This world was a big place. Bigger than anything that Vagus the Totodile had ever known in his life. The fields seemed to go on forever, and the sky was so plain and vast that Vagus feared he would fall into it if he gazed up at it for too long. Such was a phobia developed when one spent their lifetime under the thick canopy of a jungle. Vagus had never seen the sky so clearly and never knew it was so vast. Then there was the silence, the sort of silence one hears when out in the middle of nowhere with nothing around to create any noise. The jungle was always full of noises, those that were familiar and those that seemed strange. Silence rarely ever came, and whenever it did, it was during the horrifying nights like the one that had claimed the lives of his parents.
Vagus looked around him while he and his brother, Mycaelis, walked the rolling plains. There was no road and the sheer emptiness around them made Vagus feel exposed and anxious. If he had proper claws, he would have dug himself a burrow and stayed there until nightfall. The darkness would conceal him quiet well, provided his Charmander brother with his flaming tail wasn’t lumbering around behind him. In the jungle there was a tree wherever he turned and a brush to hide in wherever he looked. There was also Mum and Dad watching out for him. But here…here there was nothing, not a tree or bush to hide behind.
What was he thinking coming out here? He had no idea where he was going, what he was even doing, or what the hell was even out here. What if they ran into a stranger that met them harm, what if a bird looking for an easy afternoon meal swopped down from above, what if those creatures that killed his parents found them, or what if….
The sky rumbled angrily and gave Vagus a real reason to fear it. What if it rained?
He looked up and saw that the sky was beginning to turn an angry grey. Where the heck did that suddenly come from? On the horizon he began to see flashes of lightning streaking across the sky and felt his heart sink as the wind began to pick up.
‘Cunts fucked!’ rumbled Mycaelis. The Charmander was obviously displeased by the thought of an oncoming rainstorm. It was one of the few moments today that he had spoken. Although Vagus was put off by the absence of ambient sounds around him, he did find a certain pleasure in Mycaelis’ new found silence.
‘Where did this suddenly roll in from?’ Vagus sighed.
It was a valid question. The storm had seemed to come out of nowhere. But then again, Vagus hadn’t a clue in the world how storms formed or how to tell if one was brewing or not. Vagus had always known and felt what rain was. In the middle of monsoonal downpours, his father routinely forced him to fix gaps in the thatched roof of their hovel whenever there was a leak. The bastard was so big he would have caved in the ceiling had he tried to do it himself.
Vagus was more than aware that his Charmander brother wouldn’t last long in one, especially when one considered the complete absence of shelter around. He continued to plod forward, his eyes focused on the oncoming storm. He expected some form of snarky response from Mycaelis, a complaint, a snarl or a rhetoric question that pointed out the poor likeliness of actually finding shelter, instead he got nothing.
Dusk had fallen by the time the clouds had moved across and unloaded their torrential downpour onto the two siblings. Vagus was soon regretting his previous reflections on how he knew what rain felt like. No longer sheltered by the jungle canopy, the ensuing downpour offered Vagus no quarter, barraging him both he and his sibling as they trudged through the mud and braved through the wind. He covered his mother’s journal as best he could with his arms, hoping to keep as much water off it has possible. He was glad that she had chosen to write in one that had a leather cover.
He had never felt or seen a downpour like this in his life. It hadn’t even been a full day since he left the jungle, and already he was growing sick of this new world. How it had drawn him in with the tantalising beauty in its ocean of stars and sweeping lush plains, and then attempted to drown both him and Mycaelis in a torrential downpour.
Despite his dreariness, hope did present itself before him. Vagus could make out the sight of trees up ahead. A forest, rather than a jungle, it was situated closely to a nearby lake. He hoped that the tree trunks were thick, maybe they would find one with a hollow in it and would be able to huddle down inside. He didn’t care if it was wishful thinking, he just wanted something that would get them out of this blasted storm.
Vagus turned to Mycaelis and noticed that his brother was lagging behind. He was cringing, scowling and even stumbling at times. All attempts to communicate with him only resulted in an affirmative grunt as a response. Vagus knew that his brother was tough, far tougher than he would ever be, but still Vagus knew all too well that Mycaelis wouldn’t last much longer in this storm. He was already slowing down, and his skin was beginning to rash from its exposure to all the water.
Eventually conceding the fact that he wouldn’t get any responses about his well-being out of Mycaelis, Vagus frequently made subtle attempts to check the flame on his tail.
