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July 4, 2014
"Memories are part of who we are; the good ones make us grateful for the life we have lived, and the bad ones can often weigh us down. But hope and perseverance can help a man move forward, no matter the path he has already taken." -- From the Book of Tutorik
That night Saskha had stayed up a little longer before going to bed. She had hoped their alcoholic father would return for the night, but he was probably staying at the bar. They couldn't keep living like this. It had gone on for two years already. Keiro had always enjoyed Earth Kingdom liquor, but this was unacceptable. He nearly hit Miki! Saskha dared not to think about all the other times those two had been home alone together.
Shaking her head, she rose and set up her sleeping bag in the middle of the room. She was jumping to conclusions. Maybe it had only been this time that her father had become violent? He used to be so kind and generous. He used to play with all the other kids when he wasn't out fishing or hunting. Their mother's death completely changed them all, but her father and sister had never really recovered, or never went back to who they were before the accident. Maybe they never would.
Saskha checked on Miki before going to sleep herself. The hammock wobbled every time Miki tossed and turned. Probably a nightmare. Miki had told her that she often dreamt of mother. Saskha used to as well, but even after three years Miki still dreamt of that fateful night. Had it really been three years? Sometimes it seemed like a lifetime ago since their mother left this world...
Staring up at the moon, she walked through the snow. There had been a path cleared for tonight's festival, the Full Moon Festival, which her village celebrated every month. The stars looked like small fireflies, sparkling and shining so effortlessly, which made her smile and laugh as she spun around staring at them. She loved this festival; Manirak village coming together as a family and celebrating the blessings of the spirits upon them.
Two of her friends ran towards her, calling out, "Miki! Miki! It's about to start!"
Grinning she turned and followed her friends to the other villagers. There was a clearing where the rest of her village were seated. Young and old, children and elderly, infants and parents, all were seated together, chatting and laughing with one another. A ring of poles surrounded this clearing, and long cords connected them all together. Bright orange, red, and yellow lanterns hung from the cords, a spectacular array of colours lighting the area in the middle.
"How come they don't put the lanterns in the middle as well?" One of her friends asked as they walked through the crowd.
Her friend was right; the lanterns were only around the outside. But Miki smiled as it became clear why this was the case. "Because in the middle we can see the moon more clearly without the lanterns. They're pretty, but the moon is brighter and better. It shines above all other lights and guides us. It is Tui; and she protects us wherever we can see her."
Her other friends marvelled, "You're so smart Miki!"
"I dunno," she laughed and turned back to her friends, "I didn't make that up. Mom says it every night before I go to bed."
The three of them remained silent as they looked up at the moon in awe. Tui, guiding them, shinning in all beauty and majesty. A brilliant beacon of hope, which brought the promise of protection, wherever they could see her.
"Miki, over here!"
That voice was so familiar. So beautiful and soothing. She turned to see whoever was calling her.
Her face was overjoyed to see her. Grinning from cheek to cheek she ran towards her mother, arms wide ready to be hugged. She longed for her mother's embrace, her warmth and promise of comfort. Liena also smiled, her warm features glowing under the light of the moon and the lanterns. Her mother's dark hair was the same as hers; they both had simple ponytails at the back which held most of their hair, and Liena also had two strands running from her temples to the hair tie that held her ponytail in place.
Her mother reached and picked her up, holding her tight while they both laughed. Saskha was there too, clutching their mother's side while watching the sky.
"There you are my little polar dog pup," as Liena said this she tickled her, sending uncontrollable laughter bubbling from her lips. With one arm, their mother also picked up Saskha, and kissed them both on the cheek. Liena groaned slightly, "I'm a bit old for this!" Laughing, she set both her daughters on the ground.
Her mother pointed to the raised wooden platform ahead of them, "He's up there with the other leaders."
Her wide-eyed daughter looked ahead of them, searching for his face. He was there! On the left! His beard neatly braided with blue and white bands. His hair adorned with pieces of animal bone. His eyes, also searching for his family. But someone was calling to her. It was her sister, Saskha, though it sounded like an older version of her. Repeating her name over and over again...
"Miki. Miki. It's time." Miki woke to see her sister standing above her hammock. After rubbing her eyes and groaning a little, she pushed herself up to a sitting position. "What...What time is it?"
