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Book One: Rise and Fall
This is the third chapter of. In it, a new antagonist is introduced.
Lin is caught stealing supplies from a shop; Po leaves Gust in a fit of determination and brashness; a sinister character is introduced.
Outskirts of Omashu
I disembarked Sao Feng's ship without a word. I ignored the glances of the other pirates, disliking their sneers that seemed to call me a coward. I resisted the urge to shout something, to take out my sword and slice the smug expressions off their faces. But it didn't matter; they didn't deserve the energy.
What did I do to deserve such a reaction? Well, I had been right to be wary of being on board a ship full of dirty, uncouth men. No fewer than three of them had tried. . . But it's best not to dwell on the unpleasant details.
I wandered into the market of the village, crowded with shoppers. I considered asking someone how far Omashu was, but decided it would be suspicious if I revealed my ignorance. Instead, I ducked into a side alley and opened my pack.
I had diminished much of my food supplies while making my way to Minh, as well as at sea, where I had alternated between being famished and being nauseous. I counted my money and realized that I hadn't had much currency to start with. I'd have to steal the food I needed, but I'd have to wait until nightfall.
I walked over to the outside of a general store and hid behind a trash bin. I sat down and got comfortable, watching as customers walked in and out. Finally, just after sunset, the store owner flipped a sign inside and walked out, locking the door behind him.
I waited for another hour, until the square had become deserted. By then, the sky was completely dark; not even the stars were shining due to the heavy cloud cover. I stood and made my way to the back of the store, where I knew there would be a back door.
I found the door and tried to pry it open. Miraculously, the shop owner had been foolhardy enough to leave it unlocked. I slid the door open and stepped inside.
I lit a small flame in the palm of my hand and walked into the main part of the store. The aisles were labeled neatly and I walked to the very end, where there were various printed items. I found a map of the East and placed it into my bag. Then, I went straight to the grain aisle.
I stuffed ten small packages of rice into my pack while constantly shifting my gaze to the window. Fortunately, not even the moon shone in the sky tonight, and the shop I was in didn't have any kind of alarm.
I then walked up to a shelf, eying the merchandise that lined it. I caught sight of a sewing kit and took it; it would come in handy, especially as the clothes I wore would start to wear out.
A tapping sound came from outside. I cupped my hand, snuffing out the small flame, and spun around and unsheathed my sword.
A tall, handsome young man carrying a lantern peered at me from outside. His expression was that of surprise. I remained frozen as he reached into a pocket and took out a key. He unlocked the door to the shop and pushed it open. He held the lantern up to my face and said, "You have some explaining to do."
Po held the candle over the scroll Su gave him, trying to read about the beginning of the four nations and the Avatar. According to the scroll, the nations and the Avatar originated around the same time.
"'The Avatar is the keeper of the balance of the world,'" Po read. "'They are responsible for maintaining peace and general order and are often called upon to settle disputes between nations.'"
Po sighed and put the candle on the ground. He didn't want to be the Avatar, but he owed it to his grandfather to make a tangible effort. He felt this new burden physically, as if his shoulders were being weighted down.
How was he going to go about fixing the world? All benders had disappeared, either hiding their abilities, dead, or imprisoned; most that were still around were unskilled. The world also happened to be filled with pitiful, oppressed people, people that wouldn't respond well to a revolution, unless their tempers were just waiting to explode. . .
Po brightened; he could arrange that "explosion."
He picked the candle up and continued to read, learning about the Avatar Cycle. He blinked sleepily as he contemplated heading north, to where he was sure to find a Waterbender, even if he was yet to become a competent Airbender.
Then his eyes glanced over something unusual: the Spirit World.
He had always thought the Spirit World was a myth, something invented to give people hope. Now, he seemed to be reading something quite contrary.
The Avatar was the bridge to the Spirit World; perhaps the spirits could help him!
Po blew out his candle, engulfing himself in darkness. He'd think about his new "duties" later. Now, he had a journey to arrange.
"I'm sorry about your grandfather, Po," said a sympathetic voice from behind him. Po turned to see Su standing outside the window, which he'd left open. "It's fine," said Po. "I guess it was his time."
Su raised an eyebrow. "You're not upset?" she asked, surprised.
