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Sharks and Sea Serpents is the third chapter of. Its working title was Shaoshang Revealed.
|Sharks and Sea Serpents|
Onboard Shaoshang's Ship
The shark of a man sat in his office on board his Fire Nation ship. He wore traditional Fire Nation armor, but with no sleeves and gauntlets that went up to his elbows. The red flags adorned his office were emblazoned with the black symbols of the Cult of Sozin, that was used previously by Ozai in his brief reign as Phoenix King. He sipped gently at his tea, his razor sharp teeth scratching the edge of his cup.
A man in traditional Fire Nation armor entered the room. "Sir, we are approaching Kyoshi Island."
"Very well," Shaoshang stood up and stalked out of the room; his subordinate followed in his wake. He reached the deck and looked over his surroundings. The ship was nearing Kyoshi Bay; he wouldn't be able to go too much farther without attracting the attention of the Unagi. But, that was okay. His prey wasn't on Kyoshi, it was coming to Kyoshi and they'd have to go right past him.
He walked over to the edge and examined the water. "Time for some cover, don't you think?" he muttered to no one in particular, then leaned over the edge. He breathed deeply and breathed a slow stream of flame flow from his mouth and into the water. Steam sprouted from the water and quickly covered the ship and the majority of the bay.
"Ready yourselves, men," Shaoshang said to the small crew on the ship. "Today, the cult begins its greatest gambit. It begins!"
"It begins!" cried the men behind him, punching their fists into the air.
The Western Air Temple
Katara let the water flow from her hands and around Ran's head wound. A particularly large piece of rubble had flown from the broken wall and hit him on the head. Neither Ran nor his wife had seen what had breached the wall; they told Aang they felt a massive blast of force and the wall coming in on them and nothing more.
She was trying to stay strong for Aang and for the rest of the New Nomads. She was a bastion of strength for them all, but she could feel her strength failing. Diyi was gone, stolen in the dark of the night by creatures even Aang didn't recognize. She pushed the thought out of her mind and focused on healing Ran's wounds, but the lost Diyi kept creeping back into her mind, making the healing session take much longer than it should have.
Ran thanked Katara silently and went back to Farsi; she had not stopped crying since she woke up. Katara nodded in acknowledgment, then looked for Aang. He was sitting on the floor, his legs hanging out of the broken wall and staring out into the empty space. Katara sat next to him and held his hand tightly.
"I'm going to find her," Aang said, not turning to look at her.
"Do you need help?" she asked.
"No, they need you here."
"I was your friend before I was a Nomad. You come first."
"Thank you, Katara. But you can do more good here. I'm going to find Diyi and I need you to look after my people when I'm gone."
Katara nodded. "Do you know...?"
"No," said Aang in frustration. "They were shadows... Maybe someone's learnt to bend smoke?"
"Well, Toph can bend metal. That pretty much makes anything possible."
Aang turned and look deep into Katara's eyes. "Where there's smoke, there's fire."
Katara smiled, but it was halfhearted. "Say hi to Zuko for me. He needs to come visit more often."
Aang returned the smile, though he didn't mean it – the situation was too depressing for real smiles. "I'll see you soon," he said, then fell out of the window, deployed his glider and flew outwards and upwards to find Appa.
Approaching Kyoshi Island
Wuoyan shoved coal into the small engine and the little propeller underneath their boat roared louder with the new fuel. It was very small boat, with a steam engine and enough room for about three people and supplies. "There's Kyoshi, kid," he said pointing to the misty horizon. "Ya'll be seeing yer uncle real soon."
Liang sat near the bow of the small boat, next to a large bag of fish. "What's all that mist?"
"Dunno. Not anything to worry 'bout though."
"I've never seen mist like that."
"Kid, stop worrying about the mist. It's the Unagi we're gonna have problems with."
"It's a giant sea serpent that lives in Kyoshi Bay," Wuoyan said, a little confused, looking directly at Liang, who immediately panicked and starting staring towards the misty shore. "Hold on, ev'ryone knows about the Unagi... Damn it, ya don't have an uncle in Kyoshi, do ya?"
Now Liang looked at him, even more panicked. "No," he stuttered.
Wuoyan stayed silent and continue to steer the boat.
"Are you going to throw me off?"
Wuoyan looked and laughed boisterously. "I like my money, kid, but I ain't gonna throw you overboard 'cause ya can't pay." Liang calmed down a little bit. Wuoyan continued: "But I own ya now, kid. You owe me big, and I intend to collect."
