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4 September, 2014
All live together, in harmony they pair
All united by a single call
Junetsu had hardly had enough time to finish the sea-prune stew when she had found out about the emergency meeting to be held. It had now been five days since Keiro's funeral, and Junetsu had moved back into her own home, though she still came round to cook dinner for the girls each night. Councilman Tookha had come to their home just as she was boiling the water, giving them some cryptic message of an emergency meeting to be held after dark.
Anana and Kesuk had also been invited to dinner with the two sisters and Junetsu. The five of them sat around the table now, enjoying the food before them. It was nearing dusk, and so the group would need to be at the meeting soon. There had been much speculation as to what this meeting was about. Kesaq, Kesuk's father, who had named his son a name inspired by his own, hadn't given his family many details. But Kesuk had his own theories.
"What if," The only male in the room began, "Utadano has an army of badgermoles!" He exclaimed, his arms spread out and nearly bumping into Saskha on his right. "It makes sense; I've heard talk that Utadano have formed a military base underground in some crystal catacombs or something, so maybe they found some badgermoles and are planning to dig an underground road to and from Manirak instead of the Northern Road!" The Northern Road was the route which was taken by the Utadano shipment service to deliver supplies and in the case of Manirak, collect supplies from villages all along the northern coast. Manirak was at one end of the road, and Utadano was at the other, on the far east coast of the northern continent. It took many weeks to travel to Manirak and back from Utadano, but at least the journey was made easier by this road.
Anana laughed at her friend's suggestion, "But you said your father had told you that General Huode had visited, along with four other soldiers. Why would the military visit us for planning an underground road?"
"It was a joke, Anana," Kesuk folded his arms, unhappily glaring at Anana.
Junetsu stood up and started collecting the empty bowls, "Well, I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. Let's get ready."
After a few minutes, the group of five left the hut and proceeded to the Meeting Hall. Kesuk had left shortly after the group had made it to the main path, wanting to meet with his parents before the meeting. Miki walked alongside Saskha, while Junetsu and Anana walked together, continuing their discussion on the best way to cook turkey-gull which they had started talking about at the dinner table. The sky was beginning to darken, and only small flickers of orange were visible near the horizon, and dark swirling clouds began to take their place.
"I wonder if Kesuk was right about the badgermoles?" Miki joked with her sister.
Saskha in turn laughed lightly, "Well you know what he's like when he's the only guy in a room." Kesuk often didn't mind being around only girls; he would put on his usual smooth-talking or charming persona, often flexing his biceps in front of the ladies while pretending to contemplate some deep philosophical truth. He had behaved himself most of the time while he was round for dinner at the girl's place tonight, but he still had that mischievous lady-killer look in his greyish-blue eyes the whole time he was explaining his badgermole theory. But Saskha didn't mind; it was one of his qualities that she surprisingly found quite attractive. The silly yet charming grin he wore, his sleek eyebrows dancing with each emphasis of a word...
Miki nudged her sister's arm, snapping her back to reality, "I know what you're thinking about," She added with a cheeky wink.
The cheeks on Saskha's face turned redder than a Fire Nation tiled roof top, "What? I never said anything about Kesuk! I mean... We're friends and all but that doesn't mean that... What I'm trying to say is that I mean he is..." Saskha continued her stuttering and unfinished sentences, all the while Miki laughed.
The pair said nothing more but followed Anana and Junetsu in front of them, turning the next corner. The library was in sight now; its tall tiled roofs appearing pale blue in the fading light. Torches had been lit on the sides of buildings, guiding the other villagers to the Meeting Hall next to the Library.
"You know, I never mentioned Kesuk either," the younger sister finally confessed.
Saskha growled, "Well, I thought you were talking about him," She started blushing again.
"So you do like him!" Miki teased, her face amused her sister's embarrassment.
"Things have been complicated," She sighed, staring at the steep roofs of distant huts and other buildings that lined the hilltops to the south. Most houses here had the same design, which consisted of steep thatched roofs which were almost like praying hands, with a base floor that was usually submerged in the snow. Because of this most homes had two entrances; one which was level with the ground, and technically the first floor, and one which was below ground level but was accessible by a descending path cleared in the snow.
As her mind wandered off, Saskha's eyes followed the other villagers, some emerging from the bottom floors of their homes and others exited from their balconies of the first floor. The reason that Manirak had houses like these, which were different to the ones in the Northern Water Tribe, was simply because it was too warm here to make their homes out of ice like the north. But they still had to deal with the almost constant snowfall, hence the steep roof design. They had once owned a home like this too; the houses in the hills which they lived in now tended to be much smaller. About a year after their mother died Saskha and her family decided to move to a smaller home in the hills, since the roofs had to be rethatched regularly and a smaller home would be easier to manage. Plus, their old home reminded them all of their mother.
