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Frontier Town Sand Veil Archives

What do you care? Koa bit back the rude response. Archie had been nothing but pleasant and didn't deserve his attitude. He still had no idea what Archie actually wanted. Was he thinking he could make them friends or something? Maybe telling Archie something would make him leave it alone...

After taking a moment to compose himself, he began. "Look, I don't care if he's good or bad, he's here and that's that. But I don't need to be buddies with someone like him. We ran into each other, literally, early on. Acted condescending the whole time, taunted me for a fight, I give him one and he doesn't like it." He shrugged, then snorted. "Couldn't resist acting like a jerk about it when he got a lucky hit."

He kept his face neutral and nonchalant as he continued. No need to let on how bad Wes's words had stung. "Then he told me I was a failure and to stop making a mess out of things."

Restraining himself from feeling exasperated, he busied himself looking at the book in front of him, not really reading. "Anyways," he said casually, "That's part of it. Wes can do what he wants, as long as he doesn't bother me."

He eyed Archie. "Why does it bother you so much?" he asked carefully, more curious than angry.
Oh jeez, the pair had gotten into a physical altercation? Archie hadn’t realized it was so bad between the two of them. Still, it would explain a lot. If he understood the sequence of events correctly, it seemed like Wes had goaded Koa, maybe not expecting the Electrike to respond? By the sound of it, Koa had thrown the first punch, and though Wes had come out the better in the fight – lucky hit or otherwise – the Rockruff still held it against the Electrike, and had given him some choice words, likely without considering their potential long term effects.

“Sounds like he was needlessly harsh,” the Oshawott conceded. “I kinda get the feeling Wes might be too proud to apologize, but why don’t I try talking to him for you? I’m not saying you guys have to be the best of friends, but I think it might be good to clear the air a little. I think it’ll help you both feel a little better.”

Koa’s next question caused the Oshawott to break eye contact, looking off deeper into the library pensively. Why did he care? He barely knew either of these Pokemon, after all. Still, even so, he felt like he’d begun to build connections with them both, and in a hostile, literally alien world, those were precious, and he wanted to cultivate them.

“Well, I hope this isn’t too forward of me, but I do consider you both friends. And when my friends are fighting, I want to be able to at least understand why. Not saying I can magically fix everything, just that I want to understand,” the Oshawott began, “Plus, I… I guess I just feel bad. When they first met, Wes and Corey rubbed each other the wrong way pretty bad, too, though I don’t think they ever fought. I was… Skeptical, of Wes afterwards, because Corey was my friend. But, when the chips were down and we were fighting the Mayor, when Corey went catatonic, Wes was the only other person who tried to help him.”

“So, I resolved to give him another chance,” he continued, “And once we got to talking again, he opened up a little bit, and I got to see the kind of person he actually is, underneath that rocky exterior. He even made an effort to get along better with Corey. I don’t know what’s happened to him to make him self-isolate like this, and put up all these walls, but I want to at least try to help.”

He shook his head, and looked back at Koa, his expression serious, “Now, all that being said, don’t think I’m telling you all this because I want you to forgive him just like that. He’s gonna have to put some work in to fix this mess. But, if he does try, and I mean actually, seriously try, I hope you’ll at least consider giving him a second chance?”
Koa listened to Archie, trying not to look too skeptical. Although it was hard not to feel surprised at Archie's admission that he considered him a friend. For a moment, he found himself wondering if he felt the same. He certainly mostly liked Archie. The Oshawott had proven he had a level head and was much nicer than the likes of Wes or Bellatrix. They were friendly for sure, but just how much of a friend was Archie?

Putting the thought aside, he instead focused on Archie's offer. He couldn't help but frown slightly in distaste at the notion. Why did Wes need help figuring out that being a condescending judgemental jerk was maybe bad, actually? And he couldn't stand the idea of actually digging into all the other reasons he couldn't stand Wes. Or ever admitting how much Wes's words stung him. Maybe Wes was right- Like how he acted like Lucien was some kind of awul mon.

Still, he didn't want to bite Archie's head off, not after he opened up like that. And wanted to be a friend.

"No... don't worry about it," Koa said finally. "I mean. I appreciate the offer," he added, hoping he didn't sound rude. "And its nice of you to want to help. But my problems with him shouldn't be yours to worry about. Sure if he apologized I'd let it go but there's so much going on already, and it's better that Wes chooses it on his own."

The last thing he needed was Wes thinking he was trying to needle for some kind of apology anyway. Let Wes figure it out himself.

"Anyways, its not that big a deal," he said, shrugging slightly. Liar. "I'm more worried about the people here than that kind of thing." He did care about the others in some way but he had to stay focused too.
Well, Koa wasn’t interested in accepting his help. But, at the same time, the Electrike wasn’t chasing him away. So, it wasn’t a complete disaster, at least? Still, it probably would be better to drop the subject for now, before he did find the end of Koa’s patience. So he nodded, and shoved his paws into his coat pockets.

