Gifts of the Rain
Aiming to capture a Maractus.

The caravans were late this spring, and Shelby was worried about the oasis settlement. They were far from the normal trade routes and only a few merchants would risk the journey to their home. But if they didn’t arrive in the next few days, they might get caught in the summer’s monsoon storms. In the near parts of the desert, the ground was nearly flat and the powerful storms could destroy an unprotected wagon in minutes.
Shelby was a Maractus, standing a meter tall from her green roots to the tips of her pink ear blossoms. Her large yellow eyes surveyed the desert wastes looking for any sign of travelers. Her stumpy green arms shifted around nervously.
The rocky landscape had nothing large enough to hide approaching people, Pokemon, or wagons. Here and there some thorny bushes grew. Dry grasses stretched from cracks in the rock and blew lazily in the warm breeze. Further away, the ground sloped up into gentle windswept hills that ringed their basin. And everywhere were the heat shimmers of mirage, confounding the eye and making her watch job harder.
The little cactus let out a sigh of disappointment, turning back to the oasis. At the lowest point of the basin, a natural seep had made a large enough pool for a small settlement to live around. The denizens carefully nurtured small plots of soil outside the cluster of tents.
Only a few beings were moving about. Even though it was only spring, the daytime sun baked the ground and burned exposed skin. Shelby was one of the few creatures that enjoyed it, but even she hid inside when true summer rolled around. That was the time they depended most on the supplies they could buy from the traveling merchants.
As she approached the settlement, her friend Donovan looked up from his gourd plot. “Any luck, Shelby?” he asked.
“Not so far,” she said. “But there’s still time. They’ll be here.”
The bright red Charmeleon rolled his eyes at her, but she still saw his worry. “Better be sure about that,” he told her. “Shaman thinks the rains will come early this year. Maybe they’re staying away.”
Shelby didn’t respond to that and simply continued walking along the path. The formless worry was swelling in her gut. If the caravans skipped the run in the name of safety, it meant their community would have to survive until the fall wagons could roll in.
The medicinal gourds they grew were prized in some of the larger towns, and something about the water or soil here made them especially potent. They weren’t particularly nutritious though and the group couldn’t survive by eating them. Their food gardens weren’t nearly as prolific and withered during the summer.
Not to mention that if they ate the gourds they’d have nothing to trade in the fall for more food.
Shelby sighed again as she neared the center of their tent ring. The largest canopy belonged to Chief and to Shaman, two Pokemon who led and strengthened the group of people and Pokemon that had banded together at the oasis.
Chief was nowhere to be seen, but Shaman was hunched in front of the tent. He was a large, white-furred biped with a purple shawl draped around his neck. In one hand he held a fan made of feathers, which he was gently wafting at a limp-looking potted flower.
“Shaman,” she said as she approached. “I heard from Donovan that the rains might come early this year.”
“Yes,” he said. “My flower’s petals are unfolding. We will see rain in the evening, I think, and the harder storms will follow. The caravans will turn around rather than risk being destroyed or spending a summer here.”
Shelby looked up at the wisps of cloud in the sky. There certainly seemed to be more of them this afternoon. “We need the food they bring. If the caravans won’t come here, we’ll just have to go and meet them.”
Shaman nodded. “Yes, that may be our only chance. Too many will slow you down – like me,” he said with a frown. “My knees won’t let me keep up. But if you can find another to go with you, perhaps you can carry enough gourds to buy the food.”
The Maractus nodded. “I just saw Donovan. I’ll ask him to go with me.”
“Be careful you are not caught out in the storms either,” Shaman said. “We will be in worse shape if you or Donovan are killed. We have survived lean times, and we can do it again.”
Shelby pushed the flutter of worry down. “We won’t let you down, Shaman. We’ll be back with the food as quick as we can.”
He smiled at her, bowing his head as she turned and retraced her steps to Donovan’s tent.  
