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|Spare the Innocent|
December 9, 2009
"Spare the Innocent" is the second chapter of the New Politics Chronicles in the fanon series Aang is surprised with what he discovers while investigating a shocking new law passed by the Council of Five. Meanwhile, Lee and Slythrin go to the desert in hopes of finding out Methius and Malu's murderers and Sokka gets closer to figuring out his vision.and the seventh chapter overall. In it,
"Spare the Innocent" was written and edited by Better World author and creator. Flash experienced writer's block throughout writing the process and spent several months trying to finish it. Throughout the chapter, themes of religion and sins are detailed through the actions of Lee and Slythrin and rain and sand are illustrated frequently to parallel the characters' ever destructive lifestyle and unstable actions.
"Spare the Innocent" was originally published on December 9, 2009, on Avatar Wiki. Information on the chapter was not released until the week of its publication and a promotional poster was issued to raise hype. Rated 14-VL by Flash, the chapter was critically acclaimed and was nominated for a Fanon Award for its writing.
Here's the second chapter of the "New Politics" chronicles. You'll see in this one the political theme is not just for the first part, so look at for some more awesome tension and dialogue. Enjoy and review!
Gravesite, mid morning
Graveyards are never a happy or cheery thing – they carry a sad, dark sense with them that makes those who enter it, even if they are happy or cheer, sad and dark. And as Aang stood over the grave of the late Malu, storm clouds brewing far above him, he understood this as well as humanly possible. He looked flat and sympathetic at the same time, a stern look on his face as questions rattled his skull like a bolt of lightning.
Why couldn't he save him? The monks had told him stories of the great Avatars that had come before him – the world was a better place, full of grandeur. If anything began to fall apart they would fix it up...they would find a way. But what could he do? He couldn't go back in time and stop this man from being killed. Or Methius. Or Gyatso. Or the rest of the Air Nomads...
So many questions racked his head. A sudden feeling of guilt sent a sharp, shrill vibration in his chest. He looked away from the gravesite. A rustling of grass alerted him someone was approaching and when he turned, he saw Zuko quietly walked up and met him to the right. His silk robes were drabbed down and he bore only the sleeveless undershirt hidden behind his robes normally. He looked more like a peasant then a Fire Lord, but he didn't care – if a town crier was going to start discussing his fashion choices, it was no skin off his bones.
Neither of them spoke for several minutes. The air was dry as a light breeze began to surface. Finally, Zuko spoke. "You know," he began, "there's this story mother used to tell me at bedtime when I was a kid. There were these two dragons, before the creation of man and the Avatar and the elements, and these two dragons were brothers. The older brother, Pin, was strong and vicious, while the younger brother, Yin, was soft and kind. They each lived peacefully together in the clouds of the north, until a group of spirits approached them. 'Mighty dragons,' they shouted, 'we have left you in peace for millennia, now return our kindness and forsake your land.' Pin refused and ate the spirits, but they were persistent and clawed their way out of the dragon. They got Yin alone and killed him. When Pin found his brother's body, he erupted into tears and blamed himself for his death. That night, he gave over his clouds to the spirits and left, never to be heard from again. The spirits left the dragon's former home after a few years to find someplace else, and the clouds rotted away into rain." He turned to Aang, who was looking intently at Zuko as the story had progressed. "You couldn't stop their death. It wasn't your fault. No matter how hard you try, you just can't save everyone. Don't be a Pin, Aang."
Zuko grabbed onto Aang's shoulder tight and began to turn him away from the gravesite. They walked off together as the wind picked up. "Don't be a Pin." The words raced around Aang's head as the soles of his shoes dipped into the dewed grass. Zuko was right – he couldn't stop their death, just like Pin couldn't stop Yin's death. But even if he couldn't, even if it wasn't his fault, he wasn't going to just leave it all like it was. But how can he avenge them? How can he bring them justice?
Northeast Earth Kingdom
Lee and Slythrin rode on a long dirt road inside a small carriage pulled by an ostrich horse – Slythrin steered the carriage up front, the sun dimly shining in his blue eyes behind his greasy, silver hair. Lee sat in the back, stretched out. He wore a rather wide conical straw hat over his messy head of black hair. He ran his finger over the silver knife he held in his gauze-rapped forearms. The air around him smelled of sea breeze. He hated the smell of the ocean. It reminded him of his cousin Cao – he hated Cao. Lee had taken in a young wolf-pig and Cao had killed it. Nobody in his family believed him and Cao got away with it. So he did not smell the air and simply breathed lightly out through his nose.