“Well, if you ever change your mind, it’s an open offer,” he said, shooting the Electrike a grin,”And thanks for talking to me about it.”

Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to talk to Wes about it, just to get the Rockruff’s side of the whole thing. Koa at least seemed open to the possibility of reconciliation, just not particularly enthusiastic about seeking it out. But, at least that meant there was hope, and the Oshawott could be patient if he needed to be. Although, to be honest, there was something that was threatening to really try that patience coming up soon…

“I guess we’d better start getting ready for that meeting. I’d better try and find Corey and Tarahn and let them know to come,” he sighed. “I’m really not looking forward to this...”
Koa nodded in appreciation of Archie's offer. He didn't see himself taking it but it was nice to know Archie wanted to be reasonable.

"Actually I'm excited to finally have a proper meeting. I've been getting sick of not knowing what everyone else is doing or what's going on. Working together with our information is the only way we can find out why we were called here. Maybe this meeting can clear up a lot of our questions."

"What's not to look forward to?" he asked with a hint of a grin, though he couldn't help but wonder what had him so reluctant.
“The last one of these I was part of, didn’t really go so well,” the Oshawott said, resting his muzzle against a paw.”Lots of cross talk and arguing, people coming in and out. No one was really interested in listening, just felt like people wanted to yell and make themselves feel smart. And that time, there was maybe a dozen of us, maybe a dozen and a half? But they want to get everyone together this time.”

He sighed, and shook his head, “Back home in my guild, we had a command structure with a clear leader and hierarchy. That really helped when the whole group needed to come together and take decisive action. Here, everything feels more like a free-for-all. I don't even think we could elect a leader if we wanted to. I guess I’m just not used to it.”

Still, he gave the Electrike a weak smile, "You're right though, it'll be good to share what info everyone has. I'll just have to hope something positive comes of it all."
"Ah..." Koa murmured understandingly, giving Archie a sympathetic smile. He at least understood that sentiment. For a moment he couldn't help but remember his frustrated outburst before the gala. And how the team had been at odds even then...

"Hopefully things will go better. We've been here a little while, long enough to fight together so... Maybe we can work together still. After all, we managed to unite in the end against Ignatius, and the team didn't see eye to eye before that."

It was a small hope but he had to believe that the common goal would be enough.

"And hey, there's some other good people on the team too." It was unspoken, but the idea that Archie was one of them was implicit. And there was Steven and Laura. Aige. Leaf. "I don't know if we'll ever end up with a proper leader but I believe we can find enough common ground to do what we have to."

And at least, he'd found another friend on the team in Archie.

[Ch03] So Who Even Are the Rangers, Anyway?
Plans on what to do next had been circulating through Isidora's head in the days since the meeting. It was clear the group had reached a point where they had no choice but to finally start pushing forward on what they knew, yet unlike some pokémon, she was not going to debase herself for this 'Nolan' just to get a leg ahead. But the options were, admittedly, slim. The Vanguard had no intention of getting involved yet, and while they had gotten surprisingly far alone, if the group was to start splintering over the Coven issue then their ability to continue that work as a cohesive unit was compromised. And so the only major faction she knew of to turn to for help was the one Leaf had brought up in the meeting: the Ranger Union.

But Isidora wasn't going to just up and join them like that. She needed to know what they did. The whats, hows, and whys; the origin of the organization, its ideology, and its reach, capabilities, and limitations. Everything about what she was getting into. To determine anything less beforehand would be naive (and she had made enough rash decisions exactly like that to want to avoid it when it actually mattered). And so she went to the Sand Veil Archives with intention of looking deep into them, in addition to a few other things she needed research as well.

...Though, (and she wouldn't admit this to anyone,) she couldn't always make sense of the way the shelves were organized. And with how time consuming it could be to search the tall shelves, really it was just easier to ask. So she walked up to the reception desk, currently not operated, and tapped the service bell with a claw, its ring rattling a little in her ears. Then she waited.
Gliscor Tlalli arrived swiftly, dropping from the second floor of the Archive without hardly hitting the ground. She clearly had plenty of skill in controlled flight. The airborne scorpion smiled at Isidora, her eyes creasing as much as possible while her mouth remained closed – perhaps she was trying to maintain a less threatening appearance, despite her species' abundant sinister traits. She wore a sort of brightly-coloured cloth wrap, or skirt, under which she hid her tail. Her pincers – impossible to hide – were painted with similarly bright pigments in an intricate pattern.

