ate at night in the Lotus Alliance holding cell, a young firebending warrior by the name of Rongo is stirred from his sleep by strange sounds further down the cell block. There are only a few other prisoners, and two he recognized as comrades of the infamous Death’s Mistress. Being from the Imperial Order, he was quite aware of their prowess in battle. Rongo had left the empire though, seeing the horrors of their ways he had defected to the alliance, where he was being held until a trial tomorrow to decide his trustworthiness. He had also heard of the famous group of heroes who traveled with the Avatar, informally known as the Champions of the White Lotus, however he suspected this would be an official title before long, as he had seen their prowess on the field as they took down a young battle titan in pitched combat. A legendary feat. Now, as he awakens in his cell, he pears out to see the man known as Talin reach through his cell and strangle Cecilia. He crouched down, sure he hadn’t been seen yet in his dark cell. If guard gossip was worth anything, this man had led the famous heroes against Nicci and her comrades, and two of them, Kio and Tsing Tao of the Pink Staff had actually died, the firebender giving his life to hit Nicci with a near fatal blow. Talin even slashed out at Aumanil to kill nicci as she was unconscious and restrained. This was a dangerous man, and he was set to be tried just after Rongo’s fate was decided.
Best to lie low for now, knowledge was power and he planned to learn all he could. Not long after guards came running in and tried to save Cecilia, but she was already dead. Talin said she committed suicide. The guard didn’t buy it, but there was no evidence, and it was war time after all. One turned to Rongo and asked if he had seen anything, surprise and shock appeared in Talin’s eye, as it was obvious the ranger had not known there was another in the cells. Rongo played stupid
“Naw man i was sleeping, didn’t see a thing, besides its dark as hell. Even if i had been awake what do u think i coulda seen from over here?”
Talin’s face relaxes, he believed the rouse, or at least new Rongo wasn’t gonna say anything. The guards take Talin and Merissa, still unconscious from a head wound, to cells in solitary confinement.
Meanwhile, Aumanil has translated the ritual titled Sacrificial Solstice. The Blood Ritual, used to bring someone who has recently died back from the dead, can only be used on the Solstice at mid-day, and can bring someone who has not yet crossed through the Fade back to life by sacrificing the soul of another. The ritual requires a very intricate ruin to be drawn in the casters blood, and the person who died, as well as the vessel to be sacrificed, cannot have known of the ritual or its purpose. When the ritual is initiated at mid-day, the light from the mid-day sun must be touching the vessel in the center of the spell form, and NOTHING else or it will fail. What’s more, the only way to initiate the ritual is with the aid of a spirit, and the only one the young Waterbender has access to is the one within his headband, and the thought of having to use the evil spirit within the gem sends a shudder up his spine. Nothing scares Aumanil more than the feeling of using that headband, and nothing is more exciting… which made the spirit of lust only that much more terrifying. Further down the page, it seems the ones who crafted the ritual had similar fears, as a formula to keep the helping spirit from gaining control of the ritualist was devised. The recipe required a list of exotic ingredients, to be burned in the room at the time of the ritual. The components include:
- Blood of the victim (to be brought back to life)
- Blood of the killer (the one who killed them)
- Ocean Saltwater
- Shavings of a Dragon tooth
- Shavings of a Sky Bison horn
- Hair of a Badgermole
- Urine of a Dragon (female)
- Tears of a Horse or Donkey (male)
These components must remain burning to keep the spirit from overtaking the caster, allowing him to give the spirit enough power to initiate the ritual without fear of being corrupted. What’s more, if the vessel is either a sibling of the victim, or someone who would have willingly died for them, then when the victim’s soul enters their body, it becomes the original body of the deceased soul. However, the victims body must be present at the time the ritual took place in order for this to happen. Aumanil is now faced with a dilemma. His comrades died bravely in battle, and he could bring them back into the body of another with this ritual. This was the obvious choice, but he could not help but look at the locket he found in Nicci’s pocket, and remember her throat savagely cut as she lay unconscious and immobilized, while Talin slashed at him to murder her. To Aumanil, this was deeply immoral, and his heart pained with sadness as he looked at the locket. If what he had heard between her and Veradin was true, she was being forced to do the deeds of the Empire on threat of her sisters life. It was his decision, and nobody could make it for him. His mind was made. His friends, while dearly missed, had died bravely on the battlefield for a cause the would gladly give their lives for. Nicci died trying to protect her sister, who was now in grave danger, and she certainly did not die a valiant death. Plus, she was bound to have information on the enemy that would help him learn the truth behind the Empires plots. But what if he was wrong… and she, while being forced to work for the enemy, was sympathetic to their cause. He had no pretense of his own abilities to think he could fight her alone. That was a risk he would have to take… It was time for the cautious Waterbender to finally do something to make a difference and take a risk. Now, to gather the components.
