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With the cooling season of Autumn, Ice-types are starting to re-emerge from their hibernation as Ghost-, Normal-, and Flying-types swarm in the largest numbers they will all year. In comparison, wild Fire- and Bug-type populations are falling in number. The migration of Flying-types to the south in search of warmer weather has also started, as Istin City starts to re-freeze and Autumn marks the beginning of Cypwater Point's rainy season. Handlers and Rogues alike should be wary: Ghost-type powers are boosted during this season, at the cost of being more prone to their triggers.

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 May you find my darkness, Kalliope's team
 Posted: Jun 23 2016, 08:32 PM
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Joined on 29-December 15.

Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3

There are no real goals here, I guess. Just wanted to write down Kazimir's past. Fair warning, it's not a nice dev post. Don't read if you have a problem with the grotesque or the dead.


Dusk in the mountains near Harper's Pass

True darkness waited a mere hour away. A broken trail worked its way across the broader inclines of the mountain. Near the trail, tucked beneath a massive pine tree, sat a pale white egg. Even in the darkness the egg seemed to glow from within. Pale illumination radiated off the egg, a gentle sort of warmth despite the chill in the air. Mostly it sat beneath its tree untended. However, an older gentleman was hiking up the path around this time. He got separated from his granddaughter and backtracked, then got lost. As he heaved himself up the steeper incline to the plateau, his eyes fell on the egg. The pulsing light beckoned. The man clutched one hand to his chest; his heart pounded beneath flesh and bone.

"Oh, hello," the gentleman murmured as the egg came into view. He studied it for a time. His heart began to slow. Breathing resumed its normal course. A slight breeze kicked up the pine needles dusted across the ground, much of which had gotten caught on the egg and provided a semblance of a nest. The man bent onto one knee before the egg. One hand went out to slide against the warm surface. Whatever lay within hummed with warmth. A soft smile touched the man's face and he reached with both hands to pick up the egg. Something screeched. A terrible sound, echoing in the oncoming darkness. The old man gasped and looked around. The wind picked up, rushing through the trees and howling eerily.

The gentleman shivered. "Let's get you out of this cold weather, huh?" His voice barely raised above a whisper. He went to lift the egg once more. "Who dares steal from me?" A musical lilt filled the suddenly still air. A beautiful woman stepped into sight. Her ivory skin lit from within, just as the egg did. Her body was nearly translucent but hard to tell in the light, though thick blonde hair fell in waves down past her hips. Violet eyes opened to meet the gaze of the stunned man. He stumbled back in shock. As he got a proper look, his jaw fell open. Beautiful wasn't a proper word for this woman. Elegance and purity fit like a glove.

She was the most exquisite being he had ever seen. "I-I-I'm so so-sorry, miss. I had no idea this belonged to you." He swallowed audibly, eyes travelling down at the pale silver dress clinging to her slender body and back up. "I only hoped to protect it from the cold, see?" A tremor wracked his words and he swallowed again, a weak smile forming on his lips. Surely she would appreciate his concern. Her beautiful, bright eyes met his and he fell speechless. Chin tilted, blonde hair fell in chunks to one side of her shoulder as she regarded the man.

"You wanted this for your own, did you not?" She questioned. One hand splayed out to gesture toward the egg. The gentleman shook his head in spasms. "I would not take a precious egg from such a becoming young woman." Her eyes narrowed imperceptibly. He didn't notice the change, eyes too focused on other places. Her hands dropped to her sides, palms open and pale. Her hair tugged as if tossed by the wind though it had fallen still. The egg continued to glow pale, though if one touched its side, they would find it chilled rather than warm.

"If you believe you will raise him well, you may take this egg. I have been tasked to protect it from evil hands." She smiled then and all fears brought on by her words vanished. He strode forward on his knees. Both hands fell to the ground as he prostrated himself in thanks, scooting closer to the egg as he moved

"You are too kind, miss. I will take very good care of this egg. He will be safe with me." As he spoke, he reached out to touch the egg a final time. When his fingers met cold shell, the woman shrieked. Her hair lifted and cast backward as if the winds of a tornado swept through, though the sky remained quiet. Her beautiful oval face stretched and strained, her violet eyes burned brighter. All at once her hair turned to tongues of lightning. Her eyes bled to crimson and her mouth. Oh, her mouth. It wrenched open as if on hinges and stretched too wide to be possible. Gaping fangs protruded from her pale gums and a forked tongue slithered within. A black chasm formed her throat in the back, and one could swear something looked back.

The man fell backward and scrabbled as fast as his weak body could manage. Paralysis began to freeze his limbs. His fingers tore at the dirt in vain. The woman expanded. Blood poured from her gaping jaws. Her silver dress ripped and tore, exposing rotted meat. She shrieked again and the sound reverberated in his skull. She strode forward slow and purposeful. Ten steps away, then seven. Five. Three. When she was nearly close enough to lean down and grasp the man by his throat, his paralysis broke. He turned onto his hands and knees and crawled until he could force his feet beneath him. Then he ran down the trail. He fell in places, scratched all over and bleeding. By the time he got back down the mountain an hour later he was pale white and bleeding profusely. His granddaughter cried and hugged him and all they could get out of him that night was she's coming, she's coming! Please, don't let her take me!

Lonely in the darkness, the egg continued to glow. What little warmth it retained bled away slowly until it sat cold and dim until morning. For a full week it sat in this place, and numerous hikers discovered it. The woman arrived each time to plead her case. Each time the humans bolted. No pokemon came within a hundred yards of the egg. They knew better. By the time guardians were sent out to fetch this egg or kill the monster who guarded it, the egg and its guardian was gone. What remained was a divot in the dirt in the shape of a circle, with pine needles crushed into the soil. About two days later, in another area of the shattersky range, the egg appeared again. This time it looked nothing so much as a pokemon egg.

