The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

This is an author's commentary intended for readers who have already read the entire ILCOE. My retrospective comments on the chapter are in bold below, with some remarks within the text and then some overall thoughts at the bottom. The commentary will contain significant spoilers! Do not read the commentary on your first read-through!

(The commentary is in progress; only roughly the first half of the story has been commented. Check the Quest Blog for progress information!)

Chapter 30: The Dragons of Ouen

On January 15th 2006, three weeks after the previous chapter, I officially caught up to the UMR. It'd taken 36 chapters in that, but only 30 in this one, to get the gang here, to Stormy Town and the revelation of the Dragons of Ouen. At the time, it felt like this rewrite had taken almost intolerably long, but today, I can only be extremely impressed that I squeezed out these thirty chapters in less than two years. Imagine that!

Stormy Town had once been a normal town that happened to have somewhat frequent thunderstorms. It had been lively and populated as shown when its formerly unofficial Gym was given official status. ‘Stormy Town’ had in fact only been a sort of nickname affectionately given to it by its resident Gym leader.

That being Sparky's father, of course, who definitely had Sparky's penchant for embracing bluntly descriptive and/or punny names.

However, around twenty years before the three soaked kids made their way towards the flickering neon lettering they could just barely read through the thick sheet of rain as “P.C”, the thunderstorms had begun to get more frequent. No one had been able to explain why. Scientists had claimed that it was just a period that would pass, but it never did, and as the city only got fewer and fewer hours of calm weather, the inhabitants had eventually given up. They had started referring to it as Stormy Town themselves, the rest of Ouen following. Many had moved away; a few had stayed but more or less stopped going outside. The Pokémon League had offered to move the Gym’s badge elsewhere, but the leader had promptly refused, saying that he would stay loyal to his city forever as long as the lightning did not strike him. He and later his son had fought to let the town keep its city rights, and the son had gotten Nurse Joy of Stormy Town to team up with him. Gradually the two of them had then taken over all services in the city. But despite their attempts, Stormy Town was now only visited by trainers who got their badges and then left as quickly as they could. The sad fact was that Stormy Town was dying.

An extremely expositiony paragraph, but I kind of like this background anyway, and I've always been sort of fond of how this omniscient opening is punctuated by that "around twenty years before the three soaked kids made their way towards the flickering neon lettering..." (though I go on to make that clause so long it gets unwieldy).

Obviously, Thunderyu's presence has always been the reason for the somewhat frequent thunderstorms in the area. Twenty years ago is also when Molzapart and Chaletwo noticed their power loss and became concerned; presumably that's when it started to accelerate to significant levels and Chaletwo's power keeping the dragons asleep began to slip, though he wasn't quite aware of it yet.

Bells chimed as the door to the small Pokémon Center burst open and Mark, May and Alan quickly squeezed themselves into the warm lit room despite that the desk by the opposite wall was abandoned. The door closed behind them as Mark threw himself panting into a red sofa, appreciating the pink Pokémon Center carpet like he never had before. Alan and May sat down too as the bell chiming died away, leaving the rain’s beating on the windows, the distant thunder and the kids’ breathing as the only sound in the room.

I like this description, too-long sentences aside.

“Good evening,” came a soft, polite voice. Mark looked up, eying the face of a red-haired nurse as she closed a door to a back room quietly and walked behind the desk. She gave a small bow. “Would you like me to heal your Pokémon?”

Mark felt too exhausted to stand up, so as May and Alan prepared to hand theirs over, he simply detached his minimized Pokéballs from his belt and gave them to May. She rolled her eyes but didn’t object.

After putting the Pokéballs into the healing machine, Nurse Joy sighed. “This building is in bad shape. Soon we’ll have to move the Pokémon Center services into the Gym too…”

Surely it's easier to fix up the Pokémon Center than to try to make the gym double as one, though.

