To one so young, the world was a blur. Touch and sound made sense of the things her eyes could barely see. Her mind was stirred from the voids of rest by the curious voices around her. Kareena peered through her half opened eyes, her bright blue irises glimmering between her eyelids. In the warmth of their den, she felt sleepy yet curious of those around her. Both her brothers were there, but there were others here too. Their eyes did not glow like those who lived in her small little world. One bore a pair of brilliant green eyes that shone like a pair of glistering emeralds, the other bore eyes of common hazel which burned with a ferocity known only to a world far from hers.
“You guys got a mum?” asked Mycaelis curiously as he addressed Astinos and Stelios.
Astinos shook his head sorrowfully. “No,” he sighed, “we lost her during the migration.”
Vagus felt a pang of remorse for the two brothers. "I'm sorry. Yea, our mum's gone too."
“Migration?” asked Mycaelis.
“We used to live in the mountain caves to the north.”
“That far away?” Vagus had managed to briefly study a map of Oat before they left this morning. “It’s a long trek.”
“It was,” responded Astinos, appreciating Vagus’ sentiment. “Daedalus said we had to move here. Said something evil was stirring in the caves.”
“Pah,” scoffed Stelios. “If you ask me he was just eating too many Pomeg berries.”
“Yea,” chuckled Astinos, “and those growls we heard during the night were his bowels giving way.”
There was a scuffle at the entrance to the den as a pair of aged blue eyes peered at the children from the outside. Randhir’s limped into his den, greeting Mycaelis and Vagus with a solemn nod.
“It appears that Marvin is taking longer than I thought,” he rumbled, “but I suspect he should not be too much longer. Daedalus no longer has the patience of his former days,” his eyes turned to his own children. “Especially for those who mock him.”
“Sorry, Dad,” both Astinos and Stelios bowed their heads in shame.
Randhir promptly proceeded to skulk over to his bed of leaves where he lay and rested his aching limb. He sighed and regarded both Mycaelis and Vagus with an exhausted expression. The Absol was as old as Marvin, yet had received the burden of fatherhood too late in his life. Vagus wondered how well Astinos and Stelios would survive when he was gone. He hoped that their tribe would look after their own.
“It is unwise to mock the spirits that our kind can see,” lectured Rahndir to his two sons. “When you boys are old enough, you will see them too. And perhaps they too will guide you both to greener pastures in the future.”
“Spirits?” scoffed Mycaelis. “What do ya mean?”
“The essence of those that have yet to pass into the void. On occasion, it lingers here in this world. Our eyes can see things that those of commoners cannot. Should the essence be strong enough, we may be able to see them, but if not we can always hear them. Whispering. Guiding. Telling us truths left untold, wisdom left unknown. It is both a tremendous gift…and a terrible burden.”
“So you can see ghosts?” Vagus scratched the back of his head, making sense of Randhir.
“If that’s your way of rationalising what their essence is, then yes. See them, hear them and at times understand them,” confirmed Randhir as he moved over to the side of the infant Absol.
“Enough of such things. I take it you both have met Kareena?” he tenderly nuzzled his daughter with his snout as she lay drifting in and out of a light nap. “My youngest, she is. She hatched just last spring. Stavros was kind enough to carry her egg here.”
It occurred to Vagus that Rahndir seemed tired, exhausted almost both emotionally and physically. His composure mirrored Marvin’s in almost every aspect, a man who seemed but a shadow of their former selves. Robbed of their youth by time, broken upon the anvil that was life and now discarded with naught but the memories and dreams left to them.
“What happened to you, Rahndir?” asked Vagus.
“Many things have happened to me during my life, my boy,” Randhir chuckled.
“He means what happened to your hind leg, old man,” pressed Mycaelis, unsure if Vagus was being made fun of. “You hop around like a bloody Spoink.”
“Ah, yes. Which takes me back to what I was trying to tell you about Marvin’s children. I was there that day.”
“I don’t wanna hear this story again, Dad,” Astinos pleaded. Stelios also seemed agitated by the words that were about to leave their father’s mouth.
Fortunately for the two Absol brothers, they never came to pass. Their manes frizzed up as they sensed the approach of heavy footsteps. At the entrance of the den appeared Marvin. Seething behind his eyes were a barely contained fury that even managed to make Mycaelis shift uneasily on the spot.
“Boys! We’re leaving!” he snapped. “Come, let’s go.”
