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Author Topic: A Tower Of Fire [G]  (Read 1059 times)
SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« on: Feb 26, 2017 03:42 am »

"In the era before the Avatar, we bent not the elements, but the energy within ourselves."


His shadow danced around in a dark room. Whizzing by a late lantern with certainty, but a lack of poise. In the past few months he grew to like this room; it's modest size and set up: a bed, a desk and a closet against the wall. But now, as he was getting ready to leave it, he didn't feel the remorse growing as he thought it would. Every time he passed the desk he glanced at the letters laid open upon it and felt confidence grow instead. Not a feeling he knew well, but one he now truly enjoyed.
Tomorrow, after lunch, he'll say a tear-jerking goodbye to his dear mother and master Hai-Fu and stroll of into the world with pen in one hand and coin in the other; in search for good people, great stories and songs. One of which, he hoped, would be about a medic saving a life in combat. The letters on the desk expressed gratitude for the act, but never spoke of it. He wanted to know. He needed to know. The back address on those letters was his first destination.
He walked to the table, picked one of those letters up and folded it, so the painted family insignia was fully visible. A Dragonbird stood proudly in the middle of the picture; it's open wings extended just a touch over the circle bordering the flaming beast. He smiled at it and gently pushed it into his pocket.
A thud snapped his sight to the door. He walked over, opened it to a limply standing figure. It swung in its pace, back and forth. It breathing with eery difficulty and strangest of voices. Soft, but powerful in volume. Immense to the ear.
Strangely, the figure's head lifted and he saw it's eyes were glowing stark blue. Cold and empty. It froze him - the stare. Held him transfixed. It was a hold he couldn't see. He tried to run and the muscles clenched, but he didn't move! He couldn't move! Something prevented him from moving. He sensed it, crawling under his skin, pumping with his blood, keeping him fixed.
Suddenly, the figure pounced and he was pushed back whole, hauled like a unit to the back wall. It pressed him into it and not even his head could move. It held him like it wanted, moved him like a puppet. Only his eyes were free and his lips were allowed to quiver as much as they wanted to.
It's hands reached: one pressed against his frantic heart and the other -- against his head, thumb on forehead. He felt a slow stream, run down from the second and nest near a tear-duct. He tried to blink it away, but it only muddied his sight with a shade of rose. The intruder breathed in and the hands pushed.
For a second, he felt empty. His mind was as clear as a river in spring. For half a year - nothing, but mud.
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #1 on: Mar 02, 2017 11:01 am »

"... and then..." Kai continued, spilling out words between short, shallow breaths.
"Yeah?" Katar said, failing to keep a grin off his face. Burnt handles of his double swords swung loosely from shoulder to shoulder.
"Then, this Ray flies over me." Kai took few more gulps of air. It was amazing, how he could he could just split himself in half like he did. His upper half was full of energy, it told his story with his hands; but his beat shoes were scrapping the road, rising dust from the rocky road. He was tired. They both were. But they kept moving and a small village before them wasn't that far away now. "Well...,“ he continued, "not giant..." and his mind wandered off for a second, "but it was really big," Katar imagined Kai practicing this, throwing his arms in front of him to emphasize its size like he now did. All that just made Katar's decision all the more crueler, when it was clear that none of it was true, "and as black as a murder."
"A murder? What's a murder?"
"Nevermind! The point is -- it's pitch black."
The village drew closer. Two vendors one after the other were preparing to open for business this pleasant, if a bit hot, morning.
"So it flies over me--"
"I'm not buying this, Kai."
"Let me finish."
"That is just what I'm thinking." He was still thinking it over to be truthful. Kai's gotten better at this maturity exercise over time, but his next words damned him.
"It picks me up--", Kai says and he just bursts laughing. "What?!"
"Do you seriously expect me to believe that?!"
"Well..." he tried again, "if you let me finish-"
"No. Let's settle it here." He talked around his laughter, like it was food in his mouth.
"Why?"
"You're small and all, but not that small."
"I was five!" he said, but that made the laughter louder.
"And you survived?!"
"Well... if you let-"
"Nope. Never happened," he said.
"You can't be serious," Kai protested.
"Start thinking what's for dinner," he said as they approached clerks' stands.
"Morning kids," said a shopkeeper. He didn't seem fazed by a strange time to prepare dinner. "See anything you like?" A small, neatly divided assortment of vegetables, raw and dried meat laid presented before them.
"Don't ask me," he said, pushing Kai towards a stand.
"This isn't even fair," he mumbled, throwing his empty bag on an overturned bucket before a counter.
Another clerk joined them on a nearby stand. An aging man with a balding head and a beaten brown shirt which was already wet below the armpits. He picked up a cup of his morning drink. "Just passing by?" he inquired.
"Yes."
"Where are you heading to?"
"Towards the wall." He didn't find any reason to lie. It actually helped them.
"Towards the wall?!" He took a second to size them up. "Already!?"
"Now, we don't judge people that easily, Udai," said the first clerk.
"Keaf, you know I don't," Udai said and after a moment added: "It’s just strange is all." He crouched, began placing pelts on his counter, partially covering a collection of knives on it with fur. "Have you heard what they've been doing there?" he started again, with a certain lack of enthusiasm that was indicative of incoming rant. The first clerk rolled his eyes, then give a wink to Kai. "War is bad enough," Udai took a sip of his drink, "but now people talk of terraforming and not that usual stuff too. The things people say about it..." With a drift of a finger across the air, a crack appeared in a wall of a cup, top to bottom. Keaf shined his most mischievous grin. "Makes me think, you know? And I wouldn't put it past Little-finger to--" Swiftly, Keaf clenched his fist and a wall across Udai's cup shattered, flooding hair on his arm. "Damn it, Keaf," he almost shouted. "He always does this," he told them, flinging his hand from side to side.
"Cheer up, Udai," Keaf laughed, then bent down to pick up the shards and bent them back to a quality cup. "It's too early in the day for one of your conspiracy theories."
"Where is my metal cup?“ Udai looked around
"Now," Keaf turned on his heals, "have you chosen anything yet?"
As Kai bartered for goods, the other one of two drifters took a look around. Six structures populated this little stop: two up front and four on the other side of the road. The two before them, he guessed, were owned by shopkeepers and they had plenty of space between them, while other four stood in a tight lineup and had nothing to be identified with, save for a title "Tavern" on the very last one. An inviting place, if a little short.
"A tavern? Here?" he acted surprised.
"Oh, yes," Udai answered, wiping his hand with a towel. "Many pass this place after passing the wall. From the other side, that is.
"And you take them in?"
"Coin's a coin is a coin," he laughed alone. "Koarsa could fix up a room for you, if you'd like. Get you some food."
"That would be great. Thank you."
"I'll need a name for your room."
"Katar." He turned to Kai. "Lucky day for you," he said, but the bag was already full  of bought goods and the closest thing to an answer he received was a pack of frustrated grunts from the kid.
They started crossing the road, thinking of beds and their soft sheets when two figures, heading towards them, caught Katar's attention. Both mounted on ostrich-horses, their army uniforms brought tension to his chest.
He reached down to his right hand, pulled up a sleeve and groped his bandaged hand. The white cloth was enveloped around it. Still tight. Good, he thought and looked up. They were already close. His heart picked up its pace. Burning, pushing sweat. His guilty face betrayed him, he knew, but he had to look at them, had to see what they'll do.
The first soldier didn't even drop them a glace and when the other passed, he just turned away disinterested. Mild relief.
 They stopped in the middle of the street. One of them dropped down from his mount, looked around like he owned the town. Then, seemingly guess-picking, he went for Udai's counter, leaned on it and waited. Tension in Udai's and Keaf's faces began to grow as they regarded each other and the soldier before them. Already minimal morning chatter died down, even the tavern stood silent, as it often does in the mornings. Everybody who was not involved in the situation found themselves very busy or not in the area at all.
"Well?" the soldier asked eventually.
"Well what?" Udai asked back nervously.
"Why aren't you bringing me anything?"
Katar's heart began racing again, his right fist slowly clenched.
"Gato, I ... uh ... have nothing to bring."
Gato stood straight, walked around the counter and grabbed Udai by the collar.
Now Katar's hand shook; it was almost as if it was calling. He knew better than to listen.
"Please, I don't why are you doing this to me. I have done nothing wrong."
I have done nothing wrong, Udai's triggering words made Katar pull his attention away, there were three people to watch now. Udai fumbled on his table with one hand, probably looking for a knife under all the fur. Gato slammed his hand on it, pinning it down.
"You run this table and that poor excuse for a cathouse. One would think that that would be enough for a-" something hit the man, and the back of his head exploded, splashing viscous red all over them both. Katar couldn't stop it. It was Kai, who lashed out. Their bag now laid open below him. His right hand - red, overflowing with what now was tomato juice.
At least he didn't shout his ideals like he used to.
The mounted soldier moved towards him, unsheathing his sword. "You little-" Quickly, Kai moved the ground below him. Losing balance, he fell to the ground with a thud and a moan. His ostrich-horse fell on top of him, sprang up and fled the scene. Kai turned to Gato, but his impressively effective assault was cut short when a boulder, grass and all, hit his chest and blew him off his feet.
The view snapped Katar out of his light shock. He turned to Gato, saw another rock formation flying at him. He swam under it. The man was not being discriminate here, nor did he wait. Another boulder was quick to meet him. Swiftly, Katar dodged the flurry while reaching over his shoulder and pulling his swords out, splitting them in two and charging ahead.
He attacked with precision that had Gato taken aback, stumble backwards for a few steps while surprise dwindled. Katar stroke to neutralize, aiming more for the joints then the whole of him, but that quickly became futile. His aim was as true as it could be, but was not quick enough. It came easy for Gato to dodge and Katar’s attack quickly became no more than dance. A new plan was needed. Fast. But Gato didn't let up. He found a moment and jumped back, started throwing boulders at him. Katar narrowly dodged the first one, barely keeping balance as it rushed passed his back. Second one he tried to counter, deflect with swords, but the force was too and it blew him away.
He crashed into Keaf's stand. A bucket flipped over and water poured towards Gato. The soldier was advancing confidently. Panicking, Katar tried to get up, run, but was too weak to do so. Now smirk dawned Gato's face, he knew he got him cornered. Katar's eyes grew wide, frantic, searching for a solution. Gato came closer, looking down on him, arrogant. He stepped into a puddle.
Water! Katar thought and instantly started bending it. It didn't budge. He tried again and failed. He knew how it was done, saw it done, but it just didn't listen. Bending was not something he was born into and it eluded him. He couldn't just do it on a snap of a finger.
Gato stood above him now, raised his hand and--
"Wait!" he screamed throwing his hands up and waited himself. Waited for pain that just didn't come.
"What?! What is this? Ice!?" Katar peeked through his fingers at Gato, suspended. Ice covering most of his torso, leaving him stagnant. "You Water tribe, boy?" Katar slowly got up, looking as surprised as Gato. Most of him was constricted, even his head, which stared down. Only his feet could move -- tip toe. "Answer!" Katar didn't, instead he clenched his fist like his father taught him and aimed. "You waterbenders are a lost cause," Gato continued. "Things must be real bad for you to come down he-" One quick jab at his jaw and Gato was cut silent. The ice broke and a slowly spinning soldier fell to the ground. Puking his breakfast out will be the least of his problems when he gets up.
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #2 on: Mar 08, 2017 01:56 pm »

Koarsa dropped a plate on a table from a small distance and a sleepy client busted awake. She straightened her apron. He oozed that smell. Sweat mixed with liquor. It drifted slowly away from him and she knew she would regret it, but still, "Hard night?" she asked, only to pull him further from sleep.
"You could say that," he fumbled back with a slight lisp. The smell doubled, got caught in her throat.
"Ugh! Just go to bed, you bastard," she put up a mocking smile.
"And what will you do without me?" he laughed.
"Breathe," she straightened her apron, brushed a flock of curly hair behind her ear, "for starters," and walked away, embracing free breath.
"But then I wouldn't be able to--"
The door slammed open. It was Udai and two strange characters. One: maybe seventeen, dark, overlong hair, dirty, long-sleeved shirt, right hand wrapped up in a loose bandage, held the other one over his shoulder. The kid was no more then twelve, bloody clothes and barely conscious.
"Koarsa," Udai called.
"In the back." She pointed towards a kitchen door. The older boy dragged him forward, but his heavy movement was slow. "Quickly," Koarsa said before she ran up to them for support. They moved through kitchen into a cool, dimly light storage room. Vegetables and fruit were filling its shelves. Smell of dried meat hung in the air.
They laid him on the floor. Quickly, she ripped his shirt, giving herself better access. Then, she pulled some water from a nearby canister, cleaned the area as best as her limited time frame allowed, bent more water and engulfed her hands with it. Gently placing her hands on Kai's chest as the water began to glow a soft blue. Slowly, the light faded in and out, filled the room and detracted again as they waited and eventually Kai coughed, broke up the silence.
"What happened?" she cut into a brief moment of relief.
"Wei state soldiers came," Udai said, "they intervened."
The older one stood, leaned against a wall for support. He seemed spent, breathing long, hard breaths,  sagging from the wall by the window where stripes of soft-edged sunlight fell from the blinders to the floor and to her glowing hands.
"And you?" She glared at the stranger, but he was holding his intense stare on a kid by her knees. "Are you all right?"
He glanced at her; his eyes reflected light green. "I've had worse." A clean shave would have helped his look, maybe pull attention away from his unkempt hair. Some of it fell down to his eyes, hid part of his face. "Yeah, right.... you're next in line."
"No really," he said as Udai made himself scarce. "I'm no more than exhausted."
Moments passed. The situation with the kid was getting better and she felt Katar's stare diminish. He spied through the blinders now, looking, searching for something. While he kept that long take outside, he pulled up his sleeve. Long in the nail, his fingers caught a loose thread on his bandaged arm, redressed it so tightly it made his arm shake. It looked fairly well done to her, if not for all the harsh pulling.
"What's your plan?" she probed.
"Huh?" The boy looked at her dumbfounded.
"Whatever you've done, they're coming back for you. So, what's your plan?"
"We just leave, like always."
"Not with a military base a day away you're not. You can't just stroll out."
"Well... I-" he fumbled and she sighed, interrupting.
"There is a man here. I saw him helping people get away a few times. He could help you."
A thank you would have been nice, but instead he just smiled cautiously with the edges of his lips and darted his eyes away. A gesture so familiar she felt her throat clog. The feeling laid there for a minute, held by a choker and a bridal pendant that hug from it. She pushed the memory away. She had work to care of before her. It didn't take long for Kai to fully wake up after she finished. Surprised to find himself in a strange place he looked around.
"How are you feeling?" they both asked him in unison. She barely had time to look the older one over, but as he said, there was nothing to mend.
"Better," he said after considering it, "hard to breathe though."
"That will pass, eventually." She kneeled beside Kai again, checked her work, while he tried to act away the pain of her touch. "I'm Koarsa."
"Kai. That's Katar."
She smiled. "Does everything else feel fine?" She asked him, groping him up and down in quick clasps. He nodded his round head. "What were you thinking, anyway?" Attacking people so blindly? she wanted to add. "There isn't that many times that you can run into someone nice who would help you after that," she smiled.
"Oh, that's fine. Katar can patch me up instead."
She snapped to Katar, dropped another accusing glare.
"My father was a doctor?" he said, lifting his open palms up. Like that was were the issue lied.
"Thank you," Kai said awkwardly, made her give away another smile before her face turned sour.
"I shouldn't push you out this fast, but you two need to leave. Can you get up?"
They slowly pulled him up, though he seemed strong enough to stand himself, and she led them back through kitchen and into tavern's lobby. Udai was working the counter now. He brought back their bag from the street, which Katar grabbed by the ears, dragged it with him. A man from before was still siting by his table, drinking after breakfast. What a surprise... She led then to him.
"Oh luk, the caravn has stopped," he said to no one in particular. The room was empty, save for them five.
"Han," she started as all three sat before him.
"Yessss darlng."
Already drunk? That seemed like a talent by this point. She was even instructed by Udai to water down some of the drinks, but there he was, as macerated as a dishrag.
"They are in need of your... uh... services."
"We need to get over the wall," Katar awkwardly rushed into the conversation.
That's too far. They only need to get out. Why make it harder on yourself?
"Doo you now?" he said, arms flailing. His daringly red shirt rustled from their careless movement. "O'ly idiots an' criminars want to get oveh teh wall."
"We will pay you, of course." He dropped his purse on the table. What is he doing?!
Han put his hand in his pocket, ruffled a paper. "And why'd i take hugh-" He paused.
"We can pay-"
In a flashiest way he could manage, he pulled a paper out of his pocket, tearing a piece of it away in the process and slammed it on the table, "-then you have a boun'y on yor head?" he slurred.
His hand pulled up from the poster and Koarsa read it say: "Wanted. For the murder of Avatar Rohan" and above the words there was a rendering of Katar's face. A third of it torn off in drunken clumsiness.
A brief silence fell.
She knew Avatar Rohan. Well, knew of him. He was trying to quell an uprising in the Water tribe, while she could still live there, but after a brief moment of peace, he disappeared, and the tribe split not half a year ago. He did that! she glared at him.
He and Kai sat as they did before, like they've heard this accusation too many times to be bothered. They just exchanged glances, nodded to each other. "I thought he was a professional," Katar told Koarsa, while pretending to be discreet.
"I heard that!" Han exclaimed "And normally... there would e no probl'm. But seal," he leaned in, looking at Koarsa, "your lil' friends 'ere hava knack for ge'ing in trouble. And that!" He dabbed Katar's purse. "Jus' might cost you mole," he said and their silent eyes fell away, but Han's fell on her. "Wha' do you sey, Koarsa?" Han said and grinned.
"What?!" her initial reaction burst out. It was a joke between them -- her getting passed the wall. She wanted to, she did, but the idea was a joke!
"Two thilds now, the lest - la'er." He leaned back, confident.
He must be joking again, she thought. The idea never seemed plausible, but the way he looked at her now, even through that drunken glaze, made it seemed possible. Maybe it was that, or maybe just because this place was growing stale she wanted to believe that. There were already rumors spreading of the rest of water tribe settling near the south pole, the same people she got separated from when Koarsa's boat was wrecked in crossfire. Over there trade routes are wider and ships are stronger. Reliable transport was one of few things the fire nation had going for them.
Koarsa arched her back on the chair. "Udai," she called.
"Yes?"
Out of her breast pocket she pulled a bag of coins, threw them on the table. "I quit."


"You cannot go with us," Katar started.
"No, you can't," Udai agreed.
"Why?" She stepped into sunlight through the backdoor, bag over her shoulder, Katar and Udai followed behind.
"Well... you work here for one thing," Katar said.
He watched her pass sobered up Han, who was working on his pair of ostrich-horses, strapping them in with respect for the animals to a cart intended for carrying hay and other menial things. It carried cabbages now, which were huddled at the back. Not a meaty cover, but it will suffice.
"The place did just fine before I got here." She threw her bag near Kai who was sitting in the cart.
"That's not what i meant," Katar said.
"And he is a criminal. He's not safe to be around," Udai chimed in and she burst out laughing at them. "How will I tend the shop and this tavern?"
"There is enough space to combine the two." The offer consumed Udai for a minute.
Katar looked up at Kai for conformation on his position, but he nodded in agreement instead. He wanted her to come. Still, Katar protested, "You can't go."
"I'm paying half the price here. So, put your big girl pants on and get in the car."
Argument-less, he complied, unwillingly followed her up, but was stopped by Han's outstretched hand. "Whoa! We can't hale ya in the front seat, you two"--his finger flicked between him and Kai--"have to go undel. Come," he waved his hand and began walking.
Kai jumped down after him and immediately regretted that decision. Bent down and took a solid breather. Noon's sun was hitting the ground hard and he rose some dust from the ground, caught a few particles with his pained breaths, coughed a few times before standing straight. Tears in his eyes, he soldiered on.
Han led them to the side of a cart and punched on its wooden wall. A plank of wood spun, revealing a dark gap between two levels of the floor of the car.
A plank closed shut behind them and they were left in near darkness. Light seeped inside, falling through cracks in wood and spaces between the planks of the floor, which offered very limited field of view.
"You two a-right in there?" Han asked, his drunken lisp almost gone or almost controlled. "Don't answer that. Soldiers on't take kindly to talking carriages," he explained and whipped the rains.
A small tug marked a start of their journey, it pulled on them, their backs slid against a rough surface. After a few turns in their slow voyage, they landed back on the main road. Unlike before, it rumbled with people, their voices and footsteps were falling on it and spreading outside, into houses and small pathways. They heard a cheer coming from the tavern as they passed it, but the voices from the crowd didn't seem to die out. There was a lot of life for a place which Katar mistook for being secluded.
Wheels spun slow, keeping it calm. But the constant rustle of feet and wheels pulled dust from the ground, which, much like light, found a way inside. It filled their small chamber, crawled all around it. It rose Katar's nose with a funny feeling and his lungs with heavy soil. He squeezed his nose, brushed the walls of it  against one another. A trick, he learned from his father, that used to stop him from sneezing, and it worked wonders here, but only for him.
Kai exploded beside him. Then he slapped a hand to his mouth, as if to stop a fleeing sound.
"Mommy! Mommy! That carriage just sneezed!" a young voice came from outside.
"Of course it did, dear."
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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Posts: 17


« Reply #3 on: Mar 11, 2017 03:22 am »

Air. Water. Earth ...
Peace didn't last long. Only eight years after the death of Avatar Rinzen, Wei state and it's capital Taku has split from the earth kingdom.
The next Avatar was to be an waterbender, but, for whatever reason, Avatar Rohan, an earthbender, took his place in the succession without a chance for a Water tribe avatar.
The world is never easy on the avatar and it wasn't this time. Though his efforts were true, his early death caused the splitting of the Water tribe.
Now, Wei state rages war against the Firenation and it's bordering colony. Fighting has been going on for months, but the front, dubbed "the wall", hasn't moved since and naval warfare's only successful attacks seem to be on Water tribe's refugee ships looking to settle.
Without an Avatar in sight for at least fourteen years, the world easily pushes itself into greater and greater chaos.



