Avatar: The First Fires

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Can I transfer you to my manager?
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Adventure stories! They can be fantasy, modern, sci-fi, all kinds! Give me some good world travel stories and I'm all over it! I also enjoy romance stories and even though I tend to play females I love playing gay men.
Book Two

Suzumi had thought she'd seen it all when the Fire Nation had taken her home back at the north pole but the destruction she witnessed around Xiu Ying Tze made her home's defeat seem minuscule. The days after Asuka and her troops were beaten back Suzumi helped where she could in the rebuilding but the information that the girl had given the King, Yuan Ping, nagged at the back of her mind.

"The news of this station the Fire Nation keeps records in is very important for our cause." Yuan Ping had said at a meeting. "I will assemble a group to head to this place and I want any useful information to be brought back. I will send a caravan to hunt it down, but those of you that decide to go please be warned that the desert is very dangerous so should you decide to travel out be on guard." Those were the words he had said to the people that gathered, a good chunk of them had been refugees but Suzumi knew that most of them would want to stay put, after all Yuan Ping had proven to them that he was a force to be reckoned with. Suzumi had decided that the possibility of finding her family would be far more important then just hoping they would show up miraculously alive in the city one day.

Suzumi looked up at the palace from the bottom of the large stone steps where the caravan was arranged to meet, a couple of large sleds readied to be pulled by whatever creatures the king could arrange to take them. Suzumi paused, her hands clasping together in front of her chest.

Mom, Kikka, I'm coming to find you...

She had woken up before the crack of dawn to care for Jin. She made sure his body was fit and that he was well. She had him take deep breaths, checked his lung capacity and heartbeats, even his reflexes and his mouth. An Eel Hound was only as strong and fast as the body that served him and Jin was one of--if not THE--best Eel Hound ever born.

Kurai grinned with pride as she started to brush him down. He could be so very stubborn but she loved him. He was less like a pet and more like a partner. Then she remembered her other partner, her husband, Minoru and the grin faded. How was she going to act? What was she going to say? Could she just put everything aside? Could he ...? How willing would he be to help Suzumi? All these questions and more filled her mind.
The sound of the wind and waves here deafening. It felt like his finger were frozen to the metal rail as he clung on against the wind and waves. "HEMSMAN." he called out over the thunder and gale. Three crewmen fought against the helm keeping the Crimson dawn, a state of the art Sol class destroyer on coarse for the open sea. "HELMSMAN!!! ROCKS OF THE PORT BOW." he screamed his voice lost as a gust buffeted the bridge. Letting go of the rail with one hand he reached for the brass bell that hung by his station and rung it three times to get their attention before pointing towards the danger. They struggled to turn the wheel but no matter how hard they struggled the rocks came closer though the driving rain and Minoru cursed under his breath grabbing the speaking tube and bellowing down it to reach the openings all across the vessel. "BRACE FOR IMPACT." he yelled before grabbing a hold of the rail and closing his eyes.

The sound of tearing and twisting metal could be heard from the bridge and the force of the impact knocked all three of the men on the wheel flying only saved by their safety harnesses. Water gushed into the tear as they ship, help free to spin ground itself along the rocks opening more seams and tearing plates before being pushed into open water where it quickly began lisping. Minoru opened his eyes and grabbed a rope hanging next to the captain's chair and pulled the signal to abandon ship. He never got to yell the order as icy sea water reached the boiler and the aft of the ship disappeared in a catastrophic explosion a third of the crew dead in an instant and the bridge tower buckling like a twig. Minoru was throws from his chair his safety harness snapping and he was thrown hard against the window before tumbling through it, his body spinning in the air as the sea rose to claim him..... "I'm sorry Kurai....."

It still haunted his dreams, the night he was so sure would be his last. The lookout had claimed to see a man on the cliff face during a lighting flash... moving his arms as if bending, but no man could bend a storm......

"Three copper peices." the man's voice cut through Minoru's thought.

"I'm not paying more than two for a cabbage, look its burned on one side." Minoru pointed out.

"Only the outer leaf, and no doubt you heard about the firebender that ruined the entire market including my cart... speaking of which you look familiar..."

Minoru threw down the three coins and took the cabbage. The last thing he neede was to be recognised. When he turned he saw Kurai with Jin, a scene he had witness countless times under better circumstances, but now only made him want to look away then his eyes feel on the cabbage, part of their supplies for the trip ahead. The trip they would be making together, some way, somehow. "Are you ready? Do you need anything?" he asked but stepping no closer than he needed to, no closer than to pet Jin's snout.

