• Welcome to The Cave of Dragonflies forums, where the smallest bugs live alongside the strongest dragons.

    Guests are not able to post messages or even read certain areas of the forums. Now, that's boring, don't you think? Registration, on the other hand, is simple, completely free of charge, and does not require you to give out any personal information at all. As soon as you register, you can take part in some of the happy fun things at the forums such as posting messages, voting in polls, sending private messages to people and being told that this is where we drink tea and eat cod.

    Of course I'm not forcing you to do anything if you don't want to, but seriously, what have you got to lose? Five seconds of your life?

Wandersword

kyeugh

the world is just a sphere
Pronoun
she/her
1583866512834.png

art by me.
banner edited from this weird viking metal band that inexpicably shares a name with a word that i made up.

hey guys, it's me, your best friend skylar/kyeugh/qva/mohacastle/barack obama/majora/dazel/qvalador. this is the fanfic that i've been working on for nearly a year and only have like five chapters for. it's about a girl and her pissed off dog in a version of medieval kalos i've built, and their desperate attempts to live in a society. fair content warning for swearing, violence, some gore, et cetera. this is basically rated M i guess. i take care not to revel in the unsavory details, but it is a medieval story about murderbeasts, so shit occasionally happens. the prologue is quite a lot darker than the rest of the story so far, so if you feel fine about that, you're probably good to go with the rest of it. feel free to leave a review if you're into that, or just bask in my prose and smash that mfin like button. the most up-to-date version of this story can be found at Thousand Roads; i'll probably be lightly revising the version i post here at my leisure, so it might get posted kinda slow. sorry bro. reserving this post for a table of contents and also some fun art i've gotten for this story over the past few months. hope you guys enjoy!

 

kyeugh

the world is just a sphere
Pronoun
she/her
Prologue: An Auspicious Meeting

High Priest Doran had the finest horse in the empire. He knew this for certain, because he had personally ensured it. The horse's name was Providence, and he stood eight feet at the shoulder. His coat was a spotless, immaculate white, with brilliant blond hair up to the knee, and a striking, golden tail half the length of a man. Precious gems were threaded into his radiant mane. Of course, Providence was a pure mudsdale, true as far back as the records of his ancestry stretched. There was not a purer, more perfect horse known to any groom in Callouse.

As it should be, for as they say, the horse ought befit the man. And as of his ecclesiastical inauguration exactly nine days ago, there was quite officially no purer, more perfect man of the Lord in Callouse, either. His pristinely white vestments flapped in the wind behind him, bobbing with each of Providence's great steps. They clung tightly to his frame, accentuating his lithe yet lean build. The blond hair that framed his gaunt, stern face almost matched his mount's, though it was a touch duller. Between his grandiose appearance and the sizable escort of over a dozen soldiers trailing him, they must have cut quite an intimidating figure, he reckoned.

Far more intimidating, at least, than the lucario at his side. It was speaking slowly to Doran as it tried to keep pace on its little gogoat. The pathetic thing barely reached Providence's shoulder. Doran appreciated the way it forced the lucario to look up at him as it spoke.

"We're very glad Your Grace found it wise to pay a visit to our tribe," the lucario said, gesturing around itself at the small community they were passing through. Though its Calloussian was respectable, its voice was rough and gravelly. It was the voice of a creature used to communicating in barks and grunts, Doran thought.

Doran took in the area around them. It was quaint, he had to admit, and not all too different in character from the village he grew up in, if technological differences were to be ignored. Tents made from tauros leather stretched over branches dotted the area, though it seemed that most everyone was outside. Lucario of various shapes and colors tended to flames, or fussed with their cattle, or chased after rambunctious riolu. Doran would not wish squalor like this on his most pathetic inferior, of course, but despite it all, the inhabitants of this simple village seemed content and at peace. For these people—the lucarios—Doran supposed he could see how it might feel like home.

"Relations between the Empire and the Lucario Tribe have been stagnant for the past few decades," the lucario continued, the foreign quality of its voice making its tone inscrutable. "We hope that Your Grace's visit will be the start of a new era of positive diplomacy between our peoples." Doran said nothing as they trotted onward. He had some words to say eventually, of course, but they were not for this prattling footman. The lucario opened its mouth to speak again, then hesitated. They made the rest of their way to the chieftain's hall in silence.

The building itself, unlike the teepees erected about the village, was just that: a proper building. Its walls arched from a stone base to form a semi-sphere of woven wood. Not a proper building in the sense that Doran knew one, of course, but it was certainly leagues closer to a civilized structure than the tents. As they approached it at last, Doran dismounted Providence and turned to his escorts, patting the grand horse lightly on the shoulder. He snorted and shook his head in response.

