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|The Qomawyn Army|
24th of December, 2012
I opened my sore and wet eyes after a long rest; my tired self formed a rhythm with my gentle breathing and blurry vision.
As it faded, I looked around me, noticing I was lying down inside a very heavily broken adobe building; my ears tingling with what I could describe as far away drums going off alongside echoed voices of agony
I saw the blurry face of a nurse above me, I couldn't distinguish much about her, but judging by the color of her skin and hair, she most definitely wasn't from Qomawyn. I didn't know what she was doing, nor where I was, even if this was some sort of weird dream, like I had before with my mother.
I seem to have fallen asleep once more, because when I woke up again, it was the classic dark of midnight, and the nurse was nowhere to be found.
I looked around and saw that there were many injured men near me, lying in tiny beds with green sheets covering them, just like mine.
-Why am I in a hospital?- I thought while chilling on my sweaty clothes
I needed to find someone to explain what happened, so I tried to get the bed sheet off...but something felt...wrong...something that should be there but no longer isn't.
I couldn't grab it! I quickly became paranoid and scared, looking at my arms...all I saw were the handless stumps rubbing against the thing...
I Yelled in fear as hard as I humanly could, falling from the bed and struggling to get the thing off from me; "H-hey, keep quiet!" A female voice talked to me, but I was too "Stuck" in the moment and I continued squirming with the dirty rag, until I eventually hit the back of my head on the floor and stopped to hold my head together
"Quit rattling, you'll wake everyone up" the young woman nagged me, while, I assume, she took the cover off from me.
I was still scared, backed up to the nearest wall, inspecting my body. My legs where there, but my chest was covered in red tainted bandages...and my hands were still there...
-Oh brain, why must you be so treacherous!?- I yelled in me, groaning a bit from the newest lump on the back of my head
"Poor thing..." I looked up at the young nurse; she was definitely the one who took care of my wounds, except this time I could actually see her clear Water Tribe resemblance. Big ocean eyes and resembling hair decorations, a very nice and different sight for sore eyes indeed
She cleared my forehead of my slick and sweaty black hair and laid her hand on the aching soreness at my head; "You just got a big round bruise, even after I was done dealing with all of your mess!" She nagged, but with a sweet tone of voice, that didn't make it annoying.
"...Wait a second" I began thinking correctly, I had only gone to sleep on another guy's shoulder and...suddenly, I was in a hospital! "What happened, where am I?" I asked nervously
"SHHH I said!" She interrupted before I could make any more questions, checking if the nearby wounded woke up.
She sorta sighed with relief, rolling her eyes for my reactions; "Well, the Khanate ambushed the army with Moles..." She explained, looking back at the wounded in the ward; "Underground earthbenders...and yeah...they were kinda...absolutely deadly and destructive; most of the trucks were destroyed, and a lot of men were lost...I've been here all day, taking care of yo-...them..." She explained, looking around suspiciously, as if I hadn't heard her vocal mishap
My priorities immediately changed to Heng's and Iroh's wellbeing, I tried to stand up, but I was too weak and I ended up half-collapsing over the nurse before I even stood up. "Tsk, tsk, tsk" I heard her say while she sat me back down on the bed
I coughed harshly, feeling outward pressure inside my lungs; "You must rest, it was a miracle that you survived, the guard aboard your truck covered everyone he could with an Earth tent, protecting you from the blast and their attacks...most of your wounds were from the initial crash, so, you should thank him later..." She explained kindly.
"What blast?" I asked.
"Well, the trucks kinda went...KABOOM!" She explained, clapping and raising her hands in the air and smiling. Her showing me that the truck had flown up in the air and exploded didn't help calm my concerned feelings for Iroh and Heng; "Sorry but I need to find some people, I have to know if they're okay" I told off the meddling nurse
"Is your father a bender?" She asked. In spite my cynical attitude and my already negative first impressions of her, I felt as if she was truly concerned for my wellbeing and that of my friends...but still...something seemed terribly...off about her, and I couldn't pin-point what it was at the moment, I should blame the bump on my head or that she was a really good liar; "No, he isn't" I answered after I decided to stop pondering
"Well, then he's not in this ward, this side of the hospital is dedicated to benders only...he could be outside" She explained, but before I could even blink, she corrected herself "You most probably won't find him though, there are a lot of troops out there...hmm...he could be on the east side of the hospital, but I don't think you should go there..." She added, looking down at the ground in shame.
