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|Playing Pai Sho|
Book 2 Rise of the Deathbenders
22 Playing Pai Sho
My mother led me out of the spirit's throne room and took me to a deep underground complex. She had reverted back to her regular form now; however I did not. I barely knew how I changed the last time and I was not going to look like that again. When we went through the long halls of this castle, I saw more beings. Some were in humanoid form, some were not. The walls looked like utter darkness, similar to the night sky, but without any stars. Whenever you passed a door it was almost a relieve because you realized you weren't floating off into nothingness. The ground looked like aged silver. I looked at my mom's feet and realized they didn't touch the ground. Neither did mine. I stopped walking, but I continued moving. I wasn't necessarily flying, more like hovering a tiny bit off the ground. Now I realized I was not going somewhere willfully; I was being led. Finally we got to another door this one's knob made of amethyst. My mother did not touch it, instead she looked at me.
"Open the door, son," she said in her own beastly voice.
That was the first time I'd ever been called son. It was almost in a mocking tone, but I didn't care. I reached my hand out and I touched the crystal knob. It was the most awful sensation I ever felt; like all the energy and life in my body was going through the door. I tried to turn the knob, but it wouldn't open. I tried letting go, but that made it worse. She looked at me and said, "Sakar tunuum escrogo."
They were words like the ones for the last door we went through, when she opened it. I quickly yelled out these words, almost as a desperate cry. Their was a flash of light of yellow, that quickly faded to purple, and then to black.
"Very good," my mother said in a sarcastic voice, "You learned how to open a door. The spirit kind of course. They are the bridges between the three worlds."
"Three worlds?" I asked as we entered a room through nothing.
"We don't have much time to chat, so let us train."
At first, I looked around the room and all there were were the following: two pools in golden bowls that were elevated, a stone floor, three torches, and some kind of weapons in the very back which I did pay much attention to. My mother switched back to humanoid form and stood between the two pools.
"Show me what you know."
I quickly assumed she meant my ability to make stuff vanish. I quickly made the one pool disappear and it made a huge smoke cloud. Liquids always do that. My mother coughed and stared at me.
"Good, for some one your age. Do you know how to bring them back?" I shook my head "Well it's simpler than you think. It's the exact opposite. You're giving instead of taking or rather returning."
She looked at the other pool and it disappeared; then she did the exact opposite of what she just did. Literally, she had everything the same, but backwards. All of a sudden water poured on my head from a cloud of smoke. It did not feel wet it felt dry. I ran and I touched the fire and it was cold as ice, but still burning strong. My mother almost attempted to stop me, but she stopped herself. I touched the hard firm stones, pliable.
"Nothing is what it seems here. We have now left the Spirit World and entered the third plain. Everything is changed here. Even time itself is different. We must train."
The training I did was rough. I felt like every day I got beaten with no sleep, but here I didn't need sleep. I get fighting, improving. I learned many useful techniques from my mother, such as transforming at will, her returning of items methods, and countless others she said I may never need or want to use. My abilities were not the only thing that were getting stronger. I worked hard everyday; their also were no food, but I did not need that either. I was no longer skinny and weak in physical strength. I had strength to spare now. It felt like years in there, when really it was only months. Time seemed to go quickly. At night my mother would tell me stories of the banishment and how the spirits found this place. She also explained why she left and talked quite fondly of my father. By the end of my time, I felt like I take on a tenfold of's power. On the last day, my mother gave me the weapons in the back of the room. They were three knives I should use at an emergency only. We said our good byes, and I touched the door, leaving to who knows where.
Osla was unsettled in her sleep. Her mind fought with her spirit as if she was being torn apart. Her dreams were on her and the Black and White swirling, creating a gray figure that scared her so very much that she would have cried if her eyes were open. All of the sudden the figure grew larger and swallowed her in its mouth in one fell swoop. Osla awoke from the dream in a cry. She remembered almost nothing of the night before. All she knew was that she had a mission to carry out, or torture and destruction of the worst kind. She looked outside her window for the sun to give her hope, but to her loss the clouds were a dismal gray.
"I'm sorry, all," she wept as she prepared for her day. She knew all that was going to go down and she had to play her part. "May you forgive me in this life or the next."
