Daron walked in to the driving section of the truck where Dani was wiping the driver's seat, removing the mess after last night. Daron plopped down on the passenger seat.
"What are you doing?" asked Daron curiously.
"Wiping the seat," answered Dani.
"I can see that. Why?"
"Espeon came looking for sex and teleported away when I came. So I've got to clean the seats before we can go," answered Dani calmly; the band was pretty free with their ideas and they didn't mind human/pokemon sex.
Basically all members of the band at some stage had had sex with at least one of the pokemon. It was sometimes to distress and sometimes to relieve sexual tension. In the band itself Rei showed no interest in anyone and Dani and Kirsten were in a relationship and since none of them were gay that didn't leave too many non-pokemon options. The only real problem was that Espeon and Ninetails were the only females up for sex and there were eight males. At Dani's words Daron instantly leapt up cursing.
"Why didn't you tell me before I sat down!?" he demanded, hitting his pants to clean them.
"I already wiped that seat," explained Dani, "It's clean."
Daron eyed him suspiciously, "Yeah. If you say so."
Rei opened the small travelling fridge and looked inside for breakfast. It was almost completely empty; there were a few cans of beer and one lonely egg.
"Where's the food?" Rei asked.
"In the fridge," replied Kirsten even as she was patiently grooming Ninetails' long fur.
"It's not? Hey, Rick!"
Rick was outside playing catch with Jolteon. He was a talented cook and made most of the food the band ate.
"What?" he asked, popping his head in front of the door.
"Where's the food? You made supper last night."
"Oh yeah. Didn't I tell you it's all gone?" he asked, chuckling nervously.
Rei and Kirsten glared at him.
"Okay. Okay. I'll go get some more," he relented, "Come on Jolteon. Let's get some food for the starving masses."
Jolteon barked once, dropped the tennis ball he'd been holding and followed his trainer.
Rick wandered blindly through the town, having absolutely no idea where to buy find food. He'd tried to talk to some people but they'd just ignored him completely. When Kirsten had gone into town with Ninetails everyone had openly stared at her but now they made a very determined attempt to avoid even glancing at Rick and Jolteon. There was a strong gust of wind and a paper flashed past Rick's face. He was sure he'd just seen a picture of the band on it.
"Jolteon! I need that paper!" he shouted quickly as it flew rapidly away.
Jolteon took aim at the fluttering paper, his hairs stood up hardened before a handful of them were shot at the paper, pinning it to the trunk of a dead tree.
"Good job, Jolteon," said Rick.
He walked over to the paper and took it off the tree. There was a picture of the band and their pokemon and underneath was a paragraph.
Avoid these people. You will not communicate with them for any reason. If you are caught in violation of this command you will be punished.
It was signed simply by The Noblemen.
"Now this is strange," commented Rick, stuffing the paper into a pocket to show the rest of the band.
While he was deciding what to do next he finally saw a shop that was selling food. He went over to it and asked to buy some bread and fruit, which was all that they seemed to stock. The shopkeeper avoided his gaze and pretended that he didn't see him. He was also extremely nervous, evident in the bead of sweat that was trickling down his forehead.
I'll never get anywhere this way, thought Rick.
He took some fruit and bread, tossed some money on the counter and walked out.
"I'm back!" called Rick, "and have I got an interesting tale for you."
"Food first," ordered Rei.
"I agree," stated Brian, "I need something to eat."
"There's not anything interesting," apologised Rick as he put the food on a tray lying on his bed, "But I don't know the city and the residents are far from helpful."
"What happened?" asked Kirsten.
"Nothing much. In fact not a single thing. Everyone absolutely refused to acknowledge that I was there. I swear I could have ordered Jolteon to start electrocuting people and now one would have even looked."
"I thought everyone here was curious about pokemon," said Dani.
"Read this," Rick handed him the piece of paper.
"What's it say?" asked Brian.
"It basically says that anyone who looks, talks to or otherwise notices us will be punished. Whatever that's supposed to mean."
Dani shrugged the note off, "We can't expect to be welcomed everywhere. It's very odd but we were moving on anyway."
"Do you think it's somehow related to those people who attacked us last night?" asked Daron.
"Could be," answered Dani, "But I'd rather know who these ‘noblemen' are."
"Let's just get out of here," requested Kirsten.
"Just after breakfast. We'll find another place. Hopefully a friendlier place."
Dani drove the truck away from the first town where they'd been ostracised along a dirt road that headed deeper into the new, unknown land. The ground was becoming more densely covered in vegetation as they went. Soon they were driving through tall trees that stretched so high that you couldn't see the tops from inside the truck. There was little undergrowth though and the trees had sufficient distance between them for you to see fairly far in the distance. While he was driving Dani spotted the occasional fleeing pokemon in the forest but still far fewer than he would have expected to see.
