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Water, Earth, Fire, Air, Void.
For 100 years, the four nations were at war and only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them, but he vanished. 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.
But now a new threat has arisen and a fifth element has been awoken. A voidbender named Ithar came with a warning that we were all in danger. An lost past and earlier tale have caught us up, and Aang may not be ready to face it. But I believe, Aang can save us all.
Three days, I cannot take it anymore. I have so many places I need to scratch, but I can't reach them in this stupid pot. This was supposed to be a fifteen minute thing until we left the Fire Nation. But karma just hates me.
The moment we stopped at the Great Gates of Azulon, the black robed waterbenders boarded, and that was when we knew we were stuck. I am just glad that we happened to be hiding under plants with some portions of vegetation that is edible. But it's so hot in this pot, I'm sticking so much that I can't even move to reach my nose. Did I mention that it was itching?
I hadn't heard from Zuko or Suki since last night when the guards were not patrolling the sides. It's breaking light now, ending another hot day cooking in this pot. My only source of fresh air is a small crack in the front that I use to breath and to see the ocean . . . all, the darn, time.
I'm so tired *yawn* I have been watching the deck since the last time the sun inconveniently woke me up. *yaaaaaawwwnnn*
I really shouldn't have tried to fall asleep, especially when I knew that burning tingle in my back was acting up again. It hadn't been a long time, but I really thought for even a second that it could cut me some slack. I'll say it again; karma just hates me.
Three lives you send for grave
That voice again, but it wasn't the nice Ni voice like last time, it sounded more gruff and horrid like it is meant to deliberately be blunt and rough, like a dull dagger that is not wanted, but people still want to use it anyways because it is reliable. Ni's other half, the truthful one, the one that no body likes because, well as you can probably guess already; 'the truth hurts'.
"Ithar, where are you taking me?"
The voice was different now. I couldn't see anything et the moment, it was still pitch black in my head. Then my sight came back and I was back in that place; the big empty place that Ithar lived in. The Timeless Area . . . or something like that. Truth be told he already told, Ithar probably told me a million times while we were still in the Northern Tribe, but I was really getting tired of his cryptic puzzles. That guy couldn't be anymore unclear about what he has done.
Speaking of the guy; Ithar appeared, leading Tulia with him behind as he made his way to the edges of the land they were standing on. He stepped up and started looking out into the endless space that lied in between the edges of land.
"You said you had a brother right?" he asked her.
She looked up at him, like he was started getting a bit personal there on the subject. "Yeah, Kahashi. Why?"
He still looked out, his eyes and head were following a few clouds as they passed by, but then turning straight away when they got close enough that he could see clearly through them. "He died right, on a ship near the northern coast of the Earth Kingdom, am I right?"
She wiped her eyes, like she'd had been crying recent-, yes she was! This must have happened straight after the last dream, where he was trying to cheer her up. "I thought you were suppose to cheer me up." See, I was right.
"This will I promise. Hold on a minute." He rubbed his hands together, he had his eyes focused on a particular cloud. An image was visible, but from where I was looking, it was difficult to make out properly. I saw a boat with a blue sail in the middle of the water. But I didn't really see much distinguishing that could have possible made it the one that Ithar was presumably looking for. A nice image was okay, but it seemed pretty useless.
Ithar then pulled out his hand, shining gold, and he . . .
"What just happened?" You could say that again; That void he just bent ripped a hole right through cloud, and now there was a less foggy image right in the middle as the void started sucking itself inwards as the edges slowly decreased at a very long space of time.
"I opened up a hole using voidbending. The surprise is on the other side."
She stared right into it, looking very uneasily through the image. She hesitated at the sight of it slowly shrinking with everything being drawn inwards from it. "Is it safe?" Again, I was going to ask that same question.
Ithar pondered on the thought, which just made the situation even more uneasy. Seeing him actually ponder on the thought only made hesitation a much wiser choice than stepping through. "Well, it should be just before, we should have at least a day before . . ."
She rolled her eyes. "I meant using that . . . void stuff. Is that safe."
Ithar then looked down and he basically just explained his life story to her in a summary that only asked more questions; "I was born fifteen years after the Air Nomad genocide. One year before I came to save you. And yet I am fifteen and you are also fifteen. Is that a good enough reason?"
"Not really." I absolutely agree with her, I would absolutely not think of that as a good legitimate excuse. I still can't wrap my head around this void and time, and space, and- OW! My head is hurting now.
Ithar rolled his eyes, but he kept on smiling. It seemed really weird to see him so upbeat and loose. He seemed to lack all the care for the world and was looking for fun. Come to think of it, Aang was very much like him when me and Katara thawed him out of the iceberg. "C'mon. I promise that when you get to the other side you will appreciate what you see."
Tulia was still looking really hesitant, her eyes couldn't keep focused on what she wanted to look at; his hand, his face, or just the scenery. I couldn't blame her, but then again, she had only known him for less than I could have really used to actually found out more about him if he wasn't so secretive, and maybe also if I had tried to.
But she then smiled back. I have no idea why, but the story was going to continue without explaining me whether I liked it or not. "Okay. I trust you," she replied, taking hold of his hand.
Ithar pulled her up and then reached his arm out, spreading his hand wide. He clamped tightly and pulled back slowly, gathering in void around his hand before swiping vertically downwards and breaking through an oncoming cloud.
"Sokka." Wait . . . who said that? Is Suki somewhere around here. No, that's not right. She's in the point next to me. I'm still asleep. "Sokka! Wake up!"
I did, back into the cramped space they called a pot. Not at all as comfortable as it had been the whole time I was sleeping. The sun was gone now, slowly at its finishing point where the sky was now turning navy blue, and slowly into black as all that light disappeared around the earth. "Whah? Where?"
Zuko's voice called out. "Sokka, we're still in the pots, rocking somewhere in the sea."
