Hello, Hello! SlimJames is back with the sequel to Yes I am an Animal. I had been planning to post this back in February, but school and real life kept getting in the way. Anyway, I'm not going to take up too much of your time; Hope you enjoy this one!
Eat the Weak
'…I'm a beast and you are my feast, all I do is stalk the earth and eat the weak…'
"It's not the heat, it's the humidity."
He had never actually gotten the point of that phrase; but then, considering where he was from, how could he? He had been born and bred in a land where warmth- real warmth- was about as elusive and impossible as keeping a single snowflake from melting in the palm of your hand. You wrapped yourself in layers upon layer of fur and leather; parkas, boots, baklavas, leggings, undercoats, overcoats and scarves yet you could never keep out the cold. It always, always crept in to bite the tip of your nose or creep into the soles of your feet. In the land of his ancestors, warmth was an illusion.
In this new land though- the pit that had spawned the raging assholes that were the sworn enemies of everything he believed in- warmth was most definitely not an illusion. Sokka of the Water Tribe sighed and, for what must have been the eighteenth time in the last ten minutes, cursed whichever malevolent spirit it was that got its rocks of finding new and sadistic ways to screw with him. Feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rising, the young warrior shot a furtive glance over his shoulder. In the space of a second his blue eyes scanned the street behind him, still cluttered with revelers from the day's carnival festivities even though the sun had gone down several hours ago. He didn't see anybody suspicious. That didn't mean anything. Focusing his vision back on the path in front of him, the Water Tribe warrior stepped up his pace slightly and told himself not to panic.
Some semi-drunken partygoer threw a firecracker into the young warrior's path; it took every ounce of self-control in Sokka's body to stop himself from breaking into a full sprint.
Damn it. He was panicking.
Beneath his traveler's cloak, the young warrior fondled the handle of a small carving knife that he had managed to lift from a fruit stand he had passed by earlier in the day; at the moment, it was the only armament that he had. The people of this smallish Fire Nation home island- Sokka couldn't actually remember it's name- were having some kind of festival celebrating the sun or dragon bladders…or something. When he had crossed over from the much larger neighboring island of Sao, the Water Tribe warrior had counted himself fortunate; in places this small, strangers stuck out farther than the rear end of an Omashu courtesan, but the festival attracted visitors from all over the region. In that kind of atmosphere a brown-skinned fella like himself would, if not fit right in with the fairer skinned Fire Nation locals, at least not raise too many eyebrows.
The random cracks of firecrackers and the off-key notes of half-slurred drinking songs flying through the air only served to raise Sokka's hackles even more. he looked over his shoulder again, hoping to catch a glimpse of the phantom pursuers that his eyes told him weren't there, but who his gut told him were lurking in the mouth of every dark alleyway. His heart beat faster as the fear and anxiety that had been building up the past several days since his escape from those bounty hunters was beginning to reach its boiling point.
Where were they? They could be anywhere- behind the next corner, or hiding behind a food stall, or creeping up behind hi-…
"Stop it," Sokka snapped to himself. A young couple passing from the opposite direction sent him strange looks; he barely noticed.
Stopping in his tracks, the young warrior forced his eyes closed and struggled to keep the burbling emotions threatening to force him into a mental breakdown from getting the best of him. Sokka had spent a good portion of the last few years as a fugitive of one sort or another, but he had never had to do it by himself. Without his sister or his friends around, it was much harder to cope with the stress that came with the knowledge that he had a pretty sizable price on his head.
There was one thing that he knew with absolute certainty; he was starting to crack up. He needed to find a place to relax and pull himself together before he did something stupid. Reopening his eyes, Sokka surveyed his surroundings once more- this time with an eye for a temporary diversion instead of an eye for enemies. There were several places to choose from; taverns and sporting houses ran up and down both sides of the town's main- in fact, it's only- street. Each and every one appeared to be packed with festival goers who had decided to come off of the streets and continue the merriment with the assistance of alcohol and cheap food.
