|By The Snowbold||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from The Snowbold||Romance, Suspense||PG-13||Here||No update page|
|Birth in Fire, Death in Water|
August 25, 2013
There are always forces at work in this world. Some are for good, some are not...
Birth in Fire, Death in Water
Ma-Tin sat there quietly but was worried. It had been years since she had been to Republic City. And back then, she looked on the city admirably, now it was the enemy. Republic City couldn't know her views, and as such, she had to visit in a cordial manner.
It was dangerous though. If anyone in Republic City connected the dots, that her new anti-piracy initiatives, spearheaded by the new Grand Admiral Alov, were meant to target corrupt Republic politicians.
It seemed like an odd string but it was valid. Pirates that plagued trade between the Fire Nation and Republic City were largely from Republic City and either worked for or bribed powerful members of the government. By targeting piracy, it was hurting the pockets of politicians.
And right now, the Triads had gotten aggressive and gone into war with each other. At such an unstable position, Ma-Tin had to be the picture of a regal and benevolent friend. She couldn't betray any knowledge of the hard times that were befalling Republic City.
A knock on her door followed by an Imperial Guardsman's head announced, "Your majesty, we are here."
"For the hundredth time, Kage, call me by my name!" She muttered then, "Fate knows that no one else does."
"My apologies, your majesty."
She scowled at her childhood friend, knowing that he was just smiling under that helmet. Kage was a part of a noble family and a talented firebender, yet he joined the Imperial Guard. He was happy as a clam and was happier still when he was assigned to Ma-Tin's detail. The two were the best of friends. It wasn't until years later when he was assigned to her father's post that they talked less. Still, he was her closest friend.
"Well, I guess I have to look pretty now for the den of rats."
Kage walked down the ramp with the procession standing just beside the Fire Lord and the Regent. There were nearly twenty bodyguards as well as a small host of metalbenders from the Republic Police Force.
Captain Sukuinushi was at the head of the procession. While the young man smiled, his face was worn. Kage had heard of the recent troubles in the city and pitied the man. Saigono Sukuinushi was a truly righteous and noble man, but the chief of police was not. In the pockets of the Triads, the chief prevented any serious actions to be taken on the gangs meaning that men like Saigono would arrest them in the night and release them in the morning.
Rishu touched the ground and spoke, "Captain Sukuinushi, a pleasure to see you as always!"
"The pleasure is all mine, sir. We are always honored by your presence, and more importantly, by the presence of the Fire Lord."
Ma-Tin stepped forward, she was truly beautiful. Kage thought it sad. She was always overlooked. Her personality was timid in comparison to her family's history and she was always seen as someone to manipulate by others, even Rishu-sama.
That was why he joined the Guard, to protect her. His family didn't have the status for what he wished, but it did have it to get him as close to the woman he loved as he was right now. Even if she didn't know or reciprocate his love, he was happy to know that she was safe.
She was just about to greet the Captain when a blast of water broke against wood. Chaos erupted as men in blue came from nowhere. They landed onto the dock and attacked mercilessly. Whips and spikes of water formed from the great body of water and after the delegation.
Triads. Were they really so bold as to attack the Fire Lord? Kage didn't question, he acted. As an Imperial Guard, he was ingrained to give his life to fight for the Fire Lord. Yet, she did not cower, nor did Rishu. Both charged for the thugs and Kage saw for himself why the family ruled.
They were ruthless and powerful as man after man fell to their wrath. Rishu seemed to be unfazed by the world around him while Ma-Tin focused killing each opponent her eyes set on. Kage ensured that none got to close as he inched his way forward, bending flames to incinerate any thugs that dare touch her.
His eyes then turned to another attack. A massive ice spike from the sea shot for Ma-Tin. Her back to it, she had no inkling of its doom. Kage could shoot it, but it was too big to melt, it would still impale her. He ran with all the strength and speed his muscles could afford.
Yelling to try and at least get her attention, "Tin!"
Her head turned only subtly at the nickname, damn it! He charged right into her pushing her out of the way and promptly feeling a sick coldness take his body as blood gushed out.
Amber eyes screamed in terror as the sight before her filled her with horror and despair. Kage stood there with a massive ice spike impaled into the side of chest.
