The Book of Earth



  • (Part 2)

    Katerei yawned and rubbed her eyes. She found herself lying in her sleeping roll on the ground and looked around in confusion. The last thing she remembered was leaning on Avatara’s shoulder as they flew away from the sunken city. She didn’t see him now, though Selax was curled up away from the campfire, eyes closed as he slept in his penguin pajamas.

    Her brother was sitting cross-legged near the smoldering remains of a campfire. She had no idea how long he had been sitting there, but eventually he must have fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion. She gingerly brushed away the dried tear streaks on his face. In time he would recover, but for now she would let him be.

    Stretching, she wandered around the makeshift campsite. The ground was dried-out packed dirt, but tall leafy trees rose up around them and she could hear the sound of running water in the distance. She closed her eyes, breathing in the fresh air.

    “Good morning,” Avatara said, emerging from the forest. Katerei turned to look at him, then up at the midday sun.

    “What happened?” she asked.

    “Selax and I thought you could use some rest,” Avatara said. He wasn’t entirely sure what all had happened at the North Pole, but Selax himself had seemed pretty shaken up. Not wanting to fly on a distracted bird, Avatara had set him down at the first inland opportunity.

    “Did all of that…really happen?” Katerei asked, rubbing her eyes again. It seemed too overwhelming to be true.

    “Yep. That was some impressive strength, bringing down the northern wall like that. I’m told that dam had existed for thousands of years.”

    Katerei blushed. “Yeah, sorry about that.”

    “How about I show you the river? There’s this really nice waterfall where if you stand just right, the mist soothes the heat of the sun.” Avatara gestured back towards the way he came. “If you hurry before the sun moves, you can even see a rainbow.”

    “I…don’t know.” She stared at her feet. “I think I’ve seen enough water to last me a lifetime.”

    “You need to practice your waterbending.”

    “But, Behadul said I was a master–“

    “A true master is never done learning.” Avatara put his hand around her shoulder, causing her to stiffen in surprise, but she did not pull away. “Besides, I’m not entirely sure you finished his course. More likely, he just wanted to hide from you.”

    She shot him an angry glare.

    Avatara sighed. “If you practice for a few hours, we can go swimming afterwards.”

    “Then what are we standing around for?” Katerei grabbed his hand and started dragging him towards the river, turning her head so he couldn’t see her blush. It was a good thing she hadn’t brought a swimsuit after all.


    “Unacceptable!” Retsy said, pacing back and forth in front of the men standing at attention. “You mean to tell me, out of the fifty ships we had at the North Pole, not a single one of you saw where my brother and his pet bird flew?”

    The men all bowed their heads, but nobody dared to speak.

    “I don’t believe this!” She grumbled. “I want the lot of you to report your failure back to my father. I’m sure he’ll have a fitting punishment waiting!”

    When the forlorn troops had cleared the desk, Retsy turned to Nili. “I suppose if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. We’ve got a new mission.”

    Nili bent over and lifted herself upside-down, balancing on the tips of her fingers. “Ooh! I know! You want to see that cute waterbending girl again! I bet you want to get her back for bringing the dam down on us!”

    “Er, yes, I suppose I owe her for that. But our primary objective is that airbender!” Retsy rubbed her hands together in glee. “He needs to be taught how to behave properly in front of a princess!”

    “And how to use his tongue?” Nili cocked her head.

    Retsy jumped and turned away, hiding her red cheeks. Clearing her throat, she said, “We’re going to need some help. Time to pay a visit to an old friend.”


    Avatara noticed Fendul was awake and brooding over the fire when he sauntered back into camp. Katerei was still back at the river, going through her exercises. For some reason, she had grown sulky after he left to go dry off, but he didn’t want to stand around dripping and bare-chested all day. Still, she seemed in lighter spirits than the night before. Now it was her brother’s turn.

    Avatara took a seat beside Fendul. “You know, I know how it feels to miss someone you love.”

    “You do?” Fendul asked, poking a stick into the dirt, hoping he would go away.

    “Yeah, my mom and dad had a…falling out of sorts. I haven’t seen her in years. I don’t even know if she’s still alive.”

    “I lost my mom too,” Fendul said. He finished drawing a circle on the ground and stopped to stare at it. The stick fall out of his hand, smudging the lines. “What was her name?”

    Avatara froze. “Um, that’s not important right now. What matters is that they live on in our memories.” He focused intently on the water tribe boy. “You will always remember the happy moments you shared,”

    “When will the pain go away?”

    “Never.” Avatara saw the grief build up on the boy’s face and softened his tone. “But in time, it will fade.” He clasped Fendul’s shoulder. “Be strong. Our journey is not over yet. Your sister will need all the help you can give her.”

    “And what good would that do?” Fendul let the tears burst forth. “I already failed to protect a woman I loved!”

    “Fate helps those who help themselves. Your sister has spent the afternoon practicing so she can learn from her mistakes. If you want to make a difference, then you should join her. Take your destiny into your own hands.”

    Fendul wiped his nose on his sleeve. “All right, I’ll go practice with my sister,” he said, standing to his feet.

    Avatara watched the kid leave, trying to remember if his sister was still in her ‘swimsuit’. Oh well, two down, one to go. He turned to face Selax.

    The airbender was sitting with his back to a boulder. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said, hearing the firebender approach.

    “I’m…actually not even sure what you’re upset about,” Avatara said, standing over him.

    Selax stared off into the distance, but did not speak.

    “It was my sister, wasn’t it?”

    Another moment of silence.

    Avatara sighed. “Don’t make me get my whistle.” When Selax turned to glare at him, he continued, “I need you in top shape. We must find an earthbending master if we are to stop the comet.” He glanced over at his shoulder, confirming Fendul was gone. “If we had the Avatar, this would be so much easier, but that idiot Rapierian had to ruin everything.

    “You went out of your way to show me that device in the Air Temple. Why go through all this trouble only to give up now?”

    Selax still said nothing, so Avatara pressed on, dropping to his knees. “Selax, please. Tell me what is wrong. You are the last airbender. We cannot do this without you.”

    Selax tilted his head forward until his chin rested on his hands. “I thought I was prepared,” he said so quietly Avatara almost didn’t hear him.

    “Prepared for what?”

    “I had plans. Contingencies. Contingencies for every contingency. I thought I knew every possibility.” Selax finally looked up, revealing red-rimmed eyes. “She…” he struggled to form the words. “She…” he tried again, but failed. He gave up trying to speak and slumped back against the rock. Without realizing it, he lifted a hand to brush against his lips.

    Avatara looked at him suspiciously. “I don’t exactly know what you’re getting at, but you know as well as I do that my sister is bad news.”

    “Agreed.”

    “Then…is there a problem? Or are you able to fly?”

    “I’m fine. I’m fine,” Selax said, exasperated. “I’ll help you go pick up girls. Just – tomorrow.”

    Avatara studied him for a moment. The airbender looked more exhausted than Avatara would have liked, but he doubted Selax would reveal any more. Very well, he could keep his secrets, so long as his breakdown did not interfere with the mission.


    “We’re back,” Sasha said glumly as she ducked into the room they were renting.

    “No luck either?” Leandra asked, still brushing the tangles out of her long, red hair.

    “None,” Trinias said, resting his colorful bow against the wall. “If they’re in the Earth Kingdom, they haven’t stopped in any of the coastal towns.”

    “Cowards!” Flynn muttered, balling his hand into a fist. “They must be hiding further inland!”

    “The Earth Kingdom is massive. We could spend a lifetime attempting to locate them if we continue like this,” Kwon Chen spoke up from his stool. He was shorter than the others, but a few extra pillows almost made up for the difference in height.

    “Then we should split up,” Sasha said.

    “Wolmark, Trinias, and I can take the desert. You four cross the swamp. We’ll head east and meet in Ba Sing Se to compare notes.” Leandra set her hair comb down on the table, having removed the last of the knots.

    “The desert is massive, much larger than the swamp. Are you sure the three of you will be enough?” Sasha frowned.

    “Tell them, dear.” Leandra nudged her husband.

    Wolmark looked up from his cup of tea and saw everyone staring at him. He cleared his throat. “Ah, um, I brought along a little something to help. I’ve been working on it in my spare time, but it wasn’t until Kwon here–“ he gestured at the short man who nodded in acknowledgement “–suggested hot air that we could–“

    “Get to the point,” Flynn interrupted.

    “I built an airship.”

    Taking advantage of their wide-eyed surprise, Leandra cut in. “With his airship and Trinias’s sharp vision, we should be able to comb the desert in a matter of weeks. And as neither of them are benders, I’d be there in case something happened.” She glanced over at Sasha, then Flynn, seeking approval.

    Flynn thought about it for a moment. “Very well,” he said. “We’ll scour the swamp and meet you in Ba Sing Se on the Spring Equinox.”

    Leandra sighed in relief. She wouldn’t have to get foul swamp water all over her hair after all.

    The three of them grabbed their belongings and prepared to depart, but as they reached the door, Flynn stopped them.

