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Last Time On TLAT... A game of Pai Sho was played, a game with risks rewards, and gambles. Wong was able to come out a victor in real life. He captured Finosa and Cori, and was well on his way to stealing Baizken. The others, not knowing of his plot are quick to make assumptions. Will they be able to realize the Black Lotus' plot; also, where's Smoke?
The way the world changed before my eyes was enough to drive one to the point of insanity. I suddenly realized that I was not in reality. The world seemed pretty obvious, dark and gloomy; not much of a change of pace. I could hear what I thought was talking. It was not. This was a place unlike any other. It seemed to be made of dreams blended together, mine in particular. It felt like my life was right there in front of me: hope and fear, gain and loss. I saw dreams from my childhood, wondering what was wrong with me. One was from my time in prison with the Gatton. I even saw something that looked like a vision of myself, older and wiser. I liked that one. I also saw a vision of a darker day, in which evil was victorious. It made me feel confused, used, and conflicted. Another dream appeared, in which I had ears and a upside-down nose, running through a river filled with yellow fish while yelling, "Oosoboo the monkeyman is here. See me run like a river through a river, in the river? This is for you, monkey man."
This could not be real.
I came to the conclusion that these were only illusions of my mind that shouldn't be dwelled upon, however real they seemed. I looked to see if anything else was around. I could not see anything on the ground, so I took on my spirit form. It could only be described as an upright crab with only to legs, with huge wings which were a deep dark color. and my eyes were like swirls; I looked pretty cool nonetheless. I soared high into the air, with one flap of my wings. I was all alone in this place. There, I was alone again. I decide to stay awhile and think about things. I sat and waited. For what, I had not the faintest clue.
The sun had set hours ago as Baizken and had set of on the bison. The wind howled from the earlier storms. They were a couple of miles away from the temple and went over what seemed like a huge stone valley. Every now and then, Baizken would notice a house or a large pack of animals, but this place was pretty much desolate.
"Pretty interesting neighbors you got here," Baizken jested.
"On the other side there is a forest," Osla said in just a normal, plain voice.
"So how do you know where we are going?" Baizken said very matter-of-fact. "I mean I thought monks rarely left the temples."
Osla stared at Baizken. She already knew what to say, but it was not what she wanted to say. Her face looked dim as she paused. Someone could have thought Osla was thinking of a way to respond, but she was holding back a tear.
"Monks aren't like hermits. We do occasionally get out and visit the outside world. I have been to all the nations and four out of five temples."
Baizken merely asked, "Which one haven't you seen?"
Osla falsely replied, "The southern temple."
"I thought the Central Air Temple was closed to outsiders," Baizken said. He was confused, but knew he could be mistaken. He was only a little suspicious of his guide.
Osla did what she had to do, "Some people have been invited to the temple," More like kidnapped she thought to herself. "I was honored enough to go there."
"Is it as dark and eery as Wong?" Baizken said trying to lighten the mood.
"More than," Osla knew that was more than true. She finally got to say what she had wanted to say forever. "Wong is the one who is kidnapping the children. He is the THIEF. Wong is the one who captured your Finosa and Cori."
For a second, Osla felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders. Finally she had told somebody of the events. However her hope seamlessly melted away as she was dragged back to reality, as that was what she was programmed to say. Still it was good for someone to know at least part of the truth. Baizken looked speechless.
"So..." Baizken paused again, very confused. "What does this even mean."
"I've known of Wong and his plot for awhile-" she tried to explain.
Baizken cut her off, "Why, well why didn't you tell somebody?"
"It's not that simple. It is more complicated than you ever wanted to know," this was almost a jest at herself. She knew that he would be captured. It was a shame. She continued to hold her tears back.
"How do you know all this?"
"Talking to Wong," her voice was quiet as she said that more contention. She had to swallow yet another lie.
"So we are going to save them?" Baizken asked with hope in his eyes. "Are going to save them all. All the ones who are missing."
Osla seemed to look out on the waters, as she turned the bison to follow a large river, "I don't know."
"We will find my sister and friend; we- I have to," Baizken stated.
"I wish I had your optimism," she said with a sigh.
"Come on how much worse could it get."
