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Blood and Swamps
January 13, 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 14: Avatar Tala
"Traitor!" The hands clawed at her.
"Traitor!" Someone was choking her, making her lose her vision.
She put a hand forward and crushed them with their own, something came from behind and struck her before she could respond. They grabbed her and dragged her to a fire, "Traitor!"
Tala woke with a start. Sweating, as she breathed heavily. She exhaled and tried to calm herself down, "It was just a dream. It was just a dream."
Tala went to the command tent finding Ralyn was waiting along the way. As they continued, they saw the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom troops look on them warily. For nearly a year she had been fighting these men. It was a likely chance that she had killed the brothers or friends of some of these men.
As she entered the command tent, she found the center was taken up by a large Pai Sho Table. It had a large mix of black and green tiles. On each end was a commander of the forces of the siege. With a small pile of unused black tiles sat Rishu on one side and on the other with almost all tiles used was Kuir placing a green mountain tile.
Rishu looked at it for a moment and moved his storm tile across from the mountain, nulling its function. It was then that they noticed Tala and Ralyn. Ralyn took a sarcastic tone, "Oh don't let us interrupt your game."
"Its not a game for game's sake. Its a lesson in the long view. If its any indication, we have been playing this game since I first got here. If a game can go this long, how about a war? If I can trick Kuir into a headlong assault on the board, then what about on the field? Lessons are to be had in this 'game'."
"A game of tricks to teach about strategy?" Tala spoke coldly.
"Yes, Avatar Tala, a game of tricks. One which the Order of the White Lotus identifies itself with. But we are getting distracted," he stood up, "We can continue this later. Now as you know, we are going to be proceeding with negotiations and once Chair Lio and the rest of the Republic Council arrives, we will discuss the fate of Republic City."
"Okay, where do I come in?" Tala crossed her arms.
"I want your opinion, Avatar. I invaded Republic City for a reason, now what do I decide to do now that I control it? Does it go back to the Earth Kingdom like it was centuries ago? Or do I keep it for the Fire Nation as a colony it was? What do you suggest?"
Tala never thought about that. She was on the other side of the war for so long, she had only thought of freeing it, not of what to do if Rishu had won. She kept thinking and pacing, about to speak and then stopping herself, "Let me ask you something."
"Certainly," Rishu sat down, "go on."
"Republic City is a problem because it represents a fifth nation, one that would stand over the four, yes?"
"So to let it stand would be to let it stay a fifth nation, defeating the purpose."
"Yes," Rishu patiently answered.
"But dividing it all back would be too hard, centuries of integration have made it one, so it seems impossible to give it back."
"Exactly the dilemma I face."
"But if I'm wrong, there is one of the four nations missing. The Air Nomads were wiped out. They are apart of the United Republic, given how small they are. Could it be said that this new land represents the rebuilding of their nation?"
"You could, if they ruled. But more often than not, it is someone else who runs the council, of which only one Air Nomad is on. Not to mention the President, who is elected by popular vote."
"And what if this council consisted of only Air Nomads? If the nation was ruled by Airbenders, as it was their nation, they will let other people live there, its in their history to give hospitality."
"Yes, it could work. But the Nomads didn't nor do they have such a large expanse as the United Republic. You see the issue that still faces the Earth Kingdom."
"So the Northern, Eastern, and Southern Air Temples become part of the Earth Kingdom. In return, the United Republic is exchanged for an Air Nation that includes the Western Air Temple."
Kuir answered, "That may work. If the Northern Fortress submits to my father and any residents at the Southern and Eastern Air Temple likewise recognize his authority."
"Very clever, Avatar," Rishu smiled subtly as he sat back, "I couldn't have done better myself."
Tala breathed out, "Don't act like that wasn't your idea all along. You have just been guiding me to your conclusion, just like this war."
"And when will you stop patronizing me?"
"When it is no longer necessary."
Tala looked out to Old Omashu. She had spent more time in the palace than out of it since this war started, she had almost forgotten what it looked like from afar. Someone approached her from behind, she was ready to strike when the officer held up his hands, "I mean you no harm, Avatar."
Tala recognized the young man. Every time she saw him, he was in the shadow of Rishu, "You're Liam, aren't you?"
He gave a bow, "At you service, great Avatar." He gave a dazzling smile, while his eyes shined. Tala involuntarily smiled back before she stopped herself.
"So I hear you're a sword master."
