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|Be Thou a Cain|
March 4, 2010
"Be Thou a Cain" is the third chapter of the New Politics Chronicles of the fanon story, and the eighth chapter overall. It is written by series creator and edited by user . In the chapter, Slythrin hopes to create an alliance with the Sandbenders to aid in his quest for Methius and Malu's killers, so he makes Lee their prisoner for a week as collateral. While in their imprisonment, Lee discovers that he shares a cell with his younger brother, Didi, and the memories of his past slowly drives him into unrestrained aggression and insanity. Meanwhile, Aang, Zuko, and Earth King Kuei confront the Council of Five about the recent law they passed, without proper vetoing from Kuei.
"Be Thou a Cain" is based on the Biblical passage of Cain and Abel, and many aspects of its narrative parallel those of the passage and other parts of the Book and Genesis. Other themes explored in the chapter are insanity, brotherhood, politics, and dark comedy. SuperFlash conceived the chapter after reading about the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles episode "Adam Raised a Cain," which in turn was based on the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name. SuperFlash had multiple delays that caused him to be forced to completely rewrite the original draft of the chapter.
The chapter was release on March 4, 2010, following much delay, and was critically acclaimed by several users.
This is gonna be the sort of shorter version of the original draft, which I lost after the Blue Screen crashed my computer. I still think it's gonna be great, so enjoy and review! :)
Si Wong Desert, sunset
When you think of a sunset, what do you imagine? A beautiful, almost cinematic moment of nature where all life is purer then ever? Or maybe a climactic act of world purity and innocence? A gleaming explosion of sunshine and colors? A horizon filled with light and optimism? Life? God?
Then clearly: you are not Lee.
For as he and Slythrin roughly sailed across the bitter Si Wong Desert on their wooden cart, he merely saw the raw moment-the ingloriously delightful moment-the climactic sensation, that was the sunset as an uncomfortable, irritating, and completely and uproariously unpleasant waste of nature that the spirits crapped out o so non-vehemently. For when a man, like Lee, experiences such unpleasant, such unnecessarily awful, life events, and have tasted the extremely terrible yet drug-like sensation of murder, then you find everything in life to be completely terrible.
"Slythrin, we're starting to cut in on Sandbender Turf..." began Lee both worriedly and irritatingly.
Slythrin, however, said absolutely nothing, and merely whipped the filthy, mangy, ostrich horse that pulled their vehicle. The cart was so old and decrepit that the speed that it was going caused pieces of its chipped, rotting wooden tiles to peel off. In fact, Lee once opined about the vehicle: "The foundation itself looks as if termites decided to turn the whole crappy thing into a four-course-friggin'-meal."
"They could eat us alive, Slythrin," Lee reiterated, the speed of their vehicle, as well as the dust outside the cart and the darkness of his voice's tone, beginning to increase.
Slythrin ignored him once more, striking down on the poor, pathetic animal pulling their poor, pathetic excuse for a cart. The creature roared in pain as he strained himself to carry on, and it echoed throughout the desert.
Lee began to grow more aggravated, and worriedly exclaimed at his silver-haired acquaintance, "Dammit, Slythrin, are you trying to get us killed?! The Sandbenders are right there." He pointed his dirty finger to the area in front of him, where, indeed, Sandbenders began emerging through the dust, some sitting, some standing, but all looking dark and eerie.
And again, Slythrin denied Lee's efforts for him to yield and flee from the sure death that awaited them. He whipped the ostrich horse harder and the cart's speed increased. Concurrently, the Sandbenders began hopping onto sailors and trailing after and beside the pair's cart.
"Goddammit, Slythrin, for the love of-" Lee shook in frustration and jumped up, grabbing Sytrhin's shoulder. Slythrin slapped it away and whipped the beast, the cart speeding faster and faster. It was at this point that the Sandbenders began viciously whipping at the cart with sand, tearing at the wood and crumbling the wheels. The wheels collapsed as mere, albeit sharp, twigs and long splinters, and the cart fell into the sand. Its velocity, however, kept it going for several feet and it spun rapidly. The cart shook and fell to its side, sliding through the sand and eventually stopping right in the middle of what appeared to be a Sandbender town, clouds of sand encompassing the entire atmosphere around them.
Lee coughed violently as the clouds of sand encircled him. He teared through the shattered and weak debris that was the cart's wall and crawled out into the sand. He whipped his hand around the air, trying to cut through the clouds and get a clear view of his surroundings. A plop a mere two feet from him signaled that Slythrin also had crawled his way out of the cart and began coughing. "You idiot! Now look what you've-" Lee began to call out to Slythrin.
"Shut up!" Slythrin exclaimed, cutting off Lee before he could finish his rant.
The clouds of sand had begun to settle and the two could see quite clearly everything around them. Sandbenders, drabbed in their torn, raggy garments and gauze, stood in all directions, all looking as if-well, as if they wanted to kill them.
"Move! Out of the way!" came a voice from the crowd. Suddenly, a medium-sized sandbender emerged from the group of menacing looking desert walkers. He pulled off the ragged cloth that covered his mouth, revealing stubble littered all over his rough and aged face. He bore a smile, but not a normal one; it was eerie and unnatural, as if someone tried making a square into a circle. Lee turned to Slythrin, standing up, and saw that he too had risen and bore the same smile as the sandbender.
