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Pyres and Storms
January 18, 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 2: The Witch
It was time. Open, vulnerable. It was time to have what she had failed to achieve for so long. For her brothers and sisters, for all that was lost to them. Millennia she had spent trying, and now it was a time to strike.
She had watched them for long enough. She had awaken from her slumber to see the best time to strike. Her target was not without protectors, but they would fall to her power. She had weapons the world had not seen for millennia.
But her arrival would draw attention, too much. She could work with someone in order to go beneath the notice of certain eyes. She just happened to know of a man who would gladly stake the claim. She thought on it, she would visit the old man, he could certainly use friends at this juncture.
A New Deal
"Traitors! All of them, the whole lot!" He mumbled as he entered his private chambers. They were all conspiring against him. They had all agreed to the 'peace' with the Grand Marshal. Only the United Forces still fought and now he had to hire mercenaries. The only good thing was that the Order of the White Lotus was still coming, when they could marshal without notice, they would come to his aid. Hava and Clan Rohan stayed to show their support for mercy on the city. Despite this apparent wealth of support, things were not so peaceable.
They opposed him at every turn, telling him what he should and should not do. He was King of the city, not them. And still they persisted to resist his command. He wanted to press forward and attack and they all refused, stating that with the new resources coming into the siege, they would be unable to sustain an attack.
He paced furiously. He was King, he knew what was best, he always knew. How could they understand what he was born to do?
"It seems like you have subterfuge in your ranks, my lord."
He turned on a dime. No one was in his chambers at this hour. A confident and bold assassin must have secreted a way in and chosen to taunt her target. A mistake for any assassin, no matter how skilled.
"Greetings, King Urri, I think you and I share a common enemy. We can both profit from an alliance."
"Who are you? What do you want?"
"Call me Lenet. I want what you want, the death of the Avatar."
"What makes you think that?"
"She humiliated you in your very throne, she defied your rule and betrayed your trust, joining the very enemy that murdered your sons. Justice demands that exact vengeance on the murderer and his accomplices."
Urri was silent, but agreed with her every word. He had to avenge his sons' deaths. It was the only way, to kill those responsible. "And how can you help me?"
"I can kill her, and him. It could be as easy as breathing, or as difficult as flying. Fate will decide, but I will end them."
"And what will it cost?"
She smiled deviously, "Nothing, except your devotion to this cause and willingness to do whatever it takes."
"That was there long before you were."
She chuckled, "Don't be so sure of that, my lord. I have been around longer than you know."
As she walked around the post of the bed, she was gone. Urri looked around surprised, she was nowhere and yet her voice continued, "I'll be back after it begins."
Rishu sat there in the void of the cave as his master lectured him. It was a memory from long ago. Still it was there for him to look on in his dreams. Like the moment was happening, he could recall the events of his past, and the past of his mother, and her father, and his. It had taken time for Rishu to adjust to the ability as a child, but his master guided him through it.
His lesson that he was reviewing was that of warning. "Always be wary. Not of just other people, but of things from the world."
"What do you mean, Master?"
"Humans are young, they have been the masters for a short time. Indeed, they overpowered their predecessors, but not without serious loss and not completely successful either. Ancient things roam the world in the most remote places."
A slithering noise that he soon understood to be chuckling ensued for a short time, "I am older than most, yes. But relics from beyond still exist. A few isles in the South persist to be proof of that."
"I don't understand, sir."
"In time you will, but for now, show caution for everything."
"You had a wise master," a voice intruded on him. And it was then that every nerve in his body screamed in his slumber, it was it. That same oppressive gaze, now it was here speaking to him, through her, "But a student can only learn so much. A shame that your new protege won't get to meet him.""Don't worry, sleep, great warrior. This is just a dream," body writhed in agony, willing itself awake against the irresistible force wanting to make him keep his eyes closed, "you will wake, and this will only be a memory." A face appeared before him of an elderly woman smiling, reassuring him.
His response was curt, "Never stop, never rest."
