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Book 1: The Journey
The journey had taken them over a week and they were both feeling tired after nonstop traveling however the journey would soon be at an end. The landscape had turned from being green and dominated by forests, to being craggy and dry. Omashu would soon be on the horizon.
Atka had taken as many opportunities as possible to train his earthbending but progress had been slower than usual, Kann put this down to fatigue.
"How much further?" Atka asked
Kann checked the map, "I'd say we should be there by this evening, its not too far now."
Atka breathed a sigh of relief, "Finally..."
They carried on for a few minutes until they came across a fire pit.
"What's this?" Atka asked, "An abandoned campsite?"
Kann nodded and looked around the site, he came across something small and metal on the ground. He picked it up and studied it, it was some sort of brooch and it had a symbol on it. "Oh good..." he said.
"What is it?" Atka asked
Kann held up the brooch, "This is a brooch from the 45th Squadron"
Atka looked confused, "And?"
Kann sighed, "My dad's the captain of the 45th Squadron" he pocketed the brooch, "This campsite is very recent, they probably camped out here overnight and before going into Omashu in the morning"
"But that's a good thing, that means we have a contact in Omashu!" Atka said enthusiastically.
But Kann shook his head, "No, we should avoid him..."
"Why?" asked Atka, "Don't you like your dad?"
Kann crouched down, "Lets just say things are a little bit complicated between me and him. He sent me away to the barracks for starters..."
Atka sat next to his friend, "Oh, I see..."
Kann got angry and stood up, "No you don't see! You don't understand at all!" he shouted.
Atka stared at the ground, "If you don't want to go into Omashu then I'm happy to go along with that, I can see that you really don't want to meet your father..."
Kann calmed himself down and sat next to Atka, "No, we should go in. We've come too far to just turn around..."
The two sat in silence for a good ten minutes before Kann spoke again.
"It's been a long time since I've seen my father, he sent me away to Forr's school when I was 13. I never wanted to join the army or anything; I just wanted to be happy. I grew up in the middle ring of Ba Sing Se, I was happy then, I had friends and family all around me and they loved me.
My dad was a member of the royal guard during the early days of Queen Hou-Ting's rule, like my grandfather was during King Kuei's rule. This meant I was expected to follow in his footsteps, but I didn't want that. He wanted me to join the Royal Military Academy in Ba Sing Se when I grew up, but I wanted to join the University and become something. Anyway, things happened and my father became angry and he said that I had shamed him. So he sent me off to Forr to try and 'straighten me out'..."
Atka put a comforting arm on Kann's shoulder, "It's been a while, and you have to talk to him at some point. And besides, Omashu's a big place so we might not even meet him!"
Kann smiled, "That's true" he stood up again, "Lets go, we have to make it to the gates before nightfall"
The two of them left the campsite and continued on their journey.
The sun was hanging low on the horizon as they came over the ridge of the mountain; they didn't have long to enter the city before the gates closed. As they went the ridge they were greeted by one of the greatest sights in the entire Earth Kingdom.
"Welcome to Omashu!" Kann said as he swung his arm around.
Atka grinned as took in the scene in front of him. The city of Omashu rose like pyramids and the famous criss-crossing mail chutes were visible, even from this distance. At the top of the city stood the great palace, its gold façade glinting in the sunlight.
"Wow..." said an impressed Atka "Its incredible!"
Kann laughed, "If you want to see it up close we should get going!"
They ran down the hill and crossed the bridge, stopping before the large walls of the city.
A group of guards stopped them, "What business do you have in Omashu?" one of them asked.
"Um we're just visiting," said Kann
The soldier didn't look convinced, "Visiting who exactly?" "Err..." Kann stuttered
Atka took over, "Allow me to explain, I'm the Avatar and I am meeting someone in the city"
The guards looked at each other, "Prove it," they said.
Atka sighed and quickly bended some water from his water skin and then bended a rock from the bridge.
The guards moved aside, "That'll do I suppose, welcome to Omashu!"
