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TEEN: Heist in Acorn Hall (Summer 2020 one-shot competition)

Daren

Surprisingly well rehearsed
Joined
Sep 27, 2007
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When a young Pokémon of a good family finds himself drawn into a family scheme he could use nothing more than the help of a good gentleman’s personal gentleman.

…too bad his is on vacation.

Of course a hardened warrior is the next closest thing, right?


Inspired by the works of PG Wodehouse.
*
Content Warnings: Rated Teen for cursing, alcohol references, allusions to off-page violence, minor sexuality.
*

Heist in Acorn Hall

Preston Greendale had just received the most unsettling phone call of his life.

The Snivy was relaxing in his spacious apartment in Everlight city on lazy autumn day when it had rung quite suddenly. He let it ring a handful of times before he recalled that his valet Katsuie was on vacation, and then extended a vine to pick up the receiver.

“Why did you keep me waiting, you disgraceful blight on the family?” growled a harsh female voice.

His blood chilled. It was his sister Alyssa, and she only called if she wanted him to do something or had harsh words over some stunt of his she’d caught word of. He couldn’t think of anything fitting the latter he hadn’t already been chewed up over, so it was probably the former.

“Alyssa! It’s always wonderful to hear from you. What do I owe the pleasure of…”

“Silence yourself like a good boy and listen. It may have escaped you at some point after rotting what little mind you ever had with the combination of drinking and those ghastly theatre performances you inexplicably attend, but my dear Penelope comes of age next week.”

Preston had to object to that. “I would never forget my own niece’s birthday. In fact, I picked out a present just last…”

“How wonderful,” his sister replied dryly. “Now listen carefully. It will be taking place at Acorn Hall next Saturday night—I originally intended to rent a larger venue up in Johrock for this occasion but they’re all booked up for months,” she grumbled, as though this were evidence of a conspiracy against her. “I need you here. I’ll explain why in person, and I do not care to hear any excuses. Furthermore, I’m overseeing preparation to get all the arrangements here in place and cannot leave the hall, so I need you to pick Penelope up from her school in Everlight and bring her here. Take her to purchase some accessories for the big day while you’re both down there—she knows the right store. Try not to screw up, hmm?”

Then she hung up.

It was only natural that Preston felt rather helpless at the moment. His parents had left all their children a comfortable inheritance but the Pyroar’s share went to Alyssa, who annually doled out small payments to her siblings out of a combination of mild family loyalty and the belief that having something to threaten them with was the best way to keep them in line.

This scheme had proved quite successful; Preston was used to spending well beyond the means provided by his job as a reviewer for Everlight at Night.

So he had no other choice; he had to tackle this mysterious assignment with vigor and skill in the hope that Alyssa would look upon him with a kindly eye when January rolled about and it was time to send out the checks.

Unfortunately, he relied quite heavily on his valet Katsuie for just about everything requiring brainwork, and with the Frogadier off for a cousin’s wedding Preston was in a nasty bind.

There was nothing else to it, then—he needed to hire a temporary replacement valet.

Fortunately, providence meant he had the phone with him at the moment, and it took only a moment to ring up the agency.

“Hello, this is the Everlight Service and Staffing agency. How may I assist you?” asked a polite voice.

“Good morning! Sorry to ring you up so early. This is Preston Greendale; I need a temporary valet for the next two weeks.”

“Ah, Mr. Greendale, I am afraid you’re presently denied service,” the voice replied cheerfully.

Preston could not have been more surprised if he’d woken one morning, went into the kitchen for breakfast, and upon opening his cellar found a Gyarados curled up inside sleeping amidst crumbs and other remnants of Preston’s stored victuals—and that would be in fact be far less frightening than the situation he had just encountered.

“But why?”

“I’m afraid to say, sir, that you’re on our special list, and only one member has agreed to serve you despite the agency’s better judgement.”

This sign of Katsuie’s loyalty was touching, of course, but Preston was too distracted to reflect on that.

“How on earth’s name did I get on such a list?”

“We cannot share specifics. If that’s all, sir,” the voice said, and hung up without actually verifying if it was indeed all.

Preston could not figure this out. He had never insulted or abused anyone he’d hired.

Fortunately, he was always a quick thinker, and a brilliant idea came right to him; he phoned another agency.

And then another.

And another.

It was very odd, but he phoned every agency he knew of and none could assist him; several apparently had him on a blacklist as well, a few hung up as soon as he gave them his name, and one claimed that he called the wrong number despite having introduced themselves as the agency he had called.

Preston had another idea, though. He knew he wasn’t the smartest Pokémon in the world but when danger called he always had an answer ready (even if that was always a way to find someone else to come up with an answer for him), and this was no exception.

*

Sylvia the Sneasel, a member in good standing of the proud Red Leaf Adventurer’s Association, had come into their main office on the evening of October 5th looking for a mission in somewhat desperate straits.

The main board was almost empty, and the few jobs available were well below her pay grade (though soon enough she might have no choice but to take one anyways), but a mysterious request was tacked on the emergency board, the sole offer there at this moment. It was suspiciously lacking in details, reading as follows:

Immediate assistance for a very important mission required! Must have help by the night of the sixth of October! Take notice to room 6 at the Rising Sun inn for details.

Forty thousand Poké reward; possible bonus for exceptional service


All told, the unhelpful description of the task combined with the massive payment meant it was the second least reputable job request Sylvia had ever seen on an Adventurer’s Association mission board.

However, at the bottom of the posting was a seal—a stylized blade of glass twisted around itself, thin strands of gold wrapped all around it--the family mark of the Greendales.

They were the wealthiest clan in Occeris. In the old days they owned much of the vast, fertile area known as the golden field west of Lake Caerma, renting it out at extortionate rates. Even today they still owned much of it, as well as significant numbers of business ventures.

She was not fond of the family, since she was from the golden fields.

At first she was going to ignore the posting—it was marked as urgent so perhaps one of them was being held for ransom and dire consequences would result if nobody answered it--that story in the morning newspaper would bring a smile to her face.

Isn’t that a bit harsh? Besides, it could be a child that is in trouble, her conscience scolded.

Besides, Greendale means serious money, so the payment is probably genuine. Why pass up a huge payday over personal feelings? her greed added; evidently a rare alliance of those two parts of her personality had been recently made.

Sylvia tapped her waist pouch (almost every Pokémon had some sort of pouch, backpack, or other portable container these days) three times while she considered what to do, then sighed and tore the notice off the board with her two claws, nodded to the clerk, and left before any of her boldness decided it wanted in on the discussion as well.

*

Sylvia found long ago that immorality no longer surprised her—she’d seen the things that get left out of the adventure stories, after all—so she had though herself mentally prepared for whatever potentially repulsive task this Greendale would have for her, if only so she could refuse.

Stupidity, however, always seemed to find deep reserves of strength which it could draw upon to catch her off guard.

Room six turned out to be among the inn’s nicer rooms—large, with two separate bedrooms and all the comforts of home. That, at least, pointed to this being a real Greendale.

However, that was the only silver lining within a day’s travel of this cloud.

She already felt unsure when she met the prospective client, since the Snivy was so heavily dressed he would be considered odd even in Everlight city; with a walking stick, a black top hat, and even a black tailcoat he struck her as very likely another overly pampered Everlight dandy. Seated next to him was a smaller female Snivy who had limited herself to a blue ribbon but seemed to quickly grow bored with the whole thing and was quietly reading, having initially seemed almost excited during the initial introduction only to slide into clear apathy within minutes.

Still, Sylvia had reluctantly admitted that she was here to discuss the job and sat down (facing the window—although the odds of a Graveler breaking through it to attack her during any particular meeting was very low, assuming it would never happen means she’d be caught off guard when—as probability suggests—it eventually did). However, once Preston had introduced himself (she had heard of him, of course—she read Everlight at Night when she was visiting the big city) and explained the specifics she felt irritation course through her.

“Mr. Greendale,” she said in slow, controlled words, “You placed an emergency assistance request…” she took a moment to restrain her tone further before continuing, “…with the Adventurer’s Association to hire a personal assistant while you attend your niece’s birthday party? That’s not really a task for an adventurer. Now, if your niece had been kidnapped or maybe if you wanted to make her some jewelry out of rare gems found only in the deepest caverns of the Glittering Mountains I’d be the right Pokémon for the job."

“I know, I know, but my valet is on vacation, and when I tried to get a temporary replacement it turned out there was some sort of strange error and I’m blacklisted from all the agencies,” Preston said.

Sylvia quickly analysed if she thought he was a cruel employer or just so stupid people would prefer not to work for him; from his mannerisms and what she knew of him it was more likely the latter.

She managed to maintain her façade of indifference and keep the sarcasm out of her voice as she spoke next. “How am I supposed to help with something like this? Are you expecting the party to be violently crashed?”

“Well, I need someone who can provide a proper escort, help me with various sundry tasks and duties, and ensure nothing unfortunate happens while I am over at Silverstreams.”

Sylvia perked up at that. “Ah! Now we’re getting to my kind of job! So you need a bodyguard? I’ve done that more than a few times, and my clients always got out fine.”

Actually, she had once been hired to protect a businessman up in Lodestrom city who had tried to avoid paying her afterwards--he didn’t turn out too well, since she’d decided to “repossess unpaid for services” regarding her preventing an enemy of his from breaking his arm, though Sylvia saw no reason to mention that unless a similar event occurred.

”I suppose the road is surprisingly dangerous? Does it run through some woods filled with aggressive wild Pokémon? Is there a bandit hideout nearby? Or maybe someone’s after you in particular? I guarantee they only get one try with me on the job, and if you have a name I can find out where they are and pay them a little visit to convince them not to try at all.”

“Oh, I’m not hiring you to protect me. Silverstreams is a resort town, very safe except for the price gouging, and there’s an air coach route straight to it. A few visitors can be a little rough at times, I suppose, but I’ve never heard of anyone being killed or hurt past what an oran berry could fix.”

Sylvia sighed as she felt what little chance of excitement in this mission existed cruelly snuffed out before its time.

“It’s just, well…you see—really, it’s rather awkward, you understand—my sister has some unknown task she wants me there for, and I confess I do not have the best brain around and need someone who is a fast thinker. Someone, well…like an adventurer, and I really need to set out tomorrow because the party is the day after, so I thought it was appropriate to put it as an emergency mission.”

Sylvia pondered this. It was making more sense, now. “Think your sister’s task could be dangerous?”

