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|The Flute Warrior|
8th January 2014
Return of the Combustion Man
Water, Earth, Fire, Air.
For 100 years, the four nations were at war on the day the Fire Nation first attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them, but he vanished.
About three years ago, my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang. And after finding some allies and mastering all four elements, Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai and put an end to the war. We all set about rebuilding the world, but there is still tensions between the nations and further secret activity that Aang may not be able to stop. But I believe Aang can.
My patience was growing very thin. It was all suppose to happen, but did it have to happen so deeming. Incompetence is all I saw when the fools I put in charge. I have seen a great victory in the future, but I have heard nothing but defeat, excuses, and sheer and utter failure.
My earthbender friend approached me, took a bow and addressed me "My lord."
I was a blunt as an overworked sword, but still ready to bite. "You have failed again. My patience grows ever thinner."
His tone tried to hold on to what courtesy it displayed earlier in my presence. "My lord. I am your humble servant. My men are the best . . ."
"I have grown tired of hearing nothing but excuses. First the snow savage lets this boy let slip of our plans, now you're 'best' can't beat women in long dresses."
"I can assure you it wasn't just the Kyoshi Warriors, there were . . ."
"Four children. You had to deal with four children, and only one of them could bend. You realize that not being able to handle four children is considered weak. An army of twenty highly trained and highly feared group of earthbenders lost to three nonbending children and a single firebender. Now tell me if I am wrong here, but isn't twenty a bigger number than four, if you can consider nonbenders as a number?"
I was just pushing away at all the right buttons. His tone finally dropped being courteous. "Do not think of me as weak for their incompetence. I am here to serve you and I only give orders . . ."
"Oh yes! That's right. You only give orders, It's your fault."
I had my back to him, but I knew he was shocked. "What?"
"Of course! It was, it always was. You never take part in anything, you let such misdirected fools do what you tell them and you sit back to watch them fail." I turned and he had dropped to the ground as my arm reached out to bend his breathing. However I got what I wanted without the waste in effort. "But I am willing to look over it, after all, in a fellowship of four, only three remain. That is progress and results. And progress is music to my ears."
he looked up in disbelief, nervously smiling as he got back to his feet. "My lord, I am humbled . . ."
I stuck a finger right close to his face. I was shorter than he was, but I no doubt made him feel the smaller. "Don't start thinking. Three are still moving, and worse is that the Avatar has seen Ni. No doubt that spirit has revealed too much already. This calls for matters to put into my own hands." I pulled my finger away and turned to look out upon the town we camp above from. I looked over to him and asked, "Did you know that we airbenders are very spiritual people, that we try to achieve disattachment from this world in order to let our spirits be free. Did you know this?"
"My lord?" He was clueless, as I knew he was.
"Answer the question" I demanded sternly.
"I-I have heard only rumors."
"Oh yes, you weren't born when I was still alive. But you met the boy, yes?"
"The Avatar?" The mention of the title sent shivers through his body. "He is no boy my lord, he's a lethal weapon disguised as a child. I have made that mistake before."
"Oh, I thought you were outsmarted by an ashmaker in you're own city, come now. You can't blame the Avatar for all your mistakes. No, you can only blame him when you're entire race is wiped out looking for him the days after he runs and hides. Do you know what it's like to see the place you send you're entire life burn to the ground while everyone you ever knew is exterminated on sight.
I escaped, but I escaped with a coward. He said that stopping them was interfering. He told me he would never harm anyone. Even when he had the guts he run away. They always run."
"My lord . . ."
I flicked my hand. "Leave me. I must concentrate."
He bent over as he backed away. "As you wish."
It was my time to take matter into my own hands. I was done leaving the jobs to miscreants. I crossed my legs, locked my fists together and let the beast within break out from its cage. I disattached and I was hungry for chaos.
Days, almost a week, we were now walking further north. No Ostrich horse or wagon to take us north. All we could do was walk, through the wet and the rain. I was good and so was Zuko; Our coats were well equipped for the rain, but Ithar's armour wasn't enough to keep him dry and warm.
His hair was drenched and his nose was going red. Every so often he was squirt the water that collected in his mouth.
"Got any bread?" he asked.
Zuko was carrying the food, so he asked him. "'Fraid not" he answered
He waited a few minutes before asking again. "Komodo chicken?"
After another few minutes, he asked again. "Ocean kumquat?"
"Yuck, and no."
"Rice, you've got to have rice?"
Zuko stopped in his tracks and turned to say "No."
"Okay. So just to be clear; we have no bread, chicken, rice, or even kumquat. Should I ask if we have any food what so ever?"
"No, we do not."
I raised an eyebrow "No food?"
"Are you sure?" Ithar asked. "I could have sworn King Bumi gave us more than that."
"We did, but the wagon blew up remember" Zuko pointed out. "Back when we helped the Kyoshi Warrior's and our ostrich horse also ran off when the earthbenders smashed the wagon."
Ithar immediately changed the subject. "I wish it stop raining. I'm getting soaked."
"Why didn't you bring a coat?" Zuko asked.
"I didn't get a coat" he pointed. "When you got yours, I got my dad's armour." He knocked the metal just prove the point further. "And no one thought to even get me an umbrella."
