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|The Avatar Returns|
Book 1: The Journey
19th July 2014
"You're absolutely sure?" The old figure of the chief asked.
"There is no doubt Chief Sokka" the indigo robed man replied "The Avatar is in the Southern Water Tribe and we know his identity".
Sokka stood up from the cushion he was kneeling on and made his way to the door of the icy palace they were in.
"So, are we going to tell them now Grand Lotus Quon?" Sokka inquired.
Quon stood up alongside Sokka in the doorway "That would be best. Where are the waterbending training grounds?"
The group of young waterbenders were impressive in the displays of their art, manipulating the water to their will in a way that is rarely seen amongst a group of teenagers. One in particular, a tall dark haired boy with his hair styled in the way of the Water Tribe, was seamlessly shifting water between ice, water and steam, to the approval of his master who was watching on from the side lines.
"Stop showing off Atka!" a brown haired female shouted from the other side of the training ground.
Atka stood looking rather annoyed. "It's not showing off Rilu!" he shouted back "I'm only doing what Master Kya told me to do!"
At that point the waterbending master moved into the arena. "Calm down you two, what Atka's doing is very impressive indeed. This is a very advanced skill, one that will serve you well I'm sure".
Kya called the 12 or so benders into the middle.
"Well young waterbenders, I have an exciting announcement to make, tonight is the night you have been waiting 6 years for". Smiles spread across the faces of the waterbenders. "Tonight is the Glacier Spirits Festival, as you know, it is the night we graduate our students to officially become members of the Moon Guardians. Tonight, those students are you" Kya beamed at the students in front of her. "You should all be proud of yourselves, many young waterbenders apply when they turn 10, you are the lucky 12 waterbenders who have made it all the way through, you are the best of the best. You are all some of the best waterbenders in this tribe, and the north". Kya's face then turned to sadness. "I will miss teaching you, if you ever feel the need to practice a particular move or skill I am always here"
Atka and the other students applauded Kya "We'll miss you too Master Kya" Atka and the rest bowed to their beloved master.
"Kya!" A voice from above the arena called, it was Chief Sokka. "May I speak with you for a moment?" Kya nodded at Sokka and walked up to where he and the Grand Lotus were stood.
"Class dismissed! Be at the Palace courtyard by 8. Don't be late!" Kya called back as she was walking.
Atka and Rilu were walking back through the city together. "Can you believe it?" She said excitedly "After six years we're finally going to be Moon Guardians, the most elite waterbending troops in the world!"
Atka smiled at his friend "Yeah, its going to be great, going on adventures, defending our tribe from monsters!" Atka closed his eyes as he imagined what life would be like.
"And best of all Atka!" Rilu jumped up as she said it "We get our Moon Guardian tattoo's!" She traced out the shape of the Moon Guardian symbol on her hand, with her finger.
The pair continued walking down the central boulevard until they reached a large house, Atka's family home. Opening the door they were greeted by Atka and Rilu's families.
"Oh I'm so proud of you Ri-Ri!" shrieked Rilu's mother, pulling her into a tight embrace.
Rilu tried pulling away from her mother "Mum!" she protested, "Don't call me that!"
Atka laughed "Ri-Ri? You kept that nickname quiet!"
Atka's mother told Atka to stop laughing "Surely you remember what we called you when you were little Atka?" Atka shook his head. "Oh that's a shame, do you remember Rilu?"
A mischievous grin appeared on Rilu's face, "I think I do, was it Atikins? Or Ati? Oh no I remember now! ATIPOO!"
"Be quiet Ri-Ri..." Atka said quietly, picking up an apple off the table
"Oh I'm sowy did I hurt ickle Atipoo's feelings" Rilu said in a baby voice
There was brief pause before the whole room started laughing. The families then sat down at the table to eat, it was a Water Tribe speciality, roasted turtle seal.
"Atka can you get your sister down from her room please?" Atka's father asked.
Atka sighed, "ASKER!!!" he shouted.
Atka's father scowled at him "That's not what I meant, now go and get her"
Atka got up but before he could open the door a 12-year-old girl with straight black hair was already down the stairs and in the room.
The girl sat down where Atka was sitting before and started eating. Atka sighed again as if he was expecting that to happen.
"Asker, I was sitting there..." No reply "Can I have my seat back Asker?"
Atka felt himself getting angry. Asker turned to her brother "You could say please you know..." she then turned back and resumed eating.
