Monthly Archives: February 2016

Ymir’s Last Dream

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A.N: Will the mytholgy-inspired poetry ever end? If you’ve been around here for any length of time you’ll know not to hope… A slightly more obscure one this week, mostly because I was reading Snorri while still sipping my first coffee of the day. He’s pretty interesting if you think about it, being both a primordial creature and…uh…the universe’s building block (and people complain about Enuma Elis being violent!) All matters of in-family murder and Snorri’s nasty attitude towards giants aside, I see Ymir as a tragic figure in the same way Chronos is one (Saturn for those more familiar with the Latin names, although they are not exactly the same….): aware of his upcoming demise, yet unable to stop it due to his nature. But yeah, my version of Ymir is a bit of a prophet (and ever notice how similar Ymir and Mimir sound?) so he knows that the young upstarts planning to dismember him are not going to have the best of endings either…

Ymir’s last dream
The Old Father Time slept through the ages
Awake then he sang of the worlds t’were to come
Frozen in fire and burnt from the ice
The great gaping gap his grandchildren ploughed
The river dream swelled a sapling uncovered
The great ash tree grew from Aurgelmir’s corpse
Tears he shed not for the crime not yet committed
Punishment reaches murderers all

 

P.S. Mum, if you’re reading this, I SWEAR not all my course reading is quite that -um- graphic!

Why the Star Wars prequels work

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Before you rage-quit my blog or the internet altogether let me say that I am aware of the many, many problems of the Star Wars prequels. The infamous trio seems to be one of the internet’s favourite hate targets (even if the duel on Mustafar was possibly the best in all the live-action movies of the series). But are these movies so bad? I don’t think so.

To begin with, passage of time allowed for better effects as well as more creative freedom in terms of world-building. The originals did an amazing job with the resources they had, no doubt about it, but if newer and better methods are available to not use them because of nostalgia id just plain silly. And yes, that includes more CGI. True, I could have lived without a more detailed visual of Jabba the frigging Hutt but I suppose you take the good with the bad. Also, can you imagine trying to film the fight at Kamino with late 70s-early 80s technology?

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Also, Christopher Lee! I mean, yeah, I’m a sucker for villains played by British actors, but you can’t deny that the not-so-good Count had class and a legitimately threatening presence. I suppose you could say the same for the Emperor but personally, having seen the originals first I was too focused counting the “I’m obviously a villain, idiots” signs to be properly intimidated. Also, I knew how lame his death was! Dooku on the other hand, I found generally interesting. Why did he leave the Jedi? Why did he not take the Darth title? (Yes, I know, Darth Tyrannus, but nobody calls him that in the movies!) Was his offer to Obi Wan in Attack of the Clones genuine? The Clone Wars cartoon fleshed out the character more to my delight, but even going only by the movie, he’s one of my favourite villains.

The soundtrack is epic. The music was one of the things that capture my attention on the original trilogy -especially the Darth Vader theme/Imperial March. Imagine my delight to listen to it subtly creeping up to moments in the prequels too. Music tells part of the story in movies (at least good movies) and I confess I really liked the prequel soundtracks. And for those who complain about storytelling in I-III, the party song in Naboo, at the the end of Phantom Menace is the Emperor’s theme sped up. How’s that for subtle build up?

The Padmé/Anakin romance. Sure, the chemistry between the actors wasn’t the best at times but I put that down partially to bad direction. I’ve seen both in other films and they’re good. Personally I found their subplot believable. They live in uncertain times, when high stake moves become AnakinPadme-HaydenNatalie-anakin-and-padme-25491236-1900-1227
increasingly the norm and they are both impulsive. Top that with Anakin’s “the rules don’t apply to me” attitude and the fact that they care deeply for one another  and people are surprised about their relationship? Would events have unfolded differently without the Clone Wars raging at the background? Probably. But that doesn’t discredit their feelings as they are shown in the movies. And again, Clone Wars cartoon! It covers the entire three year time-skip between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, including lots of interactions from my favourite sci-fi couple, and. Still. Counts. As. Canon.

While we’re on the subject of the Skywalker family I’d like to make an aside regarding a plot hole people believe Revenge of the Sith created. In Return of the Jedi Leia tells Luke that she remembers her mother. But Padmé died right after giving birth. So how can Leia remember her? There’s actually two plausible explanations for that:

  1. Leia is referring to her adoptive mother. The Star Wars wiki says that she died at the destruction of Alderaan,  but what with losing many good friends, living under scrutiny by the Empire and having close ties to the Rebellion, I don’t think she led a happy life.
  2. Leia is Forse-Sensitive although untrained.  She is increasingly shown to have the same accurate gut feeling as her brother. No doubt there would have been more indications of her Force powers if she wasn’t so in control of her emotions. However, as a child she would have probably been more open. Is it that far-fetched that she had dreams or visions of Padmé

On a completely unrelated note: why do people go BALLISTIC over the whole youngling thing? It’s a sci-fi universe. One of the tools used to make it more its own entity is to use terms variant to what we are familiar with. It wasn’t in the original you say? Name me one instance in IV-VI where a term of address for children is needed and I will concede the point. Also, I’m not hearing any complaints over the Klingons having their own language or Tolkien inventing a new language whenever he felt like it. (Yes, I went there.)

And I reach my main argument: the story itself. Contrary to complaints, the story is actually really good. I will try to keep Clone Wars out of this part since I’m mainly focusing on the movies. Still, what you have is a fascinating variant to the Hero’s Quest story motif. Or, in Star Wars terms, what might have happened to Luke if he had gone Dark. An believe you me, it’s actually not that improbably an alternative.