It was black mail going on here. She did not know that the feeling of doubt and lack of hope was as alien as her mission. She put on her robes, then let out a deep sigh. She walked to the pool slowly and washed her hands and face. Osla was coming to realize that she had to deal with her commands. The sister thought that since there was no way around it, she might as well not struggle at all.
"Morning Osla," said a cheerful voice. It was an acquaintance Osla was familiar with. "Face clean yet?"
"Hey Julet; yeah, I suppose my face is as clean as it's going to get." Julet, Osla had known for a few years. She was the pupil (and speculated to be the daughter) of Cepheus.
"Just checking, hey, do not think of me rudely, but to you mind if I ask you about you being kidnapped?"
Of all the things to hear, this was not what Osla needed. "Sure, I guess."
"To you have any idea who it was. I heard my mentor mention it was an airbender," Julet said carefully.
"You were eavesdropping?" Osla tried desperately to throw her off track. Something was telling her not to mention it. Foreign or not she knew that her gut was probably right.
"What happened to the wild Osla? Are you feeling all right?" Julet spoke softly as if to comfort Osla.
"I'm fine," Osla said coldly, "Just trying to stay awake." That was true in more than one way.
"'All right?' Well, okay than. I guess I should get going."
Osla was all alone as she left the place. She felt cold now. The sun not shining for under the cliff always meant colder weather. This was strange because spring was well on its way and almost have way done. Osla thought that, perhaps, the spirits were frowning, even crying if rain came for the events that were to unfold, or maybe it was just the weather...
and had got up early that day. They had gone to a quiet place in the temple to train for the first time in weeks. Finosa had just mastered her first advanced set and they had stopped at that point. Finosa showed her grandfather how skillfully she could perform the moves, and even Gatton was a bit impressed by the strength of her colored flames.
"Was that good, grandpa?" Finosa asked hopefully.
"It was not good," the Avatar spoke softly, but the words made Finosa cringe, "It was great."
"You scared me. So, please teach me the next set," she begged.
"I don't know..." Gatton's voice trailed.
"How about this, I teach you one of the most secret moves in firebending?" Gatton thought that his student was ready.
"Cool, what is it?" she asked, hoping it was something interesting.
"Flame traveling. It is an ancient move that someone once taught me, so I shall pass it on to you." Gatton explained how the move worked. He surround himself with flames that hovered. The Avatar stomped his feet on the ground and the flames completely surrounded him. Next thing Finosa knew, her grandfather was clear on the other side of the temple platform.
"How did you do that!" Finosa yelled across the platform.
"You'll have to figure it out yourself," Gatton said with a wink.
Finosa tried the technique many times. Sometimes she'd burn herself, other times she did not make the flames strong enough and was sent only a few feet. They had started at dawn and it was about time for the Pai Sho games, so the Avatar suggested that they leave.
"One more attempt," the young firebender asked politely.
She attempted the move one more time. Finosa was careful, but not under powered with her purple flames. She stomped down and executed the move perfectly, a little to perfectly. Finosa had gone not one, or even two, but three platforms away.
"Tomorrow, let's work on control," Gatton said with a chuckle. It just meant it took that much longer to get to her brother.
All the monks got up that morning ready and prepared. They had been training for a long time and knew it came down to this. If they lost now it was a year's wait before the event would be held again. The game was Pai Sho, a game of risk, reward, and strategy. All of the airbending masters played the game. Senzin was particularly great at this game. His love of cunning strategy made him one of the best in the game. The tournament was for master airbenders only, so people like Osla and Cori were not aloud to compete. Senzin's cunningness was not limited to the Pai Sho board. He somehow had convinced Gatton that since he was a master airbender, he should compete being it his duty as a master to play the game. The Avatar, however, had never played Pai Sho. The night before the games,had given him a crash course in the game, despite being worse than Finosa. The swords-boy and his grandfather had been up past midnight, so Baizken decided it best to sleep in that morning.
