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|The Legend of Atka: Chapter 7 - The Fire Lord|
Book 1: The Journey
It had been a long and rough voyage across the Mo Ce Sea. Atka was used to stormy weather, coming from the South Pole. Kann, on the other hand, had found the journey a lot more challenging.
"People find this sailing thing fun..." Kann moaned, not for the first time on the voyage. He held his stomach; Atka hoped that there wasn't anything left to come back up out of it.
Atka handed his friend a bag. "Don't worry, we're almost there, I think we'll arrive by lunch time."
Kann burped, "Don't talk about food..."
They had waved goodbye to Boncho and his men two nights before; they had travelled to the Omashu Port via the monorail system. Atka had noted the increased interactions between Kann and Boncho; he assumed that they had made up.
Once they reached the port Boncho handed Atka a hastily prepared scroll that detailed all of the information they had about Forr's plans, as well as the initial plans for dealing with the threat. Boncho had also given Kann his helmet, which Kann had hardly taken off. Atka felt happy for his friend, having witnessed his lack of enthusiasm for meeting his father earlier on.
They departed the Earth Kingdom on a regular ferry that ran from Omashu to the Harbour City in the Fire Nation. It was a curious mix of Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation design with a large metal hull being contrasted with a largely wooden deck and cabin area. They had been travelling in it for a day when a storm hit, which had sent most of the passengers' meals overboard...
The blanket grey skies had given way too much bluer ones as the ferry approached the Fire Nation. They had been travelling along the coastline for a while now and had plenty of chances to take it in. The mountains and cliffs of the island country were a sight to behold, even Kann had recovered enough from the voyage to come outside and observe it.
They had passed through the Gates of Azulon about half an hour ago, the statue of the old Fire Lord still stood despite the ill feeling towards him from many in the Fire Nation. The gates hadn't been closed since the Day of Black Sun, in the dying days of the war.
Soon the Harbour City came into view. The city, like many, had grown significantly after the end of the war and it was now a large town, and a district of the capital, Zuko City. It was renamed after he came to power, following the tradition of the capital city taking on the name of the reigning Fire Lord.
The ship pulled into harbour and the two travellers got a chance to stretch their legs on dry land for the first time in two days. The weather was fine, the storm had long gone and the fresh sea air was still present in the city. The left the docks and made their way to the centre of the city.
"I think the cable car can take us into the capital," Kann said, pointing to a map they had found. "It's only up the road from here."
Atka nodded. "Let's go and meet the Fire Lord!"
The cable car was a regular service transporting passengers from the harbour into the main city, which was situated in the crater of an extinct volcano. The cable car took people right up the side of the mountain, cutting out the long winding path that many merchants have to take into the city.
The car came over the lip of the crater, giving them a view of the city for the first time. It was stunning, hundreds of red roofed buildings were bunched together, a large lake stood at the northern side of the crater. In the middle a large circular area was bare of any buildings, save for a big building in its very centre.
"I think that's the Royal Palace" Kann said as he indicated towards the central building.
Something caught Atka's eye on the other side of the crater. It was a large statue of an airbender, his staff was raised towards the city and he looked like he was protecting the city. Atka recognised him as Avatar Aang.
"Kann, is that who I think it is?" he said as he pointed at the statue.
"How am I supposed to know, I can't read minds..." Kann said pointedly.
Atka exasperated, "Is that Avatar Aang?"
"I think so, him and the Fire Lord were good friends weren't they?" Kann replied.
Atka looked at the statue for the rest of the journey.
The cable car stopped in the station, a grand but functional building. Atka and Kann got off and walked out of the station into the city. They were at the eastern end of the city and were standing on the central boulevard that led directly to the central plaza. The boulevard was clearly a social area as it was crowded with a great number of people, as well as merchants. The Royal Palace was clearly visible at the end of the boulevard, its central tower rose up into the sky like a mountain. They made their way towards it.
The walk was long but they soon reached the central plaza that surrounded the palace, it was difficult to be unimpressed by the structure that housed the ruling family of the Fire Nation.
"Not bad," said Kann, his hands on his hips. "Just one problem, how do we get in?"
"There's a gate right in front of us" Atka said, slightly annoyed
Kann frowned, "Yes, but how do actually get to see the Fire Lord. This place looks pretty well guarded."
Atka walked up to the large metal gate in the wall and talked to one of the armoured guards standing by it, "Hello, I need to speak to the Fire Lord."
