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|So Ends The Journey|
Pyres and Storms
May 10, 2013
The world is engulfed in war. Blood has spilled as the Nations contest a balance of power. Avatar Tala must guide the world in order to bring stability back, but must deal with resistance and ancient threats that risk to change the course of the world forever.
Chapter 16: So Ends The Journey
It was a painful and necessary war, one that has cleared the lines of good and evil, removing the muddied appearance from the past. Still, the loss and suffering it inflicted will not be forgotten, I am certain that I won't. I had once asked Grand Marshal Rishu, the architect of the war, "Did we win? Is it over?"
He looked to me and answered in his cryptic fashion, "We have won, Avatar, but it is not over. War is the natural state of man. We have simply made sure that this dark condition has been tempered for the time."
I was at first discouraged by his statement so soon after the war's end, but I soon came to see why Rishu looked at the world the way he did. From the eons of time that the view required, it was a daunting but true statement from Rishu. War is the natural state of man, its just the motive that changes.
- Avatar Tala
"Deal with Lenet, I'll keep the others off your back."
"And those things?" Tala beckoned to the other demonic mist possessed beast arrayed on the field.
"If they come, I'll try to take them out, but no promises. I suspect that she will send them after our troops to demoralize them."
The lines charged for each other. Rishu drew the Raven Rose before him and looked on at the enemy present before him. Urri, Kuel and some hundred Lotus and Omashu guards, along with a pair of the demonic drones that plagued the war since the Storm Grave.
His black blade shined intermittently when light broke through the clouds. Urri and Kuel looked on him with a bloodlust and a hunger for his corpse. Both had their reasons. Kuel had lost hundreds to the war, a war he started. Urri's twin sons were killed by Rishu's own hand in a merciless show of strength that left no doubt that he gave them no peace.
Now he was here to pay his price for his ways. Whether he paid in sweat or blood was to be determined. Tala was well aware of how weak he was, but he had kept up the facade for the sake of the men that followed him. Had this battle been even three months ago, he would have easily beaten them all before, especially with the Raven Rose. But now?
He used the blade and his white fires to attack the first beast to charge at them as Tala sent waves of flame after them.
"You never learn do you, children?" The sick and twisted voice appeared from the foul presence of Lenet.
The young face of an old enemy smiled as it approached them in a slow yet fast gait. "I have lived lifetimes over lifetimes. I have met many and killed many."
Rishu could feel that Lenet was using some kind of spell to lure them in with her unnatural beauty, perhaps she should have started with it over the kindly old woman.
She continued with a sweet voice, "Why would you want to face me? You can't win." A smile that was too cute for a human emerged from the creature they detested.
Tala looked on with cold emerald eyes, "I can see why your kind was wiped out. If they were all like you, no one could stand your mischief and treachery." The witch's eyes narrowed in fury, "Your kind can't be trusted with even life."
"Well then, lets see what happens when I'm trusted with your life!" She rushed for the Avatar while the hundred men charged Rishu.
Rishu rushed for them with the Ghost Sword ready. The first charged with no thought, just fire in his heart and eyes. An untempered fire is worthless, the man practically ran into the waiting sword as it greedily accepted the offering of blood he gave.
With a cold swing, it ripped out of him with ease and sprayed blood out. Rishu cut down vertically on the next attacker, who had no time to react. Spinning with a backward cut, his weapon split a man in two as his waist proved no barrier to the edge of the Raven Rose.
Two tried to charge at the same time hoping to get the advantage. With a simple but powerful fire jab, one burned to a crisp while the other tried to make a wall of earth to shield himself from the unnatural sword. Like butter, the blade sliced through and cleaved the rock and the warrior in two.
Fire and steel destroyed the lackeys of Kuel and Urri. Rishu was in a river of blood to his ankles as two demonic beast roared after him. These monsters had proven difficult to kill even with the Raven Rose. Two of them would require all his focus in his current state.
The first to reach for him was the beast made of stone, like a massive Otter-Gorilla, it swung with heavy, oversized arms after him. He effortlessly dodged as he felt the ground quiver while stone turned to mulch. Claw-like roots reached for him, yet the beast was nearly twenty feet away.
A cut on the forehead of the stone beast made it whimper and back away as he sped for the demon tree with a boost using his firebending. Barbed roots swung at him like whips. Channeling his energy into the Raven Rose, he sent a white stream of inferno from the ebondy blade that incinerated the barbs, clearing his path to the beast.
"Ish Kash Marak!" The sword glowed with life as a white light bathed it in fire. As the plunge finished, a tide of fire so hot it was blinding engulfed the tree. Horrible screeches filled the air as the beast ran rampant, trying to escape the flames that were etched into its hide.
Now was the time to finish it. With a dark and raw voice he yelled, "Marak Kish!"
An inferno so great that it should have belonged to Sozin's Comet escaped the night blade. The eyes of the beast looked in horror as the green mist was evaporated by the raw heat and the tree turned to ash. There was even enough left for the markings of sorcery.
But there was more than one act of sorcery committed then. Rishu felt the tinge of burning on his skin beneath his sleeve and knew that he exerted himself enough to force a marking. his se of magic had been too much to escape notice, the witch would know now, that he too was a true sorcerer and not just a man that dabbled in the art.
The roar of the stone giant came for him. Desperate to kill him before he could attack again, the beast came at him with reckless abandon. The Black Dragon knelt, forcing himself low, letting the pressure build up. With just feet between him and the demon, it reached its breaking point and blew. Rishu was launched in the air by the tremendous amount of heat and energy.
Without anyway to attack or harm him, the beast stood there helpless and vulnerable.
"Kash Kish!" Lightning encased the Raven Rose, emitting a blue and white light before it sped down like a spear for its master's target.
Hitting with perfect accuracy, dozens of deep gashes appeared in the unnatural stone of the demon, forcing it to kneel under its own weight.
