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Author Topic: A Man and His Spear; PG-13 [Complete]  (Read 14105 times)
Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« on: Jun 05, 2009 11:32 am »

Author’s Note: This takes place in the exact same universe as my other fanfic, Avatar: The Next Legend. Is it a prequel? Concurrent with A:TNL(which is going to be completely reduxed, btw)? Pretty much unrelated aside from being in the same universe? Just have to read and find out. (Translation: I haven’t made up my mind yet.)

Enjoy!

Avatar: A Man and His Spear
aka Van and the Staying Alive While People Are Trying to Kill Him…ness…ness.


Chapter 1: The Pit(s)

“Okay, here’s how it works, lady and gentleman,” I drawled from behind the cloth mask, not bothering to hide the fact that I’ve said this before, and was therefore bored of saying it. “You give us anything of value and we leave. It’s that simple.”

A threatening burst of flames seared through the air on my left. It washed against metal and left a semi circle of scorched paint on the hood. “So, cooperate we won’t have to get violent!” Ando barked at the expectedly freighted old man and his frumpy wife. Per bandit protocol, Ando cut them off with a stream of fire, forcing them to stop; and then I came and hit them from the side. Some shards from the glass I broke with my elbow were all over his lap and the floor. His face had a few cuts on it where he must’ve gotten some of the spray.

Our final marks were in their little green motorized wagon. For them to even have this hunk of metal, they had to be well off, despite them their rather modest dressings. The man had a simple light green and beige get up. His wife favored light purple and she had this funny headdress that gave the distinct appearance of a sheep pig with a pineapple on its head.

They had to see this coming. I mean, who takes these things this far from the city? They were slow and the hard, leather seats either chaffed or gave you ass sore. Sometimes they did both. Then the springs on each wheel did squat to absorb impacts. Each and every bump and divot in the road is transferred directly to your tailbone.

Isn’t that a great way to ride at 20 miles per hour? This thing not only promised that you’d get where you’re going slowly, but in the most discomfort possible. The fact that people actually bought the things was baffling. Honestly, I didn’t even need the ostrich-horse. I could’ve damn well walked them down. Backwards.

Did they think just by driving in a wooded area in the middle of the day they’d be safe? Like their midday joyride would go unbothered because they weren’t actually in the desert? Give me a break. But, whatever, money is money. And if it comes from the stupid, so much the better. Particularly in my line of work. Which isn’t actually work.

I restrained myself from rolling my eyes at Ando’s self-contradicting threat. I couldn’t look disinterested while I robbed these people. It sent the wrong message. They’re supposed to be afraid, not mildly inconvenienced. “Yeah, so listen to the guy, and just drop everything in the sack.” I gave the burlap sack I was holding an impatient shake. My ostrich-horse huffed and gave an impatient shake of its own. Since I was leaning down to be level with the car, I was off balance on the thing’s back. It had to be uncomfortable for it.

The wife was quaking, so the husband tried to play the strong one. How sweet. “P-please, don’t do this!”

This time I did roll my eyes. “I’m not interested in the ol’ ‘Please, I have a family’ song and dance, gramps. I’m not going to kill you, but I can only speak for myself. I can’t control my friend here’s actions, and if you ask me, he looks itching to burn something besides metal. So if you don’t want to get hurt, do what I say and give me your jewelry.” My other hand held my spear and I had it leveled on them. I gestured into the car with the sharp end.  “Let’s start with the pretty pearl necklace.”

His wife quickly took off her pearl necklace. “Oh goodness. Here, just…give him what he wants, How.” Shaking like a leaf in a storm, she reached over and dropped it into the bag. She started with her earrings next. The husband’s resolve stayed strong for a moment, but he relented and handed over a medium sized bag of pieces.

“That’s all we have. Please, leave us alone,” How said weakly.

I grunted. “Fine.” I brought my ostrich-horse around, slid my spear back into its saddle holder, and said to Ando, “Let’s get out of here.”

He nodded and snapped the reigns for his ostrich-horse, not taking his eyes off the couple. They wouldn’t take their eyes off him either. Just as he was passing up their window, he stopped. How and his wife both flinched.

Before I could demand why, Ando grated, “They’re holding out on something.” He reached into the vehicle, bringing screams out of the old lady, and roughly grabbed How’s arm by the wrist. How whimpered tried to resist, but Ando was pretty strong. He held up How’s hand so I could see it. “See?”
I frowned. “See what?” I was already halfway into the trees and the sun was in my eyes.

“Their rings. They didn’t give us their rings.”

Even from this distance, I could see the color drain from the faces. How was still resisting. Desperate, he grabbed Ando’s arm, digging his fingernails into Ando’s flesh.

Oh crap. Not good.

How protested, “No! Anything but our wedding rings! Please-”

Ando snarled and punched How in the face. Ando pulled him roughly out the wagon, through the broken side window, as How’s wife continued to scream. Ando ripped the ring off How’s finger and did the same to his now shrieking wife, who was feebly shielding herself with open palms. The punch knocked How out cold.

“Damn it, Ando!” I cursed began bringing the ostrich-horse back around. This noise could attract someone.

And quickly mounted and rode up to me. “We got what we came for.  Let’s go,” he rumbled to me. He gave his reigns a snap and continued past me. I gritted my teeth in frustration and went after him. I stole a glance over my shoulder before we disappeared through the woods. The woman had crawled out of the wagon and was shaking How, begging him to get up. His head was twisted at an awful angle. He wasn’t moving.

“Let’s go!” Ando snapped. “What are you looking at?”

I swallowed down a hard breath, took my eyes off the most likely widowed old woman, and picked up the gallop. “Nothing, Ando. Nothing at all.”



The Si Wong Desert.

After six months out here, I never could figure it out. Why would anyone choose to live out here? It's hotter than being sandwiched between two fat people, in the middle of a sauna, which was in the middle of a volcano. And then at night it turns into the middle of winter in the North Pole (that is if you can even say it's anything but winter up there, right?). Add to that the constant lack of water and having to ride on animals that smelled bad even when they weren't sweating and it's just a miserable condition to live in. No two ways about it: The desert sucks, but damn it, it's a great place to get away with whatever you want.

And it's also a good place to disappear.

So, I guess I had my answer.

We stopped at a coral and traded our ostrich-horses for elk-camels like we always did. The owner didn’t ask, didn’t tell; which made him perfect for a couple outlaws. It didn’t hurt that my boss paid him to keep quiet just incase. And in general, it was wise to not betray a guy like my boss. My boss felt we needed steady access to elk-camels when moving in and out of the desert, and he was right.

You may not know it, but ostrich-horses don’t like sand. Their feet don’t distribute weight well and they sink in a few inches with every step, forcing them to pull each step out of the sand. Very tiring.  They don’t like heat either and need a lot of water to function. Put that together with only having enough water for the human riders, and you’re walking the rest of the way about 2 hours in, lamenting the death of your steed. Elk-camels’ feet are wide and they don’t sink in. And their humps store plenty of fat and water for them, so they can take the heat. Only downside is they’re extremely slow.

After 4 hours of skin peeling riding, I pulled the wraps from my face, threw back my head, and gulped down a big mouth full of water. It was bitter and there were little flakes of dirt in it. There were about 50 wells peppered throughout the desert, and only 8 good ones. The nearest of which was a two day trek away. So I had to settle for the dirty, filth water.

“Yet another reason I hate the desert,” I grumbled to myself.

Through the hazy, mirage causing air, we came to a spot in the desert where the ground gradually started to rise as it came to the dune. Our elk-camels picked up the pace before they got the kick to the ribs. Our hauls made us a bit heavier than normal. Figures they wouldn’t like it much.

I patted it on its head, "Don't worry girl, not much farther. You'll be stuffing your craw with moldy dates and roots in no time. Of course, I'll be eating the good stuff myself. But, none for you. Good food is people food" The elk-camel shimmied around beneath me, nearly shaking me off. "Okay, okay, you can have some too. Picky animal."

Ando snorted at me and my ride’s little conversation. Ando’s a regular ray of sunshine. And since it’s the desert, that makes him about as welcome a glass of red wine in a closet full of white wedding gowns.

Me and Ando never saw eye to eye. We only worked together because our boss wanted us to. I was never a supporter of Firebenders living in my backyard thanks to that World Reborn Act. I’m too young to have fought in the 100 Year War proper, but I still had it out with some rebel Fire Nation factions. I’ve been Firebent at. I don’t like it very much. And having one of them sleeping in a tent near me just…didn’t sit right. I don’t think I’ll ever trust him, and he knew it. I even heard he was part of the Fire Nation army that went rogue, though he’ll never say if it’s true.

Needless to say, I know how some Firebenders can act, and I don’t like it either. I’ve tried to exercise that “tolerance” stuff, but it isn’t working. I see Ando and I think of him being one of the bastards that hurled fireballs at my head. Because of that I often find myself holding onto my spear a little too tightly when I’m around him. As if I’m expecting, at any moment, for him to turn on me. Paranoid or not, the feeling was real.

They say try to find some common ground, but there just wasn’t any. We weren’t anything alike and didn’t share a thing in common other than a dislike for each other. Even physically we were different.

I’m young, not far past 24. Ando wasn’t. He was maybe, 39 or something. My brown hair is medium length, and I don’t get much chance to keep it neat, so I just brushed it with my hand or threw on a bandana in the morning. I was mostly clean shaven, though some stubble had grown in since I’d been out. Ando had jet black hair that he kept tied in a top knot and the most ridiculous sideburns I’ve ever seen. They nearly formed a beard on him. I’m on the sunny side of average height. Maybe 5’9”, 5’11” on a good day, but I definitely wasn’t tall. I also wasn’t a weightlifter or did a great deal of working out, but I practice with my spear enough and have been in a very good amount of scrapes, so I had a well muscled body, if I do say so myself. Still, I wasn’t very big through the shoulders. Ando was tall and he was a weightlifter, and he had shoulders than two small kids could stand on.

See? No common ground. No chance of seeing eye to eye. It’s a fact right down to our physical make up. And it expanded mentally too.

Like earlier, while we were switching our cargo to the elk-camels, I stole a look at the rings he attacked old man How for. The damn things were faded and ancient. That couple probably was married for over 50 years and those rings had to be just as old. The things were worthless. And were definitely not worth killing over.

I’d say as much to Ando, but he’s too thick to understand. Not to mention I didn’t need any rumors of me being soft spreading. I had built up a hefty reputation. I wasn’t about to ruin it for something like this. Ando was a brute, but what can I say? It isn’t like I wasn’t there stealing form those people too. And the old man did grab him. I probably would’ve hit him too.

But still…


Officially, the shanty down didn’t have a name, but I still took the liberty of calling it “The Pit”. It was located in a hollowed out sand dune, and was home to a bunch of thieves and murders. See what I did there? The Pit? Hole in the ground? Filled with the dregs of society? Yeah, classic comedy.

The Pit was a microcosm of the dissimilitude in poverty and opulence. Not my words by the way, as I’m not totally sure what that even means. I think it has something to do with how poor and run down every tent was. Nearly all of the tents were patchwork, basically giant quilts. Varying and faded colored fabric all tied together with an amateur sewing needle and thrown over some sticks in the sand to make little tents.

The results often gave you one of those new convection ovens instead of a cool shelter from the hot desert sun. Like my own for example. Turns out, I had to flip my tent inside out to get something passable to live in. Though, it was one of the better makeshift tents, if I do say so myself.

Of course, my own tent was nothing compared to the boss man’s.

Xin Mao didn’t do things by small degrees. And I mean that in every possible application of the phrase. His tent was easily four of mine’s. And it was made of the exact fabric tents are supposed to be made off. It kept all outside heat out while still being able to breathe a little. And at night, it kept the right amount of heat in. The fabric was all gold trimmed purple with tassels bigger than my head hanging from each the four corners. Subtle.

As we rode through, a young sandbender named Mal Kha, waved and trotted over. Mal was a typical kid, bright eyed and eager to prove himself, but not quite ready to put in the work. He might not ever be cut out for this work actually. He was the one who came up with the microchasm or whatever line. The kid was pretty smart, but for whatever reason, he looked up to me. He’s got a heck of a choice in role models. But, given a choice between me and his pops, Harai, Xin Mao’s right hand man who basically sold out his tribe for the money and power Xin Mao promised, I couldn’t blame him.

“Good to see you back, Van. Ando,” he mused, somewhat more…reserved than his usual greeting.

“Good to be back,” I said.

We didn’t stop, so he had to walk next to us. He kept looking around, like he didn’t want anyone to hear him. “Got a good haul this time, huh?”

I smiled, though he couldn’t see it since my head was still wrapped. “Only kind of haul I know how to get, kid.”

Ando snorted from ahead of me. Was it just me, or was he a tad closer than he had been a moment ago?

“Oh? Well, that’s good.” Mal gave a pensive glance at Ando, and then he looked back at me. Then at Ando again.

What the...? “Something wrong, Mal?” I asked.

“Uh…no. Nothing. Why would you ask?”

I shrugged. “You just seem nervous. Maybe a little distracted.”

He faked a laugh. “What? Me? What makes you think that??”

“Well for one…“ I paused and waited for it. Then I said, “You just walked through a pile of elk-camel crap.”

“Huh?” He looked down at his feet. “Awww, man!” He started hopping around, trying to slap the mess off. He only succeeded in getting it on his hands, which he then transferred to his clothes.

I burst out laughing. “Yeah, you’d better get that wiped off, kid.”

Mal took off, but he gave me one last look ahead. Straight at Xin Mao’s tent. As I rode, I saw a few other sandbenders and fellow bandits. They all gave me sidelong glances and murmured to each other just out of ear shot.

Something isn’t right…
« Last Edit: Jun 17, 2011 10:01 am by Eman5805 » Logged

Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 4339


A Soulful Brother


« Reply #1 on: Jun 05, 2009 11:33 am »

-continued-

I dismounted and unloaded my stuff. I brought all I could carry, while still leaving room for my spear. It was awkward and everything was heavy, but gold be damned, I wasn’t leaving my spear where I couldn’t see and get to it. I wouldn’t abandon my weapon even under normal circumstances, but definitely not when Mal was going through a lot of trouble to make me aware of…something. Ando’s swag was heftier than mine, so he was still unloading as I walked past. Taking a deep breath, I stepped into Xin Mao's tent.

This guy was a real piece of work. Despite an obvious shortage of food, he had a belly that would make a hippo-cow jealous and despite being uglier than sin, he still managed to keep three beautiful women around him. I wouldn't complain through. I'd much rather travel the desert with a tribe with a leader that likes women than with the kind that don't.

His personal harem was at his side feeding him grapes. I don’t care what anyone says, but someone made grapes the way they were just for the sole purpose of allowing women to feed them to men one by one off the bunch. They just worked too perfectly to that effect for there to be any other explanation. And I always wondered how he always kept fresh grapes way out here, but that’s just what being rich means, I guess. Grapes don’t raisin up if you’ve got more gold pieces in your pocket than the population of most towns.

I could go for some hand fed grapes from a beautiful lady myself, actually. Desert life can get lonely and men who ransack land trawlers for cargo weren’t quite husband material, so most tribes were comprised entirely of men. In fact, I’d say that there might’ve been more water wells in Si Wong Desert than women. So, when life gave sandbender's lemons they...I didn't even want to think about it.

With all these things in mind, I traipsed right on in. If I had been anyone else, Xin Mao's bodyguards would've hacked me into dog meat for just waltzing in on their leader without announcing himself, but I’m not anyone else.

Xin Mao spread his chunky arms wide. "Ahh, Van! Made off with some good loot have you?" In case you didn’t catch it, Xin Mao suffered from delusions of grandeur. Like his big purple tent, his elaborate dress was purple too. He had this big poofy headdress that was crisscrossed with golden beads. And he had this sickly sweet smelling incense burning that gave covered the room in a hazy filter. He thought he was the king of the freakin' world. Truth was he wasn’t even close.

Xin Mao was a throwback to hundreds of years ago when the Earth Kingdom was ruled by several warrior kings. Truth was not all of those kings were warriors. Some were fat slobs like the one in front of me. Using others to do their dirty work. Warrior? Xin Mao? Don’t make me lose my lunch.

He wasn’t even as powerful as he liked to think he was. Sure, he was the Si Wong Desert’s most ruthless baron, but outside of this desert? He had nothing. The world was changing fast, and he was staying the same. For this kind of trade, the money and power was in industry. Trafficking and smuggling your way to cornering a market in the business world was in. Ransacking and robbing and ruling on fear was out. Soon Xin Mao would be irrelevant, swept to the wayside. And I bet he knew it too.

Xin Mao may be good at fooling everyone else, but I knew what he really was. He may seem powerful and tough, but I bet when push came to shove, Xin Mao was nothing but a gutless (so to speak) coward. I only worked under him because…well, I had nothing else better to do and needed to be someplace away from the people I know. So, for the time being, I’d let him be my boss.

I slipped a bag from my shoulder and tossed it in front of Xin Mao's big futon thing. It landed with a jingle. "You tell me, boss."
Xin Mao smiled at my standard show of disrespect and waved for one of his lackeys to go through the bag. He took out a silver plated...plate. There was also some other eating utensils in the bag including a rather large fork. The bodyguard looked annoyed. Xin Mao looked confused.

Doing my best not to laugh, I simply shrugged and said, "I thought you would enjoy the new silverware." I bared my teeth in a sly grin. "No, the real stuff is in here." I tossed the rest over.

The lackey opened one up and his face lit up as he took out a long pearl necklace. The same lifted from the old wife. Two of the beauties at the big sack of fat's side, named Itsumi and Yura crawled over, letting out the traditional "oooh, ahhh" sound. Only Siyo remained, looking uninterested in all of it. She flicked a glance my way. I gave her a slight nod and a wink, but for some reason she didn’t respond other than quickly looking away. Weird.

Shuffling on their knees -a position I bet they were used to- Yura and Itsumi brought some trinkets back to Xin Mao and at the same time asked, "Can I have this?"  

"Absolutely, take whatever you like.” He said with a dismissive wave of his fat, ringed hand. “A job well done as always, Van. As I'm sure you've already taken your cut, you can go," he said waving his hand slightly sipping from a cup with the other.

"You know it boss man. See ya later," I turned to leave, but was staring a man in the chest. It was Ando’s chest. He was blocking my exit.

I looked up at Ando  then back at Xin Mao. "Uh...you mind telling him to move?"
Xin Mao made the guy move, but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Xin Mao nodded slightly and Ando punched me in the stomach. Hard. It felt about like my insides had just been knocked out through my back. The muscles in my stomach began to spasm. I doubled up. Oh…this hurt. The spasm felt…alive! They traveled through my body, and up to my head. My lungs tried to suck in a breath but couldn't find any. Oh, man, was that blood on my stomach?!

Damn. Sometimes…I hate being right.

Why the hell didn’t I see it sooner? Mal wasn’t just warning me about Xin Mao’s tent, he was warning me about Ando too!

Play it coy for now, maybe I can talk my way out of-

Wait. What the hell had I done anyway? I don’t need to play it coy; I was coy.

There came a moment of silence, save for my attempts to breathe, as Xin Mao climbed to his stubby feet. "Van, Van, my dear Van. Look at what you made me do. Oh Van, a man such as myself doesn't get to where I am by being a fool. I have to be smarter than anyone else and not let anything get past me."

"Like anything coated in sugar or slathered in gravy?" Is what I wanted to say, but I was still struggling to breathe. Ando was a brute, but damn it, I didn’t realize he could hit that damn hard. I knew without a doubt now that the old man was dead. And I also knew that the old man was the least of my worries. I didn't even recall when I fell face first on the ground. I tried to move, but…my limbs felt like they weren’t a part of my body. I could feel them, but it felt like they were a hundred feet away. It was something like talking to a person across a canyon. You had to shout, but all they’d hear were garbled echoes.

And then I ate three bowls of orange lettuce cream.

What the hell was that?

Rough, callused hands dragged me to my feet, supporting me with vice grips on my arms. Out of the corner of his eye, Van saw Harai, Mal’s deposed old man, holding his spear. I don’t even remember dropping-

You shouldn’t read while juggling tanks, mister!

 -it.

