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|Tides of Intrigue|
1-Tides of Intrigue
Tides of Intrigue is the first chapter of.
The Gaang is finally parting ways, intent on rebuilding the world. Unbeknownst to them, others are planning to send it spiraling back into chaos.
(Intro with Katara's voice) Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago the Avatar kept balance in the world until one day, he vanished. Not long after, the Fire Nation attacked. Their war lasted 100 years, until my brother and I found the new Avatar, an Airbender named Aang. His journey was long and difficult, but he eventually mastered all 4 elements and defeated the ruler of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Ozai. With help from the new Fire Lord, Zuko, the Avatar has begun to help the world heal from the scars left by the War. But some wounds never heal.
(Open with scene from the last episode of the Gaang in the Jasmine Dragon)
"Well, I think that you all look perfect!" said Toph.
The next evening sees the Gaang sitting around a table in the bustling Jasmine Dragon; Aang is petting a sleeping Momo. "Well, now that the Earth King is back in power, I need to get back to the Fire Nation. We have a long way to go before the Fire Nation is back to normal," said Zuko.
"What do you mean?" asked Sokka, "the Fire Nation didn't take that much damage in the War, did it?"
"We need to deal with a lot of soldiers that haven't known anything in life, except the War. They need to be helped in the transition, and it will take a while to get them back to the Fire Nation. We also need to deal with some of the high ranking officers that committed crimes in the War. It's gonna be a long transition from the War to a nation at peace," explained Zuko.
"Well, just know that we're there for you if you need anything," said Aang.
"Ya, just send a messenger hawk at anytime," said Katara.
"Speakin of messenger hawks, I've been thinking, Hawky disappeared when we fled from Combustion Man that one time, at first I thought that he had run, or flown away, but now I'm starting to think that someone stole him! I mean who would do such a thing! What would possess someone to steal a messenger hawk!" screamed Sokka. No one paid him much attention, except for Momo, who glared at Sokka for waking him up over something as trivial as that stupid bird Hawky. "So what are you all going to be doing?" asked Zuko.
"Well Sokka and I are going to go to the South Pole, but we're going to travel around the Earth Kingdom first, help where we can, and stop by Kyoshi Island," said Suki.
"I'm going to go visit my parents. Then I'm going to go and reclaim my title as the Blind Bandit," Said Toph. "Well, I hope things go well between you."
"Thanks, Katara. So what are you going to do?"
"Aang and I are going to stay here for awhile and help the Earth King. After that, we're not sure."
"Well, no matter what, we're all going to keep in touch!" Aang said as he stood up, making Momo jump on to the table, knocking over some of the tea cups in the process.
The group shared one last laugh together, as they listened Uncle Iroh grumble "I don't see what's so funny, I just made that tea, and it was my best Ginseng, too. Such a waste."
The next morning the Gaang are standing together outside the outer wall of Ba Sing Se. "So it looks like we're all set," said Zuko as he approached the airship that was going to take him directly back to the place of his birth. "We'll send a hawk when we get there, so don't expect one for about a month and half."
"Ya know, speaking of hawks..." started Sokka, but was cut off by a glare from Katara, "Okay, well I guess this is goodbye." As everyone said good bye, Sokka, Suki and Toph got into their own balloon. "I thought you were going to go to your parents, and then travel the world Toph."
"I am, Katara, but we're going to stop at the Wulong Forest first, just to see if we can find Sokka's sword."
"Okay, well, take care!" The little balloon was the first into the air, soon followed by the airship. The Gaang that had been so inseparable for so long, was finally parting ways.
Meanwhile, in the Fire Nation, General walked into the meeting room full of about 20 other generals and admirals he was greeted by a voice. "Ah General Gangshou, now we can start," said the tall thin man at the head of the table. Gangshou knew the voice belonged to the former War Minister, Qin. Qin stood as he addressed those assembled, "As you all well know, Zuko is not like the last several Fire Lords, he is an addle-brained youth with visions of a world at peace, where all nations are equals. As such, there will be no need for the military in his "perfect world". I know that all of you put years of effort into getting to where you are now. This young fool, however, threatens to take the positions that you bought through long years of toil for your country, away in the blink of an eye. Not only that, but he will also hold trials, and will convict many officers, including many in this room, of war crimes, many that will no doubt be punishable with death."
"What would you have us do?" asked Admiral Liang, "He is our Fire Lord, we swore oaths to give our lives in defense of him."
"We didn't swear loyalty to him," Qin said softly, "but to his father, and to his sister. As long as Ozai lives, he is our Fire Lord, and Azula is the rightful heir to the throne, not the disowned banished prince."
