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Tala-Title8
Chapter 8: Foundations
Chapter information
Series

The Journey of Tala

Book

1

Chronicle

Sand and Steel

Chapter

8

Written by

Kuir

Editor(s)

Decca03

Release date

October 13, 2012

Chronology
Last chapter

Chapter 7: Resistance

Next chapter

Chapter 9: Myths and Omens

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 8: Foundations

The city was abuzz with the news of the Southern Water Tribe's aid. Even if only a hundred warriors, that many more to help was appreciated, and Arkoda promised that a full marshaled force was preparing as was the rest of the Order of the White Lotus in the South. Together they would pose a threat to the siege, one that was welcome to Omashu.

But as soon as good news came, trying times did too. Prince Kuir took command of the siege when he failed to capture Arkoda and his warriors. Kuir began his command with moving the Ba Sing Se Regulars to take the outer city. And worse they succeeded. It was a heavy toll for the invaders but they broke through, forcing Omashu's warriors into the metropolis.

The attack bogged down there fortunately. The Ba Sing Se Regulars may be used to even a larger city, but they don't know the layout or hideouts of the city and were falling prey to ambushes once within the city.

Still it was disheartening that the city had lost its first land incursion. Kuir had been in the thick of the battle. Like a wrecking ball of destruction, no one could withstand his attack, both in troops and personal combat. Kuir literally broke the back of a man by hand and several neck breaking strikes; and that was without his earthbending. Kuir was a master earthbender and was lethal. By estimates, over a dozen men died at Kuir's own hand.

Now the question came, what to do. The city's manufacturing was in the outer city, which has now been breached. Should they continue working beyond the gorge or evacuate everyone into Old Omashu? If they did, they wouldn't have the food supplies necessary.

Planning Ahead

Kuel arrived at the war council slightly late, having just briefed his men from the outer city. Arkoda was sitting down, he must have been late too, but Urri, Suun, Tala, and others were waiting.

Suun stood up to present his information. "We all know that the city has been breached. It was done so by Crown-Prince Kuir." He pointed to two pictures on the wall of Kuir. One as he was in Republic City, the other a shot of him in armor while invading the outer wall of New Omashu. "Kuir is relentless. He may not have limitless resources, but he has more than enough to overrun us in a bloody deathmatch. But Kuir will soon choose strategy. I think he made this attack as retribution for the Southern Water Tribe."

Arkoda spoke up, "I concur. The two times I encountered him in a fight, he killed anyone who thought they could fight him. Us getting away with pelting him with every element and explosives was bound to have repercussions."

One of the colonels spoke up, "So what do we do about him?"

"Killing him is as dangerous as leaving him alive. If Kuir dies, Iruei will come with an army three time the size of this one and take the city in a wave of blood. If we leave him alone, he will continue to break the city, block by block."

Urri spoke, "Then we capture him, and use him as a hostage for treaty with Ba Sing Se. Iruei won't risk his heir so nonchalantly."

Tala spoke up, "How are you gonna catch him? He beat me like a ragdoll and then left the fight uninjured even if pelted. Catching him might be just as costly as killing him."

Suun agreed with Urri, "Tala, Kuir is the commander and son of the Earth King. His capture would be a huge blow to the pride of the invasion and a threat to the succession of the entire Kingdom. Capture gives us a way to break the siege without numbers. I think we should try this if we have the opportunity."

"Now, as you all know, an eclipse is coming this winter that will give us the chance to strike back. We will begin planning for it soon once we have an idea of what to expect from them. But before thinking about that, we need to last till then. And to do that, we need more supplies."

"All our tunnels and our raids, while effective are not enough to compensate for the entire population of the city. But we found another way to get supplies if the South is willing to oblige." Suun looked at both Kuel and Arkoda, both nodded, "Good. I have looked at the old records of the city when it was first built for structure flaws and weak-points when I found something so old it should have collapsed."

Suun brought out an ancient drawing, "Straight down the middle of this city is a massive tunnel leading miles below, too far for other earthbenders to feel. It leads west once it reaches it lowest point and goes out far beyond the Cave of Two Lovers."

