|More from Jacob13Kyle||Drama, Romance, Suspense||PG-13||None||No update page|
|Patriots and Tyrants|
Book 3: Doorways
December 23rd, 2013
Tensions rise as the Northern Army occupies the South.
"Now that's a sight you don't see everyday," John said as he brought his camel to a halt. Below them sat the Southern Port laid out in all of its glory. But the view wasn't what he was referring to. Instead, it was the cluster of battleships that was approaching the entrance to the harbor. They watched as the cluster began to spread out into a line, stretching from one shoreline to the other, effectively blockading the harbor.
The group had just finished their return from the Southern Portal, and was eager to get back to civilization. Along the way, they encountered Tonraq again, who had stopped when he saw the lights in the sky and returned to his daughter. He hadn't made a single comment on the betrothal necklace that hung around Korra's neck, either due to him not recognizing what it was or him waiting on Korra to tell him herself.
As for John, he felt different in a way he couldn't describe. He felt happy, excited almost about his engagement to Korra. However he also felt nervousness and unease. Being engaged, at least from what he could tell by watching Mako and Asami, meant that the couple lived together. The last time he and Korra had slept side by side was during the three day long Battle of Republic City.
Given his lifestyle up until his arrival in this world, and even afterward, John had never expected to survive long enough to see marriage. The trip back from the South Pole had changed his mind, shifting it to thoughts of life and children with Korra. But now, looking down upon the forming blockade, he sat in state of uncertainty.
"Uncle, what's going on?" Korra asked. Unalaq looked down upon the ships, his unreadable look not changing.
"Opening the Portal is just the first step to putting the Southern Water Tribe on the right path. There is still much more work to be done. Now if you will excuse me, I must locate my top adviser, he should be arriving with the fleet." With that, the Northern Chief started down the ridge with his children following behind him.
John watched them go before he returned his view to the Northern Fleet. It was under armored and outgunned compared to the United Forces Navy, but it still looked like it could hold its own. Even now, he watched as waterbenders raised chunks of ice in front of the docks, effectively sealing the trade ships in.
"What do you think?" Korra asked, pulling John out of his thoughts. He looked down at her from his perch on top of the camel.
"I'm just making an observation here, but your uncle's rebuilding process sure looks like an invasion," he replied.
"Do you believe what he says?"
"At this point I don't know what to believe," he said, tapping the flank of his camel with his heel to begin the descent into the city. Northern troops were already swarming the streets. John brought the camel to a halt, waiting for one of the patrols to pass. All of this brought back memories of his time in Nepal during the early days of the Chinese occupation. None of the memories were good.
John followed Korra and Tonraq through the streets to their low house. He had never been inside it before. The last time he had seen it had been the night he and Korra had first left for Republic City. As he dismounted from the snowmobile, Tonraq sent his daughter a look that was almost pleading. The one he received was so cold that it made Korra look like she could freeze the sun with just a glare. It was the kind of look that John prayed he'd never be on the wrong side of.
After a moment, he followed Korra back to their lodging up on the ridge. He was tempted to ask Korra what was wrong, but decided against it and headed for his own lodge. Inside he found things as he had left them. A ruffled, unmade bed sat in the corner. His maroon uniform was still hanging by the wash basin.
On the right arm was a new patch, representing the new unit in the United Forces. It had two lightning bolts crossing over a sword along with the phrase: rugadh go n-ardoidh. John smiled as he read the phrase. It had become the motto of the new unit during its early training thanks to him shouting it in a war game.
"What does it mean?" Korra asked from behind him. He turned to find that her angry look had softened, showing that she didn't want to be alone at the moment. Motioning for her to come forward, he turned back to the uniform.
"It's an Irish saying from my old Order. It means Born to Rise," Korra stood next to him, leaning her head on his shoulder as they gazed at the patch.
"Gunslinger isn't really the name of the Order you know," he said off handily. The Avatar cocked her eyebrow at him. All of the members she had met had referred to themselves as such, even the old stories she had been told as a child.
"Then was is the real name?" she asked. He shrugged.
"Who knows. It changes names more often then a model changes dresses. Hell the last time there was a civil war in the Order was during the Crusades, we were known as both the Knights Templar and the Hashashin back then," he said, pausing when he noticed that he had lost her.
"Never mind that, um, what's up?"
"It's just all this stuff with my dad. He keeps hiding things from me and then telling me it's for my own good even though I'm the Avatar. And then there's everything going on with Unalaq and the Northern fleet showing up," she said. John turned away from the uniform and picked up his pistol, placing it in the waistline of his pants along the small of his back. He then sat on the edge of the bed. For a moment, Korra thought that he was ignoring her. Then she noticed a sorrowful look in his eyes as he looked back up at her.
"Which do you want me to focus on, the father problem or the uncle problem?" he asked.
"Father first." The firebender sighed as he kicked off his boots and curled his legs up on the bed.
"I know you probably don't want to hear this, but I'm going to say it anyway because it needs to be said. Your father is only with you for a short amount of time, don't let your last interactions with him be a fight over how he raised you."
