every day." Meloetta suggested. "It will also help you project for a straight play, as well."
She next sang to a high bush Imultaos, ame no hao bakezo... transforming the bush into a grand piano. "So to start, let's do a vocal improvisation."
"How does that work?" Even Brenna was intrigued.
"Starting with a single note, sing something based around that note, and keep the resulting melody going for as long as possible." Meloetta explained. "There's no 'correct' note or melody you have to sing--whatever would sound good to you, the other performers around you, and the overall melody."
"Sounds easy enough..." Lita mused as the group gathered around the piano made of leaves and flowers.
The group listened as Meloetta lightly hit middle C on the piano. "So here's the note we'll build our improv around..."
One of the Liepards sang a African-esque phrase in response to the piano. The others joined in next, with the girls doubling the boys for a few repetitions before the melody started splitting into different parts, over which Meloetta's distinct voice soared as she gently shook an egg shaker to provide some kind of a beat for the others to sing by...
The Garden of Melodies hummed with activity as both Pokemon from the canyon and the resident Pokemon of the garden turned out to watch the groups performance. "Here we go...our first musical..." Lita smiled as she watched the crowd take their seats from the wings.
"I'm even more nervous about having to sing..." Ruby shuddered as she emerged in a red royal tunic, leggings to match, and a prince's plumed hat.
"Remember what Meloetta said in our musical training?" Lita reminded her friend. "You don't want to oversing--keep it natural."
"The song should reinforce the spoken word." Meloetta agreed. "I'm looking forward to seeing the results of what we've learned together over the last few weeks."
Lita saw the lights flash the five minute warning. "This is it...let's show Meloetta that her music lessons have not been in vain!" The group cheered as they hurried to their places.
The audience applauded as Meloetta departed the stage and the orchestra struck up a melody that evoked magic, adventure, and mystery. Once the song ended, a spotlight appeared on Brenna at stage right. "Good evening, all." she began. "Have you ever heard the story of the shining Talonflame who became a queen, and the young prince who married her?"
Excited murmurs and "no"s came wafting in Brenna's direction. "Well, here it is..." Brenna smiled before beginning over a soft melody "There was once a king who took great delight in his garden. Every morning you would find him watering his flowers or picking the fruit of his favorite tree."
The lights came up on a Cinderace in royal garb watering the prop flowers and pantomiming weeding on a beautiful garden set. But once he approached a beautiful prop crystal tree with glittering Leppa Berries, he set down the watering can for a moment. "Yes--all is well with my miracle tree." he smiled as he admired the tree.
The orchestra's melody turned somber as the lights went down. "One morning, he was shocked and saddened to see that the tree had been stripped of all the shining fruit which had ripened during the night." Brenna narrated.
The lights came up on the set of a royal bedroom, where the Cinderace was looking out the window. After a few moments, he gasped in alarm. "Oh no! Oh no, it can't be!"
An Arcanine in knight's garb arrived in the scene. "What's the matter, milord?" he asked the trembling Cinderace.
"My miracle Leppa tree--every one of the shining Berries on its branches is gone!" the Cinderace replied.
The Arcanine hung his head. "We have searched the entire palace, milord, and questioned all that were in the palace last night. No one had a clue where the Berries went. But you have our promise that we will not rest until we capture the thief."
"In the meantime, I will put up notices in the royal city offering a handsome reward for any leads or tips as to who is taking the miracle Berries, and why." the Cinderace replied. He let that hang as the lights went down.
"The next morning, the same thing happened; and every morning after that, when the king looked out his bedroom window, he saw that the tree had again been stripped of its shining crystal fruit." Brenna narrated.
The lights came up on a beautiful throne room set. "Alex! Dorian! Brian!" the Cinderace called, prompting Ruby and two other Scorbunnies to dash onto the stage.
"Ye have called, my lord and father, and we have come--what is it you desire?" one Scorbunny asked.
The orchestra started a light jazzy melody before the Cinderace explained, in song, what was going on:
Surely you've heard?
The shining Leppa tree in the garden shines no more!
The guards have turned the palace upside down,
No one has admitted to the crime!
I'll put my pride at stake to bring my treasure back!
The crystal tree that has glittered for a thousand generations
Will you rise to the task
Of bringing back its light
Even if you must go to the end of the world?
"You have our word we will find out what is taking the crystal Leppa Berries." the Scorbunny smiled. "I will keep watch tonight, in hopes of finding a lead or catching the culprit in the act!" He struck a triumphant pose as the orchestra concluded the song.
The lights blinked over to Brenna again. "Despite the eldest son's greatest effort, as midnight approached his eyes grew heavy and he fell asleep. When he woke up the next morning, the shining Berries were gone. Then the middle son volunteered, but he fared no better than his brother had."
The lights came up on Ruby and the Cinderace on the throne room set again. "Dad? May I have a chance to watch over the miracle tree?" Ruby asked as she joined the Cinderace in the scene.
How can you succeed where your brothers have failed?
They both tried and fell under the spell of sleep... the Cinderace sang over a sad melody.
Who am I to think
That you too will slip into a dream
And the miracle tree will never shine again?
Every heart has desires hidden deep within, Ruby sang back in reply. I know how much the miracle tree means to you!
I have something I want to protect!
There are times when I also have to fight,
And I will fight, to see the crystal shine again!
If your everlasting dream becomes nothing but a memory, I will never forgive myself!
No matter how far I may have to go,
The miracle tree will shine again!
The Cinderace smiled as the audience applauded Ruby's song. "Very well, Brian...I will let you keep watch over the miracle tree tonight."
The lights came up on Ruby lying beneath the miracle tree in a sleeping bag. After a few tense moments, nine shining Talonflame puppets landed on the tree. While eight of them stayed on the tree, the ninth landed on the ground beside Ruby's sleeping bag.
Ruby watched in shock as this Talonflame puppet became a Ninetales! "Fear not, king's son--my ladies and and I come in peace." she assured Ruby,
"Who are you?" Ruby asked. "Where do you come from?"
We hail from a distant land, far across the sea... the Ninetales sang over a regal melody. Our people suffer greatly, and long to be set free...
A Hydreigon brings terror upon the land, and many have tried
To slay the evil monster, but all of them have died...
"Is that why you're taking our Leppa Berries?" Ruby asked. "Because the Hydreigon takes all your food?"
The Ninetales nodded before singing again. I look at you,
You are as dazzling as the sun,
Just like the blooming flowers
There's a meaning to every encounter in life...
Our meeting here tonight is more than fate.
I'll know in my heart
That whenever we meet again,
You'll be known,
As the hero who saved us all!
"A hero?" Ruby asked as the music calmed down. "What do you mean?"
"The Hydreigon always takes ladies of pure heart to his lair, in addition to all our food." the Ninetales explained. "My name is Keira--should we ever fail to come visit you at night, that is a sign the Hydreigon has captured us."
Ruby nodded. This small seed of love is in bloom... she sang over the music. And it reaches out towards the stars...
From a little spark from deep within the heart
It is love that brought us here.
I will not back down, I will not give up
I will lead you home--if you'll take my hand!
I will fight for you, I would die for you,
As we travel to the promised land.
My heart, it longs for you!
And I would welcome you as my own!
And once again, the bonds of the stars
They will bring a miracle!
The audience applauded as Ruby's song ended. The Ninetales, meanwhile, noticed the lights starting to brighten. "The sun is rising...it is time for us to go back. Thank you for the Leppa Berries, young hero."
"Wait!" Ruby called. "Will you leave one Berry behind for me?"
The Ninetales smiled. "Let me give you two--one for you, and one to take to your father."
"Thank you." Ruby smiled as she accepted two prop shining Leppa Berries. "Bye!" she called as the Ninetales disappeared along with the Talonflame puppets. "May your journey home be safe!"
She looked at the glittering props in her paws. "Well, now we know that whoever was taking these wasn't doing so to cause trouble--it was only a band of Talonflames who rule over an oppressed land."
The lights went down, then came up on the throne room again, where Ruby met the Cinderace. "Dad? I found out who was taking the shining Leppa Berries...."
"Oh?" the Cinderace asked.
"It was no thief." Ruby explained as the other Scorbunnies arrived. "It was a group of princesses from a foreign land, who groan under the oppression of a Hydreigon. Our miracle tree is the only way they can keep their people from starving."
