The Valley Beyond, ch. 1 (x4)

Much to the trainer’s despair, the purple billows of snow clouds had rolled in rapidly and now surrounded him in the middle of his flight. Lashes of icy wind struck against Sam’s face. He pressed his body closer to his Corviknight, hoping that her massive metal body would shield him from the bitter air, but her steel wings were even colder. A layer of blue-white frost had started its spread across the Corviknight’s frame, weaving between her razor-sharp metal feathers.

Sam shifted his gaze downward, squinting as the pellets of snow battered directly into his face. The horizon was a total white-out. The massive gray mountains that loomed in the distance at the start of his flight were completely obscured by the winter storm. The faint outlines of pine trees, mere blurs of deep green scattered across the landscape, bent unnaturally in the strong, persistent gales. 

His Corviknight let out a strained squawk, her voice rattling with each shiver. The flaps of her wings were normally broad and powerful, but they had slowed as the ice crept into her joints. Her pain and distress were reflected in her deep red eyes, and Sam felt a twinge of guilt when his eyes connected with hers.

“We need to get closer to the surface,” Sam yelled so his voice would cut through the whipping wind. “All the signs at the base of the mountain said to follow the trail closely and never lose sight of it, but I can’t see anything from up here.” 

The Corviknight chirped in response and tilted her wings downward, flapping only to keep their balance in the tumultuous skies. As they descended, the flurries of snow seemed to get stronger with each passing moment. Sam tucked his head in towards his chest, nestling his chin into the thick collar of his jacket. His face felt completely numb; the only thing he could feel was the icy sting of snowflakes striking against his skin.

A momentary pause in the onslaught of snow let Sam open his eyes and peek out from behind his Pokemon. The ground was much closer now, and he could see some minor details in the landscape. Stone boulders flanked a narrow, winding path which scrambled up the side of the perilous cliff. Sam’s eyes followed the trail forward as far as he could see it, but the path seemed to stop suddenly a short distance up ahead. Sam was puzzled -- the trail was supposed to lead him all the way to his destination, the legendary valley beyond Mt. Silver, but the trail disappeared into the snow banks without any notice or indication. The gap between him and the end of the trail was shrinking by the second, and in his confusion, Sam glanced up from the ground to see the sheer rock face of a cliff that they were approaching rapidly.

“Watch out!” Sam shouted, clinging onto his Corviknight. “Bank upwards, quick!” 

The Corviknight let out a shrill cry as she whipped her wings outward to slow her momentum. She flapped upwards frantically, but her joints were still iced over, and her movements just weren’t fast enough to combat the wind. The gusts throttled them forward towards the cliff face.

“We’re not gonna mak---” Sam said before the wind slammed him and his Corviknight against the rocks. Corviknight’s steel feathers crumpled with the sheer force of the collision, and a caw thick with agony echoed across the mountainous landscape. Sam’s body crashed hard into his Corviknight, his head striking against the back of her metal neck. His ears rang, his vision blurred out of focus, and his grasp around his Pokemon loosened as the pair fell through the air towards the ground. They sank deep into a pile of snow, wind-blown and icy on the top, before Sam’s vision faded to black, and he slipped into a deep slumber.


He awoke quite a while later, though the exact amount of time that had passed was unknown. He blinked blearily and stared up to the sky above. The storm had lightened, and only a gentle flurry of snowflakes drifted down from the heavens. Thankfully, it was still light out, but the afternoon sun was sinking fast, and the dull gray clouds were becoming darker. Sam pressed his palms into the snow bank and lifted his body upright. A wave of pain and disorientation swept through his body, starting from his head. His hand instinctively went towards his forehead, and he felt the cold, sticky sensation of frozen blood against an open gash. He winced in pain and felt his chest tighten with his sharp inhale. The wound pounded, and an unbearable headache pulsed in unison with the pain.

