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Aang is determined to travel to the Fire Nation temple to meet with Roku, and learn about his vision. All throughout this episode they are challenged step by step by the Fire Nation's attempts at halting their progress.
Katara actually learns that Zuko is a prince, and not just that, but a traitor in this episode. This perplexes her greatly that he can be both at the same time. This is also the first time Katara sees the past lives take an active role in Aang's life, which is a bit overwhelming.
I had my doubts about this chapter. It was difficult, since the A:TLA episode actually mapped out the entirety of what happened for her, thus hindering allowing room for creativity. However, I am satisfied with how it turned out. There are a few added scenes of worth, and I think Momo got a good bit of attention in this episode. ^_^'
I had to manually re-perform all the formatting this time. Double spacing, italics, etc., that was irritating..hope I didn't miss anything.
Huh? Katara lifted herself from bed, propping up beneath one arm. What was that? She glanced at the remaining two beds in the room, but noticed one was empty. Aang?
Slipping out from beneath the warm blankets, the chill in the cold night air overcame her. She shivered at this sudden change, surprised to actually find it to be so cold. She contemplated just how cold it would have felt had she have woke up in the South Pole, which oddly enough brought a smile to her face.
Pulling just her blue gown over her cloth-wrapped body, she tied the gown about her waist and headed for the main room. The temperature here was no different, except the room was much larger and very barren. Soft snoring caught her attention. Just beside the edge of the walls a series of sleeping bags and blankets lay in a row, each with Senlin Village citizens slumbering. Now where could he have gone to...
Her bare feet delicately crossed the cool wooden floor, attempting to keep the old boards from creaking and disturb anyone's sleep. As she continued observing each shadow as best she could, a faint movement through the window caught her attention. Moonlight shone on a young boy's body as he dropped to sitting over the edge of the porch outside. She smiled to herself; she could recognize that bald, tattooed head anywhere. It was Aang.
"Aang?" She quietly called out to him through the silence, crossing onto the porch.
He nervously shot his head back to her, eyeing her in surprise. "Katara? Did I wake you?"
She continued to hold a pleasant smile as she stepped over beside him, dropping to sit over the edge and let her legs sway in mid-air. "Is something wrong? I got up when I noticed you were gone."
"It's nothing." He turned away and dropped his head, gazing with melancholy toward the dark streets below. "I just had a nightmare and couldn't sleep, that's all."
A moment of silence filled the air as her smile faded. "Want to talk about it?" She posed thoughtfully, leaning slightly as she placed her palms on the edge of the deck, curling her fingers over the side.
"No." Aang crisply replied without moving.
Her eyebrows tightened as she stared longingly at him. It would make you feel better if you would... She looked away, but then considered to herself she had a nightmare she hadn't shared as well. Neither of the two said a word, giving her a moment to contemplate whether she wanted to go into detailing her dream to him.
With a brisk shake of her head to herself, she decided she wasn't willing to go into detailing that dream to him at the moment. But one image she had still vexed her, so she would bring that up. "I had something strange happen in my dream, while I was alone yesterday. You were all blue, kind of see-through. You told me that you lost him, I think you meant Sokka, but then you disappeared." Her sapphire eyes turned to him, a soft shimmer of moonlight twinkling within their depths.
Aang lifted his head to turn his deep grey eyes on hers, and smiled warmly upon doing so. He was quiet a moment, before nodding to her as if she had asked him if it had really happened. "I guess you somehow heard me then. Though, you were awake when I said that."
"What?" Her forehead knotted with confusion. "Aang, what are you talking about?"
"I said that to you yesterday. You were sitting by the gate with Oren. You couldn't see me though since I was in the Spirit World."
A tight frown drew her lips away. "You...you were there?" So that's how he knew what Oren said about his wife... "Um, Aang, how long were you there?"
He broke their gaze, turning to stare toward the trees beyond the village walls. "Until you woke up... that's when Roku's dragon came and took me to the temple in the Fire Nation, so I could know where to meet him."
She pulled her arms closer together, gripping herself tightly. I don't think I like the idea of this Spirit World. "Aang, that's a little unsettling. I mean; are there other spirits that uh...watch us as well? I don't like the idea of being watched."
"Sorry..." He hung his head shyly. "I don't know if there are. I didn't mean to. I just didn't know what else to do." He shrugged half-heartedly in reply. "I don't even know how I got into the Spirit World, or how to get out of it. I just...didn't know what else to do. I think Roku knew that I was there and sent his dragon to help me."
"Well, think on it later...come back to bed Aang. You need sleep for tomorrow." Uh, today. She corrected herself, noting the moonlight was giving way to vague hints of morning.
He kicked off the porch, landing squarely in the open street below. He twisted his head back to stare up into her eyes as he began. "You go ahead, I'll get rest soon. I just...I'm going to go on a walk. You know, to clear my mind."
She didn't believe him. Somehow, what he said sounded a bit off. Her eyebrows stiffened with worry for his actions. He didn't wait for a reply, turning and beginning this walk he had mentioned. Hanging her head, Katara made her way back into the town hall.
She hurriedly finished dressing as fast as she could. "Sokka!" She shouted, jarring her brother awake, finishing this by giving him a violent shake.
"Gah-ah!" He leapt upright in bed, flailing his arm back nearly striking his sister. She ducked just in time to miss his blow however. "What do you think you're doing? I could have killed you!"
"Not with a backhand." She stood, dropping her hands to her hips with a scowl. "It's about Aang. He's acting strangely, and I think I heard Appa just a moment ago. He might be trying to leave without us!" At this she emphasized her worry with a wave of her arms, wrapping her fingers back into her palms.
Sokka sighed, reaching up to run his hand down his face in disgust. "Good. Going into the Fire Nation is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of."
Her scowl sharpened as she grunted so hard it nearly came out a growl. "Sokka..."
"Relax, relax." He waved both his hands out toward her. "Look, one last try, it's worth it if it changes his mind in getting us all killed. If he won't change his mind, then I guess...I guess we just go with him. He can't go it alone."
This was just what she wanted to hear. She leapt forward and threw her arms around her brother's neck. "Let's go!" She wasted no time jumping at the opportunity. If Aang leaves...I don't know what I will do...
She ran quickly out of the building with her brother, stirring to life many of the villagers still in slumber. Crossing down the steps of the porch, they heard Aang shout to his bison. "So get your big butt off the ground and let's go!"
She watched as Aang fell to the ground after tugging Appa's reigns in vain. Appa wasn't interested. "I think his big butt is trying to tell ya somethin'." Her brother commented to draw Aang's attention. Their ruckus had woke several villagers, as the streets began to fill out. The leader and Oren both approached the scene curiously.
"Please don't go, Aang!" She begged after Aang turned around, surprised that he had been caught. She waved both her arms wide, palms open imploring him to reconsider as her brother had requested. "The world can't afford to lose you to the Fire Nation." Clutching her hands into fists tightly she raised them up, pulling them closer to her chest. "Neither can I..." She stated sadly.
Aang appeared to seriously give this consideration, until giving in to his determination and leaping to his feet. "But I have to talk to Avatar Roku to find out what my vision means! I need to get to the fire temple before the sun sets on the solstice. That's today!" He leapt upright, airbending himself to twist about and land squarely on Appa's head, clutching his reigns. He glanced down apologetically as Appa rose to his six legs. You would really do this?
