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29 November, 2014
"The decision made to leave my hometown in the north was not a hasty one. I loved my beautiful village in the Northern Water Tribe. Yet destiny would not let me stay there, and instead had its own path for me to take." – From the Book of Tutorik.
Although it was nearing the end of summer, the air was warm and the sky cloudless the next morning. The Tribe had slowly gathered inside the meeting hall once again, ready to decide the best course of action for dealing with Utadano and their proposal. Groups of villagers made their way inside, some discussing and chatting to each other. There was a time where tribe votes in Manirak could be done simply by a show of hands, but now that their tribe had grown it would be difficult to do so. Instead, each villager was given a piece of parchment to write on for each vote, the writing chalk would be passed around the room when everyone was present.
Anana and her parents lined up outside the hall behind the queue, waiting to receive their parchment. Just in front of them stood Kesuk and his two parents, and after a brief moment Anana's parents greeted them. As they moved up the line, the two couples continued their discussion from last night.
Finally, Anana tapped Kesuk on the shoulder, "You were right."
Kesuk turned around, "Oh, hey Anana. What do you mean?" He questioned.
"About fighting back against Utadano. I know I suggested that we join them, but I've thought about it and I think you're right."
"You don't have to tell me what your vote is for," Kesuk replied while shaking his head. "As Junetsu said last night, there are good and bad things about any decision we make."
His friend sighed while dipping her head. "I'm just scared. Of this war. What going against Utadano would do to us." Anana raised her head, small tears forming in her eyes, "But I know that if we don't do something things will get even worse."
Kesuk placed a hand on Anana's shoulder, "It's okay. We're all a little anxious and scared by what's going on. But things will be alright. Once we get in touch with the Northern Water Tribe they will be able to help us."
Anana nodded in response, her eyes still saddened but a small smile appearing on her face.
When Miki and her sister Saskha made it to the meeting hall, almost everyone had already been seated. They had decided to pack a few of their things before coming here, even though they had not heard the chief's decision on whether they would be leaving or not. Making their way into the hall, the sisters made their way to a clear spot near the back.
Once the last few villagers had been seated, Chief Iluliaq made his way to the front of the raised platform. "Welcome my friends. I hope you have all had time to ponder and contemplate today's vote on how we should respond to Utadano's threats, and the growing war between the Earth Kingdoms. There are three options we have in responding to Utadano; we can comply with either of their two proposals, which were to join their new empire or vacate our village, or we can retaliate and fight back against them. As you notice you were given two pieces of parchment, one for each vote. Therefore, the second piece is for the second vote to decide whether we will send a small search party to find the next Avatar, and to make contact with the other nations in order to rally support and uncover the truth behind this war."
"Now, there is merit to whatever choice we make," The Chief paced to one side of the platform as he spoke, "And so if you feel that no one else around you is voting for what you want to, than do not hesitate. All choices have merit, and so there is no shame in voting for whatever you feel is the best option for our tribe. As we have always done, we as a tribe shall vote and not be swayed by each other's opinions. But be wise however, and think through your choice, for it could very well be the deciding vote." The old chief paused a moment to allow his words to settle in. "Now, let's begin."
The room was more or less silent, with a few whispers and the sounds of people passing the several pieces of writing chalk around. One by one, each of the villagers scribbled which option they were voting for on the parchment, then folded it up and passed the chalk to someone behind them. A few members took their time to put chalk to paper, but eventually all the folded votes made their way back to the five councilmen who began to count them up.
It took the next ten or so minutes to tally all the votes. Once they were, Chief Iluliaq made his way to the front again, "We have reached a decision." His words echoed, in the room so silent one could hear a pin drop, "We will be going to war against Utadano." Several villagers cheered and clapped at the conclusion, and the Chief waited a moment for the noise to die down. "As a tribe we have unanimously voted to retaliate against Utadano and go to war with them. This means that over the next five days we will be sending the women, children, and untrained villagers back to the Northern Water Tribe, along with councilmen Tookha and Noarah, in order to keep them safe and organise reinforcements from our home tribe. The rest of us will prepare for the attack from the armies of Utadano, who will be arriving at our doorstep in three weeks' time."
The Chief picked up another pile of parchment squares and leaned down to hand them to the villagers in front of him. "And now, we come to our final vote," He stood upright again, "Where we will decide whether we send a small party to seek the Avatar. Councilman Onartok will be leading this team, and will be recruiting a few others who are willing to accomplish this task. The ultimate goal of sending this group will be to find the Avatar and tell them of this war, and request that they intervene. But it will also serve as a means to talk to the other nations, so that the full picture of this war will become clear. I urge you to give much thought to this vote, as it will be a dangerous mission for those going. And I also urge anyone who is thinking of joining Onartok on this mission," Iluliaq's eyes met with Saskha and Miki sitting at the back of the crowd, "To search your hearts and know without a doubt that your conviction is sure. Let us begin."
