Chapter 3 – The Deal
There were a number of things that Solonn felt upon his release from the capture ball. First came sheer relief, both at no longer being drained and paralyzed (he distantly wondered how he had recovered so completely and suddenly), and, to a greater degree, at just being out of that ball—its particular style of confinement had just been too surreal by his reckoning. He had been conscious all the while that he’d been contained within that sphere, but had seemed not to actually exist
. It was as though the great ball had reduced him to nothing more than a mind without a body, impossible though it seemed to him that such a thing should be. Trying to make sense of it seemed to achieve nothing more than a sore head, and so Solonn pushed that particular matter aside for the time being.
With the mysteries of the capture ball no longer first and foremost on his mind, Solonn’s focus shifted to the human who stood just a short distance in front of him. Since his captor was no longer wearing the heavy clothing that had protected her from the cold of Shoal Cave, she looked somewhat smaller now, less bulky, and with her head no longer covered by a hood, he could now see her brown, shoulder-length hair.
The next thing that Solonn noticed about his present situation was that the environment into which he had been brought was too warm for his liking. “Er… excuse me,” he said as he looked up at the human. “It’s a little too warm in here… could you do anything about that?”
The human merely stared at him in response.
Solonn repeated his request. This time, his captor cocked her head a bit and smiled at him, but she still did not answer, nor did she make any move to change the temperature.
It was then that Solonn realized that the human was not understanding a single word that he was saying. This didn’t make sense to him; every time before that Solonn had encountered a member of another species, they had been as able to understand him as were those of his own kind. Why, he wondered, was the human any different?
Solonn wondered then if she might understand him if he were to speak to her using a human voice. As he considered it, his mind brought forth the memories of her voice as he had heard it back in Shoal Cave, and he felt quite sure that he could pull off an imitation of that voice.
With that confidence, he was about to give the voice a try—but then he stopped himself. He had just been struck by the realization that doing these “impressions” was what had gotten him swept up into this situation to begin with. It was because he had revealed that talent that he had gotten mixed up with Sanaika’s gang and that now—it hit him all at once—he would likely never see home again.
In sudden panic, Solonn began to tremble, and the human responded to this right away. “Oh, poor little guy,” she said, looking upon him with a pitying expression as she knelt down upon the floor in front of him. “It’s okay; you have nothing to be scared of.”
She opened her arms to Solonn, which only confused him. She then wrapped her arms around him and tried to lift him up, but he was quite heavier than she had expected. Solonn, meanwhile, did not like what she was doing. For a moment, his instincts took over, and he tried to wriggle free of her grasp. He just barely managed to stop himself short of biting her.
Finally, sensing both the futility of her efforts and the snorunt’s aversion to what she was trying to do, the human gave up and let go of Solonn. Shaking the coldness of her contact with the ice-type from her hands, she stood and went to fetch a pillow from the bed. She placed it on the floor as something on which Solonn could sit and perhaps be more comfortable. The snorunt ignored it completely, giving her a penetrating stare.
The human sighed. “Okay. I’ll tell you what: I’ll go and get you something nice, something that I promise you’ll like. In the meantime, I’ll give you a chance to get acquainted with a couple of your new friends. You’ve already met Aaron and Brett, but I have three other pokémon friends. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to meet Sei until she gets out of the pokémon center; she’s been pretty sick. But you can go ahead and introduce yourself to these two.”
She removed two capture balls from her belt and released their occupants in twin surges of white light. A skarmory materialized at her right, while a claydol appeared at her left. There was something strangely disconcerting on a very primal level about the former, but Solonn couldn’t quite place what that something was.
“This is Raze,” the human introduced as she pointed at the skarmory, “and this is Ominous,” she said, pointing at the claydol. “Oh… I forgot to introduce myself, didn’t I?” she realized aloud with a small giggle. “My name is Morgan Yorke. Anyway, these pokémon are some of my best friends, and I just know that ultimately you and I are going to get to be really good friends, too. See you in a few minutes!” she said, then left the room.