Okay. What the hell was happening to me? Was I this out of whack feeling from a single punch to the gut?  I took a look to my left and saw Ando’s hand. That’s it. The bastard used a stinger on me.

The stringer was an interrogation tool for Firebenders. It was a glove with a tiny spike on the middle finger, just below the knuckle. Only a Firebender can use it. I knew I knew how the thing worked, but I couldn’t think straight anymore. In fact…that’s exactly how it worked. It did something to my-

Ever played the Tsungi horn with your belly button?


-chi network and made the person it was used on disoriented and made their mind start…flipping the hell out, but I could still feel sensation. I could still hear clearly, but I couldn’t talk right. If I could string more than three thoughts together, I could remember-

The apple ate the piece of bread and unleashed the Avatar State on the big footed cactus.

-the trick to beating it…

"I like you, Van. I really do. That's why I took you in, clothed you, gave you food, women. And when you agreed to return the favor by joining us, I allowed that. But I can't let anyone make a fool out of me. And I definitely can't let anyone sell me out."

Sell him out?

Blatantly bubbles burst before buff babies.


What was he talking about again? I had a small migraine growing behind my eyes. Crap, what was the trick? Something about…a sea?

Xin Mao snorted as he waddled closer, still holding that cup of wine. "Look at that face. Even when I've caught you red handed you feign ignorance? Disgraceful and frankly, I thought you were better than that. Of course, I also thought you were better than outright betrayal, but then again, I should've known better. Given your history."

My mouth felt wired shut, and my tongue seemed to turn into a piece of dead meat, but I finally managed sucked in enough air and work around the disconnected body to spit out coherent sounds "Do'...kno'...wha'...ta'kin'... bou'...!" Maybe not all that coherent. I’ve got to stop bursting blatantly buff babies… No, that’s not it. Gah! My head was spinning-

I’d like to park a train on the other side of the old lady’s favorite playpen.

-like a sea caught in a…

Wait. Sea? The sea of chi! The stomach! That’s what the stinger does. It’s just like what that acrobat who fought the Avatar way back when did by hitting pressure points, only far more crude. It throws off your body by using their chi to screw around with your own. The only downside for the Firebender is the effect is reversible. I just needed something to jolt my system. Something like a-

Mixing the giant-

Bright red pain flashed in my face where Xin Mao backhand slapped me. His rings hurt and I tasted blood. "Enough of this game, Van. Lang Mi, Ayako, and Chung are all dead. They were ambushed by another sandbender tribe at the hidden cave. No one but the people in this room and them knew where that cave was. So someone would have to tell them. I know I didn't tell. I know my personal bodyguards didn't either, so that only leaves one option, Van. Care to guess who it might be?"

What’s this? No more crazy, random thoughts?
Yes! Thank you, Xin Mao! I could think clearly now. My body felt whole again.

But, that didn’t mean he needed to know that…

Through gritted teeth I rasped, deliberately breaking up my words to match the last time, "Why… wou’… I… te’… an’… ota’… tri… anythi’..? Dey… kill’… ma… on… sight!"

Xin Mao grabbed me by the face. "No, Van, they'd kill a Shinei on sight. You're not a Shinei. You're an outsider with no real loyalties to anyone. Your skin color is proof that you weren't born in the desert.” He let my face go and started pacing, or should I say waddling? “What I think happened is you were the one who got ambushed. Faced with probable death, even without being a member of a tribe, you panicked. You knew there was no other way to avoid being killed so you told them about the cave where I keep all of my treasure. I also believe that you lead them right to the cave yourself to prove you weren't lying." His face was more grave and serious than I had seen. "Or maybe...that's not what happened at all..."

I spat out some blood. "I… Do.... Kno…. Wha….Talk...’Bout!" my voice rose with each word. As soon as I got to “‘bout" I was slapped again.
“Do not lie to me.” Xin Mao looked sullen now. "The only reason you aren't dead yet, is twofold, Van: First, I want to know which tribe you sold out to, so I know precisely who needs to be crushed. And second, is because I need to know if I was right. Did you betray me to save your own life, or was it something you did on your own for money? Because, quite frankly, this has me at odds with myself. I’d actually be somewhat understanding if you did it to save your life. But, I know how good you are with that spear. Even ambushed, you wouldn’t cower down. You’d most likely have died fighting unless you were hopelessly outnumbered. But, no, even then…you’d fight them. You’d fight them with all you had in you.”

He was right. Hopelessly outnumbered? I’ve been in that situation before, and I’m still here. Xin Mao could bet his fat ass I’d fight. So, why the hell was he so sure it was me? I started to say something, but he only slapped me again. I was really starting to hate being slapped around, but it staved off the lingering effects of the stinger. So I’d endure, and listen to this festival of crap that was this whole situation.

Xin Mao continued. “But that’s based of that assumption that I know you. I had actually fooled myself into thinking you didn't care about things like money. But, then I heard about what you did in your past...and well...I'm starting to wonder..."

“…your past…” “…given your history...”

That was the second time he brought that up and it didn’t click until now thanks to Ando’s stinger. How did he know? He could he know? I never told Xin Mao about my military service and the mess of how it ended. He had to hear it from somewhere, but who could possibly tell him?

My eyes drifted to the mattress where the beauties lay, all looking on what they thought would be an execution. All except one. Siyo, the only one of the group of beauties I ever knew on a personal level. Her head was down as she played with the pearl necklace she somehow had on. It was just a few shades lighter than her skin...her skin.

Your skin color is proof you weren't born in the desert…”



I thought back to almost three weeks ago just after returning from one of the better hauls of my time here. Xin Mao threw a big party to celebrate. I hated his parties, mainly because he tended to not wear a shirt, or much else, and, take my word for it, Xin Mao was a man who never should take any article of clothing off. Ever. But, the party was being thrown in my honor. I didn’t need to piss the big, sex crazed slob off, so I hoped I could repress my gag reflex and suffer through it.

It was a typical party. Some of the untalented members of the tribe had out some instruments and was playing a little tune, while everyone thrashed around Xin Mao’s special, giant tent. There was a lot of food and stuff to get drunk off of. I stuck mostly to the drinks.

As a treat, Xin Mao offered me one of his women, knowing full well I'd probably turn him down like I always did. I didn't and don’t want anything to do with a woman who has anything to do with doing anything to Xin Mao. I settled for drinking and eating till my hearts content. The food was alright, but the drink was off. I stopped at a bar in Gwanju once and had some of the new drink everyone was talking about called beer. It was love at first sip. It seems my suspicions of the new drink were right. It was only good cold. Either I could drink lukewarm beer or settle for the wine and sake, but those got me drunk too fast. I drank for the flavor, not to be stumbling over myself. So, I stuck to the beer.

I was in the middle of downing another cup, when I saw Siyo, sitting away from all the festivities. I didn’t even I didn’t recognize her as part of Xin Mao’s usual group of women. In fact, I noticed that I didn’t see Xin Mao’s oldest eye candy, Fei Lu either. During the week I was out hunting for loot, something must have happened and she was replaced with Siyo. She noticed me at the same time and we just looked at each other.

She was a well toned and shapely woman. She had shoulder length dark brown hair. Had those supple lips and delicate features that men dreamed of. She was stunning, but not for any particular facial or bodily feature. It was the combination of all of them that made her a knockout. She didn’t have the prettiest face; that honor went to Yura. She wasn’t the most well stacked or had the longest legs; Fei Lu and Itsumi respectively won those prizes. But, she was the only one that had all three. She looked…radiant in that half naked, gem encrusted get up. Just looking at her body, you’d think every man in the room would be throwing himself at her, but they weren’t. And I think I knew why.

Most women who sell their bodies have this submissive and broken look in their face, in their eyes. But, even from 20 feet away, I didn’t see submission. I saw conviction. I saw strength. And most of all, I saw disgust. That wasn’t the face of any harem girl I’d ever seen. And the party was supposed to be her element. This is what harem girls do. She looked the way I would look if someone dragged me to a kabuki play and forced me to sit and watch.

She wasn’t enjoying herself, same as me.

Like I said, I stay away from Xin Mao’s girls as a matter of principle, but my curiosity was begging for me to see what’s what with her. Before I could pull myself off the big pillow, which counted for a chair in Xin Mao’s world, Siyo got up first and walked through the throng. Walking to me.

She had an elegant, hip swaying walk. Each step was properly measured and even. The kind of controlled walk that you’d see on a fashion model. There was an odd little smile on her face as she approached me. As if she were regarding me, but then that’s probably how anyone woman with intelligent eyes looks at any man.

And that’s not what a bum looking to get a quick lay wants. A woman with spirit left in her. The kind of woman that actually considers herself a woman. Being in a harem girl just by the wording wasn’t a woman’s profession. Think about it: ever heard of a harem woman? Nuh-uh. Most of the men who went looking for them did it because they couldn’t handle a real woman who still had integrity.

Plainly stated: Real women were only for real men. And real men don’t use prostitutes.

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Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #2 on: Jun 05, 2009 11:34 am »

-continued-

Mal Kha, who was definitely too young to be seeing the kind of things going on in here, was walking around with a trey of wine, handing them out and making sure all the party goers stayed at just the right level of drunkenness. He passed in front of Siyo. She deftly relieved Mal’s trey of a cup without him so much as noticing.

Okay. That was pretty cool.

She stopped just in front of me. She held the cup delicately in one hand as she folded her other arm under it. She gave me more of that little smile and said, “Enjoying the party, I see.”

I casually drank the last of my beer. “Party? There’s a party in here? I can’t see past the  big, fat man undulating like a jelly worm to badly played music.”

Her smile spread a bit. “Well, that’s not nice. Xin Mao’s feelings would be hurt if he heard you say that.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, he hates it when I bad mouth his music.”

She let out a small humming sound that, I supposed, passed as a chuckle. “You’re a daring man, Mr. Van. Most men wouldn’t speak so ill of Master Xin Mao, especially not while in his employ.”

I returned her smile. “I’m not like most men.”

“I can see that.” She eyed my spear, which was leaning against the large pillow I was sitting on. “Most men leave their weapons at home when attending a party.” She tilted her head in a playful manner.  “Or to see a large man dancing to unfavorable music.”

I laughed now. “Guilty as charged and I do leave it at home.” I glanced at my spear. “Home is wherever I am. So, I take it with me where ever I go.”
She arched an eyebrow. “I didn’t peg you as a nomad.”

I arched one back. “I didn’t peg you as the kind of harem girl that was more into talking than belly dancing.”

Her smile opened to show pearly, white teeth. “I’m not like most harem girls.”

“I can see that,” I said evenly.

“Mind if I sit with you?”

I shook my head, just looking at her as she eased down next to me. It was most likely intentional on her part, but I caught a nice bit of cleavage on her way down.

Hey, just because I robbed people doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the finer things in life without being a creep. Not every day you see a nice pale skinned…

Hey. Now that I thought about it, her skin was pale. Not extremely pale, just surprisingly pale. My own skin wasn’t too far from that shade originally, but the months in the desert gave me a deep tan. I didn’t really think much of it at the time. I was more interested in her.

So, we talked some more about working for Xin Mao, how I scored the big haul from that banker just outside of Gwanju, and other humdrum conversationalist junk. She got another round of beer for me. It tasted a little better this time around. And I kind of felt a bit more of a buzz after a few sips. I get pretty chatty when I’m buzzed, so whatever. She wanted to talk, so I talked.

It was kind of cloudy after that, but I didn’t remember ever leaving for my tent, but I did remember lying half asleep in my tent as she massaged my back.  And that’s about all I can remember clearly after she walked up to me, to tell the truth. All I know is that it was the best massage I’d ever had and I just...talked. About me some of the time. No, actually, it was most of the time. No, actually…it was all of the time. I talked about me...and...Xin Mao. I was just rattling off stuff for her. Not really thinking about speaking because the massage was so good.

I could’ve told her anything she wanted me to tell her. That pale skinned beauty, Siyo; whose name I had to find out from Mal later the next day because I never asked her and she never gave it. The pale skinned beauty that showed up out of nowhere to replace Fei Lu because she died of unknown causes just a few days before I got back. That too I found out from Mal. The pale skinned beauty who didn’t act or behave like a harem girl should and was more interested in getting me to talk.

And I could’ve told her anything. Anything at all even about where Xin Mao kept all the money and treasure he couldn’t physically have on him in the…desert…

I cursed out loud. Loud enough to turn everyone's heads in a start.

"Siyo!" I snarled.

It wasn't a traditional distraction, but it worked for my intent. I stomped on Ando’s foot. Hard. Heel met instep with appropriate, and self-satisfying, success. Ando cried out and I felt his head bend closer to mine. I snapped my head back, butting him in the nose. He immediately recoiled, releasing his vice grip on me. One of the beauties shrieked. Harai attacked, with my own spear no less.

For damn sure I wasn’t about to be run through with my own weapon. I pivoted and grabbed the incoming thrust just past the tip. I bent low and let leverage and Harai’s own momentum, who clearly had no experience with the weapon based on the awkward thrust and his grip, carry him over my body and into the other bodyguard. They landed in a heap.

I was now the only person holding my spear. Just the way it was always meant to be.

If I had any doubts about the kind of person Xin Mao really was, it was confirmed now: there were four people on the bed. Xin Mao and his three concubines. When I whirled the spear and pointed at them, only one of them wasn't cowering and whimpering like a little girl. It wasn't Xin Mao. It was Siyo her eyes were, instead of afraid and concerned, were dead serious. She was in a stance like she was ready to fight. But, in a confined space like this, unless she was a Firebender, I had the upper hand. I had the conniving b***h!

I lunged-

Siyo, somehow holding a fork, spun to the side of the tent and cut through before I could skewer her. She dove through the newly made hole. I blindly leaped through the gap after her.

Mistake.

After the extended period in the tent, my eyes were adjusted to the tent and the sunlight’s glare nearly blinded me. I could hardly see the swath was being cut through the sand, straight where I was going to land.  Instinct saved my skin. I jabbed the end of the spear into the ground and flung myself to the side, landing in a roll.  The swath continued past and tore through the tent, collapsing it on everyone inside. I narrowly missed getting a leg sliced off. But, I wasn’t worrying about that. I was already sprinting after Siyo.  She was heading straight for a small mound just before the rise out of the dune, moving at unnatural speed. Each step was more like a small jump, and the sand beneath her feet shifted and rose in a perfect circle under each step.

In case I hadn't realized that yet, she was an Earthbender, my mind told me, and even though I’m not slow by any count, I had nothing on something using the sand to push off her steps. She made it to the mound, used a jumping gather, flared out her arms to her sides, and bent all the sand away, revealing a sand glider. A plume of sand shot her up and onto the glider and she started creating a sand current to propel the glider forward.

It should be noted that she was doing all this while wearing barely enough clothes to be considered actually wearing clothes. If I wasn’t intent on killing her, I’d be enjoying the peep show.

And I’d hardly covered 30 feet in all this time, so I veered right, giving up trying to catch her on foot on account of acute impossibility. I ran to a tent with a special sleeping animal inside of it. The commotion in Xin Mao's tent drew everyone else out of their tent too. I heard Mal Kha shout my name. Someone else shouted something about stopping me, but nobody got to me before I'd torn into the tent and mounted Xin Mao's eel-hound. I snapped the reigns and the beast woke up and bounded out of the tent. I pulled hard to make the beast turn.

I’d never ridden the things before but had heard of how fast they were. The descriptions did the beast no justice. I pulled on the reigns too hard and the rapid change in direction nearly threw me off the thing. I nearly jabbed the thing in the ribs with my spear just to keep my balance. The eel-hound was fast, but by the time I rode to where Siyo had been, I lost sight of her. All I could see was a trail of sand that seemed to run straight into the inside wall of the dune.

The damn girl bent through the sand sailor through the dune.  Furiously cursing like a sailor, I made the beast to climb the inside of the dune. We made it to the top but I still couldn't see her. Damn, how could I have lost her so damn quick? Not willing to give up, I urged the eel hound to run downhill and into the open desert.

I could feel veins in my neck popping out and my heart was hammering in my chest. The only thoughts I had were of how many limbs I was going to cut off and how many I’d just break. The skank framed me and I’d make her pay!

But, I didn’t see any trace of her anywhere. It was the middle of the open desert. How in the world could she already be over the horizon so fast? Sand sailors were cumbersome and heavy. It took a team of at least two benders to keep the thing moving at even a decent clip, which was just as fast as an eel-hound on full gallop. Depending on the benders, it could go even faster, but got harder to control. The kind of speed I’m talking about here was ridiculous. And to top it off, she had to bend the thing through a large amount of sand at the same time. No one is that good a bender, short of the Avatar. And being a fat man’s personal [TSK] didn’t seem like part of the Avatar’s training. Not to mention the new Avatar hasn’t even been revealed yet.

I cursed again. I’d been suckered with every man's weakness. I was a damn "pillow talker" now! If I was still in the army, the guys would never let me live that down. I slowed the beast to a slow crawl and started turning back. Man, these eel-hounds are something else. I’d already covered two miles or so, I was ready to head back when I saw what lay back at the Pit. Or really, what was racing from the Pit.  A group of other sand sailors were closing in.

Closing in on me.

“Oh crap,” I murmured.

It happened again. Damn it. It happened again. I realized the truth and got so angry at Siyo, I didn’t think. And I didn’t explain anything to anyone. I just shouted at Siyo and started fighting. From Xin Mao’s perspective, I not only sold him out, but I just tried to kill one of his girls, so she panicked and ran. And to top it off, I ruined his big fancy tent.

Xin Mao can play the pacifist that wants to talk things out in the safety and comfort of his own tent, but that was just in a room with only his trusted confidants. Outside that tent, he really was ruthless. Oh sure, I felt he was weak in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t take away from the mini empire he’d built.

He wouldn’t have gotten where he was by being perceived as weak. And now that he had a reputation as a ruthless desert baron he could only uphold if I was killed, even if it meant not knowing the how and why. Like he truly wanted to know. He couldn't hear any explanation from me now. Being able to escape from him showed weakness to his men. He’d need to redeem himself. I'd just have to die and that would be that. Yet, only leaving the desert didn’t solve things. Just because his power didn’t extend beyond the desert, didn’t mean his the men who worked under him couldn’t. There's a good chance that even if I got away today, someone will be coming to kill me tomorrow.

I was just a desert wanderer, looking for some place to disappear, when I joined Xin Mao. It took me 8 months to become one of his top men. And I’ve become a pariah that had to die in less than 8 minutes.

It was all so ridiculous and messed up, I couldn’t help but laugh at it all. It was probably the heat too. It can mess with your head. But, I was hysterical all the same. I gave a snap to the reigns, getting the eel-hound back around and into a full sprint away from the incoming bandits.

The Pit. Just more place I’m no longer welcome-

-to eat fish flavored goat-fox skins dipped in buzzard wasp honey-

-anymore.

Ah, damn it.

To be continued...
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009 08:14 pm by Eman5805 » Logged

NeeNee
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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We will not be quiet.


« Reply #3 on: Jun 09, 2009 01:46 pm »

This is good! Very nice read. You keep the readers' attention all the way, and your character is very believable and well worked-out.

Nice little touch in the ending, too. Smiley

But it's not really the ending, or is it? I'd like to see more of this.
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #4 on: Jul 16, 2009 04:02 pm »

Chapter 2: Stowing Alive

I guess I could say my old army skills were coming in real useful. I set up my first camp in almost a year. Though, I can’t really call a patch of land I slept on, just off a dusty road much of a camp. And I’m also pretty sure you need to sleep there more than a few hours either. I didn’t have the eel-hound anymore, so I don’t have the luxury of being able to cover more ground than my would be killers.

Eel-hounds are rare and noticeable. I wish I didn’t have to ditch the thing, but I’m going incognito. That means I need to be ordinary and forgettable. It was a choice of being swift but easily traceable, against being much slower but harder to track. I’m sure there are plenty of men out there with spears on ostrich horses, but the guys toting a spear on eel-hounds are probably few and far between.