Home beckoned, and this station presented the only way there, it didn't matter to him why the others were going, he only wanted a ride home, for both of them.
News of a traveling group of warriors and benders reached Zhen Xiu via messenger hawk. Her services were welcomed some time ago at Xiu Ying Tze, so they must have had an urgent task for her. The brave, wandering Earthbender headed in that direction as quickly as her Ostrich Horse could go. They managed to reach their location the very day the caravan intended to depart.

Many wouldn't guess Zhen Xiu to be the fighting sort, but that often worked to her advantage. Keeping herself well groomed helped her feel healthy! Just because she had a fragile, feminine image didn't mean she was useless. Only ocassionally did she even have to sleep in the wilderness. If she was in a town, she never turned down staying somewhere as a guest.

Ying walked slowly through the city so they could survey the damage done. Zhen's heart began to ache; she wished she could have been here to help them. It wasn't too late, though. By assisting this caravan, she could be most helpful. She wasn't even going to accept any payment! They were at war, after all.

A hand pet along the neck of her mount, her lips making affectionate noises to him as a cutesy way of thanking him for traveling so fast. The moment they reached the meeting spot, she hopped off of Ying and let him have a rest until they'd move again.

The oriental straw hat on her head was removed and put on some luggage her Ostrich Horse was carrying. With a hand still gripping the reigns, she looked around, her brown eyes filled with emotion.
Hikari had only decided to leave the refugee camp because she was getting bored. She wanted some sort of trouble. Joining up with an expedition of sorts to find data on the Fire Nation was sure to provide its fair share of bumps and bruises. Even if it didn't, she couldn't be worse off than she was sitting doing nothing in the Earth Kingdom.

Today was the day the caravan was scheduled to leave. She had hopped up that morning and been ready to leave in next to no time. The "family" she had been staying with - a kindly, somewhat older woman and two kids in their late teens - were probably glad to see her go, even though on the surface they were concerned. She had caused some trouble, what with her constant supply of injuries to keep them on their toes. She had raced out the door with a wave, the remainder of a slice of bread hanging haphazardly from her mouth as she finished eating.

As she raced along to the meeting place, not particularly watching where she was going, she bumped rather loudly into a taller boy. She stumbled back, apologising before vaguely wondering why he was coming up the same way as her. All that was left this way was the palace and the meeting point. She cast a glance across him, trying to gauge what to say to him; the word "pretty" came instantly to mind.

"Sorry about that. What're you doing out here? There's nothing to do round this part of town." She stopped momentarily, one hand sliding onto the hilt of the ornamental sword. Normally she would worry at it with her thumb, but an angry red burn ran up from the joint, ending in a red circle round her wrist. One of the spoils of her most recent tiff with the fire nation.
Shao walked forward slowly, eyes downcast towards his feet. The dust collected around his boots and ankles as he shuffled slowly along, not in real hurry to go. The caravan isn't where Shao would go, him loving his home far too much to willingly leave it for such an extended time. However, with the time of war now descended upon Xiu Ying Tze and the Earth kingdom, they were doing a draft, looking to pump up their forces as much as possible in order to prepare for the Fire Nation. Shao, being an earth bender, immediately qualified him to be enlisted into the military. Given the ultimatum of joining the army and leaving with the caravan, he went with the caravan. While this one was likely to be more dangerous, Shao couldn't stand the military types like his father, and hoped that the company here would be more accepting of his peaceful nature.

A jolt from behind him knocked him out of his contemplative trance as a young woman, heavily scarred, bumped into him from behind. Turning around, he looked down at the battle worn woman, numerous markings of combat around her body catching his attention. "I'm going to a caravan that's going to a Fire Nation station to look for information on captives. I probably shouldn't be going, but the situation demands I must. And what about you?" Shao asked, his eyes wondering before meeting back to hers, a bit of an intimidated look as she was obviously a warrior type, very much the opposite of Shao.

She heard him approach but continued brushing Jin down. She watched him using quick glances and out of the corner of her eyes. He didn't come too close but it was difficult to say whether she was disappointed or relieved. He was petting Jin's snout. She could live with that. She didn't quite trust herself to stare at him completely. "Jin is in fine shape." He was well-rested, well-fed, and it appeared he was ready to leave as soon as they could. He shifted from leg to leg as if about to bolt.