    “Remember, you are to bring both Fendul and his sister back to me alive. I want to personally make him suffer the pain he inflicted upon me. The rest…I leave to your discretion.”


    The city of Gaolin was far larger than the other settlements on the outskirts of the desert. It had the fortune of resting against the southern mountain range where it benefitted from the lush rains carried in from the ocean during the warmer months of the year. It was also far enough away from all the major trade routes that it had been virtually ignored by the Fire Nation in the war.

    The marketplace was packed full of people wearing the brown and green of the Earth Kingdom. Despite being only spring, it was hot enough for most people to be in sleeveless shirts, leaving the two water tribe members sweating uncomfortably in their polar clothes. After hearing enough whining, Avatara finally relented and let the kids browse the market.

    Katerei headed straight to a clothing outfit, picking up a blue crop top and a skirt. At the next stand, she picked up a swimsuit in case her brother walked in on her again. Her brother opted for a sleeveless tunic and a pair of loose-fitting pants.

    As they were leaving, a stall near the edge caught Fendul’s attention. An assortment of blades and strangely shaped instruments were set out on a blanket in the shade under the careful observant watch of an elderly man.

    “Shaving instruments,” Avatara explained. “For when you start growing a beard.”

    “Well, I am getting a little scraggly…” Fendul said. He picked up a contraption made out of five knives. “But there are so many! How do you know which one to choose?”

    “The simplest solution is often the best.” Avatara picked up a small blade, devoid of strange parts and gizmos. He handed it over to Fendul. “Occam’s razor.”

    “They will be starting soon,” Selax cut in. His voice was flat, betraying no hint of his breakdown the other day.

    “Where are we going?” Katerei asked as they left the main road. A side-alley took them around a few narrow turns. A tall man stood guard next to an open door. It was dark inside, but she managed to make out a staircase.

    Avatara paid the man a few coins and he waved them in and down the stairs. “Selax says there’s an arena here where the best earthbenders gather to show off their skills.”

    “So…we’re about to watch a bunch of half-naked muscular men beat each other up for sport?”

    “Yeah, pretty much.”

    “I like this place already!”

    The stairway opened up into a large chamber, a stadium carved into the earth. Dozens of people were seated around the outer ring, cheering and shouting as the contestants battled below. Off to the side was a tall podium overlooking the arena. A burly man stood next to a large, iron chest. His shaved head and shirtless body were covered in spiraling red tattoos.

    “That is Kain,” Selax said, leaning in close. “He runs the arena. We will need to pay him to hire one of his fighters.”

    One of the contestants collapsed to the ground and the crowd roared. The victor stood over his defeated foe and flexed his arms, showing off his biceps.

    Selax raised his voice to be heard. “Yomu is the crowd favorite for tonight.”

    “I think he’s my favorite for tonight!” Katerei said, wiping the drool off her chin.

    The four of them took seats near the back and watched the tournament. Selax took up a position that allowed him to focus on watching all the exits. Fendul leaned forward, focusing his attention on the rock-slamming action. Katerei focused on Yomu’s exposed biceps and squealed in delight every time he flexed his arms in victory. Avatara studied Kain and frowned.

    “Who’s that girl with him?” he asked Selax in the intermission between rounds.

    “Girl?” Selax looked confused.

    “The one that collects the bets. White dress, long black hair. She seems to be under his command.”

    “We are here so you can find an earthbending master,” Selax reminded him.

    “Yes we are,” he agreed. But Avatara kept staring at the podium, waiting for a glimpse of the mysterious girl. He didn’t catch sight of her again until the tournament was over.

    “Woohoo! He did it! Yomu is the man!” Fendul cheered.

    “It’s going to be so great having him along. I bet he’ll be a great bending teacher!” Katerei said, rubbing her hands together.

    The four of them approached the arena ring just as the award ceremony was wrapping up. Kain was still congratulating Yomu, but broke off as he saw them approach. His eyes took in the sack of coins at Avatara’s belt and a wide grin split his face.

    “Come to hire our new champion?” Kain’s voice was a deep bass, rumbling with the strength that rippled through his muscles.

    Yomu caught Katerei’s stare and with a wink he flexed his right arm, showing off his biceps. She cupped her hands over her mouth to stifle a giggle.

    “How much,” Avatara said, raising his hand. “For the girl?” He pointed at the white-robed teenager standing unnoticed behind her master. The empty medal box still rested open in her hands.

    Everyone but Selax blinked in surprise. Kain’s grin slipped from his face and he scowled. “She’s not for sale!”

    Avatara stared for a long moment at the arena master. At last, he turned away and spoke, “We’re leaving.”

    “That would be for the best,” Kain said. “Don’t let me catch you in here again!”

    “Nice guy,” Fendul muttered as they climbed back up the stairs.

    “But…but…” Katerei was still looking longingly at Yomu. Yomu shrugged and headed off to flirt with some other girls calling his name. When she caught up to Avatara, she punched him on the shoulder. “What was that for? I thought we came here to find an earthbending master!”

    “We did. I found one,” Avatara said.

    “Then why did you just leave him behind?”

    Only then did Avatara stop to look at her. “The Avatar is supposed to bring balance to the world.” He gestured at the four of them. “How is this balanced? We already have three guys to one girl!”

    “And she happens to be my sister,” Fendul grumbled. He wished Moonshadow was here.

    Katerei was stunned speechless. By the time she recovered, Avatara was already a dozen steps ahead.

    Selax had moved in to take her place. “Even so, you still have yet to ‘acquire’ the girl. I do not believe Kain will give her up willingly.”

    “He won’t have to,” Avatara said. “I recognized the sigil around her neck.” He glanced at Selax with a sly smile. “I know where she lives.”


    Scry stood out in the garden under the night sky. She couldn’t see the moon that people talked about, the way it made the flowers glow, the reflection in the little creek that ran through her family’s grounds, but she didn’t need to. The stillness in the cool air, the absence of shouting voices, and the soft, damp grass under her bare feet were enough.

    She always liked walking through the gardens at night, when no one was around. Her parents insisted she be kept under close watch during the day, lest the poor, helpless girl fall upon some harm. Her father’s overprotectiveness grated on her nerves, but he wasn’t nearly as bad as her obnoxious earthbending instructor, Ral. Since she was forbidden from dangerous activities, Ral made her sit in a corner, practicing breathing exercises, while he took advantage of her parents’ hospitality and their money. Whenever they were alone, he would make some snide remark or other about her and then proceed to ignore her, as long as she didn’t try to leave.

    Scry had long ago learned if she used her ‘breathing lesson’ time to sleep, she could sneak out at night and explore the world on her own. Slipping out of her bedroom, feeling her way down the house wall with her bare feet and hands, and playing in the babbling brook or basking in the scent of the garden flowers quickly became her favorite pastime. For months, she had enjoyed her private solitude with no one the wiser, until the fateful night she had the misfortune of encountering Kain.

    Visiting her parents to arrange some kind of business deal, her father had offered to let him spend the night so they could stay up drinking. Unbeknownst to Scry, Kain had stepped outside for some fresh air and stumbled across her in the garden. Seizing the opportunity in front of him, he threatened to tell her parents about her midnight escapades unless she agreed to become his personal assistant at the arena. On match days, she had to find some excuse to ditch her bodyguards and spend her evenings underground, collecting and paying out bets, suffering lewd comments and demeaning insults from the patrons. She did her best to ignore them, knowing if she upset Kain, her parents would keep her locked up at all hours, and no longer would she be able to spend time alone in the gardens.

    The one upside to the arena was it allowed her to witness the best earthbenders in the kingdom. During the matches, she would stand behind Kain, ostensibly waiting for the command to collect the next round of bets, but in reality, studying the match. She could feel the ground beneath her shake and move with every step, every rumble, every punch. And when she was alone later that night, she would practice what she had felt. Yet, she was careful to ensure no one knew, lest word make it’s way to her parents. And no one did. Everyone thought she was weak and untalented, barely capable of mastering the basics, giving no second thought to her abilities. Until today.

    The man at the arena. Somehow different from the rest. Like Kain, she felt a burning intensity within him. But she had never sensed him before and was as startled as the rest when he offered to buy her. She knew Kain had been displeased – she felt he would never give her up – but fortunately she had been able to slip away early while he paid the local officials their bribes.

    Still, deep inside her heart, she knew everything was about to change.

    “Why?” she asked as a gust of wind blew into her face. She felt the impact as the man’s feet landed on the ground. He took a few steps towards her, lightening his pace.

    “I need an earthbending master. The best,” he said.

    “I am no master earthbender.”

    “I beg to differ.”

    “I can’t go with you,” Scry said, turning away. She felt her long hair flutter in the breeze stirred up by some creature in the air.

    “Then everything you know will die,” the man said sadly.

    “Is that a threat?” She curled her hand into a fist.

    “I am not here to threaten you. I bring a warning.” The man’s voice remained calm and neutral, not at all like Ral’s or Kain’s when she refused them. “A comet is coming that will wipe out all life in a few months. Only masters of all four elements can stop it.”