Osla let go a single tear. It was about to get a lot worse. She knew that if the Black Lotus were meeting, something big was about to go down, and she was helping them. A small piece. She hated it, but she had made a deal. It was for the safety of others she had allowed all this to happen, yet every second she knew she could stop this. The price of freedom, however was to high too pay. She wondered if they had put this hopelessness in her. The same way they put in commands. However, this was her destiny and she knew that if she cared about Cori or any of the others, she had to let them win. However trusting the people, who call their leader The Deathbender, did not seem reassuring.
The entire temple was in an uproar. It was an utter panic basically. Everyone was pointing fingers and playing the blame game. An emergency meeting had quickly been called. It was at sunrise the following day. Gatton was alone. He had no grandchildren to say good night to, just confusion. He wondered where they were, and for the first time in a while he felt helpless. His family was hanging in the balance. He could not sleep. It was a restless night for him. The Avatar had dream after dream of his grandchildren crying out for help. He would try to run to them, but his feet ran backwards. It happened several times before finally the sun rise.
On the other side of the coin, Senzin was more distraught. The way he felt was impossibly lost. The person the closest thing to which he could call a son was gone. He had broken his original promise back when he started taking care of Cori. He was not supposed to become attached. He had broken it ling ago. This was his pupil and he had to take care of him. The children are the future, our one way of connecting to the distant future. This was a parable he was quite familiar with. He did not sleep; for the entire night the monk meditated. He looked for the quiet and the peace and escape of this. It was hard to stay in that state though when you feel so upset. As the first sunlight that under the cliff danced onto his eyelids, Senzin opened them knowing that whatever would come he must face. For himself and his student.
The council that was held was some what of a joint council. It was different in the fact that Halois was there with some other White Lotus members. Also it was not ceremonial as the last one had been. The Avatar stood by a while with the Lotus' leader while the monks sat as normally as they could.
"Shall we begin?" Halois said, he was ready to hear every angle he could get.
Kolp looked at Senzin, "Let us begin by saying we cannot be pointing fingers before we know all the facts."
"We know what we need to know," this was a rather proper woman from the East. "This is obviously something evil, and I think it was the Central Temple."
"They cannot be trusted," this was a monk from the south. He looked around the room. "I don't see that central dweller around to defend himself."
This caused a bit of a stir. Wong was no where to be found. His quarters were empty.
"To blame this on the Central Temple could be the biggest leap we could ever take. The "thief" we saw didn't do any airbending, did he. I mean if we can judge nationality by clothes, he looked pretty much like a city dweller, I dare say even Omashu," Kolp was blank and to the point. Perhaps he had to much hope in the Central Temple.
"Has anyone else gone missing since then?" Senzin asked nervously. Despite his meditating, it was still easy to tell he was dismayed and had a lack of sleep.
Gatton finally spoke up, "Baizken and Osla left some time before sunset. There was a note saying they were going east.
"How could you let this happen?" Senzin was shocked that the Avatar had allowed this. However he regained his composure. "That being said, do you think the are going to the Eastern Temple?"
A sister named Tolorora chimed in, "I'd guess that"
"I'm hedging my bet on that," said Kolp. "So we should wait until we get to the Eastern Temple. Once we get there we can go from there."
"It sounds like Osla knows something," Avatar Gatton pondered.
There was almost a consensus when Halois gave his two-pieces, "So we are just going to sit and wait for our enemy to make his next move. What are pig-sheep waiting to be slaughtered?"
"What do you suggest we do," Kolp quickly fired back. "What do you want us to risk. All we will do is beef up security and find out what the girl, Osla, knows."
"Bob and weave," Halois scoffed. "Meanwhile you keep getting jabbed in the gut without knowing it."
Halois was alone in the room. Senzin shot him a glance that was very cold. An outsider speaking up like that was not something he was used to hearing.
"So it is decided we shall wait until we arrive at the Eastern Temple."
The day continued on in a hurried way. All were in a hurry to get going. Senzin and Gatton, however were so similar. Each was looking for the same thing. Their family. Gatton was walking back to his corridor when Halois approached him. The Lotus leader looked very grieved. He passed Gatton, but then looked back.
"The White Lotus believe it is time to fight."
"Without the Air Nomads' support, I would not advise anything rash," Gatton was interested with the leader's opinion.
"Prepare for war, lest you can stop it. The rest of us are ready to embark on The Lost Air Temple. I think Senzin is right."
"Senzin is going with you?" the Avatar said in serious tone.
