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...