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Calm Before The Storm
The day after the meeting everyone was taking a rest. Everyone was bothered that an enemy still threatened the world. Aang and Katara had gone to their room to discuss what this new threat meant for their future. Sokka had been pacing around the palace, muttering how he got dragged into every possible war, while Suki followed, agreeing with him. Toph was the only one who was excited, as she wanted to break some heads like the good old times. Mai was not fazed by the news of another war, so she helped Zuko, who was extremly worried about how he could lead the Fire Nation through this new war. Ty Lee had sat down in her room, wondering what this war would bring. Jason was in the courtyard; However, he was not nervous.
On the contrary, he was angry. The shadowbenders had caused all his problems. They had forced him to flee here. They had possibly enslaved his world, including his family. He was going to beat the shadowbenders here. And once he could find a way to free his home, he was going to kick every single shadowbender back to their prison, and with Aang's help, his world could be protected from the shadowbenders too. Then his life could finally go back to normal again, though he never forget this world.
In the throne room, Mai and Zuko had been in a heated discussion for an hour or two at the most.
"Zuko, why do you doubt yourself?" Mai asked.
"Because last time the Fire Nation was the cause of a war! How can I say that we have to fight an enemy again so soon after the other war? You know many people don't like the new policies! If I call a war now, those that hate me shall use the dislike as ammunition for riots or even revolution!"
"Zuko, listen to yourself! Revolutions? Riots? The only people who oppose the new policies are nationalist fools who want the Fire Nation to go back to thier old ways! No one would listen to them, Zuko. Those people are old coots. Look, if anything, we at least need some proof that the shadowbenders are enough of a threat to call a war on them. I'm gonna go; this meeting's getting everyone in a knot, and I don't want to be part of that knot." Mai said, and walked out, closing the door slowly behind her.
"Why do I put myself in these situations?" Zuko muttered to himself, and calling in the guard outside the throne room. "Guard, can you please get me some food?"
"Yes, your Highness," the guard answered.
And once again, Firelord Zuko was alone.
Almost at the same time Mai and Zuko argued, two guards were having a private discussion as well.
"Dai Lu, how are we going to do this? The Avatar and his friends are here! How are we supposed to fight all of them?"
"Have faith, Keidan. The Avatar and his friends are oblivious to our presence, even the earthbender. Also, they are distracted and disoriented by their news. The Firelord is as well, and once we have the chance, we will be able to land the final strike, for the honor of our lifes, and of our new world." Dai Lu said calmly, lowering his voice to a whisper, "Once the Firelord is out of the way, the new world order can finally gain a foothold in this land, and once the rest of the world follows, our victory shall be as sweet as the juice of a mango on our lips."
"I hope you're right Dai Lu..." Keidan said.
"Believe me. I escorted every one of his 'allies' to the courtyard. By the time they find out, we'll be out of the city."
Both of them jumped as a guard said hello to them.
"Are you okay?" the guard asked.
"Oh, no worries. We were just talking and you surprised us, that's all." Keidan said quickly.
The guard gave the two a strange look, than said, "Well, the Firelord wants some food. It's been a long day for him, it seems. Anyway, will you two rookies be able to handle bringing food to the Firelord? I'd do it, but there seems to be a problem in the kitchens that I need to see to, and I don't want to make the Firelord mad, so will you do it?"
"With pleasure. We would be glad to help a fellow guard." Dai Lu said with a devious grin, and with the two platters of food Dai Lu and Keidan walked off to see the Firelord.
Finally, they were at the doors to the throne room. Keidan was still hesitant, so Dai Lu tried to reassure him.
"Remember Keidan, it has to be quiet, or else we'll be heard." Dai Lu reminded him.
"Okay, let's do this!" Keidan said, and with a push of the door, he and Dai Lu waltzed into the throne room.
Jason was pacing in the gardens, still angry about the shadowbenders. He was so angry he didn't notice a man walk behind him.
"Brooding over things is not good for you," Iroh said, startling Jason. "Especially for those whose lives have been divided."
"What are you talking about?" Jason said angrily, but Iroh simply chuckled.
"You are so much like my nephew, yet so different. There are many ways to deal with feelings, young Jason. Brooding and keeping them inside only makes it worse. Eventually, your control will snap. Then, the results are never pretty." Iroh said.
"I'm fine." Jason said, but Iroh frowned.
