Out of all the baby Pokemon in the world, young Unowns are the hardest to put to sleep. That's because the Unown species is the most mercurial one—and certainly the most peculiar in their desire to continue learning, even through exhaustion. Baby Unowns want to keep their exasperated parents up all night, inquiring about words and songs and the spirits of their departed ancestors. Of course, though adult Unowns still retain their curiosity, they must put their children to sleep somehow—and when they've worn out their threads about the great sacred fire bird, Ho-oh, and the three legendary dogs, they know they must tell their children the greatest story in Unown legend.
"Quiet down now, child," they whisper, "and I'll tell you the tale of one brave little Unown that changed the world."
"What did he do?" The children ask, their single eyes wide in awe.
"If you're good, perhaps you'll find out," they answer, winking at them with a loving gaze.
And only then do the children fall silent, because they know that a truly great story is about to fall upon their ears and touch their generation's heart.
There is one particular little Unown who never heard the story—simply because he isthe story. His name was Ichabod, and he was born many years ago to two I Unowns named Ian and Ivy in a remote corner of the southern half of the Ruins of Alph. He, too, was an I, and he had a twin brother named Isaac. They were virtually undistinguishable when placed side by side—but of course, being Unowns, that was not an uncommon occurrence in families. But Ichabod was odd in the aspect that as he grew older, he did not grow bigger. Even as Isaac inflated in size and shape through age, Ichabod remained the same itty-bitty self he was the day he was born, no matter how old he was. This got him a nickname among his peers—"Itty-Bitty Ichabod."
Ichabod, just like all other callow Unowns, was hungry for knowledge. He went to Unown School with his brother and the other young Unowns, where his amicable and bubbly personality won him many friends, including a crush from a G Unown named Gertrude. But Ichabod turned her down, because at five years old, he didn't think he was ready for a girlfriend yet—and his main objective in life was not socialization, but learning. The repetitive alphabet exercises in school did not satiate his desire, as Ichabod quickly memorized them and within a week, was reciting them by rote. In school, he was frustrated and felt stuck in one place that promised no intellectual advancement. Ichabod often complained to his teachers and challenged them to test his intelligence, but they dismissed him as being rambunctious.
Ichabod's favorite subject was history—even if the teacher did dislike his hemming and hawing about it, his enthusiasm was encouraged, as very few other young Unowns enjoyed history. Though it bored others his age, Ichabod was swept away by the regal stories of legendary Pokemon five hundred times the size of the average Unown and dressed in molten downs of colors that Ichabod could not dream of (for in the Unown world, black and white are the only shades that exist). When he went to bed at night, he would dream in vivid pictures of these fabled Pokemon, standing in rainstorms of their feathers and basking in their sunlight.
One day, during a history lesson, he was fed a fact that fueled his internal fire to discover—no Unown had ever left the Ruins of Alph and returned alive to tell their tale. Immediately, Ichabod was stricken by the realization that he was meant to break that standard. He leaned over to Isaac and, in his best inside voice, murmured, "I'm going to see the world, and I will come back."
Isaac looked at him in disbelief. "But you can't do that!" He exclaimed. "You are so small. You'll get hurt."
"That's what I'm going to do," Ichabod boasted. "No one can stop me."
"What if I tell Mom and Dad?" Isaac challenged.
Ichabod was startled. Being an obedient little Unown (the parents say with a sly look toward their giggling children), he did not want to defy his parents—but in spite of his dedication to family, Ichabod was a rash child, and he knew that if he didn't start exploring at the age of five, he would grow to thirty and die without one interest fulfilled. Ichabod quieted and went back to pretending to listen to the lesson, but inside, he was hatching a plan of escape. By the time lunch rolled around, Ichabod had decided that he was going to sneak out of school a few minutes early to avoid having to walk home with Isaac—and risk his parents finding out.
When the five-minute bell rang close to the end of the day, Ichabod asked to be excused to the bathroom. As soon as he left the room, he made a daring sprint for the double doors at the end of the hallway and burst from the school triumphantly. He'd made it! He continued running to the famed exit of the Ruins of Alph, trying to put distance between him and the school.
