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July 27, 2014
Jaro's birthday party has been over for a couple of hours. The moon is full this night with not a single cloud in sight. A cold breeze bites at Kharum's skin but a life of living in Severnyy has toughened him to where he can ignore it. He glides his fingers over the eagle feathers of his arrow as he nocks it into place. Staggering his stance, he glues his eyes to the simple target staked to the tree just out of torch light in his home's backyard. His breathing is steady as he raises his bow and pauses taking in the moment.
With little effort, Kharum draws the bow his father gave him many years ago. This bow belonged to a Marshal who defended our country with all his might and will. His father's voice echoes through his mind. Kharum inhales and slowly exhales as he lets loose the arrow. The arrow cuts through the air and hits the center of the bull's-eye.
"Nice shot." Jaro appears through the back door of the family home. Kharum turns to his brother slightly and thumbs up. Resuming, he nocks another arrow and fires the shot...another bull's-eye. Jaro moves to stand behind his brother observing.
Kharum gazes at his target and asks, "So what'd they want?" He nocks another arrow while slightly tilting his head to hear what his brother has to say.
"They just told me that...I'm...probably...thevatar." Jaro mumbles the last part of the sentence still reeling from his meeting with the mysterious strangers. It is all still a blur in his head. Only his grandfather's words, "You might be the Avatar" and the sound of the grizzly voiced man remained clear.
"What was that?" Kharum draws his bow to let fly another arrow.
"They said that I could be the Avatar!" Jaro practically shouts it into the night, his voice full of excitement. Kharum fires a wild shot into the night equally stunned by his brother's words and the fact he missed the target.
Kharum turns to Jaro and sets his bow down. "What?!...wait...what d'you mean 'could be'?"
"I don't know that's just what they said...'could be'...then grandpa started talkin' about some spiritual mumbo jumbo on 'how we must listen to the spirits'...I don't know I wasn't really payin' attention."
Kharum sits down on a nearby bench to take in what his brother is saying.
Jaro continues. "Basically they said that I could be the next Avatar because of my birthday."
Kharum raises an eyebrow. "Your birthday?"
"Yeah, exactly sixteen years ago to this day is when the last Avatar died. Apparently there are a number of others throughout the Earth Kingdom with similar birthdays, so they're gonna try to get us all together to figure out who the Avatar is."
"Okay then... so who were those guys in the hoods?"
"I don't know. Some secret society grandpa's a part of...Their job's helpin' the Avatar.... They're real big on flowers though." Jaro whistles a cuckoo sound while twirling his index finger around his ear.
Kharum chuckles. "Okay, so where are they gonna have all of you meet?"
"I have to go to the Avatar Temple outside Ba Sing Se and do some kind of test to see which of us is the Avatar...the other hopefuls and me, I mean."
Kharum, the thinker he is, struggles with his brother's words. "Wait wait wait...hold on...you have to go all the way to Ba Sing Se just to take a test?"
"I don't know...they said doing it at the Avatar Temple could 'open my mind' to the Spirit World better or something. Usually the Avatars reveal themselves by this time but for some reason....yeah." Jaro heavily sighs already tired of the night's events. Between the late night, the excitement and the shear amount of information, he's amazed he hasn't crashed.
"Ummmm...okay? I'm still trying to wrap my head around this," Kharum says while rubbing his forehead. "If you're going to the Temple for the spirituality part, wouldn't it be easier to go to the Northern Air Temple? It's a lot closer."
"Hey, I didn't write the book. They told me Avatar Temple - Ba Sing Se." Jaro expected Kharum to say something encouraging, but his brother remains silent. "What's the matter? Don't you think this is awesome?"
Kharum tries his best not to sound demeaning. "I just...I don't know why you'd want to be the Avatar?"
This is hardly the answer Jaro was hoping for from his brother. "Are you kidding? Think of all the things the Avatar can do... they can control all the elements...they get to travel the world...and people-"
"Jaro, think! The Avatar's job is to maintain peace in the world, yeah? Have you forgotten the war going on within the Earth Kingdom? It'd be your job to end it and do you know what happened to the last Avatar who tried? He died!"
The bluntness of Kharum's response despairs Jaro. Jaro lowers his head his head in shame. Never is his older brother this pessimistic, and he hadn't thought about the previous Avatar.
"So before you go thinking about a life of adventure, think over what you have to do. If, and I mean IF, you are the Avatar, mastering the four elements should be first on your list!"
"I know how to earth bend..." Jaro smiles in hope that he lightened Kharum up a little.
