|By Omashu Rocks||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from Omashu Rocks||Adventure/Drama||PG-13||See Comments||Subscribe|
22 December 2014
At that point, I didn't even know what to say.
Sworn brothers... Of course.
Nothing was ever as easy as it was supposed to be. There was always something. Some kind of roadblock. And now, of course, the chief I'm supposed to kill is sworn brothers with my dad. Because, why wouldn't he be?
My face probably didn't even change expressions. I was used to blindsides like this.
The chief let out another hardy laugh. "Ha ha! General Kun! My good friend! He talks about you all the time during his annual visits for the Feast of the Dragons! But, he missed this year. Tell me, where is your father? Is he here with you?"
I bowed my head, reluctant to tell the room of wide-eyed tribespeople the truth. "I'm afraid my father was... assassinated," I reported solemnly to the response of gasps. "The Crown had him killed."
When I looked up, the chief appeared completely dejected, but not at all surprised.
After a pause, the chief responded. "Nalia, I am so sorry to hear this. Your father was a great man, truly a hero. In an era of such darkness, he was a beacon of light."
I couldn't help but tear up at the man's kind words. "Thank you," I whispered softly. "Sir, there is much I'd like to ask you privately, if that would be all right."
"Of course! If Kun raised you, you're a friend of mine!"
I wouldn't be too sure.
The man who I had identified as the War Commander spoke up. "Surely, Chief, you mean you'll speak to our guest after Council?"
"It is after Council," scoffed the superior. "You are all dismissed."
After the curious Sun Warrior citizens and the snarling War Commander filed out of the room, four of us remained in what I then realized was a stunning work of art. Each wall of the Tribal Council room was a mural, depicting the earliest Sun Warriors' interactions with the dragons, their prayers to the Sun, and beautiful displays of Firebending. The sight humbled me, and it reminded me of how I was to act in such a place.
"It is an honor to be in your presence," I bowed. "How shall I address you?"
The man with a crown of feathers smiled. "Everyone calls me Chief, even your late father."
At that point, the bald Shaman, frail as a skeleton and shorter than me, hobbled his way closer, squinting with concern. "If you don't mind my interruption, Chief, I am feeling a very peculiar aura from this woman."
A cold chill ran down the back of my neck, and I could feel my muscles tighten.
"What kind of aura?" inquired the Chief.
The Shaman stood less than a foot away and peered into my eyes. "I... don't know. But it's dark. There is so much in her future, but... this woman is not to be trusted!"
I jumped back after the elderly man's accusation, and I looked at the other two people in the room for some kind of assurance, the Chief rubbed his chin quizzically, and the elderly Mother Healer rolled her eyes and yawned.
"Give it a rest," barked Mother Healer as she approached Shaman. "Did you not hear her? She's Kun's daughter!"
Shaman shook his head and stuttered. "But, she has an aura!"
"An, aura, eh?" The old woman gestured at what the was carrying. "Behold! The basket in which I keep my fucks! Lay your eyes upon it and see that it is empty!"
"Mother Healer, you are making light of a grave situation!"
"And you are keeping me from my mud bath!"
Chief stomped his foot. "Enough! Please allow me and Nalia some privacy!"
The two exited, shooting each other dirty looks. As nervous as I was, I forced a chuckle when I was finally alone with the Chief. He joined in, and for a moment all we did was laugh.
A dark aura? How could that man have any idea about my intentions?
The chief bowed. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Nalia. Please don't worry about my friend's words. Sometimes, he overreacts, but he means the best for our tribe."
"Of course," I nodded. "He was only doing his job, I'm sure."
I had never been more uncomfortable. My heart was pounding. When am I supposed to kill this guy? We're alone, but I can't kill a man who was so close to my father! Not yet! There's so much I need to know. But I may not get another chance...
My mind was racing, and I struggled to keep my breathing under control.
"Is everything all right," asked a worried Chief.
"I'm just anxious," I answered honestly. "I have so many questions. How did you know my father?"
Before he answered, he guided me to a smaller room with cushions and a pot of tea, where I tried to make myself comfortable.
"Now, your father," Chief explained as he poured me a cup, "was one of the noblest Firebenders to ever live. We first met when he was a young man. He had heard of our ancient ways and came looking for us. Most people were never able to find our civilization tucked away in the mountains, but your father wasn't most people. He wanted to know so much about the origins of Firebending and the dragons, but of course, he was an outsider." He said that last part sternly.