Early morning, near a small village

A young girl rose with the dawn. Time for chores. Maybe twelve years old, little Lottie cheerily went through the house, sweeping and washing up afterward. Before her parents woke up, she took a pair of buckets out to the communal well to gather water for breakfast, then she'd return to the singular miltank they owned for milk. When she arrived in their small outbuilding - which was converted to a little stable for a miltank and two combusken, she discovered an egg. Beautiful white and pristine, it glowed delicately in the weak sunshine. Delighted, and assuming their combusken laid an egg, she rushed to it. Before she could touch it, the miltank bayed. Her heavy head battered against the door to her sleeping area and she smashed it again. A soothe bell hung from her neck - temperamental sort - and she cried out.

The combusken were oddly quiet. Not a sound from the pair, though they dozed nearby. Each lay close together almost in a huddle. Strange. "It's okay Maude, it's just me. I wonder if momma will let me hatch the egg!" Ever positive, she bent low. Skirts gathered about her legs in preparation to set the egg in their folds. Maude bellowed again. The whole building trembled. "Maude! If you wreck the outbuilding again momma will sell you to the butchers." She didn't really understand this threat, but heard her mother use it once or twice when she was cross. Maude refused to quiet down. The little girl reached out with tiny, pudgy fingers to touch the warm egg.

It rolled away.

Confused, Lottie followed. It rolled some more. Soon it gathered next to the combusken and butted one of them, settled by its side. Lottie giggled. "You cold? I'll warm you up." She followed and went to reach for the egg. Before she touched it, she got a good look at the combuskens. One lay unnaturally still, its neck poking out funny. White bone poked through. The other twitched, its feathers half plucked or sticking out at uncomfortable angles. Lottie paused. What was wrong? As she watched, the combusken whose neck was broken opened its eyes. They filmed over with white slime. Amidst the white bone of its throat, something wriggled. A lot of somethings. Maggots, big, juicy, disgusting maggots crawled around its throat. Lottie screamed.

The one who twitched began to shake. worms poked out of dead flesh and wriggled into the light. Lottie's scream reached the highest octaves her little throat could manage. Still they crawled. More maggots, more worms. Something skittered on the dirt and crawled along her legs. She screamed some more and stood, shaking and shaking. Her hands went to her face where she felt the scrabbling of tiny insect feet. Worms strung through her hair like ribbons. One tickled her ear. And everywhere, everywhere she felt something crawling. She screamed bloody murder and ran into the door leading out of the building. She hit it again, finally forcing it open without knowing how she did it. Both mother and father rushed out of their homes to gather her in their arms. Her older brother, drowsy but holding his sword, followed in close pursuit.

Her mother picked Lottie up and cradled her as she struggled and flailed. She tore at her skin, dug at what looked to be lumps of maggots crawling under her skin. Her father had to restrain her. In the end, she passed out from fright. While everyone was busy with poor, sweet Lottie, the egg rolled quietly from the building. Both combusken woke up from their sleep and crooned. No one heard them over Lottie's cries. A doctor couldn't seem to find what was wrong, though he treated the multitude of wounds all over. Lottie would never, ever go near the outbuilding after that. Not even when she grew older. And she had a devastating fear of combusken and bug pokemon.

It took months for her to struggle out of that terror, though the lonely egg rolled way from her home and toward another as if with a mind of its own. The egg followed villagers and tormented them for two full weeks. Finally the villagers were freed of this tormentor when it vanished without a trace. In the mountains not far from the village, cracks riddled the pale surface. Fragments exploded in all directions and in the remains of the shell lay a tiny ralts. It blinked in the sunlight. The first breath of crisp air filled him and he smiled. Warmth suffused its small body as it looked around, a little confused but no less bright. The little creature made a tiny, high sound. At first no one answered. Then light coalesced into gray fog. Darkness billowed out and stretched until a grinning, violet-eyed pokemon floated in the space in which the fog appeared.

The little ralts crooned once more, its tiny arms lifted upward. Its little horns kept the rest of it toasty warm in the oddly chilly morning. The pokemon stared down at the baby ralts and smiled its terrible, eternal smile. Wisps of color formed in the pokemon's mind, bright and abstract. The ralts' own thoughts mirrored this coloring. The pokemon sneered. "What a waste. I thought I'd find something useful in there." Its mouth never opened yet the sound found the small ralts regardless. Molecules in the air vibrated into a voice, a voice which overheard by a human would sound like net, banette. Its eyes scrutinized the ralts, who didn't understand what she said but felt joy at the sight of her regardless. He understood very little, but the sense innately born within him told him they shared something.

It would be a while before the ralts understood this banette was his mother and longer still to understand the true horror of her motherly affection. "Silence, you putrid little beast. Ho, hum I'm bored. No one's going to be fooled by the likes of you. And I bet you don't even know how to create illusions either, do you?" She snapped. The ralts didn't understand. He simply lifted up his arms and made little sounds in his throat. More lights filled the banette's mind and she hissed. "Stupid thing." Suddenly the ralts' world went black. It paused, uncertain. The tiny voice ceased. Then in the darkness, monsters filled its vision. Grotesque pokemon, rotted corpses, humans of all malicious kinds. The ralts cried out and tried to run but it didn't know how yet. He fell in the dirt and screeched. The nightshade didn't dissipate until the ralts fainted.

Hmm. Maybe he'll be fun after all. The banette vanished in a blink and left the ralts there in the dirt, frightened and cold.

Midnight, somewhere in the mountains.

