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|The Phoenix Rises|
Previously on Energy Saga
Aang and the New Air Nomads go to fight pirates in the Fire Nation. Meanwhile, Migo joins other earthbenders in Ba Sing Se for training. Both heroes were in for nasty surprises, however. After the pirates were defeated, Icarus performs his new asphyxiation move by killing the pirate captain. While Migo is in the locker room with the other Earthbenders, they tell him that his mother was a traitor.
Chapter Twenty: The Phoenix Rises
Colonies Region, 120 AG
Following the encounter with the pirates, Aang decided to return east to the Earth Kingdom where the Phoenix Army was planning an offensive. The "Phoenix Army" – that was what they called themselves now – the rebels against Zuko. What began as a mere handful of scattered warlords and dissident generals now united under one banner – or at least one name. This name was a nod to when Fire Lord Ozai had crowned himself Phoenix King at the end of the Hundred Year War. He declared that he would burn down the Earth Kingdom and allow a new world to be born out of the ashed to take its place. This would be his world – where anyone who was weak did not deserve to exist and where he was the supreme ruler of a world in which all the lands were Fire Nation. Even after twenty years under Zuko's rule, Fire Nation commoners still looked back on this fondly.
Elsewhere, the fear was lingering whether the Phoenix Army would eventually attack the other nations and restart the Hundred Year War. That fear became more of a reality now as the territory where Aang stood was Earth Kingdom territory. True, it was the land that the Fire Nation held throughout much of the Hundred Year War – and many Fire Nation citizens still made their homes there. But the Phoenix Army considered it rightfully theirs. Colonials had lived there for multiple generations and often knew not any other home. The decolonization process had been controversial and many thought it was mishandled and that it was grossly unfair to those from the Fire Nation. Disgruntled colonials were a core faction in the coalition that made up the Phoenix Army. If the Fire Nation Civil War was already spreading to the Earth Kingdom, how long would it be before all the nations became involved? It was understandable why they were singling this area out, but if they lived up to their name, the goal of the Phoenix Army would have to be world domination.
Since the Fire Army was already spread thin defending the Fire Nation, Aang had to gather help from other sources. A few skilled airbenders was enough to take down some pirate ships, but not to stand alone in a real battle against a full-scale army. Although Aang had failed to bring in the Northern Water Tribe and Omashu, they would not be short-numbered today. There was a battalion from Ba Sing Se on its way, despite the fact that Aang had not yet formally asked them for aid. But they would be late to arrive today. And they were led by General Fong, who was certainly no friend of his.
The Southern Water Tribe, however, was a very different story. A small steel riverboat was making its way down to where Aang stood. When it docked before him, a troop of well-seasoned Water Tribe warriors filed down to set up camp. In the midst of them was Sokka, the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe, who was both their political leader and their military commander. He beamed at Aang when he saw him. "Well, looks like we're just in time to catch some of the early action. Can't have you stealing all the fun from us, even if you are the Avatar."
"This isn't about fun Sokka. This is another war. And I've only fought pirates. This is our first official engagement with the Phoenix Army." Even though Aang's words were grave, he could not help giving a smile.
"Whatever you say," said Sokka. "So who all is here to help us fight the Fire Nation. Don't tell me you came by yourself. As great as it would be to redo it like old times, I'd hoped for more."
"I came with all the airbending masters who I took down the pirates with," said Aang. "Except for Icarus," he added. "I sent him back to the Southern Air Temple where he'll help manage the home front. I don't want him involved in any fighting after the incident we had earlier."
"Oh? What happened?" asked Sokka. Aang told him about asphyxiation – how he demonstrated it to him in the Lower Garden on a flying lemur and how he used it to kill the captured pirate captain by sucking away his oxygen. "Wow," remarked Sokka. "This man sounds like trouble. Are you sure that you can count on him to be in charge of the domestic affairs of the Air Nomads while you're here? That seems like a pretty dangerous bet to me."
"He never showed major signs of trouble before showing me this move," said Aang, though he was unsure of this statement as he said it. "He should be okay serving in a different capacity."
Sokka was still skeptical, but he did not pursue the matter further. "So who else is turning up today to help us fight the Phoenix Army?"
"There's a division from Ba Sing Se that's on their way here as we speak. It will take them some time to arrive and we'll have to hold off until they get here, but they should bring the tide decisively in our favor as soon as they get here. There's a chance Migo might be with them – so we may see him again. Other than that it's just Katara, who should be here any minute on Appa."
"Do you know the full scale of the Phoenix Army force we'll see today?" asked Sokka. "What if it's more than we can handle on our own?"
