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|Battle of the Six Armies: Part One|
Previously on Energy Saga
Aang teaches Kaddo the remainder of the Old Southern Style waterbending move that he had begun to learn before Vameira was abducted by Air Lord Icarus. The Avatar also has some intriguing conversation with Queen Toph and Chief Sokka about the Sages Bane and a mysterious spirit by the name of Shihang Shi. Some more interesting perspectives are present with Aang's simultaneous dialogue with the rational scientific Mechanist and the enlightned, spiritual Guru Pathik. Now, the time to battle all old threats is nigh – and the Avatar Legion from ages past has resurrected itself!
Chapter Forty: Battle of the Six Armies: Part One
Omashu Royal Palace, 121 AG
Queen Toph, Chief Sokka and the others had risen and grabbed breakfast early. The Omashu Army generals had come to report that the enemies were actually closer to them than originally expected. Therefore, Toph ordered them to accelerate their mobilization. Everyone there had a big day to prepare for. Sokka, Suki, Migo and Trinley were all busy in various ways.
Avatar Aang, however, was not with them just yet. He had another engagement on his agenda. It was not one concerning his Avatar duties, nor about the battle, nor about the world. It was much more personal in nature. As Aang paced back and forth in one of Toph's several drawing rooms, Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira were scaling the adjacent hallway, all very curious to find out what their father wanted to tell them.
"Hi, Dad," Tenzin greeted casually as he flung open the door. "You wanted to see us?"
"I did," confirmed Aang. "Sit down, please," he added, gesturing to the matted area of the floor in front of him.
The three children obliged as they were directed. Tenzin sat on the far right, making eye contact with Aang, while Vameira positioned herself on the far left, sandwiching the waterbender Kaddo between them. None of them knew exactly what to expect, despite all having their moments with him in recent times. Tenzin, the black bison calf who ran away, had inflicted devastating worry on his family for every second of his absence, only to gain a closer and more trusting bond with his dad upon his return. Kaddo had been the only one there for his Avatar father at his darkest, most hopeless hour, and helped him begin his newest, seemingly in vain quest. Vameira had been captured from one who was once one of Aang's most trusted allies, and after being rescued she was at Aang's side as they left the Southern Air Temple, lost Appa and found their way back to civilization.
"A lot has changed. I tried to keep the three of you out of danger entirely for as long as I could – and haven't even done a good job with that so far." This was true. All of them had been present during the revolution in Ba Sing Se, Tenzin had fought in the Fire Nation Civil War, Kaddo, through his many adventures, had gained a new understanding of waterbending and healing and Vameira, after being captured and facing great peril, had broken out with her father leading the way, and she had broken out of her own pampered shell in the process. "And with what we're up against today I now know that won't be possible anymore."
"We figured that was the case," said Kaddo, crossing his arms with a smirk.
"You don't need to sugarcoat," Tenzin added confidently. "I can vouch we're all brave enough to handle it." Vameira exchanged a sideways glance with her eldest brother and nodded.
"Even if you're all still underage by traditional Water Tribe standards, each of the three of you have shown powerful displays of bending in recent times," Aang went on. "We need to make use of that today. Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira, I have spoken with Toph and we will be sending the three of you to be stationed at the Back Wall. There will be a few battalions of Toph's troops there as well."
"What?!" Tenzin snapped in disbelief.
Aang was baffled by Tenzin's outburst. "Isn't this what you wanted?"
Kaddo's reaction was similar. "Dad, if you're sending us to the Back Wall, you might as well be keeping us in a cage. Let us come to the Front Wall – that's where the bridge is, and where the enemies are most likely going to strike. Nothing's going to happen at the Back Wall."
Even Vameira protested. "Daddy, you went back on yourself. You said we were ready, but now we're not..."
"I think you're confused," Aang answered calmly. "Your coming of age is different from your being needed where the most intense action will be taking place. Even after all we've been through, the warriors and benders going there have years more experience than any of you do."
"Are you going there?" asked Kaddo, irritably.
"Of course I am," said Aang simply.
"I've faced a dragon," Tenzin stated defiantly. "I'm sure I can take anything Azula or the others have to hurl at me!"
Aang raised his hands in an attempt to simmer the mood down. "I already said you've proven yourselves. It's now time to be pragmatic and patient. That's another part of maturity."
"Hinko also tells me he's going to the Front Wall," Tenzin continued, ignoring his father's last words. "No offense to cousin Hinko, but I have more experience than him for sure."
"I'm not Hinko's dad," Aang countered. "Your Uncle Sokka decided he needed Hinko's experience and stamina as a young warrior by his side. Sokka's bringing him to the Front Wall, along with Aunt Suki and Sakema."
"Why does Sakema get to go to the Front Wall?!" Kaddo asked in a raised voice.
"Sakema is an expert healer – just like you. That's why it's so important that you go to the Back Wall, Kaddo. We'll need someone on each side of the city in case there's healing to be done. Remember what your mom and granddad always said: being a man is about knowing where you're needed the most."
"I can't see what good that move you taught me will be at the Back Wall."
"Your mother would want it this way."
Vameira crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "It's good to know you still have her in mind. Maybe you should've been more considerate before you sucked her energy out!" But a second later, Vameira widened her eyes again and softened the rest of her expression. She covered her mouth with both her hands, wanting nothing more than to shove those venomous words of hers back down her throat, where they belonged. "Dad...I am so sorry. I shouldn't have said that..."
"No," Aang told his daughter, waving the immediate apology away. "You're partially right. There's no use fretting about it. But we can't talk about this now. We all have more pressing matters to attend to. I say that because it's the truth, not to excuse myself."
Kaddo had mixed feelings now. He remained angered at his father, but he found his sister's words uncalled for at a time like this. "Dad didn't know that the move would do that when he first tried it. Well, at least we don't have to worry about anything like that happening again. He's stopped energybending now."
