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|The Legend of Atka: Chapter 9 - The Phoenix Rises - Part One|
Book 1: The Journey
The two firebenders moved in complete unison as they worked through a series of movements, shooting fire out at the end of each form. It was poetry in motion and the small gathered audience was transfixed on their movements.
After a final burst of movement the two of them crossed over each other, breaking the symmetry, and shoot a final burst of flame from their outstretched hands.
"Excellent my pupil" said Piazzo as he bowed to Atka
Atka returned the bow, "Thank you master Piazzo"
Kann, Masaru, Akeme, Roku and Mira were wall sat to the side of the training grounds and they all seemed impressed by the display.
Kann whooped, "Great job Atka!"
Roku nodded with approval, "I must admit that you have improved hugely over the last couple of weeks"
Atka smiled at everyone watching, "Thanks. I appreciate that!"
Piazzo put his hand on Atka's shoulder, "I'm impressed with you Atka, you're still some way from mastering firebending but if you keep this up you'll be there in no time"
Roku stood up, "Well I think you've earned some time off, wouldn't you agree Piazzo?" he asked, Piazzo nodded in response. "Tonight is the Fire Festival and you and Kann are the guests of honour"
Kann face lit up, "A festival, with food and dancing?" he said brightly
Mira chuckled, "Plenty of food and dancing, it's a great party involving everyone in the city"
Akeme smiled, "You'll both love it, there's stuff happening all over the city. The big feast in the palace is the best part"
"Sound great!" Atka said enthusiastically.
"You have to look your best though!" Mira said slightly sternly.
Atka and Kann's faces fell, after a long time traveling they had foregone smart clothes. Atka spoke with trepidation, "We don't have any smart or formal clothes..."
Mira thought for a second, "I think Iroh might have some things he picked up in his travels, I'd rather you wore something from your nations rather than Fire Nation clothes. Go and find him in the house down the road"
"Follow me" said Iroh; he led Kann and Atka into a backroom of his house. The room was medium sized and contained a large amount of artefacts from all four nations, including weaponry, tools and clothes.
"This place is amazing!" Kann said
"Thank you Kann, this is just a few of the things I have picked up over the years. Some of these things are incredibly rare, this headdress for instance..." he pointed out a golden headdress that was hanging on a stand, "This is from the Sun Warrior civilisation, they are incredibly secretive and they were long thought to be extinct. I managed to contact them through the Fire Lord, who once met them"
Atka interrupted, "That's really cool but can we find something for me and Kann to wear tonight?"
"Of course!" said Iroh, "I have plenty of ceremonial robes from both the Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom" he picked out a green silk robe, "I acquired this one when I visited Ba Sing Se not too long ago" it was a long, deep green one piece robe, it had golden patterns on it as well as a golden shawl which covered the shoulders. "This is normally worn during high class functions in the upper ring of Ba Sing Se. It would look perfectly in place in at the Fire Festival" he handed it to Kann who took it behind a screen to put it on.
He stepped out from behind it with a flourish, it looked very smart. "This is really nice, it would go brilliantly with my dads helmet..." Kann said as he inspected himself in a nearby mirror
Iroh looked pleased, "I'm glad that you like it, better take it off for now"
Kann took his off and Iroh returned with a blue robe, "This is yours, its from the Southern Tribe and is normally worn during the Glacier Spirits Festival"
Atka took it and inspected it; he had seen similar robes in the past. It was made up of many shades of blue; a lighter blue made up the lower half whilst the upper body was darker. A navy blue shawl covered the shoulders; this was lined with white fur.
Atka put it on behind the screen, he stepped out and looked in the mirror, "I like it" he said. "I've seen robes like this before at the Spirits Festival"
Iroh again looked pleased, "Excellent, I'll get someone to take these over to your room for later. Make sure you arrive at the Royal Plaza early, you'll miss a lot otherwise"
Atka and Kann thanked Iroh and left his house, looking forward to the evening.