"I knew that" I immediately protested. I did know that, at least I was aware of it until I was asleep in which case he is still not, sort of, kind of, . . . where am I going with this?
"Well stop snoozing and take a look."
"It's pitch black where we are" Suki explained. "You said you could see the sun."
I looked out through the crack in the pot. The sun was now gone as was the last of the day light. Now the sky was black and one by one stars started to appear. I saw the deck of the ship, but the rest started to disappear and it was eventually too dark to distinguish the water from the boat.
"Patience" I replied, but sure enough, two guards walked past on their regular patrols. The metal in their armours flicked as the moon's rays shone off of it and then they carried on walking. "Yep they're still there."
"Darn it" Suki replied. Everyone was getting really agitated from having to stay hidden in these pots. The rocking of the water was definitely not helping the cramp conditions.
"What do we do now?"
"We can't stay in here for another night. We'd starve, dehydrate, who knows. We need to get rid of them somehow."
"How?" I asked. He'd been saying it for days and he hadn't come up with a good plan for a while.
"If I knew that would I still be in this pot?"
"Great." Great, then I guess I better get use to staying in here for a while. I wonder if I'll get a growth spurt while still in here? I could be in here for that long at this rate.
With everything now in place in the impenetrable city, there was no need to stick around while a war was in the wake. Three years since the last hundred years war ended, and now the world was reaching the coming storm. We can only hope that all we have done will stop it from reaching critical, and knowing Daika, he'll only stop if all he has left is ashes, so long as he doesn't stain his own fingers before he does so.
The one thing I could always count on from Daika was his inability to kill anyone. He is unpredictable apart from that, he still holds his Air Nomad philosophy above his own desires. Then again . . . I thought I knew him pretty well, and his new found desire has been something I never foresaw.
I'm going off topic here. Since there was nothing left that Aang needed to talk to the Earth King about, it was time to move on. Ba Sing Se was the capital of the entire nation, but the continent was too large to be left unchecked and more people needed the word to be spread. Omashu, Yu Dao, Gaoling, you name it. The big cities spread across the land needed to be ready also, there is only so much you can do from one city stuck into a corner.
We decided to leave at sunset, so that it would be about sun rise when we would reach the nearest city; a place on the other side of the lakes; Manyue. It was a recent city, though in actuality it built itself up from the refugee camps that were stockpiling around Full Moon Bay trying to get into Ba Sing Se during the war. It was large enough to be named a city, but the buildings are remnants of a people's struggle to find a place that was safe.
Appa was loaded up shortly after dinner and all the essentials were taken from Aang's house in the city; Some food, a bit of money, and a few extra stuff that the two of them thought they would need. Didn't bother asking them what they needed. Not my place.
Kuei was there, along with his own Dai Li, his Jade Guards he now called them. Didn't make it anymore easing. Loyalty is only valuable if you can trust the men that they can keep it, and if not a man's loyalty is worth nothing when they swing wherever they like, then it is only a word. With Long Feng still commanding a few ranks closely, you can't help but be suspicious of all of them, when it could always be just a few in the many that are the ones you're really thinking of. None of us had the guts to question Kuei's judgment on trusting his Dai Li again since they took part in his overthrowing and the fall of their country.
"Thank you for everything Kuei," Aang said as he bowed before the Earth King. Katara did the same in unison, but I followed only a short while after. I was getting better at this, that was for sure.
Kuei was humbled by Aang's words. "I should be thanking you, Avatar Aang; without your arrival, the current affairs of the world may have escaped my notice too late. If what you say comes for us, then Ba Sing Se must be ready to defend itself. Might I ask what you are doing now?"
"We're going to meet up with Sokka and Suki on Kyoshi Island" Katara explained to him. It had been preplanned before we left the Northern Water Tribe. Everything would work out okay, though some improvisations would undoubtedly be made in the process. "Zuko's gonna stay and prepare the Fire Nation, and Arnook is already aware. That leaves the Southern Water Tribe, so after we regroup, we're going to meet the council and make them aware of the situation."
Katara climbed on, with Momo, hanging onto her pouch. She kept her hand nearby to occupy his attention away from the pouch. Apparently they had an incident where Momo actually bit into the pouch. But I never saw that. Aang did his usual airbending twirl, thing, to get onto Appa's head. Leaving me to board. I readied myself, but then Kuei approached me. "One last question, before you leave."
"Anything, your . . . earthliness." That was something I never thought I would say. I really should stop taking addressing manners from Aang.
"I have learnt so much of your kind." I was going to protest since I had already explained to him that I wasn't an original voidbender, again, but he was quick to raise his hands to let him finish. "I just have to ask; I understand that by bending void you are able to move between places in minimal time, so why do you insist on continuing to travel at Appa's speed alone over several days rather than a few seconds?"
I rubbed my hands together, and gold started forming. "As skilled as I am in Spacial Apparatus" I explained, now cutting into the open air, "the amount of energy it would take to move not only myself," I stopped and stepped right through, reappearing right into Appa's saddle. "But Aang, Katara, Momo and especially Appa wouldn't be able to stretch the distance we need to cover. No offence, but the size of the Earth Kingdom would be too far for me to even reach the Eastern Lake before exhausting myself. Mostly it's the size of Appa that concerns me."
I clearly upset the bison. "Sorry" I apologized.
Kuei wasn't finished though. Apparently he already did his homework and he wasn't about to let my answer slide. "But, correct me if I'm wrong, but in the history I am catching up on; The first Phoenix King could move entire armies great distances."
"He had help."
The Earth King's jaw dropped."What?"
My eyes widened. Spoilers. I can't explain anymore. I don't know if this is public knowledge or not, but I can't take the risk of exposing too much. "I'm sorry . . . your highness, but that is all I can say."
