Air Nomads emblem Airbending emblem
Yangchen airbending By H-Man Havoc Part of the Legendary Spy:The Tales of Malu continuity.

Air Nomads refer to a collective group of individuals who practice the bending discipline of airbending. As one of the four nations on the planet, they play a role in ensuring the delicate balance of the world. Due to their high levels of spirituality, all Air Nomads are airbenders, the highest percentage of the population of the four nations. As the collective name implies, the nomads were wanderers by definition, but still claimed territory in the form of three large islands scattered across the oceans in addition to a small area within the northern coast of the Earth Kingdom. The latter and the western island contain the Northern and Western air temples, respectively.

25,000 years before their near-absolute extermination at the hands of the Fire Nation which precipitated the ensuing war between the remaining nations, the Air Nomads led a different, more violent way of life than their future counterparts while still sharing much of the same ideological principles. Firstly, the population was significantly larger, due to a philosophy of strength in numbers, larger than the Water Tribes, but still smaller than the other two nations. Secondly, despite having territory in the form of the islands and the specific portion of the Earth Kingdom mainland, the Air Nomads only had two temples; the Northern and Western sanctuaries, which have been in existence for a few thousand years at the time. There wasn't an active need for the two others until later, when more of the population emigrated to the southern and eastern islands some time after the current period. Thirdly, there was not yet a division and delegation of male and female airbenders as is the case in the future; both councils were all-male and the change would be a slow and gradual process. Fourthly, and perhaps the most important difference is that while they were still hospitable and largely peaceful, circumstances have forced these nomadic people to resort to violence as a means of self-preservation, in addition to other tactics as well as becoming suspicious of outsiders.


Creation and Expansion

According to early nomadic lore, the first airbenders were originally part of a larger group of 500 people who were taught energybending by an ancient Lion turtle millennia ago. At the spirit's bequest, these individuals split up into smaller groups of 100 individuals and scattered themselves across the world. While one group continued to practice energybending, the other four segments were instructed to learn one of the four elemental forms. One of the groups migrated to a large island 250 km north of the present-day Fire Nation. This island in the northwestern quadrant of the Earth was home to never-ending peaks as well as a healthy group of creatures eventually termed Flying Bison, from which the individuals eventually learned airbending. After many generations living in small villages, the group's population expanded enough to warrant the construction of a more permanent residence. Thus, the Western Air Temple was constructed under a cliff-side which was stable enough to house the myriad of structures making up the complex. Due to the difficulty in building the temple, it took roughly 200 years to fully complete, which placed the structure being finished in around 35,000 BG. 500 years later, the population grew to the point that the island could not sustain the excess, prompting exploration for other habitats.

A small, adventurous team of airbenders flew eastwards across the ocean to search for potential habitation zones. After surveying countless sites and doubling back on previously researched locales, they settled on a mountain range in what is now the northern Earth Kingdom. After convincing the Western Air Temple's Council of Elders, 25% of the population emigrated to the area and immediately set plans into motion to build a new, much larger temple. Unlike the previous temple's construction, the airbenders didn't have to venture far for building materials, as there was an ample supply just south of the range. Additionally, the airbenders formed business relationships with the earthbenders living in the area, offering their services in lieu of currency for necessary building supplies. With the combined strategies in place, the newly-named Northern Air Temple was built in just 70 years. Now occupying a landmass as well as a small portion of another, the airbenders officially called themselves Air Nomads; the second group to declare themselves a nation, after the Water Tribes.

After another 150 years, to avoid becoming complacent with their current environments, the two Councils of Elders mandated further expansion towards possible locations in the south and east, believing it best to colonize lands at or close to the four cardinal directions. The airbenders did just that when they discovered the southern and eastern islands. Both councils extended their jurisdiction towards the new islands - the Northern Council claimed the southern island while the Western Council governed the eastern island - and established subordinate political offices which led the islands autonomously with the influence and direction of the councils.

War and Aftermath

Tensions that had been building between the Air Nomads, Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom finally came to a head in 25,300 BG, when the two aggressor states launched the first salvo in a series of invasions against nomadic territory. The Air Nomads sensed trouble in the years before and had created a reserve force of 3,500 strong as a barrier, which was deployed to repel the invaders. The reservists however, weren't very well trained - armed only with basic military drills and weren't accustomed to offensive airbending - though they somehow headed the other armies off. With each repulsion the reservists became more experienced, however the other nations found severe weaknesses in their formations, notably that they were spread too thinly on certain flanks. At this point there were no fatalities but that all changed two years into the invasions, when the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom forces capitalized on this flaw by breaking through the lines and started targeting civilian areas; a serious breach of the diplomatic laws in place at the time. Being caught off-guard by the breach, the reservists valiantly attempted to eliminate the opposing forces terrorizing the unprepared civilians. The forces retreated, but not before they killed hundreds of reservists and civilians alike.

After five years of attacks and repulsions by the combined parties, the Air Nomads had enough. Employing a few Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom soldiers and ranked officers who defected during the conflict, both Councils of Elders conscripted thousands of Air Nomads from all the territories to expand the already large reserve guard and almost overnight, turned this large group into an established standing army of 10,000 soldiers. Under the tutelage of the defectors with both Councils' guidance, the new army trained heavily in Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom tactics in addition to learning how to use airbending offensively with different martial art forms and studying foreign weapons. After several months of training they were ready to lead an outright assault.