"Ish Kash," Rishu raised his sword high as he landed and ran for the beast, "Dish -Ta!"
"Dai-Shi!" A pitiful voice emanated from the beast as it pleaded for mercy to the final blow from the unholy sword.
Cracking and crumbling, stone turned to dust and dust into nothing. The Night Blade struck the ground and stayed there as Rishu breathed deeply. He had exerted too much to finish those two off, but it made sure that Lenet would send no more of her demons their way, the rest fought far away from Rishu and Tala.
Now it was the easy part, Urri and Kuel, fools and traitors.
Rishu balance the black sword in his hand as he looked to the two defiant leaders. Urri was an old man, yet he seemed to be bursting with energy, so did Kuel. They looked nothing like they did a year ago.
"Surrender, and you will both be spared," Rishu had to give them the choice before he killed them.
"Ha! That tired are you?" Kuel spoke with malice, a malice that he did not usually bear.
"More that I have less interest in you and more in the witch you serve."
Urri chimed in, "A big mistake to ignore us, after all, we're more than you can handle." A slide of earth launched with terrifying fury for the Black Dragon's back. He had already dodged it and Kuel's follow up strike when he noticed that the attacks were faster and more powerful than they should have been.
Kuel was powerful, but not near the level of royal blood. Urri was once powerful but had become decadent and old. His psychic earthbending was the only skill he kept trained to peak. His basic attacks shouldn't be this strong. The logical conclusion was that Urri was psychic earthbending and Kuel was fighting to his limit, but that was off-putting.
Neither would stretch themselves so far so soon in a battle with him. Something foul was amist, Rishu had just yet to discover it.
Fire and earth were the most base weapons and motives for war. For bending, it was these two that were always in conflict. Fire and water did not wage war because it bettered neither. Earth and air didn't bother it each other because neither had what the other wanted. But earth and fire always had something another hungered for. The wars of history bled with this truth as the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom, as well as its predecessors fought time and again for dominance over the other.
Now facets of them were trying to fight a greater flame. The Apex of Fire swung his blade, black as night, to deflect boulders that came his way. Fire was batted away by a bare hand. The image of the two attacking the resolute warrior seemed an impossible uphill battle, but looks are deceiving.
Rishu could feel the pressure from both sides. They were too powerful, more than what was possible. He only knew of one person with this level, and that was himself. It was not by human will alone that he had such power. Perhaps that was case here as well.
Rishu charged Kuel and tackled him, as he temporarily pinned him to the ground, he confirmed the answer in the Grand Lotus' eyes. They were a mist green that belonged to a monstrous witch that was in battle with the Avatar. A kick pushed him away.
So the witch had lent her strength out to others in order to keep him away from her fight with Tala. It was a bold and smart move, it meant her underlings would have the power to hold him and possibly kill him. It was bold, but also foolish. He knew the weaknesses of this technique intimately, for he endured it, and he would use that knowledge to break them.
Kuel rolled away as the foul black sword clawed after him. Rishu kept charging, not giving the Grand Lotus a breath of time to even think, only react. He kept throwing his power against him, which was considerable now. Whatever the lithe woman had done to him had made him incredibly powerful. His eyes saw more, he felt things and his power was far greater than it had ever been.
A simple sweep of his foot set a torrent of flame that kept the Black Dragon at bay, but only for a moment. He quickly cut through with a wave of his hand, where his white fire batted the surrounding inferno away.
Rishu was more powerful than he realized if he could fight him like this and still have enough to face Urri. Therein lied the Grand Marshal's disadvantage, he was alone. It was inevitable for a man who lived such a violent and disgusting life to be alone in the end of it all.
Great boulders of hard stone pummeled after the black robed menace. he cut away the smaller ones and dodged the ones too big block. This cunning warrior was light on his feet, almost dancing around their attacks, but even then he was slowing down.
Urri smiled as he watched the murderer's pace incrementally slow down while dodging their attacks. They had stirred him out and still had plenty of reserve of power to squash the insect. He stopped for a second and held his black sword in line with his body.
His pitiless eyes looked at them with cold and malicious intent. Urri didn't care, he wanted the bastard's blood. He wanted revenge for the murder of his sons and for causing this war, causing it all.
Rishu smiled at Urri, "Think what you want, but the blame of this war lays on you, King Urri. You refused every chance to circumvent the inevitable. Your sons would be alive if you just let go of the Avatar when you had the chance."
"Aarrggh!" He threw a furious attack, simultaneous with Kuel. The black eyes smirked as their owner used the sword to bat away the fire from the Lotus and his other hand was opened wide before him.
"Warka," he spoke the word softly. He had never heard it before, but he sensed that it had power. The rock halt in place, blasting into a formation that faced away from him. Something in him churned in discomfort, it wasn't natural, it must have been her.
He continued gloating, "I may have engineered all this, but there was always a path to end it quickly, and the decision always was between you and the Avatar. And you chose greed and power over honor and family."
Arms of stone erupted from the ground, circling and enveloping the Black Dragon. Soon, a sphere of smooth solid stone, surrounded the man. Urri smiled in glee, the foul monster would suffocate soon without a vent for fresh air. His joy was crushed as the sphere began to glow orange and then white. A hissing of rock as if turning to lava was present and the rock didn't crack, but slid down as a liquid.
The melting stone erupted in flame, heat and light. The Black Dragon leapt out with a trail of flame behind him. His dark eyes looked on them murderously as he flew through the air after Urri, "Wrong move."
"Marak Kish!" A furious yell, filled with power and hatred came for the old king. As the night sword swung down, a torrent flooded for him, white flames consumed the sky between and hungrily sped for the earthbender. A shield of amber fire saved him when his own walls melted. Kuel stood beside him.
"Unlike you, Rishu, we aren't alone when we fight."