Kurai kept glancing at her husband. There were many questions she wanted to ask, lots of things she wanted to say. "Minoru, I--I uh ..." He was looking at her and damnit! She couldn't take all his attention, either! Or his eyes! Stupid, gorgeous eyes! She quickly looked away and checked Jin's saddle. "I wanted to wish you a safe journey."
Kiyo wasn't necessarily interested in engaging the Fire Nation as he had no personal qualms with them only because he couldn't remember anything about his past but right now that didn't matter. Even though they had practically destroyed a he was in, they weren't trying to attack him specifically. He stood on the outskirts of the group of whom Yuan Ping had been addressing of refugees and others within the city and listened to see if there would be any information he would be interested in. Yuan Ping had mentioned a record station which could possibly hold information about his past depending on if the Fire Nation stored the records of the cities and towns they invaded. Kiyo hoped this to be the case.

Kiyo had been lost in his own thoughts and hadn't noticed Risa talking to him to the last minute, in which he was then hit by her as she spoke slightly irritated "Haven't you been listening to a word I've been saying?" and to which his response was "Do you really want me to answer that?" Risas reaction was a coy smile as these situations have happened many times before and she took a swing at Kiyo again landing a solid punch on him again.
Kiyo smiled slightly as even though he generally didn't like other people he enjoyed the rough physical contact that Risa gave him as it was playful yet appealed to his psyche of battle.

"So are we going to join the caravan or what?" Risa asked playfully as she danced in front of him and did an upside down turn in his face as the question was put forward. "Only because you won't stop being annoying" Kiyo retorted another smile forming at his lips. "Well when you put it that way I don't even want to go!" "Fine then I'll leave you here" and with that Kiyo made his way to the Caravan meeting destination. "No, wait!" Risa playfully screamed as she ran after him.

With any other person Kiyo would almost seem emotionless but because he had known Risa for so long he was comfortable around her and allowed himself to relax a bit. This is normally uncharacteristic of him but for Risa a slight smile and playful banter was as much emotion that he had ever shown since he awoke with no memory.
"I wanted to wish you a fast one, the trick is getting there first." he looked down at Jin who as well as tapping up the attention from them both was looking at them as if gauging the tension between them. "I..." he bit his tongue, he couldn't bring himself to ask her what he needed to when he didn't feel he really knew her. Smoke began rising from the cabbage again and he looked down dropping it as his hand scorched the leaves. He had a plan, that much re revealed, but what he hadn't was she was a part of it. His eye averted as he turned to go but stopped himself.

He turned back his hand going to where Kurai's necklace was hidden "Thank you." he said "For Asuka." he turned away again and began walking away.
Kurai was too speechless to do much else but stare. Had he--had he just thanked her?! He. Thanked. Her. "Ooofff!" She staggered a few steps when Jin headbutted her. She recovered, then glanced over her shoulder and glared. She mouthed the word 'What?' to him. He nudged her again. She tried to resist but when an Eel Hound has his mind set on something ...

"Minoru!" She caught up to him and started walking at his pace. She heard Jin behind them. She clasped her hands behind her back. "You still owe me a whip. I can't leave you until you buy me a replacement." She tilted her head slightly at him. A whip. It was a safe subject to talk to him about. Nothing as emotional as love or their past or their unlikely future together.
Minoru didn't change his pace or even look at her but a small part of him was glad to have her walking beside him. "I believe I do owe you one, even if you were the one who attacked me with it." he looked at her tempted to threaten to delay buy her one so get to her, or to keep her from leaving. "But it has been a busy morning and the sun is fierce so before walking the length of the market looking for a new whip I was going to get a pot of tea and turtleduck soup. If you're too busy I understand." With her next to him and Jin behind them if almost felt like its had back home, absent only the servants to carry their bulkier purchases. The crushing reminder it wasn't were a little things, earth kingdom accents= and the rubble from the recent attack. Kurai still could hold his eye just as well, even if he were less willing to let it linger.
"Huh, I'm doing the same. Well. I suppose I'm mainly going because I'm bored hanging out here, but still." She smiled as he met her eyes, amused at his expression. "You know... I don't bite. Might look it, but I promise you'll be fine. I only fight Fire Nation." She took a few steps in front of him, turning to face him as she walked backwards. She studied him closely, wondering how to put him at ease. While she knew she looked a bit rough, she didn't want it to affect any of the relationships she might end up building in the caravan.

