Chapter 1 - Bhumi
His mother chose to name him in the ancient language, perhaps thinking that both the spirituality and the potency of the old ways were that much greater than their newer, more diluted counterparts. It was uncanny, actually, how she ultimately chose to name him after the Earth. It was as if she had known all along from the moment of his birth that, in the years to come, her son would grow to become one of the most powerful and most respected earthbenders the world had ever seen.
Unfortunately, she only lived long enough to name him Bumi.
She had always been a delicate, slight creature, and a taxing nine-month pregnancy, coupled with the excruciating pain of over thirty hours of labor, had taken a serious toll on her body. Her health immediately and suddenly failed the day after his birthday, and exactly forty-eight hours after his umbilical cord had been severed, she died.
Years later, he realized that perhaps his father would not have blamed him for the incident if he hadn't turned out to be such an ugly child.
And an ugly child he was, for he had inherited neither the chiseled, handsome features of his sire nor the grace and poise of his mother. In fact, it was a surprise that he was their son at all, considering what attractive people both of his parents had been. He, on the other hand, was both unpleasant to look at and unpleasant to listen to, for not only was his face lopsided and his hair thick, unruly, and coarse, but his voice was grating and distasteful as well, even in infancy. It was a wonder that his father kept him around at all, considering the man could barely look at him without cringing in disgust, and yet despite this obvious dislike, he was never disowned. Perhaps the fact that he was his mother's son was the main reason for this, because it was clear that his father had loved his mother much more than he could ever have loved him. Thus, he remained, throughout his childhood and until his father's death, the crown prince of Omashu.
Even in the harshest of conditions, children continue to grow, and grow he did. Despite the fact that both his father and his people rejected him due to his appearance, his early childhood was nonetheless relatively happy. He spent most of his early years in the royal gardens, playing and exploring under the careful supervision of an elderly servant woman named Ran. Originally a kitchen maid, she had taken upon the role of his caretaker at the direction of his father. After three years of nursing, watching, feeding, and teaching him, she grew to be quite fond of the eccentric yet extremely bright child that had been placed in her custody, and he felt the same for her.
She never got to see how far his brightness would take him, however, for she died quietly in her sleep when he was three.
Two months after she passed away, he bent his first rock.
And after that, things were never the same.
It was the eve of the Spring Carnival, and one of his father's guests had gotten thoroughly and hopelessly drunk during the festivities. In an alcoholic stupor, the nobleman, a reputable earthbender in his own right, complained loudly of the poor quality of the dish he had just been served at dinner. Further angered by the irritated looks the other guests at the event were throwing at him, he flew into a childish rage and roughly pushed at the stone table in front of him to express his displeasure, unawares that the massive table was over six feet in length and must have weighed well over a ton. Despite the table's size, however, it shot out from under dozens of platters of food to barrel at dangerous speeds towards the unsuspecting toddler that was Bumi, the king's heir and only son, who had been sitting quietly in a corner, playing by himself.
There was no time for anyone to react. In all rights, he should have been crushed and immediately killed.
Somewhere deep in his memory, he remembers how a servant girl had screamed.
She shouldn't have worried.
The table shattered to dust on impact. When the debris cleared, the chamber full of awestruck nobles and servants was surprised to find him sitting completely unharmed on top of a small mountain's worth of rubble. While he was bewildered and slightly confused, there was not a single physical injury on him.
He remembers how the dining hall went completely and eerily silent as his father had slowly risen from his seat.
The king strode over to where his son sat and squatted down in front of him. Then, for the first time in his life, he looked at his son with something other than disgust in his eyes.
It was awe.
His training began the very next day. So did the whispers. Genius, they called him. A master borne of the heavens.
He only wished that geniuses and masters did no have to be so lonely.
It was not until years later, when a young airbender from the Southern Temple came calling at Omashu, that he understood what it meant to have a friend.
After the boy left, he asked his father to buy him a pet goat-gorilla. He named it Flopsie.
And he stopped feeling like he was alone.
Author's Notes: The word Bhumi refers to the Earth element of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This information is borrowed from Wikipedia.
Disclaimer: Any and all characters belonging to Avatar, the Last Airbender are the legal property of Nickelodeon.
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