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One: The North
Book One: The North
~ The Bay ~
Taizo woke up early to talk to Yinlo. Yinlo was ready for him. He was waiting near the bay. When Taizo was in earshot he immediately began explaining. The revenge Yinlo sought had been brought by the Water Tribe and a spirit. It was better than the army he had on the Western cliffs. It was better than stealing the Moon. Now he planned on traveling to the Earth Kingdom to ward off any more Chi-Blockers. This way they never stayed in one place too long.
"And what of the bending move you showed me? Do I get taught that?"
"Of course. As soon as we travel to the Earth Kingdom I will teach it to you. You'll need to learn it for your next mission."
"In due time," Melora interjected. The group traveled to the edge of the bay. All the docks were destroyed when the Ocean spirit was stolen.
"Taizo!" a young voice called out. Taizo turned his head and saw the Water Tribe boy walking towards him, in tears. Taizo continued walking behind Yinlo and Melora. "Taizo, it's me Wato. Are you leaving? I thought you were living here forever!" Wato tugged at his robe but Taizo continued on, ripping the robe out of the young waterbender's hand.
"My dad is dying. Please don't go!" Wato pleaded. Taizo stopped for one second, as if Wato's words struck right to his heart. Then he continued on. The band of airbenders flew off on their gliders. They traveled to the northern tip of the Earth Kingdom to set up camp.
Wato watched the airbenders disappear into the sky. Free to travel where ever they wanted. Wato began crying. His world had fallen apart. His father was clinging on for his life. His mother was dead. The only adult he could count on was Taizo and he just flew away. Wato slowly returned to the Academy to check on his father.
~ Chief's Palace ~
Toko stood in the newly erected tower by his Palace. The Avatar had created it for him after their meeting the previous night. Down below the city was being washed by waterbenders. The stains of blood were being removed from their community of ice. At least fifty were killed in a combination of the destruction of the healing temple, the war, and the hail storm. The bodies were scattered across the land.
Jong-Mu climbed to the top of the tower. He watched the Chief gaze at the ruins of his city. Inside he felt a sense of unease. The chief he met originally was not a good leader. He didn't listen to his people. But this chief, the chief he heard last night—he seemed changed, somehow for the worse. Perhaps it was the dangerous smile he had stitched on his face or maybe the way his shoulders no longer slumped.
"Jong-Mu, how are you this morning?" Toko asked without turning around.
"Happy. I am happy this is all coming to an end."
"Well aren't you going to ask how I am?"
"No. Toko, your city was put in serious danger yesterday. I once thought knowledge of the spirits would help the human world. But now, I am not so sure."
"What do you suggest I do, Avatar?"
"You are to cease teaching the spirit class. You must put into law no talk of the spirits, as will Mokolo and his tribe. Tui and La will lose their identity over time. They will become legend. The spirits will just be koi fish and that is it. Then no harm will come to them."
"So the knowledge will be lost forever?"
"No. I shall send a scroll of this knowledge to Wan Shi Tong's Library. And as chief, I expect you to pass down this knowledge to the next chief and so on."
"You've been to the Library of Infinite Knowledge?" Toko asked in amazement. Few were allowed entrance to the Library. Even fewer could find it.
"Knowledge, of course."
"Yes, but for what?"
"I needed a new look on life. A fresh breath of air, if you will."
"How spiritual of you to talk in riddles."
"Toko, I must go help build the ships. Before I go, I have some advice. They are still your family. You must be kind to them, even if they are different. And like all families, they will grow. If you're not kind, one day they may come back with a vengeance. And who knows who will have grown larger. By the way, I did the math. Fifty-one percent of the city has declared to no longer be under your rule. Good day."
Toko felt a pressure in his chest, a storm of hatred brewing. He watched the Avatar travel to the bay. He gritted his teeth and snarled his nose. He scurried to inside his Palace.
~ Military Academy ~
"Is he okay?"
"I don't know yet. His condition is the same," Kyla answered the boy. His father was unconscious on a bed. Kyla was hovering over him with water at the ready.
