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June 27, 2014
The First Tier
"Relics" is the first chapter of.
Previously on Aang: Story of an Airbender
A lemur's quest for the perfect wind unravels the daily lives of Air Nomads within the Southern Air Temple. In the midst of a perfect day, a tragedy strikes the Fire Nation and a young Air Nomad named Aang is born.
Islanders donned in flowing white robes trekked their way up the cool volcanic rock. Each step was filled with stumbling and, in some cases, falling as a result of the uneven terrain that was forged from the magma's victory. Jagged edges protruded upward an inch above the ground, snagging the solemn, teary-eyed people who would fall victim as if the volcano was continuing its celebration with each collapse. None would falter, however. All eventually rose back to their feet. Every stumble, every toe jab, every scratch was worth bearing in order to honor the fallen Avatar Roku.
Ta Min led the march with raised, tremble hands to weakly wipe away the tear stains with handkerchiefs, but only succeeded in bursting forth more as she recollected Roku's final act of goodwill: saving the islanders. She shed three tears in remembrance for him. One for his kindness, one for his chivalry, and one for his bravery. Continuing their honorable trudge up the volcano, the mourners were unaware of the elderly Fire Lord who watched the scarred island from the comforts of his polished temple.
The marble floor shone brightly like a sun, clearly reflecting the crimson granite's inner beauty. The glow radiated through the temples, painting a kaleidoscopic mirage on the temple walls and brightening the once dull and desolated hallway. Fire Lord Sozin was filled with a mixture of sorrow and happiness. He considered shedding a tear for his late friend, but quickly destroyed the thought with a spark of fury. The spark expanded as if flames of warfare were grasping control of his mind. War. Even if the ruler tried, he would see no other alternative to spread the greatness that is the Fire Nation. A smirk lightly tugged the corner of his mouth as he pondered his next actions. Trudging down the hallway, Fire Lord Sozin contemplated on intruding in the reconstruction of the throne room. The new designs were meant to reflect the noteworthy effects of fire: pain and suffering. With the lighting and tiles equal to that of an eclipse and the establishment of a pillared hall in order to create a sense of intimacy, Fire Lord Sozin knew that the throne room would inflict fright in whoever stood before the mighty torrent of flames at the end of the hall.
Lost in his cold, secluded thoughts, Fire Lord Sozin immediately realized that he would have to begin preparations for his plan to expand his empire. He rounded the corner opposite of his destination and was filled with a mixture of pride and righteousness as he stiffened his aged back with difficultly and stubbornness before raising his head. He narrowed his steps and clamped his trembling fingers in order to fulfill a regal and assertive stance for the never blinking eyes of his ancestors.
The portraits aligned on the wall all stared back at him as if the faces were all contemplating the same question – is he worth ruling? Fire Lord Sozin growled at the thought of this and terror soon locked the chains that imprisoned his mind. He would show them all. He would prove his worth. He would be remembered for beginning an era that ushered the well-being and life of the Fire Nation to the world. The vision he received would guide him, and only one being in the universe can stop him from spreading his greatness. The Fire Lord cast the Avatar aside as he has spent only a couple of hours in this world and already had a merciless foe. He began to chuckle after realizing that the most powerful being (second to himself) was reincarnated into a peace loving nation – the Air Nomads. Silenced by the vengeful stares of Fire Lords previous, Fire Lord Sozin embarked on a flurry of ideas in order to combat this mild yet significant threat. His eyes widened and his pupils dilated as a thought struck him. Glancing at the portrait of the Fire Lords, his face fell into one of shock at the gift that had been handed to him from them.
He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly, heaving his chest in the air as he imagined himself reigning a mountainside with a blinding red streak in the sunset sky.
The Great Comet was coming at last.
O'er several leagues of sea, at the top of the volcano that had claimed Avatar Roku's life, mourners bowed their heads as the Fire Sages gathered alongside Ta Min. Fire Sage Kaja slowly stepped forward to the coffin bearing his pupil's remains. His tears streaked his thinning gray goatee as he caressed the golden etchings signifying the Avatar's greatest accomplishments. He turned to face the onlookers and recited his sermon, detailing the symbolization of each etching and every engraving. Kaja felt a pit growing in his stomach and it expanded until gaining victory of his throat, choking at the first word of the conclusion. "Ro," he stammered. "Ro-" Kaja sighed at his failure, bowing his head in shame as Ta Min daintily placed her elderly hand on the miserable sage in reassurance and comfort. Kaja heartwarmingly smiled as he silently thanked her through the sparkle in his eyes.
"Roku. Avatar to our world for fifty-four years. You were our fearless peacekeeper in both this world and the spirit. Our savior from the fire of your home island. You were husband of Ta Min and friend to us all. We lay you to rest."
Two men donned in the flowing color of purity aimed their fists at the coffin and ignited a burst of flames onto it, creating a timid flickering fire which burned with life. A life that now held the spiritual essence of Roku and was burdened with saving the world.