"You heard correctly," he sat down next to her looking out to Old Omashu.
"Chief Arkoda is a master swordsman as well."
"And as long as he is, I won't be recognized as the best."
"So you're looking for a fight with a man who has Sokka's space sword?"
"I have made swords my whole life and refined the process greatly, I know how to make steel that sings with every cut and can withstand hammers at it." He unsheathed his Jian, "This sword took years to make and it is the finest in the Fire Nation."
"Hm," Changing the subject, Tala asked him a new question, "So what do you think about all of this?"
"The war? I guess its just natural for us humans to fight over something. Be it love or land, we always find a reason to fight each other."
"That a bit of a tragic view, don't you think?"
"Maybe, but can you really trust anyone else? I mean look at this guy," he gestured to the city, "Urri is ruler of the city but its not enough, he wants to be free of the Earth Kingdom, obviously Iruei can't trust him, and I certainly wouldn't if I were him."
Tala looked away. Trust, that was a word she thought she understood. But with everything changing, she didn't know if anyone trusted her, or whether she could trust them.
"If you need anything, don't be afraid to ask. Good day, Avatar," Liam stood up and bowed. He then left back the way he had come.
Tala walked to the negotiations post. Rishu said that she didn't have to come, understanding if it was too difficult for her. But she was determined to see it through. She wore her armor as she always did and walked in the door for the invaders' side of the tent.
Rishu and Kuir had already arrived and sat down. On the other side was Hava, Kuel, and Arkoda. Hava briefly and awkwardly smiled at her while the others stared at her.
Rishu started, "Now that we're all here, lets begin."
The others nodded uncomfortably.
"Now, I think we can all agree that the fight with the Swamp is unnecessary. So long as they stay out of the war, we will not bother them. But I do have concerns for other-"
Rishu didn't get to finish. A White Lotus sentry ran up and charged at Tala. He leapt over the table grabbing her. The force of the jump pushed them both out of the tent. Tala rolled backwards to avoid a fireblast where she had previously sat.
"Traitor!" The sentry yelled as he spun, lightning escaping his fingertips.
He shot forward though it missed the agile Avatar. Before he could attack again, a hand grabbed his neck, another brutally hit his back. The man fell to his knees as Rishu circled him. He placed his thumb over his forehead and the other on his chest.
"Argh," the man struggled against an invisible grip. Rishu seemed to glow but it was gone the next second. He let the man go, who fell to the ground weakly. He sat up on his knees and punched at Rishu. "What? Impossible!" Nothing came, the man punched again, but groaned in pain and exhaustion from the exertion.
"Take him to the hold, I'm not finished with him yet!" Two Imperial Firebenders grabbed the weakened man and dragged him away.
Tala was shocked, she knew he could bend energy as he had done to her, but he didn't take her bending away, instead he gave her a vision she was trying to forget. She looked at Rishu. A look of power and controlled rage was apparent. "Is this how the Order of the White Lotus treats the Avatar? Unruly men and disrespect!?"
The men stood there silent and in fear, that he had actually taken someone's bending away made him a greater threat than they knew. After all, Tala only told the Air Nomads and no one else. Kuir looked as if he would prance on them. While a brute mostly, he understood the standards of nobility, and this act was an insult to his family. He would take it out on all of them for the dishonor they did him when he treated with them for peace.
Rishu looked none happier. Now she understood what Hava meant when she said no man lived to insult him. Her attacker would not live the night, it would be a blight on his reputation.
"These talks are done; I suggest you get your house in order before coming back; that is, if we decide to ever restart these."
He left at that making a clear threat that any more attempts on the Avatar will be followed with an assault on the city.
As Rishu and Kuir left, the others looked to Tala, "Tala, we're sorry, we didn't know."
She followed Rishu, not answering them, coldly gazing through them before she turned to leave.
The word stung her. All her life, her kin taught her that loyalty was the most important thing that kept them together. To be called a traitor was even worse for the Dai Li, they all lived with the knowledge that their ancestors were the definition of treachery.
She leaned over the sink looking into the mirror. She hadn't been sleeping well and her eyes showed it. What was normally emerald was now bloodshot. She turned on the sink to run water over her face, it didn't help her eyes or her exhaustion.
The water dripped off her chin as each drop brought a new face. Each looked on, ashamed, disappointed, angry, horrified. It was painful to look on their faces. Each was familiar to her. Kuel, Suun, Liman, Simi, Hava, Esas, Kilidi, Kulek.