"Ah, Slythrin, always one for a theatric entrance, huh?" the sandbender said.
"Merely a cover for my tardiness, Fu Chin," Slythrin nonchanlatly declared, and both he and Fu Chin laughed an eerie, unnatural laugh that matched their smiles.
Lee looked at both of them in aghast.
Meanwhile, in Ba Sing Se
Aang and Zuko sat at the stone steps that preceded the Jasmin Dragon. The ground around them was still damp from the previous days' powerful rainfall. Aang and Zuko each remained completely silent for a long time, the air around them becoming more uncomfortable as the minutes progressed.
Aang finally broke the silence, remarking, "What's taking the Earth King so long? It's nearly night time."
"Kuei wants us to wait until night," quipped Zuko, still denying eye contact with Aang. "That way, we can be safe if things turn...ugly."
Suddenly, Aang looked at Zuko quizzically, stating, "Do you expect this to turn ugly?"
"I prey on my mother's grave that it doesn't," he responded, making eye contact with Aang. "But it's always possible. And if it does, we don't need any outside interruptions. No media hounds on our asses chastising us for things we probably didn't even do. 'Fire Lord Zuko, are you trying to start an international incident?' 'Fire Lord Zuko, do you hate your country?' 'Fire Lord Zuko, you bastard!'"
At this, Aang's face fell into his lap, and he burst into laughter. It was a very hoarse, yet very consistent laugh, as if he hadn't laughed in years and his voice was unsure what type of noise to emit. Zuko smirked deeply upon hearing this noise; it was a pleasant surprise to hear laughter coming from Aang, who had been in a continuing state of melancholy for months now. He found himself laughing as well, and their raucous hysterics grew and echoed in the empty street.
But like all good things, the laughter had to end. And Aang's laughs transformed into complete silence, and is smile disappeared from his face. He sighed, "Zuko, I think...I think the-the guys who attacked me were Fire Nation."
Zuko practically mirrored Aang and lost his smile, stating ever-so-deadpan, "I've been afraid of that." He rubbed his eyes, sighing "Gah..." and then much to Aang's surprise, "I've failed my country, haven't I?"
"Why would you even say that?!" Aang exclaimed, flabbergasted. "Th-that's not true at all! I mean...gah, why would you even say that?"
"I mean, really, Aang, what have I accomplished?" Zuko said. "The entire world's still at a severe state of hostility, and we might be on the verge of a coup with this whole crap with the Council!"
"Yeah, and none of it's your fault!" Aang shouted. "Trust, me I...I understanding blaming yourself for things you think you could've prevented but...but it's not your fault. You have to just-just think about the situation logically..."
"That still doesn't change the fact that the fact that we might have a war on our hands...again."
Suddenly, Aang broke out into another fit of laughter, though more raspier and hoarse then before, and he looked up into the sky.
"What's funny about this?" Zuko asked, practically disgusted.
Aang shook his head, smirking a disappointed smile. "Everything."
Back in Si Wong Desert
"Wait, Slythrin, you planned all this?!" said Lee, completely confused.
"Zip, it, Lee," Slythrin hissed through grinded teeth. "I apologize, Fu Chin, you were saying?"
"Ah, yes, well, almost sunset," began Fu Chin. "We best be secluding indoors, shan't we?"
"Of course," Slythrin said with his eerie smile. "Lee, follow," he added, as if Lee was some kind of dog. But Lee obeyed nonetheless, and the three began walking through the center of the small little Sandbender village they found themselves in. Lee looked around and saw all of the Sandbender-men, women, and children alike-all staring at him viciously and untrusting, some holding tight to their weapons and others covering their children's eyes. It was as if they were monsters being shipped to some foreign land, and though it disturbed Lee greatly, Slythrin was completely unfazed.
Fu Chin led Slythrin and Lee to a sandy cellar opening that rested on the backside of a small, rundown hut. A Sandbender standing in front of the hut opened the doors of the cellar, sandy dust erupting from it, and then stood beside, allowing Slythrin, Lee, and Fu Chin to walk in. It was dark and the metal steps were both cold and rough. Sand covered everything they felt, and smelt, and-through the slim light that broke through the cracks of the roof-see. It was damp and cold, and a few Sandbenders were sitting on the floor passed out, reeking of alcohol.
"This way, this way..." Fu Chin muttered as he led Sythrin and Lee into another hallway. At the end of it, a Sandbender scrambled up to open a door, and the three men walked in.
It led them into another hallway, though this one was lined with cells filled with skeletons and sand and blood. Candles hung from the walls and the ceiling and illuminated the room averagely. There were two chairs paralleled to one another which rested on the far side of the hallway.
Fu Chin sat down in one of the chairs and asked Slythrin to follow. "Gladly," he nonchalantly accepted. Lee merely slouched on the wall behind them.
