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|A Fleet of Fire|
September 2, 2013
A Fleet of Fire
Devion stood up with Chief Moi and Kialuk and they quickly walked to the hut. Yuchan held open the door for them and they stepped into the building.
The small house was quaint on the inside. There was a simple rug taking up most of the front half of the room. A few trinkets sat about, scattered here and there. A tsungi horn was propped up against the wall. Four or five cushions formed a small circle around a little fireplace
There were six nomads in the room. When they saw Devion, Kialuk, and Chief Moi enter the hut, they stepped out of the way and shuffled out of the building, revealing a small kitchen with a few cabinets, an oven, and a stove. A bed sat just in front of the kitchen.
And on that bed was the stranger, but he looked in much better shape. His face was bandaged, the bruise on his neck was covered in poultice, and the burn on his chest was looking much more like a large, vicious scar rather than a serious burn. A cloth sling held his right arm across his chest.
The Air Nomads had taken off his shredded shirt, revealing the strong, toned muscles on the man's chest and stomach. His lower torso was covered in bruises and gashes there were all covered in the same poultice as was on his bruise. A white blanket covered the rest of the stranger's body. Devion wasn't sure what his legs looked like, but he assumed they weren't nearly as bad as the upper part of his body.
His head was leaning against a pillow, but his eyes were open under the bandage wrapped around his forehead. They were swollen, but not too seriously, so he could still see well. The man shifted in his bed and tilted his head towards Devion, Chief Moi, and Kialuk.
"You two boys are the ones who saved me, am I right?" he asked, his voice dry and tired.
Devion nodded and Kialuk said, "Yes."
The man smiled at them. "Thank you." His gaze turned to Chief Moi. "And you are the chief."
Chief Moi nodded slowly and took a few steps towards the man. "I hate to bother you, but we need to ask you some questions," he said quietly.
"I understand," replied the stranger.
Devion stepped up beside Chief Moi and Kialuk wandered around to the foot of the bed. "When we dragged you onto the beach, you said, 'They are coming. The Fire Nation,'" began Devion. "What did you mean by that?"
"Are Fire Nation soldiers on their way here?" Chief Moi, asked, his eyes glimmering nervously.
The stranger gulped. "Let me start from the beginning, and some of your questions will be answered by my story. Ask any more you feel the need to after."
"Go ahead," said Chief Moi.
The man breathed in and then began to speak softly. "I was born in the Southern Water Tribe, but my father died when I was three and we moved here. We moved to Kohana, one of the western islands. Once I was eighteen, I became a trader for some small merchant. For the past twelve years, I've worked my way up and now I own a small trading company with four boats and a warehouse in the southwestern Earth Kingdom.
"Or did, at least," he added with a sad tone. "Two nights ago, as my crew and I were returning from a trip to the town of Duankou in the Earth Kingdom, preparing to dock by no later than the next evening, we were attacked.
"At first we thought it was pirates and that we could easily fight them off. But as the boat attacking us grew more visible, it became obvious." His tone dropped from slightly sad to solemn with a single sentence. "The Fire Nation was raiding our boat."
"My men and I fought back hard, but their boat was four times as big as mine and there were twelve of us and probably fifty of them. They destroyed us and killed everyone. Then they proceeded to take all the goods from the ship and bring them to their boat. I wasn't dead, but I was conscious enough when I was lying in a pool of blood on the deck to see what was happening. They rammed the end of the boat with their huge, iron ship and then sailed off, joining four other ships on the horizon. Flames shot up from all five boats. It was a fleet of fire.
"My boat quickly sunk and I scrambled to cling onto a piece of driftwood," continued the man. "It was hard to keep holding on. I was in so much pain. I thought I would die.
"Somehow, the tide carried me into the bay and I remember striking pain as I struck rock after rock before coming to a rest and being dragged out of the water. The next thing I knew, I was lying in this bed, being treated by Air Nomads," concluded the stranger.