The walls parted, leaving a gap in the wall that the two of them walked through. If anything, the city of Omashu was more spectacular from the inside. It was incredibly busy in the main square, which housed a market, despite the time of day. The delivery chutes were still moving with earthbenders making sure there was no delay as they moved from place to place.
"Follow me" said Kann and he pulled Atka over towards a large building in one of the main streets of the city. It looked like an inn.
They walked inside and were greeted with a lively scene. Many workers from the city, including merchants, soldiers and city officials were enjoying themselves inside the large inn.
Kann walked up to the bar, "Excuse me! Are there any rooms going?"
The barman checked a ledger under the desk, "You're lucky, we have one double room left"
Kann smiled, "Perfect, we'll take it!"
The barman held his hand out, "That'll be 5 silver pieces for one night"
Kann hesitated, "Um, Atka, you don't have any money do you?"
Atka stepped forward, "Here you are" he handed one gold piece over, "That's enough for two nights".
The barman nodded and gave a key to Atka, "First floor, second door on the right"
Atka and Kann thanked the barman and went to check out their room. It was medium-sized and well looked after. Two beds stood at opposite ends of the room.
"Pretty nice" said Kann
"Better than what we had back at the barracks anyway!" Atka said as he sat down on one of the beds, "The mattresses are better too!"
Kann sat on the bed opposite, "Right, tomorrow we need to try and get into the upper levels of the city; that's where all of the big wigs are".
"You don't sound very confident about our chances..." Atka said
Kann crossed his arms, "Its going to be difficult, we need to know someone who can get us into the upper levels. I can't think of anyone..."
"I can..." said Atka pointedly.
Kann groaned, "I know who you're talking about but its not going to happen"
"Why not?" said Atka, "You can't go the rest of your life avoiding him! We need help, and we can't think of anyone else!"
Kann lay on his bed, "Let me sleep on it" he turned over and faced away from Atka.
The hooded figure made his way over the bridge and to the gates; he was just in time to enter the city.
"Halt! State your business!" one of the soldiers demanded.
The figure made sure to keep his face concealed, "I am here to see the Avatar" he said in a low voice.
The guard didn't look convinced, "How do you even know if he's here?" he said mockingly.
"I know because I told him to meet me here, I was held up on my journey to Omashu" the figure said.
The guard eased up a bit, "Well he did say he was meeting someone in the city, I suppose I should let you in" he called up to the gatekeepers to open the gates.
The figure grinned underneath his hood as he walked through the gate. He had made it.
The guard called after him, "What's your name again?"
The figure stopped and frowned, "Oska" he continued into the city.
"Good morning!" said Kann loudly, waking Atka, "Sleep well?"
Atka rubbed his eyes, "Like a baby, haven't slept like that for weeks"
Kann threw an apple towards Atka, "Eat up and get dressed, we're going sight seeing!"
Atka tucked into the apple, "Have you thought about your dad at all?"
Kann sighed, "I don't know, if we find him we'll talk to him. I'm not going out actively searching for him..."
Atka nodded and finished his apple, he then got dressed into his Water Tribe shirt. He also tightened the red headband around his wrist.
"Right, lets go" Atka declared.
They got out onto the street; it was still early so there were very few people walking around. The market stalls were starting to open around them as the vendors displayed their wares.
"I think we should head towards the administration building to the north of the market square" Kann said, pointing to map.
The two of them worked their way along the winding city streets until they came to a large building. I was much taller than the houses and was guarded by a number of soldiers dressed in brown uniforms. They made their way up the steps in went up to one of the desks on the inside.
"Yes?" said the stern woman who was sat behind the desk.
Atka replied, "Hello, we need to get up to the upper levels of the city"
The woman's expression didn't change, "May I see your pass then?" she held out an expectant hand.
"Pass?" Atka asked, "I don't have one..."
The woman looked annoyed, "Are you just looking to waste my time?" she growled.
Atka held his hands up apologetically, "No, no, no! Of course not! We just need to get into the upper city!"