After one day of driving The Howl from beyond stopped for the night. Espeon used her psychic powers to see whether there was anyone who was nearby, just in case they were being followed and would be attacked tonight as well. She didn't find anything so everyone ate what was left of the food Rick had brought back with him and then went to sleep.
The following morning there was no breakfast and not even anything in the forest that looked edible so they started again without food.
"You know it was really bad planning for us to leave without any food," commented Daron from the passenger seat.
"Hmmm," mumbled Dani in acknowledgement.
"Normally we'd be able to catch or find something to eat but this whole land seems very desolate."
Dani shrugged, "Maybe it's the pollution from that city. If the others are also like that this whole place could be a very bad place to live."
"That's possible but then where did the people in that city get their food from? I haven't seen any farms or anything."
Dani was quiet. The trip/tour wasn't exactly off to a great start and he didn't really need to trouble himself over what was wrong with the inhabitants of this new land.
"We'll probably find out more along this road," he answered finally.
It was about three in the afternoon when the next city came into view. Much to their disappointment it looked pretty much the same as the last one; dreary and depressing with a cloud of smoke hanging overhead.
"Deja vu," muttered Brian as he looked out of a window in the living compartment.
"What?" asked Kirsten, looking up from the book she'd been reading.
"We've arrived at the new town and it looks just like the last one."
"No kidding?" asked Kirsten, looking out the window, "Well that sucks. I guess as long as the people here are better than back there we'll be okay."
"As long as they have some food," corrected Rick, "I'll go get some as soon as we arrive. That way even if everyone starts treating us like we have the plague we won't starve."
As they Dani drove the truck through the city streets it attracted a fairly large number of inquisitive glances.
"We going to do another show?" asked Daron.
"That's what a band usually does on tour," answered Dani,
"But maybe that's why we were treated like we were," mused Daron, "Maybe they hate our music."
"There's only one way to find out."
Due to the city being situated in the middle of a forest there wasn't a lot of open space so Dani just parked the truck in what seemed to be the town square.
"I hope we don't get a parking ticket," joked Dani.
"Well I'll go buy some food now," stated Rick, "Before we get locked out of everything"
"Xenophobic?" offered Rei as an answer to the previous town's hostility.
"That's an idea," agreed Brian, "We have suddenly shown up and are extremely different to them."
"We'll find out soon enough," said Dani, "Go and advertise our performance tonight. Rei and I will set up."
Everyone reluctantly agreed, no one wanting to have much contact with this town's people after their previous reception.
"But I think it'll be better if you keep your pokemon in their pokeballs," suggested Dani.
Rick was just leaving a food shop with a couple of stuffed bags that were filled with supplies when he heard someone making an announcement that didn't sound highly complementary to the band. He snuck as close as he could to the sound and saw the meeting by peering around a corner. He could see a group of three people, surrounded by many more, spreading rumours about the band. The worst part was that everyone appeared to believe them. Careful to avoid being seen Rick hurried back to the truck to report what he'd just witnessed.
Daron, Brian and Kirsten were calling out the usual information about that night's performance when someone threw a stone at them. Luckily Brian noticed and was able to catch it otherwise it would have hit Kirsten in the head.
"Get lost, dissenters!" shouted a member of a crowd that was gathering.
"Yeah," agreed another, "The King will have your heads for your treachery!"
"What treachery?" demanded Brian, "We haven't done anything!"
"Stop protecting that fat piloswine!" another townsman yelled at the first one, "He's a criminal!"
"Death to the king!" shouted another.
Daron motioned to Brian and Kirsten as a fight began to break out between the two opposing sides. Soon what were unmistakably policemen arrived on the scene. Taking their cue from the other people who'd now begun to flee as fast as possible Daron, Brian and Kirsten ran back to the truck as fast as possible.
Coincidentally Rick, Daron, Brian and Kirsten all arrived back at the truck at the same time. Dani and Rei had got the stage out but still needed to set up all the instruments and other equipment.
"I think we should cancel and leave," recommended Rick as soon as everyone was together, "I saw some guys giving out a whole bunch of lies about us. They were saying things like we were trying to start some rebellion against the king or some other weird thing. I'm not sure where the ideas came from but I don't think we'll be welcome here."
"That's just what we were going to suggest," added Daron, "We were attacked by a mob but luckily another mob fought with them and then we all ran back here after the police showed up."
"The innocent have nothing to fear," stated Dani, "And the show must go on."
"Hello? Did you not hear us?" asked Kirsten, We're saying the town is getting violent. I was almost hit with a rock!"
"You people know me. I don't scare easily and I'm not going to cancel my music just because some people don't like us. If there is a fight we've all got pokemon. Highly trained pokemon, I might add."
