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December 5, 2016
Chapter Two: The Return
The Avatar hasn't been seen for many years, and most believe him to be dead. Sao, recently named earthbending master, attempted to rescue a badgermole from an orphan who could waterbend and airbend. This boy Kioku, had no knowledge of the Avatar. While Keya, Sao's twin sister, and Zhane tended to him, an army of earthbenders came to destroy Yunait, the work of the last Avatar.
The floor tipped, and sent Sao, his things, Zhane and Keya flying against the wall. The window to outside showed a huge crack running across the street, and the half they were on dipping downwards. Sao, without thinking bent his room back up to its rightful place.
"Wait, you're really an earthbender?" Zhane asked in disbelief. Sao looked at Zhane, then Keya.
"I thought you told him!" Sao exclaimed. Keya looked confused.
"I did," she said. "Anyway, we should get Mom and Auntie Kata. Sao, whatever you do, don't earthbend."
"Why?" Sao demanded. "What if it's life and death and I have to? I mean, I'm a master now-
"No you're not," Keya said, shaking her head. "You don't have a teacher."
"How about we talk about this later and focus on staying alive!" Zhane said, pushing the twins apart. Keya and Sao glared at each other, then followed Zhane. The earth continued to crack, shake, and crumble.
"Kioku, Wantong, you two escape down main street. Jianke, Gen, Baka, go around the back way. Gaichu, Kegareta, go along the river. Zinu, Tekka, and Rom come with me," Chu explained. Chu was a fat, ugly, greasy man with a stubbly chin and sneering expression. He always wore nondescript clothes, like all of his wards. His voice was oily and occasionally raspy. His wards didn't know if he was a bender, but they expected it. He just hadn't used it yet. Wantong was a firebender, like Zinu, and Jianke. Gaichu was an earthbender, Gen and Kegareta were nonbenders, and Baka and Tekka were waterbenders. Kioku was the only one who could waterbend and airbend.
Chu took the badgermole's cage and led the group out. Like they always did, Jianke, Zinu and Wantong set their hideout on fire, before leaving. Wantong and Kioku began to leave along the main street, which had large cracks that grew bigger the more they walked. People rushed around the streets, fleeing to the other end of the plateau. Wantong and Kioku slipped from shadow to shadow, unnoticed. As they passed the statue of Avatar Sankasuru, Kioku got the strange feeling in his stomach he always did when he walked by.
Past the statue, conditions became worse. The ground had a definite tilt downward, the cracks were larger, and the earth was shaking more. He could see in the dying light, that the wall was missing chunks out of it.
"Let's keep going," Wantong urged, pulling Kioku along.
"Stay with me," Nea, Sao's mother, urged. Keya and Zhane were able to go as far ahead as they wanted, but because Nea thought Sao was a nonbender, he was twice as vulnerable as Keya and Zhane. Sao found it ironic that while Nea thought he was the most in danger, she was really in more danger.
They carried with them their bare essentials they had salvaged from their house. Sao had done his best to right the house when Auntie and Mom weren't looking, but eventually it was hopeless.
"Mom, why can't I go ahead? I can handle myself," Sao complained. Even though Sao was fourteen and completely capable of taking care of himself (which Mom should have known from leaving him alone so much) she hardly gave him any independence in dangerous situations.
"Sao, you're a nonbender, but Keya and Zhane are benders," Mom chided. Sao seethed. The confession of being a master earthbender was teetering on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't let it out.
"Mom, what are Keya and Zhane going to do about an earthbender attack? They can't stop them." But I could.
"Sao, we're not having this conversation," Mom said, stern. Sao crossed his arms and sighed. He could feel the master amulet the badgermoles had bent for him. His hands itched to take it out. The earth suddenly began to rumble harder, and cracks in the ground widened.
Everything happened so fast.
Auntie and Mom rushed forward to bring back Zhane and Keya. Zhane tripped backward, grabbed Keya, and they both fell back at Sao's feet. A crack formed between Zhane, Keya, Sao, and their parents. All of them cried out, and they were swept back. Keya and Zhane hung off the edge of the new cliff. Sao began to raise his hands to earthbend. Keya shook her head. Sao ignored her.
For the first time, in the presence of his entire family, Sao earthbended.
He thrust his arms up, pulling Keya and Zhane up to him. He pulled the chuck of rock they were on, and levitated it into the air. He bent it forward, across the divide. Auntie and Mom watched in terror and wonder as Sao touched the rock down next to them. Mother began to cry.