The woman got angrier, "Well I told you! Visitors need passes to get into the upper levels! If you are meeting someone up there then they should have sorted this out weeks ago!"
Kann took over, "Is there any other way of getting there?" he asked
The woman mellowed, "We run guided tours of the city every hour, you will be taken to see of all Omashu's finest sights. This includes the Royal Palace, the library and the hub of our world famous delivery system. If you are interested then come back here in an hour. If not then go away!"
Atka stuttered, "But I'm the Ava..."
"Go away!" the woman shouted
Atka and Kann turned around and exited the building. They slumped on the stairs leading up to it.
"Now what?" asked Kann
"We don't have any other choice now, lets go and find your father..." replied Atka
Kann grudgingly agreed, "Fine, but I want to make it quick..."
The two had searched the lower levels for at least an hour until they came across a group of soldiers standing at a staging post with some ostrich-horses. They wore different uniforms to the Omashu soldiers; the uniforms were yellow with a green shawl over their shoulders. The helmets were also more rounded compared to the pointier Omashu ones.
"Is that them?" Atka asked
"Yeah..." Kann said, "That's the 45th"
They slowly approached the group, there were around 20 of them wearing identical uniforms. They were tending to their ostrich-horses. The area they were in looked temporary, with large tents making up most of the infrastructure, there were five tents in all. Four of them lined the sides of the area with a larger tent standing at one end.
Kann approached one of the soldiers, "I'm here to see Captain Boncho" he said quietly, facing the ground.
"Huh, the Captain's in the big tent, he doesn't want to see any tourists though" the soldier said.
Kann sighed, "We're not tourists...Captain Boncho is my dad..."
The soldier looked surprised, "Oh...well um..." he looked around for help, "I guess if you're quick you could speak with him". He guided Atka and Kann to the big tent and opened the flap.
"Sir, there are two teenagers here to see you, one of them says he's your son..." the soldier said.
The tent was large and had a map lain out on the floor. There were two other people in the tent, alongside Captain Boncho.
Boncho looked up, "Kann?" he said uncertainly. He addressed the other two people, "Could you leave us please". He then addressed Atka, "You as well"
"Atka stays" Kann said sternly.
Boncho sighed, "Very well. Why are you here?" he asked
"We need to get into the upper levels, we think you can help" Kann said
Boncho crossed his arms, "What business do you have in the upper levels, you have no right to be there".
Kann looked serious, "We have to speak with the King of Omashu"
Boncho let out a booming laugh, "You really think two lower class kids like you are going to speak with the king?" he stood up, "You are seriously deluded"
Kann raised his voice, "We have information about a potential attack on the Colonies, we must speak with the King"
Boncho looked surprised, "An attack? Don't be stupid"
Kann looked at Atka, "Get the scrolls out"
Atka opened his bag and retrieved the two scrolls they had recovered from Forr's office. He handed them to Boncho who sat in silence reading them.
Eventually he spoke, "I'm sorry, but I'm not convinced"
"What do you mean? Those are invasion plans!" Kann said loudly.
"Its nothing more than an example invasion plan. Designed to give students something to work on and practice their strategic plans" Boncho replied.
"What about the list, that's undeniable" Kann said.
Boncho looked over the list again, "Its cryptic I grant you that, but it doesn't prove anything" he looked sternly at Kann, "I didn't think even you would stoop as low as to accuse Forr of something so bad. He's a war hero and is incredibly dedicated to his nation. The last thing he would want is another war with the Fire Nation!"
Atka felt an idea form in his head, "That's where we'll go then" he said, "The Fire Nation, we'll talk to them" Boncho stood up again, "I don't think so, you're not getting out of this city. You are going straight back to the barracks!"
Atka made himself look big, "I wouldn't try arresting us..."
"Why not, I have 20 men outside here, I'm sure we can beat two teenage earthbenders" Boncho said as he got into a stance.
