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 I'll Never Let You Go, Lía & team's development thread
 Posted: Nov 7 2016, 01:45 PM
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Experienced Handler
Total Posts: 116
Member No. 1743
Joined on 8-August 14.

Líadain Kenyon

Awards: 3

-- Figure out what to do with the corsola & slowbro family from Lía’s travels.
-- Start building Mairead’s trust in Lía.
-- Bonding with Mairead
Setting: Continues on from this training thread, with a few hours time skip.
The Twirling Grumpig Inn.

Her new handler didn’t seem happy. Lía had spent the hours after their training session in the alley making sure everyone was fed and that the injured corsola was comfortable. She’d taken the coral Pokémon out of the bowl of water she’d set up when the water got too cool, taking the time to check her severed tail to see how it was healing.

She’d asked for all their attention afterwards, sitting on her bed with the corsola huddled against her side. Mairead had plopped down at her feet to listen, and the mother slowbro had deigned to rest her chin on the edge of the crate she and her babies were in to listen.

‘It’s been a long day, and I doubt it ended the way any of us expected or wanted,’ she started, scrubbing a hand over her face. The corsola whimpered and the slowbro hummed in agreement. ‘There’s nothing more we can do today, but I promise you all you’ll be safe with me tonight. Tomorrow I’ll figure out what to do, since I obviously can’t move you back to the bay,’ she said, chewing on her lip. ‘I’ll think on it tonight, but I promise I’ll do everything I can to find a safe place for you and your babies to live,’ Lía said to the slowbro, who accepted it with a languid nod. Lía turned to the corsola next. ‘And I know what happened today hurt and scared you. If you stay with me, I can’t promise that you won’t get hurt again. I understand completely if you don’t want that kind of lifestyle,’ she said gently, fingers rasping over the corsola’s rough skin.

The corsola seemed to wilt, but shook her head. ‘I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to get hurt again, or see my friends get hurt or die again,’ she whispered in her high, sweet voice. Lía looked uncertain, and glanced at the slowbro for clarification.

The psychic Pokémon’s eyes glowed briefly pink, and Lía’s glazed over. She blinked rapidly coming out of it, before smiling and nodding down at the pink and white Pokemon.

‘I understand. I promise you I’ll find you somewhere safe to recover, until you’re ready to head out to the ocean again.’

The slowbro had gone back inside the crate with her litter, and the corsola was looking down at Lía’s knee, deflated, but Mairead was still watching her handler attentively - so she saw the worry on Lía’s face, the exhaustion.

Mairead paddled forward, gently bumping against Lía’s shins. The young Guardian couldn’t understand even if Mairead told her she was here for her, so she tried to show it in her face when Lía looked down at her.

Instead Lía gave her a smile, trying to plaster on her reassuring face again even though Mairead had seen it drop. ‘Don’t worry, Mairead. I haven’t forgotten you - you did brilliantly today. Didn’t let anything get to you.’

Mairead grumbled softly, turning away. That hadn’t been what she meant, she wasn’t after more praise. Besides, it wasn’t true. She’d not been able to look at the dead Pokémon - she’d gone straight past any that weren’t moving to the actively flopping luvdisc, or the ones strong enough to still call for help. She didn’t know if she’d ignored any living ones, too scared to look at them and see a dead body. She’d been so relieved when Lía asked her to stay with the corsola - it had meant she hadn’t had to weave past any more corpses.

She jumped when long, thin fingers that were already becoming familiar brushed between her ears. She looked up to find Lía watching her closely, a sympathetic smile on her face. ‘Or maybe you just hide it better than I do,’ she said softly.

Mairead leaned against Lía’s legs, cheek against the smooth leather of her boots. It didn’t matter that Lía wouldn’t understand. That made it better, in a way. She wouldn’t know how Mairead had let her down. ‘I should have been braver; I should have done more. I’m supposed to be a Guardian’s partner.’ Since she’d hatched she’d been told that was her purpose in life - to serve a Guardian, to protect people. She’d been happy with that. She’d been overjoyed this morning to be called out of her pokéball - in the street instead of the barracks, to be greeted by the tall woman introducing herself as her new Guardian rather than her caretaker. She would have rolled through hoops to please her, so giddy to begin her work.

Then the beach happened. No one had told her stuff like that happened. No one said she’d be asked to deal with dead and dying Pokémon on her first day - water Pokémon, at that. And that it hadn’t just been a storm, that it had been people who had done that, like the older Guardian had said...

Being a Guardian’s partner was scarier than anyone had told her it would be.

‘Hey.’ Lía’s voice was soft, uncertain. Mairead jolted, worried that the slowbro had translated for her. The mother was still in her crate, ignoring everyone else, and she relaxed enough to meet Lía’s grey eyes.

Her handler went to speak once, twice, biting her lip between attempts. ‘It occurred to me,’ she started finally, ‘that I don’t know how Guardian partners are selected. Whether you’re given a choice in the matter or not. I chose this life, my dad’s a Guardian and I knew what I was getting into. Maybe not exactly what would happen, and so soon,’ she admitted, grimacing, ‘but I knew the kind of things that I’d be dealing with, and I don’t know if you did. You’ve been so great today, but I don’t know if this is the kind of life you actually want.’

Her heart was going light and fast. What was she saying? She wasn’t going to get rid of her, was she? Mairead reared up onto her tail, grabbing Lía’s knees with her stubby front flippers, bleating in distress, desperately trying to get through to her with her huge, round eyes and shaking head. ‘Don’t leave me! I want to be your partner! I’ll do better from now on, I promise! This is all I’ve ever wanted to be,’ she said frantically, even as Lía’s startled hands came to her sides to steady her and the corsola was jostled by all the movement.

Lía stared down at her, thrown by the sudden display of emotion. She made soothing noises while looking utterly lost as to what to do. ‘Easy girl, it’s alright Mairead, it’s okay,’ she said, the muscles of her legs tense beneath Mairead’s weight.

Blinking hard, Lía gave her what Mairead thought was supposed to be a reassuring squeeze, but then why did she look so sad?

‘If you really want to go that badly, I’ll find somewhere safe for you, I pro-’

Mairead gave another loud, desperate bleat, rocking forward in her urgency.

Lía stopped, clearly realising she’d made a mistake, but still so wide-eyed, like she was scared of misunderstanding again. ‘You don’t want to leave?’ she asked tentatively, but with so much hope. Mairead’s heart leapt - she was finally getting through to her! - and gave the most exaggerated nod she could, her chin bumping Lía’s knees.

