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|Prologue: The Fall of Bending|
Prologue: The Fall of Bending
370 Years Ago...
It has been 50 years since the death of Avatar Korra and the rise of the Authorities. This war has been bloody and merciless. The Authorities attack which such determination and hatred almost nobody can stop them, not even I, Avatar Shibai can stop them. They have leveled Republic City with their flying machines, and taken over the Fire Nation. That day still haunts me.
It was my first test as a fully realized Avatar and my first battle. I wasn't there during the destruction of Republic City but this time I was going to make a difference. I was young and arrogant, eager for my first battle and ready to show the world my power. As a fleet of 50 warships arrived my heart was racing. This was it, my moment of glory and though there was tension in the air and a fear of dread within the soldiers, I almost laughed at how small the Authorities forces were. That was until they finally reached the Royal Plaza and their true power was shown.
Me, Fire Lord Yong and 5,000 men and women ready to fend off the amassed armies of the Authorities. We thought we were in control, but oh how we were wrong. As the warships were about to reach the Plaza they came in range of our fire catapults and turrets. Yong gave the order to fire and within seconds fire was streaming throughout the sky in an almost majestic display of our weapons. Many shots hit the ships but then we realized something. There was no crew on the deck. It was almost like the ships were driving themselves. On top of that the ships seemed almost fire-proof and the rocks left behind from the catapults hardly made a dent.
"Hold fire, hold fire!" Fire Lord Yong shouted at the top of his voice to an unresponsive army. They seemed so desperate to stop the ships they had forgotten the chain of command and were shooting wildly, just hoping to stop the warships before they arrived. Someone had to step up. Yong looked over at me as if to give me permission to speak.
My eyes glowed bright white as I shouted "HOLD YOUR FIRE!" And with the voices of all my past lives plus using Airbending to carry my voice everyone got the message and stopped firing. I had a feeling of slight triumph inside of me even though the real battle had not yet been won. People knew I was here now and that was enough to fill my ego.
We spent what few minutes we had left to prepare our ground forces in the Royal Plaza. My personal army of 100 Earthbenders went to the front line to make improvised trenches and earth walls whilst my friend Shinsu stayed with me at the temporary command post at the back of the Royal Plaza. When my troops were finished with the reinforcements they fell back to my position and we were ready to fight the Authorities. Though now that I look back at it we were far from ready.
The ships finally beached the Plaza and as soon as they did they opened up at the front, making way for a hundred troops per warship. Their projectile weapons did nothing against our earth walls and the Fire Nation soldiers were incinerating the Authorities' soldiers with ease. In the first hour since the boats landed the Authorities managed to advance past the first wall of defense and dig in our own trenches by using explosive bombs against our walls. We had lost over 100 men, which was hardly even a dent in the Fire Lord's forces, but they lost 1000 and things were looking up, that was until the rest of their invasion army appeared.
As we fought with valor and honor we were surprised when the enemy forces started to fall back and stop firing. Then we realized why. A massive fleet of 200 warships slowly plowed through the water and stopped about 50 meters away from the beach. A quick moment of shock and horror filled the soldiers before the warships began bombarding the shores with explosive missiles, wiping out over 2000 men in a matter of minutes. It was no battle, it was a massacre. Me, Shinsu and Fire Lord Yong watched in horror as some of our best were completely annihilated in seconds without the Authorities even breaking a sweat. Smoke pillars rose from the Plaza and into the sky where the missiles landed, it brought the smell of burning bodies and gunpowder in the air.
"Fallback, we need to fall back, everyone to the Capital!" Although Yong and his troops had just witnessed the mass slaughter of their fellow comrades he stood strong and his orders were clear. But I wouldn't have any of it.
As he started to turn to lead the way for his troops I grabbed his arm. "What do you think you are doing we could still win this."
Yong turned to face me and I released my grip on his arm which was a bit tighter than I thought it was. "Listen we can't face down weapons like that, not on this ground. We can gain the distance and the height advantage if we retreat up the volcano. This will give us the best chance."
But I was young and stupid and whilst the Fire Lord ordered his troops to fall back I stood my ground, being the stubborn Earthbender I am. "Fine then you coward, flee the battle I can still win this by myself."
Shinsu walked up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. "Listen I know you don't like leaving the fight but the fact is Yong is right. We need to fall back."
"So you'd side with him instead of me?" My rage was quietly boiling inside of me. All I could think of was how could he betray me?
He didn't release his grip on my shoulder "Listen, your my friend, not Yong, and whatever you choose I'll be by your side but I'm just trying to advise you. Your not thinking straight."