Mark nodded, not sure how to answer. May did not appear to be listening; she was raising her eyebrow at an advertising poster of some sort for the Stormy Town Gym, which bore the caption ‘LET THE SPARK OF YOUR MIND LEAD YOU THROUGH A SHOCKING EXPERIENCE’.

In the UMR this slogan was on a neon sign on the gym itself, but it's just a little too long for that to really work. I love how much Sparky leans into the whole type-based pun business, though, especially after Flora.

“Well, either way,” Nurse Joy went on, “the Gym has free accommodation for trainers if you’re looking for that, and also a rather cheap restaurant. Sparky is a lovely cook.”

May snorted. “The Gym leader’s name is Sparky and he trains Electric Pokémon?”

The nurse giggled. “He sees the humour in it. He’s quite an odd fellow, but you’ll like him. Everybody does.”

May didn’t look convinced, but Alan ignored her, standing up. “Well, it’s more or less dinnertime, so we should probably head over to the Gym, shouldn’t we?”

In the UMR, Mark was guessing before they got there that the gym leader was probably named Sparky or something, then rolled his eyes as Nurse Joy confirmed it. I like it a great deal more when it's May, though.

-------

The Gym was an extremely lively building and in such contrast with the look of the rest of the town that it almost seemed like a spaceship or gateway into another, happier world; the outside was painted in neon pink and blue while warm yellow light flooded through the large windows on the many floors. Of course, given how depressing Stormy Town was overall, something to cheer it up had to be a good thing, even if it was a bit extreme.

Another better-than-usual description, I think! I don't do a lot of describing places, but Stormy Town and its gloomy atmosphere and the garish, flamboyant design of the gym were strong visuals in my mind and I really made an effort to get that across on the page, where other towns were just generic town.

The pink tiled floor made a slight squashy sound as the kids stepped on it and the automatic door closed behind them. Mark eyed a large door just ahead of them, set with navy blue letters that said, “CAUTION: BATTLE ARENA – DO NOT ENTER WHILE A BATTLE IS TAKING PLACE.”

“Are you looking for food or just hurrying to battle and get out of here?”

A short, thin man was walking down a staircase to the right while looking at them through stylish silver shades, wearing a blue T-shirt and shorts. The electric blue, wavy hair and small blue goatee looked dyed, but Mark wasn’t quite sure. A gleeful, friendly expression filled his young face.

“Food for now,” Alan replied. “Sparky, right?”

The man smiled. “Who else could it be?” His voice was the kind that seemed to constantly sound like he was in an internal laughing fit of some sort; it had that giggly element to it and sounded like he found everything highly amusing. “So are you going to battle later, or just coming to say hi?”

That sure was three ways of stating the same thing about Sparky's voice.

“Maybe tomorrow?” Mark suggested, looking forward to getting to bed. May shrugged.

“Tomorrow, why not,” Sparky replied cheerfully. “Shouldn’t you change your clothes, though?”

“Eh, right,” Mark muttered, looking down at his waterlogged jeans. Alan nodded too. May merely gave a “Mmmh.”

Sparky smiled. “Follow me,” he said, turning back towards the staircase he just came down.

-------

“Well, that guy was creepy.”

“Creepy?” Mark asked. “Maybe a bit weird, but not creepy.”

“He’s creepily weird,” May insisted.

“I found him nice,” Alan just said, shrugging.

This bit about May not liking Sparky on a first impression was new in this version. I guess it makes sense she'd find his entirely too cheerful and enthusiastic attitude kind of unsettling. That being said, we didn't actually see Sparky do much of anything unusual or noteworthy in the preceding scene, which undermines that a bit.

They were walking back down the stairs from their rooms after changing. Sparky seemed to have disappeared for the moment, but when they came back into the entrance hall they caught a glimpse of him behind a half-closed door marked “RESTAURANT” at the other end of the room and hurried into it.

Mark was surprised by the sudden change of atmosphere; the restaurant was rather dimly lit and cozy, with wooden furniture and not as much as a speck of the neon colors of the main Gym. Even Sparky himself had put a white cooking hat on his head and taken down his shades.

