|By The Snowbold||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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September 3, 2013
There are always forces at work in this world. Some are for good, some are not...
Ma-Tin watched as screens relayed the war across the continent break out. Finally, after eight years, it had come. The War of the Fifth Nation. Rishu had been planning this for so long that Ma-Tin felt like he inherited the plan rather than actually being the creator of it.
But if that was so, then who went through this meticulous planning over years. Ma-Tin was young vulnerable, easily influenced. She saw that now, but now, she agreed with the principles for why this war was waged.
Republic City had all but absorbed the Water Tribes, virtually making them outposts for their own interests. How long before the Earth Kingdom fell? The Fire Nation? Republic City's imperial rise was at an end.
At least they had allies in this struggle. Rishu had accepted The Snowbold as an apprentice for a reason. Beating The Snowbold into submission had forced the reckless Prince to accept he was not all-knowing or superior. Eager to be stronger and smarter, he sought the Regent's advice with hunger.
Along with Earth King Iruei's own distrust of Republic City, it was easy to convince them that stopping this new nation now was the best option for both their nations' future. And now Republic City had fallen, taken in a short two days, Rishu's blatant infiltration into the Council and The Snowbold secret invasion from Taku crippled the City before anyone knew better.
Unfortunately, Republic City had friends too. Worse, the Avatar was counted among them. Spirited away before the Invasion, Avatar Tala was safe in Omashu which had yet to respond to Iruei's summons to marshal for war.
Rishu had already predicted that the city would rebel, he had predicted which allies of Republic City would come, he had done so without fail. All of them, the Water Tribes, The Northern Fortress, The Western Air Temple, The Order of the White Lotus, and Omashu were all preparing to come to Republic City's aid.
Combined with the Republic Forces, their armies nearly rivaled that of their own. It was technology and the first strike that saved them. Ma-Tin was grateful for that. An invasion of the Homeland would have been devastating.
A knock on the door came as one of her advisers informed her, "Your majesty, we are in the Yue Bay, Republic City is near."
"Thank you, Councilor, send a wire to Grand Marshal Rishu. Inform him that I would like to speak to him."
"Of course, your majesty." The man bowed humbly as he stepped out.
"Rise, Grand Marshal." She beckoned for her cousin to stand as she arrived.
"Welcome to Republic City, Fire Lord Ma-Tin." Rishu's black eyes gleamed with power and pride. Ma-Tin was coming back to Republic City for the first time since that fateful day when she lost her last friend. Now she was returning not as a victim, but a conqueror.
She walked to the side where a table had been set. Hot tea was waiting for them. It was her favorite, Jasmine. She wasn't sure what Rishu like, if he liked tea at all. He seemed to drink mixes when he did make his own, but he showed no preferences.
The Royal Cruiser continued for the City as she had something nag at the back of her mind. It was something ingrained into every Fire Nation Citizen, a guilt for what had been done centuries before.
"Tell me, Rishu, what is the situation with the Air Nomads?"
"We haven't touched the island, and so far as I know, none have been harmed. The island is their haven."
"He has arrived by way of Taku. He will be here tonight. We shall have a proper war council then."
"And the Avatar?"
"In Omashu, which has rebelled and defied the orders of the Earth King. The Ba Sing Se Regulars have been sent to retake it, while a cadre of our airships hold the skies. The Avatar won't abandon the city to invasion."
"Any other resistance?"
"The Northern Water Tribe and the Northern Fortress have been blocked off any way south but they are still a front of their own. The Foggy Swamp is being taken care of by the Sea-Wolf and the Purge Protocol. The Southern Water Tribe and the Order of the White Lotus have marshaled. Most are still stuck in the South Pole, but a good number made it through and are likely on their way to Omashu. They indicated they have important intelligence to give them a counterstrike. I fear that I know what it is already."
Ma-Tin drank more tea, "If we are to win this war, then you must complete your mission. I know that no one else in the world could do it, but it is still incredibly risky. You must make an opening that she will never suspect or turn away from." Rishu had stressed winning over the Avatar to their cause. When The Order of the White Lotus refused to let Rishu teach her, they needed to plan for another way to influence her. That was especially hard when at war with her.
"I believe I already have an opening. Its just a matter of timing."
"Hmmm. Just be careful, cousin. As Firelord, I have learned that nothing is as it seems."
"If I recall, I taught you that lesson."
Ma-Tin giggled as if a little girl, "Yes you did. You know, I never understood why you refused. The entire nation, including me supported it. But you didn't take what was in reach, why? Why didn't you become Fire Lord, Rishu senpai?"
Rishu looked down at his tea, "Nothing is as it seems, little 'Tin. My goals are less and more than our nation. And while I could be the Fire Lord, I need to follow, not to lead."
"Follow who? Its not me. Oh, come on. You're like my brother, surely you can tell me."
"All will come to light in time."
Ma-Tin held the great man before her as she kissed him passionately. He had been gone for so long, first chasing Arkoda, now leading the Siege of Omashu.