Sokka rapped the back of Katara's elbow. "Guess we're on." He whispered. She nodded in reply.
She sprinted forward quickly, twisting back to cut in front of Appa as her brother kept up beside her. They both stood firmly, blocking his way forward. "We're not letting you go into the Fire Nation, Aang!" She stated with resolute determination. A look of sheer surprise overcame the young airbender as he locked eyes with her in wonder.
Loosened her stance, her brother cut in for the next phrase, crossing his arms smartly. "At least, not without your friends. We got your back." Appa's tongue rolled out, slapping against Sokka's body and sliding up in a warm, sticky lick of gratitude. Katara's eyes widened. I am so glad that wasn't me... She covered her mouth with one hand in surprise, staring at her soaked brother. "Eeww!" He protested loudly.
A moment later found them on Appa's saddle, awaiting the beginning of their journey. The village elder approached Appa's side, staring up to the young Avatar perched on the bison's head. "It's a long journey to the crescent island." He handed a green cloth-wrapped bundle of supplies that had been prepared up for Aang. "You'll have to fly fast to have any chance of making it before sundown. Good luck."
Aang graciously accepted the bundle, pulling it up beside him. "Thank you for your–"
"Go!" The leader abruptly shouted, thrusting his finger ahead of Appa.
Aang immediately cracked the reigns, as Appa gave a hearty groan before lifting into the skies. She could tell that Appa knew it was going to be a long day; he seemed edgier upon lifting into the air than normal.
The cool, crisp morning air nipped at Katara's face, whipping her braid behind her as they ascended into the dark skies. "So, do you know exactly where we're going?" She questioned, pulling her body up over the front of the saddle.
"Yep! Roku's dragon took me there while I was in the Spirit World. I just go in the same direction, find the temple, and speak with Roku by sundown!" Aang stated back to her, before returning his attention forward.
"Yeah well, we might have a problem with that." Sokka chimed in.
Katara glanced over to her brother, spotting him leaning over the side of the saddle. "What's wrong?"
"Fire Nation." He replied curtly.
"I know, just leave that up to me. We'll make it." Aang confidently answered.
Katara dropped back in the saddle, crawling over to her brother to peer at what might be interesting him. Oh shoot... "Aang, it's Zuko. His ship is near the shore..."
"Senlin..." Aang's voice grew distraught, leaning to twist his head around Appa's large furry body toward the small town.
No... those poor people. She frowned, but they had to carry on if they wanted any chance of reaching their destination in time. "Aang. Keep flying." She softly implored.
"Yeah, we're not there...Zuko will leave and come after us quick enough." Sokka continued. Aang sighed, leaning back against Appa's neck, but he did not reply.
"Stay focused, Aang." She encouraged him, as she crawled to the other side of the saddle to rest by its edge. "Sokka and I will keep an eye out in case he does."
Hours later, all they could see was ocean for miles all around. The sun shone warmly upon them, as warm winds blew furiously against Appa's advance. Sokka sat by the edge of the saddle, occasionally glancing down to the ocean below in search of a fire navy ship. Aside from that, he continued idly carving at a hand-sized piece of wood with his knife.
"Sokka, I just have to ask. What is that meant to be you're messing with?" She asked, observing the strange carving.
He ceased his whittling, not even moving his head as his eyes slid up to his sister. "Nothing."
She smirked slightly, lifting a single eyebrow. "Really? I saw you playing with that after we left General Fong's Base." She let out a crisp, brief laugh. "It looks like a shoe."
At this, a frown tugged at the corners of his lips. "Would you like to wear it?" He sarcastically responded. She rolled her eyes, yet chuckled, and continued observing the oceans below for any sign of a fire navy ship.
Thirty minutes later, Sokka had long since put away his carving and had joined her in looking for any signs of danger. I can't believe we're doing this, this is so stupid! She panicked, still concerned with their destination. She understood why Aang was so adamant for this, but it did not change the fact this was the most risky, ill planned decision they'd made yet.
"Come on boy, we've got a long way to go! Faster!" Aang yelled over the torrential wind. Appa granted Aang's wish with a wearisome groan, before swishing his tail back and exerting even more energy into his effort.
Just minutes later, Katara spotted a dark blotch between clouds upon the oceans' surface. No... She leaned over the saddle and eyed sharply at what she thought was...yes, it was. "Aang, we've got trouble!"
"Yeah!" Sokka broke in behind her worriedly, nearly cracking his voice due to how high he exclaimed this surprise. "And it's gaining fast!"
"What is it?" Aang asked, sitting upright and tugging the reigns tightly into his grip.
"Zuko!" Katara shouted in sudden proclamation.
"He must have found out where we were going from the villagers!" Sokka chimed in.
A jet of flame issued on the deck of the vessel. Squinting, she barely made out the crimson figure of Zuko standing beside the flaming object. Then it shot off the deck in a moment, a large round ball of flame the size of Appa soared directly for them. "Fireball!" She shouted as loud as she could to ensure Aang paid attention to her.
"I'm on it!" Appa jerked to the right as Aang shifted the reigns. She clutched the edge of the saddle tightly as she fought for balance, nearly toppling over the edge at his sudden change of course. Sokka leapt to the other side of the saddle just as the fireball passed quite close to Appa, allowing her to feel the sheer heat of the flaming rock before it plummeted back toward the ocean.
Phew, he missed....wait wha.. Oh Spirits! Ewww! She clenched her nose, it smelled like a rotten, decaying stinker. Not even Sokka rivals that thing! Ugh! "We have to get out of Zuko's range, before he fires another hot stinker at us!" She stated desperately, muffling her voice into the palm of her hand. The putrid stench was nearly asphyxiating.
"Can't you make Appa go any faster?!" Sokka began, as his voice cracked before finishing. Obviously the smell was messing with him as well.
"Yeah, but there's just one little problem..." Aang paused, drawing Katara's attention away from hiding her face. This just gets better and better... She stared over Aang's head, to a vast line of fire navy ships below. "Them... if we fly north we can go around the fire navy ships and avoid the blockade." Aang twisted his head back, staring her straight in her blue eyes. "It's the only way."
"There's no time!" She retorted matter of factly.
"This is exactly why I didn't want you to come! It's too dangerous!"
"And that's exactly why we're here." She smirked. We are not leaving you to this. Sokka is right, you can't do everything on your own.
"Let's run this blockade!" Sokka demanded, drawing her attention for a moment, before turning back to Aang with a confident sneer. Let's do this.
Aang turned his back to the two siblings, settling into his hold on Appa's reigns once again. "Appa, yip-yip!" With a renewed vigor, Appa burst forward with sudden intensity. Katara knelt down and clutched the front of the saddle, preparing for the worst.
It wasn't but a moment before they were given exactly what they were expecting, and then some. The skies ahead of them filled with an untold number of black smoke trails, flaming boulders streaking through the sky for Appa. Her blue eyes widened as her mouth fell open, gazing at the wall of red and black that they were on an impact course for.
In unison, everyone broke into sudden cries and shouts, Katara gasping aloud as she ducked beneath the front of the saddle. It wouldn't protect her, she was well aware, but sitting where she was atop the bison left her feeling completely vulnerable and insecure.