Ralts curled up in the roots of the tree, having dug into the ground and buried himself there up to his neck. The weather left him cold and hungry but he could do nothing about that. He was maybe two months old and understood the most essential points in life. Eat whatever he could find. Hide when he must, but kill anything that got too close. And most importantly--never fall asleep. Ralts was exhausted. Two days he'd managed to go with only light dozing but he couldn't last. There was nothing he could do. His eyelids fluttered, flashed open wide and held there. They dipped again and he fought it but he was so tired. Slumber found him despite his strength of will. At first sleep was blissful and pure. His body forced itself to stay in this stasis, to gather energy to survive another day. He was getting thin and dangerously close to sickness.

A beautiful meadow filled his mind. Flowers of every kind he'd heard tales of. Only the images of flowers, ones he found in the minds of others. A swellow from the south. Buneary five years old who had seen much. Ralts' mind recreated these stolen vistas and lulled him. Fear faded to a gentle peace. He sniffed flowers, scents he'd never experienced on his own. The sunny sky above warmed his small body and the lightest of breezes tugged at his hair. A lovely dream, if simple. It felt like only moments in this place of serenity but perhaps hours passed. He gathered small vestiges of strength. And then the nightmares began. Flowers died all around him, starting with the ones he'd picked. Everything turned bleak. The ground cracked beneath his feet, dry and harsh. The sun boiled his blood. The wind cut through him in vicious blows.

And that was only the beginning. Ralts wracked in his sleep, struggling in the dirt. Above him, laughing, was his mother. She devoured his lovely dreams and filled his thoughts with only nightmares. This was a nearly nightly occurrence, when ralts lost his battles against sleep. The worst part was she found a way to keep him from waking up. Whether she had some sort of sleep-inducing move or was simply skilled in locking him within his own mind using her own powers, he never knew. But he'd spend the night in the worst dreams he could manage. In the morning he started awake. Nightmares turned to a black-out, leaving him unable to dream anything at all. The banette, bored now, flitted off to find something else to do. When ralts awoke covered in dirt and sweat, he sensed something nearby.

Immediately he broke into its mind and tried to extinguish what he found there. There was nothing but darkness and a hideous laugh. Slowly, ever so slowly a bidoof crawled forward. It was very clearly dead. It could have been dead for hours or even a full day, he had no clue. What he did know was the beast crawled forward as if possessed, its empty gaze unblinking and locked on ralts. When the bidoof was a foot away, it dropped as if a puppet whose strings were cut. Banette lifted out of the body and laughed. My dear boy, you had such a terrible night's sleep. I thought I would bring you breakfast. The bidoof twitched as banette tormented it. Go on, eat up. You're certainly not strong enough to kill anything on your own. She was right and he was starving. He ate what she offered, though when she brought him food it was always already dead and possessed. The first few he'd been unable to stomach, unable to look at.

But she'd persist, torment him in his desperate hunger, until he caved. Now he could do nothing more than eat or be attacked by a corpse. So that's what he did; he knew he might last a little longer in his fight against sleep if he was full and what small rest he'd managed through nightmares would keep him going too. This was what he could do. His mother laughed and vanished as she often did when she lost interest. Ralts remained silent and dirt-streaked, his skin and horns ice-cold despite the gentle warmth of the spring sun.

Dusk, toward the higher peak of a mountain.

Ralts stood near the stream. He glistened with water, having cleaned in the glacier-fed water. He shivered but ignored the sensation. He sensed her this time. He usually did. In fact, his sense for his mother could extend nearly to a mile some days. But he wondered if she did that on purpose, or if it was fear feeding his strength. Whatever the reason, he stood awaiting her. She glided into the area with a light, happy sort of energy. This never boded well for ralts. He didn't flinch though he wanted to when she flashed him with a zippered smile. "Ooh, someone looks nice. Are you cleaned up for something special?" She asked. Banette didn't let him answer. "No matter. Come, give your mother a hug." He didn't respond, though she sensed him doing something. Queer. Her eyes narrowed.

"If you don't come greet your loving mother I shall be very upset." Her voice took on a hard edge. When he didn't move, she shifted from where she hovered. Blinking out of sight, she appeared at his back and attacked. Ralts cried out. The pain wracked him and he collapsed immediately. Banette smirked in twisted amusement. Then without warning she collapsed. Her vision went black and she--

Ralts didn't know how much time passed when he woke up, only that it was dark and violet eyes watched him. He panicked and tried to get up, only resulting in falling again. She didn't move. "Clever. Very clever. I hadn't thought you were bright enough to do anything on your own and here you've manage to best me." That strange sensation filled her again and she sneered. Her eyes took on a dark edge and her body flickered. "Am I to assume you'll use destiny bond every time you see me?" She drawled, as if she didn't already know the truth. Ralts nodded, his own voice piped up in her mind. She hissed, hating the sensation and doubled connection.

I will. Every time. I will fight you and even if I faint or die, I'l take you with me. Rather than his natural, high voice her mind filled with a deeper intonation. Go ahead. Attack me. It's nothing I haven't suffered before. Banette stared at him. She contemplated for a long time and he stood unflinching, though he trembled with visible fear. Eventually banette's zipper smile shifted and widened, stretching her cloth-like features. "Look at you, all grown up. You think you can take anything on now don't you?" She laughed callously. He didn't respond, and it soured her mood. "Fine. Take on the world. Just know momma won't be there to pull you out of the fire. You think you've suffered so much, oh boohoo."

Her voice shook the leaves of the trees. "I have protected you since you were nothing more than an egg. Let's see how well you'll survive without me." Her body began to fade from sight, leaving her eyes the brightest points. "I'll see you around, kiddo. If you last the summer, or even the next week." She all but vanished, her eyes the last to go. Her laughter filled the area and echoed for far longer than it should. But soon, soon he felt nothing at all. No malevolent presence. No hateful thoughts. He breathed hard and dropped to his knees, heaving. He nearly got sick. When he could breathe easily again, he began to walk. He wouldn't stay here, not so close to where he last saw her.