Luke’s story was a text book example of a hero’s journey from start to finish. So is Anakin’s. The only difference is, his journey spans six movies instead of three. Think about it. In Phantom Menace Anakin is the innocent child, one with enormous potential but without the necessary guidance to achieve greatness.  He comes from humble beginnings from which he is removed by a mentor. And therein lies the first issue. Qui Gon is framed to be the mentor to guide the Chosen One but is killed before he has the chance to fulfil his role. But Lia, you say, the same can be said for Obi Wan in New Hope. To which I answer, not quite. For one, Obi Wan has a chance to teach Luke a few things before he allows himself to be killed. Qui Gon doesn’t get that chance because at first the Jedi Council won’t allow it and then…well….Darth Maul happens.

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So Obi Wan, as a young, inexperienced Jedi, steps up to replace hi,. Yoda, the most respected person in the freaking Order, the one who is in charge of training the younglings allows it despite his misgivings. Why? Why not place Anakin in a class like the rest of the the Force-Sensitive children and when he reaches Padawan age have Obi Wan take over? Anakin is aware of how unorthodox his induction and training are, on top of his growing awareness of the difference in power levels. He is an outsider even among those he should have felt included in.

Luke finds mentors in Obi Wan and Yoda. Anakin has Obi Wan but he also has Palpatine. For us viewers, Palpatine has “kill it with fire” written all Palp_trustmeover his face. In-story however, he is trusted until almost the very end. It is basic human nature to want to believe the best for those you care about. Of course Anakin will not want to believe the worst for someone he considers a father figure. And for the record, he does the right thing when Palpatine admits to being a Sith Lord: he reports it. True, he doesn’t stick with that decision but it wouldn’t be a tragedy if there weren’t any conflicting motivations.

Anyway, I story development-wise New Hope corresponds to Phantom Menace and then Empire Strikes Back corresponds to Attack of the Clones and the first major divergences on the pattern appear. Luke gains a new mentor, delves deeper in the Force and has his first true confrontation with the Dark Side, which he temporarily overcomes. Anakin has been training with Obi Wan for ten years at this time and is considered competent enough to take a high profile mission on his own. His sub-plot with Padmé kick-starts, creating the first true conflict between duty and desire and he finds a way to at least temporarily compromise between the two. It is by no means a perfect or even long-term solution but it makes the best of an all-around difficult situation.

As for Anakin’s first brush with the Dark Side, I do need to excuse it to understand it. His protectiveness borders on possessiveness because he is never taught how to healthily let go. The Jedi’s modus operandi seems to be denying attachments which is a. hypocritical, b. impossible and c. a gross misinterpretation of what the Jedi Code says. And yes, I’ve read the damn thing. The Sith Code too. They’re pretty interesting when put side by side. So where Luke receives further support before his first true challenge, Anakin is left on his own because he thinks he cannot confide in anyone about his visions. I think that is this conviction that he cannot trust anyone with his more obscure gifts (I mean, we never really see any Jedi having detailed and accurate visions of the future until Luke comes around) that is warped to the arrogance that is evident in Revenge of the Sith. It’s a defence mechanism: if you seem untouchable then others cannot hurt you.

And things don’t really look up in Revenge of the Sith, do they? Return of the Jedi, even at its more bleak moments retains some measure of optimism. They save Han, Luke is acknowledged as a Jedi, things seem to look up for the Rebellion, the Death Star gets blown up -again- Luke saves his father, Han and Leia get their happily ever after. Happy endings all around. Not so much in the closing act of the prequel trilogy. The Republic is at its death throes, the war seems to have no end in sight, the Jedi have been forced to become soldiers while refusing to adapt their interpretation of the Code to be applicable at the times they live in. And in the centre of it all is Anakin who due to his openly(?) acknowledged status as the Chosen One has been stretched thin, expected to pretty much be at the forefront of the war effort, having to deal with the politics of Coruscant and still keep everyone he cares about alive. Something’s got to give. I wish I could say that that something is not his sanity but…

And it is to classify all that as a temper tantrum and label him a crybaby but honestly, can anyone say that at 23  (yes, that’s how old he is in Revenge of the Sith) they only made calm, informed decisions, especially when people they cared about where involved? I’m 22 and I can honestly say that no, that’s not how it works. Also, it seems that people like to ignore the fact that, as I said earlier, Anakin resists turning to the Dark Side. Even when he pledges himself as Sidious’ apprentice he doesn’t do it out of pure desire for power. He already knows he’s the strongest Force user to ever be born, and that’s before he consciously uses the Dark Side. It is his desire to save his family from a probable future and…that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it? That his vision proves to be self-fulfilled may not be surprising for the genre-savvy audience, after all the fastest way to make a prophesy come true is to tell those the prophesy is about (Harry Potter and the Order of PhoenixHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows anyone?). Again, in story, that is not a conclusion that is easily reached. Especially in time sensitive and tense situations.  If Anakin’s character development follows the Wheel of Fortune motif, then the end of Revenge of the Sith is the lowest point.

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But you know what’s the best thing about circular storytelling? Redemption is always a probably outcome. Star Wars I-III are called the prequels for a reason. Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker after all and he is very much present in the original trilogy…which, years before Phantom Menace was put to film, concluded with is redemption. Say what you will for the remastered versions, the addition of Anakin’s ghost was a nice touch and a chance for closure.

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And here it is. The reasons I do not wish for the prequels to burn in cinematic hell. There’s more to be said on the subject but unfortunately I have reading to do so I will sign out now. Till next time everyone!