Kuel asked, "What was this tunnel for?"

"The architects of this city wrote that the tunnel was used to move earth in and out of the city as necessary to build when they first came here. They used marble to line the wall so it could handle anything for its height."

"If it heads west, then how does that help us? It is just behind the enemy, and not in a good way, and even if we were able to pass undetected, the bay closest to us is blockaded like everything else." This came from Hava, a cautious person by nature.

"We intend to go straight down and excavate a new tunnel heading south to the South Pole and help. With this, we could send and receive reinforcements without the enemies' knowledge and get our men far enough out. And a safe secure line of supplies will be welcome."

The council seemed to consent, but Avatar Tala and Hava both had reserved faces.


Tala and Hava both left the council at the end after everyone else and walked a separate hallway. Hava saw that Tala was doing her usual, locking everything into her vaults to use later. He learned early on, she used everything like a weapon, lashing out later with a fury no person could match. When asked, her previous teacher denied teaching her this and emphasized its presence beforehand. Suun handled it well but her firebending teacher soon gave up because her fury surpassed his skill and was more than naught on the receiving end of a slaughter. She finished the element in two years because he couldn't keep up with her. Hava suspected her parents taught her how to focus herself like a weapon, but why? Suun told him little about Tala's father, Ustad, other than he was powerful for a village peasant. He wanted to one day learn that secret so to better understand his student.

"Tala, spit it out. I may be able to handle your labyrinthine mind and so may Suun, but the rest can't. What is it?"

"Master Suun and Urri may think this is salvation; but with information that old, we have no idea who else knows it or what else is there. For all we know, Ba Sing Se University has an entire architecture class on this tunnel and no one here would know it cause they don't travel more than a hundred leagues from here. We are too ignorant to assume we know anything."

Hava sighed, it was hard to correct someone when they weren't wrong. "Tala, remember, not everyone acts to their fullest regardless of situation. Most people need hope, and some of them are leaders. Urri has always ruled this city without fear. Now he is surrounded by an army he has no influence over and will likely be challenged by a man half his age, and twice his power. How do you think he feels. Against Prince Kuir, what hope does he have? This tunnel is his hope."

"Hope is the servant of despair. If we follow hope, we go forward into a cliff of destruction. Power should go into the hands of the capable, not into the line of mad kings Urri descends from."

"That is the way of this city, there is no changing it, unless you join the invaders."

Enter Kokruyu

A massive fleet of airships surrounded Omashu, all of them carried the emblem of the Fire Nation. They had just arrived from Republic City's invasion. In the lead was a ship larger than the others, though not by a big margin. The airship landed in an open field in view of the city. Already at the ramp, the orchestrator was there, the man who ensured that war engulfed the world again.

The Black Dragon.

He wore a ceremonial robe similar to the royals of the Fire Nation, but his was black for its base color instead of red. The gold lining, like the traditional robe, almost shined in the sunlight.

Prince Kuir and a retinue of bodyguards were waiting for him as he stepped down, along with four specially trained men. They wore Fire Nation Uniforms but with black as their base, stripes of red and gold lining. They were the Sky Dragons, the most elite force of paratroopers in the world and feared across the world, only beaten by those who knew the man they guarded.

The two looked at each other. The Black Dragon was tall and lean by a normal man's standard. But Kuir was huge, over seven feet tall and over three hundred pounds of muscle. While the Black Dragon's cloak concealed his features beneath, they exposed them on Kuir.

The two looked at each other, eyes that had seen what few ever would. They grinned and laughed. "It is good to see you my young friend." The Dragon's voice was burning with power.

"Young? Ha! I'm older than you!"

"I have spent my entire life to this, you have not Crown Prince."

"Then I'm sure this siege will end quickly with you here."

The Dragon looked to the city, "Not necessarily. If we attack, we deal with the Avatar, and that is too soon."

"I've faced her, she is no threat to us."

He looked at Kuir with a stare of judgement that silenced the Prince, "You fought a girl. It is her potential that is dangerous."

"I can't believe the Black Dragon is afraid of anyone, even the Avatar."