"Now, Slythrin, from my understanding, you're propositioning that we form an alliance for this trek of yours?" Fu Chin said, immediately getting to the point. Slythrin nodded. "Well then," Fu Chin began, "you must know our service is not free. The Sandbenders are proud people, sacred people. The Great Spirits have gone so far as to call us 'The Holy Benders of the Created earth.' Our skills are gifts in our eyes, and can never be taken lightly. In other words, we're total badasses. Now, I assume you understand the price of exchange?"
"Of course," Slythrin replied rather deadpan. "And fear not, I am all-willing to exchange, Fu Chin."
Without saying a word, Fu Chin rose up from his seat. He walked over to a chipped table that rested on the wall. There was a bottle of wine placed vertically in the center of it. He picked it up and turned it to its side, but not even a drop came out of the bottle. "You know, the philosopher Gang once said that 'All deals be sacred, and forevereth they runeth through thy blood like the river, and through Hell and Damnation they shall hold,'" he began. And then suddenly, he violently chucked the bottle to the wall, and it shattered fiercely. "He was a damn fool." Lee's eyes bulged, but he did not move.
"All philosophers are fools," Slythrin hissed. "That's what makes them philosophers. Please, Fu Chin, do we have a deal?"
"Of course," Fu Chin said with a smile, and Slythrin rose. The silver haired man gestured for Lee to follow him as all three of the men walked down the hall and through a door. There was a single, bright candle lighting the room. A single cell rested on the left wall, and a single table rested on the right. A Sandbender was sitting, slouched in his chair. He glared as the group walked past him.
"Goodbye, Slythrin," Fu Chin said, with his eerie, unnatural smile. Slythrin nodded in response and bored that same smile.
Lee was confused. Goodbyes? he thought. But what about the trade? Damn, these people are weird!
Lee shrugged and followed Slythrin as he exited through the door, but a Sandbender jumped in front of him, disallowing him to pass. "Wait, what the hell, man? I'm with him!"
"Calm down, Lee," Slythrin said. "Move," he hissed to the Sandbender, who quickly did so. "You're going to stay here with these people, be their slave, their prisoner, but just for a week. I need you to do this for me, Lee, and for yourself. We need their help and they won't give it to us without you. Without them we can't find the men who killed Methius and Malu, get vengeance!" He was smiling a different type of smile now, and it scared Lee in different ways; it came off as if Slythrin was desperate and crazy, but only his eyes resembled that. "You will learn things here, learn of nature, learn of murder and the natural beauty of it! And always remember: 'May thou be sanctioned by the law and the people but sanctioned for redemption.' Now...now don't fail me Lee." His voice seemed hoarse and desperate, and it made Lee further uncomfortable. He breathed a sigh of relief as Slythrin walked away.
Lee walked up to Fu Chin, who was standing, watching him. "So, uh, Fu Chin-"
"Please, Lee, please," Fu Chin interrupted. "I prefer to think of my prisoners as my...children. So please: call me 'Father.'"
"...I already have a father..." Lee muttered under his breath. Fu Chin snapped at this, and kneed Lee in his gut, sending him slumped over. Fu Chin grabbed Lee's hair and sent his head upward, so his face met his.
"Listen, you ignorant brat; this is my kingdom, and you are a pathetic piece of trash I call a prisoner. You will treat me with respect, you hear me? Respect!" He punched Lee in the gut, and pulled his hair more. "Now who the hell is your father, boy?!"
"Y...you," Lee said, choking, trying to speak through the blood that was pouring from his mouth.
"Good dog," and Fu Chin dropped Lee to the floor. "Now, you'll be staying for the week. Don't complain, the cell-believe it or not-is nicer then the guard's quarters. And be sure to show respect to your warden, Cao." Lee cringed at the very uttering of the name. The memories of his childhood haunted him still. So Fu Chin walked out of the room, and Lee turned to Cao.
Cao slumped up, and opened the rusty cell door. "Get in," he said lazily. "Oh, and say hello to your cellmate for me."
Lee entered into the cell and the door immediately closed. He looked down and saw his cellmate, who was donned in torn rags. There were cuts and bandages all over his face and bare arms, and his hair was ragged and unmaintained. Strangely, though he looked familiar...
Suddenly, the man spoke, and the voice to was familiar to Lee: "Hello, Lee."
"Wait..." Lee turned down to the man with a quizzical expression. "Didi?"
"He-he..." Didi pulled up his head, revealing his face in full. "Long time no see, brother."
Ba Sing Se
The Earth King's carriage finally arrived a few minutes after the sun set. Aang and Zuko hopped in slowly, and after exchanging brief greetings, the carriage went off. Nearly the entirety of the trip was silent, and everyone was beginning to feel uncomfortable. The silence only ended when they had finally arrived.
"Now, before we go," Kuei said, "we need to address something. We have to be sure not to raise much...suspicion. We can't just jump to conclusions. There can always be a reasonable explanation to all this. Now..."
At this moment Aang drifted off and his attention diverted to outside. What appeared to be How was standing at the bottom of the bridge that rested beside the Council's house, which had been moved to the edge of the Middle Ring so they could "empathize with the citizenship." He looked around suspiciously and then bended open what looked like a secret room, to which he darted in.
