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|The Avatar Legion|
Previously on Energy Saga
The future of the Fire Nation is uncertain, as the royal family has been scarred and driven from the capital, plunging the nation into all-out anarchy, until Princess Azula manages to unite the remaining Phoenix Army factions under her command. Meanwhile, Neinei tries to tell everyone her true identity, but finds herself shut out - and Migo finally finds out the truth about his parents: that he is the son of Ratana of Gaipan and the deceased Lu Ten.
Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Avatar Legion
Omashu Royal Palace Courtyard, 121 AG
"A little higher," Aang instructed calmly, firmly hoisting his glider staff in his right hand.
"This is as high as I can push it without spreading my bending source too thin," Kaddo replied, his exasperation causing his tone to sound more like a scowl. Having shed his outer coat, the young waterbender trained only in his plain blue tribal tunic. Kaddo was practicing the Old Southern Style move that his father had introduced to him during their travels together. "I've been practicing every day!"
"Then you'll have to gather more water next time."
Though the courtyard at Toph's palace was not as enormous as that of Zuko's palace, the grass was smoother, shorter and better-tended. A single leechi tree stood in the center of the square enclosure, with four similar specimens posted at each of the corners. At the southeast end lay an isolated, peaceful pond which Kaddo was raiding for his waterbending practice. "Once the ice wall is in place, you'll have to prepare yourself for the next step," his father explained. "Remember, your opponent's actions matter in waterbending – it doesn't just stop at the wall. They'll continue to fight back until they can break the barrier you made." The overwhelming amount of information kept piling on as Kaddo stared back, blinking a little. "When the wall is almost shattered," continued Aang, "liquify it again and force it towards the enemy! There is a time to use ice and a time to use fluid water. You have to do it at the right moment – when their guard is down. Do it too soon and it won't be effective. Wait too long and the wall will be down, leaving you defenseless."
Kaddo gazed down at the water in the pond for a long moment, then turned back to his father. "That sounds very hard..."
"That's because it is," Aang replied simply. "Your mother knew that it would be worthwhile for you to learn this, and anything worthwhile involves effort. Make sure that you use the proper amount of water, and flow with and against what's around you. You can't be too rigid like an earthbender or act evasive like an airbender if you're to understand the adaptive and flexible nature of waterbending."
Aang suddenly found himself interrupted when he caught sight of an Omashu palace guard entering the courtyard. His uniform was the same traditional attire that guards here had worn for ages past, with five distinct shades of green visible along the exterior. "Avatar Aang, the queen requests your presence."
The queen's throne room was largely empty when Aang arrived. She sat alone at the end of the grand room in her enormous chair, with naught but Sokka standing at her side. Her usual ceremonial guards were absent as well - though their presence was really just a formality. Toph usually didn't require any protection, and neither had Bumi. Being an old man and a blind woman, however, the powerful earthbender-monarchs didn't always look the part. Those who could not see past their deceptive first impressions always regretted it.
Aang entered the room and marched over to the pair of his oldest and most trusted friends. "Hello, Toph. You wanted to see me?"
"Yes, I did," his former teacher told him. "I've sent for aid, as we discussed."
"Great," said Aang with a nod. "What have you done about the refugee settlement just outside the city? They're vulnerable now."
"Migo's gone to round them up and bring them into the city, where they'll be better protected," explained Toph, crossing her arms and pursing her lips. "Once within our walls, the refugee families can report to the local barracks for temporary shelter."
"You're sending them to barracks?!" Aang exclaimed, his brows lifting widening in surprise. "That seems like an odd place for them. I don't understand...you have plenty of room in your palace."
Toph narrowed her eyes and slowly shook her head. "No. This place is at maximum capacity already, with you, your family, Sokka's men, and the rest of our group. Even the chamber Bumi once trapped you in to perform three tests is now fully occupied."
Aang briefly recalled the three challenges Bumi had forced upon him while Sokka and Katara were trapped in jennamite, over twenty years ago... It seemed more like a hundred years. "I hadn't noticed this place being so full," he remarked quietly.
"Oh yes," his former teacher replied matter-of-factly. "My home is becoming a hotel. If we have any more guests than we do right now, we have to set them up with some actual hotels...and don't forget that my servants live here, too. You can't expect me to cast Nala out into the streets," she decided to add with a smirk.