“That seems unlikely. If I had to guess it’ll involve some sort of social one-upmanship. She has to invite everyone who is from the right sort of family, even if they mostly detest each other, and when these gatherings happen there’s always some attempts at subterfuge against one another. Find a way to humiliate someone, poaching a good chef, that sort of thing.”

“If it’s so safe why are you offering such an exorbitant payment?”

“This probably won’t be dangerous, but, well…it may not be easy. These little games seem silly but the outcome is taken very seriously by all involved.”

“Give me a moment to consider it, please,” Sylvia said, then closed her eyes and began tapping her claw softly against the table.

This felt beneath her. She was an explorer, an adventurer, and a warrior, not a gofer to run between spoiled rich Pokémon.

But…forty thousand Poké.

That was a lot of cash…

Not to mention the possibility of a bonus.

She opened her eyes, then took a deep breath and released it.

“Fine,” she said, the single word impressively loaded with weary reluctance.

“Splendid! Thank you so much!” Preston said happily, offering a vine which Sylvia carefully took between the flat of two claws and shook. “Tomorrow morning we’ll rent an air coach to Silverstreams, at about eight. We’ll be staying at our family‘s estate, Acorn Hall.”

The Sneasel nodded then rose and left without another word, feeling ambivalent about the entire situation.

Preston, however, felt his mood improve immeasurably as the great burden was lifted, knowing he would have capable assistance in navigating the thorny mess no doubt awaiting him at Acorn Hall.

He knew that she wasn’t exactly what the other guests would expect (or want) to attend, but it really could not be helped and they would simply have to get over it.

*

The three met again out the inn early next morning, everyone packed and ready. While the two Snivy had each brought a hefty pack filled with various belongings Sylvia was traveling lighter, bringing a small pouch filled with spare rations and medical supplies, just in case. Sylvia had spent the previous day researching her destination—first by speaking to other adventurers she trusted and then with a quick trip to Red Leaf Library to ask a research assistant some questions about the town (she was literate, but handling books with her claws was…unwise) and determined that she was not likely to require any heavy gear.

There was some quick small talk between the three in front of the old inn before they set off to the local air coach station. Before long, though, Sylvia noticed the two straggling behind, and with a sigh she took the large sacks from them, sliding her arms under the straps and hoisting them onto her shoulders. Carrying all three at once was not easy, but Sneasel are very strong for their size, and Sylvia is a very strong Sneasel.

Red Leaf Air Coach station wasn’t far from the inn, and the dour Corviknight they hired there had made the run to Silverstreams more than once and assured them it would take only a few hours to reach the resort barring unseasonally poor weather, and before long Sylvia had loaded the two large packs and the group had set off inside a modest coach being dragged at cautious speed by a massive metal bird.

Thus began an awkward ride.

Penelope was reading what Sylvia recognized as “Glorious Living”, the most popular adventurer magazine among non-adventurers (it was regarded as comedy by actual adventurers—she’d actually been featured in an issue once, in fact, as part of a spirited but woefully inaccurate article special on an expedition to the ruins of an old human city in the far north). Preston was sitting there, smiling and fiddling with his walking stick.

“All right,” Sylvia said suddenly. “We’re not in a crowded inn now so I want a straight answer to a straight question--how likely is it your sister’s task is illegal?”

Of course accepting any illegal mission was strictly against Association rules and could get you thrown out if discovered, but Sylvia reasoned that Preston had just as much to lose from revealing any skullduggery.

Penelope giggled. Sylvia was unsure how to interpret that.

Preston bit his lip. It was a bit of a shock—but he supposed these Adventurers were the sort of adamant-willed Pokémon who can ask questions like that without even a second of discomfort or finding it necessary to use euphemisms to hint without saying. “Not…entirely impossible, I suppose. But there’s no need to worry! Nothing terrible, I’m sure, and Silverstreams isn’t part of the Republic anyways. Besides, we prefer not to involve the Sheriff there—we just handle things ourselves, it’s all about reputation. Of course if anything makes you a bit, ah…uncomfortable, I’ll understand if you want to back out...”

Sylvia shrugged. “Well, if we’re outside Republic territory anyways then nobody will care if someone violates the decrees of a bunch of moralizing asses down in the Everlight council who want to regulate oran-to-cherri berry breakfast ratios for everyone,” she said with a dismissive wave. “So if your sister wants me to do something costing one of her rich buddies a diamond-crusted ring? Fine! No sleep lost there. But…if she wants me to help steal a dozen people’s homes? She can screw herself. And I’m not a murderer for hire, understand? At any price, any target. She even starts on that track and I walk right out the door, and the Gods help her if she tries to stop me.”

“I’m sure it won’t come to that!” Preston assured her. “This isn’t the age of chaos anymore, after all! That sort of thing doesn’t happen nowadays.”

Sylvia offered him a smile of pity. He really thinks that, doesn’t he?

*

Silverstreams was a beautiful little resort town southeast of Red Leaf, right next to the eastern coastline, situated in a pleasant area with a healthy amount of greenery and even a nearby woodland whose local wild Pokémon were known to be gentle and easy going. Even from above it was clear that the central square of the town was filled with businesses, the homes built off in a residential district west of the square—except for a number of larger manors dotted about the area.

As Sylvia exited the air coach she appraised the area quickly—though she had already done a bit of that as they passed overhead, easily spotting the large human-style (multiple floors and with a large number of specialized rooms) manors dotted about the area for those wealthy enough to buy property nearby.

Preston jumped out of the coach with a friendly smile, then lost count of what he owed and grossly overpaid the Corviknight to just get it over with, which seemed to brighten the flying type’s mood as it used its beak to unhook the coach and entered the nearby flying coach station’s employee’s lounge. As much as Preston dreaded whatever scheme his sister had it was always nice to be back in Silverstreams, and Penelope was smiling a little to be home for a while.

As they passed through the square to a road out of town that would lead to Acorn Hall Sylvia glanced around, taking in the sights and analyzing everything carefully—an old habit that kept you safe in her profession.

The town square itself—aside from the local coach station and a sheriff office--consisted of a number of shops that seemed a combination of general stores selling necessities like food, drinks, and likely household supplies and tools, some luxury providers including a jeweler and gift shops, several boutiques, inns, restaurants, and services offering just about anything a Pokémon on vacation might want.

She even noticed a game corner with a brightly colored poster advertising Voltorb flip tables and human plush toy prizes.

A quick third glance and she confirmed her first impression that there was no battling arena--openly, that is; she would be amazed if one (and providers of certain entertainments and goods you don’t talk about in public) could not be found if you knew where to look.

Her self-assigned scouting mission was interrupted as the group was passing past a restaurant when a Snorlax emerged, caught a glimpse of them, then turned, and scowled.

“Well now, it seems you’ve come drifting back like a curse.”

The unfriendly call caused Sylvia to cautiously take a step back, slide her pack off and down to the ground, then step forward again—this time just a little bit ahead of the two Grass-types.

“Ah, Graham, you’re in town, I see, how wonderful.” Preston said, smiling nervously.

“Yes.”

As a rule, Snorlax were big and round, but Graham was more of both than usual. Unfortunately, while most Snorlax were quite gentle (when not angered) this one seemed to those who knew him to wear a nearly perpetual scowl, and his eyes were particularly threatening now.

“Uncle Preston is escorting me home. Has mother invited you, sir Graham?” Penelope interjected swiftly but courteously.

The Snorlax snorted. “No. Not after your damned uncle humiliated me at the winter festival last year, it seems I am no longer on the “must invite” list.”

“What a pity. You’re always such pleasant company,” Preston said, trying to sound sincere but only managing frightened. ‘You know that whole business with the relic Pokéball was just an accident.”

“Ah, accidents are getting more common these days, aren’t they?” Graham said in a worryingly jovial manner, causing Preston to gulp. “I recall warning you back then that next time we meet I would grab you by the neck, stretch you out, sit on you, and turn you into a kite.”

Preston began to glance about for somewhere he could quickly dash to that the Snorlax would not fit, but an instant later Sylvia stepped in front of him, claws held up to strike if needed. Judging by what she’d been told about this place she imagined summoning the Sheriff would be as useful as a Magmar learning to swim.

Graham quickly looked at her sharp but worn claws, patchy and torn fur, and light scarring, and quickly judged she was 'not the right sort of Pokémon' and responded the way he deemed appropriate.

“What are you standing there for, gutter trash?”

“Back off, or I’ll have to get rough.”

Graham seemed thoroughly unimpressed as he glared down at the Ice-type. “You think I’m afraid of someone less than half my height and a tenth my weight?”

“You should be,” Sylvia replied, casually sharpening one claw with the other. “You ever been in a fight?”

“I was captain of my University battling team, as a matter of fact.”

Sylvia shook her head and wagged a claw at him. “Nuh-uh. I meant a real fight. No rules, no referees, and no healers on standby in case you get a boo-boo.”

Then an unsettling smile came to her face. “Just you and another Pokémon, fighting over whatever it is you both want, with a very real chance you’ll have to decide if it’ll be you or them. Have you ever been in one of those?”

“Er…” he seemed nervous now, his bravado deflating as he gazed into her eyes. They were disturbing ones that seemed not only unafraid but on the verge of excitement, and he noticed the way her eyes were examining him, like she was searching for weak points.

“Naturally…someone of my status has never been involved in such…”

“Thought not,” Sylvia said casually. “So, you know where we find the underground arena in town or you just want to step in the woods for this?”

Graham yelped, turned, and fled (he proved able to run quite fast for a Snorlax) down the path and towards the air coach station, where a number of the Flying-types who saw him coming suddenly decided to take their breaks.

The Dark-type glanced back at the pair of Snivy. “Now, which way to the house?”

*

Located at the end of a dirt path that split off from of the main road leading to town, Acorn Hall was not a long walk from town and was even visible from the town itself.

It was a four floor human style building, though Sylvia’s trained eye told her it was not from the human era, but a more recent structure built to mimic the past.

She already hated the place and everyone in it, a feeling that was not diminished by the overly long wait once Preston had rung the bell outside as they waited for someone to make their way across the overly-large beacon of avarice to actually let them in.

Finally, an Ambipom opened. He was an older one, fur thinned and even starting to gray in some spots and—someone must have found it quite amusing—he was wearing a tuxedo.

“Master Preston,” he said with a nod. “Mistress Penelope. Ah, and Master Preston’s temporary assistant, I presume,” he added more stiffly to Sylvia, who nodded back curtly.

“Good afternoon, Rothesby,” Penelope said, breaking away from the group and making her way upstairs to unpack in her bedroom.