Aang swept this objection aside. "I doubt its that huge a force we'll see today. The Phoenix Army, though they have a lot of support, is still heavily fragmented. Some of them want Azula to be Fire Lord, some of them want Ozai to be Fire Lord and some of the warlords want the title for themselves. They are not united enough to all turn up today."
"I know that Zhao Jr. is among them," Sokka added. "He's an angry one – just like his father was."
"We won't see him today," stated Aang. "He's raising an army to invade the capital. We'll deal with him when the action is in the Fire Nation proper. By then he'll have a sizable firebending force by his side."
"Of course he will. You know, I never cared much for it myself, but there are many in our tribe who would make decent benders," remarked Sokka. "And if we're going to fight in another war, we could use that."
"What do you mean?" asked Aang.
"Well, I mean we could use a couple more benders. The Southern Water Tribe is still short of them. Twenty years ago Katara was the only one and twenty years can only do so much. We have a few more now and some came down from the Northern Tribe, but it would still be helpful if you could maybe – speed up the process."
"No, I don't want to energybend any more than I have to," said Aang. "The balance of the world is a fragile thing and the Southern Water Tribe is not nearly desperate enough to require my intervention."
Sokka was not pleased. "You gave your intervention to the Air Nomads."
"The Air Nomads were virtually extinct."
"Have you ever considered that you give the Air Nomads favoritism because they're the nation you grew up with? You're the Avatar! Your duty is to the world."
Before Aang could answer, they were both distracted by a loud grunt coming from the sky above. Appa was flying down to where they stood and Katara was perched at the front of his saddle, clutching his reins. But she was not alone – Kaddo and Vameira were with her. Aang was furious – what were they doing here? This was no place for them.
As Katara dismounted the giant sky bison, she turned to embrace her brother and her husband. However, something made her think better of it. Not wasting any time, Kaddo ran off toward the river bank to practice his waterbending while Vameira followed.
"What are they doing here?" Aang questioned Katara.
"Well, all your closest airbenders are here with you and there was no one I felt comfortable leaving them with at the South Pole. They'll be fine," Katara reassured him. "We'll just keep them behind our troops and away from the fighting."
"It's not necessarily that simple," retorted Aang. "What about your father?"
"He's busy with some new project he's been working on," Katara told him with a roll of her eyes.
"Well, there's nothing that can be done about it now," Aang conceded. "Let's leave them near Appa so they can fly away if anything goes wrong."
Katara nodded. "That works for me."
"So today we finally see what these 'Phoenix Army' types are really made of," Sokka said with a stretch. "What do you reckon they'll be like?"
"Well, from what I hear, they're pretty dispersed at the moment," answered Aang. "They're from all different parts of the Fire Nation."
"And they've been fed a lot of propaganda," added Katara. "That's where their name comes from. It's a tribute to how Ozai crowned himself Phoenix King and set off to burn down the Earth Kingdom so that a new world could be born out of the ashes. They want to overthrow Zuko and build a better world out of his ashes. That's why they're the Phoenix Army."
"Well, I guess we'll find out soon," Sokka remarked.
And so they did. Soon afterwards, the rebels attacked a nearby town which used to be one of the area's most prominent Fire Nation colonies. Aang, along with the forces of the Air Nomads and the Southern Water Tribe, held them off quite well. Apparently the Phoenix Army was not as formidable as they thought. They were short-handed, disorganized and commanded by a younger officer with little military experience.
By the time General Fong arrived, the tide was already decisively in their favor. "Well, looks like we weren't needed here today after all," Fong told Aang and Sokka when he arrived.
"Hello, General Fong," Aang said sarcastically. "Nice to see you again."
"Now, now, I hope you don't hold what happened a long time ago against me," Fong said to him. "I was just doing what I thought was best at the time. We're on the same side now, aren't we?"
Just then Fong shut his eyes as his face was splashed with cold water. "Woops," didn't see you there," said Katara slyly, waterbending her octopus formation while holding off a pair of rowdy firebenders."
"She hates me," Fong remarked.
Sokka stared at him. "You tried to kill her!"
"Why can't she let bygones be bygones; we're fighting a war." As Fong conversed with them, his troops stood behind him – ready to join the fight.
Migo marched to battle the Phoenix Army alongside his comrades. They could not really be called his comrades now as they did not consider him to be their comrade. They had planned to dispose of him back in Ba Sing Se, but their commanding officer intervened on Migo's behalf. However, everyone still wanted to keep their distance from him. Migo had tried to reach out to them, but he doubted whether any display of earthbending in battle would win them over now. It was all about his mother. His mother, whom he had identified his entire existence by. His mother, a powerful earthbender, a hero, for him to emulate. His mother, one of the most admired women of the Earth Kingdom. His mother...a traitor – a disgrace. A shameful event had turned Migo's entire existence upside down. Until now he had been a somebody by being her son, even though he was a nobody most of the time. He knew he had strong potential. But potential for what? The disgusting blood of treachery ran through his veins. Why had Brawki never told him? Why had nobody ever told him? He could not believe this.
