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|Roots of the Past|
Pyres and Storms
March 12, 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 9: Roots of the Past
Three sharp blades went after the agile warrior. She leapt and rolled with the strike, not letting momentum break. As she landed, fire came from another attacker. She willed a whip to cut the blast of heat and flame, dissipating it. She spun left as a whip of water cut up after her.
Tala looked at her two combatants. Ralyn and Rishu were masters of their elements, and she was the Avatar. Her masters were not satisfied with just excelling in the elements, they demanded perfection. Fighting both of them with just waterbending forced her to stretch her skills and ingenuity to its limit.
Tala knew that even now, Ralyn was still the better waterbender, her best hope of winning was targeting Rishu. He may be a prodigious firebender, but water was the opposite of his element and it was a weakness.
She fired shards of ice after the Grand Marshal. He was able to dissolve them with the heat of his breath in ease. She kept up the attack while dodging the She-Wolf. Rishu started backing up for space to counter her attacks.
Ralyn was already moving in with an ice cold strike. Tala decided to make the game a little more interesting. A steaming stream of water met the ice in mid-air. An explosion of steam and mist spread out from the epicenter blanketing the arena and obstructing the view.
The Black Dragon stood still for a moment getting his bearings while Ralyn walked forward. Tala had disappeared in the mists. Ralyn chuckled, impressed at the ingenuity. Tala had just increased her chances of winning this fight by a large margin.
The mercenary let the water in the air tell her the story of the environment. It was an extension of herself and gave her a vision she lacked. Movement was present between the mists, two sources were separate yet close.
Rishu smiled, glad that Tala had made a creative choice that gave her an advantage against two masters. He knew his vision was limited so stood still and breathed calmly. Firebenders could feel the fire around them and detect it, much like an earthbender. And within every firebender was such a source of power that one who knew what to look for could find it. The Avatar was no different.
Tala weaved through the mists slowly as she waited for them to make the first move. The mists built on her skin like sweat. Waiting was the enemy now. Move too soon and she would be a beacon, move too slow and she would be cornered.
She walked slowly, deducing the placement of her opponents. She tapped her foot lightly counting, waiting for the right moment. She heard the steps turn as her targets finally located her, she didn't bother wondering how.
She felt the heat of fire ahead while a stream of water collected behind her. She let her legs go, hitting the grounds as she did the splits. Fire and Water flew over her head and missing explosive contact, instead it barreled past for each other.
She heard the grunts of Rishu hit by a wave of water and Ralyn from a blast of flame. She bent the mist to fall, letting the water collect on the ground again. With vision clear again, she saw both Rishu and Ralyn on the ground grimacing as they sat up. They looked to see Tala, who was still in the splits. Rishu began laughing, beaten by a trick.
Ralyn stood up and walked to Tala. As Tala rose, Ralyn looked her in the eye, "Very clever. A key of being a master, is knowing when to fight, and when to let others fight for you. You are a waterbending master. Not quite the level I want, but you won't find an equal fighting against you."
She then rested her hands on Tala's shoulders, "Congratulations."
Tala smiled lightly, she felt that mastering her final element should have been more fulfilling.
Rishu walked forward stiffly, "Don't think mastering an element is the end of the road. Your poor teaching in firebending needs to be corrected."
The Avatar looked back at Ralyn, sweating from the heat of the mist that was there before "Can't I even get a day of rest?"
Ralyn chuckled, "No such thing. I have to return to Omashu and oversee my company. Good luck."
Ralyn walked out of the courtyard while Rishu stood there with a glitter in his eye. She had beat him with waterbending, it would not be the case with firebending.
A True Fire
Tala spun in place with articulate moves while pressing forward in a half circle of a dance she was only vaguely familiar with. Rishu taught her that the Dancing Dragon was a key movement that helped improve firebending.