Rothesby was an iconic part of Acorn Hall—he had been head of the staff for decades--in fact the Ambipom had been there ever since before Preston was born, and even his advanced age did not slow him even an inch as he led Preston and Sylvia through a hallway to the left of the entrance, soon steering them into a crowded parlor and politely stating he was going to inform Alyssa that they had arrived.

Sylvia spotted over a dozen Pokémon in the room, and it was easy to distinguish the guests from the staff; some were sitting and talking to one another and mostly had rings, necklaces, or other jewelry or ornate clothing, while others were moving about swiftly to wait on the sitters and talkers and mostly just had ribbons or scarves.

Then several sets of eyes turned to her. There was some silent whispering for a bit, though it soon died down.

“Preston, darling, so nice to see you!” came a sudden call.

It was a Tsareena, wearing an obnoxiously bright tiara and a bright red scarf. She glanced at Sylvia. “I see you’ve brought some northern myrmidon with you this time.”

Sylvia smiled back at her.

“Lovely to meet you, the name’s Sylvia, of the golden fields. Your name?”

“Eleanor, of Starry Town.”

“I’m glad we’re acquainted now. Tell me, are you always so tactless, or is today a special occasion?”

Now everyone was watching her again, and the chatter died down to a few nervous (and some excited) whispers before utter silence took over.

Eleanor stared for a second but soon recovered and glared down at the Sneasel.

One must be fair, of course. To most of her acquaintances—for whom the greatest risk in life is losing money gambling and whose most frightening experience is finding their breakfast was colder than hoped for—a withering glare from a fully-evolved Pokémon was amply intimidating.

For Sylvia--who earlier this year had barely survived a horrific campaign against the Shining Hill bandits after a Seviper had tried to crush her within its coils and she’d been barely saved with one very careful strike—it was not. She met the gaze directly, crossing her arms and glaring back at the Grass-type. Onlookers paused with bated breaths to watch, a few bets even quietly being made.

It would be foolish to count Eleanor out right away, however. She was very much a throwback to her ancestors who had claimed the lands of her family estate through the fine expedience of driving off the Pokémon who already lived there and repeating the trick on anyone who tried to take it from them in turn, and had spent much of her youth in competitive battling arenas.

It soon became clear whoever won would not be able to claim the crown easily; neither flinched; neither blinked; neither so much as shifted their body an inch outside Sylvia tapping her foot impatiently as the contest of wills dragged on like a duel between a pair of Shuckle.

After perhaps a full minute the contest was ended by Rothesby stepping between the two to clear his throat loudly and announce lunch was being served.

As the crowd dispersed a Serperior slid into the room and rounded on Preston, a smile (though one lacking in genuine affection) on her face.

”Hello, brother,” she said to him. “I’d have a word with you and your assistant in my private study before lunch, if you please.”

Preston looked horrified, and Sylvia guessed why. His sister’s manner of saying the phrase “if you please” held promise of trouble ahead.

*

Alyssa led them to her study—soundproof, she assured them as she shut the door with her tail. There wasn’t much in it—a long couch, a bookshelf, and a reading desk.

“Preston, there is a scandalous bit of insanity,” Alyssa grumbled. “I presume you haven’t had quite enough alcohol over the year that your memory is so addled to have already forgotten Eleanor is here?”

“Of course not.”

“Splendid. Well, three weeks ago she was here for a visit and I showed her that lovely golden necklace with the rainbow swirls on it that I bought over on Evenfast island. She loved it at first sight, but of course I refused to sell, as much as she pleaded. Why else would I have shown it to her, after all?”

The rest of her words came out like thunder. “The day after she leaves I find the necklace has gone missing, and next time we meet at the club in Everlight she flashes ‘one of her own’ around! Can you believe that harridan’s gall?”

Preston gaped—sometimes the skullduggery that went about here still surprised him.

Sylvia was also shocked, though for her own reasons.

Harridan? What the hell does that mean?

“But she won’t be getting the last laugh, dear little brother, because you’re going to steal it back from her before she leaves and replace it with a cheap copy.”

There it was.

Preston knew something was coming.

He knew it, and it was just as bad as could be expected.

“I can’t just slip a vine into a Tsareena’s purse and snatch something if I don’t want to get kicked into paste.”

“For once try to find the courage that flowed through our ancestors, brother,” Alyssa said. “It is quite an easy task, really. I cannot imagine why you hesitate. There will be many opportunities to snatch it away while she’s in our own home.”

Preston glared at her rather harshly. There was a limit to his willingness to bow to his sister, and that was just a bit past it. “I’m sorry but it’s so risky. If you insist I do this I’ll turn around and leave right away.”

His sister stretched out to her maximum height, spreading an ominous shadow over the Snivy. “Will you, now?”

Preston began to sweat. “I mean, family is family, of course; perhaps I spoke a bit hastily…”

“That’s a good brother,” Alyssa said more sweetly as she lowered her height again, then used her tail to reach into her satchel and remove the fake necklace, casually flicking it towards Preston, who failed to catch it as it bounced off his side. Using a vine to pick it up sheepishly, he handed it to Sylvia for safe keeping.

“Well, we need some sort of plan, I suppose,” Preston said weakly. “During the party would be the best opportunity, I think.”

Alyssa nodded. “Yes. It’ll require some good trickery to get her to take the necklace off, of course. I already told the kitchen to break something during the party to provide a quick distraction but we may need more than that. Perhaps you could just seduce her, plant a nice, passionate kiss, invite her to your room…”

“I’m so sorry for interrupting,” Sylvia said quickly. “But this is silly. You should get it done quickly, not wait until the last instant before she’s left.”

“Excuse me?” the Serperior snapped irritably. “Have you forgotten your standing? I’m the head of the greatest family on this entire continent, and you’re just one of many mercenaries and grave robbers who infest the north.”

Sylvia called on great force of will not to break something and sarcastically apologize for being clumsy. “If this were about squeezing rent from farmers or spreading gossip about whose cousin screwed a scullery maid and caused a scandal I’d defer to your expertise. However, you’re talking about securing an object from a thief—that’s my field, not yours. You want this done right? Both of you sit down, have some wine or whatever the hell you drink, and let me handle it. I’ve gotten trickier targets from more dangerous opposition.”

Alyssa scoffed at her. “Your kind is for acting, not thinking. You should just leave and wait to be summoned.”

The Sneasel smirked, bowed with a flamboyant wave of her arm, then left and closed the door.

“Blasted sell-claw,” Alyssa grumbled. “Where were we?”

Preston scratched his chin with a vine. “Perhaps we could bring old Cedric in on it?”

“Good idea. He can keep everyone’s attention with one of his psychic tricks.”

“Why not recruit Harietta as well?”

“The more the merrier. She’s hated Eleanor since that bet in college. I’m sure she’d be willing to ‘accidentally’ spill a drink on her so Eleanor will go to change—that will give us time for Cedric to start his tricks so everyone is thoroughly mesmerized by the time she gets back.”

“Right, right. Then when Eleanor comes back we…what was next?”

Try to keep up, please. That is when you seduce her.”

“Blast it, Alyssa, I’m not…”

“Should be easy enough, she has always been inexplicably fond of you. Bring her back to your room, and I hope you know what to do from there.”

“It would be a scandal, Alyssa!”

“Not if you become permanent mates after. You need one, anyways. You’re not getting any younger.”

Preston sighed. Not this again.

“Besides, people are starting to talk about you and Katsuie.”

Talk? What sort of…”

Guess.”

Preston was aghast. An employer-employee liaison of that type was very inappropriate, and it hurt to think anyone would ever believe that of him.

With a shake of his head Preston tried to get the conversation back on track. “We’re getting off topic, Alyssa. I’m not going to seduce Eleanor. We just need to find some other way to get the necklace off.”

The two paused to consider this.

“Here’s an idea,” Alyssa said. “When she gets back have someone else—perhaps Janine—spill another drink on her—this time on the necklace. Then the cleaner can make the swap.”

“Good, good. We’ll need to make sure she uses some of the home staff instead of taking it into town, though.”

“Easy enough. I’ll buy the Silverstreams cleaning service and give everyone there tomorrow off.”

“Wonderful! Oh, but then you’ll be stuck owning a cleaning service.”

“A small price to pay.”

They were both satisfied with the first draft of their strategy, and with his sister’s permission Preston opened the door a crack and called Sylvia back in. A moment later she entered, reached into her satchel, and then pulled out the necklace and tossed it onto the desk.

It took a moment for the Grass-types to find words.

“How?” Preston finally squeaked out.

Sylvia rolled her eyes. “It’s lunch time. Eleanor is still eating—in fact I spotted her speaking with a Lilligant and she was so engrossed in the chat she was barely eating. She wasn’t wearing the necklace and she didn’t have a pouch or anything else on her—so she must have left it in her room. I asked one of the maids where all the guests were staying because I needed a room next to Preston’s. Then I told one of the butlers I needed to make a call to the Adventurer’s Association because I was currently engaged in mediation over a previous mission whose payment is in arrears, and didn’t want to disturb everyone if it got heated, so I was walking down to town to make it. Then once I was outside I climbed up the wall to Eleanor‘s room.”

How? She’s on the third floor and there are no drainpipes? The ladders are all locked up, as well. Did you break into the tool shed?” Alyssa said.

“There are no drainpipes or ladders anywhere when you’re out adventuring in the wild. Now shush. I made my way in through the window, found the necklace, placed the duplicate, fixed everything back up just the way I found it, then climbed back down, waited a few more minutes to account for my ‘call’, then came back in and waited to be summoned.”

“Brilliant! You’re truly a marvel!” Preston said, filled with awe.

Alyssa blinked, feeling mixed emotions. She was pleased at her goal being so swiftly accomplished, but being so thoroughly outmatched by hired help was monstrous.

“Well done,” she managed with some difficulty.

*

Things were quiet for the rest of the day. Sylvia had stuck close to her client, but nobody had challenged or threatened him, nothing went wrong, and when she awoke next morning on her second floor room she felt as though everything had come together very satisfactorily. The second day slid along smoothly until night fell when everyone was called into the spacious ball room.

Sylvia found herself unusually relaxed—though not too relaxed, Graveler day is always possible—everyone seemed in a good mood, the food was excellent, the “tricky” part of her mission was done, and the best part is that her contract would be finished tomorrow once the two of them flew back to Red Leaf. Easiest money she had ever made.

