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Book 1: Kisah
5 September 2012
This is the first chapter in which flashbacks will be used. They will be identified by italics.
Before Shen had time to explain herself any further to the group she stumbled upon, a jet of water pummeled her and knocked her back into a rock wall. She tried to get up quickly, but soon realized that her wrists were bound to the wall by stone rings, her legs trapped on floor.
"Please! I just-" The intruder was once again nailed by a blast of water delivered by Komin. When she could see again, Amber had death grip and her collar and tugged it violently. "Where did you come from!" she demanded. "Why are you here!" In one palm, she ignited a small flame to intimidate the trespasser.
Shen squirmed and yelped. "My name is Shen! I saw you guys fight those men back in town and followed you here!"
"Liar!" screamed Amber. "That's impossible!"
Komin put his hand on Amber's shoulder. "Let her go. We'll see what she has to say."
Reluctantly, Amber shoved Shen down and walked away bitterly. Clearly frightened, Shen panicked. "Really, I'm not here to hurt you guys! I-I felt bad that I didn't help back in that fight, and I wanted to know where you guys lived! It was the first time I had ever seen the city and I didn't know what was going on or who any of those people were!"
Komin was dubious. "Then where do you come from if you've never been in the city."
Shen paused, knowing that her response would only lead to more suspicion. "Well I've actually lived here my whole life. But I was never allowed out of the Monastery before."
Hu Li, who had been silent the whole time, protested Shen's explanation. "There aren't any girls in the Monastery, never have been."
"I'm the only girl," Shen insisted. "My foster father, Monk Ohk, raised me there."
"Ohk?" Hu Li was flabbergasted. "You know Brother Ohk?"
Shen nodded oddly, she just stated that Ohk raised her. Komin turned to Hu Li. "Who is this Ohk guy?"
"He's a monk at the Monastery, just like the girl says," noted Amber's brother. "Remember my friend who learned Airbending there? Ohk taught him!"
The four kids stared at Shen quizzically. "I think she's telling the truth after all," Hu Li stated.
"Just because she knows some monk guy doesn't prove anything," Amber spat, still doubtful.
"Give her a chance." The words came from Tenang, whom Shen had yet to hear speak.
"I agree with him," joked Shen, failing to amuse either Komin or Amber. The Waterbender pondered the situation for a moment before summoning his three friends to a private meeting. They walked across the small rock cave to the wall opposite of Shen, where apparently there was another secret door. Now by herself, Shen had an opportunity to survey the hideout. It wasn't much, but it amazed Shen that the jetty was completely hollow, serving as the perfect base for whatever these kids were doing. In the middle was a fire pit, the cave's only source of light from what she could tell. Seeing that made Shen wonder how any air got in, but they probably had some secret vent.
The meeting didn't last very long, and the four teens soon reappeared from the hole in the wall to announce their decision. Amber didn't look too pleased, which gave Shen hope.
"First of all," started Komin, "We never officially introduced ourselves. I'm Komin, that's Amber, this is Hu Li, and that's Tenang. We four, plus my sister, Sakura, make up the Iluna Rebels. Our number one goal is to free the people of Kisah from the Angkara Family as best we can."
"What's the Angkara Family?" Shen interrupted.
Amber scoffed. "Don't you guys see she's playing dumb?"
Ignoring Amber, Komin answered her question. "They're the ruling family that oppresses everyone in this city. They tax the people out of everything they have, work us all day and night, and kill anyone who steps out of line. The man we attacked earlier is Zhang. He's only the prince, but we have our suspicions that he's the one calling the shots. His father's name is Wang Chao and his wife is Kriyel--"
"She's the worst," Amber added.
Komin nodded his head, validating his friend's statement. "Anyway, if you really want to gain our trust, we think you should join us on our mission to save my sister."
Back in the Monastery, Ohk was growing worried. He sat awkwardly in his ripped-up, smelly leather chair. The other monks kept telling him to throw it out, but it would never leave his room. The memory he associated it with was too powerful, for it was in this chair that he was reading when he heard the knock on his door- when he became the closest he'd ever be to a father.
"Absolutely not! How do you suppose we're going to raise a child here? Where is she going to sleep? Why don't we just ask Brother Mushi to make an extra dish each mealtime with our huge abundance of food!"
Ohk sighed, trying not to get flustered as his Superior scolded him. The night before, he had taken in a baby girl he found on the monastery's doorstep. "Superior, how could we call ourselves servants of peace if we put a baby back on the street? She would die!"