"Really? So you think that the idea of your family, your world, enslaved is good?"
"Of course not! How could you think that?"
"I don't. An old friend of mine once told me that in order for your mind to be at peace, your soul must be too. Do you understand?" Iroh asked.
"Sure." Jason answered simply.
"I pray you do." Iroh said before walking away.
Jason thought for a minute before walking off as well. He had to ask Zuko what Iroh had meant.
"So you've brought me my food?" Zuko asked.
"Not exactly." Dai Lu said. He and Keidan dropped the platters of food.
"Asassins," Zuko answered.
"More like helpers of a nation wanting revenge, but you can say assasins." Dai Lu said as Keidan locked the heavy doors behind them.
"You'll never get away with it. The Avatar is here, as well as all his friends, who are mine as well. They'll come running as soon as they hear our struggle, and believe me, there's gonna be a struggle." Zuko said as fire daggers appeared in his hands.
"I don't think so. Keidan, now!" Dai Lu yelled, and before Zuko had a chance to move, two streams of darkness shot out from their hands and hit Zuko, levitating him in the air.
"Shadow... Benders. I should... Have guessed... Agh!" Zuko gasped, as the bolts were painful.
"Pin him now!" Dai Lu said, and slammed Zuko to the ground. Keidan drew the shadow back toward him and shot it at a pillar, and using the shadow pulled down part of the pillar on Zuko.
"Damn... you," Zuko said through gritted teeth.
Dai Lu smiled wickedly. "You're welcome, 'Firelord'."
Jason had been outside the throne room door since Keidan locked it. Since he was curious, he put his ear to the door, and had heard the whole conversation. Now, he was trying to find another way in, a way the dumb shadowbenders forgot to block. Looking up, he saw a vent on top of the doors. Judging by the way it looked, it seemed big enough for him to crawl through. But how to get there? Jason knew there was only one way up there, and that was by climbing the door. He took a few steps back, and with a cry, ran toward the door and jumped. He was able to land on top of the door, and he heaved himself up to the vent. With a few strong tugs, the vent grate was pulled of and dropped to the floor as Jason crawled in. Fortunately, the other grate wasn't hard to pull off quietly, and once the cover was gone, he peeked down. He saw Zuko pinned down by a piece of a pillar. Near Zuko, he was able to see two men, one who was laughing. Jason guessed that the two men must be the shadowbenders. One of the shadowbenders moved close to the vent, and Jason saw his chance to strike.
"Yaaaa!" Jason cried as he shot out of the vent onto the man's back, and tried to trip him as the man was trying to buck him off.
"Dai Lu!" the other man said, and with a flick of his wrist flung a lash of shadow at Jason, which blasted him off Dai Lu's back.
"Dumb kid. Let's take care of him Keidan." Dai Lu said.
"But we were only-" Keidan began.
"We can't have some fun?" Dai Lu said, and turned to Jason. However, when Dai Lu turned around, his eyes blazed with recognition. "I know you."
"How the hell do you know me?" Jason snapped.
"You're the other one; you're the one that escaped."
Toph was walking in the corridors toward the kitchen when she felt it. A slam, from somewhere within the palace.
"That's not good." Toph muttered to herself and went to find the rest of the gang. Soon everyone but Jason and Zuko had gathered at the garden.
"Why you bring us here Toph?" Mai asked.
"I think something's up. I felt a slam, and it wasn't like a foot slam. It was like a giant slam. And I think Zuko and Jason might be in trouble, seeing as they're not here." Toph answered.
"Well, we gotta find them! If Zuko's killed the Fire Nation is going to be crippled, and if Jason dies he'll never return home!" Suki said.
"We'll split up." Toph said, "The palace is huge. They could be anywhere."
"Alright, time for Team Avatar to save the day!" Sokka exclaimed.
"What do you mean I was the one who escaped?" Jason asked angrily.
"You're the one who escaped the world we destroyed," Dai Lu said plainly. "When we needed power to break that seal, we used the shadows from your world, which we discovered while in our prison. Fortunately, when we drained that pathetic world of it's shadow, it burned to dust, along with the rest of it's wretched population. We missed you though."
"You're lying!" Jason yelled madly, sinking to his knees, "You're lying!"
"Why would we lie about the very thing that brought us to triumph, or at least will soon?" Dai Lu said, smiling his wicked smile.