The group did not have to wait long before Alyssa announced her daughter’s entrance; the young Snivy walked down from a staircase above, wearing a (Sylvia would grudgingly admit) quite lovely set of a scarf, vest, and cape, though she seemed embarrassed by all the attention she was receiving.

“Thank you, everyone,” she said softly, turning a slight shade of red. “For…attending my coming of age celebration, and for your very generous presents, and…and for making this such a wonderful evening.”

The shade of red grew deeper and Sylvia found herself wincing in sympathy.

“Of course next week I’ll be flying back down to Everlight for my last year in school before I become—ah, before I return home to help mother in managing the family businesses. I’m looking forward to taking my place by her side.”

Then she stepped back, somehow turning redder still and trying to melt away into the crowd. Whether oblivious to her daughter’s discomfort or not, Alyssa took center right away.

“Now, everyone please find your dance partner,” the Serperior announced.

Well, almost everyone already had arranged with someone beforehand, of course—nobody who knew what was coming up wanted to be caught scrambling--and so it did not escape the attention of either Preston or Sylvia that they were the only ones unpaired within five seconds.

Sylvia blinked.

Preston gulped. This was his own fault, he had to admit. It had slipped his mind that there would be a dance and he’d forgotten to tell Sylvia so the two of them could escape out a window while nobody was watching—but every set of eyes in the room was on them now, and he feared Sylvia was beginning to reconsider her initial harsh appraisal of Graham’s proposal re; turning him into a kite, perhaps seeing a good deal of sense in it after all.

Sylvia held out a claw to him, and he reached out with a vine and took it.

He was expecting the dance to be far more unpleasant than it actually was, and he had a brief, terrible thought of being swung about wildly, but Sylvia was actually fairly skilled at it, which helped make the entire experience slightly less awkward.

Still, Preston felt he should say something.

“I’m awfully sorry, I didn’t think we’d end up with a perfectly even number of guests and…”

“If you think this is even close to the most unpleasant circumstance to arise for me during a mission you really don’t understand my line of work,” she replied with an amused grin as they circled around an Illumise and Volbeat pair. “Besides, the Red Leaf Association has a few formal dances with the town folk. PR, they call it.”

It was a heartening moment for Preston; perhaps Sylvia rather liked him despite her gruff demeanor—it just goes to show how often Pokémon kept their true heart hidden. It filled him with hope for the world, to be truthful.

Not liked him, of course.

Still, it was rather uncomfortable for him as the music number continued on and on—Preston lost track of the time, but felt it was perhaps some way into the third year of the dance when the music finally slowed down and ended.

“There will be more, but only the first was mandatory,” he whispered, and then took the opportunity to make his way to a nice, soft couch to sink into, using vine whip to pour himself something good and strong from the nearby buffet table. Writing late-night entertainment reviews meant he had plenty of experience staying up from dusk to next dawn, but he admitted he preferred the more passive sorts of fun down in Everlight, where he just had sit and watch and perhaps join in the singing once in a while. Sylvia walked up to his couch a moment later, arms crossed and looking bored.

“How long is this going to last, anyways?” she asked over the loud crash of something in the kitchen being dropped, followed by Alyssa cursing.

“The general revelry will continue well past midnight, I imagine, but we’ll be allowed to sneak off about an hour from now,” Preston answered.

With a sigh Sylvia began to glance about the room when something caught her--it was Penelope, gesturing to her and shifting her head back towards a patio door.

Sylvia supposed she could have ignored that, of course, but curiosity struck and she followed the younger Snivy outside.

*

The night air was enjoyably cool, and the Snivy led her around the house’s perimeter some distance before stopping to speak.

“Take me with you, please!” Penelope asked.

What?”

“Back to Red Leaf. I want to be an adventurer, like you! It’s been my dream for years; I read the books, I read the magazines…and I saw the way you scared off Graham, and mother said you handled her job faster than a Rapidash! I’d love for you to teach me to be like you!”

“Why? You’ve got more money waiting for you than I’ll ever see.”

Peneloped huffed. “Mother has everything planned out. Go to school down in Everlight, take over managing the family estates, get a mate from one of the dozen or so acceptable options she’s selected…but I don’t want to do that.”

Sylvia restrained a sigh. She needed to handle this correctly.

“Well, here’s how it works. You have to apply yourself, then you need to pass some tests, then you enter a probationary training period under a more experienced adventurer.”

“Like you?” Penelope asked hopefully.

“No, the supervisor assigns mentors and make sure there’s no prior connection to avoid favoritism.”

“Well, can’t you teach me privately first? I can pay, I have leftovers from Grandma’s inheritance,” Penelope suggested eagerly.

“Sure, good idea. It isn’t everything, of course—there’s a lot of hard work, too. Sweat, tears, lots and lots of pain. Not always yours in this business, of course.”

“Well, of course…” Penelope said, a bit uncertainly. “But it’s okay to defend yourself from bad Pokémon, isn’t it?”

“Oh, that was not who I was talking about—sometimes your mistakes get your companions hurt me—well, it goes both ways so it all balances out. Heaven knows I’ve gotten some bruises due to a partner messing up. By the way, have you ever read Travels in the Dark?

“No, I don’t think I’ve seen that one on any of the lists. Is it a good one?”

“It is. It’s a bit dry, but it’s the most helpful book you will ever read about being an adventurer—it’s the autobiography of a retired officer from the Adventurer’s Association. It tells you everything you need to know; cooking, how to scavenge for supplies, the best loot, how to interpret contract laws, how to figure out when someone is trying to cheat you, how to survive during low periods where you don’t have any money coming in, wound treatment. That sort of thing.”

Penelope looked uncomfortable all of a sudden, and Sylvia saw an opening and pressed.

“Still, you’re liable to get turned away at your age. When you’re a bit older—and most certainly after you’ve read Travels in the Dark--if you still want to be an adventurer--and if I’m still alive, of course--you can write me and I’ll find the time to help you, okay?”

The Snivy looked up and nodded.

“Thank you, but I have a feeling I might try something else. I…I will keep you in mind, of course!”

That was the best Sylvia could do. “Well, I won’t try to change your mind. In any case you have more options than ‘do what your mother planned out’ and ‘most dangerous job in the continent’. Let’s go back inside, okay? The cold isn’t good for Grass-types.”

*

The day after Sylvia had gotten back to Red Leaf and filed a report she was relaxing in the local adventurer’s club, lounging in a booth seat next to her good friend Yasu the Braixen, and regaling some other members with her tale between drinks. The Adventurer Association was the only place she felt comfortable enough to truly let her guard down.

She had left out her conversation with Penelope; children don’t need their fantasies being dragged out to others.

Celia the Granbull shook her head from a nearby table. “Crazy. I worked for some crazy rich Beedrill once, you know. He wanted an escort deep into the northern wild just for sightseeing in the ruins up there. Paid well, but it wasn’t worth putting up with that company for three weeks. Hell, it seemed pointless since I’m sure any criminals who captured him would end up paying the ransom themselves to be allowed to release him after a day or two.”

Vern the Caterpie, a newer member who was lying on the booth tables, spoke up: “But Syl, weren’t you asked not to tell anyone?”

“Yep.”

“But you just…”

“Yep. She wasn’t my employer, hmm?”

There was some chuckling.

“I confess, Preston wasn’t too bad. An idiot, but I’ve worked for plenty of idiots,” Sylvia admitted as she finished her glass and waved for another.

“Any plans for the big payday?” Yasu asked.

“Heh, I’ll say this much; next time a Razor Claw shows up in the market I won’t just be eyeing it enviously!” Sylvia said. “Other than that though? My little brother’s got a kid on the way. I might head down there ‘til spring and help him out.”

Still, that was a few days from now. For now she was looking forward to enjoying to some quality dining, rent a day pass in Red Leaf arena to watch the battles, spend the night with Yasu, perhaps--all fine ways to celebrate a perfectly executed mission.

Life was good.

*

Alyssa was very pleased.

She had recovered her necklace. Her daughter’s celebration had gone off without a hitch, and best of all her daughter had apparently abandoned her foolish plans to skip to Red Leaf and become an adventurer.

She was finishing up some paperwork to finalize a deal to open up a new shop in Johrock when there was a polite knock on her study’s door, and after she told whoever was there to come in Rothesby entered with a smile.

“Madame, I am very pleased to inform you that your missing necklace has just been found—it appears that it had fallen into the basement through the laundry chute. I have it here.”

Then he set it down on the desk and left.

Alyssa gazed down at the necklace.

Then she curled up in a ball on the ground and groaned.

The door knocked again.

“Enter,” she moaned weakly.

It was one of her other house servants--Geoffrey, was it?

“Madame, Miss Eleanor is on the line. She sounds rather wrathful.”

END
 
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System Error

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All right, you're up next!

- Hey, Everlight City. This an Everlight Story, too, I take it?
- Wow, rude. For all his sister knows he could've been on the can or something and taken a while to get to the phone.
- Okay, this character is already over the top evil in the best possible way, lol
- Ugh, know what that's like, not getting an inheritence. Or rather, my late mother, but it's complicated and this isn't the time or place to rant about family.
- Well, we're getting off into a comedic side of things already, heh. Really though, did no one tell him why he was being denied service? A member of a rich and powerful family at that?
- The second worst? I'd hate to see the worse reputable job she'd ever seen, then.
- A pragmatic Sneasel whose greed can go against her better judgment. Ha. Fitting.
- I have this funny mental image of Preston normally being a slob rocker or something, but being a tryhard when it comes to formal occasions given the excessiveness of the outfit.
- What's she worried about with Gravelers?
- I’d be the right Pokémon for the job. <- No end quote
- You'd have to be pretty stupid to be denied that much service.
- Sylvia is such a braggart, ha.
- One takeaway so far: the Greendales all seem like total jerks, and a lazy slob rocker seems like among the least worst, and I wouldn't be surprised if the rest of his family bribed every single assistance agency out of some sort of spite.
- Typo where you call her Sylva at one point.
- Do know enough about Everlight to know humans only used to exist, probably, but mentioning an old human settlement in a Pokemon-centric world might prove slightly confusing to some unless elaborated on. There's just enough, like mentioning the human era later, but.
- Can appreciate using "the gods" here, rather than the extremely awkward and unfitting Arceus.
- as it used it’s beak <- Wrong its
- VOLTORB FLIP!!! MY NEMESIS!!!!!
- Well I can see why this Snorlax would be pissed. Quite the excessive threat from it though. A lot of characters seem to be amazingly over the top.
- Magmars I imagine swim in lava, so the euphanism kinda is wonky.
- back at the pair of Snivy <- No period
- Sylvia taking less than no flak, heh. Well they all probably kind of deserve it anyway, so...
- Only a pair of Shuckle? Least it's not a Wobbuffet war or a harden off, at least!
- ‘one of her own’ <- There's some inconsistency here with using singular quotes. It's correct I think, but you were using double quotes for quotes within quotes before.
- YOU ARE ALREADY DEAD, LITTLE BROTHER.
- This plan of Alyssa's is so bad it's sure to work! Certainly her terrible brother will be able to sweep this matriarch off her feet just like that.
- Okay, so I guess there is reason. But does she hate her brother enough to want to set her up with a total witch? ...okay, dumb question.
- Ha, I knew it. She just walked back in with the necklace while they were discussing idiotic plans.
- The way she mentioned Graveler Day twice makes me wonder if there was some kind of incident in her past.
- After the dance for whatever tiny shipping and whatnot, the twist! Guess Penelope had a lot going on in her mind as things were happening.
- Do like this little scene. Kids have some silly ideas of what they want to be. Like just the other day I heard one rambling about a hypothetical: go to college, or go to JUPITER.
- A Caterpie adventurer? Must be one of them super bug Pokemon if it made it in this line of work.
- Hey, shoutouts to Razor Claws. Always like when games stuff is worked in a logical way.
- Guess Penelope's mother knew about her daughter's plans, though.
- And the twist ending! DUN DUN DUNNNNN. Never saw it coming.

