|More from DragonGirl028||Action, adventure, fantasy, drama, romance||PG-13||Here||No update page|
|Winter Solstice, Part 1: The Spirits Arrive|
December 24, 2016
Two months have passed since North Pole and . In the early morning, the light from the rising sun casts a soft luster into Singi and 's tent. As Singi shifts positions slightly from within her sleeping bag, a near-silent waft can be heard softly drifting against Singi's face from directly above her. Stirring, Singi slowly opens her eyes and adjusts herself to her surroundings, her vision eventually becoming focused enough to see a strange figure staring down at her. Fairly small, only slightly larger than , the creature has a simple, curved long lemon chiffon-colored neck, which ends with two beady black eyes and a thin mouth. Its black body, bordered by a deep sky blue "collar," resembles that of a chicken in terms of shape, with two forward-facing arms and three-fingered hands. The creature's legs and tail region are obscured due to positioning itself directly above Singi, but soon, it gently floats down to get a closer look at the weary teenager. With the remaining portion of its body phasing through the top of the tent, its black tail resembles that of a rooster, while its short, deep sky blue legs simply end with three pointed toes. The creature extends its neck down so that its rounded head nearly touches Singi's nose, and upon registering what is staring at her, Singi gasps, her eyes widening. Upon this, the creature, equally shocked, shoots back up and phases through the top of the tent as Singi scrambles herself out of the tent and looks north, finding the figure, standing on the ground and peering at her from the back of the tent with what could be a mix of curiosity and nervousness.and the
"A spirit..." Singi whispers, a wide smile forming on her face as she slowly takes a few steps and crouches down before the spirit. Timid, the spirit hesitates before cautiously approaching her, until Jiefeng calls and comes around the corner before stopping in her tracks to stare at the spirit. The two show clear curiosity for one another, and they approach each other, cocking their heads, staring, and making light cooing noises, while Singi simply kneels there in wonder as her animal companion and the spirit interact rather tamely. Suddenly, Jiefeng peers over the spirit and trills, causing the spirit to turn around and respond, before the two rush off to the center of the settlement.
"Jiefeng, wait! Come back!" Singi calls as loud as she can without waking anyone else up, and stands before chasing after the duo. Eventually, using her enhanced agility, she catches up to the two, and scoops Jiefeng in her arms, who is squirming around and calling incessantly as the spirit continues to rush off.
"Alright, alright! We'll see where this friend of yours went for a few minutes, but then it's back to Kunatuk."
Using one hand while cradling Jiefeng in the other arm, Singi conjures a cloud to ride and the two whisk off at a slight haste north. After a few minutes of riding, Singi skids to a halt and her cloud dissipates, her mouth hanging agape as her feet touch the ground.
"Wow..." she utters. Having made it to the pond where the Wan, the location is teaming with around twenty spirits, some hanging around the cherry tree, others bathing in and drinking from the pond, and some relaxing and dancing atop the large rock slab with the two paintings. With her companion mesmerized, Jiefeng uses the opportunity to struggle out of her owner's arms and wade into the pond—the water reaching just below her knees—reuniting with her spirit companion. The spirits soon take notice of the teenager, and congregate around her, some floating, others standing, and gaze at her with curiosity.was held, and where Singi with
"Why... hello there," Singi greets quietly, trying her best to be polite while concealing her bewilderment. The spirits respond with a chorus of calls ranging from chirps, squeaks, squawks, howls, and bellows, causing the Avatar to flash a small toothy smirk, slightly nervous.
"Ummm... how did you all get here?" Singi asks.
The spirits simply stare at her, some cooing as if trying to speak, but all are unable to answer her in human language, nor give any gestures to draw her closer to the solution to her question.
"Well, I'm sorry I can't stay long for now, but I'm sure I'll be back later today after waterbending training."
With that Singi walks a few steps into the pond and scoops Jiefeng back in her arms before conjuring a cloud and riding off. Little does she know, the spirits follow.
Upon making it back to Kunatuk, Singi dismounts her cloud and walks within the center of the settlement. A gentle cluck from one spirit behind her catches her attention, and Singi stops in her tracks, eyes widening slightly. As she turns around slowly and finds the crowd of spirits now before her, she gasps slightly.
