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|The Legend of Atka: Chapter 8 - Fanning the Flames|
Book 1: The Journey
It was a bright morning and Piazzo had led Atka down to a training ground next to the palace. It was set out like a courtyard with the inside surrounded by pillared walls and sloping red roofs. At one end of the training ground was Mizan with a tall man with long black hair. The man was generating large flames from his hands while Mizan was giving him stern instructions.
"More ferocious! You must strike with all your strength!" he shouted
The man obliged and created much larger flames than before.
Mizan shouted with glee, "Perfect Takato!" Mizan turned around to face Piazzo and Atka, "Ah welcome young Avatar, come to learn the ways of firebending!"
Atka nodded uncertainly, "Yeah, Piazzo's teaching me."
Mizan looked slightly surprised, "Oh? Well there is no reason why you couldn't learn with us" he held his arm out towards Takato, who had his arms crossed with a frown on his face.
Piazzo stepped in, "I think we'll be fine" he pulled Atka to the other end of the training ground and sat down, Atka sat down opposite him. "Don't mind my uncle, I've never trusted him..."
Atka looked over to where they were standing, "Who's the other guy?"
Piazzo faced behind him, following Atka's gaze "That's Takato, Mizans son and my cousin. He'll be the Fire Lord one day, hopefully that day is a long way away..."
Atka looked back at Piazzo, "Why? Don't you trust him either?" he asked
Piazzo sighed, "Its not that, he's scary. He's dedicated to the Fire Nation no doubt, but that's not really a good thing when you study the ways of Sozin, Azulon and Ozai..." he looked seriously at Atka, "He's dangerous..."
Atka had more questions, "What about Mizan, is he dangerous as well?"
Piazzo looked uncomfortable, "He's a complicated man..." he then put a smile on his face, "Anyway, let's do what we're here to do!"
Atka smiled, "Firebending! Finally!"
Piazzo generated a small flame on the palm of his hand, "Fire is often misunderstood. People believe that if you lose control it burns and destroys" Piazzo grew the flame, "Fire is more connected its user than any other element, it reacts to your emotions. If your emotions are out of control then you will find fire hard to control as well. But, if you are in control..." he shot the fire into the sky, "You can do things you wouldn't even imagine!"
Atka looked on in wonder, he couldn't wait to begin, "So how do we start?"
Piazzo laughed, "I'm afraid its going to be the very basics for now" he stood up, "Now let's get into a stance and breath in and out. Fire is generated from the breath and from the stomach, control over these is critical."
Atka got into a stance and began breathing as Piazzo had said.
After 6 hours of going over basic concepts and movements Piazzo told Atka to take a break. Takato and Mizan were still going at it as hard as before, and showing no signs of slowing down.
Kann entered the training ground followed by Masaru; they were carrying a tray of tea to Piazzo and Atka.
"How's the fire shooting going?" Kann said as he placed the tray down
Atka picked up a cup of tea and took a sip, "I think we're doing well, what do you think Piazzo?"
Piazzo had also taken a cup, "Definitely, you've picked up the basics really quickly. We'll spend a bit more time perfecting them and we'll be ready to get onto actual techniques."
Masaru sat down next to Kann, "I think you'll pick things up quickly, Piazzo taught me some stuff a few years ago and I got that easily, he's a great teacher!"
Piazzo grinned at his younger brother, "Thanks very much Mas! Where's Akeme by the way?" he asked "She's with Uncle Iroh, I did ask if she wanted to come with me and Kann around the city but she went off with Iroh to do...something..." Masaru replied
Piazzo probed further, "What have you and Kann been doing all morning?"
Masaru and Kann smiled, "You know, seeing the sights, enjoying each others company. The usual stuff!" Masaru said with a light tone to his voice.
Kann grinned, "I think we've really hit it off! I love this place! Its so much better than the Earth Kingdom" he put an arm around Masaru's shoulder and they both smiled.
Piazzo shook his head with a smile on his face, "Ah, well I'm glad you're having fun" he put his empty cup back on the tray.
Atka looked at Kann and Masaru, "You'll have to take me on a tour one day Masaru. I'd love to see the rest of the city."
"You can call me Mas, everyone else does" he looked at Kann, "My diary's rather full at the moment, but I'll take you around at some point!" he said.
Masaru and Kann laughed with each other while Atka and Piazzo looked on in confusion.
"Anyway I think we better go" Kann said as he and Masaru got up, "We're going to the lake next" They both left through the main gate.
Atka watched them leave, "What was that about?" he said
Piazzo stood up, "Well they're clearly getting on well" he lowered his voice, "Very well..."
Atka turned to Piazzo, "What do you mean?" he asked.
"Can't you tell?" Piazzo said, "I thought the Avatar would be more perceptive..."
Atka sounded slightly annoyed, "I'm perceptive! Just tell me what you think's going on!"
"Calm down!" Piazzo said with a grin, "I thought Kann would have told you that's all..."
Atka looked down, "Told me what?"
Piazzo calmed his voice, "Kann's gay, I thought you would have noticed."
