Prologue to One, Divided
Earth. Fire. Air. Water.
Long ago, before there was an avatar, there was a world of strife and seemingly endless war. When technology was at its peak, countless lives were lost in a massive explosion caused by the greed of men. After the end, as they called it, people continually died off in large numbers; the technology that they relied on so much was of no use to them now. Water sources, and in turn, vegetation for animals and people to consume began to fade. Along with the murders and theft, there were even incidents where some people resorted to eating human flesh. The world was a bad place. One where greed ran amok: it overtook the world as it went into the last Dark Age human beings ever should have known.
However, something from deep within the planet's crust rose up. It buried away the radiation, swept away the plague in a torrent wind, purged the decay in flames, and birthed more wells of pure, clean water for the inhabitants of the world to live. Time passed and the world healed itself. Conflict died down to isolated incidents; war was no longer on a global scale.
Long ago, before there was an avatar, there was a man. He lived in a world where technology became relics of an unknown past. The world grew once more, thrived once more, and human beings along with it. Ancient artifacts found throughout a millennium would eventually lead to a discovery of their true, technological purposes. The artifacts, however, were scarce and useless at the time when people still relied on wax, oil, coal and lumber to light and heat their homes.
As a monk, the man spent most of his life traveling, passing along foodstuffs to people in need. Teaching others how to better care for their food and water supplies, giving them spiritual guidance and medicinal healing that was available at the time, and also banishing evil spirits that were believed, at the time, to be the cause of all ill will.
One day, this monk came upon an artifact. It was simple: a disk. A hundred pound disk made of stone that was no wider or thicker than the size of his palm, made of flagstone perhaps, a common stone, and weighing far more than it should have for its size. He believed a spirit must have inhabited the stone and caused it to weigh so much, as if it was burdened with some kind of guilt. Not even twenty years of age, the monk became fascinated with the heavy stone and carried it upon his person as if it were his own guilt, his own trepidation, fear, and anger. When he meditated, he placed the stone in front of him and tied his hands together using his prayer beads. Over the years, he channeled every negative thought, every ounce of negative energy into the stone, hoping that one day he could be free of all vices. As he traveled, and lived a life full of struggle, he found that, amazingly, the stone had begun to increase in weight.
As he grew older, the stone became so heavy, that he could no longer carry it with him. He left it where it lay on the ground and meditated once more before leaving the stone behind. A year later, he came back to where he had left the stone and found that it had not been moved. Attempting to move it himself, he could barely lift it onto one side by using his monk's staff and a second stone for leverage. He returned year after year, speaking with the stone as he always had. Eventually, neither using his staff or even a borrowed pack mule could make the small stone budge. He built a simple shrine for the stone and continued to come back once a year, until the year he married.
Through some stroke of chance, he found a woman who made it easier to carry the burden. When he finally returned to the stone, carrying one of his two children on his shoulders to the quiet meadow where it lay, he came to find that the stone had cracked. Reaching for it, he realized it was quite easy to pick up the stone. It weighed only a few pounds, much like it should have.
"My son," he said, "this stone carried every burden that I ever had to bare, making my life that much clearer for me. Without the heavy weight, I was able to do many great things. One of those, I have now decided, is to pass down this stone to you and your brother."
"Where did it come from, father?" the boy asked.
"I am not sure. I have asked this myself for a very long time. Take this," said the monk, breaking the stone in two along the cracked surface, "and give one half to your brother. I will stay here for the night and pray." When he handed his son the broken artifact, he reached up and picked him off of his shoulders, setting him down in front of him before kneeling down to look into his young son's eyes. "Listen to me. You are my legacy. You and your brother, together, should work to make this world a better place not only for you, but for others as well."
"Yes, father." The young boy responded.
"Now go. Off to your mother," said the monk, smiling fondly at his young boy.
He watched his son go, and then sat down to meditate before the shrine, thanking the stone for carrying his burdens for so long. Within a few minutes, he heard a response.