He was having a hard time concentrating on the Phoenix Army now. Fortunately, the Phoenix Army looked pale in comparison to their force and it seemed that this battle would be a quick and easy one. That was before they were ambushed from the rear.
Suddenly, the airbenders and warriors were overwhelmed and the Earth Kingdom troops scattered in disarray. They did not expect the Phoenix Army to have reinforcements of their own.
Aang ran into the town as fast as his airbending legs would carry him and found some of the former Fire Nation colonials who had joined the Phoenix Army. One of them has shot fire lashes at the straw rooftop of one of the huts that had been abandoned seconds earlier by a screaming woman and two small children.
"What are you doing?!" said Aang in disbelief. "These are your own homes you're destroying."
The Phoenix Army soldier stopped burning the house and spun around when he heard Aang's voice. He shot a jet of flame Aang's way, which Aang swiftly extinguished with a twirl of his glider. "This is not our world!" he yelled to Aang. "This is the world of Fire Lord Zuko and the Avatar. It must be destroyed!"
"You're crazy!" Aang shouted as he sent an air blast toward the soldier and quieted down the fire that was burning the house.
"Shove it, Avatar! This is the day we take our world back from you. This is our land – we fought for it. Our 'Fire Lord' may have surrendered back what is rightfully ours, but we do not! Curse your world. We'll burn it down to the ground so that a new one can be born out of the ashes." The soldier drew his arms back and thrust a large ball of fire towards Aang.
Aang rose a rock solid earth wall out of the ground which blocked the fire ball and then threw pieces of rock from the wall towards his adversary, which he dodged efficiently. "I don't know what you've been told, but if you destroy the world a new one will not be 'born out of the ashes.' It will just be destroyed..."
Aang had no more to say to him. The man was insane – there was no questioning that. Aang did not know what drove him to become like this, but it was a safe bet that the Phoenix Army propaganda played a part in it. With careful aim, Aang managed to knock him unconscious by bending a small stone to his jaw. I hope that did not kill him, Aang thought. But the Avatar had little time to regain himself before another stream of fire almost hit him in the back. He barely had time to duck out of the way before turning to face the conjurer of the new fire.
"Azula!" said Aang. He had not expected to face Azula here. Her target was supposed to be Zuko.
"Hello, almighty Avatar!" she shouted back to him. "Surprised to see me?" She punched another fire blast at him.
This time, however, Aang was prepared for it and jumped out of the way long before it would have made contact. "Don't flatter yourself – but yes, I am surprised to see you. I can't say I'm thrilled about it."
"Oh, come now, Avatar, that hurts my feelings," she replied facetiously. "I heard about the party going on here and couldn't help but bring a few friends along." As Aang rose back to his feet, she pushed her right fist forward and thrust another stream of smoldering red fire his way.
Aang, being the Avatar and a Master firebender, blocked the red fire without breaking much sweat. Why is her fire red? Azula was always known for bending with blue flames. "So you're leading these reinforcements then."
Aang noticed that the airbenders, Warriors and Earth Kingdom soldiers had their hands full with the new arrivals. "Sorry, Princess, but I can't spend all day chatting with you. I have a battle to attend to." He leapt fifteen feet in the air and looked toward the rest of the battle, the tide of which was now decisively against them.
"You're not getting rid of me that easily!" She propelled herself forward with fire and caught up to him.
Aang had almost forgotten what a prodigy Azula was. She was someone to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, he had to shake her somehow. He would fight her with something she had never fought against before – energybending. Aang used energy shove to knock her of her feet. As the energy returned to his body, he kept his stance and hardly flinched. He was must more capable than he was the first time he tried this move with Yue.
However, his opponent was quite capable herself. She rose to her feet and chucked a fire ball at his face. Aang jumped out of the way and threw another energy shove back at her. This time, his balance was weaker and he almost fell. She was caught of guard, but hastily regained herself and shot another fire ball at him. Aang blocked it and gave another energy shove – and then another – and then another. Aang lost count of how many times he performed this energybending move against her before he fainted.
TO BE CONTINUED...
- Sokka's claim to Fong that he tried to kill Katara is not entirely accurate, as Fong had been pretending to have her in danger to induce the Avatar State in Aang. But Sokka does not have the best or most detailed memory.
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