Atka felt a like his stomach had been hit, "Gay...everything makes sense now!" Atka smiled as everything dawned on him, "That's why he was sent away to the barracks, and why Oska hated him so much! How didn't I see this earlier!"
Piazzo laughed, "Hey I only guessed that because Mas is as well, I just put two and two together! I'm happy for Mas though, I'm glad he's found someone."
"Its so different to opinions in the Earth Kingdom, Kann was banished from his family for it..." Atka said with a hint of sadness.
Piazzo put a comforting hand on Atka's shoulder, "I'm sure things are changing, everywhere is different after all" he took his hand off, "Now let's try making fire!"
Atka stood opposite to his master, they were in the middle of the training ground as Mizan and Takato had moved over to the side.
"Remember your breathing and keep your emotions in check. You may not get this straight away so stay relaxed and focussed" Piazzo instructed, "Now get into you stance, we're going to start small."
Atka widened his legs and made himself as solid as possible, "Okay, I'm ready."
Piazzo nodded and mirrored Atka's stance, "Now focus your chi from your stomach, draw it up and produce a flame on your hand" Piazzo demonstrated
Atka breathed in and out, he then located the chi in his stomach and focussed on it. He drew it upwards and exhaled to produce the flame, or at least that was the theory. The only thing that Atka managed to create was a few sparks.
Atka was embarrassed at what he had managed, "Um...what happened?" he asked.
Piazzo looked lost, "I'm not really sure..."
Atka threw some punches in a vain attempt to produce fire, but he only shot more weak sparks out. Atka felt himself getting increasingly frustrated.
"I got earthbending so much quicker than this..." he said through gritted teeth.
Mizan stepped up, "Its quite obvious isn't it? You're a waterbender and fire is the opposite of water. Piazzo should have known this..." he sneered.
Piazzo confronted his uncle; "I know what I'm doing!" he turned away angrily
Mizan sighed mockingly, "Well I'll leave you both to it then, I have to meet with the Fire Lord. Come with me Takato!" he and his son both left the training grounds. Piazzo threw some fire at the ground in frustration, "Why does he have to stick his nose into everything!" he faced Atka with an enraged look in his eyes. "You are going to learn firebending if it's the last thing I do!" he said loudly
Atka's face was glazed; he hadn't seen Piazzo like this before. "Okay, but how are we going to get over this little problem. I think Mizan's right, I struggled with earthbending when I first started it, for the same reason."
Piazzo sighed with acceptance, "Okay, I think I have an idea". Piazzo pulled a bronze urn over to the middle of the training ground. It was filled with coal and Piazzo lit it with firebending. "I think you should try bending fire that's already there, that way it'll be more like waterbending."
Atka moved into his firebending stance and prepared himself to bend the fire in front of him. He moved his arms up as he focused on the flames. To his surprise the flames moved slightly, Atka grinned.
Piazzo also noticed the movement, "Perfect! Try again!" he said enthusiastically.
Atka repeated the movements and managed to bend the flame as if it was water, the fire moved in a continuous stream. Atka streamed it around himself before Piazzo took over control and bended it back into the urn.
"Amazing!" Piazzo cried, "This is great, now imagine how that fire felt while you were bending it. That's what you need to focus on when you try and create your own fire."
The sun was beginning to set over the horizon; Atka was getting tired after a long day of training.
"But for now we should get back to house, you've done really well today!" Piazzo said
It was another bright morning in the capital; Atka had got up early to practice his waterbending by the pond in the garden. He was practicing some intricate forms, mainly using small amounts of water, by changing the state of it to create ice needles. He floated the needles in front of him and fired them at a nearby tree; they landed in a perfectly straight line down the trunk. Atka breathed out and changed the now imbedded needles back into water, he bended tit back into the pond and walked back towards the house. He noticed Akeme standing on the veranda outside the door, she was wearing a light red dressing gown and it looked like she had only just got up.
"Morning!" Atka said cheerfully, "Were you watching me the whole time?"
Akeme yawned, "Not the whole time, I only saw you shoot those needles. It was very good by the way," she said with a smile.
Atka felt his cheeks go red, "Thanks..." he said with a wavering tone to his voice. "So um, do you always get up this early?" he asked.
"No, but it seems Kann does. He went into Mas's room a few minutes ago, they haven't stopped talking since" Akeme said forcing a grin.
Atka laughed, "Yeah, Kann does get up early. He likes to go for runs in the morning..."
There was an awkward silence whilst they both thought of something to say.
"Breakfast?" Akeme finally said.
"Yeah please, I'm starving!" said a relieved Atka and he followed Akeme into the house.
There were bowls of fruit laid out on the table so Atka grabbed an apple and bit into it. Akeme but some berries into a small bowl and sat down, Atka sat opposite her.
Atka tried to make conversation, "So...what's it like living here?" he said awkwardly.
Akeme spoke with a berry in her mouth, "Its nice, a bit dull though..." she ate another berry, "To be honest, you coming here is the most exciting thing that's happened for a while. Most of the time we just sit around going to the parties of the nobility," she said the last part with a hint of sarcasm.
