Chapter 23: The Proper Etiquette for Surrendering Water Tribers


[Deep Arctic Tundras] (A day after the attack on Agna Qel'a)

Red silhouettes marching across the endless white plains, that's what the 1st Cavalry Scout Squad and I were.

We left behind only shallow footprints in the snow that would have trailed all the way from the devastated Agna Qel'a if the arctic winds hadn't filled them in. But for the moment, the great blizzard had abated- the sky, a blanket of gray clouds that stretched to the horizon in every direction. The Fire Nation forward operating base may be only a scant eight hour march from Agna Qel'a at a brisk pace, and we would have arrived there by now, but being the last out of the city, we were the rearguard: Moving from cave to pre-scouted cave, and on the watch for any Water Tribe counterattack- ready to interdict and give the main force of the 41st Division time to rally for a counter-counterattack.

Half a day passed as we watched the horizon like eagle-hawks, but no such attack came. No blue tide of angry waterbenders wanting to rescue their chieftains. Not surprising given the state we left the Water Tribe city in- leaderless, their Avatar injured and several unpleasant situations building up all at once.

My skull helm gave one last glance at the horizon before we moved on.

My small elite team finally arrived back to base on the fourth hour of our journey, shivering as we crossed an invisible threshold- like pushing through a thick curtain of cobwebs still skittering with live spiders.

Spirit Check succeeded! (98/50 Spirit Required)

"Yes, that feels like home base alright." My deep voice chuckled as we were finally close enough to feel the haunting grip of the spiritual that bit deep, right through all our warm clothing and armour. "Base, sweet base."

Nestled between a long and narrow valley, the worst of the blizzards and arctic winds were held back by the jagged mountains whose shadows loomed around on either side.

It was here where we had made our base- within man-made cave structures that were built into the sheer cliffs of ice and black stone. Ruins of an ancient civilisation said to have been founded when the great Lion Turtles still roamed the realm, our North Pole Barbarian allies claimed. Echoes of such a civilization still endured here: Ancient hieroglyphs hewn into the black stone, spelling out grand declarations in a long dead tongue. Alcoves with stone idols, their frozen hands still clasped in greeting or in prayer. Frowning dragon-like statues of dark stone with icicles hanging from their mouths like protruding fangs decorated the arches of cave entrances. And inside, the floor and walls were smooth carved stone, replete with foyers and staircases and rooms and kitchens.

All clear signs of a flourishing civilisation, now fossilised in the ice and snow.

Apparently, the only reason no tribe settled here is because- every season apart from winter- this whole valley has its temperature drop lower than even the wind-worn ice sheet plains. Something about a horde of angry spirits that heap their millenia-old grudges upon this place, and only slumber in the winter months for some long-forgotten reason.

It was easy to forget how vast and utterly old this world of Avatar was. That even with all my power, it still had the capacity to make me feel so small. So much of the world that the show didn't cover, and so much that I did not know... For now.

"I said it before, and I'll say it again: this place gives me the creeps." June said softly, her dark-painted eyes considering the spiky tops of the mountains as we approached. Nyla chuffed agreeably under her.

"It's just a haunted ruin." My deep voice dismissed, "The Earth Kingdom is littered with places like these."

"Not gonna argue about that." June scoffed, "Doesn't matter which Earth Kingdom bar you waste your coin in. You're always going to hear haunted ruins this or haunted ruins that. But... some of them are definitely truer and more haunted than the rest, I'm just saying. This place? Definitely in my Top 3, easy."

"For all its downsides, it still provides us with shelter we can't find anywhere else." I pointed out, "A very welcome change after marching across the blizzard-worn tundras, and the frozen stream at the bottom of the valley even provides us a scant but appreciable supply of fish and migrating puffin-seals for food and hides. Fairly defensible too. It's the perfect base of operation... provided we don't overstay our welcome."

"No arguments here." June shrugged, "It's been comfy so far, but squatting isn't as classy when the landowners are both dead and unhappy to see us. Let's just hope those tribers call it quits soon. We already kicked them hard enough in the jewels as it is."

"Yes, hopefully they get the message." I grunted, knowing that it was still a challenge.

Soon enough, we trudged up to the outer lookout post- a squat stone watchtower half buried in the snow. The red Fire Nation flag rolled down its front like a tabard- the flame insignia flapping defiantly in the arctic winds.

"The commander's back with 1st Squad!" A {41st Division Elite Raider} called out as we approached- briefly sounding a horn in a precise interval to announce our arrival while his squad came walking out of the watchtower where they had been huddled around a warm fire with their mounts.

"Commander Khan, sir! Welcome back!" The sergeant greeted- his gauntlet clicking against his helmet in a salute.

"Good to see you made it back, Sergeant." I dipped my skull helmet in a nod before turning towards the 1st Squad, "Lieutenant, get me sitrep on all elements. I need accountability and a CASEVAC status, now."

"We already compiled the report, sir." the Sergeant spoke up. "All companies, including the Kyoshi Warriors, are at full accountability. Aid station is empty, sir, no injuries of note- it's all just bumps and bruises."

"Finally some good damn news." I sighed in relief as I patted his shoulder, "You and your squad keep your eyes peeled for possible tails now."

"Sir, yes sir!" He said with an eager salute, "If there's any waterbender who comes chasing for round two, you'll be the first to know!"

"Good. As you were, Sergeant."

"Sir!"

With one last salute, we passed the lookout tower and entered the base proper.

The sheer cliff face of ice-encrusted black stone with its walkways and caves was bustling with activity as the rest of the 41st Division in their red armours and black greatcoats went about post-combat operations. And the first thing I noticed when we did was that morale was sky-high. In between boasting their achievements to their division-mates over steaming tea kettles, my troops would wave at me. All smiles and laughs.

"Commander Khan, good to see you back, sir!"

"Those tribers-in-pajamas were worthy opponents, sir! I'd take them over Earth Kingdom soldiers anyday!"

"We sure showed those icicle-suckers, aye, Commander?"

"Commander, sir! We made you proud! 1st Regiment got all the optional HVTs!"

"Seeing a Water Tribe Chief wake up in bed and soil himself at the sight of us looming over him will be a story I'll retell to my grandchildren until their ears fall off!"

"Ours was floundering on top of his wife when we found him! We sure saved that woman from an unremarkable night!"

"Us over in 3rd Regiment want to thank you for giving us a chance to fight, Commander! We got them real good in their western flank!"

"4th Regiment too, sir! Just cause our opponents were dressed, they thought they could take us on! We sure showed them!"

"For Fire Nation and Fire Lord, Commander! We'll drink to your health tonight, sir!"

"Speaking of celebrations... Commander, let me speak for the 2nd Regiment and request for your hippo-ox 'burgers' tonight!"

"The Commander's taking victory feast requests?! Sir, we managed to claim some rice. Do we still have elephant koi left, sir?!"

"Get lost with your fish katsu! Hippo-ox burgers are better!"

"With all due respect, the Commander's fried chicken is better. Fight me!"

Yes, morale was very high. Every single one of the 41st Division seemed downright giddy. As if springs in their steps, wide victorious smiles and raucous laughter had been made standard issue. I suppose it was to be expected. After weeks of trudging through the snow and pushing against the arctic winds, the glorious battle that I had promised to them had made it all worth it. We had stacked the odds so well into our favour that we managed not to lose anyone. Some close calls, yes. But ultimately, a flawless mission complete.

I glanced at the 1st Squad, "You all know what's going to happen in the next phase. Rest up, you'll need your strength. You too, June."

"As far as orders go, 'go slack off' is one of my favourite ones. 'specially after rearguard action." June chuckled before a smirk curled her black-painted lips. "And before I forget..."