Soon, after several minutes of dashing to and fro, Ichabod found a large, looming wooden object before him. It was long and suspended into the air, and its rungs were made of splintering oakwood, leading into a black hole above the ancient walls of the Ruins. Ichabod frowned. He didn't know what it was or how to climb it—he had no arms. Ichabod decided to call it a "ladder." "That's a good name," he mumbled to himself.
As he was trying to figure out how to use this ladder, someone tapped on the very tip of his soft, black, and pointed head. Turning around, Ichabod was very surprised to see a human boy behind him, observing him with the same degree of interest. The two were not startled and did not try to run away; they merely paused to identify each other. Much taller and wider than he, Ichabod took in the human boy's dark hair and yellow hat, his red shirt and mustard shorts. Ichabod loved his eyes—iridescent, liquid pools of gold, shining in the inky blackness with deep courage, as if he were one of the legendary Pokemon Unown learned about in school. Ichabod liked this, because he himself had only one eye, and it wasn't very exciting.
"Hello," Unown said carefully. "My name is Ichabod."
"Hello Ichabod," the boy answered, taken aback at the Pokemon's words. "You can speak?"
"Of course we Unowns can speak," Ichabod said. "We are the alphabet. Why wouldn't use our own creation? Without us, you humans would not have your language."
"That's very interesting," the boy said. "I did not know that."
"What's your name?" Ichabod questioned.
"I'm Gold," the boy said. Ichabod thought the name suited him perfectly. "I'm investigating these Ruins."
"Oh, there's not much to investigate," Ichabod scoffed. "This place is so boring. I want to go on an adventure." He stared at the boy with a glimmer of interest. "Are you on an adventure?"
Gold laughed at the young Unown's enthusiasm. "Yes, I am, actually," Gold responded. "Across the whole world."
Ichabod gasped and regarded Gold with wonder. "The whole world?" He asked breathlessly. "You're a world traveler? That is so cool."
"Say, you want an adventure, eh?" Gold asked. "Then come with me. Be my companion. You can tell me about the Unowns, and I will show you the world. How does that sound?"
Ichabod nearly jumped for joy. Arceus had smiled upon him today! An opportunity like this would not seize him again. "Okay," Ichabod quickly agreed without hesitation. "I'll go with you. After all, I'm five years old. I might go my entire life without seeing the world."
"Get into my backpack," Gold said, motioning to the sling cloth knapsack he was carrying around, "and I'll climb up this ladder."
Ichabod found it odd that Gold was already using a word that he had coined minutes ago, and Ichabod hadn't even told him. Still, Ichabod shook it off and hopped into one of Gold's pockets and waited as the boy hoisted himself up the ladder. With Gold, Ichabod walked out of the Ruins of Alph for the first time in Unown history.
For many months, Ichabod traveled with Gold and his team of powerful fighting Pokemon. He struck up a friendship with this team, despite the fact that he was not battling material himself. When Gold rested, he ate grass sprouts with Meganium, splashing in ponds and streams with Quagsire, and let Fearow take him for flights across the big, beautiful sky, so high that Ichabod perceived the tiny dots that were Gold and the other Pokemon. He especially loved this angle, for it was a view that he doubted any other Unown had ever seen—the tops of the trees, entire courses of creeks, the knolls and dips of valleys and hills. He circled snow-capped mountains and skimmed clouds with his head. It was breathtaking, and sometimes, Ichabod did not want to come down. But he always did—and as night fell (that was another concept that amazed Ichabod; night and day and the sun and stars), he curled up against Gold and fell asleep, happier than he'd ever been before.
On the way, Ichabod passed through many towns and was amazed at the edifices humans built, everything from enormous skyscrapers to steepled, thatched roofs. As he gazed upon these huge buildings, he was reminded how afraid he'd been of bulky Unowns that bullied him, thinking they were the biggest things in the world. Oh, if only they could see these!
