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|Battle of Munn|
June 18, 2014
"It's quite cloudy today, isn't it?" Prince Lu Ten eyed the sky line from the top of his ostrich horse and covered his forehead with his cupped hand, as though this would improve his view or block out the faint rays of nonexistent sunlight.
"Aye," concurred the mounted figure on the opposite side of Lu Ten's father. "It looks like they're in our favor today." As he was more at home on the sea, Han Shui shifted to find an ideal position on the animal, not used to the saddle.
"Indeed," General Iroh told them both from the forefront, his bulky legs dangling from either side of his own ostrich horse. Having anchored ashore mere minutes before, the Dragon of the West led a massive invasion force onto the lands of Earth Kingdom soil. They were still many miles north of Ba Sing Se. "The city of Munn lays before us, and farther south is our target."
"They seem to have reinforcements that just arrived," Lizen, general Iroh's dark-bearded cousin, noted from behind. "You don't suppose they were expecting us."
"No," said Iroh. "Well, not for long, at least. Their extra defensive lines seem clunky and easy-to-break. Everyone, organize the troops into formation as the rest of our boats come ashore. Lu Ten and I will scout ahead."
The Grand Sima, Princess Jaya and the ex-leader of the Southern Raiders turned back around and returned to where the rest of the troops were still coming ashore. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince and his son urged their respective ostrich horses on, who charged ahead to the open hilltop that looked over the Earth Kingdom stronghold below.
"You know, Father, they may be wondering why you and I are scouting ahead ourselves when there are plenty of soldiers under your command to perform this task," Lu Ten noted.
"Lizen and Han Shui have both been away from the battlefield for a long time," Iroh responded. "There are some things they don't understand. Look at the city below, my boy. Munn, the largest bastion of the Earth Kingdom in these parts, and the biggest obstacle between here and the capital. It's wide open around the edges and while there is an inner wall around the center section, it's not nearly as strong or well-looked-after as the legendary walls of Ba Sing Se."
"The city's still very large," Lu Ten noted. "Taking it will be a good start to this venture."
"And it's only just beginning," remarked Iroh. "It'll be a while before we return to our country. Say, Lu Ten, have you met any women lately?"
The son of the Crown Prince froze his expression at the question he did not expect. "Well, I did meet...someone...back in Gangkouz before we left, but I don't know where she went after that. Why do you ask?"
"Just wondering," the older general said simply.
"It was yours and Mom's anniversary not too long ago, wasn't it?"
"Yes," nodded Iroh, still looking at the city that loomed below. "It's nearly fourteen years since she was killed by a rogue earthbender during our tour of the colonies. Today, we'll take an essential step toward bringing order in this region."
"I'm ready to do whatever duty called upon me, from here to Ba Sing Se, to the lakes farther south and beyond."
"I'm proud of you, my boy," said Iroh. "You're just like I was at your age, going into battle, keeping your spirit. I know that your mother is proud of you, too, from the Spirit World."
The inside of the keep at the center of Munn was the main point of strategic value in the Earth Kingdom province. From there, noble, well-trained earthbenders from the highest-ranking family births of the kingdom could stand on the edges and shower rocks onto the invaders. Their main weakness was the limited range of their attacks from a standstill and also the lack of proper defenses outside this area. As only earthbenders were able to be accommodated, many of those in this well-positioned, relatively safe perimeter had close relatives who were still down below. The non-bending elites of the city found themselves with the peasants and anyone else of lower rank than they. Naturally, many of them had been outraged by this revelation, but were powerless to defy the decree of their absolute monarchical ruler, King Aisin.
In addition to being reserved for noble earthbenders, the keep was also off-limits for the battle to anyone who did not come from Munn. For this reason, the Earth Kingdom beyond their borders had been reluctant about sending aid to them, though they could not ignore the Kingdom of Munn's strategic advantage entirely. And so they sent one small battalion to assist in the defense against the Fire Nation.
The grizzled war veteran who had been selected to command this regiment was soon to look for the Munn resident leading the efforts outside the wall. "Greetings, Sir," the chin-strapped Brawki said to the one he addressed, his turquoise armor contrasting with the midnight black armor of the nobleman. "Since you're down here, I assume you're not an earthbender?"
"You assume correctly," the gray-haired Roshune confirmed. "There are many earthbenders among us out here, all of lower rank. We are grateful for your standing with us today. You may call me Roshune."
"You may call me Brawki. I trust we won't be able to meet with anyone up above, now that they've sealed themselves in. We have many earthbenders with us today, which should supplement your forces."
"Good," said Roshune, a man who knew when to pick the battles of higher priority. "I'm in charge of the battle effort down here, and that should be most helpful to our strategy."
"My troops will only be taking orders from me," Brawki said firmly.
"I see," said Roshune. "I hope you know what you're doing."
"You should find me well-qualified," stated Brawki, interpreting the local's aloof statement as a sneer. "I don't know if you've heard much of the exploits of the elite Terra Team, but I trained a number of them as personal students of mine."
"I've heard a couple things about them."
