From its apex, the harsh sun beat down on the Rusted Desert beneath. Fogs of sad danced across the dunes in the dry wind. And through it all, for the third day straight, strode a figure in a tattered, hooded cloak and what used to be leather sandals. The tracks behind him led from the north east and the Lava Ridge settlements where his angry pursuers gave up chase on the first day. Only a mad fool would south into desert on foot and his death with be far worse at nature's hand then their swords.
But Ketchum was not dead. Exhausted and overheated, yes, but a lifetime of nomadic wandering left him with enough endurance to have far outlasted the expectations of the marauders he left behind.
At his hip hung his bearded axe, an empty water pouch and a purse fat with copper coins; all of which he would have traded for a sip and morsel of anything. On his shoulder, beneath the hood, rode his equally parched and exhausted familiar; a Pikachu. Only begrudgingly had it accepted to ride in relative comfort while his master suffered after trotting along his feet for the first two days.
Ketchum's eyes were always on the horizon. He had glanced a map before his exile and determined that the path with fewest obstacles, relatively of course, lay toward Petal Fort City in the south west. It's massive, distinct walls would surely stand out even amid the tricks this desert played on his eyes. As the sun began to hang low in the sky, something came into view.
Ketchum knew that if it were another rocky outcropping, he might veer off course and waste more time an energy but it was a risk worth taking. sPurred
on by hope, he quickened his pace toward the more and more distinguished looking shapes of the walls. From above, the city's walls were shaped like 6 flower petals, giving it it's name. Closer now, Ketchum could see the figures of people and beasts moving to and fro along simple roads and a large entry point. Closer still, he could make out massive doors swung inward and four guardsmen, each armed with a halberd and Houndoom.
His feet now bare, he staggered through the gate amid a few other travelers without a second look from the guards. The sun now set and torches lit over the roads, Ketchum caught the air of celebration as he instinctively walked straight to the nearest cantina. As he walked in and up to the bar, he pulled his purse off of his belt and emptied all the contents before the now attentive bar wench.
"Food and drink for me and my friend." he demanded in a dry and clear voice, indicating the exhausted Pikachu on his shoulder. The wench gathered all the copper pieces before her customer could rethink his generosity.
"Right away, sirs." she smiled before turning to order whatever the standard meal was. Ketchum was not the first starving wastrel she had seen blow in from the desert but he had the most the coin to burn. She quickly gave them a wooden goblet and bowl filled with water. Pikachu dismounted his shoulder to lap up his share as Ketchum practically inhaled his and demanded another.
Five drinks later, he switched to asking for wine and inquired about the celebratory atmosPhere he noticed in and out of the establishment and the music he heard outside. Tomorrow, the wench told him, Princess Mayve would leave for Slate Port to wed their prince. The city was holding a carnival to celebrate their future together.
Ketchum's curiosity was satiated now that the served him up an oven roasted Farfetch'd on a platter. He ripped off a wing for Pikachu and both tore into their meals like a ravenous pair of Growlithe. He would not have given any more thought to the princess nor the festivities had not a somber fellow sitting an arm's length away and sipping on a jug of ale mused aloud.
"Yes, farewell dear princess..." he sPoke and drank. "...and good bye to my chance at retiring young!"
The wench rolled her eyes. "What's wrong, Bucz? Has your latest criminal endeavour gone under like all your others?"
"Shut yer trap, Cassiode!" he snapped. "All the pieces were in place this time...and then my so-called 'master thief' had to get caught pocketing fruits at the market place this morning!"
"Is that who they executed this afternoon?" she asked.
"Aye. Good King Normandy has lost all sense of leniency with the thieves of this city. And it's a damned shame too because by tomorrow morning, I could have acquired--"
"Princess Mayve's ruby encrusted headdress. Yes, I know. For a supposed criminal mastermind you share far too much with me."
"I had a buyer lined up, I had the floor plans, I knew where the guards would be stationed, I--everything. All I needed, by Hell, all I WOULD need is--"
"A thief." Ketchum summed up, between bites.
"A great thief, actually." Bucz reflected before sipping more ale.
"How much would you have payed him?" Ketchum inquired, eyes down on his meal.
"500 gold pieces. Up front. Why the curiosity?"
Ketchum smiled wryly. He had only just narrowly survived death at Mother Nature's hands and now with his belly filling up, he flirted with the idea of cheating death again.