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|Book 4 : The Avatar - Chapter 4|
November 2, 2014
Not far from Yu Dao there stood an unusual rock, almost black in colour and shining in the sun. The rock itself looked over a small pool, deep blue in colour, that tapered off into a gentle stream that meandered away down the rocky hills that surrounded it, plush with moss. To the left of the rock stood the base of a large mountain wall, from which a small but powerful waterfall fell, rising a delicate cloud of mist from its base as it hit the pool below. Smooth round stones stood at its base, almost like steps into the pool. It was upon this curiously beautiful dark rock a lonely figure sat, his knees drawn to his chest and his face staring into the deep waters.
Aang had come across this place as he fled from Yu Dao, desperate to be alone to think. He was more ashamed now, than angry. Ashamed that he had allowed Yuddha to bait him like that. Ashamed that, no matter how he tried to deny it, Yuddha had been right. He had worked hard to keep the rituals of his culture alive, through his friends and the Air Acolytes, but the fact still remained that the Air Temples were abandoned and he was the last remaining air bender. He had lost hope long ago that more would be found, and he knew that it was down to him to father more. He wasn't sure how it worked, whether all his children would be air benders, what would happen if none were ... He wasn't the least bit clued into the workings of such things, only that, with a water bender, his chances of fathering air bender children were quite lower than with a non-bender.
In truthfulness, he wanted to run away from all of it. He wasn't ready for any of that, and the thought of it being his duty made his blood boil. He loved Katara, her children were the only he ever wanted to father, but by doing so he could be turning his back on a future of air benders. On the future of the Avatar. He groaned and wrapped his arms around his head. He was sixteen ... who had to deal with this at sixteen?
After a few minutes he reached down and held the meditating beads that hung around his neck. It was now that he truly regretted cutting off his link to the previous Avatars. He had told Roku he needed him no longer, that the world had moved on past the advice he could give to Aang, but he hadn't realised in severing his link with Roku he had also severed his link with the Avatars before him. Avatar Yangchen had found him, though only through the sacred Air Nomad rituals. He sighed. What would Roku say? You need to put the fate of the world, of your people, before your own personal desires. He pulled a face, what else would Roku possibly say? In fact, he thought he knew that each of the Avatars would say something along the same vein, they had all agreed with Roku about ending Ozai after all.
"Is it just because I'm so much younger than they were when they became full realised Avatars?" Aang wondered out loud. "How can I feel so different from them?"
He looked into the pool a little longer, wondering at how closely the colour matched her eyes ... She would love it here. He felt a chill breeze rush across him and realised that it was beginning to grow dark. With a groan he stood and grabbed for his staff. He should probably get back to Yu Dao.
He arrived at the inn that he and Zuko stayed at whilst visiting Yu Dao not fifteen minutes later. It was a small building, but it was warm and it was comfortable, and it felt like a haven compared to the cold beautify of the council halls. He pushed open the door and went inside, where he saw Zuko and Toph sitting at a table, waiting for him. Avoiding Zuko's cool gaze he sat down, and the innkeeper came up to him.
"Good evening, Avatar, it's so nice to have you all back!" She beamed.
"Thank you, Kama," Aang replied, bowing his head.
"I'll get you your usual," she said with a smile.
"That's okay, Ka-"
"Nonsense! You've been busy all day, I insist that you eat something. Your friends already have. And I'll bring you all some tea."
"Thank you, Kama," Aang said again, smiling.
He sat awkwardly at the table for a minute before turning to Toph. "How are things with your father?"
"Eh, you know. He was angry when I said I was coming to Yu Dao. He threw some words, I threw some rocks, but we patched it out."
"That's good to hear."
"So, let's get straight to it, Twinkletoes, what did the council say about moving my dads refinery here?"
"Actually, we never discussed it."
"What?" Said Toph and Zuko at once.
"You mean we came all the way here and you didn't talk about either of things you wanted to talk about?" Zuko cried. "If you're wanting to build a refinery in Yu Dao the council will want to know about that. And so would I," he added reproachfully.
"I don't want to build a refinery," Aang snapped. "But we have to move them away from sacred Air Nomad land before they anger the spirits again."
Zuko's face lit up in many shades of confusion and indignation. "What are you talking about?"
"I realised on the way over here from the Fire Nation that I needed to see how Yuddha behaved at the council meeting before putting it forward. They mine iron here already, bringing Toph's father here and Satoru may cause conflict unless we can convince them to work alongside one another. I think we need to approach the existing mine workers and get their support before we talk to the council."
"Well, I'm with you there," Toph said. "But I don't think it'll be a hard sale. I mean, the Earthern Fire Refinery had a pretty sweet system going on. Who wouldn't want that?"
Kama came over with their tea and a bowl of rice and tofu for Aang. "Here we are. I made camomile tea, I hope that's okay. I figure you all need a little something to relax you."
