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The Emperor ReturnsEdit

"So," The spirit caller called over the wind from his perch on Appa the chimera's antler when they caught sight of the city, "What possessed a city's worth of Death Bringers to move to the barren wastes at the South Pole?" "Giant War Mechs!" Sokka called back, having to yell to make himself heard over the wind.

The spirit caller caught hold of the antler he was perched on and somehow leaned backward until he was almost horizontal and his head was level with Sokka's, "Didn't quite catch that." Sokka took a moment to stare at the effortless defiance of gravity before he repeated himself, "Huge War Machines that want to kill us!"

The Spirit Caller sat up a little, still apparently sitting on air and whistled. Appa the Chimera skidded to a halt and the Spirit Caller pulled himself back up onto the antler proper before turning to look at the two Vampiri siblings, with a puzzled eyebrow raised, "War Machines?"

"Yeah, how do you think the Ungifted were able to rebel? Even with the Empire split nearly half a dozen ways-" "What?!" The Spirit Caller exclaimed, suddenly a few inches from Sokka's face, "What do you mean Empire split half a dozen ways?!" Katara poked him in the stomach from below, "He means after the Emperor disappeared, the Empire split five different ways and the Ungifted were able to revolt while the Death Bringers fought amongst themselves."

The Spirit Caller pulled himself back onto the antler, looking stunned, "How long has it been since the Emperor disappeared?" "Nearly a hundred years," Sokka said rather bluntly, "More than enough time for the Empire to splinter, the Ungifted to start escaping en masse and build a fleet of giant war machines capable of driving the remnants of the Empire to the edges of the world." The Spirit Caller nearly dropped his scythe, his eyes the size of dinner plates, "I've been gone for a hundred years?" he said quietly.

Katara leaned forward and propped her elbow on the back of Appa's neck and her face on her hand, "You are Emperor Aang, aren't you? Welcome back." Aang nodded silently. "World went bonkers while you were out," Sokka added, then he looked around and face-palmed with a groan, "And we lost the meat! Dang it!" Aang the Lost Emperor smiled slightly beneath his hood.

Katara smiled at the Emperor, "I'm Katara, daughter of Councilman Hakoda of the Southern Vampiri." She pointed a thumb over her shoulder, "Meathead back there is my brother Sokka." Aang smiled, "A pleasure to make your acquaintance Katara and Sokka, I am Aang, Emperor of Death." He gestured to the city wall two or three miles distant, "Would you mind bringing me up to speed on who's in charge in the city so that I can greet them properly? I like to know who I'm talking to ahead of time."

Katara smiled, "Of course. The Council runs the City, there are four. Our father Hakoda, and Grandmother Kanna are both on the council, along with the instructors Bato and Hama. Our Father and Sokka here are the family black sheep, they have precognitive abilities instead of blood bending." "Hey!" Sokka exclaimed, "Precognition is good too! I never miss and hardly anybody can hit me!" "Except when they do it with your hand," Katara grinned. "What's that supposed to-" THWACK! Sokka's hand suddenly snapped up and slapped him seemingly of its own accord. "Dang it Katara! DON'T DO THAT!" Katara giggled at his indignation.

Twenty Minutes LaterEdit

Appa padded up to the outer gate, an immense iron affair set into the city's huge stone outer wall, Katara and Sokka still on his back, Aang still perched on his antler. Sokka pulled a horn from beneath his parka and vented an almighty burst of sound through it. A guardsman poked his head out of a window, "Master Sokka, Madame Katara, back so soon from your HOKEY SMOKES! SOUND THE ALARM! A SPIRIT CALLER HAS CAPTURED MASTER SOKKA AND MADAME KATARA! QUICK GET OUT THERE AND RESCUE THEM!"

Alarms started going off inside the wall and they could hear voices shouting from within. Aang turned to them, "Wow you weren't kidding when you said he'd overreact." Sokka raised an eyebrow at him, "Did you think I was? You ready to demonstrate some of that awesome Imperial power?" Aang grinned as doors opened in the wall to either side of the gate and parka clad soldiers began to swarm out, spears in hand, "Born that way."

As the soldiers circled them, Aang raised his scythe over his head and unleashed a ring of spectral energy over the soldiers' heads before leaping thirty feet in the air and landing covered in bone spikes and armor, roaring fiercely as blood flowed from his veins and formed powerful tendrils of liquid around him while he glowed with the combined lights of the Death Touch and his own Spectral Aura, "I AM AANG, EMPEROR OF DEATH!" He roared, "ALL WHO CROSS ME SHALL PERISH!"

The Vampiri soldiers stared for a moment, then looked at each other, then Sokka and Katara hopped off Appa and they, as well as Appa, knelt and bowed. The Vampiri soldiers sweated for a moment and then knelt and bowed as well. Aang shrunk back to his usual form, "Good. Now then, I wish to speak with the council regarding the state of my empire. HONOR GUARD FORM UP!" The soldiers leapt to their feet and immediately fell into formation around him, Sokka and Katara, years and in some cases decades of training taking over as their long lost Emperor barked orders to them with a command and authority that brooked neither argument nor disobedience. "Open the gates!" Sokka called to the lookout, "The Emperor has returned!"

The gates rumbled open after a moment and the Vampiri soldiers stepped off, marching their very best parade ground march. Aang offered to lift Katara back onto Appa's back, but she had politely declined, "We wouldn't want to give them the wrong idea." Aang had grudgingly accepted that argument while thinking to himself that he didn't consider it was the wrong idea at all. Now he advanced through the city on Appa's back, looking around at the city, gauging the reactions of the people to his return.

Many of the Vampiri were looking on with curiosity, and many of the Ungifted slaves were looking on with horror at the possibility of the Republic of Life, their best chance for throwing off their enslavement at the hands of the Death Bringers, being crushed under the heel of a returned Emperor. Good, Aang thought, they should be worried.


Dread-Eye made sure he had a firm grip on the rope, "Ready?" Chit-Sang nodded, "Of course." "Good, make sure you don't miss, that wall's solid," Dread-Eye replied. "Do I ever miss?" Chit-Sang asked dryly. "Nope," Dread-Eye grinned, "So let's not start now." Chit-Sang hmphed as he crouched and cupped his hands, "Come on." "Right," Dread-Eye stepped into Chit-Sang's hands and crouched, "Pull." Chit-Sang erupted into a standing position and hurled Dread-Eye up, up, and right to the top of the wall.

Dread-Eye landed in a crouch, checked to make sure the coast was clear, and then secured the grapple and tossed the rope down to Chit-Sang. A few moments later he helped Chit-Sang haul himself over the edge onto the battlement. As Chit-Sang straightened up, Dread-Eye pointed, "And now we just follow the Emperor's procession." "As simple as that huh?" Chit Sang replied as Aang's procession headed down the central street. Dread-Eye nodded, "Yeah, all we gotta do is not get spotted.

Two guards suddenly came out of the nearest tower and as one reached for the horn at his belt to sound the alarm, Chit-Sang readied himself for a fight, "Yeah, good luck with that."

Next Time: An Emperor's DutyEdit