"That's horrible..." the Scorbunny playing the eldest son sighed.
"But it also doesn't help that the Hydreigon is taking ladies in that land, and holding them prisoner." Ruby went on. "Should it come to pass that the princesses do not come to the miracle tree, I promised them that I would rescue them--no matter what it takes!"
She offered the two prop Berries. "The high princess left me two of the miracle Leppa Berries as proof of our meeting."
The Cinderace smiled. "Well done, my faithful and heroic son--you have more than earned what I promised the one that found out what was taking the miracle Leppa Berries."
He touched Ruby's shoulders with a sword. "I hereby name you the crown prince, and you will follow after me when I join Arceus in heaven."
"We too, pledge our loyalty to Brian!" the two other Scorbunnies agreed as they bowed before Ruby.
"If it happens that you must rescue these ladies, we stand ready to help in whatever way we can." the Scorbunny playing the middle son assured Ruby as the lights went down.
"For a while, all was well in the kingdom." Brenna narrated over an interlude. "Keira and her ladies visited Brian in the garden every night, and their conversations lasted well into the morning."
She intoned over a uneasy melody "But one night, what Prince Brian feared the most came to pass--Keira and her ladies did not come." She let that hang as the lights came up on a hall in the palace.
Ruby arrived some moments later, a red and gold cape draped on her back. "Supplies for my journey, check...my sword, check...my bow, check..."
"Brian? What are you doing up?" the Scorbunny playing the eldest son asked as Ruby made several more trips to get some props.
"What I have feared for several months now has finally come to pass..." Ruby explained. "Keira and her ladies have not come."
"Do you even know where to find the Hydreigon that captured them?" the Scorbunny asked as Ruby stashed some of the props into a traveling bag.
"I have an idea...I asked the court wizard if he knew of the Hydreigon, and he said that he lives in a cave far to the east." Ruby replied. "He hunts at night, and sleeps during the day."
"What's going on?" the Cinderace, now in ornate nightclothes, asked as he arrived in the scene with the Scorbunny playing the middle son.
"The time for Brian's quest has come." the Scorbunny playing the eldest son explained as Ruby finished organizing the props.
The Cinderace smiled as the orchestra played an underscore evoking Ruby's song from earlier. "No matter what happens on your quest, Brian, our well wishes and blessings go with you. May Arceus watch over you, and keep you safe."
"...and may you return to us with tales of glory to tell!" the eldest Scorbunny agreed. The Scorbunny playing the middle son nodded in agreement.
Ruby smiled, then sang a reprise of her song from before. This small seed of love is in bloom...
And it reaches out towards the stars...
From a little spark from deep within the heart
It is love that brought us here.
I will not back down, I will not give up
I will bring her home--if she takes my hand!
She looked out of a window, where the sun would be rising. I will fight for you, I would die for you,
As we travel to the promised land.
My heart, it longs for you!
And I would welcome you as my own!
And once again, the bonds of the stars
They will bring a miracle!
More cheers filled the air as the song ended, and the Cinderace and Ruby embraced...
After the orchestra finished an interlude, the lights came up on the set of a lake. Ruby arrived in the scene some moments later, where she noticed a Goldeen puppet flopping on the "shore" of the "lake". "Oh, a Goldeen!" Ruby noted. "I don't know how you ended up here on the shore, but let me put you back in the water."
With that, she carefully set the Golden puppet in the "water" on the set. The audience gasped in awe as a blue light materialized before Ruby, making a sapphire drop in her paws. "Thank you, young prince." a female voice began from offstage. "I am Undine, the queen of the sea. As you have done a good deed for me, now I will always do a good deed for you in return. If you ever need my aid, remember this holy song: 'Rou iitsa ron selga vichii...'"
"Rou iitsa ron selga vichii...got it!" Ruby smiled as the lights went down.
The orchestra started another interlude before the lights came up on a forest set. When Ruby arrived, she noticed the Fennekin feigning a struggle in a prop trap. "Oh...a Fennekin caught in a trap...let me get you out of there."
After carefully lifting the trap hinge, the Fennekin eagerly bounded out of the trap. "Thank you for releasing me, hero--my name is Rena. I look after this forest, and all that call the forest home. Since you helped me out, let me help you in return."
She offered Ruby a prop red jewel. "Take this gem--if you ever need my help, remember this song: 'Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul...'
"Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul...got it!" Ruby smiled. "Thanks, and safe travels!!" She waved goodbye as the Fennekin romped offstage and the lights went down.
The lights came on the set of a different part of the forest some time later. Some in the audience oohed and ahed over the majestic Braviary puppet "struggling" to get out of a thorn bush. "Poor Braviary..." Ruby mused as she entered the scene. "Let me get you out of those thorns."
After carefully edging the puppet's stuck wing free, the Braviary fluttered before Ruby. "Thank you, young hero...I am Arashi, the guardian of the skies. "Since you did a kind deed for me, let me help you in return on your travels.
The puppet then conjured a prop emerald. "Take this jewel--it contains the essence of the skies. Should you ever need my help, remember this song: 'Karuto, iichiida shou...'
"Karuto, iichiida shou...got it!" Ruby smiled before hugging the puppet. "Thank you..."
"Anytime..." the puppet replied. "May the winds guide you on your quest."
The lights came up on the set of a cave, where Keira was feigning crying in a corner. When Ruby entered the scene, she gasped. "Keira?"
The Ninetales looked up and gasped. "Prince Brian? Is it really you?"
"Yes--I've come to rescue you, just like I promised." Ruby replied.
"Aw"s filled the garden as Ruby and Keira embraced over a triumphant theme. "But what about your ladies?" Ruby remembered. "Where are they?"
"My ladies managed to escape, so they are safe from the Hydreigon." the Ninetales replied. "They are back at the palace, awaiting my safe return."
Ruby thought for a moment as the music turned somber. "The next question is how to escape ourselves...."
"We obviously can't just ride away--the Hydreigon would surely catch us and eat us both." the Ninetales cautioned. "He is faster than any mortal Ponyta."
"Well, have you heard of anyone or anything faster?" Ruby asked.
"One night, not long after my ladies escaped, I overheard the Hydreigon bragging to some friends of his that he had been plotting to steal Epona, the god-Ponyta that belongs to the holy Delphox Kitsune." the Ninetales explained over a divine motif. "Luckily, the Hydreigon has not made any progress in this plan, so if you obtain Epona first, we could escape that way."
"Okay! I'll go ask Kitsune tomorrow!" Ruby smiled.
"Kitsune won't give Epona to just anyone." the Ninetales cautioned. "If anyone wants anything from her, they have to serve her three days. Those that serve faithfully receive whatever they wish. Those that serve faithfully and still fail go on to serve Kitsune forever. The evil and impure that fail, meet their holy judgement in divine flame."
She assured Ruby. "But you are a brave, kind, and unselfish person, so you should have no problem with whatever Kitsune asks of you."
"Even if she asks me to go to the ends of the world and slay a thousand monsters, I will do anything to set you free, or die trying!" Ruby vowed as the lights went down...
Ruby's voice singing Imultaos, ame no hao bakezo... in the darkness and the sound effect of a rock rolling away revealed the set of a beautiful jewel studded cave, where Charlotte, in the role of Kitsune, met Ruby on the stage. "Good day, milady!" Ruby smiled.
"Good day to you, young prince. What brings you here to this sacred place?" Charlotte asked.
"I would like to take service with you." Ruby replied.
Charlotte nodded as the orchestra started a jazzy melody. Hold on, wait a moment,
Are you sure you want to do this?
You understand what happens
If you try my task, and still fail?
I understand the risk I am taking,
For someone I love's heart is breaking,
And the only way to set her free
Is a divine undertaking! Ruby sang back.
She went on I won't run away, even from my failures
Even though I bend, I will not break!
I'll maintain a noble gaze!
And with it, a noble heart!
The audience gasped in awe as part of the set cleared away to reveal a band of dancing Braxiens dancing on an elegant staircase. A rose by the name of love
Has bloomed in your heart... Charlotte sang as she and Ruby weaved and whirled through the dancing Braxiens around them.
By coming to this place,
That love is reborn...
In your eyes
Is forever reflected the truth... Ruby sang back.
In my heart, I can feel it,
You can grasp this miracle! Charlotte triumphantly sang.
The audience roared with applause as the epic dance number continued on...