For a moment, the other two pokémon just stared at Solonn, and he seemed unable to do anything but stare back. He quickly began to wish they would stop it, particularly with regards to Ominous—it was just more than a little unnerving to him to have that many eyes staring at him from the same face.
All those eyes left no room on Ominous’s face for a mouth; therefore, it was quite a surprise for Solonn to hear the claydol speak to him then—although it didn’t sound as though Ominous was actually saying
anything. Its “voice”, if it could truly be called that, consisted of a rapid-fire series of low-pitched, hollow-sounding noises. Solonn got an immediate sense that he could never replicate that
voice, no matter how he tried.
“With your brain
, nitwit!” Raze suddenly squawked, interrupting the claydol.
Ominous winced, closing all of its eyes in unison. <I apologize,> it said. <I should not still be forgetting about that…>
A second after Ominous had spoken, Solonn realized, astounded, that he’d not actually heard
its words. Rather, even while its actual voice had rattled on incomprehensibly in Solonn’s ears, the words the claydol was conveying had sounded within his mind, just as one of his own thoughts would do. Solonn wasn’t quite sure what to make of this phenomenon.
<As I was attempting to say,> Ominous proceeded then, <the name by which Morgan called me is not my actual name. My true name is Oth.>
“My name really is
Raze, though,” the skarmory said slightly dismally. “I was born in this house, and that’s when Morgan gave me that name. I don’t think it’s such a great name, but…” She ruffled her magenta-feathered wings in the skarmory equivalent of a shrug. “So, what name did she give you?” Raze asked then.
“Er… I don’t know,” Solonn admitted. “My real name is Solonn, though.”
<She must not have given him his new name yet, then,> Oth supposed.
“Maybe she isn’t going to give me another name,” Solonn said.
“Oh, she’ll give you one,” Raze said. “Maybe you’ll like it, and maybe you won’t. But you’ll be grateful for it, and also grateful that you got landed with Morgan and not some other coordinator, because with some coordinators, you would just get called ‘Snorunt’.”
“…Coordinators?” Solonn had never heard of such a thing.
Raze cocked her head at Solonn. “You have a lot to learn,” she said.
“Then you have a lot to explain,” Solonn countered. “What’s a coordinator?”
“Well, a coordinator is your human coach and partner for the contests,” Raze explained. “And before you ask: in a contest, you just basically have to show off your powers. You use them in ways that impress humans. In your case, that means you can’t just blow a couple of snowflakes at them and expect to win.”
Somehow, the idea of “showing off” for the humans was less than appealing to Solonn—in fact, it rather reminded him of being ushered off by Kashisha to show off for her friends. “Wait, why would I want to do this, anyway?” he asked. “What’s in it for me?”
Raze’s yellow eyes suddenly glittered with zeal. “I’ll show you!” she said eagerly, then speedily crossed the room. “Come here!” she beckoned gleefully, standing before a bookcase that was just a bit shorter than she was. After a moment of skeptical hesitation, Solonn complied. “Have a look at these!” Raze said cheerfully once the snorunt had joined her, inclining her head toward something sitting on the bookcase’s top shelf.
“I can’t see up there, Raze,” Solonn said.
“Oh… oops,” Raze said with a small, embarrassed laugh. Somewhat awkwardly, she used her beak to pick up the thing that she was trying to show to Solonn and set it down on the floor between herself and the snorunt.
Solonn peered at the object that had just been placed before him. It was a large, flat, plastic case. Through its transparent lid, he could see a collection of twelve small trinkets: colored ribbons, each adorned with a little metal medallion. The case also contained slots for eight more of these ribbons.
“The red ones are mine,” Raze said, positively radiating pride, “the yellow ones are Oth’s, and the green ones are Sei’s. Now, yours
, if I’m not mistaken, are gonna be blue.”
“Hm.” You sure are assuming a lot, Raze…
Solonn thought. It was going to take more than just a bunch of ribbons to convince Solonn that these “contests” were anything of which he should like to have any part. “So,” he spoke up after a long moment’s silence, looking up from the ribbon case and right into Raze’s eyes, “this is what Morgan keeps us for?”
