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Sand and Steel
October 27, 2012
Chapter 12: Queries
A corp of men in blue and white marched in file. Each had different abilities and histories, they were from all over the world. Fire, Earth, Water, swords, kali, bow. The Order of the White Lotus marched through the southern bridge to reinforce and test the lightest area of defense in New Omashu.
Kuel led them as Suun led a cycle of Omashu guards eager to prove better than the new forces. Tala, Hava and the twins Esas and Kilidi, went to the northern stretch of New Omashu to test the strength of the enemy.
Rishu walked along calmly as Prince Kuir had finished preparing his armor. Kuir stepped out and joined his men. The Black Dragon spoke, "What will you do when you succeed?"
"Fight my way out if necessary, but I think the enemy will be too broken when it is done."
"The plan is brilliant, but dangerous. You have no idea what they will do when this starts."
"I have studied the King of Omashu for years, he is nothing if not proud."
"Nevertheless, be cautious, you will have one shot at this."
"Don't worry, within the month, the city will be ours. Just remember your part." Kuir joined the ranks of his men and marched for the South Flank of New Omashu.
Earth and Fire Blazed through the air as hunched down soldiers moved to a wall of debris. Where fellow soldiers were returning discs of earth at the enemy. Hava hugged the wall and signaled a colonel, "What's the situation?"
"Firebenders joined the Regulars about two hours ago. We're holding fine but a scout spotted another battalion moving in east of us. That sector has little cover for earthbenders, its gonna be ugly if they go in fast."
"We'll fill the gap. Will you be fine here?"
"If you can spare two healers, we'll be gold."
Hava nodded and beckoned an officer and Tala, "We're heading east to reinforce a light sector where a battalion is moving. Uluk, leave two healers behind and everyone else come with us."
Uluk nodded whistled to two waterbenders and gave hand signals to stay here. Tala also whistled and the baying of Ilan was soon heard. She looked to Hava, "I'll hold the line until you get there!"
Hava nodded reluctantly while she whistled a low pitch and Ilan took off again. Ilan rushed through the abandoned streets of New Omashu, cutting around the battle lines. The sound of battle soon changed from the shaking of earth to the explosions of fire. She yanked on the reins of Ilan sharply turning right and then left again.
She could have joined the lines to defend but saw that as a lost battle. Running through the enemy lines at break-neck speeds and wreaking havoc was a better solution in her mind.
Ilan ran straight through pummeling the unsuspecting squad of firebenders. The next squad was a little more prepared in that they rolled once knocked over. The third fired back.
Tala sent three boulders through the enemy and kept moving. Before reaching the forth squad, Ilan was upturned and flipped over, catapulting Tala. This squad had both earthbenders and firebenders. Ilan was still rolling form the momentum, leaving Tala alone against ten soldiers.
There was no hesitation, only survival. She stood up and sent a quickly formed jolt of lightning against an earthbender sending him into a jagged piece of metal. She then sent a bolder careening at a firebender and confirmed its hit with a crunch of either hips or ribs.
Three different attacks came her way. She forced her arms down in a way reminiscent of an earthbender, but an orb of air surrounded the young woman. The fire dissipated on contact while the earth was caught in the spin and veered off in wild directions. Tala compressed the orb within the size of a palm sphere. She let the pressure release out around her, blasting two of the opponents who were too close.
An earthbender and a firebender were still up and weren't making the mistakes of the others. They guarded each other's corners and attacked while the other prepared for the next.
Tala was evenly squared with the two men until a fierce and angry Ilan returned to take his anger out on the men who tripped him.
Tala got back on Ilan and jumped onto the abandoned railways and attacked from high ground instead. Several squads of defenders survived and banded together because her ambushes saved them from annihilation.
However Tala continued on into groups of enemies that were more concentrated and better organized. She finally ran into a group that was too much and was cornered on a roof as earth and fire surrounded her. She fire back with air, earth and fire and the squads she had saved were the grace that kept her from being completely surrounded
She knew the rest of the reinforcements finally caught up when the shaking did not surround her but instead around the street. She returned to see Hava and a waterbender pushing back a small cadre of firebenders into an alleyway. Other benders had joined in, pushing back the organized assault force.
Now with a proper force easily responding to incursions, the northern stretch of New Omashu held to the enemy. Anytime the Regulars or Fire Army tried to attack they were pushed back by overlapping fields of defense. Even a wedge attack failed.
