1:Osep:The Forgotten Fire Nation Prince
"Uncle?" Zuko calls as he enters the helm. Iroh looked up questioningly.
Zuko sighs and sits down in front of me, no one is around, but he hasn't done this sense he was fourteen. It must be serious, or his version of serious.
Zuko mutters under his breath, which try as I might I can only make out the words 'painting' and 'who?' puzzled I wait for him to say it clearly.
"What was that?"
Looking frustrated he grumbles and looks up. Poor boy has his Ozai's temper but our fathers honor.
"I said, who are those people in the painting in your room."
For the fifth time while I've been with Zuko sense we've been looking for the Avatar I choke on my tea. Most unpleasant I assure you.
I sigh and set my tea down. It seems Zuko has been snooping. I get up not answering Zuko, and go to my room. I know Zuko is following me. But I must be sure I know which painting. Even though there is little doubt of which Zuko is talking about.
"That one." Zuko is pointing to the one painting I had hoped he would never ask about, but he is also pointing to one person. I sigh and sit down. This will be a long explanation. But it is time he knows why our family has always looked for the Avatar, other then the reason Ozai gave.
"Long before you were born and when Ozai and I were very young we had a brother, a half brother born from our father, long before he had met our mother or had us. He was our father's heir though, and our grand father approved. He approved so much that he made our father the heir to the kingdom just to see our brother on the throne after his death. But the Avatar then Roku, had different ideas."
I paused to let Zuko think. But he just looked annoyed so I continued.
"He asked when Osep was born to let him train him, our father didn't allow it till Osep was five, and Ozai and I had just been born. My most vivid memory of Osep was when he had can home for the first time at ten. He was so much more mature then any ten year old should have been though."
Everyone's so happy, and I am too, and even Ozai is! Today is the day! Avatar Roku is coming and with him our big brother Osep! We haven't Osep in forever! Even if Mommy says 'Forever' has only been five years.
"Here they come!" I yell, I see their boat coming into harbor! Everyone's cheering and there are firecrackers and girls throwing flowers. Avatar Roku is so serious looking, Ozai says he used to be a noble man. Though I'm not sure what that means.
Where's Osep? I don't see him, only a robed tall guy who's following Roku. I tug at mommy's shirt and ask, she smiles and silently points to the robed man fathers pulled into a rough hug.
The robed mans hood falls off and my eyes grow wide, it's brother! But why won't he face Ozai and I? Grabbing Ozai's hand I pull us over to father and Osep.
I stop in front of brother who looks away from us, narrowing my eyes in anger and confusion I let go of Ozai's hand. I leap into his arms tackling him, wrestling him to the ground.
Suppressed I think, brother faces me fully, his right half of his face has a horrid still healing scar. His eyes filled with something I can't name. I whimper at the pain I imagine it must cause him it's awfully red at the edges.
Osep turns away from me, lowering his eyes and sitting up, with me in his lap. Ozai's hand pulls at my shoulder.
"Does it hurt Osep?" I ask quietly. Osep nods grimly brave. It takes a lot for a man to admit he is in pain. That's what father always says.
Ozai's hand reaches out to touch the scar, Osep's arms tense around me but he allows Ozai to touch its still healing edges with his feather light fingers.
"How'd it happen?" I hear mommy ask. Osep shrugs and tugs my ponytail. Osep's hair is a black and fiery red he only one in our family with that kind of hair the rest of us have plain black.
"A sparring accident with a Earth-bender." Father pats his shoulder. I know that's not true though. Out of the corner of my eye I see Roku's eyes fill with something, a pitying sort of pride. Osep grins at Ozai and I.
"I've got something for you two." He says in a teasing -know something you don't- voice only he and mommy seem to have. He fiddles with his bag and pulls out two items, to me a small dragon, and a flame-shaped comb to Ozai.
He laughs when both of us tackle him to the ground with a hug. Father chuckles and mommy smiles one of her rare true smiles. Osep looks up suddenly serious.
"How is Grand Father?" He asks mommy and father, father sighs. "He is weakening, he has chosen me as his heir." Osep nods and mommy pulls Ozai and me a little ways away so Osep can get up. All of Osep's attention seems focused on father but he does ruffle our hair as he leaves to see grand father with father and Roku.
Ozai and I have only seen grand father at formal dinners with the family. He is an old but intimidating man, with gray hair turning white.
But Father and Osep have always seemed to know Grand Father and have gone to see him many times. Mostly when Ozai and I want to play with Osep.
Mommy leads us home, has the servants feed us, and sings us to sleep and then leaves to go see grand father. Just like she always does when Osep goes to see grand father.
End Flash Back
"It wasn't till later that I realized why Osep had such a bad scar. He had lied for Roku's sake, to protect him. But it didn't work. Osep and Avatar Roku only stayed for a week, but somehow during that week Ozai and I learned more about our brother and fire-bending then we would know for many years to come."
Zuko glance at Osep's painting then back to Iroh, silently asking him to continue.
"Osep was amazing, truly one of a kind. I heard our father talking to our grand father about Osep's ability to fire bend with any other kind of bending, and then making that new kind of bending more powerful and it was always under Osep's control."