Tenzin shrugged this clarification aside. "Meh, I never thought you had to stop energybending altogether. I think that was going overboard. You should still use Shuten Shogai if you get the chance."
"What?" asked Kaddo, spinning to face his airbending brother.
"NO!" Vameira cried out.
Aang was put back by what he found an impertinent statement. "I don't see how you can say that after you've seen the consequences, Tenzin. It requires ripping out a person's essential bodily energies. Shuten Shogai is a terrible move."
"Shuten Shogai's just like any other move," Tenzin countered. "It can be used for the side of good as long as you take an enemy's energy to use it against more enemies."
"No, it cannot be used for good ever, because, it is, by nature, evil. And Tenzin, you're starting to sound like Icarus."
"Icarus may have gone bad," Tenzin conceded. "But maybe he was right about you being too soft."
Aang let out a deep sigh. Not a single foe had set their eyes on Omashu yet and already the day was not off to a good start.
The outer perimeter of Omashu was packed. As the looming threat of the enemy armies grew nearer, troops began to poise themselves on top of the wall – Omashu Royal Army and Avatar Legion alike – and on the ground immediately behind the great gate, which would not be opened until their opponents forced it such. Unfortunately, this was not estimated to take much time, as there were not enough airbending masters capable of creating a massive air shield, as there had been at the Battle of the Fire Nation Capital. At the Battle of Omashu, Avatar Aang and his companions would be required to rely on themselves more.
The famous mail delivery system was in full usage today. Artillery and messages were being sent left and right to both the Front and Back Walls – though considerably more to the Front Wall. Meanwhile, the many civilians and townsfolk of Omashu were instructed to get indoors for the day. Some had chosen the familiar setting of their own home, while others had decided there would be more safety below the surface of the city, in one of several established shelters, which had protected generations of Omashu citizens from fiery bombardment, having been constructed approximately midway through the Hundred Year War. Guru Pathik had gone indoors as well. Presently he was in a local temple, not far from the Back Wall. He wasn't any sort of warrior, but he was available as a spiritual advisor, should they have need of one.
One advantage that could be counted on – at least for a short while – was the narrow, twisted-looking earth bridge leading up to the main gates, which was treacherous to march an army across. With archers along the very top of the Front Wall, the enemy could be shot at from above, with no where to dodge. This would be the case with the Phoenix Army ground forces, the Dai Li and most likely the Anti-benders. Of course, this all only applied to the early battle, as those within the city knew they could be expected to be heavily bombarded first. The Air Nation Remnant had the air to their advantage and were exempt from this altogether.
At this time of day, one might ordinarily find a group of neighborhood kids playing earth soccer on weekends and vacations. However, no children below the age of fourteen were permitted to be roaming the streets now. They were all to be indoors, with their families and guardians. Among the only exceptions to this were Kaddo, Vameira and Sakema.
Another one close to that age was Princess Neinei of the Fire Nation, though most did not know her identity or accept her as such. She had her white hair slightly darkened in a scruffy mess, being unable and unwilling to groom herself this morning. Currently, Neinei was on her way escorting Hope to the shelter nearest to the Front Wall, where the young singer would be joining her husband Tom-Tom.
"I guess this is where we part, then," Hope said regretfully, wishing she could do more under the circumstances, but knowing that her singing voice would be worthless in a battle.
"Yes," Neinei reciprocated mildly, reaching to give Hope a quick hug before making to leave. "I've decided to go to the Front Wall. It's my duty."
"The soldiers from the former Western Fleet are there, I believe," noted Hope. "They'll be motivated by having their princess fighting by their side."
"I don't think so," said Neinei gloomily. "No one accepts who I am. I told them who I was, but no one believes me. They think I'm some low-life imposter!"
"It's strange. I didn't think they hair and the scars would change your appearance that much. There must be something that you can do to make them know it's really you."
"No, I've tried everything. Maybe it's meant to be this way."
"Neinei, you shouldn't talk like that. Everyone else should come around eventually. I know who you really are. So does Tom-Tom."
"That won't help," said Neinei. "I'll be fighting mostly on my own today – away from Trinley or anyone from the Fire Nation. That would cause unneeded tension. I have to be strong and not think of myself. Today is bigger than me, my position or even my people. Father always says it's our struggles that define who we are. He knew what it meant to be a true firebender – and to have honor. I'm glad I got to fight by his side at last on the night that our palace was attacked."
As Hope entered the shelter, she looked at Neinei with half-admiration, half-pity, not knowing what to say. "Good luck – and remember, never give up without a fight," she finally managed.
Aang came across Toph as he exited the palace. She had recently concluded a speech to a division of Omashu's elite warriors and was just in the middle of talking to Migo. Toph's head servant Nala was also among them – standing idly by as Toph and Migo spoke a few feet from her. Migo was as high-spirited as he ever was. With him around, Toph found the company more soothing than she would ever admit and the two of them had their mind at ease for the time being.
She noticed the Avatar with her feet as he treaded on the stony path. "Nice of you to finally show up," Toph greeted her old friend jokingly. "How did the ol' pep speech to the kids go?"
"It went over so-so," Aang responded moodily.
"Figures," said Toph.
"I don't know how it got this way. It's like dealing with my family is as difficult as dealing with another army."
Toph cut him off. "I would ask if you wanted to talk about it more, but we really need to worry about more important stuff now."
"Right," agreed Aang, although he appeared aloof and distracted when he said it.
Toph noticed. "Is something else bothering you?"
"Everything's so different now," Aang reflected distantly. "Among other things, I'm going to do something today that Fire Lord Sozin claimed to do for many years. I'm going to battle the Air Nation Army."
"Yeah, you better believe it," said Toph with a nod.
"When I was in disguise at the Fire Nation school years ago, I pointed out the oxymoron of an 'Air Nation Army' to my teacher. I've made the world something that's not in its proper fate. Meddling with energies has caused me to meddle with destiny."