"Good morning," she said, with the voice of an older female 'mon, and surprisingly deep. "My name is Tlalli, and I look after this place – I don't know you, but I've seen you around the library lately. Are you you new in town?"

She rested her decorated pincers on the reception desk, one crossed over the other, and dipped her head to one side in a friendly, inquisitive manner.
Isidora watched the librarian swoop down into place behind the desk, and kept her claws out of view to relax them -- it wasn't that she found a gliscor intimidating per se, though this was her first experience with one. She just hadn't expected a response so quickly. "I guess you could say that," she replied to her. "Arrived in town almost a month ago. I remember you helped me look into Jesse Stranger back then." Suddenly, minor existential crisis. Damn, has it really been a whole month?!

Not important!
She scratched the side of her head. "Aaanyway, I plan to do some pretty involved research again, so I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction." Some of her conviction returned to her, and she crossed her arms to show it. "And to start with, I'm looking to read everything you have on the Ranger Union."
Tlalli's expression brightened a little at the Sneasel's reaction, then... was that a hint of pride in her eyes when the Rangers came up?

"Well, I can certainly give you some reading material if you like," began the Gliscor, her posture relaxing, "or I can talk to you from personal experience – if you aren't too shy for a conversation. I served as a Sojaveñan ranger for several years when I was younger, and my child is a ranger in the present day. Perhaps I can answer to your curiosity, friend?"
"Um..." The word 'friend' caught Isidora off guard, and she immediately broke eye contact. Why's she being so forward? Obviously, it was part of Tlalli's job to be nice, but this was almost too nice for Isidora to know how to handle. She muttered quietly. "I wasn't really looking for personal anecdotes..."

Or was she? It was only correct and proper to gather a wide variety of sources on her subject of research. Maybe there was some stray concern over Tlalli's bias, but bias was an inevitable reality in most of this kind of research, one she was already prepared to account for anyway. And besides, Isidora liked to think she was extremely good at recognizing bias where it was present, especially if it was blatantly obvious.

She gripped the brim of her hat and pretended to adjust it. "I-I mean, a lot of what I plan to look into is dry history and political stuff. So-" Just take the damn offer. "But I do want to try and get a better idea of the kinds of jobs Rangers take on, their role in the Sojaveña, different public perspectives. Y'know, the kinds of stuff you'd best hear directly from someone else. So I guess I have some questions you could answer."
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"You are a shy one, hmm?" commented Tlalli, with dry amusement. "Relax, girl. Whatever answers you need, I am sure I can sort you out."

Tlalli's age was hard to determine, given her species, but something about her voice suggested the kind of mother who wasn't easily thrown off her footing by a younger person's awkwardness.

"We have some written records of Ranger history, mostly journalism," she continued, "but if you are a scholar, an academic – yes? – if so, you will find the Soja' is short on textbooks, or illuminated manuscripts, or whatever it is that you are used to. Most clans have an oral tradition, and many Rangers are clan blood, you see? So then this follows: I am one of your 'primary sources' in the flesh, conversant and expert in the knowledge you ask. Something more than personal anecdotes, in truth."

Tlalli let her gentle admonishment settle for a moment, then smiled.

"Where would you like to begin, Ms Sneasel?
Isidora couldn't tell if it was the heat or hot shame burning under her pelt. Way to go, you offended her. She felt like a kit getting put in her place for being too rough and confident. And maybe she was.

"I... Sorry, I was outta line," Isidora apologized, just slightly avoiding eye contact. "I wasn’t tryin’ to imply you were a bad source or anything, I just-" She winced. Just stop talking.

A sigh. "Here." She sorted through her bag until she pulled out a pen and a small notebook, then flipped to an empty page. "We'll start with the basics, just to clarify what I already know. What kinda work does being a Ranger typically involve? How do they fit into things around here?"

She placed her notebook on the desk and held her pen in a fisted grip, leaned over and ready to write. Then realized that from this vantage point, Tlalli would be able to see her Liberian script. "Oh uh, do we wanna talk right here, or...?"
Tlalli gave Isidora an indulgent smile, and nodded over to one of the rest areas dotted around the Archive.

"We can sit more comfortably if you prefer?"

Then, as the Gliscor moved to walk slowly towards the seats, her expression shifted to a more serious mood.

"A 'ranger' is anyone who patrols a large region with intent to help civilian 'mon in danger," she said, as if quoting a formal definition. "What comes to mind first for many is the idealised image of a ranger rescue team delving into a mystery dungeon to rescue a lost child, or to arrest a wrongdoer in hiding. In truth, these instances are not the most common work for members of the Ranger Union! Many rangers who join that guild find themselves scouting familiar areas and building relationships with the communities they're responsible for. The Union trains its members to advise and even escort travellers so that they avoid danger to begin with, whether from terrain, weather, distortions, wild 'mon, or bandits. Warning an inexperienced Commonwealth trader not to eat the poisonous berries is not so glamorous, is it so? But it is important, all the same."

