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|Chapter 2: The Firebender|
Book One: Water
October 4, 2012
The Avatar is among us, but no one knows who it is. Dover or Sedgley?
As the waterbenders follow Mother Leliita's advice to head to Haven for support in restoring balance to the world, they arrive in Gao Lin. Eager to start their journey, Erik promises an early wake up for an easy day of travelling ahead.
What will this new day bring for the boys, but will the identity of the Avatar ever come into light?
~ Chapter Two: The Firebender ~
~ Chapter Two: The Firebender ~
The following morning Erik got up at 5:00, and opened the blinds. The sun shone straight through the window and onto the beds of his friends. Unfortunately, they had planned ahead and had covered their heads in their blankets. However, Erik was smarter than they were and never gave up, not that their plan was particularly ingenious; all he had to do was pull the blankets off. With various groans, Dover and Sedgley rose from the warmth of their beds and out into the cold. A short breakfast was followed by a visit to the stables. The stableman, a hardy old man named Du, had fed their ostrichhorses and was to return them to Redwall – as they belonged to the orphanage and were needed to return there. After expressing their deepest regrets for sending him on the torturous, uphill journey to Redwall, Du told them he had taken this road many times before and quite enjoyed the task. Getting nuzzled one last time by their steeds, their companions, the boys waved goodbye to Du and set off in the opposite direction towards the centre of Gao Lin where they would obtain the required documents to leave the province.
The road was smoother than the one to Redwall, but they still had to look down often to avoid tripping. The three, tired but determined, walked in silence until Dover spoke up.
"I'm going to miss Peggi," he was thinking of the ostrichhorse he had ridden down on, "she was fun. Sometimes, even when we were going down the steepest of slopes, she would stop and bend down her head to eat the flowers."
"That sounds inconvenient," said Sedgley, reminded of his own steed. "Jong-Jong was always reliable. He had the best legs; he could always climb or descend the rocks so easily. I bet he could out-run Peggi or Dulé any day."
"Jong-Jong always used to peck Dulé when he tried to get ahead," started Erik.
"Well, the road wasn't big enough for one to pass another. Jong-Jong was in the right," defended Sedgley.
"Peggi knew what she was doing."
"Peggi would lag behind, that's what she'd do. And, besides, Dulé couldn't lead the way. He was the oldest."
"Yeah, his feathers and fur were starting to fall out."
"Yeah, he did make me sneeze a bit..." remembered Erik.
The three boys reminisced about their only journey with Peggi, Jong-Jong and Dulé. These faithful creatures gave them companionship on the road when it was too cold to talk, and safely got them to Gao Lin, ultimately allowing this whole adventure to unfold. As the boys arrived at the centre of the capital city, they were thankful, and knew they would remain thankful, to these Ostrichhorses for the rest of their journey, for, without them, they would not be here today, on the verge of leaving Gao Lin. The boys were only a stamped piece of paper away from truly beginning their expedition to Haven.
But, when coming across the Gao Lin Customs Centre, they saw, much to their horror that the line for passports stretched on for two blocks.
"Erik," began Sedgley, seething with frustration, "you said we had to get up early so we would miss the lines. Well, as long as my eyes aren't deceiving me, I'm pretty sure that's a line!"
"I don't understand," whimpered Erik, genuinely awestruck, "it's only 6:30, why is the line so long?"
"Maybe the spirits are against us...?" joked Dover sarcastically, rubbing his tired eyes with his cold knuckles.
"Look, how about we just wait in the line? I bet it moves fast once the procedures get going."
Erik led the drowsy pair into the line, however, after two hours of waiting, the line had barely moved. Dover and Sedgley, disgruntled by their lack of sleep at the fault of Erik, began to leave.
"Where are you guys going?" asked Erik, confused.
"You made us wake up early to miss the lines..." started Dover.
"But there is still a line..." continued Sedgley.
"And nothing's happening..."
"So you can wait."
They turned their backs on the skinny kid with the bowl haircut, who understood them completely. He looked down the line to see for any movement, but to no avail. The line was still, and seemed unwavering in its motionlessness.