It required both fluidity and stiff strikes, it required fitness just to practice, let alone use in combat. It was a little exhausting. A little over a year ago, in her prime it would have been no sweat, but when her ribs were shattered by Kuir, she had lost a step. Not so much that she couldn't go toe-to-toe with the best, but she had lived a hardened life and had only lived for two decades.
"Control your emotions, know when to release them and when to contain them. In time you will see that emotions are tools to use when you need them, they will give you insight and warning, but they can also betray you. Why do you think the cold-blooded fire must have an absence of emotion?"
"Then why was the form of rage so effective in the Hundred Year War?"
"There was no one to challenge its standing. Sozin outlived most of the teachers and with the eradication of the Dragons, there were no others to learn from. It was simply a matter of use. Any firebending form could have been used in that war to great effect."
Rishu returned the attention back to studies, "Tell me, what are key basics to firebending?"
"Breath, control, and footing."
"Good, but if you know how, you can learn to circle around the issue of footing."
Tala gave him a disbelieving look, Rishu started, "Solid footing is important in the basics and on. It is even more important for those without true mastery. You, however, are the Avatar and must know more. When you have proper control, you can lay down and fight, you can do a hand-stand. Control will give you the ability to choose footing that may not be solid ground. Balance will help that out."
"Since you mastered airbending, that will make it easier."
Rishu continued to lecture her and have her demonstrate forms she had oly scratched the surface of in her formal training of firebending. It was bitter and tiring but it was worth it. She could feel the flow of the fire in her veins, the power coursing through her. Was this what Rishu felt? Power, the potential for so much more.
To further emphasize this, Rishu knelt slightly as he turned his shoulders and arms inwards. Sparks of white energy were spiraling around him before he had even made the first circle. Rishu made the full charge, rarely seen in today's forms.
The bolt that escaped was blinding and its intensity could be felt in the air as it shot up into the sky. Thunder broke out and soon a small storm of clouds and rain kicked off. The rain drops were light, premature from nature, it was more like mist than true rain.
"Can you teach me to make white flames?"
The black robed warrior laughed, "No. It is not from men that such powers are so easily granted or taught, Those secrets lie with the masters."
"Dragons," Tala said with a finality of hopelessness. It would be after the war before she would ever get that chance.
Rishu nodded, "There is still hope. When this is all over, I will personally take you to meet the Masters."
Tala smiled lightly as her emerald eyes looked back, "Thanks, I would appreciate that."
The grey eyes looked over the hanging map coldly. The Seasons were well fortified for the siege but were getting antsy. If the siege persisted, the contract would be unprofitable, and breaking it was no option.
He heard the door open to see his old partner join him, "Unless we can cross those bridges, we're going to be stuck here a while. That will costs us." The bald but muscular man crossed his arms. Money was his greatest concern in life.
"We are not breaking a record that has solely belonged to us," he was firm in enforcing this rule, as co-founder of the Seasons.
"Then we need a new strategy. Or removal of the obstacle in our way."
"Urri," he said the name in agreement, "Killing him would go a long in ending this siege. If I were to go in, I would need complete layouts of the Palace, only the Air Nomads and the Avatar know them and I'm not interested in talking to either of them."
"You'll have to face them some time, my friend."
"I will, Vurmaq, one day. But it will not be as friends, of that I'm sure."
"Qatil, we are working for them."
"For now. Contracts end, even this one will."
"Hmm," Vurmaq mused on this as he left the command room of the Seasons' outpost in New Omashu.
The powerful leader of the Seasons reflected on the polar opposites that made them friends. Vurmaq was once a Pro-Bender caught in a gambling gig with the Triple Threats who won or lost based on where the Triads wanted bets to go. After expulsion, he became a tough enforcer of the Triad and worked his way up. He had the misfortune to be in the Triads when war broke out between the gangs and spilled over into the city.
It got so bad that no bribed official could any longer hide the violence. The army came in and wiped out the Triads. Vurmaq was one of the wise ones who got out beforehand. With home gone and no income to last long, he sold out his skills as a mercenary in the out-lands of the United Republic.
