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September 17th, 2012
The moon had yet to rise, its light blue hue a stark backdrop against the sky as the tribe waited with wonderment. Inna could not feel this; all she could feel was her own emptiness. It barely registered that she had to get ready, but it still registered. She got up numbly from her bed, still unclothed; Gituku had left hours ago, as soon as he had finished with her. He had stayed longer than usual, today had been the worst she had endured. Her body ached; she could barely walk. Moving slowly in the direction of her dresser, she stumbled slightly as her feet hit something. Reaching the dresser, she ripped the necklace off her throat, throwing it into her top drawer. Lighting a candle, she moved back towards what she had stumbled over. A flower. One of the white dryads. Sliding to the floor, she picked it up, and wept.
Kaio walked slightly faster than usual, making his way to Inna's home. Nanuku had approached Kaio as the sun was setting and asked him to collect his daughter, which Kaio had only been too happy to do. Arriving at the quiet dwelling, he stepped inside, relishing the warmth. Walking through the empty house, Kaio began reminiscing, thinking of his own little cottage, abandoned since he went to the training house. Pushing the foul thoughts to the back of his mind before they could get any worse, the young waterbender put on a smile as he arrived outside Inna's room. It was her birthday, after all, and tonight, it was all about her. His knuckles made contact with the wood, and a hollow sound echoed around the corridor. He could hear no movement from inside, so he gently pushed it open. The room was unlit, and the air was stale.
"Inna? Are you in here?" He waited a moment, hearing nothing. Kaio took a step into the room. Peering around the door into the he saw a forlorn little being, sitting naked upon the floor. Rushing forward, he draped a leopard skin over Inna's shoulders, and looked into her eyes, the door to her soul, what was once full of life now so bleak and barren. He noticed the bruises on her wrists and thighs; he knew what had occurred. Kaio narrowed his eyes.
Who could - who would do this?
Looking around, Nanuku could not see Kaio, nor Inna. Glancing back to the sky. The top of the moon had risen above the horizon - he had about 20 minutes to find Inna. Looking around, he caught the eye of a young boy, motioning him over. Gituku stood with rapt attention as the Chief began explaining the situation.
"I have sent someone to collect Inna, but they have yet to arrive. I want you to go down and see what is keeping them, we have to begin in a few minutes."
"Yes, sir!" The muscular boy bowed, and started jogging in the direction of the chiefs' home. He had a feeling of who the chief had sent first. Smiling, he imagined what he would do to the sculptors' son.
Kaio couldn't believe his ears.
"Inna! You can't... why didn't you tell me sooner? Who -? I could have... I could have done something!"
"No. You couldn't have. There's something else..." Moving over to her dresser, Inna gently slid open the carved wooden drawer, pulling a silken loth from the depths. Holding it up to the light, Kaio saw the necklace that had once been on Inna's neck.
"Who gave you that necklace?"
Inna twitched, a slight movement of her head, a feeling in her stomach. She walked back to the bed, and sat down, thankful for the golden light which hid the red on her face.
"It doesn't matter... I can't change the past..." she twitched again, the feeling was getting stronger. Looking at Kaio, Inna felt something she never had before. Breathing fast, she whispered under her breath. "It doesn't ... matter..." The odd feeling was heightened; she couldn't breathe. Her cheeks were growing hot - she felt flustered and flushed. Looking into Kaio's deep blue eyes was hypnotising. She knew he was thinking the same. Leaning in, the two closed the gap, Inna forgetting, if only for a moment, the trauma she had experienced. She had been in hell; it was time for heaven.
A figure stepped out from the darkness of the hall into Inna's room. The peace was lost, and the two broke apart, Inna shaking violently.
"What's he doi- No..." Kaio whispered. "Not him..."
"So, this is what you've been doing. Instead of honouring your husband, you sneak around with another boy?" Gituku spat the words at Inna, who quailed under his glare.
Kaio frowned, his lips a hard line. He stood up, arms protecting his centre.
"How could you do this! This is wrong!"
Gituku laughed, and began speaking. "I don't really care what you think. This is life. She's mine, I choose what I do with her. You wanna fight for her? You can't beat me anyway." Before he had finished speaking, Gituku bent the snow from outside, pummelling Kaio with the hardened substance before he had a chance to react. The force knocked him off his feet, and Kaio struck Inna's bed, the wind knocked from his lungs. Wiping the snow from his eyes, Kaio saw a structure appearing in the centre of the room - inside was Inna.
"What are you doing?! Let her go, this fight is between you and me!"
"Uhh, no. I can do what I like with her, she's my property. This is just to make sure you don't hurt her. I want to do that myself."
Looking into the imperfections in the ice, Kaio could see Inna pounding on the walls, screaming something indecipherable. He moved his arms to release the ice, but Gituku swung around and punched him in his lower jaw, dislocating it. Squeezing his eyes shut in pain, Kaio lifted tentacles of water from the floor, his arms dancing as he protected himself.
Argh! Oh, ow! I should have... should have practised my offense... At this rate, he'll destroy me!
Looking up, Kaio lunged at the bigger boy, spears of ice racing in front of him. Gituku threw himself to the side at the last minute, swinging his legs and tripping Kaio. The young waterbender skidded into the dresser, crashing head first. Delirious, Kaio looked up to see Gituku hovering over him. He attempted to swing at the older boy, but Gituku pinned his arms to the wall, the ice seeping through Kaio's anorak. Standing in front of him, Gituku began punching and kicking, knocking the breath from Kaio for the second time in as many minutes. Kaio's vision became blurred by blood, his mind incapable of grasping a single thought but one. Save Inna.