"Why? Am I too weak to walk across a building?" I askes annoyed
"Us nurses dedicate more attention to benders than to none-benders, simply because we're ordered to...you're "Far more useful" according to the Dean of medicine" She explained
"So if my father got hurt, he's in pain and without attention in that ward while you're stuck here talking to me!?" I asked, but she only lifted her shoulders, maybe I didn't ask the right question; "Then what's the whole point of telling me this and where he could be if you're just-"
"Keep quiet and follow me..." She had interrupted me with a very concerned tone, she almost instantly looked regretful for speaking, but she still decided to lead the way
The Hospital was in dire needs of reparations, electric lighting was minimal, the sandstone walls were humid and crumbling, with mold creeping up from the slippery floors. She helped me walk, mainly just to avoid stumbling upon the wounded on the floor.
"Do you know how lucky you are?" She whispered to me;
"Considering I was asleep...not much, no" I thought out loud.
"You have to promise me, when you get into this ward, you will not speak to any of them, and you will most definitely, NOT touch them" She looked totally different from when I woke up, a lot grimmer...it had to be the room.
The humid double doors had signs of struggle, scratching and dents indicated that people didn't wish to go in, and wanted to come out
I was frightened, but I kept my composure and slowly turned the old and rusty knob, limping into the ward. The air was stiff and thick with humidity and the odor of blood, the men in the beds were mainly shaking and moaning with agony
I limped around and saw each of their faces, most of them had been covered with bandages, but as far as I could tell, there was no one resembling Iroh or Heng in any way
I sighed and headed for the exit, but when I came close to it, a man with a charcoal'd (A saying for someone who has been so burnt that his skin turned into this black meaty mush) arm grabbed me and pulled me closer to him; "Hgg...nghh..plgg...ngghh..." His unbearable pain made it impossible for him to communicate with me.
The Nurse walked in and pulled me away, I continued staring at the desperate face of the half-bald man until she closed the door; "I told you not to touch anyone!" she nagged
"I'm sorry, but, I didn't mean to, I wouldn't want to give him an infection, h-he was the one who grabbed me!" I explained, scared of punishment.
"Exactly, I need to disinfect your arm now!" She explained, carrying me back to my ward; "Wait, b-but I'm fine" I complained
"SHHh!" She shushed once more. She looked at the sick ones in the floor, they still slept quietly thanks to the morphine; "You don't understand, they're the ones who can make YOU sick" She explained; "You really are reluctant to your luck aren't you?"
"Only the priest works in that ward...did you find who you were looking for?" She asked, but after she mentioned the priest, I couldn't help but look back at the door with freight.
"Hey, HEY!" She nagged, grabbing a hold of my face; "I didn't spend all day healing your pretty face of bomb shells just so you can contract some plague at the frontlines, if your friends are fine, then you need to be healthy enough to defend them...and I would certainly not want you to be in that ward" She explained while she washed my arm with some sort of liquid she bended from a bottle
"Hey...thanks" I spoke, breaking the odd silence of her concentration; "It's nothing to be thankful for, really, in my point of view, most cases, you either die here or out in the field..." She answered coldly "...I should be apologizing, I may have just sentenced you to a worse death."
"Then why help me if you know I'll perish on the grasslands? Why not just send me to that other ward?" I asked
"Because..." She answered smiling; "Because you don't seem like the kind of person who's just going to roll over and die" She added, looking up at me from bellow (I never really realized I was tall...or that she was really short)
"I have family to protect; friends back at District 3 I need to save..." I explained as soon as I cleared her height problem off my head
"Shh...I know, I heard all about the stone prison..." She answered, trying to look sorry; "The question comes down as to, who is worse, the Khanate or Qomawyn?"