"What do you mean he was an outsider?"
"Well, he was caught attempting a steal a very precious artifact of ours, so we locked him up! We put him in a cage while the chieftains decided what to do with him, and guess who was responsible for keeping him secure?"
I burst out laughing. "You were?"
"That's right," he nodded excitedly. "I was in charge of keeping your father locked up. I was the son of the Grand Chief at the time, and I had to prove myself worthy of one day being the leader."
"Well what happened?" I was genuinely thrilled to hear this story."
"Eh, he convinced me to let him go with a joke, I believe. I forget the entire thing but the punchline was leaf me alone, I'm bushed!"
"It was funnier when he told it."
I giggled. "Maybe that's because he actually remembered the whole thing!"
After exchanging laughs, I begged Chief to tell me more:
"The point is, I trusted your father. I could see in his eyes that he was a good man. So, I showed him one of our best kept secrets, the truth behind Firebending!"
I paused, becoming more serious. "What is the truth? Why is my fire blue? What's wrong with me?"
Frustrated, Chief became stern. "There is nothing wrong with you! When you look at the trees in the valleys of this nation, what flower do you most commonly see."
"Well," I pondered, "Fire Lilies are everywhere."
"Yes! And what color are they?"
"They're red." I had no idea where he was going with the analogy.
"They are, red, aren't they? Most of the time..."
"They aren't always?" I had never seen a Fire Lily that wasn't red.
"Of course not! If you venture up the volcanoes in the north, towards the very top grow the most beautiful blue Fire Lilies you could ever find!"
"Blue Fire Lilies?"
Chief nodded "My favorite kind. You see, they are the product of intense heat, and power found at the top of the volcano. There is nothing wrong with them, they're just rare, and they're rarity is what makes them so beautiful. They're just flowers, but they come in so many colors, and it is a shame that most will never see them all."
I finally understood. "So, my blue fire is just-"
"Rare. Of course, if it wasn't for the ignorance of this nation, we'd see much more like you, and we'd see more green fire, and purple fire-"
"Green and purple fire?" I was astonished.
"Benders of such colored fire are probably extinct." Chief shook his head in sorrow. "People fear what they do not understand. That's why I made Kun understand."
"What do you mean?"
"When the war began, your father was ordered to take his troops and find our civilization, only to destroy it! He was willing to refuse, but Sozin would just have sent someone else in his place. When we arrived, he warned us, and he told us to retreat even further back into our hiding place, informing us that he would scorch the outermost parts of our society and promising to set traps for any future invaders."
I couldn't have been more proud of my father. "Wow."
"Kun saved us all, and it's because I showed him what real fire is. And I'm going to show you."
Chief laughed with excitement. "Come."
Overwhelming emotions pulled me in every direction, tearing my heart from my soul. It was the first time that I was convinced the Crown was forcing me to kill an undeniably good person. And if Chief was the good guy, what did that make me?
If I didn't go through with it, I could kiss my chances of freedom and saving my sister's life goodbye. If I did, I was removing one of the only noble Firebenders left and officially solidifying my role as a villain no better than Sozin.
He led me outside, where I reunited with a long, scaled body and a set of teeth that could tear through the Chief's spine in a split-second. That was the task at hand. It was the reason I ventured into the Sun Warriors' home, but it wasn't what was on my mind. It was somewhere in my head, but I couldn't think about my job.
Outside, the disgruntled Shaman pulled Mother Guardian and the War Commander close, who each shot me a suspicious look and then glanced at each other before nodding and leaving in two different directions. I shrugged them off. Surely, it was natural for people with the titles "commander" and "guardian" to prepare themselves to protect their people, whether that was summoning tribal warriors just in case or hiding women and children.
Following closely behind the Chief, I was enriched with stories of my father and the War Commander challenging each other to the strategic game of Pai Sho, and that the wise Kun was always able to best the tribal tactician. Apparently my father also loved to tend to Mother Healer's garden with her, which finally explained the wealthy of herbal knowledge he showcased whenever my sister or I was sick.
Eventually, after passing by the children playing with an animal-skin ball and women selling handmade jewelry in market stands, I was once again at the outskirts of the great civilization, this time facing a hill that the chief had no problem climbing.