My mind made up, I killed the thing (Hey, don’t wrinkle your brow. I’d let it go, but what if the pursuing goons find it? Sure, small chance, I know. But I’m not about to just let them get an even faster means of running me down. Call me whatever you want, but I’d rather be paranoid and inconvenienced than humane and dead.) and stole an ostrich horse from the coral. I also couldn’t just trade it in and pretty much tell Xin Mao’s goons that I’d been through there and wasn’t riding a fast steed anymore.

But, it wasn’t until just after that, did I realize: If they think I’m still on the eel-hound, they’ll be coming after me double time. Ostrich-horses aren’t beasts of rapid transit. Also, there’s a chance Xin Mao has another eel-hound I don’t know about. Crap.

“I probably should’ve kept the stupid eel-hound, huh?” I mumbled bitterly to the ostrich-horse. It huffed and kept at its low gallop. “I should probably stop talking to animals too. It makes me look a little crazy.”

As I made my way to the nearest town, the familiar feeling of not belonging came back. And honestly, I think I’ve missed it. Not being some fat sack’s errand boy anymore made me feel liberated. I was setting my own schedule and doing whatever I wanted again. It was like I’ve been having some cloud over my head and didn’t realize it. And now that it’s gone, I remember what being in the sun feels like.

Which is a pretty bad metaphor actually. I know full well what being in the sun feels like. My skin’s a good 6 shades darker, thanks to my stint in the desert.

I had only a handful of ideas of where I could disappear to. And no matter what way I looked at it, Ba Sing Se was my best bet. When I just wanted to be alone, the desert worked fine, but I’m actively turning tail and hiding now. Contrary to what you’d expect, hiding in plain sight works wonders. It offers an automatic bit of protection. No one is going to out right attack me in the most densely populated place on Earth. They’d have to do it quietly, and that’s if they can find me in said most densely populated place on Earth.

I pulled out a map of the area from one of my side packs. If I head west, about 83 miles along the rim of the desert and the Ging So mountains, I’d come to the port of Shun Min Na. That seemed like my best bet, unless I wanted to be exposed in the open for even longer trying to make it to Chameleon Bay nearly 300 miles east. Which I didn’t. Alright, that’s settled.

I put the map away and gave the reigns a heard snap. I was in for a good long ride.

----------------

Shun Min Na was remarkably unremarkable. Just a semi circle of erratically spread out buildings with a line of docks along the coast. It was one of the few bastions of “old architecture” left. Some new wave of buildings design were already underway in Ba Sing Se. Cho Yi, a member of The Pit, went to Ba Sing Se recently and said that if it weren’t for the walls and Ba Sing Se’s immense size, he wouldn’t have recognized it. This was all part of the World Reborn Act. Not only was Fire Nation living in the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes, but they were sharing resources. One of them happened to be engineering and architecture.

Combining the Fire Nation’s knowledge of metal and the Earth Kingdom’s ready supply of raw materials, then sprinkle in some re-focused efforts from driving the war machine to improving quality of life, and you get a boom of technology and discovery. The results vary.

On one hand you’ve got wastes of metal like those motorized wagons. On the other you’ve got something more practical, like the long range monorails that have powerful engines rather than being Earthbending powered. They’re so practical, that’s exactly what I’m going to use to high tail it to Ba Sing Se. I just wish a station was closer.

“Closed for renovations. We apologize for the inconvenience.” That’s what a sign on the middle of the seven double doors into the large station said.

I should’ve known. I mean, it would’ve been far too easy for the station to be open for me, right? Can’t have me experiencing that thing called convenience. No, no. That’s too good for me.

I could stick around and wait for the place to open and be in Ba Sing Se in a day or so. But, that meant being stationary and my pursuers, who likely knew where I was heading, wouldn’t be. I needed to be out of Shu Min Na today. And since Shu Min Na was also a port, it was pretty obvious what my only other option was.

I made my way to the docks. I ditched my second ride, even though I knew I’d probably regret it later for some reason. And I guess it was a little less inhumane as I didn’t kill the ostrich horse this time. (So don’t say I’m not charitable to my furry companions.)

There were a good couple ships around, but most were just moored and empty. A few hundred yards down the line I could spot the tips of the passenger liners. The big ships were usually for people feeling nostalgic about the old ways to travel, or had time to spare and felt like staring at water for a while. Right now they were undoubtedly overbooked now that one of the main rail arteries was out of commission, and that lessened my chances of getting a ticket quite a bit. Though even if my chances were good it wouldn’t matter. I don’t have any legal passports anyway.

That always was odd to me. I needed a passport to ride a boat, but not a train? Wouldn’t that mean anyone traveling illegally or with some outstanding warrant would simply use a train to get around? How come no one in the idiot government ever saw a problem with this? It’s such a gaping hole in the system, but whatever. I shouldn’t worry myself with that crap. I still needed to find a fast way out of here. I was panning around the area, hoping to figure something out, when a loud crash of splintering wood caught my attention.

A cargo ship was being loaded by one of those big crane machines. Someone must’ve messed up and let something slip and fall because a large crate filled with what looked like powder lay smashed. The foreman/captain was turning red in the face, yelling at the guy that messed up. The other guy swore up and down he didn’t do anything wrong, and that it suddenly fell off the lift. He gestured up to the hook and said that it broke. The foreman wasn’t having any of it, and he ordered everyone else to cover it with a tarp so it wouldn’t blow away in the breeze off the water.

They’re gonna have a time cleaning that up, I thought. Then I smiled. I think I see my “ticket” out of here
-----------------------

Van the Stowaway.

It didn't have too good a ring to it. I hoped I don’t make a habit of this as I shifted uncomfortably in the cargo hold. I wiped the sweat from my brow in the near total darkness. Even though it was nighttime, it was hot. It was damp. And I hated it. Aside from nighttime heat, this was like still being in the desert. No, scratch that, no one was trying to kill me here. At least not yet anyway.

But, I shouldn’t complain. I was finally moving and to top it off, I was hidden. It was funny, but sitting in the hold of a big ship, I could finally relax my muscles a bit. I’d ridden the whole 80 some odd miles, expecting to get ambushed at any moment. Not having that threat looming over my head gave me time to actually think about what happened back there.

It didn’t make a lot of sense. All I could figure was Siyo, which probably wasn't her real name, killed Fei Lu, Xin Mao’s oldest harem girl, and then became one of Xin Mao's new tramps so she could find out where he stored all his treasure. But, either she couldn't get the info out of Xin Mao, or she figured on framing someone else to cover her own ass. Either way she got the info out of me.

But, that still doesn’t answer two questions: Why didn't she just run away once she got the information? And who was she working for? Xin Mao said it himself; no one who lived in the desert their whole life would have still tanning skin like mine, and definitely not as milky white as Siyo’s. So who did she steal…

You know what, screw this. I’m miles and miles away from the desert. It was time to stop thinking about Xin Mao. Sure, he'd probably put out a hit on me on principle. And sure, I'd have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life, but then again, I was already doing that more or less. It was high time I returned to Ba Sing Se anyway.

I haven't been in Ba Sing Se in I don’t know when. Last time I was there, it was to catch an Earth Rumble. It was pretty fun as I remember it. I even wanted to get in on the fun myself and join the non-bending division. I would’ve too if it wasn't the kinda thing that’d get an army ensign kicked out. The army looks down on its soldiers getting into potentially fatal situations on their own ambitions. The army would rather send them into definitely fatal situations on their own ambition.

A chuckle escaped my lips that came out louder than I intended, and I immediately tensed up. The metal planking of the hold isn't sound proof. If I got found out for stowing away, I'd be sent to prison, and that meant it wouldn't be long until I got a family visit. I’d much rather face Xin Mao’s hit squad than that.

So, I decided to keep my mind on things that wouldn't make me want to laugh, which was surprisingly easy given my luxurious lodgings. I thought about how crummy it was in this hold. I thought about what I'd do once in Ba Sing Se. I thought about Siyo’s earthbending. I thought about what I would do if Xin Mao really did sick an assassin on me. I thought about what I'd do if he ever saw Siyo again and...

Damn it all. I couldn't get her out of my head. It would've been the wise thing to do. The sensible thing to do, but from taking the eel hound to my current situation, and I’d only come back to her. What was it about her that I couldn't shake? It wasn't the intimacy thing. I’ve done what I did with her with other women. It wasn't that she was all that attractive. Well, yeah she had good curves, but I’ve seen that before too. Was it that she tried to kill me? Oh, I sure as the pit hoped not. That's a fetish I wouldn't willingly want to indulge. No, sir. Then what the hell was it? Why was her face constantly popping into my head? I eventually decided it was probably all of the above, plus her playing me for a chump like that.

I shook his head and wiped the beading sweat again, fully aware of the deja vu it brought. I nudged my spear with my foot, just to make sure it didn't get up and walk away in the last 3 minutes, and stared up at the ceiling, which was actually the floor, I think.

Somewhere above me, someone was walking, boots thumping on the wood. Sounded like more then one too. Three maybe? I was about to ignore it, when I realized they were getting louder. They were talking about something. I strained to hear.

"-uld be a stowaway," said a gruff voice.

"Not on my boat!" replied the ship's captain. “Check the cargo hold!”

Just great.

I had just enough time to grab my spear, shuffle behind some crates, and press against the hull, or whatever the nautical term is called, before a hatch opened. A figure stepped halfway down the rusty, metal stairs I was just sitting on. Light poured in as the man panned around the cargo bay with a lamp. I crouched as low as I could, willed himself still, held his breathe, and pretended to be invisible. He was walking in the hold, holding the lantern out in front of him. The light kept playing over my head like it was taunting me. Stupid light…

C'mon pal, nothing down here but stale bread...

"Hey! Someone's down here! Don't move!" the guard shouted as he stomped towards me.

Damn, damn, damn. I reached for my spear, knowing that I had virtually no advantage in this confined space with all these crates and a low ceiling. How was I gonna-

A tiny voice cried out.

I froze. Not even 5 feet away, I could see the back of a burly man hunched over. If he just turned around, I’d be spotted. But, he was too busy struggling with something. I should say someone. A female someone.

What the...there was someone else in here with me the whole time?

The guard pulled a girl out of her hiding place, and held her by the arms. She was quite small, childlike, and was wearing no more than a tattered tunic that didn't fit her too well. She resisted the bigger crew member, dragging her feet and trying to thrash free of the arm lock. But, thrash all she wanted, she'd never get away. Still, she was giving him a rough time.

A man I guess who was either the captain, the capturer's boss, or just a bossy nobody demanded, "There really is a stowaway? How the pit did you let this happen?"

"I didn't let a thing happen. Ow! She bit me! Damn she's feisty."

He more or less carried the, still trying to break away, girl up the hold stairs. Just before they disappeared up deck, the suddenly girl stopped her resisting to look back into the hold.

Directly at me.

Stared me straight in the eyes. She didn't make a sound as she did. The light hit her face proper and I could see her face clearly. She was...quite pretty and her eyes were a light shade of blue. And I couldn’t be sure but I think there was a…small stone in the middle of her forehead? I didn’t get a good look at it because with a quick screech of rusty hinges and a loud, metallic clang, they were gone. I waited until the footsteps were completely gone before I let out a held breathe.

She saw me, without a doubt she saw me, but she didn't say anything. And seriously, she was in the hold the entire time? All this time? And I didn’t notice? No, that wasn't possible. When I slipped through the side hatch into the hold, I looked all over to see where all the best places to hide were. I didn’t see a thing. She couldn’t have been in here then. Though…I was pretty exhausted at the time.

The second I found a good spot and the ship cast off. I couldn't help but fall into a deep sleep. The girl had to have snuck below deck then. It’s the only explanation that makes sense; either that or she avoided me the entire time.

Okay, so I figured that out. But, why didn't she turn me in? Being nice? That wouldn't make sense. I’ve never seen the girl before. She didn't see me before that exact moment? No, that's not it either. She didn't look surprised or confused when she saw him. She looked him dead in the face and didn't even blink, like she knew she was down there with someone. If she said "There's someone else in here with me!" I would've been screwed, and she might get off easy since a 14 or whatever year old orphan kid stowing away is sort of small beans, but a disgraced, 22 year old, former Earth Kingdom soldier who may or may not have a bounty on his head is something else completely. The kid might get a free pass, a hot meal, and some clean clothes. If she was smart enough, or wily enough to sneak on board a ship like this from up deck somewhere, something I wouldn’t want to try, she could or could not know that. But, even then, the natural reaction for any person is to not go down alone.

"Hey, I'm caught, but, uh...hey, he's sneaking on too!" If that thought went through the kid's head, she choose not to listen to it.

Oh well, another thing I shouldn't worry about. Just thank good fortune that I wasn't caught and forget about that girl too. She got her own self caught anyway. Wasn't my problem. She was young, she wouldn't go to jail or anything. Slap on the wrist, like I thought.

Messed up, really. The poor kid. I’m where I am by choice, but-

No, no, no. Stop it Van, what the pit are you doing? Don't feel sorry for her. It isn't your problem. So what she'll probably get shipped off to some crappy orphanage, then eventually wind up back on the streets alone somewhere. There are thousands of girls like her. Life's cruel sometimes, so why even give a damn? So what?

I sighed. "Yeah, life's so cruel, but she still didn't turn me in..." I murmured to myself. The adrenal rush faded. And now I was tired again. So, I crept back over to my sleeping nook and drifted off to sleep.
--------------------

Muffled shouting snapped me awake. I dug the crust from around my eyes and inched up the stairs to listen in the commotion up deck.

"How the hell did you let her escape?" one man shouted. Sounded like the were 12 feet or so from here.

A second man, whose voice gave me a slight indication about how smart-or not smart-the guy was, answered in a whine, "How was I supposed to know she was a bender? It surprised me."

"You idiot! Did you check the hold again?"

"I was about to when you showed up."

Damn, damn, damn. I turned around, ready to snatch up my spear-

The girl was standing in front of me.

I about jumped out of my skin. My heel clipped one of steps, and I fell hard on my butt.

Great Gaia! She'd snuck back down here again?! How the hell did she move so damn quiet? I never even noticed her...

"You hear that? It came from- Guys, I found her! She's back in the hold!"

"Figures, stupid kid, like we wouldn't search back down there anyway."

I cursed under my breath as he went for the spear. My hand grabbed nothing but air. My spear wasn’t here? I was ready to get confused, until I saw the girl holding it in front of her. Now I was just downright befuddled.

Visibility was limited down here even in the day, the little light seeping through cracks in the roof/floor/whatever was all there was, but through slivers of light, I could see the girl mouth a word:

"Fight."

I began to ask if the girl was crazy in the head, but he didn't have any time to discuss it, because the creaky hatch behind me flung open.


Next chapter:

Chapter 3: Fight
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Waterbender Katara
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« Reply #5 on: Jul 18, 2009 02:47 pm »

Great story! I can't wait for more.
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NeeNee
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We will not be quiet.


« Reply #6 on: Jul 20, 2009 09:41 pm »

Fight? Against her? Why on earth? Against them? Then why take his spear away from him?

What kind of bender would she be? Fire? Water? Air? Probably not earth, or she wouldn't be able to bend on a boat. Probably not air too, or they'd have been more surprised. Unless this isn't the same Avatar universe.

So many questions... update soon. Grin
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Eman5805
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« Reply #7 on: Aug 01, 2009 11:05 pm »

Chapter 3: Fight

Her lips moved but no sound came out. There wasn't much light in the hold, but I could still read the word off her lips: "Fight". Bizarre as it was for her to mime saying that, it wasn’t what had me confused the most. She was holding my spear. In one hand.

And that just doesn’t any make sense.

My spear, a cross between a qiang and a naginata, was a one of a kind custom model. When I joined the army, I refused to be just another grunt infantryman. I’d stand out on a battlefield. The spear itself was shorter than common infantryman's though. It was light green in color and had shallow engravings along the haft. To the naked eye they'd appear to be just decorative, but the slight curving the engravings put in the haft made for better handholds. Unlike most spears, the blade wasn't shaped to look like a giant arrow like most guys, or had a long pointed blade, like a pike. Mine sported a curved 7 inch blade, a purposefully made notch just at the base on the inside, giving it a slight resemblance to a hook or a scythe. The haft itself was made of Jo Shai, a strong and ridged wood that still is capable of flexing and bending on impact. It's resistant to shattering and can even stop most sword swings cold. The end opposite the blade was a rounded, blunt tip that gives a good, strong whack on the head. If I wanted to the spear could be used solely as a bo staff for non-lethal combat with equal effectiveness. Inside there’s a hollow tube filled with a dense liquid.

All together my spear was anything but light. It was unevenly weighted and thanks to the tube and liquid, when swung it acted like a pendulum, conserving momentum. So, twirling before striking would actually increase a blow, making it more than just for show. Being already around 15 pounds heavy altogether, it made it more difficult to handle. It was an expert weapon, crafted by an expert, for an expert, to use expertly. Even holding in your hand required skill and strength. To hold it in one hand, you had to compensate for the off-kilter balance, or else you might lose part of your foot.

Yet, this girl held his weapon with no problem.

I didn't have time to go "Huh?"-both at her inexplicable ability to hold my spear with no problem and her mouthing “fight”- as the hatch into the hold flung open. I hoped this guy was blind.

"What the...who's that-"

Should've known that wouldn't work. I lurched forward, off my butt, and took the spear from the unmoving girl. I spun on my heels and the backend swung upwards at the descending guard. The boat pitched slightly at the same time, and threw me off. It was an awkward swing and I wasn’t really aiming it at anything but in the general direction of the man behind me. The blunt end caught the man where no man wants to get caught by anything blunt. He let out a girlish yelp and doubled up, losing his balance. His head banged against the side of the hatch as he fell. Shouts came from up deck, and footsteps thudded as more guards came to see what was happening and probably to beat my head in. It was about to get crowded real soon. I had to move.

I tucked my spear under one arm and grabbed the girl's still outstretched hand with the other. We bolted up the steps and into a hallway on what I assumed was the boiler deck. When I cleared the hatch, I suddenly let go of the girl's hand, leaving her still halfway up the steps.

It should've been because I’d regained my senses and realized I was going to fight a whole shipload of armed guards because a damn toddler told me to. It wasn't. I happened to like having two arms.

The surprise sword attack sliced through the air that used to be occupied by my arm. His blade lodged into the wall. The hallway wasn't wide or tall enough for me to swing at him with anything hard, and speed was the key, so I gave him a glancing blow with the spear’s haft that caught his temple. He cried out and fell. It wouldn't put him down for long.

Crazy idiot! What if that was the girl who came out first? He would've split her skull like a melon!


The hallway extended left and right. The hatch was located closer the bow in the middle of the ship. To the left there were several on rushing crew members turned guards, coming from what direction I assumed was the crew quarters, shouting for me to stop. To my right. Nothing but air and sunlight from above deck.

I had a tough choice to make. Take on five men in a cramped hallway, or run the other way. To my shock I grabbed the girl by the hand again and ran to the right. I would rather hold his ground and fight them off before running, but since I had the girl... Wait. Why did I have the girl? I don't know her. But I guess now wasn’t the time to second guess myself when I just needed to keep moving.

I noticed a couple pipes running along the top of the hallway. Fully certain there was a boiler room nearby, I slashed them as we ran past. A sharp, satisfying hiss of steam flooded the hallway behind us. No one’s running through that anytime soon.

I made it to the stairs and a burly, shirtless man stomped down holding a 2x4 menacingly in front of him. "You’re going nowhere, desert punk!"

Crap, I didn’t even realize I was still wearing my desert get up. I’d have to ditch these clothes ASAP. But first… "Says who?" I shot back.

Without slowing down, my foot lashed out, kicking the length of wood up out of his hands. It thunked into his face, staggering him back. Before he could recover, I jabbed him hard in the gut with the back end of the spear and raced up the steps. The whole ship was alerted by now. The ship couldn't have a crew of much more than 25 people, but save for the three I momentarily, the ones who had to turn and run the other way because of the steam, every single one was staring me in the face. Nearly all had swords and the few others had whatever weapon they could find.

Great, I'm above deck. Now what?