I stepped in before anything to escalate. "Okay, when we stop at the next town. We'll grab some food and you can buy a hat or something. I presume you have money on you?"
He reached into his pockets and pulled out some shiny blue pieces. "Do you think they'll accept Water Tribe money?"
Zuko didn't know. "I'm not sure. Suki?"
"I really don't think so. Some might be willing to take Fire Nation money around here, but I don't think they will take Water Tribe."
Ithar looked around as we saw the town within view through the rain. "That's fine. I've still got this."
"I doubt there are any White Lotus members in the next town" Zuko replied.
"What's the next town?"
"Um,. let me think . . . I believe it's . . ." I nudged him and pointed to the sign. "Oh wait here's it is. It says: Cun Duchi."
Ithar reacted weirdly. His eyes went large and them shrank immediately after like nothing happened. "Yeah I'll be good."
"Are you sure?" I asked. "You're voice just skipped slightly."
"No this is good. Catch you guys later." And he just walked off, like that.
"Ithar wait!" There was no stopping him. He walked straight up to a door.
"I won't be long" he called back. He knocked on the door and a pair of eyes opened through the slit. They muttered something I couldn't hear in the sound of the rain, and he just walked straight through.
"Ithar-." Too late, the door slammed shut in our faces. Leaving me and Zuko in the rain. I turned to him. "Has this happened to you before?"
"Uncle once left me waiting all night outside a room while he played Pai Sho. Anyways we should get some supplies."
We walked off to get something to eat. The town was relatively close together. "Do you have any money?"
"I'm the Firelord. Of course I have money." He felt around and his smile dropped slowly as he continued his search. "Just not on me."
"Then how are we paying?"
He continued searching till he found some. "Wait? Thank you King Bumi. There's some left in the pockets of the coat." He reached into the pockets and pulled out what he could find. "I have . . . five gold, seventeen silver, and . . . five, no six copper pieces.
What a relief "Plenty then." He handed over a few silvers and we received two bowls of soup from the shop. "Thank you."
We sat down at a table, but our meal was interrupted by a couple of residents speaking rather loudly to each other. "It struck last night. Just like before."
"Yeah. First night is just mindless destruction. Then it will come tonight and destroy the statue."
We peered over to them. We didn't know what they were talking about, but mindless destruction wasn't a good combination of words. "Who and what?" I asked.
Both their heads turned round at us. Both were old and wrinkled, but there were obvious differences; the man closer to us was the elder, smaller and frailer, he didn't have teeth either just open empty gums. His head was bald and covered is small freckles of liver spots that he tried to cover with a hat, and his bottom lip was larger than the top. The other was much larger and younger, but nether the less he was frail as well despite the added height. He seemed to have gotten ruffed up because he was black and blue with red marks covering his left side. His left eye was glassy and a deep red cut traced its way from the corner of his right eyebrow, across the eye marking the eyelid, and ending over his nose. He had teeth, but only a few more than the smaller one had.
They were not pleased that we interrupted their conversation. The smaller one made it very clear. "What are you kids talking about, this is a private conversation. Go ask your parents."
Zuko leaned over closer, laying over the table. "I doubt our parents would know what happened. We just got here." Smoke was building in his palms, I could feel a sudden rise in heat.
"Can you just tell us what happened, please?" I asked.
"The wind walker returned" the bigger one said, crossing his arms as he laid back to look out at the streets.
Me and Zuko both looked at each other. We both mouthed 'The wind walker?'. We then looked back at the two and Zuko asked, "what is the wind walker?"
The shorter one was alarmed. "How did you know about that?"
We just looked at each other. We peered over to the larger who was just as clueless as he shrugged his shoulders. "You told us" I told him.
"Oh yeah. I did didn't I."
"The wind walker arrived the last night" the larger. Just as it was told he would."
"Told? Has this happened before?"
"Oh yes, back when the Fire Nation were still roaming these lands. Well they still are, but there a much friendlier folk now."
"Yes, back to the subject; This 'wind walker', is it a person?"
"Nope, when it comes it's lighter than any man can step, and it comes in two forms. On some nights its a man with no face but still sees with huge vision. And on other nights, a dark beast with six reptilian legs and a huge empty jaw that is bottomless. Both have a dark purpley aura and a red arrow on their heads."
The larger one nodded. "No doubt it will be here to attack the statue after what happened the last time."
"Statue? What statue?" Zuko asked.
Both men pushed their hairs back and stood up. For people at their age, they got up with as much ease as anybody could younger than they were. "You better come with us."
We both looked at each other, but we left our soups and got up to follow anyways. We walked through the streets following close behind, but as we ventured deeper into the town, more damage seemed to be apparent. It started with the odd piece off the walls, but then it became whole sections, to whole walls, until it was nothing but foundations and shrapnel in the center of the town.
Of all the architecture left in the town, the center only had a statue left standing. And it was standing tall, maybe ten ft tall on another ten at its base. We peered up at the statue; it was a giant in comparison to Kyoshi despite Kyoshi standing on a much higher pedestal. The figure was entirely made of stone and steel, with the being itself made of rock and the long hooded jacket, the intimidating expressionless mask cover it's face, and the decorative styling around the dagger it wielded in its hands.