"I thought only the Avatar could control all bending types." Iroh nodded.
"This is true, Osep couldn't do anything but fire bend. But he could combine his fire with other bending types, either while they were being used or being fired at him. Very few are lucky enough to be able to do such a thing, Avatar or not."
Zuko nodded eyes calculating.
"One day grand father finally got the truth through a letter from Water Tribe. It said Roku had used the water whip on Osep while training him, I'm sure Roku and Osep had done much more dangerous things. But this was a shock to all of us." Iroh sighed.
"Enraged your great grandfather and grandfather sent the Fire Nation army our to hunt down Roku, your even going out to search for two or more years. Ruling the kingdom was burdened on your father's shoulders. By then Osep was fifteen or sixteen and Roku had died. But Osep didn't want to return. He hid among the air-benders where the next Avatar would be born to."
Iroh shock his head letting the old memories wash over him. Zuko sat a frown upon his lips.
"He betrayed us?" Zuko's voice was tinged with confusion and some anger.
"No, he ran from those who wished to control him. Neither Ozai nor I truly blamed him for running. He sent letters at first imploring and begging us to let him be, but they refused, and his letters slowed, and then suddenly 12 year later at twenty-seven, the Air Nomads sent word that both the Avatar and Osep had disappeared. But we never gave up hope, and we never stopped looking."
Iroh rubbed his eyes and Zuko sat quietly working out his uncle's tale.
"If the Avatar has reappeared why hasn't Osep?" Questioned Zuko aloud. Iroh got up.
"I don't know, and the only one who may is the Avatar." A new light of determination entered Zuko's eyes.
2: Ichar:The Forgotten Fire Nation Swordsman
"What strange weather." Iroh mused aloud seemingly unconcerned with the hustle and bustle of the crew as they prepared the ship for the unexpected storm. His eyes watched the approaching storm, slightly narrowed.
"What's so special about this storm uncle?" The young Prince Zuko demanded, arms crossed as he sulked, for no matter how much he threatened the crew they refused to be detoured.
"It's nothing to worry about Zuko, we shell be out of the storms path very soon." Iroh reassured him patting the suspicious Zuko on the shoulder. Zuko rolled his eyes ever sense his uncle had told him about Osep he had been acting stranger then usual around Zuko.
Zuko's amber eyes were drawn to the storm clouds brewing above and felt a chill of forbidding flood him unexpectedly. Almost before his eyes the storm seemed to thicken and was upon them.
"Where are we?" Zuko demanded of the captain who looked frantically from the storm to Zuko as if unsure which was realer then the other. Never the less the captain managed to answer.
"Just off the coast of the Earth Kingdom, we are being swept to their shores." The captain answered shortly before ordering the crew to keep the sails down, as they would be lost, and let the storm carry them to where it willed for in their ship they couldn't hope to combat this unexpected storm.
-Sometime before Avatar Roku Died-
As the sun rose it lit upon the Earth Kingdom and it wasn't like the thousands of sunrises before. A dark patch of human inhabitance, unplanned and roughly build scarred the otherwise flawless beach where the forest which stood on mountainous peeks and dipped into shallow valleys met it.
These people had come here intending to build a safe haven that if necessary they could abandon by fleeing into either sea or forest. However this was not why this sunrise was any better then the last, unless you looked off the beach and into the forest on an unobserved rise, with a perfect view of the newly forming community.
A lone figure drabbed in plain clothes - and in some places blood soaked the clothes. He clothes consisting of worn brown leggings torn in many places and a light shirt almost torn in half, and a straw hat that shaded the stranger's eyes and obscured most of his face. Twin sword sheaths crisscrossed over his back, one sheath was in use- the other sword was being used as an impromptu walking stick.
The stranger stumbled onto the edges of the newly forming town as dawn touched the roof of the highest building. This really wasn't that high, as it was the headman's cottage- the only solid building thus so far. :Gods it hurts!: A soft groan passed through parched lips and he collapsed into darkness.
Sometime later -or so he guessed by the suns rays filtering though the window, he awoke. At first he had thought himself alone in the small room but he quickly learned otherwise. A young boy no more then ten grinned up at him by the side of his bed. He held a tray with a glass of water and bowl of soup on it.
"I'm Kayo. Mum sent me to feed an' water ya. Say what's your name be?" The boy - Kayo asked. The stranger smiled sadly in a way that was almost self loathing and shook his head. Kayo frowned and tilted his head.
"Cannot you talk? Or remember how" Kayo asked curiously. The stranger tried to sit up but only grunted in pain, regret entered his eyes and he shook his head twice. Kayo's eyes widened at the strangers actions and he rushed to talk him out of getting out of the bed, putting the tray on the table beside the cot and stool.
"You shouldn't do that mister! Lay back down, please, you've been hurt real bad!" Kayo explained as he settled the man. Kayo gave the stranger a big smile glad now that he was back to his senses and listening to him and not fretting about his voice.
"That be alright, Pa and Skive found ya a little outside town, this be Elm-Brook by the way." The boy explained apparently unconcerned that his audience couldn't talk back.
