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Frontier Town Frontier Town Outskirts

Ghaspius shook his head. "Can't say I've ever been — least on this world," he said with an inquisitive hum. "If it's anythin' like back home though, expect some weirdness, and not in the spooky way." He gestured to Archie to continue to elaborate.

As the group continued to move along, however, the smell continued to grow stronger. Yet that too was overpowered by the sound of gushing water rolling dead ahead.

"Huh, I thought Silver River was supposed to be calmer. I uh, don't think I can float over this one."

The waters roared as they shoved their way southbound at an unusually high speed and volume. A number of frightened native Bidoof scampered about in a panic. Were it not for the water, the distinct scent of ash and lumber would be obvious.

The bridge to cross the river was nothing but charred wood.

If you not yet signed up for an expedition and are not waiting on the Abbey or Ranger one, you are still open join this one! The 'lock-out' point will not be for some time!
Andre took in the sight, frowning. "Looks like someone burned the bridge. But why would they do that? Why would they want to stop people from crossing?"
“Definitely expect battles,” Archie nodded. “Feral Pokemon tend to make their homes near the dungeon’s entrance. They’re territorial, but, well, normal for a wild Pokemon, I guess? They pick their battles, won’t mess with you if you clearly overpower them, and are usually more interested in removing you from their territory then in doing any sort of lasting injury.”

It was still so very strange for him, as a Pokemon, to talk about other Pokemon as if they were base animals. Archie wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to that.

“Deeper in, though, we might start encountering Phantasms. They’re not… Real? I mean, they’re not flesh and blood like we are, even though you can still hit them, and they can definitely hit you. But, they’re hostile on sight, can’t be reasoned with, and will keep attacking until either you or they are defeated. And they vanish into light when you defeat them.”

During the Silver Ravine expedition, Betel had kept them safe from the Phantasms. They’d also been the one to force the Mystery Dungeon to reveal its heart to the group, as that wasn’t something Dungeons typically did. They’d also force the Dungeon to provide an easy escape route from the heart back to the entrance. Once again, Archie found himself wondering just what kind of Pokemon were they, to have that kind of power over Mystery Dungeons?

But, both his thoughts and his attempt at explaining the mechanics of Forlas’s Mystery Dungeons were interrupted by the scene they ended up coming upon. Silver River was a raging torrent – was it monsoon season? Archie didn’t remember it raining recently – and the bridge that had once crossed it had been reduced to charred scraps of wood, or what little of it was left that hadn’t been carried off by the roaring waters.

“I don’t think I’d be able to swim this,” he said, paws on his hips as he looked up and down the length of the river. There were places along the river where it was shallow enough to ford, but even that would be a dangerous prospect with the water moving at this speed. What were they supposed to do now?
"Battles, huh? Guess we'll need to keep tough stance and an eye out for any of those phantom-y guys then," Ghaspius acknowledged as he took stock of the river crossing. "Well, we got ourselves a few options from what I can see here."

He turned his head towards the scampering Bidoof. "We can try askin' the locals if they're willing to rig somethin' up for us real quick. They might need seem calmin' and convincin', though."

He tossed a stick into the river. It wasn't swallowed, though it certainly drifted off quickly. "We could try fordin' it and use anythin' y'all brought with ya to keep us steady. Will be a bit rough and might need a move or two to help us."

Finally, he craned his neck southbound. "We could try followin' the river 'til we hit a calmer part. No guarantees how far that is or how long it'll take, though. I didn't exactly pack for a multi-day trip of foodstuffs myself."

The Misdreavus spun upside down to face his comrades. "Or if y'all wanna improvise, I'm open to any ideas." He tilted a bit to the side. "Still, ya gotta wonder who'd do this, and why...?"
Gladion narrowed his eyes at the sabotage. "Did someone burn this bridge and destroy a dam upriver? This and the surge don't feel coincidental."

He wished Mhynt was here to teleport people across. As much as he knew to respect rushing waters, he still couldn't shake the feeling there should be some solution. "I'm at higher risk of getting swept off balance and drowning stuck at the bottom than I am of being pulled away and sucked under without being able to ground myself. I might be able to help us ford without drowning... I'm not going to mess around if it's too bad, though. So no promises..."

