[Avatar: TLA] On the Fields of Discord

AngelOfPerdition

New Member

War!


The world has forever been torn, ravaged by the scourge of war!


Tensions were high, and the smell of blood already wafted on the breeze. I felt it in my bones even before the news came, that dreaded letter that proclaimed what we all had feared. Those bastards had gotten to her. The Avatar had been assassinated.


In the year preceding the death of Avatar Mizu, things were already precarious. The daughter of the then Fire Lord, Princess Tanzi, had left home suddenly and appeared in the Earth Kingdom at the side of the heir, Prince Charan. The circumstances, though both seemed happy, were considered suspicious, and the Fire Lord accused the prince of abducting his daughter. On their way to the coast to meet with the Fire Lord, both were killed under mysterious circumstances, and the nations of the world suspected murderous intention on the part of the Earth King.


With the world on the brink of war, and the Water Tribes and Air Nomads tentatively supporting the Fire Lord's calls for justice, the Avatar stepped in to mediate the situation. Avatar Mizu arrived to stand between the two hostile camps and spoke with both the Fire Lord and the Earth King in an attempt to stop them resolving their differences with the bloodshed. However, the Avatar, being a native of the Fire Nation, was suspected of bias, and was killed in her sleep! It is our belief that the Earth King had the Avatar murdered to prevent her from helping the Fire Nation, and for this, we of the Three Nations Alliance have brought war to the Earth Kingdom!


But the Earth Kingdom is vast. We have made gains, but we have taken losses, and the Earth King has launched an assault on the Northern Air Temple to force the allied forces onto the defensive. We need volunteers to bring the royal family to justice for their crimes, and to stop the Earth King from harming more innocents! Remember Princess Tanzi and Avatar Mizu!


—Allied Propaganda Pamphlet—

The Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation had been at odds over small things for close to a century, but things came to a head with the deaths of the Earth Prince and the Fire Princess. With Prince Charan already married and Princess Tanzi engaged, the affair lead to ripples of discontent within both nations. The Earth King claimed Princess Tanzi had seduced and manipulated his son, the Fire Lord claimed Prince Charan had stolen Tanzi away in a fit of deranged lust. As the star-crossed lovers traveled to the Fire Lord, hoping to make him see reason before turning attention to the Earth King, they stopped in a small village on the edge of the Earth Kingdom. The next day, they were discovered dead, split open from the chin to the navel.


Horrified at the brutal murder, both sides struggled with each other ever harder, claiming each other as the perpetrators of the crime. Avatar Mizu intervened, hoping that by quelling the rage of the two royal families and their kingdoms war would be averted. She called a summit to be held, and the leaders of the Water Tribes and the head monks of the Air Nomads came to help mediate. On the first day of the summit, however, the beginning of war came in the way of Avatar Mizu's body found on the floor of her room, the life drained from it with a large stab wound through the neck.


It was inevitable that war would break out, and when it did the Air Nomads and the Water Tribes honored long-standing alliances with the Fire Nation by taking sides against the Earth Kingdom. For the first several months the war was piercing, tearing through the lands and fed by the vitriol of royal families and their subjects. Bloody battles soon gave way to a slow war of attrition, however, and it continued in such a state for nearly twenty-five years. The Order of the White Lotus, secretive and unknown except to those in it, began a desperate search for the avatar.



The story beings in the snowy mountain range home to the Northern Air Temple. Located on the northern shore of the Earth Kingdom, it was the base of operations in the early stages of the war as the Northern Water Tribe slowly took control of the area with the Air Nomads. As the years passed, the battles against the Earth Kingdom turned in the favor of the Tribe and the Nomads, and soon they were able to push the front line further south. With a sizable chunk of land under the control of the Tribe and the Nomads, the Northern Air Temple became a place of refugee. Those heading to the well-fortified Northern Water Tribe lands would make stops there, and citizens of the Earth Kingdom who disagreed with the war gathered at the temple for safety.

 
Two Months before everyone else's meeting at the Northern Air Temple.


"You couldn't have caught a bigger fish?" Kuka nudged him as they walked back to the village. Darem (Kaito) was carrying a fish the size of a bear-turtle, and he was quite ready to cook it up.