"Who is that?" Zuko asked.
"The spirit who guards our village. The first time the wind walker struck, he was about to level this town to the ground. But in the middle of the night. He arrived from no where and used his spirit magic to send it back to the Spirit World."
There was something odd about the positioning of his weapon. "Why is his dagger by his face?" I asked.
The shorter one looked at me with on eye larger than the other. "That ain't just a dagger. That is a weapon that send the spirits back to the 'uther world or some place like that."
"Hey guys. I'm back." We looked around and Ithar had just rejoined us. He was still wet as was the weather but he was less than he had been on the road earlier. He was now wearing a long black jacket that draped down his back like a cloak.
"Ithar have you seen this" I pointed to the statue. Ithar looked up, covering his face from the rain and just looked back.
"Hmm. No I haven't." He clapped his hands, he seemed so disinterested in the statue for no particular reason. I shook it off, maybe he'd seen it before. "Okay let's find some where to sleep. Don't worry, . . ." He pulled out three gold pieces from his pocket and flicked them all over from his right to his left hand in mid air ". . . I'm paying."
Night was breaking and Appa was still flying. The days were growing colder and we were heading north, which in all experiences was always going to make the cold worse.
Out of all of us, Aang was the only one who wasn't prepared for the cold; he'd been wearing his summer outfit throughout all of the autumn. If he couldn't firebend then he would have been cold all these nights. The rest of us had our winter coats, well Toph didn't, but was using the tarp as a blanket, much to Sokka's discontent.
He actually suggested cutting it up and sharing it. If he had a brain most days, he would be dangerous. Luckily Toph was adamant not to even consider sharing it with him, much to his disappointment.
"Night Katara" Aang said.
"Night Aang" I replied.
"Sleep tight, Twinkle toes."
I rested my head, and I started to know what Aang and Sokka were feeling. My meditation unlocked a succession of memories, that now starting merging into my dreams;
I was back in the North. Tulia was running straight into a building, and I followed in after her.
I went through the door as she was calling out "Mum, I'm home." She looked around, there were bags laid out across the floor and the furniture. They were half full of clothes and items while her mum entered the room carrying a set of jacket all neatly folded in her arms. "What's happening here?"
"Tulia honey. We're moving."
"Moving? But where?" Her father entered the room with some tools as he tried to fit them into his bag. "Dad, why are we moving."
He set the bag down and looked at her while her mum went into another room. "Tulia, we cannot stay here. A lot of people are moving away, it-it's the right time and feel that it's best . . . to leave . . . now."
"But Dad. Our lives are here. I was born here, you and mum were born here, we have always lived here, why are we moving?"
"This place is no longer safe."
"Is this about Kahashi. It's about him isn't it."
Her father turned away and continued to sort out the luggage. "Start packing what you want to take with us."
Tulia stepped closer to him. "This about his death. It is."
"Get your bag and start packing."
"Kahashi knew the risks. Every son, brother, father and husband knew the risks. He like all others before him knew that they could die."
"Pack your bag."
"No! I'm not leaving. Would Kahashi have left?"
Her father stopped packing. "Tulia . . ."
"What would he think to you running away, Dad?"
He turned around and looked straight at her. His eyes were watery, but he looked as if he was trying to hold back the tears. "We are not running, we are moving."
"Moving to where? Where are we going?"
"We're going to the South Pole."
Tulia was shocked. "The South? The other side of the world. Why on earth would we move there?"
"The Fire Nation won't stop with just our ships. One of these days they will attack the wall and it will not be able to save us."
"Dad . . ."
"The South hasn't been attacked yet. They are still strong and their walls still stand. If we move there, we will have a better chance, I know it."
Tulia shook her head and her father put his hands on her shoulders. "How do you know?"
He looked down. "I don't. but I have a better feeling." He looked at her and put a smile on for her sake. "The South will also bring us new privileges; the South is less strict than here, they have a democratic system in the south, a council that decides what's best rather than a chief."
"Well . . ."
"And, you will be happy to hear, in the South, women are taught to waterbend not only to heal, but its full potential."
Her jaw looked as if it was going to drop. "Are you serious?"
Tulia looked a little happy, but she still wasn't pleased by the thought of moving. Her tone was still saddened by the idea of leaving her home. "When do we leave?"
"Tomorrow at morning."
She sighed heavily looking down. "Well . . . I just, I just need to say some goodbyes. I'll be back soon."
She turned and walked straight through the door. She took a step and then stopped. She turned her head directly looking at me. She shifted her head to her right side as I looked around to see what she was looking at. I turned as the image started fading out into a gold and white light.
I woke up, late in the morning.
Ithar paid for a rental apartment on the upper floor of a two story building. It wasn't much, but it had two beds, separate, a working sink, toilet and a cooker. It seemed a good amount seeing as we weren't intending to stay.
Me and Ithar shared this one while Suki got another just a few buildings from the statue, just on the outskirts of the destroyed buildings. Ithar paid for that one as well. Our apartment was near the mid area between the destruction and the outskirts. There we cheaper accommodations further away or even closer now there was destruction, but Ithar said we were staying in this one. No point arguing when he was paying for it.