“Huh? What’s up Marvin?” asked Vagus, sensing the disdain in Marvin’s voice. Both he and Mycaelis exited the den, followed closely by Astinos and Stelios. “Aren’t we staying?”
“Change of plan, boys. We’re going back to the village.” Marvin was clearly redoubling his attempts to maintain a facade of calm about him. “Maybe you’ll meet Astinos and Stelios another time.”
Shifting ever so slightly and taking each step gently, Rahndir plodded from the den. He regarded Marvin with a single glance and, at that moment, understood all that had transpired within Daedalus’ tent. The Absol sighed and brooded. He said not a word but simply regarded his old friend with a mournful look. Marvin returned the gesture and nodded Randhir his thanks before turning and leaving.
As Marvin wandered off towards the end of the clearing where they had entered, Mycaelis and Vagus lingered behind. Astinos and Stelios looked to their father, hoping he would speak words to Marvin to make him change his mind, but no words came. Instead, Astinos turned to the two Laconian brothers and bade them farewell.
“It’s a shame,” said Astinos, “it would have been cool to hang out more.”
Mycaelis nodded solemnly. “Maybe we’ll see you again sometime?”
Before any further words could be exchanged, Marvin’s voice boomed from across the forest clearing. “Boys! Let’s move!”
“We better go,” conceded Vagus, stepping away from the den, “he sounds awful mad.”
“Yea, you better,” responded Stelios as Mycaelis and Vagus proceeded to dash after Marvin.
And so the two Absol brothers were once again left alone with their father and infant sister. They watched on together as their friends from another world disappeared into the mist and vanished into its depths. This was their world. A dark forest clearing in the middle of a misty, forsaken wood. They wanted nothing more than for Mycaelis and Vagus to join them in it.
* * *
There was an awkward silence on the journey back home. The bright conversations between Vagus and Marvin on their inbound journey were nowhere to be heard. Marvin marched on ahead, the old Floatzel still seething in anger. Vagus recalled whenever his own father became agitated, but that always seemed to be whenever something didn’t go his way. Marvin’s anger was different, something born of pain and agony rather than perpetual immaturity. Daedalus had dealt him a hard blow.
“Marvin. You wanna talk about what happened with Daedalus?”
Marvin scowled. “There’s a lot I need to explain to both of you.”
“What is there to explain?” demanded Mycaelis.
Marvin sighed heavily and came to a stop. He turned to face them. He seemed to have calmed himself substantially during the walk back. “It’s…about your mother. Your mother and…the things she told you two about.”
“What did he say about mum?” Mycaelis crossed his arms.
“Boys,” Marvin seemed tired and distant, “at the moment, my main concern is your future. Not your past. I will find use for your…abilities.”
He continued on walking, the boys following him. “And how will you do that?” asked Mycaelis.
“You boys ever heard of a Guild?”
“Nope,” both Mycaelis and Vagus responded.
“First time for everything, I suppose. You’ll find them in various places throughout the land. They employ Pokemon that have…unique sets of skills to do jobs for them. Each guild specialises in doing certain jobs. I used to work for the one in Oat village. They’re a prospecting guild. You register a team with them, they train you up, and then they send you out into arse-end of nowhere to find valuable minerals and stones. Then you keep a share of what you find.”
“Well that explains why you’re such a bore,” chuckled Mycaelis. Vagus snarled at him, expecting Marvin to turn around and reprimand Mycaelis. He did not. The aged Flotzel continued to plod along and speak.
“In recent years, however,” Marvin continued, “there has been lack finds. A guild starved for work will do just about anything to keep its teams operating. So it’s common for Guildmaster Carlos to take other jobs. Rescue missions, bounty contracts and other things that I’m sure you, Mycaelis, will enjoy.”
“A-and you want us to work there?” asked Vagus, nerves creeping into his tone. “Aren’t we a bit young for that?”
Marvin chuckled. He seemed to have regained some of his humour. “Randhir and I were half your current age when we first started. Drove my mother nuts. Carlos was always good to us. You two should be fine. It’s not like Guilds send kids into the depths of some cave to battle it out with a legendary. That’d be insane. Even for you, Mycaelis.”
“Depends on the legendary,” scoffed Mycaelis. “Mum…she used to tell us about how groups of Laconians were so strong they could take down legendaries themselves.”
Marvin sighed, his sorrow returning. The tales their mother told them seem to be growing taller by the day. Legendaries were the gods of this world, the landscapers and forest makers, the bringers of rain, snow and warm summers. They were mysterious creatures, spoken of in tales and stories recited endlessly around dinner tables and hearths alike. Few had ever claimed to have met a legendary, fewer still had claimed to have ever battled and escaped one, but none, save for bold liars, ever made the claim to have defeated one.