"Wha-? Oh, oh, uh..." Aang shook his head and readjusted his focus to Zuko and Kuei. "Sorry, I, uh...I got distracted."
"Understood," the Earth King said unassuringly. "Alright, let's begin."
All three of them departed from the carriage and walked down the stone steps. It was quite the glorious location, with firm grass and wonderful architecture used to construct the beautiful, massive building where the Council resided. And at night, the entire place seemed to glow, but this, conversely, seemed rather unnatural and unearthing. When the three reached the door, Kuei curved his hand and was ready to knock on the door, but it immediately flew open, causing them all to jump. Sung stood behind the door, smiling.
"Ah, King Kuei, Fire Lord Zuko, and Avatar Aang," Sung began, bowing, "an honor to see you, as always. I was not alerted of your visit, but am pleased nonetheless."
"Yes, yes, it's...it's sort of a surprise," Kuei said. "Merely stopping by for a small chat..."
"Well, come in, come in, of course..." The three entered the building, and Sung closed the door.
Sandbender cell hall, Si Wong Desert
"Didi?!" exclaimed Lee. "What...what are you doing here?"
"Well, to say it a short way, I'm the Sandbender's bitch," he responded. "To say it the long way, my pasture-you remember the one, the one near the Kyoshi Island-well, my pasture was burned down in a hasty but rather successful Fire Nation raid, back in the War, obviously. So, I had nowhere to go, and-with nothing but the clothes on my back and some meat-I just wondered. Somehow, I landed here in Si Wong, and somehow the Sandbenders-or desert-walkers, or whatever they like to be called-ambushed me. I told them I'd give them all I had if they spared me and gave me some supplies. So I gave them my meat, but it was just some measly pigeon-pig. Needless to say, they were unimpressed, and the next thing I knew, I was beaten, torn, and thrown in this cell, with nothing but that friggin' warden Cao as company." Lee once more cringed at the name. "Yeah, figured you'd hate him on account of his name. Man, what are the odds...but anyways, enough about me. What's your story?"
Lee turned his head. "Been living in Ba Sing Se for a couple'a months now. Joined the Construction Committee, doing some refining work; grunt work, you know, but money is money..."
"I mean, how'd you end up in here?"
"I...I'd really rather not...talk about it," he said, looking rather upset and staring at the ground darkly.
"Ah, come on, brother, just say it. It's no big deal..."
"I said I didn't want to talk about it, Didi," Lee repeated, though more aggressively.
"Ugh, still a wimp as always, huh, brother?" Didi said, rolling his eyes. "No wonder dad liked me more...and still does."
"Shut your ignorant mouth, you little bastard!" Lee exclaimed angrily.
Didi rolled his eyes. "Jeez, am I seriously the younger brother? Tsk...you are such a fool..."
"Goddammit, Didi, you haven't changed at all!!" Lee shouted.
"I believe your ex-girlfriend would disagree. What was that whore's name again?"
And at this, Lee snapped. He feverishly pounced at his brother; he grabbed onto the rags he wore for clothes and was quite ready to bash his face in. But sand suddenly gripped onto him and he flipped backwards. He turned and saw that Cao was the one who had bended the sand.
"Behave in there, you two!" Cao called out. "We can't be having you kill each other!"
Lee wiped his mouth of the sand and sat down slowly onto the floor. It was going to be a long week.
Inside the Council of Five's headquarters
The interior of the Council's headquarters varied. The walls and architecture and paintings and furniture were very lavish, extravagant, and down-right beautiful. But many aspects of the building tended to be much more lackluster. The window paper was incredibly cheap and peeled even when they were just bought the other day. The carpeting was imported to the council during a storm, so it reeked of sea water, and it was uncomfortably ridged and crispy. It was also somewhat cramped, and the more you walked downward the less space you felt you had.
At the far side of the building, a long series of elevated stands curved around the entire wall. The Council members that were each supposed to be sitting there were instead standing around a long, slender table that extended from the stands and out 12 feet.
Aang, Kuei, and Zuko were led by Sung to this very table. "Pardon the mess," Sung told them, referring to the dozens of scrolls lied out all over the table and all around the floor, "but we've been reviewing rather old laws to make sure they were vetoed right. Some political pundits have been complaining about our orderliness, so we've decided stick it to them as they say, he-he-he." The three gave false laughs to be polite, further masking their more serious reasons behind their visits. "So, please, sit down. Men, as you can see, we have guests."
The three Council members-Fong, Lie, and Kai-all turned to the three guests and bowed graciously, each remarking "Welcome," though not in unison.
"Where's How?" Aang asked, marking the first thing any of the group had said since arriving inside the headquarters.
"Oh, I uh...I believe he stepped out for a moment," Kai said looking around. "Should be here at any moment..."
Aang was still suspicious as to what he saw earlier. What are they up to? he pondered. Meanwhile, casual conversation had started to stir, and Aang saw this as the perfect opportunity. "Excuse me," he declared, standing up from his chair, "I think I forgot something in the carriage. I, uh, I'll go get it."
"We'd be glad to get it for you, Avatar Aang," Lie said.