"Only a fool doesn't fear the Avatar. Ozai paid for that impudence with his bending taken and others have paid steeper prices than my ancestor. It is fear that makes a warrior."

Kuir looked at him inquisitively, "If you fear something, you prepare and train for it. In the end, you are like us, killers of great power. But the Avatar is something else, we don't want to conquer her, want to win her."

 Visions Failed 

Tala sat on her windowsill as the wind blew into her loosened hair. Winter had begun to arrive in earnest after Chief Arkoda arrived. Some joked that they brought bad weather with them. Snows fell lightly and intermittently, but people began bundling up in anticipation of more. She closed her eyes in concentration.

She had been much more spiritual than Korra was for the situation but still had trouble communicating with her past lives. Instead of easily accessing the immediate predecessor like the personal histories the Avatars wrote, she would see visions of event she had no clue of in places and times millennia ago. It seemed that her deep past was warning her in cryptic clues. It infuriated her that they didn't warn her in some way that was more direct. Prior to her dreams of a Black Dragon, she dreamed of strange things that slowly increased, they seemed to recede under the threat of this Dragon, who was apparently more dangerous.

She wanted to speak with a predecessor, and more importantly, Roku or Kyoshi. Both were Avatars that lived to see the world before the Hundred Year War. She sought their wisdom. She had read Aang's histories, he rejected Roku to promote Republic City. And some stated that he was refining Sozin's dreams with only a mix of the Fire Nation instead of them as overlords.

But she was convinced that Aang and Korra were preventing that, every time she pressed forward, images of them were there instead of Roku or Kyoshi. Tala did not look up to Aang as the others had. Aang set a precedent of appeasement. He refused to take life and took the moral high ground so as to avoid being judged or forced to face his consequences. She did not wholly fault Aang. He was placed in the position of Avatars too soon for his maturity level, and forced to deal with the dangers too young, making an ideologue instead of an idealist, like past Avatars.

She concentrated hard but was blocked again, just as she was about to give up, a massive chasm showed in her mind. Deep and dark, it was so big, that it was hard to believe that it was man-made. She saw it from someone else's eyes, as their hand held a jutting of rock. It faded as quickly as it came into the recesses of her mind.

Tala knew what it was. The tunnel deep beneath Omashu, but what did it mean for a vision to show it to her?

Her meditation was ended by the loud clanging of Urri's twins' troublemaking. She went to scare them off from her quarters and then headed to the Air Nomads for more training. However, everyone was away, only one kid who ran by was able to tell her what was going on. "He woke up! They're gonna be okay!"

"Thanks, kid." Obviously Simi and the bison would survive their encounter with the Black Dragon, something that had been in question for the many weeks since they returned. Tala went to see how they were doing.

All the nomads were there waiting to see him. They let Tala pass, knowing she would speak with Hava. Hava was in the room alone speaking with Simi. They both looked as she entered. "Tala, I am sorry I wasn't there at the grounds but it was important to talk to him."

She nodded her understanding. She sat down in the next chair, "Well?"

Simi swallowed, which was painful for his chest, "The Fire Nation has a massive airfleet, they were attacking the airbase but keeping it as intact as possible. They are likely using it themselves now."

Tala didn't want to sound blunt or offensive but had to know, "You said that when you were attacked, a white flame hit you. Do you remember who?"

Simi looked at his scar; the entire left upper-side of his body. It was black as if covered in ash. The movements were restricted from the sheer pain it required to will it. "I'm not sure. At that point, at least two dozen firebenders were shooting at me. I'm pretty good at evasion and was confident I could get away as long as I could outpace the airships. But this hit came from someone powerful and accurate."

Hava continued, "But did you see who fired on you?"

"He was on the attack platform with the rest of the men, they all wore black and gold, so hard to know. But he was taller than the rest and much more fluid, like an airbender."

Tala lowered her head, it was no use. Simi was too far from his attacker to recognize him. Without a witness, there was no way she could prove it was Rishu. Hava looked on Simi, "Rest, brother. In no time, you'll be back up and flying again."

Tala and Hava left as Simi's wife and children entered. Tala asked, "Will he recover?"

