Brought to you by 263px
The Guardian of Full Moon BayEdit
The Canyon Outside the Entrance to Full Moon BayEdit
Lord Marrow, one of the mightiest Bone Mongers in living memory, stood at the gate of the Death Bringer sanctuary at Full Moon Bay, grimly facing down the immense War-Mechs clanking and whirring closer, the earth shaking with their passing. He squinted and picked out the numbers on the War-Mechs, "Unit 13 again," he scowled behind his skull mask, "They don't give up do they?"
One of the War-Mechs launched a missile at him. It rose higher, higher, and then it started to fall. When it was almost upon him, in a movement too fast to see properly that set his thick green cloak awhirl, Marrow caught the missile with a tentacle of soft bone, spun, and slung it back at the encroaching War-Mechs. It wouldn't disable most of them he knew, but the Scorpion-Mech, with its huge wrecking ball, would be crippled without its huge crane tail to balance it, and as the missile collided with the boom arm and blasted it loose, the poorly balanced War-Mech tipped forward and was instantly out of the battle as its treads pushed its blades into the ground, quashing any hope of righting it in time to be of aid to its comrades.
Marrow grinned and thrashed his bone tentacle back and forth, causing fearsome bone barbs to fray out of it as he picked his next target. He coiled the tentacle around a rock roughly the size of his head, using the spikes on the tentacle to better grip the stone. He popped the tentacle like a whip, and released the huge stone, sending it flying like a cannonball into the cab of the crab mech, which he knew from experience to be formidable, even for one of his strength.
The crab mech was damaged, but well enough constructed that he had only succeeded in shattering its view pane. He retracted the bone tentacle and transformed the bone matter in it, along with considerably more of his own immense reserves into hundreds of bone knives, which he could control out to several thousand feet. He raised his hands and launched forth the knives like a hailstorm. The bone knives did their work and reduced the interior of the cockpit to shredded metal and smoking wires. The pilot too Marrow hoped. Unit 13 was annoyingly persistent and dangerously skilled, Marrow would deeply love to thin their herd considerably he thought as he retracted the bone knives in a cloud.
He quickly bound them together with soft glue like bone as the cloud flew around him and flattened out. He whirled it as he brought it back around in the form of a saw edged disc and launched it like a wheel at the oncoming Mantis Mech, which was piloted by their leader. The Mantis Mech intercepted the bone saw with one of its razor sharp forelegs, but Marrow hadn't intended to cut the Mantis Mech, he knew that even his sturdiest blades were no match for the alloys of the Republic's Mech Armor. But that didn't make them useless he thought with a grin.
Now as the soft bone splattered over the Mantis Mech, Marrow exerted his grip over the bone that now coated the immense Mech. He heaved and the Mantis Mech skidded sideways, slamming into the other War-Mechs and stopping them from running right over him.
He glared balefully at the annoying little flame throwing Spider-Mech as it came skittering up at him, spewing flames everywhere. Marrow reached out a hand and the Mech ran into his outstretched hand with such force it dented its armor, as Marrow's strength lent him the sturdiness of a stone outcrop. Marrow grinned and clenched his fingers into the metal as he placed a hand on the pilot's view pane, noting with amusement how small the pilot actually was before casually ripping the front off the Mech, which contained the flame throwers and their fuel supply. He set the fuel tank down before lifting the Spider Mech over his head.
He strained a little, the little War-Mech probably weighed three or four tons, and even for his mountainous strength, that was a lot. Nevertheless, up it went, and then with a terrible roar, Marrow hurled the littlest War-Mech at its compatriots. The War-Mech pilots were scrambling from their destroyed Mechs while their friends launched grapples into the wreckage to haul the destroyed Mechs back to Ba Seng Se. The little Mech didn't crush any of them Marrow saw with a frown. Even the tiny pilot was crawling clear of the wreckage. Then Marrow's bone tentacle coiled around the fuel tank.
The Three DynamosEdit
That Night, Republic Military Head Quarters, Ba Seng SeEdit
Jet closed the Division Commander's door gently as he stepped out, having just received a fierce ass-chewing for his most recent act of recklessness. He looked at his second in command Longshot, "How are they?" Longshot looked up at him, silent, his eyes conveying volumes to his old friend. Jet bowed his head, "That bad huh?" Longshot nodded grimly. Jet rubbed his bandaged shoulder with an even more heavily bandaged hand.
