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Book 1: The Journey
21st July 2014
The new recruits at the Moon Guardian barracks were laughing amongst themselves when Honcho, the Guardian commander, called them in.
"Welcome Guardians! I'd like to formally introduce myself, I am Honcho and I am the commander of the Guardians and I will be the one giving you orders around here". He motioned up to the barracks building, "Please come inside"
The Guardians all sat down inside the building and awaited their briefing. Hanna asked Rilu "Where's Atka, I thought he would be one of the first down here?"
Rilu shrugged, "I knocked on his door as I left but his mum came out and said that he would be a while and that I should go down on my own..."
Ishak butted in, "He'll come, he wouldn't miss this for the world!"
Honcho arrived back in the room, "Okay settle down" he placed a map on the board behind him, it showed the South Pole and had several important locations marked on it. "This is a mission that all of our new recruits get given, you will be in your crews of four and will patrol the area to the east of here, around the bay. You will be monitoring the Snow Wolf packs, that is their size and distribution. This is important as it allows us to assess any threat they may have to the city and surrounding villages. As recruits you are to only take information on them, do not engage them. If they become hostile towards you call over one of the senior boats and they will deal with it"
There was a knock on the door and a senior Guardian walked in and handed Honcho a scroll.
"Excellent, these are the confirmed crews for each boat. Kya has put these together based on what you did whilst you were in training."
The Guardians looked excited as they were confirmed one by one, leaving Rilu, Hanna and Ishak.
"Slight change with your one I'm afraid, you only have a crew of three" Honcho said.
Rilu looked confused, "Three? What about Atka?"
Honcho looked at the scroll again, "He was in your crew initially when Kya gave me these a few weeks ago. You'll have to ask her."
"Do you know where she is?" Ishak asked
"She was in the room at the back last time I checked, but she was with the Chief and someone from the White Lotus so it may not be wise to go in there". "I'm willing to take that risk' Ishak said proudly before marching to the set of large double doors at the other end of the room.
When he got there the doors swung open as Kya, Sokka and Quon stepped out. But someone else, Atka, followed them out.
"Um...hi Atka." Ishak said, confused.
Atka forced a slight grin towards his friend.
"Everyone, could I have your attention" Everyone went silent as Kya spoke, "I would like to make an announcement, one of your number will not be joining you as a Moon Guardian, that person is Atka here". Atka stepped forward slightly, his eyes fixed on the floor. "That is because Atka is the Avatar!"
There was an audible shock around the room. Slight whispers broke out as the gathered waterbenders discussed this revelation. Eventually the chatter broke down and Kya continued.
"Atka will be travelling to the Earth Kingdom as soon as his ship arrives here, we expect that to be this afternoon". Kya looked back at Atka, "Do you have anything to say?"
Atka hesitated for a moment but softly spoke, "I've spent the last six years training with you, but we've been friends ever since we were little". He cracked up slightly, "I wish I could have completed the last part of it with you, and I know you will all be great Moon Guardians". Atka looked up at everyone, "I promise to come back one day, back to the South Pole, to be part of the Moon Guardians. Avatar or not, I still need friends..."
There were a few seconds of silence before Ishak started clapping and soon the whole room was filled with applauding and cheering. Atka looked across to Rilu, she looked close to tears...
Atka was back at home packing up some belongings, not much as Quon said that the Avatar had to 'detach himself from worldly possessions'. He packed money, pictures of his family, his whalebone knife and some food. He looked around his bedroom, it was so familiar to him. Everything from the spears mounted on the wall; to the small burn mark on the wall where Asker tried to light the brazier lantern when she was little... Atka decided to go downstairs before it got too difficult to leave. Downstairs was empty as the rest of his family decided to go down to the port early, and give Atka some space while he was bidding goodbye to the house. He took a quick look around but didn't linger on it. He didn't want to make it any harder than it already was...
Atka walked out onto the street and around him people were stopping and staring, they had obviously heard that he was the Avatar, but he ignored them and kept his eyes squarely in front of him.
Soon he reached the harbour where his family, the other Guardians and the Tribe elders were standing to see him off. But it was the ship coming into harbour that really caught his eye. It looked Fire Nation in design but it wasn't military. Smaller than the average Fire Navy vessel, it had an ornate figurehead and a pagoda style control tower. It looked like a royal vessel, but Atka doubted that a member of the royal family would come the South Pole.
"Hmm, interesting..." said Kya, "I'm assuming that's Iroh?"
Sokka also looked puzzled, "Well that is his ship, but I thought your brother was taking Atka to the Earth Kingdom?"
"He was". Said an annoyed looking Kya, "The Avatar is probably better off with Iroh anyway, I'm not sure Bumi could be trusted"
Sokka laughed, "Bumi didn't become a general in the Earth Nation Navy on pot luck you know!"
Kya sighed, "True...still, there's something not quite right with my dear brother..."
Atka butted in, "Sorry, but who's Iroh?"
Kya looked at Atka, "Ambassador Iroh is one of Fire Lord Zuko's sons, his youngest in fact. But rather than go into a life of military like his two brothers he decided to spread the good word of the Fire Nation and increase its reputation around the world". Kya looked across to the berth where the ship was now docked. "You'll meet him in a minute, he's a good man don't worry!"
Atka saw a group of people dressed in red walking across the port towards where he was standing. As they got closer Atka saw one in particular wearing smart red robes with thin glasses, which must be Iroh. He had dark hair, styled simply but it was covered with a tall red hat.
"Greetings Chief Sokka!" He said, bowing respectfully.