"An' being as ya ain't got a name. I'm gonna call ya Ichar- if that be alright with ya?" The man, newly named Ichar shrugged, Kayo took that to mean that while the fellow wasn't too pleased- he'd take it anyway, or just didn't care one way or another.
"A'right then Ichar it is. Ya gots some mighty odd clothes and weapons and stuff, and ya dulled ya one sword real bad- but don worry Pa's the Smith-er he aught ta be able to sharpen it right back up for ya- he says it'll be right fixed before ya are!" Kayo rattled on much as if Ichar could talk back- to Ichar's amusement.
"Anyway we figure once ya's healed up ya'll more then make up for any niceties we can give ya 'tis only fair after all. Don ya think?" Kayo peered up at him, the first hints of suspicion spreading over his young face. Ichar seemed to realize Kayo wanted an answer so he nodded once showing him he was in firm agreement with Kayo- who beamed up at him.
"Great do ya really know how ta work them beauties of swords?" Kayo asked intently watching Ichar nod in affirmation. Kayo's admiration and respect shown in his eyes and Ichar blushed, for some reason he felt flattered- but he hadn't lied. Somehow he felt he knew he had the skills and involuntary muscle memory to use them as more then a crude walking stick.
"Could ya teach meh?" Kayo asked, eye brimming with hope, Ichar- how could he impress upon this lad that sword training wasn't just a hobby. That if you learned you learned in all weather types and couldn't just quit- it was an all or nothing deal. Ichar hesitated then used the only other thing his body seemed to remember a half instinct which he understood as well as the words that were coming out of Kayo's mouth.
/Is it something you wish to do- or something you want to do? / Even with the hand signs Kayo didn't seem to understand. Ichar felt a feeling of almost panic- no one understood him here.
"Sense ya can't talk- is that ya language? Pretty smart of ya people- do ya remember 'em'?" Kayo asked unknowingly both relieving Ichar and astonishing him at Kayo's unseen keenness.
Ichar blinked back tears he couldn't remember anything, not his people, not his name, not even how he came to learn his sword techniques- or his silent language. Finally he answered Kayo with a simple shake of his head. That certainly got the boys attention he was probably expecting Ichar to nod, Kayo's face grew pale and his eyes bright.
"Ya don remember anything do ya?" Ichar shook his head and sat back in bed suddenly exhausted.
Ichar blinked open his eyes, he was in the same room as he had been a hundred years ago. The only changes were that the cot was now replaced by a permanent bed. The stool was replaced by a comfortable hardwood rocking chair, and his swords mounted to the headboard. Other then a rug and desk the room was roughly the same as it had been.
Ichar rose and looked out the window, Kayo had been his first- and last student. Kayo had trained three others in his lifetime, and his three were now teachers, leading children in the village- who wanted to participate, in sword practice.
Ichar couldn't help but feel proud of his village; they were isolated on their little strip of beach and forest. Their children grew up healthy and some had even been sent to the capital for their potential in earth bending.
There was a sudden pounding on the door and Ichar turned just as the door opened. Nara stood there she was Kayo's great-granddaughter.
Kayo lay on a soft bed, he was so old. Kayo smiled up at Ichar, who fell to his knees beside the bed. Kayo who had been a little boy, so full of life when Ichar had came with no memories to this little isolated village. Tears came to Ichar's eyes as he took his friends hand.
"Ichar, glad I am to see you here old friend." Kayo spoke softly with traces of pain- even with the healers his old joints and muscles ached painfully from the sword play he had done in his younger days.
Ichar bowed his head, he should be happy for Kayo who had lived a long and worth while life. Many sword-men and women couldn't say that. Still Ichar felt guilt for not aging- watching as his protégé lived and grew old before his eyes.
It still puzzled the villagers that Ichar didn't age though they knew he could die as he had been hurt to enough in near life threatening experiences to prove that his lack of age didn't mean immortality.
"I of all the village of Elm-Brook know how you regret your lack of age. I however am much gladdened by it. Elm-Brook will always have you- an able bodied ageless sword man to protect her." Kayo had managed what no other in the village could do- to both calm and sooth Ichar in only a few sentences, Ichar gave him a hesitant smile.
There were some things that didn't change. Kayo even in his old age was still a babbler even if his words were mature and wise. Much wiser the Ichar was sometimes taking himself away from the villagers he had known as adults and children when he first arrived.
Fleeing each of their deaths like a coward, Kayo was the last of them and Ichar couldn't run when word reached him Kayo asked him to his deathbed even if it was so very painful.
"You will see Ichar…They will come to love you." Kayo breathed out in a whisper.
Just like the whisper of wind through the trees Kayo had loved in his youth he was gone. Ichar mourned his death for years after. For in Kayo had been the death of the first generation of villagers he had come to love and protect.
: End Flashback:
Ichar shook his head to clear of the old memory and concentrated on the present. Nara- Kayo's great granddaughter, was a plump woman with a kind face and good-natured. She knew everything most women knew and quite a few things they didn't. And she always gave the best life advice- and Ichar spoke form experience in that.
"Ichar, you must come to the beach! A Fire Nation war ship is stranded out in the cove." Nara told him quickly, Ichar paled in all the hundred years he had been here Elm-Brook had only faced off the Fire Nation once.
