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Sand and Steel
Sept. 26, 2012
Centuries ago, the world changed with the Hundred Year War. The Air Nomads were wiped out, leaving only the Avatar, Aang. The Fire Nation brought war for a hundred years until Aang defeated the Fire Lord. He and the new Fire Lord helped create a new nation centered around Republic City, a metropolis of both technology and culture. Aang and his successor, Korra kept balance in the world while also aiding the new Republic City. Peace has come to the world again. But peace is an illusion the new Avatar cannot afford. With Korra's inevitable passing, the new Avatar has cycled into the Earth Kingdom born into a girl named Tala.
Chapter 7: Resistance
A row of trucks sped across the two lane road. All of them laden with supplies, ten in all. Soldiers sitting on top of the caravans with four cars, two in front and two from behind. The Earth Kingdom symbol across every vehicle and crate. The man narrowed his eyes as he focused on the lead car. An officer sat comfortably in the rear seat.
He raised his hand and gave the signal. Soon, other men in blue and white like him snuck through the outcroppings of rock towards their target. All had symbols of the white lotus in design. His men upfront moved first and with firm footing and rigid strikes they bended the road to their will.
A wall formed around in front of the convoy, the alert guards quickly dissolved it but they were met with attacks from the sides by firebenders, earthbenders, and waterbenders.
As, he watched the battle ensue, he stood up, and with two pointed fingers released lightning onto one of the defending trucks. It was both disabling and explosive, destroying the engine and shocking the occupants into unconsciousness.
The fight ended quickly after that with most beaten into submission or dead. He walked to the convoy, a soldier saluted, "Sir."
"Get the trucks that work and take everything, we'll need it."
He had to give it to Suun, the guerrilla strikes to take supplies from the enemy were working. It gave men combat experience in a situation they could pull back from and brought more supplies and equipment that Omashu desperately needed.
A soldier came forward, "Sir, this is for you from HQ."
He took the letter and dismissed the soldier to continue on. He read through the letter, "Kuel, all successful but How suspect the leak, rendezvous instead at red peak. -GS"
Kuel crushed the paper in his hand and burned it. The message was not good. Suun was warning him that while all strikes won, but the Ba Sing Se Regulars were getting close to his parties' getaway tunnel, he needed to double the distance to make it to a safer tunnel. He did not have enough fuel or vehicles for a trip to red peak. He looked to his men, "Load up the vehicles, anything that doesn't fit. Burn it."
The men nodded, and having already finished loading proceeded to destroy the remaining supplies. Everyone got on the captured convoy and left, hoping they didn't run into an airship on the way.
Tala watched as the White Lotus raiding party returned, successful in taking supplies. Suun was waiting with her. He looked at Grand Lotus Kuel as he approached, "Well?" He indicated the crates with a nod.
"Mostly food and medical supplies. But we did find this."
In one of the trucks, was a large cannon by the look of it with a long barrel. The base of it was dominated by four feet with locking devices spreading out in the shape of an x. "An artillery cannon, and a good one. If one is here, many are. They don't send these in ones and twos. They must be sending one in each convoy to avoid losing all of them."
Suun sighed, "Then we'll just have to take as many as we can so that we can use them. We'll put this one up in the middle set, almost has a range like our own permanent emplacements."
Tala continued walking with Suun and Kuel as they discussed the success of the raids, she had only been on one so far and they were doing their best to keep her from going, citing her airbending training. She was tired of it and was determined to contribute to the war effort in her way.
They met with the war council today, which now happened everyday due to developments and the need to truly coordinate. Suun and Kuel were reporting the overall success of the raids. They had stored several weeks of supplies and medicine and now captured weapons, the most prominent being the artillery emplacement.
King Urri was pleased with the success of the raids, "We should send larger parties out, so that we can take more and overwhelm larger more critical targets."
Hava chimed in, "If the raiding parties are too large, they will lose the element of surprise."
