Tag Archives: Council

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.

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***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.

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.

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***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.

Twilight of the Spirit World – Returns

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Author’s note: In which overhearing conversations is the most reliable method of information,  bad guys ALWAYS plot in shadow-y rooms and Azula has become the other resident snarker.

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***Returns***

A fine summer morning in Sozin found Lia walking through the gardens of the Fire Nation Palace, seeking to burn them in her memory. Today marked ten years from the first time she had visited the garden and decided to aid the little prince. Although she was by no means eager to return to her world, she felt obliged to, fearing that further shows of –ahem- disrespect might result in further problems. Besides for the last four years she had avoided thinking of certain…unresolved issues that were awaiting her back home. Eventually they would catch up to her and she’d rather be alone when that happened. Shaking her head she banished the depressing thoughts and walked leisurely back at the palace.

 

The next day found the Fire Lord and princess standing at the stairs at the front courtyard of the palace, facing the red-haired Spirit. Despite her constant grumbling about the Council, Lia had truly missed her home. Smiling she hugged Zuko and Azula.

“Don’t be so gloom little brother!” she told the now twenty-year old Fire Lord.  “I promise to visit soon!”

“You’d better,” Azula said, struggling to keep a straight face. “I don’t know how Zuzu will be able to survive with Katara at the South Pole and you away. I’m afraid he will start burying himself under paperwork again, like that time mother visited Ba Sing Se.” Zuko glared at his sisters as they shared a laugh at his expense.

“Sokka was right. Sisters are a headache,” he muttered, causing them to laugh even more.

“Sokka tends to bring to himself whatever trouble he lands with Katara,” Lia remarked, recalling the numerous time the Water Tribesman had felt his sister’s waterwhip after some comment or another. “But seriously,” she continued at a calmer tone, “I just need to settle a few things back home and then I’ll be free to visit whenever I want.”

 

Turning her back to the Royal siblings, she concentrated on the ever-present pull of the Spirit World, allowing it to open a portal, not to the in-between anymore. Lia started walking towards it before pausing and turning to flash a smile to the two firebenders.

“Give my love to the rest of the gang!” she called before disappearing in a bright light.

 

The meadow she appeared was not far from the Council City. Lia stood there for a minute taking in how everything had changed in her absence. The city had grown, more towers rising at the centre and a line of walls surrounded the outer ring of buildings. The Fire Spirit frowned as she took in the barren fields that were green and lush ten years ago.

 

The joy of her return evaporated as she hurried towards the walls. With the balance mostly restored in the mortal plane what could possibly be so threatening that the Council felt the need to fortify its lair? The gates were unguarded yet she felt eyes on her as she raced through the deserted streets towards the palace in the middle of the city. Not a soul was in sight and despite the grim situation Lia smirked at her pun. She rarely visited the city, preferring to roam the endless countryside surrounding it and visiting her less popular friends or taking the odd trip in the mortal word, but every time she did come for some reason or another she could hardly walk through the endless mass of Spirits walking the streets. In fact the only time she had seen the streets empty was when she had been banished for disobeying the no-aid-for-mortals rule.

 

Pausing in front of the Council’s Palace Lia gave her surroundings one last suspicious look before entering. Still no one was present. Swallowing her uneasiness she walked purposely to the Hearing Hall, determined to get to the bottom of this. Sure she had not expected a welcoming committee, but this was beginning to resemble the equivalent of human world’s quarantine. Hearing the low buzz of voices she paused at the entrance.

“…return of Fire…” she could just make out through the heavy wooden door, “…need to hasten…crystals.” At the mention of one of the many unresolved issues that had accumulated in her absence she stiffened and pressed her ear closer to the door, willing the voices to become just a little clearer.

“…need to do something about the Avatar…” came a second voice, “…can’t let it get in our way…” There was a noise of approval from the rest of the audience. Lia was growing more alarmed with every fragment and tid-bit of information she heard. Sliding the door open a little – and praying no one would notice – she waited for the conversation to begin again.

“What about the other elementals?” one councilman asked. “They will not be swayed by promises of power; they are easily the most powerful after the Avatar Spirit.”

“Agni might,” the other speaker seemed doubtful but pressed on for the sake of argument, “if nothing else it will cause chaos and he thrives in situations like this.”

