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The Cave Man
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The Kyoshi Chronicles


Book 1: Earth

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Chapter 8: Bako's Escape

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Chapter 10: Student and Master

            The sand sailer was filled with enough supplies to last them the trip out of the Si Wong, all five friends – Kyoshi, Momzen, Tori, Jin Jin and Bako – were reunited and Kyoshi was beginning to master her first element. Things were looking good.

"If you continue in a straight line south you'll get out of the Si Wong," Iza explained, pointing with a flabby arm. "Hopefully you'll find an earthbending teacher there." That's when Kyoshi remembered. Her talk with Kuruk in the Sing Se woods and the teacher he showed her – a man wearing a green vest. Though she had learnt the art of sandbending, it seemed she still had to find this man if she was to ultimately master earthbending. She almost forgot about it entirely. She hugged Iza one last time, her cushiony embrace warm and smelling of sand and meat, and shook Thray's hand – hoping he'd understand the thanks she imbued through it. Tori squawked – the hot thing was becoming impatient, perhaps it was eager to get a cool breeze through its feathers. Jin Jin stirred on the hull of the sailer too. Giving in to their gestures Kyoshi boarded the boat and smiled at her friends.

A journey was just what they needed. Feeling a pull in her fingertips, extending to her palms and arms, Kyoshi latched onto the sand below the sailer and dragged it backwards. The sailer was hefty but she managed to collect herself, concentrating on the weight and allowing it to strengthen her bending. Like a conveyor belt the sailer moved forward along the sand and soon they gained speed as Kyoshi's circling arms went into a constant rhythm. She took one final look at the Shamo Tribe. Who would know what would happen to them? Maybe they'd continue their nomadic lifestyle, or maybe they'd be discovered by Astrid or the Earth State and be taken in as traitors? It was a possibility, and a possibility that irked Kyoshi. It seemed that wherever she would go she'd bring doom to the people she'd meet. And unfortunately it was something she could not change. Looking at her friends beside her, Bako – the boy from Ba Sing Se who sacrificed his life and home to help her – and Momzen – a firebender willing to aid an earthbender in her quest, risking his life, and with the idea of her being a plague-like risk, she felt humbled that there was such good in the world. Blushing, Kyoshi forced her arms down and the sailer picked up speed, shooting across the desert like a bullet, causing her and her friends to cheer out joyfully.

Kyoshi was sick of travelling. Her forehead was like a boiling lake and her eyes were heavy from being shut. The cloth mask given to her by Thray lay across her head to shade her from the ever-present Sun. Momzen rubbed his sweaty eyes, watching Bako and Jin Jin rouse uncomfortably in the heat. Tori sat, her wings sprawled, in the shade the sailer provided, chasing it each hour when the sun would change the shade's spot. The firebender joined her, sighing from the coolness the shadowed sand delivered. The sky was wrought with purple and the moon, faint – watered down by the overpowering sunlight, was thirsty to make its appearance. Red blotches, like watercolour roses, dotted the darkening sky. They sweltered in a mass and then cascaded down to the horizon, tipping over the edge to return again in the morning.

"Yes!" Momzen screamed. Suddenly a chill came over the Si Wong and they five of them could relax and return to a comfortable state.

"Come on! Get up guys!" he said loudly. He stretched and then shook Kyoshi. She raised a limp hand and felt around for his face. Once she got a hold of it she pushed it away and Momzen fell back into the sand. Jin Jin coughed, her squinty eyes meant she was laughing.

"Kyoshi! We have to utilise the night. It's cooler," Momzen grunted, getting up quickly. "Sleep during the day and travel at night. That's what we agreed on." Kyoshi smacked her cooling head, its sound like a hammer to taught cloth.

"Yeah, but it's so hot we can barely sleep!" Kyoshi hissed through clenched teeth. "And you're not the one that has to sandbend this stupid sailer." Momzen stopped his rebuttal before it came from his throat. It was true. Kyoshi was doing all the hard work.

"Is there anything we can do to help then?" he said, trying to find a way to get her up and moving.

"Let me sleep for a bit longer." Momzen's eyes suddenly dropped rectangular.  Any form of movement from this girl was futile. Momzen sat back down against the sailer, throwing a handful of sand away grumpily. He couldn't argue with her, though. She was too beautiful to frown and he hated seeing her angry. He waited for her to adequately rest and then they got up and continued their nocturnal journey. Travelling for almost three nights had its toll on them, but the nights were celebrated together and even Kyoshi, who was annoyed that she was the only one doing any real work, could enjoy the cool breezes, starry skies and the good company.