The Shu Ming Na’s sister port, Hokashin, was some 500 yards away. If I had to, he could swim for it. But, a fish I was not. I’d never out swim a ship. I looked around quickly and spotted a few dinghies hanging off neither either side of the ship. If I moved fast, I could get to the closest one, cut it loose, and hightail it outta here. But, to move fast enough, I’d need to leave the girl here. And on that note, I still wasn't entirely sure why I’m dragging her along in the first place. I was more than sure they wouldn't do anything to the girl. Who, by the way, still hadn't made a sound or changed her unreadable expression. She didn't even look the least bit worried. What’s with this kid? Was she special? And not the good kind of special?

Instead of rushing in and overwhelming me with the number advantage they had, they stood where they were, poised and ready. Some broke rank...well position, and let a man with a funny hat through their rough semi circle. His eyes went from me, to the spear, to the girl, then back to me. Then he shook his head and let out a low chuckle.

"What's this? A brother and sister stowing away on my ship? Two stowaways? Disgraceful," he said bitterly. I recognized his voice as the captain, which I then realized was the same as the foreman from the docks. He was pretty short. Maybe three inches taller than the girl. He turned away and waved his hand. "I don’t have the energy for this. Do whatever you want with the boy, but don't harm the girl." Then, more to himself, but still loud enough to hear, he added, "She'd better fetch a good price after all this aggravation."

Fetch a good price for the girl? Was this bastard was in the sex trade?

I let go of the girl's hand, but only to grip the spear in two hands. Originally, I figured I’d grabbed the girl's hand on some weird reflex. Stuff was happening fast. I just reacted and did what came naturally. But now, I wasn't about to abandon her like this to spend her life as some rich deviant's sexual plaything.

I knew about the underbelly of society, and I’ve been willing to get involved with a lot of unethical operations. Smuggling, robbery, extortion, but I'd never ever get in on the sex trade. It wasn't like prostitution where the women(or sometimes men) willing agreed to have their bodies sold. Kids too young to drink were involved and that was all kinds of wrong.

Then, I realized something else. If the captain was into the trade, then so was the crew. I thought back to the crashed crate back on the docks and that white powder. I had thought they covered it up so nothing would get blown away in the wind, but now I think they had another reason to keep that powder out of site. Cactus dust. This ship was smuggling drugs, which made every man on this boat a pirate. No wonder they’re so quick to go for the kill, killing was part of the profession.

I didn't know this girl's name, but I did know one thing: She was getting off this boat with me.

Over my shoulder, I rasped to the girl, "Stay behind me. I'm gonna clear some goons out, then we're gonna break for the boat over there." She didn’t respond verbally but she did take a few steps away from me. Guess that means she isn’t deaf.

The crew was just staring at me and the girl, some were smiling. Others were eyeing the girl in a way I didn't like. I snarled, "Bring it, ya pansies! I hate cliché, pre-fight standoffs. Let’s get to the part where I mop the deck with your midget captain already!”

That brought out a guttural roar and the first man charged, armed with an oversized workman's hammer. He was coming fast and hard. Based on how clumsily he was coming, I had a dozen ways to block him. Instead, I backpedaled a bit and let him swing on me. I ducked the swing and hooked the haft under his leg. All it took was a slight levering up and the man's own momentum sent him up and over the railing into to the drink. Three more men charged.

To my right I saw a length of thick rope coiled against the railing. I stuck my spear into the thick of it and flung it into at the throng of goons. It didn’t hurt them, just slowed them up as they tried to avoid it. That was just a brief distraction so I could step in, whirling my spear, and deliver sharp blows to their heads and stomachs in succession.

Once in the gut, pivot, back of the head, block second guy’s attack from behind, side of the face, hook between legs, trip, spin, downward strike to chest, whirl the spear, backwards thrust under my arm pit into final guy's face when he thought he had me off guard.

I threw in a pointless flare of spinning my spear left and right, that ended with me holding the spear horizontally over my head, with one leg bent, the other straight. I extended my other arm out, hand straight, at the rest of the gawking pirates. “Damn, I’m good.”

I took it that the crew was getting the idea that I’m wasn't no slouch in a fight, and were looking a bit apprehensive. The captain started barking at his men. "What's wrong with all of you? It's just one man! Crush him! Now!" More men came, and I was ready for them.

Five concussions and a broken arm later, I had just smashed another guy in the face with the haft held horizontally in two hands, when I realized in all my ass kicking, I messed up: I forgot about the man I left at the bottom of the stairs.

I heard the footsteps behind me and the burly, block of wood wielder's roar of glee at attacking an unsuspecting enemy. I jumped back and whipped around. Damn it! He was too close. Stupid! I’m about to get creamed-

SCHWHOOSH!!!

The man rose up and through the air, flying my head. I instinctively shielded myself with my free hand and couldn't see anything for a second. But, I could feel myself get sprayed with misty water. I looked over my shoulder just in time to see the burly man slam directly into the men who were about to get me with my back turned. The force that he was flying with was so great, they slid across the deck into more men, including the captain. Every man I didn't already beat down was caught in it and were now in a painful heap against the main superstructure.

Holy! Crap! What just happened? What did that? Only person here besides me is...

My eyes slowly tracked over to the girl, shock and awe all over my face along with a thin film of saltwater. The girl didn't look like she moved an inch. She just continued staring at me. She was completely dry too.

She raised her hand. I’d already flinched before realizing that she was pointing at the dinghy. I recomposed myself, pretended I wasn't suddenly afraid of a little girl, and grabbed her hand. We ran through the moaning group of beaten men. After climbing in, all it took was two quick swipes of my spear and it was cut loose and fell hard into the water.

I almost thanked a good stroke of fortune that this dingy came with a motor. I pulled the cord and it sputtered to life. I angled it diagonally from the harbor, towards a beach a half mile to the left of it because I didn’t want anyone in the harbor seeing me come in with off a dinghy from this ship.

I could finally catch my breath now, and glanced over my shoulder. I could hear the shouting and see someone run to the gunwale and point after us. "Well, we're off, but what's to stop them from turning that thing and coming after us?" I muttered.

Then, I got my answer.

The back of the ship just exploded. Like “BOOM”. A billowing fireball turned everything orange and threw debris, including people, into the water, and I belatedly dove my head under the little gunwale, as if it could protect me. Screams, too loud for comfort, came from all different angles it felt. Someone shouted that the ship was sinking and to abandon ship.

How in the world…did the engine just explode? Was it because of that line I cut? No, it couldn’t be. That was just the little boiler room that boiled the salt out of seawater for drinking and had hot water for people to shower for long voyages. And it was near the front of the ship, not the back.

Lucky coincidence? Right as I’m escaping? No way. That’s too lucky. But, if that wasn’t coincidence then…

I looked at the girl.

She was still wearing the unreadable mask, staring blankly at the ship and the chaos. Not even remotely shocked or surprised by what she was looking at, even though she damn well should be. Unless she…

No way. Did she? Could she? How?

Just who the pit is this girl?
« Last Edit: Aug 01, 2009 11:07 pm by Eman5805 » Logged

Eman5805
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 01, 2009 11:06 pm »

-continued-

There are people that have recently started looking to movements of the unseen. Well, recently as in the last 300 years. They think that something that no one can see, feel, or be aware of is controlling everything, mechanizing everything. And not one of the spirits. Me? I don’t know what to think. I mean, I’m no philosopher or critical thinker. I can barely remember how long ago something happened, let alone some unseen mumbo jumbo. Yet, I still find myself giving the unknown a name. Guess it’s just my way of dealing with stuff, more specifically the stuff that keeps going bad for me. Like luck.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’m not a lucky guy. Gambling, making predictions, planning my day out, being a bandit, nothing every goes like I want and I think luck’s got something to do with it. I can’t figure out why and it’d probably drive me crazy if I really let it. But, there’s the thing, I don’t let my bad luck get me down by pretending there’s some unseen force that conspires to screw me over. Wild, huh?

I guess giving it a name makes the problem smaller, puts it more on my level in some weird way. And just cuz I felt like it, I slapped on my fate with my luck. Because why should luck have all the fun in messing with me? They could tag team me to torment me whatever way they could..

A normal guy would probably go crazy (maybe crazier in my case) if he thought something like that was out to get him. But, then I’m not a normal guy.

If those forces want to mess with me and constantly put me in situations where dozens of people want to waste me? Then I’ll just have to keep on living. Give ‘em something to mess with and mess right with them back by not letting it get me down. Humor. That’s my weapon for fate and luck. You want to screw me over? I’ll laugh in your face and survive it. It’s almost a game to me now. What crazy thing is life gonna lump my way next? The pits, I even sort of look forward to it most of the time.

I guess as a change of pace, the forces of fate and luck decided to give me a break. I got away from the sinking pile of wreckage unhindered and I ditched the dinghy. I thought about heading into the town, but decided against it. It wasn’t that far from shore when the ship went up, and I’m sure someone saw it and sent rescue boats out for the survivors. I have no way to know if the pirates will mention me or the girl in the report the police will demand from them. There’s a chance some waterbenders are stationed at the port. A team of them could easily raise the ship to salvage some of the cargo, and when they do and find all the goodies onboard, they’ll have a whole ‘nother mess of problems. But, I won’t take any chances, not with my aforementioned luck. So, I decided to make do with what little food I had and pass up Hokashin. There’s a town a day down the road beyond it.

I figured I could at least survive another hike in the wilderness.

____________________________________

Perhaps I should be grateful for the ship being blown up. It did save me some trouble by not adding to the people coming for me. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt me and the girl would be long forgotten in the whole event. So it all works out. It almost was enough for me to express my gratitude in some way, but the forces of fate and luck have a sick sense of humor. The second I start "Thank whoever"ing a tsunami is bound to come say "You're welcome." When you've had your spear jerked around one too many times, you can't help but want to keep that spear close to you and not let anyone else touch it. It's human nature. Well...it's my nature anyway. But, I'd have to settle that matter for another time and place.

First, there's the matter of a certain mute.

I just don't get it. How can a kid just not talk? You probably couldn't tell, but I was a mouthy little sprite when I was her age(which I also don't know). She just walked, ate what little berries and game I found along the road, stared at me with the same blank expression (which is just creepy), breathed, and…that was about it. And while I'm definitely not interested in seeing it, I haven't even seen the girl go duck off into the bushes when nature calls. If she does, it has to be when I was asleep.

Which leads to yet another baffling fact about the girl. Since my mouthy nature carried over to adulthood and my military stint, I got in trouble more often than not with superior officers, and, more often than not, would get put on graveyard detail. Which basically meant I'd be forced to stand guard over the camp and would probably get about 4 hours of sleep all night, 3 if it was the winter.

That is to say I would have gotten a few hours of sleep every night if I didn’t learn how to sleep standing up with one eye open. It was tricky, but to see the faces of Commander Itsugi and Omonoi when I show up after every graveyard detail bright eyed and busy tailed without so much as a bag under my eyes every time was well worth it. The stuck up losers.

But, anyway, I had the half sleep thing down so well, I could snap away if something made a sound or approached, so no one could catch me napping and I could still guard the base. I thought nothing could ever sneak up on me like that, but this girl had to be able to not only sneak around while I’m asleep, but relieve herself. She just had to, because as dirty as she is, she doesn't stink. And that food and water has to come out sometime, right?

Yet, for all my wondering about bodily waste, I was just trying to overlook the giant badgermole in the room. It was a big question mark I just couldn't drop.

If I take that earlier train of thought, then somehow the girl, who seems to have the sneaking skills of an expert assassin or thief, sneaks aboard the ship after I got there, gets found out somehow, and is captured. She then waits until the next morning to escape and promptly goes back down to the cargo hold where I was. She knew I was there, and she purposely ran back. The guards come, and she tells me to fight, only without actually saying it. But, why? Why did she tell me to fight?

I have to figure she's a waterbender, and from how she tossed a full grown man like a toy, she's a pretty good one. She could've waylaid the whole ship on her own without letting them know I was there. But, she gave me my spear and told me to fight. And then when the fight starts she does nothing but watch? Almost like I was demoing my skills for her. Wait. Was that what I was doing? Did she hand me my spear just to see how good I was with it? But, I mean she’s just a kid right? Just cuz she moves like a cat, doesn’t mean anything. But since I know diddly, doo, and da about her, I can't really rule anything out, can I?

So, if I continue with that train of thought and assume that's true, how did she know they'd even put up a fight with me? At face value, they looked like a regular crew. Is it possible she knew they were really pirates? And what about the engine? Did she really do that? We were too far away for her to disable the engine with waterbending. That'd put her on Avatar level and…

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since Avatar Aang was killed. I can’t remember how long ago though, but any kid born right after that might just be this girl’s age.

No, no, no. C’mon Van, you’re not really thinking this girl could be the Avatar, are you? There’s just no way. How could the Water Tribe let her run away like this? The Water Tribe is supposed to have some secret way of knowing exactly what child is the Avatar the moment they’re born. No way she could slip away, she’d be constantly guarded every moment, even with waterbenders living all over the world, she couldn’t slip through the cracks. The world was waiting for the Avatar too much. They’re far too careful and every woman on the planet would want to know if her baby was the next Avatar. So let’s just throw that idea away. It’s too damn crazy to be true, even for me.

So back to where I was.

I doubt even someone like Katara of the Water Tribe could’ve pull something off like that. If she did do something to the engine, when? There's a chance she could've snuck into the engine room just after she escaped. But, would this mean she even knows how to disable an engine? And even if she could, how can you make an engine blow up like that? And at that exact time? If I took any more time to bust them up, we would’ve been caught on the ship when it blew.

No way, I must be mental for even thinking like that. There's not even any solid proof the engine didn't go kaput on its own. C'mon Van, because the girl kicks 8 kinds of ass with waterbending and moves like a ghost, doesn't mean she's some kind of one man, er, woman, er, girl army. I just need to get my mind off this nonsense and focus on something else, like…

I burst out laughing. Oh man, all this stuff made me forget about a whole different badgermole sitting in the room. I got caught up in all this I didn’t even remember that there’s still desert hitmen coming for me. Just a few days ago, I didn’t know if anything could get my mind off that mess, and here we are. I’m smack in the middle of a stranger mess with even more questions and wild theories.

“Fate. Luck. You guys are something else. How are you gonna top yourselves next?” I chuckled. I was vaguely aware that the girl was looking at me with her head slightly tilted to the side, though her general expression was still static. I shook my head and said to her sarcastically, “Don’t ask.”

And she didn’t. And I figured as much.


Next Chapter:

Chapter 4: The Mouthful and the Mouthless
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NeeNee
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 11, 2009 03:39 pm »

Train of thought is awesome. And the girl's a real, very interesting mystery.

Can't want to read more.
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Eman5805
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 26, 2009 09:08 pm »

Chapter 4: The Mouthful and the Mouthless


“Freedom. Sweet, sweet freedom,” I said, full of elation. “Time to celebrate.”

I walked into a bar in a town called Yuan owned by a brown skinned man with streaks of grey in his busy beard and a belly to end all bellies. It was too early for the noon regulars but it still had a few patrons. Most of the time when you walk into a bar, the barkeep was behind the counter, cleaning mugs with a grimy dishrag. But, this time he was sweeping. Aren’t I lucky? (Don’t answer that.) "Hey, fella. Been a while since I've seen a new face around here," the big bartender asked while slyly eyeing my spear.

I grunted a soft reply as I slid onto a bar stool. I left my spear on a weapons rack near the entrance and took a seat at the edge of the counter, leaving my spear just a bit out of arm's reach. I'd have to lunge out of my seat if I wanted to start anything with it, a silent compromise most bar owners ask of patrons who carry weapons, especially new ones. He nodded slightly his approval.

He walked behind the counter, stashing the broom in a closet as he went. "So, what'll you have?” Then he held up a hand, cutting me off. “No wait, let me guess, something of the fermented grain and frothy quality," he mused.

I returned the musing look and nodded. This guy’s been in the business a while. "You got it." He poured me a medium sized mug and passed it too me. I wasn't planning on getting toasted today, so I slipped him my money up front. As I sipped on the flavorful brew, I had a thought. If some body did adopt the girl, they'd be pretty surprised if she sneaks out on them or they wake up and find her staring them right in the face, like she did with me one night. I chuckled.

The barkeep smiled. "Mind if I ask what's so funny?"

"I just had a...split up with the strangest girl I've ever met," I said between guzzles.

The barkeep nodded. "Ah. I know the kind. The ones that you can never figure out? The kind your almost are relieved to be rid of, huh?"

"Yep. I feel like a million gold pieces, my man."

"I’ve had my own run ins with strange women in my day. You'd better be careful though, the strange ones can be…clingy."

That made me gulp a bit more of the brew down than I wanted, and I almost choked on it. “For my sake, I hope you’re wrong.” I raised the mug, shaking it so the last gulp could swish around. “Otherwise, I’ll need to order a few more cups of this stuff.” That brought out a laugh from a fellow sitting at the end of the bar.

Gah! That was the last thing I wanted to hear. I really don’t want to think of her escaping and following me again. Though would “escape” be the right word? I mean it was just an orphanage, not a prison. I probably shouldn’t worry too much about it. Got to love World Reborn policy. A dusty man in horrible need of a shave can show up with an even dustier little girl at any orphanage and drop her off with nary a question asked. All I had to say was I found her wandering alone. She didn’t object in the slightest the whole time. It was like she accepted it.

So, then that was that, right? Now I could get to the relative -and likely temporary- safety in numbers of Ba Sing Se without 60 pounds of creepy, probable powerhouse, dead weight.

Yeah right.

I sighed and said, “I think I’ll have another round, my good man.”

So, I downed another two mugs, giving myself a slight buzz, and went to grab my spear. A rather pretty woman with a bo staff strode in. She had a regal air to her, a self important, purposeful gait. She was dressed a bit like an army officer, but the color scheme was different. It was more dark purple than dark green, and she was wearing a headband I hadn’t seen before. I don’t think she noticed me, even though she gave the room a once over. Satisfied about something she slid on the same stool I was just on. I’d be damned if she didn’t make the move look sexy. Everyone in the bar was eyeing her. If I didn’t suddenly feel pressed to leave, I might’ve spoken to her. Instead I ignored the brain in my pants, walked out, and made a bee line for the straightest road to Ba Sing Se.

______________________

Even three years afterward, my military stint continued to pay off or to be more precise, my military stint’s boot camp continued to pay off. I don’t know what the Fire Nation or Water Tribe did to train their troops, but I find it hard to imagine a tougher way to break in ensigns. Wake up at 4 in the mourning, jog for an hour while carrying 30 pound sacks of dirt on our backs, do 30 hot squats, 30 push ups, 30 chin ups, 30 suicide dives, and finish that off for another jog. Did I mention this is how you get breakfast? If you don’t do the drills, you don’t eat. It was cruel and unusual, but it worked. I’m not a mound of sculpted muscle or anything, but I’d turn a few heads if I went around shirtless. And for all the right reasons. And I owe it all too the authorized torture of boot camp.

Oh, and it gave me good stamina.

Even though I’d been out of practice a few months, I could still move at a good clip without getting too tired. I probably covered somewhere near 50 miles from town before the sun started to set. I don't like traveling at night in areas like this because I know bandits love idiot, nighttime travelers who walk alone. Being a bandit once, I guess I knew what I was talking about. So, I set up a crude camp just off the road just by the same river Yuan is situated on. There was a large rock sticking out of the ground so it provided a good cover from any travelers or bandits, and I knew how to keep the flame just big enough to get warm, but not big enough to be seen easily. I had just started a camp fire when I heard gravel and sand crunching.

I leapt from crouch, grabbed my spear, and was ready to skewer whoever or whatever was sneaking up on me when I saw it was...

The. Same. Damn. Girl. And for some reason, I was surprised.

I should’ve known better.

This girl is just something else, but I wasn't thinking in awe. I was pretty pissed. I should’ve been looking behind me. At least keeping an eye on my surroundings. What if she was one of Xin Mao’s hitmen? They could’ve been tailing me and I never bothered too look over my shoulder. Sloppy and stupid!

I was mad at myself, but I decided to take it out on the girl instead. And for the first time since the boat, I spoke to her. Loudly. “What the pit are you doing here?!"

She blinked, not out of confusion or as a real answer. It was just a blink.

"Son of a glass eating harlot!” I spat. “I won't even bother asking how you escaped, but what, you're gonna follow me?"

She blinked again.

