The Price of Patience Six months had past since word of the death of Avatar Kiareu had slipped into the world. It started as a whisper. A murmur among the politicians and a valuable piece of information confirmed to those deemed necessary and only to the most trusted imperial sources. Unfortunately, trust is an easy thing to misplace. It was no secret that the Ozai was searching for the next Avatar reincarnate, although the Phoenix Kingdom tried their hardest to keep prevent it from becoming common knowledge. The Police Force strictly enforced new laws as to the oversight of newborns of any Earthbending descent to such a degree that even the smallest of towns had free, established clinics and trained medics to oversee childbirth. While ambassadors to various regions claimed it an act of the Phoenix Kingdom to give back to its people, it was truly nothing more than a petty rouse to keep the search for the next Avatar calm and quiet. Within the Rising, the news had stirred mixed emotions and caused conflicts among the leaders of the rebel alliance. Most prominently among Ukoda and Uquolaan. Ukoda wanted to take this opportunity to strike at the Phoenix Kingdom and make the ferocity of their resistance known. Jet shared this opinion with Ukoda. The two had a firm hold on the North and Northwestern Earth Kingdom and reclaiming the Northern Water Tribe would be almost effortless with the Phoenix Kingdom spread as thin as it was in its search of the next Avatar. Springing the largest rebellion in Phoenix Kingdom history at this time would also shower those that felt hopeless with morale. And, while the Fire Nation was still a threat, Ukoda claimed his naval forces could keep them from assisting the Phoenix Kingdom while the rest of the Rising could mount an assault. Still, while such a plan had merit, many believed it premature. Uquolaan being one of them. How many would die? How many had died? And, to what? Protect the secrecy that Ukoda wished to toss away? What information would they lose? How many spies and secret networks would be ruined by breaking out war this early? Uquolaan was not the only one to share this opinion. Zhing-Toah and the majority of the council of Air Nomads of the Patola Mountains wanted to delay war for as long as possible, and even then never wanted to join in. Ukoda saw them as soldiers when they wanted to be nothing more than hidden refugees. Without the full support of other branches of the Rising, Uquolaan spoke for the alternatives. What if they found the next Avatar? What if they stalled out their silent war of attrition even longer? What possible fruits would be reaped if the situation was afforded more time? What could be the costs? There were countless factors to be considered, and the leadership of this rebellion couldn't agree to even consider some of them. This increased the amount of communication needed, and more communication opened up more opportunities for failure. Remaining silent to a shared enemy proved difficult when more words were spoken between allies. Factions began to develop within the Rising; factions that before were trivial. While some agents Uquolaan trained himself or trusted closely fled to New Taku, believing action was necessary, just as many 'soldiers' and 'veterans' made their way to the Underground City, believing that Ukoda would get himself and his men killed by springing an assault on the Northern Water Tribe colonies to secure control over the entire domain. Tensions were mounting in the Rising, and what they would amount to still remained a mystery at this moment. But, what of the Rising as we knew it? Three groups scattered across the Earth Kingdom, all with different leadership, different intentions and completely different individuals. Fate just so had it that these groups didn't remain together for long, but such was the curse of living in interesting times. While some of these agents of Uquolaan fled to Ukoda, preparing for war, some of them remained loyal. Some of them believed that an all-out war, at least at this point, was a poor decision. Everyone knew war was inevitable, so the nay-sayers were often called cowards or considered untrue to the cause. Some completely defected the Rising entirely, feeling that the mounting tensions within the Rising made being a rebel all too real for them. There were a few, though, who left because of obligations they felt far greater than those of the Rising. Those exact obligations would lead us to the fate of one group. Tenten was possibly the most effective leader of the smaller groups of the Rising. She was no Uquolaan, nor did she speak with the authority of Ukoda, but she spoke to her followers on a personal level. This made her departure from the Rising a great loss, not just as an asset, but as she left behind hollowed portions inside the lives of those she had touched. Just after being given the news that Avatar Kiareu was confirmed dead, Tenten was to lead her group on a expedition through the South to tell the remaining Kyoshi warriors of the news. Along the way, however, rumors of a prisoner transport derailed their mission. To Tenten, if there was a chance, even the slightest, that Syd might be one of those prisoners or if there was even a clue to where she was beind held, then stalling her mission for Uquolaan was worth it. Tenten and her group managed to overtake an entire group of Phoenix Kingdom prisoners, but Syd was nowhere to be found. One prisoner, however, knew Syd from a previous prison, and told Tenten where she might find her. Tenten left the group, leaving Karan-Giri to fulfill her mission in her stead, while she sought out Syd. While many of her beloved group members said they would assist her, she told them that someone had deliver the news to the Kyoshi and that she wanted to find Syd herself. This, however, is not the end of the line for this group. Also among the prisoners was a drunken man by the name of Guru Gahara, or Gahara at this point. He was no Guru