"Who are you? You don't seem to be from the north Earth Kingdom" I asked her while she washed her, "...No I'm not, I'm descendant from the Northern Water Tribe, serving the Jiatsu army at Jenka" She answered
"What are you doing all the way over here?" I asked while following her back to my ward; "I was captured by the Khanate when they laid siege to Jenka, I managed to escape their camp south of here and then got captured by the Qomawyns. Then they made me a simple offer, help them or...be 'disposed'. You can clearly see what I chose, but, in some way, I am also waiting" She answered, helping me lie down back in my bed
"Waiting...for what?" I asked while my tiredness quickly began to consume me
"King Hiroto's inevitable defeat; tomorrow in the grasslands" She spoke when she tugged my bed sheets.
"How can you be so sure?" I asked.
"Because no one defeats the Khanate...ever, with anything, and that's just how it has worked since the start of the war" She glared worriedly at me and everyone else.
"One last question, please" I pleaded, actually attempting to make...doggy eyes?
"*Sigh*...sure" She answered, smiling rhetorically.
"You never told me your name."
She giggled a bit and blushed before answering; "How rude from my part! Name's Kyra."
"Hush now...you've been through a lot in one night...just sleep... you'll need it."
"It's just my name-"
"It's okay Pumpkin."
"Shut up" She laid her index on my mouth, insisting on her not knowing my name.
She reminded me so much of Akira...many years ago of course. I had burnt myself the first day I worked at the Factory, and Akira replaced me while I healed; she did my and her job, and every day, she'd come by my home and spoke with me, taking care of me.
I Do owe Akira a lot, she's always been a sister to me, ever since my mother died when I was 5, Akira has also been the closest thing to a mother I've had; I don't know what impels her to act so kind, so hopeful, being able to take care of everyone, yet...she's so dependent on people...she takes care of people, so that they can take care of her...but it just doesn't work that way anymore.
Kyra reminded me, that I made a promise to Akira...the Khanate may seem invincible, but I will defeat them, I will survive and I will prevail alongside Heng and Iroh
But, I'm still puzzled as to what happened while I slept...but hopefully, everything would become clear on the morning.
Except that I wasn't waken by the sunshine...I was lying down once more in my father's wheat field, my back lying upon the cold and wet mud. I was surrounded by fog...I remember there being a lot of fog in the late days of Northern summer...this wheat should be already cut!
"Am I dead?- I thought.
"No..." A powerful and ancient voice echoed deeply from all sides. I froze and looked around; "Okay..." I mumbled confused.
"Have I gone mad...again?" I thought out loud.
"No darling...it's me again" My mother spoke from the fog.
"Yep, I'm insane..." I skeptically ended the conversation, I began walking away, only to find myself going around in circles on the same wheat plantation.
"...This...doesn't seem like the farm..." I responded, curious once more as to where I was.
"Hiroshi...this is a bastion of the Spirit World...it resides inside of your mind, and it adapts to your circumstances" She expressed herself with extreme concern.
"What do you mean? Where are you!?" I yelled, some sort of cynical feeling hoping she wouldn't answer.
"Your confusion and freight has built this place, thus it is far different from the last time we spoke...and it is only getting weaker" She explained.
"I...don't..." I mumbled, overwhelmed with confusion; "Why am I here?"
"...I'm sorry...but there's no time for that, not right now...what matters the most is that you must know what to do..." Her voice was weak, sniffing every once in a while.
"Yeah, fight the Khanate, survive and get Akira back" I answered loudly, mainly to remind myself.
"Is that all?" She seemed oddly disappointed; "What do you think of this world, Hiroshi?"
"It's broken, it's trash, it doesn't work anymore!" I complained.
"What are you going to do about it?" She asked daringly; I knew what she expected, was this all some sort of pride mechanism going in my head?
"I'm not going to conquer the world if that's what you mean! I'm just a young guy...I'm not even an adult yet!" I complained; "I can't do anything, I'm too weak!"
"That's a LIE...You're rationalizing" A heard an angered old woman yell loudly from behind; though there was nothing other than fog when I looked; "You're nothing but an obedient coward, you're like everyone else, you wish and wish, but never do."
