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|Out of the Dark and Into the Shadows|
Book 1: Kisah
25 August 2012
Flashes of lightning lit up the night sky as thunder clapped over the island city known as Kisah. Each boom reverberated in such a way that it sounded like the heavens were letting out an evil, terrifying cackle. On the edge of the city limits laid the historic Kisah Monastery. Established one hundred years before the city was, the old wood was rotting, the gate was rusted, and most of the shutters had fallen off their windows. Inside, an Airbending monk named Ohk sat comfortably in his velvet chair, trying to read under a dim candlelight. He'd normally be fast asleep by this hour, but the roaring thunder and the rain pouring on his roof prevented him from doing so. Suddenly, he heard a banging noise that seemed like it was coming from just outside the Monastery, but he dismissed it as the wind and continued reading. Seconds later, the man could no longer hold in his curiosity, and he put down his book to investigate. He threw on his ugly, brown rain slicker, and rather than walking down the stairs, he glided as to not disturb the other monks, landing softly on the wine-stained carpet. He walked a few feet to the door and opened it slowly, unable to stop the loud creaks. Ohk peered outside, but rain made it almost impossible to see anything but an outline of the front gate. He decided not to look any further, and that's when he heard the faint cry of the baby. The monk glanced down to see a child no older than a few months wrapped in cloth and in a basket right by his feet.
Shocked, the monk ran off the monastery's property, searching frantically for whomever dropped the baby off. "Hello!" he bellowed as he rushed through the gate. "Is anybody there! Hello!" His cries were useless; not a soul could be seen.
Fifteen Years Later
Breakfast was served at the Kisah Monastery, but one person was absent from the dining room. It was the only female resident, a teenaged girl with light brown hair and fair skin. Her name was Shen, at least that's what Ohk called her. She sat against the fence in the back garden, tossing small knives at rotten pumpkins. Her expression was dull, and she was clearly in deep thought.
"Oh there you are!" Ohk, Shen's foster-father, marched towards her with irritated look. "What on Earth are you doing here? And why must you always attack my fruit?"
Shen's response was simple. "They were dead anyway," she said without looking up.
Ohk sighed. Every now and then Shen would slip into periods of boredom and disinterest in everything. "Why aren't you eating breakfast? Aren't you hungry? Brother Mushi cooked up some delicious crepes."
"I had some nuts. I don't want to go inside anyway. I want to stay out here where I can look at the clouds and at least pretend I'm free."
For a few moments, Ohk was trying to think of a way to respond, but it was Shen who broke the silence.
"I wanna see what happens outside these grounds, this prison."
"This isn't a prison! It's an ancient Monastery that I've fought very hard to preserve!"
Shen finally looked the monk in the eye. "The only thing you've preserved is my confinement." She shook her head. "And I'm starting to figure out what's really going on. There's something out there that you don't want me to see!"
"What? That is a preposterous claim! I've dedicated the last fifteen years of my life to make sure you were raised properly!"
"Well you failed!" Shen barked, jumping up.
"That is enough!" Ohk grasped Shen's wrist and proceeded to guide her back inside, but she broke free and ran to the other side of the garden. There she made her way behind a large blueberry bush to find the hole she dug earlier- a hole that served as her path to the other side of the fence. Once off of the property, she didn't look back, not until she was far enough that Ohk couldn't be following her. At first, Shen was overwhelmed by crowds that magically appeared in the busy streets of Kisah. The girl had never seen so many people in her lifetime. She didn't know what to do or where to go, but she soon learned that if she wasn't always moving she'd be pushed and shoved by others. Shen passed by several small markets and stands, some boasting beautiful artwork up for sale, some having a juggler with a tip bucket, and others giving off the sweet aroma of freshly baked goods.
"Extra, extra!" a boy younger than Shen shouted at the top of his lungs trying to sell newspapers. "Senator Bumeer in hospital! Extra, extra!"
Everywhere she looked, Shen became more and more confused. Finally, she determined it was best to find somewhere quiet. On the other side of a narrow alley, she found a cobblestone road. The curious girl followed it all the way to a plaza with a few people relaxing on benches and children playing around a large fountain at the center. Peace at last she thought. Unfortunately, she thought too soon, as the area quickly filled with people. They all came out of nowhere and looked like they were waiting for something. Then, as if on cue, figures could be seen down the road, and the people cleared a path and gathered at the sides of the plaza. As the figures drew closer, Shen could make them out in greater detail. In the front was a row of men in silver armor, followed by another row. After them came a carriage with red drapes pulled by a dragon moose, and the carriage was surrounded by four armored men on three sides. Shen had no idea what was going on, but the people around her began to murmur and whisper. She turned to the middle-aged woman standing beside her.