Sam looked to the side, his head barely peeking out from the snowbank. A short distance away rested Corviknight’s body. Her beak was pressed face down into the snow, and her wings were contorted upwards at odd angles.

“C... Corvi... Corviknight...” Sam sputtered out, his dry throat disrupting his speech. “Are you okay?”

The bird Pokemon let out a pained squawk. She tried to lift her head out of the snow, but without her wings, she had little strength in her upper body. She squirmed within the snowbank for a moment before giving up. Her breath was strained and rapid.

“Let me... Let me help you,” Sam said, reaching for the backpack strapped across his shoulder. His cold fingers fumbled around in the outer pocket until he felt the smooth touch of a metal sphere. He pulled the Pokeball out of the bag and held it in his hand. Pressing the small white button in the ball’s center, it expanded suddenly and filled up the greater part of his palm. “I need to take you to a Pokecenter. We can’t fly out of here with you like this, but I know we’re getting close to the valley. The owner of Mount Silver Meadows should be able to help us when we get there,” Sam reassured. He heard the Corviknight coo, showing her affection for her trainer even during such immense pain. “Rest up, girl,” Sam said with a weary smile as he outstretched the Pokeball and saw his Pokemon consumed in a flash of red light.

Sam pressed his body up even further, rising to his knees from his seated position. His head spun, and his body wobbled dizzily in place as he adjusted his balance. The light dusting of snow that had fallen on his clothes sprinkled to the ground beneath him as he moved. His dark gray snow gear was saturated with the mix of icy water and blood from his wound. With a final push, he rose to his feet, his boots sinking into the snow with a loud crunch. 

Sam turned around and looked downhill, scanning the horizon for evidence of the path he was supposed to follow. It took Sam some time for his blurred vision to adjust, but eventually he spotted the end of the trail some 50 yards away from him. Now that the storm had largely passed and the visibility conditions were better, Sam could tell that the path didn’t just end -- it continued into the mountain through a narrow rock tunnel. Sam didn’t remember reading about a tunnel before he departed, but this wouldn’t be the first time that he was blinded by his ambition to the dangers of this voyage. Most signs advised against riding a flying Pokemon through the Indigo Plateau mountain range entirely, but that hadn’t stopped Sam either.

He shook off his feelings of regret and stepped forward towards the cave. His feet dragged through the snow, and the pounding in his head continued to throw off his balance with each step. A few minutes later, Sam arrived at the entrance to the cave. He reached towards his backpack once more and grabbed his flashlight from the outer pocket. Miraculously, the flashlight had survived the fall. He pressed the button on the top of the device, and as he stepped into the cave, the cavern walls were lit up with the dull yellow light.

The path was littered with rocks and slick with blue ice. Sam’s footing never felt sure, and every few steps ended with him sliding perilously forward. He could hear the echo of each footstep bouncing throughout the cavern. The temperature in the air was dropping by the minute, and Sam could see the frost in his breath as it passed over the flashlight’s beacon. 

A muffled squeal came from a short distance off of the path. Sam immediately shifted his flashlight in the direction of the noise. His stomach lurched. He scanned the cavern floor back and forth before noticing a small brown lump on the ground that was squirming away from the path. The Pokemon blended in perfectly with the rocks that were scattered throughout the cave, but upon closer inspection, this Pokemon appeared to be startled by Sam and was scurrying hurriedly away. Thin brown stripes of fur lined its back, and two tufts of hair trailed behind it where the beast's feet dragged upon the ground. 

“Wait!” Sam cried out. The Pokemon tilted its head around, and a bright pink snout wiggled as the Pokemon sniffed the air. Its eyes were sealed closed, and Sam wondered if the Pokemon had spent its entire life in the darkness of the cave. “Do you know where the valley is?” Sam asked as the Pokemon continued its retreat. He knew that this Pokemon had likely never seen another human before, but Sam’s desperation was growing. He feared that he wouldn’t survive through the night in the sub-zero temperatures of the mountain range. He rushed forward, sliding on the icy ground with each step, but the distance between him and the Pokemon was growing. The creature had surprising speed despite its round body and stubby legs. “Slow down!” he shouted, but the Pokemon’s only reply was another high-pitched squeal. The light beam from Sam’s flashlight moved across the cave haphazardly as Sam’s arms swung out in an effort to keep his balance. A sudden slip made Sam almost fall backwards, but after a brief scramble to stay upright, Sam glanced up to see that the Pokemon he had been chasing apparently was not alone. 