Once again the writing chalk was passed from the front few rows to the back of the hall, each person writing down their vote and passing the chalk behind. Many of the villagers took much longer to vote than the last one, some of them murmuring with neighbors. Perhaps this vote wouldn't be unanimous.
When the chalk finally made it to Miki and Saskha at the back of the room, the sisters glanced at each other.
"You ready for this?" The older sister asked.
"Yeah," Miki nodded in reply.
Chalk in hand, Saskha scribbled a 'for' on the parchment. After doing so, she folded it up and placed the chalk in her sister's hand, "No going back now I suppose."
Miki did the same with her parchment, "I know this is what we're meant to do," Miki began. She passed her folded vote to the villager in front of her, "And thank you for doing this with me."
Her sister smiled in reply, "Well, as I said last night there is no way you're not leaving without me." She responded with a laugh.
Miki smiled, watching the votes be passed forward to the front.
After another minute the councilmen started counting the votes once again. This time however, it appeared there had been much more variation in the votes; two piles had formed on the wooden boards of the platform up front, and after reading each vote a councilman would put the parchment in either one of the piles. Iluliaq counted one of the big piles on the ground, and Onartok the other. After about twenty minutes all the votes were counted, and the chief made his way to the front again, "Once again, this decision was placed to all of our tribe to vote on. And this time, there were many for and against the decision to send councilman Onartok and his team to seek the Avatar." The Chief paused before announcing the verdict, "But the majority of us have voted for this mission; we will be sending councilman Onartok and a few other volunteers to go and seek the Avatar."
A much smaller collection of villagers cheered after this verdict, reflecting the much more varied opinions on the matter. But nevertheless, the whole room soon erupted in clapping and cheering, since the voting had taken place and they now knew how they would respond to Utadano's threats. On stage Onartok dipped his head, unable to face the crowd just yet. He had prepared himself for this; for him to leave Manirak on this mission and be apart from his wife. But he had promised her that he would return, and he promised himself that this mission would not be in vain. Raising his head, the councilman got up and walked to the front of the stage.
"Thank you all for participating in this tribe vote. And now, I will be preparing to leave with a few volunteers after midday today." He scanned the audience, searching each individual through his eyes. "Utadano's three week period begins today, and so in three weeks we will be aiming to have found the Avatar and have made it back to this village, in order to defend against Utadano's forces. We will not be able to have many leave on this mission, since we will need the bulk of our warriors and healers here in Manirak to aid alongside the reinforcements from the Northern Water Tribe. But those few who do accompany me on this mission will need to have a certain level of skill as well. And so I ask councilman Kesaq, waterbending master and teacher, and councilman Noarah, master of combat and weaponry expert, to step forward and help judge those volunteers who are up to the task."
The two councilmen got up from their seats on stage and made their way next to Onartok. Once next to him, Onartok continued, "Now, I want all of you who are thinking of volunteering for this mission to be absolutely sure that--"
"We'll do it."
Onartok shot his eyes to the back of the room to the source of the interruption. Keiro's eldest daughter had spoken aloud, and made her way in between the other now surprised villagers to the front of the room, her younger sister trailing behind.
"Wait, you can't just--"
"Miki and I will go on this mission. Alone. We can be the ones to search for the Avatar."
The whole room was alive with chatting and whispering, everyone completely shocked at the turn of events. Saskha moved over to the centre of the platform, next to the other three gobsmacked councilmen who did not know how to respond, "My sister Miki had a vision last night. A dream, where she saw a woman who she believes to be the great Moon Spirit Tui descending from the heavens, giving Miki instruction." Of course, this was the slightly embellished version of the dream, but Saskha knew she had to win over the councilmen. "She explained that Miki would rise as a hero, and we believe that the spirits have destined us to find the next Avatar. Iluliaq," She glanced over at the Chief's direction, "We offer ourselves as volunteers for this mission." Fortunately Miki didn't have to do any of the talking so far and instead stood next to her sister with her hood pulled over her head and hiding her face. After her sister had finished, Miki could feel the stares of almost every pair of eyes in the room on her, like thousands of beady eyes of crab-rays peering from the ocean.
"Chief Iluliaq?" Noarah turned behind to glance in Iluliaq's direction.
