Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2)



  • _Previously, on Avatara...

    Prince Tiernan and his uncle, Wizard, the last surviving members of the Fire Nation, have been searching the world for 100 years for the evil Avatar Selax, who killed Tiernan's wife. Although Tiernan and Wizard failed to find Selax, they did discover two lost Southern Water Jouyen youths: a water-bender named Katerei and her fiancé Fendul. They all then came across a mysterious baron named Firecat, who informed them that Selax is no longer the Avatar, that he transferred the avatar spirit to Tiernan to further torment him. Although Tiernan was horrified at the idea of harbouring a spirit that was once in Selax, he ultimately embraced his new power, changed his name to Avatara, and set off to master water-bending, earth-bending, and air-bending. In the Northern Water Jouyen, Avatara studied water-bending with Master Pakku, while Katerei studied healing with Mistress Adriana (and, in her free time, got into bar fights alongside a local drummer named Airedain). One night Katerei, who had developed a crush on Avatara, saw him cuddling with her teacher, Adriana. The next morning, Adriana was found to have been murdered, and Avatara knew Selax was behind it. Without Adriana for company, Avatara could hardly stand living on the same continent as the jerk Airedain; so the adventurers departed as soon as Avatara learned water-bending.

    -----------

    (North Pole, the night Adriana was murdered.)

    Katerei wandered through the dark alleys of the Northern Water Jouyen ghetto. She couldn't get the image of Avatara snuggling with Adriana out of her head. She was desperate to find Airedain (surely getting into a fight with some local drunkards would distract her), but she didn't know where he lived, and he wasn't at the bar where he worked. All she could do was wander the alleys, hoping to run into him.

    She didn't. But to her great surprise, she did find another familiar person.

    "Miss Katerei! How pleasant to see you again!"

    Katerei blinked, even though it was too dark to see much of anything. She recognized the voice, and there was only one person who had ever called her 'Miss Katerei.'

    "Sparky Sparky Boom Rythan?" she asked in surprise.

    "Please, call me Rythan."

    Katerei smiled. She had met Rythan once before, on Tempest Island, and she thought he had been very nice. When she told Avatara about meeting him, he had warned her that Rythan was dangerous. But, he hadn't told her any more than that, and Katerei had to think that Avatara's impression of Rythan wasn't very accurate.

    "What are you doing at the North Pole?" asked Katerei, baffled.

    "My business takes me all over the world," answered Rythan easily. "Naturally some destinations are more pleasant than others, but I'm accustomed to visiting all climates. I can't say I'm sorry that our paths have crossed here; it is a treat to see you again."

    Katerei grinned and blushed.

    "But the real question is," Rythan continued, "what are you doing in this part of the city? This isn't a safe place for a young lady to be alone, especially at night."

    "I was looking for a friend, but I've pretty-much given up on finding him tonight."

    "I'm sorry to hear that. What were you wanting to do with him? I don't suppose I could stand in as your friend for tonight?"

    "Oh, it's nothing. I was just hoping he could distract me from... something disturbing I saw earlier. But I'm sure you're busy."

    "My work can wait," Rythan reassured her. "What did you see that was so disturbing?"

    "Uhh," Katerei hesitated, feeling a little embarrassed. "You know Avatara, right? I saw him cuddling my teacher. It was completely out-of-the-blue and really weird."

    "I can imagine!" agreed Rythan.

    "Yeah! I'm glad you understand. I was afraid I would sound melodramatic."

    "Not at all. Anyone would be freaked out after seeing something like that." Rythan took a step closer to Katerei, and stroked her hair consolingly.

    Katerei gasped and flinched. Rythan quickly pulled his hand away. "I'm sorry Miss Katerei, was that out of line?"

    "It's just, in my culture, touching someone else's hair is very... intimate," Katerei explained.

    "I've travelled all over the world," Rythan reminded her. "I'm familiar with all the various cultures." Katerei stared at him with wide eyes. Was he saying... was he interested in her in that way? "But I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable," Rythan finished. "What would you do with your friend tonight, if you had found him? Let's do that."

    "Well, we probably would just get drunk and get into a fight with other drunk people," Katerei admitted. "But that actually doesn't sound all that appealing. Maybe we could do something... better?"

    "Better?" asked Rythan. He touched her hair again, questioningly.

    Katerei nodded, her face blushed purple. Then before she could lose her courage, she pressed her lips against Rythan's.

    Katerei had only kissed a boy on two occasions prior to this. Fendul both times, of course. But Rythan was nothing like Fendul. His bold tongue pushed into her mouth, licking her teeth. Katerei felt a rush of excitement. This experience was unrestricted, there were no boundaries. After a long moment of fierce kissing, Katerei pulled back for breath.

    "I'm staying at a hotel only a couple of blocks away. Shall we go in and get warm?" Rythan offered.

    Katerei smiled shyly. Did "getting warm" mean what she thought it meant? "That sounds nice," she said._

    -----------
    (Aboard Avatara's ship, after departing the Northern Water Jouyen.)

    "Where are we going?" Katerei asked Avatara.

    Avatara was, as usual, out on the deck of his ship.

    "To find an earth-bending teacher."

    "I know, but I mean... where?" asked Katerei.

    "I've been in contact with Firecat," Avatara explained. "He advised looking in Crieknaast or Caladheå, as those are really the only major Earth Kingdom cities that haven't been taken over by Selax's forces. Caladheå is closer, bigger, and we'll have to go there eventually anyway to ask the Earth Council for help defeating Selax; but there's certain people I want to avoid in Caladheå, so we're going to Crieknaast."

    "I'm sure that's... sensible," said Katerei doubtfully.

    Avatara nodded. "We should get as far as we can by boat in a couple of days. We'll have to travel by foot the rest of the way."

    Wizard stepped up to them. "I hope it doesn't take you long to master all four elements and defeat Selax," he commented. "I need to get back to my job sometime soon."

    "Um, uncle, you took a personal leave 100 years ago... You don't have a job anymore," said Avatara.

    "Actually, Google has a very lenient personal leave policy. But I can't remember exactly what it is, so you should hurry."

    -----------

    (Avatara's ship, two days later.)

    The adventurers gathered on the dock, watching the land of the Earth Kingdom (now mostly Selax Nation) slowly grow as they approached. Avatara gave orders to his crew as they neared their docking destination.

    A small ship approached them from behind.

    "What is that?" demanded Avatara. He hurried to his telescope to get a better look. He darted his telescope across the ship until he caught sight of its flags. "Huh?" he asked. The flags looked neither green nor white. More of a sickly grey. What was that supposed to signify?

    Avatara waited anxiously as the ships neared each other. He kept his telescope on the crew, but couldn't make out much until they got closer.

    He noticed one man on the approaching ship, who was just standing, staring at them. Avatara's stomach twisted as he began to suspect who this man was. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, he stayed at the telescope, trying to see the colour of the man's eyes. If he had a red left eye and a blue right eye, there was no doubt it was Rythan. But before Avatara got near enough to make out the eye colour, he noticed the equally-identifying third eye tattooed to Rythan's forehead.

    "TAKE COVER!" screamed Avatara.

    No sooner had he jumped away from the telescope that he heard the distant spark.. spark.. BOOM! and the floor where he had been standing exploded.

    Avatara scrambled to hide behind some crates, his mind racing. He had never encountered Rythan on the sea before. This wasn't good. Rythan could easily sink his ship, and trying to escape in a lifeboat would be hopeless. As he put together a plan, there was another spark.. spark.. BOOM! and the crates behind him exploded into flames.

    Avatara ran across the deck for more cover, and found his fellow adventurers hiding behind the cabin.

    "It's Rythan!" Avatara shouted to Wizard over the chaos. "We need to hide underwater - it's our only chance." He turned to Katerei. "Help me keep an air bubble around us."

    "What?!" sputtered Katerei, wide-eyed in fear and confusion.

    Spark.. spark.. BOOM! The cabin exploded, sending burning spliters and hunks of wood at the adventurers.

    "Jump! NOW!" ordered Avatara, and the four of them jumped into the sea.

    Underwater, Avatara quickly started bending water around an air bubble until he had collected a decent-sized bubble. Wizard, Fendul, and Katerei soon found him and joined the bubble, Katerei hastening to help Avatara with maintaining the bubble.

    It was a longshot, being able to hide and survive underwater in an air bubble, but Avatara had gotten the idea from a story the Northern Water Jouyen water-bending master had told him. According to Master Pakku, an ancient water-bender had been able to maintain an air bubble around herself and her companion so that they could travel through a huge, flooded cave.

    "We need to get away from here," said Avatara. Slowly, awkwardly, the adventurers began the frustrating process of attempting to swim while keeping their heads in the air bubble. They pressed on, hoping to reach land as far away from Rythan's ship as possible.

    -----------

    (Some cave in the Earth Kingdom.)

    A large fire burned at the center of the cave, finally warming and drying the exhausted adventurers. Fendul and Wizard lay on the ground, snoring. Katerei gazed at them, wondering why she wasn't sleeping herself. She was at least as exhausted as either of them. She had swum as far they had, while constantly water-bending.

    Once they finally dared to hope they had swum far enough to lose Rythan, they came ashore and began looking for a safe place to sleep. Thankfully, they had found this cave.

    Katerei was tired, dreadfully tired, but wired. She couldn't stop her thoughts long enough to fall asleep. She looked toward the mouth of the cave, where Avatara sat, keeping watch. Avatara had worked as hard as she had, and yet he had offered to take the first watch. Right now, Katerei realized, was a perfect time to get answers from Avatara. While Fendul and Wizard were sleeping.

    She crept out to Avatara, and sat down next to him.

    "What are you doing awake?" Avatara asked.

    "I couldn't sleep... Are you sure that was Rythan, attacking us?"

    "Of course it was Rythan. I don't know anybody else who can blow things up with their mind."

    "He can blow things up with his mind?!" exclaimed Katerei. That explained the explosions on the ship... but how was that possible!

    "Yeah," said Avatara, glancing at Katerei. "I told you he was dangerous, didn't I?"

    "Yeah, but, you didn't tell me he could blow things up with his mind!"

    "What did you think the third eye was for?" asked Avatara, as though it should have been obvious.

    "To attract the ladies?" suggested Katerei lamely.

    "Girls think a third eye is attractive?" asked Avatara, looking thoughtful.

    "Depends on the eye," explained Katerei. But this conversation was getting off track. "Why does Rythan want to kill you?"

    Avatara sighed. "It's a long story."

    "Please tell me," begged Katerei. She needed to know, she needed there to be a justifiable reason for Rythan to have nearly killed them. If Rythan was just a villain, just a cold-blooded murderer...

    "You should sleep," Avatara said.

    "I can't sleep without a bedtime story."

    "This isn't a very good bedtime story. You'll have nightmares. I could tell you the story of the jet pilots who got stranded on a volcanic island?"

    "That sounds interesting," agreed Katerei. "But first, tell me about Rythan. If we're going to be working together, I should know about the people who are trying to kill you."

