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Unexpected Happenings is the first chapter of
Chapter One: Unexpected Happenings
"I'm tellin' ya, mate, yer dad ain't do any good sending ya off to the Earth Empire... or to send ya off in general, on that part." The elder fisherman's croaky voice pierced the silence. Small waves gently rocked the small fishing boat. A light breeze let the boat glide eastwards continuously, towards the densely wooded area, away from the setting sun. The coastline before them was rocky, rock peaks rising up from the water, cliffs forming the definite boundary between sea and land.
"And why exactly would that be?" After long staring, the boy replied. He was clothed, unlike the fisherman's reddish and brownish tones, in a blue tunic and blue trousers. The boat made a slight starboard turn.
"We just escaped Kanyzon's armies! I may only be a fisherman, but, well... In the Air Empire, ya can be hunted for your beliefs. In the Fire Nation, well... y'know. In the Northern Water Tribe, ya can be hunted for your beliefs. And in the Earth Empire, well... Ya can be hunted for your thoughts. But in the Southern Water Tribe, ya are free!", the fisherman explained as they slowly moved to an opening in the cliffs. Behind laid a small bay, a harbour town being situated at its shore, the town's - partially - destroyed houses rising up against the sky, just like the afar mountain range at the horizon, and some houses' plumes of smoke.
"I see... And on top of that, part of the Earth Empire is in rebellion... " The realisation had took time to strike the boy, but finally, it had when he caught sight of the destroyed houses. He examined the town, and just before he set foot on the dock they'd streamed to, the fisherman asked, "Wait, what's yer name again?"
The boy turned around, picked up a sack he had sit next to, and looked at the fisherman, smiling. "Senqok of the Southern Water Tribe, son of Chief Gangtok, master of the art of waterbending and master of the way of the sword."
"Well, then, master Senqok, farewell!", the fisherman laughed a bit, before Senqok too bid his farewell, and pushed the fishing boat back into the direction it's come from with a massive wave. Just as he turned around, he found himself looking at the armoured chest of an enormously tall and bulky soldier. The black armour with golden lining coupled with the man's height were enough to almost scare Senqok away, and his muscular build was what made him inch backwards.
"Passport, please." The more it amused Senqok that the soldier had a ridiculously high-pitched voice when he demanded to see the boy's papers. Only barely suppressing a gust of laughter to break out, he handed him a few folded and lacerated sheets of paper. The bulky soldier took a swift look, asked a comrade of his to aid him, and, after a minute or two, let Senqok pass. The waterbender walked from the wooden docks on the dirt road adjacent to the former, where an ostrich-horse-drawn wagon was waiting for someone to come, a handful of soldiers surrounding it. The wagon was massive and ornated, of black, green and golden colour, drawn by two ostrich-horses and had two seats on the outside, all occupied by heavily armoured soldiers. Curious, he approached the vehicle, before the soldiers formed two lines for someone to walk to it. A man in green and golden robes and an ornate headpiece steadily went through to the wagon, and was opened a door to climb in. Following him was a soldier carrying a dozen boxes, which he then stored under the man's seat. Interested, Senqok decided to near the vehicle, and then, just barely hearable, asked one of the soldiers, "Where's the ride going?"
"To Omashu.", the soldier whispered back, turning his head into Senqok's direction, "And you better get away from- WAIT a second... What in Koh's realm!?"
The soldier had caught sight of him, and took him by his collar. "We've been expecting a Water Tribe fellow for the past week... What's your name?"
Gulping, Senqok took a glance around to analyse his situation, and found obeying was the best option. "Senqok, sir."
The soldier narrowed his eyes, before light-heartedly saying, "Well, then that's no problem. You're the one we've been expecting. Get in that wagon."
Senqok rose an eyebrow as the soldier hauled him into the vehicle, sat him on the seat across the robed man's and closed the door, being a little confused and suspicious. Just afterwards, two soldiers took seats on either end of the wagon and the ostrich-horses began running at the slash of their reins. The heavy vehicle soon had left the small town and was being drove through a vast forest, thousands of thousands of trees on either side of the dirt road, and a massive - but not glaciated or even snowy - mountain range up ahead, rising from the horizon. Senqok then noticed, out of boredom, that the four windows, through one of whom he kept staring, could be closed with metal covers.