“Sit down,” he offered, pointing them to a table by the right wall and reaching for a small notebook on a counter in the corner. “Would your Pokémon like to have something too? As long as they fit in here, of course,” he added. “You’ll get their food free – Pokémon aren’t very picky in my experience.”

“Eh… our Pokémon?” Mark asked as he sat down. “Do Pokémon usually eat at restaurants?”

Sparky smiled. “Usually not, but we can always make exceptions, can’t we? Especially since you’re the first staying guests in quite a while. Most trainers come here and run off as soon as possible like they fear being struck by lightning.” He giggled, like the notion of being struck by lightning in Stormy Town was absurd.

I love Sparky.

Here he makes this sound like a casual invitation because he just feels like cooking for the Pokémon too, but in the UMR, he actually talked like he was making a political point of it, trying to take the initiative in a greater movement toward social change. Mark actually remarked that Sparky reminded him of Fury.

“Um… All right.” Mark sent out all his Pokémon except Gyarados, shortly followed by Alan and then May. They quickly explained what was going on, but when it came to ordering, the Pokémon doubtfully asked for either raw meat or raw salad with nothing, the only exception being Scyther, who sat uninvited down on the chair beside Mark and ordered beer.

I love that Mark specifies "uninvited".

Sparky raised his eyebrows. “Are you quite sure?”

“I’m used to it,” Scyther just said.

“And how are you planning to hold the glass, if I may be so bold?” Sparky asked, his eyes twinkling in amusement.

“If you’ve got a large bowl or something… I’d like a lot of it…”

Stoooop it with the ellipses

“I see,” Sparky replied, scribbling it down. May and Alan both looked at Mark, who merely answered with a freaked-out expression, having no idea what to say.

“Well, your food will be ready soon,” Sparky said, looking over them again and disappearing into the kitchen.

It wasn’t long before the Gym leader returned with the drinks for the kids and then what looked like a big kitchen pot, putting it in front of Scyther.

“Don’t drink too much of it all at once,” he said cheerfully before walking back into the kitchen.

Sparky, why are you enabling him.

May and Alan stared at the pot; Mark subtly peeked into it to see it was around three-quarters full of a golden, fizzy drink. Scyther smelled it and smiled before plunging his whole head into it. Mark jumped, edging slightly further away from Scyther in his seat.

“What the hell were you thinking?” May hissed at Mark, leaning forward across the table. “You should have stopped him from ordering it!”

Mark glanced anxiously at Scyther, who still had his head completely subdued. “I just didn’t know how… And Scyther is used to that stuff, isn’t he?”

The mantis’ head emerged from the pot; he shook his head, sending droplets of beer flying at the kids. May moved backwards from the table in disgust.

“Refreshing,” Scyther mumbled. Mark looked at him; the Pokémon’s eyes had already lost some of their normal alertness, which was slightly worrying. Scyther’s head dropped back into the pot.

When he came out again, he was actually getting slightly cross-eyed. “This reminds me of back when Rob and I used to go to the Gamesharked Skarmory… Great place, that… Crunchy… Caterpie…”

Aha! This is where the Gamesharked Skarmory happened! Scyther also referenced it here in the UMR. I knew it wasn't new in the ILCOE.

He reached dizzily out with his scythe in a much too careless manner, coming very close to knocking down a candle. The mantis didn’t appear to notice this, continuing to lap up the drink for a second before looking at Mark.

“Love is fake,” he announced randomly. “It’s all just a bunch of hormones that want you to have sex and kids… Sickle was nice… but love… it’s not…”

Yes, that is Scyther implying that at some point he banged Sickle a.k.a. Pearl, Nightmare's friend and Stormblade's eventual mate from The Fall of a Leader. Awkward. (Originally this was just an off-hand reference; then later I picked this established character to develop further in TFoaL. So yes, it is intentionally the same Sickle, but I didn't know she would eventually be Stormblade's mate at the time I wrote this.)

