|“||Do you have any idea the power these criminals possess? Individually, they can take down any bender. Put them all together, they could take down the entire world.||„|
|~ Lord Zuko describing the criminals to a White Lotus sentry.|
The Red Lotus, also known as the Order of the Red Lotus, is a radical anarchistic secret society and a major antagonistic group in the Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise. Spectifically, the Red Lotus is the main antagonistic faction of the animated series The Legend of Korra.
In The Legend of Korra, they are the background antagonistic faction of Book 1, the overarching antagonistic faction of Book 2, the main antagonistic faction of Book 3, and the posthumous overarching antagonistic faction of Book 4.
An antagonistic faction founded by Xai Bau after the Hundred Year War, who broke off from the White Lotus after they came out of secrecy and openly served the Avatar as bodyguards and trainers. They believe that chaos is the natural order of things and that the only way to achieve true freedom is by the destruction of all tyrannical governments, and desire to undo the actions of Avatar Wan and have humans and spirits coexist once more.
When the news of Korra being discovered as the new Avatar had spread, her uncle Unalaq, a member of the Red Lotus at the time, devised a plan to use Korra to further the organization's goals. They planned to kidnap and brainwash her to open the spirit portals and release Vaatu, thus restoring the natural order of the world.
He sent Zaheer and three others (Zaheer's lover, P'Li and his friends, Ghazan and Ming-Hua) out to abduct her, but they were stopped and imprisoned by Sokka, Zuko, Tenzin and Tonraq. Unalaq covered up his involvement with the abduction and helped to imprison them in four separate prisons that were built to specifically counteract their abilities.
Book 1: Air
The Red Lotus's attack on Korra resulted in her being raised in a heavily guarded compound, sheltered from the real world. Tonraq, as well as the White Lotus, lied to Korra for her entire life about why she was locked away and under constant guard and supervision. The White Lotus convinced Korra that it was Avatar Aang's dying wish that the next Avatar be kept safe. Korra's isolation from the rest of the world hindered her spiritual training as she was unable to travel the world and learn from different cultures like previous Avatars did, the absence of an Avatar also facilitated the Equalist movement's rise to power. Korra eventually left in secret to go to Republic City to train with Tenzin, but her lack of social skills made Korra's arrival in Republic City rocky. It also forced the Equalists to accelerate their plans and, ultimately, Amon removed Korra's bending, albeit temporarily.
Book 2: Spirits
Six months after the events of Book 1, Korra returns to the Southern Water Tribe to attend the Glacier Spirits Festival. At the festival, for the first time in many years, Korra reunited with her uncle, Unalaq. Unalaq revealed that Tenzin and Tonraq, not Aang, were the ones who wanted Korra kept in the south pole (though he did not tell her why). Korra became angry at being lied to for her entire life, and Tonraq told Korra that they were just trying to do what is best for her. No longer able to trust Tenzin and Tonraq, as well as tiring of airbending training, Korra decides to begin her spiritual training with Unalaq. Unalaq managed to trick Korra into successfully opening one of the spirit portals, and sent the Northern Water Tribe's army to guard it so nobody can do the spirits harm or, in Korra's case, close the portal once again.
Unalaq would later go on to follow his own ambitions to guide the world into a new spiritual age by merging with Vaatu and become the Dark Avatar during the Harmonic Convergence, which was never part of the Red Lotus's original plan. After Korra realized Unalaq's true colors, she refused to help him open the other portal, but Unalaq tortured Jinora and threatened to destroy her soul, thus forcing Korra to open the portal. Because of Unalaq and Vaatu's interference, many spirits now became dark and were causing havoc, primarily in the spirit world and in the southern water tribe. Unalaq successfully fused with Vaatu and attacked Republic City as the Dark Avatar, infesting the city with spirit vines. Korra was able to destroy her uncle's soul using his own technique of spiritbending and, later, realized that he may have been right about keeping the portals open. Korra decided not to close them and announced that now humans and spirits will live as one. The shift in the planet's energy due to Harmonic Convergence also resulted in many non-benders around the world suddenly getting airbending.
Book 3: Change
A few weeks after the harmonic convergence during the events of Book 2, the energy shift in the world has resulted in many non-benders abruptly gaining the ability to airbend. Dozens of people around the world gain the ability, which greatly excites Tenzin. As Republic City has been infested with spirit vines thanks to Unalaq and Vaatu, an angry President Raiko orders Korra to leave the city. Korra decides to use the opportunity to travel the world with Tenzin and find new airbenders to rebuild the air nation. Tenzin ponders all the people who are discovering their new abilities for the first time. Meanwhile, at Zaheer's isolated prison in the mountains of the northwestern Earth Kingdom, he was beginning to lose hope of ever escaping. But one day, he woke up and realized he was one of the new airbenders. Having studied the culture extensively during his time in the Red Lotus, Zaheer was able to become a powerful airbender within a few weeks and use his new skills to escape prison by integrating his airbending with his martial arts. Believing his newfound abilities were a gift and a sign that his path was a righteous one, Zaheer breaks the rest of the Red Lotus out of their prisons within a few days. Zuko hears of this and, despite being elderly, still attempts to prevent the group from breaking P'li out of her prison.
