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Thierry Blackwell, Private Eye: The Snowbound Catalyst

Discussion in 'Creative Archive' started by Snapdragon, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. ((Um, yeah. Another Thierry story. Whoo. This one is a prequel. There is no Central Square here, Thierry's still a Sneasel, and this time he's not gonna go downing legendaries. The title is just a working one, so it may or may not change by the end.

    One more thing... feedback. Writers crave it. Or I do, anyway. I don't want to sound desperate, but it really does help when I find a PM in my inbox that lets me know somebody's reading my stuff. XD I'm not just looking for somebody to stroke my ego, either: constructive criticism makes my day. If you thought my story sucked, or it was so boring you only read three sentences before you fell asleep and broke your nose on the keyboard, then PM me and tell me why. I'll thank you for it and maybe offer bandaids for your nose.

    So without further ado... here's the actual story.))



    It wasn't very often that exciting things happened in the little town of Northvale. Believe me, I'd been living there all my life. It'd been a different story about twenty-odd years ago, in the days of the gold rush, but now that the sparkly veins had been bled dry, any Pokemon heading north had the sense to stop their travels at Frostview City. Anybody who kept going north ended up in Northvale, and once they realized that all we had to keep us entertained was a church and a seedy boozehole, they'd turn right back around again. Still, we were a big enough town to have our problems, and they ended up being responsible for most of the exciting things that did happen around here.

    Not that this was always a bad thing.

    Today was the perfect example of that. If Northvale never had problems, then I wouldn't be reading the letter in my hands. But just as sure as I had two feet underneath me, it was there, it was real, and it wasn't a joke.

    Hey, Thierry!

    Great news! I found another person who wants to join us in our eternally noble quest to answer the troubles of helpless Pokemon in exchange for money and shiny items. I stopped by your house earlier to tell you about it, but you weren't home, so I just stuffed this note in your mailbox. Your parents already know--sorry, I kinda spoiled the surprise--so get over to our usual spot ASAP! You hafta meet the new guy, and we need to celebrate the official birth of Team Silvertongues. Congrats, Mr. Blackwell, you are now part of a bona-fide rescue team.

    (Go ahead, say it out loud. Gives you the shivers, doesn't it?)

    --Aycee


    "Congrats, Mr. Blackwell, you are now part of a bona-fide rescue team." I whispered under my breath. I was grinning like an idiot, and I'd accidentally punctured holes into the paper with my claws, but I didn't care. Good old Aycee. We'd known each other since we were in eggshells, and forming a rescue team had always been something we'd talked about. I'd never really expected that somebody like me would ever be rescue team material; I was small, scrawny, and lopsided, with my solitary pink ear all long and awkward, even by Sneasel standards. Of course, Aycee always joked that she wasn't rescue team material, either. I always kind of suspected she only did it to make me feel better, though. Aycee was born to be on a rescue team. She was the toughest Raichu I'd ever seen, and fearless to boot. The unknown was an adventure for her, not something to be feared. It was something I'd always admired, but had never really been able to emulate. Only Aycee could be so strong, but so gentle too. Only Aycee was capable of being so scary and so cute at the same time. Only Aycee could be... Aycee.

    And now she'd finally gone and set our dreams into motion. I let out a quiet chuckle as I tucked her letter away and turned away from my house, feet kicking up snow as I went into a run. It was a path I'd followed countless times growing up; I could probably reach our usual meeting place blindfolded. I headed away from the town, sticking to the winding path that went past the church and up into the mountains. It was only a short distance until the evergreens started growing in thick and wild, and a little bit past that point you'd find the big, dead stump that had been our meeting place ever since Aycee was a Pichu. Sure enough, she was perched on the weathered wood. A Breloom with a red bandana around his neck sat on the ground nearby. So this was our third team member?

    "About time, Blackwell! If you'dve taken any longer we would have replaced you with a Smoochum." Aycee greeted me with a grin and slid off the stump. "Enoki, I'd like you to meet my best friend, Thierry Blackwell. He's the other member of Team Silvertongues. Thierry... this is Enoki. He's a wandering warrior from the south and he's agreed to stick around for a bit and help us out, since our town technically doesn't even have a rescue team... uh... sorry, mate, I kinda forgot the rest of your story. But you can fill in the blanks for Thierry, right?"

    The Breloom--sorry, Enoki--chuckled and nodded. His eyes were almost entirely shaded by the brim of his mushroom cap, but the taciturn smile on his face counteracted the dark intensity of his stare. "You got all the important parts anyway, Miss Decii. I come from a long line of warriors. Rescue Team Brelooms. Prizefighters. Dojo masters. Stuff like that. I haven't picked my own path yet, so I figured I'd just kinda wander around, give all of it a shot. I heard Miss Decii here was looking for a fighter, so I told her that I had mastered my family's secret fighting style and would be happy to help out. If I really like the gig, I might stick with it. Dojos are boring and prizefights are usually rigged, so I'm hoping this thing works out. And... yeah, that's the long and short of it."

    "Enoki... dude. Just call me Aycee. Miss Decii makes me sound like I'm trying to sell cosmetics." Aycee gave her tail an impatient flick, but there was a smile on her face.

