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Blood and Swamps
January 15, 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 15: All Nations
It was a clear hot day as summer burned in the Southern Earth Kingdom. Tala looked from the outskirts of the Siege Lines to the new arrival. It had been months since her 'outburst'. Rishu and Kuir's absence form the talking tables and the battlefields had been noted by the enemy, boosting their morale for war.
The United Forces had redoubled its guerrilla war and the convoy from Republic City couldn't guarantee the safety of its cargo, the Republic Council. The guarantee of their safety and open talks was a tactic itself as much as a way to resolve a front of the war.
Hava and Lio Jinora's ultimate loyalty was to Republic City and the Air Nomads, their home and their people; not Omashu. That would divide the priority of the city's best negotiator, Hava, from the interests of King Urri. Urri's only wanted the secession of Omashu from the Earth Kingdom, which would never happen with his temperament.
Urri, the reason Tala joined the invaders of Omashu. She compared him to the leaders and those beyond the walls of the palace and saw a greedy, vain man fighting for power, not for freedom. Tala couldn't let her status as the Avatar be abused by that kind of man by continuing to lend her support to the battle.
Tala was hoping to end the siege sooner with negotiations but they were cut completely after a Lotus Sentry attempted to murder her. Rishu has since hinted at an assault on the city unless they get themselves in order.
Now Lio Jinora was coming to the city to lead talks that could hopefully end the war. Tala sincerely hoped for the best. The war had been going on for nearly a year, and a lot had been lost. Urri's twin sons were dead, Republic City lost untold numbers in its conquest and many more were lost throughout the coastlands as the war had quickly spread when cities rebelled the Earth King and rallied to Republic City's aid.
Rishu stood at the head of the welcoming party. While Kuir was the commander of the entire siege, he was still recovering from wounds and overseeing the siege while Rishu welcomed their guest.
She stepped out from the truck that had sped them from the nearby train. It was a dangerous trip, ironically, she stood more in danger of being hit by her own side. The United Forces had changed tactics after several humiliating defeats in large battles. They divided their resources and fled into the mountains. From there, they used their advanced technology to hit anywhere in the United Republic. The only place in the region safe was the capital, Republic City, which was firmly in the grip of the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom.
Lio Jinora was the Chairman of the Republic Council and so ultimate leader of the United Republic, and its forces, but it was still commanded by military officers who were more strategically skilled than she was. They would continue until they pushed the enemy out.
As Lio approached, Rishu saw that she was haggard. The stress of the war was getting to her. It was likely because of her making Air Temple Island a refugee camp. Rishu set an order that let the island go unharmed, it was a haven from the war, but it soon became a prison for it too.
There wasn't enough food, or room and there was no escape. Lio was dealing with a local crisis as much as a national catastrophe. It was wearing her down.
Lio gave a curt bow as she was within striking distance of Rishu, "Grand Marshal."
"Chairwoman Jinora," he bowed in respect. Lio was the leader of not just the United Republic, but also the Air Nomad Clans as a whole. "It is good to see you. I was worried the convoy would be attacked along the way."
"We were fortunate enough to not suffer that fate."
Rishu smiled as a politician would, "Now we can resume talks in a hope to end the war."
"A war you started."
"That doesn't mean I want bloodshed to continue. My goal will soon be achieved and together we can created a lasting and stable balance in the nations."
"You assume too much, Grand Marshal," Lio was not fooled by the niceties. "Your warmongering will not be forgotten so easily by those who went to war and lost so much, they will keep fighting even if a peace is made here."
"And what if the leader of their nation agrees to the peace?" Rishu responded as the two strode to the negotiations tent. "Will they prove themselves rebels and defy your command?"
Lio was silent, what she had in mind could not be publicly said, even if Rishu knew exactly what it was. He smiled deviously, Lio looked away knowing the danger in her option.
Tala saw Lio as she walked along with Rishu. She caught her eye for just a second. Like many, her look was that of disappointment. She had must have already her of Tala's change in sides, and did not approve of it.
Tala didn't like the look but didn't let it change her, she had faced plenty who had were displeased and realized something. She couldn't meet the standards of everyone; she wasn't perfect.
The Talks began a week after Lio's arrival after which they situated the Republic Council. It was a stalling tactic because the doctors still insisted that Rishu and Kuir stay in bed, this was the minimum time before they approved any activity on part of the two.
Kuir looked strong as an ox, like he always did. And he would never be absent now that Urri was back at the tables. He wanted the old man to do something stupid like attack in the middle of the room, though that was a vain hope.
