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Author Topic: Avatar: Energy Saga (PG-13)  (Read 6863 times)
AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« on: Apr 29, 2011 05:12 pm »

This is a fanfic I'm writing on a couple other sites right now. I was recommended that I also post it on this one, so I'll go ahead and post what i already have and then update it accordingly. I've already wrote nine chapters.  I'll add them periodically until I'm caught up.

Chapter One: The Jasmine Dragon

Ba Sing Se, 100 ASC
Aang, now a fully realized Avatar, master of all four elements, was sitting cross-legged in the middle of Ba Sing Se’s finest tea shop. He had just concluded a great adventure and was perhaps one of the youngest Avatars ever to have learned the four elements, at the ripe age of 12. Well, technically he was 112, having been frozen in ice for a century, along with his sky bison. In addition to mastering the four traditional elements, Aang has also learned a skill from a fifth elemental art: Energybending, where one bends the essential energy inside humans. But you would hardly be able to tell all this simply by looking it at him sitting across from Momo, his pet flying lemur and close companion for the past year. At the moment, he was playing with a small, compressed ball of air, moving it up and down using Airbending, his native bending art.

Aang was by no means alone. He was surrounded by friends who had helped him in his recent adventure against the militaristic domination of the Fire Nation. Iroh, the owner of the Jasmine Dragon, the tea shop in which they congregated, was playing a song on his Tsungi horn much like one he played while traveling by ship with his nephew in search of the Avatar. Like Aang, he was not all that he seemed. A benevolent old man, Pai Sho expert and tea enthusiast, he was also a retired Fire Army General whom had tried to conquer this very city for the Fire Nation a few years ago and was one of the most skilled Firebenders in the world, nicknamed “The Dragon of the West.” His nephew – Zuko, the Fire Lord himself – was in an unusually humble position serving tea to his comrades, looking not the least bit regal. His girlfriend Mai was at the next table engaged in a game of Pai Sho with Suki, leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, who had served in the recent war on the opposite side of Iroh, Zuko and Mai. Katara of the Southern Water Tribe – now on the brink of extinction – was overseeing this riveting game. And painting this rather awesome but rather absurd picture was Katara’s brother Sokka.

“I wanted to do a painting so we always remember the good times,” Sokka claimed as he captured the moment on his parchment. However, some were less than pleased with the manner in which they were portrayed.

“Why did you give me Momo’s ears?!”

“My hair is not that spiky.”

“I look like a man.”

“Why did you paint me Firebending?”

“I think you all look great,” Toph chimed in at the end, to the laughter of the rest of the group. She was ever so comfortable poking fun at her own blindness with sarcastic humor.

Aang, whilst enjoying himself, remained aloof through this episode. He extinguished his ball of air, got up and made to get a breath of fresh air on the balcony. Katara followed him out soon afterwards to share the moment with him. Neither of them needed to say anything. The embraced each other and then shared a long, wet kiss under the sunset. Things were looking up for the young Avatar now. It had been that way ever since he won his battle against Phoenix King Ozai, ending the War.

Not too long ago, Zuko’s coronation as the new Fire Lord had served as a symbolic commemoration of the long-lasting peace to come. Aang remembered that day well – every detail of it. He had been meditating in the halls of the royal palace, waiting for Zuko to emerge. He was wearing a new set of Air Nomad garments he had nicked from the storage of the Southern Air Temple on the way over. Years ago they had been worn by his teacher Monk Gyatso – one of the best benders he had ever met – who taught him his first elemental art, Airbending. Only now did that seem to him like it had really been 100 years ago – which, after all, it was. At long last, his newest teacher emerged – his companion and soon-to-be Fire Lord Zuko.

“I can’t believe a year ago my purpose in life was hunting you down. And now…”

“And now we’re friends,” Aang finished.

“Yeah, we are friends,” agreed Zuko. Aang was suddenly reminded of Kuzon, one of his best friends growing up, who had also hailed from the Fire Nation.

“I can’t believe a year ago I was still frozen in a block of ice. The world’s so different now.” Aang stared into space for a second in a moment of reflection and sadness. Yes, the world is different, he thought to himself. But the world was a much different one when he was discovered in ice berg by Sokka and Katara than the one that he grew up in. Now the world was much different from the brave new world he had been thrust into, but still not quite the same as the one he remembered as a kid. The four elements were different. Everything was different.

“It’s gonna be even more different,” Zuko continued. “When we build it together.” Zuko was right, Aang told himself. It was like Gyatso told him long ago. We cannot concern ourselves with what was. We must act on what is.

Zuko and Aang then made their way out to their awaiting audience. A roar of applause greeted Zuko as he began to speak. “Please, the real hero is the Avatar,” he stated, stepping aside momentarily for Aang. “Today, this war is finally over. I promised my uncle I would restore the honor of the Fire Nation. And I will. The road ahead of us is challenging. A hundred years of fighting has left the world scarred and divided. But with the Avatar’s help, we can get it back on the right path and begin a new era of love and peace.”

At these words, one of the Fire Sages brought forth the royal fire-emblem-shaped crown and placed it in Zuko’s hair. “All hail Fire Lord Zuko!”

Another round of applause greeted these words. It was a multicultural and diverse crowd that greeted them. All three remaining nations were represented. From the Water Tribes, Aang spotted Sokka, Katara, their proud father Hakoda and Bato, who was like an uncle to them, in addition to the members of the remote Foggy Swamp Tribe. From the Earth Kingdom he spotted Pipsqueak and the Duke of the Freedom Fighters, Toph, The Boulder and The Hippo who all had competed in Earth Rumble, the Kyoshi Warriors and the Mechanist and his faction of refugees. And also Haru, who Aang could swear he saw eyeing Katara in the crowd. Aang felt defensive for a moment. And of course several attendees were the citizens of the Fire Nation. Aang was unable to recognize any of them. But they gave just as much enthusiastic applause as anyone. It could be assumed that they were just as tired of a century-long war as anyone.

This coronation ceremony was in sharp contrast to Zuko’s father Ozai’s own. Still entrenched in a global war for domination, Ozai had taken the opportunity to give an inspirational battle cry amongst the all-Fire Nation audience as his predecessor Azulon was ceremonially cremated behind him. That had been a mere five years ago. How well would the world adapt to the new order of things? Not all people could be like the ones in front of him. After a lifetime of sweat and turmoil, some had to be unsatisfied with the outcome. The question was, how unsatisfied were they?

The coronation was followed by an elaborate reception for special guests only inside the palace. It was a mix of Fire Nation high society types and elites from around the world in the other three nations. That’s right, only three…Aang thought to himself. It was much like the birthday party for the Earth King’s pet bear that he had snuck into months ago. Zuko was absent for the moment. Aang passed the time mingling with some other guests. This was not very hard for him as the Avatar. There was scarcely a person in the room who did not mention him in their conversation.

He introduced himself to a group of Fire Nation generals standing in the corner. After giving a respectful bow to them, a couple of them smiled and bowed back in the same way. “It is an honor to finally meet you, Avatar Aang.” However, others in the group did not share their sentiment. They kept blank faces with perhaps the slightest wince of the eye and returned Aang’s bow with what was little more than an extended head nod.

Shortly afterwards, Zuko entered the room. From his expression, it seemed like he had something on his mind – something personal. Where he had been Aang could only guess, but Aang decided it was best not to intrude at this time.

Aang took Zuko aside “That was an inspiring speech you gave…Fire Lord.”

Zuko blushed for a moment. “Thanks.”

“I know there’s a long and challenging road ahead of us…just like you said. This ‘era of love and peace’ isn’t gonna come easy. For the world, I mean.”

“Not just for the world. It’s going to be hard for me keeping peace here at home, too.” Aang knew he was referring in part to those Fire Nation generals he had just met. Some had not truly accepted the outcome of the War. After all, this outcome was the opposite of the outcome they had spent their careers working to achieve. Careers spanning years and even decades under the Fire Nation of Azulon and Ozai. Obviously, some resentment must exist within some of them. “But with what we’ve been through, I’m sure it’ll be a piece of cake,” Zuko finished.

Zuko was right, Aang thought. Things may not be perfect, but they had undoubtedly improved. At least no one was openly fighting each other now. Yes, there were challenges ahead, but that was to be expected. So there was no use worrying for now. With this Aang put his mind at ease.

Now, back at the Jasmine Dragon, Aang still had his mind at ease as he kissed Katara for what seemed like forever. After they finally broke away from each other, they held hands for a few minutes watching the sundown before finally returning inside. The rest of their friends didn’t appear to have noticed their absence and had merely shifted around. Mai had apparently beaten Suki at Pai Sho and was now playing Iroh. Zuko now played the Tsungi horn. He was apparently as talented as his uncle. Toph had settled down into a chair and was sharing a table with Suki and drinking from a newly-brewed batch of tea. Sokka was in the same place as he was before.

“So how’s the painting coming Sokka?” Katara asked. She apparently soon wished she hadn’t after taking a look, judging by her facial expression. “I wish the Earth King and Bosco were here – they’d make our group more exotic.”

“Um, they haven’t returned from traveling the world yet, remember?” Toph reminded her.

“Oh yeah, heh,” Katara blushed. “Wait, so who’s in charge of Ba Sing Se right now?”

“My sources tell me some politicians were hoping for Long Feng to be appointed to his old post now that the war is over,” Iroh entered. “But he would have little support now since the Dai Li are considered traitors now.”

“Wouldn’t they have to cancel next week’s victory festival?” Aang asked. “After all, according to them, the war never happened, so the end of the war never happened either.”

“It’d be pretty hard for them to re-brainwash everyone now that the city was conquered and then later liberated. An army of Fire Nation soldiers marching in and the Order of the White Lotus kicking them out. I dunno…that seems like the kind of thing people notice,” said Sokka.

“Sokka, people knew there was a war going on,” replied Katara. “The people of Ba Sing Se weren’t allowed to talk about it, but most of them already knew there was a war going on. Especially the thousands of incoming refugees. It was mainly the Earth King they totally brainwashed. Him and anyone who stirred up trouble.”

“Okay, okay,” said Sokka. “So who is in charge then? Don’t tell me it’s still Joo Dee – she was Azula’s puppet.”

“Nah, most likely the Council of Five will step in,” answered Iroh. “General How has expressed an interest in forming a temporary government based on military leadership.” Iroh was clearly distracted by his Pai Sho competition with Mai, which he was about to win.

“Well, whatever they do…I’m sure things are gonna be a lot different around here now,” said Toph. “Alright, enough lounging around for now. I’m heading to the courtyard to do some Earthbending. Care for a couple rounds of sparing, Twinkle Toes?”

“Nah, I’m all set,” said Aang.

“Okay. You’re not getting soft on me now, are you?”

“Not at all. I just think after defeating the Fire Lord and all, I can afford to take it easy for one night.”

“Meh, fine.”

At this point, Aang noticed Iroh getting up as well. He was making his way to brew a new batch of tea. Aang followed him.

“Thanks for playing host to us here tonight Iroh. It feels good having the whole group here and all.”

“Oh, my pleasure young Avatar,” Iroh said jovially. “It’s the least I could do after you helping save the world and all. Now that I’ve got back my tea shop, I can enjoy a quiet retirement serving tea and playing Pai Sho. All thanks to you.”

Aang returned a modest expression to these words. “Yeah, it’s finally over now.”

“And hey, maybe I’ll even pay my brother a visit one of these days and see if he wants to play in his cell,” laughed Iroh. “I did not know he would still be alive now. I heard you blocked his Firebending instead, much like Mai and Azula’s little friend likes to do.”

“No Sir. Ty Lee practices Chi Blocking, which targets one’s muscles and leaves one unable to bend for a short while,” Aang corrected. “I took away Ozai’s Firebending permanently by bending the energy and life essence within his body. It’s a part of Energybending, which is what people did in the era before the Avatar, instead of bending the four elements.”

At these words, Iroh paused for a second. His facial expression suddenly became more serious and thoughtful and he stroked his beard. “Interesting…” he said just under his breath.

“What is it? You look like you have something on your mind.”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Have you heard of something like this before?”

“What? What makes you say that?”

“Well, you are a leader in the Order of the White Lotus, a society of spiritual and fighting experts from different nations. You’d think you would know something about it, if anyone would.”

Iroh hesitated for a moment. “Well, the secrets discussed inside the Order of the White Lotus are – well – secret. But I guess since you’re the Avatar and all, it’s okay. Yes, I do recall hearing something about a fifth bending art a while back. And I also heard something about its being able to effect the traditional four bending arts. But I’m not the best person to ask about this.”

“Do you think it’s worth looking into?”

“Oh yes. Its only right for you to understand your abilities as best you can. And you are the Avatar, so you must serve the world as best you can with your fullest potential. Now let’s see...it was years ago that I heard of this bending art. Who was it that mentioned it again? It was…Jeong Jeong. Yes. Jeong Jeong knew something about it.”

“Okay, where is Jeong Jeong now?”

“He stayed here for a couple days right after we liberated the city. I know he has a small house in the Earth Kingdom. He’s probably staying there. It’s about a day’s walk from Ba Sing Se. Probably a lot shorter on Appa. You and your friends are staying the night, right? You can set off in the morning.”
“Sounds good. Thanks,” said Aang. And with that they rejoined the others.

It was a relaxing evening for everyone. They passed their time reminiscing about their adventures, joking, drinking tea and taking turns getting beat by Iroh at Pai Sho. They had had little time for such things over their long journey. Iroh had enough guest bedrooms to accommodate them all. Aang told everyone about the planned expedition to visit Jeong Jeong the following day. With the exception of Zuko and Mai, who were returning to the Fire Nation by airship, everyone else agreed to accompany him. Zuko had his Fire Lord duties to attend to now, so he would have less time for such things as this. They woke up nice and late the next day, packed their supplies and got onto Appa, with a new, comfortable saddle on his back. This was much to the relief of Toph and Suki.

Aang got up front. “Ready everyone? Yip yip!”

And with that they waved goodbye to Iroh and set off toward Jeong Jeong’s house.

TO BE CONTINUED...
« Last Edit: May 29, 2012 11:02 am by AvatarRokusGhost » Logged
airboi124
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #1 on: Apr 29, 2011 07:03 pm »

well did they find jong jong
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #2 on: Apr 29, 2011 09:31 pm »

Chapter Two: Earth Kingdom Bandits

Northeastern Earth Kingdom, 100 ASC

After flying through the air for about an hour, everyone seemed exhausted. They had stayed up unusually late the night before and were busy packing their belongings the following morning. They had woken up early to say goodbye to Zuko and Mai, who took an early airship ride, as it was a long way back to the Fire Nation Capitol. Katara and Toph had wanted to go back to sleep after this, but Aang wanted to get to Jeong Jeong’s house before midday. So he had asked everyone to hurry up and get ready. Now, Toph and Suki were laying down, eyes closed, with the edge of the saddle as a pillow. Sokka was doing something with his boomerang and Katara was staring down at the landscape of the Earth Kingdom countryside. It was a silent trip for most of the ride.

At last, Sokka spoke. “So, why exactly are we going to see Jeong Jeong again?” He looked up toward Aang for a bit, but then stared back down at his boomerang.

“He supposedly knows something about Energybending. Or might know something. Since that’s the only bending art I’m mostly unfamiliar with, I would say it’s worth a quick day trip,” Aang answered.

“Oh, okay,” said Sokka, still focusing on his boomerang. “So wait. Why exactly do you need to know about Energybending?”

Aang paused for a moment. “Just because.” The truth was, Aang didn’t really know for himself why he needed to know more about Energybending. He just felt like he did. Like, it would help him fulfill his duties as Avatar somehow.

No one else seemed to know why Energybending was so important to him either. They had left Ba Sing Se a few hours ago. As Iroh bid them goodbye, no one seemed that enthused about the whole expedition. Sokka seemed to be coming along out of boredom. Toph heard that Jeong Jeong was a good cook and hoped to get a free meal out of it. Suki was mostly just tagging along with Sokka. She still had a couple weeks left free until she was scheduled to rejoin with the other Kyoshi Warriors on Kyoshi Island. Katara didn’t seem hyped about the whole ordeal up either, but she supported Aang’s desire to make the journey. But Aang wasn’t totally sure himself. Maybe it was just mere curiosity. But he was also following Iroh’s advice to understand himself and his potential as Avatar. Aang was unsure. Everything was so confusing to him now. The War had been won. Now came the task of rebuilding the world and bringing it back into good balance. This didn’t seem quite as adventurous or dangerous as fighting the Fire Nation. But it was so much more complex and less straightforward. It wasn’t as simple as Fire Lord Ozai being the target. The world was a big place and it seemed impossible to solve everything at once. Aang wasn’t comfortable with simply what he knew now. Maybe Energybending would help somehow. Or maybe he was just kidding himself.

Sokka now had his mind back on playing with his boomerang. Katara turned around and spoke now. “I still can’t believe you were able to take away the Fire Lord’s Firebending. I didn’t know such a technique existed. I guess you got what you wanted. You were able to defeat Fire Lord Ozai without having to kill him. That was part of this ‘Energybending’ you keep mentioning.”

Aang replied “Yeah. I told the others right after the fight. A giant Lion Turtle creature told me about it after I consulted my past lives for a way to solve my dilemma. He said it was very risky. In order to bend another’s energy, you must make your own completely unbendable. Otherwise, you risk destroying yourself.”

Katara paused thoughtfully and then spoke again. “It’s a good thing you’re unbendable then. How does this relate to the other bending arts? I thought they were only based on the four elements.”

Aang answered “Energybending is what people used before the elemental bending arts existed. In the era before the Avatar.”

“That lion turtle must have been one old creature,” said Katara.

Sokka budged in again “When we ask Jeong Jeong about this whole energy thing, think we could also ask him if he knows where we can get some more space rock? I’ve been hoping to make a new sword just like my old one.”

At last, Aang spotted the house that fit the description the Iroh had given him. That must be Jeong Jeong’s house, he thought to himself. So he began steering Appa downward toward a small clearing by the edge of the woods that Jeong Jeong’s country house was sitated next to. And sure enough, the familiar figure of his first Firebending teacher emerged from the front door as Appa and the gang descended. He looked much less scruffy than the first time that Aang met him, when he had been a fugitive living in the wild.

Jeong Jeong greeted them as they landed. “Avatar, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Hello Master Jeong Jeong. It’s been a while. We’re just on our way out of Ba Sing Se. We were staying at Iroh’s place in the Upper Ring. The whole place looks nice since you guys liberated it.”

“All in a day’s work,” said Jeong Jeong, failing to hide his smugness.

“So, Iroh told us that you were staying out here now with the War over and all. And we had a couple things that we wanted to ask you,” continued Aang.
“Certainly. Here, why don’t you all come inside. It’s just past midday. You must be starving. I was just starting to prepare a meal.”

Jeong Jeong’s house was upscale. It was white all around and two stories consisted of two stories rounding a small courtyard in the middle. Inside, there was a large atrium right inside the front door. It looked grand, but like it had been abandoned for a long time until recently. Jeong Jeong had not used it from the time when he deserted the Fire Nation Army until he and the other members of the Order of the White Lotus liberated Ba Sing Se. There were numerous treasures and artifacts sitting on small wooden tables.

Each of the meals Jeong Jeong prepared consisted of a bowl of rice and an assortment of wheat, cabbage and roasted Komodo Chicken. Since he was a vegetarian, Aang passed on the Komodo Chicken and had some fruits instead. Aang, Sokka, Katara, Toph, Suki and Jeong Jeong sat around a small table set for six. Everyone sat straight up in their seats. Everyone except for Toph, who leaned back and put her feet up on the table.

“This is really good, Master Jeong Jeong. Very fresh,” commented Suki.

“I’m glad you all like it. It’s a recipe I grew up with. Now then, was there something you wanted to ask me about?”

“Yes. I was talking to Iroh the other night and he said that you had knowledge of a fifth bending art. I was hoping you could tell me more about that,” said Aang.

At these words, Jeong Jeong stopped eating his food and paused uncomfortably. At last he said “that, my young Avatar, is no concern of yours.”

Aang had not expected Jeong Jeong to react this way. “Well, thing is, I’ve already learned part about it. I used a technique he told me about to take away Fire Lord Ozai’s Firebending in my final battle with him. That’s how I defeated him without killing him.”

Jeong Jeong winced “So you have already used it to help you save the world from its gravest threat. The world is safe now. You do not need to know anymore to fulfill your place as Avatar.”

“But-“

“But nothing! Have you forgotten that when last we met, you let your abilities get the best of you in your Firebending training and you burned the hands of your young Waterbender friend here? And then, like now, you suffered a failure to listen.”

Jeong Jeong was talking about back when he was teaching Aang basic Firebending and Aang had accidently burned Katara’s hands because of his impatience. It was not a memory Aang liked to remember. He was taken aback for a second. Then he said “I lacked good discipline then. I was impatient and just wanted to play with fire. But I have mastered that now. Iroh said I should try to understand everything I could do as best I can.”

Jeong Jeong looked down for a moment, resentful. “Iroh should focus on his little tea shop and mind his own business.”

This made Aang a little mad, but he did not express it. “Now that’s not fair. Come on, you seem to know something about this. Why won’t you say it. Do you think it’s dangerous or something?”

“You are a fully-realized Avatar now! You have mastered all four elements, have entered the spirit world and control the Avatar State,” Jeong Jeong shouted. “And yet you still want more! This has got nothing to do with being the Avatar. You just want more power.”

“No, that’s not it at all,” Aang answered, denying Jeong Jeong’s claim.

Katara interjected “Master Jeong Jeong, I assure you – I’ve traveled with Aang for almost a year now. I’ve never met anyone more peaceful, selfless and caring than him. He just wants to know more about himself. He’s not power-hungry at all. That’s ridiculous.”

“Yes, he is. And he is clearly not selfless and caring, as he is trying to take advantage now.” Jeong Jeong snubbed her. “I’m afraid that I must revoke my earlier hospitality for you now and ask you to leave.” And with that, Jeong Jeong stood up and motioned toward the door.

“But, Master Jeong Jeong-“ Aang began.

“Go. Get out of my sight – all of you!” And with that, he turned around and retreated into the room behind him.

Everyone froze in their seats as Jeong Jeong stormed out of the room. Everyone except Toph, who merely said “Sheesh. What’s his problem?” and continued eating from her bowl of rice.

After a couple more seconds, Sokka said “Well, that went pretty well. You think it’s still okay to ask him about the space rock?”
« Last Edit: May 29, 2012 11:07 am by AvatarRokusGhost » Logged
AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #3 on: Apr 29, 2011 09:31 pm »

(continued)
That evening, the gang was camping out in the middle of the woods. It felt just like old times. Sokka and Suki seemed to have become more comfortable about openly displaying their new bond with each other and were sharing a tent to themselves. Toph did the same as usual and Earthbended a small sleeping quarter for herself. Sokka and Aang went into the forest to gather some wood for Aang to start a fire on with Firebending while Katara set up camp. Katara seemed to be getting along with Toph better than she usually did. Everyone was passing the time, trying to forget the heated encounter with Jeong Jeong earlier in the afternoon.

As Sokka and Aang hiked through the forest looking for wood, Sokka brought it up again. “The whole idea of going to see Jeong Jeong did seem like a waste of time anyway.”

Aang disagreed. “If anything, that whole episode makes me want to know about Energybending more. He was obviously hiding something. He knew more than he showed us.”

Sokka seemed skeptical. “The comment he made about Iroh did seem a little uncalled for. But maybe you should just listen to him. You already saved world and all. What use is this energy stuff to you now?”

“Helping rebuild the world,” said Aang, still not fully understanding what he was talking about.

The campout that night was pretty mellow. Once they had finished setting up, they sat around the fire, roasted some food and enjoyed the warmth. Toph was the first to turn in, having set up her Earth tent not far from where the fire was. Aang and Katara followed shortly after. Aang still had a lot on his mind. The next day, everyone was unsure about what to do next. They had no set plan now that Aang’s little trip to see Jeong Jeong was over. Katara woke up fairly early and practiced her Waterbending. Toph pointed out to the rest of the group that they were very close to an Earth Kingdom town near the foot of a mountain. This town was supposedly famous for its exotic tea and its view of the sunset. Nobody else had any objection to this plan. Sokka even said he badly wanted to check out the marketplace on the off chance that they were selling space rock.

After about half an hour of travelling, they found themselves at the entrance to the town. The place seemed gloomy. It had the look of a community that had clearly endured bad fortune. The buildings and pathways were dusty. The houses had been seriously damages, with several broken roofs, walls and windows in plain sight. The street going through the center of town was nearly empty, save for an old man crossing the street with a cane and a middle aged woman in the middle of sweeping her front porch. Both were ragged and had numerous holes in the dirty clothes that they were wearing. However, if it were not for them, one would get the impression that the whole town was deserted. The majority of the stores and restaurants were closed today. Almost all the doors were shut. So were the windows. Aang noticed a few people stick their heads out to get a good look at him and his friends. Then they shut their windows abruptly. He got the feeling that they were all afraid of something.

They walked around the corner at the edge of town to a local tea shop, which turned out to be open. The place seemed dead. There were rows and rows of tables in a large room that could accommodate a much larger number of patrons. However, aside from two men talking in whispers at the far corner, Aang and the group were the only customers there. The old woman who ran the shop meekly escorted them all to a table and took their order.

“For a place that’s supposed to be well known for their variety of exotic tea, you would think that more people would be here,” Katara commented.

“And the town itself seems a bit on the down side, too,” Suki added. “Toph, was this place like this when you visited before?”

“I’ve never actually been to this place,” said Toph. “My parents were always extremely overprotective so I didn’t get out or travel much. But when we would have guests over for dinner, they always told stories about the places that they’ve been to. They would always mention this place as the one that has some of the best tea in the region.”

“This can’t be right,” said Aang. It’s not that the tea wasn’t good. It was excellent. But Aang remembered when he met Toph’s parents. He couldn’t picture wealthy guests of the prestigious Bei Fong family frequenting a place like this.

“Maybe it’s just slow tea season,” shrugged Sokka.

“Sokka, tea doesn’t really have a season,” said Katara impatiently. “And it’s still summer, so the leaves are fully-bloomed now. It’s gotta be something else.” And with that, she called over the owner again. “Excuse me. I don’t mean to sound rude or anything. But something just seems a little…off about this place. Did this town have any misfortune recently?”

“You’re not from around here, are you?” The old lady explained “the Fire Nation took over this town a while ago. They wouldn’t have normally have bothered with a smaller town like this. But due to our close proximity to Ba Sing Se, they figured they could use it as a strategic stepping stone for invading the city. We were terrorized by bandits after Fire Nation departed. They’re a local gang, used to be soldiers. But they suffered under Fire Nation rule just like everyone else. Now that the Fire Nation is gone, they’ve taken to looting and plundering the rest of us for personal profit.”

Katara showed empathy for this story. “Aang, we have to help these people.”

Sokka added “well, normally I would say no. But seeing as you were looking for a way to help rebuild the world – here’s your chance. And none of that Energybending stuff necessary for it.”

Aang agreed, but ignored Sokka’s latter comment. “Miss, when do these bandits usually come?”

“Oh, usually it’s around mid afternoon. It’s not every day though.” She took a close look at all of them, sizing them up. “No offense, but I’m not sure if you kids are up to it.”

“I’m the Avatar. It’s part of my job description.”

After they paid for their tea, they departed the shop and found an alleyway near the main entrance to town. There they waited for the bandits to come back, ready to ambush them when the time came. As it grew later in the afternoon, the few villagers who were remaining outside retreated into their homes and locked their doors.

At last, a clique of riders on ostrich horses rode into town. They mostly looked rugged, tough and muscular. Aang spotted a couple who still had Earth Kingdom military uniforms on. The lady had been right – they had used to be soldiers. The rider at the front of the group, who had a long mane of hair down to his belt buckle, dismounted and began knocking at the door of one of the large houses. When there was no answer, he got out an ax and prepared to swing it.

Aang swiftly emerged from his hiding place and confronted the man, pointing his glider stick at him. “Back away from there. Leave these people in peace.”
The head bandit and his comrades turned to look at him. Then they began to laugh, but that didn’t last long.

Aang swung in his direction and a forceful gust of air sent him swinging backward until he collided with the wooden wall and fell to the ground. After this, the rest of Aang’s allies came out of their hiding places. Toph Earthbended a long stream of rocks rising out of the ground, knocking down one of the bandits and forcing two more to jump out of the way, now off balance. Aang sent another gust of wind back and knocked the closer one into the rock wall Toph had just created. Katara brought out her bending water and dealt a hard hit to them and proceeded to turn the water into ice to freeze the bandits in their place. One of the bandits was getting ready to Earthbend back at them when Suki dealt a couple chi-blocking punches to the man, disabling him. This was the first time that she got to use that trick Ty Lee had shown her in combat. Sokka sent his boomerang around to hit one in the head. But another bandit attempted to cut him off just when the boomerang was on its way back a second time. Then Katara sent another wave of water his way.

At last there were only three bandits left. Seeing how the rest of the battle had gone, they turned tail and ran away. Sokka yelled after them. Aang knew that justice needed to be served for these people to be safe from the threat the bandits had imposed and the bandits needed to be taught a lesson. So, he cleared his mind, rose himself up into the air and entered the Avatar State. He now had all the power of his previous reincarnations at his disposal. He felt the gargantuan surge of power as he prepared to deal his final blow toward them. Not to kill, of course. Just to render them incapable of fighting back for the present time. Then he could let the town authorities deal with them.

And then it came. It was tiny, almost like a pebble at first. It seemed like nothing of significance. Probably a bird or a bug, Aang thought when he first noticed it behind him. But it was more than that. It was something mechanical. A latch inside it opened in mid-air and a sharp blade came out in front. It continued soaring through the air, uninterrupted by this sudden transformation. Aang noticed it just in time. He stopped focusing on the runaway bandits, tilted his head to the side and exited the Avatar State. The mysterious knife-blade missed his head by inches and soared onward in the same straight path until it jammed itself into a tree in the distance.

Aang dropped to the ground and spun around, looking back into the center of town. He saw a man standing there. He was dressed all in black. He had tight garments covering his arms, torso and legs. He wore a large sash around his waist line, secured in a tight knot behind his right hip. He had a head covering similar to what the members of the Sandbender tribes wore, only of a much darker shade. The majority of his face was covered in dark cloth, so only his eye line was visible. Just as Aang saw him, he dashed behind one of the nearby buildings and vanished.

As Aang caught his breath, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Suki rushed over to him.

“Are you alright?” asked Katara. There was an urgent note of concern in her voice.

“I’m fine,” Aang replied, still kneeling on the ground, panting.

“Who was that guy?” Suki wondered aloud. “Was he with the bandits?”

“No he didn’t come into town with them,” said Toph. “He was already here. I could sense him with my feet.”

Sokka turned angrily to Toph. “What?! You knew he was there – why didn’t you say anything before?!”

“He didn’t seem dangerous. I thought he was just another villager. He seemed just like them, hidden away indoors. The only difference was he wasn’t trembling. He stayed perfectly still the whole time, which I thought was kind of odd. But I didn’t think much of it. I had no idea he was hostile until he came out and through that object at Twinkle Toes here.”