    As absurd as the idea of Aycee peddling lipstick was, I decided not to linger on that thought. "Hey... if you don't mind me asking, Enoki, just what is your family's secret fighting style?" This guy sounded pretty pro. I didn't even have a fighting style, unless "wave your claws frantically and hope the scary thing goes away" counted as a style.

    Enoki's laidback grin just grew. He didn't say anything at first, just shifted into a fighting stance. He stood on one foot, both his hooflike hands poised for action, then slowly teetered to the left. He took a few staggering steps in an attempt to stay balanced, stumbled over his tail, and quite nearly kicked me in the face as he scrambled to recover. After that little display was over, he fixed me with this earnest little stare. I was spared having to come up with something nice to say, though, when he burst into a laugh. "Like that, buddy? We call that Drunken Fist."

    I must have been giving Aycee one hell of a look, because she burst out laughing. Team Silvertongue in all its majesty: Aycee the Avon Lady, Thierry the Runty Sneasel, and now Enoki the Booze-Fu Master. Well... it may have been a modest start, but today marked a big step in my life, and a humble beginning was certainly better than no beginning at all.
     
  2. We were all pretty enthusiastic about starting up our rescue team, but we didn't exactly begin with a bang. The only things we could do were register at the Delibird Post Office, post our flyer on the bulletin board outside, and wait for the job offers to come pouring in. Which they didn't. It had been a few days, and still we hadn't had a single Pokemon approach us. Apparently, Northvale wasn't as plagued with troubles as we'd originally thought. The three of us had decided to gather at Miltank's Saloon that evening, in hopes of maybe overhearing somebody looking to drown their sorrows in drink. The place was usually pretty packed once the sun was down--there weren't that many places a Pokemon could go to have some fun in this little town, so it was kind of inevitable that Northvale's one and only watering hole had pretty good business. When I got inside, the tables were already packed with card games, buddies relaxing after a hard day, and couples looking to enjoy a night out. I saw Aycee and Enoki already waiting for me at one of the corner tables, so I took a seat with a grin.

    "Late again, Sneasel. You get lost on the way or something?" Aycee greeted me with the usual teasing.

    I sighed and slouched into my seat. "I wish. Father dragged me into sparring with him again. He's been absolutely relentless ever since he found out about Team Silvertongues. I swear my claws are numb."

    "Your old man sounds like a fun guy." Enoki chuckled, cocking his head slightly. "Maybe I should take a turn sparring with him sometime. He sounds pretty tough."

    "Trust me, he is. Don't think I'll ever be able to take him on." And that was no joke. Maybe it was a good thing that we didn't have any pending missions--as sore as I was, I didn't think I'd be able to keep up with Aycee and Enoki.

    "Good. I dig a good challenge." Enoki's laidback smile grew, and for a moment I saw a spark in his shaded eyes. "It'd give me something to do, anyways. No offense, but your town doesn't have a lot going on, does it? One restaurant, one store, no storage place, no inn... not even a training dojo. My parents told me they remembered Northvale being a pretty booming place."

    "Yeah, well... that was during the gold rush." Aycee replied. "There was a pretty big boom a couple decades ago, and there was a flood of Pokemon immigrating to the north. My folks included. By the time our generation was born, though, the mines all ran dry. Pretty much everyone went back down south, where it was warmer, so the town shrank down to the little burg you see today. It'd probably be a ghost town if everyone who lives here weren't so stubborn. We're pretty close to it, anyways. There's a whole district of town that's just totally abandoned."

    "You seen that end of town yet, Enoki?" I asked, elbows resting on the table and head cradled between my claws. "It's a spooky place. Almost as eerie as the abandoned mines up in the mountains." Back when we were kids, Aycee always insisted on exploring the broken-down buildings, trying to force our way past the boarded doors and windows, squeezing through a hole in the wall where the wood at rotted or prying open a dusty cellar door. I had never been quite as eager to go peeking around, but I told myself I could bear it as long as Aycee was around. In a way, it was good preparation for when we became a rescue team--I'd been told they spent a lot of time in dark caves and the like.

    "I've done some exploring, yeah. I dunno what else to do with myself half the time. Staying at the church doesn't give you all that much to do."

    Oh yeah, I'd forgotten Enoki was staying in the church. Once I left Northvale and headed south, I'd learn that our church was pretty tiny; it had one stained glass window showing Mew, an absolutely ancient organ, a few uncomfortable wooden pews, and a dusty loft that had once housed Northvale's gold-rush population, but now simply housed the holiday ornaments and the occasional traveller who stopped by. I sat up and shot Enoki a grin. "Aw, c'mon. There's nothing more exciting than discussing the scriptures with Father Hough."

    "Ugh... no thanks, buddy. Ho-oh and Lugia are my deities of choice, for one thing, and for another, listening to that guy drives me up the wall. I've never heard such a wheezy Walrein in my life. Every time he opens his mouth, I think he's going to keel over from a heart attack."

    "Well, you mentioned there was another guy staying at the church, too. What about him?" Aycee asked.

    "I dunno. He's kind of... well... I dunno what a little guy like him would be doing this far north, but he doesn't really seem like he fits in that well. He looks pretty miserable, to be honest. He's always shivering, and he kinda strikes me as being a bit lonely. He doesn't have too much to say when I talk to him, though, and he doesn't leave the church all that much. I don't have a clue why, since he told me he isn't a Mew worshipper, but I guess he just doesn't wanna face the cold."