It wasn't until the third morning that the group entered a change of scenery. The sand soon turned to dirt and shrubbery and thin, parched trees clung to the loose ground for any moisture that was left, and soon enough the sailer had to be left behind and Jin Jin saddled. The further they travelled the trees became taller and greener and grass could be seen – brown and spiky, freckled with dabs of healthy green. Finally, a familiar environment they all thought. Though the Si Wong Desert was stunning in its vastness, nothing could outdo green grass and large-leafed trees. The temperature seemed to go a few degrees cooler too and the kids no longer felt tired from the trip. Relaxation and livelihood seemed to resonate from the vegetation. Continuing through the scrub Kyoshi and her friends came to a large mountain face. It stretched to their left and right for what appeared like forever.

"So what do you say?" Bako huffed, looking up at the steep terrain, intimidation trying to get out and pursue his heart. "Should we start at it?"

"There has to be an easier way over," Kyoshi mumbled defeatedly. Momzen walked away from the group, along the mountainside and around a rocky corner.

"What about through then?" came his voice. They went over to him to see that there was an opening into the range. A wooden sign at the entrance read: To Migong Village.

"I guess it must be a way through," Bako said. "May as well." He began leading the way, taking Jin Jin by her reins and the other shortly followed. Kyoshi examined the cave as she entered it. The stone was a mixture of grey and brown and the darkness, as frightening as it was, was also somewhat inviting – at least to her. A wise hum seemed to ring in her ears, as if the mountain was talking to her, warning her, or egging her to go in further.  Tori flew onto Kyoshi's shoulders and chirruped into her ear knowingly.

"Yeah. I feel it too, Tori."

Astrid stood in the sands. She looked out across the flat plain, focusing hard to hopefully spot the Avatar. Her brow did not sweat one bit. Mitinari took a sip from his satchel, smiling creepily.

"Where are you?" she said to herself, squinting feverishly. "Come on, Mitinari! We'll head south. Surely she'll be heading there." She knew the Avatar wouldn't head north back to Ba Sing Se. And Astrid was sick of the desert. It was such a waste of good space. The two headed south, the thought of catching Kyoshi burnt on their eyes. She was so close. She would not give up at all. Not ever. Though she was a firebender, the Earth State was where she would make her mark, and where she would make a name for herself. Everyone would learn the name Astrid. She had no intent on betraying them, nor go back to her parents. The Earth State was her top priority.

The two of them continued across the desert, of burning sands and weathering winds. Nothing could detract their ambition. Not even the band of criminals they stumbled upon. Three weary looking people – a fat man, a weedy man and a girl –  tied up in a chain, looked up at Astrid and Mitinari with worn down eyes. The girl's eyes lit up.

"Can you help us get out?" she said loudly and quickly. Astrid sniggered and flicked a blade of hair from her forehead.

"Why? What's so important that you need to get out of your chain?" The girl bit her lip and then spoke.

"I'm after the Avatar. There's a big reward for it," she replied. Astrid's eyes flared with intensity. A possible rival.

"Well," she began. "It just so happens that we are after the Avatar too. You see, we were hired by the Earth State. It's my job." Astrid and Mitinari circled the constricted criminals, examining and judging them.

"I suppose I could let you in on it." The girl smiled, all tiredness and desperation gone from her face.

"But how would you help me?"

"I can chi block." Astrid had heard of the technique. Hitting points on an opponent's body to stop them bending mid battle. It was something that would benefit her team exponentially.

"I'm Astrid and this is Mitinari," Astrid said as she loosened the chain and slid the girl from her bind.

"Naote. Um, what about my friends?" the girl asked as Astrid and Mitinari re-tightened the chain. Both men began to groan and struggle as they realised freedom was hopeless.

"Sorry. They're no use to us," Astrid grimaced. "Unless you want to stay with them?" Naote thought for a second. She wanted to change her life – to live well and comfortably. Would she miss her only chance if she stayed with the two men? Naote swallowed a conflicted lump in her throat and turned to face her new accomplices.

"Let's go," she said.