About a minute passed and she settled on an introduction paired with the offer of a wrong-handed handshake. "My name's Hikari. I'll go ahead and assume we're gonna be around each other rather a lot after this." She paused momentarily to glower at her right hand and the damned burn, then turned her gaze back up, smiled somewhat apologetically, and stuck out the wrong hand for a handshake. "We should probably get a move on though. They might go without us if we don't hurry."
Shao turned a slight red as she obviously noticed how intimidated he was, quickly looking away. "I-I'm not intimidated, just..... I've never seen anyone with such battle scars" Shao stammered to respond, his sheltered life in the city having kept him from seeing many things of this world. As they walked along, she studied him as she walked backwards in front of him, obviously either trying to figure out what kind of person he was or trying to procure something to say or do.

With her mind apparently coming to a conclusion, she stuck out a hand for a handshake, introducing herself to him as Hikari. Shao smiled as he instinctively went forward with his right hand, only to realize that it was her left that was offered to him. Glancing at her right hand, the bright pink flesh of a burn was all he needed to see to know why she would do such a thing. Smiling, he accommodated for this and also stretched out his left hand, shaking hers and introducing himself as well, "My name is Shao, and I wouldn't worry about being late, we still have time left before they're set to leave, and we're pretty close as it is." As their hands fell away from one another, they continued walking towards the caravan meeting place, it arose on their horizon, a fairly large size of people already there waiting for the rest of the passengers to arrive so they could set off.

As they made their way closer to the massive stone steps that led up to the palace front door, Shao noticed that Hikari's clothes, tattered as they were, were obviously not earth kingdom made, but seemed to be from a water tribe, though which one Shao could not tell. He was not well versed in such subjects, and only guessed they were water tribe because the main color of them was blue. In addition, her silvery blond hair was similar to features he had seen on the occasional water tribe member that came to his shop as a tourist. "So, what tribe do you come from? I assume you're from a water tribe, correct?"
Zhang didn't like the life of a soldier, however good he was at the job. He didn't mind the constant danger, but waiting for the next enemy attack made him very anxious. It did make the road to the palace quite fast, thinking about everything the Fire Nation could do if they really wanted to take over the city, he had seen it, when they wanted something they got it, no matter the cost.

He reached the caravan, seeing the people gathering around the different carts, he quickly approached two other guards talking by the palace steps.

"Jing, how's it going?"

The man looked up at Zhang and greeted him, so did the other guard. "Some guys need a hand setting up the mounts, you know, the horses and all that, you mind?"

Zhang shrugged and went to work, after all he hadn't even placed his gear down. Reaching one of the sleds he saw a woman picking up her luggage from an ostrich horse, so he approached the woman, dropping his few bags on the ground.

"Let me help you with those bags, ma'am," he offered, then he saw the fishing equipment on her bags, "You're going to try and fish in the desert, ma'am?" he asked, while putting the bags on the sled, then placing his own besides hers.
Everyone had gathered so quickly around Suzumi, it had seemed like a lot of people had answered the call of Yuan Ping, in fact Suzumi was almost startled at the crowd. Yuan Ping certainly had his mission cut out for him. Suzumi took to wandering about, noting a couple of somewhat familiar faces and many new ones. She hadn't known how large this city had been not how many people had been in it. Her gaze was drawn to a guard and a woman who looked quite well off. The woman didn't seem the type to wish to accompany this caravan on such a dangerous journey, but like Suzumi herself, she probably had an important reason to do so.

Her gaze shifted to the palace steps where Yuan Ping was overseeing the group gather. He looked like he was in an oddly good mood, but from what she had seen before it might not be the case. Suzumi shook her head and began searching for Kurai, at least she would be a friendly person that she could talk to but as she began to step away Yuan Ping's guard hit a gong nearby.

"My dear people," He started, "I am overjoyed to see so many people taking on this mission. As soon as the sun hits the corner of this palace I shall open the gate and you shall all be on your way. I am afraid I cannot send my guards with you to aid on this journey but the hopes of my people go along with you. Be prepared for the desert and make sure you have the proper supplies." Yuan Ping finished his speech and turned, heading back up the stairs to his palace.
Hikari had giggled at Shao's first words to her. Her burns and bruises were hardly scars yet - they'd been there a while but were healing. It was somewhat flattering to have them addressed as such though. She dreaded the day something hurt enough to leave a permanant mark, but in a way wished it would happen. The handshake dropped rather quickly. She was glad, because in spite of the fact he'd adapted for her it did make her slightly self-conscious. It was clear there was something wrong when you shook with your left.

She was slower going backwards than forwards, keeping pace with Shao and glancing over her shoulder occasionally to make sure she kept her footing. He spoke again, asking her about her tribe. She turned back to him and nodded slowly. "I was born in the Southern water tribe, but by this point I'm not sure I actually consider myself as part of it. My parents travelled the world with me so much I can't say I know much about the culture, and I don't think I have any other family there." She shrugged. Other than her waterbending, she didn't know much of her own tribe. She hadn't concerned herself too much with it in the years she'd moved around and now was beyond caring.