Dover and Sedgley headed towards Gao Lin's marketplace, expecting to find some item that would prove itself useful in their journey; a satchel, a radio or a lighter (seeing as there were no firebenders in their midst) or something of the sort.
By 8:30 the marketplace was already bustling with people fetching the day's food and delivering the day's merchandise. Burly women carried bags of meat while even burlier men carried whole animals or baskets of coal. Small women yelled savings offers from behind their trinket stalls while even smaller men tinkered with the trinkets in the shadows. Grimy children chased each other, barefoot, through steamy gaps in the stalls; followed by boisterous possum-hounds and storeowners who's fruit had been taken by the original child. There was a definite air of animalistic liveliness coursing through these peoples' veins. Unlike the majority of the rest of the world, there was little use of technology here; except as a means of making and storing money. Despite the mischievous children and the seedy-looking men smoking cigarettes and fiddling with daggers, security cameras weren't needed here at all. There seemed some equilibrium of human interdependence in Gao Lin, which ensured everything, that had to be, kept itself secure. The seedy dagger-men depended on the blacksmith for their sharp, metal, toys, while the burly blacksmith needed the harmless 'thugs' not only to make a living, but also to impress the burly women who needed 'defending'. The hungry children needed the fruit vender for sustenance, while the hefty fruit vender needed the children for regular exercise and the thrill of the chase. Despite this, Dover couldn't help wondering how many of these street children were parentless, and would've been benefitted by the services, and meals, of Redwall. He speculated on how many of them were waterbenders, and how many other children, who were not present in the marketplace, had been abandoned, or worse, following the death of Avatar Lyn and preceding the reincarnation of the Avatar. He decided not to let that thought play on his mind – as he had done with most of the pressing thoughts lately – and just absorb some of the frenzied and lively atmosphere that passed through from stall to stall, like an electric current.
After a few minutes of fast walking and dodging, Dover followed Sedgley as he drifted into a stall, where bags and belts hung from wooden beams and rows upon rows of earthy jewelry lay atop makeshift benches and mantelpieces. The stall was relatively empty, apart from a few elderly folk, a young girl and the shop owner, and, from the busy street, the mass of assorted merchandise led into a small, though permanent, building, away from the hustle of the outside. It was considerably quiet inside. In fact, apart from the hum of the air conditioner and the slow, scraping footsteps of the old couple, it was more or less silent. Sedgley and Dover viewed the items on display with much thought; taking into consideration practicality, weight, size (as they didn't want to carry too much on their long journey), and, above all else, cost.
As Sedgley compared prices of heavy-looking, woven blankets, Dover meandered over to a bunch of water pouches. He sifted through the pile to quell his boredom until coming across a worn-looking, skin pouch. The shopkeeper came over to him and began talking.
"You want that?"
Before Dover had anytime to respond, the man continued, with his loud voice cutting through the silence of the store. This brought the attention of Sedgley, who wanted to keep an eye on how much money was being spent.
"See this?" With shaky hands the man pointed to a marking near the base of the pouch. "This marking here means that this was once owned by the Avatar."
Sedgley became more interested, "Which one?" he asked.
"I don't know. You'll buy it though?"
Sedgley and Dover liked the idea of owning something that once belonged to the Avatar, both thinking that it could somehow unlock unknown powers in one of them.
They eagerly responded at the same time, "Yeah!" "Yes please!"
After Sedgley managed to barter the price down by almost 25%, he took Dover over to some coats of which he thought would serve them well in the cold conditions of the mountains. However, the exciting thought of being the Avatar was fresh in both of their minds and they could not keep focused on which coat was thicker, or which fur insulated heat better, and eventually they began enthusiastically talking about the new pouch.
"I can't believe this belonged to a past Avatar!" exclaimed Sedgley with awe, referring to the sack filled with water, hanging from Dover's belt.
Sedgley paused for a second, "Do you... Do you think I could have a turn some time?"
The girl who was once at the far side of the store looking at headbands was now on the other side of the coat rack, looking sheepish, however the two boys were not aware of her presence. It was not until Sedgley stepped back in relief at Dover's response that he saw her through a space between two coats.