I took to the bed nearest the window, while Ithar slept closest to the door. The night was peaceful and sleep came welcomed as the rain continued pouring till dusk fell. Then there was a crash, and I sat straight up.
"What was that?" I pushed over the covers and ran to the window. From the upper floor there was more view, but it wasn't the best view; I could barely catch what was happening, except for all the people running away from the scene.
"Ithar?" I said, waving my arm to pull him over to the window. I got no answer. I looked around, and found his quilt all ready turned over. "Ithar?" He wasn't in the room. I had no time to look for him, I needed to find out what was happening.
I paved my way through the rush of people evacuating what sounded like a wrecking ground. Weaving in and out of what gaps there were till I could catch someone closer to the center who wasn't trying to run like a herd of angry komodo rhinos.
"What happened here?"
"The wind walker is back!" He shouted.
"Do you know how to beat a spirit?"
He looked at me like I asked something he had never heard before in all his life. "We don't. One does not simply walk up to a spirit and beat it. We have our guardian to do that for us."
"The Flute Warrior." That statue. "He defeated the beast the first time he came to destroy us. And sure enough he will again."
I couldn't believe that this guy was going to wait till a tale walked straight out of the pages and into reality. "Okay, while you're waiting, I'm going to do something about this spirit."
"Don't bother, you'll only waste energy."
I rolled my eyes and started running to the center. I caught up with Suki who was likewise also trying to make her way to the beast. And what a sight we saw when we arrived.
The monster was just as the elderly men had described; purpley aura, six reptilian legs and a large red arrow. It looked like a slender and more ferocious shadow of Aang's sky bison, Appa.
It wasn't mindlessly destroying as the men had described the previous night, but was circling and shrieking like it was trying to get the attention. But people just kept running at the deafening cries it sounded.
I took no precaution and punch fire straight at the body, though the flam passed through like the creature was made of smoke. The walker wasn't even looking at what happened and continued circling and shrieking. I tried again with a couple more punches and even a kick, but it just went through it, no scratch or even a reaction to say I did something.
"It's no use!" I concluded. "My firebending isn't doing a thing!"
Then the walker stopped circling. And it began to swing its tail at the statue. The long whip collided against the stone and steel, barely making a dent in the metal, but the rock was cracking and chipping. The tip swung all the way around and nearly took our necks.
"Duck!" Suki said.
"Move!" I added as the tail came back.
"Look out!" The statue began to crumble. The rocks were swatted in our direction. We rolled to one side as the beast was about to swing again at the statue. Then, it stopped. It turned it's head to the right road and snarled.
The sound of the wind was then filled with an echo of a hollow song. The sound wasn't hollow, but the sound was, like the wind was blowing through several wooden holes.
Then, from across the rooftops, a black figure emerged with his blade at hand. I couldn't see very well, but his mask was white and his eyes were bright yellow. The rest of his get up was in pure black. We didn't know who it was, but the beast was hissing and crouching, and the townsmen were all celebrating.
"What is that?" I asked.
"He's back" a townsman informed us. "Thank the spirits, he's back."
"Who is?" Suki asked.
"The Flute Warrior" another told us. "Our savior has returned!"
"Horrah! Horrah! Horrah!"
I looked at this figure and back at what was remaining of the statue. The steel caught the imagination exactly; the jacket, mask and blade all were exact, but details were missing from the statue that the warrior defiantly presented upon himself.
The walker took no hesitation and swung its tail at the warrior. But the warrior stood still, unmoving. The tail struck the roof of the ruin the warrior had stood upon, leveling it to the ground. Dust flew and cleared, and no spirit was in that rubble.
Then from behind the walker, the warrior took a leap and struck the walker in the back. The walker took notice and let out a screech that ripped into the buildings
"He's so quick" I heard from behind, but I couldn't take my eyes of this spirit battle. The beast vs the being. The warrior made avoiding attacks look cool and did it with such fighting spirit that it looked as if he were invincible.
He pulled his blade from the ground and made a jump for the walker's back. But the blade went straight through and the warrior was now floating inside the walker.
"It's over" I said. Looking at how the warrior was now stuck inside a six legged beast, I saw no hope for him to get out.
"Wait for it" another person said. I looked and the warrior pulled his blade to his mouth. I watched as the walker began to shake violently as the warrior pulled both hands to he blade and started to stand straight up. He pierced through the roof of his prison and leaped out. He stood opposing the walker, who was still shrieking in pain. The warrior held out his blade and put it to his mouth again.
Then there was the hollow sound again. It was so deep and dark, and the tone was an invention that sadness, hate and determination would have taken inspiration from. The warriors glowing eyes continued staring as the walker was backing away. The song was some sort of repellent, and the walker was scared. Within seconds the walker ran from the scene.
"He did it!" shouted the crowd. "Horrah! Horrah! Horrah!"
The warrior looked out upon the crowd. He was closer now and his features were much more describable; His mask was white, with grey lines detailing contours of his face and a red circle with a character imprinted on his forehead. The jacket had a hood that was hanging over his mask, and was made of thick and shiny black leather. the sides hung down past his knees and the collar stuck out over his chest. The dagger he held was silver, with green and . . . black, and gold detailing? I looked closer and from within his jacket, he wore something metal, in red and . . . black?