Zuko and Tonraq are unable to stop the Red Lotus and P'li is rescued. Lin Beifong is alerted to this, and travels to Ba Sing Se to warn Korra and get her to a safe place. Tenzin is shocked to learn that Zaheer is now an airbender, and Korra finally learns the truth of why she was kept hidden away in the south: to protect her from Zaheer and his team, as they never explained a motive, despite being interrogated for over a decade, and they did not know if there were others. Korra refuses to go back into hiding, however, as she feels that finding the airbenders is more important. Lin warns Korra that these criminals are like nothing she ever faced before, but she still does not understand the gravity of the situation. Mako and Bolin learn that Earth Queen Hou-Ting has ordered all airbenders in Ba Sing Se to be locked up and forced into a secret army. Korra and her team rescue the airbenders, with Hou-Ting vowing revenge. Zaheer and his group's first priority is the Avatar, who they consider a world leader. Once the Avatar is dead, there will be little stopping them from toppling oppressive governments and ushering in the natural order of chaos. Zaheer shaves his head and beard and goes to Air Temple island, pretending to be a man named Yorru. He asks for Korra's whereabouts and is told that she is traveling the world. Kya eventually is suspicious of "Yorru" given how easily he navigated airbending training and eventually realizes that he is really Zaheer. Kya attempts to stop Zaheer, but fails, and he escapes the United Republic with the help of his group, killing at least ten police officers in the process of fleeing the country.
Zaheer learns from Aiwei that Korra is in the city of Zaofu to train Suyin Beifong's daughter, who is now an airbender. The Red Lotus attempts to kidnap Korra once again, however this attempt is foiled by Korra's friends and the Metal Guard in Zaofu. Despite failing to kidnap Korra, the Red Lotus escapes, and eventually Aiwei's spirit is thrown into the Fog of Lost Souls by Zaheer as punishment for the failed kidnapping. Korra's spirit confronts Zaheer, and he explains that they are part of the Red Lotus. However, this is just to distract Korra while Ghazan and Ming-Hua kidnap her body. Korra is kidnapped, but not by the Red Lotus. The Earth Queen's men have kidnapped her as punishment for releasing the captive airbending conscripts. The Red Lotus learns that the Dai Li have kidnapped Korra first, so they head to Ba Sing Se, with Mako and Bolin as hostages. Zaheer attempts to kidnap Korra in Ba Sing Se, but eventually learns that she escaped custody in the Si Wong Desert. With no use for the Earth Queen, Zaheer kills her, thus toppling the government of the Earth Kingdom. Zaheer then releases all of the prisoners in the city and Ghazan tears down the walls separating the city's rings. The Red Lotus then goes to the Northern Air Temple, to hold the Air Nation hostage so Korra will surrender herself.
Korra decides that the balance the new airbenders provides is more important than her own life, and Korra gives herself up. The airbenders attempt to fight the Red Lotus off, but are ultimately unsuccessful, and the resulting fight completely destroys the temple. The rest of the group survives, but Korra is captured and poisoned with mercury. The poison triggers the Avatar State, whereupon the Red Lotus attempts to kill her, thus ending the Avatar cycle forever. They fail in their mission, and every member of the Red Lotus except for Zaheer dies in the ensuing battle. Zaheer is once again incarcerated, no longer a feasible threat on his own. Korra is rescued and most of the poison is removed from her system by Suyin, however, due to a combination of the poisoning and her battle with Zaheer, Korra is left a wheelchair-bound invalid for six months. Even after the main members of the group are taken down, Zuko remarks that there are likely other Red Lotus members at large. As a thanks for saving his life, President Raiko welcomes Korra back to Republic City and declared the Red Lotus a terrorist organization in the eyes of the United Republic of Nations.
Book 4: Balance
Three years later, Korra is still reeling from her nightmarish struggle with the Red Lotus, in addition to her post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, she is still weakened from the remaining poison in her body. Korra's three-year absence from the world has resulted in political turmoil in the Earth Kingdom and the death of the Earth Queen at the hands of the Red Lotus resulted in a power vacuum that was filled by a ruthless and imperialistic dictator named Kuvira. While traveling the world in an attempt to heal her mind, Korra meets Toph, who informs her that she still has some of the Red Lotus's poison in her blood.
With Toph's help, she is able to remove the remaining poison, but still sees frightening visions of the Red Lotus trying to kill her. Korra decides that the only way she will be able to move on is to confront Zaheer. She arrives at Zaheer's prison, which was again specially built to contain him, this time underground to contain his airbending abilities. Korra tells Zaheer she is not afraid of him, and he lunges at her, frightening Korra. Zaheer chuckles, telling Korra that he knows she is still scared. Korra attempts to leave, but upon learning that he caused the very thing he fought against, Zaheer encouraged her to stay. He helped Korra to regain her mental strength so she could defeat their common enemy, Kuvira, thus restoring freedom to the Earth Kingdom.
- Xai Bau (founder, presumably deceased).
- Zaheer (incarcerated).
- P'Li (deceased).
- Ghazan (deceased).
- Ming-Hua (deceased).
- Aiwei (trapped in the Fog of Lost Souls).
- Unalaq (traitor, deceased).
- Red Lotus Sentries (possibly deceased).
- The Red Lotus was also indirectly responsible for the events of the Legend of Korra graphic novels: Turf Wars and Ruins of the Empire. In Turf Wars, a Republic City crime boss merges with a spirit and becomes a major threat, and in Ruins of the Empire, two of Kuvira's high ranking officers attempt to re-establish the Earth Empire. Neither of these would have taken place if it weren't for Unalaq forcing Korra to open the spirit portals and Zaheer killing the Earth Queen, thus allowing Kuvira to get to power.
- It is entirely possible that Vaatu was the basis for the Red Lotus. This theory has a fair amount of evidence to it, as the Red Lotus firmly believes that chaos (what Vaatu represents) is the natural order and strives to fufill this wish. Unalaq (a former Red Lotus member) was so obsessed with Vaatu that he actually attempted to fuse with the great spirit. The Red Lotus insignia also strongly resembles the pattern on Vaatu's body, and even has the same black and red color pallette.