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Pyres and Storms
February 9, 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 7: Exiles
The snow reflected the bright light, it was almost blinding. A narrow column of a caravan moved through the pass of the mountain. The tight formation of stone made the pass harder to traverse, but still it was the fastest way to cross.
It was also the most dangerous way. Ice slipped at the slightest movement, which made the column worried. They went as fast as they could, making sure not to stop and look in any one place for too long.
But yet the snow began shifting, white and grey figures moved slowly far above the column. Silently they descended as if skating on a vertical plain before dropping down. Chaos broke out when they attacked the unsuspecting caravan.
Waterbenders and earthbenders unleashed their fury on the supply movers. But not all those attacked were frightened. The withdrew their cold weather cloaks, revealing grey and scarlet armor. Masks reminiscent of the Imperial Firebenders presented themselves.
A dozen of them stood against the thirty or so guerrillas. The hardened warriors knew their terrain and attacked. They were not ready for true defenders. The first one to be attacked just came in close and set the man's clothes on fire.
Another guerrilla attacked the small force and was quickly repelled by a firejab. The entire group moved in for the kill. Two to three guerrillas fought each Dragon, they hoped numbers would give them an edge.
It did not seemed to help. Each Dragon deftly dodged or countered attacks, even in the narrow area. Another Dragon used a very narrow crevice to run up. From his elevated position he sent barrages of flames on the marauders.
The attackers were cut down by ten members when things got worse for them. Ten more Dragons appeared from the top of the ledges. The guerrilla advantage disappeared from a three-to-one to even with troops that were clearly better than they were.
The marauders leapt up and tossed grenades onto the ground, which flashed or released smoke into the narrow crevice of a trail. The guerrillas disappeared into the mountain, unfortunately, their paths were already revealed. Five Dragons waited on each side for them.
A few resisted and tried to fight but were killed by the cold warriors. The remaining Dragons followed and captured the surviving attackers.
One of the Dragon went to the supply caravan. His armor had a gold lining with it. He removed his helm as he spoke to the lead of the supply train, "Thanks for your help. Chasing these marauders across the mountain would have been a nightmare."
"No problem, I may not like being bait, but its certainly better than being absolute prey. These guys were hitting these routes daily."
"One less patrol to worry about now. But they're too many of them, they have an army up here."
"But how, there isn't enough room to hold them all."
"I don't know."
A Cold Welcoming
The man sat forward on his knees in the tent as a man stood on each side of his. He had resisted capture and they had promptly sent an elbow into his ribs. Now he was down the mountain and a physician looked him over, recommending care. They denied, letting the pain settle in him instead.
When they sat him down, they put a cloth in his head, completely blinding him and obscuring his world. He heard the flap of the tent move as people stepped in, at least two.
He heard someone speak, "Well, well. Its not every day that you capture a Commander of the United Forces. We had to get rid of the winter gear to see it, but your red coat and white pants say it plain as day."
He didn't answer, that was falling into a false sense of hope.
"Tell me, Commander Korun, do you think the United Forces are going to save you?"
He stayed silent, he was being baited. He heard movement and the slushing of water. How stupid were they to have an open source of water before a waterbender? He didn't get to think on it or react to it. A painful kick into his chest sent him on his back as his ribs seared.
Before he could do anything but groan, hands gripped him and held him down. He tried to resist, though it was useless with both his hands tied behind his back and his feet tied as well.
His suffering had only begun when the man he would learn was the Dust Dragon Commander spoke, "You know, men have only so much strength. They rely so heavily on their senses that, when deprived of them, people will believe anything they are told when subjected to something intense, even when you know better."
Suddenly water rushed into his sackcloth mask. Filling his mouth. He struggled to move his hands so to pull the mask off. They held him down. They kept pouring for a moment before stopping.
"For example," the Commander continued, "drowning."
As Korun coughed up the remaining water, he couldn't help but laugh, "Ha!" he yelled out to where he thought the commander was, "I have lived in water my whole life, I don't fear it!"
