For the second time that day Dustin found himself being dangled high off the ground. This time he was face to face with a particularly fat man whose smell of dirt and sweat almost made him sneeze. Dustin narrowed his eyes and restrained the urge to hiss. The man (who was in a desperate need of a shave) continued to analyze him like a piece of meat, turning him this way and that.
"What odd coloring," the man mumbled, the stale smell of sweat somehow becoming stronger. Dustin wrinkled his nose, contemplating whether he should swipe the man or not. Would Angela really care if such a guy was hurt?
The world shifted. Then it stopped. The man was further away, his expression now stark surprise.
"He's mine." (Angela!
) "And I would appreciate it if you didn't just grab him off the ground."
The man seemed like he wanted to say something but stopped midway when he caught sight of Angela. Dusting guess she just used a particularly effective scowl, but from his vantage point he couldn't tell. By the time Dustin was dropped back to the floor, the man was gone and Angela was going somewhere again. This time Dustin was right at her side.
Can you turn me back now?
he sourly asked.
Angela did not say a word. Instead she pointed up front. Dustin followed her finger and found the giant structure they were going to enter. Unlike every other tower of stone this one seemed to be in pretty good shape. Of course, though, the closer they got the more he could see of weather erosion. It was a shame, really. Those odd letters were now almost indistinguishable and looked more like crude carvings.
"I'll need your help when we're farther in," Angela told him, stopping at a table set up before the entrance of the temple. When she said no more and began to chat with the guy in charge of the station, Dustin glanced around. Just like Angela many trainers were signing up to gain entrance to the Ruins. At least the people in charge of providing entrance to the Ruins were organized.
So you'll turn me back once we're in deep?
he asked, just to clarify, when the witch was given her pass and allowed to enter.
He was given a nod, but Dustin hardly noticed it. The moment they walked through the stone entrance and left the sunlight behind, Dustin felt a wave of shivers run up his spine. A harsh gasp was forced out of him, and out of instinct, he looked around for any predators. Nothing but thick darkness met his eyes. Still it took him a couple of heartbeats for him to ease himself out of his tense stance.
<"Wha—what was that?">
"What are you blabbering about?"
Dustin tore his eyes away from the shadows. Angela was already turning a corner, one hand on a wall he was starting to make out. Why was the darkness here so much more difficult to see through?
Didn't you feel that?
Shooting one last glance at the sunlit entrance Dustin joined Angela, body unusually low to the ground. It gave me the creeps!
"You're just jumpy," Angela said, dismissing him by beginning to walk farther into the Ruins. She trailed one hand on the wall, motioning for Dustin to take the lead. Dustin was not one to complain since he was the one with the night vision, but it was still unnerving to be in the front lines. Feeling the last of the daylight's warmth leave him he took the lead, raising his head and perking his ears for any sounds.
Faintly, at the edge of his hearing, Dustin made out the travels of other trainers. Chatter echoed like chirping, rising and falling and then eventually dying out, leaving them alone. Dustin looked at the walls that seemed a bit too close for comfort. Little by little the engravings began to get clearer, yet they were still as odd as the ones outside. Down here, though, there were hundreds of them, seemingly covering every space his eyes happened to land on. With a prickle of fear the Meowth looked towards his paws. They were even covering the floor!
Soon, despite the fear that laid like acid in his stomach, Dustin tried to make sense of the not-letters. Some not-letters began to appear more than others, like vowels in the English language. Others were sometimes always paired with another, like the English letters Q and U. Despite himself Dustin found it interesting. He almost forgot he was deep underground, separated by tunnels upon tunnels of stone from other humans and Pokémon. Almost. He still found it unsettling that there was no sound except their breathing, which seemed to get shallower with each step.
Dustin jumped and nearly tripped on his paws. Turning around, walking backwards now, he glared at Angela. What the hell was that for?
"I told you," she simply said, cocky smile shining through the darkness. "I told you there was magic involved."
he drawled out, still turned around. And how do you know that?
"I can feel it in the walls." Angela turned her nose up, as though the question was too dumb for her to answer. "It's not much, but there's definitely magic in here. I don't know what kind, though. Who knows? It might be a whole new type of magic!"
Dustin flinched as her voice bounced off the enclosed tunnel. Scowling and happy that the gloomy surroundings hid it, Dustin surmised that he could care less. The whole place gave him the creeps; even his tail was twitching more than usual. The air was stale, empty of life and full of something ancient and forbidding, making it hard to breathe if he stopped to think about it. From the way Angela casually walked, eyes searching and full of curiosity, she didn't seem to feel it. He wanted to tell her, one last time, that this did not seem like a good idea, then thought better of it. Perhaps she didn't feel it because it a was a Pokémon thing, some inbred instinct that manifested itself as alarm bells in his head.
he intoned in a bored (mental) voice, but say, mind changing me back now?
"A little farther up," she replied, once again ignoring him as she dug through her bag for a flashlight; she wanted to see these not-letters for herself.
A little farther up?