The face stopped smiling and snarled at him, it was not so endearing anymore as a vile monster looked at him. It came at him as it screamed terribly. He woke with a jolt as he sat up in his bed. The tent teetered at the wind blew against it. It was a foul smell that went with it and sound of a gasp of breath. He was drenched in sweat as his body screamed in pain. He breathed heavily.
Ralyn waited in the tent for some time before the man who summoned her arrived, "You're early, Master Ralyn."
"So are you, but just."
Rishu sat down, "How is the Avatar doing in waterbending?"
"She has progressed at an exemplary rate. It will be years before she is a true master like me, but she will have a mastery above almost everyone."
"Good. Now about her safety, that is a more pressing concern now. I fear that someone maybe targeting the Avatar and will strike at her soon."
"She is fine, the Air Nomads are protecting her day and night," Ralyn looked out the tent to the view of Old Omashu.
"The monks are not enough," he walked up and joined her to look out, "there are foul winds approaching." He left the tent and was joined by his follower, Liam.
"What do you mean foul winds?" Ralyn said it more to herself than to anyone. Was he implying that the Air Nomads would be involved in an attack on the Avatar?
Striking for the Kill
Tala entered her tent, she fell into her cot. It wasn't nearly as comfortable as her bed in Omashu or the one from before her 'outburst', but she was more than fine with it. She was exhausted from her training with Ralyn. As it turned out, Rishu was paying her to teach the Avatar, and she was determined to please her client. And since it was the full moon, she was lucky they didn't stay up all night.
The tired Avatar rested face first in the cot, sore from the shellacking she got in the practice duel. She heard her cot creaking as she twisted her body sideways, but then heard a continued noise. A quick burst of air and a small twinge of pain.
The pain instantly got her up and surveyed the area, she instantly noticed the dart protruding from her neck. She pulled it out as quickly as she could. She felt the feathered tail of the projectile as she brushed her fingers with it.
She focused in on the dart, a feeling of awareness seemed to settle on her as she noticed everything around her. Her cot creaking, her heart beating faster and her vision blurring. She could barely get the word out before she fell to the ground, "poison."
The job wasn't done, she hadn't taken a full dose or else it would have worked faster. Blast her for taking the dart out. Now it would have to get messy and leave a little mystery for those who found her body.
The three entered in from the front of the tent in a disturbing manner. Their feet seemed to dangle and drag across the ground as they approached the unconscious body. A rent came through the fabric of the tent as another joined the party. She stood before the three and blocked the path to Tala.
Ralyn looked at the three individuals and didn't wait for them to strike as she sent waves of ice shards after them. At first, it seemed to stop them as they recoiled from the precise hits; but then they stood back up and continued.
Ralyn pulled out a stream of water from her pouch and created a blade-like whip. She immediately swept at the first and cut him open. He began bleeding profusely as red sprayed the tent. And still he came forward.
Ralyn's eyes widened in shock. She had no idea what to do against this. Just as she was about to respond, a hard hit put her down as something came crashing against the back of her head. One of the three assassins stood over her with a heavy baton.
The three went back for the unconscious Avatar, to finish their work. Ralyn moved faintly as her head was reeling from the pain. She looked up as the attackers were standing over Tala, they stretched out their hands for her. Ralyn fought against her own body, willing herself to stand and fight. She shot her hands out and gripped the air.
The bodies of the attackers levitated momentarily when the sound of vertebrae cracked and twisted against themselves. She kept applying the force, remembering how the one could bleed to death and still walk.
She released and the bodies fell lifeless to the floor. She immediately went to the Avatar who had slept through the entire ordeal. She shook Tala, who didn't wake, it was then that she noticed that the Avatar had a dart in her hand, she must have been struck before the assailants came in to finish the job.
"Tala, wake up!" She slapped the Avatar, which got a fleeting move of her eyelids.
She was alive at least, the healers would have to come and help, "Don't worry, I'll get you help- urgh!"
Anything else she would have said was cut off, as her neck got wrapped up with fabric from the tent. It tightened like a noose, she couldn't breathe but the panic set in when she saw that Tala was also in its grip, defenseless and not even resisting in her poisoned state.