"Enough," Sokka suddenly cut in, raising his voice over both of theirs. "Let's keep things moving. Who else is coming to join us? I went ahead and summoned some extra warriors and benders from my tribe earlier today. That should add to our forces."
"I sent a messenger hawk to find my companions from the Northern Air Temple," Aang informed him. "I believe that The Mechanist and Teo both got away from there after the Southern Air Temple was destroyed."
"I'll contact my first metalbending academy," Toph chimed in with the news on her end.
"...Meaning you haven't done so yet," noted Sokka.
"Is your school far off?" asked Aang.
"Not that far – it's by Yu Dao," Toph assured them. "Like I said, I'll send a messenger hawk. Still, it's been a while since I spoke to anyone there. I wish that I could go explain the situation to them in person..."
"Too late for that," Sokka retorted sternly.
"Maybe not," Aang intervened. "You could fly with Vameira on Pooka to visit your school," he suggested. "But the metalbenders will need their own transportation when they come here."
Toph cringed as she shifted uncomfortably in her throne, her royal robes sweeping about her feet. Being unable to see, she was still not very fond of traveling by sky bison. "Will that calf be able to support the weight of Vameira and I together?" she asked cautiously.
"Pooka's in good shape," Aang replied confidently with a nod. "I think that he can handle one adult and one child on his back as long as it's not a long journey - which it isn't."
"Thanks..." The queen still seemed to dread the journey nonetheless.
Aang nodded again in agreement, but then hung his head as his mind wandered elsewhere. "I sent a message to Nola, too. I never heard back from her..."
Sokka rolled his eyes. "Well, no surprise there."
Lifting his head immediately at the blunt comment, the Avatar turned sharply towards the Southern Chief. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Come on, Aang. Nola's clearly dead," Sokka replied dully. "You said that you saw her run back into the blazing ruin of the Southern Air Temple right before you left."
"...I know," Aang managed to say with some difficulty, staring off into space. "But I'm not entirely satisfied with that explanation. Nola's always been cunning. She would never do something that irrationally," he continued defiantly. "She was behaving differently than usual when I saw her that day."
"Doesn't matter," retorted the impatient chief. "She had to have died. I know that she was a great airbender and you miss her, Aang. But we have to accept that she's not around anymore."
Aang batted his eyes for a moment, then continued his line of thought as though Sokka hadn't spoken. "Come to think of it; she didn't do any airbending when we were fleeing the temple. Trinley, Vameira and I did. Azula was with us, too. But Nola didn't airbend...she didn't fight."
"Okay...strange," admitted Sokka, though he still seemed unconvinced.
"I had a dream when I was locked up in the Air Nation," Aang added. "First I was flying on Appa, then I saw Katara, then Azula...then Nola. I was back in the cell when I saw her. Then I positioned myself to energybend, like I was giving her airbending again. It seemed so real...for a dream."
Toph had been sitting quietly this whole time, but she finally grew tired of listening to their speculation. "Anyway," she cut in, rolling her eyes. "We'll require a good-sized force to hold off against all our enemies. Fortunately, we have the city of Omashu as a stronghold – and we're on a terrain where earthbending comes in handy. We can count on the high ground."
"That should work to our advantage," Sokka stated to them both.
"It looks like we'll be ready, then," said Aang, now more upbeat. "Is there anything else we have to talk about now?"
"Yes," Toph replied severely. "I had my scribes search the Omashu Library for information on these Sages Bane people."
"What did they find?" asked Aang, his eyes flashing with anticipated interest.
The Avatar's face twisted into such a frown that that the very edges of his arrow bent downwards. "I thought the library here had everything you could think of..."
"It does," Toph retorted. "There is literally nothing encyclopedic on any group called the 'Sages Bane' or any similar name. If we hadn't encountered them time and again, I'd presume they were just some fable you made up."
Aang was baffled. "It's like they erased all evidence of their own existence from the history books."
"Hey, we're not completely clueless," said Sokka casually. "We know some of what they've done and where they've been."
"Doru Kun said they were the most secretive group he ever knew," said Aang, to himself as much as to Sokka and Toph. "They sure cover their own tracks well. Isn't there anything?"
"Well...I did have my people analyze the symbol. The moon is in the center with another, partially-visible moon on either side. That might mean something about the moon itself, or the Water Tribes..."
