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|A Prince and A Thief|
The Fire Prince grew quickly. His parents gave him the name Brayzon after a blacksmith ancestor and before it seemed any time had passed at all, he had his fifth birthday.
"Daddy, what's this picture? It says Av-ay-tor." The Fire Lord chuckled at his son's mispronunciation. "Avatar, son." The boy held up the scroll he'd received about bending on his birthday.
"What's an Av-a-tar?"
"The Avatar is the most powerful person in our world. They can control all the elements; Air Water, Earth, and Fire."
"At the same time?" The boy's eyes were quickly widening.
"They can if they want to."
"Wow... That's so cool!"
"Yes, it is cool isn't it? The Avatar is born into each of the four nations in a cycle. When one Avatar dies, another one is born."
"You mean there's more than one of them?!"
"Well not at the same time, but yes, there has been more than one." The young prince was silent. It was obvious he was carefully putting things together in his head. After a moment he looked up at his father and said, "Daddy, I can control fire."
"Yes, I know. And very well too. Your teacher says you're an incredible student already."
"So... Am I the Avatar?"
The Fire Lord laughed heartily. "Ahh, my child. I'm afraid not. The last Avatar was from the Fire Nation and you were born before he had died." The child appeared crestfallen. He ruffled the boys hair, attempting to cheer him up. "Hey, don't worry. You may not be the Avatar, but one day you'll be the Fire Lord, leader of the entire Fire Nation."
"Oh... If I'm the Fire Lord, will I meet the Avatar?" The man smiled. The boy was incredibly persistent.
"I bet you will. And you two will be great friends."
"I'm sure of it." The little prince seemed content and walked happily out of the room.
Far away, a girl had asked the same question, 'Am I the Avatar?' and received a hard slap across the face.
Many years passed. Brayzon mastered Firebending by the time he was twelve. For the next three years, things was dull. There was no real objective to his life. He knew he would become the Fire Lord one day, but had no real interest in preparations. Slowly, he grew away from his family. His father had been dealing with some other national conflict, but the Fire Lord was constantly assuring everyone that things were alright. It was only some Water Tribe radicals and he had it under control.
Brayzon was bored. This was truth. He tried to tell himself he had lots to do. He had a girlfriend, a general's daughter, but he had no real feelings for her. He was lying to himself. Deep down, he knew it. He wanted to be happy with his life, but he knew what was missing. He wanted adventure. He wanted to go out and do something. One day, he knew he would have an adventure.
And one day he would.
That day was to come very soon.
After a long day of listening to Lya (his girlfriend) talking about the play she and her friends had seen on Ember Island that weekend, he was attempting to find any sort of solace in the form of slumber. It was unfortunately not coming.
He quickly flipped his legs out of the bed, standing, and started out of the room and down the hall of the great fire palace.
He stared at the portraits of leaders past and present. He noticed in his grandfather's portrait that the man was bending fire, like all the others, but in the background was a symbol featuring all the elements. 'Why?' he wondered. 'Elemental unity perhaps? But what did grandfather have to do with that?'
"Hey!" A voice called. It was obviously female, confident and authoritative. He turned. The girl was leaning contently on a pillar watching him. "You're Brayzon right?"
"Yes, does it concern you?"
She smiled darkly. "I like the attitude. So listen. I need a favor."
"And why do think I would grant you this? You've just intruded upon my house, and I've never met you."
"Yes, but you need something to do. I've been watching you. You're bored."
"A spy? I am intrigued."
"There we go. So. I need you to teach me Firebending. Sound good?"
"A spy who needs to learn bending. Tell me more."
"What more do you want to know?" She still leaned on the pillar in the shadows, and he began to approach her attempting to get a closer look. Her hair was a mess of red-brown waves spiking outward everywhere. "Well for starters, you could tell me why you need to learn Firebending, why you came here in the middle of the night to request it, why you're asking me, and why you're wearing stolen clothing."
She had kept a cool demeanor until the final comment. This, at least, had caught her off guard. He knew the clothing had been stolen because the clothing belonged to Lya. The girl quickly regained composure, despite the fact that Brayzon wasn't more than four feet away from her. "If I answer you, will you teach me?"
"Well that, naturally, depends on the answers."
"Naturally," she smiled. She was quiet for a moment, and then began, "I need to learn Firebending as an extension of my fighting style. I'm here in the middle of the night because I don't want anyone to know I'm here. I'm asking you because you're one the youngest people to ever master a bending art, as I said, you're bored, and you could tell the clothing was stolen. I am wearing stolen clothing quite simply because, I stole it." He looked at her carefully, and she began to approach him. As she came nearer and into the moonlight, her smile became broader. "So. Do you want to teach me?"
She was two feet away, hardly an inch shorter than him. He made note of the dark circles under her eyes, and yet, she was still beautiful. A beautiful thief. Perhaps he was crazy. "Yes."
"Yes. I'll teach you Firebending. Good to know you think I'm qualified. Of course you have been spying on me."
"I lied. I wasn't spying on you. I only got here today. You were just up in the middle of the night looking fully awake and deep in thought. You're bored. AND you didn't deny it."
"So. A thief who needs to learn bending. You know, I think that's even better than a spy."