“Well, yeah, pretty much,” Raze answered. She then put the ribbon case back up on top of the bookcase, taking one last moment to admire her ribbons before turning her attention fully to the snorunt.
“So… suppose I didn’t want to be a part of these contests… would she take me back home, then?” Solonn asked.
There was a prolonged silence. Raze and Oth exchanged awkward glances.
“Well?” Solonn pressed.
<Solonn…> Oth began hesitantly. <Morgan had been seeking a snorunt to train for entry into contests for quite some time. She has spent many an hour composing routines and strategies for you… I do not imagine that she would want for her plans to go to waste, Solonn.>
“Well, maybe she can just go find some other snorunt for the job,” Solonn suggested. “Someone who actually wants
<I do not believe you would really want that,> Oth said. <You do not truly wish for another snorunt, possibly one of your friends, to be taken from his or her home just so that you can return to your own.>
Solonn stared agape at Oth for a moment. The claydol was completely right; Solonn did not even try in the slightest to contradict it.
“This… this is your home now, Solonn,” Raze said, knowing the consolation to be futile even as she offered it. “You’ll get used to it eventually; I know you will.”
“Yeah, of course you
can say that,” Solonn muttered, not really bothering to make himself inaudible. “You were born here.”
“I—” Raze began to counter, but she couldn’t quite find the right words with which to respond and thus abandoned her comeback with a sigh.
It was then that the door opened as Morgan returned, and she was not alone. Accompanying her was another human female, slightly taller and with shorter, darker hair.
“There he is,” Morgan said as the two entered, indicating Solonn with her hand. “What do you think of him?”
“Oh, he’s adorable,” the other human remarked. She stooped slightly to come a bit closer to the snorunt’s eye level. “Hi,” she said in a friendly tone. “Let me introduce myself. I’m Eliza, Morgan’s mother.” She extended her arms to Solonn with an expecting gaze.
“He doesn’t do hugs,” Morgan informed her.
“Oh… Well, that’s all right,” Eliza said, withdrawing her arms and straightening her posture. “What’s his name?” she then asked.
“I’ve decided to call him Azrael,” Morgan replied.
Solonn gave her a funny look. That’s really the best you could come up with?
“Oh, that’s lovely,” Eliza commented.
Morgan smiled in response to her mother’s remark. She then brought a small, polystyrene bowl forward, holding it out in front of Solonn.
Distracted by the arrival of the new human, Solonn hadn’t even noticed that Morgan had been holding the bowl. He now stared at it with uncertainty, edging somewhat closer to it in order to get a look inside. He saw that the bowl contained something that looked more or less like snow but was bright blue in color.
“This is for you,” Morgan told him. “Try it, it’s really good.”
Solonn gazed into the bowl for another second or two, then turned a skeptical gaze toward Morgan.
“Go on, it’s tasty. I promise you’ll like it,” Morgan tried to assure him.
Still wearing an expression of doubt, Solonn nonetheless took the bowl from Morgan’s hands. He continued to hesitate for another long moment before unenthusiastically dipping his hand into the blue snow, scooping some of it up, and putting it in his mouth. The blue snow had a flavor that he could never have imagined—he conceded to himself at once that it was good as Morgan had said it would be, if not moreso.
However… the knowledge that his life had become one whose sole purpose was to perform tricks for people’s amusement like some kind of jester and that there seemed to be no way to return to the life that he’d previously known was now attending heavily upon him and leaving a rather unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach. He did not feel like eating. With a despondent sigh, he set the bowl down and turned away from Morgan.
“Hey… are you feeling okay?” Morgan asked worriedly.
Solonn did not respond to her, neither then nor following her several subsequent attempts to get through to him. More than once, she tried to tempt him with that blue snow, but he continued to refuse it. He could not change this new life, but for a while, at least, he could try to ignore it and pretend that it wasn’t happening.
* * *