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|More from Kugumi||Romance, Drama||PG-13||Positive||None|
|Art by xcgirl08|
Arc 1: Air
June 30th, 2013
The pain we feel is the only road to healing scars as deep as those of sorrow.
The only thing Korra managed to do was sulk by herself all day long. She had explored the city, which had resulted in subsequent confrontations with various protesters, but had also provided Korra the opportunity to speak with some of the less hostile people about their issues. Not only was Eska right about the factions and their different beliefs, but from the sound of it, Desna really was behind this revolt. How pathetic.
Korra was now waiting outside the war room for her husband and father. She was still pretty miffed that they wouldn't even let the Avatar into their meeting. Ugh, Korra really hated the sexist ways of the Northern Water Tribe. She had her arms crossed over her bust and glared at everyone who passed by her in the palace hall. She didn't feel like talking to anyone—Korra made that very clear with her expression.
Finally, after much too-much waiting, men started to emerge from the large pair of frozen doors. Quickly spotting the stupid tri-ponytailed man, Korra joined him in step. His face was austere and his brow was furrowed. Whatever had happened in there, Tarrlok did not seem too pleased about the conclusion. Korra would have to press him for information. She nudged his ribs with her elbow to get his attention. The startled councilman turned his attention to her, his expression hard and unchanged. Korra opened her mouth to ask him the first of her questions, but Tarrlok's voice interrupted her thought, "We're leaving."
His words had cut off all of her thought processes as she absorbed them. "We—what?" Korra asked with wide, shocked eyes.
Korra's face contorted with rage and disbelief. They had only just arrived here! Where did Tarrlok think that they were going to go? Back to Republic City?! Korra was the Avatar and the people of the Northern Tribe were in very apparent disarray—they needed her, and Korra wasn't about to leave them to go anywhere. She stopped walking and waited with her hands balled into fists. Tarrlok continued his long stride for several feet before he turned his gaze to the angry Avatar. That face. It was the same face she had borne on that snowy night in his council office. But she didn't understand what had just occurred. They needed to leave—He needed to tell her! Korra wanted him to know that he was not to govern her; that she would not be tamed by the likes of him. Tarrlok understood, and were they anywhere else, that mentality would have suited him fine. It was not his goal to control Korra or break her, but this was the Northern Water Tribe—where the men dominated the women. Korra was forgetting that; Korra was forgetting her place.
"We are leaving," he repeated, more forcefully this time.
This was not good. One thing the tribe's council members had conveyed, in the most sophisticated form of begging, was their expectation that Korra had respect for Tarrlok—and should Korra display her fury here and now, it would be made quite clear that she did not. Tarrlok was well-aware that their little alliance was treading on thin ice, but Korra seemed quite oblivious to this fact. She was young and inexperienced; she was completely ignorant of the issues and pressures that the world had for her.
Tarrlok's face relaxed, as he saw the one person who was sure to be his salvation step behind Korra and rest a gentle hand on her shoulder. The Avatar turned to face the owner of said hand with a glare, only for her expression to melt away into surprise to find she was looking up at her own father. Was he on Tarrlok's side? For real? The spirits truly hated her—that was the only logical explanation. "I think you should go with him," Tonraq stated to Korra calmly, "You've had a long journey here, I think it would be wise to get some rest."
So they weren't leaving? Or—wait, what? Korra was so confused. She looked back to Tarrlok who stood tall in the large, icy palace hallway—almost as tall as her father, actually. His expression now looked, well, she would call it something akin to apologetic. But was that even possible? Since when had Tarrlok ever exhibited anything even close to remorse? But there wasn't any doubt in Korra's mind that was what she witnessed looking back at her from the man's face. Tarrlok extended a hand to her in offering, and with a light nudge from her father to prompt her forward, Korra accepted it without complaint. There were so many questions that she had. If following Tarrlok was the only way to get the answers, then she would do it—but they had better be good answers!
Tarrlok was grateful for Tonraq's intervention. He was not sure he would have been able to get Korra to leave the palace without that small bit of help. Tarrlok would have to thank the chief in private later. For now, he would lead Korra to the back of the palace grounds where a royal sleigh pulled by several buffalo-yaks was waiting. Where they were going Tarrlok did not want to be followed if he could help it. Korra perked a brow at the sight of the sleigh awaiting them at the furthest point of the palace's perimeter. Where in the name of La was he taking her? She almost asked him, but then thought better of it. Something was up. Tarrlok just hadn't said what, yet. He allowed her to get comfortable in the white sleigh before he took a seat at the front with the reigns.
One lash of the leather reigns and a loud call of "YAH!" from Tarrlok was all it took for the team of buffalo-yaks to speed off. They were headed for the tundra. He was headed home. Tarrlok wasn't sure how he felt about visiting his mother, but the years had been long since he had last seen her. He knew she probably wouldn't even recognize his face anymore with all of the unsightly scars—and Tarrlok couldn't even begin to think of how he was going to tell her that Noatak was dead. Maybe he just wouldn't bring it up at all? She was already under the impression that Noatak was dead, anyway. How could he tell her that Noatak was alive, had tried to ruin Republic City, stolen his—and the Avatar's bending, and then was killed by Tarrlok, himself? Whatever heart had been left unshattered within his mother would surely wither away if he told her the truth.