Finally, Lía’s smile seemed real - real and happy, rather than tired or putting on a brave face. She leaned down until her forehead pressed between Mairead’s ears, her fingers a tight but supportive pressure at Mairead’s flanks. ‘Thank you, Mairead. I’ll do better from now on, promise,’ she said; voice muffled in the space between them.

Mairead closed her eyes, breathing steadying as her Guardian straightened, a wobbly smile on her face. Mairead carefully dropped back to all fours with a dull thump, the trunk of her tail aching from holding her up so long. She didn’t care. Lía wanted her to stay, wanted her to be her partner. She’d have to train especially hard to make sure she never regretted that decision, and she’d have to grow up. No more being scared.

It was with a less burdened heart that Mairead settled down for sleep on one side of Lía’s single pillow, the other used to cushion the bottom drawer of her nightstand so the corsola would be comfortable. She fell asleep to the sound of Lía’s light, steady breathing, only dimly aware that it meant her handler was still awake even as she drifted into dreams.
* * *

There had to be somewhere.

Knowing she needed the sleep, Lía lay with her eyes closed even though her mind was buzzing. She tried to focus on the snuffly breathing of several pokémon in the room with her, a familiar background noise from her various pokémon babysitters, but tonight the usually soothing sound wasn’t working.

Mairead’s soft fluff tickled Lía’s forehead as the spheal breathed in, already deeply asleep. At least one of them would be well-rested tomorrow when Sally turned up.

She needed somewhere safe to move the slowbro family and the corsola; a protected stretch of beach, or a cove or something. There had to be somewhere like that in Seaway.

The thing is, the bay was supposed to be safe. How could she guarantee that the new place she took them to wouldn’t be subject to an attack like the one they had seen today? If it was a completely wild environment, she couldn’t say it would be safe. They were wild pokémon, they should be used to a dangerous lifestyle, but there was a difference between avoiding predators and the targeted destruction at the beach. She’d promised to help them, and she didn’t want to go back on that just because they should be used to the risks. Not when the risks weren’t natural.

So if a wild location was out, what then? The corsola didn’t want to be captured, and the slowbro would likely murder any potential handlers in their sleep should they try to catch her or her babies. Maybe there was a reserve nearby. She’d have to write to her father tomorrow morning, ask if he’d found any places like that in his travels.

Her body was finally starting to feel heavy, her muscles slack, when the thought snapped into her head like a slap from a Jynx. Her breath sucked in sharply as she roused, only to sigh out as she processed the idea fully. If she hadn’t felt so lethargic from being on the verge of sleep, she might have smacked herself for not thinking of it sooner.

Her parents. Her mother ran a day care – Lía was sure she wouldn’t mind taking the slowbro family and corsola in for a few days until they’d gotten to the bottom of this mess with the tentacruel and the unnatural storm. Their plot of land near the coast included a river leading into a cove that spilled out into the sea outside of their borders. The cove was ideal for Muireann, her father’s lapras, and the giant water type would happily share her space for a few days, especially with such small guests compared to her own size.

It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it’d work as a temporary solution until they could solve the main problem. She could still ask Dad if he’d found any suitable places they could live long-term, and she could move them herself one evening if she didn’t have time when she was on-duty. Hopefully her unexpected charges would agree to her plan, but she wouldn’t bother them tonight. She could ask in the morning while they were all getting breakfast, and with any luck they’d take the solution for what it was.

Hopefully Sally would agree with it being a reasonable solution, she thought as her body settled into stillness again, her mind drifting into the pleasant haziness of near-sleep, punctuated with only the odd clear sentence as little details popped up to be resolved before she sank fully into sleep.

* * *

Breakfast was a quiet affair, conducted in Lía’s rooms since she doubted Innkeep Goshop would appreciate having a bunch of bleating, hungry baby psychics disturbing her other patrons. The innkeeper communicated mostly through grumbles, grunts and glares, but she didn’t skimp on any of their portions – and Lía was fairly sure she gave the wounded corsola extra.

She washed down the last of her heavy, dark rye bread and ham with a swig of ale before clearing her throat for attention. Just like last night three heads turned to face her, still licking crumbs from around their mouths.

Suppressing a grin when one of the baby slowpokes burped, Lía dusted her hands off as she began to speak. ‘I think I know where I can take you where you’ll be safe, at least for the time being.’ At this, ears pricked up and eyes sharpened. The corsola tottered closer, her feet tapping on the wooden boards. The slowbro sat up straight rather than resting her head languidly on the edge of the box. Mairead was already paying keen attention, sat by her feet with her round ears tilted forward.

‘My parents own a good-sized plot of land, and my mother runs a day care. Our land includes a small cove with access to both a river and the ocean that should be big enough for you all to stay in until we have figured out who is responsible for yesterday’s attack. Once they have been dealt with, we can focus on finding you all a more permanent home. I want to stress that you won’t be captured while you’re there – your lives should be relatively undisturbed from what you were used to, other than my father going in to visit Muireann, our lapras, when she’s not on duty. You will be free to fend for yourselves if you wish, but my mother can provide you with food if you’d prefer.’

Lía shrugged, holding nothing back. ‘It’s a temporary solution for now, but I think it’s the best one available to use at present. Is it acceptable to everyone?’

The corsola chimed softly, rocking forward on her front legs slightly. The slowbro snorted and dropped her head back into the crate, her lack of disagreement the only sign of her approval. Mairead bleated, clapping her flippers, as if determined to make up for the slowbro’s dearth of enthusiasm.

Lía smiled, appreciating the show of support. She hadn’t hidden her worry as well as she should have done last night, but it was a relief to see it hadn’t shaken Mairead. She leaned forward to scratch the top of the spheal’s head in thanks before sitting straight, feeling more optimistic and ready for the day. ‘Alright then. It’s too late to move you there now and still be back here in time to meet Sally, so I’ll wait til she arrives and run the plan past her. She might be able to help me move you all before we set off today; if not I’ll be able to do that this evening. The daycare isn’t too far outside Seaway, so between the two of us it shouldn’t take too long.’

At the small chorus of assenting grunts and murmurs, Lía started to get ready for Sally’s arrival – making sure her armour and weapon were well-tended and her clothes as neat and clean as she could get them. She’d have to remember to carry a spare set of clothes in future, in case of situations like this arising. Ah well – it was a learning curve. If they did head to her parents house this afternoon she could quickly change there, or if they went to the barracks and they had enough time. Her armour covered the washed-out stains at least.

Her first day as a Guardian had been harder than she had expected, but she held out hope the second day would help her come to terms with the first.

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 Posted: Jan 11 2017, 06:27 PM
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judge of the stables
Total Posts: 1010
Member No. 1433
Joined on 30-January 14.