    The man took a tentative step towards her and paused. Through her connection with the earth, she could tell he was kneeling. “Please. I need your help.”

    Scry took a deep breath. For once, someone was asking for her help, not ordering her around. Still, her parents would not approve. “I cannot. My father would never permit it.” She didn’t want to spend all day locked up under guard when he found out.

    Before the man could reply, Scry sensed a new presence. Heavy steps, irregular pattern, always favoring the left leg. Ral had been drinking again and he was heading their way.

    “You must leave, now!” she commanded. “Before you get caught!”

    “Fendul! Kat! Plan B!” the man called. In a quieter voice, he asked, “Where are they coming from?”

    It took her a moment to realize the man wanted her to answer. She hesitated, knowing if a fight broke out, her father would double her guard. Still, the last time Ral had stumbled across her while drunk had…not been pleasant. Wordlessly, she pointed in the direction of his approach. Two more sets of feet landed on the ground as the man dashed off to face Ral.

    The one called Fendul approached her and put some kind of cloth over her head.

    “You know I’m blind, right?”

    “Just a precaution,” Fendul told her. Two pairs of hands lifted her into the air and set her on some giant feathery thing. “All right Selax, get us out of here.”

    “Wait!” Katerei protested. “What about Av?’

    A loud thunderclap followed by an explosion blasted through the night. An alarm bell started clanging.

    “We have to go. Now!” Fendul said.

    “I’m not leaving without him!”

    While the other two were bickering back and forth, Scry slipped from the bird and landed on the ground. Senses restored, she felt the man running towards her, Ral and some of the night watch in hot pursuit. The nearest bushes were too far away, it was too late to back out now. She took in a deep breath, feeling the thrum of life beneath her feet, in every living being around her. Just like she had practiced, she slowly lifted her hands into the air, palms facing the sky, and smiled in satisfaction as she felt the earth rumble at her call. A wall of earth jutted out of the ground, separating the man from his pursuers. He staggered into the clearing, breathing heavily.

    “Told you that you could do it,” he said. He slipped his arms around her waist and lifted her upwards, setting her back on the feathery beast. “I’m Avatara, by the way.”

    “My name is Scry,” she said, feeling her cheeks heat up. She had used her abilities in battle for the first time. She really was a true earthbender!

    “If we go now, we can leave before they see who we are,” Avatara said. “Yip yip!”

    Scry felt the wind rush past her. She was blind while separated from the ground, but the motion in her gut indicated they were rising quickly.

    “Woo, yeah!” Fendul shouted from the back. He snapped his fingers at the people below. “Remember this you losers! You just got schooled by Team Avatar!”

    From somewhere next to her, Scry heard the sound of someone’s palm hitting their forehead.


    “Are you saying the Avatar kidnapped my daughter?” a bleary-eyed Jacob looked at the four guardsmen and Ral kneeling before him.

    “Yes, and they have a firebender with them,” Ral said.

    “A firebender? I fear for our daughter’s life,” Krys said, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

    Jacob gestured towards the two men standing at the door. “Bring us Kain at once.” He turned back to Ral and hardened his voice. “I want the two of you to track her down and bring her back, whatever the cost.”

    “But–” Ral sputtered, face heating. Why did that little brat have to cause so much trouble? She would never amount to anything. All he wanted was to kick back and enjoy the fine wines imported to the manor.

    Jacob leaned forward and narrowed his eyes. “Did you hear me? Whatever the cost. The next time I see you, my little girl better be back in my custody!”

    “She must be so frightened,” Krys said, hugging her arms. “Poor thing. I wonder what’s going through her mind right now.”


    “This. Is. Awesome!” Scry said, holding onto Avatara’s arms while Selax flew in a loop. “A little scary because I can’t see anything, but still awesome! I’ve never done anything like this before!”

    “Selax, do a barrel roll!” Avatara said, tightening his grip around her. He glimpsed Katerei rolling her eyes but ignored it. Her fault for drooling over that Yomu fellow. The sky spun around, rotating beneath them before they leveled off. The city of Gaolin faded into the distance behind them.

    “Where are we headed?” Scry asked.

    “Into the desert. I need some more research on the comet. Though we’ll make a quick stop at the Misty Palms Oasis for supplies.”

    “I’ve never been outside the city before. It must be nice visiting all these faraway places on your giant bird.”

    “Well, he does get kind of grumpy.” Avatara looked at the raven-haired girl in his lap. “Hey, that was some impressive earthbending back there. Just like I’d expect from a true master.”

    “I bet she doesn’t have a certificate!” Katerei grumbled.

    Scry blushed. “I’ve never been able to show off my bending before. It was pretty fun!”

    “Well, with us, you’re going to be bending pretty much every day.” Avatara reached into his pouch with his free hand and pulled out a red scarf he had picked up at the market. “Here. You may not be able to see, but your eyes can still dry out up here. This will help protect you.” He looped the scarf around her head and settled it over her murky black eyes before tying it off.

    “Thank you,” she said, lifting a hand to feel the silk cloth. She leaned back into his embrace, soaking in his warmth, and fell asleep dreaming of a burning man who took her to all sorts of foreign places.


    The Misty Palms Oasis was a quaint little town in the middle of the desert. The city was built around a large pool of water surrounded by the palm trees that gave the town its name. Despite the luxurious amenities, the place saw little enough traffic that the inn only had a handful of rooms. Thus, when Team Avatar stopped by in the evening, Avatara was only able to secure two.

    “Bad news,” Avatara said. “We’re going to have to double up.”

    “How is that bad news?” Katerei asked.

    “I’m sure Katerei and I will get along just fine,” Scry added.

    Katerei shot her a glance of annoyance before she realized the blind girl wouldn’t be able to see it.

    “Well, if we’ve got an hour until sundown, I’m going to check out the pool,” Fendul said, heading towards the exit.

    “Stop right there!” a red-haired woman commanded, moving to block his path.

    Fendul frowned at the woman in puzzlement. “Did I do something to offend you?”

    Iannah narrowed her eyes. “Don’t you remember me?”

    Fendul thought for a moment. Not the crazy fire girl. Not the energetic freak that had crippled him. Not his grandmother. He scratched his head.

    “You…do remember me, right?” The playful smile had slipped from her face.

    “Er…uh…yeah. How’ve you been, um…”

    Iannah stepped forward, seized Fendul’s face in both hands, and gave him a deep kiss. “How about now?”

    “Oh! I remember now!” Fendul’s eyes lit up. “How could I forget you, Aliko?”

    “You have some serious explaining to do, mister,” Iannah said. She grabbed him by the ear and dragged him towards the back of the inn. “Hey Avatar, I need to borrow one of your rooms.”

    Avatara tossed her a room key.

    “Wait! Don’t take her side!” Fendul cried out just before he was dragged inside. The door slammed closed and a metal click signified the bolt had been slid into place.

    “Guess that solves that problem,” Avatara said. “Selax will sleep outside. You two can follow me.”

    He led the way to the other room in the back, Katerei close behind. Before Scry could enter, Katerei slammed the door in her face.

    “That wasn’t very nice,” Scry remarked.

    “I do not believe she has been around another girl her age before,” Selax said quietly from his seat at the table. “She is attempting to lay claim to her mark.” He sipped from his cup of water. “Though I do not think she understands him as well as she thinks she does.”

    “Well, I have no interest in swimming in some pond. What am I supposed to do for the rest of the night?”

    Selax stared at her for a moment. Out of boredom than anything else, he offered to tell her a story.

    “Long ago, there was a legendary warrior. His name was Grapper…”


    “I came here because I wanted to support the war effort. What better way could a warrior use her skills than to sell ice to thirsty travelers in the desert?” Iannah asked. “Though I have to admit, meeting someone from the water tribe gave me the idea. Way better than my original plan to sell plant soil.”

    “Yeah, I’ve learned a few things from other cultures myself,” Fendul said, stretching his arms.

    “Of course you have,” Iannah said, smirking. “As one of those ‘other cultures’, perhaps we should see if you remember your lessons?” She slipped a hand behind his back and drew closer.

    Fendul admired her face, bathed in the soft moonlight streaming through the window. Iannah closed her eyes and brought her lips close to his.

    I will always be watching you.

    Fendul drew back, pushing her away. She opened her eyes, startled.

    “I–I’m sorry. I can’t,” he said. Before she could speak, he slipped out the door.

    By the time he made it outside, the moon was hidden by thin, wispy clouds. Even late at night, heat still emanated from the ground, warming the dry air. Frustrated, Fendul ran his hands through his hair and stormed around the village. A familiar figure sitting at the edge of the oasis caught his attention and he headed over.

    Avatara sat at the water’s edge, staring out over the oasis. He spotted Fendul’s approach from the reflection on the glassy surface, waited while the water tribe boy sat down next to him.

    “Trouble sleeping?” Fendul asked.

    “I lectured your sister on manners. She’s in a bit of a sour mood right now.”

    “I’m sure she gets it from our mother’s side of the family.”

