AGNPH Stories

Dead on Arrival by Disillusioned


Author's Chapter Notes:

A freezing gale, a mother's quest. A story told near a flickering flame.


Far away, in a distant land, lay the Ransei region, a place unknown to all but the most inquisitive of scholars. This land, said to have been created by a god, was home to, among other things, an everlasting feud. Wars were fought amongst petty lords where the passing of time was measured in the warrior's march, the rattle of armor, or the creak of wagons to carry the trophies of conquest where the common Trainer was but a myth to those that lived there. Few forces could hope to stop the endless cycle of battle; mere weather was only one more enemy to defeat.

But winter had come to this continent with one more tooth in its jaws, determined to lock the land in its icy embrace for as long as its grip could hold. Many of the island’s inhabitants had gladly withdrawn from its freezing effects, huddling in homes and brandishing heaters and hot drinks as their weapons against the nigh-unstoppable army of snowflakes that assaulted any traveler unfortunate to step into the whitened wasteland that had once been their home. Only the hardiest of humans would dare venture out, and so the world of the wild enjoyed a kind of peace, though its denizens, too, were forced to find their own defenses against the cold. Caves were one solace: dens and eyries others, with the odd hut afforded to the more creative of creatures. But some chose to migrate, leaving all they knew behind for better climes and happier days and risking the horrors of snowstorms and rivals to secure them.

It was in just such a storm that a family in the midst of just such a journey found themselves caught on their way to the warmer side of their world. This family was small: a mother, her younger son, and her two smaller children. All were of the Delphox line; though the mother did her best to lead the way with flame and mental prowess for hours on end, the children were not nearly as hardy as she.

“Mother?” one of them called, one of her Fennekin. The other, along with her Braixen, had trailed behind to the point of floundering in the snow, a condition that began, ever so slowly, to drive a spike of fear into the matriarch’s heart. “Mother, will we be there soon?”

“Yes, darling,” she said, doing her best to keep a reassuring smile firmly on her face as she scooped the child up, trudging back through the snow to collect the rest of her brood. “We’ll be at our new home soon.”

“Do you promise?”

The fox’s breath hitched in her throat. Dear gods, but her child looked so tired, with a ring of frost dancing among her eyelashes… and to sleep within the frost was death.

“Yes, darling. I promise.”

The little smile that her daughter gave her nearly broke the mother’s heart. But by that time, she had reached the rest of her children, and so she buried her feelings, scooping up the smaller child and taking her son by the hand in order to lead them back along the path to their destination. Or, at least, that was where she thought their destination was, for the flying snow had performed its task of covering her tracks quite wonderfully. Seeing this, her dread began to grow, threatening to unseat her sanity...

“Mother, what is that?”

With a snap of the head, the mother turned her gaze to follow her son’s outstretched finger. For a moment, the blizzard obscured her vision, the howling gale forcing her to shut her eyes against the cold.

When she opened them, there was someone standing before her, its shape protected against the storm by a long, hooded cloak. Before she could think, before she could react, the figure stretched out an arm, beckoning her forward. The storm, which had blown so fiercely not a moment before, chose that moment to die, and the Delphox suddenly found herself rubbing her eyes as the outline of an enclosed structure appeared before her, a set of wooden stairs coming to rest just before her feet.

“Come in, dear travelers,” the figure said. “The snow is not meant for your rest.”

For a moment, she hesitated, nearly fled back into the night without heed for the consequences. But a chirp from one of her daughters, now nestled safely in the crook of one arm, stayed her from that path.

Standing tall, the mother followed the stranger up the stairs and into the structure.

The enclosure that she stepped into was large, of obvious human make; though one of their kind might have attempted to construct such a building, no Pokémon’s designs could have dared to approach the majesty that was the product of humanity’s attention to detail. Certainly none could have made such a wonderfully spacious room look so perfect, with a fireplace matching the heat that she would have gladly given off in another circumstance.

But the mother cared little for such things as appearance.

“Who are you?” she asked, keeping her children close.

The cloak’s hood tilted to one side. “I? I am but a traveler, as you are; this, though, is my home. You are welcome in it, should you seek shelter from the frost.”

