Southern Raiders frigate
Sub Rosa
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Fire & Ice



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Heart of Grit


This is Chapter 1 of Fire & Ice

A chill wind broke across the cloudy skies, cooly whistling to the tune of the night. Slowly cruising through the crashing black waves of the ocean was a large Fire Nation military frigate, with a red Southern Raiders flag proudly waving from its highest watchtower. A half moon dimly illuminated the scene.

On the boat, a young man solemnly walked up a flight of stairs from the cabins to the main deck. He was in his full armor and uniform aside from his helmet, which allowed his long brown hair to flow out into the open night air. The soldier's name was Kiharu, age twenty-two. He had been a part of the Southern Raiders for four years. As he walked up the metal staircase, his heavy boots created a low clanking sound each time he stepped. His heavy boots and his heavy burden. Everything takes its toll in some way or another.

Kiharu walked quietly across the large main deck, around catapults and cannons to a group of fellow raiders, sitting in a circle around a can of oil they had started a bonfire in. Laughter and stories filled their conversation. These were his friends, of the few he had. He trotted over to the group, leaning on railing and nodding a hello to each of them.

"Hey kid," a soldier named Mozu stated, smiling. "Take a seat." He pushed an overturned bucket over his way.

Mozu was the father of their squad. At age 26 and still fighting strong. He was a real man, a little on the short side but proudly owning a husky black beard on his chin. He was kind, talkative, open and funny, maybe a little much. He took it all and didn't complain. If it wasn't for him, Kiharu wouldn't have survived as a Southern Raider. He was a real friend.

Next to Mozu was a young woman named Shizuka, a Southern Raider who mainly worked on the boats as a navigator and long range machine controller during missions. She was the only real heart the five of them had, the only who really cared for anybody. They were a motley crew that didn't want or need care all the time, but she always provided it even when people were best left alone. And that was probably a good thing.

Then there was Jiro. He was the biggest and strongest in the group. The toughest. He was a little bit of a jerk sometimes, but he was good to have around. He made them formidable. Plus he was funny and at the end of the day he was willing to give a hand for someone who needed it. And on the battlefield he could crush opponents. He was the brawn.

Finally there was Ziha, a strong willed and spirited woman who was as well great in battle. She was the excitement of their team, the one who kept things interesting. Making people laugh or cry or raise their eyebrow was her specialty, and everyone needs a little emotion here or there. Whether or not she really cared was anybody's guess.

Sitting down on the metal bucket, Kiharu looked around at his comrades. "Anything interesting happening?" he calmly questioned.

Mozu shrugged his shoulders. "Not really. Just talking about music and stuff."

"What kind of music?" Kiharu asked.

"Like the kind of music you listen to."

"Gee," Ziha dryly stated, "that was informative."

"They mean with instruments," Shizuka said. "Like, I play the pipa."

Jiro laughed. "Once I tried to play my folks' tsungi horn. That didn't end up so well."

"Oh yeah?" Kiharu said, raising his eyebrow.

"Well when I was ten my dad said I needed to play an instrument so he pulled out his big tsungi horn from our basement for me to try playing. I blew on that thing so hard we got our old hag of a neighbor over at our front door complaining about the sound and that was the end of that."

They laughed.

"I played the drums once upon a time," Kiharu said.

"You any good?" asked Mozu.

"Yeah, I guess."

"Well how can't you be good at the drums?" Jiro scoffed. "All you have to do is smack the thing with a stick a couple times and it sounds good."

"I wonder what they play in the Water Tribe," Mozu said.

Ziha chuckled. "I don't think they even know what music is in the Water Tribe."

"They can probably sing," Shizuka commented. "I think."

"Yeah, the wolves must have taught them or something," Jiro joked. "Those morons probably go to concerts to hear grown men grunting and howling and stuff."

"Along with a full orchestra of people beating stones with twigs."

"Of course."

Jiro laughed and put on a dumb sounding imitative voice. "Hey you guys wanna join my band? I play the sticks, you can smack two dead fish together and he can hit a rock against his forehead."

"Now that's what I call percussion," Mozu quipped.

Ziha put on her own joking voice. "I have a seasick walrus duck to back us up with vocals."

Everyone burst into laughter besides Kiharu, who barely forced a smile on his face and looked down. Mozu looked at him and patted him on the back. "Hey, don't be glum, kid. Doesn't hurt to laugh a little."


Shizuka turned her head. "What's wrong, Kiharu?"

He shrugged. "I guess I'm just not in a funny mood. Not everyone's sense of humor is always cooperative."

"Yeah, say what you will, big grump," Jiro sneered. "Why can't you just cheer up for once?"

Only shrugging, Kiharu and sat back on his bucket, staring heartlessly into the blazing metal can between them, trying to distance himself from the conversation.

Jiro scoffed, kicking the metal bucket and almost knocking him off his seat. "Well? Come on, tell us, why can't you just cheer up?"

"Knock it off, Jiro," Shizuka snapped. "He's in a bad mood."