"You might wonder what those are for... We're in the area around Omashu, and, well, here we've got increased - and increasing - rebel activity. The town we've started in... t'was attacked by the rebels. Attacked, held for a week, during which residents were recruited en masse, and then, abandoned at the slightest trace of danger, when I lead a battalion of my troops there. And well, now the town's missing three quarters of their residents, the remaining ones are mainly elderly... anyway, where was I? Right, the metal covers. As you've seen, the whole wagon is build massive and robust, and, to thwart potential assassination attempts, those can be closed... But I think my strike held them out of the region for some time, and two bulky soldiers usually are enough to scare them away.", breaking the hour-long silence, the man across him explained. "Oh. I haven't introduced myself. I'm Shma Fu, Steward of the Omashu Province, and you're Senqok, heir to the Southern Water Tribe, right?"
Without letting him give an answer, the official continued. "Well, should've done that earlier, eh? Anyway, why did your father send you to Omashu? I mean, isn't- "
Senqok had stood up at lightning speed and afterwards immediately took cover at the vehicle's hull as a crossbow bolt struck the official into the neck. While the Steward was suffocating on his own blood, Senqok drew water from the water skin of his and reached up with the watery extension of his arm to close the metal cover, repeating the process thrice. Then, overwhelmed by curiosity, the waterbender took one of the boxes and opened it. Even in the darkness inside the wagon, which had stopped for whatever reason (beside of course the Steward's assassination), the dozens of gold ingots shone lightly. However, he dropped the box when he hear someone climb up on the roof, and thus, he drew his sword instead. It was a straight one, a Jian, but that mattered little now. Someone attempted to break through the roof with bending, but failed, or so he thought at first. Just a split second later, a fireball had broken through the roof's centre, and Senqok immediately turned his defence into offence, leaping up to face whoever he encountered.
Sword first, then the arms and head, and then the body and the legs, he emerged from the wagon, and saw himself confronted with a firebender approximately his age, one who wielded dual dao swords, and had the most unusual trait of red hair. More Senqok couldn't observe, for then, he had knocked the other one off the wagon, before himself being sent from it by a strong gust of air. He managed to land on his feet, and just then noticed why nobody had done anything against the Steward being assassinated - both soldiers sent with them laid on the ground, crossbow bolts sticking through their necks. The waterbender quickly drew his water from the water skin on his back again, and slowly approached the wagon, water in the one, sword in the other hand. As he reached it, a rock smacked him against the massive wooden vehicle, a fireball following just a split-second later, only to miss him. He quickly spun around, and was confronted with a most bizarre sight.
Before him, the firebender from before, an airbender girl about the same age as he himself, a - seemingly - nonbender wielding a crossbow, another girl, seemingly being an earthbender, and, though hidden behind, a Water Tribe girl, a healer as it seemed, had all gathered. Being threatened by such diverse - yet uniformed - and numerous enemies, one would think Senqok would've surrendered - but that simply wouldn't be Senqok. The Water Tribal dashed forward at lightning speed, but was still too slow for the earthbender not to notice. She shot up an earth pillar that he ran right into. Just before getting up, he noticed the bunch had surrounded him. Seeing no other option, he decided to act incredibly boldly, and to simply leap up and at the nearest of them. The - presumed - healer was the unlucky one to be grasped and slowly to be pulled away, always only millimetres away from her death - the waterbender's sword was only a few millimetres from the other's throat, bended water coating the metal blade. The others, from whom he inched away with his hostage, nodded at each other, and following that, took action. Without being able to react to it quickly enough, a fireball scorched his hand, and made him let go of his sword. Before he could recover it, he tripped over a small bended rock, and, just after the healer had freed herself by elbowing Senqok into the ribs, a blast of air knocked him over.
Not speaking a single word, the merry band of uniformed ones hurried away, leaving the Water Tribal with perhaps a broken rib or two, and a scorched hand. After about half an hour, he had recovered the strength to get up, although pain was attempting to hinder him, so he got his sword, and, more importantly, his water, back. He didn't bend it back into his water skin, but, instead, used it to heal himself. The water coated his right, scorched hand, and began streaming around it, slowly healing or at least cicatrising the worst of the hand's burns. He didn't remember where those who attacked him took off to, but indeed was in need of finding a way to Omashu, for whether reason his father sent him there. He took a look around, and could only see woods as far as the eye can reach, except for the Kolau Mountains' presence in the east, and, to the west, a small glimpse of the ocean, and of course the narrow dirt road in between, the whole scenery lightened by the sun's last rays, but still, Senqok was pretty much sure he was stuck in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, while keeping his right hand coated with his healing water, he looked for the others' footprints. Quickly finding them, leading from the road's other side to his, and then further into the woods, following the road in some distance, he decided to follow them. Despite his fight and his injuries, he wasn't the least bit tired, and therefore decided to follow it, for they would have to set up a camp for spending the night.