The mother’s eyes narrowed, fixing the hood with a stare as sharp as a knife’s edge. Slowly, she extended a tendril of thought, probing for the ulterior motive that she knew was there… and found a stunning defense blossoming from the figure’s brain, brushing aside her attempt at clairvoyance – and her mental stamina – as if swatting a fly. The recoil set her legs to wobbling; with a considerable effort, she managed to keep her balance.

“You… you are as I?” she managed to gasp. “One of the Mind?”

“One of the Mind, indeed,” the figure replied. “Do make yourself at home, sister.”


Before long, the mother and her family had comfortably settled into the confines of the stranger’s abode, her children set to play with the man’s blessing as long as they were not so loud as to wake his wife, who had, he said, fallen asleep in another room and would not particularly enjoy an interruption so soon after the commencement of her nap. But while they were quiet, the cabin was theirs, and so it was with a lightened heart that the mother sought her rest in one of the most comfortable places that she had ever seen: a human-made bed, with a mattress that sent her to her dreams in the barest space of a moment. Her children, too, were afforded these luxuries, though they chose to pursue their own antics far into the night before fatigue finally drove them to their long-deserved sleep.

But when all was quiet, and the only sound to be heard was of the outside storm, one of the mother’s brood found himself unable to remain in his bed, regardless of the comfort it provided. Though his mother’s acceptance of circumstances was comforting, some rebellious streak compelled the youngster to explore, to seek out something that his parent did not know about… anything, to be precise. And so, he removed himself from his sheets, padding along the wooden floor until he came to the large room in the cabin, the thing that their host had called the ‘living room’. Until a short while before, he and his siblings had been playing together in that area, tumbling and jumping to their hearts’ content while their mother and the stranger looked on.

But something, the child sensed, was wrong, for the stranger – though generous in his allowance of their staying in his home – had not seen fit to remove his cloak, despite the presence of four of the Flame heating each room to a near boil. Was he really what he seemed, or had his mother been tricked, and he left as the champion of his family against an unforeseen threat? Rubbing the stick in his tail for luck, he pressed on, approaching the chair in which the stranger had seen fit to use all through their stay. He was in it still, the child knew, dozing in order to give his ‘wife’ – and what a strange word! – her rest. Slowly, he edged forward, his shape hidden from view by the cloying darkness…

“Good evening, little flame.”

The boy jumped back, his courage instantly doused by the surprise he’d suffered. But, like all such youths, his spirit was impossible to quench; quickly regaining his feet, he challenged the figure.

“What are you? Do you want to hurt Mama?”

A rumbling noise assaulted his ears; while he bristled to hear it, and growled his resistance, the sounds that accompanied it – a whistle, a gasp – were soon unmistakable. The stranger was laughing. A rich, lyrical sound it soon became, calming the boy’s anger as mirth demolished the tension that had built up in the room.

“Oh, goodness, no,” the stranger said, once he had caught his breath. “But you, my dear child, seem to be quite the brave one. And, in fact, I’d like to reward you… if you’d be kind enough to set another log in my fireplace. I would hate to have the cold get into these old bones.”

With a hint of wariness, the fox nodded, reaching out and locating the necessary piece of wood. In a twinkling, the cheery blaze was rekindled, its comforting warmth penetrating them both as the stranger stretched out his hands towards the fire.

“Do you want to hear a story, youngling?” the man suddenly said, drawing the Braixen’s attention.

“I’m too old for bedtime stories,” the fox replied, puffing out his chest in indignation. Did this old-timer think him a child, like his siblings? “Besides, stories are stupid. Mama just tells us the same ones over and over again - I’ve heard them all already.”

The faintest hint of a smile played beneath the cloak’s hood. “My, my. What an impulsive young flame you are. But I speak not of children’s tales; this story is for the old, for those possessed of unflinching heart and peerless courage.”

Are you such a one, I wonder?”

The answer was immediate; the challenge to the youngling’s pride as the eldest of the children, accepted.


“Good,” the figure said. “Then sit, and listen. Warm yourself, as I have, for the night is cold, and my tale even moreso. But, perhaps… perhaps you will learn something from it, as well, for it concerns one of your own.”

“But things like people talk about never really happen, anyway.”

An answering grin was, for a moment, illuminated by the flickering blaze before them.

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”
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