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|The Storm Grave|
Pyres and Storms
March 28, 2013
The world is engulfed in war. Blood has spilled as the Nations contest a balance of power. Avatar Tala must guide the world in order to bring stability back, but must deal with resistance and ancient threats that risk to change the course of the world forever.
Chapter 10: The Storm Grave
Tension and fear were occupiers of the mind when entering the unknown. For all the fighting, for all the war, Tala knew that she was facing humans and their weapons. That was not the case anymore. This witch, Lenet, had put fear in the Avatar's heart.
Numbers and power did not calculate in her defeat or victory. She was a creature beyond the young Avatar's understanding. The only comfort was the extensive and disturbing knowledge of her one-time enemy, the Black Dragon. Rishu seemed to have encyclopedic knowledge on anything that existed in the world.
Now he was insisting on luring this witch to a place of their choosing, this Storm Grave. Tala didn't know why, but the name sent chills down her spine. It wasn't the name, which frankly was cheesy to her, but something else, something she couldn't define.
She tightened the straps on the saddle, readying Ilan for the voyage. Land or sea, Ilan could take her there. She heard the stomping of hooves and looked to see Rishu approach with a creature she had never seen before.
It had four long but thin legs ending in hooves. A strong but lean body covered by a beautiful coat of black hair. It was longest on its tail and on the mane trailing from the top of its head down the neck to the shoulders. An elongated face looked at her and Ilan warily.
Bluntly she asked, "What is that?"
"This is Kohlen, a horse."
He chuckled as he patted the black coat, "A horse, I know, an odd creature in this world. The Giant Eel Hound may be the fastest creature in the world, but the horse has the greatest stamina. Kohlen can run for many days without tire. Even Ilan cannot hold for that long."
"Hmm," Tala would see that put to the test, he stated they were heading to the other side of the continent.
With the packs ready, Tala was certain they would leave immediately. Yet Rishu waited, tapping the side of his belt lightly. What was he waiting for?
The answer came soon enough. A door opened to the stables and entered Liam with a narrow package in hand. Rishu muttered, "About bloody time, we might have been to the First at your rate."
"You left it well guarded. No one is going to take this from Ralyn's pet when she gives it the order to guard. So forgive me if I waited for her to procure it."
He lifted up the package, holding it wide as Rishu took it from him. He pulled the cloth wrapping off of it, revealing a wakizashi in a fine black sheath with a flame-like rose engraved in both it and the hilt.
Her attention to the sword Rishu had been waiting for ended when Liam approached her. "I would come with you, but I know my limits, I would be more harm than good against what you are facing."
She took his hand in hers, "You worry too much 'Captain'." She saw the fear in his eyes, the fear for her. Fear of losing her, odd that since they had been together for such a short time. But Liam seemed to cherish every moment of it. Taking her wherever she wanted to go and offering options to new places and to experience new things.
He smirked at her quip. His grey eyes observed the cold face of the Avatar. She had great control of her emotions, only in the most extreme of cases did it fade. "And I can't say whether you worry too much or too little."
She gave him a light but intense kiss before returning to Ilan. The Eel Hound groaned at the tension and emotions in his master. Rishu saddled his creature and took off. Liam looked up to her, "There are many things between here and the Storm Grave, be careful."
"I will," Tala took off with a whistle to Ilan and followed for the Grand Marshal.
It took some time for Tala to catch up to Rishu, who had sped off northeast. In the outskirts of Republic City, she finally reached him and slowly passed him, but stayed with him, not knowing the way ahead from Republic City.
Rishu was telling the truth about this horse. Running a steady pace almost as fast as Ilan, the horse didn't tire after a full day of riding and was still kicking even when Ilan began to slow down a bit.
Seeing the pace slow down even minimally as storm clouds darkened above, the Black Dragon pointed for rock formations ahead, "We'll stop there for a while and eat!"
Tala sat under the jutting of rock, resting back as Ilan curled in on himself and had his back to the fire to keep warm as the rain poured and hit the ground like hail. The Black Dragon sat a foot or so away with a whetstone sharpening the black short sword. She didn't know why he had brought it, it was the shorter of his two weapons, that he was known to carry when he wore his fierce black armor.
He stroked the blade smoothly, flowing with the curve. The black blade shimmered as a faint light of silver reflected in the rain. She knew that in the right hands, the sword might very well appear as a weapon of heaven. Rishu finished and put the stone away and sheathed the noble weapon.
Tala read the inscription on the handle, "Raven Rose? Why did you call it that?"
"I didn't. Whoever made this weapon long ago had named it so."
"Where did it come from?"
"Deep in the vaults of the Royal Family's treasures," his fathomless eyes gave her a look that he would not answer questions about these 'vaults'.
Rishu stood up and walked to the edge. He whistled a quiet tune, or was it a language? His horse trotted over as he fed it.
