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|Anansi: The Blood Bender|
Xisi and Dom
Now for your consideration, a young water bender living in the Northern Water Tribe. Dom was born with white hair and pale skin, the water priests take it as a sign that he was blessed by the Moon Spirit and will achieve great things in his life. Still a child of 12 himself, Dom has big dream. One day he wants to become the greatest hunter and warrior in the entire Northern Water Tribe. Just like him father. To prove himself Dom will go on a hunting trip to capture a Polar Bear-Seal, a feat no child has ever done before.
It was nearing dusk and Dom was sat at the dinner table in silence. His father was making a prayer to the spirits, thanking them for the food. His father was a large, muscular man. He had dark hair down to his shoulders and a thick beard to match. The last time he ate before his father finished, he wasn't allowed outside for a solid month. So he sat in silence, waiting.
His mother sat in silence as she was watching her husband with a smile. Like Dom her hair was white as snow and her skin as pale as the moon.
They all lived in the inner court, the residence for the elite. The richest families and strongest hunters. His father fell under both, and if all went according to his plan by this time tomorrow, so would Dom.
His father finished the prayer and began eating. As they ate Dom watched his parents, waiting for the perfect time to strike. Then as they approached the half way point of their foods Dom set his plan into motion. "I'm going hunting with Keira tomorrow at dawn." His mother stopped eating and put down her chopsticks. Dom could see that she wanted to tell him off, but she waited for his father to speak. He slowly chewed his food and after what felt like an eternity to Dom, swallowed.
Then in a deep, calm and commanding voice he asked, "What are the two of you hunting?"
Dom could see his mothers eyes widen with surprise, she opened her mouth to object but his father placed his hand on her shoulder to calm her. With a little more confidence he replied "Just a few seal-dogs, Keira and I spotted a few a couple of days ago."
His father shook his head, "I do not approve of Keira joining you on the hunt, she is a girl and therefore prone to get hurt. She should stay home and stick to cooking."
Dom smiled slightly, this was exactly what he had hoped for. His mother turned around to face him and in a voice like ice replied, "Excuse me?"
His father gave a sympathetic look to his wife, "It's not the same dear, you're from the south. You may do things different there but here women stay home for their own safety. It's dangerous out there."
She raised an eyebrow and beneath her scathing look Dom could see his father's calm demeanor melt into a that of a man who was just caught red handed. His father once told Dom, a sea Kraken was nothing compared to his mother, sometimes Dom was inclined to agree.
His mother turned back to face Dom and said, "You can go snowflake as long as you make sure Keira goes too." She turned around and gave his father a smug look and left. His father sighed and nodded to his son before leaving also. Dom was alone and had barely eaten, he was too excited. Tomorrow he would hunt a Polar Bear-Seal, one of the most dangerous games there were.
Dom awoke before dawn a buzz. He leaped out of bed and changed into this hunting apparel, white and grey furs to allow him to blend with the frozen tundra. He looked out of his window to see Keira down bellow with the gear.
Without pausing Dom dropped down out of his window, bending the ice on the ground to form a slide. He landed by Keira his best friend for as long as he could remember. She wore thick furs which obstructed her face, the only thing he could see were her night black eyes.
"Do you have the netting?" he asked.
She pulled down her hood revealing unevenly cut short black hair. Before she could answer Dom burst out laughing. "Shut up" she cried punching him in the arm. Dom covered his mouth to silence his laughs but Keira could see the laughter shining in his blue eyes. She sighed and covered her head with the hood, "Long hair gets in the way and my Mum wouldn't cut it, so I had to myself. Not everyone's mom is as cool as yours." She turned around and threw one of the gear bags at Dom, Its weight knocked him onto his back.
"Hey! No fair!" Keira shrugged apologising for the accident. But Dom could see her smiling beneath the hood. He got up and strapped the bag onto his back. The Polar Bear-Seal was seen heading South West last time they saw it. Dom had managed to track it down to a cave system a day's trip from here. He would finally become a great hero proving himself to the tribe as a man. Keira insisted on going to prove that girls are just as good as boys. Dom was just glad he had a friend with him.
Dom's mother watched from her room, her husband sleeping peacefully in their bed. She watched worried as her little snowflake walked into the horizon. She had let her pride get in the way, her husband assured her that it was safe. After all, he was the same age when he went on his own solo hunt and it was just seal-dogs. "What's the worst that could happen?" he had said. But it was exactly what she was afraid of, the worst-case scenario. In the west the full moon sank into the horizon.
