Benders and Wizards
Two wide green eyes stared out the window impatiently, while a finger twisted a lock of black hair.
A young girl, who looked like she was somewhere between twelve and fourteen years old, was leaning against the kitchen window, waiting for something.
Her hair was curly, thick and black, but soft and appeared unnaturally tidy. It fell past her shoulders and past her waist. She had a very petite frame and a delicate figure with just a hint of starting puberty.
As she looked at the sky, she thought of her life. What it used to be, what it became, and what it was now. The girl was Nalani, Princess and rightful Heir to the Fire Nation's throne. Daughter of Fire Lord Yue Qi, grand-daughter of the late Fire Lord Akiro and little cousin of the current tyrant of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Manish. It always seemed that when things were peaceful, something came up to break the balance. Nalani supposed it was in order to keep the Avatar busy or something. Between the conflict in the Fire Nation, and the one in the Earth Kingdom, the new avatar would have a lot of work on his or her hands. No one yet knew who the Avatar was. Everyone knew that he or she was around Nalani's age, and it would be another five years before he or she had completed his or her training and was revealed to the public.
Benders were known around the world by wizards for their wandless manipulation of the elements. This gift was known to have been given by the giant lion-turtles, and no other way of developing this ability had ever been found. Benders were also known for refusing, even after the rebellions against benders, to segregate the magic from the non-magic.
Before Sozin's War, wizards from around the world were welcomed in the Elemental Territories and vice versa. Because of the Statute of Secrecy, the Elemental Territories had to stay hidden from the rest of the non-magical world. Therefore, non-magical people weren't allowed in the Territories. But when Sozin put forth his plan to unite the Elemental Territories, travelling inside and outside the Elemental Territories became much harder. Benders travelled much less, even outside of their own cities, and very few wizards came to these lands. Airbenders were, of course, the exception to this rule. Most travelled to spiritual monasteries across Asia, but a few travelled even further, most of them passing for Buddhist Monks. A few Airbenders escaped the extermination this way. After the Sozin War, the Great Rebellion continued keeping most wizarding folks away from the Territories, but Elementals, benders and non-benders alike, started travelling away more.
Barely a year after the murder of Fire Lord Akiro, Manish, Fire Lord Yue Qi's cousin, had come forth and challenged the Fire Lord to an Agni Kai, a Fire Duel, that would determine who truly belonged on the throne. To everyone's astonishment, Yue Qi had lost, but Manish hadn't killed him. The next few months, however, had been a nightmare for Yue Qi and his family. Yue Qi had been accused of the murder of his own father, while his wife, Huhana, had been sent in exile, back to her father's side in the northern Water Tribe. Nalani and Kiran had both been kept in the new Fire Lord's custody since Manish didn't have children of his own. Yue Qi's two brothers had also been exiled. The middle brother, Naraku, had gone to the Earth Kingdom with his wife and children, and shortly after, had gone back to the Fire Nation to help Yue Qi and his children escape the Fire Nation. Naraku had been caught and executed soon after, and Manish had declared war on the Northern Water Tribe for housing and hiding a Fire Nation prisoner. The family had to travel from monastery to monastery across the Earth Kingdom and finally the Air temples. Unfortunately, they were forced to leave the Elemental Territories all together, and travel as far as possible.
* * *
‘You’re not going to stay by the window all day, are you?’ a calm voice called.
The girl turned her head towards her father’s voice, only a short moment, before staring back out the open window.
‘It’s been three weeks!’ she said, a small complaint in her voice, 'We should have had news by now.'
Yue Qi sat at the table and poured himself a cup of tea. The man was tall and slim with honey coloured, slanted eyes, cinnamon skin and long, curly black hair of the same type as Nalani. They had been in England for a few months now, and Yue Qi and his wife couldn't stand to see their kids waiting for news of the Elemental Territories all the time. They finally had managed to have what would be considered a good life. Here, they didn't need to hide or run. They had a nice house, friendly neighbours and were financially comfortable thanks to their small family business. When they found out that wizards live separately from non-wizards, Yue Qi had decided that living amongst non-wizard was the best way to keep a low profile. They held a teashop in town. Yue Qi had adopted the idea from his youngest, who thought it would be fun to do like the retired General Iroh had done when he was in exile with Prince Zuko and had found refuge in Ba Sing Se. While both Kiran and Nalani had a similar mischievous kind of behaviour, they were both very different in their attitude. Kiran was careless and could find laughter in almost any situation. He never seemed to worry about anything. Nalani, on the other hand, was too concerned with things that were, in Yue Qi's opinion, out of her control. He wanted her to simply be a child and not burden herself with adult responsibilities. But no matter how much he tried to distract her, she was always trying so hard to help.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if your uncle is quite busy at the moment, Nalani. Between the Fire Nation, Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom, He has a lot on his hands. He only has a few men. Come here, sit down,’ he said with a warm smile.
Nalani obeyed her father, but couldn't keep her eyes off the window. She grabbed a curl and started twisting it. A few people in the Fire Nation had curly hair, but it wasn't very common, most people in the elemental territories had straight black hair. But there were exceptions. Some had brown hair, sometimes they were wavy and other times they were curly. When they had arrived in the United Kingdom, their first shock was the multitude of different hair colours; some had black hair, and some had brown hair, but there was also light brown and yellow and orange, in all sorts of shades.