“He will not be as easily manipulated this time,” the first Council member said disappointedly. “I believe the true consequences of his actions in the human world hit home harder than we had calculated. He will not risk another confrontation with his partner.”

“Maybe then she would side with us? She has no fond feelings for Agni.”

 

Lia raised an eyebrow. True she had no intention whatsoever of ever being in the same room with her equal and opposite Spirit but she did not hate him enough to blindly side with the Council of all Spirits. She would need to speak with Roku. As she turned to leave, she came face-to-spear with the reason she had felt eyes on her since she had returned. The Faceless were a special force organised by the Council for security reasons. They were efficient and most of all silent, although the difficulty of finding something that would actually kill a Spirit reduced their job to merely “silencing” the Council’s targets. At that moment Lia was certain that someone had to have jinxed her. So much for a welcoming committee.

 

Forgoing any attempt for discreetness Lia blasted the guard in front of her and made a dash for the door.

Hardly an hour back home and already in trouble! The sarcasm sounded bitter even inside her own head. Racing back out of the Palace she continued dodging attacks at the now-understandably empty streets. The moment she was through the gates and back at the barren land, blasts of black energy were raining around her. Lia’s eyes widened in horror when a blast landed next to her and nearly melted a hole on the ground. In a normal fight she would probably be able to hold her own long enough to find a way to get out of the situation. Now, with the opponents she had, aiming closer and closer to her those deadly blasts, there was only one thing she could do. With a curse Lia closed her eyes and literally threw herself to the in-between before racing back to the human world. She would need backup for this one.

 

Zuko was surprised to hear commotion outside the throne room. He and Azula were about to go investigate when the doors burst open and a familiar redhead walked in.

“When you said you’d come to visit soon, I didn’t think you meant so soon,” Azula said bemused. Lia shook her head negatively.

“This isn’t a social call,” she said grimly. Zuko and Azula frowned at the grave tone.

“What’s going on?” the Fire Lord asked, motioning for the dumbfounded guards to leave them.

“I’m not sure yet.” Lia flopped on the ground near the throne. She had raced all the way to the palace and even for a mostly-immortal being that was too much. “But I do know that I just eavesdropped on a plan to take out the strongest spirit in existence and that the Spirit Council is certifiably insane.”

“How so?” Azula asked, trying to make heads from tales of the absentminded mumbling of the Spirit. Zuko made a motion to shush her, more used to Lia’s explanations.

“Well,” the Fire Spirit had a slightly insulted expression, “they thought that I might even be tempted to side with them just because Agni wouldn’t.”  The siblings gave an inaudible “oh” as an answer. All things considered that sounded pretty silly.

“I wasn’t able to hear much,” Lia continued her explanation, “but from what I understand this has being going on for quite a long time. I don’t get what anyone could possibly gain by permanently upsetting the balance and yet here they are planning just that.”

“Maybe they want to replace the Avatar Spirit?” Azula offered.

“Perhaps, though I doubt any one of those old power grabbers would be able to handle it.”

“You didn’t come here just to give us a heads-up, did you?” Zuko asked. Lia gave him a mischievous smile.

“Actually no,” she said. “I’ll need your help with this mess and since the rest of the gaang will be coming soon anyway I thought it’d be safer to wait here instead of back home.”

“Yeah…” Zuko mused, then looked up. “Wait, how do you know the others will be coming?”

“It was her idea to invite them Zuzu,” Azula rolled her eyes. “Something to get your mind off things for a while.”

“Time rolls differently in the Spirit World. How long have I been away?” Lia asked, looking around her for a clue.

“A couple of hours. Why? How long were you there?” Zuko asked.

“Pretty much that long.” Lia seemed satisfied. “That means the two worlds are aligned for now. It’ll make it easier to cross over.” She paused. “You guys are coming, right?” Zuko rolled his eyes.

“Of course!” he said. “We can’t let you get in trouble all by yourself now, can we?” Azula nodded in agreement.

“Besides,” she said, “if I stay on this palace for much longer I might end up as bored as Mai was.”

“Then it’s settled,” Lia smiled relieved. “We’ll wait for everyone else to arrive and then we’re off.” She winked at Zuko. “Feels like old times, doesn’t it?”