Tuesday, August 16, 2022

[Pokéverse Makai Campaign] Session 02: Dojo in the Darkness!


Tuesday, April 3, 2001
The trio awaken to the smell of a lovely breakfast being cooked by their host. They freshen up and join Zsuska in the dining room. There they have a large Makai-style breakfast of toast with cheese and butter, spicy eggs, crispy bacon, spicy sausages, tomatoes, and green peppers. 

They chat with Zsuska, who asks them various questions of minor personal sort, first Bobby, then Andrea (who is for once quiet and reserved and a little pink-cheeked). Then she starts discussing things with Ayame, and slowly Ayame realizes that she is not speaking with her mouth, but speaking to her with her mind… and Ayame answers the same way!

[N.B. Ayame has a high degree of Pokémon Psychic Empathy (Reading Emotions) and Pokémon Mind Reading which she has developed to a level of Pokémon Telepathy, such that at this point she can actually telepathically speak with Pokémon. She has worked on developing Human Psychic Empathy and Human Mind Reading, and has had some minor success, but never been able to communicate through Human Telepathy… until now.]

Ayame notices as they “speak” that time seems to have slowed down, such that they “speak” with each other at least 10 times faster than they could through normal verbal speech. Zsuska warns her that something is Not Right up at the Dojo – Donovan has never been this long away from the hamlet, and no one has been seeing going up or coming down from the Dojo. She warns her that “Nothing ever seems quite what it appears to be in Makai – especially not one’s friends.”

Their telepathic rapport is broken by the sound of a tea tray setting down on the table with a thud, brought from the kitchens by a Kadabra who wafted it hither using telekinesis.

“Ah, excellent, the tea is ready,” Zsuska said, as she served the others. They drank quietly. The tea was excellent, a fruity variety with complementary herbs. The trio had not quite had anything like it.

After eating and drinking their fill, the trio and their Pokémon, Zsuska informed them that one of her Abras would guide them up into the mountains to the Dojo. While there were few side trails, she felt it would be safer if Abra went with them to guide them to the Dojo. She left them with a few words.

“And please, it has been too long since… we have seen Donovan. Please give him… our regards, and let him know that he will always be welcome in Monkshood.”

They thanked her, gathered their things, and with a wave farewell to Zsuska, went on their way to the Dojo.

They followed the trail through the northern farms and ranches, where they saw more real cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens than they had ever seen in their lives. Then they it the forested hill line and up, up, up they went. Sometimes the trail followed the river; other times when the river hit a falls or rapids it swerved off, back and forth, winding slowly up into the heights. Abra levitated before them, dancing and giggling as he went, happy to be out and about upon a trail.

The trip was quiet, for Andrea and Bobby. Ayame, however, got to know Abra pretty well, as she continued to hone her Pokémon Telepathy skills. She discovered that Abra had been to the Dojo many times before, to visit friends and for training, so he was very familiar with the trail. He was happy to discuss all the lovely vegetation as they passed through the foothills up to the mountains, where they passed from heavy forest into spotty forest and meadow lands.

There, the trail often veered away from the river, which in many places flowed through deep canyons, and they even passed through several cavern areas, obviously carved out by the river in ages passed. Here and there they spotted a worn stone plaque or statue with a name and date, which Abra explained to Ayame were “Memorials, for those who were lost.”

“You mean, those who fell from the trail and died?”

“Those, too,” Abra said sadly, though he would not elaborate.

They passed through the longest cavern series, which opened a bit high on the mountain wall, and so were able to look down into a broad valley, about five miles across, that then stood in the growing shadow of Wolf Mountain. The valley was covered in grassy, green hills, with small copses of pines and firs. It was definitely cooler here than in the valley below. They could see the glint of late-season snows here and there, and the permanent snowcap on Wolf Mountain.

At the center of the valley stood a tall hill, atop which they could spot a large building, and several smaller buildings along the western edge. “The Dojo,” Abra murmured happily into Ayame’s mind. “Let us go, night falls quickly in the valley, and we do not want to be caught outside at night even here.”