I shrugged of his shoulder and faced my men "Men. You have joined me today to show the Authorities we are not afraid, that we can fight them." The men cheered in unison which could be heard even in the Capital. I started to pace left to right as the sun set over the horizon. "Now the Fire Nation wants to run from this enemy." A series of boos went through my small army. "But we will not, because we are soldiers of the earth Kingdom and we are strong. We will show the enemy who they are facing and we will strike fear into their hearts. We will win!" The troops arms all made fists in the air and let out an almighty roar. Shinsu only shook his head.
We charged forward, straight into the slaughter. By now the other warships had beached and waves of troops poured out like a gigantic wave of death and we headed right towards it. Now that I look back at it, I was cocky, Stubborn and my men payed the price. It was 100 versus over 50,000. We had no chance but my men still followed me because I was trusted, that was their mistake. As we charged they used their projectile weapons to wipe out our front line until we got close enough for them to use their swords. Acceptable losses I thought and by then we were down to 70 men. As I launched a frenzy of fire, earth and air in every direction I was unaware of the slaughter around me. When I killed my hundredth man I was finally aware of the massacre when Shinsu tapped me on the shoulder.
"Shibai, we are down to 15 men. We can barely hold. We need to fall back." He was panting heavily and was barely able to speak. It took me a while to process what he said whilst I punched rocks towards the Authorities troops. I looked around me and saw one of my lieutenants get shot by the Authorities weapons. That sight shook me to the core, I finally realized my mistake.
"Everyone, regroup and fall back!" I then sent a blast of air to knock the first wave of Authorities back.
As me and my men regrouped in a sea of dead soldiers, bullets whizzed past our heads and an explosion near me caused my ears to ring painfully. We were in no condition to fight but we still stood our ground with just 10 men to spare. Our courage, our foolishness, did not last for long however as the sea of black uniformed soldiers swarmed us like locusts descending upon the fields. As they charged towards us, we sent boulder after boulder at them whilst taking cover behind earth walls. Loose earth flew around us and their bombs sent the unholy scent of smoke and gunpowder our way. I wanted to see what war was really like, I got my wish and it was horror.
Our walls burst open when the Authorities managed to get a bomb straight on them. The force sent all of us on to our backs, then the world seemed to slow down. My vision was blurred and bodies around me were just red smudges. I looked around for Shinsu and found him lying on the floor with a big shard of earth wedged in his chest and blood trickling out of his stomach, eyes and mouth. It was then all my senses came to life, I could smell the blood in the air and almost taste burning flesh. My men were dead and I was barely alive. I had sent my friends to their deaths and it was all my fault. The only solution was to flee and regroup with Fire Lord Yong. I went into the Avatar Sate and sent a fire wave which incinerated over 200 troops. When the area was clear I made an air sphere and used it to fly to the Fire Nation Capital.
I awoke in the temporary medical station in the Fire Nation Capital City, no one was near me but on the other side of the station there were people in beds and on the floor with missing limbs and bullet injuries. I only had an hour to recover when they finally reached the top of the volcanic ridge that overlooked the Fire Nation Capital, leaving a sea of dead Fire Nation civilians and soldiers on the path leading up to the city. I left he large tent which was the medical station and it was now pitch black outside. Fire Lord Yong was waiting for me, arms crossed.
"What were you thinking, staying behind like some valiant war heroes. Without your men we were vulnerable and now hardly any of them are left."
"Listen Yong just rally the men, we can still fight them off and give the civilians a chance to escape. We can still do this" I tried to reassure him but I didn't know the situation.
"In case you didn't notice, There is no escape." He motioned his hand towards the ridge of the volcano. And he was right. There was no escape. Thousands upon thousands of soldiers in jet black armor stood, watching us. Not even moving, just watching.
Then we found out why. The remaining troops gathered totaling 150 in all as we heard the deathly hum of the Authorities flying machines.
Now it was the final stand, not some shoddy attempt for glory. As we gathered like fish in a barrel we heard the deathly hums of the Authorities infamous planes from afar. As we prepared for the imminent slaughter the enemy troops were still placed around the ridge, ready to watch us benders be obliterated by the cowards from above. After a wait that seemed like an hour, the planes arrived like angels of death sent straight from the Spirit World, casting their looming silhouettes made from the moonlight down on us. Many people closed their eyes and families held each other close. Then the bombs dropped. Soldiers shot fireballs into the air to try and stop them but there were so many of them and eventually, after a somewhat endless wave of planes the bombs finally got through.
The medical station was the first to go, killing all the injured soldiers. Then the barracks which held the majority of the civilians. All we heard was screams and then silence as the bombs hit. It was sickening to hear and to see. Through all of efforts thought he men were exhausted and eventually they just gave up resisting and waited for the bombs to hit. Me, Yong and his small group of imperial Firebenders were trying our best to keep the bombs off but a cluster fell onto the courtyard of the Royal Palace, killing all the noble families. Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse the main palace building. That is when Yong went limp.