"This is almost to easy," Cori whispered to himself as he stood on the ledge with a pie in each hand. Little did he know, that Baizken had removed the wire from his sword and tied it on the window sill to trip the airbender. Cori jumped to Baizken's window and prepared to throw the pie. He took a step forward and fell face first through the window. One pie smeared on Cori's chest and the other covered his face. The noise of Cori shouting as he hit the ground awoke Baizken who had been sleeping with a pie under his blanket. He got up as if on command and through a pie at the back of Cori's bald monk head.
"Aha! 3-2 I win," Baizken said have asleep as he restrung the wire back through his sword and reattached it to the hook.
"Not yet. We still have 2 more temples to go and I don't think my own pies should count."
"I believe that you said that the pies had to be on the person," Baizken mocked as the monk stood back up, "They are on you..."
Baizken looked and pointed at Cori, "You look like the winter spirit."
"Really? Ho ho ho," Cori laughed in imitation.
"Don't over do it," Baizken said with a straight face.
At that moment, Gatton and Finosa entered the room again. They felt dumbfounded to see a young monk covered in pie and a family member pointing at him.
"Is it just timing?" Gatton asked to the spirit's. Gatton ended up walking with his granddaughter to the game, leaving his grandson to do... Whatever he did.
Wong stood on top of a room upside-down. He often defied gravity further than most. The son of Geno stared into space remembering his past.
"Come now, Wong," a warm voice called in Wong's mind. Wong could not remember much of what happened after that, being a toddler at the time. He did remember 3 migrations and a brief power struggle which put his father on top of the heap. Wong was amused at the fact that his father was called Father Geno by everyone at the temple. Wong respected his father and often feared him. He knew the one who was the first one he ever saw could draw the life right out of him. Wong landed on the floor and prepared to approach the match. He knew his father wanted him to compete in the sport.
"Good bye, Cid," Wong said coldly. Cid got up and put on his green cloak.
"You sure about this, boss?"
"My father is sure and that's enough for me."
"I trust you'll carry out your mission swiftly," Wong said trying to trust the 14 year old teen.
"Of course. You know I follow Father Geno without the need of altering."
"I know, it's that that makes me worried."
"The Northern Air Temple was not for me. I'm a Black Lotus now," Cid said in his voice. He unlike Osla truly served the Black Lotus's cause.
"You remember you should not use airbending, right?"
"The Skywalker hags went over all this with me thrice. I knock 'em out and then jump to the cloud, etc."
"Good," Wong said calming himself down.
"You sure I'm not supposed to kill them," Wong raised an eyebrow at this, "Kidding, kidding."
"Just try to figure out a way to single them out." With that Wong left for his Pai Sho match.
Crowds of spectators watched as two challenger stepped toward the Pai Sho table of immense size. They cheered and jeered for the master of their choice, many of them did not really know what was going on. The proud Senzin walked onto the field with some flare and landed near his seat after jumping off his glider. He was shocked to see his opponent was a mere 30-something master who looked a little out of place.
"This is my challenger," Senzin laughed.
"I think I am," said the lanky monk named Larret, "You are my opponent, Head Monk Senzin, correct?"
The match went on rather quickly on Larret's part, but slow on Senzin. Larret was impulsive and took whatever he could get against a master of Senzin's stature. Senzin, however, made his moves slowly. He was careful not to play to many risks and gambits. Larret made to many exchange moves and found himself without enough for the pot, leaving his tiles vulnerable for taking. He was finally eliminated when Senzin decided to steal his clawed tile.
"Amusing you played today, like a bird too quickly you tried to soar, out unto a storm," Senzin remembered the parable excellently as he sat back down.
"Speaking of storm," Gatton asked Senzin from across his row, "Is it raining?"
"It may have been raining since last night; you never know here because of the natural barrier from the sky. Ironic for airbenders to live here."
Gatton nodded, "I guess I'm up next."
Finosa, whom had remained quiet through the long match asked, "Have you seen Baizken and Cori?"
Cori stood on the deck, eagerly waiting to strike Baizken with a pie throw. He looked around the crowd, but he could not find the Avatar's grandson. Baizken had walked up the steps to the deck quietly. Having the ears of an airbender, Cori turned around and spotted Baizken on the top step. The young monk fumbled the pie in his hand in shock and the pie hit the ground.