"Hey," The boy who was on Saskha's mind just before ran over to them. He stopped for a few seconds in front of them, trying to catch his breath. "There are some spots next to my parents right up front if you want to join us?"
"That would be lovely," Junetsu answered for the group. "When you're my age you'll understand. You start hearing less and less so sitting near the front is a good idea!" She laughed loudly while motioning to her ear, the others smiling in response.
Kesuk motioned for the group to follow. He began counting them as they walked passed, his finger moving from each person. He stopped when he pointed to Anana, "Ah," He began with a slightly worried expression forming, "I don't think there will be enough spots." But before she could respond Kesuk continued, "I think Anana will have to sit on my lap," He added with a wink and a cheeky grin swept across his face.
Anana rolled her eyes and slapped the flirtatious boy on the shoulder, "Not funny Kesuk," She replied, but contradicted with a light laugh as she walked passed him.
Miki and Saskha followed after Anana and Junetsu, with Kesuk leading the way. It wouldn't be long before they reached the Meeting Hall.
A giggle surfaced from Miki as she noticed her sister's expression, "You've had an ice cold grimace on your face ever since Kesuk's joke," She commented.
"No I haven't!" Saskha whispered angrily in reply, "And keep your voice down!"
"You're jealous!" Miki did follow her sister's command, but there was still a cheeky tone to her voice.
Saskha squinted her eyes at her sister while smiling, as if pondering something profound, "You know, why are you so interested in my love-life? Is it because you want advice for your own?" She questioned her younger sister.
"No," Miki shot back, "I was just wondering why you looked so angry," Her cheeky, teasing grin had been replaced by a defensive frown.
Her older sister laughed, "You know I've missed this Miki. Us, teasing each other. We haven't done it for a while have we?"
"Yeah. It has been a while."
"You remember when we were younger it would last for days!" Saskha commented, "We would ignore each other for hours until Father would sort it out, getting us both to apologize and hug each other."
Miki nodded in agreement. Neither her nor Saskha needed to tell the other what they were now thinking. It was always a little hard to talk about their father now, even when the subject wasn't even about him but included him somehow, as was this conversation. Even after all the council from others, Miki still felt a tinge of guilt whenever her father was mentioned. But just like it would take time for her to forgive him, it would also take time for her to be free of her guilt.
"Not that I need to explain myself to you," Saskha broke the silence, "But I'm not jealous about Kesuk. We once had something going on, but it didn't last," She concluded with a reflective smile, as if she were remembering their time shared together. She turned back to her sister, "You know, when you have a guy interested in you I'm going to have so much fun teasing you," She added with her own cheeky grin.
Her younger sister rolled her eyes and clicked her tongue angrily, but after a few more seconds the pair started laughing quietly, just in time to arrive at the Meeting Hall.
The Meeting Hall was actually an untruthful name; it wasn't a hall per say, but a large tiled cover serving as a roof, which stretched over top of a thatched floor. There were no complete walls that reached the roof as a normal building, and instead the darkening sky could be seen in between the gaps of the roof and the fence which surrounded the entire area. A raised platform was situated at the far end of the hall, where the chief and Onartok now stood. Torches lit the areas on the sides, and groups of people sat beneath them, the heat radiating from the fires keeping them warm.
Kesuk led the group through the middle of the area, carefully stepping over other villager's legs as the rest of their group did. His mother turned around and waved to them, and stood up and gave Junetsu a hug when she made it over to them. Anana, Miki, and Saskha all sat next to Kesuk along the same row as the adults. He had been right about being near the front; there were only a few rows of people in between them and the raised platform.
Other groups of people quietly chatted to each other, laughing and joking, their wide smiles and warm laughter filling the air around them. Others exchanged worried looks on their faces. It wasn't normal to have an emergency tribe meeting, and so some people were on edge about it, anticipating what would be said. After a short while, Onartok moved forward to the front of the platform while Iluliaq raised his hand, and the chatter slowly faded away, all eyes expectantly watching the councilman.
"Thank you all for coming here on such short notice," Onartok began. He scanned the crowd, reaching each individual with his eyes, "But something has come up which is of grave importance, and we must vote as a tribe for our next course of action." His light blue eyes met with Buniq's, and a pang of anxiety inflicted itself upon his chest. The loved ones he cared so much about were all in danger.
"As you may have heard, General Huode, Minister of Foreign Affairs and General in Utadano's military, along with four other soldiers visited us this morning. They told us about the war they are having with the Southern Earth Kingdom, a war which has been going on before many of us can remember. But this war has now dragged the other nations into it; the Eastern Air Temple have been forced into an alliance with the Southern Earth Kingdom, the Western have joined the Fire Nation, while the Northern Air Temple are on their own. So, Utadano came to us today since we are the last nation to choose a side in this war, and they want our help."