"NO I WONT SAY PLEASE!" Atka shouted. "IF YOU WEREN'T SO RUDE ALL THE TIME WE WOULD BE A LOT HAPPIER!"
Atka and Askers mother then stood up, "Quiet, both of you! Atka just sit next to Rilu, on the spare seat".
Grumpily obliging Atka sat down and listened to the dull conversations the parents were having.
Atka had tried his best to get along with Asker, and he did care for his sister, but Asker was so different to himself. She was always in her room reading and barely communicating with him or his parents. Atka always felt that his sister could be a great waterbender but she had never bothered to train her skill. Things were different only a few years ago when the siblings got on so well together, but then Asker changed and became recluse.
'Atka! Look at the time!" said Rilu, pointing to the time candle on the shelf, "We have to be at the Palace in half an hour!"
Rilu stood up and thanked Atka's mum for the food. She then crossed over to her house on the other side of the street.
"I suppose I better get ready" Atka said.
"You're sure its him?" Kya asked Sokka and Quon. They were standing on the balcony of the palace.
"We are absolutely sure, all of the evidence points to him" Quon insisted, he reached into his robe and took out a scroll. "All of the signs are here, his date of birth, his toys, even the type of knife he picked when he turned 13. All of these things follow the pattern of Water Tribe avatars past".
Kya studied the scroll, "Can't really argue with any of that, he is a fine waterbender and I have no doubt he will surpass me and my mother, even the great waterbending masters of the Northern Tribe". Kya looked up towards the setting sun. "When will you tell him?"
Quon looked at Sokka "Tonight, if possible"
Sokka looked down at the ground "I don't think so, tonight is the Glacier Spirits Festival and our young waterbenders are becoming Moon Guardians, it is a proud moment for them and their families" Sokka smiled at Quon "Let him enjoy himself tonight, we'll tell him tomorrow. Does that seem fair Kya"
Kya nodded "Yes, our young Avatar should enjoy himself with his friends"
Quon pocketed the scroll "Very well, tell me does this festival include a feast?"
"Hey Atka, Rilu!" Two students stood and called waved at the two best friends.
The two students were Ishak and Hanna, students of Kya, who were also graduating that night. Ishak was the son of a Northern warrior whilst Hanna was the daughter of Kya.
"Glad you're on time for once" said a grinning Ishak, playfully punching Atka on the shoulder. Ishak and Hanna were two of Rilu and Atka's best friends ever since they had been born.
"Six years and we finally get rewarded tonight" Hanna looked wistfully towards the horizon over the bay. "We can go out there and make a difference, explore the world"
The four friends all stood alongside each other and imagined a life on the high seas.
"Mum always told me stories about how my grandmother travelled with the Avatar during the war, about all of the places they visited, how the ended the war..." Hanna looked at the floor "We'll never be able to do that"
Ishak put his hand on Hanna's shoulder "Try not to sound too disappointed! We might not stop an entire war but we can still help people, I'm not entirely sure I'd even want to be remembered anyway!"
"I'll believe that when I see it Ishak!" Atka said with a grin.
"What's that supposed to mean!" Ishak protested "I don't let fame go to my head.... mind you a statue of me wouldn't hurt, only one though!"
The four friends all laughed their way to the courtyard to meet up with the rest of the students.
Later that evening
The fireworks lit up the sky as the festivities got underway around the Southern Capital. The students were all gathered inside the great hall of the palace, along with the students' families and the high-ranking members of the Water Tribe. The attendees inside the great hall were enjoying a feast, the likes of which they were unlikely to ever see again. Outside the palace there were various attractions happening that could be enjoyed by anyone, even visitors from outside the Water Tribe.
"Hey Hanna, who's that guy in the purple robes?" asked Rilu. She pointed towards a man sat next to Chief Sokka, at the back of the palace.
"I don't know, I've never seen him before" Hanna looked puzzled "I remember Mum saying that the Order of the White Lotus wear robes like that".
"The White Lotus?" Ishak exclaimed "Aren't they in charge of finding the Avatar?"
Rilu was deep in thought "You don't think the Avatar is here do you?" she asked.
"Who knows Rilu" Atka replied taking a bit of meat. "Maybe they're just examining people, you know, trying to find out who it is".
Ishak put down his plate "Well the next Avatar is supposed to be a water bender...maybe its one of us..."
"Yeah right!" Atka said. "I think we would know if one of us was the Avatar".
