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Chapter 11-The Southern CouncilEdit
The Southern Sanctuary of the Spirit CallersEdit
Katrina and the other spirit callers led them into the large tower and up numerous stairs. Aang wanted to stop and rest, but Katara had made it extremely clear she was willing to back up her threats and he did not want a strike two. Eventually they reached the top of the tower, which contained an immense round room. There were six alcoves set into the wall, perhaps ten feet above the floor.
One contained an immense bronze gong, and all but one of the others contained shadowy figures wearing colorful demonic looking masks with hydras of varying size and headcount curled around them. Katrina turned as they entered and nimbly leapt up into the empty alcove, turning to sit cross legged and donning a pale yellow mask with a prominent brow and fanged smile as their Spirit Caller escort lined the edge of the room and Tak instructed Aang and the others to stand in the middle of the floor.
Tak then went to stand beneath the alcove Katrina had leapt into, where the others had left a gap for him. The one in the center, who wore a red mask with a mustache, tusks and two short horns and had an immense seven headed hydra with crimson scales coiled around him like a throne raised a hand and launched a bolt of spectral energy at the gong. As the gong's deep tone faded he spoke, "The council is now in session."
The one to the left of him, wearing a purple mask and having a huge five headed hydra draped across his shoulders spoke next, "We bid welcome to our allies the Churaian Brothers." The Churaian Brothers bowed in unison and then held their bow. The one between red mask and Katrina, who wore an orange mask and had a four headed hydra coiled around his chest and looking over his shoulder was next, "We bid welcome to the emissaries of the Southern Vampiri." Sokka and Katara bowed as well, also holding their bow.
Next was the blue masked one with the enormous three headed hydra between purple mask and the gong, "We bid welcome to renowned Death Touch Dread-Eye and his honorable first mate Chit Sang." Dread-Eye and Chit-Sang took the cue from the others' behavior and bowed as well. Katrina spoke last, "And finally we bid welcome to Emperor Aang, who we thought lost from this world." Aang did not bow.
Tension grew in the room as Aang stood there. Every second seemed an eternity until finally Katara used her blood bending to force Aang to bow. He attempted to resist and it showed, his movements were spastic and jerky as she exerted steadily more pressure and finally forced him into a bow. All assembled released a collective sigh. The Churaians, Katara and Sokka rose from their bows, Dread-Eye and Chit-Sang quickly following. Katara released the blood bending pressure on Aang, and he straightened up so forcefully he lost his footing and fell on his butt.
Nobody laughed and the man in the red mask, obviously the leader, spoke again, gesturing to Sokka, "Now we would know why you have come here." Before Sokka could answer, Aang blurted out, "We're here to reunite the Empire." Everyone looked at him and the Spirit Callers stiffened as Sokka, Katara, and the Churaians all flinched with horror. Katrina said quietly, "Ataktos."
Suddenly Tak sprang forward and pinned Aang to the ground, a spectral blade jutting forth from his knuckles, its tip at Aang's throat and Tak's hand holding Aang's between his shoulder blades painfully with an iron grip, "Show the Council your respect outsider. You speak when you are spoken to." Aang's focus was entirely on Tak's blade, so he didn't notice Tak glancing up at the Council and the slight nod from the red mask.
As quickly as Tak had floored Aang, he returned to his spot in line. Sokka looked to the man in the red mask as Aang climbed back to his feet. Red Mask gave a slight go-ahead wave and Sokka continued, "We have been sent by the council of the Southern Vampiri to begin a movement to-" Aang suddenly interrupted, "Hey, which one of you just tackled me?" He looked up at the Council, "And why is there a gong in my seat?" He turned to Red Mask, "And you can't start the meeting, that's my job!"
If the Spirit Callers had stiffened before, they were stone now. Sokka, Katara, the Churaians, Dread-Eye and Chit-Sang all felt a sinking feeling, certain Aang was about to die as ghostly whispers began to slither through the air. Red Mask leaned forward slightly, "That is a right reserved for the Emperor. You were never crowned." Aang tried to argue but Purple Mask cut him off, "You are not the Emperor and you proved when Ataktos leapt upon you that you are not worthy to sit this council by merit of your abilities."