Five nomads walked up the marble steps of the temple and were greeted to the bows of several nuns. After being dismissed, the nuns steadily rose and returned to their duties. The circular nursery was crisscrossed with rays of light as a result of the evenly placed alcoves which overlooked the beds bundled with crying and sleeping newborns. Nuns scrambled to and fro, delivering pillows and bottles in order to adjust their patients' stay. The nomads walked toward the back wall of the nursery, which was decorated with babies traversing the air spirit's winds into the open arms of their mothers.
"Good day," A Sister delicately remarked as she bowed to the elders. Her brown braided hair descended down her back, and when she rose, the wrinkles of weariness shadowed her motherly gray eyes as if seeking a baby to pamper.
"Good day to you as well." Monk Gyatso greeted, his smile lines deepening. His hair was beginning to thin, but he gave no indication of age despite the betrayal of his physical appearance.
"Enough with the formality." Monk Tashi snapped; his scowl lines as deep as the smile lines on Gyatso's features. He pushed his way forward and eyed the Sister with uncertainty. "In which room would the newborns be kept?"
"That would be here in the nursery, my elder." The Sister remarked.
Gyatso surpassed a smile at Monk Tashi's error.
"I'm aware of the fact Sister." Monk Tashi scowled, lines scrunching his face.
"Calm yourself, Monk Tashi." High Monk Pasang commanded in an assertive and unfaltering tone, his hand placed on the monk's shoulder in a friendly way to restrain him. Monk Tashi flashed embarrassed eyes at High Monk Pasang, and allowed himself to be gently but orderly returned to his rightful place.
The Sister noted the tension between the monks and placed Tashi's directness with grief. "Has someone parted?" She humbly asked.
The two monks, Monk Meiji and Monk Futo, glanced for approval at High Monk Pasang who responded with a grim nod.
With a voice deep and gruff, Monk Meiji answered as he stroked the braids on his luscious black beard. "Avatar Roku has fallen, Sister."
The Sister gaped at the news, fanning herself with a breeze of wind as she sat on a nearby unoccupied bed. "But, how?"
"Volcano." Monk Futo remarked with a voice of silk. "And as you may now realize, this means that his spirit has taken a new life amongst us."
"At what time did this happen?" The Sister asked as she headed to her desk, unraveling scrolls from the cupboards.
"Only three days from today." High Monk Pasang responded gently. The Sister unrolled the parchment and began glancing at the names. "How many?" High Monk Pasang inquired.
"Only three were born at that time, my elder." The Sister replied, allowing the scroll to be searched thoroughly by the eyes of strangers.
"Very well then." High Monk Pasang answered. "Monks Meiji and Futo will send word to Superior Ayala at once in order to have the relics transported to our temple in three day's time. Monks Tashi and Gyatso will accompany me in informing the parents of their child's special fates." He flashed a respectful, but emotionless smile at the Sister and led the Monks out of the nursery without a second glance at the bowing nuns or the acknowledgement of the other babies as their first laughs echoed off the temple walls.
Sunlight and Shadow
A man smiled happily, flashing his white teeth at nobody as he entered the room backwards, guiding a stroller which carried his wife and cradled newborn son. The small one had black hair perched on his head, and smiled happily, content with its life.
The mother stroked the baby's cheek as the man, Shin, closed the door behind them with his leg. His face was void of hair with the exceptions of his eyebrows and neatly trimmed goatee. He kneeled next to his wife and rubbed the baby's head before planting a kiss on both of their foreheads.
The baby giggled incoherently when he stopped abruptly, a face confused with his oncoming sneeze. He wrinkled his nose and soon blew, shooting Shin onto the nearby wall. The baby flew into the air and landed snugly in his mother's arms a few short seconds later.
"Oh, Aang." The mother, Haha, playfully teased as she nudged the baby with her head.
Shin rubbed his child's small tufts of hair. "A perfect name."
Shin instinctively turned to see High Monk Pasang, Monk Gyatso, and Monk Tashi staring inquisitively at the family as if they were an interesting specimen.
"My elders." Shin bowed customarily. "It is an honor that you have chosen to enter our humble home. Please, what has brought you at our doorstep?"
The monks stood at the doorway, staring back at Shin, his palms clamming and sweat perspiring. His eyes widened at his lack of manners, and he spoke hastily, "Please enter." He quickly erected himself as the three elders slowly made their way into the living room. They made no move to sit despite the arrangement of multiple sofas in a triangular composition.
"We have arrived to inform you of recent tidings." A third monk said, his appearance being a grey goatee and permanent scowl, hinting at a harsh nature. Instantly, Shin knew he had to shave the goatee.
"Inform us of what?" Haha said, clutching Aang protectively.
The monk in the middle made his way to speak, when another placed his hand on his shoulder. Shin noticed the kindness radiating from his eyes as he spoke with a friendlier tone than the others, "Perhaps we have better sit down."
The middle monk hesitated as he processed the words. "Very well, Gyatso," he said.
Shin clutched the handles of his wife's stroller and followed the monks as they arranged themselves onto the sunlit portions of the sofas. He smiled, hoping he didn't look like he was struck by a lightning wielder and escorted Haha into the family room. On their way, Haha announced her decision to place Aang in the newly constructed crib.