"The sun is almost up. Quick, we should leave now." Saskha got no response out of her younger sister. "You didn't forget did you? Last night. You agreed to come fishing with me in the early morning, since our father can't seem to bring back anything remotely edible after his shifts cutting wood."
She sent her mind back to last night, trying to figure out what her sister was on about. "Oh yeah... Just before I went to bed we talked about it," Miki let out a huge yawn, "But... it's too early can I sleep just a little longer?" Miki pleaded with her sister.
Saskha playfully pushed Miki back into her hammock, "No quitting now. We leave in ten minutes."
Miki groaned as her sister left their room. She was never in a mood to get up early, especially when it involved fishing. But it had interrupted her dream, right before the nightmare would usually begin.
A few minutes later, the two sisters trekked across the fresh snow under the morning sky. There were many fish that could be caught during daylight, but the type Saskha was after were especially delicious, and worth hunting in the early hours. They were called 'Yinying' by their tribe, and seemed to only be found along the east coast of Manirak. Black in colour, they looked a little like a koi fish, but bigger. If preserved properly, they could be kept for weeks, and would certainly prevent the sisters from having to eat any fish innards for a while.
"A friend from training told me about this spot," Saskha told Miki as she led the way. "He also brought along some freshly cooked Yinying. Probably the best thing I've ever tasted."
"So... are we actually allowed to fish there? I mean... we're not allowed to fish unless we are fishermen, which we're not--"
"Don't worry," her sister interrupted. "Father taught me all he knows about fishing. And we are allowed to fish here, but it's at our own risk. See, there are some strong currents to the east which can pull boats out to sea. So, we're allowed to but it's dangerous." Before Miki could reply Saskha turned back to face her, "But don't worry, I'm a waterbender. We'll be fine!" She laughed while continuing to the east coast.
But Miki stayed were she was. Something was niggling in the back of her mind, preventing her from following her sister. It was their destination.
Saskha turned back to her sister, "Miki is something wrong?"
Shifting uncomfortably, Miki answered her sister, "It's just... I haven't been to the east coast since... three years ago. Since the Full Moon festival."
"Oh... You haven't been in three years?"
Miki only half smiled and looked awkwardly to the ground. She had never been back to this coast because it all reminded her of mother. It reminded her of the life she used to have. The friends she used to have. The happiness she once felt. Even the thought of going there almost made her cry.
Saskha walked up to her sister and placed her arms around her, "It's okay. You don't have to go if you can't yet."
"But..." Miki began to tear up, "Do you think it's...stupid? I mean, I haven't been able to come here for so long. I'm just... I'm just too weak and fragile. I can't even go there--"
"Hey," Saskha interrupted. She wiped the tears from her sister's face which were already streaming down her cheeks. "You're not weak. We all have things to work through. And admitting that you do...That makes you strong."
Miki smiled as she looked at her sister. So much like mother. Yet for some reason she didn't feel upset about being around her like she did at the east coast, or around other things that reminded her of their mother. Perhaps it was because when she was at the coast it reminded her of what she had lost, but when she was around Saskha it was almost like their mother had never left.
"Sorry about making you late," Miki apologised while motioning to the now rising sun. It cast a yellow and pink glow over the snow around them, reflecting off the clouds as well.
Saskha shook her head, "Don't worry about it. I still have a few hours left to go fishing. How about you go to the market or something, and I'll see what I can catch for tonight."
Miki nodded. Even though she didn't like going to the market, she would rather be there than out fishing on the east coast. The sisters exchanged hugs and continued their separate ways.
Even though she was starting to reach the village, far away from the east coast, Miki still found herself thinking of her mother. Her dream last night had felt so real. She was there! Her mother was alive and holding her, talking and laughing. Her father was there too. Her real father. Not the drunken, dishevelled man who appeared in their home every once in a while, but the one whom she loved dearly. For Miki, she lost both parents because of that unforgettable night...
Her father's eyes met with hers. And when they did, Miki began frantically waving, calling out to him and laughing. He returned the wave, grinning as he did. She was so happy to see him, and proud to be his daughter. Not everyone could say their father was a respected warrior and a member of the council.