My face told Aang that we really needed to go. He understood. No questions asked. He waved off Kuei and immediately ordered Appa to fly. We took off and we started flying out of the city. It took most of the suns light left before we could fly straight out of the rings. The last wall passed just as the sun was disappearing. Eventually it became too dark to see the ground below us. I couldn't tell if we were over the lakes or over the plains.
"So who's staying up?" Aang asked, before letting out a huge yawn.
"You should sleep sweetie" Katara told him. "You need you're beauty sleep." I snickered, but I held it in from being loud enough. "I'll take first watch, I'm not tired yet."
"I'll stay up for a while," I added, I didn't really want to sleep right now. "But I'll try later."
"Okay." That was all that needed to be said. Aang moved up into the saddle and fell asleep into the top left corner. Katara put a blanket over him and kissed good night. She returned to the front of the saddle and clambered over to Appa's head. I stayed on the right side of the saddle and peered over the edge.
It took me time to actually warm up to the two of them, but that is how it is now. I used make friends quite easily, but not anymore. The problem is not entirely me. I have changed for sure, but I never wanted to feel this way. I could throw on a confident face if I was certain I would never see them again, act all cocky and high spirited like I used to, but I can't stay that way forever. Nothing ever lasts, not even behaviors apparently.
I still don't sleep well, but I haven't in a long time. The nightmares are always switching, but they always haunt me, and I wake up crying sometimes. I can't stop feeling this way, in the midst of loud explosions and horrific scenes. The most reason one, was that figure in the smoke. The man in the mirror. If it was a man.
That face in the mirror. Glowing gold eyes. Long greying white hair. A horn and a snout. I don't know if the creature is such a beast or a man in a mask. Kitted out in smooth black, at least in most places, but it was still too hard to see clearly. Haunted so very much. Golden eyes like dark crescents moons between its eyelids.
Who are you? The only thing I could say to it. No other words could be said to it. I needed to know the riddle it told me. He gave me a description; he's a hunter, like an animal, but he hunts alone. He gave himself a name, or maybe a specie. I don't know what an Amarok is, or what significance it has to me. But it was calling out to me specifically, whoever, whatever, it was.
"You ready?" Katara asked. I had completely spaced out previously, but now I was back in the night sky.
I sighed. "Yes, I suppose so. Good night Katara."
"Good night, Ithar."
I laid down on a rolled up backpack and just tried to sleep. Momo curled up on my front. I didn't mind, except for the snoring.
The boys were just arguing over what plans worked for them, as they usually did. Sokka's plans, while complicated to the point were fool proof, but always had the flaw of being full of holes that Zuko liked to pick into and ruin altogether;
" . . . so we then throw the second guard into the water . . . "
"They're waterbenders;" Zuko pointed out very unimpressed, which was the same old story when you've heard at least thirty different versions of the same plan being replayed over and over. "They'd appreciate the aid your giving them."
Considering the fact that we knew from the start that they were waterbenders, I would have thought that Sokka would have remembered that only giving them more water made them more of a problem to deal with.
"Let me finish!" Sokka protested, returning to his usual volume. He was very sick of Zuko complaining, not that Zuko's plans were anymore helpful as a lot of things could then fall wrong and everything would fall into smoke. "Thrown the second guard in, with his arms and kegs tied up, so he can't bend . . ."
"Which will stop him from swimming also."
If I could see Sokka's face right now, he would have hit his breaking point. "Can't you agreed with my plan and stop nitpicking it?"
The both of them had been at each other's throats ever since the moon became visible in the sky. I know this because Sokka commented on it when he said he could finally see the ship out of the water again. It's been like this for a
Then we had to stay silent; there was a particular place on this ship that made a creaking sound whenever they walked around on patrol. The two of them dressed in armour was heavy enough to make it creak as they stepped over it. And right on cue, that same creak was coming around. "They're getting closer."
We knew the signal; shut up quickly. At any close range, a squeak would have been noticeable, so whenever thy walked past we had to stay silent to avoid detection. Then after less than a minute the secondary creak just slightly closer inwards on the opposite side of the ship also creaked, which signaled they had walked past.
"Pressures not helping here."
Zuko had tried to think of something that wouldn't get us caught or even killed if we engaged them. We knew of two that continued to walk past. There could have been more, but we didn't know. But we were running out of time ourselves. "Why don't we just cut the middle part and just jump them. At least we get the surprise advantage before they can react fast enough."
Sokka of course didn't like the idea since Zuko immediately continued to pull holes from his own, but I don't think he was at all reading all the lines when he chose his answer. "They'll be expecting that, it'll never work."
I had to tell him before he embarrassed himself again. "Sokka . . . "
"Think it over first before you say it again."
He remained silent for a few seconds before he reached the conclusion he was intended to work out form himself. " . . . Oh. That is a good plan, I'm glad we agreed on it. Alright when do we strike?" he asked.
"Don't look at me" Zuko replied.
"I'm not looking at you, I'm looking through the hole in my pot."
I cut in before this whole thing escalated to the point that we got caught. "Honestly boys. We strike when they are immediately in front of us. Was that really that hard to come up with?"
They didn't answer, but secretly they probably agreed with me. They just don't like to admit it. It would take an hour or so before the next opportunity to arise, but we did have the three factors of ambush on our side, so at least we could get the advantage when we needed it:
The first factor is identity; knowing the target you want to take out. This requires either predetermined knowledge or an ample mount of time studying and watching them, their habits and their strengths and weaknesses. as waterbenders, the water is their biggest advantages, but immobilizing the arms would render them unable to bend. Legs are also a priority to prevent running or further bending. Having also patrolled the ship several times, they have had no signs to tell them we are here, so they will have their guards considerably lowered from any attack from the ship.
Secondly, is routine; if you have watched your target long enough, you notice that they all have a particular set of places they like to go. Even knowing what they do and where they do it from earlier encounters is a big advantage. These waterbenders were always patrolling the ship, and we could tell when they came around to our area of attack whenever they stepped onto a certain plank that made a creak. This would be our chance to attack.