"But she has had a mental breakdown, and Ozai lost his bending!" cried out General Bujing from the middle of the table.
"You honestly believe the lies that that boy who claims to be the Avatar has spread? No, they have them locked up somewhere, waiting for their loyal subjects to free them, and restore the Fire Nation to its rightful place as ruler of the World!" Most of the men present applauded. "But first we must get to them, first we must break through to the palace and free them from their imprisonment!"
"But how?" Yelled the gruff voice of the recently promoted General Mongke over the loud cheers from the other officers. "Other than my men and the Yu Yan Archers, we don't have more than 100 men to fight with. In case you haven't noticed, not one officer from the Domestic Forces or from the Imperial Firebenders is here. Right now they out number us 20 to 1!"
"That is why I have talked with General Gangshou, from the Imperial Air Force, before this meeting. I will let him explain."
Qin then sat down as Gangshou stood, "Thank you, War Minister Qin. As you know, the former invasion force is being readied for transport home, however they will be stripped of all their weapons. So we propose that we transport them over ourselves ahead of schedule to help us in our fight. We still have 10 airships in commission. With that many airships, we will easily be able to bring over about a two thousand troops from the Earth Kingdom at a time, and we can make the trip twice a week. Zuko isn't due back for another 3 and a half weeks, in that time we will be able to transport 12,000 soldiers back here by airship alone. The Domestic Forces number in about 10,000 but they are spread around the country, and the Imperial Firebenders only have about 1000 members. With 12,000 men, we can easily march on the capital, unless they station the whole of their forces in there."
"What will the rest of the Army be doing in this time?" asked General Shinu.
"And what about the Navy?" asked Admiral Chan.
"And what of the other nations? They will not stand idly by while we overthrow their lapdog." added Mongke.
"The other nations will not know of this for several months at least. By then Ozai will have returned to the throne. The Navy will assist in troop transport. In about 2 weeks they will have brought over another 20,000 soldiers in from the Earth Kingdom. However, those will serve as reinforcements to repel any possible counter attack by the other nations. The Navy will also make sure that no ships get into, or out of, our waters. The Army will make sure that we maintain a foothold in the Earth Kingdom in the form of the colonies." "Thank you General Gangshou," said Qin as he rose again, "As he said, we have a 3 week timeline before Zuko returns. We need to start this immediately, if we act now we will have over thrown Zuko in less than a month. Now, who is with us?" Every single man present stood to show their support. "Good. Gangshou, get your Airship Fleet moving, the rest of you will receive your orders by tomorrow."
That night at the Airship Field, a sleepy guard looked up to see an unexpected figure walk up to him. He hurriedly stood up as he shook his fellow guard awake. His companion jumped up screaming, frightened out of his peaceful rest, and tripped over his spear, to land right at the feet of General Gangshou. Even though the General was only in his mid 30's, quite an achievement, especially for someone without any noble blood in him, he still had a tough face that would make most generals twice his age flinch.
That didn't mean that he was cold hearted. In fact he was generally liked by his men, as he was fair, and just, for unlike many other officers he had started as one of them. During a battle 12 years before, he was promoted from a sergeant in the army to the rank of 2nd Lt. for an act of extreme bravery. After that, he quickly moved up through the ranks, and he became a Colonel before his 32th birthday. He participated in several important battles while stationed in the Earth Kingdom, including the Siege of Ba Sing Se, where he served alongside Captain Lu Ten.
After that he was restationed to the homeland. During that time he was able to read books from the Fire Lords own library, where he read up on Fire Nation history. He read an ancient book titled The Darkest Day in the Fire Nation, which led him to realize that Firebenders do have some weaknesses. To make sure that he never would never be caught in a weak state, he decided to learn swordsmanship, which learned from Piandao. The sword that he crafted for himself was much bigger than most, being about 5 feet tall, and he was almost as much a master of it as Piandao.
When Qin came back with the first War Balloon, it was Gangshou who used it to design the airships. As such, he was put in command of the very ships that defeated the invasion forces on the Day of Black Sun. For that, he became the first general of the Imperial Air Force, but was on leave at Ember Island during Sozin's Comet.
Unlike most of the other officers in the rebellion, he wasn't just in it to save his own neck. He was in it from a combination of genuine loyalty to Ozai, and because he wanted revenge on the Earth Kingdom for the defeat at the Great Siege.
The 2 guards knew of his background, and they really looked up to him, but he was still a man that you didn't want to mess with. He had long before become a Firebending master and had defeated several older, more experienced opponents in Agni Kai's with his unique way of Firebending. Seeing the guard looking so scared made Gangshou smile, not the smile of a predator about to strike like most officers, but the smile of an older brother looking at a younger sibling. "Come on soldier, get up," he said. "I want you to go wake the captains, and I want these Airships in the air in 2 hours time."