Shin steered his wife into their bedroom, with a crib by their bed as promised by the Nursery Sister. Perched on the sky blue sheets were plush toys of a bison and a lion turtle. Haha slowly heaved herself to stand and approached the dresser, setting Aang down on the bed as he reached out for any part of his mother's radiance.
"Why are the monks here?" Haha asked as concern quickly took control of her voice.
"I don't know." Shin admitted, staring at the living room's door.
Haha opened the dresser as Shin took out a fluffy cloud white blanket. "It's better if we treat them with hospitality and hear what they have to say. Our elders always have a good reason for visiting their fellow nomads."
Shin readied as Haha picked up Aang – the boy playing with his mom's hair and smiling happier than he's ever been. He finished wrapping Aang into a small bundle as Haha began to place him on the crib. As soon as the warmth of her fingers faded into the cool of the air, he began to wail.
"Is something the matter?" Monk Gyatso's voice echoed from the family room.
"No." Shin reassured, promptly forgetting his manners once more.
"Thanks for your concern my elder." Haha added in respect, playfully hitting Shin for his forgetfulness. She turned toward Aang, and began to sing in a voice like silk.
The baby wailed even louder as Haha softly began another lullaby, caressing Aang's cheek as she whispered the foreign words.
As soon as she finished the song, Haha listened to the sounds of Aang's snores and gently perched her hands on the railing. Aang whistled through his nose, cuddling with his bison toy as the lion turtle plush watched nearby.
"Where'd you learn the Fire Nation lullaby?" Shin asked, symbolizing his interest with a raised eyebrow. Haha only smirked playfully as she fumbled for her stroller and perched herself on the seat, releasing a sigh of exhaustion. Shin rolled his eyes at his wife's mysteriousness and rolled the stroller into the family room. The monks watched with never blinking eyes as the couple turned to face them.
"What a lovely child." Gyatso complimented sincerely. "Do tell, how old is your newborn?"
"Only three days from today." Haha warmly smiled. "You see my elder, my family and I have only just returned from the hospital with our newborn, Aang."
"That is precisely why we're here!" Monk Tashi intervened, excitement in his voice and a dash of insanity overtaking his eyes. "They admitted it, Pasang! You heard them!"
"Quiet, Tashi." High Monk Pasang collectively commanded. He spoke with compelling authority that Shin found himself struggling to disobey. "We are here as guests."
More like intruders. Shin thought, unknowingly smirking at his mischievousness thoughts.
As if reading his mind, Gyatso spoke. "I know you must question our motives, but I assure you two, that we come with the best of intentions. You see, it not only concerns your family, but the fate of the world as well."
"And why us?" Shin asked, clenching his fists so they turned white.
"Not you." Monk Tashi snapped, frowning at the ridiculous assumption. He pointed I the direction of the crib. "Him."
"Who?" Haha inquired.
"The Avatar!" Monk Tashi shouted impatiently. "He may be in this house as we speak!"
"Our Aang? How can he be the Avatar?" Haha confusedly asked. "Avatar Roku is still at the Fire Nation, protecting the world with-"
"His life!" High Monk Pasang interrupted coolly. "Avatar Roku died three days ago, ma'am."
Haha exploded in tears and buried her head in her hands as the news reached her ears. Shin wrapped her around her arm and pushed her in for a hug. Realization dawned on Haha as she slowly looked up from her tear-dripped hands. "So, does this mean that our Aang is the next Avatar?"
"No," Monk Gyatso spoke. "There are still more candidates around the world that we and the other Council of Elders must investigate, but we are asking the parents to allow us to test your newborn in the Ceremony of the Four Relics."
"Can we perform the ceremony now?" Shin asked, his understatement implying an impatient tone of urgency.
"Do you see the relics here?" Monk Tashi retorted.
Spotting the incomprehensive looks of the couple, Gyatso spoke up in a polite tone. "They are currently at the Western Air Temple. Like the setting sun, the relics travel around our world in symbolization of Avatar Roku's setting time and the rising of the reincarnation."
"Can we expect to see you at the day of the ceremony in three days time?" High Monk Pasang asked.
Haha hesitated. Should she let Aang participate in the ceremony? It would be a huge honor for her to be the mother of the Avatar, but if he was then Aang would be taken away and forced to train under their monks. No, she couldn't allow that.
"No," Haha replied, masking her fear with false confidence. "I'm sorry my elders, but I'm not letting Aang be separated from me."
"You may observe the baby during training." High Monk Pasang reasoned.
"It's not that!" Haha screamed, her emotions boiling inside. "If Aang is the Avatar, then he will be taken away from us! I can't bear that!"
"Haha, please reconsider-" Gyatso spoke gently.
"No, I beg of my elders to please exit my home!" Haha screamed, pointing to the doorway.
"We don't have to listen to you!" Monk Tashi scoffed and turned to the others. "If he truly is the Avatar, we could just take the baby ourselves!"
"Are you threatening us?" Shin asked, growling as his fists clenched tighter and the dorsum turned whiter.