Eryn Norwood, Adelaide Hawksworth, Seung Han, Iuchra Nic Longáin (Retired)

Awards: 1

This was a very nice development thread that used your Travels post as a springboard for relationship building! I enjoyed reading it. http://i832.photobucket.com/albums/zz241/HarperRegion/Sprites/Emoticons/1.png

That being said, Malread gains 1 bar of happiness and the note Building a firm relationship with Lia.

profile & travels
profile & travels
profile & travels
user posted image

please refer to me with they/them pronouns!

user posted image
PCR | Iuchra | Tracker
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 Posted: Oct 3 2017, 09:12 AM
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Experienced Handler
Total Posts: 116
Member No. 1743
Joined on 8-August 14.

Líadain Kenyon

Awards: 3

-- Introduce Tanza to the others.
-- Establish the team dynamic.
-- Establish Pokémon Handling aptitude.
-- (Optional) Improve Dragon Handling aptitude.

‘I’m home,’ Lía called as she closed the front door behind her. She finally let go of Riagán, who shook himself in disgruntlement.

Doug was the only one to reply; already sprawled out on the rug in the hall, snoozing in a patch of sunlight. His tail beat lazily against the floor in greeting as he raised his head, the light gleaming on the smooth scar on his muzzle, yawned at her, then went back to sleep.

Everyone must be outside then. Dad may even be on a job.

Riagán leapt over Doug as Lía unlaced her boots, before following her rowdy dragon through the house towards the kitchen and therefore the back door.

Sure enough, Mam was outside. Lía could see her in the paddock fenced off from their back garden – which was virtually a field itself.

Cadhla turned as Lía hailed her, walking barefoot through the grass. She boosted herself over the fence to meet her daughter part way, greeting her with a tight hug.

‘Now then love, I didn’t expect you back this early.’

‘I meant to be out longer,’ Lía admitted, nodding with a thin smile to the dragon charging around their lawn, ‘only Mr. Rambunctious over there had other plans.’

Cadhla groaned. ‘He’s a little hellion,’ she sighed, shaking her head.

‘It’s a good job he did though. I’m a chunk of gold down but I’ve got a new team member. I think you’ll like this one,’ she said, unclipping the pokéball from her belt and waving it teasingly at her mother.

‘Oh go on, let us see then!’ Cadhla laughed, standing back as Lía called out her new puppy.

Tanza burst out of her ball with a wagging tail and a sneeze at the fresh air. She wheeled around and spotted Lía, bouncing up to put her paws on Lía’s knee briefly in greeting, before being distracted by Cadhla cooing and kneeling down by her.

‘Oh, look at her! Hello darling,’ she said, holding her hand out. Tanza’s ears perked, nose twitching, and she leaned in to sniff – then lick – at Cadhla’s fingers. Given how thorough she was, Lía guessed Mam had just done the lunch time feed.

‘For such a young pup, she’s pretty impressive,’ Lía added, crouching down beside her mother and handing over her pokécard.

Cadhla hummed in approval and agreement, scanning over Tanza’s details as the pair of them idly scratched the lillipup behind the ears. ‘Aye, she is. Already seen a move tutor or got them from her parents, inherited a few TMs, a decent type coverage...’ she mused, handing the card back and leaning in to give Tanza a physical check. Typical breeder. ‘Good bone structure, smooth, silky fur, nice tan and cream colouration, saddle’s on the paler end of the spectrum but nothing too unusual.’

‘According to the details the shopkeeper gave me, her mother was a Beartic. Might explain the paler fur?’

‘Aye, probably,’ Cadhla said, sitting back on her heels and letting Tanza squirm from her analysis. ‘You going to introduce the others to her?’ she asked.

‘Yep, may as well get it over with. Where’s Dad?’

‘Up in the far field. We got a tauros and miltank in to breed so he’s getting them settled in. His group are around and about though.’

‘I’ll grab them then, I’ll show her to Dad when he’s back down.’

* * *

It was an odd collection of pokémon she had in front of her, but this had become something of a routine now. Each new addition to her team had to meet the gang at home, hence the small crowd gathered in the back field.

Admittedly not everyone was here – Muireann was in her cove, Éimhín was nowhere to be seen and the cats wandered in and out as they pleased, but other than that everyone was here, either sprawled out in the grass, perched on a fence, or gegging in on proceedings while watering Mam’s plants or herding one of the flaaffy Mam was looking after so they trimmed the grass rather than decimating whole patches of it.

Mairead, Riagán and Saighead were closest to her. They were used to the larger group, even if Riagán still tried everyone’s patience and Saighead was trying to find her place in the pecking order. Of them all, Lía wanted Tanza to bond with her team closest.

Ideally she would have liked to introduce Tanza to them all slowly, but news travelled fast and they were a nosy bunch, so of course most of the household had turned up, or conveniently found jobs that put them in view, like Leith and Brádach.

Lía sat cross-legged on the grass, Tanza in her lap. The pup was sitting up, quivering with curiosity at all the new faces before her. The older dogs were holding back, though Muriol – who was nesting three eggs – was squirming in place as if she couldn’t wait to rush forward and adopt the new pup.

‘Alright you lot, this is Tanza. She’s only young so be gentle, please. We don’t want any of you galoots squashing her by accident.’ That earned her a ripple of amusement, and a confirming snort from the pup on her knee.

Lía looked down at the lillipup to get her attention. ‘Tanza.’

Unused to her new name, Tanza didn’t look up until Lía clicked her fingers above Tanza’s head and repeated herself. The puppy looked up so sharply and so far she nearly toppled backwards against Lía’s stomach.

Chuckling, Lía pointed out at the small crowd of pokémon. ‘These pokémon are on my mam and dad’s teams. They’re basically my family, ok? They’re the ones you’ll be living with whenever I’m at home. They’re not all here right now, but this is most of them.’

Tanza yipped to show she understood. The other pokémon were much bigger than her, even the cats lounging on the fence or in the tree. The dogs were even bigger than her papa had been, though they looked older than he was. She shouldn’t fight them; they were too big – too strong. But live with them, she could do. She wouldn’t let herself be bullied by them, but she’d avoid battling if she could.

Besides, her new handler – Lía, she’d said – had taken her out of the cage. The man who’d put her there had been nice, and she’d only been there during the day, but she hadn’t liked it. Lía had been the first to look at the little puppy in the corner, the noisiest but one of the dullest in colour. She had given her a name other than ‘pup’ – not the name Mama had given her, but Lía wouldn’t know that. Only Mama, Papa and she knew it. So she would be Tanza for her. She’d find her place amongst these big dogs and cats and other pokémon. She’d make sure Lía didn’t want to put her back in a shop’s cage again.