"Doing a musical was so much fun!" Ruby raved as the group departed the Garden of Melodies a few days later. "I can't wait for the next one we do..."
"Overall, I think we did well for our first time doing a musical." Lita agreed. "Granted, it was still rough around the edges, but so was our first play, too."
"It seems like an eternity since we did 'How Ho'oh, Lugia, and Jirachi Were Saved....'" Shimmer mused as the red tinged grasslands the group had been walking on gave way to a red-brown mountain path. "But every troupe has to start somewhere."
Brenna thought for a moment as the caravan rounded a corner in the path. "I mean, if we could do that play over again with what we know now..."
"I could probably think of a hundred things we could cut and tweak from that old script..." Ruby agreed. "But that's not what I wanna do for Moltres..."
Lita smiled. "I'm sure Moltres likes hearing stories about her exploits helping heroes...so do we want to do this as a play or a musical?"
Murmurs of "a play" answered her question. "All right--we'll just do a straight play this time, since we're tired from our first musical...
It was hard to tell if the red sky signaled a sunset, or the glow of lava as the group neared the peak of Mt. Rubin some time later. "The lady Moltres is here now...what business do you have here?" a Arcanine asked as the caravan approached.
"We are a humble troupe of actors on a great journey..." Ruby explained. "Would Her Ladyship be interested in a performance?"
The Arcanine conferred with his partner for a moment, who hurried off towards the peak. When he returned, the first Arcanine replied "Her Ladyship would be thrilled to have you perform--she has ordered the Fiery Stage prepared for you."
"She has also ordered the Pokemon of the mountain to gather here." the second Arcanine agreed as he escorted the group and their gear to the peak. "If you need time to set up and make preparations, take all the time you need."
"Wow..." Ruby gasped as she saw a stage carved into the rock that glowed red-gold with lava. "The lava's a clever way to create lighting..."
I'm glad you think so... a beautiful phoenix Pokemon replied as it fluttered onto a perch overlooking the peak and the stage. The Fiery Stage has stood here for thousands of years--I have seen many a great performance on its burning boards.
"I-I hope you don't mind seeing our attempt at the many tales featuring you..." Ruby stammered. "Or would you prefer to see something else?"
Perform any tale you like. Moltres assured the nervous Scorbunny. So long as you put your hearts into it, even the most horrible, mistake riddled mess will be enjoyable to me.
Ruby nodded. "Okay...we would like to perform a thrilling quest of a young prince, and how he defeated the Nightmare Pokemon Darkrai to save his mother."
How exciting! Moltres smiled as more Fire types and bird Pokemon arrived to watch. I await your performance with baited breath!
"...so please enjoy 'The Queen's Rescue.' Shimmer concluded her introduction some time later.
The peak rang with applause as Shimmer exited the Fiery Stage. The orchestra then started a majestic overture that evoked a time of high adventure, magic, and mystery.
Once the brass' exciting and bombastic main theme had given way to the strings and the flutes, Brenna appeared in a spotlight at stage right. "Long ago, when this world was full of a deeper magic and terrifying monsters, there lived a king--whose name does not concern us--with his queen and their three sons, Alex, Dimitri and Peter, who were all handsome and clever." she began over the music.
The orchestra's theme turned somber. "One day the queen, who had gone on a walk on the open plains, failed to return to the palace." Brenna went on, to some gasps and "oh no"s from the audience. Though the royal army searched far and wide, no trace could be found of her. She had disappeared into thin air." She let that hang as the curtains opened on a majestic palace set, where a variety of Pokemon and a Cinderace in royal garb were all talking with each other.
After a few tense moments, a Ninetales stood up, quieting the nonsense dialogue. "Your Majesty! We have concluded that the queen has been spirited away by Darkrai, the Nightmare Pokemon."
Gasps filled the air as the Ninetales went on "While his own realm and castle are deep beneath this world, he possesses many other strongholds in the land of mortals, and it has long been known that his most beautiful and well guarded palaces are on the tops of the highest and most inaccessible mountains in the world. It is, however, pointless to fight against him, for his palaces are enchanted by the darkest of magics, and Darkrai himself cannot be killed by mortal means, since he carries his life not in his body, but in a secret place that is known only to him. We beseech you, therefore, to choose another bride, for your lost queen you will never see again until Arceus returns triumphant."
The Cinderace froze in horror as the orchestra started a sad melody. "No...no...I love Kenna too deeply to choose another!"
He snapped to summon a few Raboots in herald's garb. "Travel to every kingdom far and wide, and tell all the peoples of the world that I offer wealth and honors to the one who brings Kenna back to me alive."
"Yes, milord!" the Raboots chorused as they hurried offstage.
The orchestra started an adventurous interlude. "Daring heroes, brave adventurers, and great generals came in response to the call, each of them promising valiant deeds, and the king bade each of them take from the royal treasury sufficient gold for his needs." Brenna narrated from her nook. "But though many came and many went, there was no news of the missing queen." She let that hang as the lights came up on a beautiful royal garden set, where the Cinderace was thinking hard about something.
After a few tense seconds, Ruby and two other Scorbunnies in royal grab arrived in the scene. "I think our father is out of his mind," one Scorbunny grumbled. "These boasting heroes who come from afar are galloping off with all his treasures. He is a fool to put faith in them. I imagine I could do as well, if not better, than them."
"Doubtless they are but sorry scoundrels who play upon our lord and father's credulity. With a tenth of the sum that has been given to them I could find our mother myself." the second Scorbunny agreed.
"Not so, my brothers." Ruby cautioned. "If Darkrai the Nightmare Pokemon has her, it will take a strong heart to bring her back, and who knows where that may be found? Would, however, that our lord and father send us abroad to do our best!"
The Scorbunny playing the eldest son thought for a moment. "You raise a fair point, Peter...we will see if Father also sends us forth on the same quest!"
The orchestra started a relaxed interlude as the lights went down. "Later that evening, the king summoned his sons to the throne room." Brenna narrated as the lights came up on Ruby, the other Scorbunnies, and the Cinderace on a magnificent set of a throne room.
"My dear sons, you know how the loss of your mother troubles my heart and soul." the Cinderace began. "Many brave heroes have searched for her in vain; and I am compelled to send one of you forth."
He addressed one of the Scorbunnies. "Alex, as my eldest, take my fatherly blessing, with as much gold and as many troops as you require, and try your fortune in the quest. If you succeed, you will inherit my kingdom."
The orchestra started an excited interlude as the lights went down. "Prince Alex took a full purse from the treasury; and with fifty thousand troops, he set out from the capital." Brenna narrated. "He rode one day, and then rode one week, he rode a month, and two and three, asking questions of all he met, until he had passed beyond the borders of his father's kingdom, but no one had heard of the lost queen or of the strongholds of Darkrai the Nightmare Pokemon."
The lights came up of the set of a desert, where the Scorbunny staggered into the scene. "Water...." he pleaded. "Water..."
He gasped in awe as a majestic Arceus puppet appeared before him. "Hail to you, Father of the World..." he stammered
"And to you likewise, milord," the Arceus puppet replied, its voice strong and yet gentle. "Where does the wind take you? Have you come here to escape a task or find one?"
"To find one," the Scorbunny playing Prince Alex replied. "I seek the stronghold of Darkrai the Nightmare Pokemon, who has spirited away my mother."
"You are on the right track, but you will not be able to reach it." the Arceus puppet intoned over a somber stinger from the orchestra.
"Why not?" the Scorbunny asked.
"There are three rivers in between, and three Hydreigons guard them." the Arceus puppet explained. "Many a fine hero has tried to slay them so all may cross, but so far, all have failed."
The Scorbunny flicked a gold coin at the Arceus puppet. "I have gold and plenty to spare." he smirked. "After all, what dragon Pokemon doesn't like gold?"
Angry murmurs filled the peak, and Moltres flared her feathers in annoyance at the haughty prince. "Prince Alex rode on to the first of the three rivers." Brenna intoned as the lights went down. "A Hydreigon waited on its bank, its three heads hungrily eying the prince. Prince Alex was so terrified of the huge dragon Pokemon, he rode back the way he had come, to his own kingdom."