Her eyes dilated with that. She scratched at her tired eyes. How do I make it stop?
The images kept running past her eyes, she needed release. In her anger she punched at the faces and heard a crack. Pain rang through her arm. Her vision cleared and she saw that she had shattered the mirror in her vain attempt to wipe away the faces in her mind.
Shards of glass dug into her knuckles and made her hand bleed. She clenched her shaking fist as her anger seethed and blood flowed down her arm. This was what she got for all her trying. For trying to do the right thing, she got condemnation and scorn. What good was it to earn their trust if they would turn on you?
Sheep with Wolves
Kulek walked through the camp and was more than a little worried. He was still the enemy to these men. They knew the tattoos of an Air Nomad and saw someone they fought on the battlefield. Kulek spent more time training the younger kids, especially when Simi was burned and then captured, but he did fight out on the battlefield.
He didn't know why she did it. He didn't understand why Tala would act like she did. Joining the enemy just seemed so out of character. She wasn't a traitor, a turncoat. What made her think that turning against all her friends would be right, would end this war?
Tala had been acting strange since the beginning of the war, but she began listening to that mercenary, and began talking nonsense about balance and order. He wished that he could say that things were as strong as ever, but he wasn't sure anymore. Tala was just acting so odd.
As he was walking he was bumped into by a Fire Nation officer, "Ah my apologies Master Rohan." The charming voice sounded familiar. His uniform was different from the armor of the soldiers around him. The young man gave a dazzling smile.
"-Liam. I helped you unpack."
"Ah yes, you're Rishu's butler." He didn't like the young officer. He looked at Tala like he would himself and looked down on the Air Nomad.
Liam chuckled, "I am his right hand, loyal to a fault, which can't be said of everyone."
Kulek remembered what Tala said to him when he told the city about her family. Did he know?
"I also will do necessary work to make sure my side will never suffer genocide. Good day, Master Rohan. Send Master Simi Rohan my regards."
"Good day, Captain Liam." Kulek turned around to continue his walk to the Negotiations post where Simi was waiting, Liam likewise turned to leave.
He stopped for a second, "Oh and give Chief Arkoda my regards, I'm hoping the two of us will get to discuss swordsmanship real soon." Liam left for wherever he was heading before meeting Kulek.
As he turned his back, Kulek's face took a snarl. He knew doing anything in the middle of a crowd of firebenders was stupid. He continued on.
Simi was waiting for him at the tent. The two hugged, "How are you doing here?"
Kulek grimaced, "Well enough, I guess. These people really don't like us."
Simi chuckled, "That's because I've been tossing them around anytime I'm on the field. And some of them remember when I was a prisoner who tried to escape daily."
Kulek gave him a look like his statement wasn't humorous, "Well, at least you won't be mistaken for me. How's she doing?" Kulek knew who exactly she was.
"Not good. She's tired, she's angry. One of the Lotus Sentries attacked her."
"I heard. Is it true that Rishu really took-?"
"Wow," a silence hung over them for a moment. They were told about Rishu's hidden power when he first used it against Tala in the Agni Kai, but now that he used it in public seemed to make it worse.
Kulek started again, "She hardly talks now. She looks at everyone like they're going to attack her. And the other day, I saw her hand was cut up. She wouldn't tell me what happened."
"You just noticed this? How long had it been like that?"
"I don't know! That's the point. She barely talks to me, and when she does, she gives me this look."
"I don't know," Kulek vented his frustration as Simi pressed, "Its like she's waiting for me to do something and no matter what I do she isn't relieved, she just keeps waiting for it. Its like she's expecting me to attack her."
Kulek rested his arms against a chair, "I just don't understand her. She's treating me like the enemy. Like I'm going to turn on her."
"Are you going to turn on her?"
"Of course not!"
"Have you told her that?"
Simi smacked his forehead, "Think, you airhead! She just turned her own world upside down. She's with the enemy now and her old allies didn't wait a day before they attempted to kill her. She looks at anyone associated with that and sees the enemy; you included. You told the city about her family, which could have gone badly. And you have done nothing to assure her that you are on her side."
"I didn't know I had to."
"Maybe a year ago, sure. But after you told the city about her family, she will always doubt you. She will always wonder whether you will choose her or us."
