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|The Snow in the Forest|
Three: The South
Book Three: The South
The Snow in the Forest
He looked like he had aged a hundred years in the short time that had passed since half the tribe had left the North Pole. He had a somewhat long beard and crow's feet. His eyes looked worn, as if they had been through hell.
Toko and his fleet of ships were traveling towards the Swamp Tribe. His route followed the shores of the Earth Kingdom in the East, just as Mokolo had originally planned. As he went further South, he heard more and more about a new colony in a Swamp full of Waterbenders. It wasn't long until he came up with a plan to use their tribe as an additional force against the Southern Water Tribe.
Toko and his ships broke down into smaller groups in order to travel the water ways of the Swamp. They created river boats and began exploring the mysterious swamp. Eventually a scout found the tribe and led them to their village. Toko began casting a large snowstorm. It melted upon contact with the ground, but the snow made it nearly impossible to see too far ahead of oneself.
The villagers were unsure of how it was snowing in their swamp. They took cover, some thinking it was Mokolo, others certain it was Toko.
Toko eventually revealed himself as they surrounded all of the members of the Swamp Tribe in the thick snow fall.
"Hello former members of the Northern Water Tribe. It's been a while. I must say, I'm not surprised you didn't follow Mokolo to the South Pole. But you must miss snow, don't you? I believe I have an idea some of you may like," he stated with an evil grin plastered on his face.
Toko convinced a large portion of the tribe, mostly non-benders, to take the South Pole in the name of Toko, but allow themselves to rule in his absence. He didn't spend much time there, however. He was keen to move on.
Upon . Over the course of the next three and a half years, Toko traveled through the Earth Nation, collecting soldiers for the war he was planning. It was mostly non-benders that were interested, as they had recently felt oppression in the Earth Kingdom.
In one of the villages further North, Toko ran into a former Non-bender who was excluded from the North Pole once he was 18. Upon seeing Toko, he quickly ran to the front of the crowd that was surrounding his older Chief.
"Liar! You are a tyrant! This man had me banned from his nation simply because I couldn't bend!" he screamed.
Toko made a quick glance at one of his guards and then looked back at the crowd.
"I am truly sorry about this. I was mistaken in that action. Please, guards, take him to my tent. Give him retribution for our actions."
The guard quickly escorted the man away, shortly before killing him by bending water into his lungs.
After gathering what he deemed was enough soldiers, he set sail for the South Pole once again. Then he heard of the Avatar's location in the Swamp Tribe. He let the snow fall once again in the Forest, this time searching for the just the Avatar himself.
In the middle of dinner, Dakko looked up at the Princess and smiled. He was happy for once. Everything had changed from his life in the North Pole. He was now in love with a beautiful woman and part of a council that led a tribe.
Having avoided the Bloodbender's civilization, Dakko found a thick forest in which they could thrive in. They quickly began building a place to stay, making it as camouflaged as possible so the Red Lotus didn't find them.
"Would you like anymore?" Violet asked.
"No, I'm good thank you." Dakko smiled.
Dakko reflected back on how he acquired the life he now had. He thought he was going to die not too long ago. The ship that took him quickly revealed its hosts once Kilo and Kyla had left him behind. The Black Lotus tied him up and shipped him to the South Pole. He was put in a prison cell within the Red Lotus's community.
Dakko was certain he was to die, but was rescued by a group of prisoners who had escaped. One of the woman, Violet, knew of a secret passage into the city. She would sneak prisoners out in the middle of the day, when the Bloodbenders slept, and send them to a nearby underground village she was helping build.
While they were heading through the passageway, Dakko ended up getting them caught by making too much noise. A guard was heading their direction. Violet bloodbended him to a wall and told Dakko to run. He escaped with the other prisoners, and they decided to wait hidden outside the passageway. She emerged a few minutes later, covered in blood.
Over the next for weeks, Dakko and Violet got to know one another. Dakko was shocked at her ability to bloodbend, particularly without the help of the moon. He soon found out how special Violet was.
"I was next in line to rule," she revealed. "I was their Princess. But they... they are evil people, Dakko. I couldn't stand it. I had to leave. I've been rescuing as many people as I can from that horrible place."
"What is it that they do that is so evil?" Dakko asked.
Violet didn't answer; she looked down and began weeping. Dakko consoled her, leading to their first kiss.
It was Dakko's discovery of the forest that resulted in his position on the council. The others thought he had great potential for a leader. Violet, being on the council, also helped sway their votes.
Their community grew over the year. They remained hidden from the Bloodbenders and had more than enough food for everyone. Things were working out pleasantly.
But it wasn't enough for Dakko. He couldn't help but think of what he had left behind with The Southern Water Tribe. He wondered how long it would be before someone discovered he had stolen the Moon and Ocean spirits or if perhaps no one noticed them and they would remain lost in that ship forever.
Dakko snapped out of his train of thought and looked back down at his plate. He had one bite left. He quickly consumed the fish and then looked up at Violet.
"So where were you today?"
"Actually, I've been meaning to tell you. I found something."
She said she was scouting the land to see if there were any safer places. She didn't like the forest. On her journey she stumbled upon a weird structure. She described it as the most spiritual calming place she'd ever been. Dakko was certain she was at a new Spirit Oasis that contained the Moon and the Ocean.
He quickly developed a plan and let her in on it. She would gain the trust of his old tribe and then together they would steal the Spirits.
The Princess followed Dakko's plan, gaining the trust of the Southern Water Tribe. But when they finally took action to steal the spirits, his plan failed. Kyla left them bowing down to the Spirits. Dakko and the Princess begged forgiveness, promising never to return. Whatali bloodbended them out of the Oasis and through them half a mile away.
They slowly helped each other up and walked back home under the stars together. Dakko was silent. Violet didn't know what to say. She knew how hard he took failures.