"You weren't supposed to follow me!" Singi whispers. "I told you, I'd likely be back later tod—"
Before Singi can finish her sentence, Koda steps out of his hut, rubbing an eye as he awakens and adjusts his vision to the ample sunlight as the giant star continues its rise across the sky.
"Avatar Singi... is that yo—"
Upon removing his hand from his eye and focusing his attention on Singi, he stops mid-sentence and gasps, cupping a hand over his mouth in shock at the scene before him. The two parties stand motionless for a few seconds, each staring at one another until Koda removes his hand and calls out loudly, excitement bursting from between his lips.
"Everyone! The spirits are here!"
At this, a few residents tiredly poke their heads or step out of their huts. Upon noticing the scene before them, everyone begins bowing in respect before breaking out into cheers of jubilee. The ruckus causes Gekkō to emerge from his hut before slacking his jaw in shock at the events folding out in front of him. He directs his attention to Singi.
"My, my... it's clear that the spirits know who you are."
At this, Singi chuckles, before Jamyang enters the scene and smiles widely, gazing around at the spirits traversing around the settlement.
"I was wondering where you were, my pupil. I can see you've gotten involved in a wonderful occasion."
"I have to say, this is a pretty nice day to have my first encounter with the spirits," Singi responds happily before turning her attention to her waterbending master. "I suppose we'll commence with training as usual?"
"Yes. I may decide to give you a shortened training session tomorrow, though, so you can enjoy the spirits. For today, though, try not to get too distracted by them while training," Gekkō responds.
With that, their day goes about as usual. Upon finishing training and having dinner, Singi spends a few hours that night relaxing by the northern pond, a small handful of spirits joining her.
The next day, true to Gekkō's word, Singi is given a shortened day of waterbending training, ending by midday. Instead of spending her time around Kunatuk, she decides to travel around, and bends a cloud before whisking herself off southeast of the settlement, eventually passing over a young, dormant volcano and landing in a clearing along its east side. The first thing Singi notices upon landing is a row of statues leading towards the volcano, forming a path to an archway leading to an opening of a nearby forest. Glancing around, Singi makes her way into the forest, and once a few meters in, hears a commotion ahead of her.
"Come on, you! Let go!"
Singi jogs her way to the source of the sound to find a man in his 40s wearing light yellow and fern-colored robes and pants with shamrock green trim carefully waving a bushel of fruit away from a small spirit who grabbing at his left leg. The spirit, swaying its hips constantly, is mostly mint green in coloration, except for its silver, shining eyes, and clutches the man with its two small legs as well as two clawed hands.
"Sir? Are you alright?" Singi asks.
Not even taking a glance at the Avatar, the man responds, still focusing his attention on the spirit while clumsily moving about as the spirit maintains its grip on his leg.
"I'm fine. It's just that this spirit won't leave me or my newly harvested fruit alone!"
After blinking for a couple of seconds and glancing back and forth between the feuding duo, Singi approaches and manages to grab a single fruit from the man's bushel.
"Hey!" he cries out, but his signal of annoyance goes unnoticed as Singi kneels down to the spirit, who looks at her rather expressionless, but cues in on the fruit she is holding. The spirit lets go of the man's leg as Singi holds the fruit out to it.
"Here you go," she coos, before the spirit snatches the fruit out of her hand rather briskly before Singi stands, happy, and the spirit floats around her before gently flying off.
The man sighs in relief before speaking.
"Well, I'm not too pleased that one of my fruits I worked so hard to grow is gone, but... thanks."
"No problem. It's part of my job... y'know, resolving conflicts between humans and spirits and all."
"My name's Gua," the man introduces himself. "I tend to a garden not too far from where you came from, and collect fruit from the trees to supply to the people in my home settlement down that way," Gua points down the other end of the path. After taking a more thorough look at the teenager before her, Gua notices Singi's royal yellow and fandango pink robes, as well as her tattoos.
"Say... I haven't seen much of your kind around these parts."
"Oh, well, I'm not from around here. My name is Singi, and I'm an airbender, and... the Avatar."
"The Avatar? You mean the person who can bend more than one element?"
"Well, it's nice to meet you, Avatar. Thank you again for ridding me of that spirit," Gua states before bowing in respect, to which Singi reciprocates before he speaks again.
"It won't be the last time these spirits cause a ruckus for me and the other residents in my settlement."