Twilight of the Spirit World: Dies Irae

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Author’s note: In which an ominous Latin choir is mandatory soundtrack, hell indeed has no fury like a woman enraged, battles are concluded and an uncharted future begins.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Dies Irae***

The hit never connected. Agni had practically launched himself between the two opponents managing to incinerate the Faceless one second before the black bolt hit him on the chest. He hit the ground hard, while fell on her knees next to him, almost as if someone had cut her strings. With trembling hands she turned him around so that he was facing her.

“Not you too!” she choked out, running a hand tenderly on the side of his face. Agni was having trouble focusing but managed to meet her eyes nonetheless.

“Anything for you love,” he said with a pained smile before he went limp.

 

Everyone in the battlefield froze as a heart-wrenching scream rose above all the noise. Zuko and Katara paused a few meters away, taking in the scene of Lia cradling Agni in her arms, tears rolling down her face as she silently mouthed “no” again and again. Zuko’s eyes were drawn to the crystal fearfully. He still remember what she had told him when she had given him her pendant all those years ago.

“If the carvings turn red I know you’re in danger. If they turn black…Let’s just hope that they won’t.”

The Fire Crystal had turned black.

 

This time there was no warning, no gathering clouds or yelled threats. One moment everyone stared uneasily at the tableaux in the middle of the battlefield. The next they were running for their lives as the very air they were breathing started to burn. With Lia as its epicentre a raging inferno spread across the plain, destroying everything in its path. Everyone fell on retreat, even the most resolute of Faceless realising that there was nothing they could do against such an assault. A red dragon landed in front of Zuko and Katara and the waterbender hurriedly dragged them both on the creature’s back. No sooner were they securely sitting than he took off, flying as low as possible towards the Avatars’ protective barrier. The air there was pulsing the energy, energy that seemed to be slowly compressing to a semi-corporeal figure.

 

The dragon-riders hurriedly joined the rest of their friends, relief to see everyone accounted for waring with trepidation over the new situation.

“What are we going to do?” Sokka asked nervously, eyeing the slowly approaching wave of fire nervously. “Will the barrier hold against,” he gestured wildly, “this?”

“If we are very lucky,” Koh answered from nearby. Everyone jumped at his silent approach and the fact that his face had changed to a human one for now. He turned to face the inferno as well. “Our best hope is that using the Crystal so much will knock her out soon,” he added, watching indifferently as the inferno consumed their enemies.

“But what will happen after that?” Azula asked quietly. “Will she be alright?” Koh gave her an unreadable look before shifting back to his Noh mask face.

“What do you think?” he asked before slithering away.

“She was trying to prevent this!” Toph whispered as soon as she felt the Face-Stealer out of earshot.

“What?” Suki asked her confused.

“She’s been trying to push him away since we came here,” the earthbender explained. Zuko’s eyes widened in realisation.

“She must have known this would happen!” he said. Azula looked at him confused.

“How could she have known?”

“The white flames,” Katara’s eyes widened in realisation. “She can’t just see the past, she can see the future too.” Zuko nodded grimly before turning to his sister.

“Lia has this…ability,” he explained haltingly. It was only now that he realised that since the war had ended, Lia hadn’t mentioned any visions she might have had. “Sometimes she catches glimpses of the future. But they are usually too jumbled for her to make more than vague hints out of them.”

“Unless she saw the vision more than once,” Ao said. The others turned to him, hoping for answers. He shook his head. “She doesn’t like talking about it. It’s not a very pleasant ability to have, even if it can be useful. I only knew she had visions because one came to her once when we were travelling together.”

 

Any more speculation was cut off by a sudden spike of energy. A slow hum built, just at the edge of their hearing range. The Avatar Spirit was finally awake. It looked more like a cloud of energy, amorphous and ever-shifting than anything they had ever seen before. It stretched leisurely over the battlefield, covering it and smothering the flames in the process. By the time it had reached the enemy lines, with only a few desperate attacks trying to halt its advance to no effect, the hum had become a roar. The Avatar Spirit seemed to rise up for a moment, as if it was measuring up its opponents, before descending to them, stretching to cover the entire battlefield for a few short moments.

 

When it lifted the Council and its forces had completely disappeared. A nervous hush fell over the remaining Spirits as the Avatar Spirit hovered above them all. For a moment it seemed as it would not return to its human incarnations but then is slowly moved to envelop them. There was a bright light and as one the Avatars opened their eyes, some collapsing to the ground from the effort. Toph was on Aang’s side as fast as she could, checking him over as best as she could even as he reassured her that he was fine. Similarly Zuko and Ao had ran back to the battlefield, closely followed by Azula and Katara. They found Lia unconscious, still clutching Agni’s body against her. The two men shared a grim look before carefully separating the two. Neither failed to notice the deep fiery red that the Crystal was, even in the state its bearer was.

 

In silence the group trudged back to where the healers were stationed, where a haggard-looking Yue pointed them to where those hit by the black energy were laying, separate from the rest of the injured.

“However they managed to create that weapon, it creates an energy imbalance,” she explained to the group. “Spirits are being of energy, regardless of how they reached that status. To be hit by something like this, it causes their own bodies to be at war with themselves.” She gave the group as sad smile. “We’re doing everything we can but it is not certain whether they can be healed.”

“What about the rest of the injured? Are they safe for teleportation?” La asked from the entrance. Yue gave him a confused look.

“Yes,” she answered hesitantly. “But why…”

“We’re moving everyone to the Council City. If the Council has any hidden backup armies we’ll be safe in there, at least long enough to regroup.” Yue didn’t seem convinced and neither did Katara.