"I did run into one of them at the North Pole," noted Aang.
"Among several other places!" Sokka clarified in irritation.
"Then there's the eye inside the central moon," Toph went on. "It's red and blue on either end – with purple in the middle. The way it's positioned, it looks like it indicates that the moon is harboring something. Great seeing...like omniscience...or just great power in general..."
Sokka lifted his lips in deferment. "Omniscience makes sense. Along with being notoriously secretive, they also seem to know everything at once and pop up everywhere when least expected. You can't hide anything from them."
Aang thought hard and pondered aloud. "Hmmm..the purple eye reminds me of purple fire. North Pole...great power...something to do with the Spirit Oasis, maybe?"
Queen Toph shrugged. "That's as good a guess as any. However, symbols and meaning change over time. We can't decipher it properly without knowing when the Sages Bane was founded."
"Doru Kun lived over two millennia ago," said Aang. "And he called them old, so they must be much older than him...maybe almost as old as the Avatar Cycle."
The Queen of Omashu scoffed. "They you're out of luck, Twinkle Toes! No record in the world dates back that far."
Aang's heart sank. First he went to talk to Yue and she told him to leave. Then he looked as deep inside himself as he could muster to contact Doru Kun. Now he felt like he was hitting a dead end yet again. "Even if there aren't any human records...there are always spirits. If only there were a spirit I could ask for guidance on how to help Katara, deal with these people and save the world. There are spirits much older than Doru Kun."
"There are plenty of older spirits," Toph told him. "It's a matter of knowing which to ask."
"You're the Avatar," said Sokka plainly. "You're an old spirit."
"I can't look any deeper into myself than when I spoke to Doru Kun!"
"The Avatar isn't the only old spirit out there," said Toph.
"Yeah," agreed Sokka. "Aside from the Avatar, there's Koh the Face Stealer, the Providence Spirit, Shihang Shi..."
"I already met Koh!" Aang snapped impatiently. "He was one of few who remembered the Moon and Ocean Spirits when they were in the Spirit World. Wait...Shihang Shi?! What spirit is that?"
"Well...I dunno if he actually exists," said Sokka hesitantly. "He was one of the ones Katara and I heard stories about as kids, though."
"Who is he supposed to be, though?"
"Shihang Shi, the Spirit of Aether – ancient and elusive. No ordinary human has ever seen him, or returned from attempting to see him. Only those worthy to stand in his presence go before him. He's guarded by Urghin the Banisher and Silghid the Devourer."
Aang was shocked that Sokka had heard of a spirit that he had not. The Avatar knew that he would have to meditate on this later. "You should set off soon," he said, turning back to Toph. "I'll go fetch Vameira for you."
Following Icarus's overthrow of the Council of Elders, Guru Pathik had been evicted from the Eastern Air Temple, which had been converted into a barracks, warehouse and training ground for the Air Nation. For about a month, the humble guru had taken to wandering the land without a clear destination. Then, for reasons only he understood, Pathik began to head towards Omashu. No one had told him to or asked him to, but he simply knew it was where he belonged next. It was almost as if he was being pulled there, like he had been pulled to the Eastern Air Temple years before.
And once again, Avatar Aang was in his future. Rather than waiting for Toph to come back, Aang had walked down to the gates at the front of the proud metropolis and across the bridge, toward where refugees and others congregated. No sooner had he reached the other side than he laid eyes on a hot, crackling fire with two familiar figures nestling themselves adjacent and catching some of the heat. They were none other than Guru Pathik and The Mechanist.
As Aang stepped toward them, they noticed his present. "Hello Aang," said Pathik, grinning as calmly as ever. "It's been a while."
"It sure has!" said The Mechanist jovially, as he rose to his feet and thrust his arm out to shake the Avatar's hand.
"Hello Pathik, hello Mechanist," Aang reciprocated. "It has been a long time indeed. I'm glad to see that you're both fine, after all that's happened with Icarus going rogue and everything." Aang made note of his defected former student because both of these men hailed from one of the old air temples.
"Yes..." said The Mechanist, now noticeably more uneasy at Aang's reminder of recent events. "Come, why don't you sit with us for a while."
Relaxed, Aang nodded and spread his legs onto the dusty surface beside the fire. "How were you able to get away from the Northern Air Fortress?"