She clung for dear life to her position as Appa twisted and turned, flaming boulders whizzing overhead and heating the surrounding air. Two boulders collided with one another, erupting in a furious explosion. Debris and flaming remains filled the sky, falling toward the trio.
Oh gosh! She batted away a few smoldering remains as they struck at her arms and clothing, but thankfully the wind took care of the rest. All fell silent, other than her rampaging heart within her chest. After her brother sat upright, she followed suit.
Small black smoke trails streamed to her left. Peering over the saddle, she found Appa's fur was smoldering! She hastily leaned as far as she dare over the saddle and began swatting at the black patches of fur on the poor bison. Sokka joined her, assisting in the effort. Momo apparently had a heart for his companion as well, scuttling further down out of Katara and Sokka's reach to put out another patch of black cinders.
"Appa, are you okay?!" Aang shouted to his lifelong companion. Appa retorted with a sharp bellow, obviously tense and edgy over being shot at. The next moment found them high in the skies, as Appa soared out of sight above thick clouds. "We should be safe now; they can't see us...so they can't possibly shoot you. We'll be okay buddy."
Oh how wrong he was. Katara and her brother returned to the front of the saddle, closer to Aang. Just as they drew close however, the cloud cover beneath them erupted with a sudden fury of volleying flaming boulders. She screamed for dear life again as she threw her body onto the front of the saddle, clutching it for balance as Aang began guiding Appa's dodging.
The next few moments went by as a wild blur. She couldn't see where the boulders came from, or where they streaked to, as their echoes of crackling flames and abrupt collisions filled the air. Thrum! Two boulders slammed into one another and exploded, shaking her hold on the saddle violently. Clinging for dear life, she slipped a moment only to hear her brother's scream echo from behind her. Sokka?
Turning, she cried out frantically and held her hand to open air, watching as her brother fell over the back of the saddle, disappearing into the top of the clouds. Aang's cry overshadowed the explosions. "Sokkaaaa!!" He yelled, issuing Appa into a fierce dive. The speed at which Appa dove reminded her entirely of riding the mail chutes at Omashu. She held as tightly as she could to the saddle, standing to grab her brother's hand as they sped beneath his plummeting body.
Clutching his hand, he fell into the saddle just as Appa's feet crashed against the surface of the ocean. A fish soared into the air and over the saddle, slapping her brother's face in surprise so that he fell to the saddle on his back. Momo snatched the meal before it got away however, obviously desiring dinner when the time came, if the time came.
Confusion overwhelmed her as she regained her senses. They were eye level with the blockade, and running straight for it. Oh no... Her grip tightened so fiercely her knuckles whitened. Another volley of boulders soared into the air, pinning them to the water's surface as Appa lurched left and right dodging torrents of water where boulders landed.
Katara ground her teeth together and ducked behind the saddle, hiding from the debris and water that endlessly pelted her face. After a moment, all fell silent. Sitting up, she spotted a lone flaming boulder launch directly for Appa – they were literally within yards of the main ship, there was no dodging this one. We're going to die...
But then Aang kicked forward from Appa's head, soaring a good ten feet away from them with his airbending. What is he doing!? He's going to get hit first! She shared a lost glance with her brother, panicking for all of their lives.
Aang braced back, lunging his foot forward with a solid shout. An immense gust of air blared past his body, slamming abruptly into the overheated boulder. The impact shattered the rock, sending shards and shrapnel flying a full circle into the air and harmlessly into the ocean. He just... But then he began to fall.
"Quick grab him!" Sokka shouted as he leaned his body over the saddle's front. Aang fell against Appa's neck, prompting her and her brother to seize both his arms to keep him steady. "Got'cha!" Sokka declared.
Before she knew it, they had sailed past the navy ships, safely clearing the blockade. Releasing Aang, they slid back to sit on their legs, gazing dumbfoundedly ahead. Aang leapt for joy and threw a fist high in the air, shouting enthusiastically. "We made it!"
"We got into the Fire Nation." Sokka declared. "Great..." He stated whimsically, nearly wheezing at his own words. Katara simply continued a mindless stare dead ahead. All this, just to get in... She feared for her life. They had only entered the borders of their hundred year enemies, something no one had accomplished for many a decade to her knowledge. Now what...
They flew on in silence for what felt like an hour. Only Aang didn't appear mortified by their accomplishment, sitting contently upon Appa's head with his back to the duo. Occasionally she would share a brief look of worry with her brother, but no words would ever be stated. They didn't know quite how to address this issue.
Finally, with much trepidation, she questioned singly. "Aang. Um. How are we going to get back out?"
"If we head out later today, we should be able to sneak by in the dark. I doubt they'll even see us in the black skies!"
"Oh, okay." She responded just as half-heartedly as she had asked. However, it gave her slight comfort. At least Aang had considered this, maybe they would make it out alive yet.
Another long period of silence enveloped the trio, as Momo shifted his perch to the back of Appa's saddle. The small furry creature appeared highly interested in Appa's otter-like tail, swishing idly at the open air behind them occasionally to maintain his flight through airbending.
"Are we there yet?" Sokka asked again, he had probably asked this seven times already.
"Gettin' there. I think." Aang answered yet again, seemingly not bothered in the least by Sokka's antics. Katara rolled her eyes, she had already slumped over the front of the saddle, resting her chin between her elbows.
Keeping her eyes averted away from the two boys, she muttered so her brother could hear. "Stop... asking... that same question. It's very annoying."
"I'm bored." He stated matter of factly, resting his forehead against the edge of the saddle and letting out a huff.
"Don't worry, you won't be once we get there. I'm sure there will be plenty of excitement when I get to see Roku!" Aang's lack of fear was astounding, he seemed just as calm and level-headed as when they had been flying to Omashu, which now felt like so long ago.
Katara groaned, bringing her eyes ahead of her again. Ocean. Nothing but ocean. Blue stretched out into the distance beyond, as her brother likewise grunted in disgust. "Whatever. I'm gonna get some rest." He stretched and headed for the back of the saddle, before sprawling out with his back pressed against the saddlebags.
"Hey, Aang?" She softly questioned, leaning her head over the edge of the saddle. He leaned back against Appa's neck, rolling onto his side as his head craned back to stare at her.
"What's the Spirit World like?" Her eyebrows lifted in curious thought.
"Uh, from what I saw, it looked kind of like this world. Just, blue. Well, not you or other things. I could see the real world, but I was blue." He reached up and scratched at his arrow. "Aah, I don't know how to put it."
"Did you, um, see anyone there? Any other spirits, or people?"
He rolled slightly, casting a curious gaze up to her. "No...I didn't see anything except you guys and Roku's dragon. Why?"
Where is mom... "I was just curious. I don't know what's on the other side, you know?" She kept her chin pressed into her open elbows, gazing down at him with her blue eyes. Is she there...
"Okay. Well, yeah I didn't really see much. Sorry." He smiled apologetically up to her. "Maybe I'll have some cool stories the next time I go there, once I figure this thing out."
"Sounds great." She stared in silence a moment, watching as Aang turned to face forward once again. Water. Simply a vast blue ocean lay still before them.
Flying on in silence was awkward at first, but then welcome. Aang flopped forward on his stomach after another half an hour had passed. Beyond that, Katara was no longer aware. She slumped into the front of the saddle, resting her eyes as she awaited their arrival.