The exploding fuel tank had badly burned half his unit, and now they were in the infirmary. Smellerbee was awake and talking, a little scorched and bruised but mostly unharmed. The Duke's arm had been broken when Marrow had thrown his Mech, but Jet had managed to shield him from the blast. Sneers had gotten the worst of it. He hadn't woken up yet, and the doctors weren't sure he would ever wake up.
A voice said from the door, "Recklessness bit you in the ass again huh?" Jet looked up grim, certain he was about to get another verbal thrashing from the shapely young woman leaning against the door frame, "Hi Asami." Asami Sato, the daughter of one of the three highest ranking members of the Republic and one of their most skilled War-Mech pilots, obscenely rich, heartbreakingly beautiful, and one of Jet's two most formidable rivals for the title of "Most Skilled Pilot in the Republic", gave him a slight crooked smile.
Jet brushed past her, the door not really wide enough to admit them both at the same time, "Not now Asami, it's been a long day." He started to walk down the hallway, headed for the barracks. Normally he would've looked over his shoulder at how well the armor-mesh of her uniform hugged her figure, but tonight, all he wanted to do was sleep. Asami's hand caught his shoulder and he glanced back at her tiredly. She told him quietly, "Sneers is awake. He wants to see you. I don't think he's got long." Jet's eyes widened and he turned and bolted for the infirmary, Longshot hot on his heels. Asami watched them go sadly and heard wheels on the floor behind and then next to her.
She looked down and saw Teo, the wheelchair bound son of the Mechanist and the only pilot who could compare to her and Jet, the third member of the trio known as the Three Dynamos among the Republic's Armed Forces. If the Republic had a prince, it would be him, Asami thought, but you'd never know it to talk to him. "Hi Teo," she said quietly. "Hi Asami," Teo replied. They stared down the hallway in silence for a moment. As much as they blustered and boasted to each other, all three secretly respected each other a very great deal and were very good friends.
Teo sighed, "I hope Sneers is alright." Asami nodded, "He will be. That whole Unit's tougher than their Mechs," she smiled slightly as she added, "they prove that with the sheer number they go through." But she bit her lip and there was doubt in her voice, she had seen Sneers. He didn't look good. Teo looked up at her, "You got that right, I'm amazed Jet can even move, let alone run like that." Asami looked down at him in confusion, "What?"
Teo looked up at her before turning his gaze down the hallway, "You didn't see them when they came in did you? Jet's uniform was utterly destroyed by the explosion, and you know what that means." Asami's eyes widened and she looked down the hallway after Jet, "No..." The armored-mesh that comprised Republic Mech Pilot uniforms while nearly impenetrable and resistant to all Death Bringer energies, was flammable at high enough temperatures. If those temperatures could be reached, the uniform would burst into a hot flash of flames, quickly melting and fusing the metal component into the hide of the person wearing it if not removed immediately.
Teo continued, "He managed to get the burning metal off, the inner layer didn't burn so he was able to yank it all off before it could catch, but the heat still gave him some pretty nasty burns. I thought for sure he'd be down for at least a few days." Asami sighed, "At least now maybe he'll be a little more careful." Teo gave a little snort of laughter, "Wow you just used "Jet" and "careful" in a sentence without the word "never" in the middle." Asami smiled slightly at their old joke about their notoriously reckless friend, "Shocking I know."
Then she noticed something, "What's the flower for?" Teo smiled and went slightly pink, "I was thinking about asking you out, but that hardly seems appropriate now." Asami blinked in surprise, then she smiled broadly. She knelt down and kissed him on the cheek as she plucked the white and purple lily from his lap, "Meet me tomorrow at sundown in the Emperor's Garden, the Moonlight Pavilion." She tucked the lily behind her ear and winked at him as she straightened up and walked off. Teo's jaw hit his lap and his smile stretched back to his ears.
The Royal Gardens of the Death Touch Stronghold on MelafEdit
The flower's stem was severed by an exceptionally sharp fingernail, almost a claw, and the purple blossom was brought to an elegant nose as vivid golden eyes closed and their owner inhaled the flower's pale scent. Azula smiled and casually drained the remaining life from the flower, acquiring its scent in an instant. She tossed the withered plant to the ground where it disintegrated, its purpose served.
