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the twenty-third day of april, twenty-fourteen
eight hundred and ninety-one
Everything is still. Everything is silent.
Even the animals have halted, trembling slightly in the cracks in my walls. There are many more men than I had thought, and they spread out through me, kicking down doors and collapsing walls. I give a groan as a support beam is crushed to dust. One of them men hisses at the earthbender who punched through me, and he moves away meekly. I can feel the small family, deep within me. They tremble as the critters around them tremble. They shake as I shake, but they are together, and this thought calms them.
They are holding each other tight, his hands over hers, covering her stomach. They fear, but it is not for themselves. These people hold too much love to fear eternal separation. These people, they fear for the small life—the small world—they have created together.
Suddenly, one of the earthbenders stumbles over the trapdoor. It is a stupid mistake, and had he been even slightly more graceful, he would not have discovered it at all.
Not a single breath stirs as everyone—everything—turns an eye to the wooden door with a metal handle. One strides over with thick, heavy footfalls that knock small crumbs of dirt lose. He bends down, grasping the heavy metal latch and tugging.
The door opens far too easily, and with a dark grin, the man steps back.
There are thirty of us, he calls, and we only want the Fire Nation scum. Give up, and your wife will be spared. We don't kill our own kind. I believe his numbers.
I can feel the small family grow cold. The woman is shaking fiercely, and I can feel the small droplets of water that roll off her face hit the earth. The man looks at her, holding her face as he leans forward, placing his lips to hers almost reverentially.
Be safe, he whispers, before moving forward with purposeful strides. Their hands part, and he turns to give her one more smile.
He doesn't know they are waiting for him with metal. He doesn't know they are waiting with smiles. He never knows, as with a glint of light and a heavy rock, he falls to the floor.
He is dead before he hits the ground.
He cannot hear her scream.
She runs forward, stumbling over debris. Up the stairs she clambers, collapsing by his head as she gently picks it up, cradling it in her lap. The sound of her distress reverberates through me as she sobs brokenly over him. The other men don't leave, and although she tries to ignore them, she can still feel their presence.
The tears are falling earnestly now, and I can hear them. She stoically ignores the blood as it drips from him as she leans in closer.
No, she whispers hoarsely, body wracked with silent sobs, No, no, no. Don't leave me, please...
Her hands dance around, finding his hand and pulling it up to his chest. She closes her eyes, unable to face his blank stare; she leans over, allowing their foreheads to touch.
Please, she murmurs again, and even I can hear the lump in her throat. She wants to be alone to grieve, and yet the men don't leave. I can't- I can't raise this child on my own... Their lips touch for the final time, the small piece of closure cut short as suddenly, she is wrenched to her feet.
You won't have to, one of the men sneers. It only takes one nod from him to have everyone step close, grabbing her. She looks up, a choked cry escaping her as the blood drains from her face.
You said you won't hurt me, she cries, trying desperately to break their grip. Her lip quivers as she glances at the still form of her husband. You don't harm earthbenders! You promised!
She makes the desperate claim even as her voice breaks on the final word, and she can't keep the man's gaze as she slumps forward.
He takes a step back, one hand on his hip and another stroking his chin.
You're right, I did promise. Didn't I, boys? he asks his men; they laugh, already knowing what he has planned. He leans closer to her, his foul breath washing over her in waves. I promised I wouldn't kill you because we don't kill earthbenders... he reaches a hand out, trailing it down her face. She can see the knife in his other hand, but holds her head up high. She has to be strong now, for both of them. The only family she has left.
The man watches her expression grow resolute, and he gives another grin. His hand continues its trail downwards as he begins to speak again.
He wasn't an earthbender. He was a firebender. We don't let firebenders live. We don't let them escape...
It is only when his hand stops, resting above her belly, that the colour truly drains from her face.
No... she breaths, heart beating faster and faster as she forces shallow breaths into her suddenly starving lungs. Her eyes burn again with the knowledge of what he means, and her struggling begins anew. No!
The other men hold her fast as the leader steps forward, knife dancing in the moonlight.
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