"Dai, why torure him?" Keidan said softly.
"Because the boy is pathetic like the rest of his people, that's why!" Dai Lu said. "He deserves a pathetic end!"
"Leave... him... alone." Zuko groaned.
"Shut your mouth." Dai Lu said at Zuko. "Anyway, how does it feel to be the last of your kind? Well, untill we kill you." Dai Lu said nastly, "You were so afraid, you fled your own home. Alone. How does it feel to be a coward?"
"Dai Lu!" Keidan said, surprised. "Have some pity!"
"Hmph, this boy doesn't deserve it." Dai Lu said, and continued his nasty banter.
Unknown to anyone, Jason had been hearing this tirade of insults as if he were far away. His mind seemed like a string to him, so fragile, so tense. He realized then that the string was about to break. At first he resisted, as he knew that if he let go, it would not be good. But as the tirade continued, his resolution sunk as his anger, his rage, grew. His thinking, his very sight, became clouded in a dark haze.
Finally, he let go.
And the string snapped.
Dai Lu was continuing his string of insults when Jason rose his head, and with a massive sweep of his arm, lashed Dai Lu and Keidan across the room with a whip of darkness.
"He can shadowbend?!" Dai Lu said surprised.
"You're a genius Dai Lu, a real genius! I told you to-" Keidan started, but he was cut off as a massive blast of shadow from Jason sent them through the palace wall, right into a house outside the palace.
"Let's get out of here!" Keidan said, and they started to run. Jason walked over to the hole, looked at Zuko, and ran out to chase the shadowbenders.
After Jason left, the doors to the throne room blasted open by a pillar of earth, and the gang rushed in with Toph in the lead.
"Zuko!" Mai cried, and with Aang and Toph's help they lifted the pillar off Zuko long enough for Mai to pull him out.
"What happened here?" Katara asked.
"Shadowbenders. They came to kill me. Jason came and was trying to help and... Oh, geez, I don't want to say what. But he's out of control now. He trying to kill the other shadowbenders, using shadow."
"He can shadowbend? I knew he was a traitor!" Sokka said.
"No, Sokka, the shadowbenders were making Jason destructive."
"How do you know?"
"Because before Jason left, he looked at me, and what I saw was a bit weird."
"What?" Aang asked.
"His eyes, they weren't brown anymore. They were black."
Keidan and Dai Lu were hiding behind a building, wondering whether they would survive this. Suddenly, the house was blasted in half.
"Dammit! C'mon, lets get out of here!" Dai Lu said again.
As quickly as they could, they ran down the street, as Jason shot bolt after bolt after them. They leaped on the roofs and split up to confuse Jason, but he shot both with shadow and slammed them together. He tried to strike them with a shadow whip, but they formed a shield of darkness and blocked the whip, though they were thrown back. They landed at the gates to the lower Harbor City. Pushing the guards aside, they blasted the gates open and ran out. Jason followed, and jumped off the gate toward the shadowbenders. Dai Lu blindly blasted Jason off the path, but he grabbed on to the edge and flung himself back on the path, still trying to blast Dai Lu and Keidan off the face of the volcano. Finally, they reached the Harbour City. But before Keidan could take a step, Jason finally was able to hit him with a bolt of shadow. Before Keidan or Dai Lu could make a move, Jason caught Keidan with a stream of shadow, and with a mighty heave threw him halfway across town. A crumbling house marked the place where Keidan landed. Dai Lu tried to run but Jason sent him flying with a shadowy whip. Dai Lu stood up, only to find Jason glaring at him. Dai Lu got angry then.
"You wanna fight, punk? Well bring it!" Dai Lu cried, and he and Jason began to fight.
Aang had blown his bison whistle to call Appa, and in no time, the gang was flying over the battle between Dai Lu and Jason.
"My God..." Zuko said. Jason and Dai Lu were battling hard. Jason was overwhelming, makes giant blasts and whips, but Dai Lu was blocking them, though with difficulty, and countering just as well.
"Man, I can hear the battle from here." Toph said in awe.
"If they keep going like this, they're going to destory the city!" Mai said.
"I think the duel's about to end; look." Aang said.
Aang was correct. Jason had gained the upper hand in the battle, and had finally got a good hit on Dai Lu. Dai Lu started to get up, but Jason had other ideas. Two dark trendrils rose out of the ground, and with a move from Jason, impaled Dai Lu. Dai Lu's face was one of shock, before Jason split the two trendrils apart, tearing Dai Lu's body in half, ending Dai Lu's life.
