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Book One: Deceit
Writer Who Still Hasn't Made An Account
March 27, 2010
Kya stared intensely at the ceiling of her bedroom, her blue eyes thoughtful as she imagined the journey on which she would be embarking the next day. A slight smile touched her lips when she remembered the way that Liv had stormed across the courtyard to inform them of the decision reached by the Reconstruction Council. She had been red in the face and absolutely fuming, her amber gaze drilling into Rohan as she complained about how much of a nuisance the trip would be.
The tiny smile widened to a grin as Kya pictured her best friend's reaction once again. Rohan, for his part, had met the news with total indifference, as though Liv's annoyance did nothing to unsettle him. Those two... They could be so ridiculous. They cared about each other – way, way deep down – but they were both just too stubborn to get along for more than a few seconds at a time.
Kya let out a long sigh, the light-hearted smile vanishing from her face. At first, the idea of being part of an official peace-keeping party had seemed interesting and exciting. Now, however, it was finally beginning to sink in. This was a revolt they were going to put down. Things could easily become violent, and what would happen if one of them got hurt? What would they do then?
Closing her eyes, Kya turned onto her side and curled her legs up to her chest. With the warmth of her favorite sleeping position spreading throughout her body, a comfortable sense of security settled over her mind. She knew that worrying about the possible dangers of the mission would have no benefit, and there was no point in losing sleep over something that she could not control...
With these last thoughts in mind, Kya exhaled deeply and allowed the heavy opiate of sleep to lull her into peaceful nothingness.
In a crowded arena
Kya whipped around, eyes wide with eager excitement as she glimpsed her prize where it lay waiting for her, just a few feet away. Her blue irises shone in the harsh light of the sunset, and gleaming tawny flecks suddenly stood out against the dominant color.
This was it. This was the moment she had been waiting for – all she had ever wanted from life.
Countless scoops of dark, cold, creamy goodness sat inside the hollow part of the trophy. Lines of liquefied chocolate and strawberry ran down its golden sides, dripping to the ground with a slow, mouth-watering rhythm.
Kya's entire body tingled as a pleasant, generic tenor shouted above the roar of the wildly cheering audience. She closed her eyes and crossed her fingers, sending a silent prayer to the spirits as she awaited his declaration.
"The winner of this year's Annual Ice Cream Rodeo... Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for KYA!"
Grinning widely, Kya urged her huge, chocolate-flavored elephant-bull forward. Finally, the trophy was hers! That delicious, flavor-filled treat was all hers to devour. Her family and friends would be so proud! And there it was, right in front of her, as her mouth got closer and closer...
A moment later...
Kya groaned, pressing her palm against her head as she landed unceremoniously on her back in the damp earth. Blinking a few times to clear her aching mind, she tilted her head back to see what she had collided with.
A tree. That was what had come between her and her delectable reward. A stupid, stinking tree.
"No," she complained aloud. "Not again!"
"Uh... Are you okay?"
Kya leaped to her feet and spun around to face the source of the unfamiliar voice. He was a tall man, probably in his early twenties, with a calm face and eyes the color of dark gray storm clouds. His head was smooth and hairless, marked by an arrow-shaped tattoo that began on his forehead and extended back until it disappeared at the neckline of his shirt.
"You're an airbender!" Kya exclaimed in excited recognition.
The man blinked and drew back a bit, most likely out of surprise at her outburst. A hesitant smile touched his lips, and his fingers rose to sweep gently over the pale blue arrow.
"Observant," he remarked kindly. "And you are...?"
"Oh! Aw... How cute!"
Kya shoved past the airbender, squealing delightedly as she skidded to a stop beside a giant mound of black and white fur. The panda lifted its head to gaze at Kya through a pair of warm, deep brown eyes.
"That's Hei Bai," the man informed her. "He and I were just out for a walk – "
"He's adorable!" Kya gushed. "And I've never seen such a big panda before! He must be special."
"Um, yeah. Yeah, he is."
Kya patted Hei Bai absent-mindedly, looking around to take in her surroundings. The area was swampy, almost unpleasantly so, and distorted, as though something had sucked the life out of the earth itself. The trees were tall and leafless with thick branches that reached up toward the yellow-tinted sky. And yet, somehow, an odd sort of presence hung over the entire place. It was almost as though something could spring to life out of the barren ground at any second.
"Huh," Kya commented casually. "For a dream, this is pretty cool. So, I assume you live around here. Can you give me directions? I'd like to go back to the Ice Cream Rodeo and collect my trophy."
"I've, um... Never heard of the Ice Cream Rodeo," the airbender replied. "But, if you'd like, I'll show you the way out of here."
"Well, I'd rather get that ice cream... But I'll have other chances to get it. Sure, that'd be great!"
The man nodded, his expression almost uncomfortable, and motioned in the direction from which Kya was sure she had just come. Kya hesitated for a moment before remembering that creepers did not exist in the realm of dreams, then followed him into the thick tangle of lifeless trees and brush. Hei Bai walked by her side, padding along watchfully as though he meant to protect her from something.