Kulek stood there in shock. He sat down in a chair without realizing it, "How do I do this? Tala always understood me. She was the serious one and I was the carefree one."
Simi sighed as he patted Kulek's shoulder, "Tala is the Avatar, she can't always separate personal and professional matters. You need to make sure that she knows you are there for her. In this case, you can't assume that she knows that."
Kulek breathed out heavily, "It just seems so convoluted. I can't deal with this."
Traitor! The word was thrown at her like it was her name. The people she once called friends were a mob who was coming at her. She tried to stop them, to explain why she did this, but they didn't listen. They didn't care. They hated her.
They reached her and grabbed her. All trying to get a hold of her as they took her to the fire ahead. They kept calling her traitor and she heard whispers of foul things as she was pulled further.
It was then that her eyes wished they would close, "No, please!"
It was unbearable to look and see him amongst the mob and leading it. He screamed out at the top of his lungs, "Traitor!" and the mob joined in.
Tears flowed from her eyes, "Please Kulek!"
The eyes that looked back at her showed only malice and hatred, determined to kill her. He grabbed her as the others yelled triumphantly. The fire was close and it hurt just to look and feel the heat. She couldn't resist.
He kept pulling her and now she was at the edge. Just as he was about to push her in, she gave one last scream, "No!"
"NO!" A thousand voices spoke at once, channeled into seething rage and raw power. Her body rose from the bed as her eyes glowed white. A funnel of air lifted her further from the ground as the tent she had been in was destroyed in the process, like a storm had suddenly hit.
A contorted face of rage possessed the face of the Avatar as an airsprout lifted her higher. Chaos and panic ensued below. The majority of the people were sleeping when the storm of power hit their peaceful slumber. In their groggy confusion, they fled the area.
But a few of the brave went to the source. Among them was the Grand Marshal, "What's going on!?"
Kuir was looking through the mess of flying tents and located the source, "She has gone into the Avatar State! She destroying everything near her!"
"Where is she going!?" Rishu yelled at the top of his lungs as he could barely hear himself over the gale of winds.
"Nowhere, she's just staying in place, but her storm is expanding!"
"We need to get her out of the siege lines!"
"How are we going to do that!?"
Tala was no longer falling into the fire. Instead she fell into a pond of water. But when she stood up, it wasn't a pond, more like a swamp with low-lying mist. She looked out and saw none of those who had dragged her to the fire.
At first, she figured that her dream changed to something better, something less violent. But this place felt different. It felt old. Like it was an ancient ruin or like the Banyan Grove Tree.
No one answered her and the echoes of her voice carried on. She began to wonder how much better this lonely place could be.
She turned around to see a woman who had come from nowhere. She wore blue and white like the Water Tribes. Her eyes glistened blue and her dark skin and dark hair confirmed her nationality. "Korra?"
The kind face smiled, "It is so good to see you, Tala. I wish it was under better circumstances."
"What do you mean?"
Korra's smiled faded, "Your decision to break with your friends has broken your faith in trust. Its affecting you and you have entered the Avatar State subconsciously."
Tala looked at her blankly, shocked at the explanation.
"You are both at great danger at this moment, and a threat to everyone."
Kuir put on his disc hat, "Of all the stupid things you've had me do over the years, Rishu, this is by far the worst!"
"You want to wait for her to destroy the whole city?" Rishu finished place a piece of his black and gold armor on.
"Yes, actually, that would be nice!"
Rishu grunted as if annoyed, "We need to get her in the mountains and away from the siege or she'll tear us apart." Rishu grabbed a Dragon Helm and ran out of the tent.
"And what about us? You said it yourself that we stand no chance against her in the Avatar State."
"We just need her to follow us. We book it once we're in the mountains."
Kuir and Rishu ran to the crater that had formed where the Avatar's storm still raged. It had already grown since they donned their armor. Rishu place the Helm on completely, he then pointed out ahead, "We'll lead her Northwest! There is a wide mountain range there that can keep her occupied."
"And what if she decides to stay and keep blasting the city to rubble?"
"Then we're in even bigger trouble!"
"Okay, so if I'm in the Avatar State, what do I do to stop it? I'm not in any danger."
"I'm afraid its a bit more complicated than that," Korra had a sad look to her face.
"What do you mean?"
"You can return to your body and exit the Avatar State; but your inner turmoil is so strong that I fear this will happen again and again. I think that until you resolve this, you will continue to have this problem."
