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|The Ties that Break|
Blood and Swamps
January 9, 2013
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 13: The Ties that Break
Tala looked up at the sun as it brought heat onto the great city of Omashu. With summer in full swing, the war was nearly a year in its run. So much had changed in that year. She had mastered airbending, she was studying waterbending under a mercenary. Esas and Kilidi were gone. Her family of Dai Li had been revealed. So much had happened that she didn't know where to start or where to end.
The positive in all of it was that negotiations had begun between the invaders and the defenders. At first, Fire Lord Ma-Tin and Crown-Prince Kuir held the negotiations between the attackers and Omashu. But Ma-Tin left, Tala no doubt thought it had to do with her love for the Crown-Prince and its distraction from their duties. Grand Marshal Rishu returned from the north to continue the negotiations representing the Fire Nation's interests.
Rishu. The Black Dragon and the orchestrator of the war and so simply overlooked for reasons Tala couldn't understand. Urri hated the man because he ruthlessly killed his sons but thought nothing of him before that. Hava doubted her belief that the Black Dragon and he were the same. And no one else seemed to think much about the fact that he was regent, heir and closest advisor to the Fire Lord as well as teacher to Crown-Prince Kuir.
No one seemed to think of Rishu as the cog that made everything turn in this war.
Hava and Urri sat down in the Air Nomad's office, "Hava, that is unacceptable. I will not kneel to Iruei, a child who is younger than me!"
"He is the Earth King, you are bound by the laws that make you king of the city to swear fealty to him. And because you didn't those decades ago, now the enemy has a legitimate reason to dethrone you."
"There is nothing legitimate about these monsters!"
"The more you keep talking like that, the more they will likely kill you. You are not invincible and you do not command an entire nation."
"I have the Avatar."
"Who you keep pushing away. She looks at the enemy and sees order and reason, she looks here and sees emotion and stupidity."
"I have ruled and defended this city all my life. We have had prosperity and peace until they invaded."
"Then be reasonable and take the steps necessary to save this city. If you bow to King Iruei, like you should already have, then he will withdraw the forces here in Omashu, he might even be opening to pulling his troops out of Republic City and other lands that are our allies. Think of the big picture, if you do this, you will still be King of Omashu."
"Hmph! A King who kneels is no king at all!" Urri left at that and walked out of the office.
Tala entered soon after, "Master Hava."
"Ah, Tala, come in," Tala sat down across from Hava, "What can I do for you?"
"I just need some guidance, Master Hava. I never had doubts about defending this city and it seemed wrong for the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom to attack Republic City. But now, I'm not so sure. In the past, the Avatars kept balance and ensured that the four nations were kept apart. But Avatar Aang helped make Republic City, which was meant to combine the nations into one. And what the Fire Lord and The Snowbold said about the United Republic is true."
"The Water Tribes would fall so far behind without Republic City, the Earth Kingdom lost more than a quarter of their land and the Fire Nation had to contribute a huge amount of technology and weaponry to the city and its United Forces."
"So what makes us the ones in the right to stop two nations that don't want to slowly become subservient to Republic City? How are they in the wrong for trying to save their countries?"
Hava sighed and answered, serious as always, "Tala. Men can fight for the right reasons and commit horrible actions, sometimes justified, sometimes not. The Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom could have taken another route to keep their nations intact and not go to war."
"Rishu, as councilor, could have pushed legislation that would not have forced so much out of the nations. He could have been publicly open about these policies and done things the right way. Instead, he chose to go to war. To kill as a solution, instead of reason. Is that a man we should say was justified in his decisions?"
Tala sat down under the summer night sky as a candle lay between her and Kulek. They ate a rich meal for a siege including fresh fruit and warm bread and a fruit spread that was bitter at first but sweet as it finished. They had a glass of wine each, another thing hard to come by in war was a rich wine from the Fire Nation.
"Kulek, what do you think about the motives of the enemy?"
"They are attacking to take over. World domination seems to be a habit of the Fire Nation's Royal Family, that they can't kick."
"And what about the Earth Kingdom? Omashu belongs to it, its not world domination to put it back in place is it?"
"Put what back in place? Its that brute The Snowbold, you've seen him. He takes joy in breaking people and his new hobby right now is attacking Omashu."