He looked around him: the small wooden carriage they were in was padded with old, withered rags and carpeting, likely for bartering that never went through. Some were large, steamed animal skins, but others were simply bundles of pig-sheep wool. Lee could see the back of Slythrin's lizard-like face – his greasy, sickly silver hair draped over his pale neck and caught the edges of his bony back. Slythrin hadn't spoken since they had loaded the carriage. The silence made Lee feel awkward.
"So, uh...Slythrin," Lee spoke out as the hot summer wind put even more acutely awkward pressure upon him, "where, uh...where are we going, anyhow?" Lee had never bothered to ask him before, but as they supposedly ventured far closer to their destination than before – skeleton bones littering the dirt had begun to catch his eye, so an end to their passageway had to be in foresight – he felt compelled to know before he did something more rash then ever.
Slythrin was silent for moments on end. After what felt like hours, he spoke in his scratchy, snake-like voice the cold words: "Desert. Just outside the Misty Palms Oasis."
Lee shot up. His heart was racing, angrily, skipping, beating, his knuckles crunched and his fingers rolled into tight fists. He scrambled up to be closer to Slythrin's ear shot. "What?! Are you on somethin'? Everyone knows that's sandbender's turf! They'll eat us alive!" A knife sped towards his neck. He knocked himself full force to the hard, wooden floor with a strong thud, sending his body violently out of the trajectory of the knife. He huffed through his nose and began to pant slightly. His eyes grew wide with surprise and fury until his viewpoint shifted to that of Slythrin.
"Drat, I missed," Slythrin breathed sarcastically. "Don't yell at me again, boy. I don't need you for this. But you sure need me."
Lee sighed. He was right. There was nothing more he could protest. He shuffled himself in a comfortable position and slowly leaned back, stretching out his long, slender legs slyly. He shut his eyes. There was that sea breeze. He hissed through his nostrils as he performed before. O Lord, how he hated Cao.
Ba Sing Se, Earth King's Royal Meeting Room
The Earth King suckled his rough knuckles to his chapped lip in frustration, his free hand vituperatively clenching a crisp piece of parchment, which grew ruffled as his palm clenched it with great pressure. "I cannot believe the Council would pull something like this under me!" he exclaimed. The Council of Five had become a new staple for government voiding after the dissolving of the Dai Li following their betrayal of the nation, providing economical balance. This also allowed them access to passing and vetoing laws without outside consent from the Earth King or other members of the government, which was why the King was enraged at this very moment.
"What's wrong, Kuei?" inquired Zuko, who had mere seconds into Kuei's out lash entered the room alongside Aang, who was looking significantly less depressed as before but much more dazed. The two stood mere feat from the thrown of the king and listened as he explained the situation.
"The Council of 5 has just passed a law lifting trade routes between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation, without my consent! They should know we haven't been linking our two countries financially since the war ended in fear of raids and rebellions! The council has clearly forgotten how severe and hostile inter-country connections are, especially since the recent murders..."
"Alright, let's just stay calm," Zuko suggested. "It's not as if they're forming a coup. The council probably has a sound reason for all this. Have you addressed them about this?"
"No," said Kuei solemnly. "I...I was too furious when I received the news a few minutes ago."
"Can I see the parchment?"
Zuko and Kuei each were surprised to hear Aang's voice as he had yet to speak since Zuko's story at the gravesite. After a few seconds they shook it off and Kuei handed the ruffled parchment to Aang as he walked up to his thrown. Aang looked at the paper intently, his eyebrows switching positions every other couple of moments. The wrinkled and withered state of the paper showed brightly in Aang's deep gray eyes as the glows of the bright crystals that hung from the ceiling and raw daylight from the shades illuminated his face rather potently. Finally he spoke; "I'm gonna go talk to the council about this. There has to be a sound reason for this and the best way to find it out is by flat out asking them. That's what the monks taught me." And for the first time in weeks, a proud smile shone on Aang's face and spread across his cheeks with youthful enthusiasm. Zuko was pleased to see Aang happy for once, and beamed a bit himself.