Katar took a deep breath and that was his first mistake. With sound dissipating and eyes closed, he couldn't help but take control of it. Pushing air in and out; playing with it, trying to catch its inner rhythm, a thing, he was thought, everything has. But even if he did find it, he knew, he couldn't consciously let go. Something from within made him clasp on it, lock it in control.
He refocused his attention, pressed the tips of his thumbs into the palm side of the index fingers, released the pressure. He felt his hands resting on his lap, though he was thought not to. A breeze moved into the room and he heard it, felt it, smelled its chilling freshness. Wasn't supposed to, though. But how? he thought, these things are impossible to ignore! But he wasn't supposed to think now, either, so he sneered at himself.
"Don't beat yourself over it," came Hai-Fu's voice from the left, "That's a thought."
Katar snickered.
"That's a thought, too." He let Katar calm himself. Focus. "Whenever you're ready," he calmly said.
He sat there for a while, just breathing and focusing on nothing else but that. He watched it, guided it as it slowly settled. The thought arose that he's been sitting here too long, but he shut the door to that thought and finally opened his eyes.
Before him sat a bath filled with water with bottom made of glass. Water, clearer even then the glass that contained it, was moving. It rippled. Rapidly, clusters of it would form, rise above the rest, shimmer in his eye and collapse, disappear as quickly as they rose. Revealing parts of a painting bellow that they had covered.
The effect was hypnotic. The way it moved, the way it bent and distorted the picture of two Koi fish, one white with a black spot and one black with a white spot, chasing each other’s tail. The image was still, common sense told him that much, but beneath the water, beneath its ripples, he saw otherwise. A fin would disappear and swim back out from under its belly; a whisker would bend as if affected by a current. And the more he looked at it the more of that he saw. A tail would swivel, a mouth would move open and close back until, the fishes themselves broke from the static picture and swam! They actually began to chase each other, moving in circles, ovals, patterns of eight and so on. There seemed to be no end to those, to that dynamic and it held him mesmerized.
He stood, following them when they began to drift away. His walk turned brisk, then even quicker and soon he was sprinting, chasing them to the line, where he stopped and they got away.
Before him the sea laid separated and restless. Split in two conflicting sides: a side of light, where waters that splashed were clear, with sure transparency almost to the bottom, and a side that has gone significantly darker over time, where you could not see more than a few feet down anymore.
He was not in those waters. But even on the beach he was wary of crossing the line where the seas collided. Nothing good ever came from that, he thought as a platform began lifting him up, gave him a better overview of the seas. As far as he could see, the split was definite. It pierced the eye, how distinct these sides were, how they did not mix but raged against each other.
Looking from high above he felt unease rise, stomach twirl, fingers shake. In his palm heat began to rise, sting, like it did then that scar was fresh.
"Jump," a voice from behind soothed.
Katar turned to meet the voice and saw that figure from before, standing still. The eyes beaming hate at him. His body froze again; as if blood has clotted in his veins. The figure raised its hand and Katar whole rose with it. Feet loosely dangled above the ground, not controlled by that entity, the whole of its tight control concentrated above -- his stomach, chest, arms; his contorted back.
He could still move his head though, so he could notice that his hand, that the back of Katar's hand was glimmering. Shinning a dozen different colors a second, shifting from one hue to the next rapidly. Oh, he realized, so that’s what this is. But the realization brought him no control. With quick ease, the figure pushed and Katar was sent over the edge and into the waters below.
"Look who's up..." Koarsa said.
Katar found himself kneeling in a middle of cart with a thread of a bandage in his grip. The cloth was damp from sweat.
"You okay?" she asked, but he felt disdain in her voice. Like she was obliged to ask.
He sat down, took a moment to gather. The cart was cautiously pulling through the street, passing surprisingly large number of pedestrians on it, who all seemed to enjoy the coming of a calm evening. He thrashed his head and let hair loose from behind his ears, hid his face away from peering pedestrians.
Then, he looked at his arm, at the loose cloth covering the palm and at the darkened skin hiding between the folds. "I am aware," he mumbled and fell at ease a second later.
His dreams were getting weirder day by day, he noticed that earlier, but this one he found scary. Skin crawlingly so. This one wasn't just some jumbled mess that dreams often were, this one darkened his memory. It took the truth and threatened to ruin it, change its meaning.
He remembered now, sitting there for hours, staring at that bowl of water and that painting of fish below and nothing happened! Yet, just now those fish broke from the painting and swam away. This. This threatened to be something else. A clash of memory and fantasy in his already conjoined mind. And this wasn't the first time something like this had happened, not the first time his mind found a way to fight itself.
He caught Koarsa staring at him, guess she really needed an answer. "Yeah," he said, "I‘m fine," then pulled attention away from himself: "Where are we?"
"Near our first stop," she said. "We decided to set up a camp."
Kai was mumbling beside him. Head overboard, he was talking to someone on the street. Further up the cart, Han was sliding from side to side, having trouble relaxing his butt down on hard wood of his seat. All around the amount of people seemed to grow in strides and that had him curious but wary. "What's up with all the commotion?" He looked at Koarsa, who was sitting in opposition to him. Falling sun blinked in and out between strands of her loose, curly hair.
She dashed her lip to the side, seemed pained to bother answering. "People talk of a festival coming to town."
"A festival?"
"For lady Vimala. It lasts-"
"Three days?!" Kai exploded beside him, head still overboard. "That's way too much!" Subject of both conversations seemed to be the same. "What do you even do for three days straight?" he asked before his excitement died down. Katar listened in to them for a while, but the girl Kai was talking to was reserved in her manner. He could barely make out much of anything except for a mention of some water custom.
"Why the wall?" Koarsa pulled his attention away.
"Huh?" He pretended. He drew his hand over the shoulder, clasped the charred sword handle and it neatly folded into his hand and into what was underneath those bandages. Safe. He let his hand fall loosely.
"Why do you need to go over the wall?" she asked again.
It seemed too late to ask the question, his answer couldn't be more than just trivial now. "You know i'm a criminal, right?" He asked her while trying to keep his voice down. She pulled her lip sideways again, annoyed. "You saw the poster. Why do even feel the need to ask?" he thought he finished, but she kept looking at him as if waiting for him to continue. "Look," he caved in,"with reputation like that, I can barely breathe within Wei state, nor could I in the rest of the earth nation. But in a fire nation, there is at least a chance for something calm and normal."
"Reputation..." She looked at him like she was about to spit in his face. "You have a way with words..." Instead of spitting she looked away, but only for a moment. "And you think you should be awarded such luxury? Reputation... Don't they put criminals away where you're from? Especially, if they cause a collapse of a whole nation."
"Then why did you choose to come with us?" He jumped a few lines, went to the point.
She sat silenced for a while, conjuring up an answer or maybe holding it back. He did not yet know. "I want to know," Koarsa said.
"Know what?"
"The type of person you are. The type that would kill the avatar."
He held onto that blow, decided to take it. Wouldn't do him any good to get into an argument that already felt tiresome. And he wasn't going to have it with some stranger. She made her position clear and that would have to do.
They stopped in a forest outside the town. The dimness of dusk was beginning to set in by then so they took the time to build a fire. A fire by a river, where waters were performing a tedious task of stripping away the earth from roots of trees. Exposing their long fingers, wave by wave and rush after rush for what what they were. Hooks to keep itself grounded, so the tree itself wasn't pulled away by that water or a strong rush of air anything else that threatened.    
"Where's Han?" Kai asked and pulled Katar's attention from the river.
"He probably ran into town to get his fill," Koarsa explained, not hiding her disgust.
"I'm going to look for him," Kai said, looking at Katar. More of a plea than a statement.
"You can go to town if you want,"  Katar said, seeing through his fake excitement to look for a grown up person. He didn't need another word and left but a dust cloud by the fire.
Koarsa looked at Katar stumped. "And you're just going to let him go?"
Calmly, he rolled up the right hand sleeve, began unwrapping its bandage. "I can not limit his choices and I can't just go out into a public venue like that." A cloth dropped from his hand, dark edges of a scar on his palm gathered light from a fire. It was healed as well as it could be, but a glance at that contorted palm and he could recall the pain as if it just happened. He redressed it with a washed bandage, adding a tight knot at the end. Looked up from it. Koarsa seemed just about done looking for words of protest. "That is why there will be a spirit looking out for him." He pulled out a mask, brushed its face with his clothed hand.
He found he could trust Kai's judgment on people. He seemed to have an instinct about them. It was the time to know how right he was this time. "You coming?" he asked Koarsa.
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #4 on: Mar 16, 2017 04:16 pm »

Koarsa passed a group of onlookers gathered around a match of coconut corumba and shuddered at the thought. No more than one gamble at the time, she reminded herself. Peachy paper lanterns hanging above lit up the cheerful smiles on a busy street as they--her, Kai and masked Katar--strolled through the street, looking for something that would catch either one's eye. But the only thing that caught any eye was lilies. Red-white lilies, which dominated this town like it was weed. By every shop, every house, every corner there was at least a bunch of them. All of which radiated under rosy light.
"Hello, mysterious spirit," a voice came from aside and stopped their stride. The woman comfortably swam in a long blue robe, hands by her waist, tucked into the sleeve cuffs. She leaned gently forwards, pulled out her open palm and glided it over the rack on wheels before her and said: "Care for a reading?" As she calmly stood straight she caught a silvery strand of hair that managed to fall of her bun hair-do and tucked it neatly behind her ear.
The rack's levels were neatly divided by their contents, raging from from minuscule pins and unrefined crystals below to an array of flowers above.
"I don't believe in fate," Katar's suppressed voice came from behind the mask.
"Strange for a spirit, to not put trust in fate. I do not read one's future, however." The woman kept a stoic look on her face. Whether it was just an act or not, it was too hard to tell. "I read one's past."
"And what use does that give?" Koarsa burst the words out, barely holding her laughter.
She glared at Koarsa, looked her over and away. "You cannot firmly step into the future without a deep understanding of your past." The woman almost choked on disdain for Koarsa. "Offering a fresh perspective on one's choices could be enlightening." She dropped another glance at Koarsa and rolled her eyes away. "If it's not too late to change, of course..."
Ugh! What a harpy!
"I'll bite," Kai said. "What's the catch?"
"Just the price of admission."
"Kai!" Katar pulled him back a step. "What are you doing?"
"Spending MY money," he stated simply while the woman watched intently, scrutinizing them both.
"And what if she's a fraud?"
"Then you'll know after. Besides, it's only ten coins."
"I'll give you a discount for your attitude, young man," the lady said from afar.
"See? Now we'd be fools not to do it!"
She couldn't see Katar's face through the mask as it followed Kai strolling forward, but she knew the look he wore underneath. It was the same dumbfounded look she wore that moment herself.
"Now. How do we do this?"
"First, you pay, young man."
"Oh. Right." He threw an edge of his shirt up and sunk his hand in a pocket before pulling it out with a small bag. Koarsa couldn't help but notice a mark above his scrawny hip before the cloth fell down. She looked at an angle and couldn't see all of it, but she knew that sign. A circle, split into a black side with a white point and a light side with a black point.
A winner's look lit up the woman's face, but she quickly suppressed it. "Now you pick an item from the cart. Only one, so choose carefully."
Kai bent down, rummaged through a third level down of the cart and pulled out a blocky-looking, yet scaly object and handed it to the lady. She examined it for a moment, spinning it slowly with her fingers before dropping a look at Kai.
"Do you have any brothers or sisters, child? A twin, maybe?"
The question stunned Kai. Made him amiss for a second. "No, not really," he said, but he wasn't a good liar.
"The reason I ask is that, this object - is a part of two." She lowered her other hand and pulled up a similar piece next to Kai's chosen one. "Out of this whole stand, these are the only ones that connect." She pushed the pieces together and they fit neatly into each other. "Because they are not different, they are a part of two. One cannot be whole by itself..."
The woman went on for quite a while, spouting supposedly mind altering teachings while saying nothing of actual substance. But Koarsa's mind kept on that mark. It seemed significant, she saw it before,. Three times to be exact: once, when she was still a child she saw it split between two koi fish circling each other in warm pond waters of a spiritual oasis; and the other two were worn by her friends: Nanuq and Cikuq. Twins, who both had that same mark on their collarbones. A mark of a brother they called it. Thought to be only worn by twins.
Could she know all this? Koarsa wondered.
"...to find someone," teller's voice came back into her awareness. It seemed to have captivated Kai completely, "who would hold you back or propel you further then it's needed. Someone to push when you pull and pull then you push..."
Push and pull... The words were a revelation! Those were the names of the koi fish in the pond! The lady couldn't even bother to cover her scam properly. She dropped a heated glance at Katar and his posture seemed to agree with her.
"...to find balance with that person, should be--" Simultaneously, they grabbed Kai by the shoulders and dragged him away before the woman could finish.
"Hey!" Kai protested. "I was listening to that!"
"Yeah, well now you're not," Koarsa said.
"Guys, come on... I paid for that!"
"She's scamming you, Kai."
"I know."
"What?!" They jumped at him.
"I know she's lying. I mean, look at her... I don't care, it's my money."
Koarsa's mind was thrown into stasis from that. Held there by only one word: Why?
Not waiting long after that, the white mask clamped back on Kai's shoulder, began dragging again. "Then pay me and I'll soothe you with that kind of blubber every night."


Tightly gripping his wallet, Han pushed through the horde. The crowd, as dense as his uncombed hair, made it nearly impossible to get through, but he brushed forth, eyeing for a sign, any indication of an inn he gathered was nearby. A pack of firecrackers went off on the ground near him, scared the spirits out of one man in the crowd. The man screamed so loudly you'd think he was a countess seeing a spider-scorpion for the first time. Han covered his ear from the sound, but it was too late. It already rang in his head like a wide bell. Disappearing slowly and leaving a faint shrill.
His eye caught it though. Through that distraction and the movement of people's heads he saw it. A bar, right up front. Two storeys and a balcony. Up there the costumers laughed. They were smoking and midway through the bottle.
He passed an annoying announcer, a band and some dancers all waiting to perform. He couldn't care less. His destination was set.
In the inn he found every seat to be taken. Decided to stand by the counter, where smoke hung loosely in the air. Not that he'd want to sit now, resting on his elbows was more than enough. The road was on the long-side and wasn't really close to the endpoint. A little movement below the waist would revive him a bit, before his drink of choice began its destructive work. Speaking of which...
"And fill this as well," he said, holding his flask out to the bartender after he tasted a reasonably numbing brew. With a distinctly smug look, which made him doubt her professional sensibilities, the bartender did the task.
Air of celebration was widespread over the town and this place was no exception. Small circles of heads in the bar enjoyed themselves and both floors of this bar did so loudly. Food and drinks were passed between the floors, sometimes even through the railing, if possible. Most were having a good time and spirits were kept high, but even that couldn't hold for long. Eventually, thoughts on Queen Guifei were shared and the rumors coming from the wall, tarnishing their joy. But an explosion of laughter form the other side of the room cleared their thoughts and the mood rose up again.
He couldn't help but feel out of place. Thoughts of celebration were in direct conflict with Han's natural state of mind. Kept his mind active and his eyes wondering, until they landed on one subject. A young man, heavily built and bald. Everything about him, from his wide posture to his sleeveless shirt, made a stand. He saw a scar running from below his left cheekbone all the way to the middle of his neck and his verdant eyes stared with intensity he could not pin down just yet. The image had force to it, that was easy to admit. But it felt off to him. Something was amiss with that image and now he had to figure it out.
The young man was tapping with his prosthetic, earthbent fingers--right hand: pointing, middle and thumb--on a poster before him. Poured the last drops of his drink down his throat. Probably scotch. Acts like this one always went for scotch. An easy choice. Easy one to bluff through too, but not when you take it in such big gulps.
Still, Han didn't feel comfortable looking at the guy. Something else. Han's phoniness came through his tongue. After all, the kids were paying for his drinks tonight. But him? He seemed like a snake. Pretending to be venomous with its aggressive coloring, loud hissing and a ready stance, yet, one would be hard pressed to play around with it.
Suddenly, the man lifted his gaze and their eyes met. Han quickly darted his own away, hoping he would think nothing of it. Uneasy minute passed as Han tried to look anywhere but at the man. Catching a few repulsed looks towards him. When he finally returned his gaze, the man was gone. And the poster he was looking at was gone too. Han had a peak at it before he was forced to look away. The artist wasn't worth much of anything, a poor man's Zhong Yu. But the face that was drawn on it was more important and that he identified fast. Didn't even had to guess.
Han planned to drink and he was still going to. Now he'll just do so faster.


Still lit by those same peachy lights, the street didn't seem to change. Only its people shuffled from one attraction to the next. Two rows of glamor and enchantment lined along each side of the road that was this whole town, yet it failed to hold the Koarsa's or the others's attentions. So it wasn't that surprising that they quickly made their way to the biggest attraction of the night.
On a small, make-shift stage, a loud, but not shouty, speaker entertained his audience. He threw his wit and sharp commentary on various topics at a mass in front of him, not shying from opportunities to take a few swings at the people and then pulling away before his words caused harm to their egos. A band behind him looked on, enjoying his performance with certain intensity. Conscious of being watched, waiting with silent mutters for their queue.
"I think I'm done for the night," Katar said.
"Sure," Kai agreed. He agreed to almost any idea this night or maybe that was always the case.
"But it's still early." Koarsa eyeballed him, but failed to read anything from behind the mask.
"I'm just a bit tired... Besides, nobody's watching our stuff, as hidden as it is," he said and began to shuffle slowly away without any proper permission.
"Wait." Koarsa pulled him to the side. "What are you doing?" She kept her voice low.
He meandered for a minute, then: "Look. I can't just hang around dozens of people, mask or not. That's one of the reasons we travel at night. It's not safe for me here."
"And what of him?" She pointed at oblivious Kai.
"He can handle himself, he can do what he wants."
"Like yesterday?" He can't be serious, she thought, but his tone said otherwise.
"That... that was different."
"Somebody has to watch him."
"I told you, I can't limit his choices." Again, that spineless phrase. How easy it was for something like this to grow from an annoyance to an issue.
"But somebody has to. That's a mighty thing to ask someone who's almost a stranger to you."
"I'm not asking anything. He knows how to take care of himself."
She felt like repeating the obvious a third time, but it seemed that Katar was as deaf today as he was blind yesterday. "Fine." She watched him leave.
A pack of firecrackers went off somewhere to the right. Hellishly high-pitched scream came from the same direction, causing more laughter than ruckus.
"Don't mind that," the announcer swiftly chimed in. "It's just elite fire nation soldiers practicing their new techniques." Crowd had a laugh as an empty circle filled with people again. "Tonight," he continued. The musicians beside tensed up as they waited for eventual end of his speech, "and tomorrow, and tomorrow, we celebrate Lady Vimala." He looked at a red-white lillie in his hand. A beautifully simple looking thing. "Maybe she'll show her legendary beautiful self to us on the winter solstice, maybe not. That is two days away and it all depends on us." Even though she was steps away from the audience, she felt it's warmth and easy unrest that just gave rise in some areas. "But before we can wash away our misdeeds in our lady's beloved river, but first we must. Make. Them surface!"
The band behind him hit the improvised stage floor running with a fast and upbeat tune. The dancers beside them began their performances, If you could call those that. There was no real choreography, just people trying their hardest not to hit each other, which was an open invitation to the crowd, which quickly caught on.
"You wanna dance?" Kai asked.
The question stumped her and she couldn't offer anything more than an awkward, "Um... sure?" Not a moment after, he grabbed her by the hand and began pulling her through the audience and into the chaos inside. To late to say no, it seemed.
The music grew louder and so did her fears of looking completely ridiculous dancing with this kid, who still though of himself as so damn cute. For a second he seemed boneless. Flailing his limbs around like he was kelp in a current and no boundary. He lashed his way back and forth, to the side and back again, frequently crashing into those around him with no remorse. Naturally, it didn't take long for him to draw attention. With murmur and caged laughter, mob malevolently cheered him on, but it only fuelled his enthusiasm. Made him "dance" even harder. An arctic quadopus thrown on ice didn't look so absurd as he did, rag-dolling his way above the waist.
Koarsa didn't know where to hide herself, were to run. He would obviously follow. She had to suffer this one through. But as he continued, a strange thing happened. A mocking tone of the crowd around them began to shift. Bullies were only the first ones to respond. Something made him win the rest of the audience. And it surely wasn't his horrible, horrible dance. Something made her do the same, let that thought go and follow Kai's lead.
When she did so, she relaxed. And when the music stopped, it stopped too early. And when he bowed and ran, she was slow to notice.
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Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #5 on: Mar 22, 2017 02:45 pm »