Lía spoke again, and Tanza looked up to listen. ‘And these three,’ Lía pointed, and the three smaller pokémon at the front shuffled forward, including the dragon that had led Lía to her, ‘are my team. This is Mairead, Riagán who you’ve met, and Saighead. I hope you’ll all work well together.’

Tanza nodded. She’d make it work. She vaulted over the barrier of Lía’s folded legs, bouncing onto the grass to get the scent of her new teammates. Riagán’s she knew; sharp, metallic, dry heat. Mairead, the biggest, was warm, salty – like skin, not seaweed. Saighead was cooler, lighter, forest smells – patches of sunshine in the trees.

Of the three, only Riagán was younger than her – weaker than her. She’d have to remind him of that. Later, though. Mairead was talking, and she could see one of the bigger dogs starting to creep forward.

‘Welcome to the team! You’ll do fine,’ the spheal said, giving Tanza a friendly bump to the shoulder. The pup had to take a few steps to recover, finding herself face to face with Riagán. He seemed to be sulking.

‘Mama’s got me. I don’t know why she needs you too.’

Tanza’s ears tilted back against her head, her tiny frame shrinking in on itself. Lía hadn’t picked her out of pity, had she?

Mairead took a breath, probably to scold him, and Saighead turned as if to peck the hard scales, only for Riagán to perk up. ‘Probably because I found you for her. Ow! What?’ he demanded as Saighead’s beak drilled into his back and Mairead’s flipper nearly knocked him over.

‘You’re being rude, Riagán,’ Mairead sighed in a long-suffering tone.

‘Ignore him. He’s a dragon,’ Saighead added, as if that explained everything. Maybe it did.

‘Don’t let grumpy here discourage you; you’ll fit in great, I promise.’ Mairead looked earnest, and Tanza forced a lacklustre, if hopeful wag of her tail.

All worries about Riagán’s comment then fled her mind as a huge shadow loomed over their group. Tanza shrunk down as small as she could make herself, an unintentional whine escaping her suddenly fear-constricted throat.

Heavy paws landed either side of her, and she scrunched into a tighter ball, until soft fur brushed over her back, a warm belly settled against her side and a wet nose nudged at her face. ‘Don’t listen to him sweetheart, there’s no need to be upset,’ a low but sweet voice rumbled right next to her. Tanza peeked up into the red eyes of a huge female mightyena, only for her field of vision to be filled by a pink tongue. Tanza flinched as the mightyena licked her from head to tail in a single swipe, leaving her fur sticking up in slick spikes when she shook herself.

Blinking to recover her equilibrium, she could hear Lía and Lía’s mother laughing. Mairead’s voice was a lot closer, though the spheal herself was obscured by the mightyena’s flank. ‘Muriol, you could have introduced yourself first.’

Mairead appeared from around Muriol’s neck. Tanza had to sit up tall to see her over Muriol’s encircled tail and legs.

Muriol whined, tail beating gently but still generating quite the draft to little Tanza. ‘I know, but Cadhla had made me wait so long already! And the little lizard upset her,’ she added, looking down at Tanza again tenderly. Tanza had the distinct impression she’d just been adopted by a giant, but that was ok. Mama was twice as big as this wolf-hyena, and now she was over the shock she was getting used to the size of Muriol.

‘I’m not a lizard! I’m a dragon!’ Riagán squawked, storming into sight to glare at Muriol.

The wolf just looked down at him, vaguely perplexed as Riagán reared back, then charged head-first into her shoulder. Muriol blinked, seemingly untouched by the tackle, while Riagán reeled back, dazed.

‘Harper’s sake, Riagán,’ Lía groaned, but before she could come over to fetch her dragon a second giant had risen from the crowd that were still maintaining their distance. This was a houndoom, male, and even bigger than Muriol. He nonchalantly picked up Riagán by the dragon’s middle, careful not to bite down, and trotted over to Lía while Riagán growled and rattled his scales, clattering against the hellhound’s teeth. The houndoom deposited Riagán in Lía’s lap before meandering back over to Muriol and flopping down next to her. He leaned in to inspect Tanza, breath hot on her face.

‘Thank you Doug. This is my mate,’ Muriol explained to Tanza as the houndoom sniffed at her fur.

‘You’ve got another one then?’ His voice was deeper and rougher than Muriol’s, hoarse like from breathing in too much smoke.

Muriol’s tail started wagging again. ‘Yes,’ she said proudly.

Doug snorted, the draft of hot air making Tanza’s eyes dry. Apparently she was acceptable, since he gave her a brief lick on the top of her head – with far more finesse than Muriol – before settling his head on his crossed forepaws with every intention of falling asleep in the sunshine.

‘Now, don’t you let the little lizard upset you, ok?’ Muriol cooed down at Tanza, completely ignoring Riagán’s indignant screech of ‘Dragon!’. Tanza nodded, tail wagging with more genuine enthusiasm. ‘Good. Now, go meet everyone. We’re nice, promise. Just mind the cats; they can be a bit aloof at times.’ Muriol’s large paws and tail shifted, giving Tanza a gap to slip out of.

‘Thank you,’ she said up at Muriol’s grey muzzle before bounding out to her two female team members.

Saighead was staring at Muriol with a distant kind of resigned disgust. ‘You got Murioled.’ Muriol had been able to see her on the kitchen table when Lía first introduced her to the group – and had proceeded to nearly break the furniture when she’d lifted up on her back paws and plonked her front on the table so she could reach over and lick the bird. Saighead had nearly hit the ceiling, convinced the wolf was trying to eat her.

Muriol had been devastated for hours, until Saighead had reluctantly calmed down and let her apologise. In the time since she’d found out Muriol’s thick fur made a very good nest. They had an arrangement, which involved Muriol never mentioning that they had one. Muriol had been content to play along with the bird’s eccentricities, especially after terrifying her on first impression.

‘I did,’ Tanza agreed. Then, since Saighead was even smaller than she was, ‘They’re... all very big, aren’t they?’ she asked, in a confiding tone.

Saighead tilted her head, considering. ‘From down here they are. From up there? Not so much,’ she said, nodding up at the blue sky.

‘Huh. Guess not.’

Mairead shuffled over, nodding out at the patiently waiting pokémon. ‘Wanna meet the others? They should be a bit calmer than Muriol, promise.’

Tanza braced herself and nodded, letting Mairead lead the way over to the group.

‘Ok everyone, as Lía said this is Tanza. Be nice,’ Mairead said, taking on the role of spokesperson for Lía’s team. ‘Tanza, this is Emer,’ she began, starting with the biggest pokémon by a good few inches.