"You may not know all their members by name, then," Brawki shrugged. "But some in other parts of the Earth Kingdom can. If it rings a bell, I trained Tooru, and Zan Xun a little when he was just starting out, and, of course, Ratana of Gaipan."
"Ratana?" Roshune was subsequently caught off guard by a flying, rounded boulder that soared through the air to where he stood. This, however, did not come from inside the keep, and it was not one from his countrymen. Rather, the rock was coming from the outside and was coated in oil and a blazing cover of flame. At last, the battle was upon them and the Fire Nation had commenced their bombardment. The already ill-equipped Munn forces outside the keep scrammed the sides of the fiery boulders shadow as fast as their legs would carry them. Some were lucky, but others were crushed by the wedge that separated the Munn forces and those who came to aid them.
Just like Brawki, the more-experienced soldiers from the Fire Nation army had been through many hard battles on difficult days during their time. However, this was not one of them. The ranchers and farm hands that stood in front of them quickly gave way and began retreating. Some of the firebenders and Fire Nation warriors were disappointed to face little more than civilians whom had been handed weapons at first, but they knew that the more formidable forces lay further in. Nevertheless, those who sought to protect Munn were far outnumbered by the would-be conquerors.
Two of the Fire Nation's own noble benders leapt over a trench when the last line of the outskirts broke and they dashed into the deeper streets of the city. "This is kind of fun, isn't it?" asked a young woman with long, brown hair and a traditional set of Fire Nation armor.
"Don't you always know how to make light of things, Jaya," the woman's top-knotted cousin garbed in similar stream-lined armor smirked as he jabbed an arm forward and sent a precise line of fire from his fist, scorching one of the men who opposed him. "Looks like you've really been practicing your firebending since we last met."
"So have you," Jaya smiled back at Lu Ten as she thrust both arms up and erected a wall of fire which consumed the straw roof of the barracks next to it.
What the forces of Munn were going through could not be described as losing a battle. That would have given them too much credit. This was a butchery, and everyone knew it. The reinforcements had withdrawn, at least what was left of them had. Although ordered to protect Munn, they knew a lost cause when they saw one. Of those who got away, nearly none of them were unscathed, and had suffered serious injury at the hands of the Fire Nation army that would soon be attacking their capital. Their retreat was disorganized and hasty, as their commander Brawki was now battered, unconscious, and being carried by two of his stronger troops. The earthbenders in the keep had ceased being able to effectively fire rocks, with the damage the Fire Nation's own had done. Meanwhile, the lower classes and the noble non-benders had lost their morale. There was little motivation for them to defend their inner keep, especially with the resentment of how little their rulers appeared to value them. In fact, it was tempting for them to just let the Fire Nation forces through without a fight. Either way, the keep would soon be breached and the invaders would occupy the palace and the King's tower in the center.
In the midst of such a battle, though, there were still those too stubborn to accept the direction of the day. With the soldiers around him falling one at a time, the lord Roshune weaved in and out of the grasp of the attackers, striking down as many as humanly possible for him with his sword. Maintaining the energy of a much younger man, his older appearance actually proved an asset to him today, since it caused those he fought to underestimate him, thereby making a fatal decision for themselves.
This did not last long, for someone soon took notice of the struggle. "Well, well, I guess there's someone on this battlefield who can still put up a fight to us after all," a warrior of the Fire Nation called from atop his ostrich horse, surrounded by other comrades.
Having sustained many wounds, Roshune could barely stand after the last couple foes proved a greater challenge than those who came before him. "I have committed my life to this city, and I will stand by it until my last breath."
"Yes, I think you will," Lizen smirked, amused. "Who are you?"
"My name is Roshune. I am a Dorunian Warrior and scion of the legendary order."
"The Dorunians?" Lizen said, believing he couldn't possibly have heard right. "I've heard of them, but I thought they died out long ago. Surely you jest."
"I do not," Roshune held up his sword. "I am the last of them."
"And I'm a Sun Warrior." With that, Lizen charged and sliced his own longsword, catching Roshune off guard and slicing his shoulder. Then, he dismounted and approached the man from behind.
Falling to his knees and dropping his weapon, Roshune took one last look at the battle around him. Regardless of the sacrifices he had made, Roshune would have been satisfied if they resulted in a greater good. As he heard a faint sound of a woman screaming somewhere in the more and more distant background, Roshune reflected on his life, and what he gave a lifetime of service for. Valuing order, and offering his devotion, this was where all the fruits of his labor led, and how it all ended for him. The last thing he felt - only for an instant - was the side of Lizen's blade on his back. By the time he lay in his own crimson pool on the ground seconds later, he had long lost consciousness.
They say that history is the story we write with our lives, but it's more subterranean than that. In reality, each of us has our own story that all come together to form a larger picture. History thus becomes a rope with intertwining threads. And while we all have our own story, those stories and the lessons behind them become more obscure when we lose them. Like today, that was true on all days, but ultimately, nothing lasts forever.
The story of Roshune was over.
- Ostrich horses are more commonly found in the ranks of the Earth Kingdom than the Fire Nation, though they can sometimes be found in the latter. Although native to the Earth Kingdom, many of the lands traditionally possessed by them are under the rule of the Fire Nation.
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