"That's no excuse, you're too frickin' depressed to laugh at a joke! Do you ever smile?"

Mozu held up his fist. "Leave him alone!"

"No," Kiharu said quietly, standing up and lifting his hand. "I'll go." He turned around and started walking away towards the stairs that led down to the cabins.

"Wait, come back," Shizuka quickly tried to plea, but their friend was already away.

They looked around at each other awkwardly.

"Well you folks continue to entertain me," Ziha said, gently clapping. "That was quite the drama performance."

"Shut up," Shizuka hissed.

Kiharu sat on his stiff cot in the lower cabins of the ship, staring coldly at the metal ceiling above him. The only sounds were the dripping of water and the quiet booms of waves that crashed this way and that out in the open sea. One oil lamp hanging from the center of the large room gave the musty air a dim light.

Pain rocking through his body, he rubbed his forehead, trying hopelessly to arrange millions of thoughts at once. I can't run off like that, he mused. I can't give anything away. I have to be strong and deal with my burden. He rolled around, grabbing his hair in stress. There were two selves, two dimensions of his soul smashing together this way and that and trying to dominate his mind, his body thrown in the harsh midst of battle and ending up distraught, distracted, confused, and thoroughly beaten. The battle never seemed to end, though. Never. This was his pain. This was what tormented him every second of his life, destroying who he was and thought he was and beating up anything that ever seemed to give him hope, being forced to become someone who he hated, becoming someone he hated, having everything he once knew as an enemy as great friends and at times almost believing they were and forgetting himself only to end up like this, contemplating miseries and rolling around in his own stress and at the end of the day it all boggled down into...


Kiharu stepped off his cot, sighing, his heavy Southern Raiders mail and armor clanking against his body. Looking around, he checked that he was alone in the cabins, a rare occasion that allowed him to finally get the weight of his shoulders and be himself. He stepped over to a rusty bucket of water by the wall they were supposed to use to wet their hands or wash their face.

He took a deep breath.

And smiled.

Bringing his arms up, he opened his fists and watched in blissful pride as a sphere of water lifted from the bucket.

Oh, if only I could do this more often.

He turned around, whipping the water around him and watching it spiral out in beautiful tendrils that glistened under the light of the lamp above him, a refreshing happiness dawning upon him, at last, peace. Yes, he was a waterbender. A proud one. And how good it felt to finally let it out.

Kiharu brought his hands back down, watching the water retire back to the can. He wouldn't overuse this wonder. He walked away, the pain and cruelty which minutes ago plagued his soul washed away. He had a free mind now, refreshed and revived. How long it would last before becoming tortured by his situation again, he didn't know, but for now, it felt good to be clean of sorrow.

Suddenly, a loud, high pitched toll of a bell rang through the ship, rattling very bolts which held it together. Kiharu jumped up and reverting to his duties and code on instinct, quickly dawned his Southern Raiders helmet, running up the stairs back to the deck. Their captain was leaning over the highest balcony of their watchtower, barking out orders.

"Pirates on the starboard! I repeat, pirates! Everyone, get a move on!" He called out to the crew all about the deck. "Move!"

Kiharu rushed to the side of the boat, looking over the railing, and indeed, two small wooden boats had approached the hull and a few masked men in blue had begun to climb up the side of the ship, scaling up bolts, ropes, chains and cannons, whatever foothold they could find, and they were fast. The one in the lead looked up the blue glisten in his eye was unmistakable. No... he thought to himself. It can't be.

But someone else saw it too. "Captain!" a soldier shouted. "They're Water Tribe!"

Initially shocked, Kiharu flushed away his feelings and drew his knife. This was nothing he hadn't done before.

Suddenly, men on the two attacking boats shot up large chunks of ice up at them, which their firebending team melted on instinct. As soldiers began to gather around the area, they started to hang ropes from the railing for them to climb down on. Kiharu tied up one of his own and quickly jumped over to the other side, dropping down the rope along with a team of other raiders until he came face to face with one of the opposing Water Tribe men scaling the side of the ship, who shot out his fingers and sent a flurry of ice shards at him, which he deflected with a quick slash of the blade, even though he could have just as easily destroyed them with his own waterbending. He jabbed out with his knife, sending the enemy back a little and then lunged forward, making the Water Tribe pirate jump back and unexpectedly slip, loosing his hold on a plate of metal and plunging down towards the cold ocean depths below them. Kiharu stared in shock at what he had done.

"Nice one, kid!" a voice called out from above. He turned around to see Mozu up on the railing climbing over to join him on the fight on the side of the hull. There were more Water Tribe men than they expected who were now climbing up their ropes themselves. This could get bloodier than first calculated.

Out of nowhere, a slash of water whipped out and grabbed him by the ankle, pulling him down. Kiharu tensed, grabbing tightly onto his rope, and resisting with everything inside him to waterbend the attack away, but he couldn't give away his identity, even to protect himself. He tried shaking his leg, looking down at a warrior on a wooden boat beneath him who was controlling the clench of water around his ankle, but it wouldn't budge. Suddenly, a mound of ice was launched towards him and he ducked his head, but the large attack instead smashed into his hand which he opened in throbbing pain, losing his grip on the rope he had held to, and with nothing left to support him he fell, straight down and smashed down onto one of the wooden Water Tribe boats below.