anymore. Gahara was a man of legend. Quite literally. At a point in time, he wished to spread enlightenment to those of the Phoenix Kingdom. He was a true Guru, having opened all seven of his chakras. Not only that, Guru Gahara could do one feat thought impossible for a normal man. Born a nonbender, Guru Gahara could bend all four elements, although not at once. In his prime, he had dueled the Fire Lord and even Avatar Kiareu, and beat them both. This was the capabilities of a man that had opened his chakras, that had detached himself from the tethers of the Earthly plane. Now, however, this man was no more than a drunken prisoner of the Phoenix Kingdom and a story told to children. Gahara, a violent, ill-tempered drunk, told the group that it was their responsibility to suit his needs, which in this case was that of drink. Gahara allowed his pride from his prime to tear him from his enlightenment, and had sunken into a deep depression since. The Phoenix Kingdom kept him prisoner easily: with the promise of as much sake as the man could drink. Now, his captors and thus source of drink gone, he had to find a new source, and demanded the group now led by Karan-Giri keep him inebriated until he could be returned to the Phoenix Kingdom, and he insisted on such. While it was odd, and taxing on their coin, the group managed to fulfill the demands of Guru Gahara and complete their mission by informing the remaining Kyoshi. While Gahara would never admit it, he enjoyed the company of the group, and ultimately spent several months with them before returning to the Phoenix Kingdom prison cells. There was much to learn from him as well; a man that had mastered all four elements to an even greater extent than the Avatar. Not only did he help refine the bending styles of each member of the small band, he showed them how he could access them. While he could not naturally bend chi, he had trained the chi in each of his chakras to replicate bending. Claiming to be well over a century old, he had a long lifetime to master the bending. All it took was a simple prayer, a moment to focus on a new chakra, and instantly he could bend the element associated with it. Of course, the other portion of the time, the man was considerably drunk, and the stories that ensued were both crude and comprised of utter hilarity. While one group might have been considered a comedy, another was a tragedy. Fire Lord regent Iroh had went missing just a month after the death of Avatar Kiareu, as did his son Lu Ten. This left young Zuko to lead the entire Fire Nation, a situation Azula saw as an opportunity and seized. While Azula manipulated the scenes of the Fire Nation royal palace, she also managed to get back in contact with Krane. How, exactly, she did this is yet unknown, but she seemed as good at hiding in the shadows as the Rising was. As a matter of fact, she later claimed to know of "Krane's little band", although she seemed ignorant to the true depth of the Rising. Krane managed to leave the rest of his group after getting a message from Azula, claiming she needed his help. She said, and said boldly, that the Fire Nation was in peril, and she needed the help of someone outside of the royal court to help. Claiming Zuko was sending the Fire Nation itself into peril, that he was forcing harsh punishments and altering the regime to be even more tyrannical than it had been initially, she successfully conned Krane into believing she needed his help. At the same time, a part of Krane wanted to see her again. In truth, a part of Krane had always wanted to see her again. Krane might have been just as guilty of fooling himself as the manipulative royal herself. Krane left with only Tanvi, the two at this point inseparable friends. While it was terribly unwise, they actually managed not only to infiltrate the Fire Nation, but to get into the capitol and meet Azula. An arranged meeting between the two resulted in Krane finally being reunited with her, and for a while, he was ecstatic. She promised, for his help, full amnesty for his supposed crimes and she told him that they could consider all the things that they couldn't before because of the watchful eye of her uncle Iroh and cousin Lu Ten. For a brief period in his life, everything Krane had dreamed of since fleeing the Fire Nation had came true. All she wanted was his help in proving Zuko to be unfit for the crown. Tanvi was the wildcard in this situation. A factor that Azula didn't consider, although she didn't provide a problem with the plan. Azula claimed that if Krane wanted to rejoin the Fire Nation, he would have to leave behind all ties to the band he had joined. They had discussed this earlier, but the reality didn't sink in that he would have to leave behind Tanvi. Krane had dodged the question for some time, avoiding the pressure she put on him, when finally she gave him an ultimatum: her, the princess of the Fire Nation, or Tanvi and the petty rebellion that Krane brought her into. Krane had hesitated, but was never given the chance to answer. Chances were, it didn't matter if he would have chosen Azula and rejoined the Fire Nation. While Krane looked towards Tanvi in contemplation, Azula launched lightning directly at the distracted airbender. In their duels, he could have easily redirected this. But, this was no duel. There, in an imperial courtyard meant for outside dining, Azula struck down Krane. Smirking, even, she told him that she couldn't have allies or a significant other that would even hesitate to side with her. As Krane lied dying, it was Tanvi who rushed to him. Azula only found this precious little moment entertainingly pathetic. Their relationship had been platonic, but that didn't matter. Tanvi was in tears, and Azula could do nothing but gloat. Her words filled the air, her words of how Krane had gotten rusty and how the rebellion only made him weaker. Of how he would have been stronger growing up with her, by her side, in her courts, helping her to the