“Yes, but what of those that are unconscious?” she asked. “They will wake in a completely unfamiliar environment. They will panic!” La gave her a sad look.

“We’re vulnerable here as it is,” he explained. “Most of us don’t even have all that much energy to fight left. Unfamiliar to some or not, the city is right now the safest place for us.” Any further debate was cut off when an antelope-headed Spirit appeared at the entrance of the tent they were in.

“We are ready to move out,” he told the Elementals respectfully. La nodded.

“I will join you in the teleportation circle,” he said before nodding to the others and leaving. Mindful of their previous experiences with teleportation everyone hurried to sit down.

 

It was a testament to how well everyone involved had coordinated that when the world stopped spinning around them they realised they were inside a large healing chamber with beds lining the walls. The healer Spirits started immediately organising everyone, moving the more seriously injured to the beds, while the less injured and the gaang helped anywhere they could. Soon quite a few of the less serious cases were led out of the healing chambers with strict orders to find a resting place and sleep. After most of them had left Ao pulled Yue to where Lia was still unconscious, her head resting on Zuko’s lap.

“Is there anything you can do for her?” the Blue Spirit asked anxiously. Yue shook her head.

“She is exhausted in every sense of the word,” she explained. “Only sleep can heal that. I suggest you take her to a bedchamber and let her be. She will probably want some space once she wakes.” The others nodded in grim understanding. Ao picked the redhead carefully and marched out of the door with Zuko following closely. Everyone knew better than to try and talk to him into letting Lia out of his sight.

 

The pair travelled silently to another wing on the enormous complex, Ao obviously familiar with its layout. Eventually they reached a door with the symbol of fire carved in it. Wordlessly Zuko opened the door and, taking in the red and golds, dragons and lilies, dominating the room’s appearance, he wondered why Lia would have her own room in this place.

“All Elementals have chambers here,” Ao answered the Fire Lord’s silent question. “It’s more of a token gesture, considering their status amongst other Spirits.” He lay Lia on the bed and moved towards the door. “Aren’t you coming?” he asked Zuko when the latter didn’t budge.

“She’ll need a familiar face when she wakes up,” Zuko answered simply, taking a chair and moving it close to the bed. Ao nodded in understanding.

“Try to get some sleep yourself,” he said simply, before leaving to join the others again.

 

Lia did not wake up until late the next morning. Her eyes snapped open and, recognising her surroundings instantly, her heartbeat quickened, as she looked around for any possible enemies or escape exits. Her mind was still foggy but she knew for a fact that this was not where she had been when she lost consciousness. Warm hands covered one of her own where it was clutching the bed sheets.

“It’s alright,” Zuko said soothingly. “You’re safe.” Her breath hitched and she turned to face him.

“It all came true, didn’t it?” she asked brokenly. Zuko looked pained but nodded once. Lia lay back down on the bed and turned her back to him. “Just…let me have a moment?” she said quietly. Zuko sighed but stood up.

“Come find me later,” he told her. “You’re not alone.” Lia didn’t acknowledge his words so the firebender gave her turned back one last sad look and left the room. Lia waited until his energy signature had faded in the distance before she let the tears fall.

Sons of a New Age

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A.N: Now this poem is the twin of last week’s nugget. I originally wrote it first, but when I was planning the schedule for this month’s uploads I was hit by a strong sense of “Ladies first”. What can you do? Similar influences on this one, although Völuspá is obviously more influential. I don’t know, it always bugged me how -apparently- the only female figure to survive Ragnarok is a human woman. I mean, more power to us mortal ladies, but wouldn’t it make sense to have a goddess survive as well? I suppose Hel and the Norns do (hard to imagine the universe functioning without them….) but it is not explicitly stated. Hence last week’s pick-up-the-slack-in-the-background poem, while now we have the front-and-centre-stage point of view. Hardly an optimistic outlook but in my defence, bitter poetry is how I remain semi-functional in the real world.

Sons of a New Age

Under the golden roofs of old

The children of tomorrow fumble

With their fathers’ chess pieces

Strewn anew in freshly-grown grass.

From the fiery ice and blood

The saplings sprout again

The sons do walk their forebears’ footsteps.

And below them all the dragon sleeps

In old-age glory nestled

Till the roaring sound of arms

Wakes them once more.

(Spoiler-free) Deadpool and other bizarre internet nuggets

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Originally this post was going to be my impressions from the Deadpool movie (which I saw earlier than I planned if only because spoilers were cropping up my facebook feed already. Not cool people!) Then I found out that there is a Spaceballs animated series. For real. HOW DID NOBODY TELL ME ABOUT IT??? I mean, I tend to gravitate towards the bizarre part of the internet all on my own, but still! A Spaceballs cartoon? Next you’ll be telling me that the Star Wars Expanded Universe is not canon any more. Oh, wait…. -sigh- At least the new Darth Vader comic looks promising. I’ll wait until another issue comes out and then read it in bulk. Why you ask? Because I’m already watching Lucifer one episode per week (only) and that is enough anticipation as it is! I like to follow something with the assurance of several following issues/episodes ahead of me. It’s like a security blanket for a very impatient five-year-old.