One day, both sides hired muscle for the fight, but where he was hired for his brute strength and powerful earthbending, the disputing village had hired an elusive assassin. Vurmaq was attacked by night and nearly lost his life to the ruthless opponent.
But for some reason, the man spared him. Finding a way to peacefully resolve the conflict, this man instead asked Vurmaq to join him. It took a day where the man didn't wear coverings for the gangster to recognize him as an Air Nomad, more importantly as Qatil Jinorra, the 'dead' son of Councilor Lio Jinora.
Qatil let them believe in his death after a storm destroyed his home. He traveled in anonymity, not having earned his tattoos yet when he was exiled. Qatil had a vision, mercenaries and companies of soldiers for hire had been around in the wake of Republic City's creation, but there was a level of distrust in them, and amongst them.
Vurmaq joined him in making a company made of masters of every skill that never broke their word. Qatil was insistent on that last condition. Ten years later, and they were the premier of the mercenaries with the most manpower and the most trusted record. Even simple jobs were given high pay for the knowledge that the Seasons always finished the job.
It was a profitable partnership and a long friendship. Vurmaq trusted no one like he did the exile. And he knew for a fact that Qatil had no friends. When not working, he lived in seclusion in the Eastern Air Temple. For what reason, he didn't understand.
The slightly aging warrior headed to his establishments in the city, it was adapted from a high rise. As he entered, his servant was waiting with mail and other items for the leader. When he dismissed the young recruit, a scantily clad woman approached.
One of the advantages of running a mercenary company was knowing that none of your men would dare touch your women.
Rishu walked through the gardens of the Estate as the moon shone brightly on Republic City. Away from the mess of steel and metal, the north could be beautiful, but he always preferred the lands that he could never set foot in again.
The fathomless eyes looked about. As his custom, he had the gardens filled with plants from his travels, it took care and work to keep them growing when from such various locales. It reminded him of variety and diversity. The Grand Marshal walked further down the path away from the Mansion itself as he reached the trees of his estate. They provided a cool shade in the day and a shield of darkness at night.
Rishu kept walking down, even when he noticed the tree immediately behind him move. It was unnatural and he could feel it. He felt the earth shift as roots moved at a pace that wasn't their own.
Rishu breathed calmly as he walked forward, he didn't know what he was facing. He then felt that this thing was going to make the first move. He leapt while twisting, avoiding a swipe of claw-like branches while bending a stream of fire at his attacker.
The shape of Rishu rolled up as the creature stepped back momentarily from the flames. It indeed was a tree, emphasis on 'was'. It had large arms like a primate and shorter legs but each was big enough to be a tree trunk itself. The ends of the roots were claws on these trunks, one 'foot' had four, another had nine. It was hunched over, supporting a lot of its weight on its forearms.
A massive head sat between its shoulders, a sick green mist exuded from it, both its eyes and its mouth, which was large enough to eat Rishu whole. Branches and vines sharpened substituted for teeth on this monstrosity.
It stared at him with venomous intent. The Black Dragon treaded lightly, he didn't know what it was capable of. When facing a new enemy, caution was advised until you knew how to fight it. The creature gave a sickening roar as it looked at him aggressively.
A downswing of the arm of the monster came for him as Rishu easily sidestepped and set fire to the creature's face. It fell back and shielded itself with its large arms. As the white blaze subsided, his black eyes saw the scars of a burnt tree, reminding him of a time when he was happy to burn a tree he hated in his home.
Rishu frowned when the bark of the tree fell off, he saw water get absorbed from the grass and soon the burnt exterior returned to its previous state. Now he was in trouble, this thing could recover from anything.
As if to make it worse, it stomped its hands into the ground, digging its roots into the earth. Rishu saw two nearby trees shake and be consume into the dirt. Then they joined the monster making it grow to a far larger size. From the size of an otter-gorilla to now, comparable to a badgermole, was now a serious problem.