Toph interrupted him with a sharp jab to his left arm. "Quit your whining! It's starting to get old to listen to."
"I'm not whining," Aang clarified, using his right arm to rub the area on his left that Toph had punched. "I just know that the balance is off and it's my responsibility to fix it."
"Good to hear. Well, you don't have to do it alone! You've got the Avatar Legion with you this time," Toph added with a smile. She crossed her arms and pretended to look up and face him with her blind eyes.
The Avatar reciprocated her expression. "I'll see you guys later," said Aang, ejecting himself. "I have to go check on Sokka now." With that, he flew off toward the Front Wall of Omashu – the fortified entranceway to the city through which they would ward off their unwelcome guests.
Now that they were alone once more, Migo hardened his expression to signal his intent to get down to business. "We should be making our way over there, too."
"Yes," concurred Toph. "Let's go find Penga first, though."
"I can go look for Penga for you," Nala suggested timidly.
"No, Nala," said Toph sternly. "I think that we can handle it on our own, thanks."
"Well...is there anything else you need me to do?" Nala asked in desperation.
"No, Nala," Toph repeated, raising her voice. "Just get yourself to safety and we'll come fetch you when the battle's over."
Nala reluctantly nodded and hung her head. "I'm only trying to help..."
"Well that's just wonderful," Toph said sarcastically. She was now noticeably annoyed. "What do you want me to do – find a way for you to help? Sorry, but I don't see what you can do. You're not an earthbender. You're not skilled with any kind of weaponry. No matter what you did you'd just get in the way."
Nala grinned weakly. "Perhaps, I could come with you to the Front Wall and offer some...moral support?"
"Absolutely not!" snapped Toph. "You'd just burden us. Face it, Nala – there's nothing you can do. I'd tell you to stay out of the way, but given your past record, you're not even able to do that. Just give up and stop trying to help out! You're no good to us!"
Nala gaped at her, open-mouthed, in sheer disbelief at Queen Toph's words.
Toph turned sharply to face her fellow metalbender. "Let's go, Migo!" And with that, she stormed off downhill on the street that would lead them to where the majority of the Avatar Legion and the Omashu Army were congregating.
"Y-yeah," said Migo. "Coming." As he followed Toph, Migo stared back at the helpless Nala, almost as taken aback as she was.
Longshot peered off into the distance as he stood atop the stone structure with the Omashu Army archers. As one of the best shots in the world, he was ready to give a rude awakening to whomever was daring and arrogant enough to charge within his range first. A few dozen feet below him – at the ground level – were the Avatar and some of his oldest and closest friends.
"It's not customary in the Air Nomad tradition to dwell on past events when we're forced to defend ourselves," Aang said matter-of-factly. "I also don't condone any notion of avenging, but I will say this: everything we do today, we do in honor of Appa!"
"Well put," said Sokka in remembrance.
"I also decided that I won't be using any purple fire today," announced Aang. "I'll do just fine with ordinary red fire. It wouldn't be right to bend the purple kind, because of the effect it has on my spirit – and that I acquired it unnaturally."
Teo and Trinley stare at each other uneasily. "Isn't that like our airbending?" asked Teo.
"I can't ask you to not airbend," Aang told them. "Maybe I should never have given you the ability, but you're specialized in it now, and we'll need your skill today. I'm the Avatar and I have plenty of other things I can do, so doing without one won't be the end of me."
"He does have a point," Merk stated with a nod, sporting his bright red Air Nomad tunic and grasping his glider staff. Nevertheless, Trinley continued to wear a guilty-looking expression on his face.
Finally, the dreaded loud noise signaled from an unseen distance behind the other side of the Front Wall. Avatar Aang and those surrounding him stared up into the sky and caught sight of the large fiery rock soaring through the air. Moments later, a thunder-loud thud sounded and the gate in front of them had a cracked line drawn straight through it. The Front Wall began breaking up as the burning boulder collided with it. The very wall and ground around shook, causing many in the Avatar Legion to stumble off-balance as dust-like earth particles rained upon them from above. The bombardment had begun.
As Longshot shook his head and regained his senses, he caught sight of the invading Phoenix Army force. The sheer size almost made his famously-calm jaw drop. The mountainside beyond no longer held tan as a dominant color, being covered by hordes of infantry men in blood-red uniforms, flanked by catapults, siege towers and a few airships hovering above.
A few minutes later, a hole had formed in the supposedly-durable Front Wall of Omashu. Now the Avatar and the other behind the wall could see the enemy army. Some of the infantry were preparing to march across the bridge. It appeared that Azula was being aggressive in her tactics – and prepared to suffer considerable casualties to claim her prize.
"They don't look so tough," scoffed Merk. "Let me at 'em!" He leaped into the opening with an air jump and charged across the bridge, brandishing his glider.
"Merk – no!" shouted Aang, but it was too late. Before Merk was halfway finished zig-zagging over the bridge, a flaming rock flew through the air and landed exactly on top of his head, swatting him like a spider fly. His burning body, along with the rock that ended him, rolled off and tumbled down the hundreds of feet to the bottom.
"He should've waited," said Sokka gruffly.
"Poor Merk," said Teo, solemnly shaking his head. An instant later he changed his tune and looked ahead, determined. The field before him was furious with intensity, and the battle had already taken its first casualty
Phoenix Army Airship
Azula surveyed the battlefield from the confines of her flag airship, gazing through the window at the ensuing turmoil hundreds of feet below her. She had forced herself to be patient. The time for her own debut had not yet arrived, but now that the battle had officially started, it would not be far off.
Her faithful trustee Colonel Wan came up beside her to deliver his report. "Bombardment has commenced, Your Highness. We have begun sending forth our infantry to cover more territory leading up to the main gate."