The old chief arose and walked forwards, staff in hand, "Saskha and Miki visited me late last night, telling me of Miki's vision. Though I said to them that I could not give them a definite answer until after the vote, I did tell them that I would make up my mind today, which I have." Iluliaq took a few steps forward, "My friends, we cannot forget how Manirak came to be; the great spirits Tui and La predestined our village to be where it is today. They caused the coasts of the northern continent to expand with sheets of ice, and brought about a time of freezing in our world. They revealed to us that a village should be built here, which Manirak was. And we cannot forget the day to day role of these spirits either; La provides the great ocean, and with it an abundant source of nourishment, and Tui is the source of our bending and spiritual energy, our very chi that exists in every one of us. And so to ignore this vision of Miki's would not only be a crime against all of us but also against the great spirits who guide us. But we must also decide whether these two are skilled enough and ready to take on this challenge, which I believe they are."
"I concur," Noarah spoke up. The shorter and wider councilman turned to the sisters, "Saskha is a very skilled warrior, and through her father's and my own teaching she has progressed immensely. I am certain that she will be up to the challenge."
Iluliaq nodded, and then turned to face Kesaq, "And what do you say, councilman Kesaq?"
The waterbending master took a little longer than Noarah before speaking again. "While I have never fully approved of teaching a girl waterbending, I have seen Saskha grow into quite the master herself." Kesaq smiled at Saskha, and she bowed in response, "And so I agree. Saskha is most definitely ready and able." The councilman also glanced at Miki, "And we... All know of her sister's skills as well." He muttered awkwardly.
Onartok still couldn't believe what was happening. He had expected perhaps Chief Iluliaq's son to volunteer, or maybe Kesaq's son, not Kerio's two daughters. Saskha, the one girl who had learnt waterbending in their tribe, and Miki, the famed 'Hooded She-Spirit'. He had never guessed that these two would be volunteering to go on this mission. Sighing loudly, Onartok turned to the Chief, "Well, I suppose that settles it then. If the spirits have predestined these two girls to go to search for the next Avatar than I will stay here in Manirak."
Saskha nodded, "As I said before, Miki and I have got this covered. We can go by ourselves."
"That's not going to happen."
Onartok, Saskha, and Miki tried to object, but Iluliaq didn't give them the chance, "I told you girls that I would think about it, and I have. Councilman Onartok will be accompanying you both on this journey."
"Chief Iluliaq," Onartok pleaded, "If I can stay than it will benefit the tribe. With three of us councilmen here--"
"Do you really feel it is morally just to send these two young girls, one eighteen and the other fourteen, on a dangerous mission to traverse lands they have never seen, through enemy territory where they could be hunted and attacked by the Northern Earth Kingdom, and dealing with nations that they have never had contact with?" Iluliaq stared into the other councilman's eyes with a stern expression on his face.
Onartok hung his head slightly, "I... Suppose I don't."
The Chief placed a hand on Onartok's shoulder, "I know you want to stay here. But I cannot let these two leave without further protection from an older and wiser individual such as yourself." Iluliaq replied with a smile, "So this is your mission; keep these two safe on their journey, and return home after three weeks with the Avatar."
Onartok nodded in reply. He had already prepared himself mentally for leaving, but he thought he had found a way to stay in Manirak with this dream and all. But Iluliaq was right, and he couldn't just let the two sisters venture out alone. It would be hard to put up with them for three weeks when it was already clear that he didn't exactly like them and they didn't exactly like him either. But if that's what it would take to save Manirak than Onartok was up to the challenge.
Iluliaq addressed the tribe once more, "So my friends, we have a team led by councilman Onartok who will be searching for the Avatar. So before we farewell these travelers at midday, I urge the rest of us to spare any provisions we can to make their journey easier. They will be gone for three whole weeks, and so they will need whatever we can give them. We will meet again at midday near the barracks and watchtower at our border."
Once the chief had finished, many of the villagers got up and began to file out of the building, quietly talking to each other. Many were still surprised by what had happened, but despite this there was still work that needed to be done in collecting supplies for those leaving. It was going to be a hectic three weeks ahead for everyone, though today's vote had filled many with courage and optimism for the future.
Saskha and Miki were soon greeted by many of their friends; Junetsu the first, with Anana and Kesuk with their families standing nearby, and a few of Saskha's friends from her healing and waterbending classes. Both the sisters had thought of what to say when they would have to explain to everyone their actions, though now that it was happening the words seemed to disappear from both of their mouths.