Aumanil heads down the stairs to the second level of the library, where their rooms are, checking to see if Fow Bang Chow and Fang Po Po were in bed yet. Luckily enough, his friends have only just gone into their rooms. Aumanil knocks on Po-Po’s door and, greeting the young airbender, asks permission to visit Scylla and see about healing some of the wounds she took fighting the vulture griffons the day before that Veradin and the others ambushed them on. Po-Po is grateful for the offer and accepts. Aumanil heads out of the library, it is about 2am now and Talin has just been placed in solitary. Aumanil heads up to the second level of the temple, passing soldiers as he goes, all greet him with a smile or salute, as he and his companions are seen as heroes by the troops, as they risked everything on the battlefield to bring down the ferocious Battle Titan. Passing the bridge to the Fort, he heads up higher in the temple to the second level, on his way to the Bison Stables which are only a couple minutes from the crypt and jail. Nearing the large stables built into the rock wall, Aumanil encounters an old man carrying a cart full of ripped and tattered clothes. The old man asks the waterbender if he could take the cart to the fort on his way down, as the rags are to be used as bandages. Aumanil agrees and takes the wagon. Heading into the stable he finds Scylla and begins healing her wounds. She purrs in satisfaction as her muscles and flesh begin to knit together, slowly guided by the waterbenders healing energy. After healing the dragon, he uses his waterbending to gather a vial worth of her urine from the hay and tucks the vial away in his robes. On his way out he gives a big Sky Bison some more hay, rubbing the gentle beasts head and taking off a small shaving of his thick horn, which sheds over time naturally. Taking the cart up to the crypt he walks into the dark chamber, with only a couple torches to light the white stone slabs that hold his fallen comrades as well as Nicci. A young airbender is dressing Tsing Toa for funeral, a sheet lies over Nicci as well as Kio, as their bodies were horribly maimed in the battle. The airbender, seeing Aumanil, assumes he is coming to pay his respects to his fallen friends and gives him the room. Aumanil stops by the bodies of Tsing Toa and Kio, taking a few minutes to mourn, and to reassure himself that he is making the right choice. Saying a short prayer over their bodies, he moves on to Nicci and wrapping her body up, hides it beneath the clothes in the cart. Taking one of the other bodies in the room, one that is heavily maimed and nearly unrecognizable, he places it where Nicci was and burns it, leaving only ashes behind.
As Aumanil heads out of the crypt, he sees a guard carrying a plate of rationed food and water towards the jail. Making a point of running into the guard, Aumanil initiates conversation. Aumanil convinces the guard to let him go talk to Talin and give him the food, as they need to discuss what happened. The guard agrees and gives him the food. Aumanil heads into the jail, and talks to the guard in the front who is obviously drunk and tired. He learns about Cecilia, as well as Rongo who looks to join the alliance, and that Talin has been placed in solitary. The guard gives Aumanil the keys and goes back to sleep on the table. Aumanil heads into the cells after slipping the vial of Giant Wasp Poison into the water, nodding to Rongo as he walks by, and unlocks the door into solitary. Aumanil slides the metal latch covering the bars open to talk to Talin, who is starving. Aumanil says he comes in good faith to mend the group after what happened. Talin takes the food eagerly and begins to eat with a vengeance. He grunts at the waterbenders peace offering and replies.
“Im sorry that … you FORCED me to slash you.” Aumanil puts his face in his palm, half laughing at Talin’s view of things. He doesn’t have to wait long however, as Talin begins to fall unconscious from the poison. Making the connection as he looks up at Aumanil, his last thoughts before falling asleep are of how he cannot believe the Waterbender finally grew a pair! Aumanil opens the door and takes a small sample of Talin’s blood, healing the wound the erase evidence, then grabs the unconscious Merrisa from the next cell, leaving her door open, and heads out. Rongo, still in his cell, sees fog billow out from Solitary before a shadow moves through the cell block, obviously the waterbender, but what was he hiding? As Aumanil moves quickly passed the sleeping guard, he throws her in the cart with nicci, under the clothes, and then runs back in and wakes up the guard, pretending to be in shock and telling him Merrisa had escaped. After a quick inspection of her cell, and the unconscious Talin, the guard has no reason not to believe Aumanil and sends a messenger to tell the officers of her escape. Rongo, not sure what to think of the Waterbenders antics, did know one thing for sure, and that is that Merrisa was soundly in her cell when Aumanil got there.
