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|The Other Front|
Pyres and Storms
January 15, 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 1: The Other Front
The Autumn Air bit into the skin as it blew. Snow was beginning to fall, but just barely. It signaled a great change of seasons, however, it did not end the war that plagued this city. For over a year, the city had been surrounded by its enemies, the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom.
But the city wasn't the only target of the war. Planned by the Black Dragon, Rishu
A negotiations of the leaders of the world was held in Omashu, where many regions settled to an agreement involving a withdrawal of troops and the dissolve of the United Republic into the Air Nation. A third of its mainland was given back to the Earth Kingdom while islands around the Western Air Temple were ceded to the Fire Nation, as well the Southern and Eastern Air Temple were given to the Earth Kingdom in exchange for leaving Republic City alone.
Other lands were left so long as they would stop fighting, but that did not mean the end of hostilities. Omashu, led by King Urri refused to end fighting because he would kneel and swear loyalty to the Earth King as law demanded.
If only that was the last battle, then at least the war would be in one place, however there were other battles.
Tala followed Rishu as he stepped into the tent in which two Air Nomads were having a discussion. They were serious and not light of heart. Rishu's voice was a controlled calm, "Well, well, if it isn't the second most dysfunctional brother and sister after the She Wolf and the Sea Wolf."
The two stopped talking after their arrival, "Oh please continue, unless your talks are not for repairing family ties and more for coordination of betrayal."
Hava looked at them questioningly. Tala answered, "The United Force have not withdrawn or halted their guerrilla war and instead have increased it under orders of the council."
Rishu started as soon as Tala finished, "So tell me, when did you give the order for your armies to continue fighting despite the treaty?"
"I gave no such order," Lio stood defiantly, "I have been here the entire time."
"While the rest of the Republic Council pretends to head back to Republic City only to be 'kidnapped' by Guerrillas in the mountain paths."
Lio had a shocked look, Rishu smiled as he continued, "No, it has not happened yet, but I am not as naive as you to think they would go down quietly. I have laid a trap for them, if they go along with the ambush, they will die and so will the rebels who try to rescue them."
"You can't do that!"
"Apparently, I must." Rishu began leaving when he turned around to finish, "Given the fact that you cannot ensure the security of the Air Nation, it is obvious that you will need forces helping until your rule is secured. My forces shall reside in Republic City until the rebels are defeated."
Lio was mortified, like any plans she had were burned to ashes. Rishu finished as he left, "I will burn them to the ground, and they have you to thank. I guess your son inherited his legacy from you."
Lio moved forward as if to attack when Hava stopped her. Tala looked on the two coldly, "You just couldn't make the hard choice and save lives, could you? Its not enough that we have to fight here in Omashu," she looked at Hava, "where you are fighting beside that madman. But now you have to drag the whole mountain range into this?"
"Tala, I had no power over this."
"Then you have no power at all, and therefore weak. Rishu will make you a puppet because you proved that you can't rule a military. Think about that before you make your next plan of subterfuge, because so far he has left Republic City alone, but I don't know for how long if this keeps up."
"Make the right choice, before it is no longer an option," Tala turned and left the tent, giving them a warning look.
She walked through the siege lines. The troops used to watch her like a hawk, fearing she would attack them, it intensified briefly after her 'outburst'. But since then, the soldiers have come to realize that she is not out to kill them.
Despite this, she felt like she was being watched. That a presence had its oppressive eyes on her, watching her, haunting her every move. She looked around warily and walked to a corner to see if she was being followed, but saw no one particularly tailing her.
The gaze seemed to pass as her senses were relieved. Perhaps she was just being paranoid, but given her upbringing, her father taught her that coincidence happened far less than people told themselves.
Tala pushed the drapes as she entered tent. They were large and especially broad in order to accommodate the towering Prince Kuir, who was absent this meeting.
Tala approached as General Siil and Grand Marshal Toz spoke with Rishu. They noticed her arrival and gave a respectful bow before continuing, "We've had some serious upsets and changes now. The United Forces have begun attacking all the routes to Republic City, its brazen and its working. We're spread too thin to cover them all, we'll have to rely on mercenaries to cover some of these and you know how honest they are, we'll have to expect some items to go missing."
