Before The End: An Avatar the Last Airbender Tale

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Book Hoarding Dragon

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#1
"Honnah, can you please get a bale of hay from the storage locker? The pens need to be mucked!" Yona, the Ring Master called from her perch at the top of the tent. Honnah nodded in agreement, not that she needed to be told to in the first place, then headed to the left to the exit the Big Top. Loping at her own pace, she made her way to the storage locker and grabbed the closest bale of hay and then started towards the animal enclosures. Even though they classified themselves as a traveling carnival, they had stuck up roots in the forest near the Earth Kingdom's city of Ba Sing Se. With the king's castle in eye shot, they got a lot of customer's and had prime real estate for driving new business into their show even though they were outside the city. Honnah was fine being the animal caretaker. She did her shtick during the show by guiding the animals to do what their tricks, while Yona was in the lime light. Honnah didn't need, or want to be front and center.

Earth bending the soiled dirt out of the way, she reached for the nearby rake and began combing new dirt over the old. Done, she lifted the hay bale and cut the strings keeping it all together. After a solid hour, all stalls had been taken care of. Now, to the duty of feeding the animals. Each animal was from a different nation, so each had a restrictive diet to adhere to. Honnah needed to get the food trolley that she kept in the food hall. She started off towards it.

=======

"Again!" Yona shouted at Rayne. Beads of sweat glistened on Rayne's forehead from exertion and concentration. Atop the highwire, she balanced her left foot while extending her right foot into the air. Holding the position, she could feel her inner stomach muscles screaming.
"Hold it, girl! Hold the position!" Yona's screaming made it harder for Rayne to concentrate. The Ring Leader took her job too seriously at times. Demanding constant training, and little down time. Though, Rayne wouldn't have it any other way. Yona had given the girl a life, and she owed an impayable debt to Yona.

Rayne wavered momentarily, just enough that she could hear Yona scoff. The Ring Leader demanded more from her favourite acrobat than the others. Rayne could no longer hold the position or balance as she was starting to develop a massive cramp in her side. She lowered her foot to behind her left foot, then jumped off of the high wire into the safety net.

"Yona, I'm done for the day. I need to eat." Yona threw her hand unnecessarily into the air as Rayne slowly crawled over to the food hall. She was trying to muster up her spirits to push through the pain from the day's training.
 
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#2
"I made a terrible mistake... The second an Opportunity is presented, I'm leaving." Was the words of a Fire Nation Soldier, resting in a tent after an assignment. Cole was a recent recruit in the Military of the Fire Nation, firmly believing that was his place to do good, to finally contribute to the nation. Or at least, that's what he thought.


It was another day in a forest outside of the Fire Nation. Resting in a make-shift camp, he and his fellow soldiers were awaiting another assignment from their superior. They were relatively safe from prying eyes as they had setup in the heart of the Forest, ensuring the fire from the Campfire wasn't bright enough to attract attention. While most of the detachment hung out near the Camp-fire or in their tents, Cole stayed in his own tent contemplating his decisions. He had committed many actions during his service, some he heavily regretted. Killing innocent civilians just for getting in their way, even animals weren't spared. He had considered many options and sometimes thought to himself to run, but he was under constant watch. As he was resting, someone entered his tent. "Cole! Get up." Stumbling out of his bed and saluting his Superior, he mumbled his words but quickly corrected himself. "Yes sir? You have need of me?" "I do. It's time for your routine patrol through the Forest. As soon as you hear or see something, report back to the camp immediately." "Yes sir. I won't let you down." "You'd better not. You've been slacking as of late, and yet I overhear you stating your loyalty and dedication, yet you don't seem to show it." "I always try my best for the Nation, sir. No doubt about it." "You'd best be right. We don't take traitors lightly, soldier. Now get moving." "Yes sir." And so he put on his Armour and set out into the Forest. What would he find? And why was his commander so strict today? Only time would tell as he left the camp with only his armour and a set of rations and equipment.

======

As he marched along the forest, Cole contemplated to himself. "Something doesn't feel right. They always preach that we're doing the right thing by expanding into the other tribes. But all this killing? Innocent people and animals getting slaughtered? And every site we went to offered no resistance..."

"Again!"
"!" Was the reaction of Cole as he overheard a woman's voice shout in the distance. Was there someone in the Forest? And that shout hinted at another person as well. Staying silent, he slowly started to approach the source of the shout.

"Hold it, Girl! Hold the position!"
There it was again. That voice. And shouting at another it would appear. "What... Who's around here...? I thought the intelligence stated this forest and it's surroundings were empty..." Cole muttered to himself as he continued slowly approaching the source of the noises. If they were observant, they could feel his presence on the ground, or feel like they were being watched as he stayed in the cover of the trees, watching the people he found. "Just who are these people... And that looked like... Bending. Wait a minute, are these people---" And as he was about to finish, he stepped on a twig on the floor which both created a loud noise and caused several birds to create noises as they flew into the sky. "... Shit."