The men held him down again, "Not yet, but you will. I will make you piss at the sight and sound of water. But I can spare you that. I might even be able to get you to a cell in Republic City to see your wife."
He didn't speak, they were baiting him. "Very well."
The two men pushed him to his his back again and they started over. It was longer this time and he struggled to keep his breath, when they stopped, they let him roll sideways to cough it up. He needed to buy time, "Okay."
They pulled his cloth off and the man stood before him, "Where was your outpost?"
"In the Yucato Peak."
The commander's eyes took a sinister look as they glared at Korun. "I will warn you now. Lie to me, and you drink. Remember that." He nodded his head and the men placed the sackcloth over his face again.
How did he know he was lying? They poured more water over his face again, his gurgling screams failed to reach far.
The seven Dragons climbed up the steep cliffside of the mountain. They were as quiet as they could be, though the severe winds seemed to drown them out anyways. The Lieutenant reached a ledge and lifted himself up. He waited till another got up, and then began helping the others up while the second climber looked ahead into what seemed to be a high set cave.
"Its naturally formed."
"Doesn't mean it isn't being used. Be careful." The crew of seven quietly entered deeper into the cave. They saw no sign of anyone having settled or even entered the cave before.
After an hour and a half of searching the Dragon Sergeant sighed, "Sir, no one's been here before, this isn't one of their outpost."
"Then where are they coming from? If they are too low on the mountain, they will be covered in snow right now. They would need an army to dig out. They have to be up in these peaks."
"With how long it takes to get up here? They'll freeze to death in between raids. Shall I call it in?"
The Dragon Lieutenant looked out into the howling wind of the sky beyond the cave, "It won't get through this storm. We'll have to camp here for the night."
Korun coughed out the water as his tormenters pulled the sackcloth off his face, a mercy.
"I admire your strength, Commander Korun, it is great and enduring, but you are not invincible."
"I don't have to be. I just have to be as strong as I can be, and together, our entire force is greater."
"Idealism like that has little place in the world today. True, the diversity of your home has given you a variety and base that makes you stronger, but your people reject it. Abandoning past principles does not make a new nation greater, but weaker."
"What would you know about principles?" Korun's malice shined through his bloodshot eyes.
"More than you. I have lived by a code my entire life. What did you live by? Expect this to be given and take this from someone who needs? You spit on the old ways, even though they facilitated the creation of your home."
Razul continued, "It was that arrogance that led to your downfall. A son does not smack his father in the face without being punished swiftly."
Korun didn't answer. Razul smiled, he knew why. Men who were wrong ignored the obvious, and refused to be forced to admit their failures. Razul kneeled in front of Korun, "Tell me something Korun, from one Commander to another. If you knew that fighting would never give you back Republic City, would you still fight?"
Korun looked up into his eyes. He didn't have to answer, the confidence and pride in them told their own story and confirmed Razul's fear. He looked to one of his soldiers and nodded. The man put the mask back on Korun's face, who screamed, though it was muffled.
Razul exited as they began the interrogation again.
A Failure to Locate
Dragon Commander Razul looked at the map of the northern half of the continent. Mountains surrounded the new Air Nation, plenty of area to hide in for the United Forces. They had dropped the large battles in favor of guerrilla warfare and tactics, and it was working.
He and the Dust Dragons were given the task of locating and reconnaissance of the enemy headquarters. That was hard to do when you still couldn't find it. He was scouring the mountains for their hideouts and outposts but found nothing. If they did find anything, it was temporary locations and go-betweens. And worse the intel from these places were just as unproductive. The maps only showed the location of the closest outpost to the aligning map.
His spirit lifted when he was informed his scouting party had returned. He was worried given it had been two days in harsh weather. He waited for the men to enter while he ordered some men to get tea and hot food for the men who had come in from the winter storm.
"I'm glad to see you all alive. Its good news right now. I hope you brought some more good news?"
One of the Dragons shook his head. The Dragon Lieutenant spoke up, "Nothing sir. We spent a day climbing to a cave that was completely unoccupied, except one really mean wolf-bat."
"Then where are these rebels coming from?"