Seeing no difference between the various establishments, the Water Tribe warrior settled on the closet establishment near him, a semi-reputable tavern named the Bounding Wave. Stepping towards the door, Sokka pushed the lightweight wooden barrier aside and stepped into the building. The very first thing that popped into his head was just how godawful hot it was inside. He had thought that the weather outside was bad, but it was even worse indoors. Outside the heat was fierce; inside, it was positively oppressive, almost like it had a physical presence. The air hung around Sokka's shoulders, heavy as a wet wool blanket.
He was just about to turn around and head back out the door, determined to find someplace- anyplace- that was better than this. He had just placed his foot on the threshold when he froze and considered that no place else in this town was likely to be any cooler than the Bounding Wave and he would just have to deal with the heat. The young warrior slumped his shoulders in defeat and headed for the bar, a sigh of bitter resignation rising from his lips as beads of sweat trickled down his forehead to collect on his nose. Grumbling at the happy faces around him- nobody else seemed to be the least bit bothered by the heat, the jerks- Sokka clambered onto one of the wooden stools next to the bar.
Rapping his knuckles on the surprisingly smooth countertop, the young warrior was able to catch the attention of the bearded, red faced bar tender.
"What're ya havin' stranger," the bare armed man asked him in the semi-rustic accent that people around these parts spoke with.
"A shot of something that will kill most small species of vermin," Sokka replied flippantly.
The barkeep replied without missing a beat. "Ah, got yerself a lice problem, eh?"
The young warrior smirked, delighted to have run into someone who actually knew how to banter. He sat up a little straighter and made a production of scratching his head and his armpits.
"They're more like super-lice. I don't know what it is about this island, but the bugs here are insane. The creepy-crawlies living on me must be part komodo-rhino or something."
The bearded liquor slinger chuckled; he was long since used to outsiders and their tales of encountering some of the delights of a backwater island like this. Reaching underneath the counter, the bartender withdrew a large clay jug and cup. The man dropped them both onto the counter top. Sokka quirked an eyebrow at the unexpectedly large container of alcohol; from the sound of the swishes coming from inside of the jug, the thing was almost full.
The young warrior looked up at the older man with a 'what the hell are you showing me' look on his face.
"Hair of the Dragon," the barkeep stated, a glint of what might have been mischief shining in his golden eyes, "guaranteed to leave ticks, fleas, lice, elephant-rats, and lesser men stone cold dead."
"Will it get me drunk," Sokka asked.
Reaching into the pocket of his crimson trousers, the Water Tribe warrior withdrew one of the silver coins that was resting in his pocket and flipped it towards the barkeep; the bearded man deftly caught it in his hand.
"Leave the jug here, okay?"
"You got it. Careful with that stuff kid; hope you don't mind me sayin' but you look like a bit of a lightweight."
Sokka chuckled and waved the man away, all the while giving assurances that he could handle whatever cheap washbasin swill the taverns of this backwater village could dish out. It was a complete lie, of course. The Water Tribe warrior was not much of a drinking man; to be completely honest, under normal circumstances, he wouldn't touch the sauce with a ten foot pole. Fortunately- or rather, unfortunately, considering his current state of affairs- these were not normal circumstances. Through a series of hilariously unfortunate accidents, incidents, and run-ins with the authorities of the Fire Nation, Sokka had found himself alone, in the middle of enemy territory with no maps, no weapons, no friends and very little hope of continuing to live as a free man.
So yeah; if anybody needed a drink right then, it was him.
Reaching for the jug with his left hand, Sokka grabbed a-hold of the neck and pulled the container closer to himself while his right hand grabbed the cup. The clay containers scraped across the countertop. Pausing only to wipe the sweat from his brow- and to once again wonder just how anybody managed to stand the weather in this country- Sokka busied himself with preparing his drink. Popping the cork of the clay jar, the young warrior decided to test the potency of Hair of the Dragon with an experimental sniff.
Sokka reeled back in his seat as the alcohol fumes rushed up his nose; he hacked so hard that he had to struggle to keep from falling over in his seat.
