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Pyres and Storms
January 31, 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 5: Ambush
Dust flew into the stale air as the treads and wheels of dozens of vehicles drove through the loose sand. Kuir watched the ridiculous spectacle from a ledge overlooking the trail. The sabotage of a railway forced them to take this route, while it was shorter than the rail path itself, it required a lot more fuel to move the vehicles themselves than to just transport them.
Kuir was furious, he had managed to secure the majority of the routes between Republic City and Omashu, and yet the Spirits and other mercenaries took out the most important one, the railroad.
While the war had mostly narrowed down to Omashu and rebellions in Republic City, guerrilla warfare has dominated the mountain passes from the United Forces while mercenaries waited in the valleys.
Men were now suffering supply problems instead of outright battle. Kuir would have preferred the latter, it would be a test of strength, but starving to supplies, there was no honor in dying by that.
A Wary Hope
Tala sat at the long table eyeballing the captain across from him. Rishu had no idea what Liam did to so visibly upset her, but he guessed it would keep him from going after her, he hoped. Tala exhaled dramatically, as if to say, what are we doing here?
"Now, as we all know, setbacks have begun to plague the war effort. We have multiple splintered enemies; The United Forces, who have conducted a guerrilla campaign from the mountains; the defense of Omashu led by dissident Urri; the mercenaries hired by Urri to turn on us; and this witch that has chosen to come after Tala with a vengeance."
"While numbers and resources make for dangerous enemies, those don't limit or concern this witch. She'll kill as she pleases. We need to face her and deal with her if we are to win the war that she has intervened in."
"And how will we do that?"
Tala leaned against a pillar as she observed Liam spar with three other swordsman. Liam fought with his blade like an artist painted with a brush, fluid and carefully. Each strike was fast and strong, he dodged most of their attacks and in the end it was the attackers that were exhausted.
Tala smiled a little, impressed with the young captain. She then wiped the smirk from her face when she realized what she was doing. She didn't know why she was here. Rishu said they needed to train her in order to prepare for the witch, and yet here she was, no Rishu, only Liam.
She wouldn't be surprised if Rishu was helping Liam out by putting the two together as often as possible. She really didn't want to deal with this on top of everything.
It wasn't that she didn't like him, she just didn't want to have to face that while getting over Kulek, fighting a war, and facing an ancient witch that wanted to kill her. Couldn't Liam see that she was a bit preoccupied?
Rishu finally entered and announced that it was time for the others to leave. Liam stayed by the door as a guard to keep people out while Rishu spoke with Tala, "This witch is something you have never faced personally. Bending won't stop everything. You have to learn the old ways."
"You mean bending energy?"
"While that would help you, it is bending in and of itself and has the same issues. The witch is magical. That means dealing with magic."
She looked at him critically, "Magic?"
"There are old things in our world. Their powers are sometimes unexplainable, this is what we call magic. Few humans have learned it, fewer still mastered it."
"No, but I have learned enough to identify it and counteract some of the potent spells you may face."
Tala breathed in slowly, not knowing what this would entail, "Okay, lets begin."
Kuir sat on top of the tank as it rolled on through the night. There had been no attacks or acts of sabotage so far, but he was still wary. This route was an outer and less secure route but was one that was big enough to accommodate the tanks and supply transporters.
They kept going as the moon stood over them. Kuir knew the night was most dangerous, it was dark and his men were tired. Kuir stood up and looked ahead, they were reaching straights that would be a tight fit.
As they approached, Kuir monitored the area for any signs of something wrong. It was too dark to see. He did not notice the hidden devices along the edges of the strait. Kuir hoped he had been lucky through the pass when his stomach churned.
Off in the distance, he had seen a flash of light, a reflection of moonlight on metal. He focused in, and while the light there was gone, the shape remained, a mask. Black with white features and close-set eyes.
Kuir began to set the alarm when chaos took over. His tank went flying in the air, overturned, catapulting him off onto ground. He looked to see that many vehicles were damaged but still enough of them and the men were fine. He looked to see that it wasn't the only phase of the attack.
Rushing in from every side were masked warriors. The Spirits were closing in. Kuir responded immediately with multiple strikes of pillars and quicksand to catch and stop the attackers.
As he was fighting a set of jabs hit his back and shoulders. Kuir fell to his knees as someone landed from a flip over him. He could tell that the assassin was smirking. His jabs were fast and accurate, chi blocking. He had no bending.
Kuir decided to teach the masked assailant how naive he was. He shot his hand forward, grasping the throat of the Spirit, he proceeded to crush it while the assassin panicked. He tossed away the dead man looking to his next victims.
They looked at him hesitantly before drawing their weapons. Kuir grabbed his hat and swung it in a circle, catching a sword and pushing the user back, he put the large rimmed hat back on and pressed forward. Like a tank made of bone and muscle, he wreaked havoc on the smaller men and women. He had broken at least a dozen of them when a final one approached.
A wreckage of ruin behind them as Kuir's men and the Royal Guards fought off the marauders. Fire and smoke billowed in the air brightening the dark night. Kuir looked at his opponent, a fit woman, she wore the mask he had identified in the dark light.
She drew her hands out. Taunt across her back she held a long, thin chain. She looked at him, quiet and lethal. She didn't wait or make any gesture, she just struck. The chain whipped around and made for Kuir's throat.