The lights came up on the throne room again, where the Scorbunny playing Prince Alex arrived before the Cinderace, Ruby, and the other Scorbunny. "My lord and father! I have searched for many months, in many lands, until not a single one remained of the troops I took with me." he breathlessly explained. "I myself barely escaped with my own life, but no trace of Darkrai the Nightmare Pokemon or of the queen, my mother, could I find!"
"Aw"s filled the peak as the Cinderace and the Scorbunny playing Prince Alex hugged. "My dear son, take my blessing, with gold and troops as much and many as you need, go forth and try. If you succeed, you will have my kingdom after me." the Cinderace told the Scorbunny playing Prince Dimitri.
The lights went down as the orchestra struck up another adventurous interlude. "Prince Dimitri, vowing he would do better than his brother, took a knapsack full of gold and a hundred thousand troops, and set out." Brenna narrated. "He, too, came to the same desert where his brother had met Arceus."
The lights came up on the Scorbunny playing Prince Dimitri in the desert. "Water..." he gasped.
He gasped when he saw Charlotte, in the role of Kitsune, approaching him from stage left. "The holy Delphox herself!" he gasped. "Is it really you, or are you only a mirage?"
"I am no mirage...take my paw, and you will see." Charlotte replied, offering a paw to help the Scorbunny up.
Once the Scorbunny playing Prince Dimitri was back on his feet again, he bowed before Charlotte. "Hail and well met, Envoy of the Divine Flame."
"And likewise to you, milord." Charlotte answered. "Where does my master Arceus lead you? Why do you come here? To escape a task or to meet one?"
"To meet one," the Scorbunny playing Prince Dimitri replied. "I seek the retreat of the Nightmare Pokemon Darkrai, who has kidnapped my mother."
"You go in the right direction, but all the same you will never reach it." Charlotte cautioned.
"Why not?" the Scorbunny playing Prince Dimitri asked.
"There are three rivers in between, and three Hydreigons guard them." Charlotte explained. "Many a fine hero has tried to slay them so all may cross, but so far, all have failed."
The Scorbunny flicked two coins in Charlotte's direction. "I have plenty of that," he chuckled. "Where there's a dragon Pokemon, there is treasure, too!"
"Prince Dimitri remembered what his brother had said, and found another longer way around to avoid the first Hydreigon. But when he approached the second river, the Hydreigon guarding it made him freeze in terror." Brenna narrated.
The lights came up on the throne room set again. "My lord and father! I have wandered many months through strange lands, and not one remains of the great army I took with me." the Scorbunny playing Prince Dimitri breathlessly explained. "As for me, I too narrowly escaped with my life, but I found no sign of the Nightmare Pokemon or of my mother, the queen!"
More "aw"s filled the air as the Cinderace and the Scorbunny playing Prince Dimitri embraced. "Peter...take what you require, and go forth in search of your mother." the Cinderace instructed Ruby.
"I have need of neither gold nor army, Father," Ruby replied. "Give me only a Ponyta of my own choosing and a sword and a bow fit for a hero."
The Cinderace snapped, summoning a Lucario in the role of a guard. "Bring Peter the best sword and the finest bow in the armory." he began. "Inform the royal stableman to prepare the finest steed in the stables."
"Yes, milord!" the Lucario replied before hurrying off over an excited interlude...
The orchestra started an adventurous melody. "Prince Peter rode for a day and a night, for a week, for one month, for two, and then three." Brenna narrated over the music. "He passed the swamps and the fiery desert, and at the edge of the forest, in the brush and briar, met Arceus and Kitsune, this time in all their holy glory, by two stones."
The lights came up on the set of a forest, where the Arceus puppet from before and Charlotte stood waiting. Ruby gasped when she entered the scene. "The Creator of All Things...and his holy envoy!"
She bowed before the Arceus puppet. "Milord, Lady Kitsune...I await your message with a humble heart."
"Why do you come here, young prince? To escape a task or to meet one?" Charlotte asked.
"To meet one." Ruby replied. "Like my brothers, I seek the lair of the Nightmare Pokemon Darkrai, who has kidnapped my mother."
"You have a fine sword, a fine bow, and the mount of a hero, but all the same you will not get to Darkrai." the Arceus puppet sighed.
"Why not?" Ruby asked, confused.
"There are three rivers in between, and three Hydreigons guard them." Charlotte explained. "Many a fine hero has tried to slay them so all may cross, but so far, all have failed. Your brothers turned tail and ran when they met the Hydreigons...so will you too flee for your life, or meet these vile monsters in battle?"
"I'm not like my brothers--even if I had to go to the ends of the world, and slay a thousand monsters, I will do anything it takes to bring my mother home safely." Ruby vowed.
The Arceus puppet looked up at Ruby as a soft and gentle theme began. "I see you are brave and courteous too."It is possible you may yet slay the Hydreigons that guard the three rivers. If you do, ride straight on until you reach a high mountain, where four palaces of Darkrai stand. At the base of the mountain is a cave with an iron door. Enter it and you will find four iron claws. Bind these to your hands and feet and you will be able to reach the top."
Ruby nodded. "I will take Your holy advice to heart, milord...thank you!"
"You're most welcome, hero." the Arceus puppet replied as Ruby departed offstage. "We both will be watching over you on your quest."
The orchestra started an exciting melody. "Prince Peter bade Arceus and Kitsune farewell, rode to the first river, and easily slew the Hydreigon there." Brenna narrated as Ruby and the Hydreigon puppet pantomimed a fight.
She watched as Ruby delivered the final blow to the puppet. "Then he rode on to the second river, and the third, and slew the Hydreigons there too." she continued as the lights went down.
The audience gasped in awe as the lights came up on a beautiful mountain set. "Before long, our hero came to a mountain so high that its top appeared to be propped against the sky." Brenna continued. "He found everything as Arceus had said. After tying the claws to his hands and feet, our hero began to climb the mountain.
Ruby appeared in a spotlight, climbing the majestic prop mountain. Once she reached the top, the audience roared with applause as she looked around. "Thank you, Great One." she smiled before the lights went down again.
"Whether the way was long or short, I don't know, but he came at last to a vast palace made of gold. No guard stood at its gate, and he went inside." Brenna narrated.
Awed murmurs wafted across the peak as the lights revealed a golden palace set. "Wow...everything in here is made of gold!" Ruby gasped as she admired the beautiful set and gold furniture.
She spotted a Dedenne in a gold costume on a golden chair, embroidering on a golden frame. "Hail, and well met, young lady..." Ruby smiled as she approached the Dedenne. "Is this a palace of Darkrai? I seek to battle the Lord of Nightmares, and save my mother."
"This is indeed a palace of Darkrai, young hero," the Dedenne smiled as she set aside her work. "My name is Aurica. I, too, was stolen away from my father's kingdom by the Nightmare Pokemon, who comes here to visit me once every three months. I know nothing of your mother, but if you go to Darkrai's second palace, maybe you may hear of her. The Nightmare Pokemon is hard to conquer, however, and you are the first who has been able to come this far in recent memory. Should you succeed, remember me and take me back with you to the world of light."
"Okay!" Ruby smiled as the lights went down.
More awed murmurs went up as the lights revealed a silver palace set. After a few moments, Ruby arrived in the scene. She spotted a Minccino in a silver costume on a silver chair, embroidering on a silver frame. "Hail, and well met, young lady..." Ruby smiled as she approached the Minccino. "Is this a palace of Darkrai? I seek to battle the Lord of Nightmares, and save my mother."
"My name is Erien." the Minccino replied as she put away her work. "I too was stolen away from my father's realm by the Nightmare Pokemon, and brought to this palace, where he comes to visit me once every two months. I have not seen your mother, but if you go to Darkrai's third palace, beyond this, maybe you may hear of her. If you meet in battle and are the victor over him, do not forget me, but take me with you to the world of light."
"I won't forget you, don't worry!" Ruby assured the Minccino as she exited.
Excited chatter raced across the peak as the lights came up on a crystal palace set. Even Moltres was amazed by how the set blazed like fire in the fading sun.
When Ruby arrived, she found Lita, now in a pale blue costume sitting on a crystal divan, making lace on a crystal pillow.
"Hail and well met, milady!" Ruby smiled as she approached Lita.
"To you likewise, young prince," Lita replied as she put away the prop lace. "But how did you come here? By your own free will or by force?"
"By my own free will," Ruby answered. "I seek my mother who has been stolen away from my father's kingdom by Darkrai. Can you tell me where she is?"