"Is she going to do better here? Huh!" The elder monk was furious. "How do you expect to get extra funding from the Angkaras? You didn't think that through, did you? Did you!"
"She's staying! She'll pray with us and help out around the Monastery!"
Ohk snapped out of his daydream when he heard light footsteps scampering up the stairs. It could only be Shen, he thought, leaping out of his chair and rushing to the door. Swinging it open and almost breaking the hinges, he saw her.
"Where have you been? I was worried sick about you! I thought I'd never see you again!" Shen said nothing as Ohk nearly hyperventilated, unsure of what to do. Finally, he shook off his anger and embraced Shen with a hug. "I'm so glad you're okay! Wh- Why are you wet?"
"It rained pretty hard. Didn't you hear it?"
"Well no, I-"
"The city's pretty boring anyway," Shen lied again. "Nothing to do."
"Then where were you all day?"
"I- uh. I wanted to walk around the entire thing, you know? I wanted to visit each district."
Ohk seemed staggered by what she had just said, be regained composure. "Ah yes, I see."
"I didn't like it. I think staying here in the Monastery is good enough for me." Shen felt bad deceiving her caretaker like this.
The monk smiled. "I'm so glad you feel that way."
Shen hugged Ohk once again and entered the room through the doorway. She proceeded to the creaky, wooden ladder leading to the attic in which she slept. Exhausted, she collapsed on her dusty, shaky bed. She lay there for a moment and thought about Ohk. If he was hiding the whole city from her, what else was he hiding?
A younger Shen, around seven or eight years old, galumphed through the hallway, past Brother Mushi, to take hold of Ohk's hand, who looked down at her and laughed. "Did you do your reading?" the monk inquired somewhat sternly. The little girl avoided eye contact, refusing to answer his question. "Shen? Did you do your reading?" he repeated. Suddenly, there was a powerful knock at the door, and Ohk went to peer through the window before his face turned pale. "Shen, go upstairs and do your reading, right now." This command came off as much more severe, and the girl obeyed at once, oblivious to what was really going on.
That night turned out to be a full moon, and the elegant glow proved to be perfect for Shen's silent escape.
In their impressive headquarters, the Iluna Rebels sat around a fire, plotting their upcoming mission. Shen was ten minutes late joining them, and when she did show up, her entrance wasn't much more graceful than then her previous one. This performance only gave Komin another reason to regret his decision to let her tag along. "Hey guys."
For a moment, nobody responded until Hu Li gave a wave out of pity. "Hey there."
"Didn't we tell you?" Hu Li asked rhetorically. "She works for Kriyel Angkara at night as her maid-- AKA: slave."
Komin remained focused on the details or their plan rather than Amber's position. "She's how we're getting in."
Shen was excited. "Alright, let's do this!"
"Not so fast," said Hu Li. "We have to make a short stop on the way." With that, the three Iluna Rebels led their trainee out of the cave. Together, they crept stealthily back into town, and this was no easy task. Angkara Sentries were posted on just about every corner, in trios. Their march seemed almost mechanic, three left legs moving simultaneously, then three right legs. Shen predicted that the Rebels were going to sneak there way around the guards, but they had much different plans in mind. Komin gave some sort of hand signal and sprung out of hiding with a whip of water by his side. He swiftly tripped each of the Sentries just as Tenang jumped forth and made a strong movement with his arms. It all happened so fast that Shen couldn't process what was going on. It was like the ground flipped and instead of the guards lying above ground, they were suddenly underground. She didn't have time to think anymore; Hu Li tugged her wrist and began to sprint, right behind the other two. In a matter of ten seconds, they had taken out three men and run off into the night.
In a couple of minutes, the gang ducked into a slim alley in a narrow, shady street of shacks and run-down apartments. On the other side, they reached another row of houses in not much better condition. "That's Tark's house," whispered Hu Li as he pointed to the building in front of them. He then proceeded to guide Shen and the others through the side gate to smelly background with grass ankle-high. There wasn't much back there- a wheelbarrow, a fireplace, a clothesline, and a few other trinkets. "See this bucket for washing clothes?" asked Hu Li. Shen nodded, noticing that it was rather large for it's purpose. The Firebending boy smiled. "Well, it's not a bucket for washing clothes." He walked over to it and reached into it before pulling out the bottom and stepping in. Slowly, he lowered himself down, and soon enough, he was gone. Amazed, Shen rushed over to see a ladder jetting down into darkness, and down she went. Below was a rather unique room, lit by candles on a long table that ran across all four walls. At the center, was a sturdy table made of logs, covered in random parts and gadgets.