Tala stopped asking. She had been asking everyone questions lately about why they were fighting. Some gave reasoned answers like Hava about principle and how it was the wrong way to do things the way Rishu did; others answered more like Kulek did, with emotion and repulsion. They never thought about why they were enemies, just that they were.
It was Suun that surprised her. He thought Urri was in the wrong for his decisions pertaining to this war, but would not stand against his brother. Among the others she asked, Ralyn answered that it was Tala's choice as an Avatar to decide what she thought was right, her kin in the Dai Li believed the defenders had little chance if they fought realities. Liman was for the defense of the city as was Arkoda and Kuel, though Liman was the only of the three with reasoned argument for why.
It tore at her that they knew so little. She just continued the picnic with Kulek talking about the mundane. But she felt like it was an empty shell, a monk should know so much more about the world around him, especially a master.
Making the Choice
Tala twisted and turned while sleeping. She was certain of her choice but now it was time to deal with. Wait for a time until Omashu was safe? Or go now while she had no doubts? She sat up, thinking on the weight of her decisions. What would they do?
She had to do this now, while she was still certain. She got up and dressed. She then quietly made her way to her family. Sung and another agent were at guard for her father.
Sung was surprised at her appearance, "Tala, what are you doing here?"
"Wake up my father and tell him to prepare everyone to leave."
"Just do it. If things get bad, get out and don't wait for me." Tala turned and left for the Palace again.
Ending the Alliance
Tala walked through the halls of the shadowy palace. There were few guards once within the palace during the night. She made a turn around the corner and finally reached the entrance to the throne room, one of the few places to have guards throughout the night.
The guard noticed Tala approaching, she was still stiff from the sleep she had awakened from, but determined to look wide awake. If she looked sleepy, her statements would be discounted.
"Avatar Tala, it is late."
"I need to speak with King Urri, now." She didn't want to start arguing with anyone else in the city.
"It can wait till the morning, I'm sure-" The guard was doing his job and she couldn't blame him, but he was still in the way.
"No. I will speak with him now, alone." The look in her eye signaled that it was not up for debate.
The man paled and entered the throne. Five minutes later, seven guards and assistants left.
She stepped in as the wild haired man sat on his cushioned throne. "Coming here late at night like an assassin? You truly are taking too much of that mercenary's teachings to heart."
Every word was touched with venom and insults. Was he always this way? She knew he was arrogant and proud, but demeaning?
"Perhaps. But nonetheless, my matters with you are urgent." The only sound between them were the fountains that ringed each side of the throne room.
"Hmmm," he waved his hand at her like she was a servant, "speak."
She clenched her fist silently, "I always wondered as a child why I was never allowed to leave the city except see my family. And that was always close. But now I know why."
"You're greedy. It wasn't enough that you could influence me as I learned earthbending, but you wanted more power by regulating who could see me and who I could see. That's why you went ballistic when I just went to the river. You're afraid I'll run away and leave, taking away your leverage."
"Well, Rishu doesn't care for your 'leverage' and it forced this city into the losing side of a war with the deadliest strategists since the Hundred Year War. You defied the Earth King and now the whole city is suffering for your rebellion."
"I was doing it to protect you from the war." Urri rhetorically responded.
"That's a lie and you know it!" Tala pointed a finger at him as she spoke, "You have been wanting to secede Omashu from the Earth Kingdom since they told you as a kid that you deserve everything. Your greed and lust for power is the reason I am not as powerful as I should be, the reason I am not strong enough to face Rishu or The Snowbold. You're the reason your sons are dead."
"How dare you speak to your King that way!!!" Urri rose with fury and malice in his voice and eyes.
"You are not my king. And ignoring it doesn't change the fact that if you did as you were told, Esas and Kilidi would not have been killed by Rishu."
Urri's hatred seethed as she continued, "The fact is that your power-hungry conniving is putting you on the wrong side of this war. Rishu is right. The fifth nation is destroying the four nations. As the Avatar, its my duty to restore and balance them."
"Avatar Aang created Republic City!"
"Avatar Aang was a coward! A traitor! And a fool. He fulfilled Sozin's quest but without the Fire Lord!"
Urri's fist clenched more, "Then what are you going to do about it? Surrender the city to those monsters?"
"No. Even a traitor, the city is still yours to command. But that doesn't mean I have to fight for it."
"You'll stand by as people are slaughtered?"