When I die, will I see mom again? Lying on her back, she gazed up into the sky with her arms clasped before her. Do we go to the Spirit World? Gran Gran never said... She sighed, swimming in thoughts she felt too foolish to ask out loud.
Aang's ecstatic voice broke her concentration. "There it is!" Oh finally! She leapt up, twisting to the front of the saddle as she sighted Aang. A small, mountainous island of dark rock in the shape of a crescent moon lay before them. An immense, active volcano sat at the center of the crescent, billowing thick black smoke high into the sky. "The island where Roku's dragon took me."
Aang... Her blue eyes danced with sudden fear. A lone, tiered temple stood close by the volcano, flowing magma streaming lazily down the mountains' side. Is this really a good idea...
"Wow." Sokka exclaimed in wonder. "Sure looks ...hot."
"We just need to stay long enough for me to find Roku. After that we'll leave, promise!" Aang smiled back to his friends as Appa began his descent.
"Yeah but... How are we going to get past the guards?" Katara worried aloud.
"Leave that to me, I'll get us in." He nodded resolutely as Appa touched down at the base of a stone walkway that led overtop the magma flows.
"Nah that's what I'm here for." Sokka grinned confidently, climbing out of Appa's saddle. "Just give me a moment here to.. Aaah, yep just another here and .. Ooh." He began stretching, flexing out his cramped muscles from the ride.
Have fun fighting hog-monkeys. She rolled her eyes, but followed after Sokka and left the saddle. Aang bounded into the air, landing beside her before whipping back to pat the nose of his lifelong companion. "You did it buddy! Nice flying."
Appa adored the praise and clearly the rest, as he moaned lazily and rolled to his side. Six legs flailed up and into the air, revealing his harder underbelly. "Aww!!" Katara smiled at Appa's cute reaction, stepping up beside his large body to rub his belly. "You must be tired!"
"No!" Sokka suddenly replied, still continuing his stretches. Katara froze, raising an eyebrow in surprise. Tell me he's not talking to me. "Aah.. I'm good!" Katara stood upright as she withdrew from Appa's side. A look of sheer surprise crossed over her as she kept her back to her brother. He is. Oh goodness, he is. Her mouth fell slightly agape at the realization. "Refreshed and ready to fight some firebenders!"
Sokka you dimwit. Her confusion faded to a look of idiocracy, propping one hand on her hip as she turned to face him. "I was talking to Appa..."
"Well..." He stammered in brief surprise, obviously caught red-handed. "...I was... talking to Momo." He smugly waved his arms toward the lemur, who was performing pull-ups of his own on a nearby branch.
Sure you were. She rolled her eyes and returned her attention to Appa. "Ignore the warrior, he's just jealous that you're so cute and he isn't."
Appa moaned joyously, flapping his immense fan-like tail singly on the ground behind him, kicking up a handful of dust. Aang laughed and rapped his fingers across Appa's nose. "You stay here and rest buddy, I've got to meet my past life!"
Sokka sighed at Aang's suggestion. Oh don't get all bent up over this past life thing again. She turned to stare at her brother, twisting her mouth up into a half-sneer as she gave him a stern shake of her head. He got the message, and simply shrugged in reply. "Let's get going then."
The three cautiously followed the winding rocky walkway leading to the fire temple. Ugh... The heat from the location was overhwelming. Her long sleeve shirt and pants were not ideal for this lava-filled atmosphere, aiding in her breaking into a sweat. How could anyone live here...
She gazed toward the thin rock-wall edges by either side of the path, nearly as tall as she was. Passing small buildings set off from the track, she observed the windows carefully for any signs of guards. Where is everybody? She had thought for certain guards would have been rushing out by now. After all, this was the Fire Nation.
Nothing. The stone courtyard of the grand fire temple lay before them. The intricately designed multi-story temple stood beautifully atop a flight of steps, just in front of the temple's entrance. "It's beautiful..." She added in brief wonder. I had no idea the Fire Nation could actually make something this ... pretty.
"Get down!" Sokka hushedly exclaimed, suddenly jerking at Aang and Katara's clothing as he climbed up a small platform to duck behind a low wall, out of sight.
"Ah!" She nearly shouted from sudden surprise, but twisted and followed after him. Aang readily bounded up beside Sokka, ducking as he threw himself against the stone wall.
Katara knelt beside Aang, placing a single hand atop the cold stone surface as all three scouted their surroundings. Even Momo clambered up beside her, raising his ears high into the air.
"Huh." Sokka stated in wonder. Katara glanced to her brother beside Aang as he continued. "I don't see any guards."
Same with the rest of the guard towers on the way. I have an idea. "The Fire Nation must have abandoned the temple after Avatar Roku died." Spotting Momo's ears high in the air, she reached up and gently brushed her palm along the lemur's soft furry head. He cooed softly, dropping his large ears back against his body beneath her soft hands. So cute. She smiled at the little creature.
"It's almost sundown." Aang stated out of the blue. "We better hurry!" He airbended straight up, leaping over the wall. Wait! She and her brother bounded over and followed after him as he ascended the flight of stone steps leading to the temple's entrance.
Entering the temple, they slowed to a tip toe. Where IS everyone... The beauty of the temple still amused her, however. Large black pillars throughout the large chamber held an ornate yellow flame design near their bottom. A subtle red hue filled her vision, down the hallway and along the walls due to small glowing lantern lights of red hung evenly spaced along the wall.
"Wait." Sokka spoke hushedly, freezing Katara and Aang in their tracks. "I think I heard something."Turning back sent a sudden chill over her. Five aged men dressed in full red regalia with pointed hats had gathered behind them, standing guard. "We are the Fire Sages, guardians of the temple of the Avatar."
"Great!" She heard Aang begin. "I am the Avatar."
The speaker didn't appear fazed, keeping his aged, wrinkled face sternly cast upon the three. "We know."
Not sounding good... Before she could ponder what would happen, the Fire Sage thrust a punch forward, with his comrades. A small number of fireballs sizzled toward them. Ah!
She pulled her arms up before her, poised to retaliate instinctively. Where's some water?! A sudden blast of wind caught her by surprise, turning her face away to shield from the sparks of fire that were deflected by Aang's defensive move. "I'll hold them off! Run!!" He shouted back, turning to face the five sages.
Uh..right! She bolted after Sokka down the hallway behind Aang. Suddenly this beautiful temple no longer seemed so pretty. The long, narrow corridors stretched on and on, with many other isles intersecting the hall they were in. She had no idea where they were going, but followed after her brother readily.
A moment later, a surge of wind sailed from an intersecting hallway as Aang slid into view, cutting them off. She halted her flight and stared in wonder. How did you beat us here? "Follow me!" He shouted, skidding to a stop and turning to bolt down the path ahead of them.
"Do you know where you're going?!" Sokka implored as he and his sister followed a short pace behind Aang.
"Nope!" He yelled back, wrapping around a corner and out of sight.
Nearing the corner, Aang slid into view yet again. Now what are you doing!? Katara froze in her tracks. "Wrong way!!" He exclaimed. Slipping to the side of the hall as Aang broke into a sprint between her and her brother, she turned back after him, dropping her mouth in wonder.