Soft rumbles, like gurgles of a stomach, echoed down the cave. With only two alight sticks a glow was the only source of light the friends had to navigate themselves. Again and again the kids would come to an opening where two or more pathways could be taken. Not knowing which to choose and relying on instinct they picked one and continued down it, only to find more options further down the passage.

"We better be going the right way," Momzen muttered, waving the stick around to look at the walls. Kyoshi led the way sombrely.

"I think we are. Something tells me we are."

"You're gut?" Bako added sarcastically. The two boys laughed. Again another opening was found. This one was very large; so large, in fact, that the roof could not even be seen. On either side there were two large entrances. A rumbled sounded.

"Which one do we take?" Momzen asked. Standing in the centre of the room they contemplated which path would be the correct one. Jin Jin coughed loudly, and it resounded down the cave with great force. The echo continued and grew louder until the entire cave began to shake.

"Jeez, Jin Jin! You're a loud cougher!" Momzen said, screaming his joke over the booms and grumbles. Suddenly, from the blackness above, a mass of rock fell down. Thinking fast they boys jumped left, Bako pulling Jin Jin with him, and Kyoshi jumped right, Tori clutching tight with her talons. Dust and gravel plumed from the sides of the mass upon impact with the ground and screams and shouts joined the thunderous crashes. Once the dust settled Bako got up and ran to the fallen rocks, banging hard with his fists.

"Kyoshi? Are you alright?" he screamed, fretting anxiously. Fear began to build up inside him; it spread through his body like wildfire.

"Yes! I'm fine," she shouted in reply, patting dust from her dress. She tried digging but the wall was too thick.

"Wait! Let me earthbend!" Kyoshi stepped back and concentrated on a large rock before her. She felt the magnetism in her palm and tried extending it to the rock. Feeling a light tug on her palms she swung her arms sidewards. The rock wiggled in its position.


"We'll have to go our separate ways," Bako shouted to her. Momzen got up and re-lit his stick.

"Do you still have light?" Kyoshi looked around for her stick and found it covered in dust. Most of the embers had been knocked off and only a few cast dim light.

"A little," she replied. "I'll see you on the other side." It was scary to be alone from them, and seemingly trapped in a labyrinthine cave. What if her tunnel was a dead end? She'd be entombed forever in darkness. She'd probably have to eat Tori. The bird squawked and broke Kyoshi from her worrying. It began down the path and Kyoshi followed, looking behind at the fallen ceiling that separated her from her friends.

After passing a sand sailer on the edge of the Si Wong Astrid knew the Avatar was close by. As she stomped through the scrub with her counterpart Mitinari, who pulled poor plants from the thirsty ground, she studied Naote. The girl wore a grey, sleeveless shirt that stopped before her stomach and tapered to the neck so that the shoulders were left unclothed. A flowing, brown dress embroidered with yellow stitching was tied to her waist by a faded green, silk belt. All of it, as nice as it seemed, was in tatters. Her defeated eyes told Astrid that she would not dare defy her. Naote would become a trusted companion soon.

"Astrid, look," she said, stepping forward and pushing through bushes. Astrid followed and, to her delight, found an entrance to the sheer mountain that stood before them. One side of her blood red lips curved up, dimpling her cheek girlishly.


The stone giant roared once more. Perhaps, in another part of the labyrinth, the ceiling collapsed. Maybe Bako and Momzen were trapped now and forever. She'd have no way of knowing and no way of finding them. Tori squeezed her claws into Kyoshi's shoulder upon hearing the grumble. The bird was scared and agitated. She wanted to fly. The two cautious friends continued down their passage and with each rumble hope seemed to vanish away like sand through one's fingers. The small ember faded, inked out by the encompassing darkness and soon enough Kyoshi's eyes adjusted. There was nothing to see.

Just a passage of rock to admire, its faint cracks were ancient riverbeds for the half-sounds that seemed to trickle through almost unnoticed. Creaks and groans barely echoed, footsteps shuffled in the dirt and even the sound of breathing seemed to be haltered by the labyrinth. Kyoshi's heartbeat pounded, stampeding down the passage like a raging elephant, and only affirmed her desolation. With her final light flickering away, giving into the ravenous darkness, Kyoshi sucked in the stagnant, damp air and ran down the passage. Tori chirruped not far behind and they continued down the path at such speed hoping it would take their minds off the doomed situation and away from the lurking, yet, to some extent, meditative, blackness. Perhaps their activity would stir a solution – fate would notice their action and have mercy on them.

