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!

Chapter 63: Recovery

March 18th, 2013. In November, I had (almost) finished the NaNo draft of the entire rest of the fic.

It'd been four and a half months since chapter 62 now, and I'd been slowly rereading and making light edits to the remainder of the document, having initially planned to edit the entire thing before posting any of it. But at this point, I decided nah, I'm pretty happy with 63 and it's been a while, let's just post it now.

While NaNoing, I'd had yet another dream about the ending of the fic:

I took a nap today, where I had yet another dream about finishing the fic. In it, the end involved there being a bunch of legendary eggs, many of them shiny; most of them had already hatched, but one still remained, and there was a bunch of suspense around what was in the last egg. In the closing scene, it dramatically turned out to be a Togepi. When I woke up I was thinking, "Wait, that ending really isn't any good. I need to make up a new one, quick." Thankfully I then remembered that wasn't the real thing.

In the meantime (in the dream, not the actual fic) there was something with psychics ruling the world (I think my brain was mixing it up with Negrek's Clouded Sky) and Mitch being a Dark-type and sneakily taking down the psychic leader, which led to the reputation of invincibility that had been holding up the psychics' reign being broken as the story spread. This was somewhat bittersweet, as while the characters didn't like the psychics' reign, they felt making them lose everything in such a manner was cruel.

I made it sound like Mitch being a Dark-type in this dream was just a random thing, but of course, it was totally not.

Mark woke and found himself on a bed with his arm in a cast.

He groaned and blinked as he tried to remember what had happened. Raudra and Puragon. How had it gone in the end? Were they safely on the PC?

“Oh, finally,” said a voice – not Alan or May’s voice, but still one that sounded strangely familiar. “You’re okay. Just relax and take it easy.”

In his blurry vision, he could see a small figure with messy, blond hair standing near his bed. His brain tried to place the voice, but he was only more puzzled once it did. “...Robin Riverstone?”

So. Remember how after spontaneously writing the Safari warden being Robin's mom in chapter 56, I started to feel like this was weird unless it was leading up to something? Well, as I was working out how I was going to handle Mark's injury in chapter 62, I realized this could totally be where Robin does become relevant. They're by the Eastern Cliffs; the Safari is pretty close. Wouldn't the Safari warden probably be living right near here - and therefore Robin as well? And Mrs. Riverstone having some medical training just immediately felt right as part of her character anyway, even if it weren't a reasonable thing for the overseer of an area where trainers wander around without access to all their Pokémon.

And from there, if Mark can't do any legendary-collecting for a bit - what if Robin comes along instead, and we follow May for a little while, and Robin serves as kind of a foil for her? These were all spontaneous ideas that I came up with only shortly before NaNo, which wasn't the greatest time to suddenly decide to add a new character to the main cast - I had no time to properly figure out exactly how I wanted to use Robin to further May's arc, even though I knew there was a lot of potential for her to prod at May's insecurities, and in the NaNo draft itself Robin ended up largely just being sort of there even though I knew I could do interesting stuff with her if I just had a bit more time to think. Ultimately I think it worked out pretty well, but it took a while for me to untangle the NaNo draft and make something decent out of it.

Robin chuckled. “Glad to hear you remember my name. I don’t think we ever even battled.”

“What?” was all Mark managed to say.

“Guys,” Robin called in the direction of a blob of light that Mark was starting to recognize as an open door, “he’s awake and really confused.”

Alan burst in a second later. “Mark? Oh, wonderful. Feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” Mark said, “but...”

“Raudra wasn’t happy, but with both of her sisters convinced, she ended up giving in. Dragoreen put you down, but then –”

Mark stared at him, inclining his good arm meaningfully towards Robin.

“She knows,” said May as she entered the room. “She saw us. Remember how the safari warden is her mom? Apparently they live close by.”

Robin grinned at Mark’s quizzical look. “You were pretty loud and visible. I came to check out what the commotion was about and arrived to find you trying to convince the Color Dragons to be captured. Didn’t think it was a good idea to butt in immediately, but once they were all in Pokéballs and I saw you were injured, I knew we had to get you help.”