"Thank you, Kama."
Once Kama had gone into the backroom Toph spoke up. "So what's the second thing you guys were going on about?"
"It's nothing important," Aang said hurriedly.
"How do you not know how this works by now? I can tell you're lying."
Aang sighed. "Well, Zuko has been getting word of some sort of rebellion going down. It's nothing big, just vandalism, but with Azula still on the lose there's always a worry it'll become more than this."
"So why can't the council know?"
"Because the Avatar wants to deal with it himself," Zuko scoffed. "Look Aang, I get it. You're sixteen, what Yuddha said in there was harsh and it's a lot to take in, and you don't feel ready to start repopulating the world with air benders -"
Toph let out a loud laugh. Aang scowled at her.
"But sorting out a few vandals isn't really your job, and you can't use that to avoid your real duties."
"I'm not avoiding them!"
"Let me deal with the rebellion. I will talk to the council. For now it's contained within the Colonies for the most part, and the authorities can keep on top of it. You need to focus on building up Yu Dao and restoring the Air Temples."
Aang let his cheek drop to his hand as the pushed the rice around his bowl. "No, it's fine, Zuko. I'll come with you. I lost my temper, I need to get back in there and set it right."
"So what happened in there?" Toph asked, reaching over and grabbing a handful of Aang's rice and putting it on her plate. "What? You're not eating it."
"I don't really feel like talking about," Aang muttered.
"Well, I get the general jist. You and Miss Prissypants just gotta get it on."
Heat rose to Aang's face and he glowered at Toph, letting his spoon drop to his bowl.
"I think I'm going to go to bed," he grumbled, whilst Toph sniggered to herself.
Aang was woken the next morning by a weight dropping suddenly on his chest. His eyes snapped open to see Momo's own large round eyes staring straight back into them. Aang groaned and pulled his pillow over his face.
"Momo what time is it?"
"Point taken." He sat up and crawled out of the bed towards the bathroom. He stared at himself in the mirror for a time, his eyes tired and circled. He ran a hand across his jawline, feeling the stubble underneath, then reached for blade that lay on the side of the sink. He brought it to his face and then paused. "Well, the world seems to want me to grow up, Momo. Maybe I should just accept it." He looked down at the lemur sat at his feet, then put the blade back down and washed his face.
Ten minutes later he walked down into the front room with Momo riding his shoulder. Zuko was already sat at the table, though it seemed Toph was still in her room.
"Morning," Aang said cautiously, as he sat down at the table.
"What's the plan?" Zuko asked. "I don't want to be in Yu Dao for much longer if I can help it, I can almost feel Mai's anger from here."
"We need to bring the council together to talk about the rebellion, and then I need to talk to the miners. I can't imagine we'll need to be here much longer than a couple days, and Appa and I can take you back to the Capital."
"What are you going to do after that?"
"I'll probably return to Yu Dao and try and finish negotiations. I'm hoping Toph can oversee the mining project, and the refinery."
As if on cue she walked through the door way and slumped on a chair next to him. "That means spending more quality time with daddy dearest, doesn't it?"
"When will the nightmare end," she said dryly.
"I thought you were getting on with your father?"
"Oh I am, but there's only so much father-daughter time I can cope with!"
"You guys really need to tell me what went on before you came to the Palace," Zuko piped up. "You're talking to your dad again? Angry spirits? Sounds interesting."
"Eh." Toph waved her hand at Zuko, uninterested.
After Kama offered to take a message to the Mayor regarding a council meeting later that afternoon, Aang and his two companions headed towards the stables where Appa had spent the night. He seemed glad to see them, and Aang burst into laughter when he saw that some of his fur had been pulled into plaits with ribbons dangling on the end. Three children looked up in alarm and scarpered away giggling. Appa groaned.
"Looks good on you, buddy!" Aang laughed, as Momo leapt of his shoulder to investigate the bison's new adornments. Aang patted his disgruntled friend on the nose and pulled out some liché berries out of his robe for him. Appa licked them up eagerly.
Before long the group was approaching Yu Dao Mines, not far from the city in a large expanse of dirt and rock. It was quite a sight to behold from the air, a huge crater in the earth, with a series of slopes running around the outside down deep into the center. The crater itself was shaped as a tight oval, with the red of the earth surrounding it contrasting with the deep grey of the slopes. On one side of the crater stood a number of huts, and as they drew closer they could see rows the glint of pickaxe's as the works hacked and cut away into the walls of the crater. They alighted close to the huts, and a large man, dressed in Earth Nation atire came to meet them.
"Who're you?" He barked.
"My name is Aang, I am the Avatar," he put his fist to his palm and bowed. "And with me is Firelord Zuko and Toph Beifong of the Earth Kingdom."
