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|An Inglorious Revolution|
An Inglorious Revolution is the thirty-first chapter of's .
Previously in A Tale of Rebels
Anyang battles Dalit, without a clear outcome. Dalit's seconds-in-command decide to intervene. Noki, Shizon, Zoruka, Skado, Kabura and the Avatar manage to flee Yi Ming's soldiers, and end up in the catacombs, natural tunnels below the capital, where they decide to force the dormant volcano's eruption to defeat Yi Ming's army. Senqok and Ranju halt and duel Yi Ming. At first, there is no victor, but later, after reckless actions, the two are almost defeated, but keep fighting.
Chapter 31: An Inglorious Revolution
The four surrounded Anyang, or as far as possible, anyway, for the General was standing a mere metre from the wall. They paced, nay, inched sideways in their bending stances, keeping a close watch on Anyang's every motion. Think fast, imbecile bastard! he thought, returning the stares, and put his staff, in his left hand, behind his back, while holding the right one between cloak and back, but not as still as the other. When they had finished, surrounding him, and thus, in theory, nullifying any attempt at resistance, the four began motions Anyang had witnessed too often. Then, however, he displayed the greatest ability of a true airbending master – speed, in almost every sense. Within a split second, he revealed his right hand, which was crowned and coated in an air funnel not unlike a drill, shifted into walking position, sped towards the man to his right, aided by airbending, which threw him forward fist first at speeds otherwise unknown to survivors, and struck him.
Blood sprayed over his belly, chest, arms and face, as he drilled through the man's stomach. The other three still attempted to asphyxiate him, but the sight made them freeze in the midst of the motion. Blood, flesh and bone sprinkled when the drill of air punctured the man's back, and did even more so when Anyang pulled out his hand again. It seemed his victim attempted to cry in agony, but his de facto impalement left him no way of speaking. In the very second he sank to his knees, Anyang pulled forth his staff, and opened its rear part. He briefly gathered strength, and then, in one, strong and swift motion, not unlike the slash of a sword, he flung the dying one against his frozen but still living comrades, and in one, semi-circular motion, Anyang struck truly. The power of the strike threw the three against the wall, killing the woman previously standing right next to it by bashing her head against it. In addition to blood, flesh, and bone, brains sprinkled the hallway to the holiest site of the Air Nomad civilisation.
As two of them, though injured, still lived, and tried to escape Anyang's wrath, he walked up to the heap of flesh, and, one more, bent a drill of his, only stronger and bigger than before, and struck into it, bloody, bone, flesh, and all kinds of other containments of the human body sprinkled the walls and floor. And again. And again. And again. Only then was Anyang sure nothing human had survived in the heap of flesh. Only then did he turn to face his brother again, now more red than any other colour. Dalit, partly to his surprise, partly just as he had expected, stared at him, motionless, his expression showing pure shock.
"Why." Dalit's shock could become fury any moment then. "You didn't have to kill them. You could've just decided for this duel to be a fight between the two of us, you didn't have to kill them... " The Head Elder's expression shifted, as expected, but also did he drop to his knees. "YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO KILL THEM!" He rose to his feet again. "What kind of brother fights his brother, anyway?" Anyang remained silent at the obviously rhetoric question. "It wasn't me to break the truce, oh no, you did it, you demanded a duel, and you attacked first. I, as always, gave you a choice. But, oh, you, as always, chose to be a fool."
"Brothers have always fought brothers, killed brothers, butchered brothers and everyone dear to them, and over far more insignificant matters than ours," retorted Anyang, "Aye, I fight for ideals I myself don't follow, but it was you who started the butchering. I'm only here to end it."
"If you want to fight, so be it. If you want to kill me, so be it. Just know that, if you kill me, I'm taking you with me. I swear." The General's brother shook his head and turned away from his brother. Anyone else in his position would likely have sobbed, even allegedly cold-hearted people like the Earth Emperor, but Dalit didn't sob, or cry, or weep. He had never, not even as a child. After a few seconds, when Anyang had made the mistake of growing impatient, thus more prone to mistakes, Dalit produced the sword hilt, bent it a blade, and, with an unarticulated scream, hacked at Anyang.
The General attempted to block the wind sword with his staff, but found himself betrayed by his old trusty staff, for Dalit hacked it into pieces, as if aggressively cutting warm butter. After a mere seconds, all remaining of the staff were two short pieces in Anyang's hands, which he cast against Dalit with only one thought, Fuck.