"Well, let me spell it out for you. N. O. You can't follow me. So turn around and walk your little butt around and go right back from where you came!"

Another blink.

I cursed again. "Don't stand there like you don't understand me! I'm not a damn babysitter! Do you think I’m some kind of hero or something? What I did on that ship was a one time deal. Well, deal's up, okay? You're on your own! Now go!"

Guess what she does next. Go ahead. Take a wild guess what she did just then. I'll give you a hint: It rhymes with and is similar to a wink, except with both eyes instead of one.

By this time, I was getting the feeling she was just mocking me, even though he expression never changed. Which gets more and more creepy the longer it lasts. I mean, sure she's a powerful bender apparently, but having a non-emoting anything just stare at you blankly will weird even a combat vet (who has seen men get burned alive right before his eyes and has personally, willfully, disemboweled the person who did it) out. In spite of how weirded out it was, I was still pissed. I didn't talk a woman into taking this girl in just so she could sneak out and follow me. I don't like doing things just to do it. It's like sharpening your spear, only to turn around and it suddenly needs to be sharpened again.

I threw my hands up in frustration and said a few more swear words at no one in particular. "No, we are not doing this. I don't even know who you are and-"

Okay. Imagine staring at an amazingly lifelike statue for a really long time. You think it's real, you swear it’s real. And just know that it’ll move the second you let your guard down. So, you keep staring, but it doesn't ever move. And then imagine, that when you finally get over the idea that it's really a person covered in silver paint and accept that it's in fact a statue...the damn thing moves. Wouldn't you jump or react in an decidedly unmanly way? Well, that's what happened to me when the nameless girl suddenly stooped down like she dropped something.

You have to realize I'd never seen the girl move fast. When I was pulling her through the corridors on the boat, I was looking in front of me. When she took out half the crew at once, I turned and it never looked like she moved. So, seeing her do more than walk, eat, and hold my spear…well, this was the most activity I'd seen out of her. Turned out she was just dragging her finger through the dirt. She was writing something. To further mystify me, she had better pen...well, fingermanship, than most people I'd seen write with calligraphy pens.

And as clear as day, she wrote: Lyra

“Lyra? Is that your name or something?” She didn’t respond. She shuffled over and wrote something else: Ba Sing Se.

I couldn't help but laugh. Great, just great. She wants me to take her to Ba Sing Se? "Okay, so, Lyra, why would I have any reason on Earth to take you with me to Ba Sing Se?"

Then, she wrote something else: The Luminous.

"Luminous? Who the hell is that?" I asked Lyra, expecting her to write out another one word answer. And then, as if she didn't shock and suprise me enough in the past two days, Lyra opened up her mouth and spoke to me.

With a tiny, weak voice that would make a mouse seem like a siren bird, she said, "Bad men."

It was my turn to blink. My mouth hung open so wide, I’m surprised a bug didn’t fly in it. This whole time the girl could speak? What next? Is she going to suddenly sprout into a full grown woman? Though, that wouldn't be half bad actually....

Since she's suddenly feeling chatty, time to ask the dumb question: "Lyra is your name?"

She didn't say anything. She just stared at the ground, as she sat on her haunches in a near fetal position. But, I did notice a slight, very slight nod of the head.

"And The Luminous are…bad men?"

She just sat in silence again. And again she nodded.

"Are they in Ba Sing Se?"

I couldn't pick up anything that could count as an answer from her. Unless I'm supposed to count that slow, subtle shifting of her shoulder as a shrug.

"So, you’re looking for bad men in Ba Sing Se, who might not be in Ba Sing Se?”

She folded her little arms over her little knees and rested her little head on them. The look on her face, or her eyes rather, surprisingly soft and vulnerable But, otherwise she gave no answer. I sighed. She was annoying the crap out of me with her all over the place answering methods, but at the same time it's hard to stay mad at a girl who was clearly upset. So, after that bit of high intellectual Q and A what have I learned?

After being framed, exiled, and likely hunted by bandits and one smoking hot woman, I stumbled on a lost little girl that bends like she’s 80 years old, that’s trying to find “bad men” that speaks just a little more often than a corpse.

Great, just great. This is the last thing I need. That damn bartender certainly was right. This strange one was clingy alright. With a special emphasis on the strange part. Who the pit looks for bad men?

A breeze blew and a chill went up my spine. I headed back for the fire. I looked over Lyra. She had withdrawn into a curled up little ball. I sighed. Those tattered rags wouldn't do much in the cool night. "Come on, kid-I mean Lyra, warm yourself up and have a bite to eat." She didn't move. "Hey, Lyra. What you’re back to the silent treatment again?" I groaned and trudged back over. I was ready to nudge her with my foot when I heard tiny snores.

I chuckled. Of course she's asleep. That was a long distance for such tiny legs to go, it's amazing she was able to stay conscious long enough to do anything coherent once she stopped. She must have been exhausted. I knelt and picked her up. She was just as light as she looked. Another breeze blew off the river and I felt another chill. I regretted not having my sleeping bag. That was at my tent back in the desert, but she didn’t have that either. I sighed and took off my shirt, wrapping it around her. And as thanks, the wind blew again. Much harder than the last time.

The cold tore into my bare flesh like a knife. I clutched my bare arms and got as close to the fire as I could without jumping right into the damn thing. "Fate and luck are sparing no expense, aren’t you?” I grumbled between my chattering my teeth.

After a long and brutal night, I woke up to a muggy morning and a green scaly thing sitting on my leg. I yawned and-

Wait. Green scaly thing with big fangs sitting on my leg?

I tried to shout something like "Ah!" but all that came out of my suddenly sore throat was a weak whimper. The sun got into my eyes and I couldn’t see. I shook the thing off and fumbled blindly for my spear. The creature was facing away from me, but when I moved it whipped around and hissed.

Oh crap! All my hand found was soggy sand. I finally managed to open my eyes all the way just in time to see the hideous insect bare its fangs. Spider snake venom was nasty and often fatal. It reared back, ready to strike. I weakly threw up my arms, vaguely hoping that a bite to the arm would take a little longer to kill me than one to the face.

I was too damn disoriented to fully realize the danger I was in. I guess adrenaline flooding the system seconds after waking tends to screw up the thought processes, because this whole time, at the back of my mind, I was thinking about what I was going to have with the dried pig-chicken meat for breakfast. Was I really about to die thinking about food?

__________________________________________

While I was busy planning what I was going to have for breakfast, the thing on my lap suddenly shrieked. It collapsed, oozing yellowish blood. It then slid limply off my leg. I took my hands away and opened my eyes, without the burning Sun blinding me too much.

It took a few seconds for me to register it all. The very dead spider-snake. The ice pike sticking through its carapace. The two other, smaller spider-snakes that scurried into the brush. One of them had someone gotten my pig-chicken jerky (Damn it, I love pig-chicken jerky). And Lyra standing a few feet away from me. I sputtered and backed away. Strange how in all this, Lyra was what got an actual real reaction of fear out of me. Though I guess I shouldn't consider it strange anymore.

I finally composed myself and got off the ground. The fire had died down to a smolder. The chilly night met with a muggy mourning and everything was covered with dew. And my throat hurt. I started to say something, but wound up coughing up phlegm. Crap, I think I just caught a cold. And Lyra doesn't look any worse for wear, probably because she had my shirt as a blanket. I suppose that should be a good thing. Hell, I should be grateful.

She just saved me from a nasty bite. A few men in my regiment got bit by spider-snakes. Even if it doesn’t kill you, parts of your body around the bite will start to turn black and rot off. In the end, you smell like rotting meat. So, for the 2nd time, she's saved me.

Yet, I still find myself...more and more uncomfortable about the idea of someone half my size saving me. I'm not her guardian, but that's more or less how it should be. Bad bug shows up, I'm supposed to swat it. That’s how it goes, right? Like at home, the wife sees a bug, goes “Eeeeee!” gets up on a table, cries for her husband, he comes in, kills it with a shoe, she swoons, they roll around in the bed for 30 seconds, then he falls asleep. It’s just what the man is supposed to do. It’s all part of what makes a man a man.

If someone was keeping a tally on manliness points, I'd be in the negative. Great. Now, I'm going to have to kick a bunch of ass or drink a dozen beers to break even.

Given my ability to think right then, I figured I was woken up enough. Just to make sure I looked around to see if Lyra had caught us some breakfast first. She hadn't. Those are some manliness points I've retained. The river looks like it's teaming with fish. Should be able to catch on or two and fix up something edible. We'd need plenty of energy. I don't plan on stopping until I can see the outer walls this time, so we've got a lot of ground to cover.

We’ve? Look at me. I’ve already accepted that she’ll be tagging along? I guess it should make sense. I can’t bother bringing her back. Not only would it be going in the opposite direction of where I want to go, but I’d likely be going towards the men coming to kill me. Not to mention she’d just follow me again anyway.

Which reminds me, why the pit did she let me leave her at the orphanage? She seemed to accept it and was okay with it. But, she wound up following me again? Why? And why didn’t anything freaking add up with this girl?

There was a splash of water behind me. I turned in time to see a good sized fish that was floating in a bubble of water plop out of the air and flop on the ground. Just like the other times, if the girl moved. It happened just before I saw it.

Well, damn.

Point of Manliness: Catching breakfast.

Failed.

I grumbled. I'd better hurry and either catch a fish myself or cook the one she already caught before she does. Otherwise, I'd be categorically turned into a girl.
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NeeNee
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We will not be quiet.


« Reply #11 on: Aug 27, 2009 09:41 am »

He had heard her speak before, hadn't he? She said "fight". But yeah, she's strange, I can imagine she creeps him out. Though he could think a little more grateful after having his butt saved for him.

I wonder what she'll do in Ba Sing Se. It doesn't sound like she's got anyone wating for her, and I can't think of her as someone hunting "bad men", either. We'll see.
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #12 on: Aug 27, 2009 04:31 pm »

Technically she mouthed the words "fight", didn't actually say anything. But, you got to remember since everything is taking place from Van's point of view, the information about the girl is limited to his own guesses and opinions.

But, we'll see indeed. Cheesy
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Eman5805
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« Reply #13 on: Sep 02, 2009 02:11 pm »

Chapter 5: Have Not, Wanted Not


So, to reestablish my manliness, I cooked breakfast for a 6 year old.

Yeah.

So, anyway, it was pretty good. Lyra, who I'm not quite sure is actually called Lyra, gobbled it down without looking too much like a long haired, malnourished elephant-mouse. I guess she likes my cooking. That was enough coddling to her, I decided, so I packed up my mini camp and hit the road.

The loose forest opened into an empty stretch of grass and rolling hills. The sky had the morning glow of orange to it. If I was a painter, I'd find a spot to sit and go crazy with a brush to my heart’s content. I hadn't seen much green in my months in the desert, so I guess that's why seeing it again like this felt so nice. A light breeze was welcoming in the mild heat. It was a good day to cover a lot of ground, so I picked up the pace after my brief bit of basking.

I'm of medium height, but my stride is still much longer than Lyra's. She had to take quick skipping steps every so often just to keep up. Too bad, I thought, if she didn't like the pacing, tough. It wasn't like she couldn't find me again if I got too far ahead. Getting some distance between me and her would help me feel a bit more at ease around her.

It wasn't really like I was scared of her, but I can't imagine why a girl so capable of defending herself wants me to help her get to Ba Sing Se. I mean, I know I can do hefty damage with my spear. Once I went solo against 13 or so firebenders at once. Sure, I had the advantage of a bamboo forest and some prior knowledge of the terrain in my favor at the time, but 13 to 1 are long odds in any circumstance. And I beat those odds. So, I can hold my own, but I’m still not a bender. And you see, that's right there is the thing. This girl is a bender. And from what I saw on that boat, a damn strong one.

So, why is she following me? I kept asking her for a while, but all I've gotten is blinks and blank stares like I'm speaking the language the Ancients used. Apparently, she decided to do her impression of a mute again.

I just don't get anything about her, and the more I think about it, the more questions I have. But, there’s not much else to think about, so…

Why the hell is she following me, then?

Is it solely because she's a kid? Is it more than her just needing some escort? When we get to Ba Sing Se, will she really expect me to help her find this “Luminous”? She'd be in no position to find anyone in a miniature nation like Ba Sing Se, but then again, neither would I. When the war ended, the army was downsized. Men and women, who had spent their livelihood fighting in the war and the soldier pension, now had to enter the work force. Most of those soldiers didn’t have a proper education, and there wasn’t a place for them in the jobs that make any decent money. So, many former soldiers had to turn to hard manual labor or crime. Guess which one tended to be easier? Being suspended 200 feet above ground building skyscrapers was harder, and more dangerous, than knocking off a jewelry store or mugging an old lady.

Ba Sing Se was still the population hub of the Earth Kingdom, so the crime rate shot through the roof. The police force, who was stretched thin already, can barely handle it all. So, trying to find a specific bad person there is like finding a needle with a flat tip in a stack of ordinary needles. Stand in the middle of a typical Ba Sing Se marketplace and randomly point at someone. The guy you’re pointing at? Odds are the shirt he’s wearing was stolen. Odds would also be good that you’ve just had your pockets picked.

Lyra's a pretty kid. Someone else would help her if she stood in the middle of the monorail station and cried a little. I've seen it happen in those aforementioned marketplaces: Kid gets lost. Kid wanders in the middle of a big pile of finagling buyers. Kid cries crocigator tears, wailing "I want my mommy!" Kid gets people to help. Kid finds mommy. Kid smiles. Kid goes home. Kid gets shouted at by drunk dad or something. Standard fair really. And since Lyra’s a Waterbender she shouldn't have any problems crying or at least faking it.

All right then. That settles it. I’ll get to the station and lose her in the crowd. She found me leaving from town easy enough, but that’s not hard at all. She knew where I was headed and just needed to follow the straightest road to Ba Sing Se. Finding me in that city should be next to impossible for her. She’s still just a little kid.

I don't know how many times I can say it, but I'm not a babysitter. I never signed on for this. I just wanted to get her off a boat filled with filthy pirates. Not become the hero of some kid’s story.

I’m not even much of a hero. Everywhere I go I wind up with someone trying to kill me. I wouldn’t be shocked if this kid joins the list. It’d be about even, given my luck. Yeah, that’d hit the spot. This girl tag teams with Xin Mao and…

Oh, man. All this craziness made me nearly forget why I'm headed to Ba Sing Se in the first place. And it might not even be the first time I've done that. I chuckled a little and Lyra looked up at me, tiling her head slightly. I’m fairly certain that’s happened before too.

"Just making myself laugh, kid. Pay no attention to the idiot with the spear," I said shaking my head.

"Okay, Van," she said.

As it turns out, there are some things can happen and shock you so suddenly, so completely, that it can make your brain forget how to do what it was doing. Like walking or breathing, for instance.

I stumbled and managed to get my lungs to do their jobs again. "Damnit, girl! Do you or don't you talk? Will you pick one already?!" I gasped. Then something struck me about what she just said. "Hold it. How do you know my name? I never told you." I sudden felt the urge to go for my spear. A small part of me felt silly for getting a little threatened by a kid. Another part of me told that part of me to shut up because I still don't know anything about this girl. This could all be the most elaborate and tedious plot to set me up in existence. As long as I'm not stabbing at shadows, a little paranoia is fine. Paranoia has saved my life a few times.

Her scrap of clothing had a pocket on it that I didn't notice until now. She reached into it and pulled out a folded up piece of parchment. She held it out for me. I hesitated a little, but took it from her. I opened it up and saw a crude sketch of me. I felt the blood drain from my face. I didn't even remember when I stopped walking.

It was a wanted poster.

Wanted: Dead or Alive

Van the Bandit (possible alias)

5'10", estimated 180lbs

Dark green eyes, brown hair.

Suspect in the murder of 26 people including landowner Xin Mao. Last known whereabouts the Wan Shi Tong Desert. Believed to be on the move. Is considered armed and dangerous. Wields a spear. Any information leading to his apprehension carries a cash reward of 25,000 gold pieces. Reward is 50,000 if he is captured alive.


Well...damn.

I swallowed through a dry throat. “Where did you get this?”

She simply said, “Last town.”

News travels fast from the desert. Even false news? Xin Mao is really dead? Twenty six other people killed? That’s the same amount of people that live in The Pit, besides me and Xin Mao. Are they all dead too? That should fill me with joy, and it would, if it weren't me who was believed to have killed them. And that bounty. That's over three times the normal rate, even for a twenty times over murder.

And again there's the fact that news had traveled from the desert. That just shouldn't be possible. The Wan Shi Tong is immense, nothing gets out that fast. If someone was slaughtered in the middle of the desert it would be months before someone found the body, if ever. Sandstorms and just being off trade routes make hiding bodies very easy in the desert. Never mind an intentionally hidden place like The Pit that looks like a normal sand dune from a distance. So much was wrong about this. Also never mind the obviously wrong information about me killing Xin Mao and 26 other people instead of fleeing like a coward, there was the issue of timing and accuracy of other information.

I'd been on the run not even a handful of days. No one who had arrived after I left would be able to get ahead of me to deliver this information unless they could fly. And even if they somehow could, how could they have an accurate description of me, complete with my damn name-which I barely gave out to anyone if I wasn't even there to be identified? They'd just see a bunch of bodies with no way to figure out who killed them.

I gritted my teeth. There's only one person who could know I was even there to begin with. That person could easily get ahead of me and tell people I killed Xin Mao, because that person left before I did and had better transportation out of the desert, because a sand sailor can move faster over sand than an eel-hound could. It was the same person who was the real reason I was on the run in the first place.

Siyo.

I snarled, tore the wanted poster apart, and flung it into the wind. I wanted to do a lot of things in that moment. Most of them involved me shoving my spear through various parts of Siyo's body, and not in a good way. She tricked me, used me, and now she's framed me? I don't know how, but I'm going to find that bit-

Lyra’s voice broke into my raging thoughts. "Not you," she said. She wasn't asking. She was stating a fact, like she knew it.

"You can't know that. I've done some bad things in my life, kid," I snorted bitterly.

"Not you," she said with some conviction, louder than I'd heard her speak before, if ever so slightly. With a voice like that, I can't tell if she's as old as me or really 6.

I laughed at her. "You're right. Okay. You do know, and yet you still think I can help you? You must be soft in the head. I can't even help myself. You saw that bounty on my head. Some ruthless people are going to be after me for that money. The pit, I'd be after me for that money. You're going to get caught up in it if you're on my heels. You’re looking for some bad men? Well, I’m one of them."

She was silent for a long, dragging moment and I wondered if she'd gone back to being mute. In fact, it just dawned on me then that this was the first time she's ever spoken in complete-sort of- sentences. Then she walked past me, up the inclining road. There the road began down the hill. The wind picked up, blowing up some of her poor excuse for clothing. I got an eyeful of pale skin and I couldn't help but stare.

No, I'm not some kid loving sicko. What I saw was far and away from being arousing. It was kind of...saddening.

There were scars. A lot of them.

Scars on her little shins. Scars on her tiny thighs. Scars on her thin hips. Scars up her slim back. Like something cut, scratched, burned, and tormented her physically in ways a girl should never feel. This was only what I saw from behind her. I didn't want to see what her front looked like. I had never actually looked at her close enough to notice them before, but here the way the sun shone off her, each notched patch of skin stood out. I couldn't find any words in my throat. I just felt a deep pit in my chest. A sudden blackness. Like something inside of me just died.

Did this Luminous, these “bad men”…did they do this to her? I wondered.

She turned her head, facing me. Her face didn't have a scratch on it. Whatever happened to her, it didn't reach her face. Her face was gleaming as it contrasted her battered body. Or maybe that was just the way the Sun was reflecting off the tiny stone on her forehead.

Her eyes met mine, and she said in a near whisper “No. Not a bad man.”
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Eman5805
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« Reply #14 on: Sep 02, 2009 02:11 pm »

-continued-

Those forces of the universe were at it again. Luck and Fortune's act of coitus sure have gotten me into a fine mess of bull-spider crap. During a long trek through the dense forest choked path, I had even more time to mull over exactly how much crap I was in. Or whether or not I should even be headed to Ba Sing Se right now.

