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With Lahn laying waste to the Eastern Temple, Otan must rise to correct the imbalance brought about by the Shadow Painters' experiments and faces Lahn in a final confrontation.
Outside of the massive cyclone that had enveloped the Eastern Air Temple, Otan could feel the Fire Elemental outside trying to break down his defenses. Eventually, Otan would no longer be able to hold the storm together, but if all went well within the eye of the storm, then he would ready to take on Lahn once and for all.
In the end, he couldn't have said why he had taken Fen's offer and let the Air Elemental's power absorb into his own. Fen had told him that he was one of the most powerful Airbenders of his generation, maybe second only to Avatar Aang himself, and so his Chi would be best suited for the transfer. Fen had told him that his physical body had been sustained solely by his own Chi and that only a whole Airbender would have the strength to use such power.
He had told him what he had seen of Otan's parents in their final minutes of life; how they had risked their lives to protect the people of that little Earth Kingdom village, how they had chosen to sacrifice themselves in a way that few Airbenders ever had before.
Although more than that, Fen had said to Otan that he was one of the few Airbenders who had experienced true freedom in all of its forms and that was why he was best suited for the task.
Otan didn't know if the Elemental was wrong or right-about any of those things-he only knew that for some reason he was now an elemental-and that it was his duty to restore the world's balance. And he knew exactly what he had to do.
"So, you decided to come back after all," said Meili.
Otan nodded. "I guess so," he said.
The two of them stood in a circle of Airbenders. Otan could see the fear in their eyes-not just of what lay outside the storm he had created, but of him also. He smiled at them-the first time he had smiled in a long time.
"Air Nomads," he said, his voice seeming to reach out and carry to every Airbender within the temple, "My name is Otan. Once, I was an Airbender like you, but the universe had a slightly different plan for me. Now I am an elemental. I am one with the air-one with freedom. To all of you, I offer that same freedom-freedom from fear, freedom from violence, freedom from the those in the world who would harm you and your loved ones." He paused, letting them take in his words. "But that freedom requires sacrifice. Before I became as you see me, I had searched for those freedoms my entire life. But each time I clung to those personal freedoms, people around me got hurt. Likewise I have known people who would give up even their own lives for the freedom of others. When I became and Elemental, I realize that these freedoms were one and same-you can't have one without the other. As Airbenders, we must embrace freedom not only for ourselves, but for everyone as well. What I'm about to ask from you is not going to be easy, but if you are true Airbenders, then you will have no hesitation or doubt."
The Air Elemental took in a breath. "What I ask, is that you give up your Airbending."
The entire temple seemed to have gone quiet, from the mountain trails to the temple front. The silence was broken when Meili set down her staff in front of her and seated herself cross-legged on the ground before Otan as though preparing for meditation. One by one, each of the monks and sisters in the circle around them followed suit, laying down their staffs and seating themselves. Down below on the mountain path, the Nomad children sat down and let their minds open up to Otan. In minutes, the Air Elemental could feel the minds of every Airbender in the Eastern Temple syncing with his own.
The Air Nomads began to feel tiny ripples of air that seemed to emanate from their flesh. Hundreds of tiny breezes filtered up through the temple colonnades, whistling through rock formations, statues and vegetation until it all converged to the spot where Otan stood as he began to slowly rise into the air.
After he had gotten his bearings, Lahn the Fire Elemental had been hammering against the cyclone shield that had enveloped the temple, but none of his blows seemed to do any good, even with the comet above to lend him its power. He kept up the attack, partly because he knew that who or whatever had created the barrier would not be able to keep it up forever and partly because he could do nothing else. It seemed that ever since he had absorbed the Chi energy that had held his brother's body and those of the other demi-elementals together, his body had become flooded with such power that he had the overwhelming urge to vent it wherever he saw fit.
He knew that the longer he waited, the greater his power would become, until it surpassed Firelord Sozin, and then, perhaps even the Avatar.
Suddenly, the cyclonic veil begin to thin and lift until it vanished altogether. But he had been tricked! The Air Nomads were gone!
With a cry of rage, Lahn tore through the very heart of the temple with a blade of fire from his hand, leveling one of the massive towers like a tree in a forest. "Where are you?" he screamed as he tore into the abandoned temple, leaving nothing but molten slag and smoking black stone behind him. "Show yourself, you cowards!"
Just as he turned his head, a blast of lightning struck him full in the face, but he was ready this time and absorbed it easily. "Otan," he said, "It's been a while."
In front of him, the air solidified until the Air Elemental became visible. "Here I am." He said.
Lahn charged into his attacker, but the attack went straight through without so much as phasing Otan as he became one with the air once more.
Lahn glanced around for several moments, the aura of flame emanating from his body flaring up with his temper just before Otan struck him with a blast of wind, sending him rocketing into a column. Moving in closer, Otan sent tendrils of electricity sparking downward from the sky, but Lahn caught them with his open palms, sending the energy racing back towards Otan, who felt the bolts pierce his shoulder before he could de-solidify again.