Sokka calmed down. “Okay. Well, since you can ‘sense’ him and all, where is he now?”

Toph paused. “Gone.”

“Gone? What do you mean he’s gone? You could sense him when he was in hiding before. Why can’t you do it now?”

Toph seemed helpless. “I don’t know. But, after he ran behind that building, I couldn’t sense him anymore?”

“Why not? Did he use Earthbending to go underground?” asked Katara.

“No. I would have definitely sensed it if he Earthbended. He didn’t use any kind of bending as far as I could tell.”

“How could he just disappear like that?” Sokka asked again. “And who is he? If he’s not with the bandits do you think he’s with some Fire Nation group?”

“I suppose that’s a possibility,” Suki commented. “Of course, if he was so intent on killing the Avatar, why didn’t he take the opportunity when he had a cleaner shot? He had much better chances of getting Aang when he was busy fighting the bandits in the middle of the street.”

Katara turned to Aang. “You’ve hardly said a word. Do you have any idea about this?”

Aang paused for a moment ant took it all in. “I don’t know.” He thought about it all now silently to himself. He didn’t think that the strange attacker was a member of the bandits. He didn’t think he was associated with the Fire Nation either. This man had waited. Suki was right. He had a much better chance of killing Aang in the streets, if he was really intent on killing the Avatar. But he had waited instead. This was almost too horrible to think about. But there was no mistaking it. He had attacked Aang when he was in the Avatar State. He had purposefully waited until Aang was in Avatar State.

TO BE CONTINUED…
« Last Edit: May 29, 2012 11:08 am by AvatarRokusGhost » Logged
JDRulez
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Bolin: Hey Mako, Boobs attached to THE AVATAR


« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2011 03:24 pm »

And i would love to read this fan fic but it is in a very poor layout and there are random symbols everywhere.
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Korra: Oh hey Aang, i was kinda hoping to see Kyoshi about how to kill the Amon
Aang: Violence is only necessary in defense, Young Avatar
Korra: I meant i want to get some beauty tips
AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2012 11:13 am »

I fixed the layout and got rid of the symbols.  Sorry it's been so long.  I've written quite a bit since then, I just haven't posted it.  I'll try to get it caught up soon.

Chapter Three: Earth Kingdom Bandits


Earth Kingdom Town, 100 ASC 

A few hours had passed since Aang and gang had their run-in with the bandits who had previously terrorized the Earth Kingdom town they now found themselves in. Shortly after arriving in the settlement with the simple intention of sampling local tea flavors, they heard of the troubled situation the people faced. Although they were now free of the Fire Nation, they were faced with a group of former Earth Kingdom soldiers who had turned into thugs preying on the misfortunes of the community. Avatar Aang and his companions decisively committed to stopping them. They waited for the bandits to return and fought bravely to help save people, just like old times. And, as usual, they were victorious. At least it seemed to be going that way.

As the skirmish drew to a close, a mysterious encounter took place. An unknown man attacked Aang when he was in the Avatar State, getting ready to finish off the last couple of bandits. He had been waiting silently and patiently until Aang went into the Avater State. There was no mistaking it – if he had wanted to kill Aang earlier he had plenty of cleaner opportunities. Although everyone has heard of the Avatar, most people don't know about the Avatar State.

At the beginning of last Spring, General Fong of the Earth Kingdom had tried to force Aang into the Avatar State so that he would be able to defeat the Fire Lord and end the War much sooner. But General Fong was ignorant. All he knew was that in the Avatar State Aang’s eyes glowed and he was more powerful. Aang himself had also been ignorant about the Avatar State at the time – until Avatar Roku told him about it. Roku told him how all the strength of the Avatar Spirit’s past lives was available to him in the Avatar State, but that if he was killed in the Avatar State, the Avatar Spirit would die with him and the cycle would be broken. Fong and Aang had not known this.

But this man who just attacked Aang did. What other reason could he possibly have for attacking Aang when he was the most powerful? This man had the unquestionable goal of ending the Avatar once and for all. Nearly as unnatural as him was the weapon he employed. Some tiny device that strangely transformed into a sharp blade in mid-air. Aang had been all over the world and he had never seen nor heard of anything like it. He hoped that now that he had saved the world from the Fire Lord that things would just come easier to him from now on. But perhaps he was wrong.

As these thoughts crowded Aang’s brain, the liberated townsfolk gave him and his friends the hero-worship they were ever-so accustomed to. Gradually, people were emerging from the hiding places that they took shelter in while the bandits were ready to attack. Their looks of fear and confusion quickly transformed to that of joy and admiration. They were amazed. Amazed that indeed the Avatar had helped them out once again in such a short span of time. First he saved their kingdom from being burned down by the Fire Lord. Now, he saved them from the awful bandits that tainted the peace they had longed for so long. People were enthusiastically rushing out of their homes to thank Aang and the rest of the team.

“The Avatar has saved us!”

“The outsiders have expelled the bandits!”

“Finally, we can live at peace again!”

As Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Suki walked down the center of the main street in town, the townsfolk crowded around them to greet their liberators. Aang felt a little better to see what good result came from his encounter a few hours before. Katara was blushing. Toph had to Earthbend away a young man who kept tugging at her shirt uncontrollably. Sokka spotted the old lady that ran the tea shop they had entered upon coming to town and pointed her out to the rest of the group.

“Well, I guess I underestimated you kids. You really did this town a great service. I hope that you will come to my tea shop again sometime.” She bowed to Aang upon finishing these words.

“All in a day’s work for the Avatar and pals!” Sokka boasted.

“Our town leaders wish to see you so that they can thank you in person,” the old lady continued. “You should meet with them.” She bowed again.

They followed the old lady’s directions to the center part of town, where they were greeted at a larger-sized house by a middle-aged man with dark hair in a light blue coat with an Earth Kingdom symbol just visible on the shirt beneath it. He was flanked by an attendant on either side.

“Welcome, young Avatar and companions. I am the Sheryf of this community. I extend my deepest thanks for what you have done for our humble town. Because of you, I believe we can prosper just like we used to. I can’t thank you enough for this.”

“Don’t mention it,” replied Aang, always the modest type.

“You will be pleased to hear that the remaining bandits that escaped at the end have been caught and arrested. They are ready to stand trial along with the rest of their gang. I feel that it’s now only appropriate to offer you a reward for your unwavering pursuit of justice.”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” answered Katara.

“Some supplies for our travels would be nice,” interrupted Sokka. Katara shot him a dirty look.

“Consider it done.” With that, the Sheryf extended a bow, which Aang and his friends returned before turning to leave.

After their brief meeting was over, Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Suki returned to the tea shop where they had first heard of the bandit problem the town was facing earlier that same day. Unlike before, when the establishment had been practically deserted, the place was totally packed. They arrived just in time to not have to wait for a table. The manager, who had bowed to them before in the street, noticed them as soon as they came in. She led them over to a table by the window.

“This place sure seems livelier,” commented Toph. Indeed, every table was full and they had to raise their voices slightly to have an ordinary conversation.
They were all offered a couple of free rounds of tea for the table of whatever flavor tea they wished. With the business the place was getting, it did not seem like that would be much trouble for them.

“Well, this is pretty cool,” said Sokka cheerfully.

“Yeah,” agreed Katara. But Aang was not sharing in their sentiments at the moment.

“Hey, guys. Not to bring the mood down, but I think we should talk about that strange man dressed in black that got away.”

Katara seemed more aware now. “Oh yeah. Do you really think that what you said earlier is true? About him trying to kill you in the Avatar State I mean.”

“Of course,” said Aang impatiently.

“I noticed his presence with my seismic sense the second that we came into town,” Toph interjected. “If he was here intent on picking a fight with Twinkletoes here, then he would have known we came here after we left Jeong Jeong’s house. Do you think he was following us?”

“Well, if you ‘saw’ him in your own way here, did you ‘see’ him in the same way around Jeong Jeong’s house the other day?” Sokka interrupted.

Toph gave an expression of minor annoyance. Then after a quick pause, she answered “no, I didn’t notice him there.” “And I obviously didn’t see him while we were on Appa either,” she added. “So I have no idea how long he was tracking us.

Suki pulled out the weapon of mysterious would-be assassin. “I picked this up right after our encounter with him. I looked it over. It’s pretty simple, really.” She held it up in the palm of her hand for all except for Toph to see. It was in a rounded shape about the size of a large cherry or a small plum. “It looks like it’s a harmless solid object from the outside. But when you throw it in the air, giving it a little forward spin…” she said as she rotated it slowly. With a small clicking noise, the outer covering gave way and a compressed knife-like object stretched out, pointing forward and shifting the overall weight of the object. “…the mechanical insides open up and what appears to be a harmless orb is now a deadly weapon. Part of what makes it unique and effective is that it is not even exposed as a weapon until after it is thrown.”

Everyone else stared at awe as she explained it to them. Then, as she was folding the knife back on the inside, Aang noticed a symbol on the outer covering. It had the gold round full-moon shape in the center, with a crescent on either side facing outward. And on the inside…was a purple eye with horns coming out of it.

“What’s that?” Aang asked, pointing it out.

Suki looked where he indicated and stared at the drawing blankly. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen that sign before. Beats me.”

Katara seemed confused as well. “But what motive could this guy have for wanting to end the Avatar Cycle. Why would he want to do such a thing?”
Aang acknowledged her. “I’ve been thinking about that myself. The War of a Hundred Years is over now. I don’t think it has anything to do with the Fire Nation.” Aang seemed just unsure as she was. “My only guess is – maybe it’s related to Energybending? Maybe he heard I used it on Ozai and wanted to prevent me from learning anything else?”

Sokka scoffed “Oh come on Aang, don’t bring up that energy stuff again. If anything, the guy probably just wanted to-.” But what Sokka thought his true motive was, they never found out. Sokka was now looking out the window at something he appeared to have spotted all of a sudden.

“What is it, Sokka?” asked Katara.

“It’s that guy outside. He looks really familiar.”

Sokka was pointing to an Earth Kingdom man out the window. Another outsider, he had just entered town and was looking around the street with some kind of fascination. He looked like he was in his late twenties or early thirties and had an unkempt sort of appearance. He had just come to a halt in the center of the street. He was looking about like he had lost something.

Katara seemed annoyed. “What is going on? What does this have to do with anything?”

Sokka ignored her – still looking out the window at the man in the street. He suddenly stopped searching around and turned abruptly around to face down the street toward the entrance to town.

“Ah, there you are. Quit disappearing on me like that. You’ve just gotta cause trouble everywhere you go. Have you been stealing cabbages from that poor merchant again?”

A large, majestic-looking brown bear came running down the street to meet the man Sokka had pointed out. All of a sudden, everyone recognized him. There was no mistaking it now. He looked much dirtier than the last time they saw him. He had also dropped some weight and apparently found a way to stop wearing glasses. But behind all that, Kuei was still the same old pompous and naïve Earth King that they remembered. Bosco still looked exactly the same except he wasn’t wearing Earth Kingdom robes.

Before anyone else could say anything, Sokka called out “Earth King! Hey Earth King – over here!”

Shocked, Kuei turned around and caught Sokka’s eye through the window of the tea shop. He looked around himself nervously as passersby began to stare. “Umm…sorry. I believe you have mistaken me for somebody else, young man.”

“It’s me – the Avatar,” said Aang. “We came to see you at the royal palace in Ba Sing Se. We roughed up half your army.”

“Oh – you think I’m the Earth King. Heh, heh,” Kuei laughed uncomfortably. “That’s funny. People say I look like him all the time. But I’m just a simple traveler.”

People in the street were staring at the Earth King, Sokka and Aang. At the moment, Kuei could hardly look less like the Earth King. And who were those people in the tea shop calling out to him with all these outrageous stories.

“Why don’t you come in and join us for some tea?” Katara asked out to him.

Timidly, Kuei motioned for Bosco to follow him and they entered the tea shop. The tea shop owner said that the bear would have to wait outside. But Aang said he was a friend of theirs and she changed her mind, bringing over an extra-large seat for Bosco to settle down in.

“So, how’s it going, your kingliness?” said Sokka.

“Sshhhh! I’m trying to stay undercover,” said Kuei. “Nobody can know that I’m the Earth King, okay. I’m just a simple traveler for now.”

“Sorry, your secret is safe with us,” Katara reassured him.

“Why don’t you tell us about your travels? We haven’t heard anything from you since leaving Ba Sing Se,” said Toph.

Finally, the ecstatic Earth King calmed himself down. He took a sip from his tea and began recounting his exploits since they last saw each other. Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Suki all listened intently at the thrilling stories he had from his travels incognito. During his first week traveling alone, Kuei had had a run-in with pirates and been robbed of everything he was carrying except clothes. He had to get a job picking tea leaves on a farm to feed himself and save up enough to start traveling again. Then a few days after he left that, he had a run-in with an angry circus master who tried to steal Bosco. Kuei and Bosco just barely managed to get away. He had met a lot of interesting people on his journey. Most of them were peasants and other types of people that Kuei wasn’t accustomed to meeting in his life as the Earth King. Just a couple days ago, Kuei had stumbled into a village with some kind of celebration festival going on. It was then that he heard the good news that the War had ended. He was now slowly making his way back to Ba Sing Se to resume his duties as Earth King, a changed man.

“Now that I have seen and experienced the life of ordinary people, I feel that I can understand their problems more and am able to return to my post and serve them in a more enlightened manner,” said Kuei. “I’m still staying in disguise until I get back to Ba Sing Se, though. By the way, now that the War is over, what’s happening in there?”

“General How is leading the city right now – or trying to. Some of your subjects in the Upper Ring are debating reinstating Long Feng to power,” answered Katara.

Kuei looked uneasy. “I had better get back quick then. I don’t want to risk Long Feng plotting something new. He was my trusted advisor for most of my life. It was finding out the truth about him that broke me out of the shell I had lived in my whole life.” Kuei did not recounting a part of his life we wished to forget and move on from. “Well, that and riding on Appa,” he added.

“I am sure you will lead your people well upon your return,” said Aang. He could tell that Kuei had matured a lot since he saw him last.

Kuei smiled and finished his tea. Then he left the table and went to ask the lady who ran the tea shop about something.

After a few moments, Katara asked everyone else “So, what happens now?”

Everyone looked a little awkward. They had all felt this moment coming for a long time. Since they had departed Ba Sing Se and Zuko and Mai returned to the Fire Nation. They had had a great adventure together and they had helped Aang save the world and restore balance. In the process, they had formed friendships with each other that would last a lifetime. But now that their task was completed, there was no real reason for them to continue traveling together. It was at last time for them to go their separate ways.

“It looks like it’s time for Katara and I to return to the South Pole. We’ve been away long enough. And our tribe needs us,” said Sokka. Katara bowed her head and nodded in agreement.

“Well, I don’t know if you need to go back quite yet,” said Suki. “We never did get to finish your training the first time you visited Kyoshi Island. I have two weeks left on leave before I officially rejoin the other warriors. Could use the time to give you some more private lessons.”

Sokka was tempted by this offer. “I agree, that would be kind of fun. What about Katara, though?”

“I’ll be fine getting back to the South Pole on my own,” said Katara.

“I can give you a lift on Appa,” said Aang.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen my parents. I wrote them a letter and all, but I should probably get back to them,” said Toph thoughtfully. “I hope things are different now.”

“Hey, you helped save the world and their entire country from burning to a crisp,” said Sokka. “They would have to be insane to try and shelter you again. And they can’t now even if they wanted to.” Toph laughed.

Aang seemed concerned. “I sure hope that assassin won’t come back anytime soon.”

“He’s a wimp and a coward. He ran away,” said Toph. “Don’t worry Twinkle Toes, you could totally take him in a straight-up fight. After Fire Lord Ozai how tough can that guy possibly be?”

Aang laughed uneasily, feeling a little bit better. The five of them all shared one final group hug. Then, Toph left and ran with Earthbending to help propel her faster toward Gaoling. Sokka and Suki began their journey toward Kyoshi Island. Then, Aang and Katara were left by themselves in the doorway of the tea shop.

“So what do you plan to do now?” Katara asked Aang.

“I’m not sure,” answered Aang. He had no idea where to go next. He did not have a normal home to go back to like the rest of them did. He should probably start taking up his Avatar duties. But where would he even begin with that? The world was a big place and he was unsure where he’d be needed most now that Ozai was defeated. He also still had learned barely anything about Energybending, which Iroh told him to look into. Maybe he would have a better idea once he dropped off Katara. He dreaded the idea of parting with her again.

“Why don’t you stay at the South Pole for a little while after we get there.”

‘Hmmm, I don’t know…” said Aang. Of course he wanted to, but he felt like there was more for him to busy himself with. He couldn’t neglect his duties as Avatar.

“Oh, I see,” said Katara. “Now that you’re a fully-realized Avatar and all, you’re too good for some simple old-fashioned penguin-sledding?”

Aang thought to himself again. Well, what was the harm in taking a break for a little while? “Yeah, okay. Sounds good.”

Aang and Katara walked out, holding hands, towards Appa. For the first time since he found out he was the Avatar, Aang’s mind was totally at rest.

TO BE CONTINUED…
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2012 11:20 am »

Chapter Four: Enemies of the Fire Lord

Fire Nation Royal Palace, 104 ASC  

Aang was riding on Appa. The sky was clear and the weather was breezy and peaceful. Within his line of sight, there had been nothing but ocean in all directions since he left the shores of the Southwestern Earth Kingdom earlier that day. He was on his way to visit Zuko in the Fire Nation Royal Palace. Aang traveled frequently and was sure to keep in touch with all his friends who had helped in his quest to defeat Fire Lord Ozai four years ago. But Aang was especially excited about this visit, for it would be the first time all of them were together at once since their celebration at the Jasmine Dragon. Zuko had invited them all. The whole of Team Avatar, as Sokka would call it – or Boomeraang, or the Aang Gang. Aang was sure his friends were anticipating it just as much as he was.

Although everyone kept in touch, everyone was also busy in some way. This was especially true with him. After all, he was a fully-realized Avatar now. His power came with responsibility and that meant he had duties to the world to attend to. He had to preserve the balance that the world had waited so long for him to restore. Just like the other Avatars before him, he had to resolve disputes, save lives and stand for justice. This meant helping the good and punishing the evil when the time came. Although he had yet to face any threat on par with Ozai, bestowing the eternal wisdom of the Avatar Spirit to the world, even in a time of peace, kept him substantially occupied.

What time was left over, Aang used to have fun with his friends – mostly Katara. The long-distance girlfriend of the Avatar was back living at the South Pole now with her family – Kanna, Hakoda, Sokka and now Pakku, who had come with other Northern Water Tribe Waterbenders to help rebuild the Southern Water Tribe. Some returned to the North shortly after the War when they were less needed, but others chose to stay. Hakoda had been benevolent in his hospitality. Pakku especially, since he had married Sokka and Katara’s grandmother. With Pakku Katara continued to practice and study Waterbending with. Katara had improved greatly in the past couple years. She gave Pakku quite a run for his money the last time they sparred together, shocking even him.
For Zuko, things were always kept interesting. This was to be expected, with him being Fire Lord and all. He was living up the promises he made during his coronation speech. And like he had told Aang, he was having to keep “peace at home” as well as abroad. There had been a few attempts on his life in the months after he left the Jasmine Dragon. The first had been quite a shocker – it came when he was walking down the streets of the Fire Nation Capital, arm-in-arm with Mai. Measures were taken to heighten security around the palace at all times. Many in the Fire Nation still saw him as the banished prince, the Avatar’s pet and a traitor. Zuko realized all too soon that being Fire Lord was going to be a lot tougher than he thought. At least he could always ask Uncle Iroh for advice.

Meanwhile, things were getting pretty serious between him and Mai. She had her own room in the palace where she lived full-time now. Zuko often found himself depending on her companionship when he felt he could not trust those around him. This was not always the case, of course. When his personal security forces alerted him that there was trouble around the capital, he had a habit of suggesting that Mai take a vacation by herself so she would be safe. He sent her lots of places – usually to Ember Island. He felt close to Mai and wanted to shield her from harm’s way. This was greatly to her annoyance and Zuko was very bad at hiding the reasons behind this. Mai was quite a skilled fighter herself and she resented being patronized and overly-protected by her boyfriend. It was with unmistakable reluctance that she agreed to his short “vacations,” “retreats” and “getaways” while he stayed in the palace where all the action was.

As for Sokka, he had returned to the South Pole after spending time at Kyoshi Island following the Hundred Years War. On the way back, he had taken a rather large detour to look for his old boomerang and meteor sword, but it was all in vain. In search of a new weapon, he returned to the house of his former master Piandao. Piandao was proud to hear the story of the role his student played in the final battle against Ozai’s airship fleet. He was more than happy to assist Sokka in making his next sword. There was still a little bit of material from the space rock leftover, but not enough to make a full sword with. So, Sokka had to substitute partially. He constructed a hybrid sword which still had the meteor in it but had a much lighter tint to it than the original one. Upon his return to the South Pole, Sokka assisted his father in leading the Southern Water Tribe. Sokka had grown more confident with age, but still retained his personality and sense of humor.

Toph had reconciled with her parents back in Gaoling. Lao and Poppy Bei Fong were overjoyed at seeing their daughter again after she returned home. They also admitted their mistake of sheltering her from the world and were proud of her for helping prevent their kingdom from being burned to the ground. It had taken a little time for them to process it, but their view of their daughter had changed fundamentally. Her parents sent her to a prestigious finishing school a couple towns over from where they lived. Despite her rebellious nature, Toph had initially agreed due to finally having her parents’ full acceptance. However, the policies were strict and there was little room for her to continue Earthbending. When she told her parents how she felt, they were understanding. A compromise was met – Toph would go to a private school in Omashu where she would have more freedom to do her Earthbending training. At Aang’s suggestion, she began to Earthbend with King Bumi and they had become quite the pair. After school she typically spared with him in the arena he had tested Aang in long ago. After some separation anxiety, her parents moved up to Omashu to spend more time with her. They had a vacation house in Omashu, so the transition was fairly easy. At first, Toph thought this was a bit much, but she came to accept it. She wouldn’t admit it, but she missed them just as much.

Aang had continued to take Appa and Momo with him wherever he went. At this moment, they had spotted the Fire Nation Royal Palace and had begun their descent. Atop the tall stairs leading up to it was a nice landing platform for him situated between the two columns right in front of the entrance. Aang steered Appa toward this location as he did every time he was in the area. He could tell that he was expected at about this time long before he landed since a group of soldiers was on their way out to greet him just as he was starting to land. There were five of them – all in full uniform minus the head coverings and masks.

At the head was the commanding officer in charge of the other four. He bowed his head slightly as Appa touched his feet to the ground and Aang dismounted. “Welcome, Avatar. Fire Lord Zuko is expecting you.”

“Thanks,” said Aang. He slid down from Appa’s back, glider in his left hand and came in front of the commander. He paused for a moment – this officer looked strangely familiar.

“Come,” said his greeter. “The rest of the Fire Lord’s guests have already arrived.” And with that he turned and walked back into the grand palace entryway.

Aang followed closely behind him. The corridors of the palace were just as dully lit and gloomy as when he had first visited this place, but the atmosphere seemed much calmer and warmer now that he knew he had friends here. Aang remained a couple paces behind his escort, which was nothing but an unnecessary formality. Zuko was one of his best friends and of course he knew where the Fire Lord’s chamber was. As they passed through the hallway where the portraits of the Fire Lords hung, Aang noticed the one of Zuko – a new addition since he was last here. He also recognized Ozai and Sozin fairly easily. Then he saw another one he was not so familiar with. With one hand this Fire Lord was holding a small flame with his bending ability and in the other he held what appeared to be a sun-like abject with the moon symbol in front. A solar eclipse, just like when he and his friends invaded the Fire Nation Capital years before when Firebending was blocked out. Had there been such an event during his time,too?

At last they came to the right set of doors. The guards parted and the officer escort opened them before the Avatar. “The Avatar Aang, your highness.” He bowed toward Zuko and then departed.

Aang’s friends were gathered on the far side of the chamber. Zuko, who had been sitting on a pristine-looking small sofa with Mai beside him, got up quickly. “Hey, what took you so long?”

“Oh, you know ,the usual,” Aang joked.

Katara was still in her recognizable Water Tribe outfit but no longer sported the hair loopies. She rushed over to him and gave him a strong embrace and a quick peck on the lips.

Toph and Sokka both stayed back, looking smug. “Hey there Twinkle Toes. You haven’t changed a bit,” said Toph. Next to her was Suki.

“Suki, I thought you weren’t coming?” Aang was pleasantly surprised.

“Plans change,” she replied.

“Ty Lee has just been promoted to second-in-command of the Kyoshi Warriors,” added Sokka. “She’s handling things while Suki’s here.”

“Well, let’s all catch up in the dining room, shall we?” said Zuko. “The palace chef has prepared us a nice surprise.”

It was the first time together in a while, so there was no shortage of stories to tell each other. The food was delicious and time seemed to go by very fast. Sokka had narrowly escaped a polar leopard while looking for a new fishing spot, since an avalanche had driven him away from his usual one. Toph was asking when Aang would make it out to Omashu for a three-way sparing match with her and Bumi. They were just about to have dessert when Zuko spoke up again. “I have some more good news. Mai, it’s very exciting with your old friend Ty Lee being promoted and all. I knew you would want to share the moment with her, so I’ve arranged for a luxurious airship ride to take you over to Kyoshi Island to see her. It leaves later tonight. The palace servants have already done your packing for you.”

Mai narrowed her eyes and stared at him. “What’s going on now?”

Zuko looked taken aback. “Nothing’s going on. It’s just a surprise I’ve arranged. Thought you would enjoy it.”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Zuko,” said Mai. “There’s some kind of danger looming around here and you’re trying to protect me from it by sending me on a mini-trip. I can handle myself and I don’t need you to be paranoid for me all the time!”

“Well, ok, I’ll admit. I did plan a couple of trips to Ember Island in the past. But that was when there was a genuine threat in the area and I didn’t want you caught up in it.”

“This is the same as when your father sent us on that little beach trip back during the War.”

Zuko grimaced. He had resented being excluded from the state affairs at the time. Like being at the kids table. He understood where Mai was coming from but he had to convince her that wasn’t the case. “Actually, it was Ty Lee’s idea. She wanted you there when she was promoted. She needs you now.”
Mai’s eyes narrowed even more. She did not argue any further, though. “Alright, well in that case, I’m not hungry for any dessert. I’d better start getting my makeup on.” And with that she left the room and walked toward her chamber.

Everyone else paused for a second, tension in the air. They knew what this all meant just as much as Mai did. Aang broke the silence. “So, what was your purpose in inviting us here tonight, Zuko?”

Zuko looked up and answered. “Two days ago, my head of security told me that he received word of a plot to assassinate me and put my sister on the throne in my place.”

Aang looked shocked. “Isn’t she still in a mental treatment center?”

“She is, but that’s beside the point. She’s not behind this. I don’t see how she can be, anyway. But she serves as a sort of rallying symbol for anyone who’s opposed what I’ve done as Fire Lord. Anyhow, the most disturbing part about it is that supposedly someone connected inside the palace is involved. I’ve always thought I could trust the people that serve me here, but apparently that’s not the case. So I need to ask help from people that I know I can trust.”

Aang looked determined. “You can count on us, Zuko.”

“Well said, Twinkle Toes,” said Toph.

“You know me. I’m ready to kick some crazy Firebender behind any day of the week,” said Sokka.

“The first thing you need to do is change the palace guard. Switch around who’s on duty tonight,” said Aang.

“Why would I do that?”

“Whoever’s plotting against you is probably relying on their inside contact. So they’ll be putting their plan into action at a time when that person is around. If the shifted schedule is changed, that throws their plan off. And keep the assignments as random as possible until the culprits have been rooted out.”
 
Zuko pondered this suggestion. “Ok, and what next?”

Aang thought for a moment. “We’ll have to pretend we don’t know anything about this already. Talk to your head of security and see if he has any more news about this. The rest of us will just have to lay low and be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.”

Zuko agreed. He rose and left the room for a moment before returning immediately afterwards. “Dessert’s nearly done.”

The tone of the conversation was much more calm and serious than it had been before Mai left and Zuko explained about the assassination plot. Just as they were finishing, the same guard who had escorted Aang in earlier entered the room. “You called, Sir?”

“Yes. I have decided to give you and your men the rest of the night off. I will be having some of the new recruits on watch duty tonight.”

The man clearly did not expect this and seemed a little offended, but he was trying not to show it. “I don’t understand. My men and I are fully capable of…”
“Enough,” Zuko cut him off. “That is an order. Dismissed!”

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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2012 11:20 am »

(continued)
The man hesitated for a moment as if to say something, then bowed forward and left without a word. Aang and Zuko led the rest of the gang into the master bedroom, where they began plotting their positions. They did not know when the members of the attempted coup would try to strike, so they started mapping out possible scenarios and playing them out piece-by-piece. Toph, with her mastery of Seismic Sense, would be the best lookout for spotting approaching people. Aang was just toying with his glider when Zuko approached him.

“Well, the guard’s changed now. I’ve ordered another spontaneous change of the guard in a few hours. Mai is on the airship bound for Kyoshi Island. My head of security has informed me that they have not heard any more news about the plot. Except that they intend to strike at the most vulnerable moment.”

“Hmmm…okay,” said Aang. “Everyone else is in ready to get in their positions soon. Sokka’s just gone down to where Appa’s staying. He’ll be ready to fly up on him to just outside your window where we can arrange a quick getaway if necessary. You’ll need to signal him with a simple Firebending blast out the window.”

Zuko nodded. “I’m guessing by the most vulnerable moment they must mean when I’m sleeping. It’s tough to kill a Fire Lord in combat. The last time it was done was during a solar eclipse.”

Aang remembered what he must be talking about. “I saw a solar eclipse sign on one of the portraits out in the hall on the way in.”

“Yes. That would be my great-great-grandfather Khomin – the Fire Lord before the War. He was well-beloved by his subjects. But on the day of a solar eclipse, someone assassinated him while his Firebending was blocked. They never found out why.”

Aang reflected on this for a moment, then said “okay, well we’d better get ready now if we’re going to catch these wrongdoers.”

For the next few hours, they waited. Zuko went to bed early and pretended to be fully asleep and ordered the palace guards outside his chambers to take the rest of the night off. He wanted to lure the attackers at him so that he could confront them when the time came. Aang was lurking in a corner, meditating but still alert. Toph was hiding in the room next door with Suki and Katara. She would signal Aang and Zuko by Earthbending a rock on their side of Zuko’s room when people were approaching. For a while, things were calm and quiet. Aang was beginning to wonder if they had given up now that he and the rest of the gang were there.

At last, Aang noticed the rock move a little. Zuko sprang up in an instant and shot a quiet Firebending flame out his window so that they would have Appa ready when the time came. Aang could just barely make out Suki and Katara’s voices in the next room. Then with a loud crash the door was broken down. Standing in the doorway was the same officer that had escorted Aang in earlier that day. There seemed to be a lot of them, a whole battalion by the looks of it.