Quite an interesting young man, your boy is. You have another? His… broth-er?
Shocked, but uncontrollably enthusiastic, the monk sat up straight as he searched about, knowing full well that no one was in the area and it wasn't sound that he was hearing.
"Are you…" he began to ask, his eyes still darting back and forth, not yet believing the truth he knew in his heart, "… the spirit of the stone?"
I have followed you long enough to know how you speak, your language; to know what you are, about your interactions with others and this state of being you would call life. I have spent a long time, between your visits, contemplating about my own existence. Trying, impossible as it may be, to understand how your knowledge was imparted onto me. What I have been able to summate from all of the words that you have bestowed upon me is that I am the bane of your existence. I am the darkness to your light; the evil to your good. I don't quite know if you or I are really any different from one another though these husks we call our bodies may indicate otherwise.
The monk sat in silence as he partook on the thoughts that he heard in his mind and felt in the pit of his stomach.
Essentially, I am you, you are me, and we are one, divided.
"I see. What were you, though, before I found you?"
You misunderstand. You did not find me. I found you.
"Could you explain?" The monk asked, opening his eyes as he looked upon the shrine.
I can move the ground to my will. I traced your footsteps through each of your journeys up until the day I allowed you to find me. And now, thanks to you, I can feel myself transcend from that old stone body. Now, I feel as if I am made out of the wind, and yet fluid like water, and hot like fire. And yet… I also feel as if…
The monk's eyes widened when suddenly dirt began to swirl in the air in a spiral. When it came to its center, it coiled and coiled until it created another disk, this one a spiral made of soil.
From the soil, I can create a body. A new one… if I just… concentrate… no, as you say, meditate.
In the center of the spiral appeared an eye. The soil lit aflame and hardened while water poured out and created the wet sclera, iris and pupil that made up the eye. Fire lit tiny paths along it, creating thin tubes that looked like veins that appeared behind the spiral as a framework. Out of the elements, it created its own body and looked upon the single monk who made it all possible.
"You are… incredible." The monk said, his eyes widening in awe at the body forming before him. "Even seeing my children being born pales in comparison to this."
When the creature had a mouth, it opened it and spoke, "I thank you for that. It makes me feel… welcome."
"What would you call yourself?" asked the monk, curious.
"Call myself?" it repeated, in a tone it assumed was confused.
"Yes. My name is Pakal. I am a monk who has spent most of his youth in a monastery and has lived his life in the hopes of being of assistance to others both spiritually and physically." He brought his hands together and bowed his head, below them, bowing as deeply as possible while seated.
"I know all of this," said the creature, tilting its head back and forth and walking about, looking around for the first time with its own eye.
"Yes but it is polite and also a part of my custom to introduce myself to someone I have only just met."
The creature chuckled, though the Monk felt like it was more like a snicker than a light laugh. "I see. For now, you may call me 'brother', for I have not been given a name."
Bowing once more, the monk smiled and said, "It is nice to finally meet you, brother."
As time passed, the monk came to visit the creature more often, even building a home nearby so that he would no longer have to roam the land with his family. He continued to meditate, and he and his brother searched for the meaning of their existence together.
One day, his brother came to him and said, "I must speak with you, brother Pakal."
"Of course, if you can wait for my morning prayer, I will join you at your shrine soon."
Groaning, the creature walked around the house in the shape of a housecat, as it often did when the children and his wife were around. Once he was able to make his 'original shape', mimicking the shapes of other creatures was quite a simple task. He did, however, hate waiting. His impatience was possibly passed down to him by his brother, the monk, who had instilled every ounce of impatience, along with many other vice traits, into the stone many years ago.
The small white furred cat crept about the house, looking to catch a glimpse at the monk's family.
The cat spun around quickly, its eyes widening.
Flinching back, the young boy named Mito knelt down and stared at the cat, eyeing it suspiciously. "What are you looking for, kitty cat? You want some food?"