Liang nodded, a little nervously, and then turned back to the island. "How do we get past the Unagu?"
"Unagi, and we're hopefully gonna sneak past it. But, that's why I got all the fish," said Wuoyan, pointing. "If 'e sees us, we'll distract 'im with those."
"That's pretty clever, Wuoyan."
"Thanks, but I can't take credit. Got the idea from an old man in Ba Sing Se."
Liang smiled – he had a pretty good idea which old man that idea came from. Iroh had been the smartest man Liang knew ever since the old man hired him to work in his teashop. He always seemed to know exactly what people needed to hear and what they needed to know. But, his old boss' strange sense of precognition only made Liang more worried. Iroh's last words to him rang in his ears: "The frost will come..."
"Look sharp, Liang," said Wuoyan. "We're entering the mist."
Within the Mist
Shaoshang stood on deck and smiled his deadly smile. "Alright, men. Here they come. I want an assessment. Two of you, go."
Two men in Fire Nation armor bowed low and climbed into a small boat that was docked alongside the larger one.
"Remember. The one stays alive, the other can disappear."
Liang and Wuoyan's boat crept quietly across the bay, trying not to attract the attention of the Unagi. Both boys were nervous and weren't even speaking to avoid the wrath of the sea serpent. They'd even turned the engine off and were rowing slowly across the water. Then, Liang spotted it, a small fast boat, probably the same model as theirs, was coming towards them at high speed, creating a massive wave of water in its wake.
"Wu!" Liang whispered harshly. "Look there!"
Wuoyan glared. "Don't call me Wu! My mother calls me Wu!"
"Will you just look?"
Wuoyan turned to see the new arrival. "They're coming for us."
"Oh, well done."
"I can't speed up this boat."
"We'll have to. We're halfway across the bay and the Unagu – "
"Unagi," Wuoyan interrupted.
"Whatever. The other boat has already attracted it. We gotta go! Now!"
"I can't, kid! The engine needs steam to restart! And I don't have 'nough time to get 'nother fire going!"
Liang was eyeing the other boat with fear now. It was getting closer and closer every second. "So firebend!"
"I don't know how!"
"You're a firebender who can't make fire?"
"I only said I was sorta a firebender."
"And you were charging me money to protect me?"
"Shut up and grab one of those swords."
"But I don't know how to use a sword!"
"And ya're complainin' about me not firebendin'?" growled Wuoyan. "Fine, just shut up and stay low. Now, watch and learn."
Wuoyan drew his knives, then closed his eyes and breathed deeply. With every breath, Liang could feel waves of heat pouring from Wuoyan's skin, getting hotter and hotter as he continued to breathe in. Before long, the air around Wuoyan was so hot that it was crackling and distorted. It was so distorted that while you could tell where he was, you couldn't tell exactly where.
"I get it. You're using heat to distort the air. It makes you harder to see when you're fighting!"
Under the heavy waves of distortion in the air, it was difficult to make out Wuoyan's smile. "As I said, sorta firebendin'."
The other boat was getting closer. Its occupants were visible now – two Fire Nation soldiers wielding vicious poleaxes. Both were standing on the boat with their weapons at the ready. "They're going to swing at us from the other boat!"
"I know!" yelled Wuoyan. "Stay low!"
The other boat slowed down, pulling alongside and slashing with their poleaxes. Wuoyan was a blur that deflected every blow from both weapons with his knives, but the other boat was four feet away, out of his knives' range. The poleaxes easily reached Wuoyan though and they relentlessly attacked. The boats rocked violently, splashing in the water as the warriors swung their weapons. Liang shouted in fear, grabbing the edge of the boat.
"Hold on!" cried Wuoyan. He put one foot up on the edge of his boat, and then used his knives to violently shove both poleaxes away from him. With a roar, he leaped through the air, leaving an arc of hot, distorted air between the two boats. He crashed into the other boat, knives swinging madly. One soldier fell instantly as Wuoyan's knives slashed across his chest and throat.
The boats Liang was in rocked madly after Wuoyan leaped from it. It shook violently and Liang lost his grip and fell overboard. He plunged into the cold waters head over heels and struggled to get back to the surface. He could swim, but not well – swimming wasn't an essential skill in the Earth Kingdom. Then, in the murky waters of the bay, he saw two bright yellow eyes open and shine in the blackness. The Unagi had finally taken notice of them.