"I don't know you!" I yelled.
"But I do, and I can tell if your attitude doesn't change you're going to die tomorrow, and frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing another coward disappear from this world" The old woman spoke aggressively.
"Why should I listen to you now, to any of you, you think I care what happens in the world!?" I yelled out, overwhelmed; "I want to live! Death is horrible, its...too painful, I'm not going to die, no matter what!"
I remembered what mom had done to herself, getting rid of her own life, bah, what a horrifying human being, how dare she come to my mind and speak of wisdom! That Hypocrite!
"I don't trust you mom, you're insane! You...you left me alone in this world with Iroh and his dead soul, but at least he WAS there, he didn't give up!" I felt like cursing at her, but my broken heart didn't wish to withstand more pain and disappointment; "Why was I born from YOU!?"
"I know what I did was horrible...but It had to be done..." She tried to remain calm, but I could hear her voice cracking along with thunders going off in the darkening sky.
"How can you say that with a clear conscience!?" I yelled at her, feeling the tears nearly exploding from within.
"I'm sorry it had to be like that...I wish I could explain, and tell you the truth...but I mustn't!" She answered.
"What can be more important than this!? Mom, I have to know! I want to stop thinking of you as the coward who left me to rot on earth...you...you b-bi...!" The Insult nearly slipped my lips.
A dreadful silence followed and although I couldn't see my mother, I knew she was out there, in the mist...I heard her crying.
"I'm...so eternally sorry my child...but listen please, Iroh and Heng are alive, and if you stick to them, you will all survive the ordeal" She explained; "Hurry my child...you must go on."
"This conversation is over..." The Old lady spoke.
"Why did you end your life!?" I screamed.
"Hey, that I'm a nurse doesn't mean I don't have a life!"
I shot my eyes opened and saw the sandstone roof of the hospital; and once more, I was sweaty and breathing harshly.
Regretfully, the hospital's air was once more filled with the stench of death; "More people were moved to the bad ward last night..." Kyra explained while she took off her stained white apron; "But thankfully you weren't among them!" She added, smiling; "You seemed to be caught in some sort of internal war last night, you wouldn't stop moving!"
"You could say I was..." I replied, grumpy...I didn't feel as if I slept anything though.
"Well you had some sort of nasty infection!" She answered surprised; "Didn't you feel any pain?" she asked with an odd curiosity.
"Oh, and there was this big yellow bag of disgusting and slushy pus I cut out, here, wanna touch it?" She asked with a strange enthusiasm, pulling out some sort of flesh bubble filled with fluids from her very own pocket.
"Where...did you...get that?" I asked, holding in my nausea.
"I had to grab a pair o' scissors and cut it from you! I found it under your-"
"YOU KNOW...I err...don't want to know anymore, thanks" I interrupted her with a rhetorical smile painted on my face; "Have any of my friends or family come to visit me?" I asked, without moving from bed.
Kyra yawned before answering; "No...not at all sleeping beauty, now come on princess, get out of bed, my turn to sleep."
I obliged immediately, being a polite and silent gentleman, as I was told by the guards; Kyra smiled at me before collapsing head on, onto the bed and the pillow.
"You seem tired" I asked, receiving a very muffled response from her; "I err...what was that you said about killer bees?" I asked.
She groaned quite clearly and turned her head around on its side to speak; "I took care of your wounds all night, now GO away, and wake me up once you retreat" she answered.
"I'll go and find Heng and Iroh, then see if I'll come back."
"Yeah, yeah, just, go away, get outta here, I wanna rest..." She answered, pushing me away with her left arm;
"I know this may sound odd, but I don't think I'll go and fight a war in underwear..." I asked, blushing.
"Ugh..." She groaned, but I waited patiently for her answer; "Your uniform's hanging next to my apron over there..."
I walked to the hanger and carefully searched through all of the clothings, trying to find my uniform. Apparently, the soldier uniform wasn't overall that different from the guard one...hmm...seems that the leather around the chest had a large hole, stained with dry blood; "I'm not the 1st person to wear this am I?" I asked worriedly.
"Nope...you're...the 8th..." She answered.
