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|The Spirits' Advice, Part 1: Reunions|
January 31, 2011
Aang and Katara both receive similar news in the Everlasting Palace, and Aang learns that Azula cannot be stopped unless he can find a way to come back to life...
Book 2 Chapter 9: The Spirits' Advice, Part 1: Reunions
As Aang's eyes focused, he remembered where he was. Looking to his right he saw Katara sitting with a woman he had never seen before. And then he realized: that must be Katara's mother.
"Oh Mom, I've missed you so much." Katara embraced her mother and didn't dare let go.
"And I've missed you," her mother replied, "more than you will ever know."
Aang got to his feet and dusted himself off. As he glanced around the once-lifeless room, numerous forms began solidifying out of thin air all around him. As they became solid, Aang let out a gasp. One of the figures stepped up to him and bowed. Aang returned the gesture and then turned to the others and did the same.
"Oh, Aang," said Gyatso. "How very lost you appear to be."
"What do you mean?" Aang asked. He stepped back and glanced at all of the other Airbenders. They all wore expressions of remorse.
"It is the job of the spirits to watch over the mortal world. That duty is no different for those of us here in this Palace." Gyatso looked sad, and it broke Aang's heart when he said, "You have to go back."
"Go back...? How? Why?"
"You are the Avatar. Just as it is the duty of the spirits to protect the mortal world from within this world, it is your duty to protect the mortal world by living among its inhabitants, and among its problems. That world has been thrown out of balance, and it has affected this one as well, as you can see...". Gyatso extended his arm toward all of the wreckage in the elongated room. "Aang. As the Avatar, you must not stay here in the Spirit World." Aang looked down at the floor in shame and disbelief.
"Katara," said Kya as she sat down with her daughter. "You've grown up so much. But you're not done yet."
"What do you mean?" asked Katara, releasing her mother's hand.
"You have made me so proud," said Kya. "But your help is still needed on Earth. One day it will be time for you to pass over into this world, and no doubt into this very palace judging by the things you've done in your life so far." She smiled down at her daughter, who had begun to cry again. "But for now you must return to Earth. The world needs you. It is your destiny..."
"But how can I get back?" Aang asked Gyatso. "I'm dead!"
"I do not know. But the Avatar Cycle has been halted. A new Avatar will not be born unless you return to Earth and defeat the forces that threaten to destroy it."
"But why? I wasn't in the Avatar State! Why would a new Avatar not be born?"
"Didn't you study?" Gyatso asked, smiling. "The Elemental Stones give the powers of the Avatar to a new individual. Before you died, you and the Fire Nation girl both had powers over multiple bending arts. When you died, she became the world's standing Avatar. Your cycle has ended, and unless you can stop her, that girl will continually be reborn as the Avatar again and again and again."
Aang was horrified at this news.
"You must return to Earth. The only way to avert this crisis is for Azula to die while you are alive. That would make you the Earth's standing Avatar once again, and transfer the reincarnation cycle back to you. Aang, you must find a way back to life. And then kill that Firebender."
"But!" Aang spluttered. "I can't take her life! I couldn't even take Ozai's life! It was you who taught me how all life is sacred; how no living thing deserves to have its life unnecessarily shortened. I can't kill her!"
"But you must," Gyatso concluded. "For the fate of the world, you must." With this, Gyatso erupted into a plume of green smoke and faded away. Aang watched as all of the other Airbenders did the same. They had given him his task. Now he had to find a way to accomplish it.
Aang turned to face Katara, who was watching as the smoke from her own mother drift away. She turned to face him, her face stricken with tears. They embraced, and in an instant they both knew that their jobs were the same. Wordlessly they both stood up and left the temple. Somehow they would both need to find a way back to Earth. It would be the only way to truly stop Azula...
I really like this chapter for a lot of reasons. There's no Azula in this one, but it sets up a LOT of the conflicts central to the rest of the story, and I really like how the parallelism between Aang and Katara (and to an extent, in past chapters, Zuko) turned out. What are your reactions to this (somewhat) dramatic plot twist?
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