Atka was stood downstairs with Kann and Roku; they were waiting for the rest of the family to come downstairs so they could leave for the Royal Plaza. Roku was wearing royal robes that consisted of an armoured shoulder cover, which was lined with gold, and a lower robe, which was cloth and was also gold lined.
Piazzo entered the room; he was wearing similar clothes to his father. "The others not down yet then?" he asked
"Nope" Roku said shortly.
Piazzo sighed, "They better get a move on..."
As he said this Masaru entered the room. Unlike his father and brother he didn't wear the royal robes. He'd opted for a lighter fitting shirt and waistcoat combo that were deep red and black with gold lining along the lapels.
Kann smiled, "Looks great Mas!" he said
"You're looking good yourself Kann" he replied, "Very formal"
Mira followed Masaru and she too wore royal robes. The only difference with her clothes was that here shoulder coverings were made of cloth rather than armour.
Roku kissed his wife lightly, "Beautiful..." he said.
Piazzo jokingly put two fingers in his mouth to simulate gagging. Atka tried to hold in his giggles.
Soon afterwards Akeme entered the room, Atka felt his jaw fall as she walked in. She was wearing a long red dress with a red, belly-revealing top. A thin silk like material was attached between her shoulders and wrists. Her hair was done up in a high bun and she wore a gold necklace.
Mira was flushed, "You look absolutely wonderful Akeme" she said with pride.
Akeme giggled; "I was worried that I'd over done it" she twirled around showing off her outfit.
Mira went over to straighten Akeme's hair band, "Not at all, you look stunning darling"
Roku coughed, "Whilst its lovely to be praising each other we should really get a move on to the Royal Plaza, there should be palanquins waiting outside for us.
They moved outside the house and there were 4 palanquins waiting for them, as well as a fancily dressed woman.
"Ah!" said Piazzo, puffing out his chest, "Here's my lovely lady" he walked briskly over to her and hugged her.
She had dark skin and dark brown hair; she wore a scarlet dress with a vest like top that was attached around her neck.
"You took your time" she said with a smile
Piazzo laughed, "Sorry, had to wait for some people to get ready" he indicated behind him towards the others.
Roku approached her, "Its lovely to see you Hikari, don't let him get into any trouble" he added with a sly grin.
Hikari giggled, "I'll make sure, don't worry"
Akeme went up to her next, "You look lovely Hikari!" she said enthusiastically
Hikari looked flattered, "I could say exactly the same about you! That silk is just beautiful!" she felt the silk that hung by Akeme's arms.
Masaru coughed impatiently, "Can we get a move on!" he said
The palanquins held two people each, Roku and Mira went into the front one, Piazzo and Hikari took the second, followed by Masaru and Kann in the one behind that.
Akeme grabbed Atka's wrist and pulled him into the back palanquin, "I think you're accompanying me to the festival" she said with a giggle.
Atka smiled and made himself comfortable inside the palanquin. It was lined with cushions and veils made it impossible to look inside them.
The streets were adorned with lights and decorations; they had really put an effort into making the city look its very best.
"Do you like it?" Akeme asked
"I love it! It's like the Glacier Spirits Festival back home. They decorate the streets with all sorts of things, and then there's the big feast in the palace afterwards" Atka said enthusiastically.
Akeme moved closer to Atka, "You'll love the plaza. It's normally reserved for big royal dos like weddings and coronations. But tonight its full of stalls and entertainers, there's always something special going on..." she had an excited look in her eyes.
"Is it okay for us to walk around?" Atka asked, "You know, because you're like important..."
Akeme laughed, "Of course it is! There're so many people around that we just blend in, why do you think I wore something like this?" she held her arms up, "If it weren't for the gold bits you wouldn't know it was being worn by royalty"
The palanquin journey continued around the palace and down the central boulevard. They stopped in the concourse of the cable car station, which Atka had seen just a couple of weeks earlier.
Atka got out the palanquin, followed by Akeme,
"You're supposed to help a princess out of her palanquin. That's common courtesy" Akeme said seriously.
