The Insanity of Ursa and the Revenge of the Dai Li
Long ago, the Fire Nation suddenly attacked the other Four Nations, the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, and the Air Nomads. By the end of the year, the Avatar and his friends, Katara and Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe, Toph of the Earth Kingdom, and Zuko of the Fire Nation, had ended the century-long war. It is now twenty years after the end of the War, and five after the creation of the United Republic of Nations. And from the ashes of war shall rise a new darkness, one that shall threaten the stability of the world, if not for the actions of three benders…
Lou, Chief of the Northern Water Tribe, looked at her court, and more importantly, a middle-aged woman from the Southern Water Tribe, Katara, heroine of the War and lover to Avatar Aang. “Greetings, Katara, to the sister Tribe to your own Southern Water Tribe. What is it you want of us?” Lou asked, to which Katara replied, “In my travels, I learned a new form of Waterbending, one so powerful that you could have no control of your body, to do another’s whim. It is called Bloodbending, the controlling of one’s blood to move their muscles. I have deemed this form too powerful to be known to one person, so I have decided to teach it to all Waterbenders. If you would allow me, Lou Sai, I can teach it to all able Waterbenders in the Northern Water Tribe.” “I shall think on, you are welcome to stay while me and the Council discusses this matter. Thank you, Katara.” And she left.
By the end of the day, Lou and the Council had decided that Katara would be able to teach any Waterbender who wanted to, the form of Bloodbending. After it was decided and Katara was told of the result of the Council’s debating, Lou exited the capital building of the Northern Water Tribe to go meet with his close friend at a bar. Thinking back, Lou recalled that these bars and taverns were part of the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom attempts to “civilize” to undeveloped parts of the world. Entering the bar, the warm smell of drinks and merriment filled the room. Lou then walked over to his close confidant. Shayni, Airbender and friend of Lou Sai, Chief of the Northern Water Tribe, sat at a two-seater table, a warm cup of green tea in his hand. When Lou, her black hair now draped back, instead of in the style of hair-loops that Katara put in popularity after the War. “Hey, Shayni. How was your day?” asked Lou, after ordering a cup of strong mead from the southern Fire Nation. “Learning a lot from the Avatar, he’s teaching me how to protect myself via Airbending, instead of the traditional dodge and evade tactics of our ancestors. I heard someone from the sister Tribe to the south came today, who was it?” “Katara. She wanted to teach our benders the form of Bloodbending. It apparently allows us to control another’s body under the power of the full moon.” “What did you say to that? Power over one’s body is a big thing, especially when teaching it to all those benders.” “She said that it would even the playing field, or something of the sort.” Lou shrugged. “We agreed. I mean, who wouldn’t want that kind of power? But whatever, it’s peacetime; I don’t see the use of it. Anyways, what news did you get of your travels to the Four Nations?” “Just today, the Avatar tasked me with a grave matter to solve. He is hearing whispers of the Dai Li remerging, and has asked me to take along my closest friend. This is what the Avatar said to me when we entered sight of the Wall of the Northern Water Tribe: ‘Shayni, I have seen a vision of the future. The Dai Li rise, and all will fall before their oppression if not for you, your best friend, and a swordsman of stone. You must go to Ba Sing Se and find Long Feng, after that you will be united with someone. After that destiny will guide you.’” He then leaned closer, his bald head visible in the lantern light, “Appoint one of your most trusted advisors to lead while you are gone. Come with me to Ba Sing Se.” And with a quick nod, Lou stood up and left.