The party quickly continued along the trail, and reached the shadows of the tall, skirted Genji roof of the Dojo – aptly named, if was only the second proper Tokyo Nation style architecture they had seen in Makai since the temple in Monkshood. Night fell as they 

The cottages stood in a crescent around the western verge of the hilltop which stood the Dojo. The Dojo itself was further lifted upon a tall foundation of stones cemented together; upon the southeasternmost corner sat a man, tailor style, playing a flute, it was a strange dirge, and none of them could recognize it.

The man was silhouetted in the lanterns that hung from the skirt of the Dojo. He was obviously a man – tall, broad shouldered, but more, they could not tell, for he was in shadow, as the moon had not yet risen, and the stars seemed dim, though they were high in the mountains.

They continued toward the Dojo, until they stood perhaps 10 feet from the man, who sat 10 feet up upon the foundation wall. He continued to play his dirge.

Ayame looked up toward him, cleared her throat.

“I hope this isn’t going to be a thing with the Makai…” she thought.

The dirge ceased. From the motions the man made, he placed the flute in a pocket, and studied them for a moment.

He then leaped? Floated? Levitated? down from the wall. He was tall, broad, a shadow on the darkness.

He took a step toward Ayame, like a shadow moving upon a wall. Then he smiled, a broad, deep, wolfish smile; his teeth veritably shined in the dark as though lit by their own lights.

He stepped forward… and then in the light of the stars, which seemed to brighten, they could make out his features.

He was a veritable Adonis, by the textbook definition.

He wore monk’s robes, but they were open upon the chest, revealing perfectly carved abs and pecs, like an ancient master sculptor might carve. He stood 6’4”, and though broad of shoulder and already fantastically muscled, they could see that he was yet young… 18, maybe 19 years of age.

His face was oval, his brow strong but not overpowering, his eyes deep, his nose Aquiline like those of emperors, his lips pouted, his jaw was strong. He wore his dark brown hair in a long single braid that curled around his shoulders and down his chest, covering a large chain of prayer beads. His hands and arms were supple yet strong, his legs thickly muscled, his feet broad and unshod.

Andrea let out a long, deep sigh, her eyes twinkled, and her heart… and other bits… fluttered.

Bobby let out a long, deep sigh, his eyes twinkled, and his heart… and other bits… fluttered.

Ayame smiled, held out her hand, and said, “Hello, I am Ayame Himura! Please to meet you!”

The man quickly glanced at the effect his appearance had at the other two, smiled slightly, then turned to Ayame and laughed, a deep, hearty, booming laugh.

“Hello yourself, Ayame Himura! I saw you and your party as you entered the valley. I expect you are the first foreigners come to challenge the Master of the Dojo?”

Ayame smiled and nodded, “That is what.. um… we are here for…”

The man looked down at her [he stands 6’4”, she a mere 4’10”]. “Do you plan to win?”

“Well… yes… hopefully…”

“You will need more confidence than that, Ayame Himura, if you plan to defeat the Master of the Dojo and win a Dhylec Badge!”

Ayame gave him her “fierce” look… kind of like a mouse giving a tiger a “fierce” look, and said, “Then I will win! The Dhylec Badge will be my first badge on my way to win the Makai Regional Pokémon League Championship!”

He threw back his head and laughed again, deep and booming, and for a moment she saw his head outlined with the head of a lion.

“Very well, Ayame Himura, I accept your challenge, for I am Donovan Baine, the Master of the Dojo! However, the day is late, you have traveled long up a mountain, and are certain to be hungry as well as tired. Please enjoy my hospitality tonight, and we can speak at dinner about your challenge.”

He then turned to Abra, stared him in the eye, and some sort of unspoken words passed. Abra’s eyes went wide, he nodded sadly, and quickly floated away to one of the cottages around the side of the Dojo. 

“Come then,” he said, “To the Dojo!”

Art by JAG-Comics - Hobbyist, Traditional Artist | DeviantArt

They followed him up the stairs and through the large wooden gated entrance of the Dojo. They immediately entered the large battle room of the gym itself. The walls were lined with many martial arts weapons. “Here we train not only the mind, but also the body. As weapons are used to extend the body, so too do we train the mind to expand with its own weapons.”