"That scar will always stay, and the healers say it won't heal to a rash red, but that for some reason it has stayed black as coal. If he can overcome the pain, maybe he can recover."

"You and I both know who it is, master, why don't you accept it?"

"You have no proof, Tala. Saying he is the Black Dragon does not prove that Rishu is."

"I have the instinct that he is involved far more than just a politician."

"Then why take these actions? He was regent of the Fire Nation, the effective ruler; and resigned to become the Councilman of Republic City, why would he do that when his country would invade."

"To get the information key to invading the city."

"Anyone could have been sent to do that who was less polarizing than him. Why would he personally come to a city with dangers if he was just to invade it?"

"I don't know, but I do know that he is behind all this somehow."


The Siege Lines

The tent was average in size but held a good size Pai Sho table, over it was a large schematic, and around that were maps. The two men looked over it. The man in black commented, "How did you find this?"

"Ba Sing Se University holds our Royal Library and all document to the history of our kingdom can be found there. This is one of the oldest, back to when the King of Ba Sing Se was conquering the continent. This, along with other documents, was the condition of agreement for peace and subjugation of the King of Omashu to the Earth King."

"And you think its still there?"

"I know it is. It is too big to bury and too deep to collapse without unforeseen risks. They cannot risk destroying, they simply don't have the power to safely do that."

"The Avatar can."

"She is too young to know and have the power to do that."

The man sat down, "Perhaps. But still, this is a big risk that it is there unscathed, and furthermore that it is unguarded. If anyone is down there and sees you, the element of surprise is gone. I am simply saying Prince Kuir, that this is a dangerous tactic and it could backfire badly."

"Its worth the risk. This tunnel is massive, I and my personal force can cross it in half a day and take the Palace, capture the King of Omashu and end the siege in a day."

"If you're fast enough and if the Avatar doesn't interfere. Don't underestimate the enemy in this, it could cost you, my good friend."

Kuir laughed, "As hard as you may find it to believe, the Black Dragon is not the only one capable of brilliant strategy."

"Oh, I have no doubt of your skill, but you do overreach as well. Be conservative in battle until you see the moment to strike and hit with lethal force."

"Well, this is that time. By tomorrow, Omashu will be ours."

Past for the Future

Palace Grounds

Tala spent her time as instructed, meditating. Hava told her to meditate on her environment. But she was restless, the tunnel excavations were continuing, but Tala was being refused to enter. Even the twins were allowed in, but Tala wasn't. No doubt it was punishment for her opposing the project during the council.

She was finding it hard to clear her mind when fears filled her mind. But rather than void, she focused her mind onto a specific image. She had never seen the tunnel for herself, yet she saw it in what could have be a vision or imagination.

She remembered the image in her mind. A deep chasm, dark and foreboding, the wall was marble, smooth and green. The image came to life, as his hand reached out to touch feel the smooth marble. He looked down and could not see the end.

"When you're halfway down, you can see the end." A voice said behind him.

He looked to the source, "I have never seen such a large architectural feat anywhere in the world."

"That's because we built it down instead of up."

"So this is how you flanked the King of Ba Sing Se's Wall Army?"

"Yep, goes all the way past the Cave of Two Lovers and into a valley beyond. Great place to marshal an army, we were expecting this Wall King to be there but had to find him, hence why we were tired when we attacked."

"Didn't seem to matter. The King of Ba Sing Se agreed to these negotiations after being hammered from two sides. He thought it wasn't worth the blood if the King of Omashu would submit."

"Well I guess we did something right then."

He explored the tunnel for some time. His guide led him to the exit and then back through the labyrinth to the top again.

He left the tunnel and wound his way up into the Palace Grounds. Before him were two Kings. Both gave a slight bow, though it was curt and disrespectful, sign of true kings that felt they should bow to no one. "Avatar Koru, I trust the information we gave has proven to be valid?" The King of Omashu inquired.

He looked to the King of Ba Sing Se, known as the Wall King, though he heard a new name he liked to call himself, which was quite absurd. "The tunnels follows all the way out and through, clear entrance and exit."

"Good, then along with the other stipulations, I believe we have reached an accord."

