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Chapter 32-Flood and Storm WindsEdit
Near the Vampiri Port RefugiuEdit
Omen strode to the bow, where Aang was standing, examining the brilliant colors the sunrise had painted across the horizon, "They actually did it," she said in surprise as she topped the stairs and saw familiar coast line stretching away into the distance, "Full Moon Bay to Refugiu in a day." She turned and looked at the mast, making sure that the Imperial flag was indeed flying, t alert the port that they were arriving in peace. She nodded and turned back to Aang just in time to see him turn and jump slightly as he saw her.
She walked up next to him with a smile, "How do I look?" Aang blushed as he shot a glance at her out the corner of his eye, before looking away again, a grin twitching across his face, "You look...different." Omen leaned against the rail so she could look him in the eye, "If you say that other face was prettier than mine I'll pitch you overboard." Aang jumped slightly and met her eyes properly, "No it's not that! You're way prettier! It's just I can't..." His voice trailed off. Omen frowned as he stared at her, his eyes glazing over slightly.
"Aang?" She laid a hand on the side of his face, "Are you feeling alright?" Aang didn't respond. She waved a hand in front of his face, "Aang?" A thought suddenly occurred to Omen, "Stand on one foot." Aang stood on one foot, his eyes never leaving hers, the slightly happy blank expression still on his face. Omen tilted her head to the side, "No way..." She laid a hand across his eyes and he started as though electrocuted, "What? What happened? Who...?" He looked around her hand and the blank expression returned.
Omen frowned and put her chin in her hand, "Oh no..." She had assumed he was immune to her hypnotic stare since it hadn't worked at the Southern Sanctuary, but now she could think of no other explanation. She smiled and turned him around. He jumped slightly as soon as she got his eyes away from hers and the spell broke, "What? What happened?" He went to look over his shoulder but she stopped him.
"Hang on lover boy, it looks like you've finally succumbed to my Vampiri stare. No more direct eye contact until I figure out how to fix it." Aang frowned, "Your stare?" Omen smiled as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, "Yeah. You know how I can root most people to the ground by looking them in the eye? Well it doesn't work on strong willed people, or on other Vampiri, until now it hasn't worked on you. I assumed it was because you're an Imperial like me, but I guess it was just taking its time."
Aang blinked, "So, why would it work now and not before?" Omen shrugged, "I don't know. It's a subconscious thing, you can consciously resist, but most people do it instinctively. Your instinct to resist me seems to have shut down for some reason." Aang nodded, "Oh ok, so it's only you. I'm not going to be just instantly hypnotized by any old Vampiri that comes along." Omen blinked then smiled, "Yeah."
She sniffed his neck suddenly, "You don't smell like food." Aang raised an eyebrow, "Why would I smell like food?" Omen laid her chin on his shoulder thoughtfully, "Usually when my stare subdues somebody they smell like prey. It works on most animals, and since Vampiri do have a history of drinking blood from their fallen enemies, I guess it's an instinctive thing." She sniffed again, "But you don't smell like food." She took a deeper breath and smiled as her heart rate subtly sped up, "You smell really, really good."
She suddenly noticed something, "Wait a minute..." She stepped back and looked at him more closely with her oracular sense, "Your aura, it's changed!" Aang looked up since he couldn't look around, "What? My aura?" Omen nodded, "You've always been reddish orange, but now you're just this really pale blue." "Is that a good thing?" Omen frowned, "Blue means completely harmless." A nasty thought occurred to her, "Aang, use your powers."
Aang pointed a finger forward and launched a blob of spectral energy. It shot across the water and slammed into a cliff side nearly a mile away with such force that a large chunk of it broke off and fell into the sea. Sokka, who had just come up the stairs, stopped and looked at the two of them, "Should I come back later?" Omen and Aang looked at him, then Omen remember Sokka had oracular abilities too, "Sokka what color is Aang's aura to you?"