“Mycaelis,” Marvin spoke morbidly, “I’m afraid that’s impossible.”
“What do you mean?” rebuffed Mycaelis.
Marvin turned away for a moment. By what right did he have to tell them that they were raised on falsehoods? However, by what right was he entitled to maintain the illusion created by their parents? Encounters with legendaries were no laughing matter. Many teams seeking fame and glory went in search of them, seeking to do battle with the mightiest of them. Those teams were never heard from again.
The prospect of Mycaelis and Vagus falling under that same illusion horrified him. Taking down a full grown Arbok was one thing, but a legendary was simply beyond any scope of reason. The image of finding their battered and broken remains in some far flung cave or cavern haunted him. Just as the bodies of Marvin’s two young boys haunted him. As far as Marvin was concerned, he had no right to blind Mycaelis and Vagus to reality itself.
Right now, their future was his priority. This had fallen to him. He would keep them safe. Give them purpose. Whatever these deceptions were, they must have been created for reasons beyond what either he or Daedalus could comprehend.
An idea came to mind.
“Come with me,” said Marvin to both brothers. They both exchanged confused looks with each other before following him.
Marvin wandered off the track and the boys followed closely. As they walked, a profound smell began to course through the air, the stench of foliage decay that for Vagus felt nostalgic and reminded him of the swamps he occasional came across in the jungle. They plodded onwards off the track for a few moments before Marvin’s arm shout out in front of both Mycaelis and Vagus.
“Stop,” whispered Marvin. “Don’t take a step closer. Just look.”
Vagus looked forward as Marvin lowered his arm. Before him the forest gave way to a dense marsh blotted with pools of bog. The bog was as a black as the sky of a moonless and starless night. The bog bubbled and slightly churned as decaying gasses floated to the surface releasing a profound stench. Vagus and Mycaelis were used to the smell. The various swamps around the jungle were part of their home, but this seemed different. Something was unnatural about this marsh.
“They call it the Undercroft,” began Marvin. “Believed to be the lair of the legendary Pokemon Celebi. They say that whoever steps foot within this bog will be ensnared by vines and dragged down into its depths. No matter how strong they are.”
“Well if no one survives, where do the stories come from?” asked Vagus, his eyes taking in the sight before him.
“I never said no one did survive,” corrected Marvin. “They say the bog leads to a place known as a Mystery Dungeon. A dungeon that constantly changes and alters randomly as you travel through it. Those who walk into this marsh are rarely heard from again and when they are heard from, it is not for many decades and, when they do remerge, they seem no older than when they first disappeared.”
“You can’t be serious?” snorted Mycaelis.
“I’m not sure, Mycaelis. Most of what we know is simply based on rumours or liars looking for a story to tell. If there is one thing that is certain, it is that there is always an element of truth to stories and legends of any kind. I want you to know this. Even to those that your mother told you.”
“Our mother?” Vagus queried. “What do you mean? What was wrong with the stories she told us?”
Yet still in his heart of hearts, he could not bring himself to dash everything they had been told. Perhaps it was the youthful explorer that still lurked within him. He wanted Elysium to be real. Perhaps, like the Undercoft, there was an element of truth to it, something that would someday become apparent for them both. Until that day, he would do all he could for these two lost brothers.
“Alright. I was wrong,” he began, “you two are not Abnormals. Neither of you are.” A hopeful look sprang into both the boys eyes and made the following words even harder to speak. “But neither are you commoners and sadly, neither are you Laconians.”
Mycaelis was the first to object as Marvin expected. “Bullshit. I’m every bit the Laconian that my father was. He was-”
“A liar,” overrode Marvin. “As was your…mother. The story of Elysium she told you. That both of them told you. I’m sorry boys. There is no such thing as a Laconian or a place called Elysium.”
“I’m with Mycaelis on this,” snapped Vagus, “what bullshit is this? How do you know there are no Laconians?”
“Because Daedalus knows what you truly are and why your parents said what they said.”
“And what was that exactly?” demanded Vagus,
"Yea!" snapped Mycaelis, "What would that old fart know about Laconians?"
“Walk with me,” Marvin then said to them after a brief pause. And so they continued on their journey home.
