Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

Heart of the Wounded - Chapter 1

A wolf sat on a hill, watching over the small village without a name. The hill was spattered with a few trees. A forest sprung up after the land leveled out.

The village was widespread for such a tiny area. The huts were small and hastily put together, but they were sturdy enough to hold up to the winds. In front of each hut was something that symbolized the trade of the villagers; a small garden for the farmers, poles and hanging racks for fishermen and hunters, and washing lines supporting clothes for some of the women.

The people went about their daily business. Some of the men and women were at a nearby lake fishing and washing clothes. Other men were about in the forests surrounding the village. The of the men and women were still in the village, either sitting around sharpening weapons and making arrows or practicing their fighting styles.

The members of the village were gathered for one reason: the downfall of Fire Lord Ozai. The common goal was all that was needed for them to live together. The people were from all of the different factions. There were Earth Kingdom rebels, Water Tribe renegades, and even some Fire Nation deserters.

The wolf watched over these people. The wolf was a beautiful creature. His fur was completely black except for an off white patch on his right shoulder. The patch looked like a flower. The wolf’s eyes were golden and had an almost humane look to them. The wolf’s ears perked up and he turned his head. Quickly he stood, the beginnings of a growl rumbling in his throat.

A man walked up to the wolf. The man was wearing the typical military uniform of the Fire Nation minus the helmet. This allowed his closely cropped dark hair and his dark gray eyes to show. When he saw the wolf’s expression, he stopped. The wolf calmed down when he realized who it was.

The wolf sat back down and closed his eyes. A shimmering light surrounded the wolf for a second. The light surrounding the wolf’s now shadowed form stretched and morphed. When the light disappeared, a man was sitting where the wolf had just been. This man had wild black hair and the same colored eyes as the wolf counterpart. The man was wearing a simple shirt that was mostly a dark green color with a pale yellow around the neck and down the center. To hold the two halves of the front together were five knotted buttons. His pants might have been white at one time, but they had been turned a permanent gray color. They were patched and the ends were fraying; they had seen better days.

This did not seem to disturb the messenger. “I’m sorry to disturb you, sir.”

The man who had just been a wolf smiled slightly. “I’m not doing much. Let’s talk like men, call me by my name.”

“Yes sir, I mean, Wolf.”

Wolf’s smile widened. Fire Nation soldiers were always so hard to break into informal habits. “So, what do you have to tell me?”

“We were doing what you said to do. One of the others found the floor plans for the temporary palace, just as you wanted. I have it here.” The soldier pulled a small pack into view and moved the contents around. He handed a folded sheet of tan colored paper to Wolf.

Wolf took the layout and unfolded it. “You would think that the Fire Lord would have used decent paper for this,” he muttered.

“You would think that,” the soldier agreed. “What would you like us to do now, sir…I mean, Wolf?”

“Do what you normally do,” Wolf didn’t look up from the map, but made a shooing gesture towards the soldier. “Keep your eyes and ears open and tell me when something interesting happens.”

The Fire Nation soldier bowed slightly. “Is there anything else you would like us to do?”

“Make sure everyone but the normal kitchen staff stay out of the kitchen tomorrow. I’m going to make a visit.”

……………

After that, the Fire Nation soldier left to resume his post. Wolf changed back into his canine form and continued watching the affairs of the village until the sun started going down. After a quick meal and a couple orders, Wolf went to sleep. The next morning, he packed a small bag of provisions and headed for the temporary location of the Fire Lord’s palace.

It was easily a half-day’s journey to the palace if one wanted to hurry. Wolf took his time, and made it to his destination closer toward evening. Walking up to the walls in his wolf form allowed him to get to the secret entrance that probably only the constructors knew about without being seen. Following the map, Wolf traveled under the place, ignoring most of the side tunnels and detours and heading straight for the exit at the kitchen.

When he got there, he silently nudged the exit door open slightly. A young woman was bent over the fire pit, stoking the fire with her back to him. Sweat trickled down the sides of her face. Her eyes and hair were both a dark brown. Her hair was flipped into a bun that was turned upside-down and fountained out. Her outfit was plain, a simple cheongsam that was almost a full skirt with pants underneath. It was red with black trimmings, like the typical Fire Nation servant.

……………

The young woman turned to look. She could have sworn she felt someone watching her, but there was no one. So, she went back to her business. “The water should be ready about now,” she muttered to herself. Grabbing a thick cloth, she snatched the pot from out of the fire. She turned and set it the pot on the counter and set about putting leaves in the cups.

“May I talk to you?” a voice asked from beside her.

Startled, the girl dropped everything and shrank away. She turned to face the person who had spoken to her. Before her stood a man. He looked to be in his mid twenties. His hair was dark and unruly, and his golden eyes glimmered. Wary because of his sudden appearance, she asked, “Who are you?”