    "Okay, fine," relented Avatara. "Rythan is an assassin, and he is very skilled at what he does. It is said that he's never neglected to fulfill a contract. A long time ago, I hired him to kill Selax." Avatara shook his head. "That was a mistake."

    Katerei tried to wrap her brain around Rythan being an assassin. He was so polite, and nice! Well, surely loads of good people were assassins... right?

    Avatara continued. "I knew killing Selax would be the hardest contract Rythan ever had to fulfill, and I expected it to take a while. But during this time, I learned more about him and what his goals are. I realized that he, like Selax, aspired to take over the world. And I also realized that if he became successful, he would be, overall, even worse than Selax."

    Katerei gaped at Avatara. "What."

    Avatara nodded. "I knew I couldn't employ Rythan any longer, so I broke off the contract. He didn't take kindly to that. Rythan's an assassin for a reason - he likes killing people. He said since I was depriving him of a most intriguing contract, that I would have to take Selax's place. He's been hunting me down ever since."

    Katerei's skin was crawling. She tried to push back the memories of her encounter with Rythan at the North Pole, and asked one more question. "You said he'd be worse than Selax... How is that possible?"

    Avatara didn't answer immediately, but finally he spoke. "Rythan's been experimenting with... a way to turn people into zombies. I don't think he's worked out the kinks yet, but I know his long term goal is to turn everyone in the world into a zombie, so he can kill them over, and over, and over..."

    Katerei felt like throwing up now. She couldn't hold back the memories anymore, of that night at the North Pole, the same night Adriana had been murdered. The smoothness of Rythan's bare skin. Her arms, clutching his back. Gasping his name.

    Katerei shuddered. "Ew. Ew. Ew, ew, ew, ew, EW."

    She got up and practically ran to the back of the cave where she had been trying to sleep. Lying down facing away from her fiancé, Katerei curled up into a ball and silently sobbed in shame and disgust. She heard movement next to her, but she couldn't pull herself together.

    Avatara put his hand on her arm. "Katerei? Are you okay?"

    "Yes," Katerei lied. "But you were right. That was a bad bedtime story."

    -----------

    (Some forest in the Earth Kingdom, the following morning.)

    The adventurers were lost. They had been lost ever since escaping Rythan, and weren't even sure which direction to go to find Crieknaast. They wandered through the woods, hoping they'd soon come across a village, or anyone whom they could ask for directions.

    Suddenly an arrow shot down from the trees, hitting the ground right where Fendul was about to step. Fendul tried to regain his balance, and the other adventurers crashed into him.

    "Who goes there?" demanded an ominous voice from somewhere above them.

    The adventurers raised their hands in a gesture of peace, searching wildly around the branches above them, but they could see no one.

    "We're foreign travelers," offered Fendul. "We are lost, and trying to find our way to Crieknaast."

    "From which nation do you come?" asked the voice.

    Fendul rolled his eyes. He was covered in kinaru tattoos, and it wasn't obvious what nation he came from? Earth citizens were so clueless! "My fiancée and I are from the Southern Water Jouyen," he said patiently.

    "And my uncle and I are from the Fire Nation," added Avatara.

    "Indeed?" the voice sounded interested.

    There was rustling in the leaves above them, and presently a man lowered himself down from the branches on a rope.

    His green clothes blended in perfectly with the trees, though his white hair gave him away. Katerei blushed when she saw him. He was really cute.

    "I am Rapierian," the man introduced himself as he dropped to the ground. "Protector of this forest. Who are you?"

    "I'm Avatara," said Avatara.

    Rapierian raised an eyebrow. "That is an interesting name," he commented, with a note of question in his voice.

    "I'm the avatar," clarified Avatara.

    "Interesting," commented Rapierian. "I have heard rumours that the avatar spirit had been transferred."

    "It's true," confirmed Avatara. "We're on our way to Crieknaast so I can find someone to teach me earth-bending. Mastering all four elements is my only chance of defeating Selax."

    Rapierian nodded. "Perhaps I can be of service to you. Come to my lair," he motioned to the rope, hanging from up in the branches somewhere.

    Avatara glanced at Wizard.

    "It's a generous offer," said Wizard. "It's exactly what we were hoping for."

    Wizard grabbed onto the rope, and Rapierian churned a lever that was conveniently hidden near them, lifting the rope and Wizard up into the trees.

    "Whoa!" Wizard called down. "Nice place!"

    Avatara went up next, and once the rope was lowered back down, Rapierian nodded to the viirelei.

    "After you," Fendul said courteously to Katerei.

    "Um, I should probably go last," said Katerei.

    "Why?"

    "I'm wearing a skirt."

    "All the more reason for you to go first!" exclaimed Fendul, before catching himself, coughing, and turning purple.

    Katerei crossed her arms and glared.

    "Right, I'll just go ahead then," said Fendul, grabbing onto the rope.

    Katerei started fidgeting nervously as Fendul ascended into the leaves and out of sight. "How high does it go?" she asked Rapierian.

    "I can't say that I ever measured," said Rapierian unhelpfully.

    "What if I let go of the rope?" fretted Katerei.

    "I wouldn't advise that."

    "I didn't mean intentionally."

    Rapierian shrugged. "You'd fall?"

    The rope was descending again.

    "How strong is the rope?"

    "It suits its purpose," answered Rapierian. "I think, if it held the fat old man, it will hold you."

    "Oh yeah, I guess so..." agreed Katerei. "But still, is there a tree I could climb up instead or something?"

    "Quiet!" Rapierian ordered. He was suddenly tense, looking in every direction around him. Katerei looked around in confusion. She couldn't see anything, but there was a faint sound of leaves crunching in the distance. Rapierian put a finger to his lips, grabbed Katerei around the waist, and took hold of the rope as soon as it was in reach.

    Katerei forgot her uneasiness as she was pressed against Rapierian. He was warm, and solid. The others churned the upper lever, and they swiftly ascended. She wasn't even tempted to look down and freak out, instead taking the opportunity to stare at Rapierian. Despite his white hair, he looked fairly young.

    Too soon, they reached their destination, and Rapierian dumped her unceremoniously on the wooden bridge. "Someone's coming," Rapierian announced, readying his bow and an arrow. The adventurers waited in silence to see who passed below. Katerei looked around her at Rapierian's tree house. There were a few small wooden shelters connected by bridges. Although it was aesthetically very plain, the surrounding scenery and the idea of being so far up in the trees made it seem like the most beautiful living arrangements Katerei had ever seen.

    "Air nation," muttered Rapierian, and let loose his arrow. Katerei looked down (which was rather unnerving), and observed the passerby below, who was dressed in simple white earth nation clothing. Rapierian's arrow landed just in front of his foot.

    "There is a toll to travel through this forest," Rapierian called out. "Leave your pack, or the next arrow will be through your heart."

    The frightened man discarded his pack and ran off.

    "That was a bit harsh, don't you think?" asked Katerei.

    "That man belonged to the Air Nation. Everyone in the Air Nation is a loyal servant of Selax, and they are all assisting him in terrorizing the world. I do what I can to keep my forest safe."

    "I guess so..." agreed Katerei.

    "So, you can tell us how to get to Crieknaast?" Avatara reminded Rapierian.

    "I can, but it is complicated," said Rapierian. "The paths through this forest branch out to several small local villages. It would be best if I drew you a map."

    "Sounds good," agreed Avatara.

    "Follow me," said Rapierian, walking on one of the wooden bridges to one of the small shelters.

    Katerei followed hesitantly. The wooden bridges were terrifying, swaying under the adventurers' weight. But, the view around them was breathtaking.

    Inside the shelter, Rapierian got out some paper and ink, and began drawing a crude map. Katerei cocked her head at the illustrations he hastily scribbled on - art didn't seem to be his strong suit, but hopefully the map would be accurate.

    When Rapierian finished explaining the route and all the landmarks, he said, "good luck to you in your endeavor to defeat Selax. I have long dreamed of doing so myself, but I could not hope to overpower or outsmart such a being."

    "Really?" asked Avatara. "Do you want to come with us? We could use all the help we can get."

    "Perhaps," said Rapierian noncommittally. "But my duty is to protect this forest; that is my first priority."

    "How better to do that than to defeat Selax?" pointed out Avatara.

    "As I said, I'll think about it. Perhaps I'll join you later."

    "We understand," said Wizard kindly. "Thank you for the map."

    "You're welcome. Now, I need to retrieve that Air Nation pack, and you should be on your way if you're going to reach Crieknaast before nightfall."

    -----------

    (In the Crieknaast Fighting Arena.)

    "Are you sure this is the best place to start looking for an earth-bending teacher?" asked Fendul doubtfully, as the adventurers watched a couple of big sweaty men wrestle. His companions could barely hear him over the screams of the crowd around them.

    "Do you have a better idea?" asked Avatara.

    "We could go to the Chamber of Commerce and ask for a list of local earth-bending teachers?" suggested Katerei.

    "That will have to wait until morning; it'll be closed by now," said Avatara.

    It was fairly late in the evening by the time the adventurers arrived in Crieknaast. Crieknaast was a small town, and all the restaurants were already closed. The only thing open was the Fighting Arena, where the adventurers had at least been able to buy snacks at the concession stand.

    "I did hope we could at least see some earth-bending though," Avatara admitted.

    Wizard tapped the shoulder of the guy standing next to him. "Excuse me," Wizard shouted over the noise of the rest of the audience, "do you know if there will be any earth-bending matches tonight?"

    "Sure will!" the guy shouted back. "They do all kinds of fighting here. The earth-benders come out last because they tend to destroy the arena. But don't worry - sword-fighting is up next and it's awesome!"

    Avatara sighed. How much longer would he have to wait, just to see if there were any earth-bending masters here?

    Eventually, the wrestling ended and the sword-fighters were brought out. Admittedly, sword-fighting was a lot more fun to watch than wrestling. It was fast-paced and exciting, with constant strikes and parries.

    After a couple of sword-fighting rounds, the returning champion was brought out, a girl introduced as the Blind Blademaster. She stood out as the only female in the arena that night, and she was also clearly blind, evidenced by the red scarf tied over her eyes. She was also pretty cute.

    If Avatara thought the previous rounds were fast-paced, they were nothing compared to the rounds that the Blind Blademaster participated in. None of her challengers could get their blades anywhere near her, she always dodged or blocked perfectly, as though she knew exactly what was coming. She got through her opponents' defenses and was declared victorious within mere seconds, every time.

    "Wow," breathed Avatara.

    "What?" asked Katerei.

    "She's untouchable!" marveled Avatara.

    "She's okay..." grumbled Katerei.

    The Blind Blademaster was again named sword-fighting champion, and then the earth-benders were announced.

    "Finally, we can see some earth-bending!" said Fendul.

    "No need," said Avatara. "I've found my teacher."

    "What??" Fendul, Katerei, and Wizard all asked together.

    "The Blind Blademaster. If anyone can help me defeat Selax, it's her!"

    "But she's not an earth-bender!" argued Katerei.

    "So? She's cute," pointed out Avatara.

