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|No More Running|
Water. Earth. Fire. Air.
Long ago, a legend named Wan learned how to control the four elements. He united with the spirit of light Raava, trapped the spirit of darkness Vaatu, and separated the Spirit World from humanity. Since then, humanity waged war upon each other. Despite Wan's endless efforts, he perished in battle. The world continues to wage war, and without Wan to mitigate the battles, humanity may plunge into darkness once again...
The mountains - the natural barrier of the world. Enough fog settled down at the base of the mountain range to obscure the bottom. With the sky overcast, the mountains looked as though they were the peaks of an unfathomably deep valley. A particular area was called the Valley of Endless Fog, a place where no human dared to venture. Beyond the cliffside was nothing but a field of fog, and most of the visible rockface angled out, making climbing near-impossible for any curious land-dwellers.
And yet one tree almost too large for the fog to obscure dared grow out near a cliffside by this ominous valley. The tree's four main branches converged smoothly, creating a perfectly flat base at the branches' convergence. Perfect for a young boy to lay upon, put his arms behind his head, and gaze through its thick canopy.
A loud growl rumbled in the trees. Chodak quickly sat up and looked around. All he could see was the cliffside of fog in front of him, then the grassy hill behind him, and tree branches all in between. He got to his feet and surveyed around him more closely.
"I thought you'd return," Chodak muttered to himself. "There's not a single animal that I haven't seen around these parts..."
The growling rumbled again. Chodak looked down to his stomach and sighed.
"Man, has it been that long?" Chodak murmured. He sat back down on the tree base and brought his knapsack in front of him. He pulled out a red bean bun and instinctively stuck a tongue out. He bit into his red bean bun and chewed with joy on his face.
Chodak, a 15-year old from what their people called themselves the Air Nomads. He was a boy fairly muscular for his age, having climbed onto precarious trees or clambered on cliffsides whenever the adults weren't looking. He wore his tribe's traditional robes of yellow and orange, as well as a blue sash around his stomach and necklace of wooden beads. He also bore the light blue markings of a fully-fledged monk, stretching across his arms, legs, and bald head. His tattoos signified his ability to harness his previous generation's ability to control air. Or, at least, be able to leap a bit higher than others.
A bird swooped by and landed nearby the monk. Chodak peered over and smiled. "Hello there. Would you care to join me for lunch?"
He took his bun and split it in half. He tore one half into smaller pieces and scattered it along the tree branch. Birds immediately flocked over to the branch. He continued eating his bun as he looked over the area before him.
"Hey, Chodak!" a voice called. The birds suddenly scattered.
It was another boy around Chodak's age, slightly taller and skinnier, but also possessing the tattoos and similar-fashioned clothing. Chodak sighed. "What is, Kunga?"
"The elders need to see you," Kunga stated softly.
"See me?" Chodak leaped from the tree. Wind puffed beneath him, tossing his robe cloth around as his feet softly landed on the ground. "Why do they need to see me? I don't think I did anything wrong, not that I've ever done anything wrong in the first place..."
"Well, I guess it's more of all the monks, but you're the only one who ventures out in the wilds by yourself." Kunga shook his head. "Sometimes I wonder when you'll get eaten by one of those porcupine bears one of the gatherers were telling stories about."
"First of all, there's no such thing as 'porcupine bears'. Secondly, I'm pretty sure what the gatherer saw was called a 'boar-q-pine', which doesn't even eat meat."
"Alright, alright, I get it now. But the point is you're probably the best out of all of us when it comes to controlling air, so the elders are waiting for your return."
"That's certainly a first I've heard. Why do they need the monks now? The full moon doesn't even arise for another week."
"I don't know, but if they're summoning all the monks, it must be important news." Kunga looked towards the Valley of Endless Fog, where the sun began its descent into the horizon. "We should probably get back to camp."
"C'mon, I'll race you!" Chodak started dashing towards the green hills.
"You cheater, you got a headstart!" Kunga called out. He quickly trailed behind Chodak with gust of wind trailing behind him.
"You know you're the fastest monk out there! That's fair!"
And the two boys raced into the fog.
After the lion turtles withdrew their services as humanity's protection, we were at the mercy of the other tribes. Luckily, the lion turtle granted the generation before mine the powers to harness wind. However, we had little fighting power against the more military-minded of the other tribes. What few "soldiers" we had died protecting the rest of the Nomads. And we continue fleeing, evading confrontation after confrontation.
But how long can we run?
The Air Nomads camped under a large cavern, where large wind currents flowed in and out of the entrance. Parents would take care of their children by their family bedrolls. Gatherers returned with baskets on their backs full of various fruits. Further out of the entrance was a flat surface with a rug of ornate patterns. Sitting on top of the rug were five elderly monks sitting cross-legged and facing a large group of younger monks.