Get out of my face, you nitwit, it thought.
"I have some bread… and a bit of leftover rabbit meat from papa's hunting yesterday."
Not on your life.
The boy frowned. "You're a weird cat…"
The creature narrowed its eyes at the boy and then looked around, searching for a way out.
"What's wrong? Are you hurt? Are you OK?"
Freezing in place just before it was about to move, the creature looked up at the boy once more. What does he want from me, I wonder?
"Well, just wait there! OK, kitty cat? I won't take long, promise!"
Turning around, the young boy ran away towards the kitchen. While the creature sat there, watching him go; confused itself why it bothered to wait. If it was honest with itself, it must have felt compelled to wait due to how interesting the young boy was; he seemed sincerely worried about the small feline, and the creature wasn't wise to the world enough to realize that he was probably just interested in petting it because of its current form.
When it heard the pitter patter of the young boy's feet coming back down across the hall and saw the elated look in his eyes when he saw that the white cat was still sitting where he had left it, the creature suddenly ran.
"Wait! Kitty! Kitty cat! Where are you going? I found some fish instead! And also some of papa's tea!"
The creature slunk around the corner and poked its head out to gaze at the young boy. It wasn't sure if it should trust the boy. Sure, it was the monk's son, but it was also a stranger to it.
"OK, OK! I'll just leave it here," he said, smiling and setting the two dishes down on the floor.
The small white cat looked at the food, then up at the young boy. It refused to take a step, still unsure of the whole situation.
The boy took a few steps back, and suddenly the cat took one forward. Another step back and another step forward. On and on, this happened, until the boy was kneeling down, watching intently as the white cat stood tentatively over the food.
"Eat it! It's good! Promise! Mama made it only like two days ago!"
What an odd young boy. The cat thought before digging in.
While the cat ate, it watched as the boy neared it ever so slowly. When he got too close, it stood up, ready to move away, but he stopped and simply watched it.
After a while, the cat stopped eating and began to walk toward the small boy. Gasping, Mito reached out to pet the cat, smiling fondly as it took another step towards him.
Suddenly, a foot similar to his own stomped on his hand and kicked it out of the way, making Mito cry out in pain.
"That is my cat! Father bought it for me!" cried the older of the two boys.
"Papa never said anything about a cat!"
"Well, he did to me! He said it himself!"
"Well, I only just wanted to pet him… can I brother?"
The creature, surprised by the interactions between two boys who were entirely different from one another, took several steps back as it wondered if it would be able to continue eating its food in peace. When the older boy looked at it, however, the creature knew it wouldn't happen.
"Come over here right now, Mr. Kitty cat!"
At this, the creature may as well have vanished; it scurried around the corner so quickly that it slipped on the floor and ran into the wall before running out the front door as easily as it entered.
The older boy looked at his young brother and angrily said; pointing in his face, "See what you did!"
Later, when Pakal finally made his way to the shrine, he heard a voice in his head.
I don't ever want to go to your home again.
Laughing, Pakal replied, "Oh, it wasn't so bad, I'm sure."
How do you know? You weren't even watching.
"Well, because young Mito told me. Yes, he came over, crying about how I got his brother a new cat… I told him that the cat must have wandered in from outside, hungry because it could smell the food, and also spoke with my oldest, Ceiba, and told him that if he composed himself properly and refrained from yelling and making selfish demands, then perhaps the cat would creep back in for another snack.
Never. I don't even need to eat, I don't think.
"Possibly no," said the monk, smiling. "But I bet it's good for you!" he added.
Coming out from his hiding spot, the cat looked around and then changed his form once more, showing Pakal his true form as the single eyed creature which walked on two hind legs with clawed front arms, colored in white. "You should bring me food here."
The monk, however, shook his head. "It is also good for you to have more interaction with the world than just with me. I believe both you and my children would benefit from you visiting more often."
In a hurry, the creature was gone, growling almost as the word, Never! rang loudly in the monk's head.
