Avatar: The Lost Stories

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by April Showers, Feb 26, 2015.

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  1. - Information Bank -

    Primary Characters
    • [tab=Avatar Ku]

    • Nima

      Distinguishing physical features:
      Hmmm. Have a picture. If anything would be considered 'distinguishing', I would most definitely say it's her hair color.

      Nima isn't really a creature of habit. However, she likes to hum or sing when she's bored or alone and she likes to read whenever she gets the chance. When anxious or thoughtful, she will often tug at the ends of her hair or braid and unbraid the ends. She also has a strong affinity for animals and loves to train and bond with pretty much any cute and fuzzy creature.

      Personal life philosophy (general personality):
      Nima is very much a logical woman. She's perceptive and intuitive and she always believes the best of people until she's shown otherwise. As a rule, she doesn't take other people's opinions into consideration when deciding how she feels about a particular subject/activity/person. She's a free thinker and a true child at heart; she's got a true streak of wanderlust and won't hesitate to explore a new place or embark on a new adventure. All in all, though, I feel like Nima's life philosophy can be summed up by the quote below:
      “When what you hear and what you see don't match, trust your eyes.” -Dale Renton

      Bending status:
      She would be considered a master at her craft, as she has her arrows, marking her a fully realized Airbender.
      Level of bending skill:
      She's pretty good at what she does, especially her glider. #GlidingMaster
      Tribe: Air Nomad

      Nima was raised at the Western Air Temple and there she learned the ways of the Airbenders. Although she loved her home, she never truly felt as if she belonged and as she aged she rapidly became dissatisfied and restless. She found the constant holy practices of the other Airbenders to be tedious and boring and eventually she stopped meditating altogether, causing a stir among the older members of the temple. Nima didn't mean to be the rebel, but she ultimately became that in her teenage years; the only thing that kept her tied to the temple was her Airbending training. Once she attained her arrows, however, the tie that had been keeping her there vanished and when she turned 17, Nima set out on her own to explore the world like she'd always dreamed.

      It was shortly after her departure when she met Ku, literally falling out of the sky and into his life. After her glider took heavy damage, (due to a surprise appearance of a flock of birds and the resulting collision with a nearby tree), Nima came tumbling down through the forest canopy and Ku was the one who found her, dangling unconscious and limp in a tree. They spent the following weeks together, travelling through the woods to the next town where they were supposedly going to go their separate ways.

      When Ku accidentally revealed his status as Avatar, Nima didn't particularly care- they were just traveling together, after all, so what difference did it make that he happened to be the Avatar? She was indifferent to Ku's secret, really. (It's not like she was going to turn him in or get involved in his problems or even ask him for help- she just wanted to get to the next town.)

      When he vanished the next morning, Nima simply accepted he was gone and carried on to the next town. She hadn't expectd to run into him again, but when she reached the town and saw the bounty hunters trying to convict him of being the Avatar, she jumped in, managing somehow to persuade them they had the wrong guy. They promptly escaped the town and have been together ever since, causing trouble and living simply.

    Secondary Characters

    #1 April Showers, Feb 26, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 26, 2015
  2. [​IMG]

    Chapter One
    Out of the Forest

    There was an art to running without making a sound. Not just quietly, but noiselessly, where the soles of one’s feet all but skim the ground, silent as the mist floating above the lake.

    Ku had yet to master this technique. His soft leather shoes pounded over the hard earth. They snapped dry twigs and kicked up rocks. Low-hanging branches whipped his face, snagged his clothes. Every breath came harsh and loud.

    He glanced over his shoulder. Saw nothing. It didn’t mean they weren’t there. They had a way of sneaking up on you, these people in gray cloaks.

    As Ku neared the ravine, he tripped, yelled, and flailed as he lost his balance. Quickly he tucked his elbows, and then jerked his arms. The rocky slope morphed; it rose and fell like a wave, then flattened into a smooth dirt slide. With an awkward mid-air twist, Ku slid headfirst down the hill to a gradual stop just at the edge of camp, dirty but uninjured. He groaned, and cracked his neck as he stood up. Loose dark curls hung limp around his face.