"At least I caught a fish, what's your excuse?" Darem nudged back. They both had a good chuckle as the town-folk ran about through the village. Darem threw the over sized fish over his shoulder as a young boy approached them. Not happening often, Darem took the time to listen to what he needed to say, and he sounded urgent.


"The-their was an accident, mister Kaito." The boy said, obviously shaken quite a bit. He collected himself, and tried another stab at it. "The old man that you've been stayin' with? Well... he, he was out hunting you see, a-and-"





"Where is he." Darem stated, cutting the boy off. "Tell me where he is."


Taken aback, the kid pointed and slowly pushed out the answer. "H-he was at the grotto, w-west of here." Darem turned, dropping the fish, not hesitating to find out what had happened. Kuka, not saying a word throughout the confrontation, looked at Darem as he began to run off. However, before he could say a word, his friend was already several feet away, running towards the West. Mustering his strength, Kuka quickly followed in-toe with Darem, hoping that he could help him in any way that he could.


The bitter cold snapped at Darem's heels as he trudged through the snow. Kuka, being native of the Southern Water Tribe, quickly caught up with him. But even so, Kuka did not say a word. He knew what was going on, and he had nothing to say.


When they arrived, there were a few wounded tribal workers about, laying on the snow. Those that remained uninjured were helping mend those that were, or they were trying to remove the debris from a nearby cave-complex. Enclosed by fallen debris, they were using both strength and water-bending to help clear it out. But they weren't going fast enough for Darem. His feet positioned themselves in the snow as he prepared himself to use whatever water bending talents he had to clean out the debris. He executed a technique, serving to push a few of the workers that were using brute strength to move the wreckage. Another, and he had removed all of the workers from his path. Although it was effective, they did seem rather annoyed. Darem then proceeded to quickly push shards of water towards the debris, trying to shatter the mess. Volley after volley of water and ice was thrown by his hands, only to crumble and whither before the blockage, doing nothing more but ricocheting away from the debris. Tears rolled down his face as he continued to pound at the wall, never faltering to strike it as hard as he could. But his bending was not great enough.


Kuka quickly grabbed his arm, forcing Darem to stop attacking the wall. "Stop this, Kaito! Stop this! He can't be saved, he can't be saved..." He stated desperately as he forced Darem away from the debris. Darem finally stopped resisting, and he fell to the ground. "I'm sorry, Kaito. Master Turka is dead, and we both know it. No changing th'fact." Kuka forced out, himself choking back tears. Darem, knowing too well what this meant, slowly stood to his feet. His arms were shaking.


"I... I need to go."Darem muttered as he started heading back towards the village. "Where are you going, Kaito? To the tavern? Back home?" Kuka called out. He only wanted to help him.


"North, Kuka. I'm headed North." Darem called back. Kuka couldn't believe his ears. He was headed North, why would he go North?


(I'll finish up this post with how he leaves, and a quick montage to show his journeys from the Southern Water Tribe to the Northern Air Temple)
 
((Alright, just continue your segway as you get to it. I'll just set the Air Temple scene so it's ready.))


~The Northern Air Temple, Present Day~


Soon sat at the top of the temple, a staff across her lap as she watched the sky grow darker and felt the evening winds start to pick up. They'd just received word that an Earth Kingdom army was on its way, and that the temple needed to be prepared for a lengthy siege. She felt her eyes unconsciously narrow, gazing into the distance, imagining she could see the dust from their soldiers on the march. But that was a trick of her own mind, and she shook her head sharply to clear the image.


It had been two years since the Earth King had actually made a drive in this direction. Soon had still been in training, visiting a master at the Eastern Temple when the hawk came from the Fire Lord that the North was in danger. But she was stationed here, this time, at what really was the most easily besieged allied stronghold on the entire continent. It wasn't even that the earthbenders could get up there easily; the temple was perched on a snow-capped mountain top, and the only way non-airbenders could easily reach it was via the gondolas the Fire Nation had built for them to allow members of the Water Tribe and refugees to take sanctuary in its halls.