Movement by the corner behind her caught her eye. Glancing back, her brother shouted in surprise as they both discovered Aang's reason. A Fire Sage stood just a foot from them! Don't leave us!
"Come back!" The sage shouted as she panicked and spun away, running after Aang as quick as her feet would carry her beside her brother.
Following Aang as he turned right, she slid to a stop at a dead end. Fading rays of sunlight shone in through a single window at the halls' end, the red hallway holding them captive as the lone Fire Sage began his approach. She slowly backed away, one step at a time. Aang slipped past her, entering an airbending stance in preparation for assault.
"I don't want to fight you! I am a friend." The sage pleaded in a deep voice, holding his hand out in explanation.
"Firebenders aren't our friends!" Sokka shouted madly, as Aang prepared for a sudden strike.
The sage took a step closer, standing a good foot taller than Aang. Here we go...get him Aang! The sage dropped to his knees, pressing his palms to the tiled floor below. Katara grimaced, wondering what for firebending trick this might be. Is he going to send fire up from the floor?!
She kept her teeth clenched tight, but nothing happened. The sage appeared peaceful, his eyes shut and his head lowered respectfully. Wait, what? Momentarily, he lifted his eyes to gaze up to the Avatar. "I know why you're here, Avatar."
"You do?" Aang exclaimed in wonder, dropping from his stance.
"Yes." The sage climbed to his feet, standing peacefully before the trio. "You wish to speak to Avatar Roku. I can take you to him."
"How?" Aang expressed doubt with his question.
The sage slid back a red lantern light hanging on the wall beside him, before placing his palm against a hole that had been concealed a moment prior. Releasing a single breath, a stream of fire seemed to crawl along the wall, outlining a doorway that slid away a moment later. "This way." He held his hand out, pointing to a secret tunnel that had been carved from the rock of the island.
"Find him..." The great sage's voice whom had attacked before echoed down the hall, drawing the group's attention. Katara jumped slightly at the man's voice, watching as this sage twisted to gaze down the hallway in shock as well.
Turning back to the three he held his hands out imploringly. "Time is running out! Quickly!" Aang and Katara turned to one another, seemingly appearing to share the same belief as the other. There was little choice, really. Follow this firebender into a possible trap, or wait to be caught by the rest of the firebenders and fight anyway. The two nodded, determining to trust this stranger, and headed into the tunnel.
Momo kept up with the group, excitedly prancing through the hot, steamy tunnels. Katara broke into a sweat, the heat was unreal. "Forgive me for startling you earlier. I am glad to have been the first to reach you, rather than my brethren. My name is Shyu, last of the loyal Fire Sages that guard this temple."
"I'm Aang, and these are my friends Katara and Sokka." He waved back at them with a smile. "And my little buddy Momo, also the last of his kind." He pointed at Momo as he leapt through the air and landed on Shyu's shoulder.
"It is indeed an honor." Shyu kindly added with a bow of his head. Momo wrapped his tail behind his neck, tilting sideways to gaze curiously at the sage.
"I had no idea the Fire Nation would be like this." Katara tugged at her shirt, letting some hot air out as she whispered to Aang. "This nation is the pits. It's so hot! I miss home now more than ever."
"Yeah!" Sokka agreed mightily, having heard her complaint. "It feels like any minute I could burst into flames."
She raised a brow, staring back to him. After a moment of quiet observation, she replied wittily. "You're not that hot, Sokka."
"Are you kidding? It's unbearably hot! I'm ... oh." He narrowed his eyes, glaring back at her as she smirked. "That's not funny."
"Whoa..." The awe in Aang's voice broke up their little fuss. Turning, Katara spotted a searing red glow dead ahead. "What's that?"
"Lava." Shyu began. "Avatar Roku once called this temple his home. He formed these secret passages out of the magma."
"Did you know Avatar Roku?" Aang questioned. Katara blinked in confusion. Of anyone here, you're the only one that should Aang. Does he look one hundred and twelve years old to you?
"No." He replied singly. "But my grandfather knew him. Many generations of Fire Sages guarded this temple long before me. We all have a strong spiritual connection to this place."
"Is that how you knew I was coming?" He continued. Katara pondered. We may not get to ask him anything after this, may as well ask him everything we can.
"A few weeks ago, an amazing thing occurred." He paused for only a moment. "The statue of Avatar Roku; it's eyes began to glow!"
Really?! That must mean... "That's when we were at the air temple! Avatar Roku's eyes were glowing there too!" Katara returned excitedly. The others hadn't seen this, she had. Oh right, I forgot to tell them that.
"At that moment, we knew you had returned to the world." Shyu emphasized.
"If this is the Avatar's temple..." Aang lifted his eyebrow slightly as he eyed the back of Shyu's head. "Why did the sages attack me?"
"Things have changed. In the past the sages were loyal only to the Avatar. When Roku died, the sages eagerly waited for the next Avatar to return. But he never came..."
"They were waiting for me..." Aang stopped walking, slipping his hand against a nearby rock wall in sorrow. With him, everyone ceased walking.
Katara froze and turned to stare pitifully at him. He felt such strong guilt over this. Her brother placed a supportive hand on Aang's shoulder, smiling menacingly to their little companion. "Hey don't feel bad. You're only a hundred years late!"
Sokka!!! She scowled mightily, as Aang did the same. "They lost hope the Avatar would ever return." Shyu ignored and continued. "When Fire Lord Sozin began the war; my grandfather and the other sages were forced to follow him." He paused, shutting his eyes as he miserably shook his head. "I never wanted to serve the Fire Lord. When I learned you were coming, I knew I would have to betray the other sages."
"Thank you for helping me." Aang exclaimed with a soft smile, one which Shyu returned gratefully.
He turned back down the tunnel, which narrowed and met into the base of a stairway. Pressing on, leading the three up the start of the stairway, Shyu continued. "We'll follow these stairs to the sanctuary."
Oh thank goodness. Katara wiped the sweat off her forehead as they began their ascent. For some reason, the spiraling stairway felt cooler. She couldn't rightly figure out why, seeing as heat rises. "Say, Shyu, can you clear something up for my brother?"
Sokka raised a brow in disbelief, smugly turning a cold gaze to his sister. "What may I help you with?" Shyu replied calmly without turning his attention from the flight of steps before his feet.
"Sokka here doesn't believe in past lives." Sokka rolled his eyes and grunted in disgust. Yeah, that's right Sokka, time for a little lesson. This is for picking on Aang. She smiled to herself as Shyu began. Aang smiled jokingly back to Katara, it was obvious she had started this intentionally.
"It is quite real, of that I am certain. Not for people like you and I, no. Only the Avatar has a past history of being reborn into this world."
"Yeah, whatever." Sokka shrugged. "Makes no difference to me. He rambles on about past lives enough but nothing ever happens."
"That is because he has not completed reconnecting to his past lives yet."
Sokka sighed as he shook his head. "Are you kidding me? And how's he going to do that, shake hands with their skeletons?" He imitated this gesture readily, waving his hand out. "Hey past self, I'm me! And there I am, dead too!"
Katara and Aang laughed aloud beside one another, as she dropped her hand to his shoulder for support. This is rich!