The arcanine was sprawled on the grass, watching lazily. She lowered her giant head to Tanza’s level to introduce herself, inadvertently looking as though she were about to pounce. ‘Hello pup. Don’t be scared off by Muriol; she always likes smothering little ones. Hopelessly maternal, that one.’

‘Oh, like you can talk, Emer,’ a sleek ninetales joked. She had a calm, measured voice; like nothing could ever provoke her to shouting.

‘Only with my own, Áine.’

‘And Lía,’ a pelipper piped up.

‘She is one of mine,’ Emer countered mildly, turning to look over at Tanza’s handler. ‘Who else cared for her, when Cadhla was too weak from birth and Muriol at her side night and day?’

‘Her father,’ a low, gravelly voice called over. The machamp that had been herding a flaaffy around the garden waved at Tanza as Emer snorted. ‘Name’s Brádach,’ he added, before shooing the disgruntled flaaffy onwards to the next overgrown patch.

‘Ok, ok, so you’ve met Áine and Skater,’ Maired said quickly, to break up the discussion, ‘who else? Where are the cats?’

There was a near-silent yawn, before a pink head appeared over Emer’s broad flank. ‘Here.’ The delcatty clambered over Emer’s side, using his claws to keep his grip. Emer barely seemed to notice her hiker, flicking an ear at him in greeting. A fine-boned persian followed him, pale fur gleaming almost white in the sunlight.

A soft thud of paws on grass. A liepard had dropped out of the tree just beyond the little group, his patterned fur breaking up his outline in the shadow of the tree leaves until he stepped out into the sunshine.

So assembled, Mairead took a deep breath. ‘Ok, this is Cáel and Aurnia, they’re mates, and this is Leannán,’ she said, pointing a flipper at the delcatty, persian and liepard in order.

‘He’s mine,’ Áine mentioned as the liepard plodded over to her, long legs heavy in the grass from sleep. He rubbed his head against hers briefly before flopping down on his side in front of her, asleep within seconds.

Tanza nodded rapidly, keen to show she’d memorised this knot of family connections. ‘What about him?’ she asked Mairead in a whisper, nodding over at the huge blastoise watering the flowerbeds.

‘That’s Leith. Alistar’s partner pokémon. You’ll like him,’ Mairead assured her. ‘Leith! Come say hi,’ she called.

The huge testudine turned his head, the water raining from his cannons cutting off. ‘I’m busy, kid,’ he rumbled but came over, footsteps thudding against the ground.

Tanza could feel herself shrinking down again. At least the others were either lying down or far away, but having the second largest pokémon in attendance looming over her was intimidating.

It was barely better when Leith crouched down next to them, taking his weight on one knee and supporting himself with the opposite hand, due to how top-heavy he was. ‘You’re the newbie then.’

‘Yes!’ Why did her voice have to squeak?

Leith chuckled. ‘You’ll do fine, pup. Just bark if you get underfoot so I know you’re there; don’t want to step on you by accident. You look after her, kid,’ Leith added to Mairead, who visibly swelled with pride and nodded. The bigger pokémon may only be humouring Mairead by treating her as Lía’s envoy, but they weren’t mocking her, Tanza thought. They just knew Mairead couldn’t do much to actually make them fall in line, and respected that she tried to represent her team regardless of the power gap.

Satisfied, Leith stood and went back to work. Those on Cadhla and Alistar’s teams who weren’t asleep started to chatter amongst themselves or wander off, curiosity sated.

Saighead flew over towards Lía, leaving Mairead and Tanza to follow her.

Lía and her mother had been watching, talking, but both broke off to smile as they approached. Riagán was sulking on Lía’s lap.

‘How’d you find that then?’ she asked, leaning forward slightly to Tanza.

Lacking a way to communicate verbally, Tanza gave a big wag of her tail and a cheerful bark, ears prickled forward and mouth ‘smiling’ in the ways humans liked.

Lía laughed, reaching down to give her a good scratch around her ears that had Tanza writhing happily. ‘Good, I’m glad it wasn’t too scary for you.’ From her she turned to Mairead. ‘Thanks for doing that for me, Mairead. You’re getting really good at talking with them.’

The spheal bleated; eyes closed at Lía’s rewarding scratch.

‘Suck-up,’ Riagán muttered.

‘Don’t make me ice you again, Riri,’ Mairead murmured placidly.

Tanza stared. ‘Again?’ she asked Saighead in an undertone, as Riagán’s scales rattled and he started shouting about his name.

The bird sighed. ‘Lizard-brain keeps challenging Mairead. Refuses to accept that Ice beats Dragon every time. He thinks that because he’s a dragon and because Lía’s his mama, he should be leading the group. Mairead ices him to shut him up for a few days.’

Sure enough, Riagán had bounded off Lía’s lap and was growling at Mairead, who looked resigned.

Even though Riagán had been the reason Lía found her, Mairead had been kind to her. Riagán hadn’t. And... well, this would be a good chance to establish her place here.

Tanza braced her little body, lowered her head and charged Riagán right as he went to claw Mairead. The spheal dodged, then watched in astonishment as the puppy flying-tackled the dragon over and scrabbled to pin him down. Riagán yowled, claws swiping, but Tanza was too close to get caught.

She needed to end this quickly. Riagán might be younger and less skilled, but he was bigger than she was.

The icy air rippled out of her throat, freezing over the saliva on her fangs – brittle ice with a solid enamel and bone core. Tanza went for Riagán’s throat as her instincts dictated, teeth digging in enough to hurt but not enough to pierce. She stopped at Lía’s warning shout, but hadn’t intended to go any further anyway. Riagán squalled, tail thrashing, but couldn’t throw her off, especially not with the discomfort of ice at his throat.

With a low growl he finally went still, conceding to her.

Tanza carefully stepped away from him, wary of a retaliation.

There was one. Riagán immediately swung his reinforced tail, directly at her face – her ice-brittle teeth.

Tanza flinched back, knowing she was too close, too low already to duck, too small to jump high enough-

A fist smashed into the ground between them, the tail slamming into the bare forearm instead. Lía grunted in pain, and Riagán only had time for his eyes to widen and to whimper ‘Mama,’ before Lía had him pinned firmly on his back, her forearm already blooming red and grazed.

‘Enough! Everyone,’ she snapped, glaring round at her little group.

Tanza hunkered down, ears pinned back, utterly contrite. Only Saighead remained unruffled, having nothing to do with the squabble, but even she looked away, uncomfortable.

‘Mama, I’m sorry-’ Riagán started, only to be silenced by bared teeth. Tanza stared. She’d not seen humans do that before – act like them.

