There is a time when the group leaves the palace to check on new developments in the city. To read about what they did, go to the side story, Strolling Omashu.
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|Loyalty and Love|
6-Loyalty and Love
Everyone was shocked by what Bumi had just suggested.
"That is a possibility your highness, but there are many other explanations as well. It would be foolish to jump to conclusions so soon," said General Stole, which seemed to calm everyone down.
"True, but treachery is a huge concern. We must ensure that those close to us are completely loyal. The Fire Lord's own made tried to kill him," recalled Prince Torek. "Currently, as part of the transition of power from Ba Sing Se to Omashu, we are training nine elite Earthbender squads of seven to guard the highest authorities including the King and Council of Five. Toph, I am told that you can sense lies."
"And I'm the only one who can!" replied Toph proudly.
We can use your lie detecting ability to make sure that each guard is on our side."
The others in the room agreed and Torek and Toph began immediately. He had each group come in one at a time and pledge loyalty to the Earth King. He went had finished the first eight groups without any problems.
"General Stole, will you please tell squad nine to come in next?" the prince requested.
"Absolutely my prince." The general bowed and exited the room. He reached the area where the trainees were being held. "Squad three, the Earth King will see you now."
"Again?" one of the men asked.
"Do not question the will of the Earth Prince. Do as you are told."
They walked back in to the testing room and Torek began. "Do you solemnly swear that you will be loyal to the Earth King and that you will protect him, the royal family, and the high generals until your last breath?"
"I do," they replied in unison without questioning why they were being tested twice.
"You are excused." After they left Torek checked with Toph to see if they were all telling the truth. They were. General Stole entered the room. "Ah, General, which squad do you think is most capable of guarding our special prisoner back in Ba Sing Se?"
Stole causally walked on to the rug then replied, "The one you just tested, squad nine, is best for the job."
"Send them to Ba Sing Se immediately," ordered the prince. Stole bowed and left. Torek turned to Toph. "Excellent, now all we need to do is check the new mail systems, military stables, and emergency bunkers and we can call it a day."
The group strolled the city for the rest of they day.(see side story: Strolling Omashu) When they returned, Chief Hakoda approached them.
"Listen gang, Arnook and I are headed to the Southern Tribe to help rebuild our once great civilization. Any one want to join us?" he asked knowing they all would.
"I haven't been hope in ages!" exclaimed Katara.
"And I haven't had real Southern Tribe food in ages!" added Sokka.
"I think I'll pass," said Toph dryly. "I can't see down there. I'll stay here and practice my Earthbending."
The rest were all excited about the trip to the tribe. Torek felt awkward, not knowing whether or not he was invited. Aang noticed and told him it would be great if he would come along. "Yeah, you're part of Team Avatar now. We all travel together," agreed Sokka.
They decided to leave first thing the next morning.
"Appa hasn't flown that far in a while," Aang said.
"Actually Aang, were going to take my boat," stated Hakoda.
"Oh," replied a disappointed Aang.
"I wouldn't worry," said Torek. "Appa and Flopsie seem to be getting along very well. They'll be fine."
Aang nodded in agreement and they made there way out of the palace. As they prepared to board the new train out of Omashu, a group of peasants spotted Aang and stampeded towards him. They crowded around the group.
"Give me the power, Avatar! I need it most," one said.
"No, I need it to defend my family!" shouted another.
The peasants began to fight each other and were shortly escorted away by guards.
"What was that all about?" asked Sokka
Aang didn't answer. He just stared at the peasants, confused. He was so fixed on the crowd that he hardly realized he was boarding the train. He decided not to worry about it. Those people were just crazy. Nobody spoke on the train ride, except for Torek who whispered something to Ty Lee who then giggled and blushed. The group got off at a station to too far from docks where Hakoda had been keeping his boat.
As soon as the ship was in sight, Sokka bolted towards it. He was thrilled to see another example of Water Tribe warcraft. He played around the boat like a little kid, touching all of the knots, sails, and wheels. Seeing his son's excitement, Hakoda asked if he would like to steer the ship first. Sokka didn't answer. He simply let out short squeamish noises of joy. The day was perfect for sailing. When the wind died, Aang would fill the sails with air. Katara jumped over board to show of her skill at surfing on an ice board. The day was fun for all. They ate leftover roast duck for lunch, and Sokka fished for their dinner. In other words, they had to eat more roast duck for dinner. After dinner they sang told stories. Ty Lee talked about how Azula was always jealous of her, which seemed to please everyone. "Good thing she's locked away for good," Azula's former friend declared.
Slowly, the group went into their cabins to sleep, and Hakoda ordered some of his crew to sail through the night. Katara dreamt of seeing her home tribe again. Her sleep was peaceful until she heard movement on the deck. She woke the others and they rushed on to the deck to see nothing but fog. They heard a very low, soft chanting. Katara bended the fog away to reveal Hakoda's crew completely frozen and surrounded by figures in Water Tribe Robes. Suki and Ty Lee shrieked and the robed figures halted their chanting whipped their heads around. They rose slowly and didn't say anything. Aang immediately shot a blast of air at them using his glider. Their robes flowed in the wind but their bodies didn't move an inch. Katara bended waves up from the ocean and the figures simply bended them away. One of the figures said something that no one could understand and they all jumped over board just before Hakoda and Arnook reached them, spears in hand. They looked over the edge of the ship and saw the ocean, nothing else. Katara unfroze the crew members and they couldn't remember anything. They were to scared to continue their work so Sokka, Suki, Arnook, and Hakoda promised to stay with them. Aang, Torek, Ty Lee, and Katara went back to bed. Terrified, Katara went into Aang's cabin for comfort.
"Who were they?" Katara asked? "Were they even people?"
Aang was speechless. First the colonies, the Kyoshi and the Flaming Stone, then the crazy peasants, and now this. He could tell that a new chapter of his life as Avatar was about to unfold.
Ty Lee, also seeking comfort, quietly entered Torek's cabin. He seemed to be asleep. She crawled into his bed and he put his arm around her. Feeling much better, they slowly drifted to sleep.
Back in Omashu, the streets were quiet. Most people had gone to sleep. Joo Dee, however, was walking to the palace from a very late dinner with her friends in her favorite restaurant, Mountain Taverns. She was walking through the dark streets when she heard a voice that made chills run through her back.
"Joo Dee, the Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai."
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