“Death to the traitor!” the officer shouted, pointing forward. At least twenty men ran around him and on either side and charged toward Zuko, who had gotten up and was shooting fire balls at them left and right.

Suddenly, a hole opened up in the wall and Toph, Katara and Suki rushed through. Then Toph closed it again with Earthbending. Katara took out her bending water and stretched it out to slap back about six or seven of them at once. As Suki made some jabs at the familiar-looking leader of the operation, attempting to block his Chi, Zuko turned around to look outside for Sokka and Appa, who had not arrived yet. Aang had fought a horde of them with his mastery of the four elements. Then he turned to the door and saw twenty or thirty more men coming forward. Apparently they had only fought the first wave so far. Aang concentrated really hard, then he felt new life come into his chi like he had never felt before except for in the Avatar State. Some of Katara’s bending water shot towards his hand along with some small rocks while a tiny ball of air and a tiny flare met them, all suspended above his hand at once. Aang had never used this style of attack before, but he knew what to do. He shot the pieces of each element forward at the soldiers with such speed that even he could not see them, knocking them all down in an instant wave.

At last Aang and his friends were standing while everyone around them had fallen, including their leader. Everyone took a deep breath. “When did you start doing that?” asked Toph. Aang did not answer.

“Where is Sokka?! He was supposed to be here,” Katara said angrily.

“I sent the signal out the window just like we planned. Maybe he wasn’t looking,” replied Zuko.

Almost in answer to the question, Sokka appeared just outside the window on Appa. He seemed out of breath “Sorry about that, apparently they knew about Appa. Overheard something we said. They ambushed us – had to fight them off.” He climbed through the window with his sword in hand. “I guess you guys seem to have pretty much finished up here though.”

Just then, the commanding officer sprung up and readied himself to shoot a giant Firebending blast at Zuko, who was turned the other way. Then a wave of stilettos shot toward his hand and pinned it down, wounding him at the same time. Mai had appeared at the door. “I made the airship take a detour. Figured you’d need me.”

Zuko rushed to embrace Mai, then walked arm-in-arm with her down the hall to inform the palace security about the events of the evening. Soon, some reinforcements came in and removed the disloyal battalion of Fire Nation soldiers, taking the wounded to the infirmary, the slain away and the rest to the prison cells.

When Zuko returned, he said “it’s amazing that so many were able to participate in this operation right under all our noses. This level of security breach is almost unheard of. And that was some amazing moves you pulled there, Avatar.”

Aang’s face turned a little pink, though in a room decorated with so many shades of red, one would barely notice. “Yeah, I had never done that before. I think I used Energybending. It helped me focus my chi and control the four elements with more precision than usual.”

“Oh great, this energy stuff again. I thought we had heard the last of that,” mumbled Sokka.

Zuko turned and approached the officer, who was the only one remaining in the room. After Mai had stopped him, Toph had trapped him in place with Earthbending. Zuko stood in front looking down at him, with Aang and the others not far behind him. “Who are you?” he asked as the man turned his angry face away from him. “I said who are you? Answer your Fire Lord!”

The man turned his head to face Zuko and spat in his face “You’re no Fire Lord of Mine. You’re the Fire Nation’s greatest disgrace! You’re a traitor and a usurper. It’s men like my father our contry’s citizen’s should be cheering in the street for – not you!”

“Your father?”

“Yes, my father. The Admiral Zhao.”

“I knew you looked familiar,” said Aang.

“Yep, he looks just like him,” added Sokka.

“You and your uncle are responsible for his death at the North Pole,” Zhao’s son said to Zuko. “He was bringing the Fire Nation to new heights. He would have conquered the North, destroyed the moon spirit and annihilated Waterbending. But a soft idealist ruined him and now sits on the throne he once served. Now the world worships you, the Avatar’s puppet and my father’s legacy is in shambles.”

“I know what losing a parent can feel like, but your crimes and your aggression cannot be forgiven. You are going to face justice. Guards – take him away,” commanded Zuko. Toph let the Earthbending entrapments long enough for him to be taken into custody and led away.

Another guard approached Zuko as they exited. “Your Majesty, here is an unidentified weapon we found among the assailants.” He held out a short silver sword with an inscription of some kind on it.

The handle was black. As Zuko started to examine it, Aang noticed a symbol on the handle. “I recognize that sign,” he said, pointing at it. “That’s what was on the assassin’s weapon four years ago.”

Everyone except for Toph turned in response to this. “What do you know, it is,” said Suki.

“The one who attacked you in the Avatar State,” continued Katara. “But what is it doing here?”

Sokka and Zuko both shrugged. Apparently after all the action it was hard for them to get excited over seeing a design on the back of a sword. After the scene was cleared up, they all left the room. Zuko would be sleeping in Mai’s chamber tonight and a new guard would be stationed, just in case something happened again that night. Aang, Katara, Suki and Toph were each allowed a private bedroom for the night. Before turning it, Aang walked outside to where Appa and Momo were, needing some fresh air.

Katara had followed him . “Well, I guess that’s over with now. All in the day of the life of the Avatar, of course.”

“Yeah,” said Aang, barely listening.

“What is it?” asked Katara.

“Tonight felt like it was old times again. All of us together, fighting the Fire Nation. Fighting Zhao – or his son, anyway. It just seems like so long since things have been this way. I feel like I don’t get the chance to be with you guys as much – you most of all.”

Katara blushed. “I try to write as often as possible. But yeah, it is tough. Being at the South Pole and all. Why don’t you let me accompany you on your Avatar missions at some point? You may be the Avatar, but you’re still only human. I’m also sure having another master Waterbender around will come in handy. Especially one who used to be your teacher.”

Aang smiled. “I would like that.” And with that, they walked back inside, arm-in-arm.

TO BE CONTINUED…  
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2012 09:43 pm »

Chapter Five: Seclusion and Kindred, Part One

Whale Tail Island, 104 ASC

Aang was meditating. For the past three weeks he had been traveling to different locations with Katara and Appa. She was accompanying him to assist in his Avatar duties – keeping the peace and balance wherever it was necessary. They had been to the Fire Nation and the Southern Earth Kingdom. Now they were flying on Appa over Whale Tail Island. Aang was in his meditative position at the center of Appa’s saddle while Katara was at the reigns, steering the giant sky bison.

Aang and Katara had talked to each other much during these past few weeks together. They were not talking now, of course. Aang needed to concentrate on his meditaion. Talking would be a distraction. Flying was not a distraction, though. As an Airbender, he was fully accustomed to flying. It was not hard at all for him to concentrate while doing so.

Nevertheless, he did not normally meditate while flying. This was necessary now, though, he thought. He had just recently discovered a new Energybending technique. He could enhance his own chi, making himself stronger for a brief period of time. This was to a level that he could normally only achieve while inside the Avatar State. He could bend all four elements as easy as he could normally bend just one element. He was gaining nothing from this that the Avatar State could not already give him. But he desired now to avoid having to risk going into the Avatar State – ever since that mysterious assassin had attacked him. If he was killed in the Avatar State, then the Avatar Cycle of reincarnation would end – forever. After helping his friend Fire Lord Zuko put down a misguided coup, he had found a symbol similar to that of the assassin who tried to kill him while in the Avatar State. It was clear that there were vicious enemies of the Avatar out there and he wanted to avoid taking the risk.

This new technique came with a catch of its own though. After he used it, he was much more powerful and persistent – but he would be steadily weaker for some time afterwards until he recovered from the toll it took on him. Aang had tried to find a way past this obstacle in vain. He would simply have to be careful, he told himself. After mastering this, the next Avatar will be more powerful in the Avatar State because of it – being able to use it while in the Avatar State. He just needed to make sure to tell them when the time came. He could do that when he guided them as Roku had guided him. Earthly teachers of these things were preferable to previous reincarnations, but since no one Energybends anymore, that would have to do. Because of not having a teacher, it was hard for him to master it. He had discovered it by accident the first time when he was in the heat of the moment. Now he would have to be self-trained.

He had explained this all to Katara, of course. She was understanding – though she still did not understand Energybending or what use it would be. When General Fong had tried to force the Avatar State on him during the Hundred Years War, she had been concerned. The Avatar State seemed scary to her since it had such destructive capabilities and Aang did not act like himself when he was in it. That had been because he had yet to gain control of the Avatar State. Now that Aang was fully-realized though, Katara began to trust his judgment on these matters a little more.

Both of them were wide awake and full of energy, despite the mini-adventure they had experienced just before this flight. A coming natural flood was threatening to devastate a coastal village and the people were left hopeless and defenseless if it weren’t for the two seasoned young Waterbending masters. Even as the Avatar it was difficult for Aang to undergo so much bending at once. Katara had been a big help to him in that regard. She had also helped Aang a lot simply with her company. Aang had entered a worldly kind of seclusion as the Avatar. However widely esteemed and respected he was, he still had to walk the path alone. His friends in many nations were comforting to him, but being the Avatar kept him busy everywhere he went. With Katara around, he felt close to someone again.

Gradually, Aang came out of his meditation and turned to his long-term companion, Katara. Although she was facing the other way and he had not spoken yet, she seemed to notice that he was noticed that he was no longer meditating. She turned around briefly. “So did you find what you were looking for in all that?”

Aang closed his eyes momentarily and opened them again. “I’m trying to figure out more of that last move I pulled while we were fighting Zhao Jr. in the Fire Lord’s palace. I think I know how to do it, but I feel fatigued every time that I do.”

Katara looked skeptical. “Then don’t do it,” she said.

“I can only access my full potential now when I’m in the Avatar State. But I want to avoid using the Avatar State for now since that assassin may still be hunting after me. I have to be cautious, but still be at my best.”

“Whatever,” Katara replied, rolling her eyes slightly and turning back to facing what was ahead of them on Appa.

“I know what I’m doing,” Aang stated firmly. “But believe me – I am grateful for your concern, Katara. Since the Air Nomads have left this world now, you’re my new family. Thanks for coming to accompany me on my Avatar missions.”

Katara turned around again and gave off a trace of a smile. “You’ve always been family to me, Aang.”

Aang smiled and nodded.  “Ever since I first met you after you emerged from the block of ice. You were charming but childish back then. You’ve become a whole new person many times over.”

“I’ve seen you change a lot, too. I’ve always cared for you the same way. But you’ve grown in front of my eyes constantly. You always had that spark in you. You never gave up hope even when I felt like it myself. You picked me up whenever I fell down. You’re driven – you mastered Waterbending at any cost. And you’re always ready to help those you care about. You are truly…amazing.”

Katara blushed with the faintest trace of a giggle.

Aang stood up in the center of Appa’s saddle. “There’s something I want to show you Katara.” With that, he concentrated hard and lifted his staff up further into the sky. “Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”

As Aang flung his staff around, seemingly doing a little bit of bending, Katara looked around herself curiously. The process took several minutes. Katara looked confused for a second, as Aang underwent motion after motion in front of her. At last he sat down, cross-legged.

“What was that?” Katara asked him.

“Look over there,” Aang directed her, pointing.

Katara spun around. She saw that the clouds in front of them had been shaped precisely to spell out a message for her. She started to read it and then paused, evidently surprised.

“It’s a lot harder to do that when you’re not flying you’re glider. Took me a few times to practice it correctly.”

Katara suddenly spun around and threw her arms around him. She buried her head in his shoulder for a second and then emerged. “Yes. Yes, Aang. I will.”

Even though he had planned it, Aang slightly taken aback. He pulled Katara closer to him. He had the warmest feeling he had ever experienced to date. “You will?”

Katara was teary-eyed. “Yes. I want to be with you…forever.”

Southern Water Tribe 

Aang was happy now that his engagement to Katara was real and they were to be husband and wife. Things seemed to be finally coming together for him. Then the in-laws came into the picture. When Katara’s family found out about the arrangement, they accepted it alright. After all, they had known Aang for a while. The people of the Water Tribe did not ordinarily take kindly to cross-nation pairings, but since Aang was the Avatar and practically a member of the family already, they did not fuss about that. They did, however, insist on a traditional Southern Water Tribe wedding ceremony. Aang did not see how this could be trouble at first, so he put up no objections.

Then he saw what would be on the food menu for the occasion. Sea Crabs and the exquisite delicacy of Roast Polar Leopard Cuisine were prominent on the menu. As a vegetarian, Aang would not partake in that part of the meal. But what he could partake in was not much attractive to him either. Sure enough, the Sea Prune Stew was there. He remembered the disagreeable taste all too well from when he dined with Katara, Sokka and Bato at the Abbey during the War. He did not understand how the people of the Water Tribe could handle it. When he attempted to deal with this by adding fruit pies to the menu, his input was swiftly vetoed. Apparently, some did not think that fruit pies would fit well with the climate of the South Pole, where the wedding would be held. He would just have to deal with it, then.

The difficulties he encountered were by no means limited to food items. Kanna decreed that now that the engagement was official there would be minimal contact between the bride and groom until the day of the wedding. The people of the Southern Water Tribe were superstitious and Kanna was quite adamant about this. Pakku and Hakoda were as well. Aang was of course welcome to stay in the South Pole as much as he wished during the engagement, but he was forced to sleep in a different hut separated from Katara’s. They would also not be allowed to have meals together.

Aang still had his Avatar duties to attend to. While he came and went from the South Pole as need be, his fiancé Katara remained at home. Her Gran Gran and a tight-nit group of women from the village made sure that she was prepared for her upcoming wedding and for marriage in general. At first Katara had seemed down about all the fuss being made over it – after all she was quite the independent type – but cheered up once it came time to design her dress.
Aang, on the other hand, was angry. He was not at all satisfied by the arrangements. When he vented to Hakoda about none of his people’s traditions being incorporated into the process, Hakoda stated that as the Avatar, he could not remain overly-attached to any one nation. Hakoda had also pointed out to him that as the Avatar, he was also a Waterbender and therefore, these traditions were his in a way as well. Not that Aang had ever been to an Air Nomad wedding or that he even knew much about it, but he resented being shut out like that. However, he was told that it was only implied that the bride’s family have more sway in the wedding.

No matter what they said, Aang was still furious at the situation. He was the last of his entire culture – a living relic. The last of his people – the once proud Air Nomads, still walking the Earth. He may be the Avatar, but he cannot help but be very attached to his heritage. His heritage of a nation that had not existed in more than a century now. And the last Air Nomad would not even have a wedding that even resembled an Air Nomad wedding.

However, it was not this part that bothered him the most. He could not see Katara now. It felt like they had just begun a new adventure together. And they had grown closer than ever – ready to be together for the rest of their lives. And he was separated from her worse than he was when it was simply his Avatar duties that kept him from visiting his friends. Back then whenever he found the time to visit the South Pole, he could spend all his free time with Katara. Now he still had his Avatar duties but even when he was not busy, he was separated from her by her own tribe’s traditions. The wedding was taking months to prepare for – as the wedding of the Avatar and the daughter of a Chief. Aang had hoped Katara would object to these constraining traditions as she did when she was at the North Pole with him aspiring to learn Waterbending but was not allowed to because the Waterbending Master Pakku would not train women in the art. Katara had been determined not to be put down by this and challenged Pakku to a fight in her fury. Upon discovering that she was his ex-fiance’s granddaughter, Pakku had reconsidered. But she put up no such fight here. On the contrary – she seemed perfectly relaxed about it. Aang was confused. How could she not be feeling the same separation anxiety he had been feeling? Was she not as passionate about him as he was about her? Had they not just agreed to tie the knot together? How could she not miss being with him?

Aang decided he might feel better if he was more involved in the process. He approached Hakoda and Kanna and asked what he could do to help. They initially told him that it was not his place to do anything. When he insisted, they asked him to go with Sokka to harvest Sea Prunes for the stews. Oh great, he thought. Those disgusting little things I’m forced to eat later. But since he had brought it up, he was unable to object. He set out with Sokka on a bright and breezy afternoon to complete this menial task at hand.

The Ridge Outside Katara’s Village

Aang was looking dreadful, with his back hunched and a gloomy look on his face. Sokka, on the other hand, was looking cheerful. He was not particularly excited about harvesting Sea Prunes, but then again he was pretty much in a good mood about everything these days for some odd reason. Aang perked up a bit. At least he would have Sokka’s company and terrible sarcastic jokes with him. They began to make small talk.

“So…nice day out today. Isn’t it?” said Aang, trying to think of something more interesting to say next.

Sokka obliged for him, though. “Yea, it is. So it’s great you and my sister are finally getting together. I was a little caught off guard by it at first, but now I see it was meant to be from the start. I always thought me and Suki would marry each other first, but I guess you just had to beat me to the punch.” With this, Sokka waved his fist in the air playfully at him.

“Heh.” Aang blushed slightly and put his arm over his head to scratch his backside.

“Hmmph. So how was it that you popped the question to her again?”

“Well, it started when she and I were flying on Appa over Whale Tail Island. She was flying up front and I was in the saddle, meditating on that new Energy move…”

“Oh, you just have to mention that Energybending of yours every other day now,” Sokka groaned.

Aang ignored him. “So we were flying on Appa and after I came out of my meditation, I used my bending to spell it out in the clouds for her.”

“Huh. Classy of you. I’ll certainly find a way to top it though,” Sokka added.

Aang was feeling better about it all now having such a lighthearted discussion with his future brother-in-law. “Yeah. I’m starting to feel excited about it now. It’s just too bad whatever kids we have won’t know my side of the family.”

“The Air Nomads, ya’mean? Do you still miss them?” Sokka questioned.

“Yes, I definitely do,” Aang admitted.

Sokka paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Why don’t you just Energybend some more of them?”

Aang looked quizzical. “Huh – what do you mean?”

“Well, you used this Energy stuff to take away Fire Lord Ozai’s Firebending in your final fight with him – as another way of defeating him without taking his life. Right?”

“Riiight…”

“So you could probably do the same thing and just give Airbending abilities to someone else.”

“No, I can’t. It doesn’t work like that,” said Aang dismissively.

“How do you know? You tried it? It’s pretty much the same as you did before, just the other way around. You bend the energy in somebody’s body. You took away his Firebending. You could probably give it back if you really wanted to. So you can give the bending to another person, too. And if you can do Fire then you can do Air.”

“No, that’s not how it works,” said Aang impatiently. “You are either born a bender or you are not. Energybending cannot and will not change that.”

“Ozai was born a bender, but you turned him into a non-bender,” replied Sokka with another shrug.

“Well, yeah. But I’m not sure it works like that the other way around.” The truth was, Aang wished it were true. What Sokka was saying – about granting Airbending to someone else. But he knew that it wasn’t. Energybending can bend another’s energy, yes. But what did that have to do with being a bender. Maybe Ozai still did have some Firebending traits in him and Aang just shut them off so he couldn’t use them anymore. But then again, the Lion Turtle had not told him how it worked. The Lion Turtle just told him what he needed to know and sent him on his way.

As he harvested Sea Prunes with Sokka and tried not to think about the stew they would be used to make later, he pondered the question further. “Well, even if it were possible – who would I even ask about it? I can’t just count on bumping into the Lion Turtle again.”

“Don’t you have the mastery of all the past Avatars when you’re in the Avatar State? Glow it up and you can do it. It’s an Avatar ability, right?”

“No. On the contrary – Energybending is the form of bending people practiced in the days before the Avatar Cycle. Before the four elemental bending arts. The Avatar is the master of all four elements. I learned of it from the Lion Turtle. None of my past lives suggested it. The Avatar has the ability to bend energy, but as far as I know no Avatar before me has ever done it before.”

Sokka looked taken aback for a second. “Wow. So you may be the first Avatar ever to bend Energy then.”

“Yeah. When I’m in the Avatar State I feel nothing of Energybending. Maybe now that I have done it the next Avatar will be able to, though.” Aang stared at the ground modestly.

Sokka looked like he was running a complex math equation in his head. “Well…since you don’t know anything about Energybending, maybe you could start by learning about the Energy itself? That may give you a clue on how to bend it. Have you ever heard anyone go on about spiritual or bodily Energy before?”

Aang thought for a moment. Then it came to him. “That Guru who taught me about Chakras and the Avatar State mentioned something about Energies. It’s not Energybending per se, but if he tells me about beings Energy, maybe that will point me in the right direction of where to go next.”

“Where is this Guru guy now?”

“I think he’s still at the Eastern Air Temple. That’s where I met him last time. It was a while ago, I know. But it seemed like he had already been there for some time. And he didn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. I should travel there on Appa tomorrow. I’ll see if I can find him.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sokka said while standing up and taking a stretch. “I’ll be joining you.”

“What – why do you want to go there?” Aang was really surprised.

“Well, with this big wedding coming up and all the villagers are all starting to think about romance more and more. Some of the younger girls have been stalking me. It’s kind of annoying. I need any excuse to get away from them. Even if it’s going to this Air Temple of yours for you to learn about Energy mumbojumbo.”

“Let’s do it then. We can leave tomorrow morning.” Aang grinned. Suddenly the Sea Prunes did not seem like they would taste so bad.

TO BE CONTINUED…
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AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #9 on: Jun 04, 2012 11:05 pm »

Chapter Six: Seclusion and Kindred, Part Two


Eastern Air Temple, 104 ASC  

After a brief and uneventful journey, Aang and Sokka were closing in on the Eastern Air Temple. Appa spotted the area in which he was raised and where also he first met Aang. He flew straight into the familiar territory while Aang and Sokka were poised on the saddle wrapped around his backside. Aang had visited this temple on numerous occasions growing up as an Air Nomad, when it had been inhabited by nuns and young Air Nomad girls. He had visited it once again when Guru Pathik had summoned him in order to train him to gain control over the Avatar State. But he had left in a hurry before the process could be completed. Now he was there yet again to seek out Pathik’s help. This time he hoped to see if Pathik could teach him about energies and give Aang a clue on how to teach himself Energybending to fulfill his desire to use it to rebuild the Air Nomad life he grew up with. Sokka was pretty much just along for the ride – he had needed a reason to get away from the South Pole, which was hectic in the midst of preparations for Aang’s wedding to Katara.
Sokka was polishing his boomerang while Aang was up front. He turned to Aang and spoke. “Well, it looks like we’re here now. We’ll see if this guru who taught you about the Avatar State is still there. It’s been quite a while since your last encounter with him.”

“He should still be there,” replied Aang. “I know it was four years ago, but he was a spiritual brother of my people and he had a vision that he would help me out with the Avatar State and stayed at the Eastern Air Temple mainly for that purpose. He may have gotten a similar vision about helping me with this and stayed there.”

“Well, either way, we’re about to find out,” remarked Sokka, still polishing his boomerang. “And then we’ll know whether you’re right or whether this was a waste of time.”

“Hey, this was your idea,” Aang said fiercely. “It’s hardly your place to be skeptical about it now.”

“I had a thought that maybe you could give some people Airbending with Energybending, yeah. But you’re the one who knows this guru guy.”

“Whatever,” snapped Aang as Appa began his descent onto the area just outside one of the more prominent towers on the central mountain, adjacent to one of the bridges connecting the different mountains of the temple to one another.

Aang and Sokka swiftly dismounted. Appa took the opportunity to lower his legs, lay down and take a rest. Aang and Sokka walked at a reasonable pace through the temple – Aang with his glider in hand and Sokka brandishing his boomerang – looking about for Pathik. They passed by a handful of pristine archways and statues of famous Air Nomads – Avatar Yangchen among them.

Several minutes went by as they explored the temple. Sokka stretched his arms upward. “This place does seem more spacious than what I remember of the Southern Air Temple.”

Aang nodded. “I always got lost in this place when I visited over a hundred years ago. But back then I always had the nuns to show me wherever I needed to go. I never had the need to navigate around here on my own. I do hope we find Pathik soon”

Sokka shrugged. “If we don’t, you could always ask Jeong Jeong about Energybending again. You remember how well that went last time we saw him.”

Aang glared at Sokka. “No, I don’t think Jeong Jeong is a good option. If Pathik isn’t around, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

They walked down to the end of a long, symmetric hallway together. Then, almost in answer to Aang’s question, they came to a small outdoor clearing on the edge of the mountain. Up a ramp of stairs to the top of a small mound and sure enough – there was Guru Pathik. Still in his regular meditative stance, Pathik was calm and at peace, but alert and aware of their presence at the same time. He opened his eyes and stared calmly at the pair of visitors before him.

“Young Avatar. You come to see me again. And you brought a friend this time. I have heard a good many stories about how you saved the world. And you were at last able to master the Avatar State. I was very concerned when we last parted ways. But you finally managed to unlock all your chakras, yes?”
Aang bowed respectfully to Guru Pathik while Sokka stood by idly and awkwardly beside him. “Yes I did. I was able to gouge the wisdom of your teachings all in good time. And I was able to put it to good use. I thank you again for showing me the way. However, it is for another purpose that I am before you now.”

“Ah, yes,” Pathik interjected. “You must mean the invitation I received to your wedding to the Water Tribe girl some months from now.” Pathik smiled. “Rest assured, the messenger hawk delivered it quite alright. Many a year has it been since I have been asked to witness such a monumentous occasion. Although it is not typical my humble lifestyle, I would be most happy to attend this.”

“I am glad to hear so, Pathik. But there is something else I must discuss with you today. I need you to teach me more about the energies within humans.”

“Oh?” Pathik remarked quizzically.

“Yeah. Just before I fought Fire Lord Ozai in the Earth Kingdom I met a Giant Lion Turtle who told me how to bend Ozai’s energy so that he couldn’t Firebend anymore as a more merciful alternative to taking his life outright. Now, I hope to find out if I can use the same type of bending to bend another’s energy in order to give Airbending to someone else. Then I can start a whole new society of Air Nomads.”

A rare look of surprise on Guru Pathik’s face appeared as Aang finished this last part. It was a few moments before he spoke in response. “Avatar…I know much of the spirits. And I have spent years feeling the energies of all living beings. But I am neither bender nor spirit…I know nothing of such things you speak of.”

“I know that you are not a bender,” Aang replied back right away. “But this comes from a lost bending art that existed in the era before the Avatar. It was what people bended before they bended the four elements. There are no masters alive to teach me – the Lion Turtle only taught me that one skill because I needed it when I fought Ozai. I figure the best I can do now is start learning about energy itself. Then that might give me a clue on how to bend it.”

Pathik was looking down now. “You are the Avatar – the bridge between the physical world and the spirit world – the master of all four elements. Not other’s energy.” He was starting to sound like Jeong Jeong, Aang thought. “When I taught you about opening the chakras – like pools of spiraling energy in your body – we were being true to the energies nature by removing the obstacles in its path and allowing it to run its natural course. What you are talking about is interfering directly with that energy’s nature. That’s much more drastic than the energy merely being blocked by closed chakras.

“When I met your friend Appa, I studied his energy so I understood him and knew how best to help him. I did not try to change what was inside of him – what he was going through was a very real experience. His separation from you caused him grief. But his compassion from you is what caused that. Even if I could ‘bend his energy’, I wouldn’t. Because I could not remove the negative without also effecting the positive. This energy – it determines much more than whether someone is a bender or not. It is like the fabric of their soul. Everything which makes you you. I know this is not what you want to hear. But this action that you are suggesting – I am not sure if it is a good one.”

“But, Pathik, this can help me bring the world back into balance. And you were a close friend of my people. You knew Monk Gyatso just like I did. Don’t you sometimes wish there were still Air Nomads around?”

“What you speak of sounds like it has the potential to knock the world irreparably out of balance,” Pathik said gloomily. “I-“ Pathik continued until he noticed the look on Aang’s face. “Very well, I will teach you some basic knowledge about these energies and how to sense them. But as I said before – that is all I can do for you. After that you are on your own.”

“Thank you, Guru,” Aang said, beaming and bowing again.

“Okay then,” said Pathik, starting to seem like his old self again. “First things first…have some onion-banana juice. Here, you as well,” he added, looking at Sokka and pulling out a second cupful.

“Ummm…he’s joking. Right?” Sokka turned to ask Aang.

“Nope,” Aang replied, taking his cup and downing it in two gulps.

Following the exhilarating dose of onion-banana juice, Pathik guided Aang and Sokka through the temple until they came to a door which could be opened only by an Airbending master. Since neither Pathik nor Sokka was anything of the sort, Aang obliged for them. He thrusted forward and a gust of air flowed through the motions of his body and into the compartments of the door, which rotated and swung apart the giant double doors, allowing them to pass through.

When they entered the circular chamber they found elaborate pictures of Airbending monks and nuns from long ago. There were also lines on the floor that traced in circles around the center of the room. They got progressively smaller as one got closer to the middle until there was one about the size of an apple.

Pathik stood in the center and turned abruptly to face them. “I find my mind is always more at ease in this part of the temple.”

“Well, I’m going off exploring while you two talk about your energies. Maybe I’ll find something of interest,” said Sokka while waving a hand and walking back in the other direction.

Aang turned back to Pathik, who was stretching his arms into the air. “Let us begin.”

Pathik started telling Aang what he knew. “The energy that resides in our body reflects our state of being. It shows all which has gone on and what is going on now as well…”

“Does it also show what will go on?” Aang asked him.

“Some say it does. It is used as a form of fortune telling. How accurate that can be is unclear. Energies are mysterious things. There is precious little that is certain about them. All I can do is share with you my personal experiences.”

“The way you read the energies of others,” Aang interrupted. “I think it’s a lot like how I bended the energy of Fire Lord Ozai. Different objective, but perhaps a similar path.”

Pathik scoffed. “Before you read the energies of others – let alone ‘bend’ the energies of others – you should try reading your own energy. We are starting with the basics.”

“Ok…how do I do that?”

“Place one of your hands at the highest point on your head,” Pathik instructed. “This is where you track the external flow of your energy from and to your body. And place two fingers on your tantien, the center of your own Chi. Feel the flow that is naturally occurring here. There are many types of energies and they all intertwine with one another: bodily energies, spiritual energies, cosmic energies. The universe mixes them all together and they serve us constantly, whether we are a bender or not. These energies are at the heart of literally everything.”

“If the different energies all mix with each other, how do we know that they are different?” Aang asked.

“Good question,” said Pathik. But he did not give an answer.

Aang paused as he applied pressure to his tantien. He could feel a strong flow back and forth. Almost as if there was a snake slithering around in his body. Digging deeper, he could sense some of his defining characteristics which seemed to take the form of overlapping spheres within his chest: his devotion to Katara, his duty to the world and his will to do anything that was necessary no matter what the cost. Even deeper, he found something which appeared to be guiding all the energies in his body in their natural flow. It was hard to describe – like a center of gravity or the reserve of all his inner strength and power. Feeling it now was like finding a really important locked door which he had not yet found the key to.

At last, Aang placed his arms at his sides and relaxed. “Well, how was that?” asked Pathik. “I could tell you were sensing something. After Aang described it to him, Pathik commented “hmmm…okay. That sounds about right. Keep in mind – as they Avatar – your energy might flow somewhat differently than that of other living things.”

That night, Sokka, Aang and Pathik gathered near what were once the sky bison stables. Sokka made them a campfire. However, Sokka was most displeased when he discovered that onion-banana juice was yet again on the menu.