It was only until the girls passed their first bend that they would receive fate's merciful bounty. Around the corner was a large cavern, like the one they were originally separated in. Darkness had a strong hold on this place. It stood by the ceiling, like a bird of prey waiting to swoop down and clutch the unknowing fish. Kyoshi waved her tiny light source around, she could hardly see a foot in front of her. Tori pattered away into the room – meaning there must've been food somewhere, Tori always goes to food. The Avatar followed and found a ramshackle camp. Sticks were propped up against the walls and a canvas was pitched over the top – a makeshift tent. Barrels of grain and meat and a myriad of utensils were scattered about the ground and the stench of rotting flesh pierced the air, as if to attack the darkness or herd it away. Next to her a crunching noise sounded and, looking left to inspect Kyoshi discovered a man digging into the earth. She could only see the back of him. His hair was grey and thinning and he wore a green vest over a dirty white shirt. She gasped and her eyes, still not entirely used to the light, or lack thereof, widened as much as they could in the murky cave.

"Excuse me," she muttered. She was completely taken aback. She had no idea she'd find her earthbending master the labyrinth, nor any thought of him being a deranged digger; a lost soul forever trapped in dirt and darkness. The man turned around. His eyes were large and light brown and his jaw and chin was mottled with patchy hair. Dirt was encased in every nook and crevasse his skin offered. This man was obviously not right in the head. Kyoshi cursed under her breath at Kuruk for leading her to such a crazy man.

"Oh my!" the man suddenly screamed joyously. He got out from his hole, of which he procured a jug from, and skipped over to Kyoshi.

"This is wonderful! This is great!" he said. "My prodigy has come!"

"You knew I was coming?" Kyoshi said, questioning her previous doubts about his credibility.

"Yes, Avatar. I was visited by Kuruk one night while trying to find one of my buried jars of meat. He told me I was to train the Avatar. I've been waiting for you," the man explained. "Avatar Kyoshi, my name is Feng."

Jin Jin lifted her nose and sniffed, her long head bobbing up and down to find the right smell.

"What is it?" Momzen said, thrusting himself next to her. "Is it Kyoshi?" Jin Jin darted away and the two boys chased her. She had finally lost her mind, the two thought as the shirshu hissed and cackled. Following her for quite a while light soon burst into the passageway, pouring in magnificently. They cheered, momentarily stationary, then continued towards freedom, fresh air and some much need bearings.

What they arrived to was the village of Migong, the one the sign to the cave entrance referenced. It was a small town, situated in a thin canyon in the mountain. There, too, was no way to the mountain surface and instead one could just look up the sheer cliff to see the vegetation that grew. It consisted solely of ramshackle houses with simple designs. The people seemed content with living in such an isolated canyon. Everyone must've known everyone, and an outsider must've been a rare find for all the Migong citizens stared at the boys and their snuffling beast. Bako trudged forward to the nearest stall where a man was ogling at them.

"Excuse me, sir," he began, leaning over the counter to examine his goods. "To you have a map of the cave at all?" The man smiled, scratching his beard warmly.

"Of course. Of course. But, wouldn't travellers come with a map to the cave before they ventured into it? Going without one is practically a death wish."

"No. Sadly we never got one," Bako huffed, detesting small talk.

"Jeez. We've got some brave hikers here," the man chuckled, addressing the villagers. "Have you even heard of the legend of this cave?"

"No," Bako replied. "But we don't need to, we've go- "

"The cave has a legend?" Momzen butted in, shoving Bako aside. "Of course we want to hear it! What is it?" The man could see the boy was buzzing with excitement and went to speak, smiling.

"Well. Not too long ago a traveller came to our village. He claimed he was an earthbender. But upon showing us his presumed talents he could not perform. It turned out he didn't even know how to earthbend!" A few of the Migong villagers chuckled, reminiscing at the amusing event.

"Embarrassed and ashamed the traveller ran into the cave from where he came," the stall owner continued. "Misguided by his emotions, the man lost his way in the labyrinth. Some say he found his way out, while others say he roams the passages, vying to get revenge on the villagers that humiliated him."

"So was this man an earthbender? Or was he just lying?" Momzen asked, engulfed in the fable.