"No-no, it's not an issue." So Aang departed from his seat and exited through the front door. He looked around briefly before hopping over the stone barricade so he could land in the curved ditch that lied under the bridge. The soles of his shoes covered in wet dirt, he trekked around in the muck and looked around the walls for something that looked like the secret passage, going so far as to fell for it on the wall. But then something made him jumped.
"Avatar Aang. Long time no see."
Aang turned around on his heels and saw How standing right behind him, his shins soaked in the muck.
"Oh, uh, How, h-hi..." Aang stuttered, adjusting himself quickly. "I, uh, I didn't see you there. The King and Zuko and I were just stopping by for a...quick discussion. I was wondering where you had gone off to..."
"Ah, yes, well, it's a pleasure to have to all here. I was merely getting some fresh air. There's something about the world after it rains; everything is so fresh and revived, it makes me feel reborn. But as the Avatar, I'm sure you know what that feels like, ha-ha..."
This time, Aang did not even muster a pity laugh. He merely smirked slightly before readjusting his facial expression to its previous, neutral form.
"So, what were you three here for again?" How asked, turning his head slightly.
"Oh, well, uh, we just wanted to ch-" Aang stopped himself, as if he was thinking deeply, choosing his next words carefully. "We were surprised by you and the Council's latest law, which was not cleared with the King, and-frankly put-can be really, really dangerous."
"Ah, yes, you must mean the NL I...Yes, well, I assure you, Avatar Aang, we had perfectly reasonable reasons behind our decision for doing so, you see, and I wholeheartedly promise we did it under the best intentions." And at this he smiled an eerie and unnatural smile, making Aang feel uncomfortable. "Now, come; let's go back inside." And with this he put his arm around Aang's shoulder, and as they walked, he bent down and whispered to the young Avatar: "But remember, young Avatar; some things are better left unknown, ha?"
But the suspicion did not discontinue rising there. Even during casual conversation, where the King, Aang, and Zuko planned on creating a false hope for unawareness to the Council's latest act, each question was met with what seemed to be a forced and prepared response from one of the Councilmen. The only one who seemed actually natural was How, whose strange casualness and sly tone made the trio far too curious to be good.
And then, after about an hour, Kuei decided it was time to get to the point, and so he did: "Now, Council, there's something that's been unsettling. The other day I received word that you passed a law-entitled Act NL I-enabling trade routes between the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, without it being vetoed by myself. Now, this could be incredibly dangerous, as hostility is still stirring between our nations, and we have our suspicions that some rouges from the Fire Nation are responsible for a few recent murders occurring with our border. Now, with all due respect-explain yourself this instant...please."
How chuckled a bit as he smiled his eerie smile. "I respect and completely understand your chagrin for suspicion, but I assure you, King Kuei, we had perfectly reasonable reasons behind our decision for doing so, you see, and I wholeheartedly promise we did it under the best intentions."
Aang froze upon hearing this, as it had been entirely just a copy-and-paste of what he had been told by How but half an hour ago. And at this point, he was quite pissed with their behavior.
Zuko too had become irritated with this cat-and-mouse game, and inserted, "And what would you ever mean by that, fare-say?"
"My lords, my lords," Sung butted in immediately. "Please understand that this law has been discussed in our sessions for months now. And after quite the clear consensus, we believed it would be of the entire countries' best interest if we do not send it to Your Highness for vetoing. As you know, this is quite the taboo topic, and we knew it would only complicate relationships between you and your people if you had passed it. So in case of controversy, we did not have you veto. Now doesn't it all make sense, lordships?" And even this was incredibly stiff and ever so prepared that Aang began to claw at his seat until his very nails began to be coated in wood carvings.
"Oh my Spirits, look at the time," Kai said turning around to view the sun clock that was carved into the center of the stands. "Well, if we are to be keeping on schedule and avoid verbal beatings from the press, we must be all departing and getting rest, no?"
"Correct you are, Kai," Lie said. All the Councilmen stood and bowed to their guests, who slowly did so as well.
When Kuei, Zuko, and Aang had entered their carriage, it did not remain silent for long. Zuko was rubbing his eyes angrily and thrusted his head in the air.
"Goddamn sons of bitches!" he exclaimed, the cart starting to depart. "Did you see that back there?! They were completely prepared for everything we were gonna say! 'Unaware of our visit' my ass! Man, I can't believe the Council would do this to us. They might as well be starting another Coup!!"
"Now, Fire Lord Zuko, don't jump to quickly to conclusions!" Kuei rebuttaled. "Now, there structured behavior was clear indication that they were up to something, and their story is obviously completed non-genuine, but, you really think their masting a full-scale Coup?"
"Zuko's right, Your Majesty," Aang said without averting his eyes to the window, where he saw nothing but darkness in the moonless night. "The way they were acting, it's just not right. This law has way too many negative side effects for any sane human being to do with good intentions; their friggin' betraying us. Ha...Ba Sing Se's being assaulted from the inside."
"...Again," Zuko added, bearing the same expression of complete hopelessness that Aang bore too, yet they both were smiling. And once more, they both broke out into hoarse and raspy laughter, and their faces grew red as a tomato. Their laugh echoed through the carriage and the silent night, and it seemed to be continuing forever.