"Even if we did, they will be big enough to fight off anything that comes their way."
The council seemed to agree and the consensus was to increase the raiding and the size of them. She used this moment to make her move, "If we are expanding our operations, the Avatar should be involved to help and gain combat experience."
Silence momentarily struck the room until Kuel spoke up, "Its too dangerous, you need to stay here where its safe and you finish learning the elements."
Others joined in trying to dissuade her from fighting. "You can't hide the Avatar in this city and think things will change. The Avatar needs to fight or else the enemy will think I am here a prisoner against my will and won't fight them if they storm the city."
"And they'll break when you fight."
"And what about me? Will I break when it comes to battle? I need experience in both battle and leadership."
Kuel looked to Hava, "Hava, talk some sense into her."
Hava contemplated for a moment while everyone waited for his answer, "I think it would be beneficial for the Avatar to train and learn in a true environment of combat where the stakes are much higher. It would also give her an incentive to progress in airbending in that kind of situation."
The council looked dumbfounded, and King Urri relented even when the others griped. Tala would be a part of one of the raiding parties.
Out on the Field
Tala tightened her arm-guards. An Earth-Kingdom Symbol with Omashu's symbol in the middle had been etched in, and then painted over near her elbow on both of her guards. She finished arming by putting on her gauntlets. She still felt jittery every time she went raiding even after seven forays. She had encountered much more experienced soldier than her. Some were masters of Beifong Style Earthbending who she beat only by virtue of her power. Hava assured her there were few people in the world who were more powerful than the Avatar, Tala thought he was one of them.
Hava called out, "Alright, everyone ready! We're going down."
Hava and Clan Rohan had agreed to fight in the raids on the condition they targeted food and medicine to help the besieged city. This foray was composed of about seven airbenders including Hava, ten firebenders, four waterbenders, and twenty earthbenders, and Tala; a total of 42 raiders. All of them filed into the tunnel as a crew of ten earthbenders watched them leave.
A small tram carried them down most of the distance on the tunnel but a mile had to be walked. After reaching it, they starting exiting a cave that entered a canyon. The canyon provided perfect cover from sighting, an airship would have to be directly over to see in there.
It was noon, meaning they were a little behind and would have to move quick to find a good ambush spot. They hurried out with the last man a hundred feet from the opening of the cave when everything went wrong.
Boulders fell from multiple places, clearly targeting the raiders. Soon fifty earthbenders leaped down surrounding the party, and at least as many still at the top of the canyon. It was an ambush.
There was no standoff, battle broke out. Two boulders heade for Tala and Hava. Tala angled them so they flew by while Hava kick-sweeped a response that blasted the two earthbenders into the canyon wall. The two's cooperative fighting ended soon when a pillar jutted out and shot Hava forward into the air far from Tala.
It wasn't long before she was addressed by a much more dangerous opponent. "Well, well. I am certainly lucky today, aren't I?"
It wasn't his voice or even his face, which was masked that revealed who he was, but his massive size. Tala only met one man that size in Republic City at the gala for Rishu. "Kuir."
"Prince Kuir, Avatar Tala." Kuir looked even bigger now, in a lean set of armor that protected critical spots, a traditional metal war hat of Earth Kingdom Army and steel gauntlets that wielded blades spikes on the bottom. "We wouldn't want you to forget your manners even if in a bed of snakes and traitors."
"That your justification for the siege of Omashu? Then what about Republic City?"
"Those lands were taken from us, those conquests are rightfully ours!" Kuir sent a slide of boulders at Tala. She leapt into the air and fired an air sphere as a counterattack.
Kuir rushed forward dodging the attack and moving to where Tala landed. He sent a sharp rock at her with a jab and a second with another.
Tala easily dodged the strikes and responded with her own blast of fire. Kuir tilted his head down and let the flame dissipate against his hat. He looked up and remarked, "You're gonna have to do better than that. I fought the Black Dragon, anything you do is palsy in comparison."