Kuei looked down at Aang and put on a bright smirk himself, remarking happily, "Good plan. You two are right; I'm probably just overreacting. After all, I did not make them my council for no reason."
With that, Aang walked out of the room, the soles of his feet making a light pat, pat, pat noise as they flopped down on the carpeted ground.
A few minutes later, a block away from the Palace
Aang continued his walk down to the Council's new palace. If his memory served correct, their palace was a small but brilliantly crafted one, laced with emerald-colored pillars and linen and snow-white plaster, wood, and furnishing. It was about two blocks from where he was now; he looked suddenly to his right and noticed a small tavern where two children were drawing with chalk on the stone ground. Their parents sat beside them, drinking tea, and laughing at their children's silly illustrations. This made Aang feel warm inside and he smiled an even deeper smirk.
As he began to look away and towards his direction, he felt the warmness in his body increase, but in a much more intense and fiery way. He felt a sharp shooting pain engulf the area above his should blade, which made him slightly groan. He turned his head and looked down at the area of the pain, and was flabbergasted to see a flaming, 8-inch arrow which had been shot at him and jabbed into his shoulder blade. He became fully alert and frantic, quickly pulling out the arrow, which caused him further pain. He cuddled the bleeding wound, stretching his arm over his shoulder, and looked at his surroundings.
Suddenly, all around him he saw men drabbed in blood-red robes. Hoods were draped over their heads and shadowed their eyes and forehead. Underneath their robes shone, clearly, a crimson breast plate. Shoulder pads were tiled similar to their breast plates and flopped lightly as they slid gently across the ground in their red shoes. In their hands they held flaming bows and arrows, swords, daggers, chains, and even knives. Aang struck a sharp position the second he saw the soulless look in their shadowed eyes.
In a flash, one of the red-robed man launched himself at Aang, hanging his torso low to the ground as his feet struck the ground with great fury and speed. He reached two feet from Aang before twirling himself in the air slightly, whipping his chains at the ground with great strength and ferocity. Aang Earthbended a slant in the ground to launch himself back and well above the attack. He flipped sideways and dropped to the ground; he then charged at the red-robed man and Airbended him into the wall, knocking him out. Three more of the men charged themselves at Aang. Aang de-armed them and Airbended a gush a wind to blow them away. One slid to the side and launched himself at Aang, revealing a dagger that he had concealed in his robes. He aimed for Aang's left thigh, hoping to cut off circulation in his legs, but it only tore the pants and left a small cut on his skin.
Aang struggled to pull the dagger out of the man's hand; the man had a strong grip and would refuse to go. For a split second, he averted his eyes to look over at the tavern, where the two boys were crying and clenching their mother's hand. The whole family was running away frantically. This was a mistake – for with Aang distracted, the man with the dagger had slid away quickly and another man had shot up into the air, aiming to batter Aang with a long, rusty chain. Aang noticed just in time and flipped backwards, avoiding the hit and watching as a good eight feet of stone crumbled under the chain and shattered into several slabs and pebbles around him. Aang caught himself on a wall and used Earthbending to keep himself stuck to the stone wall, turning the area around his feet into sand. He hastily launched a small pillar from the wall at the man with the chain, which managed to hold the chain and through off the man's equilibrium. He then bended some mushy sand and used it to slice off the chain and send the man toppling to the ground.
Aang proceeded to un-attach himself from the wall. As he did this, the other man had grabbed a dirty, rain sand-covered sword from one of the unconscious man and sent himself once more at Aang. When he was but two feet from Aang, the Avatar's eyes quickly grew to a bright and blinding shade of white and he activated his Avatar State. Aang reached his hand out a few inches from his person and formed a medium-sized air sphere around the man, successfully encasing him in mid-air. He lowered him down slightly and pulled off his mask, revealing the face of a man in his twenties. He was bald and his face was covered with tattoos, bearing symbols of dragons and other odd-looking symbols. Across his forehead read "我不是特别" – "I am not special."
"Who are you people?" Aang's mighty and empowering multi-layered voice interrogated. "Why are you trying to kill me?"
The man broke out in a panicked and cold sweat, and a rather wild-eyed look overtook his face. Hastily, he exclaimed, "May thou be sanctioned by the law and the people but sanctioned for redemption!!" At that he slipped a knife from his sleeve, gripped it in his palm, and slit his own throat. Aang turned his head, drops of blood splattering on his cheek. He left his Avatar State and the sphere dropped the man's dead carcass on the stone floor.