She heard Rishu mutter something, "Burn."
Screams followed as men ran off the dock, burning alive. Her attention was only on her best friend as he fell down.
"Kage! Stay with me, Kage, you're fine! The healers will take care of this!"
"Sorry, your majesty, but there is no coming back from this one."
"Please Kage, you're my friend," a tear left her eye as her friend pulled off his helmet. She looked again into those eyes. He was named because he had dark grey eyes like shadows. It always reminded her of Rishu's eyes. Both her and Kage always followed Rishu around as kids, while he was usually too busy to play.
They were best friends and it tore her when he was assigned out of her detail. When she became Fire Lord, they were together again. She could always talk to her best friend about anything. He was there for her. But now he lie there bleeding and she couldn't do anything for him.
Damn it! What sick game is this?! To be helped again and again, but never able to help others? Why couldn't she protect at least one person she loved?
"Don't leave me, Kage, please."
Tears escaped his dark eyes as he cupped her cheek in his palm, "I'm a shadow, 'Tin, I'll always be there for you, just like my love for you was always there."
He was about to say more when his eyes faded and his hand dropped. Ma-Tin nearly broke out in tears seeing his lifeless body when a hand held her shoulder. It was Rishu, his eyes seemed to be filled with sadness and regret as well, but there was control in him still.
That's right, she was the Fire Lord. She had to lead by example, she had to be strong. She wiped the tears away from her eyes as she stood up and walked back to the ship. One of the other guards approached and picked up Kage and carried him back.
Rishu did not follow her, he instead walked over for the Captain of the police, who was gripping a cut shoulder.
Saigono watched as Ma-Tin walked back up the ramp. What a disaster. For the Red Monsoon Triads to have attacked the Fire Lord? Even he didn't think they were so stupid. Several of his officers now lay on the floor and one of her own guards died as well. It must have been someone close for she begged him to stay with her, or was she that close to all her guards?
Either way, she didn't seem intent on entering the city now. Rishu's voice interrupted his thoughts, "This is unacceptable, Captain. We come here in good faith as friends and we are attacked?"
"My lord, I assure you, we will do everything in our power to make those responsible pay."
Rishu seemed to be unfazed by his assurances as he too turned for the ship that had just landed, "We have nothing more to discuss with Republic City. The renewing of our trade deals will have to wait until a time when it is safe to trade with this city again."
Saigono watched in distress as the Fire Nation's delegation left the way it came. Was this the future of the city? Shame and chaos? More and more companies and workers fled the city every week as violence broke out even in safe districts. There was even a murder in front of the Police headquarters.
Saigono hated it, he hated that things were this bad. And he hated that those who could stop it were so corrupt and vile. Something had to be done, or the city would die. He had to do something.
Love and Its Pains
Ma-Tin sat on the peak with tears in her eyes. Kage was the only friend she had at the end, and now he was gone. His words rang through her ears. Did he always feel that way about her?
He knew that joining the Guard meant he would live a life of servitude, Imperial Guards seldom had personal lives out of the Royal Palace just because of how time consuming the job was. They did it out of honor and love for their country. Was he content with that so long as he knew she was okay.
She had asked herself that so many times since her father died. She had never wanted any of this before. She just wanted to be normal. To be happy and have friends and be in love. Was that so much to ask for?
If she asked Rishu, she would feel worse, knowing he had even less than her. She had never seen Rishu-senpai with anyone if it wasn't business. He was a shell that acted human, and yet she envied him for that. If she couldn't have happiness, why not the emptiness that senpai had? If she couldn't feel, it wouldn't hurt.
Rishu stood there watching as trainers pressed the woman to her limit. She was bleeding from her wounds, and still she wouldn't yield as she gasped for breath. The key to this test was to test resolve, it was up to the one tested to give up. The masters would continue to attack her until she surrendered. It was the way Rishu thinned out the herd of recruits who sought to join the newly made Sky Dragons.
Paratroopers. The word was unheard of and its implications on the future of the military limitless. Anyone who could bend sought to become a part of that. But the Black Dragon needed only the best. Thirty-three of the finest firebenders in the world would have the honor of calling themselves Dragons of the Sky.
