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Book 1: The Journey
The early morning sunlight crept through the curtains of Atka's room. It was strange for him, waking up in a new place, but he pulled himself off of the hard mattress and got dressed. He had found a uniform in the cupboard; it was completely green, apart from a yellow Earth Kingdom logo in the centre of the shirt. Atka tied his hair back with a gold band, a typical earthbender piece of attire, but made sure to retain his Water Tribe hairstyle.
There was a knock at the door, "Wakey wakey!" It was Kann. He opened the door and let himself in. "Oh, you're already awake...and dressed"
Kann was still wearing his sleeping clothes, which consisted of a loose pair of trousers, and nothing else.
Atka smiled, "Hoping to catch me sleeping Kann?" He laughed
Kann's face dropped, "No... I'm just surprised you're already up, training doesn't start for another couple of hours".
"So why are you waking me up now?" Atka asked
Kann did some stretches, "I often go for a run before breakfast, I was wondering if you would like to join me".
"I don't see any harm in that", Atka said, "So are you going to get dressed before we go?"
"No. I always run wearing as little as possible!" Kann said enthusiastically
Atka looked puzzled, "That's an...interesting...idea..."
Kann grinned at his friend, "I sometimes wear nothing when I run"
Atka felt awkward, "That's...nice...I guess..."
A few moments of silence was followed by a laugh from Kann, "You should try it sometime, it's liberating!" He pulled Atka up from the bed and over to the door, "Now come on, we'll run around the woods, I know a good route"
Atka and Kann had spent an hour running and Atka had started to see why Kann would want to run wearing nothing. The heat was unbearable, a world away from what he had experienced in the Water Tribe. Kann though seemed perfectly at home, he stopped briefly in a clearing and stretched.
"Hey Atka!" he said, "Got any water?"
Atka was trying to catch his breath, "Hold on..." After a while he replied, "Wait there". Atka moved his hand through the air and gathered water into a ball in his hand.
Kann looked stunned, "How did you do that!" He pointed at Atka, "You just summoned water out of thin air!" He shook his arms around to prove the point.
Atka laughed, "It's a skill that master waterbenders learn. Sometimes you're going to be stuck in places that don't have open water anywhere, so you need to be resourceful and make your own" He passed the water over to Kann, who opened his mouth and drank the water as Atka bended it into his mouth.
"Surprisingly refreshing!" said Kann, "Lets get back, the gates are just over this ridge".
The two of them moved on and they soon came to the gates of the barracks. Around them a number of soldiers were laughing and joking, most of them making their way to the long room to the right of the central courtyard.
"That's the mess hall," said Kann, pointing to the building. "I think some breakfast is in order!" He put his arm around Atka's shoulders and led him into the long building.
The building had a number of long tables in it, each one was starting to fill up with soldiers. Kann led Atka to a table at the far end of the hall, there were some students sat down already.
"This is where we tend to sit, out of the way" said Kann
The other students barely acknowledged that they were there. Kann got up and said he would get some soup for them both, leaving Atka to sit silently with the other students.
"Well look who it is!" a voice said. Atka looked up, it was Oska and his cronies.
"What do you want Oska?" asked Atka.
Oska sat down opposite him, "Nothing...yet" he laughed, "I can't wait for the bending drills later, you are going to get destroyed..."
Atka showed no emotion, "I'd like to see you try..."
Oska lent over the table, trying to make himself look bigger, "Watch your mouth Water Tribe scum!"
"Scum? Ha!" Atka gave a slight smile
Oska grabbed Atka's collar, "Come on then, I bet you're a coward without your little friend here"
"I could say the same about you..." Atka replied
"What's going on here?" Kann was back with two bowls of soup.
Oska let go of Atka's collar, "No need to fear water boy, your little guardian angel is here to save you again" Oska laughed and he left with his gang.
Kann sat down where Oska was and handed Atka his soup. "Idiots..." he said. "Why didn't they do anything to you?" Atka asked him
"They fear me..." he said
"They have an odd way of showing fear then..." Atka said
Kann put his spoon down and addressed Atka, "Not fear as in terror, they just fear me and what I am".
Atka was confused, "You've lost me, what exactly do they fear about you?"
Kann shook his head, "Its complicated"
"Clearly, we should eat our soup and get back". Atka started to eat his soup. To his left the other students got up and left, leaving Atka alone with Kann.
There were 30 students all lined up in the training grounds, amongst them were Atka and Kann. General Forr paced along the line, his very figure demanded respect, despite his age.
"Basic drills, move the rock in front of you up to head height for 10 seconds. NOW", he barked.
Half of the students took up their places and moved the rock, Oska was one of them. They made it look effortless and Atka swallowed his nerves. It was going to be his turn next. The first 15 stepped behind Atka's group.
"Next group step forwards and do the same!" Forr ordered the students.
Atka inhaled deeply and tried to mimic the movements of everyone around him. One foot forwards, the other back making a strong stance. The left arm comes forward with a clenched fist, at the same time the forward foot stamps down on the ground. Atka did this and only made the rock wobble slightly.
He could here everyone else laughing, no one louder than Oska. Kann looked at Atka sympathetically.
General Forr strutted over to Atka and tutted, "Well, well, well. I expected more from you, our master waterbender, and our Avatar".
There was a general murmur amongst the students.
"That's right, this boy is the Avatar!" Forr declared, "I'm sure we all feel incredibly safe now that we have the Avatar amongst us!" he mocked.
The rest of the students fell into hysterics.
Feeling himself getting angrier Atka located some water in a set of barrels lined up along the wall. He burst one of them with his bending and fired it at the old general, knocking him off his feet.