No, the worry certainly wasn't that the Earth Kingdom would seize the temple. But they could starve it out. Soon's gaze fell on the gondola as it rose up again, bringing another load of refugees up to stay with the Nomads and share in their hospitality. She felt bad for those people, for what this war was doing to their lives. Some of these people were objectors to the Earth King's position of innocence and supported the allies' calls fo justice, but these were relatively few. Soon found that your average person in the fields or working a loom didn't have too much of an opinion one way or another; they were more concerned with their own needs, for which she didn't blame them one bit. These weren't the first people to have their village burned, blasted, bowled over or otherwise destroyed in the fighting, and given how things looked right now (that is to say, an effective stalemate overall) they wouldn't be the last. Her feelings of pity were accompanied by minor feelings of guilt, as she likely had stolen supplies from these people at some point.


She slid her thumb over the smooth, dark wood of her staff as she thought about going down to help them get settled, or perhaps going down the mountain to scout alone. The earthbenders had started using sharp rocks to fell the gliders her people used, so she wouldn't get much chance to use the thing for much longer...


Soon got up, deciding against the idea and went down to help the refugees. It was going to be a long night, in any case. Might as well not wear myself out without cause. It's going to be a long war.
 
~Northern Air Temple: Present Day~


Refugees milled about the lower areas of the temple, walking to and fro in attempts to quell their own worries and doubts. From the corner of the main room, Iseul sat with her few belongings piled about her, watching the monks and refugees during pauses from scratching a thin piece of charcoal upon a piece of paper. The quiet hum of conversation that permeated the temple had made the young woman feel uncomfortable and distracted since she had arrived two days ago, so she had pulled out her charcoals and paper to set to work on a sure way to keep her mind away from the disorienting noise.


Scattered around her were pages of sketches, both of people in the temple and of the surrounding area. Every now and again Iseul would give some of the sketches away, usually to children to who looked upset. Ultimately it was the hollowness in their eyes, carved out by seeing acts of war, that made her do it. It was a sight that pressed guilt deep into her flesh and bone, made her uncomfortable to let people see the pale green of her eyes. Even if she had nothing to do with the crimes committed in the name of war, she felt compelled to fix some how. Unfortunately, there was little she could do; pictures were all she had to offer as compensation for the children whose innocence and happiness has been destroyed.
 
~Northern Air Temple: Present Day~


"So, you're the artist," Soon remarked as she passed by, having just directed another family to an empty space they could sleep for the night. She'd seen the pictures circulating around the room, small bits of ashen passion floating about the temple, clutched in the hand or to the breast. It was a welcome effort, as far as she was concerned. The hosts of the temple could only give so much joy as they prepared to defend their homes, only so many bison rides. "You're rather good. Sorry we haven't got a table for you to work at. The... well, the healers need them all."
 
(Part Dos)


Darem trudged through the snow, pushing his way back towards the village lights. Kuka quickly trailing behind him, only just caught up to him as they entered the populated town. Dodging through people, Darem quickly made his way to his tent, ignoring the glances of friends and fellow laborers. Now right on his heels, Kuka pushed the tent-door aside as he entered the average-sized room. Darem was already busy filling a small pack with clothes, food, money, and his native Air Nomad outfit as he realized that Kuka stood behind him. He quickly attempted to hide the details, but was already too late.


"What is all of this, Kaito? I understand that the death of the old man would be hard on you, but that doesn't mean you should
leave. You have a home here, friends. You musn't-"


"I cannot tell you why I must leave, Kuka. It's just how it has to be." Darem stated, cutting Kuka off. He continued to push his belongings into the pack.


"You're not telling me anything, Kaito! If you would just... hold... agh!" Kuka muttered as he was trying to pull Darem's attention away from his belongings. It wasn't working. Kuka, now becoming frustrated, grabbed Darem by the shoulders and looked him dead in the eye, forcing him away from his belongings. Shaking him, he yelled; "Where in-the-four nations are you going to go, Kaito! And why! Why must you go?"