He traveled down the mountain. It was a slow trek and a number of pokemon found their way in his path. The friendly ones who waved to the disgruntled, hungry ones. Each one received a vicious rip through their mind and a threat of death upon getting within a hundred feet of him. He couldn't back up the threat but none of them knew that. He hunted the ones who were friendly, when he grew hungry. They came close and he killed them as he'd learned his mother killed. Well, his was a little bit different, being psychic and not ghost-typed. He didn't see his mother the whole way, nor felt her. She kept her word. At the bottom of the mountain he found a village. He didn't recognize it as the one his mother used his egg to torment humans with, but he lingered nearby anyway. These were the first real humans he'd ever seen. He studied them, learned their ways.

He broke into their minds and fed on their knowledge. And through a wandering bard, he heard the tale of a man. He heard many tales from this one, especially about some harper he didn't give one whit about. But this character, he grew so powerful all fell to his might. No one could ever hurt or kill him. Ralts only gleaned the gist of the story, too focused on the character himself in the bard's mind. This human, this Kazimir, was a powerful mage and a dangerous man. If ralts had paid better attention, he would have known the human was the villain in the bard's tale and was slain at the end. He might have learned the bard used these tales to strike fear in uncertain villagers to get them to join his faction and his give him supplies.

All ralts gathered from this was his name: Kazimir. This would be his name. He would become strong and no one would ever hurt him again. No one. Not even his mother.

Namid and his Travels

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Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!

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 Posted: Jan 11 2018, 08:51 PM
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Top Handler
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Total Posts: 365
Member No. 2161
Joined on 29-December 15.

Kalliope Tamsin, Namid Waagosh'Giizis

Awards: 3

  • First meeting with the recently received Ekans
  • Establish hierarchy with said Ekans
  • Begin teaching Kazimir how to lead, to work past his selfishness

Early Afternoon
Windy, chilly
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Kalliope staked out the location two days ago and hiked all morning to get there. Mountains cleaved the ground, leaving wide bowls of land between. Kali chose one such valley, steep mountain to her back, a sharp incline to foothills before her. The sun diluted through evergreen leaves, bare dirt beneath her feet speckled with gold. Numerous tree tops hung above her but their trunks lay a distance away, leaving much of the flattened earth free of roots. A fallen log lay at Kali's back, with Kazimir perched on its dry, cracking bark. He watched Kali move around the small area, checking for stray stones jutting from the ground or any uneven footing. Once her task was completed, she brought her pack to the log and pulled it off her shoulders. Her sword, ax and belt followed. Over her usual tunic she wore a thick leather jerkin with long sleeves. Heavy leggings laced to her thighs and calves, protecting her lower body.

With methodical precision, Kali pulled on thick gloves past her wrist and secured the sleeves of her jerkin over the edges of the gloves with tight laces. Once complete, she retrieved her buckler. Hanging it over her shoulder in easy reach, she stretched and focused her breathing. Slow, even breaths. "Kazimir, this is important." She glanced at the irate psychic on the log. The ralts' green hair stood on end, his paws fiddling against one another. I don't see why. His voice echoed in Kalliope's head, a rich, sultry sound with careful enunciation. He only spoke that way when he was angry or upset. Of all Kalliope's pokemon, Kazimir was her closest companion. He never entered his pokeball unless he was unconscious or severely injured. Kazimir had Kalliope's complete trust and Kazimir devoted himself to Kalliope.

Their companionship was unique, thanks to his capacity for communication. Truthfully, Kalliope knew they would have developed unbreakable bonds even if they had no line of communication at all. She also knew he was young and hotheaded. He was selfish, arrogant and proud beyond belief. He refused to accept his own weaknesses and had a habit of blaming the situation or other outside forces for his problems. He considered Kalliope his. His best friend. His closest companion. His most precious person. Kazimir had difficulties sharing Kalliope with her other pokemon. He grew hostile and often acted aggressively toward the others, going so far as to pick fights with Erebus on a daily basis. Kalliope had tolerated his bad temper with no small amount of fondness and blind affection.

Kalliope cherished Kazimir dearly. But she needed a partner. Someone she could trust with delicate situations or dangerous decisions on the fly. She needed to know he was capable of acting not only for himself but for the safety of others--up to and including his team mates. Over a year of companionship and selfish actions would be difficult to undo and Kali had been waiting for an opportunity to work on his problems with other pokemon. This recent arrival turned out to be the best opportunity she could ask for.

"Kazimir." Kali turned to look at him. So small, so delicate. He hid his feelings quite badly. When he was angry, she sensed it deep within her as if it were a part of her. When he was happy, the sweetest joy filled her like warm sunlight. She hoped he would always be this honest. Perhaps someday he could be honest directly, instead of trying to hide his feelings yet allowing them to leak out. "I need you to listen to me. I need you to hear what I'm saying." She met his gaze, knowing instinctively their eyes locked despite the fringe of green covering his face. "I know you and Erebus have a temperamental friendship. I understand your typing accounts for some of the animosity."

Kazimir didn't respond. "Erebus is a tough boy. He can handle your harsh words." She plowed on. This wasn't an easy conversation for her to have. She sensed his discomfort and could do nothing to soothe him. "But it has to stop, Kazimir." Sweat prickled along her lower back, where her trousers and tunic overlapped. Despite the chill in the air, the multiple layers and stress left her warmer than usual. "You are my dearest friend. You're my partner. But if I can't trust you to be sensitive to the victims we might console, to be understanding for pokemon or humans in the wrong for the right reasons...if I can't trust you to do what needs to be done regardless of how you or I might feel, how can we become the best team?" Kalliope swallowed.