    Avatara glanced at the boy. “What about you?”

    Fendul sighed. “I’m having…relationship problems.”

    “Ah, a troubled heart.”

    “I don’t know what I’m doing or what I want. I guess I’m just confused.” He paused. “Can I ask you for some romantic advice?”

    “Um, sure.”

    Fendul took a deep breath and let it out slowly, building up the courage. “What do you think happens to people when they die?”

    Avatara blinked in surprise. “Are you–“ he scrunched his face in disgust. “That’s kind of…”

    “I can’t stop thinking about Moonshadow.”

    “Oh. Right.”

    Fendul continued on, oblivious to the firebender’s reaction. “Every time I look up and see the moon, I imagine her there, watching over me.”

    “That’s kind of romantic–“

    “Actually, it’s kind of creepy. It’s like she’s always over my shoulder, scrutinizing every little thing I do. Every girl I look at.” Fendul let out another sigh.

    Avatara frowned. “You…didn’t get married while I wasn’t looking, did you?”

    “No. I finally worked up the courage to confess my feelings and then that crazy psychopath showed up and stabbed her in cold blood!” Fendul threw a rock into the pool, shattering the reflection. “I hate the Fire Nation! None of them deserve to live!”

    “So, uh…” Avatara coughed. “You had deep feelings for Moonshadow, and now when you’re with Iannah you don’t feel that kind of connection with her?”

    “Not quite. I mean, Iannah is fun too. It’s just…it feels wrong to chase two girls at once.”

    “But one of them is dead,” Avatara pointed out.

    “If you say so.”

    “I do. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Avatara pushed himself to his feet. “I think it’s time I get some sleep. Busy day tomorrow.” He put his hand on Fendul’s shoulder. “You’ll figure it out. Try not to overthink it.”

    Fendul nodded, but continued staring out over the oasis long after the other man left.


    The next morning was relatively uneventful, save for a brief moment when they glimpsed Ral while they were preparing to leave.

    “I knew my father would never let me go,” Scry said as the oasis vanished into the distance behind them.

    “It’s not his choice anymore,” Avatara said, putting an arm around her shoulder. “You are in control of your own destiny now.”

    “Technically, since she’s under eighteen, her father can control her,” Iannah interrupted.

    Avatara pursed his lips in thought. “Not if she’s emancipated.”

    “The only way you can do that is a decree from the Earth King himself.”

    “So, how about it?” Avatara asked, patting Scry on the back. “Would you like to visit the Earth King after we’re done here?”

    “I think…” Scry paused. “Yes, that would be nice.” She leaned on his shoulder and smiled, dreaming about what it would be like to be free.


    The only sane reason someone might venture into the desert is to visit the Misty Palms Oasis. Nobody would turn down a nice hot bath at the springs, or the cool refreshing taste of the oasis water. Yet, for the clinically insane – or the desperate – there exists a second destination. A library built ten thousand years ago, before there was a desert, rumored to contain all knowledge known to man and spirit alike.

    Despite being surrounded by sand dunes and endless plains of dirt, the library grounds were in fairly good shape. Tall stone pillars lined a wide entrance leading to the massive domed structure before them.

    At one of the benches just outside the doors, Iannah stopped and sat down. “You guys go ahead. Books aren’t really my thing.”

    Fendul stopped, nearly causing his sister to bump into him. “I can stay out here with you?”

    “I can take care of myself.” She flicked her hand towards the entrance. “You can run along and do…whatever it is that you do.”

    Fendul moved to the bench on the opposite side of the path and sat down, leaning against the stone wall. “You guys go ahead without me. I think I’ll stay out here and work on my tan.”

    “Hmm, a tan might look nice,” Katerei mused, looking down at her arms. She didn’t get a chance to say more before Avatara grabbed hold of her wrist and dragged her inside.

    The inside of the library was dark with only a scant few skylights for illumination. The place was even bigger than it seemed on the outside. Rows and rows of shelves crammed with books stretched out as far as the eye could see (which in the dark was probably a hundred yards). The center of the library opened out into a series of railed walkways, revealing dozens more floors below.

    “I could spend a lifetime reading all of these!” Katerei said, mouth open in astonishment.

    “I don’t really see what the big fuss is all about.” Scry shrugged.

    A laugh brought them all up short. “I suppose my collection won’t be of much interest to you, little lady,” an elderly man said, stepping out onto one of the walkways. “Though if you like old stories, perhaps I can have my granddaughter read you some of her favorites?” A black panther with emerald green eyes appeared and rubbed against his legs.

    “Do you have any stories about Grapper?” Scry asked, seemingly unaware of the large beast.

    “Indeed I do, though that is a name I have not heard in a very long time.”

    “Sweet!” Scry said, breaking out into a grin. “All right, little kitty! Lead the way!” The panther dashed off down one of the aisles with the raven-haired girl close behind.

    “It’s hard to remember she can get along so well without her sight,” Avatara said, watching as they vanished around a corner.

    “Not everything can be judged by its appearance,” the man said, joining him.

    “You must be the legendary scribe Selax was telling me about.”

    “Indeed. You may call me the scribe.”

    “Er yes, but what’s your name?”

    “The Scribe,” The Scribe said pointedly.

    “Whatever,” Avatara said, dropping the subject. “We need your help with Sage’s Comet.”

    “Ah yes, another name I haven’t heard in a long time. Though perhaps the Avatar would be of more assistance?” The Scribe’s eyes briefly flickered over Selax, but it was long enough for Avatara to take notice. “After all, the last time the comet drew near, the Avatar was around to push it away so it would not strike.”

    “How old are you?” Katerei asked.

    The three men looked at each other in confusion. She was standing apart, so her question could have been addressed to any of them.

    “I should amend my statement,” The Scribe said. “A previous incarnation of the Avatar was around to deflect the comet when it last threatened the world a thousand years ago. It has passed by several times since, but not as closely as it did then.”

    “So, pushing it away would only delay it further?” Avatara mused.

    “Precisely. Putting off your problems does not solve them. It only means you have more problems to deal with later.” The Scribe shot another glance at Selax.

    “Can you tell us anything at all about its size or where it might land?” Avatara asked.

    “Hmm, let us see.” The Scribe led them down two flights of stairs and under a dusty archway. The hall came to an end at a large room stocked full of rolled scrolls, the edges of which looked yellow – and not entirely due to the lantern he had picked up along the way. “If there is anything of note recorded about the comet, you will find it in here.”


    “So…” Fendul said, staring at his feet.

    “So?” Iannah said, staring at the wall.

    “I’ve been thinking.”

    “Don’t hurt yourself.”

    “No. I shouldn’t have hurt you.”

    Iannah snapped her gaze over to the water tribe boy, only to remember she was supposed to be angry with him. She quickly turned away to stare at the shifting sands of the desert before he noticed.

    “I don’t even know what’s wrong,” she said, finally breaking the silence. “Back on the island you seemed happy with me. Then we’re apart for a few weeks and suddenly you’re afraid to talk to me.”

    “There was a girl…” he began. He could feel his cheeks heat up. “I met her at the North Pole. We kind of hit it off and I may have kissed her once or twice. Or twenty times.”

    “So…you’re together with someone else?”

    “No. I mean, well, she’s dead now. The Fire Nation took her from me.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” Iannah said, even though deep inside she wasn’t really.

    “That’s the reason I ran off last night. Every time I see the moon it reminds me of her, and how I wasn’t faithful to you. Even now, all I can see is just a dark cloud on the horizon.”

    “That’s no cloud,” Iannah said, rising to her feet. “It’s an airship!”

    “Sure, an airship of despair, sucking away all my joy–“

    “No! There’s an actual airship! And it’s coming this way!”

    Fendul looked up and saw her pointing at a dark zeppelin barreling towards them. “We have to warn the others!” He grabbed her wrist and tugged her inside, stopping only so she could grab her spear.


    “Ugh, finally,” Leandra said, slumped over the railing as they watched the approaching structure. “I hope they have a bathroom down there. I’ve been holding it in for hours!”

    “That’s odd. According to this ancient map, there should’ve been a whole city,” Wolmark said, holding a heavily creased scroll.

    “Are you sure you’re not holding the map upside-down again?” Trinias asked. “It’s a desert! I’m surprised there’s anything at all out here.” He shifted the weight of his bow to his other shoulder. His neck was still sore from hours of scanning the sands for any sign of the Avatar and his companions.

    “Give him a break Trinias,” Leandra said. “He’s the only one of us able to read the damn thing.”

    “I don’t know what Flynn expected us to find out here, but I hope it was a bunch of sand,” he snapped back. “Because we did.”

    “You could’ve gone with them to the swamp.”

    “I’d rather be at the cantina, looking at all the pretty women.”

    “Listening to them turn you down again?” Leandra placed her hand on his shoulder. “Face it Trinias, some things just aren’t meant to be.”

    “Like that!” Wolmark said, pointing at the wide courtyard they were flying over. “Are those footprints?”

