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|"We are what the White Lotus was meant to be. But after the Hundred Year War, the White Lotus lost its true purpose. Its members came out of hiding and openly served the Avatar. They became nothing but glorified bodyguards who served corrupt nations. So a great man named Xai Bau broke from the White Lotus and began his own society."|
|— Zaheer to Korra.|
The insurrection of the Red Lotus was a revolution brewed by the Red Lotus, a splinter faction of the Order of the White Lotus, instigated to free the world of its rulers and bring forth the organization's brand of harmony through anarchy. The organization tried to capture the Avatar numerous times in an attempt to indoctrinate her to their agendas, but with the White Lotus successfully upbringing her, it expanded to envision the destruction of the Avatar Cycle instead.
Formation of the Red Lotus
Following the Hundred Year War, the Order of the White Lotus assumed its operations in a more public capacity. One member, Xai Bau, felt that the order no longer followed its true purpose, and he broke from the organization and established his own. The Red Lotus was created from this split, designed to eliminate world leaders and usher an era where spirits and humans would cooperate through anarchy.
Years passed, and the Avatar reincarnated as Korra in the Southern Water Tribe. To achieve their objectives, they attempted to capture Korra and raise her in the ways of the organization. Otherwise, they would put an end to her and the Avatar Cycle by trying to kill her in the Avatar State.
First kidnapping attempt
Knowing that his niece was the Avatar, Northern Water Tribe Chief Unalaq informed the other members of Red Lotus and planned to kidnap the Avatar to teach her the ways of their secret society. These associates, Zaheer, Ghazan, P'Li, and Ming-Hua, launched their machination to abduct Korra, which was unsuccessful due to the intervention of Tonraq, Councilman Tenzin, Chief Sokka, and Fire Lord Zuko. The four members of the Red Lotus were subsequently separated and confined in specialized maximum security prisons, each specifically designed to hinder their respective abilities. Unalaq, who was not present during the kidnapping attempt, managed to hide his involvement and left the organization to pursue his own ambitions: use his niece to open the spirit portals, so he could release Vaatu and fuse with him to become the Dark Avatar, something that was never part of the organization's goals. The four prisoners were interrogated for the next thirteen years, but none of them disclosed anything.
After the failed kidnapping attempt, Tonraq and Tenzin came to a decision to seclude the Avatar in the Southern Water Tribe compound in most of her pursuit of the bending arts, giving her the best mentoring without the need to travel the world and risk her safety. When Korra stowed away to Republic City to learn airbending from Tenzin in 170 AG, her White Lotus sentries continued their duties as her security detail. A year later, Unalaq instigated the Water Tribe Civil War as part of his grand scheme to release Vaatu during Harmonic Convergence, and although successful in becoming the Dark Avatar, Korra managed to defeat her uncle, killing him in the process.
Following the energy shift caused by the Harmonic Convergence in 171 AG, several nonbenders across the world began manifesting airbending abilities. Zaheer was among those who benefited and he used his newfound abilities to escape his prison compound. He proceeded to liberate Ghazan and Ming-Hua by disguising himself as a White Lotus sentry. Disturbed by the prison breaks, Lord Zuko and Chief Tonraq headed to the Northern Water Tribe and warned its new chiefs, Desna and Eska, of the impending arrival of the Red Lotus who would attempt to free the last of the criminals, P'Li. However, Tonraq, Zuko, and the twins were defeated by them, and P'Li was successfully liberated. The Red Lotus headed to Republic City in hopes of finding Korra there.
The Red Lotus strikes
Second kidnapping attempt
After arriving at Republic City, Zaheer traveled to Air Temple Island to find Korra. Posing as a new airbender under the alias "Yorru", Zaheer learned that she was no longer in the city and fled. While discussing whether or not to kill President Raiko, Zaheer decided to save that for a later time after learning that Korra was in Zaofu. With the help of Aiwei, the Red Lotus were able to covertly enter the city and sedate Korra. As the Red Lotus were leaving with the Avatar, they were thwarted by Bolin, Mako, Lin and Suyin Beifong. Frustrated by the debacle, Zaheer set up a meeting with Aiwei in the Spirit World, chastising him for allowing Korra to discover his role in the plot, before condemning him into the Fog of Lost Souls as punishment for his mistakes. Soon after, he met Korra and discussed the Red Lotus' agenda of assassinating world leaders in order to bring peace. During this, he relayed Korra's location at the Misty Palms Oasis and Ghazan and Ming-Hua went to capture her once more. They only were able to take Bolin and Mako, as the Earth Queen's guards had captured Korra first. Realizing what happened, the Red Lotus began to head toward Ba Sing Se.