Leaning down from her saddle, her dainty, gloved fingers tilted my helmet up and she leaned in. The goth-girl's dark lips pressed against mine- warm and soft. Pressing her slender frame against me lightly, she let out a soft longing whimper as the kiss deepened and she leaned back.

"I'm gonna have a hot bath then hit the hay..." She winked before slender gloved fingers lifted up my helmet and her soft goth-girl lips pressed against mine. "... Hop in with me?"

"Not tonight." I answered immediately, "Post-combat ops, and also... someone has to cook the victory feast."

"Ah, that'd be a shame, huh?" Her flint grey eyes twinkled. "Almost made the entire division miss out on your cooking, me included. Fine, I'll have some of that drunken hippo-ox belly, Chef-Commander. Extra crispy."

"Someone changes her mind quickly." I chuckled, and June's dark-painted lips tugged in a smirk.

"Celebrations first, then celebrations..." She leaned in for another kiss before glancing over my shoulder, "Alright, I'm done here. Your turn to invite him into your bedroll for some after-battle celebrations too, Lieutenant."

"Wuh?!"

"Spotted you snuggling up against the Commander real comfy-like during my watch back there."

"I-I was cold!"

I glanced over my shoulder to face her, "Lieutenant, you're-"

Now under the spotlight, the same grizzled veteran who had been ready to go down fighting in a valorous last stand against an entire city of Waterbenders froze in her saddle, squeaked out a 'L-lookingforwardtothefeast, sir!' and galloped off on her ostrich-horse.

"- dismissed."

A wave of chuckling swept across the 1st Squad as they followed after their leader, and clocked out.

"Pfft. That scaredy-cat-owl." June chuckled before giving me a lazy salute and playful smile, "See you 'round, Commander."

"You too, June." I waved her off until she and Nyla turned around a corner.

Alone again, my tall armoured frame immediately went into motion- purpose coursing through every muscle as I marched in the opposite direction. It was time to finish this farcical Water Tribe resistance. It was check off Sub-Objective #1.

Quest:

THE ADMIRAL'S MOMENT OF TRIUMPH

Main Objective: Ensure the Fire Nation wins the Siege of the Northern Water Tribe... without dooming the world.

Sub-Objective #1: Secure a formal declaration of surrender from the Northern Water Tribe

Sub-Objective #2: Stop Zhao from killing the Moon Spirit

Secondary Objective: Convince Zhao to willingly give up on his goal of killing the Moon Spirit.

Rewards:

Large bonus exp

[Moon Blessed] No, it's not a dummy-thicc Moon Goddess flashing you her ass. ?

Secondary Rewards:

Large bonus exp

Large Reputation increase with the {Firelord Ozai}

Large Reputation increase with the {Fire Nation}

Legendary Item x 1

+ R +

The POW quarters weren't far. After all, the objective was to acquire a formal declaration of surrender, not to kill them all.

Through a massive open doorway in the cliff face, I marched through. Stone reliefs of some long extinct hybrid creature flanked the entrance, their frosted over eyes staring down at anyone who entered.

A short stone hallway opened up into a vast open area under the mountain. From open windows high above, transparent rays of arctic sunlight streamed in with sprinkles of snow from open windows, down over a great expanse of stone seats overlooking a stone stage. Maybe a forum or a theatre once upon a time; but now, it was our ostrich-horse stables. At least forty of the great brown creatures had made their nests up in the audience seats where they could have a commanding view of the POW area. Their beady black eyes stared hungrily down to the stone stage to where the Chieftains and their heirs- still in their sleepwear- huddled together for warmth with their thin bedrolls.

I stepped in to where a squad of my soldiers were caring for some chirping ostrich-horse foals. Armchair-sized balls of yellow fluff waddling on velociraptor legs.

"Commander Khan, sir!" The {41st Division Elite Raiders} saluted as soon as they noticed me.

"At ease. Any escape attempts from the pajama brigade?" I asked them- glancing at the prisoners who were barely even restrained, and their 'cage' was little more than a shoddily put together fence made of whatever loose material we could scrounge up in this barren tundra- mostly rubble from around these ruins. A group of people could push it over if they wanted, or just clamber over it. Not that they would.

"Just two heirs, sir." He replied, gesturing to the ostrich-horse foals who were apparently using the bones of the stupid chieflings who tried to escape as a chewtoy. "They climbed over the fence and immediately got snacked on. The clever birds have been quiet ever since they figured out that the tribers only try to escape when they're being quiet."

I nodded. As much as the ostrich-horses liked their meals slow-roasted over a spit, they liked it just as much when their food ran and screamed. It worked wonders as a deterrent for the other prisoners. Bind people in chains and collars, and they'll yearn for freedom. But surround them with a horde of flesh-eating animals, and they'll reinforce the bars of their cage from the inside. It only took two of them dying this time around too.

Through the eye slits of my skull helmet, I squinted at the huddled mass of prisoners as something off caught my eyes.

"Where's Chieftain Arnook?"

"Chieftain Essin and his grandson are interrogating him." He gestured down the dark corridor leading deeper still into the mountain. "They took him to the side room on the far left, sir."

Immediately, I was marching for the corridor. It wouldn't do if they killed the Head Chieftain after all. Of course, his life was already forfeit- Ozai's gargantuan pride meant that he'd never let someone who had spit on his handwritten offer of surrender to ever be allowed to live. Chieftain Arnook was a dead man walking. But until that news reached the Fire Lord's ears, the chief still had his uses in pacifying the Northern Water Tribe. Nevertheless, it was good to have a spare signatory, just in case something... unfortunate happened to the chief.

Suki should be tackling that issue right now with my high-value detainee, easing Princess Yue into what she may need to do to preserve her people.


[Khan's Abode]

"Glurgrhk! Glurgrhk! Glurgrhk!"

Unable to take it anymore, Yue pulled back, choking and coughing with tears streaming down her cheeks. Thankfully, she felt a hand gently thump her back.

"You managed to take it halfway, Princess! "You're a natural at this!" Suki cheered, followed by the polite clapping of the other Kyoshi Warriors, their green-garbed figures looking entirely too comfortable lazing about their commanding officer's private quarters, snacking and reading.

Yue just continued to cough, "Do Fire Nation women really need to be able to swallow one of these 'ash-bananas' whole?"

"Yes." answered Suki immediately. The other Kyoshi Warriors just shrugged.

"We don't make the rules. That's just... how they do it in the Fire Islands."

"Yeah, everyone knows that."

"I think the Princess got very good at it before we left? Suki?"

"I pestered Khan for details. She was so-so. Lacked enthusiasm."

"Water Tribes have had stranger traditions, I suppose..." Yue mumbled, "Like daubbing their faces with tiger-seal blood, or fermenting salmon in pouches until it reeked enough to wake the dead."

"Yeah, odd Fire Nation quirk, let's go with that." Suki smiled.

"Maybe, but this is still impossible." Yue huffed in frustration, fixing her white hair back and helplessly glaring at the masticated fruit resting on the table that had clogged her throat. A bunch of six ash bananas lay on the stone surface- each one progressively larger. The smallest two were still glistening with her saliva- having fit them in her mouth easily. The third was a jump in thickness and only shone under the lamplight halfway down to where her throat had violently protested and she had to back off. "They're longer than my hand is from wrist to fingertips!"

"Oh please." Suki rolled her eyes, her gloved hand deftly plucking the largest one from the table and- with a brief lick to the tip- took the entire thing in her throat with one smooth motion. The entire thing's length disappearing between those bright red lips before just as easily sliding it out.