And third, is reaction; Pulling of any form of ambush needs the perfect moment to strike, but that won't be of any use if you can't engage without getting caught out immediately. To avoid this, we would need to listen for that creak, and be ready to either break the pots of leap from them when they are right in front of us. Since they pass Sokka first, it would be easier for him to make the call as he has the only viewing hole that isn't detectable.
We had everything ready for this strike. I just hope it works.
We had set out days ago, and I had made sure that I got all my students back from every town. If they still needed a flushing out problem, then I was sure to clean up and turf them out before I moved on with my pupils. My own little army.
Black robed, or so everyone described them, people of all bending types were still skulking the towns and villages on the west coast, and it just made my week. No training drills, no intolerance, real action and real opposition to challenge them.
I started making good use of that wire. My new little weapon was something I liked to try out every now and again, though it doesn't substitute for the old reliable earthbending, it was fun to see them squirm and try to hit me with no way of bending, with the wire wrapped tightly around their wrists like an indestructible rope.
We had reached further south then I had ever travelled before hand, on foot that is. The students were started to talk, and that meant their morale was about to start breaking. I cannot afford an army that is breaking under the pressure of what they described as force march. They were my students and they would listen to me. They wanted to rest. Fine. I'll let them have this one.
I stopped dead in my tracks and I kicked the ground to raise me up a column so that I could address the whole of them. The ten I had were now raising into the early hundreds. But that wasn't all of them. I still needed to find my first students as well. Ho Tun, Penga and The Dark One. All nearly at my level, I did teach them very well, but with this new skill I have just invented, I was back out ahead and I needed to advance their studies further, after I beat the snot of the them for abandoning the school with the rest of them.
I stamped and they all fell silent. "Right then, how many more miles till we reach the Su Oku river?" I asked out loud.
"Twenty back the other way, we're three miles till we reach the Xibu River."
" . . . I think your missing something."
"Twenty back the other way, we're three miles till we reach the Xibu River, Sifu Toph."
I smiled, but walking into unknown grounds does get your feet thinking; I had no trouble walking all this way, but I cannot calculate how far their legs can carry them, and if it was too much, good. If they could carry themselves all this way without dying on the way, then I expect that they are now better metalbenders now with all that added exercise.
"That's better" I replied. I kicked up three times, raising two slides of rock over into a triangle form over the ground and a third to act as the back. My usual camp making routine. Easy to do and I get to keep my feet dirty and on the ground. "Make camp" I ordered to them. "We'll sleep at dark."
There was a moment of silence. I hated silence, especially when their heart rates started rising quickly from nervosity. Probably not a word, prove me wrong with a mouth full of boulders. I dare you.
Finally it took them a few seconds before one of them found their spine to actually speak up, but not in a way I expected. ". . . It is dark. We can't see anything."
I was sick of the whole routine now. My parent never . . . Before I left with Twinkle Toes, I didn't get these sort of unnecessary sentences that continued to remind me that I can't see. I can kick all these lily livers butts with my back turned and my arms and legs tied together. "Boo Hoo, I can't see a thing. My life is ruined" I replied sarcastically, making it very loud to show how obscene he really sounded.
I walked out and punched out a defensive trench around where I expected them to pull out their tents from the grounds, or from their bags if they were too scared to lay on the ground like a true earthbender should.
Maneuvering to almost reaching the outline of the forest, which I raised upwards to prevent the Platypus Bear's from wandering in, not that I really needed it, but no doubt someone will complain if one of the smaller ones were picked off as bear meat. I finished it and walked straight through and fell straight into my camp back first.
"Sleep now, we'll be up when it's morning . . . when I get up."
They moved around and got ready, but it took them all a total of five to maybe ten minutes before they stopped moving around and started trying to fall asleep.
We waited till the opportunity came. the next time the creak was stepped on, as we agreed, was that we would attack. These pots had been hell the first time I had to stuff myself in them. We needed to get out before we grew into them and had to stay in case we snap something stepping out too late.
Then, we were ready to strike. The second creak came, and I leapt out and attacked. The two guards were caught off guard, and I managed to nail one of them to the floor before the other one took any notice. I really should have taken my priorities though. The one that didn't fall was standing right next to the edge of the deck, and he now had plenty of water to reach from.
Sokka leapt out and he took the second guard, cutting them off. Suki ran from the pot to take the rest of the ship. her stealth skills would mean she could take them out without detection being at all very easy.
I continued my assault, unfortunately form me the first bender was back on his feet. Fire and water clashed, but I feared that now we would have nothing to stay on top with. But that was until I realized that they were hitting me and not Sokka;
Sokka was left alone due to the fact that he wasn't bending, so he remained practically invisible, until he drew out his saber, and then he was a target. Hoses continued to stream against us until we were nearly pinned down behind the goods. I made a desperate attempt to draw fire to allow Sokka a chance to hit them. I ran out with fire blazing, but the ships deck was so slippery that it caused me to lose my footing and hit the edge of the ship.
Sokka pulled out his boomerang and ran out. "No!" I yelled, but it was too late. He slipped up, and threw his boomerang, but his footing made the shot miss. Then he fell to his face. The ship then had some luck as the boat was unexpectedly tipped up so we had the high ground. I held on tightly as Sokka slipped down and knocked the two guards down, before sliding all the way to the end. The guards started sliding as well, but slowed as the ship tipped back to normal.
I landed in some knockout firebending moves and kept their arms pinned. But I failed to cover my back and the moment I turned, a third waterbender was standing their, with icicle in hand. The sight of it was about tot become my last ever sight, as it started gaining momentum towards me. But eventually his boomerang did come back, and landed the third guard right on the head, knocking him out for good. We looked on our victory and tied them up. The battle was over.
I looked around at all that we had done, but, that was all. We'd been planning and calculating a good plan to take the ship, but the three waterbenders we just knocked out were all that were here "That was easier than expected."
