Disclaimer (applies to entire 'fic): I, most unfortunately, do not own Pokemon. Alas. But I do lay claim to any and all Pokemon, characters, regions, etc. of my own creation.

Rating: Rated PG for violence, blood and gore associated with Pokemon battles.

Cover: Fanart drawn for me by Pathos. At the time that I'm writing this, FFN is stripping links out of stories, so I've put a link to more of his work on my profile instead.

Author's Notes: As promised, here is my second fanfic. I spent a great deal of time agonizing over whether or not to add a prologue to this one; in the end I decided that the one that I had planned was too short and rather boring. Nothing particularly important was revealed in it, and so I shall begin with Chapter One instead.

This 'fic does indeed take place in a new region, known as Waytar. I think that you'll find it to be very different from the familiar Johto, Kanto, Hoenn, and even Orre regions previously explored. With that said, enjoy (and review!)

Chapter One: Doubts and Dreams

Tobias Talltree was not guide material. At least, that's what he was convinced of as he stared at himself critically in the small mirror. His green eyes looked back at him in an expression of uncertainty and confusion, not the cool collectedness of a true pokémon guide. His normally unruly red hair had been combed into some semblance of order as was befitting of the important day, but it seemed to Tobias that it only emphasized his unworthiness, making him look like a poor country yokel dressed up in a suit for a fancy upper-class gathering.

Which is what he was, of course. His calloused hands, the skin covering them the odd yellowish hue characteristic of the people of Waytar, were the mark of a life of physical labor, not being waited upon hand and foot by servants. Of course, that would be an asset for a guide, who would live a rough and rugged life on the road. But Tobias had never been outside the boundaries of the pitiful little community of Firstseed, as unaccompanied to adventure as a Torkoal to swimming. He hadn't taken any fancy pokémon courses at the local school, being barely being able to go at all, as he was almost always needed on the farm.

His family was poor; they couldn't afford the fancy garb that most guides favored, the finely made attire that made his serviceable, homemade clothes seem pitifully crude. It was lucky that guides were provided with the essentials of their trade before setting off; his parents would never have been able to afford the profession otherwise. As it was, they could only give him the handcrafted guide's belt that hung around his waist and a meager 200 Pk.

Still, today he would be embarking upon the quest of a lifetime, undertaking a journey that only a privileged few ever enjoyed. He should be thankful, not reluctant. Tobias put the mirror down, turning away from the dresser with a sigh. The room that he shared with his two younger brothers was empty, Kevin and Mark having gone out to help pick the early Aguav berries that were beginning to appear out in the orchard. He had already said his goodbyes. There was no reason to linger.

He left the small farmhouse, emerging into a beautiful late spring day. The sky was cheery blue-gray from horizon to horizon, not a cloud to be seen anywhere in its pristine heights. Tobias's mother was already out working in the orchard with the rest of the family, carefully collecting the valuable berries that were just beginning to ripen. She waved to him as she saw him leaving the yard and called out, "Don't forget to write, honey!"

"Don't worry, mom!" Tobias called back over his shoulder, taking what he knew to be his last look at her for a very long time. There was sadness in her green eyes, but also a great joy. She knew that her son was being given an opportunity that she had never been and that he had a chance to make a name for himself.

Once away from his house Tobias began to pick up speed, excitement beginning to flood his veins. He was soon running down the empty dirt road that connected the scattered farms of Firstseed to one another. He had plenty of time before he needed to be at Madam Truealder's home, but anticipation and excitement goaded him to run ever faster.

The scattered farms gave way at last to small shops, several roads converging to form the town square, the heart of Firstseed. It was still early morning, and the town showed few signs of life. Few guides ever ventured into this secluded, out-of-the way farming community that did not even boast a temple. It was, however, the home of Madam Truealder, a well-respected master guide who instructed the local children in basic guiding courses and sent the selected few who were chosen to become guides on their journey. Her home was a long, low building set back from the street, one of the largest buildings in the entire town. The door stood ajar, welcoming the new set of guides that would begin their journey today.