Next to her father stood chief Iluliaq, cloaked in a garment decorated with feathers, shells, pieces of bone, and other trinkets, and next to him stood another member of the council, Onartok. He didn't get on with father, though Miki didn't understand why. Both of them were gifted hunters, waterbenders and fighters. And father was so kind and nice to all of the children in Manirak, and often played with Miki and her friends. Why would anyone not like her father?
The old chief raised his hand, and the chatter began to cease. He had a quiet voice, so before he spoke he waited until it was silent.
"Tui and La. Yin and Yang. Push and Pull. These two great spirits have watched over and protected us since the beginning. The moon, empowers us, gives us strength, and watches over us wherever we are. The ocean, the source of food and life. It sustains us and provides us with all we need to live. We dedicate this celebration to these two and all the other spirits who watch over this village." Once he finished, roaring, cheering, clapping and shouting erupted from the crowd. Nothing could get Manirak as fired up as the Full Moon Festival.
Keiro walked forward to speak next, his expression much calmer than most of the village, who were only just starting to settle down after the excitement before. "It is our tradition to sail out into the east coast on the night of the Full Moon Festivals. It is here, under the starry night on the open sea, where we will say our own prayers to the great spirits. Thanking them, and showing our gratitude for all we have." His voice was clear and echoed into the night air. So strong yet comforting to Miki.
Onartok continued, "There are boats waiting for us at the shoreline. Please make your way there and we'll begin shortly." Villagers began to collect their things and move towards the east coast. It was cold at this time of year, so there were many people who carried extra blankets or coats in case it got any worse.
Miki jumped up and down shouting, "Mom! Mom! We get to go out to sea--"
"Shhh shhh dear. This is a serious event. The spirits should be approached with respect." Miki looked confused so her mother explained, "It is exciting going out to sea at night, but remember to take this seriously, that's all. When we pray to the spirits they hear us."
"Oh I get it!" Miki exclaimed with much enthusiasm. "That means I can ask for something and I'll get it from the spirits!"
Her mother laughed, "You still have a lot to learn, my little polar dog pup."
Miki giggled when she heard her nickname. Liena often called her and Saskha by that name. Their mother placed her arms around both of them, and led them down the path to the coast.
The other children were also as excited as Miki. Many of them ran around through the snow, happily playing and laughing. Their parents also tried to explain the importance of the celebration, but just like Miki the excitement of staying up later than usual and taking the boats out kept them buzzing with anticipation.
After a good ten minutes, Miki and her family arrived at the coast with the rest of the village. Keiro and Onartok had gone before the others, and set up the boats all along the shoreline. He now stood at one of the boats in the middle, and welcomed his family with open arms.
"Liena, you look beautiful as always," Keiro cheekily grinned as he kissed her.
After they kissed Liena smiled back at her husband, "You did well tonight."
"Yeah it was a great speech," Saskha smiled as she held her father's hand.
Keiro laughed, "Speech? I barely said a few sentences. Thanks for the compliment though."
"Yes but it was good. We should be grateful for what we have." Saskha smiled at both her parents after speaking, and they returned the expression.
"So... Are we going yet?" Miki was getting impatient. They didn't go out to sea every time there was a full moon, only once a year around the time of the Winter Solstice. She'd been waiting all day for it, imagining the sensation of the waves at night, and the stars surrounding them when they were on the sea.
"Of course we are. This one is for us," Keiro motioned to the boat in front of them. "You guys hop in first and I'll push it into the water."
Keiro held Liena's hand to help her into the boat, and next Saskha and Miki piled in. Other boats around them were filling up too, and waterbenders used the icy shore to push them into the water. Once their boat was in the water, Keiro slid off a wave and landed inside. Liena held an oar in her hand and Keiro used his waterbending, both steering the vessel away from the shore.
Out in the open, without the glow of the lanterns or fires back at the village, the stars glowed like scattered embers poured out into the sky. There was no need for other sources of light; the moon itself was bright enough to illuminate the sea around them for miles. Hanging half out the boat, Miki gaped and marvelled at the scene above her. It was like the small fireflies were dancing around a spectacular glow, and brought with them hazy clouds of light which swirled far away into the depths of the sky.
Once all the villages were together away from the shore, Onartok stood up in his boat and addressed the crowd, "Now, let us begin. To the great spirits Tui and La, and to all other spirits who watch us from afar, we offer you our many thanks, gratitude and praise. Be with us we pray, to the end of our days."
