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|By The avatar of time and space||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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|Discovery and Confusion|
October 15, 99 AG
She danced lightly across the garden, copying the movements of the performer she had seen earlier that day. She watched the flames flow through her fingers in perfect precision. Her family had never been able to afford a firebending master for her; they were barely making enough money to feed them all. She was happy to learn from books and the few chances she had to watch other firebenders exhibit their abilities, but her parents felt that her talents were being wasted. A prodigy such as herself should have a master to learn from, to bring out her skills. She twirled into the last stance and finished the form before running off to supper at her mother's call.
"Focus, Zhulon." She was jerked awake by the stern voice of her father. Staring out a window had a way of making you drowsy.
"Reyen can do his work without falling asleep, " Her mother, Fiore, called from the kitchen. She glanced at her younger brother.
"Reyen got enough sleep last night, " she responded. She had practiced her forms late into the evening after dinner.
Unable to afford a proper education for his children, their father homeschooled them with knowledge he had from his few years of schooling when he was a child. He had always wanted to be a teacher, but his status and lack of money forced him to become a lowly pig farmer.
After a long, boring lesson on the origin of the tsungi horn, they had to do their chores. Reyen had his least favorite: feeding the pig-chickens.
"Good luck with the rooster! " Zhulon called to her brother as she saddled up their ostrich-horse, Zaza. The dominant male pig-chicken was especially aggressive. Her chore was to take Zaza for her exercise. While the ostrich-horse was normally uncooperative, to say the least, she was quite patient today, allowing Zhulon to fasten the leather saddle made from her family's own pig-cows around her waist and patiently waiting for her master to climb on. Soon they were galloping through the countryside. Zhulon loved the feeling of the wind in her face. She felt as if she could fly, she could almost feel herself lifting off the ground as she closed her eyes.
Coming to the mountainside, Zhulon ordered Zaza to stop. Turning around, she saw a few Fire Nation soldiers coming out of an Earth Kingdom town near her colonial town. They carried a few citizens of the village and pushed them roughly into the back of a carriage. From the mumbles she could hear from the soldiers, Zhulon realized that they were arrested for earthbending. She never really understood why someone would be taken to prison for bending. But she supposed they had their reasons; they wouldn't arrest them if they hadn't done anything wrong.'
That night, after darkness had shrouded the town, Zhulon slipped out the front door and ran down the street, her uncombed hair rippling behind her in the nighttime breeze. She slowed to a halt in front her rich neighbor's house; his yard was her favourite place to practice. Not only was it very spacious, it was beautifully decorated with trimmed hedges, fountains, and forests. She knew she wasn't supposed to be there, especially not at night, but she was eager to finish mastering the new form she had put together from scratch. Zhulon started flowing through the motions, circling around the koi pond. As she moved into the last stance she made a sweeping motion with her arms, but instead of a wave of flames, a gust of air ruffled the few autumn leaves left on the maples and oaks around the yard. Her first thought was that she had just airbended, but no, that was just the late-night breeze. But still, why didn't her firebending work? That had never happened before. She tried again, repeating the same sweeping motion with her arms. The results were the same: no fire, just wind. Am I the Avatar? She wondered. Zhulon attempted to bend some water from the pond, and to raise some of the stones that circled the pond. Nothing happened. Besides, she couldn't be the Avatar; she was from a Fire Nation family, and if the Avatar was still alive, they would be over one hundred years old. But how could she bend two elements instead of one? Could she still firebend? She cupped her hands and created a small flame. Zhulon wasn't sure what to do. In a daze she wandered home, her thoughts muddled. The next morning she woke up to the rooster crowing, as usual. She recalled the events of the night before, regarding it as a strange dream. Still, she couldn't help thinking about it as she got dressed and had breakfast, and began her daily work around the farm. In fact, her parents couldn't get her to think about anything else. Zhulon was too bewildered to focus on schoolwork; all she could think about was trying out her newfound ability to see if it really was a dream.
Zhulon went to the garden again that night, and the next night, and the next. It was not a dream. She was an airbender, even if she didn't know how she became one. She invented her own style, similar to firebending, with kicks and punches. She taught herself to create platforms of air, tornados, and even how to meditate without distractions. Eventually she had to move her training to the forest in the mountains, where no one would visit at night (there were rumors of a band of earthbenders seeking revenge on the Fire Nation was hiding in the woods, but Zhulon could fight them off). She visited the library every day to study the history and culture of the Air Nomads. Zhulon read the works of the poet Guru Laghima. She studied ancient airbending forms, and used a long wooden pole she borrowed from her father as a staff, even though she couldn't use it to fly. Zhulon longed to see one of the sky bison she had seen in the pictures of books, these ten-tonne beasts that could fly as though they were light as a feather.
