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|Waking Up Dead|
August 7, 2015
Yue held Sokka's ghost close to her chest, sobbing, her own arms shaking. The sirens may have let her take his spirit away, but he had yet to wake up and open his eyes. Yue feared his soul was trapped in a dreamless sleep: a dark abyss created by his own mind he'd never wake up from. Yue bit her lip, wondering whether the sirens had tricked her, and all she held was a spectral shell devoid of the man she loved so much. Chocking back another tear, Yue leaned against one of the dark blue trees that made up the Midnight Forest, a section of the Spirit World that was constantly night where many of the night's spirits, including herself, resided.
A white flame dancing in the darkness caught her eye. Curiously, she looked up to see a tall human-looking spirit holding a lantern with the white flame walking towards her. The spirit looked down at her kindly.
"Why are crying, Yue? I've noticed the moon has been less bright these past few days, is something wrong?" he spoke softly, his one golden eye looking down at Sokka's spirit. He face fell. "Oh, a victim of a fellow spirit, I presume?"
Yue nodded. "Yes, sirens." She moved some hair out of Sokka's face. "They used his fear against him to drown him. Now I can't wake him up." She suppressed a sob, looking up at the older spirit. "Can you help him, North Star? You're a Lantern Bearer, surely if there's any spirit that can help this soul, it's you!"
The older spirit nodded. "Maybe I can help, it is part of my job. Helping souls giving them peace."
Yue suddenly pulled Sokka close a new thought occurring to her. "You won't take him away from me, will you? I don't want to be selfish, but I'm so-"
He looked at her with pity. "So very lonely, I know. It's hard for spirits who look like people or who were once people. No, I won't take him away from you, but if this young man wishes to be at peace, I will not be able to say no."
Yue looked down. "I understand, you must follow your laws like I must follow mine." She stood up, holding Sokka securely in her arms. "What do we do now? How do we wake him up?"
The North Star turned away. "Come, we need to go to my home where all my books are. There we might find away to awaken his soul once more."
Katara paced back and forth in Zuko's study as her boyfriend and the Fire Lord surveyed a map trying to figure out where Sokka could possibly be. Outside, rain pelted the windows, and a bolt of lightning split the sky for just a moment.
"Someone should've gone with him," she whispered. "What if he did find Azula, and she overpowered him?" She wrapped her arms around herself. "What if he's dead?"
"Calm down, Sugar Queen. As much as it pains me to say it, and don't tell him I did, Sokka is a very capable fighter, he's fine." Toph took a sip of her tea before making a move on the pai sho board. "Trust me."
Uncle Iroh nodded, moving his own piece. "Have faith in your bother."
"Yeah, Snoozles is probably hold up somewhere because of this rain."
Aang looked out at the storm. "I hope you're right, Toph, I would hate to be stuck out in this weather."
Zuko nodded. "Let's hope Azula's with him." Lightning split the sky. "She never liked thunder storms; too unpredictable for her tastes."
The Spirit World and the Land of the Dead were two separate worlds that over lapped allowing for easy travel between the two, if you knew were the cross overs were. The trick was knowing where the bridges where. The North Star knew all of them and led Yue deeper into the Midnight Woods, coming out on a clearing where a giant house, overlooking a lake, stood. Like the manor of the sirens, it was a massive affair made of stone, towering over all those who approached it.
Above the door was the North Star's seal, a Phoenix flying around a star, presumably the North Star. The inside was lavishly decorated in a style not seen in the human world. A white hawk landed on the star's shoulder as soon as he walked through the door. The spirit smiled and patted the hawk on the head.
"Heroto, my dear friend, I need you to go into the library and pull from the shelves any book that might be helpful when dealing with a soul that has been slain by a siren."
The hawk bowed. "Yes, my lord." Heroto took off flying out of the room and down the hall.
The North Star smiled at Yue. "Might as well have him give us a head start."
She nodded and held Sokka close. "Do you think you'll find a way to wake him up in your library? I mean Wan Shi Tong probably has more books."
Her companion smirked. "That big grumpy owl might have more books in general, but when it comes to books on the dead, my collection is unrivaled."
The North Star escorted Yue into a large library where a sharp-featured man put another stack of books on the table. "I have pulled for you all the books involving sirens. I suggest you start with the stack of books closet to you, since they involve the victims of sirens exclusively." He took a deep breath. "It is so nice, sir, to be doing something other than cataloging new arrivals."
"Thank you, Heroto." The Star gave his servant a grateful nodded before picking up a book and looking through it.
Hereto looked over at Yue. "Please, let him rest on the love seat over there. He'll be completely safe while within my master's walls. You need not worry."
Yue nodded, setting Sokka on the love seat before helping the North Star look through books. After an hour, she slammed another book shut. "This is all about how to avoid becoming a victim of a siren or breaking the spell of their singing." She looked down. "There's nothing here on how to wake a soul that they've trapped."