Ichar grabbed his clock it was black warn and frayed on the edges. In his baggy gray pants and old straw hat with his swords hid securely from site he hardly looked impressive. None the less the villagers recognized him and parted for him at the beach.
Sure enough it was as Nara had said one Fire Nation ship floundered in the cove, seemingly helpless. Even as Ichar watched he saw them scrambling on deck like upset ants. Never the less he couldn't help the chill that raced through him.
: Fire Nation, damn, why now?: Suddenly a giant hand came to rest on his shoulder and Ichar looked up into Aves' icy blue eyes. He was easily the biggest man Ichar had ever met, and could quickly rally a crowd to fight or silence a room with his rough booming voice.
Aves had titled himself Ichar's best friend after the giant had saved him -and thus so far Ichar hadn't refuted the claim from the blond haired man. Despite the rough edges Aves was the best friend any man could have.
"Ichar, what shell we do with this scum?" Aves boomed with a large smile, Ichar looked back to the war ship his green eyes studying it. Suddenly from the highest point a white flag was waved billowing in the wind.
Ichar sighed and brushed back his own willful black mass of hair. His face set in a haggard look he didn't want to help them but something in him sneered at besting an enemy while down. Reluctantly he looked up back to his people, bloodthirsty looks upon their faces and sighed signing his orders.
/We'll save them. They raised the white flag. /
Ichar heard their grumbles and curses but remained firm in his first statement. Aves didn't bother to argue as he led two of their fishing boats to the Fire Nation ship. Ichar heard a muttered oath and saw Nara approaching clearly angered at Ichar for having sent men to save the Fire Nation.
"I don't think I'll ever understand you Ichar. You are cold and blood thirsty in battle, yet too honorable for your own good when it comes to a fallen enemy. Don't you understand that's when they are deadliest?" Nara raged at him and spat at his feet.
Nara was disgusted that he'd endangered their people- but angered more that he wouldn't respond not even to scold her. Ichar merely looked stubborn and noble as he always had for as long as she had ever known him, and that had been sense her birth.
Nara and Ichar watched with wary eyes as Aves guided the Fire Nation ship to beach on an island a little off the coast. Ichar held his breath for any sign of hostilities, hoping that if there were Aves would manage to warn them in time to flee to the trees.
However the Fire Nation war ship seemed docile and soon the fishing boats returned with the first load of fire bender troops. They made two more trips and all the fire benders were now safely on Elm-Brook.
A haughty young man with a burned eye, who apparently from what Ichar saw of how the other fire benders acted around him, was their leader as he was the last to arrive on Aves' fishing boat- with an old man, presumably his guardian or mentor.
"I demand to know who is in charge here!" Yelled the lad as the villagers seemed to be of one mind and crowd around and behind Ichar and Nara as if they could protect them. Aves made a face at the young mans back as he helped the older man out of the fishing boat.
"Like anywhere else boy. The Elder here is in charge." Aves said shortly as he made his way to stand between Ichar and the boy- as if to guard Ichar, when they both knew that five times out of ten Ichar bested him in a sword fight.
"Well where is he? I'm Prince Zuko, take me to him!" The boy now known to be Zuko demanded. Nara scoffed apparently finished with her fear when it was reveled as a insulting and ill-mannered boy likely less then half her age.
"No need to go to him he is here." Nara stated drawing herself up proudly, placing a hand on Ichar's arm. Zuko looked puzzled then raised an eyebrow in disbelief, when no one seemed to be surprised by Nara's revelation.
"Please excuse me nephew, he has a lot to learn still. I am Iroh." The old man- know known to be called Iroh said, standing a little ways behind Zuko. Ichar nodded to him, which only seemed to annoy the boy further.
"You can't be an Elder! You're hardly older then me, and some of the very people behind you!" Zuko nearly shouted agitated by the people that seemed determined to make him believe the Elder wasn't somewhere inside the village.
Iroh peered at Ichar frowning, apparently trying to place his face. Ichar was puzzled he in all his hundred years on Earth Kingdom hadn't ventured off it, so there was no way this man could know or even recognized him.
"Indeed lad, Ichar here is old though he doesn't look it. He is by our reckoning nearly a hundred- how old he was before he came to us isn't known, for even he can't remember." Nara spoke up again, looking sideways at Ichar's impassive face.
Zuko crossed his arms and stared at Ichar as if measuring him up to some scale Ichar wasn't worthy of. It was a distantly uncomfortable but Ichar stared back and didn't so much as blink when Zuko stomped his way to him stopping short only a few inches from his chest.
"Way do you let these people defend you? Can't you speck to me if indeed you are as old as they say?" Zuko hissed at him his eyes narrowed in anger, hating that this simple looking man wouldn't so much as speck as if he was better then the Fire Nation Prince.
"He can't speck aloud -only threw hand gestures." Aves hissed annoyed with him self for letting the young man come so close to Ichar without halting him. Zuko looked startled as he turned from Ichar's green eyes to Aves blue.
"Can he even understand speech?" Zuko asked curious now that no one seemed to be trying to fool him simply for the amusement of teasing his youth. Ichar nodded abruptly startling Zuko and a few of the villagers around him.
