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|Prologue:The Night Before|
18th of November, 2013
It was twilight. On a narrow moonlit road, two men were walking side by side; both had a small fur made bag on their backs which seemed to be carrying something abnormally heavy.
"Why did the boss want us to come here?" said one man, who was a small and slightly chubby man.
"You know why we're here" replied the taller more slender man.
"I know why we're here you idiot. Come on Mar, think! What I don't know is why all the way out here?" said the small man, gesturing to the desert like canyon they were crossing.
The high man, Mar, shrugged his shoulders, but did not elaborate. They turned left off towards a rough path that led them towards a cliff side. It was covered in moss with small yew hedges here and there along the bottom. They walked towards it.
"Now like we were told Roland."
The two men removed their bags and began to search them. The small man drew a green orb while his taller companion drew a red one. They both put their bags back on. They both looked at each other. Roland nodded his head. Mar turned towards the cliff side and walked forward. He pressed his hand on the hard and jagged cliff, still holding the orb. He closed his eyes. He began to hum, moving his hands round the cliff side; it was as though he was searching for something. Roland watched on in silence.
There was a slight rustling sound coming from one of the bushes to their left. Mar let go of the wall, dropped his orb, and backed away to his companion who had taken a step away from the bushes surrounding them, and had also discarded his orb. Both men prepared themselves, but the source of the noise was nothing more than a hog monkey. The men lowered their guard.
"We were scared of a hog monkey. That is pathetic" Roland arrogantly scoffed. With that, he launched a burst of fire at the bush, causing the monkey to run away, back to the main path, in fear. Mar dismissed this, and returned to the cliff, picking up the orb as he did.
"Why would that wild beast be all the way out here?"
"I don't know, probably escaped from the city; now will you be quiet" Mar harshly responded.
Roland sulked in annoyance; picked up his green orb; then turned away, crossing his arms.
A while past before Mar exclaimed that he had found it. Roland walked towards him, his face brightening as he did.
"Okay, where is it?"
"Here, underneath that small path way on the canyon. Are you ready?" said Mar indicating a small space in the cliff beneath a pathway that led down to the canyon with two of his fingers.
Roland smiled "Of course I am."
The two men stood back. Roland took position; then proceeded to force the chunk of earth into the ground beneath it. It was a doorway, inside, was a dim lit cave, stretching into the cliff that became present to them. He then stepped back. "Not bad eh?" he remarked obviously quite proud of his bending.
"I guess. Now let's get these orbs to the others" said Mar wanting to press on. They both entered the cave. Roland sealed it off by raising the earth doorway back up. Mar formed a small flame in his hand that lit up the cave with its orange and yellow aura. The two proceeded to walk down the cave, carrying their orbs, in silence.
Sometime past before the two came close to the end of the cave. Gravel crackled beneath their feet as they approached a small metal door engraved into the cave.
They opened the slightly rusted door to a bright green room with sparkling crystals all around it. Some crystals were sticking out of the walls like a means of defense or a threat while, however some were stuck upright going into the walls as though on display. There were also several holes dotted about; they were roughly one foot wide. One was right beneath the short one's feet. There were two long crystals in the middle of the room, one came out of the ground while the other came from the ceiling, and their sharp edges were almost touching. They looked like the fangs from an armadillo tiger; it was as though they were there to contain something.
The two men were blinded by the sudden sparkles of light but soon recovered, just before the short one was about to put his foot into the hole.
The flame had died out. They both looked at the two crystals in the center. They walked over to it, being careful to avoid the holes in the floor and not to drop the orbs in the holes either.
When they did reach the center, the short one began to place the orb in between the crystals. Just as he was about to let go, a deafening rumbling sound could be heard below.
"There's no need to be in such a rush. Come below first."
A man in jet black armor rose from one of the holes on an earth disk. The armor looked crafted to perfection as it fit him perfectly unlike most armor which was either to big or too tight. The armor only stretched down to his knees which made him quite easy to be kicked in the shins. He had a sword strapped to his back by a scabbard (a most unusual place to keep the sword). It looked heavy. Why he needed a sword being an earth bender Mar could not fathom out. He looked like he was in his mid- thirties going by his face. He wasn't very tall about five and a half foot at most. He had deep bags under his eyes, the left of which was swollen red. He looked bedraggled. He was all ruffled and dirty as though he'd had a restless night. His eyes where looking intensely at them his left eye twitching slightly as he did.