“It’s an acquired taste,” Aang tried to explain to him. “I was disgusted too when I first had it, but it grows on you after a while.”

“Hah. Yeah, right. I’m going to find me some real food. I wonder what kind of animals live around here.”

“Sokka…” began Aang.

“I’m afraid you won’t find anything tonight. The creatures that dwell here have the sense to stay away from this place around this time of year,” said Pathik merrily.

“Ah, great,” said Sokka, settling back down and looking gloomy as he clutched his cup of Pathik’s concoction. “So, what did you guys do your lesson about today?”

“Pathik showed me how to read my own energies,” said Aang with excitement. “It was really eye-opening. It’s similar to what fortune tellers sometimes do when they predict someone’s future.”

“Meh, great,” Sokka responded.

“What is it, young one?” Pathik asked Sokka inquisitively.

“Look – no offense or anything. But I’ve never really been one to believe in fortune telling. And the only experience I ever had with it wasn’t particularly enjoyable.”

“What, were you told you were going to fall off a cliff or something?” Pathik chuckled.

“No, she just said that my future was full of self-inflicted struggle and anguish, Sokka reminisced with hostility. “And that it was written all over my face,” he added.

“Hmmm…I see, Pathik said merrily. “It is a shame she put your fortune so simply. People are awfully complex. Even if they appear not to be.”

“Hmmph. Whatever you say, man,” Sokka spat out before grabbing his nose and downing his onion-banana juice.

“I know,” Pathik interjected. “Why don’t I read your energy for you? I could also show you how to do it at the same time,” he added to Aang.

“Sure, knock yourself out,” Sokka answered, aloof. “Do you need me to lie down or anything?”

Pathik shook his head as he slid over towards Sokka. “Won’t be necessary. You can remain just as you are. Relax your muscles just a tad.” Pathik then turned to Aang. “When you read your own energy earlier, you had your hands on your own major chi points. You can do the same when you read other’s energy. In a lot of ways it’s the easiest route to take. Me, on the other hand, I prefer to simply put my hand just above their heart and let their bodily movements guide me.”

Aang nodded and took another sip of his onion-banana juice. Then he turned to stare at Pathik and Sokka. Pathik’s eyes were closed. Sokka’s eyes were wide open and he appeared unsure of himself.

Pathik then moved his hand away from Sokka and began to speak to him. “Ah, I see much in there. Never you worry, young one. Your life is always filled with trials and challenges. But you always seem to have the inner strength to get through them. You are loyal to the one’s close to you. You come to see yourself as their defender and protector. But you also feel the need to do everything yourself. Sometimes you can handle it. But sometimes you take on much more than you can handle out of obligation. Curiously, you also have been putting off something for some time. Something you’ve given a lot of thought to. You also have an intense desire to prove yourself anywhere that you are. This has been the case since you were very young. As a child, you held yourself to a high standard and had an urge to grow up fast.”

Sokka grew wide-eyed for a second after Pathik finished. Then he attempted to wipe it off. “Ummm…okay. Thanks for that, I guess.” He backed himself a couple of steps away from Pathik, still sitting.

Aang glared at him. Then he sat back and thought to himself. If energies really could determine one’s destiny, could Energybending change one’s destiny?
Pathik ignored Sokka’s reaction to his reading and turned to Aang again. “The next thing I want to teach you is simply feeling the energy around you. There is energy not only in all living things, but in the air itself. It is these cosmic forces that allow the universe to function. Stand up and take a deep breath. Simply allow the energy to flow in and around your body.”

Aang closed his eyes and did as Pathik had instructed him. He could feel the warmth of his own body and became aware of his surroundings. He thought about how Toph functioned with her seismic sense. He could feel the energies flowing from Sokka and Pathik, the campfire Sokka had started and as the wind blew he could feel the presence of different birds and plants passing through. But then he could also feel something else. It was faint and creepy at the same time. He snapped his eyes open at once.

“What is it?” questioned Sokka.

“I don’t think we’re alone here. I think someone else is in this temple. I think they’re watching us.”

“What?” Sokka asked, alarmed. “What makes you say that? Do you think you know where they are?”

“No,” Aang admitted. “I just think they’re…around.”

Sokka was skeptical and uneasy. “Well, I guess it wouldn’t be the first time that we found someone following us randomly. I’ll go check out the nearby area before we start turning in for the evening.”

Aang thought for a moment that he should be going with Sokka to investigate. But then he decided he did not want to leave Pathik and Appa just now. Besides, Sokka could handle himself pretty well against whoever it was out there. He wondered whether these people who followed them around had any interest in his learning of Energybending. This Energybending stuff was starting to seem a lot harder than he originally anticipated. He thought back to what the Lion Turtle had told him:

"In the era before the Avatar, we bended not the elements, but the energy within ourselves. To bend another's energy, your own spirit must be unbendable… or you will be corrupted… and destroyed…"

If he really was going to do this, he would have to give it everything that he had. He could not take it lightly. If his spirit was even slightly bendable, he risked his own life, the life of the Avatar Cycle and the fate of the world. The last time he had come to Guru Pathik, he had left before unlocking his seventh chakra and had almost died because of it. This time he would have no doubts…no hesitation. He remembered the rest of what the Lion Turtle had said:

"The true mind can weather all the lies and illusions without being lost. The true heart can touch the poison of hatred without being harmed. Since beginning-less time, darkness thrives in the void, but always yields to purifying light."

Even if it was dangerous to Energybend, he certainly had nothing to fear from it. He had not wavered even when he was having difficulty while bending Ozai’s energy. His spirit must indeed be flawless and unbendable, he told himself. And once he was able to unlock that door he had sensed earlier – or whaterver it was, who knows what he could do then?

Sokka came back into view. “I couldn’t find anyone. If they really were here, maybe we scared them off.”

The next day Aang awoke at daybreak and went to speak with Guru Pathik once again. After what he had learned the day before, he was eager to see what else he could extract out of him. Sure enough, Aang found Pathik poised on his usual mound, meditating to himself.
« Last Edit: Jun 04, 2012 11:14 pm by AvatarRokusGhost » Logged
AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #10 on: Jun 04, 2012 11:08 pm »

(continued)


Pathik opened his eyes and smiled as he approached him. “Good morning, young Avatar.”

“Morning Pathik. I spent all night thinking about what we talked about. I think it’s all coming together for me. I had the same feeling that I did when I did my own Chi enhancement after I faced Admiral Zhao’s son. I think that if I spend a little more time with these energies, I may discover more of what I already discovered accidentally.”

Pathik gave out a smile with a touch of concern to contrast it. “Young Avatar, I’m afraid I have done all I can. I have showed you how to find the different energies. It takes years of practice to become fully-acquainted with them. But you know how to do it now. As far as bending them goes, I cannot help you there.”

Aang looked alarmed. What – that was it? That couldn’t be it. He had not learned enough. Had he come all this way for nothing? “I see…”

“You are strong and wise, Aang,” Pathik added to him. “I’m sure that if what you desire is truly meant to be, then the answer will come to you and you will find a way. But for now, I wish you all the best.”

Aang nodded. So where could he turn now, he thought. He still had not found the knowledge he was looking for. The only other person he knew of who could possibly help him was Jeong Jeong. But that encounter had not turned out well last time he had tried it. Should he try it again and act differently? Perhaps he could try being more polite. But, no, he thought to himself. Last time he was perfectly polite and respectful to Jeong Jeong. Jeong Jeong was the one who had not been polite. Aang grew angry at the very thought of the memory. Perhaps he could try to reach out to the spirits and see if he could learn anything from them. That option did not seem much more promising then Pathik or Jeong Jeong. But then again, what else did he have to turn to at this point? If he could not find any information from a journey into the Spirit World, he may have to give up on this altogether.

Aang wordlessly walked up to where Pathik sat and sat himself in the same position beside him. There, he began to meditate.

Spirit World
Much time went by. At last, Aang found himself in the middle of a forest at the base of a river. It appeared to be twilight from the skyline that he could just barely make out around him. It was unmistakeable. He was in the Spirit World now.

As he was wondering where he should go now that he was here, a familiar animal figure appeared to him. It was Hei Bai – the forest spirit in the form of a panda who had guided him here on more than one occasion.

“Hei Bai! Great to see you again,” Aang said enthusiastically while running to pat him affectionately on the nose.

Hei Bai gestured for Aang to get on his back and take a ride on him. Aang did so, happy to find that someone was here to help him on his journey here. Hei Bai suddenly bolted quickly into the forest – so fast that Aang almost fell off in the process. He clutched his backside tightly and trusted that Hei Bai knew where he was going. Aang began to sweat as they went deeper and deeper into the dark forest. Soon it was so dark that Aang could barely see in front of him. Finally, when Aang felt he was just about to fall off, they entered into a clearing and Hei Bai came to a sudden halt.

Aang was dizzy. He began to catch his breath and stared around him at where he was. This was the same place he had come to long ago when he had sought the Moon and Ocean Spirits. There had been an irritable monkey-like spirit meditating on one of the mounds and he was told to go from this place to the Realm of Koh, the Face Stealer. Aang thought that he might have to go find Koh again. It would make sense. After all, Koh was one of the oldest spirits in existence. If anyone would remember Energybending, he would. Suddenly, Aang noticed a patch of light in the clear nearby water. It was at about the same place where he had met Roku last time he was here. Perhaps he would talk to Roku again now.

Aang dashed over to the spot, reinvigorated. He stared down into the light in the water. “Roku?” he called out.

The light began to fade and he could see the figure of a person become visible. It was not Roku. It appeared to be a woman. A young, beautiful woman. Water Tribe by the looks of it. And then Aang knew who it was. It was Yue – the Princess of the Northern Water Tribe who sacrificed herself to save her people and became the Moon Spirit.

As she became clearer and clearer, she spoke to him. “I know what it is that you seek. And I can help you. I can teach it to you.”

Aang nearly jumped in surprise. “You mean…”

“Yes. I can teach you to bend energy.”

“But how do you know? How can you…” Aang began, confused.

“Meet me at the place that I showed you when you visited my tribe. I will explain it all there and then.” At this statement, she began to fade back into the water.

Eastern Air Temple

Back in the physical world, Sokka had just awakened. He came to the spot where Pathik and Aang were present. He rubbed his eyes and let out a yawn.
Pathik acknowledged his presence. “Good morning.”

“Morning, what’s he doing?”

“I believe that the Avatar is trying to communicate with the spirits at this time. He appears to be heavily concentrated and his energy has an otherworldly feel to it at the moment.”

“How long has he been there?”

“Since about the crack of dawn. It must be an endeavor. Hopefully he finds what he is looking for.”

Suddenly Aang opened his eyes and stood up. He seemed to have gained a heightened sense of alertness in the split-second it took for him to go from his meditative stance to the resolute pose he displayed now.

“What is it?” Sokka asked him.

“We need to leave right now. I have to go to the Spirit Oasis in the Northern Water Tribe.”

Southern Water Tribe

Kanna and Katara were standing in the center of a large dome of ice at the heart of the Southern Water Tribe. This was the spot where Katara’s wedding to Aang was set to take place. Elaborate decorations were present, but there was much fuss about what went where. Since there was a rather large guest list of people from all across the world, there was a need to economize with the amount of room in order to fit everyone comfortably.

Katara stared around in awe. “This is beautiful. Is this where the reception will be taking place as well Gran Gran? Or is it just the ceremony?’

“Just the ceremony, dear. I thought we could hold the reception outside. We’ll use the long tables and have a traditional banquet. Your father will sit by his normal spot and the most prominent seats at the center will be for you and Aang. I’ve delegated to young Taika the task of deciding the rest of the seating arrangements. Wait until you see the flowers. I placed an order for some white dragons – imported from the Earth Kingdom. They should arrive a day or two before the big day so they’ll be nice and fresh.”

Katara smiled. “And what of Sokka and Aang? Are they supposed to arrive back from that trip of theirs soon?”

“I don’t know. I’m sure they’ll be fine. They just went to one of Aang’s temples so that he could study some Avatar stuff. Never you worry.”

Katara looked relieved. “Yeah, if they just went to the Air Temples for a while I’m sure they won’t have trouble getting back in time for the wedding. It’s not like they went all the way to the North Pole again.”

Northern Water Tribe

Aang and Sokka had just parked Appa in one of the stables that was available for them. As they were walking down one of the many streets in the large Water Tribe stronghold, Sokka began to express a point of concern to Aang. “You know we’re going to have a big problem getting into the Spirit Oasis this time around, right?”

“What do you mean? We didn’t have any trouble getting there last time.”

“Well, from what I hear, things are different now,” responded Sokka. “Since the Moon Spirit was almost killed – no, actually killed – in the last battle against the Fire Nation, the Chief won’t let anyone into see the Oasis. It’s a new security measure. The place is sacred ground and its heavily guarded every hour of the day. We need a plan of attack if we want to gain access.”

“Hmmm…” Aang began.

“I know,” said Sokka decisively. “We can fly Appa up to the top of the iceberg and then we can make our way into that waterfall that leads down into there. We’ll have to brace ourselves when we jump – it’s a long way down. But it’s our only option.”

“Well, maybe we can use that as a backup plan,” Aang commented. “But I have a better idea. Much simpler and less dangerous.”

Aang and Sokka walked up the long into the Chief’s Palace at the far end of the city. There they stood before the Chief and Aang spoke to him. “Chief Arnook, I have important business to discuss with the spirits. It’s about rebuilding the world. I need to access the Spirit Oasis.”

“Done. I’ll just inform the guards and then you can go right in.”

“Thank you, honorable Chief,” said Aang, bowing. Aang noticed the surprised expression on Sokka’s face. “Well, I am the Avatar. When you’re the Avatar, sometimes people just do stuff for you.”

Soon afterwards, Aang and Sokka were led out of the main hall of the palace and out a back door, which turned out to be a shortcut into the Spirit Oasis. Once they reached the small wooden door which led inside, their escort opened it for them, motioned for them to enter and then closed it behind them.
The Spirit Oasis at the Northern Water Tribe was just the same as Aang remembered it the last time he had set foot there. A scenic, beautiful garden in the middle of a world of ice, the center of all spiritual energy in the North Pole was one of the great mysterious wonders of the world. At the heart of an icy landmass, it felt like summertime to Aang. For a moment he forgot what his purpose was for being there and simply stared around, amazed – despite having been there before. He wondered whether he would ever truly understand the marvel of this place.

As Aang reached the base of the central pool where the Moon and Ocean Spirits resided, the familiar figure of Princess Yue materialized in front of him. There was no need to meditate. She made herself visible to him as soon as he thought of reaching out to her. Though in the form of a transparent spirit, Yue appeared as elegant and beautiful as she had when Aang and Sokka had first met her. Sokka’s jaw dropped while Aang simply smiled.

Yue greeted them. “Hello Aang. Hello Sokka. Welcome.”

TO BE CONTINUED…
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AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #11 on: Jun 04, 2012 11:18 pm »

Chapter Seven: The Energybending Teacher

Spirit Oasis in the Northern Water Tribe, 104 ASC

“Hello Aang. Hello Sokka. Welcome,” Yue’s spirit form said to Aang and Sokka.

As the Avatar and his companion stood on the out-of-place grass in the Spirit Oasis in the cold, icy North Pole, they were transfixed by the figure before them. Yue was there, floating just barely above the water – at the center of the pool where the two koi fish which were the Moon and the Ocean continued their eternal cycle of one another. Yue’s life force was currently residing in one of these fish, as the Moon Spirit. Yet she was also seen in her spirit form up above. Transparent, she appeared to be donning her traditional Northern Water Tribe Princess dress. Her face was beautiful and sad at the same time. Her hair ended in waves. Whether this was because of her affiliation with the water element or just a ghostly spirit trend, it matched her well.
After greeting them, Yue turned her eyes toward Sokka and began gliding over to the spot where he stood. Sokka, however, did not reciprocate this action.

Yue took notice. “What’s wrong? Are you not happy to see me?”

Sokka has hesitant to reply. “I…I am. It’s wonderful to see you again. But things are…different now,” he trailed off just above his breath.

“Ah, there is someone else, you mean,” Yue stated. “That Kyoshi Warrior girl – she’s very pretty. And smart, too.”

“Yeah,” Sokka agreed with the faintest trace of a smile.

The awkward reunion was cut short. “Forgive me, Sokka. But I must speak with Aang alone now.”

Sokka looked almost relieved. “Alright. Goodbye, then.” He turned and exited the Spirit Oasis through the door he and Aang had used to come in.
Aang stared at Sokka as he left. He was happy to be relieved of the awkward tension as well. He turned back to Yue, unsure of what to say next.

However, she obliged for him. “So…Avatar. I understand that you have been seeking to learn the ancient art of Energybending now. Tell me about this. What has motivated you to do so?”

“The whole of my people were destroyed by the Fire Nation. I hope to find out if I can use Energybending to give people Airbending the same way I took away Ozai’s Firebending. Then I can start to rebuild the Air Nomads, one person at a time.”

“I see…” replied Yue.

“Is this possible?” Aang asked with anticipation.

“I don’t think I can really answer that right now,” said Yue, much to Aang’s disappointment. “Energies are very complex things. They control a lot. It is far easier to say what Energybending can do than what it cannot do. As for what you speak of, I know not about. Now…is that the only reason behind your quest?”

Aang turned his head. “Well…not really. There was also this assassin that I ran into a while back. He tried to kill me while I was in the Avatar State. That would have broken the reincarnation cycle and the Avatar would have ceased to exist forever. I also have this feeling that I’m being followed everywhere I go. If I could fend them off without having to go into the Avatar State and put the fate of the world at risk, which would be a big help.”

Yue smiled calmly. “You are strong and wise. Your heart and mind are both pure. You wish to use Energybending to help you restore balance to a world which desperately requires it – as a part of fulfilling your Avatar duties. And as Avatar, it seems it only makes sense for you to learn it. This knowledge is yours by right. Now, I will begin to teach it to you.”

Aang beamed. But he was still a little confused. “So…how is it that you can Energybend?”

“All spirits can bend energies,” Yue said simply. “You’ll come to see that the bending of energy can be dynamic and creative once you get into it. Maybe you will eventually find what you’re looking for. Or maybe not. But it is almost certain that you will find much you did not intend to find along the way.”

Aang was eager to begin. “I didn’t expect this, but I suppose it makes sense now. I’ve come to the most spiritual place in the North Pole to learn Energybending. And I always thought Airbending seemed the most spiritual. Based on the Air Nomad lifestyle and how all the Air Nomads were benders and all.”

“Hmmph,” Yue scoffed. “If any of the four elemental bending arts are more spiritual than all the rest, its Waterbending…because unlike the others it was initially taught to humanity by spirits.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well: Waterbending was taught by the Moon and the Ocean Spirits, Earthbending by the badgermoles, Firebending by the dragons and Airbending by the sky bison. The other arts were each taught through different kinds of animals. But Waterbending was taught by the Moon and Ocean Spirits.”

“Hmmm…well, I never really thought of it that way,” admitted Aang.

Yue continued. “Initially the original Waterbending teachers were supposed to be the krakens. But they went extinct just before they could teach anyone. Therefore, the Moon and the Ocean spirits stepped in at the dawn of elemental bending to take their place. They would not ordinarily have done this. Although all spirits are different, direct interference by spirits into the mortal world is a rare occurrence. No spirit takes it lightly.”

“Okay. So who were the initial teachers of Energybending?”

“The spirits.”

“Oh. I thought it might have been the Lion Turtle.”

“The Lion Turtle? What’s that? Is that an animal of some kind?”

Surely she must be joking, Aang thought. She suddenly had all this newfound knowledge of Energybending. How could she not know what the Lion Turtle was? It was the Lion Turtle who introduced him to Energybending in the first place. “Never mind.”

Yue continued. “When I first told you that the Spirit Oasis was the most spiritual place in the entire North Pole, I had no idea what an enormous understatement that was. Other than the Avatar, the Spirit Oasis is probably the strongest connection to the Spirit World from this world that there is. You see, the Spirit Oasis was created by the spirits when they bent spiritual energy from all over the North Pole and concentrated it in this one spot, making it into a nexus. After the Spirit Oasis was created, the humans came to see. They were amazed by it all. The spirits then used this energy to communicate with the humans and taught them how to bend energy for themselves. This was at the dawn of Energybending.”

“The dawn of Energybending – wow,” Aang exclaimed. “I always thought the dawn of elemental bending was long ago. The dawn of Energybending must have been much farther back.” Aang took a moment and stared around himself once again. This was the place where perhaps the first bending in this world ever took place. “That’s why you can communicate with us so easily here?”

“Indeed,” Yue responded. “The power concentration in this place is overwhelming.”

“So the members of the Northern Water Tribe were the first Energybenders?”

“No. There was no Water Tribe. There were no nations yet. Only humanity.”

Aang found all this fascinating, of course. “How is it that you know all of this?”

“My partner has shared information with me. He has shared much with me since the Siege of the North. We have many conversations together.”

“Your…partner?”

“Yes, my partner – the Ocean Spirit.” Yue gestured down to the other black and white koi fish.

“Oh, yes,” said Aang in realization. “I remember - him and I took out an entire fleet of Fire Navy ships together. How you doing, old buddy?” Aang approached the pond and the Ocean Spirit turned his eyes the other way, apparently not wanting to be disturbed.

Yue rolled her eyes. “Forgive him – he’s not as talkative when we have company.”

“I don’t remember him talking much then, either,” Aang chuckled. “I guess he really is the strong silent type, then.”

“Right,” Yue agreed. “Anyhow, let’s begin your training. Let’s see what you know so far. What did the guru tell you when he visited him?”

Aang tried to recall, rolling back his eyes. “He just taught me some basic stuff about energies, really. I didn’t know how to bend energy so I figured I would start by learning about energy in general. He had me read my own energy and showed me how to read someone else’s. He used it as a way of learning about them. Then he taught me how to feel the flow of energy in the surrounding area.”

“Hmmm…right. None of that is directly related to Energybending. Still, what did you see when you read your own energy?”

“I felt a sort of flowing stream through my tantien,” Aang described. “Thoughts came into my mind about some of my personality characteristics that are my driving force, so to speak. At the center I found something else. It was like a guiding nucleus of energy. But it took the form of a locked door. One I desperately needed to open, but did not have the key for.”

To Aang’s surprise, Yue smiled at the mention of this last part. “I know what you’re describing. We’ll be sure to open that up for you.”

“Then let us begin,” Aang said with a bow.

“You were on the right track to know about energies before you tried to bend them. You need to understand what you are dealing with before I teach you your first new moves. The truth of the matter is, there are literally hundreds of different kinds of energy: spiritual energies, bodily energies, world energies, natural energies, cosmic energies. They make the world go round, really. As a human, though, you cannot bend all kinds of energy. You can merely bend the energy that resides within your own body and the life forms around you. Certain spirits can bend other kinds of energy, but that is limited to them. But you should not feel limited by this – there is plenty you can do bending the kind of energy that you can bend. And a lot of the times, the different kinds of energy mix and intermingle with each other. The motions of the universe see to that. If it is truly time for this lost art to be reintroduced to the world, it is up to us to play our part in it.”

“Whoa – wait,” Aang responded. “I came across this in the first place because I was looking for a way to defeat the Fire Lord without killing him. It wasn’t because it was the ‘right time for it to be reintroduced’ to the world.”

“Perhaps the energies had already decided to bring back Energybending at this time and merely used your dilemma as an excuse to do so.”

“But…energies can’t think.”

“You’d be surprised. Energies can seem like they have a mind of their own sometimes.”


Meanwhile, Sokka had spoken with the locals and found a spot to set their tent up near the stables where Appa was staying. After leaving Aang and Yue in the oasis, he had borrowed a canoe from one of the young warriors he had served with during the Siege of the North during the Hundred Years War. He then used the canoe to set out and go fishing around the giant ice mass that the polar city was carved out of. After successfully catching two, he returned to the city and spent the rest of his free time steering the canoe through the canals of the downtown area before docking the boat and returning to the tent he had set up for him and Aang.

Soon afterwards, Aang entered the tent as well. Sokka had just begun preparing a pot which he would be using to cook the food he had acquired. Aang did not appear to be tired. Maybe Energybending was easier than he thought, Sokka thought to himself.

“Hey there, Aang,” Sokka greeted him. “I got us some food.”

Aang briefly stared down at the fish Sokka had caught, then turned to Sokka and glared at him. “How many times do I have to tell you that I’m a vegetarian?”

“Hmmm…didn’t really think of that. Oh well, more for me, then.” After looking back at Aang, he added “there’s still some Earth Kingdom fruit in our bag. I suppose that’s all yours now.”

Aang did not respond to this. He simply walked over to where Sokka and his pot were and sat down, cross-legged beside him. Sokka continued to prepare his meal, waiting patiently for Aang to begin talking again. When several moments had passed and Aang remained still, Sokka took matters into his own hands. “So, how was your first day of Energybending training – did Yue show you anything new.”

“No. I didn’t learn any new moves today?”

Sokka was somewhat startled at this. “Yue didn’t teach you any moves? Isn’t that the whole reason we came here in the first place?”

“We just went over some background stuff today. Actual training will begin tomorrow, she said.” As Aang answered him his mind seemed on something else.

“Well, that’s good. Don’t forget why you’re really here,” Sokka told him matter-of-factly.
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AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #12 on: Jun 04, 2012 11:22 pm »

(continued)

The next day, Sokka agreed to stop by the marketplace in order to find food Aang could actually eat. Aang of course, had to wake up at the crack of dawn so that he could get in as much training that day as possible. Upon returning to the Spirit Oasis, he found Yue there waiting for him. Shortly, they began conversing about which moves Aang would start learning first.

“Obviously you knew a little bit about Energybending before coming here,” Yue stated to him. “Tell me what you know so far. Then we can go from there.”
“Well, I already learned how to take away someone’s bending ability by bending their energy. That’s what the Lion Turtle taught me. I didn’t know what he meant at first. Then while I was fighting Ozai it all made sense. It was very dangerous. I could feel my own energy at risk and how fragile it was. If I made the slightest screw-up it would not have ended well. Then more recently when I fought against Zhao Jr. I sort of – accidentally discovered – another move. My chi becomes enhanced for a brief time. But then I feel fatigued for some time afterwards.”

“I see. So you know two moves already. Basic ones, but it’s a start. Tell me, when you used Energybending on Ozai, what position were you in with him.”

Aang quickly demonstrated for her. “Ozai was below me – like so. I had just beaten him back with all four elements in the Avatar State. Then I used Earthbending to hold him in place while I concentrated on bending his energy.”

“Oh, okay. Sounds like you had it pretty easy then.”

Aang thought for a moment that he heard her wrong. “Easy? My own energy was this close to being corrupted and I might have died. It wasn’t easy at all.”

“But you said yourself that you had already weakened him during the fight before. And your Earthbending held him still the whole time. Imagine if he had been fighting back.”

Aang thought about this. It had been hard enough when Ozai had been stationary. If he had actually tried to use Energybending on him at the height of their battle – like when he was curled in the ball of rock and Ozai blasted tons of comet-enhanced flames at him. The idea seemed ridiculous if not completely impossible. “So, what am I going to learn now?” Aang asked, leaving the subject behind.

“The first move that I will show you is not a dangerous one at all. I’m sure you can master it pretty easily. Then later today we can move on to the more advanced techniques. This move is called requiescence. First, I will walk you through the motions. Then I’ll demonstrate it on you. It’s not a violent move, so you needn’t worry.” Yue glided across the water and her transparent figure stood on the grass next to him. Then she demonstrated the bending movements for him. “Okay, now loosen up your limbs. I’m going to try it on you now.”

Aang let his muscles hang and prepared himself for what Yue was about to do. She did what appeared to be taking a deep breath – although as a spirit, Aang did not see how she would do such things. Yue then put one hand over the other – palms facing her – and gently touched his arm near his shoulder blade. Then, she grabbed his wrist, rotated it in both directions and snapped it down.

Aang felt a surge flow through him almost immediately. A warm, tingly feeling started in his arm where Yue had performed the technique and then shot through the rest of his body. Suddenly, he was much more wide awake than he had been before. It was almost a caffeinated feeling but without the airy part at the back of the head. Aang began moving his arms up and down.

Yue took notice of this. “Well, how was that?”

“It was…sensational,” replied Aang.

Yue smiled. “Yes. You see – Energybending can be fun at times. Perhaps we can try it more as time goes on as an occasional treat. Now, let me show you the next move I have for you. It’s called Energy Shove.”

As Yue demonstrated the motions for him, she appeared to be leaning forward and pushing something forward. Then she turned back to Aang. That was it, he thought to himself. Seems easy enough.

“Okay, your turn. Use Energybending and push forward.”

Aang nodded and complied. But this move was nothing like the first one she showed him. He suddenly felt colder and less coordinated as he pushed forward. Then he suddenly fell back onto the ground. Startled, he lay with his bald head in the grass. Then he started to feel light-headed.

Yue stared down at him. “Yes, that one is a bit more difficult. Well, try it again.”

Aang rose to his feet and took his fighting stance. He practiced the move again, only to feel the same way when he pushed out and then fell back shortly afterwards. He was already tired after only trying the move twice. But at least he did not fall to the ground this time. “Why does it feel like that when I push forward and then fall back a couple seconds later.”

Yue explained it to him. “What is actually happening when you use this move is some of your bodily energy leaves you for a brief period of time. Then the energy returns to you once it has completed its task. That is why you fall back. You were overwhelmed by the energy coming back into your body – you’ve never felt it before. Another move that Energybenders sometimes use to counter it is to try and block the energy on its way back, preventing it from reaching your body and leaving you weakened. However, since there are no other humans alive now who can Energybend, we don’t have to worry about that.”

Aang looked a little bit uneasy as she explained this to him. He was sure that it would help to know this in time. But this was harder than he had expected. He hoped that as a fully-realized Avatar that anything new would simply come easy to him. Instead, it was like Earthbending training for him all over again. And he felt tired and dehydrated – similar to how he felt when he performed the chi enhancement technique. The strengthening and subsequent weakening of his body really took a toll on him.

“Why do I feel this fatigue every time I use Energybending now?” Aang asked Yue. “It wasn’t like this at all after I fought Ozai.”

Yue pondered this. “Maybe since you’re relatively new to this, it’s a little much for you. There are no other Energybending humans around so we can’t really compare your case to anyone. But I’m sure it’ll be better as time goes on.”

Aang was not entirely satisfied by this explanation. “Can you maybe use recquiescence on me again?”
 
“Well…I suppose so,” Yue answered. “Since this is just practice, I’ll make it easy for you. But keep in mind that you’ll have to get by on your own eventually.” And with that, Yue approached his body and shot the more pleasant feeling through his body once again.

Aang tried the move again. And again. And again. Although he had the motions down right, it did not appear any easier yet. And he felt tired, light-headed and fatigued after every single time. Performing the move time after time seemed a tremendous effort. It’s probably just this one move, he thought. Like he had said, when he used Energybending on Ozai, it had been dangerous…but not extremely tiring. Then again, he felt sort of like this after using Chi Enhancement as well. Aang needed Yue to use recquiescence on him quite frequently in this first day of training.