In the Earth Kingdom, within the city of Ba Sing Se, where Lou and Shayni were now traveling, a boy sat with his dying mother. Shai lived in the Lower Ring of the Impenetrable City, and was sixteen at the time of his mother’s death. He insanely loved her, and loathed to have be gone from this world forever, as he lay weeping on her deathbed, she whispered to him, “My great and only son, know this before I die. When I eventually pass into the realm beyond life, go to the Upper Ring, and find a master swordsman called Hin Yon. Train with him and follow his instructions, but beware. On the twentieth year since your birth, a major event shall happen that shall change your future forever. So be alert and be careful. I go now to death, have courage and honor, my son.” And with her dying breath she whispered, “Shai….” And with those words, Baio, mother of Shai, passed away into the realm of death. After Shai had finished grieving and his tears were dry, he got up, packed his belongings, and made way for the Upper Ring, where the nobles and rich folk were housed. All Shai had with him was his sword, forged from the crystal-metal found deep below Ba Sing Se Castle, in Old Ba Sing Se; and the few other trinkets his mother had left for him. When the guards of the Upper Ring approached him and asked him what business he had in the Upper Ring, he showed them his mother’s necklace, engraved with a flying deer-eagle. With a nervous glace at the other guard, the two soldiers let Shai through. The swordsman’s studio was a traditional Fire Nation practice dojo, with thin walls and a spacious room, for elaborate fighting. At the very end of the room sat a wizened old man, a sword of Earth Kingdom make laid on his lap. Gathering his courage, Shai said, “I was called by the dying mother to train underneath you. I wish to become great and obey my mother’s dying wish. Will you answer it, o great swordsmaster?” Without speaking, or turning, the elder rose, took his naked sword and face downward, cowl over his face, pointed it fast at Shai. Drawing his own blade, Shai readied himself, crouching and preparing for a strike. With a sudden roar, the old man rushed at Shai sword scraping the floor. Bringing his right hand up to bare against the full force of the swordsman, Shai pushed his offhand to push against the blunt of his sword. The master of the blade then released his lock on Shai’s own sword and chuckled, one filled with enjoyment at the life of battle. And so they went onwards, fighting until Shai’s arms were sore, and when he complained to the swords master, he just swung his sword horizontally, as if to decapitate the boy of the Lower Ring. And still they fought onwards, until the moon had risen and the sun had set. Tired and out of energy, the old man, surprisingly strong for one so old, locked swords with Shai, kneed his gut, then punched his elbow with his offhand, making him drop his sword in pain. Gasping for breath, he kneed on the floor, spitting blood on the studio floor. Only then did the master speak, saying, “You were good, but like you said, you wish to become better. I will take you as my student. And you will come at first light of every day, and we shall spar until the moon has risen and the sun has set. Come tomorrow, and ever day after that, or never come at all, and never look into my face ever again. Follow these rules, and I shall reward you with skill.” With a nod, Shai left, egger to tell his mother of the news-but then he remembered. His mother was dead.
And the days slowly, but surely, melted into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the months into years. Shai still fed and housed and clothed himself, but he spent most of his time training with the old master swordsman. The master never spoke, just swung his blade with rhythm and fluidity. But as the days slowly past, Shai could feel himself become more powerful, more skillful; his body became rough and his hands became callused. Before Shai knew it, he had woken up on his twentieth birthday, four years since his mother had died. “Something that will change my future forever will happen today, Mother hasn’t betrayed me yet.” Shai thought as he put on his clothes and strapped his sword to his back. When he entered the dojo, the master was waiting as usual, but instead of swinging his sword at him as soon as he walked in, the master, for the first time in four years, spoke. “You have betrayed the peace of Ba Sing Se.” he said, “The culture of the Impenetrable City must be protected.” Shocked, Shai said, “Master what are you saying?” But he did not heed his student, for the master rushed at Shai, using ruthless blade-slashes, most likely to kill Shai. “Stop this madness, master!” yelled Shai, but the elder-swordsman continued, just saying, “The culture of Ba Sing Se must be protected.” With rage coursing through his body, Shai yelled, “Stop saying that!” As he locked swords with the master and pushed him back, releasing him from the sword-lock. But the same rage flowed through the master’s voice as he said, “The culture of Ba Sing Se must be protected!” Shai could hold in his anger no longer. He had a power, one that went through every fiber of his being one that made him feel…whole. With utter conviction and every last ounce of anger he had, Shai yelled, “STOP SAYING THAT!” With his offhand, he Earthbent a boulder and threw it the master. He sliced it half, destroying the rock. Laughing with glee, Shai then gathered rocks up and made a sword on his forearm, and rushed at the master. With his crystal-sword and rock-blade in hand, he fought, using every ounce of Earthbending to help him in this battle. But the master still survived Shai’s attacks, and pushed him back with a kick. His Earthbending power giving him energy, Shai gathered four rocks, pushed them towards the master, chaining him to the wall. His end seeming near, the old master yelled, “You cannot kill me! You have never killed in your life! You don’t have it in you.” Rage and the power of Earthbending flowing through him, Shai said, “You have betrayed me, and my trust in you, master. You shall die by the same stone that I tried by for four years!” He then raised his stone-sword that was on his left