    “Nima,” Ku hissed as he busily retied his hair into a bun. “Nima, it’s time to go!” He checked the hollow under the edge of the earthy cliff and by the rock slab where they built their fires. “I know, this place is nice, but I think we’ve overstayed our welcome. Ahh!”

    A dart whizzed past Ku’s ear, and plunged into a nearby tree trunk. Ku spun around. The cloaks, five of them, were perched along the edge of the ravine. They each carried a thin blowgun, which they positioned in front of their deeply shrouded faces, where their mouths should be, ready to fire.

    “Nima,” Ku called out. His eyes widened, fixated on his assailants. “Run!”

    #2 April Showers, Feb 26, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 26, 2015
  3. There is something to be said about people who enjoy mornings. People who woke with the sun had a type of will that Nima just did not possess. In her mind, waking anytime before mid morning was preposterous. She loved to dream, and she dreamed best when the sun was up, when her body was almost conscious but not quite. When Ku came sprinting back into camp that morning, she almost assumed it was her imagination, just another almost real image, as vivid as any dream could ever hope to be, but she was quickly pulled out of her half-sleep and thrown back to reality.

    She sat up sharply, rubbing one eye with the back of her hand as she squinted in the weak light. "Why are you yelling? It's too early for another one of your pranks," Nima's voice was as sarcastic as ever as she stood and groggily stepped closer to Ku, following his shocked stare. "Wha-" she almost began, the sight before her halting her words. There was a line of gray-hooded figures lining the ridge, each of them lifting a finely crafted blowgun to their lips.

    "Not these guys again," Nima thought, rolling her eyes. Hadn't these strange people gotten enough of a beating? They'd been following them for months and, by this point, any sensible person would have given up the chase. Nima and Ku didn't like to fight, but they were great at running and staying hidden. It was a pain, though, to always be moving, even after they'd found the perfect place, and Nima wished these freaky strangers would just disappear from their lives once and for all.

    She knew that wasn't likely, however, and she heaved a large sigh before glancing slowly in Ku's direction. "This is getting really annoying," she breathed, taking a step toward the line of figures. Nima dropped into a familiar stance, a small grin on her face, before sending a huge blast of air in their direction. At least three of the figures went flying, landing with loud thuds. They were dazed, but unhurt and their other companions were scrambling about. She didn't pause to see what happened next before spinning around and rolling her eyes at Ku. "Now it's time to go," she amended, dashing off toward the thickest part of the forest.

    Nima grabbed her glider but left everything else at the camp site. Those hooded strangers would be close behind them and Nima knew they had no time to lose. If either of them got hit with one of those darts, it was game over for them both. As she ran, the low hanging branches and bushes made each step an effort. Before long her skin was covered with tiny little scratches and cuts, but she didn't stop.

    Ku's footsteps were echoing behind hers, but that was the only other sound; the entire forest had gone silent. It was....eerie. Like the entire world was holding its breath, not daring to break the tension filling the still morning air. Her legs were burning as she sprinted, and soon they felt like jelly, threatening to give way if she pushed them a single minute further. Eventually she slowed and then stopped, panting as she bent over, letting the pain in her side ease.

    She looked up through her long hair and scowled. "They found us. Again. What happened this morning while I was sleeping? You were supposed to wake me up before you went anywhere."
    #3 Avalon, Feb 28, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2015
  4. “And get slapped by one of your wind whips?” Ku asked. “No, thanks.” He wiped the sweat from his brow. Then, reddening slightly, said, “Besides, can’t I relieve myself privately every once in a while?”

    As Ku’s heart rate slowed, and his breathing came easier, he straightened up and, for the first time since they left camp, looked back. He saw nothing but trees, shrubs, and lots of open space. The forest was thinning, which meant their cover was minimal. Still, their pursuers weren’t pursuing at the moment, and that was a small comfort. Maybe Nima’s air blast knocked some of the Cloaks unconscious. It wouldn’t be the first time. But whoever they were recovered fast. And eventually they’d catch up. They always did. Perhaps they were already on them, hidden amid the flora, waiting and watching. Ku shivered. The thought was unsettling.