"It's because I didn't get to him in time, isn't it?" Wato could only feel guilt.
"It's because that icicle impaled him. That wasn't your fault."
"You're a really good healer. I would love to teach you some advanced moves. For—"
"For next time?" Wato finished her sentence.
"Why don't you get some sleep? I'll come get you if your father's condition changes."
"You know my mother died right in front of me. I couldn't heal them both."
"The Avatar couldn't heal either of them. It's not your fault. No one could even control their bending. The Ocean spirit was in danger, all control was lost."
"You're right. Except for you. You had about as much control as the Avatar did. Why is that?" Wato asked curiously, almost hypnotically.
"How did you know that?"
"Everyone knows. You're the great healer, who helped defeat a guardian. You're nothing short of a legend," Wato explained.
"Have you decided? Where you'll go?" Kyla changed the subject.
"The South. No matter who rules, so long as I am far away from this place. It is just filled with... everywhere I look I see my mother's face. I look around and there she is. Even when I close my eyes, it's all I see. I need to get away."
"I'm so sorry, Wato."
"Can you show me?"
"Show you what?"
"What I should have done. My mother only just began teaching me to heal. Can you show me what I should have done. Sometime. I mean look at the wound, it's completely stopped bleeding. How did you do that?"
"Oh that wasn't me, that was one of the Elder Healers. She lives not too far from the Healing Temple, or rather where it was. They call her The Pincher. Just one pinch and the bleeding stops. Well that's what they say anyhow. I've never actually met her. She doesn't like visitors."
"Not very clever I suppose."
Wato walked out to another room to try and sleep. Kyla continued trying to heal his father. Kyla was quite sure nothing more could be done. In fact, she was sure he would be dead soon. She hated knowing that. Someone was going to die and she couldn't do anything to stop it. She hated knowing.
"Did he say he's going to the south?"
"WHAT?" Kyla shouted in disbelief. Latok was awake, coughing, begging for water and trying to desperately find out where his son was going.
~ The Bay ~
Jong-Mu reached the bay and saw the reconstruction of the docks as well the creation of Ice Ships. The boats would allow for the tribe traveling South to reach the city of Taku before it would become too warm to keep the water as Ice. There they would need to either build or purchase new ships. Most seemed in favor of purchasing new ships. There were only four ships left after the hail storm and Spirit Guardian attack.
"Let me help you!" Jong-Mu quickly intervened Kilo's attempt at helping create a ship. Kilo turned around and clenched his fists. Just another example of how he couldn't help.
Jong-mu quickly took control over the water Kilo was attempting to move. Had the Avatar not intervened he wouldn't been crushed. Kilo sat on the ground defeated as the Avatar finished building the ship on his own. Then he saw the downtrodden bender.
"You're the boy I saved. Kilo, right?"
"What's wrong? Nothing. Well not nothing. I'm not a waterbender. I have the skill but I can't even help make water into ice."
"Why were you never taught to waterbend?"
"I didn't know I could bend until very recently. My parents gave me up. I thought they were non-benders, at least that was what I was told. I tried once. I tried to bend the water but I couldn't. I swear I couldn't. And then one day I'm so angry because if I didn't come up with a plan I was going to have to leave the city—BAM. I bend water at my friend by accident. Nearly knocked him unconscious."
"Well it's never too late to learn," Jong-Mu replied. "First lesson, water into ice. Raise your hands, let your body flow with your hand's movements. Then just think cold."
"Think cold." Jong-Mu and Kilo both raised their arms and created a wall of ice together. "Very good. It's never too late to learn, my friend."
"Avatar who is leaving?"
"The Chief will be announcing that soon."
"Please, just tell me. I need to know."
Jong-Mu thought back to the meeting that occurred after Kilo's reveal of his vision of the South Pole. Toko created a deal and Jong-Mu had no choice but to accept the conditions.
~ Chief's Palace ~
The Previous Night...
"Toko, what is the meaning of this?" Mokolo asked.
"The answer to our problems has been given to us by the spirits before we even asked!"
