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|The Red Tide Rolls|
August 25, 2013
Chapter 5: The Red Tide Rolls
"...And let the Red Tide Roll..." it had said.
A wave of icy dread washed over me, freezing me to the core. There was only one being who used that line—the one follower of the Red that I knew best, better than myself in some regards.
"Hello, brother," the figure said, a garbled chuckle rumbling within his chest.
"Nocturne," I mouthed. It was all I could manage.
"So good to see you here," he said. "I must say, it has been far too long." His dark gaze followed me, taking in every detail of my disbelief.
I was at a loss for words. "How, Nocturne. Why?" I stuttered.
"Ah, young Atlas, still fumbling for words." He smiled wide. "You ask why I am here, brother? Why, this boy here called me, practically begged for my audience. I was enjoying a nice sleep before his fit began." His eyes fell upon Aang, "I am here because of the young Avatar."
It was as I had feared. "So he may have called you, Nocturne, but Aang will never fall for the lies you profess."
My brother simply leered at me, then Aang. "We have ways, you know, of making others reconsider our offers." He clicked his sharp beaked fingers on each other, making a reach for Aang.
"You will deal with me first if you wish to take him, Nocturne!" I was ready to attack him.
"Hold, Atlas," he held up a singular hand, "I did not come for us to tussle. Let us have ourselves a talk. It looks as though this time, I am the one to stray from violence." Once again, the grating chuckle echoed through the room.
"Come, sit, let us talk." He gestured one of the many stone bases on which the statues rested. I slowly seated myself at the foot of one of the Avatars, ushering Aang to do the same.
"So, brother, what brings you to such a dismal location?" Nocturne asked.
"Surely, you must know that, Nocturne. This is the last world that I am trying to save, thanks to you and your master."
"Ah, yes. The last world. But by my hand?" He placed a hand on his chest, an innocent look on his face, "No. That was not my doing. I merely cleaned up. It was these petty mortals that brought doom upon themselves. Surely, you must know that, my dear Atlas."
I hated his condescending tone. Ever since I was a boy, I feared my brother's sly voice, the way it slipped in and out of my mind, finding all the right answers. But I had since grown.
"Yet, you were there all along, Nocturne, coercing the combatants," I said. "They were spelled into their violent trances and you were the hypnotist. You were the puppet master, pulling and tugging on the strings of war. You caused it all, not mankind."
At that, Nocturne fell silent, watching me with black pupiless eyes. The grey skin that held his face together was pulled tight without wrinkles or blemishes. His lips were taut and drawn tight, barely visible from where I sat. After a moment the slit mouth curled into a devious grin once more, revealing rows of pointed teeth.
"You know, Atlas my brother, you sure have grown. Your eloquence and wit has blossomed since the last time I saw you." He shook his head in an approving manner. "This will make for a much more enjoyable struggle, you know."
"Stay your honeyed words, Nocturne. You know we cannot kill each other, for our powers are matched. I will not allow you to have Aang." My voice and anger grew.
"Tut tut," he said. "Why ruin all the fun, Atlas? The talk has just started," He scolded me as easily as he had in youth. I watched as the same leering smile resurfaced, measuring me from within and without.
"Go on brother," I said. "I do not jest with you. These are not light matters. This is the fate of worlds, not some childish game."
"But, brother," he pouted, mocking me, "I just want to talk."
"Keep your forked tongue to yourself, snake, or I will cut it out!" I yelled. "You have never wanted to talk before, remember? Yet your words are as potent as your weapons. I know your motives, Nocturne. I despise them, and you." That did it. I knew I struck something deep within my brother with those words. He knew I hated him and his walk of life. But to say it aloud, from the younger to the elder—that was wrong.
"Why you insolent little wretch, father made a mistake with you!" Nocturne rose to his feet and the madness began to dance in his eyes.
"The mistake is you, Nocturne," I rose with him. "Father is the White, I am the captain of the White, but you align yourself with the Red. You are the mistake."
All he did was look at me for a moment, thinking on something. That was odd, for he usually spoke his mind freely. But whatever was in his devilish head, he soon pushed it away.
"You know Atlas, you are right. Talk gets us nowhere." He stood from his seat, tossing back the edges of his cloak. "I will have the boy, now." He took a step forward, reaching out for Aang again.
"No," I yelled, pushing the frightened boy away from him, "you will have me!"
I lunged at him, knocking him off his clawed feet. The impact knocked the wind from him, and we began to tumble around the room, each fighting for the upper hand. It was futile, I knew that. Neither of us could do harm to the other as far as we knew of. After hitting my head on a pedestal, I was surprised by a sharp claw clamped tightly around my neck with the other held back, pointed at me. I thrashed on the ground, desperately trying to escape Nocturne's clutches. I knew he would release his power through that coiled fist. I knew what would happen too. For one it would hurt, beyond anything else in the worlds, but I would not die. No, I would materialize again, but by then, my brother would surely have Aang. I needed Time.