"Okay. Now c'mon, Tarrlok, spill it. I want to hear exactly what all of this is about," Korra spat, her arms crossed and her eyes watching the falling snow rush past them, "What did you guys talk about in that stupid war room?"
And of course the loud mouth in the backseat was finally starting to ask questions. Not that Tarrlok had expected Korra to blindly and silently follow him into the frozen tundra, but he had at least hoped she could be less abrasive about the situation. No matter. He had planned to fill her in on the events that had occurred during the meeting on their way to his childhood home, anyway.
"Your father is a good leader, Korra, and he cares about all of the people from the Water Tribe—not just the north or the south alone," Tarrlok began, "but he and the council don't really see eye-to-eye. The council wants to make our political arrangement work, but the tribes are having a difficult time accepting it when I am without your father's blessing. So he and I have arranged to get to know one another better—and with any luck, I will be able to earn his blessing through merit and not just because of the crisis in the north."
There was more, but he would give her a chance here to interject if she wanted. When Tarrlok did not hear her he peeked behind him to make sure she was still in the sleigh. He wasn't sure what he was expecting her to say to that information, but he had expected her to say—something. He would take advantage of her silence and continue speaking, then. "The council is worried about how you and I are functioning as a wedded couple, however. And I can see where that concern could stem from. I understand you better than you think, Korra. You don't want to feel like I am controlling you, or that I'm dominating you in some way," he clutched the reigns tighter in his hands, "I know I've done so in the past, and for that I am sorry. But..."
His sentence trailed off. He didn't want to admit that he liked being the driving force in his relationship with her. Before it was as foes, but now it was as a couple. His feelings toward his current standing with Korra was complicated. They were both so similarly stubborn that they both wanted to be superior, but it was obvious to those who were outside looking in that there was much tension in the relationship because of that. "But what, Tarrlok?" Korra asked gruffly.
Tarrlok could tell this was not going to be an easy conversation. He didn't want to come off like he was trying to spin the truth—which he was guilty of, or that he was trying to trick her—which he was also guilty of. "But the Northern Council is watching us. They have an expectation of you as an unruly, wild-child southern oaf, and of me as a well-educated, wealthy, northern politician."
"Hey! I am not an oaf!" Korra didn't know what "oaf" meant, but it was probably something derogatory, "And why does the council care anyway? They shouldn't be butting themselves into our personal lives."
If she hadn't married him, her inexperience with the Water Tribe political system's intricacies would surely have brought the end of both Tribes. The councilman narrowed his eyes at the buffalo-yaks in front of him. He had known prior to bringing all of this up that Korra was going to misread everything he had to say, mostly due to her lack of diplomatic relations. She was fortunate that he had even offered to marry her to begin with—not that he really had too many options as a nearly forty year old man with a disfigured body and a dysfunctional family background. The only thing any Water Tribe man worth his salt could gain from marrying Korra was the bragging rights for marrying the Avatar and a headache that could knock out a komodorhino. Tarrlok had needed this opportunity, though. Perhaps it was wrong to use Korra in such a way but Tarrlok needed to restore his honor.
Korra's question was stupid, but valid. If she didn't know why the Northern Tribe's council was involved with this, then Tarrlok would try to inform her in as simple a way as possible. "The council is looking out for the best interests of the Northern Tribe. Right now, they believe that best interest lies in our marriage. And as I'm sure you are fully aware, the Northern Tribe is heavily patriarchal—I'll let you figure out what they expect, then."
So the Northern Tribe wanted her to be submissive? Yeah right, that wasn't going to happen! There was only so much that Korra was willing to do to make this marriage work out, and that was one thing she was definitely not willing to do. If Tarrlok didn't know that, then he wasn't as intelligent as she gave him credit for. Still, Korra couldn't help but feel an ache inside the pit of her stomach. She knew what was at stake if this political marriage didn't work out she and Tarrlok were the only two people standing in no-man's-land between the Northern and Southern Tribes. If the two of them were always arguing and fighting, then Korra could see why the tribes wouldn't feel the need to honor their truces. She sighed, hiking the fluffy collar of her parka higher on her neck. "Where are we going."
Well, at least she finally seemed to understand the weight that he had been feeling this entire time. They'd had a rough start together, but hopefully with some time they could work out the kinks in their relationship. There was still one thing that Tarrlok had wanted to tell her that had come up in that meeting before changing the topic, but Korra had already moved on. He supposed he would just have to tell her about it later, he'd already shoved enough information at her for one trip. "We're going to my mother's house. She could have moved back to the village after my father died—in fact, when I was younger I begged her to," Tarrlok explained, hurt evident in his voice, "but she never did. I think she always hoped if she just stayed where she was at Noatak would find his way home someday."
Korra looked at the back of Tarrlok's head. His ponytails were flying behind him as the sleigh raced over the slush, snow, and frozen tundra toward some unknown place. Ever since he had told her his story, she had felt a sort of sadness for him. He had left a piece of her forever broken, and after she had married him there were several nights that she could still hear his voice from her memories saying, Put an end to this sad story.