‘Now, a few ground rules, since this is getting ridiculous. If you are going to argue, or fight for your pecking order, or whatever that mess was – no seriously damaging moves. I do not want shattered teeth or bloody throats. You. Are. A. Team. And I expect you all to act like it. I do not want to have to intervene like this,’ she held up her arm for them all to see. A thin trail of blood reversed direction on her arm, looping back around from near her wrist to wind back towards her elbow, ‘ever again. Are we clear?’

Tanza nodded frantically. Please don’t send me back to the shop. Please keep me. I’ll be good.

Lía leaned back, letting Riagán up. He didn’t move at first, frozen in shock, but slowly flipped over to his feet. He slowly, gingerly approached Lía, eyes on her injured arm, but cringed back when she drew away, eyes hard. ‘Mama,’ he pleaded, soundly genuinely heartbroken, on the verge of tears.

He was only a baby. She should have remembered that.

‘Is this going to happen again?’ Lía asked, holding her arm up again.

Riagán shook his head, eyes shiny with tears. They all copied, even Saighead.

Lía sighed. ‘Come here,’ she said, leaning forward to scoop the dragon onto her lap. This time he didn’t complain, merely rose up onto his feet to plant his forelegs on her shoulders in an approximation of a hug, face buried in her neck, keening with sheer relief. ‘I don’t like shouting at you all. I don’t think it’s productive, but this time it was necessary. Now,’ she said, surveying her three females as they shuffled closer. Mairead sat near her injured arm and gently started breathing icy air on the rapidly darkening bruise. Lía winced. ‘Thank you. Now, I want you all to stop thinking of how to battle each other, and start thinking of how to battle with each other. I don’t know how that little argument started, so I can’t help you with that, but if you can all work together on the battlefield, hopefully cooperation off of it will follow.’

They all looked at each other. Even Riagán stopped sniffling to turn and eye the others speculatively.

Tanza hesitantly stepped forward. ‘I can’t use any myself, but I can boost Fire-type moves,’ she offered tentatively.

‘I don’t think we have any of those between us at the minute, but I know I can bolster any Ice moves you have.’

Saighead ruffled her feathers. ‘I’m good with hit and run tactics, and reducing the enemy’s accuracy.’

Riagán sniffed; voice thick. ‘I don’t have much right now, but weather and powder moves don’t bother me, so you can use those and not hurt me.’

‘And I have a lot of moves, and I can paralyse my opponents,’ Tanza said, desperate to contribute since her first idea was useless.

‘That’ll come in handy,’ Mairead mused.

As they talked, Lía gently put Riagán down and retreated with Cadhla to the house. Her mother patted her on the shoulder as Lía took a seat at the dining table, wincing at the bruise already spreading across the width of her forearm.

‘He’s got a good swing on him, I’ll give him that,’ Lía admitted, gingerly prodding at the bruise. Mairead’s melting ice had washed away most of the blood from the graze, but Cadhla plonked her full first aid kit on the table and started cleaning the cuts just in case.

‘How do you think you did there?’ she asked, no hint in her voice as to what she thought.

Lía grimaced, and not just because of the alcohol Cadhla had soaked a piece of cottonee wool in. ‘Should have intervened earlier. I need to work on helping Riagán with his temper.’

Cadhla nodded. ‘At least you know for the future. You’re still learning hen, nothing wrong with that, and no serious harm done. Better to sort things now than in the middle of a battle you need to win.’

‘Yeah,’ she sighed. ‘I just hope we won’t have a repeat of this in a few weeks.’

Cadhla chuckled. ‘Time will tell if the message has sunk in. Get some ice from Mairead on that,’ she added, handing Lía a tea towel to wrap it in.

‘Aye,’ Lía said, glancing out the window. Her team were still deep in discussion. Maybe they had learned. Hopefully they will have done by the time her next big mission came along. The last thing she wanted to do was lose a pokémon, especially if it could be avoided. Her team had great potential, she could see that, she just needed to help them channel it productively rather than destructively.

More training sessions, she decided. I can always borrow one of Mam or Dad’s team members to spar against, get them used to working together. See what they can really do.

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 Posted: Nov 21 2017, 04:40 AM
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Expert Handler
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Katheryn Knighton, Edith, Leslie Witcher-Steele

Awards: 6

As always, your writing catches my mind and transports me into the scene you're trying to portray. I love the dynamics you've established here, and I'll totally be stalking anything that your Riagán is in - pushy, demanding, proud dragon that he is, I love seeing your Lía keep him in line. I don't really have any recommendations of things I feel you could do better, to be honest, especially not in this kind of situation - I love how each character you bring into this has a clear personality and drive of their own and that you keep each one straight.

Now, on to the part I'm certain you're more interested in: the grade itself. I'd certainly say you've established Tanza and quite a bit of the dynamics of everyone mentioned in this post, especially amongst Lía's team - and done so quite well, in my opinion. You've also asked for two different aptitudes to be graded, which meant that I had to pay close attention to both this and what you've established in the past and all that fun stuff. Luckily for me, Lía's dragon-type handling was already established at some point in the past; I'd say that between what you've put here and what I've seen recently of your work with Riagán (because I can't not take that into account after having read it), you've earned a good 5 experience in Pokemon Handling: Dragons.

I'm going to start Lía's Pokemon Handling: General at Level 8, as a reflection of the experience she would have had growing up in the kind of environment she did here and from what I've read of Lía's history, travels, etc. Because I based this aptitude grade off of her history, this does not count as earning a new aptitude, and as such Lía gains no character experience for it - but it's balanced out by the aptitude starting at a higher level than it would otherwise.

Katheryn Knighton
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Leslie Witcher-Steele
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 Posted: Yesterday at 07:20 am
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Joined on 8-August 14.

Líadain Kenyon

Awards: 3

-- Introduce Lorcán.
-- Try to build friendship and trust; this will be the first stage of a very slow process.
-- Possible improvement of her Pokémon Handling: General Aptitude, and (if applicable), the start of a Pokémon Handling aptitude for either Dark types or canine pokémon, whichever is more suitable, if either!
-- Could someone change the Poochyena's name in Lía's profile to Lorcán please?

Mam had told her about him. Cadhla had heard about him through the Guild; a poochyena caught in Navdia Crater and very quickly put up for adoption. He was in pretty bad nick, though from what few details the adoption agency had given her that wasn’t his initial handler’s fault; instead the result of his environment and poor food sources.

It might have been her fondness for the breed, instilled in her by her furred babysitter Muriol, or her natural sympathy for a suffering pokémon, but for whatever reason she’d started making enquiries.