"Why should I not be able?" Lita giggled. "My name is Crisanta, and I too was stolen from my father's kingdom by the Nightmare Pokemon, who visits me here once each month. But your mother he keeps in his fourth palace, which is built of diamonds, and there you must go. But, I beg you, if you do overcome and slay the monster, remember me and take me with you into the world of light."
"Better I give my own life than leave you to Darkrai!" Ruby vowed, to cheers from the audience.
"Listen closely," Lita began. "When you come to the fourth of the Nightmare Pokemon's many palaces, you will see that it lies in a garden which is surrounded like a wall by an enormous Arbok coiled with its tail in its mouth."
She offered Ruby some prop leaves. "Take this bundle of herbs. When you come into the open field around the palace, choose a spot where the wind blows from you toward the Arbok, build a fire, and throw some of the herbs into the flames. Be careful that you do not use it all and that you yourself stand with the wind at your back. The smoke will put the Arbok to sleep, and you may then climb over its body and enter the palace."
"Thanks!" Ruby smiled as she took the leaves. "I will follow your directions to the letter."
She turned to exit the stage. "I promise--I will come back to rescue you!"
"And so, our hero set out." Brenna narrated over the orchestra. "When he had traveled for a day, he came to a palace which rose from the midst of a green garden. But all around the garden, there lay coiled a huge Arbok, a living, scaly wall." She let that hang as the lights came up on the set of the palace, complete with a massive Arbok puppet.
The audience gawked at the Arbok puppet for a moment before a red flash from stage right and fire noises signaled Ruby's character had put the Arbok puppet to sleep.
Ruby emerged on the set some moments later. "There...now I can go in and see Mom while Sir Hiss-a-Lot snoozes!"
The audience giggled as Ruby entered the diamond palace set. "Our hero passed through room after room till he came to the innermost sanctum." Brenna narrated as the palace exterior set disappeared, revealing Ruby climbing on an even more elaborate indoor set.
After a few moments, Ruby arrived in a ballroom set, where a female Cinderace in a magnificent costume waited. When she saw Ruby, she gasped. "Peter...is it really you?"
"Mom...it's me." Ruby smiled. "I came to rescue you!"
The orchestra played a joyous melody as Ruby and the female Cinderace ran and embraced each other. Once the "Aw"s from the audience quieted, the female Cinderace asked "How have you found me here, my brave and beloved son? For I, your mother, am in the power of this mighty Nightmare Pokemon who comes to me each day. You will strive to overcome him, yet he commands powerful dark magic, while you are but a untested hero--I greatly fear for you!"
"The wind does not blow forever..." Ruby smiled. "Eventually the darkness must yield to the light."
The female Cinderace smiled. "That is true...I can only hope you speak the truth.
A wind sound effect snapped the female Cinderace to attention. "Darkrai comes even now!"
She opened up the beautiful purple cape she wore. "Hide beneath my mantle!"
"Okay!" Ruby hurried inside the long diamond studded cape, seconds before a huge Darkrai puppet entered the scene.
The Arcanines in the audience growled when they saw the puppet's jagged sword and gaping crimson maw. "Have you been lonely, light of my life?" it asked in a deep, but gentle voice.
"Yes," the female Cinderace answered. "You travel far, and have many enemies both in the holy realm and the mortal realm--I fear for your life."
"Don't worry," the Darkrai puppet replied. "My life is not in my body but in another place."
"Where is that place?" the female Cinderace asked.
"It is in the broom that stands beside the door," the Darkrai puppet answered. "But I am tired and I would like to rest."
With that, the puppet sprawled out on an ornate black couch and pretended to sleep as the lights went down. "The next morning, the queen went and got the broom and a basket of jewels." Brenna narrated as the female Cinderace and Ruby pantomimed what she described. "They worked all day decorating the broom before Darkrai returned."
The Darkrai puppet met the female Cinderace and the hidden Ruby some moments later. "Why have you decorated a common broom with jewels?" it asked as it studied the glittering broom.
"You told me that your life was inside it, and your life is more precious to me than many jewels!" the female Cinderace replied.
The Darkrai puppet smirked. "I only told you that to test you. My life is not in the broom but in the hedge that rings the garden."
The female Cinderace watched as the Darkrai puppet disappeared in a plume of black smoke. "Is it safe to come out?" Ruby asked from inside the cape.
"It's safe." the female Cinderace replied as she located a bowl full of gold dust.
Once Ruby emerged from the cape, the female Cinderace gave her the gold dust. "Go cover the garden hedge with this, every twig and leaf."
"Right!" Ruby smiled before hurrying offstage.
After a few moments, the lights came up on the ballroom set again, where the Darkrai puppet again met the female Cinderace and the hidden Ruby. "Love of my heart, as I came here I saw that you had covered the garden hedge with gold. Why is that?"
"You told me your life was contained inside it, and your life is more dear to me than gold!" the female Cinderace replied.
The Darkrai puppet smirked with a chuckle. "I only told you that to test you again. Now, however, I am convinced that you truly love me. Know that my life is in neither the broom nor the hedge, but in an egg. The egg is in a Ducklett, which is in a Buneary, which nests in a great hollow log that floats in a pond in a forest on a far away island."
With that, the Darkrai puppet disappeared again. "This time, my dear son, Darkrai has told me where his wicked soul really lies." the female Cinderace explained to Ruby. "Only when you have found the egg can you overcome him. Go with Arceus, for here your life is in danger with each passing moment." She let that hang as the lights went down...
The orchestra started a quiet interlude. "After bidding his mother farewell, our hero went back the way he had come." Brenna explained from her nook. "He burned some of the herbs which Princess Crisanta had given him, climbed over the Arbok and went on his way. He passed the crystal, the silver, and the gold palaces without stopping, found his iron claws and began to climb down the mountain. At the end of a month he reached its foot, left the iron claws in the cave, found his mount grazing on the open steppe, and set out for the island." She let that hang as the lights came up on an island set.
Ruby arrived some moments later. After taking a minute to look around the set, she spotted a Goldeen puppet flopping on the stage. "Aw...let me put you back in the water, at least." Ruby smiled.
She carefully picked the small puppet up and set it in the "water". "Thank you for rescuing me, young prince." the puppet began. "Follow me, and I will show you the way to what you seek."
The lights went down, save for Ruby following the "swimming" Goldeen puppet. "The Goldeen led him to the island." Brenna narrated. "It swam one day, then two, and on the third it reached the island."
The lights came up on a forest set, where Ruby discovered a Ninetales puppet "struggling" to get its paw out from under a fallen tree. "Poor Ninetales...let me try to get you out." Ruby assured the puppet.
She drew a prop sword, then cut the prop log in half, allowing the Ninetales to get free. "Thank you for your help, hero." the puppet replied as it stretched.
With a flick of one of its tails, a ruby went flying into Ruby's paws. "Take this--it is a gift from me. Only invoke it in a time of great need."
"I promise." Ruby smiled as the Ninetales puppet bounded offstage.
The lights went down for a moment only to come up again on a set of a different part of the forest. "A Buizel puppet was nearby a "river", struggling to get free from a prop trap. "Aw...here, let me get you out." Ruby smiled before undoing the prop trap."
"Thank you for releasing me, hero." the Buizel puppet replied. After stretching, it heaved a prop sapphire in Ruby's direction. "Here--this is a gift from me. Only invoke it in a time of great need!"
"I promise." Ruby replied before departing offstage.
The lights went down for a moment only to come up again on a set of a different part of the forest. This time, Ruby spotted a Talonflame puppet struggling in some tangled vines. "Here...let me get you out of there..." Ruby offered before working to untangle the puppet's majestic wings.
Once freed, the puppet spread its wings. "Thank you for setting me free, hero. As you have done something good for me, let me do something good for you in return.
It pressed an emerald into Ruby's paws. "Take this--it is a gift from me. Only invoke it when you are in great need."
"I promise--thank you." Ruby smiled as the lights went down.
The lights went down for a moment only to come up again on a set of a different part of the forest. On this part of the set was a pond with a log inside. "Hm...I want to walk on that log, but it's just beyond my reach..." Ruby mused as she entered the scene.
A boom snapped her to attention, to some laughter as "rain" appeared on the stage. "I don't like the looks of the water level!" Ruby gasped as the "water" started to rise.
She scrambled onto a tree, moments before where she was standing was engulfed in "water". "That was close..." she smiled.
