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Book One: Rise and Fall
This is the fifth chapter of.
is discovered as an illegal bender while in Omashu; begins to learn about Waterbending; Hanta heads to Omashu.
North Pole Edit
Po stood atop an iceberg, staring into the ocean churning beneath it. He kept his balance, despite the motion of the floating block of ice. Haku approached him from behind.
“So are you a secret Waterbender or something?” Haku asked curiously.
“Sort of,” Po responded. He relaxed his shoulders, leaning back on the balls of his feet slightly, then sprung his hands forward, forming a powerful gust of wind. He turned to see Haku staring at him dumbstruck.
“What’s an Airbender doing this far north?” he asked. “And what makes you think you can even Waterbend?”
“It’s a long story,” Po said sheepishly.
“Well, you probably won’t believe it, but I’m the Avatar. . .”
Haku’s eyes widened, but he shrugged nonchalantly. “That doesn’t exactly surprise me,” he said. He took a stance at the edge of the ice, then he moved his arms in and out, turning his wrists ever so slightly. Po watched the water beneath them move with Haku’s motions.
“Who taught you?” he asked.
“My mother did,” said Haku. “She learned before bending was banned, and when it was, she ran away with my father so she wouldn’t be arrested.”
“You’ve lived away from New Wave your entire life?”
“Pretty much,” said Haku as he formed a narrow strand of water. “I still venture into the city from time to time.” He silently bended the water into various shapes for a few moments. Then he said:
“The key to Waterbending is change and versatility. You need to have an open mind.”
Po looked on thoughtfully as Haku froze a cube of water, then raised his hands swiftly to evaporate it. “Solid, liquid, and gas,” he whispered to himself as Haku waved his hand, allowing the water to fall back into the sea.
“I’m ready to try,” said Po as he took a stance similar to Haku’s. He then raised his arms and relaxed his wrists, concentrating on the rippling surface of the water beneath him. He pulled his hands to his body as he shifted his weight backwards, and, to his delight, the nearby tide moved along with his arms.
“That was quick,” Haku commented.
Po didn’t reply; he remembered reading in the scroll Su had given him that Avatars possessed natural bending talents, except in their extreme opposite art. “You’re a Waterbender,” Haku congratulated. “Now let’s see if you can do something more complicated. . .”
“I know you know her,” Hanta told Sao Feng, who glared suspiciously at him from behind his little counter.
Sao Feng glanced at the photograph of Lin that Hanta showed him. “So what if I do?” he asked gruffly.
“I need to know what you know about her,” said Hanta. “Where did she go?”
“Don’t know,” said Sao Feng, who peered over Hanta’s shoulder. He nodded slightly, a movement that didn’t go unnoticed by Hanta.
Hanta heard two sets of footsteps behind him. “Tell me what you know, or you might regret it,” he told the scalawag.
“Try me,” said Sao Feng indifferently.
Hanta spun around quickly, his hand full of flame. He forced his attack on one of the men trying to sneak up behind him. He struck the shocked pirate directly in the throat, and he fell to the ground with an ugly burn on his neck, dead.
Hanta looked at his companion nonchalantly; the man dashed out of the building. Hanta turned back to Sao Feng. Unabashed by this recent murder, Hanta asked Sao Feng, “Do we have a deal?”
“F-F-Firebender,” Sao Feng said, dumbstruck. He inhaled and added, “I took her to Omashu.”
“Great,” said Hanta. “Now you can take me too. Your payment will be to keep your life.”
I gaped at the huge stone wall looming ahead of us: the gates to Omashu. “Spirits, that’s a huge wall,” I told Chong, awestruck as I was.
Chong shrugged, apparently accustomed to the sight. “I’ve heard the wall around Ba Sing Se is even bigger,” he said.
“It couldn’t be,” I said as we approached the wall.
“Could you not look so impressed?” Chong wondered. “You’ll stand out that way.”