The rest of the villages took this as a queue to begin. Many clasped their hands, or closed their eyes. Some who were more enthusiastic held them up and looked to the sky.
"Hmph, he really outdid himself this time. I bet he spent all day today making up that prayer so it would rhyme," Keiro muttered under his breath.
His wife heard him and nudged him in the arm, "Dear, don't say that. I know you two don't get along but remember what this occasion is about. Be thankful that such a gifted leader is part of our village." Keiro smiled back and kissed his wife on the cheek.
Saskha had already begun to pray, whispering words Miki couldn't hear properly. So had mother and father, who also had their eyes closed like her sister. But Miki hadn't really understood what was happening at the time; the idea of some spirits who were far away watching them made her scared. But she closed her eyes and tried to say something, even if it felt strange to her. She pictured in her mind the four of them, sitting in their boat, rocking gently in time with the waves.
But it wasn't gentle; the boat began to shake violently. Miki opened her eyes and surveyed the others around her. All the boats were bouncing around, and other worried villagers opened their eyes and whispered to each other. Onartok finally rose and stared out to sea, trying to find what was causing this disturbance. Saskha and Miki clung to their mother, who sheltered them under her arms. Keiro also stood up and watched the waves, but there was nothing to be seen.
Liena began to sing to her children, who both gripped onto her body with fear and panic in their eyes. Even with all the commotion and the cold, their mother's voice was so soft and beautiful. But even she was beginning to tremble. The sea had never been this angry before.
Miki managed to pull away from her mother. Curiosity had gotten the better of her. Maybe the waves were being caused from something below them? Even though she was terrified, Miki peered over the edge of their boat. It was hard to see in the dark, even under the glowing moon, but she could just make out a dark shape...
It had all happened so fast. Her vision was blurry as she was flung from their boat, and crashed head first into the icy water below. She sunk beneath the surface. Miki knew how to swim, but the cold and her heavy jacket were making it hard to move. Without thinking she cried out to her parents, and water rushed into her mouth and caused her to choke. She was blacking out; she could see small flickers of light dancing in her vision. Just like the lanterns. In her moments of disorientation Miki looked back out to sea, and she managed to see a large serpentine body descending into the black depths below her. But something was pulling her towards the surface. The water around her was moving upwards like a geyser bursting from the earth. If she could only hold her breath for a little longer she would make it!
The first thing that hit her were the sounds. A high pitched screeching which rung in her ears. It was so loud it felt like claws were digging into her ear drums, ripping and slashing them to pieces. She could also hear the wails and cries of people around her, and water being commanded by the benders; slicing and slashing towards the beast. And then she saw the monster; it was an Arctic Serpent. Similar to its Earth Kingdom cousins, these monsters were savage and deadly. They were turquoise in colour, with a white feathery, slimy mane which began at their neck and ended at their lower body.
Her mother was shaking her, calling her name. As Miki tried to sit up she coughed and sputtered, bringing up more salt water which burned her throat.
"Miki. I was so worried!"
She felt her mother's embrace. Her warm arms and the comfort of her scent. "Mom!" Miki wept as she held onto her, grasping her mother's coat. "I... was in the water and I couldn't hold my breath and I thought I would die! Mom I called to you but--"
"Shhh Shhhh," Liena hushed her daughter while stroking her soaking hair. She held onto her daughter's shoulder and placed her other hand on Miki's cheek, wiping away her tears. "Miki, listen to me," her mother's deep blue eyes paired with hers as she spoke, "I want you and Saskha to go back to shore okay?" Miki began to protest, not wanting to leave her mother's side but Liena continued, "Go back to the village and wait there. Your father is fighting that monster with the other warriors. We'll be fine but you need to go now."
Tears streamed down Miki's face. She couldn't leave her mother and father, not when that serpent was still in the water! She only just realised that she was now in another boat; their old one floated in pieces around them. The water which pushed her upwards as she was drowning must've guided her to this sailboat. But who had done that? Her mother? She didn't want to leave her parents but she had no choice; her mother hoped out of the boat and jumped into the water. She was a healer, but she had learnt the basics of moving water with her bending. With a powerful movement from her arms, Liena pushed the water around the boat and sent it in the direction of the shore. Miki called out to her mother over and over again, longing for her to hold her again. Wishing she would come with her to safety. She felt a pair of arms wrap around her, and she recognised her sister's voice in her ears, "Miki, we have to go." Saskha was crying too, Miki could hear it in her voice.