Aang turned his head back and slowly opened his eyes. He steered his head quickly from the sight of the man's body and looked up at the sky, biting his lip and looking frustrated. He lowered his head back and turned to face the unconscious soldiers – but they were all gone. Aang said nothing, but he painted fiercely yet silent. Drops of rain began to fall on his head and his shoulders; it seemed to increase every second as he stood there, until the rain was pouring all around him and creating a light silhouette that covered his body. Water drenched his clothes and leaked into his soles, as the mushy and wet sand splashed and leaked onto his shows. Blood engulfed to small body of water that had begun to form around the alley. The whole block reeked of mud, dirt, blood, and fear.
Finally, he turned his back and walked out of the alleyway; his soles made squishing noises as the dirty and sandy soles of his shows plopped on the wicked water.
Lee and Slythrin's cart reached the small town of Wei. Since the war ended, the town had become almost barren, rather depopulated; the sandbenders had become vicious without a war to keep governments occupied and leave their tribes out of political squabbles and debate on things like taxes or border rules. People were all to afraid of what the sandbenders could to do them. In fact, in the last month alone, 26 people had been brave enough to go into the sandbender's turf and went missing.
Coincidentally, 25 sandy and bloody corpses have been found rotting in a sand ditch at the edge of the oasis. The other was pinned to the town bar door with nails.
Needless to say, Lee was nervous as Slythrin parked the cart suddenly a few feet from the entrance of the oasis' bar. Slythrin slowly turned his back and twisted up his body until it was directed about halfway towards the back of the cart. He stretched out his arms and begin grabbing his leather and rangy bag, along with his sword, and a few knives, all of which he clipped onto his wrinkled coat. He popped himself onto his knees and pulled himself up. He dropped into the sand in a fluid and beautiful motion in its shagginess and mediocrity. His soles dipped deep into the sand as he land, and he slowly and quietly slid them up. He turned and walked toward the back of his cart; it was wooden and rickety, not exactly the best of carts, but it was a working one – that's all that counted when you're doing something like they were about to do.
Lee slowly and cautiously reached for his knife, which he had placed on the floor about twenty minutes ago – he wasn't sure if he was to go with Slythrin or not, if he needed to take care of something or not. "You can never really tell," he thought; "Slythrin's a real tricky son of a—"
His heart jumped to his throat when the covers of the back were flung open by Slythrin. The sunshine beat down on Slythrin's ghostly silhouette and illuminated his silver hair and eyes. His face was as pale and emotionless as ever as he casually spoke, "Come on."
Lee settled himself and quickly clipped and wrapped items onto his coat. He pocketed the knife and dropped to the sand. The two turned and proceeded to walk down the sand. Slythrin motioned Lee to follow him into the bar and directed themselves towards the bar. The doors had been torn out, so they needn't bother to open it and casually strutted in. The bar was half-filled with patrons, some menacing-looking and others merely depressed. It was quite a horrid sight.
Suddenly, Slythrin shouted at the patrons. "Alright, listen!" They did not yield and went on with their drinking.
Lee, looking frustrated, grabbed an empty glass and chucked it at the back of the head of a man's head. The man grunted, rubbing his head and turning around, while Lee exclaimed, "He said listen, dammit!"
Everyone in the bar turned their heads to face Lee and Slythrin; Slythrin made a cold expression and hissed, "That's better. Now," he began, "recently, a few friends of mine were murdered in Ba Sing Se...." He slightly smirked with his next remark; "...murdered by the Fire Nation. I know one of you know the answer to this question, so you'd better not be Silent Sallies like you were when my companion here and I walked into this pathetic dustbowl just a few minutes ago: are their any Fire Nation rouges?"
The whole bar stayed silent. Lee expanded to Slythrin's query, "Rebellions? Deserters? I don't care what the hell you call them, I know one of you know if they exist! Now spit it!" He pulled out his slender and tall knife, hoping to open a few mouths with the sight of it.
Slythrin spoke up again, "You guys really want to make this difficult." He pulled out his sword swiftly and pointed it at the patron whom Lee had chucked the glass at earlier. "You, fat man. Come here." The man, cautiously, walked towards Slythrin, his knees quaking under him. "Stand right there," hissed Slythrin, point to his right, and the man followed. Suddenly, Slythrin swung his right leg at the man's shins, and he collapsed, hollering in pain. "I've just broken both this man's shins. Anyone wanna talk now?"