"Dover!" he whispered with panic, "Someone's listening to us!"
However Dover was still trying to reassure Sedgley that he was allowed to use the pouch, and did not notice Sedgley's nervous hisses.
Dover continued, "If one of us is actually the Avatar, then maybe, by some chance of fate, this pouch might help us discover which one it is."
Sedgley nervously walked up the aisle, away from the girl, attempting to bring the blabbering Dover with him. Dover did proceed to follow him, still talking about the incriminating topic in a completely conspicuous way, but the girl also walked up the aisle. She made her best effort to seem as though she wasn't listening, and maybe she wasn't, but Sedgley didn't want to take any chances.
Still, Dover went on, "So, I'll use it for, say, a week, and then you can use it for a week, and then we can just repeat that cycle until one of us discovers if we're the Avatar or not. Then, I don't know, I guess the one that isn't the Avatar can use it from then on – "
" – Dover!" interjected Sedgley, peering behind Dover's head to see if the girl was still following them. To his relief, she was nowhere to be seen.
"What?" asked Dover, confused at the rude interruption.
"Nothing. Well, I thought some girl was listening to us."
"Oh right..." said Dover, coming to terms with the situation. "Is she still listening?" He looked over his shoulder to try and see any traces of an eavesdropper.
"No, I think she left. But you really need to be more careful about what you say, and how loud you say it."
With that Sedgley turned to leave when, suddenly, the same girl came from around the corner, blocking Sedgley's path. He froze still. What could she want? Was she an enemy, a Clandestine, who had come here to kill them?
She tossed a crimson curl of hair out of her face, leant forwards and spoke up, "Do you have any money?"
She was a peasant! Sedgley sighed with immense relief upon hearing this, much to the confusion of the girl, whose brown eyes furrowed and glanced in Dover's direction. He smiled back at her, also reassured of their safety, and replied, "No, sorry, we're running on a strict budget."
"Oh... Well, alright then..." was the downtrodden response of the girl. She smiled sadly and headed off in the direction of the old couple, who were busy admiring a vast assortment of shoes and sandals.
Sedgley turned to Dover and gave him a look of 'that was a close one!' Dover nodded and said, "I know. Let's get out of here."
Sedgley continued, "Yeah, we really should be leaving as soon as possible. If only Erik would hurry up and get those papers!"
A quiet, yet strong voice rose from behind the coats, "I can get you out of Gao Lin without a passport you know."
Dover and Sedgley were shocked, not just at the unexpected proposition but also at the two arms that pulled them into the coat rack so that they were hidden from the outside. In the darkness, surrounded by leather and fur, was the peasant girl from before, her dark-coloured eyes gleaming with something the two boys could only put down to some liking to breaking the law.
"Who are you?" demanded Sedgley with some unease, all faith in her harmlessness starting to dissipate.
"The names Anurna," she replied coolly, "and I'm not from around here. I'm from all over, you see, and I've never needed a passport to get me in and out of places."
The wary pair listened intently as she continued to proposition them. "Look, there's this tunnel that goes through the mountain and it gets you from inside Gao Lin to the outside. Are you interested?"
She must have been eavesdropping on them, or at least on the last part about wanting to leave the township as soon as possible. Sedgley, despite wanting to be on the move, was still cautious about whether or not Anurna could be trusted, while Dover, on the other hand, saw no harm in considering the idea regarding the tunnel.
"Yeah," began Dover, in response to Anurna's offer, "well, it just depends how long it takes Erik to get those documents. You see, he's at Gao Lin's Customs Centre, waiting there to receive our passports."
Anurna rolled her eyes, knowing too well how futile waiting in lines at Customs Centres was.