The log floating to her vantage point gave her an idea." "Oh yeah...if I can tie it down, then I can cut it and catch the Buneary!"
She waited for the "rain" to stop, then climbed down from the tree and approached the log. "HIIIIIIII-YAH!" she cried, only for her prop sword to bounce off the log!
Laughter rippled across the peak at Ruby's annoyed grimace. "No wonder I can't cut the log--it's HUGE!" Ruby sighed.
A red glint got her attention. "The ruby the Ninetales gave me! I am in a bit of a bind, so let's see what it does!"
She held the ruby to the sky, and sang Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul...
The ruby glowed, and the audience gasped in awe as the Ninetales puppet rushed from the forest and tore the log in half!
A Buneary puppet appeared in the log, but as it darted towards stage left, Ruby invoked the sapphire--Rou iitsa ron selga vichii...
The sapphire glowed, and the Buizel puppet from before sprang from the thicket. The audience laughed as the Buizel and the Buneary ran a few laps around the stage. But in the end, the Buizel cornered its prey!
A Ducklett puppet emerged from the Buneary puppet's stuffing, but as it climbed higher into the sky, Ruby invoked the emerald--Karuto, iichiida shou...
The emerald glowed, and the Talonflame puppet from before darted after it into the sky and grabbed it. The Ducklett laid an egg, and the egg fell into the sea, much to the audience's and Ruby's frustration.
"NOW how am I supposed to beat Darkrai?" Ruby sighed. "Going in the water is suicide for a Fire type!"
The Goldeen puppet from before emerged, and dropped the egg at Ruby's feet. "Looking for this, brave hero?"
"The egg with Darkrai's soul! Thank you!" Ruby smiled as she took the egg. "Now I can return to the mountain of Darkrai, and free my mother!"
"Remember--the telling of a story is easy, but the events of the story are often not so easy." Brenna reminded the audience.
Nervous giggles wafted over the peak as she continued "Whether he rode a week or a month, I don't know, but he came at last to the mountain, and returned to his mother's side."
The lights came up on the palace set again, where Ruby and the female Cinderace hugged. "Did you get it?" the female Cinderace asked.
Ruby nodded, and showed off the prop egg. "In here is Darkrai's soul."
"Boo"s filled the air as the Darkrai puppet returned. The orchestra struck up an exciting melody when the Darkrai puppet spotted Ruby, but before it charged, Ruby calmly tossed the egg from hand to hand.
Even Moltres was howling with laughter as the Darkra puppet was hurled violently from one corner of the room to the other. With one last effort the wicked Nightmare Pokemon tried to reach Ruby with his sword, but Ruby threw the egg on the floor with a SPLAT!
The audience of Pokemon cheered as the Darkrai puppet disappeared. "And so, Prince Peter made a great pyre, burned the body of the Nightmare Pokemon to ashes and scattered the ashes to the wind." Brenna narrated as Ruby did this. 'This done, they started off for home."
The Dedenne from earlier met Ruby and the female Cinderace onstage. "Princess Aurica met them with joy, and taking her with them, they visited the palaces of silver and crystal, and the princesses imprisoned there welcomed them as their hero and accompanied them." Brenna narrated as the Minccino and Lita arrived. "They all set out for his father's kingdom."
The lights came up on the forest set again, where the Arceus puppet and Charlotte were waiting. "So you have slain Darkrai!" the Arceus puppet smiled. "I rejoice as well, for he was my greatest enemy."
Awed gasps filled the air as for shining Ponyta puppets arrived onstage. "Take these--they are gifts from us both." Charlotte smiled.
"Thanks!" Ruby replied as she climbed aboard her Shining Ponyta puppet with the female Cinderace.
Once she was aboard, she pantomimed writing something on a piece of paper, then gave it to a Fletchling puppet as the lights went down.
The lights came up on the throne room set from before. "There is a letter here from Peter in the royal mail today, milord." a Raboot herald explained as he gave the male Cinderace the letter.
Excited, the male Cinderace unfolded the paper. "My lord and father! I, your son Peter, am returning home, bringing with me my mother the queen, my own bride-to-be, who is a maiden as lovely as the stars, and princesses for my two brothers. Please come out to meet us."
He gasped. "Peter...he's alive....HE'S ALIVE!!!"
He told the heralds "Proclaim through all the realm a grand festival to welcome my beloved and brave son home! Let all feuds and disputes be set aside, for my beloved Kenna is home!"
"Yes milord!" the Raboots chorused as the lights went down.
Brenna appeared in her nook as the orchestra played a victorious theme. "The king's joy knew no bounds. Minstrels across the land struck up joyous songs on their instruments, and the drummers played a victory cadence as the party was led to the palace. The king then decreed a great festival whose splendor was talked about across the world, and is still remembered even now."
She concluded. "Prince Peter went on many more adventures, but that is another story for another day!"
Moltres' applause was the loudest as the lights came up for the curtain call. Once everyone had taken their bows, she addressed the group. Very well done! You are indeed as skilled as my brother Zapdos says you are!
She went on If I had to offer any constructive criticism, I would suggest you all look into battle training to improve your fight scenes.
"We'd love to learn how to improve our fights, milady." Ruby smiled. "Who could teach us?"
Not far from here is the Battle Dojo, where the Hero's Sword Zacian and the Guardian Shield Zamazenta train all that wish to follow the warrior's path. Moltres explained. They have also trained many actors in all manner of stage fighting.
She conjured a beautiful red stone with a flame etching inside. As thanks for your thrilling performance. I grant you the Ruby of Courage. May it remind you to fearlessly face whatever challenges and dangers come your way.
"Thank Arceus we're back in cooler weather!" Lita smiled as the group made their way across the plains some days later. "Maybe once we visit the Battle Dojo, we can put fight scenes in our plays!"
"How exciting!" Ruby agreed. "I wouldn't mind fine tuning my swordplay and my archery skills...."
"According to Moltres, the Battle Dojo sits in a deep forest, in a place called the Hero's Grove." Brenna explained. "The twin wolf kings--the Hero's Sword, Zacian; and the Guardian Shield Zamazenta; run the dojo, and teach anyone wanting to learn to fight how to fight unarmed, and with weapons. They also teach actors and theater troupes how to fight onstage."
Brenna smiled as the plains gave way to a forest. "If I wanted to play a role in any play, I would want to do 'The Three Musketeers'--in honor of Cobalion, Vizirion, Terrakion, and Keldeo."
Inspired, Ruby held a stick high as the caravan entered the Hero's Grove. "All for one, and one for all!" she proclaimed, to some excited cheers from the forest Pokemon.
A deep, but gentle chuckle filled the air as a large cyan wolf with yellow eyes, a pink tail, and pink braids emerged from a large building with a sloped roof in the center of the grove. Bravo, young one! You must be part of the troupe that thrilled Moltres...
"I am, Great Hero Zacian." Ruby replied with a little bow. "We have come all this way to learn to battle on the stage, and add even more excitement to our shows!"
A bulkier red and blue wolf with a ponytail on its head joined Zacian in the grove. While it is always exciting to see a fight onstage, remember that stage fighting requires practice and dedication to do well.
So if you wish to learn how to battle onstage, come on inside. With that, Zacian led the way inside as the group hurried to secure the caravan...
In the dojo, Zamazenta addressed the group. You know well from your own shows and by watching others perform that many plays have some element of battle. But you should also remember to stage the fights safely. So if you are ever unsure or uncomfortable at any point during a fight scene, stop!
Zacian nodded in agreement. Remember, you are only creating the illusion of battle--but things can and will go wrong, and actors may be hurt. So even though they are props, handle prop weapons as if they are real--very carefully!
"So can we get lessons from a fight trainer?" Lita asked.
A Lucario joined Zacian and Zamazenta in the dojo's main hall, a script in her paws. This is Erza, one of our fight trainers. Zamazenta explained. She will be guiding you through the basics of stage combat, and a practice show for you to perform for us and the forest Pokemon. Once you perform the practice show, we will evaluate how you did, and teach you some more difficult maneuvers. Once you feel you are ready to try out the more difficult moves, we will give you another, more difficult show to do.
If the second show goes over well, then we will allow one of our fight trainers--be it Erza or someone of your choosing--to go with you on your journeys. Zacian continued.