"No." Shyu's voice was just as humorless as before. He didn't seem to find insult nor humor in this situation at all as he continued his lesson. "Often an Avatar's first attempt to connect to their past lives must be assisted, though this is not always the case if the Avatar learns to connect with the spiritual world on their own."
"I did!" Aang exclaimed excitedly. "I was just there, and met Roku's dragon animal guide. It's what led me here!"
"You must be referring to Fang." Shyu twisted his head back momentarily, smiling at the young Avatar. "I believe reconnecting you with your past lives will be simple, as you are already learning to journey into the spirit realm."
Sokka bonked his forehead with the lower palm of his hand twice. "Wake me when this is over."
The four continued lazily trailing the staircase, Momo occasionally flew up to the next level and perched, waiting for them to reach him. Show off. Katara jeered at Momo, staring up at him with a smile.
"This evening should prove one of the easier connections, possibly even the easiest. In the past, relics have been used to aid connecting to your past lives, or deep meditation in a spiritually heightened location. However tonight is special, this is the winster solstice. The line between the mortal and Spirit Worlds is will be so thin, it is entirely possible for you to meet with Roku even without meditation. Once you're inside, wait for the light to hit Avatar Roku's statue. After that, the solstice should take care of the rest."
"Did you get all that Sokka?" Katara crossed her arms, sarcastically questioning her brother.
"I'm sorry, I lost him somewhere between the start of the cave and the first step of the staircase." He dug his finger into his ear. "Did you say something?" He questioned obstinately.
He'll just never get it. She rolled her eyes and turned away. The ascent lasted for another short while, the stairs leading into the ceiling itself. "Uh, you aren't going to take us straight through a floor like Fang did, right?" He blinked, staring at the stairway running directly through a closed space.
Shyu grinned, reaching up and unlatching the tightly sealed tile, sliding it back. "Follow me."
Climbing to the new level, Katara glanced around. It was awful dark here, yet very spacious. Numerous statues stood nearby, columns that were merely a pedastol with an immense dragon sitting upright with its wings outstretched. I feel so small... She lifted her head, gazing high at the dragon statue directly in front of her.
Shyu gasped. "No!" Turning her attention, she spotted him staring at a door nearly five times his height. Five dragon-mouth shapes sat in a line attached to the doors' face, with long curving necks that met in a flame-pattern at the doors center.
"Shyu, what's wrong?" Aang questioned as the three approached him.
"The sanctuary doors, they're closed!"
"Can't you just open them with firebending, like you opened that other door?" Katara exclaimed. Aang began nudging at the door, shoving and kicking into it. Doesn't work, Aang.
"No. Only a fully realized Avatar is powerful enough to open this door alone." Aang dipped his head at Shyu's words, turning to prop his hand against the cold metal door. Her eyes softened at seeing his reaction. That must have hurt him a little... "Otherwise, the sages must open the door together, with five simultaneous fire blasts."
She watched Aang as he idly dropped his hand back to his side, staring sorrowfully at the cold metal. I wish there was something more we could do... Let me think, either a fully realized Avatar, or five fire blasts. Who can use fire...Shyu, but we need more. She swam in her own thoughts, trying to help Aang.
"Five fire blasts huh?" Sokka questioned. "I think I can help you out." He smiled, his words filled with the utmost of confidence.
"You're not a firebender. What do you have in mind?" She smiled, figuring Sokka had a dumb idea anyway. There was no way he was going to open this door.
"Watch and learn, Katara. This is Southern Water Tribe expertise, at work." He grinned as he rubbed his chin, propping his elbow up beneath his other hand. Here we go. She crossed her arms and leaned away, turning a ridiculous gaze on her brother as she awaited his idiocracy to show itself once again.
Sokka had dug out small skins, and pulled down some nearby lights attached to the walls. What on earth is he doing? He quickly grabbed the lamps and dismantled them, snuffing out their flames as he poured their contents into each satchel he had made, tying them firmly shut afterwards. Eh...he has really lost it. She raised an eyebrow as her brother simply moved the liquid from one container to another.
"This is a little trick I picked up from my father." He finally spoke, finishing his last bag. Dad taught you this? A smile crept upon her lips as she listened on. "I seal the lamp oil inside the animal skin casing. Shyu lights the oil soaked twine..." He thrust his last bag mid-air, holding it upright toward the three. "Ta-da! Fake firebending."
Wow! She couldn't help but smile instantly. He really has a genuis inside of him at times! "You've really outdone yourself this time, Sokka." She confidently praised him, lowering her hands to press upon her hips.
"This might actually work..." Shyu stated with pleasant surprise.
"Yep! Just get back, this stuff will go off with a serious bang." Sokka warned as he began stuffing them into the mouths of the dragon-locks.
Aang and Katara ran back, taking cover each beside a different dragon-statue column. Shyu turned back to Aang as he spoke hesitantly. "The sages will hear the explosion, so as soon as they go off, you rush in!"
Sokka finished stuffing his creations into their locations. Katara cupped Momo closely into her hands and pulled him against her chest, whispering into his large ears. "You stay right here with me. I'll keep you safe." He cooed, nestling into her neck softly before turning to see Sokka charge up behind Katara, sticking his fingers in his ears.
Katara glanced across the open floorway to Aang. "It's almost sunset, are you ready?"
"Definitely!" Aang exclaimed, as Shyu thrust his forefinger out to the line of twine, lighting the series of lines instantly with a single flare.
Katara huddled against the column as Shyu took up defense behind Aang. Her lower skirt tightened about her legs as she felt a strong tug. Wha? With a glance down, she spotted Sokka kneeling by her leg, squeezing tightly for support. With a loud explosion that shook the floor, she jerked her head away from the sudden force, ducking toward her brother.
Aang ran through the billowing black smoke, disappearing. When the smoke cleared, she saw him pull away from the door handles. "They're still locked!" He emphatically shouted back.
Shyu sighed in defeat. "It didn't work." She drew Momo closer into her arms. Oh no...and the other sages are coming now. What are we going to do?
The three walked forward from their defensive location, standing beside Aang. "Why, why-why-WHY!?" Aang shouted, stiffening his arms at his sides.
"It's alright Aang." She laid her hand on his shoulder kindly. "We tried.""No, it's not alright! I need to get in there and meet Roku!" He jerked forward into a mighty uphand swing, sliding his legs back as an enormous gust of wind sailed beside his body and pounded into the door. She jerked away from him, covering her face as she turned her head away. Wow! He's seriously flipping out!
"Why-" He began slowly, swinging a new burst of wind with each word. "Won't - It - Open!? Agh!" Katara jerked aside as more wind sailed past her, tossing her ponytail into the air behind her and jerking at her clothes' hemline.
Calm down! He was about to go at the door again as she leapt forward and seized his arm in both her hands, pulling him into her hold. "Aang, stop! There's nothing else we can do."
Sorrow overcame him. She released him and stood upright as he bowed his head. "I'm sorry I put you through all this for nothing."
We'll just have to escape the way we came. The sages will be here any moment. But she didn't want to tell him this. She frowned as her eyebrows tightened against her forehead. "I don't get it." Her brother wasn't a part of this pity party, he was by the door observing his failed experiment. "That blast looked as strong as any firebending I've seen."
I know, it did. Wait... Her eyes widened in realization. It DID look like it worked... "Sokka, you're a genuis!" She exclaimed excitedly.