Erik's legs were beginning to cramp, but he knew, if he ever wanted to get those passports, he would have to brave through it. After Dover and Sedgley mercilessly abandoned him following two hours of motionless waiting, he had patiently stayed in line for another hour and the line had moved a whopping two feet in that period. He hoped this pattern would be the start of a consistent flow of movement, and that he'd be holding fresh pieces of stamped paper by midday. However the line had dwindled to a crushing halt, leaving Erik feeling defeated in his calculations and frustrated in the futility of this process. It seemed the prospect of getting these passports was about as equal as him miraculously and suddenly being able to bend the elements. By now the Sun was almost directly overhead and beamed down rays of surprisingly warm sunlight. At first, in the chill of the morning, it was welcomed graciously, but, as patience thinned and tethers grew shorter, it proved quite a provoking nuisance. A small number of people had given up hope and abandoned their posts, allowing the people behind them to shuffle forward a few steps, but most persevered, leaving Erik feeling glad he wasn't fully alone in this ordeal.
In front of him were two women, nattering away about Gao Lin's latest love affair, while behind him waited a rather large fellow whose bald head reflected the sun with a sweaty glistening. The rest of the cohort Erik didn't bother to notice, as his remaining energy was spent, funnily enough, waiting.
Nothingness continued for a short while until a tall man of muscular build walked down past the line from behind Erik. His infant daughter sat atop his broad shoulders, her little legs wrapped around his neck and resting at his chest, while a demure woman, who Erik assumed was the man's wife, followed him tentatively, looking backwards occasionally in a somewhat sheepish manner. Sliding in shoulder first, he managed to splice himself into the line about 10 metres ahead of Erik, his family in tow. They had just pushed in! realised Erik. After all this waiting and shuffling, and waiting and shuffling, these people had decided it was their privilege to barge in front of those who had waited just as long, if not more, than they had! Erik was fuming. He remembered responding hesitantly last night when Sedgley spoke of resolving injustices if they came across them, but now, after receiving the short end of the stick and witnessing the full force of such injustices, he was ready to take matters into his own hands.
Erik asked the two women to mind his spot, ignored the resulting giggling, and proceeded to march up to the man who was now, nonchalantly Erik noticed, waiting in line.
"Excuse me." Erik began, rather punitively.
The small-framed wife turned around, her soft features looking like she knew what he wanted, and Erik suddenly wished he hadn't been so harsh in his tone. This wish multiplied tenfold, to say the least, when the man turned his head, carrying with it an unnervingly intimidating scowl.
"Yes?" she asked guiltily.
Erik didn't like the idea of lecturing her, as she reminded him of the caring sisters at Redwall, the benign look in her eyes being almost identical to that of the sisters'. However, he needed not berate her, as the man grunted something that resembled, "Don't worry honey, I'll take care of it."
She appeared concerned as Chin, as she referred him, turned his body to face Erik. He picked the little girl of his shoulder and handed her to his wife, whom the infant clung to with ravenous excitement. The toddler's eyes seemed to sparkle with a teasing look that, as far as Erik could grasp, said, You're in for it now...!
"You got a problem?" demanded Chin, standing up straight; he was, as Erik was only discovering now, much taller than the gargantuan man Erik previously thought he was. Chin's long hair hung menacingly down his shoulders as a grimace slowly crept across his face; he liked seeing the fear he instilled in weedy, little boys like the one cowering below him now. His wife looked over at Erik, hoping he would apologise and just move on.
But no, Erik, though fearful, was still determined to right this wrong. He began his argument, "Yes, actually, I do have a problem," he said probably a fraction too patronisingly, "'You' pushed in."
"Yeah? And what exactly are you going to do about it?" Chin crossed his arms.
The nerve of this man! Erik had never met someone so intolerably rude as this 'Chin' in his life, and he now felt a surge of angry emotions push past his voice-box in a fit of impassioned sentences, mostly rhetorical, in the hope that Chin would take a step back and look at his actions objectively.
"Who do you think you are? Do you think that, all because of your muscles and your scary eyes, you can just waltz on up past us, and push in front? Well, sorry mister, but you're wrong!" Erik was beginning to lose his temper and, consequently, Chin was starting to lose his too, "We have been waiting here longer than you have, so get to the back of the line, bucko!"
Chin's chest was heaving mightily. He spat a harsh rebuttal at Erik, "If you got a problem, then do something about it you little runt."