“Apparently the warden has some medical training,” May added.

“And after they explained what was going on and we were done freaking out about legendaries and the end of the world, we figured taking you to a proper hospital wouldn’t be good for the whole secrecy thing, so she did what she could.”

This seems pretty questionable - it's not like anyone's going to know he was attacked by a legendary, and even if they did figure out that part, he could presumably convincingly say he just accidentally pissed her off. Perhaps what they're supposed to be worried about here is just media attention, but it seems kind of shaky. I'm also very impressed Mrs. Riverstone just has all the required supplies and expertise right here to deal with a broken arm. All in all this is a fairly obvious handwave as I didn't want to write about him going to a hospital, but since we're about to leave Mark behind for a chapter anyway while he recovers, we could easily just say he regains consciousness and they have this conversation when Mrs. Riverstone is about to take him to the hospital.

Mark felt vaguely down his sides; they were covered in bandages and still hurt when he touched them. “So,” he started to say, but changed his mind when he realized properly how dry his mouth was. “Do you have some water?”

Robin scuttled off through the door and came back seconds later with a half-full glass. He accepted it gratefully and drank most of it.

“So,” he said again, his voice still weak, “am I going to be able to go out again and battle legendaries, or what?”

Robin frowned. “Probably not until several weeks from now. Your arm and all.”

One would think the arm isn't really the biggest problem, though, once it's set and in a cast, right? It's not like the legendary battles involve him physically punching the legendaries (though that's definitely a hilarious image and is making me imagine a Digimon Savers crossover).

Mark looked at May and Alan, wincing. “So what do we do now?”

“This is annoying,” Chaletwo said, making Mark jump; he’d forgotten he was there yet again. “But we were at a standstill anyway. We got Raudra and Puragon, and that means again we have no idea where the next legendaries are. The best we can do is try to gather more clues about where any of the others might be.”

“What about the male Color Dragons?” Mark asked. “Do you think their sisters might know anything about where they are?”

Chaletwo paused. “That’s a good point. We should talk to them.”

“And actually, I’ve been thinking,” May said. “After them, it’s just Mew and the Waraider herd, right? Well, the other kids you killed have presumably been looking for them for years now. Wouldn’t it be productive to try to contact them and see what they have? And more of us is always nice for when we have to battle eight legendaries at the same time.”

“Hm. I suppose perhaps we could try to track them down. We have their names.”

Mark thought of the girl who’d sent the distress call fighting Entei – Leah, wasn’t it? Her team was probably very powerful after years of legendary-fighting – he felt a lot better about the idea of battling the Waraider herd if she would be with them.

In the chapter plan, it only occurred to them to get in contact with the other legendary hunters in chapter 66, but since we were here and having a talk about the next steps, it just seemed natural for May to bring it up here.

“So can I come?” Robin asked suddenly.

Mark blinked; May and Alan stared quizzically at her.

“I mean,” she went on, “I don’t have years of experience fighting legendaries, but I’m pretty good, and I’d like to think I could make myself useful. And my team’s been bored to tears just fighting each other since the League ended. I’d have to ask, but if I know them correctly I think they’d be game for a bit of excitement.”

Robin has been kind of burning to join them ever since they explained what they're doing, but figured she couldn't just ask, all the way until suddenly now they're talking about roping other people in, at which point she goes !!!????!! hey guys I am TOTALLY CASUALLY interested in helping you. I don't think I did a great job conveying this, probably because I hadn't thought enough about Robin yet at this stage.

“That... works out very well, actually,” Chaletwo said after a pause. “Then if you get good leads on the remaining Color Dragons, you could maybe check them out immediately with Robin standing in for Mark, instead of everyone sitting around until he recovers. Is your mother all right with this?”

Robin shrugged. “Ask her. Mom!”

“Yes, yes, I’m coming,” came the safari warden’s voice from somewhere else in the house. The sound of footsteps echoed in the hallway before she leaned in through the door. “Oh, our legendary-collector’s awake. You feeling okay?”