"I am merely suggesting an option." Monk Tashi snapped and walked toward the bedroom. "Where is the baby?"
Shin extended his right arm outwards, funneling a torrent of air to knock Tashi onto the door. His eyebrows scrunching in anger, the elder twisted as he trapped the funnel and guided the air with his body, circling his hands around to face his attacker with narrowed eyes. Exhaling, he repeated Shin's attack, but thrust both arms outward, building the force and intensity of the wind. High Monk Pasang calmly stepped in between Shin and the air's path. He exhaled a single breath of air and clasped his fingertips together, forcing the winds to part ways and evade both monks before completely evaporating.
"Control yourself, Tashi." Gyatso pleaded urgently as the sounds of Aang's cries filled the tense halls.
Shin strolled Haha into the nursery. She placed Aang into her arms and cuddled her head into Aang's softly breathing the Fire Nation lullaby into the baby's ears.
High Monk Pasang frowned and nodded. He led the others out of the room and toward the doorway. The high monk stopped and spoke, "I deeply regret my elder's actions today. If...when you change your mind, please meet us at the Council Chamber in three days' time." With that, the monks turned and walked down the vast temple halls, keeping to the shadows.
"I will." Shin grunted through a forced smiled and shut the door. Aang stopped crying.
Fire Lord Sozin raised his blood red cloak and strapped the brooch detailing his nation's insignia in place. He raised his hood and swiftly walked through the darkened hallways of the palace. He entered a small square room and gazed at a portrait of the firebending symbol, lit by only two candles. Gingerly brushing his hand over the painting, he exhaled sharply. His palm heated against the cool brushed surface, warm enough for the mechanisms to activate and begin stirring after a score of sleep.
The Fire Lord solemnly watched as the painting was eaten by the small wisps of ember tugging at the parchment. Shriveled ashes sprinkled onto the tiled marble floor as a gaping hole faced Fire Lord Sozin. Stooping to avoid the wall, he entered the abandoned secret passage, scuffling as his robes were tangled with the loose stones as if pleading for the Fire Lord to stay at palace. Yanking his robes free one last time, the Fire Lord reached a bricked fort as one final plea to remain at his temple. With a swift kick, the bricks crumbled and dissolved into dust.
"Fire Lord!" A palace guard shouted, running to the hole.
"Stay back!" Fire Lord Sozin snapped, exiting the small cramped passage with as much dignity as he could muster. Erecting himself, Fire Lord Sozin brushed off the dust which drained his black robes of color to a dull gray. "Where is the ship?"
"Just around the riverbank, sir." The guard responded hastily, pointing to the location he had addressed.
Behind the guard laid a small reed riverboat with two paddles perched inside the dual benches. A wide bay drizzled toward a dam hidden by vines attempting to escape their custody from overarching trees. The river was securely hidden in order to serve the Fire Lord himself. He'll have to kill the guard in order to preserve its secret purpose: to serve as an emergency escape route solely for the Fire Lord in the off chance that the temple was besieged by invaders.
"Yes my lord." The guard humbly bowed.
"Good." Fire Lord Sozin remarked. He trekked the small walk to the boat and sat as the guard grasped the hull and began to pull with his might, dragging it into the black tinted river. Once the boat finished rocking to adjust to its change of setting, the man hopped inside and pulled out the paddles. Placing them on the hooks on either side of the boat, he heaved the oars into the waters and began twirling them, slowly descending down the river. The vines from above wrapped around the small ship as if looking to feast.
Sozin calmly nudged the vines to the side as the guard rowed the ship to a stop in front of the granite dam. The Fire Lord calmly stood as the boat lurched over the sudden increase in weight. He approached the dam and outlined a square with a thin trail of orange originating from his fingertips. The traced square gave way and descended into the water, leaving a squished square-shaped hole passable barely by rowboat. Returning to his seat, the Fire Lord snapped his fingers and the guard became a rower once more, paddling them through the hole. As soon as they entered the harbor, the square of granite returned to its place.
"Where now Fire Lord?" The guard barely finished asking before a jagged bolt of lightning erupted at his chest. He slumped to the side and toppled into the water within seconds.
"I must protect my secrets." Fire Lord Sozin calmly responded as the trail of orange erupted in his sight again. "The comet is returning at last."
A man paced the length of his room, eyeing his sleeping son in a crib. He stroked his long beard, awaiting the life changing arrival of the monks. A knock shook the door. The man giddly strummed his fingers together and hastily walked toward the door, flinging it open with a barely contained grin plastered onto his face.
"Welcome to my humble home, great Council." The man exclaimed, bowing deeply. "I am truly honored to be in the presence of such noble nomads."
"Flattery will get you nowhere Afiko." High Monk Pasang reassured steely, shattering the smile. "Only the Ceremony of the Four Relics will determine if your son is or is not the Avatar." He playfully smirked and bowed in return. "However, it is appreciated." He entered the room. "Where is the child?"
"I will gladly take you to him, High Monk Pasang." Afiko said with mock politeness, hiding his anger with a crooked smile. He turned and led the council down the hall. Upon spotting the influx of guests, the baby boy roared with tears as high-pitched cries forced the elders to cringe.