A sinister laugh left the Black Dragon, "Ha! You think I'm alone? I am never alone. What rush you so temporarily have from the witch is a presence I have known for life."
A sick smile covered his face as the dawn of realization came to Kuel and slowly reached Urri. They must have thought their newfound power would give them the edge over Rishu, but they were now just on par with him.
"You think I haven't faced a superior foe before? If I could handle them, then equals are nothing to fear," Rishu rushed forward, brandishing the Raven Rose. He needed to capitalize on their shock, not letting them recover and adapt to the news. He had to end it, it was the only way, and he knew it would give Tala a chance. Should they die, Lenet would suffer.
Armies made of stone came after him, but it was to little affect, dodging was simple. With Kuel and Urri having advanced powers, he would tire in straight contests of power. He needed to be underhanded and take a page from Alov's book.
Focusing a small but highly compressed amount of energy in his hand, he slapped it forward. An explosion of light took the skirmish as Kuel and Urri shaded their eyes. It was blinding and they stood there dazed and baffled like children standing too close to fireworks.
Kuel rubbed his eyes furiously, if he waited any longer, his head might not be connected to the rest of his body for long. Sight returned and he looked for the enemy who needed to be punished for their sins.
He was gone. He noticed that his comrade had also regained his sight and watched carefully as the skies seemed to darken. A voice spoke in the void, everywhere and nowhere, "That technique requires more light than what fire can provide. To use it, it takes the light from elsewhere. Such was called shadow magic. It steals the light from the world, and where the light fades, the shadows consume."
Kuel felt it come from beside him. A shadow in clear skies, a light in utter darkness. The black form charged him with its equally dark weapon and swung down, ready to end it. He put everything he had into his blast, making a stream of fire so powerful and so hot, he could feel his own hands burn.
The Raven Rose crashed down but did not meet its victim. The flames were so strong, they were providing physical resistance to his strike. Kuel stood there desperate, he had released so much power, he had extended himself to a limit he was not capable of handling, as his power began to feed on his flesh, burn his hands and arms to keep up a physical wall of fire that was stopping the Ghost Sword from striking.
Even then, the Grand Lotus was doomed, for the Ish Kash were no human weapons, and they did not bow to benders. With straining muscles, the hands of the Black Dragon kept pushing and his weapon responded as it dove through the amber fire and cut down. Blood sprayed, but only lightly, superficial wounds to the foe that should be dead.
Kuel staggered in pain. He clutched his chest with one hand and punched for a fire jab with another. The fireball jetted out, singing the black hair of its target as the Grand Marshal ran the older firebender through. The black blade, now coated red, stuck out the back of the man in white and blue.
Gasping in pain and shock as a sword now filled the cavity in his body, "Now you realize the futility in facing me. A shame, Kuel, you had potential once, but you were filled with hatred and vengeance. You abandoned reason for the hope that it would be enough to slay me."
Rishu closed his void-filled eyes, "I can't be slain because to do so would be to slay the sun. No man can kill something so powerful and yet so unstable as a star. I am sorry that it took your life to learn that."
Kuel looked ahead, to the battle beyond, and to something that no one else could see, "I understand-"
The older man's head slumped and fell into the shoulder of the black-robed firebender. Rishu could feel it, the change in the air. It was working, he heard the screams of pain from her mind, and most importantly, from Urri.
"Damn you! Just die!" Urri's green eyes looked on with razor thin space as he focused to attack.
There was no doubt and no mercy, only the end, only death. Urri had chosen his fate long ago. He may have denied its end result, but he could not deny its path. The Night Blade leveled and readied as its master prepared to strike yet again.
"Ish Kash, Nosho," a calm claimed the Black Dragon as the words took to the wind. The madman's eyes opened wide, for the one within realized the curse she had suffered now.
"There is no escape, Lenet, die and be one with your people."
A foul green possessed the eyes of the old man as his face contorted into an evil sneer, "You sound like Avatar Akira, the first of the monsters!"
"I'm honored to be compared to an Avatar, after all, they are my ancestors."
"Argh!!!" Earth rushed for him in a great storm of power and fury. Rishu put all his focus into deflecting the strike and was exhausted by the effort, but kept his composure together, trying hard to look unfazed.
Urri clapped his hands together, or rather Lenet clapped them for him. In a twisted voice that only faintly sounded like Urri's she yelled, "Dosh Yark!"
The starry eyes of the Black Dragon looked on hopelessly. That was a curse of dangerous power, 'Devil Fall', and from a possessed body? Was she that desperate?
A black and green wave of energy elapsed over him in a wave of evil shadows. There was no defense or way to evade pure evil, there was only fighting it.
His hands shook violently, almost making him drop the Raven Rose. It crawled into his core, a sick feeling that made him feel it all. All the pain, the horror and the things he had suffered since Sozin's Comet.
The fear of those eyes that looked at him when he faced the mirror. The confusion of memories of things he did. The cold willingness to kill that the boy Rishu was incapable of. All of it caved in on him. Too much, it was too much to take. All the guilt, shame, the fear, the sins.
But something in him awoke. With black eyes, eyes that didn't have the sheen of stars that had been on that face for twenty years. The eyes screamed with the will to survive, instinct to win against all odds.
He tightened his hands around the ebony sword, rose it high and struck down. The stones of Urri's bending impeded the fatal blow. "I won't die!" Urri's twisted voice urged as his eyes still showed his possession.
Pure black eyes looked on in pity, "We all die, there is no way around it."
The sword cleaved the stone and lunged forward. A breath preceded silence as the war raging in Urri ended with a peace he had forgotten. He grunted as steel invaded his chest. The green mist faded in his eyes and skin and smiled as he saw something else.
"I'm so sorry," Urri spoke to the air as he smiled again, closing his eyes for the last time.
Rishu held onto the old king's shoulder, gently letting him fall down, "Rest in peace, King of Omashu."