Aang tried to protest and was cut off by Orange, "You may have been born here, but you are not one of us." Aang actually flinched at that and Blue spoke, "You were snatched away from us as a mere child. Your training had not even begun and you dare to call yourself one of us?" Aang flinched again and spun to protest and then Katrina spoke, her voice bubbling with anger, "Even if we ignore the fact that you have never been trained, your apathy in regard to the fate of the Empire, your youth, your inexperience and lack of any respect for your superiors would render you completely ineligible."
Aang stared, "There is so much wrong with what you just said. First of all, I'm the Emperor, I have no superiors. Second, you're as young as I am!" The whispers intensified and Katrina's eyes began to glow green with rage behind her mask as everyone with sense backed away from Aang and the Spirit Callers ringing the room readied themselves for the order to kill him. Red Mask spoke, "Your statement alone proves your ignorance and unworthiness. Master Daimonas is one of the most talented and formidable warriors this Sanctuary has ever seen. She fought her way through dozens of masters to claim her seat on this council. She has won every right to her seat here. What have you done other than be born?"
Aang flinched as Red Mask's words struck him like a punch and Purple Mask spoke, "Grand Master Psithyros speaks truly. Master Daimonas's power rivals that of anyone in this room, and her willpower is without rival. She has earned the right to be here." Orange Mask nodded, "Master Trella is right, Master Daimonas risked her life for her position, and she has risked it countless times more in battle defending our people. Even the Death Touch man is more worthy to sit this council than you, and the Death Touch tried to wipe us out!" Aang jumped and looked at Dread-Eye, he hadn't known about that.
Blue hmmed, "Now that Master Rigos mentions it, I have heard something very interesting about you Captain Dread-Eye. Is your grandsire truly Lord Azulon?" Dread-Eye nodded, and Blue laughed, "Well that seals it! The Death Touch is better suited to sit this council if Azulon's blood runs in his veins!" Aang whirled to look at him, "What? Why? Why is Azulon better than me?" Dread-Eyes eye patch began to fray as his eye suddenly went from spark to inferno in an instant.
Psithyros spoke, "Master Gelio speaks of the day Lord Azulon nearly laid down his life to protect us from the wrongful wrath of the Death Touch who thought your disappearance was our fault and wanted to destroy us." Aang flinched and Psithyros continued, "Lord Azulon is as respected among us as Empress Yang Chen and Grand Master Gyatso, may they rest in peace." Aang staggered backwards, and the Spirit Callers raised eyebrows with curiosity as suddenly the lights suddenly went out, heralding the arrival of a powerful ghost.
Green light whirled around Aang as he staggered into the center of the floor, whirling faster and faster until it completely obscured him. Suddenly it whirled apart and where Aang had stood was a beautiful woman in the garb of a Spirit Caller. Her long dark hair was tied back in a braid and her eyes glowed spectral green beneath the crown of bone spikes jutting from her forehead as a hydra with thirteen heads formed of green spectral energy writhed around her. The Spirit Callers did not flinch although many wanted to, they had seen ghosts before, but none would ever dare to summon the ghost of Empress Yang Chen.
Empress Yang ChenEdit
She knelt and bowed her head, "Please forgive my imprudence great masters. I am young and ignorant because I was taken from my home before I could be taught the ways of honor. I know this is no excuse for my behavior, but I beg your forgiveness and ask that I may undergo the Trial of Whispers as recompense for my rudeness and so I might prove myself worthy of your assistance in saving our nation from those that would see us torn asunder."
The Council nodded in unison and she smiled, "Thank you." There was a flash and suddenly she was gone, her hydra gone with her, leaving Aang kneeling in her place, and promptly keeling over sideways completely unconscious. Psithyros nodded, "It is settled then. The Emperor shall undergo the Trial of Whispers five days from now when the moon is dark. I move that his companions be our honored guests as they have come to us as emissaries. All in favor?"