By this stage many villagers had started whispering to each other, murmurs being exchanged with anxious faces. "They want us to first join them in a new Empire of the North, uniting all those villages who reside on this continent in the north, and therefore abandon our home tribe at the North Pole. They then want us to assemble an army in three weeks, an army of warriors, waterbenders, and healers, and fight for them. They have also asked us to give them all we have, and let them manage resources between the various villages under Utadano's control." After each sentence an angry chorus erupted, people yelling and conveying their disapproval. "I'm glad you feel the same way that I do about these things my friends, and it seems that we now have three options to deal with this issue."
Miki exchanged a worried look with her sister. The last thing Manirak needed was to be dragged into a war. They were a small village, and they already supplied Utadano and other surrounding villages to the east as well. They couldn't afford to join in a world war.
"Utadano have threatened to wage war on us if we decline," After Onartok said this another wave of angered cries emerged from the crowd, "They believe themselves to be so powerful that they can declare war on anyone they choose. And so, they have given us the choice of two options. The first, we give in to their unreasonable demands, and submit to their authority and become part of the Northern Earth Kingdom. Or, they said we could vacate our entire village, since they do not want us occupying land the claim to be theirs," Onartok rose his voice as he said this, reliving the fury that he felt after his conversation with Huode.
"So, we now have three options: One, we decide to comply with their first offer and join them in their war with the Southern Earth Kingdom, abandoning our home tribe and becoming part of this monstrosity of an empire under Utadano's rule. Two, we can give in to their second option and vacate our village to move to the Northern Water Tribe, and leave them all that we have worked so hard to build." Onartok paused for a moment, sweeping his eyes across the entire audience before continuing, "Or three, we stand our ground against these evil, despicable demons from the east, and fight for Manirak!" He screamed the last part while holding his fist in the air, a look of defiance and bravery on his face.
Many others joined him in the chorus of cheering, while others still remained quiet. It had all happened so fast; they had just found out that Utadano had now become their enemy and were trying to force them into a new empire under their rule and fight in their war with the south, and so it was a lot to process for some people. After the commotion had started to die down, Onartok continued, "But we must vote as a tribe, as is our tradition. So I will begin with my own proposition. We must think first of the safety of our civilians. No matter what we do, join these bastards in their war or fight them head on, I suggest that we send our families to our home tribe in the north," Nearly everyone chimed in agreement or nodded to Onartok's last statement. "Tookha and Noarah have volunteered to travel to the Northern Water Tribe, and will take any who need to take shelter there. They will also be informing the council there, telling them about our dilemma and organizing reinforcements from our home tribe." The reactions of the tribesmen were unanimous; protecting the women, children, and elderly was an important part of who they were as a tribe.
"So we have three options as I stated before. But if you have a conviction like mine, and a desire to fight for all we hold dear, than there is only one thing we can do! We must defend our home!" Onartok concluded, raised fists with a fearsome expression.
"Hold on Onartok."
The councilman slowly lowered his fists, and turned back to face the chief.
"There is another option my family, one that we have not talked about yet," Iluliaq made his way to the front, walking staff in hand.
Onartok sighed, "But we talked about this Chief Iluliaq, I can't simply--"
"I understand your concern," The old Chief interrupted, "But we must be fair to our people, and present all the Pai Sho pieces on the table." Onartok made no further reply, and allowed the chief to address the crowd, "There is another option for us my friends. Utadano have given us two; we can either join them or vacate our village. But we not only have one other option, as Onartok has suggested, but we have two, both of which can be done."
The crowd before him began to whisper to each other again, this time more confusion in the air than before. Iluliaq continued, "Tookha and Noarah have volunteered to journey with those leaving for the north, and Kesaq and myself will stay with those remaining here in Manirak. And that leaves Onartok as the only other leader of our tribe," Iluliaq glanced to the other councilman on stage, "Who I have asked if he would go on another expedition different to the one led by Tookha and Noarah. One which he will journey on with a few others who are willing. One which will take him through the Earth Kingdom and eventually to the Western Air Temple and Fire Nation."
Buniq let out a small gasp where she sat, her hand pressed to her mouth afterwards. Her husband had told her that he may have to leave for some time once he had returned from the meeting this morning, though he had never said anything about journeying to the other side of the world. Others in the hall let out gasps, and surprised murmurs.
But after a few more seconds, the Meeting Hall had fallen deathly silent. All were shocked with this new proposition, and waited eagerly for their leader's next words, "Onartok will be leading an expedition to the west, in order to find the next Avatar."
Again, another wave of murmurs and whispers from the crowd. "My friends," Iluliaq addressed them, "I understand that most of you want to fight against our oppressors, and I feel exactly the same way. But we must think about the long term repercussions of any choice we make. We must send our women, children, and elderly to the Northern Water Tribe for their safety, and any who are not able to defend our home. We must also fight our enemy and show them that we will not submit to their tyranny. Though we must also understand that we are but a small village, and even with the help of others we may still stand no chance against Utadano and the Northern Earth Kingdom. Which is why I have suggested that we seek out the Avatar."