Pain! Paralyzing pain! How could he have beaten them? The little Black Dragon had killed them both! How was it possible?
She had lent part of herself to ensure that they would keep the little magician from interfering with her battle. Instead, he revealed that he truly understood sorcery. The words rang through her mind as each cut at her.
"Kash Kish," Sword Storm. The first of many spells to come from that defiler's mouth.
"Dish-Ta," Sever, that dealt quite the wound to her drone.
"Marak Kish," Fire Storm, a powerful and draining spell, as were any of the Kish spells.
"Nosho," Bind, the worst of them. He had bound her to Urri. He must have realized she would abandon the King when the firebender fell, and so made sure that it wouldn't happen. Bound to Urri, she had no choice but to actively take over his body and fight.
Unsure of what Rishu's capabilities were now. He had survived so much from her.
"Dosh Yark," The Devil Fall curse was one of the greatest she knew. It took all the evil committed by the user and target and forced it on the mind of its victim at once. And still he stood and attacked.
She threw everything they had and still the black-robed warrior persisted and finished the Mad King. It was terrible pain, a part of herself ripped from her core. She felt memories fade with the soul that had been cut apart.
She clenched her teeth in agony. It was a horrible price to pay. It would only be worth it if she succeeded against the little runt of an Avatar.
MaharishiTala looked ahead with dread. This was it. There was no running away, for either of them. One or both would die here, there was no other option for them. The time to end this blood feud had come.
She had hoped that she could end it peacefully but realized that death was the only answer, "Lets finish this, Lenet."
She smiled with that youthful face, "Yes, lets."She shot cold hands forward, curling mist spiraled out. The green energy struck after Tala. She leapt aside as the current landed and made an indent into the earth where she had stood. Punching down and then up, she sent a mountain of stone after the witch.
Like a leaf, she levitated above the attack and laughed, "Such simple and crude weapons as the elements mean no harm to me!"
"Then how about this?!" Emptying herself of what made her human, she unleashed the raw power of energy that was around her. All it took was pulling at the strings of balance, and stability did the rest.
Forking lights of energy crossed each other as it launched into the sky after the devious Nifrin witch. The green cat eyes widened in alarm. She may not fear earth, wind, fire or water, but lightning was a danger of its own that was serious for all.
She dissipated quickly, not intent on testing the Avatar's speed. As she reformed behind the foul little girl, she shot her hand forward clawing at Tala. Her nails cut through the armor, leaving thin lines with trickling blood in their place.
Tala grimaced as she kicked back. Her foot met thin air. She should have known better than to think she could keep up with the Sehr. Reaction was failure against a creature that saw everything around itself.
You had to act, not react. Compressing the very air around her, she felt the rush of wind as it fell into the vacuum. Breathing became hard and soon, her prey strained. Stopping for a breath, she was visible again. Got you!
She crushed the vacuum, releasing all of the kinetic force that had collided in such a dense ball. With nothing to hold it together, it released in a terrifying blast. Furious wind blew out like a great bomb, leaving a great crater.
Lenet was tossed back like a branch in a windstorm. Crashing back to earth she got up slowly. Her green slits for eyes narrowed while she snarled, "Alik Sha!"Tala heard the words and they meant nothing to her, but she felt something and saw worse. Lenet was now covered in blood, smiling maniacally. The Avatar had no idea why the witch was drenched in blood, or why she was so happy about it. Whatever the reason, it had to be bad for her to use such a disgusting spell in battle.
"Sha Kish," she smiled with teeth that were too large. The images began blurring in her mind and eyes. She heard herself step into a puddle, but when she looked down, she was in a river of blood. Where did it come from?
But something creeped in her mind, who did it come from?
The answer floated up. Bodies, facing down, touched the surface. Floating past her, she overturned them, hoping at least one was alive. A horrid scream left her.
"Mom?" Tears swelled where few had since she last saw her mother. She covered her eyes but it did nothing as the other bodies soon overturned. It was her father next. "No. This is isn't happening."
More bodies flowed by, Kulek, Liam, Hava, Suun, Esas and Kilidi. More from her life came and went, Li, Liman, Ralyn. Even Rishu and Kuir passed by.
"Stop it, stop it!"
A chuckle in the distance, an echo in the void, childish yet evil, "So weak. Its a mercy to kill you now."
Tala sat there, clutching at herself on the earth, as Lenet approached calmly, smiling that her blood spell had done its work. It had driven the Avatar mad. It was surprisingly easy, even to Lenet. The poor child must have been on the wire for a long time to have cracked so easily.
"Desha Len," farewell, "Avatar."
Lenet failed to see the glow of furious eyes, but she heard the voice, or rather voices, "No!"
Lenet's blood churned as the seething rage of lifetimes tore at her. Her body lifted into the air without her will behind it. Her nearly fetal foe rose and turned to face. Tears still leaked out of the glowing eyes.
"You think what breaks one breaks all?" many voices spoke in unison, "We have suffered losses time and again, and we have died beyond count. No pain from an illusion can break what has already been broken by time."
They reached out their hand, and with a claw like grip, drew it back in. As torrents of wind and fire spread from the epicenter of the Avatar State, Lenet levitated closer.
"Dai Shi!" Lenet closed her eyes in concentration. She felt her body free itself and she leapt back. As she looked up, a great pillar of the elements held up her foe.
Lenet stood there in shock. She wasn't this powerful at the Storm Grave, how had she advanced so far since then? Her wondering ended as her body was tripped by turning rocks. Caught and dragged into the vortex, she lifted higher up and ascended.
Finally, her flailing body reached the peak, where a cold face with glowing orifices looked back with determination, "Let's end this, Nifrin, and finish this tale."
Two hands from the many reached out for the paralyzed witch. A single thumb touched against her forehead as a palm pressed against her chest, "Let our souls decided how the chain falls."
