Total Posts: 14
Member No. 2174
Joined on 23-January 16.
Little White Owl, Mary McKinley
[*] Introduction of Absol
[*] Bonding between Joss and Absol, Absol given a name
[*] Establish Handling of Dark Type Pokemon aptitude based on history and past experiences, as well as the present time
[*] Gain experience for Observancy/Perception aptitude
-Just days after the Schism began.-
The Fletcher’s cat was dead.
Joscelin was leaning over her grave, patting down soil, his expression composed. The tightness in his shoulders gave him away though, and when he rose, Juliana reached for his closest hand, lacing her fingers between his, not giving a second thought to the dirt that covered his palm. Together, they returned to the abandoned cottage they were sheltering in, neither one of them keen to leave the Fletcher alone too long.
(Only days ago, they had been reunited with the old man, but any elation they’d felt had withered away to nothing. Symon’s absence was felt by them all, but the more pressing matter was the sense of unease that spread over Fough like a blanket. It weighed especially heavily upon Joscelin, who felt as though the smoke from the forges was sinking into the stones of the city, and, having always been good at reading crowds, could quickly tell that something was very wrong.
He cut his inquiries short and hurried home. The streets were swarming with Guardians – the sight of so many almost paralysed the poacher with fear. But they barely glanced his way twice, and seemed preoccupied with searching home for fugitives… Mages. With his heart trembling in his throat, Joscelin returned to the Fletcher , but by the time he arrived, it was too late. The weathered wooden door had been kicked in. Juliana was sobbing, slim shoulders shaking as she sat with the liepard’s head in her lap, doing her best to comfort the grey-muzzled companion of the grizzled man who was hastily packing all he thought they could carry.
Joscelin had led them out of the city within the hour, and they had camped the first night without a fire. The next day, Joscelin had found the cottage, watched it for an hour or so, before determining that it sat empty. That evening, in the small, humble living area, the three of them gathered, and Joscelin did his best to ease the suffering of the old man’s long-time companion. The liepard had leapt to the defense of her handler, despite her age and the odds stacked against her. In the end, she was no match for Guardians who were desperate and frightened. Broken ribs, and if the flecks of blood she was coughing up were any indication, a punctured lung.
“Joscelin.” The younger man had met the steady gaze of the older man, saw through the pain and grief, and discerned what was wanted from him. He had almost shaken his head, eager to turn away, but a firm hand on his shoulder stilled him. It was not in Joscelin’s nature to kill, even if only to protect himself. Flight was always preferable to fight. However, the circumstances… The liepard’s wounds would have been a minor challenge to a reputable healer. But they were isolated out here, because isolation was safe, and even if they had stayed… The Healers no doubt would’ve all fled in fear of their lives. There was no-one who could help the Fletcher’s cat now. Except Joscelin. Blue eyes spoke to brown ones, and the Fletcher nodded.
Juliana had started crying again when Joscelin had reached for his knife.)
The Fletcher did not look up from his work when Juliana closed the door behind them. Joscelin was halfway up the creaky stairs to the tiny loft that had been his lookout point, when a short command from the Fletcher stopped him.
“Take it, and let it breathe, Joscelin.” The old man pointed with a half-fletched arrow shaft at Joscelin’s pack that leaned against the wall by the front door. Without waiting for a response, he resumed his delicate task, certain the Joscelin would do as he wished. There had been no place in his voice for a refusal, no room for excuses.
And so the dark-haired man did as he was told. Not just because it was the Fletcher who had spoken to him, but because it was the right thing to do. It also happened to be the proverbial card up Joscelin’s sleeve. But whether that card would work in his favour or not, only time would tell. In silence, he fished the pokeball out of his bag – it was the only one he had left (the other had been lost in the haste of packing and fleeing the city of smiths). Josclein did not look back at the Fletcher, nor did he glance at Juliana who had curled up on the musty armchair, her lips downturned and her gaze unfocussed. He paused with his hand on the worn doorknob, to give a command of his own, one of necessity that was respected by both old man and young girl alike. “Whatever happens, do not come outside.”