Wandering through the woods at night may have seemed like a bad idea, but doing it without having any source of light at hand was an even worse one. The more it surprised Senqok how easily and fast he could follow the trail, until he spotted, located in a small swale, a campfire surrounded by three tents. As he, careful not to make a sound and not to move all too fast, approached it, he noticed that someone, crawled up next to the fireplace, was lying there, sleeping. Sneaking in between two tents, one of whom was earthen, he noticed that it was the healer he almost had taken as a hostage before, sleeping. She didn't move at all, save for some minor twitches, and had goosebumps on all exposed skin. Senqok thus decided to sit down next to her, and took his sack, which he had carried all the way there, and took his blanket out of it, carefully covering the healer with it, before he sat himself across her, sitting close to the campfire for the warmth. There, he moved his right hand, the one which was coated in water, to his most likely broken ribs. The ordinary pain there was already enough to endure, but then, when he attempted to arrange the fragments into the right place, he grimaced and grunted in pain, careful not to wake those sleeping all around. As he declared himself finished with the first task, he began healing the broken bones. Hours passed, the darkness around, if possible, only intensified itself, and the pain remained despite his healing efforts.
His heavy breaths from exhaustion after hours of only concentrating on healing and the failure of said task, and his presence altogether, made the morning not exactly the nicest for the healer. As soon as she had comprehended that the guy who had taken her hostage just sat across her made her shoot up within the blink of an eye, and immediately assume a fighting stance, before, however, due the girl's inability to bend properly, she decided to simply stand there, dumbfounded. Senqok only took a short look upwards, and then resumed healing himself.
"Just who in Koh's realm are you!?" The girl's voice was one filled with shock, as was her expression, which then changed into wonder as she added, holding the blanket. "And why did you give me that blanket?"
"Well, to answer your first question... ", Senqok looked up to her, before continuing, "including titles or- " However, he couldn't finish his sentence as the hilts of dual dao swords struck him in the back of his head, knocking him out.
"Well... that's one way of dealing with that- wait a second. He healed himself, so he- ", the healer spoke, her tone changing from a casual to a shocked one, as she turned to face the firebender who had struck Senqok down.
"He healed himself, so... ?", the former yawned, beginning to demount his tent, before noticing that his uniform-armour-thingy still was inside it.
"So he was from the South! He might've come in- oh nevermind. We should be careful when we haul him around, I think I might've broken his ribs. And yes, Shizon, that was directed to you.", the healer spoke as she decided to gather Senqok's belongings and weaponry, while the firebender known as Shizon managed to clothe himself with the uniform, muttering, "Whatever you say, Kabura, whatever you say... "
Just in the same moment, the earth tent was shattered into a thousand pieces as the earthbender inside had just awoken. She immediately took the numerous parts of the uniform as well, and attempted to take them on.
"Good morning Noki!", the healer, Kabura, spoke as she herself put on her armour and shouldered the knapsack containing her belongings, only resuming talking when she noticed the blind earthbender's struggle with the uniform's cuirass, "Wait, I'll help you- "
"I DON'T NEED YOUR SPIRITS DAMNED HELP!", the blind one, named Noki, screamed at the top of her lungs, before, struggling to find the correct opening for her arms, added, merely whispering, "Alright, I might need your help... a bit... please... "
Kabura smiled and went over to the other girl to aid her, while, from a nearby tree, an airbender leapt down, only to land in the fireplace, spreading ashes and alike all around the campsite. To her, it didn't make any difference, especially to her raven hair, but the others did care, whether it interrupted their sleep or it ruined their dresses.
"Nice to know you're awake as well, Malu... ", Kabura sighed and coughed ashes out, just before the last tent opened. A slightly corpulent figure stood there, extremely short hair, and missing his trousers. As Kabura caught sight of it, she, after a split second, covered her eyes, and could only stutter, extremely shocked, "Well... Skado... you know you could at least wear... trousers, maybe?"
However, the young man wasn't fully awake yet and stumbled on his way back into the tent. Thanks to Kabura's help, Noki was ready to continue their march. "A'ight now, lads- wait, who's that guy over there?"
Kabura was the first to explain, "Oh that one? He tried taking me hostage yesterday, remember? Well, he decided to follow us and... well... Now he's our captive. Oh sweet irony..."
Noki deemed the explanation sufficient and then shouted again, this time in a commanding tone, "Listen, I want us to be ready for moving out in five minutes! My dad- er, General Wei is not a patient man, so you better hurry! Oh, and take our captive with us!"