The mantis closed his eyes. “Mmm… delightful… if you want a piece of advice from an adult, kids, don’t ever fall in love… Not worth it… Yes, very enjoyable… killing is kinda fun when you’ve been doing it for your whole life, you know…”

“Scyther, you’re drunk,” May said bluntly.

Scyther looked stupidly at her for a few seconds. “Whatever,” he then mumbled and collapsed on the table.

“Oh dear,” Sparky said, entering the room with the kids’ food. “I guess Pokémon are rather sensitive to alcohol. One more lesson in running restaurants, isn’t it?”

He turned to Mark as he gently laid the plates down on the table. “If I were you, I’d recall him.”

Mark nodded and touched Scyther with his Pokéball to absorb him in, feeling slightly guilty for letting this happen. He mentally smacked himself. Stop being so responsible… It’s his problem…

Scyther still stayed in the front of his mind during dinner.

I do kind of enjoy just how ridiculous I made Scyther in this whole scene and how utterly wtf everyone is at it, even if it's not pure comic relief and the characters are legitimately concerned about him. It's nice I wasn't taking him too seriously to do this. On the other hand, it's very exaggerated and over-the-top; I'm not sure the explanation that Pokémon are way more sensitive quite suffices to make the speed at which he gets incoherently drunk reasonable, and even if it did, his dialogue just doesn't sound like an actual person. Dialogue improvement would always happen in the next revision, but I'd also definitely draw this out at least a bit more over the course of the meal.

The way May's reacting so strongly is making me wonder if her dad has a drinking problem. I will totally develop May's home life more thoroughly for the next revision, even if it probably mostly won't come up.

-------

Mark decided to let Jolteon, Sandslash, Leta and Dragonair sleep outside their Pokéballs. Jolteon curled up on the end of the bed and Leta followed suit; Dragonair and Sandslash curled up on the floor.

He lay down in the bed, pulled the blanket over him and was quickly fast asleep.

This scene fragment is incredibly short and pointless; if we're going to timeskip from dinner to nighttime and not say much of anything, why not just skip straight to Mark's dream.

The UMR actually had a more vivid description of Mark falling asleep here: His thoughts got cloudy and when he felt he was no longer in charge of what went on in his head, he sank himself into the cinema of his brain.

-------

Mark stood in the grass outside Green Town, people counting down all around him. All of a sudden, Chaletwo’s grayish shape stood in the middle. Two immeasurably bright eyes opened and the world turned black as horrible pain took over him…

-------

Jolteon knew he was unbeatable. He wouldn’t have to worry about the Dugtrio and its menacing three heads, glinting evilly at him with six small eyes.

The heads started moving up and down, gaining speed until the ground trembled. Jolteon suddenly felt weak and powerless against it and his eyes hopelessly snapped open. He blinked, discovering that the earthquake had only been the movement of the blanket as Mark flailed around and mumbled in his sleep. Jolteon looked at Leta; she had not noticed it and was still fast asleep. He quietly stood up as his trainer stopped moving, tiptoed over to his head and gently touched his forehead; it was cold and sweaty.

Jolteon stroked his fur against Mark’s hand, hoping to give him some comfort. He was soon fast asleep again.

This is cute, but man, how did I make the description of his dream so flat.

-------

Chaletwo’s eyes slowly shut again as the pain faded away. The colors of the world returned to normal, but they were no longer outside Green Town, but on top of the mountain above Stormy Town. Black clouds loomed over them, releasing bolts of lightning every now and then that lit up the town far below.

Chaletwo stared down at the city, his expression showing fear and regret, bordering on despair.

“I sense power,” said his telepathic voice emptily.

“The thunderstorm?” Mark said as Chaletwo showed no signs of being about to continue. The legendary shook his head.

“No… It is a Pokémon’s power… But yes, it is what is behind this thunderstorm.”