forearm, then rushed at the master, slicing his neck open, leaving him to bleed on the ground. The rage then suddenly rushed out of Shai, and with his master bleeding on the floor, his now-dying teacher whispered to him, “I’m so sorry, my son.” “What?!” cried the Earthbender in disbelief, “You’re my father? Explain yourself!” And with a sigh, which slowly turned into a blood cough, he said, “My name is Long Feing, but before you say anything, know that I no longer control the Dai Li in any form. I abandoned them after the War ended and decided to take up a new life. I knew I could no longer Earthbend, for it brought only destruction upon those I loved. So I took up the next best thing: swordsmanship. When I heard that my wife had had a child, I decided that when he came of age, I would train him, to follow the path I had neglected. But then she died.” And then a groan went through him and he said, “Damn it. I’m leaving this body now. Listen Shai, the Dai Li, my old friends and allies, are coming to kill you. I don’t know who leads them now, all I know is this: first, they killed your mother, and second, they want you dead. The Avatar once told me that I must train my son to fight alongside a Waterbender chief and the last hope of Airbending. This is your day of destiny, my son, now go! And use your new power! I knew you were a gifted bender from the day you were born.” Suddenly the door to the dojo swung open and in came three men, in green robes and sword-sheaths at their sides. Taking up his sword, Shai rose up a chunk of rock, splintered it to make it a rock spear, and thrust it at the Dai Li. Jumping above it, they slashed downwards on Shai in perfect unison, but not before Shai Earthbended a stone wall. Splintering the wall, he threw the shards at the agents, piercing some of them. Gathering the remaining shards into a rock-sword, he decapitated one agent, then broke apart the sword and threw the shards at the Dai Li operative, killing him. Before the Dai Li could send more people after him, Shai ran out into the streets of the Upper Ring and Earthbended a pillar to catapult himself onto the top of the dojo. Waiting on the top were two Dai Li agents, one an archer and the other holding no weapon. The unarmed one threw a boulder at Shai which changed the trajectory of to launch him onto the next rooftop. While in the sky, he shattered the rock, sending the shards at the Dai Li, killing him. Putting his sword away, he kept on running towards the Uai Plaza, where he might be able to rest. Little did he know that there, in the Plaza, the Dai Li had surrounded Shayni and Lou.
Shayni jumped up on air, then crashed back down, sending a shockwave throughout the Dai Li, which had encircled him, and Lou. “We can’t kill all of these people!” the Airbender yelled, “But we can kill as many as possible!” Yelled the Waterbender in return. With a quick nod, Shayin teleported in the middle of the Dai Li agents and sliced through the air, chopping a dozen Dai Li in half. Lou gathered water, solidified it, then threw three dozen icicles at their enemies, killing about the same amount that Shayin had killed. But still more poured in from the city streets. “There’s no end to them! We can’t win this!” Yelled Shayin, but just as he said that, an earth dome formed over the duo, encasing them in darkness.
Earthbending a dome around the Airbender and Waterbender, Shai jumped from the rooftop from where he stood and broke a small circle in the top of it, and jumped down to where the Waterbender and Airbender were, confused at the rapid turn of events. “I’m here to help.” Shai said as to the duo, right before he started to Earthbend. Shai would send shockwaves to the Dai Li, then break apart the earth dome and send the shards to the Earthbenders, impaling them. Through an elaborate amount of Earthbending, Shai broke the dome, sent spikes of earth impaling the Dai Li, and then used the remaining shards to kill the rest. However, there was still a Dai Li agent standing after the onslaught of stone and rock. Picking up a rock, Shai then sheared it so that it was sharp as a sword, then killed the Dai Li soldier. The Airbender and Waterbender then looked at Shai, amazed, and the Waterbender said to him, “My name is Lou, Chief of the Northern Water Tribe, and this is my friend, Shayin, Airbender and student of Avatar Aang. That was some amazing bending.” Shai then nodded his approval and said, “My name’s Shai. Just learned bending today, so not all that used to the ability.” The Airbender, Shayin, eyes widened, and exclaimed, “What!? You just learned Earthbending today? But you're my age, what, 20?” “Like I said, I just learned it today. Why were the Dai Li after you?” Asked Shai, to which Lou replied, “We don’t know. We had just arrived in Ba Sing Se when they attacked us. How about you?” “My teacher, my father, the one who taught me swordsmanship and Earthbending, was Long Feng.” With the surprised looks at their faces, Shai motioned for them to follow him, and they quickly settled down at a tavern table. Shai then told them of what had transpired today, from his duel with Long Feng and then of his discovery of being an Earthbender. When Shai had finished, Lou and Shayin whispered to one-another, in voices too low Shai couldn’t hear. When they had finished, Shayin said to Shai, “Before me and Lou had left the North Pole, the Avatar told us that he had a vision that we would meet a powerful Earthbender, one who was also a great swordsman. We wish to end the acts of the Dai Li and discover their leader, so that we may end him. We believe that you are the powerful bender Aang spoke of. Will you-“ But before the Airbender could finish, Shai said, “I already know what you’re gonna say. I’m in. I will punish the Dai Li for what they have done. But we cannot stay in the Earth Kingdom, the Dai Li probably has spies watching us.” And then Lou spoke, saying, “I already figured it out. We can go to Ember Island, where the Dai Li will least expect it. An airship ride will leave first thing at midnight for the southern Earth Kingdom. From there we can take a ship, headed for the Fire Nation.” With a quick nod, they left for the airship port, where the vessel was scheduled to leave.