As with the entire staff before, Dalit hacked them out of his way at a speed Anyang had never seen any swordsman capable of. When his brother went for his head, Anyang's only choice was to duck and roll away, erecting himself when the two had changed sides, Dalit almost at the wall. He was quick to bring an air swipe between his left arm and the blade, which shattered the air blade briefly. As Dalit struck his right side, he repeated the procedure with the same effect, and Dalit began hacking at him wildly, before realising it was tiring himself more than him. Anyang had found an air shield a necessity by then, and intended to act like a waterbender, to use Dalit's own offence against him, but was unready when the next strike came. The air blade didn't shatter upon contact with the air shield, but drained the air from it. Anyang could only send an air blast against it with his left hand and hope to thus stop the blade, which it did, but only after it had severed his right hand from its arm.
For Anyang, time slowed. He stared at the stump in disbelief, and at how the falling hand trailed blood after it. But then, he saw Dalit charging at him, blade risen high, and he gathered his power with his still intact and capable left hand, blasting Dalit against the wall. It knocked his head against the rock, thus briefly paralysed him, it flung his chest against the wall, pressing much of the air out of his lungs. As Dalit sunk to the floor, Anyang once more prepared his now feared air drill, this time with his left hand, and prepared to strike his brother's motionless body, when it did stir.
Dalit opened his eyes, and bent an air sphere around his brother's head, drawing the air from his lungs. But then, the air drill struck, and didn't end until neither of them moved. The two brothers, so much alike and yet so different, sunk to the floor, bloody and battered, sharing their last moments in deep hatred and regret. As Dalit's blood spread on the floor, his followers stood frozen. It was only when the followers of tradition, the Air Nomads, shoved forward to clean the hallway of such defilement, that they fully comprehended what had occurred. As, one by one at first, then by the dozen, if not hundred, the Air Nomads flooded the temple, more and more of them began join them, and not only on their physical way. They took off and cast away their armour, and some were quick to cut their hair, and the more did so, the more followed them. With the death of its founders, the Air Empire ceased to exist.
"COME ON, YOU PIECE OF SHITE!" screamed Noki with all the strength left for it. "MOVE, YOU BLOODY SPIRITS-DAMNED FUCK!" She kept repeating the same motions, over and over again, just as the Avatar, but the magma they bent would keep flowing back. "YOU STUPID MOLTEN CUNT, YOU THINK YOU'RE SPECIAL, EH? WELL, I'M BENDING YOU ALL THE SAME! I'LL SHOW YOU!"
Sweat ran down her forehead, and not from the increasing heat. She, once more let her arms drop while the Avatar held his stretched high to keep the molten rock from flowing back. Then, she lifted her arms, she pressed them upwards. When she couldn't summon up the sufficient strength with her arms, she lowered her arse even further, put her hands at her eyes' height, palms upwards, and began to lift with her feet. Sweat seemed to flow in streams, from both her and the Avatar, as she lifted ever so slowly, not wanting to risk doing it swiftly, for she would injure herself, even if bending earth she had no physical contact with. Finally, when she had outstretched her legs, her arms were the ones to lift, but as she couldn't as much as start, she kept her hands in their position, and stretched the arms while lowering her arse once again. Again, she pressed upwards with her feet instead of her arms, and again, she was successful. When she stood, her extremities outstretched to the fullest of her abilities, the Avatar mimicked her movements, only focussing more on the arms, for he still had strength left in them.
"What are you lifting, anyway? And why are we still heating it?" inquired Shizon sceptically, taking a break from firing a stream of fire into a crack in the wall. "Or rather, what are we heating?"
"Shut up and do your job," ordered him Zoruka, whom he complied to, while herself shooting a blue jet of fire into the fissure. While the material around Shizon's spot darkened, if still possible, from soot, the rock around Zoruka's glowed in a yellowish shade. It took her more strength to produce fire of such power, sure, but she intended to be of some assistance, and not simply act as if.
"But still... " Shizon too sweated, and not too lightly. He, like some firebenders, had a certain immunity, or rather, indifference to heat, but heat produced by molten rock was too much for him to handle easily.
"At first, we had to move a kind of... plug. A plug made of rock. A plug that plugged the pipe bringing up molten rock, or magma," answered him the Avatar, with no trace of exhaustion except for his panting. "Now, we still have to, but we focus on moving the magma itself. Once we have a sufficient pressure in the chamber, you will have to get out and I will cause the eruption. Till then, heat and move it."
Shizon, completely new to the field of volcanism, just nodded, taking any answer to question. Suddenly, Skado came running towards them, wheezing. He stopped abruptly, turned, and fired his crossbow. Quick to reload his own construction, he took aim again, and released another bolt.