"After news of the Southern Fortress's destruction reached us, everything began to fall apart," explained the elder inventor. "The Air Lord's officers loosened their grip on us as they and their minions attempted to restore order. When they had their heads turned the other way, Teo and I sought some flying contraptions to escape on."
"Good thing you caught that lucky break," said Aang casually. "I had my work cut out for me recovering my daughter from the Southern Air Temple." This was an obvious understatement. "Now you won't be forced to build weapons of destruction for tyrants anymore. You can go back to putting your talents to better use."
The Mechanist solemnly shook his head. "After going through that again, I'm planning to retire for good."
"Why?" asked Aang. "Your inventions have been valuable to peaceful people of all nations. You shouldn't let what Icarus – and before him Ozai – put you through deter you from what you were meant to do."
"No, I'm sure that my days of doing that have drawn to their close." It was ironic that The Mechanist, in his sixties, sounded the oldest of them now, as he was in the company of a man in his one-hundred-seventies and a man in his one-hundred-thirties. To put things fairly though, Avatar Aang had maintained youthfulness by the grace of an iceberg. "Technology always has a sinister kind of progress during wartime. The fact that I've been caught in the middle of it twice was no fluke. Throughout human history, that is the way it has been." The world's most revered inventor, who had conceived new forms of air travel for all nations to use, spoke from experience.
"But humanity has good kinds of progress, too," Aang countered. "Every generation has its battles and trials to face, but I believe that whatever doesn't kill humanity off entirely will make it stronger in the long run."
"But how long can we keep that up?" The Mechanist asked with a snort. "And how can we deal with the moral and economic costs along the way?"
"The Avatar speaks wisely," Pathik interrupted, almost in a meditative stance. "Our body and spirit as a whole is made stronger through struggles."
"Heh, that's why my friend, the Fire Lord, became so admirable," said Aang, nearly laughing. "But The Mechanist has a point. With all the success we can achieve, it only takes one severe failure – one time and one alone – and the world loses balance irreparably."
"That is why you are so important," Pathik chortled. "The Avatar prevents that one time from ever happening. All too often, we don't appreciate our successes. Success is a journey, not a destination. Failure is a destination."
"Well, it would be nice to move forward as a whole as long as possible," The Mechanist chimed in. "Hopefully forever. As long as you're the Avatar, I'd say we're doing alright."
Aang lowered his head. "Don't say that," he said sadly. "I'm not such a good Avatar. I fell too far into temptation. If I had not gotten my wake-up call when I used Shuten Shogai with Katara, I'm not sure that I ever would've come to my senses."
"Do you remember our initial talks on energies when you came to visit me all those years ago?" asked Pathik, raising an eyebrow.
"What position is your 'locked door' in now?"
Aang's head felt unusually heavy as he lifted it to make eye contact with the ultra-centenarian guru. "It's not locked at all. It's wide open."
Pathik shook his head solemnly. "This is not good. I have a feeling that door should never have been opened. It appears a lot which does not belong has since emerged from the door."
"I know," Aang said receptively. "I hear that anytime energybending is performed, an 'imprint of chaos' is inflicted upon the natural world. Do you know what this could mean?"
To his ire, Pathik simply shrugged. "No. But it doesn't sound good."
"Ugh!" said Aang, burying his face in his arms. "This must be what's weakening the balance! I have to stop it somehow!"
Pathik nodded continuously as he spoke. "Troublesome. You look like you have turned over a new leaf, though. That's good. But, even if you're no longer energybending, the energies may miss being bent. With energybending back in the world where it was gone from for millennia, the energies must be becoming used to it again. If this 'imprint of chaos' is what it sounds it is, the energies will conspire to pull things in their direction."
The Mechanist scoffed at these words. "Bah! You talk about these energies as if they're alive."
"I'll do whatever I have to to make things right," Aang announced decisively. "I have chased the gifts of energybending to make everything as I feel it should be, but once I save Katara, I'll stop for good."
In a rare motion for him, Guru Pathik crossed his arms at him. "Will you?"
"Of course I will," said Aang, discomforted at the question. "Why would you even ask that?"
"It seems that you're always tempted by something in this journey...and you're consistently swayed."