Lee was rather frightened by Slythrin's sudden violent nature and looked at the tearful man, clawing at the floor as his crippled legs lied eschewed behind him. He then looked out at the patrons, who were sitting silently in shock.
"Still?" Slythrin hissed, and he grabbed the back of his head and thrust it onto the ground; the man roared as Slythrin vehemently breathed, "I've now blinded him in his right eye. Open your friggin' mouths."
Lee clenched his fists as the patrons remained silent and exclaimed, "What is wrong with you?! Answer him already!!!"
Finally, one man spoke. "Alright!" he shouted. "Yeah...yeah, they exist. Been a couple of sightings of them. No one knows what they're up to, but whatever it is, they're carrying some heavy cargo on a ship spotted off of Ba Sing Se a few weeks back. Couple o' battalions. Might be what killed your boy. That's all I know."
As the man spoke, Lee had spotted something in his peripheral vision. He slowly turned his head around and clearly saw a red rag-clothed man slowly tiptowing his way out of the bar. Lee's eyes shot wide, "Hey-!" The man sprinted out, and Lee called Slythrin's name. The silver-haired man turned and saw as the red rag-clothed man darted out of the bar and he and Lee began to pursue him.
The man was fast, but soon Slythrin and Lee began to catch up to him. Lee slid on the sandy ground and latched out onto his legs pulling him down on the ground. His face was smeared with sand. He clutched his throat with his arm and pulled him up, snatching a knife from his clip and putting it against the man's neck.
"Fire Nation," Slythrin said. "Of course he leaves when we start talking about the Fire rouges. Trying to cover something, huh?"
The man shook his head, "No-no-n-no, please! I-I'm not a rouge, I-I-I, I swear!!"
"Sure, sure. What are you planning?"
"I-I-I-I, I'm not...please, I–!"
"Come on, what are you bastards planning?!"
"No, no, please, I-I'm not a rouge, I...I SWEAR!!"
"....Kill him, Lee," hissed Slythrin. "Lee, kill him, he's lying!"
Lee looked unsure, and stuttered, "I-I, uh, I...."
"Come on, he's scum!"
"No, no, p-please!!" The man broke out into sandy tears.
"Lee, do it already!!!"
"But, but, what if he's t-telling the truth?!"
"Please don't kill me!"
"He's a liar, Lee, just kill him!!"
"But what if he's innocent?!"
"No one is innocent! Now kill him!!!"
Silence. The man's corpse fell to the ground. His blood stained the sand. Lee shut his eyes and dropped his knife; it fell through the sand and tainted the soil more. He flipped his hood over his head and turned to walk to the cart. Slythrin followed him. And with that, the rain caught up to them, and the tainted and bloody sand overfilleth with the waters of destruction.
Back in the Earth King's palace
Zuko and Kuei sat silently as the roaring splashes of waves and wailing of thunder shattered the air and sky outside of the palace. They were each in deep thought about the aspiring events that had been taking place. Kuei momentarily broke the nostalgic silence, intoning, "I still cannot grasp what the Council was thinking by passing this law."
Zuko followed up quickly; "Don't worry, Aang'll find out. He may be young, but he is the—"
Just then, the room echoed with a thunderous pchuck as the marvelous doors to the King's room were thrust open. The figure standing in the entrance was Aang, soaking wet and covered in mushy, muddy sand from the middle of his shins to the tip of his shoes. His face was grimaced and his very silhouette bore the strong sense of macabre. His shirt was stained with smeared blood and he was dripping water from the tips of his fingers.
"Aang?" Zuko said. "What happened? Did you talk to the Council?"
"No," said Aang. "I never reached their base; before I even got past the block, this group of men attacked me!"
"Attacked?!" exclaimed Kuei. "Who were they?"
"I have no idea. They were dressed in this weird, red armor and robes, and they had all this weaponry. I saw one of their faces, he had this tattoo that said 'I am not special.' I can't believe this happened!"
"Alright, well, where are they?" asked Zuko.