But yeah, Deadpool. Watched it. Liked it. A lot. And as somebody who only knew of the comic through hearsay, I was in the delightful position of not having all that many preconceptions walking in the cinema. (Also, by virtue of that blessed XX chromosome, I got a laugh out of the incredulous looks a group of boys gave me when I sat near them. Apparently women not dragged along by boyfriends is not the expected demographic? Who’d have thunk?) True, the movie had its flaws and some parts of it might be considered predictable (especially the ending). On the other hand, it riffed at the already established conventions of the superhero movies and the 4th-wall breaks were really well incorporated. Honestly, that was what I was most anxious to see done right. Playing hop-scotch with genre-saviness is very easily done wrong -and has been done wrong so very often-. But no, the breaks were actually incorporated in the story. On top of that, and in a happy coincidence, I had been watching the last few episodes of X-Men Evolution, so seeing Colossus rendered so well in the big screen was a pleasure. He’s hardly my favourite Acolyte (that’d be Gambit for the record) but he’s a nice counter-balance to the loose cannons he’s usually pitted with. And let’s be honest, you can’t get more loose-cannon-y than Deadpool….

So, if this were a proper review I’d have to do some sort of analysis right about now, right? Well, tough. I already have some coursework in the form of reviewing looming ahead of me. You, my friends, get me rambling over my favourite scene: hands-down the laundrette scene. I’m keeping this spoiler-free so I will not say what happens but suffice to say that it’s the sort of reality check that every superhero movie needs. Even if most of them do not want it. (Yes, I went there!) Final verdict? Go watch it. Drag friends or significant others if you fancy sharing the laughs and popcorn. It is definitely worth the price of admission! And yes, I will CERTAINLY be watching it again when it is released on DVD.

On a completely unrelated subject, I was looking up some information on TV Tropes (shut up, it’s a good site! :-P) when I came across this little nugget. Usually the sight of anything remotely related to the Periodic Table brings back some very unpleasant High School flashbacks. But this one? If I could I’d pin it above my desk! I rarely feel the need to get technical when I wrote. It’s usually a spur-of-the-moment, body-slammed-by-inspiration thing. Sometimes however, especially when I -yuck- edit, I need to keep track of tropes, archetype characteristics, precedent of motifs and all the other nuts and bolts of storytelling that I find fascinating (and hardly find anyone to discuss with…)

And hey! Bloglovin finally decide to acknowledge the existence of this humble blog! I’ll have some customising to do tonight! For now however I will have to sign out. I am sadly entering the pointless rambles mindframe and it is lunchtime anyway.

Till next time,

Lia the bookworm!

Twilight of the Spirit World: New Divide

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Author’s note: In which the author attempts a large scale fight scene on a tight schedule and with dubious success, prophesy comes a-knocking and things are about to get even deadlier.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***New Divide***

There was no official signal, no last minute efforts for negotiation between the sides. One moment they were standing in orderly lines, a stretch of no-man’s-land between them, and the next they were charging at each other, each faction intent on tearing the other apart. Chaos couldn’t quite describe what unfolded. Whatever illusion of order might have survived the first assault was swiftly dispelled as many Spirits sought out past enemies, taking advantage of the situation to exact revenge for past grievances. Smaller pockets of battle were formed as friends grouped together in order to better avoid stray hits. Lightning and all sorts of energy streaked through the air, shortly followed by dragon fire as an entire legion of them took flight, the riders on their backs pelting the enemy lines with arrows.

 

In the middle of it all smaller groups tried to reach the wounded and take them back to the edge of the camp. There, the Avatars were deep in meditation, their energy forming an impenetrable shield, making it the safest place for Yue, with the aid of more water spirits, to focus on healing those brought to her, at least to the point where they could join the fray again. They had tried healing them as soon as they found them but the focus required in the process left them as open targets and in a melee that was hardly the best way to ensure survival.

 

One thing was certain though. The Council was not holding back at all. Whether that meant they viewed the army amassed by the Avatars as a genuine threat or simply didn’t want to risk any loose ends was anyone’s guess. Nevertheless their forces, comprised in large by the Faceless and, to Azula’s immense annoyance, the Mantis Spirits and Dark Energy Spirits from their pervious skirmishes.

“Isn’t there anything that can kill these things?” she snarled in frustration as lightning bolt after lightning bolt was harmlessly absorbed by them. Ao, who hadn’t left her side for a moment, didn’t answer but pushed her so that they could switch opponents. Spirits energy shots seemed to do the trick, while the trio of armoured lizards he had been fighting was swiftly incinerated.

 

A terrified howl made them turn to the side where Koh, who had uncoiled to his full terrifying height, had allowed himself to be surrounded by an entire swarm of enemies and then, with as much of a bloodthirsty smile as the Noh mask would allow, proceeded to absorb their faces. The immobile bodies fell to the ground where Toph and a handful of Earth spirits trapped just in case they could still move after the shock they had gone through.

 

“WATCH OUT!” No one was certain who exactly had yelled the warning but those unfortunate or careless enough to not duck for cover were practically torn by the howling wind that tore through the battlefield, attacking friend and foe alike.

“What was that?” Sokka exclaimed as he and Suki pressed against a wall of granite that Shu had erected in front of their group.

“The Air crystal,” he said through gritted teeth, reinforcing and spreading the wall to cover more of their side as another gust followed up. “Either they got the Elementals to side with them or they found a way to harness the Crystal.”

“Not good then,” Suki frowned, tightening the grip on her sword.

“Not good,” Shu nodded.

 

There was not much that could be done either way. Whoever or whatever unleased these winds however couldn’t keep them up for long and they quickly found a way to time around the miniature hurricanes sweeping through the battlefield. It seemed that their opponents, those at least capable of having a facial expression, weren’t any happier about this indiscriminate form of attack. It wasn’t long before it became clear that the battle would be decided less by strength and more by tenacity. Those fighting on the Avatars’ side knew they were simply the distraction, meant to draw attention away from the fact that a good portion of their forces were unaccounted for, at least until the Avatar Spirit awoke. The Council only wanted the complete annihilation of its enemies and would not stop until that goal was achieved. Whenever wind wasn’t ravaging the landscape around them bolts of dark energy flew from their side, felling opponents one by one.

