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|A Dark Path|
Blood and Swamps
December 29, 2012
War and blood have spread across the world again as nations seek to overpower one another. The Avatar is meant to bring balance to the world. But she is enclosed within the great city of Omashu while the Black Dragon plots. Avatar Tala must master the elements and seek a path to continue her journey as the Avatar.
Chapter 10: A Dark Path
She studied the diagram intently. Ralyn had told her to find a specific organ and list the advantages to use on it. But she needed something that could affect everything. The first and obvious choice was the heart. Blood flowed in and out of it and without it, the body would fail. But so was the case with the lungs and liver. It was harder because the diagram was meant for teaching healing. It was under that guise that Ralyn continued teaching Tala the darkest art in waterbending and the only specialized art of any element to be banned in the world.
After hours, Ralyn returned to question Tala, "Well?"
"I don't understand the purpose of this lesson. Any of these organs is as vital as the next. Each needs to be there or it all falls apart."
"Exactly." Ralyn crossed her arms.
"But-" A look of annoyance and frustration crossed her face, "couldn't you just have said that in the first place?"
"You learned the lesson and came to the conclusion yourself. I would have liked it if you defended it, but still, you learned it."
Tala breathed out in frustration.
"Now, we get back to combat lessons and theory."
"As you know, most need a full moon to use this technique and only one bloodline showed the skill to use it at anytime, and without movement. I believe that any waterbender of a high caliber can do this so long as the moon is present. My case in point was Tuo in the Swamp."
Tala remembered the event. She and Ralyn were fighting her brother, the Sea-Wolf in his underwater installation. He couldn't beat both and resorted to using lightning. But before the power could be used on him, his body seemed to lose control and the lightning splayed all over the area, cutting open the hull and pulling him out into the water.
At the time, Tala thought nothing of it, but Ralyn brought it up again later that night and did so again at the last full moon to make a point about the evils of the art. "It was not a full moon that night and yet he did something only Yakone's line was seen doing. How do you answer that except by two explanations."
"One: his line is powerful and capable of the same thing as the line that brought us Amon; or Two: so long as a moon is present, the art can be done at night."
"If it can be done on any night, then how come it has spread out?"
"Think it through. The art is illegal, its practice is forbidden and knowledge of its finer points is basically restricted to plantbenders and healers. Plantbenders already manipulate water in another's body, just a plant's; while healers know the inner workings of the human body, necessary for success. And if only those of great power are capable, then the odds of learning this is small at best. Tuo is that small odd."
Tala nearly chuckled at how that came out but still understood the message. Everything was stacked against such a revelation, if it was possible at all.
"Then how do you use the skill if it is so closed?"
"Test and practice. On nights that are nearly full moons, we test it in a lead up to its zenith and then try as the moon lessens."
Boredom on the Line
The sentries stood there bored out of their minds while on a tower watching the skies. The airships circled beyond and stayed out of range of the city's defenses. It had been that way for months and stayed that way.
Two of the sentries were playing a tile game of elements, one put a fire tile over another fire tile "You can't play doubles."
"Sure you can."
"Guys, you should take a look here" A sentry actually doing his job called out.
"What, one of the airships let out a fart?" The guards chuckled.
"No its a sky bison."
"Set the alarm. Master Hava has returned!"
A Returned Master
Tala was one of the first apprised of the arrival of her airbending master. She quickly rushed over along with the Nomads and the leaders to meet her long absent teacher. She looked around and noticed that Ralyn watched from a ledge above the stables.
Hava stepped down from the sky bison that he was riding and instantly a large group of Air Nomads rushed to hug him. In the throng of yellow and orange clothed monks with blue arrows on their head, she finally reached her master.
"Master Hava." She nodded her head as bowing would be to hard in the tight spacing of the crowd.
"Avatar Tala," he returned the gesture, "Its good to see you well. Have you been studying your final element?"
"Yes. Have you had good fortune on your travels?"
"Better than some, we will discuss it in the council."
"So they are safe and sound?" Urri's question was more of a statement.
"There's no where safer, its a fortress that held even in the Hundred Year War." Hava spoke confidently.
"Hmmm. I am still concerned with these Royal Guards and Dust Dragons you brought up."
"Highly dangerous and not to be trifled with. Underestimating a single one is death."
"Very well, we will have to ensure that we keep an eye out to make sure they don't come this way."