The Avatar paused uncomfortably. He had never questioned that he would stop energybending, save for whatever he might have to do to bring Katara back to normal. Then again, he had only intended to use energybending to get out of killing Ozai in the beginning. Later, after he glimpsed his first warning signs on the path, Aang told himself that he would just use the dangerous art to restore the Air Nomads, and nothing more. However, once the Fire Nation Civil War started, he could not resist but to use it in battle. Now he had told himself he would only use it for Katara's sake. The wrong path was paved by one step at a time. Was he fixing things now by chasing after a solution for Katara – or continuing his corruption? What if he saved Katara, but after he did, there was then something else he had to do? Would he have the discipline to halt himself then, if he did not have it now?
The guru peered at him, as though he could read Aang's thoughts. "You must accept what you cannot change, change what you can, but know the difference."
This line of conversation was sending a chill down Aang's spine and over the whole of his skeleton. He was relieved to hear The Mechanist offer a change of subject. "So, what else could you do by bending energies besides Shuten Shogai and giving and taking bending abilities?"
"Well, the first move that Yue taught me was called recquiesence. It sends an energy surge through your own body or someone else's. This makes the person re-energized on a whole, and it can sometimes be used to help the injured, just like waterbending. Then, she showed me another move called the energy shove. It's a basic offensive bending move like a fire blast or a water whip, only – the way it works – some of your bodily energy leaves you to become the force of your attack."
The Mechanist's eyes lit up in alarm. "Whoa! Some of your energy leaves you?"
"Yes," confirmed Aang. "But it comes back to your body once you've finished the move and your back in position. Yue told me that long ago, when energybending was the dominant bending art for the world, there was a move to counter it where another energybender 'catches' the energy and prevents it from returning to your body, leaving you vulnerable. Since there are no more energybenders around, she had no reason to teach it to me."
"Hmmm...interesting. So the young Moon Spirit taught you everything else about the art, then?"
Aang shook his head. "Not entirely. My past life Doru Kun told me of some moves that I had never heard of. There was a move where an energybender continuously feeds off the energy of a hostage and they're strengthened by leeching off them this way. It kind of reminded me of the Avatar State."
"That makes sense," Pathik noted seriously. "In the Avatar State, the energies of the past Avatars flow as one with the current Avatar, so their fate is dependent on them while the energies are connected. If someone could 'feed' off another's energy this way, that person would be in as much peril as the past Avatar's are when their present incarnation is using the Avatar State."
'I see," said Aang. "There was one other thing. When I fainted during energybending practice, I recalled memories from my past lives. Yue said that this was because the Avatar's energy flows differently than other humans'."
"Could be," said Pathik with a chuckle. "The Avatar Spirit transcends much time and many people who represent it in the world, lifetime after lifetime. Aside from all these individuals, the Avatar Spirit has a memory of its own. You must've simply found a way to access it by accident."
"I can already see how my energy flows differently than others," stated Aang. "What became of Katara's energy, though?"
"It's been proven that energy can neither be created nor destroyed," said The Mechanist in a lecturing tone. "Just the same as substance can neither be created nor destroyed. If your wife had energy before, the energy that was in her body has to be out there somewhere. Even after it became raw destructive power."
"I don't know where to look for it, though," said Aang uncertainly. "Yue exiled me from the Spirit Oasis. Doru Kun didn't know anything about how to save her. There's nowhere else to turn, really."
"You're thinking too complexly," said Pathik observationally. "You must look at what energies are in most basic way possible. Remember that I taught you about energies in the beginning so that you could learn to bend them. Meditate on it to find out what to do next."
Aang paused for a moment. "Mechanist...you mentioned energy and substance right now."
"Yes," said The Mechanist. "All elemental bending is bending substance – and if you bend energies, energybending is bending energy."
"Water, earth and air I could see that with," said Aang, slightly confused. "What about fire?"
"Firebending involves the breath."
"Oh yeah, that's right," said Aang, hitting himself in the forehead. "Which is stronger? Substance or energy?"
"Neither," said Pathik. "They rely on each other."
"Actually...that's a good question," said The Mechanist uncertainly. "Substance forms the world we live in, but energies are involved in the sciences of how it functions. You can't answer such a question so simply."
"Well, one can never fully understand all energy," Pathik conceded somewhat cheerfully. "Bodily energies, spiritual energies, cosmic energies – they all have a mind of their own."
