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Previously on Energy Saga
Aang's and Zuko's families spend some time together. Sokka reunites with Piandao. Zuko deals with disturbing developments at a war meeting. Aang feels drawn to a mysterious statue.
Chapter Thirteen: Migo
Outside Omashu, 120 AG
Everyone was standing still and silent. Recently having dismounted from the Avatar's enormous sky bison, the small clique of individuals now stood on the mountainside beside the long rocky bridge which led to the great Earth Kingdom city of Omashu. Aang and Katara – the closest ones to Appa, stood adjacent to one another, holding hands. They had dropped off the kids at the Southern Air Temple on the way over. There they would be under Shao and Nola's watch. Tenzin and Vameira had plenty of room to airbend and would be able to socialize with their airbending peers in the meantime. Kaddo, on the other hand, was not at all satisfied with the arrangement and would have preferred to have stayed at the South Pole. This would have been a possibility as "Grandpa Hakoda" would not have minded taking him in, but Katara and Aang were both against it. It did not seem good for their kids to be split up like that all the time. Although Tenzin and Vameira were of a different bending discipline, they were still Kaddo's brother and sister. It was important that they spend some time together. Kaddo did not understand this point and had been infuriated by his parents' decision. He would rather be at the South Pole with more Water to bend and other waterbenders to spar with. His mother reassured him that one of the unused rooms in the temple would be made available to him to practice using his healing abilities. Given Kaddo's attitude about healing as being "women's work" this was counterproductive in cheering him up. Katara was frustrated by her son's views.
However, Katara and Aang were trying not to focus on family issues as they had a new task at hand – to seek out the shrine of Doru Kun so that Aang could learn from him. To find this shrine in the so-called "Cave of the Ancients," Aang had formed a small expeditionary force. Aside from him and Katara, this included Sokka, Suki, Ty Lee, Zuko and Mai. Now they were just waiting for Toph to arrive before they would set off. Being the busy queen that she was, Aang made sure to give her advance notice. It was lucky enough that Katara and Aang planned to visit her soon anyways and could work within such a tight time frame. Aang had used Momo to send her a message. Apparently his flying lemur was intelligent enough to deliver messages between friends the same way a Fire Nation messenger hawk might. Aang had only been able to train Momo to do so within the past year. Now Momo's new skill had been tested a few times and he had successfully received Toph's reply before coming today. She must have had one of her servants read the message to her and compose her response.
Aang was still unsure of himself in regards to bringing so many along on a seemingly personal quest. This concerned his Avatarhood rather than saving the world from any immediate danger. Perhaps it was best that he take this journey alone. The Avatar always walks alone – apart from others. But, then again, he was not alone and should not act like it. He had his friends and family to help him. Together they represented all nations and combat styles, lending truth to the name "Team Avatar."
Finally, the gigantic gates across from them parted and Toph marched through them. She wore nothing regal today, but an outfit similarly she had donned as the Blind Bandit years ago. Perhaps she found this more appropriate for the occasion. Of course, being blind, she never cared that much for fashion.
As she set foot on the summit, Toph felt her way to Aang with her feet and turned her head in his direction as though she could see him. "Twinkle Toes! So you're finally giving me my long-overdue mini-vacation? I think I've known you long enough to qualify for that now."
"Not exactly, Toph," Aang retorted with a smirk.
"Darn," Toph replied with mock disappointment. "So rumor has it that you want to go to some cave around here. I don't know what's so special about that cave – you've felt one, you've felt them all. You know, if you really want to see a cave so bad I can earthbend you one out of this mountain here in a couple seconds. Frankly, in fact, I'd expect you to be able to do that yourself by now."
"No, we're not here to tinker with natural landscape," Aang told her.
"Where's your royal escort today?" Katara asked her.
"I gave them the day off," Toph answered irritably.
"If they're with you all the time, I'm sure they deserve one by now," Sokka added.
"Anyway," Aang interjected, trying to keep everyone on topic. "This particular cave is a sacred location which has a shrine to one of my past lives somewhere within and I intend to go there."
"Okay Twinkle Toes...so what's the plan for that?"
"Well, the directions that Tad gave us lead us to the mountain range that the cave is supposedly in. Once we get there, we need to check the surrounding area to find the mountain which matches the description in relation to what's around it."
"So we'll be flying on Appa then? Great..." said Toph. After all this time, she still had her misgivings about that form of travel.