She was making a muck of this. He would think she was pushing him away, rejecting him. She raked a hand through her hair, wincing when a few strands caught in her glove. "You will always be my partner. I will never lock you away in a pokeball. I will never turn on you or abandon you, you have to know that." Her voice was thick with emotion. This was way harder than she ever expected. She closed her eyes and filled her whole being with thoughts of their time together. The first day they became partners. Istin. On the roof in Cypwater. Navdia. Doran. She shared the deep love she had for him, the sorrow of seeing him hurt. She shared with him moments so painful in her memory that she might have broken if he hadn't been there, comforting her, wiping away tears with a soft, white paw. She filled her mind with the pride she carried for him. She suffused her every thought with memories and feelings of the last year and a half they worked together.

"None of that will change, Kaz. Nothing. No matter how many people we meet, no matter how many pokemon I might bring into our team. There will be times I'm charged with the care of badly abused pokemon. There will be pokemon mourning their handlers, or handlers mourning their pokemon. Horrible things happen in our line of work. I'm a guardian, which means you're a guardian. We go after criminals and the victims don't always disappear from sight after we leave. You remember Bellatrix. We didn't leave her when she was arrested. As a guardian, I have to put other people before myself every single time. You I will cherish and protect no matter what, but that doesn't change what I do for a living."

Nothing. Not a pip of a feeling. He'd closed down tight. Kalliope sucked in a breath. Her mouth was dry but she didn't waste time or energy fetching her water skin. "I sensed how you felt when I captured Erebus. When I purchased Ismene. When the seviper hatched." Kali's face tightened with remorse at that one. Not because she wished to go back and change things. Kazimir was too difficult on his own to have added another pokemon in the mix. But that she had to--she shook her head. "Betrayed. You felt betrayed for every pokemon who joined our team. You hated the plusle and minun who helped us against Bella. They were fresh hatched and terrified, and you hated them. Do you see what I'm saying?"

Kali gestured to the pokeballs she left attached to her belt, nestled near Kazimir on the log. "They are your team as much as they are mine. Do you know why I trust you with everything? Why I go through you to speak between us?" Kalliope asked. "Yes, your psychic ability helps. Your ability is amazing, what you can do...what I can share with you is beyond wonderful. But there's another reason. I don't ask you to give them direction lightly. I know you don't see it yet. You're young. I'm young. We're learning. But you are the future of this team. I'm training you to take the lead.

"You're learning to differentiate between criminals and innocents. I talk every mission out with you step by step so you learn the process of what we do. Why criminals kill or run, how to hunt them. How to protect innocent people. What to look for when they're in danger. I don't know how far we'll go in the ranks of the Guardians but I can guarantee we'll be out in the thick of it as long as I have any say in the matter. Don't you see how important it is that you're the strong one on this team? Not just in terms of power. The one who can work under pressure, who can think the way I do. To connect the dots that lead us to a rogue or a danger. You will lead this team in the future, you'll be as much in control as I am. An equal, not a subordinate. Just like I promised you back in Istin."

Kalliope strode to the log and knelt next to Kazimir, ignoring the dirt stains growing on her knees. "We can't do this together if you fight every step. I will have other members of this team. You're the smart one, the clever one. Erebus is an excellent hunter and tracker but he isn't always capable of telling the difference between bad guy and good guy. He bites first. Ismene...well, she's certainly strong. Someday she could be great. A force to be reckoned with. But she's raw talent and dangerous temperament. She needs someone to guide her, to help her grow and learn. You could do that for her. You could be her adviser, mold her into a strong pokemon. You are integral to the success of our team."

She touched the soft down of his green fringe, stroked the hard red horn atop his head. "I need you." She wrapped both arms around his thin frame and hugged him, not tight enough to hurt him of course, but a very tight squeeze. She was out of explanations. No more words were left in her. He either understood or he didn't. He was still locked up tight, which was strange. He'd gotten so open with her that even his mere feelings were transmitted and now she faced a wall. She released him. "I don't expect you to change overnight. I know this is difficult to understand, so take your time." With a creak of leather she rose and walked back to the cleared area, pokeball in hand.

"Right now I need you not to agitate this pokemon." She held out her hand. Tucked in her calloused fingers, her newest acquisition. "You were there when the young man brought him to us. He's aggressive and driven. He'll fight if challenged and he won't stop unless he's knocked out. I don't want to put him on the defensive." Kalliope turned away, to give Kazimir her back. It was a mark of trust she would turn her back to let him guard her weak side while she worked with this new pokemon. "That kind of determination and strength is impressive. Stay back and don't interfere. Translate only when I ask, okay? I want to talk to him first." She depressed the pokeball and tucked it into her pocket as soon as the flash of light coalesced into a pokemon.

Thin and sinuous, its purple flesh scaled and smooth, it looked more like a shining jewel than a pokemon. At least until it reared its head back and hissed, bearing a sliver of a tongue. Bright golden eyes met hers and narrowed. Kalliope held out both hands, showing a lack of weapon. She kept her shoulders loose and her feet apart. No signs of aggression there. "Hey there, handsome." Soft voiced and gentle of demeanor, Kali worked herself into the picture of peace. "My name is Kalliope. Aren't you a beautiful specimen? I've never seen an ekans so polished."

"Ekannssssssssss," it hissed. The tip of its tail lashed back and forth. Its coils remained loose. "Ek Ek Ekansssss." Kalliope didn't move an inch. Only her eye followed his movement, keeping track of the way his coils lay loose around him. The snake pokemon was over six feet in length, nearly seven even wrapped up. Despite being five feet away, the ekans could easily reach out and slash her without extraneous motion. Hence the heavy leather she borrowed from the Guardians' armory. Hopefully she could return it all unscathed.

"I know you must be confused and disoriented. Captured unwilling by some stranger who was protecting a pokemon you thought of as dinner." The ekans yanked its head back and hissed. "I'm not going to attack or threaten you. I'm unarmed, I'm not challenging you. I want to talk with you and come to an agreement." Kalliope knew she had been spoiled by Kazimir's high level of intelligence. Most pokemon weren't so understanding, nor did their grasp of the human language often reach Kazimir's level. This pokemon was wild caught, never been trained. He might not understand anything she said.