"Excellent," said Azula, clearly pleased by the news.
"A magnificent spectacle, isn't it?" Wan could not help himself but say.
"Yes," agreed Azula, not taking her eyes off the scene below. "Avatar Aang is somewhere down there. If I know him well enough, he'll be right by the main gate. His little girl is probably somewhere else. You know, once this is all over, I might want a little girl for myself at some point – or a little boy. I haven't gotten around to such things so far."
"You've prioritized yourself differently," said Colonel Wan.
"Yes," said Azula. "I'm not exactly the settling-down type. I won't pretend I've always been flawless in the past, but all my mistakes I've learned from – like with Mai and Ty Lee. I relied on fear alone to control other people – never trust. That's where everything went astray and collapsed. Now I know that some form of trust is essential, even if fear is so much more efficient. A little bit of trust will be a safeguard against me going mad again. I'll have to learn to use trust. I'll have some trust – but still mostly fear – from now on."
Emotions had been running high that morning for Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira. Their father had meant for their little chat prior to the battle to be helpful rather than distracting. Vameira had been angered for the same reason as her brothers, but now found her emotions more dispersed – in her shock that Tenzin continued to consider Shuten Shogai a viable option in battle. She did what a good New Air Nomad would do and meditated to clear her mind of the recent events. Kaddo, meanwhile, practiced his waterbending exercises in the corner as his own form of meditation, so to speak. Their brother Tenzin did nothing of the sort, claiming that he did not need to.
This setting was a milder atmosphere than it's counterpart at the Front Wall. Haru and Smellerbee led the efforts here, with a garrison of Omashu Army troops patrolling the seam of the Back Wall, scanning the nearby grounds for potential threats. So far there had been none. Most of the soldiers were aloof and many of them felt as though they were trapped there, like the children of the Avatar did.
Then it came. A long, metal object sped through the air and collided with the top section of the wall, knocking all the nearby troops off balance. This was not a boulder lit on fire from the Phoenix Army. Instead, it was a projectile – not unlike the one that brought down Appa after Aang rescued Vameira from the Southern Air Fortress. But the instrument was not totally identical. It had flown even faster and harder than the ones Icarus had used.
"What was that?!" Kaddo blurted out as he allowed the water whip he was streaming to simmer and fall to the floor.
"I've seen them before!" yelled Vameira, rushing over to get a closer look at the object.
What she saw next, though, make her take a step back again. The metal form burst open as the rim of the projectile slid aside. A yellow vapor rose from within, and the unlucky soldiers in close proximity fell to their knees.
"My arms...I can't feel my arms!"
Whatever this gas was, it was causing their limbs to weaken and their bodies to become limp. Tenzin and Vameira punched and kicked the air in front of them frantically to push it away from them. The soldiers on the wall were not so lucky, and were overwhelmed.
"It looks like Icarus has a new weapon," Vameira uttered as she whirled her arms around to create an air funnel and suck away the rest of the gas.
Air Nation Airship
But in actuality, Icarus was, at that moment, flying in the direction of the Front Wall, far away from the Back Wall and where Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira were. The Air Lord had recovered his strength and was now on a voyage of conquest. He had transformed the old, free-spirited Air Nomad civilization into a glorious nation. Soon, he intended to see that glory spread across the entire world.
His loyal servant Paro was by his side. The rest of his close advisors had not come out of the Southern Air Fortress destruction alive, so Paro was now the effective second-in-command.
"Today is the beginning of the end of the era of Avatar Aang," Icarus stated, half to Paro and half to himself. "Let's write history. Have we got our projectiles ready?"
"Yes, Sir!" said Paro, rotating his shoulders proudly. "Wait – what's that?" He was pointing to a dusty cloud off above Omashu's back wall.
Icarus walked over to the airship's telescope and got a closer look at the spot that Paro was referring to. "It looks like one of our projectiles," he said, glimpsing the object that had been fired at the opposite side of the Earth Kingdom metropolis-stronghold.
"We didn't fire it," Paro stated with certainty.
Icarus slammed his foot so hard on the floor that it made Paro jump. "Somebody stole our technology!"
A line of infantry from the Phoenix Army dashed across the long bridge to the gates of Omashu, which now had a sizable-enough hole in them for an army to march through and storm the city when they reached it. For now, the Omashu archers continued to keep them at a distance. Longshot had managed to shoot seven straight-on in the last minute alone, but no matter how many he shot, they still kept coming. The archers were all running low on arrows, now.
"We need more arrows!" Queen Toph yelled to one of her leading generals.
"That's impossible, Your Majesty," he replied solemnly. "There are only so many in the city."
"Then go tell the palace servants to gather up some of my chopsticks and tie pointed pieces of rock or metal to them! If it works somewhat like an arrow, it's good enough for me!"
"Yes, my Queen!" He saluted her and departed up the long hill to the palace.
"I heard that the Back Wall was hit," Aang said to Toph in a serious voice.
"You heard right, Twinkle Toes. They're being bombarded by projectiles with some sort of chi-seeping gas that weakens benders."
"I didn't know that Icarus had such a thing," said the Avatar.
"It's not the Air Nation," Toph corrected him. "It's the Anti-benders."
"That makes sense," said Aang. "They must have stolen the technology from the Air Nation after The Mechanist made them for Icarus."
"It could be," said Toph. "They're similar to the Air Nation projectiles, with some modifications. They're stronger and sharper, in addition to the gas. I hate to say it, but General Munra and his militia found a lot of ways to overcome the bending advantage. Some of them are rumored to be chi-blockers and most of their men travel in strong mechanized tanks."
"Hmmm," said Aang, stroking his smooth chin. "Are the tanks metal?"
"Of course! They're like regular tundra tanks only thicker."
"Then I think you know how to handle that," Aang said with a trace of a smile. "This is right up your alley."
"Haha – yes it is!" Toph's trademark mischievous grin returned to her.
