Nine-year-old Elise Willow had always had a fascination with the past. While Striaton City’s other children stared at their televisions, she pressed her face to the glass around the exhibits at the Nacrene Museum. Of course, this required convincing Rusty, her parents’ Stoutland, to accompany her to the neighboring town, which was not an easy task, but it was worth it. While other children ran and roughhoused, she inspected the debris in the Dreamyard, painstakingly sketching particularly interesting pieces. She thought that the washed-out old hunks of concrete looked lonely somehow, and felt a sense of duty to keep them company and unravel their secrets. However, hundreds of people had already explored every nook and cranny of the Dreamyard- she often saw trainers battling there, their pokémon darting through the myriad holes in the ruins. She had higher ambitions.
This stemmed from her frequent visits to the museum. The museum’s curator had picked up on the pattern of an unaccompanied little girl to show up, like clockwork, every day at precisely 4:00 PM. When she asked the child where her parents were, she discovered a passion for archaeology, and the two quickly became friends. Elise rather liked Lenora. Not only was she an apparently infinite fountain of knowledge about everything Elise had ever wanted to know, she was a gym leader!
It was from Lenora that Elise learned of the Abyssal Ruins. Buried beneath the sparkling waters of Undella Bay, they were built by a mysterious ancient civilization. Nobody knew why. They were incredibly difficult to investigate, as powerful torrents of water would sweep through the ruins just as something new would be found. Many esteemed archaeologists suspected that some sort of booby trap caused this. A strange, never-before-seen script covered the walls, and it was just starting to be deciphered. It was an anomalous place rife with mystery- a perfect place to captivate Elise’s dreams.
From the first day she heard about it, Elise read obsessively about the Ruins, often forgoing basic comforts such as food or sleep. Her grades in school began to falter, as she preferred to read research papers rather than complete her homework. Her normally sharp mind became muddled from fatigue. Despite the writers of the papers having vocabularies many times the size of Elise’s, she became something of an expert on the Abyssal Ruins, even memorizing the script found on the walls. Anticipation for her tenth birthday seized her like it never had before, because when she was ten, she could get a pokémon. When she had a pokémon, she would be free to travel.
When that day rolled around, a skinny, serious-faced girl walked into Professor Juniper’s lab. Elise had dressed her very best for the occasion, but made no effort to hide the dark circles under her eyes. After receiving the usual spiel given to new trainers, she wordlessly made her way to the table and picked up the poké ball containing Oshawott, for it would be able to dive underwater and take her to the Ruins that were the focus of her life. She called it Argus, for no reason in particular. It would be a fateful partnership.
It was two years later when Elise finally set foot on the fine sands of Undella Town. Many factors had conspired against her ever reaching it, as if trying to warn her away from her goal in any way possible. Marvelous Bridge had been shut down, for “repairs”. The sandstorm of the century prevented the timely crossing of Route 4, forcing Elise to stay in Castelia City for weeks. Twist Mountain had experienced a problematic landslide, and the rubble had to be moved away from the path before Elise could even enter the cave. And, of course, she was distracted for some time by the Relic Castle, with its golden sands flowing across stone, and the mysterious Dragonspiral Tower stretching into the sky.
Argus, now a Samurott, bent down to allow his trainer to climb onto his back. The warm waters of Undella Bay welcomed him as he slid into the water, Elise riding. She craned her neck, searching for the dark spots in the water signaling an area in which the seafloor dropped suddenly. Where the entrances to the Abyssal Ruins could be found. Elise murmured into Argus’ ear and pointed into the distance. The pokémon sped in the direction specified as Elise lowered her scuba mask. Taking a deep breath, Argus submerged them.
The light filtering through the water became dimmer and dimmer as Argus fought the upwards current. A pyramidal structure loomed ahead of the pair, intricate runes carved into the sides. Elise could not read them, as they were far away, and they had faded with time and the endless pounding of the waves. Argus was beginning to feel agitated, as he knew, just knew, that something about this place was horribly wrong, directly against the natural order he’d known all his life. He sensed a presence; one that he felt had no right to exist. The other pokémon in the area must have felt it as well, as not a single fin or tail could be seen. But Argus pressed on, for it would make his trainer, his friend, happy.
A rectangular hole near the base of the pyramid yawned open, like a dark, gaping maw ready to swallow trespassers. Elise headed straight for it. She lingered in the water and darkness for a moment to allow her eyes to adapt. A click echoed in the distance, signaling the setting of the torrent trap, but it sounded weak and ineffectual, as if someone had jammed the mechanism. She did not mind, as this would allow her more time to explore. Maybe even reach new depths no one had seen before. Beaming with excitement, she swam forwards to a stone panel in the wall, the ancient script she knew so well covering it. Impossibly, the writing was perfectly pristine, as if it had just been carved yesterday. Elise trailed her fingers across the wall as she read. To her surprise, there was no message about a king, as most of the texts in the ruins purportedly contained. Instead, it read two words:
This was simply not possible. The first floor of the Abyssal Ruins had been explored thoroughly, and nobody had found those two words- so simple, yet so deeply, viscerally unsettling. Elise glared warily at the panel, then waved to Argus, telling him to follow. Odd text aside, it was time to move on.