Atka felt hurt by this, "Oh...sorry"
Akeme smiled, "But I'm more than happy to make exceptions" she grabbed Atka's arm and they both walked to where the rest of her family were.
There was a cable car waiting for them, it was a much fancier vehicle than the one Atka arrived in. It had a red pagoda style roof and was adorned with gold. The interior was comfy and had cushions in it, like the palanquins. They sat down in their pairs inside the car as it started to move off.
Roku cleared his throat and spoke to everyone inside the carriage, "We have four hours until the we have to be back at the palace for the feast, me and Mira will be heading up early so everyone else needs to keep an eye on the time and be back at the cable car as early as possible. Other than that, to our guests especially, enjoy yourselves!"
The cable car had taken a different route to the public one, it had stopped at the top of a large stone structure in between the two halves of the harbour city, this was the top of the Plaza tower.
Everyone got off the carriage and they were greeted by two guards who took them through to a large room that overlooked the rest of the Plaza complex, mainly the huge stone road which ran up the from the seafront to the building they were currently in.
"Excellent! The rest of my family has arrived!" a voice said behind them, it was the Fire Lord. Iroh and Mizan, who were both wearing the same robes as Roku, flanked him.
The new arrivals bowed to Zuko.
"There is no need to bow to me here, this is supposed to be a celebration after all! And may I say how wonderful you all look!" Zuko said happily, he had a broad grin on his face.
Roku stepped forward, "Thank you father" he turned to the younger members of the group, "Now go and enjoy the Festival, but remember to be back in good time!"
The Plaza was a great mixing bowl of food stalls, entertainment and much more. Many small lamps of various colours lighted up the place and stalls were adorned with Fire Nation decorations and emblems. Piazzo and Hikari had already split from the group to do their own thing, so Kann, Masaru, Akeme and Atka were left standing in the middle of the Plaza trying to think of something to do.
"We could go and watch the firebending demonstrations, they're always good fun!" Masaru suggested
"I think Kann and Atka should go and look at the shadow puppets, let them take in some culture" Akeme suggested back
"How about we have a walk around all the stalls?" Atka said
Akeme and Masaru shrugged, "Fair enough" they said in unison
They walked with each other down the centre of the Plaza; there was a lot of activity going on around them. Children ran around screaming, adults were sampling the great variety of food on offer, and elderly couple simply walked around with happy smiles on their faces as they took it all in.
Masaru suddenly grabbed Kann's hand, "Oh wait! I have something I need to show you, you'll love it don't worry!" he turned to Akeme, "You don't mind if we go off do you?" he asked
Akeme shook her head, "Not all, go and enjoy yourselves!" she replied
Masaru led Kann down a pathway to the left, between two food stalls, they were both laughing with each other.
Akeme put her arm around Atka's and pulled herself close, "Now they're gone we have a bit more freedom to do what we want!" she said.
Atka observed one particular stall, "What are fire flakes?" he asked
Akeme laughed, "They're a snack we eat here" she handed over a handful of coins to the vendor and picked up a bag, which she handed to Atka, he took out a few and ate them. The heat of them hit Atka rather hard but he soon got over that and they were rather tasty.
"These are good!' said Atka with a grin, "But they are quite hot!"
Akeme giggled, "Of course they are! Everything is hot in the Fire Nation!" she took out a handful from the bag at started to eat them.
After some time browsing the stalls and buying various items Akeme spoke to Atka, "Do you mind if I take you somewhere?"
Atka was confused, "Where?"
Akeme looked down, "I think you'll be interested in it, it's a really special place..."
Atka nodded, "Okay then."
Akeme smiled and took Atka's hand, she led him away from the Plaza and up a small winding path which went up the cliff to the side of the Plaza. Once they were up on the top of the cliff Akeme led Atka down a cobbled path towards the ocean. At the end of the path stood a small fountain with a plaque in the middle.