"Wait, how is Sokka a genuis, his plan didn't even work." Aang shot her down, pointing out the obvious.
"Come on Aang, let 'er dream." Sokka smugly replied, holding his arms neatly folded one over the other.
She propped her hands upon her hips and smiled pleasantly down to Aang. I'll get you past those doors. "You're right. Sokka's plan didn't work." Turning her attention back to the blackened door, she continued. "But it looks like it did."
Taking her attention, Katara glanced back to Aang curiously. "Did the definition of genuis change in the last hundred years?"
Katara grinned slyly, settling her chin into her hand. "Maybe. I wasn't around back then." She wisely retorted, which caused Aang to raise an eyebrow in confusion, although he couldn't help cracking a smile.
"The other sages are on their way, if you have a plan we must hear it." Shyu calmly added, to bring the truth out.
"We're going to hide. Shyu, we need you to convince the sages that our plan DID work, and that we're inside. See where I'm going with this?"
A quiet moment passed, leading to an accepting grin from their firebender companion. "Ah. Very intelligent. Yes, you three take cover, I will get the sages to open the door."
Momo disappeared into the door lock, burying his head into the black exterior. "Momo!" Aang cried aloud. "Get back here!"
But he didn't. Sokka placed his palm against the door and looked into the hole. "Hey, he actually got into the room!"
"Hurry, hide!" Shyu exclaimed. "Just leave the lemur there I'll figure something out. They're coming!"
A moment later, Katara kept herself pressed firmly against the back of a column. Oh please work... "Come quickly! The Avatar has entered the sanctuary." Shyu called out to his comrades.
"How did he get in?!" The great sage questioned him in concern.
"I don't know. But look at the scorch marks, and down there!"
"He's inside! Open the doors immediately, before he contacts Avatar Roku!" She held back, tensing as she heard their firebending, followed with the creak of metal as the door slipped open. This just might work!
"It's the Avatar's lemur. He must have crawled through the pipes, we've been tricked!" Here goes nothing! She bolted from behind the nearby column, holding her arms out as she set her eyes on the nearest Fire Sage. In a full sprint, she charged him, reaching over him from behind she jerked his tunic up over his face and tugged back, taking the man's balance by surprise while blinding him.
"Now, Aang!" Shyu called as he subdued another sage.
Wrestling her sage to the ground on his stomach, she glanced up to obseve her surroundings. There was no response. What is he doing? This is critical! "Aang, now's your chance!"
The next moment brought an old fear back to her. Aang came into view, but he was in the hands of another firebender. Zuko! "The Avatar's coming with me!" Her grip lessened on the sage she was holding, gazing in awe at this. How did he... Her moment of wonder was her weakness, the sage wrapped up from the floor and jerked free of her hold. Glancing back at him in surprise, she had only that swift moment of realization before he twisted her arm back behind her head, placing her in a painful hold. "Agh!"
"Close the doors, quickly!" Zuko commanded as he led Aang away. Just before they had began their descent of a distant stairway, Katara and her brother were tied to a column, metal chains wrapping around their body. No... She watched in awe as Aang disappeared from sight, leaving her behind with these sages. No! This was how it was going to end.
A moment later, Aang was charging madly back for her! Her heart thrummed faster, he wasn't being taken! A distant clang caught her attention, the doors were closing! "Go!" She shouted, seeing that Aang was more interested in saving them. Just get through the doors, or you won't be able to later!
The next moment truly was a blur, one that ended with Aang bounding over the sages heads and leaping through the door just as it sealed shut behind him. "He made it!" She stated joyously at this surprise, only to be blinded a moment later by a brilliant white light that beamed from the door, filling the chamber.
"Open the doors, hurry!" The great sage commanded. "We must stop him this instant!"
Shyu smiled from where he had been tied. "I will not do it, so I believe he will be safe behind closed doors."
"Curse you, Shyu..." The sage replied, scowling sharply at his past comrade.
"Maybe you won't, but I will." Zuko stepped into view, brushing off dust from his vest as he shared a stern glare to Shyu.
Oh no. Katara shared a sidelong glance to her brother as the five began to firebend, readying unlocking the door, yet nothing happened. After their fire dissipated, all was quiet as the door refused to stir to life.
Zuko furiously shouted. "Why isn't it working, it's sealed shut?!"
The bald, now hatless great sage snarled as he dipped his head in disgust. "It must have been the light. Avatar Roku doesn't want us inside."
"How was this allowed to happen?" Zuko turned as he glowered scornfully upon the great sage.
"It was due to this traitor among us, Fire Sage Shyu." The old man's accusing stare drifted toward him. Shyu swallowed deeply as the nearby sages released him from his chains, but kept his hands bound.
Leading him before the four, Zuko stood squarely before him. "On your knees." He commanded in a stern voice. Shyu winced, but dropped to his knees on the tiled floor. He kept his eyes placed on his adversary unmovingly.
Don't hurt him...please, Shyu is a good guy! Katara watched fearfully as Zuko continued. "Why did you help the Avatar?"
"Because it was once the sages' duty." He stated calmly, sighing to himself as he hung his head for a moment. In confidence, he lifted his head back upright to gaze in his questioner's eyes. "It is still... our duty."
Clap, clap, clap. Katara's eyes widened as she glanced to her left. Approaching the scene, a man with large, brown sideburns, dressed regally in red armor, was clapping his hands half-heartedly. All around him were firebender guards, though her attention drifted away as another guard suddenly stepped into view by her immediate side. Her fear overcame her as she gazed up into this soldiers' mask, unable to see his face. There's no way we're getting out of this.
"What a moving and heartfelt performance." The leader stated smugly. "I'm certain the Fire Lord will understand, when you explain why you betrayed him." Shyu...
"Commander Zhao..." The great sage respectfully addressed the commander, giving him a bow.
"And Prince Zuko!" Zhao continued calmly. Prince?! ...what? "It was a noble effort, but your little smokescreen didn't work. Two traitors, in one day. The Fire Lord will be pleased." Katara raised her eyebrows suspiciously. He's a prince, and a traitor, but he's still Fire Nation and chasing Aang? This doesn't make any sense.
"You're too late Zhao! The Avatar's inside and the doors are sealed." Zuko shouted as two firebender guards restrained him.
"No matter." Zhao replied wistfully. "Sooner or later, he has to come out." He added with absolute confidence. At this, Katara's forehead creased in worry. She glanced to her brother, who shared her concern. There are too many... more than ten firebenders...they're going to kill him...
"Bind them." Zhao added, turning his back to the inferior banished prince. Shyu was led to Katara's side, chained immediately to her left with Sokka at her right. Zuko was led to a nearby column, where his guard began chaining him to it. Katara kept her eyes on Zuko, watching him closely.
Zuko remained quiet, struggling against the chain bindings as they finished. A moment later, his deep gold eyes turned upon Katara, staring her down in return. "What? Stop looking at me like that, peasant!" Her expression altered, crossing to a sharp scowl to replace her confusion. She didn't bother to reply, as her brother leaned forward since he was in between them, muttering for her to leave the jerk alone.
"In position!" Zhao shouted, leading his guards in line before the door. "When those doors open, unleash all your firepower!" The four sages, and nearly ten firebender escorts all stood at the ready to take down lone Aang.