'Jeez! Did that barkeep just give me a jug of paint remover by mistake,' the young warrior thought to himself.
Sokka shuddered and clamped one of his fingers tightly over a nostril and blew in a vain attempt to physically remove the stinging sensation from his nose. He only succeeded in dislodging a small bit of snot onto the front of his cloak that he was quick to wipe away before anybody noticed. Re-grabbing the neck of the jug of spirits, the Water Tribe warrior tipped the container over and poured himself a healthy shot of the amber liquid inside.
"Alright, I'll admit that your bark was pretty intense," the young man said to the alcohol, "now let's see about your bite."
Picking up the cup and moving it towards his lips, Sokka hesitated for a second as it occurred to him that he was not exactly in the best physical condition. In between his escape from the bounty hunters, his stowaway voyage to this island and his general frazzled state, he just might be fragile enough that this unholy brew that he was about to throw back would potentially be potent enough to kill him. The image of him keeling over flashed through the Water Tribe warrior's mind; right on its heels was another thought, one which had allowed generations of mankind to disregard any ideas of logic and self-preservation that happened to arise on the cusp of a bad decision.
Shoving aside his misgivings, Sokka knocked back the cup and its contents in one fluid motion; the amber liquor burned its way down his throat, searing every inch of the lining of his mouth and throat. To his horror, the burning was not limited to the mouth and throat that had consumed the alcohol, but was reaching up his nose and into his skull. It was as if some kind of malevolent booze spirit had decided that it would be fun to tunnel inside of his brain through his nose and set up a campfire in there.
Less five seconds after swallowing the Hair of the Dragon, Sokka found himself doubled over the countertop, violently coughing and retching as his body tried to reject what he had just put into it. In the midst of his misery, the young warrior noted that it was fortunate that he had a strong constitution; otherwise, the day's meals- meager though they were- would have ended up all over the bar, and probably some of his fellow patrons.
Around him, locals familiar with the sight of an ignorant outsider feeling the effects of the Bounding Wave's signature spirit smirked at each other knowingly and had a few chuckles at the skinny, swarthy kid's expense. Regaining some semblance of control over himself, the scarlet clad warrior looked down the bar towards the bartender; the bearded man was grinning evilly. Sokka flipped him the one finger salute; funnily enough, the young warrior wasn't mad. In fact- if he were to be totally honest- he was actually starting to feel pretty damn good.
"I'm already buzzed after one shot," he mumbled to himself in amazement.
Sokka wasn't a drinking man, but even a lightweight like him should not have this good of a buzz going after just one shot. Raising his head up from its resting place on the bar top, the Water Tribe warrior looked upon the jug of alcohol with a newfound respect. Pouring himself another- smaller- portion, Sokka quickly knocked back his cup. It wasn't so bad the second time around; he hardly coughed and didn't feel like throwing up even once.
His world was just beginning to settle into the rosy haze of inebriation when he detected the presence of someone getting uncomfortably close to his elbow. Cutting his eyes to the side warily as he reached to pour himself another shot of liquid death, the young warrior took in the vampish female that had sidled up close to him while he wasn't looking.
"Hiya," she said coyly.
She had a medium-pretty face; earthy and attractive without the elegance that it took to qualify as gorgeous. Round, full cheeks and pouty lips- painted deep red- sat beneath a short and unobtrusive nose. Her eyes, like many of the people in the Fire Nation home islands, were a shade of golden yellow; in her case, a dull and dark color that put him in the mind of the rotting rind of a geechie squash.
Through examining the face, Sokka changed his focus towards the body. The deep red garment that was draped about her body exposed a fair amount of skin for him to ogle. Her plunging neckline gave a largely unimpeded view of her breasts and the upper half of her stomach. Moving his gaze downwards, Sokka saw that slits had been cut into the legs of her outfit so that everyone could get a good view of her legs.
And as far as legs went, they were very nice; toned, strong and shapely.
"Well hello there yourself," Sokka replied from over the rim of a third shot of spirits. He drained it in one gulp and his face contorted into an ugly knot.