Tala narrowed her eyes, the Black Dragon again. She knew in her heart it was Rishu but could not confirm it, therefore could not convince the others. If Kuir knew, she could get it out of him.
She slid forward using earthbending so she could keep her stance. She sent a pillar at him, but he stopped it in place. He remarked on her bending, "And I thought that style was dead, you have your secrets, don't you little Avatar?"
Tala understood the message and retaliated with a vicious air slice. Kuir easily brought a wall up, but a huge gouge from Tala's attack nearly cut it in half. She rushed forward, breaking through the wall at readying her hands for Kuir's throat. However, Kuir was waiting for her; grabbed her outstretched arms and spun around. He released her so that she went careening into the canyon wall opposite the cave opening about four hundred feat away.
Rather than crash into the wall, Tala latched on, using earthbending to walk and climbed the wall. Kuir used an earth pillar to catapult himself to the wall and did like wise, though he stood up sideways from the floor below, while Tala used all fours to maintain her hold.
Kuir ran forward forward while Tala sent a flaming kick his way. Kuir jumped away and landed on all fours to climb like she was and continued his pursuit. Tala sent many things at him from all the elements she had trained in, but couldn't deter him. She was on the run and he was clearly better earthbended climbing than she thought. She rolled into the wall to form an earth shell of armor, she turned to see where he was only for him to emerge from the wall in front of her. He swung sideways to where her head was. Tala released the earth armor and used airbending to go over him.
Kuir still climbed after her as she used an air scooter to avoid him. But in his intense chase, he focused only on her, she used that to jut out a rock at him, shooting him away from the wall. And back to the canyon floor.
Kuir, unable to land on his feet rolled and flipped back into a fighter's stance. But Tala was already attacking. She sent a blast of fire, but beneath and behind it was a palm-sphere of air. Kuir thrust his left arm forward in a palm-strike motion; summoning an outcropping of rock to halt her attack. The fire blast and palm sphere collided as they contacted the rock, creating an explosion of fire, air and debris.
The blast had even dissipated when Tala leapt through to attack Kuir while he was standing. But Kuir was ready with a right hand that jabbed up, hitting her square in the jaw. The hit made her flip backwards while still moving forward. She landed on her back dazed.
Her sight began blurring as she saw images fade in and out. One moment, the wall was on her left and the sky above her, the next Kuir was looking down on her and reached for her with his right arm. She faded again, she was now being dragged by Kuir down the canyon walk. He moved calmly as he dragged her on the floor, holding her by her right arm. A few tried to send attacks his way, but he quickly defused them with walls or returns of boulders. She could hear someone yelling her name but couldn't turn her head to see who.
The next image she saw a small explosion of smoke between her and Kuir in what should have been a burning hit, but she was numb to it. But she soon began to feel distant explosions elsewhere on the canyon floor, slight but present. She blacked out again, and came to see Kuir ahead fighting off a barrage of attacks. Some bombs, some fire, earth, air, and even water. He used his hat and gauntlets to take any hits that passed his walls, but even then he was still getting hit.
She was starting to hear again, first hearing Kuir grunt and yell in frustration but she couldn't make out the words. She saw him throw a rock forward and heard the sickening crunch of it hitting its target. She faded again, and when back, Kuir was gone. This time she black-out for good.
Tala finally came to in a more upright position. The blurring in front of her faded away into a face. It was strong and rough, with blue eyes. His skin was darker than most. His blue armor and his wolf-helm easily identified him as Water-Tribe. "What happened?"
"You were ambushed, and 'you' got clocked by the fist of a man with over two hundred pounds of muscle on you." He ran his finger across the underside of her jaw to indicate where she was hit. A large bruise covered it. "It may be shattered, we'll have to let a healer look at it."
Things were clearing up finally. "I mean, who are you and where did you come from." She could see Hava and some others beyond the man in front of her.