Migo's earthbending teacher and former guardian overheard their conversation. "If the Back Wall is more important than we thought, maybe we should redeploy some reinforcements there," suggested Brawki.
"I agree. We also need to take the offensive against the Phoenix Army and the Anti-benders, fast," said Sokka. He then noticed the expression on Aang's face. "What's wrong?"
"I'm worried about Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira."
"Relax," Sokka reassured him. "They're tough kids. They can take care of themselves."
"Yeah," Toph said with a laugh. "They sure are."
"Everyone seems to know that but you," Trinley added, grinning.
Migo and Brawki had discovered a brand-new use for the mail-delivery system as they and other earthbenders lifted rocks into compartments and sent them down the ramps and set up a jump that sent the carts soaring over the wall and onto the battlefield on the other side of the great bridge. Their side now had some catapults of their own. And once Avatar Aang saw what they were doing, old memories started coming back to him and he decided to launch something else – people. Aang grasped his glider staff, hoisted himself into a cart and launched himself down the ramp with a swift backwards airbending thrust from both arms!
Inside the cart, Aang rode down the giant slide and swung his glider around to give himself some extra thrust when he made the jump. Soaring through the air, Aang could see the packed bridge as he passed over, catching a glimpse of the battlefield and where the next wave of Phoenix Army soldiers were preparing to run across the bridge. Dislodging himself from the cart, Aang opened his glider staff and hoisted himself up, flying towards his targets. When he was directly overhead, he snapped his glider shut and bent himself into a hovering air sphere. After taking the deepest breath he could muster, the Avatar exhaled, shooting one stream of fire from his mouth, two more from his arms and yet two more from his legs. The Phoenix Army troops panicked and scattered, running away from the Avatar and his five simultaneous fire whips. They were not quite as powerful as they had been during Sozin's Comet, but still effective.
Two more airbenders soon followed suit after their teacher and bending-giver. As two more mail carts were launched, Trinley and Teo flew through the air – Teo with his stretched-out chair in tow. The pair of them extended their gliders and landed right in front of the bridge. They then swung their gliders left and right, beating back rows of oncoming Phoenix Army warriors and firebenders with air swipes.
The airbenders were not the only new arrivals onto the scene. The warriors of the Southern Water Tribe, led by their Chief Sokka, charged forth with their traditional bone spears pointed forward and bladed boomerangs strapped to their hip. The men of this nation had never been fearful of confronting firebenders, even when they lacked their own bending. What few benders they did have with them brandished water whips and covered for their non-bender companions by streaming the water patches through the air at lethal speeds.
Neinei had come to the battlefield on her own accord, without the encouragement or camaraderie of those who fought on her side. She was a firebending loner, standing by the cliff side and whipping fireballs into her palm before charging them up and throwing them at her own countrymen. She longed to encounter her Aunt Azula by the day's end, but doubted that that pleasure lay in her destiny.
However, the waterbenders and firebenders alike soon encountered those who threatened to neutralize them: Anti-bender chi-blockers. Some of General Munra's men had been trained in the art over several weeks and now had a basic understanding of it. They evaded the water whips and fire blasts, then rapidly jabbed at the chi-points of both the Southern Water Tribe waterbenders and Phoenix Army firebenders alike.
But chi-blocking also had a profound effect on non-benders – including other chi-blockers – and left their good arms and legs limp and frail. A more advanced class of chi-blockers emerged onto the scene: the Kyoshi Warriors, led by Sokka's wife Suki, who was not far behind her husband. Ty Lee and a good crowd of younger warriors flanked her side, as they warded off the Anti-benders, who had not counted on the Avatar Legion having chi-blockers of their very own.
A platoon of earthbenders from Omashu fought the Phoenix Army flank in the eastern half of the large field as the Water Tribe warriors engaged them in the Western half. Soon, the earthbenders had a new group to deal with: Dai Li. The most corrupt group of earthbenders who ever lived also happened to be one of the most skilled and proficient. The Dai Li erected an earth wall, blocking the oncoming boulders, and jumped on top, lifting up spikes from the ground – wounding and impaling the Omashu troops.
With the Dai Li on the scene, Trinley decided to redirect his efforts and charged toward the wall with his enhanced agility, but Captain Gitsu spotted him out of the corner of his eye and opened his hands wide, thrusting rock gloves forth and binding Trinley's feet in the air, bringing him down from the sky and landing him with a painful thud.
Gitsu approached the fallen Trinley – prepared to end him – when none other than Avatar Aang landed in front of him. "Greetings," the Avatar told the Captain of the Dai Li coolly. "I hear that you're the one who kidnapped my daughter."
"Yeah, what of it?"
Eyes blazing, Aang wasted no time in punching a charged-up fire blast at his enemy's chest, sending Gitsu flying back, almost to the base of the cliff. For a moment, it looked like he had gone over, but Gitsu managed to grab the sides of the cliff wall and form rock gloves to clutch onto it in a split-second.
The Avatar turned to his first airbending student. "Trinley, are you alright?"
"I-I think so."
"No. No, you're not alright. I'm taking you back to the Front Wall to be healed." Aang lifted Trinley's body up and fastened all four of their arms around his glider staff before taking off and returning to the city.
Once again, the Omashu earthbenders were helpless against the Dai Li that surrounded them. The Kyoshi Warriors rushed onto the scene and drew their trademark fans, blocking oncoming rocky projectiles with their wrist shields. They advanced forward and punched the pressure points along the bodies of the Dai Li agents. Each and every one of them were masters in the art of chi-blocking at this point. Suddenly, Gitsu climbed back over the cliff and reemerged, sending his new pair of rock gloves over to grab Suki's hands and trap them at her side, leaving her helpless. Luckily, her close friend Ty Lee intervened and smashed the stony hands apart, then proceeded to whack Gitsu in the arm with her fan. Realizing they were outmatched, the Dai Li retreated from the area to regroup in a safer place. The Kyoshi Warriors had managed to take down a few and capture a couple more, but the vast majority of the Dai Li were now beyond their reach, intending to return to the field at a later time.