I just had to bring in this little mythology gag calling him a legendary collector.

Mark nodded.

“They were wondering if I could go with them to hunt down some more dragons while he recovers,” Robin said with an innocent smile.

Mrs. Riverstone raised her eyebrows. “Grand. Well, are you going to get her killed? Because he got beaten up pretty bad.” She inclined her thumb towards Mark.

“That was just him being stupid,” May said.

Oh, May.

“None of us have gotten hurt before,” Alan said, throwing May a glare. “It was a one-time incident, and they were very angry. We’re going to try to avoid fighting at all in the future. But it’s still dangerous. She could be a big help to us, but as her parent it’s your call.”

If Alan feels so strongly about diplomacy, why wasn't he participating in it at all last chapter.

“Don’t see what you’d need her for if there wasn’t going to be fighting,” said Mrs. Riverstone dryly. “But, well, I don’t like telling her what she can do. I know she can look after herself, and her Pokémon are top-notch. I just hope I’ve raised her with enough common sense to not want to do anything too dumb.” She looked back at her daughter, pausing. “I trust you’re done with the jumping off cliffs practicing Fly thing?”

Robin grinned. “Don’t worry, Mom.”

She is reacting pretty oddly casually to the idea of her daughter going with them on this quest, all in all. Part of it is just her actual personality, but she's taking it far enough here to be a bit jarring.

“This legendary business,” her mother said, turning to Mark. “You’re sure that catching them all is going to do the trick? It sounds kind of flimsy, from how they explained it.”

“Not this again,” said Chaletwo irritably. “Have you got a better idea? Because I’d love to hear it.”

Mrs. Riverstone shrugged innocently, a gesture that made her look strikingly like her daughter. “Murdering the lot of them?”

“Very funny. No, that wouldn’t work even if we were that desperate. It takes a lot to kill a legendary if it isn’t voluntarily making a soul gem. My eyes could, but at this point I wouldn’t have the energy left to do it more than once or twice.”

I'm not sure if I actually intended this here - in the NaNo draft Chaletwo didn't actually attempt to Death Stare Mewtwo² in chapter 75 - but I'm happy this line is here, setting up that yeah, the power drain does affect Chaletwo's ability to kill with his eyes.

She sighed. “Well, that’s a bind. What’s Plan B, then?”

“Plan B?”

“Well, I’d hope you have some kind of backup plan for if you fail,” Mrs. Riverstone said, frowning. “In the event that you realize the War is coming and you have no hope of capturing the remaining legendaries in time, or you realize capturing just won’t work, what will you do then?”

“In that event, the world ends,” Chaletwo said. “This isn’t a situation with multiple options. If the War happens, it’s over. We need to succeed.”

After his moment of vulnerability in chapter 57, Chaletwo's pretty much retreated back to old habits and the idea they must stop the War or the world ends.

“And what, if you don’t succeed you’ll just lie down and wait for the rampaging legendaries to get you? Forgive me if I think that sounds a little daft. Any reason to think they’d attack an underground bunker with no legendaries in it, for instance, if I were to build one of those?”

“No, but that’s not much help.”

“Not for you, maybe,” Mrs. Riverstone said. “Don’t get me wrong; I do hope it works out – but if it’s looking hopeless, I want my daughter back here in my bunker unless she’s very sure she can still help out there. Understood?”

“Perfectly,” Chaletwo said grudgingly.

Robin and her mother shared a look; despite the warden’s casual attitude, there was a weary, motherly concern in her eyes. Butterflies were flitting about in Mark’s stomach – discussing the possibility of failure and putting others in danger wasn’t helping his vague guilt about delaying everyone with his injuries one bit. If the remaining legendaries had eluded the others for this long, didn’t that mean they were that much harder to find? Could finding them in the time they had left simply be impossible?

Well, the good news is you won't be delaying anyone! The bad news is Dragoreen's going to delay all of you for several weeks.

“We should talk to Dragoreen,” May said, breaking the silence. “I’m going outside. Who’s coming with me?”