Chapter 4: By midnight, the party was aboard The Sky Lord one of the many airships that Fire Lord Zuko had put to transport the people of the Four Nations across the world. Fearful the Dai Li might be watching them, Shai cautiously looked around the massive passenger area, with tables and chairs littering the space, along with couches. “Chill Shai.” Said Shayin, “The Dai Li won’t find us out of all the people on this airship. Just relax and take in the view.” And Shai looked out the window of The Sky Lord and saw the vast hills and forests of the Earth Kingdom spread out before him. But something still did not bode well with the Earthbender, so he looked at Shayin and said, “I can tell you right now that there are at least a dozen Dai Li agents on this airship.” Pointing to the airship attendant, he continued, “That guy right there is one. He will ask us for some water, which will make Lou thirsty and make her want to go to the restroom. There they will ambush her. But we must go along with their plan for now.” Quickly, Lou replied, “I think you’re overreacting a little bit too much, Shai. Did you-“ But before he could finish his sentence, the attendant said, “Would you like some water, sir?” “I was just about to go to the bathroom, but thank you.” Replied Lou with a quick look to Shai. Lou left and was soon in the pretty large bathroom space. Readying her bending, she was just about to urinate when he heard the steps of five people entering the room. “Hey.” The Waterbender said as they got into a fighting stance. Cursing inwardly for Shai not being right, she then realized that it was a full moon, and it was at midnight, the height of a Waterbender’s power. Raising her hands she Bloodbended the two of the Dai Li agents to strangle themselves then cut off circulation to the brains of two others. She then cut off circulation to the heart of the last Dai Li agent and exited the restroom. Lou soon arrived back at the table where her friends were. Whispering to them she said, “Ok, the Dai Li attacked me. What point did you want to prove Shai?” After taking a sip of tea, the Earthbender said, “We can never be safe in the world while the Dai Li are around. You know how dangerous they were in the War; we always have to be on our guard. That is what I was trying to prove.” “I’m tired.” Said Shayin, his head sloped against the windowsill, “Wake me up when we get there.” Chuckling to himself and rolling his eyes, Shai fell asleep too, and soon did Lou.
Shai rustled Shayin and Lou awake when they had arrived at Ember Island. Outside the bright blue ocean-waves brimmed with life and color, with the small isle that was Ember Island alive with the tourists that came from all over the world to see the birthplace of Fire Lord Zuko and the late Fire Lord Azula and Fire Lord Ozai. “We’re here.” Shai said, “Here, at least, we should be safe from the Dai Li.” Shaking the sleep from themselves, Shayin and Lou got up and left The Sky Lord. The port was alive with people from the Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, and Fire Nation alike. All had come to see the flourishing tourists island that had sprung up since the end of the War. An important island in the history of the Fire Nation Royal Family, it had numerous villages and resorts, along with a flourishing souvenir business. Stepping in the port and gazing at the masses that swarmed the tiny island in the northern Fire Nation, Shayin nudged Shai and said, “Well, you’ve been to Ba Sing Se, stop gawking and lets find a safe place to plan our next move.” Nodding and shaken out of his daze, Shai followed Lou, who had a diplomatic hut reserved for the Chief of the Northern Water Tribe.
When they entered the hut, on the shore of Ember Island, a semi-large housing with a sizable lounging area; Lou gestured for the rest of the party to take a seat at the table at the center of the room. Sitting down, Shai said, “We need a plan. We don’t know who is leading the Dai Li at this point, or where they are operating from.” Lou nodded, but before she could say a word, the door to the hut blew open in a ball of fire.