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|An Intercepted Plot|
January 16, 2014
Taylor: An Intercepted Plot
ChoHee had grabbed me out of class suddenly. We were running to the palace. She didn't stop until we reached the very front of the palace. I was out of breath, but she spoke first, not sounding out of breath at all. "I'm sorry that I pulled you out of class, but I had to. You'll never believe who is here," she said.
I had no idea who she could possibly be talking about. She didn't look like the person was a good surprise. "I've got nothing," I responded, gasping, right before I realized the question was rhetorical. ChoHee frowned. "Sorry. Who's here?"
"Kohanna is here," ChoHee said as we walked past the guards to get in the palace. She suddenly stopped and made a right down a corridor. She was moving so quickly that she left me scrambling behind her. I wondered where we were going, but it was easy to see her objective when I started paying attention. A large room stood at the end of the hallway. I could already tell that it was our goal.
When I got in the room, Chi-Ji, MiHee, Hana, Dukran, and, surprisingly, David and Stella, and Kohanna all looked up at me. ChoHee took an open seat between MiHee and David. The only open chair was at the head of the table. I felt incredibly awkward as I took the seat. "Okay, what'd I miss?" I asked, trying to relieve the tension in the room.
Hana passed a piece of stiff cardstock. It was a letter from King Myung Dae. I skimmed it once and then read it more closely because I could not believe my own eyes.
"What does he mean? 'I have a world to convert?' Does he really think people will stand down and allow him to capture their villages?"
"We don't know what that means," The Firelord said. "But he's the most powerful man on the Earth. He has legions of soldiers under his command."
"Dukran, they are your soldiers," I said. "You are commander-in-chief."
"Not since I married Myung Dae. He is the second in command, according to the law of the Fire Nation."
"What?" I asked, confused.
"Fire Nation Law says that in the event that a female Fire Lord cannot accomplish the goals of the Fire Nation, the husband of the Fire Lord may become ruler of the Fire Nation," David said, shaking his head.
"But you've never been incapacitated," Kohanna said in reply to Dukran, shaking her head, too.
Kohanna surprised me. She acted like she knew Dukran. I mean, she must have because she wasn't living under a rock. She had to know pretty much everything to avoid any suspicion. Plus, she was obviously the daughter of a very wealthy man, considering her impressive arsenal of weapons and her fashionable, yet nondescript clothes. But how did she know Dukran so well?
"I'm not critically incapacitated, but I'm pregnant," Dukran explained, "Since I cannot physically defend myself, Myung Dae is officially the Fire Lord. So until I have the baby, there's nothing we can do."
"Wait. Dukran, I think we need to slow down and go back to the beginning. The very beginning. When you first met Myung Dae," I clarified.
"That sounds like a good idea, Mom," David encouraged.
Dukran looked really uncomfortable. She shifted in her chair and looked down at her long fingers. She sighed, and then looked directly into my eyes. I fought the urge to look away from her. "You're right," Dukran said. "But if I'm going to tell you all, I want Dong Min to be here. I can't imagine speaking about Myung Dae without having my kids with me." Dukran patted her stomach. "The new one will have to wait."
I didn't realize that Hana had snuck out to get Caleb, but they came into the room together. Caleb dragged a chair behind him, leaving imprints in the thick gold carpet. Caleb looked confused, so Dukran said in a soothing voice, "We're about to talk about me and your father. After we're finished, you can leave. You don't need to be involved in all of this," Dukran finished. Caleb just nodded and put his chair between MiHee and Dukran.
"When I was fifteen, my father died. He was not the Firelord, but he was the crown prince. Since he had no other siblings, I was forced into the crown princess position. I was afraid, but my grandfather was the total picture of health, so I wasn't worried.
"Two years later, my grandfather passed away suddenly. I was sworn into the Firelord position the very next day. I wasn't ready to run a country, but luckily, everyone was patient with me. I learned very quickly. My grandfather didn't leave a mess behind him, so I didn't have to make any big decisions. And then I met Myung Dae.
"I wasn't really interested in being married at age seventeen. Of course, I was considered a woman in the eyes of society, but I just didn't think I'd have time to date. I had a nation to dictate. My people came first. So I wasn't expecting to meet the love of my life.
"Myung Dae was a soldier stationed to guard the Great Gates of Azulon. I met him when he was inspecting the engine room of my ship. I wouldn't say it was love at first sight. In fact, I thought he was rather rude to me," Dukran said. She rolled her eyes lovingly. She smiled.
"He transferred to work in the palace. I felt really awkward around him. He was the guard for the Firelord's office, so every time I was working, he was there. I figured it was just a coincidence, but whenever I left the office, I'd always find him working in close proximity to where I was.
"I'll never forget: one time, a security guard filed a complaint against him. I had to talk to Myung Dae about his actions. The guard, who became one of my dearest friends, told me later that he had just done it so Myung Dae could talk to me," Dukran said.
Chi-Ji chuckled, "That's definitely something Dad and Kaage would do."
Kohanna winced when Chi-Ji said 'Kaage', which made me confused until Kohanna laughed. "Kaage never told me that story. Those men were always up to something," Kohanna said.
Kaage must have been Kohanna's husband.
"They certainly were. Apparently, Kaage had a hand in all of Myung Dae's conversations with me," Dukran said. "I have fond memories of Kaage."
"Me, too," Kohanna said grinning. "Not a day goes by where I don't think about him."
"He was a good man," Dukran agreed. The rest of the royal family nodded appreciatively. "I was so tickled when you two got married. I couldn't think of any two people more suited for each other."
