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 The Legend of the Harper
 Posted: Jul 25 2011, 11:44 AM
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It's a box of spiders.
Total Posts: 2321
Member No. 1
Joined on 19-March 10.

Branson Faust, Rohesia Clements

Awards: 1

Our story began centuries and centuries ago in another region, far beyond the Harper's Pass, a land torn by wars and oppressed by widespread famine. Only the rulers had their pick of the kingdom's fruits, and only they were permitted to keep pokémon who were not designated for work. There was very little freedom in this region then, and no personal expression. The people no more had time for it than for building ladders to the moon, and even if they had, they would be executed if found out. Heavy rewards were given to those who fed the royals tips of good information.

Despite this, there were always the rogues, the lawless, the traveling players and bards. It took a strong or cowardly man or woman to be a strolling player, for they were ever hunted by the law, and kept what pokémon they wished, though they could afford very few pokeballs. Most players had but one partner who helped them earn some coins and lift people's spirits, and occasionally the very good would have two, sometimes more. The Harper was one such player, a bard by trade, and known for the beautiful sounds he could entice from any instrument with a string. His first pokémon was a budew, given to him by his mother as she lay upon her deathbed. The grass pokémon was but an egg then, but it soon hatched under the Harper's meticulous care. He was old enough to know well that a budew was not a safe pokémon to keep, but until his father's death, he stayed on their family's farm and tried to hide the pokémon. During these years the budew evolved for him, to the young man's delight, but it could not last.

Just days after the pokémon evolved, his father passed away in an accident with a tauros stampede. The Harper and Roselia battled their lead bull fiercely to calm the herd, but it was too late. What was more, the neighbors had seen his pokémon, and none of them could hide the greedy looks on their faces. The Harper scooped up the rose bush pokémon and fled into the little house, but he knew he had no time. They would send out a messenger pokémon immediately- everyone was desperate for money. He did not blame them; they all had families to feed. He threw what little food he could into a bag made out of cloth and leather, along with all the good clothes he could find, including the great overcoat of which his father had been so proud. Last of all he took the bow and the quiver of arrows from where they hung beside their other things for hunting. It was illegal to hunt on the king's land, of course, but that stopped no one who was hungry. Many boys his age or younger had mastered the use of a bow and arrows in the same way he had.

That night he left the house and farmland, roselia at his side. He had only one other pokeball, having released his father's glameow onto the farm- it had never liked him and would do better hunting rats than starving to death in a pokeball in his pocket- and he knew that the players were in town, and would leave tomorrow morning. It was a long shot, but he had nowhere else to go.

He reached the players' camp in the early morning hours to find their caravans packed and waiting. He quickly found their leader and begged his case. The man handed him a little lyre and told him to get onto the caravan. "If you can make music worth hearing with this by tomorrow, you can stay with us, lad," the man said. The Harper had no idea what to do with the instrument, and neither did his roselia, who made a number of increasingly outlandish or overdramatic suggestions as he plucked aimlessly at the strings. He was exhausted, but he didn't dare sleep- what if the king's men found the caravan?

Through the rest of that night and the morning of the next day, he tiredly tried to pull the strings to create something he had only ever heard an example of twice in his life. Somewhere along the way, a melody began to take shape in his mind, and he sought it on the instrument, improvising where he had to. Then he played it again. It was a very simple melody, but he liked it. Roselia silently watched his progress, occasionally making up a little dance to the tune. Eventually they had worked out a song to which roselia would perform, and they slept. When the head of the players asked for his song, he played it proudly, and the man nodded and told him that he could stay with the players, but told him to keep working at it.

The Harper was with the players for no more than a year when he encountered a wild hoothoot, who challenged his roselia, believing it could win. The Harper had rarely battled before, but roselia seemed willing to try her strength. It was barely a victory, but a victory it was, and he caught the owl pokémon who had so impressed him with its tactics in battle. Some months later it had evolved for him as well, and his skills both as a trainer and a bard had grown at an unprecedented rate, earning him his name. He rose to become the leader, and stayed with that troupe into his thirties, leading them into ever more dangerous situations- and more importantly, back out, safe and sound. People would whisper their names in the streets, and more than once had they battled a party of the king's men to allow some peasant village another month's grace from the collectors.

Their reputation grew and his men began to believe they were invincible, though they were not, and the Harper was troubled. Finally, the king had laid a trap for him and his men and ensnared the players. They fought, but in the end, ten of the twenty four men were captured with their pokémon and the rest were killed. They were taken before the queen and the Harper managed to strike a bargain with her for their sentence. Instead of being hanged without a trial, they were made to fight again to prove that they should not be executed as well, but exiled. Luckily, his men won that time, and they were sent to the northern lands where little lived.

They were accompanied by the queen's guard to make sure they went where they were sent to go, but as they passed through the towns, more and more people joined their parade. By the time they had reached their exile point, they had enough people to make two villages in total together. The Harper had become a hero to the people, it seemed.

