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July 9, 2012
I awoke in a humid, damp cellar with my skin in goosebumps. It was very dark, the only light being dimly lit lanterns that hung from the ceiling. My hands and feet were bound with chains that connected to the wall. All of my possessions had been taken except for my pants. I felt slightly queasy and weak, most likely from dehydration and hunger.
As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I began to make out figures against the walls in a similar situation to me. Some of them had hands covered with metal gloves, others had feet in metal shoes, but only one person had bother her feet and her hands covered with metal, and she was sitting next to me. To my left was a wall with a door in the middle and no prisoners on it, while to my left sat the girl and many other prisoners.
The room was in a square shape with three walls having prisoners and one with the door. The girl was stunning, despite the gruel on her face and the cuts and bruises. She had messy brown hair in a ponytail, her skin was tanned and she wore a sleeveless shirt and pants embroider with the earthen ring symbol. Her eyes were closed but she wasn't asleep, she sat straight up with her legs crossed and her hands in her lap.
"Hey." I whispered, trying to get her attention. No response though, she didn't show any indication that she had heard me. "Excuse me."
She did nothing for a few seconds, and I was about to turn away but her eyes pried open, and she turned towards me. Her eyes were flawless green. I started in awe for a few seconds before her brow furrowed and she spoke. "What do you want?"
I snapped out of my trance. "I'm, I'm sorry, I have no idea what is going on, I'm terrified." It was the truth, grandpa told me stories of these nomads, but I never thought them to be true. "Do you have any idea what's going on?" My voice sounded weak, but I didn't care. It was how I felt.
"Its okay," Her voice sounded calm and soothing, "None of use here know what is going on. Everyone here is a bender, but they have restrained them." She lifted her hands encased in the gloves to prove her point. "I'm Lin, by the way." I smiled at the irony of her name. We were in a place were as far as could tell, hope was as rare as the close to extinction saber-tooth moose lion.
"I'm Kaine.... So what brings you to the Republic Ruins?"
"Oh, uhm..." Her eyes looked away, and I could tell she was looking for an answer. "A friend and I ran away from home and came here," I knew she was lying, from the delay of her answer, her blink rate and her lack of eye contact, but I didn't press her for an answer. "What about you Kaine, are you a bender?"
I looked into her eyes and she looked back. I was hesitant to reply, but she seemed trustworthy and I wasn't sure I would make it out of here alive. "Yeah, I am an earthbender." I then put on a somewhat posh accent on, "I'll tell you my perilous tale, but first, a question."
Before I could continue, she shouted. "Fourty two!" The room went dead silent for a few seconds, then they continued on with their other conversations .
I mustered up a smile. "The question doesn't have to do with math"
She nodded her head and smiled, "Okay then, go ahead." Her voice was so powerful. It was soothing and warming, despite the conditions.
"Do you believe in retributive justice?" I asked.
Her face turned serious, "Umm... yes, I do."
I nodded my head. "Well that makes two of us." I was about to start when the doors flew open. I flinched and clamped my mouth shut. A man entered, he had a red tattoo, a tight black uniform and a staff in his hand. He was skinny and had an attractive face, but the skin on his chin was warped. He scanned the room until his eyes rested on me.
"You! Stand up!" He pointed his finger at me to emphasize his point. Startled I shifted onto my knees, then hopped onto my feet in a crouch, the chains restricting me. He raised his voice again and shouted, "I said stand!" I met his eyes, and spoke with a shaky voice, his authority somewhat scared me.
"I... I can't." My voice was strained, using my strength to try and stand as much as I could. He smiled at me, knowing that he was asking the impossible.
"Take the prisoner away, he must go through the tests." He spoke with more force then before, his voice stone cold serious. The whole room was quiet and the prisoners stared at me with pity in their eyes. I glanced over at Lin and she mouthed something to me, all I could make out was "...don't bend... end up like us..."
Two other guards came through the door with red uniforms. They removed my chains with a key, then they each grabbed one of my arms and led me out the door. This led to a long hallway with doors on either side, 10 meters apart. I saw men and women in red, black and gray uniforms, along with one other prisoner who was extremely pail, and was being dragged along the floor by a guard. We walked for about a minute before turning left into a room.
Inside were at least a dozen other guards along with another man in a black uniform. "They led me to the back of the room where there were more chains tied to the wall. They strapped them to me legs, but let me hands free. Then some other guards brought over a bucket of water, a slab of stone, a torch and a shield. They placed these things at me feet, at moved to the other side of the room. The black uniform then stepped forward and spoke. Her voice was course and I had a hard time following what she said.
"Mr. Kaine, this is your first test of four. One of these guards with attack you, and you must use whatever way of protection is most natural to you, whether it be bending or using weapons. Understood?"
My mind was racing, but I managed a nod. I began to understand what Lin had been talking about. This was a test to see if I was a bender. One of the red uniforms stepped forward, he was short and he was young, no older than 12, but he wore a belt with two small pouches. He looked at me with uncertainty, but took a breath and unstrapped the pouch to reveal a small stash of shurikens. He took one in each hand then slightly tilted his head and spoke with a high pitched voice, "Ready when you are Sifu Fang."
The woman turned towards him, "You may begin Dan."
I knew it was a matter of seconds before he attacked and my mind was working overtime, my instincts wanted me to earthbend, but Lin had told me to do the exact opposite. I saw his hand winding back, I looked at the slab of rock, then the shield. I saw Dan's hand stop moving back, I grabbed the shield bringing it in front of my upper body as the shuriken buried its self into the shield and splintered the wood.
Dan readied himself to strike again, but Fang called out, "Enough, onto the second test." I expected to me moved to another room, but instead they all exited the room and left me alone. This gave me time to observe the room. The room was square, and I was in the back corner. To my immediate left there was a wall, but maybe four meters to my right there was a wall with small slits with glass, like windows except the size of my foot.
Its felt like hours had passed, and the room temperature had dropped significantly. I was shivering and could see my breath. I had huddled into a ball on the floor to try and retain as much heat as possible. My arms were exhausted from rubbing my body to keep warm. The torch of fire on the floor had gone out quickly and the bucket of water was now ice. I was freezing, literally.
My throat was parched after having the moisture all dried up, so I couldn't speak very loud. "Help. Please." I croaked, the words causing me pain. "I thought the nomads were supposed to be peaceful and gentle. What in the name of Avatar Korra is this?" My voice was growing fainter and fainter, the more I spoke. "Your people went into hiding after the quake, we all assumed to meditate, find refuge and consolement in the spirits, but instead you've gotten rid of your traditional ways and become Ming-Hua Nomads? Why?" I went silent after that waiting for then to show up. But no such thing happened.
A half an hour passed and the room started to warm. I was relieved at first but the room started to get hot. I used all my energy to drink the newly melted water in the bucket before it evaporated and I felt better almost instantly. Not great, but somewhat better. As the heat grew, I regained feeling in my phalanges and I was able to move my limbs with out feeling pain.
The heat blast in the room did not last long, an hour at most. Once to room cooled back down to thirty one degrees (Celsius) someone opened the door and Dan, Fang and a few other guards stepped in. As I expected, Fang was the only one that spoke.
"Congratulations Kaine. You've made it through tests one, two and three. But not you have to go through test four." The smile on her face scared me. If anything could bring her glee, I didn't want to be around to see it. The way she said "test four" made me worry.
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