    Suddenly, he stomped his foot. A series of labyrinthine dirt walls sprung up behind him. He squinted at the closest of these walls and jerked his head to the right. The wall shifted a few feet in the same direction. Hopefully this maze would buy them some time.

    “We should get moving,” he said, and started walking. Other than the crunching leaves underfoot, Ku heard only the trilling melodies of the songbirds above.

    The early sun dappled the forest floor. Had they not met the people in gray that morning, Ku might be calmly fishing at the lake. He would have watched the fog burn off the surface of the water, patiently waiting for something to take the bait, enjoying his peace.

    Nima would wake at the sound of cooking or a little after, but never before, curiously. And they’d talk, divvy up the day’s tasks – hunt, gather, repair, explore – and before long it would be evening. They were friends, the earthbender and the airbender. Or something resembling friends. They’d been through too much to be mere acquaintances; that Ku knew for sure.

    Their unchanging routine and simple tasks reminded Ku of life back on Ma’nu, his old life. Except, of course, back then no one was chasing him. Why people were chasing him now, though, was still a mystery. At least that’s what he told himself. On the bright side…

    “Must be a record,” he said without slowing his pace. “We’ve never been able to stay in one place for so long before. Seven days… it was like a vacation, don’t you think?” A blissful, week-long respite. When he smiled, his mouth pulled up a little higher on the left side than the right. “Maybe we’re getting smarter.” He raised an eyebrow at Nima.

    “Maybe they’re getting dumber,” she replied, deadpan.

    Ku frowned. “Are you okay? You seem… upset.”

    A wry smile appeared on Nima’s lips. “The Avatar has such marvelous powers of perception.”

    “What did I do?” asked Ku.

    “You didn’t wake me.”

    Ku stopped abruptly. “That’s not my job!” he yelled. A few nearby ravens cawed and flew away.

    Shhh!” Nima hissed.

    Ku lowered his voice to a whisper. “That has never been my job. You’re just grumpy because you’ve got bedhead and didn’t have time to do your braids.”

    “You think that’s what I’m worried about? Unbelievable.” Nima sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Look,” she said, “I don’t have time to argue with a child –”

    “I’m older than you.”

    “What we need to do,” Nima continued, “is find water, food, and shelter.”

    “Obviously,” Ku said as he crossed his arms.

    Nima scoffed and kept walking. Unsure whether he won that battle or not, Ku followed suit. For a long time they traveled in silence, listening for the sound of footsteps, the whistle of a blowgun, or the flap of heavy gray fabric. What he heard was far more sinister.

    First, the ground began to shake. Small clumps of dirt jumped off the floor. The leaves in the canopy rattled and shimmied. Flocks of birds fluttered into the sky. Ku’s eyes darted left and right. He turned around, trying to search beyond the trees. The quaking intensified. And then he saw something, an enormous boulder, rolling toward them with unbelievable agility. And then he saw another one. And a few more after that. They were massive and, even from a distance, looked unquestionably solid.

    “Looks like our friends are earthbenders,” Ku said, spinning around. “And they brought company.” He looked at Nima, then glanced up at the trees. Though thinly spaced, the foliage above was dense and dark. Then he looked back at Nima. “Time to disappear,” he said.

    With a great punch to the ground, he summoned a rock barrier surrounding their clearing. The wall spread wide and tall. Still kneeling, he raised his hands, palms up, and a column of earth elevated him into the canopy. It descended the moment he hopped onto a sturdy, nearby tree branch. Once he’d climbed a little higher and found a secluded nook, he settled in and peered through gaps in the leaves for signs of Nima. His rock wall would fail soon. He could already hear segments crumbling away as boulders blasted through it. The rumbling grew louder, and Ku felt his tree begin to shake. But he couldn’t see Nima anywhere. His heart pounded in his ears.

    “Now where’d that girl go?” he muttered.