The other spirit nodded. "Sadly, it seems that once a soul has fallen victim to a siren, no one ever bothered to figure out a way to free them ... defeatists." He sighed. "Too bad there's not a Lantern Bearer for those slain by a spirit, huh? We could just have them sort this out." He chuckled darkly. "But then if there was one, there wouldn't be that misty pit of lost souls, and Koh wouldn't have such a collection of faces."
Yue nodded. "It's quite the oversight on your kind's part."
"Yes, it is, but let's face it, on the whole Lantern Bearers as overtaxed as it is. After a hundred years of war, I'm finally getting time to breath." He looked over at Sokka. "So, this young man, did you know him while you were alive or did you fall in love with him while watching from afar?"
"I met him in life, and I fell in love with him in life. I had hoped, after I died, he would live on, have the full life I had always wanted." She looked down. "But now my poor love won't have that either. He was a warrior to the end, died with sword in hand."
"So he was a soldier, huh?" The spirit sat back in thought. "We might actually be in luck, soldiers and sailors are my jurisdiction. I wonder if I can call him back like those souls lost at sea or almost forgotten on a battle field."
Yue looked down. "But wouldn't that mean he'd have to stay here in the Land of the Dead?"
"That's his choice, not mine. I only give people the possible path, I don't make them walk down it." The spirit looked at Yue. "But let's just see if this works before we plan anything else." He looked at Sokka and frowned. "I can't stand the idea that one of my children is stuck in such a state. I wonder how many more those creatures have stolen from me?" He shook his head. "That's irrelevant at the moment."
The spirit summoned two white fires in his hands and kneeled downed by the ghost. He placed and hand on either side of Sokka's face as some color returned to the spirit. The North Star kissed Sokka's forehead before speaking softly to him. "It's time to wake up, my son, sleep is for the living."
Sokka stirred and the spirit stepped back as Sokka opened his eyes that, for just a moment, burned with the white fire before going back to blue.
At first, Sokka didn't know where he was or who the two people looking down at him were. His vision cleared, and he saw Yue who was smiling and a man with dark hair and an eye patch over his left eye standing next to her. He felt off but couldn't put a finger on it until Yue hugged him so tight he thought for sure it would knock the wind out of him, which it didn't.
"I am so glad you're awake!" Yue said softly kissing his cheek. "I was worried you would be asleep forever."
The man smiled. "Welcome back to Land of Existence."
Sokka looked at the man. "You mean Land of the Living, right?"
Both of their faces fell, and Yue shook her head. "No, not the living. Sokka you were killed by the sirens, you're dead. You're in the Land of the Dead, in the house of the North Star, the Lantern Barer for soldiers and sailors to be more specific."
Sokka looked at her hundreds of questions swimming through his brain at once. He asked the first one that he could clearly grasp. "What's a Lantern Barer?"
"We are, what does your kind call us now?" The North Star tapped his chin. "Grimm Reapers, our job is to lead souls to their final resting place so they might be at peace."
Sokka gulped, even though he really didn't need to. "So I'm stuck here forever?"
He shook his head. "No, you still have free choice and may chose to go back and haunt the Land of the Living or reside in the Spirit World, though why anyone picks either of those is beyond me." The old spirit looked at Yue who was giving him a look. "However, this young woman very much longs for your company, but be wary, souls that linger in the human world are at a great risk of becoming vengeance filled poltergeist; mere shadows of their human selves."
Sokka looked down, taking Yue's hand. He looked up gazing into her eyes. "You don't know how much I want to stay with you, but I don't want to become some horrible monster." His eye became hallow. "I can't become a nightmare."
"I could never ask you too." Yue looked at the Northern Star. "Is there anything we can do to avoid him becoming a monster, North Star? I was once human, and I haven't become a poltergeist."
"Yes, but you're the Moon Spirit, not some lingering soul unwilling to move on. You have a duty, a reason. If he were to stay in the human world for long periods of time, he would need one too." The spirit tapped his chin and looked about the room his eyes spotting a suit of armor. "I have an idea. Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe, I have a task for you. I want you to be the Moon's Knight."
"Her night? Like the time when everyone goes to sleep? North Star, I have a feeling that that position is taken."
The spirit pinched his nose. "I meant knight with a 'K', you will be her protector, a samurai, one who guards her against other spirits and humans wishing her harm. Recent history suggests that's a common threat now."
Sokka bit his lip. "I had that job before, and I failed."
"Well good thing you have a second chance then," the North Star said smiling. "Now, come with me, if you are to guard our beautiful Yue, especially in the Land of the Living, you are going to need some armor."
"Why? I'm already dead? Can't get killed again."