The Dai Li gathered at the rim of one of the many mountains in the vicinity of Omashu. Gitsu accounted for all the men under his command as Long Feng wiped dusty residue off his fancy, dark-green robes from Ba Sing Se. Little did they know that around the corner a short distance away from them the Air Nation airship had landed, to undergo some maintenance away from the prying eyes of their foes.
"Everyone is assembled, Sir," Gitsu informed his commander.
"Great," Long Feng said irritably. "Let's get down to business! It's time we assimilated a plan to capture the Avatar."
The Air Lord himself was close by, taking a stroll as his crewmen made the necessary repairs. "Hey!" he shouted in a threatening tone of superiority. "You're not capturing the Avatar today. We are – he belongs to the Air Nation!"
"Fat chance!" yelled Long Feng. "The likes of you will not get in my way." The elder earthbender bent his well-dressed kneecaps, levitated a rock two feet in diameter and throwing it at the Air Lord. "Dai Li, attack!"
A dozen and a half men in dark-green robes and cone-shaped hats marched toward Icarus and hurled three dozen hand-shaped stone structures in his direction. The Air Lord kicked off from the ground and rotated in mid-air, avoiding them all at once, before rotating back and smoothly landing on his feet once again. "Men of the Air Nation, come hither!"
In response to this call, at least as many men dressed in yellow and orange uniforms from Icarus's battalion arrived on the scene and punched the thin air in front of them, condensing the currents into simultaneous air blasts, which knocked seven of the Dai Li over. The rest of them managed to leap away just in time to dodge.
Then, another airship flew overhead. It was covered in red markings and sported the emblazoned symbol of the Phoenix King on either of its sides. Ropes descended, and Azula, Colonel Wan and ten of their men stationed on board swung down and landed at a spot which appeared perpendicular to where the Dai Li and the Air Nation soldiers stood.
"Why's everyone so surprised to see me?" Azula asked, scanning the rows of Dai Li and airbenders in front of her. "We could see all the commotion from above. This didn't look like something we ought to miss."
Air Lord Icarus went forth to confront her. "You're going to regret doing that, sugar!"
"Oh, no you don't!" Long Feng shouted aside to Icarus. "You leave her to me! She betrayed me once. It was a long time ago, but it's still a burning memory at the back of my mind. I would love nothing more than to collect revenge on her now!"
"Tough break, old man!" yelled Icarus. "Step aside."
"Hahaha!" Azula laughed maniacally. "This is just hilarious! Both of you actually think you stand a chance in beating me."
"No more trash talk from you, you despicable Princess," Long Feng said coolly. "I'll show you just what kind of player I am!"
Long Feng levitated another rock, pulled back his right arm and swung his left leg around to kick it toward Azula, who somersaulted through the air and out of the way, in an acrobatic motion worthy of an airbending master. She hardened and pressed her hands together, conjuring a whirling disc of fire, which she sent toward Long Feng and back around like a boomerang to Icarus in a circular motion. The former Grand Secretariat arched his back to dodge it limbo-style, while the Air Lord leapt over it and threw his fists forth, sending one air blast back toward Azula, and another at Long Feng.
Then, something unexpected happened and Azula relinquished her fighting stance. "Guys, why are we doing this?"
Icarus relaxed himself as he stared back at her. "Huh?"
"Our ultimate foe is the Avatar," Azula began her explanation. "Strong as our armies may be, the Avatar is still someone to be reckoned with. We hinder ourselves by fighting each other when we're supposed to be fighting him. We have a far greater chance at defeating him if we work together than we would in a total free-for-all."
Air Lord Icarus paused for a moment, mulling over the Fire Princess's words. "Yeah, she's right."
"She is," concurred Gitsu.
"I suppose so," Long Feng admitted, still looking upon her with eyes blazing in hate.
"Indeed," chimed in Wan, pleased with his master's performance.
"Wait a minute," said Long Feng, shaking his head. "Isn't the Avatar your friend?"
"No, he's not," Azula stated flatly.
"But you traveled with him before," Long Feng said in accusation.
"We did some stuff together for a while," Azula admitted. "But any past ties we might have had are severed. I would gladly kill him myself today if I get the chance."
"Hold on," Paro said in a raised voice. "We still need to capture the Avatar."
"As do we!" chimed in Gitsu.
"Look, we can worry about who claims the Avatar for themselves later," Azula told them with a roll of her eyes. "But if we set aside our differences for now, someone will have him by the end of the day – dead or alive."
"Alive," Paro clarified.
"My loyal attendant Paro is right," said Icarus. "We need to capture him alive."
"Whatever!" Azula snapped impatiently. "Then get him alive later. I don't care! Worry about penetrating the city for now. Omashu is a tough nut to crack. During the Hundred Year War the Fire Nation had its work cut out sending one army after another to lay siege to it. We finally caught a lucky break when King Bumi surrendered."
Gitsu shook his head at her last statement. "Queen Toph won't do that."
"That's right," agreed Azula. "That means we must all be vigilant!"
"Okay," said Paro, a malevolent, hungry grin spreading across his face.
"Let's do it!" roared Icarus.
Inside Mechanized Tanks
"General Munra, we have received a messenger hawk!"
The middle-aged man twisted the long, sleek hairs at the side of his mustache as he twisted the knobs and turners of his prized armored vehicle. "Eh? Who's it from? What do they want, Sarook?"
"It's from Princess Azula," answered Sarook. "She says that the Phoenix Army, the Dai Li and the Air Nation wish to form an alliance with us."