"Your proposal is fair, Great Ones." Lita smiled. "We look forward to learning how to fight onstage."
"All right, everyone..." Erza began as she met the group in a training room. "If you have learned martial arts or sport fighting, none of those rules apply to the stage. Remember what the Great Wolves said--you only want to create the illusion of a fight; and do it safely."
The group nodded. "Before we learn how to fight, we first need to understand the fights in the context of the overall play." Erza explained as she gave the group a copy of the practice show's script. "This way, we understand the character's motivations and emotional stakes in each of the fights."
"'The Three Hero's Blades'...okay..." Charlotte mused as she thumbed through the script. "Oh, we're fighting dragons this time, not trolls."
"Troll puppets are difficult to put together for many troupes." Erza admitted. "This is not to say it's not impossible, but the troupe must really know what they are doing to create a believable troll."
She went on "Fighting with puppets is harder then fighting one on one. This is because you often have to coordinate the fight with multiple performers--especially with larger puppets like dragons."
She looked out over the excited group. "Unlike the original story, there are three heroes in this play instead of one...so do we have any volunteers for those roles?"
"Me!" Lita called.
"Me too!" Ruby agreed.
"I wanna try being a hero for once!" Brenna smiled.
"What other differences are there in this script?" Shimmer wondered as she made some preliminary notes on costumes.
"Aside from there being three heroes, and dragons instead of trolls, the coachmen are kinder to the princesses--three rogue knights steal the credit instead." Erza explained.
"That's good--I always wondered what compelled the coachmen to do that." Rio smiled. "Some rogue knights make more sense."
"When the true heroes return, the rogue knights give them an impossible task--which they manage to complete." Erza went on. "This spurs the princesses to reveal the truth, and the coachmen confirm what they say."
"I like that better than the coachmen as the bad guys and the Beasts revealing the truth." Brenna grinned. "But I'm looking forward to playing my very first heroic role!"
"You'll do just fine as a hero--don't worry!" Lita smiled as the group hurried to prepare for their first fight lesson...
Act 46: The Show of Fire, Ice, and Lightning (part 1)
The Hero's Grove buzzed with activity as Zacian, Zamazenta, and the other Pokemon of the grove gathered to watch the group perform a few days later. "Nervous?" Ruby asked as Brenna emerged from the dressing area in her costume--a blue adventurer's tunic.
"It's a little weird not narrating for a change..." Brenna replied as Erza delivered a sapphire studded blade to her. "But we've practiced this, and done well. That, and Shimmer will do just fine narrating."
Applause in the grove snapped Lita to attention. "Here we go--let's show the Hero's Sword and Guardian Shield what we've learned from our fight training so far." she whispered as the orchestra started the play's overture.
"There were once three siblings--two sisters and a brother--who sought their fortunes in distant lands." Shimmer began "Their father had joined Arceus in the heavens some months before, and the brother and two sisters had to sell what he left in order to bury him."
"Aw"s wafted through the grove at this, and Zacian rendered a respectful salute, never mind the hunter was only in Shimmer's imagination. "All that the three siblings kept of their inheritance were three special swords."
The lights came up on Ruby studying her ruby studded prop sword. "The brother, Rowan, had a blade studded with rubies, in honor of his passionate courage and joy." Shimmer explained.
The spotlight expanded to include Brenna, who was on top of a rock examining her own blade. "The elder sister, Meriel, had received a sapphire studded blade, in honor of her faithfulness and wisdom." Shimmer went on.
The spotlight next included Lita, resting on a hill with her topaz studded prop blade nearby. "The younger sister, Christa, had received a topaz studded blade, in hopes it would bring her deep friendships, abundant prosperity, and eternal happiness." Shimmer went on. "But for the moment, all of them wondered if the promise of abundance and happiness would ever come to pass."
Lita sighed. "Now that Dad has met Arceus in heaven, what is there for us to do? He never taught us a trade in life, so none of us can really follow after him..."
"At best, we can herd Mareep or do some other kind of work on a farm." Ruby sighed.
"I guess the only thing we can do is ask around the hill country and see if a farmer will hire us." Brenna sighed as the lights went down.
"And so, the three siblings traveled from farm to farm in the hill country, but every farmer seemed to have enough hands to help for the year." Shimmer narrated. "Eventually, they found a farmer willing to hire them. The girls helped out with chores around the farm, while Rowan looked after the Mareep."
"The lights came up on a room in a farmhouse, where Ruby, Lita, and Brenna reunited onstage. "What a day! The crops are doing very well this year..." Brenna smiled as she hung a sun hat on a hat stand. "The farmer's wife even has promised us a pie from the Pecha harvest!"
"Mmm"s went up from the audience. "We won't have to worry about cream with our Pecha pie..." Lita agreed as she too hung up a sun hat. "The Miltanks and the Combuskens are productive this year!"
"Well, today something strange happened..." Ruby began. "I was off to take the Mareep out today, but our master warned me to keep away from three particular meadows..."
"Why?" Brenna was intrigued.
"People say that the meadows in question belong to three mountain dragons." Ruby explained over a tense stinger. "This is why the hill overlooking the meadows is named Dragon's Mount."
She intoned. "According to legend, if one of the Mareep were to wander to the meadow, the dragon would come, and not only carry off the Mareep, but their shepherd as well."
Lita was unfazed, despite the orchestra's dramatic stinger. "That's just a bedtime story, Rowan..." she deadpanned, to some laughter from the audience.
"Yeah--the farmer's only telling you that to scare you." Brenna agreed. "Besides, I haven't seen a single scale of a dragon since we've been here!"
"Have you ever given our master any reason to believe you would venture into Dragon's Mount?" Lita asked."
"No--I take good care of the Mareep, and so far, I haven't lost a single one," Ruby replied. "I would do anything to keep the Mareeps safe, including fighting a dragon!"
The lights went down, then came up on the set of a bedroom at night. While Lita and Brenna were "asleep" Ruby laid awake in her bed. "I wonder if it's true there are dragons in Dragon's Mount..." she mused. "If there were, the news would spread across the land, and eventually reach the royal ears of the king. He'd likely send out one of his bravest knights to fight it, so it wouldn't bother us and the other farmers."
The prop ruby studded sword got her attention. "Then again, we still have our jeweled swords--our father's last gift to us. Is it possible they are powerful enough to even slay a dragon?
A devious smile formed on her face. "It's decided--tomorrow, I will purposefully let a Mareep stray into one of the forbidden meadows. If a dragon does come to carry it away and eat it, I will battle it with my red blade!"
Act 47: The Show of Fire, Ice, and Lightning (part 2)
The orchestra started an ominous melody. "The next morning, Rowan intentionally let the Mareep stray into one of the forbidden meadows." Shimmer narrated as Ruby arrived on the set, and carefully nudged a Mareep doll out on the stage.
A roar startled some in the audience as a majestic red dragon puppet "flew" on the stage. "Who allowed you to let your Mareep graze in this meadow?" it roared.
"I allowed myself to do it, you overgrown Charizard!" Ruby shot back, brandishing her prop blade at the puppet.
In the wings, Brenna watched with Erza as Ruby nimbly jumped around the set to evade the puppets claws and "fire". "Erza...I'm nervous for my fight scene..."
"What are you nervous about?" Erza asked. "You did well when we practiced your fight..."
"Ruby makes it look easy..." Brenna worried as she watched Ruby poke the dragon puppet, then nimbly jump away from more "fire". "I'm afraid I'll blank out on what we practiced..."
"Remember that all we're doing is creating the illusion of fighting to the death." Erza reminded Brenna. "Just pretend the audience is not even there, and go through the progression we practiced."
"Okay..." Brenna swallowed hard as she watched Ruby deliver the final blow to the puppet.
"Now the first meadow was theirs; but not long after this, Meriel felt like visiting the second meadow." Shimmer gave Brenna cue from her nook at stage right.
Here goes... Brenna took a deep breath to dispel the lingering Beautiflies in her stomach, and made her way onstage with some Mareep dolls. After carefully nudging one towards center stage, a roar made her nearly jump out of her shell as a majestic blue dragon puppet landed before her. Who allowed you to let your Mareep graze in this meadow?" it roared.
Brenna did her best to hide her nervousness as she drew her sapphire blade. "I allowed myself to do it, you oversized Gyarados!"