The others nodded and Psithyros nodded, "It is decided then. The emissaries of the Southern Vampiri, Death Touch and Bone Mongers shall be welcome in our sanctuary until the Trial of Whispers has ended." He tossed a bolt of spectral energy at the gong again, startling Aang back into wakefulness as he declared the meeting adjourned. Aang looked around as the Spirit Callers began to file out. He looked at his companions, "Guys? What just happened?"
Sokka glared at him and exclaimed with vigorous angry arm waving, "you nearly got yourself killed! They probably would have cut you to ribbons if some ghost lady hadn't shown up and pulled your chops out of the fire!" A voice laughed from above as Master Gelio leapt down from his alcove, his voice leaving no doubt that his smiling blue mask mirrored a smile on his face, "Oh I wouldn't say Empress Yang Chen pulled his chops out of the fire."
He walked over, if walked was an accurate word for his strange slouching and high stepping gait that brought his bowed legs bending upwards until his knees touched his shoulders as he came over with his thumbs tucked into his belt as his long feet squeaked and made little flatulent noises on the floor. His hydra looked at them from his shoulder as he continued, "As a matter of fact, I'd say you probably would have been better off if she had let us kill you."
Aang and the others turned to look at him, "Why?" Gelio laughed as though the question were a hysterical joke and Katrina said from behind them, "Because the Trial of Whispers drives ninety nine out of every hundred to attempt it insane. They spend the rest of their lives drooling and blubbering to themselves while they sit sadly in puddles of their own urine. They can't be convinced to eat or drink, they won't move of their own accord and they don't recover. We usually just kill those who fail. It's a mercy really."
She smiled and put a hand on her hip, she had shed her mask so the smile and vicious satisfaction in her eyes were evident, "Only two people in living memory have survived unscathed. One's dead of old age and the other is possibly the finest warrior this sanctuary has seen since." Aang raised an eyebrow, "Who?" Gelio laughed, "Grand Masters Gyatso and Daimonas! The two most powerful Spirit Callers of their generations!"
Katara looked at Katrina, "But didn't they say your name was Daimonas?" Katrina smiled, "Yes they did." There was a series of thumps as Psithyros and his hydra jumped to the floor, "Master Gelio speaks of Master Daimonas's elder brother Grand Master Daimonas, who left here four years ago to take up the post of Grand Master Gyatso in Full Moon Bay when Grand Master Gyatso's health finally began to truly fail."
Rigos was next down, allowing his hydra to ride on his shoulders as he leapt to the ground, "Grand Master Daimonas has been in Full Moon Bay for four years fighting to preserve the people of Ba Seng Se who were ousted by the Republic." Trella spoke from behind them, "And you wonder outsider why you receive none of the respect we give Empress Yang Chen and your previous lives. You have done nothing to earn it, and much to lose it."
Aang turned to say something and Gelio's heel suddenly connected with the side of his jaw hard enough to spin him several full circles in the opposite direction. Aang fell flat on his face, stone cold unconscious as the cold stone floor broke his nose. Gelio grinned behind his mask, "I'd keep my mouth shut until after the Trial of Whispers if I were you young man. You have an incredible knack for putting your foot in your mouth, and none of us like you enough yet for you to get away with insulting us."
He leaned over Aang and pointed a finger at him, "By the way, that was for insulting my best student." He straightened up and pointed to Katrina, "Be delighted to see you at class tomorrow Best Student. It's Frog-bull-in-the-ring day tomorrow if you're up for a game." He walked out laughing hehehehe as his hydra slithered along behind him. Katrina smiled as she watched him go with a shake of her head.
She turned to Sokka and the others, "You're all welcome to come by and watch if you'd like."
The Following Evening at TwilightEdit
Katrina stood in the center of the ring. The ring was lined with torches and young Spirit Callers. She wasn't wearing her mask, but Gelio, who was supervising, had kept his on. Katara assumed Katrina had shed hers so that the students wouldn't be intimidated by the fact that they were fighting one of the Council. Although, she thought, Katrina's calm was intimidating in itself. Katrina looked as though she were standing in the center of a garden smelling flowers with her eyes closed.