"Oh. Well- in that case I need some help getting my ship fixed, we can pay you with food..." Zuko trailed off looking to Iroh who with a barely suppressed smile only nodded. Aves nodded when Zuko turned back around to address them; simply silently saying they would help in exchange for food if only to get the Fire Nation off their lands faster.
/We can discuses this further in the Council Room. Nara- tell them to follow me. Aves- get to work on that war ship, I want it off to sea in a week. / Ichar interrupted before things could continue. Nara, Zuko, and an amused Iroh followed Ichar to the Council Room. While Aves consulted with the captain and crew to figure what needed fixing.
Ichar reached the door first and as was costume held it open for Nara and their two unexpected visitors. Iroh raised an eyebrow at him, apparently this wasn't custom for the Fire Nation, will this was for the Earth Kingdom- and the Prince and his uncle would have to get used to that fact.
"So food, we get, in exchange for your ship out to sea." Nara started just to clear things up, Zuko nodded but Iroh was still staring at Ichar who was getting wary of the old warrior.
"Just to make it clear- I am Nara. I speck for Ichar to visitors who can't understand his silent hand signs." Nara continued as she sat herself to the right of Ichar who was becoming amused by Nara's disregard for Fire Nation customs for women, then again maybe things had changed.
Ichar stiffened as he reviewed that stray thought. Neither Nara nor he had ever been outside Earth Kingdom, and how could Ichar know anything about Fire Nation customs? But he had if only for a few brief moments, nothing like that had ever happened to him in all the time he'd spend in the Earth Kingdom- and maybe that was the problem.
Maybe his memory was triggered by their unexpected arrival- or seeing them in person and not having battle lust clouding his thoughts. Maybe he was of the Fire Nation, it was a chilling thought, and he quickly pushed it down before Nara questioned his mood. Although mute he always made his mind known.
Nara was staring at him frowning that he was taking his time in a matter she knew he wanted them gone- payment or no. Ichar gave her a reassuring smiled and signed his answer.
/We can do that, anything to make them leave faster. / Zuko's and Iroh's eyes widened at the graceful movements his hands knew even if Ichar hadn't at first. His hand signing had been as automatic as speech when he had first awakened all those years ago.
"How do you know those motions?" Zuko stood from his seat his eyes suspicious, and eyes narrowed. Ichar glanced to Nara who was scowling at the Prince. Iroh didn't bother to apologize for his nephew he looked curious at Ichar's answer as well. Apparently they could understand him, but why hadn't they spoken sooner?
: I signed to Aves- that must have blocked their view…: Nara's eyes widened as she came to the same conclusion. Zuko looked impatient and grabbed at Ichar's shoulder as his hotheadedness made him forget he was being insulting. But a strange thing happened when Zuko touched him…
/Avatar- we need to find cover! /
Ichar signed watching their leaders face grow into a scrawl. The others- for there were two. One- his brother of heart stood tall and robed beside the Avatar.
His heart-brother's right side of his face was scarred and hair that was a rare black and fiery red- a rarity for the Fire Nation to produce- but his eyes betrayed his family ties to the Fire Nation royal family as they were fierce amber.
"I know, get Osep and Malachi out of here!" The Avatar replied- Osep looked startled at his order but when Ichar grabbed his arm and he turned to the other. His soul brother- Malachi to find his jaw set in a stubborn line. His light brown eyes intently studying the battle formations coming ever so closer.
A rush of wind snagged Malachi's golden brown hair bound in a tight mid waist braid. If Ichar insisted Malachi leave with Osep and him; he knew he'd have to use one of Malachi's larger weaknesses- his ego.
"Go on ahead- I've got your backs." Malachi stated as he rolled his shoulders in anticipation of the fight to come. He looked at the hoard of warriors about to crush them and gave his two companions a recklessly smug and battle thirsty grin.
/Malachi the Avatar can handle himself- have you no faith? But he suspects we are boxed in -thus Osep and I need your stealth and infiltrating abilities more then the Avatar. / Ichar pleaded silently, Malachi's expression changed and he nodded, suddenly serious as he led them into the forest.
Ichar heard something and turned and raising his swords up to defend himself the clash of steel warning his friends as their enemies flooded from the forest. He fought and only had time to think of his own survival he prayed Osep and Malachi were watching each others backs. It was too much to hope for that they could catch more then glimpses of his.
Ichar's enemies surrounded him as fast as he cut them down. None of them seemed to hesitate as they became next- watching him impassively as he cut them down. So many even the best master swordsman would be slowing now. So was Ichar, one could only so much against masses of men intent on your death- uncaring even as he killed their companions.
He smelt Osep's flames burn; at least he hoped they were his- for if there was another fire bender- no matter, it was the only warning he would get. As he hit the ground- making himself vulnerable to them and praying Osep wouldn't hesitate- like his puzzled enemies were.
For however as uncaring as they were- their steel would still cut him. He clenched his eyes shut as they prepared to rip into him with their swords. Suddenly heat was everywhere and Ichar felt nearly weak with relief as an explosion of flames that harmed only their enemies and woods around them burst above him.