Kai's short, damp hair slipped through a torn collar of his shirt. He handed it to Koarsa briefly, while he looked for a way into the new one he bought. The moon was high above them. Cool air breezed by as the two of them walked.
"Did you really need to buy two more?" Koarsa asked.
He gave a sheepish smile, said, "No, not really." His hands slipped inside the cloth, but he found he had to wrestle to put it on. He bought it for looks, not necessarily for size. "I liked them," he put it too simply.
She glanced at him. Even in the low light, she still found it. The mark of the brother, of which that fraud of a teller played off of tonight. Kai quickly covered it again, straightening his new clothing. A sleeveless light-green tunic, which ran deep below his waist and met in a triangle with a white outline strip.
"Why did you lie to the teller?" she asked him.
"Huh?" he delayed.
"About having no sisters or brothers. You lied."
"I didn't," he said looking down. His seemingly constant enthusiasm was gone.
"Why? You have the mark to prove it. It's a dead giveaway to some people."
"Oh..." He scratched his arm distractedly. "You know of that."
"M-hm," she nodded. "So, a brother, a sister?"
"A sister."
She waited for him to say more, he didn't. He just silently drew distance between them. "A sister..." she said and he was spooked by that. "What? Is something wrong?"
"No. Nothing," he muttered, fell silent again. Their camp drew closer, dim light from the fire showed the way and they walked the path silently for a while, until he said: "Didn't get a chance to know her..." She noted how carefully he spoke now, felt like he had his fingers under a blade waiting to drop. "I survived... she didn't." That explained most of it to her: the sudden distancing, nervousness... but before she could properly apologize for intruding so carelessly he burst out laughing. High-pitched and cracking.
"What? What is it?" she asked as the distance between them lessened.
"Nothing." he smiled at her, relaxed. "You don't know."
"Don't know what?"
"Doesn't matter. You don't know."
"No," she said. "Now I have to know." She kept being cheeky. He silently declined to answer and she decided not to push. Something  stranger caught her eye. "I didn't know you're a water bender," she said to Katar.
She caught him of guard and he almost jumped, a ball of water he tried to raise like an amateur fell back inside. His swords laid beside almost fizzled out fire, leaving his contrasted figure by the river. "There isn't that much to say about it," he said, but seemed guilty, seemed caught in something wrong," when you're not that good. Master Hai-fu," he was forced to continue. He tried to pull more water out the river, his form was terrible, "used to tell me that, everything has its inner rhythm. I just don't seem to find it." The ball burst like the one before.
"Inner rhythm, you say..." She took a few steps towards him. "Well, you rush yours then. You start from zero." She bent some water towards her, keeping inmotion with the fluid. "And you build up speed, action."
"Guys?" Kai tried to intrude.
She was showing off now, forming the ball into a "U" shape over her shoulders. Waves rippled throughout with glisten from the moonlight.
"You cannot force it, like you do and you can't stop its flow either."
"Guys?" Kai called again. "You hear that?" but she kept her attention on Katar.
 "Because when you do," she froze and the water splashed to the ground, "it stops as well." These were basic teachings. Every child, even nonbenders, were thought this. "You're not from the water tribe. I'd know you if you were. How can you do ANY of this?" Koarsa stepped closer, so she could see his reaction better in the low light.
"And guys?!" Kai pulled their attention away before Katar would have to answer. "Why are you sinking?"
They looked down. Cones of air, circled around their feet, pushed down with a silent rustle of sand. Suddenly, the cones plunged further and shut, trapping them. Everything from waist down, including their hands, was stuck in the ground. She looked at Kai, he was in the same position, struggling to break free.
But he is an earthbender, she thought, he should be able to easily escape. Somebody else was here.
The bushes rustled and a figure emerged. It brushed against the leaves with his masculine frame, took it's time walking to the faint fireplace, picking  up a still burning piece of wood and walking up to the first in the lineup.
Wrestling with the ground, Kai seemed furious and when the figure lit up his face, she found it to be true. Calmly, the figure looked at him, then shifted slightly to a piece of paper in it's hand, then back at him again and just moved on to the other two.
"Let me go! Hey! Where are you going? Hey--" The figure pushed its hand and Kai drove to the edge of the camp like he was on rails.
The man walked right passed Koarsa and to Katar, lit up his face, checked the paper. Moments later he crouched down to him, real close, checked the paper again and grinned. Only that grin and his green eyes showed from the flicker of the flame. The rest of his imposing figure remained mostly hidden, only its edges were lit up by the flame and the moon.
The man stood, paced slowly and Katar was forced to follow at a small distance. Sliding, like Kai, with a faint graveling of earth. But then, it stopped, and a blue-edged silhouette of a man looked back at her.
"Lady," the voice came low, "is everything okay? Are you hurt in any way?"
"Um... No." The manner in which he spoke stunned her almost as much as being called a lady did.
"I'm gravely sorry for having to do all this, for being forced to involve you in all this... But why would you pertain with such people... such... scum? Who can't even pass a peaceful town without causing a ruckus." He imitated spitting on the ground in disgust.
"Hey!" Kai felt offended.
"There's still a life for you. You don't have to lower yourself--"He accented the word by dipping his hand and Katar sank to his chest accordingly,"--to the likes of him. There is a way out of this for you. We could--"
"Is this guy serious?" Kai asked.
"If you don't shut your air hole in the next three seconds," he exploded on Kai, pointing the finger, "your next meal will be your teeth!" He kept pointing for quite a while, his heavy frame bobbed up and down as he breathed heavily.
Suddenly, a fireball came from behind a tree, heading straight for the man. He blocked it easily. Looked where it came from and found nobody there. Fast footsteps passed Koarsa. With a gust of wind, a shadow beside her leapt towards the young man. A heavy thud, then another one with two simultaneously moans. Both shadows fell to the ground.
"Go!" Han ordered, rolling dizzily from side to side.
Quickly, Kai broke from the ground, rescued the others. Katar and Koarsa rapidly threw everyone's belongings to the cart. Han crawled over to the man to buy some more time, deliver some well needed punches, but Kai soon intruded. He began pulling Han back to the cart, but not before adding some kicks himself.
The rains were whipped and the cart hit the road along a river. The man, however, gave chase. He was fast even before he started catapulting himself with earthbending. Pushing himself closer and closer with every jump. On the third dash he caught up and landed at the back of the cart, but his feet fell in a pile of cabbages. He lost balance, rolled out with a spin which quickened once he hit the ground.
The moment of relief didn't last long. As soon as he stood he came at them with a different strategy. Suddenly, a column rumbled up before them, forcing Han to turn left. After the turn, another column popped and the cart jolted right. Then back to the left and to the right. All a distraction. A distraction from a wall, a monument that grew two storeys tall and blocked the path. 
"Charge!" Kai shouted.
"What?!" others asked in unison.
"Just go for it!" he said and put his counter in action -- turning a wall into a ramp.
The cart hit the incline and soon the wheels left the edge. As the cart slowly hinged the air, strange feeling in her chest rose - whatever was inside didn't fall at the same speed as she did. And then the cart decided it was first to fall, discomfort only intensified.
Koarsa saw a sleeping bag elevate, before she felt herself loose footing. A small gap edged its way between her and the cart and grew. Katar gripped a wooden barrier beside him tighter, running his overgrown nails into it. Eyes as wide as tarsier-frog's. Kai seemed to be the only one to actually enjoyed this stunt. But that loose moment passed, the cart hit the road and everyone fell inside. One of its wheels began squeaking immediately. Every round it made came with a sound.
Minute passed and Koarsa felt her gravity finally center. Felt she could sit upright. Looked back at their pursuer who seemed to have stopped chasing and instead stood on a ramp in a peculiar stance. "Is it over?" she wondered aloud.
"Damn it, Kai!" Han barked. "If your meat-headed ideas break my cart, I will drown you in that river! You got that, K-star!? If--"
A branch snapped loudly somewhere before them. They turned ahead. Another crack. And another. Again and again, the sounds piled on top each other into a longstanding crash.
"He's going to cut us off!" Katar shouted. He pointed towards a towering beam. Its moonlit outline slowly fell for the road.
"He's dropping trees on us now?!" Kai blurted out.
"And this," Han, talking about the cart, "doesn't have another jump like that in it!"
Still, they charged ahead. Hoping to make their way through before the timer, literally, runs down. But at this speed, the furthest way can hope to go is underneath the tree as it hits the ground. She looked around at others for ideas, but everyone was as tight and lost as she was.
Suddenly, Katar lit up. "Kai!" He called. "Columns! Under the tree!"
Kai considered it for a precious half a second, "I can't hold them both."
"One will be enough!" Katar assured.
Kai quickly shuffled to the side of the cart. The night was as clear as it could be, but the only thing he could judge the tree's position by was its constantly moving shadow. He waited and waited, as it slowly ran down until it was unmistakably and unavoidably before them. Only then he could surface his column.
The tree hit it hard and immediately started pivoting on it. Kai was straining, he was keeping the column strong enough to hold, but it the tree trunk just kept on moving. It turned on Kai's column and the bottom of the tree ripped from the ground with a deafening crackle. The roots broke free and the tree just kept on going. Koarsa glanced upward. The tree hauled down to her, threatened to crush. Katar was wrong! One wasn't going to be enough. The tree was going to crush them and Kai can't make another column.
Franticly, she looked around for a solution. A river ran beside the road, but there was no time to pull and form that much water. She was out of options, but then, amidst all the crashing and the hauling and the turning she heard the ground rumble. The beam hit something and bounced back up. She turned; saw an earthbent column falling apart and Katar beside her and in very much the same position that Kai was in. The tree trunk ran up, there was enough time to just pass under it, but now it started giving chase with a heavy roll. It slipped of Kai's column, back end of it crashed to the ground.
"What now?" Kai asked.
The top end of the tree stopped moving up and with no wait began speeding down.
"We hope for the best..." Katar said.
"Like hell we do." Koarsa started pulling barrels of water from the nearby river. Forming it into a pillar underneath the tree. Froze it to ice in the hopes that that would stop it. Multiple cracks appeared instantly and it shattered not a second after. It shattered and the beam started moving again, but they were already too far away for it to matter.
They took a breather. Let the pressure off and then looked back again. Searched for their new enemy. He was standing on a tree he tore down. Pacing angrily atop it. He walked over to Kai's column and smashed it to pieces.
"Finally! That bald bastard gave up," Kai said and let himself fall backwards into a cart.
"Bald bastard?!" Katar tried to withhold his smirk.
"I don't care... I'm too tired to think of anything better."
"I have a feeling, you'll get your chance."
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Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #6 on: Mar 24, 2017 03:12 pm »

To the calm of the forest chaos rode in. A ruckus of beating wheels from far away, of grunts by some tired animals and of that noise, that squeak coming from that one wheel up front. Every turn, every rotation that wheel made came with a grilling creak or a biting shrill, a cut to the ear.It was a constant assault the passengers have grown to expect by now and if, for some unexplained reason, that sound would grow silent or skip a beat, or even stop, they could remain sure, that that was only temporary. The wheel will sing it's tune and the shrills will play to the monotone green of the forest around.
That came to be the underlining tone of the day, an eerie irritance in the land of dull and endless. Since they've left this morning all they saw was this forest, which went on and on through seemingly endless supply of crooked roads, intersections and smaller, slower paths, where even attempting to run those carelessly would land you in a tied bag of trouble. These roads where thin, which was what they wanted, but everything else didn't help. It only worked to build tension within oneself, make one agitated, desperate for something to break up this irritated monotony and that soon came.
The cart stopped and so did those drilling strings. The passengers took a moment to recover, enjoyed the little silence while it could last.
"Why are we stopping?" Katar eventually asked.
"The road is cut off," Han answered. A long way away a tree laid across the road.
"Strange," Koarsa said, "there was no storm yesterday, for it to be torn down like that."
"It doesn't have to be from yesterday. I'm keeping of the main roads, these aren't traveled as much. Most people wouldn't bother moving it away."
"And I don't think we will either," Katar said, pointing at another path leading down a similar direction. "What about that road? It seems like it would be a detour around this block."
"I guess that could work."
Han whipped his rains and their short break was done. Everyone went back into their spots, doing the same nothings as before. Only Kai seemed busy, working on something that brought him efficient calmness. He smashed his hand down and then slowly pulled it up, carefully hiding whatever he did with his other hand. Koarsa heard sand rustle, saw dust gather from the floor, but she couldn't tell what he was doing. Only saw him smile a little more with each attempt, until eventually...
"Hey, guys!" he called. "Look what I can do." He smashed his open palm down and slowly pulled it up. Sand began to gather under his fingers; slowly it took form of a small statue. It wasn't very detailed, but she could make out it having its arms folded and a protrusion over its left shoulder--a sword, she guessed.
"Is that... me?" Katar asked.
"Yup."
"Well," Katar continued, "that's actually pretty--"
"Terrifying." Koarsa took a closer look. "What's wrong with that face?" It looked like it was mushed together out of three or more and none of them would look good on their own.
"Ugh! Leave it to you, to bring the mood down..." he squashed it, his mood uncontested.
She looked at them both, sitting there comfortably by each other and found that hard to believe. A killer and a kid, one beside the other. Something was off, she wasn't getting the whole picture and  the thought kept grinding at her as much as that wheel that played in the background. Building, coming stronger each round, until she had to know.
"So... Kai," she started.
"Yeah?" He was still sitting there, fiddling with sand.
"How long you and Katar are travelling together?"
"I don't know... maybe four months now."
"And the idea doesn't scare you?" That got Katar's attention, but he didn't say anything like she guessed he wouldn't and that made her smirk.
"Why would it?"
"Well, the bounty." Still Katar remained silent.
"What of it?" Kai didn't seem to mind.
"The bounty is for murder."
"Where are you going with this?" Katar finally asked and she left his question unanswered.
Kai looked at her strangely. "Do you think I can cash him in, break him out? We could use the money," he laughed, looking away.
"What are you getting at?" Katar spoke more harshly now. She noticed his bandaged arm, it shook tightly.
"What I'm getting at, is that there's things that are happening around me that I don't--"
"Hello there," a voice came, from somewhere. Not adult, but not puerile either. What it was? Though. It was confident, cut through their riling up exchange just as Koarsa struck a chord with Katar. They tried looking around as the cart slowed, but couldn't find its owner. "Up here," the voice came again and now they could add a face to it.
He was a slim boy, late teens, tarnished hair, pointed chin and a handsome smile. Well, as far as she could tell. The boy happened to be hanging upside down from a tree. A rope was tied round an ankle; his other leg leaned loosely to the side.  "Hey," he said and waved in his inverted way.
"Hi," Kai answered back.
"So," the boy nervously scratched his face, flicked something to the ground, "I'm in a bit of a pickle, as they say. Could you help me down?"
Kai slid down from the cart, Katar and Koarsa soon slowly followed, and Han held ahead of the track.
"How did you end up... up there?" Koarsa asked.
"Well... that's a funny story."
"Oh, I'm sure it is..." Katar said, still agitated. He handed Kai his swords so he can cut the rope. He slung them over his shoulder. Too big, the bottom of the case pressed against the back of his knee.
"I was going to hunt in the woods this morning; that's my bow, by the way." He pointed to the ground. "I just walked my usual path, then, suddenly, this rope drags me up and leaves my hanging."
"That wasn't that funny," Katar said.
"Yeah? Well... it is what it is," he answered as Kai rose bending a column beneath himself. "I'm Wan, by the way," he said simply.
"Kai," Kai said when he rose to Wan's level. He swung the blades to his front, began pulling them out the case, but then, his legs began to quiver. His legs began to quiver and he didn't know why. They shook and then the column began to shake, and then the ground. It trembled terribly. A humongous earthquake rose up from nowhere and even the trees barely withstood it. Leaves popped off of them like scared away hair, branches broke off from the immense vibrations, fell to the dust.
Katar and Koarsa held on to the ground and they were relatively safe there. Kai, however, fell on his back, almost rolled of the pole. He clung to it and it seemed stable, but then the ground itself began to fail them, to crack. It ruptured rapidly, like it was barely an egg shell. Dust burst out of newly opened gaps and run up the pole which collapsed in heavy chunks. Kai jumped off of it when it came close to the ground, but it stove that ground in and he was sucked into the abyss. And the hole expanded quickly. Quickly, the opened cave below enveloped Katar and Koarsa into its depths as well.

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« Reply #7 on: Apr 04, 2017 11:53 am »

"Why do you always rush?" Suluk drudged behind Koarsa, she had to pull him through the snow. "It's my job."
Koarsa smiled at him as she bent a hole in the snow. "I know," she said, but jumped inside the hole anyway. Down through the snow and ice she slid to the ground and when she landed Koarsa she heard Suluk grunt above. That made her grin.
"Hey," he said through the rattling coming from above, "you forgot something."
She glanced up. The back end of the bucket was coming at her, she ducked to the side before it could hit her. It didn't crash, it was tied to a rope. She ran back to it, peered at the perpetrator above. Suluk winked, guess that made them even.
"Watch the ice," she snatched the bucket and bent under the ice.
Before her the seabed laid bare and unknown. There was no water here, not in this particular place and not until the tide comes back. The ice, the ceiling of the sea, has been pulled to the floor and now rested on it.
Koarsa lit a torch and the whole of the under-ice began to glow. Light ran down this temporary cave like a sound wave, revealing itself with an alluring azure glint. With this one light she saw everything here: spots were the ice rested on the seabed, length and curvy nature of the tunnels that ran between the ice slabs, last traces of the sea water trickling and dripping from the icy ceiling, mounds of ant-crabs and the like fleeing from the light. One could spend hours down here, just taking it in, letting the chilling gusts pass and pass, but she had only minutes.
Quickly, she set the bucket down, grabbed the first mollusk and threw it in. Easy pickins is what they came here for, mollusks that lay exposed after the tide pulls out. There was plenty of them here, she got lucky. The bucket will be full this time.
Time passed fast while she worked, but she liked to imagine that it did so quicker above. She saw him up there, looking around, growing nervous, pacing restlessly. Until...
"Koarsa?" Suluk's muddled voice came through the hole. "Koarsa, hurry it up." She knew that. "The ice is rising." She knew that too, water already flooded her ankles. She was so close to full, though. There's still time. "Koarsa?!" his voice cracked. The ice had risen, it was almost level now. He called again. Useless. Began to pull ice looking for her, but he didn't knew where to look. The current may have dragged her away. There's no telling--
She burst from the snow before him. He fell on his back, she -- on his chest.
"Oh, thank spirits!" He breathed deeply. "Thank spirits, you're okay..."
They laid there for a while. Began to laugh about it. He pulled the water out of her soaked clothes and hair, so she wouldn't feel cold.
When Koarsa woke, the earth still rumbled. Only now it was amplified, it was echoing heavily around the cave and around her skull. Sunlight wrestled down to her, but she doubted anyone could see her through all the dust. She could barely make out anything herself, only the soaked walls of the cave. Just how far has she fallen?
Didn't remember much of it, the fall. And now she found how incredibly fortunate she was. All she felt were cuts and bruises and not much more. When she moved, when she stood, she felt she was beaten, but there were no broken bones or serious cuts or injury. It seemed impossible to be this lucky when you fall so far, yet here she was, standing in a cave and the thing that bothered her the most was the noise. The thunder of the earthquake still shaking the walls around.
She stepped into the dark and bumped into him, Katar. Rapidly he turned and lashed at her. A wind current picked up and in a flash she was lobbed onto a pile of debris in the darkness. It was hard to see into the dark, she only saw that he didn't stop. Katar just kept going. Pummeling away, not at her, but just plain aimlessly. Throwing mad rushes of air, fire and stone at a non-existent legions of enemies before him. His eyes burned in blue fury and the palm of his hand glowed gold through a loose bandage.
Out of plain shock she couldn't keep her eyes of him. Attacking blindly, bending multiple elements... Just what was happening here? she wondered as he went on for quite a while.
Then, as he seemed to grow exhausted, he stopped and she could hear how heavily he breathed with a weighted voice that was not his own or of any one person. Katar limped forward and collapsed. His body fell under sunlight that shined from above.


A chill ran up his back and his feet were already freezing. It was only a matter of time until the cold migrated everywhere else. Curled up around his swords he lied on the unwelcome floor and didn't feel like he could move from it. He could try to bend his way out of here, but when he was falling he lost all direction and the rest of the abyss he heard echoing down seemed barely a step away in this tar black cave.
It was a trap--the dark, and he knew it well, knew what to be afraid of while in it. To him it was always a prison with opened gates and nowhere to go. He got torn away from the sounds of the world he learned to love, away from the play of sunlight he learned to enjoy, away from faces he knew he could trust and the thought made him crack underneath.
His hands clutched the sword case closer, fingers followed the unruly surface of the burnt handles.
And he worked so hard. Tried, forced himself into situations. Even pushed himself to ignore people's initial dismissal of him and wait for their true reactions. None of that mattered here. Fate has smacked him right back where he never wished to be and feel so solitary. But for the first time in over four months, Kai was truly alone.


Avatar's voice came like a ship through mist. A young voice, a familiar one. "Listen," it said. "Not yet." He couldn't see the face, did not see much of anything. The world before him presented itself through a thick cloth."On the solstice, Katar." Through the haze, he felt water stream around his lazily laid legs. He bent down to Katar, to his woozy head. Katar could only focus on the edge of his face. That sharp chin, green eye, the lip...
"Solstice, Katar. The bridge will be short enough." His hand held Katar. "Tomorrow, Katar. Tomorrow." The hand moved, it grabbed and yanked him down through the puddle.
For a glimpse, he was back there, above the frothing battle of the oceans. Before him, the far horizon laid bare and starless, consumed by the ever growing and ever falling tower of fire.
He jolted awake. With a big breath he inhaled a big gulp of cave dust; had to cough it out. Coughs echoed back and forth between sturdy slabs of wall, until it eventually died in silence. There was a circle of light around him, extending about two meters and no more.
"Hey," Koarsa's voice came from outside of the circle, somewhere deeper in the cave.
"Hi." He tried to get up, found that he couldn't. Not easily, not until he figured it out: "Why are my arms tied?" He tried to move them, separate them, but couldn't. "Koarsa?" No answer. "I need my arms, Koarsa. I need to see my arms."
"Why?"
Frustrated, he clambered onto his feet, took a step towards her voice.
"DON'T... come any closer," she said from shadow. He felt her voice quiver and now that quiver echoed away.
"You okay? I tried to direct our fall, but--"
"What was that?" She almost shouted. "Why did you hit me?"
"I ..." And then it came back to him. An episode surfaced through that muddy memory of his. "Koarsa... I didn't mean to. But you have nothing to worry about now, I have it under control."
"Have what under control?" That left him stuck. He couldn't come with a response fast enough. "Explain!"
"I can't."
"Why?"
"Just let me go." He said and that shut the questions he wasn't willing to answer for a while. During, the place came quiet, only a small river trickled somewhere in the background. It hummed through the silence with steady pace. "Please, just my hands... And Kai. If he's okay..."
"No."
"Why not?!"
"Because there is a million things you have to explain! Starting with, how can a warm-skin like you bend multiple elements!? And that Avatary thing you do."
"Avatary?" the word pained Katar, "Just. Just let me go," he pleaded again.
"Why should I? You hit me!"
"But Kai--"
"You said he can handle himself."
His own words, Katar almost laughed, his own words. "He might have hurt during the fall and he cannot be alone. Now, please."
"No."
"Bleeding hog monkeys, Lady! What is your problem?!"
"Still no."
He looked away, bitterly considering it. Nothing much to consider, she has him in a corner. "Fine. But we do it on the search." Katar turned his back to her voice and waited. She unbind the blue scarf from around his hands and tied it back around her torso where it originally was.
Quickly, he inspected his hands. "I am aware," he mumbled to himself and sighed in relief. The bandage around his palm came loose again, he quickly redressed it as tightly as he liked it. It was time to go.
Katar held his hand up, tried to softly push her away with his first step, but she sidestepped it.


Eventually, the rumble stopped. All laid still, only but leaves still gracefully dove down. Wan still hung, only now he was hanging over a rift, a parting in the middle of the road.
Han leaned over the edge of his cart which stood over the edge of the gap. A hundred of dreadful thoughts ran through him as he waited for noise to die down down below. He waited out those heart-wrenching seconds and then he called her. He called down to her and then to others, but none answered. Still, he called until that one time that he was interrupted.
"Mister," Wan said, "could you help me down?"
"Why don't you have one of your friends hiding in the bushes to do it?" Immediately, they ran, two young men that laid in shrubbery the whole time, watching.
Han turned, with his goal set: He has to find her.
"I can help you find them." Sharp kid, got Han's attention. "There's an entrance some way down the road. But you will miss it without me."
He didn't take much time to think about it. He pointed at the kid, with a promise of threat. "No tricks."
Wan held his palms up and open. "No tricks."
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« Reply #8 on: Apr 08, 2017 04:38 pm »

"Bending," Katar started," is the hardest thing for me. It's not something I was born into and back before I was a bender--"
"What do you mean, before you were a bender!?" Katar had just begun and she already felt lost.
He sighed with frustration. "That's exactly what I meant."
"But how does that make sense? Isn't bending hereditary?"
"I don't know, okay? And I'm done tiring myself thinking about it." He almost shouted the words at her with intensity that didn't really fit him. Not by her eye, anyway. He didn't stop walking, didn't stop till it was too dark to see anything. Even small reflections on a river they followed were much of a guide anymore. "Let me try something."
She heard skin rustle against his clothes. Small currents of air pushed away. Not once she heard him sigh and try again. "Everything has its rhythm..." he whispered and then, he did it. Fire splashed from his hands and he was quick to catch it, hold on to it, unstable as it was. Katar breathed a fire into this cave and it grew and withered, lit up their close walls, the path beside the running stream.
"When I was ten," he continued, with flame calming in his hand "I would... visit people houses. And in one of those homes," his finger twitched, and so did the flame it held, "I met the avatar."