The agency had been... dubious. She was young, only a Junior Guardian, and the canine was feral. He refused to let anyone near him, snapped and snarled and had shown no progress in the time the agency had had him. He’d been an unconscious capture, possibly the reason behind his viciousness, though the workers wondered if there was more to it as they had said that even for an unconscious capture, he was uncommonly violent and untrusting. She’d only convinced them, and through them his initial handler, that she could handle him by giving a detailed explanation of her background and including a recommendation from one of Dad’s friends in the Guardians. Dad would have written it himself, but that would look biased even if he was being purely factual.

It took a few weeks of back-and-forth with the agency, but eventually all parties had agreed to the adoption and the price. While everyone involved had been keen to establish the poochyena would be going to a good home, Lía got the distinct impression the agency were relieved to see the back of him.

Of course, that meant he was now her problem.

His pokéball had arrived with an agency abra, and a final letter confirming the transaction. The letter went into the desk drawer with the rest of them, the pokéball stayed in her hand. First she headed to her room, quickly donning her training gear – light leather armour. She added some hand-me-down gauntlets of Dad’s, and her mam’s old gambeson for the extra padding. Suitably attired for a possibly violent pokémon, she for the kitchen.

Muriol and Doug were there, sunning themselves in the light coming through the window. Muriol must have had a sixth sense for puppies, because she immediately lifted her head and nosed at the ball as Lía passed by to the pantry.

Lía smiled, but firmly pulled the ball away so Muriol couldn’t accidentally – or “accidentally”, as had happened in the past – activate it. ‘Sorry girl, you’re going to have to wait with this one. He’s had a very rough start, and I don’t want to spook him.’

Muriol whined, licking her nose, but leaned back against Doug in acceptance. Doug gave her a quick lick on the face to console her, and deliberately placed his forepaw over hers to reinforce her staying put. She gave him an arch look, but subsided, resting her head on their crosses paws with a forlorn whimper.

Lía chuckled at the half-hearted guilt trip. ‘Next time. If he’s ready.’

Muriol huffed, but didn’t object further as Lía raided their pantry for some fresh meat. They had a chill box, kept that way initially by Muireann, now by Mairead since it was a lot easier for the little spheal to maintain the temperature in the box than the lapras. There were beef strips in wax paper in the chest; excess meat from last night that Mam had put aside for her.

Her best bet at making friends in her free hand, Lía headed for the back door and the garden. Mairead had made herself scarce, taking the rest of the team with her. Last she’d seen they’d been heading for Muireann’s cove, maybe to explore with the lapras gone, maybe to train. In any case, it left Lía free to introduce herself to the new pup.

She settled down in the grass about half-way from the house to the tree on the crest of the very slight hill on their land. She could distantly hear the low calls of the client pokémon in the paddock to her left, where Mam was working. Dad was out on a mission, his team with him.

Still, she spotted two tails hanging from branches in the tree, both slender and pale, one with a purple tuft on the end. She followed them up and along, until she saw the virtually camouflaged eyes of Aurnia and Cáel, watching. They were easily in sprinting distance – she’d seen them cover that distance in a matter of heartbeats when it was time for dinner – so she had reinforcements should the poochyena attack.

She was as prepared as she could get. With a calming breath, Lía activated the pokéball, projecting it out several feet so the poochyena wouldn’t feel crowded.

He materialised in a blur of white, already crouched and defensive, tail between his legs, ears laid flat, his ruff of fur flat to his back. She could see now what the agency had meant about his condition – while he was no longer starved-looking, he was still too thin, his fur patchy, with signs of mange still visible. The agency had tried to treat it, but with how vicious he was, they’d had to sedate him via hypnosis or sleep powder each time – which only exacerbated his trust issues.

He immediately started a low, soft growling. Lía recognised the noise from Muriol; that was the sound she made when she was uncertain if something new was a threat, and was warning whatever it was that she would run it off their land if pushed. With this new pup, in a place he didn’t know in a climate utterly different to what he was used to, it was no wonder he was making that noise, and threatening to chase anything close to him away.

Lía held her hands up, showing she wasn’t armed. ‘Easy, easy there pup. It’s okay.’ She kept her voice slow and soothing, but higher pitched than when she normally spoke to unnerved pokemon. The poochyena line had a wide range of vocalisations, but most or all of their lower-pitched noises were made when either threatening or being threatened. Lía aimed for the mid-high pitch Muriol greeted Doug, herself or Cadhla with when they’d been separated for a while. ‘I know this must be scary for you. I’m going to explain everything, ok? While I’m doing that, here.’ She gingerly unwrapped the meat with one hand, slowing her motions when the poochyena’s growls grew a fraction louder.

They dipped when the smell reached him on the breeze, his nose twitching.

Lía lifted one strip and tossed it across to the hyena.

He shied away for a second, then stepped forward, sniffing.

‘The person who caught you gave you up for adoption. I don’t know many details, but I do know you’re from Navdia Crater.’ She watched as he snapped up the beef, barely chewing before he swallowed. He eyed her package, but didn’t come closer. She tossed him another strip. Again, he backed away from the motion before cautiously approaching the meat. ‘You’re in Seaway City now – no droughts here to limit your food. Even if there was, we’ll keep you well fed. We’re well stocked.’ To emphasise, she waved the third strip at him as he gulped down the second.

His posture wasn’t as stiff, his ruff starting to relax. He still darted glances at her while eating, but the growling had stopped.

She gave him the third strip, deliberately landing it a little closer to herself this time. Only two steps closer, but he eyed it suspiciously. He leaned right over, trying to grab it from where he stood. He had to take a step forward, snatch it up then scurry back to where he deemed it ‘safe’ before swallowing it whole.

Seven strips left. She was going to run out of meat, but there was no forcing his comfort.

‘My name is Lía, I’m your new handler. I’m a Guardian in Seaway City. Do you know what a Guardian is?’

The fourth landed just shy of where the third had. Once again he scuttled forward, snatched, and backed away – though not quite as far back as he had been. The pup looked up at her, snorted. She wasn’t sure if he was answering her or just being impatient for more food.

‘I protect people and pokémon. Like you. I keep them safe, or I help bring criminals to justice when keeping someone safe in the first place isn’t possible.’ Another strip. Another step closer. And each moment he ate, she fell quiet to let him process what she was saying. ‘I know you don’t trust me right now, or any humans. I know you won’t believe me when I say I want to help you. But I hope I’ll be able to earn that trust, in time. I don’t just want you to be on a fighting team, I want you to become part of my family.’

He looked at her sharply, head lowered. His ears had come forward, though they were flickering between being forward or sideways. Uncertain, still scared but beginning to calm. She tossed him the sixth piece of meat. ‘There’s a lot of pokémon here; even a mightyena like you’ll grow into. Muriol. She’s been with my mother since before she met my dad. She’s a big sweetheart; she’ll probably want to adopt you as soon as she sees you. She does that with all new pokémon here, canine or not.’