"I come in peace," Baizken said in a jesting but friendly tone.
"Aren't you going to pie me?"
"I was planning on hitting you; I came up here to dodge the lengthy matches."
"They can drag on forever..." Cori sighed.
"I know, but I probably should get to my grandpa."
Cori sighed, "Okay, see you later."
"Prepare to dance," Baizken yelled as he ran down the steps
Cori went around the corner of the building. A drip of sweat ran down his face as he ran to get his pie. He had the strangest feeling he was being watched, and not in a good way. The young monk was being watched, by Cid and Wong. They looked at him with predatory glances. They prey they were searching for, one of them anyway, was standing right and front of them, but nay, they must wait for the moment to strike.
"I got me pie!" Cori said, trying to keep calm and glad.
"Boo!" Wong yelled as he descended on to the ground, his cloak blowing in the wind.
"Aah!" Cori shrieked as he hurled a pie at Wong who was unprepared. The pie almost hit him, had he not seen it coming as if it was slow motion. It was one of his closest shave ever and to a pie. Cori opened his eyes slowly and saw it was Wong. Rather than beating the bald boy to a fine pulp, Wong leisurely walked down the steps to the Pai Sho table. Cori about fainted as he sat down on the ground, nearly shocked by how lucky he was, but his luck would not last much longer.
Senzin watched as Gatton awkwardly beat his opponent in a close, back and forth match. He was quiet a bit shocked that the rookie actually handled an authentic monk. Gatton was shocked as well. As Gatton went back to his seat, Wong appeared. The stormy master walked down the steps in his usual mundane yet explosive way. He was not happy nor sad. Feelings were to be displayed once his mission were done. Senzin glared at the monks as if his eyes could incinerate the alleged with one glance.
"I see you bothered to arrived, Master Wong," Senzins words were like glass shards.
"This is different," Wong announced, "There's something that drew me here today."
"The mind is a house for dark things to thrive."
"You and your parables," Wong said with a feigned chuckle, "Actually I'm wondering where Osla is."
"I have not yet seen her today, nor to I think you should," Senzin said protecting someone who he never had thought to defend. Osla was hiding in the shadows very near the game, watching, waiting. Her actions had turned much like that of a Skywalker. Her mind knew her mission and that was her cue to start her mission.
"I have not seen her, nor my grandson or Cori since this morning," Gatton explained in a not-so-rude voice, unlike his old rival. As he said this, Baizken came running down the steps.
"Hey grandpa," Baizken yelled as the old men played Pai Sho.
The games went on for a while before both sides decided to strike. Cori had his pie ready and was aiming it straight at his friend/foe. Baizken would be humiliate once a gain. And above him was Cid, a new face on the Black Lotus' side. He to was aiming, aiming to take advantage of Cori's foolish games. Baizken watched carefully as his grandfather and Wong had a match. They both were pretty green at Pai Sho and it felt more like a probing game. Next to Baizken was his sister who watch politely, but was a little bored by the pace of the games.
"This has got to be perfect," Cori said to himself as he aimed for stomach on the far side of the room. His downward aim gave him an edge with gravity on his side. The young monk winded back to throw. Cori launched his pie with an arch and it was headed right toward Baizken, until the "wind" blew it. Cid had used this event as a way to separate them. Cori had done the hard part.
"Let's hope what he says about this girl is true," Cid said as he blew the pie off course, right into Finosa's face. The crowd looked in shock; some had to stifle laughter. Gatton hardly noticed, his back was to the stands. He thought he had made a really bad Pai Sho move.
"Aargh!" Finosa yelled.She didn't know who did that, but she was going to make them pay. Cori had ducked immediately after he saw his shot was off course. When he heard the yell, well, he ran.
Finosa was furious and in a matter of seconds, she had pin-pointed where the pie came from. She jumped into the air and began to fly. She knew, however it was only a propelled jump from her purple flames. She leaped over the Pai Sho table, and by the time he knew what happened, Finosa was flying over his head, leaving a trail of heat. Cori turned his head and looked back. The pie was mostly gone off of her face now. He would of thought she looked pretty, had she not come to destroy him. Now she had landed, and began to chase Cori, and Cid followed their movement while running on the scaffolding above. They ran far enough away from the scene; no one could here or see them now. They were on the back side of a structure when Cori turned around.