"Thief!" The word bounced strongly between the wooden walls of a stockroom. Katar leaned back; his upper half emerged from behind an opened door of a cabinet like a curious catowl's head would around a corner.
"Thief!" the dark-haired boy cried again, he was panting angrily into a white training shirt. Katar looked at him for a second. Another. Waiting. The boy was blocking the only way out. It was a fools mistake, to leave a door open like that. One, Katar felt, he was doomed to repeat.
The boy charged in, made Katar smirk -- there were two fools in this room right now. Quickly, Katar dashed to the side, around a shelf rack splitting the room upright. The boy tried to catch -- reached for him through the shelves; Katar ducked under those hands and flying bowls. He ran up the shallow stairs, paused by the door. By then only a pear and some shinny necklace stayed in his hands. He pulled one to his pocket, grabbed a bite of the other. Didn't chomp the pear, just held it in his teeth, looking down at the boy, seeing what he'll do.
"Come down here, you slimy skunk-ape!" The boy stomped ahead. Katar shut the door on him and ran.
Corridors were roomy, much more wider than he was used to. Usually, the places he sacked were tight, every room was next to or across another and every room had it's clear purpose. This one was different. This house was a square around a wide and plain yard, the purpose of which escaped him and didn't bother that it did. Every room opened into a square corridor, which opened into the yard. This wide place was more than enough for his small little body and his fast feet.
Katar dashed the corridor through, turned the corner and didn't stop. Before him, some lady walked in carrying a basket of wet towels. He threw himself to a wall, rolled on it with momentum and leapt off -- so he didn't hit her, so he didn't stop. Another corner, another problem. An old man standing in a door, blocking his way out. Katar kept running. To stop now, to get caught now, he knew, was a fate worse than death! No kid and no blind gasbag was going to catch him. He ran towards the man and then lept to a room on his right.
A dining hall. Descent sized room: empty tables, empty benches. Where's a dining hall -- there's a kitchen, where's a kitchen -- there's a back door, he thought quickly looking. On his left, a small kitchen -- door closed. Locked, maybe, and no time to check if it was. But beside it there was a small window for collecting dishes, just his size.
Two steps forward and Katar was already running. He jumped, he squeezed, he shut his eyes, hoping not to hit the edges of that small window and he got lucky. He passed through untouched, deployed his landing gear, but his speed was too great for a small kitchen. Before his feet could touch the floor he crashed into a cabinet, broke his shoulder through an ornamented door. The cabinet tumbled, its upper doors jolted open and plates fell crashing around him. They must be hearing that, Katar thought, but there was no worry -- he was only two doors away from being home.
He scrambled up, ran the first door and stopped. There was that old man again, blocking his door. He was not looking anywhere with his blind, marble eyes, didn't say a thing; just stood there, stretched like a five point star. Behind him, a lovely green hill bathed in sunlight. Warm and almost glowing. Calling Katar out of that unlit two-door pantry with a blind geezer by the door.
The boy from before caught up to Katar from behind. He was panting into his training clothes still, this time from exhaustion. They'd cut him off, one from the back, the other from the front. One was fast and bitterly furious, the other -- blind and as old as the moon. With options like these, this wasn't much of a gamble.
Katar bolted towards the man. Pulling all of his remaining strength down to his feet and ran, then fell backwards and slid. He aimed for the gap between his legs. He's small, he'll pass under. The floor was smooth, incredibly so for wood. He expected to feel it, expected it's pieces of it to chip off, get caught by his pants, his legs, his butt, but it simply didn't. It was like he was gliding on water.
Feet were quick to pass through, but then, the gate began to close. The old man was bending at his knees! He aimed for Katar while he was still under him. Sliding ahead, his speed decreasing, all Katar could think about was that wrinkly bottom pinning him down. He covered his face, cowering away from that view, from that thought. He could only wait now. Wait and hope his hope doesn't get squashed.
This time, though, he was lucky. He passed under and ran, shuddering, towards the hills, before the old man could crush him in more ways than one.



"Well?" Koarsa asked after a minute of silence.
"Well what?"
"Is that it?"
"Oh no... That damned bastard found me the next day."

Katar's back slammed against a wall. "Where's the necklace?!" The boy demanded. He was out of his training gear and in a more simple T-shirt and long pants combination. It would have been a modest look, if not for how clean they were."Where is it?"
"Get away from me." Katar tried to slip by him and run again, but the ground underneath shifted, it pulled and he got thrown back to a wall.
"Where is it?" He said, pinning him down with one hand. His furious eyes darting across Katar's face.
"I said get away!" Katar wasn't used to this. They always came with officials and to his mother. He would look down, apologise, play up--but not make up--the whole feeling guilty part, maybe pull a tear, if he was lucky. He'd give it back or work it off, of course, and that was it. At least, when it came to the damages. But this was too close, too personal. He had no sure way to handle it.
"Where is the necklace?" he repeated, threatening with a clenched fist.
"I sold it."
"What?!" A punch sunk in Katar's stomach. His mind flashed blank and when the colors came back they came back different, dimmer than before. He bent over the boys fist, but he was quick to straighten Katar. "What did you do?!"
"I sold it," he said between gasps for air.
"To who?"
Katar shied away from another fist, brushing against a wall. Dust rose from it, almost popped onto his clothes, but for the drapings he wore today it probably did more to wash than dirty them.
"To who?!" the boy was persistent.
"I ... uh..."
"Katar, lunch!" A woman's voiced sounded throughout the playground. Deep, but soft in too a familiar way. Terror struck Katar from hearing it. No. Not now. Not here. Not while--and he saw that the boy had noticed. He noticed who Katar was more scared of than him.
"Is that... your mother?" He asked, not really needing an answer. "Well lets go talk to her." He yanked Katar forward.
"Hey, let go of me," Katar said, struggling against his firm grip.
"Why should I?"
He made them turn and pulled towards Katar's home door. Every step a rise in danger. She cannot know of this. Not this, not again. He imagined her, that look she'd undoubtedly give him and he'd fall to the depths again. And that would be just the beginning. She cannot know!
"I can give it back."
"You said you sold it." The boy knocked on the door.
"I lied." Katar said and listened for his mother inside, clashing the plates, coming towards the door in steady steps.
"Then bring it," he said, not letting go.
"I will.," he said and the boy puffed at him, dismissing. "I will! But she cannot know," he pleaded. Looked him in the eye for the first time and held it. He even made his pupils a little wider for effect; a trick he learned from some other kids in school, when his family could still afford it. Never worked that well on men or males in general.
She was there now, on the other side and Katar still looked at the boy. Begging. But he took long to think, too long to just stand there undecided and not say anything. Was he retarded? Katar quickly questioned. Or has he already decided to imprison him?
A door pulled open and a shirt crumpling fist turned into a pat on a shoulder.
"You don't have to knock, you can just--Oh..." She pulled the warmest smile her worn face could handle. "Who's your friend Katar?"
"Hello, missis ..."
"Meilin."
"I'm Rohan. Katar here," he slapped Katar's back just below a shoulder to seem friendly, but his hand hit heavily, "was just showing me around the neighborhood."
"Oh, well... Please, come in," she motioned.
Rohan pulled a disgustingly friendly smile, "Why thank you," he said and took a step inside, left Katar behind.
To call that lunch tense would be an understatement. Throughout the whole thing he kept an eye on Rohan, not saying a word. He just chomped his food begrudgingly loud, which caught a lot of strange looks from his mother. Rohan didn't seem to mind. That cursed imposter just smiled politely while his mother showered him with questions.
"You sure you don't want anything?"
"Oh no. I ate before I left home."
"And where is that?"
"On the upper side."
"Up the mountain?"
"Yes."
"And where did you meet?"
"I don't really know," Rohan said.
"Katar?" She peered at him, face full of suspicion. He halted midway through the meal, his cheeks full, lips wet from food. Can't speak with your mouthful, he remembered. And if you can't, then you don't have to. He went on eating.
"Oh we just stumbled into one another," Rohan slapped Katar's back again, "and I somehow ended up here. Strange how life brings you places you wouldn't think," he chuckled like a slimy politician.
"It is," she smiled, impressed. "It's beautiful up there in the morning," she looked off, reminiscing and Rohan nodded, confirming. "We used to live up there, you know... Is the garden by the fountain still there?"
"Oh, I wouldn't know. We just recently moved in. I didn't have time to check all places."
"Well, if you need a guide, Katar is certainly knows a lot of Taku."
"Oh, that he does." He slapped him again, same place three times in a row. This was no coincidence.
He felt heat there, rising up to his clothes and bouncing back. It began to itch, to crawl. To burrow. Rohan had irritated Katar's shoulder and now he really felt it. Reaching for the bowl was as bad as grinding against the floor. Pulling food close to his mouth meant more of the same. Even when he tried to remain still he still felt it, crawling up and down his shoulder like a swarm of red scorpion-ants.
He couldn't bare much more of this. That obscenely polite manner, Rohan not missing a chance to wax the sting zone every time the conversation merely hinted at them knowing each other. He could try to evade, but she is watching, suspicious. Gracious kids in neat clothes don't just hang around these parts and if she hadn't figured out why he is here by now, she will if he tries anything. He started devouring his food faster. Bearing through the burn of the shoulder, he wolfed it down in large uncomfortable chunks.
"I'm done," he marbled out eventually. "I'm going to take some stuff and go out again."
"Okay, honey. You know when to come home," she said, but the way she looked at him had him marked. She caught him. She knew. Yet, she didn't say anything. From that day Katar was forever grateful for letting him of this hook.
His room wasn't much to look at: a few books on anatomy, in poor condition, an open wardrobe with some clothes hanging on its door and a lantern stood out as things that had some actual use to them amidst the clutter of half-unpacked crusted boxes and torn papers, and Rohan didn't take the time to examine it much further. He grabbed Katar's scrawny shoulder and began squeezing it, pushing hard with his fingertips into the area he was preparing all lunch for that special tinge to pain.
"Okay, okay, okay." Katar wheezed, squirming away from his grip. Massaging his shoulder, he walked to his bed, searched under the sheets and pulled out a key.
"What's that for?" Rohan asked.
"It's a key. It opens locks." He said dryly hostile. "I locked it away, like everything I take," he quickly added.
"You mean steal."
"Yes," he said silently, trying to bring the volume of conversation down.
"Well, lets go then."
"You don't have to go, I can bring it to you."
"Lets go." He grabbed and pulled Katar ahead of him.
"You already know where I live,"--he continued as Rohan sprawled his frame, growing bigger, showing every bit he was taller, bigger, stronger than Katar--"you know my mom, there is nothing--"
"Lets. Go," he growled.
The prison walk was lengthy. Rohan clearly didn't expect the place to be this high up - all the way up to the edges of second of three rings of Taku, which divided the city. He almost seemed insulted by that, by how high up that place was, how close to his home. Right under his nose.  At least the walk was long enough to torture the thief.
"We're here. You can let go of me now," pleaded the annoyed hostage and Rohan let go of his blue shoulder. He stepped inside an unkept backyard of his old home, buried his hand inside a crack in wall and after a quick minute of searching pulled out a padlocked metal box dulled by time. A picture of a magnificent dragonbird used to lay atop this box, with his wings spread proud it flew over a lush forest. Of that image only edges remained, only branches of a forest that was, hanging aimlessly with no core to cling to.
He outstretched his hand. "Would you? Please," he said, not hiding his irritation. Rohan had bullied the key to the lock away from him.
Katar opened the box, pulled out the necklace and closed it and hid it again. "Here," he said handing the jewelry back and began moving onto a walkway. "Now, we can never meet--" Rohan gripped him and sunk his fingers into Katar's blue shoulder. "Bleeding hog-monkeys!!! What more do you want?!" He pulled away, but Rohan quickly followed.
"Stealing from me wasn't the only thing you did. There are some cupboards that need fixing, some plates that need to be worked off."


Katar let his voice die in the long cave, even the echos. Only their steps and the flame sounded off between the wet slabs of earth. He was locked onto something ahead, eyes wondered, head followed the eyes. "Do you see that?" he asked rather meekly.
Koarsa looked where he looked, but there was nothing but darkness out there. Nothing to be seen, nothing to track as carefully as he did. "No. Is something there?"
"No," Katar said, "no there isn't," and exhaled with a harsh tremor. He walked, he looked to his bandaged palm and mumbled quickly. Then he waited for something, but nothing seemed to happen, nothing changed and that had him shaken a touch. Strange, Koarsa thought, strange are his rituals, strange are the things he asks for. Strange is his whole demeanor.
When he noticed that Koarsa was looking at him, he straightened himself, looked on ahead again, continued: "So I worked. It didn't take long to work off the damage. But, for whatever reason, that wasn't enough for the Master. He offered me to work there."
"He just did that?"
"Well... he's.... is a bit curved in thought--"
"To a thief?!"
"--and blind..."
"And stupid."
Katar halted mid-step. The fire snuffed out above his hand. His breathing grew audible, wide in scale. Koarsa couldn't see much of him, not until light came back over his clenched fist. The light was concentrated then. It squeezed into a tight orb while it only grew stronger, heavier; streaming light out to the far walls, to those thin watercourses trickling down and bumps and cracks on the surface. All of them were blown out by the white light. And the piercing light didn't stop, it only tightened while growing fiercer, hotter. Illumination was an eyesore to her dim adjusted eyes. She could barely make Katar out, barely make anything out even when she defended from it. It seemed like he was holding a dragon's tooth in his hand and not simply fire.
And then, the orb crumbled onto itself. Left them both in total darkness. Cold breeze, running through the cave was quick to grab and pull away any warmth made. Cold, dark and damp. They were back where they started.
"I thought you wanted this, Koarsa..."
She was left in shock. She knew he wouldn't hurt her; not intentionally, anyway. Could bet on it. Might have to reconsider that now. "I... do."
"Then why do you keep on pushing buttons?!"
There was no light here. Total darkness. And not the type your eyes could get used to. Not a ray of light passed where they stood, nothing to make out, no edge or contour and still, she could feel his stare as strongly as if they were under the sun.
"This whole day you've done nothing, but push me and push me and when I finally give in. What do you do?!" His breathing ran careless. She felt his sporadic movement through the air currents that he pushed. "Insult me." Light came again, this time there were two sources, one right next to other. It was his eyes, they radiated. Beamed out blue light, his pupils and his iris's completely consumed. "Insult the people I love." The phrase came heavy. She could hear hundreds of voices hauling those words to her, though she could barely understand them. There was no unity in them, no clear direction, just a chorus of chaos, but the sheer amount of them floored her. Hundreds, maybe thousands of voices speaking at once. Katar blinked and the lights went away, as did the voices. "No one knows any of this,--"
"Katar, calm down..."
"--not even Kai." He blinked again and the fury came back piercing and loud. He was right next to her now, looking her straight in eye. Blue flame flowed from their eyes, like wild currents of the ocean it resembled. "But you... out of everyone." She heard their voices echo down the cave and then come back, just as strong, just as terrifying.
"Katar..." her voice barely held from the pressure.
"Why do you even have to know?" Katar pushed even closer, the eyes pushed closer, the voices pushed closer. "Why?!" they demanded.
She swung at him, scarred. Her open palm hit him right on the cheek and he dropped.
Koarsa couldn't see how or where he fell, every light-source had gone away, but so did the voices. To her fortune. To her serenity.
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #9 on: Apr 18, 2017 12:05 pm »

Koarsa's trapped. Locked in her own shoes and unable to move. What made sense was to run, to stumble through the darkness of the cave and get away. But after the hit Koarsa remained in place. Her legs were not even quivering, she just couldn't get them to listen. She was too afraid to say anything and too tense to do anything. All that was left was counting Katar's terror filled breaths while he calmed. 
"I am aware," she herd him silently utter.
"What did you do?!" Koarsa suddenly found liberty to explode. Good, that it was just Katar before her and not those eyes, not those voices.
"I... I don't know," Katar answered between breaths. "I lost control, almost let it go. I'm sorry." Koarsa heard him somewhere below, he was still on the ground. "But I have it back now."
"I don't think that you do."
He didn't answer that. Instead, she heard him rustle with his clothes again. After a few brushes, a flame lit up the cave again and him sitting there, distraught, looking at the flame as it wavered wildly. It seemed to have caught him, bound his eyes to it. For a while he held the flame in a trembling hand and then, he collapsed it in pain. He didn't wail, he didn't even snivel, she only heard him cry.
He's just a kid. she thought. He's just a kid... As she heard him tear up by her feet. The water tribe, Avatar Rohan's death, she managed to pin this all on him in the short breath she knew him, but he... he's just some kid.
Koarsa wished to bend down, to comfort him and she almost did, but then she remembered those violent eyes Katar attacked her with and that thousand of voices he terrified her with and got her sober. She couldn't get close and she couldn't run away. There must be something in between, so she can leave with her first chance.
"When I saw Avatar Rohan," Koarsa started and heard him stop and focus, "there was fighting in the streets. The Avatar..." Katar lit up a flame again. A true flame, calm. "He brought hope, brought peace. And when Rohan died the fighting resumed. We were banished, Katar. Banished from our own homes. If he hadn't--"
"Is that what this is about?!" He didn't even bother to hide the sogginess in his voice. "That crap piece of paper with my name on it?" Katar glared at her now. Then, he stood, strolled deeper into the cave.
"Wait up!" Koarsa tried to catch up, before she got left in the dark. "Katar?"
"I didn't do it." He kept up a strong pace. "There. You have it."
"But where are you going?"
"To get Kai, remember?"
"You don't even know where he is." Her walking turned into a jog, just to keep up with his bitter pace.
"Yeah, thanks for helping," Katar said.
"I'm sorry I said that, about your master," she said, he stayed silent. "Clearly, you care for that man. Now I know." He snuffed at her, pushed ahead. She continued, "But this thing you have... it's... you have no idea what it is, don't you?" And he finally slowed a little. Remained tense, distant. "You have to talk about this. Let others help you."
Katar sharply laughed, bitter. and then his voice came harsh: "And what can you do about it?"
"Why me? Talk to Kai, talk to someone. Just talk it out."
"We talked now. You think it helped?" Katar retorted and she wanted to slap him again, hard.
"You know you need that." He walked ahead, slavishly silent. "Just think about it, for your own sake."
She too looked ahead now, and in the distance she noticed something. Quickly, she snuffed Katar's flame out. "Look," she turned to some faint light ahead, a glimmer in the distance. "Where's light, there's hope."
"Where's light, there's shadow."



Kai heard a crash somewhere in the distance, but with his ear to the ground it didn't feel very far. Rumble came, shook up his chilled body. An event in a place he was so solitary confined to.
He did not like that tremor. Not one bit. It made him strange, made him anxious. Such noises only reminded Kai of a drunk man stumbling home, his smell, his shouts, his hands. That's what he knew to expect from darkness and he did not think this place could be any different.
Another quake came, closer this time, stronger. It was no simple crash. Ground didn't pulsate like it would from a crash. This was a sustained vibration. There was a movement to it. As if somebody was... earthbending.
Kai rose to his feet, carefully walked to a pile of rubble he fell down with and put his ear to it. Another shake came quickly, stronger then the other two before it, and then another. They didn't stop, they came stronger and stronger each time.
Somebody was coming, he backed away from the pile. Somebody was coming for me, he thought and grew nervous.
Crash! He heard rocks break. Didn't need to hold his ear to a wall. He heard it just fine.
But how could he be here?!
Cave trembled around him from another hit, dust rained on his head.
He was months away from home, there was just no way he could have found him. He wouldn't even look for him. But the dark, the cold and the thunders have managed to convince him. His farther has found him and after two pulses, like stomps of giant feet, he will come bursting through that wall. And to his terror, the wall did crumble, it fell away from the light streaming inside. Sunlight fell on dust rushing away from the blast and on a strange, looming figure in the middle of the opening.
Kai heard him breathe, wet and wide. He watched him walk inside, yet you could hardly hear him move his immense paws. His snout poked through the dust: brown and stubby. Streaks of white, black and brown bands of fur streaked away from it and down his face.
He sniffed, then he growled barely audibly, yet with menace. Another step towards Kai, his head -- two times the size of him, began grumbling and sniffed around him again. He pulled back, disgusted, and roared at the intruder.