Yue Qi put a reassuring hand on his daughter's shoulder.
‘Nalani, you know this could take years to sort ou-’
‘I know,’ Nalani cut him off. She sighed looking down at her tea. ‘I don’t want the war to last a hundred years. Four years is long enough.’
'Trust me, I know exactly how you feel. I miss home too,' said Yue Qi.
She looked out the window with sad eyes. ‘I also wrote to Kuzon …'
‘I'm sure they're fine,’ her father reassured her. When she said nothing, he went on, ‘I know it’s hard for you, Little Flame, but things will get better, okay?’
She looked up at him, not reassured in the least.
‘That's not what you told Mother last night...' she said, her eyes tearing up.
* * *
At that comment, a voice from behind answered her sternly, ‘And why were you spying on our conversation at such a time of the night young lady?'
A woman was standing in the doorway with two cotton bags full of groceries in her hands. She was a very petite woman with pleasant curves. She had big round blue eyes, a small round nose and a round face. Her hair was long, wavy and brown. Her skin was a reddish light brown. The dark circles under her eyes indicated that she wasn’t sleeping much. How could she, she was worried about the war and her family almost constantly. Huhana was the third daughter of the Water Tribe Chief and had been betrothed to Yue Qi as a peace contract between the Water Tribe and the Fire Nation.
‘You know, I really shouldn't have to say something as ridiculous as "follow your younger brother's example", but you give me no choice,’ she chided.
At those words, a little boy emerged from behind her with two more grocery bags. He was tall for his age, and quite skinny. He had his father’s slanted yellow eyes, and his mother’s round nose and face. The only thing that indicated he was only nine years old was his facial features and his voice. He grinned at his sister, ‘Yes, dear sister, follow my example.’
‘Kiran!’ His mother warned.
‘Yeah, you better not forget who's your elder, Skinny Twig,’ Nalani answered, glaring at her brother. Her father gave a small chuckle but stopped quickly at his wife’s protest.
‘Yue Qi! You’re encouraging them.’
‘Sorry, Love,’ he answered quickly.
Huhana walked to the refrigerator and started putting the food away, with the help of Kiran and Nalani.
'I know you heard our conversation last night,' said Huhana, 'but I need you to understand that you shouldn't lose hope. You let the worrying to us, adults, okay?'
'I think it's my right to know when half of my people are dying,' Nalani said in a cool, controlled voice.
Yue Qi pinched his nose and sighed, 'You shouldn't even know what death is at your ag-'
'For Raava's sake, Father! I'm not five!' Nalani all but shouted.
A flapping noise at the window got their attention. Yue Qi let out a breath, thankful for the distraction. That wasn't a conversation she was ready to have with his eleven years old daughter.
‘FINALLY!’ Nalani cried, walking straight towards the window, then stopped abruptly. Instead of her Falcon, Ping-Lu, a brown owl sat on the bird's perch, a letter attached to its leg. Nalani looked at her mother standing behind her, a puzzled look on her face. Huhana looked at her husband with the same expression on her features. He simply smirked mischievously. Nalani finally took the letter from the owl and watched it fly away through the window again.
‘Who is it from?’ Huhana asked eagerly, with a small smile in her husband’s direction. The young girl turned the letter around and read aloud:
Miss N. Onenga,
The second bedroom on the second floor
12, Springfield Close
‘That’s… creepy?’ Nalani said looking at the letter as if trying to see through it.
‘Well… open it. Let’s see what it says,’ her father pressed.
'Are you two plotting something?' Nalani asked, before opening the letter very carefully and sliding the parchment out of the envelope. She read aloud again:
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc. Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Miss Onenga,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
P.S. A staff member will come in five days to help you find your way through Diagon Alley, as we hear you are not very familiar with the United Kingdom’s Wizarding Community.
Nalani pulled the second piece of parchment in the envelope, while her father took the letter to read it.
‘Wow!’ she said looking up from the list with a surprised smile. She glanced at her father who was grinning madly.
He ruffled her hair, and said, ‘Your mother and I thought the two of you could go to school this year. We don't know how long we'll be here, but you can't stay locked in here all the time. And you need an education regardless of the war,' Yue Qi said. He took the list and scanned it quickly.
'We thought a magical education would be preferable,' her mother added, 'We can always teach you the other stuff, or get you a tutor.'
'Kiran, you won't be able to go until next year, but you'll go to school too, the same one Henry goes to,' Yue Qi told the young boy.
'Alright!' Kiran exclaimed.
‘But, Father, this school... it's like the Academy?’
‘Yes… except… without the Firebending training,’ he stated, 'And you'll live in the school too.'
‘What? How am I supposed to advance my Firebeding?’ the young girl protested.
Her mother squeezed her shoulder gently. ‘When we met with the Headmaster, he said he'd see what he can do about this.’
‘So someone from the school is going to come over here in a few days?’ she said, putting the letter on the table.
Her mother had walked to the small office and was back with a piece of parchment. She wrote a quick note with a small calligraphic pen, and said,
‘There! We’ll just have to wait until Ping-Lu comes back to send our reply.’