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Battle at the Eastern Temple Part 2: Elementals
As Lahn rages throughout the Earth Kingdom towards the Eastern Air Temple, Otan must embrace his destiny while the Airbenders ready for the coming battle.
The Burning Plague
Nobody noticed the young woman in dark robes as she traveled down the gangplank of the nondescript merchant vessel. A shawl covered her head, and she when she walked it was as though she were in pain, giving her the look of an incredibly old woman to those who did not see the blossoming beauty of her face or the nimble grace of her delicate fingers as she clutched at the support line to keep from stumbling. Whenever she could, she avoided looking people in the eye, for fear they would see the irises of burning amber within, or the pain that was housed and shored up within her weary spirit.
The coastal Earth Kingdom village she had arrived at looked as though it had been through an inferno. Buildings lay in smoking ruins and everywhere the earth was charred and black.
The robed girl made her way into a teahouse at the edge of town. Though heavily damaged, it was one of the few structures in town left standing and so was being used as a makeshift hospital. Men, women and children lay on ragged futons and straw-filled mats across the entire floor while most of the tables and chairs had been pushed to the sides of the room. A few healers moved rapidly between patients, checking upon on as many as they could although it was all too clear that there were too few of them attend to all of the sick and injured.
A stern-faced woman came from the back room and approached the girl's table. "What do want?" she snapped, "I'm nearly out of good water, so I can only give out one cup of tea per customer."
"That's fine," said the girl, keeping her head down. As the woman began to turn away she spoke again, "What happened here, in this village?"
The proprietor shook her head. "Some say it was demon or evil spirit," she said, "But I say that it stinks of the Fire Nation. Whatever it was, it came tearing across the sky and burned a path straight through the center of town and headed northeast. Worse, it somehow poisoned our water supply and now half the town is sick with this-this Burning Plague or whatever they're calling it."
The girl nodded, drawing the shawl closer about her face. "What are the symptoms?"
"Headaches, vomiting and high fever," one of the healers piped up, "But nothing we're doing seems to be helping so we've sent word for some Waterbenders from the Southern Water Tribe, but by the time they get here it might be too late."
The young woman stood up. "Let me help," she said, "I know of a healing technique that might be able to get rid of the poison."
The healer nodded. "I'll try anything at this point-If it works, you'll have a whole town of grateful people."
"Still want you tea?" said the proprietor.
"That can wait until after I'm done here." Said the girl as she followed close behind the healer to one of his patients, a small boy who couldn't have been more than six years old.
"How are you doing, Jan?" said the healer, stroking the boy's hair, "Are the headaches still there?"
The little boy nodded, glancing nervously up at the girl in dark robes, who took his hand. "I'm here to help you," she said with a smile, "I'm going to make the headaches go away, but you have relax. This may hurt a little bit, too, so you'll have to be brave. Can you do that?"
"Okay," said the girl, placing a hand over his chest while bringing his hand up to hers. "I want you to breathe with me-in and out."
The Mandala Chamber
The bottom of the "well" that Otan had jumped into was illuminated by a circle of torches along the wall of the chamber. A square trench containing running water touched the circle at the corner while the circular shaft leading upwards bathed a square stone slab in moonlight.
"You know," said the Elemental after Otan had gotten his bearings, "You probably could have saved yourself a lot of pain if you hadn't waited till the last second to Airbend." Otan rubbed his sore back with both hands, but said nothing. He wasn't about to let Fen provoke him again-even in his new form.
"Anyway, this place is called the Mandala Chamber," said Fen, "It combines each of the four elements into universal harmony with each other, making this a highly spiritual place."
Otan glanced around. The chamber must have been hundreds, if not thousands of years old. "So what does that have to do with me?" he said, "I suppose its just a coincidence that there just happened to be one of these Mandala things at the bottom of a well?"
Fen shook his head. "As you've probably guessed, what you saw up there wasn't a well." He said, "Twelve years ago, this chamber was once part of a much larger shrine-but it was destroyed, and my life was changed forever. When I was a little older than you are now, I was called before the Council of monks from the Northern Air Temple, who presented to me a great honor-the honor of guarding one of these Mandala Chambers-a gathering place of the world's ambient flow of elemental energies of water, earth, fire and air. The monks told me that whenever the Avatar dies and is reborn, an awesome amount of Chi energy is released into the Spirit World but some of it is lost in this one, wandering endlessly. This is why the Mandala Shrines were constructed-as a way to gather that energy back up again and maintain balance in world. There are many spiritual sites around the world that do this naturally, but sometimes the energy is more than they can absorb on their own, so they need a little help sometimes. Because of the nature of the shrines, they were one of the best-kept secrets of the Four Nations."