Atka sighed, "That's the thing Captain, I'm not really an earthbender..." Atka loosened his shoulders and focused on the cups of water on the floor around the map, "I'm a waterbender as well!" he raised the water out of the cups and formed them into ice spikes, which he pointed at Boncho.
Boncho took a step back, "The Avatar..." his stance loosened.
"Now do you believe us?" Kann said
Boncho still wasn't convinced, "What? Just because he's the Avatar doesn't mean he's right all the time!"
Atka face formed a scowl, "Listen to me, you are going to let us go or I'm not going to hold back!"
Boncho stood firm for a second before he relaxed and waved the out of the tent. Atka and Kann moodily turned and left the tent, they didn't stop as they walked out of the soldiers post.
"Nice to see my dear father hasn't changed..." Kann said, his eyes fixed on the floor.
Atka struggled to think of something to say, "Don't worry about it..." he eventually said.
The two made their way into the market square, which was now busy with people all around them. Then, behind them they heard a laugh.
"Its nice to see you again Kann..." the voice said
They turned around to see a hooded man behind them, he was tall and they could see a sinister grin forming underneath the hood.
"Who are you?" Atka asked
The man brushed him off; "I don't care about you Avatar, I have a score to settle with Kann here..." the man threw off his hood to reveal a cropped head.
"Oska?" Kann and Atka said, surprised.
Oska laughed, "Thought you could get away? Forr was rather angry that you managed to get away from him, so he charged me with getting you back!" Atka and Kann went into a stance and prepared for an attack.
"What does he want with us?" Atka asked
Oska stood with his arms crossed, "Why do you think? You know about his plan. He doesn't want any interference..."
Kann looked confused, "So he's still going through with it? Even though we have the information about it?"
"Of course! He wants as many people to fight for his cause as possible! With more people on our side we can drive out the Fire Nation scum from our lands once and for all!" Oska raised his arms as he shouted passionately.
A voice came from behind Atka and Kann, from the road leading into the square. "So, you weren't lying..." it was Boncho, and he was followed by 4 soldiers.
"Dad..." said Kann, turning to face his father.
Oska took his chance whilst Kann was turned. He bended a rock out of the ground and aimed it towards him. Atka jumped in front of it and blocked it with crossed arms.
"Kann, we better deal with this..." he said.
Kann snapped back into focus and went back into his stance. Boncho ordered his soldiers to surround Oska; they all went into a fighting stance. Around them a crowd started forming.
"Surrender yourself Oska!" Boncho ordered.
Oska's face twitched. He maintained his stance and assessed the situation; he would struggle to make his way through the crowd and there were seven benders surrounding him. He eventually relaxed his stance and held up his hands in surrender. Two of the soldiers moved in towards him ready to apprehend him.
"Bet you wished your friends were here now..." Kann mocked.
Oska stayed silent.
Atka spotted something dashing over the rooftops, two black robed figures. "He might still have brought some..." Atka said quickly.
Boncho looked angry, "Dai Li, they aren't permitted to enter Omashu"
The two Dai Li agents landed in the square next to Oska as the crowed quickly dissipated. They then performed some quick earthbending to take out the soldiers who were closing in on them. Boncho was quick enough to block a rock that they had aimed at him.
"Did Forr send you to help me? Excellent!" said a triumphant Oska.
"We are not here for you, boy" one of them said.
"We are here for the Avatar" the other one said.
Atka quietly spoke to Kann, "You deal with Oska, and I'll lead the Dai Li away from here"
Kann nodded, "Be careful"
Atka used earthbending to propel himself up high; he made his way to the rooftops and continued to climb upwards.
The Dai Li were quickly on his tail, they had so much balance on the rooftops and there was a lack of bending materials for Atka to utilise so he jumped down onto a moving delivery cart below. One of the two agents launched a stone glove at him as they followed him onto the track.
Back in the square, Kann and Oska were facing off.
"I've waited a long time for this" Oska grinned as he launched a number of rocks at Kann, who adeptly blocked them.
