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|Secrets of the Sun, Part 1|
"Right this way, your highness." The nervous maid trembled as she guided her temporary ruler and his procession of Isha members in yellow, gold, and brown jumpsuits through the Fire Nation Royal Palace.
The elderly, wrinkled Isha official known as Sangti glanced unimpressed into the various rooms and halls he passed on his tour. With the slight tap of his right toes, a crack ventured across the floor to underneath the feet of his guide that later erupted into a small earth column, knocking the maid off balance. Sangti then opened his mouth and spoke with his deep, slow tone. "Bend for me," he commanded calmly.
The maid stared helplessly at her master, her eyes wide with fear. She couldn't fulfill Sangti's request.
"Pathetic," the Earthbender stated. He turned to the captain of the royal guards. "Why are there still Cha Jin De's in this palace? Why are their still Cha Jin De's in this city?" he demanded. His bellowing voice rang throughout the corridors of the Firelord's home.
"You aren't wanted here," the maid muttered under her breath.
Sangti turned sharply, squat down to her level, and smiled at her with a menacing, evil smirk. "I'm sorry? Did you just say something?"
"I said you aren't wanted here!" she repeated much more forcefully. The others in the hall feared for their friend's life, but none could muster the courage to defend her. They simply stood by as a hard-working mother of three was ripped from the living world because of her birth.
"Throw her body wherever you plan to put the others," he ordered. "Now, I'd like to have a look around town. Who wants to take me?"
"Alright. I'm pretty sure we go down the hill by following this path." Zola was studying special map of the Fire Nation from her mongoose dragon as she led the others towards their destination, the ancient civilization of the Sun Warriors. "Wait. Maybe we continue walking up here first. Or maybe we already passed the exit."
"Or maybe you have no idea where we're going," Berani cut in from atop Pumi's back, followed by Brek's laughter.
"It's not like these are the easiest people to find," Kaeta said noticing his friend's embarrassed expression. "I don't think anyone's ever heard of them."
"Not many people have," Zola explained. "I'm only able to find him with this map I took from my Father a long time ago, but based on his conversations with his advisers, ambassadors, and other leaders, I know that these are the only people who can save the Fire Nation from Zhouray. All I need to do is figure out where to go from here."
For a second, Brek's eyes lit up, but nobody seemed to notice. "We should go down the hill," he reported.
His friends shot him a quizzical look. "How do you know?" Zola inquired.
"I feel a... connection with these people. Almost as if I've heard of them before. Almost as if I've met them before."
Everyone was silent for a few moments.
"Great, the fate of the Fire Nation rests in the hands of secretive, secluded people who may or may not still be alive and like sending messages through weird spiritual thoughts. That's great," Berani commented jokingly. This time, the whole group laughed.
It was an hour-long trek before Team Avatar arrived at an uninhabited, desolate city made completely of stone.
"Maybe there's some kind of-" Brek became silent when he heard part of the ground sink beneath Pumi's foot. He looked down to see that one of the stone square tiles in the floor had descended a few inches. "Huh," he muttered.
At that moment, spikes began shooting out from the walls on both the left and right. The bombardment of spikes had begun a few yards behind them but was obviously growing closer. Brek frantically yanked Pumi's fur and the beast darted forward. Zola's mongoose dragon began sprinting too, just to stay out of the massive armadillo bear's way. If it hadn't been for their incredible speed, they all would have perished.
Brek looked back. "An abandoned city wouldn't have booby traps. There are people here." He paused and thought. "There are people here and they're guarding something.
Like usual, the dense, vast swamp located in the center of the Earth Kingdom was damp, dark, and foggy. Down a brown, malodorous river went a small wooden boat, operated by a teenaged boy with a paddle. The boat contained four other children of the same age: three boys and one girl. They sat in a square, with their prisoner in the center.
Phronk, the bound and gagged leader of the Isha Earthbenders sat helplessly, staring in awe at the wondrous swamp that succeeded in being both tranquil and eerie. That's when Phronk saw him. His eyes grew wide when he saw his good friend, Sangti, looking at him with a sad, hopeless gaze. The captured Earthbender tried to call, but he could only produce a soft, muffled noise.
"What is it?" one of the boys demanded.
Phronk looked at the boy and back at Sangti, but when his eyes returned to the spot where he was sure he saw his old master, the man had vanished.
"Shut up for the rest of the way. No more noises."
Phronk somehow convinced himself that his eyes were playing tricks on him until he saw Zhouray to the side of the river, shaking his head in disappointment while keeping a strange smile of satisfaction on his face. The new Firelord calmly walked behind a tree and out of sight before Phronk heard the bone-chilling, inhuman voice of Onjing.
"Do you think that we're going to save you?" the black-robe figure hovering above the boat asked. "You're wrong," it teased.