"Having a problem handling that stuff," the mysterious woman with the plunging neckline said.
"You could say that," the Water Tribe warrior replied, his voice a strangled rasp.
"I had figured that the first shot had killed off my sense of taste, so taking a few more wouldn't hurt me. It's just a shame that it didn't stay dead."
After setting the cup down and taking a few lungfuls of air, the young warrior turned his head to devote his full attention to his new lady friend. He extended a friendly hand.
"Li, huh? Seems to be a million of you guys running around."
Sokka chuckled slightly. "So I've been told. And you are…"
"Chaka," the girl replied. She extended her own hand, which Sokka grasped delicately and brought up to his lips for a soft kiss.
"My, my, my; did I mistakenly run into a gentleman?"
The Water Tribe warrior snorted and rolled his eyes.
"Hardly," he quipped before refocusing on her face.
"So, it was the skin, right," Sokka asked, smiling slightly as he toyed with the cup with his free hand. The girl looked confused.
The buzzed warrior smirked knowingly at her nonplussed expression. "What attracted you to me; it was my skin, right? I've been told that the darker tone makes me seem more exotic, especially around all of these palefaces."
Sokka waved a hand around the room to indicate the other patrons crowding the establishment and their unambiguously un-dusky complexions. Chaka smiled coyly.
"Well, you do tend to stand out in a crowd."
"Shit," Sokka muttered under his breath.
"What was that," his new companion asked.
"Oh, u-um…nothing. Go on, I'm listening."
Chaka inched closer to him and leaned forward ever so slightly so that the young warrior could get a good look down into her breasts. Almost of their own will, Sokka's eyes were drawn downwards. The girl brought her lips up closer to his ear in spoke in what they warrior assumed was the most sensuous tone as she could muster in an environment filled with rambunctious and increasingly drunken partygoers.
"I've got an idea," she said. "Why don't you and I get out of this place and find a quiet spot somewhere?"
The young woman inched even closer. Sokka could feel the warmth of her breath against the nape of his neck as her words traveled up into his ear. Underneath the countertop, the sozzled young warrior could feel a small hand settling into his lap.
"You know that the beach isn't too far of a walk from here. We could…"
Chaka stopped dead, mid-sentence, as she felt something poking against her stomach, in the fleshy area just underneath her ribs. The young woman sent a glance downwards and saw the tip of the knife pressed against an area where it was guaranteed to do some serious damage. The fact that she was standing so close to him meant that he could stick her a few times and walk away before anybody else at the bar knew anything was wrong. She wouldn't even have enough time to pull away from the blade if he did decide to start stabbing. If he knew where to put it, she could bleed out in minutes. Fuck; she'd been made.
"Hey, eyes up here!"
Lifting her eyes back upwards she saw the expression on the face of the man she had been sent to mark had changed. It wasn't anything drastic- no gnashing of teeth or snarling demands for answer for who she was or who she was working with. No, it was much more subtle. The dusky skinned man still wore the same lazy expression on his face, but his eyes had taken on a steely intelligence that had been absent just a second before.
"This isn't really necessary you know; I'm here to help you."
The nonchalant way that she spoke that sentence gave Sokka the impression that this wasn't the first time somebody had put something sharp and pointy up to her vital areas. Frankly, that worried him, because if she was no stranger to this kind of situation then that probably also meant that she was one of the people after his bounty.
"You want to help me? You don't even know me; what reason could you possibly have to get involved in my business."
He didn't recognize her from the group that had captured him before, but that didn't really mean anything; he was worth a lot of money. That kind of notoriety tended to attract a variety of pursuers.
"My reason is that I was told to get involved," Chaka replied.
There was a pause. The girl didn't seem to want to answer that question, so Sokka jabbed the knife into her a little more, just enough to break the skin. He repeated his question.
"By who," he said, dropping his conversational tone along the way.
Sokka, in the part of his mind that could always remain objective, recognized that the stress of the past few days, plus the alcohol he had consumed was starting to get the best of him. He had to keep a lid on the situation; sew up his frayed nerves. Otherwise, he'd end up gutting this girl like a fucking harp-seal; and he had no desire to do that. Not yet.