The bridge and river surge felt coordinated to disrupt travel. But why? Surely it wasn't because of some silly festival...

"Say, are we upstream or downstream of that rail bridge...?"
The Oshawott folded his arms in thought, listening to Ghaspius and the Chimera – this one was named Gladion, if he remembered right? Gladion was right that this almost certainly seemed like a case of intentional sabotage. But why, and by who? Regardless, they definitely didn’t have the supplies to make a detour up or down Silver River to a spot they might be able to easily cross, and still expect it to make it to Little Scriven without foraging. Ghaspius’s mention of using a move to help ford the river, though, triggered a memory of Archie’s!

“Back when we faced Ayda, the Ranger Chief, Astrid created an ice platform over the river so we could cross easier,” he said. “I could maybe try to replicate that?”
Ghaspius hummed with a hint of dismay in his voice. "Certainly looks like it. A bridge I get, but the poor locals' dam, too? And from the looks of it, the river will eventually settle down on its own, but the timing is too close for coincidence, ain't they?" It was certainly odd. A quiet town of bookworms wasn't exactly a place for high-value targets. Especially not when the festival wasn't for a couple of weeks.

He turned his head towards the sky, took a look from side-to-side, and nodded to himself before looking at Gladion. "Upstream, looks like. What's on your mind?"

Ghaspius let out an excited gasp as he flew just a bit too close to the Oshawott for comfort. "Now that's a super-duper idea! I'd say we give it a whirl! Or combine ideas, even!"
Through a combination of Archie and Gladion's efforts, the group managed to forge onward through the river. Archie's ice was a bit unsteady, but thanks to following Gladion's advice, the spot they tried it in had calmer waters. Whenever they threatened to tip over, Ghaspius made small boops to keep everyone balanced.

It didn't take too long to cross and find their way back on the road. Still, the kept oddities piling up along the way. Signs that led in wrong directions, dirt trails making new forks where there shouldn't be any, and even feral folk wandering a lot closer to the roads. Ghaspius noted that they had a strangely a lost look in their eyes. But they pressed on, past the gorge that thankfully did not have a burnt bridge, and bounded for the mountains.

They were soon greeted by the sight of rocky cliffs. Sentinels of the land guarding their open keeps with a stalwart gaze and hidden determination. Or perhaps that was just a bit of gravel falling in the wind.

Just beneath the shadow of one a particularly towering cliff just off the beaten path sat an Aipom. He let out a deep sigh and he rubbed the back of his head with his tail as he audibly grumbled, "What in the blazes am I supposed to do now...?!"

It quickly became clear why: the man's carriage had a missing wheel. There wasn't much else in sight, either.
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Admittedly, he’d been… More than a little taken aback when Ghaspius flew right up into his face. Still, the Misdreavus’s enthusiasm gave him some confidence. While the Oshawott wasn’t an Ice Type himself, and Avalanche maybe didn’t make the best move for forming platforms, they managed to make it work with Gladion providing a counterbalance to keep Archie’s, admittedly more than a little unstable, creation from pitching them all into the river. It did feel kind of wrong to not offer any kind of further help to the Bidoof, but, they were the expert builders here, and their little group of Wayfarers would probably have just gotten in the way.

At first, Archie had thought that that would likely be the highlight for the trip out to Little Scriven, but in defiance of his expectations, more little odd things kept piling up. By the time they’d gotten to the gorge, he was almost surprised a rock slide hadn’t destroyed their path forward. Instead, the sight they came across was somehow both more, and less, suspicious. An Aipom traveler whose wagon was missing an entire wheel? Maybe he was just being paranoid, but this felt like an obvious trap. The kind of thing bandits might do to make them lower their guard… At the same time though, they couldn’t just ignore the Aipom outright, what if he really was in need of assistance?

“Something about this feels off,” he muttered to his traveling companions, “Keep your eyes on your surroundings.”
Andre was about to call out to the aipom before Archie interrupted. He closed his mouth and thought about things. True, odd things had been happening, and they already feared that their trip had been made more difficult on purpose. Andre took a quick glance around and made sure to maintain a state of alertness before clearing his throat.