    "Isn't it kinda risking her life to call her cute?" Katerei asked, a bit grumpily.

    "Actually, I think she might be one of the few people in the world who could hold her own against one of Selax's assassins. Come on, let's see if we can find her."

    "What, you're seriously not even going to look at the earth-benders?" asked Fendul.

    "Why bother?" asked Avatara. "That blade-fighting is going to be way more useful."

    Avatara started pushing through the crowd to get out of the stadium. His companions reluctantly followed him. It took a while to get through the crowd, but they finally got out the doors and had a moment to look around cluelessly before the Blind Blademaster came out, a pack slung over her shoulder.

    "Blind Blademaster!" Avatara called out, hurrying over to her.

    The blademaster stopped, but didn't turn to face him. "Yeah, what?" she asked.

    "You were amazing in the arena. I've never seen anyone fight so flawlessly. I was hoping you'd consider teaching me."

    "What's it pay?" asked the blademaster.

    Avatara paused. He had some money yet, but he didn't know how much he'd need to find Selax. "Er, it's for a good cause..."

    "No offense, but I retired from heroism years ago. It would have to be a really, really good cause."

    "I want to kill Selax."

    The blademaster paused. The silence was tense, Avatara wondering if he had found his teacher or if he would be back to square one. Finally she answered, "well, that explains the assassin."

    "What assassin?"

    "Never met her before. Didn't really have a chance to get to know her before she tried to impale me."

    "What? When was this?"

    "Just now. About a minute ago," the blind woman shrugged.

    "See!" Avatara gloated, turning to Katerei. "I told you she could hold her own!"

    "So... you sent the assassin?" asked the blademaster.

    "No! I mean, it might have been kind of indirectly my fault. Selax has had assassins trailing me for a long, long time. They promptly kill anyone who might be... um, helpful to me."

    "And you want me to teach you blade-fighting."

    "Is that a no?" Avatara asked sadly.

    "No, it isn't. I've been wanting to kill Selax since before he destroyed my eyes. I'm in," she announced, and the adventurers imagined they could see a hint of a smile on her face.

    Avatara grinned. "That's great! When can we start?"

    "Do you have a blade?"

    "Not yet. Is there somewhere in Crieknaast I can get one?"

    "I know a place. I could take you tomorrow." The blademaster finally turned to face the adventurers. "By the way, I'm Scry."

    The adventurers introduced themselves.

    "So, what happened to the assassin who attacked you?" Avatara asked.

    "She got away," said Scry easily.

    "Did you... notice anything about her?" asked Avatara. "I wonder if it's an assassin I've met."

    "Hair in a bun, face like a red hawk," recalled Scry.

    Avatara cursed under his breath.

    "How do you know what she looked like?" Katerei asked Scry.

    "Foresight. I usually get a pretty good image of what people look like. You know her?"

    "She's my sister," admitted Avatara. "I knew she was heading down a dark path, but working for Selax is a new low."

    "How can she be your sister?" Katerei asked. "You're 342 years old!"

    "Don't ask," Avatara reminded her.

    -----------

    (The next morning, on the patio of the Crieknaast inn.)

    Avatara had gone blade-shopping with Scry, and Wizard was off finding old people to play War Solitaire with, leaving Fendul and Katerei hanging out at the inn.

    "Today is our wedding day," said Fendul.

    "What?" asked Katerei.

    "Don't you remember?" asked Fendul, hurt. He pulled out his pocket calendar in showed it to her.

    Katerei observed that the current date was circled, with the text "marry Katerei!" written across it, with hearts and smiley faces filling in the remainder of the square. "Oh, wow..." said Katerei.

    "You forgot," said Fendul sadly.

    "I didn't even realize it was the eleventh month already. I've completely lost track of time," explained Katerei.

    "I was thinking..." said Fendul. "We don't have to put it off. We could go to the courthouse today, and hire a judge to officiate. Our jouyen will still celebrate with us, when we get back."

    "That's crazy!" burst Katerei. "We're in the middle of a very dangerous mission, and you want to elope?!"

    "Is it eloping when we've been planning for a year to get married today?" asked Fendul.

    "We're trying to save the world! We don't have time to get married. And we're not in our right states of mind. We don't even know if we'll survive the Showdown with Selax!"

    Fendul took Katerei's hands and held steady until she finally stopped looking away. "That's why we need to do this now," Fendul explained. "In case later is too late."

    "Fuddy-Duddy..." murmured Katerei. "I-" her breath was coming faster and faster. She felt dizzy. She didn't want to have this conversation. "I need to tell you something."

    "What?" asked Fendul in concern.

    Katerei wrenched her hands out of Fendul's and clutched at the back of her neck. She could feel her pulse racing. She had to get this over with. "I've been planning to call off the wedding."

    Fendul gaped at her. "Since when?"

    "Since we started looking for Selax."

    "But that was months ago! Were you ever going to tell me?"

    "No, probably not..." Katerei admitted. "I didn't want to hurt you. I thought I'd just run away before the wedding."

    "That would've hurt me," pointed out Fendul.

    "I know. But then I wouldn't have had to watch you be hurt."

    Fendul turned away from Katerei, not wanting her to see him cry. Katerei sunk down to the floor, hugging her knees. The painful silence stretched on while they both tried to pull themselves together. After a while, Katerei felt something tighten slightly around her neck. For a wild moment, she thought Fendul was strangling her. Then she realized he was removing her betrothal necklace.

    "Wait!" she said. Fendul froze. "If we break up, Selax might see me as a potential girlfriend for Avatara, and kill me."

    "So... You want me to stay engaged to you, even though you have no intention of marrying me?" asked Fendul.

    "Yeah. Would you?"

    Fendul re-secured the necklace around Katerei's neck. "Of course," he said. "Anything to keep you safe."

    "Thanks, Fuddy-duddy."

    Fendul embraced Katerei, and she returned the hug.

    -----------

    (That evening.)

    Katerei sat in one of the front seats of the nearly-empty Fighting Arena, watching Scry teach Avatara how to use his newly-acquired blades. Her heart ached. After Adriana was killed, she had hoped that perhaps she could console Avatara and grow closer to him; but he never seemed to want to talk about anything personal with her. Now she'd missed her chance - Avatara seemed quite enamoured with Scry.

    It surprised Katerei how much it hurt, watching him. Every tiny move he made was with meticulous carefulness. Each step he took was soft and deliberate. He wielded his blade as though a sudden move would shatter it. Everything he did just made Katerei want to hug him. But she wasn't nearly bold enough to try that.... Especially when he was holding a blade.

    She couldn't even hear his soft voice as he asked Scry questions about his form, but she could hear Scry's blunt, simple answers. How many jokes were going unnoticed, Katerei wondered, because she couldn't hear them, and Scry apparently had no sense of humor?

    Eventually Katerei decided she couldn't bear to watch any more, and headed back to the inn, where she played War Solitaire with Wizard and Fendul until Avatara and Scry returned from their lesson.

    "Are we headed to Caladheå next?" Wizard asked.

    "I suppose so," Avatara sighed, sounding like he dreaded it. "Sooner or later, we've got to ask the Earth Council for their aid in defeating Selax."

    "When will we be leaving?"

    "That's up to Scry. How would you feel about travelling to Caladheå with us, and training along the way?" he asked her.

    Scry shrugged. "I'm game. Not an easy journey though."

    "Then we'd better get started," decided Avatara. "We'll leave tomorrow."

    -----------

    The adventurers travelled on foot the next morning, munching a simple breakfast of trail mix as they went along.

    "So, is everyone's food poisoned, or just mine?" Scry asked casually.

    The others spat out the trail mix they were presently chewing and looked at Scry in shock.

    "Your food is poisoned?" Katerei asked.

    "Quite potent poison, judging by how quickly I would've noticed the effects if I had eaten it," answered Scry, reminding them all of her power that more than made up for her lack of sight.

    "Sounds like Iannah," muttered Avatara. "I knew she wouldn't just give up after failing to assassinate you the other day."

    "So, you're saying that if I've been eating this for a little while already, and haven't noticed any effects yet, my bag is probably not poisoned?" asked Wizard.

    "I guess. Unless yours has a different poison," answered Scry.

    Wizard stared at his bag of trail mix for a moment, then shrugged and ate another handful.

    "By the way, how are we going to get over the mountains?" asked Scry.

    "Climb them?" Avatara asked.

    "That is very dangerous," Scry commented.

    "You mean we should have packed mountain-climbing gear?" Avatara asked.

    "No, I mean Selax has forces camped on the mountains and they kill anyone who tries to cross."

    "Oh," said Avatara bitterly. "Do you have a better idea?"

    "No."

    "I guess we'll just have to deal with it when we get there."

    -----------

    The adventurers trekked along the mountain foothills, looking for any tunnel or safe passage through/over the mountains. As they went on, they came across a humongous pile of approximately two hundred broken tunneling machines heaped up next to the mountain. Near the broken machinery pile, a large pot simmered over a campfire, and a cheerful little creature fluttered around the pot, occasionally stirring the contents.

    As the adventurers came nearer, the creature noticed them and fluttered over. "Greetings!" he said energetically. "Would you like some soup? You're just in time - I made four gallons, but that is more than I can eat in two months!"

    The adventurers glanced at each other, not immediately sure what to make of the creature. He looked sort of like a human, but only about a foot and a half tall and oddly coloured, with wings and webbed feet.

    "Is it poisoned?" Scry asked, in response to his invitation.

    "That depends on what you consider poison!" he answered, with a puckish grin.

    "Uh, I think I'll pass," said Avatara. "But who are you? I didn't know anyone lived here."

    "I'm Silverfish! And I'm not here permanently, just long enough to build my railroad!"

    "Railroad?"

    "Yes, I'm building a railroad through the mountain! I just have to drill a tunnel through first, and that is proving problematic," Silverfish motioned to the huge pile of drilling machines behind him.

    "Um, do you think maybe you're taking the wrong approach?" asked Avatara.

    "Nah! Sooner or later I'll get lucky and get through! So what brings y'all to the mountains?"

    "We're trying to get to Caladheå, so we're looking for a way through the mountains."

    "Ah, my eventual railroad will go straight to Caladheå! You're welcome to take it, once I finish," offered Silverfish.

    "Thanks, but I'm not sure we want to wait that long... Do you happen to know if there's any other way through the mountain?"

    "Well, there's the Secret Tunnel a couple of miles south, though it's cursed."

    "Cursed? What does that mean?"

    "They say that no one has ever come through it alive," explained Silverfish. "Of course, that might just be because no one's ever tried. I'm not sure."

    Avatara turned to his companions. "Sounds like our best option?"

    The others agreed, with a bit of nervousness.

    "I guess we better go find that secret tunnel then."

    "Good luck!" said Silverfish. "You sure you won't have any soup?"

    -----------

    "So, just to be clear, we are lost, right?" Fendul asked. The adventurers had been wandering around the Secret Tunnel for hours, and kept finding themselves back in the same room. They were nearly out of torches.