Tala felt the surge of power and release as she called on her brothers and sisters. All together in a flood of power and knowledge, they came and took the earth by storm. The raw and overflowing might of all the Avatars together was astounding.
She almost let go, certain they could manage without her, but something in her resisted. Tala was not one to relinquish power. She was the commander, and they, the dead, were hers to command.
She attacked the witch effortlessly and with extreme prejudice. Lenet was shocked by the tipping scales of power against her. Fear took her green misty eyes where pride had been before. They cat eyes opened wider as she stepped in close to bend the core of the witch.
She would not suffer her existence any longer. She would break the witch or be broken trying. A great clash of power met. Tala's own energy rushed in and met Lenet's. It was disturbing and sickening to truly be in contact with the heart of this evil witch, it made her sick and want to let go, but she held on.
The negative energy of the Sehr survivor clawed at her heart vainly. She was beyond desperate now. Tala focused and with her little voice in the flood of lives, she spoke from soul to soul.
"I never wanted this, Lenet. I didn't choose to be an Avatar. I'm not the Avatar who hunted you. Perhaps I am like him, and perhaps you are too, but we are beyond petty comparisons. All that matters now is whose blood will be spilt. I would rather that you see the consequences of your actions from the view of your victims. I do not have the power to do that. I do, however, have the power to make you feel what you have had no sense for in millennia."
Tala focused intensely, as her energy poured in like a flood against a wall of black blood, seeking to devour her. Energybending was the most dangerous form of bending in the world, for its failures had the greatest pitfalls.
A razor's edge was the margin that held victory or absolute defeat. Tala's will was that of a survivor and it was unbreakable, but she faced someone who was intent to live too. The witch resisted with everything she had.
The witch had fought for so long, that fighting was all she knew. They were fighters and killers of a sort, but it was more than instinct that won the battle, it was conviction. The will to live not for the purpose of survival, but for others. For love, for support, to protect the ones around them. For this, Tala was willing to do anything, and she had many reasons to live beyond herself.
Lenet did not have that. She had abandoned all in her quest for revenge. She wanted only the blood of the Avatar and to live to do that again. But that was the depth of her. She had no reason to live beyond revenge, nothing and no one.
Tala focused on the emptiness and dug further into the ancient witch. She was once a simple child with simple dreams. Her family slaughtered before her eyes by a man named Akira, the Avatar. Akira seemed to not notice her and continued on his crusade. Lenet fled and found a Blood Witch to teach her how to gain vengeance on the Avatars, but she failed. Another took Akira's place and with renewed vigor, he hunted down the Sehr.
Now others joined the Avatar, avenging their fallen hero, who was truly a butcher. No matter how much she fought, they all died around her. She had no choice but to hide and wait. Wait for a time when she was forgotten and when no one would be prepared for her.
Tala gripped this memory, "Vengeance is mourning, you have yet to settle your grief."
"You know nothing!"
The glowing eyes narrowed as she held the witch, "I see everything 'we' have experienced. I see the exterminations, the deaths, the pain. I see your family as we struck them down with fire. It is past, nothing you do will undo it."The witch scrambled and raged against her mind in a furious release of energy. Tala leapt at the chance, she had abandoned her defense when provoked now that it was time to face her errors. Surprise and realization took the witch as Tala fulfilled her tactic.
The coiling feeling spread through the witch's body. Tightening like a serpent, she felt it take her. The blinding light that covered them exploded and sent a wave out over the sky.
"What did you do to me?"
"I have bound you to physical form, you are the body before you, and when you fall, you will die."
Tala's hands on the witch let go, watching coldly as the witch fell into the deep sky, with dull earth below. It was done.
A Clearing Field
The earth drank the blood greedily as it flowed from the living. Chief Arkoda of the Southern Water Tribe still knelt in weakness as his arm was nearly cut off. Ahead of him was an equally wounded Captain Liam. The Fire Nation officer had dealt a winning blow but had sacrificed his defense. He now bore a deep gash into his chest that bled profusely.Liam rose to give the final blow before they both died, only to be interrupted by the great and blinding light up in the distant sky.
The light faded and there stood high up in the sky, Avatar Tala. She had let go of someone. Falling down like a weight, fell the witch. She screamed silently as her body flailed, powerless to stop her descent into the void.
All looked on in shock and horror as her body crashed into the earth. The witch was dead, broken and defeated by the Avatar.
Those near enough could see the Avatar's glowing eyes fade away to return to their emerald. She spoke, using airbending to send her voice far beyond its human capabilities. In a calm and almost quiet voice she started, "It is over. Urri and Kuel are dead, Lenet has fallen by my hand."
Simi kept punching furiously after the man, he had broken him, now he will destroy him. Qatil was still stronger than any airbender he had ever faced in his life, but Kulek had sacrificed himself to deal a terrible blow and nearly crippled him.
With his painless strength, Simi brutally attacked while Hava tried to get help for the poor boy. Kulek was still a child, he never understood the costs of war, he only knew it was bad because the monks told him so.
He kept fighting against the powerful assassin who punched with the strength of a tree. Simi was barely holding up when things took a turn for good as Qatil kneeled in pain. Simi rushed forward, but a stinging pain pierced his palm and soon realized that Qatil had another Sai on him. Desperate to get away from the barrage he was suffering, he used the weapon to incapacitate Simi, if only for a moment.
Qatil leapt up and away, back into the mob of attacking mercenaries. Simi drew out the needle-like dagger and readied to be assaulted when a change took the hearts of everyone. A sense of urgency and bloodlust decline.
A wave of light in the great distance broke briefly. A whisper came to them, "It is over. Urri and Kuel are dead, Lenet has fallen by my hand."
The mercenaries soon became fearful and ran. Turning and running away. There was no reason to fight if their benefactors were dead, how could they be paid?