Lets skip a day and a half into the future. Dom and Keira are sleeping in their campsite less than a mile away from the cave. The full moon hangs above them bathing them in its cold light. They were to attack an hour past dawn when the beast returns from its morning hunt. They were to incapacitate it and then tie it down to be brought back to the village alive, there was more glory that way. And the two were nothing if not ambitious.
In the rest of the world the people were reeling in a panic at the disappearance of the Avatar. One day she was in Ba Sing Se, the next both her and her dragon were nowhere to be found. Governments scrambled in a flurry of paperwork and swords to track her down. The four nations held their collective breath terrified one of the others would take advantage of her disappearance and strike out. To prevent this, the Fire Nation increased its military strength to scare away the other nations. This resulted in the Earth Kingdom fearing an invasion, so they in turn increased their military strength. Which caused the Water Tribes to fear invasion, their actions scaring the Fire Nation and so on and so forth. The world was standing at a cliff's edge, the cataclysm of war beneath them.
Dom and Keira slept oblivious to all this, they slept peacefully by their dying fire. Dreaming of fame, glory and love. Their dreams saturated by the cold light of the full moon.
Dom was lying belly down in the snow, it stuck to his fur and soaked it through to the skin. The sun shone with all its morning splendour. Stretching shadows out like dark fingers gripping the frozen lands. Keira sat opposite him hidden behind a snow dune. They had little hopes of defeating such a beast in straight forward combat. But Dom had come up with an ingenious plan to take it down. While the beast hunted in the waters, they would clear the snow down to the bed rock and replace it with brittle ice. When the beast returns the ice will crumble causing it to fall and severely injure itself. Then they pull up and tie it up with the net and drag it down to the village to claim their rewards. He had to admit that the ice was a lot shallower than he had expected but was still certain it would be enough.
A darkness spread across the light blue water, like something out of nightmare. The Polar bear-seal climbed out of the water. It was ink black with white streaks running across its fur. Its colossal paws were flat with sinister claws protruding out like daggers. Its head was dog like with long whiskers sticking out like fingers, two savage fangs longer than Dom's arm stuck down from its maw like blades of ice. Dom noticed none of these things, what he noticed was its size. It was twice as big than the books had suggested, making it larger than any single animal he had ever seen in his life. Easily 8 meters long and 4 tall, it was a true sea monster. He bit down the fear that flooded through him and focused on what he would gain.
The beasts was drenched in blood it clung to its fur as it clotted. Dom's heart leaped, perhaps it had lost a fight with something and was weakened his hopes soared. Until he saw what was in its mouth, a lion crab, its head the size of Dom's. With one crunch the beast crushed its skull shell and swallowed it hole, sending bits of blood and bone in all direction.
Reason began to take president in his mind. A wise hunter knows when to retreat, it would fall in the trap then the two of them would use the distraction to escape and come up with a different plan. Then as if on cue the beast fell into the trap, the ice collapsed and it fell. Dom held his breath, perhaps this enough to take it down? He signaled Keira to return, who happily obliged, as she ran across the ice to him the ground began to rumble. The beast burst out of the ground sending shards in all directions. It let out a mighty roar ripping Dom of all his confidence and will. Keira fell to the ground and tried to crawl away in fear. It advanced at her, growling menacingly as ice cracked beneath its weight. Keira formed an ice barrier between her and the beast but it shattered it with a single swipe of its monstrous paw.
The monster raised one of its paws, its claws lengthened and spliced through the air like quicksilver. From the moment he saw the monster advance on Keira he felt a wave of rage course through his veins. He ran screaming and swung his arms forward shifting his weight to his front foot. Water shot out from in front of him and collided with the beasts side knocking it off balance. Continuing with the momentum Dom kicked up with his back foot flipping him in the air as his arms swung out touching the ground momentarily. With his touch another larger wave shot out and hit the monster again sending it to the ground. Dom pushed out his arms while arching his back, as though straining to pull something. The ice around the beast moved up and dragged it down like a cold embrace.
Dom let out a heavy sigh, exhausted he helped up Keira. Tear streaks frozen across her face, she hugged him and he hugged back . Their embrace was cut short by a crashing of ice and a mighty roar. A paw smashed through the ice as the Polar Bear-Seal decimated its way out of the ground. Dom pushed Keira away and began to wave his arms, shifting his weight back and forth, she quickly did the same.