She looked at the weird creature, "So, your uh," she felt awkward even saying it, "-horse. Where did you find it?"
Rishu chuckled and smiled as he fed carrots to his beautiful beast, "In the Isles of Seran, where men do not walk for fear of being prey to another."
Tala sat up, "You've been to the Southern Isles?"
Rishu laughed, "I've been all over the world Tala. I've seen things beyond imagining."
"So what was the Isles of Seran like?"
"A place to never set foot again," Rishu's look took a sad one for an instant before taking its usual cold look, "I lost some men to the, shall we call them, natives." The Grand Marshal joined her under the rock.
"Is it true then?" The Avatar had read stories and heard the old tales about things in the Southern Isles, but never had anyone seen them, at least no one living had.
"Its best you don't know."
Tala sat back and thought on that. She never knew that anyone visited the Isles of Seran in this lifetime, "Rishu."
"What is it about the Storm Grave that makes you think it will bring Lenet to us?"
"The coast of the Iar Sea is a remnant of the old world and has been left behind for that reason."
The Avatar's emerald eyes widened in surprise, "The Storm Grave is off the Iar Sea?"
"Mm-hm. Just down the road from Dol Mordath, an evil place."
"What makes it like that?"
"Its a long story."
"We got time."
Rishu sighed, "In the old world, there were no elemental benders."
"Yeah, we had energybenders."
"Will you let me talk?" an annoyed voice came from the Grand Marshal.
"Energybending was powerful but rare and of the few, it was dangerous. They experimented with the art like scientists do today with technology. A few of them made a breakthrough. They could bend the physical energy around them."
"They learned to bend the elements?"
"No. They bent energy of many forms, be it the fire in a forest or a flood. They were called Stormbenders. They had incredible power and little restraint. Their power was amazing, but they lacked the control elemental benders would have. They couldn't make a candle of flame without a firestorm, not a whip of water without a flood, not a pillar of stone without an earthquake, nor a gust of wind without a tempest."
"With the physical power they had, came great knowledge and the wisdom to respect it. The Stormbenders were seen as wise seers. With their expanded understanding, they learned to extend their lifespans beyond natural limits. For a time, these ageless masters were seen as the future of the world."
"Things seemed peaceful and it was just accepted that they often ruled the lands. But something happened. The Stormbenders changed, it was one thing that they were leading by the will of many, but now they felt they were destined to rule. They took over and made their rule absolute; at first it didn't change anything, they already ruled. it wasn't for years until they began abusing the power over those beneath them."
"It was the First who changed it all. The First Stormbender, the First to say they should rule, and the first to take command of Stormbenders to war against the others. He took others, and the dozen of them turned on the others to take over the continent. Other stormbenders soon banded into their own alliances and waged terrible war on each other."
"Millennia of war when the stormbenders numbered less than a thousand, the blood spilled was that of the people beneath them. So much blood that some civilizations across the Earth Kingdom were abandoned or wiped out."
"People began fleeing the wrath of their leaders. It was here that men fled to the isles beyond the mainland. The Air Nomads, the Sun Warriors, and the Water Tribe came from these refugees."
"It was in this time that bending of the elements was explored. You know the history of bending with these nations already, but what isn't taught was the strife these first benders suffered, the Stormbenders saw them and couldn't risk the threat they possessed."
"The First hunted these benders, ruthlessly; but it was another action that made his crimes unspeakable. He hunted his own kind. His dozen stormbenders killed off any stormbenders or energybenders they found, ensuring that none could challenge their reign."
Tala seemed horrified, she inquired while Ilan ran forward as they continued their trek, "What about the Avatar?"
"Oh the Avatar took a stand and began fighting them. It took ten Avatars before they reached the final danger. The First and his followers in Dol Mordath." Rishu was atop Kohlen as they were near the end of their journey, hearing thunder in the distance.
"I thought it was the Storm Grave?"
"Dol Mordath is the land in the north. An evil place that is still abandoned. The tenth of the Avatars to have taken the task of fighting the stormbenders. There were only the The First and his followers left."
"The Avatar went to Dol Mordath to face them. The fight spilled over to the east where things got ugly. Even with the Avatar State, he couldn't beat them. So he learned stormbending beforehand, with it, he was able to beat the dozen stormbenders, but it cost his life."
Rishu placed his hand on the tomb. Thunderstorms and lightning streaked the sky. "It was here that the last of the stormbenders were slain. And here that the Avatar fell with them. This place has been left abandoned since. No one could call this place home after its masters' death. This particular area was called the Storm Grave after their deaths."
Tala looked around. While the Avatar's tomb in the center of the hill was large and massive, she saw twelve others dart the landscape, they were buried where they died. But there was more, the place was haunted, she could feel it gnawing at her, like the past was trying to come to the present. She felt as if she touched the tombs of the dead, they would awaken.