At the top was one of the most breathtaking sights I had ever bestowed. Somehow contained in a colossal, shining, ornate fireplace roared the larges, most magnificent fire I could ever have imagined. About ten tribesmen meditated in the amphitheater around it, breathing in and out with the flame. Their sheer concentration struck me, especially as their leader walked in between them to the fire.
I followed several paces behind Chief, making sure to remain as respectful and solemn as possible, my head bowed and my hands clasped. When he turned and gestured with his palm for me to join him, I gently dismounted Nightmare and approached the blaze. Dubious, I followed his motions as we both dipped into the fire and withdrew a small flame in our cupped hands. He then smiled at me, whispered "now let's go," and once again had me follow him.
This time, he didn't allow me to bring Nightmare, and we made our way up a cobblestone path to the peak of a mountain. It was the only landscape in the Fire Nation that could top the beauty of my home ranch, but it wasn't until we got a bit closer to the top that my jaw dropped. At first, I didn't recognize the swirling creatures as dragons, but it became clearer that I was looking at the first Firebenders when I saw their blue, red, yellow, orange, purple, and green scales whizzing about the sky.
"They're beautiful," I gasped in awe.
Chief nodded. "Now that Sozin has declared dragons to be targets of hunting, our land has become a safe haven."
"I've never seen so many!" It was exactly the kind of beautiful picture my dad would paint when he couldn't sleep at night, and for the umpteenth time that day I felt tears coming down my cheeks.
"Indeed, their majesty moves all who behold them."
They circled around the structure at the top of the mountain, which to my further amazement, was an temple larger than life itself. We entered an empty, open arena with a stone staircase so enormous it scraped the sky.
"I hope you're ready for more climbing," joked Chief.
Excited, I continued to follow the man up the stairs, still focusing my breath to keep the small flame in tact. My heart was pounding from anxiousness, and it felt like it took years to get to the top. Once we did, however, I was disappointed. We stood on a bridge with a cave on either end.
"It is time," whispered Chief, holding his flame towards one cave.
I did the same. "Time for what?"
As if an answer to my question, a thunderous rumble almost knocked me off my feet. "Chief, what's-"
I screamed when a face half the size of my house jet out of the cave in my direction, but the fear turned to shock and awe when the largest being I had ever seen soared upwards. Following the blue dragon, my eyes caught a red one just as incredible, and the two began flying around the bridge in a magnificent dance.
Words were impossible. Movement was impossible. Even breath was impossible. All I could do was stand still with my jaw on the floor. When I finally was about to say something to Chief, the two dragons landed in front of their respective caves and opened their mouths.
Before I could realize what was happening, it was too late.
Fire of all different colors shot out to the center of the bridge and began swirling around us in a vortex of colors I'd never even imagined. My eyes were instinctively drawn to the blue flames, which flowed alongside the fire of other colors including red. All of the colors were joined as one, like a rainbow, and I understood. I understood everything.
When the dragons had stopped and the fire had dissipated, the sight remained in my vision, forever printed in my mind.
"That was the most beautiful thing in the world," I told Chief, who already knew.
"Yes, it is. And now I hope you can understand why you're no different from anyone else."
I was genuinely touched, but then I looked down. There was no one at the base of the stairs, and the fall would kill anyone.
It was so easy. One push and the mission is complete, with Nightmare waiting for me at the base of the mountain.
My eyes locked on the Sun Warrior chief, and I walked towards him slowly.
"Is something wrong?" he asked with concern.
I stop, lowering my head. "Yes." After a long pause, I elaborated. "Everything I told you about who I am is true, but I lied about why I'm here."
"Why are you here, then?"
"Are you familiar with the Shepherds?"
His eyes shot open wide. "Nalia, don't do this!"
"I'm not going to," I assured him, shaking my head. "But I need to make them think I did, just like my father did."
He smiled, just as proud as I hoped my father would've been. "Take my crown," he pleaded, pulling the assortment of feathers off his head. "Use it as false proof of my death."
I accepted the crown and agreed to the chief's plan. There was no way I was going to take his life after he imparted upon me such great wisdom. A friend of my father's is a friend of mine.
"Thank you." I proceeded to walk down the stairs.
"No, thank you," called the chief. "And Nalia-"
"Find a way to bring Sozin down."
|Prologue - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
For the collective works of the author, go here.