  5. Nima tried to calm her frustrations as they walked on, pushing away the urge to argue any further with Ku. Even if she was annoyed, Nima knew that there was nothing Ku could have done to keep the Strangers from finding them again. But oh, how she'd wished she'd been awake and ready for them; they would have gotten it good, as fed up as she was with their constant pestering. Because of their meddling, they'd had to pass up several perfect spots and more camping supplies had been lost than Nima cared to remember. Not to mention their hostile attacks had left the both of them jumpy and irritable; she and Ku had been so worried and distracted lately that they literally fought about everything, and this was no exception. Nima knew that their arguing was a result of their stress and nothing more, and after about twenty seconds she'd already forgiven her companion. "Besides," she thought, almost laughing to herself, "We fight like an old married couple all the time."

    They'd walked on for a few minutes in relative silence, nothing but the muted sounds of the waking forest around them. Even the air was still, already warming under the hot sun, proving that the heatwave was yet to break. It was stifling, the humidity, and Nima felt the wetness forming on her skin, making her feel sticky and smothered. She was so concentrated on the ick covering her skin she almost missed the low, ominous rumbling growing in the distance. Apparently, their "friends" had caught up. "Well, about time," Nima almost said, peering through the trees as she tried to spot the all-too familiar gray cloaks.

    She was shocked then, by the gigantic brown boulder that came hurtling directly at her, it's speed deadly fast. Nima didn't have to deflect the huge rock, though, as Ku spoke, immediately following his words by erecting a wall of earth around the small clearing. She heard the rock collide with the barrier and she hoped it held long enough for them to get away again. It was chaotic on the ground, dust and rubble falling everywhere as the barricade shook with the impacts of the multiple projectiles. Nima coughed in the dust and, with an irritated motion, quickly blew the fine power clear. Now that she could properly see, she wasted no time taking to the sky. With a well practiced motion, so smooth it was nothing but muscle memory, Nima snapped open her glider and lifted off. She was really irritated at this point- covered in dirt and sweat and ick- and Nima wanted nothing more than for her attackers to feel the exact same as she did.

    So, without much thought at all Nima circled around, looking for the gray cloaks among the greenery. She didn't have to look for long, as it wasn't like they were making an attempt to hide; the constant steam of boulders served as a fairly easy-to-follow map. The gray caught her eye from above and she swooped down from the sky, landing directly behind one of the Strangers. With another practiced motion, her glider was closed and was now the perfect weapon. She didn't even bother to use her bending as she swung her staff, landing a firm, well placed smack to the nearest Stranger. They were surprised at her assault, apparently still thinking she was in the clearing with Ku, and the man before her fell, unconscious. Now they were all looking at her, the other four of them, and she grinned, spinning her staff around skillfully as she approached.

    Now their bending was focused on her, but they had abandoned the large boulders. They had opted instead for smaller, disk-like projectiles that whizzed by with crazy speed, smashing into a thousand pieces as they collided with the trees around the clearing. Nima dodged and ducked and deflected, all the while approaching steadily. Once in a while an opening would present itself, and she would land another firm blow with either her staff or her bending. After only a few moments of fast paced attacking, only two of the Cloaks remained. They were rather scared now, and their bending was becoming more furious and frenzied as they tried to keep her at bay. Nima took a few hits and stumbled once or twice, slamming sideways into a nearby tree both times. With a grimace, she shook it off and narrowly avoided another hurtling rock. She advanced quickly then, her speed incredibly fast, and then there remained only one.

    Knowing he was soon to join his comrades in the depths of unconsciousness, the remaining Stranger took this moment to bow out, promptly disappearing into the ground. Nima growled in frustration as she stood in the battered area, looking around for the Cloak to re-emerge. He never did, though, and Nima supposed that he was gone...or he was waiting for her to leave. Either way, she knew he wasn't going to show himself while he was just one. With an irritated mumble, Nima took off toward where the attack had first began, climbing nimbly around the broken trees and smashed rocks. She stepped into the original clearing where Ku's barrier had been, peering up into the trees.