And despite feeling it, she felt an unexplainable urge to walk forward. She stretched out her hand and placed her palm on the face of the tomb of an ancient predecessor. Suddenly, she felt pain and suffering, like she was bleeding from a thousand cuts. Her bloody eyes looked out and saw them. These men, if they could be called that, were after her.
She struck them down, but so powerful were they, that they held out. One outlasted the others and struck back. She sent a pillar of stone and crushed him. Just as she breathed a sigh of relief, unyielding pain took her and blinding light broke her.
Tala opened her eyes and saw it was just her and Rishu among the tombs. She removed her hand despite the calling for more. She ignored the voices, "I see now why this place is abandoned. But how will this be equal footing to the witch."
"Because it was after here that the Avatars started their next crusade!" Lenet's vile yet soft voice spoke. Her thin hair hung down over he ragged face, "The Avatar after this one," she pointed to the tomb, "heard so many stories of his heroic predecessor that he wanted to be remembered too. So he sought out something to hunt down; US!" she yelled in rage.
Tala spoke in vain, "Lenet, I don't want to fight you. I don't know why the Avatars hunted you down, but I have never seen you cause harm until you came after me. Please, just go and live in peace."
"Peace? There is no peace to the extinct! I am the last of my kind.! When I die, there will none like me again!" She seethed. She looked up to the storm-covered skies, "This place gives me strength, I can feel the power of the slain here fill me. Just as I can feel it resist you. You are trying to resist their call, their vengeance, but it fuels me. Which is why we're on equal ground, Avatar."
She then looked to Rishu, "And you, Black Dragon, I know your namesake, he can afford you no protection here."
Rishu gave a murderous look that seemed out of character with the near-emotionless Rishu she knew. His fathomless eyes gleamed with thirst for blood at her comment. What did she know?
Lenet disappeared into the earth. Mist began to rise and swirl from the grass. Rishu commented on the obvious, "This isn't good."
The ground shook as things rose in the dark. Coming to life, boulders that dotted the landscape rose up and the sick and twisted trees took malicious shapes. A face formed from the trunk, its lids opened and a sick green glowed where eyes should be.
They had seen a creature like this before in Republic City, Lenet's doing. But they looked to see another form, but this time, it was made from the boulders. It looked like an Otter-gorilla made of stone. The boulder that made the head opened, where gouges made eyes and a mouth of jagged stone teeth. A foul green exuded the orifices.
It roared at them, and soon others answered its call. Tala and Rishu looked around and saw that any tree or boulder had become a creature possessed by the witch. Tala asked, "Did you know she could do that with multiple objects?"
"No, I did not."
A Dire Predicament
Two stone heads of the magical beast made by the witch crashed after failing to attack Avatar Tala. Landing like an acrobat, the Avatar stood lightly as her emerald eyes watched for the next attack.
A swing of vines came roaring down after the black robed warrior, who deftly dodged by rolling toward the snarling beast. With a brief flash of light, a cut became exposed on the snout of the demon. Tala noticed the black-bladed Raven Rose in hand. She waited for the creature's wound to heal, as it had on the other one, but the creature kept howling in agony, grabbing at the wound.
Rishu punched with fury as white flames took the air between and ignited the creature into a blazing inferno. Swinging wildly as its bark skin tried to recover, his fathomless eyes narrowed in ruthless glee.
Leaping up with a burst of flame beneath his feat, the black-robed warrior thrust his sword into the head of great wooden beast. Sparks of energy grew in his other hand as he brought it down like a hammer. Electricity coated the roaring monstrosity. Seizing up from the shock, the creature fell to its stocky knees as it moaned its final breath.
Tala looked on amazed, still weaving through a string of attacks from the stone demons. "How did you do that?!"
"Did you think I brought this for good looks?" A sarcastic voice came from the Grand Marshal as another beast came for him.
Rishu spun the blade with the skill of a master, deftly cutting down like an execution strike, tearing the fingers of the demon off with fluid grace and the sound of a lovely harp, that lovely song was quickly replaced by the agonic howling of the demon retreating from the black sword.
Tala struck the ground with ferocity, spikes of stone and dirt split the stone-made demons apart. Bolts of lightning escaped her and two mountains of monstrosity fell to the power of unleashed power.
The rest closed in on her with malicious intent. A white flash halted them as Rishu joined her, covering her back.
"Even with your magical sword, we're screwed. What's the plan?"
"Fight like a cornered animal. Call on the past, let them give you the power these devils can't contend with."
"Easier said than done."
"Then allow me!" A sword came swinging down at her. With less than a moment to do anything, she was in utter shock. Was this his plan all along? Get her trust and do away with her when she was alone and reliant on him? Betrayal and hatred welled up in her as the blade came crashing down.