Sokka's jaw dropped. He leapt up and grabbed my shirt near the shoulders. Sokka had grown till he was nearly as tall as me in the last few years. It was really quite shocking now that we were at near eye level to each other. I had hoped to have stayed the tallest for a little longer at least. "You did not just say that" he argued.
I knocked his hands off and back off one step, but he kept his vision fixed one me. I didn't understand at the time what he was talking about. I thought the whole karma nonsense had gotten to him. But I'm not the best person to talk about karma. "What?"
The whites in his eyes were growing deadly pink from how long he kept them from not blinking. Whatever idea that he had hold of him"I say some stupid things, but that topped every list I can think of."
He rolled his yes, and started using hand actions to play out his description of explaining the motive behind his reaction. "The moment you say something's easy, then you realize that there is something else that has now made your life difficult."
"Guys . . ." Suki's voice came to us, but it wasn't good. No ones likes the sound of a word being accompanied with absolute silence. That only ever means bad things, and that was not what we needed right now. I shot a look at Sokka, and looking at his face, he was dreading it even more. We both looked to Suki and walked over towards her, as she then continued, as we walked over the creaking floorboards. "Do either of you remember where the captain went?"
The captain? That was a good point; the captain hadn't been seen or heard since we stopped at the Great Gates of Azulon. That was when the waterbenders- That might actually be why there has been no captain- N-no captain? So who was- Uh oh. Now I was really going to regret asking the question. "Why?"
We entered into the cabin at the front of the vessel. Suki was alone in the room. The gears were all working and the controls were undamaged. Buttons were still operational and the wheel was still in place. As far as I could see, the whole control part of the boat was still in good working order. I have three years of naval experience to know about these things.
But that was not what I was really looking for, and that was also not what Suki was pointing out. "'Cause, I think we're sailing a boat without one."
Ithar took over shortly afterwards. He was already awake, so I didn't need to ask him to take over for me, but moving from Appa's head was enough of a reason for him to know that it was his turn.
"Are you sure about this?" I asked. The five o'clock shadow was still over his eyes with his five hours of rest. "You can sleep for a few more hours. I can stay up that long."
He shook his head and protested, staggering his way across to the front of the saddle. "No no no. I will do my share. If I can't carry my own weight, then my weight shouldn't have to burden anyone else. I can stay up as long as I need to."
"Well . . ."
"Just sleep" he interrupted. He clambered over and sat on Appa's neck. "I'll wake up Aang when my times up, and then you can wake up when the sun does, or later if you can sleep through it."
I looked at him, but his mind was made, and as much as he needed sleep, I also needed it, and he was right that it was turn. I couldn't very well argue this late at night. "Good night Ithar."
"Good *yawn* Niiight." He smacked his lips and sat directly on Appa's head. Hi head heavy and his back crouched over.
I have gotten so used to this routine from having done this for nearly a year and following several years after that, it has become almost natural
I looked back over to Ithar before turning over, he was slouching over
I laid right down, thinking. Just thinking. I did this a lot. It helped me piece together what I knew and what I could expect. I needed to, since my mother was taken from us, I had to step up and be mum. Sokka was right when he said I had to take up so much responsibility, a lot of people depended on me, and I needed to be something they needed, because no one else could do it. The only times I left o myself were these times where I could lay and think. And hoped that everything would be okay. Eventually
That boy in the north. Ithar's old friend. I don't understand it, but it was scary just looking at him. The blood red arrow on top of his head, all jagged and twisted like it was unnaturally, which was probably why. The arrow wasn't even accurate, the angles were off and it looked like it dipped into his head. His mind was clearly not there, his actions were all wrong and demented like that cut may have scarred his thinking as well.
Ithar said that he was acting. that he was not acting this way as a normal act of a mad man. Daika is not mad he said. Daika is crazy, but most crazy enough to drive him over the edge. The edge of insanity that is.
That symbol, the phoenix, a bad memory that they are trying to reignite. A title that was reclaimed and used to represent the day another nation was wiped clean from the earth. Rebirth, that was the phoenix; the ability to be reborn in golden flame and be young again. Was that the only reason they choose to reuse it? Top remind the world of two examples of the world on its knees, and now a thrice example of the exact same thing.
I don't know where all this is leading to, I wish that I could say that we will get through this. But from what we know, or what Ithar knows alone; what we are up against isn't Ozai. It is not a nation that is looking for conquest, for subjugation, for dominance. One man acting alone isn't a nation, but a leader and a beacon to those who share their views. Dangerous people, with radical new thinking that are popular and are appealing.
Men like these are more than a fad. They are killers plain and simple; some are less killers that do not target people, but rather their dreams, while others kill to satisfy their ideals and lay a road for higher places. I know little of Daika, or the creature inside him, but from what I know of him, I fear he is both. He proves not to kill, but he manipulates others to do so for him, and even allows them to break before they are smashed. He is the worst of a kind; the killers that break the spirit of people, and then destroy it before it can rise again.
Such a terrible person shouldn't be allowed power, even if it was someone, someone that may have been your friend. And, I am not only talking about Ithar here. Daika was Aang's friend too. That name that was missing in the cave we saw, that was his, it was.
I looked over at Aang. I can not ever help feeling worried for him. I've seen him when he was happy, shocked, sad, angry, brave, scared. I have been scared for him, even when he was at his bravest. I watched him die and reawaken again. All the times I thought That I lost him, and he always came back. But I will always worry, even when he is in control. I dread the day that Aang will meet his greatest challenge, and that he won't be able to stop it even with our help, and that he'll lose.
I looked out to the stars, wondering what the future holds for us. After leaving Ba Sing Se, where do we go from here.
We were lucky that Zuko had enough experience at sea to act as captain. It was only a few hours till the night was officially over, but still a few hours after till the sun rose. I had four hours of sleeping left, and I wasn't about to abandon what sleep I could get.
