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Pyres and Storms
January 28, 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 4: The Spirits
Urri looked out across the gorge that was all that protected his city from the invaders. His bloody counterattack runs were effective, having bled the enemy dry and preventing them from having the resources to cross, even if they made it to the gorge itself.
The problem now was supplies inside. Most of their tunnels and the network were in New Omashu, and all almost all of ther tunnels from Old Omashu were built after the great one was destroyed by Tala, no doubt she was plotting with them since then. She knew of all the old tunnels, forcing them to spend time to close and reroute them.
Blast that traitor!
And since his new partner had failed to hold up her end of the bargain, justice was still absent. An upside was that Tala was weak and had to be removed from the siege to a secure hospital. It boosted the morale of his men and gave them the will to press forward and fight harder.
Now Rishu was returning. The murderer coming back to the scene of the crime. His musing was interrupted by a whistle of air into his chambers. He looked to find this new ally, how she snuck in was beyond him.
"It has begun. The Avatar will fall to justice in time, but she is protected by Rishu."
"You promised his death."
"Rishu has uncanny knowledge and defenses. He cannot be allowed to teach them to the Avatar. I understand that you have made new contracts with some deadly assassins?"
Urri smirked. The treacherous mercenaries he had recently acquired had turned on a dime for more money and dealt grievous damage to the supply routes from Republic City to the siege of Omashu. "Some of the deadliest in the world."
"They may not work against the Avatar, but Rishu is just a man, and men can be killed by other men."
Rishu sat at his desk writing and reading. He forgotten how much he had Liam do now that the lover boy was taking every shot he could to get to Tala. Rishu hoped she let him down easy, Liam was one of his best soldiers and his right-hand man. Rishu was now doing paperwork at the crack of dawn while everyone else was still asleep.
Rishu finished signing the document, another logistics paper. He was going to go insane if he had to deal with anymore of these supply problems. The betrayal of the mercenaries would not have been such a problem if they hadn't adopted guerrilla warfare as a way to combat the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom.
It was frustrating that so much of his plan had succeeded and yet so little was holding out and stopping him from fulfilling his destiny. His master would have something wise and cryptic to say about this predicament. Best if he didn't bring it up, when he spoke with him again.
He stood up and walked over to the display of his Katana. Few knew he was a master before this war. He had studied under Liam's father in swordsmanship upon his return to the Homeland. Liam and Arkoda were of the few who could best him in a duel.
He did not respond when he heard the light rustling of the tent. Out of sight of whoever had snuck in, he grabbed the handle of the katana and waited. The step landed and sounded like an avalanche to him.
Without hesitation he drew the blade and swung out around so that he was now facing his assassin. Blood sprayed as his strike landed perfectly, nearly bisecting his attacker. The assassin fell lifeless to the floor as Rishu struck the second who was beside him now. Unprepared, he fell too. He figured at least one more was at the entrance and fired a jab of fire at them when a sharp pain in his hand halted him. He noticed the dart and immediately pulled it out; but its work was done.
He meant to send another fire jab when nothing came. A toxin that stops bending, he already knew who before he registered the faces of the masked Spirits. The infamous assassins had decided to target him directly, their mistake.
The last three rolled into the tent, confident that their opponent would be too shocked to fight. The first moved in with his Sai daggers. Rishu swung down and then curved back up, catching the dagger in the swift motion and disarming the alarmed assassin. He didn't wait for him to flee or surrender, he cut him down before he became a distraction. The second attacker came almost from behind, using his partner's death to circle.
He used a pair of Kali sticks to bat at Rishu while the last assassin came in with Dao broadswords. As Rishu backed up, they both struck at the same time. He noted their masks, these two were the better of the group. A green and brown mask, likely a forest spirit, wielded the Kali sticks while the broadswords' bearer wore a mask of some kind of Bat.
Rishu parried with his single katana. The Forrest Spirit came in close, Rishu used his freehand to back hand him. The Spirit rolled with the attack and got back up while the Bat Spirit kept pressing him with his dual swords.
Rishu was a better swordsman, but he was persistent. Such risks were either a sign of skill and confidence, or ignorance and pomp.
Rishu cut sideways, catching one of the blades while he ducked under the other. Following through, he wrapped his arm around, grappling with the assassin. He smashed his head forward, right into the face of the attacker's mask. Had anyone done it, it would have hurt badly, but proper training could teach a man how to use his forehead as a striking weapon up close.