There was an eerie silence for a moment, followed by Darem letting out a cool sigh. He pulled himself together, and gently began replying to Kuka's harsh question. "I'm not Kaito, Kuka. In fact, I'm not a Water Tribe native either. The truth is..." Darem stuttered, glancing around the tent so that he knew no others were watching him. He took another breath. "... My real name is Darem. Darem Shu, Air Nomad from the West. And I-I'm not just a water bender either, you... you see..." This was hard for Darem to say. He could feel his throat knotting up, trying in vane to keep him from talking. But he had to finish, now with Kuka's eyes stabbing him like daggers. So, Darem finally revealed the truth.


"Kuka, the truth is, is that I-I'm the Avatar. With the rest of our village being untrustworthy and mediocre teachers at best, I have to go to the Northern Water Tribe to look for a new master. Honestly, the only reason that I was here was to be trained by Master Turka. With him dead, I have no reason to stay here."



The only sound that could be heard was the pitter-patter of feet outside of the tent, and the soft wind that past through the village. Kuka, now releasing his grip on Darem, suddenly felt faint. Falling to a nearby stool, trying to regain his consciousness, he couldn't help but think about what he just heard. His friend, all along, such a powerful figure? He felt like telling the world, but realizing the level of secrecy that Darem wanted to achieve, could do nothing but remain silent. After some time, Darem continued packing his pack, and Kuka finally regained the strength to stand.


"I-if that's all true, and you are heading north, then I'm c-coming with you."



"What? But, but what about the village? This might be my home, but this is your life. You've told me yourself that you've never been away from the ice!" Darem proclaimed, this being his turn not believing his ears.


"I have nothing to live for here, and you know it, Kai-I mean, Darem. There is nothing for me here but labor and a horrible past. I'm coming with you, whether you like it or not!"
Kuka stated, quickly leaving the tent to gather his own things. Darem was going to say something back, but it was already too late. So, Darem decided to instead finish putting everything into his pack. However, right when he finished, the tent flap opened again.


"I suppose that you're ready to g-" Darem began, until he realized who was really standing before him. To his surprise, it was Cara. And she seemed near tears.


"Y-you're leaving?" Cara muttered, hardly choking back the tears that threatened to roll down her face. "Th-the workers were t-talking about how you were planning to head north, a-and I saw Kuka gathering his things as well. Is it true? Uh-are you really going so soon?" She nervously stroked the long pony-tail in front of her shoulder, softly pulling the hair, replacing her hands as she did so. A habit that she produced every time that she became anxious. Or when she feared the loss of a loved one.


Darem gently laid his hands on her shoulders, trying to comfort her. "I won't be gone forever, Cara. I'll come back, some day. I-"





"Just promise me that you will be safe, okay? Just promise that you'll be safe." She muttered desperately, obviously becoming ever more nervous with the act of Darem coming closer to her.


"I promise, Cara. I will come back for you."
Darem said, partially confessing what love he may have for her. It was enough for her to lose control of her emotions, tears now rolling down her face. She whimpered slightly, and then abruptly stood on the tip of her toes, reaching to push her lips against Darem's. For but a moment, she held them there, her tears now brushing against his face. He went to embrace her, but she had already released. Now, feeling partially guilty, Cara quickly glanced away, and then left the tent. Darem now more than ever wanted to stay in the village longer, but he knew that he could not. Quickly, he whipped her tears off of her face, and pushed the flap of the tent away. He slowly crept outside, many of the villagers stopping to nod or wave at him as he did so. They would miss him, that was apparent. Noticing Kuka, also prepared, walking his direction, Darem decided to start moving towards the gate. As he joined him, they began walking side-by-side, an army of two, slowly picking up speed. The thought of adventure and journeying together putting a kick in their step, they quickly stepped outside of the village walls. But when they stepped outside, they turned, noticing that they were now leaving their homes. Their lives. Sharing a knowing glance with each other, they watched the village move and flow, just as they would remember it. For several minutes, they stood, remembering all of the good memories that they had had here, and all of the bad.


Forcing themselves to move onward, they slowly turned away, picking up the speed that they once had. Here, the journey had begun.

* * *




(Cue montage!)