“Can’t you do it to me just one more time?” Aang asked her after what felt like the hundredth time he tried the Energy Shove.

“Are you serious? I just used it on you barely a minute ago. You need to do some more work on this before I use it on you again.” Aang had not seen this side of her when he first met her, but Yue could be quite the stern, disciplined teacher.

Aang was exhausted. He felt in desperate need for a recquiescence. But Yue was not giving it to him just yet. He half-heartedly went through the motions of Energy Shoving once more.

“That was pitiful,” Yue told him firmly. “Do it again!”

“Ugh.” Aang swung a little harder this time.

“Again!”

Aang practiced the forsaken move once more. After this attempt, however, he could not take it anymore, and let himself fall to the ground. A couple of seconds later, he passed out in the grass.

He had completed his Avatar training. Now that he finally had some time of his own, he could pursue what he wanted. Now he was walking through the hedge maze in the palace gardens. This had been one of his most favorite places to come when he was younger. Back then he had gotten lost in it for hours. It made a good hide-and-explode playing ground. But now he was not playing games. He was looking to build a family. Seeking companionship. As he turned the final corner and reached the center of the maze, there she was. The love of his life, she was just as stunning and beautiful as ever. It was…Ta Min.

Yue was shaking him now. “Aang, Aang, wake up. It’s fine. I used recquiescence on you now. Here, why don’t you take a quick break and go eat some food. Then come back to me when you’re done.”

Aang shook his head back and forth. He did not understand what just happened. Ta Min? Wasn’t Katara the love of his life? He said nothing. He merely rose to his feet and did as Yue suggested. After a quick snack at the Northern Water Tribe’s exquisite marketplace and some water, he returned to the Spirit Oasis, ready to train again. After a few more rounds, he asked Yue to use recquiescence on him once more.

“Why don’t you try using it on yourself this time? If you face those assassins and turn like this every time you attack them, you’ll make their job of killing you all too easy. At least this way, you’ll be self-sufficient when the time comes.”

Aang reluctantly started to perform recquiescence on himself, not knowing if he had the energy left to do so. As he managed to shoot the burst of energy through his body, he passed out again.

Aang knew now that his people were on the brink of extinction. It was now his job as Avatar to save them from that fate. Now, he was the only one who dared to stand up to a tyrant bent on world domination. He could not simply defeat this horrible man. He had to create a new society for his people. Where they could be free. This awful person had to die for the world to be safe. And the new place he would take his people would bear his name. It would be…Kyoshi Island.

“Aang, tell me – what’s going on now? That’s the second time you passed out today from sheer exhaustion.”

“I think…I think I just remembered one of my past lives.”

“You what? Well, that’s nothing new, is it? You’ve journeyed to the Spirit World and talked to your previous reincarnations before.”

“Yes, but before they simply told me what I needed to know. I actually remembered experiences from my past lives as though I was there – like it was me experiencing them. It was no dream. I remember it now as clearly as I remember when Katara pulled me out of the block of ice. Is this normal for Energybending.”

Yue appeared as baffled by this as Aang was. “Well…as the Avatar, your energy is somewhat different than everyone else’s. This could be one of its extra properties. Maybe it’s a unique side effect for you. I wouldn’t delve too much into it until you know more about how it works.”


Aang practiced with Yue for the next several days, but did not have any more visions like the ones on the first day. Yue showed him a few more moves in this time – including one called Energy Tremor. This move threw energy to the ground and made a shockwave, temporarily immobilizing the energy in the living things in the surrounding area – leaving them defenseless. This would be great for fighting the assassins if he knew they were around but could not see them. Now, when he meditated and felt inside of him, he could feel the “locked door” was now partially open.

Each night, Aang returned to the tent and met with Sokka. As tired as Aang was when he returned, he was usually not up for doing much at nighttime. One night, Sokka asked him for a quick update on how his Energybending training was coming along.

“The first day I started I had a lot of trouble getting used to it. I still need recquiescence about twenty to thirty times a day…”

“Recquiescence – what’s that?” Sokka asked him quizzically.

“It’s a move where I reenergize my body when I’m tired. And it feels good at the same time. Anyway, I think I’ll be a lot more prepared the next time an assassin shows up now.”

“Okay, that’s great. But remember, we have a time limit on our stay here. We have to go back to the other side of the world – literally, when you marry my sister. And what about making new Airbenders – did you learn anything about that yet?”

“No. And Yue doesn’t seem to know anything about it either. Maybe it’s not possible. But now that I have an understanding of the fundamentals of Energybending, I figure I can try it on my own and see if it works. I suppose it would be kind of the opposite of what I did when I took away Ozai’s bending.”

Sokka seemed a little skeptical of Aang’s newfound confidence. “Well, if you want to try it we better not waste any more time up here. You should tell Yue that you’re leaving tomorrow. If there’s more you need to know later, you can always come back.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. Okay, I’ll talk with her about it tomorrow morning.” And then Aang began eating his fruits and vegetables. He was in high spirits now – at last he was finally ready.

When Aang explained himself the next day, Yue merely nodded, raising no objections. But then she added “Before you go, there is one more thing I must show you. It is perhaps the most powerful move in all Energybending. With this at your disposal, no one – not even those assassins you keep talking about – will stand a chance.”

Aang got wide-eyed with anticipation. “What is it?” he asked her.

“It is called…Shuten Shogai.”

TO BE CONTINUED…
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AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #13 on: Jun 09, 2012 04:47 pm »

Chapter Eight: The Search for a Candidate

Spirit Oasis in the Northern Water Tribe, 104 ASC

“Shuten Shogai?” Aang asked Yue.

Yue nodded. “Yes. It is among the most powerful bending moves in existence. It’s so strong in fact, that you won’t be able to use it while we’re in here. It’s far too dangerous. We’ll go through some of the motions and then when the time comes that you need it you’ll know how to perform it.”

Aang was still excited, though slightly disappointed. “What if I just shoot it into the sky? I won’t hit anything with it. I’ll be careful.”

“No – it’s still too risky,” Yue replied back. “Also, it’s not just that. You need another person with you when you do it for real. It’s an attack in Energybending that combines both of your energies and creates a super-destructive force which will be fired at your opponent – or wherever you wish.”

Aang looked down. “But doesn’t that make it impossible for me to perform then? There are no other humans alive now that can Energybend.”

Yue shook her head. “The other person does not have to be an Energybender. They do not even have to be a bender. Ultimately it is you who performs the attack.”

“Well, let us begin then. I don’t want to keep Sokka and Appa waiting for me for too long.” Aang was longing to hear this.

Yue bent her middle finger down to the center of her palm, showing him the center of a person’s Chi in their hand. Aang’s point and the point of the person he was performing it with would have to remain joined the whole time for it to work properly. Yue then walked him through the steps. It was a complicated move of course, but not too overwhelming. It began sort of like a relaxation exercise but ended like a throw. It was unlike anything Aang had seen before.

Once she was finished, Yue turned back to him. “Okay, now it’s your turn. Show me your Shuten Shogai.”

It took Aang a few times to get it right. But he had Yue there to patiently correct his mistakes. Fortunately, he did not get exhausted like when he did Energy Shove and Chi Enhancement. But of course, that could be because he was not performing the move for real. Nevertheless, he felt invigorated when he went through all the steps correctly. His energy was pulsing. If this is what it was like now, it must be so much more so when he actually did the move.
Aang turned and bowed to Yue. She smiled back at him. “Congratulations Avatar – you are an Energybender now.”

“All thanks to your teachings,” Aang said, bowing to her with respect. “I cannot wait to try out Shuten Shogai for real!”

Yue shook her head. “It is the strongest move there is – you must use it sparsely, if at all. If you are lucky you will never have to use it. But now that you do know how to do it, you have the option available to you if you must.”

“Okay, okay,” Aang said back to her. “Well, I’d better get back to Sokka. He’s probably getting pretty impatient right now. I told him I would only spend a few minutes in here today at most.”

Yue nodded and waved to him. “One last piece of advice before you leave. Always make sure you’re the one bending the energy and the energy isn’t bending you.” And then she faded away and disappeared over the pond.

Ocean Between the Northern Water Tribe and the Earth Kingdom

“Sounds like a pretty eerie line to end your training on,” Sokka told him later as they left the North Pole on Appa.

“Yeah, well she did say they can have a mind of their own sometimes, whatever that means. Anyhow, she taught me one final move today – Shuten Shogai. It’s the most powerful one there is – according to her, anyways.”

“Nice,” Sokka nodded to him. “Well, even if the giving people Airbending part doesn’t work out at least you know it wasn’t a wasted trip.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’ll sure be a help if we run into those assassins again. I need someone there to perform it with me – I guess it’s like a joint move. The other person does not have to be an Energybender though – they don’t even have to be a bender.”

Sokka started to stand up. “Well, let’s do it now then. Just tell me what I have to do and we’ll test it out.”

Aang hesitated. “Yue told me to not use it unless it was absolutely necessary. She said if I was lucky I wouldn’t ever have to use it.”

“Come on Aang. We’re over the ocean right now – what harm could it possibly do? Cause a tidal wave when no one’s around? Or if you’d rather wait until we’re on land, we could just aim it at something in some deserted wilderness. I know – let’s aim it at a mountain!”

“It’s not like I’m not curious to try it out as well,” Aang retorted. “But I gave Yue my word. It’s probably more risky than we’re accounting for.”

“Fine – if you say so,” Sokka said, disappointed.

“I know – how about I use recquiescence on you instead? You haven’t experienced that yet. It’s an amazing feeling – and it’s quite relaxing as well.”

Sokka shrugged and allowed Aang to place his arm on him to perform the technique. Immediately, Sokka felt a warm jolt shoot through his body and he sprung to his feet, clearly not expecting it to be that effective.

“Wow – that was something. Now onto the next step of this journey – about giving people Airbending – have you come up with a plan for that yet?” Sokka was scratching his back as he said this.

Aang looked gloomy. “Well, I’m not a hundred percent sure it’ll work yet – and when I do try it, it’ll be a risk for both me and the whomever I’m performing it on. It has to be the right kind of person – and I’ll have to inform them of the risk they’re taking before I actually try it on them.”

“Well, good luck with that,” Sokka responded sarcastically. He had a point, Aang thought. This was going to be a lot harder than he originally anticipated.

Western Earth Kingdom

For the next several weeks, Aang and Sokka traveled on Appa through the Earth Kingdom in search of someone for Aang to experiment on with not much luck. They followed gradually down the coast from small town to small town. Aang had decided that it would be easier to find someone to potentially make into an Airbender in a smaller community due to their simpler lifestyle.

Indeed, Aang could not just give Airbending to anyone. They must be a good learner, with strong will and be spiritually attuned. They must also not already be a bender. At the present Aang did not know anyone who completely fit the model. Pathik was too old and Teo was crippled – it would be even more risky for them than it already was and Aang was not prepared to take that risk for them. If it did work out, then he would likely use it on Teo later on, since other than that he was the exact fit to become an Air Nomad. The person he did choose would have to have the heart and spirit of an Airbender. Someone like Toph or Sokka would certainly not do.

And, if matters were not already difficult enough, in order to be Energybent they must be willing to let go and submit to him as he bent their energy. This would make it easier for Aang and he needed all the help he could get. If he was able to do it, giving bending would likely be much harder than taking. And as much as Aang hated to admit it, the person would be at considerable risk if it did not work or if something went wrong. As Aang and Sokka had asked around in the settlements they visited, they came across more than one almost perfect candidate who either could not or would not accept the risk involved. Aang did not like the prospect of putting people in danger either – but he saw his work as being for a benevolent cause, so he forced himself to deal with it.

Faxian Island, 105 ASC

At long last, Aang and Sokka arrived at Faxian Island, which resided off the southwestern coast of the Earth Kingdom. Although pristine and upward-sloping, the tiny island was not volcanic. It was covered in grassy plains and was home to a small village of about fifty residents. None of inhabitants had dreamed that the Avatar of all people would have a reason to visit them in their lifetime. Given their past experiences, Aang and Sokka did not have high hopes for finding what they were looking for here. Sokka had even stated that he would have skipped over the whole place if they were not exceptionally low on food supplies.

As Aang and Sokka stopped at a local salesman’s booth, Aang questioned the owner. “Can I get one of your large bags of fruit, please?”

“Six bronze pieces,” the gruff, middle-aged man told them nonchalantly.

“Thanks. By the way, is there anyone in this village you know of who’s not an Earthbender and who is relatively peaceful and is spiritually attuned? Age doesn’t matter too much, but we’re on the lookout for someone who fits that description and preferably on the young side.”

The shop owner did not take long to think it over. “There’s Trinley – he’s a strange fourteen year-old boy who lives alone with his mother. He lost his father to the Fire Nation in the war. Never met a more calm, at ease fellow in my life. No matter what fault comes his way it doesn’t seem to bother him much.”

“Okay…can you tell us anything else about him,” Sokka interjected inquisitively.

“Hmm…yeah. I think he kept having these dreams when he was younger – like he was flying or something. Pretty weird if you ask me,” the man said matter-of-factly.

Aang and Sokka’s mouths fell open. Finally, they were onto something. “Can you be so kind as to direct us to where Trinley and his mother live?”

Aang and Sokka followed the shopkeeper’s directions and found a small, run-down wooden house next to a field. Aang knocked at the door, which was answered by a short, slouched woman with dark, graying hair. “Hello Miss. I’m the Avatar and I need to speak with your son Trinley. Is he around?”

“Come in,” she beckoned while stepping aside. She was not a particularly talkative or cheerful woman. She led them to a small door in the corner and opened it for them.

Inside this room was a young boy with long, dark hair sitting in a meditative stance on his bed, facing the opposite direction from Aang and Sokka.

“I have visitors,” the boy stated, still facing away from them.

“Yes. I’m Aang – I’m the Avatar – and this is my good friend Sokka,” Aang answered for him.

Trinley turned to face them, but gave no further acknowledgement at this time. He had violet-colored eyes. This was rare – especially for the Earth Kingdom. As Sokka waved at him awkwardly he continued to give them both a blank stare.

“As you know, I’m the master of all four elements,” Aang continued. “As you also probably know, I’m the last Airbender left standing after the war with the Fire Nation. But I came across a new kind of bending – Energybending. This allows me to bend another’s energy and I might be able to give another person Airbending ability by doing this. I believe that person is now supposed to be you. If you accept this, your life will change substantially from now on. You will have to abide by certain rules and you will be spending a lot of your time away from here and away from your mother.”

“So that’s what my dreams meant. Okay, let me know when you’re ready and you can perform on my body what you will,” Trinley answered, apparently unconcerned about the sacrifices he was being asked to make.

Aang paused for a moment. “You must understand that there is no guarantee that this will work. And if it does not work, it is a risky procedure you are taking. You could become heavily messed up or die in the process.”

Trinley did not bat an eye at this statement. “Well, I’m ready when you are.”

Sokka was baffled by Trinley’s reaction. “Look, kid – were you even listening? You’re risking your life and even if this is successful your whole life as you know it will change.”

“I heard everything fine,” said Trinley calmly. “I can tell that it is destiny that brought you here to me today and whatever happens I accept the fate it brings me.”

Aang was surprised. “Alright. Just come over to me and kneel down. Let your body and your energies be at ease and simply go with the flow.”

Finally, it was the time Aang had been waiting for ever since he left the South Pole with Sokka months ago. He position himself to Trinley like he had done with Ozai long before. He took a moment to think back to it and enhanced his own Chi slightly. Then he took a deep breath and began the process. He did it differently this time – doing the opposite of what he did before. He focused on pushing when he otherwise would focus on pulling. He also focused hard on Air, since that was the element he intended to give to Trinley. He placed his free hand on the crown of the boy’s head. According to Guru Pathik, that was where the seventh chakra was located and that was the one which connected to pure cosmic energy.

At last, Aang released him. Trinley had kept his eyes shut and now opened them. “The moment of truth – try Airbending,” Aang told him.

Trinley moved his arms about and did a few jump-kicks, but nothing happened.

“Ah, I didn’t think it would work,” Sokka commented.

Aang was disappointed. It seemed he would have to give up his hopes on this after all. Just then, Trinley had something in his nose. His head leaned back and then he let out a sneeze, which sent him ten feet in the air as he hit his head on the ceiling and fell back down to the floor with a deafening thud.
It had worked – Trinley was an Airbender.

Southern Water Tribe 

Meanwhile, extensive preparations were being made for the event that was set to take place later that same day at the South Pole. Some of the Water tribesmen and women were setting up tables and chairs for the feast that would follow the ceremony. As this happened, Hakoda and Pakku stood by the edge of the village, looking at the scene before them.

“I knew the day my daughter would be getting married would come someday and that I would have to bear witness to it,” Hakoda remarked proudly to Pakku. “I never really had the time to think about the logistics of it much since the war was on for most of our lives.”

“You’ve outdone yourself, Chief Hakoda,” Pakku told him, looking around at the amount of accommodations that were being made within the small village.
“I’ll be spent after this, no doubt. I do hope that when my son marries that Suki girl he’s seeing that her family can pony up for it. But I won’t bother myself with thoughts of that now. It looks like we’re ready to put this show underway.”

“Ummm…no we’re not Hakoda,” Pakku said, looking about. “Where’s Aang?”

Faxian Island

At that very moment, Aang was sitting down with Sokka and Trinley in Trinley’s house as Trinley’s mother served them all tea. “I’m excited to start your training. I hope that you are too. Wait until the Summer time – it’s a great time for flying on your glider. But of course that’s not for a while – the Winter Solstice was only two weeks ago.”

“The Winter Solstice was three weeks ago,” Trinley corrected him.

Aang was shocked. “No – that can’t be right. It was definitely two weeks ago. Right, Sokka?”

“Hey, I haven’t been keeping track of the date,” Sokka answered, alarmed. “I thought you were.”

“But if it really was three weeks ago – that means today is the day of the wedding. I’m supposed to marry Katara today!!!”

Sokka put down his tea cup. “We’re more than a day’s ride away on Appa. Possibly two – we’ll never make it!”

“Oh, you in trouble now,” Trinley’s mother chimed in with a smirk at Aang.

Aang turned to Trinley. “You’re about to get your first Airbending training.”
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AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #14 on: Jun 09, 2012 04:51 pm »

(continued)

Appa panted loudly as he flew forward over the ocean at breakneck speed. He was gliding swifter than they had ever rode on him before. Sokka was at the front of the saddle while Aang and Trinley were both at the back pushing air backward in order to propel them forward faster.

“Just send as much air as you can backward,” Aang told Trinley. “Just straight back – don’t worry about direction. Sokka’s taking care of that.”

“Easy for you to say,” Sokka shouted back at Aang while struggling to steer the giant bison in the right direction at the speed they were going.

Aang could hear how tired Appa was. “Sorry buddy, but this one time you’re going to have to go as fast as you can.”

“Hey Aang, why don’t you use recquiescence on him” Sokka suggested.

“That’s not a bad idea,” answered Aang. He sent an energy jolt into Appa’s body and Appa shot forward a little more.

At last, they reached the edge of the Southern Water Tribe. Appa crash-landed as soon as they got to the ground that was the South Pole. Appa had hit the ground so hard that Sokka, Aang and Trinley were all flung off of his backside and they all landed hard in the snow. Aang’s face was buried on the ground. As he looked up, he saw that someone was standing over him. It was not Katara or Hakoda or anyone from the Water Tribe. It was Toph.

“Way to make an entrance, Twinkle Toes,” Toph said in her usual smug, tomboyish manner.

“Toph – where is everyone? Has the wedding started – did I miss it?” Aang said frantically as he rose to his feet.

“Relax, you made it back just in time. And boy do I mean just in time. You and Sokka and Appa were gone for quite a while. Everyone’s been wondering where the three of you were.” Digging her feet into the ground, she added “wait, there’s four of you?”

Trinley waved at her and smiled meagerly “hi, I’m Trinley. I’m an Airbender now.”

Aang sharply cut him off. “No time for introductions! I need to do some bending on my clothes. They’re the wrong type and they’re wet, scruffy and muddy. I can’t go down there like this.”

“No worries, I have some extra dress clothes for you in here,” Toph gestured into one of her expensive handbags. “I had a feeling you might need some help with that – call it intuition. There’s a hut on the way to the pavilion that the ceremony is in that you can use to change.”

Aang threw his arms around her. “Thanks Toph – you’re a lifesaver!”

Toph looked inept as she patted him on the back prior to his releasing her. “Yeah, now go get married, Twinkle Toes.”

Aang gratefully took the set of fresh new clothes from his friend Toph and ran into the empty hut on the way to where the wedding would be held. He then changed and spruced himself up in the precious little time he had to spare. Once prepared, he dashed toward the large icy building that lay before him and slowed down in order to enter in a dignified sort of manner.

Once inside the giant structure, Aang found a host of people waiting for him – people from all three remaining, well-established nations. He spotted the members of Katara’s immediate family. Hakoda was standing toward the front of the large room, ready to bear witness to the wedding of his only daughter. Not far off were Kanna, Katara and Sokka’s grandmother and her husband Pakku, the great Waterbending master from the Northern Water Tribe. Just beside them were Huu, Tho and Due of the Foggy Swamp Water Tribe. Although they had not always been in close contact with the rest of their nation, they were technically one of the Water Tribes.

From the Earth Kingdom, at the front was Toph Bei Fong and situated next to her was her newest friend, King Bumi of Omashu. Aang could also spot Haru along with the Kyoshi Warriors – Suki and Ty Lee included. Even farther back were the Freedom Fighters, the Mechanist from the Northern Air Temple and his son Teo.

There were guests from the Fire Nation as well. Fire Lord Zuko and his girlfriend Mai by his side were the post noticeable. On Zuko’s other side sat his uncle Iroh, the legendary Dragon of the West. By Iroh’s other side sat the War Minister Qin, who had also served under Zuko’s father Ozai.

At the very back of the pavilion sat the Earth King Kuei in his palanquin, lifted by bearers on each end. He was surrounded by his normal battalion of palace guards. He had probably never been this far away from Ba Sing Se in his entire life.

There were certainly many people who had gathered for this occasion situated throughout the ample space that stood before him. However, it was at the altar that he stood now. Located beside him was the Water Shaman – a prominent holy man from the Western Water Fortress who had traveled here to conduct the marriage between him and Katara. All of a sudden, Aang grew tense in expectation of what was to come. He knew what an important circumstance this was and how close he had come to missing out on it.

And then, at the farther side of the room, Katara came down isle. She was barely recognizable as the young girl that he had saved the world with a few years before. She was – for lack of a better term – a beautiful woman. She was dressed in a glamorous, elaborate dress of the kind Aang did not know even existed in Southern Water Tribe.

As Aang and Katara stood before him, the Water Shaman began to project his voice throughout the room. “We are gathered here for this most special occasion – the wedding of Katara, daughter of Chief Hakoda, of the Southern Water Tribe to Aang, the Avatar, of the Air Nomads. Let us begin. Do you, Katara, take Aang to be your husband?”

“I do,” said Katara, gazing into Aang’s eyes.

“And do you, Aang, take Katara to be your wife?”

“I do,” said Aang, gazing into Katara’s eyes.

“Then by the power of the Moon and the Ocean Spirits and the grace of the tribal chieftains, I now certify your union. You may now kiss the bride.”

Aang kissed Katara just like he had when they were outside the Jasmine Dragon following the end of the Hundred Years War. It felt as if they were alone in the room full of people that lay in front of them.

Soon, it was time for the reception dinner. When Aang approached his spot at the table, he had his vegetarian dish set out for him. Sure enough, the sea prune stew he had dreaded was there, though he decided he did not mind anymore. The dinner was uneventful and it was soon time for dancing. It turned out Katara had bumped into the singing nomads in the Earth Kingdom when she went on an errand to pick up some flowers and they had agreed to play for them.

Aang and Katara were of course the first ones to dance. They began with a traditional Water Tribe dance, as Kanna had instructed them to. Of course, they both soon got bored with this routine and moved onto using their Waterbending moves. Although Sokka was still out of breath, Suki managed to drag him out as they become the second couple to hit the floor. Fire Lord Zuko and Mai were not far behind. After that, many others began to dance around them. Toph first danced with Haru and then with a warrior from the Southern Water Tribe. Trinley at first stood idly by, not knowing anybody else. He tried to fit in first by dancing with Toph and then by attempting to snag a dance with Suki. Longshot was dancing with a girl with long hair and makeup. Aang only recognized her as Smellerbee when she spoke. She had said that it was not typical for her to dress like this, but that she made an exception for this event.

Aang spotted out of the corner of his eye Huu and Pathik conversing with one another in the corner. They seemed in a relaxed mood and the clothes they wore now were not unlike those they usually did. Apparently the change in weather from where they were both used to did not bother them. It was at this point that Aang and Katara decided to take a break from dancing to split off and mingle with some of their several guests.

Aang soon saw Haru and his mother near the edge of the dance floor. As he walked over, Haru greeted him. “Aang! Congratulations. After all that you and Katara have done for us, it is wonderful to be with you on your happiest of occasions.”

“Thank you for coming, both of you,” Aang said to Haru and Haru’s mother. “So where is your father, Tyro – is he around?”

“He was unable to make it,” Haru’s mother answered.

“My father has been promoted to the Council of Five by the Earth King,” Haru told him, looking grim. “He’s in Ba Sing Se right now.”

“Well, that’s good news,” said Aang cheerfully. “He’s one of the highest ranking leaders in the Earth Kingdom now. Congratulate him for me the next time you see him.”

Haru looked away. “Not sure when that will be. With all his new responsibilities, he doesn’t have much time to spend with his family. It has been some time now since he last visited our village.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that,” Aang said awkwardly.

Just then, Katara was passing through, accompanied by an older gentleman Aang recognized as the shop owner and boatman from the river village in that Katara had saved from a polluting Fire Nation factory. “Aang, you must remember this man from when we were traveling through the Fire Nation. I disguised myself as the Painted Lady when we were in his town.”

“I could never forget that ordeal!” the man interjected before Aang could answer. “Of course, at the time, I had no idea that our Painted Lady and her friend were the Avatar and his Water Tribe companion.”

Aang smiled. “So – tell me – are you Doc or Xu today?”

“Neither,” the man answered with a faint of laughter. “My brother Doc works on the dock, my brother Xu works in the shop and my brother Bushi cleans rivers. My name is Dadao and I attend weddings!”

Aang merely laughed and rolled his eyes, knowing how pointless it would be to argue. Soon afterwards, Ty Lee came over to him. Ty Lee had brought a date with her. He was tall with short dark hair and wore a white shirt and pants with a green belt and scarf. They were arm-in-arm with one another.
“Hiiii,” said Ty Lee with enthusiasm. “Congratulations Aang. This is my date, by the way. Gitsu, this is Aang. He’s the Avatar!”

“How do you do,” said Gitsu, extending out his arm. “I know he’s the Avatar, dear. We actually met a long time ago – in Ba Sing Se.”

“Ummm…we did?” Aang asked him quizzically.

“Yes,” Gitsu added slyly. “Beneath the crystal catacombs – Katara was there, too. You went into the Avatar State and rose up really high into the air. The Fire Nation Princess then struck you down with her lightning. You fell down the whole way – classic stuff.”

Aang of course knew this all too well. It was definitely not something that he enjoyed reminiscing about. Especially at his own wedding. “Has somebody told you this?”

“Hah! No, I was there. You don’t recognize me then, that’s okay. I’m a Dai Li agent.”

Aang’s mouth opened in surprise. She’s dating a Dai Li agent now? Well, then again…it’s not like he was the only old enemy of theirs at the wedding. “Oh. Well, I guess I didn’t recognize you specifically – there were quite a few of you there.”

“Yeah,” continued Gitsu, grinning. “The best part had to be when the Fire Nation Princess shot at you with her lightning.” Gitsu then made a serious face and pointed his hand into the air, startling Aang. “Zap!” Gitsu and Ty Lee both burst out laughing at his impression. When he noticed that Aang was not amused, he added “oh lighten up, man. Everything’s funny with hindsight, ain’t it?”

“Yeah, totally,” Ty Lee merrily added. “So many memories of that place – like those guides on the way in.” Ty Lee offered up her own impression now. “’I’m Joo Dee. Welcome to Ba Sing Se.’”

“How much I wish you were one of our Joo Dees,” Gitsu suavely turned and said to Ty Lee. “None of them were even half as pretty as you are.”

Ty Lee was apparently touched by this. “Awww, Gitsu, that’s got to be the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Aang left Ty Lee and Gitsu behind to find someone else. If this is that guy’s idea of friendly conversation, I’ll pass, Aang thought to himself. He spoke briefly with War Minister Qin and Iroh, asking how things were for the Fire Nation and Ba Sing Se nowadays.

Before the end of the evening, Aang spoke with Trinley once again, thanking him for his help in getting there and promising to continue training him after the honeymoon.

At long last, Aang and Katara were alone again. This was the first time it was so since Aang had proposed to her by bending the clouds. And now they were husband and wife. Aang did not know what to say to her now. He did not even know where to begin.

“So it’s finally happened. I’ve missed you lately,” he told her.

“I missed you a lot, too,” Katara said back to him.

“Really – you seemed a lot more content with the situation than I was,” Aang told her.

“I was trying to hide it,” Katara blushed. “At least we don’t have to worry about it now.”

“No…no, we don’t,” Aang agreed.



Aang had a dream that night. He was flying high in the sky on Appa with Katara at his side. The sky before him was calm and tranquil. It reminded him of how things were before the Hundred Years War. Katara was resting her head on his shoulder and looking forward with him. She was holding a baby in her arms and smiling peacefully.

As they flew forward on Appa, there were others flying behind them. They appeared to be Air Nomads grasping their gliders, following the same route they were taking. Aang could not count how many there were exactly, but the sky seemed filled with them. There were men, women and people of all ages.
Then, the sky abruptly started turning darker around him. It grew darker every second. Eventually, Aang was surrounded by total blackness and Katara, Appa and the rest of the scene dissolved around him. Soon, he was sitting down in the middle of a pitch-black place and a bright light appeared in front of him. Out of this bright light emerged the tall, sage-like figure of Avatar Roku, his most recent past life.

“Aang, I must talk with you now. This is a matter of grave importance.” Aang could tell by Roku’s voice that he was serious. Roku had contacted him during his dreams before, such as when he wanted to show Aang memories from his past friendship with Sozin, the Fire Lord who had begun the Hundred Years War.

“What is it, Roku?” Aang grew uneasy at the tone that Roku was taking with him. If he was contacting him now, there must be something really bad about to happen. But everything seemed to be getting so perfect – how could there possibly be anything so urgent for Roku to warn him about like this now?

“You must not Energybend ever again,” said Roku flatly.

“What?” Aang replied in alarm. “Why would you say that?”

“Be warned – you can only keep your own energy unbendable for so long. The art that you now practice left this world ages ago. It is not a part of our world anymore. Bringing it back may complicate things. What’s done is done – now that you have used it on Trinley, you can still train him – but promise me you will end it there.” Roku said the last part with noticeable urgency.