Devion blinked once, a mixture of anger and confusion building up in his chest. How could people be so evil to attack a trading ship for no reason other than to steal a small amount of goods from them? And now there were five ships filled with men just like that heading towards the Islands.
Chief Moi's nostrils flared angrily as he stared forward, his eyes narrowed in rage. This face lasted for several long moments, and then relaxed and he looked at the stranger. "I'm sorry for what happened to you and your crew," he said comfortingly. "But don't worry, because I will avenge their noble deaths and I will make sure we protect the rest of our people from these usurpers."
The stranger nodded in appreciation, but he looked a little choked up and didn't say anything.
"Are you sure they were Fire Nation?" asked Devion, just in case the man remembered something else that would just make them pirates.
"I would swear my life on it," he said. "They were wearing Fire Nation armor and came off of a Fire Nation boat."
"How many men do you think there are, in total?" asked Chief Moi.
The man was silent for a moment, thinking. "Probably somewhere around three hundred, in all of the ships combined. But they are great fighters, I'll tell you that. We only took down three or four of them, and I had a few talented waterbenders on the boat with me."
Concern flickered in Chief Moi's cloudy eyes. "We are strong. We will be able to handle them," he whispered, mostly to himself.
"How long do you think until they get here?" asked Kialuk, pacing around the bed. "I wouldn't be surprised if they are already at one of the outer islands," the man answered. "Let's hope not, and if they aren't, then they'll be there within a day." Chief Moi straightened his chest and then took a step towards the door. "Then we must hurry and ready the boats, because we'll be leaving for Kohana by sunrise." He nodded at the man lying on the bed. "Thank you for your help. I wish you a speedy recovery. Go to sleep, and sleep well and long. I'll send some of the nurses up here to get you later today."
The stranger settled back into his bed and closed his eyes, falling asleep almost instantly.
"We must rouse the village," said Chief Moi to Devion and Kialuk as they stepped out of the hut. The sky was slowly getting lighter and Devion assumed they had about two or three hours before dawn.
The dozen Air Nomads stood outside the hut. Yuchan looked up at the trio walked out. "Did he talk?" he asked.
Devion, Kialuk, and Chief Moi all nodded. "He was very helpful," said Chief Moi. "I'll send a few healers up to get him around noon. But I must go prepare the warriors and anyone else who would like to come. The Fire Nation is advancing on us and we must hurry to the outer islands."
Yuchan gave a genuine look of surprise. "May the wind be at your back," he said, "and may peace prevail."
Chief Moi nodded and Devion and Kialuk followed him out of the clearing and back into the forest.
"Sir," Kialuk began, "did you know the Fire Nation was starting to reach out towards the tribe?"
"I'd been told of increased sightings of Fire Nation ships on the horizon," said Chief Moi. "I've always known how for the past half-millennium, the Fire Nation have been eating up the land, burning it to the ground and raising up their own factories for various purposes. The fact that they were getting closer to the tribe was unnerving. I should have done something, placed more troops out in the front. Kohana or one of the other islands could be gone by now."
"We need to move as fast as we can," said Devion. "The sooner we get there, the more quickly we can save it."
The chief nodded, but said nothing. They quickly reached Kiolu. About a dozen people still partying were out on the beach, moving around slowly and sluggishly as if they were sleep walking. Devion hid a smile. These people were exhausted and probably drunk, not to mention they had been up all night.
Chief Moi ignored them as he strode across the sand and into the town. A few guards sitting on stools just outside the plaza stood up at his attention.
"Ring the gong," he demanded. "Quickly now, everyone needs to be here."
With quick glances at each other, the two guards nodded and jogged off towards the flat rock that towered above the city. On that rock, a gong stood so that the current chieftain would be able to summon the citizens with three rings of the massive instrument.
