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November 17, 2013
Tsang pays an old soul a visit.
Maybe I was crazy. Or stupid. Or just ... naive, but I needed to at least try.
My house was situated on a high tower above the marketplace. The Lion Turtle's shell was covered on the outside by tall, thick towers, all made of stone, and in many of these towers, people lived, worked and were educated. But more people lived between the towers, in blocks of houses and apartments that connected the bottoms of them. The city was connected fully with walkways, stairs and paths, so finding your way around was easy. If you were born there. If you came from another place, I didn't know where this "other place" was back then, but if you came from it, you wouldn't have a chance of finding your way in and out. That was our original defence against the spirits, but with more and more coming into the city, and more and more staying, they too learnt the way of the stones, the walkways and the paths and the stairs and every nook and cranny that a native could name. And that terrified us.
I made sure to take the path through the streets that were inhabited only humans, densely populated and supportive of the baker's girl. I wandered through the Quartz Arch - it wasn't actually made of quartz, but we needed some way to differentiate between the hundred arches of the city - and found myself in the Flatland. The Flatland was the "entrance" to the city, where thousands of stairs radiated out from a central, flat plain of stone, and more stairs and then ladders led off the back of the Lion Turtle.
Knowing that my father would raise all hell if I was to go and undertake this task, I travelled by night, my lantern lit and bright and my eyes and ears wide and suspicious of every bump, whisper or scuttle in the shadows. Making my way down the Flatland, I found the ladders. It was much like a child's playground rope ladder, wide and long with thick ropes to make sure that if someone fell, it was because of their own idiocy and not the city's. Lantern in mouth, I struggled to the bottom of the ladder and felt my feet hit the hissing sand.
The Lion Desert was a huge, expansive landmark that no one I knew had left. Of course, I knew those that had left to become the Desert Tribes, but they never returned to the Turtle. The night was cold and bitter, as I wrapped my thick woollen shawl around my shoulders and made my way to the north-facing side of the Turtle. It was common knowledge that the Lion Turtle faced north. The cardinal point which belonged to the element of earth, I would later learn.
Coming to the northernmost point, I looked up at the thick stone towers of the Turtle city and hoped that my plea would work in bringing order and peace. Kneeling before the enormous shell, I placed my hand on the hard stone. 'Please,' I whispered. 'Help me.'
There was no answer.
'Please,' I persisted, pushing against the shell.
Still, no response. I don't know why I had expected something. The Lion Turtle hadn't awoken for any other summoner. It hadn't spoken in ten years after its "retirement". Yet, for some reason, for some unknown, untold reason, I somehow expected the enormous Turtle that we owed our lives to and the lives of countless generations before us to answer me.
I felt a tears run down my face before I realised that I was crying. I couldn't remember the last time I cried. There was never a need for tears. What did they achieve? They gave nothing, yet took time and energy and emotion from you, and those things were needed for work and to survive, and I wasn't going to waste them on tears. Yet, here I was, crying, my face distorting as emotion rushed through me. 'Please,' I managed to say.
Then tears of sorrow became tears of rage. My hands curling to fists, I punched at the shell. I knew I was bleeding, but I also knew that I didn't give a damn. Another punch. 'Come on,' I growled. 'Come on, come on, please!' I pleaded and pleaded.
'COME ON!' I screamed, slamming and punching and smacking the shell. My blood stained the shell, my hands and the sand around me. 'PLEASE!! WHY WON'T YOU LISTEN TO ME?!' I slammed my fists into the ground. The ground rumbled.
Gasping for air from the shock, I felt the earth move beneath me. Then, all I knew was the bloodied sand shifting around me and spilling away from me. What was happening? What was going on? Then I realised that I was rising upwards. Then I realised that the sand beneath was replaced with scales.
For the longest moment, silence and stillness surrounded me, thick and saccharine and slow. Then, the greatest, loudest voice ripped the silence from me, yet its volume was hushed and somehow, I knew that the Tribes and the city would not stir from it. 'Who are you?'
Sitting upon the head of the Lion Turtle, I felt butterflies flood stomach and my limbs hummed with adrenaline. 'Um ... I ...' I stammered over my words. Pausing I remembered my own name. 'Tsang. My ... my name is Tsang.'
'Tsang,' it breathed my name, as if pondering it. The meaning. The sound. 'Why are you here?'
'I'm here ... I'm here to seek your element.'
'At least you are honest, yet I decline your wish.'
'Never again shall my power be given away to your kind. Never again shall you take a part of me and leave, never to return. I was naive. I had learnt my lesson.'
'No!' I barked. 'No, please. I'm not like the others.'
'Why are you not?' it asked after a pause.
'I don't want your element. I was happy. I had a happy, normal life as a non-bender, and I was content with myself. But the spirits came. And with them came unrest and hatred and violence ... So much violence. We live in fear, we live in fear of one another and I am sick of tired of it! All I want is peace ...'
The Lion Turtle paused. 'I believe you.'
'What?' I was taken aback by the Turtle. I was certain it would scoff and say that I was lying and that it would hide beneath the sands for another decade before rejecting another just like me. But, no. I was wrong.
'You have bloodied the sands beneath your own feet, you have wept the tears of a martyr and seek the power to create peace and order. You have shown strength, passion and goodness. I believe that you, Tsang, will bring about the change which you desire.'
I was speechless as an enormous claw rose up. I grabbed it and was place with ease on the sand. The Lion Turtle's gentleness and honesty was beguiled by its strength, power, size and appearance. The face of the Turtle was huge and ornate, as if carved and crafted by a master sculptor, hired by the richest man in the Desert. With the same paw, two giant claws came toward me, slow and purposeful.
Placed upon my head and heart, I felt power rush into me. Energy flowed through my veins and felt myself changing, as every cell in my body felt as if it was alight, in a shining, blazing, golden light that did not burn, but renewed me and washed me with power.
My task was set. I had the means, I knew the end. All needed to do was to get there.
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