So been meaning to read Everlight for a while, and I guess now I kinda technically have! I liked this. Was a silly little story of a hardened adventurer being drawn into the chaos of socialite life for just a little moment.That said, how Sylvia was pretty much the protagonist kind of made the beginning a bit strange, particularly given Preston didn't get an epilogue of any sort. He was set up as the main character, but he wasn't important in any way. Kind of the point, I figure. Not getting any closure on his end was a bit strange that said, he just vanishes after the dance. That was about the only major structural oddity I could find, though. All in all, a solid short story within the limit. Good luck with the judging!
 

Daren

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Thanks a lot for the review and corrections!

- Hey, Everlight City. This an Everlight Story, too, I take it?
Same setting, and Sylvia is in Everlight Stories (technically it's sister story, Pokémon Magic Act--it's a weird narrative device but one I hope will pay dividends later), but both stories are meant to stand on their own without the other.

- Okay, this character is already over the top evil in the best possible way, lol
She (and several other characters here) is very strongly inspired by characters from the Bertie Wooster stories. In this case combining elements of aunt Agatha and aunt Dahlia.

- Well, we're getting off into a comedic side of things already, heh. Really though, did no one tell him why he was being denied service? A member of a rich and powerful family at that?
Preston himself isn't really super rich; best way to sum it up is that he's got a stable middle class income from his job and uses his sister's annual "don't humiliate the family too much" payments to live an upper-class lifestyle that will crash if he angers her too much.
Now, if Alyssa rang up they'd tell her in an instant.

(I actually used Bulbapedia to look up prices in the first MD games when I was determining his offer for the mission; since a quality TM can cost 8,000 Poké I went with 40,000 because it felt like a "jackpot, but you're not set for life" reward.
Preston's going to have to cut down some of his excesses for the rest of the year after paying that and the bonus out).

- The second worst? I'd hate to see the worse reputable job she'd ever seen, then.
During the writing process I went through a few different answers but figured none were as good as leaving it up to the reader. One was just that it was a young child trying to hire someone to help him skip school, which was my original favorite.

- I have this funny mental image of Preston normally being a slob rocker or something, but being a tryhard when it comes to formal occasions given the excessiveness of the outfit.
He's usually dressed very heavily for a Pokémon, but I figured he'd be more casual when he's just in his apartment.

- Sylvia is such a braggart, ha.
It becomes more clear in the Everlight main but she can definitely back it up. For a rough comparison I have her pegged at roughly "sixth or seventh Gym Leader's best Pokémon" in terms of raw strength.
Her threats towards Graham later are 100% on the mark. Yeah, she'd tear him to pieces in a fight.

- Do know enough about Everlight to know humans only used to exist, probably, but mentioning an old human settlement in a Pokemon-centric world might prove slightly confusing to some unless elaborated on. There's just enough, like mentioning the human era later, but.
Yeah, I was worried I might fail to clarify that enough in the story and I feel I should have set that part up a little better.

- Can appreciate using "the gods" here, rather than the extremely awkward and unfitting Arceus.
I'm leaving the question of exact Pokémon religion vague for obvious reasons, but Sylvia was raised (casually) in a polytheistic one. I don't go by the fan idea that normal Pokémon worship Legendary ones like Arceus, myself.

- Magmars I imagine swim in lava, so the euphanism kinda is wonky.
I hadn't thought of that, to be honest.

- YOU ARE ALREADY DEAD, LITTLE BROTHER.
Quite tempted not to fix that mistake. :LOL:

- Okay, so I guess there is reason. But does she hate her brother enough to want to set her up with a total witch? ...okay, dumb question.
It's more that forcing him to get with someone like Eleanor is something she is willing to do to get her necklace back. If he ended up with a nice girl who was from a "proper family" she'd be fine with it, as long as it didn't inconvenience her.

- The way she mentioned Graveler Day twice makes me wonder if there was some kind of incident in her past.
Sylvia's definitely had a bad experience with one at some point, though I don't know myself exactly what it was; adventuring is dangerous, which is why Sylvia dissuades Penelope from it.

- After the dance for whatever tiny shipping and whatnot, the twist! Guess Penelope had a lot going on in her mind as things were happening.
All Pokémon fics are legally mandated to include shipping bait. :p
(They don't get together ever).

- A Caterpie adventurer? Must be one of them super bug Pokemon if it made it in this line of work.
As a newbie he'd still be on the probation Sylvia mentioned, so he's got a mentor to watch out for him until he's evolved twice.
As a rule of thumb the Adventurer's Association puts a good bit of effort into keeping members alive so whoever he's partnered with is really, really good.

- And the twist ending! DUN DUN DUNNNNN. Never saw it coming.
The word limit caused a change of plans here. Originally the mistake would be discovered right after Sylvia's talk with Penelope, and we'd see her sneaking back into Eleanor's room to switch the two again that night; this time Eleanor would come into the room mid-replacement. That scene's actually written up and I might post it after the contest's over.

So been meaning to read Everlight for a while, and I guess now I kinda technically have!
Quick note: the current two Everlight chapters are getting a spelling, grammar, and sentence structure touch up very soon (hopefully tomorrow) but there are no story changes so anyone who already read those chapters doesn't need to do it again.

That said, how Sylvia was pretty much the protagonist kind of made the beginning a bit strange, particularly given Preston didn't get an epilogue of any sort. He was set up as the main character, but he wasn't important in any way. Kind of the point, I figure. Not getting any closure on his end was a bit strange that said, he just vanishes after the dance. That was about the only major structural oddity I could find, though. All in all, a solid short story within the limit. Good luck with the judging!
Sylvia originally got the first scene, but I thought the joke about Preston being blacklisted everywhere was better from his perspective.
His disappearance near the end was just a goof on my part though. ;) After I gave him the first scene I should have realized he'd need a proper ending scene, too!
 
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kintsugi

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Overall I thought this was really fun! I got some solid Douglas Adams vibes from this and I thought your humor landed where it needed to. The light-hearted take on the prompt was a lot of fun, and the general idea of this rough-and-tumble Sneasel needing to hang with high society was a really good direction to take things. I thought your in-narrative humor was really expertly timed--my favorite jokes were:
It was very odd, but he phoned every agency in knew of and none could assist him; several apparently had him on a blacklist as well, a few hung up as soon as he gave them his name, and one claimed that he called the wrong number despite having introduced themselves as the agency he had called.
“Easy enough. I’ll buy the Silverstreams cleaning service and give everyone there tomorrow off.”

“Wonderful! Oh, but then you’ll be stuck owning a cleaning service.”
but the others landed really well too! Comedic writing is all about timing and I think you had that down pat; the pacing of this felt pretty natural and you were able to weave a compelling story in among the moments of levity.

This is probably poking too hard at a comedic oneshot, but I had some questions about the worldbuilding!

first by speaking to other adventurers she trusted and then with a quick trip to Red Leaf Library to ask a research assistant some questions about the town (she was literate, but handling books with her claws was…unwise) and determined that she was not likely to require any heavy gear.
I always think this is interesting in PMD settings--why have books, then, if so many people in their population can't use them? Alyssa is specifically mentioned to have a bookshelf later, which I thought was even more strange, since it seems like she'd have an even harder time lacking hands than Sylvia would in having claws. There's some references to human architecture being a relic of older times, so I kind of got the feel that this is after some weird apocalypse that kills out all the humans but leaves the pokemon to inherit the earth, have human-esque parties, and study their building techniques--which could maybe explain why books used to be normal, or why tuxedos would be a cruel joke to play on your waitstaff, but I wasn't really sure why they were relevant now? I kinda got the feel that this is part of your larger collection of works, so I dunno if it needed to be explained all here, but I felt like this didn't have to be about pokemon at all! They don't really do anything that specifically utilizes their pokemon abilities; they don't behave differently than humans in fighting situations (and mostly avoid them altogether); their society looks pretty much like our own--some of the things, like Sylvia's guild, might not port directly, but they could pretty much just be a bunch of human cowboy mercs in a bar; Graham could just be a guy who took a boxing class at his Ivy League school; etc. Penelope even blushes/turns red, which seems distinctly difficult for a green reptile. A lot of this felt kind of like a whacky human adventure into high-class society, and it was certainly a lot of fun--but then there'd be a namedrop of a pokemon or something, just not in a way that was really impactful? If these had been all human characters I don't think I'd really bat an eye.

Silverstreams was a beautiful little resort town southeast of Red Leaf, right next to the eastern coastline, situated in a pleasant area with a healthy amount of greenery and even a nearby woodland whose local wild Pokémon were known to be gentle and easy going
I thought this was kind of interesting too :eyes: Like, what differentiates a wild pokemon from everyone else in the fic? I figured this tied into larger worldbuilding so it didn't particularly bother me, but I'm definitely curious about it!