Now that I thought about it, something was off. I sort of noticed it before, but I was so angry at the [TSK] Siyo -and I still very much am- I wasn't thinking too clearly. But it was the parchment that was off. Official wanted posters are always printed. That one was handwritten and the picture was hand drawn. Or at least I think it was. I couldn't be sure without it in front of me. I sorely wished I hadn't tore the thing up.

"I don't suppose you found two of those posters?" I muttered to Lyra. She looked at me and blinked. I rolled my eyes back at her. "Great, we're back to this now."

And then there's the matter of the bounty. Not that it was too high but there shouldn't even be a bounty at all. Bounty hunting was considered illegal now and officially released wanted posters were only done to warn the public. Apparently Avatar Aang took issue with bounty hunters for some reason, so since he was close with the Earth King he had them outlawed. But, that's just how unrealistic the kid could be.

The Earth Kingdom is massive. It's easy as the pit for anyone to do what they want and disappear. (Like a certain spear swinging guy I know.) And bounty hunters at least maintain a bit of indirect order. Since the army and police are lazy/undermanned, they do a lot of things under the table and use special wording in postings to mask that they were asking for the same damn thing.

"Any information leading to the arrest will carry a cash reward, of an unspecified, but low amount." If that isn't the same thing as telling a bounty hunter "But, bring us this dirt bag in chains, we'll give you far more than that", then my name isn't Van...and some other stuff behind Van.

Yet, that wanted poster was clear as day, a throwback to ten years or so ago. "Dead or Alive" shouldn’t have been on that sign at all. That kind of sign couldn't have come from the police. It was a personally made sign, that the Earth Kingdom says they don’t allow but don’t do anything about. Someone wants me found, and alive, or in some condition close enough to be considered alive.

Whether the police are involved or not, there are most definitely people coming after me now.

As soon as that thought formed in my mind, a chill snaked up my spine. I stopped, gripped my spear which I had in a strap on my back. And started to listen.

I would've died in the in the war, many times over, if I didn't trust and hone sharp instincts. Even in a pocket rebellion, the Fire Nation loved to ambush and I've seen my fair share of sudden attacks while walking through woods, just like this one and learned the signs of imminent ambushment. Like the sudden absence chattering animals and insects in the brush. Or how the air feels heavier and slightly warmer, like a Firebender gathering his breath for a sudden attack.

Just like sleeping on my feet, I thought I was pretty good at sensing an ambush. I once felt I was probably one of the best and noticed things well. I guess I need to rethink my own abilities. None of my expert noticing skills stopped me from not noticing that Lyra was gone. I looked around me and saw nothing but trees and shrubbery.

I spat, "Damn it!" She didn't have any waterskin, and we were a ways from the river. She had nothing to bend with, defenseless. Could someone have grabbed her? No, why grab her and not me? Did she just run off? Gah! She could've vanished at any time, because I wasn’t paying attention. Damn it!

I felt another chill. Focus on the here and now Van. Deal with whatever is out there now and find the brat later.

If you think someone is about to jump you, you only have a few options. If you suspect a direct ambush with men leaping from trees, you scan the trees. But, if you don't find whoever is there, you leave yourself open to the guy(s) on the ground, while your attention is up. Ideally, you have one eye on the trees and the other covers the ground. When there's just one, you really have no choice but to leave one open. I'd have to-

I yanked my spear free of the harness in a smooth, practiced motion I'd used dozens of times before, and swung it in a downward arc. The blunt end of my staff caught the arrow just behind the tip, snapping it like a twig. I twirled my spear in front of me. Two more arrows deflected off it. I didn't give the attacker a still target and started moving. I darted left. A fourth arrow struck the ground I was just standing in.

I was already processing the situation. Each arrow was coming at a downward angle. He’s in the trees. If I had time, I would've cracked a grin at how typical this loser was being. But, I didn't because I had a strong feeling that the archer wasn't working-

A snarling man sprang from the bushes behind me.

-alone.

Fire was trailing from his fist. He didn't get half out of his crouch before I smacked him in the face with the backend. Spinning on my heels, I avoided the errant fireblast. I stepped into him, slamming my forearm under his chin. He let out a choking sputter and doubled up, hands grasping at his throat. I spun around him, and wrapped the same arm under his chin, wrenching upright. Because he wasn't wearing any kind of armor, the three arrows his partner then fired sank right into his partner’s chest.

The firebender cried out in my arms then went limp. I heard a slightly muffled curse in the distance.

Now I grinned. "There you are." I released my grip on the man, whirled my spear into the crook of my arm, and charged into the trees. Normally charging at an archer is a bad move, but while the trees around him broke my line of sight, giving him cover from me, it worked double for him. Not only would he have a tough time seeing me, but he’d still have to shoot between the trees to get to me. The arrows were coming infrequently, thunking into trees next and the ground. I ran serpentine from tree to tree. He'd have to be able to predict my movements to a “T” to nail me now. And I'm not slow and wasn’t moving in an easy to move pattern, pausing to both catch my breath and throw him off.

Suddenly, the arrows stopped coming. I didn't hear any limbs breaking or rustling leaves other than what I myself was making, so I don’t think he was running away. Was he going to wait for me? Was I running into a trap?

I slowed to a slow stalk, I suppose. (Not sure what you call a guy with a spear moving slowly through the woods. That's how people used to hunt for food.) I kept my eyes on the trees around me and on the ground. I didn’t want to step into any carefully hidden snare traps or pits, but I didn’t want to lose him in case he was moving too quietly for me to hear.

Eventually, I found the archer. He was laying on his back staring up at the tree he was in, but he saw nothing. His mouth was gaped in shock and his eyes were glassy. I'd seen enough dead bodies in my day to know one when I see it. I'd say that was another skill, but he was bleeding heavily from the mouth. So, that took the skill part out of it.

I walked over and knelt besides his body. I saw a triangular shard of ice protruding through the back of his neck and felt another chill, but this one wasn't confined to a part of my body.

This one was felt all over.

Without making any noise I could here, Lyra was now standing next to me. In a surprise to myself, I didn't flinch an inch. I just stared at her. She was looking at the man's body. The look on her face seemed like her natural, neutral self, but something was different. It wasn't really her face. That wasn't actually different. It was what I felt behind it that made her eyes look more...eerie.

No, not what I felt. It was what I didn't feel.

Lyra had just killed a man, and didn't even look like she cared.
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NeeNee
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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We will not be quiet.


« Reply #15 on: Sep 09, 2009 01:07 pm »

Whoa. I guess you can't really blame the girl for not crying over an enemy if she's been mistreated like that, but that doesn't make it reassuring. But at least she likes him, we know that much.

I'm really getting into this story. Update soon, please, I'd love to find out some more about who or what she is, or what she's going to BSS for. It'll be just lovely if she keeps acting weird like that in the capital of crime. Tongue

But I feel sorry for those who'd try to take advantage of her thinking she's a helpless, little girl. Undecided
« Last Edit: Sep 16, 2009 03:28 pm by NeeNee » Logged

t-town
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« Reply #16 on: Sep 11, 2009 02:17 pm »

You're back! (And I am very late... sorry 'bout that)
You have managed to write even better than before. I'd like to compare you're style to that of a good animated movie, like Ice Age, nice for the children, nice for the 'ones who are to old to think something's cute'. You've managed to get some 'adult-like' jokes into it. Great!
Love to hear more of you and your rewritten story.
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #17 on: Sep 16, 2009 08:42 pm »

Chapter 6: The Coins

I can't exactly call this saving my life really. It's not like I wasn't taking care of the situation. Archers are only trouble when they're more of them or they're attacking you from long range from a hidden location. If he's one on one with you, only the best marksmen in the world (like a Yu Yan) are even remotely dangerous. So long as you’re an at least competent fighter, you’re fine. Which I sure as the pit was.

I've not only beaten several enemies at once, I've single handedly captured a Fire Nation tank. Not to brag, but in most situations, I'm pretty confident I can come out alive. And I can’t even chuck a single rock without picking it up first. That isn't to say I could do something like kill a master bender or anything, but I would sure think I have something of a shot at not getting killed by him, I'll tell you that.

So, I wasn't in any danger from this guy. Really. I wasn't.

And I shouldn't feel like Lyra sneaking up on him and putting an ice spike in his spine was saving me. But, damn it, it sure as the pit felt like it.

It's becoming easy to forget which one is the adult here. But, that's going to have to wait. I need to figure out if this was a team of really bad bounty hunters or just idiot bandits. Obviously, the guy with a spike through the back of his head wasn't going to be saying anything, so I doubled back to the first guy. Turned out he was still alive. He was even trying to make a very slow getaway from his belly.

I'd say he probably had gotten five yards up the road. A red smear of blood trailed behind him. He heard us (or should I say me? Since the girl didn't make a sound) coming and tried to hurry his pathetic pace. At least he was smart enough to break off the ends of the arrow and leave it in rather than pull out the only thing stopping the wounds from completely bleeding out. I walked up to him and shoved him over to his back with my foot.

Would you believe it? The idiot actually tried to attack me. I stomped on his offending arm before his weak fire attack could do more than make the air wavy. He cried out in pain, his voice ragged and labored. I'm shocked none of the arrows hit his heart, but they most definitely got a lung. One or both could collapse soon or he'd bleed into them. Either way he had another two minutes tops before he was done for.

I started to tell Lyra to turn away so she wouldn’t have to see this, but given that she just killed a man, there’s not much point is there?

I shook my head, my face grim. "It's not looking good for you, pal," I told him. "So, why not go out with honor, eh? That's what you Fire Nation types are all about, right? Honor? Prestige? Just tell me who you are and make this short and sweet."

"Go to hell!" he rasped then spat at me, a blood freckled mess that hit my pants. I twisted my heel into his arm, grinding it into the dirt. He cried out again.

Guess I was wrong about the honor thing. I tsked. "I’ve already been, pal. I call it The Pit. But that’s beside the point. Try answering this question: do you know who I am?"

This guy was pretty defiant for someone bleeding from the mouth. "You're dead! That's who you are! Dead!"

“Okay.” I regarded my spear on my shoulder and then leveled it at him. "You know, I just realized how long it's been since I used this end of my spear on someone. I think I might've forgotten how it's done. And I'm not sure but..." I tracked the spear down from his face to just below his waist. His eyes went wide. "I think if you get stabbed here, it hurts. A lot. Yet, I can't seem to remember.” I snapped my fingers, like I just got an idea. “Hey. You don't mind if I try to refresh my memory, huh?"

It's funny how quickly another man's resolve vanishes when his privates are in danger. Even if you were minutes away from Death's door, no man wants to be castrated. "N-no! Don't!"

I loosened my grip on my staff, letting it almost dangle over him. "Then give me an answer. And though I'm no Toph Bei Fong, if you lie to me I'll know. Then, you can spend your last moments alive as a woman," I said flatly.

His eyes started fluttering. He was losing it. "I...I don't know...who you are. Neither of us did, but we were...ordered to...kill...a man...with...a spear...traveling along…this road."

Not bounty hunters drawn by my wanted poster then. "Ordered? By who?" His head lolled to the side. I took my foot off his arm, reached down, and grabbed him by his bloody collar. "Stay with me, damn it! Who hired you?"

His eyes focused on me again. Each breath he rasped out was bubbly. A sick sounding laugh slithered from his lips. It was creepy. “Hired? No one…hired us. Orders…from…our Sovereign…” He gave me a red toothed smile. "But...now...that...we've failed, you..." He coughed up some more blood. "...you won’t live…to see-” His eyes suddenly rolled from me to Lyra who was standing behind just behind me, as if he didn’t know she was there until now. And when they did they went wider. "No! Im...impossible!!" Did I say they were wide? Well let me correct that, his eyes practically were popping out of his head. If I weren't holding him by the collar, he would've been backing away, but instead his arm’s just flailed around, thumping the ground weakly.

In his condition, the last thing he needed to be doing was trying to move quickly. That would only make him bleed out quicker. His eyes rolled into the back of his head. I shook him again and shouted, “No! Don’t you die on me! Who do you work for?” A final breathe seethed out, and he went limp. I grunted in frustration and let him drop.

Well, scratch two...assassin's? Was that what they were? And Sovereign? What the hell was he talking about? And why did he crap himself (literally, I might add) when he saw Lyra? Did he recognize her? And what was impossible about her? I looked at her, but her face was an unreadable mask again.

Gah. More questions than answers. I’m starting to sense a pattern here.


He was dead, but that didn’t mean there still isn’t anything I can’t find out about him. I rummaged through his pockets and turned up nothing but a small red coin. On one side was what looked like a sword stabbing through an…eyeball? How friendly. And on the other side was some engraving that was too small to read. Hm...I wonder. I went to the archer and found a coin just like it in his pocket. Interesting, I guess.

I stood up, bouncing the coins in my hands and glanced at Lyra. She was staring intently at the coins in my hand and her skin had gone pale, which was something given how pale she already was. It wasn't fear exactly, or not any fear reaction I’d ever seen, but she definitely was reacting to the coins.

I started to say something when she jerked like something hit her and started looking around. She said, "We must go. They will come." I think I've been underestimating her age because of how short she is, but the voice I heard was not as young and frail as the one's I've heard in the past. Or maybe I’m just hearing things. Her voice was still tiny, but she definitely isn’t the 6 year old I thought she was. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, I hadn't seen any female's younger than 18 since I was in grade school. I've grown a lot since then...just how old is she?

It just goes to show that I really still don't know anything about Lyra. Well, except that she moves like a ghost, scares would-be killer's half to death, apparently has better instincts than me, and bends with expert skills far beyond her appearance or age. If she was my age, I’d swear for the world that she was some kind of…

Assassin.

Oh crap.

Back in the army, soldiers used to tell stories about assassins trained from childhood. About organizations that take kids, usually orphans, and teach them how to kill, raise them from infancy in the art of death. In the end they’d be come perfect killing machines that felt no remorse and no hesitation to take another’s life. I always thought it was just grizzled old veterans spinning tales to psyche out ensigns. It seemed too much like something you’d read in a book or in a play. Also, they’d always say there’s a good chance that’s the kind of people we’d be facing in the rebellions. It seemed too ridiculous to be true, but what if that’s what this girl was? Some specially trained super child that got loose somehow? Is that how she got those scars? Some too brutal to think about training? Am I crazy for even thinking this?

While all this started sinking in at once, my brain started working in fuzzy snail mode with the real world. I suddenly didn't fully grasp what she just said anymore. "What? Go? Who's ‘they’?"

She started looking around, the look in her eyes still unreadable, but her pace and just the air (I swear for the life of me that the air suddenly got cooler) she was giving off was like she wasn't just looking for something. But she was perceiving for something...

If that's even a phrase.

Lyra turned and walked past me, back away from the road and deeper into the woods, with a smooth, but rushed pace. Then, over her shoulder without looking, she said in the same might-be older-than-she looks voice, "Bad men."

_________________

I stayed a couple steps behind her as she trudged through the woods. It was weird. Here I think the girl might be a child assassin, and that isn’t even why I’m giving her space. I’m giving her space because I don’t trust her. Her killing that man barely even matters, but how little I know about her does. Is that backwards? I don’t even know anymore.

The woods got gradually thicker as we went. I couldn’t see to far ahead now. I let it go on for a few minutes until I said something. I kept my voice low. “Uh, look Little Miss Killer Preteen, I understand why we aren’t on the road, but why are we heading sideways?”

Silence.

I snorted. “And we’re back to this. Look, I’m getting tired of you ignoring me. I’m grateful for what you did back there, but this has gone on long enough. Drop the sometimes mute act and give me some answers. And this time don’t draw it in the dirt either. I’m serious here, girl. If you aren’t straight with me, I’ll walk.” She turned her head turn a little, glancing over her shoulder at me, then stared ahead again.

I said, “That man back there, he recognized you. He was afraid of you. Why?”

There was a long silence. I thought she was going to ignore me again. I was on the verge of erupting, when she spoke, softly. “Less you know, better you are.”

I scoffed. “The less I know? If there’s things about you that a person like me doesn’t need to know, then why’d you drag me into this? I became involved the second you came back down into that cargo hold. And now assassins, who know you , want me dead. How exactly would not knowing what I’m dealing with make me better off?”

Another long pause. “Not assassins. Bad men.”

I frowned. “What do you mean, not assassins? What else could they be?”

“Not assassins,” she repeated. She was still speaking softly, as if she didn’t want to answer and was choosing her words carefully.

I’m at weird straights here. On one hand, I want to keep grilling her for info, regardless of her protests to keep me in the dark, because I need to know why these people want me dead and just who they are. On the other, I don’t want to grill her since I do owe her for helping me, even if I didn’t need it, and should respect her wishes. Not to mention it isn’t like I don’t already have a laundry list of people aiming to grease me. But, on a third mutant hand, I need to figure out why we’re walking sideways from the road. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

“Men who get orders to kill me aren’t assassins? Fine, whatever. But at least tell me why are we going this way? If we want to avoid these ‘bad men’ we need to get moving. And we’re doing nothing but wasting…” I trailed off when we came to a foot beaten game trail. Sitting on the ground, tied to two trees were ostrich horses. One was asleep the other was chewing on some grass.

I could only stand their with my mouth open like fish.

I didn’t even think about it. It never even occurred to me. The assas…the bad men were already in position to ambush me. There’s nothing but road between Ba Sing Se and the last town we just came from and not much in between but sonicus line posts and railroad tracks. No matter which way they came, they wouldn’t walk from the scene of a woodland murder. These were their getaway rides.

I didn’t think about it, but Lyra had. And she knew where they were. But, how? This trail was at least 300 yards from the main road. No way could she have seen-

Gah! You know what? Forget this. I’m tired of all the questions. I’m just going to go with it. Take the ostrich horses and get to Ba Sing Se double time, worry about the why’s and how’s later.

I figured the one sleeping had already eaten and would be in the best condition for a fast ride, but it would be better if one weren’t conscious. I undid the reigns from the one that was grazing. The good thing about ostrich horses is they can’t differentiate one human from another, so they have no loyalty to riders. It didn’t freak out the second it saw someone different from the person that road it here. I lead it a couple dozen yards up the trail, as silently as possible, away from its still sleeping partner. Once I found a good spot, I tied it to a different tree and told Lyra to stay with it while I go back for the other one.

Though ostrich horses can’t recognize one person from another, they could recognize another of its own kind. And it could recognize when one was killed.

I went back, stalking as I did, and raised my spear, ready to slice through its throat, killing it almost instantly, and making it unable to cry out and draw the attention of the other one. Just before I struck, Lyra jumped in the way, arms held out, and a defiant, almost scary look on her face.

I hissed, “Get out of the way!”

She shook her head, very slowly.

“We don’t have time for this. Move. Whoever is coming isn’t going to be using this thing to hunt us down.” I didn’t feel like explaining into how ostrich horses like being in pairs and had a tendency to bond, especially if these two were mates. If they’d bonded, one ostrich horse could find another one off its scent. What reason could she possibly have for protecting this animal was beyond me. I said it again, with real anger behind it, “Get. Out. Of. The. Way.”

Instead of answering me, she turned and cut its reigns with a flick of her hand. I blinked. I didn’t even see any water move. That roused the beast’s attention and it promptly stood up. Before I could do anything about it, she slapped its flank and for the first time since I’d known her, she raised her voice. “Yah!” The beast took off.

I should count myself as lucky it went the other way from the other ostrich horse. But, I just felt royally ticked off. I had to bite my lip to keep from shouting every expletive I could think of. I bit so hard, I’m surprised I didn’t draw blood. I wanted to go through the still standing laundry list of questions about why she did that or bring to light any of the numerous questions since the last one. But, I’m still in “forget this” mindset. So, I settled for fighting down my seething rage.

I somehow mustered up the wherewithal to keep quiet and stalk to the ostrich horse that Lyra didn’t run away. I untied its rein and climbed onto the saddle and…Lyra didn’t.

I groaned. “The pit is wrong now?”

And for the first time in all the time I’d known this strange, annoying, lethal little girl, she looked…like a little girl. A shy little girl. She kept looking at the animal almost…nervously.

All the wherewithal in the world couldn’t stop me from laughing at that.

