Avatar: The Last Airbender takes a fresh look at a powerful villain

World of animated series Avatar: Last AirbenderGacha RPG games continue to be developed in different media. Avatar GensThe tabletop RPG Avatar Legends, and a series of three animated movies about the adult versions of Aang, Katara, and the rest of the TV show’s cast on the way. As the show’s story moves forward in time, the novels continue to look back at the conflicts and triumphs of people who served as Avatar long before Aang, trying to bring peace and balance to the Four Nations.

F.C. Yee’s latest book in the Chronicles of the Avatar series concludes the story of Avatar Yangchen, an inexperienced young woman trying to deal with a scheme that would send the Nations to war with each other. The book begins with an interesting perspective about a seemingly villainous character. Read the following excerpt to learn more.

Here’s Amulet Books’ description of the novel:

Avatar Yangchen has succeeded in bringing a measure of stability to Bin-Er, but her successes have been limited to a single city, and rumors concerning Unanimity—a weapon capable of total obliteration—have led to increasing tensions among the Four Nations. Yangchen, desperate to restore diplomacy between the heads of states, tries to deescalate hostilities. But in the wake of a brutal assassination and the freeing of Unanimity, Yangchen is forced to bring Kavik—the trusted former companion whose betrayal crushed her—back into her fold. As the Four Nations teeter on the brink of conflict and she begins to unravel the power-hungry Zongdu Chaisee’s true agenda, Yangchen is forced to measure the worth of humanity, and how much can be sacrificed in the name of balance. In this taut, provocative and engrossing fourth chapter of the Chronicles of the Avatar Series, Avatar Yangchen charts the course of the legacy she has created. She finally makes peace with the choices she made and confronts Avatarhood.

The series is written in consultation with Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, co-creators of Nickelodeon’s award-winning series, Avatar : The Last AirbenderThe following are some examples of how to get started: The Legend of KorraThe enduring legacy of millions is the fandom.

Download a complete chapter for free. Yangchen’s LegacyHere’s a look at the villainous character in a completely different light.

Section 1: Depths

The book cover for F.C. Yee’s Avatar: The Last Airbender novel The Legacy of Yangchen, showing a young airbender in orange with the traditional half-shaved head and blue arrow forehead tattoo, with a white-turreted castle on a snowy mountaintop in the distance behind her, and a male waterbender in a martial-arts stance inset below her

Amulet Books

Chaisee learned at a very young age to always go beyond what others think is possible.

To wit—the villagers of her little unnamed island dove for prized cucumber-sponges far below the glistening surface of the waters, where sunlight faded and ears threatened to burst. In the Mo Ce, such a risky feat was not considered viable.

But Chaisee’s people ignored the prevailing wisdom. Waterbending was not used to train their bodies, but they did learn to accept the stress and their minds, to be aware of the signs that they would soon die. They pushed their way deeper into the ocean depths, scraping their hands against the sharp spikes on the coral reef.

The villagers and she took the risky and often fatal endeavors again and once again to ensure that they would have food for another year. The cucumber-sponges were the most gentle touch in all of the Four Nations. A mutually beneficial agreement based on one party’s willingness to torture themselves and the other side’s complete distaste for the slightest physical discomfort.

As Chaisee grew older, she began to manage the village’s books. She took over from her father the negotiations with haulers who came to collect the sponges, pearls, dried shellfish meat—the secret was to spy on other suppliers while using uncharted islands as stashes to control market prices. The only thing that could have disturbed this plan was the monsoons.

This ship arrived in a state of bowed sails with a foredeck that was full. It was strangely adorned with flags from both the Fire Nation as well as the Earth Kingdom. Junior ambassadors of both nations led the party in longboats that landed. In front of Chaisee’s assembled village, they read a proclamation decreeing that the inhabitants of this island would no longer be allowed to produce certain goods of the sea. By a vanishingly rare agreement between Earth King and Fire Lord, the exclusive rights had been granted to some merchant they’d never heard of in a faraway city that was completely landlocked.

This can’t be, Chaisee’s father had said, hushing her with a raised hand. The negotiator was back. We are against this decision. At least allow us to respond. To buy time, he resorted to their island’s customs of hospitality. As our guests, we would like to entertain you. In the morning, we can discuss bargains.

Officials agreed. The officials agreed. While the ship’s quartermaster negotiated the purchase and loading of supplies, a feast was quickly put together for the important visitors and their crew.

As they gathered around the fire, the general anxiety amongst the villager ebbed. It was a meal that reminded the strangers on their island that families just like them lived there and that human kindness should take precedence over any dictums they may have received from abroad.

Chaisee didn’t participate fully. She observed from a distance, her usual habit. This meant that she was able to see the entire event when one of sailors picked up the torch and threw it in the largest hut. As if one would give a dog a treat. She wasn’t fast enough to stop him or speak out.

In their raw form, the porous, dusty bodies of these sea creatures are better than any tinder. Roof blew off with a loud roar. Heat, flames and embers were thrown over adjacent huts. The fire spread quickly, and before screaming could start half of the village had been set ablaze.