Tobias ducked hastily inside and ran down the hall, already knowing his destination as he dashed around the corner and into a large room. It was dim and mysterious in the interior of the room, which was lit by candles and filled with the pungent scent of burning incense. Nearest the door were arrayed six other youngsters, seated crossed-legged on the floor. Tobias' heart sank as he saw that he was the last to arrive of the seven students chosen to be guides. This was surprising, considering the fact that he was still early.

He hurried to have a seat and turned his attention to the woman standing in the middle of the room. She wore the dark blue robes of a master guide, her piercing green eyes boring into Tobias's. Green eyes were a trademark aspect of Waytar's inhabitants, long isolation slowly removing variations from the gene pool to leave the stereotypical Waytaran: green eyes, red hair, and oddly yellowish skin. Of course, they knew no other way for people to look, and those rare few who looked differently were regarded with deep suspicion and malice.

"As it appears that we are now all here, we may begin the ritual," Madam Truealder intoned in an important voice. The other future guides around Tobias shifted eagerly. "Before we begin, allow me to remind you of why we are here and the responsibility that you are about to take on," she continued, eyes raking across her antsy audience. "You seven have been selected to become pokémon guides. You alone, out of all of your classmates, showed the potential and the predisposition to continue this long-standing and prestigious tradition that is the core of our society. The life of a guide is not easy. You will not be coddled, for the land beyond your small town is wild and often hostile. Many of you will fail in your duties, never realizing the potential of yourself or your pokémon. Do not allow that to happen. Your honor, and the honor of your pokémon, depends upon it."

The future guides smiled smugly, excited. Tobias did the same, although he felt a small twinge of guilt. The other children in the town that were his age would likely grow up to be like his parents, poor farmers struggling just to perpetuate their existence, all because no favorable omen had emerged that pointed to a future in pokémon guiding. Still, he was one of the chosen.

"Yes, it is a grand adventure upon which you are about to embark," Madam Truealder announced. "All pokémon have the potential for greatness. It is up to you, their guide, to help them to find it. You will train together, grow together. Only together may you achieve your destinies and fulfill your duty as a guide. Now," her voice became businesslike, "you must be given your first pokémon. As the first pokémon is usually the one that a guide forms the closest bond with, it is important that one be selected that will reflect your personality and qualities. It is also believed that the starter pokémon received by a guide is an omen, prophesizing the success of their quest. Therefore, Zialfor will look into your heart and select for you a starter."

Zialfor was her Alakazam. He sat cross-legged next to his guide, eyes closed in meditation. Behind Madam Truealder and Zialfor were huge shelves lined with long, cylindrical objects. There were nearly two hundred of them; one each of every basic Pokemon found in Waytar (and, therefore, the entire world).

"Guides will be given their pokémon according to their order of arrival. That means that we will begin with you, miss Barkdown. Come forward, Chelsea."

One of the girls stood up proudly, flipping her hair out of her face scornfully. She stepped up Madam Truealder, who proceeded to administer the guide's oath. "Do you, Chelsea Barkdown, solemnly swear to abide by the laws governing the care and handling of pokémon and to aid your pokémon in achieving their full potential?"

"I do," replied Chelsea. Madam Truealder presented her with a heavy Tauros-leather-bound tome.

"You will need this," explained Madam Truealder. "It will instruct you in the ways of a guide and contains all of the information that you will require to successfully complete your quest. Now, if you will just step in front of Zialfor…"

Chelsea did so. Tobias could tell that, despite her haughty demeanor, she was a little daunted by the powerful pokémon. At first nothing seemed to happen, and then Chelsea gasped and shook her head vigorously. A second later, one of the long objects on a shelf behind Madam Truealder glowed blue and began to slowly rise from its resting place and drift over to the girl.

She had recovered sufficiently to pluck it out of the air, at which point the blue glow vanished. Chelsea turned the object over her hands in wonderment. It was somewhat like a large wind chime, made of bronze and carved with numerous mysterious runes and insignias. It had a ring at one end from which to hang or be held.

"Let's see what it is," Madam Truealder implored. Tobias could tell that this was her favorite part of the entire ritual.