The old chief examined his people before him, noticing their still confused expressions, "I remember seeing the Avatar once; Avatar Furuki was his name. Those of you who are as old as I am may remember him also. We believe that the next Avatar has been born and is training either in the Fire Nation, or Western Air Temple. For those of you who do not know, the Avatar is the bridge between our world and the Spirit World. He is reborn into many lives, in order of the seasons, and therefore into a new nation each lifetime. He is also the one who can master all four bending arts; waterbending, earthbending, firebending, and airbending. They also possess a great power that enhances their abilities tremendously, known as the 'Avatar State'."
After each sentence many started to cheer in agreement. This sort of person was exactly what they needed; a man who possessed great power to help them thwart their foes. Many of the younger ones were still processing what their chief had told them. The Avatar was known to almost all of the villagers since many of their stories and songs told of his great might and power. Yet he had always been a legend to them, a beacon of hope rather than a reality.
Iluliaq let his words sink in for a few moments before continuing, "This expedition that I have entrusted to Onartok will serve more than one purpose. The first will be to seek out the new Avatar. They are the one who brings balance to the world, and maintain peace between us and the spirits, and so we will request that he would intervene in this situation." The room had fallen silent once again. "The second purpose is to make contact with the other nations. We only know what General Huode has told us regarding the various alliances and pairings of the other nations, and he could very well be lying to us so that we give in to their demands. That is why it is crucial that we get in touch with the other nations, which Onartok and his team will be doing."
The councilman mentioned continued to stare at the floor beneath him. He couldn't look into the crowd in case his eyes met with Buniq's again. What must she think of him now? He was going to leave her behind on some dangerous quest which would take him to the other side of the world.
"That is my proposal," Iluliaq concluded. "We will hold the vote tomorrow morning, which will give you all time to discuss it with one another. Anyone else who wants to address the whole tribe may do so now." As members of the crowd before them began chatting among themselves, Chief Iluliaq glanced back at Onartok, "I am sorry old friend." With his face solemn and slightly saddened he continued, "But we have a duty to our people. I had to at least bring up the idea of finding the Avatar. You must understand that out of all the councilmen you are the one who is best suited for this task?"
Onartok sighed loudly, "I do understand. But I also have a duty to my wife." After he had said this he finally looked towards the tribe, but couldn't see Buniq anywhere. "How can I leave knowing that I won't be here to protect her?"
"By leaving you will be fulfilling both your duty as a councilman, and as a husband," Iluliaq answered. "If you go it will not be in vain, but to find a solution to this war: the Avatar. And by doing so, everyone in the tribe will be saved, including your wife."
All Onartok could manage was a nod in reply. Even though he could hear his chief's words, they didn't make him feel any better. Perhaps he could take Buniq with him? Shaking his head, he quickly dismissed the thought. It was best that she go to the North Pole with all the other civilians. But no matter what happened, Onartok knew that he would have to be separated from his wife; she would be travelling to the North, and he would either be staying here or leaving for the Western Air Temple. Tookha and Noarah had lived a good portion of their lives in the Northern Water Tribe, and so they had connections there which Onartok did not. Sighing again, he took a seat next to the other councilmen. He only hoped that whoever would be accompanying him on this journey would be up to the task of travelling across the world, in order to save their village.
- The houses in Manirak are based on the Gassho-Zukuri Minka style Japanese homes (I hope I've got that right!), which have steep roofs which are said to be like 'praying hands'. For a good idea of what Manirak village looks like, look up 'Ogimachi' village and find a picture when it is winter (There are some truly magnificent photos of the place :D ).
|Spirit of the North|
|• Chapter 1 - Manirak • Chapter 2 - Memories • Chapter 3 - The Librarian • Chapter 4 - Liberation • Chapter 5 - Guilt • Chapter 6 - A Final Goodbye • Chapter 7 - Reconnection • Chapter 8 - Visitors from the East • Chapter 9 - Avatar • Chapter 10 - The Dream that Led to a Journey • Chapter 11 - Promise • Chapter 12 - The Vote • Chapter 13 - Unspoken Desires • Chapter 14 - Beyond the Borders • Chapter 15 - Foreseer of Futures • Chapter 16 - The Warrior Within • Chapter 17 - First Blood • Chapter 18 - Victories and Defeats • Chapter 19 - Secrets of the Book • Chapter 20 - Entering the Earth Kingdom• Chapter 21 - The Dream Nobody Thought Would Come True • Chapter 22 - The Great River City: Part 1 • Chapter 23 - The Great River City: Part 2|
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