Water and ice smashed into the beast as it tried to recover. Every time it tried to climb out it was met with a fist of water followed by the collapse of its footing. It roared and blared in anger and frustration. But Dom and Keira were relentless smashing it continuously without pause. When the beast fell on its side Dom shouted, "THE NET!"
Keira raced back and with one side of the net in her hands covered the beast with it like a blanket. It panicked and tried to tear through it, Dom was afraid it would prove too strong. But luckily it seemed the beast was too tired to tear through. As it struggled it became more and more tangled inside the web until it could not move at all.
Dom collapsed back in exhaustion, who knew being a hero was such tiring work. The books and songs always made it sound so easy. He looked up and could see the full moon, it was still suspended in the sky but it was fading slowly. Dom exhaled from deep in his lungs to clear the fatigue. He could feel his heart beat in his ears, very easily in fact. He tried to move his hands only to find there was some kind of resistance, similar to when he is bending but stronger. The Polar bear-seal let out a pained howl.
Dom got up and rubbed his hands, the feeling had vanished as quickly as it came. Keira stood by him smiling, they had done it. They were heroes, the youngest hunters to ever bring back such a creature alive. After this everything would be different, they would be respected by the entire tribe. There would probably be a feast in honor them, it was going to be incredible.
An entire day passed before they arrived in the outskirts of the tribe. The two children had failed to account for their game's incredible weight and continued resistance against its bonds. The mid day sun shone down, boiling them inside their heavy clothes and sapping their strength. A scout spotted them first and arrived with half a dozen men. When they saw what the children had accomplished they openly voiced their shock and surprise. The patted them on the back and carried them to the Court like heroes. People came out of their homes to watch as the two young hunters were paraded through the city towards the court.
A crowd had gathered inside the court to see what the commotion was about. People dragged his prize to the middle of the court for all to see. The beast remained silent and unmoving, its pitch black eyes wide with anger. Dom's parents pushed to the front of the crowd, his father overlooked everything then looked up at his son. He nodded his approval and smiled with pride. Dom's heart leaped with joy, this was easily the best moment of his life. He stood by his captured prize beaming like a fool. His mother walked up to him with hands on hips, "I assume this is the seal-dog you were hunting!" her voice was scalding. Dom wasn't fazed, he patted the beast on the belly.
Beaming he replied with pride, "Well Mom you know what they say-"
Snapping cables and slashing claws. His entire body went numb and Dom fell to his knees, his chest hurt. Screams and roars cut thundered in the air. Dom looked down to see a claw protruding out of his torso, a red patch forming around it as something hot an wet pooled at his knees. Something held him, it smelled familiar like flower and fresh snow. His eyes felt heavy as darkness crept into his vision. He felt something hot and salty fall onto his cheeks.
Then a strangling hold consumed his body. It was like diving into freezing water, his body went into shock. The bloody patch on his clothes began to shrink and light began to return to his vision. He could feel something warm and sticky flow up into his chest. Pale blue light sparkled at his chest from a pair of pale slender hands. He looked up to see his mother smiling sadly, she was crying. The world was silent, he could feel his pulse in his ears again, his arms felt heavy. She held his cheek in one of her hands and whispered quietly, "I'm sorry snowflake."
Then shouting, angry and brutal. Someone grabbed his mother by the hair and threw her to the ground. Dom tried to shout out but his voice failed him. The darkness returned, it felt like someone was carrying him. All he could see was his mother surrounded by angry men with spears. "BLOOD BENDER!" they roared clanging their weapons menacingly as they advanced towards her. He reached out to help somehow but the darkness descended and he fell into the abyss.
Dom awoke with a start. He got up slowly, the air was rumbling with shouting and cries of people outside. Was there a festival tonight? He felt confused, this wasn't his bed, where was he? Then he remembered everything, Dom lifted his shirt. A red, sweltering wound 3 inches long slashed across his chest, it reeked of fat and urine. Feeling sick he got out of bed, sending pain shooting from his entire body. He clutched his chest in pain and breathed heavily his pulse was racing every beat sending fresh pain through his body.
The shouting grew silent and a single, familiar booming voice echoed across the court. "Kari, you have been found guilty of-" With that word Dom snapped back into reality. Was his father giving a toast to his mother? He only heard her name in his voice.