"Read it..." Akeme said pointing to the plaque
Atka moved in closer to it and read the plaque,
'In commemoration of the Water Tribe and Earth Kingdom forces who landed on the shores of this nation in 100AG, on the Day of Black Sun'
"The Day of Black Sun? I know about this! Chief Sokka led a group of soldiers with his father Hakoda and Avatar Aang. The invasion failed because Fire Lord Ozai hid inside some tunnels underneath the Royal Palace..." he turned to Akeme, "Why did you bring me up here?"
Akeme shrugged, "Its an important place, believe it or not, it cemented the friendship between the Southern Water Tribe and the Fire Nation. Chief Sokka suggested that this fountain should be built to commemorate the day that Ozai was nearly defeated"
Atka had a stern look on his face, "But why celebrate nearly defeating someone?"
"Because they came closer than anyone thought they would, it showed the world that the Fire Nation wasn't to be feared as much as they thought, that they could end the war..." Akeme said. She walked past Atka and sat on one of the benches. "It's also got one of the best views in the city..."
Atka sat next to her on the bench and looked down over the harbour and the end of the Plaza, she was right. Atka spent some time taking in all of the details while Akeme moved in close to him and eventually she held his hand.
"I love it up here..." she said softly, "I've really enjoyed tonight Atka, thank you" she planted a kiss on his cheek.
Atka blushed, "Yeah, I've enjoyed tonight as well..."
Akeme brushed up closer and placed a hand on his cheek, she turned his head towards hers and kissed him. Atka was conflicted, he didn't quite know how to respond but he still closed his eyes as the kiss happened.
Suddenly, from below, there was large explosion. Atka broke off the kiss and opened his eyes just in time to see a large plume of smoke billow up from the wall near the Plaza tower. Soon after this large flames were being produced down on the Plaza itself.
Atka jumped up and ran towards the edge of the cliff where it met the Plaza wall. He produced a small earth platform and held onto Akeme, "Hold tight" he said loudly. They slid down the cliff on the platform with Atka's earthbending.
Once they reached the bottom they got an idea of what had just happened, there was a large hole in the wall near the bottom of the Plaza building. This meant that there was no way of reaching the cable car to the city.
Up on the hill there was another explosion, a smaller one. One of the towers with held the cable wire up collapsed. There was now no way of getting into the city. Along the Plaza there was a group of heavily robed firebenders causing havoc amongst the stalls. Members of the public were fleeing towards the harbour, but rather than follow them, Atka ran up the Plaza towards the firebenders.
He kept close to the wall with Akeme behind him, he didn't want to be spotted by the seemingly ruthless Fire Benders.
He turned to Akeme, "Stay quiet okay, we need to find the others..."
Akeme nodded and they kept moving. They soon reached a fairly open area and they cautiously walked out into it.
"Hey!" a gruff voice shouted. They both turned to see one of the robed firebenders get into a stance ready to fire, "These are two more of them!" he shouted.
He shot a flame towards them but Atka earthbended a rock out of ground to deflect it. Akeme jumped out from behind the rock and shot her own fire back at the man, but he blocked them easily. He got ready to shoot more fire but a flying boulder coming from the right hand side knocked him down. Kann stepped out and brushed his hands, he was followed by Masaru,
"Evening!" he said brightly, "Nice to see you've finally arrived"
Atka's face was serious, "No time for joking Kann, this is quite serious"
Akeme turned to her brother, "Where's Piazzo?" she asked
Masaru shook his head, "They've got him and Hikari. We saw them being taken back towards the Plaza tower"
"I think we have more pressing matters!" Kann cried. Two more robed firebenders arrived.
"Give yourselves up!" one of the shouted, "The Phoenix has risen! You have no place here!"
They were stood about 10 metres away and Atka assumed they were very skilled at firebending. He readied himself to strike.
"Attack in 3...2...1..." Atka shot fire at them, Akeme and Masaru followed suit.
For a split second it looked as if they had done some damage, but the firebenders had both simply bended the fire around them and they were getting ready to fire to straight back.
Kann sensed the danger and raised an earth platform, which he pushed backwards towards the tower.