Chaka simply looked at him impassively, seemingly not caring in the slightest that the jittery young man with the knife to her gut was possibly seconds away from ripping her open like a fish. The Water Tribe warrior took note; this girl had ice water running through her veins. Maybe a change in tactics was in order- being menacing had never been one of his strengths anyway. Retracting his knife from the girl's ribs and stowing it back beneath his cloak. Settling his elbows back onto the countertop, Sokka leaned his tired head against one of his hands.
"I'm going to ask you this one more time," he said. Much of the hostility had left his voice, but his tone was far from friendly.
"Who told you to come in here and play the mating dance with me?"
Chaka eased a few inches away from the young man; though he seemed to have changed his mind about getting violent, she it prudent to give herself some room to move just in case he got any more ideas.
"He just told me that you and had him were old 'traveling companions' or something like that. And before you start asking me any more questions, I'll spell this out for you right now. I was given strict instructions to not give you any details on what he currently looks like."
Sokka was getting increasingly confused.
"Does this mystery acquaintance of mine have a name?"
"I know him as Ban," she replied.
"I don't know anybody named Ban."
The girl simply shrugged. "Yeah, but you know how it goes in our business; a name doesn't really mean all that much. Right now, its just important that you come with me."
The young warrior focused on a few words that she just said.
There was a certain conspiratorial tone in her voice in the way she said that, like she was sharing an inside joke with him that an outsider wouldn't be able to get. Did she think that they were in the same line of work? That he was a criminal? Well, technically, he was a criminal, but there were certain circumstances…
Sokka's nimble mind was quickly beginning to develop a rough idea of the situation that currently faced him, but he was still a long way from knowing just what the hell was going on. Chaka's explanation had left him knowing slightly less than when he knew nothing, but he was able to surmise that she was under the impression that he was some kind of underworld figure. Whoever put that idea into her head- this Ban character- had to know him, Sokka of the Water Tribe. Maybe he shouldn't have put his knife away.
The Water Tribe warrior's normally expressive face remained frozen in an impassive scowl; he might not have known what kind of game was afoot, but it was clear to him that it was a game he would have to play.
"You say all of this stuff about friends with names I don't recognize and then just expect for me to come with you because you tell me to?"
Sokka cracked open the neglected jug of Hair of the Dragon and poured himself another shot.
"Weeelll, there's that," Chaka said playfully. "There's also the fact that those goons you slipped away from on the other island are in here right now and you're never going to get away without the help of me and my associates."
The Water Tribe warrior gagged and coughed as the liquor he had been swallowing suddenly decided that it was going down the wrong pipe. His choking fit wasn't due to the fact that the bounty hunters had tracked him down; he had been expecting that. What really disturbed him was that the girl had pretty much revealed that she and her group had been keeping track of him for Spirits knew how long before he had ever set foot on this island.
"Come again," he wheezed.
The young woman at his side held up a finger and began pointing them out.
"End of the bar; one covering the front entrance; one covering the back way out."
A few furtive glances around the room confirmed that Chaka was speaking the truth. Sokka gave a frustrated sigh and massaged his temples, desperately trying to relieve the pressure that was building up inside of his skull.
"Just great; Slap-Head, Beard-O, Jerkass are all here."
He caught Chaka giving him a weird look.
"Slap-Head, Beard-O and Jerkass?"
"One's bald, one's got a crazy mountain man beard crawling with mountain-man-beard-parasites and the last one's a jerkass," the young warrior replied in a tone that said he was annoyed at having to explain something so obvious.
Chaka rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Look, we've spent too much time here as it is. I'm leaving, you want to join me, or do you want to stay here and wait for those guys to take you away and do the bad thing to you."
Sokka felt conflicted; while he certainly didn't want anybody doing "the bad thing" to him, he wasn't crazy over the idea of going off with a shady group that he knew nothing about. On the other hand, from what Chaka was saying, this unknown party wanted him for something, but weren't interested in his bounty. The question was- if not for his bounty, what did they want him for?