The dizzy assailant gave him time to respond to the next attacker. He needed to end this, if he let up him up close, the Kali sticks were better weapons than his Katana. He struck down in a crushing blow too fast to dodge.
The Forest Spirit brought his Kali Sticks up to block but they fell down to raw strength as the Katana kept cutting down and breaking his mask in half with a clean cut. He grabbed his face in pain as a thin but sharp cut defined his bleeding forehead. Rishu finished him off with a decapitating swing that also blocked the incoming attack from the Bat Spirit.
Rishu angled his hilt up to catch a second strike from his other sword. While it was predictable for Spirits to wield dual weapons, it worked when masters used it. Rishu had little time to counterattack when he had to block the next hit. But he knew the weakness of dual wielding, it was the strength of a single blade, strength. Rishu kicked forward with a great strength, an unexpected move given their top body exercise.
Rishu struck hard, as a deafening ring of steel rang through the air. He heard commotion from men waking. Rishu struck again, and again. The strikes were fast and strong, pushing back the final assassin. His two arm strikes were tiring the assailant, a single handed block wasn't strong, it made for tiring work.
He saw that the assassin was getting exhausted, now was the time to keep going, finish him off. He sent another violent strike, it would finish him if he hit. But the Bat Spirit had a little more left in him. He turned his blades around, making the barbed rings face Rishu. The Katana landed, he then turned the blades opposite each other, locking the inter-joined rings and catching the Katana and virtually disarming Rishu.
Rather than wait to be caught off guard, Rishu stepped in and struck with his left hand, grabbing the Spirit's throat and grabbing the back with his right hand. The assassin seized for a moment, as if crippled by pain. Rishu lifted him up into the air, continuing to hit his kidney over and over. If the pain didn't kill him, the damage to the organ might in the long run as the Black Dragon hit the spot over and over with ferocious strength.
The assassin struggled to breath. Rishu tossed him out of the tent. The assassin was enduring, he rolled slowly and unsteadily got up from series of hits that would have crippled someone else.
The soldiers that were near had been awakened by the commotion by now and assembled, they circled the slumping assassin. He looked around warily trying to keep with blades up.
Rishu stepped out confidently, "You would need an army to kill me, or someone beyond your power. Tell me you thought it was a good idea to target me directly."
The Bat Spirit looked at him silently. Rishu smirked, "Very well, lets go with your name, you do have one don't you?"
"I am the Bat Spirit."
The men tensed and readied to strike, he looked around. Rishu chuckled, "You may want to give a better answer than that."
"Baru Wa-Yin," there was condescension in his voice.
Rishu stared him down, insulting him was not going to save him, "Kill him," perhaps that would jolt him.
The men slowly inched forward, getting ready to strike. Rishu had miscalculated, smoke and lights blinded the men as two hand-sized capsules hit the ground. The Bat Spirit disappeared from the crowd, Rishu noticed a shadow turn around a corner and pursued. He soon caught up to the sprinting Spirit, he was making his way through groggy and waking men. He moved like a monkey as he weaved through the men effortlessly despite his injuries.
Rishu was now being slowed down by the large group of men. He finally made it through and found that his opponent was standing at the ledge of the canyon moat that separated Old Omashu and New Omashu, resistance and conquest.
The Spirit had his swords turned upside down in his hand. He drew them in to his ribs. He jumped off the ledge before Rishu could get him. Rishu looked at what was suicide, he had no parachute and with his arms tucked in, he was going faster. When he extended his arms again, he had wings between his arms and swords.
Now that was a new trick. The man glided, on his stealthy wing-suit, heading down to the bottom of the gorge.
Rishu acted fast, he didn't want the Madman of Omashu to have a new toy. He fired a jab of a small but powerful flame. It tore through the right wing, destroying it and losing all the lift it had before. The Bat Spirit descended faster as he lost control. He put all his effort to going to the great pillar of a mountain that was the foundation of Omashu. As he was inches away, he dug in his swords, halting his descent.
Rishu would have congratulated the ingenuity and creativity of this spirit. But he had a reputation to hold and a war to win. He cleared himself of emotions and shot out to the defenseless man. A streak of white lightning charged the air as it fried the man. All that was left was two smoking swords dug into stone.
Rishu had not time to ponder. A bedlam of light, fire, and sound barraged him as artillery fired from the Old City. Rishu formed a dome of flame around himself. While he was untouched, he didn't stay put. Rishu fled the ledge as his army and the Ba Singe Se Regulars responded with their own firepower.