The Mechanist gawked at the guru and shook his head. "No, they follow scientific laws! I know that you like to ramble about everything being in harmony with everything else, but now you're just talking nonsense!"
To The Mechanist's annoyance, Pathik smiled. "We're simply looking at this through different lenses. We may not understand the same thing the same way, but that doesn't matter. It is what it is!"
"Hmph!" It was interesting to watch the two experts from separate schools of enlightened spirituality and rational science. Pathik thought that they were both right. The Mechanist steadfastly believed that only he was right. All Aang could do was listen. He decided that judging either of them now was a luxury he could not afford.
Pathik turned back to Aang. "Avatar – I've been feeling the continuous flow of all energies around me. I know not what challenges you await, but I sense the world as you know it must be a world united in order for you to succeed."
"Energies don't talk!" The Mechanist retorted.
"Not like us," Pathik countered, waving a finger. "But in their own way, they do."
Aang realized how much time had passed and stood up once again. "I must be getting back now. Before I go, is there anything else I should know about how to close the 'door' I 'unlocked.'"
The elderly guru turned back to him. "Remember, Aang - you carry the weight, power, success, failure, virtue and sin of all your past lives wherever you go. Ultimately, it is up to you to know the right thing to do when the time comes, because no one else's wisdom will do it for you."
The gigantic hall at the rear end of Queen Toph's extravagant residence – lined with smooth walls of fresh-looking turquoise concrete that was in actuality quite old – was completely empty as Migo entered. With the echoes of his own footsteps for company, the young earthbender found out that he was here earlier than was required. He was looking forward to a few minutes of waiting downtime to himself as someone came in through the very same entrance he had. Scowling, Migo would have been more pleased to see the man who raised him on a better day.
"Ah – you're here, my boy!" said Brawki in a raised voice, not mad, but urgent. "Good that we have some space to ourselves. I trust you've taken the time since we arrived in this city to contemplate your destiny?"
"I don't have a set destiny Brawki," said Migo, coolly. "I'm not going to be Fire Lord. The very idea of it is ridiculous! I've lived in this nation all my life, I've never been to the Fire Nation in my life and I'm an earthbender!"
Brawki narrowed his eyes and flexed his large bicep. "I understand you're having doubts, but this may be necessary. The world is in turmoil. The way to get it back on the right track is to control the Fire Nation. You cannot turn your back on this fact for personal reasons. Your destiny is about a lot more than just yourself, Migo."
"But what about Zuko? And the Crown Princess? And their family?"
Brawki shook his head. "They're probably dead by now. And even if the rest of Zuko's family survived, your claim to the throne holds when you trace it back two more generations."
Migo shook his head angrily. "No. I'm not going to the Fire Nation. I'm going to propose to Toph and settle down in Omashu - if she has me."
"No, you cannot!" snapped Brawki. "The royal family of the Fire Nation has laws. Your succession rights will be forfeited if you marry royalty from another one of the four nations."
"So I won't be Fire Lord if I marry Toph. Talk about win-win."
"You're being difficult..."
"Whatever," said Migo. "We could all be dead in a few days, so we'll see if any of this really matters. I'm not discussing this topic anymore. My focus has to be here, and now."
Brawki frowned briefly then loosened his expression. "You definitely have Ratana's fighting spirit in you. Granted, it took a while to surface, but I suppose it was inevitable that it would."
Shortly after Migo and Brawki had done the same, six of the old Team Avatar's children stepped into the chamber: Tenzin, Kaddo, Vameira, Hinko, Sakema and Neinei, whom many were still calling Rouyu. "It looks like we can come to the meeting this time," Tenzin noted with a smirk.
"That's a relief!" Neinei snapped as she crossed her arms furiously.
"Come on," said Vameira, gritting her teeth. "Try to stay positive..."
"My sister's right about something for once," Tenzin said to all of them. "There's a big battle ahead of us, so we all should have a plan for ourselves."
Tenzin would have said more, but someone called out to him from the opposite corner of the room.
"Tenny-Zinny – long time, no see!" His former comrade-in-arms, Wang, came running over to greet the young airbender. Behind him stoof Captain Lee and the majority of Tenzin's other old friends from the Fire Army and the Fire Navy Western Fleet.
"Wang!" Tenzin reciprocated, his expression lighting up. "How have you been? How's the baby?"
