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The Boy on the IceEdit
The turtle seals were completely unaware that they were being watched as they huddled together beneath the cold Antarctic sky. It was winter, and in winter neither sun nor moon ever shone upon the barren icy landscape. Only the iridescent spirit lights danced beneath the stars, twisting their way across the dark dome of the sky and writhing with otherworldly life. The light they provided was dim, barely enough to truly be called light, and not nearly enough to belie the presence of the two dark clad figures silently creeping along the ice on toes and fingertips.
The two could both "see" in the dark, but it wasn't "seeing" in the traditional sense. They could sense their surroundings but their eyes had little if anything to do with it. The first, who carried two bent throwing blades in sheathes on his back and a sharp machete strapped across his lower back, could sense the ground in front of him, but only in the sense of how much pain it could potentially cause him.
That little slick spot in the ice for example, which would hurt greatly if he slipped on it and fell face first into the solid ice beneath it showed up in vivid yellow to him. The patch of thin ice that would send him tumbling into the freezing water below and a death of hypothermia was orange. The safe areas of ground were green and blue, and as he scuttled across them with his sister in tow, he grinned at the thought of feasting upon seal meat.
His sister was different although he was unquestionably the family black sheep. She could smell blood from great distances, and the closer she got the stronger the smell became. She had the budding ability to control blood, but she had not yet entered into training with their mother and grandmother to hone her ability, so on a hunt she was still mostly only good for tracking as her ability to kill or maim with a thought was still highly unreliable. She left that to her brother.
Now as they reached the top of the ridge overlooking the seals, there was a soft shiiiiiing as the twin throwing blades were removed from their sheathes. The brother silently rose to a crouch and snapped his arm forward, the first blade whirling into the air with a vicious fwoofwoofwoofwoo noise that sent the seals into a panic and sent them scrambling for the water. The second blade didn't make a fwoofwoo. It made a thunk as it buried itself in the back of a seal's brain.
Then the first blade descended from the air and slammed into the head of the seal closest to the water, which made the others stop in fear and surprise. Then the young man who had thrown the blades was among them, lashing out indiscriminately with his machete. Every strike was a kill shot as the young hunter flawlessly predicted his preys' every move. Only one escaped, and it rejoiced as it leapt the last few feet to the water, only to suddenly be dragged backwards, struggling frantically and flopping helplessly as the girl seized hold of the veins in its tail with an invisible force.
Suddenly with one particularly vigorous flop, the seal broke free of the iron grip and felt an instant of triumph before the young man's blade separated its head from its shoulders. The girl recoiled in shock with a slight gasp as her grip broke. Then she was smacked off her feet onto her butt as the seal's head smacked into her stomach like a punch. She shrieked with indignation, "Sokka!"
Her brother, Sokka, shrugged, "What? It's not my fault your reflexes are slow. Seriously, if that had been a bone-monger, you'd be a corpse." He began picking his way across the dead seals to retrieve his blades as the girl tried to stand, only to fall back down when she slipped on the ice. Sokka didn't see her fall but he heard the thump and shriek of irritation, "You all right over there Katara?" He asked with a smile, there hadn't been any thin ice around where she had been standing. The worst she would have would be a bruised tail and an injured ego.
Suddenly Katara screamed and Sokka knew instantly that she hadn't fallen down again. He whirled and saw something that made his heart skip two or three beats in fear. A figure glowing purple to his sixth sense and surrounded by a flickering aura of white and pale green had just come over the ridge, and Sokka could hear ghostly voices begin to murmur around him. He gulped quietly, a spirit caller.
The spirit caller's appearance was definitely scream worthy if it caught you by surprise. His head was shaved and painted with black and white paint so that it resembled a skull. His clothes were black so that all which could be seen was the apparent skull hovering over the tight fitting black uniform of a spirit caller. His hood, normally up so that his face was cast into shadow, was down and the two siblings could see his eyes glowing pale green in the darkness. He was carrying a scythe, the favored weapon of the Spirit Callers, and he twirled it easily, despite its terrible balance with a blade as long as his forearm and hand combined.
Sokka and Katara edged closer together as the blade shone in the light of the spirit caller's aura, "Katara?" Sokka said quietly. "Yeah?" "I think we're dead." "I think you're right Sokka." Suddenly the spinning scythe began to accelerate, and Sokka braced himself, certain he was about to experience the terrible spirit caller attack he had heard about from his father: the Spectral Slash.
The scythe continued to accelerate until the blade appeared to be nothing but a ring of light. Then the spirit caller moved the scythe over his head, still whirling it too fast to see, then suddenly as the siblings heard a huge explosive splash behind them, he slammed the butt of the scythe into the ground and a huge ring of white-green spectral energy exploded outward from him. The force of the blow shattered the ridge he was standing on and the ring of deadly spectral energy went rocketing right over Sokka and Katara's heads. Suddenly there was a huge crash next to them and the ice erupted upwards as something massive slammed into the ice.