"Sir?" Roland began.
"What?" replied the man, no more than a heartbeat later?
"Well..." Roland began before being cut off by the armored man once again.
"What is it? I don't have time for petty talk" said the man with a hint of anger creeping its way into his voice.
"We were told to do the deed straight away and..." but the short man was cut off yet again, but this time, to his surprise, Mar.
"Why do you not have time?" he said unnervingly.
"Because it is time you idiot; the meeting was supposed to start five minutes ago but YOU two are late so we-" the man began to stress, raising his finger to point at the two men, before being cut off himself by the lean man.
"Well let's go straight down" Mar said with a smile, grabbing his companion by the arm and tugging him next to one of the holes with himself taking position to the one opposite him.
"Kind sir, would you prepare the disks to take us down?" Mar said to the dumbfounded man; who still had not moved in bewilderment that he had been cut off so suddenly. Nevertheless, he stepped back to his own disk that was still wedge into the ground. He released it with earthbending and split it into three segments and bent one over to Mar and Roland. Roland, being an earthbender and able to bend the disk to take him down himself, went down straight away. Mar could not earthbend however meaning he had to ask the armored man to do it for him.
He whistled to the armored man seconds before he started his decent below. "Sorry lad, but would you mind getting me down first, I can't bend earth you see."
The clearly frustrated man walked over to him. "Stand back" he said pushing the man back as he did. As he did, he gripped the shirt, creasing it, and pushed him down onto the floor. "Sorry about that, just to be on the safe side" he said smiling. Mar scoffed at how he had creased his shirt. He stood up. He brushed himself down to force the creases out. The brightening angry man triggered. Mar knew the man had done that to get on his nerves.
The earthbender positioned the disk in the hole. He then gestured for the lanky man to step aboard. He did so at his own pace, which caused the annoyed man to pull a face of annoyance. When he, at last, he did step on the disk, the man was lowered down straight away. Just before he was out of ear shot, the plank of a man shouted up "You push your allies like that? I guess the Avatar is as safe as can be if he confronts you" The earthbender began to swear under his breath, his breath fading like a dream as he did.
Mar went down quite slow at first, but that didn't last, he was sped up to rocketing speeds that make his insides jerk up right to his mouth then lunge back down again as it came to a halting stop when he reached the bottom. He was knocked sick for a few seconds; he even began to retch as though he was going to be sick. He retched but no sick came, he had nothing in his belly to be sick. He eventually lost the urged to be sick and straightened himself up. He familiarized himself to where he was. He was in an extremely dark, cramped space deep in the ground, with a speck of purple light barely reaching down from above. When his eyes ultimately adjusted to the darkness, he found in front of him was a pull open metal door that allowed light to peer through its tiny gaps where its metal bars didn't cross. He reached to the shiny handle to the left but missed the first few times as it was not entirely see able on his side. He finally found the handle and pulled it to his right, opening it up. Opposite the door was his companion who had been waiting there for him. He stepped out of the crank shaft and walked towards him.
"Thought you'd never leave that shaft, looked like you had fun" Roland jokingly said.
"Never better" Mar responded with a weak, almost forced, smile. He reached the minor man. He blinked a few times, his eyes still trying to adjust to the light.
"Hey" Roland gave a slight punch to Mar's shoulder, "I hate the jerking bit too you know."
"Really?" Mar said, towering over him; raising his right eyebrow.
"Yeah, it' even worse for me because, if you're the person bending and the one going down, then if we lose our head when we're going down and stop bending then we do lose our head" Roland cheerfully said with a smile on his face.
"Ah...err...wonderful, I'll keep that in mind."
Just then, a third door opened. It was the armored man. He looked a little dazed, and even had his back slouched, with his hands rubbing the temples of his forehead as though he had a banging headache; yet as soon as he saw the slender man he stood up straight and walked out with his head high.
"Well then. Best not keep them waiting" The armored man said, looking at Mar.
