Dreams and Problems
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December 29th, 2013

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The moment Emily and Seth entered the house, Seth homed in on his room and locked himself in without a word. Emily shuffled into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of apple juice from a jug near the sink. Dull, the blue glow of a yard light seeped through the window. It was dim, but she was glad she did not have to switch on the inside lights; her parents and grandparents did not sleep well. If only Seth could administer a healing session without the chance of being discovered.

She set down the glass and took a steadying breath. What was his problem anyway? He had not spoken on the ride home from the party, and for once she could not read his features. If his face was blank, he was either sad or angry. If it was tight, he was worried or confused. But guarded . . . he had never been so closed off before.

' It wasn't you, ' she thought reassuringly. ' You did good talking to him after the fight. It was a great point. Bringing up bonebending was great. Like Wil said. Establish common ground, show interest in what the other person thinks, and then tell them what they need to know. '

"Maybe I'm just not a people person," she said under her breath. Gulping down the last of her juice, she carefully laid the glass in the sink and pulled a cellphone out of a drawer by the fridge. She giggled.

"I know myself so well," she whispered. "I knew I would want something before I went to bed." She patted her stomach. "Even after all those cookies."

The phone lighted up at a touch. Emily opened the phone's dialer app and hesitated. Maybe she shouldn't call. . . . He didn't need to know. This could be a secret. She anxiously twirled her hair around her finger. Should she? No. . . . Wait. This was for Seth's own good. It had to be done.

Her thumb flew across the screen, dialing the number before she could rethink her decision. Her breath wavered as she raised the phone to her ear.

A bland tone blared every few seconds. Static crackled. Her eyes unfocused as she listened. Outside, the night's darkness seemed to expand and deepen, stretching onward into an infinite void. Black. Everything was just so black.

' We are sorry, ' a voice suddenly announced, startling her. ' The voicemail box is full. '

Relief washed over her, refreshing and painful. She set the phone down; guilt abruptly welled in her stomach, boiling over with a lurch.

' I don't care, ' she thought stubbornly. ' I'm not trying again. If Master Morath isn't going to answer, he's not going to answer. That's that. '

She brushed the tile countertop with her fingertips and let her mind wander.

' It would be so easy to destroy this, ' she pondered. One clench of her fist and the tiles would splinter and fracture, volleying outward in whatever direction she wanted.

That was earthbending. Earth was as powerful as fire, as stable as water, but less changeable, more immense, like the insurmountable confidence of a continent. Fire, air, and water eventually faded, but the earth was eternal, unstoppable, unalterable.

Her hand drifted to the bag tied to her waist. Metal was as enduring as earth, but harsher. Sharper. If earth was light, then metal was a laser. Maybe she should just handle this bloodbending problem herself.

Her phone suddenly vibrated and lit up, the dreaded number rolling across the screen.

' Great, ' she thought as she picked it up. 'You had to call him. '

"Hello Master Morath," she croaked. "Sorry to bother you this late."

"No trouble, my dear," returned a weary voice. "In these times, we all have late nights now and again. But let us get straight to the point. I gather something must have happened. Tell me about it."

Emily rattled her fingers on the countertop. The tiles trembled like leaves in the wind, clattering quietly.

"I . . . uh . . . well? Hmm. It's um. . . . Look, what I'm trying to say is – oh, what am I doing? It's about Seth." She gulped. "He's been bloodbending again."

A faint buzz filled the ensuing silence.

"How long?"

The words pierced her through. Her heart jackhammered with fear and guilt. "Uh, I don't know. Well, actually, I do. I'm not sure how often he practices, but he uses it every once in a while during a fight."

"How long, Emily?" Morath pressed.

She sighed. "A long time."

"Something went down tonight," he deduced. "What happened, exactly?"

"We were fighting a dark spirit, and he used it to dodge some tentacles. Bruin noticed and brought it up."

"Bruin noticed, you say? So you are the only one who's known?"

"Yes. I think so. Wil might have figured it out."

"I would not be surprised. He's a smart boy."

"Master, please go easy on him."


"No! Seth! I mean, bloodbending is a part of who he is. It comes naturally to him, like bonebending does to me."

"Yet you do not bonebend at every opportunity, Emily."

"But –"

"Listen to me. I will do everything I can to lessen the punishment. Seth is registered as a bloodbender and that may sway some of the Council members in his favor. However, we cannot hide the fact that his cousin was driven insane."

"They never proved it was because of bloodbending!"

"Yes, I am aware of that, but evidence points to that conclusion, which places Seth in a very precarious situation. No matter much we love him he must accept the consequences of his actions."

"No," she whispered. "No, they can't."

"It's painful, but unavoidable. If the Council deems that Seth be stripped of his bending, it will happen."

Emily gripped the phone until her knuckles ached. The window vibrated and the floor rumbled. The metal cables stored in her sack roiled like snakes. "Alright. Thank you, master."

"I'm sorry, Emily. We'll do everythin –"

She cut him off before he could finish and tossed her phone back into the drawer.

' That, ' whispered a dark voice in the back of her head, 'may have been a mistake. '

' I know. But what else could I have done? '

' How should I know? ' the voice replied incredulously. ' I'm you! '

She rolled her eyes. ' Oh yeah. I forgot. ' She sighed and trudged to her bedroom, glancing at Seth's door. Light flickered in the crack at its base, and she perceived the faint clicks of a computer keyboard.

' Now what are you up to? ' she thought suspiciously. She reached out to knock, but caught herself and pulled back, turning into her own room.

She threw herself onto the bed without taking off her costume and slumber rolled over her like a warm tidal wave.

Emily's eyes snapped open, and she sat up, senses piqued and as acute as if she had never been asleep.