The guard looked at him as if he had said something stupid, "Yeah sure, come on in! It's not as if I have better things to do than let every single man, woman and child into the home of the most important person in the Fire Nation!" the guard mocked.
Atka turned away red faced.
Kann didn't offer much in the way of sympathy. "You are such a smooth talker," he said with a smirk.
Atka looked angrily at his friend, "Why don't you try then!"
Kann tried not to laugh as his friend stomped past him, "Just play the old Avatar card again, never fails!"
Atka turned around and walked back towards the guard, "I need to speak to the Fire Lord because I'm the Ava..."
The guard cut across him, "Go away!"
"I'm the Ava..." Atka continued
The guard produced a flame from his hand and aimed it at Atka, stopping before it reached his face, "Am I going to have to arrest you?" he said sternly.
Atka quickly shook his head and turned back away from the palace, dragging Kann with him. They stopped inside a café and ordered two cups of tea.
"Why can we never get into anywhere..." Kann asked himself, "First Omashu, now here..." he took a sip of his jasmine tea.
Atka sulked with his head resting on his hand. "We could try breaking in," he said sarcastically.
Kann swallowed the rest of his tea. "Do you know anyone in the Fire Nation?" he asked Atka.
"There is one person, Ambassador Iroh, but he could be anywhere in the world" Atka said sadly.
Kann groaned, "Why is this so difficult!?" he said loudly
The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes; Kann had ordered a second cup of tea whilst Atka had barely started his first. Atka then spotted something coming along the boulevard, it looked like a palanquin and a small entourage surrounded it.
Atka grinned. "I think this may be our ticket inside the palace" he pointed to the palanquin.
Kann also allowed himself a smile. "A royal by the looks of those guards, very nice."
They left some money on the table and ran outside to observe the party that was heading towards the palace gates. Fortunately the palanquin was rather slow so it was easy for Atka and Kann to keep up with. They tried to see who was behind the veil; they were wearing simple red robes and a tall hat. Atka smiled again, he knew who it was.
"Ambassador Iroh!" he called, waving at the man, who glanced towards Atka
A guard stepped between him and the palanquin. "Move along citizen," he said in a low gruff voice.
Atka jumped up and waved his arms, the palanquin stopped and the veil was moved aside.
Iroh stepped out, "Atka?" he asked, slightly confused
Atka brushed past the guard and stood in front of Iroh, "It's good to see you again, Ambassador Iroh." Atka bowed to him.
Iroh returned the bow. "Likewise, but what are you doing here?" he asked.
"We have to speak with the Fire Lord, we have incredibly important information for him" Atka spoke seriously
Iroh studied him for a moment, "Very well, come with me" he guided Atka to walk with him before he stopped. "Your friend can come too by the way." He smiled at Kann.
One of the guards walked up to Iroh. "Sir, would you like to use the palanquin?"
Iroh looked at him with an annoyed expression. "I don't need to ride in that thing, I'm not even sure why we have too. It's not far to the palace, I'm more than happy to walk." He walked on with Atka and Kann in tow.
They had easily passed through the gates and were walking inside the compound where the palace was situated. It was an incredibly imposing structure up close. They made their way inside the palace, into a large room.
To their left three people stood, one was wearing a red tunic with gilded armour; he had long grey hair and a thin moustache. The other two wore full suits of armour and had traditional Fire Nation haircuts, although one had a long beard. They all turned to Atka and the rest as they went past, the grey haired one walked towards them.
"You're back already, brother?" he asked
Iroh stopped. "Indeed, Mizan, I've been at sea for the last three months. I thought you would have been expecting me."
Mizan opened his arms. "Well I am delighted to welcome my brother back home!"
"Thank you, Mizan, but we must speak with the Fire Lord." Iroh began to move again.
Mizan called after them, "May I ask who these two are?" he was speaking about Atka and Kann.
Iroh stopped but didn't look back. "That doesn't matter at the moment, now if you don't mind I would like to speak with father..."
They walked down the long corridor and came to a large set of doors, guarded by two soldiers. Iroh nodded at the soldiers and they opened the door to let him in.
The throne room was big and imposing, at one end was the throne itself. On it sat an old man with a scar on the left hand side of his face, he had white hair and a long beard. He was sat on the throne with a scroll and a quill in his hand, and he looked rather bored.