throne. She said Krane was a waste. Then, as she intended to finish off Tanvi, a turn of events that even Azula could not have considered changed outcome of this situation entirely. Tanvi, filled with rage, brought to her emotional peak in every sense, was met by a spirit. As it was intense fasting for Duhne to reach the Canyon Spirits, it was a true and utter brink of rage required to reach the Volcano spirits. Tied directly into the land itself, the island chain that made the Fire Nation, Tanvi was overcome and began to bend lava. Tearing apart portions of the Fire Nation royal palace in her rage, it took several guards to subdue her, and even then the Fire Sages refused to let her die. She had been touched by the spirits, the spirits they had sought out for so long, and they wished to learn from her. Thus, Tanvi was imprisoned and taken to the southern isles by the request of the Bhanti tribe, whom then worked through the Fire Sages. While Tanvi was now a prisoner, Azula succeeded in making a point. Under the rule of Zuko, assassins from a rebel group managed to infiltrate the Fire Nation and she was only saved because of the might of the royal guard. While some of this was true, the fact that Azula helped them into the Fire Nation and even the capitol to begin with wasn't. Zuko was removed from his place as Fire Lord soon after by Ozai, and in his stead was placed Admiral Zhao as Fire Lord regent in the place of the missing Iroh, and Azula was crowned the new successor as Fire Lord. In a series of just a few months, the once gentle leadership of Iroh was replaced with that of the power-hungry Zhao and while Iroh had been sculpting Zuko to rule with the vision and mercy of their forefathers, Azula took his place as a manipulative, cunning successor to the crown. This is what led the fate of the final group. While Duhne had trained Suna effectively over the former few months, a mission from Uquolaan to return Tanvi and learn of the events in the Fire Nation soon superseded all others. The mission was meant to be covert, one of the most dangerous possible as it involved infiltrating the Fire Nation without any aid and in addition to that locate the enigmatic Bhanti tribe. Their group had dwindled. While one defected to Ukoda, the other chose to stay in the Patola Mountains. And, it was from the Patola Mountains that the group found their way to the secretive islands that were home to the Bhanti tribe. It was immediate. Regardless of the capabilities of Duhne and Suna, using an army of Earth golems and an ocean of sand, the firebenders of the Bhanti tribe were elites all of their own. As skilled as the Sun Warriors and even more spiritually attuned than the Fire Sages, the Bhanti tribe warriors easily subdued Duhne and Suna. But, the Bhanti tribe was independent in that they did not report this to the authorities. No, instead, they kept Duhne and Suna there and ultimately shared information regarding their spiritual ventures. The Bhanti tribe was aware of what happened to Tanvi, and even explained it to Duhne and Suna after they had become more integrated with the culture. They knew of the spirit, they could recite anecdotes of when it had happened in the past, and explained that in an era when there was no Avatar or a weak one, spirits could attach themselves to people, and that is exactly what happened. What happened to Duhne, however, was different. Duhne gained his powers while Avatar Kiareu was still alive, and the Bhanti had never heard of his story. They knew nothing of the canyon spirits. Duhne ultimately proposed a deal; if Suna and Tanvi swore silence of the Bhanti, then Duhne would stay with the Bhanti and teach them all he knew of his people willingly. In return, Suna and Tanvi could return to the Rising. The Bhanti tribe themselves cared little for the war, and they trusted and oath of secrecy from those touched by the spirits, including Suna. They believed fervently that no spirit would have ill-placed trust. Thus, Suna and Tanvi were allowed to return to the Patola mountains, and Duhne had to say goodbye to his former student Suna. It had only been a few months, but the two had bonded significantly and even spiritually. Duhne promised that someday, he would return, but he wanted to teach all he knew and learn all he could while he was permitted time with the Bhanti tribe. It was almost fate that Suna, Tanvi, Karan-Giri and Makki had all arrived at the Underground City at the same time. On the same day. Within the same hour. Each of them having had a spiritual experience; Suna with Duhne and then the Bhanti, Tanvi with the volcano spirit and the Bhanti, and Karan-Giri and Makki having both learned of chi and chakras from Guru Gahara. Uquolaan, too, could sense the spiritual energies that resided with the group, but to his surprise, the four of them insisted on keeping what they had learned a secret. While Tanvi did tell Uquolaan of the fate of Krane, neither Suna or Tanvi said what happened to Duhne; and, while Karan-Giri and Makki told Uquolaan of the departure of Tenten, neither of them shared the true legend of Guru Gahara. The group seemed bound, if anything by coincidence alone, because Uquolaan needed someone to speak to Jet. He hoped for Duhne, but Suna knew the man well enough that he hoped he would suffice. He then determined to keep the rest of the group together. Plus one more. A few days had passed and the group spent its time in the Underground City relaxing, washing up, and getting ready for their next adventure. It was in the same building in the West of the Underground City, where Krane had first taken his Tanvi, where Tenten took Karan-Giri and Makki, that the four waited. They waited and chatted. Uquolaan told them that there would be one more joining them before they could set off, but he had yet to arrive in the City. Today was the day he was supposed to report back. Today was the day that the group first truly got together, and would meet their final member.