"The Dust Dragons have various assignments and given the chaos in the north, it will be while before they head south. I cannot say for the Royal Guard, they serve the Earth King and could be sent as a small contingent to guard the Prince."
Suun interrupted, "For now we should be more concerned with Rishu's own elites. Reports from scouts spot several men and women in black and gold armor similar to the armor you reported the Sea Dragons wearing. If the Sky Dragons are in Omashu, that is reason for concern."
Kuel answered, "The Sky Dragons are the only of their kind. They jump out of a plane from high up in the sky and land wherever. The Fire Nation calls them paratroopers."
"Okay, so they land in and then what?" One of the Omashu generals seemed not to be impressed.
"They wreak havoc on their target, thirty three of the world's best firebenders burning everything to the ground. If they somehow get into the palace, we'll be in serious trouble."
Urri brought it back to subject, "We have the fortune of not worrying about the Dust Dragons, Sea Dragons, and likely the Royal Guards. We will have to set scouts specifically for finding out if the Sky Dragons are here or not."
Tala spoke now with the council of Elders for Clan Rohan. An Elder inquired, "And what of the fate of Clan Meelo and Ikki at the Temple?"
"I don't know. They felt they had a better chance not worrying about the young, but they likely knew they were facing their doom. That temple is too big even for the clans to defend it was always too large an area to cover."
Hava thought hopefully, "Even if the worse happens at the Western Temple, there is a future in the north for them."
"What about the Siege of the Northern Air Temple?" Tala spoke finally.
"The Earth King is personally leading the fight and is doing well. The siege was broken after Black Sun and a railway to the North Pole Port was secured, he laid waste to all that, only the port is secure and there is no railway to speed it to the temple."
"I know this is callous, but is he staying there or is he heading south."
"He's staying there so far as I know. As are his Royal Guards."
"Good, we can't afford anymore setbacks especially after the new aggressive method Rishu has taken."
"What do you mean?"
Tala recounted the first night of the new assaults, the Fire Nation-Earth Kingdom alliance launched in a new strategy and how Rishu led from the front. A battle in which she would have been beaten again had it not been for Ralyn, "That was the first night, the attacks have increased since and they are pushing us back. At this rate, we'll be pushed till we hold only Old Omashu."
"Old Omashu is the most defendable, but it is still alarming that they have changed tactics so much."
The council continued with fears and issues and how Clan Rohan would face them. While most of the Clan had naive hopes, Tala and Simi shared a more aggressive view, Hava had a level head and mediated the response. "We must prepare for the worst and be ready to act as we are afraid to, however we can't rush headlong into this with out seeing our sides."
The Council convened and Hava spoke with Tala alone, "You are changed, Avatar." Tala looked away, "Don't think your master would not notice that. What I can't tell is whether the change is for good or for ill, for either way, you carry yourself differently. You have grown since I left."
"I have learned so much more and see how wrong things are." She looked out over the ledge to the stables where some kids played with the returned sky bison, "We are fighting with a nation that isn't this one. A nation that has provoked and acted foolishly against the Fire Nation. It then suffered the consequences and it was called wrong by the world, for what? Because the last great war was their fault?"
"We fight, not to stand up for Republic City, but to set our own kingdom. That's rebellion from a city that submitted by treaty to have its own king and rule so long as it followed the Earth King."
"Tala, remember who orchestrated these events."
"I know, but if it is so wrong then why is nothing stopping him. The whole of the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom couldn't possibly support such actions unless they were doing something right."
"The whole Earth Kingdom isn't supporting this, there is war across from those who say this is wrong."
"And who leads those rebellions? Urri, a man who wants to rule his own kingdom. The Northern Fortress is run by engineers who think because they settled sacred lands out of the Earth Kingdom, that they no longer answer to it. These are the people you speak of? The same people who either helped make weapons for the enemy in the Hundred Year War or surrendered the second-greatest city of the Earth Kingdom without a fight? Are these the people we should really be fighting with? Fighting for?"
"You are conflicted. With so much life lost, you question whether you could have stopped it on the other side or stopped it all, learning from the other masters. I cannot give you the answers you seek. You have to find those for yourself and decide what you will do for the world."
"I have lost blood and broken bone for this city and they look on me as if I am one step short of a monster because of my heritage. How can I justify fighting for that? Defending such prejudice?"