With great effort he dragged himself to the window, his eyes widened in horror. Bellow in the court was a mob of people they surrounded a single woman tied to a stake surrounded in fire wood and fats. She had pale skin and hair like moonlight, his mother. He screamed out but his voice failed to carry beyond the roars of the mob. A lone man with a torch stood between his mother and them. He turned around and Dom reeled in horror. It was his father. He addressed the mob in a demonic booming voice but Dom heard nothing. He was focused on his mother, she looked frail and beaten. Tears streamed down her face from her swollen red and blue eyes. His father turned back to face her and walked to the firewood, torch in hand. Dom willed with all his might that he wouldn't that he would be the hero he always knew he was. His father threw down the torch, into the fire wood.
Dom physically pushed away at the window sill, sending him back onto the floor. Screams echoed across the court and into his room. They tore through his head like thorny brambles, he covered his ears and screamed. The screams continues bringing bile to his throat and tears to his eyes. He felt as though his entire body was being compressed, being crushed into nothingness. He screamed louder, hands pressed over his ears, he wanted to tear them out, anything to stop the screams that echoed through his mind. The room filled with smoke and the smell of burning flesh, he choked as bile came up in his screams. The darkness returned and he welcomed it. The crescent moon hung in the air like a silver guillotine.
Dom remembered little after that, everything was chaos and darkness. Faces would come out of the darkness like images reflected on a pool, some he recognised others he didn't. They spoke to him, their voices were muffled and distant. As though he was very far away from them or they were speaking to someone else, in another room, far away. He felt nauseous the entire time as though he was constantly being sick. Sometimes he would fall back into the room where he laid in the bed that wasn't his. That's when the screaming would return, but the blessed darkness was never far behind.
Ice and water dragged him out of the shadows. He sputtered and spat, he was on the floor. His feet were chained to stone, the air felt dry and hot. He was surrounded on all sides by angry men. They held torches casting murderous shadows across the room. The ceiling was open allowing light to pour in from the night sky. "Wh...who are you?" he wheezed.
The men did not answer, their faces were like ice and stone. One stepped forward, Dom recognized him. His beard and hair was a mess and filled with gray hairs. His wrinkled, sagged features were illuminated by the full moon above them. It was undoubtedly, his father.
His father raised a hand and struck Dom to the ground. Dom hit the stone hard, scrapping his skin off his knees. His palms burning and his limbs weak Dom tried to get up. A kick to his ribs sent his sprawling across the room, the chain clanged. The men began to beat drums and chant. His father advanced towards Dom, looming over him like a storm cloud of fury and anger. He had never seen such an expression on his father's face and it terrified him. He tried to bend ice to shield him but none came, he was alone.
Again and again his father hit him, the chant continued on and on. Increasing in tempo and fury "BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!" they chanted. The rhythm of the drums echoed off the walls and into Dom's head. He could feel thumping against his ears. Memories of screaming and monsters snapped out into his mind. His father's face like the roar of a nightmarish beast.
A new feeling brimmed at the surface, it boiled away all the pain and despair until only it was left. It resonated with the beating of the drums and grew stronger with every thunderous blow. It shook Dom to his core and filled him with new power and might. His father raised his hand again, illuminated by the silver light of the full moon.
Dom let all his anger flow out at the monster before him. His father froze in place, his once terrifying face filled with pain and terror. Dom dragged his hand across the air sending the tyrant into the other men. The chanting and drums stopped and the air became saturated in silence and fear.
"The moon has revealed his guilt, seize the blood bender!" his father cried struggling to get to his feet. His rage doubled at the sound of his father's voice, he crushed his hands into fists and felt the heart beat of every man in the room between his fingers. They gasped and coughed, unable to scream. Dom lifted his father in the air, his face was filled with horror at the sight of his son. As though playing with a puppet, Dom made his father take out the key and unlock the chains at his feet.
As his father sat prostate before his now unchained son he looked up and gasped. Dom's face was shadowed by the bright moon above that hung to him like an ashen halo. The only feature visible of his son were his eyes, a blue storm of rage and hatred.
Dom looked around there was a single solid wood door in the opposite wall. He smiled, using his hatred as fuel he threw the men at the door like you would a ball. They smashed through it with a mighty crash. Dom stepped out into a dimly lit stone hall way. His anger was abated for now, he heard voices in the distance. Those of many men with spears and blades, he ran.