Using money she had saved up, Zhulon bought an old Air Nomad robe from a merchant passing through town. It was worn and tattered, and much too big for her, but she loved having a part of her culture with her. The only thing she disliked about the culture was the all vegetarian diet and that she would have to shave her head if she ever earned mastery tattoos. Her parents were getting quite worried over this sudden obsession of everything to do with the ancient civilization. Zhulon was sad that this wonderful culture was gone, and wondered why her nation had wiped out the whole population of the Air Nomads. Zhulon loved to be part of this extinct nation, and was intrigued by the mystery of her new abilities. She progresses quickly, mastering each new move she read about or came up with within a few days. She invented her own signature move, which she called a firestorm, a gigantic whirlwind of fire and air, made bigger by the technique she had dubbed flame enhancement. This involved bending the air around the flames to give them more oxygen. Zhulon was in love with airbending. She was the happiest she had ever been in her whole life.
A few months later, Zhulon was looking for a way to test her skills and see if she had mastered airbending. She could never fight anyone with airbending; she would be thought the Avatar and arrested on the spot. The answer came to her while training one day in the mountains.
"Well, lookie what we have here. Hello, girlie," said a deep, gruff voice from behind.
Zhulon whirled around coming face-to-face with a burly, bald, middle-aged Earth Kingdom man. He wore a patch over his left eye, and had a huge scar running down the length of his arm. Behind him stood two other men; a tall, stout dark-skinned man who looked about 30, and a young man who seemed to be extremely nervous yet very excited at the same time. They were from The Stone Vengeance, the name of the earthbenders who were seeking to bring punishment to the Fire Nation. Perfect, Zhulon thought. She crossed her arms, looked their leader squarely in the eye, and calmly said "can I help you gentleman?"
"Well, yes, I suppose you could. You see, a few days ago I went up the mountain to hunt cat-deer, and I got lost. My wife and kids must be worried sick about me. Could you tell me how to get down to the village?" His evil grin turned to a worried look as he lied through his teeth.
"Don't know, never been to your village." If it was a battle of wits he wanted, than she could beat him any day.
"Look, Girlie, are you going to help me or not?"
"Why should I, all you've done to my town is mug a few dozen people, murdered one or two innocent citizens."
The man's eye popped out of his skull as he realized she knew his identity all along.
"They weren't innocent! " He lunged at her. Without missing a beat, Zhulon dropped to the ground, summersaulted out of the way and jumped back up. Howling with anger, the man ordered the other two to attack her. They bent up a few rocks from the ground and launched them at her. She easily dodged them and counter-attacked by creating a whirlwind around the tall, tanned one and using it to hurl him over the mountain. Obviously surprised, the other earthbender had no idea how to fight an airbender who could dodge his every attack. He tunneled underground in an attempt to escape. Now that she was rid of the other two, the only man left was the one-eyed leader. Zhulon realized he had crawled out of sight in the commotion. Suddenly, the ground beneath her turned to quicksand. She took a moment to recover from the ambush, and blasted fire to the ground, forcing herself up. Zhulon turned around and sliced the air sending a low wave of wind to knock the leader off his feet. He clumsily avoided it, raised his arms and sent a few boulders rumbling down the mountain, creating an avalanche headed straight for Zhulon. She got into a ready stance, formed a ball of air in her hands, and created a giant blast of wind, blasting all the rocks off the mountainside. Her anger was strengthening; in her rage she caught sight of the man rushing toward her. Swirling her arms, she summoned a firestorm, one bigger than any she had ever made before, and bent it toward him. He shrieked in fright and started running down the mountain, the firestorm in hot pursuit. Eventually it died down, and the man escaped with only a few burns and some singed clothing. Zhulon smiled.
"I do believe I've passed my test."
About a week later, Zhulon's mother told her and Reyen to go down to the market to buy some ocean kumquats for dinner. Reluctantly, she agreed. Zhulon always hated the slippery, green vegetables. She shivered at the thought of the cold slimy kumquats slipping down the throat. But it was all their family could afford. Father's egg business had been failing lately; the hens refused to lay more eggs, and half the customers were complaining that they were rotten. As she halfheartedly paid the man running the stall in the town market, Reyen pointed out someone staring at them. Bored, Zhulon's eyes followed his gaze. A bulky, fat man with an eye patch was glaring at them from across the market square. Zhulon's boredom turned to panic. Oh no.