Overall, I thought this was a ton of fun and a really easy read. The ending was funny but still surprising, your characters in general were really memorable, and I think you paced things really well! This fic was a lot longer than it felt.

grammar/phrasing edits below:

He couldn’t think of anything fitting the latter he hadn’t already been chewed up over, so it was probably the former.
dropped a word here I think

So he had no other choice; he must tackle this mysterious assignment with vigor and skill in the hope that Alyssa would look upon him with a kindly eye when January rolled about and it was time to send out the checks.
Swapped to present tense @ "must"--this happens a few times and I couldn't figure out if it was intentional. In this case "he had to tackle" or "he'd have to tackle" would make more sense.

“Hello, this is the Everlight Service and Staffing agency. How many I assist you?” spoke a polite voice.
"spoke" is a weird dialogue tag--I'm pretty sure it doesn't work as a direct synonym for "said"? Consider:
> "How may I assist you?" A polite voice spoke on the other end of the line.
> "How may I assist you?" asked a polite voice.

Regardless, there's a many/may swap as well

This is Preston Greendale, I need a temporary valet for the next two weeks.”
> This is Preston Greendale; I need a temporary valet for the next two weeks.
In general your semicolon usage is on-point so I figured this was a typo, but if you want a full breakdown on when/where they're supposed to go, I can toss some references your way.

However, at the bottom of the posting was a seal—a stylized blade of glass twisted around itself, thin strands of gold wrapped all around it--the family mark of the Greendales.
I liked this detail here but I had trouble picturing it--how does a glass blade wrap around itself?

Isn’t that a bit harsh? Besides, it could be a child that’s in trouble, her conscience scolded.
Referring to "a child" as "that" says a lot about Sylvia! Not sure if you did that intentionally or if you wanted "who" here.

Besides, Greendale means serious money, so the payment is probably genuine. Why pass up a huge payday over personal feelings? Her greed added
In the rest of the story you treat inner monologue like external dialogue, so the punctuation should match:
> Why pass up a huge payday over personal feelings? her greed added.

Seated next to him was a smaller female Snivy who had limited herself to a blue ribbon but seemed to quickly bore with the whole thing and was quietly reading, having initially seemed almost excited during the initial introduction only to slide into clear apathy within minutes.
This might be a language thing, so feel free to disregard, but I've never seen "bore" as a reflexive verb--usually I've seen it either as 1) to put holes in things or 2) to induce boredom in another. I think "grow bored" would work better here.

Sylvia quickly analysed if she thought he was a cruel employer or just so stupid people would prefer not to work for him, but from his mannerisms and what she knew of him it was more likely the latter.
The "but" here is kind of misleading, since her analysis and her conclusion don't contradict one another. I'd cut/replace with either starting a new sentence or a semicolon here.

“Oh, I’m not hiring you to protect me. Silverstreams is a resort town, very safe except for the price gouging, and there’s an air coach rout straight to it.
rout -> route

Sylvia sighed as felt what little chance of excitement in this mission existed cruelly snuffed out before it’s time.
I think you want "was snuffed out" (again, could be a language thing! but I've never seen "snuffed" as a reflexive), and it's -> its, and dropped a "she" at the beginning.

Preston, however, felt his mood improve immeasurably as the great burden was lifted; knowing he would have capable assistance in navigating the thorny mess no doubt awaiting him at Acorn Hall.
Should be a comma instead of a semicolon here.

an air coach
the local Air Coach station
I wasn't sure if there was a heuristic for when these got capitalized vs not; I couldn't find one.

It was a bit of a shock—but he supposed these Adventurers are the sort of adamant-willed Pokémon who can ask questions like that without even a second of discomfort or finding it necessary to use euphemisms to hint without saying.
Carrying all three at once was not easy, but Sneasel are very strong for their size, and Sylvia was a very strong Sneasel.
Sylvia offered him a smile of pity. He really thinks that, doesn’t he?
Weird flip into present tense on these again here.

“Well, if we’re outside Republic territory anyways then nobody will care if someone violates the decrees of a bunch of moralizing asses down in the Everlight council who want to regulate oran-to-cherri berry breakfast ratios for everyone,” she said added with a dismissive wave.
Extra said/added here

As they passed through the square to a road out of town that would lead to Acorn Hall Sylvia glanced around, taking in the sights and analyzing everything carefully—an old habit that keeps you safe in her profession.
Another swap to present tense on "keeps", and I think the front of this sentence has maybe one too many prepositional phrases.

The town square itself—aside from the local coach station and a sheriff office--consisted of a number of shops that seemed a combination of general stores selling necessities like food, drinks, and likely household supplies and tools, some luxury providers including a jeweler and gift shops, several boutiques, inns, restaurants, and services offering just about anything a Pokémon on vacation might want.
Usually for lists of lists, you pull in semicolons:
> consisted of a number of shops that seemed like a combination of general stores selling necessities like food, drinks, and household supplies; some luxury providers including a jewler and gift shops; several boutiques, inns, and restaurants--services offering just about anything a Pokemon on vacation might want.

“Ah, Graham, you’re in town, I see, how wonderful.” Preston said, smiling nervously.
Swapped the comma at the end of his dialogue for a period here.

“Er…” he seemed nervous now, his bravado deflating as he gazed into her eyes—disturbing ones that seemed not only unafraid but on the verge of excitement, and he noticed the way her eyes were examining him—like she was searching for weak points.
This felt a bit clunky with the repetition of eyes and the em dash splits. Maybe rephrase to: "he seemed nervous now, his bravado deflating as he gazed into her eyes. Her gaze was disturbing--not only unafraid, but on the verge of excitement, and he couldn't help but notice the way she examined him like she was searching for weak points.

Dark-type
grass-type
As with the air coach thing, I wasn't sure if there was a reason that some types got capitalized but some didn't.

Located at the end of a dirt path that split off from of the main road leading to town, reaching Acorn Hall was not a long walk and it was even visible from the town itself.
The dangling participle here made the sentence feel awkward--maybe rephrase to "Located at the end of a dirt path splitting off from the town's main road, Acorn Hall wasn't a long walk from town and was even visible from the town itself."

For Sylvia--who earlier this year had crawled survived a horrific campaign against the Shining Hill bandits
doubled crawled/survived here

It soon became clear whoever won would not be able to claim the crown easily; neither flinched, neither blinked; neither so much as shifted their body an inch outside Sylvia tapping her foot impatiently as the contest of wills dragged on like a duel between a pair of Shuckle.
Dropped semicolon -> "neither flinched; neither blinked"

“I mean, family is family, of course, perhaps I spoke a bit hastily…”
Dropped semicolon here -> "family is family, of course; perhaps I spoke a bit hastily..."

Alyssa said more sweetly as she lowered her height again, then used her tail to reach into her satchel and remove such a thing, casually flicking it towards Preston, who failed to catch it as it bounced off his side. Using a vine to pick it up sheepishly, he handed it to Sylvia for safe keeping.
The spacing of this dialogue and referring to the replica only as "it" and "such a thing" here made it a little tricky to keep track off what you were referring to--maybe just mention that it's the fake necklace again?

She was at her goal being so swiftly accomplished
dropped a word here

It was a heartening moment for Preston; perhaps Sylvia rather liked him despite her gruff demeanor—it just goes to show how often Pokémon keep their true heart hidden.
Another swap into present tense.

“No; the supervisor assigns mentors and make sure there’s no prior connection to avoid favoritism.”
Don't need the semicolon here -> No, the supervisor assigns mentors

Vern the Caterpie, a newer member who was lying on the booth tables, spoke up, “But Syl, weren’t you asked not to tell anyone?”
Same spoke thing as before. Maybe swap to: a newer member who was lying on the booth tables, spoke up: "But Syl, weren't you asked not to tell anyone?"
 
Last edited:

Daren

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Thanks for the review and the grammar assistance!

Going by feedback so far I think one of the major flaws is that it didn’t do a good job of exploring the setting properly so it feels disjointed.

Overall I thought this was really fun! I got some solid Douglas Adams vibes from this and I thought your humor landed where it needed to. The light-hearted take on the prompt was a lot of fun, and the general idea of this rough-and-tumble Sneasel needing to hang with high society was a really good direction to take things. I thought your in-narrative humor was really expertly timed--my favorite jokes were:
Thanks! Interestingly enough, the first was a joke I planned out and then built up to while the second was a "throw it in" punch-up done to sort of draw out the conversation to give time for Sylvia to just snatch the necklace.

This is probably poking too hard at a comedic oneshot, but I had some questions about the worldbuilding!
Poke away, I love answering worldbuilding questions! :)

I always think this is interesting in PMD settings--why have books, then, if so many people in their population can't use them? Alyssa is specifically mentioned to have a bookshelf later, which I thought was even more strange, since it seems like she'd have an even harder time lacking hands than Sylvia would in having claws. There's some references to human architecture being a relic of older times, so I kind of got the feel that this is after some weird apocalypse that kills out all the humans but leaves the pokemon to inherit the earth, have human-esque parties, and study their building techniques--which could maybe explain why books used to be normal, or why tuxedos would be a cruel joke to play on your waitstaff, but I wasn't really sure why they were relevant now? I kinda got the feel that this is part of your larger collection of works, so I dunno if it needed to be explained all here, but I felt like this didn't have to be about pokemon at all! They don't really do anything that specifically utilizes their pokemon abilities; they don't behave differently than humans in fighting situations (and mostly avoid them altogether); their society looks pretty much like our own--some of the things, like Sylvia's guild, might not port directly, but they could pretty much just be a bunch of human cowboy mercs in a bar; Graham could just be a guy who took a boxing class at his Ivy League school; etc. Penelope even blushes/turns red, which seems distinctly difficult for a green reptile. A lot of this felt kind of like a whacky human adventure into high-class society, and it was certainly a lot of fun--but then there'd be a namedrop of a pokemon or something, just not in a way that was really impactful? If these had been all human characters I don't think I'd really bat an eye.
*Books are rarer than in our world; however there's a role for professional readers in the setting, and communities have social events where one Pokémon reads to others who can't for whatever reason. So they do still get a decent amount of use.
(Oddly enough, Serperior do have hands, but they're always folded behind their backs and can be hard to make out. It's a bit clearer in the 3D games and Ken Sugimori confirmed that's what they are)

*There's a sort of trend of trying to emulate a number of human elements running through some parts of Pokémon society, but there are still some pretty major differences--this story focused heavily on a part that's especially human, and at times Sylvia reacts to this (noticing there wasn't an open arena in Silverstreams, being offput by Preston wearing too much clothing).

