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November 19, 2016
When Azula tries to dock in Gaoling, a major Earth Kingdom port in the south, she sees that the Fire Nation has extended their reach to Gaoling itself, and there would be no way for Azula to unload supplies in the heavily patrolled district, and was forced to move on.
This is Chapter 2 of The Desire for Honor. There is something I would like to inform you, the reader, about throughout this story. I will refer to the two protagonists as "the boy" and "the girl" repeatedly. It killed me every time, but I wanted at least some suspense to the story as to their identities, even if it seemed obvious to some people.
Previously on The Desire for Honor
Azula and Zhao travel to the Southern Water Tribe on a hunch that the Avatar may be hiding there. Even if he is not found, Azula reasons, she might be able to find a waterbender there as well. However, due to her recent nightmares about when she was scarred three years ago, Azula has been acting more arrogant and rude. Fed up with her behavior, Zhao begins to reveal to the crew her deepest secrets - why she was banished from the Fire Nation, in a secluded event that few know of.
When they finally arrive at the Southern Water Tribe, Azula and Zhao launch an attack that involves the destruction of the Southern Water Tribe wall and invading the city. If the Avatar was hiding there, they assumed that he would leave protection to save the innocents. Their logic works, as a waterbender prevents her father and brother from being defeated by Zhao. They capture the girl, and in a pure stroke of luck, they manage to find the Avatar as well, encased in a block of ice.
Chapter 2: Opposites Attract
Aang woke to see the sky on fire.
His small dormitory had a window that faced directly towards the Fire Nation islands. Convenient if he needed to slip out to see his friend Kuzon, but very inconvenient when all he saw as he looked of his window was a gigantic ball of fire.
" Gah!" Stumbling away from the window, Aang tried his best to block the incoming ball of flames. Using an old airbender trick, he created a vacuum just at the entry point of the window, so that when the fireball entered the vacuum, it would immediately die from the lack of oxygen. An ingenious plan.
Except that, upon entering the vacuum, the ball of fire exploded, throwing Aang back against the wooden door and into the hallway. Looking around, he saw others who were having similar problem. Many of the less skilled airbenders were covered in soot or had their dorms blown to smithereens.
Aang ran down the steps to where Gyatso normally was at this time of the morning - teaching classes in the airbender field. When he got to the field, he saw Gyatso replicating his trick but on a much larger scale, able to stop multiple fireballs at the same time. He faced the same fate as Aang, however, when they combusted not far from the cowering airbenders.
" Gyatso, that doesn't work! There must be another way to stop this!" Aang called out. Gyatso momentarily looked away from the invasion to talk to Aang. "Aang, you must go. These people, they are looking for you. You must protect yourself. Go!"
Aang's eyes welled up with tears. Gyatso had been his mentor and his best friend for 10 years. "Gyatso, I can't leave you!"
Gyatso looked him dead in the eyes. "There is no other way, Aang. We can hold them off long enough, but you must leave! Take Appa, and fly far away!"
Blinking away his tears and sorrows, Aang ran to the bison stables, where all of the animals were agitated and bellowing. Aang ran to Appa, removed the rope holding him in place and jumped on his back. "Let's go, boy! Yip - yip!"
Appa grunted and took off, naturally directing himself away from the invasion and into colder waters. As he flew away, Aang turned back to see smoke billowing from the Southern Air Temple as a part of it crumbled down the mountain. Even from his distance, Aang could see the massive whirlwinds that Gyatso created to block the incoming fireballs. And even from a distance Aang could see the intensity of the whirlwinds decreasing; he could feel Gyatso's energy waning.
Aang turned forward and drove Appa farther forward, and he didn't look back.
"It seems like he's dreaming, or hallucinating," Zhao commented. The boy was twitching in his sleep, suspended in the air by chains that circled his limbs and ended at his ankles and wrists and then extended to a circle of metal around him. The cage, for lack of a better term, was designed to contain an airbender, and it did its job well.