"Well we'll never know. Every now and then the cave rumbles. It's speculation that it is him, and that he's an expert earthbender. But it's just the earth. All I'm saying is, you need to be careful. You don't want to get lost."

"Then we'll take the map," Bako hissed, snatching the map from the man's hand.

"Three gold pieces, then!" the man blurted out instantly so that they would not run away with it. As much as Migong Village could do with the money, it was an outlandish price.

"Gold! Gold?" Momzen shouted in return, furious at the costly offer made. "For a map like this I'd pay only silver pieces! Why I ought to- " Bako stepped forward and intercepted Momzen's fist, lowering it to a friendly position.

"We'll take it," he grumbled, handing over the gold. It seemed they were running low on money. He nodded politely, took Jin Jin's reins and went to the nearest entrance that would lead them to the outside world.

"Why'd you do that?" Momzen argued.

"What? Were you going to firebend them? Firebenders are the enemy here, we can't take stupid risks, Momzen," Bako explained, rolling his eyes at the boy's stupidity. "You have to be more careful." They entered the labyrinth and followed the map on route to the exit.

"We're not going to look for Kyoshi?" Momzen asked.

"I have no idea where she is, or where we were separated," Bako said. "It's best if we get outside and wait until she comes." Momzen did a double-take. He couldn't believe Bako would just take the easy road like that. The way that boy thought astounded him.

Kyoshi's entire body was fizzing. Excitement, a newly born bird, took off from the ground and flew throughout her body, tickling it and lavishing it with good feelings. She was so proud that she found the earthbender Kuruk had showed her. Any doom or fright in her body was washed away now. Feng agreed to teach her immediately. The dirty man moved away from his campsite with a lit torch – it seemed he had all the supplies he needed.

"Now, Avatar," the man began. "Earthbending is not a simple element. Though it is the most bountiful, it is also the most stubborn. You have to let it trust you. The key to earthbending is waiting and listening for the right time to strike." Feng lowered his torso by bending his knees, keeping his back rigid, and gestured for Kyoshi to copy.

"Once you find the right time to attack," Feng said before pausing. "You do so with unyielding force!" The man lurched his stiff arms up, producing a large stone from the ground and punched the air with one fist – the other hand still holding the rock in position – causing the stone to fly away and crash into the wall.  The crash echoed and reverberated immensely though the cavern, and only sparked more shuddering excitement in Kyoshi.

"Now you try. Concentrate on the weight you feel around and let it transfer into your chi and strengthen it." Kyoshi nodded and closed her eyes. She breathed in and let the chi flow through her body and to her palms. Underfoot she could feel the cold ground. There was a lot of it down there – it must way a tonne. Recognising the weight of the ground she brought that power up her body and channelled it to her palms. Feeling the pressure of the mountain above her – it's infinite stone peaks, heavy and solid – Kyoshi breathed in and let the magnetism pound into the ground. She opened her eyes and waited, focusing on a spot on the ground. The chi in her palms pulled and tightened and she knew instantly that was the time to begin bending. Immediately she hoisted a stone from the ground and – using what she learned from Iza – swivelled in her hips to let the projectile gain momentum. Once she released the stone tore through the air and collided with the wall, exploding into bits of gravel and dust. Her mouth almost unhinged from her jaw.

"Did you see that? That was amazing!" she giggled. "That was huge!" Tori came up to congratulate her, tweeting pleasantly and pecking at her knees. Feng grinned.

"I – I can't believe it," she said, putting her hands in front of her again and repeating the sequence. This time, however, she could transfer the weight and channel it to the ground much faster, and pulled another stone from the ground in a matter of seconds.

"Your ways make it so easy," she said, her eyes beaming at the previously perceived lunatic.

"My ways? No, no, Avatar. It's your skill."

"But I'm picking it up so quickly," she replied. "You must be doing something right."

"Even though you did not know it, you were born an earthbender. And as the Avatar it's only natural that you pick up your birth element with ease," Feng explained, showing that he had faith in her as a bender. "You're better than you think." Kyoshi blushed. She had never felt so capable. She felt unstoppable. Nothing could get in her way now that she was an earthbender. She jumped up and down, squealing softly to herself.  

"You haven't mastered it yet, Avatar. Let's continue our training," Feng muttered as he moved to another part of his cavern. Kyoshi nodded, eager to learn more from her master.

