Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar the Last Airbender and do not financially profit from this.
Author's Notes: This story was revised to correct for errors, both grammatical and not, pointed out by helpful reviewers. However, the style and substance of the story remains the same.
A gust of air buffeted the small, mountainside ledge as the flying bison descended towards it. A tall man leapt from the bison's back a floated down to the ledge, his orange robes catching the mountain breeze as he fell lazily to the ground. He turned and patted the bison on its head.
"Thanks for the lift, my friend."
A flash of light far above them caught the man's attention. "Su's here." He glanced up at the magnificent dragon, as it circled the mountain's higher peaks. He lowered his gaze and smiled broadly at his companion.
"Well, Gowad, it looks like you have someone to play with while I talk."
The bison grunted loudly in response, clearly eager to resume its flight.
"Well, I'm not going to keep you from Huo." The man patted the bison on the head once more. "Go on, then."
The bison grunted again as it began its ascent. The man momentarily watched the bison as it flew upwards; then turned to face the smooth, flat stone from which the ledge protruded. He reached out with his right arm and tapped the back of his hand against the rock. The rock groaned as it slid aside to reveal a large cavern. The man stepped inside.
A woman stepped from the shadows. She wore a practical red tunic and an expression of annoyance. "Can you tell me, Anil, why the fastest element is late to every meeting?"
Anil grinned. "I was sightseeing."
The woman snorted. "You're a perpetual tourist, Anil."
The burgeoning conversation was cut short as a voice spoke up from the dark. "Su, I'm about to close the entrance. Would you mind lighting the fires?"
A smile flashed across the woman's face. "Not at all, Ila". Su turned away from Anil and breathed deeply, extending her arms outwards. Blue flame burst from her fingertips. The flames flowed around the circular cavern, bathing its confines in a soft flickering glow and illuminating four stone benches arranged around a small pond of water in the centre of the room. A young woman in a heavy green dress sat on one of the benches, while a middle-aged man wearing an ice blue cloak sat on another.
The woman looked up at Anil. "I trust that you will keep the air flowing," she said, gesturing towards the nearest of the blue flames that now circled the room. "I don't particularly want to faint."
Anil nodded as he made his way towards one of the benches, Su close behind him. As she sat down on the last bench, the man in blue spoke up. "I appreciate your choice of colour, Su."
Su sighed and crossed her legs. "White is too difficult to maintain for very long, Muilin, so this is the next best thing."
"I'm not complaining," said Anil. "It's rather easy on the eyes compared to red fire."
"I suggest that we get to the matter at hand, my friends."
The three turned to face Ila, who resumed speaking. "You know why we are here."
"The balance is slipping, she continued. Too many things are happening for us to counteract, or guide. Too much is changing too fast. The power of the White Lotus is waning. The future of the world is uncertain."
Muilin raised his hands. "Perhaps we should change with it? Perhaps we should go with the flow?"
Ila regarded him with a cool expression. "Earth does not flow."
Before Muilin could respond, Anil interrupted. "It's not a question of resisting change, Muilin. It's a question of guiding that change. We are all that is left of the White Lotus. The purges saw to that. We are not enough to perform that duty anymore."
A solemn silence swept over the cavern. There had been over 100 members of the White Lotus before the purges. They order had stretched from the ends of the earth, across the continents. Now, there were four members sitting in an old, near-abandoned cave.
Su broke the silence, glancing around the room. "So, it's decided then?"
Muilin responded, "Would not the spirits be angry? What we are contemplating would be an encroachment on their domain."
Su laughed. "We've had this conversation before, Muilin." She waved an arm, a slight smile coming across her face. "Besides, I have yet to meet a spirit that didn't need a good kicking."
Muilin smiled at her outburst and wagged a finger. "Then you haven't met Tui and La."
Su waved her a hand dismissively. "The Ocean and the Moon, right? Yes," she said drily, "They must be such interesting conversation."
Anil chuckled, gaining him a sideways scowl from Muilin.
"They had a child recently," stated Muilin.
Su raised an eyebrow and Anil's mouth hung open, while Ila frowned. "They can have children," said Su slowly.
Muilin nodded happily. "Apparently so. His name's Koh. He's a nice kid, though a bit obsessed with the mortal world. He asked me to bring him something next time I visited." Muilin produced a blue mask from inside his cloak. "What do you think about this?"
The cavern fell silent once again. "I think," said Ila, breaking the momentary quiet, "that we're getting off topic."
Muilin sighed and placed the mask beside him on the bench. "I know and I apologise. It's just that... this is big. What we're about to do will change the course of history for thousands of year, perhaps forever. Do we have the right to do this?"
"The White Lotus changes history," answered Anil. "That is the purpose of the White Lotus: To guide, to protect, to maintain. What's changed, Muilin?"
"This is different," snapped Muilin. "We'll be putting all that power into the hands of one person. Not only that, but this person won't have a choice. None of them will. Do we have the right to do that, Anil?"
Su laughed again, but there was no mirth in the sound. "Everybody is marked at birth, Muilin. None of us are entirely free agents. A daughter of a king is just as much a slave to her role as a daughter of a fisherman and few of us break from those roles. I don't see how this is different."
"Are you happy with that?" retorted Muilin. "Are you happy with those bindings?"
She glared at the waterbender. "Of course not, but I can't see any way out other than burning everything to the ground and I don't think I'll take that route, Muilin."
"Enough!" Ila rose to her feet. "Muilin, do you or do you not agree?"
The man lowered his head and sighed. "For better or worse, I agree."
Su and Anil followed Ila's example and stood up. Muilin slowly pushed himself from the bench to join them.
"Let us begin," said Ila.
The four masters joined hands around the pool, their eyes closed. The water in the pool coursed upwards until it reached the top of the cavern. The blue fire that had circled around them rushed past to join the liquid tower. The ground shook and a mass of rock flew up to join its elemental siblings. Lastly, a gust of air blew past them and began to spin the elements. A raging, white torrent of power was formed, confined by the four benders.
Then, it broke free. The cavern shook as the energy engulfed the masters. Cracks appeared in the benches and dirt and stone fell from the caverns roof. The power of the white energy appeared to grow as it expanded outwards and the walls began to shake. Then, as quickly as it had expanded, the energy returned to the centre, growing fainter and fainter until it finally vanished. Darkness returned to the cavern.
Su lit and held a small red fire in her hands, half-falling onto her bench.
"We are now bonded," said Ila.
"So, that's what that smell is," said Anil.
The four laughed weakly.
Muilin followed Su's example and returned to his bench. "So it's done." He looked up at Ila. There was a weariness in her eyes that he had never seen before. "How long do we have left?"
"A year at the most."
"The child will be born then?"
Ila nodded. "The first child will be born; the first Avatar."
Silence conquered the cavern once more.
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