"What in the world is funny about all of this!?" exclaimed the Earth King, completely aghast.
Zuko and Aang, slowing down their laughter, turned to the Earth King, and in unison remarked: "Everything."
Si Wong Desert
The entire duration of Lee's stay in the Sandbender's cell was grueling, uncomfortable, and exhausting. On the second day, Lee learned that he would be woken up by the Sandbenders banging violently on the walls and shaking the cell bars viciously, the whole time howling like dogs.
"They think it's funny," explained Didi, "treating us prisoners as friggin' animals. Just be happy they didn't pee on you."
When food came, the Sandbender merely through together some scraps onto a wooden plate and threw it into the cell. The whole time Lee and Didi were forced to watch as Cao devoured an entire lamb leg.
By the fourth day, Lee had begun to be haunted by the memories of his childhood. At night he just lied there, staring into his brother's eyes with pure, unbridle hatred and regret. And when his starvation took hold and he fell asleep, he dreamed of his childhood, of his days growing up, of his father, and of his mother. O Lord, how he despised these memories.
As a young man, Lee's father, a man named Dam who had nothing to his name but the clothes on his back, resorted to thievery, and would steal the labors of nearby pastures. He fell in love with a beautiful woman named Havvah, and together they continued their spree of thievery. But while stealing from the farm of an Earth Kingdom man in the south, they were caught, and cast away from their village as prosecution.
When Lee was born, Dam would abuse him, both physically and verbally.
"You'll never be a man if you don't start acting like one, dammit!" he would say while beating him outside their hut.
Lee was forced to labor and work and steal like his father. But when Didi was born, he was forced to do even more work, while Didi was never forced to do anything. Dam never hit Didi, he never chastised Didi for anything, and he never even yelled at Didi. Didi was an Angel, and Lee was just a Demon that Dam wished had never been born.
It was on the fifth day that Lee had begun to grow hostile and unwoven by these memories and being around Didi so much. With huge bags under his eyes from his sleep-deprived nights, and his stomach constantly growling from like of proper sustenance, Lee sat, his back being supported by the decrepit walls, his hand strummed over his bent knee. He watched irritated as Didi munched on the remains of a pretty rotten tomato. Didi ate normally, but at this time it appeared to Lee more as incredibly savagely, and the juices that were emitted poured down his chin. Lee, so easily irritated and so delirious, shook with rage as he remarked, "Stop that."
"Stop what?" Didi asked, his mouth filled with tomatoes.
"Stop eating like a freaking animal."
"Oh," Didi said, taking another large bite. "No."
"Son of a bitch!" Lee roared as he thrusted himself onto his brother, starting to punch him in the face. They rolled around on the floor a bit, each getting a few blows here and there, until a group of Sandbenders ran in and tore them apart, kicking them until they stopped wriggling. Their faces covered in sand and blood, they were both taken forcefully to another hallway, where Fu Chin was waiting for them.
"So, couldn't stop from fighting, huh? Tsk, tsk...I truly hate when my sons bicker. Very well; if you two are so keen to stretch your muscles, than let's start a little bit of a challenge, shall we? We'll send you both out into the deserts, you can walk around a bit, relax, work on you tans. Oh, but you'll need to bring a sacrifice; whoever catches the best will get a small feast, some of our finest lamb. But if you lose, then a-beaten you will be!" The whole time he smiled his unnatural smile. "Sound good? Wait: I don't care. You're doing it. Get them prepared, men."
The Sandbenders provided them with Sandbender rags, which they draped over them; the clothes made them look incredibly like the desert-walkers themselves. Along with the clothing, Lee and Didi were equipped with a long chain and robe, and a knife. They felt like gladiators, slaves being shipped off to fight for these people's sick enjoyment.
At sunset, a group of benders took Lee and Didi onto a sand sailor, and sailed it across the desert. Lee was unsure if they would ever stop; the time moved so slowly and he felt so constrained in the rags. Finally, though, the sailor stopped in front of a large dune, and two Sandbenders untied the ropes from the Lee and Didi's wrists which were bound to him them before their departure, and then chucked them both out onto the sand.
"We'll come back and collect you two at sunrise," one Sandbender, named Chi, told them. "Try and still be alive. Fu Chin'll be pissed if another one of his sons die on him." And then the sailor blasted off.
With the depleting sun still beaming down on them with great fury, they trekked across the sand, sweating like pigs through the rag. A large sandstorm had started to immerge, and so crippling waves sand collided with them as they shuffled through the desert.
"Where's this sacrifice we're supposed to find?!" Didi shouted to Lee through the storm.
Lee called back, "They expect us to just find it, for some reason. Damn them..."
And after a while of trekking through the sand, they had stood on top of a dune and looked out around them. From there, they finally found their sacrifice; a giant beetle was lying on its side, dying; the buzzard wasps had not yet gone and eaten at it. This was their golden opportunity. They pulled out they chains and scrambled to get to the rotting beetle first. They pushed and they kicked, but they finally got to the beetle. Lee pushed Didi to the ground and was ready to throw the chain and catch the dead beast, but something happened.
