Tempered Steel

The sun was beginning to set as he began the finishing touches on his newest sword. He had been working on her the entire day and, now wiping the sweat from his brow, he had just entered the tempering phase. He would inspect her carefully for brittleness tonight and, if he deemed her worthy, he would sharpen her in the morning. Much like during his calligraphy sessions, he strictly urged Fat to not interrupt him unless it was of vital importance. There were few things worse than interrupting the delicate process of sword-making.

Steam rose as he dipped the red-hot metal into the water. He pulled it up carefully, smiling at his reflection in the steel. She looked beautiful.

"Master Piandao."

The tongs nearly slipped from his fingers and the sword dipped dangerously low to the stone floor. Fat had startled him with the sudden interruption and it nearly cost him his flawless weapon. He shot him a mild glare as he steadied the tongs and the sword, taking a few moments before he deemed it safe to set the warm metal on the mantle above the hearth. "This had best be important, Fat."

"Someone is here to see you."

"Who is so important that you had to interrupt the most delicate portion of the forging process" He asked, pulling up his coat and fastening it.

"I asked and he respond: 'One who has eaten the fruit and tasted its mysteries"."

Eyebrows raising, he stepped out into the yard. A chill ran down his spine as a breeze whipped the cool night air around him. He had sensed it was almost time for the Order to be called to meet; he had known since Sokka had left his house to prepare to fight the Fire Lord.

Fat walked ahead of him and opened the gate to reveal a man, shorter than the both of them, enshrouded in a hooded cloak.

"Reveal yourself, player of the White Lotus Gambit." It was an unnecessary order; Piandao could easily identify the man by his unmistakable beard. Hands grasped the sides of the hood and pulled it back, Iroh smiled at him.

"It is a pleasure to see you again, Master Piandao." The Grand Lotus and Piandao exchanged bows.

"The pleasure is mine." Piandao stood upright, smoothing out a few wrinkles in his coat. He smiled, "It has been far too long, old friend. You have been well"

"As well as a man can be when he doesn"t get his daily dose of tea." The statement was followed by a hearty laugh; the sword master shook his head and chuckled. The laughter died out and a serious expression covered the former general"s wrinkled face, "It is time for the Order to reconvene."

"I was expecting such." A sliver of hope sprinkled his voice as he asked, "Will you be able to contact all the members"

"It will be difficult to reach some of them, but I have faith I will before the Comet arrives. It will take all of our combined skills to be able to reclaim Ba Sing Se."

Piandao nodded, inwardly smiling. He was thrilled to be able to help the Order and be reunited with the other Masters. He was ecstatic for the reunion with the man who had opened his eyes to the truth about the tyrannical Fire Nation nearly 30 years ago, time that seemed to have flown by when he reflected on it. The man who he had scarred in a fight; the man who recruited him to the White Lotus Society. The legendary deserter: Master Jeong Jeong.

His joy sank to despair as the thoughts sank in. The Master may not even want to see him; he had heard that the fire bending prodigy had become a hermit, dark and bitter, more-so than he had been during their last encounter. Grand Lotus Iroh might not even be able to locate him since he had vanished from the public eye.

A sigh escaped his lips and he asked, quiet and hesitant, "Will Master Jeong Jeong be coming"

Iroh smiled again, he knew about Piandao"s deep respect for the now miser. "He has already began traveling to the Earth Kingdom Capital. He will meet us there."

That was enough to elate his spirits for now. "When are we to report to camp"

"Sozin"s Comet is soon to come. You should leave as soon as possible."

The men exchanged bows again and Iroh pulled the hood back over his head.

"Won"t you stay the night" It"s not safe for you to be out traveling…"

"I have more members to contact; I can"t waste any time." Iroh turned and began walking away. He waved back, rich voice booming, "We will meet again soon enough."

Piandao smiled again as the Grand Lotus began singing, "It"s a long, long way to Ba Sing Se…" as he vanished into the darkness.

The next day he sharpened his new sword; she would be joining him on this journey. Fat had packed the belongings he would need for travel and readied the giant eelhound to save time.

He entered the stable as his loyal servant finished tying the bags to the eelhound"s saddle, his new sword sheathed on his back. He rubbed the eelhound"s snout and he snorted happily. Piandao had raised the eelhound, Kisu, from when it was a pup and he was more loyal than any animal he had known. "Are you ready, old boy" We have a long journey ahead of us."

Kisu nuzzled his hand in response. Fat stepped away from the beast, his task complete. He bowed, "May the Spirits watch over you during your travels."

"Thank you, Fat." He patted the man on the shoulder. "We will be victorious, I am certain."

Mounting the eelhound, he let out a sigh. The journey would be a long one; a lot of time with nothing to do would leave too much room for his mind to wander. But he knew exactly where his thoughts would take him.

Jeong Jeong. How are you old friend"

Kisu trotted out into the yard and through the gate before he bumped his side with his foot to command a speed increase. His grip tightened on the reigns as he went into full gallop and they tore across the landscape.

I pray you won"t shut me out when we meet again.

Chapters: Prologue 1 2 3 4 5