Summary: James' father sends him on a fools errand. Deliver papers and a game piece to Misty Palms Spring Oasis without the Fire Nation capturing him. Along the way he meets a Fire Nation deserter, a Water Tribe run away, and an orphan. How will this rag tag group fair against the trails of the 100 Years War?
MWPP in A:TLA world
A/N: This story takes place in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender at the beginning of the second season. The Avatar characters will make appearances but are not the main focus of the story.
"That's highway robbery!" James cries, glaring at the man running one of the food stands.
"I'm sorry, but the War has ravaged everyone. You know how hard it is to get shipments past the front gate? It's nearly impossible."
"But surely you can't-" A hand landing on James' shoulder cuts him off, forcibly turning him around to face a trio of armored Fire Nation soldiers.
"Is there a problem here, sir?" The soldier asks, eyeing the man James had been arguing with.
"No, sir," The merchant replied. "We are debating the price of the vegetables this young man wants."
The Fire Nation soldier looked disbelieving but let it go none the less. "Keep if down then. You're disturbing the peace."
"What peace?" James mutters, watching the soldiers walk away. There hadn't been 'peace' in his town since the Fire Nation invaded. James, at the age of sixteen, didn't know what peace even was.
The merchant at the stand gave a hard sigh, "James, really? You are a carrier for trouble, you know that?"
Turning to look at the man James couldn't help but shrug. "Dad says it's a natural talent."
The merchant shook his head, handing James the basket of fruits and vegetables they had been arguing over in the first place. "Give me what money your mother gave you and the remainder I'll get from your father at the meeting tonight." James takes the basket gratefully, handing over the coins his mother had given him before kicking him out of the house this morning. "And learn to keep your head down, kid." The merchant continued, dropping the coins into a pouch. "The only trouble you'll find around here is the kind you can't get out of."
James shakes his head, wrapping his arms around the basket before lifting. This particular basket had a tendency to fall apart on him, why his mother insisted he take it he doesn't know. "I try, though no one ever believes me when I say that." James shakes his head at the merchants knowing grin. "Besides," James glances around before continuing, "these invaders could use with a bit of trouble."
"Just don't go getting your father into trouble in the process. They already keep a close enough eye on him as it is, being the previous town leader."
James groans, looking down the road in the direction of his house. "Don't remind me. I can't even leave the house without telling some stupid soldier where I'm going."
The merchant waves James away spotting those same soldiers from before coming down the road. "Be safe."
Saying goodbye to the merchant James heads down the road, noticing every Fire Nation soldier stopping to watch him walk past. He likes to make himself feel better by pretending it was because they were afraid of him. He knew the truth was because they didn't trust him. He was the son of the previous town leader and the one most likely to do something reckless. His parents both begged him to keep his head down and it was only for them that he did. Otherwise he would have given those invasive soldiers a reason to keep an eye on him.
He is, after all, one of the most powerful earth benders in town. Not that the Fire Nation soldiers know that, they didn't know he was an earth bender at all. He inherited his earth bending from his mother. After the Fire Nation triumphed all the earth benders were taken captive, and according to gossip, sent to a metal prison where they are watched constantly. When his earth bending powers began to really show themselves his mother would take him out into the woods behind their house and teach him control. She also warned him to never show anyone he had this ability. She didn't want him taken away. Young as he was, he never questioned his mother. When he reached around twelve years of age he began thinking she was wrong. If there were enough earth benders, they had to win. Surely there was no way fire benders would be able to outmatch people who can bend the earth itself.
As if to prove him wrong such an uprising was organized and twenty earth benders who had been too young during the initial invasion fought to take back the town. The fire benders prevailed and every earth bender disappeared, but not until after a cruel Fire Nation General killed the rebel leader as an example to anyone else who might wish to follow his lead. The town lost hope then. It seemed as though every person remaining had given up. The soldiers kept a closer eye on everyone after that, and kept an especially close eye on those they saw as possible uprising contenders. James was one such person.
There were soldiers outside his house when James got home and it depressed him that he was able to say that was normal. One of the two standing guard by the door glared at him as he approached. Like they had any more right to be at his house than he did.
"Just went to the market, exactly like I said I was." James bounced the heavy basket in his arms as proof of his statement. "May I pass?" He asks, already walking into his house. Avatar Kyoshi, he hated those guards.
"James?" He hears his mom call and he follows her voice back into the kitchen. She looks up as he gets closer, directing him where to put the heavy basket with a grin. "Thought I heard you harassing the soldiers."
James shrugs, rubbing feeling back into his arms. "You know me, have to announce my presence somehow."
His mom bats him with her towel at the comment, picking a few apples and cabbages from the basket. "Your father wishes to speak with you, he is in the back." She uses her knife to point in the general direction. James opens his mouth but his mom holds up her hand preemptively. "He wouldn't tell me what he wanted so don't even bother asking." She begins slicing the cabbages, and glances over when she notices he hasn't moved. "Best not to keep him waiting."
James nods but is hesitant to move. He and his father haven't gotten a long so well recently, most of their discussions dissolving to arguments. James knows its not so much his father as it is the tension. The constant tension of having people watching your every move every moment of every day. He hates it, and he hates the added stress their arguments put on his mother. She doesn't need it.