    "That's one way to look at it," admitted Avatara, as they once again entered the room they were trying to get away from. He sighed. "I was hoping to avoid this, but seeing as we're burning our last torch, I think it's time to take drastic measures."

    "What are you going to do?" asked Katerei.

    "Read the instructions."

    Avatara walked over to the cave wall and held the torch up, revealing images carved into it. The others waited in anticipation while he inspected the images (and his torch continued to burn down).

    "Oh, this looks really easy. We just need two people who are in love to kiss, and the path through the tunnel will be lit up by magic. Good thing we have Fendul and Katerei with us, huh?"

    "Heh," said Katerei nervously, glancing at Fendul. They awkwardly looked away from each other for a long moment.

    "Well, what are you waiting for?" asked Wizard. He pulled a champagne glass and a spoon out of his pack and began clicking the spoon against the glass.

    Katerei shrugged helplessly and positioned herself in front of Fendul so that they were facing each other. Fendul smiled, bent down, and briefly kissed Katerei on the lips.

    Nothing happened.

    "Huh," said Avatara. "Maybe you need to put a little more passion into it?"

    Katerei fidgeted uncomfortably. Kissing Fendul after she had secretly dumped him was bad enough, but kissing him passionately? And while the others watched?

    "Okay," she said finally, and rose up on her toes to meet Fendul's lips.

    And then Fendul's arms were around her, and she could feel his strength holding her. His mouth on her mouth, proving his commitment to her. And she had this safety, this comfort with Fendul. She had it, and how stupid she had been to give it up just because he didn't make her happy. And now it was too late to change her mind, because if he knew about Rythan he would hate her, hate her.

    Too soon Fendul pulled away, and Katerei suppressed a sob.

    But there still weren't any magical lights.

    "Maybe I read the directions wrong?" wondered Avatara, turning back to the wall. "I don't understand..."

    "Your torch is almost dead," Wizard noted.

    "Seeing people," scoffed Scry. "Why are you so afraid of the dark?"

    "Well, the couple in the pictures did extinguish their torches, but I thought that was just for mood lighting?" said Avatara.

    Just then, the torch burned out, and after a moment, the rocks in the wall began glowing.

    "Ooooh," chorused Avatara, Wizard, Fendul, and Katerei.

    "I take it the lights came on?" asked Scry flatly.

    "Yup. I guess we just follow the path of lights to the exit," said Avatara, and they all set off.

    "Well, that was easy!" commented Wizard cheerfully.

    "For you," muttered Katerei under her breath.

    They walked in silence for a while. Suddenly-

    "RUN!" announced Scry, bolting on ahead. The others, in alarm, tried to keep up with her.

    "Why are we running?" panted Katerei.

    She was answered by a large explosion behind them. The walls rumbled and began caving in. The adventurers had no breath for words, all they could do was desperately try to outrun the cave-in. They turned a corner and saw daylight ahead.

    Barely, the adventurers managed to get out of the cave before the whole thing collapsed. Once they were a safe distance from the mountain, they fell to the ground, panting.

    "That tunnel really was cursed," panted Fendul.

    "Or we walked into a trap," panted Avatara.

    Scry rolled over and jumped to her feet a second before a dagger sunk into the ground where she had been lying.

    "My ears are ringing," came a new voice, and Iannah stepped out from the trees.

    Scry already had her blades in her hands, and the other adventurers hurried to pull out their weapons.

    "Iannah," said Avatara. "What are you doing here?"

    "Aren't you happy to see me, little brother?"

    "That depends. Did you just blow up that mountain?"

    "Only part of it."

    "The part we were in."

    "Yes, that part. I didn't have enough dynamite to blow up the entire mountain, you see."

    "You've joined Selax, haven't you?"

    Iannah grinned. "Nothing wrong with backing a winner."

    With that, Iannah seemed to decide they'd had enough talking, pulled out a blade, and attacked Scry. Scry met her attack without hesitation, and in an instant they were moving too fast for any of the others to hope to be able to intervene.

    "IANNAH, STOP!" shouted Avatara. "You can still change sides!"

    Iannah just laughed and kept fighting.

    "Lately I've been fighting for entertainment," commented Scry. "I'm not supposed to actually kill my opponent. In every fight, I hold back. This time, I don't have to hold back. Are you sure you want to fight me?"

    "Bring it," said Iannah.

    The others watched, horrified. The fight lasted longer than any they had seen Scry participate in in the Fighting Arena in Crieknaast, but it was still only a few minutes before Iannah took a blade to the heart and fell to the ground, dead.

    Avatara sunk to his knees beside his sister's body, tears running down his face.

    Katerei's heart wrenched at the sight of Avatara's grief. She still didn't quite dare to hug him, but she put her hand on his back. "Avatara, I'm so sorry," she said, as tears spilled out of her own eyes.

    "It had to be done," said Avatara. "She never would have stopped until Scry was dead... Somehow, I always knew that she would end up like this."

    -----------

    (A few days later.)

    "I know it's not your fault, but burying Iannah really put us behind schedule," said Fendul. "How much farther is it to Caladheå?"

    "We're almost to the Holmgar river, and it shouldn't be too far beyond that," said Avatara. "Ah - there it is."

    The heroes gawked at the massive river, with high cliffs on either side.

    "Um, how are we supposed to get across that?" Katerei asked.

    "The ferry, of course." Avatara pointed down the river a distance, where a ferry could be seen docked outside of some sort of building.

    The adventurers walked over to the building and entered. Inside, a large crowd of people were standing around grumbling angrily.

    "Ever since Selax Incorporated bought the ferry, the policies are just ridiculous!" fumed one of the customers near the adventurers.

    "What's going on?" wondered Wizard.

    "They've changed the movies they show on the ride!" exclaimed the angry customer. "Now it's just boring war documentaries, and the ferry refuses to dock until the credits are over!"

    "Ugh," said Avatara. "Can't you just not watch it though?"

    "No, you've got to remain seated from dock to dock. It's completely outragious!" The customer shock his head in anger and wondered off.

    "What should we do?" asked Avatara. "Is there any other way across the river?"

    "Only one, and it's extremely dangerous," said Scry.

    "What is it?"

    "It's called the Starfish Pass. A narrow ledge of land that crosses the Holmgar. It is said that the man-eating Starfish-Kraken dwells in those waters, and will devour any traveller attempting to pass."

    The adventurers shuddered.

    "...well, it still sounds better than watching war documentaries," commented Katerei.

    "Yeah," the others agreed.

    Avatara pulled out his map. "The Starfish Pass is up near the headwaters. We'd better get moving."

    "What about all these people?" asked Wizard, motioning at the crowd of angry people that filled the ferry station.

    "Are you suggesting we take them to get eaten by a starfish with us?" asked Avatara.

    "We can't just leave them to endure the war documentaries..."

    Avatara sighed. "You're right." He raised his voice and addressed the room at large. "Hey everyone! We're going to the Starfish Pass to attempt to cross the Holmgar. Anyone who is willing to risk their lives is welcome to join us."

    -----------

    The adventurers, along with the dozen or so travellers who decided to accompany them, walked in single file along the very narrow ridge that bridged the Holmgar.

    Although some of the group (such as Scry, who moved with the same flawless confidence she had in everything, and Katerei, who was very comfortable with water) didn't feel the need to slow their pace, some of the others were quite nervous about crossing a huge river on a narrow ridge; so their pace was pretty slow.

    Over the next several hours, the Starfish Pass descended closer and closer to the river, until they were only a couple of feet above the river. Katerei had been watching the water below, feeling comforted by the pushing and pulling sensations she could feel from the moving water, then she screamed when she saw a big dark shape just below the surface.

    "What's wrong?" Fendul asked.

    "It's the starfish-kraken!"

    Everyone looked where Katerei was pointing, for a glimpse at the monster. They could make out, beneath the waves, five huge "arms" covered in tentacles and sharp-looking spikes. It did not move, as the travellers slowly walked past it on the ridge, but everyone got the same eerie feeling that it was watching them.

    "It can't... come out of the water though... can it?" asked Katerei.

    No one answered. The starfish-kraken was a legendary monster who had never been studied, but the tales told about it were dread.

    Katerei shuddered. Even if it was bound to the river, it made the idea of falling in a lot more terrifying.

    Each person breathed a sigh of relief as they passed the starfish, but as the last stragglers were coming up to it, it suddenly began sliding under the water, moving what seemed to be impossibly fast for a starfish. When it was about even with the leaders of the group, it stopped and was still again.

    The adventurers looked at each other nervously, but the starfish made no move to attack, and all they could do was continue on. They did not dare to take their eyes off of the starfish though, and so none of them noticed the person standing on the pass a short distance ahead of them.

    Without warning, Scry suddenly screamed "GET DOWN!"

    Dropping closer to the water and the starfish was not what anyone wanted to do, but the heroes had learned to trust Scry, and dove to the ground.

    Spark.. spark.. BOOM!

    The narrow ridge exploded behind the last of the travellers. The man in the back nearly fell off, but was rescued by his neighbour. The travellers all fell to the ground, desperate to seek cover that didn't exist. None had been hurt, but they were trapped. The path behind them had been destroyed, and ahead of them, Sparky Sparky Boom Rythan blocked the way.

    Rythan began taking slow, deliberate steps toward the heroes. Killing Avatara would be too easy.

    Avatara wasted no time sending a large fireball at Rythan. Rythan held up an armoured hand, and the fireball dissipated as it hit him. Avatara promptly followed with waterbending a massive wave that he slammed into Rythan. For a moment, all that the adventurers could see was the wave (which splashed and soaked them), but when the wave cleared, Rythan was still there, walking toward them as though he hadn't even noticed.

    Spark..

    "RYTHAN!" Katerei screamed, pulling herself back up to her feet.

    "What are you doing?!" hissed Avatara. "Get down!"

    But Rythan had stopped approaching them, at the sight of Katerei.

    "Rythan, WHY?" asked Katerei. " Why are you trying to kill us?"

    "Miss Katerei," said Rythan politely. "I regret that you have to be caught in the middle of this, but there is a personal matter between Tiernan and I-"

    "How could you not tell me you were out to kill him?!" exploded Katerei. "You knew he was my friend!"

    "I never meant to hurt you. I made sure you were safe, that you wouldn't be in the way, that night I killed the healer girl at the North Pole."

    "What? You killed Adriana? Why?!"

    "As I've said, it's a personal matter between Tiernan and I."

    "You LIED to me!" roared Katerei. Water on either side of the Pass was billowing up around her as her anger built. "I TRUSTED you! I LIKED you! I SLEPT with you!" And with that, she threw both pillars of water at him and pummeled him with them, repeatedly.

    And then the travellers in the back were screaming. The starfish-kraken was no longer in the water, but was crawling up the pass. In seconds, the tentacles on one of its arms grabbed a terrified traveller, and attempted to pull him into its horrible mouth. The traveller's companions grabbed his arms and tried to pull him back, but they could not match the monster's strength. But then Scry, who had been trying to get past everyone else on the narrow ledge, finally made it to the starfish, and in a flash from her blade, its arm was no longer attached to its body. The monster let out a horrible screech of pain, proving that starfish-kraken somehow have vocal cords.