"Let's get out of here! " Zhulon sprinted toward the market entrance, dragging her brother behind her.
"Who is that guy? Do you know him?"
"Let's just say we've met and he's not the nicest person." They cut into an alleyway but were blocked by three smirking men. Zhulon recognized one from her battle on the mountainside the week before. Members of the stone vengeance, she thought. Before they could turn back, the leader blocked the other end of the alley, leaving no way to escape.
"You didn't really think you could escape me, did you girlie?" He laughed.
"You see, now I don't want revenge just because you defeated me the other night. Now I also want revenge because you turned your back on the world."
He growled. "You know exactly what I mean, Avatar! "
Zhulon's face twisted into a look of confusion. "What makes you think I'm the Avatar?"
"How else would you be able to airbend as well as firebend!?"
Reyen stepped in. "Okay, this is getting ridiculous. My sister can't airbend! "
The leader looked at him darkly. "Oh really?"
He grabbed Reyen, pinned him to the ground, and ordered his men to attack Zhulon. They rushed her, and she fought back in hand-to-hand combat. One man attempted to swipe at her head, but Zhulon bent over backwards to dodge his blow. She then kicked his knees, causing his legs to buckle. Once he was on the ground, Zhulon gave his head a good solid whack, knocking him unconscious. Meanwhile one of the other men grabbed her right arm, while the third took hold of her left. Unable to face her combatants, she wasn't sure what to do, not being able to firebend at them. Zhulon tried to struggle free, but the men just held tighter.
"Let... Me... GO! " Unable to hold it back, she created a tornado, lifting herself up and sending the men flying into market stalls. People doing their everyday shopping stared at her, but the only one staring in awe was her brother. Everyone else had either fear or fury on their face. And the leader was grinning in evil anticipation.
"The Avatar! That girl is the Avatar! " A man shouted.
"Send for reinforcements! " A soldier yelled to his comrades. Soon Zhulon was swarmed by armed men, all with the false notion that she was the one who could control all four elements.
"Sweet, sweet revenge, " the leader muttered.
In the midst of it all, a sudden thought struck Zhulon. The Fire Nation wanted the Avatar dead because they thought that if the Avatar were alive, then he or she would attempt to stop the war. But the Avatar is supposed to keep balance in the world, and they would only interfere if the war was upsetting that balance. That when then mean that the government knows that what they are doing to the other nations is wrong. She wondered why she had never realized that the war was a lie, a lie that was meant to give her nation power. Zhulon's thoughts were interrupted by a spear shooting past her, followed by several blasts of fire. She let the tornado she was standing on die down, but just before she hit the ground, she blasted fire from her fists, shooting her forward and allowing her to fly. She flew over the forest in the mountains and dropped down into the trees. Zhulon rested for a few minutes, wondering what she should do. She heard footsteps; thinking it was the Fire Nation army she leaped into the trees so that she could ambush them. But these footsteps were too light to be from any armored, muscled soldier.
"Zhulon? Are you here?" her brother had followed her. Zhulon jumped down from the dead branch she was standing on and faced Reyen.
"What are you doing here? Why did you follow me? Don't you realize you could be arrested, or even killed!?"
"Calm down, I had to see you. I know you're on the run, but I can't just live with mom and dad, everybody will think we're evil. Let me go with you."
Zhulon's rage strengthened past the point of no return. Unable to control herself, she let loose several blasts of wind and flame.
"Are you INSANE!? If you came with me, you would be hunted, and you're not a bender, you wouldn't be able to defend yourself. I can't give you a proper life, always on the run, no home, no money, no nothing! " She roared. But when she saw the fear in her brother's eyes, she turned away.
"I'm sorry, But I can't take you with me."
"But what am I supposed to do?" Reyen asked.
Zhulon felt her anger returning. "I don't know, but I do know that you can't come with me. Please, brother, you have to understand! " And with that she ran off, using her airbending to enhance and quicken her sprinting. Tears were in Zhulon's eyes, she had left her brother to a life of misery. But all she would be able to give him was a life of even more misery. She was being consumed by avalanche of anger, confusion, and guilt. She didn't have any idea what she could do. Zhulon's mind wandered back to the scene an hour ago, where she had realized that the Fire Nation might not be as glorious as it says it is. She had to find out if her nation was really just a kingdom of power-hungry monsters. But now she was on the run.
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