    "Well, I took care of our...problems. At least until they wake up or call for reinforcements." Nima called, squinting into the sun that was now peaking above the trees. She glanced away and was prompted to look down at herself. What she saw made her want to groan, and so she did, attempting to wipe her face clean with the back of an equally dirty hand. She had been clean when she woke up that morning. Not any more; the fight had left her grimy and dirty and her skin and hair had a light coating of brown tainting their normal colors. "And I better get a huge thank you. Do you see this?" she gestured to herself as she called into the trees, "This is gross, even for me."
  6. Ku poked his head out from the forest canopy. He hadn’t realized how high up he was, and nearly lost his balance as bouts of vertigo overtook him. “Yep, that’s disgusting,” he called down, but Ku wasn’t sure exactly what he was agreeing with. He had his eyes pressed shut as he tried to halt the swirling sensation in his head. He inhaled deeply and slowly. When the worst of the dizziness subsided, he opened his eyes, keeping them trained on the tree trunk and the nearest branches. “This,” he said to himself, “is why I don’t climb trees.” He was a man of the earth, after all, and felt safest on solid ground.

    After another steady breath, he felt strong enough to summon his dirt column to carry him down. When he was on the forest floor again, he promptly closed his eyes, fell on his back, and lay spread eagle, relishing the firm surface of the earth beneath him. “I’ll never leave you again, ground. Never, never, never.”

    Somewhere above him Nima cleared her throat. Ku opened one eye. “Ah!” He scrambled to his feet and backed up a few steps. He recognized her features, her high forehead and narrow face, the bright blue arrow tattooed on her scalp and arms, her long, ginger hair… but the thing standing in front of him was not the Nima to whom he was accustomed. This Nima was covered in dirt and grime and blood; her clothes were askew, wrinkled, and torn. Cuts, scrapes, and bruises covered her skin. She had twigs in her hair and fire in her eyes. Ku had neither seen her in such terrible shape before nor been so terrified of her.

    “You look horrible,” was the first thing Ku thought to say. He knew how it sounded the moment it came out of his mouth. What he meant was, “You’re hurt. You need to recover.” And he told her as much. He approached her as though approaching a cagey animal, cautiously and slowly. When he was close enough, he waved small gusts of wind over her, gently blowing loose debris from her skin and clothes.

    He stood awkwardly for a moment, unsure what else to do. Eventually, he said, “I saw the lake from the tree. It’s not far, maybe a quarter mile that way.” He pointed off to his left, where no Cloaks had attacked. “You can get clean–” But Nima turned away before Ku could finish.

    Again they walked, mostly in silence, but this time Ku felt Nima’s rage, hot like the sun. “You did some good airbending back there,” he said timidly at one point. He didn’t see the battle, of course, but the Cloaks weren’t following anymore, so whatever she did must have been powerful. For a peaceful Air Nomad she was kind of scary.

    As the lake was just coming into view, Ku froze. He tiled his head up and sniffed the air. “Do you smell that?” He sniffed again. It smelled like smoke. “Someone’s already here.”

    #6 April Showers, Mar 6, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2015
  7. Ku's reaction at seeing her didn't shock Nima in the least; he was always saying the first thing that came to his mind, after all, and Nima was well aware of her unsightly appearance. Instead of throwing in one of her typical sarcastic rebuttals, Nima held her tongue. Ku approached her cautiously and she rolled her eyes but when he attempted to clean her off, she let him without complaint. The lack of sleep and the running and battling had left her feeling extremely tired; the only thing she was thinking about was getting clean and maybe taking a nap. At the mention of water, Nima turned on her heel, heading off in the direction Ku had indicated.

    She wasn't meaning to be rude, really, but the prospect of bathing was enough to get her motivated and moving along. A quarter mile would take no time at all to travel, and so she set off, letting Ku follow her. Nima was partly aware that the silence settling over them was an awkward one, mostly because she supposed Ku thought she was upset, but she didn't dwell on it too much. He'd be fine, and she knew that. When he broke the silence with a surprisingly timid question, she glanced over her shoulder briefly, offering a small smirk.