"Soldiers," Doran said, looking right through them. "Keep after Providence for me, won't you? I don't imagine I will be terribly long." The lucario that had led them there reached out haphazardly and opened his mouth again to speak, but this time Doran shot him a pointed, supercilious look, and gently placed a hand on the pommel of his ceremonial sword, as if daring the lucario to speak. He did not dare, so Doran stepped through the tapestry that served as the hut's door, white cape swishing behind him.

Within moments of entering it, Doran concluded that the hut's interior was unremarkable. Some more tapestries hung from the walls of the unlit room, and vases with simple, folksy patterns adorned the edges of the worn tile floor. Doran's splendid white clothing seemed to glow in the lackluster dimness of the space.

At the room's center stood an elderly lucario, dressed in a tattered red cape. A triage of scars traced his face, crossing a cloudy white eye down to to the tip of his muzzle where the whiskers went silver. Here was a chief who had visibly won his office tooth and nail. These victories were just as apparent in the way he stood, sizing up the high priest with a wise pair of eyes, as they were in the physical signs of age and extensive combat that painted his body. If there were a lucario to fear in this whole tribe, there was no doubt that this was the one. High Priest Doran, of course, did not fear him all the same. In all his grizzled glory, the lucario did not even come up to the high priest's chest.

"Good day to you," the lucario said, inclining his head slightly but keeping his eyes locked in contact with Doran's. Surprisingly, his accent was quite near perfect. He sounded more like an old, gruff man than a beast making attempts at a distinguished tongue.

Doran nodded curtly. "Good day to you as well, Chief Silverfoot. Shall we get down to business?"

The lucario did not let down his front of wariness, though a spark of confusion did rise behind his expression. "I am not aware of any business, Your Grace," he said slowly. "It was you who arranged this visit."

"Indeed," Doran replied, forcing his tightly pursed lips into a smile. He began to walk about the room as he talked, pretending to closely analyze the tapestries on the wall. He could feel the elder chief's glare burning holes into his back. "I am new to my office, as you know. The previous high priest was a... differently minded man than I, that much is for certain. Careful to please, never overstepping his perceived boundaries, even for the spiritual wellbeing of the empire. Though he sought merely to avoid strife, the empire reached new heights of corruption under his careless eye. Relations abroad grew icy and unfamiliar as time weathered on... Even you, our nearest neighbors, are now but distant friends. Do you know this to be true, Chief Silverfoot?"

"I know it to be true," the lucario confirmed, "though I never knew why. The politics of your people remain a hazy mystery to the sharpest lucario minds, I'm afraid."

"Indeed," Doran muttered, breaking into a small, skewed grin. He turned about to face the lucario, and met eyes with a beast different than the one who had greeted him just moments ago. Now the chief's eyes seemed curious, searching. Genuine. "Tell me," Doran continued, taking a few leisurely steps forward, "would it affront you to hear the former High Priest Antoine called a coward?"

"Mm." The chief narrowed his eyes in thought. "No. The man you have described to me sounds like a coward. It is fitting," he said.

"Yes." Doran turned back to the wall and gazed out the makeshift window. There were riolu playing outside, mocking swordplay with straight sticks as their parents watched, lips contorted upward in animalistic smiles. "This is where he and I differ. Antoine was spineless, I daresay. The High Regalia should have never graced his unworthy head. But I am no coward. I am righteous. I am justice. I am the right hand of God. That is why He has placed this tiara on my head. I have come here to speak with you, Chief Silverfoot, not as an emissary of the empire, but as an ambassador of the One Most High. Do you understand me?"

The lucario did not respond immediately. Doran stood there, hands clasped behind his back, until he did.

"I shall attempt to, Your Grace."

"Good. Then, understanding my place at the side of God, I cast away my reservations and tell you this: there are those within Callouse would would slander your people as godless pagans. Idol worshipers and servants to worldly things. I must know, Chief Silverfoot. Is this true?"

Again, the lucario did not say anything at first. Doran could hear him slowly lowering himself to his haunches, grunting with exertion as he fell into a sitting position on the ground. "You have spoken of yourself at great length now, Your Grace," he said. "Would you hear my words for a moment?"

Doran turned about, looking down at the seated chieftain. "If I must."

The lucario took a deep breath, a knot in his brow betraying his displeasure. A moment passed in silence before he began to speak. "There are those among my people who can see the souls of the living. What do you think of that?" he asked.

"It sounds to me like blasphemy," Doran sneered. "It is for God alone to look upon the souls of men. And the souls of... others. Any who claim this ability for themselves… Well, it is not through God that such powers are achieved. It is my view that apostates are to be punished.”