Sao was interrupted when a larger crack appeared, putting all of them on a tiny promontory. Sao broke the top of their spire, and moved it over to the edge. They all collapsed on the ground, at the edge of the falling rocks. Sao looked back, and saw that beyond them, everything had been destroyed. churning rocks flowed down from the edge of their cliff. Sao looked at his family, then at the destruction. He saw earthbenders on small islands of hardened earth, destroying the plateau. Sao bend a piece of rock for him to stand on, then thrust his arms forward. The ground under his family slid away carrying them farther into town. Sao turned, and lifted his hands up. Two huge boulders levitated on either side of him.
He was ready.
Kioku and Wantong saw Sao send his family away, and turn to face the army of earthbenders.
"That's the crazy earthbender who tried to take the badgermole! What's he doing?" Kioku said, watching as the master flung rocks fruitlessly at the army. "Should we help him?"
"Are you kidding?" Wantong said, pointing at him. "He should be the one helping us."
"Whatever we do, we gotta decide quick," Kioku said, pointing ahead. The cliff was growing, farther into the plateau. "I'm helping him."
Ignoring Wantong's shouting, Kioku created an air column to fly on. As he flew over, Kioku was confused. It felt way out of character for him to help someone else. It was like someone had taken over his body and made him do it.
"Keya, how long have you known?" Nea demanded, hysterical. She was cradled by Kata, who was soothing her. Zhane was looking off in the direction where Sao was. Keya struggled for an answer.
"A long time. I didn't want to tell you," Keya said. "I didn't want to make things... never mind."
"I just can't believe he was a bender this whole time," she cried. "I can't believe he's an earthbender."
"Keya, can I talk to you?" Zhane asked, and pulled her aside. Sao had deposited them next to the statue of Sankasuru. They walked behind the statue.
"On three, we go after Sao," Zhane said. Keya tried to tell him to stop.
"One, two, THREE!" Zhane whispered, and sprinted off after Sao. Keya bolted after him, ignoring her mother's cries from behind.
Help came at him from all sides all at once. Zhane and Keya came in from behind, and the crazy badgermole-stealer from the side.
"What are you guys doing here?" Sao demanded, hurling a rock at an earthbender below him. Sao extended his spire to accommodate all of them. "What-"
"We're helping you," Zhane said. Keya stepped up to the airbender, Kioku. Kioku's face blushed.
"What were you doing today? Stealing a badgermole? Why was my brother chasing you? You could have killed him!" Keya scolded. Kioku struggled for an answer, and his ears began to go red.
"What's you name?" Zhane demanded.
"WATCH OUT!" Sao cried as a rock nearly knocked them off. He bent it away in time. "You came to help, now is your chance!"
Keya opened her water skin, Zhane's palms lit up with fire, and Kioku began to float in the air. Together they knocked earthbenders into the river of rock and debris, trying to stop their onslaught. For a while it worked, and the earthbenders stopped making forward progress. Then, everything went wrong.
A stray boulder, this size of an orange, knocked Sao in the side of the head. In moments, the spire they were on collapsed, sending them down into the destruction. Zhane and Keya held onto each other, and Kioku uselessly tried to hold the boulder aloft with airbending. In seconds, all of them would be dead.
In the Southern Air Temple, statues of the Avatar began to glow. Meditating monks leaped up in excitement as the statue room filled with ethereal, blue light.
In the Fire Nation, the Fire Sages stared in wonder as their statue of Sankasuru began to shine.
In the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the northern and southern lights began to glow blue, white, and gold.
In Yunait, the eyes of the past Avatar's statue began to shine on Nea and Kata.
In Ba Sing Se, paintings of past Avatars glowed, as if they were all entering the Avatar State.
Falling from a spire, moments from death, the Avatar was filled with the power of Raava, and entered the Avatar State. Kioku opened his eyes, glowing white, for the first time, as Avatar Kioku.
The Avatar stopped the rock from falling, and turned it right side up. He levitated on a column of air. He easily earthbent the rock back up to the edge of the cliff. The earthbenders all stopped in fear. Kioku thrust his arms forward, forcing them all back. He swept away the debris, and began to raise his hands. The earth lifted up, becoming a plateau once more. For good measure he created a huge wind to blow back the army.
"Never come back here again. Never disturb this plateau," Kioku said, with many voices at once. The earthbenders fled for the horizon. Kioku floated down, next to Keya, Zhane and Sao. His eyes glowed, and the three rushed towards him. He closed his eyes, the glow disappearing.
"Was that..." Keya breathed.
"Avatar Kioku," Sao said. After fourteen years, the Avatar had returned.
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