Aang... Her eyebrows lifted in fear for him. They truly did intend to kill her friend. "How's Aang gonna make it out of this?" She questioned Sokka, her voice soft, yet filled with worry.
"How are WE gonna make it out of this?" He retorted, adding to her fear.
Their wish came. It wasn't but a minute later the shining white light assaulted them through the door, forcing her to turn away from its brilliant rays. The door is opening...oh gosh Aang please!
"Ready..." Zhao began, as the light receded and the doors began to part from one another. A thick darkness lay within the room beyond, but there, Katara saw a pair of glowing eyes.
No... He was going to face them. Aang was standing there, ready to fight. Don't do it, don't do it! "No, Aang!" She desperately shouted for his attention. He didn't stand a chance, there were too many! Am I going to watch him die? She could feel Sokka struggle against his bindings to break free, but her attention did not shift.
"Fire!" Zhao commanded mightily. Instantaneously, the entire room's temperature rose due to a blindingly bright stream of fire that soared for Aang. Katara's eyebrows knotted into her forehead as she failed to even breathe, watching in horror as the flames incased the eyes she had seen before. He was gone. Aang...
She couldn't bring herself to look away for some reason, hoping against hope that he hadn't burned to death. Much to her amazement, the fire streams had formed into a sphere of fire, and actually began to recede into a tumultuous ring of fire. Her eyes widened in shock, the figure that stood behind the flames was not Aang, but an old white-haired individual with similarly glowing eyes. "Avatar Roku..." Shyu stated, obviously in as much shock as she was.
What? But, if that's his past life...what happened to Aang? Where is Aang?! Before she could think any farther, Roku released the fire he had gathered into a furious blast, soaring past every guard present as it knocked them off their feet. The blast sailed past the columns, accurately melting the chains without harming their prisoners. Katara lifted her arms in wonder, staring at some of the remaining bindings that hung loosely about her wrists.
People ran everywhere. Dust and heat filled the room as Roku turned his glowing eyes upon those who remained behind. Katara glanced back to Shyu as he addressed them. "Roku's going to destroy the temple, we have to get out of here!"
"Not without Aang!" Katara shouted obstinately, turning back toward Roku. Roku has something to do with Aang's disappearance. I will not leave Aang!
Roku slipped his foot forward, then lunged his arm down in a sharp cut as he grunted through the bending might he used. A searing crack surged through the tiled floor, blinding hot lava blasting straight upright through the ceiling overhead.
Aah! Katara ducked her head down as debris fell all around her due to the ceiling beginning its collapse. Sokka leapt overtop his sister, wrapping his arms around her body to shield her from danger. Her pained squint eased, she had never felt so close to her brother before. Leaning into his hold, she buried her head beneath his, allowing him to protect her.
The turbelence ceased. Lifting her eyes, she glanced from beside her brothers' protective body back toward Roku. The old, white-bearded, glowing man had his eyes closed as he seemingly had began to relax himself. Lowering his palms, dropping them to his side, all the dust in the room swirled into the air and encircled Roku, blocking him from her sight.
Rising to her feet as the dust settled, Aang stood where Roku had a moment prior. He appeared completely drained of energy, dropping haplessly for the tile below his feet. Her mouth dropped as she and her brother bolted for the young airbender. Did he just...was he just...Aang, was Aang, Roku?!
As the two reached him, they each grabbed an opposite shoulder. "We got your back." Sokka exclaimed, helping Aang to his feet with Katara.
After releasing a weighty sigh, Aang glanced up to Sokka. "Thanks. Where's Shyu?" He questioned as he switched his attention to Katara. The three began slowly pacing back for the main chamber.
"I don't know." Katara replied, keeping her eyes on Aang. "As soon as Roku...uh, you, began destroying the temple he took off."
Aang paused, bringing his friends to a standstill beside him. He audibly gasped, taking in the smoldering remains of the main chamber. Lava still flowed through the floor, dripping from the ceiling as it seared fresh holes below. A sudden shake forced the three to stumble. "Whoa! I did this?"
"Yep. Sure did." Sokka shot out as he released Aang, who now was standing on his own. "You glowed it up and taught those firebenders how to firebend."
"Let's get out of here..." Katara ran for the stairway that led to the belowground tunnel, Aang stumbled a moment as he regained his senses, following shortly behind. The wall beside the stairway had been completely blasted open, leaving a several hundred foot drop should she slip out of it. Turning for the stairway, she stopped as heat wafted up into her face, assailing her nostrils mightily. "Oh my gosh." Lava. The stairs led to a pool of lava.
"Great." Sokka uttered highly, nearly cracking his voice at the sight. "Go for a refreshing swim in lava, attempt to fly like our buddy Aang, or wait and let the temple fall on us."
She was panicking, her heart racing. There were no choices to be made as Aang ran over to join them. Please come up with something! The floor shifted, she felt the temple begin to slide and topple, losing her balance. We're going down!
A loud crash echoed as a dragon column slammed into the ground behind her. She screamed aloud as she nearly fell from the impact, but found herself running with Aang and her brother toward the gaping hole in the wall beside them.
I was right... Through the hole, they saw the rocky mountain below moving. We're falling... She watched in horror, having no control over her fate. Aang do something...
Instead of getting an idea from Aang, everyone gasped as their rescuers flew into sight. Appa! Momo got Appa! She leapt ahead of the boys first, landing on Appa though she just missed his saddle and hit just behind the saddlebags. A moment later, she had crawled safely into the saddle as they sailed away from the wretched island.
"YES!" Sokka shouted, doing a little happy dance as he marched his arms back and forward. "Leaving this hot, stinky, stupid Fire Nation! Yes!"
"Look!" Katara stepped up by Aang, gazing behind them as Sokka stopped rejoicing. Three Fire Navy ships sat nearby, obviously they had carried Zhao and his firebenders. In the distance, a large blast of fire erupted, the fire temple was no more.
After a moment of silence, it became obvious Aang had become very depressed. "I almost got you killed." He didn't even look to his friends, gazing in a daze over the saddle's edge.
"But you made it." Katara smiled, stepping beside him. She tilted her head to try to get his attention, her long braid falling downward, swept away in the wind. "And you met Roku."
Nothing. He didn't even turn to her, a simple frown had overcome him. Now, that same expession overcame her. Aang...we're safe now. It's over. Sokka took her arm in his hand. Turning to her brother, his eyes shown to give Aang some space. She sighed as she lowered her eyes, nodding in agreement.
An hour of silence passed, and night had fully fallen. Aang had sat on his knees in a dead stare over Appa's saddle ever since she had let him be. I can't take this any more. I've seen enough of him upset. She rose to her feet, her brother following suit just beside her. Stepping closer, she reached both her arms out, lowering a hand on each of his shoulders.
Aang sat up at this surprise, twisting back to halfway see who was touching him. A weak smile crossed Katara's lips as she knelt down behind him, sliding her arms over his shoulders to gently clasp her hands together, giving him a gentle hug from behind. Her brother knelt beside her, resting his palm on Aang's shoulder.
"It's over Aang." She whispered softly into his ears. "You did it, and you got both me and Sokka out safely."
Props to Ianbernard for helping make this wonderful chapter template with images! (he created the images)
The Boy in the Iceberg
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