"You're right, I didn't want to hear that. I should have known you would take his side," Korra said as she started to leave, feeling betrayed by her fiancee.
"Korra, I would give my right arm to see my dad again. Consider yourself lucky that you still have yours." The Avatar froze in the doorway as realization came down upon her. She had forgotten that John's father had been murdered a few years before he had arrived here, and she had probably just offended him by letting her temper get the better of her.
Turning back, she noticed that he wasn't looking at her, but rather was aimlessly toying with a bullet. But there was something else. In his eyes was something that she hadn't seen since the mass funeral in the borough several months ago. Tears. He looked like he was ready to explode and incinerate the whole South Pole.
Walking back, she sat next to him on the bed and apologized. Rather than answer, he gave a short nod before he snaked his arm around her. She gladly let herself be pulled in and leaned against him.
"We don't have time to dwell on the past, make up with your father, we have more important issues to worry about," he said.
"There's a meeting being held at my parents' place about the troops. A lot of people feel like it's an invasion."
"I can imagine. I'm in the same boat as them." Korra looked up at him with a look.
"Hey, unlike most of these people here I've actually been in an invasion before. If I'm getting flashbacks, something is very wrong here," he said.
The inside of Tonraq and Senna's house was much more spacious than what John had expected. It was also a lot cozier than what he had expected from a house in the Antarctic. A lot of people had been crammed inside, all of them Water Tribe. John suddenly felt out of place as he looked around the main living room, his brown coat not blending in with the blues and grays of everyone else.
He had expected Mako, Asami, and Bolin to be attending, but they were no where in sight. In fact, as far as he could tell he was the only non-Water Tribe person here. After a short time of watching the people, John finally approached Korra.
"Where's Mako and all them?" he asked.
"They're not coming, its for tribal members only," she replied. John blinked once.
"Then why am I here?" Korra smiled and raised her necklace with her thumb. The ivory shined in the light of the room, illuminating the dragon and the water symbol.
"You became a member when you gave me this," she said. John returned the smile and gave her a small kiss.
"Have you told your parents yet?" he asked. Korra's smile faltered slightly.
"I told mom, but with things being rocky with dad he doesn't know yet," she replied. They sat down next to Korra's parents as a skinny, rich looking man stood up in the center. The man was clearly of Water Tribe origin, his hair and dress style stated that he was a businessman, and his jerky movements combined with his fast talking made him appear to be on a sugar rush.
"Who's this guy?" John asked, watching the man as if he had seen him before.
"Varrick. He controls almost all of the world's shipping," Tonraq replied, shooting a glance to his wife as if to ask why John was there. Senna made a gesture, showing that she would tell him later. Turning back to the tycoon, John's already sour opinion of the man took a nose dive. Hiroshi Sato's betrayal during the war had put a major damper on his opinion regarding almost all businessmen.
"You've seen the soldiers in the streets, the ships blockading the port, Chief Unalaq has come to snuff out the flame that the South has come to represent! He wants to force his views, his ways of life on us!" the businessman ranted. Some of the tribesmen muttered in agreement. On cue, Korra sprang to her feet.
"Unalaq claims that he's come to restore spiritual balance. The southern lights have returned and the dark spirit attacks have ceased, we shouldn't be quick to brand him as an invader," she argued. John remained silent, watching the argument go back and forth. Finally, Varrick said a phrase that would bring him out of his neutral silence.
"Perhaps a rebellion would get the chief's attention."
"To what end?" he asked, standing as well.
"Who is this handsome young hotshot?" Varrick asked, regarding the firebender with a since of curiosity and downright strangeness.
"This is John Rider, he's a Captain in the United Forces," Korra said, introducing him.
"Starting a rebellion is not something that should be taken lightly. If you win you've got the struggle of running your own nation, if you lose Unalaq will wipe out the Southern Water Tribe," he said.
"Are you suggesting that we allow Unalaq to do what he wants?" Senna asked.
"No, Ms. Senna, I'm not. I'm saying that you need to have a valid reason before you rise up. There's a very thin line between being a patriot and a tyrant, if you watch Unalaq I'm sure you'll find something," Varrick gripped his chin in thought as he regarded the young captain.
"Every decent military action needs a military man leading it," he said. John snorted and shook his head.
"Lead your own rebellion," he muttered before he turned and left the house. Outside the sun was leaning in the sky, showing that it was afternoon. Naga was lying with her head resting on her front paws by the door. She perked up when she noticed him, raising her head and cocking it slightly. The firebender smiled and scratched under her chin.
It was hard to believe that something that looked so innocent could very easily turn around and quite literately bite his hand off. While scratching Naga's jaw, he took notice of the palm of his left hand. The scars from when he had gripped the barrel of the machine gun in Republic City were still present on his palm. He still had nightmares about the battle, like the ghosts of those he had killed were still coming after him.
"You okay? You look a little lost," Korra said as she appeared next to him. John came out of his thoughts and patted Naga on the nose.
"Yeah, I'm just thinking," he replied.
"I'm going to meet with Unalaq for training, want to tag along?" she asked. He nodded and pulled up the scarf.