Before him stood a woman that he was skeptical of succeeding. he had no ill will to women, but he felt that they lacked the physical strength and mental conviction to kill and fight like the men he would recruit. Still, he would give any woman a chance to prove herself.
This Fire Nation Noble was one such woman. Lira, was her name, and she was determined to be a Sky Dragon. She had proven herself in every test to not only pass but excel. Now it was the final test, the test of will.
Could she fight no matter what? Would she go on till she was bled dry or would she surrender and give up?
Rishu had seen enough now to make his decision. He had held his doubts and was personally overseeing this test. He clapped his hands once in fast and final tone. The two firebenders who were assaulting her halted as Lira fell to her knees, her body had finally given up even if she hadn't.
"Why do you persist in failure? You can't hope to win. Give up and heal your wounds. Marry a wealthy lord and become someone important. Surely that is more pleasant than this?"
She spat blood out of her mouth in defiance. Gritting her teeth, she answered, "Ha! That is supposed to be pleasant? Slave to a custom that chains me down? Servant to a man who hasn't earned my respect? Doing nothing and living gluttonously?"
"No!" She pushed herself up with trembling arms as blood covered her face, "I will fight! And I will die if that's what it takes to prove I am more than you think. I will never surrender if I can give one more breath and one more step in battle!"
Rishu smiled wickedly as he answered her, deciding her fate, "Very well, if that is your wish. Never have I seen anyone last so long in the Test of Will as you have. You have fought for the better part of a day, and longer than our current Dragon Commander by seven hours. If anyone has earned their place in my ranks, Lira, it is you."
She looked up with those determined eyes. Like eyes hungry for more, they did not care for wounds or blood or pain, only for more. The desire at the depth was only something she could fathom, and no one else. Rishu extended a hand to her, "Welcome to the Sky Dragons."
Rishu sat at the desk doing the tedious work that was necessary for a Grand Marshal. He really hated sitting behind a desk, it never suited him. His place was somewhere where he stood up with his hands ready to kill.
And to expedite that purpose, he needed help in the form of an officer who could do it for him. Looking through the various folders of soldiers who fit the criteria, he felt like it was more work than doing the work itself.
He had already interviewed a few of the men personally and was woefully disappointed. Now he was going to start again. Next in line, Lieutenant Liam. A swordsman with unparalleled tactical skills who tested on par with most senior generals. He had joined as a grunt but was given an officer's commission upon his testing. Young and new, he was still not fully set in the ways of Fire Nation politics; both an advantage and disadvantage.
Liam entered the office, ever so calmly. He smiled while his eyes gleamed with a hungry look. Rishu liked that. Most men had no desire, they simply were here to make money or make their fathers proud. That wasn't enough for Rishu, not when his plan needed power behind it.
"Lieutenant Liam, your Captain tells me that you are well known for both your analytical skills and your swordsmanship. He says he has never in his life seen either to be housed in such a young man."
"Captain Takahata is a generous man."
"Perhaps, which is why I seek to find out for myself exactly what you are and decide whether I want that for my office."
"How shall we decide that, my lord?"
Rishu smiled slyly.
Liam tugged at the collar of his coat. He held his Jian firmly but not so tight that it was unwieldy. Rishu observed the young swordsman. His test commented that he was better than all of his trainers and challengers in the military, so he had never lost.
"Tell me, Lieutenant, are you afraid?"
"What is there to be afraid of?"
"Think about it. If you are not as good as your records indicate, I may be displeased and dismiss you. If you are, you might injure me and wound my pride. Anything can be something to fear."
"There is nothing to fear. The records only show the limit of the men I fought, not my own. And if its is my goal not to embarrass you, then withdraw and you won't be shamed."
Rishu chuckled, "Very well, here I come."
Rishu drew his weapon, a Wakizashi only half the length of his opponents weapon. Black as night, it was a magnificent sword, crafted by masters of an unknown time. Liam focused on it. Did the Grand Marshal really mean to challenge him with such a small sword? The only way he could win and compensate the shorter range was to move fast.
Liam was confident in his speed and agility, which was enough to beat every opponent he has faced. The young man lifted his sword up, instantly, Rishu charged forward like a bullet.