"There must be more exciting things going on? Feasts, storytelling, fishing?" Atka said
Akeme laughed, "This isn't the South Pole you know! This place has a completely different culture to where you come from. Here I'm just a princess who the citizens have to look up to" she looked down in sadness, "I'd give anything to have an adventure, that's why I want to do what Uncle Iroh does! I'd be able to see the world and really make a difference!" she had a wistful look in her eyes.
Atka smiled, he admired Akeme's lust for adventure, as it was something that resonated with him when he was back home and lusted for becoming a Moon Guardian.
"By the way" Akeme said, "My uncle just came back from the western Earth Kingdom, he said he met some waterbenders there, and he brought back this..." she showed Atka her wrist. There was a carved wooden bracelet; it was joined together with bone beads. The main talisman had a symbol on it, a symbol that Atka knew well.
"The Moon Guardians!" Atka said joyfully, "Iroh met the Moon Guardians!" Atka's face was one of happy disbelief.
"Sorry, but who are the Moon Guardians?" Akeme asked.
Atka responded to this by showing her the backs of his hands, "The Moon Guardians are the an elite group of waterbenders from the Southern Tribe, I was a member of them until I had to leave for the Earth Kingdom, this is their symbol."
Akeme traced the symbol with her finger, "Yeah, it matches!" she also had a smile on her face, "Why do you think they were in the Earth Kingdom?"
Atka shrugged, "They go all over the place, but they may have been going to the Northern Water Tribe."
There was some thumping from above as somebody came down the stairs. It was Kann and Masaru, they were laughing with each other.
"Morning" Atka said.
"Yeah, morning. We're going out for a run, do you two want to come?" Kann asked.
Atka shook his head, "I've just been training and I need a break before I start firebending later."
"Okay, Akeme?" Kann turned to her
Akeme also shook her head, "No thanks..." she ate another handful of berries.
"Suit yourselves!" Kann said cheerfully, "Mas says he's got a really good route picked out!"
They both left the house laughing and chatting amongst themselves again.
Yet more banging came from the stairs as Piazzo walked down wearing a deep red dressing gown, and looking slightly moody. He too grabbed a bowl and filled it with berries before sitting down next to his younger sister.
"Are those two going to always talk that loud in the morning?" he said to no one in particular. He took an angry bite of berries.
Akeme sighed, "I hope not..."
Soon after Roku and Mira came down the stairs, unlike their children they were fully dressed. Mira made a pot of tea whilst Roku made up a bowl of fruit for them both.
Atka was curious, "Don't you have servants or anything? You are royalty after all..."
Roku gave a hearty laugh, "My father decided to cut back on the privileges soon after the war finished. He did it to increase the reputation of the Royal Family which, as you can imagine, had been dented somewhat following 100 years of warfare..."
Mira joined them at the table with a tray of tea, "To be honest it was Iroh's idea, not the Iroh you know, but the Fire Lords uncle Iroh. He had a philosophy that you have to appreciate the simple things before you can enjoy the privileges of life," she said.
"Exactly," Roku said. "By foregoing things like servants we can appreciate other things, like family and the peace we enjoy here."
Piazzo said sarcastically, "Although there are times when a couple of servants wouldn't go amiss..."
Later that day Atka made his way to the training grounds where Piazzo was waiting for him. He reached the entrance where he saw Mizan standing with two other men, both were wearing military armour with a gold Fire Nation insignia on.
"The Fire Festival is approaching, everyone will be..." Mizan stopped himself as Atka walked past and glared at him. "Good afternoon young Avatar!" he said slightly shiftily.
Atka nodded, "Good afternoon Prince Mizan" he continued on into the training grounds. Mizan and the other two walked away from the entrance.
Piazzo was stood in the middle of the training grounds waiting for him.
"Good, you're on time!" Piazzo said with a grin, "We're going to try creating your own fire today."
Atka smiled, he'd been waiting for this. "Great! Let's get started!" he jumped up slightly.
Piazzo created a flame in the palm of his hand, "Remember how the fire felt as you were bending it yesterday? That's what you need to conjure up inside yourself as you firebend" he banished the flame, "Give it a go..." he said taking a step back.
Inhaling and exhaling, Atka took a rigid stance and stretched his arms out in front of him. His left fist was extended out whilst his right was next to his ear.
"Good, now focus..." Piazzo said softly
Atka breathed deeply, he imagined the heat of the flame, its shape and its size. He imagined the power of fire and focused the chi from his stomach; he guided it through his body and thrust his right fist forward with a cry. Bright flame was thrown from his hand. Atka yelped with a mixture of surprise and delight.
"I did it! I actually did it!" he cried.
Piazzo looked equally shocked, "Wow, I didn't expect you to get that so quickly..." he smiled widely, "But we still have a long way to go!"
Outside the training grounds stood a heavily robed and hooded figure, it was hard to distinguish any features due to the amount of covering on him. On the back of the robe was an emblem, which depicted a fiery bird. He had been observing the two young people training; he had seen the Avatar firebend. He left his position as walked away; his master would be interested by this development.
For the collective works of the author, go here.