Over the next couple years, they were pushed farther and farther north, off the map to where the Shattersky Mountains walled off the region to the north. Their situation was dire, as they were reduced to hiding inside what caves they could find in the stony cliffs. In the Harper's cave, where he had settled with what was left of his original troupe of men, a tunnel extended into darkness. No one dared to explore it, for there were powerful pokémon in these mountains. They kept a fire burning day and night to ward off any wandering ice types. On the fourth night, the Harper stayed up, tending the fire with his noctowl and roselia guarding the cave. Roselia heard a noise from the tunnels; a whimpering, and brought it to the Harper's attention. Against his better judgement, he picked up a torch and followed his pokémon into the cave. To his surprise, a very young pokémon lay curled beside a rock, shivering violently. He had never seen a pokémon like it before, but when he spoke to it, it cringed away and cried, "Rioluuuuu!"

Roselia wafted some sweet scents over the poor pokmenom, clearly having been abandoned by its trainer. It was evident from how thin the pokémon was that it had no idea how to survive in the wild, and it was in danger of freezing to death here in the mountain. The Harper coaxed and encouraged it quietly to come back with him to the warmth of the fire. At long last it got up with difficulty and follows the two back to the blaze. It looked like a fighting type, the Harper thought, but it had metal on its paws. Coldly, the 'riolu' sat just inside the ring of radiating light and heat and curled up, mistrustful. It refused his offers of food, and his pokémon's. The baby pokémon pretended to ignore the Harper as he spoke to it, friendly, and Noctowl flies in more wood to burn. The jackal was starved for more than food, however, and drank in the Harper's attention. But as soon he and his men were awake, it had fled again, taking some of their provisions with it.

The next night, the Harper put a small pile of food just outside the firelight, and it was gone within hours. He repeated this for nearly a week, and noctowl would always tell him that the pokémon stayed longer each night, closer and closer to the light. One evening, the Harper set the food inside the firelight, and pretended not to see as the shivering pokémon creep into the light to eat and warm itself, then darted back into shadow. The Harper put his father's old cloak, much mended and patched now, out where the riolu would always sit. The pokémon did not appear that night for a very long time, and the Harper was afraid that it would not come, but finally, a few hours before dawn, a heavy rustling told him that the pokémon had taken it, and the usual food.

Harper checked the ground the next day, to find tufts of ragged fur and many small bloodstains or small frozen pools where the cloak had been, and a couple bloody pawprints. Very worried, he again stays up for the entire night, but the pokémon did not come. A couple hours before dawn, he decided that he would go to find the pokémon deeper in the cave. Noctowl led him and roselia, following the bloody tracks and traces only the bird could see. Finally noctowl stops and hooted quietly to signal a stop, and the Harper lifted his torch, dismayed. Riolu was there, but a bloody mess, only half conscious. Deep wounds from claws of some sort could be seen on the pokémon's body, and one ear was badly torn. Without thinking, the Harper immediately reached for the pokémon -- only for the little fighting type to lash out, half-mad with fear. Roselia intercepted the blow, cringing, and soothed it with scents until it allows the Harper to bandage it, and the pokémon watched the entire process carefully, then drew the cloak tighter around itself with a little whine. Harper noticed that the riolu continues to cast frightened glances to a small tunnel farther along, where even noctowl's eyes could not penetrate the darkness.

Suddenly the bird screeched as a rushing sound comes from that darkest tunnel. Harper and Roselia immediately move to protect the riolu as a dark shape hurtled out of the tunnel- a large sneasel, scarred and bloodstained with blood that was not its own. It took one glance at what would have been its next meal and launched itself at noctowl, who was still trying to take off. The bird and the weasel fought hard, each opening horrible wounds in the other. The sneasel began to take the advantage, until roselia leapt into the fray. The sudden distraction let noctowl get off the ground and the little grass pokémon launched a devastating poison attack on the dark pokémon who was so intent on shredding her flowers. Finally, the Harper was able to get a clear shot with his bow. The pokémon would not stop, and so he put an arrow through its heart. Even as it died, it still fought his roselia, slashing wildly, but too weakly to be effective. Roselia fired a pin missile at the pokémon to knock it back, and even as it shrieked and wailed and flailed, it tore into the Harper's left leg, laying it bare as it died.

Harper's leg gave out and he crumpled, just barely managing to avoid falling on the terrified riolu. Something in the tunnel hisses, and two baby seasel rush out, mad with lust for all the blood that had been spilled. Roselia fainted the one that went straight for the Harper, but didn't catch the one who attacked riolu. Luckily, it was even younger than riolu was, and the Harper was able to reach over and spear it on an arrow, while noctowl killed the one roselia had taken care of. They simply could not be left alive. Roselia and noctowl helped to bind the Harper's leg, and noctowl helped him up and over to Riolu. He felt for a pulse and found one, but faintly, so very faintly. Noctowl lifted the pokémon and carefully put it on his back. The great bird didn't have the energy or space to fly back, so they walked all the way back to camp, step by agonizing step.

Riolu was only dimly aware of the days after that, wrapped in a fever as it was. The Harper, heedless of his own need to rest, gave the pokémon half of his meals in addition to the pokémon's own. One night the riolu's fever finally broke and it woke up in the dead of night, pressed against the Harper. It began to sit up, but noctowl hooted quietly and made the little pokémon lie back down, frightened and angry.

