The desert was no place for the Sawsbuck and Absol duo – the pair at the mercy of the violent and frequent sandstorms quick to buffet their bodies. The situation was becoming increasingly dire; the aggressive winds blinding and biting as the pair found themselves hopelessly lost within the valley of sand. However, there was an odd structure visible through the swirling grain. It was a looming, ominous building, out of place, watching over the sandy wasteland with an unforgiving glare. Unfortunately, it seemed like their best shot.
Head held close to the ground, the Sawsbuck trudged carefully through the sand, his remaining eye squinting against the elements. His body aching, legs warm with an unpleasant stinging sensation, the deer was only spared the brunt of the force by the foliage rustling on his antlers. With the extra protection, he had been courteous enough to suggest that his companion walk behind – his body providing a shield for her own fragile form. It was a good idea, a considerate plan to ensure both parties travelled with at least some protection from the howling winds, but both were quickly tiring. A less healthy pokémon would’ve have succumbed to the desert long ago, but as creatures of the law – both Harrow and Starling had the mental and physical capacity to deal with the bleakest circumstances. There was no way either would give up their fight for survival.
The distance between the duo and the castle was rapidly fading, only several painful strides left as the entrance came into view, taunting them with promise of safety. Harrow, the Sawsbuck leading the way, turned his head slightly, looking past his leg to catch glimpse of his battered companion.“Not far,”
He called back, loud and incredibly hoarse. One might think he had ingested half the sand in the desert with such a gravelly voice, often unintelligible to his company and giving the illusion of a rough persona. Harrow, although a rather intimidating presence was essentially a kindly soul. The death of his human and the mutilation of his face – covered by a tin mask as a means of easing his company – had injected a violent vengeance into his life, but he remained the same reserved, family-man at the day’s end. Catching glimpse of the canine’s firm nod, Harrow turned to focus his efforts on reaching the building, convinced that Starling’s drive would see her through to the end.
Whilst her slender frame was burning, white wispy fur now housing countless grains of sand, Starling refused to tire. A woman on a mission, the Absol took forceful steps, sinking into the ground with each footfall only to leap out with twice the energy. Nothing would hold her back. Years of work on the police force, a reputation as ‘top-dog’ despite prejudice against both her species and gender, Starling was adamant to keep up her identity as an immovable force for good. Eyes narrowed into slits, the female followed the deer closely, peeking to the side of her companion’s form to reassure herself that their haven was within distance. Her determination unfaltering, Starling quickened her pace, grateful when the roaring about her ears fell to a near silence.
Looking about the building, Harrow shuffled to one side, allowing Starling enough room to defend herself from the monstrous conditions outside. It was a lot larger than it seemed, spacious even as his single, hazel eye took in the structure. “You okay?”
His words ran together, gruff, as he turned to regard the dark-type. Starling gave a firm nod of her head, shaking the sand free from her previously pristine fur, navy eyes lingering on the Sawsbuck. “Fine. Thank you,”
She replied bluntly, taking the opportunity to make herself a little more presentable. Whilst she was never a vain pokémon, the Absol knew that appearances always gave insight into the personality. If she met others in such a mess, they’d be apt to judge her as some kind of weakling, or worse, a lunatic. Harrow had enough experienced with such judgement. The left half of his face, although seemingly normal from a distance, was in fact an intricately sculpted and painted mask – shielding a most appalling disfigurement. Only on closer inspection did company react. Harrow had concocted a list of the most famous reactions – fear, unpleasant pity, twisted curiosity and stunned silence. He could only dread to think how they would react were the mask absent. “What is this place, Harrow?”
He was brought out of his thoughts by Starling’s question, the Absol already on nimble feet, her natural beauty restored as she began to pad further into the structure. The deer gave a grunt, a subconscious sound produced out of habit. “Can’t say. Looks safe,”
He followed her, uncaring of his dishevelled appearance, small cuts littering his body from the storm’s effects. He had no reputation, no title to uphold. In fact, the sand-littered coat did nothing to minimize the immediate shock of the mask.