Sokka raised an eyebrow, "Imminent demise purple, just like yours." He slumped slightly, "And Katrina's. That brother of hers, Lefko, had an almost black one. And Cap's got a red one, and so do all these Beinstyrke guys..." His voice grew sadder, "Even Chit-Sang and the Churaians are orange to me, and the Churaians are only even a reddish orange because they're my best friends. They were purple when I met them." "So everyone aboard could tear you into little pieces?" Aang asked.
Sokka cringed slightly, a horrified look on his face, "Yeah." Omen frowned suddenly, "Wait, auras can change based on how friendly you are with someone?" Sokka nodded, "Yeah, didn't you know that? Family and friends always look less dangerous than they are because you trust them." Omen looked at Aang and Aang looked over his shoulder in her direction, being careful not to meet her eyes, "So if someone trusted someone else completely, that person's aura would change a lot?"
Sokka nodded, "Yeah, my dad says my mom's got a pale blue green aura, but she's yellow-green for me, and I've heard other people say she's orange or even red for them." His head tilted slightly to the side in the silence that followed, then realization dawned on him, "Oh, I see. Your auras changed didn't they? You were worried you were losing your powers?" Omen and Aang nodded. Sokka grinned, "Well don't worry about it. It just means you trust each other. Trust me, you've both still got really scary auras for anyone else who's looking."
Then he looked at Omen, "When did your hair get so long?" Omen smiled, "I cut a lot of it off when I was training with the Northern Spirit Callers. I grew it back last night so that my family would recognize me." Sokka looked a little closer, "Your face seems different too." Omen nodded, "Yeah, that was my traveling face. I'm not sure how I came up with it; it just came to me, and it was a good face, so I kept it. But now I'm going home, so I want my family to recognize me."
Sokka nodded, "Okay. Well, I'm gonna go down and get something to eat. Chuckles has been going all night. These Beinstyrke guys sure do eat a lot. They tried to help, but he insisted they leave it to him, get their rest and make sure the ship kept running." There was a sudden loud thump from below deck. Omen and Aang went to the rail to look as a smile broke out across Sokka's face and he started to chuckle.
Katrina had just thrown Chuckles out of his own kitchen. She was standing over his prone form, "It's no good for you to stay up all night making sure everyone else gets food and rest and have yourself falling over with exhaustion to get hurt. We're going to need you just as much as everybody else when we get to EtakeVale. Now go to bed and get some sleep!"
"But the kitchen..." Chuckles started. Katrina suddenly caught him by the foot and started dragging him across the deck, "I will handle the kitchen. You will go to bed and get some sleep or I will knock you out and dump you in your bed." One of the Beinstyrke soldiers laughed just a little too loudly at the absurd sight of the comparatively tiny woman dragging the massive Chuckles across the deck.
Katrina snapped a glowing green glare at him and he quickly shut his mouth and did everything he could to look as inconspicuous as possible as the entire deck started shaking. Everyone else on deck, who had been trying to conceal their mirth immediately did likewise. When Katrina was sure nobody was laughing, she went back to dragging Chuckles, not even noticing the huge smile beneath his beard, or the tongue he stuck out at the Beinstyrke soldier that had laughed.
Aang raised an eyebrow as Katrina and Chuckles disappeared below deck, then he looked at Sokka, "Katrina can cook?"
Azulon accepted the letter from the beautiful woman in the garb of a Spirit Caller and strange mechanical gauntlets. He read it as the young woman stood waiting patiently. "So the Republic's viable numbers for combat have essentially doubled without the guardians of Full Moon Bay knowing about it. That is disconcerting news." He looked at the young woman, "But what is more disturbing still is that they sent you to us along with a flood of refugees. Did it not occur to them that you might be followed?"
Sylvie raised an eyebrow, "Lord Marrow and Grand Master Daimonas were acting on my father's final orders when they made the decision to evacuate our people here." "Your father was?" Azulon asked. "Grand Master Gyatso," Sylvie replied, "He spoke quite highly of you Lord Azulon. He seemed certain that your people would accept refugees in the event Full Moon Bay were compromised."