"No, but you can be corrupted and being a ghost, you'll only be visible at night or by fellow spectral forms. If we put you in an armored suit of my own making, you'll bring some of the Land of the Dead with you and be protected from corruption." He smiled. "The added bonus is that in the day time you'll appear to be a hollow suit of armor.... walking around on its own volition...I guess only a Lantern Barer would find that a bonus, or someone with a love of black humor." He clapped his hand. "Either way! Let's get you some armor!"
Sokka nodded. "Uh, yeah sure. Hey! Mr. North Star, do you have a name? Like a real name like Yue or Habbi or La? I mean it's just kind of weird calling you North Star."
The spirit looked at him perplexed. "No, I've always been the North Star, do you name your chairs? Or do you just call them chair?"
"Well, I generally don't have conversations with my chairs." Sokka paused for a moment then snapped his fingers. "I know! We'll call you Ira!"
"Ira? Why do you call me Watchful?"
"Because if you're a Grimm Reaper you have to always be looking out for souls to collect, so you're watchful, Ira!"
The spirit rolled his eyes. "Fine, Ira will work if you feel the need to give me a human name."
Sokka smiled. "You know, Ira, I think you and I are going to be friends."
Ira raised an eyebrow. "You think so? I've never been a friend to one of my children before. I guess it would be a nice change of pace since my only friends anymore is Heroto and, obviously, Yue."
Sokka tilted his head. "You only have two friends? No one else?"
"I had a brother once." Ira touched his eye patch. "But that was along time ago. Now," he opened a door to a hall filled with suits of armor from every nation, "let's find you a suit."
Sokka marveled at all the different pieces of armor. "Wow, you mean I can have my pick?"
"Yes, they will change to fit your smaller frame, so don't worry about the size, just be warned, you can chose only one. It will be your body in the Land of the Living, so don't go for anything you'll feel silly in later."
Sokka nodded and started to look around, and his eye caught a Fire Nation suit meant for a woman and his heart dropped. He looked at Yue who was studying a Water Tribe suit.
"Yue, you told me I couldn't save Azula. Is she really-I mean was she?"
"She's dead, Sokka. You two shared the same fate, however, she is still a prisoner." Yue set her hand on the breastplate of the armor. "She is lost to all now, just like the others trapped in the manor by the sirens."
Sokka frowned. "That's not fair! I was in that house, it was filled with spirits. Is there nothing we can do? They don't deserve that fate." He looked away. "Not even Azula deserves that fate."
Yue shook her head. "No, they don't, but there's nothing anyone can do. There's no Lantern Bearer for souls slain by spirits."
"Well there should be!" Sokka looked over at Ira. "Ira, how are you the North Star and a Lantern Bearer?"
"I was the North Star, and later became a Lantern Bearer."
"So what's to stop you from becoming a Lantern Bearer for victims of spirits? You take care of soldiers, and it seems that some spirits have called an all out war on people. Can't you just help them come home too?"
Ira looked away. "It's not that easy, I mean, just to save those souls in the manor, we would have to take out the sirens; send them back to the Spirit World were they would lose their power over those lost ghosts. That's not counting finding a way to uncorrupt the ghosts that have been there for a while. It's too much for one person to take on."
Sokka picked up a Water Tribe helmet with the head of a wolf motif and a face guard. He put it on his head. "So we'd all become monster hunters then?"
Ira lifted an eyebrow. "What is this 'we' you speak of? I have agreed to nothing. Besides, the Avatar is supposed to be the one keeping peace between the Spirit World and the Land of the Living. I fear he would be quite put out if two spirits and a ghost started doing his job."
Sokka rolled his eyes. "Nah, before I died, I was part of Avatar Aang's team. He's so busy with human stuff, he doesn't have time to deal with all the spiritual issues going on, he doesn't have time for all the human stuff, and besides, ghosts aren't exactly in his repertoire either. This seems more like inter spirit issue. Please, you really can't expect me to do this alone. I won't know where to start."
"He really wouldn't," Yue agreed. She gave Ira a smile. "The Avatar is the bridge between the Spirit World and the Land of the Living. He has nothing to do with the Land of the Dead. Ira, I can see it in your eye; you feel pain for those poor trapped souls." She stepped toward the spirit. "We can do something about it, you are the North Star, I am the moon, and Sokka is," she looked at him and sighed, "a ghost with a good heart."
Sokka pulled off the helmet he was trying on. "I am also your faithful knight!"
Ira was thoughtful for a moment. "Two spirits and a ghost, taking on other powerful spirits that have human souls trapped in the Land of the Living or the Spirit World? I'd say such an endeavor would kill us all, but since that isn't possible..." He smiled. "Let's do it! What do we have to lose?"
"YES!" Sokka punched the air. "First target, the Sirens' Manor." He smiled. "Azula, I might not have been able to save your life, but I'm not going to let you stay trapped in that horrible place."
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