Elise scanned the hallways, hoping to find, perhaps, an ancient artifact someone had missed, or better, another stone panel set in the wall. She found the latter. This one was cleanly carved as well. Clear, just as it was thousands of years ago. Elise squinted at the wall. Again, two words…
Who had done this? Elise had come to the sickening conclusion that some dedicated vandal had desecrated the site in order to play some tasteless joke. This was unforgivable. For three years now, she had poured her soul into this place, and now, it was simply not as glorious as it once was. As it should have been. She growled a curse, and then turned to the left, heading for another panel. She could have sworn she saw the indents flicker momentarily as she swam, but this was likely due the mass of water blurring the her already murky vision. These carvings were fresh as well.
“Wrong way”, they read.
These messages were trying to lead Elise along, like a lab rat in a maze. She was unafraid of what they might lead to- she was too blinded by a broiling rage to consider the possible danger. She turned, kicking off the wall, and paddled the other direction. Argus followed obediently, though the wrongness he felt was growing stronger. He felt it pressing down around him, stronger than the water pressure, trying to suffocate them both. The Samurott could not deny it. He was afraid.
Elise swam forward, guided by the directions of the panels- no, desperate pleas to come closer. It was almost as though someone (or something) was using them to bring her to their- or its- lair. Finally, she hit a dead end. A sliver mist of bubbles sprayed through the tiniest of cracks in the left side of the wall. More script was engraved in it. It was an entirely new message, one unlike any she’d seen up to this point.
Just as Elise finished reading, a low-pitched, ominous rumble roared from directly in front of her. The stone slab slid aside, groaning and grumbling as it bumped over the uneven floor. She paid no notice to Argus’ whimper as the Samurott sensed the uncomfortable presence more strongly. Nobody, not even the most brilliant minds in archaeology, had even expected such a thing to occur. Elise Willow would be the first person to pass this wall in over 3,000 years. The very thought had her shivering with excitement, though she didn’t realize that the smile on her face was a broken parody of the intended expression.
Argus huddled close to his trainer as they rose to the second floor of the pyramid.
The light levels were lower still than the floor below, and the walls had something of a mirage-like quality due to the water refracting what little light remained. Elise threw an arm around her nervous pokémon, though she wasn’t devoting her full attention to Argus. She had spotted another panel in the wall, with the symbols of the Ruins script on it. A message for her, and her alone. She was thoroughly convinced of this, that the whole experience was hers, hers alone, and that no one else could have it. No one could take it from her. She eagerly translated this new phrase:
“I want a…“
Puzzled by the abrupt ending of the text, Elise cast her gaze about, hoping to perhaps find the end of the sentence on another tablet. There was a junction up ahead, where had had the option of turning left or right. She faltered momentarily at the point where the decision had to be made. Though… she felt an impulse to turn right. The sensation was similar to what is usually called a “gut feeling”, though stronger, as well as not being entirely internal. Though she did find this slightly eerie, turn right she did, spurred on by her curiosity.
As she had hoped, the end of the sentence was carved here, though the runes were not as definitive as they had been before, as if written by an uncertain hand. It was a single word.
Elise pressed her hand to the stone, wishing to comfort the writer of the message. It couldn’t possibly be a vandal at this point- even the full-fledged archaeologists hadn’t been able to get this far. She had to deduce what was going on, and who was calling for help, unable to escape from a ruin on the seafloor. In that moment, nothing mattered more. She drifted along the path marked by the now familiar wall panels, sparing little more than a glance to each as she passed. The bluish light rippling through the labyrinthine hallways gave the place a dreamlike, hallucinatory quality which would be enough to set many people on edge. Elise was not one of these people, because she was no longer in full control of her wishes and fears.
After several minutes, she reached another dead end. Before she could even begin to decipher the text on this wall, the slab began to grind aside, quickly and jerkily, as if someone was hastily pushing it open. Though upset about being unable to read the text, this was outweighed by her desire, no, need, to press on. A rectangular gap in the ceiling seemed to welcome her, and she swam upwards to meet it.
They were getting closer, being inexorably drawn towards the presence. Not physically, no, but Argus had never seen Elise quite like this. Her expression was predatory, and while she did devote nearly all her waking hours to the study of these Arceus-forsaken Abyssal Ruins, her obsession had never grown to this level, to the point where nothing else mattered in the slightest, not even him. Argus whined and prodded her gently with his horn, but her only response was a hiss of displeasure. The Samurott understood what this meant- that his trainer had changed. She had trusted his instincts in the past. Something was very, very wrong, and Argus had the impression that they might not be leaving.