"No, no he says he cannot go with us without causing a stir. However he advised the White Lotus to go and check things out. Still, I seek your advise," Halois turned to face the Avatar. "What do we do?"
"I-" Gatton thought on what he was going to say a little longer. "The party should continue as planned. I advise that you do not go there. There is an evil there that I sense. It best not to disturb it yet."
"What of your grandchildren. Do you not wish to see them home?"
"More than you know. I do not want to put more lives in harms way. Besides The Black Lotus, if there, would probably spring a trap on your small party."
"I do not wish to follow this advise," he pause for a second. "But since you have had experience in Water Tribe Civil War and elsewhere I'm sure, we still stay. I hope we are not too late."
And those words were the one that haunted the Avatar. It was what he feared. Him being too late, but he was not going to risk an small, unprepared unit. Still he had to think on the fact of what could have been
"Throw them in the empty cell," yelled a familiar deep voice to Finosa. She had just awoken to being grabbed by each shoulder, her legs and feet cuffed together. The voice she heard however could not be. She thought she had ended him long ago.
"Sulu, should we put them in individual cells or the same to save space," this was a woman's voice. Finosa opened her eyes. It was very dim. The woman wore a blue attire and was very strong. She was holding Finosa's left shoulder.
"Yeah individual's good. We don't want them trying to escape," the man followed it up by a gruff laugh. No that laugh could not be like the other she had heard before. No, it couldn't be. She blinked and saw a metal hand with a firm grasp on her hand.
A metal hand. Before she could completely ponder on that she was flying through the air. The two had tossed her into a cell and slammed the door.
"Hey Sulu, I think this one is awake," the voice sound blunt almost stupid, however when she saw who it came out of those thoughts vanished. Standing beside the man who had given her all her troubles at the temple, the head assassin name Sulu, was an even bigger man in armor that made him look like a metal behemoth, even more so than Sulu. The man lifted off the visor he had on his helmet with his free hand. It seemed he had a lifeless body that he was holding with the other.
"What do you mean?" Sulu asked harshly.
"I felt him move."
Right as the man finished his sentence, whoever he was carrying wriggled away. Cori, it was Cori.
"Oh hoppin' hogmonkeys!" yelled the man. He clearly had an Earth Kingdom dialect.
Whoever else was in the hall started to chase after the monk boy. It was a mad dash. Cori ran with all his strength. He was barely awake, but he knew where he was, a prison. As he ran, he saw cells with young monks just like him. He had made a turn for the fifth time. The woman in blue outran everyone else and she was gaining ground on Cori. She made a gesture that he could not understand. As Cori looked back, he suddenly felt the ground go out beneath him. The floor had turned to ice. He slipped and went sliding for a little while before he lost momentum. The woman was quick and put her heel on his chest. He wasn't going anywhere. They quickly through him in a cell across from Finosa.
"To we really need to guard these brats?" asked the woman.
"The boy, I do not think will give us anymore trouble. The girl however is a force of nature. She has quite a lot of raw power," Sulu said. He sounded almost impressed, but he was proud to see his enemy on the opposite side of the bars.
Finosa couldn't believe what she was seeing. He was gone forever, or so she had thought.
"You are supposed to be-" Finosa said. She had not realize how weak she was until she had heard it in her voice. "dead."
"Yeah and fire's not supposed to be purple. Besides you can't kill the mechanisms of me. I am more than you think," he elaborated. His voice was the direct opposite of Finosa's. The assassin had returned, and he had the power. Finosa looked at his face. It was scarred and burned much more than she had remembered. The left side looked still raw, as if it was burned beyond healing.
"Nice scars," she chuckled. Finosa felt guilty for that laugh at his expense.
"Look as much as I would love to teach you a lesson, you need to be conscious. So don't make me do something I will regret," he paused. "Well I won't regret it if I did, I suppose," He had a menacing smile on his face.
There was quiet for almost an hour. No escape. They sat and looked at the way the guards were. The focus was unwaivering. Finosa in her weak state could not take any of them, let alone all of them. She almost fell into a light sleep when her ears picked up a faint voice.
"Finosa," it was obvious it was Cori's voice. His body ached and his head hurt. "I'm sorry it's going to end... like this."
Finosa almost cried, but she was strong, "Don't give up, I'm sure our family and friends are looking for us."