    "It wasn't anything special," Nima assured, shaking her head, "Oh whatever would you do without me, Ku? You'd probably still be up in that tree!" She let her voice take a playful tone, wanting him to realize she wasn't irritated, even if she seemed like it moments earlier. Being tired and attacked by relentless weirdos could make a person cranky, even if they weren't normally. Nima made her quiet joke and returned to walking along, anxious to get to the water. After another short bit of traveling (thankfully on a path this time, and not through the thick brier and thistles), the crystalline surface of the lake sparkled through the trees. Nima almost gave a squeal of happiness- never in her life had she been so glad to see clean, cool, fresh water.

    Just as she was about to take off at a jog toward the shore, Ku stopped her, smelling the air. Nima paused and did the same, realizing he was right: there was definitely someone nearby and by the smell of things, they had a campfire of sorts. "Of course," she whined, pouting. If there were other people down at the lake, they really couldn't risk going down to the shore themselves. They ran the steep risk of being recognized, or, even worse, followed by more Cloaks. The hope of getting clean was quickly fading and Nima sighed longingly, allowing herself just a few seconds to be disappointed. Man had she been looking forward to that bath. However, she knew she could wait...even if she wouldn't like it much. Nima looked toward Ku and planted her hands on her hips, chewing the corner of her lip in thought. "To go or not to go, that is the unfortunate question. What do you think? They could cause problems," she stretched on her toes as she tried to get a glimpse of the mystery people. "But maybe not. It's still a risk, though-"

    Nima didn't get a chance to finish her sentence or even hear Ku's reply as there was a loud crashing in the woods beside them. She jumped, reflexively stepping into a defensive position; was it the Cloaks already? So soon? She was about to call tauntingly into the undergrowth when a person emerged, uncloaked and almost as filthy as Nima was. It was a child, a girl, who most definitely not more than five or six years old. She came tumbling out of the bush and onto the dirt path with a quiet thud, her simple traveling clothes torn and mud-covered. Nima exchanged a confused look with Ku before shrugging as if to say "What do we do now?"

    "Where am I? Who are you? W-who am I? My head hurts." The girl sat on the ground and peered around, bright green eyes wide and frightened. Nima wanted to shout with frustration- really, was the universe just so opposed to her getting clean?- but instead she crouched down, trying to look as least frightening as possible. The girl drew back though, obviously wary. Nima sighed then, drawing her extended hand back before standing up again.

    "I bet she belongs to whoever's at the lake- it looks like she may have hit her head, which would explain why she's so confused. I guess our dilemma was just solved for us. We can't just leave her."
  8. Ku frowned. The girl looked like she’d been living rough for a long time, perhaps longer than he and Nima. She was in rough shape. Ku knelt where he was, keeping his distance.

    “Hey, we’re not going to hurt you,” he said. “Can you tell me if you’re hurt anywhere else other than your head?” The girl looked away, but shook her head. “We’ll help you find your family, okay?”

    For a moment the girl stared at him. Her green eyes clouded with confusion. “I don’t have a family,” she said. Ku’s eyes widened. He stood and exchanged a look with Nima.

    “Something doesn’t feel right,” he whispered. “A child, injured and alone, running wild in the middle of an untamed forest? And the only thing she can remember is not having a family? Plus, she looks worse than you, no offense.” Before Nima could argue, Ku added, “I don’t think we should leave her, but given our history with strangers, I don’t think we can assume whoever is over that ridge will be friendly. We’ll take her to the edge of the forest, and if it’s safe, then we’ll escort her to her camp. If not, we’ll let her wander in on her own.”

    Ku turned back to the girl and smiled. “Have you ever heard the story about the Kali the Small?” The girl shook her head. “No? Well, it’s one of my favorites. Would you like to hear it?”

    Slowly, the girl nodded. There was something familiar about her. Of course Ku had never seen her before in his life, but something about her face – her green eyes and dark hair – reminded him of his family back on Ma’nu. Surely someone must be waiting for her return.