‘Will ya stop lookin’ at it, for fucks sake?’ Mycaelis suddenly snapped. He had clearly noticed Vagus’ concerned glances at his tail. ‘I’m f-fine. J-just keep b-bloody moving.’
Mycaelis seemed embarrassed, completely shamed, by the fact that something as trivial as water was able to reduce him to the wreck that he was becoming. Vagus, nonetheless, did as he was told. He kept his eyes ahead, looking back only occasionally to check if Mycaelis had collapsed into an unconscious heap on the muddied ground. They pressed onwards, following the shore of the lake until they eventually reached the woods ahead of them.
Vagus watched on helplessly as Mycaelis collapsed onto a tree for support. For a moment, Vagus thought that he was just bracing himself against the howling wind. That was until he watched Mycaelis collapsed in eerily similar fashion as his father had collapsed before him.
Mycaelis seemed overtaken by fits, his body shook severely. The rash on his skin had become blisters, some of which he had picked at, resulting in them bleeding. To make matters worse, Vagus noticed the place to be woodland rather than a dense forest. The trees were sparse and widely separate from one another. He had hoped for a canopy, something like home to keep most of the rain off, but his hopes were dashed. As for that hollow in a tree trunk, there was no way he would be moving Mycaelis any further to try and find one that would comfortably fit him.
Vagus had not come far enough to let Mycaelis die. It was only the previous night that his father, who always doubted him and scorned him, had left Mycaelis in Vagus’ care. He was not about to stuff it up only a single day in. ‘I’ll be right back,’ he said to Mycaelis.
Vagus scouted ahead a short distance and soon spotted a nearby tree. It only had a shallow hollow in it and was far from what he hoped for, but it would at least allow Mycaelis some refuge from the rain, provided he covered it in a few branches. He set down his mother’s journal, feeling as anxious as she did about leaving it unattended. He then made his way back to Mycaelis.
‘C’mon!’ he snapped at his brother. Vagus could tell he was growing weaker.
‘L-leave me,’ Mycaelis grumbled sombrely. His head drooped low. He seemed so driven to shame by his exposed weakness, that he couldn’t even look Vagus in the eye. ‘I don’t deserve to-’
‘The only thing you deserve at the moment is a kick up the bum for being a sook!’ snapped Vagus. He suddenly found an ounce of his mother’s ferocity burning within his heart, or was it his brother’s? He had to get Mycaelis moving, no matter what. Get him to shelter. Mycaelis could mope all he wanted once he was there.
As Vagus spoke, he found himself beginning to sound more and more like Mycaelis, or at least the Mycaelis he used to know. ‘Now come on, on your feet, Laconian! For fucks sake, imagine what Dad would say if he saw ya in a state like this?’
He gripped Mycaelis by his under arms and pulled him to his feet. He took one of the Charmander’s arms over his shoulder and supported him as he walked. With the wind and rain lashing at his body, Vagus helped his mud covered brother to the tree he had found, and slid him into the shallow hollow. He then pulled down the thickest branches he could reach, which weren’t very thick, and tried his best to cover Mycaelis with them.
His actions, although commendable, looked outright ridiculous and clumsy. The wind would take hold of a branch and send it flying into the woods. Occasionally Vagus was able to catch them, mostly they would fly off so far he dared not pursue them for fear of becoming lost and separated from Mycaelis.
Mycaelis’ trembles continued to only grow worse.
‘Stay with me, Mycaelis,’ Vagus pleaded, trying desperately to keep the branches from flying off.
‘Hey, over ‘dare!’ a call came from behind him. ‘What are ye at over ‘dare?’
Vagus quickly and suddenly turned, completely startled and terrified. He looked upon the surface of the lake. Not far from the shore, a head had popped up from underneath the surface of the lake’s unusually calm waters. A pair of brilliantly glowing bulbs hung from it, illuminating the dreary evening. It was a Lanturn. One with a smile so wide, and friendly, that it seemed oddly out of place considering the ferocity of the storm. The again, Vagus would imagine that a fish, living underwater its entire life, would place howling storms amongst the least of its concerns.
Vagus said nothing. He didn’t know what to say. Mycaelis was the one that would always speak, not him. He simply stared, a look of utter completely hopelessness was all he could convey. That’s all he felt.
The Lanturn’s eyes looked him over, they felt warm and welcoming. Maybe that was simply because the rain and wind felt so cold and hostile in contrast? The Lanturn then looked past Vagus and noticed Mycaelis poorly covered by branches and desperately shoved into a shallow hollow.