Gelio tilted his head and barked, "Rotate!" The young Spirit Callers ran around the edge of the ring until Gelio ordered them to stop, then he called, "Maimou!" One of the trainees suddenly leapt from the line, a foot and a fist extended directly at her back as he silently flew through the air. Katrina smiled confidently as she turned, caught his foot and casually tossed him out of the ring. As soon as Maimou left the ring, Gelio called, "Katsika!"
Another student charged, arms crossed and head down, leaping halfway to Katrina and beginning to spin like an arrow. Katrina sat down and he shot by overhead harmlessly. She had not even opened her eyes yet. Gelio barked, "Elafi!" Another student leapt high into the air and made to fall on top of her and drive a punch into her with the full weight of his falling body behind it. Just as he was about to connect, Katrina suddenly stood and drove an uppercut into him. Blood flew and before he had time to fall to the ground, Katrina spun and kicked him out of the ring.
Gelio nodded, "Kapros! Tavros!" Katrina smiled and opened her eyes as two immense brutishly built Spirit Callers stumped into the ring, circling her warily. Katrina looked at one and then the other out the corner of her eyes before suddenly leaping sideways towards the one on her right, ready to deliver a devastating kick. The trainee got his guard up, but she still managed to knock him back out of the ring as she kicked his crossed arms and flipped to the ground. The other trainee's eyes widened as her gaze locked onto him.
She suddenly moved too fast to see properly and hammered an uppercut into his jaw that actually lifted the huge trainee off his feet a few inches and sent him slamming to the ground. Gelio seemed to smile although behind his mask it was hard to tell for sure, "Now everybody at once." The trainees all leapt into the ring and were promptly smacked right back out as a wall of spectral energy radiated out from Katrina with the force of a punch.
She smiled up at Gelio, "They've gotten better, that was almost the start of a workout." Gelio smiled, "Would you perhaps indulge your old teacher in a bout? I need to stretch too you know!" Katrina smiled and skipped back, "Tak! Play ref." Tak, who had been waiting leaned against the wall of the small courtyard the ring was situated in pushed off and walked to the center of the ring as Gelio leapt into it.
It wasn't until he landed that those on the sidelines noticed that Gelio had shed his mask. He had a smile as big as his mask beneath an absurdly bulbous nose and bushy eyebrows. His hair stuck out above his ears on either side of a bald spot. He also had a very pointy goatee and a thick mustache beneath his nose. He suddenly leaned as far forward as he had previously leaned back, hunching over as he brought his fists up into a fighting position with a manic glint in his eye, "First to knock the other out of the ring then?"
Katrina nodded and Tak leaned over and put his hand between the two masters. He looked at one and then the other, "Reeeadyyy?" He yanked his hand out of the way and backed up very quickly, "Fight!" Aang, Sokka, Chit-Sang and the Churaians leaned forward in excitement as Katrina and Gelio's fight began.
Battle of MastersEdit
What felt like an eternity passed before either did anything. They stood, staring at each other still as rocks, waiting for their opponent to make the first move. Suddenly Gelio began to giggle and Katrina's eyes widened as he suddenly skipped forward, his leg extending to hammer a foot under her guard and into her stomach. Katrina blocked it with an elbow and Gelio set the foot before spinning to throw a powerful back kick like a mule. Katrina raised a spectral shield between them, hoping to make Gelio push himself off balance.
No such luck; in a move that utterly defied gravity, Gelio pushed his whole body backwards into an inversion of that ridiculous slouch of his, somehow pushing himself in a circle until his entire body was hanging upside down in mid air and the foot he had been standing on was coming down like an axe toward Katrina's head. Katrina leapt backwards out of the way and Gelio's foot scythed through empty space.
He planted the foot and spun, bringing his other leg around and releasing a spectral arc that stopped Katrina in her tracks as she sprang forward to drive a punch into him as he turned back to face her. She stepped back, nearly at the edge of the ring now and quickly crossed her arms. As she uncrossed them she released a powerful wall of spectral energy towards Gelio. Gelio thrust his arms downward, bringing them together to form a point and creating a sharply angled shield that split her spectral wall and left him untouched.
