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|The Leader and the Followers|
January 24, 2014
Chapter Eleven, Dukran: The Leader and the Followers
I was alone and with my wrists in handcuffs and my ankles bonded, as I waited for Nami's father to enter the prison cell that had become my home. I didn't know what he planned to do to me. The worst he could do was not killing me, but killing the baby inside of me. I'd gladly die if my baby could live.
The steel door slid open. "Dukran," Keskae greeted warmly as the light from the hallway spilled into the cell. "How are you, sweetie?"
I felt self-conscious about seeing Keskae again. My hair was dirty and stringy and I probably did not smell very pleasant. I guess that was the princess in me left over from my teenage years: I never wanted to look less than perfect.
I decided to be polite. "I'm doing well, thank you. How about yourself?" I asked, surprised about how rich the quality of my voice was, considering that I'd been sitting in silence.
Keskae smiled. "I'm great. I wanted to discuss my grandson. How is he?"
Keskae sat down, cross-legged in front of my cell. He was close enough to touch through the bars. I scooted closer to him, so I could face him. "Last I heard, he was doing great. He mastered Earthbending a couple of weeks ago," I said, trying not to give Keskae too much information.
"He makes me so proud," the old man said, beaming with happiness.
"Then can I ask you why you want to kill him?"
"Dukran, you are the same age as Lyn-Chen, correct?" Keskae asked.
Lyn-Chen? Why did he ask about Lyn-Chen? I hadn't heard about Lyn-Chen in ages. She had drowned nearly eighteen years ago. I mean, she was reincarnated into Taylor.
"No. I was twenty four when she died," I responded.
"Oh. Right. I forgot. You're the third oldest out of the group. Ani, Anana, Dukran. My bad, sweetie."
"You didn't answer my question," I stated.
"Dukran, I'm seventy-eight years old. I have been alive since Avatar Akari's time. Even then, the Independent Nation was trying to kill the Avatar," Keskae started.
"The Independent Nation started with my grandfather as the leader. Then, the main focus was turning people against the Avatar. We held massive rallies. We showed TV commercials. We defaced Fire Nation buildings. We even assassinated Firelord Femila, the mother of Firelord Hania."
"I know who Femila is, Keskae. She's my great grandmother," I said.
He ignored my comment. "When my grandfather died, the leadership went to my father. In his time, Akari died, and we went on the search for the new Avatar. But The Order of the White Lotus was secretive. They waited until Lyn-Chen was eleven to tell the world who she was. It was upsetting," Keskae said, sighing.
"Nice story. But it still didn't answer my question," I said, getting impatient.
"Dukran, don't get irritable. You are the one in handcuffs," Keskae said, smiling.
"True," I answered, smiling back at him.
"Here's the thing: I don't want to hurt Yukio. He's an amazing bender. He has so much potential. But I have to end the cycle," Keskae responded, looking conflicted.
"How will you end it?" I asked.
"Taylor and I will do battle after he masters the elements."
"Don't you think that's a battle you can't win? Taylor said you can only heal."
"I can fight. I just haven't had a reason to. Why do you think all of the people in my family can Waterbend when their mothers couldn't?"
"I didn't know that Nami had a different mother than Keskae Jr." I said.
"I have three kids, all with different mothers. Nami, Lina, and Keskae Jr. Nami just happens to be the only one alive," Keskae answered.
"How did Lina die?" I asked.
"The same way Keskae Jr. died. Murder," Keskae said, shrugging.
"When are you going to kill Nami?" I asked, putting two and two together.
"When I no longer have a purpose for her," Keskae answered.
"After Yukio is dead?" I suggested.
"I'm not sure. I like Kohanna doing my dirty work. She's a good woman," Keskae said.
"Why did you rename her?" I asked.
"Gosh, Dukran! You're quite chatty today."
"Just making conversation. You and I were always close, remember?" I asked, trying to guilt trip him.
Keskae was an interesting man, for sure. But then again, he always was. When I was in the Northern Water Tribe with Anana and Keskae Jr., he and I would talk. We were friends. I thought that would still apply to our current situation. And it did.
"I renamed her so if she ever got caught and charged for a crime, 'Kohanna' would be the name on the papers. And if she escaped, which she could, she would be able to live under her real name," Keskae answered.
"Huh. Smart," I replied.
"When you're the leader of a group this large and trying to change the world, you have to be smart."
"How does killing Yukio help you achieve your goals?" I asked.
"Because if there isn't an Avatar, the four nations and the Republic would have to ask us for help," Keskae answered.
"So this is all for money?"
"Not at all, dear! I'm filthy rich! Why would I want more money?"
"Is that a rhetorical question?"
Keskae smiled. "I mean it."
"But you aren't exactly destitute, Dukran," he added.
"True. But I don't see a single copper piece. It goes straight to the Fire Sages and the Cabinet."
"Does that worry you?" Keskae asked. "That Myung Dae has control of the money? He's the one who bombed Ba Sing Se."
"I'm well aware of his... business arrangement with the Shirshu Gang. But they don't know about Myung Dae's intentions. They don't know that he wants to take control of the Earth Kingdom. The Shirshu Gang wants anarchism," I responded.
"Maybe we should step in," Keskae said.
"I care about you too much to let you do that, Keskae. Myung Dae is ruthless."
"You're really kind, Dukran. After all of this," he said, gesturing around the cell.
"I shouldn't have captured you. You're like a daughter to me."
"Then you're not going to kill me?"
"That was never my plan, sweetie," Keskae said in a very fatherly voice. It started to make me feel embarrassed. "But I'm not letting you go yet. You know a little too much. But I will change my orders. You are now a guest on this ship, not a prisoner."
"Thank you, Keskae," I said excitedly. "I really appreciate it."
"It's no problem. But stay away from Yuseo as much as possible. He's a little upset."
"And I'm really sorry, Firelord," Keskae said.
"I forgive you, Keskae."
Keskae looked at me like I was crazy.
Behind the Scenes!
- This is the author's favorite chapter.
- Dukran is the character the author wants to be like.
- Keskae Sr. is Taylor's paternal grandfather.
- Kohanna is Taylor's aunt.
Keskae is the leader of the Independent Nation. The Independent Nation's goal is to settle arguments between the nations, making the Avatar obsolete. Keskae's personal goal, passed down through the generations, is to end the Avatar Cycle.
For the collective works of the author, go here.