"My wife's taking care of our son now – while I'm away," Wang informed him happily. "He's just started walking. I expect that he'll be saying things too, before too long. As for me and the rest of the Western Fleet, we've come to help you fend off all the armies that you're facing now; it'll be just like old times!"
"Great," said Tenzin, grinning. Although Wang was over ten years his senior, Tenzin had developed a friendly bond with him while they were stranded after the Battle of the Fire Nation Capital. Tenzin looked up to him as a laid-back uncle, as the cool older brother he never had, or something in between.
"Hey, why don't you come say hi to the rest of the guys?" suggested Wang. "It's been a long time."
"Sounds good," Tenzin concurred. "I'll see you later, babe," he said to Neinei as he turned to go off with Wang.
"Babe?!" Neinei said in disbelief, just as Tenzin left earshot. "Kaddo, Vameira, I think I'm going to have to break your brother's heart."
"Wait until after the battle if you can," Kaddo told her. "He'll need his focus."
Over the next several minutes, hordes of more people entered the royal chamber. Among them were Teo, a friend of his from the Northern Air Temple, Toph's metalbenders, warriors and benders from the Southern Water Tribe, refugees who had come in from the camp, Trinley, Piandao, Haru, Longshot, Smellerbee, Sokka and Suki. Kuei and Nala were also present, although neither expected to contribute much when the enemies came, since they weren't exactly the warrior type. Finally, Avatar Aang and Queen Toph of Omashu arrived.
Before speaking to everyone at-large, Aang decided to commence introductions with some of the newer people individually. "Teo – I spoke with your father earlier today. It's great to see you again."
"Likewise, Aang," said the mature, thirty-four-year-old crippled airbender. Although he was crippled from the waist down, the airbending talent that he had been given through energybending years before made this as relevant in a battle as Toph's blindness. "I brought my friend Merk along as well. He's another of the airbenders up north, if you recall." Merk was about average height with short, scruffy hair and wore a traditional Air Nomad tunic, save that it was red rather than yellow. "It's a shame that after all that was done to restore airbenders to the world, there aren't many of us left anymore."
"And some gone bad," said Aang seriously, thinking of Icarus.
After Teo went to speak with Trinley, Sokka approached Aang with a fit, slender woman, with her long brown hair in a pony-tail and a fancy suit of metal-plated armor covering her torso. The outfit included two rather long boots which came up to her knees, layering out at the top with a thin, swirling strand of metal branching out. There were detailed designs all over the sides and spiny spur-like objects at the heel.
"Aang, I'd like you to meet Penga, Acting Headmistress of the Beifong Metalbending Academy," said Sokka. "She and I met years ago. It was some...interesting times."
"Nice footwear," said Aang, referring to Penga's metal boots.
"Thanks," said Penga. "I bent them myself."
Shortly afterwards, Aang's son, Tenzin, resolved to introduce him to one of his own old friends. "It's an honor to finally meet you, Avatar Aang," said Wang. "I heard stories about you when I was a little kid. You're a living legend."
The Avatar blushed slightly. "Thank you for bringing yourself to help us today. Tenzin tells me that you have a wife and child back home."
"Yes. I've been working long days for several months to provide for them. I had just enough saved up to get them by until I return from this battle. We're used to living lean and mean."
"It sounds very tough for you," said Aang, with sympathy.
"They'll be fine," said Wang, shaking his head. "I know that I can be useful in this fight. I may not be a bender, but I'm trained in several weapon arts. And I know this area well. Although I grew up in the Fire Nation proper, my wife was born in the colonies. The best place that I can be to build a better future for my family is here. I can only provide so much materially, but here I help make a better world: a freer, more just world, so that my young son can grow up safe and make something of himself if he works hard enough."
"You're very devoted, said Aang, smiling. "What's your name?"
"Wang Sato," he answered. "My wife and I decided to call our newborn son Hiroshi. It's an old family name on her side."
The Avatar placed his hand on Wang's shoulder. "I have children, too. I know how you feel. Let's do things right for them!"