"Sounds good to me," Sokka added. "It will be a lot smoother than going on foot."
"Sokka, Appa's tired," Katara pointed out to him. "He needs a break. Plus, Aang is going to need to take a close look at the mountain to find where the cave is. He won't be able to do that while flying from above."
"That's true..." Aang admitted, although he secretly preferred flying to walking in this case.
"If this no one knows where this cave is, how do we know it even exists?" Toph asked everyone. "Maybe this is all just one big wild boar goose chase."
Aang shot her a look which he knew she could not see. "It exists," he said, annoyed.
"Well, if we are going on foot, we might as well go over this mountain range," Zuko suggested. "We'll have less distance to travel that way."
"No!" Mai and Ty Lee both exclaimed simultaneously in response. The mountain Zuko spoke of was rocky and steep on both sides.
"The path is much smoother going down to the forest and following the path," Aang noted.
"Yes, and its what most of us are better dressed for," Suki added.
"Either way, once we get there, how are we going to even look for the cave?" Toph questioned. "My seismic sense can find it if we're close enough. But not if this is looking for a needle in a haystack. Plus I can't tell one opening from another."
"We'll find a way," Aang stated flatly. But Toph did have a point. He had not planned ahead for that part of the process. This was going to be trickier than Aang initially thought.
People seemed unsure of themselves. Katara intervened. "This place probably exists. The Vaultmaster knew there was a shrine there. And he knew how to get there. Even if no one's been there in a while, that info had to come from somewhere. The best we can do is to leave Appa here and get there as quickly as we can so we can follow the directions. We'll go down through the forest since its more efficient. Even if going over the mountain is less distance, it would take longer because of the slope. And we'll need to save our energy for when we actually get to the base of the right mountain range. There's also a village on the way where we can eat and maybe stay the night."
Everyone went quiet, staring around for a few moments. They nodded in agreement.
"Great," Katara remarked. "Then let's leave Appa in Omashu and then we can get going."
Toph summoned the guard from the other side of the bridge to come over to them and escort Appa back across the bridge, with instructions to tend to him thoroughly. The guard obliged and the gang turned and left, with Katara leading the way. She had taken charge at everyone else's moment of indecisiveness. Ty Lee and Suki led the Kyoshi Warriors. Zuko, Mai and Toph were royalty. Then there was her brother, the Chief and her husband, the Avatar. All had ample leadership experience, but they had now become followers of her. It was odd, but it seemed to make sense to them. Katara had a curious and inspiring trait about her and they all knew it. She was someone people could easily look up to. She was the only one of the group without a title or position, but she did not need one. Katara was Katara. Enough said.
As the eight of them went through the woods, they used the sun to keep track of their direction as they trees had grown high enough to block their view of the surrounding mountains. Aang recognized one of the paths that shot off from the one they were on as the way to the Cave of Two Lovers, another legendary mountain cave in the area. He remembered going there with Katara the year they first met. It was where they shared their – very brief – first kiss. It had been little more than a peck that Katara had not acknowledged later. Their first real kiss had been during the failed invasion of the Fire Nation the following Summer. Aang's reminiscing of his experience with Katara now made him realize how much he could never take her for granted. He was truly grateful for her help today.
At last they came to the village Katara had pointed out to them. They did not see a sign for it anywhere on the way and they did not know its name or even if it had from. The place was so small and remote. The townsfolk led very simple lives here – many having never even left the place. Although it was technically in close proximity to Omashu, a large city, it was so small and out of the way that the Fire Nation probably did not bother with it during the Hundred Year War. The main street had only a few small shops and houses on it. The village had scarcely more than fifty inhabitants in all and they did not see outsiders very often.
As they were walking down the street, their eyes looking for a place to stay, Toph stopped suddenly and slammed her foot into the ground, earthbending up a small column off to the side and throwing a young man several feet in the air. "What're you looking at?" she yelled, not quite facing him.
The man before them had landed face-down on the ground after Toph's thrust. The others, particularly Katara, found Toph's actions a little harsh. He did seem in fine condition though, apart from the shock factor. He rose to his feet and brushed the dust off his shirt and pants with his large hands. He was tall, with his hair neatly groomed and placed into a tiny topknot. He sported a smoothly-cut chin-strap beard. As for his clothes, he had on a light green Earth Kingdom tunic with matching colored baggy pants.
