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|The Boy With The Five-Fold Tattoo|
December 13, 2014
Streams of fire erupted from the figure's hands who then spiraled into the air surrounded by a shield of fire.
A second figure caused a wall to rise from the earth. The figure then sent it forward.
Blades extended from the wrists of the third figure. As he twirled them in the air they changed shape and size.
A fourth figure caused a stream of water to rise from a river, surrounding himself with it before sending it away.
A fifth figure raised his hands. Trees emerged from the ground. He then motioned his hands forward. The branches shot outwards.
You are probably familiar with the World of Avatar, and the four nations that comprise it. But unbeknownst to the people there, these are not the only lands. On the other side of the planet, surrounded by vast ocean, there is another land, divided into five nations rather than four, each with their own bending art, which they call 'mancies': the peaceful Wood Tribe of the forested east, the aggressive Fire Nomads of the volcanic south, the isolationist Earth Republic of the mountainous centre, the imperialistic Metal Empire of the Rocky West, and the trade-faring Water Kingdom of the northern islands. These nations have too known the Avatar, although they call him or her the Incarnate, but has only been known to appear very rarely in history, and when he or she does, in times of crisis, it signifies a new age. This is the story of the sixth Incarnate, a young Xylomancer or Woodbender from the Wood Tribe, as he embarks on his journey to master the five elements and restore balance in a world where the Metal Empire threatens to expand its borders.
About a few months ago, the Metal Empire, under the iron fist of Emperor Ferrusias, the son of the recently deceased Argorus III the Great, attacked the other nations without warning, using his vast armies of Metallomancers or Metalbenders to invade the neighbouring Earth Republic, Water Kingdom and Fire Nomads, however it became clear very quickly that neither were the target of the first wave, as Metallomancers sailed through the central lands and attacked the heart of the Wood Tribe on the other side of the lands. The Incarnate vanished along with most of the civilization. The Xylomancers are believed to be still alive, but none can be seen or heard, and their old continental lands are a battle ground contested between the Earth Republic, Fire Nomads and Metal Empire, with various important coastal trade areas controlled directly by the Water Kingdom. The Incarnate is still alive, but no one has seen him. He is our only hope, and the only one who can stop the Metal Empire. He will save us all.''
Two brothers from the Fire Nomads are on a trade caravan heading across the dead lands that once belonged to the Wood Tribe, but is now an ash covered plains littered with torn tree stumps.
"Are you sure they're not coming back?" the younger brother says.
"Well if the Metal Empire really wants a deforested ground full of ash, then I think we really would have noticed."
The caravan is stopped by a suddenly sprouting rock under one of their wheels, which sends them tumbling over the front. The older brother stands up immediately as they are confronted by a girl Geomancer.
"Fire Savages!" She cried, "I claim this land in the name of the Earth Republic! You shall not pass!"
"Savages?" The elder brother retorted, getting up, "We're not the ones who just rudely knocked over a caravan full of innocent merchants!"
"Yeah!" Said the other brother, "Also since when do the Tectonic Knights employ peasant girls to do their dirty work? And a rather cute one I might add?"
The girl roared as she raised several boulders from the ground, sending them hurtling towards her opponents. The brothers threw fireballs at the projectiles, causing them to explode. The merchants cowered as they took refuge in the knocked over caravan.
"It's alright, folks!" the elder brother assured them, "It's just a wannabe hero playing soldier! She'll be dealt with in a jiffy!"
"In a jiffy?" the younger brother mouthed, "If you weren't my brother I'd probably disowned you right now."
"If we weren't brothers you wouldn't be able to disown me in the first place."
The brothers distanced themselves as they faced their attacker.
"You know," said the elder brother, creating a fireball in his hand, "Me and my brother have a problem attacking girls, so how about you do us a favour and step down?"
"Hmph" the girl grunted, "I don't expect a bunch of barbarians to respect a woman's strength as much as any man's."
"BARBARIAN?" The younger brother exclaimed, "WHO'S A BARBARIAN? Wait. That earth girl seriously think WE'RE barbarians, US? We're the people of fire, fire is the embodiment of civilization! Of science and art, of culture and ideas! of spirituality and religion! of the the soul and the mind, of-"
"Fire is the element of chaos," The earth girl responded, "Chaos is the exact opposite of civilization."