After a moment’s hesitation, Alan and Robin turned around to go with her, Alan throwing Mark an apologetic smile. Mrs. Riverstone looked after them as they exited and then leaned against the foot of Mark’s bed, letting out a long breath.

“Stopping the end of the world, huh,” she said, looking in his eyes. “It’s a big thing for a kid to be doing. You must have a lot of courage.”

Mark thought of himself pleading with Dragoreen and didn’t feel very courageous. He tried to smile; it probably came out as more of a grimace.

“Robin’s made of courage, but she only just turned eleven. Was this really just you being stupid? Because this sounds more dangerous than you’re letting on, and while obviously this is important and it’s her life and her choices, I’d rather she didn’t come home with broken limbs or worse.”

He winced. “It was pretty stupid.”

“All right.” Her gaze lingered on him, not looking entirely convinced, but after a few seconds she stood up and prepared to leave. “Well, give me a shout if you need anything.”

Mark looked after her, feeling a nagging need to say something. “I’m still glad I did it,” he said as she reached the doorway. She turned around and looked at him questioningly.

“We were going to just capture them forcibly,” he said. “But because I released Dragoreen, we got them to agree willingly, and now they might tell us where the next legendaries are. If I hadn’t been stupid there, we’d have taken them by force and we’d be lost now. It was worth it.”

The safari warden gave him a grin. “I like your spirit,” she said before walking out.

Indeed they would be! In the chapter plan, they were lost: they went to the Acaria mountains literally on the basis that well, the females were together in some caves, what if the males are also together in some caves.

-------

May took the minimized Master Ball out of her pocket as she stepped outside into the cold evening air. It was lucky, she thought grimly, that Floatzel had managed to retrieve it at all – it could easily have been eaten by a Gyarados. And even worse, if it had been merely lost and not destroyed, then... well, then they would have had to convince Dragoreen to make a soul gem, because then it would have been impossible to catch her in any other ball. She doubted the dragon would have taken that well.

Filling in the gap between May telling Floatzel to go after the Master Ball in chapter 62 and this chapter. She's not sold on Mark's choice there having been a great idea.

“Right,” she said after confirming Alan and Robin were behind her. “Go.”

Dragoreen emerged in blinding white light, twice as tall as the Riverstones’ single-storey home; now that they weren’t battling her, she looked far more monstrously huge. She glanced warily over her surroundings before she folded her wings and settled down into a relaxed position. “What is it?” she said.

“We’re going after your brothers,” May said. “Do you have any idea where they might be?”

Dragoreen’s golden-yellow eyes surveyed her for a moment, her slitlike pupils narrowing. “You’re going to capture them, correct? All of them?”

“Yes.” May didn’t flinch, didn’t look away. She still resented that she’d been caught off guard when Dragoreen had taken Mark hostage; it was something Pokémon weren’t supposed to do, and she hadn’t been prepared for it, but she should have been – it was idiotic not to be – and she wouldn’t make that mistake again.

“Do you have a strategy?” the dragon asked.

“Our Pokémon have been training to fight many legendaries at once, and we know that you’re all Dragon/Flying-types with a double weakness to Ice. We’ll have to adapt our techniques to three opponents instead of two, but –”

“It wasn’t enough to capture us,” Dragoreen observed coolly.

May took a deep breath. “The first time we battled you, we weren’t ready. But we trained after that. The second time, we were expecting to fight only your sisters, with Mark’s Pokémon with us – that’s why we failed. If it hadn’t been for Mark, we would have caught them.”

Yup, entirely blaming Mark for this.

“Fair enough,” Dragoreen conceded after a moment. “But are you sure you have the strength to get our brothers? Three are far more powerful than two, as you saw.”

“Yes, I know.” May exhaled slowly, measuredly. “But this time we’ll have more Pokémon, and we’ll have Robin, once we bring her Pokémon up to speed.” She gestured towards the younger girl.

Dragoreen gave a slow nod. “Is she any good?”

“She’s very good,” May said immediately. “I’ve battled her before.”