"Sir, they are not using many outposts like we thought they were. They must be centralized. They are coordinated, well armed and well supplied. Too well for this to be a bunch of small outposts, this is a major military facility somewhere in the mountains."
A man approached Commander Razul, "Commander, Grand General Toz would like to speak with you, sir."
Razul entered the tent where a radio speaker waited, "Sir, you called for me?" He knelt as he spoke, respect was due, even if the Grand Marshal was not present.
"Yes, I want a status update on the search for the guerrilla outposts."
"Grand General Toz, we have not had success finding where the rebels are. My men believe they are located in a single base given the organization and supplies these men have. I am inclined to agree with them."
He heard the Grand Marshal growl temporarily, "Commander Razul, I have entrusted you with finding the heart of these guerrillas. The Dust Dragons are some of the best forces in the world. If they can't find this place, we may have to rely on the Earth Kingdom to find this base."
"I am certain the Fire Nation can find this place. My scouts may have been unable to locate this base but we have Commander Korun of the United Forces in our custody."
"Really? Have you begun to interrogate him?"
"Yes sir. He stills resists, but is failing, his mind betrays him."
"Hmm. I will contact Grand Marshal Rishu about air surveillance of the mountain ranges. If they are a base like you speak of, they will have air defenses and capabilities to repel an air strike."
Korun shook as violently as he could to get away from the flood of water descending on his face. He was drowning and these men held him down. Water, it had betrayed him. The element of life, his life. He had always known and been taught of the cool healing and greatness of water, nurturing.
They never told him the oppressive evil of water. How it flooded and drowned without discrimination. Only those with the strength, could escape it, but what if you couldn't escape it? You only suffered pain.
"Remember what I said? Lie to me and you drink." Korun heard the swishing of water beyond the sackcloth and breathed in heavily in fear. He heard chuckling.
"No, please," He couldn't take it anymore.
"I am worried about trusting you. You have done nothing but lied so far. So perhaps I'll take a risk and spare you if you tell the truth. It'll just be simple questions."
He nodded reluctantly. Razul began asking, "Is there an outpost in Yucato mountain range?"
"Did you lead an attack on the Small Pass?"
"Where is General Quru?"
"Jade Mountain," Korun said it before he realized what he had done. The mask was pulled off his head. He saw the smiling face of Razul.
Razul left the tent and headed to communications. An urgent call for Toz was sent. He responded half an hour later, "What do you have to report, Commander?"
"Sir, Commander Korun gave us a gem without realizing it. While asking for the mundane, he answered to where General Quru was."
"Really? The Commander of the United Forces told you where his superior and ultimate leader of their army was?"
"I taught him to fear his own element, sir. When we're finished, he'll piss himself at the thought of water."
"Very well, where did he say?"
"Jade Mountain. If we can get aerial surveillance, we can map out a base and prepare for dealing with the rebel base."
"I will send word to Grand Marshal Rishu soon."
The two pilots sat in their chairs, strapped in tightly in case of any emergency. They went through every protocol in the book. Given the expense of this plane, it wasn't worth it for them to cut corners.
One of the pilots looked back into the cargo room. He spoke through the helm radios, "You guys ready back there?"
"Yeah just stay a steady pace and trajectory while we're shooting."
The sergeant looked at the room he was kneeling in. This was truly a marvel of technology. This was more than a plane, it was operated by use of jet engines. This meant the incredible machine could go faster and higher than any other plane in existence.
And better yet, they figured out how to make it so that it had room to carry spare men. At first, it seemed pointless, the men could do nothing but sit in a very bumpy ride.
But two different advances in science changed that. The first was in his hand. A true work of art, this was more than a camera like the ones out in the world. This camera could be in space and pick up the trail of a fly. This brought a new function to these jets, reconnaissance that could not be prevented.
The next break in technology was in some fabric called Dragon Silk, fine and smooth, it was also strong and resistant. Combined with expertly crafted steel plates, the resulting suit of armor could protect a man from the velocity of jumping to his death. The Sky Dragons had come to loves these jets as a boost to their thrill seeking missions.