"I thought you might say so," Silverfoot replied solemnly, shutting his eyes and pressing his hands together. His position seemed somewhat meditative now, but he continued to speak, eyes still closed. "I am among those who can see into the hearts of others." The lucario screwed up his face in concentration, and his body began to tremor all but imperceptibly. "I can see Your Grace's as we speak. Flickering beneath those gaudy robes of white and gold, I see a flame of dark black. What is it you truly wish to know, High Priest Doran? I am no fool. I know a man like you would not waste his time chatting idly with a grey old lucario."

The priest's face contorted. He forced his lips apart to speak, vein bulging in his neck. "You dare—"

Silverfoot held up a paw to stop him. Remarkably, it worked—Doran halted on the spot. "The Sight is as natural to my people as the sense of smell, the sense of hearing. Your religion decries it as a power dark and unholy. Only one of these things can be true, you understand. What is an old wolf like me to do? When we look inside ourselves and see what the creator has placed there, are we meant to recoil in disgust? Or are we meant to wield it with pride?" His lips curled into a snarl as he drew a deep breath. "I have grown old, and seen many battles. Many foul things have been said of me in my time. But none who know me well would call me a traitor to my people. I will not have our ways, old as time, slandered so."

The elder chief's eyes snapped open. Sharp, icy blue pierced through his milky cataracts and granted him True Sight. He had seen into the High Priest’s soul, seen the rage and contempt roiling there. Now he expected his eyes to reveal to him a mask knotted and pulsating with that unbridled anger, but they did not. High Priest Doran was leaning over the lucario, cape draped at his sides. A serendipitous smile split his face, sweet and serene. His heavy eyelids fell halfway down his knowing gaze, and if Silverfoot didn't know better, he might think the priest was staring into the eyes of a lover. The lucario frowned deeply. The priest's spirit was inscrutable now.

"I respect your determination," Doran said, standing straight again and moving toward the exit. "Or shall we call it stubbornness? Make no mistake, you have told me exactly what I wished to hear. For this, I thank you. But... Yes. I have heard all I care to. I'll be taking my leave." He paused just before passing through the curtain at the hut's door, and turned back. "I did make one misjudgment of you, however. Perhaps you'd like to know? I saw your scars and read them, foolishly, as testaments to your prowess in combat. Testaments to your resolve. Yet I see them for what they are now." His innocuous grin twisted into one of condescension. "Lines of weakness. It is the badge of your unyielding, given form in your flesh. They are not symbols of your victories. Memories of hits you have taken, that you could have evaded. Persistence is a boon to the strong, but it is the herald of a swift death to the weak. I have decided that your scars are in fact symbols of your inability to protect yourself." He turned back around, and walked through the curtain. "Or your people."

As he stepped out of the dim hut, Doran found the brightness of the outdoors almost blinding. He raised a hand over his face to block out the sun as he squinted. His escorts stood at attention at the sight of him, two of them holding Providence's reins. One of them stood slack, and was chatting casually with the lucario who had led them there. He seemed unaware of Doran's presence. The priest approached them.

"You."

Both the guard and the lucario snapped to attention, stricken with fear. "Your Grace," the soldier said, saluting stiffly. Doran looked him up and down. Though he stood a few inches taller than Doran himself, in that moment the priest couldn't help but find him pathetically small.

"Take care of your friend here," Doran instructed, pointing at the lucario with a thin, outstretched finger.

"Your Grace?"

"Kill him,” Doran said, firmly this time. “Immediately."

The soldier swallowed hard, hand moving reluctantly and clumsily to the sword at his side. The lucario's eyes flitted back and forth between Doran and the guard, and the look of panic in its eyes slowly melted into one of grim understanding. It leaped backwards, raising its paws and then clapping them together. They came away from one another cloaked in translucent blue flame.

"Now, soldier," Doran reiterated. The soldier nodded, and the hesitance in his eyes fell away. Though he had been chatting with the lucario just moments ago, his training held true and would not be erased. At his core, he was a soldier, conditioned to follow the order of any superior, harsh as it may be. Loyalty to one’s country, to one’s God, came first. Doran knew this. He tolerated no less.

There was no fight. The soldier advanced and caught the small lucario by its arm. It struggled to no avail as the guard raised his sword underhand and plunged it through the dog’s neck. It fell to the grass soundlessly, clutching uselessly at the weeping trench in its throat. Dark red blood spilled over the field.

Someone screamed. Commotion ensued. Doran was only aware of it peripherally as he turned to his soldiers, and frankly he did not care to watch it more closely than he had to. Soiling his fingernails with dirt was not part of his job anymore. He was here to give the orders of God, and his men were here to join that divine will with reality.