Yue just sat in amazement.

"See? It's possible." Suki winked before setting down the ash-banana, "We've had practice with something even bigger than this."

"How long do I have before the commander arrives here?" Yue glanced away, chastened by her own ineptitude at the Fire Nation art of ash banana swallowing.

"Khan? He's already here." The redhead shrugged. "That horn meant that he arrived at base."

Yue felt her blood freeze, her eyes immediately homing to the fur door and expecting the Giant to walk through it, "He is? But, I still can't even swallow the third ash-banana yet!"

"Don't look so worried, Princess." Suki reassured, "He tends to have a lot of stuff to do after a battle. Especially one as big as this. Sometimes, he spends the entire day just walking around the base and checking on things! So, you still got a lot of time to train your throat before he comes back."

Yue pursed her lips, still nervous.

"Besides, we have a secret weapon that'll definitely impress him!"

"Yeah, we definitely do." The other Kyoshi Warriors snickered. "All those arctic rabbits we caught won't be in vain. Khan will definitely appreciate it."

"So, yeah. No sweat." Suki smiled, "Just need to keep at it, and you'll be deepthroating co- ash banana in no time! Pair that with our secret weapon and Khan will be very impressed."

"Moon Spirit willing, he will be..." Yue mumbled, finding her eyes wandering around and tracing the wall carvings of extinct creatures on the dark rock. The oil lamps illuminated them all, almost hidden behind the stacks of books. The Giant's own abode had a lot more reading material than she had first thought. A library's worth of it. Books and scrolls arranged in neat stacks and piles, all with little bookmark threads of every colour hanging within their pages. Some even lay open to reveal obscure topics that were beyond even her education.

"A lot more books than you thought there'd be, huh?" Suki said- her red lips curved in a knowing smile. "Let me guess. You never would have thought Khan to be the bookish type, huh?"

"Yes." Yue admitted easily, "Especially with how many there are here. Books are difficult to care for in the cold, wet conditions of Agna Qel'a. Everyone still preferred word of mouth more than anything else. In the libraries that we do have, the books and scrolls are locked securely inside wooden boxes treated to resist water- with wood also being a premium commodity in the North Pole. A library is a display of great wealth for us, and as I understand it, also a mark of a high station in other nations as well. By any chance, is Commander Khan from a Fire Noble Clan?"

"Actually~" Suki began, but the other Kyoshi Warriors stopped her- looking up from their books and blades to scold her.

"Suki... remember what Khan said about loose lips."

"She's already in our care anyway." Suki casually dismissed, "And we've been doing our womanly exercises everyday so loose lips are the least of Khan's worries. But seriously, I think it'll help the princess here be more motivated to cooperate, and that'll help Khan a lot more, don't you think so?"

"I don't know about that, chief..."

"Missives have already been sent to all Fire Nobles anyway, so it's already an open secret in the division."

"Yeah, but the Princess isn't."

"And if Khan gets mad and cuts all of us off... Definitely not worth it."

"If Khan doesn't like it, I'll give up my spot on our weekly massage session for... one month."

"Make it two months!"

"One month and I'll include my right to veto on food suggestions. But if he does, I get first in line for just as long!"

"Deal!"

Yue watched the Kyoshi Warriors shake hands with their leader.

"Alright, Princess." Suki said as all the Kyoshi Warriors gathered around the table with her, "We'll let you in on the juiciest gossip. Insider scoop on the news straight from the Fire Nation Royal city of Hari Bulkan, just for your ears!"

Gossip, the magic word.

"Is this about the commander?" Yue couldn't help herself. Why wouldn't she try to know more about her captor? Moreover, it was from the secretive Fire Nation Royal City as well? No one has heard anything from that place! Some have even said it was just Fire Nation propaganda!

"Mhm!" Suki raised an eyebrow at her, "You still want to hear?"

Yue nodded eagerly, "Please tell me..."

Suki leaned in and whispered right into Yue's ear, "So, about Khan... He's more than just a hotshot Fire Nation commander, he's also the Fire Lord's favourite officer. He recently accomplished something huge- I can't tell you what it is, but it's something so big that the Fire Lord himself commanded Khan to marry into the Fire Nation Royal Family. As soon as this war's over, Khan's gonna be the Prince-something of the entire Fire Nation."

"The Giant is a Fire Nation prince?!" Yue gasped.

"Yep, pretty neat, right?" Suki leaned back, her red lips in a smug grin, "He even looks like one under all that armour."

But appearances were the last thing on Yue's mind then.

The Prince-to-be of the Fire Nation had led from the front, and she was going to be interviewed by him? The future Fire Lord? So, even if they won and drove the Fire Nation from their lands, they would still need to deal with Khan. And with her being princess, it was highly likely that this won't be the last time they saw each other. This changed everything. This was no longer just the meeting between captor and captive. This was the meeting of two future heads of Nations! Now, more than ever, she had to establish good rapport with him. The future of the entire Water Tribe rested on her shoulders...

She looked at the ash bananas laid out in front of her.

... Or more accurately, the future of the entire Water Tribe rested on her ability to take these ash banana in her mouth.

She'll show them what her determination looks like. Without further prompting, Yue swiped the largest one and- to the amazement of the Kyoshi Warriors- slammed her mouth down onto it.

"By Kyoshi, she took it all the way to the base!"

"Go, Princess Yue! Suck on that ash banana like it owes you money!"

"Aw yeah, now the party's really getting started!"

"Khan's not gonna know what hit him!"

"Just hold that ash-banana for a few breaths longer, Princess!"

Yue choked around the thickness of the ash banana, and her eyes began to water. But surely, the prince-to-be will be very impressed with her Fire Nation Etiquette now, right?


[POW Quarters]

I can trust that Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors will impress in Yue the need to cooperate. Princesses and noble girls tend to be weak against any sort of peer pressure after all, being the attention whores and social tsunderes that they are.

That was 'Plan B'.

We hopefully won't need the princess to play any major role in getting Agna Qel'a to surrender. But it was good to have a backup plan in place if 'Plan A' didn't succeed: Convince Head Chief Arnook and all the other chieftains to sign a Declaration of Unconditional Surrender. They sign it, we send a duplicate copy over Agna Qel'a to notify them that the Northern Water Tribe has officially surrendered, and hopefully, whoever is leading the city will recognise the document and lay down their arms. It'll actually be an even greater victory for the Fire Nation than the originally suggested conditional surrender.

Now I just needed to have the 'Had enough?' talk with Chief Arnook, but apparently, I was beaten to it.

As I neared the doorway where warm orange glow from whale oil lamps was streaming through, a meaty thwack of impact echoed out shortly followed by Essin's creaky elderly voice.

"A fair hit, boy. Give him another one, right on his shrivelled little anchovy this time."

My armoured hand swept aside the fur door as I entered. Chieftain Arnook was still in his blue pajamas, gagged and manacled to a column as the aged barbarian chief Essin stood over him. His grandson was also there with him, the child's wide blue eyes looked up at me as he held a steel club raised above his head as if he was batting for a homerun. Thankfully, Chieftain Arnook looked relatively unharmed. Bruising, but nothing drastic.

"Khan, you returned early." Essin welcomed me with a toothless smile, "You'll have to forgive an old man. As glad as I was that you managed to do as I asked and brought this squirming winged eel to me, I was a little disappointed that you brought him so... unharmed. We just had to correct that."

"Remember our agreement, chieftain." I reminded him with a sigh, "His sentence comes after Agna Qel'a falls."

"Sentence?" the old man repeated- playing innocent, "No, I haven't even passed judgement yet. This is just a harmless flake of fun between chieftains. Isn't that right, Arnook?"