For several minutes, Joss surveyed the area surrounding the cottage with a scrutiny he had not afforded it earlier. The cottage itself faced the open meadows, providing a largely unhindered view of Fough in the distance. The forest encroached upon the cottage from behind, a thin belt of trees standing about fifteen meters from the stone steps that led from the back door. It was upon these crooked steps that Joscelin sat, scuffing at the dirt path with his leather boots.
Drawing in a steadying breath, Joscelin released the pokemon, eyes narrowed and focussed, closing only for a moment against the flash of light. He felt the creature’s gaze on him, even before his moved to meet it. White fur, black face, sickle-shaped horn and prominent claws. Red eyes watched him, and he saw caution there, no trace of fear. He observed the creature as it surveyed the surroundings, felt his apprehension ease a little when it shifted into a neutral stance. The forest was at the absol’s back, and Joscelin was still and quiet, in plain sight, not blocking any perceived route to freedom. The ground between them was bare – dirt and small patches of grass. The trap that had caught the creature had been a free-running snare, well camouflauged between two bushes. The absol returned its gaze to Joscelin, almost expectantly.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, tone gentle, but loud enough that it carried to the absol clearly. He raised his right arm slowly, the remains of a roasted pidgey balanced on his upturned palm. (It had been a taillow he’d used as bait.) His focus on the pokemon before him never wavered, despite the surprise that had rippled through him. The trap had been intended for a litleo, or umbreon if a more common canine hadn't discovered it first. But an absol… He had never encountered one himself, but he’d heard enough about them to know that they never roamed the Edgewood during the warmer months. What had this one been doing, coming down from the mountains so early? He’d heard stories, ones that marked the species as bad omens, bringers of doom. Joscelin knew better. He’d spent long enough in the wilds to know that pokemon has senses much keener than humans. He believed they picked up on changes in the wind and the earth that humans weren’t perceptive enough to notice; there was evidence enough of this, even in such commonly accepted phenomena as birds flying south…
Blue eyes met red ones, and Joscelin merely extended his arm further, offering the carcass, ever patient, ever watchful. Even now, he could see the traits of a dark type in the way the absol watched him, just as alert. He’d spent years in the company of dark types, and though they had varied greatly – from zoroark to shiftry, he had noted how inherent behaviours differed, subtly from one individual to another, and in more obvious ways (to one who paid enough attention and knew what to look for) between those whose darkness was diluted by other elements. The absol’s demeanour gave him little indication of any hybridisation. The kind of aggression that he’d seen in his houndour was lacking, so he ruled out fire. There seemed to be no physical evidence of any other elemental typing, though he did not discount the possibility just yet. After all, one could not tell by sight that sneasels were part ice until they attacked with these abilities. Just as houndour had naturally high temperatures, and sneasels had naturally low temperatures, sometimes just getting a closer look could teach one a lot.
That was what Joscelin was encouraging now, gently and persistently. Moments dragged by, and the poacher worked on keeping his breathing steady and normal – pokemon could sense physiological changes after all, and these had a considerable effect on behaviour. The absol sniffed at the air, and took a step forward. Joss watched for small tells – the absol had no visible ears, so he watched the nose, the muzzle and the stiff tail. There seemed to be little hesitation in the absol – no sign of it searching for packmates, no sense of loss or confusion that a poochyena might express at the lack of an alpha figure or hunting partner.
A lone predator, then. A like soul. He watched the absol approach at its own unhurried pace, noted that it seemed ruled by intelligence over instinct, though the latter still played a part in everything the pokemon did. The way it watched him reminded him of Symon’s zoroark, even though at first glance it seemed to have more in common with the mightyena he’d once trained from a pup, the one whose tooth now hung around his neck. Joscelin blinked, leaning back causally when the absol stopped a few feet before him and took its time to scrutinise him. He had no doubt that it had noticed the tooth, and he rolled the pokeball in his left hand, ready to recall the absol at a moment’s notice. That would only be his last resort – in the past all his pokemon had been left to roam free, and he would not be changing that now.
