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|An Unsettling Detour|
Avatar: Centennial Embers
Book 1: Earth
Avatar Kuruk 1
An Unsettling Detour is the third chapter of Avatar: Centennial Embers.
Team Avatar discover a Fire Nation Ariship in the Earth Kingdom. Zuko and Mai discuss their plans.
Northern Earth Kingdom
Team Avatar was flying east to the Tavern. It had been two days since they were told of the King's absence. The sky had just gotten dark, and the stars were beginning to light up the sky. Aang was flying Appa, while the rest of the team was trying to relax in his saddle, despite their concern for the King. Only Sokka seemed uninterested, and was dozing off for a nap.
"I really hope we find Kuei quickly," Suki said, concerned. "Ba Sing Se is in big trouble if we don't."
"Yeah," Aang agreed, looking back to Suki. "I still think General How might not have been giving Kuei enough credit for taking care of himself, but he's right to worry about not having him around."
Sokka, who was having trouble sleeping with all the chatter, sat up. "How am I supposed to get any sleep with all of this talking?" he asked, mad. "You know, you guys are worried for nothing."
"Nothing?" Katara said quickly, surprised at his last comment. "I can't believe you'd think that."
"Oh, it's no big deal, Katara," Sokka said, brushing her comment off. "It's not like the Council of Five hasn't dealt with anything worse."
Sokka's lack of concern bothered her. "So you're not worried at all that the citizens might revolt and overthrow the city?" she asked loudly.
"Pretty much," Sokka replied, and then turned back over to try and get some sleep. "I just say we land and get some rest for the night."
"You know, sometimes you just make me soooo frustrated!"
"Look, all I'm saying is this is all going to work out in the end. Now good night!"
Then Aang spoke up. "Quiet down!" he said. "What's that over there?" He was looking off into the distance, toward their right. A dark shadow was moving through the sky in the opposite direction. Katara and Suki looked, too.
"I don't see anything," Suki said.
"Neither do I," Toph said from the other side of the saddle.
"Toph, I'm serious," Aang said back, having learned by now to disregard such statements. "It looks like a Fire Nation airship." He strained his eyes to see through the darkness. "It is an airship! I can see the Fire Nation insignia."
"But what would a Fire Nation ship be doing this deep in Earth Kingdom territory?" Katara wondered aloud.
"I don't know," Aang replied. "Zuko said he had ordered all Fire Nation military vehicles out of the Earth Kingdom."
"So, should we follow it?" Suki asked, sounding really unsure.
"I think we'd better," Aang said decisively, turning Appa around. "With the way things have been going, I'm not taking any chances."
Ba Sing Se
Just outside Ba Sing Se, Zuko and Mai were standing on board Zuko's airship. Zuko was walking back and forth impatiently. It was getting late, and he was frustrated that they were still waiting to leave.
"When will the crew be back with our supplies?" he asked angrily.
"They'll be back soon, Zuko," Mai replied, trying to calm him down.
"We were supposed to leave two days ago. If they had just packed enough supplies in the first place, we wouldn't have to waste time preparing."
"Calm down." She knew why Zuko was so anxious to get going, but she didn't like seeing him like this. She waited a moment, then began again. "Maybe we should just go back to the Fire Nation. Even though you didn't mean it, you were right. It isn't a good idea to be gone too long."
"No. I have to do this." Zuko had made up his mind long before, and he wouldn't be changing it. He looked away from Mai, starring instead at Ba Sing Se's massive wall.
Mai looked at him, but said nothing. She knew how important this was to him, but was worried that he would become obsessed. She had seen the affect Zuko's determination could have on him before, and didn't want to go down that path again. She walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder.
"You know," she finally said, "the chances of finding her are very slim." She hoped her words sounded comforting, and not simply hopeless.
"Yes, I know," he responded, accepting what she said. "But thanks to my father, I finally have an idea of where my mother is. If there's any chance of meeting her again, I have to try."
Mai understood, and decided there was nothing she could do to change his mind. After that, they both just stood quietly, waiting for the crew to return.