A fury within her took over. She was not the victim, never! The blade stopped in place as the assailant resisted against the blade that failed to move. With eyes glowing white as a star, she stood up with a wrathful visage.
She pushed a hand lightly forward where a vengeful torrent blasted the Black Dragon back, clearing him of the area where the demons surrounded her.
In a voices made of ages the young woman spoke unnaturally, "Come, face me and dismay, witch!"
In a defiant cry, the beasts roared and charged the surrounded Avatar.
It was a short storming, stopped in their heels and lifted up as if organs from within the abominations were being drawn out of them, they drew closer to their opponent until forced back with a powerful strike of the wind, spiraling them all to the ledge.
Recovering with righteous anger, they looked on the Avatar. Scorn and lust for blood boiling and thickening the foul mist that exuded from their filthy pores. Their jaws tightened the way a dog ready to kill would.
Heaven and Earth were all that stood in there way as the elements rained down on the devils who failed to attack the seething Avatar with her glowing eyes.The range of their torment was great. From one devil crumbled to stone with a thought while another dragged to the ocean, there was no way the Avatar wouldn't destroy them. Summoning a great storm from the eternally dark skies, she readied to finish them off all at once.
It was then that the knife came for the plunge. Mist emerged from the ground and soon was replaced by the deceivingly frail form of Lenet. She looked on with wicked glee. So focused on destruction was the Avatar, that she did not defend herself from any interlopers.
Finally, after countless millennia of waiting, she would have her vengeance on the Avatars, all of them. A sick yellow orb of energy grew in the claws of her hand.
Rishu looked in alarm, the Avatar was so engrossed with the pawns of the witch, she had forgotten the witch herself. Now she was there readying for the killing blow. Willing himself forward, he sped as fast as he could.
He could hear the destruction of the demons to the Avatar State and its mighty powers. He could only hope they were all gone. He was steps away as he saw the disgusting sphere of power leave the witch's grasp and shoot for Tala. There was no time for spells or even energybending.
There was only one thing he could do, and he knew it would be the end of him. He stopped in place as he finally stood between the emerald-clad Avatar and the incoming attack.
Striking him, it touched softly, like a drop of rain in fall. The pain was little but the agony was great. The Black Dragon seized up as his very core was torn apart. Voices screamed and shouted. Slithering and blackness in one, crying and flames in another. His eyes looked on in shock as the fathomlessness abandoned them and looked on with death while his body fell to the floor.
In the Avatar State, one could lose sense of time and place, and most importantly, control. Tala was just aware that she was fighting for her life.
Destroying the last of the demons that were a part of Lenet, she felt incredible agony and pain from within herself that forced her out of the Avatar State. She heard a high screeching that was the scream of Lenet behind her.
Reacting without thought, Tala fired two bolts of lightning after the foul and decrepit creature. A swirling mist replaced the witch as the bolts passed through harmlessly and leveled a boulder in the distance.
Looking down right next to her was her companion in this fight. She kneeled down to pull him up and check him. She nearly dropped him in shock upon seeing those eyes. She had never seen eyes like Rishu's before, but worse were these of death. There was no light and no life in them, worse than a bottomless pit. She almost dropped him, certain he was dead, were it not for the faintest breath of life to escape him.
He was alive!
She looked out for help, realizing they were alone in this wasteland. There was nothing and no one to help. Her mind raced for hope.
"Ba Sing Se!" Tala yelled to herself. The great city was just south of them by a day's ride. Ilan could take them there where there would be help from the Earth King.
"Ilan!" The baying of her Eel Hound could be heard as he sprinted for his master.
Tala lifted up the tall man to lay over Ilan. Rishu's skin was colder than ice to touch and death was all Tala could think of. Her hands shook as she saddled up. She whistled a command to run and she soon heard the neighing of Rishu's steed follow them.
Continuing to bray as it followed them, Kohlen followed less than ten feet behind. With less weight to carry, he was close on Ilan's heels.
Tala thought little on that as she furious prayed for them to go faster. She did not know Rishu long, but he had been different to her and had trusted her with knowledge that could have destroyed the war effort. He have taught her how to defend herself and learn a greater firebending. She couldn't just let that kind of man die for her sake without a fight.
Worse, she felt sick and weak, as if she was working at only a portion of her strength. She felt like dropping and just letting go. A fierce hunger within told her not to. She persisted and kept going.
She could only keep riding.
- Kohlen is Rishu's horse, Kohlen is Azeri for steed.
- The Iar Sea (After BSST's 51 use of it as IRC chat)- the sea that Storm Grave is based on.
- The First is a character in the next Avatar saga who will be explored as will his past.
- Dol Mordath is an anagram of a faded sign in Mammoth of "Old Mammoth Rd" which had faded till it was "Old Ma oth Rd", it was then rearranged into Dol Mordath for the name of the First's fortress and home.
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|