    "What cold?" Aycee snorted in disbelief. "It's springtime!"

    "Yeah, well... spring in Northvale is very different from spring in Central Square." Enoki shrugged. Neither Aycee nor I had ever left Northvale, so we couldn't really argue that. The three of us lapsed into silence. The quiet between the three of us didn't really have time to turn awkward, though, before a tiny voice piped up, struggling to be heard over the background noise of the saloon.

    "Excuse me... 'scuse me. Hey! You guys are Team Silvertongues, right?" I glanced around for the source of the voice, eyes finally settling on a snowy-white Shinx down on the floor. With some effort, he bounded up onto an empty chair, then onto the table. "That's better. Look... I'm guessing that you guys aren't too busy running jobs, so you'll be glad to hear this. Ms. Aves sent me to find you guys. She's got a mission for you." The Shinx sat down and cleared his throat, probably reciting what he'd been told word-for-word. "Father Hough was at the church last night. He was helping Ms. Aves pick out the songs for the choir, and they were gonna talk about the spring pageant. He left early because he said he had something he needed to do. Ms. Aves says she stopped by his house a little while ago to show him the script she'd made for the pageant, but his house was empty and his bed hadn't been slept in."

    The Shinx paused, obviously savouring the dramatic effect, then continued. "Ms. Aves went outside and saw me makin' a snow-Buneary, and she said she was going to Mayor Leopold's house to tell him, but I was supposed to find Thierry and Aycee and your one friend and tell you that if you can find Father Hough and bring him home, then she'll reward you with 200 Pokedollars when you guys get back."

    I looked at Aycee. Aycee looked at Enoki. Enoki looked at me. This was what we'd been waiting for--finally, a chance to prove what Team Silvertongues could do! And this job was real important, too. Father Hough was a well-respected and beloved part of the community, being the only preacher we had. In a Mew-fearing town like Northvale, that put him about on par with the mayor in the social hierarchy. The three of us stood, with Aycee clearly taking the lead.

    "Kid, go find Ms. Aves and tell her we're on the case. Team Silvertongues, you have five minutes to gather up whatever supplied you need. We meet up at our usual place outside of town, then we start looking. Any idea where Father Hough might have gone, Shinx?"

    The little Shinx just shrugged. "I 'unno. Ms. Aves said he went away from town when he left the church, not towards it, but he could be anywhere, I guess." Sensing his job was done, the Shinx leaped off the table and ran for the door, obviously hoping that Ms. Aves would have some sort of tasty reward for a job well done waiting for him. The three of us watched him go, then without a word, we followed suit. This was our first official mission; no way we were gonna screw this one up.



    ((Edited for spellcheck--who needs Ho-oh and Lugia when you have Hooch and Luigi?))
     
  3. When I got home, Mother was sitting at the table, peeling an apple with her claws. She looked up in surprise when I entered. "Thierry... back so soon?"

    I nodded. I had been all excited back at Miltank's Saloon, when Aycee and Enoki had been there with me, but now the fizzy, thrilled feeling in the pit of my stomach had turned into a syrupy anxiety. "I just stopped by to grab some stuff. We just got our first job." I crossed over to the cupboards, looking for some Oran berries I could take along. I wasn't too sure what Mother was going to say to that. While Father had always been adamant about me growing up tough and being in a rescue team, I knew that Mother worried about me. I guess I couldn't blame her. I was the only son she had, and I'd been frail since the day I first cracked my eggshells. She did her best not to shelter me, though, and that was something I appreciated.

    "...Oh...? Well... what's your mission, then?" Behind me, the steady sound of her claws tearing away the apple skin had halted.

    "Father Hough's gone missing. We're heading into the mountains to look for him."

    "Father Hough...?" I could hear a slight waver in her voice. "That sounds like a very important mission. Thierry... wait here a second. I have something for you to take along."

    Please don't let it be a sweater.

    I still kept my back to her, keeping myself busy by picking through the Oran berries in search of the biggest ones. It wasn't something that made a difference, really, but I still did it. A while later, I felt three strong claws on my shoulder, gentle as ever, then felt something sliding over my head and settling around my neck. I stood up, looking down. A single worn-looking claw rested above the yellow gem on my chest, hanging from a leather thong. I cradled it in my claws. No matter how old the claw looked, the point was still needle-sharp. "Mother...?"

    "That claw has been passed down in our family for generations. When a Sneasel takes their first step into adulthood, they're given that claw to wear. Think of it as... think of it as a good luck charm. Keep it close to you." I looked up at my mother with wide eyes. She looked... a little sad, almost. But just for a moment; seconds later, she shot me a fanged grin and slapped me on the back with a laugh. "I'm serious, kid! That's an heirloom. Lose it and I'll kick your ass. Well, why are you still standing around here? You've got a job to do, and a town without a minister is like a Weavile without a headdress. Get going!"