"No, I'll end this war." She then pointed out the window, "But from that side. Where it will make a difference. Where I know I am making the right decision."
"Traitor!" He moved forward as if to attack.
"Think twice before you move, because attacking the Avatar is never an easy affair."
Urri hesitated. For all his arrogance and pomp, he was not incompetent.
"I will take with me what is mine and no more. I will not force you to surrender or take you as my prisoner. You need to make that choice yourself, while you can still decide."
She then bowed mockingly, "Goodbye, your grace."
She turned around, walking away from the throne room. It was over for her. But it wasn't for Urri. His eyes took on a look of a demented madman. He yelled furiously, "NO!!!"
Instantly he leapt forward and punched, to his will the earth struck forward, speeding to her. Tala reacted faster than sound and swung out from her chest. The stone heading for her turned to dust at her will, harmlessly passing by.
She did not stop there, neither did Urri. He was punching forward, as was Tala. But she was faster. As Urri's hand shot forward, it stopped in place. His whole body did, then his hand pulled back, and his body twisted. He painfully grumbled as he knelt to the ground.
A clawed hand twisted and pulled in. "Fool! Attacking an Avatar? I didn't know you were that stupid."
"Filthy Bloodbender!" He spat every word with hatred and judgement.
"I'm the Avatar, and I will decide how I put you in your place."
"Fool." Urri stopped resisting, his eyes focused on nothing but everything. Tala knew instantly what he was doing and leapt back. A sharp jet of earth blasted forward where she was standing, a death blow had she not moved.
Tala lost her concentration and Urri stood up again. "I am a true master of Psychic Earthbending. So long as a thought is mine, I can bend."
"Then I will take everything from you. Which won't be hard, Rishu gave me a head start."
Urri yelled as Tala sprinted forward faster than possible. A cascade of earth and stone opposed the Avatar as she sped forward. She easily spun around it and sent a wave of air at Urri. It hit Urri and blasted him back into his throne.
Tala leapt up and charge a bolt of lightning. The arc followed her arm and leapt out like a dragon for the kill. Urri used a rock to push himself out of the way as the lightning crashed with his throne, leaving only wreck of stone where the base of the throne was.
Urri lifted his hands; walls of earth surrounded Tala and before she could react, they closed in. A sphere of stone encased her. Urri smiled smugly, the look disappeared quickly when the rock glowed orange in the cracks that were growing across the sphere now.
The heat became glaring as the stones couldn't hold together against the great pressure within. Tala stood unfazed; she outstretched her hands to the fountains on each side. Water came rushing to Urri as he made a slide of earth to elevate himself over the attack and charge for her.
Spikes of stone rushed for the Avatar, recalling Ralyn and Hava's teachings, she didn't oppose the earth, she directed it. The spikes landed on the floor harmlessly. Tala's eyes raged and seethed with anger and pain.
"Give up, Urri. You're an old man who has forgotten how to fight. Your greed clouds you."
A rock shot for her directly, she firmly punched it, dust exploded and fell as sand below. Before Urri could make another move, Tala punched forward with her left arm, halting Urri's body with the motion.
"I had hoped you would make the right decision and surrender on your own, but you obviously are incapable of that. I guess Suun will become the King of Omashu sooner than anyone expected."
She closed her fists tightly, "I am ashamed to think that you were ever a good man. Goodbye."
She lifted her hands up and twisted them, Urri began twisting at cruel, unnatural angles as he writhed in agony. He began groaning, only because his throat was too constricted to scream.
"Stop this, Tala, now!"
Tala let go of her hold to see Ralyn standing calmly, "He attacked me. He won't let me go, I have to do this."
"You have already won. You can leave now. If you kill him, it won't make you any better than he is."
"If he lives, this siege will continue and he will try to stop us from leaving."
"And if you kill him, you will set the city against us. Avatars are guides not rulers. Choose to be better than him and you will be respected and remembered for it. Kill him and you will be despised."
Tala breathed heavily. She released Urri from her grip, he breathed heavily as he was choking before. She turned and left the throne room, which was now a ruin. Ralyn stepped forward, standing in front of the old king.
He stared at her with malice shining, "This is your fault, filthy little bloodbender!" his words were rasping as he was still regaining his breath.
She grabbed him by the throat, and whispered in his ear as he choked, "Yes it is. And you made it possible. I would never have been able to win the Avatar over if not for your arrogance and pomp in contrast."