"Yeah well better an element that embodies freedom than one of control! I don't know how you earth people can consider yourselves civilized when you value the stifling of creativity and individual ideas-"
"Are we seriously having a debate of different cultures as opposed to an actual fight?"
"Hey I'm just correcting this earth girl's view of civilization."
"Civilization is order!" The earth girl shouted, "Civilization is security, something that a bunch of fire barbarians wouldn't under-"
The elder brother threw a fireball in order to end this conversation and stop his brother from becoming enraged again. The Earth girl raised her fists, causing a wall of earth to rise, blocking the fire. She then sent it straight forward towards them.
In a nearby forest that was still standing, a small green hooded figure was watching the fight.
The fight rages on with fire and earth clashing at every instant. The younger brother stays well out of the way on the safety of the caravan, as his brother and the girl continue to fight it out. The battle ends with a final large rock on flamethrower stand off takes place. Neither of them backing down as the rock and the stream don't move. Then, the wind changes and the angle suddenly.
"Tree?" They all look towards the small woodland that now seemed to be facing them from the west.
"Um, I'm pretty sure that wasn't there earlier."
"Way to point it out detective, but that doesn't-"
A vine grabs her by the wrist and tangles her up.
"Huh?" the elder brother replies as his wrists are also grabbed. Both try to resist, but find their arms stuck tight.
"Stand where you are!" a voice yells out, and the boy steps out from the wood with his hood still up and his hand locked firmly onto his staff.
The boy snaps his staff at the ground and the vines raise the two till they were standing on their toes.
"Cease this fighting. This is Wood Tribe land, and you are both destroying the sanctity of this forest. Please leave now and there will be no trouble."
"As if I'll-"
"I seriously doubt that you are in any position to fight back" the elder brother replies.
"I don't need arms to fight, unlike you Fire Savage."
She kicks her foot and a boulder flies from the ground. Pulling on the vines she lifts her self up and kicks it straight at the boy, who in turn flicks his staff from the ground, and a tree sprouts, grabbing and destroying the boulder before it strike him. He then jabs with both his hands, and kicks up with his knee, and the vines raise her higher off the ground and entangle her legs as well.
"Let me down you brat!"
"We do not tolerate this kind of behavior here, but there is imbalance in your aura, something so horrible it seems, and so your aggression, it is justifiable."
"I'll show you justify-!"
The vines gag her as she continues to struggle.
"Thank you for that" the elder brother says cockily as she gives him a deadly stare.
The boy turns to him, but he looks at him angrily.
"You're aura on the other hand is not imbalanced, not as much anyways, so you have no justifying reason except for yourself."
"Hey, she attacked us first!"
"I saw the first fireball being thrown, I know who started the fight."
The younger brother intervenes, trying to act like a diplomat.
"Can we cool it down please?"
The boy stops and stares at him as he continues.
"Hi there, I am Jygal, nice to meet you little- master of this . . . forest, you already know my brother here, Tohshar. And this geomancer, who we actually don't know her name . . ."
"MMmmM! *gasp* Arenta!"
"Arenta, okay. So as you can see, we all know who we are all now. And could we have a name from you?"
The boy stared at him for a moment, then he answered "Cael." He continued to stare until the moment was uncomfortable, before dropping Tohshar hard on the ground.
Cael walked passed them, looking at the landscape of dead, cut down trees, the ground scorched. After a moment of silence Cael asked, "The Fire Nomads did this, didn't they?"
His voice sounded choked up.
"Well, er, yes," Tohshar replied awkwardly, his hand behind his back, "But you see everyone thought that all the Wood tribe were dead, well maybe not all of them I mean there were rumours that a few had survived but that a good number of them were gone so no one was using this land and we didn't want the Metal empire to be using it-"
"Leave. now." Cael replied threateningly, his hand gripped tightly around his staff. As the ground started to rumble, Tohshar could have sworn that something was glowing on the boy's back. It looked like a few overlapping circles.