"Is he always crying?" Monk Tashi snapped, lowering his head in irritation.
"My apologies Council." Afiko gritted through clenched teeth. The act was becoming a struggle to keep.
"At least we now know that he has the emotions of the Avatar." Gyatso chuckled.
"Do we perform the test now?" Afiko asked.
"The Avatar relics are not yet at the temple." Monk Meiji revealed, eyeing Afiko suspiciously.
"Then when will we determine that my son is – err excuse me – may be the Avatar, my elders?" Afiko responded forcefully; his eyes tinged with worry.
"Still, I sense great power in this one," High Monk Pasang noted, regarding the boy with newfound interest. "Perhaps he is the one we have been searching for."
Afiko's crooked smile grew wider. "But, of course. My son is the best candidate after all. We must test him at once."
"I agree." High Monk Pasang nodded. "We will send word for you once we receive the Avatar relics."
The Council bowed and exited the room, leaving Afiko and the boy alone once more.
Afiko patted his son's head as he continued to wail, his smile slowly curling into an annoyed frown. "Come now, my dear son. Aka, please, do try not to disappoint me. I wouldn't want my – I mean, your future to go astray because of your incompetence."
Aka began to cry again.
Sunset poured through the nursery windows. Shin put his arms on Haha's shoulders as she rocked back and forth on a chair while cradling Aang. "Haha, I've been thinking."
"No, Shin, please don't tell me." Haha heaved wit worry. "But, I've been feeling it as well. We have to do this. I-I-I just can't."
"Haha, it may be for the best. We would be selfish keeping Aang to ourselves. The world may need him." Shin said.
Haha started to cry, a silver tear escaping her eye. "But, if he is the Avatar, then they'll take him away."
"Then we'll move with him too." Shin reassured. "We demand and won't take no for an answer. Shall we go?"
Haha's emotions exploded and a fountain of tears broke free from their prison. She brought her face closer to Aang's. "We will go my little Airbender."
Aang smiled as Haha stood with difficulty and leaned toward the cradle, placing the baby boy inside. He instantly drifted to sleep.
"I must go inform the elders and you need your rest." Shin said, placing his arm around Haha and escorting her to their room.
Aang cried due to his separation from his mother. Tears dripped from his face and drenched the linen bed sheets. The young Airbender clutched his sheets as he struggled to stand. He fell and cried even more. Shaking his arms, the little boy bended the water out of the sheets but they failed to obey and erupted into little raindrops.
Thinking they were Haha's tears, the nomad smiled.
The reed boat rocked in the smooth shifting waves, gliding lightly toward the crescent-shaped island, a tall temple towered over the desert terrain, cementing its place as the only building on the land. Fire Lord Sozin stood as the boat neared the shore. Without hesitation, he stepped off the boat and onto the soft gush of sand as the reed boat twirled in confusion at the sudden drop in weight and crashed into twigs against a nearby boulder.
The powerful ruler brushed stray specks of his shoulder blades and began his journey up the hill. He crushed several water lilies on his way to the hillside, scrambling onto the dirt with a grunt. Fire Lord Sozin narrowed his eyes, sternly judging the distance he'd have to travel to reach the Fire Temple. He unstrapped the breastplate around his shoulders and carelessly dropped it to the floor. With a heavy sigh, Fire Lord Sozin began sprinting toward the Fire Temple, kicking aside meaningless little pebbles in his way. One mile. One hundred feet. Seventy-five. Fifty. Heavy gasps escaped his mouth. Forty. His pace fell sharply. Thirty. Twenty-five. Twenty. Sweat beaded down his face. Ten. Huff. Puff. His chest heaved. With a final roar, Fire Lord Sozin leaped into the air, dominating the sky. His feet connected with the ground and the elderly ruler skidded to a halt outside the temple. Unnecessary? Yes. Exhilarating? Without a doubt.
Fire Lord Sozin threw open the doors and briskly entered, his time wasted already. He walked down the mahogany passageway and sharply yanked a torch downward. A column of the metallic wall swung open, allowing Sozin passage into a hidden room carved inside the volcano. Lava slowly overtook trenches of the earth as Sozin hastily jogged up the path, scowling at the lack of a guide.
He came upon a fork in the road and sharply turned left. He'd visit the other room soon enough. The path coiled like a snake and the cone-shaped tunnel soon met Fire Lord Sozin at the end of its tail. He came face to face with a metallic door engraved with the design of a single flame. He pressed his left palm onto the middle of the engraving justifying his hand as the source of the flame. Wires grinded and the door swung open, revealing rows of three-column high bookshelves, each with multiple charred scrolls jutting out.
"Who goes there?!" A voice asked.
"Me." Fire Lord Sozin snapped. Instantly, four of the sages stood in front of their Fire Lord. "Just as I suspected, each of you would be nose-deep in these useless parchments." He sneered and grabbed a thick parchment. Its letters read, The Beginning. "Well, lucky for each of you," He pointed the scroll at each of the Fire Sages, their eyes burning with fear and their heads dripping with sweat. "You won't need to ridicule yourself by serving an irrelevant relic of peace and prosperity. No," He clutched the scroll to his chest. "Not anymore."
