A Boy and His Badgerdillo
Chapter information

The Long Path



Written by

Arthur Keane

Release date

October 24, 2015

Last chapter

Chapter 1: Not Sweet, Just Sorrow

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Chapter 3: The Great Divide (Is Kind of Annoying)


There's nothing more common than a boy and his dog. Normal dogs are too mainstream for some boys, though, and they opt to instead buy a mutt they really like. This kid, Arnoq - he took that to the next level. Not every kid has a badgerdillo. Having a badgerdillo can't be the peak of a boring life, however. Instead, it's a bit of a beginning; the badgerdillo, Brick, wasn't even close to the weirdest part of his life. The big decision of his life - the first episode of his nonexistent TV show - was when he met a monk on the road.

Arnoq and Brick

Arnoq was trying to make a hammock.
It wasn't exactly going as planned. Brick, his badgerdillo, was looking on, bored, his large claws folded over each other and his thick, leathery skin in the sun. The sky wasn't too clear or too cloudy - it was good North Earth Kingdom weather, especially after the recent hot spell.
The hammock itself was the problem. See, Arnoq was suffering from an unfortunate lack of good supplies. He knew that the cord he had wasn't ideal, but he didn't have any canvas, and he really wanted a hammock.
He was so engrossed in what he was doing that he almost didn't see the boy, probably one or two years younger than him, walking in the distance, approaching along the packed-dirt road that wound its way from the town in the north to this town here. Arnoq, living on the outskirts, could see every (not that it was many) traveler coming or going to or from his town. The trees he was trying to string his hammock up to were just twenty feet or so off the trail, and the young traveler had probably noticed Arnoq before Arnoq noticed the kid, who looked an awful lot like an Air Nomad, even down to the make of the staff. The last time Arnoq had seen Air Nomads, though, they were passing overhead for official business in a sky bison, not walking alone like... well, Arnoq thought, like an actual nomad.
The kid wasn't walking fast, but he was keeping decent pace. Arnoq didn't openly acknowledge he'd noticed the traveler's presence, but tried again to string up the hammock and sit in it. Brick watched, casually digging a pit to lay in, as Arnoq's makeshift hammock stretched to accommodate his larger-than-average frame. A small child might have been able to use the rope for that purpose, but not Arnoq - within five minutes he was six inches off the ground again.
A string of low-powered curses spewed from his mouth as he looked up. The young monk was now only about thirty feet away.
"Having some trouble?" the monk asked politely.
"Yeah. Hammocks without some canvas are a pain. Where you headed?" Brick stirred as his master spoke to the newcomer.
"The Southern Air Temple."
Arnoq raised his eyebrows. "That's quite a long way."
"I guess. I may not go there at all. I know I'm going South, but otherwise, I'm just being a nomad." The monk seemed like he was attempting not to utilize any natural charisma he might have, the charm being well overshadowed by his distant air. To Arnoq, he seemed bothered, wistful even, but Arnoq's desire to leave his small town overrode any slight reservations he might have about the monk.
"Mind if I join you?" He was earnest, and in his mind he knew that this was either going to be incredibly anticlimactic or the turning point of his life.
It proved to be the latter. "I don't mind at all, but I'd like to know your name first," the monk said, a slight grin on his lips.
Arnoq stood and brushed himself off. "Arnoq. This is Brick," he said, gesturing to the badgerdillo now halfway submerged in the earth, glancing out at the orange-clad stranger. He held out his hand politely.
The monk grinned again and shook. "Koan. I don't have a badgerdillo."
Arnoq nodded and withdrew his hand, then snapped his fingers. Brick lazily came to his heel. "I was surprised to see you walking, actually."
Koan turned toward the road. "My sky bison, Lemo, died in a thunderstorm six months ago."
Arnoq inwardly groaned. Three seconds of being a travel companion and he had brought up something touchy. "I'm sorry, man."
"Oh, don't worry about it. I've moved on. Traveling just takes a lot longer."
Arnoq could tell Koan just didn't want to talk about it, so he turned toward the path. "I should tell my family before I leave."
Koan gave him a look. "You have a family and you're leaving?"
Arnoq shrugged. "It's just, you know, my mom, dad, and sister. I've wanted to leave home for a long time now, so they won't be too surprised."

Arnoq's Family Is Surprised

"What do you mean, you want to leave?" Arnoq's mother asked, a strong note of incredulity and yes, hurt, in her voice.
"I'm leaving with Koan. He's an Air Nomad headed south, and I'll stay with him as long as I need to. Plus, he's an airbender, so between that and my earthbending we should be safe from just about anything we come across on the road." Arnoq was already shouldering the bag he'd had packed for a year and half, ready for just this occasion. What he hadn't expected, though, was his parents' vehement reaction to what he'd told them was coming that whole time.
Koan, meanwhile, was playing with Brick in the front yard. The energetic young badgerdillo had already inadvertently stabbed a small hole in Koan's tunic with a claw, but Koan didn't really care that much. He could hear the commotion inside, but figured his getting involved would be a bad idea. He wasn't sure what had drawn him to the tall, broad Earth Kingdom teenager - something had told him that continuing on alone would get tiresome anyway, and when Arnoq had asked if he could come, Koan was more than happy to oblige. The month and a half of intermittent walking and gliding he'd done was lonely, though he'd managed to hone his survival skills in the meantime. His trail had been meandering, almost zigzagging, because he often relied on the winds for long stretches to keep his energy up. His endurance was such that he could easily walk ten hours a day, but he really didn't feel like doing that - the gliding was a form of moving meditation he loved, and it was about the same speed as a direct walk to his destination; direct flying was much faster, but took more energy. He was thinking about this when Arnoq came out of the door, a moderate-sized backpack on his back and the door slamming behind him.
"I take it your family was unamused by your plans."
Arnoq set his jaw. "Unamused doesn't begin to cover it. Just makes me want to leave more, though, so that's okay."
Koan blinked and sighed. "Ready? You wanting to just walk, or do you have any faster way to move?"
Arnoq's spirits lifted, if only slightly. "I can surf."
Koan glanced once at the ground. "Uh..."
"No, like this." Arnoq deepened his stance, and a slab of stone about eight feet long erupted diagonally out of the ground in front of him. He spun on a heel and kicked it, then stepped on it. Koan had seen Northern Water Tribe people - both benders and otherwise - surfing, and the stance did look an awful lot like a surfer riding.
"How fast does that get?" Koan asked curiously.
Arnoq snapped his fingers once, and Brick climbed onto the front of the board. "Just keep up. The next town isn't that far away."
Before Koan could fully process what Arnoq had said, the earthbender had raised his left leg, then his right, forming a four-foot wide wave of earth that shot him forward with it at a breakneck pace. Koan grinned and turned a circle, throwing his staff into the air and summoning the winds at the same time. He reached a hundred feet in the air in the next second, following the dust trail left by his new friend.

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