"Yes sir, of course sir, right away sir!" The guard turned to go and fell down again, this time tripping on his chair. Then he got up and dashed to the barracks.
"And I want you," as he turned to the remaining guard, "to go and deliver this message by hawk to Colonel Liquan in the colonies, is that understood?"
"Good," he said, as he handed the guard the small piece of paper. As the man hurried to fulfill his order, Gangshou turned to go to his airship while the camp behind him came alive with the sound of men hurrying to get ready for takeoff. On his way there he thought about his past, everything that he had accomplished, but he knew that his greatest achievement was yet to come.
Somewhere in the Earth Kingdom a small group of 30 men sat in a huddle as they listened to one man speak. "We are being hunted like animals where ever we go. For too long have we run. We used to control this Kingdom, and we will again!"
"But how, with the Avatar in the capital, we wouldn't stand a chance," yelled one of the men.
"That is why you need me." Everyman knew that voice, but not one of the men sitting knew how it was possible. Long Feng walked into the clearing, "after you abandoned me to join Azula, I was able to escape my prison. I heard how she betrayed you just as you betrayed me. So I thought that maybe you had learned your lesson. I have come to take command of you again. This time we will not underestimate the Avatar. And this time he won't have any of his friends to help him. They have parted ways. Now, here is how we shall take our revenge..."
In the mountains southwest of the Northern Air Temple, a single man was frantically searching through the wooded mountains. His young son had run off to play and hadn't come back. It was nearly dark and he was starting to worry. Then up ahead he heard his son cry out "DDDDAAAAAAADDDD! HELP!" The man dashed forward and came upon an opening in the woods. There was his son, and he was surrounded by strange looking creatures. They looked like animals but walked like men. They wore carved masks that only showed their mouths and their bodies were covered in animal skins and leaves. The man Earthbended his son to himself and readied a boulder in case it was needed. One of the creatures pounced with superhuman speed but was stopped by a rock wall. Then the creature screamed, shattering the rock, and leaving the man defenseless.
When he saw what had happened he started throwing boulders at the creatures, but one after another the rocks were destroyed by one of the creatures screams. Then he grabbed his son and ran as fast as he could, sometimes catapulting himself through the air with Earthbending. As he neared his village, he turned and saw the creatures stop at the edge of the forest, they gave one last piercing cry, and then turned back into the woods.
When the man told everyone that was gathered in the town hall what had happened, the village elder stood up from his chair and said, "The spirits of the mountains, the Screaming Banshee's, haven't been seen in almost 75 years. The last time they were seen, they destroyed most of the villages around here, leaving very few survivors. The Avatar must be told. They have returned."
A few days later at the burned out Wulong Forest. "So did you find my sword yet?" Asked Sokka for the umpteenth time.
"Sokka! Shut up! There is a huge amount of ground to search over, and your sword is tiny. Not to mention your boomerang."
"Well, just try and hurry up."
"Sokka, just come here and leave Toph alone, she needs to concentrate, and you aren't helping."
20 minutes later Toph came back saying, "Guess who the awesomest person ever is. Me! Because I found your sword, AND your boomerang! And also check out what ELSE I found."
"What?" asked Suki as Sokka grabbed his things and started crying with joy, "Boohoohoomerang! Spahace Sword! Oh, I missed you SOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!! What? I did!" Sokka said when saw the looks on the faces of the two girls.
"Anyways, when I was looking for Mr. Cryface's stuff, I found this!" Toph said as she held up a helmet
"It's Ozai helmet!" exclaimed Suki.
"Really?" said Toph, "I was wondering how it got out here."
"Well, what are you going to do with it?" inquired Suki.
"I'm not really sure."
"Well, if you don't want it, I'll take!" said Sokka, "I would look really cool with that on!"
"Well, I don't want it, here," she said as she tossed it to him.
"So if that's all you need me for, then I'm off."
"Wait, wait, wait, your leaving, just like that? You're not going to stay with us for a little while?" Sokka wondered.
"No, I'm leaving. There is an Earthbending tournament near Omashu in a few weeks. I want to get there before it starts, and that's gonna be after I see my parents."
"Okay, well goodbye," said Sokka as the little group shared one last hug with each other. "We'll come visit you sometime, in Omashu maybe."
"Ya, well, I guess I better get going, bye," she said as she went catapulting through the air. When she landed she started riding an earth wave, quickly fading into the distance, until the only thing that they could see of her was a dust cloud that grew smaller with each passing second.