For many days and nights, the two men set out and traveled through vast lands. Primarily crossing through the western hemisphere, fearing that their appearance would be unwanted in the Earth Kingdom, they kept their distance from Earth colonies and towns. Primarily, the traveled through the vast ocean. However, they were delighted to finally see land as they arrived at the countries of the Fire Nation. The vast Fire Nation cities served for rest and food, but when they left to once again travel through the oceans, their lack of food became their downfall. Desperate for food and water, and Darem demanding that he finished his teachings under an Air bending master, they soon arrived at the glorious Northern Air Temple.


"Aah..." Kuka sighed as he left the small buggy which they had taken when they arrived on land. It was lead by a tall ostrich-horse, which whinnied as Kuka and Darem left. "So, this is the Northern Air Temple?"


"Well, that's what the driver told me. Although it does look quite similar to the temple which I grew up in..." Darem muttered while stroking his now overgrown beard. He hasn't had a chance to shave in eight days. However, he did have the opportunity to change into his common Air Nomad outfit, complete with his master's yellow scarf wrapped around his neck. Darem took a long sniff of the golden air.


"Well, let's get you acquainted with the people, shall we?" Kuka joked as he quickly walked ahead. Darem snickered a bit and swiftly followed behind.
 
A moment passed before Iseul realized that the monk was talking to her, and when she did her head snapped up to look at her, an embarrassed laugh passing through her lips. It was hard for her to notice the world when she was working so intently, an experience so vastly different from the majority of her hours. "Ah, well, their work is more important," the young woman said, smiling. "It's the least I can do, though. I've no skill in treating wounds."


With her attention now away from her sketches, the sounds and sights of the area bombarded Iseul. The people who flitted through her peripheral vision was dizzying, and the sounds echoing so acutely into her ears made it hard to focus on what the Air Nomad had said. As all the world seemed to crash into her mind, Iseul managed to keep her smile, the only hint of her restlessness found in the piece of charcoal she spun around her fingers. Oh, what she would give to be able to learn how the monks of the temple could meditate for hours on end. She longed for that sort of peace, but it seemed she would only ever be able to find it within her sketches or her training.
 
~Northern Air Temple: Present Day~


Soon returned the smile, setting the staff she'd been carrying against the wall and placed her back beside it. "I don't either, though I suspect they're easily the most useful people here right now. It goes to show what people's needs are when monks like me are being drafted as packmules, and other masters are working in the kitchens." She realised that with all the extra work around here, this was the most she'd said all at once in several days. Mostly the Nomads had been bustling about, either watching the skies, preparing defences or otherwise helping refugees get settled. It also did not escape her notice that she felt incredibly weary the instant she paused to relax a bit. Her feet gave off the distinct sensation of pulsating, and the small of her back whimpered to be allowed to lie down. The airbender silently bid her various aching parts to kindly shut their imagined mouths and cooperate awhile longer.


Outside, a pair of young monks met the latest arrivals from the gondola and brought them inside without a word. Night had fallen, and everyone was anxious for a few hours of rest.
 
Present Day


As Kuka and Darem raced forward, towards the temple, they were soon wading through a large crowd of people. Some refugees, some homeless. Some were even soldiers. All either leaving the temple, entering it, or guarding it. Following a thick line into a large gondola, which already appeared to be completely full. And yet, more and more people still filled into it, practically breaking the seems. Darem and Kuka barely made it inside before it quickly started shuttling upwards, towards the actual temple itself. However, just as it started moving, it dawned on Darem; We came here for food, but it appears that these people cannot even feed themselves. Darem wrestled with himself about the concept when they abruptly arrived at the base of the temple. Immediately, the crowd started moving forward, carrying Darem and Kuka with it. In mere moments, it became apparent what was going on here. Wounded were being taken to hospitals, bed rolls could be seen in practically every corner and under every roof. This temple was a refuge. Darem sighed, realizing the truth. Kuka, still giddy with excitement, rushed forward, looking for someone to speak with about food and lodging for the night. To him, it was just another town.