Simi sat down in the water, exhausted as cheering broke out among the ragged defenders. Wolf armored waterbenders and Dai Li yelled in jubilation with Air Nomads. The Sky Dragons were more reserved but vocally relieved for the end. At their head, Alov looked across the river in his cold and cryptic way.
Ralyn tapped his shoulder, "Its over brother, there's no need to hunt them."
"There is, but that can wait for another time."
Fate of Crowns
Tala walked amongst the wounded of the battle. They were all together as the United Forces, Water Tribe, and Omashu armies surrendered. All bowed when she was in their presence. They had a newfound respect for her that was missing before.
In the past, they bowed out of tradition, now they bowed in fear and honor. Tala did her best to stay aloof and indifferent. It would lose its meaning if she accepted it in a way that showed her to enjoy the power; likewise, it was foolish to reject the honor they showed her.
She would have stayed away, so as not to incite resentment amongst the defeated, but was looking for someone. Liam was missing, he had not reported in at the end of the battle, and neither had his opponent, Arkoda.
Tala noticed a red sash among the clothing hanging on a tent, the sash of an airbender. She knew every member of Clan Rohan, hoping whoever was wounded was not in serious condition. A state of shock took her momentarily as she looked to see Hava sit beside a bedridden Kulek, bandaged tightly around his chest with bleeding stitching.
"Kulek?!" She rushed forward as an exhausted Hava started, "Tala?"
"What happened?" Tala kneeled beside the young airbending master.
Hava looked blankly in shame, "Qatil."
"I thought you said he was dead?"
"I was wrong. He was more powerful than I imagined, he would have slaughtered me if Simi and Kulek hadn't saved me. Qatil would have still won if Kulek didn't take an electical Kali stick to his back, but my nephew gave him a Sai in liver for his work."
"How bad is it?"
"They stopped the bleeding and have performed a full operation, but they are unsure whether he is too weak to fight an infection."
"Where's some water," Tala readied to start healing him when Hava shook his head.
"Better healers than you have already come through here, they still are unsure whether he can recover."
Tala's shoulders slumped in defeat. "I won the war and people are still dying."
"We knew that would be the price. Kulek made his decision and saved me, as well as stopped Qatil. Don't undo the honor of that by regretting the actions in between."
Tala didn't have the chance to answer as one of her Dai Li escorts entered, "Tala, Prince The Snowbold is summoning you to Omashu."
She nodded and stood up. Before turning away, she looked on the unconscious airbender. It was a sad turn of events that split them, but inevitable. Kulek was unable to handle the depth of a woman with her background, still, it hurt to break that bond.
She bent over and kissed the sleeping nomad on the forehead, "I love you, Kulek," she whispered faintly, so no one could hear it.
She joined her Dai Li brethren and left for the taken city.
Tala's emerald eyes surveyed the war room. It had been a long time since she had been in Omashu. The city had broken upon word of Urri's death and Kuir entered without resistance. He now sat at the throne of the King of Omashu.
Rishu sat on his right, across from Tala while Alov and Siil were the next closest. Some were still missing. Commander Razul had been seriously injured, as had other Dragons and officers who led the battle. Ralyn and Ustad was present, though ragged.
"Lets begin," Kuir sat up as he started, "this city is in disarray, it must be stabilized quickly or the region will follow it to anarchy." Kuir scowled as he continued, "We must find a successor to King Urri and instate them soon."
Tala and Hava looked down in sadness and mourning. It wasn't until they captured one of Urri's thugs that they learned what happened to Suun. Hava had suspected it, but hoped for the best. Urri had murdered Suun upon learning he saved Clan Rohan.
Tala found it hard to see if there were any heirs left now. Urri and his sons were dead, Suun had no children, and they had no other family. King Bumi's bloodline had ended in ruin.
"Avatar Tala," Kuir turned his attention to the Avatar. She was surprised at the respect he had given her, "you knew the family well, having lived with them since youth. Are there any others in their family? Legitimate or otherwise?"
The Avatar sat there quietly, thinking about the answer. Simply put, there were no heirs, but she was also expected to provide an option if she said no. What was her answer to that?
"There is no one to take the throne of this city as King, nor should there be. Bumi's line is ended, we shouldn't try to emulate it. Its nobility ended with Suun and its madness with Urri. Let the past rest in peace."
"Then what would you recommend for the leading of this city?"
"A governor elected by the people that we approve of. We can't oppress these people, they have suffered enough. We need to give them an olive branch and the choice to rebuild under a leader they respect."
Rishu smiled, proud how much his pupil had learned, both from him and her previous teachers. She had retained her integrity despite his manipulative nature. The Black Dragon looked at Kuir, he was slow to respond. Kuir had wanted vengeance on the city, having inherited his father's lust for retribution to slights on their throne.
Kuir inhaled before responding, "That would be wise. If we keep a thumb on these people too hard, they will resent us and come back to haunt us later. I will advise the Earth King to follow this counsel."
Fields of Stone
Tala stood at the grave quietly as the party that meant to protect her kept their distance. She clutched her black and emerald cloak as the winter winds bit her. She didn't cry, but still felt the great sadness of having lost a friend and teacher.
"I'm sorry that I couldn't save you. You were there to teach me the meaning of integrity and honor when the world around me was deception and lies. You gave me hope in a city of gluttony."
She kneeled at the grave as she placed a Fire Lily down, "I know this was your favorite flower, it took Rishu a week to find one in bloom at this time of year. Rest in peace, my master, I will uphold your legacy, I'll keep an eye on your home."
As she stood again, the Avatar looked to the many graves that surrounded Suun's. He had asked to be buried with his men and not in the royal catacombs. His wish was answered, but more graves were made for the many dead had no place to be buried.
Well over two thousand were dead. She was relieved when she finally found Liam, and was distraught at his condition. Liam had a deep cut into his chest from a Kurki machete that nearly tore out his lungs.