"I said 'master'...throwing coal into a forge doesn't count." Jaro's smile disappears.
Kharum takes a deep breath and changes tone seeing that his brother is beginning to feel down. "Hey, listen...I'm only sayin' this cause you're my little brother and I don't want anything to happen to you. Besides, nothing's set in stone yet and you may not be the Avatar." Kharum puts his hand on his brother's shoulder and begins to chuckle.
Jaro raises his eyebrow at his brother and smiles stupidly. "What?"
"If you are the Avatar, I can't wait 'til you start Air Bender training." Kharum then pounds his left fist into his right hand and a burst of air shoots out around him.
Jaro's frown returns. Not cool.
The next morning, Jaro is back working at the forge learning his trade. This time he is there to assist his father. The previous night's events and the things his brother told him continue to swim through his mind. His movements are lackadaisical, being more in thought than in the moment, and his father takes notice. Khiril slams the hammer against the anvil with great strength folding the red metal in half.
"What're you thinking about?" He puts the metal he had been working on into the forge.
Jaro stares into the flames of the forge. "Nothing..."
"You're thinking about something."
Jaro shakes his head and raises his shoulders.
His father raises an eyebrow. "You find out last night that you could be the Avatar and you're not thinking about anything?"
"Nope." Jaro continues to shake his head.
"Really? I'm impressed."
Jaro quizzically looks at his father. Khiril pulls the metal from the forge with a pair of steel tongs and quickly places it on the anvil holding it steady. He hammers away at the red metal shaping it; every hit rings with purpose. In between hammer strikes, he talks to his son. "You normally- start talkin'- about anything- and everything- on your mind- going off- on tangents- talking to yourself- hahaha." Khiril puts the metal back into the forge. "I'm impressed that you can actually be quiet."
Jaro smiles and chuckles at his father's words. "I don't really know what to think...I mean what if I'm not the Avatar?"
Khiril grabs a nearby cloth and wipes the sweat from his forehead. "Then nothing changes."
"And what if I am?"
"Well, then you're gonna be a damn good one because you are my son...and because you are a blacksmith."
Jaro tilts his head at his father's statement. "What does smithing have to do with being the Avatar?"
Khiril smiles in a reassuring way to his son. "What kind of person is more suited? The Avatar is the master of all four elements and he uses them to unite the world and bring peace to it. A blacksmith uses all four elements: Earth."
Khiril pulls the piece of metal from the forge, holds it in front of Jaro, and then earth bends coal into the forge.
"Fire," he sticks the metal into the flames.
"Air," he works the bellow to add oxygen to the flames.
"And Water," Khiril pulls the metal out and puts into the water trough where steam bellows out in a great cloud.
"All four elements work together to create a master-'peace'." Khiril pulls the metal out to reveal a beautifully shaped curved-blade.
Khiril then hands the blade to his son and points at the grindstone. "Even though we have created this 'peace' it must be refined, cleaned and polished. And after it has aged or been damaged or even both, it comes back to us and we repair it. To me, it seems that fate has deemed you to be the Avatar and a great one you will be."
Jaro looks up to his father in a far happier mood than he previously was. "Thanks dad."
Khril then leans in to hug his son.
"Where are you going?" Jaro's mother calls from the kitchen as he tries sneaking out the back door, a small loaf of bread in hand for a snack.
Jaro tries to play it cool. "I'm just gonna wander."
"Well don't bother your brother and grandfather."
"No of course not," Jaro says sarcastically. Hardly believing him, his mother lets him go anyway.
Jaro makes his way through the village acting casually before cutting down the mountain through the forest. He has always been intrigued by air bending and loves to watch his grandfather and brother train.
BOOM! The valley is awakened by the echo of a loud and piercing explosion. Birds from nearby trees scatter from the sudden jolt of energy.
I must be getting closer. Jaro attempts at being as quiet as possible even though his heavy footfall crunches the thin snow beneath him. Using the trees as cover he approaches a clearing. Peering from behind a fallen evergreen, he spies on his brother and grandfather practicing their air bending.
The air bending of the two is drastically different then the Air Nomads, going for a more aggressive approach than traditional air bending. For a great deal of his life, the Old Nomad spent his time studying the bending techniques of Earth Benders and Fire Benders to create a form all his own. The Old Nomad spent years mastering it and was exiled from the Air Temples because of it. There are little to no acrobatic movements or twisting or spinning. All movements move forward to where they're attacking in the most efficient manner possible. With boulders set up as targets, the grandfather observes Kharum's form.
"Remember to breathe in heavy bringing the air to you."