Liam leapt back after a flurry of distracting attacks rushed him. The Grand Marshal was certainly fast and agile to have forced him back like that so quickly. Liam thrust his sword forward in fast cycles of back and forth, repeatedly stabbing after the black clad warrior.
It was in vain, as if the man read his every movement, his head, neck and shoulder were never where he attacked. He swung down, forcing the Grand Marshal to duck. Rolling away, the Grand smiled, "Very good, very few are able to counter me."
Liam smiled as he charged. If he wanted to prove himself, he wouldn't give the Grand marshal a chance to catch his breath, he would attack again and again and tire him out.
It seemed like an eternity and yet he was no closer to tiring or even hurting the dangerous royal. He was breathing exhaustedly but barely, his stamina had been honed by years of cruel training in the hot sun and dense sweat of jungles so that when the time came, he wouldn't tire.
"Your stamina is good," Rishu spoke as if it wasn't a strain to talk and fight while in a dance of steel. "But your readiness for the long fight is not."
A sharp rap sent pain ringing from his hands and he let his sword fall in the moment. He realized his mistake too soon as the black wakizashi rested against his throat.
"You are good, but you are so used to not having a real challenge that you have fallen into a habit of using the same moves, the same ones necessary to beat ordinary foes."
"Don't make that mistake again. In the time between your work, I will test you in spars and you will give it your best every time, understood?"
"Yes, sir." Liam bowed as he smiled. He was tired, but he had proven himself to the Grand Marshal.
"Tell me, lieutenant, what is your ambition?"
"What is it that you seek to do that becoming my right hand man would expedite?"
Liam weighed answering. Giving away too much was dangerous, as was giving to little. He felt that Rishu could sense more than he knew and lying would be nigh impossible, "I have seen your actions and know that war is inevitable."
"I wish to be at your side so when that war comes, I can be there to challenge someone."
A hatred took the young swordsman's eyes, "Arkoda."
"Chief of the Southern Water Tribe? What quarrel do you have with him?"
"His existence, that is my quarrel with him."
Rishu knew those eyes, hatred. Hatred so pure that water was filthy to it and air choking. The hatred of this man was so ingrained in this young officer. Rishu smiled as he reached out his hand, "You will have your chance at him, patience and loyalty is all I ask in return."
Rishu kept his usual cool and calm facade, but he was nonetheless irritated with the woman before him. She wore red as a citizen of the Fire Nation but has much darker skin and sapphire blue eyes. Her long black hair hung behind her wildly as she argued with the Grand Marshal.
"Ralyn, such an occupation is unbecoming someone of your power and lineage."
"I could care less about lineage. This is a career with profit and power. The Seasons are the most powerful Mercenary Company in the world, they have a master of every discipline and have members all over the world."
"You know that mercenary work is largely illegal in most of the world, right? You will be an outlaw or suspect wherever you go. You will always be moving to the next job and the next payday. What kind of a life is that?"
"You're not much better, Rishu. You're a shadow. Yes, it attracted me at first, but there is a hole in you where humanity should be and you lack it. You could just as soon make love to me as burn me alive, Rishu."
Rishu didn't respond to affirm or deny her statement, "And that's what bothers me."
"Ralyn, if you go, your citizenship will not protect you as it had with the Water Tribe."
"I know. I have never belonged, Rishu. A waterbending citizen of the Fire Nation? Such a contradiction, that I couldn't be accepted. I'm going somewhere where I belong. Goodbye, Rishu."
She left off from the fine room as the man she had been with secretly for years gave her no objections. Now very clear of earshot he muttered to himself, "Hm, how interesting."
Tongues of Fire
Ma-Tin sat in contemplation by the pond of water. Turtle Ducks swam by in their own peace as the Fire Lord lightly tossed bread out over the water. It was so long ago since she had done this. At least since before her father died if not longer.
How many years ago was it? She could barely keep track, was it three or four years she had been Fire Lord? It felt more like ten as the stress and lies built up and weighed down on her.
She could only wonder how Rishu senpai did it all. As if to answer her questions, the cry of a Raven-Eagle took the sky. The Turtle Ducks furiously swam away as it dove for the pond. It landed beside Ma-Tin as its massive wings folded into its back making it seem much smaller than it did in the air.