Of course, Ichabod met more humans and Pokemon, and both were interested in seeing that an Unown was brave enough to venture outside its lair of the Ruins of Alph. And, to their astonishment, he was very polite and kind, preferring to sit with his trainer and listen to whatever information the speaker would like to give. To Ichabod's naivety, this was gaining him clandestine fame in the human towns across this region that Gold called Johto. Whenever Gold and his team entered the city limits, people whispered in deference of the "Gentle and Fearless Ichabod" that accompanied the boy on his journey. But Ichabod had always been Itty-Bitty, so he did not know anything else, and thus was oblivious to the nicknames.
Ichabod was always doing what he did best—asking questions to Gold as they walked extensive, empty roads together. However, unlike his teachers, Gold was keen to answer all of them without complaint.
"I've met quite a few Pokemon," Ichabod observed several weeks into their expedition. "How many are there in the world?"
"Oh, millions," Gold said. "Johto is not the only place in the world. There are a billion miles on the planet, some covering lands that humans and Pokemon have never even seen. This is a big place, and we're only scratching the surface."
"Millions," Ichabod breathed. "Billions." Just the sheer thought of trying to scale a place so gigantic and with such a population gave him a headache, but it was the best kind of headache—a knowledge migraine. He continued on with Gold, this time in uncharacteristic silence, as he thought about the big earth.
Ichabod never wanted this to end. Someday, he knew that he needed to go back to the Ruins of Alph and tell everyone about what he saw, but this overworld was so much more picturesque to him than the Ruins ever hoped to be. There was vegetation here, humans and hundreds of Pokemon species. There was water and dirt, wind and fire. He'd seen electricity and heard the sound of hollow metal—even gazed upon wood in the form of a tree, like it was supposed to be. He didn't want to go home. Not when he thought this great world was his new one.
But Ichabod had to discover at some point that there is no such thing as perfection—and perhaps the Ruins of Alph was the safer place to begin with.
One day, when Gold was staying at a hotel in Ecruteak City, Itty-Bitty Fearless and Gentle Ichabod dreamed about his favorite Pokemon—the flying bird of legend, with the rainbow wings, the sharp beak made of solid diamonds, and down feathers of silk and satin. But instead of flying around him, filling his magnificent fancy, the bird faced him and began to speak.
"Gentle and Fearless Ichabod," the bird cried in a voice that was wounded by still as elegant as the heavens. "I need your help. Will you listen?"
"Of course," the young Unown said, upset at the god's agony. "What is the matter? You sound hurt."
"I have indeed been harmed," the bird said forlornly. "My sister, the valiant Lugia! She has spiraled into a descent of hatred and rage against all humans and Pokemon because of an illness a battling trainer gave her. She is an unstoppable force. When I sensed her anger, I tended to her, but she attacked me in her blindness. I managed to set a bond on her to keep her in place, but my power is waning from my injuries. It won't last much longer. I'm afraid that if she flees her home… many lives will be lost. Ichabod, you are traveling with the strongest trainer of lore. And you, Ichabod—you have extreme power yourself, though it lies dormant. You two must stop her!"
"But how?" Ichabod asked desperately. "I'm only five years old. I don't know how to fight."
"Follow Gold," the legendary bird howled as the dream ebbed away into consciousness. "And your heart."
Ichabod awoke then. He was lying in bed on a small pillow next to Gold, who was still deeply in the realms of sleep. Nudging his trainer with alarm, Ichabod muttered urgently, "Gold! Please wake up! I had a terrible dream!"
Yawning, Gold rolled over and smiled drowsily at the Unown. "What's wrong, Ichabod?" He mumbled. "Did you have a nightmare?"
"No, no!" Ichabod said. He felt rushed. "Ho-oh told me in the dream that Lugia was in real danger! We need to go help her!"
"Danger?" Gold was awake now; it was popular human folklore that Unown were bridges into the thoughts and needs of other Pokemon. "Calm down, Ichabod. Danger how?"
