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Betrayals is the eighth chapter of the AU fanfiction story.
Four years pass as Sozin makes preparations. Sozin invites airbender monks to the capital city on a diplomatic visit, but he ambushes them at dinner and threatens them with death if they do not help him. Only Afiko, fearing for his and Taro's lives, agrees. Afiko travels to the Southern Air Temple with to steal the sky bison so the Air Nomads cannot escape the battle.
For four years, Sozin postponed what he knew would be the final negotiation with the Air Nomads for Kalden Island. Finally, Afiko, Lobsang, and three other monks were summoned directly to the Royal Palace. "Just let me do most of the talking," Afiko told the others as they approached the palace.
"A little full of yourself, aren't you?" Lobsang cautioned him. "You are lucky we agreed to let you participate in the negotiations as it is, Afiko. You should be mindful of your place, or when we return I will recommend you for disciplinary action again."
Afiko scoffed at the plump monk. "Stifling my way of thinking, just like always. First I'm left to be passed around from monk to monk after my mentor died. Then you senior monks refused to allow me to train the Avatar. You never even considered me. And you refused my suggestion to make a preemptive strike against the Fire Nation, even when you know the situation looks dangerous!" Afiko growled as they walked through the large golden doors to the palace.
"You sound like a petulant child. Be quiet," Lobsang told him.
As they walked through a maze of hallways, escorted by two servants Afiko continued to argue with Lobsang in a loud whisper. "One day the airbenders' survival will depend on me and my ideas, and you'll beg for my help. You'll see my way is the right way." Even if I have to make you see. Lobsang just let out a frustrated sigh and rolled his eyes as they finally entered the throne room.
Sozin greeted them with open arms. "Welcome, monks of the Southern Air Temple! We'll begin these negotiations later, but first I would like to take you on a tour showcasing the Fire Nation's recent industrial progress...to promote good relations between our two great nations." Sozin smiled again, and lead them out of the throne room.
The monks followed his sedan chair all over the city. He showed them the dojo where firebenders were training, the steam-powered warships at the docks. Each time the monks were shown a deadlier and more destructive war machine. At each location the tour guide emphasized the destructive power of what the monks were being shown.
Finally Sozin showed them the new tanks. "Notice the treads and grappling hooks. These are designed for all-terrain deployment and can easily traverse uneven ground, ice," Sozin paused and smiled at the monks, "even scale a mountain." Lobsang looked at Afiko, and Afiko returned a smug expression, hoping the others were realizing they should have listened to him about the Fire Nation. Nevermind that Sozin was threatening him as well.
Sozin conducted them back to the palace. A table laden with food was set up in the throne room. Kuzon sat at the right corner, closest to the throne. Sozin looked around and adjusted his sword as he took a seat on the throne. "We'll commence the negotiations after dinner. I'm sure you gentlemen must be hungry after our tour." The monks ate calmly. They were concerned, but it was not in the nature of an airbender to act out of fear before exploring other avenues.
When they had finished and the plates were cleared, Sozin said, "Gentlemen, I promise these negotiations will be quick--," there were some chuckles, particularly from the other Fire Nation representatives, "--because there won't be any. I don't have to negotiate with the Air Nomads, or anyone, anymore." He raised his hand sanctimoniously and snapped his fingers.
Immediately secret police flooded through the doorways as Sozin bent the veil of fire before the throne to protect himself. Even the other Fire Nation nobles were firebenders in disguise. Kuzon jumped up and drew his dao. The airbenders took out some of the troops, but they were in a confined space and the firebenders had the advantage in numbers. One monk tried to fight off three firebenders and was run through. Kuzon saw this and immediately felt sick. He couldn't fight anymore and tried to flee. Afiko saw Kuzon hanging back, and took the chance to attack. Kuzon dodged one of his blows, but couldn't stand to hack his sword into the airbender and actually kill him. Afiko didn't fail to take advantage of Kuzon's hesitation. He hit Kuzon with a harsh air blast, slamming him into a column. Gizu immediately struck Afiko in the back, grappled his hands and began to increase the heat flow out of his hands, mildly burning those of Afiko. Afiko and the others were subdued, shackled, gagged, and held at bladepoint.