It took Marvin a moment, but he eventually plucked up the strength to disgorge the whole truth. He told them everything. The Abnormals, their tenacity for keeping their blood pure, that their mother was one of them and that their father was nothing more than a freak of nature that managed to win her heart and convince her to forsake her clan. He told them that Elysium and the Laconians were but a story to cover her shame and her disloyalty. And finally he induced into them the revelation that the boys were no more than half breeds of a dying race.
As he spoke he watched with a heavy heart as Mycaelis and Vagus' denial gave way to anger which, in turn, slumped into a state of depression with the occasional burst of denial. By the end of it, Vagus refused to walk any further. He slumped on the ground, sitting and frantically trying to grasp at any facts he could find to dispel Marvin’s words. Mycaelis, not surprisingly, was always up for a fight; even when one with words was involved.
“But our parents were here for a reason,” barked Mycaelis. “They were looking for something. Vagus said so. We heard them talking about it.”
“And did they ever tell you about it? Did they ever explain any of it to you? What they were doing in that Jungle?”
Mycaelis’ objections faltered. “N-no. They didn’t.”
“Of course not. No one goes willingly into Prisimatic Jungle, Mycaelis. The only ones who venture into that jungle are those looking for a place to hide from the world or to disappear from it entirely. It is an evil place to us Oat folk. A place were teams from the guild go missing constantly. How you two boys survived in it all this time was a nothing short of a miracle.”
“We survived because Mum and Dad protected us!” objected Mycaelis, again. “There were those things. They came at us. They killed our parents.”
“Outlaws and crazed individuals hiding in the jungle, no doubt,” explained Marvin. “Likely hiding from the law and took it upon themselves to raid your home for provisions.”
Mycaelis didn’t speak a word as his world came crumbling down around him. A barely contained fury was held behind his eyes. His entire life had been a lie. He soon fell into a brooding silence the likes of which Vagus could only recall on the night their father met his end.
Vagus remained silent the entire argument, silently moping. He wasn’t sure how to feel about the truths that Marvin had revealed to them. Vagus was free from having to live up to being a Laconian, yet now he felt more lost than he ever had been. Despite this new found loss, it hurt to know how much his mother had lied to him. Did she ever truly love him? Why would she fill his head with these lies?
The exit to the forest was ahead. The sun had now risen to its peak for the day and light now blazed down through the thinner canopy of the outer forest. The village was ahead and the group could see its inhabitants going about their daily activities. The village was a small place, a small circular town built around a central communal fountain. Houses that oddly resembled the heads of various Pokémon served as the town’s structures. The most dominating structure of the town was treehouse that lay nestled in a great oak that overshadowed the town. A spiralling ramp around the tree’s trunk led up to the treehouse that served as Oat’s Prospectors guild.
Marvin sighed and sat on a nearby stone. His old knees cracking in protest. He had been walking and standing all day. He sat with the two boys for a moment. There was scarcely a sound. The distant sound of villagers going about their daily business could be heard as could the odd sob or two from Vagus. Marvin spoke once more, looking out of the forest towards Oat Village.
“The pain you feel now is but a transience. It will pass. What people say you are doesn’t matter. You are who you choose to be. The things that happened with you and your parents are part of that other life. This is your new life. It is your chance to be who you want to be.”
He sighed. He knew his words could be of little comfort to them. How could they be? He had just informed them that everything they had been raised to believe was a lie. He rose to his legs once more, wobbling slightly.
“I’ll give you two a moment. I’ll be over there by the fountain when you are ready,” with that he walked off towards the village.
The Flotzel turned around to find Vagus now standing on his own two feet. Looking at him with a pair of teary green eyes. “Abnormals eyes are different to those of commoners. They’re bright blue. They glow.”
“They do indeed, Vagus.”
“Mum didn’t have blue glowing eyes. Her eyes were green. Like mine. H-how could she have been an Abnormal? Marvin, what if Daedalus is wrong?”
Marvin simply shook his head. The self-sketch of Divina he had seen in her journal was colourless. The colour of her eyes were never truly known to him until now. He cursed himself for not being more prudent in his conversation with Daedalus, for giving into his anger and his frustration. Now, he was too far into it all. He couldn’t afford to go back on what he said.
“I don’t know,” he said truthfully. He didn’t know. All he knew was that these boys now needed a future.
“Vagus…Mycaelis…I can’t give you all the answers. In time I am sure you will find those all for yourself. But what I can give you is a future. Come with me.” He then turned and continued onwards towards the village. Behind him, both brothers exchanged glances with one another before rushing forward after Marvin.