"I don't know, they just disappeared as soon as I turned my back. They were even unconscious. I tried interrogating one, but all he did was say, 'May thou be sanctioned by the law and the people but sanctioned for redemption,' before he...he...killed himself." Aang sat down on a seat verklemptly and clutched his face in the dirty palms of his hands, shaking his head.
Silence flooded the room as the rain poured down even harder outside. Zuko slowly spoke up, sighing, "What's happening?"
"I don't know, Fire Lord Zuko," responded Kuei; "I don't know."
Wei, a few hours later....
Draped in their black rain coats, their hoods placed over their head, shadowing their faces, Lee and Slythrin walked down the mushy ground to the edge of the small town, where a plethora of people stood dressed in red and black. They encircled a grave; the very grave of the man they had killed. And indeed, Lee and Slythrin joined the mourners, undetected and hidden, to bear witness to the funeral procession of what they believed to be a Fire Nation rouge. Slythrin stared at the grave with unbridled lackluster facial expression and a pure unemotional glare, but Lee opposed this notion.
He felt guilty for what he had done and, as he looked at the crying wife of the Fire Nation man, he shuddered at an overabundance of self-doubt for his actions. What if he was wrong? What if he had just killed an innocent man? But what if there is no innocence; maybe Slythrin was right and no one truly was innocent.
Guilt. Regret. Murder. All things he had done, all things he felt overwhelmed with; all things he could not take back. As the casket of the man was placed inside the grave and men came up to burry it, a priest, clad in raggedy white robes and a wet, moppy head of black hair stepped up and began to read something. But Lee refused to listen and drive his regret and guilt.
When the funeral ended, Lee and Slythrin walked back to the cart. But when the cart was a mere twenty feet away, Lee turned to Slythrin and asked, "Slythrin, are we doing the right thing? I-I mean, we just killed a man we're not even sure was actually a-a-a rouge, and-and just attended his friggin' funeral! A funeral we caused! This-this, none of this can be the right thing. We're slaughtering and torturing people like their animals, I mean....this can't....sigh."
Slythrin stopped and turned to Lee, who mirrored him. He stared at him with his shadowed, pale eyes and softly spoke, for once at a tone of decency and almost sincerity, but his words still fell flat with his brick-like voice. "May thou be sanctioned by the law and the people but sanctioned for redemption. Never forget those words. Live your life by them. Breath it, and love it. 'Cause that's your lord now; the only religion a sinner can have." And he turned and walked to the cart.
Meanwhile, in the team's apartment....
Sokka looked out the window piece with sulking eyes, watching as the vicious rain drops hit the stone ground with great speed. Though his arm was feeling better, Sokka was still in no condition to go out with the rest of the team. While Aang and Zuko were with the Earth King, and Toph and Katara had gone out to get some more bandages, Sokka was forced to stay in the apartment with no one but Momo to accompany him.
He turned around and sat down on the small step in the apartment, sighing and lightly placing his fist on his cheek. Loneliness. It wasn't very pleasant, with his mind still uneasy after the visions. His whole body felt overwhelmed with coldness as an eerie, feminine voice echoed through the apartment, whispering, "Sokka...."
He twisted his neck to look around at every direction, and suddenly a shudder flashed in front of him brightly. It took form and beheld a beautiful woman in a white dress, her eyes the colors of diamonds and her entire person see-through. Sokka went pale at the sight, muttering, "Holy..."
"Sokka..." the woman whispered again.
"Are...are you a spirit?"
She nodded slowly, keeping on her still and emotionless face.
"I-I remember you, you're..." His mind flashed with the images of his bleeding body lying limp on the stone ground of the Upper Ring, and a burning handprint gripping onto his forehead. The print grew and took form as the hand, the pale hand only a spirit could wield. "You're the spirit who saved my life. But...but, why?"
The spirit walked forward slowly, whispering – almost hissing – "Destiny..." She stretched out her hand, which was covered in dark blood that stained her dress sleeve. Sokka sat unblinkingly in silence and fear as the bloody hand touched his forehead. Suddenly, hundreds of terrible images flashed into his head. Red-tinted sights of burning flags, corpses, destroyed buildings. Like his visions, but, if possible, more intense. He saw funerals and graves, tears and laughs, and even himself, clenching his fists in the rain. "No...no!! Stop!!! Get it out of my head!! Get. Them. OUT!!!"
The images dissolved and silence filled the apartment. The woman, gone. The blood on his forehead, gone. The ringing in his ears, gone. It was all normal. The same. He slowly shut his eyes and breathed a light but deep breath.