"WE FOUND THEM!" cried one of those shot at. "TELL THE CAPTAIN WE FOUND THE—"
The shout became an unarticulated gargling as a bolt pierced the Earth Empire soldier's throat. His comrade ran, and far enough to inform his next comrade, "WE FOUND 'EM!"
Then, an icicle impaled him from behind, with the last soldier being out of sight. Kabura, standing next to Skado, turned to her comrades, and took the freedom of drawing the sweat off of everyone, startling them all. "Sorry, I'm going to need that."
"Thanks for saving my useless eyes and damning me to a heat stroke!" thanked her Noki sarcastically, of course knowing the reason for it. She then once more began lifting molten rock she couldn't and shouldn't touch, something very odd to her.
"I hope you do have enough bolts," stated Kabura, addressing Skado. He took a look in his quiver, his bags and smiled.
"Ah, enough, if you kill a few." He left his bags opened so he could reach them with one swift motion.
Suddenly, the six grew silent, except for groans of exhaustion and strain, as they heard the echo of voices. "So, they were down this way, you say, private?"
"Yes, sir. Our sergeant, Wong, went ahead and was shot almost instantly after spotting one of them. The second one, Private Xu, could still shout the information to me, before being shot." The private's tone was sure, too sure, considering the circumstances.
"I see. We go forward in two columns, so that their... what, arbalist? Anyway, so that he's overstrained, and then, we must act fast and stun them all as quickly as possible, we must let our numbers count," commanded the Captain, unknowing of his vicinity to his targets.
Kabura and Skado nodded at each other, and took their most secure positions, partly in the alcoves in the wall. Then, a shrill whistle seemed to shake the entire tunnel, and the company of Earth Empire soldiers began their assault. Neither Kabura, nor Skado, nor anyone had expected them to be a special unit of nonbenders, however, who not only carried heavy shields, but also seemed to have specialised in fighting benders, judging from their heavy armour. Skado loosened a bolt that would've struck one in the face, but instead, the target simply raised his shield, which almost completely absorbed the bolt's impact. Skado reloaded frantically, and aimed at the other column, but, preventively, the soldiers he would've aimed at put their shields to their side to be ready when he would've loosened, and that at a speed that required much training. Skado lowered his crossbow again. And looked to Kabura for advice.
The Water Tribeswoman, however, encountered the same problem. Her icicles simply shattered upon impact, and for anything else, she had too little water. She too took cover, and glanced back at Skado, shrugging. Then, however, one great source of noise vanished, as Zoruka ceased shooting her fire into the fissure. Instead, she circled her arms, tracing electricity after her fingers. "KABURA!" she shouted, "WATER! NOW!"
The waterbender took her meaning, ran out of cover, and split her water in a way that next to every soldier, a few drops were, as well as in the centre of their two columns. That said foes of hers were only three metres from her was little reason to panic. She retreated back into cover and held the drops in place as well as she could. Then, Zoruka shot her lightning. No one saw how it spread between the heavily armoured men, but the fact it did was undeniable, for, from one moment to another, almost an entire company of specially trained soldiers was lying on the floor, motionless. Around a far corner, the Captain crept to investigate what had occurred, and retreated only after a bolt of Skado's almost struck his forehead.
"Are they dead?" Kabura's curiosity was strong that moment.
"And even if not, who cares? They're going to be soon enough." Zoruka returned to heating the fissure and what lay beyond.
"Indeed," agreed the Avatar, holding up the magma for Noki to push it further upwards. Then, when she was finished with the motion, he could only say, "Well done. Bloody well done. I can take over from here now. You see that you get out of here as fast as possible, preferably the way you came."
"And you?" Skado knew the answer, but he asked out of a faint hope.
"The volcano will erupt, taking anyone in, below, above and near the city with it, or something alike, anyway. I'll likely be one of the first victims." The Avatar was done with his life, and sought redemption for what he had not done, that much was clear. "Now, run."
"Finally." Noki was only tired of pushing magma upwards, not of the Avatar. Zoruka and Shizon joined her, as she walked to the piece of rock that remained from what she had brought down them upon. Kabura and Skado, too, ran to jump onto it as she raised her fist into the air, and then simultaneously pushing the rock out of her way, and raising a column. When they broke through the surface again, a feeling of freedom overcame them, but something else took its place when they saw what they had burst into.