She mentally walked herself through Erza's progression as the puppet lunged at her. Okay...jump away as the puppet lunges at you, lure it up the hill at stage left...
She braced herself, then performed three quick stabs at the puppet. One, two three, go down the hill and corner it....one, two, three...head to stage right and lure it up the hill...
In the wings, Lita watched Brenna battle at stage right. Keep it up, Brenna...you're doing great!
One, two, three....jump up the hill... Brenna reminded herself as she hopped onto the next level of the prop hill. One, two, three, jump up the hill...One, two, three, jump up the hill...
A confident smirk formed on her face as the blue dragon puppet met her at the hill's next to last level. Lunge and hit the head, and we're done!
The audience roared over the orchestra's victorious theme. I did it...I remembered Erza's progression without blanking out!
She hurried offstage as the lights went down. "How'd I do?" she asked Erza as Lita got in position to battle a gold dragon puppet onstage.
"Very well." Erza replied. "My only suggestion is to try and make the fight flow like water, not jerky and robotic. But this will come with time, practice, and the more fights you do."
"Make the fights flow...got it!" Brenna smiled before hurrying to get a drink of water...
Later, Ruby, Brenna, and Lita returned to the house to find a Grovyle in farmer's work clothes waiting for them. "Welcome home, you three. We all thank you for getting rid of the mountain dragons, so they won't bother us any more."
"Aw, it was nothing!" Lita smiled.
"Rowan...Meriel...Christa...although I am well pleased with you all for what you did, I must ask you to stop singing." the Grovyle went on.
"Why?" Ruby asked, confused.
"What's wrong with singing?" Lita agreed.
"Because I said so." the Grovyle replied, to some laughter from the parents in the audience.
"We're not kids anymore!" Brenna shot back. "All we want is an answer to our question--no more and no less."
"Did the king just make a no singing law?" Lita asked.
"If we sound terrible, you can just tell us that!" Ruby agreed. "So why are we not supposed to sing?"
"Okay...I'll tell you if you promise not to tell anyone what I am about to tell you three." the Grovyle sighed.
"Arceus' honor!" Brenna smiled, making the three fingered scout sign for emphasis.
The orchestra started a sad melody as the Grovyle went on. "You three know very well that great sorrow reigns throughout the land..."
"Yeah--His Majesty has been forced to give each of his three daughters to three dragons..." Lita replied.
"The dragons will come to take them very soon." the Grovyle continued. "The king has promised a third of the kingdom to anyone who can save them. Should the hero be male, he will also receive the hand of the princess he saved as well. This is why you three are not to sing in town, although you may still do so out in the fields."
Ruby sighed. "The poor princesses...about to meet a horrible fate through no fault of their own..."
"Maybe we might be able to save them!" Brenna suggested as the music turned hopeful. "We have the magical swords our father left us, after all."
"Besides, we can leave the farm behind with a clear conscience, since now the townsfolk in this area do not have to worry about the mountain dragons any more." Lita agreed.
Act 48: The Show of Fire, Ice, and Lightning (part 3)
The orchestra started an adventurous interlude. "And so, the three siblings left the farm behind, although not without first bidding their employer and his family farewell." Shimmer narrated. "They received a generous amount of money and supplies for their travels, but this paled in comparison to what they would discover as they explored Dragon's Mount...."
With that, the lights came up on a set of a majestic fantasy hillside. Lita was first to arrive onstage, happily scatting a jig as Ruby and Brenna followed her. The audience clapped along as Lita sang "The Hearthome Pilgrim".
Once the applause for Lita's performance died down, Lita made a grand gesture to the hill. "Here we are--this is Dragon's Mount!" she smiled
"Not too much different from hundreds of other hills..." Brenna smiled. "Although...there had to be something valuable inside for dragons to take up residence. You know well from the bedtime stories Dad always told us that dragons like gold and jewels."
"Well, now that the dragons are gone, we can go take a look!" Ruby suggested. "Maybe save a princess or three, as well!"
The lights blinked back to Shimmer's nook. "What the siblings found inside Dragon's Mount was not gold or jewels. Nor did they find lost princesses inside--instead, they found gear and worthy companions for the heroes that they were."
Awed chatter echoed through Hero's Grove as Ruby, Brenna, and Lita arrived on a sparkling cave set. "Greetings, heroes that slew the dragons that held us prisoner." a Raikou puppet began.
"We have awaited our deliverance for some time, but we never lost hope that we would be rescued." an Entei puppet agreed.
The spotlight expanded to reveal a Suicune puppet, three Ponyta puppets, various props. plus the rest of the cave set. "As thanks for your bravery and valor, we offer these gifts to you." the Suicune puppet explained.
"We also pledge our loyalty to you, now and forevermore." the Entei puppet added.
Ruby hurried to a normal Ponyta. "I'll take this mount and the red armor." she smiled.
"The shiny Ponyta and the blue armor is mine." Brenna smiled.
"I'll take the Galarian Ponyta and the gold armor." Lita suggested before dashing by the Galarian Ponyta puppet's side.
"Wise choices..." the Entei puppet replied.
"But how are we going to feed you guys, our mounts, and ourselves?" Ruby asked. "Much less pay the food bill?"
"Worry not, little one--we three Beasts can hunt for ourselves." the Raikou puppet assured Ruby. "Not to mention all the gold in this horde should be more than enough to cover expenses as you travel."
"Thank you!" Lita smiled.
"Yeah, thanks!" Ruby agreed.
"We promise not to use these gifts for our own selfish gain." Brenna replied. "Instead, we will use them for the glory of Arceus!"
"And save the princesses from horrible fates!" Ruby agreed.
"About that..." the Suicune puppet interjected. "This was why Arceus led you here to slay our oppressors. He believes more than anyone that you can save the king's three daughters."
"We won't let Him down!" Ruby vowed.
"Let us hurry to the royal city." the Raikou puppet suggested. "If fortune favors us, we will learn when the eldest princess is due to meet the ruby dragon."
"Let's go!" Lita called as she led the charge offstage, to a victorious theme and cheers from the audience.
The lights appeared on Shimmer in her nook as the entourage of puppets "ran" across the stage. "With their gifts in tow, the three siblings made their way to the royal city. The three Beasts went on before them, scouting ahead for danger and informing them of items and places that would bring luck on their quest. The adventures they went on while on their journey are stories in themselves."
Giggles filled the air at Shimmer's quip. "Eventually, the siblings reached the royal city." Shimmer went on as the lights came up on a majestic royal city gate set. "Every house in the city had a black banner for mourning, even the city gatehouse." She let that hang as Ruby, Brenna, Lita, and their puppet entourage arrived at stage right.
"We're here..." the Raikou puppet noted before the three Beast puppets transformed into three shining prop jewels. "We would cause quite a stir if we roamed the city streets." it continued from the topaz in Lita's paws. "So we have chosen to disguise ourselves as jewels to avoid rousing unwanted attention."
"In the event that you need our help, hold the jewels in your hands, and invoke the mystical melody the jewel will sing to you." the Suicune puppet explained from the sapphire in Brenna's hands. "This will summon us from the jewels."
Ruby, Brenna, and Lita nodded, then made their way through the gate, where a crowd of extras playing townsfolk milled about. "Poor Princess Robin..." a Bulbasaur sighed.
"The heir to the throne, about to be cut down in her prime through no fault of her own..." a Chikorita agreed."
"Rumor is that the ruby dragon will take her this Fire Day." a Charmander interjected.
The lights blinked back to Brenna. "Fire Day...that's two days from now." she reported.
"Maybe the Beasts could give us strategy advice that we didn't have before..." Ruby mused. She let that hang as the lights went down.
"That night, the siblings met with the three Beasts to determine the best strategy to defeat a ruby dragon." Shimmer narrated from her nook. "It was agreed that Rowan would battle the fiend."
The lights came up on Ruby, Brenna, Lita, and the Beast puppets inside a majestic house somewhere in the royal city "I know a ruby dragon is a lot more powerful than the red dragon I fought before--so how do I adapt my strategy?" Ruby asked.
"The red armor you wear will protect you against the flames it breathes." the Entei puppet replied. Like all dragons, it is weak against ice and light, but also has an additional weakness to water."
"Before you march to battle in the morning, I will imbue your red blade with cold, and give you some sapphires and aquamarines as burst attacks." the Suicune puppet offered. "These gifts should serve you well in the fight."