The artillery war ended soon enough when they realized they couldn't kill Rishu. Rishu went back to his tent where four bodies were still present. Rishu looked at the masks of his fallen foes. One was a women, the business of assassination did not discriminate on gender.
General Siil came, "What happened? All I saw was the resistance open fire on a quadrant of the ledge."
"The Spirits have taken a personal interest in killing me. The last one fled to the lines where I was spotted."
"Did he escape?"
"No. But his defiance told me more than he realized."
Tala sat in the car opposite Liam. He had topped his 'training' her with this, a luxurious car that sped them through the secured routes back to Omashu. Wine and roses were waiting for her when he held the door for her to enter.
Gentlemen he was, he said nothing to press after the impression was made. It had taken her by surprise that he would continue even though she had shown no interest. But had she? She blushed involuntarily from time to time around him. She had agreed to train with him and now she was in a luxurious car alone with him.
She felt that Liam was about to say something when the car stopped, they had finally reached their destination. Rishu was waiting inside for them. He was no longer in the tent that he had occupied for most of the war. He was in a fortified building with a bunker and underground parking for the vehicles.
Rishu was writing when they entered the office. For some reason, it looked strange for Rishu to sit a desk in an office. She had seen him behind his own in his command tent, but that was war, necessity. This seemed so normal, like it was everyday. It conflicted with her view of the merciless warrior she grudgingly admired.
Rishu smiled at their arrival, "Its good to see that you are well, both of you. I'm afraid I do not know the extent of the Spirits' targets as of yet."
"Do we have any leads?" Liam cut to the point, "Are they planning to attack you again or the Avatar next?"
"I cannot answer that."
Tala inquired, "What happened?"
Rishu recounted the tale of the events to them. He ended it and then went back to when he briefly questioned the last assassin. Tala asked confused, "What does his name matter?"
"Because its not his name. Baru Wa-Yin was a vigilante of Republic City known to stalk the dark streets in the time before Avatar Korra, quite a hero of hers too. It says something of what he was thinking about. He was talking about home. And that is what matters."
"I'm still confused."
"The Spirits came from the Equalist followers of Amon. They fled to Ba Sing Se in disgrace. They started anew and were reborn," He lifted the mask of one of the assailants to emphasize his point, "into the masked killers we know now. Ba Sing Se was their playground, home and lair. But this Bat Spirit gave away a secret he didn't live long enough to regret; the Spirits have returned to Republic City and are rebuilding. They would only do that if they had the strength to and the knowledge that they held Ba Sing Se securely."
"Meaning the Earth Kingdom capital is in greater danger than we thought."
"We assumed there was no danger. We were wrong."
Tala looked out into the great mountains of steel and glass that made New Omashu. So much havoc, it made her sick to her stomach. At least she had recovered from the attack and the poison, she still had slight bruising around her neck where some fabric was apparently used to strangle her.
Footsteps approached, she looked to see Liam, "Are you alright, Avatar Tala?"
"I'm fine, Captain Liam."
"We now know the Spirits are set against us, the advantage of surprise is gone."
"That will hardly stop them from killing," she sounded annoyed.
Liam reassured her, "Avatar, they will not touch you so long as I have breath."
Tala heard enough, she burst, "You think I'm worried about myself!? I am no stranger to death, not anymore. I'm wondering now whether I've lied or killed more. Whether I've committed more little sins than grave ones. This war has hardly touched me, but it has scarred plenty around me. And you have the gall to think its about me!?"
Tala continued her tirade, "And I am sick and tired of your macho attitude. I can take care of myself. You know I survived fights with men greater than you. Kuir, and your master Rishu. Promising to protect me isn't impressive. You're gonna have to do better than that-"
Her yelling was interrupted as Liam planted a deep passionate kiss on her lips as he embraced her. Before she realized what she was doing, she responded likewise, but took control of herself again and pushed him back. He didn't stop her, not even when she smacked him clear across the face.
Her emerald eyes glowed venomously as she stomped off, seething in silent fury. Liam smiled at his little sin.
- The beginning of Spirits occurs at the same time as the Threats Section of the previous chapter.
- The Spirit leading the attack is inspired by the illustrator's main character in his own fanon, Wolf-Batman, in The Dark Knight of Republic City. In fact the Bat Spirit uses his name as an alias.
- Tala has a thing about hitting people that kiss her; Kulek, Liam, who next?
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|