“Don’t let them hit you!” one of the healer Spirits called out over the din. “They…” A stray bolt that had been deflected by a nearby, tower-tall Spirit (one that looked like it was made of armour and not much else) hit the healer and he fell to ground unmoving. In under a minute the information had spread through the entire army; the black bolts killed on contact.

 

An added urgency seemed to colour everyone’s attacks and in their hastiness to shield from the bolts a lot of them turn to a clumsy defence. More and more fell when the entire two front rows of a battalion of the Council’s forces were incinerated were they stood. Agni landed near to where Zuko and Katara had been trying to calm a group of more inexperienced fighters. His hair and clothes were smouldering at the edges and his expression was wild as he blasted some more oncoming attackers before turning to glare at the now quiet group.

“Focus on the battle now,” he barked at them. “You can have a nice panic attack later.” Katara frowned and was about to tell him off when Zuko cut her off.

“We were separated from Lia early on,” he told Agni, a little out of breath. The last skirmish he had been in had involved a lightning user and while he was a master at redirecting lightning it took its toll on him. Agni’s attention immediately went from the cowering Spirits to the Fire Lord and Zuko found himself suppressing a shiver at the sight of the almost inhuman eyes trained on him. “If you are not with her, then who is watching her back?” he asked nonetheless.

 

Agni looked at him blankly for a moment before the implication sank in as a bolt of black energy missed them by centimetres. With a curse he took off running, all his senses honed to the lone beacon that was Lia, right at the very front of their line of attack. Zuko and Katara exchanged a look and followed him from a distance. They had both seen Lia fighting angry and were not eager to be caught in the crossfire.

 

Lia was only as aware of her surroundings as she needed to be to not be randomly hit by friendly fire. Her consciousness had all but merged with the Crystal, the Spirits around her registering as masses of energy, some to be preserved and some to be extinguished. If you were to ask her she wouldn’t be able to tell you whether she used fire, lightning or even her own energy to cut down her opponents. There was a reason for that. She could feel it down to her bones. If her vision was to come true, it would in this field, in this battle. It all matched. The scorched earth, the cries of terror and triumph from both sides, the lightning, flame and smoke shielding the sky, the ominous build-up of energy from where the Avatar Spirit was summoned. There was but one thing missing for the tableaux to be complete and she had done her damned best to ensure he wouldn’t want to be near her right now.

 

So strong was her certainty that she completely missed the Faceless sneaking up to her, his energy signature carefully masked by the hordes of attackers at all sides. Silently he took aim, focusing on the redhead’s half-turned back. Neither of them noticed the Spirit running towards them until it was too late. Lia turned completely to face her new opponent, torn from her trance by the violent sense of imminent death clashing in her mind with that of a prophesy being fulfilled. For the longest moment the world seemed to freeze around her.

Daughters of Long Gone

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A.N: This is the result of one too many staying-up-lates reading multiple mythologies at the same time. Here in particular, there’s elements of Babylonian, Greek and Norse myths, taken entirely out of context and mashed in my own very personal variation of “regardless of geographical location the bare bones of mythology remain the same”. The poem is supposed to be less of a cosmogony and more of a post-end-of-the-world scenario, but I supposed it could be taken either way. The stories that inspired it were delightfully ambiguous on the matter, probably due to several centuries/millennia of re-writes and dubious translations.

Daughters of Long-Gone

Beneath the timeless sea of ever

Yesterday’s daughters sleep and dream

And in their dreams the world they shape

Gift to the brethren that’s to come.

Covered in darkness the dragon mother

Spends an eternity at birth

Endlessly labouring for her children.

The daughters sing – the sons forget

The ancient blood-call humming

Deep in their veins that turned

From stardust to dirt.

On colour coordination and other fashion tribulations

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It has been often pointed out to me that I tend to colour coordinate my outfits, which is true in the winter (but in the summer….long live the patchworks!). What makes me wonder is this: why is coordinating outfits a weird thing? I mean, if you put the slightest effort in your appearance then things have to go nicely together, or at least not clash gruesomely, right? Sure, I tend to stick to monochromes during the winter, but if you see some of my summer dresses you’ll understand. Winter is my take-a-break-from-(too)-flamboyant-outfits time.

That and I am aware enough of colour symbolism to play around with it. Granted, I should ever choose outfits while in a bad mood and sleepy or I end looking like Morticia Adams. Honestly, most of the time I don’t consciously think about it. Like most women I have my lucky pieces and sometimes I may structure an outfit around them, or if it’s the first day of a module I might dress up. (Which is why I showed up in my first Old Icelandic Literature seminar wearing a dress with a hood that would have made 13th century fashion designers weep in delight.)

But you can’t tell me I’m the only one doing it. Sure the “first thing my hands grabbed” look can be popular in a university environment. And I’m not going to say that every time I had to make an appearance in public I spent two hours on my outfit (that only happens when my hair refuses to cooperate). Still sometimes I get this feeling that there is a sort of expectation. That just because we’re students we cannot be bothered to keep a tidy appearance (much like some students clearly are incapable of taking out the trash, but I haven’t bitched about flatmates here so far, I think, so let’s not break the good trend now). And yes, I have seen outfits that made me cringe on campus, just like I’ve seen outfits that make me want to walk up to complete strangers and ask where they shop so I can go there too.