It bowed before to the young woman, piquing her interest. She then realized that it had an item attached to its back. It was a roll to hold scrolls. It struck her as odd to see such an item. Scrolls were rarely used in such an advanced world as they lived in. To use them in the Fire Nation was a sign of deep respect and care.
She opened the letter and at first was confounded by the script before her until she recalled her old lessons. It was an ancient dialect called Fire Tongue.
Fire Tongue. Ma-Tin laughed at the simplicity of it. Fire Tongue was the perfect encryption. Fire Tongue, or Noble Tongue, was a language derived from common tongue in the ancient days. The Fire Sages had broken off from the mainland and naturally in isolation had developed their own tongue. After a while, only the Sages and Noble families had practiced it, and now only the Royal family and the High Sage did so. As son of a Prince, it was mandatory for Rishu to learn in case the throne fell to him.
In Fire Tongue, only the High Sage could break their communication, for there were no other royals besides herself and Rishu now. Sure enough, his name was written at the end.
She read through the letter, she smiled faintly, "Thank you, Rishu senpai."
Rishu looked out into the great caldera that Capital City's Royal District lie in. A warm breeze brushed the windows as he spoke to the setting sun, "Master, it is done. Republic City is at war with itself. By now, Saigono has taken action for himself, as we planned. He will die soon enough."
"And the Fire Lord?" A slithering but overtly powerful voice questioned his mind.
"Drowning in sorrow, the loss of her friend was unexpected but helped to push her to the edge we needed."
"No, it is not so unexpected." The slithering continued in his mind as he observed the red skies that surrounded the horizon.
"What do you mean?" Rishu took a brief and unusual look of confusion, it was something he never really had at this point in his life.
"If I can grant one power, I can take it away. I gave the boy nothing but his body to use as a shield to ensure the right effect."
"Interesting, I was not aware you could or would do that."
As if chastising him, the voice answered authoritatively, "Do not assume that you know the depth of me. You understand me no more than you do what lies at the depths of the oceans."
He bowed his head lightly accepting the stern admonition. "My apologies, master. But I do know you better than anyone."
A growl more akin to someone frustrated took place of the usual voice. The hissing subsided to what had to be laughter. "Never forget the price of that bond, boy."
- Ma-Tin loses one more strand to her past.
- Ralyn was with Rishu but couldn't stand his lack of emotion and empathy.
- Liam reveals his motive for serving Rishu and how he figured that the Fire Nation would go to war.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
Storms of the Future Cycle
|The Journey of Tala|
|Book 1 - Sand and Steel|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Book 2 - Blood and Swamps|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Book 3 - Pyres and Storms|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Fates and Vows|
|- - - - - - Ilera - Solace Fade - Scions - Sovereign|
|The Rise of Lirin|
|- In the Morrow - The White Dragon - Faith in Blood - The Great Gates - Lord Avatar - A Red Sun - Faceless - Faction - Tempest - Rally of Crows - Rally of Eagles - Dragons and Serpents - Kings and Men - Storms of a Spirit - Princes - A Battered Land - Seas of Ichor - Arbiter - Return to a Grave - Declination - Disaffection - Epilogue|
|Myths of the Empire|
|Pacification - Assassins - Empire - Red Sun Under The Empire - White Snow - Heirs|
|The Reclamation of Arein|
|Book 1 - Chaos|
|Refugee - Rogue - Ghosts - Dark Roses - Doyen - Divulgence - The Plan - Abscond - Mists of Illusion - Madonna - Syndicate - Playing the Stakes - Purge - Brothers|
|Book 2 - War|
|Alliance - Temple - Tensions - The Fall - Hunters and Prey - Lussuria - Shades of Relevance - Broken Star - Defiler - Strikeforce - Secrets of the Lair - Eminence - Swarm - Wanderer|
|Dreams of Melasa|
|Book 1 - Servant|
| - - - - - - - - - - - - -
|Book 2 - Shadow World|
|Faint but Clear - Ghost in the Steel - Kurotama - Loyalties - Servants of Shadow - Game of Fate - Shadows and Reflections - Tomb of Blood - Broken Blades - Hill of Shadow - Souls and Swords - Home|