    Wizard and Fendul began trying to make their way back through the crowd, to try to help fight the now-enraged starfish.

    Ahead, Katerei was pummeling Rythan with water. She poured all her energy into beating him up with water, not giving him a moment to blow anything up with his mind. But try as she might, she could not knock him off of the ridge.

    "Avatara," she gasped. "Help!"

    Avatara was beside her. As Katerei slammed a pillar of water into Rythan, Avatara grabbed the water and pulled as hard as he could. Finally, Rythan lost his balance and was swept into the Holmgar.

    "Get him to the starfish!" said Katerei.

    Together, they water-bent the current around Rythan to carry him toward the starfish. They could vaguely hear the ominous spark.. spark.. , but managed to pull his head under the water in time for the BOOM! , which consequently resulted in a relatively-minor blast of water.

    The other adventurers and travellers were barely holding off the starfish, when Katerei and Avatara managed to lift Rythan up in a pillar of water, and nudge him into one of its remaining arms. The starfish instinctually grabbed ahold of him, and turned its attention to him as it pulled him towards its mouth.

    Most of the travellers had to look away as the starfish-kraken's stomach came out of its mouth, and gobbled Rythan up whole.

    Everyone waited with weapons drawn, but the monster, having eaten Rythan, seemed satisfied, and slowly crawled back into the river.

    Once the danger had passed, the events of the last couple of minutes settled over the group. Only then did Katerei regret immensely her screamed confession of sleeping with Rythan. Had she really said that in front of everyone? She glanced in horror at her companions. Scry's even face showed no emotion. Wizard looked thoroughly shocked. Avatara looked furious. And Fendul... Although nearly everyone was soaked at this point, it was obvious that tears were pouring down Fendul's heartbroken face.

    Wizard, Scry, and Fendul, awkwardly passed the other travellers to get back to Avatara and Katerei.

    Katerei couldn't stand the pained look on Fendul's face as he approached her.

    "When did that happen?" he whispered coldly. "What you said to Rythan?" The unspoken implication of his question hung imposingly in the air - was it before or after we secretly ended our betrothal?

    "I-it was at the north pole. The same night Adriana was killed," admitted Katerei, her voice hoarse from screaming at Rythan.

    "I see," said Fendul. He walked on ahead, taking on the role of leader for the rest of the way across the Starfish pass.

    But Avatara still looked furious. "Didn't you think I'd want to know?" he asked.

    "About me and Rythan?"

    "That he was at the North Pole exactly when Adriana was killed! I thought it was Selax! Were you just going to let me go on blaming the wrong person forever?"

    "I had no idea he killed Adriana!"

    "I would have known, if you had told me he was there! I told you how dangerous he was, and you didn't even tell me you'd seen him?!"

    Katerei, who had been beating herself up a moment earlier, was starting to feel defensive under Avatara's rebuke. "You didn't tell me hardly anything about him! I had no idea how dangerous he was! It would have been really good to know though, so thanks for keeping that secret!"

    Avatara didn't even respond, he turned and followed Fendul down the Starfish Pass. Katerei stared after him, feeling helplessly angry. He could have at least finished arguing with her about it.

    Scry shrugged and followed Avatara.

    "Are you going to be okay, Katerei?" Wizard asked.

    "I have no idea," said Katerei. All the people in the world I care about are either dead or hate me. How could I be okay?

    "It's not our mistakes that define us, but how we respond to them," said Wizard.

    "What if there is no way to respond?" asked Katerei.

    "There's always a way, but sometimes it takes persistence to figure it out."

    The travellers behind them had mostly recovered from the starfish attack and were growing restless. Katerei sighed and followed Scry.

    -----------

    Finally in Caladheå, Katerei and Fendul couldn't stop looking around in awe at the massive city. It was by far the biggest city they had ever been in.

    The adventurers made their way through the poorer outer ring, where people like bar musicians lived, the middle ring, where people like guards lived, and into the inner circle where the nobility lived. Their destination was the city's ( & the entire Earth Kingdom's) political centre - the Colonnium.

    Once there, Katerei and Fendul had to go to the viirelei office to register, while Avatara and Wizard went to file a petition to the Earth Council. Scry, who had refused to relinquish her weapons at the door, waited outside.

    After several hours of waiting in queue and filing paperwork, the adventurers met up again by the fountain outside the Colonnium.

    "How did it go?" Scry asked.

    "As well as could be expected," said Avatara. "Typically, I'd have to petition for an audience with the Council, which could take months to be reviewed. But unfortunately, one of the Councilors recognized me while I was waiting in queue," Avatara shuddered. "The good news is that I don't have to wait for an audience with them. I explained that I had been given the Avatar Spirit, and that Selax is still behind the Air Nation, working to take over the world, and that we need to oppose him sooner rather than later. With the Earth Army, we will have a chance against Selax."

    "What did they say?" asked Katerei.

    "They said that no one's seen Selax in 100 years, so they'd rather focus on more pressing matters like how to better oppress the viirelei living in Caladheå, or what colour to repaint the conference room. But since my request seemed so serious, they will hold an investigation to determine if Selax is really still a threat."

    "How long will that take?" asked Fendul.

    "Two to six months," answered Avatara.

    -----------

    Overall, Avatara hated living in Caladheå. Too many jerks lived there. But, they were kinda stuck there until the Earth Council reached a decision (and it was kind of nice having a better restaurant selection than, say, the North Pole). For the most part, Avatara spent his time practicing bladefighting with Scry, or practicing water-bending with Katerei, or sometimes just practicing fire-bending on his own.

    Katerei thought the city was fascinating and was excited to live there for a time, but she was lonely. Fendul and Avatara weren't openly hostile toward her, but it was plainly obvious that their friendships were damaged.

    Wizard was happy for a vacation, and Fendul and Scry were mostly just anxious to move on a save the world.

    "Ugh, this is such a waste of time," Avatara complained one day, when they had been staying in Caladheå for over a month.

    "It isn't a waste of time, you've gotten much valuable practice in controlling the elements," Wizard pointed out.

    "Yeah, but I've pretty-much mastered water-bending a blade-fighting already. What I really need to learn is air-bending, and that's going to be the hardest teacher to find."

    "Are there even any air-benders who aren't serving Selax?" asked Fendul.

    "I don't know," Avatara admitted. "I've never met one who isn't. I don't know how I'll ever find one."

    "Maybe I can help you," said Wizard. "At least, I know where I can ask."

    -----------

    "The Dervish card," noted the old stranger. "Not many still hold to the ancient ways."

    "But those who do can always find a friend," answered Wizard.

    Avatara drummed his fingers on the table in boredom. His uncle was, unsurprisingly, playing War Solitaire with a random old guy in a random tavern. What was surprising though, was when the round was finished, Wizard and the stranger stood up and began walking toward a back room. Avatara got up to follow them.

    "Sorry, initiates only," said the stranger.

    "See you in a bit!" said Wizard cheerfully.

    Avatara sat back down in confusion. His uncle was in a secret society? Since when?

    Wizard and the stranger disappeared behind a door. On the other side was a dark hallway, which they began to walk down.

    "What can I help you with, brother?" asked the stranger.

    "I'm looking for an air-bender who is not affiliated with Selax," explained Wizard.

    "Hmm," the stranger stroked his chin. "It's possible there may be one person here fitting that description, but I'm not sure. He's pretty private about his personal life."

    "Any possibility is worth looking into. Thank you," answered Wizard.

    Wizard continued following the stranger to another door. The stranger opened the door, and deafeningly loud music assaulted Wizard's ears.

    Well, maybe "music" wasn't the right term. It was more like vaguely-melodious chanting, in Arabic. The room was large, and filled with dervishes who were dancing so wildly that their clothes were falling off. A disco ball spun from the ceiling, casting the room in spinning colours and chaos.

    The stranger pointed out a man in the corner, and, thanking him, Wizard carefully crossed the room. It took him a while, because he kept getting pulled into wild dances, but eventually he made it over to the man who had been pointed out to him.

    It was obvious from the man's attire that he was from the Air Nation. But that wasn't the only reason he stuck out from the crowd. Rather than dancing, he seemed to be going through a series of exercises.

    "Excuse me," Wizard called over the chanting. "I hear you are an air-bender?"

    "I was," the Air Nation man answered. "But, unfortunately, I am no longer one."

    "Oh," said Wizard, who had never heard of someone ceasing to be a bender. "Well, do you think you remember the technique well enough to teach it to an untrained air-bender?"

    "I haven't tried, so I can't say for sure," the Air man answered. "But I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be able to, if I so desired."

    "Are you affiliated with Selax?" Wizard asked.

    The Air man darkened. "That depends on your definition of 'affiliated.' Why do you ask?"

    "Er, do you support him?" Wizard tried again.

    "No. Do you?" asked the Air man, sounding suspicious.

    "No! My nephew needs someone to teach him air-bending so that he can defeat Selax."

    "Ah, I see. Unfortunately, I'm in very poor physical condition compared to what I once was; however, I will do what I can to help. My name is Beorn."

    -----------

    Meanwhile, Avatara had gotten bored of waiting for Wizard (story of his life) and had wandered off to practice water-bending with Katerei.

    "I wonder what's taking the Earth Council's investigation so long!" said Katerei.

    "It's only been a month, that's nothing for a Council investigation."

    "But why? What on earth makes it take so long?"

    "They interview people who know nothing about the matter, argue amongst themselves for a while, decide nothing, and break for recess," explained Avatara.

    "It drives me crazy not knowing what they're talking about. We should sneak in and eavesdrop!"

    Avatara stopped water-bending and stared at Katerei. "Why would we want to do that? That sounds like the most boring thing we could possibly do - and I'm including watching my uncle play War Solitaire!"

    "Ah, there you are!"

    "Speak of the devil.." muttered Avatara.

    "Prince Avatara, this is Beorn, your new air-bending teacher!" announced Wizard.

    "Really?" asked Avatara, brightening.

    "Greetings," said Beorn. "I should let you know that I'm not actually an air-bender anymore, and that my physical condition is very poor compared to what it used to be."

    "Oh, sorry? What happened?" asked Avatara.

    "At the height of my power, I was a great threat to Selax, so he managed to rob me of my power before I had a chance to face him."

    "Oh good then, you can join Team Avatar, otherwise known as the Selax Ruined My Life club."

    -----------

    Between learning air-bending, and practicing the other elements, the next few months passed quickly for Avatara (although, he did find training with Beorn to be taxing. Beorn had lots of arbitrary rules and always threatened to ban Avatara from the air-bending lessons if he didn't comply). One day, a messenger finally came to summon Avatara to the Council.

    He hadn't looked forward to appearing before the Council, but since he needed to know their verdict, he went.

    After the Councilors droned on for a while about how important they were, they finally got to the point.

    "After extensive investigation, we have come to the conclusion that there is no substantial evidence that Selax ever really existed."