Ralyn saw one chance before she blacked out, a container of drinking water. Her arms were restrained, she had to bend with just her mind, not an easy technique. All of her receding focus went to the container. The water pulsed out and leaked away, she commanded shards of it to cut at the fabric furiously as she tried to stay conscious.
The release was relief and she was on her knees, breathing frantically. She knew that she wasn't alone and sent the blades of water out to save Tala. She had much more control and freed her faster than herself.
She quickly picked up the Avatar, and noticed that the tent was preparing again to come after them. She used a shield of water to rush through the entrance. She immediately called out for help as troops poured out when she said the Avatar had been attacked.
Rishu was among the healers who came to Tala's aid. The Air Nomads were right behind them. "Not a step further," she warned them. They stopped and she looked back to Rishu.
"Burn that tent to the ground."
"Something's wrong in there," as if on cue, a moan of something evil came and the wind blew. Rishu nodded and stepped forward, he pulled his hand back and then punched a fist forward. A delay of nothing came at first and then a compressed burst of flame. White fires consumed the tent, cutting it down.
The wood cracked as it crumbled under the weakened weight. It was what happened next that alarmed the onlookers. Black and burnt symbols appeared in the cracks, they were a language they had never seen before, everyone looked on in horror, but Rishu's eyes flashed as he recognized the symbols vaguely.
He immediately turned away from the wreckage, "Everyone get out of here, now. Get the Avatar to a medical station away from here."
Assuming the Worst
The party that was guarding the unconscious Avatar was like a procession. Rishu and Ralyn were among the healers who took her to a building they had made their medical station. The next to enter were the Air Nomads.
"Get out!" Ralyn stared at the monks venomously.
"No," the father and head of the monks present spoke, "we will not be kept at arms' length from the Avatar we are here to protect."
"Protect?! Then where were you when I was trying to hold my own with a poisoned Avatar?"
The monk avoided that answer, instead he turned to Rishu, "Grand Marshal, why are you letting a mercenary decide the security of the Avatar?"
"Because I asked her to."
Ralyn was galvanized by his support and continued, "He warned me about you too. Foul winds indeed, fabric doesn't move itself."
"Nor do we create chants and write in some mystic language."
Rishu responded, "I'm inclined to agree with you, but there are still concerns I have. Where were you when you were supposed to be protecting the Avatar?"
They all paused and looked away in shame. Kulek stepped forward, "Its my fault."
Rishu responded in a sarcastic tone, "Oh?"
"Tala broke up with me, my family was talking with me," embarrassment was leaking from him, he went and cried to his family about being dumped and it nearly cost Tala her life.
Rishu stepped forward and towered over Kulek with a deadly presence, "I will still give you hospitality as my guests, but you will not be protecting or allowed near Tala until she regains consciousness and asks for you, until then, stay back. The Dai Li will protect Tala from now on."
The monks wanted to protest but the visage of Rishu was terrible to behold and gave the image that refusal would be a price they could not risk. He lifted his hand to the door, "Good night."
The monks left reluctantly. Rishu and Tala spoke together, "I'm afraid that whoever can get through the sieges unnoticed and do this, is truly powerful."
Ralyn was flustered, "I don't know why you don't just deal with those monks, they are involved, I know!" She massaged her head.
"You're hurt and not thinking clearly," he beckoned to the healers, "let the doctors look at you and take care of you."
Ralyn was a stubborn and persistent woman but the doctors persuaded her to calm down after time.
Rishu left the station after summoning Sky Dragons and Dai Li to stand guard over both the Avatar and Ralyn, who had received a concussion. He went to his command tent and sent a communique for Prince Kuir. With the Avatar out of action, and possibly Ralyn, he needed Kuir here.
Rishu looked out to the city, things were getting worse. He recalled his master's words, "It is darkest before the dawn."
- What Lenet is will be revealed in the next chapter.
- Tala is poisoned and unconscious as a result of what would have been a fatal dose had she not pulled the dart out.
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|