"Lugia is sick," Ichabod explained, "and she is very violent and confused. Ho-oh wants us to subdue her so she doesn't threaten the lives of citizens and Pokemon in Johto."
Most trainers would have dismiss the Unown's fear and go back to sleep, but Gold was very different. He sensed the genuine trepidation of his friend, and he knew that Ichabod was not lying to him. "Okay," Gold said, getting up. "Lugia lives in the Whirl Islands in the ocean between Olivine City and Cianwood. Quagsire will take us there."
As soon as Gold was dressed and Ichabod cleaned, the pair set out with anxiety in their hearts and tremors in their hands. They flew upon Fearow to Olivine, then placed their lives in Quagsire's hands as he ferried them across the turbulent ocean to the Whirl Islands. Braving the whirlpools that gave the land its name, Ichabod huddled close to his trainer. He wished he could have done this alone—he had come to love Gold unconditionally as a mentor and a best human friend, and naturally did not want anything to happen to him. Gold's Pokemon were his comrades, too, but Gold was his savior. If Gold were to disappear, Ichabod felt that he would never find the strength within him to go home.
They traversed into the Whirl Islands by a spooky, curved entrance. The interior of the cavern was musty and dark, but Meganium illuminated enough natural light stored by synthesis from the sun to last them for many hours. Using the grass Pokemon as a guide, Gold and Ichabod ducked under low-hanging stalactites and maneuvered across mountain streams that cut through the fissure. They walked for a long time—so long, in fact, that Ichabod worried that they would not reach Lugia in time.
But they did—and just in time, to be precise. Gold and Ichabod rounded one corner and found themselves in a massive chamber, lined with chipped indigo stone that reflected their startled countenances with eerie distortion. Puddles littered the floor from the dripping ceiling of the grotto, pooling in holes eroded from time and element. In the very center of the chamber, tucked in a shell of smooth rock, was Lugia—and her sickness was prevalent. Her silvery feathers that shone in myth were dull and dirty, and her brilliant royal eyes losing their luster. Panting, the beast moaned, the tempest of pain driving her noises into escalation.
Upon hearing the entrance of the two fellows, Lugia turned and glared at them viciously. "Who dares enter my home," she snarled, "when I am so vulnerable?" Her voice was large and intimidating, and it ricocheted off the walls of the cave and bounced into the nerves of Gold and Ichabod.
Knowing that Lugia might not trust the words of a human, Ichabod stepped forward and spoke, his voice tiny and shrill. "Hello, Lugia," he introduced. "My name is Ichabod, and this is my friend, Gold. Ho-oh told us that you were sick and needed someone to help you."
"Help? HELP?" Lugia roared. The entire Whirl Islands quaked at the sound, the vibrations causing small pebbles to plummet from above. "That stupid bird thinks he can help me? You see, Ichabod, a human gave this disease to me, and I shall never forgive that blasted race!" Her incensed gaze rested on Gold. "Any human that crosses my path will regret it! And you, human boy, have procured my wrath!" Rising from her bed, Lugia lashed out in a blast of cold air, blowing Gold and Ichabod with the intense gale. Lugia rushed toward Gold so quickly that Meganium had no time to react and counterattack, and Gold was stunned, frozen to his place like a cornered mouse.
But Ichabod knew—he saw everything in slow motion, as Gold turned his face to gape at the massive creature that tried to fall on him and slid the most surreptitious, unknowing look to Ichabod. Help me.
Ichabod knew that look. He hated that look. He hated mystery. He hated not knowing.
His voice may have been small, but his energy was immense—bigger than Lugia, bigger than Gold's innate gallantry, bigger than Johto, and certainly even bigger than the world itself. Itty-Bitty Ichabod, who was still only five years old that day, opened his single eye very widely and emitted a strong beam of light that drowned the cavern in beauty and harmony. Gold felt this light and the emotion it carried in its wake—love and kindness, grace and vigor, as he was not fearful now. Meganium's own glimmer was reduced to dimness by Ichabod's light as it blinked and sighed in happiness. Lugia stopped in her assault to warm herself in the rays of righteousness that Ichabod glowed upon her. She was so taken, so moved by the tenderness that she was encompassed in by the light that her illness faded completely. Justice returned to her eyes and her body became sleek and wet and shiny with health once more. She felt truly alive for the first time in a thousand years, as if she had been reborn again. As the light died down, Ichabod stood, shivering from the godly force that had been so graciously endowed upon him, without his knowledge.