Sozin addressed them with a haughty laugh. "What you saw was merely the tip of the iceberg, as far as this nation's military might is concerned. You've seen how easily I can take back my island, and whatever else I may want from the Air Nomads. And make no mistake: I intend to use my armies, soon." Sozin glared at them for a moment. Then he began to nonchalantly examine his fingernails, showing the monks their fates meant nothing compared to his grand scheme. "But I would never want it said that Firelord Sozin was not a generous adversary, so I offer you four a proposition: Go back to the Air Temple and smuggle every last flying bison back to me. Any who cooperate will be rewarded with land, wealth, and a place in my court, not to mention their lives. You might as well cooperate. Within a week the Air Nomads will be a defeated people." Sozin motioned to the guard. "Captain, remove their gags." The soldiers held their swords right against the monks' necks, giving them no opportunity to airbend and escape. Sozin gloated over them with a smile.
As soon as the gag was out of his mouth, Lobsang spat at Sozin.
"Then kill us," Monk Lobsang said, without hesitation. "Any airbender would rather die than serve a warmongering tyrant." Afiko only looked at the floor as the other monks shouted in agreement.
Sozin snarled. "Fine. Oblige them," he ordered the soldiers.
"Wait!...I'll help you." It was Afiko.
Lobsang looked at him. Tears welled up behind his glasses. His words were steeped in disappointment. "Oh, Afiko..."
Afiko looked at Sozin as Lobsang was killed. He thought of his burn-scarred hand. I have no choice. This is the prudent thing to do. The airbenders are weak. They'll be captured or killed anyway. I always knew this would happen. I have to keep Taro safe. If we live, I can at least guarantee the survival of the Air Nomad race. His and Taro's survival was the paramount value to Afiko. Even though it went against all airbender teachings, he had always had an intense fear of his own death. Taro was the only other person he had ever been close to, probably the only person in the world, besides himself, that he cared about.
"I have a pupil at the Southern Temple. If I help you, you must guarantee his safety as well." Afiko hoped he had the courage to die for his pupil if Sozin refused, but mainly he hoped Sozin just wouldn't call his bluff.
Sozin considered for a moment. "...Very well, I give you my word that he will be safe. You are now free to go," Sozin smiled at him. "But I'm sending my friend Gizu with you as an emissary, to make sure you haven't lied to me. You're not a liar"—Sozin breathed the word with mock disdain—" are you..." Sozin made a gesture indicating he should give his name, but Afiko could hardly stand to do so. He knew he had made a smart move, but he couldn't shake the sudden feeling of guilt that had come over him.
Finally, he spat out the word. "Afiko."
Kuzon remembered something. "Afiko, tell me, can't the monks escape on their gliders?"
Afiko felt his hand. He glared at Kuzon. "No," he growled. "Gliders are for short trips. They'll never make it off the archipelago. No one can airbend for that long."
Sozin regarded him. "Hmm...We'll have to set up a blockade to catch potential fugitives. It's a fool-proof plan," he smiled. "Afiko, your name will be revered by the people of the Fire Nation as that of a hero."
As soon as Afiko returned the next morning he went to the abbot. "Afiko! I'm surprised to see you back so soon," the abbot told him.
"To be honest, I'm surprised to be back this soon. The negotiations just went unbelievably well. The Firelord wants to start a whole new mercantile relationship with the Air Nomads." In the course of his lies, Afiko felt but a few twinges of guilt, and he justified these by telling himself that the monks deserved it and that he was doing it for Taro.
Gizu chuckled knowingly at Afiko's lie. "And who's this?" the abbot asked.
"A merchant from the Firelord," Afiko explained. "He's here to make sure we don't sell Sozin a bunch of...empty crates or something." He laughed nervously. "I told him that wasn't necessary, but the Firelord insisted, and I wouldn't want to offend him."