Starling had grown suspicious, alarmed even at the sight of blood splatters in the sand, choosing to remain quiet for the sake of her companion. She could tell Harrow was exhausted, the visible half of his face betraying his fatigue as he trudged wearily beside her. It wouldn’t be fair to burden him with more bad news, usher him out of the building just because of a few red drops. Besides, the Absol was confident that their combined strength would be enough to ward off any petty undead. However, there were soon voices. Not garbled, incoherent growling, but clear, emotive voices. The dark-canine was immediately on alert, head raised as she mentally judged the distance from the source. Harrow too had stopped, silencing his heavy breathing in a bid to catch the words in the distance. Exchanging a look with the female, he exhaled, walking forward with a newfound determination to discover what the hell had also survived that vicious sandstorm.“Harrow!”
The Absol whispered bitterly, the annoyance clear in her voice at the Sawsbuck’s reckless decision to blindly find the source of such noise. A frown looming over her eyes, she darted forward, weaving through the deer’s slim legs to stop directly in front of him. “What are you doing?! Just ‘cause they don’t sound infected, doesn’t mean you can trust them,”“Who said… anything about trust?”
He paused midsentence, a subconscious croaky gulp intruding his speech. Harrow had no intention of waltzing onto the scene – life had taught him that subtlety and caution was usually a necessity, and this situation was no different. Grunting at her immovable frown, he continued onwards down the hallway, Starling soon moving to stalk alongside him. "Arceus Christ! Don't eat me!"
The voice that followed the first sounds was far closer, male. Apparently quite a few pokémon had deemed the building a suitable resting point. The Absol would usually be happy at such news, but with the epidemic, the canine had naturally grown more careful in her judgements – not to mention the nature of the words she heard.“Oh dear,”
Harrow muttered sarcastically, a slight grin playing on his lips as he looked to his canine companion. “I don’t like this,”“I don’t like… the sandstorm,”
The deer gestured behind him, his eye holding a kindness regardless of his blunt words. He wasn’t exactly thrilled about their current situation, but if these strangers proved hostile, the duo was quite capable of taking care of themselves. An ex-cop and a murderer – Harrow was convinced that they would have a physical advantage against any bad company.
Soon, flames came into their line of vision. Starling, keen to trust her instincts immediately fell into the shadows, eyes wide as they absorbed the Typhlosion stood at the hallway’s end. Tensed, she kept her distance, quick to assess the pokémon’s strengths and weaknesses betrayed by his large physique alone. Harrow wasn’t quite as careful. Although his pace had slowed, he remained fearless, unwilling to alter his route due to an intimidating face. However, out of consideration, he tilted his head to the side in a vain bid to disguise his mask – albeit the fire-type didn’t look to sort to be unsettled by a tin face.“Where… are the others?”
Harrow spoke slowly, trying to make his words interpretable through the gruff voice he was burdened with. A shy smile flickered across his face as he caught glimpse of his companion in the darkness, seemingly unwilling to converse quite as openly. He licked his lips, struggling to suppress the habitual grunts and gulps that invaded his words. “We heard… more… than one voice,”
Starling was tensed, attentive for more sounds as her eyes strained to see past the fire-creature. Years in the police force left her ready for almost anything and the fact she only saw one being despite identifying at least three different voices, Starling was unsurprisingly hesitant. It could be a set-up. However, she caught glimpse of a small, brown creature stood on the opposite side of the fire-type. Peering past the stranger blocking her view, Starling’s serious expression did not change at the sight of the startled Eevee. Although it looked innocent enough, perhaps a creature to be pitied, the Absol remained detached. The epidemic did strange things to those fortunate enough to survive. Starling was rarely surprised at the barbarianism that many chose to embody, deeming them no worse than the misguided criminals who adopted such morals without the catalyst of a worldwide massacre. No one could be trusted.
(( I am so sorry for the length of this post. I tried and failed to stop typing. Dx Also, Harrow & Starling came down the same route as Iroh if that clears up location a bit, lol. ))