 

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#3
On her way to the food hall, Rayne had begun singing quietly to herself. Her sides still aching with pain, she massaged that area gently and grimaced from the pressure. Gods, Yona was going to kill the performer if she didn't let up soon. It wasn't fair to expect so much from poor Rayne. With the tent in sight, she set her pace a little faster. She could almost taste the horrible gruel in the air from what Chef was making. It was at least food, though. She wouldn't complain -- too much.

"Oh, I wish I was on Kyoshi Island, with the elephant koi and their--" A loud crack sound had stopped her singing. She immediately flew into stealth mode. Hunkering down to her knees, she braced herself with one hand and immediately conjured her water bending. She pulled water from the grass beneath her so that there were a few small icicles ready if need be. Birds flew into the air, obviously on edge about the sound heard. She narrowed her vision and silently crept close to the ground.

After a few steps, she peered over a nearby bush and saw Fire Nation scum before her. She curled her top lip in disgust and scanned for a water source. Seeing a small brook right next to the man, she ran over the ideas in her head of what she would do. Deciding on a course of action, she silently continued to creep along on her haunches. Getting right next to the Fire scum, she came behind him. Taking one step, two steps, she attacked him from behind. She was on his back, icicle pressed to his jugular, her face angled away so he couldn't see his attacker.
"Why are you in these woods? What purpose do you have!" She was angry.
 
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#4
"(Perhaps I should run. Yeah... Maybe I sho---)" Cole thought to himself but got cut off when one of them rapidly approached and pulled some kind of bended weapon to his jugular and kept her face hidden. "W-Wait! I'm not your enemy!" He declared and then looked down at his outfit. Perhaps those weren't the right choice of words. "Okay, maybe I am your enemy... But I'm just a soldier... I was a new recruit and I was tasked with patrolling the Forest when I overheard and saw Bending over here..." He exclaimed. His voice was a mixture of fear and sincerity as he explained himself to the woman. "I mean no harm, I promise. I... actually have a secret to reveal, but I don't feel safe here. Can you please trust me just for a moment?"

 

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#5
Not breaking her hold around the soldier, he wouldn't have been able to see the slight break in her expression. This was the least violent interaction she had ever had with a Fire Nation ... anyone! They were all fire balls and bad moods. All Fire Nation that she had ever dealt with, the people had a look on their faces like they were better than everyone else. Still with her icicle around his throat, she decided that he intrigued her enough that she would hear some of what he had to say.

"Make any sort of stupid move, and I'll tear your throat down to your jugular. You have one minute." Her voice darkened as she spoke. "I'm not fond of Fire Nation. You're lucky that I'm even giving you the time of day." Her acrobatic years were coming in full force. She had her legs tightly wrapped around his hips, with her other arm hooked over his shoulder. She had missed her fighting days... Though she was very interested in what this guy may have to say. Then again, he could be just fucking with her. She was on edge for sure.
 
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#6
"Thank you. I know the Fire Nation isn't exactly liked, but I trust that what I have to say might change everything... But first." Cole stated as he tried to get a glance back at the Forest. "Back in the center of the Forest is my camp. If they notice that I haven't returned, they might go looking for me, and wherever there's a settlement, they won't hesitate to come after us." He then tried to turn back to face the original direction. "Hey, is there anywhere... private, that we can go? I don't feel so comfortable revealing Fire Nation secrets where they could easily listen out." He stated, trying not to look like he was leading her on. In this state, how could she trust him? A Fire Nation Soldier just coming clean? She had to feel suspicious.

"(Maybe she will believe me... But considering her attitude towards me, I have a feeling she won't be so nice. Here's hoping I can use this as an opportunity to defect...)"

 

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#7
She balked out a bark of a laugh. "No way! You'll tell me here, and now. I'm in the position of power, buster." She looked at the brook, and managed to bend more water over to them. Though, as she was doing this she had a strange change of heart. Suspending the brook water over top of them, she thought a bit. What if he was telling the truth? She surveyed her surroundings, and leaned an ear to one side to listen carefully for any more guards -- or things that could go wrong. She heaved out a sigh of irritation.

"Fine." She scrambled down off of his back, but still kept the ice blade to his neck. Then, using the suspending water, she managed to position herself in a way so that she could encase the soldier's body in ice. She looked at her handy work and saw the frozen water that had his torso locked in position. "This way you can't try anything." Rayne figured that if he was a fire bender, he would have tried something by now. "Move behind that clearing over there. You'll tell me everything then."
 