    "What?! You've got to be kidding me," Avatara burst out.

    "The vast majority of the evidence that Selax is more than just a fictitious legend is over 100 years old, and you know you can't trust previous generations," explained the Councilor.

    "Selax has nearly destroyed the world. The entire Air Nation worships him!"

    "The Air Nation was not relevant to this investigation, this investigation was solely to determine if the Earth Kingdom needed to take any action. We've determined that it does not."

    Avatara decided to turn around and leave before he set the entire Council on fire.

    Back at their guest rooms, the rest of Team Avatar was eagerly waiting to hear his news.

    "They're not going to help us," Avatara announced bitterly.

    "But we need them!" exclaimed Katerei. "Selax has the whole Air Force on his side, we need an army on ours!"

    "We'll have to make do without them. I'll send a psychic message to Firecat, my spirit animal. Maybe he will have some idea of people who can help us fight. But army or no, I've mastered all four elements now - I'm as ready as I'll ever be to fight Selax."

    "What about earth-bending?" Katerei pointed out.

    Avatara sighed in exasperation. "I told you, blade-fighting is way cooler than earth-bending!"

    "Then there's no point in delaying," said Fendul.

    "The only problem is, I don't actually know how to find Selax," Avatara reminded him.

    "To the latest of my knowledge, Selax resides in a lair called Se Ji Ainu," said Beorn.

    "Where is that?" asked Avatara sharply.

    "It's also known as the Northern Air Temple," Beorn added as an afterthought. "It's located in the mountains northwest of here, but it can only be accessed by air-benders."

    "I always knew I'd have to face Selax alone," said Avatara. "But I don't want to face his entire Air Force alone too."

    "That may not be a problem," said Beorn. "The lot of us have annoyed Selax enough that he will likely meet us before we get there."

    "That means the big Selax Showdown could happen at any moment," said Avatara, looking grim.

    -----------

    (That evening, in the woods northwest of Caladheå...)

    The adventurers (minus Wizard, who had promised to catch up to them) had travelled as far as they could before it started to get dark, and stopped to make camp.

    Avatara sat on a log, watching Scry eating her supper across from him. There was something he had been meaning to ask her. He'd had ample opportunity during those boring months in Caladheå, but he didn't want to make their blade-fighting lessons awkward. Now that he had mastered blade-fighting and they were about to take on Selax, perhaps the time had come?

    Avatara swallowed and worked up his courage. "Scry, I've never met anyone so capable of protecting herself before. You are strong, and flawless in combat."

    "No," said Scry.

    "Don't be modest, I've never seen you make even the slightest error while fighting-"

    "Er, not that," said Scry. "Of course I'm flawless. I meant, no to your next question."

    "Oh," said Avatara, feeling shattered, and lamenting how embarrassing it was to ask out someone who could see the future.

    "I don't think it's a good idea," Scry continued. "You're just not my type."

    "I see," said Avatara. He didn't want any more details. Scry thought he was an okay student, but not good enough to be a boyfriend. That's all he needed to know. But Scry elaborated a little more,

    "It's the way you show affection. It's so... affectionate." Scry shuddered.

    "Affectionate?" asked Avatara, dumbfounded. What with Selax killing everyone he cared about, he had been trying hard not to show affection. And it wasn't easy.

    "Yeah, like you're always talking to your uncle. Or sometimes you give someone, like, a comforting touch on the arm. You know? Not really my thing."

    "How do you show affection then?" Avatara wondered.

    Scry considered. "I'm more into silently doing chores while in the same general vicinity of another person."

    Yeesh, who would want to do that? wondered Avatara, staring absently across the camp at Fendul, who was busy setting up the sleeping bags for the night.

    "I hope you find someone like that someday," said Avatara, trying not to be heartbroken over his rejection.

    "Me too," said Scry.

    "Prince Avatara!" Wizard called out. Avatara noticed Wizard approaching the camp - followed by a crowd of dancing weirdos. "Guess what!" he exclaimed.

    "You decided to actually read my stories instead of just reading the comments on my stories?" guessed Avatara.

    "Goodness, no!" answered Wizard. "How much free time do you think I have?! But look! I brought the Dancing Dervishes!"

    "Okay... why?" asked Avatara.

    "Some of them can fight!" explained Wizard. "And all of them want to help take down Selax!"

    "OH! That's actually really helpful. Thanks, uncle."

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the camp, Katerei approached Fendul.

    "Fuddy-duddy? Can I talk to you?"

    "Okay," Fendul agreed, and followed Katerei a short distance away from the camp.

    "Listen," started Katerei. "I know you still haven't forgiven me for sleeping with Rythan-"

    "That's not true," Fendul interrupted. "I've forgiven you."

    "Really?" asked Katerei in surprise.

    Fendul nodded sadly.

    For a brief moment, Katerei's hearted lifted with the hope that she and Fendul were friends again, but at the sight of his sad expression, she knew that his forgiveness wasn't enough. He was still really hurt, and he still probably wouldn't trust her again.

    "I'm not the same person I was when we started this journey," Katerei said.

    "Indeed," agreed Fendul.

    "I've matured a lot."

    Fendul's eyes shifted to the side.

    "What?" demanded Katerei. "I have!"

    "If you say so," said Fendul, in a tone that implied he didn't really agree.

    "That's what I wanted to tell you about though," said Katerei. "I've made a really mature, live-changing decision. I'm a grown-up now, and I can figure out my own path."

    Fendul gave her a small smile. "I'm glad to hear that, Kat."

    "So I've decided to leave this group and go live in the woods with Rapierian," Katerei concluded.

    Fendul blinked. "You... what?"

    "Rapierian's fighting the battle against the Air Nation. Little by little, he's helping to defeat Selax! I can help him," Katerei explained.

    "...Or you could stay with us, and, you know, actually challenge Selax and his army."

    "Er, yeah, that's another option," Katerei admitted. "But it's so awkward here with you and Avatara."

    "We need you, Kat. We need all the fighters we can get. And as much as I don't like to admit it, you're a fighter. You've become so strong in water-bending combat."

    Katerei bit her lip. "I guess I'll have to think about it."

    -----------

    (The next afternoon)

    Avatara, Wizard, Fendul, Katerei, Scry, Beorn, and the Dancing Dervish club continued their walk toward Se Ji Ainu.

    "There's a group of people approaching from the north," Scry announced.

    "Selax's?" asked Avatara.

    "I don't think so," said Scry. "They're not going to attack us."

    Before long, the adventures could see the small crowd approaching through the woods. At first, all they could see was blue skin, but before long, Katerei recognized the leader of the group.

    "North Pole boy!" she gasped. Next to her, Fendul groaned.

    "Hey South Pole girl," Airedain replied. "I bet you weren't expecting to see me again, huh?"

    "Not at all!" agreed Katerei.

    "You see, even though your boyfriend there punched me in the face, I'm actually a decent person, and I convinced the Northern Water Jouyen elders to send our water-benders to help defeat Selax. Then yesterday, we got a psychic message from some creepy cat saying y'all were heading to Se Ji Ainu to face Selax, so we came to meet you."

    "Wow, that's so awesome," said Katerei.

    "We do need all the help we can get," admitted Avatara reluctantly.

    "Welcome to Team Avatar!" grinned Katerei.

    -----------

    (A couple of days later.)

    They had to be getting close to Se Ji Ainu by now, and tensions were high in the Team Avatar camp. Avatara in particular seemed understandably stressed, and Katerei decided to make one last attempt to talk to him.

    "Avatara? Are you okay?"

    Avatara shrugged. "Why do you ask?"

    "You just seem really stressed, and tired," said Katerei.

    "That's because I hate being around Airedain."

    "Oh. You're not worried about fighting Selax?"

    "Well, that doesn't help either."

    "And it must be hard preparing to take Selax's life."

    "What do you mean?" asked Avatara.

    "Well, it must be a bit of a moral crisis, knowing you have to take someone's life in order to save the world."

    "Uhh... no. It's Selax. He's evil. I'm just eager to kill him."

    "Oh. So, it wouldn't be helpful to take a detour and visit the Fire Nation ruins to hug koala sheep?"

    "No, the only thing that will make me feel better is to kill Selax and end his tyranny once and for all."

    "Aww, I'll never get to hug a koala sheep..." muttered Katerei.

    "They're coming," Scry interrupted loudly.

    Minutes later, air-benders dropped from the trees and began blasting the heroes with dangerous gusts of air. The battle had begun.

    -----------

    Avatara's first challenge was to find Selax. Leaving his companions to fight with the deadly Air Force wasn't fun, but the only chance of winning this battle was to take out the leader. Katerei, Scry, and Beorn managed to stay with him. Eventually, they came to a cluster of air-benders who seemed to be protecting someone. The heroes attacked the cluster and separated them, revealing Selax.

    Katerei, Scry, and Beorn attempted to take on the cluster of air-benders by themselves while Avatara fought Selax.

    Fighting Selax was even faster-paced than his practice-spars with Scry. Avatara fought with two blades, using his bending to set one of his blades on fire and freeze the other one with ice. But he could hardly even seem to nick Selax, and even when he did, the tyrant didn't seem phased.

    Four air-benders were ganging up on Katerei, and it was all she could do to hold them off. Suddenly an arrow shot down from the trees, impaling one of the air-benders through the heart. Katerei risked a glance up at the branches and could barely make out a head of white hair.

    "Rapierian! You made it!"

    Rapierian didn't respond, but another air-bender fell at his arrow.

    Selax moved impossibly fast. Avatara had to run to keep up with him, attempting to fight at the same time. He recognized that Selax was drawing him away from his friends, but there was nothing he could do about it. Meanwhile, Selax, who was using two blades of his own, didn't seem to have any trouble running and fighting at the same time.

    Avatara threw fireballs, gusts of air, and torrents of water at Selax, but none seemed to have any effect on him. He focused his attention on his blades, trying desperately to get through Selax's defenses.

    And then - pain. Overwhelming pain. When Avatara's mind caught up what had just happened, Selax was pulling his blade back out of Avatara's gut, and darted off - probably to kill the other heroes.

    Avatara fell to the ground. He could feel the life leaving him rapidly. The trees above him blurred. He had failed. All of his efforts these last 100 years were for nothing. He had only led his friends to their deaths. Selax would continue oppressing the world and killing people on his whims. Avatara had failed.

    Avatara closed his eyes and let the world fade around him... But why was it taking so long to fade away? And what was that warm feeling spreading around his wound? The pain was diminishing.

    He opened his eyes. His vision was still blurry, but he could make out a figure leaning over him, and a brown ponytail.

    "Adriana?" Avatara asked, utterly lost. "But... you're dead."

    "You're one to talk," Adriana retorted.

    "I don't understand."

    Adriana didn't answer, she was busy moving her hands back and forth in the air above Avatara, bending his energy to heal him. Avatara's vision cleared, his mind mind snapping back to the battle.

    After several long moments, Adriana sat back. "Okay, I think you're stable enough to fight. But hurry. Get Selax!"