Erik, whipped up and irreversibly frustrated, went to push his despicably insolent opponent. But Chin was too quick, and managed to push Erik's arms out of the way and return a shove.
"What?!" he shouted, as the force of the shove took the wind out of Erik's lungs, "What?!" Chin pushed Erik again, a little harder this time, "What are you going to about it?!" The third and final shove knocked Erik to the ground in a cloud of dust.
Erik could hear the two women who he was once waiting in line behind gasp and start chattering louder than before. Chin stood over him, silhouetted by the Sun above.
"Now 'you' go to the back of the line, bucko...!" he grumbled into Erik's ear, the smell of his breath causing Erik to cringe even further.
Chin walked slowly, victorious, back to his family; the wife looking worried and disappointed while the infant screeched in praise at her daddy's win. Still, despite having been embarrassingly shoved into the dirt, Erik's determination to ensure justice was still very much present, and this act of humiliation only enhanced his desire to do so. Excited and adrenalin-fuelled sensations rushed through his body as he decided, in a split-second, to reach behind him for his wooden staff. Using it to swipe in front of him, Chin tripped and crashed to ground in an even bigger cloud of dust; truly reflective that the bigger fall harder.
Erik scrambled to his feet and shouted, without any predispositions or the usual rational thought that characterised him, "I challenge you to duel!"
Immediately, he realised what he had demanded, and, again immediately, he deeply and utterly regretted it, praying, that for some fortunate reason, Chin had not heard him shout.
But Chin, slowly picking himself up from the ground with menacing deliberateness, and laughing with a rumble, like distant, yet impeding, thunder, had indeed heard Erik's outburst and, with his long hair casting a shadow over his smiling face, he said, "I accept."
"So? Do you accept my offer?" asked Anurna as she got up from her crouch, pushed through the wall of coats, and began meandering around the store, forcing the boys to follow her. She was getting a little bored of the shop and was anxiously waiting a reply. However, she still managed to maintain an air of mysteriousness and elegance – except when she slipped on a scarf that lay on the floor and clumsily grabbed the side of the bench to stabilise herself. Thankfully, no one noticed.
Dover went to say yes, thinking it was a good idea, seeing as they hadn't heard from Erik yet, but Sedgley cut him off, "We'll think about it. It's just that we don't know if we can trust you."
"Fine." Anurna turned away, trying to seem blasé, while fiddling with some beaded necklaces. She honestly wanted them to come through the tunnel – whether they trusted her or not – as she knew, from experience, that it would get them out of Gao Lin faster than waiting for the official documents. Her hands stopped at some red beads, which matched her outfit, as she turned to face them once more.
"Also," she began, with a smile forming at her lips, "are you sure you don't have any money?"
Dover was confused, "Yes, we're sure..."
"Alright." Anurna's hand clutched the beaded necklace, "Then I guess I'll just have to take this." She pulled the necklace off its hook and ran, pulling the two boys behind her by their arms.
The shopkeeper noticed this and, alarmed, shouted out, "Hey! Stop, thief!"
He followed the trio outside, calling to a bunch of patrolling policemen to help catch the criminals. Anurna had a firm hold on each of the boys' wrists and sped past oncoming market-goers. It wasn't as busy as it was in the morning, but crowds of hungry people dawdling in for lunch were beginning to fill the streets. From behind, the two policemen shouted inaudible orders, most likely to stop running. As Anurna pulled them further and further, it seemed that more and more orders were being called from behind them, meaning only that more policemen joined the chase. Dover and Sedgley had no idea how to respond to the unlawful chaos; having been raised in an abbey-like orphanage by mild-mannered, law abiding nuns.
"What are you doing?" yelled Sedgley over the air whooshing past his ears and the overall commotion.
"Making you trust me." Anurna yelled back.
She quickly turned into a building; it must have been some sort of theatre school, as they repeatedly burst through rooms filled with women in silk under-clothes applying white face paint and gasping with each intrusion. Anurna lead them through yet another building, this time narrowly avoiding cages filled with wildergeese and knocking over a pile of cabbages, much to the dismay of the cabbage merchant, who screamed after them. After passing through a group of women hanging out crisp white sheets and disturbing the peace of a chess game, the trio finally ended up in a courtyard. Dover thought the trickling fountain and the shade of the chestnut tree might prove quite relaxing under different circumstances.
