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August 5, 2013
Chapter 1: In Retrospect
Oh, how cold the arctic winds were this moonless night. Better to have knives cut my face, I thought—it was no different from this harsh weather. The storm had seemingly come out of nowhere, catching me, and without a doubt the other inhabitants of the pole, by surprise. Snow rained down upon the ground, relentlessly forming drifts higher than even the tallest men I have met. The conditions were ghastly, that was true, but they were a warm and bright sunrise compared to that fateful day I gave my oath and made my eternal pledge.
The sun had not yet risen, for the sun never rose where I lived. It was a dark day, everything as black as pitch, however, we never had a problem seeing. My rest had been short, cut in length by the paramount events looming on the horizon. I dressed quickly and proceeded to the common grounds of the palace. As I walked, I thought about what was about to pass—both the good and the bad. For one, I would have to leave the palace, but I didn't mind. It had long since lost its luster and magnificence in my eyes. The towering pillars carved with ornate designs no longer commanded my attention. The many staircases, lined with balustrades of the brightest gold and crafted with the utmost craftsmanship had become what they were always meant to be and no more: handrails. Even the large, elegant court fountains, gushing the vital water of life, didn't merit even a passing glance these days. The time of peace and prosperity had passed, and I would soon follow suit. It was to be my duty.
My footsteps echoed through empty halls so tall that the ceilings were lost in the heavens. Intermittently, I would come across the tall imposing figure of a statue hewn from the finest marble of lands far away. The faces of my ancestors, solemn and brooding. They forever watched those that stalked the halls of the grand palace, their stern countenances frightening. I gave each one a quick bow of deference and respect, for I would be among them one day. But not for many moons would my likeness be forever encased in the white rock. Turning back to matters at hand, I came to an abrupt stop in front of two heavily armored gates, clad in the most brilliant silver and gold plating. They were encrusted with shining jewels of every color, and in the center was the sigil of my father, marking his chambers and rooms. I gave a reluctant sigh, and pushed the heavy gates inward, moving ever closer to my fate.
Once inside, a long table of darkly stained wood filled my vision. It was his meeting room. Sitting at the far end of the table, wearing the majestic yet sinister armor of our house, was my father. He watched me, and I, him. Gold plated steel, hammered and crafted by the most renowned smiths, encased his broad form. Supple leather, stamped with the seals of our lineage held the various pieces together. Beneath the plates was a full suit of chainmail, each link tirelessly connected and polished to a glossy shine. And above everything rested the steel helm worn by every ancestor before him. It was tall, sweeping with lines of encrusted diamonds. At its fore, three jewels of different colors and considerable size emitted an unadulterated light that illuminated our dark home. His face showed no emotion, his pupil-less eyes stared through me instead of at me. With one long finger, he beckoned me closer. I obliged.
"Hello father," I said, upon reaching his left hand side.
"You are late." His face took on the faintest scowl, his brows creasing into hard ridges.
"I'm sorry, father, but I stopped to take in the palace one last time. Surely, you must know the feeling?"
"I cannot say I do," his face remained unchanged.
Seldom did my dear father's face change these days—happiness being as foreign a concept to him as the prospect of sunlight gracing our homeland. I never put it past him to show any emotion at all, except anger. To my father, anger was strength, for it was intertwined with the mantle of authority we wore. To be compassionate, he had said, was to be weak. So with strained patience I opened my ears to hear his words.
"But to other things," he said, "it is time for you to take the oath, son, and take from me the reins of my duty. I am old, and it is time I ascended to a higher throne, for your father's father has at last chosen to fade away. Come, stand straight, and take on what is rightly yours."
So this was it. Years and years of childhood memories would forever be left behind. I brazened myself for the unspeakable atrocities I would soon face. There wasn't anything I could do, I knew that, for Time was a wheel, forever turning, forever spinning onward. My eyes glossed over with the sheen of duty, nothing was left on my face but determination and, deep down, a hint of regret.
"I, loving son of Erebus, solemnly pledge my life to the eternal battle with the Red and all those that may spawn from Him or wage war under His name. Through conflict and through peacetime, I pledge myself vigilant, obedient, and forever observant. I acknowledge that I am all that stands between humanity and the ever consuming Red Tide. Whatever the means, however long it takes, in life and in death. To this I pledge my sacred honor." I finished my oath, feeling the sudden weight of responsibilities rush over me.
"Very good, son. Go, fight for the White and all that is good. Be the wall for the people to hide behind. Curb the Red Tide and limit its influence on those remaining." My father stood and promptly kissed me on the forehead, extending his blessing.
He spoke again, saying "before you go, I wish for you to wear something." He pulled out a suit as black as the eternal night outside the palace grounds. "I wore this when I held the same duties as you now from this day forth. It has served me well through any situation you can imagine. But, I no longer have need for it and it is my wish for you to wear it in my honor."
I could only manage a nod. The outfit was beautiful, sewn together with a metallic gold stitching, the dark fabric soft as silk, yet strong and resilient as a beast's hide save for the roughness. The whole garb seemed to suck in all light around it. I corrected myself: it was hauntingly beautiful. I immediately donned my new garb, testing the fit. It was perfect—like it was meant to be. I chuckled to myself at that thought. Of course it was meant to be. I was His son, I had no other purpose in life.
My father turned to me one last time, "Go, with haste and lethal intent. Bring peace to those who wish it, and be a wind of death to those that would prey on others. Goodbye, son. Go."
Those were his last words before I was sent to my first destination. With a wave, he cast some otherworldly power upon my surroundings, turning them into a flurry of colors and images—the perks of the job I supposed. My last sight was of his imposing figure, engulfed in a luminous white glow—the very same white glow that birthed my father's father, my father, and I. We were going our separate ways. He, to a position of higher power, and I to stand up for those who couldn't. I didn't know whether or not I would ever see him again—whether I would see any of my ancestors again. The time had come to fight.
"In the name of all that is good."
It indeed was again time to fight. In the name of that is good—or was. I was not really sure anymore. Another struggle was looming and I once again had to do what I could. All I could hope for was someone that could influence the world and not fall like the countless others I had fought for. But what was his name again? Perhaps, the arctic weather was taxing not only my body, but also my mind. Oh, yes, his name was Aang.
|As the Tide Breaks|
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