"Look," He started to say, "I'm-"
"LEAVE!" Cael turned to look at him, his eyes glowing. The ground started to shake and crack. Tohshar knew instantly that it was best to leave, even Arenta looked ready to flee.
"Right then folks," He quickly told the caravan crew, "It looks like we're going to have to make a detour!"
And they drove away. Once everyone was gone, Cael fell to his knees and hands, his tears watering the land. It was bad enough to see this array of hundreds of dead trees cut down in their prime, but it was worse because it reminded him of the massacre of his own people. It felt like a lifetime ago when he was in his village, playing with his friends, how he had tripped over and fell, but was saved by a branch from his mentor Myrdin, who went on to teach the philosophy of Xylomancy as he caused another branch to bend towards him, its fruit swell with juice as it snapped off and went into his hand. Then it all changed. Numerous elders suddenly arrived in the village, all across the wood tribe lands. The elders only ever gathered once a season. Any other time was troubling. Cael expressed his concerns to Myrdin.
"Great Grandfather Tree," He asked, "Is this because of news of the Metal Empire threatening to expand? What would happen if they reached here?"
"There is nothing to fear, my young sapling," Myrdin assured him, bringing a large branch down that raised them to their village, "The Metal Empire live on the other side of the world. We have the Earth Republic between us and them. Unless they have learnt the secrets of seafaring then it would take centuries for them to actually get through to reach us, as it did last time."
Despite his assurances, however, Cael noticed that his mentor still looked uneasy. But he had no idea that what would happen today would change Cael's destiny forever.
The two brothers continued their journey, but are now going slightly off course. Tohshar is focused straight ahead, while Jygal is sitting nervously.
"Why are we going this direction? You said we should never-"
"But we are-"
"Look, we don't exactly have a lot of choice right now. It's bad enough that we are moving across this wasteland, but now we find out that the people who used to own it are still alive. And boy, was he woken up wrong sided."
"What was with that glow?"
"I don't know, but my instincts told me not to try and find out."
"Didn't dad say something about glowing eyes in one of his stories?"
"Jy, he says a lot of things; he said that when there is a thunderstorm, you have to fall to the ground to avoid being hit by an angry spirit that lives in the sky."
"He could have been right."
"That's why you buried you head in the grass, while everyone else stayed standing and the lightning stayed in the clouds."
"You were lucky that one time."
"Those twenty eight times."
"Can we change the subject, please?"
"Fine. What do you remember about glowing eyes?"
"I remember him saying that someone else could do that. I'm sure he said that it was, the him."
"You know, him, the master of five."
"The Incarnate? . . . Crud."
"Don't say that."
"I'm pretty sure that's exactly what they'll be telling us soon enough."
Arenta, who had been riding in the back of the caravan without either brother's knowledge, jumped from the back of the caravan.
"Well this is my stop, thank for the goods."
She kicks the ground and a few bags are thrown from the caravan into her arms. Tohshar spins off the front and immediately pyromances the grass behind her.
"Gives those back!"
They kick off again, while the commotion starts attracting the Metallomancers as Jygal watches.
"Now, we are definitely dead."
Cael was getting cold. Walking deep within the forest, he sliced off several branches from the trees before growing them back. Restore what you took. It formed part of the philosophy of the Wood Tribe. Thankfully each woodtribesman is taught how to make a fire, however they only ever took what they needed, and restored what they took, without taking the tree's life. Unlike those fire nomads, who had destroyed entire forests. As Cael stared into the fire as he sat down huddled, he thought back to the moment that changed his life forever. Sometime after the gathering had occurred, Cael was told to be brought before the elders. He was then led towards a grove, where five statues stood; one wood, one glass, one stone, one metal, and one ice. The wooden statue was facing east, the glass one south, the ice north and the metal west; the stone statue, standing in the middle, was looking downwards.
"Cael," said Myrdin, "Can you please look at each of the statues, and tell us what you know about them?"
How was he suppose to know who they were? None of the statues had any distinguishing features. Regardless, though, Cael walked towards the wooden one first. He look into the statue's eyes.