    ...That was Mother for you. I smiled and nodded my head, hastily stowing away the few Oran berries I'd selected. "Thanks. I'll be home later... don't wait up, okay?" Mother raised her claws in a salute of sorts, and I returned the gesture before I left. I was still as nervous as anything, but I could feel the claw Mother had given me bouncing against my chest as I ran. That was reassuring. Well, as reassuring as a sharp, pokey claw resting over your heart can be, anyhow.

    I was the first to arrive at the usual spot, for a change. It had been snowing for most of the day, so I had to brush a layer of fluffy white off of the stump before I sat down. I wasn't waiting long, though, before Enoki hopped into sight. Aycee joined up with us a moment later, and the three of us spread our supplies out on the stump. "Okay... four Oran berries, one Reviver Seed, six Gravelerocks, and a... is this a TM, Enoki? What's it for?"

    "Aerial Ace. Figured to bring it along just in case. Found it during my travels, but... eh, never really needed it. If either of you want it, then it's all yours. None of us are flying-types, so it could come in handy to cover ourselves. Thierry... Sneasels have a pretty big weakness to fighting-types, don't they? You could probably use this the most of any of us."

    "Uh... thanks." I muttered, carefully picking the shiny disc up in my claws. I knew Enoki meant well, but I had the feeling he had me pegged as the most inexperienced member and was just trying to give me a handicap. Still, he did have a point. A team was only as strong as its weakest link, that's what my father always said. I stared at the TM for a second, then snapped it in half. Pale blue light erupted from the broken disc and swirled around me, then dissipated into the night air. A tingling feeling shot through my arms and legs, then likewise faded.

    "Okay, great. Thierry's got a slick new move, we're ready to go. Thierry, you can just leave the used TM here. It's only gonna take up space, since none of us know how to fix those things." Aycee was back in charge. She directed us over to a fresh patch of snow and drew out a crude little diagram with the tip of her tail. "So we know for a fact that Father Hough went this way on his walk. He doesn't get around all that easily, so let's assume he stuck to the path instead of dragging himself through the forest. The road goes up to the main shaft of the Leopold Mine, so we'll head up Mt. Errodain by the same path. This snow will have covered up his tracks by now, so we'll have to keep a sharp eye out. For the time being, we'll stick together. Sound good, guys?"

    Both Enoki and I nodded our consent, so Aycee wiped out her little map with a single swipe of her tail and raised a fist. "Sweet. Okay, Team Silvertounges... let's move out!"
     
  4. We traveled in silence. It was a bit unusual for Aycee to be very untalkative, but this was kind of a big deal, wasn't it? Father Hough could have been in danger, and it was up to us to bring him back safely. Aycee had been right about the snow wiping out any tracks Father Hough might have left; for all we knew, we were headed the wrong way entirely. All we could do was keep going, and keep our eyes peeled for some sort of sign. Even that was hard. The moon shone full and bright, but the pines around us kept most of the light out. Not everyone had the benefit of dark-type night vision, after all; more than once I hear Aycee swear under her breath as she stubbed her foot on an unseen root or stone. Behind me, Enoki was having trouble too, but for different reasons. I could tell he wasn't used to the cold, and being a grass-type meant he was especially vulnerable. He was a real trooper, though; he just kept on hopping away without a word of complaint.

    "Mewtwo's asshole--!" And there was Aycee again. This time, she almost faceplanted into the snow. I reached out on instinct and grabbed her arm. She managed to avoid a fall, and shot a smile at me over her shoulder. "Thanks, Thierry. Just watch the claws next time, okay?"

    "Yeah, okay. Look... maybe I should lead. I can see in the dark better. Besides, Enoki's not used to your vocabulary. I think you're gonna scar his ears with your creative cursing."

    "Naw, it's cool. I get a kick out of picturing a legendary Pokemon's posterior." Enoki drew up next to me and chuckled.

    Aycee turned around and frowned at the two of us. "Y'know what, Thierry? Screw you. I'm leading. It's not my fault this stupid path is a neglected sack of crap." And that was that. Aycee turned on her heel and marched forward, though her point was somewhat blunted by the fact that she didn't even make it five steps away before she stumbled again. "The hell is this? The whole point of a road is to make it so there's nothing to slow you down! Ugh... Thierry, Enoki, not a word, got it?"

    The two of us exchanged amused glances, but shrugged and followed behind her. I knew Aycee well; I wasn't dumb enough to try and stop her.

    The rest of the walk up the mountain path was uneventful. Aycee swore, Enoki shivered, I strolled. I was beginning to wonder why I'd been so nervous about this mission--so far, it was proving pretty boring. We hadn't seen a single soul. Where were the untold perils and scores of foes that were supposed to hinder rescue teams? There was no glory at all in taking a moonlit walk up some disused path to an abandoned mine. I wasn't exactly the most fearsome brute out there, but I was itching to prove myself in a real, honest-to-goodness battle!

    Man, irony's a bitch. We had just made it out of the pines and the mine entrance was in sight when Aycee drew to a halt and dropped to the ground. Enoki followed suit, no questions asked, so I figured I'd better do the same. Aycee shifted so she was facing us and whispered. "There's people at the mine entrance. Thierry, your eyes are better than mine. See if you can see who they are. And be careful not to get spotted!"