"I will feed you, protect you, provide shelter and safety for all your life. You'll want for nothing." Kalliope explained. She took a step forward, a deliberate breach. "All I ask is to allow me to train you to your full potential. To follow orders when necessary. Do that and we'll work well together." Kalliope had no clue what was getting through and what wasn't. She didn't prompt Kazimir. This had to be done by her hand and no other. She took another step. The ekans tossed its head, baring its teeth yet again. Kalliope didn't flinch. Another step. "Do you understand me at all?"

Another step and she was close enough to reach out and trace individual scales on ekans' glistening head. Up close, he was even more beautiful. And even bigger. He was thicker than her wrists. Thicker than her bicep. If he caught her by the neck, she would die. Kali hoped she was doing the right thing. Every other pokemon she added to the team had been done with gentle care. But this? This was uncharted territory. The snake watched her through slit eyes. Without warning, it lashed out. Fangs bared, it aimed for her arm. Strong, but not quite versed in the weakness of human prey. Lucky Kali.

In a single motion, Kali dropped to her knees and rolled. Over extended in its attack, nearly half the ekans' body hung in the air like a taut bowstring. Kali leaped up and crashed into it, wrapping her fingers around the base of its skull. The body writhed. Its tail whipped back an forth, beating her back and hip with glancing blows. "I don't want to fight you," she grunted through gritted teeth. While she struggled, she sent a loud warning toward the wall of Kazimir's mind, where she felt panic breaching the otherwise impenetrable fortress. Don't attack! Don't interfere. If he thinks he can defeat me on his terms, he'll never obey me or see me as his handler. Wait. While she focused enough to send her warning to Kazimir, the ekans broke free.

It thrashed across the dirt, coiled tight, and threw itself at her again, its maw gaping in the classic bite technique. Kali crossed her arms over her face and neck, catching his teeth on her gloves. She drove her elbow into the ekans just below its head, aiming for what she hoped was a sensitive spot. She must have surprised it. Ekans released her hand and reeled back. Kali ripped the glove off before the poison dripped any deeper into the fabric that it penetrated her skin. Close call. "Don't fight me and I won't fight you." She warned again. It lashed out again. This time it chose a different tactic, twining around one leg and up her waist and tightening its hold, wrapping her from one ankle to the bottom of her ribcage. Kali groaned at the pressure.

When Kali first came into possession of the ekans, she combed the ekans entry extensively, as well as spoke with expert handlers. Their fangs held poison but their mouths didn't. When the ekans opened its maw to bite into her vulnerable stomach, Kali gripped each side of its face and forced her hands into the hinge of its jaw on each side. Their jaws could distend to allow for large prey to be swallowed--but it had nothing to force her hands out of its way so it might close its mouth once more. Without control of its own head or its mouth, the ekans thrashed. The second its hold weakened, Kalliope rolled onto her stomach and shoved the ekans into the ground, stunning it. She scuttled out of its hold. Kalliope breathed hard.

If it wasn't weakened from its original capture, it might have been just fast or strong enough to kill her. As it was, it was slow and weaker than normal, aching where it shouldn't. Kalliope examined its body as she fought. The more time she spent close to it, the more she saw of its injuries. Scrapes along its torso. Bruised and broken scales. Its tail was swollen, now she'd seen it up close and personal. "Stop fighting and let me heal you. You're too wounded for this!" She cried. The ekans twitched on the ground, curled itself tight, and lashed out. Kali met its nose with the flat of her palm, the gloved hand. It reeled. "Stop this, you're only hurting yourself." She knew she couldn't reason with it. She had to wear it out first. She refused to be the aggressor. Let it attack her first.

The next attack was slower, though not out of hesitance. It paused long enough to meet Kalliope's eye and glare viciously, trying to terrify her into paralysis. Kalliope turned her gaze away and watched ekans from her peripheral. When it didn't work, ekans threw itself forward with an ear piercing screech. Kalliope winced but she couldn't cover her ears. Ekans forced her to dodge out of the way and kick out, catching the poor thing on the head. The ekans twisted wildly on the ground and shuddered. When it didn't get up immediately, Kalliope went to her pack. Though she didn't run, she cut across the ground quickly enough that by the time she turned back, the ekans was still shaking its head in a daze. Kalliope dropped to her knees next to it. Knowing full well how far it could reach when enraged, she reached out to stroke the curve of its head. "Don't attack. I won't hurt you. I wouldn't have hurt you in the first place if you hadn't struck at me." She held his head gently between her fingers.

He tensed and twisted in her grip but she didn't give him time to launch another attack. With quick jerks, she sprayed the multitude of wounds and injuries from the base of its skull to halfway down its body with the sloshing great potion. Once she'd begun and reached her limit, she released its head. "Don't move or I won't be able to reach your wounds." She warned. Then she scooted to the side, doling out the great potion carefully so she saved enough for its tail. Not yet fully grown, the snake was nearly seven feet long stretched out. Even slightly bunched up like a string of twine, it took Kali a few minutes to go from one end to the other without missing an injury. She wasn't sure if the great potion would heal the poor ekans completely, but at least it would feel better and less interested in maiming her out of instinct.

Hopefully she wasn't giving it a better ability to kill her. When Kali reached the tail, she pursed her lips. Pretty beaten up. She couldn't pick up his tail without hurting it, but she had to get beneath to fully dose him with the last of the potion. Risky, risky. Oh well. She grasped the appendage with one hand, ignoring the sharp hiss from the other end, and doused the wound. The hissing stopped. Once the bottle was empty, she tucked it into the upper pocket of her borrowed vest. Setting the tail down, she glanced over her shoulder. The ekans stared at her, its head twisted around on its long body. The varying wounds had already begun to knit together. It never ceased to amaze her how quickly potions managed to work on pokemon but not humans.