Drawing the earth from the rest of his armour, Yi Ming condensed the rock, and formed gloves from it. Even when he had coated his hands in the projectiles, his foes hadn't moved. They were injured, no matter how much Senqok healed. He distracts me, but could as well put me down. I must focus on him. decided the Earth Emperor, and aimed at the waterbender with his right hand, intending to take on Ranju with his left. However, the two foes of his were close to each other then, and thus he found, Well, if they insist... He simply aimed at both, and shot projectile after projectile.
"LOOK OUT!" cried out Ranju, and sent a gust against Senqok, drawing the air from behind herself, all in one swift, semi-circular motion of both her hands. She flung Senqok out of harm's way, as she did with herself. What seemed an uncontrolled flight at first ended in completely controlled landings, for both landed on their feet. They didn't land hard, instead, they rolled, to soften the impact, especially on the slippery, wet rock. Wroth from his repeated failure, Yi Ming kicked up boulders, and sent them into their directions. Though slowed heavily from his – at least partially healed – fractures, Senqok avoided them all, dancing his way forward towards the man he sought to defeat. Ranju, however, simply took to the air, and decided to wait for the chance that would surely present itself in the ensuing fight.
With an animalistic scream, partly of wrath, partly of pain, Senqok charged the last few metres, when Yi Ming had realised the fruitlessness of his attack. Senqok's first strike was a straightforward stab, which he soon had to turn into a parry, for Yi Ming raised a small boulder, and flung it around. The redirected rock was bent towards Senqok again, as Yi Ming sought to distract him. The Water Tribesman, however, intercepted the rock sooner than his foe would've liked, and shattered it by freezing the water he had thrown at it. When he spun back, He had little, but still had time to evade the rock column coming for his stomach. To his luck and lack thereof, he slipped on the floor, avoiding collision with what would've made him end like Kanyzon.
Then, however, he found himself trapped. Yi Ming had bound his feet to the floor with rock shackles, rendering him immobile. He attempted to hack at both, Yi Ming and the shackles, with his sword, but a slight strike of Yi Ming's threw him back. He lost balance, and had to catch himself with his arms, behind his back, which Yi Ming was fast to bind to the ground as well. Trapped and certain of death or alike, Senqok's heavy nervousness returned, mixed with tonnes of panic and fear. He frantically looked for a way to free himself while Yi Ming broke off the previously avoided pillar, and thrust it forward, aiming to impale Senqok like he had impaled Kanyzon.
To Senqok's luck, Ranju came speeding at such a velocity, that she simply knocked the rock aside, while also sending an air blast to the side, knocking Yi Ming down, head first. With her staff, she was quick to shatter the binds holding Senqok's hands down, and with water and blade, his feet too were freed soon. The two stood face to face, quick glances of theirs always ensuring they were aware of Yi Ming's every move.
"So, er, are you all right?" inquired Senqok, his worried tone somewhat misplaced.
"Tend to yourself first. I'm sure you're in a worse condition." Ranju's reply was spoken indifferently and meant caringly, for she truly did care more for her comrade than herself.
"Oh, I'm fine, I healed a bit and that's all I need for the moment." He offered a little smile. "For everything else, there's Kabura."
Just as he had finished his sentence, neither looked, and Yi Ming used the chance. Once more, an earth column shot from the ground, dividing the two instantly. He was quick to divide the rock, and send the two parts after the two foes of his. Ranju, taken entirely unaware, for she had believed him paralysed, was struck plainly into the chest, whereas Senqok, luck once more, needed only to jump from shock, as he did, to evade the rock. With Ranju more or less eliminated for the time being, Yi Ming indeed focussed on Senqok. He kicked the ground and sent forth a barrage of rocks, which Senqok could sidestep, but only hardly, while the Earth Emperor prepared the next attack. He kicked the ground with his heels repeatedly, as if walking, sending up earth pillars by the dozen, shaking the ground. Ranju, where are you when I need you...? Senqok had little hope of standing this barrage on his own, especially when Yi Ming used the waterbender's own element against him, creating quicksand. Senqok had to think fast, and such he did. He leapt upwards, and bent hundreds of raindrops towards himself, before sending them forward, creating a solid sheet of ice he could run on. Yi Ming, naturally, attempted to crush it, and failed to do so, as Senqok jumped the last metres.
He landed, once more, on his feet, and, once more, by rolling instead of attempting to land directly. With blade drawn and water bent, he charged at a prepared Yi Ming, doing something which had once earned Yi Ming his title. With speeds usually unknown to centenarians, the Earth Emperor struck the ground, shaking it briefly to throw Senqok off balance, while delivering an uppercut blow with a boulder. Instead of his chin, however, he had aimed for and struck his right hand, throwing the sword away, while, with his left hand, the earthbender struck with an earth column, aiming for the stomach and chest areas.