As he did so though, Katrina sprang up and over him before spinning and kicking him in the butt, causing him to stumble forward in surprise, his big toe leaving the ring causing Tak to yell, "Out! Master Gelio has left the ring, Master Daimonas is victorious!" The entire thing had taken perhaps a minute.
How Not To Ask A Girl OutEdit
Aang smiled from where he sat on the sidelines with the others as everyone applauded, "Wow, that beautiful and a badass too? I have got to get me some of that!" Katara snorted indignantly and everyone else looked at him as if to question his sanity. "You do realize she hates you right?" Dread-Eye asked. Aang looked at him with a lopsided smile, "Don't worry, I'm great with the ladies. Just watch. In five minutes she'll be eating out of my hand."
He suddenly stood and walked over to Katrina as she was leaving with Tak. Sokka, Katara and the others couldn't hear what he said, but within about ten seconds of him walking up to her, Katrina slapped Aang so hard that there was a loud crack which was the unmistakable sound of a bone being brutally broken. Everyone who had seen the exchange winced as Aang hit the ground and Chit-Sang said quietly, "I hope that wasn't his neck." Chuckles shook his head, "Nope, it was his jaw dislocating. I can tell from here, and besides, he wouldn't be picking himself up if it had been his neck."
Katrina stood over Aang, crimson with such fury that it actually took her a minute to find her voice, "HOW DARE YOU!" She snarled, her voice carrying clearly through the stunned silence of the courtyard. "I don't care who you were a hundred years ago," She snarled, "If you ever speak to me that way again I swear I will tear you into tiny pieces and feed you to Ochi and Fidi! No, actually I will break your back in a dozen places, castrate you and chop your limbs off before throwing you off a cliff. If I fed Ochi and Fidi scum like you they'd get food poisoning."
She suddenly looked at Sokka and the others as she pointed at Aang furiously, "Sokka, Churaian Brothers, keep this worthless scum away from me until after the Trial of Whispers if you want him to live. If the Whispers teach him some manners I'll consider letting him live next time I see him." She turned and stormed off, not waiting for an answer. Tak paused for an instant and looked at Aang, "Do me a favor, cross her again so she'll kill you. I'd enjoy watching that." Then he turned and left too.
Gelio walked over to Aang and stood over him, looking at him as though he were a pile of particularly noxious manure, "What part of 'keep your mouth shut until the Trial of Whispers so you don't get yourself killed' do you have such trouble with?" Aang looked up at him rubbing his jaw and suddenly Gelio's foot slammed into the ground next to his head with such force it left a three inch deep imprint in the firmly packed dirt, and Gelio's face was suddenly very close to Aang's with murder in his eyes, "And if you ever speak to my granddaughter that way again, she'll be the least of your worries."
He straightened and turned to his students, his broad smile back, "Students, I think we're done here for today. There's a noxious stench here that I don't feel like sullying my shoes kicking out. Come, we shall go make a run through the obstacle course instead! Maybe it will be gone when we return!" He high-stepped away smiling broadly, his students following along behind him in single file like baby ducks, even mimicking his odd walk as they went.
Katara and the others sighed in exasperation, "Great, he just pissed off two members of the Spirit Caller Council at the same time." Dread-Eye looked around Chit-Sang at the Churaians, "Should we help him?" Tonis shook his head, "Nah." Mundo looked at him, "I say we let him suffer until he figures it out for himself." Chuckles nodded, "Speaking to Katrina like that, I want to go beat him myself."
Aang suddenly sat up and raised a hand to his dislocated jaw, gently pushing it back into place, using what little bone shaping skill he had to ensure it went back properly. He looked out the gate after the other Spirit Callers, "I don't get it, that used to work every time!" Sokka face palmed and then gestured with his hands dramatically, "Did you forget? A hundred years ago you were the Emperor! Of course it worked for the Emperor, you could probably have said 'Whale blubber' and gotten a girl. Now you're the guy who abandoned the world for a hundred years and everybody knows it!"
Aang raised a finger and pointed at Sokka, "Hey I didn't abandon the world!" "Then where were you?" Katara asked angrily. "I was kidnapped and trapped in the spirit world!" Aang exclaimed exasperatedly. All present stared and Dread-Eye frowned, "What?"