“Just a passer by. Right now, I don’t think I will tell you more. You won’t tell anyone someone was here, right?”

“Um…No, not unless you try something. Then, I’ll scream as loud as I can.”

“Great. So, you work here in the kitchen for the Fire Lord, am I right?”

“Yes, I do.”

“What is your name?”

“Jin.”

“You weren’t originally from here, I would guess.”

“You’re right. I was from an earth kingdom village. The Fire Lord attacked us, but General Iroh liked my tea. So, I was allowed to live and I was hired to work here.”

“You have no reason to like the Fire Lord.”

“None at all. Please, don’t tell any one,” she looked around, making sure no one was listening in, “but I really don’t. He’s so gruff, and I think he’s really evil. To make matters worse, he doesn’t even thank me when I serve him tea.”

“What would you say if someone were plotting the down fall of that man?”

“Oh, I wish that were the case.”

“Do you now?”

She looked at him suspiciously. “What exactly are you saying?”

“I was merely wondering. I can use a little help. You see, I have a plan, but if it is to work, I need an inside man… or woman.”

“If it’s to help get rid of that man, I’ll do it. Just…promise me one thing.”

“Maybe. What is this one thing?”

“You’re only real target is the Fire Lord, right? Any one else who gets in your way, you…you will kill, right? All I want, in exchange for my service, is that you don’t hurt Prince Zuko.”

“Ho, there’s a little princeling? If I can prevent it, I won’t hurt him. If he attacks me, I will have no choice. I will fight back. You do understand that?”

"Of course.”

The man smiled. “Then, let me tell you about my plan.”

……………

As it turned out, Jin was from a small group of ninja from an Earth Kingdom town. Jin was half way to becoming a full-fledged ninja when her clan was attacked. Her clan had sent her away before the attack, but Iroh caught her just outside of it. Iroh didn’t know that she was part of the clan that the Fire Nation was attacking, so they sat and had tea, thus the start of her employment to serve tea to the Fire Lord.

Wolf was immensely satisfied with his luck upon finding an already skilled spy, and Jin was so willing to help that he couldn’t find anything wrong. So, after explaining his plan and working out a good time frame, he left with a promise to return.

……………

With preparations under way, the only thing left to do was to wait for an opportunity to put them into affect. Wolf went back to the palace once a week, to check up on everything. He set several members of the small village the task of copying the map for everyone.

Slowly, the village became ready for the impending invasion.

Roughly a month and a half after the discovery of the building plan, news came. One of the staked Fire Nation soldiers, the same one that delivered the map, hurried into the camp after nightfall.

He burst into Wolf’s hut with no formalities. “Sir, Wolf, we can do it!” he exclaimed.

Wolf looked up at the soldier from where he was sitting. He was in the middle of supper, a half-eaten fish on the table in front of him. “Slow down. You must be tired. Sit.” Wolf gestured to the opposite side of the table.

The Fire Nation soldier plopped down, breathing heavily. Wolf pushed a small mug of water towards his informer. When the man could breath normally again, he took it and drank it quickly.

Wolf pushed the remains of the fish towards the edge of the table. “Now, what brings you here? Start from the top.”

“I was at my post, like I was supposed to be, like I always am. That’s guarding the Fire Lord directly.”

Wolf nodded when the Fire Nation soldier paused.

“Well, there was a guest today, and they wanted to bring Fire Lord Ozai’s family to the site. It has been a long time since he has been away contemplating the siege of Ba Sing Sei and Omashu, the guest said, and it would do good to keep family close. The Fire Lord thought on this, and finally he said tomorrow. They could come tomorrow if they wanted to come so badly.”

“Interesting. But, I don’t see how this could benefit us.”

“They’re going to have a feast in honor of the Royal Family. Everyone will be so full and there will be drinks, so it provides us with a perfect opportunity to strike.”

“A feast doesn’t really sound like something Ozai would do,” Wolf mused quietly.

“He just has to. It’s what everyone would do. It is expected.”

“That’s true,” Wolf sat in thought for a minute. He weighed the pros and cons, the state of his force, the possibilities. Wolf stood and looked out the door at the village lights. Finally, he decided.

“We’re ready. Let the insiders know that we strike tomorrow. Tell them eat, drink and be merry, so they don’t look suspicious, but watch it all the same. The rest of the rebels will come in through the back ways during the feast. Tell Jin, she works in the kitchen, to meet us at the entrance.”

“Got it. This will work, I’m sure of it. Thank you sir…Wolf.”

“Thank you for the information. Go easy on yourself.”

The soldier bowed quickly and left slowly. As he was leaving the village, he heard Wolf’s howl. “The wolf’s howl will signal the men to arms,” the soldier muttered what Wolf had told everyone.

……………

……………

Chapter 1- END

Link to:

Index
Author Notes
Next Chapter