A sage coughed. "Wi-With a-all d-d-due r-respect s-s-sir, wh-whatever do y-you mean?"
Fire Lord Sozin turned and shot an arc of flames at the sage, shooting him into a nearby bookshelf. It collapsed, trapping the sage under its collection of history. "Fear will not be tolerated in my age! It's time for the world to look to a new defender of peace. Avatar Roku, Avatar Kyoshi, both intervened in the rise of great leaders! If not for that pesky nuisance of an Avatar, they'd be unstoppable!"
"But, sir, aren't you still here?" A second sage gulped down his fear, his eyes feverishly glancing from side to side and his head licked with sweat. "What do you mean about 'they'd'?"
The Fire Lord swiveled to face the fireplace, his features, worn and tired, reflected onto the dancing and flickering flames. "Sadly, my time is coming. I shall not live long enough to fully marvel at the wonders that I will unleash."
"But, the Avatar, he will stand in your way!" The third sage blurted out, before covering his mouth in shame. "I'm sorry, my lord."
"I am not worried about the Avatar." Fire Lord Sozin claimed, his fists curling over the precious fabric in his hands. "What can an Airbender do in sixteen measly years? No, I am much more worried about the gap in between. Who knows how many ingrates would foolishly step into his limelight to slave away haplessly against us as we share our glory? They must be silenced at once."
"Whatever do you mean?' The fourth sage asked, expressing his confusion with a raised eyebrow. Silence. "Fire Lord?"
The Fire Lord stood immoveable in front of the fireplace. His eyes etched themselves into the flames as whispers of screams rang in his ears. He saw the comet flying overhead a temple, smoke blowing into the orange-tinted sky. The Fire Lord blinked and growled, throwing the parchment into the cinders.
"No!" The sages shouted. One reached for the tong, but Sozin growled and yanked it from his hand.
"You fool!" Sozin growled, stabbing the sage in the gut. "Why would you choose to commemorate something as foolish as the Beginning? Get out your quills and parchment boys; it's time for a new Beginning!" His eyes twinkled with madness.
Ceremony of the Four Relics
"We are very glad you accepted our invitation and have agreed to participate in the Ceremony of the Four Relics." Gyatso said, leading Shin, Haha and Aang, now sprouting a tuft of black hair, out of their room. "Would you be kind to follow me?" Gyatso asked rhetorically, pointing to a small mountain road.
Gyatso led the three up the windy mountain road until they reached a domed courtyard. The courtyard was elegantly beautiful with murals of nomads bending, gliding with lemurs, and flying on sky bison ringing around a twenty-foot fountain. Water sprouted out of the top bowl and curved downwards into the middle bowl which bounced into the bigger bottom bowl. Like sun's rays, perfectly cemented cobblestone roads zigzagged between the murals, each leading to different areas of the temples.
"This is the way to the Council Chamber." Gyatso explained.
The monk led them to a fork in the road. Turning right, the guests hesitantly followed as they spotted the elaborate doors. Now was the moment of truth. Shin and Haha swallowed their fear and followed Gyatso to see if Aang was or was not the Avatar.
Gyatso smiled. "Shall we enter?"
Shin and Haha walked in silence after Gyatso until they reached the doors to the Council Chamber, intricate designs of two sky bison coiled to create a never-ending circle. A man grinned widely, his lips curling upwards as he glanced at the infant in his arms. He came to a stop in front of the three and sneered.
"I presume everything went well Afiko?" Gyatso asked with mock kindness.
"Everything went fabulous!" Afiko shouted. "My son, Aka, will be the next Avatar! And, now, if you excuse me, I have more pressing matters to attend." The monk pushed himself between Shin and Haha and briskly walked down the cobblestone in the case that the nomads would ask another question. He did not stop until they were out of sight.
"What was that about?" Shin asked.
"Who knows?" Gyatso said. "Come now, we must get inside."
Gyatso turned and breathed heavily. He twirled swiftly and extended his arms, releasing a burst of wind out of his hands. The wind blew into the tubes of the Air Sanctuary. As soon as it reached the first blue shell, it shook and turned sideways, releasing the air and transforming purple. Two shells later, and the chamber creaked to a narrow opening, the air blowing straight at Aang's face.
Silence filled the empty darkness and Aang whimpered, frightened. Shin gulped and began walking down the dark room, holding Haha's hand as she clutched Aang tightly to her chest. The menacing sound of doors closing frightened the Airbenders.
Shin and Haha approached a row of elder monks, the one in the middle shaded by a yellow summer umbrella, the four beside him bathed in sunlight. The farthest on the left, Monk Meiji, was donned in an orange-red robe, covering his scarred and calloused hands from years in the war. His black beard, in lotus position, reached down to his lap and was criss-crossed with braids of white facial hair. His eyes held years of sadness. The farthest on the right, Monk Futo, was slightly obese and his peach robes hung low from the apples he stored inside them. Smile wrinkles were permanently etched onto his hairless face and he flashed a wide happy grin when he saw Shin and Haha as if greeting long friends.