The boy was young, about 11 or 12 years of age. His orange and yellow monk's clothes were torn, some holes even having charred edges, suggesting some form of fire damage prior to his coma. Surprisingly, his body was healed completely of all injuries, and not a scratch was evident on his skin. Even so, he seemed to be suffering some sort of psychological journey, as he continued to twitch and shake.
Azula stepped back, lest the boy suddenly awake and wreak havoc on the small ship. But he was well and truly passed out, a likely combination of being frozen for a hundred years and being sprung from the glacier he was in with a bolt of energy.
"Let's go. I don't want to give his subconscious any ideas." Zhao's pride bristled once again as the young girl ordered him around for the second time in as many days. He would have to vent his anger out to the crew when he had the chance, but for the time being, he had much more important jobs.
The main problem for the ship was its lack of defense. Aside from the massive trebuchet, which had been damaged slightly in the attack, and the firebenders on board, there was little in the way of weapons to ensure a successful battle on open water. Zhao wanted to change that, using some techniques he had learned in the Fire Nation navy.
The first main change to the defense would be the addition of cannons to the sides of the ship. Not only would this provide as excellent defense against other vessels that aimed to attack from the sides, but with the firebenders on the ship firing and reloading the cannons would be extremely quick.
Zhao shook his head in disbelief. He had no idea why the theory hadn't been implemented before.
The girl awoke laying down on her stomach in a metal cell. She blinked a few times as a light pooled in the center of the cell. It was small, just tall enough for her to stand up. Barely a meter by a meter in area, the girl was severely cramped for space.
The second thing she noticed when she woke up was how parched she was. Her throat was drier than the Si Wong desert, and she couldn't think properly because of the lack of proper blood flow. She could even feel her heart pumping slower in response to the thicker blood that it had to move throughout her body.
Unfortunately, her only failsafe for drinking water in this situation would not have helped her. Breaking a sweat by exercising, or using her own saliva, would not have made her feel any better. She had to have some outside source for water.
So it was with great humility that she banged on the bars of her cell, and called out with a hoarse throat, "Can I get some water down here, please?"
It took the guards a good ten minutes to get a pitcher of water. However, it was barely filled with water, just enough to water the girl's throat and nothing more. Just after finishing the pitcher and handing it back to the guard, a thought struck her: You're a waterbender, and they are giving you water. What in the world are you waiting for?
Hoping she wasn't too late, the girl called for the guard again. "Sorry to bother you, but I'm still a little thirsty. Could I get any more water, please?" She flashed her eyes at him, hoping to sway him with her charm.
The guard remained unfazed. "I've been given specific orders to not give you water until at least two days have passed. Wouldn't want any unwanted problems on board the ship, if you know what I mean." She kept up the smiling, ignorant facade while cursing herself out in her head for not thinking ahead.
The guard was still speaking, managing to anticipate her next question even before . "And don't ask for any food either. We're only a few days away from the port of Gaoling. You can get something there."
The girl resigned herself to a long few days in her cell. Her eyes inexplicably began to close, despite the fact that she had been asleep for close to a day prior to drinking for the first time on the ship, until they flew open as the ship rocked.
The sloshing below her. She recognized the familiar tug of her natural element from underneath, a small force reminding the girl that she could use her power to her benefit. Her eyes fluttered closed once more as a plan came together in her mind, and she went to sleep in a dreamless slumber.
"10 minutes to Gaoling!"
Azula checked the stores of the ship to ensure their quality and quantity. She didn't want to be swindled on money or supplies this close to her goal.
Thankfully, the barrels of water that had mysteriously exploded a few days ago hadn't damaged any major supplies, and even the dents in the ceiling that had just appeared were easily repaired with spare parts and some handy firebending.
Azula clicked her tongue. Thankfully, the girl was suspected, and rightfully so, of these actions, and was moved higher up on the ship and far away from the storerooms to prevent any further action. She had been frustrated on her capture, but she relented when she had to face 30 firebenders. Even a master waterbender would have trouble against that type of firepower.
"5 minutes to Gaoling!"