One week later on the harbor of the eastern shores was a modest hunting ship. Designed for speed not capacity, it could store no more than four people at once. On this ship was a handsome dark man, no older than 21, with a head full of hair that flowed like ink. He stood tall in his green clothes, unfazed by the freezing winds. Like a proud statue of a much greater time. That man was me.
I carried on three barrels of fresh water and two of emergency supplies. The last being especially heavy, with a lot of strain and effort I managed to get it into the storage area. When I secured it I opened the lid to inspect what exactly was so heavy.
To my mild surprise I saw a child, no older than 13. He had pale skin and white hair, he looked up at me gauging my reaction. I saw a lot of anger his blue eyes, I saw a lot of pain there also but most of all what I saw was fear. A knocking at the door to my cabin interrupted my chain of thought before I could decide. I pressed my index finger to my lips and silently put on the lid and walked to the knocking.
There was a plump Water Tribesmen with a spear knocking on the door to my room, he hadn't noticed me. I coughed loudly to alert him to my presence. He jumped and turned to face me face flushed and embarrassed. Then in a commanding and self-righteous tone he said, "Sir, I demand on behalf of the water courts to search your vessel before I allow you to leave the shore." He waved a piece of parchment beneath my nose and I slapped it out of his hand.
I let my face become rage and fury and with a voice that reflected it I replied, "No you are not. What you are going to do is leave my ship and board if an when I let you!" The official puffed up his chest and began to argue, but the moment we made eye contact he deflated like a puffing fish. I pointed to the wooden stairs behind me and he scampered away like a ferret apologizing profusely.
I followed him to the deck of my ship, a pair of armed men were there waiting. They too retreated when they saw me emerge from bellow deck. I felt like a mighty predator, I should try this approach more often I thought and stood by the rails of the deck.
When the official was on the harbor and safely behind his two timid guards he spoke "Sir, I cannot let you leave until you submit to a full search."
I nodded earnestly like one would to a small child, "May I ask what you are searching for?" The menace behind my polite tone was evident from the stammering of the official.
"A..a boy" he answered in a barely audible voice.
"A boy?" I raised an eyebrow, "Is he a run away?"
The official shook his head, chins flapping wildly, "No, he is a criminal and is wanted with a big reward for his capture." He gave me a smile, it was filled with greed and spite. I decided I didn't like this man.
"What did this kid do?" I asked looking into the man's greasy brown eyes.
"Murder, he killed his own mother in a dark ritual to become a blood bender" he lied. It was a very foul lie, I could even taste it. I grimaced and he continued, "As such you can't leave until I search your ship."
I sucked though my teeth and leaned forward on the deck the guards and the official both took a step back. I was beginning to see the downside of using the anger approach. Then in a voice woven with fact I said, "No, you are going to let me go now and bother someone else." The man tried to object but stopped, it was like arguing that ice was hot. Just not possible. He conceded and left with his two guards.
When the man was gone and I had sailed the ship a safe distance from the shore I went bellow deck and helped the kid out of the barrel. "I heard everything, how did you do that?" he asked.
I smiled, my eyes twinkling slightly with the powers of the Spirit World. "Who knows? I just have a way with words I guess."
The child looked me straight in the eye, his were blue and cold. Like the bitter seas that surrounded us. "Why did you help me? What's in it for you?"
I stopped smiling and went down on one knee to talk to him at eye level. "The day I abandon a frightened kid is the day I dive off a cliff. Now what's your name?
"Dom", he answered quietly.
"I'm Xisi " I got up and scruffed his hair shooting him a smile. "Come on kid, if you're going to stow away here you'd best know how to sail a ship."
The child seemed a little taken aback and was about to say something. I interrupted him, "Save it for when we're on deck. You can explain everything then." I climbed up the stairs onto the deck. Dom stood by my side and looked out into sea as it expanded out past the horizon. In a solemn voice he told me his story, the anger and hate on his face broke my heart.
"I swear Xisi, I swear one day I will kill them all", he said this with such determination and anger that I even felt a little fear myself. Mostly, however, I was worried for him. Dom was headed down a dark path and if left to his own devices could end up becoming the very monster people were so afraid he would become.
I clapped the kid on the back, "Dom, in the meantime, how about I show you the world."
fun fact I never intended to write this out. The idea came to me and so I wrote it down. One thing lead to another and I ended up writing the whole thing. Oops...
For the collective works of the author, go here.