|More from Jacob13Kyle||Action, Military/War||PG-13||None||No update page|
March 1, 2014
There are some stories that never get told. Heroes that never make it into the songs and books. Soldiers who's actions are overshadowed by a much larger conflict. This is one of those stories that history has forgotten, in a time it wishes it could forget.
Li Ten was born to a wealthy family in the outlying reaches of the Fire Nation home islands. He had an average childhood, despite his wealthy upbringings. In school, he never stood out from the other students, that is until his teenage years when his looks developed. His pale completion developed some color, his black hair never dangled longer than his ears, and his cheeks and jaw were always clean shaven.
Li was the object of affection for many young women, but as to whether he recognized this or not, you could never tell. He never took advantage of anyone because of their affection, in fact he very rarely acknowledged it. And when graduation came, many hearts were broken when he made it known of his enlistment into the Fire Nation Army.
Despite the option of gaining a cushy officer's position thanks to his family's status, Li chose to go the route of a regular man, working his way up from the bottom. After two short years, he had worked his way up to the rank of Sergeant. On the eve of the return of the Great Comet, the promising young soldier was assigned to the 72nd infantry division. And it was on that day, at the end of summer in the year 0 AG, that the young man and the world would be changed forever.
"Keep climbing! The honor of your country and your Fire Lord await!" Thousands of men, all dressed in red and black armor, climbed the almost sheer sides of the mountain. They clung to ropes, inching their way toward the peak. Above them, the sounds of battle raged. The sky was a burnt orange, thanks to both the Comet that was skirting the atmosphere and the massive fires that raged on the peak.
Amongst the climbers was a young sergeant, clinging to the rope and pressing his feet against the cliff side. His arms burned from the effort of the climb, but he pressed on anyway, determined to join his comrades at the top. A grumbling roar filled the air, drawing his attention upward. Above the climbers, a flying bison swooped by in a strafing motion. One of the airbenders riding on its back sent out several blasts of wind, striking the climbing ropes.
The ropes that were struck either snapped or shook violently like it had come to life. In both situations, several soldiers lost their grip and were sent screaming into the cloud bank below to their deaths. The Sergeant was not amongst those who fell, as his grip had been too secure to the rope. He watched his comrades fall, some of them friends that he had made in boot camp.
Swallowing his shock and despair, the sergeant resumed climbing. Occasionally the flailing body of a soldier that had been blown over the side of the cliff raced past, as if to prove that a battle still raged.
"Come on Sergeant Ten, glory and honor await!" came a voice from above. Looking up from his struggle, the sergeant realized that he had reached a stone railing, to which the rope was securely fashioned. Offering a hand down to him was a Lieutenant, one of his superiors. Ten didn't hesitate to reach up and take the hand that was offered to him, eager to end the long climb.
The two men grunted against the weight as he was pulled over the railing. Sergeant Ten rolled over the railing, just like he had been trained in boot camp, landing on his feet. His helmet slid forward so that it covered his eyes, blocking his view. As he pulled the helmet up, there was nothing on Earth that could have prepared him for the sight.
A once beautiful Temple, crowning the peaks of three separate mountains, was engulfed in flames. Soldiers clad in red and black surrounded a single female Air Nomad. The woman was fighting for her life, both staving off fire blasts and countering by blowing soldiers over the side of the mountain. After a moment she disappeared in a blinding flash, having been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of fire being sent her way.
Overhead, a dead sky bison fell from the sky with trails of black smoke following it, trailing from patches of burning hair. The few airbenders riding on the creature's back were trying desperately to both wake it up and put out the patches of fire. But both were futile as they sailed past, vanishing into the cloud bank far below.
Directly in front of him, a single woman clawed her way toward him. Her yellow and orange clothing was blackened and ruined from a fire attack. The left side of her face was blistered and reddened due to a burn, and the blue arrow on her forehead was smeared with soot, grime, and blood. Overall, the woman was badly injured and probably on the verge of death.
"Weakness!" The Sergeant's head snapped upward at the new voice, almost snapping him out of the horrified trance.
Standing above the woman was a man in an officer's uniform, a Captain by the look of it. He held a katana in his right hand, holding the blade out to the side so that it resembled a longer, gleaming arm. Bringing the sword to the center of his body, the Captain held the blade so that it was pointing straight down. With both hands on the hilt, he lifted the blade slightly before he drove the sword into the woman.
The woman's already pain filled eyes bulged, and her outstretched hand trembled. Her open mouth looked like she was both gasping for air and struggling to speak. Neither one occurred as the light faded from her eyes. She lowered her head to the stone floor, her hand stopped trembling, and she died.
Satisfied, the Captain removed the blade from the body and did a swift striking motion toward the ground, sending spattering blood from the blade on the stones.
"Sister Iio!" The cry came from a young boy, running to try and reach the body. He never got close, as the Captain turned on the spot and sent out a wave of fire from his blade. The boy was sent flying over the edge of the cliff, trailing smoke behind him from his burnt clothing.
"What are you staring at, Sergeant Ten?" the Captain roared as he returned his blade to its place on his hip.
"Sir these, these people..they're."
"Weak! The new world has no room for weakness such as this."
"They're unarmed, sir," the Sergeant finally finished, finding his voice at last. He forced himself not to look at the body that lay at the Captain's feet. The flaming tree behind him only added to the growing look of evil.