Her mother faced them, her tears flowing down her cheeks and into the freezing water she floated in. "Be strong, my little polar dog pups."
Saskha helped Miki onto the shore when their boat reached it. Others were standing there too, crying and holding one another. Now that she was on the shore, Miki could get a good look at what was happening. The warriors and waterbenders were all working together to kill the monster. Groups of waterbenders created surging waves to try and sink the serpent, while others had managed to impale its tough skin with shards of ice. Others threw spears and attacked with clubs. It was working; the beast's squeals had become shorter and more pained. Her father created a water vortex, pushing him up into the air until he was level with the serpent. Onartok channelled a stream of water up to Keiro as he flew towards the monster's head. Using the water from Onartok, Keiro created ice shards and slammed them into the creature's head. With one last bloodcurdling scream, the serpent retreated to the abyss below them. Even though they didn't like each other, Onartok and Keiro could still work together to save their village.
A few cheers erupted from the crowd. No one had been killed, but many were seriously injured. Miki called out to her mother but she was too far away to hear her. Liena's hands glowed blue as she knelt next to a survivor in another boat. She was so brave. Even when her life was in danger, she still found the courage to go and help those who were injured.
Miki looked up at their chief Iluliaq, who stood next to them on the shore. Despite the fact that the serpent was gone, he still looked scared. His eyes were wide with terror, and his body trembled so much that he had to lean on his staff for support. At first Miki thought he was just in shock, but then he opened his mouth, "There's still one more! Everyone get out of the water!"
Most of the villagers were confused. They had just defeated the serpent! Sent that vile monster back to the depths from which it was born. But Miki's heart dropped when she remembered something some old fishermen from the north had once said.
Arctic Serpents always hunted in pairs.
But it was too late. The most dangerous part of an Arctic Serpent was not their mouths, but their tails, which were lined with deadly sharp spines, capable of cutting through anything. Liena just managed to tip the boat she was in before the tail sliced upwards, so the injured teenager she had been healing would be thrown out of the way. Saskha and Miki clung to each other as they watched helplessly from the shore. The swift tail cutting through the water and the boat, and whatever was inside it. The horrifying scream which they could only identify as their mother's. Their father charging through the water to save her. But it was no use; the serpent blocked Keiro's path and lunged at him, releasing another deafening scream. Before he could react, the monster sent him crashing into the foaming sea. There was no one else who could help, as the other waterbenders were trying to fight the serpent and help others out of the water.
Saskha collapsed on the ground, crying hysterically. There was nothing they could do; they could hardly swim in the treacherous water, and if they did try to they would just be getting in the way. But Miki couldn't just sit still. Both her parents were somewhere in this roaring ocean! She starting running into the sea until one of the other adults held her back, "Miki dear, you can't help her. Just let the waterbenders help your mother. There's nothing we can do!"
But Miki just continued to cry out for her mother. With outstretched arms she begged for her mother, longing for her to be returned safety. Even in this moonlight it was hard to see where she was, as the waves surged violently around the beast. But she could just make out a slumped body clinging on to a broken piece of wood. It had to be her! All the other villagers had now been rescued from the water.
"Mom! Please! Someone help her!" Miki wailed from the coast, still held tight by the woman behind her. It was strange, but for some reason she felt the moon was glowing more than usual. They were all empowered by the moon; even the non-benders felt some connection to it. But tonight Miki felt a power surge through her, beginning in her chest and then extending to all her limbs. She decided to pray to Tui, the moon spirit. She was supposed to watch over them, right? She didn't care if they were real or not. Whether they could hear her prayers or not. Whether they even cared. But all Miki prayed for, was that her mother would be saved.
And then the strangest thing happened. The serpent stopped moving. Perhaps the waterbenders had trapped it somehow? But it didn't matter how the beast was stuck, just that it was. Now was their chance to find mother! As if someone had read her mind, her mother began to rise out of the frothing ocean. Finally, someone was using the water to bring her to shore. However, there was no water supporting or moving her. She was floating in the air by herself! Miki had no clue what was happening, but she was overjoyed that her mother was somehow being brought to her. As she got closer, Miki managed to see what had happened to her.