She took a seat herself, and cocked her head.

"Some communities look after themselves, of course. The Escarpa Clan, the Sun Wardens, even the town marshal and his corps of Watchog guards and sentries are all local emergency services in their own right. The Union coordinates with these communities, and even recruits from them! But a ranger's first responsibility is to those rural and remote settlements that cannot spare any great workforce for the roles a ranger fills."
Once she was sitting at the table in a comfortable position to conceal her writing with an arm, Isidora began taking notes. 'Protect civilians. Keep travellers safe. Rural focus.' A pause to gather her thoughts. 'Organised towards specific role. Popular enough to be glorified. Spreads influence-'

She stopped. It seemed like they mainly acted to keep the spaces between major towns safe. And to help cover places that, for whatever reason, were not covered. She hesitated to make the comparison.

'Like Red Claw? Benign?'

"So how far is their reach? Do they only cover the desert around here?" Isidora asked, looking up from her notes. "And how exactly do they go about determining where they’re responsible for?" She leaned her chin into her pen. "Like, do the Rangers try to cover everywhere on principle, or are they more in the business of making deals with places?"
Tlalli looked a little impressed, raising her brows and nodding slowly.

"Depends what you mean by 'the desert around here'. The Soja' rangers cover parts of the wider region, extending from the northern tundra to the old border with the Protectorate in the south at Bedaurejo, and from the west coast all the way to Blaguarro in the east. In practice, though, the northern half of the desert gets the most attention, being more accessible from HQ and also in greater need of ranger patrol. More dungeons, more isolated settlements, more outlaws. The coast looks after itself, as well or better than Frontier Town."

She paused, and took a moment to recall carefully.

"Veteran rangers have a lot of agency to determine where to focus their attention. They get to know communities in their patrol area, is it so? An experienced ranger learns to expect trouble before there is even news of it. Otherwise, it is the Chief who makes most of these determinations – and the Chief must judge the Union's ability and expertise against the reported and predicted need of Soja communities."

The Gliscor made eye contact, her expression growing serious.

"The Rangers are a volunteer peacekeeping organisation. We don't make deals or ask for payment, though many communities will send gifts to keep us going, not least of which are more junior rangers to train up. We can't always look after everyone, but we try to prioritise those in greatest need, who cannot fend for themselves or pay others to look after them. We try to pass on ranger training to the region's communities to improve their survivability – their resilience – against future disaster. And in the event of great need... sometimes we will deputise volunteers from other communities, or even, aha, come out of retirement."

Tlalli lightly thumped her chest with one pincer.

"I can still hold my own in a crisis if there is great enough need, may the Saints spare us of it. But you see, is it so? That the Rangers are a formal organisation of individuals in a part of the world with many small and isolated communities, to help each other when needs must, and not a country's police force, nor mercenaries for hire."
'Like Red Claw?^No. Benign? Yes.'

"I think I'm starting to get a picture," said Isidora, eyes closed with a claw lightly scratching the page. "It's about what needs to be done, then. You sound like you're proud to have worked for them." Maybe they're worth working with after all...

She opened her eyes and jotted one more note -- 'Not request based.' Then looked back up at Tlalli with renewed interest and a quizzical tilt of her feathered ear. "So the Rangers don't ask for payment? By volunteer, you can't mean you didn't get paid for it. How's it all funded?"
"Is it ever so, I am proud," beamed Tlalli. Then, when Isidora asked her follow-up question, she smiled with a sigh. "If we're lucky, and times are prosperous, those gifts I mentioned do a great deal to help. Otherwise, we get by subsisting on dungeon delving. This doubles as practical training, since rangers are meant to be specialists in mystery dungeons, when rescuing civilians or hunting wrongdoers. Also, the Chief may decide to send requests for funds or supplies to Soja' communities, but this is not common. For emergencies, in truth."

The Gliscor chuckled, and looked wistfully into middle distance.

"One does not get rich working as a ranger, is it so? Not rich in paper wealth, anyway."
Isidora returned a soft, knowing chuckle. "Yeah, you could bare-"

And then she blinked. She almost started talking about her own experiences, which wouldn't have made any sense to someone in another world. "Uh..." She held her pen close to her cheek so she could scratch it. "...Got distracted. S-so, the interview." Isidora put her attention back on her notes, trying to ignore the rising tide of embarrassment. "You said the Rangers have the authority to make arrests, right? I'm guessin' they get that from local governments," she said. "I guess we're gettin' into stuff I could read in old newspapers, but, would you say they're on good terms with the Commonwealth, or is it more complicated than that?"
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