The others, except Kabura, only groaned in dismay, but still obeyed, confirming it with a simple, demotivated, "Yes, ma'am!"
Senqok awoke, strapped to a chair. He couldn't see anything, but given the cold he felt, he supposed he wasn't wearing all too much. Also did he notice the absence of a blindfold, therefore assumed either it was simply dark in the room he was located or he had been blinded. After trying to concentrate to see something, anything, and noticing his attempt bearing fruits, or rather, his learning about the table in front of him, determined the second option false. However, would Senqok have stayed unconscious only for a little longer, he would've realised all at once, for only seconds later, a few lamps were lit. He sighed, deflated, at the realisation, but also was somewhat grateful for a little warmth to flood the room - finally, something compensated for his lack of clothing. At least they didn't take my trousers.. , the waterbender thought as he examined himself and the whole room after a while of being blinded by the lamps' light. He still had to blink, but slowly, his vision adapted to the new situation. The table was of massive wood, the whole room seemed to be located in a cavern, as the walls consisted of a single piece of rock, not a single crack noticeable in Senqok's sight field. As he took a look around, a door opened, and after a second or two, someone sat across him, appearing to intend to stare him down. Following another few seconds of silence, someone he couldn't see cut the rope that bound him to the chair. Taking a look over his shoulder, he saw that it had been the firebender he had encountered the day before, while across him, the most unusual sight one could imagine presented itself - an Air Nomad wearing the uniform of a General.
"You might as well talk and make our job easier... " The General's voice sounded a bit annoyed, but else, it was - probably due to the room's walls and alike - booming.
"Ugh... well, where am I, who are you, who are those who attacked me, why did they attack me, and, well... no, seriously, where am I?", Senqok's - due to the relative lack of water - slightly hoarse voice sounded, "And where is the rest of my clothes?"
"...I should be the one asking, you know?"
"Indeed, you should. Shame on you. Now, if you don't tell me where I am, I understand, but if you don't tell me where the rest of my clothes is- "
"Then what? Alright, you deserve that much of dignity... Shizon, could you get his stuff? Except the weapons of course... ", the General ordered the firebender, who answered, "Yes, sir!", walking out of the room, before entering again, asking, "Uh, General Anyang, sir, where are they... ?"
"Shizon, they're in the- wait, our guest here shouldn't hear it... ", the Air Nomad stated, before letting it diminish into a mere whisper. Shizon nodded, and then took off again.
"Anyang? General Anyang? You're the famed General Anyang?" He failed to comprehend whom he was sitting across, which Anyang only answered with another question, "Why? Am I famous where you come from? By the way, where would that be?"
The waterbender rolled his eyes, saying, "Didn't you find that out while searching all my stuff? I mean, really, you still ask that? Anyway, you're really Anyang, the only airbender in the Liberation Alliance's ranks? I don't bloody believe it... "
"We did find out of your Water Tribe origin, but which one of the two is far more important." Anyang's words triggered, yet again, the same reaction of Senqok's - he rolled his eyes - before the door, which then turned out to be located behind Senqok's seat, opened, and five uniformed ones entered, one carrying Senqok's belongings. "May I introduce Shizon, Kabura, Skado, Noki and Ranju? The most elite squad of ours, at least given their level of experience, and well, Ranju's the living proof that I'm not the only airbender in our organisation, therefo- wait, did you just call it 'Liberation Alliance'?"
It took Senqok only a short glance to determine the five who just had entered to be those who had attacked him the day before, before the General's question left him suspicious.
"And why exactly... ?" Being given his belongings, he clothed himself, and continued his speech with an attempt of distracting Anyang of his question upon realising he still hadn't quite answered a previous one. "Oh, and, well, you're quite renown at home, just for your sole existance, or rather, well, uh... my father spoke of knowing you... "
"Well that's nice and all, but- wait. A. Second. Your father- knowing me? And- what- " Anyang seemed to fail comprehending the information Senqok had given him, grabbing his imaginary hair, before he resumed to stroking his beard, whispering to the five he had gathered, barely loud enough for Senqok to hear, "Lads, I think you captured a potential ally of ours... "
Notes and Trivia
- Schmafu means "avaricious" - or something like that - in my local German dialect, though my brother uses it in a way meaning "stuff". Therefore, Steward Shma Fu is Steward Avaricious. Or Steward Stuff of course.
- The character of Skado was somewhat modelled after a - more or less former - friend of mine (especially that "slightly corpulent" part) and also was about to bear the same nickname as him, but, well, "Flo" doesn't sound Asian-ish enough.
For the collective works of the author, go here.