"Excuse me, Ma'am. Do you know what's happening?"
The woman answered her, but kept her focus on the carriage. "Lord Zhang is supposed to issue a new decree today. That's one of his carriages over there."
Lord Zhang? Shen thought. It sounded like this man was pretty important. The procession ceased their march when they reached the center of the plaza, next to an ornate fountain. Shen noticed that the armored men each wore a red badge on their chest in front of their heart. There was a picture of an eye or something on it. Now extremely confused, the lost girl turned her attention to the carriage as the drapes were pulled apart and a short, elderly man stepped out carrying a horn. He pressed it to his lips and played a short, beckoning tune that Shen did not quite understand the purpose of.
Seconds after the horn sounded, the drapes were pulled apart once more, and this time, a much more prominent looking man emerged. He had short black hair and wore an embellished outfit. With his right fist, he gripped a scroll so hard you would've thought he was in pain. In utter silence, he strode to a small wooden box that had been placed by the horn blower. He stepped atop it, the entire crowd still completely silent, and unfurled the scroll. He held the parchment up high and angled it to his face to read. At that exact moment, a pin drop could've been heard.
"By royal decree of his majesty, your ruler and my father, the great, the wise, the brave King Wang Chao, the following ordinances will be effective immediately in each district, excluding the first."
Hearing that made a few bystanders roll their eyes, but no one had the courage to speak out. Shen gathered that the first district must have usually been given special treatment.
"From now on all products made of metal must be-" the prince was cut off, and the entire crowd let out a simultaneous gasp when an arrow pierced through the scroll and into the man's chest, lodging into the silver plate he wore under his robes. Zhang looked down, shocked, and dislodged the projectile before burning to a crisp with Firebending. He did the same the ripped scroll.
Before anybody could react, a boy around the same age as Shen leapt out of a nearby shop. His hair was in a wolftail and he wore traditional Water Tribe apparel. "Emergency plan one, now!" He gave this command and immediately drew water out of the four buckets behind him and lobbed it over Zhang's guards at the box the prince stood upon. Thinking fast, Zhang jumped to the side and rolled out of the way.
"Kill the traitor!" he roared as the bystanders bolted out of the area, screaming and hollering. Shen, however, stayed and hid behind a pile of hay bales. Zhang was quickly taken by three guards back into the carriage and fled.
The boy gave another order "Don't let him get away!" Shen glanced around to see to whom he was talking and spotted two girls dashing across rooftops on the other side of the plaza. One shot a line of fire from her fist and the other shot a sharp icicle. Both missed Zhang's ride, so they continued their chase. Two armored men used Earth pillars to fling themselves onto the rooftops and join the female attackers, and soon fire, water, and rock tiles flew in every direction. Back on the ground, four guards concomitantly levitated a rock in front of them and forced it in the Waterbending boy's direction. He braced himself but was saved when a rock wall erected in front of him. Another boy, this one an Earthbender, had come to his rescue.
"These guys aren't our targets," said the Waterbender. "We have to catch up with Zhang!" The Earthbender nodded and broke up his wall to allow his ally to freeze their enemies where they stood using water from the fountain. The two prepared to take off but suddenly the Earthbender pointed at the roof where the girls had been fighting. One of them, the Firebender, had fallen off and was unconscious on the ground. The other one was nowhere to be seen.
"Amber!" cried the Waterbender, rushing to aid his friend. He shook her, and her eyes fluttered open as she moaned. "They took Sakura," she announced, half-conscious. "They took her. . . I'm sorry, Komin."
The one called Komin turned to the Earthbender. "Tenang, we have to take Amber back the hideout! Where did Hu Li go?" The only response he got was a shrug. "Come on," spoke Komin softly, "help me get her up."
Shen was frozen, still trying to process what had just taken place in front of her. Deep inside, she felt ashamed that she didn't do anything to help. Her first instinct was to return to Ohk and tell him everything she saw, but that would just result in her never being allowed out again. She had to learn what was really going on in her city before she never got another chance. Determined, she elected to follow the three benders, a task she soon learned was incredibly challenging. As the group made their way down an alley, Shen walked down the road parallel to it on the other side of a row of buildings. She noticed a large crate up against the side of a small store and used to climb up onto the roof, where she continued her quiet pursuit by crawling. She stayed on her side of the roof, afraid that the three benders would see her if she went too far to the other side, so she used the sound of their footsteps to make sure they were still walking. Eventually, the footsteps ceased and Shen heard some kind of metal object being moved and dropped on the ground. Somewhat reluctantly, she went over to the other side to check out what was happening, and made it just in time to see the a manhole cover being placed back in its proper spot. Shen's ignorance of city life prevented her from realizing that it was a sewer they had entered.