    “Oh good,” Trinias said. “A caravan probably stopped by to use the bathroom. We’ll just ask them if they’ve seen the Avatar and his friends.”

    “Shut up, Trinias.” Leandra punched his arm.

    Wolmark pushed a lever and then started cranking the top hatch closed. As the supply of hot air dwindled, the zeppelin drifted lower to the ground. Leandra watched eagerly, impatient to get away from the cramped metal box where they had spent the last several days.

    The zeppelin inched lower, slowly losing altitude. Then it dropped another inch.

    “Oh come on! At this rate it’ll take days before we land!” Leandra shouted.

    “I can fix that,” Trinias said, notching an arrow to his bow. Before Wolmark could protest, he aimed directly above and pierced a hole in the fabric keeping them afloat.

    “You idiot!” Leandra screamed as they were thrown around violently. The shell above whistled frantically as hot air rushed out, tearing the fabric open even wider. The zeppelin spun and whirled around in circles before finally crashing into a nearby sand dune and launching them all free.

    “My life’s work,” Wolmark said sadly, surveying the smoldering wreckage.

    “Wow, that was dangerous,” Trinias said, brushing the sand off his shirt. “There should be a sign or something warning against using arrows on board.”

    Leandra bit back her response and stormed off towards the building.


    “So, that is where it is projected to land?” Avatara asked, staring at the ancient parchment.

    “As best as the scholars from the day were able to determine,” The Scribe said. “They even managed to calculate its approximate mass…ah, denoted here.” He pointed at some numbers in the corner.

    “That can’t be right,” Avatara said, looking at Selax. “This thing is massive!”

    “Why do you think it was named after Sage?” Selax said. “No other man had an ego big enough.”

    “Guys! Guys!” Iannah said, bursting into the room with Fendul right behind. “You’re not going to believe this!”

    “You’re pregnant?” Katerei asked from her place on the floor.

    “You got engaged?” Avatara asked without looking up.

    “You finally discovered you two are fifth cousins, thrice removed?” Selax asked.

    “What, no!” Iannah frowned. “We saw–“

    “Oh! You found Brianna’s older sister?” Scry said from behind her.

    “Who’s Brianna?” Fendul asked.

    A giant black panther leaped forward, startling him. She bared her teeth in a grin and brushed against Iannah’s legs, green eyes gleaming in delight.

    “Whoa,” Iannah stepped back startled. “That thing is creepy!”

    The panther growled unhappily and plodded back to join Scry. She giggled and rubbed the panther’s head, making sure to scratch behind the ears. The panther purred in delight.

    “Anyway, as I was trying to say before we were rudely interrupted–“ Iannah began.

    “Wait, what was that part about cousins?” Fendul asked.

    “Fine! Maybe the old man will listen to me!” Iannah said, exasperated. She turned to face The Scribe.

    “Oh! I know!” The Scribe said. “You have found my lost book! I dropped it while wandering around late one night and ever since, I’ve been left wondering if the poor refugee girl will find a way to sail off that island.”

    “I don’t think that story was ever actually finished,” Selax said.

    “Ugh! Whatever!” Iannah threw up her arms. “Don’t come crying to me when the sand people from the airship kidnap you all!”

    “Airship?” Avatara asked. He glanced at Selax.

    Selax shrugged.

    “Yeah, we saw an airship,” Fendul said. “And it was headed this way!”

    “Nonsense.” The Scribe shook his head. “The sand people don’t fly. They bend sand, not air.”

    Avatara rolled up the ancient scroll and turned to Selax. “What’s your contingency plan for an airship raid?”

    “We wait for them to come to us. Then, we ambush them,” he replied.

    “You have a contingency plan for an airship raid?” Iannah asked incredulously.

    Just then, a woman with long, red hair covered in sand wandered into the room. “I tried calling out, but nobody replied. Is there a restroom around here?” The woman took in the room, noticed the seven people staring at her, and blinked in shock. “Wait a minute,” she said, pointing towards Avatara. “You’re the Avatar!”

    “Surprise!” Scry shouted as a block of earth slammed into the woman and pinned her against the wall.

    “Hey, has anyone seen my wife?” A robed man with short brown hair and a neatly trimmed beard entered. A black-haired man with a bow over his shoulder followed on his heels.

    “Wait!” Trinias said, pointing at Fendul. “That’s him!”

    The room erupted into chaos. Trinias drew his bow and fired. Iannah dove, tackling Fendul just as an arrow whizzed through the air where he had been standing. A large black panther barreled into Wolmark, pinning him to the ground. Katerei uncorked her canteen and a whip of water knocked the second arrow out of the sky. Scry broke off another chunk of the wall and hurled it at the ranger, who leapt out of the way and unleashed a third shot. Through it all, The Scribe ran around with his hands raised in the air, crying out, “Watch the books! Don’t harm the books!”

    “Should I intervene?” Selax asked.

    “No,” Avatara said. “We’d just upset the old man.”

    They sat back at the podium where the parchment had lain and watched the pandemonium. Katerei formed a shield of ice, stopping an arrow inches from her face. Scry hurled another block of stone, only for Trinias to dodge and let it slam into a bookshelf beyond. Books and scrolls tumbled loose and The Scribe let out a wail of anguish as he rushed over.

    Finally, just as Trinias was about to loose another arrow, Iannah tripped him from behind and batted his bow away with her spear. She pushed the shaft into his chest, pinning him to the ground.

    “Look, I don’t know who you are, but it’s over,” she said.

    Trinias looked up at his captor. “Oh, hey there. You have pretty eyes.”

    Iannah snorted and then hit him on the head, knocking him unconscious.

    “Told you it wasn’t meant to be,” Leandra’s voice came from the side of the room. She was still pinned to the wall by a slab of rock. She glanced at the six faces turned her way. “Um, mind if I use the restroom now?”


    “Well, that was an adventure,” Iannah remarked as the library dwindled from sight.

    Avatara had offered to stay and clean up the place, but The Scribe had firmly asked them to leave. They had left him sifting through the rubble, carefully extracting the scrolls and books that had been crushed during the fight.

    “Yeah,” Scry said, leaning back in the saddle with her feet resting on Selax’s back. “Hey Katerei. That was some pretty impressive bending back there.”

    “I told you I was a master bender,” the waterbender replied. “Though, I have to say, you weren’t so bad yourself.”

    “Thanks. I don’t know why my instructor made such a fuss. Bending is pretty easy. The guys are the ones who have to do all the hard work!”

    Iannah cleared her throat.

    “I’ll have you know, my girlfriend was the one to bring down the archer,” Fendul bragged. The two of them were sitting next to each other.

    “Yeah, and I bet she would’ve done it a lot sooner if she wasn’t busy saving your sorry ass,” Katerei said, winking at Iannah. The Tokoda Warrior smiled back.

    “Next stop, Ba Sing Se,” Fendul said, snaking an arm around Iannah. “Don’t worry Scry. We’ll have the Earth King get you that decree in no time!”

    “You haven’t been to Ba Sing Se before, have you?” Iannah asked, eyeing Fendul. “Getting something done in that city is anything but quick.”

    “Is the Earth King really that bad?” Katerei asked.

    “Actually, I hear Shanadar is the best king they’ve had in years,” Avatara said from the front. “It’s his advisors we have to worry about.”

    “There’s a reason we all moved to an island,” Iannah agreed.

    “Conserve your strength and get some rest,” Avatara said. “We’ll be in Ba Sing Se shortly.”


    Ba Sing Se was a massive city that stretched for miles. The town was divided up into three rings, each separated by a stone wall a thousand feet tall and a hundred feet wide.

    The outer ring held the farmlands and the slums, where refugees from the war came bright-eyed in hopes of starting a new life only to find themselves shut out from the town proper and ignored. The group had to hold their nose while they passed over this section to keep from gagging from the stench.

    The middle ring was designed for the artisans and craftsmen. Stone bridges over flowing creeks lined with town houses made up this section of the city. Some of the houses were situated on small hills surrounded by greenery and flower gardens.

    The upper ring housed the nobility and was comprised of large manors and flowing sculptures. Cherry blossom trees lined the streets, their flower petals drifting in the breeze to rest floating on one of the grand pools. At the very center stood the Earth King’s palace.

    Along the way, Avatara explained the process. “Ordinarily, we’d have to file a formal request with the Department of the Interior asking permission to petition the king for an audience. Then, the various ministers on the council would examine our petition and vote whether or not it was deemed important enough to bother. If successful, we would gain a petition token that goes into a lottery with all the other successful applicants in a monthly pool to see which twelve people get to visit with the king that month. Only one in a hundred make it to this stage, and then the average wait time is seven years.”

    “That sounds like a lot of effort,” Katerei said.

    “That’s the city for you,” Scry said, bored with the place already.

    “The leaders here believe rules bring order, and order is the hallmark of civilization,” Iannah said. “My people decided life is better spent hanging out at the beach.”

    “Fortunately for us, we have something the others do not,” Avatara said. A sly smile crept onto his face. “We have Selax.”

