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March 17, 2013
Stripped Away is a one-shot written by.
A past Avatar endures a terrible loss during a battle.
He peered out through the leaves, looking down on the valley stretching out before him. Small lights twinkled in the distance, giving away the position of the bandits. Qui patted the armadillo lion crouching beside him. "Let's get through this, Yindao."
The beast growled in response and bared its death. Lightning flashed in the sky, followed by a rumble of thunder. Rain started to drizzle down from the black clouds. A few moments passed and it grew heavier and heavier until Qui was sopping with water.
The Avatar slipped around the bush and began to slowly slide down the hill. Mud made the descent more challenging, as he was constantly slipping in the sodden dirt. He envied his armadillo lion as Yindao rolled past him, curled up in a tight ball.
Qui finally reached the base of the hill and he and Yindao stealthily crept across the open ground, hiding in the shadows of the hill and evading the pockets of moonlight drifting through the black clouds.
The lights of the torches were only about a half mile away from where the Avatar and his guide were. Qui narrowed his eyes, ready to attack the bandits with ferocity and strength. The bandits had traveled throughout the Earth Kingdom, waylaying single travelers to small groups of nomads and refugees. They decimated towns and destroyed farmland, killing anyone who got in there path.
But they wouldn't be able to kill Qui. He'd been a master bender for over thirty years in all four elements. He even taught himself how to bend multiple elements at one time. He was ready to bring the bandits to justice.
Minutes slowly crept by as Qui and Yindao stalked across the land. Every time the duo stopped, Yindao would growl quietly and tear that grass at his feet with sharp claws. Qui would breathe steadily and try to ignore the nervousness fluttering in his stomach.
Finally, Qui and Yindao were on a small bluff overlooking the camp of the bandits. The fifty or so rugged men sat around several small fires, drinking ale and eating meat while conversing to each other. Qui's eyes angrily narrowed and he conjured up a small spark in his hand.
"You ready, Yindao?" asked Qui, patting his armadillo lion on the head. The beast grunted in response and bared his teeth, ready to attack the bandits.
"Then let's go."
Qui closed his eyes and regulated his breathing, falling into a meditative state as he did before every fight. His mind raced with the thoughts of losing his life. Shivers crawled down his spine as he envisioned Yindao slipping away from him. He couldn't bear to lose his precious animal guide. Yindao had been with Qui since the beginning, and Qui could not imagine life without the loyal armadillo lion.
Quickly, he pushed the thoughts aside and focused on how he would start the battle. First, he identified where the four benders of the group were sitting. They were eating at their own small fire at the center of the camp. He thought about blasting a fireball at them, but then realized the firebenders might easily be able to stop the attack. It would be better to go for the nonbenders first. Next, he looked at the other four campfires. the one closest to Qui and Yindao had ten of the bandits. That would be the best target for him.
Qui squatted down and took a firebending stance. He conjured a small flame in his hands. With a rigid movement, he punched his arm forward and let a huge ball of fire soar towards the camp.
The fireball exploded right in the center of the circle and the area went up in a swath of flames. Pained shrieks of the burning men arose from the inferno and a few lucky men were able to dive out of the fire.
Qui briefly watched the outcome and then sprinted forty feet to another direction and sent another fireball into the camp. The explosion set the dry, trampled grass on fire and the bandits began to run around, screaming and looking around in fear and confusion.
"Good," muttered Qui, smiling dryly, "they have no idea where I am."
He ran twenty feet back in the direction where he came from and sent on last ball of fire into the camp. The bandits were running around, splashing water on the flames while the firebenders worked to control they inferno, but Qui could see they were having some difficulty.
Yindao padded up beside Qui and butted his head against the Avatar's stomach. Qui patted the lion on the head and then nodded. Together, the human and beast roared out loud and sprinted down into the chaos.
The first bandit charged at Qui with foolish bravery in his eyes. Qui kicked out and then flipped the man over before binding his arms and legs with earthbending. The man struggled to tear free, but was not strong enough to rip through the solid rock holding him to the ground.
Qui threw a slab of earth at a trio of the highwaymen creeping up behind him. He flicked a water whip at a large man holding two double-edged swords. The man cringed in pain and Qui jumped forward. He punched the bandit in the stomach and ducked under a swing of the sword. The Avatar grabbed the man's left arm and forced it downwards. He quickly bended a mound of earth around him, trapping the bandit in a hunched over position. The man snarled in pain, but Qui was already gone.
Qui glanced over and saw Yindao battling two bandits on his own. He shot a fire stream at two lithe bandits charging at him with hooked swords. One of them evaded the flames and leaped into the air, landing on the Qui's shoulder. Qui staggered backwards but propelled himself back upwards with earthbending. He grabbed the bandit and threw him onto the ground before having the earth suck everything but his head up. He screamed in pain and fear and looked at Qui in mercy, but the Avatar was already sprinting away.