"I can't believe we're just going to abandon her!" Momzen shouted, kicking the dust from the ground. "What about your story? About Rojin? You're just going to give up?" Bako stopped in his tracks. He was going against what Rojin had told him and it did seem stupid to just not do anything. But finding Kyoshi in such a complex cave was near to impossible. It was futile and dangerous. And the fact that Momzen could not grasp that fact was infuriating to him.  

"What do we do then?" he yelled in return. He shoved the map hard onto Momzen's chest. The two boys stared daggers it each other, both incapable of understanding the other's arguments. Jin Jin shuffled on the spot in an attempt to break the intensity. Momzen snatched the map and put the torchlight close.

"Well we came in from the desert here," he pointed to one edge of the map. And we took a left and then two rights and then went left, getting separated here." He stopped for a moment, mumbled to himself as if to think things over then pointed back to the map's edge.

"Or did we take a left, a right, a left and then get separated here?"

"See we have no idea! She could be anywhere!" Bako shouted, shaking and waving his hands at the incredulity of Momzen's plan.

"She could be right," Momzen smiled, Bako's anger stirring a playful mood. "Behind us!" He skidded around, swaying the torch to see down the passage. Bako did not even utter a breath of laughter.

"Let's go," he muttered. He looked down the passage behind him one last time, hoping Kyoshi would appear. But there was nothing more he could do.

"I'm staying then," Momzen said, now quite solemn. Bako looked at him; the firebender was like a little brother to him. But going in circles was not how Bako wanted to spend his life, he didn't want to end up like the man from the Migong legend.

"Wait! Wait!" Momzen suddenly perked up. "Do you have anything of Kyoshi's? Jin Jin could get the scent and lead us straight to her!" Bako threw his bag to the ground and searched through it, but there was nothing that belonged to Kyoshi. Momzen searched through the containers and packs on Jin Jin's saddle but most of it was food and bedding.

"Momzen, there!" Bako said, pointing to a scrap of cloth underneath a sleeping mat. Momzen whipped it out. It was the cloth Thray gave Kyoshi to protect her face from the sand. Jin Jin's nostrils began to flare, the tendrils moving about ravenously like leeches searching for blood. Suddenly a flare of fire shot down the passage. Its brilliance lit up the cavern almost entirely and it crackled into a screaming Momzen, knocking him off the saddle and onto the floor.

"No!" he shouted. He got up and revealed to Bako the charred remains of the cloth. There was no hope. And even worse the fire attack meant that Astrid and Mitinari were close. Sure enough the girl and her companion appeared from the bend with Naote scowling with them.

"You," Bako said, shocked by Naote's appearance.  She shrugged – as if her place on the team meant nothing – and, following Astrid's instruction, lunged forward. The battle had begun. Astrid punched out a large ball of fire but Bako sliced through it with one of his swords, and pressed down on Astrid's armoured arms. Jin Jin lapped her tongue out at Mitinari who quickly dodged it and whipped the beast with water, forcing her back down the tunnel. Momzen threw lengths of fire towards the new member but Naote, quick and agile, ducked and weaved from them, feeling the heat on her skin. With each dodge of Momzen's attack she got closer to his body and pounded the length of his arm with her fingers. The arm flopped next to him limply.

"Ah! My arm! What did you do to it?" he screamed, flapping it about uselessly. He kicked fire at her to keep her at bay.

"It's chi blocking," she smiled as she skidded back with her chin close to the ground and legs spread and bent athletically. The battle continued down the passage. Flashes of fire burst - igniting the darkness so that enemies would momentarily see each other clearly, the sound of swords slicing across armour rang and thick masses of water pounded the walls and ground. The whole cave seemed to shake with sounds of battle.

A stone wall, perfectly rectangular, stood from the floor. As Kyoshi leant back, stepped forward and curled her body the wall, too, leant back – to, again, gain a powerful momentum – and then moved along the floor upright. It crashed into a rocky figure and the two stones broke, gravel spitting out everywhere – a sign of a mighty attack.