It was so ridiculous. She kills a man with no problem whatsoever. She speaks in a sharp manner whenever it suits her, even though I don’t think she’s spoken in a complete sentence this whole time. But, that doesn’t stop her from drawing with her finger better than I could draw with a calligraphy pen if you gave me an hour to write my own name. For all intents and purposes, she acts more like an adult than me at times, even outdoing me at things I thought I was pretty good at. She does things that are confusing and infuriating at the same time. She acts like such an adult, and then she’s afraid of riding on an ostrich horse.

That’s why she saved the ostrich horse, but is afraid of riding it. In spite of everything we’ve gone through so far, she’s still a girl.

To answer an earlier question of mine: Yes, I’m crazy for thinking she’s some child assassin. No child assassin in the world would be scared of a freaking ostrich horse.

I extended my hand. “Come on. I’ve ridden these things before. They only look scary. There’s nothing to it at all. Just hang on to me tight, and you’ll be fine.”

Something seemed to glimmer in her blue eyes as she looked at me. I’d love to know what was going through her head, but even though I could still see the uncertainty, I couldn’t see anything else in her normally unreadable mask of a face. She inhaled deeply, steeling herself, I figure, and took my hand.
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #18 on: Sep 16, 2009 08:43 pm »

-continued-

We rode at a hard trot. I wanted to go faster, but from how tightly Lyra had her hands wrapped around my waist, I decided against it. Still, we were covering more than enough ground. Even with that diversion to slow me down. It was roughly two hours after the attack, and we’d gone at least 30 miles.

I didn’t really want to stop either, but for a new rider, I’d rather not push Lyra too hard. Also my ribs couldn’t take much more pressure.

Man, this girl was stronger than she looks.

I stopped us at a small broke to let the ostrich horse get some water and splash some on my face.

After I’d given my face a good rinsing, I rose and said to Lyra, “You’d better get some water too. The next ride won’t be-”

Lyra was gone.

Are you kidding me? Again? The last time she disappeared on me I was…

A chill shot up my spine, it didn’t snake its way this time. I dropped into a low crouch and reached for my-

The ground heaved up under my feet and I was airborne. I tried my best to roll with the impact, but I was tumbling through the air too fast. I landed hard on my back and felt the breathe whoosh out of me. I gasped and tried to roll to my feet. The ground slid from under me, dropping me flat on my face. A small mound of earth was jutting out of the ground. It hit me in the stomach, further knocking my breath out.

I was hacking and wheezing when a female voice spoke to me. “Do not move or we shall break your limbs.”

Given how vulnerable I was laying prone, I did as she said and stopped moving. I was still trying to find my breath when hard hands grabbed me up off the ground and pulled me to my feet. I’d forgotten how great that felt.

I couldn’t see whoever was holding me. Unlike the last time I was manhandled, this time they had the foresight to bend stone around my wrists. Crap. This person knew what he was doing.

“This is an exquisite weapon,” the woman said, her voice coming from behind me, out of site. My holder swung me around to see her.

She was holding my weapon thoughtfully, examining it, testing its heft. She handled it exactly how it is meant to be handled, with the care of an experienced fighter that knows their way around a pole arm. She had strapped a bo staff strapped to her back.

I recognized her immediately, that same regal air and the purple hued ensemble. It was the woman from the bar that didn’t see me when she walked in. Being outside in broad daylight, I could see more details besides the outline of her body. Her black hair was tied up in a bun, and she was still wearing the same headband. Her eyes were narrow and hard. I had a commanding officer that had eyes like that. But, something else about her was so familiar. Like I’d met her before.

I’m still alive, so she isn’t with the other guys. Those guys didn’t even try to conceal their intent to kill me. But these guys have pretty much arrested me. Are they cops? Couldn’t be. No cops I’ve ever seen wear purple. Cops with a bizarre fashion sense, then? No, couldn’t be that either. Cops are required by law to inform me that I’m under arrest immediately, not compliment the craftsmanship of my weapon.

Well, Van, you’re pretty much screwed no matter who they are. But, might as irritate and resist until you figure some way out of this. Or they haul off and kill you. Whichever comes first.

I smiled bitterly. “Thank you. But if you wanted to handle my stick so bad, you could’ve just asked.”

The woman didn’t change her expression, but the man holding me wrenched my arm, sending a pike of pain through it. I gritted my teeth, refusing to cry out.

“Search his pockets,” she said, still without looking up from my spear. I thought it was to the man holding me, but someone else walked up to me, a male, roughly my age. He was barefoot, unlike the woman and from a quick glance to my lower left, neither was the man holding me. This guy was the Earthbender that dropped me. He was wearing the same colored outfit as she was, so I could figure that so was the other man.

One person guarding my front, while another person holds my back. And another person goes through my pockets. This really told me a bit about who I’m dealing with. Even though I was restrained and in no position to break free, they weren’t taking any chances. They’re treating me like I’m a threat regardless of my condition. That’s straight from the book armed forces protocol.

Are they military? Their clothes are closer to military wares than the police.

The Earthbender frisked my pockets, patting me. I laughed softly. “Careful, I’m ticklish.” He tried to conceal it, but I saw the flick of his eyes and the corners of his mouth twitch. Hm…

“Two of these were in his pocket,” he said. He turned and his arm moved. Something red glinted through the air towards the woman I assume is the leader.

The woman caught it, finally taking her eyes off my spear. She examined both sides of the red coin. “There is no mistaking it. A coin of The Luminous Ones. And two of them at that.” To me she said, her face twisted in disgust, hate, “You were careless, anarchist scum.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but the big man behind me must have struck me over the head. I felt like my legs suddenly evaporated from under me and I experienced something like weightlessness.

I could’ve thought about many things in those last instances of consciousness. I could’ve thought about why some anarchist group would carry coins on them that someone could identify them as members of an anarchist group just for carrying. I also could’ve thought abut why does simply having that coin on me proof that I’m in an anarchist group. I also could’ve thought about what does a coin have to do with being luminous (which I think has something to do with a light) and who would decide that’s their anarchist group calling card. And I could’ve thought about why am I even being knocked out for being in an anarchist group and not transported conscious like any normal prisoner.

But I didn’t think about any of those things. Not simply because I wouldn’t have been able to think so quickly in those few seconds, but because I thought about something else.

In that instant, all I could think about was where Lyra was and would she be okay.

And then darkness swallowed me whole.
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t-town
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« Reply #19 on: Sep 19, 2009 04:05 pm »

Ah, cliffhangers....
Van's really a smart man.
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #20 on: Oct 04, 2009 09:38 pm »

Chapter 7: The Ride

An explosion of stone, dirt, and grass shook the vast courtyard. “Attaboy!” General Shen Tsu Yan thundered to his son. He excitedly stepped in and made adjustments on the 13 year old boy’s stance, pressing him lower in his squat and adjusting the height of his arms. “That was almost perfect! But, next time bend your knees and explode through your palm, as if you were striking through the rock.”

“Okay, dad,” Pak Tsu Yan said enthusiastically.

The little suck up.

“Now, again!”

Pak made the first move, a harsh shift in position from a base horse stance, dragging his left foot around behind him. A rock half the boy’s size rose from the ground. He struck with a semi open palm, and the stone shot forward embedding itself into the wall with a crunch of stone, just left of the previous one.

General Shen thundered again, “Ha! You’re a natural! Mastered the 3rd form in just one day! You’ll make a fine soldier, my boy. One of the greatest.” He ruffled his son’s hair, as the proud boy beamed.

Yeah, because all it takes is being able to make a stone fly to be a great soldier.

A man in an Earth Kingdom army uniform appeared at the gate leading around to the front of the house. He gave a respectful bow to General Shen, but would enter no further. His face was solemn

General Shen nodded, his brow furrowed with concern and said to Pak,“Now you keep on practicing. I have to attend to something.” And then he left.

Pak said, “Okay.” But it was obvious he wasn’t about to keep practicing.

Not when he could egg on his little brother instead.

Pak sneered and chopped the air. A snaking tremor of uprooting earth came right at his brother, some 20 feet away, pretending to not pay attention as he practiced his staff forms. The tremor threw his feet flew from under him. He landed in a heap and his staff went skittering along the ground.

“Hey! What’d you do that for?” the younger brother demanded from the ground.

Pak still sneering, laughed. “What’s wrong, baby? Did I interrupt you playing with your little stick?”

The boy, the younger brother by only 10 months, answered the sneer in kind. “I don’t know. Did that man interrupt dad from making your big fat head even bigger?”

That’s the spirit, kiddo. Don’t back down an inch!

“Maybe I should interrupt your face!” Pak shot back. He ran up to his brother and threw a punch down at his head.

Younger brother rolled out of the way, grabbing up the staff as he did and lashed out. From a half-crouch he hit Pak on the back of the knee, forcing him to drop into a hard kneel.

“Ow!” Pak yelped, clutching as his leg. “You stupid…” he snapped.

Laughing, the younger brother got to his feet and took off running as Pak gave chase.

Yeah! That’s it! Make him chase you. You know he’s not as fast as you are.

“I’m gonna bury you up to your ears, runt!” Pak fumed, clearly limping on the leg.

Over his shoulder, the younger brother called out, “How’s the leg, Paky? Should we take a break so you can-“

He ran full force into a wall that rose to mid thigh level. He cried out and flipped over the side.

Oh. Got to keep your eyes ahead of you, kid.

“That’s enough!” the stern female voice of their older sister, Zhi, commanded. She stepped in front of the still charging Pak and grabbed him before he could kick his brother. She was much older than them, a full 10 years older. And a distinguished member of the New Dai Li. Wasn’t any doubt who bent up the small wall of earth.

“What are you butting in for?” Pak demanded, wrenching his arm away from her.

“Because, we have a guest over, and we can’t have you two idiots seen beating each other senseless.”

“You mean you can’t have me being seen beating him senseless,” the young boy said sticking out his tongue, trying to hide that he was rubbing his sore legs.

“You wish, no bending having runt!”

“Mudslinging reject!”

Zhi rolled her eyes. “I said enough, you two. Now get inside.”

Inside was the fourth and oldest sibling, Kento, a member of the Earth King’s Royal Guard. It was unusual for the family to be gathered in one place without it being a holiday. For them all to gather here on such short notice, it had to be important. And the boy had to find out what.

It’s only natural. Just a kid afterall. Kids are curious.

Even though they weren’t supposed to, the boy and his brother both eavesdropped on the discussion. (Outside of brotherly squabbling they got along well enough to do things together, but squabbling was their main pastime.)

“-for coming to your house uninvited just to deliver this kind of news, general,” an older voice said.

The boy’s father spoke, his voice was heavy with worry. The boy hadn’t heard his father sound like this before. “It’s quite alright, old friend. I’m glad you and your son took the time to tell me in person. It’s given me time to fully absorb this in friendly confines. I’m more than certain this is just the break those anarchist groups were waiting for. Once news of this breaks proper, every nation will be on high alert.”

Kento sighed and said, “So what will happen now? Who will spearhead the movement now that he’s gone?”

A voice the boy didn’t recognize spoke, his voice off in thought, “I suppose it’ll be a matter for the three nations’ leaders to discuss.”

Zhi spoke next, her voice quiet, “It won’t happen anytime soon. There will be at least an appointed two week period of mourning, funeral arrangements, a commemorative monument. It could take weeks. The entire world will be coming into Ba Sing Se for this. I’m sure every sector of the Dai Li will be swamped in a mountain of work.”

Voices grunted in agreement. Then, the boy’s father spoke, “And you’re all absolutely certain no one knows who is responsible?”

Kento answered, “I want to say we don’t, but it’s unusual how the Council has handled this.”

“How so, Kento?” General Shen asked.

“Well, they haven’t disclosed news of the death with the public, for one,” Kento said, he was clearly weary. Or maybe just saddened.

“Hardly unusual, son,” General Shen remarked as he took a sip of tea.

“I know, but they also haven’t released an official report on the cause of death or where the body was found. It’s as if they want it kept a secret, yet everyone in the palace knows about it.”

The other man grunted. “I know. They’ve even kept me out of the loop, the Captain of the Guard. It’s very unsettling. The whole cover up vibe has me wondering just who was responsible. And if you want my honest opinion. I think it’s the anarchists.”

If that other guy was the Royal Guard’s captain, then that would make him Kento’s boss, the young boy realized.

“But, how could they? He was far too powerful to be killed in combat and his close friends are some of the strongest benders and warriors in the world,” General Shen wondered allowed. “But, of even more importance is…” His voice suddenly carried right to the boys. “…that two children had better go to their rooms. Now!”

The boys gasped collectively and ran, each one blaming the other for being caught. It wouldn’t be until later that they would find out they were talking about Avatar Aang’s death.


Until then, it didn’t look like there’d be any point in training in bending or any form of combat besides simple sport. Avatar Aang was easily recognized as having more power than any Avatar before him. Any rouge Fire Nation factors that would try to supplant Fire Lord Zuko would never try anything so long as Avatar Aang lived. Once he died, war might’ve been on the horizon and the Earth Kingdom might need to be on the guard for imminent invasion by the Fire Nation. In spite of words otherwise from Fire Lord Zuko. But, it was worse than just the Fire Nation.

The “movement” Kento mentioned was Avatar Aang’s World Reborn Act. It would mean each nation would help the other nation in all aspects. Each nation would be almost forced to be involved in other nation affairs, including the military. That would mean Earth Kingdom military bases would be established in the Fire Nation and they would be fighting on Fire Nation soil if needed.

When the pocket rebellions began, the Earth Kingdom was obligated to help in whatever capacity it could. There was suddenly a need for combat training more than ever before.

The Tsu Yan family, not in anyway associated with the Yu Yan Archers of the Fire Nation, was renowned for being a military family, a family that produced powerful Earthbending warriors. Many famous Earthbenders have served in the army, male and female. But, the males were the family’s pride. It was common knowledge that any man born of Tsu Yan blood would be an Earthbender and join the army. It was more than a family creed or tradition, it was fact. And it carried a perfect history and precedence. If your father was a Tsu Yan and you were his son, you were a bender. It was recorded in history scrolls dating back generations. And not one man had been born being unable to bend.

I hate this part.

Except for one.

No, no, no. This isn’t happening. This is so not happening!

In spite of having a sharp mind and quick wits, he’s the sole black sheep-pig.

Gah! Enough already!

And the disgrace to the family: Van-

_____________________

A harsh pain up my arm brought me out of my head injury induced slumber. And as bad a dream as I was having, after getting a dose of reality, I kind of wished I was out again. My mouth was dry, I couldn’t move because my hands were tied behind my back and feet were shackled to the metal floor, the metal bench I was sitting on hurt my ass something fierce, a harsh light was stinging into my eyes, a very ugly man was glowering at me, and my head hurt from where I was hit.

“He’s awake,” the beast of a man grunted, arms folded. A small rap on the wall came from somewhere to my left. A rather large battle ax rested on his lap. If I tried any sudden movements, I didn’t doubt that he’d split me in two.

I squinted through the sunlight and looked around me, trying to get my bearings. The compartment me and pretty boy here was in was fairly small. If I could stand up, my head would be skimming the ceiling, but it was still long. The bench I sat on stretched 7 feet off to the left of me, ending just before two double doors, that didn’t have any visible way to open it from the inside. Save for a small keyhole. Metal loops lined the wall down either side, a half foot or so above every bench. Similar metal loops lined the floors as well. A grated opening near the top on either side of the room let in the light that was in my eyes. As I continued sorting through my aching head I became loosely aware that we were moving. The sunlight was broken up by passing trees. And as if that weren’t clue enough, I could hear the thrum of an engine. I’m in a wagon, the same kind that the police use to transport criminals.

I also couldn’t help but notice that my spear was nowhere to be seen. That lady probably still has it.

I fake yawned, a feat more painful than I would’ve hoped. “Hey. Where are we headed, pretty boy?”

He continued his beady eyed glower.

“Are we stopping off soon? Cuz I really need to take a leak, and had a lot of asparagus for lunch today. I don’t know if you know it, but that’ll really stink a room out after a while.”

He didn’t flint, didn’t blink. He just stared. It was intimidating. Almost. I smirked. “You know, you remind of this little girl I know,” I told him. His eyes narrowed and I heard a low animalistic growl creep from him.

I knew that’d get him. I shifted around uncomfortably, making my shackles jingle about. “Jeez, it’s like being in a cage with a bull spider. Only you’re bigger and uglier.”

The growl got louder. I could see his blunt teeth as his lip quivered.

I let him fume and stew for a long moment. Then I said, “So, ever seen your boss lady naked?”

He let out a raging snarl and lunged forward. He seized me by the throat, slamming the back of my head into the side. He was awfully strong, his hands clamping down over my throat like a 3 horned constrictor. I tried, but I couldn’t prevent myself from gagging. I still managed to choke out, “I guess that’s a no.”

“I should kill you here and now, scum!” he roared.

The wagon screeched to a halt and I heard a small sliding hatch open roughly. “What’s going on back there?” the woman demanded. “Release him, immediately!” I couldn’t turn my head to see her and was forced to get a full face full of pretty boy’s foul…minty breath? That’s…unusual.

“But, sir, he…”

“Now.”

Pretty Boy let out another snarl and released my throat. Air whooshed back into my chest and I started coughing. “Gee, you sure know how to show a guy a good time. I feel all special. What’ll you do next?” I sputtered out with a grim smile.

What they did next was gag and blindfold me, which made things instantly more uncomfortable and didn’t do a thing to help the dryness in my mouth. But, I finally had the light out of my eyes.

In hindsight, I probably should’ve kept my mouth shut.

I can’t say how long we rode. To me it felt like hours. Only thing I could hear was the grinding caterpillar tracks of the wagon and the engine, which told me that this vehicle was made for long range travel rather than the short range wheeled wagons. I tried to pay close attention to any turns the vehicle made, but it was too hard. The wagon didn’t lean into the curves like wheeled vehicles do.

I couldn’t speak, I could barely move, I felt miserable, and I couldn’t speak. Not being able to speak got to me the most. I don’t like to admit it, but I suppose talking and cracking jokes was my way to cope when the excrement hits the propeller. Having that outlet of worry cut off, I suddenly felt…worried, afraid. I’m always nervous or worried, but I guess being able to talk to myself or the person causing the worry would help me get through it. Like insulting Pretty Boy. If my hands were free I would’ve used him grabbing me as enough of a distraction to go for his keys. I keep racking my brain, but they’ve got me by the balls here. My staff is who knows where and even if I manage to get loose, I’m not getting out of this wagon. I guess to fight down fear, I’m taking it out on him.

Now that I couldn’t talk even though I wanted to, I started dwelling on how screwed I was and how I got to being as screwed as I was.

I’m in a paddy wagon under the arrest of some quasi-military group that believes I’m in an anarchist group. What likely is a real anarchist group is aiming for my head for reasons I don’t fully understand. A treacherous wh*** named Siyo has framed me for one of the few crimes I didn’t commit and now there’s a bounty on my head. And then there’s a little girl with freakishly strong bending abilities that’s looking for bad men called Luminous and-

Wait, my capturer said something just before the knocked me out. She said the coins I picked up from the two thugs me and Lyra killed belonged to the “Luminous Ones”. Holy crap! The people Lyra’s looking for and the ones after me are the same group? What kind of coincidence is that?

Or is that even a coincidence? Just before that thug died, he recognized Lyra and she scared him, quite literally, to death. Is that why they were after me? Because I came in contact with the girl? It doesn’t seem that way. If he knew the girl was with me, he shouldn’t have reacted so fearfully when he saw her. I guess that’s not it, but I don’t even know what to make of anything anymore. So much crap is going on, and it all gets more and more complicated.

And then the guy talked about having a supreme, no, what was that word he used? Sobering? Sautéing? Stover? Sovereign? Yeah, that’s it. Sovereign. He said his sovereign sent him after me. I think the word is another word for a lord or master. I think some Earth Kingdom warlords of the feudal era used to ask to be called the sovereign of their land, but this is some ancient, before Avatar Kyoshi, before Old Ba Sing Se was founded, history. Man, if this anarchist group is using outdated language like that for their superior members, then they must be messed up, certified nut jobs. It sure as the pit could explain why they’d carry around coins that mark them as an anarchist.