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#8
"I'm going, I'm going..." Responded Cole as he did his best to walk over to the clearing she mentioned, trying not to piss her off... anymore that is. "(I know I can easily melt myself out of this bind but if I want her to trust me, I had better not try anything. Maybe I can get lucky and she'll understand my position in all this.)" And so he continued, keeping himself deliberately restrained to keep the trust going. Perhaps then he could speak without fear.

"I don't suppose you have a name? Any friends or relatives? People you hang out with? Might as well try to play nice until we get to where you want me, right?"

 

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#9
What on earth did this guy have to tell her? Her mind was spinning with one idea to the next. What the possible hell could he have that was so secretive? And why wasn't he putting up any sort of fight? This was unnerving by itself. Let alone that he was Fire Scum. She found that she liked his name for him.

She continued to lead him to the area, and though she was quick about it she was methodical to make sure that he couldn't make any sort of move.

Listening to his questions, she laughed again and gave no response. Leading him by pushing the small of his ice covered back, she pondered.

"Of course I have a name. Of course I have people that I 'hang around'," there was no mistake about the bite in her tone. "No way that I'm going to tell you, though. You seem to forget who is the position of power." Finally at the clearing, she turned him around and showed him her face.
 
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#10
"Me? Forget about the position of power? Please. You and I both know that I can easily melt myself out of this bind and make you regret those words! But, if I want you to trust me, I need to keep this as peaceful as possible." Cole responded as he turned to see her face. "Cute." He simply muttered, expecting afterwards a slap to the face. He was never popular with the women in the army.

"Well since you don't want to share your name, sharing mine wouldn't hurt, now would it sweetheart? My name's Cole. I'm just a rookie in the military of the Fire Nation, or as I've been coming to believe; a pawn. Listen, this area and any others are not safe. I overheard words from my superior while I was on camp-watching duty. They plan on bringing their army across and destroying this area for expansion. They won't stop at anything to kill anyone or anything standing in their way, even if it were an innocent animal. I've regretted every action I've come to do in this army, and I want it to stop. Of course, hiding my concerns was harder than I thought it was, a few of my fellow colleagues kept asking me questions like "Why are you hesitating? What's with the delays?". It only made sense to try to defect, but few opportunities presented themselves." Cole exclaimed, trying to see if she was at all listening to that.

"I'd explain more but close to the forest where my group are? I'd rather not risk any possibilities."

 

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#11
So he was a fire bender; she found him especially unappealing now. She decided to listen to all that he had to say, before giving her two cents. Rolling around her response around on her tongue, she attempted to reign in her sass for class.

"With all that being said, soldier... What in the hell makes you think I'm going to believe all of this? Do you have any tangible truth other than the murmurings that you claim you heard?" Her voice was firm, but wavering from irritation. She chose purposefully to ignore his comment about her being cute. Hah, as if, she thought nastily. With her ratty long black hair, and pale complexion, she thought that she was far from anything to write home about. She crossed her arms over her chest with frustration. Why should she believe any of this? Regardless, even if he was telling the truth, surely he had to realize how hard it would be to believe these things that he is claiming. True, or not given his types reputation.
 
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#12
"Don't believe me? I'm not surprised considering." Cole muttered under his breath before he attempted to draw her attention to the forest. "If you don't believe me, then wait at the edge of the forest in a day's time. They planned on launching an assault on a nearby town after everyone's patrols had ended. While it's a small squad, they're highly trained and dangerous." He then tried to reach for a paper and quill in one of his back pockets. "Never thought grabbing my equipment while encased in ice would be as hard as it is right now... Listen, even if you don't trust me, I'm not your enemy. I was planning a defect for months, ever since I joined the Military. I believed I was doing good... Until everything happened."

Meanwhile . . . . .

"He sure is taking his sweet time..." "Maybe he got lost? He was a bit clumsy." "Nah, forget about him. He's a newbie, he probably died to a wild dog or something." "Silence, Soldiers!" The superior shouted, causing all the remaining soldiers to silence themselves. "Whether he comes back or not is irrelevant. We shall proceed as planned first thing tomorrow morning. Ready yourselves and use this time to rest. Understood?" "SIR, YES SIR!"

 

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#13
Biting on her bottom lip, she digested everything. Still with her arms over her chest, she raised an eyebrow at him while somehow looking down at him even though he was taller. Rayne had a bit of an attitude problem.

"Say that this is all real. And say that I will believe you. How do we stop it?" She sucked in a breath and held it. Was she really so willing to trust this guy? He could have easily run away. He could have easily melted her ice. He could have even tried to take her on in a fight. But none of that had been done. There was something about this guy -- he seemed honest in a strange way.
 