With his gnarled hand, Essin yanked the gag off.

"Traitor!" was the first word out of the old Northern Water Tribe chieftain's mouth. "How could you lead them to Agna Qel'a? How could you betray the Water Tribe's covenant with the Moon and the Ocean Spirits?"

"Boy." Essin growled, and little Eswar swung with all his six-year-old might.

"Gugh!" Arnook grunted as the steel club struck his side- the thin fabric of his blue sleepwear providing no cushioning.

"You were the one to betray the Ocean and Moon Spirits." Essen said with a toothless sneer, "You were the ones to abandon the old ways and the old pacts. It was your tribe that claimed Agna Qel'a for your own, and for generations, hoarded its blessings. Used them to press your ways upon the tribes and exiled those who spoke up against you. And in doing so, you repeated the same mistakes that had sundered the Water Tribes between North and South more than a thousand years ago."

Arnook fired back, "You cite past wrongs and ancient history, but what my father and his father before him did was necessary to safeguard the North Pole from the Fire Nation aggression! And now, you treasonous mink-snakes have led them straight here to destroy Agna Qel'a itse- Gugh!"

Another thwack right on his belly knocked the air out of him.

"Nice swing, boy."

"Wait, what were the blessings you mentioned?" I spoke up. The Spirit Oasis housing the Moon and Ocean Spirits; and the Spirit Oasis waters possessing healing properties in the hands of a skilled Waterbender were all facts known to me. But their effects on the Agna Qel'a at large? Now, that was something that I haven't read about it.

"Well, you see-"

"Don't!" Arnook protested- his blue eyes flicking towards me, "It is not for outsiders to hear!"

"Oh shut it! This Hot Lander's toenail has more respect for our ways than you do." He barked back before turning his wrinkled face towards me, "Waterbending may be the Moon Spirit's gift to us, but it is these Blessed Waters of the Ocean Spirit that truly sustains us. When we say 'Agna Qel'a', what we're actually speaking of is the Spirit Oasis. The water that springs from the Spirit Oasis and flows through Agna Qel'a? More than just the fact that the entire city is built from such waters, it enlivens the spirit of all Water Tribe that drink from it. And as it flows out into the ocean,it makes the seas teem with bountiful life- shoals of every fish, whole pods of whales and squids... enough to feed all the mouths of the Water Tribe and more."

"That's why Agna Qel'a isn't your holy site." I said in realisation, "The Spirit Oasis is."

"As it has been since the Ocean Spirit granted us life." The barbarian chieftain nodded solemnly, "The city itself can sink into the ocean with all its spoiled, ignorant inhabitants for all we care. But as long as the Spirit Oasis endures, so shall the people of the Water Tribe."

"And it's- nevermind." I stopped myself from making a comment that I shouldn't. In Avatar: The Last Airbender canon, it was made clear that no one- not even the Water Tribe- knew that those two Yin Yang fishes in the Spirit Oasis were actually the mortal incarnations of the Moon and Ocean spirits. Lost knowledge that only Wan Shi Tong had access to... It made me wonder what else was in that library.

Instead, I whipped out a vial of said water from my [Inventory]. One that I naturally swiped during the raid.

"That's... You've stolen Spirit Oasis Water." Arnook said hollowly, then his disbelief turned into anger as he snarled, "Is nothing sacred to you, Fire Nation?!"

(Uncommon) Spirit Oasis Water

Water touched by the Ocean and the Moon Spirits themselves.

In the heart of the Northern Water Tribe lies the Spirit Oasis, a sacred and serene garden unspoiled by the outside world. The water from the Spirit Oasis is unlike any other; it shimmers with a luminescent quality, reflecting the celestial dance of the moon and stars even under the sun's gaze.

This water, imbued with profound spiritual energy, is a gift from the Moon Spirit and Ocean Spirit who reside within the Water Tribe's hallowed sanctuary. Drinking or utilising this water in bending practices stir up inner strengths, heal injuries beyond mortal capabilities, and offer protection against dark spirits. Its sacredness to the Water Tribe make it a treasure sought by many, and thus guarded fiercely by the Water Tribe, for it holds the essence of their protectors and the delicate balance of the natural and spiritual worlds.

Its benefits can only be directly enjoyed and utilised by those born of the Moon and the Ocean.

Known Effects:

?

Requires:

[Water Tribe Origin]

+ R +

"I can feel that only those of the Water Tribe can make use of this." I muttered bitterly- eyeing the glittering water. Waterbender-only gear, this was. Class and race-locked items were always a pain, particularly when it's not the class that you're playing as at the moment. Where's the Fire Nation only gear anyway? I had the Kyoshi Warriors skulking around taking inventories and not once did has it turn up! Just something to search for the next time I visit the Capital, I suppose. Perhaps if I ask nicely enough, Fire Lord Ozai might have some rare or even unique Fire Nation gear for me. I was going to be his son-in-law after all.

"See? Even the Fire Nation can sense what is our birthright." Essin nodded approvingly before glowering at the other chieftain, "The same birthright that you denied from us."

Arnook bristled- blue eyes staring hard at the barbarian chief as he spoke, "I recall my grandfather retelling how it almost cost Agna Qel'a dearly in the early days of the war. Our survival hinged upon unifying the tribes- for Agna Qel'a to flow as one river! Removing the countercurrents was only necessary measure!"

"Necessary?" Essin spoke, "It was inevitable that the Water Tribes would face some crisis. As predictable as the tides! Roku, Kyoshi, Kuruk, Yangchen. In every single one of those Avatars' lifetimes, the Four Nations swirled and burned and cracked. If it wasn't another Nation invading, it would have been a storm of angry spirits, or another Platinum Affair, or yet another upstart Fifth Nation. 'Saving' the North Pole against the Fire Nation was just the most convenient mask for your blatant seizure of power. If the Avatar had not slept, your tribe would have had to answer for that."

"But the Avatar fights for us!"

Essin' milky eyes and his already wrinkled brow furrowed as he briefly glanced in my direction.

"Which is why we joined the Hot Landers." He said, "You may have the Avatar, and your tribes may have become stronger than any of us lowly 'barbarian' tribes from supping on the Ocean Spirit's blessings for decades. But now with the Hot Landers' help, we will melt the corrupted ice of Agna Qel'a all away, and let the unclean waters flow back to the ocean. It is the only way to restore balance to our lands and to the Water Tribes. Back to how the Ocean and Moon had first intended."

"Burn it down and from it build something greater." I intoned with a nod.

"If the Fire Nation conquers Agna Qel'a, they will claim it for themselves!" Arnook's aged voice shouted, "You'd willingly put your Water Tribe brethren under the yoke of the Fire Nation?! To have our largest city reduced to ruins?"

"Now you call us brethren, you slimy winged eel?" Essin glowered hatefully. "When your father and grandfather were all too eager to exile us from Agna Qel'a- hoping that we'd die out here? You and every single one of your traitor tribes can fall on the Hot Lander's swords, and you'd deserve nothing less. And it is of little consequence if the Fire Nation occupies the North Pole, they will never permanently settle here, you know that. They don't have the stomach for the cold embrace of this land that the Ocean and Moon Spirits have gifted us... No offence, Khan."

"None taken." I shrugged my armoured shoulders.

The barbarian elder continued, "Their Fire Lord can grip our lands of ice and snow as tightly as he can, but as anyone who has held an unmelting shard of ice knows- sooner or later- one will need to let go. What are a few years of Hot Landers shivering in the snow and acting tough compared to another hundred years of sanctimonious chieftains hoarding the blessings of Spirit Oasis for themselves? And when the Fire Nation leaves- and they will- the Water Tribes will flow back into places that the Ocean Spirit has always intended for us. All will be made right, and balance will be restored."