She raised Urri higher, "I told the Avatar the truth, killing you would ruin her legacy, but not mine." She clenched further hearing the old throat struggle to breathe as its path was closed, "But I have a business in this war going on, so its business-smart to let you live, you old warmonger."
Ralyn let the old man go, dropping him onto the floor. She turned and followed the departing Avatar, "Thank you for your hospitality." She bowed mockingly, worse than Tala did before.
Suun and Hava rushed to the Western Gate when they heard. They arrived to see Tala and Ralyn putting bags on Ilan as the Dai Li around them were in formation facing the Western Gate.
"Tala!" Hava got Tala's attention, "What are you doing?"
"I'm leaving Omashu. I can't defend this city anymore, nor stand by while a greedy monster refuses to surrender when in the wrong. I will not let him use my status to legitimize his rebellion."
"Tala," Suun spoke, "there are thousands of people here. Innocent people who need you to defend them, to save them."
"Then do what you must to save them and take your place as King of Omashu. Spirits know Urri should never have ruled in the first place."
"I.." Suun hesitated, "I can't..."
"Then you doom the city with your brother." Cold emerald eyes stared at those who were her allies for so long. Now they were angry, condemning them. She looked and noticed that Hava had disappeared somewhere in the discussion.
She looked to see Hava on the other side with a Sky Bison and some nomads, the family of Kulek. "I'm glad you're coming with us, Master Hava."
"No. I am not coming with you. My place is here. But, I will not let you go alone, Kulek and his family will join you and make sure to keep you safe."
Tala smiled to see Kulek among the small family of Nomads who would join them. She bowed to Hava, "I hope to see you well again, Master Hava."
Urri ran forward as fast as he could, bruised from the fight with that traitor. He reached the plaza of the gate seeing a group readying for departure.
Traitors! He thought. Tala, her filthy Dai Li clan and several Air Nomads, all preparing to leave and join the enemy. He was about to step out and call for his men to arrest them when a hand from behind grabbed his shoulder and stopped him.
He looked to see it belonged to his younger brother, Suun. He looked up at his taller sibling, "Suun! Those traitors are going to the enemy! We have to stop them!"
"I know," the look in his face was one of sadness.
"No! We have to stop them!"
"How? You can't stop the Avatar. What will you do, kill her?"
"I don't care!" He moved forward to step out.
Suun stopped him again, "If you kill her, the entire city will turn on you. Brother, think. You have lost this match, if you try to change this, it will only turn out badly."
Urri looked on him harshly, "I could expect many to be traitors within this city, but never did I think it would be my own brother."
Suun took a more serious look, "I am saving you, brother."
The two looked on as the party readied itself. Soon the gates began opening and the Eel Hound sprinted forward and the Dai Li began marching across the bridge.
Tala had Ilan walk slowly as they crossed the bridge. Image was as important as meaning. Her kin marched methodically, feet hitting the ground equally as one sound as a rhythm as their mechanical march moved forward.
Tala led the party forward straight for the negotiations post. With such a large party leaving Old Omashu, a group waited at the post for them. Head amongst them was Grand Marshal Rishu.
Rishu stood ahead of the others and walked forward, "Welcome, young Avatar."
"Grand Marshal Rishu, I humbly ask for your sanctuary on behalf of me and my people."
Rishu looked on the Dai Li. His ancestor had a history with them, "Of course. Please join me."
Tala slid down from the reins as her, Ralyn, and Ustad followed the Grand Marshal. They came to the negotiations tent and sat down. Some men poured tea and they drank quietly.
Tala spoke sullenly as she sipped her tea, "I am guessing that your offer to join you is still on the table?"
"It never left, Avatar Tala. Now please, you must be tired. Rest," he beckoned a young officer forward, Tala recognized the handsome young man, "Captain Liam will help you settle down."
As Ralyn and Ustad followed Liam, Tala stopped, "Well played, Rishu."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I know you sent Ralyn to convince me to join you. Well-played that it worked."
"Avatar, it wasn't me that convinced you to join, or Ralyn. It was your own sense of what is right. You saw for yourself, Ralyn was just there to help you see a comparison."
Tala coldly turned around and followed after the others.
Rishu stood there alone, in the light of the tent, he smiled.
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|