He walked over to Providence and allowed a pair of soldiers to lift him onto the great horse’s back wordlessly. He settled himself into the saddle, took the reins, and then looked down to his guard.

"Men," he said, looking them over. They all seemed fearful in the smallest way. Fearful? Anxious, perhaps. Doran did not know. He was not personally acquainted with the emotions of war. "Subjugate this village. Kill if you must. These dogs are assets of the Church, now. I will return in a week, and I expect to find them all bound in shackles and ready for deportation."

The soldiers saluted. "Yes, Your Grace," they chanted. They were obviously practiced words. Familiar. Easy to cling to in moments of doubt, Doran suspected. He didn't care if they doubted, really. If he returned to mutiny, well... He'd have a guard twice as large at his side then, and quick work would be made of the dissenters. No, it did them no good to resist. He looked down at the guards as the expendable muscle that they were, and nodded.

"I want the chieftain dead. Preserve the rest if you can. Best of luck to you, men. Do not disappoint me."

He took a deep breath before departing. Screaming. The cleansing smell of rising flames. Righteousness. Justice. I am the right hand of God.

They drew their swords and began to fight. Doran urged Providence forward and did not look back.
 

kokorico

dead duck
Pronoun
e/em/eir/emself
Ooh, I'm liking this so far! You're really good at showing the way the PoV character thinks by varying the style of the prose. I especially like this line; it definitely captures Doran's slightly scattered thought process:
He took a deep breath before departing. Screaming. The cleansing smell of rising flames. Righteousness. Justice. I am the right hand of God.
He's a nasty piece of work, all right. I wonder whether his description of the previous High Priest is accurate, or heavily coloured by his own fanaticism. Would definitely be interested in seeing what Callouse's other neighbours thought of Antoine.

Here's something else I'm curious about: The lucario are clearly sapient in your universe, but what about Providence the mudsdale? Being a pokémon, I would have assumed he was also self-aware and had his own opinions, but he's never consulted or treated as anything more than a dumb animal. Is that just Doran being prejudicial, or did you mean to draw a distinction between the lucario and other pokémon species?

I also have a couple of grammar nitpicks, I'm afraid:
"This is where he and I differ. Antoine was spineless, I daresay.
"Daresay" carries a slight connotation of uncertainty - it's not a contraction of "dare to say" - but Doran seems fairly set in his opinion. Maybe something like "I would go so far as to say"?
The High Regalia should have never graced his unworthy head.
"should never have". I wouldn't say this was strictly wrong (fuck linguistic prescriptivism), but it is informal, and Doran doesn't really strike me as the type to speak informally - especially to someone he considers an inferior.

You've definitely hooked me! I will be eagerly awaiting future chapters :)
 

kyeugh

the world is just a sphere
Pronoun
she/her
hey, thanks for the read! :D
Here's something else I'm curious about: The lucario are clearly sapient in your universe, but what about Providence the mudsdale? Being a pokémon, I would have assumed he was also self-aware and had his own opinions, but he's never consulted or treated as anything more than a dumb animal. Is that just Doran being prejudicial, or did you mean to draw a distinction between the lucario and other pokémon species?
interesting question! providence is indeed basically just a horse. the distinction is drawn a bit more clearly in later chapters, i think, but in my fic there's a pretty wide gradient of sapience among pokémon. the general rule of thumb is that human-shaped ones tend to act more like humans.

"Daresay" carries a slight connotation of uncertainty - it's not a contraction of "dare to say" - but Doran seems fairly set in his opinion. Maybe something like "I would go so far as to say"?
i actually had no idea it wasn't a contraction of "dare to say," hahaha. good shout!

"should never have". I wouldn't say this was strictly wrong (fuck linguistic prescriptivism), but it is informal, and Doran doesn't really strike me as the type to speak informally - especially to someone he considers an inferior.
interesting. what would you say a more formal/appropriate phrasing would be, then? i've never heard this before.

You've definitely hooked me! I will be eagerly awaiting future chapters :)
hehe, thanks! that means a lot. hope i don't let you down!
 

kokorico

dead duck
Pronoun
e/em/eir/emself
interesting. what would you say a more formal/appropriate phrasing would be, then? i've never heard this before.
Sorry, I was trying to refer to the word order! "should have never" → "should never have"

I'm not sure exactly why the former sounds less formal (hell, maybe it's just me). I found this relevant StackExchange question, but it's not really terribly informative.
 

kyeugh

the world is just a sphere
Pronoun
she/her
ah, gotcha! makes sense. that does flow a bit better, i think. you learn something new every day! i will keep that in mind, thanks.
 
Top