Standing a short distance ahead and staring back with an icy, piercing gaze stood a brown mammoth Pokemon. Long, ivory-white tusks jutted out the sides of the Pokemon’s mouth. A stripe of blue skin outlined the beast’s eyes, and a broad pink snout emerged between tufts of cream colored fur. The Pokemon stood intimidatingly tall, the cap of its skull nearly scraping the cavern roof. An expression of territorial anger radiated from the beast. Sam spotted the smaller, pig-like Pokemon scrambling beneath the mammoth’s furry underside.

“Woah...” Sam murmured to himself as he slowed to a halt. “H... hey there...” he said. He recognized the beast as a Mamoswine, a rarely seen Pokemon that was once believed to have gone extinct after the last Ice Age. The Mamoswine’s eyes narrowed. It snorted two vents of frosted air from its nostrils. Lifting its front foot just off the ground, the beast stomped in place and kicked at the snowy dirt. Sam reached instinctively for his Corviknight’s Pokeball, but he realized he wouldn’t be able to depend on her in a fight, given her injuries. A wave of dread spread throughout his body. Sam took a tentative step back, but he slid on the ice once more and flailed his arms around him to keep his balance. The sudden commotion startled the Mamoswine, who let out a guttural roar and stomped its feet forwards. The entire cave shook as the mammoth charged at Sam.

Sam quickly spun around and started to retreat back up the path. His heart was racing with adrenaline, but his feet couldn’t move fast enough to outpace the Mamoswine. He scrambled over the rocks, each misstep costing him precious time as the Mamoswine’s stampede grew closer. The cave floor trembled louder with each stomp of the Pokemon’s foot. Sam’s chest pounded in fear. Suddenly, as he took a step between two rocks, he lost his traction and fell face-first into the cold dirt. 

“Arcanine, Flamethrower, now!” came a commanding voice from within the cave. Before Sam could comprehend what was happening, he felt the intense heat of fire radiating off of the cavern walls. He turned around to see the cave illuminated with a brilliant orange glow coming from behind the Mamoswine. The Mamoswine slid to a halt and roared in return, whipping its massive snout around to face the fire. Its eyes squinted at the light, and the mammoth stumbled back on its hind legs. The flames were emanating from the mouth of a massive dog Pokemon with shaggy layers of orange and tan fur. Atop the Pokemon was the silhouette of a trainer, standing tall and holding a firm first out at the Mamoswine. The smell of singed fur overtook the smell of damp dirt in the air, and the Mamoswine reared its head up in pain. The beast’s tusks scraped against the cave top before its front legs slammed hard into the ground. The mammoth turned around in place and stampeded off into the depths of the cave. When the sound of its booming footsteps had finally grown quiet, the flames from the Arcanine’s mouth finally petered out.

“What in the blazes are you doing up here in the middle of a storm?!” the trainer atop the Arcanine shouted out. Sam was stunned, his heart still racing and his mind completely unable to form a coherent sentence. Without thinking, Sam turned his flashlight and aimed it at the trainer. The man was older than Sam expected, likely in his sixties. Unkempt gray hair fell in loose curls at his shoulders, and a thick white beard obscured his mouth entirely. He had a steely expression on his face with deep brown eyes. “Point that damn thing away from me!” The trainer scowled and lifted a gloved hand to shield himself from the light. 