The girl panicked, afraid that she had lost the kids for good. She stumbled off of the roof and saw an elderly woman about to enter an apartment. "Excuse me!" she yelled, running up to her. "Those holes in the ground, with the metal coverings-"
"You mean manholes, dear."
"Yes, those. Where do they all lead to? I, uh, dropped something important in them."
"Well the sewers are a series of tunnels and tubes, but it all empties out into a big waste dump." She pointed down the road. "It's located all the way down there, at the end of the island."
"Thank you so much." Shen reached into her pockets. "Umm, I don't have any money."
The woman was puzzled. "That's alright dear. . . "
Shen simply gave an awkward nod and smiled before taking off. She ran, not sure of how far away her destination was. A few people gave her weird looks on the way, and she almost ran straight into a moving food cart. She was a total fish out of water when it came to the city and couldn't have been more relieved to see a concrete area with a fence around it. There was a door in the fence; it wasn't locked. Shen opened it and stepped into the facility with caution, expecting someone to try and stop her. No one did, but she heard the sound of voices echoing somewhere nearby. Walking along the concrete she noticed a severe 180 degree drop and a gap before another concrete platform. It was a giant rectangular hole of sorts. She peered down and saw her three targets exiting a big, rusty pipe.
"Lucky us," said the Firebending girl. "The waste has already been drained. I wasn't ready for another swim through filth and goop."
"You're right," agreed Komin. "At least not everything went wrong today."
The trio walked from the pipe to another wall, perpendicular to the platform Shen was standing on. The Earthbending boy named Tenang stomped twice and raised his arms with force, and a square piece of the land they were standing on began to rise along the side of the wall. Shen froze. They're gonna see me! she fretted, but fortunately for her, none of them turned around; they merely jumped over the side of the wall. This struck Shen as unusual, and she went over to the edge of the concrete to see where they had landed. Below was a secluded beach that stretched a long ways, and the trio proceeded to stroll to the end, Shen following from above. Finally, they reached a gigantic rock jetty, and climbed on it.
"What about Hu Li?" the girl called Amber inquired. "Should we wait for him?"
Komin shook his head. "Your brother can go in the back way."
They carefully made their way across the side of the rocks to the front that was constantly being bombarded by waves from the ocean.
No way they're gonna walk over there, Shen thought. Once again, she was wrong. They were hanging on to the rocks as if they were about to fall, and an enormous wave crashed on them. The water receded and they were gone. Stunned, Shen immediately went to look for the "back way" Komin mentioned. She jumped onto the jetty, looked over the other side, and waited. Within minutes, a boy with short brown hair and red shorts limped over to the rocks. Shaking with pain, he managed to climb up and reach over to a small rock that sat oddly on the jetty. In a way that Shen could not understand, he put his hand under the rock and pulled, revealing a small door and an entrance. The boy looked around and plopped himself in, shutting the door behind him. Shen smiled as she herself made her way to the door, and shortly discovered that the small rock was actually a handle. She opened the secret door and waited about thirty seconds before entering. The path was more of a slide than anything, and it was pitch black and narrow. When Shen was nearing the end, she put her arms and legs out to stop herself from falling. Then, she could hear voices.
"Hu Li, you're okay!" exclaimed Komin. "What happened?"
"The Angkara Sentries were on me as soon as I took the shot," Hu Li explained. "I thought I had my crossbow aimed perfectly, but I must have missed. I'm so sorry."
"It wasn't your fault," Komin assured. "Zhang had a metal plate on under his robes to protect him. I should've predicted that. This failure is on me."
Amber cut in. "But it's my fault that they took Sakura. I fought terribly."
Hu Li gasped. "They took Sakura?"
"Enough!" snapped Komin. "I will not allow anyone else to put themselves down. This mission was my idea, it is my failure. My sister being captured is on me."
Shen couldn't hold on any longer. She slipped and plumped right into their conversation. The four teenagers whipped their heads to the intruder, and Tenang instantly levitated a rock as Amber formed a fire whip.
"Uhh hi," she smiled. "My name's Shen."
- The name refers to Shen leaving the place where she was kept oblivious to everything and into a place where she must stay in hiding, from dark to shadows.
- This is the very first chapter, so please tell me what you think!
For the collective works of the author, go here.