"The spirits?" Jong-Mu repeated.
"That boy. He saw a future. A future of two tribes. Two tribes united under one Moon!" Toko raised his arms to the sky.
"What are you talking about?" Mokolo questioned.
"Our city must divide. The boy was right. One side of this city must travel to the South and begin anew there. The question is who shall it be?"
"How do we decide that?"
"Avatar?" Toko and Mokolo stared at Jong-Mu.
"I don't care for the events that have transpired. Your city, your FAMILY is so divided it's literally killing you all! And I'm... no better. A boy had to choose between saving the life of his mother or his father. I could've helped if I knew how to heal."
"Jong-Mu we will not change the traditions of our tribe!" Toko screamed.
"NO! That's not my point. And as for your traditions, the previous Avatar from the Fire Nation was a female. Tell me, how did she learn waterbending?"
"I'm—I'm not sure," Toko admitted.
"Your traditions will not last. Regardless, I am going to help build the revolution's city. Whether they stay here or travel to the South, I will be at their service."
"Then we should get the city!" Toko screamed.
"You destroyed our city! You don't have any right to be up North! Why should you get it?" Mokolo asked.
"You get the help of the Avatar. Who knows what's in the South? Without the Avatar we'd die on a trip like that. At least we'd have something to begin building on up here!"
"Fine," the Avatar quickly agreed. "On two conditions. What happened here was a travesty. I believe the spirits are not meant to be known to all of mankind. But I'm not sure what can be done. Once I think of a solution I shall inform you immediately. Until then, Mokolo make plans to move your troops out."
"Thank you, Jong-Mu. I am happy to be a part of the leadership of the Water Tribes," Toko exclaimed.
"Don't act like we're part of the same family. Your ideas of equality are entirely to primordial. I can't wait to be separated from you forever!"
"NO!" Jong-Mu bellowed. "You are family. It is your nature to be different. In order to keep this community together you must meet every year in a festival. It will celebrate your family. It will celebrate your differences and similarities. Toko, if you wish to keep the city then you must adhere to this annual festival."
"Yes, perfect! I do! Thank you!" Toko cheered without hesitation. In his mind, he was formulating his plans for his great empire.
~ Spirit Oasis ~
Kyla instantly smiled as Kilo walked over to the Oasis. The koi fish were swimming quickly around one another. Kilo was a bit hesitant in walking over the bridge, in fear of the Spirits. This would be a trait that would never go away.
"Just come over!" Kyla laughed and grabbed his hand, pulling him across the bridge.
"Sorry, I guess I'm still a bit worried."
"There's nothing to worry about! Palokk pulled you into the Spirit World so you could let everyone know about the South Pole. You're not going back in there," Kyla tried assuring him. He backed a step away from her.
"Right?" Kyla asked, suspicious of his vagueness.
"You're wrong. Palokk didn't ask the spirit to pull me in. I'm not even sure what happened. I just woke up and Palokk was there. That and what happened in the South are kind of big mysteries to me." Kilo looked up at the sky, away from the spiritual waters. He hated the Spirit World.
"Maybe the Spirits brought you to him. They are guiding us after all. Palokk was probably waiting for someone to come for some time. He had to have been! Look at what you did. You stopped our city from erupting into war again. You're a hero!" Kyla hugged Kilo. She was honestly proud of him.
"No you are. I mean, I was never going to learn waterbending here. Now I'm going to the South Pole to build a city based on equality! We're going to learn waterbending together! I've never been this happy!"
"You're going to the South Pole?" Kilo asked. He knew the answer, but wanted to hear her say it.
"Yes, I've told you that all ready. Well, I mean maybe not explicitly but today I had to help a man who was dying. A man who wouldn't be alive if his son didn't learn how to heal. I think if he can learn to heal then I should be able to learn how to waterbend!"
"Well, then you'll be a great bender down there," Kilo murmured.
"You mean we will? No, you didn't. Why are you saying that only I will? You're not coming?"