I took a step forward, and the warrior stared at this. He then wasted no effort than to run from the scene. "Wait, Flute Warrior" I cried out. But he kept running. I tried running after him. "Come back!" I turned the corner, but he was gone. In a road of ruins, he had given me the slip.
"Zuko, what was with the run." Suki asked as she came to my side.
I looked over at her, then I looked out at the empty road while the sound of cheers and celebrations continued to consume the sounds. I could have sworn that . . . maybe that . . . "I don't know. I just wanted to . . . I don't know what I really wanted to do." I looked down and I stared in surprise.
I crouched down and noticed foot prints. The rain has made the ground printable and all other prints were gone, but there were two sets; one was a claw with three talons at the front and a spare that would have been it's thumb. The prints were not heavy as the villagers said, and it only barely made a mark on the soil. Unlike the walker's print, the warrior's print was firmly pressed and scrapped into the ground, like a person's would. But the other was a persons foot. I compared the footprint to mine, and looking at the size, it was smaller than mine.
"Bleeding hog monkey's. This place is a wreck." I looked round, and my roommate finally showed up.
"Ithar? Where were you?" I asked. "Did you not hear the walker creating such a panic?"
"Um, no. No, I was in the toilets, . . . but the door got locked and it was all the way on the outskirts of town which is why I did not hear you." He mustered on one breath, before he looked down at his hand. I looked as well and noticed his father's breastplate had a large scratch on it that wasn't there before. Also why was he wearing his father's armour?
It was too late for me to ask as he had already taken off. "Ithar . . . Ithar?"
"Well, I think he's right Zuko. Let's get some sleep" Suki added as she also took off.
I looked as the crowds were dying down. But I was still pondering; Was the flute warrior a spirit? or was it a person. More specifically, was it Ithar.
I looked back at the statue and I looked closer at what was left of the steel and stone. I focused primarily on the dagger. It was by his mouth, but why? I kept thinking maybe it wasn't a blade, but it could have been an instrument, but that couldn't be, it was a blade and that was clear.
But I wasn't done. I went back to our apartment, but I was determined to look back at the flute again when the day broke again.
With Twinkle Toes going into town with the monkey, that left me to babysit the Sugar queen as she was sleeping. Oh, and Momo went with them as well. We were still in Appa's basket, while the Bison was taking a long nap by the water.
Katara woke up with a start. "You awake?" I asked.
Katara was dazed, she kept looking around like she was still sleeping. At some point she realized she was back in reality again. "Um, Yeah. Yeah I guess I am."
I let out a large yawn. Only this time it wasn't sarcastic, I was generally tired. "Well join the line."
"You couldn't sleep either."
"No. Snoozles and Foghorn didn't help."
"Aang doesn't snore that loud" she protested
I raised my eyebrows. As if she could pretend that it wasn't true. "He's an airbender. The only thing louder than him is the six legged flying beast that flies us around all night."
"RAWWR!" I heard from Appa.
It's unlike me, but I guess could have been nicer to his feelings. "Sorry. So, why couldn't you sleep?"
"Just . . . nothing."
That tone didn't match the words she used, and the long gap was a dead give away all on its own. With no ground, I didn't need to use seismic sense to tell if she was lying or not. "Doesn't sound like nothing. Spill it. I have ears."
"Actually the phrase is 'I'm all ears'."
I winced. "It makes no sense."
I'm making a guess that she was wincing slightly as well. "Anyways. Just some, bad dreams."
I had all the information before hand. "Didn't sound like your dreams. Unless you're name is Tulia by some chance."
There was no denying it. I heard it all. "How did . . ."
"You like the rest of the gang here make noises when you sleep. Though actually it's only been recently, normally you're pretty much quiet. So what was you're dream girl she doing this time?"
I made her tone a little sterner. Obviously she took the joke a bit too seriously. "She was leaving the North Pole, to go to the South Pole."
. . . Seriously? Was that all? ". . . Aaaaand?"
"That was it." It was.
I blew the hair from my face. "Glad I was there to share it with you" I replied sarcastically. I was about to try and get some shut eye for once this day, but she had more to say.
"It was much deeper than that. The family just lost a son, and her father thought it would be better if they moved. To get away from the war."
I laid my head back. "Sounds like they were running away."
"You might be right." Of course I was right. "I think they essentially were."
"That's nothing. I ran away from home loads of times."
"You left for a few days. They were leaving for good."
My attention was wearing and I was tired altogether. "Whatever, I need to get some shut eye. Call me when Aang and Sokka get here with lunch."
"Toph? It's morning."
"You've been sleeping all morning. You missed breakfast. Anyways, night." I closed my eyelids and just waited till I was asleep. I felt Katara get out of the saddle and walk off.
I woke up the next morning, later than I would have wanted, but I wasn't surprised after the night we had. The apartment Ithar bought was nice, but it had no way of fixing any meal, so that left me with little option but to go to the same place for breakfast as I had for dinner.
I walked through the center, and I was surprised to find Zuko standing in front of the statue. It was in a terrible state. I walked over to Zuko. "So, what you looking at?"
He looked at me, then pointed. "The dagger, doesn't it look familiar to you?"