"So..." Kya said, desperate to break the silence that had settled over the small group. "You know, you remind me a lot of my brother. I mean, he's an airbender too, but he isn't bald or anything! He's pretty much in love with his hair. Mom says that he looks a lot like our dad."
"Your father is an airbender?" her companion inquired, glancing at her briefly.
"Yep!" Kya replied. "But he died a long time ago, so I don't remember him... Oh, maybe you knew him! His name was Aang. You know, the Avatar."
The airbender paused, his lips parting for an instant, as though he had meant to exclaim something aloud. A moment later, however, his face calmed back into relaxed curiosity, and he continued forward.
"I guess you could say I knew him," he told her.
Kya opened her mouth to ask what he meant, but she never got the chance. Before them was an impressive stone arch, standing upon the only piece of completely dry earth that she had seen yet. Kya stepped over to it and raised one hand to touch the ancient stone.
"I wonder if I've had this dream before," she mused. "This feels familiar..."
"That is the passageway back to your home," the airbender informed her. "It should lead directly to the place from where you entered."
Kya turned to face him and smiled excitedly.
"Yes! You mean I get to go back to the Ice Cream Rodeo!?"
"Um, perhaps. If that's where you really came from, this arch will take you back there."
"Well, thanks for bringing me here!" Kya said, stepping between the pillars. "Oh, I never introduced myself! I'm Kya. What's your name?"
Hei Bai moved forward, meeting her gaze with his timeless brown eyes. Then he reared up on his hind legs, exhaling a fine plume of silver smoke directly into the space where Kya stood. Kya felt a chilling coolness wash over her body, replaced by a warm tiredness. She looked up, awaiting the airbender's answer, and was surprised to see that he no longer regarded her with serene nonchalance. Rather, his gray eyes were stretched wide with shock as he stared straight ahead, seeming to see right through her.
Kya whipped around to see what could have caused such an expression, but it was too late. The world in front of her had faded to black, leaving her to continue with her senseless dreams...
The airbender stood in the center of the clearing, eyes still widened. He bit down hard on his lower lip, then forced his tense body to relax.
"Aang," he whispered. "My name's Aang."
The next morning
"You'll be a good girl while we're gone, won't you?"
Kya smiled as the heap of black and white fur gave a rumbling growl of agreement. Standing on the tips of her toes, she reached up to scratch behind the ears of her beloved pet. Kya had desperately wanted to bring her companion along for the journey, but she knew it would not be fair. After all, a cramped ship was no place for a fully-grown orca-tiger.
"That's my Fufu..." Kya crooned. "I'll miss my little snuggle-umpkins."
Fufu acknowledged her with another soft growl. She reached out with one paw to bat at a passing butterfly, her orca tail thumping happily on the ground. Kya laughed as the resulting tremors nearly lifted her off her feet.
"Good morning, Kya."
Kya spun around, her grin widening when she saw Katara strolling toward her. She bounded across the garden, coming to an abrupt halt beside her mother. Katara flinched in surprise, but returned Kya's crushing hug with equal enthusiasm.
"Morning, Mom!" Kya chimed. "I'm so glad you're up! I had the coolest dream last night!"
"Oh, goodness," Katara said. "Not the ice cream rodeo again."
"Well, yes," Kya admitted. "But that wasn't the cool part! See, I was trying to go and get my ice cream trophy, but instead I kind of ran into a tree. And I was in the weirdest place! It was all wet and yucky, but in an eerie supernatural kind sort of way."
She motioned wildly with her hands as she spoke, trying to paint a perfect picture of the place for her mother. Katara listened, her eyebrows slightly raised, as her daughter went on about the dream. Her lips were turned up in an amused smile.
"And there was this airbender guy!" Kya finished. "And he helped me find the portal back to the regular world. Creepy, huh?"
"Wait, an airbender helped you?" Katara interjected. Her expression was suddenly much more absorbed. "What exactly did he look like?"
"Well... He was tall...and bald. And he had an arrow on his head."
"I'd gathered that, thanks," Katara replied sarcastically. "Anything that might set him apart from the millions of other airbenders out there?"
"Hold on, let me think," Kya replied pensively. "Um... His eyes were gray. And they had a gentle kind of look... And his left eyebrow twitched a lot... Oh, and he had a really big panda with him! He said its name was Hei Bai, and it was the cutest thing! Mom, you wouldn't believe how sweet he was!"
Katara stared at her for a moment, blinking rapidly as though to clear her mind. She drew in a quick breath and closed her eyes. Her face was no longer calm and interested. Rather, she seemed almost anxious and frightened.
"It sounds crazy..." she murmured. Then, in a louder voice, she continued, "I think the airbender you're talking about...might have been Aang."
- Here's the next chapter of ! Thanks to all of the people who have helped us to fix our previous chapters. We hope that you'll all continue to read and (hopefully) enjoy the series.
- The name of this chapter has a major double meaning. See if you can figure it out!
- Sorry if the ice cream rodeo freaked anyone out. We couldn't resist.
For the collective works of the author, go here.