For me dressing up (in meaning of the phrasal) is just another way of expressing myself, my likes, my mood…I may not want to talk about what’s wrong (or most often I may not know how), but I can wear darker clothes and a hood that hides my face and feel a little safer. Or I may wake up in a ridiculously happy mood but, since it is not socially acceptable, I cannot just randomly burst into song and dance in the middle of the street. I can wear bright clothes though, or a humorous t-shirt or a pair of funky earrings and it’s not a creative means of sharing my thoughts and feelings but a fashion statement.

It may be my flair for the dramatic (there’s a reason why I completely empathise with Kylo Ren) or the ungodly amount of time I spend snarking online, I don’t know, but does anyone else ever feel like fashion is double guilt trap? I mean you can’t completely ignore it without being called a hundred different names (and most of them not good; I know, I was the girl that combined Hermione Granger’s and Luna Lovegood’s looks during Middle School) but you can’t follow fashion trends exactly either, unless you plan on blowing up your bank account and/or being called a sheep for following what “them media”dictate blindly. Yes, personal style and middle ground and all that jazz are nice and good in theory. Well then, what happens when MY middle ground is about 10 km from the middle ground of the person next to me?

Twilight of the Spirit World: Revelation Day

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Author’s note: In which we’re once more in countdown mode, the author incorporates LoK elements for the heck of it and the pressure is on like you wouldn’t believe it…

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Revelation Day***

Lia was gone for that day and most of the next. When she returned to where the others had made camp she was pale, quiet and had swapped her dress for armour. The crystal hung visible against her breastplate, its colour nearly black. She regarded the group silently for a few moments, before Zuko noticed her and stood up, a worried question ready on his lips. Lia shook her head, cutting him off and addressed the whole group instead.

“The army has been gathered. I can take us all there if you are ready.” Her answer came in a series of uneasy nods. Everyone stood, breaking camp and preparing their weapons. Once they were ready, they approached the Fire Spirit. “Form a circle around me,” she said. “It will be easier to transport everyone this way.”

“You sure you don’t need help with the teleporting?” Ao asked her concerned. Over the centuries he had faced his fair share of battles, and Lia’s almost mechanic behaviour, combined with Agni’s absence didn’t fill him with confidence. It was always hard to keep track of a companion in the midst of a fight, harder yet when said companion didn’t have a clear enough mind to take care of themselves. Lia shook her head.

“I’ll be fine,” she told him and the next moment they were standing at the edge of the largest and most chaotic camp any of them had ever seen.

 

Spirits of all shapes and kinds, some human-looking, some less so, hurried around, forming in battalions, putting on armour and sharpening weapons. Some searched for friends or lovers in other groups, wanting to have a few last moments of peace before the uncertainty of the fight started. Different incarnations of the Avatar walked through the different groups, some joining them, some simply pausing to exchange of few words. The gaang stared slack-jawed at the gathering for a moment before they realised that Lia was already walking towards the centre of the camp and hurried to follow her.

 

As they walked amongst the different Spirits they noticed that most of them seemed to group by characteristics or abilities. A large group of dragons flew overhead, some carrying warriors on their backs, roaring in acknowledgement when they saw Lia. A group of Spirits that seemed to be carved out of precious stones, greeted Toph enthusiastically as she passed by, making the earthbender blush slightly and hide behind her bangs. In a different section, one suspiciously covered in mist and studiously avoided by most Spirits, Koh sat, calmly observing the chaos around him, and Sokka could have sworn he saw Hei Bai pass by, carrying baskets of weapons in his back.

 

For all the noise and voices and new sights however, no one could ignore that under all that they could still hear, almost to quiet to register, a similar noise dimly coming from the enemy camp. Perhaps not surprisingly Zuko was the first to break the silence. He caught up to his sister and turning to face her he asked,
“Where exactly are we going?” Are you alright? he’d rather ask. Will you be alright once this is over and we return to our world? But he knew Lia would never answer him openly in front of everyone and so chose to stick to a more neutral ground. Lia gave him a quick glance and then turned to face forward again, although she spoke up for the benefit of the group.

“Just a little further ahead. There is a meeting going on. We are trying to come up with a strategy and I am sure your experience with…unconventional methods of war craft will be useful. From behind them they heard Sokka, Suki and Azula immediately starting to brainstorm, with Ao and Aang offering their thoughts at points. Taking advantage of their distraction Zuko turned to Lia again.

“Will you be alright?” he asked her quietly. She turned to look at him surprised, her hand going reflexively to cover the crystal.

“I always am,” she told him softly, but didn’t resist when he pulled her to a quick hug.

 

Ahead of them, around a large table almost completely covered in papers, stood a group of Avatars, Roku included, Oma, Shu, Yue, La, and, to the gaang’s surprise, Agni, dressed in black armour and looking more grave than anyone remembered seeing him since he had started travelling with them. By unspoken agreement the group broke, everyone heading towards their elemental counterparts, with Aang and the non-benders staying with Ao. It caused no small amount of stares when Lia took her place next to Agni, even though she refused to look at him. Instead she turned her attention to Kyoshi who was standing opposite of her.

“Any news on the Air elementals?” she asked in a measured tone. If the female Avatar was surprised at their arrival she did not show it.

“No,” she said instead. “We hope this means that they are choosing to remain neutral on the matter.”

“What of the Air crystal?” Sokka asked. “We do not have it but the tower was pretty much destroyed so…”

“Without the Air elementals there is no way of knowing whether the Council managed to take the crystal or not,” Roku said frowning.

“What about the plan you told us about Roku?” Aang jumped in. “How are we going to awaken the Avatar Spirit?” An uneasy looked was swapped by the older Spirits. True that had been the plan since the beginning, but it was one rife with risks.