I looked and there was an odd resemblance. There was no colour, but looking at the shape of it and some brief details on it, I recognized that blade. "Isn't that . . .?" I looked back at Zuko "Where has Ithar gone?"
"He was exhausted, he still hasn't got up. He said that he was up all night walking.
"Do you think?"
"Of course. It makes sense; last night, I . . ." He looked around and waved over as he started walking away. What he wanted to say could be said in front of the general public. That was clearer than day.
We started whispering as Zuko started walking in one direction and I followed. "That Flute Warrior was wearing a mask, he could easily have covered his face. And I saw a metal chest plate under his jacket."
"And those foot prints. Spirits don't leave footprints that heavy in then ground."
"It's Ithar. It has to be. You don't go missing for that long without noticing two spirits walking through the streets."
"The flute tune is also a big give away."
But, juts as I said that, I realized a flaw. "The flute didn't sound the same though, it didn't even sound like a flute."
Zuko nodded. "It was too . . . hollow, like wind. Ithar's played his flute a lot of times and that didn't sound a thing like his flute."
"What about the blade. He always put it next to his mouth."
"No, I have looked at it; Ithar said it himself, it's just decoration."
"Maybe he got one off of who ever was his White Lotus contact. We should ask him."
"Already there." I looked and Zuko had been walking that way all this time. He approached the door. "Hello *knock*knock*."
The slit opened up and two beady eyes peered through. "Who knocks at the guarded gate?"
Zuko smiled. "One who has eaten the fruit and tasted its mysteries."
The eyes got wide, then squinted. "You're a little young to know of our password."
He was about to close the hatch when Zuko caught it. "My uncle is Iroh of the Fire Nation."
The eye got wide again. Then the hatch shut and the door swung right open. The man on the other side was another frail man, but he was in a much better state then the other men we spoke to yesterday. "The Grand Lotus! This is an honour to be in the presence of a relative of such a prestigious member. But unfortunately you must reach mastery and wisdom to become a member of our organization."
Zuko smiled awkwardly. "That's . . . not why we are here."
I cut in. "Actually, you met our friend yesterday. Ithar. Remember?"
"Ah yes" he replied. "I was surprised meeting him again. I still don't know how he remains that age." He felt across his cheeks.
"Did you give him anything in particular?" Zuko asked.
"Why yes, he received a loan of money which he used to purchase items from the local shops."
"Do you know what he purchased?" I asked.
He put his hand to his chin and thought about it "I don't know. I suspect that he bought a long black hooded coat, to keep him out of the rain."
A black hooded coat. That's a good start. "Do they sell them here?"
"Yes they do. I have one on me right now." he reached behind him and pulled one out. I was ready to smile, but when he pulled it out, it wasn't the same. It wasn't what the Flute warrior wore.
"Are you sure? This isn't leather."
"Leather? No, this is cotton. We don't have the means to make leather, and the only supplies are reserved for the richest due to the specific detailing we sow into it to make it authentic as the Flute warrior had worn." Richest! I doubt they would have loaned enough for Ithar to by something that authentic.
Zuko was getting frustrated, as was I. "There's too many details," he said. "If it was Ithar, there's no way we could prove anything."
The old man looked at us and stepped out of the door. "Come with me." He led us back to the statue. "Look at everything you see here and everything you don't. The greatest of revelation come from the unsuspecting source.
I looked and Zuko did also. TI don't what he wanted us to look at, but I couldn't be what we had seen before. I hovered over every detail. I looked at the mask, but I knew that sold similar things to that in the shops. Anyone could have been wearing it. I looked at the coat. The coat was already established to be too expensive, and I doubt that Ithar would spend that much for something that would get ripped to shreds. I looked back at the dagger. It still couldn't be a flute.
Then I looked closer; under the hilt, their was a disk, a white lotus disk. "The blade," I said, "is it a flute?"
"Of course it's a flute. Why on earth would we call him the Flute Warrior if he clearly had a dagger by his mouth?"
"Did this spirit ever play an old Fire Nation military march song by any chance?" Zuko tried asking.
The old man's reaction was priceless. He had no idea. "I have no idea what you are talking about. This spirit played no such thing."
"Could you possibly tell us what happened the last time the spirits faced each other?"
He crossed his arms "I don't have to tell you anything." We stepped forward and he stepped back. "It's all written right here." He pointed back to the stand where the statue stood upon. There was something there.
"What's this?" I said aloud.
"When the Flute Warrior first came. A scrap of paper was all the remained from the night before. Our fathers then carved what was written at the base of the statue."
I looked over, it read:
Two spirits will rise
Take pity, see, arrange
But beware the dark spirit
When the winds grow cold
To lack love and to wipe off
Walk and warrior
The painted star of the sea
The heart of stone breaks
"It doesn't make much sense."
"It doesn't, but its a beautiful thing none the less. You know a man came into this town and he said he heard a similar story. He thought they might be connected, but he was putting together a whole mythos based on what he heard. He was wrong."
"Does anyone in this town play a flute?"
"Everyone does. Been that way for years, ever since the Flute Warrior first arrived. Now, everyone hears his tale and they learn to play in his honour."
"As does everyone."
"Well can you tell us what the tune he played was called?"