Walking quickly through the streets, Devion, Chief Moi, and Kialuk reached the main square and Chief Moi stepped up onto the porch of the town hall so he could be elevated above the people that would gather in the plaza.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
The sound was extremely loud, a hundred drums put together. The ringing of the gong would be heard by everyone for miles around and everyone in the bay would be awoken. Already, people in the houses closest to the town square were leaning out of their windows or ambling out of their doors. Everyone knew where they had to go, but no one had the slightest clue what was going on, except that it was very important.
In just five minutes, nearly a thousand people were crammed in the town square and many more were spilling out into the streets. Chief Moi stood stoically on the town hall porch, his hands folded behind his back as he looked out over the gathering crowd.
Five more minutes passed and Devion assumed almost the entire town was present in and around the town square, looking up at Chief Moi, Devion, and Kialuk with confused and curious eyes.
Once he was sure everyone was present, Chief Moi began.
"I gather you all today to share with you grave, unsettling news." His first words aroused whispers and murmurs throughout the citizens. "These two young men, Devion and Kialuk were down on the small southern beach when a man washed ashore earlier tonight.
"He was severely injured, but when they dragged him out of the water, he screamed, 'They are coming. The Fire Nation.'" His eyes staring straight at the crowd, Chief Moi stopped and let the words sink in.
Several people gasped and everyone started to whisper to each other at once. A sea of rippling heads and hushed voices filled the square before Chief Moi continued speaking.
"Thinking quickly, Devion and Kialuk carried the man up the cliff path from the beach and to the nearest people; the Air Nomads. Graciously, selflessly, and urgently, the airbenders took the stranger and immediately went to work patching up his wounds. Devion was sent down to get me, and the three of us waited for hours until the nomads told us the man was awake."
Everyone in the crowd was raptly listening, horrified and obsessed, ready to hear the rest of the story. Devion was glad the story was so captivating, because he did not like everyone watching him like this. When he was out surfing earlier the previous day, he had felt fine with all the spectators cheering him on. But now, being singled out of the whole town and standing up in front of them while doing nothing was strange and Devion felt very exposed.
"We entered the building where they were healing him," Chief Moi stated. "He was lying in bed, his wounds bandaged. Exhausted and pained, he started to tell us his story. The stranger was a sailor that moved to the islands from the Southern Water Tribe. He owned a small trading company and was returning from a trip to Duankou in the Earth Kingdom when they were attacked by a Fire Nation vessel.
"His whole crew was slaughtered but luckily he escaped to tell this story. This man was very helpful and informative, telling us there are five Fire Nation boats and a total of about three hundred experienced soldiers and firebenders. If they have not already arrived at one of the outer islands, then they will be there soon."
The citizens of Kiolu were silent, shocked. They didn't know what to think or say or do. Then a man in the back stood on top of a cart and shouted, "We need to go fight back the Fire Nation!"
Calls and yells of support arose from the scared crowd and Chief Moi raised his arms to chest level, signaling for them to quiet down. Slowly, they died down, but they glared forward with an intensity in their eyes.
"We will take five ships and depart at dawn for Palua. Anyone over the age of sixteen willing to come may pack a few things and meet us at the boats. We won't need more than three hundred people, so if you get there and it is crowded, turn around. To all of you who will not be able to accompany us, we need you here in case the Fire Nation attacks Kiolu. We need people to defend our town, and we will not fall!"
This was greeted by hearty applause from the residents of the Island Tribe capital and the men started to stream out of the square towards their homes. Devion looked over at Kialuk. They both nodded at each other and then ran down the steps and joined the throng of people moving out into the streets.
As they reached the spots where they'd go separate ways for their homes, Devion said, "Meet at the docks in no more than an hour."
Kialuk nodded. "I'll be there, ready to go fight the Fire Nation."
There are 2,508 words in A Fleet of Fire.
|Flames on the Horizon Chapters|
|Book 1 - Embers|
|~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~|
|Book 2 - Flames|
|Book 3 - Inferno|
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