A man with glowing eyes stood between charging, warring tribes. He caused earth, trees, water and fire to rise in order to separate them.
Cael backed away from the statue.
"Well?" Myrdin ask, "What can you tell us?"
"His name is Deru," Cael answered, "He grew up in the forest with the wood tribe. He only ever wanted peace between the tribes."
Cael explained his vision to the elders. Myrdin nodded.
"Very good," He said, "Now what about the others?"
Now Cael moved to the glass statue, and looked into his eyes.
A young man was riding fast across the volcanic landscape on his horse.
"This is Ot," Cael told the elders, "Of the Fire Tribe. He loved to ride on his horse El."
The elders talked amongst themselves. Myrdin nodded.
"And the next?"
Cael now walked towards the stone statue, and looked up into its eyes.
A woman was raising stone out of the ground, forming a large, enclosed barrier filled with large stone huts.
"Her name is Terra. Her dream was to have different people of different places come together to live in peace and security. I- I saw her raise what looked like a large stone village."
The elders talked amongst themselves again. Cael now looked into the eyes of the metal statue. He was not prepared for what it would show him.
"Guuuys . . ." Jygal continues to say as the metallomancers approach. Tohshar and Arenta are still trying to take the bag from each other, but neither of them are giving up, or noticed the metallomancers advancing.
"They're coming!" He yells for a final time. Jygal no longer waits, and he jumps right into the back of the caravan and pulls the curtains over. Tohshar and Arenta continue to fight, but then the bag is shot right out of their hands, as a piece of metal shard strikes and pins the bag onto a rock. The shard then carries the bag back the opposite direction, and both of them see the metallomancers standing there, as the bag is gripped by the captain.
"In the name of his imperial highness, Ferrusias the Conqueror of the Metal Empire, Astav save the Emperor, surrender your cargo and drop all possessions. This is your only warning."
Six metallomancers line up, three on either side and all of them prepare in attacking stances.
"Whah?" the two of them say in unison, still shocked as how neither of them noticed.
"Stand-Down-Now!" the captain repeats. The two of them look at each other, knowing that no matter how much their nations may not get a long, both hated the metallomancers more.
"Truce?" Tohshar suggests. Arenta smiles and agrees.
They both turn and attack immediately. Their first shots hit the mancers directly next to the captain, who orders in a counter. Metal shards start flying, but Arenta raises a wall, and pulls down Tohshar to duck as the shards fly through the wall above their heads. Tohshard jumps over the wall and punches to sets of flames at the ground, then kicks up with jet propulsion and kicks downwards with fire again. One of them gets hit, but he gets back up and fires another volley of shards. Tohshar dodges, but on of the shards narrowly misses Jygal as it flies through the caravan. Arenta continues firing off several large stones to knock back the shards, but then the wires come flying out and the stones prove no longer useful. Narrowly dodging, she resorts to raising barriers to act as shields, but they fall easily. She then kicks up rolling dirt and uses it as a distraction, before knocking down their feet with a few well places raised stones in front of them. She then punches a finally pillar in their guts and they are flipped to their backs.
"Call in the medics, 'cause I'm putting the hurt in the dirt."
"Awesome" Jygal comments. He turns to his brother, peering out of the caravan.
"Toh, you need to say something."
"Little busy right now. You could actually help right about now."
"You said to hide if we saw metallomancers. I'm just fulfilling your obligations."
"Glad I can count on you, Jy."
"Don't mention it."
"Wish I hadn't."
"Are you two girls gonna keep on arguing" Arenta cuts in "or are you smacking down some iron?"
Tohshar stops talking and just carries on with the fight. Eventually, a really good placed uppercut knocks the metallomancer off his feet and on his back. Likewise, Arenta pummels hers with pillars sprouting in front and behind, eventually throwing him on top of his comrade. The captain now steps forward, but he flicks his wrists and two blades fly from his gauntlets as long as half his arm. The two of them prepare for the real challenge to come.
A woman was leading her band of warriors into battle against an army of brown metal clad men. Their grey blades twisted and turned and changed shape and size as they sliced through the weapons of their opponents with ease. After cutting down one man, the woman looked up and saw her next opponent. She raised her blade and brought it down.