“I don’t understand what issue there is,” Aang retorted. “Apart from Katara, this has to be one of the most amazing things that’s happened for me.” And indeed it was. The opportunity to bring Air Nomads back into this world was phenomenal. But first Jeong Jeong, then Pathik and now Roku was warning him against it. This was ridiculous. What could possibly be dangerous about it?

“I know this may seem like a dream come true to you at the present moment. But you must understand – there are implications and consequences for what you do. Sometimes we need to listen to what is offered to us, even if we don’t fully understand it. When I was a young Avatar just mastering the elements, Kyoshi told me not to let my personal attachments get in the way of performing my avatar duties. I didn’t know what she meant at the time – but she was right. I spared Sozin in the name of our past friendship when I could have ended the looming threat then and there. You may not fully understand the meaning of what I tell you now, but that is not reason alone not to accept it.”

“But this is about saving the world…rebuilding it,” Aang said in response.

“No, what you are doing is not saving the world. It’s toying with it – there’s a distinct difference. I’m still uneasy about how you came across this knowledge when you did – right before you fought Ozai. You were conflicted at the time – vulnerable to temptation. This made you forsake the advice of your own past lives. And now you are doing it again. If you had just simply finished the Fire Lord like you should’ve.”

Aang turned his head away from Roku. “Don’t you mean if you’d just finished the Fire Lord like you should’ve?”

Roku was quite taken aback by this. He took a deep breath, and then countered “I made some mistakes in the past – and that was one of them, yes. But I don’t want to see you make mistakes like I did. Don’t let the world fall out of balance again so soon after finding it. Listen.”

“No, you listen!” snapped Aang. “You said it to me yourself. You should have seen the war coming and prevented it. My people’s plight is all your fault! The world’s plight is all your fault! I’m rebuilding now from your mistakes, so don’t you complain how I do it!”

Aang paused – perhaps what he said was uncalled for. After all, he did respect Roku immensely and appreciated his council. Roku now seemed very resentful of what he had just said. “Roku, I’m sorry, I-“

“No, don’t be. It’s quite fine. I suppose now that my advice is no longer needed I can go enjoy some quiet spiritual retirement. Hey, I may have been the biggest screw-up the world has ever known – but at least I can be reassured that I was reincarnated as someone wiser and more competent than I.” There was a definite tone of sarcasm to his voice. “Here, I thought I was telling you how to do your job, but now you supposedly know so much more than I do.”

“Roku…” Aang began.

“I’m sorry I interrupted your dream…Avatar Aang.”

Aang opened his mouth to say something else, but did not get the chance. A second later, he was flying with Katara on Appa again.

TO BE CONTINUED…
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #15 on: Jun 29, 2012 01:24 am »

Chapter Nine: Azula's Release

Fire Nation Mental Facility, 106 ASC

Aang sat idly by in the waiting room. The walls were of a teal-shaded limestone and the chairs made available to visitors were hard, rigid and uncomforting. None of the other people in chairs spoke. The only sound that was present was of the clerk at the front desk scratching his pen on a piece of paper. Indeed, this was not at all a talkative environment. Aang was experiencing a restless feeling. He passed the time by thinking to himself. He was preparing for meeting his friend Zuko, who had invited him to come to this place today. It was one of the more well-known mental hospitals in all the Fire Nation. Today was the day that Princess Azula would be released from their care after being declared “cured” by her doctors. I’ll believe it when I see it, Aang had told himself. This was the woman who had chased him all across the Earth Kingdom during the Hundred Years War before striking him with lightning while he was in the Avatar State in Ba Sing Se. It was one of his worst past moments and he had not been in that kind of peril again until after the war was over and he fought the bandits in the Earth Kingdom town.

Aang had not been there for the comet-enhanced Agni Kai between her and Zuko, but he had heard plenty about it from Katara. At her small coronation ceremony, Azula had presumably gone mad. This was forwarded by her father’s treatment of her and Mai and Ty Lee’s betrayal of her at the Boiling Rock. When the duel was not going so well for her, Azula shot lightning toward Katara so that Zuko would jump in front of her rather than redirecting it. Katara had been forced to continue the battle in Zuko’s stead. Azula was subsequently frozen in ice by Katara’s Waterbending. Worn out and defeated, Azula cried spat fire and screamed hysterically, giving entirely into her insanity at last. Aang still had no idea why Zuko had asked him to come along for this – he was not looking forward to it. Azula was certainly no friend of his. Even after all she had done, it was understandable why Zuko would be here. After all, she was still family to him. But why was Aang dragged into it?

At last, the tall, dark haired, dignified figure of Fire Lord Zuko came forth. Aang got up and trotted over to greet him. At first, he said nothing. Aang was still unsure of what he was supposed to say to his friend on a day like this. Zuko appeared to have the same floundering about the situation as he did. The Fire Lord shyly waved his hand at the Avatar and an awkward silence followed.

Aang took it upon himself to break the silence for them both. “Hello, Zuko. It’s good to see you again,” Aang told him mildly.

“Likewise,” Zuko added back. “How have you been? How is your new ‘project’ coming along?”

“It’s going great,” Aang informed him without allowing their eyes to meet. “Trinley’s still at the very top of the group, but I initiated a couple more students who he’s helping me with. The whole group is still kind of small, though.”

“Well, it sounds like you’re off to a good start.” Zuko continued “You’ve accumulated quite a reputation through this. I’m sure you’ve heard – the rumors all across the land of the Avatar giving out bending abilities.”

“Yes, I know this is a well-known phenomenon. And to think it was so difficult finding Trinley to begin with. Now people are coming to me. But I have to turn a fair amount away – not everyone is the right type of person to become a good Airbender.” At this point, Aang decided to cut the small talk short. “So why am I here with you today?”

Zuko informed him “ever since the end of the Hundred Years War, Azula has been a sort of rallying symbol for opponents of my rule. Not just Zhao Jr., but most of the guerilla insurgents, think of the fact that she’s still around as a token of inspiration. Even by just being here, she has been at the center of a lot of trouble. And you remember what she did during the War – I don’t have to remind you about that.” Aang was indeed relieved that he refrained from doing so. “And while the doctors may say she’s all better now, I’m not quite sure of that. She was able to fool a lot of people when she was younger. She could easily have fooled them. And if she did – well, I’ve got a lot of threats on my hands as it is without adding her to the mix.”

“Right…” Aang acknowledged. He was in full agreement with Zuko thus far. “So where are you going with this?”

“Well…” Zuko continued, uneasy about what he was about to say. “I know you took my father’s Firebending away in your final fight with him. If you did the same with her bending abilities, she would be much less of a threat.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea…” Aang said to him. Although he suspected she would cause trouble once she was free, just as Zuko did, he saw no need to do that to her yet. She had not done anything to warrant such an action. Also, it would be harder if she knew what he was doing and she resisted actively. Ozai had been worn out and was clueless when Aang Energybent on him. But Azula would resist him if she knew his intent and Yue had said performing the move would be much harder under these circumstances. That was why it was so important for Trinley to submit to him when he gave him Airbending. Additionally, Aang still felt uneasy about his previous conversation with Roku. Perhaps he should not Energybend any more than he had to.

Zuko dodged Aang’s response. “Let’s go meet her. Then we can decide what’s best from what we see.”

The head practitioner in charge of managing the facility came out from his offices and met with Aang and Zuko. He led them forward to where Azula was staying and told them to wait outside the room while he went inside to talk to her and finalize her status. Then she would come out to meet them once this last evaluation of her condition was finished.

Azula emerged before them. She was older and more clean-cut than last time Aang had seen her. But she was still recognizable nonetheless. Azula looked up and down Zuko’s body, eying his Fire Lord outfit and majestic appearance. “Hello Zuzu. You’re not like last time I saw you. You do look good now.” She gestured to his scar. “Except for that of course, but that’s nothing new.”

“Thanks,” Zuko responded dryly.

Aang could feel the tension in the air. “Well, I’ll let you two be alone now,” Aang chimed in, signaling his intended exit.

Zuko stopped him. “No, Aang – stay.”

“The more the merrier,” Azula commented to them, much more laidback than they were. When neither of them obliged for her, she continued. “Listen Zuzu, I know I wasn’t incredibly nice to you before. And I used fear to control people. That was…wrong. The people here have helped me figure that out. But you’re Fire Lord now, not me. Let’s just make a fresh start. What do you say?” Although these were her words, she seemed to use the same cold, manipulative tone that Aang and Zuko had been accustomed to from her.

“I’m not sure it can be that easy,” Zuko countered. Aang was feeling more and more awkward standing there.

“You know what, Zuzu, you’re right. I should make it up to you somehow. If you ever need a really big favor, I’m your woman.” She turned to Aang. “You too, Avatar.”

Zuko hesitated. He glared at her, sizing her up as she had done to him. “I’m afraid you can’t be trusted. Sorry.”

Aang still remembered her as the person who shot him with lightning and very nearly pushing the world irreparably out of balance. She was much different than her brother. Azula had always been evil to him. Aang had altered his opinion of Zuko when the time came. But Azula seemed a different breed of evil than Zuko had practiced. She was power-hungry and merciless, wearing no guise of honor in what she did. Even if she was more complex than that, Aang had no reason to take that chance with her.

“I agree with Zuko,” Aang stated firmly.

Azula appeared disappointed, but not upset. “So what happens now?”

“You will remain banished from the Fire Nation Capital,” Zuko explained to her. “You can reside at the family estate on Ember Island for now. Your allowance will be adequate and I shall arrange visits whenever it is advisable.”

“Fine, then,” Azula told him coolly. “Don’t bother escorting me out. I can find my own way.” And with that, she marched off in the other direction.

“Well, I think our work here is done,” Aang told Zuko as Azula left them. She seemed more balanced than he thought. He did not feel the need to do anything further. Maybe her treatment had worked.

Aang walked silently with Zuko out the front entrance to the facility. The air outside was nice and breezy. They were on an island, so the moist, wet feel of the seaside soothed him.

“I guess there was no point in bringing you along after all,” Zuko told him.

“It’s okay.” Aang was relieved to be leaving now. But that new feeling of relaxation did not last long. He saw out of the corner of his eye someone standing behind a pillar, watching him and Zuko. He stopped in his tracks and turned his head toward the person, who was now running in the other direction.

Aang was infuriated. “Oh, no you don’t!” he yelled to the eavesdropper as he started to run after them. Zuko was surprised by this immediate change of course and followed Aang, a few paces behind him. Aang was in hot pursuit of the mysterious fellow.

This individual was dressed the same way as that attacker he had encountered in the Earth Kingdom village years ago. He was dressed all in black, with his face covered so only his eyes were visible. Now Aang could see that on his sash was the same symbol that was on the weapons he found after that encounter in the Earth Kingdom and the fight against Zhao Jr. and his disloyal gang of Fire Nation soldiers.

So far, they had not succeeded in harming him. But they had come too close for comfort. Aang was not about to let them get away this time. As the man rounded the far corner of the building, Aang remained closely on his tail. He was catching up to him now. Being an Airbender had its advantages at a time like this. Meanwhile, he could hear Zuko panting behind him.

The man approached the edge of a small cliff by the waterfront. He appeared to be preparing to make a jump for it, but Aang would not allow him to escape. Aang made a leap forward and pushed him down to the ground using Energybending. The man fell face-down in the dirt and Aang caught up with him, turning his body over so he was facing upward at him. Aang proceeded to tear off his face covering, revealing the face of a dark-haired, hazel-eyed man with sharp eye brows who appeared to be in his thirties.

The man’s eyes widened in reaction to Aang’s display of Energybending. “So, it’s true…” he muttered aloud, peering into Aang’s eyes.

Aang pointed his fists down at his subdued opponent, ready to bend at him again at a whim. “You’ve been following me,” Aang told him angrily. “I don’t know what you’re all about, but the game ends here!”

Zuko had caught up to them now. He looked down at him and echoed Aang’s attitude. He positioned his arms, ready to Firebend at him. “Tell us who you are and who you work for right now or I will end you!”

The man looked up at Zuko and gave him a scowl which seemed to say don’t bother. He then reached under the top of his outer jacket and pulled out a small vial from within. Inside was a dark gray – almost black – liquid. He downed the whole vial in a single gulp and glanced up into Aang and Zuko’s eyes. Then he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. A few moments later his head bobbed downward and he moved no more.

Bewildered, the Fire Lord knelt down and placed his fingers upon the mysterious man’s neck. After detecting no pulse, he pulled his hand away and got back to his feet. Zuko simply stared down at lifeless body and asked Aang “who do you think he is? I’ve never seen anyone like him, anywhere.”

“He’s one of the people that have been following me wherever I go,” Aang acknowledged. “I think they may have had something to do with Zhao Jr.’s plot against you. They also attacked me while I was in the Avatar State.”

“It’s those same people who did that,” Zuko said, shocked. “But…that was so long ago. Why haven’t you done anything about it until now?”

“It’s hard to fight an enemy who shows up when you least expect it, strikes hard and then vanishes the second you try to get a closer look. They’re very quick and secretive. This is the first time I’ve gotten this close to one of them.”

Zuko took a second to take all this in. “I wonder why it is they’re doing this.”

Aang stood tall and erect, gazing down at the body of the man who he had just assaulted. “I don’t know what the reasons behind their actions are. But whatever their purpose is, they’re willing to die for it.”

TO BE CONTINUED…
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waterkid90
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« Reply #16 on: Aug 05, 2012 02:07 pm »

hey im thomas ,
and i wanna be in the story
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Fullmetal
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« Reply #17 on: Aug 08, 2012 01:33 pm »

oh man this is one of the best fanfictions I've read its so good

I hope theres more chapters
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #18 on: Oct 04, 2012 04:32 pm »

Note: When I first wrote this, the only thing we knew about Katara and Aang's family was that one of their sons was an airbender named Tenzin.  We did not know anything about their other children, or even whether they had other children.  So in my fan fiction, they also have three children, but the other two are different, and Tenzin is the oldest, not the youngest.  Toph is still unmarried at this point.

Chapter Ten: The New Air Nomads

The Avatar and His Family, 106-120 ASC

For the next few years Aang did not have another serious encounter with the mysterious followers and assassins that had troubled him in his exploits and plagued him in his mind. Strangely, it seemed as though something had caused them to retreat or change their strategy regarding him. This leaving one less thing to bother him, Aang was allowed to devote more of his time and focus to Energybending. And he used Energybending on many occasions. When he found the time, he took more trips to the North Pole to learn what he was able to from Yue. He now knew a lot of moves and was well-versed in the most powerful ones. However, he had still never used Shuten Shogai. Aang did long to see what it was actually like when performed for real. But he kept his prior promise to Yue about never using it unless absolutely necessary.

Following his success with Trinley, Aang used the power of Energybending to give many more people Airbending abilities which they did not already possess. After he had quite the expedition to find Trinley, it soon became significantly less time-consuming to find people to use Energybending on. Indeed, people were literally lining up to find Avatar Aang, who was now using unknown forces to give people the ability to bend. Non-benders from all over the world were interested in the idea and after hearing success stories were even willing to make the long journeys to find Aang themselves to have the chance at Airbending. All Aang had to do now was examine them and pick the best out of the crowd. He had to be sure the person had the potential not to just be a good Airbender, but also a proper Air Nomad. Among the crowd, many were simply bored people looking to toss some wind around and fly around on gliders. Aang typically sent those ones home straightaway. Nevertheless, there were still plenty of good ones as well.

Once he gave his seekers Airbending, he began to train them as best he could remember starting with his earliest training when he was a small boy. Everyone had to start the beginning, no matter what age they were. Some were only children and some were decades above Aang in age (not counting the hundred years he spent in the ice berg, of course.) Aang did not employ a set amount of time for how long one would learn the basic moves in Airbending. When they were ready to move on, they would move on. It was as simple as that. Trinley and a few others excelled quite quickly. Most, however, took some time to become adjusted to the gifts that Aang had given them. However, once Trinley had mastered the basics himself, Aang let him teach newcomers part of the time, which helped speed up the overall expansion. Getting past the early stages was tough. But once that was accomplished, there were rewards and fun parts to look forward to. Making Air Scooters and playing the game on them which Aang had long ago been excluded from, playing Air Ball, racing on their gliders and participating in traditional Air Nomad events were all a part of the package.

Reconstructing a nation was by no means limited to the practice of Airbending, of course. Aang also taught Air Nomad society, culture and history. As he was only twelve when he ran away, Aang could only rely on his own memories so much for this. He dug up scrolls and scrolls from each of the Air Temples in search of important information and talked to some historians from all ends of the world who were familiar with the cultural practices of ancient and extinct civilizations.

Although Aang had done his best to recreate the Air Nomad life he remembered, the new Air Nomads had some notable differences with the old Air Nomads. For instance, in the old days, all four of the temples were active with two housing exclusively males and two housing exclusively females. This meant that much of Air Nomad life was gender-segregated save for the "mixers" and trips in between the temples on a periodical basis. As quickly as the new country had grown under Aang's guidance, it was still much smaller than it was before the Hundred Years War. Adjustments had to be made accordingly. There was only one Air Temple active – the Southern Air Temple – and it was coed. Aang let the diverse group of individuals learn Airbending "from the source" by having Appa do demonstrations for them. However, there was only one sky bison around and the lemurs, while they could still be found, were now scarce and endangered. There was increased reliance on gliders. Aang had requested a couple of air balloons from the Mechanist for emergencies and the Mechanist was all too happy to oblige for him.

The Mechanist himself still resided at the Northern Air Temple, where he and his band of refugees continued to live the life they had become accustomed to after being driven away from their homes by the Fire Nation during the Hundred Years War. Aang and the Mechanist had reached a peace with one another. The Mechanist would continue to inhabit and expand upon the technology-driven way of doing things he would do in the past as long as he left certain sections of the temple untouched and avoided the destruction of sacred artifacts. In addition, Aang granted Teo and a few others the ability to Airbend so that there would remain somewhat of a presence of real Airbenders within the autonomous region. Aang granted all of the people of the temple honorary Air Nomad citizenship, which meant, of course, that for the first time not all of the Air Nomads were benders.

The Eastern Air Temple, by contrast, still remained largely deserted. Guru Pathik still dwelled there at one hundred and seventy years of age and still cracking. His lifestyle was pretty much the same as it had always been, but he received visitors much more frequently. Aang let him be a spiritual guide and counselor for many of the new Air Nomads as they became adjusted to their new lifestyle. The old Air Nomads were quite a spiritual people, so the spiritual teachings from one of the few who actually remembered them was certainly helpful.

The Western Air Temple was available for housing and travelers in between locations. There was typically somewhat of a small community there, though this did fluctuate depending on the time of year. There was also a war monument in remembrance for the late-stage battle that had been fought there and Aang and his friends' past experience with it.

Aang's first student, Trinley, was still among his finest. Following his honeymoon with Katara, Aang had continued to train Trinley as he had promised. Trinley carried his relaxed and determined mentality that he had shown Aang upon their first meeting into his Airbending training and this made him quite the capable student. He soon began helping Aang to train others and he was a patient, but diligent, instructor.

Not all of the new initiates were as convenient as Trinley. For example, there was Icarus. He was a powerful bender now and inspired the others a great deal. But Aang was troubled by how aggressive he was. This was not normal for an Airbender and he seemed to regard certain bits like respecting all life, keeping a modest appearance and shaving of heads to be beneath him. He was forced to accept most of this for Aang to work with him, but he still showed visible discontent.

Even more peculiar than Icarus was Nola. Aang did not know much about her background. As Aang recalled, Nola had been really excited when she first came before him seeking bending abilities. Indeed, he could not remember anyone else who could not wait to get started like she was. Soon afterwards, however, she became visibly less enthused. She had some of the most potential out of all his students, but she did not seem at all satisfied with her being there. Nola seemed to remain at the temple mastering Airbending out of some deep sense of duty rather than her actual passion for being there. If she was ever asked about this she denied it and she was now one of the most powerful benders Aang knew. But thinking back to when he first met her, Aang was at a loss to what could have caused her sudden change of attitude. It was as if she was an Airbender because she felt she had to be, not because she actually wanted to be.

Shao was equally as dutiful as Nola and around the same age. But Aang could tell that he was by contrast very happy to be there. He had a rough life before coming to the Air Temples. Growing up in the Earth Kingdom, he lost his family to the Fire Nation and was severely wounded before he was able to recover with the help of a local eccentric herbalist. As an Airbender, he had the opportunity to build a new life for himself in the new nation and he did not take this lightly.

And then there was Feng Qu. One of the oldest new initiates, Feng Qu was humorous and jovial, reminding Aang of Iroh. Aang had misgivings about him at first. He seemed as if he simply wanted some fun activity to do in his golden years and found the idea of flying around and Airbending with his glider exciting. But Aang gave him a chance and in time he proved to be a worthy and capable pupil.

Rensa was also toward the upper end of the age spectrum for new initiates. But she caught on quickly and soon seemed as though she had been studying Airbending all her life. Kind and tender, Rensa was always happy to help others who needed her.

As the group grew and grew, Aang created a Council of Elders to lead it. As Aang still had his duty as Avatar to the rest of the world, he found it best to delegate his responsibilities here elsewhere. At first Aang headed the Council himself, but devolved the burden when he found this no longer needed. The membership of the Council would rotate on occasion. Twenty years after the end of the war with the Fire Nation, the Council consisted of Trinley, Nola, Shao, Feng Qu and Rensa. Icarus sometimes attended meetings and was often suggested for membership, but Aang decided to discourage his appointment due to his more aggressive nature.

Delegating the day-to-day responsibility of running the Air Nomad civilization elsewhere allowed Aang to spend more time with Katara and his family. They currently resided in the Southern Water Tribe, which was a relatively short ride on Appa from the Southern Air Temple. Aang and Katara now had three children: Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira. Tenzin and Vameira were both Airbenders and Kaddo was a Waterbender. The five of them traveled together quite frequently as Aang performed his work as Avatar all across the four nations, although he would exclude them from more perilous missions. The family of the Avatar thus had a very multicultural lifestyle.

Tenzin was the oldest of Aang's children at thirteen. An Airbending prodigy, he constantly excelled at the top of his class. His father felt reminded of himself at his age and was very proud of him. He spent a good portion of his time at the Southern Air Temple, as did his sister. Kaddo, a Waterbender, learned primarily from his mother, who taught Waterbending at the South Pole. Vameira exhibited the same adventurous, friendly spirit her father did, but she was very much her own person. She was shy around new people, although hyper once you got to know her and although she was an Airbender, she stated that she fully intended to live up the Southern Water Tribe half of her heritage by having her future husband give her a betrothal necklace. She did not seem to care when it was pointed out to her that betrothal necklaces were a tradition of the Northern Water Tribe.

It did indeed seem to Aang and his family as though their home was the world. And the world had changed a fair amount before them. The Southern Water Tribe had been substantially rebuilt now. It had a much different look than when Aang was awoken there out of the ice block. It was even partially industrialized like the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. In this capacity it was even ahead of the Northern Water Tribe, which had decided to remain mostly the same as of now. There was a small, but sure number of Waterbenders. They were all natural-born, not Energybent like the new Air Nomads. After the war, there were a few more babies born as Waterbenders whose ancestors had carried the gifts. There were also some of the Waterbenders and Healers from the North who had come with Pakku to help rebuild their sister tribe. A portion of them had returned home when most of the work was done but others chose to settle in the South permanently, which added to the local population.

Katara was now the main Master Waterbender in the South Pole. This applied to both the offensive forms and healing. All who had the ability learned from her. Pakku and the rebuilders from the North had been prominent in the earlier years but Katara had become largely the head instructor. Pakku himself had passed on a few years back – peacefully in his sleep. He had trained hordes of Waterbending masters in his time. He had a full life, traveled the world and lived long enough to see his step-great-grandchildren. Kaddo even got to learn some basic Waterbending moves from him when he was a toddler. Pakku was mourned greatly as a wise and respected leader and given a magnificent ceremony at the time of his passing.

Sokka and Suki were now married as well. Of their four children, one was a Waterbender. Another was aspiring to be a Kyoshi Warrior. Sokka had become the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe. Hakoda was still around and enjoying an enjoyable but slightly eccentric retirement experimenting with the new trinkets and inventions that came with the industrialization package. Sokka still had his recognizable personality and sense of humor, even if he was noticeably more mature now.

About a year after Zuko and Aang went to the mental facility when Azula was released, something unexpected happened to Toph, who was still living in Omashu. Bumi, whom she had grown close to, finally passed away unexpectedly. Toph was saddened by the occasion – so was Aang. But then she found out through his will that he desired for her to succeed him, having no heirs himself. She was nineteen and done with her schooling by this point. She graciously accepted. Her parents, who continued to live in Omashu, were now extremely sorry for sheltering her when she was younger and promised they would never be ashamed of her or tell her what to do again. Toph likewise forgave them and had a great relationship with her parents now. She went on to become a capable, popular and personable ruler.

Zuko and Mai had also gotten married by this point and had children together. Zuko was a great and just Fire Lord, helping bring peace and prosperity to his own country and the rest of the world. Sozin had never known that his great-grandson would be "spreading prosperity" throughout the world in quite the opposite way he had intended. Azula remained in exile on Ember Island and occasionally saw Zuko and Mai, although they tended to keep their distance out of caution. Zuko's advisors were now almost entirely different from his father's during the Hundred Years War. War Minister Qin served in his position until old age and subsequently retired. War Minister Chan had taken his place. Chan was of course the teenage boy Zuko and Azula had had an unpleasant experience with on the beaches of Ember Island years back. Zuko had accepted his appointment because he received word from sources that Chan would be qualified for the position, although he expected this might be cronyism and elitist. Nevertheless, there was little practical need for a War Minister in Zuko's new era of "love and peace."

Even though the world was better now, Aang still found himself keeping the peace and balance from time to time. A local trouble here, some disgruntled Fire Nation rebels there, etc. Even though there were still Fire Nation nationalist outbursts that opposed Zuko every now and then, they became less and less frequent as time went by. Aang was on the whole satisfied by the state of the world. Aang was never one to blow his own trumpet, but he could not help but think to himself that he had to be possibly the best Avatar ever! When he started performing his duties, one of the four nations was entirely gone, another was almost destroyed and the world had been torn apart seemingly irreparably by warfare. Now the world was at peace and with the help of Energybending he had managed to build an entire country, which as far as he knew no other Avatar had ever done. Perhaps he would never feel what it was like to perform Shuten Shogai, but that was something he could live with. The Energybending that he could use had been such a help to him. Roku, Pathik and Jeong Jeong were clearly paranoid and did not know what they were talking about. Energybending had been nothing but good, there could not possibly be anything wrong with using it as much as he wanted. Now, Aang had a loving family, friends and companions in every nation and had managed to build what felt like a permanent peace. This had to last forever, he told himself. There was nothing that could go poorly now.

Aang had no idea just how wrong he was.

TO BE CONTINUED...
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #19 on: Oct 04, 2012 04:35 pm »

Chapter Eleven: Changing Winds

Fire Nation Royal Palace, 120 ASC

Zuko sat alone. He sat upon his throne in the great chamber by himself, pondering. Ordinarily the flames which surrounded him in such a setting were formidable and towering, as was appropriate given the regal nature of his position. He kept his flames low and on the small side, today. Recent events had stressed him out. And there was no one else in the room for the flames to be on display for. No need to show dominance.

After Zuko's coronation things were just perfect for a fair amount of time. For the past two years, however, his subjects had poor harvests and were forced to endure through terrible famines. Such a period of mediocrity has ways of making people desperate. Loans and charity were of course solicited for in these hard times, but there was not nearly enough to go round. The Fire Lord, his family and various nobility were getting by fine, of course. But elsewhere the goods did not always meet their desired destination. In such times of desperation, corruption was rampant. Fair distribution was mandatory, of course. But no one could watch every noble and local official at once – not even the Fire Lord. At this time, Zuko muttered an unreasonable wish that he could be omnipotent for once.

There may have been more loans and charity coming in, but while the passage of time had changed some things, the process had not done enough even in two decades. The Fire Nation still had a bad overall reputation across the world. People were on the verge of starvation and their Fire Lord was not doing enough to stand up for them. Zuko had ushered in an era of peace and that had obviously meant reconstructing sections of the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribe that had been decimated. In light of recent memory, some cities still banned Firebenders from entering their borders. Last month, Zuko had signed new treaties with such cities and that did not look good for him. It was true that the people of the Fire Nation had born the suffering which came with wartime as well, but the relief could only last so long. Now, in the era of Zuko seemed like the grass had been greener on the other side. The era of Azulon and Ozai was now regarded as a golden age to be regarded with nostalgia in these troubled times.

Suddenly, Zuko's thought process was interrupted as the far door opened wide and Princess Neinei marched into the room that lay before him. Zuko rose his flames a little. Not because he was angry with her, by any means, but because he had to seem more like himself now that he had company.

He offered her a simple greeting. "Neinei, what brings you?" Zuko uttered with a nod of his head.

"I just finished my Firebending lesson for the day," Neinei told him with a slight smile on her face.

"Ah, yes," Zuko said back to her. "How did that go?"

"Well, I performed my big demonstration today. Used the ancient flamethrower dancing technique which I've been practicing for months and months. Mother was there and she seemed happy with it. I thought I would see you there as well," Neinei reminded him at last.

"Oh, right," Zuko stated with remembrance. "I forgot that was today. I'm sorry about that. I promise to be there next time. I had some...important business to attend to." All these statements were perfectly true, save the last.

Neinei seemed to buy the lie. "It's okay dad. If you like – I can give you a private demonstration later. I understand your not having time, being Fire Lord and all."

Zuko's guilt rose and he allowed his flames to rise a tad more so it would not be noticed. "How was the rest of Firebending training?" he asked, trying to steer away from the subject.

"It went well," Neinei said with a nod. "Until the end. My instructor said that I was doing well and insisted on teaching me a more advanced move. I found it very difficult and tiresome."

Zuko's flames climbed about an inch. "It is only understandable for you to have struggles with such things when you first try them out. You mustn't let these struggles discourage you," he advised her. "A true Firebending Master must embrace these struggles. These struggles are what defines your strength. It is an opportunity to define yourself. It would have taken a lot of luck for you to get that new move right away. Not everyone can count on being born lucky. I was not born lucky. I had to rely on my struggles to find my strength. I believe I have told you this before, yes?"

"About a million times," Neinei said to him with a roll of her eyes.

Zuko kept his flames leveled and stared straight ahead, breaking eye contact with his daughter. "Go to the courtyard and play with your younger sisters," Zuko commanded her calmly. "A servant will be by to summon you for supper."

"Okay, daddy." After kissing her father on the cheek, she departed the room as he had directed. At this point, Zuko allowed his flames to fall once again.

The Fire Lord loved his new family very much. It was different as could be from the one he had grown up with. His relationship with Mai and their daughters was as close as ever. Others did not view them so kindly. His subjects respected their Fire Lord. But too many wanted him to have a son – a male heir. Some who even viewed his inability to do so as a sign of weakness. His advisers always told him to keep trying. By contrast, the court physicians advised against any further attempts. As strong and healthy as Mai was, pregnancy was not her thing. This did not help to relieve him in troubled times.