He beckoned to an assistant, he read the paper handed to him, "The city shall neither be occupied nor its King deposed. The city shall be free to enact its own laws as a semi-autonomous city. But in return for this guarantee, the city of Omashu must swear loyalty to I, the King of Ba Sing Se; and so must the every King of Omashu from here forward. Omashu must muster troops to our banners as commanded and pay a tax of ten percent on all profits, no more no less. And to ensure that the City remembers this pact, we shall have either originals or copies of all documents pertaining to this agreement in both the new University of Ba Sing Se and the Library of Records here in Omashu. This includes the excavation maps of the tunnel, confirmed by Avatar Koru of the North Pole; and a map of the Palace of Omashu." He looked to the fellow old but stout man, "Do we have terms?"

"We have terms."

"Then in the witness of Avatar Koru, this agreement is made that there is peace between Ba Sing Se and Omashu."

The two kings signed the document and then he signed after them. His left hand dropped the brush and stepped back watching as the Wall King stepped up. "We shall leave in the morrow." He turned and left along with his retinue.

The King of Ba Sing Se looked at him, "You think this is a good idea? Submitting to him?"

"A unified continent is much more powerful and prosperous."

"Hmmph. For him maybe. Now this 'Earth King' will rule this entire continent."

He laughed at that and the King looked at him, "What are you laughing at?"

"That name, its so absurd, only some pompous king behind a wall could come up with that." Both the Avatar and the King of Omashu broke into laughter.


Tala's eyes widened. Realization pulsed through her body. They knew, they have always known about the tunnel. Kuir could very well be sending an army through the tunnel.

She rushed out to find Hava. He was in his office reading. He saw her exhausted state. "What is it?"

"They know about the tunnel. The Earth King knows about this tunnel."

"Slow down, how do they know?"

"I saw it! The King of Omashu had to surrender the schematics for the tunnel when the city yielded to Ba Sing Se."

"You saw this through a past Avatar?"

"Yes, an Avatar Koru, he oversaw the negotiations for peace. They know all about the tunnels."

Hava sighed, a common thing he did when stressed, "We need to warn the excavation team, Suun and Urri's sons are down there."


The Tunnel

He slowly worked his way through the black pass before him. He felt his way, as a master of Beifong Style should be proud to do. He and well over six hundred followed as quietly as possible. But it wouldn't change a certain outcome; battle. Kuir felt it ahead. Large numbers of people at the turn of the tunnel. At least two hundred, almost all earthbenders based on their actions, ahead he saw flames, figuring the others were firebenders making their own light.

This complicated but did not destroy his plan, he outnumbered the enemy by over three times. But the risk was the enemy warning the Palace of his arrival. Now he would have to disable communications before attacking.

Communications

Tala and Hava rushed to the communications room that was safely within the Palace. Hava spoke with command, "We need to speak with General Suun, the tunnel is compromised and we need to expect an attack."

"Yes, sir." The officer went about setting a link but had a confused look, "Sir, they aren't responding. Shall I keep trying?"

Tala spoke their worst fear, "Won't do any good, they're probably under attack already. Contact the King and tell him the tunnel is compromised." She looked back to Hava, "We need to marshal any help we can if they are under attack down there."

"I'll go to my brethren and the Water Tribe, you go to the barracks and the White Lotus. We'll need anything we can get now."


Palace basements

Tala, Hava, and some hundred airbenders and other fighters that could be mustered rushed through the underways of the palace. A man at the door of the tunnel looked dumbfound at the presence of the small host. The pastry in his mouth fell out, "You can't come here, this is restricted area."

"The people in the tunnel aren't responding, we need to help them down there."

"This is still restricted. Wait what are you doing?"

Hava approached the man and tied his arms together in a quick fashion before the guard could even react. He beckoned to the others to follow his lead.

Tala entered the massive chasm of a tunnel where she had a flashback. There was less light in her vision but it was still the same. To ensure the strength of the tunnel and speed of movement, steel beams were placed to strengthen the entire structure and electrical equipment to facilitate elevators.