They then passed through a series of doors and corridors, until they came to a door that entered into a large dining room. “Please leave your packs here; they will be taken to your rooms.”

They dropped their packs on the ground and followed him into the dining room. He waved them to a table, then passed through another door into the kitchen. As they sat, they heard him giving orders to several people about preparing dinner.

He then came out of the kitchen and sat with them. He asked them what they thought so far of Makai. They discussed the little they had seen so far and commented mostly about the large number of “normal” animals there were here as compared to elsewhere.

“Well, you see, the Makai have always considered Pokémon to be… well, certainly not people, but also not animals. And here, in Makai, if something is neither a man nor animal, it is lumped in with everything that is considered… Something Else.

“You have heard of the myths, legends, and rumors of the… things… that can be found in Makai, yes?”

The trio looked at each other, then at him, and all nodded affirmative.

“They are not merely myth, legend, and rumor. They are quite real. All too real.”

Their eyes went wide, then they were startled when the kitchen doors were slammed open by a cart. Jolteon flipped backward, Firefly hissed, and Meowth jumped under a table.

A maid entered pushing the cart; she was of the Schreckvolk, tall, gray-skinned, white-haired, scarred and bolted. Donovan smiled when he saw the trio and their Pokémon startled. 

“Bad timing,” Donovan chuckled. “This is one of the servants of the Dojo, Gerda. She helps around here as maid, waitress, and assistant chef.” 

Gerda nodded and murmured a deep, noncommittal “Mmmmm…” 

She then set out plates… and plates… and plates! The main was a chicken schnitzel with spaetzle and mushroom sauce; a salad of beans; potato salad; plates of cheese and sausages; baskets of rolls; and bottles of small beer and sodas.

Our chef is also from Schreckvald, and favors their particular fare. I appreciate it, as I have always felt that a good, solid meal is needed for proper martial training.

As they tucked in, Ayame replied, “I have heard it both ways. Bruno, a Pokémon trainer much like yourself in physical power, believes in hearty meals. Others believe they need to eat frugally and carefully, like Zsuska…

“Oh! I apologize, Zsuska from the temple in Monkshood said to send her regards, and that she and the others of the hamlet miss you, and would very much like for you to return to visit sometime soon!”

Donovan seemed to think for a long moment, his eyes wide and empty. Then they glittered again, and he smiled. “Ah yes, it has been a while since I’ve visited the lowlands. I’ve been sequestered here, training with my Pokémon, in order to make sure that we would be ready to take on all the foreign competition coming this way.”

The trio nodded, understanding all too well the need to train, especially for an event such as this.

At that his attention turned from them to the far corner of the dining room. They followed his gaze, and there saw a young child, a girl, clutching a doll to her chest. She had large, sad eyes, and was staring at them all.

“Hello Anita!” Donovan called to her. “Would you like to join us for dinner?”

She looked at them. 

She looked at Donovan with big, sad eyes, that looked a bit… angry.

She turned to Bobby and Andrea… back to sad, dull, unfeeling.

She turned to Ayame… big, sad eyes. A glint of…

She turned quickly and ran back the way she came.

“I apologize for that. Anita is… my sister. Well, not really, she is my ward. I found her alone, with no family, in the Dreadvald several years ago. Rather than leave her to the vagaries of the orphanages in the cities, I brought her here, to be raised at the Dojo while I went about my adventures. But then I was chosen to lead the Dojo…”

He trailed off… sadness in his voice.

“And regarding the Dojo, Ayame, would you prefer to have our match first thing in the morning? Or would you prefer to have our match in the afternoon? You can use the dojo to have a training session with your Pokémon to ensure that they are more used to the mountain air.”

Ayame nodded, considering. “I think the afternoon would be better, as you have said, to give my Pokémon a chance to limber up and exercise in the mountain air. Thank you kindly for your offer!”

“It is nothing,” Donovan smiled. “I must off to get a few things done before I sleep tonight. Gerda will see you to your rooms when you finish. I shall see you again at breakfast.”