“It is not as simple as you may imagine,” La said finally, his voice similar to waves crashing on the shore. “The Avatar Spirit is the Spirit of Life, birth from the union of Raava and Vaatu, Order and Chaos. It cannot be controlled or predicted. Moreover, it would severely diminish our forces.” Azula looked at him with a frown.

“How so?” she asked, leaning against the table.

“It would require the combined energy of all the Avatars together to awaken it,” Avatar Kuruk explained. “If we follow this course of action we cannot participate in the battle. Our side will be deprived of at least a thousand warriors.”

“Do we have a choice?” Toph asked, before the conversation turned to calculating the odds. That never helped.

“What do you mean child?” Oma looked at her like she could already guess the earthbender’s next words.

“Do we have an alternative plan? Anything other than charge blindly and hope for the best.” Toph shrugged. “I’m usually all for the head-on approach but in this case…”

“Toph is right,” Lia said. “At this point we do not have a choice. We do not know exactly what the Council has in store, but if it is anything like those blasts they used when I first returned, well, we cannot afford to hold back.” She gave Aang a sharp look, already guessing where any opposition might come from. “They will definitely not.” The airbender didn’t look happy, but didn’t contradict her either.

“It might be best if this…” Zuko paused, uncertain of what awakening the Avatar Spirit might entail. He continued nonetheless. “Close to the camp. Then in case everything goes wrong we will have one last line of defence.”

“For whatever good it might do…”Agni muttered but gave an approving nod to the Fire Lord. “But you are correct. If it comes down to it we will at least have enough time to send you children back and seal any passages between our worlds.”

“What do you mean, seal the passages?” Aang asked alarmed. Agni gave him a grave look.

“We cannot allow the Council’s bid for rewriting how the universe works. One way or another they will need to be contained.”

“But to completely seal the gates…” Yue looked hesitant, and most of the other elementals nodded in agreement. “This has never happened before. How do we know it will not cause a worse disaster to the mortal realm than what we are already facing?”

“Yue,” Lia spoke up for the first time, turning to face the youngest Spirit present, “you and I both know better than anyone that the mortals always find a way to survive, and even prosper, at the most adverse of circumstances. We will have to trust that this trend will continue.” Another round of nods, some more confident than others, rippled across the table. Katara took a deep breath and spoke for the entire gaang.

“What do you need us to do?” she asked decisively.

 

Each one of them was assigned to a different battalion, though there was little doubt they would sooner or later find each if only because after all these years they tended to gravitate together. Around them the warriors were beginning to line up in a surprisingly orderly fashion. Toph and Aang were the first to separate, with the earthbender roughly pushing her boyfriend towards the barrier the other Avatars were slowly forming, with explicit instructions as to where he was to take her for a date as soon as they won the battle. Aang, knowing better than to disagree with her, enveloped her in a tight hug and moved to join his other incarnations. Toph paused only to punch Zuko to the arm and wolf-whistle at Sokka and Suki who were kissing (“It’s for good luck!” Suki exclaimed with a blush.) before joining the gemstone Spirits.

 

Getting over their slight embarrassment, Sokka and Suki waved at the reminder of the group and joined a group near the middle that seemed to be formed mostly of Spirits formed out of what could only be described as solidified energy. They didn’t try to put their thoughts to words, both firmly of the belief that a casual farewell was the best way to ensure you’d find someone on the other side of the battle.

 

Azula embraced her brother and Katara tightly, her throat too tight for words. Ao moved to stand to her side, their affinity with lightning making them the perfect long-range offensive. Zuko looked at them both sternly, one hand firmly wrapped around Katara, the other pointing at them warningly.

“Look after each other,” he ordered them. His eyes focused on Ao. “Once this is over, we two need to have a talk.”

“Zuko!” Azula exclaimed, indignant embarrassment overpowering the pre-battle nervousness. Ao however simply nodded and took her hand.

“That we do Fire Lord,” he said with a slight inclination of the head before he led Azula away to where they’d be stationed.

 

Katara chuckled softly, shifting so that she could face Zuko.

“Did Sokka pull a stunt like this with you?” she asked idly. Zuko shook his head.

“No, he was too afraid of Lia’s reaction, so close to our encounter with the Combustion Man, remember?” The waterbender nodded, a concerned look passing through her eyes.

“Lia will be alright, right?” she said hesitantly. Zuko sighed and tightened his grip.

“I don’t know,” he admitted quietly. “I wish she would talk to me instead of hiding away.” Katara pecked him on the cheek comfortingly.

“We’ll get through this battle,” she said strongly. “Then we’ll make sure she is really alright.” Zuko wasn’t sure things would work quite that well, they never did with their little group, but, with the pre-battle hush slowly falling over the entire battlefield, he nodded once. Together they moved towards the front lines, with the other close-range warriors.

 

While these last minute conversations and promises were happening, Lia stood at the very edge of the battlefield, eyes closed, as she concentrated on the shifting energies around her. So deeply she was in her meditation that the sudden flare of energy right next to her seemed like a small star. She opened her eyes and turned to face him. Agni’s expression was almost mournful as he stood there, his hands rigidly on his sides like he was forcing himself to not embrace her. For an endless moment they looked at each other silently.

“You know that I love you, right?” Agni finally said in a resigned tone. “It doesn’t matter how often we scream at each other or you try to kill me, it doesn’t change anything.” Lia parted her lips to say something but he cut her off. “Don’t. I just wanted you to know for certain. Just in case.” With these words he turned to leave, completely missing the way her expression crumbled in despair. Wordlessly Lia turned once more forward to face the battlefield, refusing to let her tears fall.