Cael screamed as he backed away from the statue, tripping over.
"Are you all right, Cael?" Myrdin asked, coming to his aid.
"I-" Cael stammered, trying to vocalize what he had just seen, "I saw- I saw- I-"
"Maybe we should stop." Myrdin suggested to the other elders.
"No," One of them replied back, "He must finish seeing the past lives."
Helping him up, Myrdin ushered him to the final statue. Cael, though a bit reluctantly, looked into the eyes.
A woman was travelling across water in a large wooden container with a sheet attached to a pole.
"Her name is Watora, from the north. She wanted to free her land from the metal empire."
Confused, Cael asked, "I'm sorry, but how do I know this?"
The elders looked at each other.
"Each of these statues," Myrdin explained, "Is a previous incarnation of the Incarnate. You know who the Incarnate is?"
"Well, the reason you know all this is because you WERE each of these people. You, Cael, are the current Incarnate. We only planned to reveal your identity when you came of age, but given the news that is going on in the world, it was decided it was time to reveal it to you now."
The other elders took the moment to bow to Cael. Myrdin, turning around, did the same.
"It is an honour to meet you," Said one of the other elders, "Incarnate Cael."
Cael looked stunned. He didn't know what to make of this.
Since that reveal, however, everything changed, as his village and friends treated him differently. Pressure was also put on him to improve his xylomancy. Eventually Cael lost his temper and fled into the woods. He did not want to be the Incarnate. He did not want the responsibility to keep balance in the world. He just wanted things to be back as they used to be, before people started treating him like an elder. It was then that he ran into a metal clad figure, completely covered in iron.
An Iron soldier.
The iron captain's blade flicked from above his wrists and he dragged them in the ground to great effect. Tohshar attacks first with a long stream of fire that lands almost instantly. Believed to have totally cooked the captain, Tohshar stops, but soon sees the fire shield blocking the flames. He is shocked and wondering where it came from when in splits and morphs back into two blades. Arenta throws a set of three rocks at him in quick succession, but the first two are cut in half and the third is caught by the right blade as a shovel and is thrown back at them. The rock is easily dodged, but the rock was a distraction as the captain leaps in their direction with his blades firing pin shaped projectiles. The dodging is almost lost, but Arenta uses several layers of earth for cover, hiding under ground, while Tohshar halts all momentum with a heat wave that instantly melts the projectiles. The captain lands and he runs with short blades, but soon the metal reattaches itself to the blade and he strikes down against Tohshar. His fire proves little to the metal captain, and even when Arenta reappears with a volley of rocks, the captain sheathes his blades and halts the rocks in mid air.
"The reason our glorious leader wants this land so badly" he explained "is how its former residents refused to burrow underground; the land is ripe and the ores are plenty."
He grips tightly and the earth around the ores turn to rubble, leaving pure metal ore hovering in the air. The captain pulls them in one direction, as the ore starts pointing and sharpening itself into shards of metal blades, levitating off the ground.
Cael yelped as a metal blade extended from the soldier's wrist and was swung at him, turning into an axe. It sliced through a nearby tree as if it was made of berry flesh. Cael then noticed that he wasn't the only soldier, as there were a battalion of them, cutting down trees. Cael brought up a wall of trees to protect him. The iron soldier smashed through it easily. Cael ran for it, not daring to look back for fear of seeing the soldier nearing him. He needed to warn the village. But when he got there, he saw he was already too late. He heard the screaming, saw the iron soldiers cutting down everyone he knew; his friends, his family. Their wooden protectors seemed powerless against the soldiers' iron. Cael could not understand how the warriors could move so swiftly and agile while wearing such heavy armour. The soldier chasing him grabbed him by the shoulder and raised his weapon.
"OOF!" He cried as a root came out of nowhere and knocked the soldier away. Cael turned around to see that it was Myrdin who had saved him.
"Great grandfather tree!"
"Cael!" his mentor told him, "You need to get away from here! Go south, to the land of the fire nomads! They can teach you pyromancy!"
Raising his hands, Myrdin caused a circle of trees to rise from the ground, their roots knocking away the soldiers.