"Shut your pie hole," the man in the gold trimmed armor drew his axe and pointed it at both of them.
"Calm down Ramaar. It's not like they are going anywhere," the woman was sharpening what appeared to be a knife with a piece of flint. She stopped and slashed the air a couple times. "Let them have false hope."
They remained silent for a long time after that.
"Is the dream powder ready?" a lady in dark robes asked
"Yes, but the prince hasss not given the sssignal," replied another.
"Not good, not good."
The dark room they were in was part of the old hall of the Temple. It was beautiful, yet horrible. The walls were lined with grotesque pictures of the olden days. On one wall there was just a bison with a man's head. The four were old wrinkly ladies. One had a lisp, one repeated herself and the oldest two often didn't speak. They danced with danger and played with fire. The room had chests on the side, filled with unimaginably dangerous things.
"The dream powder isss volatile; be careful."
"I know, I know."
One of the older two grabbed a bottle marked spirit bones and handed it to the others.
"Mix... it... good..." her voice seemed to crack with each word almost as if it was painful. The mixture was handled carefully, but stirred until it was a thick liquid.
"The mindsss will be impossible to handle thissss. Add some water!"
They mixed it with some dirty water. Some smoke came out, but they weren't concerned.
"Perfect, very good," said the one that repeated. Her nose turned up and the all looked up. They could here a sky bison roar in the distance. This was a rare noise to here.
"The time..." one of the older ones wheezed. "Has almost come.... Let us... hurry..."
The world of dreams was very alien, and that's saying something. The way this world seemed to blend and bend was impossible to place. I studied the dreams until I felt as if I could get nothing more out of them. I was about to try and find a way out one a storm began to swirl over my head. I decide to wait there a little while until it blew over. Something was going to go down, and I had to see.
"Are we close to the temple?" Baizken asked in a tired voice. They had traveled for half a day and he had not gotten any sleep.
Osla was getting more anxious, "Yes, but we must be quiet," you pick up the worry in her voice.
"Why are we going in broad day light than?"
Osla had to invent something, "They won't be expecting us."
"But won't they spot us?"
Osla knew that someone had, no doubt, already spotted them. They knew she was bringing what they wanted. This was the her darkest time. Baizken was a clueless little kid at this point, and like the others he would soon be in a lot of danger. The bison roared at the sight of the temple off in the distance. The way the three columns stood were almost mesmerizing, making a perfect triangle. They came together, bending to the center, joining to make one giant tower. Even from a distance you could see the cracks and moss on it. The aura it gave off was archaic, ancient, even supernatural. Baizken just stared at it in awe, yet Osla just looked at it was malice. This was not something to admire, but something to fear. If only he knew, if only he knew... Suddenly there was a blast from a giant horn which billowed far off into the distance.
"I think they spotted us!" Baizken exclaimed; he very alert now.
"I'm gonna find a place to land," Osla tried to reply calmly. This was it. She tried to fly the bison toward the temple, but she was having trouble steering him to it. The bison slowly descended toward the ground. They were still about a couple dozen paces away from the temple when the bison forced them to land. They could see the clouds circling over head. Baizken quickly drew his sword and jumped off the bison.
"Baizken wait!" Osla yelled going after him. The bison as she jumped off decided to fly away. The clouds continued to drift down until they touch the ground. They were surrounded by young bald children. Finally a final cloud touched the ground, and out jumped Wong and a masked man with a bow on his back. Wong had that look on his face, the look of victory.
"I wouldn't advise fighting any of the young monks. Unless you want to be responsible for attacking some "innocent" children of the great Northern Air Temple," Wong face was pure evil bliss. His plans... his father's plans were coming into fruition and he was going to love watching the Air Temples and the avatar fall.
"You monster!" Baizken yelled at the top of his lungs. Seeing these kids, like this, was sickening.
"Before I royally kick you into the ground, I want to thank Osla. You have done a wonderful service. We could not have captured this pathetic child without you," Wong's voice was full of sarcasm and evil glee.
Osla could not look him in the eyes, "Kid, I'm sorry. I did it for my people. Besides it was commanded of me." She was very quick to try to put space between the Baizken and herself. She wanted to be the furthest place away from him. She felt very grieved over this.
"You... you tricked me," Baizken was in shock.
"Now that we have all that out of the way," Wong was ready for his prize. "Will you come with us quietly, child of the avatar's line?"