The man flustered. "The Avatar! Firelord Zuko," he bowed hurriedly. "Pardon my rudeness, I had no idea that the Avatar and Firelord would be joining me!"
"That's quite alright."
"My name is Gajja, I run the mines here at Yu Dao. What brings such esteemed people as yourselves here?" He looked across the three of them, confused and nervous.
"Actually we're here with a business proposal for you. Toph here informed me some time back that your mine is run by benders and non-benders alike?"
"We are. In truth there are far few benders working here than there used to, now the War is over. The mines here were a safe place for people to use their bending, but now they feel they can use their bending elsewhere without fear of attack from the Fire Nation." He glanced hurriedly at Zuko, stammering. "Uh, uh, begging your pardon of course, Firelord."
"That's quite alright, Gajja," Zuko replied. "I'm aware of how difficult it must have been."
"Well, the truth is that the mine has been suffering since the War ended. People just aren't interested." He threw his hands indignantly in the air. "We're at the cusp of a technological revolution but so few are willing to get involved. My miners do a good job, but pick axes just aren't as effective as earth bending."
"Well, Gajja, we're here to change that," Toph said, crossing her arms on her chest. "I know a guy who's gonna blow your mind."
The miner looked at her curiously. "How do you mean?"
"We met this guy on some sacred la-de-dah spirit walk-" Aang scowled at her "-who had found a way to increase production using machines, not benders. But some big angry spirit came and smashed it all down, mine collapsed, you know how it is." Gajja gulped. "To cut a long story short, the Avatar here has got his robes in a bunch and wants the refinery off his sacred nomad field."
Gajja stood for a moment, his mouth open slightly, looking confused. Eventually he shook himself and rubbed his head. "But ... I'd need to share the mine with someone else?"
"We'd want you to join your businesses together, Gajja," Aang said. "If things are going as badly as you say you can only benefit from this. You'd get a cut in what the refinery produces and benefit from what mining equipment that Satoru is able to produce."
Gajja suddenly puffed himself up, and indignant look on his face. "That's quite a tall order, Avatar. You can't just come here and tell a man he needs to change the way he does his business."
"I'm not saying you have to," Aang explained. "We have plans for Yu Dao aside from the coalition government. We want Yu Dao to be an example to the world, a capital, and your mine would be a huge part of that."
Gajji puffed up even more, sticking out his chest, and beamed. "We would be the greatest source of iron ore in the nation!" He exclaimed.
"Exactly," Aang said with a smile.
"I need to meet this Satoru first."
"Of course. Satoru and Lao Beifong will meet with you and they can explain how best they could benefit your mine. Toph here will oversee your discussions to help make it possible."
Not long later the group were flying off on Aang, feeling pleased with themselves.
"That went surprisingly well," Zuko said. "Almost too well for us."
Back in Yu Dao, Appa was led back to his stable, Toph had returned to her room, and Aang and Zuko headed towards the council hall. Aang felt his legs starting to drag as he thought about what he would say to Yuddha, and how the rest of the council would look at him after his outburst yesterday. Zuko gave him a comforting nod, and the scribe bowed and welcomed them into the tall colourfully lit hall.
Yuddha was already smirking as they entered the room. Aang ignored him and took his place beside the Mayor, who looked decidedly irritable.
"You know, I know I don't understand the inner workings of the Avatar, but it really would have been better if you'd said all you needed to say yesterday," he said.
"I understand, Mayor," Aang replied. "I felt this was something that I could deal with on my own, but seems my duty as Avatar won't allow me time for it."
Yuddha chuckled darkly.
"So what is it you need to tell us about?"
Aang looked across at Zuko, indicating he take the lead on this one.
"In the past number of months there has been word across the Capital of small pockets of rebellion starting in the Colonies and some areas of the Fire Nation," he said. "For now, it's nothing to be alarmed about. It's been restricted to vandalism rather than outright attacks on the towns or there people."
"Why haven't we heard of this?" Houka interrupted. "Surely if it's happening in the Colonies it's happening here?"
"For the time being it doesn't look like the vandals have reached Yu Dao yet. I'm as bemused as you, Houka, but it gives me reason to hope that it's not going to go out of hand before we can put a stop to it."
"What do you suggest?" Houka asked.
"For now, nothing. The guards should be on high alert for any activity, but we don't want to make an example of any vandals that are caught. The last thing we need is for them to become martyrs. A slap on the wrist and removing the graffiti should be enough."
Yuddha cleared his throat. Here we go, thought Aang.
"And if it gets worse?"
"Then the rebels stand trial and are given a fair punishment," Aang interjected. "We expected there to be some that aren't happy with the coalition, but I'm sure you can handle this."
"Very well," the Mayor sighed. "We'll inform the guards and send word to the surrounding Colonies to be on the lookout, increase their presence around the city. Is there anything else?"
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