A harsh wind scraped across her skin, which instantly reddened and started to itch. She winced and hugged her knees to her chest, squinting in painfully bright, raw light. The sky blazed red, like the atmosphere was on fire. The stars were clearly visible despite the crimson intensity, twinkling maniacally in the naked firmament.

She was sitting in the center of an immense gray field, the land broken apart like an immense, cracked bowl. Odd, jagged shapes jutted out of the ground, scattered about haphazardly. Ash swirled upward in lazy spirals, and every few moments the ground rumbled and a fresh plume of dust would erupt with a hiss. The wind intensified, sweeping glass shards and metal pieces that rasped against the stony ground. Sand and soot drifted in huge, hazy clouds.

Emily climbed to her feet, gagging on the rotten stench of sulfur. The wind cut through her pajamas unmercifully. She wrapped her green-and-brown blanket tightly about herself and started walking.

She wandered for an eternity, carefully picking her way over rugged slabs of fragmented cement. As she walked, she realized that she had not woken up in a plain. The remains of immense structures lay in pieces all around her, the broken forms of towering buildings and edifices scarcely recognizable in the rubble. Everything was too uniform to be natural. It wasn't a plain.

It was a city.

Emily crawled to the top of a hill of debris and stood, slightly hunched, surveying the ruins. Blisters broke out across her exposed skin, and she could feel a rash flaring up under her clothes. Her lips were dried and cracked. Her sight suddenly blurred, and she stumbled to the side, feet burning. With an effort, she caught herself before she tumbled headfirst down the hill.

Screams abruptly ripped through the ruins, echoing spectrally.

Emily froze and chills raced up her spine. She had thought she was alone. Maybe she wasn't. Did whatever was wailing need her help? It sounded inhuman, monstrous, almost like a dark spirit. Almost, but not quite.

She drew her blanket close, blinking away hot tears. Pain forked on her skin and she fell to her knees with a gasp. Glass sliced through her blanket and tore up her knees. The wind kicked up again, its shrieks intermingling with the bodiless screams and a deep voice rumbled in the ground and sky, chuckling maliciously. Emily cradled her head in her hands, curled up into a ball, and whimpered.

"Stop," she whispered hoarsely. "Please. Stop." The dark laughter was getting stronger. The screams sounded like they were getting closer. She squeezed her eyes shut and prayed for it to end.

Then her eyes snapped open and she found herself staring at the ceiling of her room.

Sweat drenched her costume. Her hair was plastered over her forehead in wet strands. Pre-dawn light suffused the shadows draped over the bedroom, illuminating clothes heaped all over the floor in disorderly piles.

Someone knocked. Emily yelped and fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs and peasant burlap. She rolled around, entrapping herself in the costume. The door creaked open.

"Um," Seth said slowly, "is this a bad time?"

"No," Emily muttered hotly. "Come in, I'm just dying here."

Seth knelt and ripped the costume's back in half, freeing her. He laughed.

"Honestly, I leave you for one minute and look what happens," he chortled happily. "Did you get any sleep at all?"

Emily tossed the burlap aside with a huff and lay back. "I had another nightmare."

Seth's face instantly darkened. "Same thing?"

"Yeah. It's terrible. This time I was in a city. Actually," she added heavily, "the ruins of a city. The sky's all red and everything's just . . . destroyed."

Seth nodded. "And the screaming?"

She shuddered as goose bumps broke out across her skin. Seth put a comforting arm around her shoulders.

"It's alright to be afraid," he said gently. "Don't worry. We'll figure out what these dreams mean. Maybe they're messages from Raava."

Emily frowned, temporarily stunned. "What? What would make you say that?"

Seth fidgeted and pulled away. "I had a visit last night, after the fight. The spirit of the forest appeared and told me Raava had sent her."

"What?! When? How?"

"That's what I wondered, but she didn't say." He glanced back and forth nervously. "She told me about a man named Tellus Lee. I was up all night trying to find out about him."

"You don't look so good." Emily meant it. Bags hung under Seth's eyes, and his smile was worn. His countenance, however, shone with quiet excitement.

"What did you find?" she wondered suspiciously.

"Nothing much," he replied evasively. "I know he was a waterbender, so I might find something more at the archives in Harmonics City."

Emily froze and put her head in her hands. "Oh no."


"The ruins in my dream. It was Harmonics City. I'm sure of it! Seth, something's going to happen and we have to figure it out! What if these really are messages – visions?"

"I don't know. Tell me everything you saw."

Emily related the dream in the fullest detail she could muster, describing everything from the wind to the evil laughter. Seth listened intently, nodding every few minutes. When she finished, he shifted uncomfortably and touched her hand.

"Emily, you and I are both in tune. Laura, Wil, and Bruin aren't as good at detecting spiritual energy as we are. Maybe these dreams are a response to the darkness everywhere. Don't give me that look – you know what I mean. We've talked about it. Evil is getting stronger. The light's failing. Something big is coming."

"But what?"

Seth shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe Tellus Lee will have the answers." He stood and walked to the door.

"Seth," Emily called, stopping him. "You're hiding something. What is this guy?"

"He was a bloodbender," Seth said casually, and walked out.

Emily slapped her thigh. "Well, it's official. He's nuts." She raised her voice. "Good luck finding out about going crazy!"

' Yeah, that can't go bad, ' she thought frustratedly. ' At least I – ' Her midnight conversation with Master Morath flashed into her memory, and her humor shifted. ' Let him go, ' she reasoned. 'If he's somewhere else, I don't have to spill the beans. '

Not a foolproof plan, but it might work. At least she did not have to break the news to her friend. Seth rarely got mad, but when he did. . . . She shuddered.

' Just get up, ' she told herself. 'You have homework to do. '

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