    He squatted, stretched out his hand, and waited for her to accept it. When she did, he wrapped his long, calloused fingers around her little ones, which were surprisingly tough, and he began the tale of Kali the Small as they set off toward the water.

    When they reached the edge of the forest, Ku was not prepared for the sight that met him. Quickly, he ducked behind a large boulder, pulling Nima and the little girl with him, and peered around to survey the scene. There were dozens of tents pitched near the lake, like a small canvas village, and dozens of men adorned in uniforms bearing the Earth Kingdom crest. They lazily patrolled their camp, some stopping to chat while others carried items to and from tents across the beach. Far on the end of their camp was a small herd of elephant rhinos, snorting and kicking up clouds of sand as more soldiers attended to them. Ku saw no women or children.

    “This can’t be her camp,” he said, more to himself than to Nima.

    Then, a strong wind blew inland, carrying with it the raised voice of a burly man. “Captain!” he shouted, huffing and puffing as he sprinted across the beach.

    An older man turned and addressed the soldier. “What is it?”

    “It’s one of the bender brats, sir. We’ve lost one.”

    The Earth Kingdom captain’s fury was almost palpable. Ku looked at the little girl, and then to Nima. “What did we just walk in to?”

  9. Nima let Ku take over then, knowing that he was better at dealing with children. While Nima enjoyed animals, she didn't share the same affinity for children; it's not like she hated them or anything, but usually they just didn't gravitate toward her, especially not in the same way they seemed to be drawn to Ku. At nearly every village they'd come across, the children would flock to Ku, dragging him away to partake in their ball games and hide and seek. Nima shook her head slightly to herself, smiling at the memory as it was one of the happier ones. When the little girl spoke again, Nima was unprepared for her words. Ku straightened up and they shared a glance, after which Nima shrugged. The girl was probably mistaken about not having a family; after all, she had suffered a head injury and Nima knew that anything she said was liable to be a false imagining.

    The woman watched as Ku lured the girl closer, offering her his hand and a story. Nima shook her head, wondering if there was anything Ku couldn't be successful at. "If I had tried to do that, she probably would have bitten me," she mused to herself, following the pair down toward the beach. The noises at the shore started to become more clear and eventually the forest thinned out and a busy camp of military men came into view. Nima gasped with surprise when Ku snatched her back, hiding the three of them behind an enormous and oddly placed boulder.

    She didn't protest, though, and stayed quiet instead. Nima knew that they couldn't reveal themselves; whatever this was, it wasn't good. Ku mumbled something and Nima nodded, agreeing. "This is most certainly not her camp," she whispered. The woman tried to lean closer, stretching on her toes to peer further up the beach. "But that might be." She'd spotted a rough "camp" just down the shore a piece and her eyes followed the soldier as he ran across the sand from that general direction, rushing up toward the person in charge. Her eyes narrowed as she listened to their conversation and she glanced back at Ku for a moment. "I don't know Ku," she looked back out at the shore and stretched up on her toes again.

    What she saw now that she could focus on it more made her skin crawl. They didn't have any idea what these soldiers were up to, but Nima could see people trapped, corralled like animals, just over the dunes. "But I do know that we can't just leave these people trapped like that. They're being held like animals...And I bet her family is there, too." Nima blinked her green eyes at Ku, knowing that getting involved would be a larger risk to him that for herself. However, Nima had spent enough time with Ku to know he would be feeling the same way she was: no way would he just sit by and let those soldiers continue to keep those people imprisoned.
  10. Ku pressed himself low against the boulder, and followed Nima’s finger. His heart sank when he saw them. Even at that distance their mood carried. Ku heard their silent despair in the wind, and felt their weariness and resignation. He shivered despite the heat.

    What had happened?

    The day had begun with so much promise. He had watched the pinkish-orange glow of dawn seep into the sky, and greeted the sun as he did every day. He had gone for a long and lazy swim, and had relished the invigorating chill of the cool water. Not so long ago he felt refreshed and calm and clean. And safe.