“Good point,” I said, hiding my irritation. My survival instincts seemed to have deserted me. I put my hood up over my head, conscious that my hair was darker than most residents of Omashu.
“Fantastic camouflage,” Chong said sarcastically. “The suspicious ones never wear their hoods.”
“What would you rather have me do?” I challenged as we stood in line with the others entering the city.
Chong ignored my question; he stared ahead as a female guard passed by, scrutinizing us. She waved us into the city, and I exhaled, realizing I had been holding a nervous breath.
We meandered through Omashu, unsure where we should go. I glanced around, trying not to look out of place. The bustle of the city was almost overwhelming and I found myself wanting to cover my ears to block out the sound. I would have, if it wasn’t for a command that sent shivers down my spine.
“Line up!” a soldier commanded. We had no choice but to adhere to his demand. Chong and I backed up against the wall of a building, shoulder to shoulder with everyone else in the market. I didn’t know what was happening, but I felt my heart rate increase with a sense of dread. Whatever this was, something bad was about to come of it.
The soldier that had issued the command to line up marched forward with two others behind him. The second and third soldiers each held tight to a leash, at the end of which was a beast straining against the bond. I gulped, recognizing miniature shirshus, creatures with a sense of smell so keen they could differentiate the scent of a bender from a non-bender. I had seen them before in Vuon, when The Dictator had been wary of a supposed conspiracy among hidden Firebenders; the miniature shirshus’ long, snuffling snouts would sweep through crowds of suspicious persons, most of whom were illegal political refugees from a neighboring country.
These shirshus, however, were an especial threat to me. What if they recognized me as a Firebender? I would not only be charged as keeping my ability hidden, but also with being a foreigner.
As the soldiers with their shirshus walked down the line, I shivered in nervous expectation. There was no doubt I would be exposed. Chong glanced sideways at me, as if he was trying to reassure me, but it didn’t help. He didn’t know I was a bender, let alone one about to lose her freedom.
I closed my eyes, trying to block out the sound of the wet sniffs of the shirshus. Then I heard, “You!”
My eyelids sprung open since I half-expected to see a soldier standing in front of me, but instead, the soldier that had exclaimed was standing before a small boy leaning against the wall a few yards away. The poor boy was shaking while a woman beside him, presumably his mother, clutched his shoulder. The shirshu clawed at its own nose and whined; it had identified a bender.
“Earthbender!” the soldier denounced. He lurched forward and grabbed the boy roughly by the arm. He shoved him to the soldier standing behind him.
“No, don’t take him!” his mother pled. “He’s only five!”
“Well, I’m impressed he made it this long without being caught,” the soldier responded coldly. He then turned and he, his companions, and the shirshus continued their progress down the line.
My heart beat so frantically I knew everyone else leaning against the wall must feel it. Then, I saw the shirshu tense as it approached me. I quickly slipped off my pack so they wouldn’t confiscate it when they arrested me.
The shirshu now stood directly in front of me, its teeth bared in a snarl. I saw its tongue flick out lazily, but the soldier continued to restrain it. Another soldier, the man that had announced the Earthbender’s presence, pointed to me.
“Earthbender!” he yelled.
Time seemed to freeze. I saw Chong shoot a surprised glance in my direction. I looked down at my pack, lying on the ground, and he nodded in understanding, reaching to pick it up. The soldier then grabbed my arm roughly.
He snidely said, “Very impressive, not being caught until your teens.” He then turned to the others fearfully crowded against the wall. “Don’t follow her example,” he commanded. He then placed hand-cuffs around my wrists and pushed me to another soldier.
The soldier began leading me away. I quickly glanced over my soldier to see Chong looking confused but resigned, with my pack slung over his shoulder. I then looked ahead dejectedly, wishing I was home gathering dandelions for my mother.
- Both and Hanta handled Sao Feng by threatening his life, but only Hanta would have followed through with his promise.
- Please comment, O readers of mine!
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