He smiled up as Iroh approached. "Iroh! It is brilliant to see you again!" he said happily
Iroh started to bow but the Fire Lord stopped him. "No need, you're my son and you don't need to bow to me!" he got up from his throne and made his way towards his son, he gave him a quick hug.
Iroh had a smile on his face. "It's good to be home."
The Fire Lord noticed Atka and Kann, "And who are these two?" he asked
Kann stepped forward confidently, "My name is Kann, of the Earth Kingdom!" he declared
Zuko nodded uncertainly, "And you?" he asked Atka
Atka gave a quick bow. "I am Atka, of the Southern Water Tribe."
Iroh interjected, "He's the Avatar father."
Zuko's eyebrows raised. "The Avatar? It is an honour!" he bowed to Atka.
"It's an honour to meet you as well," Atka said.
Zuko returned to the throne and beckoned to the three others to come closer. "Now what are you doing here?" he asked.
Atka spoke strongly, "We have information about a potential attack on the Colonies by an Earth Kingdom force. We are trying to get an alliance together to defend the Colonies, for that we need the Fire Nation's support."
Zuko put his hands together on his chin and sat thinking, "Iroh, do you mind getting one the guards to call Mizan and Roku in here?" he asked.
Iroh nodded and went outside the throne room, coming back in soon after. Ten minutes past and two people walked in, Mizan, and a stocky shorter person next to him with greying hair and sideburns.
"Thank you joining us," said Zuko.
The new arrivals knelt down on the cushions, next to Atka, Kann and Iroh.
Roku looked along the line of people with a confused look on his face. "May I ask why you have called us here father?"
Zuko left the throne and knelt down in front of the five people in front of him, he gave a sigh, "The Avatar here has brought concerning news from the Earth Kingdom; apparently they are planning to attack the Colonies."
Mizan perked up, "We must do something then!" he declared, "We must put our forces into the Colonies to defend them!"
Zuko put his hand out to stop him. "Calm down Mizan," he said, "Let's hear what the Avatar has to say" he looked at Atka.
Atka looked down at the floor and spoke, "An old Earth Kingdom general named Forr has put together an alliance of high profile military figures in the Earth Kingdom, I think he wants to drive the Fire Nation out the Colonies and bring them back under complete control of the Earth Kingdom."
Mizan stood up, "We must fight back, send troops in and keep the Colonies with the Fire Nation!"
Roku looked sternly at his brother, "The Colonies are not our property Mizan, they belong to both the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom."
"Quiet! Both of you!" Zuko said loudly, "Iroh, do you have anything to say?"
Iroh shrugged, "I believe we should deal with this diplomatically."
Mizan taunted his youngest sibling, "Of course you would, you have no backbone!"
"Mizan! I've spent more time in the Colonies than both if you. I agree with Iroh, military force would be the wrong move" Roku retorted
Zuko stood up, "Mizan, you must calm down. You will be leading this country one day, you need to learn restraint!"
Then Atka spoke, "I'm not sure about this..." Everyone else in the room looked at him, he looked up and spoke again, "Our allies in the Earth Kingdom are trying to raise some sort of force to protect the Colonies from this attack."
"Which is why we're here" Kann finished the sentence, "We need the support of the Fire Nation to combat this threat!"
Zuko sat back down, "Who are these allies?" he asked
Kann answered, "Captain Boncho of the 45th Squadron, the military of Omashu and..." Kann couldn't think of anyone else.
Atka took over, "Possibly General Bumi and another Earth Kingdom general."
Zuko looked concerned, "Possibly?" asked.
Atka and Kann looked at each other, "Well we're not really sure who's on our side. We believe two members of the Council of Five were against Forr's plan, we think that Bumi was most likely one of the two," said Atka
Roku groaned, "If that's all you have then the Fire Nation couldn't possibly support you," he looked straight at Atka, "The situation in the Colonies is complicated. The Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom govern them jointly, I represent the Fire Nation over there. If we wanted to put an army inside the borders we would need the support of the citizens."
Kann spoke to Roku, "Great, so just organise a vote and we can march right in."
Roku groaned again. "It's not that simple, I said it was a complicated situation. Within the Colonies there are three distinct ethnic groups, the Fire Nation citizens, the Earth Kingdom citizens and the neutral mixed in citizens. The oldest of the Colonies have been around for nearly two hundred years, that's a lot of time for families to have both Fire and Earth nation members in them. However, some families have managed to remain fully Fire or Earth and they often hold the view that the Colonies should belong to their own nation."