Deciding he is better off getting this over with James heads to his fathers 'Meeting Room'. It is a room in the house where his dad used to host meetings with other town officials before announcing information to the rest of the town. Now the room sees more Fire Nation personnel than it does people from the town. When the Fire Nation had invaded they made no show of obliterating the type of leadership the town had. Despite this they let James' family keep their house, even though it was the 'Town Leader' residence. The soldiers even allowed the town to continue their monthly Town Meetings, though now they are mere shells of what they used to be and are mostly used by the Fire Nation soldiers as a way of keeping order. Regardless, James knew his town had reason to be thankful. Compared to what other towns and villages had to go through once invaded his home got off easy.
Knocking on the door to announce his presence James isn't too surprised when a man dressed in red armor answers. How many of these soldier guys are there? The soldier looks back at James' father. "That will be fine, Charlus." The soldier man passes James and James' father waits until they hear the slam of the front door before inviting him in.
"Sit down, James. I need to speak with you quickly." James' father, Charlus, drags James in by his shirt, shutting the door once James is seated.
"What was that about?" James asked, referring to the Fire Nation soldier.
Charlus waves the question away. "Just going over the notes for the town meeting tonight. Now-"
"Oh yeah," James interrupts, slouching back in his seat. "The prices on food went up again. Mr. Liang says he will collect the rest from you tonight at the meeting."
"Wait, what? The prices went up again?" Charlus holds his hands out, then shakes his head. "Nevemind, not important, but thank you for telling me. Anyway, that is not why I called you here." Charlus reaches down his tunic and pulls out a stack of parchment he then holds out to James.
"Um," James eyes the parchment warily. Why had that been under his father's tunic. "Do I have to take it?"
Charlus rolls his eyes. "Yes, now here," he forces the parchment into James' hands. "I don't have much time to explain," he eyes the door as he speaks. "But I need you to run an errand for me."
"Really?" James doesn't try to mask the annoyance in his voice. "I just got back from the shops."
"No," Charlus shakes his head. "I need you to take that packet to the Misty Palm Springs Oasis."
"What?" James looks again at the packet of parchment in his hands. "Why?"
"I don't have time to explain everything," the urgency in Charlus' voice finally catching James' attention. "There is a man who has been deemed a traitor, I saw the Wanted poster yesterday, and it is imperative this man not be caught." James opens his mouth, but Charlus holds up his hand. Now James knows where his mom learned it from. "The less you know identity wise, the better. Just in case you're caught."
"Caught?" James cries, jumping to his feet. Charlus dives at him, covering his mouth with a hand and forcing him back into his seat.
"Silence, do you want the guards to hear?" Charlus hisses, his eyes glued to the door over James' shoulder. "Listen, the Avatar has returned. The Final Battle will take place soon. Until that time it is imperative that this so called traitor not be caught. He is a wise man and will no doubt know to head to Ba Sing Se. I'm sure you've heard of refugees running to the Walled City?"
James nods, Charlus' hand still covering his mouth.
"Good. What this particular refugee doesn't know is that the gates are closed. You need particular paper work to get in to the city now," he motions to the parchment clutched in James' hand. "Those are the documents needed. Misty Palms Spring Oasis has become a gathering ground for the seedy and shady. I have no doubt this particular refugee knows this too. He will no doubt be heading there for new identity papers, but he will need more than that to get into Ba Sing Se. Those papers will get him in. Understand?"
James nods, prying his father's hand away from his mouth. "How will I know who the refugee is if you don't tell me?"
"You won't interact with him. When you get to the Misty Palm Springs Oasis there will be a man sitting at a Pai Sho gambling table. I want you to hand him those papers along with this," Charlus reaches into his pocket, bringing out a white lotus Pai Sho game piece.
"The white lotus?" James takes the offered game piece, turning it over to see marks etched on the back. "Grand Master?" James reads aloud and looks back up at his dad. "I knew you were good at Pai Sho but I never would have considered you a grand master at it."
Charlus moves on, "Hand that game piece and the papers to the man at the Pai Sho gambling table and then leave. I don't want you sticking around there." Charlus backs away, giving James room to breathe.
"What if the guy I'm looking for isn't there?" James asks, pocketing the game piece and the papers.
"If he doesn't question the game piece he is the right man. Anyone else would wonder why you are handing them the weakest game piece in Pai Sho."
James has to admit his father had a point. "When do I leave?" James asks, rising again to his feet.
"Tonight," his father answers. "While everyone is at the Town Meeting I want you to slip out. Use the woods in the back to your advantage. You know them better than anyone." Charlus pauses and looks at James before clapping a hand on his shoulder. "I'm proud of you," Charlus tells him. "And I know I can trust you to do this."
James wishes he could agree.
A knock on the door startles James, slicing the silence.
"Charlus," the door opens to reveal one of the guards from outside. "We heard a shout."
James' father chuckles, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Sorry about that, James was telling me the price of groceries went up again. Guess I lost myself for a second."
The Fire Nation soldier nods and retreats, but leaves the door open behind him.
"Go on back to your room, James." His father steers him out of the room by his shoulders. "I'm going to see if your mother needs any help with dinner."
James takes the hint and shuts himself into his room, wondering where to even begin packing.