"YOU INSOLENT LITTLE WRETCH!" He screamed. "YOU HAVE DISRESPECTED ME, MY STUDENTS, AND THE ENTIRE EARTH KINGDOM!"
A group of soldiers, who had obviously heard the commotion, rushed into the training grounds and observed the situation.
"Is there a problem here Forr?" one of them asked.
"What does it look like? Are you as blind as a badgermole?!?" Forr shouted.
"Well it looks like you got a bit wet..." the soldier said.
Forr got up onto his feet and confronted Atka, "This child attacked me, unprovoked, I want him banished from these barracks!"
The soldiers hesitated, "Well technically you don't have the power to banish anyone, seeing as you're not a General anymore..."
Forr's eyes twitched, "You're testing my patience here, get General Dane down here now!"
The soldiers looked at each other before one of them ran off to find General Dane.
Forr addressed Atka, "You are in for a world of trouble..." he smiled menacingly.
Five minutes passed before the soldier returned with General Dane, he was tall and had large sideburns that joined together to make a large moustache. He wore Earth Kingdom armour and had a cape, similar to General Lins cape.
"What is it Forr?" he asked in a deep voice.
Forr pointed at Atka, "This boy attacked me unprovoked! He used waterbending and knocked me down! I want him banished immediately!"
Dane's voice softened as he turned to Atka, "You're Atka aren't you? The Avatar?"
Atka nodded, "Yes I am"
Dane faced Forr again; "You have a duty Forr, to teach the Avatar earthbending. I expect you to do that duty"
Forr looked aghast, "But sir, with all due respect, this boy attacked me! He deserves punishment!"
"Maybe he does, but I would like to ask our Avatar for his side of the story" Dane said, "So Atka, what is it?"
Atka looked directly at Forr, "This man has been nothing but a bully since I arrived here, he knows I can't earthbend but he still persists with trying things that are beyond my level. And more than that, he banned me from waterbending. He's made me feel small since I arrived here; I lost control when he mocked me. That's why I attacked him".
Dane stood for a few minutes in deep thought, "I understand your concerns Atka. But some of these claims are ridiculous. Forr is strong man and his methods may make it seem like he's being hard on you. I doubt he meant to make you feel the way you did".
Forr looked smug, "Thank you General Dane!"
"Also, attacking my most valuable instructor is a serious offence". Dane went back to thinking, "I won't banish you but consider this your last warning, one more step out of line and I will see you removed from here, Avatar or not".
Forr looked slightly disappointed but did his best to hide it. "That sounds fair General..."
Bowing to Forr, General Dane turned and left the training grounds with the soldiers.
Forr faced the students again, "You are dismissed, I don't want to hear another peep out of any of you. Understood?"
A collective 'yes sir' rang out and the students turned to leave, some of them went inside the dorms while other went into the main barracks area. Forr went into the classroom.
Kann and Atka stayed outside. Atka lent against the wall and slid down it.
"I'm an idiot" he said, shaking his head.
Kann sat next to him, "No your not, Forr provoked you and you responded. It's a completely natural reaction".
Atka shook his head, "I nearly blew it, my chance of being an earthbender. I would have let everyone down..."
Kann sighed, "But you didn't. I want you to know that I'm always here to help, if you ever need me I'm here".
Then Atka got an idea, "You could do it..." "What?" replied Kann
"Teach me how to earthbend!" Atka said enthusiastically
Kann smiled, "That's actually a good idea. I'll teach you the basics then you come into class and impress everyone. It'll get Forr off you back and allow you to be a bit more relaxed around the place!"
"Perfect!" said Atka as he jumped onto his feet. "Lets go now!"
Kann hesitated, "Um, go where exactly?"
Atka thought for a moment, "The riverbed...the one we ran past this morning".
Kann nodded, "Don't see a problem with that, plenty of space, its out of the way..." Kann stood up, "Its earthbending time!"
The two friends stood at the bottom of the dried up riverbed, Kann gave Atka basic instructions on his stance.
"Make sure you are wide and strong, you need to be as strong as rock if you want to bend one" Kann moved and adjusted Atka's stance to make it stronger.
After that he moved a large rock over to Atka with his own bending.
"Okay, now focus on this boulder. I want you to try and shift it, any distance will do, so long as we have something to build on". Kann stepped back
Atka pulled his arm back and pictured the rock clearly in his mind. He then punched through the air with force. The boulder moved, no more than a metre, but it was movement nonetheless.
"Yes! Brilliant!" Kann shouted
Atka breathed a sigh of relief, "Thanks Kann, that felt good".
"I think we can try going a bit more advanced now. Lets bring some leg movement into it". Kann pulled the rock back and stepped back again. "Okay, just swing you leg round on the floor and push forward like before"
Atka inhaled and did the movement like before. However there was little improvement on the last attempt.
"What happened, it hardly moved?" asked Atka
Kann came over to him scratching his chin, "I think I know. You're a waterbender so most of your movement is in the arms; you hardly use your legs. Earthbending is the opposite; we focus more on the movement of the lower half of the body"
Atka hesitated, "Okay...So what do we do?"
"I hope you enjoy squatting!" Kann replied
Atka scowled at his earthbending tutor, "You're joking right?"
Kann grinned, "Nope, we need to get the strength in your legs up somehow. From now on we're going to come down here every evening and train".
Atka sighed but eventually smiled and nodded, "Fine, just one thing though..."
"What?" asked Kann
"I want at least one day off a week" Atka said, giving himself puppy dog eyes
Kann looked serious for a moment but eased up and started laughing as the sun started to set over the Earth Kingdom.
For the collective works of the author, go here.