"Ha ha ha. Do not underestimate the power of affection and love. Obviously, it hindered my journey to travel for the rest of my life for the good of my family. And I believe it is because of love that I am a happier man than I ever would have been merely helping random people instead of working to establish a place where people can come for medicinal supplies and classes where I can teach youngsters the healing ways."
It's a strange world that you live in.
Smiling, the monk said with finality, "It's a strange world that we live in."
And for years, everything went well.
The boys, Ceiba and Mito, got along well with their new friend, as their father refused to call the white haired cat a pet. Pakal and his wife lived well together with their two boys until they became young men and he finally decided to tell his family of the creature.
After the years of training and learning to ward off evil spirits, the two boys took to their childhood cat's new form well, even welcoming their father's 'brother' into their home with gusto. Pakal's strange world, however, would only allow him happiness for a short time, strange as it was.
Pakal stepped out of his bedroom, his eyes barely gazing up from the ground. He avoided the looks of the boys for a minute, but he knew he would have to tell them and waiting on such a delicate issue could cause later problems.
"Boys, I am sorry. She is gone."
Pakal's boys eventually moved out of his home, and the monk stayed together with the creature, the entire family taking to calling it 'Brother' as it seemed to become endeared with the word and the concept.
Brother noticed that the inability to trust others, the anger and the vain and everything else which was bad began to fade away. Eventually, it was happy. Sincerely happy. Unfortunately, it still could feel sadness, and most of this came on when its brother, Pakal, was remembering his dear wife, Lady Xoc (pronounced: 'shook').
"Do you miss her?" Brother asked.
"Every day. Without fail." The monk replied.
He looked tired. Worn. The monk was literally a shadow of his former self.
"I am sorry," said the creature, looking down at the ground as they sat together in the monk's study, while he read a parchment under candlelight.
Looking up, Pakal asked, "Sorry?"
"Was that wrong to say?" asked the creature, stepping towards him.
"I don't suppose it is. You shouldn't be sorry though. It wasn't your fault. She became ill. She died because it was her time to go."
"How do you know when it's time to go?"
"That, my brother, is a question we all ask ourselves."
"Is there an answer?"
"I hope so."
Years passed. The monk, tired with the greed of men, cancelled the classes he held for the rest of the next month and went back to the shrine where his brother waited for him every day. When he arrived, he saw the creature sitting on top of the shrine and looking up at the sky.
"I can feel her…"
Warily, the monk asked, "Who can you feel?"
"Lady Xoc. She is still here… her… essence, I can feel her… what was it that you called it: her spirit?"
Surprised, the monk asked, "How do you know?"
"It's the same feeling I got every time I was around her. I feel similarly to you."
Chuckling, the monk merely stated, leaning on his monk's staff as he spoke, "That's love, brother. It does not have anything to do with her spirit. It is her good will that you must feel from the boys whenever they visit and me."
"No… I know love now. I can feel that too; however, this is something much more… potent. It is… something else. Hold on, I want to try something…"
Looking at his brother strangely, the monk just asked, "Oh?"
Watch… if I manipulate the soil, water, fire and air as I did before… then I will…
Waiting and watching as the soil around the monk began to shift and water dribbled across the ground in small beads, coming from several different directions as if they were each pulled from different sources. A spiral was created, much like before, but this time, instead of crafting an eye, a flame caught onto the spiral, lighting it like a small sun before the monk's very eyes. He reached for it, and tried to stare into the light, but found that he had to look away. When it was all over, he saw his wife standing before him, flesh and blood, as if she hadn't died all of those years ago.
"Darling! My beautiful Xoc! You've returned to me!" Grasping her palms, he watched as the woman looked around, surprised at what had transpired.
"Pakal. My love." She leaned into him, embracing him once more.
"My brother, he has brought you back from the dead!"
"I was dead?" asked his wife, looking at her husband strangely. "Not possible. I was waiting for you to come back home… where were you for so long? It seemed like an eternity."