    Taking the reins, he altered their course, aiming the kinaru straight at the palace gates. Down below, they could see the tiny guards spot them and confer among themselves in confusion. Before they had a chance to respond, Avatara guided Selax into a rapid dive and swooped past them into the palace, wingtips barely clearing the edges of the massive doorframe.

    They flew down the large hall, passing startled servants and sending hanging decorations clattering to the floor. Selax swooped right, then left, following the twists and turns of the palace with a foreknowledge that suggested this was not his first visit. It was only when they came to a gilded pair of doors that he drew up and landed. Before he had even stopped moving, he shifted to his regular form and with two blasts of air, incapacitated both of the guards.

    “So this is the Earth King’s chamber,” Fendul mused, holding Iannah’s hand while they approached the door.

    “He’s not alone in there. And we have to hurry – more are coming,” Scry said.

    “Are you ready for this?” Fendul asked her.

    Scry took in a deep breath and nodded. She hadn’t ever dared to hope, but for the first time in her life she had the chance to be free from her father. She joined Selax at the door.

    “Hey,” Avatara said, holding Katerei back. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

    He led her a dozen paces away from the others, so they could talk in private. Selax would wait for his command, but Scry was right, they did not have much time.

    “I…want to apologize a bit for how I’ve been treating you lately,” he said. “I didn’t mean anything by it, but I can see how I might have come across as harsh and uncaring when really…it’s the opposite that’s true.”

    “What are you saying?” Katerei asked, feeling her chest tighten.

    “I’m saying that I like you. You’re fun and attractive and have a great sense of humor and attractive and I may possibly be falling–“

    Katerei silenced him with a kiss. “You can tell me all about it later,” she said, cheeks flushing. “But everyone’s staring at us, and I don’t want to be interrupted by some grumpy old guardsmen.”

    “I…sure.” He took her hand and they walked side-by-side to join the others, Katerei making a show out of ignoring her brother’s stare.

    “All right,” Avatara said. “Open the gates.”

    The palace room was dim, lit only by a dozen green lanterns on either side of the aisle. At the far end was a small set of stairs leading up to a raised dais. The king sat on a golden throne covered in long drapes of transparent green cloth. A pair of slim guards stood watch at the base of the platform, monitoring their approach through hooded faceplates.

    “Six more in the wings,” Scry whispered as they walked down the aisle, passing row after row of large columns. She clenched her hands into fists to calm her nerves.

    The air hung with a heavy silence as they made their way forward. Only once they were a dozen paces from the bodyguards did Avatara indicate they should stop.

    “Huh,” Scry said, sniffing the air. “You didn’t tell me Shanadar was a fond of lilies.”

    Avatara’s eyes widened and he spun around, only to watch the large doors rumble closed.

    “Well, well, well,” an obnoxious feminine voice called out as the ‘Earth King’ stepped out from under the veils. “If it isn’t my lost, wayward brother and his misbegotten band of friends!”

    “Retsy,” Selax growled under his breath.

    “It’s that Fire Nation bitch who killed Moonshadow!” Fendul cried out, drawing his sword. At his side he saw Iannah ready her spear.

    “Wait,” Katerei said, blinking in surprise. “Brother?”

    “Oh, you didn’t know?” Retsy said, descending the last few steps. She looked at Avatara. “All this time and you didn’t tell them they were traveling with the prince of the Fire Nation?”

    “I am no prince,” Avatara said, glaring at her.

    “Considering our father banished you, I suppose not.” She giggled. “But I have good news! Father has agreed to see you again. I suppose he thinks three years of exile have changed you.”

    “You’re Fire Nation?” Katerei squeaked, backing away. Fendul shifted his sword, pointing it between Retsy and Avatara, unsure which was the greater threat.

    “And look,” Retsy continued in her sing-song voice. “I even brought along some old friends who are dying to see you.”

    “Heya Av,” Nili said, taking off her helmet.

    Avatara didn’t acknowledge her. His attention was fixated on the other woman, with long brown hair spilling over her shoulders as she removed her helmet.

    “I’m not going to pretend you’re happy to see me, considering you never bothered to write,” Adriana said, staring at him with her arms crossed.

    “I didn’t mean…for it to happen like that,” Avatara said, lowering his head to stare at his feet. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”

    “Hurt me? I’ve been bored out of my mind for three long years! What do you think happens to someone who is engaged to a prince that doesn’t bother to show up to his own wedding?” Her voice started to crack, but she fought back the tears. “No one will even talk to me! It’s like I’m too embarrassing to look at, so they just pretend I don’t exist.”

    “Engaged?” Katerei asked, taking another step backwards. She faced Avatara. “How could you lead me on like this? Was everything you said all just a lie?”

    “Technically, everything I have told you was true,” Avatara said, still staring at his feet.

    “Oh, where have I heard that before?” Adriana sneered.

    “What about that part where you were the Avatar? Was that a lie too?” Katerei balled her hands into fists.

    “I never said I was the Avatar,” he said quietly. “You assumed.”

    “Him? The Avatar?” Retsy snorted. “Blind little girl!”

    “Hey!” Scry shouted.

    “He is the true Avatar!” Retsy pointed at Selax.

    Throughout the whole confrontation, Selax had stood quietly, holding perfectly still. Only at Retsy’s accusation did he flinch.

    “Why?” Katerei turned on Selax. “Why did you hide it? Why did you let–“ she jabbed her finger towards Avatara “– him come along?”

    “I never wanted to have the responsibility,” Selax spoke quietly. “But, it seems Fate is not inclined to give me much of a choice.”

    “You knew all along, didn’t you? And you said nothing!”

    Selax remained silent.

    “Well, this was a lovely reunion and for all the fun I’m having with this chit-chat, I have places to be and people to enslave.” Retsy clapped her hands. Four guards approached from the rear, cutting off their escape. Retsy turned to address their captain. “The Avatar and my brother are coming with me. As I promised, the two water tribe children are yours.”

    The captain bowed down in acknowledgement. When he straightened, he removed his helmet and turned his glare on Fendul. “Fendul of the Southern Water Tribe,” Flynn said, voice echoing throughout the hall. “You are wanted for high crimes and treason surrounding the destruction of the North Pole, and the death of my beloved Moonshadow.”

    “What?” Fendul shrieked. “You have got to be joking!” He pointed at Retsy. “She’s the one who stabbed your girlfriend!”

    “Nonsense, I recognize your companion from the commander’s boat. The Fire Nation was behind the attack, and now we have reason to believe the Firelord’s son personally led a team to infiltrate our city and sabotage us from within.” Flynn turned to his companions. “Ronin, arrest them!”

    The other three Ronin advanced on Fendul and Iannah, leaving Flynn to face Katerei. “As you and your brother were behind the death of my betrothed, I’m sure you won’t mind taking her place.” He reached forward to grab her wrist.

    With a howl, Avatara leapt forward and threw his fist out, sending a large ball of fire between Flynn and Katerei, forcing the Ronin to step back. “Run!” he snarled at Katerei. “Get out of here!”

    She froze. A tiny part of her wanted to believe it wasn’t true, that the Fire Nation girl was just telling a bunch of lies. But now she knew. Avatara was a firebender.

    “Go!” Avatara said, drawing his sword and unleashing an arc of flame at Flynn. The man recovered and brought his own sword up in time to parry the blow.

    “We’ve got this, sis!” Fendul called out as he and Iannah stood back to back while the other three Ronin circled around them, weapons ready as they closed in.

    Scry made her move, tearing off a chunk of the nearest pillar and hurling at the largest of the Ronin. It struck Ulf in the chest, but he only stepped back and shrugged off the blow.

    “Little lady not nice,” Ulf said, crushing the pillar with his bare hands.

    Scry brought her arms around to tear off another piece, but Nili was faster. A few quick jabs and her arms fell limp, her senses began to dull. She reached out frantically trying to sense what was going on, but what she discovered instead terrified her. Scry collapsed to her knees as two men she knew approached her. “No!” she cried out weakly.

    “That’s right, little girl,” Kain said, seizing hold of her shoulder. “Your father paid us a lot of money to bring you home.”

    “Lights out!” Ral said as a blow to her head knocked her unconscious.

    Across the aisle, Flynn was frantically fending off Avatara’s assault. The firebender struck with a determined aggression, seemingly always one step ahead of the Ronin. A feint to the left, a surprise backswing, and Flynn watched his sword fly across the room, clattering as it skid across the floor. With a cry, Avatara brought his blade around, aiming at Flynn neck. Only at the last moment did he stop, Retsy’s fingers an inch from his face, crackling with lightning. The blade tumbled from his hands.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Avatara glimpsed Katerei still standing there, watching the skirmish in horror. “What are you still doing here?” he shouted at her. “GO!”

    Only then did the wide-eyed waterbender turn and flee.

    “I want the warrior girl,” Flynn said, wiping at a cut on his face. He inclined his head towards Fendul and Iannah, both of which had surrendered their weapons and were being secured by the other Ronin.