"Its doesn't. No one knows the name. No one can replicate the sound or tune. We have tried, but we just can't put as much depth into the sound. The flute he used was nothing like . . ."
Zuko interrupted straight in. "Thank you very much, Mr . . ."
He was shocked but smiled generously. "Sueh-Yen, Shek Sueh-Yen. And it was my pleasure to help the nephew of the Grand Lotus."
As he walked off I turned to Zuko. "What's the deal?"
"Look." He pointed at the middle line.
I didn't see it. "What about it?"
"Read it, one character at a time."
"Ai-fa-ca, . . . Ithaqa!"
He looked at me, and covered up the last character. "Maybe: Ithar-Ka?"
"Ithar!" We had the evidence. "Too much of a coincidence" I concluded. "Ithar has been here before. He was the Flute Warrior. He is the Flute warrior."
"Well now we can tell him."
"No. We can't, the walker will be back and Ithar is who everyone thinks he is and they believe he is the only one who can stop it."
"What do we do now then? If we let him do it again, he could get himself killed."
"But if we tell someone else, then they will lose their hope."
"These people saw Ithar beat this monster before. If they find out this spirit was a person, they won't believe us, but they will lose hope of him turning up when he won't show. I don't know what."
Zuko sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Okay, but then what? Ithar can't do this alone." He thought about it. "I suggest we meet him before he confronts the spirit again."
The next night. I laid back, but the dream came back on me again;
Tulia was walking through the streets alone. It was still day time, but the sun was drawing closer to setting. She continued walking with me following until she reached,
"Tuwia! Are you here to pway wiff me?"
"Yes. Yes I am."
I watched as they started buling and playing in the snow. They both made small blocks and dug in some trenches in between the blocks. Tulia then melted some of the ice into water and filled it into the trenches. Pakku was so happy playing with her, but she looked so sad to what she was about to tell him.
"Pakku, there's something I have to tell you."
"Look, I made the Norfern Tribe. It's so big."
Tulia took a deep breath and looked at my future step-grandfather. "Pakku. I'm leaving."
He stopped and looked at her really confused. "But we still have hours. It's not dark yet."
"Pakku. I-I mean I'm leaving with my family."
"No-No you're not. Why would you leave? You live here, in this widdle house we made. See this stick is you." It was heartbreaking just watching this two year old not fully understand what Tulia was trying to tell him.
"I'm sorry, but we're moving to the Southern Water Tribe."
He was no longer confused, now he was starting to put the small pieces together. "Where?"
"The other side of the world."
The little boy's eyes were filling and his pupils were so sad. "But, that's not here. Why you not stay here?"
Tulia pulled him in as he started crying into her coat. I would have done the exact same thing. "Pakku, I'm sorry, but . . ." She hesitated, and then, I saw an idea spark in her head. She forced a fake smile and looked the child in the eyes. "We're going to the South, sooo . . . I can learn waterbending."
Pakku looked up at her, he sniffed and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He was still choking on the thought of her moving. "Well that's silly. You can alweady waterbend. You do it all the time."
"I mean, I'll get a teacher. I will actually be allowed to learn from a real master. In the South, girls are allowed to learn."
He sniffed again. He looked up at her and asked, "Will you come back after you finish learning?"
Tulia told the two year old what he wanted to hear. "Yes. Yes, after we're done, we'll come back."
His face lit up. The tears were still there, but he was a much happier boy again. "Yay." They had a proper hug after he settled down. Tulia looked around and again she looked at me. But again the memory faded into gold and white, and it was gone.
I woke up. It was still late, and everyone was asleep. The scene was the same as it had been the previous night. Toph with the tarp, Aang . . . really snoring loudly and on his back firebreathing in small amounts to keep him warm. Sokka huddle tightly into a ball with his coat over his shoulders.
Momo was the only one on Appa's back who was still awake, not including Appa of course. Momo came over and sat on my leg.
I stoked his head. "I know Momo. I still don't understand all this. I still don't know what Tulia knows or if she has the answers." He turned his head to his side. He had no idea what I was saying, I always knew that. But I didn't know who else to tell.
It grew dark again and I knew he would be back. I awoke and looked around. Zuko was snoring. Yes he snores, it's not that loud, but you can hear it.
I crept from my bed and through the door. Closing it slowly and creeping through the front door. I walked out to the alley and moved over that rock. Underneath was the out fit. (If you have been skipping ahead. Then yes I am the Flute Warrior. Very obvious from the beginning.)
I put on the jacket and placed the mask over my face. I took my blade and sheathed it in pocket and raised the hood. I was ready for my duty. My redemption. My destiny.
Using the ladder I had leaning against the next building I climbed to the roof and made my way over the roofs to the center again. Jumping the gaps while keeping low and trying to step lightly. I panicked the last time when Zuko starting stepping forward towards me. I couldn't risk it, or letting them blow my . . .
"Flute Warrior! Or should we say . . . Ithar."
I turned around and Suki and Zuko were standing right behind me. Both were dressed in all black like they were ninjas. I stepped back, but I had no where to go.
"Shhhh!" I pulled my mask off "How did you find out?"
"The riddle that was left was in Haiku. And the middle sentence of the second paragraph has your name written all over it. Literally."