"No!" Cael defied, "I need to help!"
"Right now you need to leave! I know you were always taught to put the community before yourself but now you need to think about your own life! The forest cannot live on if every tree is cut down."
Another root snaked out of the ground.
It wrapped itself around Cael and threw him into the air. The village was still visible enough for Cael to see the soldiers overpower his mentor and stab him with their swords.
"GREAT GRANDFATHER TREE!"
Cael was able to survive when he landed by causing the leaves and branches to break his fall, just as Myrdin knew he could. He had been alone since then, since that day, a lone tree in an empty forest; worst, a sapling. He had moved south since them. But after seeing what the fire nomads had done to the forest, seeing they were no better than the metal empire, even worse, Cael had doubts about the task Myrdin gave him.
"How, Great grandfather," He wept, on all fours on the ground, "How can I learn something that goes against everything I was taught?"
His tears watered the ground.
The ores prove to be the downfall of the battle, with the volleys continuing to spawn and splinter in every direction. Eventually, it becomes too much and the metal catches their limbs and they are both caught. The captain pulls Arenta deliberately off the ground, and then does the same with Tohshar.
"Not this again, it's bad enough when a rust thrower captures you, then they have to make you levitate as well."
"You just had to pick up the rocks full of ores didn't you?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you were such an expert of Wood Tribe geology."
"Rules of warfare; capture important targets, and bring them alive. But you two, are not."
Jygal jumps from the caravan, hoping to save his brother.
"I'll save you!"
Jygal attempts to pyromance, but *pfft* a small flame combusts and dies instantly.
"Is that it?" Arenta asks Tohshar.
"He never got the hang of it as a kid."
"And you let me embarrass myself" Jygal shouts.
"In my defense, 'Jygal don't' was a pretty obvious sign that I was telling you not to."
The metallomancer straps up Jygal and throws him towards the rest of his captives. He flicks his sword from his right arm and stretches out the blade.
"Well, then, I guess that I will proceed to- huh?"
He was about to swing, when he looks as a root extends out and caught his arm. He slices through it, but then finds his feet have been embedded in the ground. He looks up as Cael strikes the ground with his staff. The ground beneath the captain's feet rise like stumps and he loses more of his legs till it reaches his knees.
"You are trespassing. Drop them immediately and leave. This will be your only warning."
"Huh," The captain remarked, "I was under the impression that we had wiped out your kind. How is it that one of you is still around?"
Cael however did not answer his question.
"As I said before, drop your captives and I will let you go."
A smile appeared on the captain, "You should have restrained my hands before making empty threats boy !"
He raised his hands and caused the remaining metal extracted from the ores to levitate, morphing into blades and sent them flying at the wood tribesman. As they flew, Cael remain standing. Branches and roots shot out of the ground, knocking away some of the blades and wrapping around others. The prisoners gaped at what just happened.
"Did-did that wood tribesboy just beat metal with wood?" Arenta asked.
"I thought metal trumped wood?" Tohshar remarked, "So how was he able to deflect those metal projectiles?"
Cael looked down at his captive.
"You may have thought to intimidate me," he said, "But I know as well as you do that iron in its pure form is soft, softer even than wood."
"IT IS?" Jygal gaped.
"You may be able to extract it with ease, but you still need to smelt it in order it to become its hard form."
The captain stared at the druid boy.
"How does a member of a society that hasn't even discovered how to work iron understand the workings of iron metallurgy?"
"YEAH!" Jygal shouted, "Go Incarnate boy! Go per-"
"What did you just call him?" The captain's head snapped to look at the young fire nomad.
He turned to look back at Cael, "THIS boy is- you?"
For a moment he stared at the young druid. He then started to chuckle.
"It seems that fate has favoured me today. What honours will the emperor bestow upon me when I am the one who brings him the head of the only threat against the empire?"
"I find you metal soldiers' obsession with pleasing a single individual most perplexing."
"I wouldn't expect a savage like you to understand the importance of serving the leader of civilization. Especially how such service can lead to glory!"
Spikes protruded from the captain's armour, before breaking out of the ground.
