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Book 2: War
July 28th, 2013
Flashbacks show how John and his friends met.
"Hold still will you? Tending to this isn't as easy as it looks," Eve muttered as she ran a blob of water over John's broken arm. The firebender was gritting his teeth as she inspected the arm, her bending allowing her to examine each and every damaged fiber in detail.
"Well the good news is that if you give it a few weeks you should be able to use your arm again," she said as she bent the water back into a bucket. John took a breath and used his good arm to wipe sweat away from his forehead.
"And the bad news?"
"Bad news is that a majority of the muscles have been permanently damaged in some way, you can still bend with your left arm, but firing a weapon is absolutely out of the question," she said as she finished folding a few towels and then set to redoing the sling for his arm.
"I was afraid you'd say that," he said. Eve showed a small smile as she continued with the sling, a strand of brown hair dangled down over her forehead and face.
"Look at the bright side, you could be in Belfast with a broken arm and a firing squad waiting on you." John returned the smile as he thought back to the last time he had been in the city.
"Belfast," he said to himself.
Belfast, Ireland. Three years ago.
The pub was filled with smoke as several of the people inside had either a pipe or a cigarette. A small band was playing a fast paced traditional Irish tune, to which many of the patrons were singing along in Irish. Sitting in a corner away from the bar was a much younger John, a steaming bowel of stew sat in front of him as he ate.
"John Rider," came a voice from across the table. John looked up from his meal to see Leon standing before him.
"You want something to eat Leon?" he asked before returning his attention to the soup. A look came across Leon's face as he took the seat across the table from him.
"What happened? You've lost your edge, and your accent. You sound like a bloody tourist that's just flown in from across the pond," he said in a criticizing manner. John looked up and belched before he spoke.
"Aye, that may be so. But I still hang on to it for special occasions," he said, his voice slipping into an Irish accent. Leon grinned as he slapped his palm into the wood of the table.
"That's more like it. How's the stew here?"
"Not bad, I've had better." Leon stuck up two fingers as he got the bartender's attention and placed an order.
"So, how's your father?" asked Leon as a bowl was placed before him. John shrugged as he sat back in his chair.
"He's off chasing some wild roomer in Romania. It's still early to be searching and he knows it."
"Maybe he's lonely. Your mother was a hell of a woman, Avatar or no. Damn shame about her really," Leon said, remorse evident in his voice. John nodded at that. It had been a year since his mother died.
Looking up, John took notice of a young man and woman that had stepped into the pub. The young man opened a canteen and bent out a water whip before snapping it around a man's neck at the bar and dragging him backwards with it.
"Hey! That's against the rules in here," shouted the bartender, motioning to a sign that hung over the bar reading: No Bending.
"Actually that's what we're here to talk about," replied the young man before both of them drew pistols, silencing the pub.
"Oh great, now we got two rouges to deal with," John said as he began to stand. But the young woman turned her pistol and fired a shot into the wall just over his head.
"You'll be doing just fine in that seat right there, Mr. Hero," she said. John grinned as he sat back down and looked over the young woman who was pointing a gun at his head.
"I like her," he said to Leon, keeping his grin when he saw the look from his friend.
John walked from the Infirmary with his arm secure in the sling. The entire borough was on high alert now that war had officially been declared against the Equalists. As he approached the wall, he took notice of a few earthbenders working to patch up some areas. Among them was Roland, who still wore his desert attire despite it being much colder.
"Roland!" he called, waiting for the Engineer to take notice before he motioned for him to approach.
"How's the ship coming?"
"Better then I planned, she's up and running in sea trials right now. Another few weeks and she should be ready to go," Roland replied. John patted Roland's shoulder with his good hand.
"Good work," he said.
Sonoran Desert, somewhere east of Yuma, Arizona. Five years ago.
John's horse followed closely behind his father Liam's as they rode along the edge of a small valley. Situated below them was a small collection of huts and tents.
"Remember to let me do the talking son. And keep your eye out, you never know if The Blackkettles want to do business or kill just you," said Liam.
"Got it, dad." As the pair began to approach the tribe, John noticed that they were wearing what appeared to be Arab garments, not something that should be found in a tribe in North America.
"I feel like we're back in The Sahara," he muttered.