He had briefly and quietly returned to Republic City to see someone very special.
The two naturally couldn't be public about their relationship. They were royals of different nations and promoting principles of separate nations.
It would have been a scandalous event for their secret affair to be revealed. The two first got close while The Snowbold apprenticed for Rishu. Spending years under his tutelage gave The Snowbold plenty of time to get to know the young Fire Lord.
They admired each other and soon became much more as time passed. The hardest thing was keeping it under wraps when Rishu's watchful eyes seemed to be everywhere. The enigmatic Black Dragon perceived so much it was as if he read minds, or at least intentions. Worse, intentions to deceive were never missed.
"How long can you stay?" Ma-Tin was in charge of the city while the other members of this 'conspiracy' were out leading sieges and battles, meaning there was little time they had together.
"A couple of days at best. Everyone still thinks I'm in limbo between Iseran and Omashu."
"A shame you couldn't just disappear for a while," she continued kissing him as he nodded in agreement.
The laid down in the bed as Ma-Tin reflected on the situation, "You've met the Avatar, what is she like?"
"A child, naive and cocky. No one has ever told her she's wrong and she has never been in real danger before."
"Hmmm, naive." The Fire Lord thought on that, it had been long time since she and The Snowbold had been 'naive'. Rishu saw to that. Even forcefully, he made them witness ideals and dreams be shattered so that reality was first.
"Can she be won over as Rishu senpai intends to?"
"I don't know. She is as stubborn as the earth, and may crumble first."
That wouldn't be good. If the Avatar fell instead of joining, it would embolden and embitter their opposition. Fighting such a motivated force would be even harder. That made her wonder. She they be fighting an enemy who would fight when the savior had fallen? Were they in the right?
Ma-Tin laid beside her lover caressing his many scars, "The Snowbold, should we be fighting this war?"
"Its a little late to have second thoughts, Ma-Tin. There is no turning back from the path we have chosen."
"I said nothing of turning back, only if our motive is just."
The large man sat up, "For my people, it is. We were robbed our land, lives, wealth, peace. And with the move of his hand, Avatar Aang denied us justice because he couldn't take a life. Because he was a coward at the moment of truth."
"What then is so just about their cause? Defending a corrosive system that seeks to destroy us?"
Ma-Tin did not answer, letting The Snowbold assume that was the end of the conversation. He had no doubts, not even the slightest reservations. That worried her. In the few times she truly spent time with her late father, he told her a very important thing, "Always question why you do something, even if its the right thing, lest you do it with bad intentions."
How could she overlook such a flaw? Especially when The Snowbold would one day become Earth King. That made her worry too. What would become of them?
She was the Fire Lord and he the Prince of the Earth Kingdom. It stood against the very principles they stood for to be together. He couldn't step down from the line of inheritance, for he was it. And no matter how much she wanted to, Rishu refused at every turn to take the throne.
How could this love grow, when she doubted it and its future? This war, this conflict could spell the very doom of herself.
Some months later...
Ma-Tin rubbed her foot in the dirt uneasily. She had never experienced what was soon to come. Worse, the plan, her plan, was to offer herself and her whole Imperial Guard up like bait in the hope that they would overreach.
A captain of the guard approached her, "Your majesty, they are coming..."
"Good. How many?"
"I believe the might of their base is coming to face us, and in their hopes, to capture you."
Ma-Tin was aware that she needed this, but felt the fear of powerlessness anyway. The United Forces main headquarters was massive and would be costly to siege and take. She was relying on paid help to do the job while she risked herself and her loyal bodyguards to death in a merciless battle that may be their doom.
The Fire Lord looked up into the darkening sky. The moon was ever closer, closer to the source of their power, her power. Rishu had once told her the tales of losing bending when they were both kids. He could make the most cryptic voice that she would scream at his stories about Amon. Now she would really know what it felt like, to have a part of her identity taken away.
She looked back to the field, they were in sight now. A massive army with men from many powers and skills, except firebending. She had no doubt that all of their firebenders were left at the base for defense on this Day of Black Sun.
She smiled, "Even a smoldered fire can rise again as an inferno. These Republic Forces have no respect or caution. They leap at the chance without wondering why it was given to them."
"Your majesty, what are your orders?"
"Take defensive positions and prepare for the fight of your lives, we will be powerless. When it ends, strike like a wounded animal. Kill and leave none alive."
"As you command, my lord."
Ma-Tin tensed as the valley filled with men ready to slay each other. She had fought before, she had killed before. But this would be her first true battle and test of her ability to command in war in all of her eight years of ruling.
It was minutes now before the eclipse would take its full effect as the enemy charged forward.
She counted in her mind. They needed to hold out as long as possible, they needed every advantage leading up to the Black Sun.
Men parted in selected positions as soldiers pushed forward the little trick. Mobile Anti-Infantry Turrets. The canons aimed straight ahead as the charging forces watched in shocked as they opened fired. Dozens fell in death and injury as the charge faltered for a second.
