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Exiles is the twelfth chapter of the AU fanfiction story .
The airbenders must now live secretly as refugees in the Earth Kingdom. They split into different factions, some choosing to covertly fight the Fire Nation while others refuse to fight on moral grounds. Taro sides with those who fight. Meanwhile, Kuzon has nowhere to go, and wanders in the mountains. He comes to live in the cave where Taro keeps his bison. Kuzon first bonds with the bison, then gradually with Taro on his periodic visits there, and eventually Kuzon becomes an accepted member of the airbender community.
They decided to leave for the Western Air Temple the next day. Only Taro, Kunchen, and Khalama went. They left the rest of the monks to recover in the Southern Water Tribe. The Southern Tribe sent out messengers to warn the other nations of the Fire Nation's actions. They also ramped up their own defenses and the airbenders agreed to help if the Fire Nation did attack the Southern Tribe.
They got to the Western Temple just as the Fire Nation was attacking. The three boys saved as many nuns as they could, but the Fire Nation now had orders to kill airbenders on sight. Very few survived. Sozin then sent orders back to the Fire Nation via hawk. He commanded his other reserve fleets to move out to the Northern and Eastern Air Temples. Taro and the others had no time to return to the South Pole, so they dropped the refugees off in a coastal Earth Kingdom town and flew on. They moved at about the same rate as the war fleets and only arrived within a few hours of the battles at each temple. Each time they managed to save only so many Air Nomads.
Finally, they dropped off the Eastern Temple Nuns in Ba Sing Se. Taro found a cave in the nearby mountains and left Pema there. Taro sent messenger hawks to the other Air Temple refugee groups. They held a gathering in the cave, to plan what they should do next. Every airbender still alive in the world was there. There were less than a hundred.
The surviving monks of the Southern Temple brought Kuzon with them, but he almost immediately wandered into the forest. He dismissed the few monks who tried to follow him, and they turned to their own concerns.
Sozin had the war to manage, but every firebender on earth had orders to kill the airbenders on sight. They would be hunted everywhere. They conceded that it would be necessary to cast off any remnants of their identity as Air Nomads. They would live among the populous of Ba Sing Se, lost in the multitude. The men would wear hats and grow their hair. New masters would no longer be tattooed. The airbenders would let the Fire Nation think they had won, that the Air Nomads were no more. They would have more freedom to move if no one was looking for them.
Many of the survivors were young, and thirsty for revenge on the Fire Nation. Battles would soon erupt all over the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe lands. The airbenders who could still do so decided to fight the Fire Nation covertly. They decided they would become an order of warriors specializing in stealth, something like what we might call ninja. They could appear, take out firebenders or soldiers, and then disappear again. Besides their natural mobility as airbenders, there were so few of them that it would be very difficult for the Fire Nation to track their movements. At Taro's insistence, the order agreed never to kill an enemy in cold blood. Remembering Afiko, Taro advised the monks to hold on to their pacifistic ways.
However, many of the monks and nuns objected to violence of any sort, and refused to take any part in the war. They wanted to maintain their lifestyles as they had been, meditating, wandering the earth, and attempting to reach enlightenment. Still another groups believed they should now try to live as normal families, with marriage and children and regular jobs. In what would become known as The Schism of the Air Nomads, the groups of Air Nomads separated into distinct communities and generally left each other alone, although all kept their true identities concealed from the world at large. Perhaps because of his guilt from Afiko's actions, Taro decided to remain with the militant faction, as did most of his friends.
The warriors, for their part, became masters of the cryptic arts. Operating out of the taverns, shops, and back alleys of Ba Sing Se, the airbenders worked to discover Fire Nation military plans. Clad in dark browns and greens, they would steal into Fire Nation bases or ships, gliding right over the walls. Any soldiers who happened to see them would be swiftly knocked out with an airbending slice. An observer would hear nothing but a howling breeze.
To the general population of the world, the airbenders were believed to be extinct. There was always a rumor that some airbenders had escaped, but Sozin disavowed any knowledge of it, and most people outside the Fire Nation dismissed it as an optimistic legend. Only Sozin, a handful of top Fire Nation officials, and the underground contacts the ninja had in the Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom knew there were any left.
Since no new Avatar was ever reported from the Water Tribes, Sozin believed he had somehow escaped. Sozin traveled the world in search of the Avatar for a period of time himself, but eventually had to return to the Fire Nation and stay there to make sure his people felt he was being attentive to domestic problems.
At first, Kuzon would not associate with the airbenders at all. He had no family or home anymore, and was still getting through his emotional breakdown. He felt as though he might as well be dead, given how much of his old life he had lost. He was jaded, disillusioned, angry, and depressed. His head told him he had done the right thing, but he still felt some loyalty to the Fire Nation, at least enough not to want to join the resistance and fight its sons. For months he did nothing but wander the mountains around Ba Sing Se in solitude and depression.