The absol went for the bird, jaws opening to latch onto the cooked remains. But Joscelin did not let go immediately. The absol pulled back, and Joscelin moved with it, holding on. A growl rumbled in the creature’s throat, and Joscelin leaned closer, the ball still in his hand, thumb now hovering over the button. There was no sudden chill in the air. He waited until the absol met his gaze, and did not look away, only relinquishing the bird when the absol began to draw back, jaws relaxing, their gaze unbroken.
The absol was left to eat its meagre meal in peace, and sometime after it had finished crunching bones, it looked back over at the human, only to find that it was now being offered a strip of dried meat. This time, when it approached, it caught sight of scarring on one of the human’s now-uncovered arms, and though it met his gaze once more, it did not hold it half so long, before turning its attention to the food in the human’s hand. This it took with less urgency – it sensed that food would not be scarce here, and the bird in its belly had taken the edge off the gnawing hunger. It took its time chewing the meat, pausing every now and again to watch the human with undisguised interest. It had never known Alpha, having roamed alone as soon as it had been able to fend for itself. It was not wolf, had no need of the security of Pack. But, it sensed a like soul in this human, a lone predator himself.
The absol had seen the tooth, seen the scar, had smelt smoke and blood and earth on the human’s skin, had observed no fear or sign of aggression. These things had taught him all he needed to know. Before him was the closest thing to an equal that the absol had come across among the human species thus far in his short life, and for now, this was enough for him. Weeks ago he had sensed a strange kind of danger building – even now he could feel it, and in days to come it would make him increasingly uneasy. It was a danger that he could not associate with anything familiar – not the shifting of the earth he’d felt once before in his life, not the smell of smoke, or the change in the wind. It unsettled him, but even so, he would face whatever it was without fear. He only hoped that he would be able to protect him and the kin he could smell on the human’s skin from this shapeless, formless enemy. It was not in his nature to go to ground and hide. Oh, he would run if he needed to, just as he had countless times in days gone by. But he would not forsake others for the sake of himself.
The one who watched him with blue eyes was a survivor just like himself, wild, free. A soul like that deserved a chance to escape calamity, and though he sensed the human was aware of danger, as well as capable of saving himself, the absol was certain of the fact that he knew the wilds better even than this human hunter. Few creatures knew the mountains like him, and others of his kind. He would lead them to safety if such a thing were necessary. Doubt was not something the absol had ever experienced thus far in his life. He knew he would succeed. This was not an expression of egotism, rather, it was justifiable, and as certain to happen as the rising of the sun that was now sinking toward the horizon. After all, he was not born to Follow, but to Lead.
The absol did not run, though for many days it lingered in the treeline, watching the cottage, only approaching when Joscelin emerged. It came and went as it pleased, for Joscelin had weighed the risk of letting it roam free and deemed it worthwhile. Though it was able to hunt for itself, Joscelin still took time every day to feed it morsels of fresh meat by hand, just as he had done with his houndour and pair of poochyena, ensuring they did not forget who he was to them.
-Two months into the chaos-
He watched as the human approached, with the younger female a few steps behind. Many nights had passed, and he had grown used to the sight of the other two who were as kin to the one who was Hunter and Equal. The Many-Moons human never roamed far from the stone hill in which they sheltered, but Small-and-Brave seemed curious about him. He remembered her – her scent was recognisable. It had been this one who had found him in the dark, with something around his throat that prevented him from continuing in his approach to the nearest human settlement. Her gentle growls had been the last thing he’d heard before he had known nothing for a time, except peace and shadow. He did not understand where he had gone during that period, but he had not been back there since. For this, he was grateful. Hunter and Equal made sure he ate at least a little every day, and made sure there was fresh water close by, so that he didn’t have to go looking for it. As far as the absol could tell, the human seemed at ease whenever he was around, and it was clear then, that the human was aware that he was there to aide him. Watching how the three humans interacted taught the absol that Hunter and Equal was Leader too, because the others showed themselves ready to Follow him willingly.