The abbot looked at Gizu suspiciously. "Of course not."
"The other monks are still in the Fire Nation, getting things ready on that end, paperwork and such, so I'm going to need 32 bison for a trade caravan."
"Thirty-two?" the abbot was incredulous. "No. That's the entire bison population at the temple...I'll give you twenty."
"I don't think you realize how important this opportunity is. I really need all thirty-two."
"What do we need this trade for? Air temples can easily be self-sufficient...Fine, I'll give you twenty-five."
"I really need all of them. There are many items to be delivered and we shouldn't risk offending the Firelord."
"Surely he wouldn't be offended if the caravan had seven less bison."
Afiko suddenly looked very frustrated. "Please, just give me all the bison."
The abbot gave him a stern stare. "Afiko...no. What could you possibly need thirty-two bison for?"
Suddenly his countenance became worried. He looked at Gizu. "You're too muscular to be a merchant. What is this?" He sprang off the dais into a back flip just in time to dodge a low fireball from Gizu. The abbot smashed him into the wall with a blast of air from his foot, while at the same time sending one in Afiko's direction with his hand. Afiko blocked it. While Gizu was unconscious, Afiko and the abbot exchanged a barrage of blows, all to be knocked away or blocked by the opponent. Afiko and the abbot moved spun like tops. Their arms were a single blur and their feet never rested. Finally, Afiko got close enough to catch the abbot's wrist. He locked it and pulled it towards him, performing a very basic airbending technique taught to children younger than Kunchen. The abbot knew it well. Afiko punched at the abbot with the other arm but the abbot moved it away. He shot his hand up toward Afiko's head, but Afiko caught the abbot's arm and locked it, then he tried to surprise the abbot with the same move on the other side. The abbot got his arm inside and locked Afiko's. Their arms were now completely entangled and locked together. Both struggled to break out, but neither could.
"You brought this on yourself," Afiko said. He turned 180 degrees, taking the abbot with him. Gizu had just come to, and he sent a fireball into the abbot's back. The abbot squirmed and moaned, losing consciousness. Gizu produced a leather rope and tied the abbot's hands, feet, even his fingers to make sure he could not airbend.
Afiko took Gizu to the abbot's office in the adjoining building. They dumped the unconscious abbot in the corner. Afiko quickly wrote up a notice of approval to allow him to take all thirty-two bison, stamped it with the abbot's seal, and did his best to forge the abbot's signature based on some other papers in the desk. He took it over to the monk who kept the bison stables. "Is everything all right?" the bison keeper asked. "I thought I heard a struggle."
"No, I was just demonstrating a form for our foreign guest here," Afiko lied. Gizu smiled and nodded.
"Well it was pretty loud," the bison keeper laughed. "Take it easy or you'll blow us off the mountain!"
"Oh, sorry," Afiko mumbled, laughing weakly. "Please just give me the thirty-two bison, all right?" He showed the bison keeper the note.
"That's a pretty big request. I'd better check with the abbot."
"The abbot, er, isn't feeling well. He retired early tonight."
"Oh my! Someone should check on him," the bison keeper said.
"Oh, no, I saw him before, and I'm pretty sure it was something contagious. I wouldn't go if I were you. I have a note from him right here. Isn't the note good enough?"
The bison keeper gave the note a cursory glance. "All right, all right," he said. Afiko and Gizu moved all the bison out to the courtyard to get them saddled up as quickly as they could. Afiko hitched them together using a special bridal that wrapped around the horns of each bison. It was almost exclusively for trade caravans. It allowed one monk to drive multiple bison. To make it look convincing, Afiko loaded several empty crates and baskets onto the bison. The irony wasn't lost on Afiko. On Gizu, it was.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Enemies and Traitors chapters|
|Prologues - Brothers - Responsibilities - Necessities - Resources - The Avatar - Opportunities - Preparations - Betrayals - Changing Plans - Scars - Counting Losses - Exiles - Ghosts - Homecoming - The Traitor and the Firelord - Escapes - The Last Chance - Legacies|