The two firebenders of the group were attempting to augment one of the larger fires to keep it from spreading and harming anymore of the bandits.
Lightning flashed overhead and thunder rumbled across the sky. The two firebenders looked up at the night clouds and froze when they saw Qui standing in front of them.
"You!" growled one of the firebenders, engulfing his arms in flames. "I should've known you were the one attacking us."
Qui narrowed his eyes in response. "And why's that?"
"Because you're the only stupid enough to attack a group of bandits on his own!"
"I'm not alone," he retorted, glancing over at Yindao fighting a trio of the bandits, his vision blurring in the rain pouring down from the sky.
The firebender smiled slyly and turned to his companion. They both nodded, and the first firebender screamed, "Attack the armadillo lion!"
The cry echoed up throughout the camp and Qui's eyes widened. "NO!" he roared, diving at the firebenders.
They both blasted flames into his face, but Qui blocked them with a slab of earth. He swiped the legs out from under one of the benders and then headbutted the other one in the stomach. He blasted them both with airbending and then sent a pinwheel of flames towards them.
The first firebender was engulfed by the flames, but the other one took control of them and sent then flying towards Qui. He threw up a water shield and the water and fire evaporated into steam. Qui hit the firebender in the stomach with a fist-sized rock and then rolled away towards his animal guide.
"Yindao!" screamed Qui, lunging towards the bandits attacking the armadillo lion.
Qui sent a stream of fire into the horde of bandits. One of the earthbenders emerged from the group and sent a pillar of earth right into the Avatar's stomach, forcing him backwards.
Landing on the ground with a grunt and a shock of pain, Qui watched as Yindao reared up in midair and threw two bandits into flames not too far away. The Avatar leaped up and charged towards his animal guide, tears flying out of his eyes.
"Get away from him!" roared Qui, flames flying out of his fists and into the dozen bandits brutally attacking Yindao.
The armadillo lion gave a loud whine of pain and Qui shouted in rage, his whole body trembling. A red haze filled his eyes and he blasted a bandit fifty feet in the air with a wave of earth.
Two men sprinted towards Yindao and pierced his chest with long, barbed pikes. The animal guide howled in pain and collapsed to the ground, it's eyes wide and scared. Qui screamed out as his gaze met Yindao's, the yellow eyes clouded with pain.
"YINDAO! NO!" he screamed, diving for his lifelong companion. He was shoved back by two hefty men, but he broke through and reached Yindao just as one of the bandits brought his spear into the armadillo lion's neck.
Yindao screamed in pain and his body twitched once. Qui locked his eyes onto Yindao and dove beside his animal guide. Yindao roared in agony and began to writhe on the ground.
Qui choked out a sob as he watched Yindao's life fade out of his once-vibrant eyes. Pain and sorrow racked his body as he laid his head on Yindao's shoulder. He sobbed into the hard shell, pleading for his animal guide to stay with him.
But then a strange peace overcame Qui and his rage, still boiling inside of him, cooled down. Qui closed his eyes and breathed in deeply.
His eyes flashed open, bright white light pouring out of them.
The rage spilled out of Qui as he rose twenty feet in the air, a vortex of air swirling beneath him. Several of the bandits were tossed aside by the powerful gale while the others, terrified, back away.
Qui sent out a massive wave of earth that sent several of the bandits flying into the air. He shot his hands straight out and froze the raindrops pouring down from the sky. The precipitation halted and the bandits stared up in fear. Qui dropped his arms and the deadly ice bullets hailed down upon them, impaling the highwayman. Five dropped to the ground and did not move again.
The vortex of air started to slow down and Qui descended to the ground. He landed with a thud and a single wave of earth rippled out from where he landed, unbalancing many of the bandits. He clapped his hands together and then shot them outward. He began to spin his arms around his head and a tornado of fire formed above his head, drowning out his glowing eyes.
With a fluid flick of his hands, the raging flames spun out in a circle, incinerating the bandits in its path. Qui collapsed to the ground, his arms shaking as they barely kept him from falling to the ground.
The four or five remaining bandits, terror rampant in their eyes, took one last glance at Avatar Qui and sprinted away from the dying fires and into the darkness of the rain.
Qui staggered up and stumbled over to Yindao, tears flooding from his eyes.
"Yindao!" he sobbed, throwing his neck around his dead companion's neck. "Yindao!"
The sobs racked his body and Qui struggled to breathe as he mourned his lifelong companion. Never before had he felt so much pain. Never before had he felt so much sorrow. Never before had he felt so much sadness.
And as the rain poured down above him, Qui realized, never before had he had something so loved stripped away from him.
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