"Armed or unarmed, these weak ones shall be hunted down and brought to me. Is that clear, Sergeant?" The Sergeant promptly saluted, while silently cursing the man in every way imaginable.
"Yes sir, Captain Zhang." The Sergeant set off into the burning temple, looking for survivors. The further he went, the more dead he found. There were no men amongst the Air Nomad bodies, only women and children. As the sounds of battle began to fade, he paused, kneeling beside the body of a nun.
Her side was blackened from an extreme amount of fire that had struck her. In her arms was an unmoving young girl. It was clear that the nun had tried to protect the girl from the attackers, and she had paid for it with her life.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered as he closed the nun's eyes, feeling that it was the right thing to do. He didn't know what the Air Nomad custom was for honoring the dead, but he did what he could to ensure that they were at peace.
A scream caught his attention, causing him to look up for its source. He spotted two young girls, roughly his age, being chased by two soldiers. They ran under a small awning, heading for one of the cliffs. Springing to his feet, the Sergeant took off after them while using one hand to keep the Jian sword on his hip from bouncing off of his thigh. He wasn't about to stand aside and let any more innocent people die.
The girls ran until they could run no more, coming to a halt by one of the stone railings and turning to face their attackers. The soldier on the right was using a spear, jabbing it experimentally at the girl with a grin on his face, while the soldier on the left was slowly twirling his Dao sword, smiling coldly as he regarded his prey.
"No where to run now, girls," he said as he licked his lips, savoring the kill to come. The girls huddled closer to each other, with the older one putting her arm around the younger one in a protective manner. Inching closer, the spearman jabbed at the girls, laughing at their reaction. So caught up was he in his fun, that he had no time to react as a strong arm rapped around his forehead, dragging his head backwards and exposing his throat for the blade that followed.
Acting on pure instinct, the older girl turned and sheltered the younger girl from the spray of blood from the soldier's neck. The spearman's eyes bugged out of his head as he fell to the ground, his spear falling from his hands as he tried in vain to clench the wound.
"What the?!" the swordsman turned to face the attacker. The sergeant was wearing a firebender's armor, the red and white helmet resembling that of a human skull and hiding his face. His blade was gleaming crimson with the spearman's blood. The swordsman roared as he swung his blade at the traitor.
Ten easily countered, parrying the enemy blade far to the side before rapidly driving the point through the man's exposed jugular with a single thrust. Metal clattered on stone as the Dao fell from its master's lifeless hand. He removed the blade from his enemy's body with expert ease and precision, allowing the corpse to clatter to the ground.
Turning, he looked at the cowering Air Nomads. The older girl's right leg was badly burned, causing her to lean on her staff for support. It was clear that not only was she protecting the younger girl, but she was also supporting her. Judging by her wounds, she had taken a full blast of fire in the back.
Sheathing the sword, the sergeant took a step toward the girls. They cowered more, curling up more into a ball. Noticing this, he stopped and raised his hands, trying to show that he wasn't going to hurt them. This had the opposite effect, as the girls thought that he was going to firebend at them. Going a step further, he reached up and fully removed his helmet from his head.
"My name is Sergeant Li Ten, I'm not going to hurt you," he said, gently going to one knee and placing his helmet on the ground.
"Why should we trust you?" the older girl spat, both fear and venom in her voice.
"Because if I don't help you get away from this Temple, you are going to die," he replied, offering his hand to help them up. The girl hesitated as she looked at his hand, it was clear that she didn't trust him in the least, not after what she had seen his comrades do. Then again, he had just killed two of his comrades in order to save their lives. After a moment, she accepted his hand and they were haled to their feet.
"Due West of here is Earth Kingdom territory. Go as far into the continent as you can and try to blend in with the locals. And above all else, no matter what you do, stay away from anything Air Nomad," he instructed as he helped them up onto the stone railing.
"Why are you helping us?" the younger girl asked, her voice barely above a whimper due to the amount of pain she was in. The Sergeant picked up his helmet again and slid it back on over his head.
"Because I don't believe in the slaughter of an innocent culture. Now go," he commanded, his voice echoing from inside his helmet. The older girl opened her glider and jumped off of the cliff with the younger girl clinging to the top of the glider. He watched as they soared away in between the mountains and vanished into the mist.
Turning again, Li began the process of picking up the bodies of the two soldiers, and throwing them one by one over the cliff. If they were ever found, the others would think that these two had been blasted off of the mountain by an airbender and killed by the fall. Picking up their weapons, he threw them as well before he turned and began his way back toward the courtyard where he had finished his climb.
It was all but over now. Soldiers were prodding the Air Nomad bodies, insuring that none of them were faking death. He refused to acknowledge this, knowing that there was nothing he could do. In the courtyard, Captain Zhang was having a discussion with various subordinates.
"Sergeant Ten, I assume that you got a kill today," he said when he noticed the Sergeant. Li didn't answer, but rather drew his sword and showed the bloodstains to his superior. Zhang's look turned into that of a psychotic grin, a thirst for blood they had just barely been quenched.
"Well done. Gentlemen upon this historic day, the four Air Temples burn, and the Air Nomads are no more! Soon, we shall conquer all under heaven in the name of Fire Lord Sozin, and we shall forge whatever course we want!" he shouted. Cheers and cries of approval went up from the soldiers, each one of them wanting to do exactly what the Captain had just described.
All of them except for Li. The only thing he wanted to do was vomit at the thought of the horrors that were about to descend upon the world.
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