    Avatara sat up. The pain in his abdomen was nothing more than a slight ache. "Go, go!" Adriana reminded him.

    Avatara stood up, looking around wildly to see where Selax had gone. He could see fighting through the trees a short distance away, and ran over. He found Selax, taking on Katerei, Scry, Beorn, and Rapierian, all of whom were struggling just to hold him back.

    Beorn noticed Avatara approaching.

    "Avatara, quick! He's made of air - only an air-bender can defeat him!"

    Selax didn't seem to appreciate Beorn sharing his personal information, and aimed a deadly slash at him, which Scry only barely managed to block.

    Made of air? wondered Avatara. How was that possible? It wasn't possible. But, if it was...

    With his bending, Avatara grabbed the air that made up Selax, and tore it apart. Selax screamed. It was the first time Avatara had ever heard him respond to a blow.

    Scry and the others were holding Selax off from Avatara, but Selax's fighting began to slow, as though he was injured. Avatara kept pulling the air apart, but if he let go for even a moment, it was pulled back together. It took all of his bending strength to keep it up. "Now, attack him now!" Avatara panted.

    At almost the same moment, Katerei impaled Selax with a spear of ice, Rapierian shot him with an arrow, Scry beheaded him with her blade, and Beorn hit him with his staff for good measure.

    "NO!!" Selax screamed, but the molecules of his body were slowly disintegrating. It was a most disturbing sight.

    "W-what's happening?" Katerei stammered, as the last of Selax dissolved away.

    "You've just witnessed a rare and tragic event," said Beorn. "The death of an Air Elemental."

    "He's dead?" Avatara asked.

    "He's dead," Beorn confirmed.

    "YOU DID IT!" screamed a voice, and Avatara saw Adriana running toward him only a second before she slammed into him, her arms wrapping around him tightly and her mouth closing over his.

    Avatara's instincts screamed at him to stop her, to not show her any affection lest she be killed - again. But, he consciously reminded himself, Selax was dead. He was safe. She was safe. She was alive, and Selax was dead.

    Avatara held her in arms, opened his mouth, and kissed her. She was alive, and she was in his arms, and he was free to love her and be loved.

    One of the other heroes coughed in the background, uncomfortable at the extended public display of affection. Avatara ignored them, but he did eventually pull his mouth from Adriana's so he could ask her a question which was nagging at his brain.

    Before he could even get a word out, Adriana interrupted him. "You really did it," she grinned. "You avenged Menelaus."

    "And Moonshadow, and Nili, and-" his question "-How are you alive?"

    "I fell 100 feet off a cliff onto sharp ice glaciers below. Have you ever heard of anyone in this world actually dying of such a thing?"

    Avatara considered that. "No..."

    "It doesn't happen," said Adriana. "But since I knew there was an assassin after me, I had to make it look like I'd died. Contacting you would have been too risky, but I followed you here after tracking you to Caladheå."

    "Thank you," said Avatara. He ran his fingers through her soft ponytail, then pulled her close again in an embrace. "You're alive," he repeated.

    -----------

    The End

    -----------

    (Three years later, in the woods outside of Crieknaast.)

    Katerei stepped out of her wooden treehouse, onto the simple wooden porch, and felt the sunlight filtering through the leaves on her skin. She stretched and smiled. What a beautiful day.

    She walked along the suspension bridge until she came to Rapierian's treehouse. At one time, these bridges had terrified her, but that was years ago - she had become quite accustomed to living in the trees now. She found Rapierian cooking what was probably a pot of porridge.

    "Morning, Rapierian," Katerei greeted.

    "Good morning."

    "Do I have any mail today?" she asked.

    "An invitation," replied Rapierian, handing her an envelope. "I got one too."

    Katerei opened it eagerly and skimmed the invitation inside. "Ooh, Fendul and Scry are getting married! About time too! How long have they been going out? And Fendul is okorobai now, he ought to have a wife!"

    It was a little weird, knowing the man she almost married was now marrying someone else, but she really just wanted Fendul to be happy. And he was happy with Scry.

    "Are you going to the wedding?" Katerei asked Rapierian.

    "Why would I go? I hardly even know them," answered Rapierian.

    "Because weddings are fun! And there's sure to be dancing." Katerei couldn't picture Fendul and Scry dancing, but there was no way Fendul would forgo tradition.

    "As I said, why would I go?" asked Rapierian again.

    Katerei gave Rapierian a flat-eyed glare, which he ignored. Katerei looked at her invitation again and realized there was a note attached to her.

    "Oh my, Scry wants me to be her maid-of-honour!" said Katerei. "That's kinda awkward, considering she's marrying my ex-fiancé. But I guess if she needs me, I'll do it." She sat down on Rapierian's floor and daydreamed about the wedding. "I wonder if Avatara will be there?"

    "Unlikely," said Rapierian. "His wife Adriana is due to have a baby at around the same time, which I imagine would complicate a trip to the South Pole."

    Katerei gaped at him. "He's having a baby?!" Katerei never quite figured out how Rapierian seemed to hear about everything that was going on in the world, but she guessed it involved being sneaky. "Why didn't you tell me that?"

    "I didn't know it was relevant?"

    "It doesn't have to be relevant, I just like getting updates on my friends."

    Rapierian shrugged and stirred the pot of porridge.

    Katerei looked at the invitation again and reflected. Fendul getting married, Avatara having a baby. Everyone was moving on from the war and building beautiful new lives for themselves. She had done it too, she realized. Learning to live in the forest, writing novels from her treehouse. And Rapierian's company was a lot more fun than it sounded. She wouldn't change a thing.



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 27 November 2015 - 09:32 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    According to Master Pakku, an ancient water-bender had been able to maintain an air bubble around herself and her companion so that they could travel through a huge, flooded cave.

    I almost thought this was going to be a reference to a different story.

    Quote

    Avatara didn't answer immediately, but finally he spoke. "Rythan's been experimenting with... a way to turn people into zombies. I don't think he's worked out the kinks yet, but I know his long term goal is to turn everyone in the world into a zombie, so he can kill them over, and over, and over..."

    Katerei felt like throwing up now. She couldn't hold back the memories anymore, of that night at the North Pole, the same night Adriana had been murdered. The smoothness of Rythan's bare skin. Her arms, clutching his back. Gasping his name.

    And now I was expecting Kat to turn into a zombie...

    Quote

    His green clothes blended in perfectly with the trees, though his white hair gave him away. Katerei blushed when she saw him. He was really cute.

    Does alt-Rapierian have white hair? Something I've always wondered.

    Unless this is regular Rapierian, in which case a zombie girl hitting on a necromancer isn't out of place. :p

    Quote

    "It suits its purpose," answered Rapierian. "I think, if it held the fat old man, it will hold you."

    Good thing Wizard doesn't read the stories, so he won't notice all the insults you directed his way. :)

    Quote

    "The Blind Blademaster. If anyone can help me defeat Selax, it's her!"

    "But she's not an earth-bender!" argued Katerei.

    "So? She's cute," pointed out Avatara.

    At least Av has his priorities straight!

    Quote

    "Don't you remember?" asked Fendul, hurt. He pulled out his pocket calendar in showed it to her.

    Katerei observed that the current date was circled, with the text "marry Katerei!" written across it, with hearts and smiley faces filling in the remainder of the square. "Oh, wow..." said Katerei.

    "You forgot," said Fendul sadly.

    This part was really sad. Poor Fendul. :(

    Quote

    "Wait!" she said. Fendul froze. "If we break up, Selax might see me as a potential girlfriend for Avatara, and kill me."

    "So... You want me to stay engaged to you, even though you have no intention of marrying me?" asked Fendul.

    Man, Katerei is pretty mean. No wonder you made her a zombie!

    Quote

    "So, you're saying that if I've been eating this for a little while already, and haven't noticed any effects yet, my bag is probably not poisoned?" asked Wizard.

    "I guess. Unless yours has a different poison," answered Scry.

    Wizard stared at his bag of trail mix for a moment, then shrugged and ate another handful.

    Very Iroh-like.

    Quote

    Near the broken machinery pile, a large pot simmered over a campfire, and a cheerful little creature fluttered around the pot, occasionally stirring the contents.

    As the adventurers came nearer, the creature noticed them and fluttered over. "Greetings!" he said energetically. "Would you like some soup? You're just in time - I made four gallons, but that is more than I can eat in two months!"

    The adventurers glanced at each other, not immediately sure what to make of the creature. He looked sort of like a human, but only about a foot and a half tall and oddly coloured, with wings and webbed feet.

    My first guess was actually Sya, but then you kept calling it a "him" and I got confused wondering if there was a story where Sya found a male fairy.

    Quote

    "Yes, I'm building a railroad through the mountain! I just have to drill a tunnel through first, and that is proving problematic," Silverfish motioned to the huge pile of drilling machines behind him.

    So I admit I totally didn't get this at first, but then you mentioned the game. Maybe Wizard will get it.

    Quote

    He sighed. "I was hoping to avoid this, but seeing as we're burning our last torch, I think it's time to take drastic measures."

    "What are you going to do?" asked Katerei.

    "Read the instructions."

    :)

    Quote

    The others watched, horrified. The fight lasted longer than any they had seen Scry participate in in the Fighting Arena in Crieknaast, but it was still only a few minutes before Iannah took a blade to the heart and fell to the ground, dead.

    Poor Iannah. :(

    Quote

    "It's called the Starfish Pass. A narrow ledge of land that crosses the Holmgar. It is said that the man-eating Starfish-Kraken dwells in those waters, and will devour any traveller attempting to pass."

    I was not expecting this!

    Quote

    "...well, it still sounds better than watching war documentaries," commented Katerei.

    ...but Kat speaks true.

    Quote

    Katerei couldn't stand the pained look on Fendul's face as he approached her.

    "When did that happen?" he whispered coldly. "What you said to Rythan?" The unspoken implication of his question hung imposingly in the air - was it before or after we secretly ended our betrothal?

    "I-it was at the north pole. The same night Adriana was killed," admitted Katerei, her voice hoarse from screaming at Rythan.

    Poor Fendul. Kat's just as mean to him here as she was in Sail. :(



  • Quote

    Well, maybe "music" wasn't the right term. It was more like vaguely-melodious chanting, in Arabic. The room was large, and filled with dervishes who were dancing so wildly that their clothes were falling off. A disco ball spun from the ceiling, casting the room in spinning colours and chaos.

    The stranger pointed out a man in the corner, and, thanking him, Wizard carefully crossed the room. It took him a while, because he kept getting pulled into wild dances, but eventually he made it over to the man who had been pointed out to him.

    It was obvious from the man's attire that he was from the Air Nation. But that wasn't the only reason he stuck out from the crowd. Rather than dancing, he seemed to be going through a series of exercises.

    So, I totally forgot Beorn existed. And I certainly wouldn't expect to find him at a strip club!

    Quote

    Avatara swallowed and worked up his courage. "Scry, I've never met anyone so capable of protecting herself before. You are strong, and flawless in combat."

    "No," said Scry.