"You were right by the way. Pure iron is actually useless in battle."
He raised his hand in front of him. A blade extended before morphing into an axe.
"But I think you'll find this iron is most adequate in cutting you down."
The axe came swinging and this time, the trunks were not enough to stop it. The blade beat down the bark, and even the vines were not as impressive as they had been previously. But Cael kept himself rooted and made himself flexible as he countered. Eventually the blade broke against the hard ironwood.
"Stand down, and I'll consider taking you as a prize to his imperial majesty. Perhaps as a pet to one of his dear sons and daughter?"
"Wood Tribesmen do not bow to such an illogical system of government. We do not serve, we respect and we listen, because the wind in the trees are the only voices that command us."
"You dare mock the greatest and glorious metallomancer that ever walked the lands, when I hold your friends hostage?"
Jygal cuts in to the conversation despite the protests of Tohshar and Arenta.
"Technically we're not friends. I mean I said we were, but I was lying earlier, and you weren't there . . ."
Jygal is cut off when a piece of iron flies and covers his mouth.
"Tell your brother that if he even makes a breath stain on that strap of iron, I will take it off with his head still attached."
"Drop them!" Cael continues to insist, but this time he smashed up the reminisce of the captains blade and buries with dragging vines.
"Oh, I didn't realize that you actually cared for them. Tell you what; surrender, and I'll let them live."
The captain sharpens out his remaining metal and the pure iron into very sharp blades that start pushing themselves against their throats. Cael closes his eyes and slams his staff into the ground as it roots itself in perfectly vertical.
"No second chances."
The captain makes an attack at Cael, but the metal stops and melts before they could touch him. Cael opens his eyes, but now shining pure white light.
"He's glowing again."
Cael steps forward, pulling in the metal that melted and any pieces that laid shattered on the floor, bringing them hovering over his arms like a ring, spinning incredibly fast. He holds out both his hands, and they instantaneously generate fire into the spinning iron, cooking it and treating it as it continues to spin above the naked flames.
"NO SECOND CHANCES."
The captain just stared at the wood tribesman.
"An Iron soldier never gives in or surrenders. An Iron soldier fights on until his armour is cracked and his blades broken."
He raised his hands. The metal from his fallen comrades ripped off and attaches itself to the captain. It morphed together, making the captain appear six times larger than he actually was. Large blades protruded from his wrists.
"Let us see you try to scorch me with this amount of armour."
The captain's arm lunged at Cael's throat, breaking through the spinning hot iron, and pinned him to the ground. The circle of metal suddenly splattered on the ground. Numerous metal arms shot out of the captain's armour, clasping over cael's wrists and ankles so that he couldn't move.
"Such a shame," the captain remarked, "I expected more of a fight."
He held the blade of his other wrist at Cael's throat.
"Oh well," He sighed, "I guess the songs that will be about me will just have to add extra details."
He raised his free hand, the blade morphed into an axe. Jygal stared at the axe. No. If that boy was indeed the Incarnate, then- No. The metal around Jygal's mouth started to heat up and melt.
"NO!" Jygal roared, a fire ball shooting out of his mouth. The captain brought the axe down. The fireball hit him in the shoulder, when the axe just grazed Cael's neck.
"What?" He turned to look at the fire nomad who had hit him. Jygal pulled himself out of the bonds, breaking free. The wood tribesman was right, he thought. The iron really was soft.
"Get away from him!" He ran at the iron soldier.
"Stay out of this, boy."
He raised his arm, a large metal blade shot out of his wrist, threatening to decapitate the young nomad; however he unleash a fire-stream that melted the blade apart. Tohshar and Arenta were staring.
"I thought you said your brother never got the hang of pyromancy?"
"He's- not," Tohshar replied, staring at his brother. What had just happened to increase Jygal's pyromancy to the level of a master?
The captain, now taking Jygal seriously, turned to face him, but Jygal unleashed a fury of flames, causing the captain's armour to burn red. He screamed as he felt himself cooked inside the armour. He eventually pulled himself out of the hot, melting metal. Looking down at the iron soldier, Jygal ripped off the metal strap around his mouth.