Now what happened to Lee was a total mystery. Something had just compelled him, maybe brotherly love, or maybe just natural human compassion, but whatever it was, Lee dropped his chain right there, and merely stared at the dying beetle. The fleeting sun reflected on the beast's peeling scales and glowed slightly, and blood stained the ground around it.
"Didi," Lee said, keeping his eye on the beetle. "Get up and get the beetle. Go, you can have it."
"You're trying to trick me, aren't you?!" Didi declared, getting up from the ground.
"No, Didi, I'm not tr-just do it, okay?!"
Didi looked hesitant at first, but eventually pulled out his chain and roped the beetle and tightened the chain. Exhausted, the two slowly plopped down beside the beetle, and the whole night they just stayed silent, gazing at the stars.
The Sandbenders came to pick them up the next day at sunrise, and they and the beetle were taken back to the chamber. Fu Chin was waiting for them outside the basement door that led to the chambers. He smiled as he saw the beetle.
And so Didi was sent back to his cell with a thing of lamb, fresh and roasted and looking scrumptious, while Lee was taken, bound with robes and rags, into the center of the town. The Sandbenders whipped him and beat him, kicking him, punching him, hitting him with sand. Lee screamed in agony, but it was flooded in the waves of cheers from the citizens watching. And the whole time, all Lee could think about, all he saw, was the face of Didi. And it filled him with such hatred, such vile thoughts, it shakes me to the core as I write about it.
The beating took hours, and Lee wasn't returned until night. When he went into his cell, he saw Didi, eating the last bit of the lamb. He clenched his fists and grinded his teeth; he had lost all sanity, all control, all caring, for that one little moment, and in an act of unrestrained rage, he pulled out a piece of the chain he had in his clothes, walked over to his brother, and repeatedly struck it down upon his face, growling the whole time. And when he felt it wasn't enough, he tossed the chain aside and begin thrusting his fist viciously into his brothers face. Blood gushed out and smeared all over his hands and face. He tore at his brother angrily, and it was so foul, it can not even be summarized into words. Blood all over him, he dropped his brother's lifeless body onto the stone floor. He breathed heavily, panting, coughing, and then dropped to the floor, tears streaming down his face. And outside, Cao just stood, smiling, and did not intervene at all.
When the morning finally arrived, Lee was done with his deal with the Sandbenders, and Slythrin came to pick him up, drabbed in a hooded robe. His clothes still stained in blood and torn, his face still cut and filthy, he was taken out from his cell, Slythrin standing there, waiting for him.
"Where's your brother?" he asked immediately. Didi's body had been taken in the night while Lee was sleeping.
"I don't know," Lee responded, deadpan-like. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Slythrin smirked. They each exited the chambers and went out into the village, where Fu Chin was standing and bid them farewell, noting that their deal was now sealed, and the loyalty of his clan rested in Slythrin's handed.
Once they had gotten to the cart, Slythrin surprised Lee by drop kicking him in the shins, sending him down on his knees and into the sand. From his robe he unveiled a branding staff, still hot, which he struck down into Lee's collar viciously. Lee screamed in agony.
"Behold, the mark of the sinner!" Slythin exclaimed. "You have been internally baptized in the name of the Greater Spirits, forever in their presence! Cast away from humanity, and branded now as but a bastard! You're less than human now, Lee, but in that you are greater than one! And now, if anyone tries to lay a finger on you, they feel my wrath, and my vengeance. I'm so proud of you Lee; you have learned the meaning of murder." He smiled his eerie smile and once more his tone switched unexpectedly to that of desperation.
And now forever engraved on Lee's skin was "我不是特别" – "I am not special."
Cain and Abel
"Be Thou a Cain" is based loosely on the Biblical passage of Cain and Abel, which is about the sons of Adam and Eve; Cain grows jealous of Abel and kills him in a field. Many aspects of the chapter parallel story elements of the aforementioned series of Bible verses. Didi is portrayed as being the Shepperd of a pasture while Lee is described as a laborer, which were each the professions of Abel and Cain, respectively.
Lee and Didi's parents are direct allusions to Cain and Abel's parents, Adam and Eve, as they are shown to steal from a sacred garden and are cast out of their town. In the Bible, Adam and Eve (the first humans God created on Earth) are tempted by a serpent to defy God and eat an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, and are therefore cast out of the Garden of Eden forever and branded as sinners. Their names, too, epitomize the figures. "Dam," meaning blood, is believed to be the root of the name "Adam," and "Hevvah" is Eve's Hebrew equivalent. Lee kills Didi, symbolizing the climax of Cain and Abel.
Upon being asked Didi's location following the murder, Lee quips, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" which is a near direct line from the passage. Finally, Slythrin brands Lee and gives him the "mark of the sinner," allowing him to be forever protected by Slythrin, which is directly based on the mark God gives Cain as punishment for his sin. His speech is also referent to how God describes his actions during the marking.