"Yeah, I'm interested to see who this adviser of his is," They started toward the palace, but stopped when a someone called after them. Senna was standing by the door, motioning for John to come to her. Turning, he motioned for Korra to go on without him before he headed back to his future mother in law.
Korra resembled her mother a lot, although Senna looked like she had less fire and was better suited to a home life. John imagined that Korra got her personality from her father, which was something he could understand. Many people back home said that he looked like his father, while he got his personality from his mother.
"John, I wish to speak with you for a moment," she said, her tone warm and inviting. He came to a halt and cocked his eyebrow, waiting for her to speak.
"My husband has been asking a lot of questions about that necklace that's hanging around Korra's neck. I haven't told him yet because I think that one of you should be the one to tell him, but he suspects what happened at the South Pole," she paused, whether to take a breath or to gather her thoughts he didn't know.
"John, all this fighting with Korra has put so much stress on Tonraq, he could use some good news," she finished. On cue, Tonraq emerged from the house and took notice of the two.
"You set me up," John said, narrowing his eyes. Senna merely smiled before she turned, whispered something into her husband's ear, and vanished into the house. Tonraq smirked after his wife before he approached the firebender. He came to a halt, crossed his arms and looked down at John.
"Anything you want to tell me about you and my daughter?" he asked. The towering sight of the warrior instinctively made him take a few steps back. Inside him, the old habit of resorting to playing dumb came to mind.
"Hm, nope nothing I can think of," he replied, turning to hurry after Korra.
"John, I saw the betrothal necklace," Tonraq said, his voice containing no anger. The firebender froze in place like a block of ice surrounded him. After a moment, he sighed and his shoulders drooped.
"I thought it would be best that Korra told you about it. With everything that's going on she didn't want to say anything right away so I obeyed her wishes."
"Turn and face me Captain," John turned, looking at his boots. He was expecting to be hit or yelled at for not saying anything. But to his surprise, when he looked up he found that Tonraq was smiling. The man stepped forward and placed both of his hands on his shoulders.
John instinctively tensed, but made no effort to break away. In fact, judging by the iron grip that he felt, he didn't think that he COULD break away.
"John Rider. You have proven yourself to be a gallant protector and provider for my daughter. I would consider it an honor if you married Korra." The firebender almost couldn't believe his ears. Tonraq had just given him his blessing to marry Korra. For some reason, knowing that he had Korra's parents' blessing made him feel happy, like he had just achieved a life goal.
Tonraq clapped him on the shoulder with a smile, motioning him to go off and find Korra. John nodded in thanks before he turned and began to chase down his fiancée. He ran past Satomobiles, patrols, and other various things without a care. His only focus was catching up and relaying the news.
The sun was setting by the time he finally caught up with her outside of the palace. Although the port was no where even close to being the same size as Republic City, all the snow made it hard for him to move fast. Korra was climbing the steps when she heard a commotion come from behind her. She turned to find John stumbling and cursing up the steps, practically crawling so he didn't slip.
"In a hurry?" she asked. John nodded as he came to a halt, his chest heaving.
"I just got..your dad's blessing... for the marriage," he said through heavy breaths. Korra's look was that of being taken aback, and then glee. She instantly picked him up in a spine crushing hug, lifting him well off his feet. John's eyes bugged out and he made a few croaking noises. His fingers tapped the sides of her abdomen repeatedly in a jerking motion, as this was the only part he could reach do his arms being pinned.
"What?" she asked, loosening her grip a bit when she noticed the tapping.
"Air!" Instantly she let him go, catching him when he slipped on the steps and nearly began to tumble painfully down them. John coughed a few times and took several deep breaths, rubbing his ribs in the process.
"Wow, you've got a grip," he said. Korra grinned and blushed slightly at the compliment. Together, they made their way up to the palace. Night had almost fully fallen by this point, and the shadows that were cast on the building made it seem more ominous than it really was. Strangely though, the building was quiet and dark, neither were something that should be present at this time of night.
John felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and he drew the revolver in response. Korra took notice of his sudden slip into battle mode and assumed a bending position herself. They crept deeper into the palace, checking around every corner for trouble. As they approached the throne room, they came upon what appeared to be a courtroom with a balcony running around it.
A small group of masked men stood upon the right lane of the balcony, all of them towering over a knocked out Unalaq. Korra began to move to help her uncle, but an arm from John halted her, silently telling her to wait so that he could better assess the situation. He raised his revolver and cocked it, the click echoing off of the walls.
All heads in the group turned toward the source of the noise. Thanks to the shadows though, none of them saw either John or Korra. The pair crept forward, taking great care not to make a single noise.
Suddenly, gunfire rang out. Muzzle flashes illuminated the at the far end of the room, showing that this was where the shooting was coming from. Waterbenders instinctively created walls of ice in order to protect themselves. John made his way for the nearest wall, pushing Korra along and pinning her with his forearm. He placed himself between her and the entrance to the room with his gun at the ready. She tried to push against him and race into the room, but his arm stayed firm until the firing stopped.
"Well, I'd say things just got a lot more interesting."
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