Out of the fog, the two boys flew right for the group of monks. Chodak closed his eyes and spread his hands in front of him as though waiting for the crash to happen. A quick burst of wind exploded in front of him, slowing down his and Kunga's speed to a steady halt. Chodak opened his eyes and looked around. The group of monks' attire and facial hairs looked as though a hurricane just passed them.
Chodak grinned and put a hand behind his head. "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, elders. I didn't know there was an important meeting."
The center monk straightened his robes and coughed. "That's alright, Chodak. This news was fairly recent. Now that everyone's here, we will discuss why you all have been summoned."
Chodak and Kunga quietly assimilated themselves into the group.
The center monk spoke, "As you may know for several months now, the Water Tribes have united in order to gain territory in this area, and it's our routine to leave the area the day before the full moon. A full moon will not arise for another seven days, but Dhargey found that the tribe are planning to advance before then. Therefore, we will need to move in two days."
"Will this keep happening?" a monk in the group asked. "I mean, the Water Tribe advancing earlier than normal?"
"I don't know, but we must be prepared to move at anytime -"
"We can't just keep running away!" Chodak interrupted. "Sure, we've been able to live on the move since the end of Raava's era, but how long can we move out of fear of our enemies? Soon, we'll be sandwiched between the Water Tribes and the Earth Tribes!"
"Quiet, Chodak!" another elder to the left scolded. "Unlike the other tribes, we do not resort to violence. The last time we attempted a negotiation, it ended in the slaughter of our negotiating party. Some of us have our ancestors' air powers, and it's sufficient enough to evade a confrontation."
"So you want to keep running away?"
"We must be light on our feet before we can gain a footholding, but until then, we have no choice," the center monk stated in a sadder tone.
Chodak simply kept quiet, although his face looked as though he wanted to shout at someone.
The elder then returned to his more neutral tone, "Now, I ask for the assistance of several monks to find a suitable location for our next settlement tomorrow morning."
"What are the Water Tribe people like?" Kunga asked more to himself than his small traveling group. He, Chodak, and another monk lagged behind the other monks to the point where they could barely see them past the fog.
"Considering that we've been driven from a permanent home every month, I'd say they're ruthless," Konchok commented with discontent.
Chodak shook his head. "Why can't the elders let us defend against the Water Tribe? We're not natural fighters individually, but perhaps together we could push them away with a large gust of wind or something."
"I'd hate to break it to you, Chodak," Kunga retorted, "but none of us know how to use the power of wind like you. It'll be like, I don't know, an elephant rat picking a fight with an elk tiger."
"I don't know if those two species would ever 'pick a fight', but as long as we keep running like this, we'll never learn how to defend ourselves until it's too late."
"I can see why the elders are not so fond of you," Konchok noted. "We've been living like this for as long as we've been alive."
"Yes, but what kind of creature would want to keep running away from its predator? Eventually, it'll get tired and it'll have nowhere to rest. But if it had a shelter, things would be different. It would have a place to rest, families could be raised without feeling as threatened, and defending would be much simpler."
"You have a plan on how to accomplish this, Mr. Animal-Lover?"
Chodak grinned. "In fact, I do."
Kunga groaned, "Oh no, you had to give him an idea."
"What we're going to do is pretend to find the next temporary settlement. We'll just say we wanted to find the next-next temporary settlement in case the Water Tribe ambushed us here." Chodak turned to Kunga. "What'd you say?"
"I'd say I'd better come with you so you don't get carried away," Kunga sighed.
A large patch of grassland dotted with bushes sat in between two mountain ridges. A river cut through the grasslands and weaved its way to a cliffside, where the water plummeted down into the Valley of Endless Fog in faint murmurs.
Chodak leaped his way over to the edge of the river. He looked behind him to find Kunga bounding out from the fog and landing on the ground.
"Chodak, how much longer are we going to venture out?" Kunga panted as he put his hands on his knees. "The elders will be expecting us by sundown."
"Just a little bit longer," Chodak answered. "All the places we've been to are perfectly hospitable, but they don't seem perfect." He looked over the Valley of Endless Fog. "What'd you say we try something different? We've been circling around the Valley, and most of the places are just the same thing."
"No one's dared to explore beneath the Valley! We don't know how deep it goes, or if it hosts dangerous creatures."
"But we're monks, Kunga! We could use our wind powers to land safely."
"Getting down is the easy part, but how do you suppose we climb back up? All the cliffs curve backwards."
Chodak sighed with more irritation than usual. "C'mon Kunga, why'd you need to be such a downer?"