Inferno in the Lawn
Tired, sweaty, beaten, and all around happy that the day had come to an end, Tala laid down face first in the bed. Rishu was just as tough a teacher as his mercenary. There was no celebration about mastering waterbending, not that she felt like attending one anyways.
Worse, she felt inadequate. Her firebending was so elementary compared to the Grand Marshal, she was weak. The Avatar hated weakness, it was a cancer that ate away from within. Purging weakness was necessary, which was why she was so tired.
Her window was open, letting a healthy supply of cool air in. The wind pressed against her bare back, relief for her burning muscles. She heard the sounds of the city, yet something intruded on the calm of night.
It sounded like a distressed roar, or a muffled yell. Tala could have sworn she heard trees falling. She got up and looked out the window. She quickly pulled the blanket over her chest, not sure if someone was nearby her window.
The estate seemed to be fine, until she looked a little farther. A small blaze was out in the high gardens, an area full of interesting plant life collected by the Black Dragon. The blaze expanded with a flash of white light, trees were rent from their roots and chaos was ensuing. The screams and roars of something alien to the emerald eyed watcher were unsettling.
She stood up and put back on her clothes. She would rather know what was going on than wait to find out.
His breath left him as a tree trunk literally hit him. Sent reeling from the pain, his eye sight was spotty at best. He had to feel his way, it was bad straights to fight in that condition against a monster that could heal from anything he threw at it.
He could feel it moving for him when flashes filled his blurry vision. The break of not getting pummeled gave him time to get oriented. His guards had joined the fray. The thickly armored beast struck at them. His protectors were swept away like pins, standing no chance against this thing.
Recovered from the hits he had suffered, the Black Dragon charged with a powerful beam lightning. The creature stumbled and screamed terribly as the bark smoked and hissed and the green mist turned white. It fell down as his lightning dissipated. Rishu walked forward cautiously, he needed to finish it off now.
Without time to react, branches and roots struck from the ground, sending the black robed warrior flailing. He landed funny, making him take too long to get up. The wicked demon that had been attacking him was already up and charging for him. His black eyes looked on hopelessly, he couldn't win this alone.
An answer to his silent call for help, the monster tripped as earth seemed to grab its 'feet', pulling it away from the firebender. The next surprise was a welcome sight to Rishu as his student and five of her Dai Li guard leapt down.
"You're getting up, right?" The sarcasm of war, Tala shared his kind of humor.
Rishu got to his knee while catching his breath, "That thing hits harder than an Otter-Gorilla on cactus juice!"
"Then don't let it hit you!"
Anymore banter ended when the tree demon returned to fight. Enraged, it thrust its arms into the ground again, absorbing a nearby tree into its mass. The larger arms were intimidating enough, but the massive maw had become large enough to fit two grown men in there.
Roaring in its sickly fashion, the Dai Li attacked. Boulders rained on the hideous things as it kept sprinting for them. It was clear that rocks would work as well as fire. The demon reached them and dove in with a bone crunching bite of its teeth. The fighters leapt back and surrounded it.
Acting on intuition, the Dai Li and Tala all attacked at once. A wall of stone and earth covered the demon and began encasing it. The thing within beat at it fruitlessly. The earth shook at the force applied. The sphere of stone was holding.
A second of peace followed. The Dai Li, Tala, and the Black Dragon breathed easily smiling at their success. That was proven to be premature when cracks appeared in the stone prison. Tendrils of roots grew in between the cracks, spiraling out and making deeper gouges into the stone.
An explosion of earth soon followed. An enraged tree of a demon screamed at them, the piercing shriek rang through their ears. Each warrior grabbed their ears in vain to shut out the sound.
The terrible beast made a back handed swing, catching most of them and hitting them back. Charging forward, the tree demon screeched in a deep groan as it came in for the kill.
Rishu leapt back as the teeth of the evil monstrosity tore at the ground he had been occupying. The Black Dragon observed this devil, it was nigh invulnerable. The amount of fire it would take to burn it to a cinder was beyond even his ability.