Tears welling up in his eyes, he kissed her. His eyes shut, as did hers, and they shared a loving embrace for only a little while more before finally letting go, as the monk quickly realized he had to thank Brother. He owed his life to Brother!
"My brother, thank you so much for what you have done for me. I would have never thought it to be possible, if you hadn't of shown me today!"
Pakal held a feast for his friend, and they ate and sent a messenger to fetch their boys and bring them back home to see their mother.
Pakal was happy again. And so was Brother.
However, the following day, when the monk awoke, his wife was no longer of flesh and blood; instead, her body was crafted perfectly out of clay. It lay beside him in his bed, as if he had crafted the body to be perfectly pressed up against his chest with her head in the cradle of his neck.
Shocked and horrified, he turned to his brother, who tried to bring back the woman. To its avail, he was unable, and each time he tried her form became worse and worse deformed.
I don't understand. This should be working. I'm doing everything that I did the first time around and everything that I did when I created my own body. This should work!
Pakal, grief stricken, and emotionally wrecked because of the scene it caused when his boys came home to see the grotesque clay replica of their mother, receded into seclusion.
He tried to meditate, but he found that for the first time in a long time he was unable.
Every cursed spirit that he had supposedly dispelled must have come to visit him that day. He lay on the floor neglecting his bed in the center of his room as he stared up at the ceiling, distraught by the second time he lived through the loss of his beloved wife. The woman who changed everything about his life…
Consumed with frustration and anger at itself, the creature gathered all of the elements that it could muster and brought it together, trying to make his brother's wife once more. Unfortunately, he failed miserably each time, each worse than the last. The pattern was obvious; he should have stopped while he was ahead. In the end, however, the constant melding of the elements created something new within him. It flowed and the creature recognized it immediately as the essence that trailed the bodies of each of the people he had come to know and even many who he had seen while being contained in the flagstone disk.
It dripped at first, like an empty bottle of wine, the last few drops clinging to the bottom of the bottle before eventually draining due to gravity's pull. Eventually, those drops became a steady stream, and then a heavy splash, and a river… but as more and more poured out. Brother realized that it was larger than any lake or ocean. It was a deep blue sky that poured out of it.
Engulfed in flame, the creature gasped as the energy that consumed it made it grow. It felt so familiar, yet so threatening. And it came with words, terrible words that were spoken to it; a life's worth of the most terrible desires and feelings that one could have, poured out from deep inside of the creature.
It's so… warm. Like brother…
Not sure what made him burst out of his room and end his failed attempts at meditation, the monk ran up towards the shrine until it saw his brother, but stopped in his tracks when he realized just how large he had grown.
Brother. Help me.
Unsure what to do, Pakal reached for his brother and gasped when his fingertips and quickly the rest of his hand and arm turned stark white. He grasped onto his brother and pulled him close, surprised at how easy it was to move the creature that was now twice the size of his house.
I'm scared, brother.
"Don't be! I am here for you!"
When Pakal managed to pull his brother away from the light, he was shocked to find that it now surrounded him while his brother stared in from the outside.
When the monk awoke, he saw that his brother had become a creature so massive that it looked like a small mountainside. On top of all of that, ten massive tails had sprouted out from its back as it began to get back up.
When he looked closer, however, he already knew that the creature before him was no longer his brother. Instead, he held his hands close to his stomach and closed his eyes. In him, encompassing his entire body, he felt a dark light glowing warmly within him. He felt as it faded away, and he knew what had become of his brother.
I am the darkness to your light; the evil to your good. I don't quite know if you or I are really any different from one another though these husks we call our bodies may indicate otherwise.
Tears pouring from his eyes, Pakal felt his hands shake as he felt a sense of big-ness. He felt like a giant; with it came a fear that if he stepped the wrong way, he would cause an earthquake.
Essentially, I am you, you are me, and we are one, divided.