Urri may have had a spark of incompetence that drove him to think he could fight the Avatar; but to start a fight while the Avatar, Rishu and Kuir are all on one side, not to mention their guard. Tala had her Dai Li kin, Kuir had Royal Guards, and Rishu had his own impressive display.
While Firelord Ma-Tin ruled Republic City, she had Rishu represent her in the talks, with such bearing came a contingent of Imperial Firebenders and even more fearsome, the Sky Dragons were present.
These were the finest in the crop of firebenders in the world. The military called them 'paratroopers', some elite special forces. All Tala knew is that if Rishu's wife, Lira, was only a second in command among them, they must be fierce warriors. They looked the part in their black dragon armor. Three of them had gold lining along with the red that covered the ends signifying the officers.
With all the fierce troops present, anything so bad to start a fight would be an ugly battle. At their heads were the leaders of the world and what shocked Tala was who led the Earth Kingdom delegation.
A man almost as large as Kuir, he had broad shoulders and a look of someone who worked, but he was fairer than the Crown-Prince. She could see that father and son had similarities, though Kuir seemed to have lived a harder life, more worn and tanned from life out beyond.
She had never met Earth King Iruei and could see more by his eyes than his physicality, that he was not a man to challenge. Iruei had an even more sinister look than Kuir whenever his eyes looked at Urri.
It was quite an array that represented leaders all over the world. Chief Arkoda represented the Water Tribes; Grand Lotus Kuel for the White Lotus; Governor Lin for the Northern Fortress; Lio Jinora and her brother Hava along with the Republic Council for the United Republic and the Air Nomads; and Urri for Omashu.
On the other side was Grand Marshal and heir to the throne Rishu for the Fire Nation. With him King Iruei and his son, Prince Kuir, for the Earth Kingdom. And last but not least, Avatar Tala, the bridge between worlds, the wise guide.
Now it would begin.
Everyone started with the United Republic. Rishu decided to start and finish the conversation based on what he, Tala and Kuir discussed weeks ago, "Ladies and gentlemen, there is a reason Republic City was a threat and a danger to the world. Because like the nations would stand over each other, Republic City stood over its own makers. It spit on the very sources of its creation; the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation, defying just rule from either of them."
"With continued support, it would one day have taken over. First with the Water Tribes that are already dependent on their trade and then to the Fire Nation who is closed by the sea. The Earth Kingdom would eventually join all of us in this one nation. That was why the United Republic had to be put in its place."
"However, Avatar Tala and I have discussed what should be done. Yes, the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom have taken Republic City, but what next? Should we divide it between us? Or should burn it to the ground?"
"The Avatar had another solution. As you know, the Air Nomads were wiped out for a time until only the Avatar, Aang was all that was left. His offspring has since rebounded and spread out. I believe it is time for them to take back their nation; with some altered changes to geographic location."
"The Air Nomads are a kind people, and their leader, Lio Jinora has ruled both their clans and the United Republic kindly. Why sully their rule with the same corrupt that gave the horrid Equalist Revolution by Tarrlok or those who prolonged the Triad War so that it got so bloody that a brave Captain had to start a coup."
"I have not seen such corruption from those who reside on Air Temple Island, nor I have I seen anything but integrity in the Clans. Therefore, I propose as a resolve to ending the occupation of Republic City that control is transferred over time to an Air Nation."
Talking started as Rishu paused. Some protested, others supported, some waited. Urri and the other three Republic Council members opposed the choice, the latter obviously because they would be removed from power. Lio had a conflicted look, as did her brother Hava. A nation for their people, a true homeland to which they were united by law and blood was something that drew them in despite it all. Kuel sat back cautiously, as did Governor Lin; calculating the advantages and disadvantages of this course of action.
Iruei spoke up, "The Earth Kingdom's land was stolen by this United Republic. For that to be paid, something has to give."
Rishu nodded, "Indeed, perhaps if the Clans gave up certain islands and temples, such as the Southern and Eastern Temple and the surrounding lands to the Earth Kingdom in exchange for the mainland on which Republic City resides along with the northern region in which the South Pass crosses."
Iruei paused for a moment before nodding. They had planned out the entire tactic in order to get what they wanted out of the deal. The Republic Council vehemently opposed the proposal as did the very vocal Urri.
The groups of those against the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom spoke among themselves for a time while Tala and the two delegations waited by the corner. From what she heard and the visible appearance, Lio and Hava supported the proposal and were willing to shut out the Republic Council and Urri. Lin supported it cautiously but mentioned securing a peace for his people while Hava appealed to Kuel for the safety of Republic City's citizens.