Dustin echoed, incredulous. If he wasn't on four paws he would have motioned to the suffocating tunnel and the thick stone. We're deep enough where they wouldn't hear us scream, let alone see us!
"Do you want
people to see you?" she snapped, switching on her flashlight and enveloping him in a wave of pale yellow light.
Of course I don't!
he thought back. But there's no on—!
One of his backpaws stepped on nothing. Dustin only had time to gasp before he fell head over heels backwards, down, down a slope of rock. A second later he heard Angela's scream, eerily far away.
Dustin had the wind knocked out of him as stone met flesh. He groaned and faintly felt Angela land next to him. What the hell happened? Blearily he looked up, managing to detect the slope they had tumbled down from. It seemed stories high, like the mouth of a giant serpent. Another groan, this one of frustration, left him. It was going to be impossible to make it back up. Sensing the feeling of defeat he laid back down, ears and tail lank. Now would Angela listen to reason?
"At least we got out of the tunnel." Angela sounded winded but no worse for wear than him. He heard scraping, a clatter, and then the light of the flashlight was back. Standing but still feeling as though they had dropped to the center of the Earth Angela began to walk around. "This looks like some kind of chamber."
Now that he thought about it the air was suddenly not so intoxicating. His whiskers trembled as though realizing that the place they landed in was much, much bigger. Dustin pushed himself up to his paws, walking up beside Angela and using the flashlight's brilliance to take stock of his surroundings.
The room was
a chamber. The ceiling was at least twenty-feet above their heads while the opposite wall seemed a football field away. Looking down Dustin saw there was no writing on the floor. Oddly enough that made his insides curl. Surely the lack of not-letters meant something.
"Look, there's writing on these walls, too."
The moment Dustin saw Angela drifting off to the strange words, his blood ran cold. Those alarm bells were clamoring his head, shrill and out of control. He felt his claws slide from his paw pads in preparation for something he couldn't quite see yet. Dustin followed almost in a crouch.
Angela, please, come back.
He was surprised by his pleading words, and by the way Angela stopped she was, too. The familiar reached her side, eyes never leaving the wall. It was feet away now, tall and foreboding. The shadows on it shifted and wiggled until even Angela saw them. She stepped back, flashlight now held in a deadly grip.
Something dark and without a definite form detached itself from the writing. Then another, and another, until at least a dozen shadows bobbed before their eyes. Dustin bared his fangs and felt his claws scrape against the rock underfoot. Angela, on the other hand, found herself taking a couple of steps forward. Dustin was about to shout at her to get out of the way until he looked up and saw the shadows for what they really were. The words died on his tongue.
These were the not-letters! Flabbergasted, Dustin straightened. They must have been no taller than a foot, and if it wasn't for those lone, unblinking eyes each one had they would have been sort of cute. Each one was contorted into a shape that resembled a letter of the Roman alphabet, but unless they stood still long enough they were far from familiar. The alarm bells rang again.
"They seem to be Pokémon," Angela mused to herself, holding out a hand. Dustin felt the fur along his spine rise at the motion. One that looked like an R whose legs weren't exactly the same size came to bump its head, if it could be called that, against the witch's fingers. The others began to revolve around Angela. Their black forms began to blur, their eyes still unblinking.
Dustin wasn't particularly unnerved until they began to sing.
Or hum, if he wanted to be technical. While Angela's expression creased into thinking mode, Dustin wanted nothing more than to cover his ears. Their humming bounced from one end of the room to the other, swirled in the corners and flew up the slope they had fallen from.
"Hey, what are the saying?" his master asked. She was still entranced in the Pokémon's movements, and the song was giving Angela an uncharacteristic smile.
I don't know,
Dustin told her. If these were Pokémon, why couldn't he understand them? Those alarm bells were clamoring again, louder than ever before. They're just...singing.
And with those words, everything stopped. The humming evaporated like smoke. The not-letters froze and simultaneously blinked, bringing a red aura to the sclera of their eyes. Dustin hissed and immediately got in front of Angela. Wisely she retracted her hand and retreated back. Though she still held her flashlight its light wasn't necessary. Blood-red brilliance lit up the chamber, throwing their shadows aside and mutating them into something unrecognizable.
Angela, you better run,
Dustin warned her.
The not-letters moved again, their own shadows like demons against the wall.
The letters attacked. Dustin crouched down and enveloped Angela and himself in a shimmering Protect. The Pokémon bounced back against the appearing dome of light like rocks, momentarily dazed. Angela tore off from the battle, the light of the flashlight weaving in and out of the red-tinted darkness. Dustin, despite his racing heart, stood his ground as the not-letters peeled themselves off the wall, ready to fight again.
A rumble shook the ground, and dirt began to rain down them. Dustin watched the approaching not-letters and readied a Shadow Ball. The shadows swirled around his frame, collecting in his fangs and manifesting themselves into something much more sinister. When a not-letter came in, its red aura brighter than ever, the Shadow Ball was launched and hit the group of enemies. For a moment, the world went black. By the time the not-letters rose again Dustin was off running after Angela.