Boncho took over and tried to use and earth pillar to knock Oska over but he dodged it just in time. Oska turned his attention to the captain and fired a number of rocks at him. Boncho managed to block several of them before one struck him on the head and knocked him down.
Kann managed to raise an earth barrier just as Oska launched another attack on him.
Oska mocked Kann, "Typical, hiding. Come out and face me you coward!" Another barrage came which struck the previously created barrier. Kann then found an opportunity to attack.
He kicked at the ground with his foot and sent an earth pillar at Oska, it struck him firmly in the abdomen and Oska fell to ground with a groan.
Kann came out from behind the barrier and pinned Oska by raising the ground around him, rendering unable to move.
"Game over" Kann smirked.
// Atka could do little else rather than block the attacks of the Dai Li. They were more adept at earthbending than he was, making it difficult for Atka to deal with.
The track turned around a bend and took the cart passed a trough of water; Atka seized his chance and took control of the water. He fired a couple of ice spikes, which the Dai Li easily dodged. Atka looked behind him and saw a split in the track, rather than go down one of them he bended his cart off the track and onto the rooftops. The Dai Li were momentarily confused but soon caught up.
Atka jumped out of the cart and ran into a side alley, he had bended the water around his arms at this point. The Dai Li were running over the buildings either side of the road, one of them jumped off behind him whilst the other carried on and jumped in front of him, cutting Atka off. The Dai Li agents closed in with raised fists.
Atka looked around the area for an escape route; he knew that the Dai Li would be able to follow him quite easily so it wouldn't be easy. The Dai Li agents fired their rock gloves at Atka but he swung his water-covered arms around and managed to deflect them. The agents then rushed in at Atka, they raised the earth at their feet and rode it quickly at him.
Atka spotted his opportunity to strike, he let the water go from his arms and plunged a fist into the earth. He created a fissure that sped from either side of him, destroying the Dai Li's raised earth. The two agents leapt into the air and Atka knew he had to deliver the final blow; he took the water from the ground and shot it towards the Dai Li.
One of the agents was blown back against the wall so Atka quickly froze the water to keep him in place. The second agent was advancing on him so Atka shot some earth pillars at him, however the agent easily dodged them. He ran along the wall and Atka could little else but brace himself for the impact.
Then, just as the agent got close, the wall he was running along was destroyed. The agent was thrown across to the opposite side where he appeared to be knocked out. The dust from the wall settled; Kann and Boncho emerged from the broken building; two soldiers followed them.
Kann cracked his knuckles, "How are things?" his trademark grin broke out on his face.
Atka returned the smile, "Pretty good!" he looked at the heap of stone where the Dai Li agent was, "But I could have taken him!"
Boncho stepped out behind his son, a bandage had been hastily constructed over his eye, "This is concerning...it appears Forr has become more overt in his tactics. He won't stop until he has as many people on his side as possible"
Kann looked at his father, "What do you mean?" "Its fairly clear that Forr wants the Colonies back under sole Earth Kingdom control, he needs support to do that. I doesn't want anyone interfering and making Earth Kingdom citizens doubt him..." he looked apologetically at Atka and Kann, "I'm sorry I didn't believe you, I didn't want to believe Forr was capable of doing such a thing" he bowed at them.
Atka returned the bow, "Apology accepted. But, what do we do know?"
Boncho shook his head, "This isn't the place to discuss this sort of thing, come back to the tents"
Atka, Kann and Boncho were all sat inside the large tent, the world map was laid out in front of them.
"You need to go to the Fire Nation" Boncho said. "They jointly govern the Colonies with the Earth Kingdom, they can help defend it"
Atka looked unsure, "I don't know, what if there's a retaliation? We can't let the world go to war again..."
Boncho held his chin, "The world has changed a lot since the end of the last war, the Fire Nation isn't the same warmongering place it was back then".
"Do the Colonies have any sort of military?" Atka asked
Boncho shook his head, "No, they rely on the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation forces to defend them..."