Robin grinned. “And she’d know. She’s the Champion.”

May pushed down the sudden sting in her gut, the flash of blood spreading over rocky ground. “No, I’m not the bloody Champion,” she said; Robin should know better than to think that, and it both annoyed and disappointed her that she didn’t. “And that’s beside the point. The point is Robin’s going to more than make up for the lack of Mark if we go now. We just need to know where they are. That’s where you come in.”

Robin really looks up to May (she's like half of the reason Robin was so eager to come with them to save the world), so she's overjoyed to hear her compliment her League performance and eager to return it. Unfortunately, this is not a compliment May wants on any level.

Dragoreen exhaled, still not taking her eyes off May; the gust of hot air from her nostrils gave a momentary strange sensation of standing by a fire on a windy day. “They’re in the Acaria mountain range,” she said finally. “They have a cave there.”

Alan frowned. “The Acaria mountains? They’re pretty big. Do you have anything more specific?”

Dragoreen shook her head.

He sighed. “Well, okay. Guess we’ll just have to look in every cave, then.”

Every cave in a mountain range? That was daunting – but May gave a decisive, undaunted nod anyway. “Thanks for your help,” she said. “I’ll recall you now before you lose any more power.”

“You’re welcome,” Dragoreen said, watching her with golden eyes before dissolving into red light and returning into the Master Ball.

I was a bit blunt with May beating down any weaknesses and not showing it here - part of the edits I made in chapter 64 were just removing stuff like that, pushing it further under the surface, making it subtler, but this is before that.

Obviously, what's really going on in Dragoreen's head during this conversation is she considers whether they're strong enough to truly take down her brothers, and then, as May emphasizes that they should already be strong enough to get them, she considers it for a moment and then simply lies, telling them to go to the Acaria mountains so as to ensure they take a bit of time.

-------

“Right,” May said when she stepped back into the guest room where Mark was. “Dragoreen told us the male dragons are in the Acaria mountain range somewhere. We might need to look for a bit, but that’s as good a thing as any to do while you’re recovering.”

Mark nodded. “All right.”

“And we should probably take your Pokémon along,” she went on. “You don’t have to be there for them to fight, and we can direct them as we can if needed. We can’t unlock your Pokédex without scanning your eye, obviously, but we can take six of your Pokéballs anyway. Having at least Weavile would be a huge asset.”

“I think we should bring Dragoreen,” Alan said as Mark nodded. “I know she said she didn’t know exactly where they are, but maybe she’d remember some of the landscape or just be ready to help us look. She knows them better than we do.”

Mark looked skeptically at him. “I don’t think working with their sister is going to help you catch them,” he said. “Remember how Raudra and Puragon were, after just theorizing we were working with them?”

Alan winced. “Fair point.”

“I think we might as well take her along,” May said. “Better than regretting it later. One less of Mark’s Pokémon won’t make much of a difference.”

Mark nodded again, then hesitated. “Don’t you think you should bring Chaletwo, too?”

May looked at him in puzzlement. “What for?”

I love May dismissing people.

“Negotiating,” Mark said. “Without Chaletwo, you have nothing backing up the War of the Legends story. Except Dragoreen, but again, that’s not exactly going to help if they’re anything like their sisters.”

“I thought that was a given,” Chaletwo said, a note of indignation in his voice. “I’m not going to just stay here twiddling my thumbs. If it’s wasting a ball you’re worried about, I can get into May’s head now and then you can put the ball back on Mark’s PC and give that slot to another Pokémon.”

May grimaced. She hadn’t really been intending to attempt negotiations; as far as she could tell, the Color Dragons were stark raving mad, and it was only by the sheerest luck that trying to talk to them had worked this one time. But she imagined Stantler would tell her she wasn’t giving the crazy murderous dragons a chance – plus even if Mark wouldn’t be there, Alan would, and so would Robin, who seemed to actually admire her. “Yeah,” she said reluctantly. “I guess.”

She really was pretty shaken by Dragoreen taking Mark hostage.