"Something's wrong," Dakko finally said.
Violet looked into the woods, trying to see anything. They darted into the forest, dodging trees and plants, getting to their village as fast as possible.
It was a living nightmare. People were floating in the air in agony. Water and ice were being thrown about. Snow was falling in between the trees and accumulating on the ground. The village was at war with the Bloodbenders.
Dakko began fighting but Violet just grabbed his hand and pulled him away.
"It's not worth it. We can't win. Just run!" she screamed. The two scampered away, leaving the rest of the citizens to fend for themselves.
He held the child in his arms as he walked through the swamp. It was quiet, and he wasn't sure exactly where the Swamp Tribe was. He had only heard rumors of it, along with one of an airbender residing there. Omu hoped it was Melora.
He made his way to a house in a tree and instantly knew it was her. He stomped his foot on the ground and the Earth beneath him shot up to the door above. He walked in the house and saw Melora looking out the window.
"How did you find me?" she asked.
"Melora, I need you to take him back. He's the Avatar. I can't raise him. You're his mother. You were destined for this duty. It is your responsibility now."
"I'm sorry I can't. I am not good. I am not a good person to raise the Avatar. Is it snowing?" Melora asked suddenly.
Omu turned around and noticed the snow falling. Melora looked out into the distance and saw a familiar ship.
"It's Toko. He's here. Why is he here?"
"Toko? The Northern Water Tribe Chief?"
"We have to leave. We need to get out of here. Hang on!" Melora shouted. She grabbed her glider and pulled her child and Omu along with her. They flew through the storm to the bay where his ships were.
Melora practically shoved Akuji into Omu's arms. She flung herself onboard one of the ships and grabbed a few supplies. Omu came on board to see what she was doing.
"I can't fly you away," she stated.
"Okay. Well what are we going to do?"
"How did you get here?" Melora asked.
"A friend of mine was sailing near here. I walked from a village not too far away."
"Then I'm taking this ship."
Melora grabbed Omu and Akuji and flung them aboard the ship. She blew air into the sails and it flew off into the ocean.
"We've got company!" Omu pointed out the ship following them. It was one of Toko's guards.
Melora, Omu, and Akuji were chased down to the South Pole. His guard was relentless. They finally lost him by abandoning the ship and heading into the forest.
They took rest near a small cave. Omu built a crib for Akuji out of Earth. Melora and Omu fell asleep together in a bed they made. They were exhausted from their chase.
The next day Omu woke up to a prick at his shoulder. Before him was Dakko and a few other people.
"Dakko? What are you doing here?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing."
"I'm here—" Omu stopped when he noticed Melora was nowhere to be found. "I'm here with my child."
"You have a kid now? Has it really been that long?"
"No, it's—I've adopted him."
"Why aren't you with the Southern Water Tribe?"
"It's a long story."
"I have time."
Omu told a few lies about how he arrived here. He wasn't sure he wanted Dakko to know that the Avatar was there.
Dakko revealed this was the location of their new settlement and he was welcome to stay. Dakko accepted and waited the rest of the day out in the cave. Melora came back not too long after Dakko left.
"He knows who I am."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to come here alone. He can't know we have a connection and that that is Akuji," she pleaded.
"Fine. But you have to help raise him while we're here. How long exactly can we stay here?"
"Just until we can figure a way out of here."
Melora and Omu continued living under Dakko's leadership. It wasn't the worst tribe to live in, but it wasn't too organized. Omu got most of their food himself. Melora continued teaching her child how to manipulate others. Omu tried to stop this, but Akuji didn't take to Omu too well.
Melora often explored the areas surrounding the forest. She even made a map of the area and kept it in a box in her home in the trees. Eventually she came across a large lake that was completely still, not one ripple or wave. The clouds in the sky and the snow on the ground gave off a silver looking reflection. Melora could nearly see herself perfectly in the lake, as if it were a mirror.
She would often dip Akuji into the lake, particularly after discovering by accident that his touch made the lake glow. She dipped him into the lake and the lake turned a bright blue around Akuji. Melora was certain the lake had spiritual powers. Then she wrapped him up in a blanket and continued back to the forest, unaware she was being followed.
The following night the raid began. People in their village were being taken. They were thrown into the air. Some of the citizens tried fighting back with waterbending, but most weren't very good at it.
Melora quickly made her way through the snowy forest and found the cave where Omu and Akuji were. A member of the Red Lotus had Omu floating above his bed. He was about to grab Akuji. Melora blasted a column of air at the Bloodbender, knocking her off her feet. Omu fell down on his bed. He grabbed Akuji from her and they ran out of the cave. The snow was almost a foot high and was coming down even harder through the trees.
Omu and Melora stopped at the coastline to rest. Omu saw his chance and decided to take it. He stated he needed to do his business and headed into the woods. Melora looked over at her child, unsure of what to do next. Then she heard a loud thump and saw something floating in the distance. Omu was riding a piece of Earth to the Air Temple without her.
Melora decided her only option was to return to the Swamp Tribe. It had been years since Toko was there. Perhaps it was safe.
Of course, she was disturbed to find that Toko was waiting for her there. He wanted Akuji as the ultimate weapon. Melora ran in the other direction. Once again she opted for leaving him with Omu.
When Omu discovered he had been left with Akuji again, he immediately headed for the docks. He didn't want this responsibility. But when he got there he was knocked out and Akuji was taken by the Black Lotus.
It had been years since he saw his mother. He had grown accustomed to the ways of these people. The power was incredible. But he always wondered if this was really his place.
Akuji watched a woman on the shoreline, staring intently at him. For a brief second, he hoped it was his mother. But he quickly moved on to other thoughts. He turned around, leaving Kyla for another time.
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