Kharum inhales through his nose while taking a wide and rooted stance. In a smooth motion he whirls his arms back into a fighting posture. His fists clench as he pulls his left arm slowly back. Kharum's body tenses as the air around him begins to crush him. Loose dirt and snow rise from the ground and glide toward him as if being sucked by a vacuum. He holds his position as every fiber in his being fights through the pain.
"Breathe...in...and out..." The Old Nomad watches on as his grandson trembles in his pain, pushing his limits.
With a grunt, Kharum punches forward at his target. In a blink of an eye, the boulder explodes into a hundred tiny pieces as a thunderous explosion echoes through the valley. Even the trees hundreds of feet behind the boulder wave from the force of the concussive blast. The ground in front of Kharum leading up to the boulder has been carved into a six foot wide groove where the concussive blast of air had decimated through.
Kharum, out of breath from the shear amount of energy released, bends over with his hands on his knees. His chest heaves in and out as he calms the rush of adrenaline in his body.
The Old Nomad pats his grandson on the back and smiles. "Well done...well done. I know it hurts."
Kharum, unable to reply, thumbs up.
"There is one thing left for you to learn...but I'll save that for another day."
That night Jaro begins to pack his things for the journey ahead. His room is simple, a bed in the corner, a rough dresser for his clothes and a small nightstand next to his bed. Stopping what he's doing for a moment's break, Jaro then mimics the motion he saw his brother perform with his air bending when, unawares, Kharum leans against the door frame and knocks.
"Nice form," Kharum chuckles. "You packin' you're things?"
Jaro jumps back to his bag acting innocent. "Yeah...I'm gonna set out tomorrow morning."
"Good...cause I'm goin' with you."
"Somebody's gotta look after you...and mom'll freak out if you go by yourself."
Jaro smiles in gratitude. "Thanks."
Kharum smiles, thumbs up, and he leaves the room.
The next morning, the village is gathered to see the brothers off on their journey. Jaro and Kharum are standing outside their home ready to travel. Both are wearing heavy fur cloaks for their dangerous trek through the cold of Severnyy's mountains. Jaro carries a large bag over his shoulder and Kharum has his bow, arrows, knife, and a small bag of food on his person. The brothers each in turn hug their family members.
Khiril pulls out a dark green headband emblazoned with the round symbol for earth bending and hands it to Jaro. "Maybe this'll bring you luck like it has for me."
Jaro happily accepts his father's gift and puts the headband on. Jaro hugs his father in appreciation.
Khiril then shifts over to his eldest and places both hands on his son's shoulders. Looking Kharum in the eyes, he orders him, "Watch out for your brother." Khiril then winks and hugs his son.
Kharum nods. "I will."
Both brothers then bow together to their father and mother.
The brothers are about to leave when in the distance a horn blast echoes throughout the valley. Everyone turns to see several armor clad figures riding polar bear-dogs toward the village center. The figures are Marshals: each man wearing the silver and black segmented plate armor traditionally worn by their order. Over their armor, they wear large grey fur and dark blue cloth cloaks that protect them from the cold. Their leader wears different armor from the rest of the Marshals in that his black chest plate is a single piece and is highly decorative in Severnyy fashion. Draped over his shoulders, he wears the fur of a white wolf.
As they near the brothers and the villagers, the lead man dismounts his ride and approaches Jaro. He is an intimidating figure with all the armor and fur making what was a normal sized man seem larger than life. His bearded face is scarred and hardened from many years as a Marshal, but his eyes are wise and understanding.
"So this is the Avatar hopeful?" The Captain analyzes the sixteen year old before him. "When we received news that an Avatar hopeful was here in Severnyy, we knew it was our duty to protect him. We will take you as far as the border and see that you are on your way."
Jaro tries to say thank you but is cut off by his mother.
"Thank you so much." Her eyes fill with tears as she hugs the Captain in gratitude.
The Captain, free of the mother's grasp, bows to her. He then nods to Khiril who returns the nod.
The Captain then gestures to a rider-less polar bear-dog. "Let's be on our way then."
Jaro eagerly jumps up into the saddle. The Captain then looks over at Kharum with an apologetic face. "Sorry, we thought that the Avatar hopeful was gonna be traveling alone."
Jaro scoots over on the saddle. "We can share."
Kharum has an expression of yeah right on his face. "I'll walk."
- When I picture Kharum and the Old Nomad's airbending, I tend to think of a Wing Chun/earthbending/firebending hybrid. So, if you're able to, picture that.
- Khiril's smithing technique is probably incorrect, but that's why it's a story and not a 'how-to'.
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