It is, in fact, possible for a human to experience negative physical symptoms of joy- not the joy of a child receiving a new toy, or the joy of a scientist who has discovered something new, but the joy of a madman who has achieved the dangerous, impossible dream that has taken hold of his life for years. Elise shook uncontrollably, though this did not impede her progress to the end of the hallway. Her eyes were bloodshot and watering, as she refused to blink and miss a fraction of a second of vision. Every fiber of her being was supersaturated with a mania that threatened to burst out of her at any second. Her gaze was fixated on the wall, as intense and focused as that of a tiger stalking its prey.
When she reached it, Elise slammed her palms into the wall, bending her elbows so her face with its manic smile could be closer to the wall, to the sweet glyphs that captivated her mind. Her heart rate increased, and her breathing was quick and labored; Argus watched in horror as the gauge indicating her oxygen supply steadily began to drop at a faster rate than before. The message was longer than most of the others. This development was so exciting, at least for Elise, who licked her lips as if about to dig in to a large meal.
“Please come keep me company.”
The next tablets all contained phrases of similar length:
“We’ll be best friends.”
“I just know it.”
“Come on… I want to play.”
“We can be inseparable.”
“Forever. And ever and ever.”
“One more step.”
Elise finished reading this, a manic laugh bubbling up from her lungs. It increased in pitch and volume as the slab ground against the floor, screeching like nails on a chalkboard, until her entire body wracked painfully with each heave of her chest. Argus howled, suddenly experiencing a splitting headache. The presence was now overwhelming, and his stomach churned, trying to regurgitate his last meal. He then became aware of the presence of a pair of hands on the sides of his snout. They were Elise’s. He whimpered, returning to a regular stance, to convey that he didn’t like the situation, but he would still follow. Elise turned back around, shooting a glare over her shoulder. She ascended to the fourth and final floor.
Surprisingly, the top floor was filled with air rather than water. Elise removed her mask, as it was beginning to itch. The air tasted saline and stale, as it had been stagnant for a long time. Argus’ head broke the surface beside her as she clambered onto the stone floor. The hallway turned once more. Around the corner lay destiny.
For the first time since entering the ruins, the hallway opened up into a large room. As Elise entered, a clarity of mind she hadn’t realized she was missing returned to her. She shuddered, horrified that altering her psyche could be so easy that she didn’t even notice it happen. A single candle suddenly flared to life at the opposite wall, illuminating a peculiar scene.
A raven-haired young man lay sprawled on the floor. He wore a fur-trimmed robe, once a stately crimson garment, though it was now tattered and faded to a hue between those of rust and dried blood. The few visible patches of skin were white as bone, drained of all color, and probably blood as well. Elise could only come to the conclusion that he had been dead for a long time. A Purrloin stood sentinel over the corpse, eyeing her warily. It bent down to nuzzle the man’s cheek, seeking attention. Poor thing, it must not have understood that its human would never be able to wake up to return its affection.
But his hand slowly clenched into a loose fist. He began to push himself up, movements jerky and unstable, reminiscent of a marionette in the hands of an unskilled puppeteer. He eventually managed to stand, facing away from Elise, who was rooted to the spot in shock, fully aware of the incessant pounding of her heart. Argus leaned protectively over her shoulder, growling softly. This was what he had sensed earlier, he was sure, and while he feared for his own life, he could not allow harm to befall his dearest friend, or at least make a pretense to if the proceeding events were beyond his control.
The… thing turned, feet losing some of their shakiness, revealing a grin, a horrible, psychopathic grin, far wider than the muscles of the human face could possibly stretch to accommodate. Elise was visibly shaking, senses blurring from force of sheer terror, as the man stumbled closer, step by menacing step. He paused as he reached Elise. His eyes softened as he reached out a frigid hand and placed it on her cheek. It slid off after a long moment, which seemed to snap Elise out of her fearful trance. She whirled around and took off running, only to be greeted by a wall she was positive hadn’t been there before. There were two sentences carved into it:
“I don’t want you to go.
Stay here with me.”
Elise held back a sob, pounding the wall in futile frustration. She had but one option remaining, which was to take the creature up on his offer. Reluctantly, she reoriented herself to face him. Above the mouth, which would not move, his expression was pleading, like a child who wanted his friend to stay just a minute longer. As Elise walked forward, he extended a quivering hand. Without ever quite knowing why, she took it in hers, and the bones and muscles in her face rearranged themselves, forming a grin to mirror his, which marked her newfound importance. The Abyssal Ruins had acquired a new queen.