At least he had a visit from the Avatar to look forward to. Of course, he would also soon be having a private meeting with Chan, which he did not look forward to. He could not imagine him having anything to say to better the situation. Some days Zuko felt like he should fire Chan and replace him with someone more able. He had no reason to do so at the moment, though. And he had to keep the higher-ups on his side. There was an ever-present risk that there would be further uprisings. And he did not want to go down that road. It would be a shame for the world to lose the peace it had yearned for for generations.

Southern Water Tribe

The sky that hung above the South Pole today was tranquil and at ease. What lay below it, though, was entirely different. Out of a tiny hut constructed from blocks of ice, all that was emerging was a gentle column of steam through a hole in the top. After some shouting was heard from within, this did not last long. A young boy of about thirteen dashed out the opening in the front carrying a long stick. Moments later, a girl about two years younger with light brown hair followed shortly behind him. These two children stood out in particular because they were wearing yellow. In this village, almost everyone wore blue. These children were different because they were Airbenders. It was an unusual circumstance for the Water Tribes.

The boy jerked the stick he carried with him and winged edges came out of the sides, revealing a glider.

The girl caught up to him and seized the other end of the stick, panting. "Tenzin!" she yelled at the boy. "Don't fly my glider – you're stealing it!"

Tenzin, who had been about to fly away, turned abruptly to face her. "Vameira, I'm not stealing your glider. I'm borrowing it. How many times do I need to tell you that?"

"Liar!" Vameira shouted back at him. "It's not borrowing if you don't have the other person's permission."

"Well, I lost my glider," Tenzin reminded her. "Until I find it I'm just going to have to use yours. Sorry. If you want your glider back, why don't you go find mine, then. Then I'll give you yours."

"Because that is your glider just like this is my glider," Vameira bellowed.

The tall, long-haired figure of their mother Katara came into the scene. She was followed closely by a boy around their age in blue. "Why don't you two take turns?" she suggested to them, attempting to diffuse the event.

"No way," Tenzin scoffed at both of them. And with that, he kicked his sisters leg and she fell back. He seized the opportunity to take off and fly away on her glider while she sprinted after him.

Their brother Kaddo stared after them and rolled his eyes. "Airbenders – no wonder they went extinct."

Katara, who had her focus directed at the current tension, now turned and looked at her other son. "Kaddo, that's not a nice thing to say."

"Whatever," Kaddo answered her with a shrug.

Katara frowned. She could not help but envy her children. They had the privilege of growing up in a time of peace – something no one else she had ever known had. Well, that was not entirely true. Her husband, the Avatar Aang, had been raised by Air Nomad monks before the war had began before he was frozen for a hundred years. It was then that he answered his call of duty and brought balance back. Still, she prayed every night to the Spirits that this state of affairs would last for her children. They exhibited the same kind of innocence that their father had when she first met him not too far from here.

Almost in answer to her thoughts, Kaddo asked "so when does Dad get back?"

"Either tonight or tomorrow," she answered him. "He has some business to attend to at the Air Temple. He should be back just in time for us all to set out for the Fire Nation together."

"Okay," Kaddo commented. "So what new move are you going to show me for Waterbending today?" he asked with excitement. "A faster Water Whip? The Octopus? Tell me!"

Katara smirked at him. "You'll see," she informed him, pointing forward to one of the smaller huts in their conclave.

Kaddo was now confused. "But that's such a small space. How can I possibly make an Octopus in there? It would tear the place apart!"

Katara said nothing in response. She simply smiled, walked forward and gestured for him to do the same. As they entered, it was revealed that Katara had set up a life-sized dummy with lines all over it in the center of the room.

Kaddo was even more confused then he was before. "Are you giving me a healing lesson?" he questioned her irritably. "Tell me this is a joke."

"It is not a joke," his mother told him, calmly.

"But this is women's work," he snapped at her. "My friends up North would make fun of me endlessly if they knew about this."

"It is an important lesson," Katara said to him. "In the Northern Water Tribe, they say you should only learn half the essential skills. If you want to be a real Waterbending Master you must learn to do everything. This includes both combat techiniques and it includes this."

Kaddo scoffed "Master Pakku never used healing. He was a master."

"He was a master," Katara conceded. "But like I said, he only learned half of what there was to know. He was a victim of his cultural barriers by not learning healing just like the women of his tribe were for not being able to learn what he could."

"Huh! It's called specialization, mom. It's the way gender roles work."

Katara was now visibly annoyed. "Might I remind you that we are in the Southern Tribe. What are you saying about me?" she added while holding her hand out and pulling some of the snow on the ground to form one of the Water Whips Kaddo had desired to practice with that day.

Kaddo could see he had pushed one of his mother's buttons and changed his tone, not wanting to get smacked with that. "Well – um – let's get to, it then." He hung his head and sat down.

Katara smirked, pleased with herself. She let the Water Whip fall and knelt down to join him. "You'll thank me one day," she predicted to him. "The time will come when you need to use this either on yourself or someone you care about."

Southern Air Temple

As his family went about their daily activities many miles from him, Aang marched through the familiar halls and turns of the Southern Air Temple. He was on his way to meet with the Council of Elders and such meetings could go on for hours. The Avatar wanted to keep it short today, though. He had accidentally packed Tenzin's glider along with his own and knew he was probably missing it now.

One of his pupils rushed behind and caught up to him. He caught Aang's attention, but Aang continued going forward. "Not now Icarus," he said. "I'm on my way to meet with the Council. Then after their report I have a planned trip to the Fire Nation."

"I need to show you a new routine I've invented." Icarus added "It will only take a second."

"You can show me later. I should be around again soon," Aang reassured him. Coming up with a new move was one of the final tests to becoming an Airbending Master. Ordinarily he would have been more intrigued, but Aang had the feeling whatever move Icarus had come up with would not do much to honor the non-violent tradition of Airbending.

Icarus nodded, disappointed but satisfied. Aang found himself at a pristine archway which contained a door which could only be opened via Airbending. Aang pushed his arm forward and the giant halves of the structure parted in response. Icarus followed him in. He's not on the Council – apparently he must be playing an observer role today.

A lengthened table stretched out in front of him and the five members of the Council of Elders sat on the other end. On the far left was the aged and dignified Feng Qu, who waved merrily as the Avatar entered before them. Rensa, right by his side, also smiled. Trinley sat in the center and gestured for Aang to take a seat in front of them. Shao was on his opposite side. He remained serious, but still acknowledged the Avatar in a friendly manner. At the far right was Nola, who simply stared ahead blankly.

"Welcome, Aang. We've been expecting you," Trinley remarked to him. "Icarus is joining us today so we might discuss something that we were talking about earlier."

"Okay, I understand," Aang said, facing him. "So, how did Tenzin and Vameira do on their latest tests? Did they master those new moves I taught them okay?"

"Tenzin did phenomenal. He got top marks as usual." Trinley then awkwardly added "Vameira, on the other hand, barely passed to the next level."

"We think she may be a little behind," Shao stated flatly.

"I think she will get past it, though," Rensa chimed in. "I think she has the potential to be as powerful as any of us, but she seems a little unsure of herself at the present. She doesn't try hard enough."

"Okay," Aang responded, hanging his head. He decided to cut the pleasantries short. "So what's the general report?"

"There was a bountiful harvest at the Southern Air Temple this past year," Nola stated dryly. "There new crop of young Air Nomads seems to be catching on better than they were before. All is well."

"We sent some of the surplus harvest to the Fire Nation," Trinley added in. "They have not been as fortunate as us of late. And we believe there may be trouble looming there." Hearing about trouble from the Fire Nation from the Council of Elders. This seemed eerily familiar for Aang.

"I've also been leading an effort to find more lemurs and bring them to our sanctuary," Feng Qu told him. "Want to protect surviving ones as much as possible, you know?"

"Sure," Aang stated. At this point everyone paused, nothing more to say. "So what else was it that you wanted to talk about?" Aang inquired.

"Well, given that some of us have become higher level Airbending Masters now," Shao said to him. "We were wondering when it would be that you would teach us the more advanced moves."

Aang looked quizzical. "I've already shown pretty much everything that I know – which is a lot. I do not understand what moves you speak of."

"I was speaking with Icarus and Nola about this earlier," Shao commented. "It was the moves like the one you used to take away the Fire Lord's bending away. It's the same type of technique you used to allow us all to bend."

"That's Energybending, not Airbending," Aang told him flatly. "I cannot teach you that. It's a different bending art."

"Shao and I were under the impression that this Energybending was a higher level of Airbending – like lightning is for fire" Icarus told him. "It's a great story how you used it on the Fire Lord. Although, personally, I don't see why you didn't just kill him. Even Avatar Yangchen said it would have been okay. But anyhow, if we knew how to do this, it would help repopulate the nation faster."

"I said it before and I'll say it again," Aang said, annoyed. "Energybending is not part of Airbending. It is not even part of Elemental Bending. It is what people used to bend in the Era Before the Avatar."

"Okay, well that's cleared that up," Trinley said, relieved. Apparently he had not been a part of this misguided quest for knowledge. Aang was relieved. Trinley has always been his most sensible student.

"Well, I need to be going back to the South Pole now," Aang said cheerfully. "Thanks for your time."

"Unfortunately, Appa is not ready to take back yet," Rensa told him regrettably. "He still needs rest and he'll need to eat something before he flies again."

"No big deal," Aang shrugged. "Now that we've cleared up the matters of the day, how about a nice game of Air Ball, everyone?"

Everyone was looking forward to this now, the stressful parts of their conversation out of their minds for now. Everyone except Nola, that is. "Whatever," Nola added nonchalantly, her head tilted away.

Aang's spirits sunk somewhat. There's Nola being herself again. Would it kill her to enjoy being an Air Nomad a little more?

TO BE CONTINUED...
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #20 on: Oct 13, 2012 06:23 pm »

Chapter Twelve: The Calling Statue

Fire Nation Royal Palace, 120 ASC

As the windows of the home of the Fire Nation ruling dynasty caught the refreshing glow of the afternoon sun, five youthful figures trotted through the corridors of the giant palace. They were the dignified Zuko, the confident Sokka, the mellow but encouraging Mai, the mighty Katara – as she had in fact been described on occasions past – and last but not least, Aang, the peace and justice-loving Avatar. It was not through the darker interior that they took their stroll together, but through the lined hallways surrounding the courtyard. There, just outside the window and within their sight, were a handful of their collective offspring. At the base of the pond where Zuko held distant memories with his mother, Katara and Aang's daughter Vameira knelt and stretched her arm out over the water, trying to touch the turtle ducks, which swam just outside her reach. Meanwhile, not twenty feet away, the Fire Nation Princess Neinei laughed as Tenzin said something to her with his head turned around. In front of him, he was controlling a miniature tornado with his Airbending. The remainder of the younger crowd were not in sight. Soon after arriving, Kaddo had found himself abducted by little girls wanting to play hide and explode. He did not know what he was getting into, as this was not a game he was used to playing being raised in the Water Tribes.

As they passed by the courtyard, Aang turned and spoke to the others. "This place is so huge. Even after knowing Zuko so long I still feel I see rooms I've never been in every time I come."

"Yes, it is much larger that our home in the South Pole. It's probably larger than our entire village, even," Katara uttered in agreement as she stared at her surroundings.

Zuko could not dispute this, so he nodded. But he then added "I think your Air Temples could give this place a good run for its money. I've never seen anything quite like them anywhere else."

Aang smirked with nostalgia. "The Southern Air Temple does have quite the vast collection of sites and hallways."

"I think the Western one has always been my favorite Air Temple," Katara chimed in. "Even though we never spend time there anymore."

Aang turned his nose away from her. "Hmph!. All the Air Temples are nice, of course. But I like the Southern one the best. It has more flavor and character than the rest."

"Flavor and character? If thats what you want to call it," Sokka shrugged at him.

As Aang shot a look in his direction, Katara changed the subject. "Is it really smart for us to have the kids roaming the palace on their own?"

"They're not that young anymore, Katara," Aang told her. "Quit babying them."

"Don't worry, they'll be fine," Mai reassured Katara. "Nothing's going to jump out at them from around a corner. And even if they get lost, one of the guards or servants will show them back to you. Our daughters have never had any kind of trouble."

"That's different - they grew up here," Katara countered sternly to the Fire Lady. "Our kids could easily get lost in a place like this."

Aang decided to nip this tension in the bud by changing the subject. "So where's your uncle Iroh today Zuko. Wasn't the Dragon of the West supposed to grace us all with his presence today?"

"He was, but he never left Ba Sing Se," Zuko answered gloomily. "I received a messenger hawk from him today canceling his visit. Says business is swamping him or something."

"Sheesh!" interjected Sokka. "Won't anybody just allow the poor old guy to just enjoy his retirement?"

"Oh, he's enjoying it quite well, I assure you," continued Zuko. "Trust me, there is nothing Uncle likes more than brewing tea and playing Pai Sho with his most valued and regular customers. The more the merrier in his eyes. People flock to his little Ba Sing Se tea shop from all over the Earth Kingdom – all over world, in fact."

"Is he as well-liked in the Fire Nation nowadays as he is in the Earth Kingdom?" Katara asked Zuko.

"Yes," Mai chimed in. "Well, umm...sort of," she said in a backtrack.

"It all depends on who you ask," explained Zuko. "Those who remember serving alongside him continue to think very highly of him. But some people's memories only stretch so long. His retreat at Ba Sing Se and his 'betrayal' during Azula's coup still stand out in a lot of minds."

"How can people still not be over that?" Aang asked him.

"Changing a government is one thing, but changing hearts and minds is something completely different. If I had to say one way or the other, then I would say he's still mostly well-liked. The men who he led in battle did not just see him as a great general, but as their Crown Prince in a time when their Fire Lord was much past his prime. Iroh was their future Fire Lord – a leader to them."

"But he never became Fire Lord," stated Sokka.

"No – he didn't," Zuko said, looking down.

Aang reflected silently for a moment. He had been on the receiving end of Iroh's wisdom on two brief but memorable instances. The first was when he left his training with Guru Pathik at the Eastern Air Temple to rescue Katara in Ba Sing Se. At the time Aang had been bitterly torn between duty to the world as the Avatar and his personal attachment – meaning his love for Katara – as a human being. Sometimes still he wondered whether or not he made right choice that day. Perhaps katara would have been alright without his interventions, since, after all, it was him that everyone was really after.
And maybe everyone would have been better off if he had forced himself to be patient. If he had taken the time to finish his training with Pathik rather than on a whim while in the crystal catacombs. Then he might not have been killed by Azula, the Hundred Years War may have been over sooner and Katara could have saved her spirit water for another occasion.

But whenever such thoughts of the past troubled him, the wise and comforting words of Zuko's uncle rang in his ears.

"Perfection and power are overrated. I think you were very wise to choose happiness and love."

There was much more than good tea and a good laugh to that man. Aang understood why Zuko admired him so deeply.

The second instance was right after the war was over and the gang was reunited at the Jasmine Dragon. This was when Iroh spoke with Aang about the prospect of Energybending. Again, Aang felt the conflicting forces behind his duty and his humanity. Iroh had told him that there was value in learning about all his abilities and this was something to pursue. Very basic, this seemed only common sense to Aang. But in this case, he appeared to be striving more for perfection and power. Not only was he bringing back his beloved people – the Air Nomads – but he sought to correct all the unfortunate events of the past. Some that arose from mistakes he himself had made – in this life and in past lives. As he became more and more powerful, he could not help but strive for a more and more perfect world shaped by his guidance. It troubled him now, too, that his world was being tainted by turmoil in the Fire Nation. At least he had the help of his friend Fire Lord Zuko to attend to that. As for Energybending, though, Aang could not help but feel that those elusive assailants from unknown origin he had encountered over the years had something to do with it. They were clearly interested in it. Or, at the very least, they were interested in his practicing of it.

As the group turned a corner into another hallway away from the courtyard and the children, Aang's reflections were cut short as Zuko broke the silence. "Why is your family not here, Sokka?"

"Well, Suki was busy and I didn't see a need to drag the kids along with me," Sokka sighed. "I'm mostly in town now because this visit happened to coincide with Piandao's induction into the Vault as a distinguished war veteran."

"Oh yes, I heard about that. Big day for him."

"Excuse me, but what is the Vault?" Katara asked, confused.

"The Vault is sort of a hall of fame and gallery for great warriors here in the Fire Nation Capital. Only the best are honored there," Zuko explained to her."  But given Piandao's record, I can't say I'm surprised."

"Yes. And you are all invited as well, by the way," Sokka added, looking at everyone.

"Oh well sounds interesting," Katara said mildly. "Will you be tagging along for that, Zuko?"

"I cannot," Zuko said, sounding genuinely disappointed. "I have a private meeting this afternoon with Chan, my War Minister."

Aang rejoined the conversation. "You've told me about Chan before. I've never heard you speak fondly of him..."

"Yeah. Didn't you have some unpleasant experience with the guy when you were teenagers," Sokka asked Zuko before Zuko could respond to Aang.

Mai giggled at the mention of this. "Hehe. He did and I was there. But we sure showed him in the end." She had a rather mischievous grin on her face as she finished.

"It's not that – we've both gotten over that," Zuko replied harshly. "It's just he's incapable and advises me to make poor decisions most of the time."

"Just replace him with someone more competent who you can get along with," Katara instructed him matter-of-factly. "You're the Fire Lord."

"Believe me, I want to," Zuko told her with a roll of his eyes. "But there's no one else at the moment."

Fire Nation Capital

Later, Sokka, Aang, Katara and their kids were still in the Fire Nation Capital but far from the palace and the upper section of town. They were on the very outskirts of the city where it was quiet and there were only a few small Fire Nation houses. They were there to meet Piandao before walking a short distance to the Vault with him. They were at the arranged location at the arranged time. Piandao, however, was a little late.

"Zuko seemed to have a lot on his mind today," said Katara solemnly. "You think it has to do with him being Fire Lord and all the rumors we hear of trouble in the Fire Nation nowadays?"

"Oh, he's probably just overworked," said Aang dismissively. "I'm sure that he has it all under control. He's one of the best Fire Lords there's ever been. I'm sure this year's harvest will be better than the last two and things will be back to normal in no time."

"Back to normal? Yeah, right," Kaddo said to everyone. "Tenzin's anything but normal now with all the demonstations and macho talk he's been giving Princess Neinei lately."

"Shut your mouth, Kaddo," Tenzin shot back at his brother. "That's ridiculous. I didn't do any more Airbending today than I did any other day."

"Ha!" Kaddo scoffed. "I heard you telling you were so skilled you could bend the sky itself."

"Like you're one to talk," Tenzin snapped at him. "I see you dangling your water whip like its the most amazing feat ever every time you meet someone new! It's like you think you're the ultimate Waterbender or something. Even though you're still studying the basics..."

"Settle down now, boys," Aang said to them sternly. "Piandao is approaching us."

And indeed he was. Although his hair had grown grayer and there were more wrinkles on his face, the majestic-looking Piandao seemed as fit and agile as ever as he trotted toward them. His eyes met Sokka's first. "Sokka..."

"Master," Sokka greeted with a bow and a smile. "It's good to see you again."

"It's good to see you, too," said Piandao after rising from his own bow back to Sokka. "I hear much of you these days – Chief of the Southern Water Tribe. I daresay you must have matured into a better sword master than I by now."

"Well, that's setting the bar really high," Sokka responded with a smile he could not help. "But I have been fine-tuning my skills quite a bit lately, so..."

"So where do we have to go now, Piandao," Katara cut him off. Sokka stared at her irritably.

"Well, as you've probably heard, the Vault is like a hall of fame for warriors and swordsmanship. I was offered a commendation now that I'm pretty much retired, although I can still keep it up pretty well," he chuckled like an older Sokka might do. "You might expect such a place to be in a busier neighborhood, but it was built in the outer part to preserve the stable atmosphere around the relics. It's about hald a mile's walk up this path," he finished, pointing.

Katara frowned at this, but she was the only one who did. "Let's get going," Aang said enthusiastically as he led onward with Piandao and the others.
Fire Nation Royal Palace

Zuko twitched slightly as he sat in his chair waiting for Chan to arrive. He felt guilty – guilty for not telling his friends and his wife just how serious a situation he was in. For not mentioning the most recent riots, which had been more large and violent than any to date. And of course, for not mentioning that full-scale war could break out again at a moment's notice. Matters were that fragile now. But Zuko had decided that he could get away with not telling them. He could handle it all. He had to. For his country, for his wife and for his children.

At last, Chan burst into the room, throwing the door open in a rush and carrying a grubby bag with scrolls hanging out at his side. "Sorry I'm late, Sir!" And with that, he placed his bag on the small, rounded table Zuko sat in front of. It fell to a side and a couple of the scrolls rolled out.

Zuko stared at him with widened eyes, but paid no response. Chan bowed respectfully. "It is an honor to be in your presence as always, my Fire Lord."

Zuko subsequently gestured for Chan to rise. At the conclusion of their formal greeting, Chan took his seat beside Zuko at the table. They were in a smaller, more private chamber aside from the main war room and throne room. This would suit their purpose nicely. Hopefully the meeting will be brief, Zuko thought to himself. Then I may still have time to catch up with the others before the day is past. Chan seems fairly ill-prepared.

Unfortunately, though, this would not be the case for him today. "War Minister – your report," Zuko commanded him promptly.

"Yes, sir. Harvest figures so far this year appear to show no notable improvement from last year. What food is available is typically reserved for the elite.  This is a practice followed by certain local governments, not the national government. However, many of the commoners blame the national government for their woes."

Zuko new that in this case, national government meant him. "What is your recommendation?"

"Well, a notice of censure has been issued to the provinces with the highest levels of abuse. It is probably about time to issue another one."

"What?" Zuko asked him, bewildered. What Chan was suggesting reaked of being too little too late. "We already warned them once so now that they continue to do wrong we should just warn them again? That won't work!" Zuko then calmed himself down. "So, what else?"

"As the common folk become dissatisfied," Chan continued "with the distribution, among other things, they listen to speeches given to them by former war veterans and backers of the Fire Lords who came before you. They shout phrases like 'down with the government'. It is not merely the harvests that they speak of. The poor reputation of the Fire Nation citizens abroad combined with the sentiment that their Fire Lord is more sympathetic to the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes than to his own people..."

"That's not true," Zuko interrupted impatiently. "I consider my subjects' well-being in every decision I make. And I sympathize with all who were effected by the Hundred Years War – in every nation, including this one."

"Of cours, Sire," Chan agreed. "But at the same time, all the people are hearing are these troublemakers' speeches and accept everything that they say as the truth."

Zuko put his hand on on his chin and thought to himself. "And what is your recommendation on this?"

"We should give the feudal governors incentive to collaborate with us and prevent any trouble from breaking out."

Zuko pondered for a moment. "These people need strong leadership. That's what they expect. The cooperation of the local officials must be demanded. The reason that these mongers can influence so many people is that there's a power vacuum and they can fill it in."

"They are filling it quite well," Chan added. "A large riot has just broken out in the village of Hukow."

"I see..."

"It would be wise to send perhaps two divisions to the area. Then we can follow-up by blockading and quarantining the area for an indefinite amount of time."

"What – no! Break up the riot and punish the wrongdoers, yes. But I will not commit acts of war against my own people. The last thing that we need to do is escalate the situation further. That's just what the insurgents want. Chaos and warlordism would spread throught the country like wildfire if we handle this in the incorrect way."

"You can't think like that, you need to be decisive!"

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do!" Zuko snapped.

Chan backed off. "Of course, you are the Fire Lord. This is your decision."

"I think this meeting is concluded," said Zuko coldly.

Chan nodded awkwardly. "Alright – well, you know where to find me in the mean time. I am your humble servant." And with that he bowed and then left.

Zuko did not verbally respond to Chan as he departed the room. How clueless could a person be? His suggestions were all either absurdedly too far or not far enough. This meeting had indeed been a waste of his time. Apart from the incident in Hukow, he had not learned anything that he did not already know. How Zuko wished he had gone with the others to the Vault now. He wished that he could wave all these troubles away somehow. Being Fire Lord had seemed so much simpler and easier when he was first crowned. Now...he just did not know. Something had to be done, but what?
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #21 on: Oct 13, 2012 06:26 pm »

(continued)
The Vault

Piandao, Sokka, Aang, Katara and the children stood near the entrance way inside a giant rotunda. A young woman in her early-to-mid twenties sat behind a desk at the edge of the room. Upon noticing the group of people that lay before her, she rose to her feet. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, I am master Piandao," the grizzled old swordsman told her.

"Of course," she said, smiling. "Wait one moment." And with that she turned and went through a door on the other side of her desk.

Aang took a second and looked around the room. It was made of marble, with tan linings tracing the white stone walls. Much of the room appeared to be made of marble. This was an unusual building for the Fire Nation – especially in the Capital.

When the young woman emerged from the door once more, she had an older man with her. He was short and plump, wore traditional Fire Nation robes and a massive gray beard which contrasted with his wrinkly, balding head.

He grinned as he laid eyes upon the visitors. "Master Piandao – and friends. Welcome. I trust you found the place okay?"

"Yep, piece of cake!" Sokka said exuberantly.

"Is that – Avatar Aang, well, what a pleasant surprise," the man added as he surveyed the group with his eyes. "Thank you, Renata," he added back to the younger woman, who sat back down at her desk and began writing something down. "My name is Thandao Zhou – but you all can just call me Tad for short. I am the Vaultmaster – the keeper of this Vault. As you all know, this is Piandao's big day, but you arrived a little ahead of schedule for that. Why don't I show you all around the place some. Would you like that?" He turned to Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira, who all nodded in response.

The Vaultmaster led them through a giant set of doors and down a long, wide hallway. A large, red carpet stretched across the room.

"So, you're the man in charge around here?" Kaddo asked him curiously. "You're the boss!"

"Yes, yes I am," the Vaultmaster said back to him.

"Kaddo, let Tad do his job," Katara told her son.

"It's okay," he said, brushing the remarks aside. "So, here we we honor the greatest warriors of all time. This place has existed for centuries and we have many initiates. Soon Piandao will be among them."

"Is it the greatest warriors from all over the world?" Katara asked him skeptically as she looked around. "Almost all the swords and exhibits here appear to be Fire Nation.

"Well, mostly," he conceded. "After all, we can't help it if our nation has produced the best of the crop on numerous occasions."

Katara was becoming visibly annoyed at his boastful tone. He was clearly biased. Understandable, since this was a Fire Nation institution.

"But we do have some from other nations as well," he added. "For example," he said while pointing to two long blades with Water Tribe symbols on them "there are these. These two swords are hundreds of years old. They were exchanged by Chief Sirius the Thirteenth of the Northern Water Tribe and Chief Natsu the Eleventh of the Southern Water Tribe in a ceremony to commemorate the new alliance between them. In their day the tribes did not have much contact with one another."

"The tribes didn't have much contact when I was growing up either," Katara added coolly. "That was during the Hundred Years War."
Aang shot her a look. Did she really have to stir up trouble here? This was a touchy subject and the man would not change any of his opinions or sentiments now. It was not worth it.

Fortunately, the Vaultmaster ignored her and continued. "It's been quite a while since these blades have seen any combat, but just like Waterbending, the swords are stronger at night. The steel becomes strengthened by the moon beams."

"How many swords are here?" asked Sokka.

"A lot. 20,791 to be exact. Those that we don't have room to display we keep in storage."

It took a while for them to tour the buliding. Tad would stop in front of each sword and tell a story about each one. Aang could tell he was an experienced storyteller and knew how to make it sound interesting. Sokka and Piandao were very intrigued. Aang paid polite attention. Katara seemed like she would rather be someplace else. At last they came to a room filled with statues of warriors on pedestals.

"That last guy was awesome. So was the guy who was inspired by him," Tenzin said to Kaddo.

"Yeah, even if they were Fire Nation," Kaddo said back to him.

"Kaddo come on," his father told him. "The war is over. Don't say things like that. All nations are at peace now."

"And here we have, Brit the Mighty over there and Matrias the Magnificent over here," Tad kept telling them as he pointed around. "He met some notable Water Tribe women in his time."

"Oh, what lovely bones," Vameira said, gesturing up at a bone necklace on a statue of a female warrior with a long sword, a rounded shield and elegant armor.

"Ah, 'Lady Lost' as they used to call her," Tad said of her, fondly. "She was strong and wise."

"Smart enough to win a trivia contest, ya think?" Tenzin asked randomly.

"I suppose you could say that."

As Tad pointed to another statue, going on about how the warrior was swift and agile and some said he had the "legs of a frog," Aang broke with the rest of the group. He felt the sudden and strange urge to walk off in the opposite direction toward one of the farther walls. He did not know why he found himself walking in that direction at first, but then he realized he was being drawn to one of the statues. When he stood in front of it, he looked up at the head and into its eyes. This was a tall, muscular man with armor in a style that he could not recognize. It must be thousands of years old. As Tad had said, many of the items in here dated from long ago. The man himself had sharp eyes, large but well-groomed hair and beard and weapons held neatly by his belt. Aang continued to look up into the eyes of the statue, transfixed by it. Was the statue trying to tell him something? It seemed ridiculous, but now that he thought about it, it might be. He could vaguely hear a voice coming at him. "Aang...Aang," it said. Perhaps the statue was calling out to him. Now he was feeling an overwhelming force on his arm and the voice was growing louder – this had to be the statue trying to give him a message of some kind.

No, this was not the statue. It was Katara. She was grabbing his arm and shaking it. "Aang – what are you doing? Wake up!"

"Huh – what?" Aang said, coming back to earth. He turned to see Katara, Sokka, Piandao, Tad, Tenzin, Kaddo and Vameira giving him strange looks. "What happened?"

"You just walked off and started staring up into the eyes of this statue here. Your mouth was wide open and you weren't responding to anything. We were getting a little worried," Tenzin told him.

"Statue...it was talking to me..." Aang muttered.

"You think that maybe dad's been hitting the cactus juice?" Vameira asked Kaddo under her breath.

"So, who is this?" Sokka asked Tad as Katara let her hand off of Aang and he started feeling awake again.

"That's Avatar Doru Kun of the Earth Kingdom. He lived over two millennia ago. One of the best swordsmen of his era in addition to mastering all four elements."

"Well, that explains it," Sokka said. "He acted like that soon after me and my sister first met him and we went to the Southern Air Temple."

Now that Aang thought about it, this did feel somewhat like being in Roku's presence. He did not expect to find one of his past lives in here. Was this Doru Kun trying to tell him something? Aang did not see himself being able to talk to him directly. It became much more difficult the farther he went back. Talking to Kuruk or Yangchen was more difficult than Roku or Kyoshi. Maybe Doru Kun could pass on a message to him in some other way. The feeling Aang got from him was clearly...unusual.

"What other information do you have on him?" Aang asked Tad.