Atka put his hands on his head, "That could be a problem. Who's the commander of the Earth Kingdom in the Colonies?"
Boncho thought for a moment, "General Bumi" he said.
Kann looked up, "Is he likely to defect to Forr?" he asked his father
Boncho crossed his arms, "Bumi is Avatar Aang's son, that's why he's involved with the Colonies. I doubt he would have defected"
Atka then had a thought, "Wait? Didn't Forr's note say that there were two 'targets' and that the Council of Five was 'almost' unanimous? I bet that Bumi is one of the targets!"
"That would make sense, he's been on the council for a while now". Boncho said.
Atka sat up, "So that's it then. We need to track down Bumi and get to him before Forr does!"
Boncho wasn't convinced, "Bumi was recently moved from Yu Dao to Ba Sing Se under the apparent orders of the Earth Queen, we may be too late..."
Atka felt deflated but put on a confident face, "We have to try though, until we know who the other 'target' is he's our only hope of actually beating Forr's forces".
Boncho nodded, "I suppose you're right, leave it with me. I know some people who can help" he stood up, "In the meantime you should head to the Fire Nation, it's imperative that you tell the Fire Lord about this situation. You also need to learn firebending, yes?"
Atka nodded, "How will we be getting there?" he asked
"There are regular ships to the Harbour City from a port nearby, I can get you on one this evening" Boncho said.
Atka got up and bowed to the captain, "Thank you Captain Boncho, for everything"
Kann stood up as Atka went to leave the tent, but he didn't follow him.
Atka looked back at him, "You okay?" he asked
Kann smiled slightly at him, "Do you mind waiting outside, I just have something to deal with..." he glanced towards his father.
Atka nodded understandingly and left the tent. Kann stood in front of his father.
Boncho exhaled, "I owe you an apology..."
Kann crossed his arms and looked away, "Yeah, you do" he said
Boncho put a hand on his sons shoulder, but Kann shrugged it off.
Kann felt tears forming, he hadn't prepared for this, "Three years...three years for being different. Three years for not being what you wanted me to be..." Kann spat out the words as he fought back the tears.
Boncho sighed, "I thought you would forgive me after everything that's happened today"
Kann raised his voice, "Its not about today! This is about you disowning me! You called me things that anybody else would have risen to and done something about!" Kann clenched his fists as the tears started to fall. "You made my life nothing but misery! I haven't seen Mum or my sisters for three years! They loved me and accepted me! You called me a disgrace! You were ashamed of me, your own son!"
Boncho stood in silence, his eyes firmly fixed on the floor, "You're not a disgrace..." he said in a low voice, cracking with emotion. "You've made me so proud, you're travelling with the Avatar, you taught him earthbending. I couldn't be prouder" he tried smiling but Kann's expression barely changed.
Kann fought through the tears, "Say it. Say you accept me. If you truly believe what you just said, then say that you accept me for who I am and what I want to be"
Boncho stood, unmoved for 30 seconds but then pulled his son into a tight hug, "You are my son, and I love you more than anything. I am truly sorry for everything I've done to you and I will never be able to live that down". By now both father and son were crying in each other's arms.
"Dad..." Kann choked, "Thank you..."
Boncho let the hug go and looked in his sons eyes, both were full of tears, "You are the most beautiful son a father could wish for. I ached for weeks after I sent you away, the whole family wouldn't speak to me. That's why I left the Royal Guard, I couldn't face looking them in the eyes everyday"
Kann wiped his eyes, "Then why didn't you come to get me? If it hurt you so much you could have taken me back home..."
Boncho looked down mournfully, "I'd convinced myself that I was doing the right thing. I believed that you could be changed..." Boncho started to break down again.
Kann smiled at his father, "But its okay now. We're together again, we can be a family"
Boncho smiled back at Kann, "Yes, once this is all over we will go back to Ba Sing Se. I promise, I will make everything up to you"
Kann hugged his father again, "You already have..."
For the collective works of the author, go here.