"Bah!" spat Munra, waving the offer away as he spun back around in his chair to once again face the battlefield before him. "We'll never side with benders, whatever the circumstances. It doesn't matter if they are the enemies of our enemies or anything in between. Our cause will remain pure."
"I thought you'd say that," said Sarook, nodding. "Won't it be difficult, though? We have a limited amount of resources at our hand to beat both the Avatar Army Alliance and the Phoenix Army Alliance."
"Nothing's changed," Munra told him, looking straight ahead. "The day is ours. The benders won't be safe against us...we've only just begun."
Entrance to a Hidden Tunnel
While armies clashed left and right at the Front Wall, Long Feng brought his Dai Li entourage down to a more secluded location. Beneath the main city, there was a hidden passage off to the side, and the new ruler of Ba Sing Se had his eyes set on it.
"How did you know of this entrance?" Gitsu – Long Feng's right-hand man – questioned him with curiosity.
"I came to Omashu on an official visit as Grand Secretariat twenty-four years ago," Long Feng explained. "Bumi gave my ambassadors and I a tour of the inner city. He took us around various municipal plants and gave us a good look at the mailing system. While I was there, I came across a set of blueprints for the city itself, and I pocketed them, in case they ever came in handy."
"I see," said Gitsu, tip-toeing along the ridge with the rest of the Dai Li shortly behind him.
"And on those blueprints I found something at this spot which appeared to be like a secret entrance. That's where we're going today – for a good old-fashioned infiltration mission. The rest of the battle is of no real concern to us. Let the other armies fight it out amongst themselves. As for us, we have no need for a drawn-out battle over supremacy. All we have to do is capture the Avatar for those unknown people we dealt with and get on our way back to Ba Sing Se!"
"Capture the Avatar – yes! " Gitsu echoed eagerly. "Brilliant, Sir!" Gitsu found himself relieved, since he was beginning to think that Long Feng was losing his touch.
Long Feng nodded in acknowledgement. "Let's get going!" With that, he gripped the sides of the rocky panel and wrenched off the metal gate. As soon as he did, a foul stream of sewage poured out and soaked the bottom of his robes with its stench. Long Feng stepped back in disgust. "Now I know why no one sneaks in this way. Oh well – come on."
"No, I'm not going," said Gitsu, shaking his head. "We can find a better way in. We're Dai Li agents. Besides, the Avatar might expect this."
"Shut up and get in there!" Long Feng snapped at his captain.
"We represent Ba Sing Se's cultural heritage," said Gitsu, staring in disbelief at the pouring stream of foul sewage. It's beneath our dignity to trudge through this waste, contaminated with the dung and ordure of these Omashu people!"
"It's as good a way in as any," Long Feng told him irritably. "Plug up your nose if you're that possum chicken about it!"
Air Nation Airship
Now that his flying craft was airborn once more, Air Lord Icarus treaded back-and-forth through his metal-lined cockpit, pondering to himself. He had ordered for his vessel to be steered around to the opposite side of Omashu – to the Back Wall, for a surprise strike.
"Why are we going to the Back Wall now?" Paro asked his master.
"We're going to catch them off guard," explained Icarus. "From there we can storm the city, and we'll hold the most optimal position out of any of the armies on the field."
"Sir, we mustn't forget that we just made an alliance with Azula and her Phoenix Army," Paro noted in a respectful, but raised voice.
"We have an alliance with them for now," clarified the Air Lord. "It just serves to refocus their attention from us for the time being. I want to see to it that we're prepared for when the time comes to double-cross them. That's how the game is going to play out later. We go as far as we need together, then whoever double-crosses the others first wins. As the Air Nation, we will be the ones to do that before they do it first."
Paro nodded. "I see – and when will we capture the Avatar?"
"When he comes to confront me," said Icarus, stroking his bald, tattooed forehead. "We need to capture him today or those people will have it in for us."
"What do you suppose those people will do with Aang once they have him?" inquired Paro. "And why do they want him alive? I can't think of a reason."
"I don't know and I don't care," Icarus replied curtly. "Hopefully they kill him themselves or keep him as a permanent prisoner. It'd be great not to have the Avatar or any of those people on our hands. Brother Memnon, Brother Zhang Sang, Sister Joo Dee – the lot of them. I just want to be done and have nothing to do with any of those figures anymore."
"It certainly will be great to be rid of the Avatar for good," stated Paro. "I respected him when he first started teaching me airbending, but, like you, I grew sick of his talks on cooky spirituality – and when he made us all get 'spiritual counseling' from that old fool from the Eastern Temple."
"In the new world run by our airbending nation, there will be no need for the likes of the Avatar or the Guru."
Tenzin and his siblings had heard much commotion coming from down at the Front Wall. He had likewise been excited to see his old commanding officer Captain Lee come to visit them at their post, but found himself disappointed when Lee informed them that he had come carrying an order for the transfer of some vital troops back to the Front Wall, where they would be needed more. While the Back Wall had suffered some major blows from the Anti-benders' projectiles and chi-seeping gas, it was not considered as important a target as long as the Anti-bender Militia forces were kept occupied in the field. Lee claimed that the troops were needed for when the Icarus's airship landed at the Front Wall and the Air Nation troops were upon them.
Now the Back Wall seemed even duller and safer than ever, and Katara and Aang's children had little but one another for company. The vast majority of the Back Wall troops were out battling the Anti-bender Militia – although they were mostly dodging attacks at this point, unable to deal substantial damage to the tanks. With most of the other older adults gone to confront Icarus's airship, those that remained consisted of a few guards sparsely stationed along the edge of the wall, with the closest group a few hundred yards away. They, too, were paying more attention to the Front Wall, more like useless spectators than like alert watchmen.
"Well, looks like the excitement of the day is over," Kaddo remarked sarcastically.
"Shut up," Tenzin told his brother, annoyed.
Kaddo let out a loud sigh, then looked out at the valley behind Omashu and spotted a giant, flying object. "That airship doesn't look like an Omashu one."