"Those would last longer if you didn't do that," said a slightly irritable voice from behind her. Azula turned and gave a smile that was somewhere between arrogance and innocence, "But perfume is expensive, and this is quicker!" Her ancient grandfather and namesake Azulon raised an eyebrow, a skeptical look in his amber eyes, "Hmph." Azula smiled and shrugged carelessly, turning back to the flowers as her grandfather walked on past. She secretly idolized her grandfather, and he was secretly extremely proud of his most talented grandchild, but they both treated each other with an air of irreverence and snark, pretending not to get along for some reason neither could quite pin down. Azulon treated all his grandchildren gruffly, but Azula was the only one who reciprocated, and while he loved all his grandchildren equally, he had to admit Azula would probably be his favorite if he were forced to pick.
He strode down the path in the cool night air, his ancient age not at all slowing him down, or lending the slightest hunch to his back. At a hundred and thirteen years old, Azulon was older than most could ever hope to be. This was mostly the result of his ability as a master Death-Touch to drain the life force from anyone he pleased, and many slaves had withered away to support his continued life and vigor. He could have kept the strength he had in his forties if he had wanted, but he was old, and he felt a degree of white should be present in his hair to mark his advanced age.
He paused, "Have you heard anything about your brother recently?" "Nope," Azula replied, tossing the answer off her shoulder nonchalantly, "Haven't heard a thing about him since summer." Azulon grinned crookedly, he knew that even though his second eldest grandchild was in effective exile, he still kept up a secret running correspondence with his sister. Azula pretended they didn't and that she didn't give a hoot what happened to her brother, who had been accused of trying to kill Azulon, but Azulon knew his grandchildren better; assassinations weren't Zuko's style, and it wasn't Azula's style to alienate as staunch an ally as her brother.
"Heard there's been some pirate activity around Erog though," Azula added quietly as she handed her grandfather a flower. "What's he doing so far south?" Azulon whispered. "Lots of Republic ships are getting bolder, he says he saw Longbeard and half his fleet sunk a league north of Whale Tail Island. Headed south for quieter waters," Azula told him in a quick hushed whisper. Azulon nodded, it wasn't safe to speak in such public places, one never knew where prying ears might lurk. "Thank you for the flower," he said in his normal voice. "It'll help to hide the old man smell," Azula teased. "Ah you little brat, respect your elders!" Azulon halfheartedly scolded over his shoulder as he strolled off.
A few moments later he heard a crashing and numerous thunks as a great many somethings crashed into what was undoubtedly a tree trunk. Azulon paused at the entrance to a secluded grove with a turtleduck pond and spied his younger granddaughter, Lu Cee. Little Lu Cee was the youngest of his four grandchildren, and the family black sheep having been born without the Death Touch, but instead with the double gifts of precognitive abilities and a strength to rival a Bone-Monger's. She was small, and Azulon knew she would grow up to be very beautiful one day, and a truly fierce warrior he added wryly as the tiny figure spun, caught and hurled a rock as big as she was with one hand mid spin. Lu Cee finished the spin by releasing a volley of the spring loaded hand arrows she carried in concealed sheathes in her sleeves before spinning again and driving a dagger into the chest of an invisible opponent.
The doubly gifted were among the rarest of persons, and the most dangerous. Even the least of the six gifts, precognition and strength, were incredibly formidable, and when combined into a single body could more than match up to the stronger gifts. Azulon sensed something at the edge of his vision and started as he found his grandson Lu Ten beside him. It never failed to befuddle Azulon, and everyone else, how a man who needed a crutch to walk, limped badly, and couldn't see out of one eye could move as quietly as a ghost so effortlessly he claimed to not even realize he was doing it, sneaking up on even the most perceptive of people.
"Mei and Ty Lee have taught her well haven't they?" Lu Ten asked without turning to look at his grandfather since he was on the side of his blind milky white eye. "Yes they have," Azulon replied with quiet pride, "Azula could not have chosen finer teachers for her." Lu Ten smiled, "Very true. Has she heard anything out of our seafaring friend?" "He's headed south. Longbeard was sunk off Whale Tail Island recently, he wanted to find some quieter waters." Lu Ten frowned, "Not like him to run. There's got to be something else." Azulon shrugged, "Whatever it is, he hasn't told us. Have you heard anything of interest?"
Lu Ten's frown deepened, "Ozai's hunting Azula a husband as quietly as he can, trying to keep her from finding out. I don't like the suitors he's been sniffing out, I doubt she will either. He must be planning something." Azulon scowled, "You'd think he would have learned his lesson after Zuko and his pet giant crippled him." Lu Ten snorted with a wry grin, "You might not have noticed grandfather, but in our family, there's no stopping until you're dead." Azulon smiled, "True. Very true."