"Oh, not a whole lot. He's a legendary figure, but its hard to determine what about him is actually true and what's speculation. If you want to learn more about him you could travel to the Cave of the Ancients. He has a shrine there."

"When it comes to Avatars, dad's cool and all. But I personally believe that Avatar Kuruk is number one!" Kaddo was telling Tenzin and Vameira.

"What? Didn't he neglect his duty to the world?" Vameira asked him, surprised. "And the evil spirit stole his wife's head or something?"

"You're such a freak, Kaddo," Tenzin told him. Then he went on to talk about Doru Kun. "So if dad's like the 1,000th Avatar or something – the first being a really really long time ago, of course – what number would this guy be? How many cycles back you think? Maybe twenty-eight? And if there's four in a cycle...that would make this guy...well, I'm not very good at math."

"Avatar lover!" said Vameira.

"You're calling me a freak?" asked Kaddo. "What do you know about Avatars? You're a freak times twenty-one!"

Aang turned to his children. "What is with you today? You all seem to be behaving rather oddly."

"Sorry," said Tenzin. "I've just been getting this weird feeling lately. It's like somehow somewhere people are viewing this dialogue differently. It's like an inside joke we're not in on and it's driving me insane."

"Sounds like you already are insane," Kaddo told him.

"Anyway, this Cave of the Ancients..." Aang continued, turning back to Tad. "What is it exactly."

"Well, it's inside a mountain. It's a really ancient cavern..."

"No, really? With a name like that – you don't say?"

"Shut up, Tenzin!"

"If you're going there, I can find you directions."

"That would be great."

Aang proceeded to follow Tad into a back room where he took out a map and pointed to where it was. He gave Aang further directions and told him a little bit about the cave itself, although he did not know how to get there once you got to the mountain, which was conveniently located several miles from Omashu. That's perfect, Aang thought – I can go next time we see Toph. As he emerged from the back room, he was set on doing this new expedition soon. But Sokka reminded him why they were there and it was soon time to attend Piandao's induction. Aang kept silent throughout this as his mind now lay elsewhere.

TO BE CONTINUED...
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #22 on: Oct 14, 2012 06:29 pm »

Chapter Thirteen: Migo

Outside Omashu, 120 ASC

Everyone was standing still and silent. Recently having dismounted from the Avatar's enormous sky bison, the small clique of individuals now stood on the mountainside beside the long rocky bridge which led to the great Earth Kingdom city of Omashu. Aang and Katara – the closest ones to Appa, stood adjacent to one another, holding hands. They had dropped off the kids at the Southern Air Temple on the way over. There they would be under Shao and Nola's watch. Tenzin and Vameira had plenty of room to Airbend and would be able to socialize with their Airbending peers in the meantime. Kaddo, on the other hand, was not at all satisfied with the arrangement and would have preferred to have stayed at the South Pole. This would have been a possibility as "Grandpa Hakoda" would not have minded taking him in, but Katara and Aang were both against it. It did not seem good for their kids to be split up like that all the time. Although Tenzin and Vameira were of a different bending discipline, they were still Kaddo's brother and sister. It was impotant that they spend some time together. Kaddo did not understand this point and had been infuriated by his parents' decision. He would rather be at the South Pole with more Water to bend and other Waterbenders to spar with. His mother reassured him that one of the unused rooms in the temple would be made available to him to practice using his healing abilities. Given Kaddo's attitude about healing as being "women's work" this was counterproductive in cheering him up. Katara was frustrated by her son's views.

However, Katara and Aang were trying not to focus on family issues as they had a new task at hand – to seek out the shrine of Doru Kun so that Aang could learn from him. To find this shrine in the so-called "Cave of the Ancients," Aang had formed a small expeditionary force. Aside from him and Katara, this included Sokka, Suki, Ty Lee, Zuko and Mai. Now they were just waiting for Toph to arrive before they would set off. Being the busy queen that she was, Aang made sure to give her advance notice. It was lucky enough that Katara and Aang planned to visit her soon anyways and could work within such a tight time frame. Aang had used Momo to send her a message. Apparently his flying lemur was intelligent enough to deliver messages between friends the same way a Fire Nation messenger hawk might. Aang had only been able to train Momo to do so within the past year. Now Momo's new skill had been tested a few times and he had successfully received Toph's reply before coming today. She must have had one of her servants read the message to her and compose her response.

Aang was still unsure of himself in regards to bringing so many along on a seemingly personal quest. This concerned his Avatarhood rather than saving the world from any immediate danger. Perhaps it was best that he take this journey alone. The Avatar always walks alone – apart from others. But, then again, he was not alone and should not act like it. He had his friends and family to help him. Together they represented all nations and combat styles, lending truth to the name "Team Avatar."

Finally, the gigantic gates across from them parted and Toph marched through them. She wore nothing regal today, but an outfit similarly she had donned as the Blind Bandit years ago. Perhaps she found this more appropriate for the occasion. Of course, being blind, she never cared that much for fashion.

As she set foot on the summit, Toph felt her way to Aang with her feet and turned her head in his direction as though she could see him. "Twinkle Toes! So you're finally giving me my long-overdue mini-vacation? I think I've known you long enough to qualify for that now."

"Not exactly, Toph," Aang retorted with a smirk.

"Darn," Toph replied with mock disappointment. "So rumor has it that you want to go to some cave around here. I don't know what's so special about that cave – you've felt one, you've felt them all. You know, if you really want to see a cave so bad I can Earthbend you one out of this mountain here in a couple seconds. Frankly, in fact, I'd expect you to be able to do that yourself by now."

"No, we're not here to tinker with natural landscape," Aang told her.

"Where's your royal escort today?" Katara asked her.

"I gave them the day off," Toph answered irritably.

"If they're with you all the time, I'm sure they deserve one by now," Sokka added.

"Anyway," Aang interjected, trying to keep everyone on topic. "This particular cave is a sacred location which has a shrine to one of my past lives somewhere within and I intend to go there."

"Okay Twinkle Toes...so what's the plan for that?"

"Well, the directions that Tad gave us lead us to the mountain range that the cave is supposedly in. Once we get there, we need to check the surrounding area to find the mountain which matches the description in relation to what's around it."

"So we'll be flying on Appa then? Great..." said Toph. After all this time, she still had her misgivings about that form of travel.

"Sounds good to me," Sokka added. "It will be a lot smoother than going on foot."

"Sokka, Appa's tired," Katara pointed out to him. "He needs a break. Plus, Aang is going to need to take a close look at the mountain to find where the cave is. He won't be able to do that while flying from above."

"That's true..." Aang admitted, although he secretly preferred flying to walking in this case.

"If this no one knows where this cave is, how do we know it even exists?" Toph asked everyone. "Maybe this is all just one big wild boar goose chase."

Aang shot her a look which he knew she could not see. "It exists," he said, annoyed.

"Well, if we are going on foot, we might as well go over this mountain range," Zuko suggested. "We'll have less distance to travel that way."

"No!" Mai and Ty Lee both exclaimed simultaneously in response. The mountain Zuko spoke of was rocky and steep on both sides.

"The path is much smoother going down to the forest and following the path," Aang noted.

"Yes, and its what most of us are better dressed for," Suki added.

"Either way, once we get there, how are we going to even look for the cave?" Toph questioned. "My seismic sense can find it if we're close enough. But not if this is looking for a needle in a haystack. Plus I can't tell one opening from another."

"We'll find a way," Aang stated flatly. But Toph did have a point. He had not planned ahead for that part of the process. This was going to be trickier than Aang initially thought.

People seemed unsure of themselves. Katara intervened. "This place probably exists. The Vaultmaster knew there was a shrine there. And he knew how to get there. Even if no one's been there in a while, that info had to come from somewhere. The best we can do is to leave Appa here and get there as quickly as we can so we can follow the directions. We'll go down through the forest since its more efficient. Even if going over the mountain is less distance, it would take longer because of the slope. And we'll need to save our energy for when we actually get to the base of the right mountain range. There's also a village on the way where we can eat and maybe stay the night."

Everyone went quiet, staring around for a few moments. They nodded in agreement.

"Great," Katara remarked. "Then let's leave Appa in Omashu and then we can get going."

Toph summoned the guard from the other side of the bridge to come over to them and escort Appa back across the bridge, with instructions to tend to him thoroughly. The guard obliged and the gang turned and left, with Katara leading the way. She had taken charge at everyone else's moment of indecisiveness. Ty Lee and Suki led the Kyoshi Warriors. Zuko, Mai and Toph were royalty. Then there was her brother, the Chief and her husband, the Avatar. All had ample leadership experience, but they had now become followers of her. It was odd, but it seemed to make sense to them. Katara had a curious and inspiring trait about her and they all knew it. She was someone people could easily look up to. She was the only one of the group without a title or position, but she did not need one. Katara was Katara. Enough said.

As the eight of them went through the woods, they used the sun to keep track of their direction as they trees had grown high enough to block their view of the surrounding mountains. Aang recognized one of the paths that shot off from the one they were on as the way to the Cave of Two Lovers, another legendary mountain cave in the area. He remembered going there with Katara the year they first met. It was where they shared their – very brief – first kiss. It had been little more than a peck that Katara had not acknowledged later. Their first real kiss had been during the failed invasion of the Fire Nation the following Summer. Aang's reminiscing of his experience with Katara now made him realize how much he could never take her for granted. He was truly grateful for her help today.
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AvatarRokusGhost
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« Reply #23 on: Oct 14, 2012 06:30 pm »

(continued)
The Village


At last they came to the village Katara had pointed out to them. They did not see a sign for it anywhere on the way and they did not know its name or even if it had from. The place was so small and remote. The townsfolk led very simple lives here – many having never even left the place. Although it was technically in close proximity to Omashu, a large city, it was so small and out of the way that the Fire Nation probably did not bother with it during the Hundred Years War. The main street had only a few small shops and houses on it. The village had scarcely more than fifty inhabitants in all and they did not see outsiders very often.

As they were walking down the street, their eyes looking for a place to stay, Toph stopped suddenly and slammed her foot into the ground, Earthbending up a small column off to the side and throwing a young man several feet in the air. "What're you looking at?" she yelled, not quite facing him.

The man before them had landed face-down on the ground after Toph's thrust. The others, particularly Katara, found Toph's actions a little harsh. He did seem in fine condition though, apart from the shock factor. He rose to his feet and brushed the dust off his shirt and pants with his large hands. He was tall, with his hair neatly groomed and placed into a tiny topknot. He sported a smoothly-cut chin-strap beard. As for his clothes, he had on a light green Earth Kingdom tunic with matching colored baggy pants.

"'I said...what're you looking at?" Toph bellowed, annoyed.

"Oh...uh, your lemur," the guy answered her after looking around with his eyes and spotting Momo.

"The lemur?" Toph scowled, unconvinced.

"Why were you looking at Momo?" Aang asked the stranger.

"Momo, what a nice name," he commented, meagerly dodging the question.

"What's your name?" Katara asked the man. She did not feel threatened by him and wanted to make the interaction more friendly.

"Name's Migo," he said hastily. "Nice to meet y'all," he added, waving to the group as a whole.

"Hi, I'm Aang," the Avatar said to him, following Katara's lead.

"I'm Sokka." Sokka was almost bored in introducing himself to Migo.

"I'm Suki," Suki added with a forced smile.

"I'm Ty Lee," Ty Lee added with her ordinary smile.

"Hello, I'm Zuko. Nice to meet you." Zuko did not know why, but he liked Migo from the get-go.

"My name is Mai. I'm with him," she added, gesturing at Zuko.

An uncomfortable silence followed. Migo turned to Toph as Katara and Aang both shot her a look. "Toph," she said flatly, arms crossed and her eyes not meeting his.

"Sorry," Aang apologized to Migo "about our friend knocking you off your feet with her Earthbending."

"It's fine – don't worry about it," Migo reassured him while still rubbing the spot he had landed on.

"Hmph! He shouldn't have been staring," Toph stated in a disgruntled voice.

"I'm actually used to it," he continued. "I'm an Earthbender myself. I've been trained really well – had a good teacher."

"You've never seen an Earthbender like me before," Toph asserted.

Katara was irritated by her rudeness. "Toph, be nice!"

"So, what brings you to town?" Migo questioned them.

"Well, I'm the Avatar," Aang informed him. "And these are my friends. We're looking for a place called the Cave of the Ancients in these mountains. We saw that this village was on the way so we're stopping in for a bit."

"Oh, okay," Migo returned. "We don't normally get a lot of outsiders coming through this area, let alone Airbenders or Avatars. I actually think I've heard of this cave of yours. I heard my Brawki mention something about it once."

"Who's Brawki?" asked Aang.

"That's great," Katara interjected pleasantly. "Any chance you could take us to him? We need all the information we can get."

"Certainly. Brawki's the man who raised me. He's also my Earthbending teacher," he added at Aang. "The house is a short walk away – I'll show you."

The Avatar and company followed Migo down a winding dirt road for a few minutes. The few huts in this village were spaced apart from one another. They passed a few soy and rice farms on the way.

On the way, Katara asked Migo about himself. He responded by telling her about his background. "I was born far away in the Eastern Earth Kingdom. My mother was one of the greatest Earthbenders in the Earth King's army during the Hundred Years War – also one of the few females to serve on the Terra Team. She was killed in action and her old Earthbending instructor adopted me. Brawki also taught me to Earthbend like my mom. He's one of the best Earthbending teachers in the Earth Kingdom!"

At last they came to a hut with smoke trailing from a chimney scarcely larger than Aang's glider. As they approached the front of the dwelling, the only door opened before them. A muscular middle-aged man with a similar hairstyle to Migo emerged. Upon noticing the new arrivals, he began to size them up, looking at each of them closely.

"Who are these persons?" His voice was low and harsh-sounding.

"Some visitors to the village," Migo told him. "They came asking questions about the Cave of the Ancients. I told them you knew about it and could maybe tell them something helpful."

Brawki was annoyed at hearing this. "What did you tell them that for? How do we know we can trust these outsiders – they may be here to cause us trouble." Brawki angled his right leg out, ready to Earthbend.

"What if among said outsiders are the Queen of Omashu and the Avatar?"

"Hmph. Then I suppose they're probably alright." Brawki brought his foot back toward himself and stood upright. "Come in."

The Avatar and company were barely able to squeeze inside of the small room they entered, which seemed even smaller from the inside than it did from the outside. Brawki put a pot of tea on his rusted kettle and sat down with everyone else. There were not enough chairs around, so most of them found themselves kneeling or sitting on the floor. Brawki pulled over a large wooden crate and rested himself on top of it so he was looking down at most of his guests.

Brawki began telling them all he knew about the cave. "The Cave of the Ancients is one of the greatest mysteries around here – that's an understatement. There is so much on it its near-impossible to separate all the fact from fiction. It is one of the cornerstones of the lore of this region – in fact, the entire Earth Kingdom. People tell stories about going there and their experiences in the cave. Most of them are probably false. The cave is only found by those who are worthy to find it. People who do go there generally find either more than they were looking for or something entirely different than they were looking for. Whatever the case, no one who sets foot in there is ever quite the same person when they leave it."

Katara interrupted. "Excuse me sir, but what do you mean by experiences?"

Brawki shrugged at her. "It can be different things. Sometimes people simply feel different when they're there and find they know something about themselves they didn't know before. Others speak of hearing voices, spirits, ghosts, that kind of thing. There's a lot of rumors about that place. Like I said, its difficult separating the fact from the fiction." Brawki took the kettle off and proceeded to uncustomarily pour himself tea before handing it to Zuko, who sat beside him.

"Have you heard anything mentioned of Avatar Doru Kun having a shrine or a presence within the cave?" Aang asked him eagerly.

"That is one thing they say," Brawki stated simply. "If you're worthy, you'll find out." With that, he took a sip from his tea cup, which he held with his full fist.

"I think that I can pass that test," Aang said dismissively. "I am the Avatar."

"Hah!" Brawki laughed off. "Don't be so sure. At their core, Avatars are human just like the rest of us. And some Avatars have made selfish mistakes or neglected their duties. You may be held responsible for the actions of all your past lives."

"How do you know so much about this," Suki asked him curiously.

"I was there myself once – many years ago."

"And what did you get out of your experience there?" Sokka inquired to him.

"That is neither here nor there."

"Can you give us directions there?" Zuko requested to him.

"I'll do you even better than that," Brawki responded. "Migo, why don't you be these people's guide. Show them up the mountainside."

"You could just give us directions..." Toph began.

"Do you really think that would be necessary?" Migo said to him. "I should stay and help you out around here where I'm needed."

"Nonsense, my boy," Brawki said, waving this objection aside. "You know the area well enough and I have duties to attend to here. This is convenient. And its for the best. You should take this opportunity to help serve the Avatar."

"I suppose you're right..." Migo reluctantly agreed. "But where would I take them to exactly? I have no idea where this 'Cave of the Ancients' place is – I've never been there. I don't even know which one of the mountains it would be on."

"Take them to the cliffside on the Northwestern peak where you almost fell off when you were nine and just learning your mid-level Earthbending exercises."

"Okay, how far is the cave from there?"

"It's a little ways. There aren't that many caves or openings in the immediate area."

"How will we know which way its in?" Aang asked him.

"Just pause for a moment and let the whispers of the Ancients call out to you. Then you will know all you need to."

"Well, with directions like that there's no way we could go wrong," Sokka remarked sarcastically.

It took about an hour to pack in some new food and camping gear as well as working out logistics for the trip. Then the group set out again. Eight became nine as Migo had become their newly-appointed mountain guide, leading the way with knowledge but without confidence. Migo led them through the last section of the forest before reaching the base of the mountainside, where the ground was cleanly divided between the grassy, tender woodland and the rocky, empty mountains.

Base of the Mountain

At last they arrived at the base of the mountain, where they set up camp for the evening. Aang and Sokka gathered wood for the fire while everyone else – except for Toph – helped to set up the tents.

"I'm getting a strange feeling," Aang remarked to Sokka as they carried the wood back toward the campsite.

"Yeah, like we're being followed again."

"It's not like those assassins though. It's...different. More familiar..."

As Sokka shrugged his shoulders, not knowing what to say to that, neither of them knew how accurate a statement this was. Someone lurked in the distance, watching the whole group from her undetectable perch. It was a young woman with sharp eyes and recognizable bangs, with her hair in a tight knot complemented by a royal-styled headpiece. She wore a traditional Fire Nation war outfit, as had been common in the latter days of the Hundred Years War.

As she observed the two men walking back to join their wives and their friends, she muttered under her breath. "Its payback time."

TO BE CONTINUED...
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AvatarRokusGhost
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #24 on: Oct 15, 2012 06:57 pm »

Chapter Fourteen: Cave of the Ancirents, Part One

Base of the Mountain,120 ASC

As he leaped across the wide chasm that stood in his way, there was only one thought on his mind – defeating his opponent in combat. Finishing the job. Killing him. The task that lay before him was so great that no other Avatar in recent history would have anything to compare it to. All four elements might not be enough this time. The power that he was up against was unknown to anyone and seemingly all-powerful. But that is a false statement. Nothing in this world is all-powerful. What he's up against has a weakness – a way to be destroyed. Just like anything else. And he would exploit that weakness wherever he found it. If he did not, the world would fall out of balance. For he was the Avatar – and this was his duty!

Aang rose sharply from lying down to sitting, his legs and lower torso still buried in his sleeping bag. His dream had shook him promptly awake and his entire body was sweating heavily. He could feel Katara's body beside his, still fast asleep and undisturbed. But he had not desire to join her in rest anymore. Thanks to the dream, he was wide awake. Panting, Aang looked about to where the outside of the tent was visible before him. The sun was now visible just over the horizon. It was dawn.

Aang pulled on a light set of clothes and walked about the campsite, thinking of the dream he had just had. What could it possibly mean? It seemed like one of those visions he had had with his past lives when he started his Energybending training. But what he found more disturbing was the thoughts that he was thinking within the dream. They did not seem to fit well with the Air Nomad teachings he was raised with. But Aang did not have that much time to dwell on the thought of the dream – still clear in his mind – as everyone else soon woke up and began packing their supplies for the day ahead.

They ate baked moon peach custard for breakfast, employing Sokka's portable camping stove to cook it. This cheered Aang up from his strange dream as it had been one of his favorite morning meals as a child growing up with the Air Nomads. Everyone was lukewarm and silent as they ate, being tired from the night before and having woken up early. Aang wanted to cover as much ground as possible on the mountain today and this required an early rise on everyone's part. As soon as everyone was packed and ready, they ascended the baseline of the mountain, with a long climb ahead of them. As their temporary guide, Migo led the way.

"We haven't done this much climbing for a long time," Mai remarked. "Since we took Neinei for her visit to Ran and Shaw."

"Wasn't that five years ago?" Katara asked her.

"Six now," Mai replied simply.

"It seems now that strange everybody does it," Aang chimed in. "I recall it being quite a unique endeavor when Zuko and I went to learn from the original source of Firebending in the Sun Warrior City."

"Heheh," added Zuko. "It wasn't easy getting the Sun Warriors to go along with it, I'll tell you. And what you said isn't quite true. Not everyone can go there themselves – many have to practice with transported dragon flames. They're pretty expensive buy, since they need to be taken from the city and transported a long distance with great care so they don't flicker out along the way. Visiting the masters themselves is considered a luxury. Not all can make the journey – especially those that live in far away rural areas."

"Well it's good you started a new tradition, Zuko" Katara told him, trying to make their talk as they ascended the mountain less solemn.

"Well, it was the least I could do, really," said Zuko, brushing off his complement. "My great-grandfather, Fire Lord Sozin started tradition of hunting them in the first place. The people of the Fire Nation needed to get back to learning their proper roots. And it was important that we get back on dragons good side and end the tradition of hunting them. Well, technically it was Uncle who did that."

"But at least you ended the tradition of certain Fire Nation nobility marrying and having families at exceptionally late ages," Mai reminded him.

"True," admitted Zuko. "But my parents didn't care to follow that trend either."

The nine of them hiked up a winding, steep trail, Migo calmly lead the way. Behind him were the couples Katara and Aang and Mai and Zuko, with Toph marching awkwardly between them. Sokka, Suki and Ty Lee brought up the rear, with Ty Lee prancing almost on her tip-toes between the sharper rocks. As they continued, the trail grew more narrow and steep, making their hike all the more difficult. And as they got higher up the mountain, the Sun, as if in conjunction, got higher in the sky, bringing the hot, burning feelings of the day to their bodies. Luckily, Katara had packed enough cool water for all of them and took the liberty of bending a gulp a piece toward each person. Although, she had to try it with Toph twice, since Toph could not position her mouth right the first time due to her blindness.

Eventually, the trail had grown too steep for them to continue on uninterrupted, as it was now nearly vertical. Fortunately, there was a ledge some twenty feet to their left where a narrow, but nonetheless flat trail was available for them. It was just out of reach – that is, if it were not for Earthbending. Toph knew that this was a perfect moment for her to show off, sensing the terrain with her seismic sense. She lifted her foot up, ready to pound it back to the ground and create a passage. However, her thrill was crushed when Migo – standing in front of her – dug his own foot in the ground and with a loud thrust, a neat pathway came out from the side of the mountain which they could use to cross. Migo was applauded for his efforts by everyone in the group, save Toph.

"I was about to do that..." Toph muttered, barely loud enough to be heard.

Katara shot her a look, then turned to Migo and said in an attempt to keep the conversation friendly "that was some exceptionally talented Earthbending, Migo"

"Thanks," Migo responded modestly.

"Meh, it was alright," Toph commentated.

"So," Katara continued, brushing Toph's second remark aside, "you said you had Earthbender lineage? I suppose it runs in your blood then, lucky you. You and Brawki both spoke highly of your mother. She must have been quite a lady."

"Indeed," Migo stated. "That's what I hear of her. She died when I was very young, so I don't really remember her. My father I know nothing of at all. My instructor Brawki taught her as well – says she was a quick learner and a lifelong friend to him. He knew her well, even agreeing to raise me – her son – after her passing. I just know of her as my mother. But everyone else knows her as Ratana of Gaipan."

Suki, Sokka and Ty Lee immediately gasped upon hearing this line from Migo.

"You're kidding, right?" said Toph in disbelief.

"Who?" Aang asked quizzically.

"She was a powerful Earthbender who served in the Hundred Years War," Katara told him. "Even people in the Water Tribes knew about her. She died a few years before the war ended."

"She was a war hero," continued Toph. "My parents told me before they invited her over to a dinner party once."

"You met her?" asked Sokka.

"Yeah," answered Toph in reminiscence. "She talked about Earthbending a lot – no surprise there. She seemed thoroughly unimpressed by Master Yu. When I told her I was an Earthbender as well, she offered to display some moves in our courtyard, but my parents wouldn't allow it. They didn't seem to like her very much and at the end said they'd made a mistake in inviting her over."

"Well, this explains why I've never heard of her before," Aang interrupted. "I was frozen in a block of ice this whole time."

"She helped inspire me to want to learn Earthbending. I wanted to train and practice more from the day after she left. I wanted to be just like her. But my parents wouldn't hear of it. They crushed my dream – told me because I was blind I would never amount to anything with Earthbending. Soon afterwards, I did what I saw as the only solution – I ran away. There I met the badgermoles, who inspired me all over again. They proved my parents wrong – that I was not helpless for being blind."

"It's cool you got to meet her when she was active," Suki told her. "I know she was the only woman on the Terra Team."

"Hah!" Ty Lee said scornfully. "That doesn't impress me at all – the Terra Team were a bunch of pushovers."

"Not while she was on them, they wouldn't have been," Toph snapped at her.

"This is what its like being related to someone famous who died a long time ago," Migo stated. "Everyone always knows more about her than I do. I hardly remember her at all. All I have are the stories people tell about her."

"How did she die, if you don't mind me asking?" Toph said to Migo, more polite than she had been before.

Migo shrugged. "Killed in action, I think."

"Hmmmph," Toph added with sympathy in her eyes but not in her voice. "She must've had some opponent then, considering who she was..."

"Yes, definitely," Sokka agreed. "I heard she once took down three giant armadillo bears with her both hands tied behind her back."

"I heard they were sabre-tooth moose lions!" exclaimed Ty Lee.

"That was nothing," Toph added with heads turning in her direction. "I heard during the Great Siege of Omashu she held out against half the Fire Nation Army for three days by herself."

"What?" Aang scoffed. "That sounds exaggerated to me."

"Why you so skeptical, Aang?" Katara asked her husband slyly. "You're the one who took out half the Fire Navy fleet at the North Pole."

"That was...different..." Aang noticed that Zuko was looking in the other direction now, avoiding being drawn into this part of the conversation.

"Why?" she asked him again. "Since you're the Avatar you have a monopoly on doing exceptional stunts."

"Yeah, give the rest of us some credit, too, Twinkle Toes!" Toph yelled at him with a jab to the arm.

Aang patted the spot where Toph had punched him, then scratched his backside and gazed onward.

As dusk was reaching them, the gang arrived at the spot where Migo had led them. There they found a small, flat circular ridge, just sizable enough for them all to sit in comfortably. They had come as far as Brawki's directions would take them without any sort of "signs" from the Cave or elsewhere. So it seemed, there was nothing to do but wait for such a sign. In the mean time, they sat in a circle and Sokka and Katara began to prepare some food for them to eat – pickled fish and fruit pies.

"So now we wait," Sokka commented. "For some mysterious whatever – oh well. At least we have good food in the mean time. Although I must say I've never been a big fan of fruit pies."

"I haven't been up here in a while," Migo said, looking about. "But I'll never forget this place. This is the same cliff I almost fell off of long ago when I was starting my Earthbending training."

"How did that happen," Toph asked him with a mouthful of fish in her mouth. She was acting friendlier toward Migo, now having bonded with him.

"I tried Earthbending a small rock beside me, but I accidentally through the large one beneath my feet instead. So I slipped. That would have been the end of me right then and there if Brawki hadn't been watching. He moved another large rock beneath me, which caught my fall."

"Haha!" Toph sniggered at him.

"I know. But after that occurrence, Brawki told me I had some of my mother's potential, since I was naturally inclined to throwing bigger rocks rather than smaller ones."

Suddenly, their dialogue was interrupted by the arrival of a brown bird descending to their location with a ribbon tied round its feathers – a messenger hawk. As expected, this was for the Fire Lord. Zuko allowed the bird to perch itself next to him and unraveled the scroll it carried, which he began to read to himself.

Zuko rose promptly to his feet. "It's a black ribbon message," he stated. "I'm sorry, but I have to leave."

"What did it say?" asked Sokka.

"It was very brief. There's crisis looming and it is urgent that I return to the Fire Nation Capital immediately."

"Okay," Aang told him. He understood that Zuko had to put his duties as Fire Lord as his top priority.

"Well, I suppose I'm going, too," Mai informed the others.

"No," Zuko told her firmly. "It is best that only I go back. This does not concern anyone else." With that, he gave my a kiss and a quick hug. When they parted, Mai appeared uneasy, but content to stay behind as Zuko had said.

Zuko was just turning to head back down the mountain, but then he turned back around. "Since this is an emergency, I will need to make the journey as fast as possible. I'll go back to Omashu first."

It became apparent that he was addressing Toph now. "Oh, right! Katara, can you help me with that?" Toph was now openning her travel sack.

"Certainly." Toph dictated a short, but official message, which Katara wrote down on the blank letterhead Toph was carrying. Then she gave it to Toph to sign, as was required of official decress. Although she could not see what she was writing, she had practiced with care many times until she memorized the motions. She had Katara hold the paper still while she did that. Toph finished it off by stamping an official seal in the bottom right-hand corner.

"There you go," Toph told him. "You can take one of the Omashu airships back to the Fire Nation now!"

"Isn't your own royal airship back at Omashu still?" Sokka asked Zuko.

"Ours are faster," Toph answered, grinning. "Well, you better get on your way – got to be in the Fire Nation as quickly as possible."

"I'll send this decree back with the messenger hawk," Zuko said aloud, taking the message from Toph. "I won't have to worry about dropping it along the way back to Omashu."

"You should just have Momo take it instead," Sokka remarked sarcastically. "He's capable."

"Our messenger hawks are professionally-trained," Zuko reminded Sokka. "No offense to the lemur." And with that, Zuko turned from them without a full goodbye and rushed down the mountain as fast as his legs would carry them. Nine on the journey had become eight once again with Zuko gone and Mai remaining.

As they finished their meal, they were at a loss for what to do next. Brawki had said that if their finding the cave was meant to be, the way would become obvious for them. But was there not anything for them to do in the mean time to trigger it? Aang was unsure of himself. He was not used to feeling powerless.

Aang had stopped sitting still and begun pacing back and forth. Night had fallen and the others were trying to make sleeping arrangements. Aang ignored them. His mind was now fully-committed to finding this cave. He looked around aimlessly in every direction as if it was going to pop out at him from somewhere it had not been before. He recalled Brawki speaking of "whispers"...or something like that. Perhaps he was supposed to listen for the "whispers." Wait...listening. That reminded Aang of neutral jing in Earthbending – waiting and listening. Perhaps Earthbending was the key to finding the cave. "Toph, Migo, - come here!"
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