"Have you forgotten, metal imperial?" He asked, "Fire beats metal."
Jygal turned to look at Cael.
"You alright, kid?" He asked.
"Er, yes," Cael replied, "Thanks."
"Hey, no problem!" Jygal grinned.
Unbeknownst to him, however, the captain was drawing the melted metal back to him. The captain readies for an attack, but before he can react, Arenta notices and traps him and his limbs in solid rock.
"Don't try that again."
He spits disgustedly.
"You brats are nothing. Ants beneath my iron foot."
Arenta deliberately walks over and steps on one of his exposed feet.
"You mean this one?"
"That's enough" Tohshar tells her.
"Well, I am going back to Earth Republic territory where I can relax with my goods."
"That's our goods. You stole them."
"Scavenger rights. We're at war, remember."
"Not against each other. Are we?" Tohshar asks to Jygal.
"I thought it was just the Metal Empire? Didn't the Water Kingdom attack first?" Jygal questions.
"No the Earth Republic provoked the war." Tohshar declares.
"Oh, this coming from Hot Heads."
They all stop when they hear the captain laughing.
"Look at all you children, fighting over something none of you even know what happened. It doesn't matter either way. None of you will escape the area. There are garrisons in every direction you look. You cannot escape these lands."
"I know a place" Cael answers, "we can hide there for a while. We'll leave him here, and go further east. My village is nearby, Teulu. We can find shelter there."
The brothers look at each other, though they don't even know if the captain is telling the truth, they can't risk it.
"I guess we have no choice then."
"I do" Arenta says, "and I'll take my chances."
The captain laughs again.
"Oh, if they catch you, you'll be given the chop for attacking an officer, piece by piece."
"On second thoughts, maybe that way is good enough."
All four walk east to the forest.
"So are we friends now?" Jygal asks Cael.
"I am only returning the favour. But I guess we could call ourselves allies, for now."
Once the group had left, a figure who had been watching the fight emerged from the forest. He walked towards the captain still trapped in the rock.
"Well that was disappointing. I was expecting at least one person to die. Oh well."
The captain stared at the man. He was well dressed, wearing red flowing robes, holding a metal brown staff with a jewel encrusted orb. He had a thin face, and had an eye of a fire nomad yet had reddish hair found mostly among those from the Water Kingdom. His most striking feature, however, was a bulging scar that ran down the left half of his face. The stranger bent down so that he was face to face with the captain.
"I suppose you need help getting out of that, right?"
The captain struggled against the rock.
"A proud soldier of the Iron Legion does not need help from anyone, especially from a barbarian!"
"Oh I am no barbarian, I can assure you of that. However no one knows that you're here, and it looks like your men aren't going to wake up anytime soon, plus it will take ages to even mine you out of there, so really, you need my help."
He bent closer to the captain.
"You know, I could use a man like you in my service. Anyone who almost kills the incarnate is definitely worth something."
The captain's eyes went wide.
"I am loyal, integral soldier of the Iron Emperor!"
The stranger laughed.
"Loyal to the emperor til the very end! I see that aspect of you metal nationals hasn't changed! Still, let's put that loyalty to the test, shall we?"
The stranger raised his hand. The captain felt the rock he was encased in heating up.
"Wh-what are you doing?"
"Do you feel that? That is the temperature of the stone rising. If I wanted, I can raise it to that of lava. So either you pledge loyalty to me, or you die right now."
As the stranger wriggled his fingers, the captain felt the rock starting to burn.
"No, no no no NO NO NO ALRIGHT I SWEAR, I SWEAR LOYALTY TO YOU!"
The stranger smiled.
"Iron is cold and hard until fire is applied."
The stranger clenched his fist.
"Wait, I thought you were going to spare me?"
"Don't panic, I'm just heating it in the right places so that you can break free."
The captain saw parts of the stone turning into lava, but eventually he was able to break free without burning himself.
"Now get some metal on you," The stranger replied, walking away, "It would not look good to be walking around wearing only your underwear."
The captain looked up.
"Where are we going, Sir?"
"To the Iron City," The stranger replied, "I have some business to speak with your Iron Emperor about."