Lahn laughed out loud. "If you want to fight fire with fire, prepare to get fried, Airbender!" he sneered, then pressed his attack, firing white beams that trailed from his hands and feet.
Otan managed to dodge most of the attacks, but it seemed as though Lahn was swiftly gaining ground, his power rapidly increasing as the yellow-orange aura surrounding him began to shift to blue-white.
"Give up, Otan! Run! Just like the rest of the Airbenders! Even now," he said, "I have the combined Chi of nearly a hundred Firebenders! And now that Sozin's Comet is here, there's nothing that can stop me!"
Otan summoned up another bolt of cold fire from the sky as the clouds above thickened and blackened.
Lahn laughed again, streaking towards Otan. "You're only feeding me!" he cried, "You forget that at the core of Firebending is power! Absolute power!"
"I'm counting on it," said Otan with a grin.
The Fire Elemental's burning eyes narrowed. "What?"
From the sky came dozens of lighting spears, searing into Lahn's blue flame. Unprepared for the ferocity of the assault, Lahn came crashing down to a stony garden below, causing all the planets to immediately shrivel and turn to dust from the exposure.
"All you've ever really cared about is power for yourself," said Otan, "You stole all of that Chi just so you could increase your own power, and now there won't be anything to stop you"
With broad gesture, Otan opened up the clouds, making way for the combined light of the sun and comet, letting their energy beat down on the Lahn as he went from blue to pure white.
The sound that escaped from the Fire Elemental's mouth was a cry of extreme rage and fury.
Whispers in the Wind
The explosion above the Eastern Air Temple shook the very earth that the Nomads walked upon. The sky was filled with a thousand fires and each one of the refugees felt almost certain that the world was ending as the mushroom smoke curled its way up from the distant peaks they had left behind.
And yet they felt no regret; no sorrow at what had become of their home. They were Air Nomads, wherever there was air to breathe was home for them. Though they were no longer in touch with the air, the skies above eventually cleared of the comet's fire and they could still feel the caressing touch of a warm summer's breeze or the coolness of winter's first kiss.
When they reached the foot of the mountains, they were free. And yet, they held no illusions about their future. When they heard about the fate of the other temples, they grew heartsick and whenever they heard the sound of Fire Nation boots, they grew fearful, knowing that Sozin and his line would be slowly working their way into the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes in search of conquest. They wondered sometimes what became of the Avatar; the one who had abandoned them. Yet through it all, their days were filled with promise. For in their final moments as Airbenders, each and every one had heard a solemn promise whispered to them as though on a gentle wind.
"Don't be afraid," the promise had begun, "And don't give up. While all that is done can be undone, but never forget that all that was undone can be done again."
Take to the Air
The robed girl had dropped from exhaustion. For nearly three days straight, she had labored alongside the healers with all of the sick and injured, miraculously curing their poison and giving words of kindness and comfort to those beyond helping. A few hours after treatment, the healers confirmed decreasing fevers and the patients reported that they felt weak but were getting stronger. Some of them even felt ready to leave and help with the rebuilding efforts around the little town.
However, both the proprietor and healers were still curious about her origins even as they carried her to one of the tea house's upstairs rooms to rest. Rumors had begun to circulate that the girl was Fire Nation and that she had been cause of the destruction, but those who had watched and been healed by her said otherwise. They said that she was a healing spirit that had taken a mortal form.
The morning after her collapse, the girl found herself alone in a bed of soft linens. It was still morning and she could feel the sun's early rays tickling her nose as she roused herself into the waking world-to her family's estate beyond the Fire Capital-but no-this was the Earth Kingdom. Beyond her window she could see the skeletal husks of burned-out dwellings and timbers that remained of the little village. After seeing the destruction that the Fire Nation had caused, she was half-tempted to stay in this little village-to help rebuild.
She turned away from the outside and began to tidy up the little room. Peeking out into the hallway, she could see the refugees she had helped to heal slumped against the walls and on the stairwell. There were other people in other villages who were suffering-other people who would have need of her skills.
Quietly, the girl tiptoed into the common room, taking care not to step on any of the refugees. On the counter, she left as much money as she could-enough at lest to pay for the tea and quick meals she had been able to consume during her work. Then, like a spirit, she vanished from the little village as though she had never been.
The traveling girl made good time along the road that wound between the western sea and the eastern hilltops. Though it was morning still, there was no breeze to cool her on her journey and so she sat down beneath a tree to rest herself, wishing she had waited for some merchant caravan to come along and take her part way to the next town.
It was several minutes later that she heard a rustling of leaves above her and felt the day's first wind flow by. It was an eastern wind, brought with the sun as it climbed higher into the sky. Shielding her eyes, she almost missed the familiar shadow riding the morning breeze-the shadow of an eight-legged sky bison and her rider.
The girl laughed with such joy as she had never known in her old life or the new and ran to meet the rising wind.
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