Fortunately, Junetsu spoke first. She looked at the sisters with a warm smile on her face, though her eyes revealed a slight sadness. "I'm not upset that you didn't come to me first," She began, "Though I would have liked to have heard about your decision earlier."
"We're really sorry," Miki replied. She was much better at this than speaking in front of the whole tribe. "We actually just didn't have the time to tell everyone. It all happened really fast, though we have thought about it all night."
Junetsu nodded her head, "I know, from the sounds of things you both have put much thought into this. And I would also be the first to suggest listening to our dreams and visions; the spirits do guide our path through numerous ways." She placed each of her arms one of Miki and Saskha's shoulders, "How about you come over to my place and I'll prepare some supplies for you."
"That would be so helpful, and thank you June for understanding," Saskha replied with a smile. The librarian beamed in response, and turned to leave the Meeting Hall.
Saskha glanced to her left, her eyes meeting with Anana's. Her friend had already started crying, the tears like small streams down her face. Kesuk was also with his family next to them, though his face was cold and emotionless. Before Saskha could say anything, Anana threw herself around Saskha, quietly sobbing into the fur lining of her coat. But when she looked up again her tears had ceased, and she smiled at her friend, "Look at you Saskha. Off to save the world and all."
Saskha laughed in reply, "I'm not saving the world, just finding the Avatar."
"I'm so proud of you, though I'm going to miss you like crazy," At the mention of these words both the girls began to shed tears. "Come by my place later won't you?"
After wiping her eyes Saskha nodded, trying to smile back through her tears and sadness.
"We'll collect some things too for you to take," Councilman Kesaq spoke. "You both are very brave, and I wish you all the best in your journey." Both Saskha and Miki bowed to the councilman, and with a slight nod he turned to file out with his family, Kesuk following his mother and not giving the sisters another glance. Saskha had thought Anana would be the one to take this news the worst, but it seemed the son of the councilman was even more upset with her.
"That went as well as could be expected," Miki broke the silence once everyone had left the area around them. There were still a few clusters of villagers slowly making their way out the hall.
Her older sister laughed ever so slightly before replying, "I suppose all of us are taking the news a bit hard."
"But we've made the right decision," Miki affirmed. "We're going to find the Avatar and save all of them."
Saskha only just noticed that her younger sister had also been crying during this encounter, small tears filling the corners of her eyes. She put her arms around Miki, "Of course we will," she gently whispered into her sister's ear. After their embrace, Saskha kept her hands on Miki's shoulders, "Let's go visit Junetsu now."
Two cups were placed on the table, and Junetsu delicately filled them with warm jasmine tea. "I know you both will be leaving in less than two hours but I'm sure a cup of tea won't hurt." She smiled and sat down at the table, also taking a sip from her cup. Junetsu's home was almost a second library; with only herself living there she had quite a small home and the walls were lined with bookshelves containing her favorite collection of stories and scrolls.
Junetsu sighed loudly while placing her tea cup back on the table. "Why is it that I now feel so... Protective over you two, as if I'm losing my own children," She added with a small chuckle.
Saskha smiled back, "You have been a mother to us. Ever since our mother passed away you have taken care of us. You always gave to us generously."
"And got me to help out in the library," Miki joined in. "Thank you so much for everything."
"You're talking as if I won't see you again," Junetsu laughed a little. "But thanks. You both mean so much to me, and although it is hard to see you leave now I know that you will succeed. You both share your father's stubbornness, Saskha more than Miki if I do say so," She added with a wink.
Saskha laughed, and the air was filled with a few seconds of silence following her response. There was never enough time to say goodbye. And for someone like Junetsu, who only had one relative in the North, saying goodbye to the sisters was especially hard.
"It will only be three weeks," Saskha broke the silence. She held Junetsu's hand in hers, "We'll be back before you know it." The librarian nodded while smiling, though couldn't hold back a tear or two. "Anyway, we've been here for just over an hour so I should probably go to Anana's. But I'll see you at the border?"
"Of course, and I'll send Miki there with some supplies."
Saskha nodded before exiting Junetsu's home, leaving Miki and the librarian alone. Miki knew that saying goodbye to Junetsu would be the hardest moment of this decision. Ever since their mom had passed away Junetsu had helped out wherever she could, especially when their father started drinking and stopped taking care of himself, let alone his two daughters.
"Miki," Junetsu broke the silence, "I just wanted to say that I am so proud of you both. I know that your parents would be proud of you as well."
Hey eyes tearing up, Miki faced Junetsu, "I know that this is the right decision and all but..."