Next to Monk Meiji, Gyatso was as thin as a toothpick and his orange colored robes shone under the sunlight. A wooden necklace etched with the elemental symbol of Airbending was placed over his bald, thin mustached head. He smiled kindly but his eyes were stern, friendly yet powerful. Beside Monk Futo sat the hunched Monk Tashi. His wrinkles deepened into a curl like handlebars and his permanent scowl made no effort to smile as ever calculating eyes studied the newborn carefully all whilst he stroked his white goatee as if contemplating disaster.
Shin was glad he had shaved the goatee. In the middle, on a higher pedestal, sat High Monk Pasang. His tangerine colored robes shone brightly in the room yet his face was sculpted with sorrow. His half-lid eyes were pained and he no longer tried for a smile; emotion was unreadable following the death of Avatar Roku, one of his favorite pupils. His unibrow coiled with uncertainty and his fingerstache was thinning.
High Monk Pasang regarded the parents with uncertainty. "Please, sit."
"Shin, as the father of candidate Aang, the Southern Council of Elders would like to know if you give your blessing to perform this test." Monk Meiji spoke, his voice as rough as sandpaper.
"I-I-I do." Shin whispered solemnly, his head lurched downwards.
"Sister Haha as the birth mother of candidate Aang, the Southern Council of Elders would like to know if you give your blessing to perform this test." Monk Futo spoke, his voice giddy with excitement.
Haha stared at her baby's gray happy eyes. "I do." She whispered.
"The ceremony can now begin." Gyatso announced. "Please step back."
The Southern Council of Elders stood in union. They turned to face the circular oval etched into the wall behind them and, in rapid succession, the monks placed one hand on the shape. Air ignited a secret square in front of the monks' palms, activating a series of grinding levers and thumping mechanisms.
"It's a bit nosier than the door outside." Gyatso apologized kindly.
Monk Tashi scowled. "Perhaps a little noise will do them some good. After all, they've been stuck with the Avatar all this time!"
"Enough Tashi." High Monk Pasang snapped. "Shin, Haha, are you ready?"
Shin and Haha nodded silently.
"Let the Ceremony of the Four Relics begin!" High Monk Pasang announced, his voice echoing around the cavern.
Walls erupted on either side of the cavern, revealing square shaped vents that hummed as they shot out plastic toys. Monk Meiji gracefully twirled, trapping a few of them in an air bubble. He twisted his finger and the air complied, carefully spinning the relics onto a perfect line on the ground. Monk Tashi extended his hand upwards, raising ten relics into the air and creating a funnel by twirling his hands around one another. Each monk repeated these moments until thousands of toys were aligned in neat and even rows and columns.
"Are these toys?" Shin asked incredulously, scratching his bald head. He reached down to pick one up.
"Do not touch, foolish one!" Monk Tashi roared. "If the pattern is broken, the baby might get confused!"
"Uh, what?" Haha asked, "How does this determine if my son is the Avatar?"
"Aang will be allowed to scourge the toys and pick four of them. The four he chooses will determine if he is or not the Avatar." High Monk Pasang explained.
"The four he chooses will be familiar to him as these four toys were the first touched by the first four Air Nomad Avatars. Through the guidance of his past lives, he will feel a connection and choose the toys he recognizes." Monk Tashi recounted.
Haha reluctantly placed Aang on the ground. The baby farted, giggled, and crawled toward the toys. The baby shuffled through each one. Some he tossed aside and others he placed in his mouth. Once all the toys were infected with baby saliva, Aang was clutching four toys tightly to his chest.
The monks stood once more and reversed the process, airbending the toys into the vents and sealing them by placing their hands on the square-shaped tiles. The Southern Council of Elders turned and returned to lotus positions.
"Show me the toys you picked out Aang." High Monk Pasang instructed. Aang laughed and blew a raspberry at the monks. The baby rolled over and tossed the four toys by the feet of the council.
"Close enough." Monk Futo suggested warmly. Monk Tashi rolled his eyes. "Now, put your hand on top of them." Monk Futo instructed. "Go on. Go on."
The baby chuckled and tapped his hands over the four toys, smacking them happily. A flash of white illuminated from the baby, filling the room.
"Aang!" Haha shrieked, reaching her child. Shin held her wrist, pulling her in for a hug as Aang shifted into a tall elderly man with Fire Nation robes and a topknot in his white hair. His white beard flowed with the wind.
Soon, he shimmered and a tall woman in green robes and a golden half-sun headdress flashed a smile on her painted face. She shortened into a young man with a wolf skin over his body. He flashed a mischievous smile as his dreads flowed with the wind. He shimmered and transformed into a woman dressed in the garments of an Airbender. Her gaze followed the Council as they watched in awe. Avatar Yangchen spoke coldly, her words as cold as ice. "I have returned."
Cold wind blew around the female Avatar and twirled into a tornado. Slowly it decreased, twirling into nothing except for a baby in its place. Haha quickly grabbed Aang and clutched him to his chest. The baby yawned, falling asleep to the steady beats of a familiar heart.