"With you as the Head Chieftain of all the Northern Water Tribes?!"

"No. Don't be daft." the aged barbarian chieftain snorted, then placed a hand on his grandson's shoulder, "Eswar will."

Arnook glanced at the boy no older than six, then at me. "Your plan will not succeed."

"I'll let the Hot Lander speak for that matter." Essin grinned toothlessly.

That was my cue to carry on the conversation. I stepped forward- my tall, armoured frame blocking the torchlight from his face with my shadow.

"Arnook." My voice reverberated inside my helm as the skull face leered down at him, "Your city has been ravaged, your daughter made captive, and all the chieftains of Agna Qel'a and their families are just a whistle away from being a feast for the ostrich-horses. I'm going to draft a declaration of unconditional surrender. And you're going to sign it."

"Now, wait a moment." Essin's aged brow furrowed- the liver spots on his brown skin disappearing in the wrinkles. "Is this how you Hot Landers finish your wars? With writing? You have all his sycophantic chiefs and even his daughter captive. What even is there to negotiate, Fire Nation?"

"The alternative..." I met Chieftain Arnook's blue eyes again, "...is for my forces to march for Agna Qel'a with all their chieftains' heads mounted on a spike rack of whalebone, smash aside their soldiers and demand that they grovel for mercy before us."

Essin's mittened hands rubbed his chin. "A chance to see all these fat chiefs' slack jawed expressions as their brains drip down some whalebone spikes..." The aged barbarian chief grinned toothlessly, That's actually a very good plan, Fire Nation. We should definitely just do that instead!"

"No."

"Bah!"

"So, what say you, Arnook?" I continued, "Will you save your chieftains and their families from-"

But before I could even finish, I found myself tilting my head- narrowly dodging the glob of bloody spit the water tribe chief horked at me.

"Moon and Ocean Spirits curse you, Fire Nation!" the Water Tribe chieftain shouted, "If you had truly won, then we would be in Agna Qel'a right this very moment and you would not be so driven to have me surrender otherwise!"

"Chief Anchovy has a point, Hot Lander." Essin hummed, "I passed by your men celebrating a great victory. Smiling, singing and even drinking. But we are not lounging in the Palace of Agna Qel'a, are we? Seems premature, if you ask me."

"Yes, I have seen through your tricks, Giant!" Arnook declared as if he had won some great mind game over me.

Essin frowned, "It just means that the Hot Lander will kill more of your lickspittle tribesmen first, Arnook. Makes no difference in the end, but it does make me feel better."

I almost missed the time when heads of state were cowardly amoeba that bowed and scraped to whoever threw it money. Almost. Honestly, it was leaving me more than a little confused as to where the Water Tribers were getting all their confidence from. But then it struck me, the reason why Arnook was so supremely confident and hopeful.

"You don't know..." I said, the mirth rising in my voice until I was laughing. And in the confines of this small room, the sound was only amplified. They didn't know about the Armada. And from an outside perspective, they thought we- a lone Fire Nation division- were the main invasion force. One that had just entered in a winter war against the entire Northern Water Tribe rather than a deadly first strike intended to utterly seal the doom of Agna Qel'a via apocalyptic naval bombardment.

"You holding out on us, Fire Nation?" Essin was the one to ask- his liver spotted brows furrowed. "What don't we know?"

"Empty Fire Nation boasts, no doubt." Arnook spat, his blue eyes still glaring at me with that defiant gleam.

Where it was getting annoying, it now amused me to no end.

"Oh, it is far from empty." I chuckled. "But before you can understand the scope of it, I have to ask: Have you ever seen a Fire Nation Cruiser, Chieftain Arnook?"

"They sink like any other ship." he spat- already seeing the general direction this conversation was going, "Even if you rally a dozen or two dozen or fifty of your metal ships! Agna Qel'a will not fall!"

"Then what about a hundred?" I held back a laugh as even the thought of fifty Fire Nation Cruisers- each one able to lay waste to an Earth Kingdom town- arriving to his shores, was enough to make that defiant expression strained.

But still, he spoke up defiantly, "Not even if you rally a hundred ships to the North Pole, you'd-"

"It isn't fifty or even a hundred Fire Nation warships." I said, feeling a smile widen under my skull helmet. "No, it's an armada of two hundred Fire Nation warships. Each of them loaded to the brim with enough high explosive munitions to hammer, blast and melt Agna Qel'a back into the ocean."

"Two hundred...?" The Northern Water Tribe chieftain was rendered speechless, but I continued to twist that fact into his side further.

"And just in case you were holding out hope that anything would survive the initial bombardment..." I stared down at the fearful look from Chieftain Arnook, "Think of how much destruction my thousand troops and I were able to wreak in one night, then imagine what those two hundred Fire Nation warships ferrying forty thousand veteran soldiers from all across the Earth Kingdom could do in a week."

"You lie!" Arnook cried out, desperate in his defiance, "You're bluffing, Fire Nation!"

I only stared him down harder, voice rumbling with threat, "'You're bluffing!'... that would make for an amusing epitaph of the Northern Water Tribe. Perhaps we'll add 'No, we in fact were not.' underneath it."

"Hah!" Essin gave a bark of laughter, "How about that! A Hot Lander with a sense of humour! Warms this old heart."

But that was still enough to make Arnook quiet, and watching that hopeful defiance bleed away from his eyes was satisfying. This was the moron who put us into this position in the first place. I was supposed to be managing a snow-weathered city by now, and making it flourish in preparation for Zhao's arrival. But no, he just had to be the same idiot who- in Avatar canon- vastly overestimated his people's ability to fight the Fire Nation invasion. Even now with twice as many Fire Nation ships sailing to burn his home down and with the 41st Division having devastated his city, he still resists.

My patience was wearing thin for this stubborn moron.

"One way or another, the 'Northern Water Tribe' will be made a noncombatant in the war- either as Fire Nation subjects or ash in the arctic winds. The Fire Lord doesn't care which. Even now, he awaits word of your surrender confirmed by yours truly. That's the only way the Armada will be called off, and also the only way that your people live to see this war end. Your people have all become too comfortable and... soft inside your city walls- they won't survive the coming firestorm."

"We appreciate the gesture, Hot Lander." Essin chuckled, "But we would be satisfied- maybe even prefer- if they don't survive to see the next spring. There are more than enough of us 'Barbarian tribes' to rebuild Agna Qel'a. In the way that it always should have been."

The Northern Water Tribe forsaken even by their distant kin, Chief Arnook hung his head low- dishevelled brown hair over his eyes as he muttered something.

"What was that?" I prompted.

"I will sign our declaration of surrender." He said the magic words... but even then it wasn't without strings attached. "On one condition: My daughter is not to be harmed."

"How touching." Essin sneered, placing a hand on the shoulder of his orphan grandson.

As for myself, I sighed in exasperation- steam escaping my skull helmet's mouth slits, "That wouldn't be much of an unconditional surrender, would it? The previous offer of a conditional surrender is no longer possible. Only Fire Lord Ozai is authorised to draft such a document; and after you had made a mess of the previous scroll he had worked so hard to write himself, I doubt he'll feel generous enough to write you another one. The unconditional surrender is non-negotiable, chieftain."

He squeezed his eyes shut, bowed his head in defeat. "What do you want in exchange for my daughter's safety, Commander Khan?"

"What do you have to offer that we do not already have to claim as victors?"

"Then..." Arnook looked up to me and, with a pleading tone, asked, "...then what reason do we have left to surrender?"