Han held the rains in his hands so softly, they could easily fall through his fingers. His mind was not on them. Wan, that punk from before, was still blabbering, trying to excuse himself, his little attempt to trick them that fell through. Went on about harsh times, complained about the queen, like all of them. It was more of a background noise to keep the silence out to Han. Something to keep him grounded while he gathered his thoughts, but the kid was growing on his nerves now. "Spare me," Han said. That shut him.
His mind was split for a while now. While the forefront of attention came to an almost robotic driving of the cart, the back of his head kept whirling, faintly wondering about what happened earlier. What could possibly gather such force? Such strength that it breaks open the earth kilos away. No earthbender he knew was that strong and he knew some significant benders. The Wall was no possibility. Though a favorite of any myth maker. Most of them haven't even seen the thing, much less understood its purpose. It's basically, a tunnel, a way to force the opponent to fight in an enclosed space. And the ferocity of it. Outstanding. It was strong enough to level cities, break wars. End wars. Could they have just happened into it? Could this have been just an earthquake?
"Right there," Wan cut his winding down train of thought, strange how he could do that when he needed to.
He pointed to small path, away from the main road, at the end of which laid a cave. The path one walked from the road was paved, but left uncared for and trees, vines and bushes obscured the place, hid it from the world. Over the entrance some markings laid etched in stone, but it was far overgrown with moss and he could not read them. Though covered, those etchings shined of an old world mysticism to him. At a time this place was sacred to someone, but now it laid forgotten. Wan didn't lie, he would have missed it.
He peeked at the road again, before leaving the cart alone on it. Out on a turn ahead came three soldiers. They held each other tightly by the shoulder. Their uniforms were unkempt, disorderly. Belts and undershirts roamed freely from side to side as they struggled to keep a straight walking line. One of them fell from the pack and onto his knees. He buried his face in a bush and Han heard him puke. Other two didn't notice, they just abandoned him. They didn't seem to follow what was happening. Their faces were bleached, sickly looking. Liquids peeked out of every orifice. Whites of their eyes were more yellow than white.
"Han, was it?" Wan asked, pulled his attention again. "This is where your friends will be."
Han looked away from the soldiers, but felt torn away from something bigger. Something he couldn't figure out and won't, until it's too late.
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2017 03:07 pm »

THE WALL pt 5


For a while now, Koarsa and Katar followed the light. He was silent and she withheld herself. She had driven him down enough and now he bounced back at her. Strangely, she found comfort in that. Couldn't really bear him till now. Good that he had some kind of backbone, as far down as it was. Now, walking ahead, he hovered an unstable flame over his bandaged hand. She felt she should ask about it, but restrained herself once more. Instead, hearing their steps echoing in the darkness, she wondered about something else: "How large is this place?" Her voice followed the echo of the steps, they took a while to come back.
All they've have been walking was this one tunnel. Obviously, the whole of it was enormous. Smaller paths intersected with their route in a surprisingly predictable manner. An archway every twenty steps. There was no rigidity or design in their appearance, nothing that would show its man made, yet, it was obvious, these were no simple branchings of a cave. It was a network of tunnels. Growing to be who knows how far-reaching. They could walk through here for hours looking for Kai, for a way out.
And the tunnel itself grew. Walls around pushed away with each step, ceiling grew taller and taller and the light, that single point in the distance, over time developed into a wall of light before them. Their eyes haven't adjusted to it just yet, but it was apparent that before them was a large open space. A way out. Lit by the sun above.
Katar quickened his step and had the right idea, she though. There was no reason to suffer this gloom anymore. There was pure light ahead!  She could see the path more clearly now, so her walk quickly turned into a jog, a jog into dash and a second later they were racing. Both of them running, jumping over small puddles and stumbling towards that lively color. A colored diamond, where only an expert could see that hint of gold in it. They didn't need that. What was ahead was more then enough. They ran and as they followed the turn of the cave it opened itself to them and revealed its secret sanctuary.
A forest. No... An oasis, where trees ran high and bushes flourished at their bottoms. Birds harmlessly migrated from one to another with no worry of predators around. Sun from above inspired vibrancy in color, in spirit. So even though this small patch was enclosed by a wall, it still felt like a piece of freedom. It wasn't their simple way out, but it was what they needed. A rest from the gloom, from absolute darkness and loss. A break from absolute isolation in your own thoughts.
They stayed here for awhile. Amazed at the view, the sound, the smell of fresh air. Forgetting the person that brought them here. It was about time he stumbled back to them himself.
A dust bowl exploded on the far side of the field and the sound of crashing soon followed. They heard branches snapping, saw treetops swing but not fall. Birds fled the area as some kind of horrific creature roared. It ran, she guessed, hard to mistake the rumble it caused for anything else. Even harder when those sounds start coming stronger. Then, through the foliage, Kai jumped into their view. Hit the ground running and did not falter. His head peered strictly, hands flubbed about, yet his feet held firm. He seemed to have ran his heart out and kept going only on adrenalin. His pursuer soon broke through the bushes. A Badgermole, monstrous in size and furious. Its attention focused solely on its target.
Kai noticed them, standing in the open. Stunned, unsure, he adjusted his course and in a few strides he was beside them. "Run, you idiots!" he screeched as he passed.
Koarsa took another glance at it, that slobbering beast that loped towards them. Its tongue was sticking out over its sharp teeth, its claws borrowed into the ground and it threw itself forward as it ran. Panting, grunting. Waiting only made it come closer.
First step and she almost fell over. Quickly brought herself up and caught up with the boys. Their path followed along the inner wall, even in stress she felt the need to stay in the light.
Kai was firmly ahead, scouting. He saw a room up ahead. The arching stone frame with some symbols up top. He glanced back at the beast that still chased. To slow it down, he mustered up a barrier from the side. The mole burst through it easily, roaring at him midway through its gallop. Kai stumbled backwards, forced his legs to run again.
He was the last one in the group now, shouting, pointing, directing them to the room he saw. Quickly, they all ran in. Kai, still running, bent the entrance shut behind him and stumbled into Katar as he failed to slow down and they both fell.
The ruckus outside the room didn't stall. Not for a moment. Mini-quakes from it running came as rapid and as close as ever. But the last one was not heard -- a leap. It hit the wall and they were overpowered by sheer thundering awe that reverberated in the hall. Wall began actively cracking, collapsing. Debris dropped inward in giant pieces. Light burst in, but it only lit the beast in the gap.
It shook the rocks and bits of ground of its head, roared at them in all its anger and might. The mole stomped down with one paw, then the other and growled. It was ready to pounce, but when light streamed through the dust, deeper into the room, its disposition changed. It began to move with impatience, pacing from one side of the opening to the other. Snarled, crashed and clawed to the sides of the gap; barked even, but it didn't step inside. Easily, it could, but it didn't. Instead, it just kept shuffling from side to side, pacing around the entrance like it was a barrier, an invisible line, it dared not cross, before deciding to leave.
They all remained frozen for a while, waiting for the beast to come back. She heard it outside, complaining about its strangely quick defeat. Koarsa wondered about that too, listening to it until she couldn't hear the beast anymore. It left them alone. Left that little oasis just outside the hall.
She turned back to the boys. Both of them lying down. Kai clung to Katar, like a girl would to his bigger brother, and Katar, if not a bit awkwardly, filled the role. Kai was rambly, terrified. His voice broke when he spoke. Though he spoke quietly she heard him well in this tall, echoey place. They stayed like that while Kai was hushed. While he took back control over himself, his breathing first of all.
She pulled her eyes of them and onto this room, the place that even that beast dared not enter. It took only a sharp glance for her to figure out where she was.
Statues loomed over and all around them. Their stone clothes were traditional, yet unique to each individual one; playful with the elements, but still managing to look stoic, imposing. Their faces preserved, distinct in every detail, wrinkle, beauty mark and scar. Their stone eyes looked overhead, as if looking at something beyond her, something beyond either of them. Dozens of them were arranged in this room, each on their spot on a coil that spanned further than light allowed her to see.
A peculiar shame surfaced within her. This was a temple. She was not allowed here, none of them were. There was a room like this back home and she was not allowed to be there either. And for good reason. These places are sacred and now they crashed into one!? Only the elders were allowed to a place like this. These statues, these people made history, they led history. It was sacrilege, for them to be here. Even the badgermole had more shame than to enter a place like this.
"This is..." Katar came in beside her. Amazed, "the Avatar temple." He took a curious step away from her, glancing around, "I've have always wondered what they were like." He stepped further, found one, turned a curious circle around it and stopped for a brief moment. "I think, this is Avatar Ruki, right? I mean, from her place in order." He looked at the figure with a knowing smirk. "She led in the taking of king Sho-chang's castle and-- OOh!" he jumped a line sideways to another one. "And this is Avatar Ashoka. He was the first to tame a dragon. I love that story!" He jumped ahead again, not really caring for the order now. "That's Newt. She --" he started to say, but burst laughing before he could finish. "She disrobed the king of Ba Sing Se in court!" He laughed again and Koarsa peered at him weirdly. "It's sounds better when you read it," he responded and drew his circle around the room back. "Rinzen. She quelled an uprising in Omashu, maybe a hundred years back. This is Shen and that's... Rohan." He stopped beside it, but still looked around, searching for more. "This place is amazing..." He said and the word ran free in here, in this hall. Sprightful and spiteless. Not a Katar's usual.
"How do you know all this?" Koarsa asked.
"I've always loved these stories," Katar continued to wonder. "They inspire. They are mostly the reason I wanted to collect my own." Katar's gaze wondered back to Avatar Rohan. "You've already got one too, huh?"
He stood before it, looking easily at a statue of a man he supposedly killed and his smile didn't brake. She couldn't guess what he thought at that moment, but for once, he seemed calm, hopeful. Smiling a smile that fit every face. It was like some tension was gone from underneath him this moment and his mind, as much as his eyes, were free to wonder and admire. Of all places that could, this was the one that wasn't restraining him. The only place yet, were she found a reason to grow just a little fond of him.
"There's one missing," Kai said, standing a step away from them both.
Koarsa saw it too. Indeed, there was a gap. "Strange." The line marking the succession in the granite was not unbroken. You could follow it straight from Rinzen to Rohan, but in that gap the line smoothly expanded to a circle where a statue was supposed to stand and that circle was left unfilled.
"Before Rohan there was supposed to be a waterbender Avatar," Katar started. "No one really knows what happened. Just that that Avatar died before their duty was revealed. A space is usually left open in honor."
A somber moment stood. Feeling the history of the room weighting down. Now she noticed more of these spaces, gaps between the monuments. The statues were grand in presentation. Each powerful in its own way. But it was the vacant spaces that were ominous. Chipping confidence away one slice per gap at a time. Challenging to grasp the thought that some things might be just as dangerous to the Avatar as they are to anybody else.
Rumble came from up-top. Small rocks tumbled down as something shifted there, above. An edge opened and light peered in. When the circle was fully pulled opened, like a stone lid being pulled away from a well, the light lit up this whole towering room. A marble staircase around them spiraled up towards the light. Every other step of which was accompanied by a statue of another avatar.
"Spirits... how many avatars have there been?" Kai's eye woozily followed up the staircase. It spun around the room slowly, leaving ten, maybe a dozen statues per floor.
A head popped up there, in a circle of light above them. "Hello!" It was Han. "Is anyone down there?" his voice echoed down and Katar answered back. "Well come on up. You don't want to live in a cave, now, do you?" Han laughed and they started walking. Only Koarsa held back.
"All these statues," she said, "Yet I get a feeling, that one might be missing." Katar looked back at her, confused. She continued: "Kai, you made a little statue of Katar earlier, could you--"
"Don't you dare!"


"Here it is, kids. The wall." Han 's hand glided over it, but soon gave up as he and he alone lost interest. Others felt they needed to stand to see the whole of it, the immensity stretching from east to west. As they got closer they felt the height of it, the loominess of it. Running up far past any pine or empty military tower.
Trees and bushes grew on the side of the wall, pointing at them like daggers or spikes of an angry hedge-wolf. Warning them away. It was as if they were pulled up there by their roots and left to grow, to adapt. But not all of them managed. A few trees were breaking away under their own weight, hanging on the last bits of life in their roots. Those that managed to live on, well you couldn't say that they thrived either. Their branches curved up to the sun at their tips and leaves ran a wild palette of seasons all in one go. It was too mad a splash of color to be on this enormous canvas, yet trees above, closer to in the sun, were comparably vibrant, lively and as the eye followed down the wall you could see the autumn coming, leaves turning amber, rusty and dead.
Still, the wall itself held firm. A thing so massive was clearly impervious. No storm or man could scratch a dent into this break between the worlds of fire and earth. And it wouldn't surprise if the world really did split here, exactly where this unbreachable monstrosity stood stretching from the near east to the far west. From horizon to horizon and from one end of the wall to the next. A bridge between two worlds, it seemed, could split the universe apart.
Kai's eyes wondered from one spot on it to the next. He didn't feel bullied by that towering structure. Being a bender, a wall made of earth didn't intimidate him. It was an opportunity, a challenge. "Could we climb it?" he asked.
"That thing?!" Han puffed. "You can try, being a decent bender and all. Will be fun to see you shot down," he laughed. "Nobody cares anyways, it's more for show than for anything else. We'll slip to the other side, no worries."
"So how do we do that then?" Koarsa asked.
"You kids... and lady, are very lucky to have picked me for this job, rather then any other sorry fellow," he tried to pull the charming act. "A little way east, near the ocean, there is a passage. It--"
"The war zone!?" Koarsa exploded.
"Oh, you know about that?"
"Are you crazy?!" Katar was next to burst.
"Calm down, kid. Grownups are talking." That put down made Kai chuckle. "And relax. There were a few battles and fire nation lost. They're done, they gave up. Place has been silent for weeks."
"And how do you plan to get us through a war zone? Right under the eyes of the military?"
"I know a guy."
"You know a guy?" Katar turned to Koarsa, "He knows a guy!"
"Yeah, I know a guy. Now put your pants back on!"
"Oh, this is great..." Katar started pacing. "This is just great."
"They don't like him that much," Han continued, "so he's always on guard duty. We pay him off with your coin. He lets us pass. Done."
"Really?" Katar asked in disbelief.
"Yes."
"Terrific!"
"Well what did you expect!? The king's express service!?"
"I expected at least a bit of safety."
"And you'll get that. Trust me. I've done this run six times already." Han stopped the cart. A weak shade from a tree fell on them all. "By the way, I'll be needing that gold right about now."
Katar and Koarsa looked at each other, silently, grudgingly agreed: This was the only option now, if they wanted to get over.
Handling the bags he toyed a little. Didn't count them, judged by weight. "Kai," Han called, "you seem the most level headed here. Could you pass me a pair of cabbages from the back. No, not those. No, a little left. There you go! Throw them over."
Han caught them, held onto one and placed the other before him. He grabbed it wide, palms spread over it; a twist and a slit opened down the middle of it, splitting the cabbage in half. He pulled the halves apart, let rocks fall from inside. They were hollow, the inside walls were made of wood. He put one bag inside, closed the lid and locked it. Did the same for the other 'cabbage'. Stashed them both away. "Okay, all out!"
"What? Why?"
"The passage is near by." He pointed to towards the gap in the wall, halfway to horizon. "I can't let you be seen. Now come." He jumped down, walked over and punched open the gap between floors. "Ladies first."
Wheels turned, minutes passed and they were still wrestling in the slim cubicle with each other, looking for a comfortable position. They were fine with a little awkward touching, to call this hole in the floor a cell for two would be a stretch, but Koarsa was to tall and angry to simply settle. She couldn't keep her legs straight, there was no room for those here, and leaving them bent was not an option for a long ride.
"Calm the clatter there!" Han's muffled voice came. He slammed his foot to the floor. "You're rattling like an open chicken-rabbit house in there!"
"Yeah, yeah..." her voice surrounded them in this tight space.
"Hey," Katar said a tad timid, but still was heard clearly, "what about the other side?"
"Damn," she quickly composed herself," you're right. Han!" She banged up with her knee.
"What did I just told you? Do you want to get caught?"
"What about the other side?"
Han let the wheels turn for a minute, then: "What about it?"
"How will we get through the soldiers on the other side?"
"How am I supposed to know that?"
"How can you not now that?!" She shouted, deafening in a small space. Her voice remained ringing seconds after.
"You said you've done this six times," Katar argued beside her.
"Well, not exactly six..."
"Wha.... you... you cannot do this..." she find it hard to keep still. Heat beat off of her. "We paid good money for this."
"And you'll get what you paid for."
"What, exactly?"
"I get you to the other side of the passage. Drop you off. Done."
"Done?" "Is that all?" Katar and Koarsa asked one after another.
"You paid me to get you over the wall. That's what I'll do. Now settle down, I look like a crazy person here, talking to my ostrich-horses." She felt something in the way he said those words. Was it a smile? She smacked the ceiling again, as strongly as she could manage in a small distance allowed. "Banging is fine while were moving. No talking, though," he laughed. "Got it?"
"I got it, you crook," she mumbled.
"What was that?" Han asked. She hit the ceiling as a response and he chuckled.
Somewhere down the road Han stopped the cart. The place around them was silent. Deathly so. Through the crack in a board Koarsa peered outside, but the angle she look through didn't offer much. They were beside the wall, she could see the face of it. It was changing, turning orange. A sign of a coming evening and a chilly breeze coming through the hole was quick to confirm that.
Thirty minutes of wait later they were still there. Waiting. Waiting for a guy to let them pass. "Where is that weasel-snake?" Han wondered from time to time.
"Is there anyone around you?" Koarsa asked from below.
"Not that I can see."
"Great." She hit on the side of the box and a plank opened. With a little effort she got out.
"What are you doing?" Han tried to hold his voice. "The soldiers--"
"Nobody's here, Han. If there was, they would be here already, questioning you!"
Katar and Kai soon followed her outside, closed the lid. Koarsa got back on the cart. Han's stare followed her as she sat down in her spot, her face pursed by anger and disgust.
"What do you want to do?" Han asked.
"You do what we paid you to do.”
« Last Edit: May 02, 2017 03:11 pm by SauliusD » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2017 04:02 pm »

THE WALL pt6

Entering the passage, it was as if they rode into an aged ghost town. No sings of life, just a feeling of what was supposed to be. They drove near the edge of it, so they couldn't really judge the whole of it, but even this strip did not seem right. It was supposed to be littered with burned and bloodied clothing, broken spear tips, arrows and swords, Han explained, but none of that was here. The only things they found here were obviously unnatural rock formations and the abundance of puddles on the ground right up to the end this monumental pass. It's walls ran as high as "the wall" itself and they only grew taller, or so it seemed. In fact, it was the road that was leading down, going on for what now was minutes of riding, but further up the road the ground led upwards, though not as rapidly. Leaving the grounds to be a misshapen, drenched saddle.
One side of this man-made, square edged tunnel was a lot like an old canyon: worn and tall, a little bit twisted in its ambery path forward with cracked tops, which always looked to crumble and fall. The other, though, was more like a valley. Healthy foliage bloomed a lustrous green from the grassy bottom to the top of a wall. Vibrant and smooth, a stark contrast to the other side. These two forced a balance, leaving the road they traveled to be where these feelings collided. Fighting for territory, neither winning, neither loosing.
From the valley side they heard muffled crashing of waters and smelled the freshness of the ocean in the air. It was walled off, the ocean. They could hear it crashing into it on the other side of that green wall, frothing and birthing those small specks of water to be carried over the wall. And maybe because they were behind that wall, those sounds never came that strong, nor did the smells and perspiration. And maybe it was because they were on the edge of an unseen stream that simply carried those things over their path and did not intersect. Others may have wondered longer about that, especially Kai, but Han and Katar had other worries.
"Do you see them?" Han asked.
"What?"
"Don't look, but they are watching us, on the green wall."
"That trio of them?" Katar asked.
"Well, now there are only two."
"Where did the other one go?"
"If I had to guess, he ran off to report on us."
"So what do we do?" Koarsa came closer to Han.
"Not sure. The ending is not that far, I'll try to get us there faster."
Han whipped the rains and the tired animals reluctantly obeyed. The path led down, but was beginning to level, so water naturally settled there. A shallow pond, leveling a foot above the ankle so it didn't slow them too much. It was clear, freshly fallen. You could see how solid the ground was under it, it only began to soften. It was unnatural for water to be so slow acting. This was clearly a full day of persistent rainfall and it only now began to have an effect? And now that Koarsa thought about it, there was no rain or even as much as an ominous looking cloud for at least two days now. They were under the sun this whole week. Where could all this water be coming from?
Suddenly, the cart sharply turned and Koarsa got bent over a barrier. A stone pillar skid against the side of the cart when she caught herself from falling. It was coming for her, threatening to smack. A hand gripped her back, pulled and she and Katar fell back into the cart.
"Hey!" she shouted at Han who seemed incredibly rigid. "Watch where you're..."And then she saw it. Another pillar emerging from the ground before them. They were being attacked! Han turned again and everyone rolled to the side, holding onto anything they could. Again and again Han was forced to turn, to pull on those crying animals so they were all safe. They were guiding him, forcing him to make a circle, at the end of which Han stopped.
"Why are you stopping? Drive!" Koarsa ordered.
"And where will we go?! They control where we go. They want us here. We have to wait."
And they did, though not for long. They noticed him rather quickly, coming down the side of a wall. On a little platform just for him, skimming smoothly. In his heavy frame and his clean scalp he stood strong with his hands tied over his chest. He wore thick stone cones as bracelets ready to be bent, and not much more in preparation. The man was back and neither his confidence nor his cockiness had wavered.
"The Bold Knight!" Kai exclaimed. In light now, she saw a wide scar running from the side of his jaw and hiding under it.
"Who..?" The Knight's face got clouded with confusion, but quickly came focused when he saw his target.
He twisted his arms and the ground rumbled below them. One side of the cart lifted, it pivoted on its wheels and crashed on its side. Tied to the car, the ostrich-horses did the same, the others clumsily fell onto puddles and hard surfaced ground, only Han landed on his feet. He let a flurry of fireballs go, but The Knight dashed ahead, was quick to dodge, to get close. He tackled Han and half a second later they both fell. Swiftly, The Knight jumped back on his feet and left Han molded into the ground, his hands and feet sticking out.
He bolted towards Katar next. Katar reached behind his back for the swords, but the man was fast. Before he could even pull by the handles he got kicked in his ribs, stumbled and fell.
Koarsa pulled water from around the bald menace, flooded his head and froze it. He clumsily smacked that shell, banging against it with his fist, but it held. Kai jolted a pillar at him, sideways. It crashed into The Knight and he fell backwards. The ice shattered.
Moments came slow in which he just laid there. Far away, yet she could still hear him breathe, shiver from the cold or maybe from rage. She noticed her own fingers twitching, barely keeping in their place from excitement. Long ago that she was this jolted, this focused on something so singular. And that single now man lifted his hands straight up and shot them to the ground. The force of the action got him back on his feet and into a position that akin to a boxer.


General Chin sat slouched over his desk, fingers buried in hair. Pages and letters littered the table before him. One of them from Queen "Guifei", as she liked herself be called. It laid open atop them all, its black ink calling to him in crimson words.
She was a regent of Wei state till prince Girilal came of age, but her actions were pushing the boundaries of that title and that letter came to be a prime example of that for Chin. The weapon technique they were experimenting with here was too difficult, too taxing on health. They've started earlier today and he was forced to stop it out of good conscience. He made a mistake of expressing that concern to the queen.
An answer came quick. Though clothed in same concern, the message was clear: "If you won't do it, I'll find someone who will. Your honor is on the line." That last sentiment made him shiver as to what it implied. The woman was not known for taking half measures when it came to disobedience.
Major Ruki passed under a curtain. She didn't ask to come in, just did -- must be something urgent.
He took a moment to sit straight. "Major."
"General, the masters are ready for another test. But we cannot proceed."
"Why is that?"
"The passage, sir, there's civilians on it."
"Fine," he waved his hand away, "just let them pass," he gave her what she wanted, though it was the first time she actually asked him for that.
"We can't, sir."
"Why not? Isn't that what you've been doing behind my back for passed few weeks?"  Ruki tried to remain calm, but her demeanor changed.  She grew nervous. "Easy," he calmed her.
"There appears to be a conflict taking place between them. One of them seems to have stopped the others from passing."
He had no time to deal with this. He was put on a tight schedule. He needed to complete at least one test before nightfall and walking them out would take hours. And that letter... He glanced at it again and that inked red stamp at the end that called for red of his own. "Flush them."
"Po!" she burst out.
"Not now, Ruki!" He turned her to leave the cabin. "Send the order."