The room was silent until Iroh spoke; "The neutral families want to have their own nation, where they can just live in peace with anyone. It's an incredibly tense part of the world and it can spread over into violence between the each of those ethnic groups. We'd never be able to get an agreement between each of the parties there. Diplomacy with the Earth Kingdom is the only way to ensure peace."
"Then we are in agreement, I must gather my advisors to discuss our next course of action" Zuko said, "Mizan, Roku, Iroh, please come back here in two hours" his sons stood up and bowed before turning around and going towards the exit.
Atka stood up, "Wait! Can I ask you for a favour?"
Zuko nodded, "Hang on" he called to his three sons, "What is it Atka?"
Atka spoke clearly, "I was wondering if there was someone here who could teach me firebending."
Roku was asked to take Atka and Kann to his home, which was adjacent to the Palace outside the walls. It was a large mansion and served as the home to Roku and his family. There was a small group of guards outside it who guarded the mansion and its grounds.
They were led inside the house where Roku's wife, Mira, greeted them. She was a tall woman with long brown hair, she had a warm smile and spoke softly.
"Hello, Roku," she said as they walked in. "And hello guests." She smiled at Atka and Kann.
Roku stood next to his wife, "This is Avatar Atka and his friend Kann, and they're going to be staying with us for a while."
Atka and Kann bowed, "Thank you for allowing us to stay here ma'am" Atka said
Mira laughed slightly. "Ma'am! Well, it's lovely to have someone with such nice manners staying with us, but please call me Mira." She bowed her head briefly.
Roku beckoned the two others to follow him into the garden, there were three youths practicing their firebending. Two of them were sparring who looked very similar to each other, a boy and a girl. The girl had light brown hair tied into a thick ponytail with two bangs either side of her face. The boy also had light brown hair but his was shorter and a fringe hung over his left eye. The two were of similar height and build and Atka guessed that they were twins.
A third youth was meditating by a small pond and was controlling a set of candles around him by making the flames grow and shrink as he inhaled and exhaled. He looked older than the other two and had bigger spiked hair and a small goatee beard on his chin.
The two sparring twins were still going at it and they were easily matching each other. Until a slight trip from the boy allowed the girl to strike several flames down low to his feet, causing him to lose his footing and falling over.
The girl cheered, "Woohoo! 4-3 to Akeme!" she put her hands up in the sky before helping her brother up.
"Lucky..." he said before poking his tongue out at her.
Akeme returned the tongue and laughed her way over to where Roku stood with Atka and Kann.
Roku looked impressed, "Not bad Akeme, not bad at all," he called over to the boy, "Hurry up Masaru!" the boy jogged to his father.
Masaru stood next to Akeme, "How would you rate that Dad?" he asked
Roku went into a stance as he made his point, "You need to be stronger on your feet, you get knocked over to easily. Keep a strong stance and you won't be moved."
Kann stepped forward. "It's like earthbending, if you aren't as strong as a rock then you can't bend one."
Roku was impressed by Kann, "Indeed, in fact I think you two can learn from our earthbender friend, learn about stances from him and apply them to your own bending. I mean both of you by the way!"
Akeme looked at Atka, "Err Dad. Who's this guy?"
Roku pulled Atka forward, "This is Atka, and he's from the Southern Water Tribe. He also happens to be the Avatar."
Akeme and Masaru snapped back into attention, "Do you want us to teach him firebending!" they shouted enthusiastically in unison.
Roku was unmoved; "No," he said shortly, "I'm going to ask Piazzo to do that."
Akeme and Masaru tried to hide their disappointment but didn't do a very good job.
Kann took Akeme and Masaru to another corner of the garden to work on their stances, while Roku led Atka to the meditating youth, Piazzo.
"Piazzo, I would like to introduce you to the Atka, he's the Avatar and I would like you to teach him firebending" Roku said to him
Piazzo opened his eyes and stood up, he was quite tall. He spoke with a natural authority, "Atka, I'm pleased to meet you."
"You too..." said Atka
Roku stepped back, "I'll leave you to it" he turned around and went back into the house.
Atka scratched his head, "Soooo...when do we start?"
Piazzo smiled. "Not quite yet! It's late, let's enjoy the sun out here and watch your friend teach my little brother and sister how to stand up!" he laughed.
Atka laughed with him as they sat down. He felt like he was going to get on well with the tall fire bender.
For the collective works of the author, go here.