Looking at the creature as it gazed at him; he knew what this feeling meant. This was the remnant of that evil spirit that lived in the stone. It had fed on his worst thoughts and sins and became as big as it was because his own spirit… his 'Brother's' no longer resided within it. He realized then that it was his own spirit that was containing the evil within the disk.
The giant creature stood on its hind legs and its giant tails shot up straight behind it forming a flame as it glared down at the monk with one large eye. It opened its large, fanged mouth and gasped deeply, drawing in air right before it closed its lips and prepared to release his breath back at the monk.
Reaching out, the monk used the ether of the world around him to block a fantastic attack which obliterated everything except the shrine beside him and the spot where the sage-like monk stood. Looking up at the beast as the terrible blast of energy finally dissipated, the monk reached down to the ground and shot straight up, stomping his feet down afterwards and causing the ground around him to rise like prison bars around the beast. He reached up to the skies and a bolt of lightning struck his hand, bringing him fire, and the monk waved the fire into a ring and extended his arms, sending it up above the bars and then closing his hands together to create a wall of fire above the beast. The flame, imbued with the monk's darkest essence, became black and eternal. Taking in a lick of black fire through his lips, he breathed in deep and then released his breath, lighting each of the bars made out of soil until each of them turned into molten pillars of rock. Spitting onto his hand, the monk stretched and gathered the water until he had a long strip of it and fired it off like a whip, draining more water from the surrounding areas using the whip and bringing it back in a fluid wave as he created a tidal wave on land by calling forth the wind just as the water rose up before him and then engulfed the creature and its prison.
"I thank you for the knowledge you gave me while I was residing in your spirit. Now that I know how to control the elements, saving this world will become that much easier."
Unable to communicate, the monster simply lashed about in its prison, trying to reach up through the flames only to irk back away from it as if it was just shocked. It snarled at him through the prison bars, the pillars still carrying embers of the black flame that simply would not go out.
"You have used me long enough. I know it is my evil intentions that I dispelled from my spirit that you fed off of. It is the evil of humanity that has allowed you to grow as large and as powerful as you have. If I were to let you go, you would be the end of this world… so instead… like you did for me, I will take you in me, here."
The monster screeched, rolling onto its side as it scratched at the bars in dismay, blasting about in its prison but unable to cause as much destruction as it had the first time around due to the ether that was surrounding it and suppressing its powers.
"I can see them… the pathways to this energy… it is incredible." The man said, looking at the beast with his eyes, which had developed into a spiral which eventually began to taper off and become rings.
"How incredible… my eyes feel as if they are made of energy. My body… it feels sturdy." He smiled and reached through the prison bars, pressing his hand against the body of the beast and absorbing it through his hand into himself before clutching his sides roughly and dropping down to his knees before the massive, empty cage.
Seeing the world for what it truly was with steady eyes for the first time, the monk knew what he had to do. There was a war brewing. It was growing steadily, to the point where two large countries were ready to put countless lives on the line for small bits of land, trying to overwhelm the other with brute force. Believing in the good in people, but not in good people's bad sense, he stepped between the boundaries of the two warring factions and split the land in two simply by pressing his right hand into the ground below his feet, spreading them out a great distance from one another as he often did his children when they were fighting. He told each of them as the lands split apart, water gushing into the the center creating the ocean that divided the two civilizations, "One day, when the time is right, the two of you will meet again and you will come to realize just how alike you really are to one another. And you will learn to love one another, because you are they and they are you, and you, together, are simply one divided."
In one land, the monk became known as The Sage of the Six Paths who would later create the moon and bind the body of the beast in it, and instill its energy into the land where his children lived by dividing it into nine equal parts which soon became known as the tailed beasts. After giving his youngest son his 'body' and his oldest son his eyes, his spirit went and resided in the other world. And there, he became known as the Avatar: he who brought balance and peace to the world, and who would forever reincarnate in order to keep watch so that the same dire event could never happen again.