My skull-faced helmet merely glowered hatefully down at him as I answered, "Take your question to the Air Temples and ask the bones if they have the answer."


[War Council Chambers - Fire Nation Royal Palace]

"Why hasn't word of the Northern Water Tribe's complete surrender reached us yet?"

Shadows danced across the red walls of the grand chamber gilded with polished brass flames.

The greatest generals and admirals of the Fire Nation were assembled here today for an inauspicious event. A great map of the Four Nations was laid out in the centre- now sporting a lot more Fire Nation flags across its expansive face than there was a year prior. And sitting around it were powerful men and women with long titles and fearsome epithets earned from the fires of war. These people who commanded the greatest military force that was now on the cusp of claiming the entirety of the Four Nations- sat on their little cushions, petrified out of fea- respect for the Fire Lord.

Grand Admiral Zhao, He-whose-long-titles-and-fearsome-epithets-are-pending, sat on his cushion and casually brushed some stray ash from his black and red armour, secure in the knowledge that he was one of the two people in this room who was above the Fire Lord's rising wrath.

"How long must I be made to wait for that Ancestors-damned messenger hawk bearing their surrender?"

It was less of a question and more of a threat that heads were going to roll.

His Eminence- garbed in fine golds and exquisite silk reds, paced up and down the map, impatience leaking out in every step to the point that the dark wood flooring sizzled everytime his feet touched the floor. And his frustration echoed throughout the smoldering space.

"Those Water Tribe savages should be grateful that they had the honour of having their document of surrender drafted by the Fire Lord himself. And with such undeservedly merciful terms as well!"

Zhao actually did not want the Commander to succeed in making the Northern Water Tribe surrender. There would be no glory left for his armada then. Sailing all the way to the North Pole with the greatest fleet ever assembled... only to turn around because the battle was already won? It would be a bland victory, perhaps even inglorious. Definitely not a triumph worthy of being written into the history books with gold ink. No, he wanted Khan to do a good enough job softening up the Northern Water Tribe for his Armada for an easy victory, but not too good that it ended the conflict outright.

For now, he had to do his part in calming their leader.

"My Fire Lord..." Zhao confidently spoke up, immediately earning the gaze of the entire Fire Nation High Command, but he didn't let it bother him as he continued, "... Commander Khan's sneak attack on the Water Tribe capital should have only begun a day ago. Even if he had won, it would take more than a day for the news to be sent. Furthermore, we cannot discount the possibility that we have overestimated the Water Tribe savages' intelligence and refused your officer, my Fire Lord. They are, after all, animals that are only smart enough to fight or flee."

Fire Lord Ozai paused in his pacing, a look of consideration on his sharp features as he continued that line of thought, "... And now that Khan has struck them in their cold little nest, they can only consider the former- just like the base creatures that they are. Khan does have a tendency to be too generous in his estimations of our enemies' capabilities."

However, there was one caveat to all this...

"We still should never have allowed him to lead from the front." Fire Lord Ozai glowered- his golden eyes settling on Zhao, "Your plan puts him in great danger, Admiral. If anything happens to my son-in-law..."

Yes, should Commander Khan die in the North Pole, so would an Admiral Zhao in the Royal Capital. Not that Zhao thought his giant, armoured friend could ever be defeated- he'd seen the type of training Khan went through. He could punch a hole through a cruiser's hull if he wanted. No, it was infinitely more likely that this delay was caused by that 'Head Chieftain Arnook' being an utter imbecile and refusing to sign the offered terms of their surrender. Fire knows how often they give their enemies a chance to surrender! Nevertheless, of all the things that could potentially end him, Fire Lord Ozai valuing Khan too much was not an item he expected to be on that list.

Fortunately, the other person who was above the Fire Lord's anger came to his defence.

"The Papa Khanmander won't get beaten! Those evil waterbenders aren't so tough! 'Specially when Papa and his Featherheads snuck up on them at their evil ice castle!"

She sat beside him. A little girl of six summers with cherry pink hair and green eyes, small for her age and tenfold as intelligent. Everyone who spent time near the Fire Lord knew her by now- Anya, one of the Great Players.

Despite being a child, no one has dared to move against her politically- no one was that stupid. Not when her mother and bodyguard was an infamous assassin, and more importantly, not when an attack on her was as good as an attack on the Fire Lord himself. After all, she was the first in line to be one of the Fire Lord's spoiled rotten grandchildren.

"Miss Anya is correct, Fire Lord Ozai." War Minister Qin counselled from where he was sitting- right across Zhao where they could glare at each other all they pleased. He gazed down to where the North Pole was on the map, "The quality of the Northern Water Tribe's troops have historically always been sub-par. Unlike their more battle-ready Southern kin, this Water Tribe has not had an active participation in the war for the last 85 years. Factoring in their combat experience and the surprise attack from the direction they least expect, it would be beyond unreasonable to assume any martial victory on the Water Tribe's part, particularly when the sneak attack is being conducted by an elite cavalry division like 41st."

"Nn! What the Warmister said!" Anya confirmed with a nod. "Papa Khan made the evil waterbenders toast!"

Fire Lord Ozai pondered those words for a moment, then asked, "And if the Water Tribe did indeed refuse the surrender that I had so generously offered them?"

"If I may, my Fire Lord..." Qin began, "... We must first consider the situation in the Earth Kingdom, the North-western front may hold the key to understanding this predicament. If we posit that Commander Khan had disrupted Water Tribe trade lines, especially with the Earth Kingdom port city of Chenbao, it would not be a leap to say-"

"Blast 'em!" Anya fearlessly interrupted, beaming, "Uncle Jao and me will go up there in the snow and blast 'em with fire until they're super sorry for being evil waterbenders and saying no to your deal! Papa already beat 'em up bad once! Simple!"

Zhao almost chortled at the aged minister's bitter frown.

There was an appreciation to be had for the straightforward simplicity of a child's mind. To be able to distill complex notions of nation and war into simple terms- undiluted by empty political pretences and intellectual preening that men like War Minister Qin were all too fond of. The Fire Lord apparently concurred with Anya's sentiment enough to leave the blatant disrespect for the War Minister unaddressed.

"Simple indeed." Ozai murmured, "There is no need to overcomplicate what should be straightforward. The Water Tribe savages should be weakened now by Khan's surprise attack, and that northern prize, now ripe for the taking. Yes, Anya has the right of it: A naval bombardment until they offer a profuse apology for staining my world with their continued defiance would be all too easy. We shall place their icy city in the annals of history alongside all the others that had stood against us. An object lesson pertaining to the cost of defying the Fire Nation! We should leave nothing standing!"

Zhao clapped politely alongside everyone else. But he did notice how Anya glanced at the Trade Minister for a moment before she did something unthinkable.

"Anya thinks we shouldn't."

There was a soft gasp as the entire room went silent: The Fire Lord's decision was being challenged. The last time such a thing occurred was the day when Prince Zuko was banished. No one had dared ever since... No one except for this little girl. The Fire Lord turned his golden eyes to her, but instead of flying into a rage, he merely asked. "You have something to add, Anya?"

Brows rose all across the room. The Fire Lord was open to retracting his decision? An absolutely unheard of event.

"Yeah, Fire Lord Ozzy!" Anya smiled brightly as if it was nothing, "They got to show how sorry they are by sharing all their stuff! It's called uhm... war raper rations."

"You mean to demand from the Water Tribe for war reparations?" Fire Lord Ozai raised an interested brow.

"Mhm, war pear-ape shins!" Anya eagerly repeated with a smile- compensating for lack of proper pronunciation with sheer enthusiasm, "We're gonna take all their fluffy blankets and shiny blue rocks!"