On the day of the winter solstice, in 25,295 BG, the Air Nomad army launched a massive counterattack against the other two nations. The date was specifically chosen because the Air Nomads knew that firebending abilities would be reduced due to the weaker sun, shorter length of day and colder temperatures. It was also chosen because much of the northern half of the Earth Kingdom was covered in snow, reducing earthbending's effectiveness as well. The cold temperatures also helped boost the airbenders' abilities. Over five years, the army was used with brutal efficiency; they easily defeated Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation forces, killing 2,000 soldiers on both fronts and displacing roughly 20,000 civilians from newly-occupied territories while suffering negligible casualties of their own. By the war's end, the Air Nomads had captured a few small island chains in the eastern Fire Nation as well as over 200 km of Earth Kingdom territory extending southwards and out from the Northern Air Temple. They even managed to besiege the town of Han Tui for two months before it capitulated, marking the only time in the battle that a significant settlement was captured.

After a ceasefire was issued by the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation, a diplomatic row between the three nations resulted in the FN and EK suspending diplomatic relations with the Air Nomads and imposing nearly-absolute trade embargoes, forcing the latter to look towards building stronger ties with the Water Tribes (which were officially achieved two years later, in 25,288 BG).

Five years after the imposed embargoes, the International Diplomatic Council (IDC) was formed and in conjunction with ambassadors from the four nations, established a basic negotiating framework which took 20 years to fully implement and resulted in a full status quo antebellum (causing the Air Nomads to withdraw from the occupied lands and somewhat limiting the embargoes) as well as peace being made between the Air Nomads and Earth Kingdom (resulting in reactivated diplomatic relations as well as a lifting of the latter's embargo).

Around this time, some of the defectors started to assimilate the Air Nomad culture into their own beliefs and embraced it while also following their previous ways. In some cases, the remaining defectors returned to their homes and a few cases of fraternization and sexual relations between the groups occurred and were documented. This event was unique in Air Nomad history because never before had interracial fraternization been observed within their ranks, nor would it again until much later in their history.

The ANIA was founded in 25,263 BG by Monk Kamatak, a veteran of the war and one who like many other Air Nomads, lost family members in the conflict. Initially established to spy solely on Fire Nation targets, the agency expanded its scope of operations towards the other two nations as well, creating several new divisions as time went on.


Tenzin concept art

Monk Qindaq wearing his standard ANIA uniform.

The Air Nomads generally wore yellow shirts and pants with a red or brown sash in the middle keeping them together, in addition to medium-length leather boots to protect their lower extremities from the harsh mountain weather. Although there are virtually no class divisions among nomads, some of the clothing they wear and colours they sport depend on their occupation and rank within the Air Nomad hierarchy. Civilians typically wore a short red-orange shawl across the tops of their shirts covering their shoulders and collarbones and the top half of their chests. Those who become ANIA Observers or Field Operatives have their red-orange shawls replaced with blood-red or crimson ones (depending on preference). ANIA Deep Cover Operatives and Special Agents wear orange robes and are fitted with shoes lined with fur. Members of the ANIA's executive staff sport a red or crimson cloak (depending on rank) adorned with an Air Nomad insignia pin (or a design of the wearer's choosing). Lastly, the Council of Elders sport rare golden-orange robes and wear beads with the Air Nomad emblem on a large circular disc in the middle.

After becoming master airbenders (typically at age 16), Air Nomads are given their airbending mastery tattoos and are mandated to start shaving their heads (in the future the latter condition is extended to being much earlier in their lives). Female airbenders shave from their foreheads to the crown of their heads while males have to shear all their hair off. Most Air Nomads have either brown or black hair, although there have been rare individuals who've had other hair colours like blond, though such colours are recessive in Air Nomad genetics. While most airbenders have tattoos and shaven heads, those who are recruited as ANIA operatives must not be given their tattoos (or covered if recruited afterwards) and have to have full heads of hair. In lieu of the mastery tattoos ANIA operatives are given blue arrow compass tattoos, typically on one of their shoulders though user preference does factor slightly in its location. Civilians (including the Council of Elders), ANIA civilian and executive profession employees are exempt from the conditions the operatives must follow.


While the Air Nomads don't have their own currency as they don't believe in having money for services (rather the more utilitarian relationship whereby they'd repay services with other services), the reparations given to them by the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation as mandated by the IDC have generated a small windfall and spawned a repository of foreign capital. Each Air Nomad is given some capital in case they needed to purchase materials not covered by the previous supply relationships of before, though the buying of extraordinary items is under the related Council of Elders' jurisdiction. Realizing their system of living isn't necessarily compatible with the other nations, the Air Nomads would attempt to create their own money in the future, but hyperinflation against the other currencies made it nearly worthless and they would abandon the concept once the associated debts were paid off years later.


For much of their known history the Air Nomads didn't believe in having a standing army or weapons for that matter as they contradicted their peaceful beliefs. Closer to 25,300 BG those attitudes started to change because of increasing tensions between the Fire Nation, Earth Kingdom and the Air Nomads. As a result, the Air Nomads started importing materials to fashion into weapons and although they didn't yet create a standing army, the two Councils of Elders instituted a reserve guard consisting of 3,500 conscripts, armed with their staves and given basic military training. The reserve guard was called up to defend their borders from the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom when the latter two nations attacked the nomads in 25,300 BG. During that time with the help of a few Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation defectors the Air Nomads developed a standing army 10,000 strong (after all, the Air Nomad population was much larger during this time), whose members were given training on Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation tactics by the defectors as well as better weapons with which to attack. This army was used to great effect during the Air Nomad counterattack from 25,295-25,290 BG. Ever since then the Air Nomads have maintained a smaller army of 5,000 airbenders but have at times increased the numbers during periods of high tensions.

Notable Places

Notable Figures

  • Malu
  • Brother Tarris
  • Monk Qindaq
  • Monk Taisoh
  • Karth
  • Monk Kamatak †

See more

For the collective works of the author, go here.

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