"I'm here because you're my friend, Chodak. I'll follow you to your crazy adventures, but I want to make sure you're back in one piece."
Chodak smiled. "Thanks."
Kunga blinked his eyes. "Did you hear that?" Kunga whispered.
The two boys stared at each other silently. They heard murmurs further down the river. Not discernible, but definitely human-sounding. Chodak and Kunga leaped their way down the river. When they saw dark shapes forming in the background, the two boys landed into a bush. They peeked through the leaves and saw several people in the river with nets in their hands. A few of them were staring directly at them.
"You think they saw us?" Chodak whispered.
"I'd be suspicious too if two figures just leaped into a bush," Kunga murmured.
Chodak then stood up and walked closer to the people. "Uh, hi there," Chodak greeted with an awkward smile. "I was wondering where you're from."
After a few seconds of silence between the two parties, the people turned and ran until they disappeared in the fog.
"Wait, we just wanted to talk!" Chodak shouted.
"I've never seen those people before," Kunga noted. "What tribe do you suppose they're from?"
"Maybe the Earth Tribe? I've only heard about them from the storyteller."
Suddenly, the earth rumbled slightly.
Chodak grinned. "Told you."
"Wait," Kunga murmured as he turned one ear facing where he once faced. "It sounds like water flowing..."
"Are you sure? There's water around us -" Chodak then halted when he glanced down at the empty riverbed.
From the fog, a large wave of water appeared. The two boys' eyes widened and yelled in terror. They turned around and dashed as fast as they could with the assistance of their wind powers. When they heard the wave crash behind them, they planted to the ground and turned around. Behind the wave were men in blue-gray uniforms.
"Well, we got our answer," Kunga muttered.
"Maybe we can actually talk to them!" Chodak whispered in suddenly excitement.
"What, are you crazy -?!" Kunga whispered back, incredulous.
"Hey there, Water Tribe people!" Chodak shouted towards the men. "We're from the Air Nomads, and we'd appreciate it if you didn't drive our families away!"
But the Water Tribe soldiers replied with a growing wall of water in front of them. The wall of water seemed to collapse forward, only to start moving rapidly towards the boys. The two headed backwards.
"Chodak, I don't think they're friendly," Kunga noted timidly.
"Well then, no more running," Chodak stated as he planted his feet on the ground. As he spun on his heel, Chodak pulled his hands in. As soon as he was facing the wall of water, he planted down and pushed his hands out. A gust of wind cut a hole right through the wave and beyond. A few Water Tribe men lost footing from the gale, causing the wave to collapse.
"Get back into formation!" a man's voice echoed.
Chodak dashed in a burst of speed towards the Water Tribe soldiers. Leaping up, he thrusted his hands forward for a gust of wind. As he was launched backwards, some of the soldiers were knocked right off their feet. Chodak landed on the ground hard. He managed to see Kunga, who quickly pulled him back to his feet.
"That was amazing!" Kunga exclaimed. "Where'd you learn that?"
"I don't know," Chodak stated with confusion. "Sometimes you just need to make things up on the fly, I guess."
Kunga looked in front of them and asked, "You think you could try that again?"
The two boys stood as far away from the recovering Water Tribe soldiers as possible, but they also felt the chills of the Valley slowly closing behind them. They kept their hands in front of them, but their stances seemed awkward in comparison to the sturdier stances of the soldiers.
"What do we do now?" Chodak murmured.
"When the wave is coming, split up," Kunga murmured back. "Go opposite directions, then get behind them and run."
Chodak frowned as he saw the wall of water rise again. "I guess if our lives are in stake..."
The wave bounded again towards the monks in a roar of crashing water.
"Now!" Kunga shouted.
The two boys crouched down before bounding in a large gust of wind. Kunga managed to land quickly before he saw another wave coming towards him. He dashed forward before collapsing to his stomach. He looked behind him. Chodak was still falling to the ground, and some of the Water Tribe soldiers were preparing to launch another wave.
"Chodak, to your left!" Kunga shouted.
By the time the monk's toes landed on the ground, Chodak suddenly saw a torrent of water in front of him. He barred his arms in front of his face, shielding himself. However, the force of the water flung him off his feet and right off the cliffside.
Kunga's eyes to widen in horror. "Chodak!"
Chodak started screaming as he helplessly plunged into the fog below.
Kunga got back to his feet and ran over to the cliffside, where there was nothing but fog. He turned and found himself surrounded by Water Tribe soldiers. He swallowed his dry throat as his eyes darted around.
Suddenly, a beam of white light shot up from the Valley. The force knocked the light-footed Kunga and even some of the surrounding fog backwards. The Water Tribe soldiers relaxed their stances and stared at the column of light with awe.
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