Northern Earth Kingdom
After about three hours of flying, Aang was getting drowsy. The monotony of the endless sky was relaxing, and it began to take his complete focus to stay awake. His grip on the reins loosened, and his head began to droop. His eyelids felt heavy. He let out a loud yawn.
He was just beginning to drift off, when noticed the airship was beginning to go down. At this realization, he jolted up, and shook his head back and forth to shake off his tiredness. He focused his eyes on the ship, and directed Appa to follow it.
"Whatever is going on," he said, "we're about to find out. Everyone awake?"
"Yeah, Aang," Katara answered, sounding tired. However, she was shortly proven wrong by a loud snore from Sokka.
"Just a second, Aang," Toph said, before proceeding to give Sokka a jostling kick.
Sokka jumped up from his sleep, his eyes wide open. "What was that?" he yelled, breathing heavily.
"Now we're up," Toph declared, earning a menacing look from Sokka.
The ship finally landed just outside a small, apparently run down, Earth Kingdom town, nestled between a small river and large forest. The little village was in the shape of a square, surrounded by a crumbling wall with two entrances at opposite ends. There were buildings arranged around the perimeter, with a small plaza and flagpole in the center. Even though it was late, lights could be seen coming from inside the small, worn houses.
Aang brought Appa down on the opposite side of the town compared to the airship. The team got down from the saddle and strode into the town.
"This place looks so sad," Suki said.
"Yeah," Sokka agreed, "but something doesn't seem right here."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure...." He paused and looked around. "Something just seems...out of place. I can't put my finger on it. Wait, look over there!" He pointed forcefully to a group of three people walking out of a nearby building toward the airship. "They're wearing Fire Nation military uniforms. They're soldiers!"
When the people he was referring to heard this, they turned around, at first looking at Sokka. But in the next moment, one noticed Aang, and his eyes grew wide.
"The Avatar!," he shouted to his fellow soldiers. Without a moment's hesitation, the three ran up and shot simultaneous fire blasts at Aang.
It took Team Avatar a moment to register what was happening, but as soon as they did, they took action. Aang leapt into the air, dodging the fire blasts, pulled out his staff, and brought it down hard, sending a rush of air at the soldiers, lifting them off their feet.
When they hit the ground, Toph shot large columns of earth up from under them before they had a chance to even blink, launching them five feet in the air. Aang succeeded this with three more columns of earth, this time wrapping around the men and consuming them, trapping them from their necks down.
All of this happened in several seconds, and in the end, the three soldiers were completely at the team's mercy, leaving them in shock of their speedy defeat.
"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" demanded Aang, using airbending to fly him up to eye level with the soldiers. The soldiers just looked at him, and didn't say a word.
Then, Sokka noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He quickly turned his head to get a better look, and when he did, he took a step back in shock. "Uh, Aang," he said, nervously.
"Just a minute, Sokka," Aang said, looking back to Sokka for a moment, before returning his attention to the three men. "I'll ask again, who are you?" Still, there was no response.
"Aang," Sokka called again, this time a little louder.
Aang just ignored him and continued. "Fire Lord Zuko ordered all military out of the Earth Kingdom, so I want to know why you are here."
"What?" Aang finally responded, frustrated, as he turned back to look at Sokka.
"I think I just found out what's wrong with this town."
At first, Aang was confused, but then he realized that Sokka didn't often have such a look of concern as the one he currently wore on his face. He noticed Sokka was looking at something over Aang's shoulder. Aang turned back around and followed Sokka's gaze to the top of the village flagpole. He then realized what Sokka had meant.
At the very top of the pole hung a large, crimson red flag, with a jet-black flame. As he looked around the town, he saw with the little available light, that such a flag was hanging on every few buildings around the town, and there wasn't a single Earth Kingdom banner to be seen.
- The name of the town visited in this chapter is Xin Lu.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Avatar: Centennial Embers Chapters|
|Book 1: Earth|
|Unrest - Escalating Danger - An Unsettling Detour - A Lingering Flame - Young Gangs and Old Games - Embers Unearthed - Reunion|