I looked over the side. A purple aura was starting to form. "This isn't a good time."
"Why do you insist with all these secrets?" Suki asked.
"I have a job to do."
I was about to jump the roof as the purple drew in closer, but Zuko pulled my shoulder back. "No, we already had a job before you stalled us here. We have put a lot of trust in you. We've shared secrets, and I get that there are something you know that we cannot. We know already, but this is a big deal These people think you're a spirit, their guardian, their savior."
"And I am. What's the problem?"
"The problem? The problem is that you can't handle yourself against a spirit. It's too dangerous."
"It wasn't the last time."
"The last time it ran. You were lucky."
"I was never lucky. And I have done this loads of times."
"You can't now. You could bend then. You'll be killed."
"I Didn't! I didn't bend last time!" I covered my mouth. I ducked after I shouted and took a look around. No one took notice, good sign. But the purple was drawing ever closer. "The last time I came here, I didn't bend. This village, this town doesn't have a single bender. No one has been born here with a bending ability for more than six hundred years. Anyone with bending were exterminated long before. these people don't need a bender, they need a hero, a symbol to prove that you don't need to bend to someone important."
They stared at me. They understood now. Suki replied, "So that explain the symbol you painted, the whole red circle and the character in the middle."
"Peace. Level. Equal" I replied.
The monster was now in the town. The people screamed and ran from the scene again. Zuko cut between any conversation that could have followed. "That's memorable and all, but seriously how do you expect to defeat a spirit so malicious like that?"
"Leave it to me?"
"Wait!" Suki stopped me. "How did you beat it if you never bent?"
I chuckled and pulled out my dagger. "It's funny . . . how you never once asked why I played the flute." I took out my Pai Sho piece and clipped it to the end of the dagger.
"But it's not a flute, you said it wasn't" Zuko pointed out.
I turned the piece and the blade turned inside. The holes revealed themselves all over the blade and, propping from in between the gold frames. "Now it is."
The spirit was going to topple the statue again. But I hopped from the roof. I blew into the flute and the hollow music caught the walker's attention. I clipped the piece on the flute again and the flute was now changed.
I threw my arm out in front of me. "Back you! Back to the dark realm where you belong."
I blew into the flute and tune came out again. The walker stepped back, but tried to step forward.
"Back!" I shouted and blew again. The tune continued to force him back. The walker opened his mouth and was about to knock me back. I stopped playing and ran straight at him. The song should have been enough and I was right; the song pulled him closer to a physical form and now I could to this:
"BACK!" I ducked the screech, and I struck it the throat with two fingers. I then made a slide to avoid getting stomped on, then did a flip and struck it once in the back of the neck, once in the center of the spine, and after another flip struck it in the forehead.
The creature threw its head back and screamed as it dissolved before my eyes. The purple dust vanished into thin air all in once. It was gone. He was gone now.
The townsman gathered round and celebrated again, but I knew better than to stick around. I made a leap for the building and climbed back up to the roof.
"Thank you Flute Warrior. Thank you." I heard from down below as the people started to hip-hip-horray me. I pulled the mask off and ran down the alley. I watched as Zuko and Suki slowly joined the crowd around the corner.
"Hey you two missed it" one of the crowdsmen told them. "The Flute Warrior came and finally vanquished the beast again. He is our hero."
They looked around to where I was peaking, then looked back to the men. "Yeah, he really is" I heard them say.
"Gah!" I punched the air so many times, but that colonial dressed in black like a spirit wannabe chi blocked me. That darn song again. Always The Darn Tune!
I swung round at my earthbending friend. "Nothing" I replied.
He wasn't convinced. He would make a huge mistake. "Did your . . ."
I kicked him in the chest as he went flying back. "I Said It Was Nothing!" I threw myself back round again. I locked my fists and breathed heavily and slowly. Anger is the first sign towards madness, and I needed to be sane when my work is complete. "He's back."
"Someone I . . . None Of Your Business!"
"I was merely asking if . . ."
I walked forward and spoke right up in his face in a warning tone "He's back and that is all you will be hearing." I threw him back and walked back away from him. "Now leave."
He took a bow "Your lordship," and he walked away.
I looked out over the cliff again. "I thought different of you. I knew you were here to try an stop me, but I didn't think you would pick yourself up after what you did. Still, I welcome a challenge, every epic tale needs a struggle, and you have given me the perfect excuse. What I am planning cannot be stopped, I have seen it. Every victory, every defeat, every mistake doesn't matter. The end result will be mine either way."
What should I do next? the waterbenders and earthbenders haven't done their job.
Hmm, that's exactly it. My army of waterbenders and earthbenders have done nothing but get their butts kicked. Perhaps reemploying my firebending friend will do the job justice. Or perhaps, injustice.
- Itharca (aka Ithaqua) and the Wind Walker were both first mentioned in "
- Though now it is confirmed that they are separate entities.
- The airbending ability to spiritually transcend spirits was later used by Jinora in "Light in the Dark".
- She later used directing transcending the body in the physical world in "In Harm's Way".
- The mask worn by Ithar is described to be similar to the one worn by Amon seventy years later.
For the collective works of the author, go here.