    What, like I was gonna start banging cymbals and waving a flag around or something? I raised myself up carefully and squinted into the moonlight. Sure enough, I could see three Pokemon hanging around the entrance to the mine. I dropped back down again and made my report. "Mew in heaven. It's Schist, Casey, and Kanei." Aycee groaned, but Enoki just looked puzzled. "A Graveler, Lucario, and Linoone. They've got a reputation around town for being a bunch of thugs, and it's well-deserved. Why the Mayor hasn't ordered them to be locked up yet's entirely beyond me. So my question is now what? If we want to look in the mine, then we'll have to get past them, and we all know they'll take any excuse to fight."

    "I wouldn't be too surprised if those jerks had something to do with Father Hough's disappearance," Aycee growled. "We can take 'em. Guys like that are all talk and no action."

    "I dunno, Aycee. They're pretty tough." I frowned, glancing over to the three figures gathered around the mine entrance. "Just charging in seems like an invitation to get our tails handed to us."

    "Who said anything about charging in?" Enoki spoke up, another of his slow, easygoing smiles creeping onto his face. "These guys don't know me yet, so they probably won't expect anything if I come up alone. I'll draw their attention, and you guys will circle around. Use the rocks as cover and ambush them. There's three of them and three of us, so it'll work out perfect."

    "Good idea, Enoki. I'll take Kanei. No offense, but you guys would be too slow for him." Aycee nodded, her teeth bared in anticipation of the bloodshed about to come. Leave it to her to get all worked up over this.

    "And I'll take the Lucario... Casey, was it? Sorry, Thierry, but with your fighting weakness, he'd cream you for sure." Enoki remained as placid as ever, but beneath the shady brim of his mushroom cap his eyes were bright and alert.

    "Guess that leaves me with Schist, then," I muttered. Go figure I'd get the heavy one.

    "Sounds like a plan. Okay, Aycee, you go right, and Thierry, you circle to the left. I'll give you a little head start, then I'll go." Enoki lifted his hands to tighten the red bandana around his neck, then waved one hand impatiently. The two of us nodded, the crept off in our respective directions. Now more than ever, I was glad to be a Sneasel. Those predator instincts really helped out, and the pale blue coloration of all northern Sneasels certainly didn't hurt, either. I ducked behind a rock and risked a peek. I could see Enoki approaching the mine entrance, though there was a goofy swagger to his walk and he seemed to be having trouble finding his footing. For a moment, I was confused, but then I remembered the little display he'd put on when we'd first met.

    Casey wasn't going to have any idea what had hit him. I ducked my head and kept going. As I drew closer, I could hear voices.

    "Whoa, buddy, where do you think you're going? This mine's closed off."

    "Clo--... wha? The hell d'ya mean s'closed off?" That slur had to be Enoki. He really went the whole nine yards on this Drunken Fist thing, huh?

    "Yeah. It's real dangerous in there. Could collapse at any moment."

    "Huh, well... that's... that's what your mom said." Enoki again, this time with a boozy snicker.

    "Okay, buddy. Why don't you just turn around and head back where you came from? Sounds like you've had quite a night so far, and we'd hate to sour it on you."

    By that time, I was in position. I cautiously lifted my head and waved to Enoki, who was looking like a stiff breeze would tip him over. A swift glance to my side told me Aycee was waiting to pounce, too. I shifted my attention back to the scene in front, waiting for Enoki to make his move.

    "Naw, you guys got it all backwards." Enoki pressed one hand to his face and stumbled forward awkwardly. Suddenly all the tipsiness had drained from his voice. "We're the ones that're gonna sour your night." I could see Casey glance over to Kanei in confusion and grinned. He was leaving himself wide open. Sure enough, Enoki teetered back, one leg rising into the air. He stayed like that for a precarious second, then his wobbling transformed into a swift crescent kick. If Casey had been looking at Enoki, it would have struck him in the jaw, but since his head was turned, it connected just under the back of his ear.

    Casey hit the ground like a sack of bricks, and that was right about when Aycee and I decided to make our presence known.
     
  5. We started off with a bang, that was for sure. I pounced onto Schist's exposed back at the same time that a blinding burst of light tore through the serene night, temporarily dazzling us. Even if there were spots dancing in front of my eyes, my legs had a tight grip on Schist's rocky flesh. I lifted my claws and went to it with a frenzy. Just my luck, I'd never bothered to factor in the toughness of a Graveller's hide. It seemed like every swipe just bounced off the hard rock, sending numbing vibrations down my claws and into my arms. Aycee's Flash had bought me a few seconds, but slowly Schist became aware of the annoyance sitting up on his shoulders. "Eh...? Get off, you!" He snarled, all four arms flailing wildly as he attempted to swat me off. It'd been a fairly lucky pounce; he was having trouble reaching me. Every now and then a stone hand would clout me on the ear, but it wasn't going to be that easy to shake me.

    It was hard to say if the others were having better luck than me. Aycee and Kanei were all but a pair of clashing blurs in the dark. It seemed to be hit-and-run with the two of them. Aycee would whip her tail against Kanei's side in a Slam, he'd bite down on it and scamper back. Whenever Kanei backed off too far, she tried to pick him off with a Thunderbolt and another burst of light would light up the snowy clearing. Kanei kept retaliating with Water Pulses, but his aim was horrible thanks to Aycee's lightning. The ground beneath was turning into a mess of slush, mud, and stone.