Senqok was quick as well. Not quick enough to recover his sword, or flee, anyway, but quick and fast enough to form a water shield. No projectile known to them would've penetrated the shield he had swiftly put up, they knew, but an earth pillar hadn't been, wasn't, isn't, won't be a projectile. Without encountering any problems, the attack penetrated the centimetres of water. The Water Tribesman acted quick, and froze the water around, cutting the tip off the pillar, but also shattering the same into thousands of shards. And to his misfortune, Yi Ming still bent them, and they struck his stomach.
For the first time in his life, Senqok experienced defeat. His shield splashed on the ground, and blood began pouring out of the ruin of skin, cloth, flesh and rock that was left of his belly. What he remained bending of water, he coated his hand with and put on his belly, to at least stop the blood-loss, or minimise it. Nonetheless, he dropped to his knees, and then on his back.
Once more, Yi Ming felt the satisfaction of a hard-won victory. Like once at Serpent's Pass, Omashu, the Battle of the Five Armies, the sweetness of victory covered any bitterness of losses. Now, where is that little bitch? He began to scan the battlefield with all his senses, but couldn't find a trace of her. Then it struck him, like lightning.
The rock sent her flying through the air, but in the most unpleasant way – uncontrollably. Ranju hit the ground, and rolled a few metres, involuntarily, before coming to a rest. Her joints and all her limbs ached as she stood up, but she knew she had to. Senqok can't make it alone. And I'll never let anyone down. Her groans of pain were, aside from the pouring rain, and the sounds of the heated duel, the only sounds on the entire square. She walked towards the fight, but suddenly, she saw it was less a fight, and more an execution, once more. Senqok's sword was flung away, and, faster than she had believed it possible, Ranju was holding it. In the very same second, Senqok dropped his shield of water. What's going— OH FUCK!
She sped, at speeds unknown, towards the tyrant she despised while he was still tasting victory. Getting behind him without being noticed, she took the chance, and, with all her might, stuck the sword into his back. Indeed, its tip penetrated even the chest, and was clearly visible on the other side, coated in blood. She could feel Yi Ming freeze. "For freedom," Ranju spoke, twisting the sword a few centimetres. "For equality." She gave the sword yet another twist. "For brotherhood." She yanked the sword out of the dying body, held it to his throat, and reached back with it, gathering all her remaining strength. "FOR SENQOK!" With that, she released the strength she had built up, and blood sprayed upwards, and after the head, wherever it would roll. Yi Ming's lifeless body dropped, and five still very alive ones raced towards them.
"SENQOK!" was the first cry. Kabura's voice. She instantly began healing him, just to keep him alive.
"We should probably head to the docks!" cried Skado through the rain. Kabura, wet from tears, blood, and rain, glanced to Ranju, who nodded. They took Senqok between themselves, and hurried to the harbour, to take whatever ship was still there, while the square bulged, hot steams and gases shooting out of every hole big and deep enough.
"QUICK!" Shizon had decided to help carry Senqok, lest they would become their own plan's victims. They had jumped out of an alley, and found themselves right at the docks, where many soldiers still patrolled. "QUICK! YOU BASTARDS!" His shouting got them the soldiers' attention. "IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE, LEAVE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!"
At first, all soldiers stopped in their tracks to look at them. Some started attacking them, with attacks which Kabura, Zoruka, and Noki could easily block. Some stared at them in disbelief. Some ran after them, without attacking, or also to the closest ship. Within seconds, chaos ruled where an orderly search had been going on before. Soon enough, the entire docks were full of bellowed commands. Officers ordered their soldiers to either follow them on board, or to disregard the shouting and attack, soldiers shouted at their comrades to follow or attack, and at captains to take to the sea. Whichever it was, Shizon's action was most beneficial to the band of seven, for, without problems, they waltzed on board of the nearest ship, which turned out to be the Chief Gangtok.
"And now?" Noki was practically blind on board, truly blind.
"We ought to get Senqok ready for proper healing," decided Kabura, who laid her comrade and lover on the planks, taking a closer look at the wounds. "Noki, Skado, you wouldn't mind helping me?"
"We ought to leave the harbour and get as much sea between us an that city as possible," decided Shizon, earning Zoruka's approving nodding. The two left immediately, and took command of the ship, which, by then, was swarming with Fire Nation civilians, Liberation Alliance soldiers and sailors, and Earth Empire soldiers.