As the main palace crumbled into rubble so did Yong. His family was just wiped off the face of the Earth.
It all happened so fast, so many were lost in a matter of seconds. Just as the troops started to give up, the raid stopped. But where relief should have been there was grief, especially from Yong, who fell to his knees at the sight of his leveled palace. I walked over to him and placed my hand on his shoulder. I could only hears his sobs and his murmurs of "I have failed my country, my people, my family". But before I could open my mouth he quickly snapped his head around with hatred and sorrow burning in his eyes. "THIS IS YOUR FAULT" he yelled at the top of his voice. Those words hit me like a boulder straight to the stomach, my friend, blaming me for the death of all these people and for the death of his family. It hurt but it was true.
"I...I'm sorry Yong, I tried my best." I staggered away from the broken man who was once the Fire Lord. Watching his hateful amber eyes burn through me, judging me as I backed away.
"YOU DID NOT TRY HARD ENOUGH! If you had just listened to me, we could of stood a chance!". He turned his hateful eyes away from me and looked back down at the rubble that was once his home. "You need to go... If you can't save my country then maybe you could save your own." Before I could even resist he whipped his arm around and sent an ark of fire towards me shouting "LEAVE!". And with that all I could do was fly away and watch as the Authorities spilled into the Capital. As I watched from the distance I saw flashes of orange for a few seconds until cracks from their guns stopped them.
The Fire Nation was lost.
20 Years Later...
"Avatar Shibai, Avatar!" a scout came scrambling through the door of my home, interrupting my families dinner. He stumbled and fell over straight onto the table and landed in a bowl of noodles. He slowly raised his head up to look at me.
"What is it boy?" I asked in an annoyed tone.
"It- It's them sir, they're here." I could see him shaking beneath that pointy hat and silently I was too. The moment that I had been dreading for over 20 years had finally come. This time though I was more prepared, I was patient, less arrogant but apparently so were they.
I looked over to my family for what would be the last time. They were all non-benders but that wouldn't stop the Authorities. "You all need to leave, escape whilst you still can." My wife Min came over to embrace me but I pushed her away, now I never wish I did, I simply put my hands on her shoulders "I'm not going to lose you too." As I left the house with the scout I took one final look back at my sons and my wife, knowing that I would never see them again. Even if they did survive I would not return because my place was at the front lines, not by their side. I could no longer put them in danger, so I left ready to face the Authorities one last time.
At fifty years of age I was ready for war again, but no one can be ready with the Authorities. Their ships were different, more armored than before, more explosives and bigger vehicles. They were suited to attack Earthbenders specifically and just like in the Fire Nation we stood no chance. I stood upon The cliff overlooking the bay and where there should have been a vast ocean there were only warships, stretching across the horizon. They were rising with the Sun.
"Earthbenders, I want surface to sea rocks now! Sink them before they can reach our shores." As soon I gave the order, boulders were flying towards the fleet of black ships but their armor was too strong and the boulders merely bounced off the ships like they were pebbles. The ships kept on going and were not hindered by our resistance. As soon as they reached the beach the front of their ships opened like the gates of hell and the troops poured out shooting the men on the front. It was just like 20 years before, except this time I would make a difference.
I slid down the cliff in my rock boots and joined the soldiers entrenched in the earth just beyond the bay. "Sir, they are advancing too fast we are loosing too many men." The lieutenant yelled at me with a voice of desperation and urgency and I knew what I had to do.
"Tell the men to fall back to this line, when they get here I want earth walls raised and artillery hitting their infantry. Whilst we keep them occupied evacuate the city and get the civilians to safety. We are not letting another massacre happen here." The horn then blew to order the troops to fall back and a wave of relief washed over all the men. I was finally the Avatar they needed. As my plan went into effect we managed to hold the Authorities off for several hours, which was more than anyone had done before, the battle should have been over but we held strong, that was until they opened up their new weapons. I knew the effects of their bombs from our last encounter and our earth walls were thick enough to withstand them but not these. They threw their newly made bombs towards us and they broke straight through our defenses. Without our walls we were open to their weapons which quickly cut right through us.
Men were dropping like Spiderflies and all I could do was try to save as many people as possible. I sent gust of wind towards the army of non-benders to knock them down and a flurry of fire blasts to finish them off. I bought my men enough time to retreat to the next city of Omashu. As I fled once again I looked back at the battlefield and for every Authority member we killed a hundred took their place, it only meant that 5000 Earth Kingdom soldiers had died for nothing. I knew we saved innocents but it wasn't enough, not for this.