"Don't think on them, then. Think on those who need you. Innocents, children. Those who look up to the Avatar and see her as the hope for peace in the world."
Tala sighed, "Thank you for listening to me, Master." She gave him a bow of respect while holding her hands together.
He mirrored the action, "As it is an honor to have the Avatar ask for my counsel."
Revealed and Reviled
Tala sat down while breathing in calm concentration. She focused on water, the element of change, an element of life. Essential to survival, like breathing. Ralyn spoke in the background, "Can you feel your blood flowing? Nerves pulsing? Heart beating?"
"I'm trying, but its just beyond my reach."
"Keep focusing. The best place to start and feel it is with oneself." It was also for the sake of secrecy. Trying to bloodbend on the night before the full moon would raise suspicions as would actually bloodbending.
Tala reached out her hand, the veins in her hand pulsed as she felt something when a clear voice interrupted, "And what is going on here?"
Tala turned to see Hava standing at the doorway. The detractor of training in the Air Nomads' Enclave is that there was always someone to look out for. The Nomads never stayed still long unless it was to meditate.
Ralyn spoke, "Master Jinorra, my student was meditating on some lessons I was teaching her. You interrupted us."
"You mean I interrupted you teaching the Avatar bloodbending."
Ralyn narrowed her eyes and looked around, Hava continued, "I knew something had changed about Tala, I wish she told me the truth that you had made her bloodbend."
Ralyn scoffed, "She needs to know this skill. I am not the only practitioner or master."
"Indeed, you taught a small army how to do this. You really think you are fit to teach the Avatar a dark art you're consumed in?" Hava was angry, even if controlled and appearing calm, Tala knew this was him outraged at what had happened when he was gone.
"Do you have any idea what the city would do if they find out?"
Tala answered, "I do, and I already know how they look on me. I don't need their approval, but they need my power and status. They can't have both ways, they won't have it."
"Tala, anger against those who judge you like that is not reason to practice this! This is a dark art for a reason. Its about setting your will over another and dominating them."
"And energybending is different than that?"
"That is not the point-"
"But its true. Bending one's energy is domination of the body and mind, subjugating it for your own purpose and yet it was okay because only Avatars could do it, or so people think."
"Don't try to compare bloodbending to that."
"Why because the coward Avatar used one but condemned the other? Its time to stop revering your ancestor. Its his and his people's fault your clans are the only Nomads alive, its his fault for cowardice when action was needed. Had he killed Yakone, Amon and others would never have come. Had he enforced a just way to end the war, we would never have had to deal with this United Republic, a city of poverty and unrest."
"Tala, you're painting a broad brush over everyone who has ever done wrong."
"It is nonetheless true, and I won't keep ignoring that because of some reason or another."
Tala left the room not letting Hava counter her. Hava looked back to Ralyn, "Now here comes the real problem. What to do with you?"
"You mean should you tell the council, which would tell them about Tala? That is up to you and whether you care about Tala. Tell the council and I won't be the only one who suffers. And without Tala, the Dai Li will be hunted down again just like they were when the city found out. So go ahead, do the right thing." Ralyn began leaving when she turned to finish, "That is, if you know what the right thing is."
Hava stood there conflicted unsure of what to do. He hadn't felt like this since the night he went looking for his nephew. If he told the truth, it would doom many; but if he didn't, who knew how far Tala would go.
Perhaps he had to trust Tala, that she could do the right thing.
Tala sat in her room, staring solemnly out of the window from her bed. The gall Hava had to tell her what she can and can't do. Like she was still a child. She hated it, Hava was acting like the others, holding her back. She needed every power in order to fight, including bloodbending. And worse, she thought she was making a breakthrough before Master Jinorra interrupted.
Tala then heard something, squeaking, like a rodent. A spark went through her mind and she began concentrating, focusing on the breathing of the elephant rat that was no doubt in the room. Breath came from the lungs, she focused on it.
She reached out her hand and concentrated on the rodent. She heard squealing and the creature run. She intensified her focus and willed it to come. To her shock, it came. A frightened elephant rat elevated just above the ground floated to her.
It had worked, on the night before a full moon, she had bloodbended. Tala smiled.
- Tala is still conflicted with her new power but also feels a rush of power.
- Hava's adventure will be covered in the next chapter.
- Just to be clear, Tala can bloodbend on a night beside the full moon.
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|