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|More from Taekwond1||Adventure||PG||None||No update page|
|The Earth King's Palace|
February 25, 2012
Roshan meets with the Earth King to discuss the possibility of danger, while Lei ventures to Roshan's home town to ensure his family's safety.
Book 1 - Chapter 3: The Earth King's Palace
"I appreciate your concern, young Avatar, but I can assure you that my troops have reported no suspicious activities on any front." The Earth King reclined in his throne and massaged his temple. A few early wrinkles had begun to mar his once-youthful exterior. The walls of the throne room shimmered around him in shades of jade and viridian, reflecting off his face in a way that only served to accentuate the effects of his passing years.
Roshan sighed. Was he simply overreacting? Perhaps he had misinterpreted his dream, and nothing was wrong after all...
Sensing the boy's lingering uncertainty, the Earth King attempted a reassuring smile and said, "My soldiers are some of the best in the world. So long as the Earth Kingdom stands, you don't have to worry about a thing, I assure you."
The guarantee did little to diminish the knot in Roshan's gut. He knew something was wrong, and what was more unnerving was the fact that the Earth King was so blissfully unaware of the imminent danger.
By this time the King had been holding the smile for much too long, and his ancient muscles began to give out. The smile distorted as his tired lips wavered under the weight of his years, and his cheeks began to sag. At last he relented, and his cheeks flapped ostentatiously as they fell back into place and his jawline relaxed.
Roshan thanked the Earth King for his time and bade him farewell, but as he turned to leave the old King beckoned him back for one final word.
"I shall send a messenger hawk to your home in Le Yon if I find any sign of trouble. That is still your place of residence, I take it?"
"Yes," replied Roshan. "And thank you."
As he bid a second farewell to the King, his thoughts drifted to his childhood; how he had spent all those years so blissfully unaware of his true identity. Back when home meant 'home,' and not 'the place where I'm currently staying.' Le Yon was a quaint little town, to be sure. Roshan liked that it was located in close proximity to Ba Sing Se while still maintaining the small-town atmosphere where everyone knew all their neighbors. But it wasn't home.
And again his thoughts drifted; to his old friends, the ability to go home at night and know he was surrounded by family. His real family, not Sifu Lei and his wife. As nice as they were, and Roshan was fond of them, they simply could not replace that hole that had been left in Roshan's heart when he had been forced to leave home and begin his Avatar training...
Lei tethered his ostrich horse to a rickety wooden fence and meandered slowly into town. As he passed a line of houses on his way to the village square, he was shocked to see the astounding living conditions of several villagers. To his left he saw a mother bathing her infant child in a barrel of disease-ridden muck. To his right, a pair of girls skipped rope with a tattered piece cloth that had no doubt once been used for bedding, though now it was obviously no longer in suitable condition to do so.
He reached the village center and scanned the marketplace. Large groups of townspeople were congregated around various vendors selling anything from food and clothing to the latest gimmicks and toys. In the center of one especially large group vying for fresh bags of feed, Lei spotted a plump woman with frizzy, golden hair tied behind her head. She recognized him at once.
"Oh, no," she said as he drew near. "Roshan, my boy, is he alright?"
"Yes, yes, Malia," Lei assured her, "Roshan is fine."
The woman breathed a sigh of relief. After taking a moment to regain her composure, she asked, "You are a great master, is there a reason you have journeyed to our small town? Why is Roshan not with you?"
"Roshan is currently in Ba Sing Se, discussing politics with the Earth King. He fears that something may be wrong."
The woman knew at once what Lei meant. "The dreams..."
"Yes," Lei affirmed. "But we don't know anything for sure yet, so don't panic. Roshan wanted to be sure that his family was safe, so I rode here straightaway."
Malia assured Lei that she had seen no sign of trouble and that, if anything, the commerce in the marketplace showed that times were more prosperous than ever.
"Okay," Lei relented. "But if you see any sign of trouble, I want you to run. Do you understand? We cannot risk anything." His face grew dark. "Not after last time..."
By this time the sun had begun to sink low in the sky, grazing the tips of distant mountaintops as if engaged in a delicate balancing act atop the frosted peaks. Malia advised he spend the night and set off again in the morning, and the Earthbending master obliged. The two made their way back across the town center, shoving their way through throngs of bustling shoppers all the while, and emerged in front of a rickety wooden cottage that Roshan had called home for sixteen years...
Roshan was so consumed in his thoughts as he exited the Earth King's throne room that he failed to notice a figure dressed all in black whiz past in his peripheral vision. The figure extended its left hand in a fist as it passed by him, and it made solid impact with Roshan's shoulder. Roshan was knocked to the floor as a simultaneous shriek rang out from elsewhere in the palace. Roshan got up shakily and turned to face his mysterious opponent, who simply stared back at him from across the room from beneath a black mask. No stance, nothing.
Roshan broke into a run straight toward his attacker, but the masked assailant simply stood in wait. Roshan summoned a spout of flame in his fist and brought it forward as he aimed a punch square at the figure's jaw.
"No," it said firmly in a deep and obviously male voice, before ducking out of the way with incredible speed. But Roshan was unfazed. He let out a guttural roar and summoned more fire within his clenched fists before moving in for another attack...
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