"The Blackkettles and The Tuareg share a lot in common. They are sister tribes after all. The main difference is that they were this clothing for protection against the elements alone," Liam replied. A larger, older man took notice of their approach and began to walk forward toward them. Liam brought his horse to a halt and spoke in a language that appeared to be a mixture of English and Spanish. The man returned the greeting before they approached each other.
"Ah. Senor Liam, to what do I owe this visit to our humble abode?" the man asked. Liam dismounted and shook his hand.
"Just the usual visit, Javier. Scouting the tribe and gathering recruits," he replied. Javier nodded.
"Anything for The Order as payment Senor. Who did you have in mind?"
"We're looking for an Engineer, an earthbender mainly. Do you have anyone?" Javier gripped his chin as he thought for a moment.
"One comes to mind, my son Roland. He's been working on opening up a well with our waterbenders, replenishing our water supply for this area. John looked past Javier to the center of the tribe's camp. Among what appeared to be a small crowd that had gathered at the center, a pillar of stone rose over the camp with a young man standing on top of it. From his perch, he began to direct the crowd to do various tasks.
"Is that him?" he asked. Javier nodded before he called to his son in the Blackkettle language. Roland turned and looked toward the origin of his father's voice before he lowered the pillar he was standing on. He hurried over before standing and waiting for his father to speak. Only his eyes were visible from the face wrappings.
"How is your earthbending child?" Liam asked, looking down at the boy. Roland remained silent before he jerked his wrist upward. The ground beneath John suddenly buckled, causing his horse to panic and buck. After a few minutes of hanging on for dear life, the young firebender was finally thrown from the panicking horse.
"Well he's got style, I'll give him that," Liam said as he looked toward his son, who sat up and shook his head.
John continued on his walk, stopping back by his place. Leon was waiting for him in the map room, ready to deliver his report. Closing the door behind him, John approached the map and looked it over.
"What are we looking at?" he asked. Leon stepped forward and began to point at various parts of the city.
"Raids have been conducted in the industrial areas as well as a few civilian boroughs. So far nothing has come up regarding the location of Amon himself, but we have intercepted several shipments of their weapons."
"Minimal. We have a few that ended up in the hospital but it's nothing compared to the Equalists. They bloody hurl themselves at us, and they already know what a firearm can do yet they still do it," Leon said, a hint of disbelief in his voice.
"Things aren't as simple as they were back home, Leon." The airbender cocked his eyebrow.
"You call that simple?"
County Leitrim, Ireland. Near the Northern Ireland boarder. Ten years ago.
The view from the Rider family farm was breathtaking. Rolling emerald green hills went on as far as the eye could see. Here and there, small groves of trees lined the area. John, just eight years old, was walking on the stone wall that marked the boundary of the yard, his arms out to the side for balance.
In the small garden that sat next to the house, his father Liam tended to the vegetables with a small hoe. Not far from Liam, his mother Isabella was hanging laundry from a clothes line.
"John, did you finish your practice?" his mother asked. She was referring to his firebending practice, something she had him doing every day.
"Yes mom," he replied. Looking out toward the road that ran below the house, John spotted a small horse drawn wagon that had been brought to a halt. He instantly recognized the occupants of the wagon as their neighbors.
"Dad, the Reynolds are here," he said, hopping down from the wall and running to meet them. Liam set the hoe to the side and wiped his brow with the back of his hand before he walked over and shook Mr. Reynolds' hand. John went for his best friend Leon and his brothers. Together, the five children began to play in the side yard.
After a short time, Liam called John over to him. He had a strange look in his eyes as he knelt before his son.
"John, do you still want to peruse what you told me?" he asked. John nodded.
"Yes. I want to be like you and grandpa and everyone else in our family."
"It's not an easy life, I had to fight hard to get where I am with you and your mother," Liam warned.
"I don't care, I want to do it." Liam gave a sad smile.
"You are so much like me, and your mother. Mr. Reynolds will take you to begin your training tomorrow. Within a few years you will be a Gunslinger like your ancestors." John's eyes brightened when he heard this.
"I just want you to know son. No matter what happens, I couldn't have asked for a better son. I am so proud of you John."
John sat on his cot, the flashback still present in his mind. He looked to the nightstand where the two pictures he had brought with him sat. The feeling of sadness welled up in his chest, he missed both of them dearly.
"I am so proud of you, John."
He silently asked himself if his father would still be proud if he saw what was happening now.
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