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#14
"The truth is... I don't actually know. I've heard some rumours littering around but then silenced without a second thought. But it's not safe here. Is there anywhere you can possibly hold me? Maybe anyone who could make use of the information?" Cole spoke, then asked. Seems like he really did not feel comfortable outside of the camp of the people he was betraying with this information. Perhaps he could actually do some good with this opportunity.

"Look, at this moment in time, I have no where to go. If I returned to the camp, I'd end up committing more crimes and unnecessary killing. Do you really want me to return to that?"

 

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#15
"Truthfully, I don't ever care what happens to Fire Scum. Besides, I haven't made a decision about you, yet." She eyed him carefully, and looked at her ice prison. She had no way to melt it, so she looked back at the soldier. Uncrossing her arms, she put them now on her hips.

"Best I could do to free you is to boil some water back at our camp. But, I believe you are able to free yourself on your own. I'll leave you to that." Taking a step back from him, she surveyed their surroundings. She was suddenly on edge, and no longer wanted to be alone with this guy. Deciding on a course of action, she hoped that she wasn't about to regret it.

"All right, soldier, whatever your name is." She hadn't retained the name he had given her. "You're going to follow me back to our camp. You will have guidelines and rules if I am to harbor you. I think that this is more than fair." Taking one last look around, she made sure that no one was near here. "You will change your soldier's uniform before we get there. You will hide your bending. And you will tell me all that you know, in great detail. I live, and work at a carnival so you will need to earn your keep. We will find some place for you, even if it is sweeping. Agreed?"
 
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#16
"Of course, I will follow you and do what you ask until we can figure something out." Cole exclaimed as he proceeded to release himself from the Ice shackles, and gave himself one hell of a stretch display. "Never would of thought being confined like that would hurt so much. Then again, I've only ever seen people in it, and never experienced it myself." He dusted himself off and then looked towards his own armour. "You're right. I can't wear this armour anymore." He then proceeded to take off each individual plate of his armour. He wore a gray t-shirt underneath and a pair of orange trousers, and standard issue boots for all kinds of travel. "Thankfully this armour wasn't my only clothing. Otherwise I'd feel hella' embarrassed stripping in front of a woman. *Ahem*"

"Ready and able, ma'am. We should get going before they either start looking for me, or the day ends."

 

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#17
She averted her eyes while blushing madly as he took off his armour. He had no sense of decency! She found a suspiciously interesting leaf at the top of one of the trees so that he could finish in private. Dammit to hell, men. With her red face out of view, she walked a few steps closer to the stream. Once he was done, and announced his ready for departure, she finally looked back.

"We need to be quick. Like I said, no funny business at my home. I won't hesitate to take you to the local authorities. Fire Nation isn't a welcome sight around these parts of Ba Sing Se, so watch your step." She began walking in the direction of the camp site, which was about a few hundred feet to the East. But wait, how would she explain picking up a stranger while on her way to get food? Her stomach made a loud and angry growl as she was reminded of the fact that she never got to eat. "We need a back story for how we came to meet."
 
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#18
"Hmm... Ah. I have the perfect idea." Cole exclaimed as he summoned forth a spark of fire on each hand and gently laid them against his own face, a few patches of his arms and one on his left leg. Once he was finished, he doused the flames and began walking alongside her, explaining his idea. "Whatever your reasoning was for coming out here before you met me, state that. Mention that you came across a Fire Nation patrol of four, carrying me and taking me somewhere. After a brief fight you rescued me but I took some of the fire, hence why I just deliberately burnt myself in places. Think you can work with that?" He asked. He seemed to think this through quite a bit. "As for my reasoning? I'll explain my side if they don't believe you."

 

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#19
She let out a girlish as her deliberately scorched his own skin! But it was done...
"Crazy mother fu--," she cursed under her breath. She listened to his idea, and it was honestly believable.

"F-Fine. But we need to go. Like, now. I don't want to spend any more time out here." She pulled him roughly by the wrist and set out, again, towards the camp. Mentally rehearsing their story, she hoped that no one would stop them on their way. She would need to go talk immediately to Yona and get permission for him to stay here. "Fair warning, you'll need to prove your worth to a very hardened woman."
 
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#20
"Crazy? Well, that's the first time someone's responded like that to an idea I proposed." Cole responded with a laugh as he continued walking, constantly keeping an eye out for anyone that could be watching. "Very hardened woman, huh? Considering a few of my Superiors were women, strict ones at that, I think I should be fine. Does your "very hardened woman" happen to shout a lot when something doesn't go right, or if you aren't obeying their instruction to the letter? If so, I should be fine. If it's the other version of "very hardened woman" well... I might just have problems. Or very good problems." He muttered, keeping his best to speak that last part quietly, hoping she didn't hear him.

"So, Ba Sing Se is where we're going, huh? What's it like?"