"ATTENTION!" shouted Zoruka from the bridge, and received what she demanded, of everyone except those of her comrades who were working on Senqok. "THIS IS NOT A MERE EARTHQUAKE, THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF THE VOLCANO'S ERUPTION! THE CITY WILL LIKELY BE DESTROYED, AS WELL AS ITS SURROUNDINGS! WE, AND YOU TOO, NEED YOUR AND OUR COMPLETE COOPERATION IF WE WANT TO SURVIVE!"
Almost instantly, several stronger individuals had fetched themselves long poles and pushed the ship away from land, into the bay. Meanwhile, the land began to shake, and thus, the sea stirred too. The rain had ceased, and an eastwards wind had picked up, chasing away the clouds, and any ships that began to leave, of which there were many, all filled with the same kind of crew as the Chief Gangtok. Surprisingly enough, even the seemingly staunchest of radicals of either side laid down their quarrels, and began working together. However, the wind sending them out on high sea was rather slow. The first sign of the imminent eruption then rose up, making the wind more curse than blessing, for the volcanic ash was spread over the city and the bay, covering more and more area, both on the ground and as a cloud. Lightnings struck within the cloud, and to the ground, while loud cracks accompanied the thunder.
"We need to get out of here! And FAST!" saw Shizon, and frantically began looking for a solution. "We could row, but that's risky. But that's our only chance at getting out of here alive. We need to do it, don't we?"
"Eh. I've got an idea," disregarded Zoruka his panic, herself, however, not staying calm at all. She walked down to where Senqok was laid on the planks, where Kabura, Noki, Skado and Ranju were contemplating ways of healing him.
"We could cut the pieces out. It's more precise than bending them out, and considering the damage done already, it makes little difference," found Skado, unsure of his own suggestion.
"But that could leave pieces in there, and it might fester, which— " began Kabura, always holding her healing hand over Senqok's bloody mess of a belly. " —What is it, Zoruka?"
"May I borrow Ranju for a second? It's for the survival of us all." Zoruka's words were spoken almost casual.
"What do you need me to do?" Ranju rose, and walked a few metres with Zoruka.
"You see this?" Zoruka pointed up the sky, which blackened with volcanic ash. "We need to outrun it." With a wry smile, Zoruka left Ranju to contemplate her task. Then, the airbender had an idea.
She leapt up the central mast, now properly repaired. She made use of her airbender's agility, and stood, the mast right before her, her feet holding her atop the sail. She looked back, where ashes rained down, and, with a sickeningly loud crack, the ground parted to release molten rock and hot, poisonous gases. It was only when a cloud of rock and ashes rapidly descended from where once the palace had stood, swallowing everything up in its reddish glow, that she looked forth again, and gathered her strength, eyes closed and breathing heavily. Just as the Chief Gangtok's crew became aware of the pyroclastic flow coming for them, just then did Ranju release her power. In the blink of an eye, she took the air in front of the ship, bent it to its sides, and into the sails, pressing and pulling the vessel forward at speed unknown to naval travel. She didn't stop there, however, she did her best to keep the current flowing, changing its direction slightly to alter the ship's course. Only thus did they make it out of the bay, and into the sea beyond, only so was it possible for them to escape the gases, ashes and rock. Or so they thought.
Past the outer caldera wall, past it a few hundred metres they were when the water in its centre began to part, giving way for a horrid combination of molten rock, solid rock, hot gases, and plenty of ashes. Steam rose in masses, and a wave pushed them even further forward, but not out of harm. Ranju repeated her technique, over and over again, and saved them from the worst. The volcano, as a whole, then seemingly offered a finale – it exploded. The pressure the Avatar had built up and released was thus great that one of the, if not the greatest volcano in the world was awakened from its slumber, and had began to unleash the fury of a thousand years.
Ranju did her best to keep them at a speed, but after repeating the procedure too often for her taste, she dropped from exhaustion. She would've first hit the second mast and deck afterwards, hadn't Zoruka caught her mid air, and laid her next to Senqok. All around, meanwhile, pieces of pumice, and other rocks, mostly granite and basalt, went down, all in sizes usually irrelevant, but at a speed that made them more dangerous than any artillery. Noki's senses picked these up well enough, and she did her best to shield them all, but failed, for it were too many. Other earthbenders joined in, and slowly but steadily, the bombardment of the ship was practically non-existent.
Senqok, all the while, had been kept alive. When, after an hour of panic and flight, they were out of harm's way, mostly, at least, Kabura spoke, "Noki, we need you here."