"Hello there!" he shouted at the aipom. "Carriage trouble, I take it? What happened?"
While there were a few Bramblin and even a small herd of Wooloo along the way, the current cliffside area seemed to be empty. Other than a light breeze, there hadn't appeared to be any noise.

Upon closer inspection, the Aipom appeared to have been wearing a poncho. He brightened up at the sight of the group. "Oh, thank the silver wind! Could ya lend me a hand here?" He gestured to his fallen carriage. It had remained upright with its tent in-tact, but the wheel had been completely removed from its spoke. "I was camping out here last night trying to deliver these fabrics for the festival, but then I suddenly felt the cart shake!"

He shook his head furiously. "When I got outside, I saw these guys with strange scarves scampering off, and my wheel was just gone!" The Aipom's eyes widened as he pleaded, "Please, you gotta help me out here! I'm not strong enough to pull this stuff on my own!"

Ghaspius looked to the others for what to do.
Gladion looked the cart up and down. Just cloth? That… should be doable.

“Well, we’re headed to the same place. I wouldn’t mind lending you a… bit of assistance in getting it there.”

He shot the Aipom an inquisitive look as he stepped up to the cart. “Though I do want to ask you to give us more details on the way. Seems like it could be relevant, what with… everything else that’s odd.”
The cart itself looked pretty standard. Steady lumber with a bit of imprecision measurement in its construction and the scent of fine fiber emanating from inside. But between its size and supposed cargo, one had to wonder how the Aipom was pulling it on his own to begin with.

"There were three of 'em: a Yanma, a Noctowl, and a Furret. Scampered right off the moment I got out of the carriage and started yelling to get away," Aipom explained as he bounced on his tail. "All of 'em with orange scarves and nothing else. Almost mistook 'em for uncivilized if 'til I heard 'em speak while they ran off."

He rolled his eyes he gave the empty axel a harsh look. "Think they were farmers gone crazy, 'cause they were talking about 'scythe fur' or something along those lines. When I see 'em, I'm gonna give 'em what's for!" He balled up his tail into a fist and gave a hearty punch to the carriage. "But now that you guys are here, we can finally get ourselves moving along, yeah? Thanks for the help."

Ghaspius stared up into the air as he tried to piece things together. The Misdreavus certainly had his head in the clouds — or lack thereof, given the weather that day.
Andre tilted his head. "How were you pulling it before your wheel was stolen? Was it..." He frowned in thought. It really might have been - this world had a lot that was fantastical about it. "Was it a self-rotating wheel?"
Ghaspius spun around in place as though to emphasize Andre's question.

"Wha—? Nah, nothing like that! Nothing like that at all! Whaddya, crazy?" Aipom retorted as he waved his tail around. "Alright, see, here's you pull a heavy cart. You give it a lil' this—"

He flexed one arm. "And a lil' of this—" He flexed his other arm. "And bada bing, bada boom, you're on the move."

"Yeah! Bada bing, bada boom!"

The Aipom smacked the carriage, and he cleared his throat. "Sorry, inhaled a bit too much dust. So, we going now?"
Gladion stopped pulling the cart.

Okay, that’s a Scyther, right? They not know what it is? Not from ‘around here’ maybe?

Not much he could say to Aipom about that, though. Unlike… someone talking from inside the cart. That was inherently suspicious. At least in a context you had to smack the cart to shut them up.

“Yeah. It’s not that hard to pull a cart when it’s full of cloth. And you heard as well as I did, this is just some cloth for the festival.”

He lowered his head and helmet down to give the Aipom the most direct eye contact he could, and cleared his throat.

“Am I right?”
Aipom put on the biggest salesmon grin he could muster, though his twitching tail betrayed his confidence.

Ghaspius, curious about the cloth, decided to peer into the inside of the carriage and drag a few out.

...Only to be met with a Zubat that leapt out and smacked him in the face.

The Zubat frowned as he looked to see they had more than just one Pokémon for company. "...That was my cue, right?"

A Rattata soon followed, though evidently more angry at the Zubat than at the Misdreavus. "Idiot! Ya blew the cover! Don't ya remember what the boss told us?" He screeched in a squeaky voice.