Otan nodded. "So how was this place destroyed if it was such a big secret then?"
Fen held up a hand. "I'm getting to that," he said, "There were lots of shrines built all over the world by the Four Nations and each kept their own hidden from the others, but obviously they all suspected that the others must have built shrines of their own. Somehow or other, A man named Ghef from the Fire Nation discovered this one. As Avatar Roku died, Fire Nation soldiers stormed the place-there was nothing that I could do-me and the two masters here who trained me were outnumbered."
He sighed. "I watched as the Firebenders blasted one of their own men with powerful Firebending. The technique they used channeled the energy out of the chamber and destroyed the temple along with all of us inside of it. When it was done, both me and the Firebenders had become as you see us; Elementals. While our physical bodies were injured or nearly destroyed, the Chi naturally filled in the gaps and gave us access to unimaginable power."
"I thought you said you couldn't help the Air Nomads." Said Otan.
Fen nodded. "The men who ambushed me," he said, "When all of them became Elementals they tore a rift in the Spirit World, enabling them to create at least a dozen more like them. I know this because an Elemental can sense the Chi energy around the entire world and inside other human beings-because we are partially entwined with the Spirit World. But now that you're here, we can do something about that."
Otan raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"If I combine my Chi with yours, you can become greater than the greatest Airbending master-you can become an Elemental."
On The Bridge of Kaze-Jin
"It's coming," said Meili, peering at the brightly glowing streak approaching from the east. She had never felt such a presence-it felt as though the heat of a small sun were concentrated into single being and with the approach of the comet, whatever the thing was, it was only getting stronger as it rocketed to the temple, burning and destroying everything it touched.
"I was expecting a more traditional assault, I'll admit," said one of the sisters, one of the few Airbenders who had stayed outside of the temple walls, "You know, an army, some artillery, that sort of thing."
In all, there were only a few dozen fighters in front of the Eastern Air Temple that morning; a hodge-podge of sisters of the Eastern Temple and a few monks that could be spared by the north and south. They stood along the length of a mighty bridge that connected two large sections of the temple. The Bridge of Kaze-Jin. It was a monument that had been dedicated to one of the founders of the Air Nomads and now it would be the place where the Air Nomads made their stand at the end of the world.
All of those who were unable to fight were in the process of escaping, winding their way down through the mountain paths. It would be up to Meili and the others to stall the Fire Nation until everyone could escape.
The fiery being approaching the temple had changed their plans somewhat, but Meili and the others jumped right into action. Their only viable hope would be to stall the thing until the comet passed over and so with that in min they took to the air, sending a massive swathe of chilling winds at the thing, drawing from a nearby cold front. The Airbenders crafted an icy storm to resist the oncoming attacker, but it was no use, the thing kept coming and so the defenders were forced to pull back.
They changed tactics then, coming at the flame-being from all angles, hoping to confuse and disorient it with multiple attacks and feints, but the individual attacks did little to penetrate the rippling heat that emanated from the attacker's form. It paused only long enough to return fire at its opponents before continuing onward towards the temple.
A handful of Airbenders had gone down, but Meili was determined to hold her ground and rallied the others back to the front of the temple. In the air, they could see far below them a trail of bright yellow and orange robes winding down the mountain. If they kept up the stalling tactics, then the Airbenders would have a chance of survival.
But when they arrived back at the front of the temple, the attacker had stopped and was hovering in the air before the temple, fire radiating outward from a molten body.
"What's he waiting for?" asked one of the monks.
Meili shrugged and brought up her staff. "Get ready," she said, "We don't know what this thing is capable of."
"Hear me, Air Nation," roared the fire elemental, "I am Lahn, Elemental of the Fire Nation! I am your destroyer!" With that he let out a smoky laugh, soaring to the top of the temple, with his arms pointed downward, he shot two beams of white fire forked at an angle, carving a massive trench around the entire temple. To her horror, Meili saw that the molten trench had cut off the escape route of the Airbenders below. Most of them were only children and didn't have glider staffs yet.
Then, Meili felt a chilling breeze upon her cheek. Glancing overhead, she could see a massive, swirling thunderhead materialized above the temple. Without warning, a flash of lighting bolted from the sky and struck the fire elemental, sending him spinning away. Before anyone knew what was happening, the thunderhead became a swirling vortex that formed a sheathe of gale-force winds around the temple, locking out the intruder.
Where Lahn had once stood, the air seemed to solidify, the air coming together into a human shape.
Meili grinned. "Otan."
For the collective works of the author, go here.