A twinkle of greed suddenly flashed in the eyes of everyone in the room. Anya just said aloud what everyone was already thinking in the back of their minds: Immediate economic gains from conquering new lands, both for the Fire Nation war chest and their personal funds.

After all, who could forget the Water Tribe's fur trade? [Mink-snake Fur], [Arctic Camel Wool], and [Snow Leopard-caribou Pelt]... Each of them coveted by everyone from Fire Noble Clans to Earth Kingdom Kings. Zhao himself possessed a pair of Arctic Camel Wool slippers, as well as a Mink-snake fur blanket for the colder months. And then there was [Blue Jade], an exceedingly rare ornamental stone only found in the North Pole, Zhao himself had witnessed a small block of the mineral go on auction for upwards of fifty thousand gold! And these Water Tribe savages had the supply to use it for necklaces in their courtship rituals!

Altogether, it was the Northern Water Tribe fur trade as well as the scant little Blue Jade the Waterbenders had been willing to trade away that had kept the Northern Water Tribe economically afloat for so long.

Even if the Earth Kingdom didn't trade with them directly, unofficial trade channels such as the black market functioned as a go-between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom. And it was flourishing. Gold poured forth in obscene amounts. Whoever controls the supply of these coveted luxury goods naturally stood to profit greatly, and that 'whoever' could very well be them.

"Yes, I see the wisdom in your words, Anya..." Ozai stroked his dagger beard, "The Northern Water Tribe does indeed owe a great debt to the Fire Nation. Their deaths alone will not be sufficient to repay us, and so, these waterbenders must toil their lives away for the sake of the Fire Nation. Yes, I see now that the Water Tribe should not go the way of the Airbenders. We shall demand war reparations, as is our right. I will confer with the Law and Internal Trade Ministers on a later date for the finer points of this trade arrangement. But for now, our main thrust shall be... Slaughter whoever resists, the rest can work to repay their debt to us for however long I deem necessary."

"Oh oh OH!" Anya excitedly raised her hand and waved it as if she was still in a Fire Nation school, "We should also make 'em go to sleep hungry so that they'll be extra sorry!"

"What a grand idea." Fire Lord Ozai smiled viciously, "Yes... We shouldn't limit ourselves to luxury goods, we must include foodstuffs in the list of war reparations. A little starvation will aid in impressing this lesson on them."

There was some muttering amongst High Command. Zhao heard it, whisperings that maybe this was pointlessly vindictive? Burn the Water Tribe's homes, and slay their brave husbands and brothers? That was the natural course of war. But to have the audacity of demanding heavy reparations on their grieving widows, as if they were owed compensation for their time and effort to perpetrate those actions? Now that was needless cruelty.

'And precisely what we have come to expect from you, Anya.' Zhao said in the quiet of his mind- glancing at the tiny child seated beside him. It was a still frightening amount of intelligence from a mind that had yet to fully mature. One had to wonder what sort of intellectual juggernaut Anya would be when she grows up. What dreams of pitiless atrocities would she conceive of in her prime? Zhao did not know, but he quietly made a mental note to ensure that he maintained very friendly ties with Anya. For now, however, he put on a small smile and nodded to the Fire Lord, "The Water Tribe will regret not accepting your generous offer, my Fire Lord."

"Yes, they will." He smiled thinly, clearly looking forward to the hardship that was about to befall on the Northern Water Tribe, "Anya made a well thought out case as usual."

Polite applause rang out from the gathered generals and admirals as the Fire Lord actually handed out a compliment. His favour for this little girl was as clear as the noon sun in the blue sky.

"Thanks, Fire Lord Ozzy!" She beamed, proud of this newest list of malicious deeds she had heaped onto the Water Tribe.

"I have come to a decision." The Fire Lord addressed them all, his tone of voice conveying that he wasn't allowing any dissent, "We shall keep to the schedule. Two more days- that is how long Commander Khan has to send us news of the Water Peasants' surrender, and not a breath more. If not, Grand Admiral Zhao-"

A nod in his direction, royal gold eyes meeting Zhao's amber.

"- You will sail the Armada to the North Pole and convey my deep displeasure to those Water Tribe savages for rebuffing my handwritten proposal. By this month's end, the Fire Nation will control their city and their civilization, either as a vassal nation or as an ash heap. Your Fire Lord commands it!"

The gathered Fire Nation High Command saluted- cradling the Sign of the Fire close to their armoured chests.

"For Fire Lord and For Fire Nation!"

Zhao saluted along, but couldn't help but feel the corners of his mouth tug into a smile, the glory of conquering the Northern Water Tribe civilization was as good as his. There was one catch, however... He glanced to the side.

Anya beamed a wide happy grin at Zhao. "Uncle Jao, do we really have to wait or can Papa tell us to come sooner?"

'Us.' Zhao didn't miss the word.

Yes, he'll need to take this little monster along with him. The Fire Lord couldn't deny his favourite 'grandchild' the opportunity to torment an enemy nation. A 'valuable learning experience' he had said. How was she not the actual blood daughter of her mother and Khan, no one knew. She certainly took after them both. The child even seemed to take after Fire Lord Ozai as well. The Fire Lord already liked her more than he did with Princess Azula.

"If fortune favours us, we'll hear word from your father soon." He said, "Preferably something to the tune of the Northern Water Tribe not willing to surrender and is ripe to be attacked by the Armada."

"Anya hopes he does! We're gonna have lots of fun at the Norspole!" She told him. "Gonna eat nice and juicy steaks while all the evil waterbender's stakes burn black and crunchy!"

Indeed, she just wanted to dine on steaks while enjoying the scent and sound of people burning alive. Zhao was still unsure whether that was an improvement over Princess Azula or not. As much as he understood the place of terror tactics in war, a six-year-old girl casually toeing the line of cannibalism out of pure enjoyment for it was still very disturbing.

"Yes, you can have as many stakes as you please, Anya." He smiled.

"Yay!"

Quietly, he muttered a silent prayer- hoping that the winds and the sky would carry it to its intended recipient in the North Pole.

'Khan, please hurry up so that you can return your daughter to whatever dark abyss in the Underworld you found her.'


(A bit later)

Relief flooded me as we walked out of the interrogation room and back into the stable/prison area, because clutched in my armoured hands was a signed document that told me that the Northern Water Tribe had surrendered.

Quest:

THE ADMIRAL'S MOMENT OF TRIUMPH

Main Objective: Ensure the Fire Nation wins the Siege of the Northern Water Tribe... without dooming the world.

Sub-Objective #1: Secure a formal declaration of surrender from the Northern Water Tribe (50% Complete)

Sub-Objective #2: Stop Zhao from killing the Moon Spirit

Secondary Objective: Convince Zhao to willingly give up on his goal of killing the Moon Spirit.

Rewards:

Large bonus exp

[Moon Blessed] No, it's not a dummy-thicc Moon Goddess flashing you her ass. ?

Secondary Rewards:

Large bonus exp

Large Reputation increase with the {Firelord Ozai}

Large Reputation increase with the {Fire Nation}

Legendary Item x 1

+ R +

Now it was just a matter of making the other less important chieftains sign it.

"You're lucky that I have a few template Declarations of Unconditional Surrender at the ready." I muttered with a shake of my helmeted head, "You have no idea how many of these we go through..."

The hunched elderly barbarian chief followed behind me with. "I liked him better when his foul breath wasn't in my face." Essin grumbled- eyes shifting balefully at the unchained Arnook who walked beside us- his head still bowed in shame. Essin's grandson, Eswar, was still warily wielding that steel club as if expecting the Northern Water Tribe Chief to make a run for it. Kid had a good instincts. Not that it was needed.