There were five sets of three elevators. An elevator goes down a third of the way, then reaches a platform where another elevator took them down the next third and to a final elevator.

Faints sounds could be heard below, rock crunching and yelling, but she couldn't tell what it was. Hava took charge, "Into the elevators. Earthbenders and airbenders who can, glide or slide down, everyone one else join us as soon as you can."

The Water Tribe and White Lotus entered the elevators as the Omashu guards and the nomads jumped off the platform. The guards slid down using earthbending to rock ski and maintain traction. The nomads glided down using airbending to slow their descent.

They soon reached the first set of platforms before the elevators did and better heard the commotion. Yelling and the clash of combat was clear now. There was a battle at the bottom. They continued down as fast as they could. And upon reaching the bottom saw the disaster. The excavators were surrounded and pinned to a wall. At least a quarter of their number dead or subdued and just as many of the attackers. The point of two sides met where Kuel and Suun together were trying to overcome Kuir and were failing.

Kuir could either dodge or overcome anything they threw at him. He had Kuel's throat in his hand when a gust of wind hit him square in the back. Unexpected, he let go of the Grand Lotus to meet the new threat. His eyes narrowed upon seeing the Nomads and Omashu guards arrive. Seeing that the final sets of elevators were coming down, he and his men sent pillars of stone to compromise the steel beams that held the elevator. The cars stopped in place.

Tala fired a blast of fire. She was waiting for this rematch.

Kuir backflipped away from the attack giving the Avatar ground to land. She kicked a sweep of air but Kuir jumped over to attack high, she dodged this heavy hit and continued to dodge as he attacked.

She realized that her flaw before was to think she could go blows-to-blows with Kuir and no one could. He was too powerful, instead, she would have to avoid and evade until an opening came. Whenever Kuir came too close she hit back to send him away with any element.

With the arrival of Tala and Hava's reinforcement, the defenders were no longer pinned and were able to break out into many small fights instead of the one large fight. The twins worked together in near perfect harmony, attacking while the other recovered, making them a constant assault force.

Arkoda pulled out his Jian, a black comet blade recovered from Wulong Forest. He cut the door open and navigated a way to climb down to the fight. The other elevators had done likewise, but one was slower going than the others.

Kuir saw this opportunity went for it. He sent a vicious attack Tala's way so she was busy defending and leaped to the rails of the stuck elevator. He latched his hands onto the rail and bent it to his will. The beam was buckling under the weight of the elevator and its passengers. Just as he was about to deal a final blow, a pillar of marble hit him square in the chest and sent him flying to the turn point of the tunnel. Tala leapt to the rail and grabbed it. She forced the metal by will to bend. Unfortunately, her metalbending was poor compared to Kuir. The elevator was sliding at too fast a rate.

Tala hit it like a palm strike. The metal caved to her command finally and the elevator stopped. She looked back and saw that Kuir was starting to get up again. His men were being pushed back into the turn but were still outnumbering defenders by two-to-one.

Tala used an earthslide to speed to the recovering Kuir. He got up and sent three boulders her way. She skated around the attacks and persisted forward. She pelted the Prince with fire whips forcing him further back into the turn. With the roof finally over him, she attacked. She sent two pillars at an angle down at Kuir to impale him.

Kuir crossed his arm in an x and two crossed pillars met the attack two feet above his head. His hands shot down and wave of earth moved to her. Tala dodged it by rolling to the side of it, a straining feat.

Kuir blocked her volley of attacks with a rock wall. "Its useless Avatar! Even if one of my men fell for everyone one of yours, we have enough to take Urri and force the city to submit. We have the power here!"

Tala did not speak, yet sound came and her lips moved. Her eyes glowed as she spoke, "No, you do not have the power here." A thousand voices spoke at once.

Kuir's attack crumbled to dust and was met with a shockwave of air that sent not only Kuir, but his men, flying backwards. The Avatar levitated in the air as energy surrounded her. She had entered the Avatar State.

"This chasm shall be no more!" She lifted her hands up. The entire tunnel shook and soon everyone was falling.

Arkoda looked to Hava, "What is she doing?"

