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|The Lotus's Secret|
February 8, 2011
The gang learn the history of the Order of the White Lotus, and Ursa offers them a chance to restore balance to the world through the use of a mysterious necklace...
Book 3 Chapter 4: The Lotus's Secret
Iroh nudged his way to the front of the group and placed his hand firmly on an oddly shaped stone lodged in the wall. He grunted and expelled a stream of fire into the wall, which activated a bizarre-looking mechanism that began to pop and whiz as it opened the wall, revealing a secret room.
Ursa chauffeured the group into the room while Iroh remained outside. Once everyone was inside the secret room, Iroh blasted some more flame onto the cleverly disguised button and the wall slid back into place.
Zuko grabbed hold of a lantern hanging on the wall and ignited it with Firebending just as all the outside light was extinguished.
"Let me see that, Zuko," Ursa said as her son handed it over. She waved it around in front of her and several small insects scurried away from the light and back into the shadows. There, sitting on a grand, ornate pedestal, was a small necklace with a pendant engraved with the symbol '蓮'.
"The necklace of the original White Lotus," said Ursa as she carefully raised the necklace from its pedestal, "a bird spirit that once lived among the humans. However, long ago, the Lotus was placed in great danger when a group of hunters mistook it for a simple bird and attempted to capture it to sell, figuring that a bird of its grace and beauty would no doubt sell for a high price to the right bidder."
She turned around and held the necklace out for them all to see. Had she not revealed it to them, none of them would have suspected it to be been anything more than a simple necklace. It certainly didn't have the appearance of an object of such value.
"The Lotus Bird was badly injured, but just before it was killed a peasant arrived and stood in front of it with his arms raised to either side. Somehow, the man knew of the bird's true identity as the Spirit of Peace. As the man fended off the hunters, the Lotus Bird began to glow until it was a ball of pure white light. It dissipated in front of their very eyes, leaving behind this necklace and a small field of the most beautiful lotus flowers that anyone had ever seen."
Ursa handed the necklace delicately to Zuko, who took great care to respect the formidable object that he now held in his hands.
"That peasant gathered a few of his closest friends together and they formed the Order of the White Lotus. The Order's duty was to protect the necklace, a gift from the spirit of peace itself. The group slowly grew, until one day when it seemed to simply disappear. But it was still very much alive, just hidden away from the public eye. And over time the Order of the White Lotus was forgotten by all but a few. We utilized the game of Pai Sho, with its White Lotus game piece, as a method of keeping touch with other members in secret after the group went dark and separated. Soon, the world underwent a period of intense change and split into the four nations that we know today, but the Order of the White Lotus was unaffected by this shift. We are a group of peacemaking, and division of nations will never change that. The Order lives on to this day as a group designed to protect this necklace, a gift from the White Lotus Spirit, and to promote peace and wisdom no matter the state of the world."
There was a moment of silence as everyone absorbed everything that they had just heard. Toph was the first to break the silence.
"So...now we know the history of the Order of the White Lotus," she said, "but how are we any closer to stopping Azula?" At this, there were several nods from the others.
"Because," said Ursa, "this necklace has the ability to transport the wearer between the mortal and Spirit Worlds. The Lotus Spirit left this necklace as a way that the people could seek its help one again, by traveling to the Spirit World and finding it at its home. Should the world be in danger, as it is today, we could approach the Lotus Spirit for the wisdom and guidance to resolve our problems."
"Has the necklace ever been used before?" Suki asked.
"Once," replied Ursa, "by Iroh."
"That's how he was able to travel to the Spirit World," Zuko realized. "After cousin Lu Ten died..."
"Yes," Ursa affirmed. "Your uncle sought the wisdom of the Lotus Spirit. It revealed to him the corruptness of the Great War, and imparted him with the knowledge that he needed in order to turn his life around and find his path in the world. Now, with both the mortal and Spirit Worlds thrown into peril, it is time once again to call upon the wisdom of the Spirit of Peace in order to restore balance."
A screeching noise filled the small stone room as the hidden door slid back open. A grim-faced Iroh spoke quickly. "The lesson is over. You children must go, right away."
"What is going on?" Ursa cried, as a sound like a tornado began echoing through the stone hallways.
"I do not know," Iroh shouted as the sound of rushing wind grew louder and louder behind him. "I fear that the worst is upon us. The Spirit World is falling apart!"
"What?" Sokka exclaimed. "What does that mean!?"
"There is no time!" Ursa shouted back to him. "Zuko, put on the necklace, quickly." As he did so, she screamed over the howling wind, "Now, all of you must place your arms on Zuko! Once you are all touching, Zuko must concentrate on his need to travel to the Spirit World, and if the necklace grants you access it will transport you there!"
They all placed their hands on Zuko as he scrunched up his eyes in concentration. A blinding light burst from the necklace around his neck and channeled itself throughout his body and across to everyone else touching him. They felt intense pressure squeezing on them from all sides. As they watched, the tunnel was blasted apart and the ceiling caved in.
"Mom!" Zuko screamed, but it was too late. "UNCLE!!"
As the Order's headquarters collapsed in on itself, the group was thrust through space and time until they landed firmly on a large stone rock in the Spirit World. The jolt back to reality sent everybody stumbling backwards. They all careened off of the platform where they had landed and plummeted into a body of murky water below.
As they all waded back to shore, coughing and spluttering, they noticed that before them stood an enormous temple reaching up toward the sky. And guarding the door at the entrance to the temple was the most beautiful white bird that any of them had ever seen...
Up next is a mid-season two-parter with another action-filled plot twist for good measure, haha. It's been a lot of story so far, but in the next few chapters you'll definitely see what it's all been leading up to...
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the symbol on the necklace is Japanese. It translates in English to 'Lotus.' ;)
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