Night had fallen by this point, and multiple monks, most likely actual citizens of the temple, were telling certain crowds of people to go to certain areas. Kuka, being quite the rash water-tribe man, left the crowd to rush up the nearby steps. Darem, wishing not to lose him, quickly followed behind. Before long, Kuka had rushed into the main room, taking in the beauty of such a magnificent place. Darem, just now catching up, was less impressed by the room, naturally. Looking around, Darem noticed the two individuals in the corner of the room. One was obviously some sort of traveler, maybe from the Earth or Fire nations, whom was drawing with charcoal before she was interrupted. The second person, obviously the one who interrupted her work, appeared to be a monk of sorts. Whether or not she was from this temple, rather than any of the others, Darem did not know. Finally, someone that might give me some answers. Darem thought, as he proceeded to walk towards them, leaving Kuka behind to stand in awe of the temple.
 
"There's a lot of work to be done, I'm sure. Still, it was very kind of you and the other monks to open the temple up to refugees. So many villages have ended up in the middle of war zones as of late." Iseul's smile faltered as she thought of some of the places she had passed through; they had been horrible to see. Before the young woman could fall into further melancholy, she noticed that someone was walking towards them. The man looked friendly enough, so she gave him a smile, but that was all she spared. As someone from the Earth Kingdom, she felt it was out of place to initiated conversation. What right did she have, after all, given her own heritage?
 
~Northern Air Temple~


Soon followed the other woman's gaze, and seeing the two men approach she pushed off from the wall and turned to face them. Back to the grind again.


"What can I help you gentlemen with?"
 
Darem, opening his mouth to speak, was quickly cut off by Kuka who came up from behind. Being the natural womanizer that he was, the first words that came out of his mouth sounded quite suave. "Ladies, we gentlemen are in need of food and lodging for the night. Do you know where one could find such accommodations?" Darem rolled his eyes. However, he did not say anything. Instead, he waited for their reply.
 
~Northern Air Temple~


Soon blinked her eyes, having not noticed that the other man, the one who had been cut off, was one of her own people. Was she really that weary? But nonetheless, she took up the persona of the gracious hostess and smiled as she answered. "Well, people are coming around with food as it's being prepared, so you'll have to wait for the next batch. As for staying the night, you're welcome to take up any space you can find here for now. Once we can better organise the flood of people and goods, we may shift you to another hall. The only thing is I'm afraid you'll have to stay here longer than a night. The gondola's not going down again until we know it's safe to do so." She paused, not sure whether or not she should say something, but she supposed these people had a right to know. "There's an Earth Kingdom army on its way here, so the temple's effectively closing its doors until help arrives."
 
Kuka's eyes widened as he replaced his footing underneath him. Although the free food and lodging sounded great, the fact that he couldn't leave might be a problem. I opened his mouth, stuttered slightly, but ultimately said nothing. Darem, who was expecting this, decided to help Kuka out by cutting in. "Are you from around here, monk?" Darem, still wanting to finish his training in Air bending, thought it be good if he started with the person before him. Kuka on the other hand, after he recovered, decided it be best if he averted his attention to the other woman.
 
"Are you from the North or the South?" Iseul spoke to the man in water tribe garb, her curiosity having been piqued by the array of blue. It was an odd thing to catch her attention, but it made the man stick out quite plainly among the sea of browns and yellows that made up the majority of refugee attire. "I would guess the South, only because the water tribesmen from the North have all left for the Northern Tribe already. Quite unfortunate, really, because that left no room on the last boat there, which I had been hoping to catch."
 
~Northern Air Temple~


"Soon," she corrected sharply, not enjoying being referred to by her lifestyle. "And yes, I was raised at this temple for most of my life. But I'd say you weren't, since I don't recognise you. It's always good to meet one of our people. So where are you from? And what exactly brought you here?"
 
Haruki sat in a corner of the temple with only two things on his mind. One, what kind of food would they serve here? And two, was it a mistake coming here with the earth army on it's way? Was the Avatar even here? Haru had only come here on a hunch. Either way he was excited to try Air Nomad cuisine, even if it was basic refugee eats. "That's what I am now." Haru though. "A refugee."