"Maybe he'll stop now?" Aang asked hopefully. Jason looked around, and destroyed another house.
"Not untill I stop him." Zuko said, and before anyone could protest, he jumped down and blocked Jason's shadow blast with a balst of fire from his hand.
"Jason, stop! Keidan and Dai Lu are gone! You don't have to attack anymore! Please, stop!" Zuko pleaded.
Jason looked at Zuko for a minute, but what Zuko saw in his face was anger. Brutal anger, and he knew what the answer was before it was even answered. Jason shot a whip of darkness at Zuko, but Toph jumped down and slammed on the ground, creating a massive earth shield in front of the two. Aang jumped off Appa also and air swiped Jason into the building near them.
"Zuko, you and the rest of the gang go and help the citizens escape to the Royal Plaza. I'll keep Jason busy. I might be able to stop him." Aang said.
"We can't leave you!" Katara protested, but as she said that, the house started to rumble.
"We have no choice! I'm the only one powerful enough to face him. Go!" Aang cried.
"C'mon, we've gotta get out of here Katara!" Sokka said from atop of Appa.
"Fine, but don't expect me to like it." Katara said.
A whip of shadow appeared from broken house.
"Now!" Aang said, and Katara got to the reins and Appa flew off. At that moment the whip had found its target, and slammed Aang into the stall next to him.
"This is going to be a long fight." Aang muttered.
Zuko was running on the ground, gathering any stray villagers in the city and directing them to the Plaza. Finally, all of the commoners were at the Plaza.
"I hope the Avatar is okay." the commander of the Plaza Guard said.
"He'll be okay," Zuko said, looking at Katara. "He has to be."
Aang crashed into another house, courtesy of an arc of shadow from Jason. Aang sent a massive gust of air at Jason, but a blast of shadow cut the current in half, and Aang barely had time to jump to avoid the blast. Jason lost sight of him for a few seconds.
"Jason, get a hold of yourself!" Aang cried, but all it did was betray his position, and Jason sent a storm of dark shards at Aang. Aang created an earthen shield out of the ground, and after the shard exploded off the shield, he levitated the rock out of the ground and shot it at Jason. A cloud of dust rose when the rock landed, and when it blew off, Jason was nowhere to be seen.
"Where did you..." Aang wondered, then realization hit him. Looking up, he saw Jason in mid-jump, and he was blasted away as a swipe of shadow found its mark. Aang stood up groggily, only to be hit by another arc of shadow. Aang got up quickly, but Jason hit the two houses next to him with bolts of shadow, and smashed them together. Aang had no time to jump, so he encased himself on a ball of earth as the two house collided around him. After the collision Aang opened the ball and jumped out, landing on top of the ruined remains of the houses. He jumped to the ground and ran incredibly fast in a circle, creating a tornado. Jason was beginning to fling another arc of shadow at him, but Aang shot the tornado before he had the chance, and Jason was caught in the tornado's path. The tornado spun him around and around and finally spit him out by slamming him into a stall of cabbages. Jason leaped out, mostly unharmed, and Aang knew he had to go to extreme measures to beat Jason. With a flash from his eyes, he created two gigantic fire whips and attempted to strike Jason. Though Aang got close, Jason kept deflecting the whips using bolts of shadow and good timing.
"Enough!" Aang said, and as Jason watched, air, fire, water, and earth were starting to circle around Aang, making a sphere...
The people watched in amazement as water from the harbour began to rise, like if it had a mind of its own. Only the gang knew what it meant. Aang was in the Avatar State. He was about to end the fight.
"Man, how can Jason still be fighting that Aang has to go into the Avatar State? Aang's the Avatar!" Toph said.
'Because he's angry. He can't control himself." Zuko said.
"But Zuko, what could have the shadowbenders possibly said that made him that angry?" Ty Lee asked.
"The destruction of his home." Zuko replied, and he told all of them about what had happened in the throne room.
"Oh my God," Ty Lee said, horrified. "I think I know why he killed Dai Lu."
"Yeah. But if even Aang is having a hard time fighting him, how are we going to stop him?" Zuko said, looking over to where Aang and Jason were fighting. Ty Lee suddenly got up.