"You find it hard to leave your friends behind." Junetsu finished Miki's sentence. She lovingly placed a hand on Miki's, "Tell me about this dream of yours?"
"Well... I remember waking in a forest, and I was surrounded by the villagers from Manirak," Miki wiped her eyes quickly while recounting her dream. "And then I used my powers on them, feeling the energy from the moon. A woman in white appeared to me later on, and I wanted to ask you about it." There was still something about her dream that Miki didn't understand, and Junetsu was quite knowledgeable on spiritual matters. "She told me that she wasn't Tui, but she was the moon spirit, though she was 'from another time'? I don't quite get what she meant."
Junetsu placed a hand around her chin, deep in thought. "From another time you say? I think I know just the thing." She stood up and walked over to one of the bookshelves, though instead of taking one of the books off the shelf she placed her hands on a box on the shelf. Junetsu then pulled a key from her pocket and unlocked the wooden box, and pulled a book out from inside.
As she walked over, Miki began to recognise just what book it was. "The Book of Tutorik."
The librarian laughed slightly as she handed Miki the book, "I know you won't have much time for reading over the next few weeks, though I want you to have this. It's a copy of the one you picked up the other day. I had started writing another copy since you seemed a little interested in it, and the other scribe and I have nearly finished, with only a few pages to go." She smiled fondly at Miki, "Though I'm sure the most important parts are still in there."
Miki grinned at the book in her hands, the one with the circular emblem of a wave stitched onto the front cover. It wasn't a very thick book, though it had small writing when she opened the front cover so Miki assumed it still contained a lot of content. "Why did you keep it in that box?" Miki inquired as she looked up.
"Because it is a dear book to me," Junetsu began as she sat back down at the table. "Tutorik was my father." She smiled as she mentioned her father's name, all the while Miki listened intently. "Remember what I told you the other day about a place called the 'Cave of Enlightenment'? Well, the spirit who resides there is said to be tapped into the flow of time of the universe, which is why he is said to be all-knowing. So if your dream included something about a spirit belonging to another time, than I would guess that this spirit may be involved."
The young girl looked again at the book in her hands. Junetsu was right the other day when she said that this book contained much wisdom. "Thank you June," Miki replied. "So the location of this cave is in here?"
Junetsu shook her head, "Not exactly. You can imagine what sort of danger there is if everyone just strolled into the cave seeking knowledge and wisdom," She explained. "And so Tutorik was very cryptic about its location. Which is why I have to ask you to keep it a secret."
"Of course," Miki nodded. "So did you ever find the cave?"
"Well..." The librarian paused a moment, "Let's just say I didn't exactly find what I was looking for." She smiled longingly at Miki, tears reforming in her eyes, "I know that you have wanted to visit the Earth Kingdom for quite some time now, whether that be to escape here or to explore the lands south of here. But I... Just want you to know that you have a family in Manirak. I can't imagine the pain you have felt from all your years here, but I just want you to know that I will miss you terribly. Please don't forget that you have people who care about you in this village."
Her words softened Miki's eyes, and she too began to cry. "Of course I won't forget," She replied with a tearful smile, "You have done so much for me and I love you as if you are my own mother."
At these words Junetsu stood up and hugged Miki tight. "I'll miss you Miki," She softly whispered, "But I know that you will succeed."
Miki buried her head into Junetsu's jacket, not wanting to leave her embrace. Though she knew that this path was the right one. Although it was hard to leave her friends now, Miki knew that she was meant to do this. And now she had a way to find a full explanation for this dream of hers. This Cave of Enlightenment might indeed hold the answers that she was looking for.
|Spirit of the North|
|• Chapter 1 - Manirak • Chapter 2 - Memories • Chapter 3 - The Librarian • Chapter 4 - Liberation • Chapter 5 - Guilt • Chapter 6 - A Final Goodbye • Chapter 7 - Reconnection • Chapter 8 - Visitors from the East • Chapter 9 - Avatar • Chapter 10 - The Dream that Led to a Journey • Chapter 11 - Promise • Chapter 12 - The Vote • Chapter 13 - Unspoken Desires • Chapter 14 - Beyond the Borders • Chapter 15 - Foreseer of Futures • Chapter 16 - The Warrior Within • Chapter 17 - First Blood • Chapter 18 - Victories and Defeats • Chapter 19 - Secrets of the Book • Chapter 20 - Entering the Earth Kingdom• Chapter 21 - The Dream Nobody Thought Would Come True • Chapter 22 - The Great River City: Part 1 • Chapter 23 - The Great River City: Part 2|
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