As if to prove her point, Lía heard a whine behind her. Muriol was standing on the back doorstep, ears pricked, slowly wagging her tail in the hopes of being called over.

Lía sighed, shaking her head ruefully; and carefully moved over so she wasn’t blocking the poochyena’s line of sight to the door. The pup tensed again, ears flattening, backing up, but he didn’t start growling again, and he wavered on the spot, ears showing his indecision when he realised Lía wasn’t moving closer, just aside.

He lifted his head when he saw Muriol, nose twitching. Muriol pranced on the spot, eager to rush over, but obeying the boundaries Lía had established.

‘That’s Muriol,’ Lía said, throwing over more meat to try and re-establish the comfort zone the pup had accepted. He was hesitant, but slowly padded over to the morsel and didn’t back away. ‘She wants to meet you, but if you’re not comfortable with that then you don’t have to.’Muriol would be heartbroken until he changed his mind, but that was Muriol for you.

He whined, ears tilting back, posture shrinking into itself again. Muriol would have to be devastated for a while.

‘Alright, no problem.’ Lía gave the mightyena the ‘go’ hand signal Cadhla had trained her team with, for communicating across fields too big to shout over. Muriol whimpered, ears and tail drooping, but she sorrowfully turned around and slunk back into the house, the picture of grief as she trudged past Doug.

One day she’d learn.

The pup was watching her curiously. He was only a few steps away now; maybe a foot out of arm’s reach.

Three pieces left. She wanted to try something with the last two, if he’d let her. The remaining one she didn’t throw, she leaned forward, placing it down between them. He backed up as she approached, but only a little, apparently deciding that watching her with suspicious eyes was warning enough. He waited several long seconds before taking the meat, licking his lips fastidiously and eyeing the remaining two, lying in their paper on her knee.

Lía chuckled. ‘They’re yours, don’t worry. And there will be more food later, at dinner time. I won’t expect you to eat with the others; that would be too much too fast, I think. I’ll feed you separately again, until you’re ready to start meeting the others.’

Now for one test. She held the penultimate strip out by one end, the length of it dangling from her fingers.

The pup’s ears flickered again. He watched her, waiting for her to drop it, ears flattening briefly in consternation when she didn’t.

He whined, stamping his forepaws like he could shake the meat out of her hand. He leaned forward, then skittered back again. He did several attempts at this, each time getting closer, until he screwed up the nerve to dive in, snatch the meat from her hand without so much as a single hair touching her, then backing up to scoff his reward.

Progress. Small, but it was something.

Now for the last one. Given just how cagey he had been taking it from her hand, she doubted this would work, but she could try. She held the beef out again, but this time she held her free hand out as well, palm up, fingers relaxed so it couldn’t be mistaken for a fist.

He cocked his head at her.

‘I will not touch you if you don’t want me to,’ she promised. ‘But the choice is there, if you feel comfortable with it. If you want to touch my hand. If you do, all I’ll do is stroke you. If you don’t, you still get the meat, there’s no catch. It’s up to you.’

She fell silent, and just watched him. His ears were tilted to the side, bemused, wary. Slowly he wove his way in again, small, darting motions, towards her hands.

When he was just shy of them, of the meat, he hesitated – for a split second; he could have gone either way.

Then he snapped the food from her fingers and retreated again.

Lía smiled. She hadn’t expected him to allow touch just yet, but it gave her something to work towards. She crumpled up the wax paper, noting how his ears twitched at the noise and his ruff started to flatten in displeasure, but soon relaxed when he noticed the source of the noise.

He snuffled the air, realised there was no meat left, and sat down with a huff. They watched eat other, at an impasse.

Lía broke the silence. ‘We’ve got a lot of land here; when you’re comfortable you’ll be free to roam like the others. Right now though, I worry that you’ll find it too much too soon. From the reports I’ve got from the agency, when you feel overwhelmed you become very aggressive. While I know my parents’ pokémon can deal with you, we have client pokémon in the next field – Mam’s a daycare owner, and some of those pokémon are very young. My team are also quite vulnerable, and if any of you were to get into a fight you would both be badly injured. I don’t want that.’

The hyena tilted his ears back, displeased at the prospect – or at the idea that it’d be a stalemate.

Suppressing a smile, Lía continued. ‘For that reason, I suggest you stay in your ball, at least for now. As I said before, I’ll feed you tonight’s meal. If you want to sleep outside of it, we can set up a safe space for you where you won’t be interrupted by the others.’ And where he couldn’t easily do a runner, or attack anyone if distressed.

Sighing, Lía started to get to her feet – only for the growl to start again.

His posture had completely reverted – tail tucked, ears pinned, ruff flat, teeth bared. She held her empty hands up again, hoping he’d calm on his own. He must have seen her standing height as a threat display.

‘Easy, easy, hey,’ she said, going for that hopefully-soothing pitch again. ‘It’s only me. I’m only standing up, just like you are, ok?’

He still growled, backing up a step.

Okay, new tactic. She backed up; only a few steps, but it gave him the extra space he needed for her to not be looming over him. Slowly, his protests quietened – a good thing, since Aurnia and Cáel were both sitting up in the tree now, fully alert, ready to leap down to her defence.

While he didn’t cut an impressive figure right now, with his mange and malnourishment, he certainly would once he was healthy. He was fierce, and keen to survive – a little too keen, as he was treating even those trying to help as threats to be faced, but that wasn’t his fault. If she had to guess, he hadn’t trusted people before being caught, and being knocked out and waking up belonging to a Trainer had only broken that trust further.

She wanted to help rebuild that trust, if he’d let her. It would take a long time, but it’d be worth it. And if he was going to be part of this family, he needed a name.

He was still hunkered close to the ground, but seemed to be coming to the logical conclusion she’d pointed out – she was simply standing up, not threatening him, she was just a lot taller than he was.

She slowly reached for his pokéball, drawing it out of her pocket. His ears tensed, but he didn’t growl again.

‘Okay pup, it’s alright. I’m going to recall you now, ok? I’ll bring you back out for dinner tonight, I promise.’

His paws shifted – like he was gathering them under himself, ready to bolt. Lía clicked the button, recalling him in a flash of red light before he could either lunge at her or run away.

She sighed, rubbing a thumb over the surface of the ball as the two cats plunked down into the grass and ambled over, rubbing their heads against her legs.

Well, it had been a start. And she thought she had a name for him, after an old folktale back in Caledon about a warrior, whose epithet had since become a common local name. Lorcán – “little fierce one”. It was pretty apt, she thought.

She turned and headed back for the house, the cats trailing her. She’d try again at dinner time.

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