There was no time for cheers or even wary grins- he didn't doubt there were more enemies to come. Ichar raced to where his wary companions were- Osep had collapsed depleted from the blast, Ichar didn't hesitate as he hoisted a wary but surprised Osep over his shoulder. He doubted the Prince could so much as light a candle- run with any speed which is what they needed now.
Ichar heard Malachi scrambled after him cursing as he finished counting fledges on his arrows- they must be near a rocky and thankfully defendable hill he had seen on the map they had studied intently last night.
They made it behind a boulder on the hill and no sooner had they arrived then their enemies caught up to them. Ichar placed Osep on the ground- this time he would guard and Malachi would fight till his arrows were gone- which Ichar noted as Malachi cursed as he fitted his bow, would be soon as he quickly running out of the arrows in his quiver.
Malachi hit every target perfectly but they just kept coming out of the forest like ants, one would be replaced by three more. Ichar looked down at the wary fire bender at his feet and knew he had to get them to safety despite the impossible odds.
Malachi was an air-bender and had a glider- it would only fit two… Ichar knew Malachi would never make a sacrifice like this- it was up to Ichar to decide. Ichar gave Osep a reckless grin and the Prince knew his friend well enough to know that he planned something that would likely kill the mercenary.
Just as Ichar sprinted forward to defend them- Osep knew with a sick twisted feeling in his gut. Ichar had always joked- or Osep had though it was a joke- that he was expendable as the only non-bender, with only his inhuman mercenary skills to keep him from death.
Osep yelled Ichar's name but he knew the man well enough to guess he wouldn't listen. He closed his eyes, he could do nothing alone but maybe with Malachi they could blow themselves out and take refuge in the air…
"Malachi! Get your glider ready!" Malachi didn't hesitate as he did what Osep ordered as Osep got to his feet and Malachi and Ichar traded places. Ichar was now attacking and Malachi defending him.
Osep felt bad that he had used all his energy in the first wave- but when he seen Ichar tiring he had panicked and only managed to light a warning before the fire storm had been let loose.
Osep grabbed part of the glider- and before he could shout a warning to Ichar to grab hold Malachi and sent them up.
"What about Ichar?" Osep demanded as they lifted higher-Malachi never answered, but logically Osep knew that Malachi and he couldn't passably lift themselves and Ichar. He knew that in his head- but his heart…his heart was torn as he watched below as their enemies swarmed around Ichar, giving up on chasing them.
Ichar spared a moment to look up and smiled at the speck he knew to be Malachi and Osep.
: That's right Malachi- flee…: He thought as he swung futilely, then one of them got a though his defenses- a slash on his leg. He moaned silently and stumbling falling into blackness as something- or someone struck his head.
When he awoke he was alone and remembered nothing.
Ichar- eyes wide, jerked away from Zuko. Nara's puzzled frown and Iroh pensive one followed him as Ichar jerked up and took a few halting steps away from the Fire Nation Prince- who looked as baffled as the rest but still looked determined to have the answer of how Ichar knew the hand signs.
/ I am sorry, but that is one of the things I've forgotten…I do not know. / Ichar answered, still in a daze after the memory had overwhelmed him. He wondered if after all this time his memories were triggered by people who his other self had known- or who looked like them. For in all the years Ichar had been in Earth Kingdom he had never once met anyone who looked like those two…
: Their names were Osep and Malachi…: Ichar thought as he turned to look out the window where Aves was gathering villagers to go to the Fire Nation war-ship to fix it. Zuko shared a confused glance with his uncle, while Nara stood and placed he hand lightly on Ichar's shoulder- he couldn't help the flinch, and Nara took her hand away.
"What's wrong Ichar?" Nara asked quietly yet both of them knew their guests could hear. Ichar only shook his head still in a state of shook. Why after nearly a hundred years were his memories coming back now? Most disturbing was that nothing in that memory had explained why he didn't age.
/ I remembered something…After all this time. / Nara gasped softly, the villagers- especially the first generation had puzzled and sought after answers to Ichar's mystery for years. Some of this generation still searched, yet no one –anywhere had known anything. At least not in the Earth Kingdom- was it possible Ichar was from somewhere else- somewhere like the Fire Nation?
"What did you remember Ichar?" Nara asked softly, she finally managed to say after getting over her shock. Many believed Ichar had no past that he was spirit sent to protect them.
/ A battle, an Avatar was there- and two others called Malachi and Osep…/ Ichar signed when he had finished the statement. Ichar brushed back his unruly black hair with his fingers warn with sword caucuses. He wasn't quite comfortable telling Nara of his memories- and it wasn't just because of their guests.
"Did you just sign the name Osep?" Iroh asked his face slack with disbelief and eyes wide with surprise. Ichar nodded hesitantly, although it was strange to hear a name he'd only heard in his memories uttered out loud by someone who was a stranger to him.
Zuko seemed shake himself. Iroh couldn't manage that just then- it was almost surreal he tell his nephew of Osep and now a stranger supposedly over a hundred years old signs his name.
"Then that is all we'll ask of you." Zuko stated as he walked swiftly out of the room followed by his uncle, leaving behind two very puzzled people. Nara glanced at Ichar and frowned puzzled, and hating her curious nature as Ichar only shrugged.