"Doesn't seem this took much of a beating other than the hole at the front" I added while I held the uniform in the air, inspecting it.
"Let me try to remember... one of them took around 40 pellets in the chest from a gun, the rest...BOOM, headshot!" She answered, still lying down on the bed.
...That would explain the dry and sore feeling on the neck...
"You're not helping my confidence, you know" I nagged, she giggled and laughed at me as an answer. The uniform was bulky, and felt very heavy, and humid...I still couldn't shake the feeling that 8 men died wearing this...and if I wasn't careful; "Don't worry about it platypus...you'll be fine...wake me up once you've retreated" Kyra spoke, yawning before falling asleep.
-Hmm...strange girl- I thought while I walked out of the hospital and into the old and broken streets of district 1.
I wondered and looked around; noticing how the old adobe houses had taken a beating from enemy earth bending and explosions in the past years, many of them being little more than piles of rubble. The Stench of sulfur, gunpowder and rot filled the smoggy air, it seemed that the city had been attacked overnight, but somehow, it didn't fall.
Soldiers were sitting down next to the road, many of them stinking of sulfur and fire, sweat and...something...really weird; "What happened last night?" I asked one of them2.
"Ehh...hello my Phr-frrr-frieeeend..." The man looked at me with lost eyes; "Where have you *Hic* been all of these years...you missed some...good...stuff..." He fell unconscious on the floor.
So...the army handed over some absinthe to the army during the day...I have to find Iroh and Heng, but where could they be?
While I stood pondering, a guard bumped into me from behind; "Hey, watch it you twerp!" he yelled, pushing me out of the way; "You trying to get into a fight eh? I'll show you!" The old guard took off his hat and got into fighting position.
"No, wait, it was a mistake!" I told him the truth, but he smirked and laughed at me; I even tried to back off, but by then, we were surrounded by a circle of soldiers; all yelling "FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!"
"I don't want to fight you!" I yelled at him, I admit, I was scared, I never had to fight someone else in my life!
"Come on little boy, the pain will only hurt...A LOT!" He yelled and laughed frantically.
Then, he began; he kneed down on the ground and had stone fill up his arm and fists, and got into a boxing offensive position, hopping quickly up and down. "You're going to wish you were never born on the first place!" He yelled charging at me with his fists.
I ducked and dodged horizontally, barely missing his swing at my face; he quickly pursued me around the circle, throwing punches everywhere, all of them barely dodged.
"Quit squirming and get fightin'!" He yelled; "I won't fight you, I don't have time!" I answered.
"Don't worry; I'll get you some time!" He answered.
He stomped on the ground with immense force and I my legs were quickly trapped by stone, I couldn't move! "Now...you're not going anywhere" He smirked evilly, approaching me slowly.
"No, please!" I begged, staring at him with absolute terror; "That's right, FEAR ME!" He yelled, laying an incredibly strong punch on my stomach, leaving me with no air.
But my entrapment forced me to stay standing, I already felt the bruises forming next to my liver, but I could tell, he wasn't done yet.
"You're gonna learn some respect around here!" He yelled, punching me once more, the crowd cheering for him.
I felt my insides revolve, I thought my stomach exploded or something, because I only felt this dull sharp pain coming from it, and it didn't let me breath.
I grasped for air, but he threw it all out of me, punching me a third time, this time with all of his force; which made blood come out of my mouth.
"This is how I, Gar, shall treat the Khanate and all deserters!" The man yelled, showing off his pride and victory.
"Big deal, you fought and beat the life out of someone who didn't fight back!" I heard an annoying and familiar voice come from the crowd.
With all of my left over strength, I looked up and saw Heng, standing short in front of the big, fat bearded man who had punched me.
"Oh, so you're going to defend this miserable excuse for a soldier then, eh?" He taunted, raising his fists once more.
"You're a miserable excuse for a soldier!" Heng taunted back, getting into his earthbending position, causing the crowd to cheer loudly; he quickly he swung his left arm towards the man, creating a small wave of rock coming from his left and towards the man.