A kind lady care around and offered Haru a bowl of fried veggies. Haru gratefully accepted, giving a small bow. It wasn't anything special but was still tasty. Haru quickly ate it and returned his bowl to a cart with dirty bowls. He then went and sat in the corner again and pondered on his current situation.


When Haruki had asked audience of the leading Nomad monk he had been informed that he was too busy. "I guess I'm not important enough to be noticed." Haru thought, "if only I could state my true intrusions".


He couldn't just go up to random monks and ask if they knew who the avatar was. Who would know, and if they knew who would tell him? What else could he do though? "What do I have to lose?" he though.


Haru surveyed the temple and found a group of monks and water benders standing together. He approached and, when he had the chance, said to the monks, "In these hard times it would be nice to know where the avatar was. Is there anything I can do to help? I have honed my fire bending skills. Maybe I could help with the defense?"
 
~Northern Air Temple~


Soon blinked several times, a tad flaberghasted at that so many people were all engaging in conversation. But I'm tired! she wanted to yell. "Sadly we haven't been able to locate him or her yet, somehow." She had always thought that odd. The Air Nomads has the smallest population, and they were concentrated in only four locations for the most part. Of all the nations, Air Nomad Avatars were always the easiest to find because they had fewer possibilities. That they had failed to find the Avatar was somewhat disturbing. "If you're a firebender we'll make use of you, though. We don't think the earthbenders will actually assault the temple directly, but if they do you'll come in handy. Remind me to show you where we'd want you later."
 
Darem flinched slightly at the mention of the "Avatar." He tried to keep eye contact away from the fire bender that had approached them, instead focusing on the conversation that he was having with the monk before him. "Southern. I come from the Southern Air Temple. I came here seeking to be looked upon by a master air-bender, and in turn, be given the title of master. I wish to finally gain the arrow markings of my ancestors. Do you know anyone that could assist me with that?" Darem stated as calmly as he could. It was not the lie of where he was from that put him off, but rather, the proximity to the fire bender that wished to know where the avatar was. He prayed that the fire bender would leave soon.


Kuka, on the other hand, was not nervous at all. Taking the girl's question in stride, he replied; "You're right, of course. I've come from the Southern Water tribe with my companion here, Kaito." Kuka said with a smile. It wasn't the best cover name, but it had an interesting -- and believable -- story to go along with it. "You see, his father was a water bender and his mother was an air bender. She, knowing that her colleagues would from upon a half-water tribe child, sent it away with her husband, who in turn, went back to the Southern Water tribe. We grew up together, and now, being the air bender that he is, wishes to master his air bending."
 
"Well I pray that the fighting may be avoided. It worries me that bending is used for such violent endeavor as war. Although, I am not vain enough to believe it is not an effective weapon." Haru comented to the younger monk, "It seems that we are taking your time. You must have much to do, little time to do it, and no sleep to speak of. I, and I am sure many other refugees, am willing to help if you find time to organize something."


Haru gave a slight bow and turned to the older monk. "It is quite hard to get audience with the masters at the moment. I tried when I first got here. They seem to be quite busy organizing all the refugees flooding in. Good luck in your search and may Avatar help us all." Haru gave another bow and walked back over to his corner.


Haru had gotten little out of that meeting. The older monk was not a member of this temple and the younger one was obviously overwhelmed by so much work. "I will have to make my self know if I am to gather any information" Haruki thought. "If only I could do more to help."


Haru saw that his corner had been settled by a family. Three scared looking children clung to their mothers leg. Haru smiled at them and begun juggling three fire balls to entertain them, and hopefully take their mind away from the worries. "This is the least I can do." Haru thought.
 
~Northern Air Temple~


"Well, technically I'm a master airbender. I just haven't gone through all the rigmarole with the tattoos and whatnot, and I lack the experience to sit on the council with the elders. I figured on holding off getting my arrows since they're so visible and right now it's better for me if I can move about in the Earth Kingdom undetected. I might be able to assist you myself if I can get some relief from my current duties."
 