"Well yes, because that means you have something important to steal; something under high guard. You need bending in order to break in."
"And that's your final theory?"
"So why would you agree to help me? I mean, if this were true you'd be assisting in a crime, right?"
"You are," she chuckled. "Incredibly bored." She paused. "I warn you though, things might get dangerous."
"I laugh at danger." Both spoke almost mockingly at the situation, though Brayzon knew they were discussing a very serious matter.
"Well then, what do you want to do?"
"I want to teach you Firebending."
The faded grin returned. "Obviously. So then, where do you want to conduct the lessons?"
"Oh I don't know. Somewhere. Let's get out of here at least. But first you'll need to return those clothes."
"Why? I stole them fair and square."
He smiled in turn. "The person you stole them from will know immediately tomorrow morning that you took them."
The thief looked confused. "But there was tons of clothing in over fifty draws and hangers. How would anyone notice a single outfit had gone?"
"Trust me," he smiled, "She'll know."
"So what do you expect me to wear then?"
"Perhaps what you came here in."
"Hmm. Ahh no, I think I'll pass."
"Then I'll get some clothing for you."
"Oh you will?"
"Meet me in the abandoned flower shop on the edge of the city tomorrow afternoon. I'll have everything ready."
"Do you have a method of transportation?"
"Well then there's only one thing left."
"And what's that?"
"I assume you know that I am the prince of Fire Nation, Brayzon if not based purely on the fact that you knew my name. So tell me, who are you?"
"Who am I... I'm afraid I don't have a title like yours. Yet. Thus, I am not as easily described."
"Yet? That implies that you believe you will have a 'title' at some point."
Once more, she smiled. "Yes, and a very obvious one, but that will come with time."
"So then, tell me at least, your name."
"Is it that so hard to understand?"
"My name is Alethes."
The smile faded. "There is one other thing."
"Can I trust you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well how can I be sure you won't show up with a team of guards at this flower shop prepared to arrest me? You have no reason not to just as you have no reason to do me a favor."
"I have a reason," he retorted.
"Then what have you to fear?"
"Nothing." She was silent, but obviously thinking. Then said darkly, "Just know... If you make any attempt to arrest me, a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt. I don't want that."
"A thief who needs to learn bending yet confidently assures me that she can take out a large amount of powerful people. I think I like you Alethes."
"Great. There's one person." She turned walking away and called, "See you tomorrow... You're highness."
"Good bye until then, thief." He replied. An adventure had begun, and Brayzon didn't plan to ruin it with a royal guard. A thief... This was big.
The next day, Brayzon had written two letters; one long and detailed one to his parents about his departure (not mentioning the thief) assuring them that he would be careful and stay safe and return by the end of the year. The second was to Lya, short and fast with the text,
Lya, sorry about this, but I'm going to be gone for a while. I'm afraid this is the end of our relationship since I may never return, and if I do, we'll both have changed too much for us to ever love each other again. Bye, Brayzon
He left early that morning, but he knew his parents wouldn't give it a second thought. He was often out early browsing shops and doing other useless things. They wouldn't notice. The townsfolk, however, would know that he was out, and he thus brought with him and long red cloak with a hood to hide his face.
He bought her clothing first, choosing a basic red, sleeveless tunic, belted under the chest and a black stole and long pants. It occurred to him suddenly that wherever they went might not have sufficient weather for bare arms, and he chose from a box in the corner of the shop, a red arm piece set to match the tunic.
He had brought money, not wanting Alethes to have to steal anything. He decided to buy some other supplies, and he finally felt prepared by the time he started out to meet his new pupil.
He opened the door to the flower shop cautiously. Just because he wasn't planning an ambush didn't mean she wasn't. She was a thief after all. Even if she wasn't planning something big, she had still stolen clothing, implying that she didn't want her true identity discovered. 'Alethes' could easily be a cover name.
She was alone. She had a gold cape wrapped around her, and underneath she seemed to have wrapped herself in white cloth over her chest and down her legs mid-thigh. Undergarments. She definitely didn't want to wear her other clothing.
"Did you bring my clothes?" She addressed him casually, as though they weren't about to undergo a major event.
"Yeah, did you bring transportation?"
"Of course. Let me get dressed quick and we'll be off." He handed her the outfit, throwing off the cloak in the process.
A minute passed as she changed in a back room when she appeared suddenly, clothed in everything but the arm pieces. They were glove like with a tie off at the mid-upper arm. The lower section began right below the elbow with a gold ring and ended at the wrist with the same. Between was a mess of ruffled fabric.
"What are these?" she inquired accusingly, holding them up.
"Just an arm covering. I didn't know you'd have a cape."
"But how did you choose it?"
"Well, it was just in a box. Does it suit you?"
She hesitated. "You- didn't take it for a reason?"
"No- why? Is there something special about it? I suppose it isn't really in style but-"
"No, no! It's fine." She began to pull them on.
"Well then let's go. Did you arrange a boat or what?"
She surprised him with a laugh. "A boat? You think I need a boat?"
"Well, we have to get out of her through water, so..." he replied, flabbergasted at her reaction.
"Follow me." She grabbed his arm and began to drag him towards the harbor of the Fire Nation Capital. Brayzon's heart began to race from both excitement and fear.
For the collective works of the author, go here.