"I don't want to fight you," Cori exclaimed, nor could he beat her in a battle of bending. As he said this, Finosa made a raging blast at him. Her attack was sloppy and Cori jumped into the air and dodged it, landing right in front of her. She screamed something that was gibberish to Cori. She walked slowly toward him as he slowly walked backward.
"This is funny when you think about this, funny ha ha," Cori said nervously, "I mean, I would never mean to hurt you I actually like you."
"What?" Finosa said as she came to her senses. Her rage had blocked her mind for the first time in a while.
"You know, in a friendly sort of way," Cori backtracked and blushed a little.
"I am sorry, Cori," Finosa was sad about what she had done, almost ashamed.
"It's alright. It is not every day you get to see purple fire coming at your face," he chuckled. They both laughed.
"So you want to back to the games?" Finosa asked.
"Okay let me just dust myself off."
Baizken was hot on the trail of following his sister and friend and had yet to find them. He took one route that was fruitless, so this was the only way they could have came.
"Looking for something?" Osla said as if she'd come from nowhere.
"Don't scare me like that," Baizken had flinched, but he was comfortable with Osla there. She was older and stronger than he was and a bender "I'm looking for Cori and my sister."
"You mean like..." She looked silly when she tried to finish the next part, but was cut off.
"No, not like that," Baizken said confused yet again. Could his friend like his sister. "No," he told himself, "they were too different."
"Just putting 2 and 2 together," Osla shrugged. They peaked around the corner and saw Cori and Finosa talking.
"Two and two," the swords-boy said to himself.
Cori and Finosa had just started heading back when a green figure about the kids' height dropped in. His cloak covered his body and part of his face. The cloak was made of a rich, green material that was edged in a golden color. He did his job in instance. Finosa was about to give the mysterious man a good sock in the chest, she then, however felt woozy and hit the ground along with Cori. The green guy smiled. He took the two sleepers into his arms.
Baizken was about to run out there, when Osla grabbed his arm tightly, and the THIEF escaped. The swords-boy was about to cry, "Why'd you stop me? We could have saved them?"
"You saw what he did; no good getting yourself captured." All Baizken could to was stare at her with anger in his eyes. "I need to tell you something, later. Right now go to the monks and mothers. Then tonight, meet by the bison launch pad."
The rest of the day was filled with sadness and silence. Finger pointing came from all sides, when it was discovered the THIEF wore green and did no airbending. Gatton felt like his fears had turned into reality and being the Avatar, he felt like he was responsible for all the missing children. Senzin tried to convince Halois it was the Black Lotus's and they needed to strike, but to no avail. It hit Baizken the hardest. He had been right there and done nothing. Nothing. He could have broken the grip, he knew he could have, but what would that have done. The THIEVES were hitting a lot closer to all of them now.
Osla waited by the platforms for Baizken. Her brother, spiritually, had been taken and someone's close relative. She felt hopeless, but she had to drag on. It was in her program. Baizken looked at Osla as he walked toward her. He had his sword at his side so he could draw it quicker. Baizken knew when he saw Osla by the bison. He had a feeling; they were going to break bad. He approached her and she stared at him.
"Are we leaving?" Baizken asked, but he already knew the answer.
"Yes, but before we go I have to tell you something," Osla knew "she" had to, "I used to be with the Black Lotus. I do not know how it exactly it went down hill, so fast. They stage my kidnapping and I've done a bunch of other stuff that I will not tell you. I probably now have blood on my hands. I've seen the light and we can save them together. I have changed."
Baizken was shocked, but he kept a straight face and believed. She helped on to the bison. Osla posted a letter on the far wall, somewhere where it was very easily seen. It included that they were going to go search for Cori and Finosa, but did not give a specific location.
"Let's fly," Baizken whispered like it was a call for the charge.
"Yip yip." Osla said as the flew off out of the cliff and into the twilight. The same one that they were now seeing in a different light.
It had rained early that day, but it had stopped now. The clouds were there though. One of which held Wong. He followed them slowly. Now it was time to begin smiling.
|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.