Tentatively, Chelsea grasped the chime by the ring and held it out before her. "Appear, pokémon," she commanded, and rang the chime. It gave a clear, high-pitched note. An odd cloud of whitish smoke exuded from the end of it, drifting down towards the floor and coalescing into the form of a magnificent bird. Rather than feathers, it was covered with feathery leaves of a radiant emerald. Its stomach and face were covered by crimson petals, and although it was only about a foot long, it had a magnificent sweeping tail of nearly five feet. It opened its dainty beak and let out a series of gushing notes, alighting upon the floor.

A gasp of awe and jealousy rose from the onlookers, and Chelsea appeared to not believe her eyes. "Queztlak," observed Madam Truealder. "It represents beauty and grace. Congratulations, Chelsea Barkdown. You are now a pokémon guide." Chelsea reverently rang the chime again and the magnificent grass- and flying-type dissolved into smoky vapor once again before being withdrawn into the chime.

Beauty, grace, and vanity, Tobias thought to himself. Queztlak is really rare. I hope I get a rare pokémon like that.

Next up was Don Summerblossom (a name that had forced him to endure no end of torment at school). He went through the whole process as well, receiving his own mysterious chime.

The pokémon that appeared when he rang it was a familiar red doglike pokémon. Tobias smiled when he saw it, thinking of the pair of growlithe, Sharp and Hector, that his family kept to herd their mareep. He didn't really know Don that well, but had always received the impression that he was a rather meek person, which made the selection unusual. "Growlithe. Interesting," remarked Madam Truealder. "Growlithe represents loyalty of courage. Congratulations, Don Summerblossom, you are now a pokémon guide."

Marcus Deepriver was next. To no one's surprise, his chime was found to contain a water-type. A small blue pokémon that appeared to be a miniature sea serpent materialized before him. It had a pair of feathery yellow antennae extending from its head and a pair of vestigial flippers sprouting from its sinuous body. It looked up at Marcus with a mischievous grin. "Blubble," Madam Truealder remarked. "Mischief and a sunny disposition. Congratulations, Marcus Deepriver, you are now a pokémon guide."

"Ah, a guide after my own heart," Madam Truealder exclaimed as the next pokémon appeared. "Abra, symbolizing wisdom and patience. Congraulation, Mary Moonflower (another unfortunate name), you are now a pokémon guide."

Next up was Damien Darksand, who received a creature that appeared to be no more than a spectral ball of fire with eyes. It hovered a little off the ground, looking up at him. "Whispo," reported Madam Truealder, "an interesting starter, indeed. Whispo represents a pure spirit and an affinity for the supernatural. Congratulations, Damien Darksand, you are now a pokémon guide.

Tobias was simply bursting with excitement as he watched the final girl, Laura Starwind receive her starter. It turned out to be leaflet, a diminutive pokémon whose entire body was swathed with leaves. Its only distinguishable features were a pair of large, frightened eyes and two branchlike arms. Madam Truealder announced that it represented "timidity and a generous heart."

At last, it was Tobias's turn. He stood up with apprehension and dutifully took the guide's oath. With that completed, Madam Truealder shoved a massive book into his arms. Tobias looked down to see that it had his name stamped onto the cover. He then walked over to stand in front of Zialfor.

The Alakazam didn't appear to notice his presence, but Tobias suddenly found himself gripped by a powerful mind. It seemed as though his consciousness and inner feelings were being turned inside out and shaken thoroughly, and something infinitely wise was watching with interest what fell out of his mental pockets. Then the feeling passed and Tobias found himself once again staring at the immobile Alakazam. One of the chimes was glowing and slowly making its way towards him. He eagerly reached out and took it out of the air. Turning it over in his hands, he admired the carefully intertwined symbols that crawled across it. He then remembered that his fellow guides were waiting for him to release his pokémon so they could head off on their journey.

"Show yourself, pokémon!" he called eagerly as he rang the chime. The pokémon that materialized from the mist that drifted out of the chime was not at all what he had expected and, from the horrified noises coming from his fellow guides, it was not what they had expected either.