Gar saw this coming and stomped his right foot in order to stop the wave of oncoming rocks...which was what Heng wanted; he swung his right arm vertically, from down to up, creating a small column of earth that came under Gar, and hit him in his groin.
The crowd became silent, and stared surprised and scared at Gar, whose face had completely frozen into a grunt; Heng raised his chin and smiled rhetorically, walking towards me; "You okay man?" He asked concerned while Gar fell on his back, still frozen on his bending position.
"I'm...fine..." I answered, gurgling, attempting not to let my insides turn into outsides.
"Come here you, let's head over to our unit near the truck stop" I fell on Heng's shoulder and relied on him to walk, we didn't look back to see what happened to Gar, neither of us cared.
"Where have you been!?" We both asked at the same time.
"I was with your father lost in the steppe!" He answered.
"I was sick and dying, and then I got beaten up by an old man."
"Well I kinda knew that last part..." Heng added; "Come on, your father's this way!" Heng ran out of town and into a nearby grassy hill.
I had a hard time climbing it, but when I finally reached the top, I could see the whole flatlands of the steppe, and the eastern mountains behind the road we came.
Our transports stood there, knocked over, still burning with flames; Iroh and Heng were sitting down, staring at the scene.
"They came out from the mountains" My dad explained, pointing at the storms hovering on their top; "These mountains always have eternal storms, so they hid their noise quite easily; their earthbenders came under the ground and stopped the trucks, and the firebenders fired from positions like these onto us" He explained further.
"How do you know?" I asked, sitting down next to him.
"It's what I would've done, and by the looks of it, there wasn't any way it could've been done" He answered.
"What about cannons and artillery...we have those, how difficult can it be to fire upon us with those?" Heng asked.
"The Khanate didn't fight that way...they're still fighting like the ages before Sozin's comet, ambushing us with Ostrich Horsemen and benders, using raw power...the lack of artillery gives them incredible mobility, and once our trucks were disabled, we were sitting ducks" Dad answered.
"I'm more curious about learning what happened, as in, how did you 2 get out of there...unscathed...I didn't see you at the hospital."
"I was in shock for the most part, until Iroh here helped me while I was coming back to my senses; he alone with a Guard's bayonet and rifle, managed to fend off like 70 Ostrich Horsemen!" Heng over exaggerated.
"Heh...it was 7 Men, they surrounded us and I helped fending them off, with the help of Heng once he could manage to see better" My Dad corrected him.
"How did you manage to survive the explosion? All of the trucks I see down there are flaming balls of steel!" I asked my final question.
They looked at me confused and their shoulders rose mutually, my skeptical mind yelled from within, making let out a stresses sigh.
Before anyone else could think of something to say, the Qomawyn army began sounding their assault siren, calling upon all available troops to prepare for battle.
"This is it son..." My dad talked, standing up; "Stay close to me at all times and we'll be fine...I'll see you in the barracks" He added, jogging back into the city.
I planned on following him, but Heng grabbed my shoulder and pulled me closer to him; "Hiroshi...I think I have a problem..." he whispered.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Could you describe the steppe and the mountains?" He asked; I looked at him confused, but he was staring dead serious at the environment.
"Okay...so, there are the Eternal mountains with their...eternal storms... the steppe, about...a lot of trucks lit on fire or so and the grassland ending near the road...why do you ask, I'm not an inspirational artist y'know."
"I can't see it" He answered me, his head shaking and sweating while he spoke; "You can't what?" I asked in disbelief; "All I see is a blur, I see the grass...but, out there, it's all a brown and yellow mush with a few red dots" he answered, breathing quickly.
"When did this start to happen!?" I asked, extremely concerned.
"At first, I thought that I just had morning eyes or just tears, but it's been like this all day, I've washed and washed, but I've been relying on short sight to fight, otherwise I would've helped you the moment you got in trouble...but I couldn't see anything other than a blur of people and your voice!" He explained fearfully.
He mumbled and looked at me; "How am I supposed to fight a war if I can barely see!?" he yelled, quelling into shivering with terror...if I would want him to survive, I would need to personally take care of Heng, and myself at the battle!
For the collective works of the author, go here.