Azulon stroked his beard as Sylvie invoked the name of his old friend, then she continued, "As to the possibility of being followed, we came on Beinstyrke Storm Wind class war cruisers. Even the Republic's fastest War Mechs cannot match them for speed and endurance. The odds of us having been followed are virtually nonexistent, and even in the event that we were, Lord Marrow and Grand Master Daimonas have every faith in your ability to protect our people. They even sent me just in case they were wrong."
Azulon frowned, "You think yourself more capable than the entire Death Touch nation? Your arrogance-" "I think Lord Marrow's secret weapon capable of matching the Republic's forces," Sylvie interrupted with a hint of steel in her voice, "He sent it with me, and I am the only one besides him capable of operating it. I am prepared to take it into battle with me in the event your forces are not up to the task of fending off the Republic."
"As you no doubt read in the letter, he is very sorry for having to send such a flood of refugees to you, but he worries that Omashu will be compromised in the event the battle at Etake Vale cannot be won." She crossed her arms, "Your location is the only one far enough from the Republic that he thinks our people will be safe."
Azulon nodded, "I am honored that Lord Marrow and Grand Masters Daimonas and Gyatso would trust me with their charges. Of course you are all welcome in our lands." Sylvie smiled thinly, "Thank you your highness."
A Few Minutes LaterEdit
Visumbra caught up with Sylvie as she strode confidently down the hall towards the exit to head back to the Beinstyrke's camp, "Wait a moment Madame Sylvie." Sylvie paused and looked at Visumbra, "Yes?" "What is coming for my home that is so bad Lord Marrow is worried all remaining Imperial Territory on Thera might fall to the Republic?" Sylvie looked at the young Vampiri woman sympathetically, "Are you familiar with the White Hunt?"
Visumbra shook her head, "No. Who are they?" "They are fire sorcerers and extremely formidable warriors. Only Graveren and his family have ever been able to match them in combat." Visumbra made a motion for pause, "Wait a moment, Graveren Kaninstein? The Princess's late fianceé?" Sylvie snorted, "What do you mean late? Grav's fine. You watch. He'll beat the Hunt and the Republic both."
Visumbra stared, "Prince Graveren is alive?" Sylvie raised an eyebrow, "Yeah. We were just talking about him. Are you feeling alright?" Visumbra took a moment to process that, "Wait, you mean Lord Marrow and Prince Graveren are..." "The same person? Yep. I thought that was common knowledge." Visumbra shook her head, "No, everyone in Etake Vale thinks the Prince died the night he stormed Ba Seng Se."
"Oh yeah," Sylvie smiled, "I forgot about that. Grav and Ia were keeping that quiet." "Why?!" Visumbra exclaimed. Sylvie put a hand on her chin and looked at the ground thoughtfully, "Mmm...oh yeah." She smiled at Visumbra, "They wanted to lure the Black Lotus out into the open!" Visumbra's jaw dropped, she remembered the Black Lotus's attempted coup all too well, "They faked the prince's death to bait the Black Lotus into open rebellion? My family and I were nearly killed in that rebellion!"
Sylvie smiled nonchalantly, "But you weren't, and now they're all dead, your cousin's the Empress and you're here, an important ambassador dating a prince of your own. If it makes you feel any better we were all floored when we found out about Omen. Ia was as good as her word and didn't tell us. We found out when Omen kicked the door of Grav's office in." Visumbra blinked, "Wait, how did you know I'm dating Lu Ten?" Sylvie smiled, "Graveren and Princess Azula are pen pals. They met when he passed through a few years ago." Visumbra's jaw dropped, was there no end to the Princess's secrets?!
Sylvie fished a letter from her gi, "That reminds me, where is Azula? I've got a letter for her. Grav told me to make sure she got it." Visumbra blinked, still having a hard time processing everything Sylvie had told her, then she took a breath and a look of resignation settled across her face, "Come on. I'll introduce you."