Kali sat back, letting her legs fold on either side. Not particularly comfortable, but it lacked any sort of aggressive vibe. "Feeling better?" Her voice softened. "I'm sorry if I hurt you. I didn't want to. I said it before, but I don't think you were listening. My name is Kalliope Tamsin. You came to me injured from a very kind young man who wanted to give you a good home but couldn't provide one. I want to take care of you. I know you were born wild, I know this is probably your first time with a human in general. Honestly, I don't know how much you understand of what I'm saying to you now. But I'd like to give this a chance. With me, you'll never go hungry. You'll never suffer anything unwilling. If you don't want to fight, I won't force you." Kalliope watched the snake carefully. No change in posture, but there was also no posturing like what ekans had tried before.

"I'm not saying you must stay with me forever. Give us a chance. You'll have a home with me as long as you'd like. Give me a season to prove it. Wait," Kali thought about it. "Fall is nearly over. Give me until spring. If what I offer isn't enough for you, I'll release you back into the wild. I won't hold you against your will." Kalliope pursed her lips. "My companion over there is a psychic which means he can translate for us. I'm going to ask him to speak with you on your terms so you understand me completely. Kazimir?" She called softly. Ekans swiveled in the direction of the psychic as Kazimir responded. Kaz didn't grace her with a mind-to-mind translation, though she knew he could connect to both of their minds at once. "Please repeat my promises. Explain anything he doesn't fully understand." She wanted to ask him how much the ekans understood in the first place.

But that would undermine her whole point. Learning to work with pokemon, to work with Kazimir as the liaison. He had to be capable of doing his job without constant supervision. This was as much a challenge for her as it was for him. Trust was hard to come by and she might be straining his trust further than she'd ever done. Kalliope could only sit back and give him this chance.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Kazimir loathed this whole situation. Again and again Kalliope brought something else in to challenge him. First the mutt with his bad temper and his dark typing that ruined Kazimir's advantage. Being forced to ask permission to do what came naturally was a constant stitch in his side. The damn igglybuff was noisy, reckless and stupid. And if that wasn't enough, now Kalliope brought some wild thing into their midst? Kazimir hated it. He hated all of it. All he wanted was to monopolize Kali's time. To be the only one she turned to when she needed something. He'd listened to Kali's spiel with such mounting anger he was forced to shut down completely. Betrayed. That was an accurate summation. He felt betrayed by her allowing others into her life where he should be the sole companion.

Leader? Kazimir scoffed. How could he be a leader? He hated the others. He hated their necessity. Why would he ever want to be in control of their actions?

Some part of him heard it. That quiet, pitiful voice buried deep. Why should he be allowed to have any sway over them? Why would Kalliope want to put him on the same level she was? Why would she trust him with the safety and success of the rest of the team? Kazimir had gotten good at quashing that voice before he met Kalliope. It was almost dead when he'd been offered that deal with Archer. Kazimir had laughed to himself. Give a human a chance? As if anyone would be worthy of Kazimir's power. As if any human would understand him or care about him or give him a reason to live. Then he met Kalliope. Their time together began with a lot of barbs on his side and a lot of patience on hers.

She grew on him. She taught him new ways to see. And no matter what, no matter where they were or what was happening, she put him above everything. Even on missions. Even when that human picked a fight with her and they were fighting. Kazimir remembered Kalliope dropping her sword in the middle of a fight to rush to his side. Kazimir remembered every moment of Kalliope's devotion. She never held anything back. She opened herself to him like nothing he had ever seen. Nothing hidden, no secret feelings locked away. Whether she was irritated with him or worried about him, she sent everything toward him. Kazimir learned to trust her. Learned to care about her. He would kill any human who threatened her, and she would rather take a sword to the heart than risk Kazimir getting put down as a human killer.

He knew this as absolute certainty. He'd seen her do it before.

Now she wanted to entrust him with her entire team? With pokemon he'd shown complete derision for? Kazimir didn't understand her. Why? Why would anyone trust him, after everything? When he so clearly showed her at every turn he was incapable of sharing, of trusting, acting in someone else's self interest. How could she have so much faith in him?

Her faith stunned him.

Kazimir watched her fight the ekans without a weapon. Forced himself to hold back the panic at seeing her bitten, seeing her dropped to the ground. He pictured killing the ekans over and over again, in vicious and bloody ways. But he sat there and waited--because she asked. Kazimir couldn't fathom her faith. But he couldn't go against it, either. Even to prove to her he wasn't worthy of such trust. Kalliope was reckless. Kazimir had to sit there and watch her put her life at risk to heal a pokemon who'd done its damnedest to kill her just moments before. She wasted precious resources on him, no less. And then she calmly asked it to trust her and join her team.

Kaz would have laughed if he were capable in that moment. Was the ekans as blown away as he was with her lack of self preservation? And then Kalliope requested he speak on her behalf, to make sure no detail was missed. He drew himself up. Despite pretending he wasn't listening, he'd memorized every word. "You. Snake thing." He called. He thought about breaching the creature's mind but he understood that might put him on edge. Was Kali really rubbing off on him so thoroughly? He quashed the thought.

The snake twisted its violet head in Kaz's direction. "I'm an ekansssss. Ek-anssss." It sneered. "Remember that, puny creature." It spat. Its long tongue slithered out, twitching in the chilly air. Kazimir flared, his irritation spiking.