"I know how to stop Jason," Ty Lee said. "I have to get to where they're fighting."
"What? Are you crazy, Ty Lee? I command you to stay!" Suki said.
"I'm sorry Suki, but this is for the fate of the city." Ty Lee said before running off.
"Damn! How are we supposed to follow her when we have to make sure the people are okay?" Zuko said angrily.
"Go. We will watch them." the commander said, startling Zuko.
"But if I leave..." Zuko said.
"The citizens will admire you for trying to save your people. They will understand if you go to save the city. As for their safety, if you don't help soon, it might not matter." The commander said, and Zuko nodded.
"Let's go." Zuko said, and without another word, the gang followed Ty Lee.
The sphere was powerful. Every shot Jason made with shadows was deflected by the sphere's elements. Eventually, Aang lowered himself to the ground, and reshaped the sphere into a single blast, and shot it at Jason. Jason countered with his own massive shadow blast, and the two collided. The blasts were evenly powerful, and neither got any closer to their targets. Suddenly, Jason dropped to the ground. Aang was so surprised he didn't see what was going to come next. With a spin, Jason shot an arc of darkness at Aang's feet, tripping him. When Aang was about to hit the ground, Jason used both his feet and hands to blast Aang. Aang landed with a thud, and upon trying to get up, saw Jason fly into the air and was about to obliterate him with a giant sphere of darkness. Aang's eyes flashed again, and he just made an air barrier in time to shield himself from Jason's attack. Jason was suspended in the air by the sphere, which was still trying to break Aang's air barrier. Aang knew he couldn't hold the barrier for long; beads of sweat were already beginning to run down his face. He made the air pulse, and with every throb the pulse got bigger. Finally, the throb was so big, when it hit the dark sphere, it shattered and exploded. Jason was thrown into a house nearby, while Aang finally released the air in the barrier. Aang was so exhausted, he could barely move. But, to his horror, some debris was pushed away, and Jason climbed out of the ruins. How could he have survived? Aang didn't know. All he knew was that his life was about to end. Jason created another dark sphere and leaped. However, he was tackled in mid-air, and he and his assailant landed a few feet away.
"What are you doing?!" Aang cried. "Ty Lee, you're crazy... ugh!" Aang doubled over in pain.
"Aang!" Katara cried and she ran ahead of the group.
"What are you guys doing here?" Aang asked.
"Did you think we were gonna let you have all the fun?" Toph said.
"I think Ty Lee is, look!" Mai said, pointing at the two. Jason was trying to buck Ty Lee off, who still hadn't hit the ground yet Jason was moving so much. Finally, Ty Lee used the momentum of the last buck to plant herself in the ground, rendering Jason immobile.
"Jason, listen to me! This is not how you get revenge! This is not-" Ty Lee started. However, before Ty Lee could finish, Jason screamed, and a huge explosion of energy followed.
"Ty Lee!" Suki screamed, and tried to rush into the nova, but she was thrown back.
"Suki, I'm sorry, but now it's up to Ty Lee..." Sokka said sadly
Ty Lee had thought the pain would be much worse. It was painful, but easily bearable.
"Jason, listen, I know you're angry, but this is not the way to do it! Please, stop!" Ty Lee begged. Jason stopped screaming, but the vortex continued.
"Jason, listen, we all have felt pain before! Aang, Katara, Zuko, everybody! But if you obliterate everything in sight, what will that do?" Ty Lee asked. "Please!" she begged again. Then she felt it. The vortex, it was shrinking! Not much, but still, she had to keep trying.
"Jason, please, stop for the people who live here! Stop for world that gave you safety!" Ty Lee said, and with each word the nova got smaller, "Do it for us! Oh, dang it, do it for the honor of your family!" Ty Lee screamed, as the vortex only surrounded them now. Then what seemed like a miracle happened. Jason shed a single, small tear, and as it fell off his face he fell also. The vortex dissapated as Jason fell, only to be caught by the gang.
"His breathing is shallow." Katara said urgently, "That's not a good sign. We got to get him some medicine, fast!"
"I'll call Appa, he'll get us to the Palace fast enough." Aang said, blew on the bison whistle.
As the gang helped lift Jason onto Appa's saddle, everyone had only one thought on their mind.
What had happened to Jason?
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Book One: Air|
|Visions - - - - - - - - - - - -|