Scoffing at this new turn in his luck, the young warrior hopped off of his stool and wobbled on his feet before finally regaining control of his balance. He offered his arm to the young woman next to him, which she quickly accepted.
"Please tell me you've got some backup," Sokka asked.
"You'd think I'd come here by myself," Chaka replied. "Besides, those guys shouldn't be stupid enough to make a scene in public. Just be cool and act drunker than you are; we'll be fine as long as nobody does anything crazy."
The pair had taken their first steps towards the exit when the young warrior abruptly stopped in his tracks. Chaka looked up at him with an impatient look on her face.
"Just hold on for a second," Sokka replied.
The young woman watched as, turning on his heel, he walked back over to the space that he had vacated just a few seconds ago, poured himself another shot and knocked it back with hardly a gasp or sputter. Chaka rolled her eyes but said nothing when he came back and retook her arm; some people needed a little something extra to help them through a stressful situation. She certainly wasn't one to judge.
As they approached the main entrance Chaka kept on eye on her charge and the other on a grotesquely muscular man who could only be the Beard-O that Sokka had described earlier. The hairy man was staring holes right through the both of them, and doing a pretty pathetic job at keeping his interest discreet. Chaka whispered instructions to the unsteady warrior walking beside her.
"Stagger a bit more when you walk; we really need to sell this."
In response, the Water Tribe warrior's gait became even more ungainly and he leaned more heavily on the smaller woman next to him. Chaka congratulated him on improving his act, but the truth was that Sokka really was having a harder time standing up and walking straight. He realized, with an odd mix of horror and booze induced amusement that that shit that had choking down was really starting to kick in.
In this fashion, the stumbling pair made their way past the mash of people crowding the floor of the bar and out the main door. The fresh air of the outside world hit Sokka's senses with the force of a sucker punch, jolting his entire body after being in the stale air of the Bounding Wave. Unfortunately, it was still hot; not as hot as the inside of the tavern of course but still uncomfortably warm.
"This way; we need to get to the bridge."
The Water Tribe warrior felt a none too gentle tug on his arm as Chaka pulled him to the out into the street. Behind them, they could hear the heavy footsteps of someone- probably Beard-O- following behind them. The young duo ignored him the best they could. Chaka pulled Sokka in the direction that led to the outskirts of town; given that the town wasn't all that big to begin with, the outskirts were not that far.
From what he could remember about the general layout of the surrounding area, the young warrior knew that they were moving in the direction of a creek which wound around the landward side of the village. Untold centuries of erosion had created a sizable gully along the path of the flowing water and a bridge had been built to connect the town with the opposite bank. To all appearances Sokka and Chaka looked just like a hooker and a john heading off to conclude some "business".
With every step they took, the pair got farther and farther away from the lights of the town, into the darkness which sat at the edge of vision. With every step he took, Sokka tried to force the butterflies fluttering around randomly in his stomach to be still. Chaka and he were virtually alone out there on the outskirts, having long since passed the town's chubby constable- passed out drunk at his guardpost with a half-eaten bag of Fire Flakes hanging limply from an unconscious hand. The Water Tribe warrior snorted at the sight.
Out at the edge of the settlement, away from the sounds of merriment still ringing in the town, it was easy for his sharp ears to pick up every croak and chirp and crack and howl that radiated from the nearby wilderness.
And he could especially hear the sound Beard-O's heavy footfalls their pursuer sped up his pace.
The duo reached the bridge and Chaka pulled Sokka in the direction of footpath that led down to the creek bed. However, before they could even get on to the path he felt a rough hand grip the back collar of his cloak; before his sozzled brain could fully process what was going on, the young warrior found that the girl that had been serving as his support suddenly ripped away from his grasp. Sokka was unbalanced, but managed to keep his feet underneath him.
"Been lookin' everywhere for you beanpole," Beard-O growled, the stench of his foul breath making him screw his face up in displeasure.