"D'uh, he said we oughta shut ourselves under the blankets and then spring a trap on whoever comes out," the Zubat replied with the tilt of his head. His tone was lower, and his speech was a bit on the slower-paced side.

The Aipom was more than happy to correct his apparent subordinate. "No, you dolt! I said to shut 'yer trap and stay low!"

"Yeah! Sides, the tarp's already shut!" The Rattata chimed in with his squeaky voice.

The Zubat's expression turned into one of confusion. "I don't remember being asked to take it down..."

"You absolute buffoons! We almost had help 'til you went and blew it!" The Aipom balled up his tail into a fist. "I ought beat ya so hard you wish you were smoochin' the express train!"

"But the train don't run through here yet, boss!" The Zubat said as he craned his neck upwards.

"A wise-guy, eh? How's 'bout I do a lil' railwork on your face?" The Aipom gave him a light slap.

"Hey, he was just doin' what ya asked, boss!" The Rattata then smacked his tails against the Aipom.

"What's the matter with you? You don't hit the boss!" With a light swing of a wing, the Zubat smacked the Rattata.

Ghaspius looked to the others as he rubbed his face.
So… They were bandits? Maybe? The Oshawott folded his arms and looked on at the scene, the confusion evident on his face. Did they actually need help, or was this a trap? Why have the Rattata and the Zubat hide if this wasn’t meant to be a trap? If they were bandits, it was Archie’s responsibility as a bounty hunter to haul them into town to hand over to the local law enforcement… On the other hand, he wasn’t sure if he’d seen wanted posters for an Aipom, Rattata, and Zubat? So maybe they were just.. Dumb? He looked from Ghaspius, to Gladion, to the Deerling – Andre, he thought? This was the first time the two of them were actually spending an extended time together outside of big group meetings – trying to see if any of them had a better read on this whole thing than he did. Then he shrugged.

“Is this… Meant to be a robbery? Are you trying to mug us?” he asked, before drawing his scalchop, “Because, if so, uh… You’re under arrest?”

He summoned up the Water Type energy of his Razor Shell for good measure, extending the blade from the edge of his shell. Honestly it kinda felt like overkill, though? He kinda thought he was maybe misreading this whole situation, but… Better safe than sorry?
"N-now, now, let's not get hasty!"" The Aipom held up his hands and tail as his grin turned nervous. "We weren't gonna rob ya, honest!"

"Yeah, yeah, that's right!"" The Rattata chimed in as he furiously shook his head. "The Purple Pirates ain't no backstabbers to folks who wanna help!"

"'Specially when we got robbed ourselves,"" the Zubat added as he hunched over in defeat. "Those 'scythe-fur' guys really did a number on us. Only left behind the sheets.""

Ghaspius's expression slowly turned to confusion. There were several questions to be asked, but it was clear on his face what the obvious one was: Purple Pirates?

"It was the boss's genius idea!" Rattata piped up with a squeak. "Ya hear pirates and think water, right? Ain't no one's gonna expect them to be making 'rounds in the desert!"

He was rewarded with another slap to the forehead by his boss. "You dingus, ya just revealed our secrets!"

"But you always told us we'd be the 'best kind of rogues and follow the Thief's Code'," Zubat said as though he's heard it a hundred times before, "'Be honest to those who help', right, boss?"

"Yeah, that's right! We're just followin' the Code!" The Rattata huffed as he looked off to the side.

"Point is, we ain't got nothing to hide here! Just don't hurt us!" Aipom said as he turned back to the Wayfarers. "We really were just trying to get to the village then got our wheel and supplies stolen on the way! Honest! No need to arrest a couple of victims, right?"
Gladion narrowed his eyes. “As generous as the word ‘victims’ feels in this context, I’ll grant that taking you in seems unnecessary when you’re probably more of a hazard to yourselves than anyone around you…”

Trying to take the edge off his voice, he took a long breath and held it for a moment to recollect himself, then let it go, picturing his frustration melting away like this braincells listening to them talk.

“Alright. Listen. I take it you were also lying to me when you said our pals on scarves ran off the moment when they first saw you, if they did such a number on you. So how about this: We can go over that story again properly this time. Because I’d prefer to learn something about a band of people who can steal things than I would to have to deal with you three. Sound good?”
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