"Well done, Avatar. You've mastered the basics!" Feng applauded. "Now all you have to do is follow them and be creative. Bending is an art, and any art is open to creativity." Kyoshi, feeling complete, embraced the dirty Feng, squeezing him tightly. No amount words could show him how happy she felt. Some empowering force, a waterfall of emotion and strength – a weight, perhaps, was a more fitting word, held her. It whispered into her ear inspiration and dedication, safety and hope. She was finally formidable. She could be taken seriously from now on, and she could take herself seriously too.

"Thank you so much, Feng," she said to him, still hugging. "I don't know what- "

"Hold on," Feng interrupted. He pressed his ear to a wall and listened intently, like there was some discussion on the other side.

"What is it?" Kyoshi asked, feeling the darkness creep in from behind her.

"There's a fight going on. I can feel the noise coming through the walls," Feng replied.

"What? It could be my friends! They could be in trouble!" Kyoshi said, perking up. It was a chance to get reunited with them. Tori screeched – she could feel something was wrong.

"Do you think we could get to them?"

"Of course," Feng smiled. "I know this cave like the back of my hand." He put his hand on the wall and it seemed to effortlessly, Feng didn't even move, explode, making way into another passage.

"This way."

Astrid screamed as she threw a plume of fire from her palm. It hit the ground in front of Bako and grew viciously. He jumped back and then ran through it as it dissipated, slashing his swords tirelessly. The girl, always smiling, defended herself with her metal arm bands and kicked in a round motion to produce a swirl of fire that blasted him down the passage. Jin Jin hissed as Mitinari circled her and Momzen was trying hard to evade Naote's paralysing attacks, shooting flames from his fingers whenever he had the chance. Suddenly the wall beside them burst open and dust ceased the fight. As it settled Kyoshi revealed herself, her knees bent slightly and arms up and ready to fight. Immediately Astrid, her blue eyes wide with desire, attacked. Kyoshi stayed where she was a pulled a stone wall up to protect her. The fire spat out around the wall but nonetheless she had prevented herself from harm. Everyone was shocked. Even Mitinari, who was usually smiling eerily, had his mouth open with surprise. Kyoshi then crumbled the wall and rolled the heavy debris towards Astrid as a wave. The wave hit Astrid and the girl was knocked away next to her surprised accomplices. Taking deep breathes, and relishing the praise her friends were exuding, Kyoshi focused on the weighty amount of earth above her. She tightened her core and pulled the ceiling down. The mass billowed dust and gravel from the ground but thankfully Kyoshi had waited for everyone to be in the right place at the right time. Astrid, Mitinari and Naote were on one side while Kyoshi and her friends were on the other. Cheering, Momzen and Bako patted her and hugged her and Jin Jin and Tori nestled together.

"You're an earthbender!" Bako said, jubilantly amazed.

"That was incredible!" Momzen shouted, giggling and bouncing boisterously. Jin Jin came to her and nudged her with her own form of congratulations. Everyone was so proud of her.

The sun was setting, merely a thin orange disc on the edge of the world. Feng looked around as if he hadn't seen the outside world in one hundred years. The fresh air was utterly refreshing.

"You're not coming with us?" Kyoshi asked her master.

"No, no," Feng replied, shaking his head graciously. "The cave is my home."

"You're the cave man from the legend?" Bako asked. He leant in for the answer eagerly.

"I suppose," Feng replied, a little confused.

"Are you going to get your revenge for your humiliation?" Momzen asked, joining in on Bako's wonder.

"What? No," Feng smiled, remembering back to a memory lost in his mind like a traveller to a cave. "That was when I couldn't earthbend." Kyoshi looked at him. How could he, of all people, not be able to earthbend? Feng was the greatest earthbender Kyoshi had ever met.

"I was immature then. All I wanted was to forget my past and fit into a new village. Take these words with you, Kyoshi. A true and good earthbender keeps their weight with them, the good and the bad, and they use it to their advantage. They don't push it away," Feng stared at Kyoshi, his words resonating with her powerfully. "Like a rock, you will get weathered but a smooth surface will come of it. You just need to persevere." She nodded and hugged him one last time. In her mind she apologised that she ever considered him crazy. This man was one of the worldly and knowledgeable people she would ever come to meet, even if he spent the largest part of his life inside a cave. He was the cave man; he knew the earth and would always be connected to it, more than anybody else. The group thanked him once more before saddling Jin Jin and continuing south. There they would encounter new enemies and fight bigger battles, but Kyoshi would be ready and able. She'd, at long last, earthbend.

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