Sin and religion
|"May thou be sanctioned by the law and the people but sanctioned for redemption. Never forget those words. Live your life by them. Breath it, and love it. 'Cause that's your lord now; the only religion a sinner can have."|
|— Sythrin and Lee's relationship carries several religious undertones in Spare the Innocent.|
An underlying theme in the chapter is that of the sins of man. Lee and Slythrin are portrayed as rouges who do violent and murderous things in order to find answers. Slythrin's rash and careless actions while harming the man in the bar to gain information displays wrath and general violent tendencies. Lee's insecurity about the tactics Slythrin is taking but forcing himself not to act on his instincts evokes the idea that he cannot overcome his own desire for vengeance and intense belief that violence is the only path to take to solve the mystery of Methius and Malu's murders. The quote "May thou be sanctioned by the law and the people but sanctioned for redemption," which is said by both one of the attackers and Slythrin, symbolizes that despite the dark and murderous actions Lee and Slythrin take, their consequence will allow them to redeem themselves.
Religious themes are also expressed during the chapter. The general relationship between Slythrin and Lee evokes several ideas of religion, particularly towards that of Slythrin's final quote. In it, Slythrin tells Lee that the only religion and law that they may hold on to now that they have become sinful men is the idea of redemption following a bitter act. He essentially suggests that Lee abandon his beliefs in order to make room for exceptions that make their murderous activities seem right. Slythrin also parallels the serpent in the religious tale of Adam and Eve; in the biblical story, the serpent temps Adam and Eve under false pretenses to eat a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. This in turn gives them humanity and are revoked from Eden by God for their sins. In "Spare the Innocent," Slythrin also temps Lee with the false idea that the murders and violence will help find the murderers.
|"No one is innocent!"|
|— Slythrin in Spare the Innocent|
Innocence also plays a large role in "Spare the Innocent." Lee is given the idea that it is his duty to save innocent lives who are in danger of being wrongfully killed. He and Slythrin begin to stray from this as they begin their quest and Lee watches as his partner slowly tortures an innocent life in order to gather the needed information they need to help stop the continuous death of innocent lives; this accordingly creates a type of vicious cycle that tests Lee's belief in the practices he is taking. Slythrin defies this notion by telling Lee that no one is truly innocent, further creating a rather ironic cycle that proves no actual end result.
Aang also displays a driven belief in innocence in his constant struggle to stop the murders that are unfolding and save the lives of innocent people. His dilemma in the graveyard serves as an illustration of this belief and his guilt for being unable to figure out how to stop the deaths that seem to surround him. The happy family Aang sees before his fight with the mysterious attackers embody this spirit of innocence. When they run away with one of the children crying, the suggestion of loosing one's innocence is embodied.
Rain and sand
Flash added detailed descriptions of sand during the chapter to act as a parallel of the dissolving of each of the characters' normal personality and lifestyle. When sand is mushed up and becomes wet, it better serves as an illustration for the characters' unstable actions and down-spiral from their usual behaviors.
Rain is also detailed during "Spare the Innocent" in order to better connect the several storylines. While each story is generally unconnected, the use of rain helps show that the underlying drive of the plots are one in the same. The rain helps symbolize washing away sin, and also helps show grimace and macabre. When Aang walks into the palace soaking wet and covered it sand, it represents his dwindling hope in society.
Though not expressed as strongly as it is in the previous chapter, "," politics also plays a crucial role in the chapter. Aang, Zuko, and Kuei represent a government who is striving to handle things in a civilized, political manner, while Lee and Slythrin represent a government who has been driven of all belief that politics and civilized action can handle the necessities of saving lives. The idea that the Council can pass a law without the notice of the country's leader (Kuei) helps show a society in which power rests in unstable hands.
"Spare the Innocent" was written and edited by Better World author SuperFlash101. Flash conceived the chapter shortly following the publication of "Bitter Empire." He edited the Avatar Wiki page for the series and began jotting down several different titles. He finally decided upon "Spare the Innocent" and saved the page. With this title in mind, Flash set out to make the central plot of the chapter focus on innocence.