He nodded at them as he stood and left.

Ayame stared at the rest of her meal in thought; Andrea and Bobby watched him walk out, turned to each other, and smiled.

Even as they finished their expansive meal and were wondering if there was a wheelbarrow the maid could carry them in, to their rooms, Gerda reappeared through the kitchen doors.

“Finished?” she asked, simply.

They nodded, “Follow me.”

They followed her through several doors and corridors. Fortunately, everything was well marked, with signs toward all the major public locations.

“Everything will be easy to find!” said Bobby, pointing to the signs.

“Schreckvolk efficiency,” grunted Gerda.

“Makai and Tokyojin order Dojo long ago, Schreckvolk build and maintain always,” she slowly continued.

She showed them to their rooms. It was a horseshoe-shaped wing, with rooms along the outside, and a lounge, complete with big comfy couches, chairs, tables, bookshelves, chess sets, and such accoutrements, all around a large stone fireplace. They had three adjacent rooms, each with its own bathroom.

She pointed to a number of large red hanging ropes, “Pull to ring for service.

“Breakfast at 8 am, I will collect you.”

They thanked her and she left.

They gathered in Ayame’s room to discuss final plans for the night.

Meowth had his “worried” look and was deep in thought.

The trio stopped chatting and looked to Meowth.

“Is something wrong, Meowth?”

Meowth thought for a moment.

“What is it Zsuska said to you, Ayame? That ‘Nuttin ain’t never what it seems in Makai, especially your friends’?”

“Well, more or less, yes…”

He turned to Andrea and Bobby.

“Donovan… he’s poifect, ain’t he?”

Their eyes went wide, their hearts fluttered, their pulses raced, they got goofy smiles…

“Yeah, yeah. Poifect. TOO poifect, if you asks me!”

“What do you mean, Meowth?”

“He’s poifect. Physically poifect. A complete jennleman, too. Back when I was wit Jessie and James, dat’s how we ran a lot of scams – we had to look POIFECT. Ain’t nobody really ever looks THAT poifect. Not real peoples, models maybe, but not real peoples.

“And dat’s how da schemes woik, people is so whammied by you being poifect, then never thinks you is scammin’ dem.”

The trio looked at each other.

Andrea got a thoughtful look, “Yes… too perfect, really.”

Bobby nodded.

“What else, Meowth?”

“Well, did’jya see how Abra reacted to Donovan’s telypat’ic command to go away? He was confused, sad, an sooproised!”

“I did notice that. He mentioned on the trip up there that he and Donovan were good friends, and he was looking forward to seeing him after the two months he’d been up here.”

“Yeah, I remembers dat you said all dat. I wonders what Donovan said to him.”

They looked at each other for a long time. Ayame sighed.

“So much for an easy match.”

“Well,” Bobby chuckled, “based on our history, there is about a 42% chance that SOMETHINMG gets in the way of a match.”

“That much of a chance? Really?”

“Well, official matches, yes, not counting random pick-up matches with other Pokémon Trainers… and not counting Melees, of course.”

“Team Rocket again, maybe?”

“I dunno… too subtle for them. They’d be all like ‘Prepare for Trouble, Make it Double’ by now…” Andrea interjected.

“I concur,” Bobby said, “Plus, by now, they would have tried to grab Meowth.”

“Yeah, my old partners ain’t known for their suttle’tee… well, not after the foist five minutes, that is…”

“Soo… not Team Rocket, something local then,” Ayame turned to Meowth, “What next?”

“Well, I tink I’ll go out for a bit of walkabout, sees what I can sees, hears what I can hears…”

“But what about all the… things? Things that go bump in the night and all that?” Andrea squeaked.

“Nah, I ain’t worried about dat. Rules of da game, wit anybody’s running a scam, is dat dey protects dere own territories. Besides, I ain’t seen no signs of nuttin, sights or smells, since we gots into da valley.” He stretched out his claws and smiled.

“Time to do a bits of snoopins…”

Ayame barely had time to tell him to be careful before he jumped out the window.

They looked out after him, but he had already disappeared into the shadows.

To be continued…

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