*I did realize while writing that this story would work with humans and only require fairly minor changes--sort of an accident about what in particular it ended up focusing on, especially since some more Pokémon like abilities got left on the cutting room floor during editing. There was a cut scene where Sneasel having excellent night vision (due to originally being night time predators) was relevant.

*Penelope blushing was something I went back and forth on; I knew it was a bit weird, but I figured since we see reptiles sweat in the main MD games why not?

I thought this was kind of interesting too :eyes: Like, what differentiates a wild pokemon from everyone else in the fic? I figured this tied into larger worldbuilding so it didn't particularly bother me, but I'm definitely curious about it!
Some general rules of thumb:
*Do you make use of manufactured goods (like pouches, satchels, any sort of tech)? Not wild.
*Do you mostly live in a village or town, especially one that isn't basically just your own evolutionary line? Not wild.
*Do you use money? Not wild.

There are a few grey areas--there's some groups there is a bit of debate over, and while pretty much everyone accepts that it's possible for a wild Pokémon to stop being wild there's debate over whether the reverse is true.

Overall, I thought this was a ton of fun and a really easy read. The ending was funny but still surprising, your characters in general were really memorable, and I think you paced things really well! This fic was a lot longer than it felt.
Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

I liked this detail here but I had trouble picturing it--how does a glass blade wrap around itself?
I picture the blade being bent and doing a loop around its own stem.
 

bluering8

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This one was fun! It's an entertaining read and it dragged a chuckle or twelve out of me. I I like Wodehouse and honestly the mere idea of "Bertie Wooster hires a mercenary to play valet while Jeeves is away" is enough to make me wheeze with laughter.
A common format for a Jeeves and Wooster story is that Bertie's attempts to fix the situation actually cause it to escalate, and then right before everything goes completely to hell Jeeves swoops in and provides a solution. With that in mind, I'd have really liked to see a few scenes with Sylvia failing badly at the basic duties of a valet; I think it would strengthen the story, both in terms of the right-person-wrong-genre theme and in terms of general narrative flow, if there were a sense that the skills Sylvia uses to navigate her way through her adventure genre don't transfer well to Preston's lighthearted comedy genre and that Sylvia's presence might make the situation worse.

“I’m afraid to say, sir, that you’re on our special list, and only one member has agreed to serve you despite the agency’s better judgement.”
This is hilarious, but it bothers me a little that there never ends up being an explanation for why. It feels like a loose end, the set-up for a joke which never gets to land.

“Take me with you, please!” Penelope asked.

What?”

“Back to Red Leaf. I want to be an adventurer, like you! It’s been my dream for years; I read the books, I read the magazines…and I saw the way you scared off Graham, and mother said you handled her job faster than a Rapidash! I’d love for you to teach me to be like you!”
Considering that Penelope's been a nonentity for most of the story and the only characterisation she has comes from this scene and the scene immediately prior, this feels a little like it came out of nowhere. As far as pacing goes it's very jarring to suddenly have this new situation appear after the main plot (the necklace theft) has been sorted out, especially when the problem is introduced and resolved in almost the same breath rather than being given time to develop naturally.
(Part of why I find it so jarring is that right at the beginning of the story Preston was told "Take [Penelope] to purchase some accessories for the big day while you’re both down there", which would have been the perfect occasion for Sylvia and Penelope to interact and to hint at Penelope's desire to become an adventurer, so when you pass up the opportunity to lay that kind of groundwork my response as a reader is that it feels like this scene was added in at the last minute rather than being intended from the start.)

Honestly, despite the enjoyable humour of the story, the plot structure feels loose and a little unfocused (for example, the lack of any wrapping-up of Preston's scenes; he just sort of slides offstage after the dance and then that's it). And -
and grossly overpaid the Corviknight to just through that seem
- you've got a few weird lines like this and some minor grammatical errors throughout. I think the fic as a whole could have benefitted from a beta-reader or at least another round of proof-reading.
 

Daren

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Thanks for the review!

This one was fun! It's an entertaining read and it dragged a chuckle or twelve out of me. I I like Wodehouse and honestly the mere idea of "Bertie Wooster hires a mercenary to play valet while Jeeves is away" is enough to make me wheeze with laughter.
My first idea was going to be about an inappropriate character in a horror story but then this idea came to me and I said "yes, this is much better."

A common format for a Jeeves and Wooster story is that Bertie's attempts to fix the situation actually cause it to escalate, and then right before everything goes completely to hell Jeeves swoops in and provides a solution. With that in mind, I'd have really liked to see a few scenes with Sylvia failing badly at the basic duties of a valet; I think it would strengthen the story, both in terms of the right-person-wrong-genre theme and in terms of general narrative flow, if there were a sense that the skills Sylvia uses to navigate her way through her adventure genre don't transfer well to Preston's lighthearted comedy genre and that Sylvia's presence might make the situation worse.
I agree; there's more I could have done with this and I was originally planning to have the general escalation of disaster that makes the Jeeves and Bertie stories so great; unfortunately I realized the character limit would stop me from really doing it fully. The present version almost makes Sylvia seem a bit too "overpowered", I think.
Once the contest is done I plan to do a larger, revised version that'll tie the plot together better and include a number of scenes I had to remove. It will probably end up being four or five chapters instead of a one-shot, though.

This is hilarious, but it bothers me a little that there never ends up being an explanation for why. It feels like a loose end, the set-up for a joke which never gets to land.
Sylvia's guess that he was irritating everyone was supposed to be right, but I should have made that clearer.

Considering that Penelope's been a nonentity for most of the story and the only characterisation she has comes from this scene and the scene immediately prior, this feels a little like it came out of nowhere. As far as pacing goes it's very jarring to suddenly have this new situation appear after the main plot (the necklace theft) has been sorted out, especially when the problem is introduced and resolved in almost the same breath rather than being given time to develop naturally.

(Part of why I find it so jarring is that right at the beginning of the story Preston was told "Take [Penelope] to purchase some accessories for the big day while you’re both down there", which would have been the perfect occasion for Sylvia and Penelope to interact and to hint at Penelope's desire to become an adventurer, so when you pass up the opportunity to lay that kind of groundwork my response as a reader is that it feels like this scene was added in at the last minute rather than being intended from the start.)
Sylvia taking Penelope shopping was planned until the character limit struck (unlike some other removed scenes it was never written out though).

Actually, Penelope's plotline was quite a bit lengthier but once again the character limit struck. I tried to build up to it a little by mentioning that Penelope was reading a magazine about adventuring, but in retrospect it would have probably worked best to cut that last scene with her instead.

Honestly, despite the enjoyable humour of the story, the plot structure feels loose and a little unfocused (for example, the lack of any wrapping-up of Preston's scenes; he just sort of slides offstage after the dance and then that's it).
Yep, I entirely agree. I had a lot of fun writing this but the story structure fell apart; I found it hard to find time to write after the first few days of the contest which...definitely shows.

- you've got a few weird lines like this and some minor grammatical errors throughout. I think the fic as a whole could have benefitted from a beta-reader or at least another round of proof-reading.
I do usually have a beta reader (who actually introduced me to Wodehouse's writing in the first place) but I ended up thinking there was no time left.

Then the contest deadline got extended again.:oops:
 

Rainfall

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Hi Daren!

Coming by with a response. Sorry in advance if it’s not very thought out, it’s more of just highlighting some aspects I enjoyed! Also for not using the quote mechanism. Turns out, when I quote a lot and add some notes, there’s still a lot of words. I will just say up front that this seemed well though-out and constructed.

I had to read your introduction a few times to properly comprehend it, haha!

Lovely opening line, jumping right in, setting the scene and action.
“in Everlight city on lazy autumn day” how wonderful : )

Right from the bat, this gets me curious about the family setup.

“annually doled out small payments to her siblings out of a combination of mild family loyalty and the belief that having something to threaten them with was the best way to keep them in line.
This scheme had proved quite successful; Preston was used to spending well beyond the means provided by his job as a reviewer for Everlight at Night.”
Well, that’s powerful. Success, Alyssa.

“Preston could not have been more surprised if he’d woken one morning, went into the kitchen for breakfast, and upon opening his cellar found a Gyarados curled up inside sleeping amidst crumbs and other remnants of Preston’s stored victuals”
That Gyarados imagery is perfect. I love it. Love it love it love it

I absolutely loved Preston’s “brilliant idea”! Phoning another agency. And another. And so on. He really does have persistence! (The wrong number claim was beautiful.)

(I just realized I wasn’t sure how to spell “desperate straits”! Good to know now, at least, before I forget.)

Nice world details about Occeris, the golden field west of the lake, and the economic history there. I enjoyed the part where Sylvia decided at last to go forth with this choice before it became a -discussion- rabble of three conscious attributes personified. (Great flow and pacing, feels like I’m out on an ambulatory outing where I’m never tripping over myself.)

“immorality no longer surprised her—she’d seen the things that get left out of the adventure stories” : o
And later, Penelope reading the magazine that once featured Sylvia in “a spirited but woefully inaccurate article special on an expedition”—not only do stories and publications tend to present a filtered angle on events historical and contemporary, but will also get the details and explanations wrong. “Truth” A sufficiently accurate depiction of reality is difficult to discover. Difficult to convey. Difficult to preserve.
Shortly after, a “smile of pity” for Mr. Greendale. Shout out to all the things we are in the dark about, I guess! And all the conspiracies, on the other hand, for which we have Rube Goldberg level mechanisms for explaining.

I do love that the potential random Graveler attack that never came, at least for the duration of the story! (“as probability suggests” lol!) Being ever on guard for possible monkey wrenches of destruction pays off! : p

Poor Penelope, so quickly “slid[] into clear apathy”. Time moves so slow when you’re younger, and she gets the pleasure of dealing with the antics of her class and her mother’s plans for her.

(A birthday party? Don’t post an emergency unless someone’s been kidnapped! : P )

“once been hired to protect a businessman up in Lodestrom city who had tried to avoid paying her afterwards--he didn’t turn out too well, since she’d decided to “repossess unpaid for services” regarding her preventing an enemy of his from breaking his arm” well… I’ll be danged, what a nice way of putting that (into its proper place).

I hear it. Sylvia lives for the danger. Sylvia prepares for the tasks she undertakes.

High-class living really can seem silly, but the consequences for whether one adheres to norms are usually substantial.

“Sneasel are very strong for their size, and Sylvia is a very strong Sneasel”
I am positively awful at using the right tenses myself, but it feels like “was” is more fitting there—seems like most of it is literary past tense. “are” seems fine in its use in a general statement.

“human plush toys” – 100! [emoji]
Underground battling arenas, oh my.