"So what do I do?"
"Think, Tala. Your choice to join Rishu is so jarring, even to you that you don't know what to do. Combined with the betrayals you have suffered, you seemed to trust no one."
"How can I trust people when they betray me at every corner?"
A second voice spoke, "You don't." Tala turned to see an armored man step in the swampy water, "Trust is short-minded, but that doesn't mean you treat everyone like an enemy."
The armor was black and had a helm with a fierce visage, "Rishu."
Howling wind battered the two as they ran north. The Avatar had cleared out a good section of the building in her area and could easily turn northwest when prompted to. The Dragon Armor-clad Rishu turned to Kuir, "We need to look like a threat, get up to the mountains now and be ready. I'll attack halfway, maybe I'll have a chance of making it there as she catches up to me."
Kuir nodded. He leapt from the rubble and landed on the earth; it seemed to cave in and swallow him whole until he emerged again. Riding on an earth wave, he sped forward and out to the mountains. Rishu looked back, where the Avatar's storm was expanding. It would be impossible to get close enough to get her attention with a fire; but there were other ways, more powerful ways to get attention.
Rishu breathed calmly, focusing on what wasn't there but was beneath it. While many firebenders now could use this power, few could feel the depth of it. The pure and detached extent of firebending, he separated the positive and negative energy around him, tearing it apart from each other.
The power of the energy was too much to keep separated and they collided with each other. The clash of energy made a bolt of power so pure it was all the colors combined, a white light struck forward.
The white eyes of the Avatar traced the lightning back to its creator. An enraged face snarled and breathed out flames impossible for any man. The flames rushed forward. Rishu punched out and made a large torrent of white fire in front as he turned to run.
The white flame held out for a long time but eventually gave way without continued power from its generator. Rishu slid down the hill and used the momentum to build up a jet of propulsion from his hands.
Rishu propelled himself out for the mountains, he was close but the raging storm was already coming for him. The winds were already buffeting him, making a straight run impossible.
The armored warrior spoke, "If you don't learn to control yourself. You will be vulnerable."
"How do I deal with what other people do to me?"
Korra answered, "Its not about what people do to you; its about what you do in response. You can't assume that everyone you come across is an enemy. If you live like that, you will be alone."
"I'm the Avatar, the definition of alone. I have to choose things even if I don't like them. I have to do what no one else will."
"Then accept that and stop taking the conflict with you." Rishu's advice was darkly disturbing to Tala.
Korra interrupted, "Tala, through it all, there will be those you can trust. Your family is there for you. The Air Nomads were there for you."
Tala scoffed, "They looked down on me like I'm a disgrace to their ancestor. A coward they revere, and I'm a traitor to this world!"
"Tala, every Avatar has faced troubles and dealt with issues of self-image. Aang faced his own problems. I faced my fair share. And every Avatar before had theirs. You can't lose hope in people because you have been betrayed."
"So I should let them stab me in the back? I'm not going to trust those who don't deserve it."
"Show control, then. Master yourself and your emotions, then nothing can hurt you." Rishu circled as he spoke aloud, "Does the sun fear those around it? That they will turn against him?"
"What does it matter?"
"Like the sun, you are far more powerful than anything around you. They are beneath you and cannot be your equals or threats. The Avatar is the master, act like it."
Korra had a worried look to her face, "Tala, there are people that love you and would die for you. Can't you see that they trust you?"
Tala looked down. She didn't know anymore; she didn't know who to trust, nor who trusted her.
Rishu was slammed against a stone boulder at the foot of the mountains. He had almost made it to the mountains when the Avatar sent a powerful gust of wind after him. Now he was flattened against a rock and felt like he was done for the count. His armor mitigated the brunt of the hit, but he still felt the collision with stone and it hurt. He was certain that he had black and blue bruises across his chest and wouldn't be surprised if his ribs were cracked.
He pushed himself up and felt the incredible pain of breathing. He had to fight through the pain though. If he stayed here, the Avatar would crush him. He started climbing the mountain, seeing a path in ahead.
The Avatar was closing in on him. Her glowing eyes spotted him and went in for the kill when a massive boulder flew straight for her. It stopped its trajectory and compressed to the size of a ball.
Knowing what was coming, Kuir had already bailed. Thousands of compressed stone bullets rushed forward and cut away what was a peak and turned it into a ditch. Kuir had already sped for the other mountain as the Avatar hovered fearlessly into the maze of stone.