That was a dumb question. Baizken charged at Wong with his blade in his right hand. Wong was a bit shocked that the boy was willing to fight. Baizken slashed his sword upwards, aiming for the his opponents face, desperately trying to land at least one shot. Wong quickly jumped back. Baizken continued to charge and slashed his sword sideways. This time Wong barely dodged it with a duck. Baizken grabbed his sword with two hands and attempted to slash back the other way. Wong, still in a ducking position, jumped high in the air; the sword was never even close. Baizken realized he had missed again. He tried to find Wong in the sky, but Wong was in front of the sun, causing a glare. When Wong landed he send a shock-wave, sending Baizken flying backwards. The swords-boy's eyes locked with the monk with the black arrow as he got back up. With one loud yell Baizken used all of his strength and charged Wong. All the children, the man in the mask, and Osla did not know what would happen next. Baizken brought the sword above left shoulder grasping onto it with all his might. He bobbed and weaved as he ran toward the airbender trying to keep him on his toes. Wong just stood there, no cocky expression. He stared at the kid, and waited. Finally Baizken made it with in striking range. He swung his sword downward with all his might.
"Now!" Wong yelled with a deep ferocity coming from within. Baizken swung his sword down with 110% effort, and right there, the sword stopped. It appeared as if Wong had grabbed the sword between his pointer and index finger. This was impossible the amount of strength he had swung with. This could not be. The smile reappeared on Wong's face. Baizken tried to back away, but he couldn't. The swords-boy felt as if his body had betrayed him. Wong let go of the sword, it was frozen in the same place along with Baizken.
"That was cutting it too close," Wong was almost disappointed, but it did not matter at this point.
The man in the mask made no sound. He was motioning both hands at Baizken. The Avatar's grandchild looked down at his feet, but now he realized he was hovering off the ground.
"What did you do to me?" Baizken uttered.
Wong chuckled, "It is not what I did, but what my friend did. He is a water bender who has learned to adapt, a bloodbender. He has mastered the same style of power my father and I seek. The power to control and the power to kill." Wong walked towards Baizken. The airbender then ripped the dragon tooth blade out of his hand.
"My sword," Baizken set weakly. He slowly was losing strength as his body was in a panic.
"I think this is a nice trophy," Wong said as he put the weapon opposite the holster of his hilt for the blade of air. "Come on, let's go we have nothing more needed here." The man wearing the mask drew Baizken closer to him with one hand and pointed at Osla with the other.
Wong looked at the bloodbender, "Her? Leave her here. If we are lucky, she will get eaten alive by bear-badgers."
"We had a deal!" Osla fired back at Wong
"And did you honestly expect me to keep it?" Wong looked back as he made a cloud. He and the rest of the benders flew back to the temple with Baizken in their possession.
Osla finally broke down and cried. She was alone and dishonored. The tears kept flowing.
Cori and Finosa had been taken to a big open room they were tied up and sitting on the floor. On the other side were the four old ladies. This room had windows near the ceiling, which was nice. The sun was the only thing in the sky, no clouds, just a bright sun. If the windows had been clearer. The kids could here the old ladies talking.
"What do you think they are talking about?" Cori whispered.
"I don't know, but they look older than my grandmother," Finosa replied.
Suddenly someone entered through the only hallway. It was Wong, who was followed by a man in a mask that looked like a laughing wolf with large fangs. Finosa could not believe what she saw. Baizken was suspended in air as if held by an invisible arm. He was tossed by that invisible hand right beside them.
"Come on hags, let us begin." Wong said impatiently.
"Calm... down," said the oldest one. "I have not done this in ages, and that was on a horrible man."
"This punishment is only fit for the avatar's grandchildren and that quoting monk, Senzin," this came out of Wong's mouth sideways, as if he was more talking to the three captives than the old ladies.
"Come let usssss begin."
They all walked up to Baizken, Finosa, and Cori. They wished they could escape, but they were tied up or frozen. The hags had a jars in their hands. They quickly splashed it on to the hero's faces as they tried to hold there breath. The room seemed to collapse for the three of them, and they fell into a deep, unnatural sleep.
|The Lost Air Temple|
|Book 1 - Fall of the Sages|
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|Book 2 - Rise of the Deathbenders|
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For the collective works of the author, go here.