“S--sorry,” Sam muttered. He pointed the flashlight down at the Pokemon beneath the trainer. It too stared intently at Sam with black eyes that reflected the last of the orange flames. Embers danced between the Arcanine’s teeth as it panted.

“That Mamoswine was about to gore you, then trample you, then more than likely sit on you until she felt your bones snap beneath her weight. Never, ever get between a Mamoswine and her baby,” the trainer snapped.

“I... I didn’t know...” Sam trailed off. Now that the danger had passed, the feeling of immense pain had crept back into his head. “I thought it might be able to lead me to the valley...”

“You have no business being in the valley,” the trainer sternly replied. “This is a place for Pokemon experts to hone their skills, not to learn the basics. I admit, I’m shocked that you even made it this far.”

Sam felt his cheeks flush with shame. “I was fine until the storm came in... But I can’t turn around now. My Corviknight, she’s really hurt. She crashed into the cliff face, and I think her wings are broken. I need to get her to a Pokemon doctor,” Sam said.

The mounted trainer sighed and shifted his weight atop his Pokemon. “So that was the noise we heard...” he murmured to himself. “Sounded like a damn avalanche. I’m glad we were in earshot and were able to come check it out.” The trainer let out another sigh before waving an outstretched hand at Sam. “Come on, I can take you to the valley. There’s a medic at the farm who should be able to restore your Corviknight to health. We’re not too far off, and we should be able to make it back before dark if we leave now.”

Sam stayed in place for a moment, his head still reeling. The trainer grunted impatiently, and Sam pushed himself off of the ground and stumbled towards the Arcanine. The dog Pokemon kept its eyes locked on Sam, but the faint impression of a smile on the Arcanine’s face made Sam less hesitant to approach. 

As he neared the Arcanine and its trainer, Sam heard the same squeal from before, though this time it was tinted with pain. Sam glanced down by his feet and spotted the small, pig-like Pokemon curled up on the ground with its belly half-exposed. The dense fur that lined the Pokemon’s body was smoking as the last burning hairs on its back were one by one extinguished in the cold air. 

The trainer on top of the Arcanine noticed Sam’s pause and followed his eyes to the injured Pokemon. “Shoot...” he sighed and clicked his tongue. “Didn’t see ya there, little guy. I thought your momma would’ve left you behind while chasing this guy off.” The small Pokemon remained unresponsive, the only sign of life being the faint squeaks that peeped out with each breath. “Ah, hell,” the trainer said, “pick that Swinub up and bring it with you. We’ll drop it off on our way back after the nurse heals you two up.”

Sam hesitated for a moment before nodding his head. He bent down to pick up the Swinub and was surprised by its heaviness. The Pokemon remained unresponsive as Sam tucked it between his elbow and his side.

“Get on up,” the trainer said as he slid a few inches forward on his Arcanine, “we’ve got the rest of this dangerous voyage ahead of us, and I don’t trust you to not fall behind. Arcanine will keep you warm,” the trainer smiled as he scratched behind the ear of his massive dog.

Sam nodded once more and used his free hand to pull himself onto the back of the Pokemon. He felt warmth radiate out from the Arcanine’s body, and Sam used all his willpower to stay upright and not fall into the Pokemon like a blanket. He moved the Swinub from underneath his elbow and nestled it into the Arcanine’s fur.

“Let’s go, then,” the trainer assured. “Yip yip!” he shouted with the gentle bump of his foot to the Arcanine’s side, and the pair bolted off deeper into the cave.

Here we go again. Anutha one.

Diction & Presentation – Intermediate

Word choice is very solid here. The beginning was especially great. I got a strong sense of the cold and wind and treacherous environment that they were flying into it. I could really envision it.

No huge tones really stood out—just typical adventure-fare. But I got a good indication of what was going on pretty much the entire time.

Grammar & Style – Intermediate

No distracting grammar things that were of note!

But I do feel that the story could have came across with a little more kick if you had played with paragraph structure a little bit. There were three main areas that could have benefited from this and increased the drama or emotion, and that was the crash with Corviknight, trying to catch up to the Swinub, and the surprise encounter with the Mamoswine.