"What happened to him?!" Haha shrieked, "Aang. Aang. Aang." She sobbed.
"Haha, it'll be okay." Shin whispered, wiping a loose strand of her hair over her shoulder.
"Thank you for your cooperation." High Monk Pasang said. "Please, if you will, make sure that the Avatar stays safe."
"He's not just the Avatar!" Haha sobbed. "He's Aang. Our son! Another Airbender!"
"He is the Avatar!" Monk Tashi protested.
"Unbelievable." Monk Futo gaped. "I thought he had the makings of a great cook."
"No matter the case, he is our savior; destined to aid us should – when the need arises." High Monk Pasang steely responded. "Get some rest, it's been a long day."
Haha turned without another word, burying her head in Aang's arms. Shin turned to follow, his fists clenched with anger. He wasn't as calm as he'd let on. "He's not just the savior. He is our son. And we will protect him. No matter what." The nomad burst into a run, each step putting him further from the Council.
"Let us hope nothing happens to change that." High Monk Pasang mumbled under his breath after the fleeting father. "Gyatso, keep a close eye on him. We will decide what to do with him after we confirm Afiko's claims."
Gyatso nodded respectfully. "It would be my honor."
Instead of creating another chapter for the series, RuleroftheBisons97 was originally going to place the revamped version of Ceremony of the Four Relics and skip to the next chapter. However, after rereading AcerEvan's comment that the actual ceremony could be altered to better suit the mystery of the story, he began looking for other parts of the chapter that could be changed. He eventually discovered old notes among his five thousand binders and discovered a subplot for Fire Lord Sozin, which detailed his discovery of the Great Comet. However, after reading the transcript for The Avatar and the Fire Lord during the previous chapter, he discovered that Sozin had already known about the comet and so altered it in order for it to be a journey on reaching the Fire Temple and discussing his plan with the Fire Sages.
Beginning immediately after January 26th, 2014, RuleroftheBisons97 began working on the rewrite of this chapter, but decided that the scene in question would better serve as an introduction to another chapter and scrapped it, favoring a funeral for Avatar Roku instead. He wrote a few sections but found himself unwilling to continue writing what he found was a boring addition to the story, merely being exposition. As such, writing faltered for a few months when RuleroftheBisons97 began writing other fanfiction pieces. He eventually came back to writing on April 19, 2014, but found himself unable to continue and dreaded working on it for more months. However, on June 25th, he discovered the release date of Book 3: Change and rapidly finished the chapter and edited it on June 26th, 2014 for a release on June 27th, 2014.
|"The Avatar is an irrelevant relic of a bygone age!"|
|— Ozai to Zuko in The Promise Part 2|
In order to illustrate a sense that this chapter happens in the past and as well as being displeased with the title, Ceremony of the Four Relics, the author searched for a name that would connect the death of Avatar Roku and the birth of Avatar Aang. Remembering that part of the plot included the council's search for babies born on the day of Roku's death in order to embark on the ceremony, RuleroftheBisons97 also had to connect the Avatar relics. He recalled that Ozai had muttered the aforementioned quote and used the title "Relics in order to allude to the Phoenix King's statement.
- The time frame being three days is a callback to The Promise with everything in that graphic novel happening within three days.
- Several members of the Southern Council of Elders either cling to the sunlight or shadows. Hint: Foreshadowing.
- There is a reason why the Southern Council of Elders and Fire Lord Sozin have their titles addressed every time their name is mentioned. However, as the story goes on, some will eventually lose this honor as actions become clearer.
- Sozin's run to the Fire Temple was added to completely allude to his conquest of the other three nations.
- The reader will discover where Haha learned Leaves From the Vine.
- "Just around the riverbend" is a not so subtle reference to the Disney song from Pocahontas.
- The first song Haha sings to Aang is "You'll Be in My Heart" by Phil Collins from the 1999 Disney film, Tarzan.
|Aang: Story of an Airbender|
|Aang - Appa - Gyatso - Mia - Aka - Afiko |
Pasang - Tashi - Meiji - Futo - Ento - Iio - Guru Pathik
Bumi - Hanbao - Kuzon - Sozin - The Yamiichiba Hunters - Akua - Kelron
|Prologue: Winds of Change - 1. Relics - The First Tier - Bonds of Friendship Part 1, Part 2 - The Island |
The Innocent Years - The Sky Bison Polo Championships - Tattoo - Festival - Hotman - The Mad Genius
A Clash of Cultures - Into the Blizzard - The Avatar - The Air Agents - Reunions - Out of the Blue
Things Unsaid - Embers in the Wind - Ashes in the Air - Deserted - All Things Part 1, Part 2
Sense of Family - Riddles of the Dark - Gathering Storm Clouds - Dark Horse - New Moon Celebration
The Pentapox Problem - Traitor's Tale - Dragon Days - The Last Night - Silent Air Part 1: Detachment
Silent Air Part 2: Ambush - Silent Air Part 3: Genocide - Silent Air Part 4: Air of Extinction
For the collective works of the author, go here.