"Prince Kuir and his forces can secure the central lands well, from there is at least one set of path safe to us."
As Toz and Siil spoke, Liam entered. He gave Tala a smile briefly before he whispered in Rishu's ear. Rishu took a dark look. "I'm afraid we can't rely on our paid acquaintances anymore. My spies have just informed me that King Urri has approached every company and offered them double our rate."
Siil had a shocked look, "What?"
"He wants them to run a guerrilla war on us, take the spoils as they like and spread us thin. It seems Urri does have some tactical sense after all."
Toz spoke up, "He couldn't possibly pay them all? How many have accepted?"
"Urri is very wealthy and has family in Gaoling. Family that we overlooked because of the siege. As for how many have betrayed us? I don't know, we must assume that almost all of them. There are only two companies that have never betrayed a contract, the Seasons and the Wolves. Everyone else must be treated as suspect and the Spirits must be treated as enemies, I know they will have accepted."
Tala looked about and answered widely, "Who are the Spirits?"
Siil answered, "The Spirits are a mercenary company, treacherous and lethal. They sell to the highest bidder and keep it that way. If someone offers better, they will kill the previous contractor."
Rishu spoke as he looked at the map, "We were the highest bidders before, but now," he sighed briefly, "Toz is still right though. Even with the resources in Gaoling, Urri doesn't have enough to pay every company, he would need help from the outside, from the north. That means the United Forces, the Northern Fortress and the White Lotus. Together, they all have more than enough to outbid us for the companies' loyalties."
"Then we don't use them."
Toz chuckled, "Do you know how far we are spread out? The entire coast is covered and the seas to the North and South Pole."
Tala countered, "But we are withdrawing from those theaters of war."
"And putting them in new places. The United Forces have more than doubled their attacks, we need to increase our forces here by a large margin. And if we are to take Omashu, we need more than a siege force meant for containment; we'll need an invasion force to take it. That leaves a lot of unsecured areas that lead between our secured battlefields. That's where mercenaries come in. to fill in our gaps."
Siil finished as he threw a pen on the map, "And so much for that. That's thousands of new potential enemies. The Spirits alone are going to be trouble. Those assassins are a nightmare on Ba Sing Se."
Rishu took charge, "We cut the pay now and see where their loyalties lie. We need the Dragons to take this war to the United Forces and hunt them on their own turf. Take Grand Admiral Alov's protocol and apply it to these mountains, we'll need it."
Toz nodded, "The Dust Dragons are in the north already by the South Pass, we'll get started. But I have a feeling that there are bases and airfields we missed in our first wave. I fear a war worst than we imagined and a sleeping giants waits for us."
Tala sat by the command tent. It was a quiet and dead night as fall's cold gripped the bones of flesh and tore at them. The lights of the city were gone, as they were most nights, a dark shadow fell over them.
"Its the calm before the storm, the cold before the snow, the breath before the plunge, and the peace before the war."
"It haunts men," she actually chuckled despite herself, "we ought to be used to it by now."
"We are not perfect beings. Only so much can man take and handle before he breaks. But some rise from the debris and are reborn, renewed. It is they that are truly dangerous, what has made men the masters over others."
"Is that what you are? One who fell and rose?"
"Yes," Rishu turned to walk away, "and no. I am more and less than the men who made us the masters of this world, nor are my goals completely with theirs."
As Rishu walked away from the Avatar he felt it. The gaze. He had been watched his whole life, knowing when you were seen was easier to him than breathing. He was born and bred to do much and could feel it, oppressive.
A powerful presence, he knew because he couldn't find it. Only one had ever had that power over him before. But this was different, ancient and menacing, it looked at him and tested him. Whether he was a threat or not, to be ignored or to be dealt with. So mindful, so sinister.
Rishu continued walking. Alerting this new enemy of his suspicion served him nothing. He would have to be patient and see who or what was following him and why.
- A dark presence is watching over both Tala and Rishu. It shall be revealed in Chapter 2: The Witch.
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|