Lee and Slythrin's plot was something Flash imagined while writing "Bitter Empire," which concluded with a cliffhanger, featuring Slythrin approaching a drunk and depressed Lee and telling him that he "knows what [he] must do" to put a stop to the murders that had begun to unfold. Flash utilized the explanation of what they needed to do and used it as the central plot of the chapter. With the theme of innocence set to be explored in the chapter, the plot easily allowed the theme to be expressed fully.
Flash sought to make the chapter more elongated and detailed then previous ones, as he felt "Bitter Empire" in particular did not execute the material as he envisioned correctly and speedily swept through events and fight sequences, leaving the reader deprived of certain bits of intensity. Therefore, several scenes were written with much detail and spent a majority of time describing both the character's inner emotions and the actual exploits of the events taking course.
While writing the opening scene, Flash initially wrote it out in a style far to similar to the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events. He spent a large amount of time trying to revise it and make it stray from an exact literary style that is taken during Unfortunate Events. The end result served to be far different from the series, but still serves to add a grimace feel to the atmosphere of the scene. Several other elements of the chapter explored emphasizing grimace and the feel of the chapter was meant to resemble macabre styles of literature.
The story of dragons Pin and Yin, which Zuko tells Aang while in the graveyard, was designed to resemble classic fables and literature. The rather implausible elements in it, such as the dragons living on a cloud, further delve into the theme of word-of-mouth stories and classical tales. The spirits clawing their way out of Pin's stomach was inspired by the Greek tale of Zeus, who claws his way out of his father's, Chronos, stomach after being eaten. Zuko's last line in the scene acts as an alteration of "Don't be a Cain" in order to foreshadow the title of the next chapter, "Be Thou a Cain."
A lot of the chapter utilized old literary styles and old English in the dialogue and descriptions. The spirits exchange with Pin was meant resemble such style of speaking, in order to better express the fable feel of the story. The narration opines, "O Lord, how [Lee] hated Cao," and later uses the phrase "overfilleth," both of which are old spellings and conjugations of the words "oh" and "overfill." "May thou be sanctioned by the law and the people but sanctioned for redemption," which is said twice in the chapter and is one of Flash's favorite quotes in the series, is constructed of this style of English.
"Spare the Innocent" also used mature language, which had never been used in Better World before. In fact, initial preview descriptions of the series on FanFiction.net before it was published and summaries of the story itself in listings specifically stated that it would not use such profanity. Flash decided against this as he felt that the story needed to become further and further more mature. He explains, "The whole story is supposed to show an older, more intense version Avatar, so it's only natural that language would be included in it to help up the maturity. Then again, the excessive violence helps too."
Several literary works, historical events, and films provided an influence on the chapter's content as well. Slythrin breaking the man's shins and blinding him in his right eye, attempting to get the patrons in the bar to tell him if Fire Nation rouges exist, is executed closely as the panel in the 1980s graphic novel Watchmen, in which the character Rorschach breaks a man's pinkie in a bar trying to get the bar patrons to tell him who killed the The Comedian. The attackers who try to kill Aang were designed to resemble armor worn by the Terracotta Army, while incorporating red robes and hoods. The tattoo on one of the attacker's forehead, reading "I am not special," was based on the repeated line in the 1999 film Fight Club, "You are not special." Flash was inspired to use the line in the chapter after seeing the quote on an image of the Blue-ray release of the film.
Promotion and release
Unlike previous chapters of the series, Flash did not release any information on the chapter's plot anywhere on Avatar Wiki in order to not spoil it for readers. A month before its release, he gave a brief stint description on the official article for it, though it did not cover much detail. The week the chapter was published, Flash created a promotional poster for the chapter, the first time he had done so for the story, in order to raise hype. The poster consisted of the "May thou be sanctioned[...]" quote over an illustration of Lee and Slythrin attending the man they murdered's funeral. Underneath it, it read:
AVATAR: BETTER WORLD
"Spare the Innocent"
Following this, he created a blog giving some information on the chapter and explaining the poster. The chapter was finally published on December 9, 2009, on Avatar Wiki.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Better World chapters|
| The New World Chronicles
|Bad Start - Hunted - Settling Scores - Eruption - Aftermath|
The New Politics Chronicles
|Bitter Empire - Spare the Innocent - Be Thou a Cain - The Will of All Mankind - Forgive Me, Lord... - ...For I Have Sinned - Bathe With the Dogs - Into Here I Am - John the Revelator - Brothers in Arms|