She listened to the sounds of the hooves of the buffalo-yaks pounding against the frozen ground, and the sliding of the sleigh's blades slipping over the snow. By the time they reached his mother's house, Korra was sure that there would be no sign that they had even come this way; the falling snow would cover all of their tracks. All of their luggage had been packed into the sleigh. She wondered if her father had arranged this at Tarrlok's request. It seemed likely. Mostly Korra just wondered how Tarrlok planned to break the news about Noatak to his poor mother—he did plan to break the news to her, right? "What are you going to tell her..." Korra asked tentatively, "you know... about Noatak."
She was still looking at the back of his head when he responded. "I wasn't planning on telling her. There's nothing to tell. She already thinks Noatak is dead anyway."
Korra narrowed her eyes at him. Something about that just didn't feel right to her. "It might be painful, and it might hurt—but your mother deserves to know the truth," Korra didn't really feel like she was talking, it felt like someone else—someone wiser, "I don't pretend to know what a mother feels like, but she's probably still holding onto the hope that he's still alive and well somewhere. If I had a son... and he died away from home... I'd still want to know."
Tarrlok was quiet for a while, letting the snow, the skis, and the grunting of the tired buffalo-yaks fill the silence. "...you're right."
Korra blinked her blue eyes in astonishment. Did he just say what she thought he did? It had been faint, and barely audible against the rushing winds, but Korra couldn't be mistaken. His voice was louder this time when he spoke. "There it is. That's where I grew up," Tarrlok informed her as the distant hut came into view through the blizzard that was beginning to lighten up, "It's only right that I be the one to give her the news about Noatak."
The Avatar was alright with that. She could keep quiet while Tarrlok relayed the story behind his scars to his mother. The rest of the trip was spent in silence. Dread, fear, and nerves stacked up on the shoulders of both sleigh riders as they approached the hut. The snow was now only falling from the sky in light sprinkles when they came to a stop outside the tiny home. An old woman peeked out of the hut's entrance to see who had dared to make the long trip here all the way from the village. Tarrlok turned away from her, terrified of what she would say about his new face. Korra didn't need to be told, just his action of turning around was enough to tell her his fears. She touched his arm lightly, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring look. Nothing was going to be easy about this—for any of them—she didn't want to make it anymore difficult than it already had to be.
She hopped out of the sleigh with an awkward smile to the woman who had, now, stepped out of her home. She was a lot prettier than Korra had expected—not that Korra had thought Tarrlok's mother would be ugly, but the woman had a certain look of youth to her, even though she had to be quite old. Her face lit up at the sight of the three ponytails facing her from the sleigh. "Tarrlok?" the old woman adjusted the fly-aways in the braids and the bun her hair was carefully styled in before waving excitedly, "Tarrlok!"
"Yes, it—he," Korra unnecessarily corrected herself in her nervousness, "is Tarrlok."
The young woman stepped over toward the old woman who was about the same height as herself. Korra didn't know how to prepare her for what she was about to see, "But, he—was in an... accident."
Korra used the term accident loosely—if you could call an attempted murder-suicide an accident, then sure, Tarrlok was in an accident. The woman gave Korra a curious look. She didn't seem to understand. "An accident?" she repeated, finally realizing she was being informed by a complete stranger, "I-I'm sorry, what did you say your name was again, Miss?"
Tarrlok had slung a couple of the luggage bags over his shoulder before he dismounted the sleigh to face his mother. He drew her attention to himself by introducing Korra, "Mother, this is my wife, Avatar Korra. Korra, this is my mother, Takotna."
She gasped at the sight of his face, the entire right side unrecognizable from the amount of damage the explosion had caused. Takotna raised a hand to cover her mouth from the shock. Tarrlok wasn't even sure she had heard that he was married to the Avatar. Korra watched the exchange take place, biting her lip nervously. This was only the beginning. She couldn't imagine how Takotna would take the second bit of news. Tarrlok leaned down and his mother reached out to touch his face. Her fingers rolled over the pinks and reds of scar tissue that coated the right side of her boy's face. "My poor baby..." she mumbled over and over again to herself as she examined the damage.
The rest of his body was covered from the cold, but he figured he might as well tell her now. "It's the whole right side of my body, Mom."
Korra hadn't even known that. She probably could have guessed, but the thought had never really occurred to her. It was the result of his own doing. Korra furrowed her brow. So why were her feelings biting her so hard? Korra could feel her face heat up as his mother asked the question that the two had been dreading, "How did this happen?"
Tarrlok peeked at Korra out of the corner of his eye. Her face was bright red, making her eyes a striking shade of blue—that wasn't from the cold. He looked back down at his mother and dropped the luggage he had been carrying to the ground. His voice cracked with some unidentifiable emotion, "I found Noatak."
Just the name. That was all it took to bring his mother to her knees in the snow. Tarrlok couldn't look at her, but he had to say this. He straightened his posture and tilted his head up to the cloudy, grey sky above them. "He took my bending," Tarrlok paused, "and I killed him."
He was a murderer, the woman cried tears, and there were snowflakes on his face.
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