She felt for him, how horrible it must be to forget everything then have a hint of what happened to you that only teases out more questions then answers. Ah, well there was nothing they or Ichar could do about it- it wasn't as if following that lad would lead Ichar anywhere but into trouble.
/ Nara- could you tell Aves I want a Council Meeting tonight? / Ichar asked, his eyes pleading. Nara sighed and nodded knowing she would regret this- but no one in the village could resist when Ichar pled for something, something in them yearned to give it to him. Perhaps it was his natural charm -or that their ancestors hadn't been able to turn him down ever sense he had arrived.
With that thought Nara left and chuckled when she reached the fresh air as she crunched through sand to the beach where Aves stood managing man, boat, and lumber. Nara grinned in no little amount of amusement as even the Fire Nation soldiers obeyed him
"Aves- tell the bell ringer that Ichar wants a Council Meeting tonight." Nara ordered patting the giant on the shoulder for a job well done. Nara then wandered back into town where her husband and twin children waited.
Nara's grandfather had given a baffled Ichar his father's house. He had told Ichar that there were too many ghosts. Although in truth it had been the only home Ichar had ever known in the village- and if her family had stayed Ichar would have felt obligated to leave. None of them had wanted that- for Ichar had become a part of their family, though sometimes she wondered if he knew that.
So her grandfather- a younger man then, and father- little more then a boy, and Ichar had built a new house and it had been bigger then the old one, and with more room to grow still.
Nara's husband- Xaden was a member of the village council. Her daughter Azalea was twelve but sure she was thirty and had been around before any adult- save Ichar who she hero worshipped- as many of the village young did especially those that sword trained.
Ail was like his sister- he trained in nearly all his free time to be a swordsman. Worshipped Ichar and although he was determined to best Ichar one day- which none og his generation had yet accomplished.
She had asked Ichar if the boy had promise- he had told her reassuringly that in his hundred years here he had never met a more determined duo with such natural talent, subtlety implying she realized later that Azalea was just as good.
Nara had been flattered and determined that both of her young ones had everything they would need to be the best they could because Ichar had the natural talent for spotting young ones that would be so good at sword fighting they wouldn't want to do anything else.
Sometimes Nara found it staggering that Ichar was as old as her great-great grandfather had been when he had stumbled into the village. Yet Ichar simply didn't act old- sure he had his spacey moments, but he could and often did act the part of a young man.
Always ready for an adventure and always eager for a few changes- which he usually was one of the first ones to suggest. Father had told her that Ichar's body just didn't feel old so his mind forgot sometimes that he was old.
Which was why it was always hard to explain to the outsiders that came here to trade or seek help that Ichar was a Elder- was in fact the Eldest Elder and that none of the village Council denied him that title.
When she had been Azusa's age strangers had come convinced Ichar had forced them into making him their leader…
Nara only just celebrating her twelfth birthday and Ichar was there- which was better then all the presents in the world. Because it made grandfather smile, and little made him smile after her da had died.
Mum ruffled her hair- she was happy Ichar was there too, Nara could tell. The other older children at lessons told her she was lucky, cause her great- grandfather had been Kayo who had been Ichar's only apprentice and protégé- it had been to Kayo and his three apprentices- Ju, and the twins Hikoi and Joidi- that the village's hopeful children went to be taught to swordfight.
Because the older children had told her and her fellow students this that Nara had so few friends. Everyone that is but two- shy Xaden, who her mum told her was one of the best swordfighters and would probably be one of the teachers when he grew up. Then there was Hagias- who teased her and Xaden, but stopped when Xaden told him to.
Unexpectedly Ichar laughed at something grandfather said which made everyone stare at the two. Ichar couldn't speck- that didn't stop him from making human sounds like laughter. Though he couldn't talk he could make 'silent signs'- hand gestures the Elders made the children learn in case an enemy came.
It was a useful little trick- and when children about to be taught it were told that the great hero Ichar- who never aged and knew the silent signs and only spoke in this way they were eager to learn.
Suddenly as if on a whim the alarm that meant an emergency Council meeting was going to be held rang out. Ichar stood and with grandfather by his side left for the Council, mother cleaned up and Nara helped her upset that her day had been ruined by a dumb council meeting.
After Council Meeting- Town Square
Nara was confused her mum had dragged her to town when another bell had rang- different sounding almost helpless. The Councilors were there as well as some of the soldiers from the Earth Kingdom capital.
Ichar stood- he was the only councilor standing and two soldiers behind him. Nara had seen this type of behavior only once before when strangers had come to the village and things had been stolen and other bad things had happened. The criminals had stood before the councilors to be tried.
"People of Elm-Brook your councilors say this fiend Ichar, who stands before you is innocent of crimes against them. They say he truly is the Eldest Elder among them- though we can clearly see he isn't even old enough to own a house!" Shouted a captain, a twisted look of triumph on his face- behind him were five others dressed in the Earth Kingdom's soldier colors.
"We ask what say you people of Elm-Brook!" He yelled- the villagers traded confused looks unsure of what to do- their hero a traitor to them? Unthinkable, even the outsiders who had come recently into the village- even those who didn't always like or agree with Ichar thought this was ridicule.
