Book 3: STONE



War has been declared.

Pathigo and Kilmojo, the two cities that have been feuding since their creation, have come to arms.

Pathigo, the place of modern times, where fashion and invention are welcomed and embraced in a lush culture.

Kilmojo, the first city established near the dawn of time eternal and the inventors of modern mechanics and battle tactics and king of all trade routes.

These two cities, different in aim have descended into a war which will terminate the opponent in a bloody massacre of humans and animals alike.

The spirits are turning their back on this affair, knowing that fate is queen of this battle.

The benders from around the world are beginning to congregate towards these cities as well as merchants and soldiers on reserve.

Benders are no longer seen as a prime threat to people now. They are beginning to come out of hiding when news from Ba Sing Se, the first all bender city, reached their ears.

It has been foretold by the great spirit of the stars that history and fate will be made on these grounds where the dormant storm hovers over.

Oma sat in her bedroom as the town criers gave their morning reports. It had been almost two weeks since the war had been declared and soldiers were flooding the streets of Pathigo, knowing that their enemy was waiting just beyond the mountain. The songbird sat perched on his cage as Oma got up and began to pace around her room. She had free reign of her mansion now, yet was not allowed to leave the house's confines. Large metal bars were locked into grates and door handles to barricade the mourning bride to be inside.

"Shu is out there, and I do not know his fate." Oma said sadly as a tear fell from her perfect eyes. "I do not know how his father or city are responding to this event and I pray to the spirits that he is safe." She turned and bent down in front of her small alter and lit some incense as she bowed low, her nose touching the floor. "Please, bless him." Oma said in a hushed voice as the songbird gave a few mournful tunes.

The cherry blossom trees were in full bloom as spring arrived. Thy were the only comfort that Shu had to look at as he paced the palace gardens. There were a troop of guards surrounding him, making sure that he did not leap over the wall and escape to his lover. He stopped for a moment to gaze at the tree and thought about the first time he had met Oma upon it. He was prodded in the back by a guard and Shu continued to walk along the path and back towards the gate that led to the outer courtyard of his palace.

It was a large palace with three towers that stretched towards the sky and large windows that opened out of the Great Hall where lunch was already set by the attentive servants of the palace. She entered the small door set into the wall of the courtyard and walked up the narrow stairs to the third level. He walked past the gleaming walls and tall windows that were covered in lush curtains. He pulled open the door to his room and shrugged to his bed.

He heard the guards place an iron rod over the door and take their positions. He sighed and turned to the window. He got up and walked over, opening the shutter to gaze out at the mountain. "My Oma." Shu said to himself. "Where are you?"

There was a commotion at the door and Shu shut the door in time to see his father rush in. He had a long blue robe around himself as he shut the door behind him. His face was pale and thin, a black beard growing from his pointed chin.

"I need to talk to you." His father said as he stood tall and upright before his son.

"What is it father?" Shu asked.

"It is about this war that you have brought upon us."

"I have not brought this upon us." Shu shouted as he stepped away from the window. "This was not my doing!"

"You were having an affair with the governor's daughter." The father said sternly as his eyes sunk into his head. "She is beneath you."

"You don't understand, I love her."

"Silence!" His father threw up his hand to stop his son's mouth. "This is your fault. You will pay along with all the other men that are to suffer death as well."

"What do you mean?" Shu asked.

"You are to report tomorrow morning to the army headquarters in the city. You will join their ranks and die with them. I will not have you sit by and watch them suffer the fate you brought upon them."

"Have we not lost enough to the war of the benders?" Shu asked. "Has that war not done enough damage to this world?"

"Do you mean to say that benders are all of a sudden of less importance to us?"

"You seem to be putting more effort into a war that has not even started yet."

"Benders are people too." Shu's father said in a voice that seemed to command spirits. "It is fair to say that these benders were meant to be. If fate has deemed this course of action for the world then who are we to go against it. While Kilmojo still stands for all things that have worked for many years for many people, it seems benders are meant to be part of this world as well."

"What do you mean exactly?" Shu asked as he tilted his head slightly.

"I mean that while Pathigo, the fools that deem themselves the masters of all things modern, makes alliances to fight these benders, Kilmojo will show its superiority and bow to this new edition to the world. Pathigo fights against benders and the old ways. Kilmojo fights for integration and the guides that founded this world."

"I haven't exactly heard about this before." Shu said as he tilted his head slightly.

"We were always behind the benders." Shu's father explained, fatigue clearly setting in. "While all the other cities and villages sent countless troops to hunt down these people we stood strong and resisted and persevered. Kilmojo will come out of this fight intact. Whether the same can be said for you is uncertain." His father turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him as he stormed from the room.

Shishou knocked slyly on Oma's bedroom door and entered, a bowl of peaches and cream and some tea upon the tray. "It will be a heavy day for you, my love." Shishou said as he set the tray down upon her table and whipped the napkins off and arranged them upon the counter.

'And why is that?" Oma asked flatly as she stared out the window towards the cherry blossom trees.

"Well, haven't you heard?" Shihsou asked her with a grin, his dark hair flopping on his head. "Kilmojo has foolishly declared that it is giving backing to the benders." Shishou broke into a cold laugh as his head reeled back and he collapsed upon her couch.

"I didn't know that was such a pleasure." Oma said dryly as she got up and approached Shihsou. "I thought the benders were no longer the problem."

"Well, they are now." Shishou laughed as he turned on the couch and reclined in front of the empty fireplace. "And I have even better news for you as well."

"Oh I can hardly wait." Oma said as she rolled a peach around the tray out of boredom.

"The prince of Kilmojo, Shu, has been ordered to serve in Kilmojo's army for the crime of inciting a war and having an affair with the governor's daughter!" Shishou broke into an even bigger fit of laughter and Oma's mouth dropped, as did the peach.

"Take it back!" Oma shouted as she rounded upon Shishou with a knife from the tray. Shishou shut up and tried to sink further back into the couch. "It cannot be true. Take it back!"

"I wish I could, my love." Shishou said with disdain in his breath. "But then again, why should you care? Your father has forbidden it anyway."

"I do not care what my father, you, or anyone else thinks. Take it back!" Oma pressed the knife into Shihsou's chest and the suitor found his breath beginning to fade. He made one swift motion and knocked the knife away. It clattered across the stone floor and slid under the wardrobe.

"You would do well to not anger me." Shihsou said as he stood up, no more threat to his life present. He grabbed Oma's face and forced her into a kiss. Oma struggled away and retreated to the hallway, her own room now a hostile lair.

She ran to the dining room and threw herself at the window. The iron grills that blocked it would not allow her to exit, but she imagined she could. She imagined she was flying away, a dove and Shu as her hawk. She imagined them flying past the cherry blossom trees and the mountains and free in the air.

She imagined a life that would never be. A dormant storm was on the horizon and love could never weather it.

Still, Oma and Shu dreamed.