    In the meantime, Casey had recovered from Enoki's first hit, and the two were duking it out like a pair of Vigoroths. Enoki bore several scratches from the spikes on Casey's hands, and the Breloom seemed to be hard-pressed to keep up with Casey's rapid-fire blows. Casey feinted low, then dealt out a swift uppercut. Enoki just about bent over backwards from the force of the punch, but he snapped back with a headbutt that had Casey wincing. That moment's flinch was all Enoki needed. His movements were... well, they looked like the random flailing of a drunk, but there was a cold precision to them. A wild haymaker that connected with Casey's jaw with an unpleasant thud and had carried Enoki into a teetering half-spin, followed by a sharp blow from his tail, then he pitched forward onto the ground. Both hands hit the dirt and his legs shot up, catching the Lucario in the stomach.

    The thing about Casey, though... he's tough. Even if you manage to make him flinch, he just comes back at you like lightning. He bend forward under the force of Enoki's kick, but then both paws clamped around the Breloom's ankles. He spun around a few times with Enoki helplessly whirring in his grasp, then let go. Enoki flew towards the large rocks Aycee had used for cover earlier, and he was certain he was going to plow facefirst into them. He shot out his hands at the last second and pushed, vaulting himself right over a boulder and bringing himself down. I couldn't see what he'd landed on, but judging from the squeal... I'm pretty sure it was Kanei. Aycee let out a hoot of laughter, but it was short-lived. An Aura Sphere from Casey obliterated the rock Enoki had nearly hit, and gave him a clear sight of my teammates.

    Of course, they weren't the only ones with problems. I'd been hacking away the best I could, and there were chips and shards of stone littering the ground as proof of that, but I still had yet to do any real damage to Schist. He'd abandoned his wild swatting, instead trying to shield himself with a Defense Curl. Ugh, that was how he was gonna play? Fine! I opened my mouth and let out a blood-freezing warcry--or a girly shriek, depending on who you ask. Either way, my Screech seemed to do some good; Schist jumped from the noise and uncurled a little. By now, I had a feeling that I was wasting my time with ordinary swipes. The only things I'd really accomplished were giving Schist a haircut and making my arms tired. Better to try something with a little more oomph. I raised one hand. The moonlight glinted off my claws as a layer of ice and frost began building up around them. "Hey, Balboa... heads up." I grinned as I plunged my claws down. If normal attacks didn't work, well... we'd see how much this brickhead liked an Ice Punch to the back of the head.

    I was rewarded with a satisfying crunch, a roar from Schist, and a small burst of rock shards and dust. I winced as a few pieces of debris flecked off my skin, but I nonetheless kept grinning; I had left a pretty sizable dent in Schist's craggy hide. My pride didn't last long, though, before I felt Schist beginning to move. He was still all curled up, though, so for a moment I was confused. With his legs and arms all tucked in, what did he think he was...?

    Rollout.

    It clicked almost right away, but by then it was too late. Schist had started rolling. I made a last-second effort to bail, but I wasn't quite quick enough. Next thing I knew, I had 232 pounds of rock merrily rumbling over my tail. If you thought my Screech was ear-splitting, well... I'm pretty sure I could have cracked glass at that one. Sneasel tails are flat to begin with, but having nearly four times my weight in jagged rock plow over them made it feel like all three pinkish quills were on fire. The pain shot right up my spine, and for a moment all I could do was lie there on my side, trying to keep my eyes from watering too much. Of course, once a Pokemon starts using Rollout, they don't quit after one hit. Schist had managed to turn around, judging from the steadily growing rumbling sound. I tried to will myself onto my feet, but it seemed like my body was too busy hurting to even think about running.
     
  6. Have I ever mentioned how wonderful Aycee is? She'd heard my scream--you'd have to be deaf not to--and came running. She made a spectacular slide through the mud and snatched me out of the path of Schist's Rollout. I could have kissed her, and if Schist hadn't been coming back for another pass I probably would have. Instead I forced myself onto my feet and raised my claws. A blur of movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and on instinct I let out a blast of Icy Wind. It collided with Kanei's incoming Water Pulse and froze it into a solid ring of ice, which clattered to the ground and burst. A warning shout from Aycee had me diving to the side, just in time to avoid Schist's oncoming move.

    The Graveller kept rolling blindly. Up ahead, Enoki had his hands full still. Casey and he were trading Force Palms blow for blow. He ducked beneath a swing from the Lucario and shot a split-second glance over our way, then straightened up and stumbled forward. He seemed almost to collapse, arms wrapping around Casey's waist for support. Casey looked utterly stunned. He didn't seem to be sure whether he should let his opponent faint, go for the sucker punch, or file for sexual harassment. Enoki put the problem out of his head quickly. Bracing his feet in the muddy ground, he tipped over backwards, back arched as he all but plowed Casey headfist into the earth. The rest of Casey followed suit, flopping to land with a painful thud. Enoki had his back at a fairly awkward curve to pull that last move off, so rather than waste time trying to recover his balance, he just took a dive and rolled out of the way. And none too soon! Seconds later, Schist rolled onto the scene... and onto Casey, too. I couldn't help wincing in sympathy as the Graveller mowed over his own teammate.