Azula left the storerooms and stormed up towards the bridge. As she passed soldiers, she made sure that they were prepared to defend the ship. She hadn't resorted to such measures, but with the Avatar and a waterbender on board the ship, she was not willing to take chances.
"2 minutes to Gaoling!"
Azula reached the bridge, and was joined shortly by the captain and Zhao at the head. As they closed into the dock of one of the most prosperous ports in the entire Earth Kingdom, they saw something that made their throats close in fear.
"A Fire Nation flag," breathed Zhao. Hung high over the main steeple in the center of the seaside village, the flag signified the Fire Nation's control over the Southern portion of the Earth Kingdom.
However, for the past three years, Azula and her ship were able to dock in Gaoling only because they were discreet and handsomely paid anyone they bartered with to keep their secret. It helped being the Fire Princess at times.
Now that the Fire Nation had extended its control over Gaoling, a major port for the southern side of the Earth Kingdom, there was no reasonable way that Azula could remain. Besides, there was a good chance that those she had previously traded with were gone and there was no one else with tight enough lips to risk the supplies for.
Azula almost cursed under her breath, and Zhao leaned in as if to pounce on her indecisiveness. "Princess, there is no way we can dock here. We must move along the coast if we have any chance to continue our quest back to the Fire Nation. Think of what would happen if your brother had a chance to take the Avatar from your grasp."
With the final mention of her brother, Azula snapped. "Get us out of here," she snarled to the captain. "We can test our luck further up the coast. I will not allow my brother to get his hands on my prize."
With one hand gripping the clutch and the other rapidly turning the wheel, the captain managed to wrestle the ship out of the bay and headed north down the coast.
The girl awoke for the second time in a cell, except this one was much different than the one she had been in last. It was a proper room, about 3 meters tall, 6 meters in length and 3 meters in width. A proper holding cell for two unwilling prisoners.
She was the second, the boy being there first as signified by the chafing on his wrists that was much worse than what she had. Not to say that the burn on her wrists didn't hurt, but she could see that although the boy was younger than she was, he was able to endure much more pain.
She groaned, feeling the familiar lack of water in her system and her parched throat. Her escape attempt had been slightly ridiculous, as she exploded the water in the barrels underneath her and tried to pull it through the meter thick steel towards her. When that didn't work, she had to resort to knocking the ship around with a wave, disorienting the guards just long enough to almost reach the exit. Almost.
But now she was here, and she needed food and water quickly. She hadn't eaten in a few days, making her 120 pounds of lean muscle ready to fight at a moment's notice, when she had the energy. Hopefully, she would get it.
"Excuse me?" Her throat was so dry it hurt to speak. "I haven't eaten in a few days, and so has this boy. Are we at Gaoling yet?"
There was no reply for a few minutes, though it felt like an hour. Then, the door opened and guard walked in. "It seems there's been a change of plans. We haven't stopped in Gaoling and we won't stop again until we don't see a Fire Nation flag. So it might be a few more days until we can get you some food."
The girl tried to protest, but was unable to do so. It seemed that her throat was too dry to allow anything more than a whisper to exit her voice box. Luckily, to her right, the boy was waking up.
He blinked slowly and looked to his left to see a prisoner sharing his fate. Almost yelling, he managed to calm himself to not let the guards or anyone else know he was awake from his supposed coma.
"All right, look, I don't know who you are, but I know you're the Avatar. The only way for us to get off this ship, together, is if we work together. I have a plan, and thanks to you being an airbender, it may just work out. All right?"
The boy nodded. Now that the introduction was aside, the girl managed to relax. Following a lapse in their conversation, the boy asked, "Nice to meet you, by the way. I'm Aang."
A warm smile appeared on the girl's face. "And I'm Katara."
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. There are more chapters to come, and some jumping around of information is always a staple in my stories, since I am that type of writer. If you have a problem, let me know via PM and I will do my best to not make it as confusing.
That's all for this story. I will see you along the week for the next installment in Fire of the Red Lotus, but until then, see you.
For the collective works of the author, go here.