"What do you mean?" Singi asks.
"Well, tomorrow's the winter solstice. Starting a couple of days before that and the summer solstice, and lasting through the solstices themselves, the spirits occasionally appear around my home of Bianji and cause a bit of ruckus. Y'know... fooling around with people's possessions... breaking them pretty often, too..." exclaiming the last few words in an annoyed huff, "eating stuff... some edible, some inedible... and just generally getting in the way of things as we go about our lives."
"I'm sorry that's been happening for you and your people. Surely, though, there must be some good that comes when the spirits visit you during the solstices."
"It is nice to see the spirits on occasion, and usually we earthbenders are pretty lenient towards them," Gua comments, smiling, before his frown returns, "but we can only tolerate so much before tensions begin to simmer."
At this, Singi frowns slightly, concerned, but soon covers it up and smiles slightly.
"Well, I do hope that for this winter solstice, things don't go out of hand for you and the others of your settlement."
"Thank you, Avatar. You and I both."
With that, the two part ways, Singi backtracking down the forest and into the clearing before flying her way back to Kunatuk, while Gua takes his remaining fruit and walks in the other direction to Bianji.
Later that day, not long from sunset, Singi finds Jamyang at the embankment between the stretch of land along their tent and the shoreline, with Jiefeng standing beside him. As she approaches, Jiefeng and Jamyang turn their attention towards her, and Jiefeng happily approaches her companion. Singi kneels down to pet the cranefish chick as Jamyang approaches.
"How was the remainder of your day, my pupil?"
At this, Singi glances down at her feet, her smile becoming crooked, and causing Jamyang to frown with concern.
"It was alright. I traveled southeast of here, over a small volcano and landed in a small clearing. I found a path to a forest and came upon a man who was being bothered by a spirit, but I settled the situation. He mentioned, though, that around the time of the solstices, the spirits cause quite a stir in his settlement."
"Are you saying that the spirits deliberately attack his settlement?"
"No, it certainly doesn't seem like it. They just get in the way of things, and that annoys the residents. Apparently this man lives in an earthbender settlement, and his kind are usually 'lenient' towards the spirits..." Singi emphasizes her point by using air quotes. "But they can only put up with the spirits for so long until tension builds up."
Singi pauses briefly, processing the events yet again, before a determined, focused look forms on her face, and she looks back up to Jamyang.
"I think I should consult with Wan about what happened today. With his experience living with spirits, maybe he could help out in some way. Plus, I need to ask him just how the spirits are able to cross over into this world."
"It's worth a try."
After a moment's hesitation, a small smile forms on Singi's face.
"I think I'm going to try and see if I can meditate my way into the Spirit World. Wan told me the first time we met that I could meditate my way there, and maybe with all of the spirits around here in this world, I should have a fairly easy time getting into theirs."
With that, the two sit down along the embankment, while Jiefeng nestles herself beside Singi, who gets into position and relaxes. After only a few minutes, Singi's eyes snap open and glow a whitish-blue color, along with her tattoos. Jamyang takes notice and smiles slightly, knowing that she is likely crossing over.
Meanwhile, Singi's spirit, still sitting in her meditative position opens her eyes, finding herself sitting atop a hill overlooking a large meadow bordered by a forested region. The sky looks like a painting, the upper portion intricately colored in various shades of blue, purple, and pink, and red, while the lower horizon shines a bright lemon chiffon—as if the timeless landscape were going through the beginnings of a glorious sunset. Opening her eyes, Singi marvels at her surroundings and stands to get a better look around. Down in the meadow, multiple spirits can be seen rushing through the grass, as well as a large body of water adjacent to the expanse of open grassland, like a herd of horses, while others fly along the sky gracefully like cranes and dragons. Taking in the sheer beauty of this particular section of the Spirit World, she can barely hear the sound of approaching footsteps from behind her. Soon after, a distinct voice catches her attention.
"I told you you could find me here."
Singi turns around, eyes widening slightly, and finds Wan standing a few feet before her, giving her a welcoming smile, his deep copper eyes staring back warmly at her gray eyes. He appears just as she did in her dreams, sporting the long robes, wrappings, and distinctive red scarf, and unlike the first time the two formally met, he and his items of clothing are in a full range of colors as opposed to the various shades of blue as they appeared in his apparition.