"I say you been drinking too much." Growled out old man Tauome, some nodded enthusiastically in agreement. Though others watched wary as the two behind Ichar shifted uncomfortably- they knew those ones were armed and however good Ichar was with his swords he was as helpless as they against a knife in the back.
"Ichar may look young lads but he is near ninety- as far as our records go." A clerk named Gin stated with folded arms and sour expression on his face. He was one of the ones who disagreed with Ichar most often.
They had a good rivalry going and many thought it humorous that when upset they would go seek each other to rant and rave like some of the villager's oldest couples. It had been proven to be worth hours of amusement- if you didn't get caught while they ranted.
"We told you Ichar isn't some sort of immoral bigot!" One of the councilmen shouted unable to keep the glee from his voice. The captain sneered and the people that were in front tensed.
"Let our sensei go you- !" A little boy from sword training lessons began to shout when his mother quickly covered his mouth. She like most mothers knew her son well enough to realize he would cuss at these strange men who held Ichar captive. It would not help them if one of the guards got annoyed enough to hurt Ichar in retribution.
"Clearly there has been a misunderstanding young one- why I know for a fact Ichar changed some of our young ones diapers!" An old man- with his wife by his side shouted, his wife nodded in agreement while some chuckled at their children's crimson cheeks.
The captain's cheeks were red with anger- or embarrassment it wasn't clear. He made a abrupt motion with his hand and the guards stepped away from Ichar one taking a knife from his tunic- and it was now apparent why Ichar hadn't signed anything as he was cut loose.
The villagers cheered and whistled and Ichar made 'silencing' motions and then asked one of the councilors to interpret for him even though most of the village would understand.
"Ichar the Eldest Elder, Councilor Adviser says he would like to invite you and your men to his home to discuss today's events, and explain as best as he can so there can be no blunders in the future." The Councilor declared while some looked surprised that Ichar would bother with them after they had treated them so badly. The councilors lips quirked up in a grin. Some of the older generations chuckled.
"Ichar would also like to remind this village of children that no one is perfect and that the Earth Kingdom's military are to be treated with respect for their mistakes are few -and judgments for the people. Shame on those of you who forgot that we owe out alliance to them! As are we not Elm-Brook of the Earth Kingdom?" The councilor questioned and the people cheered, showing support for their hero's silent words- and the ones aloud.
Never the less in the morning little Nara was glad to see the soldiers go.
How they had mistaken Ichar for a criminal when nearly everyone respected him- Nara couldn't figure out for the life of her. Even after all these years she still didn't know what Ichar had said to them to make them leave so soon.
"Nara? Is there something wrong?" Xaden asked looking up at her with curious blue eyes. Nara smiled and only shook her head, Xaden glanced out the window to the Fire Nation ship and Nara knew what was troubling him.
"Ichar has called a Council Meeting tonight." Xaden nodded not seeming surprised by Nara's warning; after all it was the norm for them to have meetings when unusual things happened. Moreover if a Fire Nation ship being stranded in their cove wasn't unusual Nara didn't know the meaning of the word.
Azalea and Ail glanced to each other and Nara knew in the way most parents did that her two youngsters were up to something. Ail suddenly grinned up at her and all her doubts of them being up to no good disappeared.
"Say mother, do you think Aves need help with patching up that ship?" Ail asked, Nara nearly sighed with relief, her two were rarely caught being mischievous but Nara knew them to be tricksters at heart.
Nara nodded thoughtfully and Ail and Azalea traded looks again this time triumphant.
"Then Azalea and I should go help! It's only right after all!" Ail continued grinning knowing he had best his mother with his logic. Nara pretending defeat sighed and shooed them out of the house. Nara chuckled and Xaden looked up smiling briefly.
"Heh! Way to go Ail!" Azalea cheered leaping up, her fingers brushing leaves from the tree on the path. Ail laughed as they raced for the beach, dodging under, leaping over, and ducking any obstacles that got in their way.
As Ail looked back to tell his closely following sister he ran head long into something- or rather someone and by his sisters pale face he knew this wasn't going to be pleasant. Ail turned and looked up his eyes widening till they reached Aves very disgruntled face- and two audible gulps were heard.
"You two have better have a very good reason for racing down to the beach." Aves grumbled looking down at them, Ail scratched at the back of his ear. Glancing to Azalea who seemed just as tongue-tied.
"Well…?" Aves asked raising an eyebrow at the two culprits. Ail looked down as he spoke up.
"We wanted to help you and the others at the beach…" Ail murmured softly, Aves blinked surprised at the answer. Then he frowned and nodded twice slowly as if understanding then his expression was replayed by a small smirk.
"Very well children sense you want to help I see no reason not to use it…" At Aves words Ail and Azalea glanced between each other then to Aves, somehow they both had very bad feelings when Aves were finished.
Aves chuckled the twins had been troublesome but no more then any of the other children in the village. Aves had put them to work hauling things to the village workers who went by boat to the Fire Nation ship.
Ever sense Aves had came to Elms Brook Ichar had always been a major part of the small town. Thanks to the record books he knew that Ichar had been around sense the actual founding.