"Yes sir" he replied.
The three men walked down the cave. It was covered with metal beams that kept it from falling under the weight of the heavy earth above it. The armored man led the way, not daring to look at the others. Roland was busy looking at the metal beams in fear they would break like a stick and allow the earth to collapse on them. Mar just kept walking with his head facing the front, wearing a face; deep in thought. They turned left when they reached the end of the cave tunnel, which led them to a small corridor like area that had purple crystals dotted about its walls, with pick axes wedge into the floor beneath it and small chunks of the crystals on the harden floor as though someone had been mining it. There were more metal gates around the area which must have led to the area above they had just dropped from.
They reached the end of the corridor to which an enormous metal door blocked their path. The armored earthbender stood forward and used his bending to pry it apart as though he were opening a door.
"So you're metalbender? I thought we would have to knock on the door or take unpleasant path around it" quizzed Mar.
"Yes. I'm one of the few people who has managed to learn this technique from the Toph girl who had been so kind to give us a schooling of lessons on her travels before settling as a teacher at that stupid school she in her pathetic home town" the metalbender said, with a tone of arrogance in his voice.
"There is no need to use allow your tongue to turn sour, kind sir."
The three men proceeded past the door and onto the wide staircase which manage to fit all three onto one of its steps. It led them up towards an earth wall that was as wide at the staircase.
There was a man in front of the wall. The black armored man stepped forward. "Sir we're here to attend the meeting" He said firmly.
"I see" said the guard with a rough voice. "And these orbs are to be present?" he questioned indicating the orbs Mar and Roland had been carrying here. It was now that Mar remembered he had been holding it the entire time they trekked. It had felt like an eternity to get here but it was strange how quickly he forgot the important item he had been carrying.
"No, theses will be taken to you know where once you allow us to enter" Mar could tell the change in the mans voice it became almost whisper.
"I see, well if you could leave them here by my fear" he replied shortly. Mar was hesitant but soon complied when the angry armored man ushered him to do so.
"Thank you; now step back."
They all stepped back except the bender, who stepped forwards and bent it into the ground much like Roland had done at the entrance to the labyrinth like cave. They all stepped inside.
Inside was a lengthy table made out of earth brought up from the small. There were five chairs four were taken up by four in black robes on chairs made of earth as well. They looked like they were praying. This room was also enveloped in the purple crystals like the room with all the holes in it. There was a purple statue which had been carved to look like a lion turtle on the roof of the room looking down at them. The crystals sparkled causing all three men to squint their eyes. Once his eyes had adjusted, Mar saw a man in black clad, similar to the armored man, sitting on a purple throne made out of the purple crystals with his hand placed into the base of his neck. There were two crystal made chairs either side of him. There was an man wearing Earth Kingdom armor standing to the lord- like man's left in between the man and the chair, a scar was around his mouth but well hidden by the man's moustache so that only the tip could be seen.
The man on the throne however, was most intriguing yet intimidating at the same time. He was wearing a white mask with a dark purple line going down the middle and only separating at the mouth. Near the bottom of the mask it had a small circle painted red, one on either side of its cheeks as well. But what stood out most of all were his eyes. His big, gleaming, crimson red eyes. They just stared straight into Mar's as though they were infecting his body with fear the more he looked at them. As though they were climbing in to him; poisoning him. He hated the feeling of it. Mar couldn't take it and began to blink again and look around the room to suggest he was still dazzled by the crystals.
The man in black clad approached the man in the throne. "Master Quinn, I have brought them as ordered and the orbs will be transferred below as you requested."
"Excellent and please call me Mr. Quinn. I'm not a master...yet" said Mr. Quinn with a smirk.
The man on the throne looked up at them as did the cloaked men around the table. The intimidating man moved his arm and pointed towards Mar almost slowly "Ah my Brobdingnagian brother, Mar, I thought you lost your way come I saved you a seat" he gestured towards the chair on his right. "And Roland, you sit there" he indicated one the small purple crystals chairs next to the cloaked man on the far left.
