Preview: The Alchemy of Fire - Arc II: Rubedo

A/N - Just letting everyone know, the whole first chapter of The Alchemy of Fire - Arc II: Rubedo is up now! Check it out on my author's page, or follow this link with the spaces removed. http ://www. fanfiction. net/s/5224560/1/The_Alchemy_of_Fire_Arc_II.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the preview. :)

Chapter I: Blackened Fire

From reddened ash,

And blackened fire,

Come ready hearts,

To climb the spire -

Of rushing heights,

Of power great,

Of friends and foes,

Of love and hate.

The city of Ba Sing Se was burning.

For one brief, horrible, moment, Toph thought that she'd been hurled violently back in time. Radiant heat seared her face, making the blood rush in her veins. ... that's a lot of fire, isn't it? And she was in the air, she couldn't 'see'...

And then Appa groaned under them, and she remembered. It wasn't her, Sokka, and Suki in a tiny unmanned airship against an entire fleet. It was her, Aang, Momo and Appa against...

"Twinkletoes! What's going on?!"

The city of Ba Sing Se was burning. Aang watched the scene with wide, horrified eyes, his hands slack on the reins. Flame belched from the shells of half-finished houses, the smoke trailing thick and oily through what should have been a clear, beautiful sky. But it wasn't the spoiling of the vista that clenched his heart. It was the symbolism, the hate, and the tiny figures far below, already adding blood to the fuel.

Three old men sitting around a blocky table. One old woman with her hands clawing at the rain. Two young girls dancing through blasts of fire, the first sleek with water and the other sharp as steel. A mask of blackened flesh that crumbled away to reveal a scar. The earth shifting beneath feet to crush someone's bones to powder. The marching of soldiers' feet over soil and rock, inexorable and deadly. The smell of smoke and burning. Fire. Earth. Water. A child screaming. Someone laughing...

Feet were not marching now. Aang could see the chaotic running, the frenzied panic of people scattering like dust in the wind. But only some were fleeing from the inferno. Others, far more, too many, were running towards each other, spilling more red into the world. From their passing, Aang could hear the screaming of the burnt, crushed and dying fill in his ears.

All my fault...


Aang snapped out of his shock as a small, dirty hand clumsily grasped his shoulder. He twisted around to see Toph shaking, her small figure caught halfway between the saddle and Appa's head. Without thinking, he grabbed her fingers and airbended them both back to safety, where her relative sightlessness wouldn't send them toppling to their deaths.

Not that that move in itself didn't provoke a response from his teacher. "Aaaargh! Warn me next time, will you?"

"Sorry," he shook his head, like a man awakening from a sick dream. "It's just... Ba Sing Se is burning."

Toph snorted in disgust. "Look, even the blind girl can tell that! But what's actually happening?"

Aang felt her crisp demand penetrate through the numbness of his disbelief, his horror. He took a deep breath and settled, trying to inject some sense of reality into his voice. "Houses are burning through all three rings, but they're mostly the unfinished ones in the Upper tier. But there are people everywhere in the streets, fighting again."

Toph swore. "Get us down there."


There was nothing else he could say to that. Aang took another deep, shuddering breath, nodded firmly, and lifted himself back to Appa's head. Coiling his hand around his friend's left horn, he closed his eyes and felt the sky bison's fear, mirroring his own.

He swallowed. "Come on, buddy," he murmured, stroking his fur.

Appa paused, hovering in the air, and then went into a spiralling dive. About two meters off from the ground. Aang caught up Toph's hand and leapt. Both landed in unison, sending shivers of earth rumbling through the land, toppling already collapsing houses and engulfing the remains in dirt. And then they were up and running, following the screams, the Avatar's eyes caught by the bursts of human flame, and Toph's feet drawn by the heartbeats of hatred.

Neither of them, however, noticed the people skulking in the dark-lit shadows of the smoke, hesitating only briefly as they saw Aang's arrows before joining the fight.