"My place in this story was to simply let my vision be known. Now the leaders of the two tribes know about the South Pole. I've done my job. I'm ready to learn waterbending now. This city may be in ruins but at least it's something to start off of. I'd have to go all the way to the South and then wait until the city was built to really learn. I've all ready spent most of my life not knowing I was a bender. I can't wait anymore."
"Well I don't get the luxury of that choice. I either stay here and remain without my rights or I travel to the other end of the world to get a fighting chance. I can't believe you're not coming. I thought we were friends!"
"Friends? Friends don't hover over you while you're healing in a bed. You have a crush on me. That's why you keep kissing me, it's why you keep asking to meet. Look, I'm thankful you rescued me but we barely know each other. I think you're just letting some terrible events misconstrue our relationship as a close one. You have no idea who I am."
"What are you talking about? I know who you are. You're—"
"I have to go. Good luck in the South Pole," Kilo cut her off and ran out of the Oasis. He didn't even notice Kyla's mother off to the side of the exit. She watched her daughter crying over the Oasis. Shakali couldn't find it in herself to console her daughter though, not after hearing her daughter's choice.
~ The Pincher ~
Toko entered the Academy. He stepped inside a room with an unconscious man whose arms looked beaten to near uselessness.
"How is he?"
"Not well. We're taking him to see The Pincher. His arms need to come off," Shakali informed the Chief.
"Poor Lotak," Toko murmured. "I'll help you take him there."
"Thank you." They began transporting the man to The Pincher's Hut. His breathing was shallow and his arms were completely bruised.
"I thought this man's injury was an icicle to the chest. Why are his arms coming off?"
"His arms were shattered on impact. Then an icicle fell down on him. We weren't aware of his arms until he awoke in great pain."
"The Pincher will not be pleased. She hates being woken out of schedule."
"I know. But his arms needed to come off instantly."
The Pincher was very displeased at the knocking on her door. She didn't like surprises. It made her tense. When she saw the man dying, she knew she would have to help. She could never turn down a man in need—it was the one thought she felt kept her human.
After the amputation, The Pincher began working. Her eyes seemed to grow and her hands grew rigid. The veins where the man's arms used to be were being suspended in mid-air. No blood was leaving the open wounds. The Pincher's techniques were not practiced by anyone else in the North Pole. She refused to teach anyone this minor level of blood bending. She was scared of the potential it had as well as the ability it had to drain a person of their life. The Pincher gave up her name ages ago, convinced she was no longer a human but a source of evil. The only peace she brought herself was by helping the ill when she could.
As she worked feverishly, Lotak began to wake as the pain was subsiding. Toko greeted his opening eyes with an evil grin. It was time for him to set his plans in motion.
"Chief. What? Where am I?"
"You're being healed. You lost your arms, I am very sorry," Toko revealed quickly.
"What? How did that happen? How will I bend?" Lotak almost yelled, concerned of the new life he would have to lead.
"Yes I know. Awful. Like I said, I am very sorry. You also lost your wife."
My wife? She's—"
"Dead, yes. And I'm afraid there is worse news yet."
"He's been taken. He thinks you're going to die and so he's chosen to travel to the South Pole. I know who you are, Lotak. I know you were a part of the revolution. But this is beyond that. Your son has been brainwashed into believing you're never coming back. You won't be able to leave for a few weeks. I'm very sorry."
"Brainwashed? As soon as I'm better I'm going to find him!"
"Do you really think they'll take you? You can't bend anymore. You'll be useless on a trip to the South in the OCEAN. Eventually they'll allow non-benders but for right now they only need the best. I'm sorry, but you are certainly no longer the best without your arms."
"They don't see non-benders like you, Toko."
"Yes, they do. They're not letting any non-benders join on their first voyage. Ask The Pincher."
"It's true," the Pincher said before she was even asked.
"Lotak, let me tell you a story."
Toko began with his parents—both born non-benders they were forced to leave the city. Toko grew up in the Earth Kingdom. He even witnessed the events that transpired in the Air Colony. While searching for a waterbender, he met the micro-blood bender. By then, she was all ready going under the name of The Pincher. The Pincher began teaching Toko some of her methods—to which Toko was never able to develop. He told her of the North and she desired greatly to travel there. Together they found the Northern Water Tribe.