The Charmeleon was just leaning his hoe back up against the tent poles. “Donovan,” she called to him. “Shaman gave us his blessing to go and meet the caravans before they turn around. Gather up all the gourds you can carry in a sack, we’ll go find them and trade for the food we need.”
His fanged mouth hung open in shock, but only for a moment. He turned quickly with a sweep of his flaming tail. “Right. I’ve got a dozen that are dry and another few that will be soon, but I’ll take all of them.”
They shoved the gourds into a leather knapsack which they each carried a strap of. They walked together along the remnants of wagon ruts and stamped earth. The first mile was difficult as they tried to match each others strides, but by the time the sun was nearing the horizon they had settled into a comfortable rhythm.
They only slept a few hours that night, Maractus huddling close to the flame on Charmeleon’s tail to ward off the desert chill. The two were moving again before sunrise, and just around noontime they spotted the rounded canvas awnings of the caravan wagons.
“We made it!” Shelby said. They hurried towards the caravan which looked to be in the middle of turning around.
A pink and white figure stood on top of the wagon currently moving. He gestured wildly with slender arms to direct the motion of the wagon, then caught sight of them and waved vigorously. “Hello!” he called out.
Unfortunately (or perhaps deliberately) his wave conjured a plane of transparent force right before him. As the wagon backed up, the wall bumped into him and knocked him off the top to sprawl in the dust.
The crowd around the wagon laughed, and the figure stood and dusted himself off with a grin. “Hello!” he said again as they approached. “I was just turning around, the clouds look like storms are already rolling in and we won’t be able to get to your village.”
“We figured,” Shelby said. “So we hurried here to try and get what we could carry back to hold us until after summer.”
“So clever, so clever!” he said. “Yes, please, let us trade!”
They settled on swapping the gourds for a selection of shelled nuts, dried fruit, and heavily salted cheeses. They’d just finished packing the food into the satchel when the first fat, heavy drops of rain began plopping into the dust around them. The caravan doubled its efforts to turn around, and Shelby and Donovan hoisted the sack and began a quick jog down the path.
The raindrops fell faster and heavier, rumbling clouds above them seeming to open up and drench the pair. Nothing nearby would make a good shelter, and they were still a day’s walk from the oasis. Charmeleon’s tail sizzled and spat in the downpour, which was clearly taking a toll on the fire lizard.
Winds gusted around them, swirling the torrent and soaking them from every angle. Shelby was surprised that she felt invigorated, when Donovan was clearly on his last legs. Finally, he collapsed in the road, curling around to try and protect his tail fire.
“Donovan!” she cried. Shelby shoved the satchel next to him, standing above them and hoping to provide some cover while they waited for the downpour to slacken. The rain ran down her green flesh, and it began soaking in and making her feel swollen and bloated. At least she saw that less rain was falling on her friend and the satchel.
She wasn’t sure how long she stood there over them, but she seemed to keep soaking up the water falling around her, until she felt like her skin would pop open. Several points of pain developed on her back and her ears, hard nodules that pulled at her skin and stretched around.
Finally, the rain seemed to be coming to an end. Torrents became a drizzle, which turned into mild splatters. Donovan had recovered somewhat, and he stood up shakily, bumping against her.
One of the hard nodes jostled free and fell at his feet. It was a luscious red color, and seemed soft as he picked it up. “What is this?” he asked, looking it over.
“I’m not sure,” she said. What had happened to her in the rain?
“It almost looks like,” he paused and sniffed at it. “Like a fruit.” He took a small bite of the end, and his eyes grew wide. “It is! You grew fruit from the rain!”
She wasn’t even sure how that was possible. She felt several more of the nodes around her ears though, and she wondered if she could repeat the trick later.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s get back to camp. Maybe Shaman will know more. And maybe I can make enough of them to help feed us through the summer.”
Staff, head grader, chief judge, ranger. My stats (always a work in progress!)
Park: Evan Morphic: Aaren Cassandra

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