One day he found some moon peaches, and rather than letting the ones he couldn't finish go to waste he decided to bring them to the cave where Taro hid Pema and feed them to the animal. It began to rain as he came to the cave, so he shook off the small amount of water clinging to him, (although it might have been a good idea to take a little wash, since he had been wearing most of the same clothes and some of the armor since the attack on the Air Temple). Kuzon decided to wait out the rain with the creature. He dumped the moon peaches in front of Pema, casually muttering "There ya go. Enjoy." He turned to go and sit against the wall of the cave, but suddenly Pema gave him a big sloppy lick up his whole back. Kuzon cringed in disgust, but now he knew that this was a good-natured animal. He patted her on the nose. "Uh, you're welcome."
Pema began to eat the peaches and Kuzon had decided to try and sleep as Taro arrived in the cave, gliding out of the storm with a bucket of water for his pet. He and Kuzon exchanged stony looks, but didn't speak until Taro noticed the moon peaches. "You brought these?" he asked. Kuzon nodded. Taro just proceeded to water Pema. It had been pretty annoying trying to get this water back in the storm. He was glad he didn't have to get food now as well. It would be pretty useful to have someone to take care of her when he went into Ba Sing Se to visit the other airbenders. He and Kuzon had an uneasy truce at best, but Taro didn't think Kuzon had brought food to his bison just to be deceitful. He figured Kuzon would be good enough to take care of an innocent animal. "You like her?" Taro asked.
"I like her a lot better than I like you people," Kuzon said.
"I'm sure," Taro said dismissively. "Listen, I have to go out to meet with the other airbenders occasionally, and if you want to help look after her, you may."
Kuzon seemed to consider for a moment. "All right," he said. "I'll help you. But you better get me some new clothes on your next trip, since Bessie here got bison-spit all over mine."
From then on Kuzon lived in the cave and looked after Pema. He periodically went out into the mountains to find food and water for her. His mind finally began to clear in the solitude, and his new purpose gave him focus. Eventually he started talking to Pema, in long conversations and spilling all his problems out to her, as though they had been lifelong friends. Kuzon had no one else to talk to now, so why not her?
There was Taro too, and he did visit pretty frequently, but Kuzon wouldn't become ready to think of him as even an ally for a while. Still, Taro visited him pretty frequently, and was one of the only airbenders to do so. He kept his promise to bring Kuzon a change of clothes.
Eventually, after some months, Kuzon's depression and loneliness began to fade. He realized the airbenders were the only people to which he still had connections. He began to travel into Ba Sing Se with Taro to visit them, and after a while he began visiting them on his own. A few of the airbenders, those who had suffered most at the hands of his brother, were unable to forgive Kuzon, but they were good enough to just ignore him and not bring it up. However, many airbenders praised him as a hero, and over time they became Kuzon's genuine friends. Soon he joined the ninja faction along with Taro, Jangbu, and some others. After just a year, Kuzon could hardly remember a time when he hadn't felt like part of the airbenders' community.
The airbender stealth warriors continued to strike at the Fire Nation. Battles were lost inexplicably. Intelligence was pilfered. But there were too few ninja, and even without the Comet around anymore, the Fire Nation was very powerful. The airbenders could only slow their conquering down. The use of clandestine tactics in warfare was nothing new, and the Fire Nation took precautions against this, especially after they lost a few key battles. The airbenders weren't unstoppable, just hard to catch.
Soldiers of any kind enjoy very close camaraderie. The more raids Kuzon went on, the more friends he made among the airbenders. Even Taro, who had threatened to kill him, became Kuzon's friend. They saved each other's lives several times. Taro helped get Kuzon from place to place when gliding was required.
They argued often. Sometimes it was over things like whether humans could ever fully enact the principle of receptivity; sometimes it was over what kind of fruit pie filling is the best.
Kuzon often tried to goad Taro into trying meat, but on the one occasion where he was successful Taro spat it out almost immediately, called it the most disgusting thing he had ever eaten, and profusely rubbed his tongue on his sleeve.
Taro got Kuzon back when he persuaded him to let the monks give him a small tattoo. Kuzon went through with it, but he hadn't realized how painful it would be. He yelped and swore the whole time as Taro, with his full arrow tattoos, laughed.
Taro taught Kuzon how to achieve a Zen-like state through meditation; Kuzon taught Taro how to play pai sho and how to style his hair, since Taro had never had to do that before. (Taro came away with two large cowlicks at weird angles on his head. He washed them out and decided not to try styling it anymore after that).
Kuzon taught Taro to incorporate more aggressive techniques inspired by firebending into his combat style, and in turn he learned better evasive techniques based on airbending.
They also talked about Aang a lot. One night they had returned from a mission to save some captured Earth Kingdom soldiers and were relaxing in the cave where Pema stayed. A breeze blew through the valley and rustled the tree branches. Taro watched it. "Kuzon, do you think Aang will ever come back?"
Kuzon looked out over the valley. It was a nice night. "Yeah."
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Enemies and Traitors chapters|
|Prologues - Brothers - Responsibilities - Necessities - Resources - The Avatar - Opportunities - Preparations - Betrayals - Changing Plans - Scars - Counting Losses - Exiles - Ghosts - Homecoming - The Traitor and the Firelord - Escapes - The Last Chance - Legacies|