Phronk shut his eyes and tried to tell himself that he was simply experiencing a bad dream, but the unmistakable sound of Kimma's maniacal laugh shattered his hope. He looked up to see the Bloodbender charging straight for him on a wave. The twisted woman was about to crash into the boat when she disappeared into thin air. That didn't stop Phronk from trying to howl and squirm out of fear.
Back in the stone city that, according to legend, belonged to the Sun Warriors, Team Avatar had been wandering the strange, mysterious location for almost a half-hour. Berani was about to say something before she thought she heard footsteps behind her. She whipped her head back to see the same, monotonous rocks. She heard the pattering a feet a second time, and she could tell from her friends sudden pauses that they could hear it too.
"Well Brek," she started loudly. "I hope we can find these guys so you can master Firebending and become a fully-realized Avatar!" She could hear a gasp from behind a large boulder. Seconds later, a small, fragile elderly woman with long, gray hair tied in a ponytail emerged to greet them suspiciously.
"Avatar?" she asked with caution.
"Avatar," Brek assured.
The woman dressed in red and gold rags examined the strangers. "We've been expecting you."
After exchanging shocked looks, the group decided to follow the woman as she hobbled away, looking back every few seconds to check on them. She led them on a short hike through the city, stopping when she was in the center of two dragon statues, each with their jaws wide open. She paused, then thrust both of her arms outwards, sending streams of fire into the dragon's mouths. Immediately, a section of the stone wall in front of her receded and moved to the left, revealing a massive open area with similar features as what the group had seen before. The one difference, was that this area was flooded with people.
"Avatar! I knew you'd come!" The voice was familiar. Brek turned to see Huang, his Firebending teacher, accompanied by Brone, the man he intended to master Earthbending under.
"You two know each other?" asked Brek, astonished.
"Of course we do!" Brone exclaimed. "You haven't heard about the Order of the White Lotus have you? Well Grandmaster Huang, it appears as if Avatars still have difficulty with figuring it out."
Uncountable questions flooded Brek's mind. "How did you know where to find us?"
"Because I knew that a brilliant young woman like Princess Zola would know that the Sun Warriors were the only ones who could prevent the Isha from gaining total influence over the people of the Fire Nation. They know the element of fire well, from its origins, to how to protect its future," Huang explained
"The Grandmaster is correct," stated a fat man wearing a crown of feathers. "The element of fire flows within all people of our nation, bender or not. Those with the ability to bend have no business disrupting the balance of the world. That's why we will teach you everything we know. Thank you Mosha from guiding them here." The old woman smile up at her chief.
"Well said, sir. But how do we stop the Isha. And how do we find them?"
"Finding them will be simple," Huang started. "They're coming here, and they plan to kill everyone here."
"How could you know?"
"Onjing visited me in prison. He gave me an option. Either I kill the Avatar or he and his team quash our only hope. He is coming to destroy the Sun Warriors."
"Then we will defend the Sun Warriors. We're prepared, and I'm ready to face Onjing and fight him until my last breath," Brek announced confidently.
The Sun Warrior Chief nodded. "There is one more thing, Avatar. Can you come with me? Alone?"
Brek complied and followed the chief up a small hill to an enormous raging fire that seemed to be blazing forever.
"This fire is sacred to us and every Firebender in the world," he started. "Recently, we've noticed something odd. Not in its entire existence have the flames increased or decreased in intensity, but recently they've become significantly stronger and larger."
"To represent the unbalance of political power between benders and non-benders?" Brek suggested.
"No. You are correct that it means balance between the two groups is disrupted, but it doesn't represent political power. It represents pure existence. This means that in the last few months, the amount of Firebenders has grown unnaturally."
The raging battle in the Northern Water Tribe had left the city in shambles. A group of three benders had managed to nearly destroy the entire society. Onjing had reconvened with Kimma and Zhouray, and he was ready to reveal his darkest secret, his most dangerous weapon.
"Friends, it's time I showed you." Without a word, he led them to a small, circular door and forced it open with a gush of wind. "Welcome to the Spirit Oasis, the most spiritual location in the North Pole." He gestured for them to follow him and they entered the area to see a pool of black water, with to Koi fish frantically darting from side to side. Kimma had seen these fish before, and they usually swam in an elegant circle, in a strange, hypnotic dance.
Ojing slowly crept his way to the pool and held his left and above the water. "Kofaru!" he called. "Unleash, your power! Unleash the dead upon this world!" At these commands, the Oasis became dark and the floor trembled. Zhouray and Kimma fell to their knees as gusts of wind furiously swarmed the air in outrage. Kimma let out a horrible scream as bolts of lightening and claps of thunder displayed a terrible wrath. Suddenly, the pool of water was replaced by an eruption of fire, and out of the blazing inferno stepped entranced figures, in a line one-by-one.
Zhouray refused to believe what he saw next. Two figures identical to his mother and father emerged from the conflagration.
"They're who you think they are!" Onjing shouted over the winds and thunder. "But they've changed!"
Zhouray watched in terror as his father took a deep breath and unleashed a breath of fire.
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