Riolu began to recall his last experiences with humans, his abusive owner who had finally left him on a slope in the snow for his weakness after a particularly bad beating. He didn't know what a mother was, nor did he know what a real trainer was. Almost instinctively, it pressed against the Harper beneath the blanket, crying very quietly from the pain that moving caused and from the memory's impact. That morning, the Harper woke up to find the riolu just like that- pressed up tightly against his body, beneath the blanket.

Three days later they received a warning- the king's men were coming again and they had to move or be slaughtered. There was no where else to go, but even so they had to move. Riolu was well enough by then to be left on its own, and everyone thought it was a wild pokémon. They said their goodbyes and left the caves to travel west in the snow. To the east was war, and to the west were more mountains, but no wars. They were more likely to survive the cold than total war. Harper was cold, much too cold, having left his cloak with the riolu. The Harper briefly wondered if it was still alive, and kept walking.

Though no one knew it, the little pokémon had followed them all the way from the cave, drawn to the Harper's limping strength. Riolu was devastated when one night he saw the Harper break down completely while his people slept. They were walking into a dead end. There was nowhere else to go anymore, nowhere else to run. They would have to either fight and be killed, or surrender and be executed. Riolu nearly wept again, having linked himself with the Harper so carefully without his notice, but held back his tears. He knew a way.

The next day the camp stayed where it was due to the snowstorm blowing in. Riolu approached the Harper, to his surprise, and tugged on the man's sleave. The Harper called to noctowl- roselia was snug in a pokeball- and followed the pokémon who he had presumed was long gone. They struggled through the storm to a break in the mountains, becoming visible only after a series of very specific turns. Riolu let go of the awed Harper's sleeve and mimed injury. The pokémon and conditions in the pass were too much, but then it mimed the sun on the other side. They were saved. Harper scooped up riolu and laboriously climbed onto his noctowl's back due to his damaged leg, and they flew back to camp. None of the people knew about riolu except those from his cave, and hope shone bright on every face again as he described the pass.

The journey was hard, and several people were lost in the pass, but they made it through on good time, to emerge in a land none of them had ever even heard of before, spreading out as far as the eye could see. They could only stare, first at the land, then at one another. Roselia threw herself into the nearest patch of wildflowers, for spring was waking the land here. Noctowl whistled softly, and the Harper pulled little riolu out from where he had kept him hidden in his jacket during the day. He hesitated for a second, then said, "I have no pokeballs, no means of capture, but will you travel with me? As my partner... and my friend?"

Riolu's eyes sparkled, and the spark of these words struck the bond they had formed since he had first fed the little pokémon, and he ran forward and jumped into the Harper's arms, glowing, quite literally. Harper felt the shape he was hugging change, and when the glow faded, there stood riolu. Only, riolu was no longer a riolu, but a lucario. He eyed his new body incredulously. He hadn't even known such a thing was possible, and the Harper quietly hummed a soft melody, one he had composed a very long time ago indeed, at the start of his own travels.

With difficulty due to his leg, the Harper moved down the slopes, leading his people to warmer lands on foot, to where they would establish a city, the city that is currently the capital of the region.

No more than four years later, a sentry reported bad news. The king's armies had found the pass and were about to lay siege to it, thinking that the region beyond it was populated and resource rich, which it now was. Everyone armed themselves, and all but the women and children went north to face their enemy, with Harper himself riding on noctowl's back with roselia, firing off ranged shots and special attacks from roselia, while lucario, much stronger now, battled directly beneath, carving a formidable gap in enemy ranks. None of the army had ever seen a pokémon like lucario before, part steel and part fighting, and did not know how to defend against it.

For years the battles raged on, but the pass was a highly defensible location, and they at last managed to turn back the king's armies in a grinding, bloody victory as they retreated. The monarchy fell six years later, and peace settled again on the region. With no more wish to lead, the Harper again took up his old trade as a bard. He flew from city to city on his noctowl, accompanied by his roselia and lucario, and each night they would soar through the skies, high above most flying pokémon, and noctowl would feel as though she was brushing each passing star.

A decade later, at age 87, the Harper lay on his death bed, much revered by his people still. He released both his roselia and his noctowl, and told them both along with lucario to live free to the end of their days in their new region. He did not know then that no roselia or noctowl had laid eyes on the region before they, nor did he know that they would be the start of their species in the region, only that they solemnly agreed. Harper promised his pokémon that they would again meet in the skies one day, and he died. His people named the region, the pass, and the first city after the man who had freed them all- with a little help. No one knows where the Harper himself was buried, for his body was moved more than once, and his existence has faded into legends and the memories of the descended pokémon.

And so the Harper Region was founded, defended, and named. Wars would follow, of course, but for a long time, there was peace, the Original Peace. And even to this day the legend lives on, and it is said that on a clear night you can still see the Harper himself flying among the stars with his pokémon, keeping watch over the region just as he used to do so long ago.


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