The healers were able to save him, but the deep scar was permanent. She looked back to her escort, Liam was with them, relying on a cane. He was looking at other graves, his own men had suffered serious losses in the battle.
The Avatar wondered to herself if it was worth it. All the blood and death, did it really bring peace? She only saw the calm of grieving. She was certain that Rishu saw or thought something else, but his mind was something she didn't understand.
In the end, she had to answer for herself. She may have wished for better outcomes and less blood, but in the end, she made the right choices. She acted honorably, she fought for what she believed in and didn't betrayed her ideals.
It was hard to think that when she had defected in this war, but that too was inevitable. Urri was a monster who kept the evil under a mask. With the war, his mask faded away, showing his true colors.
Tala turned away from the grave, leaving this place. Staying any longer would only bring up memories of a past that was beyond reach.
The Crevasse of the Black Dragon
Tala sat by Rishu, waiting quietly and fighting the urge to fidget. Rishu had resumed her training in firebending and with hard work, she had finally mastered the element after months since the fall of Omashu.
It was when she beat the Grand Marshal with just firebending that he stated she was ready. Ready for what? Rishu had since recovered from the Storm Grave, though he was never the same. Tala wasn't sure what to attribute that to. He was reading a small book, like a journal, lately. And he was reading the old tomes on species and histories.
Now they were heading out to an unknown location by airship. Tala assumed it was the home of the Sun Warriors and the Dragons. Rishu had promised to take her to them when the war was over. She was correct, as they landed and two great dragons waited for them.Tala had never seen dragons in person. She had heard plenty of the tales and marveled at the pictures, but that was nothing to the true image of them. Their eyes glowed like the sun. Their fangs glistened and their wings unfurled as if just standing still was an boring event.
"They've been expecting us."
Tala looked at Rishu who was locked with eyes with a blue dragon that stood before him with a dangerous glare, "How do you know that?"
"Their master sent them."
Tala's hair stood on edge by that statement. The Dragons had no master, they did as they please, they were served by the Sun Warriors but that was not so binding. What could possibly command a dragon?
The great beasts coiled slightly, turning their head away from them and facing the way they came from. Their scales glittered in the light like diamonds and their spikes like daggers. Rishu walked forward and mounted himself on the dragon to ride. He beckoned her to the red dragon that waited. It great yellow eye turned to her and looked on her with curiosity.
Tala reluctantly climbed up, not sure she was ready to ride a dragon. With deceptive speed, they rose in unison and flew off from the airship. With serpentine movements, they flew through the air with grace she had never seen.The Sky Bison were airbenders and powerful ones, but they were blunt, without bending, they were just large cattle. This was not the case with dragons, even without bending, they were fierce beasts. Dragons could fly and swim, fight and kill. They could see far and wide at both day and night.
The sky blew with unusual calm as the dragons sped for mountains far away. They soon reached two great peaks. It was here that Avatar Aang had earned himself the honor of learning the true source of firebending from the dragons, Tala was jealous of such an honor.
The dragons blew past it without thought and then dove as they passed the cliff. With serpentine coiling they turned for the wall. Only they entered darkness and not a face full of stone, as Tala was expecting.
She felt herself push forward briefly in the darkness as the beast beneath her halted suddenly. She saw a small white flame and Rishu's calm face in its radius. He had climbed down from the great blue dragon, she followed his example.
After walking away from the two beasts, they bowed to the shadows ahead as if something was there. Tala saw and felt nothing, but then a change came. The urge to put her arms up as if a train was rushing from beyond was taking over.
To her right, Rishu calmly sat down. He drew the Raven Rose and rested it across his waist. To the darkness he spoke, "Master, I have returned."
Tala looked for the voice but soon realized she didn't hear it, but felt it. It sent shivers down her spine and yet warmed her as if in an inferno. The voice hissed, "Leave us."
The absolute authority in those simple words were frightening to Tala, more so when the dragons behind her stood up and flew away.
"You bring a weapon I detest, my apprentice."
"It was the weapon that defeated the witch's minions, my lord."
"Yes, a shame that you had not found the Fire Lily instead, that would have been a greater weapon to wield for the Apex of Fire."
"I had looked far and wide for that weapon but failed to find it. A true master can take any weapon and be victorious."
A humming noise that was more like a hiss came from the beyond. Tala looked on warily but could not pierce the veil.
"Avatar, I have waited to meet you again."
Tala's eyes widened, this thing was directing its attention to her.
"I wasn't aware that we had met before."
"In person, no. But in the world of dreams and ghost we have saved each other."
Tala focused on that. He obviously meant the Spirit World, but helped each other? The answer came to Tala in the most obvious form.
"You are the Black Dragon."
Hissing resumed, "The Black Dragon stands beside you."
"Yes, he does, but he is a fraction of you, as you are of him. He derives himself from you. The Black Dragon is beside me, but he is also before me."
The shadows swirled and soon a shape emerged. It was a head, the head of a fierce black dragon with black fangs and black eyes. It eyes were fathomless pits, endless stars. The eyes of Rishu were the eyes of the dragon. A chuckling or something that passed for it ensued, "Very clever, Avatar."
"You are the Spirit of the Sun," Tala stated the fact.
A tendril from the snout shot forward, touching Tala's forehead and soon visions filled her mind. Suddenly, her blocked memories of the winter solstice were gone and she was seeing the Whispering Canyon, which held some sentimental value to the Black Dragon, for some reason.
"We have been watching you for a long time, Avatar Tala."
"Yeah, I got that impression pretty clearly, but why?"
"You are the one who could bring balance. Were I to present myself before the world, it would be worse. Oh, they'll bow to me and worship me and follow my command, but if I were to disappear for even a short time, I would be challenged as a liar and false."
"This is why I send agents to fulfill the necessary work," Tala felt the focus shift to Rishu temporarily before returning to her. "It was some time since my last Apex before Azula's line came to me."