The stand-off continued and no one was quick to make the first move. Only three remained standing for now -- Han was still trapped and Katar was slow to get up. He was no soldier. None of them were. How could they hope to stop this focused machine standing before them!? Not by force, he had them beat on that front, something other had to work.
"Why are you here?" Koarsa shouted. "There are easier bounties than this."
"I have principles. Not everything is about money."
"When what's it about?"
"Do you not know what he did? The posters are everywhere."
"Does he look like someone capable of killing to you?" Koarsa pointed at Katar, who just stood up a bare second ago, he was meekly holding his ribs.
"See this?" The Knight lifted his jaw, showed a scar under it -- long, thin and gruesome. "This is what people do who are incapable of killing." He slashed the air and launched one of his stone armbands at Koarsa. She ducked to the side as it flew passed. When she looked back on him, the place was empty. He had already gone to Kai, hit him and Kai stepped crudely backwards, clutching his chest in pain. Back to her.
The man dashed, passing her every waterbent attempt to stop him. Earth won over water and ice every time. Bearing through pain, Kai opened a hole in his path. Luckily, the man stepped in and got caught. He fell to his face, but didn't hit the ground. Instead, he phased through ground like it was a curtain of a waterfall and disappeared.
"What the hay?" Kai exclaimed, still holding onto himself. "Where did he go!?"
"Under," Katar explained.
He scanned the surface, looking for any kind of movement: ripples on small pools of water around, rumble that could be heard or felt; anything that could point to movement. He was moving, hunting, but he left no trace.
Suddenly, a hand emerged from the ground, grabbed Koarsa by the ankle and tugged her down and left her knee deep in the ground. Then the hand slipped back under.
They were all searching now, looking for anything. Anything! But nothing was there to be found, not by their untrained eyes.
Then the hunter himself emerged, caught Koarsa again and dove back down with a swimmers momentum, pulling her. She slammed her hands against the ground so she won't be and they instantly got caught in the earth. The hand let go of her and the shark disappeared once more.
This was his domain, Katar and Kai both realised. They were just pray, waiting to be picked off. Nor by group nor by one they were a challenge to him. They glanced at each other for an elusive second and Katar got to see life being kicked out of Kai's eyes. See him fall and all of them beaten. 
The knight slashed the air again. Another bracelet flew from his wrist and crashed against Katar's chest, clutched it and pulled like a dozen ostrich-horses at once. His feet skidded across the ground as he got yanked towards The Knight's outstretched hand. When the pull stopped, his hands were instantly guided behind his back and before he knew it, he was cuffed with restraints that shrunk at Knight's will.
He pulled Katar away, left others in pain and trapped. The man was triumphant. The victory was not entirely how he envisioned and planned it, but that's what made it fun. Think, move, adapt, win and don't look back when its over. Though he really should have at least glanced over to the turned over cart, surrounded by a canyon on one side and a valley on the other. Because then he would see a wall rising at the far, far end of the tunnel, locking them in here. But even if he did, he would not know why it was necessary.
Back there, at that far, far end, a piece of green began to fall. It turned gracefully, revealing its bare, earthy backside. A piece of the valley breaking and falling off. A damn that held back the ocean was beginning to fall apart.
The boulder hit the ground and painfully long seconds had to pass before they heard it thunder to them. The Knight stopped and turned. Another boulder was already on its way down when he found where to look. It hurtled like a lazy meteorite and punched a crack into the bottom of the damn. Quickly and with roaring bursts that crack ran to the top of the green wall.
"They broke their own damn." He stood beside Katar, eyes wide. "Why?"
And then, water broke through. It tore open the crack blowing masses of rock away with ease. The ocean looked quickly to fill this tunnel and take everyone with it.
Katar tried to run for Kai, for Koarsa and Han. Before the water came, before the waters consumed them. He did not know what he'd do, but he needed to be there. Now!
The knight pushed him back. "Dead or alive, was it?" he said uneasily and swiped Katar off his feet. He fell, his back to the ground and it enveloped him, didn't pull him completely under, but left him halfway. The Knight walked away.
Katar didn't wait. "Kai!" he didn't answer and Katar couldn't see him. "Kai, come on!" He heard it coming. It was still distant. "Kai! Are you there?!" Still no answer. He began to feel it. Being halfway under he could feel how the wave was shaking the ground. Coming stronger, wider and unstoppable. The ocean itself was coming for him.
"Dead or alive," The Knight laughed, overfilled Katar's head with anxiety.
"Kai!?" and finally, Kai grunts. He's there! "Kai, get up!" Katar could barely hear him, he's mumbling. His voice was under-powered by the crash of waters. "You have to look behind you, Kai! Look behind you!" Katar said and was forced to wait a full second for his response.
"HOLY s**t!" Kai burst eventually and began running around, pulling people from their traps while shouting "get up!" two times a second. The ostrich-horses near them were hysterical. Pleading, they croaked. Han burned their lashes away and they sprang from sight, dashed by Katar's still trapped body. Kai caught his loose hand, pulled him from the ground and they just ran. Pushing forward and away from the ocean, away from the great devourer of souls.
How it crashed, how it trembled the earth under their every step. It filled their hearts with terror. And the sound of it, that barrage. To hear it chasing from every side as it went on ricocheting between the walls, growing with every bounce. Louder and louder. Closer and closer. Powering each terrified step with its omnipresent assault.
"Keep moving!" Katar's voice cracked under pressure. "Faster," he said and nodded to himself, silently applauding his fear blinded words. "Go!" He shouted as he felt a dull ache rising in his calfs, his hands, his chest. Last drops of adrenalin were fading away and leaving him with nothing but aches in his muscles.
He glanced back and his legs kept moving, but his mind went limp. Sight of the ocean coming, devouring their cart has kidnapped his mind. He couldn't help but imagine being picked up by it, smashed against a wall beside him, plastered or maybe rolled against it, like a body thrown out of a moving cart.
Katar turned ahead, shunning away from deathly thoughts, but he couldn't run from them. They crushed him harder than any flood could. Crushed and pressed his mind into something... different. His movement became distant, automatic, mind - clear, focused like it used to be when he stole. The kind of lucidity he hadn't felt in years.
With little effort he pushed forward, breaking away from the group, scanning for refuge. A small turn of a corner could hide the solution and to their luck, it did. A cliff, with a flat top, was sticking out halfway up a wall.
"Kai!" he called while coming back. "See the edge?" It was half a dozen of seconds away.
"Yeah." He was flustered, out of breath. Saliva dripped from his lip.
"You'll have to... catapult us!" He rushed his words between breaths that started to come heavy.
"It's to high up, there is no way-"
"Either you throw us ... or we die!" Koarsa shouted him down.
It was easy to see, the loss on Kai's face, but they had no choice. They bundled around Kai, surrounding him with more responsibility than he could carry. And the storm came rushing in, didn't halt for anything in its path and did not wait for them either. They could feel the mist coming before the ocean did, dampen their latest breaths with specks of water in filling air. Kai took his last step and felt the ocean by his knee. With a faster push then he thought possible, he threw them all in the air. 
Their wet feet drizzled drops of water as they drifted over wild waters. The arch he threw them for was poor in accuracy, uneven for everyone involved, but it did the job. Kai threw himself the fastest and was quick to leave the group. Others followed, drifting away from each other, but to slow for that to cause danger. The ledge was steadily coming closer.
A weird sensation in Katar's chest found its way back. His stomach rising, trying to pull beyond him. Brought him unease and looking down only made the sensation stronger. The swirling untamed tides far below waited restlessly to grab him. He couldn't help it, he began flailing around. Searching for balance and support, for ground that was nowhere near. Others didn't work hard to misposition themselves, like he did. And didn't land sideways, like he did, near a small pathway leading to a forest.
A second later and they all breathed again. Kai, Katar, Koarsa and Han. All safe. All here, on this precipice which over looked the passage. Each calming in their own private way with much swearing involved.
Lying on the edge, Katar looked aghast at waters splattering violently below. Rushing under them to fill that expansive field. It was hard not to imagine the purpose of this for him. He saw a boulder being carried by the current and held it to be a soldier fighting for his life only to be smashed into the wall. He imagined another being thrown around by the stream, slowly loosing strength and becoming lifeless, compliant with the forces of the tide. There were hundreds of them, rag-dolls in water. And when the tide gave its concluding push and pulled back, in his mind's eye he saw it reveal a mass of small, still figures. Washed up and left there without burial.
Katar slowly stood, shuffled with his used up muscles a few steps away from the edge. Kai soon joined him by his right, Koarsa by the left.
"What is this?" Kai muttered.
"Is this a weapon?" Koarsa asked flatly.
"I don't know," Katar said.
Kai took his hand, clutched it, but not as hard as Katar wanted him to, not as hard as Katar would have himself had he had the strength to show him his fear. Obsessive fear that strangled him with shame. Seeing this storm below, a hand of that shame reached out and caught his throat. Choked. And he almost let it crush him, but it was better if Kai saw him die than to see him succumb to it. And Katar would be nothing if not for his restraint. Nothing, if he let it all go. So he held Kai's hand, standing like a hollow tree. An empty pillar and nothing more.
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« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2017 05:02 pm »

THE WALL PT7

It hummed. The claustrophobic dome around general Chin, Ruki and a few others hummed. The pressure was making it do it, emit that strange noise. He heard metal beams squeal as they were bent, heard wood break or bones shatter under pressure, but he never imagined such a sound. A low ambient tone growing from faint to ear-scratchingly obnoxious as they dove underwater. And he could really feel the pressure vibrating throughout, made his ears itch. He tried to pin it down, really listen in on it, but it was futile. The sound ran loops around them.
Chin noticed dust fall a little left of him and his attention snapped to that spot, held on it for a solid minute, waiting for it to breach, but the dome didn't break and water didn't burst in. Finally, they reached the bottom and stopped. Major Ruki bent open the side of the dome, a door, into a spacious hanger.
A divide, a gap right in the middle was the first thing to catch his eye. Two major tectonic plates had collided here, one hid under the other who knows how long ago and now it looked like a wound. Wrinkled over with dead skin and corroded blood. A wound that was far larger then limiting walls of this earthbent hanger could encompass or another five that were stationed along its path. But they didn't come here to inspect it with proper precaution, they came here to break that scar open.
Chin stepped up to the ledge and the people below looked up. They were earthbending masters, six of them. Many knew each other: apprentices, colleagues, friends. They looked tired, sickly, just as Ruki reported. Their eyes surrounded by red fine lines beneath the skin. The eyes themselves were unfocused, wondering. Blood vessels inside burst open.
He gave them half a day from the first test and this is how well they've recovered? He couldn't begin to imagine how horrible it was the moment after. Being exposed to such strong vibration from so close, this place must have been a torture chamber. And you could see that in their eyes, in loose and limp movements of the hand. And now, he is forced to put them through it again.
Major Ruki looked down on her clock. It hit nine o'clock exactly. Other five parties must be ready by now, so she called out the order and the masters shuffled to their positions, spread equally along the collision in the ground. Looking at her clock again, Ruki counted down.
With her last word Chin felt the pressure around him again. That tone, that hum of earth under pressure came back. It was building, came to be more and more expressed by the second. Then Ruki shouted: "Pull!" and the masters pulled.  
If he had a drink beforehand, he would not have believed. He saw a plate, a tectonic plate stretching for kilos tucked under the other, move.


The ground began to tremble. A terrible rush of vibration, the origin of which was nowhere near. Leaves fell, fruit with whole branches fell, dust and chunks of the wall fell and all that roil plopped into the ocean below them.
It was a powerful one and Katar's body instantly reacted to it. His stomach rose, not the food, but the acids.
"A second earthquake in a day?!" Kai asked as he clung to Katar, but no one had an answer. All they could do was wait for it to settle.  The tunnel, the walls of that war torn path to the fire nation shook, breaking, weakening by the force, but they managed to hold. Managed to keep the viscous ocean contained and not let break free any further. In fact, it began to recede, to pull back. The process took forever and it continued even after the quake has stopped, but it was mesmerizing to watch it being sucked out through the very crack it burst in. Moving back, then forth with the motions of a tide. Each round loosing ground until it was gone and leaving only the stones and what one might imagine them to be.
"Is it over?" Kai then wondered unsure.
Katar didn't answer. He diverted his attention to the crack through which water came in and went out. It bothered him, how easily it pulled out, how it was consumed by that deep, strong blue behind the crack. What was pulled, no, dragged out only strengthened the color, drew it into darkness and now it loomed there, peering at them from behind the green, health filled shield of the wall. Brewing a color so full, the evening's sun managed to lighten it only in spots. Few of those spots, where it glistened, were quickly consumed and disappeared into that great dark mass.
But it didn't stop there. It began to grow and it was getting hard to grasp the boundary where it collided with the horizon and the cyan sky. It moved. Inched upward, concurring more and more dominion in the view before them for that dark blue. That deep ominous blue. It wasn't receding, he realised. The dark blue of the ocean wasn't receding, it was coming back for them, rising as a wave.
Ground began its slow rumble. Drums beating a shallow march. Continuous shrill of the ocean dawned their ears as well. It was faint, but rising, just like the horizon. "Oh no," someone muttered and wasted the last moment of silence.
Water broke, the wall that held it back exploded into pieces, crackling like a near by thunderstorm. All of it broke loose. In places it was carried inward and floated on it like a plank of wood, in others the green was gone completely and left nothing but the blue.
Not a second later it was halfway through the passage. From the hit it took, the wave began to break, to fold over, but it wasn't fast enough to not drown them all.
A shield emerged before Katar, bent inward at its sides, coming to a point at the top. "Get behind it!" Kai took charge and they did.
Sound came high in volume and so did water. It was bursting around them, rushing past and flooding a forest behind them. Powerful currents of the ocean pounded against the shield, grinded at it and left off with an ear-piercing shrill. An untamed, untuned chorus of voices. Drilling through his ears, though with hands he covered them, and reaching in, plucking the muscle, scrapping the bone.
Did this chaos fell under him? Was he the fault of this?! Katar's mind fill with hysteria. Was he supposed to prevent this? How's that even possible?!
"Katar!" Kai's voice came to forefront. He glanced at Kai. His feet were buried in ground, hands on the shield, body -- tense all around. "Help!"
Behind Kai's straining profile, a river raced vertically up a wall, before it turned and came crashing down towards them. Koarsa ran up, began bending it away.
A pebble flicked Katar's ear and, distracted, he turned back. The shield was falling apart! Bits of it were shooting away through a net of leaking cracks.
"Damn it," Han grabbed Katar, pushed him into the shield, "just do it, you window licker!"
Katar grounded himself, buried his hands in the shield, like Kai did, and began holding. The aches throughout his body came back instantly, but he rammed into the shield, stretching his legs straight, instead of letting go. They began to quiver from tension and he pushed them further, leaving only toes to the ground. That helped, but only for a short while.
Then, something solid hit the shield amidst all the rushing fluidity. A back of an arm flipped through the flow of water, arching against Kai's mold. Katar grabbed it before it could get torn away and pulled. It began twisting as the rest its body rolled around the shield and unfolded, like a flag fluttering in gale, one hand holding the shield, the other -- Katar.
For a brief second, The Bold Knight held his stare on Katar, a brief second of disbelief, before his arm gave out and he got torn downstream. Katar still held onto him then, his shackles to the ground broke and they were both pulled away.
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« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2017 04:05 pm »

The current yanked them down a narrow path, too narrow for them both. The Knight smacked against a wall at the entrance, his grip loosened, but Katar didn't let go. The hit sent them spinning, running a wild turmoil round one another. Katar's feet smashed against a tree and he tried to tuck them in, but that only made them spin faster. Noxious. Their feet barely above the ground, the world spinning.
 He could barely follow their path as it were. But even with all their rounds made he did not let go. To let go was to die. To let go was to be obliterated by a menacing force, so he clenched tighter.
"Brace!" The Knight shouted as they approached a turn in a path marked by a monolith. The knight smashed into it, was flattened on it. His hand plopped over the edge like it did once before. Katar clung to it. As streams rushed through and tried to scrape him along he did not let go. He did not submit to that omnipresent force.
He felt The Knight waken. He tried to shake him of, but Katar held on. "Release!" The Knight shouted.
"No!"
"You're breaking my arm! Release!"
"No!"
"Let--"The Knight rolled over and punched him with his free hand."--go!" His vision dimmed, his hands let go, but in his mind he did not. To let go was to die, he repeated to himself. To let go was to be obliterated.
Alone now, carried by this monstrous flood and still spinning, he felt something crawl up his leg. Layering on him as he spun. He kicked it, but the leg got caught and he was pulled under. A vine had wrapped around his ankle, it snapped and he quickly surfaced again, gasping for precious air. But vines continued to entangle him, folding themselves around his legs, constricting his movement even more. Wrapping Katar up.
Then, that strange, boundless feeling came back and water did not carry him anymore. It's endless quantity dove under. Instead, he just glided, suddenly free from all worries that stressed him, from threats that fell below.
Loose and spinning slowly, he got a chance to look back the way he came and the edges of a cliff come into view. Katar was thrown out. He was thrown out and only vines that tethered him connected him back to earth. He was thrown out and that loose tether got rapidly strained.
A heavy jerk stopped him in air, held him there. It sent a shockwave through his arching back, cocked his head backwards. Soon he fell, penduluming under a precipice where a barrage of water met him. Pummeled him on every slow swing he made until he just dangled beside that new waterfall.
Katar let himself hang there, longer than he knew he should. He could not do much more anymore, this day has spent all the strength of his. He hung contorted now, unwillingly eyeing the horizon and it's falling sun. But as awkward as this position was, at least it brought him rest from that far sight.
How peaceful it seemed out there, in the fire nation, where the sun came to lay. No need for it to shine there, so it could rest. The people there bend fire and they themselves scare away the demons that come at night. He'll have that, Katar still thought, he'll live in the land with no demons to fear and he'll have his tranquil night, he just has to get over there.
He looked up, a thick vine-- torn, but holding steady--stemmed from his waist up, connecting him to a edge. "Safe," Katar said to himself.
He was at least four meters above a flooded forest where water kept moving with no end. He finally looked down on it and immediately crumbled to a fetal position. The vine that held him stretched, a few threads popped, but it held.
"Saved," he corrected himself.
Something flat slapped to his wet back. He checked on it. It was his swords! Miraculously, still with him. But that was pretty much all he had with him now. He had to get out of here and out of this harness that wrapped around his legs.
The puzzle before him didn't have good solutions, only straw one's. Katar was not much of an earthbender, not without proper grounding, so attempts at bending the precipice or the walls closer to him failed. Not much of a water bender either, not good enough to save himself from a four meter fall into a wild flood. Looking, he saw a ridge, a platform he could possibly swing to. Looking up again he guessed that he could climb the vine, but his grip was weak, exhausted, and if he fell the vine he climbed would surely pop and he'd drown below. He corrected himself in his harness, felt it tighten around his legs and began to swing.
Katar kept it as smooth as he could. With an eye on the rip in the vine he gently glided back an forth. Once he came close to the edge, he reached for it and grated the edge with his fingertips, pulled away. He tried to let the swing build in range, in speed, but he was forced to dive under the waterfall, which cut his speed in half. Still, he gave a full body swing. Closer now, he gripped the edge with his wet fingers, but the edge slipped away from him.
"Crud," he grunted. He was growing frustrated. He needed to get out, but as he kept moving the harness kept coming tighter. Katar already could sense that needling white noise in them -- a sign of his legs slowly chocking.
Back again, under the water, and forth once more. He reached for the edge and finally caught it, but a piece of it broke off and he swung away with it in his hand. "Hog monkey's ass!" throwing it away he shouted and let the swing settle. "There's got to be something else," he mumbled.
Dangling there, from a precipice over a forest, he looked around and found no solutions, but then, he got tugged upwards. Stopped -- the harness tightened even further. Katar was pulled up an arms length again. Stopped. He didn't see anyone over the edge, just saw the vine pull. Stop. Then he saw tethers in the vine pop as it was pulled. Stopped. He grabbed over a torn part of the cord, tried to shout, explain that the vine is torn, but he was pulled under rushing water that silenced him. Stopped. He was pulled upwards once more and his bandaged hand got trapped between a rock and the cord. Stop. He quickly pulled his arm out from there, ripping the bandage in the process, and popped his head over the edge only to see The Knight begin his final pull.
"No! No! Don't--" The cord was cut and Katar, with his weak grip, began falling. The Knight ran to catch him, caught him, but the momentum of him running and Katar's fall caused their screaming downfall.
They plunged into water and a splash rose around them. The Knight hit it first, Katar came a close second. Instantly, his cheek began to burn, his right hand began to burn, his leg began to burn. All of his right hand side burning from broken, clotting capillary nets. He felt them swell, steaming under his skin, but if he felt them, then he remained conscious, aware. He did not let go then. To let go was to die. To let go was to be obliterated by a menacing force. So he held on, remained afloat, unlike the Knight who began to drag him under.
Katar fought him, struggled to remain above water, but his weight was too great for him. It pulled Katar under. He glanced down, The Knight's foot was caught in the harness of vines around Katar's legs. He grasped the vines, began untangling them. It proved to be complicated as it was knotted tightly around him, he could not even find a proper place to begin quickly and atop of that, he couldn't control his ring finger, it just pained when he tried to move it and he had to untangle his legs. He had to rapidly undo the knotted mess around them and swim up to light, to life, while his strained eyes could still see in the darkness.
Just how far down has he gone by now?  He could barely see anything down there. His chest felt stale, empty, yet compressed. It called for freedom. For air. He dropped his feeble attempt to free himself and tried swimming up and that feeling, that staleness and pressure spread from Katar's chest to his forehead. Every shift, stir or guess he made caused tension to build, which was pounded in by his racing heart.
Movement was swift, but indecisive; he had no idea what to do. One moment he's back to untangling the vines, the other he futilely swam up and the last, he looked for a way out in the darkness around him and found none. There was only one true option left for him. Under such pressure Katar had to die a little to safe himself. He closed his eyes. Let it go.
Beneath its loose cloth, the scar began to glow. Color rich in gold and hidden not for long. A hand moved, letting the bondage slide of it, and a finger flicked. A sphere of air exploded underwater and a calm breath was taken before water crashed back in. It crashed back in and began swirling, moving around the legs, lifting.
Back at the surface, frothing waters come bursting, then forming and lifting further still with an up-spin of a vortex. The Knight was dangling inside it, unconscious and wavering in that violent rush. He was grabbed, pulled up to a fiery stare that judged him. Snarled disgustedly and a second later he was thrown to the precipice from which they fell. He landed on his chest, coughed up water.
This was not Katar. It...they only wore his face. Beneath it there was chaos, there was anger and disgust. All of it beaming out in a vile, malicious cobalt blue through his eyes. Streaming it out to the world and everything to in their vision.
They attacked The Knight. A flurry of hits by fire, water and rock. Ravaging his barely conscious body. Then, they rose their hand for the final strike and the water behind them rose bent in unison. The end of it formed to a sharpness of spears, pointed at the Knight, lying there. Quickly it came down, threatened to pierce, but it burst open to a simple splash of water. They lost their bending. It just faded in a snap and the vortex that held them up fell away. They dropped on the precipice, crawled for half a step and collapsed.
Behind, the sun had almost fallen. It was at its most weakest yet at its most vibrant moment. A last flare up before its inevitable withdrawal. Katar opened his eyes and found himself looking at it. Up here, the sun still had a few minutes of shine, but below him everything fell in shadow. He was quick to turn up and away from them both.
His chest exploded and he let it go loose, gasping for air like a wild coyote-rat in a dessert. His whole body woke to multitude of twinges and muscle aches. His right side was burning, skin there was bloated and stretched his few wrinkles wide. The rest of him was plain exhausted, whether it was from endless running or lack of air. He was pushed to a point and was forced to let go and now he had to face a terrifying possibility.
He raised his right palm before him, inspected the scar running across that now was uncovered. It glared at him with its corroded skin, ridges that raised too high and grooves that ran too deep. Even when it could be considered healed it felt different and not entirely his. For one thing, when the scar came about and he got burned to the muscle it left his palm slightly clenched. Out of his control only slightly, but still. And for another? He always was wary to check it, the more times it happened, it seemed, the check was less effective.
"I am aware," Katar said and for a second he doubted it. "I. Am. Aware." His hand shook, he caught it with the other. It was there, it was his, it was physical, and the calm washed one of his fears away; a chill he let rise from his heels up. Katar was safe, Katar was here.
He was here, under his scarred palm. A reminder. Until now he could just avoid it. Hide it away with bandages or even choke the thought it rose, the feeling. But now it was staring right back at him and he found it hard to look away. Staring, like a kid at a snake, his mind filled only with freezing remorse. 
Katar noticed something. While it shook lightly from exhaustion, he saw that its ring finger seemed out of place -- misaligned. And now that he saw it, he couldn't ignore the awkward feeling it gave him, that misplaced pain it gave off. A brushing undertone of nerves cracking beneath the skin.
With his hand he enveloped the finger and tugged. Then he screamed, pushing all his wind out, crumbling into an apostrophe and contorting back. Somehow he thought it would spread it equally. He reminded himself to breathe a second later, before his first painful gasp borrowed too deep too draw out.
He expected his body to react, but not as heavily. This day... these past few months had really taken it out on him and that was coming more and more apparent. The situation was already hard to handle and it just kept building and building, towering above him like a scolding parent and all he was able to do was look away.
"So, you saved me," a voice said from behind. The Knight, Katar guessed not looking. He didn't deny that, had no strength to argue the point. "I mean, you ruffled me up. But..."
"Stupid, right?"
"Obviously."
Katar thought about running away and just laughed at the idea. With his strength now the best he could come up with was to roll off this precipice and fall down to water again.
"It was more of a... s**t and a shoe situation, really."
"Oh," The Knight laughed, "I see."
"Though the part where you went all screeching dodo on almost sold me," he said and let out an unwarranted chuckle.
"You almost tore my arm!" The Knight said strongly, but Katar heard a smile. He then let the sentence ring out to a full, stretching the moment before it was destroyed by his next thought: "This will not last, will it?" he asked and felt tension rise from the answer being held of. Katar found the strength to sit up, looked at him waiting for the answer.
His elbow was resting over a propped up knee, right hand and its two digits hung loosely, diluted blood trickled down from a cut above his brow. "No. It won't..." he came back confident, cold. "The best I can offer you is - you, being alive when we're done."
For some reason, he really couldn't pin it down, Katar found that amusing. "I'll hold you to that," he said and the man before him raised his brow.
Leaves rustled, caught their attention. Through the bushes, Kai emerged, dank and soaked. The Knight dropped his hand to the ground and prosthetic fingers molded back on it. Kai, too, jumped alert, ready to strike. But neither wanted to be the first one.
"Just leave," The Knight finally said, letting his hand loose. He turned back to Katar "That should bring us close to even, right?"
Kai didn't linger, he ran up to Katar, pulled him slowly up slowly, asking if he was ok. A single "yes" was never enough. He held Katar, tighter than seemed necessary just to prop him up. They took a few steps, Katar limped on his first and hid the limp on the others. He stopped them walking, looked back. Saw The Knight pull out a carton of cigarettes from his pocket, inspect the contents and squeeze it. Water rushed from beneath the fingers of his fist. He threw the box away.
"I'll need a name," Katar said.
"Why?"
"A name." Katar's stare held as true as his conviction to hear it.
"Nite," he said, but it didn't seem enough. "Nite Doraku."
"Nite The Knight," Katar said, but Nite just scoffed at that.
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2017 06:20 pm »