Tala returned to Old Omashu to cheering. It was not for her returning party, she saw that the White Lotus soldiers were especially exuberant. More and more cheering could be heard as they crossed the bridge. Tala could have mistaken this cheering for winning the war.
She parted the soldiers in front of her as several soldiers pumped their fists in the air, the center of the attention. She finally got in front to see what the commotion was all about.
Three White Lotus stood in the center holding onto a huge man kneeling between them. He was shackled and his helmet laid not too far from Tala, she recognized the metal disc hat. She walked around to see the face of the man. He sat there on his knees defiant as ever, hatred spewing from his eyes as he silently observed those around him. Indeed, it was none other than Crown Prince Kuir of the Earth Kingdom.
The entire city was up over the news. It quickly spread and could not be contained that the Crown-Prince of the Earth Kingdom, Kuir, had been captured. The war council was held in the throne room today as Kuir was presented to the king.
The Master Lotus and two other Lotus Sentries escorted the captured warrior, who even hunched over was still taller than all the men present. The last sentry tapped the back of his knees to make him kneel.
Urri had a smile from ear to ear, "Well, well. The mighty Kuir is a simple prisoner before my throne."
Kuir's response cut deep to some, "That is Crown-Prince Kuir to you, vassal traitor."
Urri would have attacked most men for that but had such a good mood for the victory in his hands. "Obviously, your spoiled manner needs some work. You are my prisoner, you are an only child to the Earth King. Iruei will make terms with us for your safe conduct home."
"You overestimate my value."
"Then we have removed the most dangerous commander in the Southlands for your vile war."
Kuir actually laughed, "You think I was that? Ha! I'm flattered but Grand Marshal Rishu is far superior to me and he is now in command."
Several faces paled at those words. Kuir was the one to smile now, "The Black Dragon taught me everything I know about war, you could barely stand against me. You stand no chance against the Apex of Fire."
"Silence!" Urri's tone was definite but Kuir paid no mind to him.
"Tell me great defenders of Omashu, have you ever faced the First Fleet of the Fire Nation Air Force? Or its spearpoint, the Shenlong?"
"Put him in his cell!" He looked to Kuir with malicious intent.
Kuir was escorted out by the two sentries while the Master Lotus stayed to speak with the council. "Sir, Kuir is a master Earthbender and can bend both metal and sand, there is no way in a city like Omashu where he can't have constant access. He is a liability as a prisoner."
"Not this cell. It is elevated a hundred feet in every direction away from walls, floors and the roof. The cell itself is made of wood. Kuir has nothing to bend, he will be powerless."
This seemed to please or allay the fears of all present. The idea of Kuir breaking free only to wreak havoc within the palace was not welcome in the city.
Urri spoke, "Men, the turning point in the war has begun! Iruei's heir can't be risked, the Earth Kingdom will sign peace with us, and perhaps even Republic City!"
The Lotus Master spoke up, "Sir, this is a great victory. But until the Earth King hears of this himself, we will have to deal with Grand Marshal Rishu. And if all the rumors about him are true, there is nothing he won't do to get the edge on us. How are we to deal with him?"
Hava joined in, "I don't think we should overreach ourselves either. Iruei is not the man you're judging him to be. He has more in common with Ozai than Kuei. The best bet is to trade him with Rishu for a lift of this siege. We can recover and plan from there."
"Give up?" A general and advisor of Urri's spoke up, "I guess such cowardice is to be expected of an Air Nomad!"
Hava's look did not express that of a forgiving monk, the general stopped talking but the others still agreed with him, based on the looks on their faces, "The White Lotus is right. Rishu is worse than Kuir and has no loyalty to the Earth Kingdom, he won't hold back for the Prince's sake."
"Then why would he trade?"
"Because this early on, Kuir's absence is still significant and empty. Rishu will either fill that gap himself over time, or free the Prince now. He can't do it any other way."
The discussion seemed to have a fair share of those in favor of one thing or another though a few more wanted to ransom the Prince to his father. Urri sat on his throne and lifted his hand up, signifying that he would make the final word. "Bargaining with Rishu is sound and safe. A release of the siege is welcome. But we must think further. Kuir is heir of the Earth Kingdom and the future, we must use him to our full advantage so that we can make a peace. The city may suffer more in a longer siege but we will have the peace of a generation come from it."