When they returned Hava spoke for them, "An agreement to this proposal may be agreed to if certain conditions were met."
"The withdrawal of forces from Republic City, the Northern Fortress, Omashu and the ending of the blockades on the Water Tribes."
Rishu smirked, as if it were that easy. He looked to Iruei who answered, "I think we can all agree on the blockades to end. As for the Northern Fortress and Omashu, I would be willing to withdraw my forces on one condition. That the leaders of those respective cities swear oaths of fealty to me and their successors do likewise and so on and so forth."
Governor Lin looked strained but accepting, it was Urri who turned red so much that he couldn't hold an outburst, "If you think I'm gonna bow to a boy, then you have another thing coming! That is beneath me!"
"Urri," Hava tried to quiet the King of Omashu.
"No! If you all want to surrender like dogs to these men, then so be it, but Omashu will remain strong and stand its ground! You will break like waves on rocks when you assail our walls!"
Iruei stood up slowly with a look of fierce determination, "So be it, Urri. Then I strip you of all authority and citizenry. When you meet the Earth Kingdom on the battlefield, it will be a terrorist and rebel they fight, no quarter will be given to you. You doom an entire city to your pride and delusion that Omashu is greater than the entire Earth Kingdom."
Iruei sat back down while finishing, "Also you should know that rocks yield to the waves, over time. A luxury I have and you don't," Iruei turned to the other leaders present, "I am willing to go through with the proposal, sans Omashu. This city will suffer the consequences of rebellion, but that doesn't mean men of reason should suffer for the madman."
Iruei dismissed Urri and turned to Governor Lin, "If you and any successor will swear fealty to the throne, I will withdraw my troops and let you rule your land in peace so long as you abide by my laws."
Governor Lin looked about the other members of the delegation, "If it ensures the safety of my people and the end of the siege, then I will accept those terms."
Urri and the three now-deposed members looked on dejectedly. But Urri had rage and anger beneath those eyes. A malice for revenge and blood that turned Tala's blood cold.
Tala stood by the negotiations table looking at Old Omashu. A true fortress that would take months, if not years to take and now it was a declared war for it specifically. So much blood would be shed because of Urri's pride, and her mercy.
If she had not shown restraint and had ended Urri then and there, Suun would be King of Omashu. He would have made the right choice and taken the knee for the sake of the city and saved untold lives, but now the war would continue because of one vain man.
"Doesn't turn out as you imagine it, does it?"
Tala turned to see it was Councilor Jinora, "Sister Lio," she bowed her head before continuing, "nothing ever does from what I've learned as the Avatar."
Lio joined Tala by the ledge of the steps looking up at Old Omashu, "You know, I thought things would be a lot different when I took my father's place. I had a son of great potential a brother who was as wise as he was powerful and a city at peace and world that was the best it had ever been. Where did it go wrong?"
"What do you mean?"
"Republic City is in ruins, my brother and I don't talk if we can help it and I have no heirs to speak of."
Tala thought she almost saw a tear as Lio spoke of a son that was no more. It clenched her heart so much that she couldn't ask what had happened. That was all she needed to add on top of this, was to remember her son's death, whatever it was.
"Things may not go as planned, but we can strive to work through it. To go with the flow and make our way around the obstacles."
Lio chuckled quietly, "You've been listening to my brother for too long."
"He taught me how to airbend, it was the hardest element for me to learn and yet he has called me a prodigy in it, that is thanks to his hard work."
Kuir and Rishu sat down at the Pai Sho table again, as Rishu looked over his vulnerability. Kuir was taking an opening and striking the center after playing the corners, a lesson Rishu had taught him.
"Good. Now what does this lesson tell you?"
"Strike hard and fast."
Kuir sat silently. It seemed to perplex him what the point of this move was. Rishu waited a short time before answering for him, "Everyone has vulnerabilities. They may seem invincible but anyone can be taken down if it all comes down to the right strategy," Rishu brought a tile from the far back and placed it in the middle, an air tile. Kuir looked on shocked, the move had completely changed the field. While he could make a defense, he now saw that his entire set of moves from then on would be trying to hold out instead of attack. He had lost, and there were still at least five turns to go, "No one is untouchable, even you."
"So always be weary?"
"And never let your guard down." Rishu smiled as he won a game he had been playing for months. But it was symbolic of his success in a larger game that was years in the making. Rishu was one step closer to fulfilling his destiny and setting the world back on course, his master would be pleased.
- With the exception of Omashu, the other leaders have agreed to terms to end the war officially and the United Republic is dissolved into the Air Nation.
- There will still be conflict in the regions that formed the United Republic.
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|