Rishu came from behind and fired a white flame that wasn't even near close. Still it caught the attention of the Avatar and received her wrath. A crush wave of solid rock was threatening to swarm him.
Rishu didn't let fear in, not even when he knew it was suicidal to confront her in the Avatar State. If he panicked for even a moment it would be death or worse. He used one of his most powerful techniques for evasion, he propelled himself through a maze of stone spears that erupted from the ground. He weaved through them like an airbender would through the spinning gates.
It didn't last as he fell into sand, which wasn't there before. The Avatar was now changing the very environment. Even when not in control, Tala was adaptive. She closed in as Rishu dug himself out. He was still crawling as her feet landed beside him. Her glowing eyes were filled with fury.
Rishu still didn't panic, he didn't have the luxury of fear, never did after the day of madness. A gust of wind blasted him into a wall. As he stood up, his entire body was sore, wracked with the pain of physical trauma, his step was unsteady.
The steps sounded like a drum of doom as they came closer. The light was blinding as the silent Avatar walked forward. A stepped softly touched the ground signaling an attack. The Avatar reacted quickly but not absolutely fast enough.
Kuir had lobbed a massive boulder at Tala from behind. The boulder sped forward at a fast rate that seemed impossible to stop. The Avatar halted the hit in the nick of time but stumbled back, losing her footing for a moment.
So you don't have eyes in the back of your head. Apparently the Avatar State had a very subtle weakness.
She had already counterattacked, send a gale of air after the attacker. Kuir had made a powerful wall to protect himself. One that even Rishu's flames couldn't have pierced, and yet it had cracks in it. It began crumbling as the wind continued to batter it. Soon dust was all that was left of the Crown-Prince's defense. With his protection gone, Kuir was sent hurling through the air into a rock jutting.
Given how slowly he stood up, it was a serious injury. Kuir tried to send a slide of rock after him but it was stopped midway. Suddenly, Rishu felt incredible pressure on his body, it was pressing his chest in on itself. It made it painful to breath. He saw that on the other side Kuir was in the same position, just trying to stand and hold his place.
Rishu needed to catch the Avatar's focus. He pressed his fist forward. He put all his strength into it, but it was hardly moving against the storm of air that was holding him down. His muscles pained him as they stretched and worked beyond their capacity.
He let out his white flames, strong as they were, they struggled against the storms of the Avatar, which threatened to stomp them out. The heat got to her and she turned to him, lightening the pressure of the area. Rishu breathed again as he readied for whatever she may throw at him.
Leaving the State
Tala sat there in the puddle of mud as confused and haunted as she was when looking in the mirror. The reflections in the water showed their faces as well, the only difference was the ripple of the water.
She looked down on them, they looked up at her in more than just shame and disappointment, they looked at her in hatred. It pained her, no wounds to her body hurt her as much as the pain of their resentment. She wondered what she did wrong to get such cruelty.
No, she clenched her knees with her fists, they chose to hold her back, to keep her down and to condemn her. They betrayed her, they couldn't be trusted, none of them.
"Tala, do you trust me, do you trust us?" Korra emphasized the last word. She meant the Avatars, the others, her past. Tala thought on it, she may disagree with the choices of some of them, but she did know that ultimately they were her in some way.
"Then trust us. We'll always be there for you."
As she spoke, others began to appear behind her. First an Air Nomad, he had the iconic arrows and a thin goatee, Avatar Aang. Others joined him and she knew their names. Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk, Yangchen...
Rishu stood there ready for what would likely be the final blow. There was no way he could stop her. She had run him to his last, done the same to Kuir. Battered and broken, they would be lucky to live. All his life's work now on a razor's edge like never before.
As he stood there, he clenched, waiting for what may come. The storm seemed to dissipate. The Avatar must have been charging her attack. But as he kept looking, she stood calm and the glow of her eyes dimmed. She was exiting the Avatar State.
Rishu breathed easy, relief spreading through his body for surviving and not enduring anymore. Tala stood before him now, somewhat bewildered, "Where am I?"
"In the mountains where Kuir and I could keep you from destroying the city."
The return of Rishu, Kuir, and Tala was seen as a true testament of power. Kuir and Rishu looked strong as they entered the lines again, bringing a new awe about their powers. But as they entered the tent, the limping began as well as the pained breathing. Doctors were quietly sent in and made their prognosis as Tala looked on unsteadily; especially when Lira entered.