The had hit the bottom of the steps. Hikari fell quiet as Yuan Ping spoke up, knowing that to talk through someone was disrespectful at the best of times, and watched him sideways as he spoke. When he finished and returned to his palace, she turned back to Shao. "I figure from the way you're dressed and some of the things you've said, you're Earth Kingdom, aren't you?"
The pot of tea and the turtleduck soup had been a good start. It probably wouldn't be long before she got hungry again ... Being pregnant was going to be difficult. She gave Minoru a sideways glance. He hadn't mentioned it ... She was beginning to think it might have all been a dream. She looked around. There were a lot of people here. How were they supposed to get anything done with such a large group? It would only attract attention.

Suzumi. Suzumi. Where was that girl? She glanced at Minoru and Jin. "Do you see Suzumi? I want to find her before the caravan starts."
Minoru hung back out of the press of the gathered caravan. It looked more like ragtag refugee train than an assault/infiltration team. The king was a fool for not sending a squad of elite earthbenders. He underestimated the Fire Nation because he was yet to see the full might she could bring to bare against his shores. These raids were only to soften the defenses before the main invasion began in force and it would not be raw recruits defending the outpost.

He couldn't help but feel sad for the assembled force, doomed to death or failure, but not him. He had made his decision in not telling Kurai, she had attachments here and he'd have to make other arrangements for her survival. "Keep her safe." he whispered to Jin his hand on his flank before he moved away in the crowd his cloak held tightly around his armor. He felt like the betrayer, mike the thief in the night skulking away from her, but he knew it was for both their good.
Shao nodded as Hikari spoke, nodding and listening quietly as she opened up about where she came, giving a bit of information as to who she was. While he didn't learn anything about why she fought so much, he figured that when the time came, if it did, then he'd find out. Shao was one to respect privacy and didn't care enough to prod her for more information. Whatever information she disclosed on her own was fine with him, he knew he wouldn't like it if someone was pressing him for personal information.

As they arrived at the starting point for the caravan, Yuan Ping began to give a speech. Shao fell silent and bowed his head in respect, something that was commonly done within the Earth Kingdom. As he listened, he already began to feel homesick, realizing that this will be the first time he was away from his home for any serious length of time. He looked around at the earthen buildings around him, enjoying the feeling of the rock all around him, not sure when he'll be back to feel it again. The ground and earth benders had a special connection with one another, it was like a whole other sense that only they had, and with all the buildings rising around him, the feeling of it intensified.

Checking the sunlight, Shao figured it wouldn't be very long before they would head out. The suns rays were crawling slowly towards the stone, and then they would be on their way. Turning his attention to Hikari, he began to answer her question, "Yeah, I've lived here my whole life. Though I'm not like most people from the Earth Kingdom." Shao grew quiet after saying that, thinking to himself the numerous ways that was true. But he quickly pushed that away. Today was not the day for reminiscing on his past, but instead looking forward to a new future, and Shao set his mind on that.
Lian watched, slightly apart from the crowd, as Yuan Ping gave his speech. She almost couldn't believe her luck. After months of working undercover at that dreadful desert outpost, trying to find out who had been leaking sensitive information about Fire Nation records. Her investigation hadn't revealed who was responsible for the leak, but it had suggested the information was finding its way to Xiu Ying Tze. Hoping for a breakthrough, but mainly just desperate to get away from those stuffy old record keepers, Lian had followed the lead to the city.

And what did she find but what seemed to be a ragtag mission to raid that very same record station being formed right here. She glared at the king as he delivered his speech to the volunteers. She hadn't believed the whispers she had been hearing since she arrived in the city, but the proof was right here. Well, if these fools thought they could get past the Fire Nation's defenses without a fight, she would have to show them just how wrong they were.

She waited for the king to finish so she could blend in with the assembled would-be-heroes. They were a motley bunch to be sure, but they all seemed to believe they had a chance at success. Lian almost scoffed at the thought. Who were they to go against the Fire Nation? She couldn't imagine any reason for going along with this king's crackpot scheme. She had heard there were multiple kings in the Earth Kingdom. Why would his authority outweigh any of the others? They should all just submit to the rule of the Fire Lord. That way things would be much simpler and they could sort out their pathetic kingdom.

No matter, she thought to herself. She would do her best to disrupt their plans until she could notify the Fire Nation authorities. Then it would all be over for their pitiful resistance