"There," said Anurna between pants, brushing down her long, red dress, "we should be safe here. Hopefully we've lost them by now."
Sedgley was absolutely incredulous with what had just happened and shouted at the athletic girl, "What was that?! First you recommend this tunnel, which is, mind you, probably illegal, and then you steal a necklace and bring us into it too! Why'd you have to do that?"
Anurna looked up at them with an expression vastly different than they had ever seen on her face. Suddenly, it seemed she had lost all power she once had over them and she began, in a pleading tone, "Please. Just let me help. As soon as I saw you guys I just had this feeling that I had to help you. I'm never usually this superstitious, but something about you two makes me feel like you're special, and you need my help. Just, please let me."
Sedgley and Dover looked at each other. Could this girl sense that one of them was the Avatar? They gave each other a look and agreed to let Anurna help them; if she could sense something special, then maybe she could help them determine which one of them truly is the Avatar.
"Alright, you can come along with us," said Dover finally. Anurna nodded thankfully and Dover continued, "So what now?"
Suddenly a voice burst from the door of a surrounding building, "That's them! The barbarians that knocked over my cabbages!"
The cabbage merchant pointed an accusatory finger at the trio, and three policemen followed in the finger's direction, two armed with pistols and the other with a long, sharpened spear pointing precariously at the young crooks.
"I guess we fight!" said Anurna. She crouched down momentarily and jumped into the air, avoiding a swiping spear and fired a flume of fire at one of the policemen. Dodging the flames, he positioned himself ready to shoot.
Dover and Sedgley, temporarily stunned at the sudden outburst of violence, began to catch on and pulled water from out of the fountain. Together, they created a wave large enough to push the gun-wielding officer back into a surrounding wall of the courtyard and freeze him to it. A second policeman attempted to swipe down at the boys. They avoided the attack and Sedgley managed to land a kick in his stomach, sending him stumbling back. The third officer aimed his pistol at the two boys. Anurna, reaching from behind his back, clutched the gun firmly in her palms and caused it to burst in a cloud of smoke and shrapnel, as she passed a short jab of sparks into the gunpowder. The officer, stunned and hands bleeding, stumbled around shortly before Anurna beat him over the head, causing him to faint. The man with the spear, having recuperated from his hiding, launched himself at Anurna, who was covered by Dover, who quickly froze his feet to the ground.
"Alright let's get out of here." suggested Anurna, and the two boys gladly adhered. They made their way out of the courtyard and into a street, but could hear the heavy footsteps of the already recovered policemen from inside the building. Anurna turned and issued them to follow her.
Sedgley started to follow her when Dover exclaimed, "We have to get Erik!"
Without any argument, the three hurried off towards Gao Lin Customs Centre, where they would collect their friend whether he had the documents or not.
Erik and Chin stood about 20 metres apart, facing each other in what was about to be a duel and, judging by the expression strewn across Chin's grizzly face, it was a fight to the death. Chin's wife, Lucy - Erik found out as he responded to her pleas not to fight - stood against the wall, frustrated at her husband's short temper and bravado. This wasn't the only time he had to prove he was the dominant male, and she was growing tired of the constant brawls. Contrastingly, their infant daughter shrieked in sheer delight at the oncoming scuffle and reached out hungrily at her hero.
Erik was brandishing his staff towards Chin, and felt very reckless and shamed in drawing attention to himself in this manner. What would his friends think of him if he were to get in trouble with the law? Surely, they wouldn't be impressed. Erik could feel the judgemental eyes of the people waiting in line pierce his body. All they wanted was to peacefully wait in line and receive their necessary documents. The latter would, in an indefinite yet eventual amount of time, come to fruition, but Erik was sure he had snatched up the possibility of the former option happening, and for that he was sorry.