"What the hell is your problem man," Chaka shrieked from her place on the ground, still playing the part of the aggrieved hooker.
"You're costing me money right now!"
Beard-O turned and stuck a massive finger in her face.
"You shut your filthy whore mouth before I put it to better use," the bearded man barked before turning back to the smaller man he held by the neck.
Chaka bit her lip in annoyance. She shot a quick look towards town and cursed when she caught a glimpse of a solitary figure coming towards them.
"All that aggravation you caused us, and you were about to go off and have fun? I'm going to enjoy kicking the shit out of you."
The young woman watched as the massive man reared back a hand, preparing to bring it down on her charge's head. She had to put a stop to this; Ban and the boss had told her to bring him back unhurt. If she let the guy get smashed by some shaven gorilla-bull, she would never hear the end of it. Still, there wasn't a whole lot that she could do in this type of situation; she hadn't brought along any weapons and she wasn't the greatest when it came to hand-to-hand combat.
While Chaka considered what to do, Beard-O was about to smash his young captive's face in. He paused, however when the younger man held up a hand, urging him to wait.
"Mmmh! Mmnnh! Mmnh!"
Thoughts of violence were temporarily forgotten as Beard-O stared at the younger man in wary confusion. Holding up a finger to indicate that he needed a second, Sokka pulled back the other side of his cloak; Chaka noticed that he was cupping something in the palm of his hand and was surprised to see that it was one of the small glass candle bowls that had lined the countertops of the bar that they had just left. How the hell had he managed to sneak one of those without her noticing?
Baffled, the young woman watched as Sokka held the still burning candle up to the bearded man's face. Before anyone could blink the Water Tribe warrior took a quick inhalation through his nose before spitting out the shot of alcohol he had been carrying in his mouth all this time. The volatile liquid was released in a spray, which reacted violently when it hit the flame on the candle.
The sound of the fireball was quickly drowned out by Beard-O's agonized shrieks as the alcohol propelled flames flew straight into his unprotected face. He hadn't even had time to blink; the fire caught the delicate fleshy orbs that were his eyes and flash fried them. In an instant, the folds of his eyelids fused together into an angry red mass of ruined skin, forcing his eyes to stay open. The smell of burnt hair stank up the air as big man's mighty beard caught fire and smoldered on his face, adding to the damage.
Driven mad with pain, the bounty hunter spun away from his captive, beating at his own face to try to put out his burning beard and crying every vile curse he could thing of into the empty night sky. Chaka watched, fascinated, as the young man she had been sent to retrieve- still wobbling slightly on his feet- walked up behind the wounded bounty hunter and delivered a hard kick to the backs of the other man's knees. As Beard-O tumbled onto the ground, the Water Tribe warrior reached into his waistband and withdrew his knife.
He grabbed the back of Beard-O's wooly head and calmly, almost casually, took the knife and drew it across the bounty hunter's throat. The big man's screams halted- dying half-born in his throat as his life's blood dripped out of the neat cut across his neck. Beard-O gurgled and weakly clutched at his neck for a few seconds, trying in vain to stem the flow of blood before his arms finally fell to his sides, lifeless.
Sokka turned away from the corpse- consciously making an effort not to look at it- as he wiped the blade clean.
"Wow… I guess I was rushing for nothing…"
Sokka and Chaka turned at the sound of the new voice; no more than a few feet away from them in the darkness stood a man that was slightly taller than the Water Tribe warrior. The weak light of the moon did not provide enough illumination for Sokka to make out his features too well, but he could tell that the new man seemed to be cradling something beneath his arm. The young warrior immediately went on his guard, but Chaka placed a gentle hand on his arm, silently telling him to calm down.
"Chill out; this guy's a friend."
The girl raised her hand in greeting. "Nice timing Luzai. If you're here then I guess it's safe to assume that those other two bounty hunters won't be a problem anymore?"
"...You know me," Luzai replied in by far the creepiest monotone Sokka had ever heard.