Political themes play an important role in "Be Thou a Cain." Aang, Zuko, and Kuei's entire B-plot is based entirely on politics. The three, being three of the key political figures in the world, are forced to confront another set of key political figures (the Council of Five) about political matters. The Council say that they did not get the law vetoed by the Earth King because they wanted to avoid being verbally chastised by political pundits. Their dialogue also evokes general political conversations. Slythrin and Lee's plot also is based loosely around politics, as Slythrin wishes to form an alliance but must first offer up a barter to represent his loyalty.
In the mid-to-late months of 2009, SuperFlash began developing titles for chapters of Better World's "New Politics" Chronicles. At one point, he was going over the Wikipedia page for episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and stumbled upon the second-to-last episode of the series, entitled "Adam Raised a Cain," which was named after the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name. Flash was thoroughly intrigued by the title, due to both its wording and Biblical meaning. Therefore, he decided to name the third chapter of the Chronicles "Be Thou a Cain," which both utilized the "a Cain" suffix of the episode and song and also incorporated the same wording as an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist entitled "Be Thou For The People."
With the title in mind, SuperFlash decided to delve into themes of brotherhood, and choose Lee in order to do so. He chose to name his younger brother Didi, the Chinese word for "younger brother." In original drafts of the chapter, Lee and Didi originally acted rather normal towards each other initially and grew more hostile as the chapter progressed. However, upon rewriting the chapter, he decided to have them be dysfunctional from the very beginning, and make Didi, being the younger brother, more immature and rude to Lee.
In including the Sandbenders in the chapter came to Flash immediately when he was developing the plot of the chapter. He felt it was only fitting to use them as the people keeping Lee prisoner, as well because they were only briefly mentioned in the previous chapter, "," and wanted to expand on them. Fu Chin was an interesting character to develop, as he wanted him to resemble Slythrin in his eeriness, sporadic behavior, and philosophical beliefs, but also wanted him to seem even more malicious. In turn, Slythrin is portrayed as much unstable and desperate in this chapter, a drastic change of character for him.
While writing the chapter, SuperFlash was reading the Chronicles of Narnia novel The Horse and His Boy. Therefore, unintentionally several pieces of dialogue in the episode are done in the tone of that book, which Flash believed greater improved it and let it be much more realistic. The line, "In other words, we're total badasses," was Flash's favorite line in the entire chapter. He also enjoyed Didi's sadistic remark, "I believe your ex-girlfriend would disagree," mainly because "I have a guilty pleasure for 'That's what she said' jokes."
"Be Thou a Cain" employs two different writing styles Flash had not used in previous chapters: dark comedy and uncomfortableness. On the dark comedic aspects, several remarks in the chapter are humorous despite being serious in execution and meaning. Zuko and Aang both twice break out in hoarse laughter upon hearing something unintentionally funny, each bearing expressions of hopelessness, which Flash found was almost impossible to perfectly describe. Other things purposely meant to be humorous cause them to laugh, as well, despite atmospherically being serious. Flash also made the chapter open up an uncomfortable atmosphere for the reader. Many cliffhangers are scattered throughout and characters are incredibly unpredictable and the reader is unable to know what they are to do next. On IRC one day discussing the chapter, Flash said, "It's pretty much the most awkward chapter yet."
The chapter also addresses media attention in the Avatar world, an element Flash hopes to use continually throughout the series. Such media reaction was first mentioned in "Spare the Innocent" during the narrative while Zuko walks up to Aang at the graveyard. One of the Council of Five members was named Kai, after fellow Avatar Wiki user The Return of the King where an insane Denethor gluttonously devours a tomato and the juices crawl down his chin in the same manner as in the chapter.
Complications and delays
While halfway through writing the chapter (which at that point alone was around 10 pages long) in 2009, Flash's computer crashed and was unable to turn on due to the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. When his computer was returned to him upon being repaired, the document was completely deleted from the hard-drive and he was, unfortunately, forced to rewrite the entire chapter. He was unhappy about this as he felt the original draft was handled superbly and he thought he would be unable to rewrite it well-enough. Many things that were in the original draft were revised for the second and final version, such as Fu Chin's name and Didi's aforementioned personality. After approximately three months of re-writing, Flash finished the chapter and had it edited by fellow Avatar Wiki user,, and then published it on the wiki.
The chapter received incredibly positive reviews from users. Vaznock said the chapter was "an amazing read[...]from start to finish," and noted his enjoyment of Didi's murder scene. Waterkai enjoyed his "cameo appearance" and said of the chapter in general: "As usual Flash, you get to surprise with your awesome writing style and interesting [plot] twists." called it "great," singling out Slythrin's "dramatic entrance" in the beginning of the chapter. noted that the chapter sparked his interest in the story, while was speechless due to the chapter's quality, merely remarking: "Wow. Just wow. Too awesome."
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Better World chapters|
| The New World Chronicles
|Bad Start - Hunted - Settling Scores - Eruption - Aftermath|
The New Politics Chronicles
|Bitter Empire - Spare the Innocent - Be Thou a Cain - The Will of All Mankind - Forgive Me, Lord... - ...For I Have Sinned - Bathe With the Dogs - Into Here I Am - John the Revelator - Brothers in Arms|