Noki did her best to bend out anything that wasn't flesh, and cast what she bent out into the sea. Skado then was ready with the best he could find for disinfection – a barrel of unidentifiable liquor that could just as well kill anyone drinking it. Using this, and distilled water Skado had had with him, Kabura cleaned the wounds to the best of her ability, before she cast what was left of the liquid into the sea. Thunder still rolled across land, waves and heavens, and ashes rained down all around, which made them take Senqok up to the bridge, where Zoruka and Shizon still commanded the ship. There, it was Skado's turn, while Kabura had her healing water ready at all times, and listened to Senqok's heartbeat and breathing to detect any failure. Luckily for him, his diaphragm was still intact, other than his intestines. Skado cut and sewed, cleaning his needle and threat every few seconds. After several minutes of most concentrated work, he leaned back to take a break, and exhaled deeply. Kabura began to heal as precisely as she could, healing what was already sown. So it was repeated, and again, until Skado had managed to sow all wounds, and Kabura could heal all at once. She kneeled before Senqok's almost lifeless body, and took her entire healing water, coated her hands with it, and let it do wonders, as many times before. She focussed so much on healing that she forgot to control her breath, or breathe properly at all. After several minutes, she dropped to the floor, passed out.
Instead, Senqok opened his eyes.
It had been a few hours, he was sure. If not a day or two. His stomach was sown and mostly healed, but the last he remembered about his stomach was the fact it was penetrated by dozens of projectiles of Yi Ming's. What was spoken now, that Ranju had slain the tyrant with his blade, and that the volcano the Capital City had been built upon had exploded. He had tried thinking about what they had said, about what it meant, but he couldn't. He lacked the blood, even if he, Senqok, son of Gangtok, didn't know it.
It was the second time he had woken since the injury, he knew. He stood, though supported. But he stood, and considering his blood-loss, it was quite an achievement. Shizon and Zoruka walked by, waving, was they left the ship.
"Bastard...!" half murmured, half shouted Senqok, remembering the nickname he had given his comrade once with a smile.
Shizon turned, and Zoruka walked back to him, both smiling. "It's Your Majesty, the Bastard now!" replied Shizon, reminding him of something he had been tasked to spread word of, not too long ago. What it was, who had tasked him with it, he failed to remember.
Zoruka shot Kabura and inquiring look, and, after the latter had nodded with a smile, Zoruka approached Senqok, and kissed him. It wasn't a romantic kiss, though it may have looked so from the outside, it was more a way of thanking him, which she then did verbally, too, "Thank you for everything, Senqok, thank you."
With that, they were gone. Guards they had, Senqok saw. Some memories began to come back, or rather, none had ever been gone, he just failed to understand them. At least not when he stood, only when he lay. But that he would only to fall into his dreamless sleep, and to let Kabura heal him further, to ensure his survival. He knew he loved her, and not only because she did that, he knew there was more. But every time he asked her about it, she just smiled sadly, and reminded herself, "Oh well... This damn blood-loss..."
He felt better than he had before, which wasn't exactly hard. The burning in his stomach hadn't stopped, but it was not as extreme as it could've been, he knew. He remembered when Shizon and Zoruka had left to become Fire Lord and Lady, and understood that it had been the late Kanyzon to will it so. What tied him and Kabura together, however, and why any of this had happened, were still riddles to him, at least when standing or sitting. And when lying, he soon fell asleep, leaving no time for contemplation.
This time, Noki and Skado were leaving. He knew the small port town, he had once passed through on his way to Omashu, he realised. Kabura, Ranju, Noki and Skado were talking, discussing indeed, about something relating to Yi Ming, he knew.
"Aye. Word will surely somehow have spread to Ba Sing Se, and the Empire will be fractured in a fight for succession. A great opportunity for the Earth Kingdom to arise once more," Skado spoke, earning approving nods from Noki.
"Our nation needs stability, needs a few strong leaders. A Queen of Omashu surely could provide some of that, and guess who will hold that office." With a smile, Noki, departed, affectionately punching Senqok as she passed. He couldn't keep himself from smiling, and even knew why, which made him feel better than the last time comrades of his had departed.
The more of his former self returned to him, the more he dreaded the sailing and waiting. And knowledge of friends of his having to leave. They had no port of call this time, instead, the Chief Gangtok simply anchored off coast some island. The reason was obvious to him this time – Ranju left. It was too warm to be any of the Water Tribes, so neither he nor Kabura would leave. The airbender didn't cherish the thought too much either, but she would always do her duty.
"Not you too, please. Senqok needs time, he's well on his was to the old Senqok we're used to. He needs friends now more than ever," Kabura pleaded with the airbender.
"I know. But I'm needed more elsewhere." No joy was in Ranju's voice. "If it's true what I've heard, the Air Nomads could use a hand. Or two. Also, I might be help in finding the Avatar. But I'll visit, I promise."