The sergeant opened the small door, where the two rows of five cameras were ready to roll in both frame and video to capture everything below in the Jade Mountain. The co-pilot turned around again, "Ready when you are!"
The men immediately activated the devices and looked on as their work may save or ruin their special forces.
After a good five minutes of filming, the pilot commed, "Okay, we need to go, our fuel is low and we can't afford another turn."
Razul paced uneasily while waiting along with his men. The jet had returned to the Homeland, the only place with a proper airfield for the rare vehicle; and promptly developed the film. However, secure transport of the intel to the Dust Dragons was where time was spent. A fast airship from the edge of the Fire Nation carried the documents and was only hours away now.
The airship was spotted and landed in the most open area they could find along the edge of the mountains. As the Dust Dragons approached, they saw three officers exit, one was a colonel of the Air Force.
He spoke eloquently, "Commander Razul, I believe I have some information you requested."
"I'm afraid not," the officer's look was serious.
"I'm sorry to say that this base is possibly one of the most sophisticated and well designed bases I have ever seen or dreamed of in my life."
The officers carried all the intel as well as copies for each Dragon to study. The officer was currently discussing the impressive security presence of this Jade Airfield.
"The base is massive, large enough to hold a third of the Fire Nation's military apparatus."
A Dragon Lieutenant inquired, "Where did they get the time and money to build this?"
"I don't know, and that concerns me more. How could we have not known about this base? It had to have taken a decade to build in this environment. The sheer amount of supplies and manpower should have caught our notice, we failed on that." The officer beat himself up. The colonel was head of Air Intelligence, his duty before the war started was to map out and locate the United Forces bases and outposts.
Razul looked at the maps and pictures of the base, it was massive. By the looks of it, it was fully manned to boot. "This is a fortress. An invasion by land or even a stealth raid will be impossible in this weather."
"Its likely what is also saving us," the officer pointed to several pictures. "Those are airstrips. The only reason we aren't seeing them being used is because of the severe snow storms. If we wait till we can invade, then they'll have air power when we come."
"We can't attack and we can't wait. This is an impossible run."
One of the sergeants called attention, "Sir, on Grid 4, there is a narrow path, probably a goat trail, it goes under most of the watchtowers. We could take that and get in before anyone notices us."
One of the Dragon Lieutenants shook his head, "Won't work. Look at the top corner, one of the furthest-most towers has a clear view down the path for half the way, we'll be spotted a mile away."
"Unless there was a distraction."
Razul looked at the sergeant, "Like what? It would have to sneak up on them, hence why we're looking at this."
"If someone could drop from above. Perhaps climb the backside of the mountain and drop in the middle of the base and cause a ruckus."
"That won't work, the entire range is watched, they'll see us coming for a deadly climb that might freeze us to death."
The Air Intelligence officer spoke up in a brighter tone, "But the essentials of his plan could still work! Someone could literally drop in and wreak havoc on the base, giving your men an opening."
"That's fine if men could fly, but unless the Air Nomads join us, that ain't going to happen."
"If I recall, however, the Sky Dragons specialize in the impossible. They can get in there and cause the trouble you need. Getting out however, will require your men."
Razul thought on it. The Sky Dragons kept their tactics secret even to the other Dragon Corps. However, Commander Taron had hinted that they fly into battle. How or why was not his problem, but if he could get someone to get in there, he would use it.
"Alright Colonel, call it in. The Sky Dragons need to hit this base before winter ends, or this entire coastline is going to be hit by air strikes for months."
- The only groups that know what the Sky Dragons' tactics actually are, are the high altitude jet crews, the Grand Marshal of the Air Force, and the Sky Dragons themselves.
- The interrogation of Korun was even more saddening because it was the element he bends that was used against him. Korun was later documented to have aquaphobia, leading to intense dehydration and a hatred for bending.
- The fortress in Jade Mountain is massive. With enough room to house a true army and then some, the Fire Nation is fearful of this base reaching its potential.
- More status of the base's capabilities will be received by the time of the next chapter in the story.
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|