Once they arrived, the city was at war. The same issues that threatened Toko's city existed ten years ago. One night, the previous chief was found in his bed, almost slain to death. He was quickly taken to see The Pincher. He almost died, but was revived by the morning. It was by the sun's rising that he declared Toko be the new chief in light of his near death experience. The city was at first excited that a young man with new ideas would be in charge—but that changed once his laws began suppressing others. Of course, it had taken ten years under his rule to get the laws to be as he wanted them. This was the very reason it took so long for another war to take place.
"With the growing city I thought it would be best to build an expansion. Yes, our city must expand, but I was wrong. The expansion shouldn't be in our own city. It should be over the world! We'll start with the South Pole and then—"
"Why would I help you? Do you hear yourself speak? It's madness!"
"I must say I am surprised. I thought for sure the non-bender threat would hold. And I suppose your child being kidnapped was a rather thin plot but it's like you barely care for him! Oh well. I suppose I'll have to do this just as I assumed the throne. By threatening you. Pincher, stop." With those words The Pincher immediately stopped helping the armless man. His wounds started to bleed.
"No. No, stop! Please stop! Save me!" Lotak screamed.
"Agree to be my spy and I will gladly tell her to continue." Lotak stared directly into Toko's eyes. He had never felt such anger before as he did then, staring into the eyes of an evil man.
"Fine," Lotak agreed. The bleeding immediately stopped. Toko's right side of his mouth lifted in happiness, a half smile of sorts. This was the first step to beginning his empire.
~ The Bay ~
Mokolo started packing his belongings onto the ship. In his mind, he couldn't leave soon enough. When Sokka broke his heart Mokolo could only think of leaving. The South Pole was perfect. It was literally on the other side of the world. Out of sight. Out of mind.
Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of another man he had grown to hate. Dakko was trucking a bag of his clothes behind him as he headed to a ship. Mokolo marched over to him.
"Dakko, what makes you think you're even wanted here?" he shouted.
"I'm not. I'm not wanted anywhere. I'm evil. I tried stealing a spirit that brings life. I'm useless." Dakko felt pain strike through his heart. He knew himself all too well and it was killing him.
"You can't join our new city. But it doesn't make you useless. You will abandon our journey in the Earth Kingdom. Make your own tribe, live with Earth benders—heck, live in a swamp for all I care. You just can't live with us."
"Okay," Dakko answered, numb. He couldn't think ahead. He just knew that as soon as he arrived in the Earth Kingdom his life would consist of only himself. He would be a loner, known as the thief of spirits.
Mokolo and Dakko headed towards a ship. On their way they passed Kyla. She was searching for her mother. Her home was empty. She wasn't in the Military Academy. She was gone.
"Ready to go?" Mokolo asked her.
"Yeah, just saying goodbye to my mother." She looked around in every direction but her mother was nowhere to be found. Soon she would be traveling to the other side of the world and she couldn't even remember what she last said to her own mother.
"See you on the ship then, Kyla," Mokolo said and continued on. He met Avatar Jong-Mu on the ship. He was looking over maps studiously.
"Avatar, have you decided what our route is?"
"We're going to travel through the Earth Kingdom, I need to pick up my Badgermole. Then we'll follow the coastline of the Earth Kingdom. From there, Kilo's instructions are the only directions we've got."
"The coastline of theEarth Kingdom? Do we even know if any settlements exist?"
"Probably not. The areas are pretty swampy. Not a great living environment for them. Nothing like the Ice Palaces that we've built or the ones that will be built in the south."
"All right then. Let's call everyone onto the ships. Northern Water Tribe, off we go."
"No," Jong-Mu corrected him, "From here on out, you will be known as the Southern Water Tribe. Congratulations Chief."
Mokolo's eyes widened. He suddenly realized his role in what was to come. He had to govern an entire city. He had to help build a civilization. He was in charge. Mokolo was the Southern Water Tribe Chief.
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