"It's not!" shrieked Vameira. "It's Icarus's vessel!"
"And it's coming in at the opposite angle as the one we thought it would," Tenzin added seriously.
"Uh-oh," said Vameira, surprised. "Lee and the others are going to intercept the Air Nation at the wrong place!"
"We have to go around and warn them," said Kaddo intently. "Tenzin, why don't you go? You'll be the quickest with your airbending running."
"They've all gone to intercept them on the other side," Tenzin said in a panick. "They'll never make it back around in time!"
"Then we'll have to stop them ourselves!" Vameira told him sternly.
Open-mouthed, Tenzin stared back at her. "How do we do that?"
Vameira looked determinedly up at the steadily-approaching air vessel. "You and me will fly up on Pooka."
"I'm sure we'll find a way," answered Vameira casually. She had just trotted off to the nearby stable and was now escorting her sky bison over to where Tenzin and Kaddo stood. "Aunt Suki took over an entire airship by herself when she was a little older than us. And she was one non-bender. We're two airbenders. I bet we could think of something."
"That's right," Tenzin recalled. "I never knew how exactly Aunt Suki managed it."
Vameira shrugged. "Neither did I. So, are you coming or what?"
Tenzin gawked at her. "Look, I'm the one in this family who runs off on a whim. You're supposed to be the sensible, sweet one."
"Well, times are changing," said Vameira, smirking.
"What should I do?" Kaddo blurted out, himself bewildered at the sudden, bold move.
"Cover for us," Vameira said simply.
Tenzin turned back to Kaddo. "If anyone asks, make up an excuse for why we're not where we're supposed to be." The young airbender hoisted himself onto Pooka's tight backside, looking into the eyes of his little sister as she confidently clutched the reins of her young bison. "I sure hope you know what you're doing, Vameira."
"Not at all. Pooka, yip-yip!"
Phoenix Army Airship
Azula stood once more in the command bay of her airship, wondering about her newest allies. "What's with their obsession of capturing the Avatar?"
Wan grew uneasy. "Perhaps we can do the same. I think it would be best."
Azula rolled her eyes irritably. "Not you, too!"
"If I could just ask one thing of you, I'd ask that we make a bid to capture the Avatar alive in this battle," Colonel Wan suggested nervously. "It'll be better if we do."
"How?" Azula asked quizzically. "We have no need of him..."
Wan gulped. "Well, you see...there were some people that we dealt with a while back and we promised them the Avatar when they helped us rebuild our power after the loss at the capital."
Azula narrowed her eyes. "You served under General Zhao before you joined forces with me, correct?"
"Yes," answered Wan. "My commanding officer at the time and I entered into a bargain with a mysterious group of people. We promised them we would deliver the Avatar to them, alive. I'm sure that it still holds for me. They'll probably hold the Phoenix Army and our nation accountable for this deal."
"Do you fear these people?"
"Well, I fear no one!" snapped Azula. "You may have served General Zhao in the past, but don't forget you swore loyalty to me now. I have no interest in whatever orders or bargains you had from your prior experiences. Today we're going to eliminate the threat the Avatar and his friends pose to us, and I expect you to follow along with that. If I suspect you're acting for any ulterior motives, I will personally end you! Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Princess," said Wan, gulping once again. "Crystal."
Wan twitched as Azula turned back to the battlefield. Azula was definitely a more immediate threat than the unknown organization. The latter would come later but surely. Of what little was known about them, it was known that they were proficient and brutal; they would track him down if he ignored the promise he and his former general had made. Wan now debated in his head which threat he feared more. Whatever he decided to do, he was not in a comforting dilemma.
"The enemies appear to have stopped fighting each other," the Avatar announced for all next to him to hear. Lee, Wang, Teo, Trinley and Toph were with him at the moment. Sokka remained at the front line, fending off Phoenix Army insurgents and Anti-bender invaders alike.
"That's logical," said Toph matter-of-factly. "It's what we would've done if we were them."
"I knew they would all join forces eventually," agreed Trinley.
"How long can they hold out, though?" Aang wondered aloud. "The leading commanders must be having doubts about one another, given the kind of people that they are."
"Well, at the end of the day there are only two possible outcomes," Toph told him. "Either they'll all fall together...or we will."
TO BE CONTINUED...
- In case there's any confusion, the six armies of this battle consist of the following: the Avatar Legion, the Omashu Royal Army, the Phoenix Army, the Air Nation Remnant, the Dai Li and the Anti-bender Militia. For the purposes of this fight, the Avatar Legion and the Omashu Royal Army are collectively known as the Avatar Alliance, while the Phoenix Army, the Air Nation Remnant and the Dai Li make up the Phoenix Alliance. General Munra's forces would have joined the latter had he accepted the invitation. Since he remained committed to opposing all benders, however, the Anti-bender Militia continues to operate independently.
- Referring to Tenzin as a "black bison calf" is an Old Air Nomad expression. It holds a similar meaning to what a "black sheep" of a family does in the real world.
- "I'll show you just what kind of player I am." That line of Long Feng's refers back to The Crossroads of Destiny when Azula told him that he "was never even a player."
- Wan, Gitsu, Long Feng, Icarus and Paro have never heard the words "Sages Bane" spoken before. Therefore, that group is still the "unknown organization" as far as they're concerned.
- "It's beneath our dignity to trudge through this waste, contaminated with the dung and ordure of these Omashu people." The author felt that it would have made sense for Gitsu to say something more blunt here, but chose not to go there because this is, after all, a wiki related to a Nickelodeon cartoon and a lot of children visit this site.
- Munra began the organizing the general tide of anti-bender sentiment into its own stratified movement. He called himself "Commander" when the movement was smaller, and "promoted" himself to General once he traveled to the Fire Nation and consolidated it.
For the collective works of the author, go here.