"Well hello!" The loud, friendly greeting made Shen jump. "I'm Tark. Nice to meet ya!" The smiling man was wearing an odd tunic and had wild hair.
"Hi Tark," she replied, watching Komin and Tenang enter. "That's a really cool ladder you have there."
"Why thank you! Me and Hu Li build that one day. It was his idea, actually."
Komin cut to the chase. "Tark, is that new equipment you've been talking about ready?"
The man rubbed his chin. "Ah is that what you came to see me about? Well, I wasn't able to completely finish it but..." He rummaged through a closet of all sorts of contraptions before he noticed that what he was looking for was hanging right on the door. "Ah! Here it is!" He pulled a dark red robe from a hook and displayed it for the Rebels. "Not only does it reduce the impact of arrows but it's ready with just about every sharp item one could imagine. Knives, darts, sais... Grappling hook not included."
"Wow Tark," said Hu Li with enthusiasm. "You've really outdone yourself!"
"Indeed I have! Here ya go!" He gestured for the boy to accept the robe, but he simply pointed to Shen. Tark blushed. "Oh! You! Well... here ya go! So I guess your an honorary Iluna Rebel?"
Shen didn't know how to respond, as she wasn't sure what the answer was. Komin answered for her. "We'll see." This response pleased Shen. At least it isn't a no.
With Shen wearing her new battle uniform, the Iluna Rebels took off once again. They had to deal with six more guards on the way to the Ankaras' palace. In one instance, Tenang bended the cover off a manhole and Hu Li blasted a man into the sewers. Afraid that an attack of that level might be easier to notice, Komin told the others to pick up their pace, and when they finally arrived at the palace, he was relieved to see that no one appeared to have received an alert. Their entrance is where Amber came along. That night, she was working on stable duty, and she made sure to leave the gate wide open. Just as planned, she was there to greet them once they reached the third stable.
"I knocked the two sentries they had with me. I'll tell them they were bucked by an angry ostrich-horse and that their memory must have been damaged." She looked each Rebel in the eye, making sure they understood. When she looked at Shen it was more of a glare than anything else, but she didn't say anything.
"Good work, Sis," Hu Li noted, whipping out some kind of paint and applying it to her face. Shen was puzzled. "What are you doing?"
"This is gonna make it look like she's bruised up, as if we knocked her out. We're gonna chain her to that post, but she'll have a key if she needs to release herself. We're only doing this so that if we get caught, she isn't brought down with us. If all goes well, she'll unchain herself and wash the paint off like nothing ever happened."
"Dasna, what are you doing here at this hour?" Ohk didn't expect to be visited at the Monastery so late at night.
He was speaking to the Mother Superior of the Kisah Abbey just a few years older than him. "I could see a candlelight in your window from the Abbey. You aren't sleeping."
"Apparently neither are you."
"Are you worried about Shen's behavior recently?"
Ohk sighed. "I assure you, I have everything under control."
"Maybe you should've sent her to school like we said."
"I know what's best for her!"
Dasna remained calm despite the monk's irritation. "She doesn't have any friends..."
"Shen doesn't need friends!" Ohk became quiet, realizing how ridiculous his argument sounded. "What she needs," he said much softer, "is my guidance."
"And how has that worked out?"
The Iluna Rebels were approaching the east side of the palace's main building, but were forced to jump in shrubbery when they heard a door creak open. Shen held her breath and watched through the bush a woman in elegant apparel muttering angrily as she exited the palace grounds. Shen was shocked; she had seen that woman before.
"Senator, please!" Shen could hear Ohk pleading with some woman downstairs, and went to check it out, only peering out of the wall far enough to see her face."
"I'm trying," she retorted. "Granting extra funds to your Monastery isn't exactly something the other Senators are too keen on doing. You should at least specify why you need them."
"I- I can't."
"Shen, come on," Komin commanded in a hushed tone. The girl snapped out of her memory and nodded, following the Waterbender. He led the others through a vent, in which they crawled for at least five minutes before hearing voices.
"So, did you hear about this Waterbending girl we captured during the attack on Lord Zhang?"
"Oh, well it doesn't matter now. Kriyel's taken care of her. She's a goner now."
- Brother Mushi was inspired by Brother Cookie from the Spanish film, Marcelino Pan y Vino.
For the collective works of the author, go here.