"She going to bring down the entire tunnel. Everyone get out!" The defenders fled to the elevators and the earthbenders make-shifted their own to carry those who couldn't fit.

As the Avatar stood there suspended in the air, the tunnel around her destabilized more and more. Kuir and his men retreated, knowing they couldn't stop what was about to happen.

The Avatar's muscles flexed and contorted in extreme concentration and the body rolled into itself. Finally, she released, kicking and punching away from her body, a shockwave of earth and air hit. The marble came to pebbles and stone to dust.

The tunnel collapsed and tons of earth fell into the turn. Too much to ever move in even one lifetime. More kept falling and Hava lost sight of the Avatar, "Tala!"

The defenders reached the top where they coughed at the amount of dust in the air. No one could see a hundred feet below as the lights were destroyed in the collapse.

Just as they had given up that Tala survived, a light moved up slowly. The Avatar levitated up slowly until level with the platform and stepped down. As her foot touched, the glow in her eyes receded and she collapsed to her knees.

She groaned as she stood up with the help of Suun and Hava, "Tala, are you okay?"

She breathed in heavily. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"Thank you, Avatar Tala." Gave her a bow of the head, "We would all have been lost without you down there."


They returned to the palace where Suun informed his brother of what happened. Urri looked at the rugged and dusty party. "Hava, I should have listened to your caution." He turned to Tala, "And you, Avatar, I owe an apology. You had expressed concern and warned of this possibility. I am sorry we did not listen to your intuition."

Tala nodded, "Fear and hope are not opposites, but brothers. Hope will not give success; action, determination, and planning will. We can't do something cause we'll feel good about it. The Black Dragon is out there, and he is no fool. Kuir might make mistakes, but he's dangerous. And between the two, we can't afford mistakes if we are to survive."


Siege Lines

The large hand placed the Rock Tile down gently to challenge the storm tile. A measured response came, "Interesting move, you still risk much to hit hard and win early on. Skilled players of the game would wait you out and strike when you are vulnerable."

"Waiting causes exhaustion, fatigue, and corrodes morale. Decisive and quick victory is sure."

"Weigh in the outcomes, both have their merit. Unfortunately, my student-" he made a move, placing his animal tile of sky bison in response, making his rock tile useless, "you have not learned the merit or worth of patience. And you paid for that today."

"I underestimated the Avatar. Much like she did when she first faced me. I will not make that mistake again."

"Good. She is dangerous and important. And more importantly, she must not be killed." Kuir gave a plain face, "Remember, we want to win her, not beat her."

"Hmm..." A thought came to Kuir and he exclaimed, "I had forgotten."

He pulled out a bag, covered in sand. "I had gone to the Si Wong Desert in order to find Wan Shi Tong's Library."

"Wan Shi Tong destroyed it."

"The hope was that something remained. And we found something, I guess a few books flew out in the commotion. I found half a dozen books. Two of them I figured were up your alley." He pulled two ancient tomes out of the bag and two relics were in his hands.

He gave the man opposite the table the two books. He read the titles of the tomes, "Ancient Things of the World: What is and Was. And The Arts: A History of Bending and its Origins. I thank you, Prince Kuir. These tomes are invaluable."

"I figured you may find more use in them. Also, since you are here. I noticed something about the Avatar's fighting style in earthbending."

"Oh?"

"A style that hasn't been seen where I come from for two centuries."

Notes

1. The Italicized part is Tala's vision of Avatar Koru when he mediated the treaty between the King of Omashu and the Future Earth King.

2. The two tomes received by the Black Dragon from Kuir are important in Book III

3. Kuir's suspicions about Tala's training will have an impact in Book II, where Tala's ancestry is discovered.

4. Avatar Tala had a vision of the past, when the King of Ba Sing Se invaded the continent. It culminated into a final siege and battle on the remaining city in the mainland, Omashu. Omashu was powerful enough to force the Earth King to consent to self-rule in exchange for their loyalty. Avatar Koru was around at this time but for unknown reasons did not interfere with the war until the end to bridge a peace between the two Kings.

  • Koru was not there to stop the war as another in the Fire Nation over succession between a Crown-Princess and her younger brother was raging.

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