"There's a doorway over here!" Angela's voice was tiny in the vast chamber, a whisper among the sudden humming the not-letters were voicing again. Dustin dared to glance behind him. He didn't like what he saw.
A not-letter sped ahead of the group, heading for Angela. As quick as her familiar she turned on her heel and held out a hand. White blinded all of them for a second, but Dustin could somehow tell her spell was weaker than it was meant to be. Not-letters were knocked back, some falling to the floor with a distressed cry. Angela continued on running, Dustin finally catching up to her.
Was that door opened before? Dustin wondered as Angela's mentioned exit was within sight. It didn't matter. Hopefully it lead to somewhere where they could lose the not-letters.
The moment they passed into the dark tunnel darkness fell. Angela froze in shock, letting Dustin charge right into her legs. They both stumbled, almost falling into a pile, until Dustin scrambled back. He was about to breathe out an apology (if he could regain his breath) until he noticed Angela was already walking deeper into the Ruins, her eyes on her still glowing hand; her flashlight was in the other hand, its beam illuminating their path.
"That spell was pathetic," she said aloud. Waving her hand, the glow disappeared.
Dustin looked back at the stone that now blocked the entrance to the tunnel, fur on end. It probably has something to do with the magic going on around here,
he offered, though he knew Angela's mind was already on that thought process. Looking over his shoulder again, hoping that those moving shadows weren't really there, he said, That's probably why those letters came alive.
"Or maybe they were Pokémon all along."
What are you—?
The ceiling rumbled again, just like when the not-letters had begun to attack. This time the trembles grew into a deafening roar. Dustin flattened his ears and looked up. His heart stopped in his chest.
Rock fell. Dustin jumped back just as a cloud of dust swarmed into the tunnel. Then the floor jumped, making him fall onto his side. Somewhere far away Angela yelled and cursed. There were words, probably directed at him, but they were muffled beyond recognition. Dustin forced himself up, legs still shaking. When he blinked away the dust, he saw nothing but stone.
Was that Angela? Dustin padded closer and put an ear against the rock. Somebody on the other side was pounding on the wall with all they had.
Angela? Are you okay?
"As okay as I can be," she voiced with irritation. The pounding stopped. Moments passed where Dustin heard words muttered in Latin. Then, "My spells suck. They can't break through the stone. Go ahead and try a Shadow Ball from your side."
Dustin frowned. A Shadow Ball? With how unstable the Ruins seem to be?
"My spells are doing nothing. I doubt you're going to bring the roof down us."
Though he still had his doubts Dustin told Angela to get back before he gathered the shadows around him. Somehow they seemed darker, more malicious. Was it because they were now basked in complete darkness, no flashlight to disrupt them from their slumber? Shouldering that thought for later, Dustin continued to make the sphere bigger and bigger. The Shadow Ball was hurled, it struck, but nothing but dust fell at his feet. Another one of Angela's curses floated from the other side upon noticing the small, but insignificant, tremble of the wall. Dustin stalked back to his original spot and sat, waiting for his next (and hopefully) better order.
"Look, let's try this: I'll turn you back human, and we'll try using our powers together, at the same time. Two magics will probably work better than one magic and Shadow Ball."
Dustin perked up at the idea. Go for it!
More Latin whispered through the tunnel. Though he waited as patiently as he could, after five minutes of still being a Meowth, Dustin had to speak up. Angela…?
"...You're still a Meowth, aren't you?"
Dustin felt his heart plummet to his stomach. ...Yeah.
"I guess my magic is being effected more than I thought."
So you mean you
can't turn me back?
He noticed he sounded whiny, like a spoiled child that didn't get his way, but this wouldn't be happening if Angela had turned him back when he had suggested. She was so stubborn like that.
"No, I can't, now stop complaining about it," she barked at him. Dustin stuck his tongue out at her and turned away from the wall. Yep, so stubborn.
He didn't know how long he sat there as Angela, from the sound of frustrated curses and strings of Latin, tried all the spells she had up her sleeve. She was persistent, he'd give her that, but she was just going to tire herself out. Growing bored and just irritated with the entire situation, Dustin laid down and rested his head on his paws. That's when he noticed the shadows on one part of wall seemed different. Squinting, he saw a possible way out of their predicament.
he began, a new tunnel opened here on my side. Since it seems we can't destroy the wall,
(Angela growled something about how she almost had it), we can try meeting up somewhere else.
"You want to separate?" was her incredulous response. "With those Pokémon around?"
If you haven't noticed,
Dustin cut in harshly, we're already separated. Staying in the same spot is not going to do us any good.
Getting up Dustin began to enter the new tunnel. The shadows seemed to thicken, as though happy to welcome another victim. So we're splitting?
This time Angela's voice was merely a whisper; he guessed she was already making her way further in. "We don't have any other choice."
Then he heard nothing.
A/N: As the prompt mandated, Round 1 ends with our characters trapped. I chose to separate them, but Angela will come back when the time is right.