"Why did you start this war?"
"Balance. The four are four, they must never be one. Had the Republic lived on, it would have taken the four and made them into one with ease and compliance, but with this war, they will never unite in brotherhood. The hatred that is shared now will see to that."
"So you meant to use hate as a shield against unity?"
"Is there a better weapon?" The dragon began slithering and circling around, "Knowledge is not a guarantee of success. Those with it might actually want unity over separation. It was necessary to use the most base emotions to secure our foothold in this world."
"What will you do now that you have succeeded? Will you press on into the Air Nation?"
"No," his slithering stopped, "you and Rishu shall help guide them into a successful and self sustaining state, but they will be sovereign and separate of the other nations, including the Fire Nation in time."
"Why did you not approach me before?"
Rishu spoke, "I had tried, but Urri kept you in the city. He paid for his interference of my master's plan in the end."
Tala recalled that story. Hava told her before the war that Rishu had offered to teach her firebending, but that Urri and the White Lotus refused. It was bad for everyone. The White Lotus was shattered and Tala denounced them, Urri was dead and Omashu on the precipice, they paid a steeper price for obstinacy than they ever realized.
"Why not try to reach me in the Spirit World?"
"I did, but your past lives kept you shielded from me, both when you visited and in your dreams. It was the same when I had Rishu bend your energy, he gave you the visions of me, but they kept it locked away. The Avatars don't want you to know the truth."
"That they failed."
"Failure is natural for man, we all encounter it. Avatars are not above it, why would they hide that?"
"Because they all failed and could not admit to themselves what was needed to fulfill the Avatar's role, even though they were all capable of fulfilling it."
Tala was not sure she understood anymore. The great spirit's eyes looked into hers.
"If you act correctly, another will soon follow you that will fulfill the Avatar's destiny. He will finally realize mankind and have the answer that Avatars were created for. The Avatars before you have come to the realization of what that is, just as I have, but they fear its result, and seek to stop it."
"Why would they stop our summary destiny?" Tala recalled in some old book that Avatars were meant to understand humans, hence why they were human themselves. It was their purpose to seek the goal of peace by empathy. What could stop the past Avatars from letting that goal continue?
"You are changing the subjects before the last is answered. Why don't you fully explain this all to me, rather than skirt the issues?"
"Because you will not believe the truth if it was just said, it has to be experienced. Rishu has seen firsthand what the world is like and what will be needed to end the great malady of the world. There are two answers, and neither is acceptable to the Avatar."
"Tell me, and I will decide what is acceptable to me."
A hissing laugh emanated from the darkness, "Very well, Avatar, ask and I shall answer."
Destiny FulfilledTala sat on the ledge of the Fire Nation's Royal Palace in contemplation. So many answers and so many questions. He believed that the Avatars as a whole would fulfill their destiny soon. Tala could now understand the dread that she didn't feel in the Sun Spirit's presence.
Deep down, Tala knew that she wasn't so mortal as those around her. When she died, she would still be there, within another, just like all those before her were with her. It was a comfort, and it warmed her, but if the Great Black Dragon was telling the truth, then that security was coming to an end.
Countless Avatars lived through the next, feeling immortal and having great power when the current called on the past for help. Could they accept the end they had been saved from? Could she?
"Tala, what are you doing up here?" Liam's voice broke her musings.
"Sorry, just thinking." She realized that it was night with a full moon above, the sun had been up when she sat down.
"What were you thinking about?" Liam sat beside her and put an arm around her as their legs dangled over the ledge.
"My destiny. Avatars are supposed to bring balance and peace, but those two things are not synonymous. We are supposed to be compassionate and wise. But sometimes its not wise to be compassionate. Things I thought were so clear before are now contradicting. What should I do when I can't even trust the principles I always stood for?"
"Are you a good person?"
"What?" Tala looked at Liam as he spoke.
"Are you a good person?" He continued when she didn't answer, "I trust and the world trust that you will make the right decision. You must do what is right first. Save the child if you can, don't fret about the details unless it could have been helped."
With his other hand, he took hers. Rubbing his thumb over the scar on her palm, as he always did, "You told me that there was nothing I could have done to change this, and you were right. All I did was focus on what was gone and past. It did me no good and it helped no one."
"Don't dwell on a cut that was inevitable, or an event that you can't change. Focus on the future and what you can do to make it better. And don't worry if it coincides with my master's plans, he'll get by if it doesn't."
She chuckled, "Shall I tell him you said that?"
"I would rather you never tell him about this conversation at all," they laughed before he took a serious tone again, "So again, are you a good person?"
Tala took a moment before answering. She had done good things and bad things. She had made mistakes and she had a hunger for power that was for more than its good reasons. Despite this, she wanted what was best for those around her. Raised amongst the Dai Li, exiles who suffered for treachery, she realized how important honor and integrity were. That people must be willing, not forced, to make the hard choice for those around them.
Liam smiled as he kissed her forehead, "That's what I thought."
Tala looked down onto the world before her. Calm and peaceful, she had given sweat and blood for this, she would do what was necessary to make sure it lasted.
To continue the path of the Avatars,shall come...
I would like to thank all those who read and commented as I wrote this amazing story. I also owe a special thank you to , whose awesome title-cards gave the series its own vibe. A thank you to for helping edit recently and to all the reviewers as you helped me fix and learn how to write.
I hope you will all join me as the next journey continues...
- Tala was the light that showed in both this chapter and the previous chapter as they both occurred at the same time.
- Tala has serious doubts about the result of the war.
- The secret of the Black Dragon is finally revealed.
- The reference to the Avatar realizing their purpose is meant to refer to Yangchen's statement to Aang as well as to Dune, the science fiction drama surrounding the fate of the Kwisatz Haderach, a being who can solve the problems of mankind, or so it is thought.
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|