"Greetings to you Ambassador Iroh" returning the bow, "It's been a while, how have you been my friend?"
Iroh chuckled, "Very well, still trying to communicate with your Northern cousins, they are rather hard to get to..."
Sokka laughed, "You'll need plenty of luck to get through to them!"
The two continued their conversation before Kya interrupted them
"If you two don't mind, can we just remember why we are here?"
"Of course!" Iroh exclaimed before turning to Atka, "You must be our Avatar, it is an honour" Iroh bowed and Atka bowed back. "I understand you are coming to the Earth Kingdom with me?"
Atka shrugged, "I suppose so"
Kya addressed Iroh, "I thought Bumi was supposed to be accompanying Atka?"
Iroh's face went serious for a moment; "General Bumi had to go to Ba Sing Se with his fleet, not sure for what though."
"Nice of him to tell me..." said Kya.
"I'm sure he meant no disrespect!" Said Iroh, "Are you ready to leave yet young Avatar?"
Atka looked at his family and friends, "Could I have a few minutes?" Iroh nodded and proceeded to talk with Sokka and Kya.
Atka went up to his parents and sister, "So, this is it..." Atka tried to hold back the tears.
"Don't cry Atka, leave us to do that!" his father exclaimed
"You'll be fine, Ambassador Iroh is one of the finest people in the world!" his mother replied.
Atka shook his head, "It's not that it's just... what if something happens here? I won't know about it, I won't be able to help..."
Atka's father put his hands on Atka's shoulders "That is why you will be a great Avatar, you put others before yourself, you have compassion and you care for people. But you are needed out in the world; other people have problems that you can solve. You have no idea of the power that's inside you, I've seen Avatar Aang, and I know what you are capable of..."
Atka hugged his mother and father before turning to Asker.
"I love you sis..." Atka pulled Asker into a tight embrace, and too his surprise, Asker hugged him back. "Are you crying Asker? You never cry!"
Asker shook her head, but it was clear that she was, "I'll miss you... I know this is going to sound weird but...I always knew you were the Avatar..." Asker dried her eyes and the pair hugged one last time. "I'm going to join the Moon Guardians, I'm going to train my bending...I'm going to beat you in a water bending contest as well!" Asker grinned slightly and the two laughed with each other.
"One day little sis, I promise, we'll have a bending contest. Then we can settle all of those feuds we've had over the years". Atka smiled at his little sister; it felt as if they had finally bonded after all of that time.
He moved over to where the other Guardians were and hugged them all and said goodbye, until to got to his best friends Rilu, Ishak and Hanna.
"Promise me you won't cry" Atka said, "I've had enough of that for one day!"
"Too late..." said a sobbing Rilu. Ishak offered her a hankie, which she accepted and used before trying to hand it back to him.
"Keep it, think of it as a present!"
Rilu laughed through the sobs as she used the hankie once more.
Ishak turned to Atka; "I'm going to miss you loads" he looked sad, which was rare for Ishak. "You're the best waterbender around here, don't let those rock heads get you down!" Ishak gave Atka a little bump on the arm before pulling him into a hug. "And if they do, just give them the old South Pole treatment!"
Next was Hanna, who was holding up better than Rilu but only just. "I can't believe this is goodbye..." She sniffed, "My granddad was the Avatar, I suppose that's why we get on so well!" Hanna reached into her pocket and pulled out a small bag, "It's not much but I felt I had to get you something."
Atka opened the bag and pulled out a red headband, he felt like he recognised it. "This was Aang's, wasn't it..." he held it up to study it.
"Yeah, he wore it while he was in the Fire Nation and needed a disguise, but I think your head might be too big for it," Hanna said.
Atka tied it around his wrist, "It's not problem. Thank you, Hanna," The pair embraced.
Then came Rilu, and the moment Atka had been dreading.
"We'll leave you two for a minute..." said Ishak, walking away with Hanna.
Atka stood there with Rilu for a good few seconds silently; the two had known each other their entire lives. They had grown up inseparable and were best friends, and now it had to end.
"Rilu..." Atka tried to force out more words but he found himself choking up.
Rilu tried to reply but was muffled but tears. Rilu was rarely like this; she had always been a leader, a talented waterbender, and one of the strongest willed people he had ever known.
Atka eventually found the words he was searching for, "It's going to be okay..."
Rilu grabbed Atka and placed a kiss on his cheek, "I now it is...I just..." Rilu shook her head; "No..." she then placed the lightest of kisses on Atka's lips.
Atka blushed and almost took a step back, "Rilu, don't do this now, please. This is hard enough..."
Rilu started crying again "I'm stupid, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that..."
Atka hugged his friend, "I'll be back one day, that's a promise."
Rilu forced a smile. "You better!" She clasped Atka's hands, "Now go and master those elements, Avatar Atka..."
Atka walked back to Iroh and said his final goodbyes to Kya and Sokka. He then waved to the crowd and made his way to Iroh's ship. Behind him the Moon Guardians were boarding their own ships to complete their mission.
Atka boarded the ship and they were soon leaving the harbour, and his home. The Guardians ships were travelling adjacent to his own ship and he saw his friends working away on the sails but as they went out into open water they found the time to wave at him before they turned to the left and he turned to the right. Atka turned away from the departing boats and faced towards his own destination, not even visible on the horizon, the Earth Kingdom. It was a long journey but Atka felt more prepared than he had ever been.
He touched Aang's headband and whispered, "We're doing this together, Aang, and I'm not going to let you down..."
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