    Now, Ku was sweaty and filthy. His left sleeve had torn and revealed part of the tattoo on his shoulder. It made him continuously tug at the fabric to cover himself up. Tree sap had crusted to his hands and face. His hair, tied up as it was, felt heavy with dust and debris; his mouth, parched dry, tasted sour; and his stomach twisted uncomfortably for lack of food. But there was nothing he could do about the grime and the hunger. Not now, not while he, Nima, and the child amnesiac were huddled behind a boulder, as trapped as the people on the beach. Ahead lay shifty Earth Kingdom soldiers. Behind: mysterious assailants in gray cloaks. To the sides: an emaciated forest offering no food, water, or shelter. Danger was inevitable. No matter which path they chose, they would only move farther from safety and certainty.

    And home, Ku thought with a twinge of pain. Nima was right, they couldn’t turn away now, not when they could help. Wasn’t this exactly what the Avatar was meant to do? And yet, something made Ku doubt. If Nima hadn’t been there, if she hadn’t looked at him with those intense green eyes, so full of righteousness and duty, would he be so willing to comfort the girl and save the strangers on the beach? The awful truth was no, he wouldn’t. Hadn’t he been on the run precisely to avoid this exact sort of situation? This realization distressed him.

    He looked at Nima, who was filthier and more disheveled than he felt, but her eyes burned bright. He admired that drive of hers, and wondered if all Airbenders were born as fierce.

    “Okay,” he said, and nodded. “But we need to get closer to the end of the beach. Once we see what we’re dealing with, we can figure out how to get those people out. We may have to wait for nightfall. In the meantime –” Ku’s stomach growled, “– we’re going to need to find some food and water.”

    He thought then to check on the girl, but she was gone. She was gone. Jolted with panic, Ku spun around. “Oh, no,” he groaned, and looked at Nima. “Where’d she go?”

  11. "How am I supposed to know?" Nima hissed back, giving an exasperated groan of her own. The woman took a step toward the sparse woods near their hiding place, attempting to locate the now missing child. Nima had no idea how long the girl had been missing; she and Ku had both been to occupied with surveying their current situation to keep an eye on their unaware and confused charge. The child could be anywhere by now. Nima turned back around to face Ku, her face marred with an uncommon frown, when she spotted a fleeting figure clambering over the rocks near the edge of the woods, a good hundred yards further down the treeline. It was the girl. She was moving impressively fast for someone who was injured and dazed, and Nima groaned as she met Ku's eyes. Nima wasn't sure exactly where the girl thought she was going or what she was intending on accomplishing by running away, but she did know that it was going to be up to herself and Ku to go rescue her before she caused any other problems with the camping soldiers. "....Uh-oh," Nima didn't wait for Ku's confused reply before she gestured with a finger toward the trees.

    Nima stepped around Ku and back to the boulder as she peered out again, her eyes following the tiny girl as she made her way further down the beach. The airbender was inclined to watch from where she was, knowing that if she charged after the girl she would surely be spotted by the guards on the beach, and something told her that watching might be more beneficial than acting. After a second, an idea came to her and Nima looked away from the beach and back to her companion.

    "Okay," she started to speak, keeping her voice low, "I've got a plan. Since our little friend has decided to rush off without us, I don't think we're going to be able to wait for nightfall to act....So, we're obviously going to need to do something now, and fast." Nima cast a glance back to the girl and saw she was getting dangerously close to the outskirts of the camp now. "Here's what I say we do: one of us needs to get around to that herd of elephant rhinos- that'll be you, Ku, since it should keep you away from the bulk of the soldiers. I'll help out and make sure everyone is too preoccupied to notice your approach." Nima was speaking quickly now, only waiting for Ku's nod before she rushed on. She didn't need to say that she'd devised her plan around concealing Ku's identity; they were both already aware that keeping him on the 'down-low' was their biggest priority.

    "Set them loose in the camp- that should create enough of a disturbance to get the remaining soldiers away from their captives. Between the rampaging animals and myself, everyone should be distracted. Meanwhile, you break everyone out of the cages and rescue our little friend along the way. You get out unseen, the camp gets destroyed by the elephant rhinos, and the people are free. Sound good?"
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