    A shout from Aycee pulled my attention back behind me. She leaped at the Linoone, obviously intending to slam into him, but he'd darted to the side like an arrow and she'd faceplanted entirely. Kanei was headed right past me, so I attacked without thinking; a well-placed Quick Attack from me sent him rolling on his side. Before he had the chance to recover, Aycee came charging in. She was surrounded by a halo of wild sparks--a Volt Tackle. Her signature move and also her deadliest. Kanei never knew what hit him. The two send up a spray of slush and muck as they slid a good six feet. I didn't have time to move to Aycee's side before Enoki shouted. "Watch it, Aycee!"

    Schist wasn't satisfied with plowing Casey, and he was bearing down towards where Aycee and Kanei lay stunned. I glanced around frantically, somehow thinking a thousand thoughts and none at all at the same time. Aycee to the left, Schist to the right, Enoki too far away to help, the shaft of the mine yawning blankly behind me... oh, screw it. I didn't know what else to do, so I went for the taunt. "Hey, you forget about me, Balboa? The one who put a crater in your skull? I'm dying of old age over here!"

    Well... the taunt seemed to work. Schist veered off course, making a beeline for me. Unfortunately, I really hadn't thought it through past that point. I backed up a few steps, but before I had the chance to turn around and make a run for it, Schist hit a bump. He ramped up into the air and uncurled, bearing down straight for me. If I'd have been thinking, it would have been easy to figure out that I should sidestep and let him plummet. Sadly for me, I really had yet to get the hang of that whole "not freaking out in a fight" thing. I sprang into the air and tried to evade by jumping right over him. My feet hit the top of his head, I pushed off, and... went down. One pair of arms had grabbed me and held me firmly as Schist bounced right off the ground and tumbled right down into the dark mine shaft, taking me with him. I struggled like an animal, praying the whole time that Schist wouldn't land on me as we went head over heels.

    Mew must have loved me that night, because I managed to kick Schist right in the eye and he let me go. I hit the wall of the mine and stopped. He rolled on a little farther before he shot out his hands and halted himself. This wasn't going to be easy--a heavy hitter like Schist would have the edge over me in the narrow mine. I decided to attack before he had a chance to get his bearings, and broke into a dash, claws high and ready.

    Schist just watched me approach with a calm little smile on his face. That should have been a hint. Then he closed his eyes, and began... glowing. Why was he glowing? Solarbeam? No, of course not. Evolution? Not likely. So then why the glow. And why did something smell kind of like... gunpowder?

    Oh, hell.

    Selfdestruct!

    I backpedaled furiously. Agility, Quick Attack--anything quick, anything that could put distance between me and Schist before--

    Boom. Noise and hellfire at my back, something lifting me off my feet, and the rush of rock and darkness around me.

    Then... nothing.
     
  7. You've heard other stories about rescue teams before, I'm sure. You know how it goes. The first mission is a glorious success, the day is saved, and the team has won the respect and admiration of the town for their contributions to society. I'd grown up on stories like that; it only seemed natural that Team Silvertongues would start out just like that.

    It was pretty naive of me to think that, wasn't it?

    Really, I don't think you could describe any part of that mission as successful. Schist's Selfdestruct had caused the mine shaft to collapse, and I'd been caught in the blast. Enoki and Aycee had tried to dig me out, but the both of them were injured, and Kanei and Casey were even worse off than they were. In the end, they'd run back to town for help. It had taken the town hours to dig through the rubble. Really, I don't think they expected to find me alive. Every Pokemon that had been alive during the gold rush days knew how horrible a cave-in could be. If you weren't killed when it happened, you'd probably suffocate before help could arrive. Everyone knew I was frail to begin with, and if I'd been injured beforehand, well... I don't blame them for being less than optimistic. I wouldn't have expected to find me alive, either. Somehow, though, I was alive. Very much worse for wear, but alive.

    Really, I think I missed the worst of it. From what I hear, it was pretty ugly stuff when I'd first arrived. A broken tailbone and ankle, missing teeth, head trauma, cracked claws, bruises everywhere, bald, burnt patches where the blast had scorched my fur right off. The claw that my mother had given me that night had managed to survive intact, even if the leather thong keeping it around my neck had been charred into oblivion. Apparently it had been embedded in the jewel on my chest. A few millimeters further in and it would have been embedded in an artery, too. I wasn't too sure if that was a sign that the claw was a good luck charm or not.

    I wasn't the only one injured, not by a mile. Aycee and Enoki were lucky. Their injuries were minor enough that a handful of Oran berries and plenty of bandages were treatment enough. Apparently, they'd both had hypothermia; Enoki had little resistance to the cold, and Aycee had been hit with enough Water Pulses to freeze her fur, but neither of them were too critical by the time they'd reached town. Kanei and Casey had it much worse. I'm not sure how serious it was for them, since I was out of it for most of the time, but I'd overheard a few ugly phrases once I woke up. Broken ribs, punctured lungs, internal bleeding, concussions. We only had one doctor in Northvale: a stooped old Abomasnow who bordered on senile. He could have easily handled Aycee and Enoki if it had only been them, but with as many critical cases as this, he was overwhelmed. I'm told they had to have Blisseys come in from Frostview.