‘Well, I’ll be darned,’ the smile seemingly faded from her expression. She then averted her gaze away from Vagus and called out. ‘Marvin! Over here, now, quick!’
Vagus heard a rustle of bushes, followed by a rush of footsteps and the clanging of metal against wood. A Floatzel, with a bucket half full of Oran berries at his side, soon stood before Vagus. He was larger than Vagus and stood over him. He was a well-aged Floatzel with a seemingly noble appearance. He sported a body that seemed to have endured many storms such as this and eyes that once saw many adventures.
‘What’s all this?’ he cast his eyes over Vagus, and then Mycaelis.
Vagus’ heart was racing. He didn’t know who these people were. Were they one of those that hunted his parents that night? One of those who hid in the shadows and cackled as his father fell before them? Was he one of those that chased them both from their home?
‘They’re perishin’, Marvin,’ called out the Lanturn. ‘Git dem home, nigh! That Charmander don’t look like he’s ‘bout to last much longer.’
‘Damn, woman!’ snarled the Floatzel. ‘How de feck am I supposed ter take a Charmander underwater?’
‘Use the land entrance, ya dammed fool!’ she snapped back. ‘Have those berries yer been foraging driven yer bloody senile?’
They were going to take him somewhere. Take Mycaelis somewhere. He didn’t know where they were going or what they meant by a “land entrance” and quite frankly, Vagus didn’t want to know. As far as he knew, nothing was going to lay a hand on him or Mycaelis. He promised his father that, he promised he’d keep him safe. He watched on as the Lanturn disappeared beneath the surface, leaving him alone with the Floatzel.
‘Right now, lad. Let’s be getting you and your pal oyt av 'ere.’
He sidestepped Vagus and made an unfortunate attempt to try and pick up Mycaelis. Vagus bounded into action, snapping at the Floatzel’s arm with his jaws. He screamed and flailed back in pain.
‘What de feck?’ he clenched his bitten arm. ‘Easy der, lad!’
It was a Totodile’s bite, a very serious bite. Let’s not forget, Totodile’s are essentially huge jawed gobs with arms and legs attached to them. Marvin’s wound was highly evident, even as the rain washed away the blood. Still the elderly Floatzel stood calm, steadily holding the wound to stem the bleeding. He didn’t seem angry in the slightest. Any creature Vagus knew would have returned the bite in kind, and outright attacked him at this moment. Yet here he was, simply standing face to face with a foe he had just wounded.
‘Listen ‘ere, lil fella. I don't nu who yer are, or what you're doin' 'ere. But I do nu if yer don’t git yer pal sum place warm, ‘es as gud ‘a dead oyt ‘ere.’
Marvin slowly moved closer, one small step at a time. Vagus, like a cornered animal slowly, and cautiously, retreated, snapping his jaws at Marvin in a vain attempt to keep him at bay. His calmness must be some sort of trick, something to get him to lower his guard. Vagus wasn’t about to fall for it.
‘Not gonna ‘arm yer, lad.’
Vagus took another snap at his arm, but the Floatzel was quick this time. His arm shot away from Vagus’ attack and grabbed the Totodile. Vagus kicked and squirmed and tried his hardest to bite at something fleshy, but found that his jaws could snap at nothing but air.
‘Goodness! Settle down, yer upstart!’
Vagus began to grow weaker. The past day had completely exhausted him. It had been a long journey, and he had not eaten or slept in so long. Marvin was still surprisingly strong for his age, his arms were shockingly powerful. Vagus had begun to wonder just how weak he had become, or if Marvin really was that strong, after all.
After a while of struggling in the Floatzel’s grip, Vagus’ body eventually grew tired and fell limp after some more gentle coercion from Marvin. The Floatzel never once struck him or a lay a violent hand on him. He simply held Vagus, letting him wear himself out. ‘That’s a good lil fella. Easy.’
To Vagus’ surprise, he let him go and went to gather the unconscious Mycaelis in his arms. He turned to Vagus. ‘Come wi’ me, lad. Come!’
Vagus gathered his mother’s journal from the muddy ground and proceeded to follow the Floatzel that now had his brother. He eyed the tip of Mycaelis’ tail that hug limp from Marvin’s arms. To Vagus’ horror, he noticed that the flame at the end was blazing no brighter than a simple birthday candle.