"Forgive my manners, Avatar. I am Chief Arkoda of the Southern Water Tribe. I and my warriors came north for Republic City. However, we were forced to shore by the Fire Navy, we went through the Southlands for here when we heard about the city's fall."
"We believe in supporting our allies. And we have some knowledge that will prove helpful."
Learning the Secret
The group reached the end of the tunnel where the crew waited for them. They saw the injure, the larger numbers than usual and the dead they carried, "Sir, what happened?"
"We were ambushed, would have been all killed and captured, including the Avatar if not for the Southern Water Tribe."
The group had lost ten in all, including the losses of the Southern Water Tribe, considering the ambush, they were lucky not to have lost half their force. Hava looked back at the tunnel. "Set the charges and blow the tunnel."
"Sir, this is one of our furthest tunnels out."
"And Prince Kuir knows about it. He will figure out this leads back to the city. Blow the charges and make sure they can't excavate this cave."
The crew followed orders and prepared the charges that were already placed long ago. Everyone evacuated to above, so that there was no danger when the cave collapsed. Regardless, everyone could hear the muffled explosions and feel it in their nerves as the shockwave blew past them into a gust of wind.
Those waiting in the arming rooms were very surprised as was Suun and Kuel. Arkoda stated he would explain his reasons at a council so all the leaders heard at once their plan.
The council hastily called so to meet Arkoda and his lieutenants. Formal pleasantries were exchanged and Arkoda cut to the chase, much to Urri's satisfaction.
"Gentlemen, we are fighting a losing war. The last great War lasted a hundred years between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation won it strategically. The only hope to beat the Fire Nation's technological advantage was Republic City, and that's gone now. With both the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation working together, the band of cities and tribes that fight beside the fallen Republic City are doomed, so we need a day of power that will give us a clear advantage to push back." One of the generals of logistics and artillery spoke up, "Chief Arkoda, why did you come here instead of another city?"
"With Republic City fallen, Omashu and the Northern Fortress stand the best chances to break their sieges. Omashu is closest but we need to contact the North. Unfortunately, we couldn't even spare a scout to send North. Prince Kuir has been tracking us since we arrived in the Southlands and hunting us relentlessly. He caught us on our third day in and took out twenty of our men. We were able to keep ahead of him after that but were unable to send word out without alerting him to our hiding spots."
"That's why Kuir ambushed the cave, he thought it was you in there." Tala spoke out loud.
"Yes, he had failed to find us, but had a perfect ambush on you, so we decided to hit when he was distracted." He looked back to the council, "I came because I have information that can help us. Almost 220 years ago, my ancestors Hakoda and Sokka led an invasion of the Fire Nation. It was an elaborate trap as the Fire Nation knew in advance, but even then they pressed further than expected and with great success, cunning, and few deaths."
"They were able to invade with such a small force because it was the Day of Black Sun."
"What does that have to do with now?"
"History repeats, general. Sozin's Comet comes every century, and eclipses are much more often. My family has tracked these events since the Day of Black Sun. At the beginning of winter we will have this opportunity to strike again. And this time it won't be one strike, but it must be many. Too many for even an expecting army to stop. And this one will last a little longer than most, it will give us ten minutes of powerless firebenders, more than enough to capture enemy airships and break their siege."
"Generals, on the next Day of Black Sun, we can deal a continent-wide counterattack on the Fire Nation. And make the enemy think twice about this war."
- Tala's fight with Kuir was inspired by the fight between Spiderman and the Lizard at the school in the Amazing Spider Man, where they fought while crawling all across the walls and ceilings of the hallway. What is different here is that Tala and Kuir fight on a canyon wall, a single vertical plain that was much larger than the hallway.
- In this chapter we learn that Grand Lotus Kuel is a firebender, a spontaneous choice. Kuel did not train Tala in firebending, surprisingly.
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|