Chaisee remembered how the faces of the ambassadors, whose eyes were lit up by dancing, blooming flames, had lit the scene. They laughed, they rolled their heads, and then left calmly. The whole thing was at the very least annoying. She was annoyed with the whole affair at best.

The delegation left, and she understood that an argument would not have been productive. Their letters gave them power and the ability to speak for their governments. The law was enacted, not criminals. Her livelihood being destroyed by the burning of her letters is what constituted the crime. She could have just as easily tried to seek justice directly from the Four Nations’ leaders. Who would dare to dream of such a thing?

We weren’t strong enough to keep this from happeningShe thought of her neighbors as they desperately carried water into the fire using buckets, gourds and cupped hands. They cried as their dreams dissolved in smoke. We didn’t have the right friends.

Working yourself to the brink of oblivion was pointless if you couldn’t defend the life you made. Deals, maneuvers and negotiations are just steps in a dance. Pageantry. Violence is what will determine the outcome of any performance.

Chaisee’s ruined village was a kiln that baked the lesson into shape. As she searched for jobs on islands nearer the Fire Nation archipelago, Chaisee kept this in mind. As she mastered business in all countries, and gained leverage against her competitors and partners alike, the form held strong and was not prone to cracking. As the Platinum Affair gripped the globe, she saw an opportunity to consolidate even more power in a handful of hands.

The war was already won by the time Chaisee became eligible to be Zongdu of Jonduri. For the shangs there was no other rational option than Chaisee for the position of leader in the city. The shangs unanimously chose her.

Zongdu Henshe was in many ways similar to Chaisee. Although he was a foolish fool, who had wasted resources and information without any regard for long-term implications or strategy, he managed to stop Chaisee’s plans by threatening the Earth King with everything that he knew. He’d stolen the fruits of her labor, her means of becoming immune to harm in all the ways her little childhood village was not.

The book cover for Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Dawn of Yangchen, featuring a female Avatar in an abstracted robe, with a row of past Avatars behind her, stretching into the distance

Abrams Books

Henshe’s waywardness had posed a greater threat than any of the brilliant men and women whom Chaisee had tangled with in the past. You could always count on the wise to make wise decisions; you couldn’t predict the behavior of a bumbling fool. Henshe had left, taking with him all of her wealth. Chaisee found herself without any options. She had no other choice than to sit back and wait.

“Mistress.” Chaisee’s newest attendant announced herself, pausing on the warped floorboard by the door of the nursery. Each shift of the girl’s socked feet produced a squeak like a pained bird. “Mistress, you have a—”

The baby awakened. The baby woke.

Chaisee gently rubbed the forehead of her head, being careful not to completely cover it. “I just got him to sleep!” She had to raise her voice, something she never used to do, in order to be heard.

“I’m sorry, Mistress, but you have a letter and—”

“Leave it and get out!” The attendant scurried over, laid the envelope on the desk in the nursery, and fled for her life.

She didn’t see Chaisee drop her snarl as soon as she was gone. She would tell Fire Lord Gonryu her mistress had cracked under pressure, showing uncharacteristically more emotion. She may be frustrated by the child. Distracted and thus less of a danger.

It couldn’t be more false. Chaisee’s son was a sharp reminder for her to stay focused. The sound of his crying was enough to deter any potential listeners. Chaisee read the letter slowly, calmly, like she was listening to a gentle babbling stream. She moved a chair to the crib, and gently rocked her while reading.

It was complete nonsense. But it was written in a hand she recognized and contained hidden signals that let her know exactly where to find the person who’d sent it.

She knew that if she didn’t rock, her son would howl again. Maybe his skin is prone to irritations. It was frustrating, because she bathed her son with cucumber-sponges that were a lot more expensive than they used to be when she was younger. The amount she spent would have shocked her teenage self, but it was the only way to soothe him.

Chaisee folded up the paper with her hand as she looked around. The nursery she’d constructed in the mountaintop estate was dark and cool, a respite from the sweltering heat outside. Once her term was over, the house and all its contents would go to the next Zongdu in Jonduri.

She’d have to leave this place behind soon and start over again. Those were the rules laid out by the heads of state, who never had to worry about moving on from what they’d built while they were still alive. Yangchen was the Avatar. She was to be a bridge between spirits and humans for her little eternity, before passing and giving birth to a new Avatar.

There were a lot of powerful people in the way of Chaisee’s ambitions, laying exclusive claim to permanence. They’d be sovereigns of their domains until the very day they died, never having to fear their status being stripped away, never knowing what it was like to be naked and vulnerable.

Chaisee, the final person to remain, could have been the one to do it if she had chosen the right course, shown that her willingness to risk everything and go beyond the limits of reason, and was able to stay one step ahead in the game which could alter the Four Nations. She had the resources to pull off this outrageous folly. She had the means.

She smiled as she re-read the letter. The right incentives could make anything possible.

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