Tala never warmed up to her. She felt something off at the banquet nearly a year ago and then was set off by her playing impostor for Rishu. Lira gave a cold but silent look Tala's way when a doctor explained the injuries they had suffered, which were various and listed.
Kuir had a shattered rib while the rest were cracked. His muscles had likewise overextended and his eyes were bloodshot from popped capillaries, which were across his body. Rishu had a punctured lung from his ribs and a dislocated shoulder along with quite severe internal bruising in the chest and abdomen area. One of his legs was also severely strained and like Kuir his muscles were overstretched from exertion.
In all, the two were beaten bad and would be out of commission for months, not that Kuir was doing what he was told as he limped across the tent when he was supposed to sit down. Kuir looked at her after he told the doctors to leave, "And what was up with you, you nearly blew up the city? Normally I wouldn't have minded, but I was still in it when you went nuts!"
"I am sorry. These changes have greatly affected me, I couldn't cope. I am sorry for what I did to you."
Kuir looked appeased but just. It was Rishu that she felt empathy from; and that surprised her. His fathomless eyes said it all, that he knew great burdens and how hard it was. And the shine in them when she said the word cope spoke fathoms.
"Are you okay now, or is there a danger of this occurring again?" Rishu asked in concern.
"Yes, thank you."
Tala sat on the edge of the crate by the tent they had set up for her now. It wasn't as nice, since it was a spare and there few extras after Tala took out a large number of the used ones. She began think on how things progressed afterwards.
Kulek was trying to get to her apparently when Captain Liam literally held him down. "Rishu's orders," he said.
He was happy to see that she was fine but was incredibly worried as was the rest of his family. They surrounded her and asked a million questions while inspecting her for any injuries. Which the doctors had already done to find her alright.
She had since convinced them to go to sleep and sat outside their replaced tents, it turns out they were very close to her starting range of destruction.
Tala just couldn't get over that she had entered the Avatar State in her sleep, especially in the state of mind she was in, enraged. The damage she could have done if Rishu and Kuir hadn't done anything. She was relieved and grateful that Rishu had made that sacrifice and happily surprised that Kuir followed him in it. From what they said, both would have been dead if not for playing ping-pong with her attention.
She thought about that very action. Distracting an enraged Avatar State just to buy time? That was crazy in Tala's book, but it saved the city. All this time, even when she joined, she saw Rishu as a ruthless tactician and persona of power, and thought worse of Kuir. But risking their lives like they did to save their men spoke to a greater character than she had previously given them.
Rishu clenched his teeth as he changed the position he sat in. Every movement, every breath hurt life a knife in his spine. They told him and Kuir they wouldn't walk for weeks. Kuir's response was standing up, walking to them and asking to repeat the diagnosis.
Even with all the bravado, they were pretty banged up. They would need to heal and that could be problematic. Rishu and Kuir's absence would be noted among the enemy and taken for defeat and their morale would be boosted.
Rishu finished moving his body and began writing again. His letter was to be copied and then sent out to the other Grand Marshals, informing them of the event as well as the breakdown of negotiations in Omashu.
He heard the ruffle of someone entering the tent. He barely turned his neck, so as not to upset his body. He saw from the corner of his eye that it was Avatar Tala.
"Ah, Avatar, come in."
"So what can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to explain to you some things that happened while I was in the Avatar State."
Rishu sat still and listened as Tala sighed before starting. It was a habit of Hava's that she began picking up.
"My fears of betrayal kind of took a turn for the worst. I have never really been in this position before. It just hit me all at once and I broke. I'm so sorry that I took it out on you and Kuir, even if I don't really like him," she managed to chuckle.
"While my body and everyone else were down here, I was somewhere else. I think I was in the Spirit World. I was just so lost. I don't know what I would have done if not for two people in particular. Avatar Korra and you. You two were there to talk to me, to help me. I couldn't say the same for anyone else. So, I just wanted to say thank you."
"Thank you, Tala, for your appreciation of my support. But I must disappoint you."
Tala frowned in confusion.
"I did not help you in the Spirit World. I was here in this world, trying to keep you from killing everyone. And I have the scars and bruises to prove it."
Tala's eyes widened in shock. Her mind raced trying to explain this twist, If that wasn't Rishu, then who was it?
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|