The dark man held up the object that he was carrying; it was round, about the size of a medium sized melon. Something in Sokka's gut was told him that Luzai was not carrying a melon.
"I liked this one; he made interesting sounds…"
Sokka wondered just what the hell he was stepping into.
"….Oookaaay, how about we just end this conversation before it starts getting weird," Sokka interjected.
"Look we're wasting time Li," Chaka said. "It's time we take you to meet the rest of the crew so we can get down to some real work."
Sokka frowned, though his dour expression was hidden by the darkness; he didn't want to go anywhere with these people. He didn't want to have anything to do with them or their work, but at the moment he couldn't come up with an idea of how to get away. This group- or more precisely, that Ban guy that Chaka mentioned- knew who he was. More disturbingly, that mystery man had somehow managed to track him all the way to the middle of nowhere and claimed that they knew each other. Sokka hated walking into a situation without knowing the full score, but at the moment he was going to have to do just that.
The young warrior turned to Luzai, who was busy humming what might have been a lullaby to the mystery thing he was cradling in his arms. Sokka quickly turned around to face Chaka.
"Before we go anywhere, you guys wouldn't happen to know where Beard-O and Jerkass and Slap-Head were staying, would you?"
"Of course," she replied. "Why do you want to go there?"
"Because I think they've still got some of my stuff"
"You're a nightmare boy. A straight motherfuckin' nightmare…"
He looked up at the other man sharing the cold limestone cell with him.
"How do you figure Jiji?"
The older convict just laughed; it was unearthly, guttural. It was a sound that grated against the senses and made the skin crawl with every ream of black mirth that came spilling out of his mouth. It wasn't the type of sound that a man should make.
"Because I have clarity; I've been inside," Jiji rapped the side of his head with his knuckles.
"I know all of the little sick things you've been plotting; blood, flames and pain. That's all you seem to think about. The people that did you wrong, what you're going to do to them when they're finally in your power, the looks on their faces when they look up from that pool of their own blood and see you looking right back down on them."
Suddenly, the expression on Jiji's face changed; he no longer seemed amused. The lackadaisical smirk on his face turned into a frown; cruel mirth in his eyes dissolving into bitter pity.
"You've got it all planned out; all you've got to do is get your tools together."
He paused for a moment.
"You know what's going to happen to you, right?"
Visions of war and turmoil flashed before his eyes; his bones smashed, his face mashed to a bloody pulp, his skin blackened by the very flames he commanded- he saw it and he laughed. He saw the end, and all he could do was laugh.
"…Yeah," he replied. "I wonder how I get there…"
A dream; it was just a dream. Just a dream; none of that happened- none of it was real. He looked around his dwelling; the cold stone of the cave he was squatting in was not so different from the bare cells of Jade Passage. He cupped his head in his hands and tried to choke down the feeling of sickness that was building in his gut. Bad dreams- bad fucking dreams.
It took him a second longer than it should have to notice that someone was standing at the entrance of his room.
"What is it," he growled.
"Chaka and Luzai are back, my dear. They've got some scrawny brown skinned fellow with them; he demanding to see you."
A hand thick with calluses fingered the violent red scar that disfigured half of his face. He could hear the voice of the old matron whose job it was to instruct him in etiquette, telling him that the polite thing to do would be to go out and greet his guest. He started to push himself off of his makeshift bed, but stopped and sat back down. His eyes were rooted to a spot on the floor; he didn't feel like moving just yet.
"If's he that earnest, send him in…"
The sound of a pair of feet walking away was quickly followed by the sound of a pair of feet approaching. The curtain that blocked view into his cave/room was pushed aside. He finally looked up; blue eyes met golden eyes.
He had expected him to sound more surprised
"Me," he replied, acknowledging that he was indeed really here.
A heavy silence hung in the air as neither young man spoke a word nor moved a muscle. Finally Sokka sighed and chuckled to himself before fixing the former prince of the Fire Nation with a steely gaze.
"So I guess this is where it get's interesting..."
And that's the end of that chapter. Please review and tell me what you think, this is all for the sake of improving as a writer!