Nonetheless, he had to prove himself, and quite enjoyed the idea of thwarting Chin and making him see the error of his ways. Erik was, from an early age, a little delusional in his abilities. For the most part he had excellent judgement of his opponents, and was able to weigh up the possibility of winning against losing. However, in this instance of sudden fervour for justice, he had lost all sense of rationality, reason, and even fear. That was until Chin, the big man that he was, pulled an elongated, thin sword from a scabbard behind his back. The blade must have been hidden under his long hair, as Erik hadn't noticed any sign of a weapon this whole time. He felt instantly defeated when the sword had been drawn, glistening dauntingly in the sunlight, and wanted to surrender immediately. But Chin would never allow it.
Erik stood up a little straighter, hoping a less offensive stance would give signs that he didn't want to fight. Chin just smiled, lifted his sword in the air, ready to slice down, and charged at Erik, roaring thunderously as he approached. Erik had no time to think; Chin's attacking body was hurtling at him too fast to contemplate a strategy. Suddenly, Dover, Sedgley and Anurna – a girl presently unfamiliar to Erik – burst from a busy street and into the battle scene, followed by a number of policemen.
"There!" exclaimed Sedgley, his face red from running.
"Come on! We have to go!" Dover pulled a gratuitously thankful Erik along by his sleave as Chin toppled into the policemen.
Finding a new threat to subdue, the policemen busied themselves with a frantic Chin who was shouting at Erik. The four kids silently thanked each others' presence; Erik grateful for being saved from Chin, and the trio thankful for the sword-wielding distraction that enabled them to escape the pursuit of the policemen. After continuing to run for a short while, the group came across Anurna's place; some dilapidated cement cube in a steamy back alley.
"Don't judge," said Anurna defensively, even though no one had said anything, "It's just temporary."
As the three boys followed her inside they could see that it was very 'temporary'. A table and chair, a small, loudly humming refrigerator, a hotplate, a mattress on the floor, and a separate bathroom was everything they could see. Anurna walked casually over to the fridge, extracted a bag of seeds, shook it and whistled, as though calling a pet dog. A few seconds later, to Dover's utmost joy and excitement, a small squirrel-glider flew in through a square hole in the wall – most likely a poor substitution for a window. The little animal had been adorned by Anurna with a red bow around its neck.
"Is that...? Is that a squirrel-glider?" asked Dover, unable to contain his happiness at the sight of his favorite animal.
Sedgley rolled his eyes and Erik chuckled breathily, they knew only too well of Dover's extreme fondness for animals, and how it occasionally got the best of him. However, this wasn't going to one of those instances, as Dover was eager to impress the furry creature.
"Yes..." responded Anurna, slightly confused at the enthusiasm, "His name's Miko. Do you want to pat him?"
Dover nodded. The little animal, with a dark brown coat and little teeth that gnawed happily on the seeds, was breathtaking. Dover touch Miko's ear, causing the little thing to twitch his head around, sniff Dover's finger, and remain turned, pleased with the prospect of a good scratch. After breaking the ice, the three explained their situation to Erik, who agreed wholly on using the tunnel, not wanting to return to Gao Lin Custom's Centre in case coming across Chin again. After much discussion, and a surprisingly satisfying meal of canned meat and cabbage, they decided – or rather agreed to the necessity – to wake up early again tomorrow morning.
Sedgley and Dover sighed, dreading yet another early wake, and wondering how many more remained in their imminent journey.
They got comfy, Anurna on her mattress and the three boys in their respective swags, Miko dozing contently on Dover's chest, and went to bed, dreaming of what many mysteries lay outside of the small Gao Lin, down the mountains, across the dangerous Wasteland, and among the high towers of Haven.
The world awaited the return of the Avatar, and the Avatar awaited the introduction of the world.
- Word count = 5,631.
- This is the first chapter where the main character Anurna makes an appearance, hence the title. It is also the first chapter in which Miko makes an appearance.
- There is a nod to the canon series-wide in-joke of the cabbage merchant, who appears in this chapter wailing his catchphrase in misery.
- Although the world is technologically advanced, Gao Lin seems quite poor and agrarian. This could be due to economic factors and the availability of resources.
For the collective works of the author, go here.