Ah, and Time I would have. Nocturne might have had secrets, but I had my own. It was Time, my only companion over my endless voyage through space. We were one in the same, Time and I. And as a result, we understood each other. Every day, hour, minute, and second, down to the infinitely small increments of Time, I knew. I could slip in and out of It at will. It was the one advantage Nocturne did not possess. And so I aligned myself once again with my old friend. Time stopped, everything stopped, yet I was conscious of it all. All my brother could do was watch in rising terror as I exacted my long awaited revenge.
"Are you not frightened?" I asked him.
What color there was in his grotesque features quickly left him, leaving a cold husk of the previous god. I calmly released myself from his grip, standing up before his hunched, frozen form.
"You had no idea, did you?" I asked.
I all received in return was a stiff gaze of two black oceans. No, I took it.
"You see, Nocturne," I said, "when you routed me all those years, I had no one to turn to. I did not have a whole Tide of followers to fall back upon like yourself. I felt trapped, a mere slave of my task. The only one that understood my trial was Time itself. For twenty thousand long years I labored fruitlessly, and for twenty thousand long years, Time went along with me. I traveled in It, and It traveled in me. We understood each other. I knew Its secrets, Its workings, and It knew mine. So now, I stand before you, not the slave of Time, as perhaps you once thought. I am Time's familiar—Father Time, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and as such I will have my revenge."
Everything around me was frozen. A tinted blue haze overshadowed everything, like looking through distorted lenses. It was rapture. Looking down at Nocturne, who was still in the same rigid pose, with one arm pushed forward grasping what was no longer there and the other held back preparing to strike, I managed a smile for the small victory I would have. With all of the powers bestowed upon me throughout my life, I now gave them free roam, allowing them to course wildly through my veins, giving my lethal intent a medium from which to attack. I held them at bay, the vast amounts of energy threatening to overwhelm my resistance, for I still had a word or two left.
"Nocturne, I despise you." I spat on his unmoving form. "You are a defiler of worlds. I cannot help but wonder what your Master will do when he learns you returned without Aang. but I am sure I can give you a taste of what is in store for you. Farewell. May we never meet again, in this world or the void beyond!"
I loosed the torrent of energy held back. All at once, it left me, cascading from my body like a roaring waterfall. I did not even have to direct it. With grim finality the crackling bolts of energy slammed into my brother, sending his slender, snake-like form sprawling across the room. The sound was deafening, like a thunderclap within my head. My teeth were shaken to the roots and I thought surely every bone in my body had broken. If it hurt me like that, I feared to think what it would have been like for Nocturne. All that was left was a charred and tattered cloak that covered his broken figure. His flesh had been blackened, and on his face were the remnants of a final deathly scream.
"Is he dead Atlas?" Aang asked. The young boy peered out from behind a statue.
"No, Aang," I said, "he is not. He may look it, but do not be fooled. We are gods after all. And sometimes our immortality is a curse. He will be back." I walked over and picked the boy up, shaking off the century old dust from his clothes. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I think so," he said.
In his eyes, I could see a struggle with his conscience. No doubt, he was giving himself grief for calling that monstrosity forth, but part of him just wanted it all to end. I turned Aang slowly towards his two friends who were safe although visibly shaken.
"Your friends are safe and you are safe, Aang. You did not fail, so stop tormenting yourself for what has past. Let it simply slip from your mind." I gave him the gentlest pat on the back.
Nodding my head, I called for Sokka and Katara to join us. It was a warm embrace, one I had seldom experienced in my journey. We were all safe. That was all that mattered, for now.
"Atlas, thank the spirits for whatever you did," Katara said, her voice shaky.
I released my hold. "Yes," I said, "thank them that I did." I looked to all three of my companions. "But let the past be, for now we know we have an enemy that will only operate in the present and the future."
Aang nodded. "I'd like to forget," he said, wiping a single tear from his eyes. The young Avatar took one last look at the sea of bones that he was standing in and gave a low, reverent bow. "I will never forget," I heard Aang whisper.
After a minute he came back up, wiping his eyes again and turning to the stone doors which had since reopened. Standing in the doorway, casting a shadow much too large for its small form, was some lemur-like creature.
"LEMUR!" Aang cried out.
He dashed off after it, down the dark hallways and back into the open air, leaving Sokka, Katara, and I in the dusty mausoleum, chuckling to ourselves at his sudden change of heart.
"Boy, he sure came around quick," Sokka said.
I looked around the graveyard again. "Thank the White he did," I replied. "It is but the nature of the young, Sokka. They weep bitterly when sad, but forget easily afterwards. Aye, thank the White for that."
"So, what now, Atlas?" Katara asked.
I watched her flickering eyes for a moment. "Why, we follow him. For wherever he goes, the fate of mankind follows."
And now, so too followed my dear brother, Nocturne. I knew not what lay in store for our small group, yet I still remained optimistic. Though today could have ended horribly, it did not, and we all learned a valuable lesson from it. I for one, knew that Time was on our side.
|As the Tide Breaks|
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