Gituku's voice pierced the veil his mind had set up to protect himself, his strong arms landing blow on blow on Kaio.
"That was easy. I guess practise makes perfect, huh Inna?" Gituku's voice had become patronising, mocking Kaio's futile attempts. "Naw, did you think you could help her - save her?. That would be silly. You know why, right? It's because no-one would ever want you as a son. What could you possibly give the her that would make her convince the chief to choose you?"
He relented, waiting for an answer. Laughing, he slapped his forehead.
"Oh, silly me. You can't talk. Well, here," he healed the bone, moving it back into place, however he made sure that it was still terribly painful.
"What was your answer again?"
Kaio took a huge breath, and spat in Gituku's face, blood flying everywhere.
"I can give her hope," he gasped, blood running into is open mouth.
"Well then, I'll just have to kill it." Raising his hand, Gituku formed a dagger, it's point facing Kaio's neck. Kaio looked past his rival. He looked at Inna and he smiled sadly; "I love you". Grinning, Gituku brought the knife down.
It was hopeless. There was her other half, she knew that now. She was Yin, he was Yang. She would always push, and he would always pull. She could see through the ice of her prison the events unfolding in the middle of her room. He would kill Kaio, she had no doubt. He could get away with it. Listening intently, she could vaguely hear what was being spoken.
"I can ... my property. This ... you don't hurt her... Want... myself."
She pounded against the walls, angered.
"I'm not you're property! I'm a person, I cannot be bought or traded or sold!" She stopped hitting the walls of her cage; it was doing no good.
"What can I do?! No-one can help!" Slumping down, she buried her head in her hands.
I can help, a voice she had never heard, but always felt reverberated through her mind.
"Jingshen? How can you help? If I can't do anything neither can you."
"Watch the fight; I will act when it is time."
Inna stood up and moved over to the wall. It had begun to get extremely cold - she couldn't stop trembling. Wiping fog from the ice, she was shocked to see how the fight was progressing. Gituku had Kaio pinned to the wall. He was healing his face - why was he doing that? Kaio seemed to take a breath, and then proceeded to spit blood and saliva in the bigger boys face. Inna smiled slightly inside, but only slightly. Kaio also said something, which made Gituku look back at her. Raising a knife above his head, she knew what Gituku would do. It had happened a hundred times in this tribe. Looking up at her, Kaio gave a short, sad smile, and mouthed something. As if in slow motion, Gituku brought the knife down. Inna lunged at the walls of her prison.
The floor was cold. She was shaking, but it was by someone else's doing. She could hear someone yelling at her.
She opened her eyes groggily, her mind a haze - she could see a vague shape lying next to her.
"Wha- what happened?" Her mind clearing, she suddenly remembered the events that lead up to a fight. "Where is Gituku?! What did you do? How did you get away?"
Kaio shook his head. "I didn't. You did something. He's... he's dead. We have to go, now!"
The shape she was lying next to came into focus. Jumping away, she could see what she had done. Gituku's body had been turned inside out, his organs splayed around him. Inna shut her eyes, but the image would not disappear from her mind.
No, I didn't do this! I did nothing!
Standing up, she backed away.
"How did this happen?" Her voice was shrill, panic rising.
"I don't know. He was- he was bringing the knife down, and then, he just stopped. He was convulsing, and the walls he had trapped you in melted and you stepped out. Your eyes were glowing! You had your arms out, and your fingers were open, like you were bending.... But, then you squeezed your hand and he... " Kaio shook his head slightly. "Then you collapsed, and the glow left. You were only unconscious for a minute." He took a look outside. The moon was almost clear of the horizon; they had only a few minutes. Looking back at the remains of a once great warrior, Kaio felt a stab of pity. No-one deserves to die. He looked back at Inna, and saw the same thought echoed in her eyes.
"We have to get out of here. What will happen to us when they find out..."
Kaio turned and grabbed a hold of her. She was trembling, the animal skin had slipped and the cold air was seeping into her skin.
"It will be okay," he moved over to the dresser and pulled out a gown. "I picked this for the ceremony tonight, but it will keep you warm; you will fit right into the Earth Kingdom."
She gasped. It was the most beautiful piece of clothing she had ever seen. It was made of green and gold fabric which shimmered as the dress moved. She looked up at Kaio, a question which had formed at the end of his sentence. "We're going to the Earth Kingdom?"
They looked at each other sadly. The both wanted to stay, but the punishment would be far greater if they stayed. Inna was looking back at the mangled body of Gituku, her face green and clammy.
"Come one, let's get out of here." Kaio lead Inna by the hand out of the room. "You had better get changed. I'm going to get some supplies from the kitchen, and some skins from the cupboard. I'll meet you back here."
She nodded, and got dressed. The two where soon ready to leave, however Kaio had one more matter to attend to.
"We need to make a detour to the Training House - there's something I need to get."
Inna did not question him, she trusted him. The two teenagers left the warmth of the house and made their way to Kaio's home. They could hear whoops and cries from the celebration. Sighing, they turned their backs on the light and happiness, and ran to the training house. Jumping in through his open window, Kaio rifled through his desk to the hidden drawer. Grabbing out the necklace, he jumped back out through the window.
"Come on, let's get out of this dammed country."
They ran down the empty streets to the bay, the lonely town pressing down on their backs, condemning their crimes. Looking back at their home one last time, the two jumped into an umiak and using his waterbending, Kaio slowly steered the boat away, turning from the Great City of Ice. Inna looked at it a second longer before turning away too.
"I'm sorry, dad," she whispered to herself. "I don't know what happened..."
"I told you I knew what to do," a voice whispered back.
For the collective works of the author, go here.