"I can take the wheel. Check the ship and see what else we have."
That was what he said to us. But there was nothing for us to find. So I found myself a soft spot with all the goods, some form of seed packaging, in bags that made a comfortable enough bed for me to lay on. And I took the opportunity to rest.
Ithar stepped through the void, and Tulia followed. The ship was clearly of Water Tribe make, but it was grander and larger, so I deduced that it had to have come from the Northern Water Tribe. The ship's crew took notice as the two new figures stepped a board in the middle of the water. "Where is this?" Tulia asked, but was cut off when the crew stopped working and looked at her and Ithar.
"How did you get on board?" One of them demanded, and the lot of them drew their weapons and circled them. Ithar stood their smiling, while Tulia was almost cowering. I saw the flicker of gold dust in the corner of my eye, but then I looked around as the spears dropped and started advancing.
"Easy boys" a voice then called out from the crowd. I looked back and Ithar was now missing. He reappeared as the crowded then opened a new circle around Ithar again. Gold dust flickered away from his hands as he pointed back over to Tulia. "I think you remember her."
They all looked back and suddenly a voice called from the crowd. But this time it wasn't Ithar who called out. "Tulia?" it said as a boy about eighteen stepped forward, in full navy tunic and silver armour. He had a small beard focused underneath his lower lip to his chin.
Tulia's eyes started tearing up as the figure removed his helm. her jaw opened and mumbling occurred, before she finally managed to form some words. "K-Kahashi?"
"Sis, what are you-. Whoa" he was cut right off as his sister leapt at him with open arms and gripped him till he looked like he would start turning pink, "where did this come from?" he exclaimed shortly afterwards. "More importantly, where did you come from?"
Tulia sniffled as he brought herself to talk to him. "I-I'm so. I can't finish myself."
"Easy there, please" he told her, "I've spent nearly a month trying to make sure I didn't get wet, and now I'm soaked in less than five minutes." He started panicking suddenly. "Is there something wrong? Is mum and dad okay?"
Tulia pulled away, and just smiled looking over at her brother. ". . . They're fine. They are still doing well."
Kahashi looked over at Ithar, as he was still smiling and waved at him from a crow od spears surrounding him. "Um, not that I'm not happy to see you. But I still want to know how you got here." He looked back at Ithar, then back to his sister. "With your boyfriend as well might I add."
Tulia bit her lip as he made that claim. "He's not my boyfr-, look can we move this somewhere else?" Her eyebrows raised and he darted her eyes around the ship, hoping her brother would catch on. Katara pulled that on me a few times before, I'm an expert on these things.
Kahashi looked around and realized that the crew were still on top alert. He raised his hand and then signaled for them to carry on with their work. He looked back at his sister, who was still tearing up really badly. He gave a concerning look and then settled his thoughts. "Fine. Let's go into the hull."
I changed shift with Ithar. He was exhausted, like he still hadn't been sleeping at all well after the last few nights, for the months that I knew him. Dreams just obviously weren't his thing I guess.
"Good night Aang" he muttered, slumping into the saddle and fell asleep. He needed it. Momo moved back onto him, having previously moved off when his stomach ordered a bug snack for midnight. The open air was full of them at the right altitude.
"Good night." I replied. I was stuck between calling him by his name. Ithar. But then a piercing point in my mind, made me think otherwise. The word I called my masters. Sifu. But I stopped myself. Ithar said it plain and clear that he wasn't going to teach me, and he has kept his finger on that word. But that wasn't all that he had done. I learnt a great deal from him, unintentionally.
I looked back behind me. He was fully asleep and his head was turned away. That was good. I promised that he wouldn't teach me voidbending, but I didn't promise I wouldn't practice. I must admit that his techniques have made me improve, and all the showings of special techniques has also given me a greater understanding how it all works.
I can create it in my hands, like he said, to keep my hands together and only separate when you have combined the energies together before releasing. I did that. I brought my hands together, and I gathered void around my fingertips before they spread into the palms. But then I would have it in my hands, and then I would cut it out.
I can make it now. I don't need the Avatar State to cover for my mistakes and give me enough power to do it. But I can't bring myself to use it. The last time I did, I told you the consequences of my actions. Something I really didn't want to experience a second time around. I suffered enough from the first one.
I stopped. I felt really tired. I could spare a few minutes to nap and recover slowly. I lay onto Appa's neck and into his soft fur and curled up. I slept for a good few minutes. I needed to rest my eyes a little. But little did I know that It wasn't what I should have done;
I saw him again, the figure in the dark. The clouds were opening, and it was a man standing there, or a man like figure. I couldn't see more, except for piecing gold eyes, but they did not stay. they flickered and grew dimmer, like the colour was changing. It went green, a strong shade of green for a while, but when darker to almost a shaded bronze. Then it went gold again, as the wind caught something very sinister.
Look into the eyes,
In thin air, your worst fear burns,
Revenge and be damned.
Those riddles. I don't know what he is saying. An almost growling voice. I still couldn't see him very well, but I knew he was there. Snarling and grunting. Why was he here, and why did he talk to me? Is this the mirror's doing? The figure was from the mirror world, my old world that was conjured by the influence of void on void that sent me through.
Then I was away, far away above the clouds. I went higher than I ever was, until I reached beyond the sky, but I wasn't in space either. I was in between the two. The line between them, the boundaries between what was considered the living space and the vast space. I looked at my hadn't as it glowed unintentionally. I tried shaking it off and breaking its connection, but it stayed glued around my hand.
I looked around and back to my hand. Was this a sign that I was supposed to take? I tried. I used Smoke Sight, and then, I realized what it was leading me to; The boundary between space and earth was stopped by what was essentially the celestial belt. Void.