    "Don't be modest, I've never seen you make even the slightest error while fighting-"

    "Er, not that," said Scry. "Of course I'm flawless. I meant, no to your next question."

    Well, at least she was kind about it.

    Quote

    "Prince Avatara!" Wizard called out. Avatara noticed Wizard approaching the camp - followed by a crowd of dancing weirdos. "Guess what!" he exclaimed.

    "You decided to actually read my stories instead of just reading the comments on my stories?" guessed Avatara.

    "Goodness, no!" answered Wizard. "How much free time do you think I have?!"

    Well, as long as nobody quotes your story, he won't know you're picking on him.

    Quote

    "I'm not the same person I was when we started this journey," Katerei said.

    "Indeed," agreed Fendul.

    "I've matured a lot."

    Fendul's eyes shifted to the side.

    "What?" demanded Katerei. "I have!"

    "If you say so," said Fendul, in a tone that implied he didn't really agree.

    "That's what I wanted to tell you about though," said Katerei. "I've made a really mature, live-changing decision. I'm a grown-up now, and I can figure out my own path."

    Fendul gave her a small smile. "I'm glad to hear that, Kat."

    "So I've decided to leave this group and go live in the woods with Rapierian," Katerei concluded.

    I liked the Sail reference.

    Quote

    "Hey South Pole girl," Airedain replied. "I bet you weren't expecting to see me again, huh?"

    About as flattering as the real Airedain...

    Quote

    "And it must be hard preparing to take Selax's life."

    "What do you mean?" asked Avatara.

    "Well, it must be a bit of a moral crisis, knowing you have to take someone's life in order to save the world."

    "Uhh... no. It's Selax. He's evil. I'm just eager to kill him."

    Spoken like a true Avatar.

    Quote

    "Thank you," said Avatara. He ran his fingers through her soft ponytail, then pulled her close again in an embrace. "You're alive," he repeated.

    I...actually wasn't expecting a happy ending.

    Quote

    -----------

    The End

    -----------

    Aw, it's a shame you didn't go on and explain what happened to the other characters, but oh well. Guess we'll have to make up our own ending. ^_^



  • @avatara_bot, on 28 November 2015 - 05:54 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    And now I was expecting Kat to turn into a zombie...

    Aww man, that didn't even occur to me!

    Quote

    Does alt-Rapierian have white hair? Something I've always wondered.

    I'm quoting you here:
    "It was night outside, but the light from the lantern illuminated him well enough. The white-haired man had a long and thin face with green eyes. He was dressed in ranger's clothing that had obviously seen heavy use, and in his right arm he gripped a quarterstaff tightly, as if preparing for battle."

    He also had white hair in Kat's paper dolls. I guess Sely can come correct us if all three of us got it wrong though.

    Quote

    Good thing Wizard doesn't read the stories, so he won't notice all the insults you directed his way. :)

    Yeah, good thing he only reads the comments... wait -_- (Sorry, Wizzy! I'm only half making fun of Wizard, the other half is making fun of Iroh)

    Quote

    This part was really sad. Poor Fendul. :(
    Man, Katerei is pretty mean. No wonder you made her a zombie!

    That was the first scene I wrote of this chapter (I wrote it last summer when I was working on Part 1), then I think the rest of this chapter was written sequentially. At least Katerei eventually broke up with Fendul before leaving him at the altar, right? : __x (And I'm sorry, Kat! I know Katerei isn't really this mean)

    Quote

    My first guess was actually Sya, but then you kept calling it a "him" and I got confused wondering if there was a story where Sya found a male fairy.

    I think you're thinking of Shi'nayne? (I think she was even smaller than Silverfish though)

    Quote

    So I admit I totally didn't get this at first, but then you mentioned the game. Maybe Wizard will get it.

    Yeah, if I had written this story back in June when I intended to, the Silverfish-unable-to-drill-through-the-mountain and the Wizard-asking-everyone-if-they're-the-baron jokes probably would've made way more sense : __\ At least you can never forget the man-eating starfish bit though!

    Quote

    Poor Fendul. Kat's just as mean to him here as she was in Sail. :(

    I think she's meaner to him here, because according to the authoress, Fendul wasn't actually in love with Katerei in Sail.

    @avatara_bot, on 28 November 2015 - 06:00 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    So, I totally forgot Beorn existed. And I certainly wouldn't expect to find him at a strip club!

    It was a Dervish club! (I still don't really understand what a dervish is, but I really wanted to change the white lotus club to the dervish club after you convinced Wizzy to use auto-correct and Wizzy ended up telling the channel something about dervishes : __D This story is probably really offensive to people who actually know what dervishes are.)
    As for Beorn, I couldn't think of anyone else who could teach air-bending. Throughout the story, I wasn't giving TS/Sail characters bending powers, I've just been using characters who were already pretty-much benders in the TS world. I was glad I had Beorn on hand in the final battle, because I decided he'd know how to defeat Selax and that could make it easy for me (fight scenes are so boring).

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    Well, at least she was kind about it.

    Scrytara is much cuter in your story than in mine. In mine, Scry is just totally wrong for Avatara, but he's drawn to her anyway because she's so capable of defending herself against Selax's assassins.

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    I...actually wasn't expecting a happy ending.

    I told you so many times it would have a happy ending! The question is, does Avatara's ending make up for everything he went through in this story? : __\ (Also, have I converted you to Avriana ship-dom yet? Look how perfect they are!)

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    Aw, it's a shame you didn't go on and explain what happened to the other characters, but oh well. Guess we'll have to make up our own ending. ^_^

    Epilogues are supposed to go after the "the end" right? I wasn't sure :x Anyway, I can't wait to see how your Avatar story ends!



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 28 November 2015 - 07:13 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    I told you so many times it would have a happy ending! The question is, does Avatara's ending make up for everything he went through in this story? :\ (Also, have I converted you to Avriana ship-dom yet? Look how perfect they are!)

    Really? You kept going on about how everything would be depressing and awful for everyone that I thought it was pretty much going to be a tragedy! (Also, because you shipped Avriana, now I have to pick something different so it doesn't seem like I'm copying you.)



  • It was depressing and awful for everyone, wasn't it? Bummer that I ruined Avriana in your story : __( Hopefully you'll ship Avatara with Scry instead : __D



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 27 November 2015 - 09:32 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    "I'm staying at a hotel only a couple of blocks away. Shall we go in and get warm?" Rythan offered.

    Scandalous!

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    "Um, uncle, you took a personal leave 100 years ago... You don't have a job anymore," said Avatara.

    :D

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    Avatara didn't answer immediately, but finally he spoke. "Rythan's been experimenting with... a way to turn people into zombies. I don't think he's worked out the kinks yet, but I know his long term goal is to turn everyone in the world into a zombie, so he can kill them over, and over, and over..."

    PLOT TWIST!

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    His green clothes blended in perfectly with the trees, though his white hair gave him away. Katerei blushed when she saw him. He was really cute.

    but whyyy

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    "What if I let go of the rope?" fretted Katerei.

    "I wouldn't advise that."

    "I didn't mean intentionally."

    Rapierian shrugged. "You'd fall?"

    Such a very Rapierian answer.

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    Fendul turned away from Katerei, not wanting her to see him cry. Katerei sunk down to the floor, hugging her knees. The painful silence stretched on while they both tried to pull themselves together.

    You're breakin' my heart. :( If you want me to write a Kat-Fendul ship into Sail, this is the way to persuade me.

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    Wizard stared at his bag of trail mix for a moment, then shrugged and ate another handful.

    :D

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    The fight lasted longer than any they had seen Scry participate in in the Fighting Arena in Crieknaast, but it was still only a few minutes before Iannah took a blade to the heart and fell to the ground, dead.

    Well, that was abrupt. o_o

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    "It's called the Starfish Pass. A narrow ledge of land that crosses the Holmgar. It is said that the man-eating Starfish-Kraken dwells in those waters, and will devour any traveller attempting to pass."

    I kinda expected Airedain to show up again.

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    Only then did Katerei regret immensely her screamed confession of sleeping with Rythan. Had she really said that in front of everyone? She glanced in horror at her companions. Scry's even face showed no emotion. Wizard looked thoroughly shocked. Avatara looked furious. And Fendul... Although nearly everyone was soaked at this point, it was obvious that tears were pouring down Fendul's heartbroken face.

    Oooooh, awkward.

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    "So I've decided to leave this group and go live in the woods with Rapierian," Katerei concluded.

    :V

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    "North Pole boy!" she gasped. Next to her, Fendul groaned.

    Yay!

    Thoughts on the endings:

    Av/Adriana: but whyyy
    Kat/Rapierian: BUT WHYYY. If Kat couldn't have Av, she totally should have hooked up with North Pole Boy.
    Fendul/Scry: Poor Fendul will never get any affection. :(

    This post has been edited by iKaterei : 06 December 2015 - 08:38 AM



  • An amusing story, although with a depressing end, I must say. Fortunately, you left things sufficiently open for me to correct that :) .

    @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 28 November 2015 - 07:13 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    He also had white hair in Kat's paper dolls. I guess Sely can come correct us if all three of us got it wrong though.

    Yes, both versions of Rapierian have white hair. I had originally intended for it to be a sign of the character's usage of dark magic, but I eventually changed it to being a genetic trait shared by members of his family.

    @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 28 November 2015 - 07:13 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    It was a Dervish club! (I still don't really understand what a dervish is, but I really wanted to change the white lotus club to the dervish club after you convinced Wizzy to use auto-correct and Wizzy ended up telling the channel something about dervishes : __D This story is probably really offensive to people who actually know what dervishes are.)

    Here. This might be helpful.



  • @ikaterei_bot, on 06 December 2015 - 08:35 AM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    You're breakin' my heart. :( If you want me to write a Kat-Fendul ship into Sail, this is the way to persuade me.

    Really? All we have to do is write sad Fenteiko (Katdul?) stories? If I have time to do a Christmas chron, this might be a perfect fit...

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    Av/Adriana: but whyyy

    Because, they're so perfect together! Avatara avenged Adriana's dead boyfriend, Adriana saved Avatara's life... <3 It's so happy! I admit that Scrytara turned out way better than Avriana in BoF, but I still ship Avriana in The Trial-world. (Undecided about whether Scrytara or Averei is better in OoR. Needs more material)

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    Kat/Rapierian: BUT WHYYY. If Kat couldn't have Av, she totally should have hooked up with North Pole Boy.

    I think Kronos is perfect ^_ __^ The lack of passion between them will protect them from the heartbreak that the other couples in my story went through.

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    Fendul/Scry: Poor Fendul will never get any affection. :(

    I like to think they'd understand & appreciate each other's unexpressed affection :x



  • @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 07 December 2015 - 09:37 PM, said in Avatara: The Last Firebender (Part 2):

    Really? All we have to do is write sad Fenteiko (Katdul?) stories? If I have time to do a Christmas chron, this might be a perfect fit...

    Aww, wouldn't you rather write a happy Fenteiko story? That'd be pretty persuasive too. It'd be cute to see them as newlyweds.


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