"'I said...what're you looking at?" Toph bellowed, annoyed.
"Oh...uh, your lemur," the guy answered her after looking around with his eyes and spotting Momo.
"The lemur?" Toph scowled, unconvinced.
"Why were you looking at Momo?" Aang asked the stranger.
"Momo, what a nice name," he commented, meagerly dodging the question.
"What's your name?" Katara asked the man. She did not feel threatened by him and wanted to make the interaction more friendly.
"Name's Migo," he said hastily. "Nice to meet y'all," he added, waving to the group as a whole.
"Hi, I'm Aang," the Avatar said to him, following Katara's lead.
"I'm Sokka." Sokka was almost bored in introducing himself to Migo.
"I'm Suki," Suki added with a forced smile.
"I'm Ty Lee," Ty Lee added with her ordinary smile.
"Hello, I'm Zuko. Nice to meet you." Zuko did not know why, but he liked Migo from the get-go.
"My name is Mai. I'm with him," she added, gesturing at Zuko.
An uncomfortable silence followed. Migo turned to Toph as Katara and Aang both shot her a look. "Toph," she said flatly, arms crossed and her eyes not meeting his.
"Sorry," Aang apologized to Migo "about our friend knocking you off your feet with her earthbending."
"It's fine – don't worry about it," Migo reassured him while still rubbing the spot he had landed on.
"Hmph! He shouldn't have been staring," Toph stated in a disgruntled voice.
"I'm actually used to it," he continued. "I'm an earthbender myself. I've been trained really well – had a good teacher."
"You've never seen an earthbender like me before," Toph asserted.
Katara was irritated by her rudeness. "Toph, be nice!"
"So, what brings you to town?" Migo questioned them.
"Well, I'm the Avatar," Aang informed him. "And these are my friends. We're looking for a place called the Cave of the Ancients in these mountains. We saw that this village was on the way so we're stopping in for a bit."
"Oh, okay," Migo returned. "We don't normally get a lot of outsiders coming through this area, let alone airbenders or Avatars. I actually think I've heard of this cave of yours. I heard my Brawki mention something about it once."
"Who's Brawki?" asked Aang.
"That's great," Katara interjected pleasantly. "Any chance you could take us to him? We need all the information we can get."
"Certainly. Brawki's the man who raised me. He's also my earthbending teacher," he added at Aang. "The house is a short walk away – I'll show you."
The Avatar and company followed Migo down a winding dirt road for a few minutes. The few huts in this village were spaced apart from one another. They passed a few soy and rice farms on the way.
On the way, Katara asked Migo about himself. He responded by telling her about his background. "I was born far away in the Eastern Earth Kingdom. My mother was one of the greatest earthbenders in the Earth King's army during the Hundred Year War – also one of the few females to serve on the Terra Team. She was killed in action and her old earthbending instructor adopted me. Brawki also taught me to earthbend like my mom. He's one of the best earthbending teachers in the Earth Kingdom!"
At last they came to a hut with smoke trailing from a chimney scarcely larger than Aang's glider. As they approached the front of the dwelling, the only door opened before them. A muscular middle-aged man with a similar hairstyle to Migo emerged. Upon noticing the new arrivals, he began to size them up, looking at each of them closely.
"Who are these persons?" His voice was low and harsh-sounding.
"Some visitors to the village," Migo told him. "They came asking questions about the Cave of the Ancients. I told them you knew about it and could maybe tell them something helpful."
Brawki was annoyed at hearing this. "What did you tell them that for? How do we know we can trust these outsiders – they may be here to cause us trouble." Brawki angled his right leg out, ready to earthbend.
"What if among said outsiders are the Queen of Omashu and the Avatar?"
"Hmph. Then I suppose they're probably alright." Brawki brought his foot back toward himself and stood upright. "Come in."
The Avatar and company were barely able to squeeze inside of the small room they entered, which seemed even smaller from the inside than it did from the outside. Brawki put a pot of tea on his rusted kettle and sat down with everyone else. There were not enough chairs around, so most of them found themselves kneeling or sitting on the floor. Brawki pulled over a large wooden crate and rested himself on top of it so he was looking down at most of his guests.