Completely out of adrenaline, Kiharu rolled up from the planks of the boat's decks and jumped up, dodging a jab of water from an opposing waterbender completely from luck. Wincing in pain, he looked around and assessed the situation in a fraction of a second. He lay in front of two of the pirates on their boat, who had already began attacking him. The first one shot a couple of darts that were easy enough to duck beneath with an agile swoop, but the other, smashing out his fist beneath an open palm, sent a wave of ocean at him which left him unavoidably soaked.

"Damnit," Kiharu cursed, cold and pain stricken. He kicked out, crashing the first Water Tribe warrior into the next, knocking the second off his balance. Leaping a good five feet in front of him, Kiharu dove head on into the shaken enemy straight off the side of the boat into the black ocean waves. As soon as he did so, the final pirate on the boat stood up behind him and prepared to send a giant waterbending strike forward. Just before he could send out the final thrust of his wrist, Mozu, out of nowhere, leapt at him and punched out a blast of fire which covered the man in char and flames, leaving him to fall over, dead.

"Thanks for that," Kiharu sincerely said, trying to look at his friend and not the burning body of one his own people between them. He had seen worse, and plus, his life could have just been saved, so gratitude clouded his inner pain, which worked well.

Mozu smiled at him. "We are unstoppable," he boasted while they gave each other a high five. "I killed that one because he was about to do the same to you, but we should try to get on of these animals back to the ship alive."

"Good plan." Kiharu looked around, analyzing the battle that had erupted before them so suddenly. "Are there even any left?"

Mozu stared out an then shot his head out forward in surprised realization. "The other ship! They're getting away!"

They looked out and sure enough, one canoe with a single warrior left inside hurriedly paddling it away was quickly leaving the scene of the fight.

"After him!" their captain roared out from the ship's railing.

Kiharu cracked his knuckles, sweat rolling down his brow as they watched the last Water Tribe warrior getting away. "Screw this, I'm already wet," he said under his breath and then without another warning, jumped off the side of their boat and dove into the cold ocean waters, swimming at full speed ahead towards the runaway canoe.

"What the hell?" Mozu said, his jaw hanging open incredulously.

Frigid tenseness soaking into his limbs, Kiharu still tirelessly crawled through the waves, the final enemy paddling no match for his speed in the water. He would swim all the time in the Water Tribe, practicing for an application like this when everyone was counting on his strength. And there it was, the canoe directly in front of him. He lunged outwards, grabbing onto the back of the small boat, jumping up into it and facing the final warrior who stared in shock and fear. The wind howling and sending giant chills through his soaked skin, Kiharu lunged out and grabbed the man's hands, tying them together with a spare piece of rope he had on him.

From the ship, dozens and dozens of Southern Raiders were cheering him on and clapping as he captured their enemy.

Fire Nation.

Was this what I was meant for?

Thirty minutes later, Kiharu was back on the deck of the main ship, carrying the man he had apprehended while walking through a crowd of cheering soldiers, congratulating him for his bravery as he tried going to the captain's quarters. He just weakly smiled, still cold and sore.

A little bit of relief and happiness came to him as he saw his friends walk up.

"Awesome job!" Shizuka complimented, giving him a big grin.

"You always do stick through in the end," Jiro said, scratching his neck in embarrassment.

Ziha ran up and gave him a hug. "Where'd you learn to swim like that?" She patted him on the shoulder. "Nice one."

As he passed by Mozu, they gave each other another high five, and with that Kiharu walked away into the captain's large chamber on the back of the ship. There was no one inside the room. There, it was just Kiharu and his captive, standing alone in the red light of a lamp above them.

Now, the pain was soaking in. He stared at the man he was holding, one of his people, his brethren, who people were now cheering him on for practically kidnapping. The worst part, the worst part was that all the while the man was shouting muffled insults beneath the rope they had tied around his mouth once they came onto the ship.

"You horrible Fire Nation!" he mumbled in anger, madness in his eyes. "How can you be so cruel?"

Kiharu stood still, pain clouding his mind.

"Don't you have any respect for us? Don't you care? You mindless, cruel beasts, do you care at all for the Water Tribe or do you really just want to see us burn? I hate you! All of our people hate you and I bet you could care less as long as you are still able to senselessly slaughter us! What have you done to me?"

Taking a gulp of sorrow, Kiharu bent down and through his Southern Raiders helmet looked the man right in the eye. "Be strong," he quietly muttered. He couldn't really help the man for his identity's sake, but he felt too horrible to leave him with nothing. He was used to this. He had to be strong too.

With that, the captain walked into the room, gave him a nod of thanks, and then took the screaming man away for his own dealings and interrogation.

Kiharu walked out of the room unfazed, as a crowd of more soldiers came up to congratulate him.

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