"I still need him for something else." My deep voice answered, aiming a sharp glare at the ostrich-horses who were eyeing the loose Water Triber hungrily.

"Sir!" The 41st Division soldiers saluted- the yellow fluff balls still following behind them, "Shall we toss the head chieftain with the others?"

"No, I have something else for you." I pushed a pair of scrolls into their armoured arms. "Make sure that the rest of the chieftains sign both of these very important documents. Afterwards, I want these sent to my quarters immediately. I'd better not see a single tear on these scrolls, soldiers!"

"Yes, Commander Khan!" They saluted, and immediately began walking down to the POW area with declarations in hand.

We however had our own destination.

"Let's go see your daughter, Arnook." I said, already walking, "She may still have a very important role to play, and seeing you alive will only help her cooperation."

"I have signed our surrender, leave my daughter out of this!" Arnook protested.

"Her station grants her the privilege of being informed of how doomed her city possibly still is." I reminded him with a pointed look, "Unless of course, you're telling me that she's unfit for the duties demanded of her as Princess of the Northern Water Tribe."

"No." Arnook denied, "She is the best that Agna Qel'a has to offer. I have no doubt that she will be the most dignified representative of our Northern Water Tribe in the years to come."

Essin scoffed, clearly less than pleased by that comment, "If her father's anything to go by, she's probably a spoiled brat who feels entitled to the whole of the North Pole. We will also need to discuss how you have claimed that title of "Northern Water Tribe" for your own."

"What would you know of Northern Water Tribe dignity, barbarian?" Arnook said coldly with a frown, "We deserve that title more than you."

"Save your bickerings for later, you two." I grunted. "And Arnook, I do not need to let you see your daughter- show you that she is unharmed and that she will remain unharmed for as long as I have any say about it. Be grateful that I'm doing this much."

"My apologies... Thank you, commander." He mumbled, as if it physically pained him to thank the person who ravaged his home.

Through the base, we walked. The dark stone under our feet, and the arctic noon stretching over us. A lull in the blizzard even allowed a bit of sunshine to pierce through the clouds, turning the sky into a white-grey instead of just grey. It was bright enough that the chiefs had to squint as their eyes adjusted to the brightness. it was as if the blizzard had blown away any semblance of colour apart from white, grey and black in this dreary place. What little colour that remained seemed to be monopolised by the troops. The bright red of our Fire Nation armours and banners, and the blue of the barbarian tribes' parkas and tents.

Another colour appeared before us just as we were approaching my quarters: A girl in a green kimono greeting us. Face was made snow white with makeup to bring the colour of her blue eyes and red lips out even more, and her red hair dusted with pure white snowflakes.

"Hey, Khan!" Suki greeted with a nervous smile, "Uh, you heading back? Already?"

"Yes, the chiefs and I need to have a discussion in my office." I replied, my armoured boots already stomping in that direction, "Is Princess Yue in my quarters?"

"Yeah, she is? But..." Suki fell in step beside me, her deep blue eyes giving a brief glance at the unbound Arnook and the barbarian chieftain. "... that's a lot more people than we thought you'd be taking along. Listen, you might want to postpone this because the princess isn't uh... ready yet!"

"Is she dressed or not?" I prompted.

"I guess you can say that?" Suki shrugged, "But you probably would want-"

"Then she's in a good enough state to hear this."

"What have you done to my daughter?!" Arnook demanded with an angry scowl.

"Nothing." I answered, "If anything, she was given more luxuries than any other POW in the base: A warm actual bed, a generously thick blanket, and edible food- even palatable- twice a day."

I pushed aside the polar bear pelt door to my quarters.

"Suffice to say, she has been afforded respect, dignity and-"

"Your arctic m-mocha bunny welcomes you home, master~!"

"... and a tiny fur-kini." I lamely finished- unable to believe what I was seeing.

Ass.

The Princess had her back towards us, leaning forward with her hands on the table, and wearing nothing but a skimpy fur bikini that was stretched over her surprisingly generous assets. The white fur bra and panties directly contrasted with her brown skin as she rolled her chocolate hips in our faces- wagging that little cotton tail attached to the crack of her bubbly chocolate-brown ass. "D-do you like my fluffy tail, master~?"

"Y-Yue?!" Her father sputtered. "What are you wearing?!"

The snowy-haired girl glanced over her shoulder to realise that I hadn't come alone.

"F-father?!" She squeaked like an actual rabbit- blue eyes wide like dinner plates before her slender hands immediately darted to cover up the fluffy white fur, "What are you doing here- "

"Ohohoho?!" The crotchety old barbarian chief guffawed- clutching his side, "I was wrong, O' Great Chieftain Arnook! Your daughter is certainly dignified and an apt representative of your tribe! Yes, we 'barbarians' know nothing of this sort of 'Northern Water Tribe dignity' and- Boy, why are you covering your eyes?!"

"Eh, who are these people?!" Yue squealed- her face blushing so brightly that she was like a cherry about to pop, "No, please don't look at me! Suki, help! I don't think I can do this in front of so many peeooople!"

Suddenly noticing that there was an empty, Suki-shaped space beside me, I whipped my head around looking for the culprit.

"Suki, come back here! What did you do to my high-value detainee?!"


- The Proper Etiquette for Surrendering Water Tribers End -


~ Chapter 24: Ash-Banana Diplomacy ~

Coming Soon for Public Release!

AN:

This chapter occurs between the episodes... (ATLA Book 1, Episode 18 - The Waterbending Master) and (ATLA Book 1, Episode 19 - The Siege of the North).

Talk heavy chapters bore me, but... world building really needed to be done, or else the North Pole wouldn't have been a prize worth winning. Canon North Pole was an empty place, and the only canon reason to conquer it was to knock out the Northern Water Tribe. That said, I tried to make the Barbarian Tribe motivations feel natural. I've only rarely encountered a rural person from a number of countries who wasn't vocal about wanting to see their local, overcrowded city burnt to the ground with all government representatives still inside. Lol.

Yue Panty Status: *Waterbender Sploosh*... Just kidding, that would be lazy writing. But let's be honest about Yue. She was betrothed to Han, yet immediately went for Sokka. Then broke things off with him to stay as 'friends' , complete with 'going out as friends' and even went to kiss him (Yeah, what's a kiss on the lips between homies, amirite?). At best, she's a dutiful princess who is prone to impulsive emotion-based decisions. And at worst, she's easily led around by her Northern Pink Clam. Been leaning towards the former, but a 'bad boy' Fire Nation prince over six-feet-tall, with abs, and [Pretty Privilege]? Yeah, girls don't stand a chance. Also, I made Yue thicc, because I find the idea that the Moon girl not having the assets to moon properly to be unconscionable.

The next chapter is already available... at p atr_eon infonticus (Public Posting Date: 2024-APR-13 EST)

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New Stat Perk Purchases

[Lvl 1 - 2] Bullet Time (Active): Dodge the bullets that haven't been invented yet. Three times a day, slow time to (80 - 70%). Bullet Time duration in seconds is equal to a tenth of your Dexterity stat.

[Lvl 1] Second Wind (Active): The Kyoshi Warriors are never going to win over you in bed. Once a day, all physical fatigue is removed and you recover 5% of your missing health.

[Lvl 1 - 2] Power Move (Passive): You don't 'run.' You kick the ground until it takes you where you want to go. On top of your Dexterity, add (25% - 50%) Strength to your running speed and jumping height.

* 0 Perk Points Available.*

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