"Wan..." Singi utters in slight surprise before stepping forward and taking him into an embrace, which he reciprocates gently. As she rests her head against his left shoulder, a couple of tears faintly begin to break through her closed eyelids, overjoyed to have succeeded in reaching both the Spirit World as well as her predecessor. After parting from their embrace, Wan speaks, still smiling.
"I'm proud that you managed to make your way here."
Wan's eyes shift slightly so that he is looking towards the scenery ahead of him, and he steps forward, looking down at the bustling activity below him in the meadow, Singi following suit and joining him.
"Isn't it beautiful? The Spirit World is a magnificent place, and for the most part is very peaceful. I'm not entirely sure if before I sealed the portals, that this world was mostly free of spirits who instead lived in the Wilds, but now that I am here, and the spirits are back in their world, I can't think of a more beautiful landscape, even with all of my travels."
After once again taking in the sights of the scenery below them, Singi shifts her head up to look straight ahead at the horizon before turning her head to the left, facing Wan.
"There's actually some things I wanted to talk to you about, Wan."
At this, Wan shifts his head to his right to glance at Singi with slight curiosity.
"That's why I came here."
At this, Singi sits down, her legs dangling over the hillside. Wan follows suit, resting his left elbow against his left knee while his right leg dangles over the hillside.
"So, what's going on?"
"I'm not sure if you're aware... being in the Spirit World and all, but tomorrow's the winter solstice."
"Oh, I'm well aware," Wan chuckles, "the spirits are acting much more livelier than usual. Plus, I can sense it."
"What do you mean? How?"
Wan glances around the two of them for a moment, searching. After a few seconds, he notices a few tennis ball-sized rocks behind him.
He stands and grabs two of the rocks, one in each hand, before sitting himself back down, holding the rocks in front of him towards Singi, who observes intently.
"Think of this rock here," Wan gently shakes his right, gesturing, "as representing the mortal world, and this rock," he does the same with his left hand, "as the Spirit World. In the days leading up to the summer and winter solstices, the two worlds grow closer and closer together..." Wan slowly brings his two hands together, "until the dividing line between them is essentially blurred on the day of the solstices," at this point, Wan brings his hands together so that the two rocks are touching one another.
"I see..." Singi murmurs.
"You're taking my place as the bridge between these two worlds, and this line between both realms serves as another bridge—the main bridge between these two worlds. Before I became the Avatar, the spirit portals in the North and South poles served as additional bridges of sorts, allowing the spirits to easily venture into the mortal world, and humans into the Spirit World. Also, long before our kind came to existence, Vaatu broke through the divide that separated both worlds, creating the spirit portals. As for how I can sense that the solstice is approaching, because I exist as a spirit here in the Spirit World now, I can feel a surge in spiritual energy from within me, signaling the solstices."
During a brief pause, Singi glances down at the spirits below them, before looking back up at Wan, a hint of concern evident in her facial expression.
"I don't know if you're aware, but the spirits have been appearing in the mortal world around this time. Its been perplexing me so much since this cultural festival I took part in months ago with the waterbending community I've been living with while waterbending training. At one point during the celebration, there was mention of the spirits visiting the settlement I've been residing in. You closed the spirit portals all those years ago, so how are they able to transcend into the mortal world, even with the portals closed? Did you ever see the spirits again once you closed them?"
"Not too often, but on occasion, I noticed a few spirits lingering around. As I'm sure Jamyang has told you during his teachings, I spent the rest of my life trying to bring peace and balance to the different human cultures in the mortal world—that was the new conflict at the time—there wasn't really much between humans and spirits ever since I became the Avatar. As for where I saw the spirits, they seemed to congregate mostly in spiritually associated areas of the mortal world, whether a sacred forest, a highly worshipped landmark, what-have-you. These significant, highly spiritual areas appear to act as yet another means for spirits to go between worlds. Spirits just... possess the ability to go between the two worlds easily during the solstices. You don't see humans inexplicably vanishing from sight—it's just something the spirits are able to do."
"You don't think you've failed or anything... knowing that the spirits can still go between worlds with the portals closed... do you?"