"Phase two now!" The line of firebenders readied themselves and released beams of energy as lightning cut even more men down. Fading away as if no longer willing, the lightning faded and died away.
It had begun.
She could hear a commander of the United Forces yell, "This is it, charge!"
The rush and thrill of the men filled as they pounced on weakened enemies. It was an odd feeling, to have reached out her hand and have nothing. To feel no fire within or beyond. It was empty.
Is this how nonbenders felt? She pitied them if so. Nonetheless, she had a plan. "Ready the Phase Three."
A captain echoed the command, "Phase Three!"
The Turrets opened fire again, taking down many soldiers as they rushed forward, but the sounds of their screams and the barrels was deafened to the whistle above in the sky. She smiled as artillery opened up on the rear flank of the assaulting force.
Now it had come, the enemy was within reach and there was no avoiding the clash of men, steel and elements. She temporarily retreated her hands into her sleeves, when they returned, throwing daggers were held between each finger.
Crossing her arms, she threw out the daggers, impaling them into the chests and throats of the nearest enemies. It was a hobby of hers as a child whenever carnivals passed Capital City to watch the knife-throwers. As a birthday gift, she was given a set of daggers and lessons to learn. It took two years to master and another year of practice to get it down, but it was a little trick she had up her sleeve and a personal secret.
Dragging two longer daggers out, she readied as men charged her. Most were deflected by her bodyguards, but two got through. She ran with the flow and thrust the daggers into their throats, feeling the blood splatter her robes.
It felt like hours had passed when that light in her eyes returned and she lit her knives on fire. She set the men on blaze and soon her guards followed as the light returned to the sky too.
Even then, they were outnumbered and hard pressed against such a fierce and motivated enemy. She then heard it, cannon fire in the distance. It didn't belong to the Fire Nation, and it wasn't firing on her forces.
Screams broke out ahead as men went into panic as a variety of men charged the rear. All sorts of warriors, fighters, and killers rushed the shocked Republic Forces.
The Seasons had succeeded.
Taking the Long View
Ma-Tin stood on the highest parapet of the massive bastion. It was filled now with red as her men occupied it and tore down the flags of the Republic and replaced them with that of the Fire Nation.
It had succeeded, the Seasons had done their work. She had hired them to take the fortress while the army assaulted her forces in the height of the Eclipse. It was the wait in battle that had scared her more than fighting itself. Waiting to know if her gamble paid off.
She was fortunate that it was. She had broken the back of the United Forces. She wanted to shout in triumph, but she knew this wasn't nearly the end. The war still raged on, they had merely prevented a catastrophe, and not completely.
Word had already reached her that the Northern Fortress had broken its siege and that both the Northern and Southern Water Tribes had run through their blockades. Omashu was still contained and Republic City was held despite the outbreak of guerrilla attacks.
It was a long way before victory. A victory that rested on the Avatar.
"Please, Rishu, succeed in this," she spoke to the wind, hoping it would speak to him, "or it will be the death of us all."
- Ma-Tin questions now what is right.
- The chapter covers events after Arkoda reaches Omashu as well as months later when the Solar Eclipse happened.
- Ma-Tin planned the battle against the United Republic Forces herself, showing that she is a capable commander and strategist.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
Storms of the Future Cycle
|The Journey of Tala|
|Book 1 - Sand and Steel|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Book 2 - Blood and Swamps|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Book 3 - Pyres and Storms|
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Fates and Vows|
|- - - - - - Ilera - Solace Fade - Scions - Sovereign|
|The Rise of Lirin|
|- In the Morrow - The White Dragon - Faith in Blood - The Great Gates - Lord Avatar - A Red Sun - Faceless - Faction - Tempest - Rally of Crows - Rally of Eagles - Dragons and Serpents - Kings and Men - Storms of a Spirit - Princes - A Battered Land - Seas of Ichor - Arbiter - Return to a Grave - Declination - Disaffection - Epilogue|
|Myths of the Empire|
|Pacification - Assassins - Empire - Red Sun Under The Empire - White Snow - Heirs|
|The Reclamation of Arein|
|Book 1 - Chaos|
|Refugee - Rogue - Ghosts - Dark Roses - Doyen - Divulgence - The Plan - Abscond - Mists of Illusion - Madonna - Syndicate - Playing the Stakes - Purge - Brothers|
|Book 2 - War|
|Alliance - Temple - Tensions - The Fall - Hunters and Prey - Lussuria - Shades of Relevance - Broken Star - Defiler - Strikeforce - Secrets of the Lair - Eminence - Swarm - Wanderer|
|Dreams of Melasa|
|Book 1 - Servant|
| - - - - - - - - - - - - -
|Book 2 - Shadow World|
|Faint but Clear - Ghost in the Steel - Kurotama - Loyalties - Servants of Shadow - Game of Fate - Shadows and Reflections - Tomb of Blood - Broken Blades - Hill of Shadow - Souls and Swords - Home|