I like her not really wanting to negotiate but just figuring others would think less of her if she didn't.

She rummaged through Mark’s bag for the Pokédex, scanned his eye with it, and switched Gyarados’s ball for Chaletwo. It seemed ridiculous to withdraw a legendary Pokémon from the PC like any other Pokémon – did League employees ever see activity like this in their logs and freak out?

Odds are nobody's looking at the logs most of the time, but the possibility exists.

The Pokédex bleeped cheerfully to indicate the transfer had completed, and she dropped the Pokéball and watched Chaletwo form in front of her. For a split second he looked at her with his creepy closed-but-not eyes, and then a strange pricking sensation arose deep in her brain, like her mind was going to come pouring out. She instinctively clutched at her forehead in a momentary jolt of surprised panic, but the feeling quickly faded into a faint tingling as Chaletwo disappeared back into the Pokéball.

“Well, here I am,” he said just as the throbbing was dying down, and she started again: it was an entirely different feeling than listening to him talk normally, like a voice in her head but with the volume turned up to the max, spreading out from inside the back of her skull. A creeping feeling that someone was looking over her shoulder lingered even after he went quiet.

I like how unpleasant and creepy this sounds from May's point of view.

Can you read my mind? she thought warily.

“Only what you’re thinking at the moment.”

She really should have realized this; it was perfectly obvious, in retrospect, but she hadn’t been thinking. She didn’t want him in her thoughts. Her thoughts were for her and her alone to know, not...

“Oh, come on. I thought you of all people wouldn’t let this get to you. Fine, we can make Alan the leader instead, but...”

“No,” she said firmly; the others gave her puzzled looks, and she realized belatedly that only she had heard that. “Sorry, just sorting things out with Chaletwo. I’m okay. Let’s go to bed; we should get up early tomorrow, shouldn’t we?”

As Mark and Alan looked at one another in confusion, May marched out of the room and tried not to think anything at all.

May's discomfort with having Chaletwo in her head was spontaneous; once I put Chaletwo in her head, well, yeah, May's uncomfortable with having anyone in her head. Obviously, this then turned out to be even more meaningful than I first realized, and became a delightful additional source of conflict and stress for her in chapter 64.

The chapter plan said Chapter 63: They try to figure out where the male Color Dragons and the Waraider herd might be; eventually realize the dragons are probably in a mountainous, cliffy area like the females and that they might have banded together in the same way; decide to thread the main mountainous areas around Ouen and head towards Green Town yet again. It's pretty silly I expected this, which sounds like a single planning conversation, to fill a whole chapter, but thankfully I sure didn't follow that plan.

As I mentioned previously, the plan was they'd just pick the Acaria mountains at random. When I was writing the chapter plan, the basic idea was that I didn't want them to just randomly guess a place and it just so happens that really is where the male Color Dragons are; I wanted to show them actually searching somewhere that wasn't it. So when the plan changed in chapter 62 and suddenly they were able to ask Dragoreen where her brothers might be, was I just going to have them go get the males immediately? Well, I could do that, but I still kind of liked the idea of some futile searching instead of them just continuing to have very convenient luck, especially now that it'd be a character development chapter for May... so what if Dragoreen just told them the wrong place?

Even though this chapter didn't end up following the plan, it still is a pretty transitional chapter, mostly just exposition and setup for the next, and there are some holes and weirdness in here. The next revision would probably cut this down a bit, write Robin and her mother better, and just let Mark go to an actual hospital. But there are some fun bits in here, and it's always good to get some focus on May, even if this is pre-me spending fourteen months thinking about May and getting her POV right.


Previous chapter --- Next chapter


Comment on this? Please keep all comments strictly related to the fic only; any irrelevant posts will be deleted.

Not logged in - log in to submit a verified comment or submit one as a guest below. Note that your e-mail address will only be recorded for the purpose of notifying you if I reply to your comment. It will not be sold to third parties, displayed anywhere on the website, or used to send unsolicited e-mail. If you would rather not receive a notification upon a reply to your comment, simply leave the e-mail field blank.




097

097


View comments