"Spirits are pretty crafty individuals. I figured they might have some way to outsmart me, as they occasionally did when I lived in the Wilds," Wan states, looking out to the horizon and flashing a sly grin before relaxing his smile and looking back at Singi. "But like I said: By the time I closed the spirit portals, there weren't many conflicts between humans and spirits—I had to deal with people fighting against one another."
Wan once again turns his attention to the horizon, looking out with a guilt-ridden expression on his face.
"As for whether or not I felt as if I failed... there was a moment. I intervened in a battle between earthbenders and firebenders very late into my life, and it eventually cost me my life."
At this, Singi gasps, placing a hand over her mouth.
"By the time the battle had ended, both parties moved on and left me and any other mortally wounded combatants to die on the battlefield. I lamented to Raava that I had failed in my mission, and that there simply wasn't enough time for me to bring about peace to the world."
Wan tilts his head down and closes his eyes for a moment before opening them again, his eyes softening and a small smile forming on his face.
"She assured me, though, that we would always be together, and that our shared mission would never end. In that moment of regret, I at least was able to leave that world with a sense of reassurance and hope, and here you are, today, carrying on my mission and legacy."
At this, Singi smiles, tears forming and soon gently trickling down her cheeks. She soon recalls what she was getting at with her conversation, and dabs them away with her hands before speaking.
"There's something else I wanted to talk to you about. It's actually the main reason why I brought up the winter solstice."
At this, Singi describes the incident earlier today with Gua and the spirit, as well as Bianji's situation with the spirits during the solstices. Wan listens, focused, until Singi finishes.
"So, what do you think?" Singi asks. "I'm pretty concerned something could happen tomorrow during the solstice."
Wan looks down briefly, reaching up with his left hand to absently tug at his goatee as he processes everything and thinks. After four tugs, he glances down at it, seemingly surprised to see it so short, before rolling his eyes and refocusing on Singi.
"Something could very well happen tomorrow. It would be in your best interest to visit the settlement then, just to make sure everything is alright."
"I'll do that, Wan, you can be assured about that. Thank you," Singi smiles.
"You're welcome. Should you need to update me, you know where to find me," Wan replies, giving a wink.
As the two pause to smile at each other, Singi's expression soon turns to one of shock.
"Oh my! I should probably get back to the physical world. Jamyang must still be waiting for me."
At this, Wan chuckles. "No problem! If you happen to have the free time tomorrow, feel free to visit me and spend time with the spirits here. Say hello to Jamyang for me."
"I'll definitely consider it, and you can bet I'll tell him. Thanks again, Wan!"
With that, Singi soon dissipates from view, and Wan continues staring off into the horizon, smiling, a gentle breeze blowing his hair and scarf elegantly.
Back in the physical world, the glow from Singi's eyes and tattoos vanishes, and she opens her eyes to find Jamyang and Jiefeng staring off into the bay before turning and noticing her return.
"Welcome back, Singi."
"Good to be back, Jamyang."
"So did you get the answers you needed?"
"I did. I'm going to visit the settlement tomorrow to make sure things haven't gone out of hand. Also, Wan says hello, again."
"Well, I'm glad you have a plan, and you certainly seem calmer after visiting the Spirit World. Also, I'm glad Wan acknowledged me yet again," Jamyang chuckles.
With that, the duo alongside Jiefeng retreat into their tent for the remainder of the day.
Meanwhile, in Bianji, the residents light torches along the settlement as the sun finishes its descent into the horizon, an air of concern evident throughout the community.
"I sure hope nothing confrontational happens tomorrow during the solstice," Gua remarks. "But if something does, we may have no choice but to defend ourselves for our own safety. We shall see..."
Gua looks up to the sky before retreating indoors as a long night begins to settle in.
- This chapter contains Singi's first time entering the Spirit World.
- The spirit that hassles Gua is stylized off of the Hopkinsville Goblin, a creature from an alleged Kentucky "alien encounter" described as having shining eyes, small legs, clawed arms and swaying hips.
- Gua (pronounced: Gwah, 瓜) is Chinese for "melon", while Bianji (pronounced: Bee-en-JEE) is a modified spelling of Biānjiè (边界), which is Chinese for "boundary" or "border", which signifies the settlement's stance on their wavering tolerance of the spirits.
- This chapter is the first to use the title of Book 1, "Tension", within the context of the story.
For the collective works of the author, go here.