Tala lowered her head. She wanted to say something, but it was the same as Hava's own reasons. Nothing she said would change Urri's mind.
Kuir stood in the cell, his arms suspended. As part of his incarceration, his hands were always bound to the roof with rope. He heard a bridge crossing from stone and wood. Three figures presented themselves. Two sentries that had taken the duty of trying to torment him, and the Avatar.
She spoke to the sentries, "And no one has broken him?"
"No, ma'am, the interrogators have been unsuccessful is extracting information from him."
"Hmmm. Leave us."
With an air of command, "I said, leave us."
The sentries departed and separated the bridge. Kuir spoke, "Brave of you to come in here alone."
"Not really, you're bound, a hundred feet away from your element and I have two I can quickly access if I need to."
"Nonetheless, Avatar, you are no coward like the rest of this city."
"I have a question for you. You seemed to have formed an opinion about my earthbending, saying I used a 'dead style'? I would like you to explain that."
"And where better than when we are alone and the sentries out of earshot."
Tala paused for a moment, "Exactly what is it do you think you know and better yet, who else knows."
Kuir smiled and rested against the ropes, chuckling, "Only important people. Those who would have to deal with you in the future."
"So Rishu, not my best hope but he understands the value of secrets and gossip."
"Oh, so its gossip, now? It would certainly be interesting if this peaceful city found out who you really are. And I'm not talking about your status."
A slap of air hit him square in the cheek, "Don't think that because I am learning airbending from an Air Nomad, that I won't use it to end you!"
"Avatar Tala, is everything alright?" A sentry yelled as the faint sound of commotion reached them.
"Yes, I'm ready to go."
The sentries arrived and Tala stepped onto the wooden bridge. Kuir spoke, "Remember Avatar, some things cannot be thrown away or abandoned. Even if its necessary."
Tala looked away as the bridge departed.
Kulek was looking out over the sky, as it was all you could do up top. He was glad that a turning point in the war had finally come. Kuir's capture was important and would forge the way to peace.
He heard someone breathing and turned to see the one person he had been missing. As she stepped into the light of the moon, he smiled, "You know, the moonlight brings out the emerald in your eyes."
Tala smiled lightly, she was intently thinking on something else. There was little time since Ba Sing Se sieged that she didn't worry about some part of the war. She finally spoke, "Something is wrong about this whole thing." Kulek decided to let her continue rather than ask questions. "Kuir is too pleased and comfortable with the situation. A man of his status would not condone for such unless he planned for it."
"Or he is too proud to face the fact that was captured." Kulek interjected when Tala paused, "C'mon. Look on the bright side. Kuir's capture takes a important factor of leadership and gives us the edge to face the Earth King for negotiations."
"You really think there will be negotiations?" She sighed as if exasperated, "What Hava said about Iruei is true, Kulek. Iruei sent Kuir away to train for war and killing. He didn't spend more than a year at a time in that man's life at any given point. He is his heir, that is all. Iruei is truly more like the Fire Lords. You realize that Kuei's son murdered him?"
"That's a myth Tala. Kuei died in his sleep several decades after the Hundred Year War."
"Really, then why was there an arrest of members of the Council of Five the following day?"
Kulek didn't respond. He didn't know about that. Tala continued, "They were generals without loyalty to Kuei's son and a threat to his claim in the post-republic world. Kuei has been seen as the absolute shame of the Earth King family line. They name sons who disappoint their fathers' 'Kuei'. You really think men raised like that have the same bond to their sons as your father would have to you?"
Kulek looked down, "I guess not. But it gives the city hope that we can really end this war."
"Hope is naive. And we always had the power to end this war; it was just a matter of the outcomes."
"Okay, now that you have successfully made me feel uneducated in politics, how about us enjoying a night that followed a victory?"
Tala smiled. She leaned over, grabbing Kulek's shoulder while kissing him, pressing her lips to his. "I guess we can be happy for the small things in life."
- It is revealed that Kuir is an only child. Unlike most kids, he was not pampered and some of the statements say that Iruei spent little time with his son.
- Rishu is now in command of the siege.
- The chapter was originally called, "Queries and Answers" because it was originally going to have Kuir's escape, and several questions answered, but it was decided for those to be dealt with later in the plot...
- Chapters 10-14 all occur in the same month.
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|