Once introductions were over, the room fell silent and everyone listened in to hear what Aang had to tell them. "We will face some great threats together soon. I have encountered them all myself, except for General Munra's Anti-bender Militia. According to The Mechanist, they have strong weapons and projectiles to make up for their lack of bending. These projectiles are the same that he made for the Air Nation when he was trapped at the Northern Air Fortress. Munra must have stolen the technology or stumbled across it somehow. Speaking of the Air Nation, their airship has been spotted flying across the Earth Kingdom. They should be here within twenty-four hours, around the time Azula is expected to arrive. She is still just as much, if not more of a threat as she was in the last war. I know because I've seen her in action. I used her as a convenience item for a time, and she did vice versa with me. But now, our goals no longer overlap. She's determined to reassert the Fire Nation for dominant world governance. And, if all of them weren't enough, it turns out that, contrary to popular belief, the Dai Li will be making an appearance as well. Long Feng is supposedly leading them personally."
"But Aang, you've saved the world from threats like this before," Sokka spoke up. "What do you need our help for?'
Aang smirked. "That's what everyone says, isn't it? That I saved the world. It may be true in the sense that I dueled Fire Lord Ozai when the time came, but how could I ever have completed my quest without all the people I met along the way? It's them who made my 'saving the world' possible. They're as much to thank for the restored balance as I am. Even the Avatar can't be expected to do everything alone. But, with all of us, we can stand up to face anything. Together we are the Avatar Legion!"
At these words of Aang, murmurs and whispers spread throughout every corner of the room. "The Avatar Legion, eh?" said Sokka, projecting his voice so that everyone could still hear despite the silence being broken. "Personally, I was fine with just 'Team Avatar', but there's a lot more people here, so I guess the 'Avatar Legion' works."
"It's not a name I came up with myself," clarified Aang. "Twas was a tradition all Avatars used to do. Doru Kun told me about it. A traditional legion consists of one thousand men. In his day, it consisted of two-hundred-fifty from each element."
"Right," said Sokka. "It looks like we're a bit short, though. I took a role count before this gathering. Present here are forty-eight waterbenders, one-hundred-twenty-five earthbenders and eighty-seven firebenders."
Aang dribbled his toes on the floor. "And only three airbenders," he said, looking at Merk, Trinley and Teo.
"Five airbenders!" Tenzin and Vameira shouted in unison.
"No worries, though," said Sokka. "You have plenty of non-benders to make up for it. My half-space-sword is strong, durable and ready to take on anything."
"Any sword would do in the hands of the master you've become," Piandao called over to him.
"All the same, we could use Nola now. I summoned her, but she was unresponsive," said the Avatar. "It would be good to have Katara here as well," Aang thought inside his head, but he could not bring himself to speak the words out loud. "Oh well, three airbenders it is, then."
"Five airbenders!" Tenzin and Vameira each yelled again, this time with more voice.
Aang smiled. His kids had changed so much from a year ago, so that he barely recognized the young adults they were turning into. After the Hundred Year War, the Avatar had looked forward to a peaceful, less eventful life. But the effects of energybending had twisted up everything. He was not any closer to saving Katara than he was when he and Kaddo met on Faxian Island. It was good that at least the rest of them had each other.
Tomorrow would be a much different day – for all of them.
TO BE CONTINUED...
- Wang Sato first appeared in A New Journey, when he spoke to Tenzin on a ship bringing the stranded members of the Western Fleet to land.
- Kaddo's waterbending move was likewise first mentioned in A New Journey.
- The refugees outside Omashu are from the Fire Nation Civil War and the skirmishes that spread into the Earth Kingdom territory. They were the topic of conversation between Migo and Toph in Shifting Gears.
- Writing the scene with The Mechanist and Guru Pathik gave the author a chance to blow off some intellectual steam. It is somewhat ironic that Pathik and Aang neglected to mention that progress sometimes brings consequences along with benefits, and it has been associated with decline in spirituality as a whole. The Mechanist hails from a more contemporary perspective that is relatively new to the world.
- The mentioned time that Aang visited Pathik to talk about energies refers to Seclusion and Kindred, Part 2.
- The fact that Teo's friend Merk wears a red tunic and is a brand-new character joining the group is a reference to Star Trek.
- General Munra has already been shown. He first appeared in The Lost Island, salvaging one of Icarus's projectiles that he fired at Appa in Friends and Traitors.
- The "imprint of chaos" was first mentioned in Revelations, when Aang spoke to Jeong Jeong on his deathbed.
For the collective works of the author, go here.