"I'll have to take what I get, eh?" Kabura had tears in her eyes, as did Ranju. The two hugged briefly, before Ranju unfolded her glider, and leapt off, searing over them, and away. The Southern Air Temple. That's where we are. Senqok recognised the location only by recognising the islands, or rather, their type. He smiled once more at his progress.
"And now?" The crew of former foes had chosen a captain, and he was loyal to the few who had led them out of the cataclysm of the Capital City.
"Set course for the Southern Water Tribe," demanded Senqok, his tone denying any denial and defiance.
Snow fell on the ship as Senqok neared his home after all those years. He had unfinished business here, he had told Kabura as much, and had since honed his sword every day. Bit by bit, the old Senqok was returning, but the one eager for vengeance was seemingly more important than the goofy lover. These were dire times for Kabura, who was doing everything to keep the bond between them alive, but as it seemed, Senqok, out for vengeance for his father, and seeking to enact it on someone who had had little to nothing to do with the latter's demise, took every chance to try and shatter the bond, even if he would later crave Kabura's company.
He stood at the bow as the Chief Gangtok slowed and finally crashed against the ice. As it didn't give way, Senqok took the chance and leapt down onto it with drawn sword.
"Are you insane?" Kabura hurried after him, leaving the crew dumbfounded. Usually, she would've kept up with him, but her growing belly slowed her down considerably. "You are just barely recovering from the last duel you had, and now, you want to fight another?"
"Please, Bunak is hardly a match," spit Senqok, taking her reminder as an insult. "I'll butcher him like father was butchered."
"Senqok!" Kabura took him by the shoulder and spun him around. He glared at her with hard eyes, and she looked back, disappointed. "There's more at stake than your life."
"Yes, principle and honour!" The way he shouted them made him almost seem himself again, for it sounded almost disregarding, sarcastic.
"REMEMBER WHAT WE WERE FIGHTING FOR!" Kabura slapped him and almost instantly regretted it. Without a reason, she found shortly thereafter, for she had triggered something else than she had expected.
"I'm sorry, but there's no turning back now," he whispered after having spun around. They were at the gates of the main town of the Southern Water Tribe, where Bunak expected him.
"Just don't get yourself killed!" She was close to weeping, which was only partly the wind's and snow's fault.
"So you have come! Would you dare defy the people's voice and claim you should rule because your father did?" Bunak had changed since he had last seen him. His eyebrows had remained, but his once fuller forms had vanished. He had become a warrior.
"I came to set things right," spoke Senqok resolutely, when a sudden jolt of pain in his belly interrupted him. "You betrayed our principles. We were formed from a fight against a tyranny, and you joined one. This is the highest of treasons."
Senqok didn't waste another second, and gathered snow, which he melted, to coat and extend his blade with, before beginning to slash at Bunak. The Chief of the Southern Water Tribe, however, simply rolled through below, and stuck a dagger in his chest.
"Apparently, it isn't," he spoke, "I did what I had to do to survive, you imbecile radical." Senqok too attempted to speak, but could only gargle his own blood.
Louder than anything else, loud enough to gather half the town, was Kabura's ensuing cry. She, however, wouldn't stay where she was and weep, she would end what Senqok had begun, or be reunited with him in her attempt to do so. Quick to extend her arm with water, she grabbed the sword Senqok had dropped, and grasped its hilt harder than she should've.
"HEY BUNAK, YOUR MAJESTY!" she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks. "HERE'S WHAT I THINK OF YOUR FOREIGN POLICIES!" With that, she swung the blade with a ferocity and strength Senqok had never wielded it with. Bunak's head rolled on through the snow, and Kabura dropped the sword and to her knees. From the walls and the gate, many watched, but she cared little about them. She took Senqok, of whom she somehow knew was still alive, but still dying, and hugged him, stroking the back of his head as she did so. As Senqok's heart made its last beat, at least he wore a smile.
Notes and Trivia
- This chapter's title is a reference to the so-called Glorious Revolution, which was a bloodless revolution (or rather, replacement of a king) in 17th century England. Particularly, the title refers to the events at the Southern Air Temple.
- Once more, the National motto of France is used by a Liberation Alliance member, in its translated version, naturally.
- Pyroclastic flows are one of the most destructive facets of volcanism, and a heated combination of rock and gas that can reach up to 700 km/h.
- Aye, this is the end, almost anyway (after all, there'll be an epilogue). And no, I couldn't let the character, with whom everything started, live.
For the collective works of the author, go here.