"Of course I am," said Po. "It's just that I have a lot to deal with right now." He wasn't lying; his grandfather's revelation had taken the edge off any depression Po might have had concerning his death.
Su looked as if she was going to inquire, but instead, she waved and departed. Po sighed. Part of him wanted to tell her, but the rest of him knew it was best that no one know. He then glanced at the floor, where his tote stood open, ready to receive food.
After he placed his culinary supplies in his bag, he contemplated what else he needed to bring. He grabbed a nearby bundle of clothing and stuffed them into the bag. Then, he eyed a wooden staff that lay on a shelf above the fireplace.
The staff had belonged to his great-grandmother, who had been an Airbender in the "old days." Her son, his grandfather, had told him that wooden staffs were often used to enhance Airbending. Po, however, had never been allowed to use it; his grandfather had considered it too precious, a relic of the way the world once was.
Po gently lifted it off the shelf. At the very least, he could use it as a walking stick. He rubbed a protrusion on the side of the smooth wood and gently pressed it. To his very great surprise, wooden wings unfolded. The staff was a glider!
Po then felt a strange yearning, a longing for a time and place where being an Airbender was not only allowed, but also glorifying. He wanted to learn how to Airbend, how to evade and attack, and most of all, how to fly.
"I can fix this," he said to himself, folding the wings of the glider. "I can make it so that others like me can bend freely."
He placed the staff beside his tote, which he closed and shouldered. He picked up the staff and prepared to leave, but hesitated when he caught sight of Su's scroll lying on the table. He grabbed it and slipped it into his pocket, then left his home.
Po surreptitiously made his way through his village. When he approached the limits, he exhaled a sigh of relief, glad that no one had thought to question him; leaving Gust was frowned upon, especially if it was for a long time.
He had reached the worn, stone staircase that led to the bottom of the mountain. Po was ready to head north.
Hanta pulled his hood closer to his face, trying not to attract unwanted attention. He fidgeted on his barstool and signaled for the bartender to get him another gin. He glanced furtively over his shoulder just in time to see a soldier with Lord Zen's insignia, a golden tongue of flame, on his armor.
The soldier marched straight to the bar and sat down at Hanta's right. The bartender gave Hanta his gin and turned to the soldier and smiled slightly.
"Hello, General Wai," said the bartender in a rather shaky voice. "Would you like your usual drink?"
"No thank-you, Ling," said General Wai. "I'm here on a social call."
As the bartender walked away to serve a new customer, Wai reached into a pocket in his armor and pulled out a small slip of paper, which he placed on the bar and pushed it slightly to the left. Hanta picked it up and covertly examined it.
"How much?" Hanta asked out of the corner of his mouth.
"As much as you want," responded General Wai. "Lord Zen wants her taken care of; he fears she knows something and that she has enough power to use that something."
"So this is what Fuqin's daughter looks like," commented Hanta quietly, examining the crude drawing on the paper with a calculating expression.
"You're to remove her from the picture," said Wai with a touch of impatience. "What you are not to do is make her the focus of one of your 'manly urges.'"
Hanta rolled his eyes. "I do what I have to in order to get the job done," he told the general.
"Don't overstep yourself," said Wai. He stood up to leave; he disliked dealing with Hanta. The last time he had met him, it had been in a quiet secluded place. He would never again make the mistake of meeting that man with no witnesses around.
"What's her name again?" asked Hanta.
"It's written on the paper," Wai said in an irritated voice.
Hanta crumpled the paper in his fist, then opened his palm. A flame ignited on the paper and slowly reduced it to ash. "What paper?" Hanta inquired ironically. Wai sighed and said, "Her name is Lin."
- This goes to show that there are conspiracies even in imaginary governments (watch "The Earth King" again if you don't believe me).
- "Hanta" means "hunter" in Japanese.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Fleeting Peace Chapters|
|Book 1: Rise and Fall|
|Disagreements - Handle with Care - Glimpses - Alliances - Curses - Idle - Half-Empty - Addition and Division - The Snitch - Revelations|
|Book 2: Success and Failure|
|Explanations - Omens - Looking Back - Factors - Ulterior Motives, Part 1: Jealousy - Ulterior Motives, Part 2: The Grandson - Shifting Tides - Repetition|
|Book 3: Cause and Effect|