"Well, Suki, it looks like it's just you and me now." Sokka said as he set up camp.
That evening in Ba Sing Se, in the Jasmine Dragon, Katara said, "Well, I guess we better turn in. Tomorrow is going to be a big day."
"Ya," replied Aang, "first we need to find a replacement for the Dai Li as police, then we need to organize the military to help the rest of the Earth Kingdom rebuild. And that's only going to be the first stage. It's going to be a long hard road to get the world back to the way it should be."
"Well if anyone can do it, you can," assured Katara.
"Thanks. Well I better go feed Appa before I go to bed." Aang walked out to the stable where Appa was staying. Momo flew up above the stable before landing next to the 3 pygmy pumas waiting for him. They all nuzzled up to each other and started purring. As Aang walked into the stable, Appa roared his pleasure at seeing his friend and master. Aang fed him and started scratching the arrow on his head.
Just then there was a loud ruckus outside. When Aang ran out to see what was happening, the first thing that he saw was a pile of white fur and brown feathers. Then he saw the three pumas jump down from the stable and land right on top of what appeared to be Momo and a messenger hawk. Aang shot a jet of air at the pile, carefully separating everyone, sending the pumas flying out into the street, hitting the counter outside of a merchants store just as he was closing up his shop.
"MY CABBAGES!!!!! YOU WOULD THINK THAT THE UPPER RING WOULDN'T LET CRAZY WILD ANIMALS RUN AROUND LIKE THIS!" the merchant screamed as he started shooing the cats away. Once the Pumas were gone, it wasn't too hard to separate Momo from the hawk.
As Aang tossed Momo into the air, the hawk jumped to Aangs shoulder, where Aang undid the message from its back. With one final angry screech at the lemur, it spread it wings and flew off into the gathering night. It was too dark out to read the message outside, so he quickly went inside and scanned the parchment.
As he read, his eyes widened. "What's that, Aang?"
"It's a message that just arrived by hawk. Here, read it," he said, as he passed it to Katara. "Screaming Banshee Spirits? But I would of thought that all the spirits would be fine now that the balance has been restored!"
"Well, apparently not. And if they are spirits, then I'm the only one who can stop them. But someone is going to need to stay here with the Earth King."
Katara crumpled the letter, dropping her hands to her sides. "No, I'm going with you!"
Aang stiffened himself, knowing she would object. "No, these people need my help, and the Earth King needs yours. Just stay here and I'll come back once this is over."
"Are you kidding?" She looked straight at him, putting her hands on her hips and resting her fierce blue eyes on him. "I just got you back, and now you want to leave? You disappear all the time! I don't want to risk losing you again, not now that we're together. Don't do this to me!" She hesitated, obviously still rather shaken by the news. "Let me go with you, please Aang..."
Aang sighed, turning away from her. "I'm sorry Katara, but this is too dangerous. Spirits aren't something you can face, this is something only the Avatar can safely take care of. I don't want you involved. Just have faith, this shouldn't take me more than a week, trust me."
Her eyes softened, filling with tears as her lips settled into a subtle frown. "Aang." Turning his head back, he gazed at her kindly. "I know I can't do anything about spirits. I just ... well, just be safe, okay? Come back as soon as you can."
Aang smiled warmly, giving her a nod of acceptance. "Thank you for understanding Katara. I'll be leaving at first light, so I need to get my rest," he said as he headed to his room.
She stood watching Aang as he walked away from her into his room. "Goodnight..." She muttered as he disappeared from sight.
On Zuko's airship over a vast plain, Mai walked out onto one of the platforms and stood next to Zuko. "What are you doing out here?"
"I was just about to ask you the same thing, Zuko."
"I was about to start practicing my Firebending. Now that I'm Fire Lord, I'm hoping that I can make some lightning. Stand back." Mai backed up as Zuko started to wave his arms in circular motions. After several seconds, he took one last breath, and shot one of his arm out straight in front of him. Brilliant white lightning shot out, spreading out into several forks before it dissipated into the surrounding air.
"That was amazing!" Mai yelled over the clap of thunder, "that was better than anything that Azula ever did!"
"Thanks Mai. Now that I have finally mastered that, I feel like I can take on anything," the view switches to a several hundred miles to the south-west, where the airship fleet led by Gangshou is just about to land at the Fire Nation airship base to begin unloading troops, who are already in formation in the airships, waiting to get out, "like nothing, not even an entire army, could defeat me."
TO BE CONTINUED...
I would like to thank Vulmen for writing the argument between Katara and Aang.
This chapter was so named because there are three different sets of villains with different goals, and not much is revealed about them (so far)
For the collective works of the author, go here.