Kohanna beamed. "Keep going, Dukran. We can talk about Kaage some other time."
Dukran nodded. "We got married about nine months later. When we did, I noticed some things started to change about him. For one, the spouse of the Fire Lord has always been called 'prince' but he quickly petitioned the law. He wanted to be called 'king'. He said that he wanted to be in a higher position than any of our sons. Which made sense, so I approved the law.
"Later on, we started talking children. He started talking about my family tree, which he called a 'mutt family'. He said we needed to try to have all Firebenders, since the both of us were. So when we were ready to get pregnant, we took fertility drugs to make sure we had a Firebender. And we did.
"He was really happy about Hana, so when I got pregnant with David, he was really excited. I didn't take any medicine because I assumed we'd have another Firebender. But when we found out that David was an Earthbender, Myung Dae was annoyed. I was thrilled to be having a son, and him being an Earthbender just made him that much more special to me. Dukran smiled at David.
"I sent David to Stella as soon as I could. Myung Dae made him study Firebending until he was seven. I think it has made him a better Earthbender, but still. It was wrong. Myung Dae was wrong. And when Myung Dae challenged David to an Agni Kai, I was crushed. I couldn't understand how the love of my life could do something like that.
"But from there, things just escalated. I had Chi-Ji, and Myung Dae was pleased with me. He was happy for a long time, but he never mentioned David. I just couldn't understand," Dukran said. She shook her head. "I should have kicked Myung Dae out as soon as I knew he was power hungry. I kept making excuses for him. I knew he really did love me. But now, I'm not so sure. He's been really absent since I've been pregnant. I assumed that he was upset that we don't know if she's even a bender," Dukran said.
Kohanna sat up straighter and cleared her throat. "The reason I'm here is to warn you about an attack that my father has planned on Yu Dao. The Independent Nation is very aware of Myung Dae's agenda and they are about to use it to their advantage.
"Basically, I've been sent here to capture Dukran. Yuseo, my adoptive brother, has threatened to take my children if I don't bring her back with me. But I have a plan that keeps my kids and Dukran safe," Kohanna said.
I kept my cool, even though I was spiraling. "Okay. So basically, we are going to use Hana as bait for Myung Dae and Dukran as bait for the Independent Nation?" I shook my head. "There has to be a safer way."
"Taylor," ChoHee said. I turned to face her. "This is the safest way. Kohanna would obviously protect Dukran. And based on what Kohanna said, the IN doesn't want to hurt her. And with Myung Dae, Hana is his favorite daughter. Myung Dae isn't luring Hana to her death. Plus, he thinks that Hana's loyalties are to him."
ChoHee made an excellent point, as usual. I didn't want to believe it, but she made total sense. Safety was everybody's main concern. "My problem," I stated, "Is that we could be walking into a trap. What if this was Myung Dae's plan? For Hana to freak out and tell everyone, including the Avatar? What if Myung Dae is one step ahead of us?"
"He thinks he's right, Taylor. My loyalties were with him. I'm also not the kind of person who freaks out over everything. He knows that I really want to be Firelord, too," Hana said, ashamed. "He's playing me like a Tsungi horn."
"Taylor, your points are valid. Myung Dae does think like that," Dukran agreed. "But the one thing he is always sure of is his charisma. He has excellent people skills and can manipulate anyone to feel or act the way he does. It's a gift of sorts. Even better than his Firebending. So he knows exactly how to play Hana's emotions. That's why he's a good leader."
"Kohanna, why don't we just listen to your plan," Stella suggested.
"Yeah," I agreed. "This conversation is getting too hard to follow. It's going in circles. I think we need to just sit back and focus on one thing at a time. Kohanna is here to talk about her problems. We don't even know if these two problems are related."
"I agree," David said.
"We're just excited," Caleb said. "We have two big things happening at once. Let's make the most of it."
"Right," Kohanna said, in a very motherly tone of voice.
"So, go ahead, Kohanna," I invited.
Kohanna nodded. "As I was saying, my brother Yuseo wants me to capture Dukran. Yuseo said if I don't take Dukran, he will take my children. So my plan is to fake capture Dukran."
Kids. That's why Kohanna let me go. She felt bad about capturing a child.
"Fake capture?" I questioned, raising one of my eyebrows. Kohanna nodded again.
"In a way, yes. I know I can take care of Dukran. Yuseo wouldn't hurt a pregnant woman. He's a low-life, but not to the point of hurting a baby."
"I think that this is really wrong," I said. "But if this is the best way to go about this, I can't argue. Dukran, you'll go with Kohanna and meet Yuseo. Hana, you will go with Myung Dae. You are all to report directly to me as soon as you can.
"Next order of business. I need to go to Yu Dao to protect the city. Chi-Ji, David, Caleb and ChoHee, you are coming with me. Stella, MiHee, I want you to stay here and protect the Fire Nation. Got it?" I asked. MiHee nodded and reached for Stella's hand.
The group nodded. I was surprised that people were actually listening to me. It was the first order I had ever given. I was claiming my heritage and joining my fellow Avatars.
"Well, let's go as soon as possible," I said.
Behind the Scenes is Back!
- This chapter is supposed to be hard to follow.
- Taylor has started to act like a real Avatar.
- Caleb doesn't talk much.
- If you read the extras page, you'll know that Taylor is Kohanna's nephew. (Kohanna=Nami, remember that)
- Kohanna is adopted, if you didn't catch that in the Prologue for Book Two or in this chapter.
- Kohanna and Dukran were good friends at one point in time.
- Kaage, Kohanna's husband, was a healer. He delivered all of Dukran's children.
For the collective works of the author, go here.