His fathomless eyes looked for anything to use against this opponent. Within his stone garden were some bridges and tight corners from high walls. His mind raced to an old but effective anti-siege weapon. He called out to one of the agents, "Get the estate guards and tell them to bring the pitch to the stone garden!"
The agent nodded as he sped away on stone shoes. Tala lobbed boulders while asking, "I hope you have a plan!"
"We need to draw it to the stone garden, we might have an edge there!"
The party of fighter fled before the snarling abomination. The green mist escaping its maw slowed to vapors as the humans fled. A guttural babel rolled through its chest, like pride and confidence at chasing its prey.
The wooded monster leapt forward to go after the fleeing warriors. Its landing missed the Dai Li, though it wasn't its target. Like a drill, the beast dove into and dug through the ground at a high speed like the dirt and stone was just water.
While Tala and the Dai Li used earthbending to speed forward, Rishu led the way as he thrusted forward is large plumes of fire and heat from his fists. The Avatar felt the rumbling beneath her that did not belong to earthbending. She hoped they would make it to these stone gardens ahead.
The Black Dragon pressed forward, he needed as much time as he could get to prepare and keep the beast distracted. They finally reached the walls of his stone garden. Speeding through the two man opening, the beast burrowed through the ground, destroying the entrance.
As it emerged from the earth, it seemed to have picked up another tree into its mass. Clawing out, the roots that made its claws cut through stone like butter. In all his travels, Grand Marshal Rishu had never encountered a creature like this.
It lumbered forward as a foul hiss escaped. The Dai Li stepped back slowly. Tala noticed men moving above in the bridges and walks of the walls. They were in pairs and moving slow for such hurry. See saw another group, they were balancing large pots with something steaming inside.
The group kept walking back slowly as the monster waited to charge. Rishu led them back under a bridge. Not feeling the need to rampage yet, the creature followed them through the underpass, snarling and breathing in a heavy gust.
Rishu looked up to see his men in position with four pots of the steaming material. Once they stood at the ready, he called out to his men, "Now! Pin him in."
Stone walls emerged from the ground as the Dai Li punched up in the air. With only its front open the monster roared and stomped to attack when it stopped moving in a confused state.
Levitating slightly, it wriggled in bewildering movement. The Avatar's hands were outstretched like claws as sweat beaded from her forehead and her emerald eyes didn't leave sight of the beast. She grunt as she spoke slowly, "hurry up."
The men turned over the steaming black liquid over the bridge where a waterfall of the material landed on the tree demon. Swinging wildly, it broke free of Tala's grip and hit the overpass, destroying it and sending the men spiraling.
Rishu and Tala moved in unison, with a set of twists and turns before sending their fists forward. A pale fire from the black robed man and an orange flame from the emerald warrior. An inferno erupted as the black liquid ignited.
Swinging wildly and screeching in panic, the demon whirled while the Dai Li backed up. Rishu and Tala continued with streams of fire. Ablaze, the creature spun and hit blindly at the air.
Finally, the beast stumbled as the fires licked at the bark of its wooden skin. The green mist faded as it fell, lifeless, to floor. A final rush of the sick air left it as the fires died. The soldiers and warriors joined Tala and Rishu as they neared it.
They all jumped back for a moment when a crack appeared in the wood. It soon was followed by many more. The cracks continued and symbols began to be seen from the death of the creature as smoke and flame cleared the air.
"Lenet," Rishu said the name solemnly, she was the one behind this.
"We can't let this continue. She is too dangerous. We'll have to face her."
"She won't face us on our ground, she'll flee any time she is in danger," Tala was frustrated. Nowhere was safe from her. The witch plagued her everywhere.
"I know. To get her to fight us, we need to be on equal ground, somewhere ancient." Rishu had a distressed look to his face, he turned to Tala, "We need to go to the Storm Grave."
- The Storm Grave will be featured not only in next chapter, but in each series of the Storms of the Future Cycle.
- This is not the last we see of this demon tree that Lenet made.
- Tala has formally mastered the elements.
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|