Void was trickling upwards from the planet and it was all bleeding into the shell that was surrounding the earth. What protected the living from the world above/ The void had produced a layer that allowed life to sustain itself. And it remained strong as long as there was living beings producing it, humans, animals, trees, all were doing this. This was they legacy of the first of every creature, and what they have done that made sure they weren't the last.
Then, an icy rock hurtled through and broke the layer. The meteor caught the void and the impact ignited it. Sozin's Comet. The fire that it produced, came from this. The atmosphere that surrounded the planet had created a spark that produced a travelling flame that boosted the power of all firebenders. And no one ever knew why. Irony is cruel, when something gives so many the power to choose something greater, and no one ever questioned why.
There was no one here, but I could hear the wind talking to me.
Aang. Aang. Come and find me. Meet me on the third day of the mid spring month. At Airen Mountain. Find me Aang. Find me. Near where I was born.
Airen Mountain? The mountain. I've been there before. I'd seen it once, or maybe a few several times. The Cave of Two Lovers goes directly beneath it and all the way towards Omashu. The same place that
Was it an Avatar that called to me? What was special about that day that I needed to find him? We were supposed to meet Sokka and Suki at Kyoshi Island. But Was that all we could do. Should we go now and meet them later with time to spare. Do we go and wait, then all of us travel there? I do not know. But I am willing to see what happens. At day break, I will make my decision.
In spite of placing the Firelord back into a position of power, Daika really didn't expect what was to come, but neither did he let it bother him. He just smiled. His smile was worse than his teeth gritting, because he was in control of the situation, and that smile told you that you could not win.
We were all standing there; Daika in lead, still wearing his Air Nomad robes, but with his own modifications to what was accustomed to the Avatar's design; flaked with small silver metal platings lined as to keep the costume light, but provide some protection. Long Feng and Tongzhi was standing to his right, trying to stay closer to him as to appear closest to him, knowing how to play the power game. They wore the new standard black robes reminiscent that all the guards had been decorating themselves, but using green, red and gold patterning to emphasis their importance.
I myself did the same, now dressed with black, but coloured in deep navy and silver as opposed to the usual gold that was customary like to the first black phoenix, but silver was my memory of Hahn, who would undoubtedly worn gold. I couldn't take his place, and I shouldn't need to. I can be better, I no longer have to be the spare to fill in. I can be my own destiny.
The hall doors flew open. The room was now lit was dark shades of crimson flames as apposed to the brighter orange and yellow flames that had been in Firelord Zuko's time, only a few short week or so ago. Daika stepped forward, while Long Feng had won his place and the crown started moving. The new Firelord stared down from his seating place. It was typical of all these leaders to want to sit higher than their subject like they were higher than them; Arnook's throne room had been like it as well.
Daika stopped, and the three of us stopped also. The two guards that accompanied each of us except for Daika of course also stopped. Daika nodded and they each went to either side, with mine taking the left, Tongzhi's going right, and Long Feng's split to each. "You called us, Lord Ozai."
The look on Ozai's face was not happy, which was really ungrateful since he had been spending three years rotting in prison and was now in power again. I was pleased to be out of my cell, and that was only for less than two months. "When my subject enter my throne room" he growled while keeping his volume minimal like he couldn't spare anymore, "I expect them to bow before speaking."
Daika's voice remained level and couldn't flutter if he tried. Every word he said, was like he had mulled it over for weeks in preparation. "Well, then it is indeed luck that we are not your subjects, my lord."
His eyes widened and his eyebrows sharpened. "You dare speak to your Firelord in this manner?" My heart was pacing, it was something about the way he spoke and how the flames illuminated his figure that was really off putting. Watching from the corner of my eyes, Tongzhi was sharing a similar experience, while Long Feng kept his face stern.
Daika stepped out and he started climbing dangerously close, metaphorically, he didn't get close enough for Ozai to reach him at arms length, as if he would ever use it. "I do not dare, for my lord does not exist. I am not of Fire Nation by any standards. I am an Air Nomad, and the Fire Nation has not controlled or administrated any Air Nomad territory since twenty four years after the genocide that killed my people."
Daika pulled a victory smirk, and that was it, he broke Ozai. The rage in his eyes was now spreading into his mind. "Disobedience will not be tolerated. Guards arrest these fools."
The few firebenders that Ozai had been allowed in the halls flocked to his side and raised their fists ready to firebend. I reached my arm back for the tanker that I kept strapped to my back. But Daika pulled his left hand out to stop me. The benders came through the flames and aimed at us, but Daika did not make a move, even holding back the men we brought.
The benders stopped. Daika called out "Turn."
The benders did what he said, rotating fully around and faced the Firelord. "What?" he yelled in disbelief.
"Step up to his side and grab hold of his arms." The benders complied. They walked upon the steps and grabbed the wreck from his seat. He struggled, but having his bending taken had also stripped most of his strength, and the poor conditions of prison didn't help him either.
The benders looked up at Daika, who raised his thumb up, before turning it downwards. The benders threw the Firelord from his seat to the floor beneath the flames. They stepped down and picked him up before dragging his body to Daika's feet. "Dear me Ozai, you should have just kept your mouth shut."
"Treason! I will have your ashes for this!"
Daika kicked him round the face. The Firelord could barely move with all his limbs still stiff and now had a knock in his cheek. Daika leant down towards him, hanging above him like a buzzard wasp waiting for it's prey to curl up and shrivel. "How? As I recall the Avatar took your bending, so you cannot very well do it, but then again, I suppose you expected someone else to do it for you. Can't blame you, I do it all the time. Keeps the old hand clean and the conscious less than peaceful."
Daika stood up and nodded to the guards. They grabbed Ozai under his arms and hoisted him up while still leaving him draped on the ground. "You are now my puppet leader. The Fire Nation needs a Firelord, but I'm not going to let you run it willy nilly. Plus I already promised Fire Nation territory, as well as former colonial lands to my Fire General, Tongzhi here, so you'll be working for him now."