Making his way back to the library, it is roughly 3:30am now. Aumanil sneaks the bodies into his room, as little people are up an about at this time, besides those watching the Fort. He hides them in the closet provided in their rooms, then makes good on his promise to deliver the clothes before heading back. Before going to bed, he needs two more ingredients, and he sneaks ever so quietly into the room of Fow Bang Chow. Seeing the dragon tooth, along with 2 other monstrous teeth, on Fow’s necklace lying on the table, he quietly walks over to the center of the room. Connery, sleeping in the bed with Fow, sniffs the air in his sleep. Aumanil reaches down to the carpet and picks up some of the Badgermole’s hair, then uses a ice knife to shave off some of the tooth. He reaches for the door to leave, and Connery wakes up at the sounds, wagging his tale with excitement, as the Waterbender is great at scratching his back. Connery, seeing him through Earthbending by feeling vibrations in in the ground, can see Aumanil put his finger up to keep him quiet, then closes the door. Connery, slightly bummed, goes back to sleep. Fow, deep in sleep, is undisturbed. Aumanil sneaks into his room and goes to sleep, knowing Avatar Jaraiya will be there to wake them all up around 10am.
At 10:30am, Jaraiya wakes up Fow and Po-Po, and knocks on Aumanils door. Aumanil answers and explains that he is still working on the translations, and that he will meet up with them at the trial at noon. Jaraiya nods his understanding, and after telling Aumanil they sent an Airbender to find the Earthbender from Asloth at the rear mountain base, and that he will be back around sunset, heads out with the others two. Jaraiya leads them down the stairs and talks to his two friends along the way.
Talin is set to be tried at 1pm, Captain Meriffet will preside. A women from the Southern Water Tribe is here to see you, she says she knows Talin. I tried to find Zimmer to ask him if about what the trial might end up like, but he wasn’t there, Higen said he was paying his respects to Tsing Toa and Kio. If you want to see them, they have been placed in the crypt until we can have a proper funeral, up near the prison on the middle level, You can check on Scylla while you are up there as well Po-Po, aumanil went and healed some of her wounds last night so she should be feeling better, the bison stables are on that level as well. Nicci is down there in the crypt too, she may have been our enemy, may have even killed two of my closest friends, but I don’t think I’ve met anybody who deserves to die like that. Such is war. Yeah well hopefully things will change today, it is the winter solstice so tonight at sunset I will be able to talk to Avatar Zeng Ku in the sanctuary, there is a hallway that leads to it through the library. I need his guidance. I don’t know what to do. Cities have fallen to the Order before, but I wasn’t there to help. I am here this time! It is my responsibility to win this battle!
As they reach the bottom of the stairs a young Waterbender named Angela waits. Jaraiya introduces her to the two young benders.
Well I will leave you three too it, you can see Talin before the trial if u want, if not the trial will be held In the council room at the top of the temple. I’m gonna go find Reibesch and see how the defense at the front is holding, I’ll see you up there in a couple hours.
Angela introduces herself as a Waterbender, and skilled healer from the Southern Water Tribe who saved Talin’s life when he was mortally wounded at Senju Village. After Fow’s attempts at charming her fail miserably, the three make their way up the road to the holding cells on the middle level of the temple.
Meanwhile, Aumanil has made his way up to the meditation chamber in the top of the library, where their is a window in the top center of the ceiling that allows the mid-day sun the hit the one meditating in the center of the room. Perfect for his purposes, as this is one of the requirements to initiate the ritual. Aumanil places the bodies against the wall, Merrisa still unconscious and tied up. He makes a shallow cut on his upper arm and using waterbending, carefully draws the ritual form on the ground with his blood. Placing Merrisa in the center of the form, he then begins to place the ingredients into a bowl in the required order. After placing ice over the door to keep out unsuspected visitors, he uses a torch to light the components aflame. Then, as the sun begins to creep over the center of the ceiling, he uses his life force to summon the spirit within his headband. She materializes in front of him, her essence kept linked in the item by the smoke in the room, stopping her from getting out. Being nothing but pleased with the way things are going, and Aumanils inner morale conflicts. She chides and taunts him, playing the long slow game of corruption. Aumanil is not fooled though, and while he has questioned his own morals in recent days, he is in no conflict about the nature of this evil spirit of lust. As the sun fully enters the window he wakes Merrisa, who struggles against the bounds to no avail, and then he has the spirit initiate the ritual, making his blood glow in the intricate symbol and sending her back into the headband. The room glows in a dark red glow, except Merrisa who grows bright white. A blue spectral light suddenly flies through the window in the roof, merging with Merrisa and sending a violent wave of energy throughout the room, throwing Aumanil against a wall. When he rights himself the light is gone, Nicci’s dead body is gone, and in the place where Merrisa is, there is now the alive body of Nicci. As she open her eyes she screams out, still feeling the pain of her last seconds of life, and scream her sisters name, Kallie!