Lugia turned to Ichabod, the silvery sheen from her quills twinkling in jollity. "Gentle and Fearless Ichabod," she said, warm and potent once more. "You have such Hidden Power within you."
"I-I-I didn't know that I could d-do that," Ichabod stammered.
"That is what Hidden Power is all about," Lugia told him. "It is determined by the strength of the soul who owns it. If the soul is weak, then the Hidden Power will be useless. But you, you are remarkable, Ichabod." Lugia smiled. "You have healed a legendary Pokemon. I am indebted to you."
"You don't need to be," Ichabod said shyly. "I was only trying to help."
"You have the power to change the world, little one," Lugia said.
"I love the world as it is," Ichabod replied sadly. "It is so beautiful right now."
"The world can never stop improving," Lugia said. "But I think you should start with your world first." Lugia pressed her face gently into the Unown's in gratitude. Ichabod pushed back as a form of embrace, relishing in the softness of Lugia's down.
"Thank you, Gentle and Fearless Ichabod," she said. "You may be tiny, but you have a wonderfully huge heart."
When they arrived back at Ecruteak, Gold asked Ichabod if he would like to continue travelling with him—this time as a full-fledged fighting member of his party. "You did great in there, little one," Gold praised him. "I'm sorry I underestimated your ability. Come with me and battle."
"No thank you," Ichabod said generously. "You have already done so much for me. I think it's time for me to go home."
"I will miss your philosophy and your questions," Gold said. "If that's what you want, I will take you and your big heart back to the Ruins."
And he did—the trip took less than a day. Upon arrival to the same ladder—a word that Ichabod still claimed to be his own creation, though Gold had tried to explain that such a term was already in existence—Gold gave Ichabod a long hug. They stood there for a while, awash in their fond memories together and the bond they had developed over the many months that they had spent in each other's company. But all goodbyes must come to an end, and they soon broke apart.
"Be safe," Ichabod said to Gold.
"I will," Gold whispered. "You too."
The pair finally went their separate ways, parting forever. Gold continued on his Pokemon journey and became a hero that achieved his own niche of fame and fortune. He became the Champion of the Johto League, hiked a mountain, and successfully challenged the strongest trainer of all time—and yet he never forgot about the itty-bitty Unown that had tagged along with him for just a short time. Ichabod had truly changed everyone's life above the Ruins of Alph—from humans to wild Pokemon, Ichabod was talked about as a marvel and a true hero who had saved the Johto region from possible peril. Even as Gold married, grew old, and passed away, the tale of Ichabod lived on, succeeded by generation after generation, storytellers' children and their children's children, never aging and never threatening to die forever.
Ichabod, however, did not know this, for he never again left the Ruins of Alph. When he came home, he was at first punished by his parents, but when he spoke to the other Unown of the fanciful things he had seen and touched and smelled, he was no longer the outcast he had been before. The Unowns celebrated him as a legend, just as the humans did above ground, even as Ichabod too fell to the natural cycle of life and of death twenty years later. Fable speaks that Ichabod died radiating joy, perhaps as he remembered sleeping beside Gold during frigid winter nights and flying on Fearow, seeing the world miles below, as if he were Arceus himself.
Though many stories fade away over time or change beyond recognition, Ichabod established himself among the other legendary Pokemon—not as a beast of unmatchable power or gorgeous faith, but as living proof that nothing is impossible, no matter how little or how young one is. His story has remained the same over many centuries, for no one dares tell such a blissful tale incorrectly.
To their parents' delight, the baby Unown always fall asleep after this story—and only because they want to dream about itty-bitty Ichabod and his noble, loving heart.