Kuir caught the chain with his arm. It wrapped around, Kuir pulled the arm back while tugging like a rope with the other. She was pulled forward and close. Kuir wrapped his arms around her in order to crush her.
Somehow she got hold of one of her grenades, its deafening bang and blinding flash of light disoriented him. She got loose and backed up reclaiming her chain. She spun it around and whipped it forward again, but went after his ankle.
While still reeling from the grenade, she able to pull on his ankle force him to fall. She leapt forward pulling out a set of weapons. They were flail weapons, nunchakus. She spun them in each hand, readying strike hard.
Kuir swung out his legs and kicked, knocking down the smaller assassin. The Prince got up, with all his weight, he struck down, creating a fist sized crater where the attacker's head was. She had narrowly dodged this and the next hit and kicked up, slightly catching his chin.
Kuir backed up, she was good. The two closed in again, they blocked and traded hits but were unable to get past each other, for all his speed or all her agility. She decided to play dirty and kicked straight up between his legs.
Kuir grunted quietly and responded with his own strike, he grabbed her by the shoulder and head-butted her into the face, the rim of his large hat catching the bridge of the nose on the black and white mask.
As Kuir looked again he saw a crack appear in the mask. The Spirit stumbled slightly, visibly shaken from the strike. Kuir grabbed her by the throat and threw her into the wreckage of a turned over tank. As she tried to get up, he punched her mask, pushing her back down into a sitting position. He kept hitting the same spot over and over again, extending the crack further until it split the mask in an uneven manner.
The Spirit sat there weak and breathed faintly. Kuir looked back to his men, they had pushed back the Spirits, who fled, but the ambush was successful, fire and ruin was what his transports were. He looked back down to the beaten Spirit. She was the Night Spirit, her broken mask told that to anyone who called Ba Sing Se or the Southlands home. She was the head of southern activities for the mercenary company. She was important.
His men grabbed her by each arm and dragged her closer to the fires where she could be seen better. Kuir grabbed the mask shard that was broken and looked at it as the rest fell off without the key corner. He finally saw her face.
She had bright green eyes and dark brown hair. Her fair skin made her features stand out. "A shame for such a beautiful woman to have to be punished."
"What do you care, bender filth?"
Kuir knelt forward to look her in the eye, "A careless ruler is a doomed ruler. If I didn't care about my people, I might as well surrender the crown."
"Let me know when you do."
He chuckled at that, "Bind her and take her with us to Omashu, untouched."
Tala's dreams were mixed. At first it was about fighting Rishu, like the Agni Kai. But it then moved to another setting. She laid on a hammock across from Liam, he brushed her hair to the side as he looked into her emerald eyes. He said something funny, though she didn't remember what while laughing.
"What a handsome young man, is he your mate?"
Tala's vision faded to a black expanse. She looked around for the source of the voice, it seemed to evade her for some time. When she turned around, an old woman was directly in front of her. Tala backed up, the old woman continued, "An impressive man, he must please you."
"Its not exactly like that."
"Hmm." The old woman was replaced with a younger face. She was beautiful but pale, with white hair and cat eyes.
Tala decided to get answers, "Who are you and what do you want?"
"Call me Lenet. As for why I have come for you, call it justice long overdue."
"Perhaps you should consult your past lives, they'll know what they did."
"There has to be a solution to this."
"There is," the witch stepped forward and she walked, the shadows rippled with her steps, "your death."The woman leapt forward and tackled Tala. She tried to pin her to the ground as her nails dug into the Avatar's skin. Tala angled around and was able to push her away. Tala punched for the frail-looking woman but hit empty air.
A snarling face came after him from behind. Tala elbowed her. "Enough! You can't kill me."
"Oh, but you are wrong, I have already infected you," she looked to the cuts she inflicted on Tala's wrists, "when it bleeds black, you will die."
"Rishu has taught me a good deal about sleep spells," the witch's eyes widened in fury. Tala told herself, "Wake up, wake up, wake up!"
Lenet came again and the two grappled. The witch was incredibly fast, Tala remembered what Rishu said, visualize your environment.
She gripped at nothing and yet found something like a rock. She struck Lenet in the temple, she kept striking at the witch before trying to strangle the old-yet-young crone. She threw the Avatar back, "That man may have saved you with little knowledge, but he knows only what a student learns, and not what a master teaches. I'll come again."
The witch faded into the fathomless environment that was Tala's dream, and soon she left too, too distressed to sleep.
Tala sat up sweating and breathing irregularly. She grasped at her heart, beating wildly. She tried to calm down, breathing slowly.
She called to a Dai Li agent to summon Rishu. Rishu arrived an hour later, "What happened?"
"She came, like you said she would."
Tala explained the event though, she refrained from mentioning the dream before the witch's intrusion. Rishu thought on it for a second, "This Lenet," he said the new name, "struck sooner than even I expected. She is not patient, she will continue until either you or her are dead."
"So how am I going to fight her?"
"By doing everything necessary. You will need to train."
"I've already mastered three elements and I am getting close in waterbending-"
"No, I mean truly mastering the elements. I will teach you firebending like you should have learned it years ago."
- Kuir finds the Night Spirit attractive.
- Rishu taught Tala magic.
- Tala will now join her former enemy in war.
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|