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Book 1: Peace
December 7th 2012
"Incoming!" came the shout of an Earth Kingdom trooper as a fireball sailed overhead. The crack of musket fire answered the fireball, and both were followed closely by the screams of the wounded. Two lines of trenches parallel to each other one with tattered green banners over it and the other with tattered red.
A light snow fell over the area, mixing in with the black smoke of the fireballs and the gray puff of musket smoke. Earthbenders created barricades of stone and used them to advance several riflemen across the cratered and muddy no man's land between the trenches.
Firebenders responded by blasting against the barricades, slowly breaking them down with each hit until they finally collapsed. The riflemen quickly fired their weapons when this happened before falling back to their trenches. Many of them would be blasted in the back with bolts of fire, and fall either dead or wounded before they could reach the safety of the trench.
"What do you think?" asked an Earth Kingdom General as he overlooked the battle from a hill behind the Earth Kingdom trenches. The sky was dark with smoke and a setting sun.
"It's a never ending cycle, we didn't have this much trouble in Ba Sing Se," replied a much younger male. He looked to be about eleven or twelve years old. Despite this, he wore a tattered Earth Kingdom uniform and held a spyglass to his eye.
"Any suggestions from your brother?" The General asked as he turned away from the fighting below and looked at a map. A low rumble came up and quickly faded as another musket volley was fired.
"Nothing from Sokka yet, General," came the reply. The General continued to study the map.
"I think we should press our attacks in the north, try and reach Yu Dao before the warmth of spring sets in, what do you think Kento?" he asked. Kento looked away from the battle to look at the map. It showed the entirety of the front lines from north to south.
"We'd be sending a lot of King Bumi's forces across the burnt stretch to a city that was possibly razed by the fire storm," he commented. The General shot a sideways glance at him, taking great care to note the pair of pistols that hung from the boy's belt.
"You could lead them," he said. Kento shook his head at this.
"I've had my share of fighting for a while General," he replied. The General stood up straight and pointed down the hill toward the fighting.
"I saw your abilities in the capital. You can lead a breakthrough right here Kento and end this war!" The General said, almost shouting. Kento stood up straight as well.
"At what cost General? Half of the men I lead will be dead before they get halfway across no man's land, they stand a better chance of returning to their families if they stay in the trenches!" he snapped. A rumbling suddenly shook the ground where they stood, causing both Kento and The General to stumble for a footing.
Looking down toward the fighting, they saw pillar after pilled of dust shoot into the sky in front of the Fire Nation lines. The dust completely covered the Fire Nation trenches from view. Earth Kingdom soldiers attempting to advance across the wasteland between the lines quickly turned and ran back to their trench.
"Curse those Dai Li, traitors helping the enemy mask an offensive," said the General. Kento raised the spyglass to his eye again and studied the base of the dust pillars, where the Fire Nation trench would be.
"I don't believe it," he said after a few moments, when the dust finally began to clear.
"What is it?" The General asked, suddenly put on edge. Kento remained silent as he searched the trenches again and again.
"The entire Fire Nation force, it's gone!" he replied in shock.
Five Years Later
The sun beat down upon the harsh landscape. Here and there lay a blackened tree trunk, partially buried in the dry, loose soil of the ground. Kento walked forward from his ostrich horse, his boots crunching slightly like they would in snow. He stopped just before a trunk and knelt, running his fingers through the soil. Bringing his hand up, he ran his thumb over the ash like sediment.
Looking away from his fingers, he gazed out across the landscape. A short distance away sat a small town. Standing, he brushed his hand against his brown trousers and opened one of the four water bags that hung around his middle. With a few motions of his hand, a small stream of the liquid slid out of the black opening and formed into a ball. Sweeping his hand, he guided the ball of water into his open mouth.
Putting the stopper back into the opening of the water skin, he turned his attention to the ostrich horse that stood nearby. Retracing his steps back to the creature, he swung up into the saddle with relative ease. Tapping his heel into the hind end of the hybrid, he began to ride toward the town.
Somehow, the collection of wooden buildings had survived the torrent of fire that had engulfed this area seven years before, in Fire Lord Ozai's plan to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground. The town lacked people though, as many of them had fled the region soon after the firestorm.
A loose sign swung and creaked in the light breeze as he trotted up the main street, watching the shadowy buildings with a keen eye. His left hand rested on the polished wood handle of one of his pistols, while his right held onto the reigns. It had been five years since the Fire Nation Army had disappeared from the front lines.
Five Years since the War had entered a ceasefire stage.
Stopping next to the well in the town square, Kento dismounted and looked around. He paused for a moment to scribble something down on a piece of paper before he looked down into the well.
"What are you doing here?" came a voice from behind him. Kento spun around and found himself face to face with three men, each one of them armed. One man held a bow, one a broadsword, and another a staff.
"Just looking for water is all," Kento replied, keeping his hand level with his waist.
"We don't care much for outsiders," said the man with the broadsword.
"I'm a cartographer under employment of the Earth Kingdom, I'll only be here a little bit then I'll be on my way," said Kento. The man with the broadsword chuckled slightly.
"Alright government boy, we'll let you go, so long as you leave everything on your back and your mount here with us," he said.
This being the first chapter, we are introduced to Kento for the first time by being shown a small part of his participation in The War. We are then flashed forward to the present day and see that he is really not acting like a soldier anymore. We are also given our first glimpse of just how hard life for The Independents in this landscape.
For the collective works of the author, go here.