Wuoyan was laughing. The soldier he was attacking was swinging his poleaxe wildly, always a couple inches away from where he actually was as the intense distorted Wuoyan's image. Dodging was easy, sometimes unnecessary. With a flick of the wrist, he swooped his knife down low, then stabbed upwards hard and fast, under his opponent's helmet and right into his chin.
The soldier made an odd choking sound as the blade sunk further into his head. Wuoyan removed the knife from the guy, then twisted his right arm around and checked the forearm of his armor. As he expected, there was large scorch mark in the armor, dented and burned into the symbol of the Cult of Sozin. Wuoyan snorted, relaxed to turn off his heat distortion, then tipped both of the soldiers overboard. He checked out the engine, the fire was still burning.
"Liang! We'll use this boat to get to shore! Quick! The Unagi will have seen us by now!" he yelled across to the other boat. When no response came, he looked over to the other boat and saw the whole thing rocking and empty. "Aw, crap..."
Liang watched in terror as the yellow eyes came snaked closer. He could see its face now and its massive jaws getting wider. He struggled for the surface, but his heavy Earth Kingdom clothes were weighing him down. His shock white hair waved in the water and he closed his eyes tightly, as the Unagi's teeth got closer and closer.
Suddenly, something grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him upwards. He breached the surface, tugged at high speed by Wuoyan. The Fire Nation boy had one hand steering the boat and the other on the back of Liang's shirt, dragging him behind the speeding craft.
"Get me in the boat!" Liang sputtered over the spray of the water that splashed onto his face.
Wuoyan looked back. The Unagi was half out of the water now, chasing them and catching up fast. "No time, kid!" he yelled over the engine.
Liang screamed like a madman as the boat sped towards the shore dragging him behind it with the Unagi's jaws snapping a little too close behind him for comfort.
The shore was approaching quickly. Wuoyan yelled "get ready, kid!" and drove the boat directly into the beach as he used all his strength to swing Liang up and over his head, so the propeller wouldn't hit him when they beached. The boat slammed into the land throwing its two occupants high into the air. Liang screamed louder; Wuoyan just laughed.
They shot through the air, and then landed hard in the sand of Kyoshi Beach with a grunt. The serpent reared out of the water and roared, spraying water all over the beach and over the two boys.
"Run!" cried Wuoyan and the two of them clambered to their feet as the Unagi's massive jaws snapped at the beach behind them, sending sand all through the air. They kept running, as fast as they could, as the Unagi continued to bite the empty air behind them.
It wasn't long before they both reached the giant statue of Avatar Kyoshi that decorated the entrance to the town; they were beyond the reach of the sea serpent now and they slowed down to relax against the statue's base.
"Well, that was fun," said Liang sarcastically, still sopping wet and covered with sand.
Wuoyan laughed loudly again. "That's two ya owe me now, kid."
Liang couldn't help laughing too as the Unagi swallowed their little boat, still stranded in the middle of the bay, whole and all the fish onboard with it.
The Fire Nation Capital
Appa landed near the outskirts of the Fire Nation capital and waited while Aang walked the rest of the way in. Normally, he'd fly right into the palace courtyard, but members of the Fire Nation air fleet surrounded it today, no doubt defending the palace from attacks from the Cult of Sozin.
Aang walked through the city and towards the capital, staff in hand. People on the street saw him and whispered things to each other. Some smiled, others cursed. The worse thing to Aang was the state of the Fire Nation – the war ending had caused the Fire Nation to go through very hard times. While most of the population stood behind Fire Lord Zuko and his new regime of peace and prosperity, the Cult of Sozin was still incredibly powerful within the Nation. Aang saw the fear in people's eyes and the graffiti marked on the wall of some houses.
One house drew Aang's eye. The burnt out husk of an upper class Fire Nation house; the roof was collapsed; the remaining walls were dark with ash and soot. In bright white paint across the side of the biggest chunk of wall read the words – 'Sozin was right.' Aang looked upon it sadly and he spotted a burnt and destroyed child's doll...
Aang's anger built. A torrent of water erupted from a nearby well swirled around him and blasted into the painted wall, washing away the Cult's slogan. He silently promised himself – if the Cult of Sozin were responsible for Diyi's disappearance, they'd be sorry.
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For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Child of Destiny Chapters|
Book 1: Fear
The First Airbender - Stolen - Sharks and Sea Serpents - Asylum Seeker - The Swordmaster of Kyoshi Island - Cold Snap - Due North - Better to Have Loved and Lost - Wrath of the Blackened Blade - Water's Fall
Book 2: Anger