Sokka's precognitive abilities kicked in an instant before the huge form crashed into the ice and he was able to grab Katara's hand before they could be separated on the sudden ice floe. Unfortunately, the water beneath the ice was turbulent in wake of the monstrous impact, and even knowing in advance how it would shift and break, even Sokka couldn't keep his footing and almost immediately the siblings were swimming. They yelled in terror and surprise as their heavy parkas began to weigh them down.
Just as Sokka became certain they would drown, something caught the back of his parka and yanked him back above the water. Wind flew in his face and an instant later, he was dropped face first into snow. He pushed himself up sputtering and spitting seawater, as the spirit caller laid Katara down next to him. Confusion flooded Sokka's mind as the spirit caller, a spirit caller! helped Katara sit up, apparently concerned about her wellbeing!
After ensuring Katara was okay, the spirit caller stood and retrieved his scythe from where it was stuck in the ice. He pointed with his scythe, "A killer bear-whale. You are very lucky. Had I been a few minutes later, you would both be whale food now." Sokka and Katara turned and saw that he was correct, there was indeed an immense hairy form floating in the water with the seal bodies. Sokka and Katara gulped in unison as they realized how close they had come to death.
The spirit caller crossed his legs and sat down, "As is you'll probably get hypothermia if you don't get out of those wet clothes, and you'll get frost bite if you do. So I guess you're really quite dead anyway." He shrugged, straight faced and indifferent as Katara and Sokka looked at each other in horror.
"Unless of course you want a ride," the spirit caller continued, "We're new to these parts and don't really know our way around." "We?" Sokka asked warily. The spirit caller put his fingers to his lips and whistled. Suddenly something came galumphing across the ice at incredible speed before skidding to a halt in front of them in a cloud of snow. As the snow settled, Sokka and Katara saw the spirit caller petting an immense creature, nearly as large as the killer bear-whale, which appeared to be a mixture of a deer, a tiger and a dragon. It was covered in coarse white fur and it had the legs, paws and stripes of a tiger, the mane, fangs and long tufted tail of a dragon, and the body, head and antlers of a deer. Its eyes were a vibrant orange and glowed in the darkness.
Sokka lurched back in surprise, "What is that thing?!" "This is Appa, my chimera," the spirit caller replied breezily, "You'll have to forgive him if we don't fly yet, he's still a bit groggy. We've been asleep for quite sometime." Sokka and Katara attempted to lift their jaws from the ground. "I thought chimeras were only the companions of the Emperor," Sokka said quietly. "I was wondering how long that would take," the spirit caller replied as he raised his hood, "Now do you want a ride or not? I'm leaving whether you come or not."
"We're coming!" Katara said quickly. The spirit caller turned to her, eyes widened with surprise at her voice, "You're a woman?! I couldn't tell under all those clothes!" His hand snapped out brushed Katara's hood back, which had kept her face hidden in shadow until now. The face beneath was framed by long dark hair which was trying its hardest to come loose from its braid. She was shockingly pretty with clear blue eyes peering out of a dark complexion. There was a small cut on her forehead which was bleeding profusely, and the blood covered most of the right side of her face, which was what had prompted the spirit caller to check on her, but somehow, now that he could see her, the blood covering her face only enhanced her looks rather than detracting from them, giving her a wild fierce look. The spirit caller's heart skipped a beat, "Whoa. I stand corrected, you're a goddess."
He stuck his scythe into the ground and without invitation stooped and lifted Katara off the ground as though she were as light as a feather before jumping and setting her on the chimera's back, "I am definitely not leaving you behind." In an instant, he had heaved Sokka up as well despite the protests of both siblings. He retrieved his scythe and told the siblings to hang on before gently slapping Appa's flank and yelling "Yip-yip!"
The chimera took off, easily loping across the barren Antarctic waste as Katara and Sokka held on for dear life, the speed betraying how smooth a ride it actually was as the spirit caller bounded alongside, keeping up with the massive beast as easily as its shadow. Suddenly after what Sokka felt sure must have been several miles, the spirit caller called for the massive chimera to stop. The two skidded to a halt and the spirit caller looked up at the siblings, "By the way, where are we going?"
Sokka jerked a thumb over his shoulder, "West. The other way." The spirit caller turned, "Oh. Well let's go!" He leapt in the air and landed on the chimera's horns, perching like a bird. The massive chimera didn't even flinch at the sudden weight as the spirit caller pointed back the way they had come with his scythe and held onto one of the tines on the antler he was perched upon, "Yip-yip!"
Just like that, the immense chimera turned and began loping back the way they had come, the spirit caller easily perching on the antler as though nothing in the world could shake him off. Sokka and Katara tried their hardest to keep their heads down as the wind tried to snatch away their breath, all the while wondering who this mysterious spirit caller could be, telling themselves there was no way he could possibly be the Lost Emperor. Even as they told themselves that though, a nagging voice in their heads told them that's exactly who it was.