Brawki began telling them all he knew about the cave. "The Cave of the Ancients is one of the greatest mysteries around here – that's an understatement. There is so much on it, it's near-impossible to separate all the fact from fiction. It is one of the cornerstones of the lore of this region – in fact, the entire Earth Kingdom. People tell stories about going there and their experiences in the cave. Most of them are probably false. The cave is only found by those who are worthy to find it. People who do go there generally find either more than they were looking for or something entirely different than they were looking for. Whatever the case, no one who sets foot in there is ever quite the same person when they leave it."
Katara interrupted. "Excuse me sir, but what do you mean by experiences?"
Brawki shrugged at her. "It can be different things. Sometimes people simply feel different when they're there and find they know something about themselves they didn't know before. Others speak of hearing voices, spirits, ghosts, that kind of thing. There's a lot of rumors about that place. Like I said, its difficult separating the fact from the fiction." Brawki took the kettle off and proceeded to uncustomarily pour himself tea before handing it to Zuko, who sat beside him.
"Have you heard anything mentioned of Avatar Doru Kun having a shrine or a presence within the cave?" Aang asked him eagerly.
"That is one thing they say," Brawki stated simply. "If you're worthy, you'll find out." With that, he took a sip from his tea cup, which he held with his full fist.
"I think that I can pass that test," Aang said dismissively. "I am the Avatar."
"Hah!" Brawki laughed off. "Don't be so sure. At their core, Avatars are human just like the rest of us. And some Avatars have made selfish mistakes or neglected their duties. You may be held responsible for the actions of all your past lives."
"How do you know so much about this," Suki asked him curiously.
"I was there myself once – many years ago."
"And what did you get out of your experience there?" Sokka inquired to him.
"That is neither here nor there."
"Can you give us directions there?" Zuko requested to him.
"I'll do you even better than that," Brawki responded. "Migo, why don't you be these people's guide. Show them up the mountainside."
"You could just give us directions..." Toph began.
"Do you really think that would be necessary?" Migo said to him. "I should stay and help you out around here where I'm needed."
"Nonsense, my boy," Brawki said, waving this objection aside. "You know the area well enough and I have duties to attend to here. This is convenient. And its for the best. You should take this opportunity to help serve the Avatar."
"I suppose you're right..." Migo reluctantly agreed. "But where would I take them to exactly? I have no idea where this 'Cave of the Ancients' place is – I've never been there. I don't even know which one of the mountains it would be on."
"Take them to the cliffside on the Northwestern peak where you almost fell off when you were nine and just learning your mid-level earthbending exercises."
"Okay, how far is the cave from there?"
"It's a little ways. There aren't that many caves or openings in the immediate area."
"How will we know which way its in?" Aang asked him.
"Just pause for a moment and let the whispers of the Ancients call out to you. Then you will know all you need to."
"Well, with directions like that there's no way we could go wrong," Sokka remarked sarcastically.
It took about an hour to pack in some new food and camping gear as well as working out logistics for the trip. Then the group set out again. Eight became nine as Migo had become their newly appointed mountain guide, leading the way with knowledge but without confidence. Migo led them through the last section of the forest before reaching the base of the mountainside, where the ground was cleanly divided between the grassy, tender woodland and the rocky, empty mountains.
Base of the Mountain
At last they arrived at the base of the mountain, where they set up camp for the evening. Aang and Sokka gathered wood for the fire while everyone else – except for Toph – helped to set up the tents.
"I'm getting a strange feeling," Aang remarked to Sokka as they carried the wood back toward the campsite.
"Yeah, like we're being followed again."
"It's not like those assassins though. It's...different. More familiar..."
As Sokka shrugged his shoulders, not knowing what to say to that, neither of them knew how accurate a statement this was. Someone lurked in the distance, watching the whole group from her undetectable perch. It was a young woman with sharp eyes and recognizable bangs, with her hair in a tight knot complemented by a royal-styled headpiece. She wore a traditional Fire Nation war outfit, as had been common in the latter days of the Hundred Year War.
As she observed the two men walking back to join their wives and their friends, she muttered under her breath. "Its payback time."
TO BE CONTINUED...
- Although this is Migo's first appearance, I made his character page back in January. I planned his role early on. Since then the story has changed and evolved as a whole in my mind. I debated changing his role or even cutting him out completely, but now that he finally made his first appearance I decided to stick to the original plan.
- What I mean by Brawki "uncustomarily" pouring himself the tea first is that it is polite in most Asian cultures to pour everyone else tea before you pour your own. I applied a similar standard to the Avatar world in my fanon.
For the collective works of the author, go here.