    “Do with her as you please,” Retsy said. “I have no use for her.” She clamped a pair of metal cuffs around Avatara’s wrists. “Don’t look so forlorn, brother. I’m sure you’ll enjoy seeing your home again!” She grabbed him by the shoulder and hauled him towards the others.

    Adriana came to stand over him, fingering one of her knives. “It’s going to be a long boat ride,” she said flatly.

    “Are you sure we can’t keep this one?” Nili asked, running her hands along Iannah’s chin. The redhead flashed her a pretty smile.

    “No,” Flynn said, grabbing her arm and pulling her away. “She’s mine.”

    “Oh, my,” Retsy said, coming to a halt in front of Selax. He stiffened as she reached up and traced the Seal of Thera hanging around his neck. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this day!” Her hands found his collar and she jerked his head down to her level. “We are going to have so much fun together!” she whispered into his ear.


    Katerei ran as far as she could, never stopping, never pausing to wipe her tears and look where she was going. All she cared about was getting as far away from the palace as possible before someone tried to catch her.

    She ran and ran until her thighs ached and her lungs burned. The man she thought she loved had betrayed her. Her brother was a captive of the North. Selax was the true Avatar.

    It wasn’t until she had run herself to the point of sheer exhaustion did she slow down, only to collapse on the cobblestone street. Her vision blurred and the sounds around her swirled into an incomprehensible cacophony.

    “My, my, what do we have here?” A man’s voice asked, bringing her back to reality. She looked up to see an old man kneeling above her, a concerned look on his weathered face. “You look exhausted. How would you like to come inside and have a nice, warm cup of tea?”

    Katerei looked around in confusion. At some point, night had fallen. Her clothes were soaked from lying in a puddle, and she shivered from the cold. Gentle hands grabbed hold of her and lifted her to her feet. She tried to seize hold of that warmth, turned to say something, only to realize her burning man was gone. In his place was this old man, helping her inside a restaurant, putting a cloak around her shoulders, serving her a hot cup of tea.

    “I hope you don’t mind me asking,” Wizard said, sliding into the seat across from her. “But what brings a beautiful lady like you to the lower ring?”

    It was silly to tell this stranger, but what more could she lose? “The man I thought I loved turned out to be a firebender.”

    “Oh, I am sorry to hear that,” he said. “But, I think maybe you are judging him too harshly.”

    Katerei shook her head. “Firebenders are evil. Hateful people that bring death and destruction. What can fire do other than destroy?”

    Wizard reached over to the teakettle and poured himself a steaming cup. “While it is true that people today consider fire the element of death, in olden times it was known as the element of life.” At her frown, he continued. “Fire can be hot and terrifying, but it can also be warm and gentle. Take this tea, for instance.” He held up his cup and took a long sip. “Without fire, your tea would be cold, and that would be a most terrible tragedy.”

    “Fire is the element of life?” Katerei dipped her pinky finger into her tea and swirled it around.

    “Have you ever felt warmth from a friendly hug or desire from the embrace of a lover?” Wizard asked. “That is the fire deep inside all of us, roaring up to tell us that we are still alive.”

    She stared silently into her cup, considering.

    “The Firelord has given the Fire Nation a bad name, but that does not mean all firebenders follow him. Just like the Earth Kingdom, vast as it may be, has split off into other, smaller kingdoms. Or how the Northern and Southern Water Tribes have a common heritage but different customs.”

    “What would you know? Are you a firebender too?”

    “I am just an old man who works in a tea shop.” Wizard laughed. “I just hope you haven’t been too hasty in the judgment of your friend.”

    “It doesn’t matter now,” Katerei said glumly. “He’s off to meet with his father back in the Fire Nation.”

    “Long distance relationships can be a bit difficult,” Wizard mused. “But you could still give it a try.”

    “Fat chance of that. I flew here on a giant kinaru who turned out to be the Avatar. But now he’s been captured by the princess, Retsy I think is her name? How am I supposed to get to the Fire Nation without a kinaru?”

    “Retsy has the Avatar?” Wizard’s eyes widened.

    “And my brother has gotten himself and his girlfriend kidnapped by some Northern Water Tribe fanatics who think he’s responsible for sinking their city.”

    “That was a pretty impressive feat, if I do say so myself. No Fire Nation army could have hoped to achieve so much destruction so quickly.”

    “And I helped rescue a poor girl from her father only to have his hired goons show up to drag her back. Now she’s going to spend the rest of her life locked up in a cage!”

    “Whoa there!” Wizard said, holding up his hands. “It sounds like you have quite a few problems. But back up for a minute. You said Retsy has the Avatar?”

    “Yeah, I think she wants him as a pet. But still, the worst part is how I let myself be tricked into falling for her brother!” She slammed her teacup down on the table, rattling the other dishes.

    Wizard choked on his drink. He set his teacup down on the table while he coughed his airway free. When he could speak again, he asked, “What would you do if you could see him again?”

    “I…I don’t know!” She stared at her hands in silence for a moment. “There was some talk…he wanted me to help with Sage’s Comet. Said he needed me to help save the world. But I don’t know if that was just another lie!”

    “Hmm, Sage’s Comet passes by once every hundred years. If I’m not mistaken, we should be able to see it very soon.”

    “Yeah, except this time the airbender – er, the Avatar, I guess – says it won’t pass by. It’s going to crash right into the South Pole!”

    “Oh, my, that would be most unfortunate.” Wizard rose to his feet. “How about you give me a few moments to grab my things, and then I will help you find your brother, your firebender, and the Avatar.”

    “You would do that for me?” Katerei asked, looking up in confusion. “But you don’t even know me!”

    “No,” he said. “But I do know Retsy. She’s crazy, and she needs to be stopped!”

    Katerei watched the old man duck into the back room of the store. Deep inside she felt a tremor of something she hadn’t dared to believe still remained. An emotion she thought she had lost.

    Hope.



  • This chapter is awesome! I have so many comments, I don't think I can fit them into one post :x Very impressed with the quantity and quality you have produced so far for this Avatar challenge : __D

    Quote

    Selax was curled up away from the campfire, eyes closed as he slept in his penguin pajamas.

    Yes, Selax has penguin pajamas too! ^_ __^

    Quote

    She gingerly brushed away the dried tear streaks on his face. In time he would recover, but for now she would let him be.

    Poor Fendul ;_;

    Quote

    “I had plans. Contingencies. Contingencies for every contingency. I thought I knew every possibility.” Selax finally looked up, revealing red-rimmed eyes.

    I was surprised back in Book of Air about how bad I felt for Selax, but you continue to push this character to new depths and give insights into the tortured existence that is Selax ;_;

    Quote

    “I built an airship.”

    Yay! ^_ __^ I am loving these old-story references! : __D

    Quote

    “The simplest solution is often the best.” Avatara picked up a small blade, devoid of strange parts and gizmos. He handed it over to Fendul. “Occam’s razor.”

    I had to look up that one :x

    Quote

    “Yomu is the crowd favorite for tonight.”

    Yay, Yomu! ^_ __^

    Quote

    “The Avatar is supposed to bring balance to the world.” He gestured at the four of them. “How is this balanced? We already have three guys to one girl!”

    Um, I don't think he understands the Avatar's job description very well...

    Quote

    “Woo, yeah!” Fendul shouted from the back. He snapped his fingers at the people below. “Remember this you losers! You just got schooled by Team Avatar!”

    Heehee : __D I can't even think Fendul was wrong to say so!

    Quote

    Avatara reached into his pouch with his free hand and pulled out a red scarf he had picked up at the market. “Here. You may not be able to see, but your eyes can still dry out up here. This will help protect you.” He looped the scarf around her head and settled it over her murky black eyes before tying it off.

    Aww, oh my turtle so cute! ^_ __^ <3 Scrytara.

    Quote

    Iannah stepped forward, seized Fendul’s face in both hands, and gave him a deep kiss. “How about now?”

    “Oh! I remember now!” Fendul’s eyes lit up. “How could I forget you, Aliko?”

    Ooh : __o

    Quote

    “Long ago, there was a legendary warrior. His name was Grapper…”

    I'm glad the epic tales of Grapper were never forgotten! ^ ___^

    Quote

    “I came here because I wanted to support the war effort. What better way could a warrior use her skills than to sell ice to thirsty travelers in the desert?” Iannah asked. “Though I have to admit, meeting someone from the water tribe gave me the idea. Way better than my original plan to sell plant soil.”

    I guess that's still a step up from Colonnium guard?

    Quote

    “I don’t know what I’m doing or what I want. I guess I’m just confused.” He paused. “Can I ask you for some romantic advice?”

    “Um, sure.”

    Fendul took a deep breath and let it out slowly, building up the courage. “What do you think happens to people when they die?”

    Like brother, like sister : __D

    Quote

    “Though if you like old stories, perhaps I can have my granddaughter read you some of her favorites?” A black panther with emerald green eyes appeared and rubbed against his legs.

    Yes, moar old story references! ^_ __^ We can never have too many old story references!