Five days later and they arrived at Omashu. Though it was not the force we were expecting. It was one big flying machine probably larger than the city itself but compared to the older machines, this one made no sound, it just crept across the sky. Its slowness was unbearable, we shot boulder after boulder at them but it did nothing. Not even my fire streams or air blasts did anything to it. We evacuated as many as we could before it finally reached its position over the city. It was just like that time in the Fire Nation, all we could do was watch and wait. Then the bomb fell, just one, not hundreds as you would think but that one bomb did enough damage. As it fell it whistled and left a stream of air behind until it made impact with the top of Omashu. After it hit all I could see was a blinding light, all I could hear was the screams of those left behind through a deafening ring.
After the smoke cleared thousands of us watched with our jaws dropped at the sight that lay before us. Omashu was gone completely, not just the city, but the entire mountain was reduced to rubble. It was then I knew I could not defeat the Authorities. They were just too strong. The lieutenant who somehow survived walked up to me. "Sir what do we do now?" I could feel the grief in his voice, his desperation for guidance. But there was only one thing we could do.
"We flee, to Ba Sing Se. Gather as many people as you can along the way. I'm going to stay here." I looked towards the horizon to see the main forces of the authorities. What I had to do was clear now. I had to separate them from the rest of this world and there was only one way to do it.
As the lieutenant walked off with the rest of his army and the civilians of Omashu I went the other way, towards the enemy. I met them on the rubble of Omashu, where hands and legs poked through gaps in the rocks. I gave them an ultimatum, leave the Earth Kingdom or face my wrath. They knew as well as I that I could not defeat them. The generals refused to leave the Kingdom alone and that sealed their fate.
I went into the Avatar State, ready to release my fury. I went into a low and strong horse stance and with the power of all my past lives running through me I cracked the earth from one side of the continent to the other and split it apart from the mainland. It took all my strength but as I began to separate the land I lost focus and I felt the cracks go somewhere else. All I could do was keep splitting the land, it was the only way to stop them. After over 5 hours I finally stopped and the Authorities were gone and so was the entire West Coast of the Earth Kingdom. I could feel the imbalance I had just created but also the peace. I had changed the face of the Earth just to stop them for a few years.
But like everything it would not last.
2 Years Later...
I feel my time coming to an end. The power it took to split the Earth was too much and has left me weak. The only safe place now is Ba Sing Se and they are back again to change that. All my power was still not enough to defeat them and I fear after this not even the Avatar can stop these people. This is my final stand, if I die now Ba Sing Se and the rest of the Earth Kingdom will follow and I will not let that happen. But in case the worst comes to pass, and I pray to the Spirits that it doesn't, I have written this journal in the hopes that someone will find it in the future and carry on the art of Bending. To whoever reads this remember, there is always hope. Sometimes it can be small but that can be just enough to get you through the worst situations.
As I turn towards my final battle I can only think of the mistakes I've made, my legend, my legacy tainted by cowardice and sacrifice. My friend has died because of me. I abandoned my family, leaving them to fend for themselves and I don't even know if they are still alive. Whole nations and everyone's lives have been effected by my actions. I have had to be the worst Avatar ever.
I am Avatar Shibai and this has been my life.
13 Years Ago In the South Pole...
"What happened next Khana?" A young Water Tribe girl asked.
"Well my sweet, it is a sad tale filled with despair. It made us who we are today."
"So what did happen gran gran?" The young girl looked up into her grandmothers bright blue eyes with immense curiosity. The old wrinkled women made a smile that stretched across her face from one side to another, but not one of happiness, but one of sorrow.
"Well Korra, Avatar Shibai failed. He did not survive his mission to save Ba Sing Se. In fact his actions led to the only hope in the world being lost forever." Khana looked down to the ground. "Whilst the Avatar fought he did go into the Avatar State to keep his strength up but that was his mistake. As he fought one battalion of soldiers more came from behind him and shot him. He died in the Avatar State so the Avatar Spirit ceased to exist." Khana raised her head towards little Korra. "The Avatar is no longer with us now." Khana picked up Korra, placed her on her knee and put her fingertip on Korra's nose. "But there is still hope, we are still here, living in peace. Now off to bed you have training in the morning."
"Okay gran gran!" Korra jumped off Khana's knee and ran for her room, leaving Khana to look out of the window of her icy house.
"There is hope out there somewhere. I know it."
- This chapter, though a prologue, had 3 drafts. This one has had an extra 15 paragraphs added.
- This is not the Korra your thinking of. It is a completely different person.
- The other chapters will be more up-beat. I just needed to set the scene.
- Shibai means failure in Chinese. Thought it was relevant considering the circumstances.
For the collective works of the author, go here.