Through all of this, the one thought that kept floating around my head was, what happened to Lyra? If she was smart, she’d head straight to Ba Sing Se. Since she’s so afraid of riding ostrich horses, she’d have to hoof it. She’ll be okay, I guess. But still…
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Eman5805
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #21 on: Oct 04, 2009 09:38 pm »

-continued-
We finally stopped moving. I heard movement all around from outside the wagon, voices and footsteps. Metal scraped against metal as the double doors flung open. I’m guessing Pretty Boy unlocked my shackles from behind me and started pulling on my shirt collar. They didn’t take off my gag or the blindfold, so I stumbled around. My knee cracked against the bench. A sizzle of hot pain shot through my leg, and I spat a curse into the gag.

Pretty boy grumbled, “Watch your head.”

Before I could even duck, my temple banged against the top of the doorway. Another flash of pain shot through me and I felt woozy. I cursed Pretty Boy out, but all that came out was “Mffmshfumfmr” and I all but fell out the back of the wagon. I couldn’t tell anything from around me, but I did know I was outside. My thin shoes were dragging across gravel. Pretty boy shoved me forward, since I didn’t want to fall flat on my face, I stumbled ahead. Once I regained my balance, two hands, different from Pretty boy’s big, rough ones clamped onto both of my arms, two men on either side of me. And they lead me forward.

No one spoke and no one said anything as we walked. It felt an awful lot like the final march of a convicted prisoner to his execution. An awful pit formed in my stomach. I tried to keep my composure, but then I remembered Pretty Boy’s ax. With each step I took, I kept seeing an image them force me down to my knees. My head perfectly placed on a chopping block. And with one effortless stroke, my head would roll.

I hate having such a vivid imagination.

I started thinking about things like how many times would my head bounce. Or would I have a dignified look of just having my eyes close? Or would my eyes be opened with some ugly, lip twisting look as my death face? I swallowed through a throat so dry the Si Wong Desert would look like the bottom of the ocean by comparison.

It felt like a trance. I felt motion, I heard things, but recalled none of it. Time semmed to float by, but it could’ve stopped entirely and I wouldn’t know the difference. All sensation seemed to be leaving me. Like my body was already dying, anticipating it all ending. Making the transition from living being to corpse a smooth one. It wasn’t until someone behind me coughed and I heard the echo that I realized we were indoors and heading downward. That snapped me from my death oriented state of mind and one fact screamed to me: we were underground.

I chuckled at myself, the noise easily recognizable even gagged.

Someone near me muttered to himself, “The hell could he be laughing at?”

After a few minutes of descending, the ground leveled out. The air here was thicker and smelled faintly of mildew and incense. I was turned sharply and the next thing I knew I was being forced to sit in a chair. I hard a soft chain rattling behind me as they again shackled me down, but my feet were free, which was something of a relief.

I sat there a moment. Someone was talking in a low voice behind me, then a door creaked shut.

“Remove the blindfold,” the same woman from before said.

The blindfold came off and I groggily opened my eyes, squinting heavily. Couldn’t help but notice they didn’t take off my gag. But, I did notice I was in a darkly lit room with just a table in front of me a few feet. The woman stood, regal as ever on the other side. I took a few glances around me. The room was dominated by a single light above us, a flickering lantern. The light didn’t reach the corners of the room, but I could see the bare highlights of men on each corner. Pretty Boy was in here as well, standing just in arms reach of me. I gave another soft chuckle.

These guys were doing it by the book. Good cop, bad cop: coming up.

Finally the woman spoke, “I fail to see what would be amusing about your current situation, vagrant. But, given what you are, I’m aware that your state of mind might find humor in this.”

I huffed out a breath and looked away from her. As if to say, “Whatever you say, lady.” I don’t know if she caught the meaning or not though.

“I’m going to ask you a series of questions. You are only to nod your head ‘yes’ or shake your head ‘no’. Do you understand?”

I looked at her with leaden eyes and shook my head. An instant later, Pretty Boy punched me. I was suddenly grateful for the gag. If it hadn’t been there, I might’ve bit my tongue. I didn’t cry out. Oh no, I wasn’t about to let the bastard get that satisfaction out of me. So instead I gave him my angriest glare. It helped that I was pretty damn angry.

“As demonstrated, any answer interpreted as a lie will be met with a reprimand. Repeated lies will only result in further reprimand. You are to answer truthfully and honestly. Understood?” Her voice was cool and indifferent.

Somewhat reluctantly, I nodded my head.

She began to pace, arms behind her back. “Good. Were you born in the Earth Kingdom?”

I nodded.

“Are you an Earthbender?”

That answer should’ve been obvious and I nearly shook my head, but fought down the urge and shook my head.

She was slowing walking around the table, towards me. “Have you ever been to Ba Sing Se?”

I nodded.

“Did you once serve in the military?”

I blinked and then nodded slowly.

“Did you serve active duty in the Mi Zhi Rebellion?”

I blinked again. And nodded.

“Under Commander Itsugi and Commander Omonoi?”

What’s going on? I nodded, my eyes darting around, trying to figure out what was happening. My head was still groggy from all the punches.

The woman’s voice shifted as she passed behind me. “Did you commit actions in that service that resulted in your dishonorable discharge?”

I didn’t respond for a moment. What is this? How does she know about my past? I quickly nodded to avoid getting hit again.

I could see her back and…something was different. Or maybe it was the lighting. “Do you remember the action that caused your dishonorable discharge? Something involving a fellow infantryman and a Firebender ambush?”

A piercing scream that could only be heard by me rang in my eyes. I saw flesh burning. The unnatural blackening of skin. The flailing of limbs writhing in pain so intense, so excruciating. I could almost smell the burning flesh. I inhaled sharply and savagely shook my head, trying to shake the memory from my head.

Pretty Boy punched me.

I cried out this time, biting down the gag like I wanted to tear it apart. Anger surged through me. I really wished I had my spear right then. I wanted to pay Pretty Boy back in full for this. I nodded harshly.

The woman sudden slapped both hands on the table, shoving it forward several inches. “Oh, I know you remember. You’d better remember! You better remember the life you ruined!” the woman snarled. Wait. No. It wasn’t the woman. Her voice...it was completely different now. I hardly noticed it, but…I recognize this voice. She leaned forward into the light.

And I literally felt my heart skip a beat in absolute shock.

Siyo, with absolute hate in her eyes, sneered, “You have a lot to answer for, Van.”
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t-town
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« Reply #22 on: Oct 05, 2009 02:28 pm »

Ohoh, nice chapter again.
Congrats.
That Siyo seems to be a hell of a girl.
I look forward to hear more about Van's past
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #23 on: Oct 30, 2009 12:53 am »

Disclaimer: This chapter contains some sexual content. But don’t worry, it’s not a lemon chapter.

Chapter 8: The Interrogation
[/i]

“You have a lot to answer for, Van,” Siyo said. The words coming out with venom laced over each syllable.

Siyo, the harem girl that used me for a chump herself. Standing right in front of me.

I should’ve been angrier. I should’ve charged at her, been painfully yanked back by the shackles on my wrists, and then punched in the stomach by Pretty Boy. That would’ve been a normal reaction. Here the woman that is to blame for this whole situation. The reason I’m not in the sweltering desert robbing old people for pocket change, and not being chased by a group of anarchist idiots, is in the same room with me, and how do I react?

I laugh.

And I laugh.

And I laugh.

I was hysterical. All those earlier emotions of impending death and the dredges of fear that bubbled up? The unquestionably broken feeling that losing the ability to see or speak inflicted on me, all just experienced moments ago? Who cared about that anymore? I was laughing.

I didn’t expect to see her at all and I was probably even more screwed now than before. Yet the sheer impossibility of it all was too much. It was the perfect way to make my situation worse that I could’ve never seen coming. Even though it was another screw job by Fate and Luck, I didn’t feel the least bit threatened. In fact, seeing her was something close to relief. She was the first problem I had. I’ve been so sidetracked, so caught up in other messes. And I’ve somehow blundered my way back to the source of many thoughts of murder and pain dealing?

It was just too much. So I laughed.

I was laughing so hard tears streamed down my face. It was a hearty, foot stomping laugh. I was laughing so hard my stomach started to ache.

And the look on Siyo’s face? Priceless. She went from sheer hate to sheer “What the-?” And that made me laugh even more.

I eventually had to stop as I couldn’t breathe anymore. It was hard getting my breath back with the gag in.

Siyo just stared at me for a moment, her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed. Then she looked up, behind me. I glanced over my shoulder. I caught a glimpse of the boss lady, standing with her arms folded. Her face was hidden in shadow. I did, however, catch some movement of her head silhouetted head. Then, Siyo and the woman both walked out of the room and closed a door behind them. A rather long silence followed. I could see some stirring from the men standing in the corners.

It lasted for so long, I threw in a fake cough. Just to add to the awkwardness of this silence. Someone’s always got to cough during an awkward silence. It’s like the final bullet point of an awkward silence. Once someone coughs, you’re entering sacred awkwardness. I was planning to wait for someone else to do it, but it came to a point where I just took the job for myself. I think I did fine, if I do say so myself. And my timing was perfect since seconds later the two women returned.

“Remove the gag,” the boss lady said.

With a quick tug, Pretty Boy untied the knot and the gag slacked. I quickly spat it out and held my mouth open. My mouth felt like it was stuffed full of cotton balls. I croaked out, “Can I get a glass of water? Seriously. My throat is burning.”

“We shall be asking the questions here. Not you,” Siyo said flatly.

“What good will any answer be if I sound like I swallowed a frog?” I croaked again.

“You’ll manage, I’m sure,” Siyo said, her voice cruel.

“Is it okay if I point out something?”

Pretty Boy hit me again. I was ready for it this time though. I turned my head just as the hit landed. It hurt, yeah. But not so much.

With a mouth like mine? Yeah, I’ve been hit before. I was going to have a pretty nasty bruise when this was over. Maybe even a black eye.

The lady behind me spoke. “You will be silent until asked to speak. Unless you prefer being gagged.”

I fought down the urge to say something. She was right. I’d rather not be gagged again. I only nodded.

“Good.” What I can only guess was an exchanged nod between boss lady and Siyo was passed. A man stepped from behind me and plopped a large stack of papers on the table.

Siyo stepped back from the table and the boss lady started pacing around the table again. “Do you know what this is?”

Unable to resist, I mumbled, “Do you want the real answer or the snarky one?” Before Pretty Boy clocked me, I said more clearly, “No, I don’t.”

She said, as she turned to face me, “It is a full report of crimes committed by anarchist sects since the beginning of summer. Industrial sabotage, theft, extortion, kidnapping, murder, trafficking. Acts that halt progress for all the nations. We are tasked with halting these crimes by any means necessary.”

I arched an eyebrow. “Oh?”

The boss lady stepped out of the light and Siyo stepped back in. “Which means that we are authorized to do whatever we deem necessary to prevent more senseless violence. Unless you cooperate and tell us what we want to know about your group,” Siyo said flatly again.

“Yeah. Might be as good a time as any to mention that I have no group,” I stated, mimicking Siyo’s flatness.

I figured I’d get hit, but I thought it’d be across the lips. Instead, Pretty Boy stepped in closer and slugged me in the stomach. It felt like a hole was punched through me and I went through a solid minute of hacking and wheezing.

Siyo and the other woman switched places in the shadow and light. “It’s pointless to lie,” the boss lady said, somewhat sympathetically. “We know what you are.”

Through gritted teeth I rasped, “Stow the light cop, shadow cop, punching troll cop routine, already. For one, you stink at it. And also, I’ve got nothing to lie about. Look at me. Do I look like some anarchist? I’m a just raggedy guy with a spear!”

“Ragged, emaciated, in dire need of a shower, and a mouth that never stops. No one would ever suspect someone so naturally unimposing and pathetic,” Siyo said. “And that’s precisely what makes you the perfect agent.”

I managed to cocked an eyebrow. That was the first time I’ve ever been insulted and complimented in the same breath. “And your entire basis for me being an anarchist is…two red coins in my pocket I could’ve found on the road somewhere?”

“Those coins are unmistakable currency of the Luminous Ones, one of the numerous sects that we’ve been tracking,” the boss lady supplied.

“And just having it proves I’m a member?”

“Don’t feign ignorance, Van. It’s not becoming.” Siyo rolled her eyes. “You know full well you took those coins off of the two Luminous Ones’ recruits you killed.”

So, they know about that? But, what’d she mean about “recruits”? “Sorry, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember something like that. I didn’t kill anyone.” Which wasn’t a lie. I didn’t kill either of the men who attacked me. At least not directly. I got one to shoot the other with arrows and Lyra took out the other. “And I don’t know what the pit you’re talking about. So, I’ll say it again. I’m no anarchist. It ain’t my style. Go ahead and hit me now.”

I was ready for the explosion of pain when…

A real explosion shook the room. Bits of the ceiling came loose.

“Raging spirits!” Siyo swore. “What was that?”

A door I didn’t even realize was there flung open from across the room. A man clutching one bloodied arm in another stumbled in. “We’re under attack, Captain Lin! It’s the Luminous!”

Captain Lin shot a hard glance at me, her lips twisting. “It was all a trap. He led them straight to us.”

I didn’t need to fake any of the disbelief on my face. “I did what?”

Ignoring me, she stormed to the door. Her regality turned into the hard authority of a commanding officer. I recognized it well and I suddenly remembered who she reminded me of. She reminded me of Major Bei Fu. Before she left, she snapped, “Lieutenant Hyung, secure the prisoner. The rest of you, with me.” Then she disappeared.

“Sir,” everyone said in unison and fell in line behind her. Except the arms folded Siyo, who was glaring at me as Hyung, formerly known as Pretty Boy, was unchaining me from the floor.

When he was done, Hyung gave me a hard tug on the arm. “On your feet.” I blearily climbed to my feet, my head groggy from the constant hits.

“Sir?” A man said from the door.

Siyo glared at me a moment longer, then said, “Just a moment.” She waited until Hyung dragged me past her. She leaned in close to his ear and seethed to him, “Don’t let your guard down for a second, Lieutenant. This man is resourceful and dangerous.” Then she left.

I smiled after her. “Gee, that was probably the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me.” I couldn’t see her, but a part of me knew, just knew, that she heard me.
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Eman5805
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A Soulful Brother


« Reply #24 on: Oct 30, 2009 12:54 am »

-continued-

We moved from the interrogation room. Judging from the impacts, it was away from where the fighting was going on. Not being blindfolded anymore I could get a look around, thought there wasn’t much to look at. The corridors were smoothly paved and lanterns were hung now and then every few feet. The lanterns were lit by light green, almost yellow crystals. I couldn’t see any kind of signs or postings to let someone get their bearings.

So, where would they be keeping it? Guess I’ll have to ask Hyung.

He kept his hand on my arm. The man had a vice like grip. He wasn’t just shoving me forward anymore. He was following Siyo’s suggestions to the letter. It wouldn’t be easy breaking his grip. It would take a distraction or-

“Hey! Who’s there? Show yourself!” Hyung suddenly demanded as we came to an abrupt stop.

I was looking at the ground when he said that. I felt a twinge of relief. When I brought my eyes up, I saw…

Nothing. Just empty halls.

But, I didn’t gawk or dwell on it.

I twisted in Hyung’s grip, taking him by surprise and pulling him off balance. He stumbled into the wall and let out a short cry.

I wrenched my arm from his slightly slackened grip. The big man was as fast as he looked and had the reaction time to match. He swung a looping elbow at me as he tried to draw his ax. I leaned back from the elbow swing, then stepped in and slammed my body into his flank.

He was bigger than me far as pounds were concerned, but I was a taller than him by several inches. And he was pretty top heavy. He toppled over onto his big face. The ax slipped out of his hand and clanged, loudly to the floor.

I couldn’t do much to him with my hands behind my back, and he’d be on his feet in a few seconds. Without much choice, I tried a move I’ve only seen done but never tried myself.

If I failed Pretty Boy could break me in half. Screw it. Got for it.

I jumped while simultaneously tucking in my knees to my chest and swinging my arms in a down and forward arc, beneath my feet. And…

It worked! My hands were in front now. I was so glad, I threw my shackles around the still recovering Hyung’s neck, while planting my knee into his spine. You know, for a hug.

“Hey, Pretty Boy.” I gave a quick look around. “No one else here but us. So tell me, does getting manhandled feel as good as I thought it was?” I taunted in his ear. I tightened the chain, gagging him and not letting him actually answer. Man, that felt good. But I didn’t have time to pay him back for all the physical abuse.

“I’ll make this short and sweet. Where’s your armory? Or where ever you keeping my spear?” I asked him as I slackened the grip around his neck so he could speak.

“Go ahead, kill me. You and your group will never win. Even if your raid succeeds, our other branches will snuff you out,” Hyung spat at me.

I groaned. “I’m tired of repeating myself. I’m no anarchist. Get it through your thick skull. Now tell me where my damn spear is!”

“You can take your spear and go-“

I tightened the chains, cutting him off. He wasn’t going to talk. “That’s your hobby, pal. Not mine. Thanks for nothing.” I slammed his head into the ground and he went limp.

Honest to goodness, hitting someone over the head isn’t the best way to knock someone out. It’s pretty easy to do it too hard and kill them or not hard enough and they never lose consciousness. For some reason, I’ve had that done to me a few times and it always works more often than it doesn’t. Figures with my bad luck and all.

So, it makes sense that I’m not quite so good at administering said head blows. He was already starting to stir as I searched him. I found the keys to my shackles before he woke up. After I got them off, I gave them back to Hyung, by shackling his right wrist to his left ankle, over his back. And then I gagged him with his own nasty sock. Satisfied with my handy work, I left him there. I would’ve dragged him into a corner or something, but I wasted enough time getting his shoe off. And if Hyung actually did see someone, I’d rather not sit here and wait to find out who it was.

I moved quietly and kept as far from the alternating lights as I could. Being alone in these hallways was pretty creepy. It seemed like the air got thicker and damper as I pressed deeper into the complex. I don’t have a lot of experience with sneaking around indoors. I can do it fine outdoors, but indoors it’s a bit different.

Every noise you make can echo and give away your position and even if you have the entire layout of the building you’re in memorized, you still won’t know where each and every single person inside of it is. It’s far too easy to blunder into someone.

It’s even easier to do said blundering if you have no clue at all about the layout of the building.

From what I could gather about the layout was it was an ever expanding network of hallways and empty chambers every few feet. It wasn’t like any place I’ve ever been. I still couldn’t see any signs to tell people where anything was. How could a place like this be used as a base for anything but the world’s largest Hide and Explode game? It doesn’t make any sense.

The pit, there’s something else about this place I hadn’t even thought about, or rather I’d be neglecting thinking about it since I was too busy trying not to think about Lyra. But, Siyo was here. She was a member of whatever anti-anarchist group this was.

Does that mean that this group was in on what she did in The Pit? Did they send her there just to rob Xin Mao? Captain Lin back there made it seem an awful lot like they’re in this to stop anarchists and she certainly seemed sincere about it. If they were in on sending her, did they think those anarchists were connected with Xin Mao somehow? Did they think Xin Mao himself was an anarchist? Sure, Xin Mao was slime, but he was only interested in making as much money as he wanted. He’d never seek to destroy society. There’s no money in it. And yet in the end Xin Mao and everyone else in The Pit wound up dead. But how? I know it involves Siyo and this group somehow.

Gah. Damn it all. I’m usually good at putting these things together. There’s just something I’m missing or haven’t thought of. If I had that then I’d have the answer for…

“You have a lot to answer for, Van.”

That’s what Siyo said to me back in the interrogation room. She was talking about what I did back in the Fire Nation rebellions. And the way she looked at me. She had genuine, unbridled hate in her eyes.

“The action that caused your dishonorable discharge.”

I thought that was just a trick to throw me by having sudden knowledge about my past. I mean I did blab a lot about myself back during Xin Mao’s party what seemed like months and months ago, but now? Why would talking about my past make Siyo so angry?

Then I got it. The sudden realization washed over me like a bucket filed with ice water. I understood.

I understood why Siyo hated me so much. Why shouldn’t she? I ruined the life of someone she must have loved with all her heart.
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