Once the platform had gone some way away from the firebenders Kann stopped it and they got off. There was a mumbling not too far away from them, they looked over a pole and saw Piazzo and Hikari chained up and gagged. Atka went over to them but Piazzo's mumbling got more desperate, Atka stopped. He felt a heat to his left; a firebender was preparing to deliver a blow. There was a trough of water near so Atka bended the water in it to block the flame before it hit him. He then used a water whip to knock him out; he made sure he wouldn't get up by pinning his hands down with earthbending. He quickly untied Piazzo and Hikari.
"We have to get to the palace" Piazzo said with exasperation, "I don't think these attackers have got up to the main city yet"
"That's going to be easier said than done, this place is crawling with those robed guys," Atka said.
Kann shouted from Atka's left, "Guys! We've got company!"
Atka and Piazzo ran back into the middle, there were firebenders flanking either side. They had blocked off the path to the harbour and the path to the Plaza building.
Three more arrived behind Piazzo and Atka, pushing them into the centre of the Plaza. There was no way of escaping.
One of the firebenders stepped forwards, "Give yourselves up! The reign of Fire Lord Zuko is over. The Fire Nation shall rise from his ashes on wings of flame!" he shouted.
Atka whispered to his friends, "We can take these guys..."
But Piazzo shook his head, "No, we'd be destroyed if we tried to fight"
Atka turned to his firebending instructor, "I'm not going to go down without a fight"
The firebenders closed in around them with their fists raised. There was little time to make a decision, they either fought back or be arrested.
Suddenly there was a cry from the surrounding stalls as groups of people jumped out and attacked the robed benders with their own firebending. They were a mixed group of civilians, partygoers and soldiers.
Atka and his group sensed the opportunity to strike as well, they joined in with the attack on the robed benders. Piazzo and his siblings displayed some incredibly skilled firebending as they worked together to take down a handful of the attackers. Atka and Kann used earthbending to take down some more.
The attackers were soon defeated and a soldier came up to Piazzo, "Prince Piazzo" he said with a slight bow, "We have cleared a safe path to the docks, we can evacuate everyone to a safe location"
Piazzo nodded and went to Hikari, "I don't want anything happening to you. Please go to the docks and get out of here" he said softly
Hikari sniffed, "You're right, I'm not a bender, I'd be no use to you against these...these...these people..." she hugged Piazzo, "But I don't anything to happen to you either. Please stay safe for me, I love you" she kissed Piazzo and went off with a couple of soldiers down the Plaza.
Piazzo turned to Masaru and Akeme, "You two go as well..." he said
"No way!" Akeme said forcefully, "I'm not some girly princess you know, I can fight just as well as you can!"
Masaru nodded in agreement, "Besides, our family is in danger. I'm not just going to run away from that!"
Kann joined in, "They're the same age as me and Atka, if we're being allowed to fight then why aren't they?"
Piazzo sighed with frustration, "Right that's it! Kann, Akeme and Masaru, you three are getting out of here. I'm not taking responsibility for any of you getting hurt!"
Akeme faced Atka with a mixture of anger and sadness in her eyes, "What do you think we should do, Avatar?"
Atka was facing the ground in deep thought, "I don't want any of you getting hurt..." he said quietly. Akeme's face turned to anger. Atka continued, "But this is your fight as much as ours, you can all handle yourselves and I think you have a right to join us" he looked up at them, "I wouldn't ever go into a battle without you by my side!"
Akeme, Kann and Masaru all ran up to Atka and hugged him, Piazzo looked on with his arms crossed.
Piazzo spoke, "Fine, if you want to come, you can. But I want you all to be careful!"
Kann grinned, "Come and join the group hug then!"
Piazzo frowned, "I'm 20 years old..."
Kann's grin spread to the others as they opened a gap in their hug for him.
With a sigh and a smile, Piazzo joined the hug. The sun had set over the city leaving a red smudge in the sky, things in the Fire Nation were about to change.
For the collective works of the author, go here.