The hall went silent as Chief Sokka stood up. "As we are all now fed and watered it is time we moved onto the more formal part of this evening". Sokka invited the students up to the back of the hall, where the Tribe officials were sat, including Master Kya. "As you know, the Glacier Spirits Festival is an especially important time for our young waterbenders. This is the day that our finest students become Moon Guardians, the finest group of waterbenders in the Southern Tribe". Sokka raised his cup of Houberry Wine. "To the Moon Guardians!" he declared "The Moon Guardians!" replied the hall. Sokka smiled at the line of students in front of him before inviting Kya and Torrka, one of the Tribe elders, to join him in front of the students.
"This has been a long process for you all but now you get the rewards you deserve" Sokka then picked up a bowl of dark blue paste and a thin brush. "I will now mark you with the symbol of the Moon Guardians, this symbol represents the three values of the Water Tribe, Wisdom, Bravery, and Trust. These values surround the spirits of the moon and the ocean".
Sokka went to the end of the line and drew the symbol on the back of the students hands, three crescent moons surrounding two circles, representing the moon and ocean spirits. Torrka then came along the line and presented the students with a Snow Wolf tooth amulet. The last to come along the line was Kya, who gave each student a vial of water from the Spirit Oasis.
"These marks are permanent, once you are a member of the Moon Guardians, you are always a member. Do your duties to the Water Tribe and you will live up to these marks" Sokka raised his glass and shouted, "Wisdom, Bravery, Trust!".
The sunlight came through the curtains of Atka's room, its light amplified by the white walls of his house. It was early but he wanted to get down to the barracks where the Moon Guardians were based. Getting dressed into his uniform and checking his hands to make sure the marks were still their, he raced downstairs but was surprised to see Sokka, Kya and the White Lotus member sat with his parents at the table.
"Hello?" Atka said uncertainly.
"Atka, its good to see you" the White Lotus member said, "My name is Quon, I am the Grand Lotus of the Order of the White Lotus". Quon held out his hand for Atka to shake, which he did.
"You can sit down Atka" Sokka said, holding out a bowl of soup.
Atka took the soup and sat down. He played things around in his head and put pieces together. He thought about the things that were said last night, maybe Ishak was right... But Atka didn't want him to be....
"You've got the wrong person...." Atka whispered.
"I'm sorry?" Quon asked
Atka looked up "I know what you're going to say, I think you've got it wrong..."
Quon crossed his arms, "What have we got wrong?"
"I can't be the Avatar..." Atka said mournfully, "That's what you got wrong" Quon's expression turned to sympathy "You're not the first, nor will be the last, to doubt what they are. Everything about you and what you've done suggests that you are the Avatar, Kya and Sokka both agree that you are the Avatar".
Kya then spoke, "I've looked at everything the White Lotus have said about you, it certainly suggests that you are the Avatar. I expected you to be excited about this.."
Atka looked out of the window, where he could just see the barracks in the distance, down by the harbour. "I don't really know how I feel, its just I've been waiting to become a Moon Guardian all my life". Atka felt himself tearing up but managed to swallow it. "I imagined myself going around with Rilu, Ishak and Hanna, exploring the world, helping people...I guess that can't happen now.."
Sokka pointed at the symbol on Atka's hands, "I said this last night but these symbols make you a Moon Guardian for life, whatever you do you will always be recognised as an elite waterbender. I promise that should you ever need assistance with anything you do, we will be there". Sokka smiled as Atka.
"I can tell you need time to take this in, we'll be in the barracks should you need us". Kya said before leading Sokka and Quon out with her.
A few seconds past before Atka asked his parents, "What do you think?"
His parent's looked at each other. "We think you will make a great Avatar" Atka's father said smiling reassuringly. "Somehow we always believed you were destined for much more than you could achieve here in the Water Tribe".
"How long have you known?" Atka asked
"We were only told this morning" Replied Atka's mother
"And you don't doubt it at all?" Atka asked
"Not at all". His mother smiled "You're going to mean so much to so many people" she pulled Atka into an embrace and his father placed a hand on Atka's shoulder.
"I suppose I should go down to the barracks..." Atka stood up and walked over to the door before stopping, "Wait, does Asker know?"
His father shook his head, "She isn't awake yet, do you want to tell her later or should I?"
"I'll do it..." Atka walked out of the door into the morning air
"I'm the Avatar...."
For the collective works of the author, go here.