“Judging by what she’d been told about this place she imag[in]ed summoning the Sheriff would be as useful as a Magmar learning to swim.”
wow, perfectly fun descriptive imagery and an indictment on the de facto power-peace landscape.

“She already hated the place and everyone in it, a feeling that was not diminished by the overly long wait once Preston had rung the bell outside as they waited for someone to make their way across the overly-large beacon of avarice to actually let them in.”

Beacon of avarice, nice. I suppose it refers to the distance between the front door and where residents usually are? A waste of space.

“Now everyone was watching her again, and the chatter died down to a few nervous (and some excited) whispers before utter silence took over.”

[ Inner thoughts: “Finally! We might see some action around here. It was getting hella boring. Jonathan’s fundraiser here. Jessica’s new leadership program there. The same two companies’ offerings of hors d’oeuvres. Another six hours wasted tonight for someone’s “coming of age”. ]

“whose most frightening experience is finding their breakfast was colder than hoped for”
Don’t discount the horror!!

Wait, so Sylvia could understand “myrmidon” but not “harridan”? : o
Or was it that with the first case, she could easily infer from the non-lexical communication?

“sell-claw” nice!
… wait, what’s the usual term we would use again? I’m blanking out on it.

“squeezing rent”—money matters and law and policy and industry and… all that, it gets pretty tangled up. She won’t ever be able to forget how the golden fields were treated.

“permanent mates” that’s… sinister. Does the marriage of Alyssa’s brother, a non-principal of the richest family in Occeris, not also matter? Is marriage not just for political, economic, or social strategy, but even worth it just to get back at someone? How does this not blow up in your face if you don’t like that person to begin with? Alyssa has long since written off Preston. Preston is just another tool that she has wrapped around the end of her tail.

“They were both satisfied with the first draft of their strategy” : D conniving!
(But where’s all the mapping of where things could go wrong and the actions to take when that happens, and scrapping the plan and re-writing it?)

Sylvia certainly is resourceful to take care of business so quickly and logically.

“There are no drainpipes or ladders anywhere when you’re out adventuring in the wild.” One wrong move and it’s your head, then? There are no ladders in that world outside without rules… well, a different set of rules. But no quick platter to nominal success.

“Graveler day is always possible” : P
To mix the sayings, preparation is the best defense! (I actually don’t remember what or if there are common sayings that start with “Preparation is”.)

“Sylvia found herself wincing in sympathy.” Oh, yes.

That was kind of Sylvia to give Penelope straight advice. Not to tell her to avoid her profession. But to give her a way to learn about the real considerations, that she will lose friends she makes, that it will be perilous, pitiful, painful, pedestrian and mundane. To be open and allow Penelope to contact her in the future, and all to effectively convince Penelope that this may not be the best path.

“But Syl, weren’t you asked not to tell anyone?”
[…]

“Yep. She wasn’t my employer, hmm?”

I’m afraid that I actually am too blockheaded to understand this! Preston hired Sylvia and requested that the mission’s details not be told, but since she’s talking about Alyssa, it’s allo fine? What am I not understanding.

“My little brother’s got a kid on the way.” The earth turns and life marches on.

Alyssa isn’t stupid. It’s good that she knew Penelope well enough to understand that Penelope isn’t keen on the high life planned out for her… yet. And that she knew Penelope did or would seek out Sylvia, and that Sylvia would likely not steal her from her destined life.

It’s not really foreshadowing, but it’s a nice parallel—that the dishes crashed in the kitchen during the celebrations, entirely unnecessarily, due to her plotting. I quite enjoyed that!

I must confess that if I were Alyssa, I would probably suspect Eleanor all the same, if I didn’t think I misplaced my necklace : x

What a great twist at the end, and perfectly captured by the sequence! Sitting on her dungeon office, upon her throne chair, with things all having gone right, for Penelope and the coming of age ceremony, for her sweet revenge against Eleanor, only to find out she misunderstood. Rothesby coming by with a smile, showing they discovered the lost necklace. Looking at the necklace in front of her, realizing her machinations had backfired completely and caused trouble, rather than fixing a wrong. And another servant (with the perfect touch of probably but not certainly remembering their name) noting that Eleanor was on the line. So perfect.
 

Daren

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Thanks a lot for the review! :)
I absolutely loved Preston’s “brilliant idea”! Phoning another agency. And another. And so on. He really does have persistence! (The wrong number claim was beautiful.)
That is one of my favourite jokes in the story.

Wait, so Sylvia could understand “myrmidon” but not “harridan”? : o
Or was it that with the first case, she could easily infer from the non-lexical communication?
Myrmidon is a fairly common way (in setting) for people to less-than-politely refer to adventurers, though it's also partly that I learned the word "myrmidon" a few decades before harridan and probably subconsciously think of it was more common than it is. :)

“sell-claw” nice!
… wait, what’s the usual term we would use again? I’m blanking out on it.
I was thinking of the term "sell-sword". I'm not sure if that phrase had historical use or just pops up in fiction, though.

“squeezing rent”—money matters and law and policy and industry and… all that, it gets pretty tangled up. She won’t ever be able to forget how the golden fields were treated.
Yeah, there's a bit of history there. It'll eventually get detailed in my other story in this setting but she did not have a pleasant youth in the golden fields despite having loving parents.

“permanent mates” that’s… sinister. Does the marriage of Alyssa’s brother, a non-principal of the richest family in Occeris, not also matter? Is marriage not just for political, economic, or social strategy, but even worth it just to get back at someone? How does this not blow up in your face if you don’t like that person to begin with? Alyssa has long since written off Preston. Preston is just another tool that she has wrapped around the end of her tail.
From Alyssa's perspective forcing Preston to become Eleanor's mate to get back the necklace is fine; Eleanor is very high status so it would be a "proper match". She doesn't like Eleanor, but she doesn't like a good 75% of her social peers, but you just have to grin and bear it. She'd be okay with him picking his own mate as long as they were high enough status.
Poor Penelope's options will be thoroughly vetted and micromanaged, though, since she's the current primary heir to the family.

That was kind of Sylvia to give Penelope straight advice. Not to tell her to avoid her profession. But to give her a way to learn about the real considerations, that she will lose friends she makes, that it will be perilous, pitiful, painful, pedestrian and mundane. To be open and allow Penelope to contact her in the future, and all to effectively convince Penelope that this may not be the best path.
I rewrote this exchange quite a bit to get it just right. Sylvia's pretty grumpy throughout the story and there's hints she resorts to violence way too fast, but she has some gentler traits, and that scene was important for showing that.

I’m afraid that I actually am too blockheaded to understand this! Preston hired Sylvia and requested that the mission’s details not be told, but since she’s talking about Alyssa, it’s allo fine? What am I not understanding.
Oops, another victim of some line cuts; Alyssa asked her not to talk, not Preston. Since Alyssa didn't hire her Sylvia sees no reason to oblige her except in the most half hearted way she can.

Alyssa isn’t stupid. It’s good that she knew Penelope well enough to understand that Penelope isn’t keen on the high life planned out for her… yet. And that she knew Penelope did or would seek out Sylvia, and that Sylvia would likely not steal her from her destined life.
Alyssa is addicted to overly complex plans, but she's fairly aware of what's going on in her own family.
 

Beth Pavell

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Review #3!

Technical Accuracy/Style
It seems you've already corrected the errors I spotted. It's competent prose anyway. Sometimes prose that is technically accurate is prone to malapropisms and similar errors, but I didn't see that here either. One thing that does turn up in my notes is a tendency towards overfull sentences - I repeatedly started to think things like "if that sentence just had one less clause".

Story
I really liked this one. I thought it was appropriate to the theme and setting. It didn't outstay its welcome to the tune of thousands more words than was really needed. Which is just as well, because there's no way the story could be sustained beyond this length in any case. It's a straightforward interpretation of the theme that leads to a deliberately deflated climax (I think the sting at the end makes up for that, personally).

Characters
They're clichés, but that's ok because they're clichés based on something. I think Sylvia isn't quite so entertaining in that respect than Preston and his peers, probably because the hard-nosed mercenary cliché is more of a fantasy than the idle rich clichés on show. The one thing that did bug me was the Snorlax character - he's supposed to be part of this manor-bound class, but he speaks and acts in typically video game thug fashion.

Actually, there were two things. The use of "anyways" - it just seems to me that this is the sort of language any prep school would thoroughly beat out of a child.
 

Daren

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Thanks for your review!

One thing that does turn up in my notes is a tendency towards overfull sentences - I repeatedly started to think things like "if that sentence just had one less clause".
This is definitely a writing flaw of mine I've been trying to work on.

I really liked this one. I thought it was appropriate to the theme and setting. It didn't outstay its welcome to the tune of thousands more words than was really needed. Which is just as well, because there's no way the story could be sustained beyond this length in any case. It's a straightforward interpretation of the theme that leads to a deliberately deflated climax (I think the sting at the end makes up for that, personally).
Thank you!
I didn't want to make things too complicated since I don't think I could pull it off in the word limit, though in places I probably cut the wrong parts and it led to some problems anyways.

They're clichés, but that's ok because they're clichés based on something. I think Sylvia isn't quite so entertaining in that respect than Preston and his peers, probably because the hard-nosed mercenary cliché is more of a fantasy than the idle rich clichés on show.
Sylvia's a bit of a straight man in this story. I could have made her a bit more over the top and amusing but I wanted to keep true to her characterization in my other story she features in even though this is a one-shot that (hopefully) works fine on its own--I figured taking a character in a story I've already started uploading to push into the wrong genre fit well with the contest theme.
Still, she may come off as a bit of a power fantasy character here (something I'm not really happy about); her dialogue near the end with Penelope mentioning the mundane and awful parts of her career are related to a theme that her lifestyle is less fun and glamorous than it looks, but there wasn't enough space to fully explore that here so I just put in a few allusions and references to it.

The one thing that did bug me was the Snorlax character - he's supposed to be part of this manor-bound class, but he speaks and acts in typically video game thug fashion.
Graham's page time was probably a bit too limited; I could have cut the scene and did consider it, but I wanted that particular Wodehousian archetype to appear since it fit in too well with the "hardened mercenary replacing Jeeves" idea.

Actually, there were two things. The use of "anyways" - it just seems to me that this is the sort of language any prep school would thoroughly beat out of a child.
Thanks for pointing this out. I should try to formalize the lines from the "society" characters in the updated revision (I'll keep this one up as well since it was the entry version).
 
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