Assassination of the Earth Queen
As Korra headed to the city inside the Earth Queen's airship, the Red Lotus presented the two brothers as a gift for Hou-Ting. They agreed to reveal the location of the escaped airbenders in exchange for Korra. However, they learned that Korra had presumably escaped the airship taking her to the city and decided that instead of chasing down the Avatar, they needed to get the Avatar to come to them. Barging into the throne room, the Red Lotus dispatched the Dai Li agents protecting the Earth Queen and Zaheer airbent the air out of Hou-Ting's lungs, suffocating her. Later, they broke into a radio operator's room and broadcasted that the Earth Queen was dead, and Ghazan destroyed a section of the wall separating the lower and middle rings. With the walls down, Zaheer proclaimed that they had brought the city back to the people, prompting many to start rioting and looting the middle and upper rings of the city.
Luring the Avatar
Fall of the Northern Air Temple
Frustrated with their failed attempts to capture Korra, Zaheer decided to change strategy and make the Avatar come to them. He released Mako and Bolin from prison to send a message to Korra, revealing that the Red Lotus will massacre the airbenders at the Northern Air Temple if she does not surrender to him. The Red Lotus then took an airship to the temple and captured its inhabitants, intending to use them as leverage.
After the brothers reunited with Korra and Asami, Team Avatar and their allies returned to Zaofu since its radio transmissions were stronger than what they had. However the warning came too late as the Red Lotus arrived at the Temple just as Tenzin received it. He, Kya, Bumi, and Kai attempted to fight them off to give their companions a chance. Kai acted as a diversion so the others could avoid P'Li's attacks but was ultimately hit himself and the bison were captured. Kya and Bumi managed for a while but were soon forced off a ledge and fell down a cliff, rendering them unconscious. While Tenzin fared better against Zaheer, he was soon overpowered when all three attacked him together. Kai was the only one to escape to safety.
Capturing the Avatar
Zaheer subsequently moved the hostages, excluding Tenzin, to a mountainside hideout. He then arranged to accept Korra's surrender at Laghima's Peak, claiming he would release the airbenders after he had her. As Korra arrived, P'Li slapped platinum cuffs on her wrists and legs so she could not metalbend. Ghazan stood waiting at the temple for the rest of Team Avatar, thus leading them into a trap, as Ming-Hua used waterbending to fill several airbender clothes and make them seem lifelike. When their deception was exposed, Ghazan turned a section of the temple into lava to bury their enemies and he and Ming-Hua fled the temple. Team Avatar and Tenzin were able to escape the collapsing temple.
Meanwhile, Tonraq and the Metal Clan engaged the other Red Lotus members. P'Li was ultimately killed when Suyin Beifong covered her head with her metal vest as she was about to fire. With his last earthly attachment gone, Zaheer unlocked the ability to fly and escaped with Korra.
Defeat of the Red Lotus
Bringing the Avatar to their mountainside hideout, metalbending Red Lotus sentries began seeping mercury, a metallic poison, into Korra's limbs to force her into the Avatar State, after which they attempted to kill her to end the reincarnation cycle. Ghazan fashioned a lava pit to serve as her grave while Ming-Hua prepared an ice spear to impale Korra.
Kai guided Team Avatar to the hideout and they set about freeing the airbenders while Tonraq, Mako, and Bolin went to rescue Korra. Just as the Red Lotus wanted, Korra entered the Avatar State, though she managed to ward off her captors with her enhanced bending. She broke free from the chains stringing her up and pursued Zaheer in an aerial battle. Meanwhile, Mako and Bolin engaged Ming-Hua and Ghazan respectively. Mako was able to kill Ming-Hua by electrocuting her while she was in a pool of water, after which he helped his brother to battle Ghazan. Overpowered and refusing to go back to prison, Ghazan committed suicide by collapsing the cave, though the brothers made it to safety.
The aerial battle slowly went in Zaheer's favor as the poison began to take its toll on Korra. As he prepared to bend the air out of her lungs, however, the airbenders, led by Jinora, created a tornado that caught him, enabling Korra to whip her chain around his ankle and pull him down to the ground, where the Beifong sisters trapped him in an earth shell. Moments before Korra completely succumbed to the poison, Jinora revealed that the poison infused in Korra was metallic, prompting Suyin to bend it out of her body. Korra was saved and Zaheer was once again thrown in prison.
With Zaheer incarcerated once more and the other three known members deceased, the Red Lotus' insurrection had been brought to an end. However, it had caused the Earth Kingdom to descend into a state of anarchy due to the loss of a central power, and the Avatar was left weakened from the poison and would stay out of commission until 174 AG. In response, Tenzin decided that the Air Nation would follow Korra's selfless example and help keep balance in the world. Though the Red Lotus was seen as heroes by some Ba Sing Se citizens, President Raiko declared them to be terrorists in the eyes of the United Republic of Nations. Despite being aware of a possible resurgence due to Red Lotus members still being at large, the world leaders dedicated their efforts to improving the Earth Kingdom's future. In that regard, Kuvira was appointed as the Earth Kingdom's interim president and attempted to reunite the nation with her army, though her actions eventually led to the formation of the Earth Empire.