The Game
written by Clever Clover

"Hey, Tabby," said Clever Clover as he entered the Dream Valley Pokèmon Center.

"What did you do to your Rattata this time, Cleve Clove?" Tabby snipped.

"Nothing's wrong with my Pokèmon, Tabitha. I just came by to tell you that I'll be going on a trip. I might be gone for a week or two."

"What! You're going on an adventure without me?" the pink unicorn whined. She actually had nothing against missing an adventure; it was tormenting her friend that she'd miss, and the chance to search distant thrift stores for eighties toys.

"It's not an adventure, I hope; I'm just visiting some friends in the Flatlands," Clever Clover explained.

"Oh, well, remember to keep an eye out for eighties toys."

"Yeah, whatever," replied the purple pony as he exited the center.

* * *

The trip to the Flatlands was uneventful. Clever Clover had hoped to catch some Pokèmon along the way, but he hadn't even seen any. When he got to Jim's Malt Shoppe, all seemed peaceful enough, just like he remembered-- but very unlike the nightmare he had had some time ago.

Jim's had been a popular hangout for archaeologists when Clever Clover had worked at a nearby site a year ago. He had no reason to think there was any trouble here, except for the dream.

The shop was almost empty; the only other customer was a black crow shooting pool. " ‘Allo Jim," said Clever Clover to the duck behind the counter. "How've things been?"

"It's been slow since you shovel bums left,"quacked the duck. "What brings you back to the Flatlands?"

"Just visiting."

"Okay, so what'll you have?"

"Chocolate malt. Eh, Jim, has anything strange happened lately?"

The duck shook his head. "Nothin' ‘strange' happened since that monkey you worked for started dancing on the tables that night. Why, what'd you expect?"

"I'm not sure," said the pony.

After finishing his malt, Clever Clover headed for the edge of town to the site of the dig he had worked at the year before. It had been a cornfield then; now it was a construction site. There was no sign of the excavations or of the vengeful spirit from his dream. "Maybe that's all it was, just a bad dream," Clever Clover mumbled to himself.

Suddenly a flash of motion on I pile of dirt caught the pony's eye, though he hadn't seen any signs of life when he arrived. "Oh boy," he sighed. His muscles tensed as he remembered the terrible apparition from his nightmare and it's bloodcurdling cries of vengeance. The pony held his breath and listened carefully. It was deadly silent, just as in his dream, and though it was a sunny day, the effect was equally chilling.

He stood still and listened for several minutes before he heard it, a grating, scraping sound. It was coming from behind him; he slowly turned to face it, but there was nothing to be seen. The sound seemed to be coming from underground.

Suddenly a small, brown furry head popped up amidst a pile of loose dirt. "Digglet!" it said in a sing-song voice. Clever Clover sighed a sigh of relief. "Ohy, it's only a Digglet. The dream might not have been anything to worry about, but at least I'll be able to catch a Pokèmon." He got out one of his PokèBalls. "Okay, Farfetch'd, let's get ‘im!"

"Fetch far far!" quacked the wild duck Pokèmon.

"Now, sand attack, quick, before he goes underground! Then sword dance and leak slap!"

The Farfetch'd executed its attacks flawlessly. In mere moments the Digglet was stunned and Clever Clover hurled a PokèBall. "Alright, I caught Digglet!"

"Far, fetch fetche'd far!"

When the thrill of the hunt wore off, Clever Clover remembered why he was there. "Well, if that spirit hasn't shown up yet, it's not coming. I guess I'll head home."

As he turned to leave, a chill ran down his spine. He spun around to find a smirking imp sitting atop a pile of dirt. "Bic, I'd thought I'd seen the last of you."

"You should have known better than that," the imp replied.

"You promised not to torment any of us ponies, including me, anymore."

"Hm, well, you see, the thing is, I'm not here. This entire conversation is all in your head! I planted it there during our first encounter. It was programed to activate at a specific time and place, here and now! You see, our past encounters have not been mere chance."

"Oh? What sort of scam are you running?"

"I don't run scams, I play games; and this game began years ago. I made the first move before you were born; now the time has come for you to make your move!" With that the imp disappeared, leaving behind a small red stone.

"I wonder what that was all about?" Clever Clover mumbled as he picked up the stone. "Hm, pipestone. It could be from the site, but the only source of pipestone isn't far from here. I guess I could check it out."

* * *

The next day, Clever Clover went north to the pipestone quarry. It was the only place in the Flatlands to find the soft, red pipestone, which was used by the early Flatland tribes to make pipes, tools, and decorative objects because it was soft enough to be worked much like wood. The tribal ponies still quarried the pipestone from narrow pits beneath a towering red quartzite cliff. Legend had it that the Great Pony appeared to the Flatland tribes atop the cliff long ago and told them to live in peace and to share the pipestone quarries peacefully.

At least that's what it said in the brochure Clever Clover picked up at the museum visitor center. Clever Clover wandered about the museum and looked at the various carved pipestone items they had on display. Then he followed the trail along the base of the cliff, past the quarry pits, and up the stairs cut into the cliff to enjoy the panoramic view from its top.

"Well, this was pointless, but educational. I guess finding that pipestone was just coincidence. But I wonder what Bic's message meant?" As he turned to leave, Clever Clover heard an ominous rumbling sound behind him.

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