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the twenty-second day of april, twenty-fourteen

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I am strong and sturdy. I have survived three earthquakes and a flood. The war, stretching on for miles and years and spreading throughout many more worlds than anyone can possibly fathom, has not yet touched me.

I feel it now, though, reaching out wispy tendrils. It clings to the backs of the two weary travellers; two travellers who could be considered three, who are lying together on a moth-eaten mattress, keeping each other warm.

The heavy vestiges of war creep along the icy road, marking a trail to my doorstep. I can hear, in the distance, more than just catowls and wolfbats. I can hear, through the dense fog that has begun to settle, the murmurs of men and the crackle of fire.

The small family is sleeping; they don't hear the strangers. I feel, through their heavy steps and angered words, that they are not out to do good. I feel, in their hearts, the anger that has been bubbling for some time has finally overflowed, boiling to the surface.

I feel that it is because of the small family resting deep within my belly.

They have not awoken, even as the strangers come closer, and it won't be long before I am seen. I don't know why, after years of peace, such sudden activity finds me, and yet I find myself not caring, either.

I give a small rumble, awakening the man. He kisses the woman on the temple, nuzzling into her neck. I am prepared to give another small shake—a creak—when he hears what I wished to warn him about. He hears the voices.

His heart thumps loudly, resonating though my walls and floors. I watch, agitated, the mice and other small rodents scurrying through my halls as testament to this fact, as he gently shakes the woman awake. They move silently, as he has not the courage to light a small flame to guide the way.

The voices are closer, loud and jeering. They're coming. I can feel them on my lawn, the vast, overgrown wilderness. One drops his torch, but doesn't bother to pick it up. I can already foresee the flames destroying me, and with it this small family who has sought refuge. They are under my protection; I cannot allow that to happen.

I time myself. I wait for the right moment. A door slams, and I throw up the entrance to my cellar. I whisper with the wind, leading them to safety. They pause, and I urge them on. It is not me who convinces them to go.

They hear the voices.

The men are at my entrance; they are stepping through my door. He moves first, entering the small sanctuary before taking the woman's hand and guiding her down the steps. I hold off the intruders as long as I can with debris and broken doors, but the number of earthbenders in the crowd prove my efforts futile. The man shuts the door only seconds before the enemy storms the room.

He kisses the woman, slow and tender.

They are safe. They will survive.

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