As with other pokemon he had met who were capable enough to Lead, when this quality had made itself clear in the human male, the absol had grown wary, had expected a show of Dominance, because Leaders did not coexist naturally. But this human was a strange creature, and he became what he was Not, submitting and showing willingness to Follow the absol himself, he who would be Follower to no-one, man or beast. In time, the absol grew to be as sure of this fact: if he were to Lead them away from here, the younger male would Follow without hesitation, even against his own instincts. The depth of trust and confidence this displayed was not lost on the absol.
It was something that he would never forget.
“Remember what I’ve taught you, Jules? Tell me.”
“Mm,” the girl hummed momentarily under her breath while she thought, her attention fixed on the absol. A single, firm nod, and she continued, glancing only very briefly at the man who was as a father to her. “I can go close to him, but I need to leave it up to him to close the distance. No touching him unless and until he sniffs at my offered hand and shows no sign of unease. Always move slow, never touching his muzzle. I’ve got to do just as you say, if I get scared or if he gets tense. And… There was one more really important thing… Ah! I mustn’t look him in the eye. It’s a sign of aggression, right?” Her lips stretched into a board smile when Joscelin bent to press a kiss to the top of her head.
“That’s my girl,” he murmured into her thick blonde hair, and the tone of his voice told her that he was smiling too. “I’ll be right here, watching, okay. You’ll be fine.”
With that Joscelin sat down on an old, fallen tree trunk, and settled into an easy silence, his posture relaxed, pokeball in hand.
Small-and-Brave approached him, and he rose to his haunches, curious. He’d never sensed aggression from her, but the first few times she had joined Hunter and Equal, he had detected apprehension in the way her muscles bunched and her breathing changed. She was learning from her human companion, because she was maintaining a calmness that he appreciated. When frightened, all creatures acted erratically and it was much harder to determine what they might do, or how they would react. He watched her face, noted that she was quick to lower her gaze, and then turned his attention to the hand she had extended, detecting only a slight tremble in her fingers. He sniffed at her fingertips – wood and feather and the bitey smell of cut leaves. Nothing that he perceived as a threat. But still, he wasn’t ready for this, and turned away, hackles rising ever so slightly. Small-and-Brave returned to the side of his Equal, and the two sat for a while, before the female returned to her stone den. Hunter, who he had grown to think of as his; his to protect, his to Lead, merely dipped his gaze when their eyes met, and then raised his head to re-establish the connection they were building. It was strong already, and in time would grow stronger still. They were two like forces that respected one another as they were, and held no desire to force change.
-Five months after their first meeting-
The absol had taken to following him wherever he went. At first, Joss could barely detect his presence, indicating that his surefooted shadow kept at quite the distance. In time, however, that distance decreased, and it made his heart swell within him. This absol that he considered his; his to defend and his to trust… He had never known a creature be so independent and yet so willing to remain in his company. There came days when Joscelin habitually turned to identify the movements he caught in his peripheral vision any time he was out, but before long, this became more of a reassurance than a necessity, because the absol rarely left him now, and when he did it was never for long. Catching sight of a tree just ahead of him, the leaves in the branches just beginning to turn red-gold, Joscelin draws in a sharp breath. He stumbles and it catches him by surprise.
It’s so beautiful, but he remembers the arrow that pierced Lavender in the back, and the weight of the Fletcher’s cat in his arms. It is perhaps his greatest fear – equal to that of being imprisoned for his life’s work.
He knows that he isn’t strong enough to bear such burdens. No more.
The absol keeps vigil over his own. He does not understand why the human male comes here so often. The tree, or at least the earth at its base, reeks of death. This is no place for the living to linger. It makes him uneasy, but he discerns that Hunter and Equal needs to come here, and so he follows without Following. Hunter does not ask this of him, but he chooses to stay. Hunter does not ask much of him at all, and never pushes, never forces. The human seems to understand that the Danger overwhelms him sometimes, and that this is why he leaves, sometimes, seeking higher ground. He feels at a loss, and it has wearied him to his bones, this… Oppressive thunder that refuses to dissipate. He never goes far, for something ties him to the man with the spirit of a wolf. It has little to do with the strange stone the human used to hold quite often, but no longer. He will follow when Hunter and Equal leads. Why?