Ozai groaned and tried to struggle, but he couldn't put up anymore resistance than he could have done seconds ago. He no longer had the energy to be commanding. That kick in the head should have been the one thing to put him in his place, but it was obvious to Daika that he might need more persuading;
Daika spun a whirlwind around Ozai and kept him suspended off the air. The wind started spinning faster and faster, then I realized what the true purpose of it was. The Firelord's eyes widened as his breath started choking.
This was an unusual turn of events; I have seen Daika's methods, but he usually favours his breathbending technique. He normally tortured them but never tried to kill them. This new vacuum technique was going to kill him if Daika didn't stop.
Gagging on his breath, Ozai could do little but listen to what Daika told him. "Oh Ozai, did you really think you had anymore use to me? Did you even think these men would listen to you? There are only two kinds of soldiers in this city; The ones who are in the city working for me, and the ones in the dungeons who are still loyal to your son. What good are you to either side?"
Daika dropped him abruptly and let him fall flat against the floor. The hard stone made a horrid smack when he landed. Being left in prison, the sound of his bones colliding with the solid rock almost rattled, but didn't break, he wasn't high enough to break anything, big.
Daika dug his foot underneath the old man and flipped him to his back. He moaned, but he kept his pain silent. "These men listen to me, because they know what I can do to them if they don't listen. Your just another polar dog to them now, except you no longer have your bite, like the old, out-of-place mutt you are, just waiting to be put out of your misery. But I am giving you the opportunity to be of some use; you will have the run of the palace, with guards escorting your every movement. You will make public appearances when the time is right and when I say so. You will not speak what is not given to you. You will not send messages that are not given to you. Think of yourself like the Earth King when Long Feng here was in charge; You have the throne, but none of the power." Daika leant down and grabbed his hair and hoisted his head up from the floor. "Do I make myself clear?"
Ozai was out of options; even an idiot could work out that they had no other option. Truth be told, what Daika had offered him was generous and anyone would be grateful enough to take it if they had been in prison for years. The Firelord accepted, but just not replying and essentially stopped resisting.
"I thought so" Daika replied, dropping his head and standing back up. He turned and walked towards the door. He concluded his business, so we followed behind. "Gentlemen, let's leave the Firelord to his palace. We have a world to spread across."
Our guards rejoined our side, but I now found myself on Daika's right. I could feel a cold and searing stares hitting my face. No doubt Long Feng and Tongzhi were now looking to squeeze back into my conveniently placed side. I didn't care for the climb, I wasn't part of this group to grab prime seats. My brother needed revenge and I was willing to make it happen as along as I provided assistance to what my lord needed of me.
"My lord, what is our next move?" I asked.
"There is no point trying to find the former Firelord since they could be anywhere between this city and, by my calculations, one of the islands in the archipelago. Or he could be a bigger fool and sailing right off into he empty oceans. But for the next step, we require measures to be put in place before the time comes;
He made us stop as he raised his hand and turned to face us. He looked upon Long Feng first, which filled him with smug pride, and Tongzhi with irritation that he concealed from Daika's sight. "Minister, I need you to scout the Earth Kingdom for my old friend. you're men have already met him, but he's hard to find now that he is with the Avatar. No doubt he will at one point return to the former colonies, so wait there and spread out if you have to. Do what you want to make sure he comes to you. It's very important."
Important was all that Long Feng needed to hear to be so happy to oblige. Very only sweetened the deal even further. He'd be tasting that sugar for at least a month if he was successful and on time for Daika's plan. He bowed and took his leave shortly. "Of course. It shall be done."
When he and his men left the room, Daika turned to Tongzhi, who likewise was now feeling very important, but still sore that he was second place now. "Governor, gather the former military commanders in your army. I want those who scouted the region between the Su Oku River and the outskirts of Omashu. I want to know every path they took and every map they studied."
"Yes, sir" he replied, signaling to his men to follow behind him. He didn't command as much authority as Long Feng did, and it took his men a while before they would realize that he wanted them behind him. It was pretty embarrassing to say the least.
Then, it was just me and him. I felt so quiet, and it scared me. He waved away my guards, and that made my skin shiver. No witnesses. I did fail to finding the former Firelord. I knew undoubtedly that it had to have been sore somewhere, even if he buried it deep enough to not make it appear he cared
He looked on me, and I knew that it was my turn. I didn't feel smug. I was afraid. "Commissioner . . ."
I stood still, eyes were close to being lidless, but I kept my pulse down. I couldn't let him know. "My lord."
"Come with me."
"Where are we going?"
"To the Avatar's temple in the city."
I didn't understand; the Avatar's temple? From what I knew, they had no real significance, no knowledge, no weapons, wisdom. A good history lesson at most, but nothing that could really be useful. Could it? "Why, my lord?"
He didn't give an answer at first, but I was willing to be patient. I had to. Daika hated rudeness, it was the reason he allowed people to have accidents. I waited till we reached the lonely corridors"I need to talk with, a very good friend of mine."
Daika smiled again, and it wasn't pleasant. I didn't need an answer now, I only needed to know that he had someone in mind I shouldn't ask myself. He then replied before closing the doors behind him "I'm left handed by the way. Not for everything, but for what I always consider extremely important."
- Sokka, Suki and Zuko are still on the boat they boarded on in " ".
- Toph and her students are continuing their march from " ".
- Sokka's dream of Ithar and Tulia is a continuation from his previous dream in " ".
- The village resort Zuko and Iroh recovered at in "The Avatar State" returns.
- The image of the black smoked creature returns from " ".
- Ithar's comment of pulling his weight is a reference to what Toph said in "The Chase".
- The Cave of Two Lovers was last seen in the episode of the same name.
- Zuko's three years at sea was commented on in "The Avatar State".
- Airen means "Lovers" in Chinese.
For the collective works of the author, go here.