THE WALL Pt8

Everything's gone. There was just no easier way to put it. Their bags, their clothes, items for everyone's morning routines and coins washed away. All of it lost in that monstrous flood she could still hear at the back of her head. Koarsa had bet before, had lost bags of coin before, but this was too grand to bare. When she lost back home she still had a home to go back to, but all they had now, as far as she could gather, was what they carried on them: same rugged clothes, now conveniently washed, a few coins in pockets and those swords, which Katar carried on his back. The handles were burnt, molded so some value was lost, but she couldn't make him trade those. No reason to even try, they're always with him. Something he carried and something that carried him, maybe.
Koarsa walked few steps away from their embarrassing little camp and stopped in line with him. He looked on to darkening horizon, but that clearly wasn't on his mind. He had too young a face for it to be so clouded, she pitied, though she couldn't fully see the emotions his thoughts rose. Unlike Kai, he looks outside through a thin mask and when it cracks he finds a bigger one, a thicker one and with harder edges.
"What a day..." she said to pull him back here.
"Yeah," Katar finally said dryly. "Once in a lifetime." He waited a moment, glanced back at Kai and Han, who were leaving for a hunt. "You were right."
"About what?"
"Rohan, me, this.. thing. Whatever this was. It's getting too big."
"You'll want to talk?"
"I think so."
Now she looked back at Kai herself. "When are you going to tell him?"
"Him? No. He cannot know yet."
"Then who?" she asked, dreading his obvious answer.
"Well, I was thinking, you."
"No," she blurted, "not me."
"Why not?"
"I'm leaving, remember? After tomorrow, we separate," she said and watched him come clouded again, hide away behind his stale mask.
"Then you won't care," he painfully tried again and she wanted to jump and hug him right then and there. "Sort of a practice run, before I tell Kai?"
He looked at her, begging and she had to manually remind herself how deeply he scared her back in the caves. Those eyes, those voices... Tomorrow we separate, she thought, say yes and be gone tomorrow. "Sure," she said and a corner of his lip danced up.



Coming every day, working around the house. He did every job there. Barely passably, at first, but he did them. From simple tasks to dirty one's that Rohan gave out when Hai-fu wasn't around. But when the jobs stopped came an offer, from the master himself.
"Every day I see this boy," he told Meilin, "I see the way he walks, the way he acts. He is... unresistant. Others find him meek and small -- a nuisance. But he carries through all that. He finds a way to be immune to all the words or trash or punches that come his way. I even extended his sentence to see how resilient he was--
"It was you who broke that vase!" Katar spoke out of line.
"And you reacted," Hai-Fu laughed, "of course, but you did not break for that extra month. Meilin," he turned to her, "let me teach this boy."
The first few weeks were harsh. Each hour, each session was slow, painful, but he bore through. He couldn't bend, so Hai-fu thought him the way of the sword personally. Students didn't like such preferential treatment, especially Rohan, which made him very aggressive when Hai-fu pitted them against each other. But he bore through.
Eventually, he felt the days speed up. Training became just a part of routine and Rohan settled in the idea of him being there. In fact, they started to become friends. Started to spend more and more time together in and out of the dojo to the point that they were inseparable . They would take time to walk around the city, just talking, laughing.
This one time, Rohan asked him to show how he does it. Asked for them to break into a home and scout it. Not to steal, but to just see how it's done. They chose Edin's house, a butcher. The man was large from all his meat and slow for it. But not stupid. He found them snooping around and they ran. Ran outside and around the corner and into a dead end. A man Edin's size, he was cutting of their way back by just being there and he was coming, he was about to catch them.
"You'll have to cry," Rohan said taking of his jacket to look different and throwing it out of sight.
"What?'" Katar looked up.
They could hear him coming. Stomping around the corner.
"Cry!" Rohan said and punched Katar's nose. Tears swelled up almost instantly.
"Nowhere to hide," Edin shouted out. "I know you're here," he said as he turned the corner and: "Oh..." He stumbled onto a scene. Two boys: one bellowing his heart out, sniveling and slobbering, the other comforting him.
"Would you mind!?" said the second boy, barely turning his face to Edin. "We're having a private moment here."
"You can't fool me. I know it's you, you punks!"
"s**t, Run!" Rohan blurted and threw them both on a rooftop. "Run, run, run!" and they dashed across the tillings, rooftop to rooftop, until they could barely breathe.
Resting by the dojo.  Lying on the grass. Taking air in buckets. It was there that Katar felt Rohan looking at him. "What?" he asked.
"Nothing," Rohan smiled and turned away. "It was worth a shot."
"That shot almost broke my nose." Katar was touching it up.
"That would be a shame," he then said and smiled dryly again.
Quickly came the day when they were told Rohan was the Avatar. Quicker, it felt, came the day when he left for the eastern air temple to become learn airbending. But not a year later, he came back.
Light on his feet, Katar's shadow danced around a room then. A lantern on the table lit up most of its modesty: a bed with an open bag atop laid open, a table cluttered with papers and a closet against the back wall. Yet the light wasn't strong enough for him to see more then the edges of these objects. He had to rely on his knowledge of everything in this room, something he built only recently.
He pushed the flaps of a half-full bag wider, put a neatly folded shirt inside, beside some bandages, packs of dry food, other clothes and essentials he knew he would need, but more importantly: a pen and paper. Tomorrow, he planed to leave this house by the dojo and the town itself. On a search for good people and even better stories and songs, secretly hoping to finally hear an old story about a medic saving a life. Put a face to those letters of appraisal they kept receiving to their old address. They were never extensive and didn't give away many details of the story, but neither the family stamp nor the return address ever changed and that was his first destination.
He threw a few more things in the bag and, holding the lantern now, let a light on its contents. Everything was there. Everything he needed. It was still hard to believe, but he was ready to leave his home, his friends, his mother. Only for a short while, but he was ready and proud.
Then, he heard a thud on a door, several came soon after. Somebody was barging. He laid the lantern on the table and went for it, opened. A figure behind the door collapsed into the room, crawled painfully on the floor.
"Rohan!" Katar jumped down, tried to help him up, but Rohan was too weak to stand. He rolled over and laid. "What happened?!" What was he doing here? He wasn't supposed to be back for at least three years!
Rohan seemed barely conscious, barely in this world. Head and eyesight wondering as if through a thick mist. Katar grabbed the lantern backhandedly and lit him up. His eyes were bloodshot, engulfed by it. Irides dashed back and forth furiously while his head tried to keep up. He coughed and it came up bloody.
Katar grabbed him, lifted his clothes.
"Don't," Rohan muttered, thrashing his head about.
"Try not to move," he said, looking and growing terrified. There was nothing there. No gorrific wound, no obvious bruise, just his stomach, bloated.
"Listen," his speech sounded heavy. "You need to stop," cough, blood,"what they're doing. Water. Some kind of weapon."
"What?! You're delirious." He didn't even look up. He remained focused on his gut. He checked it again and again, scanned his expanding stomach and the terror just rose from it. Rohan's here, he's coughing blood and there's nothing he can think of doing! He pressed his hand on it, maybe he could feel something, find anything, anything he could do.
"Don't!" Rohan repeated and painfully sat up.
"Stay still!" Katar pleaded, his voice cracking, but Rohan kept on rising, crawling towards him. He stomped his hand heavenly and Katar flinched back. Rohan crawled another step forward and Katar backed way, failing to say anything. Another step and the same thing happens. Two more and he will have nowhere to go, he will be backed into a wall, but Katar can't think past that, even in this poor state Rohan managed to scare him, terrify to the top of his forehead.
He backed Katar into a wall and reached. Katar tried to slid aside, but he felt himself lock. He came paralyzed. Rohan before him was holding him hostage with his glowing, placid blue eyes. He was fixed in place by the tension in his skin, in his muscles, in his blood. Only his eyes were free from this. His eyes and the bottom of his lip, which ran out of control.
Rohan's hand caught him, pressed against the collarbone and a drop of blood dropped down on Katar's shirt. Slowly it slid down the shirt and bent blood cut the fabric as if by a short-sword. The hand soon followed down and settled over Katar's frantic chest. The other hand landed on his head, its thumb pressed against his forehead and then, everything disappeared.
For a second, he felt empty. His mind was clear of that nibbling voice which commanded the rest of his body. That voice, that thing that looked through his eyes and listened through his ears. It was gone. Until this moment Katar was convinced that IT was him, but now that the cloth came off he finally saw the difference between himself and that paranoid entity, bent on reasoning itself into existence by reacting to everything close to blindly. Screaming: "I'm here! I'm the voice in your head. I am you!" But there was no observer at the back of his head anymore. He was stripped of it and in that purely hollow mindsape there was only him. Him and nothing more. No air, no water, no man, no woman, no clothes, no thoughts, no worries. Just him. Just pure. Just perfect.
But nothing pure can remain so. Nothing left defenseless can halt an invasion and so, an alien presence quickly showed. Like a featureless poison it moved through that space and he felt it seep in, polluting his mind. Poisoning the ends of it and the pains, and there was nothing he could do but feel disturbed by it, violated as it settled around him like a cold mist. A year long winter in a second old mind. And only after that winter laid fully down his doubt was granted back, the observer - the only defense he could have had against this invasion given back. And it did what it always does, doubt and argue, and reason, only now it actually had an actual enemy to fight -- that alien spirit that occupied the back of Katar's head. But the observer is too weak. It will struggle, it will wince as it struggles, but eventually...
Eventually, Katar felt his body wake, come back to him with new intensity and, instantly, he felt a cram surge up at the back of his head. Pulsating, spreading down as fast as his heart would thrust. When it reached his hand he got control of it. He ordered it around and the hand moved as if he wasn't ever out of control. The cram reached to his legs and he found them moveable as well, behind the same thin veil of illusion. He had no sure idea of what was happening, but already he felt lifted, pushed to the side in his own body. He had no control anymore, he was just granted it.
He opened his eyes and an empty glare met him. Its bleached irides flooded in red, dead and corroding. He staggered back, pushing Rohan's body away and it limply fell to the floor. Katar crawled away, slamming into a closet by the back wall. His heart drummed rampant, his normally controlled breathing ran wild and his vision shook, vibrated. It ran through hundreds of lenses a second on an image that remained sharp. A sight he could not get away from even when he closed his eyes. It remained in the back of his head, where that headache surged from.
He dropped a glance at his wet fingers, found blood on them and flinched away, pushed into the closet. It scrapped the floor. Quickly, Katar threw his hand to the floor, franticly brushing his fingers off that blood, but some of it had dried under his nails and couldn't be removed, he only could hide it in his fist.
The shock dried over time and he succeeded in building up the courage to look at it again. At the body lying dead center of the room. Slowly, he walked to it. Hopeful to see it move again, to see the upper back still rising and falling. It didn't. Katar's hand reached down, pulled some loose, damp hair away from a cheek it was glued to, to reveal to him something he already knew -- Rohan. And terror rose again, only now it moved with purpose. It clamped down on his throat, his chest.
"Just move," he pleaded softly. "Just move a finger or an eye. Breathe, cough, wheeze. Just... just stay." Katar took his hand and found it to be cold. "A minute longer," he still begged. "Stay. Just a minute," and cried, and bent down, and held him. Embraced him for their last minute, until someone banged against the door and angrily called Katar's name.
He dashed to it, bashed the door open and ran. Not to the crowd gathered outside, not to the streets he knew so well. He ran home.
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Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #15 on: Jun 03, 2017 05:41 pm »