“Raikou? Zapdos?” Mark suggested.

“Rick has them captured,” Chaletwo replied, still staring down at the town.

“What is it then?”

“It could only be a Pokémon nobody knows exists…” Chaletwo said softly. Mark was about to say something when the legendary added in a whisper, “It’s Thunderyu, the first Dragon of Ouen.”

“So you know of it?” Mark asked blankly.

“Of course I know, I created it!” Chaletwo suddenly snapped, looking at Mark.

“Er…” Mark paused. “What?”

Chaletwo sighed. “I was naïve… Way back when Mew and I were creating the Pokémon, Mew wanted to create all the legendaries… and I thought it was unfair…”

The legendary shook his head hatefully. “Kanto, Johto and Hoenn all had three elemental legendaries… so I made three for Ouen on my own, three dragons who loathed each other more than they loved life itself…I sealed them away and put them to deep sleep where Mew could not find them, and intended to bring them out later and show Mew that I could create and be in control… that I could rule the world without Mew… but I never woke them up, and in all the hassle about preventing the War of the Legends, I forgot that my powers that were keeping them asleep were fading… and as soon as they are fully conscious, they will break out of their chambers and do whatever it takes to destroy each other…”

Resist the ellipse disease, Chaletwo!

Chaletwo wanting to prove he can rule the world without Mew is pretty eye-roll-worthy, but maybe tiny Chaletwo's intentions really were that silly. I wouldn't put it past him.

Chaletwo looked down at the mountain they were standing on. “Thunderyu is right under our feet, and he is waking up… and the worst part is that there is no way we can reach him until he breaks out…”

He looked at Mark again. “Ouen is in grave danger.”

And we've now learned about Chaletwo's confusedly beloved baby dragons! This dialogue has way too many ellipses as usual, and keeps too close to the UMR (the whole "It's Thunderyu" "So you know of it?" "Of course I know, I created it!" exchange just doesn't actually make any sense, and while "Ouen is in grave danger" is a dramatic ending line, it just seems a bizarre thing to say when this is just a few more legendaries for the legendary quest they're already on), but I appreciate the changes that I did make to it, which were mostly to make Chaletwo more distraught and despairing. I'll almost definitely only have more of that in the next revision.

So this marks where the UMR ended! What a cliffhanger to leave people on. I had a couple of chapters planned after this, but ended up ditching that version altogether for the HMMRCIG instead, after a review by Obsidian Blade reminded me that the first several chapters were really bad and embarrassing. Today I can get why many UMR readers were very unhappy with me cutting off just as it was getting good, building up to the fic's first legendary battle - but boy, I'm pretty happy I did. I don't think the UMR, if I'd continued it, would have turned out as something I'd have been anywhere near as happy to have written as the ILCOE ultimately is now. I needed those two years to actually begin to figure out what the plot of the fic is really about - if I'd continued to write the UMR for those two years instead, we'd have ended up with something entirely different on our hands, and I doubt it'd be nearly as interesting (at the time, after all, my plans were still pretty much just that they'd successfully catch all the legendaries and then go home).

With this chapter, though, we were finally caught up, and I'd finally get to write all-new material after all this time! I was pretty psyched about this, and this time I wouldn't end up ditching it for a new revision a few chapters later - while I wrote a couple more chapters of the IALCOTN after this, I was too determined by now to actually get to continue the story for real to abandon the ILCOE. I still didn't yet know the solutions to all the mysteries or how things would ultimately turn out, for all that I tried to make it sound like it - but I knew where to head for now, and was rolling around some ideas, and that was enough.

Obviously, this means from here on, there are no longer going to be any old versions at all to comment on! I'm sad about this, but I suspect my rambling about the revisions hasn't been the most fun part of the commentary for people who aren't me anyway, so some of you are probably cheering. This may mean the coming commentaries will have less actual commentary in general, and I hope to be able to double up on chapters more. Either way, onward to new stuff! Chapter 31 sure is something.


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