"Mom! Your leg!" It had been severed at the thigh, and blood dripped and splattered into in sea as she approached. Her eyes were wide with terror, and she shrieked and groaned from the pain of her injuries. Miki turned her head to find Saskha, but she was just standing there, gaping at the scene unfolding. So was the woman who had been holding her back. They just stared at her with fearful eyes. Why were they just standing still? When she turned back to her mother, Miki realised why the others were shocked. Her arms were moving in time with her mother's body. She was the one controlling her.
Miki's stomach dropped, and she began to feel heat rising on the back of her neck. How on earth was she doing this? She was pulling her mother towards the coast, and keeping the serpent still! But she didn't have any more time to consider how this was happening. Miki pulled her arms inwards, causing her mother to fly towards them much faster. "Saskha! I need some help!" As if she'd been snapped back into reality, Saskha ran over to her sister.
When their mother reached them, Miki and Saskha helped her to lie on the ground. Saskha immediately took off her coat and wrapped it around her mother's thigh, trying to stop the bleeding. Her hands glowed blue as she began working on the injuries. No healer could regrow limbs, but perhaps they could heal the skin around what remained of her leg and cleanse her wounds from infections.
Liena's shrieks from her injuries had become gentle sobs and pained groans. She had lost too much blood, which was causing her to lose consciousness. "Mom! Please, stay with me!" Miki wept next to her mother.
Liena slowly opened her eyes and faced her daughter. Her face was pained, revealing the agony of what she was going through, but she still managed to talk to her daughter, "Miki... How did you...?"
She didn't finish her sentence, but Miki knew what she was going to ask, "I prayed to Tui. It was just like you said mom. I asked for something and the spirits gave it to me."
Liena forced out a slight chuckle, and after she did a flood of tears flowed from her swollen eyes, "You still have much to learn... My little polar dog pup."
Tears clouded Miki's vision as her mother closed her eyes. She still clutched her hands, trying to feel her warmth, which always reassured her. She longed to hear her voice again, which could soothe the most troubled heart. But she was silent. Other healers had begun to work on her injuries too, their glowing hands illuminating everything around them.
Waterbenders in the ocean had started attacking the other serpent, and after a flurry of ice shards it sank beneath the surface. But her father was still out there somewhere. Turning to one of the healers, Miki asked, "Where is my father? He was out in the water before and--"
"He's out cold, but he's okay," the woman next to her replied. She quickly looked to the other healers, "We're losing her! We need to hurry!"
All Miki could do was cry. She had managed to save her mother from the serpent, but she could do nothing now except watch and hope that she would be okay. She still had no idea what had happened before; being able to move her mother's body without touching her. It scared her that she could do that, but she was grateful to the spirits for giving her that gift to save her mother.
But after a while, Miki would hate the spirits for cursing her with that same gift.
- I felt inspired after reading the "Entire and the Rose" book series by Kay Kenyon, who began each of her chapters with a quote, song, or poem from the alternate world she had created. I wanted to do something similar with my fanon, but to make it my own the quotes are usually from one source, the "Book of Tutorik" rather than many different ones. This book will also become important later on in the series.
|Spirit of the North|
|• Chapter 1 - Manirak • Chapter 2 - Memories • Chapter 3 - The Librarian • Chapter 4 - Liberation • Chapter 5 - Guilt • Chapter 6 - A Final Goodbye • Chapter 7 - Reconnection • Chapter 8 - Visitors from the East • Chapter 9 - Avatar • Chapter 10 - The Dream that Led to a Journey • Chapter 11 - Promise • Chapter 12 - The Vote • Chapter 13 - Unspoken Desires • Chapter 14 - Beyond the Borders • Chapter 15 - Foreseer of Futures • Chapter 16 - The Warrior Within • Chapter 17 - First Blood • Chapter 18 - Victories and Defeats • Chapter 19 - Secrets of the Book • Chapter 20 - Entering the Earth Kingdom• Chapter 21 - The Dream Nobody Thought Would Come True • Chapter 22 - The Great River City: Part 1 • Chapter 23 - The Great River City: Part 2|
For the collective works of the author, go here.