~Towards Northern Air Temple~


A small band of waterbenders trudged towards the air temple. The journey had taken a very long time and they had been forced to abandon any vehicles to finish the quest on foot. Now the troupe walked silently along, hoping to reach the Air Temple in time to provide reinforcements against the Earth Kingdom's oncoming attacks. Amidst the Army stood a hooded person with a frame much smaller than the rest. This waterbender remained completely anonymous, not letting anyone see their face, and not speaking a word to their comrades. At least not until they reached the Temple.


In the distance, they saw the mountain. Some of the waterbenders remained stationed at the bottom of the mountain, while others rode up to the top, including the small hooded figure. Once at the top, they all went their separate ways to lend a hand to the healers, to the refugees, and to the ones who were going to fight against the Earthbenders once they arrived. The hooded figure stalked off alone, headed in the general direction of the healers. Now that they were all here, there was no turning back. The hooded figure couldn't be forced to head back to the Northern Water Tribe, since no one was able to leave the temples now. Removing her hood, Princess Kaumei looked around the temple. She'd made it here without being detected, and now was ready to fight and heal. Her father would be furious upon her return, but that was a small price to pay.
 
The children smiled and looked less scared at Haruki's silly tricks. It made him feel good to comfort them. Comfort isn't enough to save anyone though. Pain, misery, and torture was marching towards them. Tears and blood, screams and battle cries, sorrow and death. War was upon them. Haru had read about the past wars before embarking on his journey. One of his great teachers, Ran, had once told him, "The beauty of life burns within the soul. This flame gives rise to the ambitions that make us who we are. It is from here that all things beautiful are conceived, and destroyed. As a firebender you must learn to ignite this flame and control it. As a resident of earth you must learn when it is necessary to use this ambition to create and destroy."


"The dragons are wise." Haruki thought. "I guess it is now my time to use my power to help protect part of life." It didn't look like any of the air benders had time to post, erm, organize people into groups to defend the temple. Haruki decided to push the plot forward himself.


The room everyone had been put in was a large one. The door was strong and, as usual, could only be opened by air bending. It was open at the moment but would undoubtably be closed if the Earth Army made it up the mountain. Haru was about to walk out side to learn more about the surroundings when a group of water benders came in. They seemed different then the rest of the refugees. There was not the usual frightened look in their eyes. They looked more like warriors and healers then refugees. Haru approached one wearing a cloak off by herself.


"It is good to see more defense in such frig..." Haru was interrupted by a large BOOM. The temple rumbled under their feet. "The Earth Army has arrived" Haru said.
 
~Northern Air Temple~


The temple rumbled beneath Iseul before she could respond to the water tribesman, and the ensuing flurry of activity prevented any further conversation. A sinking feeling filled her as she gathered up her sketches, and though two of the papers fell from her hands and slid off into the crowd of people moving to safer areas, the nagging sense of apprehension that filled her kept her from noticing. She felt like a traitor to everyone in the temple, knowing that she would be unharmed and spared should she tell the Earth Army who she was. Iseul wanted to give the others in the temple her name, give them the pardon and safety she had. She had no want for her name, no need of it, so why couldn't it be given away?


Embittered, Iseul finished packing and pulled her tantō from where they were tucked in between her hanfu and waistskirt, gripping them tightly enough to turn her knuckles white.
 
~Northern Air Temple~


Soon swore under her breath and quickly started directing her people to their duties. A number of airbenders dashed out of the room, staves in hand, and lined up at the door to the room. An elder appeared from a small set of stairs off to the side and raised his hand, drawing the attention of the room before too many people could panic. He used his bending to amplify his voice, a special but seldom used ability of master airbenders.


"Attention, everyone! The army of the Earth King has arrived! Do not be frightened! We are safe within the temple! Should the army ascend the slopes of our mountain, we have many benders present to protect us!"


Soon's voice rose up, a large shout that spat in the face of her small size, probably performing the same soundbending technique. "Anyone able to bend or fight in any way, come with me to the causeway! We need to defend the slopes! I'm shutting the doors behind us, so if you want to fight, you'd better find your courage now!" She went with the other airbenders and waited just outside the door, prepared to shut it once the last of the room's combat-ready occupants had left.
 

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