  • Quote

    “Precisely. Putting off your problems does not solve them. It only means you have more problems to deal with later.” The Scribe shot another glance at Selax.

    Uh-oh, what is Selax hiding?

    Quote

    “Why do you think it was named after Sage?” Selax said. “No other man had an ego big enough.”

    Ahh, makes sense!

    Quote

    “Guys! Guys!” Iannah said, bursting into the room with Fendul right behind. “You’re not going to believe this!”

    “You’re pregnant?” Katerei asked from her place on the floor.

    “You got engaged?” Avatara asked without looking up.

    “You finally discovered you two are fifth cousins, thrice removed?” Selax asked.

    I feel Iannah's frustration! (But Selax's guess was pretty good!)

    Quote

    “Oh! I know!” The Scribe said. “You have found my lost book! I dropped it while wandering around late one night and ever since, I’ve been left wondering if the poor refugee girl will find a way to sail off that island.”

    “I don’t think that story was ever actually finished,” Selax said.

    And until it is, the Scribe's library will never be complete : __(

    Quote

    “Actually, I hear Shanadar is the best king they’ve had in years,” Avatara said from the front. “It’s his advisors we have to worry about.”

    Ooh, Shanadar's here too! ^_ __^

    Quote

    “Ordinarily, we’d have to file a formal request with the Department of the Interior asking permission to petition the king for an audience. Then, the various ministers on the council would examine our petition and vote whether or not it was deemed important enough to bother. If successful, we would gain a petition token that goes into a lottery with all the other successful applicants in a monthly pool to see which twelve people get to visit with the king that month. Only one in a hundred make it to this stage, and then the average wait time is seven years.”

    Sounds like a good system, I especially appreciate the nice touch of the lottery.

    Quote

    “I’m saying that I like you. You’re fun and attractive and have a great sense of humor and attractive and I may possibly be falling–“

    Aww <3

    Quote

    Avatara didn’t acknowledge her. His attention was fixated on the other woman, with long brown hair spilling over her shoulders as she removed her helmet.

    YES, it's the moment I've been waiting for! I knew this was going to be an Avriana story! : __D

    Quote

    “Hurt me? I’ve been bored out of my mind for three long years! What do you think happens to someone who is engaged to a prince that doesn’t bother to show up to his own wedding?” Her voice started to crack, but she fought back the tears. “No one will even talk to me! It’s like I’m too embarrassing to look at, so they just pretend I don’t exist.”

    So sad! ;_; Also, I didn't anticipate that they were already engaged! But Avatara was so cruel : __(

    Quote

    “What about that part where you were the Avatar? Was that a lie too?” Katerei balled her hands into fists.

    “I never said I was the Avatar,” he said quietly. “You assumed.”

    No, he totally lied : __P You can't heavily imply something untrue and then blame the other person for getting the wrong impression.

    Quote

    With a howl, Avatara leapt forward and threw his fist out, sending a large ball of fire between Flynn and Katerei, forcing the Ronin to step back. “Run!” he snarled at Katerei. “Get out of here!”

    Yikes, Avatara is very protective of Katerei!

    Quote

    “My, my, what do we have here?” A man’s voice asked, bringing her back to reality. She looked up to see an old man kneeling above her, a concerned look on his weathered face. “You look exhausted. How would you like to come inside and have a nice, warm cup of tea?”

    Possible Wizard/Katerei romance? I LIKE IT : __D

    Quote

    “Have you ever felt warmth from a friendly hug or desire from the embrace of a lover?” Wizard asked. “That is the fire deep inside all of us, roaring up to tell us that we are still alive.”

    So poetic! You've got Iroh dialogue down ^_ __^

    Quote

    “Yeah, I think she wants him as a pet. But still, the worst part is how I let myself be tricked into falling for her brother!”

    Shows where Katerei's priorities are! :x



  • So, which ships are you rooting for?



  • Avriana, Wizerei, maybe Flynnah? Scrytara might be a suitable alternative to Avriana.



  • I read 'ships' and assumed you meant ocean-going ships.

    :(



  • Hmm, it seems I shall have to find ways to make your character suffer more (although I'm betting I should wait until after the next book to decide on a proper penalty).

    @avatara_bot, on 26 October 2015 - 03:11 AM, said in The Book of Earth:

    “Indeed I do, though that is a name I have not heard in a very long time.”

    Wait...the Scribe is Grapper?

    @avatara_bot, on 26 October 2015 - 03:11 AM, said in The Book of Earth:

    “You have a contingency plan for an airship raid?” Iannah asked incredulously.

    I don't see why that's surprising. Everyone needs that sort of contingency plan.

    The inclusions of the Ronin and Adrianna were quite amusing, although I'm disappointed Shanadar didn't make an appearance.

    Also, if everyone is hoping Wizard will save the day, they had better be prepared for a long wait :p .



  • @avatara_bot, on 26 October 2015 - 03:11 AM, said in The Book of Earth:

    Katerei yawned and rubbed her eyes. She found herself lying in her sleeping roll on the ground and looked around in confusion. The last thing she remembered was leaning on Avatara’s shoulder as they flew away from the sunken city. She didn’t see him now, though Selax was curled up away from the campfire, eyes closed as he slept in his penguin pajamas.

    Not sure if I should be disturbed that Selax has the same pyjamas as me.

    Quote

    “The simplest solution is often the best.” Avatara picked up a small blade, devoid of strange parts and gizmos. He handed it over to Fendul. “Occam’s razor.”

    I did get that reference!

    Quote

    “So…we’re about to watch a bunch of half-naked muscular men beat each other up for sport?”

    My kind of place.

    Quote

    Dozens of people were seated around the outer ring, cheering and shouting as the contestants battled below.

    Dozens? That's either a puny stadium or an empty stadium.

    Quote

    “Woo, yeah!” Fendul shouted from the back. He snapped his fingers at the people below. “Remember this you losers! You just got schooled by Team Avatar!”

    From somewhere next to her, Scry heard the sound of someone’s palm hitting their forehead.

    I facepalmed too.

    Quote

    “A firebender? I fear for our daughter’s life,” Krys said, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

    That sounds like sarcasm.

    Quote

    “Oh! I remember now!” Fendul’s eyes lit up. “How could I forget you, Aliko?”

    Brutal!

    Quote

    “Oh! I know!” The Scribe said. “You have found my lost book! I dropped it while wandering around late one night and ever since, I’ve been left wondering if the poor refugee girl will find a way to sail off that island.”

    <_<

    Quote

    “I’m saying that I like you. You’re fun and attractive and have a great sense of humor and attractive and I may possibly be falling–“

    Katerei silenced him with a kiss. “You can tell me all about it later,” she said, cheeks flushing.

    ^_^

    Quote

    “I’m not going to pretend you’re happy to see me, considering you never bothered to write,” Adriana said, staring at him with her arms crossed.

    Adriana? Time to get out the garlic and stakes.

    Random favourite bits - Yomu, the Legend of Grapper, the Scribe's naming issues, Iannah knocking out Trinias, Wizard's tea and sage advice. (Much better than Sage advice.)

    This post has been edited by iKaterei : 01 November 2015 - 09:03 PM



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 27 October 2015 - 02:49 PM, said in The Book of Earth:

    Possible Wizard/Katerei romance? I LIKE IT : __D

    NOPE.

    @avatara_bot, on 27 October 2015 - 03:03 PM, said in The Book of Earth:

    So, which ships are you rooting for?

    Katara. Always.

    @mackilroy_bot, on 28 October 2015 - 04:30 PM, said in The Book of Earth:

    I read 'ships' and assumed you meant ocean-going ships.

    :(

    Nah, this isn't Sail.



  • @selax_bot, on 31 October 2015 - 09:46 PM, said in The Book of Earth:

    Hmm, it seems I shall have to find ways to make your character suffer more (although I'm betting I should wait until after the next book to decide on a proper penalty).

    I didn't even do anything bad to Selax in this chapter! You should at least wait for BoF before you complain! :p

    Quote

    Wait...the Scribe is Grapper?

    No?

    Quote

    I don't see why that's surprising. Everyone needs that sort of contingency plan.

    It was somewhat unusual, considering Wolmark's airship was the first ever invented.

    @ikaterei_bot, on 01 November 2015 - 09:02 PM, said in The Book of Earth:

    Dozens? That's either a puny stadium or an empty stadium.

    It is supposed to be an underground gambling center. City is only so big.

    Quote

    NOPE

    But, I thought she was into older guys... :p



  • @avatara_bot, on 01 November 2015 - 10:06 PM, said in The Book of Earth:

    I didn't even do anything bad to Selax in this chapter! You should at least wait for BoF before you complain! :p/>

    Your definition of "anything bad" and mine differ. Don't worry: I plan to complain then too.

    I'm tempted to work on making Avatara's life miserable in the TSs, but I think Katerei and Avatara are doing a fine job that already :p .

    @avatara_bot, on 01 November 2015 - 10:06 PM, said in The Book of Earth:

    No?

    So, the Obi-Wan Kenobi reference was accidental?


Log in to reply