Katar rested his hand on a rocky fence for support or else he would have collapsed. For a while you could hear him breathing from afar. Heavy and long.  He slopped forwards with exhaust against the ground and sank his sweaty arm into a crack in the wall. Katar pulled out a box and it's little padlock clattered around in its loop. He had no key! Left it back in that room. That dreaded room. No way to get it back now.
Cautiously, he rose up, looking for distant voices he heard mumble. No one was near and in the dark they left him alone.
He palmed the top of the box looking for its front and the remnants of paint on top popped away. He found the loop and a lock that kept the box closed, aimed them at the edge of stone fence and smacked it down. The loop bent, tore at the base and he broke of what's left of it. He rummaged through its contents, pulled out a key, slid it in a lock of a door. The key turned and swiftly unlocked it, almost as if no time has passed since he last used it. He locked the door behind him and fell on it. His back began grazing down against its uneven surface, but then, his legs slavishly stopped him. Limp as he was, he still had to follow the ritual of this house.
Katar reached for a little box on the table, where it laid beside a half-burnt candle, pulled out from it a matchstick and lit it. The flame moved towards the candle, but he couldn't light it -- his hand was too turbulent, he couldn't keep it steady over the wick and withering fire burned the tips of his fingers. Frenzied, he pulled out another, brushed against the side of the box and extended his arm before a flame even appeared. But his hand kept shaking and he couldn't do it then either. He pushed the box open again and the little shelve fell out, spilling the sticks on the floor. Katar fell to his knees, rushing to collect them with his trembling fingers until the crack in a dike of his mind finally blew open -- Rohan is dead.
He is dead, the thought ran in circles. Rohan was dead and he will never see him again, he thought and couldn't hold it back no longer. He shrivelled and sobbed openly while his thoughts dashed from one extreme to the other. One moment Katar would remember his snappy comment, the other -- his wavering eyesight moments before... How easily they talked, they argued, they were and how easily he took him hostage with that stare of blue ruin. Their first awkward kiss, how he could feel it for minutes after, burned away by that empty crimson stare, eyes filled whole and left soulless. As if made from redstone.
Drowning like this, he laid there for a while, unwilling to notice the city rising around him. A bell ringing wide, calling it from slumber, calling it to action. After a while the bell died down, but the city didn't go back to sleep. It has risen by then and it rose to search.
When Katar was able to, he stood up, lit the candle on the shrine and laid back down. Starring at the ceiling, his eyes mechanically followed the edges of the seams that held the roof. Contained in one square, the track they followed was dull, circular, he ran through it just the same. The square was a window to the sky, but he didn't find it in him to look through and see the spaces between the stars grow wider. Better to keep himself in this room, this world than to look out onto others.
Outside he finally noticed a rise in noise. A wave of clamor in the middle of the night. People walking, talking, shouting, searching. Searching for him, he heard them calling and grew cautious as the wave came closer. The wave, the sound of the search soon surrounded the house and he didn't know where to look, which sound to follow or where to hide. They were everywhere, it seemed, checking every way inside, every corner and bush he could hide in, brushing against the walls of every house.
Suddenly, one outsider pulled the door and Katar snapped to it. Luckily, it remained closed. But the door got janked again, harder this time, and he heard the wood stretch, pop as it splintered in places. He glanced at the inside locks, simple loops on the door frame you put hooks through, only one of three was put to work, but it held.
"Is this the place?" came one voice, raspy and firm.
"This was their home," said another, a younger one, beside the door.
"Is it locked?" Katar heard Raspy coming over the stone walkway. Light slowly lit up the edges of the door -- the man carried a torch.
"Yeah. I can't get in."
Katar slowly rose from the floor, careful to not make a sound, slowly shuffled to the shrine by the door and put its candle out.
"Well, where is it ?"
"What?"
"The lock?" 
"Yeah..." said the younger one, "I don't see it."
"Move aside," said the first one.
Katar reached down behind the shrine. His eyes on the door, he gripped his father's swords and pulled them out. His meek fingers were trembling, but he managed to pull their wooden case off and point them where he looked.
For a while he only saw shadows below the door and heard them shuffle their feet, but then, someone scratched the door, scraped at it. Soon the sound turned and the door screeched then as if it wasn't scraped at but scraped into. As if some thin snake was slipping inside and made the wood shrill at an empty room. Katar glanced at the swords, gripped them tightly as he listened, waited. 
A tip of a dagger pierced inside through the gap between the door frame and the door, just below the hook that kept the door closed, kept him safe. Slowly, the blade inched upwards with wood fighting it every tug, caught the hook, pulled it out if its loop and slipped out side with a quick final outcry from the door.
"Now try it," said Raspy.
Katar jumped forward and down, quickly grasped the lower hook and drew it in its loop. Bang! pulled the man from outside and the door contorted from that jerk, but snapped back in. Crash! came another attempt, tearing the door again, but it held. The meek loop held the door, for now.
Crouching, the swords pointing, Katar stayed by the door, by the source of all the crashing and the terror. His heart pounding betrayingly loud, his calfs shaking him out of balance, his hands gripping the swords tighter and tighter until he could feel the heat in them, the burn in them. The man outside grunted and smashed his shoulder into the door, before trying to pull it now. Trying to move it out of place, to make it unstuck and Katar just doubled and tripled down with every bash that came. There was nowhere to go in that empty room. If it breaks, he'll be the first to jump.
The door came silent. The invaders came silent. He waited. His mind pounded into focus, his eyes scanning the door, peering through the cracks, his fingers burning in a shaking grip, he waited.
"It's not moving," said the younger one.
"Nobody's been here for years. The door probably sealed itself shut. Let's go." And Katar heard them walk away.
But he couldn't calm himself. His heart still hammered, his hands still shook and his fingers still burned. But now the heat came more pronounced, he could feel it sting his palm. Katar loosened his grip just a bit and a flame burst form his hands. Startled, he let go of a melting sword handles and it ripped skin on his palm away. He fell to his knees, clutching his smelting hand. Its fingers twitched uncontrollably, blood ran down bubbling, boiling.
Katar was ready to scream, more willing than ever, but he forced himself to block that reaction, desperate to not make a sound, not until the wave of voices around the house was gone. He prayed, he begged for them to leave as the smell of burnt hair and burnt skin filled the air. To his fortune, they seemed quick to pass, but he couldn't wait even that long, he ran out before they were gone.
Father's office, mother's and his rooms, all passed in a blur as he dashed through a corridor and on to a front porch. Quickly, he found a fractured bucket below a water collector pipe and plunged his burning hand into its stale looking water, taking some damp webs down with it. Cool. Calm. Soothing was water to him an he let himself enjoy that tranquil moment before running back inside with a bucket around his hand.
He made his way back, unseen, dropped in the corner. Slowly, his hand turned the water in the bucket, gently simulating a stream of a river to wash the wound. From time to time he would pull it out and look, and drive it back in after realising that there wasn't much more he could do about it.
His thoughts worked much the same way, ran in circles following an artificial current: Why was Rohan there? What happened? What did he do? What did he do to him?! There were flames coming out his hands! How!?! How is that possible?!
The thoughts only riddled up more questions and only one of those he could say he figured out: they blamed him. They blamed him for Rohan's death. They saw him running out of the room, out of the scene, and now they're looking for him. Alarmed again he listened to the outside, the sounds of the search went further down the mountain and the knowledge of that was enough for a breeze of calm. For now, here, he was safe.
He pulled his hand out again, inspected it by the relit candle light. It still pulsated, fingers twitched on their own and he still felt that melting sting, but he couldn't keep his hand in smudgy waters forever, he had to cover it somehow. There was nothing useful to him in these empty rooms, no cloth he could use. Everything was dragged out or sold by his mother. Katar took off his shirt, pinned the edge of it with his heel and tore it. A fin strip of ripped rather evenly and he used it to dress the hand with a tight knot. Smothering it, somehow, soothed the burn, eased the pain.
That smudgy water, sweaty shirt for a bandage, why don't you lick it while you're at it? his father's voice rang at the back of his head and he genuinely laughed at that. His jokes were never that funny, not as much as Katar pretended them to be, but sarcasm, he found, the idea of it would stick, incubate and burst in situation like this. Even if just for one brief moment, it still made him lighter.
He threw the water out, sat back down in a corner, resting his hand on an overturned bucket. His blood had calmed, it seemed, and now exhaustion was setting in. With one eye open and one fist shut he began nodding off, letting the tension go string by string. But before he could fully let go, he was jolted awake by three sharp thuds on the door.
"Katar," his mother's voice called from behind it. "Are you here?" He jumped up. "People came looking for you. Katar?" He open the door, revealing her worried face. "Oh, thank spirits, you are okay!" She burst in, quick to embrace him, quick to pull back. "What happened? The city's up in arms..." She closed the door, locked it.
"Mom," he said the rarely used word and she pulled away a bit.
"What is it?"
"Rohan is dead."
"Dear..." she said palely, looked up at him, "come here," and embraced him again, said something encouraging, but he heard no conviction, no belief in words "Rohan is dead." He couldn't reasonably hope to find it there, but Katar still looked.
He told her what happened. His thoughts were a fast blur and his account was as jumbled as his mind. He fought hard to keep it straight, not to loose track of it and not to break down again, but he managed.
"We cannot go home -- they'll look for you there," she paced around, face buried in hand. "We'll have to stay here till we think of something." We. And she said it strongly. He couldn't think of a word that would have reassured him more. "I can go home in the morning. Bring back some food... We'll think of--Oh!" she stumbled over something, but brought herself up quickly. "What's this?" she said, bending down, picking up the swords which split in two when they fell. "Are these... Jian's honorary blades?" she asked, joining them back together. The burnt handles proved that to be a hassle.
"Yes," he admitted.
She slid them into their wooden case. "But, we sold them," she said. "The man came back, said they were stolen a week later..." She looked them over, seemed glad to see them again. "Was it you?"
They were the first things he stole, in the first house he went to. "Yes," he said and was already ready for her blunt tirade. He heard it so many times, he already knew the lines, but how could she sell them? These were his father's swords! She sold everything of his by then, she could have let them be.
"Fine," she said and slapped them to his chest while walking out of the room. "We'll need a place to sleep."
They laid on the floor, holding each other for warmth and comfort. She told him stories of old times and he let himself be distracted by them. His fatigue was setting back in. He fell for it. Strings, one by one, snapped away letting him loose bit by bit, until the last string popped and Katar let go.
A gust picked up, started swirling around them. They slowly, but firmly rose from her lap and just kept on rising, wind rushing around incredibly fast. "Katar?" she called out, but they didn't listen. They just kept rising, feet above the floor. Half a bucket of bloodied water joined the sphere of wind, churning in a circle around it. "What's happening, Katar?" She was ignored again. Rocks surged from below the floor, rupturing it. They too began circling. She grabbed them by the hand before they flew out reach. Sharp winds of the sphere tore her shirt and then began grazing her skin. Alien blue eyes snapped to her, began to descent. Face filled with vile anger and disgust streamed at her and she backed away, terrified. The eyes beamed that hateful color. They stomped towards her with their next step and then they collapsed.
Mind filled with terror, she panted at that horrific figure that laid on the floor. Unmoving. It took Meilin several minutes to realise that that figure was her son. "Katar!" she finally ran up to him, pulled him up. He sat up, eyes wondering. "Are you with me?"  she brushed her hand against his face. There was a ring of blood below her elbow; wind tore through her skin fast. "What was that?"
His vision finally focused. "Where was I?" he asked.
"How can you bend, Katar? What was all this?" she attacked him with questions.
"I don't know," was all he could muster. " Where was I?" he asked again, looking up at her residually terrified face that held no answers.
Some muffled voices came from outside and grew closer. Through a window she noticed a torch moving. "They"re coming." They probably heard or saw what was happening here. "Get up!" She pulled him up, dragged him through the corridor to the back door, thrust a bag of coin in his hand. "I can distract them for a while--"
"What?! There's got to be a better way."
"You're smart enough to know there isn't."
"But where will i go?"
"Somewhere away. It doesn't matter as long as you're away." She handed him his fathers swords and pulled him close for their last embrace. He felt her shaking, her hands engulfing him. She pulled his head down to her level, kissed the forehead. "Go."


Fire surged, then died down quickly. It seemed tuned to Katar, controlled by his mere presence, but out of his control. Like an animal, it followed the feelings of its master rather than his orders. Now that he stopped talking it was let go, loose to come and wither at its own pace.
"Have you ever seen a hollow tree burn?" Katar said. He stared, transfixed by fire still.
"No, I haven't"
"The trunk is thin, so fire quickly finds a way in. Then it grows there, quicker than anywhere else. It seems stronger when its in there. Concentrated, you know?" he said and shuddered. "In there, I think, it truly comes alive. If you look in, through the cracks, you can see the moment when it does, when it turns blue."
"Blue fire?"
"Blue fire.
"And if you wait long enough, you can see the whole thing be consumed. Bark breaking down and burning, sizzling away its last moments of life. A tower of fire, all red, black and blue," he said and she waited for him to say more. To not finish on such an image, on such a thought. But he kept silent, kept looking at that fire before him like its the only thing that's true.
"I haven't properly apologised for what happened today," Katar started again. "That thing that hurt you, that I let hurt you. I failed to keep it suppressed and for that I truly am sorry."
"Aha..."  Koarsa's dismissiveness surged back and she began to hate the reason she let it answer instead of her.
"I am! If I hadn't let go--"
"Oh, just stop it. I don't care!" and thankfully that shut him. Hopefully, they won't speak no more. Hopefully, she will not have to drop him.
"Avatar-y thing i did, you said. Have you seen it before?"
"Yes," she forced herself to limit her answers. Maybe that will stop him.
"Where?"
"Back home. Rohan had done it once, then just switched back to himself."
"It's different then..."
"Maybe," she said and thought to stop right there. There was no need to say anything more, but she found that hard to do now. It was too obvious to her. "Or maybe it's just your weak spine talking."
"And what would you do?"
"Get control of it," she put bluntly.
"As if," he stopped, annoyed. "As if that's possible. There's no control allowed there. It took me half a week only to learn how to sleep, so I wouldn't let go and have that state flip on me. Does that sound workable to you?"
"It doesn't sound like you've tried."
"You think?! My own mother fell in its path. It didn't matter how much I protested; it would have attacked!"
"Then, if you have no control over it, you must tell the others."
"No!" He jumped up.
"What no?!" She stood up to confront him.
"Not now!"
"You have to. You cannot keep carrying this bomb around and not tell anyone. Think of the danger you put us all in."
"Nobody asked you to come."
"You put Kai in."
It finally seemed to hit him. The guilt, shelled by thin anger. His eyes drew empty, darted away. "I plan on that," he said.
"Yeah... good luck on that." Tomorrow you're gone, Koarsa. Tomorrow you're gone. And the sooner in the morning -- the better.
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SauliusD
Never Gonna Give Yue Up

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« Reply #16 on: Jun 11, 2017 04:45 am »

Refuge pt1

One suitcase per person and immediate belongings. That was the simple requirement, if you wanted to get on the next to the last train going to the fire-nation ports. But it caused quite a ruckus amidst the crowd gathered outside it. These people were all of this plot of the earth, farmers, artisans and the like, reluctant to leave the lives they've built here, wanting to carry as much of it with them as possible and that caused a scene with almost every single one of them.
It was easy then, for the group to slip in. With all of their belongings washed away, all they had to do was act reasonably and they were let in on the last non-cargo wagon. The last one with some actual seats.
No baggage, no food and little coin -- the situation had forced them to move faster, but one glance outside and Kai couldn't help but feel disgusted with himself. All these people outside, hoping to get in, running from the battlefield that is going to be their homes and land. They're being selfish! Sitting here, while an impossible number of people still waited outside. They've pushed somebody out, he thought and couldn't help but imagine some kind-hearted farmer and his three kids being left behind because they four got in instead and the image grazed him harshly.
They should have stayed, but Han and Koarsa came up with this idea and Katar didn't push back. Kai didn't either, but he didn't think that far ahead and now it was too late to protest. Especially after the train slouched forward and sealed that possibility away.
It moved heavily at first, but metallic thuds of its wheels came faster and faster over time. Early sun began blinking through a small window in makeshift wall of cases and bags, withdrawing for a brief second behind a glowing outline of a tree and coming back again before the stain sun left in his eye could fade. It forced Kai to defend against it with a raised hand until a turn on the tracks.
"We should have stayed," said a woman sitting across from them. The thought resonated silently within the wagon. A man was embracing her, his hand over her shoulder, palm gently stroking her long black hair. "It's our home, we could have done something."
"It's for the best," the man hushed her.
"We could have tried to defend it." The words stopped his hand midway. His other arm was brought perpendicular by the elbow, lower part of it buried in silk cloth and strapped to an opposing shoulder, not to be moved for two more months. There was more than a hint of an officers uniform on his bordeaux garments. His eyes dropped to the floor. "I'm sorry," she said and huddled closer. "I didn't mean it like that."
There was little talk, no more then a few pockets of whispers here and there. Everyone was tense, irritable; focused on their lack of futures away from home. Even within their small group something of that sort emerged recently.
From yesterday's evening on all of them came secluded form each other. No one talked, not really. Instead of talk, tension rose. All of it passive, with the looks, the sneers, the comments. This little group was breaking and Kai was nervously aware of that. His chance to finally find something stable was being chipped away bit by bit.
Han stood up, began walking away.
"Where are you going?" Kai asked.
Han turned. "Away from you two." He glanced at Koarsa. Apparently, she didn't need much convincing, as she too stood up and came to him.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Kai asked, but they were already behind a door.
Kai stood, started following them, pulling Katar with him who didn't seem to care. A gust of wind attacked him as soon as he entered a short, open-windowed intersection between the cars. Train's wheels blasted off as it speeded ahead through the fields of golden grass.
"What's that supposed to mean?" He repeated himself as soon as they were back in sight.
"Means we're leaving, kid." Han didn't even bother to turn back, he just walked forth through an obstacle course made out of passengers feet and luggage.
"But yesterday we agreed to..." he started, but the cars were too short to have a solid conversation like this and they were out of his sight again.
"Let them," Katar said from behind him, but Kai ignored that. Desperate, he quickened his step, walked into another car and started again. "We agreed we'd stay together through this. You said we'd have a better chance of survival."
Han stopped, turned, over-playing his reaction, like he was about to sneak away from Kai and was found out at the last second. "Survival?!" he said. "Boy, do you even know what you're talking about? Yesterday, I've lost more than I could have earned in a years. Okay, K-star!? And all because I've decided to take on you, cancerous, two. We've had nothing but plagues since we've made our cutesy little group around you." Han pushed Kai. He, being weak to Han's strength, fell flat on the ground. His shirt flipped up, bottom half of it falling on his face. "I'll take my chances..." Han's voice trailed off.
Kai smacked that shirt back down, revealing Han staring at him. Caught in thought on the spot Kai's clothing now covered. A place where he was marked since birth. Could he know? Kai feared.
Under monotone of shock Han's voice was low. "Are you a twin, boy?" he asked. Both of them stood silent, one waiting, the other -- unsure how to answer.
"I asked you a question?" He said in that same tone, but not waiting for an answer he lunged forward, grabbed and pulled Kai up, drove him into the metal door and held him there. "Are you a twin, Kai?!" he blasted at him.
"What are you doing?" Koarsa shouted.
Katar reached over his shoulder, gripping for swords there. Quickly, Han stopped him, pointing with a knife of his own, firebent and with as sharp and straight edges as any real one would have. "Don't involve yourself in this," he said and going back to Kai he drove that bent knife into a wall by his ear. It bent around his fist like a shield as his hand banged against metal.
"Yes!"
"Brother or sister?!" he interrogated further. The anger was real, focused. "Talk!"
"Sister!"
"Han, what are doing?! Let him go!" Koarsa shouted.
Katar tried to intervene, bending Han's hand at the elbow so he'd loose grip, but Han just smacked him off. "And where is she know?!" Han went on, but not getting an answer soon enough he pulled Kai to himself and slammed him back into the door. Complementing the slam to his back pain surged in his chest, one he 'earned' two days back, one he was free from since yesterday.
"Han! Stop it!" Koarsa ordered.
"Where is she?!"
Through his chest he barely spoke, but he gave him what he wanted "She died at birth." Han looked in his eyes, looking for truth. His iron grip slowly fading. He started nodding and let go of Kai who slumped down.
"Are you crazy?!" Koarsa scalded, dashing passed Han and up to Kai, going to check on him. Han began pacing in a small space he had, muttering something. She glared back at him. "What's wrong with you?!"
"Don't you get it?"
"Get what?" she stood, facing him.
"It's him. It's him that is bringing bad luck."
"You're loosing your mind, Han," Koarsa said, but didn't wait for an answer. She turned back down too Kai.
"Look..." He pointed, his finger waggling. "Look under his shirt." She ignored his madness, but Kai grew tense again. "Just look," he said and Koarsa, more annoyed then anything, pulled it up. "See that?" He pointed again, at a mark above his hip. A round pool of two opposing colors, spinning, chasing each other. There was a dot at the head of each pool.
"A birth mark, so what?"
"A doppel-mark."
"And?" she asked, her anger at a constant level.
Somewhere outside, the train joined the conversation with two short horn pulls. Both ignored.
"That means he's a twin! He's not... well... whole."
And now Han started talking about it. A doppel-mark or a mark of a brother or whatever. It was always the same thing. The same frustrating idea. He thought he got away from it when he left home, but, obviously, that was not the case. All of his trouble stemming from that one point above his hip and now it will cost Kai his second family. If he was a firebender, Kai would've burned it off long ago.
"What are even on about?!"
"Most people do good things and bad things, right? Think good things and bad things..." Listening to that whole tirade again, he barely felt himself be stringed. Han's lips moved, but he didn't hear it utter sounds. Kai's mind rushed blood down to his clenched little fists. "Most bring good look and bad luck. He only brings one of those."
Outside, the train again blasted its horn. This time, one long log of a note. Powerful, yet ignored again.
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." Koarsa defended Kai.
"Yet, here we are. With nothing, but shirts on our backs." Han extended his arms as he finished, confidently standing by his point.
Angry, Kai jumped. A few furious steps later he lept blindly, fists reaching for Han, and the train seemed to respond. Tilt even! As if pulled back by the force of his jump. It sharply lurched back and an abominable screech of metal grinding metal attacked from outside. The passengers were jerked forwards, some knocked of their feet, bumping into others. Kai tackled Han while they were both in air. Han fell on his back, but Kai  crashed further down then rolled even further.
"You see?!" Han said before metal and horn were done blasting in their ears. The train was slowing, but the process was not so sharp anymore and people were able to get up. "What did I tell you?"
Kai jumped on his feet again, ready to pounce again, but Katar quickly ran in between them two, beside some lady in a black tank top.
"Don't listen," he said, but that was easy for him to say. Easy to say and hard to follow. Han was looking down on him, taunting, judging, trampling.
"He's a bad omen," Han said.
Katar caught Kai by the shoulders, so he wouldn't run. He looked at Kai, not scalding. "Don't listen."
"How can I not!?"
"He's just some ass-hat," Katar said over the blare of the horn outside. Han looked down on Kai still, "don't listen. You know better."
 Finally, the horn and metal fell silent; the train had almost stopped by then. It was slowly drudging up now, slowly building its speed back.
"What was with that stop?" Koarsa asked, ignoring Han completely.
 A herd of fox-antelopes rushed by the side of the train; a sun-bear puma was chasing the last one of the pack. "It was just some animals," some of the passengers speculated, "blocking our way."
"Damned beast," a woman behind Katar sighed bitterly, "can't be trusted with anything," she said as the train entered a tunnel and a curtain of darkness slid over the room.
"You're a bad omen, kid," Han said dryly. "You should let others know that," and his cruel voice came strong over the compressed thuds the train trudged out in the tunnel. Beating him down in the darkness, which he so feared. Words repeating to him, like those wheels that pounded outside.
If he was a firebender...
Suddenly, shrills of slashed air sounded off in the dark. A body fell to the floor with a thud and a moan. It's Katar! Kai's mind jumped alert. He knew his voice too well.
"Wh--" Katar tried, but his voice quickly got cut with a punch and another thud -- his head smashing to the floor.
A flame lit up before Kai; It was Han, trying to light up the room, but it got instantly snuffed out. Han slashed at the assailant, his fingers cloaked in breathing, rigorous fire and that fire was quickly answered with fire. Splashes of flame lit up the darkness, but not enough to see properly. All Kai saw was obscure moments of movement in between the fades of light; brief flashes of a rigid competition which Han lost and darkness fell fully on them again.
"Where did he go?!" Koarsa asked.
Kai instantly started listening. Searching. He was good with sounds like that, could tell people's steps apart rather easily, but now he strained to: people moved in this wagon, most of them scared, their shuffling clouded the search, thuds by the wheels, confined by the tunnel walls bounced into the wagon. Even his own heart did him no good, he heard it beating in his right ear, throbbing, but despite all that he caught movement. She was moving back to Katar and Kai started hurrying there, but was stopped by fear alone, when a flame formed over Katar's neck into a dagger.
It was hard to see much of anything then, but Kai saw enough to stop. A thin, but muscled hand, her long, jet black hair, brushing against Katar's cheek, loosely guided by short, sharp breaths and that golden eye, peering through the bangs. It's color maybe tainted by the light of the flame, but the conviction in it was left untouched. She twisted her wrist a little and the flaming dagger moved up, scorching Katar's underjaw, urging to rise.
Sunlight blasted the room as the train left the confines of the tunnel and sound of rushing wheels was now free to blast away into the plains around. In light Kai tried to catch a decent look at her, but she hid behind Katar, bending down so she could keep proper hold of him; she had a whole head over Katar. Her hair was as black as her v-neck top. Her eye darted between him and Koarsa. 
Slowly, she circled them both, playing with the placement of the dagger around Katar's body, flaunting full control. She stopped them by the sliding doors. "Open it," she ordered some distressed onlooker who seemed lost. "Open the door!" She slashed a flame beside him, scaring him into submission and they were both slid open.
The train was running maybe a third of its original speed, maybe more, and a blast of wind to the inside was fierce, blowing the lady's hair back, revealing a face untouched by scars or burns, or any such feature. A beautiful, clean face now dawned by anger. "Undisciplined beast," she grunted, eyes dashed between the running plains outside and Koarsa with Kai, "had one job..."
"Sumi?" a voice came from one side and her eyes darted there.
"Nite?" Sumi's voice pitched up in surprise.
"Hi."
"Hey..." Her firmness disturbed, Sumi smiled. "What are you doing here? It's still two weeks until--"
"Work." Nite cut through her enthusiasm. "Just giving a chase to a felon. In fact, that's him right there."
"Oh... well, lucky me."
"I figure, maybe you could hand him over. He slid out from my territory."
"You know the rules, bub."
"You've never been too keen on them," he said and she laughed.
"What's going on here?" Kai looked around, lost. They both went on, ignoring the question.
"Do want to drop them?" Sumi asked.
"Its been a rather a long time since we competed," Nite said and she didn't hide her excitement.
"Wild west?"
"Wild west."
"Wait! Nite, you promised," Katar anxiously interjected.
Nite looked him down, dashed his lip in contempt, said: "One requirement, though. The trophy stays alive by the end of it."
"Oh... you're no fun." She glanced at earth running outside. "It's a good thing we're moving slow."
Smoothly, the blade threatening to roast Katar dissipated. She grabbed him by the neck and jumped out, pulling him with her. Kai and Koarsa dashed after, but stopped three steps in when they saw Katar and Sumi being sent back on an earthen panel. The panel lodged into the door frame and the whole wagon trembled. Katar and Sumi were thrown of it. They clashed with Kai and Koarsa and all four fell on the floor.
If before, when Han interrogated Kai, people weren't scared, they truly were now. Kai heard nervous muttering, shouts and general distancing from the four of them. Somebody slurred at them, others called to get out, to get away.
In the general confusion, Nite was free to walk over to the blob of hands and feet Kai and others now were. He pulled Katar out of it, strapped a pair of cuffs around his wrists and dragged him away.
The first moment they could, others jumped to their feet, chased after into the next wagon. Didn't find them there, so they ran into the next one and the one after that, and the one after that, but they seemed to have simply disappeared.
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