    Let me tell you, no move in the known universe is half as miraculous as Softboiled. When I came to, most of the damage had been erased. All the cracks and breaks had been mended, save for the gem on my chest; that, they said, was going to have a missing shard until I evolved. My burns had been healed, even if the fur was taking its sweet time growing back, and even the empty gaps in my mouth had been filled. Aycee told me they'd had a Sharpedo donate teeth for me, but I knew she was joking. Ever since I woke up, she'd been cracking jokes left and right, avoiding my eyes and answering everything I said with watery smiles and vague comments about the fight.

    "You've got Mewtwo's own luck, Thierry, y'know that? Never would have thought a... a pansy like you would have survived a fight like that. You look like death in a can."

    I grinned and told her she should see the other guy, and her smile went stiff. She mumbled something about finding my parents for me and hurried out of the room. I thought it odd, but it was impossible to dwell on it once Mother had found me. She backhanded me silly with the blunt of her claws, alternating between sobbing about her precious little boy and shouting about her reckless idiot son. Father finally managed to pry her away with a firm hand to her shoulder, looked me in the eye, and spoke bluntly.

    "Schist died. Some people believe you should be charged with manslaughter, but it was decided that it was a suicide. You won't be held accountable."

    Dead. I hadn't even thought about Schist the whole time. The words numbed me.

    Father wasn't done speaking. "They also dug Father Hough out of the rubble."

    A wave of dread crashed down over me. Father Hough had been in the mine? I hadn't seen him. Maybe he'd been far enough away from Schist and me to...

    "Thierry... he's dead."
     
  8. It's a very different story in a big, diverse city like Central Square, but Northvale was a very close-knit, Mew-fearing community. The loss of our preacher was a staggering blow to the entire population. How could a man who loved Mew more than anything just... die? It was so sudden and senseless. What Northvale wanted was resolution -- some sort of meaning behind the accident, somebody's head laid on the proverbial chopping block. Unfortunately, there was only one person in the mine shaft during the explosion that had survived the blast: me. The remainder of my time recovering was very stressful. The team's failure, Father Hough's death, and the town's hostility towards me had left me as little more than a bundle of fraying nerves. Father wanted nothing to do with me, and Mother was almost unbearable in her coddling.

    Aycee didn't visit me.

    The only respite I had was when Enoki stopped by. Being an outsider to both Northvale's religion and politics allowed him to speak to me without any accusations in his voice. I don't think I could have handled it without him there; I was more than content to just curl up and wait until I died of old age, but Enoki was determined that the scandal wasn't going to get to me. Every day that he bounced into my room and drew back the curtains with a stupid comment about the weather may have been met with an annoyed grunt, but really... I was grateful. I am grateful.

    I was almost completely recovered before things finally changed. As if in apology for the loss of Father Hough, Mew had blessed us with unusually warm weather; the sun beat down with almost overbearing friendliness, and the snow everywhere was reduced to slushy off-white clumps. Instead of the usual, leisurely hopping, Enoki burst into my room with enough force that he quite nearly faceplanted. "Thierry! Hey! Get up, Sneasel! You won't believe it!"

    "Won't believe what?" I grumbled, hauling myself up into a sitting position. This was a particularly energetic brand of Drunken Fist acting. Maybe Enoki had picked up Espresso Fu as well while I'd been bedridden.

    "You know how Mayor Leopold sent away to Frostview to see about an autopsy for Father Hough?" Enoki plopped down onto my bed, narrowly avoiding landing on my tail. I nodded; it had mostly been done to soothe the townsfolk, since there really wasn't much doubt as to the cause of death in this particular case. "Well they had a Xatu examine the body. He wasn't killed in the accident; he'd already been dead for hours! The real cause of death was poisoning -- there were crazy amounts of neurotoxins in his bloodstream. Once they found that out, they really started looking into it. Not only was his body covered in dust, but a fine, powdery residue. The body's been through too much to tell whether it's pollen from a grass-type or insect scales or what, but they're positive that somebody used Poisonpowder on him, and that's what killed him."

    I'm a little ashamed to say that my first reaction was relief; there was no way I could be a suspect if it had been Poisonpowder that had killed Father Hough. My conscience kicked in shortly afterwards, however, and it brought a heaping teaspoon of logic with it. "Wait... if Father Hough wasn't killed in the accident, then that means somebody... somebody murdered him." I almost didn't say it. How could anyone possibly kill a preacher in cold blood? Father Hough had never done any wrong! "And Poisonpowder... that doesn't make sense. We don't have any bug-types living this far up north, and the only grass-types are Abomasnows and Snowvers. Nobody living in Northvale can even use that move." Nobody born there, anyway. "Enoki. They don't think you--"

    "No, no. Don't worry." Enoki raised his hooflike claws reassuringly. "I evolved too quickly to learn Poisonpowder. I got Spore, but that's a technique that's been passed down from father to son for generations and all that jazz."

    "Then who...?"

    Enoki lowered his head, eyes hidden by the wide brim of his cap. "There's another guy that's been confirmed to be capable of Poisonpowder. Y'know that other guy that's stayin' in the church with me...? He's a Mothim."
     

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