"As if I care what you are." Kazimir spat right back, glaring. I need you. Kalliope's words echoed back at him. He bit his tongue. "Look. Kalliope is telling the truth. She will feed you, shelter you, protect you at all costs. She will make a home for you with us." His mouth twisted at the word us. He persevered. "You're lucky she's taken you in. You won't find a more honest, straightforward, generous human in all the realm. She can keep her word." Ekans stared at Kazimir, slit eyes flashing like gold coins.

"And why would I want that? Do you think I can't protect and provide for myself?" Ekans lashed its tail. The way its coils tensed, the way its head rose up another foot as if poised to strike, Kazimir knew it was close to attacking. Kallliope didn't move. Didn't say anything. She simply watched the exchange. He opened up just enough to feel her. Complete faith. Shining pride. Kaz slammed his walls back down.

"Oh, I don't know," Kaz drawled. He made a show of looking the ekans over. "You look pretty thoroughly beaten up to me. And you didn't look too healthy before she let you out, either. A human took you down without drawing one of their weapons or attacking you with a pokemon. She did it without ever trying to hurt or injure you, too." Kazimir leaned forward, his hair tugged around his face by the wind. "I watched you during the fight. You put your all into it, didn't you? You were looking to kill. But you couldn't. One weak, unarmed human and you couldn't defeat her." This probably wasn't what Kalliope meant by explain everything properly.

"If you let her train you, you could learn how to fight humans properly. You could learn new skills. You don't have to stay forever. In fact, I'd be fine if you decide to leave the very first day of spring. It's a waste to pass up an opportunity like the one she offers. Free food, you can learn survival skills that can all but guarantee you'll never be captured by a human again, and all you have to do is occasionally listen to an order. She doesn't give many of them." Kazimir shrugged. It was a very human gesture and he didn't notice. "But it doesn't matter to me. If you want to scuttle back into the wild and starve out the winter, struggle to put food in your belly and get attacked by bigger predators at every turn, you go right ahead."

Ekans watched Kazimir with eerie dedication. No blinking, no shifting of its gaze. The snake barely moved but for its tongue. "Why would a human do this? Make a deal? How do I know the human will keep it?"

Kazimir scoffed, voice full of derision. "She will always keep her word. Her word is her life. She would throw herself off a cliff than go back on it." Kazimir didn't like the image but he knew it was true. She was a deranged sort of human. "She wants you to join us. But she won't force you to do so. She'll show you what she offers, she'll bring you into her world and give you anything you might ever dream of. What's in it for her? You. Your loyalty. Your strength. Your--snakeness. I'm sure there's something about you she sees potential in or she wouldn't have taken you at all. She doesn't carry around useless burdens." Kazimir eyed the ekans. "Stick around long enough and she'll show you whatever it is."

The ekans hadn't moved. It barely breathed, uncertain. The offer was a good one. No struggling to survive, no freezing nights in the snow. A promise to be free as soon as spring thaws out the land, the perfect time to go back into the wild. And with knowledge a human can provide, how could he resist? Even if it ended up being very little in the way of learning or training, he could guarantee his survival through a winter in a strange part of the realm. It wasn't as if he could find his way back to where he'd been captured and retake his claim on his territory. The ekans bunched, its muscles swelling and twitching as it coiled itself like a proper rope, loops one after the other until he was wrapped up in a protective bundle. No signs of aggression remained.

"What is it I have to do?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Kalliope watched the pair of pokemon converse. It was always a strange sight to see two pokemon repeat the same sounds over and over again with different inflections. That they were talking when all they did was repeat their species in hisses and growls. Kalliope stared in fascination. The conversation took longer than expected but she continued to wait, sitting awkwardly in her position as to not draw attention to herself. When the ekans finally drew itself together into a relaxed position, she released her legs and lay out, hands holding her up behind her. Kali looked to Kaz.

"All sorted out?" She smiled. She knew he could do it and she shared her praise with ease. He wants to know what you expect of him. Kazimir responded, still a bit quiet on his end. Kalliope studied the snake. Still gigantic, even curled up on itself. "It's simple. I'm a guardian. Explain that if he doesn't know, Kaz." She waited a few moments while the pokemon spoke, and then continued. "I'm tasked with protecting the innocents of the realm and hunting down criminals. You are a predator. A hunter. I could use your skills." Now that she'd gotten the ekans' attention, she wasn't exactly sure what to do with it. But she plowed on. "Everyone on my team has their own skill. Kazimir is clever and his psychic ability is useful beyond measurement. I have a houndour who is a skilled tracker. I have a powerhouse of a pokemon who will someday be a force to be reckoned with. What I need is someone who is cunning. Someone who can fight as well as restrain. Someone with a predatory instinct who will never back down."

Kalliope stood up and dusted off her backside and legs where dirt smudged the leather. She might have to pay for the whole ensemble. Where had she tossed that glove? "I need someone who can work discretely and with precision. You are that pokemon. What you don't know, I can teach you. What skills you already have, I can hone." There it was! One of the fingers had fallen off. The poison ate at the leather. Kali sighed. "You're deadly, graceful and powerful. Help me, and I'll train you. Obey me and I'll keep you alive. If you stay with us for long enough, you'll learn how to act as your own entity and we can fight without words and take down enemies. I ask for a lot, but I'll give you plenty in return."

Kalliope stuffed the glove in the dirt and tried to dilute its strength. No good. She dug a small hole and dumped the glove. It'd only disintegrate anyway. Anything she put it with would also fall to pieces. "What do you say? Are you in?" She straightened and looked to the ekans. It hovered, head sidling from one side to the other. Then it hissed, a long, unearthly sound. Kalliope mentally prodded Kazimir. He's agreed to stay. I think he's trying to sound amused. Kazimir translated. Kalliope grinned. "Perfect! Now, I'm not going to spend the next few months calling you 'snake' or 'ekans'. Too impersonal. How do you feel about Damocles?"

Namid and his Travels

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Kalliope and her travels
Incredible sprite by Mackay!

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