Because when the human runs through the woods and he shadows, or keeps pace, or ranges out ahead, sometimes the absol feels as though their hearts beat as one.
-The ninth month of coexistence in the wilds-
Joss approaches the absol, all wariness long gone. (He is still watchful though, ever careful, because it is as natural to him as breathing to be so aware.) He knows with certainty that the absol will not turn on him – he is as convinced of this as he is of the sunrise. The one thing that has not changed (and never will) is the respect he has for his companion. He murmurs under his breath in greeting, offering up the first slice of meat from his most recent kill. He turns, and the absol pads at his side, not faltering in his stride even when Joscelin approaches the doorway of the cottage. As the poacher crosses the threshold, the creature behind him pauses, allowing Joscelin to take the lead. Joscelin does not turn to make sure that he follows, no, he just continues speaking quietly to the absol. No hesitation, on either of their parts. It has been this way between them for a while now.
The Fletcher is not surprised to see the absol indoors. He glances up as they walk in, and returns to his fletching. Juliana, too, is the picture of composure, though Joss can see in her eyes that she is in awe, and that it takes all of self-control to be quiet, and still, and calm.
“So,” the Fletcher says at length. He sets the arrow shaft down gently, and turns in his chair, spending a moment to watch the absol, who had settled below the open window, muzzle resting on his paws, eyes closed, completely at ease. The Fletcher marvelled at the sight. The creature still seemed wild and untamed, and yet Joscelin had earned its loyalty. The younger man still said that he and the absol had a way to go, but from where the Fletcher stood, it was an amazing feat, one that he was sure very few would be able to accomplish quite so smoothly. “What's his name?”
“Aw, Fletcher, you know that Symon doesn’t think it’s right to name pokemon.” Joscelin grinned, almost as if he knew what the old man was going to say next.
“I’m not Symon, boy,” he said gruffly, but he couldn’t keep the smile from his lips. “And neither are you.” There was undeniable pride in the man’s voice, so deep and genuine that sparked a hope in Joscelin’s heart.
“His name is Hyssop.”.
The absol raised his head. He knew that word. Not what it meant, of course. But it belonged to him. It was a word that Hunter and Equal used only for him. He approached in his own time, sat beside the human who had called him, leaned into his leg.
“It’s the name of a plant. For some it symbolises sacrifice. To others, it means cleanliness. You, Hyssop. You are both of these, and more, to me. Your sacrifice has given me a chance to wash my hands clean. A new beginning, that is what you have become, by staying with me even though I see in you the desire to leave some nights.”
The absol, Hyssop, did not flinch, not even when Hunter ran trembling fingers through the thick fur of his scruff. He did not snarl, or twitch his lip when Equal gripped his muzzle gently in his other hand, and turned it so that they were looking eye to eye, almost nose to nose. Hyssop scented the air, catching traces of salt and water on his human’s skin. It reminded him of the Roaring Water that he had seen once, many moons ago. He remained motionless, even when Joscelin shifted, and drew closer. Hyssop did not resist, or draw back when Joss pulled him gently closer, so that their heads were level. Closer still. The absol rose to all fours.
“Thank you. Thank you” Joscelin whispered, voice raw with emotion, arms wrapped gently around the absol's neck.
Hyssop whined softly, and then closed his eyes, chin resting on Joscelin’s left shoulder.
Neither of them, perceptive as they were, heard soft footsteps and the creaking of wood as Juliana and the Fletcher came to the door, silent observers of a small miracle.
In that moment, all that mattered to each one was the other, and they stayed like that for several blissful seconds. Hunter and Equal. Hyssop.
Their hearts, beating as one.