"That's not the point," protested Brian, "I like a battle as much as the next guy but we're talking riots and all here."
Rei said nothing but looked to Dani for guidance. Everyone else was also staring at him, only with slightly more hostile looks.
"Fine," sighed Dani, "How about if we squeeze into the back of the truck but don't put out the stage? We'll be able to fit and in an emergency I can drive as away without us needing to pack anything up."
"Violent mobs. Blood. Death," Rick reminded Dani, "Not anything I want right now."
"We can handle it. This is our life, guys. We can't just abandon our way of life."
"What you think?" asked Kirsten, "Should we do it?"
"It's risky," stated Daron, "I don't like it."
"Please!" begged Dani, trying his best to give a sad puppy face but not quite succeeding.
"That doesn't work for you," Brian informed him, "I'm alright with his suggestion. If we need to we can leave."
"Alright," gave in Kirsten, "We'll do your little concert. But let's keep it short. I doubt anyone will show up anyway."
"Thanks guys," said Dani, "It means a lot to me. Now I'll go think of what songs to do while you guys take down the stage and set up the rest of the equipment."
With that Dani went to sit on his bed and plan what they'd do.
"Okay guys," said Dani, "I've chosen just five songs. We've done them all a lot of times so it should be easy."
"Which songs are they?" asked Daron.
"Here," Dani handed him a handwritten list.
All the other members of the band squeezed together to read what it said on the paper.
"Are there any problems?" asked Dani, "You can do them all without any more practice?"
"I know them well," answered Kirsten.
"Piece of cake," replied Rick.
As expected the crowd that had turned out was rather small but it wasn't so small that it would be a waste of time to play. They started off slowly but after the first song the rest were all intense and fast. Throughout the performance the band's pokemon stayed off the stage to see whether their appearance for the final song would also shock this audience. They hoped not but this was an unknown land after all and no one knew what to expect.
The last song was Reign of the Ash Hound which would include usually include a mock battle between Brian's charizard and Dani's mightyena. Due to the lack of space that wouldn't be possible this time but they would still have the two pokemon on stage. Jolteon activated a smoke machine that flooded the stage with a dense fog to add atmosphere as Rei began to play, accompanied by Kirsten singing scales.
Against that background Dani added his own voice as Charizard emerged onto the stage, "The king of flames, the dragon liege, a power all fire would aspire to be. Ruled all his lands with a burning brand. Who could challenge his might?"
All the while through the slow narration Charizard showed off by flexing his muscles and flapping his wings, causing the dense smoke to curl up in a most awe-inspiring way.
"Long burned his light but after light follows the unstoppable night."
That was the cue for a change in music. Rei and Kirsten stopped as Rick, Daron and Brian began a much heavier tune. Now Mightyena emerged. All the while the crowd was completely hooked on what was happening on stage.
The pace of the singing picked up now as Mightyena and Charizard strutted on either side of the stage, glaring intimidatingly at each other, "Now darkness rose and the king chose to face him on his very own. Alone the two lords began their war and blood was spilt from tooth and claw."
Charizard and Mightyena were now making as if they were attacking but were actually only snapping at each other across the distance. Mightyena made a big show of one bite and charizard fell to the floor.
"But a fatal blow then ceased the glow and the world fell silent once again. Triumphant and victorious. Ruling over all. The shadow had slayed the king of heat of flame and shalt rule for evermore in the eternal umbra of the moon!"
As Dani cried out moon Mightyena raised its muzzle and let out a loud howl of victory, the drums were struck loudly and then all the music ceased.
Dani had just finished thanking the crowd for coming when a group of people now spoke up in the crowd. They weren't talking to The Howl from Beyond but to the rest of their townsfolk.
"You heard what he said!" shouted a man, "It's been too long! We must kill the king! Slay the tyrant and rule ourselves!"
The crowd erupted in a thunderous applause and began to chant, "Kill the king! Kill the king!"
The people who'd started everything produced a collection of weapons from a hidden location and began handing them out. Sickles and scythes, swords and knives, axes and clubs even a couple of lethal crossbows were distributed to the worked-up-crowd.
"Uh, Dani," began Kirsten, "I think we should leave ... right about now."
"Agreed," added Rei.
"Let's go, man," said Rick.
"Good plan," agreed Dani as the crowd worked itself into a frenzy.
The Howl from Beyond had no intention in getting involved in the revolt and weren't going to risk their lives and property by sticking around either. Dani ran to the front of the truck and started up the engine while Brian and Rick closed the side of the truck so nothing could fall out or any violent rioters get in. Dani put the truck in gear and began to drive off just as a building was ignited by the mob.
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16 years ago