Both of the men moved towards their picked chairs and be seated themselves. Roland practically ran to his. The armored man sat on the chair next to the ever frightening man on the far left of the table. The earthbending guard looked at Mar with a glare his scar almost making Mar flinch.
"So, how is the hold in Omashu?" asked Mr. Quinn to his audience with a shrill in his voice. The hooded men dared not look up nor would Mar and Roland, his voice shook them to the bone. The earthbender was the one who spoke first.
"The king does not suspect our change of faith. He still cackles everyday like the bumbling idiot he is." He said roughly.
"Does he not suspect that we have infiltrated the city captain?" Mr. Quinn continued.
"No sir. My men are four candles flashes behind us, meaning my men have plenty of time to prepare. The infiltration was successful. We even got your two agents in as well. I hope that you and your men will be ready" The captain replied.
"Of course they will at least," Mr. Quinn turned to Mar his eyes almost enticing him to look up to his brother. "If my brother's son does not disappoint us."
At the mention of the his son, Mar looked up and dared to beam directly up at his brother who seemed to give off an aura of intimidation and fear, "Brother –" began before being met by a whip anger from his brother.
"You will address me as SIR. Just because I have given you the honor to sit beside me does not give you the right to disgrace me Mar!" Mr. Quinn bellowed at his brother in a viscous anger that caused all but the captain to flinch in complete fear.
"No sir...sorry sir... I meant to say sir, my son shall not fail you I can guarantee that at this very moment that he be heading towards the target with the earthbenders right now." Mar replied hesitantly with a stutter.
"Good I hope that he will not fail me. The target is a priority for us to capture the Avatar"
"Couldn't my son just finish the job for you sir" Mar dared to ask.
"No" Mr. Quinn said coldly. Mar glanced at Roland and saw that he was frozen, just looking straight ahead, challenging himself not to look.
"I'm admiring you and your sons' anxiety to do what must be done. But I must be the one to end the Avatar." Mr. Quinn finished.
"Yes sir, sorry sir" Mar said shrinking back into his chair.
"If all does not go to plan" Mr. Quinn said rising from his chair "Then I'm afraid that your son would suffer heavy for failing me. I'm sure he this will not happen; will it?" He asked shifting to face Mar, his sword flashing as he did so.
"No sir I'm sure that, right now, he will be apprehending the target as we speak"
Shao leapt from rooftop to rooftop making sure no one could see him and his guide as they trailed the city on high in the shadows undetected. It was now night time, the target had been located five minutes ago near the market as predicted. Months of planning were soon going to pay off, yet the job had only just started.
They closed in, hiding behind the roof of a nearby building barely avoiding the targets line of sight as they looked up. Both breathed heavily, they had just scaled the entire city from the entrance to the market to do the job. The guide risked a look, making sure only his eyes were visible under his black outfit. Shao felt sweat dripping from his forehead as he forced himself to stop panting in exhaustion. The guide turned his gaze, nodded and climbed down to the bottom of the roof then jumped onto the building opposite. Shao did the same but a little quicker. They sat back, the guide gestured Shao to approach.
"He is heading for the stairs. We'll be waiting near the bottom on look out. Don't screw this up kid" said the guide in a whisper.
"Don't worry, I got this" Shao responded with a small gasp for breath.
The man took one last look then whispered "Alright...Go"
The guide separated from Shao to meet up with the squad who were not far behind, eagerly waiting the order. Shao too jumped down making sure he landed on the balls of his feet so nearby civilians in the houses would not here him land. Shao dived behind a wagon near the flight of steps which the target was now descending.
Shao noticed in the dark as his eyes adjusted that the man was definitely the target. The target looked like he was middle aged just as he'd been told. The old fool had bags under his eyes that seemed as though they deepened through the skin, even his mouth was crooked and dry, his hair further supported this by how, even in this fairly dark alley, it shined through in a gleaming grey that matched his drowned eyes. In normal circumstances Shao would reconsider this unacceptable but that didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was that the Avatar suffered.
Soon it would be done. Once Shao was sure no one would see them, he would pounce. The moment of truth would soon begin; the era of the Avatar was in its final stage.
Soon the Energybenders will rise.
To be continued.
- This was released after despite coming chronologically first.
For the collective works of the author, go here.