With Corviknight, you even basically set this up, when Sam's dialogue was cut off right before the crash. What if you had mimicked what was going on with the text and literally cut the text off too and jumped to a new paragraph? That can provide a little more punch to specific moments in the story, especially if they are important to what's going on. This would count as one of those times since it changed the game plan for Sam getting to the valley.

The same could have been applied to following the Swinub. If that interaction was more broken up instead of one paragraph, the text would have mimicked Sam trying to keep up and and catch its attention, which directly leads into the second main conflict, the Mamoswine.

Breaking up the lines would have let you drop the surprise dramatically and then also draw out the awe and how fast everything was happening. Having both Sam and the Mamo's reaction in the same paragraph muddled what was going on just a tiny bit.

That being said, I didn't feel that the pace was severely lacking or anything—just that a couple tweaks could have made it pop even better.

Pokemon Integration - Intermediate

Swinub totally makes sense for where this story was going. Being that it's in a snowy cave and that just happened to be the Pokmeon Sam stumbled upon, it could have realistically been replaced with almost any other Pokemon.

However, I think that having the bigger Mamoswine conflict there as a consequence to his (seemingly?) rash action to come to the valley was nice. Like a reflection of Sam's choices.

Character & Plot Unity – Intermediate

Sam's objective for finding this elusive valley is made very clear early on, as well as the stakes for seeking it out. But we don't really find out the “why” he wants to go there, other than maybe it being alluded to from the old man about pros going to practice there.

For a first chapter beginning a longer story, I think this is okay. Can't show the hand too early, so to speak. And Sam still had a clear pathway, even if his motivation changed midway to helping his Pokemon (even if we don't really know what the first motivation was).

The only thing that blipped on my radar was one comment which leads into the sense of time in this story. The old man's remark about the “noise we heard” was a little sketch, seeing as how Sam crashed into the outside, then made his way down the path and into the tunnel for a bit before running into the old man. Where would he have had to been for him to hear them? It would have been different if Sam had triggered an alarm or rig meant to alert the man to stuff like that. And if the old man did hear, how long did it take him to find Sam?

By the time Sam woke up, it was dusk and the storm had passed through. Where was he leaving from and how far had he traveled by the time he crashed? It would have had to be afternoon at the latest. How long is it realistic to fly in bad weather?

No real complaints regardless. I want to see where it goes and find out why Sam wants to go there so badly (enough to risk his and his team's health).

Setting – Intermediate

The setting was made clear by the language used and a good set up of every time Sam entered a new environment. I got a good sense of the outside storm and the cave as Sam followed through it.

The only time that we lose a little bit of the surroundings is when some sort of interaction is happening. The focus hones in to just the two creatures and the background sort of fades away. That happened when the Mamoswine appeared, but it also persisted through the old man and Sam's interaction, leaving the end bit of the cave a little bit of a mystery.

It makes total sense to focus on the action as its happening, since that's the important bit, but even snippets of environment helps keep that action grounded. Also important to return back to setting once a conflict is resolved, so we can set our feet back down on land once the rush is over.

Dialogue – Advanced

All good here. I particularly liked the old man's way of speaking. It really got across his almost lack of patience with scrub Trainers who make a mess of themselves and other Pokemon.

I do think, though, that your dialogue might also benefit from a little paragraph restructuring, like the action. Say when Sam is talking to Corviknight when she's lying hurt—splitting it up could really drag out the guilt he feels or really let a character's reaction or motion while speaking sink in and paint a stronger emotion.

In Summation

Overall: Hard rank!

I very much want to see where this story goes! I think because it's just a single first chapter, you really haven't had time to get more complex about other motivations and actions just yet, but I'd like to see it! So for now, Swinub is captured, plus take an extra $10,000!

As always, feel free to shoot me any questions/comments/concerns/etc!

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